Posts Tagged ‘Harry Brecheen’

The Kid vs. The Man: Back at Sportsman’s Park

August 27, 2014

The 1946 World Series returned to St. Louis on Sunday, 13 October. The Cardinals need to win to force a game seven. By this point most of the questions raised when the Series began were answered. Only two significant ones were left: how would Ted Williams and Stan Musial do, and who would win.

Harry Brecheen

Harry Brecheen

The Cardinals sent game two starter Harry Brecheen back to the mound. He’d pitched a complete game shutout in his last outing. He didn’t do quite as well this time. He gave up a run in the seventh inning when Rudy York tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Bobby Doerr. By that point St. Louis was already ahead 3-0 and would win 4-1. In the third inning they’d bunched together a single, a bunt (by Brecheen), a sacrifice and three more singles to score three runs off Tex Hughson. In the bottom of the eighth Harry Walker reached first on a force out then scored on a double by Marty Marion. Both the same hit and the same inning would loom large in game seven.  For Brecheen it was his second complete game victory.

Enos Slaughter, 15 October 1946

Enos Slaughter, 15 October 1946

The final game was played 15 October 1946 with Boston sending Boo Ferriss to the mound and the Cardinals countering with Murry Dickson. The Bosox got one in the first when Wally Moses singled, went to third on another single, and scored on Dom DiMaggio’s sacrifice fly. The Cards got it back in the bottom of the second when Whitey Kurowski doubled, went to third on a groundout, and then scored on a fly to left. St. Louis took the lead in the fifth when Walker singled, went to second on a bunt, then scored on Dickson’s double. A Red Schoendienst single plated Dickson. It stayed 3-1 until the top of the eighth. Rip Russell singled and Catfish Metkovich doubled to put Russell on third. It was all for Dickson. Manager Eddie Dyer brought Brecheen, the game six winner in to stop the Boston rally. He got two outs, then DiMaggio doubled to tie the games (both runs credited to Dickson). With the score tied, St. Louis Hall of Fame right fielder Enos Slaughter led off the bottom of the eighth with a single. Two outs later he was still parked on first and the score was still tied. That brought up Walker. He doubled off reliever Bob Klinger. Slaughter, with two outs, was off with the pitch. He rounded second, went to third, ran through a stop sign and headed home. The Red Sox fielded the ball cleanly but cutoff man Johnny Pesky hesitated just enough with the relay throw that Slaughter slid home safely with the go ahead run. The play has become famous as “Slaughter’s Mad Dash” and is still one of the more well known plays in World Series lore (and it may have been the deciding factor that got Slaughter into the Hall of Fame). In the ninth Brecheen went back to the mound. York singled as did Doerr. Doerr was erased on a force out by Pinky Higgins. Roy Partee fouled out with runners on first and third, then Ted McBride rolled a grounder to Schoendienst who flipped to Marion for the force that ended the Series. St. Louis had won both the game and Series 4-3. It was Brecheen’s third win.

Boston did well in defeat. Williams was a major disappointment hitting .200 with five hits, all singles. He had five walks, five strikeouts, and scored two runs. The big hitting star was Rudy York. He had six hits, four for extra bases (a double, a triple, and two homers). He drove in five and scored six runs. The staff did well enough with a team ERA of 2.95. They gave up 20 earned runs in 28 total runs (and if you ignore the 12-3 blowout in game four they actually gave up fewer runs than the Cards pitchers).

St. Louis had a lot of stars. Slaughter scored the big run while hitting .320. Walker had six RBIs, including the last one. Musial is frequently lambasted for a poor series (and he hit only .222), but he had six hits, five for extra bases (four doubles and a triple), scored three runs, drove in four, had four walks (and two strikeouts), and stole a base (and was immediately picked off). But the big hero was Brecheen. He had two complete games and gave up one run in them. He picked up the win in game seven in relief (although he’d given up the hit that tied the game) and became the first of only three lefties to register three wins in a World Series (Mickey Lolich and Randy Johnson are the others). He was also the second three game winner to pick up one victory in relief (Smokey Joe Wood did it in 1912 and later Johnson did it the same way in 2001). All in all not bad for a .500 pitcher in the regular season (he went 15-15).

It was a terrific World Series. It began a line of three great World Series’ (1947 and ’48 also became famous). It was also the only time both Williams and Musial met in a Series. For Williams it was his single Series. For Musial it was his last. He, at least, went out on a winning note.

 

 

The Kid vs. The Man: the Opening Games

August 22, 2014

The 1946 World Series began in Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis on Sunday, 6 October. There were a number of questions that hung over the Series. How would Ted Williams do? How would Stan Musial do? Was either pitching staff up to the task? Would St. Louis employ the “Williams Shift”? The Shift was designed to defend against Williams’ tendency to pull the ball to right field. The shortstop (in this case Marty Marion) would move to the first base side of second while the third baseman (in this case Whitey Kurowski) would assume Marion’s normal shortstop position. As long as second and third base were unoccupied it gave the defense a distinct advantage versus the best hitter in the American League. The short answer was “Yes,” the Cardinals would use the Shift.

