Posts Tagged ‘Lefty O’Doul’

1933, the obscure World Series: the Polo Grounds

May 15, 2018

The 1933 World Series began with two games in New York.

Game 1, 3 October

Carl Hubbell

For the first game, the Giants sent ace Carl Hubbell to the mound to face Washington southpaw Lefty Stewart. It quickly became the Hubbell show. In the first inning, New York jumped on Stewart for two runs. Leadoff hitter Jo-Jo Moore reached on an error by second baseman Buddy Myer and two outs later Mel Ott drove a pitch into the right field stands. Two innings later consecutive singles by Hughie Critz, Bill Terry, and Ott scored Critz with the third run and sent Stewart to the showers. One out later Travis Jackson’s little roller to first brought home the fourth run.

Hubbell allowed one hit through the first three innings. In the top of the fourth, Myer singled, reached third on a groundout and an error and scored on a Joe Cronin force play. That made the score 4-1 and the pitchers took over.

The 4-1 score held up until the top of the ninth when a New York error and bunched singles put a runner on third. A Joe Kuhel single added a second Washington run, but Hubbell then struck out Ossie Bluege for the second out and got a grounder to third that finished both the inning and the game.

It wasn’t a particularly well-played game. There were five errors (three by the Senators), but Hubbell had been terrific. He gave up two unearned runs, walked two, allowed five hits (all singles), and struck out 10 to give the Giants a 1-0 Series lead.

Game 2, October 4

Lefty O’Doul with the Giants

In game 2, Hal Schumacher took the mound for New York with Alvin “General” Crowder facing him for Washington. Both men pitched well through five innings. Schumacher had one small blip in the third when he grooved a pitch that Goose Goslin drove over the right field wall for a home run. It was the only run either team scored into the bottom of the sixth.

That was the crucial half inning for the game. A single, a force at second, and a double put runners on second and third with one out. an intentional walk loaded the bases for pinch hitter Lefty O’Doul. It was his first, and ultimately only, at bat in post season play. He used it well, smashing a single that scored two runs and put the Giants ahead. Two more singles scored two more runs, then a strikeout provided the second out. But two men were still on base, and two more singles, one by pitcher Schumacher, brought home two more runs and made the score 6-1.

It stayed that way for the rest of the game as Schumacher allowed two more hits, one erased on a double play to give the Giants a 2-0 lead in the Series. He’d thrown a complete game allowing five hits and walking four, but giving up only the homer to Goslin. Apparently some of the nervousness wore off from game one as there were no errors by either team in game two (as opposed to five in game one).

Game three was the next day in Washington. The Senators would need to win at least two to bring the Series back to New York.

 

 

1933, the obscure World Series: The Giants

May 8, 2018

Lefty O’Doul with the Giants

Several years ago I ran a little informal poll on a sports website. I asked people to name the teams, winner first, in the 1933 World Series. They had to promise not to look it up first. Out of about 30 responses, 2 got it right (and 1 admitted to looking it up). It’s a terribly obscure World Series, falling between Babe Ruth’s last series in 1932 and the Gas House Gang Cardinals of 1934. It needs to be resurrected. You’ve probably figured by now that I’m about to do just that. First, the National League champs. And for what it’s worth, the most common answers to my poll were the Yankees and the Cardinals. Not bad choices for the era.

In 1932 John McGraw laid down the reins of the New York Giants. They hadn’t won since 1923, McGraw was old, he was tired, he was done. The next year the “new” Giants won the National League pennant by five games. They were fourth in runs scored, fourth in hits, led the NL in home runs, were fifth in average, and last in doubles. What all that should tell you is that they pitched really well. They were first in ERA, shutouts, runs, hits, second in strikeouts, and otherwise simply dominated on the mound.

The infield consisted of player-manager Bill Terry at first and three guys who are fairly obscure. Terry hit .322, had an OPS+ of 128. The .322 led the team and the OPS+ was second. He managed 3.8 WAR. Hughie Critz played second, hit .246 but produced 3.5 WAR. His middle infield mate was Blondy Ryan whose average was even lower and whose WAR was all of 1.9 (still good for 10th on the team). Johnny Vergez was the third baseman. He hit .271 and was second on the team in both homers and RBIs with 16 home runs and 72 RBIs. His WAR was 3.5. By the time the World Series began, Vergez was laid up with acute appendicitis and couldn’t play. His replacement was Hall of Famer Travis Jackson, who by this point in his career was splitting time between shortstop and third. He hit all of .246 with no power and 0.2 WAR. Sam Leslie and Bernie James were the other infield backups. Leslie hit .321 while James hit in the .240s.

