Chris Haughey (BASEBALL-REFERENCE.COM)

Chris Haughey

This article was written by Bill Nowlin

Chris Haughey (BASEBALL-REFERENCE.COM)On his 18th birthday, righty Chris Haughey appeared in his only major-league game, pitching for the Brooklyn Dodgers on October 3, 1943. He’s the only player in big-league history whose lone appearance came on his birthday.1 It was a Sunday afternoon game in Cincinnati, the last game of the season. The Reds finished in second place and the Dodgers in third, but with enough distance in the standings that the game meant nothing in regards to the final rankings of the clubs. It meant a lot, though, to a teenager living out a dream.

It was not happenstance that Haughey’s big opportunity came on his birthday. Dodgers manager Leo Durocher kept a promise he’d made to Chris’s mother to let him pitch in one game. He waited until the last game of the season, when third place had been clinched, and which happened to be Chris’s birthday.

Christopher Francis Haughey, Jr., known as “Buddy,” was born on October 3, 1925, in Astoria (Queens), New York. Both his parents were Pennsylvania natives; his father, Christopher Sr., was an engineer in a steel works. His mother Helen had begun to raise three children — Helen, Florence, and Chris — at the time of the 1930 census.2 The family housed two lodgers as well, Charles and Anthony Carney; both were helpers in the steel works.

Chris’s father had been a catcher in his younger days, and he credited his father as the person to whom he owed the most in his own baseball career.3 “My dad. He wasn’t in any league, but he used to catch me every night. He was the one who really developed me. He was an operating engineer. He was one of the best in the country. He put up a lot of the bridges like the Whitestone Bridge.”4

Chris Jr. clearly had talent as a young pitcher, at one point pitching three consecutive no-hitters in the North Queens CYO league “for a church team,” Sacred Heart Parish of Bayside, Long Island.5 One newspaper later indicated that some felt he had benefited from “friendly scorekeeping,” but the sportswriter reporting this discounted the griping, noting the final result.6 Haughey had been raised in Catholic schools, attending St. Agnes Academy of College Point for high school. He apparently also pitched a pair of one-hitters.

Though still a teenager, he could throw in the 90s, and threw batting practice to the Dodgers, Yankees, and Senators. “Pittsburgh wanted to sign me when I was just a junior,” Haughey told reporter Scott Wong in 2005. “But my parents told them to get lost until I finished high school.”7

Wong added, “Midway through the 1943 season, Haughey agreed to sign with the Dodgers. His contract was worth about $5,000 a year.” The day after he signed, though, he received his induction notice from the United States Army.8 Joe Labate is credited as the signing scout.9

“I’ll pitch him in at least one game before the season ends,” manager Durocher declared in early September.10 New York Times reporter Roscoe McGowen later revealed Durocher’s promise to Haughey’s mother that the young man would get into a big-league game.11

Whit Wyatt was the Dodgers’ scheduled starting pitcher in the season’s finale at Crosley Field on October 3, 1943. Reds manager Bill McKechnie started Johnny Vander Meer. Wyatt pitched a 1-2-3 first inning, and the news then arrived that the Phillies had beaten the Pirates in Pittsburgh. Thus, Brooklyn had clinched third place — so Durocher felt free to call on Haughey.

The rookie came in to start the bottom of the second and pitched seven innings of relief. Al Campanis — making the last of his seven big-league appearances — took over at second base. Haughey got each of the first three Cincinnati batters he faced to ground out. In the top of the third he struck out to end the inning.

In the bottom of the third, Haughey escaped all sorts of problems. Eddie Miller, the first batter, reached on an error, and Haughey picked him off — but first baseman Howie Schultz couldn’t handle the ball, and Miller took second. After a walk to Ray Mueller, with Vander Meer at the plate, Haughey picked Miller off again, and this time he was out. Vander Meer then bunted, and Haughey fielded it but couldn’t get the out. He walked Lonny Frey to load the bases. Max Marshall grounded out to first base, and the throw went home, nabbing Mueller. Another groundout to short led to a force at second base and the inning was over.

In the fourth, Haughey walked the first batter, got a double play, walked the third batter, and then got a fly ball out.

The game was still scoreless until the bottom of the fifth. Mueller bunted his way on and Vander Meer walked. Frey’s sacrifice bunt successfully advanced both baserunners. Durocher called for an intentional walk to Marshall. With the bases loaded, Eric Tipton grounded to third baseman Gil Hodges (then just 19 and also making his major-league debut). Hodges misplayed the ball and two runs scored, both unearned. Haughey then secured a double play to end the fifth.

