A Moment In Time – 7/27/58

colavito58a

Rocky Colavito of the Cleveland Indians “lets out a howl” (as the Sporting News put it) as he crosses home plate after crashing a grand slam in the bottom of the 6th inning off the Yankees ace (and eventual ’58 Cy Young winner) Bob Turley, putting the Tribe up 6-0 in the second game of a doubleheader at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, en route to a sweep of the defending AL champs, one of the highlights of an otherwise mediocre season on the shores of Lake Erie. Congratulating him are L-R Mickey Vernon, Russ Nixon with the handshake and Minnie Miñoso, who all scored on the blast, as pinch-hitter Bill Hunter (#7) steps up to bat next. While 1958 offered little promise at this point, could something be stirring for a Tribe insurgence in the years to come?

colavito58topps

1958 Topps card

While the Indians were flying high through the 1950’s, finishing at or near the top of the league for most of the decade, culminating in the 1954 AL pennant, 1957 saw a return to the second division, and more of the same in 1958, resulting in new manager Bobby Bragan being fired before the All-Star break. But things were looking up for Cleveland, as the 24-year-old Colavito was emerging as a superstar, with a stellar ’58 campaign that resulted in 41 home runs (1 behind HR champ Mickey Mantle) and leading the league with a .620 slugging percentage, finishing third in AL MVP voting (ironically, just behind Bob Turley).

timecolavito0859

Colavito on the cover of Time, August 1959

And he continued his success in 1959, clouting 42 HRs (including 4 in 4 ABs in a row in Baltimore June 10, below), good enough to tie Harmon Killebrew for the AL crown, and was voted to his first All-Star game, as the Indians returned to the higher reaches of the American League, finishing only 5 games behind the destined Go-Go (White) Sox for the pennant.

Led by their young slugger, the 1960’s looked like high times for the Indians. But Cleveland’s GM Frank Lane had other ideas.

franklane

Indians’ GM Frank Lane

While Lane had built a reputation by bringing the moribund White Sox from pretenders in the 40’s to contenders in the ’50’s, his was also an aggressive approach, averaging over 35 trades per season while with Chicago. And no star was safe; after joining the front office of St Louis after leaving the White Sox in 1955, he attempted to trade the Cardinals’ perennial superstar Stan Musial to the Philadelphia Phillies for Robin Roberts (an interesting trade in theory to say the least), but was quickly halted by Cards’ owner August Busch once it became public.

C9pL1ZtXsAEqQAa

Colavito with Detroit

Lane always favored consistent hitters over streaky sluggers, and while Colavito had had a great year, his late season slump (.207 in September) didn’t sit well with the GM, and despite his folk hero status in Cleveland, was dealt to Detroit in April 1960 for Harvey Kuenn, who won the AL batting crown in ’59. Tribe fans were irate, some swearing never to return to the ballpark, and to make matters worse, Kuenn was nagged by injuries that year; while having a fine season, his batting average fell over 40 points, and he was traded again at season’s end as the Indians stumbled to a mediocre finish under .500, 21 games behind the Yankees.

Colavito had some All-Star seasons with Detroit but was often derided for his inconsistency, even being benched on occasion. He did have an outstanding 1961 campaign with 45 HRs and 140 RBIs, both career highs, and helped the Tigers to 101 wins, although falling short (again) to the Yankees. He was strong but streaky in 1962, and after his power numbers fell further in 1963 and the Tigers tumbled to the second division, he was dealt to the Kansas City A’s in ’64. He finally returned “home” to Cleveland in 1965, having two All-Star seasons, but now on the tail end of his career.

mickeyvernon58

1958 Topps card

russnixon58

1958 rookie card

As for the rest of the receiving party at home plate in 1958, unlike the HR hitter of honor, their times with the Indians were somewhat fleeting and nondescript. Mickey Vernon, at 40 years old, was enjoying his last starting season in the majors, playing 1B and hitting at a .293 clip, good for his last All-Star appearance. By 1960 he wound up as a 1B coach for the Pirates, being activated at year’s end for a few at-bats, and earning himself a WS ring.

