A Moment In Time – 6/27/59

75610017a

Saturday, June 27, 1959, Briggs Stadium, Detroit. Orioles in town for the third game of a four game set. Tiger C Red Wilson awaits the pitch as SS Rocky Bridges waits on deck. Gus Triandos is the O’s catcher.

T2eC16FHJGkE9no8f0HgBP-qw6GyQ60_35A part-time catcher, Red made the most of his start this day, going 3-for-3 with a HR and 3 RBIs, raising his average to a season high .333, but would eventually tail off and ended the season at .263. He came close to .300 the previous year, finishing at .299, but would never have a .300 season. And the HR was a rare feat – he only hit 4 that year, and 24 in his 10 year career. His biggest claim to fame may be catching Jim Bunning’s first career no-hitter in 1958 against the Red Sox (Bunning’s second and last would be the 1964 perfect game at Shea Stadium against the Mets on Father’s Day).

Wilson, 30 years old in 1959, was at the tail end of his career, and was traded to the Indians in July of the following season, along with none other than Rocky Bridges, his teammate on deck above (both were traded for C Hank Foiles, who only lasted a half season in Detroit and was then shipped off to the Orioles). Red was then selected by the Los Angeles Angels in the expansion draft for 1961, but instead chose to retire from baseball. He still lives in his hometown of Milwaukee, where he was a star football player for the Wisconsin Badgers (he was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 1950, but chose baseball instead).

65028Rocky Bridges, 1-4 that day, was also nearing the end of a fairly long career. He had his best year with the Senators in the previous campaign, earning his only career All-Star appearance. He had a fine year in 1959 for the Tigers, but was befelled by injury in 1960 and would only play 10 games for Detroit until being shipped off to Cleveland with Wilson, above. He then only played 10 games for the Indians and was dealt to the Cardinals, played 3 games and was then released after the season. Another parallel to Wilson is that the Angels also came calling for Bridges, but as a free agent – and unlike Wilson, Bridges took them up on their offer, making Los Angeles the 7th team of his career.

Rocky had a fair season for the expansion club in his typical utility infielder role, and then retired, becoming an Angels coach and then minor-league manager in their organization, as well as others, and would actually manage over 2,600 minor league games through 1989. In fact, the early beginnings of Rocky’s managerial career was the subject of an SI article in 1964, which was eventually included in Jim Bouton’s book of baseball essays under the same name, “I Managed Good, But Boy Did They Play Bad”.

65014Gus Triandos (who went 1-2 and came out in the 7th inning) was probably the most successful of our spotlighted trio, being a 3-time All-Star catcher for the Orioles (including in this 1959 season). And like Red Wilson, was in the right place at the right time for another first-time no-hitter, this time catching the first and only one thrown by Hoyt Wilhelm, also in 1958 – and it still remains the last no-hitter thrown by one pitcher against the Yankees to this day, over 50 years later. Triandos also had some pop – after a career peak of 30 HRs in ’58 (which tied Yogi Berra’s AL record for HRs by a catcher), Gus was off to the races in 1959, having 18 HRs by late June (above), and may have had a spring in his step before or definitely after the game pictured – the ballot results were announced the very same day, June 27th, and Gus was voted in for the second year in a row as the starting catcher in the (what would be the first of two in 1959) All-Star Game. However, a hand injury would slow his bat, he finished with only 25 HRs and a meek .216 average at season’s end, and would never fully regain his slugging prowess.

Jim Bunning

Gus would rebound somewhat in ’60 and ’61, but with his power primarily behind him, he was traded to the Tigers in 1963. After a fine season, he was involved in what probably turned out to be one of the best trades the Phillies ever made, Triandos and Jim Bunning for slugger Don Demeter and Jack Hamilton (Demeter would have two decent seasons for the Tigers, but Hamilton would be a complete bust as Bunning went on to dominate the NL). And how about the kicker to tie this all together? The traded twosome were the battery for Bunning’s perfect game at Shea noted above – so Red Wilson caught Bunning’s first, and Triandos, Bunning’s second, and last, “no-hitter”. And with that, Gus also became the first player to catch no-hitters in both leagues. By 1965, however, he had mostly lost his hitting stroke, and after being traded to the Astros mid-year, retired at the end of the season.

