He still holds the AL record for highest batting average, and it was set in the league’s first year. (Does that make it an expansion record?) Everybody seems to have done the math right in 1901: he had 229 hits in 543 trips for a .422 average. But the Reach Guide had a typo in the hits, giving him 220. In 1916 the Spalding Guide people noticed that the figures didn't gibe. They computed that he batted .405. They never questioned the ABs and hits. The error went undetected for 37 years. Then box scores were checked and in 1954 the change back to .422 was officially accepted. Lajoie, incidentally was 39 when he replaced Eddie Collins at second base with the Philadelphia A's after Connie Mack broke up his team. That makes a good bar bet. It seems like it should have been the other way around.
He was sometimes called “Sparky” because he was a sparkplug despite his low batting average. A shortstop, he had such a strong arm that some people thought he should try pitching. He did pitch six times in the majors, all for the wartime 1944 Red Sox when all teams were short of players.
Despite his reputation as a bit of a scatter arm, he and Skeeter Newsome provided a nice wartime keystone combo for the '45 Bosox. But with Johnny Pesky and Bobby Doerr returning from the military, the team cashed Lake and Newsome in. Lake was dealt to the Tigers even-up for Rudy York before the 1946 season. He played well, had good range and hit well in the clutch to offset a .254 average. He was third in the AL with 105 runs, with 103 walks and with 15 steals. That was his highwater mark, though, and he was a part-timer by 1948.
He hit five homers for the Muskegon team in a Class A Central League game in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. He went into the game on July 3, 1948 with seven homers. He hit a two-run homer in the first inning, then hit one in the fourth with the bases empty. When the team batted around that inning, he hit another, this time with two aboard. Then he hit two-run home runs in the seventh and eighth innings. Surprisingly, three of the homers were off the Ft. Wayne team's manager, former major leaguer Boom Boom Beck. (Beck always joked that even his wife called him “Boom Boom.”) Lane, 22, who was a Michigander, also struck out in the second inning and singled in the sixth. TSN's '49 Guide has a squib on page 184. He ended the season with 12 home runs--meaning he hit no more in that league--and a .333 average. But he couldn't hit a lick for the '49 White Sox. He had five hits for five bases in 42 ABs (.119).
The good judge/commissioner often freed the serfs, declaring players to be free agents. Among them were Tommy Henrich, Frank Scalzi and Floyd Stromme from the Indians, Roy Cullenbine, the Gardella brothers, Bryan Stephens and George Metkovich (Jan. 14, 1940) from the Tigers. The Benny McCoy case brought special problems because the Tigers had traded him. But Landis freed him anyway, thereby nullifying the trade. He also investigated the cases of Rudy York and Bob Feller, and nearly freed them, too.
WILD BILL LANGER
William A. “Wild Bill” Langer was a Republican senator from North Dakota. During World War II, he introduced a bill to require major league teams to use former servicemen who were amputees.
Knuckleballing lefties are so rare that they're apt to bedevil batters. LaPalme's 8-16 record for the 1953 Pirates raised lots of expectations. (That was a good record for the lowly Pirates). But he never progressed.
LAST CLEVELAND SPIDER
The Spiders died after the 1899 season. Hall of Famer Bobby Wallace was the last of them in the majors. He last played for the 1918 St. Louis Cardinals.
LAST ST. LOUIS BROWN
Don Larsen was the last in the majors; he last pitched for the 1967 Chicago Cubs.
When the Indians gave up on pitcher Herb Score, they traded him to the White Sox for Latman on April 18, 1960. Latman was the son-in-law of Leon Schwab, owner of the famed drug store on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. (It's gone now.) Lana Turner supposedly was discovered there. Harold Arlen wrote “Over the Rainbow” in a car parked out front.
He played second base on the 1946 Marion, Ohio, team in the Ohio State League. When batter Bob Boken of Newark (O.) hit a high fly toward right, Lazar ran out to back up. The ball plunked off rightfielder Jim Lilly's head. Observers swore it went 30 feet into the air and toward the rightfield fence. Lazar gave chase and caught it, with an assist from Lilly.
In the days of Patsy Tebeau's rowdy Cleveland Spiders, a significant police presence was necessary at old League Park on Bedford Avenue. It had acoustics like the Mormon Tabernacle. Every time Patsy or Jess Burkett cussed out an umpire or rival, the oaths reverberated through the stands. By 1905, though, the new AL team (now the Indians) had toned things down greatly; the city cut the number of cops at the park.
Kids got in free if they returned a ball that had been hit out. The club had to replace 20 to 30 glass windows every year in nearby buildings.
Boys hung around behind the fences; before games, kids would plead with the guys shagging flies to toss them a ball; many players did.
Once the scorecard printer messed up and printed the same number in all the scorecards; everybody won the lucky drawing.
The park had a short fence in right, with a high wall. Lots of balls rattled off that wall, leading to an odd bit of folklore: Ohio boys played “wall ball.” This was one of the one-player games boys often played in those days before videos and TVs. If you couldn’t find anybody even to play catch with, you found a high flat surface, perhaps the back of a two-story house, or maybe a school. You’d underhand a baseball or tennis ball against the wall–up high--then try to catch it coming down. The game was doubly good if you could play between two high flat surfaces; that way you could leap against the one behind you to catch the descending ball.
He was the winning pitcher in a game his team lost. It went like this: The Indians and Braves were scheduled to play an exhibition April 2, 2005 in Atlanta. Florida weather had been bad before breaking camp, so the teams wanted to get in some extra innings during their last springtime practice game. They scheduled an 11-inning game. Lee started and was the pitcher of record after nine innings. The Indians led 9-5. It seemed odd to go to extra innings with one team leading, but that’s what happened, and in the 10th Adam LaRoche of the Braves hit a three-run homer off David Riske. The Braves scored six times in the inning, but the teams played on. After the planned 11 innings, everybody quit. The Braves won 11-9, sort of. Statisticians said only the first nine innings counted in the spring training stats, meaning Lee and the Indians won, but who really cared?
SEWARD S. LEE
Although reportedly worth $500,000, he had his heart set on pitching. He was the proprietor of the Bar Restaurant Pilot House across the road from the Pan American airport in Miami. In spring 1947, he footed his own expenses to try out with the Miami Tourists of the Florida International League. He said he'd draw no salary if he made the Class C team..
Another oddball tryout that spring was Ernie Crone, assistant sports editor of the Arkansas Gazette in Little Rock. He tried out with the Fort Smith team of the Western Association. A catcher, he was 6-5, 230. He'd played Legion ball in Little Rock the prior season.
Neither played enough to make the published stats that year, which cut off below 10 games or 45 innings pitched. Or maybe they simply didn’t play at all.
You’d think that directors and actors knew left from right. They keep having sports characters called “Lefty” who are righthanded. There’s such an atrocity in Maybe I’ll Pitch Forever, the TV movie about Satchel Paige. Also Sam the Bartender in Cheers talked about his old pal “Lefty” the third baseman on the Red Sox. Enough said.
How tough was the notorious Florida State League in 1946? Three local policemen in Leesburg resigned that summer because of all the time they had to spend, without pay, protecting umpires at the town’s ballpark. It was that bad.
It's hard to believe that the Yankees’ much-hyped phenom of the early 1950s had only one hit in the majors. He batted 23 times in 26 games.
He played for three last-place teams in 1985. (Giants, Indians and Pirates.)
He was one of the Washington Senators' four wartime knuckleballers and was a quaint and pleasant fellow. His mother made quilts for his managers and pals on his teams.
On the last day of the 1944 season, a Sunday, Leonard and the last-place Senators were in Detroit's Book-Cadillac Hotel. The Tigers and the St. Louis Browns were tied for first place.
A fellow who phoned his room sounded so friendly that Leonard thought he was a pal from back home. Then the caller said: “I'm authorized to offer you better than $20,000 if you don't have a good day.” Leonard didn't understand, so the guy repeated himself. Finally, Leonard said, “Go to hell,” and hung up.
Unsure what to do, he told his friend George Case, an outfielder. Case told him he better tell the Senators' manager, Ossie Bluege, or someone in charge. Leonard told coach Clyde Milan, who told Bluege.
Before long, Bluege approached Leonard in the locker room, handed him a new ball and said: “You're still the pitcher.”
Leonard, 13-14, faced the Tigers' Dizzy Trout in front of a throng of 45,565. Trout, who had one day's rest, was seeking his 28th victory of the season. In the Senators fourth, Joe Kuhel singled and Stan Spence homered. The Senators scored one more run that inning and still another in the eighth.
In the Detroit ninth, pinch hitters Chuck Hostetler and Don Ross singled. Doc Cramer's long fly made it 4-1. Leonard got Eddie Mayo and Pinky Higgins to end the game.
Fans stayed around to watch posting of the Browns' game, which had started an hour later. The Browns beat the Yankees to win the pennant by one game over the Tigers.
This longtime third baseman/outfielder for the Senators lost interest in baseball while flying “the Hump” into western China during WWII. He didn’t regain it during the postwar 1946-47 seasons, so he quit. He was out a season, then changed his mind. He came back with the 1949 Senators but his time was past.
NL executive John Heydler praised Lewis: “That Lewis of the Boston team has a fast, slanting shoot that is a ringer of Jimmy McJames' curve. From what I have seen of Lewis, I regard him as one of the best twirlers of the season, both in mechanical ability and as a brain worker. He has fine control of his curve and wastes fewer balls than Dr. McJames.”
The Detroit Tigers got a scare during spring training in 1947 in Lakeland, Florida. Just as they were sitting down for a barbecue in their dining hall, lightning hit a large tree, knocking it onto the building and tearing off the roof. The players fled into the rain.
Some years later, outfielder Willie Tasby became part of folklore for supposedly removing his spikes in the outfield because of nearby lightning.
One of the New York Giants got his posterior scorched in the early 1900s while sitting on a radiator in the old Polo Grounds during a rain delay. Lightning struck a flagpole and zoomed through the plumbing system.
Lightning supposedly struck Ray Caldwell of the Yankees while he was pitching against the Philadelphia A’s. He recovered and won the game 2-1.
While pitching for the Senators in 1935, he was the victim of an odd play. The Yankees had Ben Chapman on second and Jesse Hill batting. Jack Redmond was catching. Hill hit a liner off Linke's head that caromed to Redmond, who caught it. He then threw to second to double Chapman.
Linke also had a circulatory problem in his pitching hand. He once tried to keep a hand warmer in his back pocket while on the mound. This drew some protests. Rivals noted that baseball rules restrict such pitching aids. Bobo Newsom, for example, was prohibited from pitching while wearing a very visible white bandage. Johnny Allen and Dazzy Vance did gain some advantage by wearing ragged sweatshirts on the mound. But pitchers can’t wear white gloves.
A veteran submariner, he went 4-11 for the Portland Beavers in 1949, when he was 42 years old. All his victories were against the Oakland Oaks..
He fouled off 17 of Ron Darling’s pitches on one at-bat Sept. 27, 1992. He eventually walked.
Back when moguls could own more than one major league team, players were sometimes loaned back and forth: Eddie Collins to Louisville in 1895, for instance. Jouett Meekin from the Giants to the Beaneaters in 1899, etc. The Yankees and their AL “farm team,” the KC A’s, had it down to a science. It still goes on, somewhat. The Cubs rather obviously loaned Hoyt Wilhelm to the Cubs in 1970. Tito Landrum and Floyd Rayford were loaners in 1983.
He was an outfielder who batted .241 in seven games for the 1884 Indianapolis team of the old American Association. That’s pretty forgettable, but he became a songwriter and wrote the lyrics to “The Big Rock Candy Mountain.” Most everybody’s heard that.
The Squares were a top amateur team in Chicago, and Nixie Callahan was often their manager. On Aug. 28, 1910, they played the first night game in a major league park. Lights were set up (20 arcs of 137,000 candlewatts) in White Sox Park for a game against the Rogers Parks club.
While in the military during WWII, he arrived late, missing an army air transport he was supposed to be on. It crashed. After the war he was playing in the Western International League when he was pulled off the Spokane team's bus with word that he’d been recalled to the Pacific Coast League. A few miles later, the bus crashed, killing nine players June 24, 1946.
A sincere fellow and good team player, he was troubled that there was one Minnesota Twins teammate he didn’t get along with. So he went to Don Gladden's house to talk to him as a friend. They got into fight.
