Another Baseball Urban Legend

By | February 26, 2007

In the past, I have enjoyed pointing out when baseball commentators have made stuff up. (I have, in the past, nailed Joe Morgan, Tim Kurkjian, and Richard Justice.) But let me tell you this: when it’s Peter Gammons, I don’t enjoy it at all. But I’m going to give him as much benefit of the doubt as possible.

In this blog entry about Roger Clemens and his competitive drive on, Gammons says this:

There are pitchers happy to be 11-11 and maybe miss a half-dozen starts. Sonny Siebert once shut it down after 17 wins, saying he didn’t want to win 20 “because they’ll expect you to do it again.” Expectations are tough for some to deal with.

Now here’s the Bad News Part I: Sonny Siebert never won 17 games in a season.

And Bad News Part II: Siebert won 16 games three times (1965 and 1966 with the Indians, and 1971 with the Red Sox), but none of those seasons appear to be what Gammons was talking about.

–In 1965, he won his 16th game on September 28 and pitched the first nine innings of a 12-inning game on October 2, two days before the season ended. So he didn’t shut it down to avoid winning 20 games; he shut it down because the season ended.

–In 1966, Siebert won his 16th game on September 5. But then he pitched 11 innings and got the loss in a game on September 15, his last game of the season. So yes, he apparently shut it down a couple weeks early, but he shut it down after a loss, and at that point, winning four more games in the last 2-1/2 weeks of the season wasn’t exactly likely anyway.

–1971 was almost identical to 1966: he won number 16 on September 3, then took a loss ten days later and was done for the season. For all the same reasons as 1966, it just doesn’t appear that he took the rest of the season off to avoid winning 20 games.

Now, to the part where I give Gammons the benefit of the doubt: maybe Siebert really did say that at one point and was just talking out of his rear, and maybe Gammons just got the slight detail of the number of wins incorrect. Joe Morgan won’t get that kind of benefit of the doubt from me, since he’s proven repeatedly that he is not so bright, but Peter Gammons, one of my heroes and the greatest baseball writer in the world … he gets the benefit of the doubt.

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