Odd Baseball Facts Archive – VIII
Back-to-Back Slam Days
Jimmy Sheckard was the first ML player of the 20th century to slug two grand slams in one season.
  • Furthermore, he hit them in consecutive games on con­secutive days.
  • And still furthermore, both were inside-the-park!
  • So far as is known, Sheckard is the only player ever to hit inside-the-park grand slams in consecutive games in the history of ML baseball.

Game One: September 23, 1901
Sheckard contributed a single and the grand slam to the Su­perbas 25-6 rout of last place Cincinnati at League Park in the Queen City.

Game Two: September 24, 1901
Brooklyn batters had fun again, battering the Redlegs for 22 hits (4 by Jimmy) in a 16-2 romp.


Jimmy Sheckard, Brooklyn Superbas
Jimmy Sheckard

League Park, Cincinnati
Cincinnati's League Park II
So the Superbas rapped 48 hits and plated 41 runs in two games . And all this carnage came against only three pitchers, two on the 23rd and poor Bill Phillips alone the next afternoon.

At various times during his career, Jimmy led the NL in triples, HRs, slugging, runs, on-base percentage, walks, and stolen bases.

He also forged a reputation as an outstand­ing defensive outfielder, a marvelous work­man in his pasture and one of the surest, most deadly outfielders on fly balls that ever choked a near-triple to death by fleetness of foot and steadiness of eye and grip, to quote the bloated prose of a sportswriter of his day.

Sheckard also displayed a temper at times. Consider this item concerning the June 4, 1901, game between Brooklyn and Cincinnati:

Sheckard disputed a decision by Umpire Cunningham and was ordered out of the game. This infuriated him and he threatened the umpire. The police were called in and took him off the grounds.

Traded to the Cubs in 1906, Sheckard hit .262 but embarrassed himself by his per­formance in the World Series.

  • Jimmy bragged that he would hit .400 against White Sox pitching.
  • Instead, a went 0-for-21, failing to hit a ball out of the infield.
  • His performance was one of many fac­tors in perhaps the greatest upset in World Series history as the "Hitless Wonders" upset the Cubs in six.

Nevertheless, in 1952, sportswriter Joe Reichler named Sheckard as the LF on the All-Time Cubs team.

Staff of Losers


Irv Young
Irv Young

Vic Willis
Vic Willis

Chick Fraser
Chick Fraser

Kaiser Wilhelm
Kaiser Wilhelm

The 1905 Boston Beaneaters "boasted" four 20-game LOSERS on their pitching staff, which was only one more than they fielded in '04.
  • Rookie southpaw Irv Young won 20 but lost 21, compiling a 2.90 ERA.
  • Vic Willis won only 12 and dropped 29 with a 3.21 ERA. The 29 defeats led the league.
  • Charles "Chick" Fraser went 14-21 with a 3.28 ERA. He led the league in walks with 149.
  • Irvin "Kaiser" Wilhelm lost 23 against only 3 victories with a 4.53 ERA.

Player-manager Fred Tenney worked his starters hard.

  • Young: 42 starts, 41 complete games, 378.0 innings
  • Willis: 41 starts, 36 complete games, 342.0 innings
  • Fraser: 37 starts, 35 complete games, 334.1 innings
  • Wilhelm: 28 starts, 23 complete games, 242.1 innings

The rest of the staff had only 8 starts. The 135 complete games by the four hurlers was seven more than the National League and American League combined in 2012.

Amazingly, the Beaneaters didn't finish last in the eight-team NL. They went 51-103 to edge Brooklyn for 7th place by two games, a whopping 54.5 games behind the pennant-winning New York Giants.

Only Young remained with the club the following season when he again earned the "distinction" of being one of four 20-game losers on the staff.

  • Irv Young: 16-25, 2.91 ERA, 41 GS, 37 CG, 358.1 IP
  • Vivan Lindaman: 12-23, 2.42, 36, 32, 307.1
  • Big Jeff Pfeffer: 13-22, 2.95, 36, 33, 302.1
  • Gus Dorner: 8-25, 3.65, 32, 29, 273.1

To show another difference in baseball over a century ago, "Big Jeff" Pfeffer stood 6'1" and weighed 185, hardly a behemoth by today's standards.