Hodges and Haughey both struck out in the top of the sixth, and Paul Waner grounded out. Haughey walked yet another man, but got a foul popup and a double play.

He saw his teammates claw back one run on a single by Luis Olmo, who then stole second, and scored on a double to left field by Schultz. It proved to be the only run the Dodgers scored.

Haughey issued another leadoff walk in the seventh, but the Reds didn’t get anything more. He had allowed only two base hits through his first six innings of work — both of them bunts, Vander Meer’s in the third inning and Mueller’s in the fifth.

Haughey struck out a third time in the top of the eighth. In the home half, the Reds put the game out of reach. Tipton singled to left. Lon Goldstein walked. Center fielder Dain Clay singled and drove in Tipton. Steve Mesner doubled and scored Goldstein. Miller walked. With the bases loaded, Haughey kept the ball down and Mueller grounded into a 4-6-3 double play, but Clay scored on the play. With Vander Meer at the plate, Haughey picked off his third baserunner of the game, but again there was an error on the play, this time by the catcher, Bobby Bragan. Another unearned run scored. It was 6-1, Reds.

In the top of the ninth, Brooklyn’s Bill Hart should have been out trying to steal second but was safe on the shortstop’s error. Undeterred, Hart then tried to swipe third; this time he was out. The Dodgers failed to score and the game was over. Haughey had walked 10 batters and struck out none. Three of the six runs he’d surrendered were unearned but he still lost the game.

The next day’s Brooklyn Eagle devoted little attention to the game, but said of Haughey, “The young right-hander seemed to have fair stuff, but he was woefully wild, giving up 10 bases on balls.”12 Mike Lee of the Long Island Daily Press later wrote, “[T]he young man didn’t put the Cincinnati Reds on their ears, its [sic] true, but he showed enough stuff after he relieved Whit Wyatt to convince the Dodgers that they had made a good investment.”13

The 10 bases on balls was not a major-league record in a big-league debut. Research by J.G. Preston found four others who walked more: Bruno Haas — 16 (1915), Skipper Friday — 14 (1923), Jimmy Freeman — 11 (1972), and Harry Courtney — 11 (1919). Preston found four other pitchers with 10 apiece: Roy Sanders (1917), Bill Zuber (1936), Tom Drake (1939), and Dick Weik (1948). Courtney, Freeman, Sanders, and Zuber all won their games.14

Four days later, Haughey joined Branch Rickey, Jr., and Charlie Dressen at the Central YMCA gym for an event with 100 boys, kicking off the year’s Big Brother movement. Rickey was on the board of the Y.

Haughey took up work as a torch welder in New Jersey, but on January 13, 1944, he was inducted into the United States Army from his home in Little Neck, Long Island.15

He might have taken another route, via West Point. “When I started at Fordham University, I joined the ROTC. When I was a senior in high school, I had an appointment at both West Point and Annapolis. My mother and I went up to the Point to go through the tour, but ironically when I was drafted, I was drafted as a private.” Why hadn’t he gone to the service academy? “Because I wanted to play baseball [laughs]. That was my whole concept. It’s not that I objected to going there but I wanted to put my foot into playing baseball. That’s what I was looking forward to.”

Those were the war years and Chris was soon serving in the United States Cavalry for 27 months. “It was out of my control,” Haughey told Scott Wong. “I had to do what everyone had to do. Going into the service was expected of each and every able person.”16

Wong wrote of Haughey’s wartime experience: “He was assigned to a Cavalry Replacement Company at Fort Riley, Kansas, but a dispute with a commanding officer ruined his chances of playing with other professional players on the base team. For the next three years, Haughey was a communications instructor, training radio operators.”17

Looking back in 2020, Haughey recalled, “I was in the Cavalry, CRTC [Cavalry Replacement Training Center or CRTC of the Second Cavalry Division.] I spent three years at Fort Riley. I was in Special Services there, accepting these newcomers that come in. We taught radio and all forms of communication, plus marksmanship.”18

The Cavalry was a suitable assignment because he’d had relevant experience as a youngster. “I used to jump horses as a kid, right up until the time I was about 16 years old. I used to ride horses and I used to jump in shows. I jumped in the show at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Therefore I was capable of taking care of that aspect of it. We had about 500 head out there at Fort Riley. When they couldn’t use mechanization to get supplies to the front, we’d use pack outfits.