Russ Nixon, a young catcher up from the Indian’s farm system in 1957, had his best year in 1958, catching 101 games for Cleveland and batting .301. He would be somewhat less consistent after that, catching part-time for primarily Boston until retiring in 1968, then on to a managing career in the 1980’s.

rockyminosomartin

Minnie Minoso and Billy Martin celebrate with Colavito after he hit 4 HRs in 4 consecutive at-bats at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium, June 10, 1959

And lastly, Minnie Miñoso, who needs no introduction, came up in 1949 with the Cleveland Indians, becoming the first black Cuban player in the major leagues; but with the Tribe’s crowded outfield he was traded to the Chicago White Sox in early 1951, becoming their first black player overall, and socking his first pitch with the Pale Hose for a 2-run HR at Comiskey Park off the Yankees’ Vic Raschi. After many All-Star seasons he returned to the Indians for 1958-1959, missing out on the 1959 White Sox pennant (but coming up 5 games short, above), again returning to the South Side as his career wound down, becoming a legend in Chicago, and a statue in his honor stands at the White Sox’s park (whatever it is named at this time) today. Miñoso, at age 40, also had the interesting honor of playing the final baseball game at the Polo Grounds, the first (and last) Hispanic-American All-Star Game, October 12, 1963 (the NL stars beating the AL stars 5-2, with 14,235 on hand).

But there was one person in that moment who meant a great deal to the city and its fans, and leaves one to lament for what might have been for the Cleveland ball club as they moved into the 1960’s. Could the Tribe have quelled the Yankees’ dominance of that era with their own Bronx-born warrior Colavito leading the way? Hard to say, but I’ll defer to what Indians’ fans would confidently declare back in the late 50’s –  “Don’t Knock The Rock.”

rocky-colavito-indians

Advertisements

A Moment In Time – 5/20/69

177153345

Just a quick one to revisit the blog.

Tuesday, May 20, 1969, Memorial Stadium, Baltimore, a battle against the eventual participants of the inaugural ALCS that fall, and the Twins’ Bob Allison congratulates Harmon Killebrew for going deep (#406 career), a solo shot off of the Orioles’ Dave McNally in the 4th inning to open the scoring, as catcher Andy Etchebarren looks on. Runs would be at a premium most of the night as the Orioles tied it 1-1 in the 7th when McNally was done, and then two things from the It-Would-Never-Happen-Today Dept.: Kaat went 12+ innings, allowing only one earned run, and after the Twins scored in the top of the 13th to go ahead 2-1, with men on first and third Kaat stayed in the game to bat, and hit a sac fly for another run. The run was needed as Paul Blair homered off Kaat in the bottom of the 13th to make it 3-2, but Kaat finally gave way to Perranoski for the save, giving Kaat the well-earned victory. The win would move the Twins to within a 1/2 game of the Oakland A’s, while the Orioles already had a 3 game lead in the East en route to 109 wins.

kaat

Jim Kaat

McNally got revenge by winning Game 2 of the ALCS against Minnesota to go up 2-0 in the series. While Twins owner Calvin Griffith directed manager Billy Martin to start future HOFer Jim Kaat at home for Game 3, a general distrust of Kaat (?) led Martin to go with long man Bob Miller, who got knocked around, as the Twins were swept and the O’s moved on to the World Series. Martin was then fired shortly after by Griffith after only one season at the helm, but with disagreements with ownership far from over in his managerial career.

martin

A Moment In Time – 6/14/32

foxx1

Navin Field, Detroit, Tuesday, June 14, 1932, Jimmie Foxx crosses the plate in the top of the 5th inning after hitting his first of two HRs on the day, a 3 run blast off Vic Sorrell with fellow future HOFers Al Simmons and Mickey Cochrane on base, and the A’s were out to an early 5-0 lead on the Tigers as dejected catcher Ray Hayworth looks on. The umpire is Roy Van Graflan.