The '06 Beaneaters did "succeed" in occupying the cellar, an incredible 66.5 behind the champion Cubs.

Perhaps to break its string of bad luck, the Boston fran­chise adopted the nickname "Doves" for 1907.

  • The Doves rose back to 7th place.
  • They also ended their string of quadruple 20-game losers, with only Young dropping 23.
  • Vic finally ended his string of 20-loss seasons in '08 when he went 8-12.

Manager Fred Tenney
Manager Fred Tenney

Vive Lindaman
Vivan Lindaman

Big Jeff Pfeffer
Big Jeff Pfeffer

Gus Dorner
Gus Dorner

 

 

 

Four HRs in Season - by a Team

Ed Hahn, White Sox
Ed Hahn

Patsy Dougherty, White Sox
Patsy Dougherty

Dave Altizer, White Sox
Dave Altizer

Gavvy Cravath, White Sox
Gavvy Cravath

The 1909 Chicago White Sox hit precisely four HRs for the entire 155-game season.
  • Four outfielders tied for the club lead with one HR each.
    • Ed Hahn
    • Patsy Dougherty
    • Dave Altizer
    • Gavvy Cravath

The Philadelphia Athletics led the league in round-trip­pers with 21.

  • The Boston Red Sox had 20.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, the Washington Senators joined the White Sox in single-digits in four-baggers with 9.

To illustrate Dead Ball Era baseball, the White Sox won three consecutive 1-0 games over the St. Louis Browns April 25-26-27 at South Side Park. The two teams com­bined for just 18 hits in the series.

As poor as the '09 Chisox were in power hitting, they still outclassed their '08 brethren by one.

  • Three players who didn't belt a homer in '09 gar­nered the three the previous season:
    OF Fielder Jones, who doubled as manager;
    IF Frank Isbell;
    P Ed Walsh.

Even in that dead ball era, you would think a team that hit fewer than five HRs would finish closer to the bottom than the top of the league.

  • The 1908 White Sox finished third, just 2.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers.
  • The '09 Southsiders slumped to fourth, 20 behind those same Tigers.

The '06 White Sox, called the "Hitless Wonders" because they batted a league-low .230, won not only the AL pen­nant but also the World Series over their crosstown ri­vals, the Cubs.

  • Those White Sox went crazy with all of seven HRs for the season.

Fielder Jones, White Sox
Fielder Jones

Frank Isbell, White Sox
Frank Isbell

Ed Walsh, White Sox
Ed Walsh

 

 

The Game Is Not Over Until the Last Man Is Out
On May 20, 1922, the St. Louis Browns won a game against the Yankees after an umpire signalled that the 27th out had been made with New York ahead.
  • 38,000 turned out at the Polo Grounds (which the Yanks shared with the Giants before Yankee Stadi­um opened in 1923) to see Babe Ruth and Bob Meu­sel in their first game of 1922 following a five week suspension imposed by Kennesaw Mountain Landis. The Commissioner threw the book at the two Yankee outfielders for defying his ban on barnstorming tours after the '21 season.
 Babe Ruth, Judge Kennesaw Landis, and Bob Meusel
Babe Ruth, Judge Landis, and Bob Meusel
in happier times in 1921.
  • Before the game, admiring friends presented Ruth a handsome silver loving cup, a silver baseball bat, and a floral wreath.
  • The crowd cheered lustily when Babe took his posi­tion in LF and let loose a storm of applause a few minutes later when the man who had smacked a mind-boggling 113 HRs the previous two seasons strode to the batter's box. He wouldn't swat a four­bagger on his first AB of the season, would he? No, he ignominiously struck out.
  • The opposing pitchers, Sam Jones for the Yanks and Urban Shocker for the Browns, controlled the day.

With two out and none on in the ninth and the home team leading 2-1, many began heading for the exits.

  • But Chick Shorten, batting for 2B Marty McManus, singled to CF.
  • Then Pat Collins hit for Shocker and smashed a vi­cious single off SS Everett Scott's glove, Shorten ra­cing to 3B.
  • Many stopped their exiting to watch the action. When RF Jack Tobin bounded to 1B Wally Pipp, there was a great sigh of relief. But Wally juggled the ball for second, then recovered and threw to Jones, who covered the bag. Sam caught the ball, and umpire Ollie Chill raised his hand in the "out" gesture. But Sam dropped the pill, and the call changed to "safe." Meanwhile, Shorten crossed the plate with the tying run.

