CONTENTS

Harmon's First HR

Feller's Debut

Heads-Up Triple Play

Game Stopped by a Fight

An Old Horse Helps Old Hoss

Infield Fly Confusion

Tiger Farewell to Mickey

Germany Calls His Shot

I'm Not Just Your Manager Now

What a Way to Lose

 

Baseball Lore – II

Baseball Lore – III

Baseball Lore – IV

Baseball Lore – V

Baseball Lore – VI

Baseball Lore – VII

Baseball Lore – VIII

Baseball Lore – IX

Baseball Lore – X

Baseball Page

Golden Rankings Home

Top of Page

Bits of Baseball Lore – I

Harmon's First HR

Harmon Killebrew on his first homer in the majors (Sporting News, 5/28/07):

I was 18 years old, playing in old Griffith Stadium in Washington (June 24, 1955). Billy Hoeft was pitching, and Frank House was catching. He told me, "Kid, we're going to throw you a fastball." Being so young, I didn't know whether to believe him or not. But the pitch came, it was a fastball and I hit it 476 feet. When I crossed home, House said, "Kid, that's the only time we're going to tell you what's coming."

Feller's Debut

Bob Feller signed with the Cleveland Indians at age 16. He joined the club in 1936 as a 17-year old. In a spring training game against the St. Louis Cardinals, two years removed from the championship, he struck out eight of the nine batters he faced. In his first start of his major league career, he struck out 15 St. Louis Browns. He topped that three weeks later with 17 K's against the Philadelphia Athletics. Several weeks after that, he went back to Van Meter IA to graduate from high school. Furthermore, his graduation was broadcast across the nation by NBC. In The Stark Truth:The Most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History, ESPN's Jayson Stark ranks Feller as the most underrated right-handed starter of all time.

Heads-Up Triple Play

September 7, 1935: Fenway Park, Cleveland vs Boston
Red Sox have the bases loaded in bottom of ninth with none out with manager-shortstop Joe Cronin at bat against Oral Hildebrand. Cronin lines a pitch toward 3B Odell Hale. The ball caroms off Hale's forehead on the fly to SS Bill Knickerbocker. Bill throws to Roy Hughes at second for the second out, and Hughes relays to Hal Trotsky at first to complete the "heads-up" triple play and end the game. (Baseball Digest August 2007)

Game Stopped by a Fight

June 18, 1941 [3 days before Golden's birth]: New York Giants @ Pittsburgh Pirates in a night game at Forbes Field
In the third inning, the game was interrupted for a 56-minute radio broadcast of the Billy Conn-Joe Louis heavyweight championship match. Conn, a native son of the Steel City, lost in 15 rounds after which the game continued. As far as is known, this is the only time in MLB history that a game was interrupted in this way.

The teams battled 11 innings to a 2-2 tie before a crowd of 24,000. National League rules decreed that no inning could start after 11:50 pm. Mel Ott hit his 17th HR of year for the Giants and Bob Elliott drove in both Pirate runs in the first inning with a triple. Other well-known players in the game: GiantsDick Bartell SS, Burgess Whitehead 2B; PiratesArky Vaughan SS, Vince DiMaggio (Joe's brother) CF, Al Lopez C. (Baseball Digest August 2007)

An Old Horse Helps Old Hoss

In 1882, Charles Radbourn was playing at home for Providence. Known more for his pitching than his hitting (he won 59 games in 1884), he crushed a pitch to left field. The ball dropped and rolled toward a line of carriages that formed the de facto boundary, coming to rest near a horse. When the outfielder, Detroit's George Wood, reached for the ball, the beast kicked. Wood tried again; the horse kicked again. Radbourn, whose nickname, appropriately, was Old Hoss, kept running around the bases. Wood tried to distract the horse with grass. No luck. Finally, another outfielder poked out the ball with a stick, by which time Old Hoss was headed for the barn.
Reference: Crazy '08: How a Cast of Cranks, Rogues, Boneheads, and Magnates Created the Greatest Year in Baseball History, by Cait Murphy [Highly recommended]

Infield Fly Confusion

July 25, 1961 – Cubs at bat in the second inning vs Cardinals. Ron Santo on second base and Jerry Kindall on first when Ed Bouchee hit a pop fly. With fewer than two out, the infield fly rule was in effect; so Bouchee was out. However, Cardinals 2B Julian Javier intentionally dropped the ball. According to the rules, the baserunners may advance at their own risk, and Santo took the bait. Javier fired the ball to Ken Boyer, who stepped on third base, although he was required to tag Santo since the force was removed by the batter's retirement. Santo, 21 years old in his second big league season, headed for the dugout thinking he was out. Cardinal pitcher Ray Sadecki shouted to Boyer, who tagged Santo when he tried to return to third base after his teammates alerted him.

Reference: Baseball Digest, August 2007

Tiger Farewell to Mickey

The Detroit Tigers hosted the New York Yankees on September 19, 1968. Denny McLain, who had won his 30th game five days earlier for the Tigers, who had already clinched the AL pennant, was cruising along in the top of the eighth inning with a 6-1 lead. Mickey Mantle came to bat with one out and nobody on. Mickey had already announced his retirement at the end of the season. This was his last at-bat in Tiger Stadium. So McLain let Mantle know that he would give him whatever pitch Mickey wanted. Mantle signaled for a fastball letter high. McClain threw what he requested, and Mantle swatted it into the right field seats for his 535th career home run. In the broadcast booth, Ernie Harwell figured out what was happening. "I think he's trying to tell Mantle to hit one out." After the game, McLain was coy about giving Mantle a fat pitch. However, it was obvious that he did so on purpose. Mickey hit one more HR before the season ended for a final total with 536 for his career. Reference: Baseball Digest August 2007

Germany Calls His Shot

Herman "Germany" Schaefer was a journeyman second baseman for Detroit from 1905-9. Called "The Prince" because of his showmanship, he is famous for several novel incidents. We'll devote this Bit of Baseball Lore to what he did on June 24, 1906.

