Posts Tagged ‘Rudy York’

Trying for Two: The Round in Detroit

January 26, 2015

With the 1940 World Series tied 1-1, the teams moved to Detroit for the next three game. A sweep by either would end the Series. A split would mean the two teams would return to Cincinnati for at least one game.

Game 3

Pinky Higgins

Pinky Higgins

Detroit sent Tommy Bridges to the mound for game three on 4 October 1940. Bridges was a 10 year veteran with six All Star appearances who was 3-1 in two previous World Series’ (1934 and 1935). But Cincy got to him immediately. Bill Werber led off with a double and with one out, Ival Goodman singled him home. Bridges got out of the inning without further damage and the run stood up until the bottom of the fourth. Barney McCosky led off for the Tigers with a single, went to second on a Charlie Gehringer single, and scored when Hank Greenberg hit into a 5-3-4 double play. Although Bridges got into trouble in the sixth, neither team scored again until the bottom of the seventh. With one on, Rudy York hit a two-run homer to put Detroit ahead. Billy Campbell followed the home run with a single, then Pinky Higgins slugged another two-run shot to put the Tigers up 5-1. That brought manager Bill McKechnie to the mound to take Reds pitcher Jim Turner out of the game. He was replaced by Whitey Moore, who proceeded to give up a couple of hits but kept Detroit from doing more damage. In the top of the eighth with one on Lou Riggs, pinch-hitting for Moore, hit into a force out, but consecutive singles plated him with the Reds’ second run. The bottom of the eighth saw two singles score a run for the Tigers, then a Higgins double drove in one final score for Detroit. Cincinnati tried to come back in the ninth against a tiring Bridges. Two singles and an error scored one run, then with two outs a single brought in a final run. Bridges managed a strikeout to end the inning and assure a 7-4 Detroit win. Higgins was the big hitting star with two hits, a home run, and four RBIs, while Bridges pitched a complete game giving up 10 hits, one walk, and three earned runs, while striking out five.

Game 4

Paul Derringer

Paul Derringer

Game four was held the next day, 5 October, with Detroit sending Dizzy Trout (who’d started only 10 games all season) to pitch. The Reds responded by sending game one loser Paul Derringer back to the mound. Cincinnati wasted no time in teeing off on Trout. Leadoff hitter Werber walked and was forced at second. Mike McCormick, on base replacing Werber, scored when Goodman doubled to left. A ground out put Goodman on third. A sharp grounder to Higgins was muffed allowing Goodman to score with the second run. In the third inning singles by Goodman and Frank McCormick were followed by a Jimmy Ripple double that scored Goodman. That brought Clay Smith in to replace Trout. Smith got out of the inning with no more damage. In the bottom of the inning, Detroit got a run back on a walk, a ground out, and a Greenberg double. The Reds got it right back with a walk to Werber, a double by Mike McCormick, and a sacrifice fly to right field. With the score at 4-1, runs came to a halt for a few innings. In the bottom of the sixth, a Bruce Campbell single and a Higgins triple made the score 4-2. In the eighth two singles sandwiched around a wild pitch, allowed Cincinnati to tack on another run, producing a 5-2 final score. The game was something of a redemption for Derringer. He’d managed to tie up the Series 2-2 while giving up five hits and six walks. He struck out four. Goodman scored two runs and drove in two more while getting two doubles to lead the Reds hitters, while Higgins got two more hits, including the triple, to lead Detroit hitting. Trout was beaten up badly with six hits, three runs, and a walk in two innings. The Series was now a best two of three with Cincinnati having home field advantage.