Then the floodgates opened.

  • SS Wally Gerber singled to RF, scoring Collins from 2B with the go-ahead run.
  • 1B George Sisler, who "slumped" to .371 in '21 after .407 in '20, was walked purposely, loading the bases.
  • But the strategy backfired when Jones also walked LF Ken Williams, Ruth's chief rival for the HR crown the past few years, forcing in Tobin. Still, Yankee manager Miller Huggins made no move to pull his starter.
  • So Big Bill Jacobson took a toehold, swung viciously, and slammed a HR far into the bleachers in LF. Strong men wept and a fair St. Louis rooter in a field box faint­ed, wrote the New York Times correspondent.

That ended the carnage.

  • Ruth, hitless in his first three ABs, led off the bottom of the ninth with a last chance to give the fans what they came to see. But he grounded weakly to Sisler.
  • 3B Home Run Baker popped to SS.
  • Meusel, the other orphan, raised a high foul that Sis­ler snared close to the stands.
  • Final score: St. Louis 8, New York 2.

Yankees P Sam Jones
Sam Jones

Browns P Urban Schocker
Urban Shocker

Yankees 1B Wally Pipp
Wally Pipp

Browns 1B George Sisler
George Sisler

Browns OF Bill Jacobson
"Baby Doll"
Jacobson
Four for Four

Tales from the Dodger Dugout, Carl Erskine (2000)

The Brooklyn Dodgers lineup was explosive and could score a lot of runs, and it did on August 31, 1950, against the Boston Braves. The final score was 19-3.

Gil Hodges had the biggest day, hitting four HRs. I always felt a special bond with Hodges because we were both from Indiana and had been scouted by the same Dodger scout, Stanley Feezle. Maybe that's why I had my biggest day at bat, getting four straight hits not bad for a .150 hitter.

Each of Gil's blasts was crushed. Here's how mine went: The first was a sacrifice bunt that the Braves let roll, hop­ing it would go foul. It didn't, and I beat it out. The second hit was a broken-bat single over 1B. The third was a bloop up the middle, barely far enough to reach the OF grass. The fourth was a routine ground ball to Bob Elliott at 3B. As Bob went down to field the ball, it hit a rock and sailed over his head.

All four of those hits laid end to end wouldn't have made one of Gil's homers. However, the next day in the box score, those four hits looked like four line drives.

Dodgers P Carl Erskine
Carl Erskine
Dodgers 1B Gil Hodges
Gil Hodges

Thomson Had Another Chance to Be a Hero
After surrendering the "Shot Heard 'Round the World," Ralph Branca decided to come out of semi­seclusion and attend Game 6 of the 1951 World Se­ries at Yankee Stadium.
  • He sat in a box seat behind the Giants dug­out with his fiancee Ann Mulvey and her pa­rents.
  • A photographer spotted Ralph and, seizing the opportunity, summoned Bobby Thomson and took a playful picture of them with Bran­ca's hand around The Scotsman's neck.

The game Branca saw that day bore eerie similari­ties to Game 3 of the NL playoff a week earlier.

