Early Wynn (Trading Card DB)

July 15, 1942: Rookie Early Wynn overcomes 15 hits, 4 walks to beat Tigers in 11 innings

This article was written by Thomas E. