Old News in Baseball, No. 14

Newsboy logoThis week’s foray into baseball’s world of the strange and unusual brings back to life such ancient controversies as the longest throw, the first championship, and nefarious deeds on and off the field. The Black Sox Scandal rears its ugly head yet again, as the most memorable instance of Baseball’s Original Sin. Pete Rose makes an appearance, griping that the Braves used closer Gene Garber with an 11-run lead. And the often vilified Cap Anson tries to save a win for a deaf-mute pitcher in his big-league debut. Who remembers Glen Gorbous and Sheldon Lejeune, let alone John Van Buren Hatfield? They all had mighty arms and are fondly recalled here.

July 31

1909: For the second time in two years, “Sleepy Bill” Burns has a no-hitter broken up with two outs in the ninth‚ when Washington’s Otis Clymer singles. Burns is the only pitcher to suffer this fate twice‚ until Dave Stieb of Toronto repeats Burns’s burn on September 24 and 30‚ 1988. Burns, a star in the Pacific Coast League before breaking into the big leagues in 1908, is remembered today, if at all, for his peculiar role in the Black Sox Scandal of 1919. For more, see: http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/blacksox/trialtestimony.html

1954: The Milwaukee Braves’ Joe Adcock hits four home runs off four different pitchers‚ adding a double for good measure. His 18 total bases would not be topped until Shawn Green hit for 19 in 2002. The visiting Braves defeat the Giants 15-7. On April 29 of the previous season, Adcock became the first man to hit a home run into the center field bleachers at the Polo Grounds; Lou Brock and Henry Aaron would become the only other men to do so.

1978: Cincinnati’s Pete Rose singles off Phil Niekro to extend his consecutive-game batting streak to 44‚ as the Reds edge the Braves 3-2. Rose ties Willie Keeler’s 1897 National League record. Larry McWilliams and Gene Garber will stop Rose’s streak in the following game, prompting Pete to grumble about Garber’s approach, after striking out, “You would have thought it was the seventh game of the World Series.”

Nate Colbert, 1972 Topps

Nate Colbert, 1972 Topps

August 1

1925: The Yankees buy Tony Lazzeri from the Pacific Coast League for spring delivery. Lazzeri will hit a minor-league record 60 HRs with 222 RBI at Salt Lake City‚ and earn the nickname “Poosh-em-up” from his legion of Italian admirers. Tony will solidify the Yankees’ Murderers Row of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bob Meusel, and Earle Combs.

1956: Glen Gorbous of Omaha, who had big-league time with the Reds and the Phils, breaks Don Grate’s record toss with a heave of 445 feet 10 inches before a home game. No baseball organization would risk a prospect’s arm in such an exploit today, but such “field-day” events hearken back to the game’s beginnings. Sheldon “Larry” Lejeune of the Reds reached 426 feet 9-1/2 inches in 1910, breaking a record first set by John Hatfield of the New York Gothams in 1865. For more, see: https://prestonjg.wordpress.com/2009/12/04/the-history-of-the-record-for-baseballs-longest-thrown-a-tale-that-involves-john-hatfield-honus-wagner-sheldon-lejeune-don-grate-rocky-colavito-and-glen-gorbous-among-others/

1972: In a doubleheader with the Atlanta Braves, the Padres’ Nate Colbert ties one record, with five home runs‚ and sets another with 13 RBIs. As a boy Colbert had been at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis to witness Stan Musial becoming the first to hit five homers in a twin bill. For more, see: http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2014/12/15/nate-colberts-unknown-rbi-record/

August 2

1921: A Chicago jury brings in a verdict of not guilty against the Black Sox. The transcripts of their grand jury testimony had mysteriously vanished but were available to to the jurors via stenographic recordings; simple jury nullification may be the reason for the acquittal. That night‚ jurors and defendants celebrate with a party in an Italian restaurant. Ignoring the verdict‚ Judge Landis bans all eight defendants from baseball for life. Despite many challenges and appeals, notably from proponents of Joe Jackson and Buck Weaver, Landis’s judgment remains in force, decades after the death of the last man banished. The transcripts would turn up, finally, in the files of Charles Comiskey’ attorneys in 2007. For more, see: http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/black-sox-scandal-cold-case-not-closed-case

Black Sox and Jurors and Gamblers, post-acquittal, 1921

Black Sox and Jurors and Gamblers, post-acquittal, 1921

1943: Yankee minor leaguer Larry (not yet Yogi) Berra‚ playing for Norfolk‚ has six hits and 10 RBIs against Roanoke. This follows the 18-year-old catcher’s performance yesterday when he had six hits and 13 RBI.

1960: In an agreement with the major leagues‚ the Continental League abandons plans to take the field as a rival to circuit. Walter O’Malley‚ chairman of the National League Expansion Committee‚ says‚ “We immediately will recommend expansion and that we would like to do it in 1961.” The Continental League ends without playing a game, but it ushers in baseball’s expansion era with clubs in Washington and Los Angeles for the American League in 1961, and Houston an New York in the NL of 1962.