But back in Briggs/Tiger Stadium on a beautiful, sunny, early summer Saturday afternoon (oddly enough before only 10,856 fans), Red Wilson’s 3-for-3 helped pace the Tigers to a 12-2 thrashing of the Birds of Baltimore. A 25-year old Al Kaline would hit one out. Tiger Gus Zernial would hit two more. Billy Hoeft, the Oriole pitcher who got knocked out of the box in the third inning, was just traded from Detroit to Baltimore, and maybe the Tiger batters knew the weaknesses of their old teammate. And at day’s end, the Tiger faithful went home happy, Detroit creeped back over .500 at 36-35, only 3 games behind the Indians, the Orioles held steady only 1 game back, and the rest of the last summer of 1950’s baseball had yet to be played; perfect games, long managerial careers and even hometown retirements would have to wait.

Pastime Portraiture, #5

76290008

Nellie Fox, Yankee Stadium, June 19, 1955.

The Pale Hose would drop a doubleheader to the Yanks that day, with 2B Fox going 3-8 with a double. The perennial All-Star had a good year in ’55, playing every game, leading the league in AB’s and finishing 7th in AL MVP voting, but the Sox would finish third behind the Yankees. Fox would finally win the MVP with the pennant-winning Go-Go Sox of 1959. He died young, of skin cancer, in 1975. He was elected into the HOF by the Veterans Committee in 1997.

Yet another great Hy Peskin shot, check out his site and buy a classic photo or two:

Hy Peskin Collection – Baseball

Burns-Eye Views of Big Time Parks, #8 – Fenway Park

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.

Eighth in the series, venerable Fenway Park, which, while classic today, back then had “no apparent reason for the outline of the field having similarity with…a tough jig saw puzzle.” Sounds like the complaints of the contrived designs of “retro” ballparks today, 75 years later.

xpidavy

 

A Moment In Time – 5/21/55

hpeb7
hpeb8

Saturday, May 21, 1955, the Phillies are in town and it’s also Ladies Day at Ebbets Field. Bottom of the fifth inning, bases loaded, Brooks already up 3-1, Duke Snider up with a 3-1 count, and here’s good old Jackie Robinson – running the wrong way? Turns out he’s just trying to get back to third base after straying too far off the bag, from maybe a ball in the dirt, perhaps a missed squeeze, or was Jackie trying to steal home? Third base coach Billy Herman and Jim “Junior” Gilliam on second watch intently as Phillies third-sacker Willie Jones corrals the throw. Peanuts Lowrey is the distant Phillies’ right fielder.

Brooklyn was certainly going the right way in the early days of the 1955 campaign – they crashed out of the gate with 10 straight wins, and after dropping 2 of 3 to the Giants at home, reeled off 11 more to improve to 22-2 and go up 9 1/2 games on New York by May 10. In fact, the Dodgers were on a rare losing streak going into this game, having dropped 4 straight before this contest.

“Junior” Gilliam patrolling second base made sense – he took over the defensive position from Jackie Robinson in 1953 (after they moved Jackie to third to save his knees), and did well, leading the Dodgers in runs scored, the NL in triples, and claimed the NL Rookie Of The Year honors. Gilliam would be the Dodgers’ supersub for many years, even well after they moved to Los Angeles. Junior would have an off year in 1955 (.249), but he did bat .292 in the World Series as Brooklyn took their only crown. He would become a player-coach in 1964, a full-time coach in 1967, and would be one of the longest holdovers from Brooklyn, being a Dodger for over 25 years and most of his life; he would die of a cerebral hemorrhage late in the 1978 season at the age of 49.

An even better second baseman is standing along the coaching lines at third – Billy Herman was a 10-time All Star and a good wartime Dodger (1941-1946), batting .330 in 1943. He would be traded to the Boston Braves and then the Pirates, both in 1946, and  became the Pirates manager in 1947. After a subpar campaign, he resigned on the last day of the season, managed in the minor leagues for a while, and returned to the Dodgers as a coach in 1952, through the rest of their tenure in Brooklyn. He would later become the manager of the Red Sox in the 1960’s. Although he had a lengthy baseball career as a player, coach and manager, his only championship ring would come this season, with the 1955 Dodgers. He was elected to the Hall Of Fame in 1975.

Willie (Puddin’ Head) Jones was the man for the job at third base that day – he was the Phillies’ third sacker throughout the 1950’s, and considered one of the best defensive third basemen of that decade. He had his best years in the 1950-1951 (including the 1950 Whiz Kids pennant winners), and was an All Star in those two seasons, but the lowly Phils wouldn’t return to the postseason for decades afterward. He also happens to be third on the Phillies’ all-time grand slam list (with 6), behind only Mike Schmidt and Ryan Howard. He also died in middle age, at 58 in 1983.

