In 1928, right-hander Ed Carroll's six losses did more to win him a major-league berth than the six games he won that same year. He went on to an undefeated rookie year, pitching for a last-place team.
Edgar Fleischer Carroll came from Baltimore, where he was born on July 27, 1907, the son of William and Anna Fleischer Carroll. William was a machinist for the railroad who'd been raised in Washington, DC. He and Anna lived with her parents, both German immigrants. Frederick Fleischer was a retail merchant dealing in coal and wood. By the time Ed entered his teenage years, his father had been promoted to foreman on the railroad.
Ed went to public schools for his first eight years and then spent four years at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute. Right after high school he was signed in 1927 by Jack Dunn of the Baltimore Orioles, the same Dunn who had first signed Babe Ruth. He was placed with the Salisbury Indians in the Class-D Eastern Shore League, and worked in five games with a record of 0-2. He was traded to the Cambridge, Maryland, team (also in the Eastern Shore League) but the league disbanded in July and he was without a job. That is, until Jiggs Donahue recommended him to the Boston Red Sox. They signed him and sent him to Haverhill in the Class-B Eastern League. He lost his first game, 4-3, in 10 innings on July 28. Then he won six in a row, but the games that reportedly impressed Red Sox manager Bill Carrigan and company were the following:
- A two-hitter against Portland that he lost, 1-0.
- A 2-0 loss against Salem.
- A 3-2 loss against Salem.
- A 4-3 loss to Portland in which all four runs scored came without a ball being hit out of the infield.
- A September 8 loss to Attleboro in which Carroll held the opposition scoreless through 14 innings on three hits, only to lose it in the 15th on a walk and a triple.
"The final scores didn’t interest the Sox bosses," one writer said. "It was the fact that Carroll could stand up under fire in those extra-inning battles – and the consistency he showed in his hurling through the 12 games."1
Carroll was also of perhaps imposing stature, large for the day at 6-feet-3 and 185 pounds. He was considered so good-looking that Burt Whitman of the Boston Herald wrote that he had literally turned down chances to go into the movies.2
Carroll signed his contract in February and the Red Sox took him to spring training in Bradenton, Florida. This was the perennially last-place Red Sox of the 1920s. They needed all the help they could get. It was no cinch, but he did make the team. Both he and Ed Durham impressed, and the Boston Globe's Melville Webb described them as "two youngsters who are worthy of careful development."3 In other words, maybe not fully ready yet, but part of what the article's headline proclaimed the "most promising team in years." We can note here that the 1929 Red Sox finished in last place once again.
Carroll wrote out his memory of his debut: "My first appearance as a pitcher in the Amer. League brought me face to face with Babe Ruth & the bases were loaded & nobody out. I think I retired the side without a run."4
It was a nice notion to hold onto, but the historic record differs from Carroll’s memory. He had an inauspicious debut, on May 1 at Fenway Park against the visiting Philadelphia Athletics. The A's held a 19-2 lead after six innings, having hammered starter Milt Gaston for eight runs in 1⅓, then Ed Durham for six more in 3⅔ innings. Bill Bayne pitched one inning and gave up five more. All 19 runs were earned. Carroll was asked to mop up. He threw a scoreless seventh, but then was tagged for two runs in the eighth (on a Jimmie Foxx home run) and three more in the ninth. It was 24-6 when all was said and done. Carroll was 0-for-1 at the plate, a strikeout, and wound up with a 15.00 earned run average.
Carroll relieved in another 18 games and brought his ERA down to 6.26, and then was given the chance to start. It was September 17 at home against the visiting Chicago White Sox. He was still without either a win or a loss, and in his 13 plate appearances had yet to get a base hit. He was just 21 years old.
In the game, Carroll "pitched almost perfect ball for half of the game" giving up just one base hit, in the fifth.5 He gave up a run in the sixth. Come the eighth inning, the White Sox started to hit Carroll and he apparently determined to blow the ball past them rather than pitch more carefully. Carrigan asked Milt Gaston to relieve Carroll after the first out of the seventh, with Ed charged with three more runs. Fortunately, this was a game in which the Red Sox had already scored six times and Carroll got credit for a 6-4 victory. He also collected his first base hit, and he scored a run. The Boston Globe wrote he had "showed up like a million dollars for seven innings" but "tired perceptibly in the eighth."6
Five days later, Carroll got another start, against the Cleveland Indians. He held them to just one run through six innings but again seemed to run out of steam. He walked the first two batters in the top of the seventh. He was assessed another run, unearned, when one of the runners inherited by reliever Danny MacFayden scored after shortstop Hal Rhyne's throwing error. For Carroll, it was a better performance than his first start; he'd just weakened at the end. The Red Sox tied the game in the bottom of the ninth, but lost in the 10th.
There were three more relief stints for Carroll, and he finished the season having thrown 67⅓ innings in 24 games, with a 5.61 ERA and the undefeated record of 1-0. He never got another hit, so wound up with a batting average of .063. He had two RBIs. He handled 19 fielding chances without an error.
The 1930 the Red Sox had a new manager in Heinie Wagner. Carroll trained with the team in Pensacola and traveled north with the Red Sox. After the first week of May, not having appeared in a game, he was optioned to the Newark Bears.7 He was 0-1 with Newark, but within days was recalled to Boston. Again, he didn't play, and was optioned to Pittsfield at the end of June.8 On July 1, however, the Pittsfield club disbanded and Carroll was sent to Williamsport in the New York/Penn League.9 He does not, however, show up in Williamsport team statistics.
Carroll was still on a Red Sox contract, but when Galveston prepared to re-enter the Texas League in 1931 after an absence of six years, Boston sold his contract to Galveston.10 He had a disappointing season, with a 2-12 record, though the Buccaneers did finish 52 games out of first place (57-104). It looks as though he had several hard-luck outings, however. SABR's Minor League Database shows him with a 2.38 earned-run average. He was 15-16 in 1932.
On February 15, 1933, Carroll was traded, conditionally, to Baltimore for first baseman Dick Goldberg. He came back to Galveston in mid-June.11 He's listed without a decision for Baltimore and 1-1 with Galveston. The July 11 Omaha World Herald reported him joining the Western League's Omaha Packers. Carroll was 4-6 with the Packers.
It was his last year in the game.
Carroll never married. After baseball, he worked for a time as a milkman for the Western Maryland Dairy and then took a position as a payroll clerk working in data processing on a computer for Bethlehem Steel Corp., retiring after working 35 years at their facility. At the age of 77, he developed metastatic carcinoma and finally suffered a cardiopulmonary arrest, dying at the Franklin Square Hospital in Rossville, Maryland, on October 13, 1984.
In addition to the sources noted in this biography, the author also accessed Carroll's player file and player questionnaire from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Retrosheet.org, Baseball-Reference.com, and the SABR Minor Leagues Database, accessed online at Baseball-Reference.com.
1 Unidentified newspaper clipping found in Carroll's Hall of Fame player file.
2 Boston Herald, September 18, 1929.
3 Boston Globe, April 14, 1929.
4 Handwritten notation in Carroll’s Hall of Fame player file.
5 Boston Herald, September 18, 1929.
6 Boston Globe, September 18, 1929.
7 Christian Science Monitor, May 9, 1930.
8 Boston Globe, June 26, 1930.
9 Hartford Courant, July 2, 1930.
10 Dallas Morning News, January 18, 1931.
11 Dallas Morning News, June 13, 1933.