Old News in Baseball, No. 3

Newsboy logoLike the proverbial bad penny, “Old News” is back, this time focusing on events from the week of May 15-21. The weather is heating up prematurely (at least back East, where I hammer out this column) and so are formerly chronic tail-end clubs, so maybe this will be a pennant race to remember—like, say, 1967, when it seemed, as in Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon, that all the clubs were above average. As before, I’ll relate what happened, why I think it’s interesting, and where you might find out a bit more if you’re so inclined. I limit myself to three or four entries per day, but I make no claim that these are the all-time keepers. They simply struck my fancy this week, and I hope they will have a like effect upon you.

MAY 15

1894: In the midst of a fight between Baltimore’s John McGraw and Boston’s Tommy Tucker in the third inning‚ a fires starts in the right-field stands at Boston’s South End Grounds, only six years old. The fire destroys $70‚000 worth of equipment as well as the park‚ perhaps the most beautiful baseball has ever produced. The fire spreads to adjacent blocks and eventually destroys 170 buildings and leaves 1900 homeless. The team moves to the Congress Street ballpark for several months before returning to a rebuilt but diminished Walpole Street Park.

Boston's South End Grounds as built, 1888-94

Boston’s South End Grounds of 1888-94

1922: In a 4-1 win at New York‚ Ty Cobb beats out a grounder that shortstop Everett Scott bobbles. Fred Lieb scores it a hit in the box score he files with the Associated Press. But official scorer John Kieran of the New York Times gives an error to Scott. At season’s end‚ American League official records‚ based on AP box scores‚ list Cobb at .401. New York writers complain unsuccessfully‚ claiming it should be .399‚ based on the official scorer’s stats. Ban Johnson goes with the hit call that gave Cobb his third and final .400 season. For more, see: http://goo.gl/NqxZyH

1935: Lou Gehrig steals home in a 4-0 Yankee win over the Tigers. It is his 15th and last steal of home‚ all of them the front end of double steals. A lumbering runner, Lou nonetheless stands 18th all-time in steals of home, a category topped by Ty Cobb’s 54. The only postwar stars who stole more than Lou are Jackie Robinson (19) and Rod Carew (17). For more, see: http://research.sabr.org/journals/lou-who-stole-home-15-times

Bug Holliday, ca. 1888

Bug Holliday, 1889

May 16

1889: At Baltimore’s American Park‚ the Orioles elect to bat first. Their leadoff hitter Mike Griffin hits a homer and is matched in the bottom of the first by Cincinnati Reds leadoff batter Bug Holliday. Holliday‚ a rookie‚ will tie for the National League lead in homers with 19. In an oddity permitted in those days, Holliday had actually made his major-league debut in Game 4 of the World Series of 1885, playing for the Chicago White Stockings against against the St. Louis Browns of the American Asociation. That game, played on October 17, took place in St. Louis, where Holliday was an amateur up-and-comer. Chicago’s catcher, Silver Flint, was unable to play, so King Kelly moved from right field to behind the plate. Billy Sunday moved from center field to right, and Holliday played center field for the whole game, going hitless in four at-bats, recording a putout, and making an error. I suspect that, to save money, the Chicago club did not take its full complement of players on the road—to St. Louis for Games 2, 3, and 4; to Pittsburgh for Game 5; and to Cincinnati for Games 6 and 7.

1921: During the 7-4 Giants win over the Reds at the Polo Grounds‚ Giants’ fan Reuben Berman refuses to return a foul ball. He is “detained” under the stands, given the return of his ticket price‚ and ejected from the park. Berman sues for $20‚000 and wins a $100 claim in court. The Giants henceforth allow fans to keep foul balls. The Cubs had been the first to institute the policy‚ in 1916.

1965: Oriole teenager Jim Palmer picks up his first major league win‚ topping the Yankees‚ 7-5. He also hits his first major league homer‚ a two-run drive off Jim Bouton‚ to supply the margin of victory.

Televising game between Princeton and Columbia, 1939

Televising game between Princeton and Columbia, 1939

May 17

1939: The first baseball game ever televised‚ Princeton against Columbia at Baker Field‚ Columbia’s home field‚ is seen by a handful of viewers via W2XBS in New York City. Reviewing the game the next day‚ the New York Times opines‚ “it is difficult to see how this sort of thing can catch the public fancy.”

1942: Pitching his first of eight consecutive Sunday doubleheader first games‚ Ted Lyons, 41 years old and in his twentieth year with the Chicago White Sox, beats the visiting Senators‚ 7-1. Thirteen of his 20 starts this year will be on Sunday. Combining his week-long rests with almost perfect control of the knuckleball, Lyons became known as “The Sunday Pitcher.” For more, see: http://research.sabr.org/journals/ted-lyons

1979: With the wind blowing out at Wrigley, the Cubs (6) and the Phillies (5) combine for 11 homers and 97 total bases during a 10-inning slugfest won 23-22 by the Phils. Dave Kingman has three homers HRs six RBIs for the Cubs‚ while teammate Bill Buckner has a grand slam and seven RBIs. Mike Schmidt’s two home runs include the game-winner in the 10th off Cub relief ace Bruce Sutter.

May 18

1884: Hugh “One Arm” Daily of Chicago in the Union Association—a major league in this, its only year of existence—throws his second consecutive one-hitter against the Nationals of Washington, fanning 15. Later this year (July 7) he will establish a major league record by striking out 19 batters in a game, not counting another who reached first base when the catcher could not handle his delivery.

