Old News in Baseball, No. 16
Pitching and defense and daring—those were the keys to winning in the deadball era, and are increasingly relevant today, as batters seem to be headed toward the endangered species list. This week’s Old News in Baseball features low-hit pitching and steals of home—the Yankees had 18 in one season! Now, I like home runs as much as the next guy, but I mourn the disappearance of the triple, the double steal, and especially the steal of home—which, with its high ratio of reward to risk, is the game’s most unfairly neglected play. So take the week off, Babe Ruth and Henry Aaron and Barry Bonds. All hail Ty Cobb, who stole home more than anyone; Lou Gehrig, who is, surprisingly, second on the list; and this week, hail Vic Power and Guy Zinn (who? read on).
1878: The Indianapolis Hoosiers of the National League expel Ed “The Only” Nolan for leaving the team to visit a sick brother. It turns out that he was visiting a brothel. For more, see: http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2015/05/18/the-only-nolan/
1958: Vic Power, slick fielding first baseman of the Cleveland Indians, steals home in the eighth inning and again in the tenth to give his team a 10-9 win over Detroit. Power becomes the first American Leaguer since Doc Gautreau in l927 to steal home twice in the same game.
1996: The Atlanta Braves bring up Andruw Jones of Curaçao. The 19-year-old center fielder started the season a season in Class A, moved up to AA and then AAA‚ and would go on to hit home runs in his first two at bats in the World Series.
1886: Louisville pitcher Guy Hecker has a day to remember. He throws a four-hitter to defeat Baltimore, 22-5. He scores seven runs in a game. He collects six hits—to give him 17 in his last four games—including three home runs. Everyone assumes that Babe Ruth was the greatest hitting pitcher the game has ever produced but only Hecker won a batting title, with a .341 mark in 1886.
1912: Guy Zinn‚ obscure Yankees outfielder‚ steals home twice in a 5-4 win at Detroit; this will add to last-place New York’s all-time record of 18 steals of home for the year.
1962: The Mets play out two of their more disturbing losses in this season of horrors. They lose the back end of a twin bill with the Phils despite tying a major league reiord with two pinch-hit home runs. Choo Choo Coleman hits the first in the sixth inning and Jim Hickman hits another in the eighth) but the Mets still lose to the Phillies‚ 8-7‚ in 13 innings. The Phils had taken the opener‚ 9-3 behind two home runs by Don Demeter—both off Bob Miller but each off a different Mets pitcher of the same name. The first came off righty Bob L. Miller (season record, 1-12) in the third frame and the other off lefty Bob G. Miller (season record, 2-2) in the ninth.
1886: Bob Caruthers becomes the first pitcher to record four extra-base hits in a game‚ but he allows 10 runs in the eighth inning and loses 11-9. Having hit a double and two home runs earlier‚ Caruthers ends the game tagged out at home trying for a third.
1909: New York and Pittsburgh play to a 2-2 tie at Forbes Field‚ stopped after eight innings because of rain. Giants outfielder Red Murray prevents a loss with one of the greatest catches ever seen. With two outs and two on‚ the Bucs’ Dots Miller belts a long line drive off Christy Mathewson into the gathering gloom. With everyone straining to follow the ball‚ a bolt of lightning flashes and Murray is seen making a bare-handed grab on the dead run to end the inning. Bill Klem then suspends the game. Oldtimers were still saying, into the 1950s, that this was the greatest catch of all. If only we had video!
1920: On an overcast day at the Polo Grounds, Cleveland shortstop Ray Chapman, a righthanded batter who crowds the plate‚ freezes and fails to get out of the way of a scuffed and discolored ball from Yankees submarine-style pitcher Carl Mays. The ball caroms off Chapman’s head and renders him unconscious. He dies the next day from a fractured skull. Mays‚ a surly‚ unpopular pitcher‚ will be the target of fans’ and players’ outrage, perhaps misplaced. Henceforth, discolored balls will be removed from play. Chapman is followed at shortstop by Joe Swell, who will win a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
1882: The host Providence Grays defeat the Detroit Wolverines 1-0 in 18 innings on a home run by Hoss Radbourn, playing right field in this game. Winning pitcher John Ward and loser Stump Weidman both go all the way. Providence almost won in the 16th when George Wright “hit a liner over [George] Wood’s head and out of the horse gate‚ but Wood went outside‚ got the ball and fielded Wright out at the plate” (Detroit Free Press). For more, see: http://sabr.org/gamesproj/game/august-17-1882-radbourn-slugger
1900: Reds pitcher Bill Phillips punches Phillies batter Roy Thomas after Thomas fouls off a dozen pitches in the eighth inning. Reportedly (as noted by Art Ahrens)‚ Thomas had fouled off 22 straight on another occasion. Such frustrating antics by Thomas and John McGraw are chiefly responsible for the National League adopting the foul strike rule next year. (The AL will wait until 1903.) This rule, perhaps more than increasing the pitching distance to its current length in 1892, may be said to mark the dawn of “modern baseball.”
