Old News in Baseball, No. 20

Newsboy logoThis week’s installment of Old News has several entries that focus not only on what happened and when but also how it came to be counted in later years—from the celebrated walks-as-hits year in 1887 to the bounce home run to Ty Cobb’s career hit total. Maybe the coming conclusion of the regular season prompts such musings, but MLB has evolved in more than its styles of play. Many have sought to conform the practices and underlying reasoning of the past with those of the present by simply disregarding the scoring conventions of the early game. I think it is worthwhile to attempt to understand the past in its own context rather than “update” it. Why was Fred Dunlap’s game-ending home run in 1880, with a man on base, at first denied and then accepted? How could Al Lopez, in 1930, get credit for a home run on a hit that bounced over the fence? Read on. 

Howard Ehmke

Howard Ehmke

September 11

1923: After Yankee leadoff hitter Whitey Witt reaches first base on a bobbled grounder to third base that is ruled a single‚ Boston’s submarine pitcher Howard Ehmke retires the next 27 batters for a 3-0 win. The Yankee crowd exhorts the scorer Fred Lieb to reverse his call on the hard grounder that 3B Howard Shanks booted‚ but Lieb stands fast. Thus is Ehmke denied a chance to pre-empt Johnny Vander Meer in the record books, for he had pitched a no-hitter in his previous appearance. For more, see: http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/753ebff0

1985: Pete Rose becomes baseball’s all-time hit leader‚ singling to left center off Eric Show in the first inning of the Reds’ 2-0 win over San Diego. His 4‚192nd career hit breaks Ty Cobb’s record before 47‚237 fans at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium … or did it? Because Cobb’s hit total had been padded by a double-counted game in 1910, Rose had actually topped the record at Wrigley Field on September 8. For more, see: http://www.cincinnati.com/story/sports/mlb/reds/redsblog/2015/09/08/sept-8-1985–day-pete-rose-really-broke-ty-cobbs-record/71873560/

2001: All major league baseball games are canceled due to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center‚ United Airlines Flight 93‚ and the Pentagon. With commercial air traffic on lockdown, the Blue Jays take a 12-hour bus ride from Baltimore back to Toronto, while the White Sox go home via a 15-hour bus trip from New York.

September 12

1874: The Boston Red Stockings’ return home after an eight-week English is spoiled by a 6-5 victory for their shipmates, the Philadelphia Athletics. The two clubs had departed in the midst of the National Association regular season, suspending their schedules from July 15, when they played each other in Philadelphia, to September 10, when they squared off in Philadelphia again.

Philadelphia Athletics at Boston, 1874 or 1875

Philadelphia Athletics at Boston, 1874 or 1875

1930: Brooklyn catcher Al Lopez drives a ball over the head of Cincinnati left fielder Bob Meusel; it bounces into the bleachers at Ebbets Field. It will be the last recorded bounce home run‚ as NL rules for 1931 will rule that such a hit will be a double. The AL had made the change after the 1929 season. Oddly, Babe Ruth never had a bounce home run.

1962: Washington’s Tom Cheney sets a big-league record mark with 21 strikeouts in a complete-game victory. You thought that record belonged to others, with 20 (Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Kerry Wood)? Cheney’s record came in 16-inning game at Baltimore.

Jimmy Ryan with Washington 1903

Jimmy Ryan with Washington 1903

September 13

1880: National League secretary Nick Young rules that the final score of the July 10 game in which Cleveland’s Fred Dunlap hit an over-the-fence home run in the bottom of the ninth should be 2-0‚ not 1-0‚ as originally accounted. Young declares that it would be a “gross injustice” to deprive Dunlap of his dinger, yet such deprivation was the norm until 1920. “Sudden-death” home runs with a winning run on base came in for review by the Special Baseball Records Committee prior to publication of the Macmillan/ICI encyclopedia of 1969: Its ruling read: “The committee originally voted that before 1920 any ball hit outside the park in a sudden death situation should be counted as a home run. However, after the committee had a further opportunity to review their ruling and [realizing that this would alter Ruth’s career total to 715] … they reversed their decision on May 5, 1969.”  For more, see: http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2015/05/04/why-is-the-national-association-not-a-major-league-and-other-records-issues/

1887: Jimmy Ryan goes 6-for-6 for Chicago with a single, double, home run, and three walks, which are counted as hits in this year. He also pitches the final five innings in relief to get the win, becoming the only man to pitch in a game in which he hits for a cycle. You don’t think this deserves to be counted as a cycle? Ryan did it again on July 28 of the following year, taking the pitcher’s box with two out in the second and apparently finishing out the game against Detroit. Ryan, recalled today as a center fielder, hit for the cycle again in 1891. Tom Parrott was a pitcher who also hit for the cycle, on September 28, 1894 against the New York Giants, but on this day he was positioned at second base. For more, see: http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2015/09/07/over-the-plate-arlie-lathams-own-baseball-stories-no-3/

1908: On closing day of the Ohio State League‚ Walter “Smoke” Justis of Lancaster pitches a 3-0 no-hitter against Marion. It’s his fourth of the year. The others came on July 19 against Mansfield‚ August 2 against Portsmouth‚ and September 8 over Lima. Justis pitched in two games for the 1905 Tigers. For more, see: http://baseballhistorydaily.com/tag/walter-justis/%5D

September 14

1943: At Memphis‚ Pete Gray has a triple‚ double‚ and three singles to lead Memphis to a 7-6‚ 12-inning win over Nashville in the Southern Association playoffs. The one-armed Gray is named the league MVP and plays outfield for the St. Louis Browns in 1944.