Game 5

 

Bobo Newsom

Bobo Newsom

On 4 October word came that Bobo Newsom’s father had died (a heart attack after seeing his son win game one). Newsom was scheduled to pitch game five. Despite the loss, he took the mound on 6 October (no days off during the Series). He would face Gene Thompson. Thompson got through two innings before disaster struck. He  gave up back to back singles to McCosky and Gehringer then grooved one to Greenberg who drove a home run to left field. In the bottom of the fourth a walk to Billy Sullivan, a sacrifice bunt by Newsom, and a Dick Bartell double scored one run. Then a passed ball sent Bartell to third. A walk to McCosky sent Thompson to the showers. In came Moore who walked Gehringer to send McCosky to second and load the bases. Another Greenberg fly to left, this one shorter than the home run, brought in Bartell. Rudy York walked to reload the bases. A Campbell single scored both McCosky and Gehringer. Higgins, designated rally killer for the day, then grounded to short to end the inning. The Tigers got one more in the eighth on a wild pitch. Final score? 8-0. Newsom was magnificent. He walked two and allowed only three hits in a complete game shutout. He struck out seven and no batter reached third. He was in trouble only once, and then only vaguely. In the fourth a single and ground out put Mike McCormick on second. Consecutive foul pops ended any threat. In the entire game, McCormick was the only Reds player to reach second.

With the Tigers up 3-2, the Series returned to Cincinnati for the final game (or two). Detroit needed one win, the Reds two. Fortunately for Cincy, they had both aces (Walters and Derringer) ready for the final two games.

 

 

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Trying for Two: The First Round in Cincinnati

January 22, 2015

The 1940 World Series began 2 October in Cincinnati. The hometown Reds sent 20 game winner Paul Derringer to the mound to face Detroit ace Bobo Newsom. With three regulars out, the Reds were very dependent on their pitching holding up.

Game 1

Louis "Bobo" Newsom

Louis “Bobo” Newsom

Derringer was in trouble from the beginning. He got out of the first without a run scoring, but ran into trouble in the second. Hank Greenberg led off the top of the inning with a  single, went to second on a Rudy York single, then an error put him on third. A Pinky Higgins single scored both Greenberg and York, then a walk reloaded the bases. A force at home brought up Dick Bartell who singled, bringing home Higgins with the third run and Billy Sullivan with a fourth. Barney McCosky’s single brought in a fifth run and sent Derringer to the showers. Whitey Moore took over Cincy pitching duties and managed to get out of the inning without more damage. In the bottom of the fourth, Ival Goodman doubled and came home on Jimmy Ripple’s single, shorting the score to 5-1. The Tigers got it right back, along with another run, the next inning when York tripled and Bruce Campbell homered to right center making it 7-1. The Reds got one final run in the eighth on a Bill Werber double and a single. The final score was 7-2. Newsom pitched a complete game allowing the two earned runs on eight hits and a walk. He struck out four. Derringer gave up five runs, four earned, and Moore gave up two. They, along with Elmer Riddle, who pitched the ninth, gave up 10 hits, walked five, and struck out 10. For Cincinnati both Goodman and Eddie Joost had two hits, while Campbell, Higgins, and Bartell all had two RBIs for Detroit.

Game 2

 

Jimmy Ripple

Jimmy Ripple

Game two was played the following day, 3 October. Cincinnati sent out its other ace Bucky Walters, while Detroit countered with stalwart Schoolboy Rowe. It was a much closer game.

Walters was initially wild. He walked Bartell and McCosky to start the game. A Charlie Gehringer single scored Bartell and sent McCosky to third. Greenberg grounded into a double play that allowed McCosky to plate the second run. With two out, Walters struck out York to end the inning. The runs stood up until the bottom of the second. Two singles and a popup put two men on for the Reds. Consecutive singles by Joost and Billy Myers tied the game. In the bottom of the third, Cincinnati went ahead when Goodman bunted for a base hit and Jimmy Ripple slugged a two-run home run. In the bottom of the fourth, the Reds struck for one more run on doubles by pitcher Walters (who, remember, was a converted third baseman and could hit a little) and Werber. Having seen Rowe give up runs in three consecutive innings, Detroit manager Del Baker brought in Johnny Gorsica to shut down the Reds. It worked when Gorsica was able to get the final two outs of the inning. The score remained 5-2 until the sixth. In the top of the sixth, Walters walked McCosky. Gehringer forced McCosky at second, but Greenberg doubled to left scoring Gehringer. It was the last hit for the Tigers. Walters shut them down in order over the last three innings to notch a 5-3 victory and tie the Series at one game each. Walters pitched a complete game giving up only three hits and striking out four. He had, however, also given up four walks (two in the first inning). Rowe was shelled, but Gorsica, coming into the game in the fourth, pitched four and two-thirds scoreless innings giving up only one hit and striking out one.