Many of us are certain that we look like movie stars. Ballplayers are no different. Cuddles Marshall was sure he looked like Tyrone Power. Red Munger was compared to Van Johnson. Preston Ward thought he looked like Gregory Peck. Allie Clark resembled Eddie Bracken, a film comedian popular in the 1940s.
Seemingly stuck in the minors, he nearly converted to first base because he couldn't win as a pitcher. Ultimately, he won 166 AL games with a maddening variety of slow benders. He became known as “The Junkman.”
Mexico City set the Mexican League record, beating Carta Blanca 19-0 on Aug. 31, 1941. On May 6, 1945, the Monterrey club broke that record by beating the Puebla Parrots 21-0. The Sultanes did it again, May 19, 1963, scoring in every inning in beating Reynosa 21-0.
In the old days teams that couldn’t play on Sunday had trouble making money. The owners of Louisville’s team in 1893 concocted a way to beat the city’s ordinance against Sunday ball. After the stands on the old grounds burned down in 1892, the club built a new park in Parkland, just outside Louisville’s city limits. When Sunday games were mentioned, though, Parkland's 1,700 citizens protested, saying they’d left Louisville and created Parkland because they were getting away from city bustle and noise. They wanted to live quietly. They made the penalty for Sunday ball a $1,500 fine per club per offense. The team's directors tried to bargain the fine down so they could go ahead and play on Sunday and absorb the fines.
UMPIRE RON LUCIANO
“When I started, [baseball] was played by nine competitors on grass in graceful ballparks. By the time I was finished, there were 10 men on each side, the game was played indoors, on plastic, and I had to spend half of my time watching out for a man dressed in a chicken suit who kept trying to kiss me.”
An outfielder, he batted .167 in 14 games for the 1951 Browns, After coaching for the Indians, he went to Japan to coach. In 1975 the Hiroshima Carp made him field manager. He was the first “white pilot.” He spoke no Japanese, so he even had to communicate with his bosses through an interpreter. Consensus was that management picked him to hype the gate. The team had been playing and drawing poorly..Lutz' team began well as he emphasized American-style ball. But management didn’t like him carping at umpires. Less than a month into the season he bumped an ump. His boss, the GM, came onto the field and asked Lutz to leave. Lutz left, and he quit at the same time; 400 fans turned out to see him fly back to America, and he still remains controversial around the Japanese version of the hot stove league.
“In 1921 when I was a student at Baylor University, the Sporting News ran a picture of Eddie Rommel's hand holding his knuckler. The picture intrigued me. I clipped it and at the first opportunity started working on the pitch. For the next 10 years I relied on less difficult pitches but I kept practicing on the knuckler. Then when I hurt my arm in the spring of 1931 I adopted the pitch as my means of livelihood.”
In the 1880s he and Frank Gilmore, another tall and lanky guy, were the “Skin and Bones” battery for the Hartford club. When the Senators bought Gilmore, the more promising of the two, he insisted that Mack be bought, too. The Senators, agreeing reluctantly, found Mack a good defensive catcher. In 1887 he married Margaret Hogan, a sister of former teammate Willie Hogan. They had Roy, Earle and Margaret. The mother died in 1892.
Mack bought the Portland club in the 1920s because he wanted its catcher, Mickey Cochrane. That's how he came to get first baseman Jim Poole, too.
Although regarded as a saint, Mack had his faults. He was an adept cheater behind the plate, falling forward into batters on steals, then claiming interference. He was good at tipping bats, too. He had some nasty go-rounds with his wives, but most of all he was tight with a buck. He once threw a “Night” for Phil Marchildon, one of his pitchers who’d been a WWII POW. Before the game, which raised $25,000, Mack gave the pitcher a $1,000 war bond. Mack kept the rest of the money. He also beat Bob Harris, a pitcher, out of 25 percent of the salary to which he was legally entitled after WWII. (The G.I. Bill guaranteed that players would get their old jobs back for a year, or receive a year’s pay.)
MACON IN MACON
In 1961 Max Macon managed the Macon club of the Southern Association.
While general manager of the Twins he was once asked why he’d traded fringe players of apparently equal ability. He responded that he merely did it for amusement, that he wanted to make a deal and he did. He had no thoughts about the two families thus affected.
He became the first Aruban in the majors when he pitched for the Phillies in September 1996.
Cuba's most famous umpire once ejected Mexican League president Jorge Pasquel from a game. Maestri, figuring he’d better go home and look for a new job, left Mexico on a plane the next day.
This high-living pitcher had a 7-16 record in 1899. He lost to the Cleveland Spiders three times. The Spiders, the NL’s worst team ever, were 20-134 that season. And Magee was with a different club each time he lost to them: the Louisville Colonels, Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Senators.
UMPIRE GEORGE MAGERKURTH
Umpire George Barr liked to tell about the time he and Magerkurth were umpiring at Shibe Park. Two elderly ladies came to all the Phillies' games and were very vocal. The ladies took exception to Barr's calls one day. With the Phillies a run down and a runner on second base, the batter singled. Barr called the runner out at the plate to end the game. “We'll get you, George Barr,” the ladies screamed..Barr showered, dressed and departed the stadium. The two ladies were waiting. “You George Barr?” one asked. “No, ladies, he's coming right out,” Barr said, tipping his hat and strolling off safely. Magerkurth then came through the door. The ladies beat him with umbrellas.
Clubs representing the towns of Peekskill and Mahanoy City played a 19-19 tie in 1946. The North Atlantic League game was called, because of Sunday blue laws, after the Mahanoy City hosts scored four runs in the seventh inning to tie. Nine pitchers worked in the game. (Pennsylvania blue laws often curtailed Sunday games.)
He likely would be one of best remembered players of his era if he hadn’t enlisted in the military during WWII. He was set to be the Yankees’ third baseman. But when they learned he’d enlisted, they gave the job to Billy Johnson. After the war, Majeski became a standout with the Philadelphia Athletics, but out of the NYC spotlight. Besides being a good RBI man, he set the fielding record for third basemen, accepting more chances in a row than any prior third baseman.
When catching for the St. Louis Browns, he inadvertently tipped pitches. Batters would glance back to see where he set up. If he was close behind them, he was expecting a curve. Some batters said the only way they could hit Jack Kramer was to sneak glances at Mancuso.
His uniform number was retired twice, sort of. He was wearing No. 3 when it was retired in honor of Babe Ruth in 1948. He switched to No. 7, which Mantle later wore, and eventually it was retired.
A Canadian, he served in the Royal Canadian Air Force during WWII. He was shot down on his 26th mission and was one of 257 RCAF flyers found in German prison camps after the war. He was back pitching for the Philadelphia A’s the next year.
Catcher Mickey Grasso was a POW in North Africa. He kept busy by organizing baseball leagues and he fared much better psychologically than did Marchildon. Pitcher Jim Blackburn, in the Seventh Armored since 1943, was captured in the Ardennes Forest in late 1944. He was a POW in Stalag 4B.
Warren Harding, later to become president, owned a slice of his hometown baseball team in Marion. He was U.S. president in 1921-23, and Marion had a team in the National Football League in 1922-23.
An outfielder with Dover's Eastern Shore League team, he hit grand slams in two straight at-bats April 27, 1947. It happened in the fourth and fifth innings as the Dover Phillies beat the Wilmington Legionnaires 22-2 in an exhibition game.
His known fights:
●vs. Clint Courtney in the minors in 1947.
●vs. Nick Etten in the minors (slight disagreement on air flight) in '48.
●vs. Lou Stringer of Hollywood Stars in '48.
●vs. Frankie Austin of Portland Beavers in '48.
●vs. Al Rosen of PCL's San Diego Padres in '49.
●vs. Jimmy Pearsall in '52; it was a long victory.
●vs. Courtney in 1952. Martin won this rematch.
●vs. Courtney in 1953.
●vs. a civilian in 1951 while stationed at Fort Ord. This cost him $3,000 in damages.
●vs. catcher Matt Batts in July 1953.
●vs. Larry Doby on June 15, 1957.
●vs. Mickey McDermott on a bus about 1957 or later, when both were with Kansas City A’s.
●vs. bar patron in Tampa, during camp in 1960; Martin by KO.
●vs. Gene Conley in 1960.
●vs. Jim Brewer of Cubs in 1960. Martin by KO, but he had to pay judgment of $10,000. Martin later said his pal Cal McLish was the one who injured Brewer.
●vs Howard Fox, Twins' traveling secretary (not the ex-pitcher) in 1966; this was a real brawl.
●vs. Dave Boswell of Twins in 1969, Boswell, one of Martin's pitchers, was hospitalized.
●vs. Reggie Smith of Red Sox: cops prevented this one while Martin was managing Tigers.
●vs. elderly Bert Hawkins, Rangers’ traveling secretary; Martin slapped him.
●vs. Ray Hagar, a reporter in Reno; Martin punched him.
●vs. the notorious marshmallow salesman in 1979; Martin by KO.
●vs. Ed Whitson of Yankees in 1985; Martin, in losing this one to his own pitcher, suffered broken bones.
●vs. unknown bar patron in Arlington, Tex. 1988. Martin took a real beating.
This famous ballplayer was 48 when he played for the 1948 Brooklyn Dodgers under Branch Rickey. But those weren’t the baseball Dodgers. Martin was the kicker for the All-America Conference football team. Rickey, football GM too, signed him to boost attendance. It didn't help.
Martin's favorite football stadium? Delorimier in Montreal. He said that it was there in 1947 that he kicked five field goals for the Dodgers in an exhibition victory over the Montreal Alouettes. “I kicked so hard that day that I tore some muscles in my thigh and had to give up professional football for good.” (Apparently somebody's memory is off a year.)
Felix "Tippy" Martinez was a very handy lefthanded reliever for the Orioles in 1976-86. During those very same years the team also had Dennis Martinez, a Nicaraguan, in its rotation. Dennis, of course, speaks Spanish, but when reporters tried to speak it with Tippy they drew blank stares. He didn't understand; he's from Colorado.
The Orioles sometimes play the University of Maryland team or the Naval Academy team. The Maryland National Guard sponsors some of these pleasant exhibitions. Once at the University of Maryland field, an officer ordered an enlisted man to place a flare on third base so that an Army general could land by helicopter and throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Naturally, the enlisted man followed orders, although Tippy happened to be standing on the bag chatting with teammates.
Fortunately the incident proved hilarious and scary, rather than injurious. (Maybe you have to have been in the military to appreciate it.)
He once pitched a 14-hit shutout. He got the first two batters in each of the first seven innings, then relaxed before getting the third outs.
WILLIAM CLARENCE MATTHEWS
He was Harvard's black shortstop. He went on to play in the Vermont League in 1906. That league was not affiliated with OB. There were rumors he'd go into OB but it's unclear what happened.
. . .
He was the only Brave to play for the franchise when it was in Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta. He’d also played for the old Atlanta Crackers on his way to the majors.
An outfielder during the summers, he sang professionally in the off season, and apparently did well. Unfortunately, there were many wannabe singers who didn't fare so well. Other baseball-playing singers include Charles “Red” Barrett, Mudcat Grant, Mickey McDermott, Coco Crisp and Ben Broussard. Lee Maye, incidentally, is not to be confused with former first baseman Lee May.
He's remembered best for wearing his birthday--May 14--on his uniform
He was Tigers' best position player during their championship season of 1945. The end of the war ended his days as a star, though. Basically, he was a third baseman trying to play second base. (He had a good arm and limited range.) He collided in the field with outfielder Hoot Evers in early June 1946 and was hospitalized for some time. Jimmy Bloodworth played some second base, then Skeeter Webb subbed. Mayo, who batted lefty, is remembered as the guy who ducked after every pitch, lest a catcher bean him.
He was a reserve outfielder when he tied a major league record by driving in six runs in an inning. It happened Aug. 4, 1945 in Griffith Stadium in Washington when McBride and the Red Sox scored 12 runs in the fourth inning of the nightcap of a doubleheader. He cleared the bases with a triple the first time, then later cleared them with a double. Two others shared the record at that time: Fred Merkle of the 1911 Giants and Bob Johnson of the 1937 A’s. (Ed Cartwright of St. Louis club drove in seven in an American Association game in the 1890s.)
He made the first and last outs of the 1946 World Series. See Tatis.
He threw out his arm, joining his Philadelphia A’s teammates in their mutual self-destruction. Joe Coleman and Dick Fowler also had arm trouble in 1950. This helped finish the A’s in Philadelphia. The team, which lacked depth and power, was banking on its pitching. Soon the team was based in Kansas City.