Rudy York

Rudy York

Game 1

For the opening game, the Cards sent Howie Pollet to the mound. He pitched reasonably well, giving up three hits and striking out another three. He did, however, give up four walks, two to Williams. The Red Sox picked up a run in the second when Pollet hit Rudy York with a pitch. York went to second on a walk, and came home on a single by Pinky Higgins. The Cards got the run back off Boston starter Tex Hughson when Red Schoendienst singled then scored on a Musial double. In the bottom of the eighth, they got another run when Kurowski singled and catcher Joe Garagiola doubled to plate Kurowski. Pollet needed three outs to clinch game one. With one out Higgins singled and was replaced on base by Don Gutteridge. A Rip Russell single sent Gutteridge to third. With two outs, right fielder Tom McBride singled to score Gutteridge and tie up the game. It went 11 innings. In the top of the 11th, York homered off Pollet and reliever Earl Johnson set down St. Louis without a run to pick up the win and put Boston ahead.

Harry Brecheen

Harry Brecheen

Game 2

The second game of the Series was held the next day. It was a pitching masterpiece for Cards starter Harry Brecheen. He pitched a complete game shutout allowing four hits, three walks, and struck out four. He allowed a first inning single, then got out of the inning on a double play. In the second he walked two (one intentionally) but got out of it with three harmless groundouts. In the fourth it was a walk and a single that put two men on, but again a groundout ended the threat. After that he never allowed two men on in any inning. Meanwhile, St. Louis got a run in the third when catcher Del Rice doubled and Brecheen singled to score Rice. They tacked on two more in the fifth when Rice and Brecheen scored on a single by Terry Moore and groundout by Musial (Brecheen could hit a little too.). Both runs were unearned. Losing pitcher Mickey Harris went seven innings, gave up six hits, walked three, struck out three and gave up all three runs.

After game two the Series shifted to Boston with the teams tied at one win each. How were the questions being answered? So far Williams was one for seven with two walks and a strikeout. Musial was one for nine (a double) with two RBIs and a strikeout. Both pitching staffs had done well. St. Louis had given up three runs, one in extra innings, and Boston had given up five, only three of which were earned.

 

The Kid vs The Man: St. Louis

August 20, 2014
Stan The Man

Stan The Man

If Boston was new at winning pennants, to St. Louis it was something like old hat. The Cards had picked up two pennants in the 1920s (one Series championship), three in the 1930s (two championships), and three in the 1940s (winning two championships). But the team underwent changes in the aftermath of World War II, including losing former MVP Mort Cooper to the Braves along with his brother Walker to the Giants. Long time manager (and Hall of Famer) Billy Southworth was gone. In his place was rookie manager Eddie Dyer. He managed to get the team to a 96-58 record and a tie with Brooklyn for first place. In the best of three playoff format of the era, the Cards won the first two games (4-2 and 8-4) to claim the pennant and advance to the 1946 World Series.

The Cardinals infield consisted of Hall of Famer and 1946 MVP Stan Musial at first (he also played 42 games in the outfield). It was a fairly typical Musial year leading the National League in runs, hits, doubles, triples, batting average, slugging, total bases. Throughout their 1940s pennant run, St. Louis had burned through a series of second basemen with names like Creepy Crespi and Emil Verban. In 1946 they finally decided to move a new outfielder named Red Schoendienst into second base. It worked. He hit .281, stole 12 bases (tied for the team lead), scored 94 runs, and eventually made the Hall of Fame. Marty Marion held down shortstop. He had his usual solid season in the field leading the NL in defensive WAR (Baseball Reference.com version), assists, putouts, and double plays. Unfortunately, he hit only .233. At third, Whitey Kurowski hit .301 with 14 home runs, and 89 RBIs.

The outfield was in transition. Musial spent more time at first and center field stalwart Terry Moore became the fourth outfielder for much of the year (although by the World Series he was doing most of the center field work). Hall of Fame right fielder Enos Slaughter had a good year hitting .300 with 18 home runs (which led the team), and driving in 130 runs (which also led the team). Harry “the Hat” Walker (Dixie Walker’s brother) took over the bulk of the center field work but hit only .237 (he’d win a batting title later). It got him sent into something like a platoon situation in left field by the time the World Series came around. He also had 12 stolen bases to tie Schoendienst for the team lead. Erv Dusak played left field more often than anyone else, but hit only .240 with nine home runs. Joe Garagiola, who went on to fame as a broadcaster (he won a spot at the Hall of Fame as both a broadcaster and humanitarian) was a 20-year-old catcher. He hit .237 with neither power nor speed. Del Rice did a lot of the backup catching.

