Old News in Baseball, No. 17

Newsboy logoPitchers and catchers are the first to report in spring training and the first to wilt in the heat of August. What else besides addlepated heat prostration could explain a catcher’s idea to await a ball dropped from the Washington Monument? Or another catcher, typically leaden-footed, to steal home with the bases full in extra innings? Or a pitcher’s brainstorm to issue an intentional base on balls with the sacks already loaded? Or a reliever’s notion that baserunners were a mere nuisance, to be dealt with via three successive pickoffs? Not only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid-day sun.

August 21

1881: The first instance of an intentional base on balls (though not by that name) with the bases loaded occurs when Buffalo’s Jack Lynch walks Abner Dalrymple of Chicago in the eighth inning. The Chicago Tribune reports: “At one time, when the bases were full, Lynch deliberately sent in seven balls [the rule at the time to provide a base on balls] rather than take the chances of a hit by Dalrymple, who was at bat, and in this way forced a run upon Chicago. But all to no purpose, for Gore followed with a terrific drive for two bases, and three men came in on the hit.” [Reader Nathan Bierma of Grand Rapids, MI alerted me to a likely error here.He found in the Chicago Tribune, and I corroborated with the Chicago Inter-Ocean, mention of this ploy on 8/3, referencing the game of 8/2. Clearly someone in recent times typed 8/21 when they meant 8/2. I could delete this entry but, as 8/2 is past for purposes of this column, I choose to retain it as an interesting story with the caveat that the date cited here (8/21) is wrong.] The earliest printed reference to an intentional walk occurs in the Washington Post on May 2, 1894 in an account of a game between the Boston Beaneaters and Washington Senators. Washington Manager Gus Schmelz instructed his pitcher, Ben Stephens, to give an “intentional base on balls” to George Treadway, “with the object in view of retiring the side on a double play.” For more, see: http://thornpricks.blogspot.com/2005/03/best-laid-plans-of-mice-baseballs.html

1908: Washington catcher Gabby Street stands at the base of the Washington Monument and catches a ball dropped from the top‚ 555 feet up‚ duplicating the feat performed by Pop Schriver of the Chicago Colts on August 24‚ 1894. Street gets a $500 prize for his morning’s efforts‚ then spends the afternoon behind the plate catching Walter Johnson.

1947: The first Little League World Series tournament is held in Williamsport‚ PA. The Maynard Midgets of Williamsport win.

Walter Johnson, Gabby Street

Walter Johnson, Gabby Street

August 22

1915: In the Federal League‚ Newark takes two games from Pittsburgh‚ winning‚ 2-1 and 3-1‚ both wins coming on 10th inning inside-the-park homers by Edd Roush. Newark leads by one percentage point over Kansas City‚ with Pittsburgh third and Chicago fourth‚ only 1-1/2 games separating the teams. In MLB’s closest pennant race ever, Chicago will win it by one game with a mark of 86-66 to St. Louis’s 87-67 and Pittsburgh’s 86-67.

1949: The Giants sell veteran Johnny Mize to the Yankees for $40‚000. Mize has tied Ralph Kiner for the NL lead in homers the past two seasons. As a supersub Mize will star in the World Series for years to come.

1982: Third-string catcher Glenn Brummer steals home with the bases loaded and 2 out in the bottom of the 12th inning to give the Cardinals a 5-4 win over the Giants. Brummer‚ who was running on his own‚ will steal just four bases in his career.

August 23

1936: At Cleveland’s League Park‚ 17-year-old Bob Feller makes his first start and strikes out 15‚ one less than the American League record‚ as Cleveland beats St. Louis‚ 4-1.

1942: Walter Johnson pitching to Babe Ruth is the pregame attraction that draws 69‚000 for the New York-Washington game at Yankee Stadium that provides $80‚000 for Army-Navy relief. Ruth hits a pitch into the right-field stands, his last homer in a big-league park.

Babe Ruth Homers off Walter Johnson, 1942

Babe Ruth Homers off Walter Johnson, 1942

1953: Phil Paine‚ a former Boston Braves pitcher with the U.S. Air Force in Japan‚ becomes the first former big leaguer to play in Japan. He pitches in nine games for the Nishitetsu Lions. For more, see: http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/48729b39

August 24

1918: In Baltimore‚ Babe Ruth’s father dies following a fight with his brother-in-law outside his saloon. The funeral will be on the 28th and Babe will miss two Red Sox games.

