Posts Tagged ‘Brooklyn Robins’

A Dozen Things You Should Know About Jack Fournier

April 10, 2018

 

Jack Fournier with Brooklyn

1. John Frank Fournier was born in September 1889 in Au Sable, Michigan. His father worked in the lumber mills in the area. His family moved to Aberdeen, Washington when he was three. The family was of French-Canadian extraction. Some sources list his first name as “Jacques.”

2. As a child, Fournier worked in a livery stable and as a railway messenger. The town baseball team found out he could hit and paid him $5.00 to be the team catcher.

3. In 1905, now in Tacoma, Washington, Fournier played for his high school baseball team. He was good enough to be signed by first, Seattle, then by his former hometown of Aberdeen.

4. He wandered through the minor leagues until 1912, when the Boston Red Sox spotted him. They invited him to training camp, but he didn’t come (no reason I can find is cited in any source). Eventually he did sign with the Chicago White Sox.

5. He played through 1917 with the ChiSox, splitting time between the outfield and first base. There is general agreement that he wasn’t much of a fielder at any of the positions.

6. In 1914, he turned down an offer to play in the Federal League. At Chicago he finally hit over .300 (.311), had six home runs, and produced 3.8 WAR. In 1915, he led the American League in slugging percentage.

7. In 1917 he was sent to the minors (Chicago had acquired Chick Gandil to play first). He remained in the minors through the remainder of the season, then replaced Wally Pipp (who was off to World War I) at first for the Yankees in 1918. With Pipp back, and Fournier being no Lou Gehrig, Fournier returned to the minors in 1919.

8. The St. Louis Cardinals of the National League picked him up for 1920. He remained there through 1922 before being traded to Brooklyn.

9. With the Robins (now Dodgers) he hit .350 or better twice, led the NL in walks in 1925, and led the league in home runs in 1924 with 27. In 1926, he hit three home runs in one game. He had 11 for the season.

10. At the end of the 1926 season he was released. He signed for one more year (1927) with the Boston Braves. He did well, but was 37 and retired at the end of the season. In 1928 he played a year of minor league ball at Newark.

11. He sold insurance, did a little acting (he’s in a movie called “Death on a Diamond.” As far as I can tell, he’s neither the victim nor the villain), then spent most of 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s moving between minor league managing, coaching the UCLA baseball team, and big league scouting. He retired from baseball in 1962 and died in Tacoma in 1973.

12. For his career, his triple slash line is .313/.392/483/.875 with 1631 hits, 252 doubles, 113 triples, 136 home runs (for 2517 total bases), and 859 RBIs. His OPS+ is 142 with 41.2 WAR.

Colby Jack

September 5, 2010

Jack Coombs in 1910

Back in 1988, Orel Hershiser set the record for consecutive scoreless innings pitched. Most people noted that he just surpassed Don Drysdale. A handful of experts pointed out that Drysdale had taken the record away from Walter Johnson. Almost no one knew that Johnson had replaced Jack Coombs as the record holder. One hundred years ago today, Colby Jack Coombs began a run that eventually led to 53 consecutive scoreless innings.

Coombs was born in Iowa and graduated from Colby College in Maine, hence his “Colby Jack” nickname. Connie Mack brought him to the majors immediately after graduation. He went 10-10 in 1906, participating in the longest game played to that point. In 1907 and 1908 he had equally undistinguished records, then went 12-11 in 1909. The breakthrough came in 1910. For the season he went 31-9 with an ERA of 1.30, striking out 224 men. He led the American League in wins, games, and shutouts. His ERA was second in the AL. In the World Series his Philadelphia Athletics defeated the Chicago Cubs four games to one. Coombs was the winning pitcher in three of the games, including the last one.

The 1911 season was almost as spectacular. Coombs was 28-12, but with an ERA of 3.53, He led he league in wins, games, and in hits given up. The A’s went back to the World Series where Coombs won a game and took a no decision. In 1912 he was 21-10.

Tragedy struck in 1913. Coombs caught typhoid, almost died, and saw his baseball career derailed. In 1913 and 1914 combined he pitched a total of 13 innings, absorbing one loss. In 1915, Mack sent him to Brooklyn in the National League. Coombs was 32 and coming off two lost seasons. He bounced back to go 15-10 for the Robins (Dodgers comes later), then went 13-8 for the pennant winning team of 1916. The Robins lost the World Series in five games. Coombs, of course, won the only Brooklyn victory, a 4-3 win over Boston. 