And our man Peanuts Lowery way out there in right was in his last major league season. The diminutive outfielder/third baseman/pinch hitter (who was briefly in the Our Gang comedies while growing up in Los Angeles in the 1920’s) would start only 6 more games before retiring at season’s end, and would eventually be a long time coach as well.

s-l500Jackie would rebound somewhat in ’56, but age and the onset of diabetes (a family trait) had depleted his once-great skills, and after he was traded to the New York Giants after the season, he announced his retirement from the game, which he had already planned to do after 1956. Sadly, he also died young, in 1972 at the age of 53, but clearly his legacy will always live on, as known to anyone taking the time to read this blog.

But back in a warm Saturday in May, to a gentleman and his lady (with a free ticket) sitting in two snug Ebbets Field seats in Brooklyn, NY, the Dodgers and Jackie Robinson were still the Boys Of Summer, and the Bums were going to live forever. Jackie did get back safely, and scored the 4th Dodger run as Snider also walked. Brooklyn would score 3 in the frame and win the game, 6-4, as Don Newcombe improved to 6-0 (in his first 20 win season) and the Dodgers would find themselves 6 1/2 games in first at the end of the day, with the majors’ best record at 26-8. And the Dodgers would go on to reach the pinnacle of Major League Baseball that fall, but like Jackie above, Brooklyn baseball had only a few stolen moments left.

Radio Broadcast – 9/20/34, Yankees vs Tigers, Navin Field

As part of my ongoing efforts to bring classic baseball moments to the masses, lol, I have been creating videos of classic radio broadcasts and uploading them to YouTube, with this one the granddaddy of them all. I will continue to post more as time permits, so watch this space!

From the YT page details:

The oldest (virtually) complete radio broadcast of a regular season baseball game known to exist. September 20, 1934, Yankess vs Tigers at Navin Field (Briggs/Tiger Stadium) in Detroit, Ty Tyson the announcer. Great old time radio. Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, Frank Crosetti in the lineup for the Bombers, and Hank Greenberg, Charlie Gehringer, Mickey Cochrane for the Bengals. Babe Ruth was in the ballpark, but unfortunately did not play due to injury. This was during the Tigers’ ’30’s heyday, on their way to the AL pennant.

Tyson includes many colorful ad spots along the way, a teletype machine can be heard through much of the broadcast, and Tyson even doubles as the PA announcer, but only for pitching changes and pinch hitters, which was likely the norm in those days. Just hearing the game as it slowly unfolded almost 80 years ago is a treasure (by the way, the YouTube thumbnail below is of course taken at Yankee Stadium, but was a cool shot of four of the biggest stars at this game, so I incorporated it into the video for fun). Enjoy.

(caution: clicking any time links below will jump you directly to the YT page)

7:57 – Comments on the Babe taking BP and sitting out
10:29 – Gehrig’s 1st AB (popout) – Lazzeri bats after Gehrig all game
18:30 – Gehringer 1st AB (flyout)
19:27 – Greenberg 1st AB (K) (bats after Gehringer all game)
36:06 – Gehrig’s 2nd AB (bases-loaded 2-run single, knocks Marberry out of the box – then Tyson uses the PA to announce the relief pitcher Hamlin into the game)
51:00 – Greenberg’s 2nd AB (groundout)
1:01:27 – Gehrig’s 3rd and final at bat (groundout)
1:11:50 – Greenberg’s 3rd AB (single)
1:44:09 – Greenberg’s 4th and final at bat (fielder’s choice, wild play, NYY CF Chapman thrown out of game, Tyson over PA announces his replacement)

Final score, Yankees 11, Tigers 7

NYY 2 0 6 0 0 0 1 2 0 – 11 17 4
DET 1 0 0 0 2 0 3 0 1 – 7 14 4

Retrosheet Box Score and Play-By-Play:http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1934/B09200DET1934.htm

Pastime Portraiture, #4

https://i2.wp.com/i.imgur.com/mXMbN.jpg

Richie Ashburn, Spring Training, March 1956. One word: color.

Ashburn would have another good year for the Phillies in 1956, batting .303, and would be the Fightins’ Iron Horse for the next few years, leading the lead in plate appearances in 1956, 1957 and 1958, and would only miss 8 games through the 1960 campaign.  He probably had his best year in 1958, leading the league in average (.350), hits, triples, walks, OBP and plate appearances. And of course, he was a lovable 1962 Met to round out his career. He was elected to the HOF by the Veteran’s Committee in 1995.