The outfield was considerably better. George “Kiddo” Davis played center, hit .258, led the team with 10 stolen bases, made only three errors all season, and got 1.0 WAR. “Jo-Jo” Moore (his name was Joe) flanked him in left. He hit .292, second (to Terry) among starters, had 1.1 WAR, and like Davis, had only three errors. Flanking Davis to the right was Hall of Famer Mel Ott. He hit .283, led the team with 23 home runs and 103 RBIs, and led the entire NL with 75 walks. His WAR of 5.5 led the team’s position players. During the season, the Giants made a trade that brought the team a major piece of their pennant run, Lefty O’Doul. He hit .306, had nine home runs, 35 RBIs, 146 OPS+, and 2.1 WAR in 78 games, 63 of them in the field.

Gus Mancuso and Paul Richards did almost all the catching. Mancuso was behind the plate for 142 games hitting .264 with six home runs and 1.9 WAR. Richards got into 36 games as part of the battery and hit a buck-95. He (and sometime third baseman Chuck Dressen) would later become famous as managers.

The heart of the team was the staff, specifically three men: Carl Hubbell, Hal Schumacher, and Fred Fitzsimmons. “King Carl” was at his best in 1933. He went 23-12, had an ERA of 1.66 (ERA+ of 193), struck out 156, had 10 shutouts (the ERA and shutouts both led the NL), and produced a team leading 9.1 WAR to go along with a 0.982 WHIP. All that got him the 1933 NL MVP Award. “Prince Hal” wasn’t as good, but he was close. His ERA was 2.16 (ERA+149) with 96 strikeouts, and 5.4 WAR. “Fat Freddie” went 16-11 with a 2.90 ERA (111 ERA+), and more walks than strikeouts. Roy Parmelee is largely forgotten today, but he was second on the team with 132 strikeouts and had, at 3.17 the only ERA over three among the starters. Hi Bell and 42-year-old Dolf Luque were the main men out of the bullpen.

If you look it over closely, you can still see the influence of McGraw. The team was pitching heavy, relied on solid defense, and didn’t worry overly much about the long ball.

Making the Switch

August 29, 2015

Recently Precious Sanders over at The Baseball Attic did an article on Roger Bresnahan that reminded me he’d originally been a pitcher. Of course he’s now a Hall of Fame catcher. She and I commented back and forth about players who’d started as pitchers and ended up as everyday players (and everyday players who’d gone the other way). So all that led me to see if I could field a complete team (one man at each position plus 2 pitchers who’d originally been fielders) of players who had moved from the mound to the field. Here’s one:

1b George Sisler (Hall of Fame)

2b Jack Dunn

SS Monte Ward (Hall of Fame)

3b Nixie Callahan

OF Babe Ruth (Hall of Fame), Lefty O’Doul, Smokey Joe Wood

C Roger Bresnahan (Hall of Fame)

DH Rick Ankiel

P Bob Lemon (Hall of Fame) and Bucky Walters

I’m sure that a bit more searching around could produce a better team.  I purposefully left out Stan Musial who made the switch in the minors. Of note is that most of them occur in very early MLB history. It isn’t so common to make the switch at the Major League level anymore. Obviously in the case of the Hall of Famers, it worked out pretty well.

Anyway, I thought it was interesting and pass it along.

BTW if you get a chance, make sure you take a look at The Baseball Attic. Certainly worth a look.

The Arrival of a Legend

July 11, 2014
The Babe while still a Red Sox

The Babe while still a Red Sox

Today marks one of the most significant anniversaries in Major League baseball history. One hundred years ago on 11 July 1914 the Boston Red Sox gave the ball for the first time to a rookie pitcher nicknamed “Babe” Ruth. It was the start of the most legendary of all baseball careers.

For the day, Ruth pitched seven innings against the Cleveland Naps giving up three runs (two earned). Joe Jackson (“Shoeless Joe”) knocked in a run early and catcher Steve O’Neill knocked in two in the seventh for the Cleveland runs. Ruth struck out one and walked none to pick up the win. At bat he went 0-2 with a strikeout. Better hitting days were to come for the Babe.