Before a home crowd whom he loved to entertain, he pinch hit with two outs in the ninth, with a man on base, and the Tigers trailing by a run. He supposedly announced to the crowd: "Ladies and gentlemen, you are now looking at Herman Schaefer, better known as "Herman the Great," acknowledged by one and all to be the greatest pinch-hitter in the world. I am now going to hit the ball into the left field bleachers. Thank you."

He then did precisely that, hitting the game-winning homer on the first pitch from Chicago's Doc White. Many years later, teammate Davy Jones related that Schaefer slid into every base on his way around the diamond, announcing his progress as if it were a horse race. "Schaefer leads at the half!" After hook-sliding into home, he doffed his cap, bowed, and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes the afternoon's performance. I thank you for your kind attention." Newspaper accounts of the game confirm the basic details but do not include all the embellishments offered by Jones.



Germany Schaefer

Reference: Deadball Stars of the American League, The Society for American Baseball Research

I'm Not Just Your Manager Now

Schoolboy Rowe & Mickey Cochrane, Tigers
Schoolboy Rowe and Mickey Cochrane

Schoolboy Rowe & Mickey Cochrane
Rowe and Cochrane in 1944

Virgil "Fire" Trucks
Virgil Trucks

C Mickey Cochrane and P Lynwood "Schoolboy" Rowe formed an outstanding battery for Detroit from 1934-37.

  • Rowe won 43 games in 1934 and 1935 as the Tigers won the pennant in both years.
  • Cochrane was the player-manager of the team through the '37 season when he suffered a triple skull fracture from a beaning that ended his playing career. He served one more year as skipper before being replaced.

Eventually, Cochrane and Rowe hooked up again in the Navy during World War II.

  • Mickey was commissioned a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy on April 1, 1942, and appointed Baseball Officer at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center on Lake Michigan. He organized and managed a powerful team that consisted almost entirely of former professionals. They played a full schedule against major and minor league teams and college and semipro nines.
  • After pitching for the Philadelphia Blue Jays (yes, that was their official name that season), Rowe was inducted into the Navy and assigned to Great Lakes where Cochrane became not only his manager but also his military superior.

Cochrane took advantage of his extra authority on several occasions.

  • On July 5, 1944, Great Lakes played the Ford Motors All Stars in Dearborn MI. To everyone's surprise the hometown team led 1-0 going into the ninth before the Bluejackets plated a run to tie. Cochrane, who rarely played but pinch hit in the top of the inning, put himself behind the plate to catch Rowe. After retiring the first batter, Schoolboy inexplicably threw a Rip Sewell-like blooper ball to the next batter who deposited it beyond the fence for a game-winning HR. Virgil Trucks, another former Tiger P on the Great Lakes team, recalled: "I thought Cochrane was going to kill Rowe when we got on the bus to leave. Cochrane said to Rowe, 'I don't know if I will catch another time. But if I do and I call for a fast ball and you throw that Sewell Blooper pitch, I'll send you so far overseas you'll never get back!" The loss was one of only two against 48 victories for Great Lakes that year.
  • On August 7, the Bluejackets hosted the Chicago White Sox. Before the game, Cochrane and Rowe visited with opponents they knew. Rowe, a native of Waco TX, complained about the cool weather at Great Lakes at the beginning of the season. Eddie Carnett, White Sox OF, recalled the banter: "Mickey was laughing at Schoolboy. He said he wanted him to pitch a game, and Rowe said his arm didn't feel good and couldn't do too good in that cold weather. ... Mickey says, 'Well, they tell me it's pretty damn warm down in the South Pacific.' Then Schoolboy says, 'I'll pitch.'" A good hitter, Rowe played OF that day. Trucks (who should be mentioned with the likes of Ted Williams and Bob Feller in discussions of players whose careers were severely affected by World War II) threw a two-hit shutout, 1-0.

Question: Why was Rowe called "Schoolboy"?
Answer: He received his nickname while playing on a men's team as a fifteen-year-old high school student.

Reference: Bluejackets of Summer, Roger S. Gogan
What a Way to Lose

P Bob Moose, Pirates
Bob Moose

C Glenn Brummer, Cardinals
Glenn Brummer

  • June 26, 1930: Forbes Field, Pittsburgh. The Pirates defeat the Phillies 1-0. The only run scores in the third inning when P Phil Collins drops the ball during his windup with a man on third.
  • September 29, 1959: Los Angeles Coliseum. Game 2 of the NL playoff is tied in the bottom of the 12th. Dodger Gil Hodges scores the winning run when Milwaukee Braves 2B Felix Mantilla fields Carl Furillo's grounder and throws it away.
  • October 11, 1972: Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati. The 5th and final game of the NLCS between the Pirates and Reds is tied in the bottom of the ninth after C Johnny Bench greets reliever Dave Giusti with a solo HR. After surrendering singles to Tony Perez and Denis Menke, Giusti gives way to Bob Moose. Pinch runner George Foster advances to third on Cesar Geronimo's flyout to RF. But SS Darrel Chaney pops out to SS. With Hal McRae at the plate, Moose uncorks a wild pitch that allows Foster to cross the plate with the run that sends the Reds to the World Series.
  • August 22, 1982: Busch Stadium, St. Louis. The game is tied at 4 in the bottom of the 12th with two outs, the bases loaded, and David Green at the plate. Backup C Glenn Brummer steals home on Giants P Gary Lavelle a rare walk-off steal of home.

More collections of these to come.

2B Felix Mantilla, Braves
Felix Mantilla