With the Series moving to Detroit, the Tigers were in good shape. They’d proved they could beat one of the Cincinnati aces (Derringer). In a 2-3-2 World Series format, they had to win at least one game in Cincinnati. They’d done that. The Reds, on the other hand, had won a game and now needed to win only one to send the Series back home. With no day off, game three was 4 October.

 

 

 

Trying for Two: The Tigers

January 16, 2015
Charlie Gehringer

Charlie Gehringer

The 1940 World Series was sort of the odd man out Series of the era. Between 1936 and 1943 it was the only one in which the Yankees didn’t represent the American League. The Detroit Tigers won 90 games and made a temporary dent in the New York run. The Tigers weren’t new to World Series play, they’d been in five previously, but had won only once, in 1935 (Detroit had a championship from the 1880s, but that was a different team). So for Detroit, it was a chance to win a second title.

Manager Del Baker was a former catcher, who’d had a number of stints as a fill-in manager for the Tigers. He’d finally gotten the job fulltime with about 60 games left in 1938 and by 1940 had formed a team that hit well, fielded well, and pitched well enough to cop a pennant.

His infield consisted of one Hall of Famer and three very good players. The Hall of Famer was Charlie Gehringer. He was the resident gray-beard at 37. He was on the downside of a stellar career that included the 1937 AL MVP award. He hit .313 (OPS+ of 119) with 10 home runs and played a fine second base. At first, the Tigers had Rudy York. York was in his mid 20’s, and was noted for his inability to play in the field. Baker decided York would do less damage at first that anywhere else, so a Hall of Fame first baseman was sent to the outfield. York responded with a .316 average (OPS+ of 145) and 33 home runs. Pinky Higgins held down third. Higgins was one of the handful of third basemen who could honestly be considered the best AL third sacker of the era (along with Harold Clift, Ken Keltner, Red Rolfe). He was a capable enough fielder but his hitting made him something of a  star. In 1940 he managed .271 (a 92 OPS+), and 13 home runs. “Rowdy” Dick Bartell was the new guy at short. He’d come over from the National League and had World Series experience with the Giants. He was considered one of the finer shortstops of his day, but his hitting wasn’t much (As a testament to his fielding, he finished 12th in the MVP voting with a .233 average and seven home runs.)

The outfield consisted of a transplanted first baseman, a new guy, and one old hand. The transplant was Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg. With York unable to play the outfield, Greenberg agreed to make the move to left field in ’40. He wasn’t great (his dWAR for 1940 is -0.8 in Baseball Reference.com’s version) but his hitting was still superb. He hit .340, led the AL in doubles, home runs, RBIs, total bases, and slugging and copped the MVP award (his second). The new guy was second year player Barney McCosky, age 23. He, like Greenberg, hit .340 (OPS+124) but with only four home runs. He did lead the AL in hits and triples and played an acceptable center field (he was fifth in the league in assists). The old hand was right fielder Pete Fox. He’d been around long enough to have played in both the 1934 and 1935 World Series (Detroit winning the latter and losing the former). He hit .289 with little power.

The Tigers bench wasn’t overly strong. Backup outfielder Bruce Campbell had eight home runs. For the Series he would get the bulk of the play in right field. Hall of Famer Earl Averill hit .280 while playing out the string in Detroit.  Backup catcher Billy Sullivan hit .309 with 41 RBIs. Come Series time he would replace the regular catcher for most of the games.

Primary catcher Birdy Tebbetts hit just under .300 with no power and handled a staff with four starters pitching at least 20 games. All but one were right-handed. Lefty Hal Newhouser was only 19 and still four years from the numbers that would put him in the Hall of Fame. The righty starters were 21 game winner and ace Louis “Bobo” Newsom, 1934-5 stalwart Lynwood “Schoolboy” Rowe, Tommy Bridges, Johnny Gorsica, and later managing legend Fred Hutchinson who got into less than 20 games. Only Newsom had an ERA under 3.00, although all but Hutchinson and Newhouser had ERA+ numbers over 100 (Newsom’s was 168). But only Newsom and Bridges had given up fewer hits than they had innings pitched. Al Benton did most of the relief work, but had an ERA of almost four and a half.