He went from June 28, 1899, until the end of his career without a homer. That was 3,021 at-bats. Joe Sugden homered May 31, 1895, and never homered again; that was 2,426 ABs. Mike Tresh went 2,568 ABs without a homer, from May 19, 1940 till April 20, 1948.
The Washington Post reported on May 2, 1894 under a Paducah, Ky., dateline: “Last Saturday at Canton, Ky., the baseball team went out to practice and Alfred McCawley, a respected citizen, was selected to umpire. His decisions proved unsatisfactory, precipitating a quarrel among the members. McCawley then became exasperated and, going behind the backstop, he blew his brains out with a revolver.”
He was the only AL regular Bob Feller didn’t strike out in 1946. A good contact hitter, he struck out 22 times that season.
When Ted Williams went off to fight in the Korean War, Barney was left with the highest career BA of any active American Leaguer. He had the dubious distinction of being traded for a future Hall of Famer in one of Connie Mack's worst trades. It happened May 18, 1946. Barney, 28, had been an AL star since 1939, when he'd hit .311 for the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers traded him even-up for George Kell, 23, a third baseman who'd hit very modestly in his two seasons in the majors. Kell, of course, played in the majors through 1956 and made the Hall of Fame. McCosky injured his back. He sat out the 1949 season while Kell was winning the AL batting title at .342. McCosky never again played well and was out of baseball by fall 1953. Oddly, he outhit Kell during his career .312 to .306.
Barney was Polish and Lithuanian. His surname was an anglicized from the Polish.
He was the first to play in a 20th century World Series without having played in the regular season that year. He got out of the navy just in time for the 1945 series and was, of course, allowed to play. He pinch-hit once. (Bug Holliday slipped into the 1885 Series that way.)
McCullough, a good defensive catcher, was said to be the last major-leaguer to catch without a chest protector. He was a department store detective in the off-season for many years, and, indeed, he looked like a cop.
He got a $50,000 bonus to join brother Lindy on the Cardinals; he appeared worth every cent of it. He beat the Dodgers on two hits in his first major league start. Not long thereafter, he one-hit the Pirates.
Then he somehow lost his rhythm. The Cards sent him to their Houston farm, then to Winston-Salem of the Carolina League. He never righted himself. He became a Class D shortstop in 1959, opening the season at Daytona Beach of the Florida State League. But he topped out as a Triple-A infielder.
Players didn't push this umpire much. He was widely known as the only man every to whip Gentleman Jim Corbett. It had happened when they were schoolboys in California. McDonald umpired primarily in California.
Willie, a little lefty from Atlanta, was one of the youngest ever to play in the majors. He was about 16 when he went 11-9 pitching for Cleveland's Players League team in 1890..He was out of the majors by the mid-90s.
Sporting Life reported in 1898: “Willie McGill's devoted brother John is still engaged in the wearisome task of looking after Willie, keeping him straight and helping him out of scrapes. He has made his usual preseason announcement that brother Willie has reformed and become a teetotaler.” Willie died in Indianapolis in 1944.
While playing for Florida State University he hit six home runs and drove in 16 runs in a game at the University of Maryland May 9, 1999. These were both NCAA records. He singled his first trip, then homered his next six.
This long-time National League first baseman shot himself in the heart in Louisville in 1910, two years after last playing in the majors. A brother had done same thing a year earlier.
He held the record for most consecutive games as an umpire: 2,541 in the AL.
John McGraw, well aware that most everybody was laying for him at third base, sought to prolong his playing career by moving to the outfield. He wanted the Orioles to give his third-base job to Joe Quinn. But Quinn had married an undertaker’s daughter. He wanted to return to St. Louis, where he ran a funeral parlor. Orioles boss Ned Hanlon finally gave in to Quinn, thus foiling McGraw’s plan.
On June 8, 1898, the Orioles dealt Quinn and outfielder Jake Stenzel to the St. Louis Browns for outfielder Ducky Holmes and $8,000. Everybody kept taking shots at McGraw at third base, but not until May 24, 1902 did anybody spike him seriously. It was Dick Harley of the Tigers; he sliced open McGraw’s leg, all but ending his career.
He struck out five times in 1922. He batted 537 times in 122 games. He walked 15 times.
He was known for his drop ball, which helped him win 27 games for the 1898 Baltimore Orioles. He was also known as an odd character. People joked that he slept 25 hours a day. He fielded horribly and didn’t cover first base. He once said he was working on his fielding. He admitted that he’d fielded “like a pallbearer escorting a hearse. . . I didn't cover no more ground than that pitcher that has no legs.” (A wheelchair athlete was active as an amateur.)
On May 1, 1899, he earned his title legally; graduating from South Carolina Medical College. He planned, though, to keep on pitching awhile.
“There's more coin and less work in pitching ball, sir, and I will stick to it as long as the coin rolls in," he told teammate John McGraw. He soon died in a carriage mishap.
He signed with his hometown team in Cleveland after it entered the old American Association in 1887; it turned out he'd already signed with Rochester’s minor-league club. After a heated dispute, the National Commission let him stay in Cleveland.
He got into another hassle during Brotherhood Year. Although he later denied it, he telegraphed Sporting Life that he was jumping to the Players League in 1890. He and Eb Beatin had signed with both the Spiders and with Cleveland's new Players League team. Ed's indecision led to a messy affair in the press. After signing McKean, the new team signed Ed Delahanty, then decided it would rather play Del at short than McKean. Management, though, said it would honor McKean's contract. McKean ended up sticking with the Spiders, and Delahanty–although never a likely shortstop--played regularly for the new team.
He was a hypochondriac and a drunk. He had fits of depression during which he wouldn't pitch. In October 1888 he was tried for manslaughter in Wilmington, Delaware for killing a peanut vendor on the Forepaugh Circus Grounds in May 1888. He was exonerated because of lack of evidence..
He hit the first pinch-hit grand slam.
EDGAR “PETE” McNABB
This former Baltimore Orioles pitcher shot himself and his actress girlfriend Feb. 28, 1894 in a hotel in Pittsburgh. No reason was ever learned; the assumption was that they were broke and decided on a suicide pact.
He was nicknamed for Boob McNutt of the Rube Goldberg comic strip. On Aug. 24, 1945, Judge Bramham suspended him 138 playing days for assaulting umpire Maurice Green in an Ohio State League game in Middletown, Ohio. McNair, a former big-league infielder, was managing the Zanesville team.
A pitcher with the Cardinals, he’s considered the first “modern” player to wear glasses on the field. Just why it was more difficult for him to wear them in the 1900s than it was for Will White in the 1800s is unclear. This is not meant to detract from Meadows’ accomplishments, which were considerable.
Others who followed by the mid-1940s: pitchers Carmen Hill, Danny MacFayden, Boom-Boom Beck and Vic Sorrell, infielders George Torporcer, Russ Peters and Bob Dillinger, and outfielders Chick Hafey, Lloyd Waner and Dom DiMaggio.
Pitcher Bill Lee, outfielder Paul Waner and infielder Mark Koenig wore glasses late in their careers. Pitcher Dizzy Trout usually wore them -- but not always. In 1947, two Pacific Coast League catchers wore glasses: Bill Raimondi of the Oakland Oaks and Jim Hill of the Seattle Rainiers. Raimondi had trained with the White Sox that spring.
MEAN PLAYERS (OR JUST PLAIN MEAN PEOPLE)
Ty Cobb was the meanest of the famous players, but there were, and are, plenty of other ornery cusses around. Satchel Paige said Clint Courtney was “the meanest man I ever met.” (Courtney was the first catcher to wear spectacles.)
Joe Medwick would as soon poke a teammate as anybody.
Then there was Floyd "Jelly" Gardner, a Negro league outfielder in 1919-33. This guy was so mean his teammates were afraid of him. One time a teammate got into a fight with the Kansas City Monarchs. As the melee spread, a policeman clubbed the KC team's Frank Duncan with a nightstick, knocking him cold. While Duncan was unconscious, Gardner (wearing spikes, of course) kicked Duncan in the mouth.
Pitcher Stan Williams once told Hank Aaron: “I'm sorry I hit you on the foot.” Aaron: “That's OK. Forget it.” Williams: “I meant to hit you in the head.”
Among other pitchers known for throwing at hitters, or at least brushing them often: Dolf Luque, Jack Dunn, Sal Maglie, Bob Rush, Jim Coates, Jack Morris, Early Wynn, Corky Valentine, Raul Sanchez, Guy Bush and Denny Galehouse. Although he'd proved big league caliber, Sanchez was sent down merely because he precipitated riots by throwing at batters.
Born in 1963, he was in the majors only briefly in 1988-89 and 1991. He hit two of his 10 homers off Tommy John, who was in the majors before Medina was born. Medina, incidentally, pronounces his name “muh-dee-nuh,” not like the town in Ohio. (Ohioans say “lie-muh” for their town, too, instead of as in Jose Lima.)
His 1967 Twins were 25-25 and in sixth place when he was fired after six seasons. Under Cal Ermer the team tied for second, giving each player a $1,171.33 World Series share. The players, in a cantankerous meeting Sept. 29 (when the team still had a good chance at the pennant), voted Mele no share. Some players contended that if Mele didn't get a share then Ermer shouldn't either. Ermer got a full share, Mele nothing. The commissioner's office “deplored” this but didn't alter things.
He had a good fastball but nothing else much except an excess of ears. His were so big that people called him “Mickey Mouse.”
Upon being named manager of the 1903 Tigers he committed suicide. Well, obviously other factors were involved, but the public never learned what they were. Gambling and women were speculated.
He played one game for the 1922 Pirates. He became president of the American Metereological Society in 1954-56. He discovered a meteor crater in Labrador, which is officially named Merewether Crater and Merewether Lake. He was 97 when he died Jan. 2, 1997.
A shortstop with the Cubs, he became imfamous for making four errors in the second inning of the nightcap Sept. 13, 1942, at Braves Field. But he had an excuse: Len Jr. had been born that morning. A headline proclaimed: “Boots is Born, Merullo Boots Four.” Unfortunately for the baby, he was stuck with the nickname “Boots” forevermore.
He was a 19-year-old pitcher in the Cubs’ system who married Mamie Van Doren, Bo Belinsky's former girlfriend.
Casimir Kweitniewski, 17, was an American Legion star in Detroit when he signed with the wartime Chicago White Sox. He decided to shorten his name so it would fit into box scores. He mulled many possible surnames. “If I cut it down to ‘Kweit,’ they'll call me ‘Quiet’ or ‘Quit’ and I don't think either of them are very good,” he told a reporter. Before deciding on a new surname, Cass was farmed to Little Rock. Soon the White Sox front office was wondering why he wasn't in the box scores. Some guy named Michaels was playing in his place. Or so it seemed. Actually, Cass had merely adapted his father's name, Michael Kweitniewski, and had become Cass Michaels. He played for the White Sox while still in high school. A beaning cut his career short.
It was two strikes and you’re out for Jason Michaels of the Indians Aug. 16, 2006. Dennys Reyes of the Twins threw the first pitch outside to Michaels in the eighth inning. He thought it was a strike, though. The next two pitches were strikes, and Michaels went to the dugout and sat down. Plate umpire Rob Drake didn’t call him back, and everybody on the Indians bench thought Michaels knew what he was doing. When the Indians watched the tape later, they noted that Drake made no hand sign. Twins catcher Joe Mauer said that he knew what was happening but surely wasn’t going to say anything.
This lefty pitched in the minors in 1936-40. Then he became a Chicago cop. He directed traffic at Monroe and Wabash streets and in his spare time pitched his Chicago PD team to many sandlot victories. When the manpower shortage devastated wartime baseball, the Cubs signed Hank, 33, and put him on the mound. He was shelled in his two games.
He was pitcher of the year in the Eastern League in 2006. His helped pull the Akron Aeros out of a two-games-to-nothing hole in the playoffs, setting up a final clincher. It was his turn to pitch, and, guess what, the parent Cleveland Indians held him out of the game. They said he’d pitched enough that season. The rival Portland club went with its ace. So the fans who saw games all season got a phony showdown. Any wonder why nobody takes minor league races seriously?
Chapter II: When Miller trained with the 2007 Indians, he was ordered not to swing at any pitches while batting, lest he get hurt.
