A Moment In Time – 8/16/25

Sunday, August 16, 1925, Griffith Stadium Washington, DC. A young Lou Gehrig, in his first full season, barrels into home in the 4th inning to score from third on a safety (or suicide?) squeeze off the bat of Benny Bengough, to plate the Yankees’ second run of the afternoon to go up 2-0, as P Vean Gregg’s throw is wide to C Hank Severeid. Umpire Dick Nallin looks on. Gehrig had led off the inning with a double, and was sacrificed to third. Yankees would go on to win the contest by a 3-2 score, with Larrupin’ Lou going 4-5 with a double and HR, only the second 4-hit game of his illustrious career, to raise his average to .322 for the year.

The Senators, not the Yankees, were flying high in 1925, being the reigning World Champions with the Series victory of 1924, and Washington was again in the middle of a successful campaign, although the loss above would drop the Senators 2 full games behind the league leading A’s. Washington would eventually overtake Philadelphia and win their second AL crown in a row, but lose to the Pirates in the 1925 World Series. The Yankees were deep into the second division at this point, but their dominance of the American League would begin in 1926 (thanks in no small part to the emergence of Gehrig), and the Senators wouldn’t get back to the Fall Classic until 1933 (and lost again, never to win another pennant or championship).

NYT article from the game, below. Gehrig was still so young that they still referred to him as “Columbia Lou” or the “Columbia savant” (as in Columbia Univerisity in upper Manhattan, just a quick subway ride to the Bronx and the new Yankee Stadium). Either way, he was already a star.

Vean Gregg, the pitcher who allowed the run above, was referred to as the “Old Man” and “ancient southpaw” with good reason. A rookie with the Cleveland Naps in 1911 (with teammates such as Joe Jackson, Nap Lajoie and 44-year old Cy Young), and a key hurler for the 1915 and 1916 Champion Red Sox, he had recurring arm trouble and was out of the game by 1919. Years later, when his farm fell on hard times, he returned to baseball in 1922 in the Pacific Coast League, culminating an impressive comeback by eventually returning to the majors in 1925 with the Senators, at the age of 40, certainly ancient for a ballplayer in those days. Alas, his comeback would be short-lived – appearing in 26 games for Washington, August 16 above would be his last home game, and after 4 more road appearances, was returned to the minors, never to return to the big show – but he was probably one of the few MLB pitchers that pitched to both a young Ty Cobb and a young Lou Gehrig.

C Hank Severeid was an MVP candidate for the St. Louis Browns in 1924, but was relegated to part-time status and then traded to the Nats in 1925, making the postseason for the first time. He would end his career, ironically, as a reserve catcher for the Yankees in 1926, winning his second AL pennant in a row, and when their starting catcher Pat Collins went down, caught all 7 games against the Cardinals in the 1926 World Series. In the final at bat of his career, in Game 7 at Yankee Stadium, he doubled in a run in the 6th inning to pull the Yanks to within 3-2, but the scoring would end there, thanks to Grover Cleveland Alexander’s celebrated relief appearance later in the game (came in to strike out Lazzeri with the bases loaded in the 7th, and got the save when Babe Ruth inexplicably tried to steal second with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th), and the Yanks would lose the game and the series, and Severeid never got a World Series ring.

And as for Dick Nallin, he was only one of two umpires in MLB history to be behind the plate for two no-hitters in the same month (in 1917), and was also the home plate umpire for Ty Cobb’s last game in 1928.

Griffith Glory

Just a quick post to show off these glorious color fan photos from the 1956 All-Star Game in Griffith Stadium, Washington, DC. It’s all here – the classic dark green of the stands, the beautiful National Bohemian beer ad so prominent in the old park, the striking colors of the uniforms, especially the backs of the National Leaguers (a lot of Reds present with their sleeveless unis, and especially Ted Kluszewski, with no undershirt at all – also a lot of Yankees lined up along the other side), all the pomp and circumstance, and lastly what would have to be Duke Snider batting in the 7th or 8th inning, with the White Sox’ Sherm Lollar catching, and ol’ Casey looking on from the dugout. So pop open a cold “Natty Boh” and enjoy, and don’t forget to click the photos for larger versions. Box score link at bottom.


http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1956/B07100ALS1956.htm

Say Hey, one that got away?

Thomas Wolfe once wrote that “You can’t go home again”, and that was largely true for Willie Mays in 1972. That year, the prodigal son was traded to the New York Mets in May as his career was winding down, back to the city where it all began. Willie would not return to the City By The Bay until July 21-23, 1972.