It was a very different team from the 1934-35 versions who’d won a World Series. The pitching was about the same, but most people agreed it had somewhat better hitting and the defense, particularly up the middle was better. Detroit was a slight favorite to defeat the National League’s Cincinnati Reds.

 

 

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: Fenway

August 25, 2014

With the 1946 World Series tied at one win apiece, the action moved to Fenway Park in Boston. If either team could sweep in Fenway, the Series would end. A split would send the teams back to Sportsman’s Park for at least one game. The question of using the “Williams Shift” was answered in St. Louis, but the question of how well Ted Williams and Stan Musial would do remained, as did the question of how well each pitching staff would hold up.

Rudy York

Rudy York

The Bosox sent Boo Ferriss to the mound. With two out he walked Musial who immediately stole second. Then in a bazaar pick-off play, third baseman Pinky Higgins slipped in behind Musial and Ferriss caught “The Man” flatfooted for the final out of the inning. Cardinals starter Murry Dickson managed to get an out, then a single and ground out put Johnny Pesky on second with two outs. Dickson intentionally walked Williams to bring up Rudy York. York smashed a ball to left that cleared the “green monster” for a three run home run. It turned out to be all the help Ferriss needed. He gave up six hits, walked one, and struck out two on the way to a complete game shutout. Meanwhile the Red Sox tacked on another run in the eighth to win the game 4-0 and go up 2-1 in the Series.

 

Cards catcher Joe Garagiola

Cards catcher Joe Garagiola

Game four was the only blowout in the Series. The Cards jumped on Red Sox starter Tex Hughson for six runs in three innings. An Enos Slaughter home run, a couple of singles, a sacrifice and St. Louis had three runs in the second. They added three more in the third on a single, an error, a double, and another single. Hughson didn’t get a single out in the third. The Cardinals proceeded to pile on five Boston relievers finally scoring a total of 12 runs. Catcher Joe Garagiola went four for five with two doubles and three RBIs. Shortstop Marty Marion was three for four with three RBIs. Boston managed all of three runs off St. Louis started Red Munger, only one of them earned. Two came on a home run by second baseman Bobby Doerr. Now with four games played, the Series was tied 2-2, making the championship a best two of three with St. Louis having two home games.

 

Joe Dobson

Joe Dobson

Game five was played on a Friday, 11 October. It was one of the best games of the Series. The Sox got three hits and a run off St. Louis starter Howie Pollet. It was enough for manager Eddie Dyer and out went Pollet and in came reliever Al Brazle. Boston starter Joe Dobson gave back an unearned run in the top of the second, but Boston went ahead in the bottom of the second on two singles sandwiched around a sacrifice bunt. The score stayed 2-1 until the bottom of the sixth when Leon Culberson launched a home run to put the Red Sox up 3-1. In the seventh a tiring Brazle gave up a double to Dom DiMaggio, then intentionally walked York. Higgins drove in DiMaggio then after another intentional walk, Roy Partee hit a double play ball to Marty Marion, who proceeded to throw it away allowing both York and Higgins to score. Then with two outs in the ninth, an error plated two final runs for the Cards giving Boston a 6-3 win. Dobson pitched well, striking out eight, walking only one, and allowing four hits. All three St. Louis runs were unearned.

With the Series set to return to St. Louis with the Red Sox up 3-2 the question of how well the pitching staffs would hold up was pretty well answered. Other than the Boston meltdown in game four both staffs had done their job. The Cards had given up 14 runs, and Boston only 20 (12 of those in game four). So far neither Williams nor Musial were doing much.

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: Boston

August 18, 2014
Ted Williams hitting

Ted Williams hitting

Most of us would agree with the statement that the two finest hitters of the 1940s were Ted Williams and Stan Musial. I’m sure some would hold out for Joe DiMaggio, but my guess is that most would prefer Williams and Musial (and I’m also sure some of you will pick DiMaggio just to show me how wrong I am). They were in different leagues, so they only faced off at the All-Star Game. Except, of course, in 1946 both their teams won pennants and squared off in the World Series.

