Rare shot of Willie Mays, spring training, 1950’s. There is nothing I can add to this photo, just enjoy it.
Yet another great Hy Peskin shot, check out his site and buy a classic photo or two:
Rare shot of Willie Mays, spring training, 1950’s. There is nothing I can add to this photo, just enjoy it.
Yet another great Hy Peskin shot, check out his site and buy a classic photo or two:
Turning 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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, Stirnweiss 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.
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.
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.
Here’s my third YouTube upload of a classic radio broadcast – April 1950, Dodgers vs Giants, Ebbets Field, Red Barber, can’t get any better than that.
From the YT page details:
Red Barber in his Dodgers prime! Original full radio broadcast, and the first Dodgers game carried on a national radio network, Ebbets Field, Brooklyn, Saturday, April 22, 1950, against their arch-rivals, the New York Giants, and the first weekend of the young season. Dodgers went in 3-1, the Giants 0-4. Both would turn out to have fine seasons, but fall short of the Whiz Kid Phillies for the ’50 pennant. The Ol’ Redhead himself calls the first 3 and last 3 innings, and Connie Desmond the middle 3. Gil Hodges hit a solo HR in the 2nd, Giants P Jack Kramer a 2-run shot in the 4th, and Hank Thompson a solo shot in the 7th. And there’s endless ad reads for the brand new Post Sugar Crisp cereal! Ebbets announcer Tex Rickards can be heard at the beginning and end of the game (each batter had yet to be announced in ballparks), and Gladys Gooding on the Ebbets Field organ. So as Red says, “join us now for another Brooklyn ball game” – a classic time capsule of a Dodgers/Giants showdown in Flatbush, enjoy!
NY 2 0 0 – 3 0 0 – 1 0 0 – 6 8 2
BRO 0 1 0 – 0 4 1 – 0 1 x – 7 7 0
Retrosheet Box Score and Play-by-Play: http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1950/B04220BRO1950.htm
Tuesday, July 12, 1955, the 22nd All-Star Game, County Stadium, Milwaukee. Top of the 7th inning, AL up 5-0, one on, two out, and Willie Mays leaps at the fence to steal a home run away from Ted Williams, which would’ve made the score 7-0. In the NY Times: “…Williams stroked a powerful smash to right center. But Willie gave chase and just as the ball appeared to clear the wire railing, the Say Hey Kid leaped up to snare the ball in his glove.”
As it was an All-Star Game, there were many press photographers present, and as shown here, there were photos taken from all angles of this amazing catch, since no doubt there were many cameras already trained on Mays. Willie was flying high in 1955, as the reigning NL MVP, batting champ, and with the other New York Giants, World Series Champions from 1954. Unfortunately, the Gold Glove award was not originated until 1957, but it’s a sure bet that Mays would have snagged a few in the early ’50’s, as he in fact won 12 straight NL OF GG’s right from the award’s inception until 1969. Also, in the ’50’s and ’60’s, you could’ve almost renamed the ASG “Willie Mays Day” as he participated in the game in every season of his career, except his rookie season (in which he was Rookie Of The Year!).
The American League could’ve used that clout by Williams; after Mays caught the last out in the top of the 7th, above, he trotted in and led off the bottom of the inning with a single, eventually coming around to score as the NL tallied 2 in the 7th, and then for good measure, Willie also singled and scored during a rally in the 8th as the National League scored 3 more to tie it. Mays did strike out looking with two on to end the 9th, however, sending the game into extras. Would the Say Hey Kid have one more magical moment this day? Perhaps, but Stan Musial had other ideas, hitting a game-winning home run in the bottom of the 12th inning to give the NL a 6-5 victory – with Mays on deck.
9/27/51, Braves Field, Boston, bottom of the 8th inning: Boston Brave Bob Addis slides into Roy Campanella as umpire Frank Dascoli looks on. Addis was called safe, sparking a furor amongst Campanella and the Dodgers.
In the late afternoon of Thursday, September 27, 1951, at old Braves Field in Boston, before only 2,086 hearty souls, occurred a controversial call on a play at home during the Dodgers/Braves contest that profoundly altered the NL pennant race with only mere days to go in the season, with every game of the utmost importance, and ultimately resulted in one of the most storied moments in baseball history.