The crowd certainly missed old Willie, cheering every time he made an appearance, and he didn’t disappoint, hitting a 2-run HR (and the eventual game-winner) in Friday night’s game. But while the fans loved it, the Giants may have taken offense, as shown below.

Willie didn’t start on Sat., but pinch-hit in the 8th with runners on and the game tied, 1-1, and he walked. On Sun., he played the whole game and had 4 plate appearances. The photos below are from an at-bat either on Sat. or Sun., since they were taken during the day, most likely on Sunday, in which a purpose pitch would’ve been a less risky proposition.

A clear message? Or just one that got away? It could be either one, but check out the second photo, where S.F. catcher Doug Rader barely moved his body to corral what would’ve otherwise been a ball way outside. Personally, I think that leaves little doubt as to the intention of the pitch. Of course, back then, it was part of the game, not like today – think of Albert Pujols being drilled in his first at-bat against the Cardinals, whenever that would be. A full-scale riot would ensue, or at least a bench-clearer for the ages.

So even though the fans were still 100% behind him, and Willie still lived only a few miles away, with California “SAY HEY” license plates on his car in the parking lot, between the lines it’s still all in the uniform; and, whether the above pitch was in anger or not, it was pretty clear going forward that that plate at Candlestick Park was no longer…home.

Burns-Eye Views of Big Time Parks, #4 – Ebbets Field

In 1937, Ed Burns, a sportswriter for the Chicago Tribune, penned a series of articles on every major league park at the time (15 articles in all, of 16 parks for 16 teams; the Cardinals and Browns shared Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis, while the Indians played in both League Park and Cleveland Municipal Stadium that year, with one article for both), which were also published in the Sporting News that year.

A very interesting series, especially from the perspective of 1937, and the hand-drawn diagrams of interesting plays and quirks of each park are wonderful. I’ll post them in order of when they were originally published, and one at a time to make things interesting. Click the Burns-Eye Views of Big Time Parks category link to the right to see all the articles together.

Fourth in the series, classic Ebbets Field, the Brooklyn Dodgers’ home from 1913-1957, and one of the most beloved of all the classic parks. Also it had a prominent feature that was copied by Citi Field, and similar to Mets fans today, “Entrance Through Huge Rotunda Confuses Customer”, lol.

Dizzy Bean

Dizzy Dean is known today as the outstanding Cardinals pitcher from the 30’s, but also became popular due to his unique, homespun personality. He really didn’t rise to fame until the 1934 season, where he won 30 games for the NL champs – but in using his “head” in the 1934 World Series, he became a baseball folk hero for all time.

Even most casual baseball fans have heard of the supposed headline after St. Louis Cardinals ace Dizzy Dean got hit on the head by a thrown ball in Game 4 of the 1934 World Series, in Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis – “X-Rays Of His Head Revealed Nothing”. Most sources state it came from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the next day, while there seems to be nothing to indicate that that is so. Also, a recent published post about Dean by the Post-Dispatch alluded to another paper entirely, and not their own. In any event, it’s part of the legend of the story, which has grown a little hazy with time, especially due to the fact that there is very little in the way of photographs of the incident that exist, or at least are not readily available. The one above, which appears to be the closest shot known, seemed to be the only one publicly available, until recently.

The most known visual is from the 1934 World Series highlight reel, which has a good overview of the incident, at 2:08, until about 2:27:

And here now are a few AP press shots that have recently been found (click photos for slightly larger versions):

Fascinating to see the incident from this angle. And how did he get beaned all the way out there you ask? Well, Dean (somewhat foolishly, in hindsight) was put in as a pinch runner, and stormed into second to break up a double play, and he did alright – the shortshop’s toss to first plunked him right in the noggin. New York Times articles on the incident, including Manager Frisch took a lot of heat for putting Dean in:

In any event, they did score the tying run on that play, and Dizzy was able to recover enough to pitch Game 5 – but was he 100%? Turns out he lost that game, putting the Cardinals down 3-2 in the series going to Detroit, but with his brother Daffy (Paul) Dean able to hold off the Tigers in Game 6, Dizzy stormed back in Game 7 and twirled a complete game shutout to win the championship for St Louis. As one paper noted, it was “A Dizzy spell in Detroit”, and he made of the Tigers “a fine animal rug for the Dean homestead.”

Dizzy would not return to the World Series until 1938 with the Cubs, by then hampered by injury, and the Cardinals themselves wouldn’t return until the 1940’s – but the “Gashouse Gang” of the 1934 World Series, along with Dizzy Dean, will always have a unique place in the annals of baseball lore.

