The Philadelphia Athletics arrived in Cleveland for a five-game series at League Park in late August of 1935. Both teams were mired in the middle of the American League standings with no resurgence in sight for either club.
The A’s were on the downswing from a dominant period when they won three straight pennants (1929-1931) and two World Series (1929-1930). After a second-place finish in 1932 and a third-place finish in 1933, the A’s continued their descent in the AL standings as the years passed. The second division would be a familiar setting for Philadelphia. Over the next 20 seasons, the A’s finished in the second division in 18 of 20 years before the franchise relocated to Kansas City for the 1955 season.
The 1935 season was no different for most of the American League, with the exception of Detroit. The Tigers were gunning for their second straight pennant and the Yankees were facing their first season without the “Big Bam” Babe Ruth left the Bronx and returned to the original city where his big league career began. His return, though, was to the Braves and not the Red Sox.
The Athletics and Indians split the first four games of the series. In the fifth game, Philadelphia sent George Turbeville to the mound. The rookie southpaw, who was celebrating his 21st birthday, had made his major-league debut a month before, on July 20. The start against the Indians would be his second; he mostly pitched out of the bullpen. The young hurler had a penchant for issuing the free pass. In 10 prior appearances Turbeville walked 27 batters in 14⅔ innings while striking out six. It was a common theme that would plague him in his career. Throwing strikes was young George’s kryptonite.
Cleveland countered with veteran right-hander Willis Hudlin. In his 10th season for the Indians, Hudlin won more games than he lost in most seasons. In eight of his first 10 seasons, Hudlin posted double-digit wins. However, his problem was also the old bugaboo, bases on balls. Like Turbeville, Hudlin walked more batters than he struck out. Thus far in his career, the 1932 season was the only one in which Hudlin’s strikeout total exceeded that of his walks.
So the deciding factor in this game might come down to which pitcher exhibited better control. Which pitcher could limit the number of walks he surrendered and limit the damage if he did issue a free pass?
Philadelphia went down in order in the first inning. True to form, Turbeville surrendered two walks in the home half of the first. Milt Galatzer led off with a free pass. After Earl Averill fouled out, Turbeville walked Joe Vosmik. Galatzer took third base on a fly ball off the bat of Hal Trosky. The Indians tried a double steal, but A’s catcher Paul Richards took the return throw from second baseman Rabbit Warstler to nail Galatzer at the plate.
The Indians put two more men on base in the bottom of the second inning. Odell Hale led off with a walk, and Bill Knickerbocker followed with a single to right field. But catcher Bill Brenzel bounced into a 4-6-3 double play. Boze Berger grounded out to second base to end the frame.
The Indians were able to put players on base in multiple innings. But the pitcher’s best friend, the double play, was very beneficial to Turbeville for this game. The Indians were the victims of six twin killings by the A’s. The number tied an AL record, which has been duplicated on many occasions.1 Between them, Warstler and shortstop Eric McNair handled 29 chances and had 16 assists.
Philadelphia, meanwhile, could not muster much of an attack against Hudlin.
The score was 0-0 entering the ninth. In that inning, each team had an opportunity to score the elusive run and break the scoreless stalemate. In the top of the inning, Doc Cramer led off with a single to center field. Bob Johnson sacrificed Cramer to second base. Cleveland manager Steve O’Neill elected to walk the next batter, Jimmie Foxx. The intentional pass was the only walk issued by Hudlin. Pinky Higgins grounded to short, and Foxx was forced out at second base as Cramer moved to third base. But the threat was extinguished when McNair grounded out.
The Indians also had an opportunity to score in the ninth, but came up empty. With runners on first and second with one out, Hale bounced into a 6-3 double play to end the inning.
Both starting pitchers were still in the game as it went to extra innings. The crowd at League Park was estimated to be around 5,000. They were sticking around to see when and what the outcome might be.
But on and on it went, with each pitcher shutting down the other’s offense. The Athletics had their best opportunity in the top of the 13th inning. With two down, consecutive singles from Lou Finney and Cramer started a rally. But it was snuffed out when Johnson grounded out to short.
The end to the suspense, or apprehension, came to an end in the bottom of the 15th inning. Initially, though, victory did not look imminent. Berger led off with a sharp single to left field. He took second on a wild pitch by Turbeville, his third of the game. Hudlin attempted to bunt Berger to third base, but instead, Berger was caught in no-man’s land, and was erased in a 2-6-5 rundown to clear the bases. “Down sank a few thousand hearts,” exclaimed the Cleveland Plain Dealer.2
Hudlin popped out to McNair at shortstop for the second out. But just like that, the Indians rallied for the winning runs. Galatzer drew Turbeville’s 13th walk (against six strikeouts). Averill stepped to the plate, and uncorked a wallop, sending the baseball over the right-field wall for a two-run home run. “As Averill connected, a lusty roar arose from the stands. It was plain to all that the battle was over at last,” said the Plain Dealer.3 It was Averill’s first hit of the afternoon.
Cleveland finished the season with a respectable 82-71-3 record, good for third in the AL standings. They finished 12 games behind pennant-winner Detroit. Philadelphia completed the season in the cellar of the AL with a record of 58-91, 34 games off the pace.
Despite Turbeville’s wildness, A’s manager Connie Mack liked what he saw of his young hurler. “That boy,” said Mack, “had everything and proved to me that he is a rare pitching prospect. Bases on balls meant nothing to me. He always pitched himself out of the hole.
“I think with more experience he is going to be a find. I certainly will not hold his defeat against him today. If we had scored one run in 14 innings, we would have won the game.”4
Both Hudlin and Turbeville had given up historic home runs in their career. Hudlin gave up Babe Ruth’s 500th career home run on August 11, 1929 at League Park. Turbeville was the victim of Joe DiMaggio’s first big-league home run, on May 10, 1936, at Yankee Stadium.
The author accessed Baseball-Reference.com for box scores/play-by-play information and other data (baseball-reference.com/boxes/CLE/CLE193508240.shtml), as well as Retrosheet (http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1935/B08240CLE1935.htm).
2 Sam Otis, “Hudlin Wins 15-Inning Duel, 2-0,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 25, 1935: B-3.
4 James C. Isaminger, “Averill Cracks Two-Run Homer to Beat Rookie,” Philadelphia Inquirer, August 25, 1935: S1.