Babe Ruth and Father, 1915

Babe Ruth and Father, 1915

1952: Minor-league phenom Ron Necciai fans only one as he receives credit for his only major league win‚ 4-3 over the Boston Braves. On May 13 of this year, pitching in the Class D Appalachian League for the Bristol Twins against the Welch Miners, he had struck out 27 men while tossing a no-hitter. One man had been retired on a groundout, but a passed ball on a strikeout permitted Necciai to record four strikeouts in an inning. For more, see: http://www.milb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20060819&content_id=120279&fext=.jsp&vkey=news_milb

1983: Making his only career appearance behind the plate‚ Oriole infielder Lenn Sakata catches the 10th inning against the Blue Jays and hits a three-run homer as the O’s win‚ 7-4. Toronto had gone ahead 4-3 in the top of the inning when Tippy Martinez relieved Tim Stoddard with a run in in, a man on, and no outs. Picking off the inherited runner, Martinez walked his first batter …. and picked him off, then allowed a single to Willie Upshaw and picked HIM off.

Moonlight Graham, by Helmar Cards

Moonlight Graham, by Helmar Cards

August 25

1952: In a 1-0 win over the Yankees in Yankee Stadium‚ Virgil Trucks of the Detroit Tigers pitches his second no-hitter of the season, giving him his fifth win of the season. He will finish with a won-lost mark of 5-19.

1965: Archibald Wright “Moonlight” Graham dies in Chisholm‚ MN. Graham played in one big-league game‚ for the 1905 Giants‚ and did not get to bat. His character in W.P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe (renamed Field of Dreams in the cinematic version) made him a household name. For more, see: http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/a054b3d6

1985: Dwight Gooden wins his 14th consecutive game and his 20th of the season, 9-3 over San Diego. He will finish the season 24-4. At the age of 20 years‚ 9 months, Gooden is the youngest pitcher ever to win 20 games. Bob Feller was a month older when he first won 20 in 1939.

A.G. Mills

A.G. Mills

August 26

1929: Abraham G. Mills‚ NL president 1883-84‚ author of the National Agreement and original reserve rule that governed baseball’s early years‚ dies at 84. He had also been chairman of the Mills Commission that, at Albart Spalding’s behest, in 1908 anointed Abner Doubleday as the inventor of baseball. Mills joined a dozen veterans of the National League’s inaugural campaign at the fiftieth anniversary banquet at the Hotel Astor on February 2, 1926. The machinations involving the Special Commission, Abner Doubleday, and Cooperstown were very distant indeed, so Mills may well have been surprised when he was asked a question that evening about what evidence he had for Cooperstown as baseball’s birthplace. “None at all,” he answered.

1939: The first telecast of a big league game occurs at Ebbets Field as the Cincinnati Reds play the Dodgers in a doubleheader. Red Barber broadcasts the game over W2XBS‚ the “2” referring to the number of sets able to view the game: one is in the press box‚ while the other‚ at the RCA Pavilion in Rockefeller Center‚ attracts a crowd.

1947: Signed by the Dodgers, former Memphis Red Sox Negro Leaguer Dan Bankhead becomes MLB’s first African-American pitcher. The Pirates rock Bankhead for 10 hits and 8 runs in 3-1/3 relief innings‚ but Bankhead homers in his first at bat.

August 27

1912: In response to demands for an alternative way to rate pitchers besides wins and losses‚ the National League will once again officially record Earned Run Average, as it had in the 1870s. The AL will not make ERA part of their official statistics until 1913. The natural corrective to the deficient won-lost percentage, the earned run average preceded it in the 1860s, gave way to it in the 1880s, and then returned. For more, see: http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2012/03/08/stats-and-history-part-2/

1918: After today’s doubleheader split with the Braves in Cincinnati‚ Christy Mathewson resigns as Reds manager to accept a commission as a captain in the chemical warfare branch of the Army.

1992: The Mets trade pitcher David Cone to Toronto in exchange for Jeff Kent and Ryan Thompson. Cone will miss leading the league in strikeouts by one as John Smoltz registers a K on the final day of the season. If not for the trade, Cone would have been the first NL pitcher in 50 years to lead in strikeouts for three consecutive years.


Phil Baker was the first to to attempt the stunt, but his attempt appears to have been unsuccessful.

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