Most everyone knows the name Babe Ruth, many without knowing what it was he did. If you do know what he did, odds are you know about the home runs and the hitting feats. But Ruth was also a heck of a pitcher. If you look at the left-handed hurlers of the decade between 1910 and 1920 you could make a pretty fair argument that Ruth was the best left-hander of the decade. You might look at Eddie Plank or Rube Marquard early in the decade, or at Hippo Vaughn later in the decade (and he and Ruth faced each other in the 1918 World Series with the Babe picking up a 1-0 win), but Ruth is equally in the argument.

Ruth’s conversion from pitcher to outfielder is key to his career. But if you look around, you’ll find that while it wasn’t common, it wasn’t unheard of in baseball. George Sisler did the same thing and went to the Hall of Fame. So did Lefty O’Doul (without the Hall of Fame being attached). A lot of years later Stan Musial hurt his arm in the minors and switched from the mound to the outfield and ended up in Cooperstown. Bob Lemon went the other way, from third base to pitcher and made the Hall. Bucky Walters also went from third to pitching and won an MVP. Darren Dreifort, while at Wichita State, served as the DH when he wasn’t pitching, but didn’t play in the field (although he did pinch hit) in the Majors. I’m sure that’s nowhere near a complete list.

For his Boston career, Ruth was 89-46, a .659 winning percentage, with a 1.142 WHIP, a 2.19 ERA, and a 122 ERA+. He had 17 shutouts, 483 strikeouts, and 425 walks for his Red Sox years (there were also a handful of games with the Yanks). Ruth’s pitching WAR (Baseball Reference.com version) is 20.6.  His World Series record is equally good. He was 3-0 with a shutout and eight strikeouts. He did, however, walk 10. His consecutive scoreless streak in the Series was a record until Whitey Ford finally passed him in the 1960s.

I know over the years that a lot of people have tried to tell us that someone else (Barry Bonds, Ted Williams, Henry Aaron, etc.) was better than Ruth. And maybe as a hitter they were (although I wouldn’t bet on that in Vegas), but ultimately you have to decide that Ruth was the overall superior player because he could also pitch very well. Aaron was Aaron, Williams was Williams, and Bonds was Bonds, but Ruth was a combination of any of them and Walter Johnson. Top that crew.

 

A Baker’s Dozen Things You Should Know About Lefty O’Doul

May 23, 2013
Lefty O'Doul while with Brooklyn

Lefty O’Doul while with Brooklyn

1. He was born Francis Joseph O’Doul in 1897 in San Francisco.

2. In 1912 he played for his school team, whose coach was female. O’Doul credited her with teaching him fundamentals of the game. The next year he dropped out of school to work with his father as a butcher.

3. Playing semipro ball on Sundays brought him to the attention of the San Francisco Seals minor league team. He signed as a pitcher in 1917.

4. After a stint in the Navy in World War I, O’Doul was picked up by the Yankees in 1919. He played for them in 1919 and 1920, did little, and was sent back to San Francisco for 1921.

5. In 1922 he was back with the Yankees, Again he didn’t do much and was sent to Boston. With the Red Sox he did pick up his only pitching win in 1923 (He was 1-1 for his career).

6. He spent 1924-1927 in the minors. He hurt his arm and became a fulltime outfielder. Much of the 1924-27 period was spent trying to learn how to field.

7. In 1928 he was picked up by the Giants, hit .319 with little power and was traded to the Phillies.

8. He won his first batting title (.398) in 1929. He remained with Philadelphia one more year, hit .383, and was traded to Brooklyn where he stayed into 1933 when he was traded back to the Giants. While in Brooklyn he won a second batting title (.368)

9. He platooned some in left field for the pennant winning New York team. That got him into his only World Series, a Giants victory. He batted once, singled, drove in two runs, and later scored.

10.His last big league year was 1934. He hit .316 and left the Major Leagues with a .349 average and an OPS+ of 143 in 970 games.

11. He left the Giants to manage the Seals in his hometown. He stayed manager through 1951 winning pennant in 1935, 1943, ’44, ’45, and 1946. He remained a minor league manager through 1957, then became a hitting instructor for the Giants, now located in San Francisco. He also spent significant time in Japan promoting baseball there.