A Moment In Time – 5/17/64

Sunday, May 17, 1964, Milwaukee Braves vs St. Louis Cardinals at Sportsman’s Park (renamed Busch Stadium by then). 1st game of a doubleheader, bottom of the 2nd inning, Eddie Matthews, in a rare start at first base, gets Dick Groat by a half-step to retire the side, as 2B Frank Bolling (behind Groat) looks on. Cards just went up 3-0 in the frame on home runs by Bill White and Tim McCarver, and then an unearned run started by a catcher’s interference by Joe Torre.

Matthews only played first base in 7 games for the Braves that year (after having only played 1B for a few games in 1962), and interestingly, would not play the position again until he moved there virtually full-time in 1967, after the franchise had already moved on to Atlanta. Rookie Phil Niekro would come in in the 8th inning here and pitch his last of 10 games in 1964 (giving up a couple of runs on a Groat triple), before he went back to the minors to give that knuckleball more seasoning. He would stick in 1965.

Cardinals would go on to win this first game 7-3, but lost the nightcap, 4-2, dropping them to 1.5 games behind the NL-leading Giants, who were sweeping a doubleheader from the Mets.

Even then it was a long season, but every game counts. Good thing the Redbirds had their hitting shoes on for this first game – the Cardinals would go on to win the NL Pennant by only one game over both the Reds and surprisingly the Phillies, who would complete the biggest late-season collapse in modern MLB history until the 2000’s (Braves finished 5 off the pace), and took the Series in 7 over the end-of-dynasty Yankees.

Veeck – as in wrecked?

I’ve already had an earlier post about the crazy genius Bill Veeck in this blog’s youth, and I expect to have a few more. This was probably one of his better promotions, which seemed to get a little crazier as he got older.

Veeck made the Cleveland Indians a quick success after becoming owner of the club in 1946 (first AL black player, Larry Doby, in 1947, and a championship in 1948), but it would be short-lived; after getting divorced in 1949, he had to sell the Tribe to fund the settlement, but wouldn’t stay on the sidelines for long.

Veeck remarried in 1951, and then promptly purchased 80% ownership in the St. Louis Browns. The Browns would be a tough test for the budding marketing whiz, as the Cardinals shared the same park, and were far more popular. His first moves were to hire legendary Cardinals Rogers Hornsby (as manager) and Dizzy Dean (as an announcer), although Veeck fired Hornsby by June.

Thinking of more ideas to get fans into the ballpark, Veeck held a “Drink On The House” Night at Sportsman’s, July 1951. In a press photo below, Veeck is seen himself passing out free brews to the surprised Browns’ faithful. Somehow, I can’t imagine Fred Wilpon coming down the aisle at Citi Field to hand me a free Brooklyn Lager any time soon.

It was actually a good way to get the word out about one of the local beer sponsors, Falstaff, St. Louis’ own. The label below is the same as on the beers above, and below that, a Falstaff beer ad with ol’ Diz.

Either way, it seems to have worked out better than future Veeck promotions, which grew increasingly unusual. Only a month later was the famous Eddie Gaedel game, in which Veeck used the services of a “little person” to go up for an at-bat for the Browns (he walked).

Unfortunately, Veeck’s grandstanding would have little effect, and he himself would be largely responsible for the demise of the St. Louis Browns. When beer giant Anheuser-Busch purchased the Cardinals in 1952, with endless resources, Veeck knew the writing was on the wall, and looked to bidders to move the franchise. Milwaukee was the first choice, but the Boston Braves beat them to it, so the next choice was Baltimore – and Veeck planned on remaining majority owner, but the other owners were not very keen on it, and voted him down, so he sold the team anyway, and the Orioles were born.

Veeck would go on to bring success to the Chicago White Sox (during two tenures), but also more unusual ideas, both good and bad, including introducing the famous exploding scoreboard in Comiskey Park and putting players’ names on their uniforms for the first time, both in 1960, and later the infamous “shorts” uniform from the 1970’s, the beginning of Harry Caray (then White Sox announcer) singing Take Me Out To The Ball Game, and last but not least, Disco Demolition Night in 1979, in which disco records were blown up on the field, and resulted in a near riot and the forfeit of the second game of a doubleheader by the White Sox.

Veeck finally sold the White Sox in 1981 and retired from baseball, passing away in 1986. He is responsible for many of the craziest things that have happened on a baseball field, and I’d have to admit, baseball history would be a lot less interesting without him.