If your last name is common, you might want to incorporate your mother’s name into it. But what happens if her name was common, too? Well, you get Miller-Jones. This fellow hit .233 for Pawtucket in 1990. Broadcaster Jon Miller had a great gig for making fun of him.
This slick-fielding shortstop knocked his team, the Cincinnati Reds, publicly in 1948. Among other things, he said they’d be lucky to finish in a tie for last place. The team said they’d be glad to trade him and did, to the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phils finished sixth, the Reds seventh. But the Reds were only half a game ahead of the last-place Cubs.
He was a promising righthander with the minor league Baltimore Orioles before WWII. He injured his pitching arm seriously when bailing out of a plane. He had arm surgery at Johns Hopkins but doctors weren't optimistic about him pitching again. He gave up and quit the Orioles March 31, 1947, with a bad arm.
He played first base for Newark's team in the Federal League. When the league folded after the 1915 season, almost all players accepted cash buyouts if their contracts extended into 1916. Mills, a .215 hitter that season, was the exception. He demanded full payment. Team president Pat Powers, seeking to humiliate Mills, insisted that Mills work seven-hour shifts at the ballpark where the team had played. Mills stubbornly showed up for "practice" for 65 days. Only then did he get his money and report to a minor league team.
He was Fred Yapp when he got a tryout with the Boston Beaneaters. They told him they wouldn't sign anyone with such a ridiculous name. So he changed it. He never did pitch for the Beaneaters but was 30-48 in the majors.
In 1987 the Brewers used a six-man infield although they trailed 5-0 and the bases weren't even loaded.
This Hall of Famer was optioned in mid-career. The idea was for him to work out of his batting slump. He did, and soon rejoined the Yankees. Other shocking temporary demotions were inflicted upon Luke Easter, Ray Jablonski, Johnny Rucker, Frankie Baumholtz, Johnny Vander Meer and Walt Dropo.
VINEGAR BEND MIZELL
He walked nine while pitching a shutout for the Cardinals Sept. 1, 1958. Moreover, the Reds stole five bases against him. He held them to four hits, though, and stranded 11 runners in winning 1-0. It was the first game of a Labor Day doubleheader in Busch Stadium. The NL said it was a record high for a shutout.He walked six in the first four innings, but took a no-hitter into the fifth. Johnny Temple opened that inning with the first hit, but he was soon part of a double play. Pete Whisenant singled and stole second. Then Whisenand stole third while Frank Robinson took ball four. Robinson stole second, but Ed Bailey grounded out to end the inning.
Columnist Shirley Povich noted on July 1, 1940: “The sourest note of the 1940 season.was the revelation that shortstop Eddie Miller of the Boston Bees, perhaps the highest salaried player on the club, was ordered by a court to pay $25 a month to the support of his mother. Nice going, Eddie. Hope you bat .029.”
He was the first player ever taken in the amateur draft. The KC A’s took him in 1965. He became a national celebrity Sunday April 25, 1976, when two demonstrators tried to burn an American flag in the home fourth inning at a Dodger game. He saved the flag, running in behind the men and snatching it from them. Monday’s team, the Chicago Cubs, were ahead 1-0 at the time. And it happened during the Bicentennal!
This backup catcher for the Red Sox lasted into 1979. This is notable because he was the last major leaguer to bat without a helmet. (The helmet rule was grandfathered.).
He pitched the AL's first no-hitter (May 9, 1901), and league president Ban Johnson certified it. Nearly a century later the AL president tossed out this no-hitter, along with other questionable ones. Moore gave up two hits in the 10th inning and lost the game 4-2 to Jack Katoll and the White Sox.
He didn’t attract much attention while pitching for the Red Sox and others in 1970-78. He also didn’t lose much. His career won-lost percentage was .635. Some other largely forgotten pitchers with surprising percentages: Luis Aloma (.857), Howie Krist (771), Spud Chandler (.717), Atley Donald (.663), Ted Wilks (.663) and Al Brazle (.602)
Morganna Roberts debuted in the baseball world at the Presidential opener in 1970, kissing Frank Howard of the Washington Senators. At one all-star game, AL president Bobby Brown took all precautions that Morganna not get loose on the field. Morganna infuriated many women. One female sports editor at the Washington Post said the AL must at all costs "keep that bitch off the field." Meanwhile, the all-star game progressed with confessed game-fixer Barbaro Garbey very much on the field. It wasn’t as if Morganna was hurting anything.
The self-styled “Kissing Bandit” became part owner of the Class A New York-Penn League's Utica Blue Sox before the 1989 season. She gave up her kissing routine in 1996 and settled in Columbus, Ohio. She apparently was born in Louisville in 1954.
He starred for the KC Royals as a rookie outfielder while the other players were playing themselves into condition after the 1981 strike. But once the pitchers got sharp, his batting average plunged to .232.
Some teams tried to trade for him because they thought (erroneously) that he was Jewish. In 17 seasons in the majors, only once did he break double figures in homers. And in that one season (1937), he hit 25. Although unheralded, he averaged .291, threw well, hustled and was a good runner who legged out many doubles and triples.
On Dec. 9, 1939, the Philadelphia A’s traded him to the Tigers for Benny McCoy and pitcher George Coffman. Commissioner Landis undid the deal Jan. 14, 1940, when he declared McCoy a free agent. Eventually, Moses became a longtime coach.
He seemed the perfect replacement for Ralph Houk as manager of the 1979 Detroit Tigers. He'd managed their youngsters in the minors, and he'd paid his dues. But once the season started, the Cincinnati Reds fired their manager, Sparky Anderson. Tigers GM Jim Campbell wanted Anderson. With the team a game over .500 on June 12, Campbell fired Moss and hired Anderson. Moss never got another chance to manage in the majors.
Andy Pafko’s mother knew nothing about baseball. Relatives got her out for Pafko Day in 1945 in Chicago. The Pirates were providing opposition. Andy batted with the bases loaded and two down; he swung at a 3-2 pitch and struck out.
But, wait, he got another chance with the bases loaded and he homered. “My poor mother was beside herself,” he remembers. “She didn't know baseball and she didn't know what was going on. As it turned out, it was the only game she ever saw.” He says that game was the biggest thrill of his career.
He caught 217 straight games before going into the army in 1945. NL president Ford Frick ruled the streak was still intact when he got back. Ray caught only 17 more before Ray Lamanno ended the streak. Mueller and Lamanno split the Reds’ catching after the war. Oddly they died within 4 1/2 months of each other in 1993.
LOSING PITCHER MULCAHY
He was the first player inducted into the military in WWII.
While with the Louisville club, he pitched the American Association's first no-hitter Sept. 11, 1882, in Cincinnati, winning 2-0. In 1885 he was suspended for jumping his contract the third time in three years. He had a long feud with Sam Barkley, having stolen his girl when the players were teammates in Toledo in 1884. That year Mullane, a good hitter, led his team in victories and homers. He was the “Apollo of the box,” a ladies-day favorite who became the rage in Cincinnati in the 1880s when he pitched. He could throw with either arm.
He was a terrific springtime hitter. He might lead the AL in April, but by July he’d be platooning.
Rudy Regalado was another springtime star. While everybody else labored to get into shape in spring training, he'd be hitting .500. It was impossible to cut him.
The Cuban players caused such seasonal problems, too. Cuban pitchers were sharp in the spring and early summer. They usually fizzled in midsummer because they played ball 11 months a year. Then there were cool weather pitchers such as Vic Raschi, He'd win 15 games by the all-star break and finish with 20 or 21.
On July 4, 1950, Bernard Doyle, 54, a former fight manager, went to the Polo Grounds to see the Giants play a doubleheader against the Brooklyn Dodgers. He took along a friend's son, Otto Flaig Jr., 14. They sat in the upper deck in left-centerfield.
The two chatted during batting practice. At one point, Doyle, scorecard in hand, turned to say something to young Otto. Otto heard only a pop, which nearby fans heard, too.
Doyle never knew what hit him. He slumped dead, a .22 calibre bullet in his left temple. A nearby physician came to aid Doyle but could only pronounce him dead. Most of the 40,000 fans watched the doubleheader that afternoon without knowing about the death.
Police theorized that the shot had come from outside the Polo Grounds. Coogan's Bluff, which overlooked the park, seemed a likely spot. They searched the rooftops there and found spent .22 caliber cartridges. The rooftop was 750 feet from the ballpark, well within range of a .22 caliber bullet, said to be 1,500 feet. Police took a boy, 14, in for questioning. He owned two .22s. But he was soon released. The case is still open.
Stan's younger brother Ed, 22, was considered quite a prospect. A lefthanded hitter, he played outfield and first base, just like his brother. After three years of high school ball in Donora, he joined Monongahela of the Monongahela Valley League for two months. Then he went into the army, where he served in Europe with the ninth Division. He was discharged in time to report to the Braves camp in Fort Lauderdale in 1946. He was assigned to Richmond, Indiana, of the Ohio State League. He was batting .330 when released in June, probably in a cost-cutting binge. He got a tryout with the Cubs, signed and was sent to Shelby, N.C., in the Tri-State League, then was optioned to the Fayetteville Cubs. By July 1, he was leading the team with a .356 BA and was a local hero. He was ineligible for the all-star game, not having played in the Coastal Plain Lague long enough. That August he won a circling the bases contest. On Aug. 15 he became the first batter that season to clear the high wall in Kinston, 350 feet from the plate. He ended the season at .334, third best in the league. But he stalled in Class B ball.
A former minor league pitcher, he pitched to one batter in Sportsman's Park on the last day of the 1952 season. It was a pleasant publicity stunt during a meaningless game. Musial had cinched the batting title over the Cubs’ Frankie Baumholtz. So Musial pitched to Baumholtz, who turned around and batted righthanded for the only time in his career. He hit the first pitch and Billy Johnson fumbled the ball at third base for an error.
Charlie Atherton and Denny McLain were organists. Eddie Basinski played the violin professionally.
After an alleged betting coup concerning the '49 MVP awards, OB decided to release the result immediately after the voting, rather than hold it for release. Jackie Robinson and Ted Williams won that year. Earlier, owners frowned on such awards lest they have to give raises.
The Washington Senators bought him from the New Orleans Pelicans (one of the Cleveland Indians’ farm teams) on June 3, 1925, for later delivery. They agreed to pay $10,000 and send three players. The Pelicans were in a pennant race, so they delayed letting Myer and pitcher Harry Kelley report. Then Myer was operated on for enlarged glands. The operation wasn’t successful, and he went on the voluntarily retired list. He finally reported Aug. 25, Vean Gregg was sent down as partial payment.
Clark Griffith traded him to the Red Sox for Emory Rigney in 1927. In 1928, Rigney was in the minors and Myer hit .313 and led the AL in steals. But Griff got Myer back in 1929. Among other players, mistakenly traded, whom teams reacquired: Frankie Hayes by A’s; Rocky Colavito and Rico Carty, by Indians.
This famous third baseman was seriously beaned in 1896. (Tom Smith, trying out with the Colonels, hit him.) Having problems, he tried to prolong career by pitching. But he didn’t make much headway in 1898. He never pitched in the majors, except for a couple of innings a decade earlier, apparently while mopping up.
Ballplayers used to call a 3-2 count “near beer.” It goes back to the Depression, although at last report some states still had low-alcohol beer for college campuses, etc. It has an alcohol content of 3.2 percent or less, and is generally derided as a diluted product.
Four pitchers on this famous Yankee farm team totaled 73 victories and 16 defeats in 1937. Joe Beggs was 21-4, Atley Donald 19-2, Vito Tamulis 18-6 and Steve Sundra 15-4.
Sometimes he had trouble with his catchers. In June 1945 he shook A's teammate Greek George off so many times in Washington that George went to the mound and said (according to sanitized versions): "If you shake me off agan you big stiff I'll punch you in the nose.” The Greek was notoriously capable of doing such things and before the season ended did punch an AL umpire. But on the occasion in Washington, when Newcom doubled his fist to land a preemptive strike, umpire Bill Grieve intervened and separated the batterymates.
Once when Newsom was with the Tigers he ran to the plate to protest a ball-four call. Birdie Tebbetts, whose voice was so shrill it could be heard in the stands, screamed: "Back to the mound you big stiff. That was a lousy pitch."
He wore a size 52 jersey in 1946, largest in the majors.