12. In retirement he opened a bar (Lefty O’Doul’s) which is still open in San Francisco. One source calls it the oldest sport’s bar in the US (although some spots on the East Coast might argue the point).

13. He died in 1969 and has never gotten much support for the Hall of Fame (His vote total peaked at 16.7% in 1960).

O'Doul's tombstone

O’Doul’s tombstone

The sentiment reads “He was here at a good time and had a good time while he was here.” (not a bad epitaph)

Changing the Guard

May 6, 2013
Carl Hubbell, New York's "Meal Ticket"

Carl Hubbell, New York’s “Meal Ticket”

In 1933 the New York Giants did something they hadn’t done since the 1880s. They won a pennant without John McGraw at the helm. The changing of the guard from McGraw to Bill Terry in 1932 rejuvenated the Giants and led them to their first World Series in 10 years.

When I first decided to do this post, I tried to list all eight starters, the three pitchers, the main bullpen guy, and a couple of subs. I got about six names total. Unless you’re a true diehard Giants fan, it’s a fairly obscure team. The infield consisted of (first to third) hall of famer and manager Bill Terry, Hughie Critz, Blondy Ryan, and Johnny Vergez. Terry hit .300, Vergez had double figure home runs, and the other two were primarily glove men. Gus Mancuso was the catcher. He did almost all the catching and had a 49% caught stealing percentage (which was good in the era). The outfield consisted of another hall of famer, Mel Ott, in right, JoJo Moore, George “Kiddo” Davis, Lefty O’Doul, and Homer Peel holding down the other two spots. By the Series, Davis had settled in left and Moore was more or less the normal center fielder. Travis Jackson (another hall of famer), Sam Leslie, and Bernie James were the main backup infielders, while Paul Richards (of manager fame) was the backup catcher. The one significant trade during the season saw O’Doul come to the Giants while Leslie went to the Dodgers. The team led the NL in home runs, but no other major category.

As with most teams McGraw led (and he’d only been gone a year, not time enough for a team make over), the key to the Giants was pitching. Carl Hubbell had a great year going 23-12 with an ERA of 1.66. He had 10 shutouts and walked only 47 to go with 156 strikeouts. Twenty-two year old “Prince” Hal Schumacher was 19-12 with a 2.16 ERA while “Fat” Freddie Fitzsimmons (who could never get that nickname in this politically correct era) was 16-11 with a 2.90 ERA. Geezers Dolf Luque and Hi Bell did most of the bullpen work. The pitchers led the National League in ERA and shutouts, finished second in strikeouts, and were dead last in hits allowed.

They drew Washington in the World Series. It had been eight years since the Senators won a pennant, so both teams were in unusual territory. The Giants won the first two games at home, then dropped game three in DC. They came back to claim game four, then game five became an all-time classic.

In the top of the second, the Giants picked up two runs on a single, a walk, a sacrifice bunt, and a two run scoring single by pitcher Schumacher. They picked up a third run in the sixth when Davis doubled, went to third on a bunt, and scored on Mancuso’s double. In the bottom of the sixth, the Senators struck back. After consecutive singles, Senators center fielder Fred Schulte connected for a three-run homer.After two more singles, Luque replaced Schumacher and slammed the door on Washington. The two teams matched zeroes into the tenth inning. With two outs, Ott launched a home run that put New York ahead. With two out in the bottom of the tenth, a single and a walk put the tying run in scoring position and the winning run at first. Luque responded by striking out Joe Kuhel to end the game and the Series. Luque was terrific in relief, going 4.1 scoreless innings and striking out five. Ott struck out twice, but had the deciding blow.

For the Series the Giants hit .267 to Washington’s .214. They had three home runs (including Ott’s Series winner) while the Senators had two. New York scored 16 runs to their opponent’s 11. Hubbell was 2-0 with 15 strikeouts, Schumacher won game two, and of course Luque was the pitching star of the finale. Fitzsimmons took the only loss (game three by a 4-0 score).

The victory was in isolation. In 1934 and 1935 they Giants fell back. A very different team won pennants in both 1936 and 1937 (losing both World Series’ to the Yankees). The 1940s were a lost time for New York. They reemerged in 1951 to win a thrilling playoff and drop another World Series to the Yankees. They would win one final pennant in New York in 1954.