The Boston Red Sox of 1946 were a team of hitters with a handful of pitchers who were good enough to keep the team in the game. They finished second in walks, third in strikeouts, and fourth in ERA. The hitters led the American League in runs, hits, doubles, walks, and average, while finishing second in home runs. Manager Joe Cronin’s team had 104 wins (50 losses) and won the AL pennant by 12 games over defending champ Detroit.

The infield (first around to third) consisted of Rudy York, who hit 17 homers, drove in 119 runs, and hit .276; Hall of Fame member Bobby Doerr who had 18 home runs, 116 RBIs, and hit .271; shortstop Johnny Pesky who managed 208 hits, scored 115 runs, and hit .335. During the season Rip Russell played more games at third than anyone else, but by season’s end and the World Series Pinky Higgins, who’d come over from Detroit and was in his last season, was getting the majority of time at third. Higgins hit .275 with 55 hits in 64 games.

Ted Williams, “The Kid”, held down left field. He hit .342, had 38 homers, and 123 RBIs. All that got him his first ever MVP Award (his second came in 1949). Dom DiMaggio (Joe’s brother) played center field. He hit .316, scored 85 runs, and led the team with 10 stolen bases. Right Field was unsettled with Catfish Metkovich  starting opening day. He got into 76 games in right, hit .246, and had 100 total bases. He split time with Leon Culberson who hit north of .300. The catcher was Hal Wagner, a .230 hitter with six home runs. Roy Partee, hit .300 in 40 games and backed up Wagner.

Tex Hughson, Dave “Boo” Ferriss, Joe Dobson, and Mickey Harris all started at least 20 games. Hughson and Ferriss both won 20 games. All four had more strike outs than walks, but Harris allowed more hits than he had innings pitched and Ferriss broke even with 274 of each. Only Harris was left-handed. The main man out of the bullpen was 38-year-old Bob Klinger who relieved in 20 games and picked up nine saves.

Boston last won a pennant in 1918, with Babe Ruth splitting time in the outfield and on the mound (although mostly an outfielder by 1918). Also-rans for almost 30 years they were finally in the World Series. They would have to face the St. Louis Cardinals (who they’d never faced in Series play) and “The Man.”

 

 

The Original Hammerin’ Hank

August 16, 2012

Hammerin’ Hank Greenberg

It used to be possible to argue that you could directly compare the best first basemen to ever play the game because the three top first basemen all played in the same league at the same time, the 1930s. The men in question were Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, and Hank Greenberg. You might disagree with that premise but other people would agree. The advent of Albert Pujols makes it almost impossible to make that argument today. Because they were contemporaries it is still instructive to look at the three and compare them (which I’m not going to do). By universal agreement, the third of the troika was Greenberg.

Hank Greenberg was born in 1911 (on New Year’s Day, no less) in Greenwich Village to a Jewish family that ran a textile mill. They made enough money to move to the Bronx when Greenberg was still young. He became a fine high school athlete excelling in soccer, baseball, and basketball (his high school team won the New York City title in 1929). After graduation he played first base for a semi-pro ball team and was scouted by the Giants (who decided he was too awkward to play) and the Yankees (who had Gehrig). He signed with Detroit in late 1929 for $9000.

Greenberg spent 1930, 1931, and 1932 in the minors at Hartford, Raleigh, Evansville, and Beaumont. He did well, but his ethnic background caused him some trouble with both fans and teammates. One famous anecdote has a teammate staring at Greenberg. When asked why, the guy is reported to have said “I”ve never seen a Jew before.” Greenberg asked if he “saw anything interesting.” The guy replied, “No, you look just like everyone else.” That was supposed to be the incident that solved Greenberg’s ethnic problems with his teammates. Unfortunately, it was a problem that was to plague him throughout his career as other teams and fans in other towns were known to heap anti-semitic abuse on him.

By 1933 he was with Detroit. They tried him at third (they already had a first baseman who cost them $75,000 and weren’t about to watch that much money ride the pine). He was awful. Finally they settled on a platoon situation in which Greenberg played against lefty pitching. He hit .301 with 12 home runs, 87 RBIs, and 59 runs scored in 117 games. That settled the issue and Greenberg settled in as the regular first baseman for the rest of the 1930s.