Jimmie Foxx, of course, needs no introduction – almost midway through a prolific Hall Of Fame career, Foxx would probably have his best offensive season in 1932, at 58(a career high, just short of Ruth)/169/.364, also leading the league in slugging (no surprise), runs, and total bases. He garnered AL MVP honors, and by today’s rules (3.1 PA x team games played) he would have also had the AL Triple Crown, but Dale Alexander of Boston hit .367 in 454 plate appearances, and was recognized as the batting champ. Foxx would get the Triple Crown in earnest in 1933. Foxx already had two rings with the A’s in 1929 and 1930, but would never win another, nor even appear in another post-season, moving on to the Red Sox, Cubs and Phillies in his career.

Ray Hayworth was the starting backstop for the Tigers in 1932 and 1933, and a defensive specialist – at the game above, he was in the midst of an AL record for most consecutive chances by a catcher without an error at 439 (100 games), from 9/3/21 to 8/29/32 (a record later broken by Yogi Berra).

hayworth1Interestingly enough, the streak would end against the A’s (although at Shibe Park), and dubiously at that – as Jimmie Foxx was at bat, a dropped third strike allowing Foxx to Reach and Al Simmons to score. Today, that would be considered either a passed ball or a wild pitch, not an error, and a contemporary box score of the game does not show an error for Hayworth. Ultimately, it probably wouldn’t have secured the record for Ray – Yogi was able to reach 148 errorless games in 1959, and the current record is an astounding 253 games by Cleveland’s Mike Redmond, set in 2010.

Unfortunately, Hayworth didn’t have the power the Tigers were looking for to stay a regular, and when Detroit traded for Mickey Cochrane after the 1933 campaign, he was relegated to a backup role; but with Cochrane’s help, he made it to the World Series the next two seasons, winning his only ring in 1935, although he did not see any action in the ’35 classic.

BaseballBookVanGraflan9Umpire Roy Van Graflan had a bit of notoriety of his own – he was an AL umpire from 1927-1933, and participated in two World Series, one in 1932, and happened to be behind the plate when Babe Ruth had his “called shot”. Despite much controversy regarding this part of baseball lore, Van Graflan recalled, “Ruth looked over to the heckling Cubs bench and said, “Let him put this one over and I’ll knock it over the wall out there.”

foxx32

The A’s eventually took the Tigers 10-5 on that Tuesday in June of 1932. The win would put the second place A’s 2.5 games up on the third place Tigers, but no one was catching the Yankees that year.

Ray Hayworth had an interesting footnote to his years as a Tiger – in his rookie season he played alongside Ty Cobb in his final campaign. This bit of serendipity, and his eventual longevity, would result in an honor that he could not possibly have envisioned happening way back in 1932 – he was chosen to throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the final game at Tiger Stadium, on September 27, 1999, at 95 years of age, in effect representing virtually an entire century of Tigers baseball.

rayhayworth2

A Moment In Time – 7/5/37

5863547576_01f3412a56_oTurning back the clock to National League baseball in Boston, Monday, July 5, 1937, Braves Field (or the Bee Hive). NY Giants the visitors, second game of a doubleheader, bottom of the 7th inning, and Boston Bee RF Gene Moore, decked out in yellow (cap, “B” on chest and socks), is congratulated by 2B Tony Cuccinello after blasting a 2-run HR off the first pitch from Giant reliever Hal Schumacher (who just entered the game) as C Harry Danning looks on. All would have career highs and lows, and all would be affected by a war, both positively and negatively, that didn’t really seem possible in 1937.