Deacon McGuire

Deacon McGuire

1912: Detroit Tiger players protest Ty Cobb’s suspension and vote to strike. Faced with a $5‚000 fine for failing to field a team—and possible default of his franchise to the AL—club owner Frank Navin orders manager Hughie Jennings to sign up local amateurs. Two Detroit coaches‚ Joe Sugden‚ 41‚ and Jim McGuire‚ 48‚ complete the lineup‚ and score the only two runs for Detroit. The Athletics set a club scoring record in winning‚ 24-2‚ as Aloysius Travers goes all the way‚ giving up 26 hits and 24 runs. The A’s also set an AL-home record of most runs without a homer. The only recruit to hit for Detroit is Irvin‚ who hit two triples in three at bats, closing the books on his big-league career with a 2.000 slugging average. Starter Al Travers returns to his studies at St. Joseph’s College and later became a Catholic priest. For more, see: http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/8b444434

2004: Randy Johnson becomes the oldest pitcher ever to hurl a perfect game.

May 19

1891: Chairman Nick Young of the Board of Control, the governing body of the National League and American Association, rescinds the new scoring rule requiring scorers to compile “runs batted in.” This rule‚ which was adopted last winter‚ will still be used by the AA‚ however, in what would be its last season before folding. Introduced by a Buffalo newspaper in 1879, the stat was picked up the following year by the Chicago Tribune which, in the words of Preston D. Orem, “proudly presented the ‘Runs Batted In’ record of the Chicago players for the season, showing Anson and Kelly in the lead. Readers were unimpressed. Objections were that the men who led off, Dalrymple and Gore, did not have the same opportunities to knock in runs. The paper actually wound up almost apologizing for the computation.” RBIs were not computed officially by the NL and AL until 1920, but records from prior years have been reconstructed from box scores. For more, see: http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2012/03/07/stats-and-history/

1953 Milwaukee Braves Program, with Billy Bruton

1953 Milwaukee Program; Billy Bruton

1953: At Milwaukee‚ the Dodgers down the Braves‚ 4-1‚ before a crowd of 36‚439‚ the largest paid attendance for any sports event in Milwaukee history. The Braves have drawn 279‚227 for 12 home dates‚ nearly surpassing attendance in Boston for all of the previous year (281,278).

1998: The Cardinals’ Mark McGwire hits three home runs in a game for the second time this season‚ leading St. Louis to a 10-8 victory over the Phils. He reaches the 20 HR mark faster than any other player in history, and will the end season with 70, shattering the single-season mark set by Roger Maris in 1961.

May 20

1887: Nearly two weeks after defeating the Falls Citys in the opener of their season of the new National Colored Base Ball League at Louisville‚ the Boston Resolutes finally leave for home after earning enough money for train fare by working as waiters. The league will fold five days later. The seven-team league had consisted of the Keystones of Pittsburgh, Browns of Cincinnati, Capitol Citys of Washington, Resolutes of Boston, Falls City of Louisville, Lord Baltimores of Baltimore, Gorhams of New York, and Pythians of Philadelphia. Players’ salaries would range from $10 to $75 per month. In recognition of its questionable financial position, the league set up an “experimental” season, with a short schedule and many open dates. “Experimental” or not, the Colored League received the protection of the National Agreement, which was the structure of Organized Baseball law that divided up markets and gave teams the exclusive right to players’ contracts. Sporting Life doubted that the league would benefit from this protection “as there is little probability of a wholesale raid upon its ranks even should it live the season out—a highly improbable contingency.” For more, see: http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2014/08/19/out-at-home-part-2/

1945: In St. Louis‚ one-armed outfielder Pete Gray stars‚ as the Browns sweep the Yankees 10-1 and 5-2. Gray has two RBIs on three hits in the opener‚ and in the nightcap he scores the winning run and hauls in seven fly balls‚ three on spectacular catches. His employment at the big-league level is the last straw for able-bodied stars in the Negro League.

1997: In a 10-1 win over Boston‚ Chicago’s Frank Thomas reaches base his first three times up before flying out against Rich Garces. He had reached base 15 straight times‚ one short of Ted Williams’ AL record, set in 1957. In the NL the record is 17, set by Frank “Piggy” Ward in 1893.

Ed Nolan, 1877

The Only Nolan, 1877

May 21

1878: Ed “The Only” Nolan of Indianapolis sets Milwaukee down with just two hits‚ but he barely wins a 6-5 game because of eleven errors and passed balls by his team. In the previous year, when Indianapolis was in the League Alliance, Nolan won 64 games—more than anyone else at any level of professional ball, ever. Robert Smith wrote: “In 1877 Nolan won more games by shut outs than most top-flight pitchers, in a single season nowadays, win by hook and crook. He pitched seventy-six complete games, won sixty-four, and tied eight. And he set the record that still stands: thirty shutouts in one season.… “No pitcher has ever equaled The Only’s earned run average which he set that year. He pitched to 3589 batters, and allowed 632 hits and 87 walks, with only 38 of the 131 runs against him being earned. For 76 games then, his earned run average was just 0.50. Nor has anyone ever equaled his seasonal pitching percentage of .941 [64-4, with 8 ties].”

1880: In Albany’s Riverside Park Lipman Pike hits a ball over the wall and into the river. Worcester right fielder Lon Knight begins to go after the ball in a boat but gives up. Few parks have ground rules about giving the batter an automatic home run on a hit over the fence.

1981: In the first round of the NCAA tourney Yale’s Ron Darling and St. John’s Frank Viola match zeroes through 11 innings. Darling allows no hits while striking out 16. In the 12th‚ St. John’s Steve Scafa hits an opposite field scratch single‚ then steals 2B and 3B. The next batter reaches on an error and‚ when he tries to steal 2B‚ Scafa breaks for home scoring the only run. St. John’s wins‚ 1-0. Sitting in the stands are Smoky Joe Wood, hero of the 1912 World Series, and Roger Angell, who memorializes the day in a great story, “The Web of the Game.” For more, see: https://goo.gl/11bvLD

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