Monday, July 3, 2017

To Absent Friends - David Vincent

David Vincent
At RFK Stadium, 2007

It wasn't long after I joined the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) in 2001 that I became aware of the name David Vincent.  I knew Vincent, who died yesterday after a two and one-half year battle with stomach cancer at the age of 67, as a stalwart researcher, and as the guy who knew everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, that there was to know about any and every home run ever hit in the history of major league baseball.

In reading about him today, I also learned that he was a key figure in the indispensable website, a guy who knew as much about umpires and their history as he did about home runs, and the guy who has been the official scorer for Washington Nationals games in Washington ever since the team relocated there in 2005.

For a much better summation of David Vincent and the kind of guy that he was, I refer you to the story in today's Washington Post by Nats beat writer Chelsea Janes:

Over the years, I had a few occasions to contact Mr. Vincent for some reason or another, and he always responded quickly and courteously.  I never met him personally or even talked with him by telephone, but I just knew that I was dealing with a real gentleman.  I will close with one story about one of my dealings with him.

Shortly after I was able to get Chuck Tanner to speak to our Pittsburgh SABR Chapter, and after Tanner told the story with which he had been entertaining audiences for years, i.e., "I once pinch hit for Hank Aaron and hit a home run", I contacted Mr. Vincent to see if this was a true story.

Sorry to tell you, said David, but no, Tanner never did hit a home run as a pinch hitter for Hank Aaron.  Great story, but not true.  He did tell me this story about Tanner and two of his home runs, though.

On May 13, 1956 in the first game of a double-header at Crosley Field, the Braves had a 15-0 lead over the Redlegs. Aaron was taken out of this blow-out in the sixth inning and replaced defensively by Tanner. When batting in the top of the eighth, Tanner hit a home run. Obviously, in telling the story over the years, batting "in place of Hank Aaron" became "pinch hitting for Hank Aaron." It made for a better story. "Print the legend" as the newsman told James Stewart, "The Man who shot Liberty Valence."

Tanner actually had only one pinch hit home run in his playing career, and it was while pinch hitting for another Hall of Famer....Warren Spahn. This was the oft-noted home run that Chuck hit on the first pitch of his first at bat in the majors.

So, not only would David Vincent answer your question, but, in my case at least, he gave you more information and you learned a lot more that you thought that you would.

In the world of baseball research and baseball in general, David Vincent will be missed.

RIP David Vincent.

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