It was a good time for Detroit. They were in contention most years. The “G-Men” (a play on the then current fashion of referring to FBI men as “G-Men”-for “government men”) of Greenberg, Charlie Gehringer, Goose Goslin, and Gee Walker won a pennant in 1934, losing the World Series to the Cardinals “Gas House Gang”, then won the World Series in 1935 over Chicago. Greenberg led the American League in doubles in 1934 and in home runs, total bases, and RBIs in 1935.  He led the league again in RBIs in 1937. In 1938 he made a serious run at Babe Ruth’s 60 home run record. He managed 58, which along with his walk and run totals, led the AL. For the decade of the 1930s his lowest average was his rookie .301. He peaked at .339 the next season (OK, he hit .348 in 1936, but only played in 12 games).

His career took a couple of sharp turns in the 1940s. First, the Tigers brought up Rudy York. York could hit a ton, but was terrible in the field. They only place they could play him was first. So Greenberg moved to left field. He wasn’t very good (his fielding percentage was .963 in 1940), but the papers of the time indicate he improved as the season went along. He was rewarded with another trip to the World Series. Despite getting a .357 average with a home run and six RBIs, Detroit lost the Series to Cincinnati in seven games. BTW the 2-1 Cincy win is one of the best game seven’s ever played.

For Greenberg the second change came in 1941. Nineteen games into the season, the government came calling. He was drafted into the Army (he became a tanker) and spent most of the next five years in the service. Interestingly enough, his original Army physical rejected him because of flat feet, leading one reporter to ask “Do you shoot a gun with your feet?” He was discharged in early December 1941. Of course the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor a few days later and Greenberg rejoined the military, this time joining the Army Air Corps. He spent 1942 and 1943 flying “the Hump” in Burma, then was sent back to the US in 1944, where he served with a unit in New York. In mid-1945, he was discharged.

He returned to the Tigers in July. He played 78 games, hit .311, and had 13 home runs. On the last day of the season Detroit was tied with Washington for the pennant. In the final game of the season, Greenberg’s grand slam in the top of the ninth gave the Tigers the pennant. He hit .304 in the World Series with two home runs, seven RBIs, and seven runs scored. Detroit won in seven games.

In 1946 he hit only .277, but led the AL in home runs with 44 and in RBIs with 127. After the season he was waived. No one seems to know quite why. There’s a lot of speculation, but I’ve been unable to find a definite answer to the question of why Greenberg was waived. Pittsburgh claimed him. He spent one season with the Pirates, hitting .249 with 25 home runs and tutoring a budding star named Ralph Kiner. At the end of the season Greenberg retired.

For a career of 1394 games he hit .313, had an OBP of .412, slugged .605, and had an OPS of 1.017 (OPS+ of 158). The OPS and slugging percentage are both seven in MLB history. He had 331 home runs, 1276 RBIs, 1051 runs scored, 379 doubles, and 852 walks over 6097 plate appearances.

After retirement he moved to the front office with the Cleveland Indians. Initially Cleveland did well, winning a World Series in 1948 and a pennant in 1954. But as Greenberg’s influence grew, the team got worse. He seems to have been a decent executive, but as he moved into the general manager’s spot he moved a level too high for him and the team floundered. He went to Chicago as Bill Veeck’s assistant in the late 1950s and helped the White Sox to a pennant in 1959. He retired a wealthy man and died of cancer in 1986. The Hall of Fame called in 1956.

Throughout his career, Greenberg faced adversity. First his ethnic background gave him problems. Then he had to shift positions. Finally the Second World War interrupted his career. He became a great player and arguably one of the five greatest first basemen to ever play. Not a bad legacy.

A Bad Century: Crossing into Sinai

May 14, 2012

Phil Cavarretta

The Cubs failure in the 1929 World Series was repeated at three-year intervals through the 1930s. The lost championships in 1932, 1935, and 1938. With the dawn of the 1940s, the team failed to maintain their pattern and slid back into the National League pack. That all changed in 1945, when the roared to a pennant and took on old rival Detroit. The Cubs and Tigers had a history going back to 1907. Chicago won the World Series twice, both times against Detroit (1907 and 1908). In fact, Chicago has never won a World Series against any other team. In 1935 they met again, this time with Detroit prevailing. The 1945 Series would give them a chance to even their record against the Cubs.