For much of their history, the Cardinals have produced a slew of pitchers who were very good for a short period of time, then faded for whatever reason. The 1946 staff was right inline with that tradition. With former ace Max Lanier in Mexico (and banned from the Major Leagues for five years), the Cards relied to two right handers: Johnny Beazley and Ken Burkhart. Both gave up more hits than they had innings pitched and had more walks than strikeouts. From the left side Harry Brecheen (the old man of the lot at 30) and Howie Pollet had ERA’s under 2.50 and had more strikeouts than walks. They also had more innings pitched than hits allowed. Both Murry Dickson and Al Brazle split time between starting and the bullpen with Ted Wilks and Red Barrett working mostly out of the bullpen.

All in all the team was not as formidable as the 1942 version (which some people still insist is the best ever Cardinals team) but was solid. The stretch run and playoffs against the Dodgers helped make the team more seasoned than the Red Sox (who coasted to victory). For the World Series, they would have home field.

 

 

The Cat,

May 19, 2014
Harry Brecheen

Harry Brecheen

This is the first of three posts about left-handed pitchers of the 1940s and 1950. All three were major contributors to their teams, but were never considered top line pitchers (although one came close). I wanted to take some time and introduce you to them.

Harry “the Cat” Brecheen spent most of the 1940s pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals. It was a team dominated by hitters like Stan Musial and Enos Slaughter. But the pitching was pretty good also and Brecheen ended up the best of the lot.

Brecheen was born in October 1914 in Oklahoma. He liked baseball, was left-handed, and learned to throw a screwball as a kid. Major Leaguer Cy Blanton barnstormed in the area and Brecheen credited him with explaining the mechanics of the screwball. In 1931 he was the ace of an American Legion youth team that won the Oklahoma state championship.

By age 20 he’d been discovered. He pitched in Class C Greenville, Mississippi and A level Galveston, Texas in 1935. He went 5-7 with an ERA north of five. In 1936 he split time between Class C Bartlesville, Oklahoma and Galveston. This time he went 6-22 and his ERA dropped into the fours. But he got the attention of the Chicago Cubs. They signed him to Class B Portsmouth, Virginia where he went 21-6. Being the Cubs, they traded their 21-6 lefty to St. Louis. The Cards left him in the minors into 1942. He had a winning record every year, kept his ERA in the threes or twos and in the years where the stats are available he had a lot more strikeouts than walks (He di pitch three innings with the big league club in 1940, but that’s all).

He got to the Majors to stay in 1943. He went 9-6, starting 13 games (of 20 pitched), with four saves, and posting a 2.26 ERA. He got into three World Series games that postseason, losing one game (the fourth) in relief.  He was 28 already which meant he’d gotten to the big time about the same time as a pitcher’s normal peak. For the next several years he was a mainstay of the Cardinals staff. They won a World Series in 1944 With Brecheen pitching a  complete game victory in game four.

But it was 1946 that made him famous. He went 15-15 in the regular season with a 2.49 ERA (ERA+ of 139) with 117 strikeouts and a league leading five shutouts. That got him multiple starts in the World Series. He won game two against Boston 3-0, then picked up the win in game six 4-1. Both were complete games. After nine innings on 13 October, no one expected him to pitch in game seven (15 October) on one day’s rest. But with the Cardinals leading 3-1 in the top of the eighth starter Murry Dickson tired. In came Brecheen to save the day. He struck out one, got a liner for out two, then gave up a double that tied the game (there were two inherited runners from Dickson). He got the last out to leave the score tied. Slaughter’s famous “Mad Dash” put St. Louis back on top in the bottom of the eighth. Brecheen then gave up two hits before consecutive outs ended the game. Having gone from a blown save to game winner, Brecheen became the first pitcher to win three games in a World Series since 1920 (Stan Coveleski), the first left-hander ever to win three in one Series, and the first to win one of them as a reliever.

He continued pitching well through 1949 with a career year in 1948. In the latter year he went 20-7, led the National League with a 2.24 ERA (ERA+ of 182), added a league leading 149 strikeouts, and an NL leading seven shutouts to his resume. he was 33.

He began to slip in 1950, having his first losing season (8-11). his ERA jumped to 3.80 (a career high). He hung on two more years with the Cardinals, then ended his career in 1953 with the Browns. He was 38. For his career he was 133-92 (a .591 winning percentage), had an ERA of 2.92 (ERA+ of 133), struck out 901 batters over 1907.2 innings while walking 536 men and giving up 1731 hits. He had 25 shutouts and his WAR is 41.3 (Baseball Reference version of WAR).

After retiring he became pitching coach for the Browns and stayed with them when they moved to Baltimore. He remained as pitching coach through 1967, including one more World Series as his young staff stopped the Dodgers in 1966.  He died in 2004 and is buried in Oklahoma.

Brecheen's final resting place

Brecheen’s final resting place