HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY, STAN….AND WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH NOVEMBER 21st??? by Brad Eastland, The Sports Philosopher

December 6, 2010
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      Do you believe in the supernatural?   Do you believe in life-after-death?   In ghosts?   Goblins?   How about reincarnation?   Can houses be haunted?   Are there leprechauns, fairies, angels and devils and a man on the moon?   

      What I’m asking is, “do you believe in magic?”  (–and I don’t mean “in a young girl’s heart”….)

      I do.   At least when it comes to baseball.

Stan the Man

Stan the Man

       The other day I was reading about former New York Giants left-handed pitching great Carl Hubbell (yeah, I do stuff like that), and discovered that he was killed in an automobile accident on November 21st, 1988.   The story went on to add that another former New York Giants Hall-of-Famer, lefty slugger Mel Ott, also died in an automobile accident, also on November 21st, exactly 30 years earlier, in 1958.   I thought all that was pretty weird.

      Then I remembered.   November 21st  is also the birth date of St. Louis Cardinals hitting sensation Stan “The Man” Musial.   He was born in 1920.   And also the birth date of the recently-retired future Hall-of-Famer Ken Griffey, Jr.   Who was also, just like Musial, a left-hand-hitting outfielder.

      This takes things beyond weird.

      One more thing: Both Griffey and Musial were not only born on the same day and month, they were also born in the same town.   And by “town” I don’t mean New York City or Chicago or Los Angeles, places where any two people can both be born and no one would elevate an eyebrow.   These two fellas were both born in the ridiculously small, definitively obscure town of Donora.   Donora, a sleepy little Pennsylvania town where one bleak autumn day in 1948 a killer smog rolled in and over the Monongahela Valley and caused half the town’s population—about 7,000 unsuspecting souls—to take sick and writhe in agony for four days from the just-fouled air.   Twenty people died.   You suppose Donora was paying the price for getting to claim not one but two baseball Hall-of-Famers as its own?   Anyway, this is where both Musial and Griffey were born.   Both born on November 21st.   Both Hall-of-Fame players.   Both lefties.   Oh, and Musial was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1969; the very year Griffey came into the world.     

      And of course Ott and Hubbell, as stated, both plied their trades left-handed.   Lefties are always a little bit weird.   Even weirder, Hubbell pitched left handed but for some reason batted right handed, while Ott batted left handed but for some reason threw right handed.   And if you want to push this envelope all the way to that man on the moon, you should know that Mr. Hubbell was primarily a “junk ball” pitcher, specifically he was the master of the screwball.   The screwball.   That’s perfect for this quirky phenomenon, I think.    Accordingly, when Mr. Ott batted, he would raise his right leg high into the air right before whacking the ball, sort of like a dog lifting his leg to take a leak on a fire hydrant.   Perhaps the craziest batting style in big-league history.   These are two wacky guys.   And they both died on November 21st.   And they both were New York Giants Hall-of-Famers.   Teammates, in fact.   Won the World Series together in 1933.   And they died exactly 30 years apart.   In car accidents.    

      You see what I’m getting at?

      I accept coincidences, up to a point.   But when a coincidence crosses the line from amusingly fascinating to comically absurd and chillingly impossible, I say it is no longer a coincidence.

      In other words, I don’t believe all four of these Hall of Fame baseballers being so absurdly locked into November 21st is a coincidence any more than I believe Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both dying on the 50th anniversary of the first Independence Day (July 4th, 1826) is a coincidence.   I believe there is something supernatural imbedded in both of these scenarios.

      Baseball is like that.   There are a lot of weird numbers wandering and weaving through baseball history, much more so than in football or basketball.

      For instance, Grover Cleveland Alexander pitched 16 shutouts in 1916.   Rogers Hornsby hit a record .424 in 1924.   Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record in 1961, when he pole-axed 61 round-trippers.   That same year Norm Cash led the American League in batting with a .361 average.   In other words, Alex pitched 16 shutouts in ’16, Hornsby hit .424 in ’24, Maris clubbed 61 in ’61, and Cash hit three-61 in ’61!   Could all that be coincidence?   And how ‘bout this—Mark McGwire broke Maris’ single-season home run record on September 8th, 1998….that’s right: the date was nine, eight, ninety-eight.   I’m just sayin’.

      I think it’s perfectly timely, my obsession with the November 21st thing.   Musial just turned 90 last month, on—that’s right—November 21st.   He is one of the grand old men of baseball.   An American sports legend, a walking monument living among us.   If there were to be created tomorrow a Mt. Rushmore of great living ballplayers, he would be on it.   Might as well use all this quirkiness as an excuse to celebrate him.   Happy 90th birthday, Stan.

      I don’t know….maybe every weird thing that happens on this Earth is a coincidence, maybe there is no supernatural power floating in the air governing and influencing our lives, maybe I’m wrong about all of it.   Maybe I’m wrong about something supernaturally weird happening every 30 years on November 21st.   Maybe I’m wrong.

      But if one of this year’s World Series Champion San Francisco Giants baseball players like, say, (God forbid) Buster Posey or Cody Ross or Aubrey Huff or Tim Lincecum or Brian “fear the beard” Wilson just happens to die in an automobile accident on November 21st, 2118, and then one of those same guys dies in an automobile accident on November 21st, 2148, THEN you’ll know I was right.


Brad Eastland is an author, historian, film buff, undiscovered fictioneer, and lover of the absurd—in no particular order.  Brad’s other recent columns for LaVerneOnline can be found in Sports under ‘The Sports Philosopher’ and also in Viewpoint under ‘Brad Eastland’s View’.    Brad has also written 4 novels and over 20 short-stories.   Samples of his best fiction work can be discovered by clicking the absurdly overlooked links below:






One Response to “HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY, STAN….AND WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH NOVEMBER 21st??? by Brad Eastland, The Sports Philosopher”

  1. Love reading your column.

    SandyLanguage theating

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