The 1945 Cubs were a fine team. Former first baseman from the 1929 pennant winner, Charlie Grimm was the manager. He got an MVP performance from first baseman Phil Cavarretta and good work from the rest of the infield: 2nd baseman Don Johnson, shortstop Roy Hughes, and third baseman Stan Hack. Both Hack and Johnson managed .300 plus batting averages. The outfield consisted of left fielder Peanuts Lowery, 100 RBI man Andy Pafko in center, and Bill “Swish” Nicholson in right. Mickey Livingston backstopped a staff that included Hank Borowy, Claude Passeau, lefty Ray Prim, former Reds ace Paul Derringer, and current ace Hank Wyse. The “ace” is a little misleading. Borowy came over from the Yankees earlier in the season, put up an 11-2 record and by the Series was the main pitcher. None of them were great power pitchers, Passeau leading the team with 98 strikeouts, but most (all except Derringer) had more innings pitched than hits given up.

The first three games were in Detroit. Chicago jumped all over Tigers ace, Hall of Famer, and reigning MVP, Hal Newhouser, getting four runs in the first and three more in the third. They cruised to a 9-0 win with Borowy pitching a six hit shutout. It was to be the first of three Newhouser-Borowy confrontations. In game two Wyse had one bad inning, the fifth. With two outs, two on, and a run in, Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg lifted a three run shot that put Detroit ahead 4-1, the final score. Game three was a Claude Passeau masterpiece. He walked one, catcher Bob Swift in the sixth. Swift was out on a double play. Passeau  gave up one hit (a second inning single to Rudy York) and the Cubs won 3-0 to head to Chicago up two games to one.

The remaining games were all in Wrigley Field (wartime travel restrictions were just ending). Throughout their history, the Cubs had done well in postseason play on the road, but terribly in Wrigley (1906, 07, 08, and 10 were not in Wrigley). That was to hold true for games four and five. In game four Detroit bunched together two walks, (one intentional), a double, and three singles to plate four runs. Tigers pitcher Dizzy Trout gave up one unearned run, a walk, and five hits to even the Series at two games each. Game five saw the Newhouser-Borowy rematch. Newhouser gave up four runs, two walks, and seven hits, but struck out nine Cubs. Borowy gave up five runs in five innings, then the bullpen let Detroit tack on three more. Now the Tigers led the Series three games to two.

Game six turned out to be a classic. Having to win the game or lose the Series, Chicago dropped behind on a bases loaded walk, but answered with four in the fifth and a single run in the sixth. Detroit got a run back in the top of the seventh, but the Cubs got two more in the bottom of the inning to stay ahead. But 1945 was a World Series full of big innings and the Tigers had another in them, putting up four in the top of the eighth to tie up the game. It stayed there into the twelfth. Desperate to win, manager Grimm sent Borowy back to the mound with no days off. He was masterful, pitching four full innings and giving up neither a run nor a walk. In the bottom of the twelfth, Stan Hack doubled to bring home the Series tying run.

The next day there was no game, so Grimm decided to send Borowy back to the mound to face Newhouser one final time. He needed 27 outs to bring Chicago its first World Series triumph since 1908. He got none. The Tigers teed off on him scoring three earned runs and when the dust settled had scored five total runs in the first. The Cubs got one back in the bottom of the first, but Detroit responded with one of their own in the second, then kept piling on runs. The Cubs’ Roy Hughes singled to lead off the ninth, then with two outs, Stan Hack drove a grounder to short. A flip to second for the force and the Series was over. The final score was Detroit 9, Chicago 3 and Detroit was champion. They’d played Chicago four times in the World Series and each team had won twice.

It’s tough not to feel a little sorry for the Cubs. They hit .263 for the Series (Detroit managed only .223) and had more hits. But Detroit had scored in bunches and that made all the difference. Cavarretta hit .423 with the team’s only home run. Borowy was good in defeat. He ended up 2-2 with an ERA of 4.00, but he’d done well (especially in game six) until the final game when he was called on one time too many.