It was essentially the end. He had a losing record in 1917 and 1918, went to the Phillies as manager in 1919. The Phils were awful and Coombs wasn’t much of a manager. So 62 games into the season he was fired. His record was 18-44. He went back to the AL in 1920, getting into two games for the woeful Tigers, then retired.

Coombs overall record was 158-110 with an ERA of 2.78. He had 35 shutouts, walked 841 men, and struck out 1052 in 354 games pitched (268 starts). From 1910 through 1912 he went 80-31, had 15 shutouts, and struck out 529 men, while walking 328. In World Series play (1910, 1911, 1916) he was at his best. He went 5-0 with 34 strikeouts in 53.1 innings, giving up 41 hits.

It took a while, but by 1929 Coombs found another good job in baseball. He took over as head coach at Duke University, where he remained through 1952. Unlike A’s teammate Jack Barry his Duke teams never won a College World Series, but he was successful, particularly in sending players to the majors. In 1945 he wrote a manual “Baseball: Individual Play and Team Strategy”. I’ve read it and it’s pretty good. Combs died in Texas in 1957. The field at Duke is named in his honor.

Jack Coombs had claim to be one of the three or four finest pitchers in all of the Major Leagues for a short period (1910-12), then he got sick. It took two full years to recover and he never made it back to his previous form. He did well for a short while with Brooklyn, but his last several years were mere shadow to his great years. There’ve been a lot of pitchers who have similar patterns of a few good years than something goes drastically wrong. Sometimes its an injury, sometimes arm trouble, sometimes illness, sometimes just a screw loose somewhere in the head. Coombs is, for a short period, a truly great pitcher and a good example of this pattern.

By way of trivia, in the great 1950s western “High Noon” there are four villains. The one played by Lee Van Cleef is named Jack Colby. I wonder if the author of the screenplay was an old A’s fan.

Boston Marathon

February 25, 2010

The longest game in Major League Baseball history, in terms of innings is 26. It occurred on the 1st of May 1920. The kicker? Well, both pitchers hurled complete games.

The Boston Braves squared off against the Brooklyn Robins (later the Dodgers) on 1 May 1920. They sent 28 year old righthander Joe Osescher to the mound against Brooklyn’s 29 year old righty Leon Cadore. The game remained scoreless into the 5th inning when Robins catcher Ernie Krueger singled. Two batters later, second baseman Ivy Olsen singled driving home Krueger with the Robins’ run. In the bottom of the 6th right fielder Walt Cruise tripled and came home on an RBI single by third baseman Tony Boeckel. The score was tied. It remained that way for the rest of the day. For 20 innings the two pitchers managed to throw shut out baseball. There were baserunners all over the place, the Robins leaving 11 men on base and the Braves leaving 19, but nobody scored after the bottom of the 6th. It was the era before lights in stadiums, so finally after three hours and 50 minutes, 26 innings, and 25 hits the umpire called the game on account of darkness. It ended a 1-1 tie. For the game Oeschger had ptiched 26 innings, given up one earned run, 10 hits, three walks, and four strike outs . Cadore’s line read 26 innings, one earned run, 15 hits, five walks, eight strikeouts, and the Major League Baseball record of facing 96 batters in a single game.

Among the batters there were some awful box score numbers. Robins shortstop Chuck Ward went 0 for 10, as did Cadore. Braves second baseman Charlie Pick had an even worse day. He was 0 for 11 with two errors. There are slumps that have better numbers.

For the season Oeschger went 15-13 for the Braves who finished 7th in an eight team league, 30 games out of first. The Robins won the pennant (and lost the World Series to Cleveland 5 games to 2 in a best of nine series) with Cadore posting 15 wins and 14 losses. In the series he pitched in two games, taking the loss in game five.

Oeschger pitched until 1925, ironically finishing his career with Brooklyn. He was 82-116 for the career with an ERA of 3.81. walking 651 and striking out 535. He died in 1986.

Cadore pitched into 1924 winning 68 and losing 72. His ERA was 3.14 and he had 289 walks with 445 strikeouts. He died in 1958.

For the year of 1920 Oeschger pitched 299 innings. Cadore in 1920 managed 254 innings pitched. For both, 26 came on the same day. That’s 9.7% of Oeschger’s innings and 10.2 % of Cadore’s. No one, pitching more than a handful of innings, has ever topped that total for a single game. My guess is that no one ever will.