“Every 17 weeks we would receive about 175 men. We’d run them through basic training –weapons and so forth, and we had to teach them how to take care of the animals.

“Every Friday night, we used to have jumping events. I had a beautiful animal — 17½ hand, a big animal. I had that animal for three years. I wanted to buy it from the service, but they wouldn’t sell him to me [laughs].

He was a sergeant when he left the service. “When I finished my basic training, they made me a corporal right away. A couple of months later, I was a sergeant. I was in charge of the training aspect. As a matter of fact, I was on five shipping orders to go overseas but they were all rescinded because of what I was doing training men.

The cavalry outfit he wore was impressive. “We had boots and spurs and the whole…[word uncertain]. When I was coming back on a furlough, I went through Grand Central Station and everybody was saluting me. I’m thinking, ‘What are you saluting me for?’ It was an officer’s uniform.”

Sgt. Haughey was discharged in late April 1946 and joined the Dodgers at Wrigley Field on May 1. He was prepared to return to Fordham, but baseball came first. Understandably, he wasn’t in shape to begin to pitch at a high level. “I went back with the Dodgers. I hadn’t thrown in three years. They just wanted me to get up to where I could throw the fastball 90 miles an hour, or 95 miles an hour.”

On May 14, it was reported that his contract had been sold to a Dodgers Class-B affiliate, the Asheville Tourists in the Tri-State League. He appeared in three games, going 0-2 in just four innings, and was soon sent down to the Class-D Cambridge (Maryland) Dodgers of the Eastern Shore League. There he worked 60 innings in nine games; he was 3-5 (6.60).

Haughey was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in late November 1946. He was placed with the Western Association’s Class-C St. Joseph Cardinals. He got in a full season’s work, 177 innings in 36 games, and posted a 15-7 record with an excellent 2.64 ERA. One of his wins was a no-hitter thrown against Topeka in an early September playoff game. He walked the first batter he faced, and allowed eight walks in all, but not a single batter got past second base.19 Haughey struck out 10. “We ended up fourth in the league, but we won in the playoffs. They brought me up to Class B the next year.”

“I pitched down in Puerto Rico for a while, and Caracas, Venezuela. They called me and they wanted me to go down to Puerto Rico.

“I was an operating engineer then and I was going to school, of course, to finish my education. They called me and invited me down. So I went down there and I played with them. Then we went down to Caracas, to finish that series. That was ’48, I believe.”

Haughey’s 1948 season was a disappointment; he was on a Columbus contract but was optioned to the Omaha Cardinals to start the season. He did well in his first outing but hurt his arm in Denver in early May. “I pitched the first game and it was about 35 degrees. I told the manager, ‘You know, my arm’s tightening up.’ He said, ‘Hell, they’re not hitting you, so just go out there and throw.’” It was not a good idea. He was returned to Columbus, and then assigned elsewhere. For most of the season, he pitched in Class-B ball for the Interstate League’s Allentown Cardinals. Working 81 innings in 22 games, he was 4-7 with a 7.00 earned run average.

“After that, I played up in Liverpool, Nova Scotia.” The Liverpool Larrupers were a team in the Halifax and District League, a high-caliber semipro circuit that operated in central Nova Scotia from 1946 through 1959.20 “That guy [research has not revealed the name of the club’s backer] called me and wanted me to pitch for his team, I said, ‘I’m finished.’ He said, ‘No, no.’ He sent his plane down the next day. I went up to Liverpool and I played there for the rest of the season. They had no night ball, and they didn’t play on Sunday.”

There followed two more years — 1949 and 1950 — in which he pitched for the unaffiliated Bridgeport (Connecticut) Bees in the Colonial League. It had briefly been designated a Class B league in 1948, but was not part of Organized Baseball come 1949 and the league folded in July 1950. Haughey was 5-4 (3.73) in 1949 and 2-4 (5.00) in the 13 games in which he appeared before the league shut down.

In his 2005 interview with Scott Wong, Haughey contrasted his experience with the use of steroids in baseball: “If you can’t do it with your God-given talent, you don’t deserve it. Back then, you played for the love of the game. I would have played just for the hell of it.”21

He had received a BS in Physics from Fordham. During the offseason, he was working during the day and at night he’d go to school. “I was with the Sinclair Refining Company. I started as a heating engineer. I developed into becoming the Eastern Division Operations Manager for the Sinclair Refining Company. At 48th Street and Fifth Avenue.”