For the Cubs it was like crossing into Sinai. For the next 40 (actually 39) years they would wander in the wilderness. They fell back into the pack in 1946 and began their long sojourn as the “loveable losers”.  The 1945 World Series was their last, so let’s take a moment to commemorate Roy Hughes who got the last ever Cubs hit in a World Series (and made the last ever out), Stan Hack who was the last ever Cubs batter in a World Series, and Hank Wyse who threw the last ever pitch by a Cub in the Series (it resulted in a third to first ground out).

A lot of good players came through Chicago in the last half of the 1940s and in the 1950s. The same is true of the 1960s and 1970s, but the Cubs failed to make even a single postseason game for almost four decades. Finally, in 1984, they made it back to the playoffs.

Kick, Mule

February 27, 2012

Mule Suttles

I don’t suppose there’s anyone who doesn’t believe that Josh Gibson was the ultimate power hitter in the Negro Leagues. And I won’t dispute that. I will, however, point out that the leader in documented home runs is Mule Suttles (other sources say Turkey Stearnes).

George Suttles was born in Louisiana in 1900. He had little formal education, not uncommon for a black man in turn of the 20th Century Louisiana (Huey Long and the free text books were 25 years in the future). He was a coal miner and did some semipro ball playing until he was 21. He got a cup of coffee with the 1921 New York Bacharach Giants (one hit in four at bats in a single game) then went back to semipro ball. In 1923 he caught on with the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro National League. This time he stayed around. He put in three years with Birmingham before heading to St. Louis where he finished his Negro National League career.

In 1930 the Negro National League folded and he went to the Eastern Colored League’s Baltimore franchise (not the Elite Giants) in time to watch the ECL go under also. He went back to St. Louis to play for the Stars in the newly reformed NNL After 1931, it too folded and Suttles settled in with the East-West League’s Detroit Wolves and Washington Pilots. Want to guess what happened to the East-West League?

By 1933 he was back in the new NNL (this time it stayed around). He began with the Chicago American Giants, then in 1936 he went to the Newark Eagles, where he stayed through 1940 He spent 1941 with the New York Black Yankees, then went back to Newark in 1942, finishing his career with Newark in 1944. Retired, he did some umpiring, then retired from baseball. He died in 1966 and made the Hall of Fame in 2006, forty years after his death.

Mule Suttles was a big man for his era, 6’3″ and 215 pounds (officially). By the end of his career he’d put on weight and may have been closer to 250 than 215.  He carried a 50 ounce bat (by comparison, Babe Ruth’s was 54 ounces) and was immensely strong, hence the “Mule” nickname. He made the East-West All-Star game numerous times, being one of its most effective hitters. He’s credited with a .412 batting average in the game, an .883 slugging percentage, and is supposed to have hit the first home run in the All-Star game. he played left field, but spent much of his career at first base. He wasn’t overly fast, but was known for his good hands. In close games in late innings, Suttles coming to bat elicited the cry “Kick, Mule” from both fans and teammates.

As with all Negro League players, his numbers are spotty. Baseball Reference’s Bullpen has some stats on him. They are incomplete but give something of a picture of  his skill. In 763 documented games he hit .327, slugged .571, had 894 hits, 257 walks, in 2731 at bats. Again no OBP is given but 894 plus 257, divided by 2731 gives a partial OBP of .421 for an .992 partial OPS. There are 133 home runs, 167 doubles, 561 runs, and  493 RBIs that are documented. The same page gives his 162 game numbers as 119 runs, 190 hits, 105 RBIs, 35 doubles, 28 home runs, and 10 stolen bases. 

Suttles is a good example of a fairly common type. He’s a big slugger who hits for power and decent average. He’s an every year All-Star, but his teams usually fall short of the championship. Ralph Kiner is one of those, so is Rudy York or Hal Trosky or Barry Bonds. York made it to a World Series, but his team (Boston) lost. So did Bonds. There are a number of others like Gil Hodges or Ted Kluszewski, some currently playing. One of the most interesting things about studying the Negro Leagues is how quickly you discover they’re made up of the same kinds of players as the white leagues. I find that important because it reminds me just exactly how much alike baseball players are in their skills, black or white. That reassures me that maybe we really are all in this together.