By Stan Rothman, Professor of Mathematics
In the fall of 2012, I was scheduled to teach three courses which included 2 sections of biostatistics and 1 of Sandlot Stats: Learning Statistics with Baseball. You probably think the idea for my next baseball posting came from my baseball and statistics course. If you guessed that you would be wrong. The idea actually originated in my biostatistics course. Here is what happened. I am reading the list of students and a name on that list rang a bell. The name was Dale Long. I remember watching Dale Long play back in the late 50s and early 60s. Of course this Dale Long could not be the Dale Long I watched. So I asked the student if he related to the Dale Long I remembered? He responded that Dale Long was his grandfather. Dale Long’s name appears in my book, Sandlot Stats. His connection to my book will be discussed later. Yesterday, Dale Long presented me with two huge scrapbooks describing his grandfather’s achievements in baseball. The information that follows comes from my discussions with Dale Long’s grandson and the information in these scrapbooks.
Dale Long was born in 1926 and died in 1991. He played major league baseball for 10 years. He was 6’4” tall and weighed just over 200 lb. He batted left handed and threw left handed. He played a couple of games in the outfield but was predominately a first baseman. However, he played two games as a left handed catcher, one of a handful of major league players to do so. He played for the Pittsburg Pirates, Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, and others. His grandson told me an interesting story which occurred before he signed his contract with the Yankees in 1960. At that time Casey Stengel was the manager of the Yankees. Long was told by Casey he had three jobs with the Yankees. He would substitute at first base, be used as a pinch-hitter, and finally he would accompany Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford whenever they went out at night to keep them out of trouble. From 1944 to 1954, besides a brief stint with the Pirates in 1951, Long bounced around the minor leagues. He played 131 games with Pittsburg in 1955 and his .291 batting average was the team’s second best. He tied Willie Mays with a league leading 13 triples.
Why is Dale Long mentioned in my book? Chapter 16 in my book details my research on batting streaks. In that chapter, I present a probability formula I developed which uses a player’s batting statistics to estimate his probability of duplicating any batting streak. Of course, Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak is the most notable. However, many other special batting streaks are also mentioned. One of those batting streaks deals with hitting a home run in each of eight consecutive games. Dale Long enters the discussion because he was the first player to accomplish this streak. On May 26, 1956, Dale Long tied the existing record of a home run in six consecutive games. This record was held by five other major leaguers including Willie Mays and Lou Gehrig. On May 27th, Dale Long established a new major league record by hitting a home run in his seventh consecutive game. This home run was hit in his last at-bat after swinging and missing on two pitches. The home run ball was sent to Cooperstown. On May 28, Dale hit number eight off of Carl Erskine of the Dodgers. The fans did not stop cheering until Dale came out for a curtain call. This record was later tied by Don Mattingly (1987) and Ken Griffey Jr. (1993). For 1956, Dale Long played in 148 games hitting a total of 27 home runs. Using my probability formula, the probability of Dale accomplishing his streak was 0.00008. By comparison, the probability of Joe DiMaggio accomplishing his 56-game hitting streak was 0.00010. Observe that Dale’s streak was less likely to occur than Joe’s streak .Finally, I wish to thank the Long Family for providing me with their memories of their father and grandfather.
Editors Note: This article was originally published in Stan Rothman’s blog, Sandlot Stats, at http://apps.sandlotstats.com/blog/?c=Yankees&p=1.
Image Credit: http://www.stockfreeimages.com/