A fiery little middle infielder, he often left games for pinch hitters, which ticked him off greatly. He kept records of those who batted for him. “If I can't hit as well as the fellows Ben Chapman sends to bat for me, I don't want my name in the official averages," he groused early in the 1947 season. “When I was with the A's I kept a record on the pinch hitters Connie Mack sent up for me. During one stretch, 52 went to bat without getting a hit. It got so bad the pinch hitters got superstitious--under my prodding--and refused to go to the plate. Finally, Frankie Hayes went to bat for me and doubled along the leftfield line to break the jinx.”
It’s a mystery where some of these come from. Some seem to come from plays and movies, which, after all, give many phrases to our language. “Handy Andy” Pafko, for example, likely got his nickname from the play Handy Andy. John Drew starred in the original. Zaza Harvey’s nickname probably came from the French play that came to Broadway at the turn of the last century: Zaza.
Owner Garry Herrmann considered having his Reds play night ball early in the 1900s. He had a fellow named George Cahill, owner of a floodlight manufacturing firm, rig up some lights as an experiment at Redland Field. Herrmann, active in the Elks Club, rounded up two teams of Elks and on June 18, 1909 he had them play an exhibition. The 5,000 fans in attendance included some of the Reds and Phillies. There was little trouble spotting the ball. Only one fly was lost, and it went for a homer. But Herrmann was long gone when the Reds finally did play at night.
Bumpus Jones, Ted Breitenstein and Bobo Holloman pitched no-hitters in the first starts in the majors. Addie Joss should have had one in his first start; there was questionable scoring.
On May 3, 1992 righthander Pete Smith of the Richmond Braves pitched a no-hitter against the Red Wings, winning 1-0 in Rochester. It was a seven-inning game, the nightcap of a doubleheader. Oddly on that same afternoon, Orlando lefty Alan Newman retired the first 22 Knoxville batters and went on to a 2-0 victory in a Southern League game. But he didn't get a no-hitter, even though he retired one more batter than Smith. Newman was pitching in a nine-inning game. Greg O'Halloran got a hit with one out in the eighth and Newman showered two batters later. He did get the 2-0 victory.
Was he the rightfielder in the Who's on First skit? No, there was no rightfielder mentioned in the skit. He’s not to be confused with pitcher Howie Nunn.
This very usable NL outfielder hurt his back and missed all of the 1951 season. In 1952, the Cubs, figuring he was done, sent him to their Los Angeles affiliate. After he showed he’d recovered at least partially, the White Sox salvaged him and employed him as a very successful pinch-hitter.
He’s best-remembered for writing Take Me Out to the Ball Game. Dennis Morgan portrayed him in a movie called Shine on Harvest Moon, which celebrates his romance with singer Nora Bayes. But the movie doesn’t mention an important fact, that he was only one of Bayes’ five husbands.
Not many softball players turn to baseball as they get older. Luke Easter and Ted Kluszewski did. Lou Novikoff was another, and he never learned to catch a baseball well. For example, he was playing for the Cubs’ farm in Los Angeles’ Wrigley Field when a line drive caromed off the wall, hit his head and went for two bases.
He made a name for himself with his hitting, though. After the 1940 season, he and infielder Lou Stringer were sold to the Cubs, through the working agreement, for $150,000.
He became a media darling. Newsmen called him the “Mad Russian,” “Mauling Moskovite,” “the Bolshevik Bomber,” “Larrapin' Lou,” “Volga Showboatman,” “Socking Soviet,” “Scourge of the Steppes,” etc., etc.
He was afraid of the ivy on the walls of Chicago’s Wrigley Field. Cubs traveling secretary Bob Lewis once took him to the wall and tried to show him the ivy wasn’t poisonous. Lewis pulled off some leaves, rubbed them over his hands and face, then chewed some. Impressed, Novikoff asked if he could smoke the leaves.
Alas, his terrible fielding doomed him in the majors.
Even after pitching for the Reds at 15, his high school eligibility was restored to amateur status. The AP voted him Ohio's best high school basketball player in 1946-7. He attended Hamilton High in Cincinnati. He apparently was eligible for baseball too, on the premise that he’d quit OB in 1946.
He was with the Dallas club when he won a batting contest July 8, 1946 in Fort Worth. He hit a ball well over 355-foot mark in left center. Then he took the mound and beat the Ft. Worth club’s ace, Eddie Chandler, 6-3, in front of a ladies day crowd of 10,500.
He was still with the Dallas team in April 1947, when he had three teeth pulled to see it would heal his sore arm.
He won 25 games for San Francisco’s Coast League team in 1921. Lots of trouble awaited in the majors. On July 7, 1923. he gave the Indians 13 runs in one inning, the sixth, while pitching in relief for the Red Sox. He faced 16 batters in the 27-3 loss. The inning became known as the "Indian Massacre." He went back to the minors and became a very successful outfielder.
This San Francisco woman tried to buy pitcher John Pregenzer's contract for $110 in 1964. She'd read that the Giants had paid $100 for it when they acquired him from the low minors.
It’s tough even finding a baseball magazine at the newsstand nowadays. There was a flood of them in the years just after WWII. Cynics might say these were akin to the Hollywood fan magazines that your sisters read, but these magazines were scrupulously done and taught many kids about baseball and its history. One drawback: each magazine focused on, say, the top 25 players of the current year. Articles abounded on Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, Jackie Robinson, Robin Roberts, Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, Ralph Kiner, Ferris Fain, George Kell, Dale Mitchell and Stan Musial. After that, a second group included Ted Williams (there was hardly a torrent of these), Ted Kluszewski, Vic Wertz, Gus Zernial, Eddie Joost, Preacher Roe and Del Ennis. After that, maybe Eddie Mathews, Bobby Shantz, Wally Westlake, etc. Warren Spahn and Hank Aaron didn’t get much attention.
This longtime big leaguer is generally forgotten. His career batting average was higher than Willie Mays', he had more hits than Ted Williams, more doubles than Babe Ruth, and he batted in more runs than Roberto Clemente.
ONE-HITTERS AND OTHER NEAR NO-HITTERS
These are often more interesting than no-hitters because there's an element of what might have been. For instance, while pitching for the Washington Senators Aug. 28, 1909, Dolly Gray lost a one-hitter to the White Sox 6-4. He walked eight batters in one inning, forcing in six runs. In all, he walked 11. Patsy Daugherty had the hit, a single.
Tom Hughes of the Yankees pitched no-hit ball for nine innings against the Naps/Indians and lost 5-0 in extra innings on Aug. 30, 1910. He faced 28 batters through nine, a runner reaching on an error. He gave up two hits in the 10th, then in the 11th gave up five runs on five hits and an error.
Cy Johnson, 37, no-hit his teammates for seven innings on April 2, 1946 in Miami Beach. It happened like this: The Phillies loaned him to their minor-league affiliate, the Miami Beach Flamingos, for their scheduled exhibition. He pitched seven hitless innings against his own team, striking out seven and left with 5-0 lead. The Phillies got five runs in the eighth off his minor league successor, then scored one in the ninth. But Miami Beach came back with two and won 7-6.
Al Gettel of the Indians would have had a no-hitter in 1947 if the Tigers hadn’t put on the hit-and-run after a batter walked. The Indians’ shortstop broke to cover second base, only to have Eddie Mayo hit a dribbler to where the shortstop normally plays. In 1981, defensive replacement Larry Littleton misjudged an easy fly, costing Bert Blyleven a fine chance for no-hitter.
Barney Ward came within a strike of a no-hitter in his first pro game. He’d just joined the Lawrence Millionaires of the New England League June 17, 1946. All he had to do was retire catcher Danny Hersey of the Portland club. Picking on a two-strike pitch, Hersey singled to center. Ward got next batter, winning 7-0.
The Indians, cutting payroll, dismantled their team in 2002. Things went horribly all season. On May 22, they faced the Tigers’ Jeff Weaver in Detroit. He took a no-hitter into the eighth inning. He got two outs, then faced Chris Magruder, just up from Buffalo. Magruder, playing his first game for the Indians, doubled off the rightfield wall. It was their only hit. Weaver won 2-0.
He was 94 when the Kansas City T-Bones of the Northern League signed him as a publicity gimmick July 18, 2006. Earlier in the month, Jim Eriotes, 83, had struck out in a minor league game in South Dakota.
DAVE ORR, HERO
His career BA was .342. It would have been much higher if he’d been a normal runner, especially since every ball an infielder even touched was an error in those days, if the batter beat it out.
At 5-10 and 240, he was, well, a little hefty. He played for the 1885 Mets when one newspaper reported: “The fat ballplayer from New York showed considerable animation in St. Louis today. Orr made a three-base hit, a homer for anyone else. Then he had to sit down on the bag, panting with exhaustion.”
After the 1884 season, the Association named Dude Esterbrook as its batting champion with a .408 average. Later, the league changed its mind, naming Harry Stovey at .404. In the early 1980s, statisticians decided Orr really had won at .354.
After leading the Mets to the 1884 pennant, he became a genuine hero. That Dec. 14, the train in which he was riding wrecked near Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Uninjured, he rescued a trapped boy, carrying him to safety.
He was a hero again in December 1887, rescuing a woman from an attacker in a New York apartment. Orr threw the culprit down a flight of steps, but fell, too, breaking an elbow and hand.
Gus Weyhing said this about him: “Dave Orr's old friends often tried to make believe that Dave was the greatest hitter that ever soaked the horsehide with a slice of ash, but I couldn't stand for it. Dave was a crazy, batty, daffy hitter. He would swing at a ball that hit the tip of his cap or go after one that was two feet over his head and outside the plate. He would scoop up a wild pitch that hit in front of the plate, one of those balls that a bowler tosses in cricket. Any pitcher who studied Orr found him an easy mark. His weakness was a fastball over the plate about waist high. Dave liked 'em anywhere, just as long as they were not over the plate.
“In one Association game the Athletics played in Columbus, Ohio, I struck out Dave three times. During Brotherhood year in a game between the Brooklyn and Philadelphia teams Orr made the longest hit I ever saw in my life. There were three on the bases and Dave hit a line drive over the centerfield fence off a wild pitch from Phil Knell. But the wild-pitch hitter is not an artist. The batsmen such as Keeler and Hamilton are the artists.”
Alas, he ended up a gatekeeper for the Giants.
He admitted in 1992 that he used a corked bat nearly half of his big-league career.
He was half of the corny in-law-outlaw joke just after WWII. Manager Steve O’Neill of the Tigers had both an outlaw and an in-law on his team. (Skeeter Webb married O’Neill’s daughter.)
NL umpires loved working behind this catcher and must have given his pitchers more than a few strike calls. He kindled this affection because he never showed up an umpire. He didn't frame pitches. He didn't hold balls to arouse the crowd, he didn't squabble and he kept his pitchers calm. He died in 2005.
PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE (I)
Originally, the “outlaw” California League had only teams within its state. Up north was the Pacific Northwest League, organized in 1901 under the National Agreement. Its teams, in order of finish that year: Portland, Tacoma, Seattle and Spokane. In 1902 the Pacific Northwest expanded. Its teams, in order of finish: Butte, Seattle, Helena, Portland, Tacoma and Spokane.
Before the 1903 season, the California League changed its name to the Pacific Coast League and added teams from Portland and Seattle.
The Pacific Northwest League fought this aggression head-on. It changed its name to the Pacific National and put teams in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Further, it loaded the new teams with quality players and had manager John McCloskey move from Butte to Los Angeles.
Imagine the train rides in the sprawling Pacific National. And just imagine the financial losses, which mounted quickly. The Portland team moved to Salt Lake City in July 1903, stretching the league even wider. The teams, in order of finish in 1903: Butte, Los Angeles, Spokane, Seattle, San Francisco, Tacoma, Helena and Salt Lake City.
Despite the disasters of 1903, the Pacific National operated in 1904. The teams, in order of finish: Boise, Spokane, Butte and Salt Lake City. Then the league folded. The Pacific Coast League had won the baseball war.
A Northwestern League soon arose from the ruins of the Pacific National, and it’s possible to trace the roots of the Western International and the Northwest League to the old Pacific National.
PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE (II)
In 1941, Don Barnes, who owned the St. Louis Browns, quietly sought to buy the Los Angeles Angels and LA's Wrigley Field from P.K. Wrigley. The idea was to move the Browns to LA for the 1942 season. Barnes was to pay $1 million. He planned to raise part of it buy selling Sportman's Park in St. Louis, plus the Browns' share of the territorial rights, to Cardinals owner Sam Breadon. Then he'd move the Angels to Long Beach as a Browns farm. He’s said to have had the AL votes necessary. Scheduling details had been worked out. The move was to be the first item of business at the winter meetings Monday Dec. 8, 1941. Pearl Harbor intervened. The moguls voted the transfer down.
