Darn that Baseball Reference!
Earlier today, I shared a link to a great old baseball story as told by former pitcher and current ESPN broadcaster Rick Sutcliffe.
During a reconciliation with his old high school in the Kansas City area, Red Beard himself told the story of one of his last visits for a charity hoops game he organized during his playing days. It was written down by local reporter Bill Althaus and then related like this in the Independence Examiner for our enjoyment:
As Sutcliffe walked out of the gymnasium, he said, "The last time I was here was for a charity basketball game. We had a lot of big names here, including George Brett.
"I asked the guys to stay after the game and sign some autographs for a half hour, and everyone did it but George. I never forgot that."
At the time, Sutcliffe was pitching in the National League. But when he was traded to the Cleveland Indians, he plunked Brett with a pitch the first time he faced him.
"That was for not signing autographs," said Sutcliffe.
Such a great, great story, right? You know, the type that's just perfect for telling on the rubber chicken circuit or as the foursome ahead of you takes too long on the green?
Sure, except for the tiny little fact that Sutcliffe never hit Brett during his career — either upon their first meeting once Sutcliffe started pitching for Cleveland or 25 plate appearances afterward. This fact was discovered by Stew reader Nick after a short glance at Sutcliffe's batter history on Baseball Reference.
I know ... It's quite disappointing, but you can sort of see where Sutcliffe is coming from. Telling someone you got your revenge by simply holding him to a .043 average against your pitching just doesn't have the same ring to it as "I drilled him to tell him what's up."
Anyway, it's up to each of you if you want to go on taking stories like these — which are pretty much the life blood of any old ballplayer's existence — at face value or try to prove them wrong with the quick access we have these days to an arsenal of game data.
Personally, I appreciate the truth, though maybe not as much as I do a story about Sutcliffe plunking George Brett for not signing autographs for assorted Missouri youth.
UPDATE: As commenter Carlos Rubi points out in this post's comments, it's entirely possible that the drililng came in spring training. I'm going to do some digging and see what we can come up with ...