Baseball fans may be aware of the saying “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain.”
(Above–Spahn on the left and Sain on the right.)
These words are about the 1948 Boston Braves. Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain were two starting pitchers on the ’48 Braves team that won the American League pennant and then lost the World Series to the Cleveland Indians.
The Boston Braves, after a stop in Milwaukee for a few years, are the current Atlanta Braves.
The words are, as I have learned in researching this post, from a poem written by a Boston sportswriter named Gerald Hern.
Here is the poem—
First we’ll use Spahn
then we’ll use Sain
Then an off day
followed by rain
Back will come Spahn
followed by Sain
by two days of rain
The poem conveys the idea that the only decent starting pitchers for the Braves where Spahn and Sain. It suggests the only way the Braves could win was to have Spahn pitch one day, Sain another day, and then hope for rainouts that would get Spahn and Sain back on the mound without having to use other pitchers.
I’ve been aware of this saying since I was a kid. I suppose I’ve long-believed it reflected the truth.
The thing is—It is not true. I was looking up some baseball facts the other day and I came across the 1948 Braves. I saw that the famous poem was not true.
This made me grumpy. Why do we often believe in things that are not true?
It is not true that Healthcare Reform comes with so-called Death Panels. (Read here about all the helpful aspects of Healthcare Reform)
And it is not true that the 1948 Boston Braves had only two decent starting pitchers.
Sain was a great pitcher in 1948. He pitched a number of innings, did not allow many runs to be scored, and won a bunch of games. Warren Spahn, however, did not stand out in 1948 from the other two pitchers in the Boston rotation.
Braves starting pitchers Bill Voiselle and Vern Bickford had solid seasons in 1948. Bickford was better than Spahn. Though Bickford’s superior performance was muted by the fact that Spahn helped his team by pitching over 100 more innings than did Bickford.
(Below–Vern Bickford baseball card. Bickford seems to have been a decent guy. He died of cancer at age 39. It is good we can recall him.)
Here are the pitching statistics for the 1948 Braves. Look it up for yourself.
Spahn had good years leading up to 1948 and he went on to a Hall of Fame career. However, in 1948, he was just one of three reasonably effective starting pitchers in the shadow of Sain.
People have been believing this story about Spahn and Sain for over 60 years.
I know this is a small matter given all the troubles we face in the world.
It is just that what we hold to be true is so often incorrect.
This is true in what we think about the world and it is true in what we think about the things in our personal lives.
Or, as the rap band Public Enemy once put it—Don’t Believe The Hype.