Old News in Baseball, No. 8
This week begins with one of baseball’s big lies—that a baseball game between two distinct clubs (“the first match game”)—was played on June 19, 1846. The city of Hoboken will continue to celebrate this non-event, but in the wink-and-nod department it will have nothing on Cooperstown. The good folks at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum long ago acknowledged that the reason for their founding location in 1939 was based on a myth, and they go about their business knowing they have a fine history all their own. So does Hoboken have a great place in the history of baseball, and while it probably makes sense to continue to celebrate June 19 each year, it would also make sense not to make too much of the game played that day back in 1846.
1846: The Knickerbocker Base Ball Club (KBBC) plays today in a game that in later years will be labeled as “the first match game,” meaning the first game between two distinct clubs. On their playing grounds at Hoboken’s Elysian Fields, the “pioneer club” is thumped by the score of 23–1. As early as 1889, a writer for the New York Sunday Mercury observed the irony that baseball’s “first team” had no trouble in finding a rival club experienced enough to give it a thrashing. In later years, KBBC president Duncan Curry described the action: “An awful beating, you say, at our own game, but, you see the majority of the New York Club’s players were cricketers, and clever ones at that game, and their batting was the feature of their work.” Following Curry’s lead, another writer declared, “It appears that this was not an organized club, but merely a party of gentlemen who played together frequently, and styled themselves the New York Club.” In fact, the New Yorks or Gothams, or “New York Nine,” as have variably been called, preceded the Knickerbockers as the first organized baseball club. For more, see: http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2012/02/11/inventing-baseball/
1898: Entire books have been written about baseball and the blue laws, which in most municipalities forbade amusements of various sorts on Sundays. Baseball players, amateur or professional, who dared to play on the Sabbath were frequently fined or jailed. On this day, with Cleveland batting in the bottom of the eighth inning at Euclid Beach Park‚ the game ends abruptly when all of the Cleveland players are arrested for violating the Sunday blue law. Not coincidentally‚ the Spiders had just scored to go ahead 4-3‚ so the arrests assure Cleveland of a victory.
1951: Wally Yonamine‚ an American of Japanese descent (a Nisei) born in Hawaii‚ plays his first game with the Yomiuri Giants of Tokyo. After one year with the Salt Lake City Bees of the Pioneer League (he hit .335), he goes to Japan. He will become the first American star in Japanese baseball‚ winning batting titles in 1954‚ 1956‚ and 1957.
1894: Denny Lyons scores the winning run in the ninth inning to lead Pittsburgh to a 7-6 win over Washington. Lyons gets into scoring position by running from first to third—across the pitcher’s mound—on a fielder’s choice. The lone umpire did not see the ploy‚ a common one in the era before two umpires became the requirement, first formalized in the Players’ League of 1890: “There shall be two umpires at every championship game; one shall stand behind the bat and the other shall stand in the field.” (Leave it to the players to understand the importance of having at least two umpires on the field of play.) The National League did not mandate two umpires until 1898.
1912: The Giants coast to a 14-2 lead through eight innings at Boston‚ then score seven more in the ninth for a 21-2 lead. They entrust the lead to rookie Ernie Shore, making his big-league debut. Although charged with only three earned runs in his inning of work, Shore allows eight hits‚ a walk‚ and ten runs. It is his only appearance in the National League, as the Giants send him to Indianapolis. He reemerges successfully with the Red Sox in 1914, and famously in an entry below.
2003: Florida beats Tampa Bay‚ 3-1‚ in eleven innings as rookie Miguel Cabrera hits a walkoff home run in his big-league debut. He is only the third player in history to perform the feat‚ joining Josh Bard (8/23/02) and Billy Parker (9/9/71).
1879: With Joe Start out with an injury‚ Providence quickly recruits Bill White of Brown University to play 1B. He goes 1-for-4 with no errors in his only big league game as the Grays beat Cleveland‚ 5-3. For more, see: http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2013/03/19/thinking-robinson-part-2/
1952: As a publicity stunt‚ Harrisburg of the Inter-State League signs a woman player‚ Eleanor Engle‚ but she does not get into a game. Afterwards, National Association president George Trautman bans her from minor-league baseball. Dorothy Mills writes in Chasing Baseball that Trautman’s ruling came with the support of Commissioner Ford Frick and extended to all of professional baseball, but for that to have happened MLB would have had to rule on this separately, and did not. Of course, a tacit MLB ban could have been enforced, as it was for African Americans between 1884 and 1947. For more, see: http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2014/03/28/picture-portfolio-no-3-women-in-baseball/
1964: On Father’s Day at Shea Stadium‚ in the opener of a twin bill, Jim Bunning fans 10 and pitches the first regular-season complete perfect game since Charlie Robertson’s on April 30‚ 1922. It is the first National League perfecto since 1880. In the nightcap the Mets don’t fare much better as 18-year-old rookie Rick Wise wins his first game and gives up just three hits in an 8-2 win. (More on Wise below.)