In 1945 Paul Fagan bought one-third of the San Francisco Seals from Charlie Graham. Fagan, part of a large and very rich banking family, vowed to elevate the PCL to big-league status. Many people thought him a crackpot, but he had money and vision. He began implementing his plan by paying big league salaries. His 1946 Seals traveled first class and stayed in the best hotels. Salaries were big-league. He advocated, of course, that PCL teams quit selling their stars to the majors.
Before the 1946 season, the league president, Pants Rowland, petitioned the majors to grant big-league status. What he really was after was freedom from the draft and the ability for his teams to option players to AAA leagues--the American Association and International League--and retain their rights. The big leagues, after a few days of supposed deliberation, said no.
The Seals won the 1946 pennant, setting a minor-league attendance record. Larry Jansen went 30-6, and Hugh Luby (MVP) and Ferris Fain provided the offense. Other owners wouldn't put their money where their mouths were. (Fain balked when the A's drafted him. He finally went, but only because he had to.)
All of this was the beginning of major-league fever on the coast. The consensus was that “open” status should be granted for five years while the PCL enlarged its parks and its capitalization. That would mean dumping Sacramento and maybe Portland, but there were reasonable replacements such as Denver, Dallas or Houston.
Before the 1952 season began, the PCL was granted Open status. The Guide printed extensive details. The big change was some limited relief from the player draft. Only those players with five years in the minors were subject to the draft, and only if they hadn't signed their PCL contracts. The PCL had been angling for that since 1919. The PCL also had first refusal on any draftee returned to the minors.
These changes increased the fans’ interest. Moreover, the PCL season was increased to 180 games and, after a year's hiatus, the week-long series were restored. PCL played every day except Monday, and its teams played twice every Sunday.
Players such as Chuck Connors signed a no-draft clause in their contracts and the draft price for PCL players was raised to $15,000. Connors sounded off in the media, saying that some PCL payrolls exceeded some big-league payrolls. He said top PCL salaries were far below big league salaries but that veteran players in the PCL made out better than in the majors. He said the Angels were flying all the time. He noted that the PCL was the most far-flung league in the country.
By 1953, the majors quit playing around. They ruled that no PCL team could accept players on option from the majors. This hurt the league greatly. After that season, P.K. Wrigley of the Angels notified Bob Cobb of the Hollywood Stars that the territorial agreement would not be renewed after it expired in 1957. The Stars would have to leave L.A. They could have gone to the nearby San Fernando Valley, where the Angels held no rights, but they lacked money for a new stadium. It was never clear what Wrigley was up to.
The PCL was a shambles after the 1953 season. The failure to receive optioned players was disastrous. Things were changed in 1954. PCL teams could again be farm teams. The schedule was reduced to 168 games and the playoffs restored.
On Feb. 21, 1957, Walter O'Malley bought the Angels franchise and Wrigley Field for $3 million plus the Fort Worth farm team, from P.K Wrigney. But O'Malley convinced the PCL directors that he wanted the property only as a Dodger farm and the directors okayed the deal March 2. By that fall, the Dodgers' and Giants' moves were known. The PCL had been hoodwinked.
Looking back, in 1947 six of the eight PCL teams had their own farm systems. Only the Los Angeles Angels and the San Diego Padres didn't have one, and the Angels didn't need one because they were part of P.K. Wrigley's system. The six teams had a total of 11 affiliates, five in Class B, six in C. Two were owned outright. By 1958 they were holding the bag.
He was an American Association umpire who, on July 22, 1946, was “banged up” when he stepped into an open manhole during broad daylight. In January 1952, he tangled his feet rushing to break up a brawl during a Cuban Winter League game and knocked himself cold.
The Brooklyn Dodgers bought him from the Cardinals in December 1941 for $25,000 but he was in the Navy by the time the 1942 season began. The Dodgers wanted their money back but the commissioner, K.M. Landis, let the deal stand.
He sought to become the first Hall of Famer to return to the majors (like Guy Lafleur in hockey). It was in spring 1991, seven years after the Orioles had seemingly ended his career by releasing him (0-3, 9.17 in 1984). But at 45, his fastball was missing in the one spring game he pitched in, on March 11 in Bradenton, Fla. He gave the Red Sox two runs on five hits in two innings of his start. Two days later he quit.
Ramon Arano did it in the Triple-A Mexican League. He quit pitching in 1986, make the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame in 1993, then came back and pitched five games in 1995, one in 1996 and one in 2001. That gave him a total of 31 seasons. He won 334 games in that league, without ever once winning 20 in a season.
Some others who came back after a season or more in retirement include Jose Rijo, Buddy Lewis, George Strickland, Dizzy Trout, Hal Trosky and Arky Vaughan. Vaughan had quit rather than play for Leo Durocher.
Some people call these “palindromes,” and they read the same backward and forward. Here are those known in baseball lore:
Eddie Kazak (but his real name was Kaczak or, some say, Tkaczuk.)
Johnny Reder (from Poland)
It’s up to you if you want to count pitchers Emil Yde (pronounced same back and forward) or Russ Van Atta.
In a real mystery, pitcher Milt Pappas’ wife was missing many years. Finally, her car was found near the family home, and she’d drown inside when the car plunged into a lake.
Ted Williams complained in the late 1940s that the Red Sox equipment manager had ordered low-crowned caps without blocking. Williams said he didn't want to look like a “Pea-Head.” And when Ted Williams complained, management listened; blocked caps soon became standard attire.
The added blocking brought about some real hot-shot cap styles. But there’ve been some interesting changes in recent years, too. Back in the 1980s some players wore their hats just as they came out of the box: no blocking and with flat bills. Now, in the 2000s, the bills are very curved. Someone’s even invented a curved plastic insert for the bills on Wall-Mart caps.
Bo Belinsky and Steve Dalkowski drilled a hole through the wall of a Miami hotel room so they could ogle a Miss Universe contestant in 1961. Dalkowski blew the thing when he shined a flashlight through the hole; the girl called the desk and the players were in trouble.
Back in the days when Organized Baseball was still fighting to preserve its reserve clause, the Sporting News got outfielder Frankie Baumholtz to say that “peonage is fun.” The subject of contracts, of course, takes endless volumes to cover, but here are some interesting tidbits.
A bank once owned outfielder Max West. It happened after the 1935 season, when a creditor took the Sacramento Solons to court. The bank came off with ownership of West’s contract, then sold him to the San Francisco Seals.
Outfielder Bob Nieman was used to buy a team. It went like this: Going into the 1951 season, Bill Veeck owned one-third interest in the Oklahoma City Indians, a remnant of the days when he’d owned the Cleveland Indians. But in July 1951, Veeck bought the St. Louis Browns. One of the Browns’ assets was the San Antonio Missions. Now, Veeck owned two teams in the Texas League. Minor league czar George Trautman told him he’d have to sell one or the other. He opted to sell the Oklahoma City shares, and as partial payment from his partners he accepted Nieman and two other players. When Nieman won the Texas League batting title that season, Veeck recalled him to the Browns.
The Red Sox once left Tris Speaker behind to pay for rental of spring training facilities.
Paul Calvert bought himself. So did Lou Klein.. Some teams have refused to let players “buy themselves.”
When Havana put a team in the Florida International League in 1946, the league had to jigger its by-laws. Cuban law forbids buying and selling personal service contracts.
John Paveskovich and wife Ruth petitioned the probate court in Salem, Mass., to change their surnames to “Pesky” in April 1947. And, like the old chestnut goes, after that season he never again got 200 hits in a season.
Yes, these were two people, Jeff Pfeffer I and II. They were brothers who pitched in the NL. “Big Jeff” came first. His real name was Francis Xavier Pfeffer. Then came kid brother Edward Joseph Pfeffer. They barely overlapped, so one merely inherited the “Jeff” nickname from the other.
PHILADELPHIA BLUE JAYS
In spring 1944 the Philadelphia Phillies held a contest for a new name. Mrs. Elizabeth Crooks won a $100 War Bond and season pass, gasp, for coming up with Blue Jays, one of 635 proposals. Papers could say “A's, J's lose.” The name never stuck.
JACK D. PHILLIPS
He couldn’t stick in the majors because he was a first baseman without power. He did most everything else well. He’d play the infield, the outfield, pinch-hit and he’d even pitch. After finishing his long career in the minors, he managed in minors, then became a longtime college coach. He also reffed college and high school basketball. First basemen without power have their troubles. Even Clothesline Bob Boyd couldn’t hold his jobs in the majors while hitting .300. Rocky Hale had the same trouble.
A first baseman for the 1879 Cleveland team, he was the first Canadian-born big-leaguer. But he’d grown up in Chicago and he eventually went back there as a cop.
May 18, 2003 was a big day for baseball’s Jason Phillipses. The Mets recalled the catcher named Jason Phillips, and the Indians recalled the pitcher of that name.
HUSTLING HORACE PHILLIPS
He was one of the founders of the American Association. Poor fellow ended up in an asylum.
He was a one-armed megaphone announcer for the Washington Senators in 1901-28. He was still giving speeches at the city’s Touchdown Club as late as 1946. Obviously, he had a big, booming voice.
He and Eddie Robinson increased their homers every season for seven seasons. Piersall did it in 1950-57 (with one year out in minors), Robinson in 1942-51 (with time out for WWII.)
Jim Peterson, liaison officer for the Oakland A's and their training site of West Palm Beach, Florida, reported several “unfortunate experiences” with the pigeons in the beams at the park. He said that if the city didn’t remove them he'd get a bird license and shoot them.
Lots of people, including many baseball writers, didn't think much of the Temple Cup and its setup. One clever writer referred to the cup as the "Pimple Gup."
Ted Easterly hit .433 as an AL pinch hitter in 1912. Don Dillard hit .429 as an AL pinch hitter in 1961.
He won four games in six days to finish the 1943 season with 20 victories in the PCL.
Edwin “Alabama” Pitts was 19 when he held up a grocery store in NYC. He got eight to 16 years in Sing Sing, which was not a music school. A model prisoner, he excelled at all prison sports. As Pitts neared parole, the warden helped him seek a job in baseball. Several teams were interested. When he signed with Joe Cambria’s Albany Senators, he set off a nationwide furor. Some folks feared him, noting that he’d pulled at least five other stickups besides the one he was convicted of. Others figured he’d paid his debt to society. After all, few people had any money in the Depression. The controversy went all the way to Judge Landis, who ruled that, upon parole, Pitts could play in organized ball.
Pitts debuted Sunday May 23, 1935, going two for five with a run and an RBI against the Syracuse Chiefs. And he looked good in centerfield.
He also played two games for the Philadelphia Eagles football team in 1935.
One night, while at a dance in Valdese, N.C., he tried cutting in on a man named Newland LeFevres of Morgantown. It turned out that the N.C. burg was an even tougher place than Sing Sing. LeFevres stabbed Pitts, cutting an artery in his shoulder. Pitts died within hours, on June 6, 1941.
He was a third baseman with the Reno team in the California League in 1958. That Aug. 10, he hit a ball over the fence in Fresno. He came across the plate behind Angel Figueroa. But Plaskett realized he’d missed first base. So he then ran to first and re-circled the bases. When a new ball was put into play, pitcher Tom Fitzgerald took his stance on the rubber, then threw to first base on an appeal play. Umpire Joe Fluery ruled Plaskett out for failing to touch the bases in the right order. Plaskett played 17 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1970s. He was a catcher then.
THE PLAYER TO BE NAMED LATER
This guy gets around. A good trivia question: Who were the unknown players traded for Joe DiMaggio when the San Francisco Seals dealt him to the New York Yankees on Nov. 21, 1934? The Yankees gave up $25,000 then and there, and DiMaggio was marked for 1936 delivery, giving him one more year in the Pacific Coast League. Then on Dec. 19, 1934, the Yankees completed the deal by sending the players to be named: pitcher Floyd Newkirk, shortstop Doc Farrell and minor leaguers Jim Densmore and Ted Herbert.
PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM
Veteran outfielder Sam Chapman reprised his 1952 season nicely while playing for the Oakland Oaks. Note the figures:
G AB H HR RBI PCT.