Living in New Hyde Park, New York, Haughey had gotten married in 1946 to Norma Bruhn. She’d spent much of her life in California, but had been born and was living in New York. The couple had four children — two boys (Mike and Chris) and two girls (Noel and Lisa). The marriage ended in divorce.

The family moved to Salinas, California, around 1950 at the suggestion of his brother-in-law Dick Bruhn. “Dick had a couple of men’s clothing stores that he wanted to develop. I was a licensed realtor in New York as well. That tied in with what he would like me to do. We came out here [to Salinas] for a visit. I had two children at the time and I figured this would be a nice place to have them grow up. I went back and gave my resignation — they couldn’t believe that — but I came out here and we expanded to nine stores.”

He was part-owner of the Bruhn stores for 20 years, then took a position for 23 years working in men’s clothing with Macy’s in Pleasanton, California.

Haughey also had time to indulge another passion — writing poetry. “I’m a published poet and I’m an author also. I’m in a book by the International Society of Poets. They took poems from all over the world and they took one of my poems. America at the Millennium.” The book was published by Watermark in the year 2000. “I also had a book of 125 poems. Prose Poetry and Philosophical Meanderings.22

A suggestion in early 2020 that he write a poem about baseball — which he liked — proved not to be productive. He was in a rehabilitation center, Pacific Coast Post-Acute in Salinas. “I had an accident last year and I’m in a rehabilitation place here. I’m going to be here for a little bit, until I get over this back injury. I got rid of the apartment that I had, because I’m in here. So be it. I’ve done everything I wanted to.”23

 

Acknowledgments

Special thanks to Chris Haughey for his input. Thanks also to Rod Nelson of SABR’s Scouts and Scouting Research Committee and to Noel Haughey Cash for assistance.

This biography was reviewed by Rory Costello and Norman Macht and fact-checked by Kevin Larkin.

 

Sources

In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also consulted Baseball-Reference.com, Retrosheet.org, and SABR.org.

 

Notes

1 J. G. Preston, “The same-game Dodger debuts of Gil Hodges and Chris Haughey,” The J.G. Preston Experience, August 31, 2013. https://prestonjg.wordpress.com/2013/08/31/the-same-game-dodger-debuts-of-gil-hodges-and-chris-haughey/ Accessed November 24, 2019. Preston expressed belief that the only other major league to debut on his birthday was Larry Dierker.

2 Haughey reported the nickname on the player questionnaire he completed for William Weiss.

3 Weiss questionnaire.

4 Author interview with Chris Haughey on January 4, 2020. Unless otherwise attributed, all quotations from Chris Haughey come from this interview.

5 Weiss questionnaire.

6 Mike Lee, “Reports On Sports,” Long Island Daily Press (Jamaica, New York), October 12, 1943: 11.

7 Scott Wong, “Fremont Has Its Own Beloved ‘Moonlight Graham’,” East Bay Times (Walnut Creek, California), September 17, 2005. Updated August 17, 2016. https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2005/09/17/fremont-has-its-own-beloved-moonlight-graham/. Accessed November 24, 2019.

8 Scott Wong.

9 David Paulson oral history interview with Chris Haughey on March 9, 2005.

10 Roscoe McGowen, “Brooklyn Beats Giants With 3 Runs in Last Two Innings for Sixth in Row,” New York Times, September 3, 1943: 11.

11 Roscoe McGowen, “Brooklyn Rookie Loses to Reds, 6 to 1,” New York Times, October 4, 1943: 22.

12 “Long Island Pitcher Wild in Flock Debut,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 4, 1943: 11.

13 Mike Lee.

14 J. G. Preston. Preston goes down a “rabbit hole” and provides a number of other interesting observations about pitchers who have walked as many opponents in a game. In other games, both Zuber (11) and Drake (10) joined Haughey in walking 10 or more while striking out none.

15 “Uncle Sam Signs Pitcher Chris Haughey,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 14, 1944: 14.

16 Scott Wong.

17 Scott Wong.

18 January 4, 2020 interview.

19 Associated Press, “St. Joe Scores No-Hitter Against Topeka in W.A.,” Emporia Gazette (Emporia, Kansas), September 6, 1947: 3.

20 “Halifax and District League,” Maritime Baseball blog, March 11, 2014 (https://maritimebaseball.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/halifax-and-district-baseball-league/)

21 Scott Wong.

22 Author interview on June 18, 2020.

23 January 4, 2020 interview.

Full Name

Christopher Francis Haughey

Born

October 3, 1925 at Astoria, NY (USA)

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