Today’s random featured card is John Smoltz. (pulled from a 2021 Topps Archive pack)
I can’t bear to look at Smoltz staring at me all day, so I’m displaying the back of his card. Today is the first day that Astrotrain is volunteering as a cardholder.
A player the same size as John Smoltz—baseball’s home run record holder
The back of Smoltz’s card lists him as 6’3” 220 pounds. Which is the same specs for the guy who held the home run record for 25 years (before Babe Ruth broke it)—Roger Connor.
Today in 1921, Babe Ruth tied the career home run record. Although the newspapers didn’t even mention this record. (I read about this today on sabr.org)
Being 6’3”/220 was unusual back then. That’s how the New York Giants got their name. Roger Connor played for the New York National League team.
SABR’s Bill Lamb puts it more eloquently:
Towering over his contemporaries, Connor was also the chief inspiration for the moniker bestowed on New York’s first great baseball team: the Giants. But all this did little to generate enduring interest in him. A quiet, dignified man both on and off the diamond, Connor was rarely involved in the kind of incident that spawned press attention or gave rise to the memorable anecdote.
And oddly enough, baseball’s former home run champ wasn’t in the Hall of Fame for a very long time. Again from SABR:
More than 40 years after Connor’s death, rectification of this slight commenced with the historic achievement of another quiet, dignified professional, Hank Aaron. Among the questions provoked that April 1974 evening when Aaron smashed his 715th home run was this one: If Aaron had just broken Babe Ruth’s career home-run record, whose record had Ruth broken? The answer to that question shined the spotlight on long-neglected Roger Connor. Two years later Connor received his due when ceremonies in Cooperstown included the belated but eminently deserved induction of Connor into the ranks of baseball’s immortals.
A big player, a small park
Back to the other 6’3″ 220 player John Smoltz. He is building a mini ballpark in his town of Lansing, Michigan.
It’s a semi-enclosed baseball diamond that allows kids to play 2-on-2, 3-on-3, or a full team. Smoltz compares it to a Top Golf sort of place where you can swing a bat and not worry about how good you are.
From the Lansing State Journal, “John Smoltz puts name behind new baseball field aimed at inner-city youth.”
Because of the size, you don’t need nine people in the field to play defense. Players can play with anywhere from 2-10 players while simulating the experience of pitching, hitting and fielding in a baseball environment.
Smoltz compares it to Top Golf, which has become increasingly popular over the last decade or so.
“I can’t wait to see the looks on their faces,” Smoltz said. “I’m telling you, I think this will be an opportunity for kids to say, ‘hey, let’s go 3-on-3, let’s 2-on-2, 1-on-1.’ At max, this will be 5-on-5.
“When people go to play Top Golf, I guarantee their handicaps aren’t very good and they probably never play. So they can get a club, hit a ball and see a reaction. That’s what’s going to be here. They’ll hit a ball, and they’re going to get to see a reaction. That, to me, is unique in and of itself.”
They broke ground in June 2022. How is the ballpark going now? The Strikeout Baseball Facebook Page has photos.
Funny how you can see the computer mockups and think, “ok, that’s a nice small field.” Then you see photos of the steel trusses being constructed; you realize how much material and effort goes into making something like this.
All players 6’3″ & 220 pounds
Here’s the complete list of all the MLB players who weighed 220 pounds at 6 feet 3 inches (per stathead.com). By the way, stathead lists John Smoltz as 6’3″ and 210 pounds. I’m not sure why his 2021 Topps Archives card says 220 pounds.
(scroll beyond this list to find some interesting points about the players with the worst WAR)
|Player name||Career WAR||From||To|
|Roger Connor (HOF)||78.3||1880||1897|
Funny to see Ryan O’Hearn is the worst MLB player at 6’3″ and 220 pounds. He is currently the first baseman for the Baltimore Orioles. Yesterday, my random featured card was of the first basemen he replaced on the Orioles—Trey Mancini.
Mancini is 6’4″ 230 pounds.
Shot heard round the world from another 6’3″ 220 player
- Three-time All-Star
- In a 1951 playoff, Branca surrendered a walk-off home run to Bobby Thomson of the New York Giants; the game-winning hit was known as the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World”.
- On Opening Day in 1947—which was also Jackie Robinson’s major league debut—Branca lined up on the field beside Robinson, while other players refused. He was a pallbearer at Jackie Robinson’s funeral in October 1972.
- Starting pitcher in Game 1 of the 1947 World Series.
Rather amazing that such an acclaimed player can have the worst career WAR.