  • Just as they did on October 3, the Giants faced elimination, trailing three games to two. Further, they came to bat in the ninth trailing 4-1, the same score as in the last game against the Dodgers.
  • The Giants loaded the bases against right-handed reliever Johnny Sain on singles by Eddie Stanky, Alvin Dark, and Whitey Lock­man.
  • Yankee manager Casey Stengel, perhaps re­membering Charlie Dressen's tardiness in re­moving Don Newcombe, brought in LHP Bob Kuzava.
  • On October 3, Monte Irvin fouled out in the ninth. He also failed to deliver this time, al­though he did manage a sacrifice fly to make it 4-2.
  • So Thomson came to bat with one run in and the tying runs on base. Like his Brooklyn counterpart, Old Case followed the book and refused to intentionally walk the potential winning run.
  • Bobby had had a mediocre series - 5 for 20 (.250) with a double and only one RBI.
  • One wonders if Branca realized that his nightmare from a week earlier was playing again. Or how many Giants fans in the ball­park or watching on TV or listening to the ra­dio caught the coincidence.
  • Thomson once again hit the ball hard in the air to LF, but it fell short of the fence - anoth­er sacrifice fly to pull the Giants to within one.
  • Then more irony. Giants manager Leo Duro­cher called for right-handed hitting C Sal Yvars to dash in from the bullpen to hit for the left-handed Hank Thompson against Ku­zava. Yvars was none other than the signal relayer from the bullpen in the Polo Grounds for the stolen signs scheme. Because he was so valuable in that role, Sal had not batted in a game for 40 days. Yet here he was on the biggest stage with a chance to join Thomson on the heroes' podium. (The Giants didn't use their telescope during the World Series be­cause so many people infested the clubhouse.)
  • Kuzava delivered a fast ball waist high on the outside corner. Yvars got good wood on it, driving a low liner to RF. With Lockman run­ning from second on contact, Giant fans ex­ulted that Sal had knotted the game. But RF Hank Bauer charged the ball and made a sli­ding catch to end the game and the World Series. One miracle was all the '51 Giants would get.


Branca Chokes Thomson
Bobby Thomson and Ralph Branca

Yankees P Johnny Sain
Johnny Sain

Yankees P Bob Kuzava and Manager Casey Stengel
Bob Kuzava and Casey Stengel

Giants C Sal Yvars
Sal Yvars

Yankees RF Hank Bauer
Hank Bauer
While Stengel went with "The Book" by not walking Thomson, he certainly went against convention by bringing in the southpaw Kuzava. Here's a passage from Robert Creamer's biography of Casey, Stengel: His Life and Times (1984):

Al Lopez, one of the most intelligent and successful of big-league managers, played under Casey at Brooklyn and Boston in the 1930s, managed against him in the AL in the 1950s (and was the only manager to interrupt Casey's flow of pennants) and was his good friend. Yet Lopez once said, "I swear, I don't understand some of the things he does when he manages. I've tried to figure them out, but they just don't make sense." One of the more famous of such dubious moves occurred in the 1951 World Series ... In the final game ... the Yankees were leading 4-1 in the ninth inning. ... The Giants had the tying runs on base, the winning run at bat, and their two most powerful hitters, Monte Irvin and Bobby Thomson, both right-handed batters, coming to the plate. John Sain, a right-hander, had been pitching for the Yankees, but Stengel took him out after the Giants loaded the base. Instead of following standard baseball theory by bringing in another right-hander to pitch to the right-handed Irvin and Thomson ... Stengel stunned baseball people by calling on an undistinguished left-hander named Bob Kuzava, who had not previously appeared in the Series. ...

Stengel's tactic had worked - somehow. Three hard-hit balls, but the Giants had not been able to tie the score ... No one has ever been able to fully decipher Stengel's tortuous reasoning for bringign in Kuzava. Perhaps he had antici­pated that the Giants' right-handed batters would be likely to hit fly balls that would be caught without too much trouble in the spacious Yankee Stadium outfield. But how could he be so sure that not one of those fly balls would go through for a double or a triple or reach the seats for a HR?

Besides, ground balls are what you want in a situation like that, grounders that will let your infielders come up with a double play while a run is scoring, ground­ers that, even if one did get through into the outfield for a base hit, would most likely score only one run, not the devastating three of four that a long hit might bring across. Stengel could point out that Kuzava had the best earned-run average on his staff that year and had excellent control, a desirable talent when the bases are full. But even so, a lefty? And, after all, he did give up three hard-hit balls. ...

The only fair conclusion is that Stengelsensed something deep in the informa­tion bank of the runaway computer that was his brain, some retrieval of data on what the Giants' right-handed batters had done or could do comined with what his left-hander had done or could do, tied in with the lovely spaciousness of the outfield in Yankee Stadium and the cushion of a three-run lead. Whirr, bzzzz, click-click-click, and Kuzava was the answer.

Labine's Three HRs in '55

Clem Labine compiled a 77-56 record in 13 ML seasons with 96 saves.

He was pathetic at the plate, hitting only .075 in 227 AB.

  • Clem had only three hits in 34 AB in 1955 for a .097 mark.
  • But all three hits that season were home runs, the only three he hit in his career.
Dodger P Clem Labine
Clem Labine