As most baseball aficionados are aware, the 1951 National League campaign is famous for the New York Giants’ improbable rise from 13 1/2 games behind on August 11 to then win 16 in a row and go 37-7 the rest of the way overall (an .841 clip) to tie the Brooklyn Dodgers at the end of the regular season, forcing a 3-game playoff. It has since been revealed that much of the Giants’ success was due to the fact that they were likely stealing signs from mid-season on, through an elaborate system from clubhouse to bullpen to batter in the old Polo Grounds (which doesn’t explain their 17-4 road record during that stretch), but that’s a story for another blog post or two.
The Dodgers entered the contest with only a one game lead over the Giants, and a win would bump it to 1.5 games going into the final weekend – so from there the Dodgers would have to lose “out” to be denied a chance at the pennant. But the hometown Braves had other ideas, and were tied 3-3 going into the bottom of the 8th inning.
Preacher Roe, a winner of 10 straight going into the game, began to tire, and the first two Braves reached with singles. With men on first and third and none out and the Brooklyn infield in, “Specs” Torgeson grounded one sharply to Jackie Robinson at 2nd, who fired a strike to Campanella to cut off the go-ahead run. Then, according to the Times account:
“As Dascoli spread his arms in the safe sign, Campy jumped up and down in violent protest and slammed his glove on the ground. Dascoli instantly thumbed the catcher out, then the dispute grew quickly.”
“Manager Chuck Dressen, his aides, Roe and many other players swarmed around Dascoli in protest, and Coach Cookie Lavagetto also got the heave-ho.”
Thankfully, LIFE photographer George Silk happened to be at Braves Field that day doing a piece on the Dodgers, and captured the rhubarb (click on photos for larger images):
But the fun wasn’t over yet – apparently the Dodger bench continued to express their displeasure with the call. “When the game was resumed…with Cooper at bat, Dascoli suddenly wheeled and ordered the Brooklyn bench cleared. Jock Conlon, second base arbiter, went to the bench and herded the players out. The boys took their time, many of them pausing en route to pay their compliments to Dascoli, resulting in the whimsical scene below.
Unfortunately for the Brooks, they only had one more at-bat to stave off a bitter 4-3 defeat. As captured by LIFE, the ruckus had not calmed down in the 9th – the Dodger players in the field that were not ejected and now populated the half empty bench still made their voices heard:
Even Dodger rooters in enemy territory had plenty of words for the men in blue:
The ejection of Campanella, with his .326/32/107 numbers, turned out to be particularly damaging in the last frame as Pee Wee Reese led off the 9th with a double, but instead of Campy coming to bat with Reese having advanced to 3rd with one out, Wayne Terwilliger grounded to 3rd as Reese held, then Andy Pafko struck out to end it.
Tempers were still high after the game, with the Dodgers continuing to complain as they descended down the runways, and several even kicked and damaged a door leading to the umpire’s room. Said Dodger manager Chuck Dressen: “Dascoli is just incompetent.” Campanella himself took the high road – “I didn’t call him anything. I never called an umpire names in my life. I just asked him how he could call Addis safe when I had the plate blocked – and he just threw me out of the game”. What story Campy told the same boys over drinks after their articles were already sent to press is lost to history, however.
For their trouble, NL President Ford Frick fined Campanella and Robinson $100 each, and Roe $50, but none were suspended. And no one ever found out who splintered the umpire’s door, even though the Boston press thought Jackie did it. Said an unnamed Dodger, “I don’t know who damaged the umpire’s door, but quite a few of our boys either kicked or pounded it on their way to our dressing room.” Even Giants manager Leo Durocher chimed in, saying Robinson should be suspended if he kicked the door, since his catcher, Wes Westrum, was recently suspended 3 days for pushing an umpire, and also knowing full well a 3-game playoff with Jackie’s Dodgers was very likely.
After the smoke cleared, the controversial loss allowed the idle Giants to move to within only 1/2 game of the Dodgers heading into the last weekend of the season. The Dodgers then went to Shibe Park and won 2 out of 3 from the Phillies, but the Giants came to Braves Field after the Dodgers left, and (oddly enough after an additional off-day on Friday) won their last two games of the season there, setting up the 3-game playoff, and the legendary heroics of one Bobby Thomson in the third and final playoff game on October 3rd.
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.
Third in the series, the Polo Grounds, home of the New York Giants from 1911-1957, the Yankees from 1913-1922, and the Mets in 1962 and 1963. It is one of the most classic of all ballparks, but Mr. Burns isn’t pleased with the dimensions at all. Also, Mel Ott’s HOF career has a lot to do with the amount of “Chinese” (!) home runs he hit there. Also, “there has never been a game of polo at the Polo Grounds”.