1898: Boston defeats Chicago 6-5 in 14 innings. Boston’s Ted Lewis, who would finish the season with a mark of 26-8, relieves Vic Willis with three runs in‚ two on‚ and one out in the first inning. He induces the Orphan batter to hit into a double play. Lewis‚ “The Pitching Professor” (he is the Harvard baseball coach) finally triumphs over Chicago in the longest and relief effort of the 19th century. For more, see: http://unhmagazine.unh.edu/sp12/historypage.html
1926: The Cardinals pick up 39-year-old Grover Alexander (3-3) on waivers from the Cubs to help in the pennant chase. Alexander will rejoin Bill Killefer‚ fired as Cubs manager last year‚ and now a Cardinal coach. “Old Pete” will be 9-7 down the stretch‚ but will reserve his real heroics for the World Series, in which he won Game 6 and saved Game 7, including his famous strikeout of Tony Lazzeri with the bases loaded to end the seventh inning. For more, see: http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2012/12/18/grover-cleveland-alexander-remembers-1926-world-series-game-7/
1947: Ewell Blackwell just misses pitching back-to-back no-hitters when Eddie Stanky of the Brooklyn Dodgers singles with one out in the ninth inning. Blackwell wins 4-0 on a two-hitter. The only men to have thrown two no-hitters in succession in MLB history was Johnny Vander Meer in 1938. For more, see: http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2013/07/31/johnny-vander-meer-remembers/
1915: Philadelphia Athletics lefty Bruno Haas marks his big-league debut by walking 16 New York batters and throwing three wild pitches. Somehow he is permitted to go all the way in a 15-7 loss. Haas will pitch in just five more games before ending up in the league that would become the NFL as a halfback with the Akron Pros, Cleveland Tigers and Dayton Triangles.
1917: In the memorable first of two games at Boston‚ Babe Ruth starts for the Red Sox against Washington and walks leadoff man Ray Morgan‚ griping to plate umpire Brick Owens after each pitch. After Owens calls ball four‚ Ruth punches the ump and is ejected. Ernie Shore hastily relieves and Sam Agnew takes over behind the plate for Pinch Thomas, who had also been tossed. Morgan is then caught stealing by Agnew‚ and Shore retires all 26 men he faces in a 4-0 win‚ getting credit in the books for a perfect game, an accomplishment that is taken away when MLB changes its definition of a perfect game in 1991 (Harvey Haddix also thus lost his perfecto).
1971: Phillie pitcher Rick Wise no-hits the Reds 4-0 and hits two home runs that drive in three of his team’s runs. Roger Freed drove in the other on a groundout.
1946: A bus careens off a Cascade Mountain Pass road‚ killing nine members of the Spokane (Western International League) club. Jack Lohrke‚ a young infielder‚ had not reboarded the bus after it stopped at a restaurant just before the accident. The restaurant owner called him as he was about to get on the bus‚ telling him there was a long distance phone call and that he had been sold to San Diego. He decided to return. He later exclaimed‚ “I guess it just wasn’t my turn‚ But how did the owner know we would stop in that town? And what if the call had come five minutes later?” The future Giant and Phil will hence be known as Lucky. For more, see: http://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-jack-lohrke1-2009may01-story.html
1962: A marathon between the Tigers and Yankees concludes in the 22nd inning when defensive replacement Jack Reed’s home run—his only one in the majors—gives New York and Jim Bouton a 9-7 victory. Reed had replaced Joe Pepitone in the 13th. Tiger and Yankee relievers threw shutout ball for the last 17 innings, with Bouton contributing the final seven.
1992: Yankees pitcher Steve Howe is banned from baseball by Commissioner Fay Vincent after having pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of attempting to purchase a gram of cocaine. It is Howe’s seventh ban from the game on account of drug involvement, but this time it is permanent.
1953: White Sox manager Paul Richards uses five first basemen in beating the Yankees 4-2. He brings in Harry Dorish to face two batters‚ moving lefty pitcher Billy Pierce to first base. After his two batters, Dorish is replaced by Sam Mele, who goes to first base as Pierce returns to the mound to close out the game. The tactic of alternating to pitchers was so old that it was new—it had last been seen in the days before free substitution (pre-1891), when the reliever, or “change pitcher,” had to be one of the men on the field. For more, see: http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2012/01/20/the-first-relief-pitchers/
1968: San Francisco rookie Bobby Bonds becomes the second player to debut with a grand slam‚ as Ray Sadecki blanks the Dodgers 9-0. Bonds does it on his third at bat. The only other player to hit a grand slam in his first major league game was Bill Duggleby of the Philadelphia Nationals‚ who achieved the feat in 1898, in his very first at bat. For more, see: http://research.sabr.org/journals/from-a-researchers-notebook
1998: Chicago’s Sammy Sosa hits his 19th home run this month in the Cubs’ 6-4 loss to the Tigers‚ breaking Rudy York’s major league record. He will end the month with 20 round-trippers.