SABR

Sam Dodge

This article was written by Bill Nowlin.

Right-handed pitcher Sam Dodge (0-0 in his career) appeared for the Boston Red Sox in 1921 and 1922, but never took part in anything but losing efforts. The Red Sox themselves didn’t do too well in those years, finishing fifth in 1921 (23½ games out of first) and dead last in 1922. 

The “crack pitcher” was purchased from Flint of the Michigan-Ontario League on August 31, 1921. It was reported that the purchase price was the highest ever paid for someone from that league.[1] Dodge’s debut came at Fenway Park in the second game of a September 24 doubleheader against the St. Louis Browns. He threw the ninth inning, but there was little suspense: The Browns held a 10-0 lead after eight. He gave up a walk and a hit, and one run, and it was 11-0 Browns; that’s the way it stood after nine.

The Red Sox had won the first game, 2-1, with Herb Pennock beating Dixie Davis, who lost the game with one out in the bottom of the ninth. Davis was apparently just getting warmed up; he pitched the second game, too, a six-hit shutout with nary a walk. Sad Sam Jones (22-16) took the loss in the second game. The two games together took three hours and eight minutes.

There were eight games remaining on the schedule, but Red Sox manager Hugh Duffy didn’t use Dodge again that year.

Dodge didn’t make it past April in 1922. Duffy was his manager once more, and he used Dodge every other day – April 24, 26, and 28, the first two against Washington at Griffith Stadium and the last game against the Yankees at the Polo Grounds. None of them were close games – 11-3, 15-6, and 10-3. In the four games Dodge appeared in, the Red Sox pitchers surrendered 47 runs.

Dodge was the last of four pitchers in the April 24 game, throwing the final two innings without giving up a run despite giving up three hits and a base on balls. Dodge pitched the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings in the April 26 game, allowing three runs in the three innings, but none of them were earned runs. And it was already a lost cause, Boston behind 11-3 before he came in. Two days later, in New York, it was 7-2 when Dodge came in to throw the bottom of the eighth. This time he was hit for three earned runs in the inning. But starter Benn Karr got the loss.

Dodge had come originally from Neath, Pennsylvania, a small rural community about 30 miles southwest of Binghamton, New York. He was born in Neath on December 19, 1899. His father, Frank, was a farmer in Warren Township, Bradford County. Ten years later Frank was working as a salesman, selling coal on a retail basis. Sam had a sister, Cecil (presumably Cecile). Sam’s mother worked in a local shoe factory.

The Saginaw Aces were the first team to give Dodge a job. He worked in the Class B Michigan-Ontario League in 1920, at the age of 20, and threw 175 innings, finishing the season 7-15 with a 4.11 earned-run average – Saginaw was a last-place team that year. Dodge was signed to Saginaw in 1921, but when Saginaw cut three of its six pitchers in early June, Dodge was promptly picked up by the Flint Vehicles (his official record shows him as “assigned by Saginaw to Flint”), and then to Boston at the end of August. Flint finished last in 1921; Dodge at least won half his games – he was 14-14 with a 3.97 ERA in 222 innings. And he’d actually pitched against the Red Sox before he pitched for them. Boston played an exhibition game in Flint on August 29, 1921, winning 12-7. Dodge was the second of the two pitchers Boston faced.

After his April 28, 1922, appearance with Boston, Dodge stuck with the ballclub for a few weeks, until he was sold to the Springfield Ponies (Eastern League) in a straight cash deal on May 13. The Red Sox retained an option to purchase him back again, should they want to. The Springfield Union summed up the Sox’ thinking: “Dodge showed considerable progress while south with the Sox this spring and those who watched him in action thought he would stick. Hugh Duffy, the Boston manager, thinks highly of Dodge but realized that the youngster will get more knowledge working every day than sitting on the bench with the Red Sox.”[2] The same day’s Springfield Republican quoted team management as denying there was any option – “no strings of any kind attached.” The paper agreed that Duffy was bullish on Dodge, but felt he was “too young for major-league work.”[3]

Dodge got in 162 innings of work and was 6-9 with the Ponies, with a 4.22 ERA. At bat, he hit .203, the exact same average he had with Saginaw in 1920. The Boston Globe told readers that he had “taken on a new lease of pitching life” but that proved to be short-lived optimism.[4] It wasn’t an easy tenure for either pitcher or team.

Just a week after the Globe story, the Springfield Union reported on August 18 that Dodge had been indefinitely suspended by the team after he “showed up for the Pittsfield-Springfield game yesterday in no condition to play.” Springfield skipper John Hummel ordered him off the field. It was reportedly Dodge’s second offense. An earlier suspension had been in effect, but he was then reinstated. The Union said, “The Pony management handed over a neat sum for Dodge to the Red Sox last May but he has failed to show much since coming here.”[5] About a week later Hummel was said to be considering Dodge’s pleas for reinstatement, perhaps to back down from his decision to give him the rest of the season “to think over his departure from training rules.”[6] Those familiar with the shorthand of the day understand that Dodge had most likely shown up drunk or hung over once too often.

On August 26 Sam was reinstated, “now reported to be in the best of condition and ready to do his part. … Dodge can pitch when he cares to, and he has told Manager Hummel that he will care to all the time from now on.” One of his last efforts was an attempt at an “iron man” stunt on September 22, pitching both halves of a doubleheader in Pittsfield. He beat the Hillies 11-3 in the first game, a six-hitter, but lasted only 6 1/3 innings in the second game, losing 6-1. Former Red Sox manager Patsy Donovan took the helm for Springfield in 1923; Dodge trained into April with Springfield but was assigned to Grand Rapids before appearing for the Ponies. For one reason or another, he never pitched for Grand Rapids, either, and was released outright near the end of May. He signed on with the Hamilton Tigers, also in the Michigan-Ontario League. He appeared in eight games, going 0-2 with an ERA of 11.74 and having been hammered for 36 runs (30 earned) in 22 innings. Understandably, Dodge’s future was seen as far from bright.

What happened to Sam Dodge from this time forward? That’s a good question. He died of heart disease on April 5, 1966, in Utica, New York. His obituary in the Utica Observer-Dispatch said that he’d come to Utica around 1961 (two years after he had lost his wife, Alta LaPerr of Neath, Pennsylvania). Dodge worked for the Earl Fletcher Co. of Tupper Lake. He was survived by his daughter, Shirley Dodge of Detroit.[7]

Sources

In addition to the sources noted in this biography, the author also accessed Dodge’s player file from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the online SABR Encyclopedia, Retrosheet.org, and Baseball-Reference.com, and the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball.






[1] Boston Globe, September 1, 1921


[2]  Springfield Union, May 14, 1922


[3] Springfield Republican, May 14, 1922


[4] Boston Globe, August 11, 1922


[5] Springfield Union, August 18, 1922


[6] Springfield Union, August 26, 1922 


[7] Utica Observer-Dispatch, April 6, 1966
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