The NL Boston franchise was a little over a year into the “Bees” experiment (1936-1940), done to shake things up a bit for the underachieving franchise. Personally, I think it would have been interesting for this moniker to follow the club through their various relocations – Milwaukee Bees, even the Atlanta Bees – how about a queen bee buzzing around instead of Chief Noc-A-Homa? Food for thought. Anyway…

6109734053_e935a59d94_z

Moore in 1937

In 1937, Gene Moore himself had plenty to smile about, it seems. Interesting moniker aside, the Bees gave Gene Moore the chance he was hoping for. After slogging along as either a late season callup or early season failed experiment with the Reds and Cardinals for a few years, he played a full season for Boston upon his arrival in 1936, hitting .290 in 151 games. He would then go on to have his best season in 1937 as the Bees’ starting RF, along with the best numbers of his career overall (16 Hr, 70 RBI, .283 Avg), and making his only All Star appearance, which in fact would be right after the game above, the last before the break.

At the All-Star Game on Wednesday, July 7 at Griffith Stadium, he would have the only All-Star AB of his career, pinch-hitting for the pitcher in the 8th inning, hitting into a force play as the third out and quickly retreating back to the dugout, and as it would turn out, largely back into the ranks of the average ballplayer.

moorebrowns

Moore with the 1944 Browns

The 1938 campaign started well enough, but a severe leg injury in Cincinnati in July ended his season, and he was traded to Brooklyn in the offseason. 1939 was worse, as he started the season 0-for-23, and didn’t get over .200 until June and ended up at .225, with only 3 HRs. With his power now largely gone and largely a platoon player, he was traded back to Boston, then to Washington, and finally to the lowly Browns, where he would have one more shining moment – in a war-depleted league he would be a key contributor to their surprising pennant-winning drive in 1944, and was their starting RF in the 1944 World Series. While he hit well in the first 3 games, he went 0-for-10 in the last 3, as the Browns dropped those 3 to lose the Series to the Cardinals in 6 games. He had another decent year in 1945, but after the season, with the war finally ended and young able-bodied ballplayers returning from overseas, he retired at the age of 35, never to return to baseball in any capacity. The war had giveth, and the war had taken away.

Inaugural All-Star Cuccinello in 1933

Tony Cuccinello would have a better taste of stardom. Discovered playing semi-pro ball in NYC, with both defensive and offensive prowess, he was signed to a minor league contract as a teenager, and once he caught the eye of Branch Rickey (then with the Cardinals), he quickly rose through the ranks, and the Reds eventually purchased him for the 1930 campaign. He would have superb years in 1930 and 1931, batting .312 and .315, and set the Reds 2B mark with 93 RBIs in 1931, not broken until Joe Morgan over 40 years later. After holding out for a better contract, he was shipped to Brooklyn in 1932, and although he dropped to .285, had another strong year with 77 RBIs , playing every Dodgers game that year at second base. For his efforts he was selected to the very first NL squad for the inaugural All-Star Game at Comiskey Park in 1933, and Cuccinello just made it in, batting for Carl Hubbell with 2 outs in the top of the 9th and striking out to end it, the AL taking it 4-2. And like Moore, he would exit stage right from the bright spotlight for a time.

Cuccinello in 1939

He had more fine years for Brooklyn, but after a career low 102 games in 1935, was shipped off to Boston, where he was again an everyday 2B, and he responded with a .308 season with 86 RBIs, helping the then Braves to rebound from their historically dismal .248 mark in 1935. He would continue to start at 2B for Boston throughout the late ’30’s, helping Boston to their only winning season in the decade (1937, above), and making one last trip to the All-Star game at Crosley Field in 1938; unfortunately, this time, he did not make an appearance.

Unfortunately, also like Moore, the injury bug would hit, this time in 1939, a runner’s slide ruining his knee in the middle of another fine season. After the knee was slow to heal in 1940, he was shipped to the Giants, and frustrated, retired to manage the IL Jersey City Giants in 1941. But he would reach for the stars one more time as well, and again, WWII’s depletion of able ballplayers would again play a part.