1952 Oakland, PCL Open 173 617 162 16 98 .263
1953 Oakland, PCL Open 174 617 162 22 93 .263
As a starter for the Cardinals, he remains forgettable. But he deserves remembering for his perseverence: it took him 13 years to get his engineering degree. (He was able to go to school only in the off-season, of course.)
It’s easy to see why people want to leave lawless Venezuela. A carjacker shot and killed Gus, an infielder, April 28, 1995. He was 34.
A Polish gentleman once offered the following translations to a columnist: Musial means “he [or she] must do”; Pafko means “little peacock”; Podgajny is about the same as “Underwood”; and Wyrostek comes from a verb meaning “to outgrow.”
Vinegar Bend Mizell and Jim Bunning are just two former players in Congress, at least recently. Pius Schwert, a former Yankee catcher, was twice elected to Congress. Old-timer John Tener became governor of Pennsylvania. More recently governors Mario Cuomo and Frank Lausche played minor-league ball. So did the late senator Gene McCarthy.
One of the top NL lefties of the postwar era, he later went into the insurance business with his former manager, Eddie Dyer. But Pollet died at 53 after a long illness.
He distinguished himself as a government doctor during the Spanish-American War. He was billed as the only major leaguer to go into the military for that war, but, actually, Orioles manager Ned Hanlon had given him notice June 1, 1898. Hanlon had a replacement lined up. Pond pitched his last game July 6, beating the Phillies 12-0 on a five-hitter in Baltimore. His commission came through July 5, 1898, and he was assigned to Fort Myer, just across the Potomac from Washington, D.C.
Dr. Pond wrote a friend: “The place is full of typhoid fever cases. In our ward I have 16 out of 20 suffering from it. You should see the doctors in their new army uniforms. They are of white duck. Mine will arrive tomorrow. Of course we pay for them ourselves. My only expenses otherwise are $30 per month for meals and six cents on the outside for papers. At that, I get little baseball news.” He died in the Philippines in 1930.
Two other former big-leaguers did go to war: Charlie Bastian, who’d been in the majors in 1884-91, and pitcher Percy Coleman of the 1897 Browns.
This pitcher instinctively tried to catch a line drive barehanded in 1949. He broke his right index finger. It happened during his first start of the season. He had a 2-1 lead in Cleveland when Hal Peck hit the liner in the sixth inning.
He began in sports as a bike rider. Large for his age, he was a prodigy at 14 in Havana. He was second in the Pan -American Games in 1950 in Guatemala City. In 1951 he traveled to Buenos Aires for a race, in which he finished fifth.
It’s hard to imagine but on April 20, 1896, the Baltimore Orioles killed their team mascot, a possum. They did it because they decided he was a hoodoo. The Orioles finished second but beat the Boston Beaneaters for the Temple Cup.
In May 1993, some barrels of toxic chemicals exploded near the stadium in Buffalo, forcing postponement of a game between the Bisons and the Iowa Cubs. There were some other odd postponement about that time: bees prevented one game, then there was a major fire in the tunnel leading into Baltimore.
Everybody remembers he was once tossed for throwing spitters. Cal Hubbard threw him out, not so much because he was caught throwing a spitter, but because he grouchily defied Hubbard's order to quit “huffing” on the ball. Potter always denied he was wetting pitches, but not many people believed him. Hubbard supposedly told pals that he tossed Potter for merely going through the motions, not actually throwing it.
His stay with the Cleveland Indians coincided with the team's introduction of bright red uniforms. This was indeed unfortunate. Powell was said to look like a “Bloody Mary.” To others, he looked like Santa Claus.
He played centerfield for the Yankees while Joe DiMaggio was still a leftfielder, then things went steadily downhill. He embarrassed himself on national radio, making a racial slur, then he had trouble holding jobs. Then there was trouble with some checks. He committed suicide in police court in Washington, D.C.
In summer 1955, Mrs. Myrtle “Myrt” Power, 70, a Georgia-born grandmother, appeared on The $64,000 Question. Hal March asked her 10 baseball questions, which she answered. She won $32,000 and quit. That was a record until opera buff Gino Prado tied it and then a Marine captain surpassed it. He was a cooking expert.
Here are the questions Myrt was asked. She was in the notorious “isolation booth” for the last four. Her answers, which were correct, are given in italics.
For $64: What is the keystone base? Second base.
For $128:What is meant when a player is "on deck"? The next batter up.
For $256: What is meant by a "duster"? A pitch thrown too close to the batter.
For $512: What is meant by a "Texas Leaguer"? A looping hit, too far out for the infield and too close in for the outfield.
For $1,000: A baseball manager dreams of a player who can hit safely every time he comes to bat. The record for batting safely--successive times at bat--stands at 12. Two men hold that record: Walt Dropo, who hit 12 successive times at bat for Detroit in 1952, and one other man. For $1,000 name the other man who shares the record for successive hits since 1900. Frank "Pinky" Higgins, with the Boston Red Sox in 1938.
For $2,000: Bob Feller is the only pitcher to pitch three no-hitters, but there are a number of pitchers who have pitched two no-hitters. Allie Reynolds is one. For $2,000 name a pitcher who pitched for Detroit and a pitcher who pitched for Cincinnati, both having two no-hitters to their credit. Virgil "Fire" Trucks of the Detroit Tigers and Johnny Vander Meer of the Cincinnati Reds. (She didn't name, or have to name, Larry Corcoran or Cy Young, who each had three before Feller.)
For $4,000: Babe Ruth leads all other batters in home runs during a season. His major league record is 60 homers in 1927. Two other major league batters are tied for second place, having hit the same number of homers each, though in two different years. Now for $4,000, I want three things: the names of the two batters and the number of homers each hit. Jimmie Foxx in 1932 and Hank Greenberg in 1938; 58 for each.
For $8,000: The St. Louis Cardinals have won the National League pennant at least nine times. Give the me exact dates of the last four times the Cardinals won the pennant. You can give the four dates in any order you please. 1946, 1944, 1943, 1942.
For $16,000: One of baseball's all-time highlights took place in the 1934 all-star game when Carl Hubbell struck out five men in a row. The brilliance of this performance can be measured by averaging the hitting records of those five American League sluggers. It comes to .332. Now for $16,000, name the five men struck out in succession by Carl Hubbell in the 1934 all-star game. You can list them in any order. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin.
For $32,000: The official record books list seven players who are credited with over 3,000 hits during their careers in the major leagues. Ty Cobb heads the list with 4,191 hits garnered in his 24 years of play. Name the remaining six players who have a lifetime total of 3,000 or more hits. Adrian “Cap” Anson, Honus Wagner, Napoleon “Nap” Lajoie, Tris Speaker, Eddie Collins and Paul Waner.
Myrt preceded the rigging scandals, which broke in mid-1958. She never was called as a witness. It was reported, though, that she’d benefitted from some backstage coaching.
The majors have had two players named John Adams. Other major leaguers include George Washington, John Tyler, Zack Taylor, James Buchanan, Ben Harrison and John Kennedy. There’ve been players surnamed Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Taylor, Grant, Garfield, Truman, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, Bush, etc.
C. MELVIN PRICE
He’d covered the Browns and Cardinals for the East St. Louis Journal. He joined the army in 1943. He was a private when folks back home in East St. Louis, Ill., put up his name for Congress in April 1944. He couldn't campaign, of course, but he was elected anyway. He served more than 30 years.
Through 1989, his batting average of .356 in 1988 was the best for a righthander since Joe DiMaggio's .357 in 1941. Lou Boudreau hit .355 in 1948.
Sports Illustrated has foisted horrible puns on a couple generations of readers. The trend has spread like the flu. Baseball Weekly committed one of the all-time worst about Jim Konstanty. A cutline Nov. 19, 1992 read: “Konstanty Noble,” then it went on to tell about his 1950 season.
Besides playing for the Cubs, what did Stan Hack, Claude Passeau, Bill Lee and Billy Jurges have in common? They all were released on Sept. 26, 1947, as the team cleaned house of its veteran stars. There were still two days left in the season, too. Hack, 37, had spent 16 seasons with the team. Jurges, 39, was on his second tour with the Cubs. Passeau, 38, had had back surgery that kept him from reporting that year until June. Actually, Lee, 37, wasn’t on the Cubs’ roster when released. He’d come to town in 1934 and remained until August 1943 when he was traded to the Phillies. After an interval with the Boston Braves, he rejoined the Cubs in spring 1947. They optioned him to the Tulsa Oilers on June 30.
This Stanford University player was hit by five pitches in one game Feb. 9, 2002 to set an NCAA Divsiion I record. In the game Stanford beat Florida State 15-11. Quentin was a sophomore outfielder with sores everywhere. He was hit in the second, fifth, sixth, eighth and ninth innings. He went 0 for one at bat and scored twice. “It's kind of fun to have a record but it's not too fun to get hit five times.” He was hit 14 times the season before that, high on the team.
At last notice, they were still looking for this former player implicated in a 1907 embezzlement case in Chicago.
Until Julio Franco came along, Quinn was the oldest major leaguer to homer. He did it June 27, 1930, when he was 46 years and 357 days old. He was then a pitcher for the Philadelphia A's.
On Dec. 15, 1955, Stan Jok of the Caracas team hit three homers against Pampero, becoming the first in the Venezuelan league to hit three in a game. But on Jan. 8, 1956, Rac did him one better, hitting four for Pastora against Cabimas. Up till then he was only the eighth pro player ever to do that anywhere.
HUGH FRANK "RIP" RADCLIFFE
He struck out 28 while pitching for R.E. Lee High in Thomaston, Georgia. It happened in a night game April 19, 1948 in Silvertown Park, and Rip's catcher obviously missed a third strike. Rip, 18, gave up four hits, winning 10-0 over the Lanier High team that included future big leaguer Coot Veal. Lanier batters are said to have gotten their bats on only eight pitches.
Radcliffe lost only once in high school and it happened in his last game. Facing the Gainesville team in the playoffs, he lost a two-hitter, striking out 18. His teammates made 11 errors in the 10-8 defeat.
He led his Legion team to the state title in 1946. He was all-state in baseball, basketball, football and track. He once punted 78 yards.
The Phillies drafted him, paying a $40,000 bonus. He pitched for Wilmington, Beaumont, KC, Toronto and finally Binghamton, where he threw out his arm one cold night. He did train with the Yankees in 1950-51 and once struck out Joe DiMaggio. But he never got into a regular season game in the majors.
Returning to Georgia, he worked for the phone company and rec department. Thomaston held a Radcliffe Day in March 1998. (He's not to be confused with AL outfielder Rip Radcliff, from whom he inherited his nickname.)
The camera recorded him flashing an impolite “finger” to the photographer, prior to the 1886 opener.
In 1953, Look, a popular national magazine, had Gjon Mili photograph Raffensberger's tantalizing curveballs. Surprisingly, the photographs indicated the pitches were traveling only about 35 miles an hour. This, of course, was much slower than expected. Three cameras were used in the complicated experiment.
The 1942 Spalding-Reach Guide has a nice table on page 157 that shows railroad distances and fares. The killer ride was 1,212 miles from Boston to St. Louis. It cost $50.93 cents with tax. That was a Pullman, meaning you got a bunk to sleep in.
He was a cool weather pitcher at his best in the spring. One year he'd won 15 by the all-star break but struggled to win 20. Perseverence was his forte. He went to college 11 winters to get a B.S. degree in physical education at William & Mary in 1949. Besides baseball, the military interfered in 1943-45, while he was a minor leaguer.
He could throw a spitter at three different speeds. He also had an unnerving way of dealing with umpires: instead of arguing with them, he'd laugh at them.
An alcoholic, he once awakened on a train pulling into Chicago. He had no idea how he had gotten aboard, or why, and he had no extra clothes with him. He subsequently complained he'd been kidnapped.
Manager John McGraw tried giving Raymond's paycheck directly to Mrs. Raymond. When the pitcher got wind of this, he told McGraw: “If my wife gets the money, let her pitch.”
McGraw hired a detective named Fuller to keep Raymond sober. Raymond liked the fellow and would introduce him to friends: “This is my keeper. I'm full. He's Fuller.” The dick didn't like Raymond, though, and once blacked his eye. Raymond went to McGraw to complain about it and got into a fight. McGraw blacked Raymond's other eye. Finally, after McGraw had had enough, Raymond ended up pitching semipro. In 1912 he wired McGraw to make one last effort to return. McGraw responded: “I have my own troubles.”