Billy Hamilton, Kansas City, 1888-89

Billy Hamilton, Kansas City, 1888

August 3

1865: Twenty thousand spectators watch a “championship” game at the Elysian Fields in Hoboken between the Mutuals and the Atlantics. The game is a five-inning‚ rain-shortened 13-12 Atlantic victory. Henry Chadwick writes‚ “these championship games are informal matches‚ there being no established rules for such contests‚ the title being one established by custom only.” This particular game would be immortalized in the title of a now rare and precious 1866 Currier and Ives lithograph, “The American National Game of Base Ball: Grand Match for the Championship at the Elysian Fields, Hoboken, N.J.” However, the action depicted in that litho was of another, imaginary game, pitting the Atlantics against the Excelsiors. For more, see: http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2012/01/30/unraveling-a-baseball-mystery/

1888: Kansas City Cowboy rookie Billy Hamilton‚ recently purchased from Worcester‚ steals his first base in the big leagues. Sliding Billy will go on to amass 937 stolen bases‚ a record until Lou Brock tops it in 1979.

1954: At Forbes Field‚ Reds manager Birdie Tebbetts starts righthander Bud Podbielan‚ but Fred Haney counters with an all-lefty Pirate lineup. Birdie then lifts Podbielan after one batter and brings in lefty Joe Nuxhall. The ploy works and the Reds win‚ 7-2. Haney is fooled by an old gambit first pulled, memorably, by manager Bucky Harris in Game 7 of the 1924 World Series. For more, see: http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2013/01/14/clark-griffith-remembers/

Jack Coombs

Jack Coombs

August 4

1910: The Philadelphia Athletics’ Jack Coombs and Chicago’s Ed Walsh duel 16 innings to a 0-0 tie. Coombs gives up just three hits and strikes out 18; Walsh, who also goes the distance, gives up just six hits.

1948: Ernie Harwell begins as an announcer for the Brooklyn Dodgers, who had to trade a player‚ Cliff Dapper‚ to the Atlanta Crackers to acquire Harwell.

1982: Joel Youngblood plays for two teams in different cities on the same day‚ and collects a hit in each game, an unprecedented and peculiar feat. After going 1-for-2 off Fergie Jenkins in an afternoon game at Wrigley Field‚ Youngblood is traded from the Mets to the Expos. He flies to Philadelphia in time to enter the game that night in the sixth inning‚ getting a hit off the Phils’ Steve Carlton.

August 5

1884: The major-league debut of Chicago White Stockings deaf-mute pitcher Tom Lynch goes well until the eighth‚ allowing only two earned runs, when his arm gives out. When the umpire refuses to allow Lynch to leave the game‚ Lynch switches positions with first baseman Cap Anson‚ who proceeds to surrender five runs and lose the game to Cleveland. Lynch will never play another game. Other deaf major leaguers have been: Ed Dundon, 1883-84; William Hoy, 1888-1902; Reuban Stephenson, 1892; Luther Taylor, 1900-08; George Leitner, 1901-02; William Deegan, 1901; Dick Sipek, 1945; Curtis Pride, 1993-2006.

1899: Sporting Life says “Martin Bergen‚ Boston’s great catcher‚ does not drink‚ chew‚ or smoke; yet he is the hardest man in the league to manage. He is a crank of cranks and‚ moreover‚ has the persecution mania.” On January 19 next year, Bergen will kill his wife and three children with an axe and then take his own life with a razor. For more, see: http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2015/01/30/the-marty-bergen-tragedy/

1921: The first radio broadcast of a major league game is heard over KDKA in Pittsburgh when Harold Arlin announces the Pirates-Phils game. Arlin’s grandson Steve will pitch six years for the San Diego Padres and Cleveland Indians.

August 6

1868: The Champions of Marshalltown (Iowa) travel to Omaha‚ winning 32-16. Three Ansons play for Marshalltown: Henry‚ and his sons Sturgis and Adrian. For more, see: http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2012/06/27/baseballs-first-professional-contracts/

Cap Anson with Marshalltown, vignette

Cap Anson with Marshalltown, vignette

1953: Ted Williams is back in a Red Sox uniform after military duty in Korea. He pinch-hits for Tom Umphlett in the bottom of the ninth and pops up. But he will finish the season with 13 homers in just 91 at bats—a startling record of efficiency—and a .407 batting average.

1979: In a night game following the funeral of his close friend Thurman Munson‚ who died in an airplane crash in Canton, Ohio on August 2, Bobby Murcer drives in all five runs as the Yankees top Baltimore 5-4. Murcer has a three-run homer and a ninth inning walk-off single.


Hi John: As always, I enjoyed this morning’s Our Game column, but was slightly disturbed to see the Not Guilty verdicts returned in the Black Sox case attributed to the disappearance of the grand jury transcripts. According to an obscure book on the Black Sox legal proceedings, the missing grand jury transcripts were recreated by the grand jury stenographers well in advance of trial, and those transcripts were read at length to the jury during the criminal trial. If the author of that book knows what he is talking about, the Black Sox acquittals must have been prompted by some other phenomenon (like jury nullification, the thesis proposed in an article submitted for this coming October’s Baseball Research Journal). Just wanted to pass that thought along. Hope all is well and enjoy the rest of your summer. Take care. Bill Lamb

Thanks for this, Bill. I have edited the entry to reflect your expert view. That fine book you reference is, for those who wish to know more, available here: http://www.amazon.com/Black-Sox-Courtroom-Criminal-Litigation/dp/0786472685/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1438352544&sr=8-1&keywords=william+lamb+black+sox

That story about Ernie Harwell has to be the most unusual trade in either minor league or major league baseball!

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