Tony_Cuccinello_(1945_White_Sox)_2

Cuccinello in 1945

Set to manage Jersey City again in 1942, Casey Stengel, now with the Braves, came calling for Tony as a player/coach. He was used primarily as a coach and pinch-hitter through mid-1943, when he was released to sign with the White Sox desperately short of players in the war years. A reserve infielder for Chicago, he was to retire after 1944, but the Southsiders asked him to re-up for one more season.

And what a season – Cuccinello said he felt the best he had in years, and exploded out of the gate, going 8-for-21 in April, eventually batting over .400 in May. While at age 37, he couldn’t keep up that torrid pace, and couldn’t play every day, he kept his league-leading average throughout the year, along the way earning himself one final All-Star selection (albeit through the AP and Sporting News), but he didn’t have a game appearance here either, as the actual 1945 game was cancelled due to wartime travel restrictions. Undaunted, he entered the final day of the season neck and neck in the batting race with Snuffy Stirnweiss of the Yankees, Tony at .308, Snuffy at .306. Alas, it was not to be, for as the rains came to wash out a White Sox doubleheader, 45battingraceStirnweiss went 3-5 in the Bronx against the Red Sox to win what remains the closest batting race in MLB history, .30854 to .30845, helped in no small part to the Yanks’ official scorer, who reversed an error call after the game had ended, and after the White Sox’s double rainout was confirmed.

But, as with Moore, with young men returning from war to enter the baseball ranks, the near-batting champ was no longer needed, and Cuccinello retired after the season. He did go on to be a long-time coach in the majors, achieving more success than that as a player, with AL pennants in Cleveland in 1954, Chicago in 1959, and the ultimate prize, a World Series ring as a Detroit in 1968, whereupon he retired for good.

Danning in the 1930’s

Harry Danning had the brightest of all the careers here – primarily due to his stellar defense, the catcher spent his entire career with the Giants, first as a reserve catcher (above) behind Gus Mancuso (since coming up for good in 1933), but when the All-Star catcher broke his finger just a few days after the All-Star break in 1937 (about a week after the photo above), Danning impressed so much that the two shared catching duties for the rest of the season, as the Giants won their second pennant in a row. Danning would also replace Mancuso (who had gone hitless in the first two games) in the 1937 World Series, and played the rest of the way, batting .250 with 2 RBIs, although the Giants again fell to the Yankees. Danning then moved to a full time role in 1938, and would become a legitimate All-Star in his own right, batting over .300 from 1938-1940, was even in the Top 10 in MVP voting in 1939 and 1940, and was elected to the NL All-Star roster for 4 years running, although his power numbers slipped precipitously in 1941. Although his average improved, his power continued to decline in 1942, although he was still the Giants’ primary catcher at 30.

Danning with Red Ruffing and the 6th Ferrying Group in 1944

With 1943, Danning put aside his Giant cleats and joined the Army to help in the war effort. As luck would have it, he was stationed in Long Beach, CA, as part of the Army Air Force 6th Ferrying Group, and would continue to play baseball during the war. However, whether he would be playing for New York or Uncle Sam, his knees started to wear from years of catching; he was advised to retire from playing baseball at all in spring 1945, and would not return to the Giants or dreams of any future glory.

But way back in 1937, no one was thinking of war on a sunny July day in Boston. Moore’s clout would put the Bees up 8-6, the eventual final score. Boston would take that nightcap to split the day, and push the Giants 2 games back of the Cubs. Boston would finish at a respectable .520, their best record as Bees, and best season until the mid-1940’s, but the Giants and Danning would take the aforementioned pennant that year, the only crown for all three.

And all three had their moments in the sun, some sunnier than others, and all had lives greatly affected and altered by World War II, just like in all other walks of life in America. And all, in various ways, did contribute to the war effort, albeit on the “front lines” at home.

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.

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.

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.