Raymond was watching a game on his old neighborhood sandlot in Chicago when tempers exploded. Someone threw a piece of broken pottery that struck Bugs' face. When a young onlooker laughed, Bugs challenged him. Raymond lost. The young man knocked him down and kicked him in the head, or maybe conked him with a bat. Eventually someone led Bugs to his small hotel room. He was found dead there six days later of cerebral hemorrhage caused by a fractured skull. He was 30. A pallbearer was his former catcher in the defunct Chicago United States League, Pete Noonan. “Bugs paid too much, too soon, for too many drinks,” Noonan said.
Catcher Johnny Bucha and first baseman Sid Langston of the Columbus (Ga.) Sally League team were walking along the surf March 21, 1947, at Daytona Beach. When they saw two people swept out to sea, they dived in, clothes and all. They saved a woman and her 10-year-old son. While in the water, Bucha lost his wallet containing his money and military discharge. The woman's husband reimbursed Bucha for the money.
Dave Duncan, a catcher, once saved a child from drowning in a pool. Duff Cooley saved some people after a train wreck. (Also see Dave Orr.)
Newspapers reported that on May 27, 1903, ex-minor leaguer John E. Roschle prevented a “dastardly deed,” the derailment of a train near Meadville, Pa.
A Cubs fan from Wheaton, Ill., he went to Wrigley Field on May 21, 1947, to see his favorites play the Phillies. The game was so dull that he fell asleep. When he awoke he found he was locked in the park. He called police, who got him out, then told him who’d won the game.
A veteran ump who should have known better, he kindled a furor July 20, 1947. He signaled that Ron Northey of the Cardinals had hit a homer over the fence in Ebbets Field. Northey did a slow cruise only to find catcher Bruce Edwards waiting for him with the ball. It had somehow fallen onto the field. The Cardinals’ manager, Eddie Dyer, protested successfully. NL president Ford Frick ordered the game replayed; the Dodgers rallied in the ninth to win 3-2.
This longtime movie star was a high school teammate of Don Drysdale. He attended the University of Colorado on a baseball scholarship but dropped out in 1957 in an attempt to become a painter.
The McCarthy Era reached such hysteria that on April 9, 1953, the Cincinnati Reds announced they’d changed their name back to “Redlegs.” GM Gabe Paul made the announcement, giving no reason. The New York Times noted ungrammatically that “the political significance of the word ‘Reds’ these days and its effect on the change was [sic] not discussed by management.” Few people quit calling the team the “Reds.”
Paradoxically, fans in Decatur, Illinois, called their Class D team the “Commies.” Its real nickname was the Commodores. It entered the Mississippi-Ohio Valley League in 1952.
RED WINGS: NO RUNS ON FOUR HITS
The Rochester Red Wings of the AAA International League led off the second game of a doubleheader May 30, 1946, with four straight hits off the Montreal Royals' Steve Nagy and they didn't score. Bobby Rausch and Danny Murtaugh began with singles. Then catcher Homer Howell picked Rausch off second. After Art Rebel singled, Nagy knocked down Eddie Joost's smash, loading the bases. Chuck Diering then hit a long fly that looked like a triple, but it fell foul by a foot. He then fouled out. Clyde Vollmer then fanned. The Royals won 6-4. (Nagy pronounced his name to rhyme with “Peggy.”)
Ailing ballplayers began going to see John D. Reese of Youngstown, Ohio, in the 1890s. The “Bonesetter” manipulated anatomies with an odd proficiency. Although not trained in medicine, he apparently helped many players recover from injuries and ailments. Pitcher Nig Cuppy swore by him. The Bonesetter died in the 1940s. James C. Nolan, a former butcher, took over his practice.
The Sporting News put out its first Register in 1940. In those days it included players’ hobbies and marital status. Newspaper offices had copies; wary females often called wanting to know if a specific player was married. When told that he was, there'd be a silence and then: “But he told me he wasn't.” The old Registers often had photos and signatures of each player, but the production aspects weren't optimum --the paper covers come off.
Back in the days of low salaries, ballplayers sometimes found better paying jobs. Here are some players who didn’t believe in doing it just for the love of it.
Emerson Dickman was a lieutenant in the navy during WWII. Upon discharge, he refused to return to the majors. Instead he played outfield in a semipro league in Mount Vernon, N.Y.
Larry French didn’t resume pitching after the war. He stayed in the navy for awhile and then sold cars.
Pitcher Bill Dietrich said he had no great love for the game.
Pitcher Carmen Hill quit the Pirates in 1920-21 because he tired of them shuffling him to the minors. He won 22 games for them in 1927.
Catcher Frankie Pytlak, always moody, simply stayed home one spring to play his various musical instruments.
So did another catcher, Babe Phelps.
Catcher Buddy Rosar took job as a cop.
Catcher Tom Jordan sometimes was unsure if he’d play or stay home.
Randy Jackson didn’t play high school sports because he wasn’t interested. He apparently tried out in college only to fulfill naval training requirements.
Infielder Larvell Blanks said he merely played for the money. Catcher Andy Allanson said much the same thing and John Jeter was on the record as not particularly caring for baseball.
Huck Geary was known as the wandering shortstop. During his brief career he quit the Pirates several times.
Joe Corbett was a big winner for the old Orioles, then walked away because he didn’t care for baseball as much as did brother Gentleman Jim, who was always trying to get into games.
Pitcher Cal Hogue had a habit of quitting baseball every now and then. (Incidentally, long after leaving the Pirates, he was in an altercation with an umpire in the low minors. The cops finally removed him forcibly and booked him for disorderly conduct.)
Walt Dropo liked baseball alright, but he preferred football and basketball.
About the only thing people could come up with against Cal Ripken: When he said he liked soccer better than baseball, it hurt many failed players who love the game.
Rick/Rich Renteria played for the Florida Marlins in 1993-94. Although no star, he was a handy guy. He could play infield or outfield and he’d answer to either Rick or Rich. He’d languished two years in the Mexican League before winning that utility job. The Marlins employed shortstop Edgar Renteria beginning in 1995.
His vision was so poor that his catchers wore white handgloves on their throwing hands so they could signal him better. Sometimes, when they couldn’t find white gloves, they’d paint them white.
His one-hitter in the 1906 World Series was unmatched until Claude Passeau threw one in 1945. Yet some 1906 newspapers reported Reulbach's game as a two-hitter. (Newspapers often did their own boxes in those days, hence the scoring varied.) Beginning in 1904, Reulbach went 20-4, 17-4 and 24-7 for totals of 61-15, His worst ERA in those three seasons was 2.03, the only time he went over 2.00 in 1905-09.
This 240-pound pitcher was sometimes known as “The Whale.” He homered for the Pirates in the top of the eighth inning to provide the ultimate winning run May 22, 1987, but he was so winded from trotting he couldn't pitch the home eighth.
The Williamsport Grays had 12 Cubans in 1945 and nicknmed themselves “the Rhumba Rascals.” (The parent Washington Senators had loaded up on Cubans, who were virtually exempt from the military draft. Besides, they worked cheap.)
As the Brooklyn Dodgers' PA announcer, he was notorious for such announcements as: “A small boy has been found lost” and “Will the fans along the leftfield railing please take off their clothing!”
The notorious tightwad worked late and missed dinner while GM in St. Louis. Going home, he raided the refrigerator. “I found a can of the most delicious corned-beef hash I'd ever tasted,” he reported later. “I ate it all.” Next morning he told his wife to buy some more. “There wasn't any corned-beef hash in the icebox,” she replied. Her investigation revealed that she needed dog food.
In 1947 he hit a liner against the fence with the bases loaded in Ebbets Field. Pete Reiser, noted for kamikaze play, caught it but hit the fence hard. He dislocated both shoulders, fractured his skull, lapsed into a coma and received last rites. That’s about as serious as it gets.
Reiser survived but never again played well. Rikard had dropped into the Class C West Texas-New Mexico League by 1952, when he batted .353 for the Albuquerque club (which he was not managing). His names are often misspelled "Cully,” Rickard,” Rickert," etc.
CAL AND BILLY RIPKEN
They were brothers playing in the minors at the same time, but they weren’t the Cal and Billy most of us remember. They were an older generation, and the time of their minor-league exploits was the mid-1900s. Neither made the majors, although Cal did manage the Baltimore Orioles. He had sons Cal and Billy, both of whom played in the majors. But Cal’s brother Billy never made it.
CAL RIPKEN SR.
On June 18, 1992, son Cal Jr. was out trying to stretch a single in Baltimore. Coach Cal Sr., who'd had a run-in with the second-base umpire, Chuck Meriwether, a few days earlier, started across the diamond to dig into Meriwether again. He took no more than a few steps when he was hit on the forehead by the Indians' infield throw-around. Dad went down like a rock. He got up and sheepishly went back to his post.
A veteran catcher who should have known better, he became infamous in Detroit Tigers lore in 1950. His team was in the pennant race until losing three straight in Cleveland. In that third game, lefty Ted Gray and the Indians' Bob Lemon were 1-1 into the 10th. Lemon, always a good hitter, led off the inning with a triple. Red Rolfe, the Tigers' manager, had Gray walk the bases loaded. After Larry Doby popped out, Luke Easter hit a grounder to first baseman Don Kolloway, who threw home. Robinson stepped on the plate, presuming a force. But Kolloway had fielded the ball on first base, removing the force. Lemon scored and the Indians won 2-1. That put the Tigers 2 1/2 games behind the Yankees and they finished 3 back. Robinson’s popularity in Detroit diminished every year that Billy Pierce pitched for the White Sox. The Tigers had traded Pierce even-up for Robinson on Nov. 10, 1948.
He and future NBA great Bill Russell played basketball together at McClymonds High in Oakland,
He sang and hummed in the field during games. Jesse Burkett carried on running conversations with players and fans during games. Chuck Connors recited poetry during dull moments at first base. Steve Brodie of the old Orioles never shut up, either.
His right hand was injured when he was a toddler--mom accidentally hit it with a hammer--so he began using his left hand. He ended up ambidextrous. He played first base lefthanded when in the Houston Astros chain in the early 2000s. But in 2007, while with the Macon Music of the independent South Coast League, he became the team's backup catcher as well as its regular first baseman. He used a righthander's catchers mitt when behind the plate. Still, when he played first base, he used a lefthander's mitt. He also played the outfield sometimes with a lefthander's fielders mitt.
This Illinois city was a charter member of the National Association, the major league of its day. Pop Anson made his pro debut there. It sunk rapidly in status, though, and in 1923 dropped out of the Three-I League. It was without baseball until 1947, when it fielded a Class C team in the Central Association.
Ed Roebuck was the first to hit the Astrodome roof in Houston with a batted ball. Although a pitcher, he was a noted pre-game fungo hitter, and he did it that way, before the game of Sept. 14, 1964. He hit a girder 190 feet above first base.
Mike Schmidt hit an Astrodome speaker with a fly ball in a game June 10, 1974, and under the ground rule the ball was still in play. Runners were aboard and were holding up to see if the ball would be caught; thus he got a single. The speaker was 300 feet from the plate and 117 feet from field level.
He starred on the service teams during WWII in the Pacific, outhitting even Enos Slaughter. But he averaged .266 in eight seasons in the majors.
A Canadian, he batted .325 for the 1945 Brooklyn Dodgers. He didn't last long after WWII, though. The New York Giants sold him to their Jersey City farm in October 1946.
A football All-America at SMU and future NFL star, he played 22 baseball games for Corpus Christi of the Class B Gulf Coast League in 1951. He batted .348 as an outfielder. He had seven homers, three of them in one game, and drove in 13 runs. No one had ever hit three home runs in a game at Schepps Palms, the Aces' home field. He left the team May 23 to report to the New York football Giants.
He always maintained gamblers tried to fix the 1919 Reds, as well as the Black Sox. He claimed that pitcher Hod Eller told him a stranger on an elevator displayed five thousand-dollar bills and told Eller they were his if he'd lose that day. Roush said Eller threatened to sock the fellow. Roush said manager Pat Moran told Eller later: “OK, you're pitching, but one wrong move and you're out of the game.”
Outfielder Roush believed he should have won the 1918 batting title over Zack Wheat. Wheat hit .335 to Roush's .333. The problem had to do with protested games--whether they were included in the official records or not. In deciding the '18 title, the NL abided by an earlier ruling, made sometime between 1910 and '12, not to include protested games in official records. (See Joseph Weyman's 1986 Grandstand Annual.)