1968: Denny McLain becomes the first 30-game winner since Dizzy Dean in 1934‚ as the Tigers beat the A’s 5-4, as the Tigers push across two in the ninth to win. Al Kaline‚ pinch hitting for McLain‚ walks and scores the tying run. Denny (30-5; he will finish 31-6, winning both the CY Young and the Most Valuable Player awards) gives up six hits and fans ten.

1978: After some years in retirement and others in the minors, Jim Bouton‚ 39‚ earns a 4-1 win for the Atlanta Braves over the San Francisco Giants. It is his first big-league victory since 1970‚ and the last of his career.

September 15

1912: In the second game of twin bill, Boston’s Joe Wood wins his 16th straight game as he tops the Browns 2-1 in a game called after eight innings because of darkness. Earlier in the year‚ Walter Johnson had also posted a streak of 16 straight wins. To keep his streak alive, Smoky Joe had to defeat Johnson, 1-0, earlier this month before a packed house at Fenway. For more, see: http://research.sabr.org/journals/war-of-1912

Smokey Joe Wood warmed up amid a big crowd at Fenway Park in 1912

Smoky Joe Wood warmed up amid a big crowd at Fenway Park in 1912

1952: In a Cold War challenge to America’s national game, scholars in the Soviet Union offer up their own game of lapta as being the progenitor of baseball. If one wished to trace bat-and-ball games back to their antecedents, one might cite the game of seker-hemat, played along the banks of the Nile in 2400 BCE. In a wall relief at the shrine of Hathor, the goddess of love and joy, in Hatshepsut’s temple at Deir-el-Bahari, Thutmose III is seen holding a ball in one hand and a stick in the other. The hieroglyph reads: “Striking the ball for Hathor who is foremost in Thebes.”

1969: Steve Carlton of the Cardinals fans a record 19 batters and still loses. Ron Swoboda hits a pair of two-run homers‚ and the New York Mets, team of destiny in this year, beats St. Louis 4-3.

September 16

1937: Martin Dihigo pitches the first no-hit‚ no-run game in Mexican pro ball, a 4-0 victory against Nogales at Veracruz. Next year, Dihigo will lead the Mexican League in ERA (0.90)‚ wins (18-2)‚ strikeouts (184) … and batting (.387). Only Guy Hecker in MLB annals came close.

1958: Frank Lary becomes the third pitcher to beat the Yankees seven or more times in one season‚ as the Tiger righthander defeats them‚ 4-2. Ed Walsh (9-1 in 1908) and Ed Cicotte (7-1 in 1916) were the others—but Lary sets the AL record for most wins in a season against the pennant winner. (The NL record is eight‚ by Bob Buhl over the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956.)

1975: Pittsburgh second baseman Rennie Stennett ties Wilbert Robinson’s  record‚ set June 10‚ 1892‚ by going 7-for-7 in a nine-inning game. (Cesar Gutierrez of Detroit went 7-for-7 in an extra-inning contest in 1970.) The Pirates top the Cubs 22-0.

September 17

1866: The Excelsiors of Brooklyn play the first match of their Southern tour against the National team in Washington‚ winning 33-28. The game starts at 4 p.m. on the White Lot, behind the White House. President Andrew Johnson watches the game for a brief time.

Excelsiors and Nationals at the White Lot, 1866

Excelsiors and Nationals at the White Lot, 1866

1900: Cincinnati shortstop Tommy Corcoran‚ coaching at third base in a doubleheader at Philadelphia‚ uncovers a wire in the coaching box that leads across the outfield to the Phillies’ locker room. There‚ reserve catcher Morgan Murphy reads the opposing catcher’s signs and relays them to the Phils’ coach “What’s the Use” Chiles by a buzzer hidden in the dirt. It seems nothing in baseball is truly new.

1912:  Casey Stengel breaks in with Brooklyn and has four singles, a walk‚ two steals‚ and two RBIs in the 7-3 win over Pittsburgh. For more, see: http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2012/05/07/young-casey/


John, I very much appreciate the work you do on this blog as well has the volume of your research over the years. I am much more interested in the stories and history of the game as well as how it is played (strategic moves, etc) than the majority of the “new stats” whose sole purpose seems more for a new way to rank players than really give a “scouts eye” view of them.

Thanks, Greg. Over the years I have tilted toward story over stats, but both have their indispensable place in understanding the grip of this great game.

Very interesting “Old News” entry. I had never heard of Howard Ehmke. Guess I now know why.
I’m particularly fascinated by the Red Stockings-A’s English tour of 1874. Both teams were excused from the National Association for two months of the season? How exactly did that work in terms of the standings when they returned?
Also the White Lot behind the White House, I had never heard of that location before and I’m sort of an amateur presidential/white House historian.

Ok I did a little research after posting my above comment, and I now know that the White Lot is today’s Ellipse. You learn something everyday ….

Glad to have piqued your interest, Bill.

Link to the Ty Cobb story requires a subscription. No Good!  Randy

Pizza Party 1998 Homestead Rd. #101 Santa Clara, Ca 95050 408-248-5680 408-691-8623 cell

Actually, not. You just have to answer some dopey questions.

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