1909: Giants player-coach Arlie Latham steals second base in the Giants’ 14-1 laugher over the Phillies. At 49‚ he is the oldest player to swipe a base. It is the 739th of his big-league career, commenced in 1880. In the weeks to come, Our Game will feature reminiscences by baseball’s legendary bon vivant, knave, and raconteur, unpublished since their newspaper syndication in 1915. For more, see: http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2013/04/25/arlie-latham/
1940: The Sunday New York Daily News publishes a shocking article written by its sports editor‚ Jimmy Powers‚ suggesting that the Yankees‚ had been hit by a “mass polio epidemic.” Powers charges that Lou Gehrig‘s “infantile paralysis” (in truth, of course, amyotrophic later sclerosis, or ALS, an incommunicable disease) had infected the other Yankees‚ accounting for the team’s uncharacteristic fifth-place standing. Gehrig brings suit for $1 million against Powers and the newspaper; so do other Yankees. The News issues a public apology on September 26. Powers admits he had no business getting “snarled up in medical controversy …. Hurting [Lou’s] feelings was far from my mind.”
1983: In the continuation of the “Pine Tar Game‚” Hal McRae strikes out for the last Kansas City out and Dan Quisenberry retires the Yankees in order in the bottom of the ninth to preserve the Royals’ 5-4 victory. The conclusion takes just 12 minutes (and 16 pitches) and‚ as the only game scheduled at the Stadium‚ is witnessed by a crowd of 1‚245.
1945: In Game 2 of a doubleheader against the Reds‚ 37-year-old slugger Jimmie Foxx makes his first pitching start‚ lasting seven 7 innings for the Philadelphia Blue Jays (briefly the preferred name for the Phillies). He leaves with a 4-1 lead‚ and Andy Karl saves Foxx’s win
1965: The Reds’ Jim Maloney records his second 10-inning no-hit effort of 1965—but wins this one as Leo Cardenas homers at Wrigley Field. Maloney allows 10 walks and fans 12.
1982: Scheduled to pitch against the Expos in a home game‚ Braves’ rookie Pascual Perez misses the start of the game when he can’t find his way to the ball park. Perez circles on the expressway several times but Phil Niekro is forced to take his spot.
1877: Louisville director Charles E. Chase receives an anonymous telegram from Hoboken‚ NJ‚ saying that “something is wrong with the Louisville players” and that gamblers were betting on Hartford. Louisville then loses today’s game to Hartford‚ 6-1. When the story is finally made public, The Louisville Courier-Journal headlined:
CUSSED CROOKEDNESS .
A Complete Exposé of How Four Ball Men Picked Up Stray Pennies
Hall and Devlin Bounce Themselves
Out of the League on Their Own Testimony.
Nichols and Craver Also Take Their Gruel
for Tasting of Forbidden Fruits
A SAD, SAD STORY . . . .
1886: Matt Kilroy of the Orioles and Joe Miller of the Athletics hurl opposing one-hitters. Baltimore wins 1-0 on first-inning errors‚ but doesn’t get a hit until the ninth. There will be four other opposing one-hitters in the next 100 years‚ all 1-0 games: Mordecai Brown over Lefty Leifield on July 4‚ 1906; Bob Cain over Bob Feller on April 23‚ 1952; Jack Harshman over Connie Johnson on June 21‚ 1956; and Frank Bertaina over Bob Meyer on September 12‚ 1964. For stinginess, however, it’s hard to top Sandy Koufax (no-hitter) and Bob Henley (one-hitter) on September 9, 1965 … unless one counts the double- not game of Fred Toney and Hippo Vaughn on May 2, 1917, which ended with the latter allowing two hits in the tenth. For more, see: http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2012/02/04/thinking-about-football/
1945: At the age of 17‚ Dodgers shortstop Tommy Brown becomes the youngest player to hit a big-league homer, off Pirates southpaw Preacher Roe.