Yet another great Hy Peskin shot, check out his site and buy a classic photo or two:

Hy Peskin Collection – Baseball

A Moment In Time – 7/28/25

14225u_1

soxsens1Back we go to 1925, and back to Griffith Stadium, White Sox/Senators twin bill on Tuesday, July 28, third inning of Game 1. Johnny Mostil trots home standing up, as instructed by teammate Ray Schalk (the high-five had yet to be invented) as the Sens’ C Muddy Ruel looks to corral an errant throw or back up another play, as none other than Walter Johnson got roughed up by the Pale Hose this day (including 5 walks) and was sent to the showers by the 6th inning. And when the White Sox knocked Tom Zachary out of the box with four runs in the first in Game 2, the Senators were on their way to a double defeat, which would drop Washington 1 1/2 games behind the Philadelphia A’s, although the Senators would rebound to win the 1925 AL crown. And while the White Sox enjoyed the spoils that day, the franchise was in the midst of an extended period of inconsistency since the Black Sox scandal gutted the club in 1921, and wouldn’t return to the playoffs until 1959.

© Copyright 2010 CorbisCorporation

Walter Johnson warming at Forbes Field prior to the 1925 WS

Johnson himself would otherwise have a stellar campaign in the Senators’ pennant winning season, winning 20, which would prove to be his last year with a winning record. He was also as good a hitter as a pitcher in 1925, batting an astounding .433 with 20 RBI’s. And facing the Pirates in the 1925 World Series, Johnson was the hero of Games 1 and 4, allowing only one run – but, like in 1924, Johnson was counted on by the Senators to come up big once again in Game 7, and “faced his Waterloo with head unbowed”, but turned out to have the worst post-season outing of his career, giving up 9 runs, including 3 in the bottom of the 8th (although there was a bit of bad luck as well – it was a muddy, rainy affair at Forbes Field, as night was falling in the late innings, and a Peckinpaugh error eventually allowed 2 unearned runs), to put the Bucs ahead 9-7 and virtually seal the championship for the Pirates.

Johnson would fall to 15-16 the next season, and then win only 5 games while pitching to a 5.10 E.R.A. in 1927, and his storied playing career was at an end.

WhiteSox_RaySchalk

Ray Schalk

White Sox Hall Of Fame catcher Ray Schalk had a storied career himself – he is considered to have revolutionized the position with his speed and quickness to redefine the capabilities of what a catcher could do, and was the best defensive catcher of his era. Thankfully, he also wasn’t one to give in to quick temptation, as he was among the “clean” White Sox players in the 1919 World Series, batting .304 and admitting later that he knew something was afoot when tainted hurlers Cicotte and Williams wouldn’t throw the pitches he was calling for.

In 1925, Schalk’s career was already in twilight – he had his last strong season that year, but after being slowed by injury the following season (which would be a typical lament for similar aggressive, defensive-minded catchers going forward), became a player-manager in 1927, limiting his playing time greatly, and after assuming the same role with the Giants, retired after the 1929 season.

johnnymostil

Johnny Mostil

Johnny Mostil may have joined the ranks of the above Hall of Famers if he hadn’t derailed his career prematurely due to an unfortunate incident off the field preceding the 1927 season. Mostil emerged as a budding star in the mid-1920’s, leading the league in runs, walks and stolen bases in ’25, and the slick fielding center fielder would be second in the MVP voting in 1926. However, the following March, during Spring Training in Shreveport, Louisiana, Mostil was found in a hotel room in a pool of blood due to many self-inflicted wounds throughout his body from a pocket knife and razor, and teammates, including Schalk, administered aid as help arrived. While initially he was not expected to survive, Mostil made a rapid physical recovery, but was put on the “voluntarily retired” list (likely recovering from emotional issues), and would not return to the White Sox until September of ’27. He did play a full season in 1928, but his speed was inexplicably slowed (with his stolen base percentage plummeting to near .500), and after breaking his ankle in May 1929, his career was over.

Mostil never did disclose the reason for the suicide attempt, but it may have stemmed from rumors circulating that he was having an affair with a teammate’s wife, or perhaps a result of painful neurological problems he was going through. While it’s sad that the event effectively ended his major league career, he did survive, was very successful in the minor leagues afterward, and was also a long time scout for the White Sox, and lived to 70 years of age.

Muddy_Ruel

Muddy Ruel

Muddy Ruel was also an outstanding defensive catcher in his own right, helping to usher in era of defensive-minded backstops that originated during the Deadball Era, and led the AL in assists and putouts in 1925, and was also Walter Johnson’s “personal” catcher in his later career. He also happened to score the winning run for Washington in the 1924 World Series. Ruel was also no stranger to baseball-related tragedy, this time on the field – he happened to be the catcher when the Yankees’ Carl Mays threw the pitch that struck and mortally wounded Cleveland’s Ray Chapman in 1920, still the only player to perish from an on-field injury.