A Moment in Time – 8/23/36

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Sunday, August 23, 1936, Comiskey Park, Chicago, and in one of the most beautiful Negro League photos you’ll see, the “East” roster poses for photos prior to the 4th Annual East-West All-Star Game.

Running parallel to the Major League’s midsummer classic but typically held later in the season, it was initiated in 1933 and was primarily a Comiskey Park event for much of its 30-year existence, hosting the games from 1933-1945 (with rookie KC Monarch Jackie Robinson playing in the 1945 contest), 1947-1957, and 1959-1960 (excepting second games added in 1939, 1942, and 1948, and two games at other venues in 1946, the only games at Yankee Stadium in 1958 and 1961, and the final game at Municipal Stadium at Kansas City in 1962).

Voting was done through newspaper balloting, tallied by two major African-American papers of the day, the Chicago Defender and the Pittsburgh Courier. As some teams were independent, votes were counted by geographic location and not by league, hence the “East-West” game.

 

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Three of the greatest Negro League players in history, on the same All-Star team in 1936: Satchel Paige, top left, Josh Gibson, top right, Cool Papa Bell, lower left

“East” luminaries pictured include a young (27 year old) Satchel Paige, an even younger (24 year old) Josh Gibson, and Cool Papa Bell. Manager and Negro Leagues legend Oscar Charleston (see above) is kneeling far left (1st in second row).

Attendance was 26,400. Only four teams were represented, the Pittsburgh Crawfords and Washington Elite Giants for the East, and the Kansas City Monarchs and Chicago American Giants for the West. The top vote getter for both teams was Paige, with 18,275 votes, over 7,000 more than anyone else.

It was a laugher for the East, 10-2, paced by Bell (3 for 3) and Gibson (2 for 3). Paige pitched the last 3 innings to close it out, only allowing an unearned run.

Cover and East lineup from the scorecard are below.

 

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Interesting articles from the Pittsburgh Courier, August 29, 1936, only published on Saturdays at that time (as always, click on photo to see a larger more readable version), including a bit of editorializing from the City Editor’s desk, pleading the case of their constituents: “There will eventually be “color” in the major leagues, and that color will be black!”. He was right, just a little over a decade away.

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A Moment in Time – 4/12/32

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The Polo Grounds, New York – Tuesday, April 12, 1932

 

Tuesday, April 12, 1932, the season opener with the Giants hosting Philadelphia, top of the 3rd inning and the count is 2-2 on the Phillies’ Kiddo Davis, in against New York’s Hi Bell. The Giants have the infield in with men on second and third, but the horse was already out of the barn, as it was already 7-1 Phillies at this point, lefty Bill Walker getting socked for 7 runs and knocked out after retiring no one in the 2nd inning. Bell came in to stem the tide, but here in the third Davis would knock in another run on a sac fly and another run would cross to make in 9-1 Phils as they cruised to victory, 13-5, with help from 5 Giant errors.

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Bill Walker

Walker’s terrible start after leading the NL in ERA in 1931 (2.26) was a precursor for the 1932 campaign, as he had the worst season of his career, going 8-12 with a 4.14 ERA. Philadelphia’s Phil Collins would go all the way for the victory and pace the visitors’ 17-hit attack with a 4-4 day at the plate.

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John McGraw

After finished second in 1931, the Giants never had a winning record in 1932, and longtime manager John McGraw retired on June 1, succeeded by Bill Terry, and would finish 72-82, tied for 6th place. McGraw would return to manage the NL in the first All-Star Game in 1933, while Terry reversed the fortunes of the Giants, leading them to the 1933 pennant.

In 1932, the Phillies, under Burt Shotton, would finish with a winning record at 78-76, in 4th place, 12 games behind the Cubs, their first winning season in 15 years. It was short-lived, as their next winning season would not be until 1949.

 

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Credit/info on reverse of original photo

 

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NY Times (partial) coverage of the day

 

A Moment in Time – 5/31/69

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Shea Stadium, Saturday, May 31, 1969

 

Saturday, May 31, 1969, Shea Stadium, NY, and the Mets are hosting the San Francisco Giants for a weekend set. The Mets enter the game 20-23, in 4th place, already 9 games behind the high-flying Chicago Cubs in the newly christened NL East – 1969 just may be the Northsiders year!

Gary Gentry (3-4) takes the hill against Gaylord Perry (7-4) with 32,178 on hand. Seaver won the opener the night before, with the Mets hoping to make hay on this 8-game homestand before a west coast road trip.

In fact, this homestand was the beginning of the turnaround for the 1969 Mets – despite a 2 run HR from Willie McCovey (283rd career) in the 4th (in the midst of his MVP season), they’d win this game 4-2, led by Ed Charles, who knocked in all 4 runs, including a 3 run HR. Gentry scattered 5 hits through 7 and Tug McGraw pitched the last 2 innings with 4Ks for his first (!) save of the season.

After dropping the first game, the Mets would go on to have a 7-1 homestand, and carry the momentum out to the west coast, winning 11 in a row to move to 29-23. Although only picking up 2 games on the red-hot Cubs (now being 7 back), the tide had turned and they’d hang with the Cubs all summer, setting up their September showdown.

Click on each photo to link to much larger versions!

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A Moment In Time – 7/27/58

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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?

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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1958 Topps card

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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.

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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.”

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A Moment In Time – 5/20/69

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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.

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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.

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A Moment In Time – 6/14/32

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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.”

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.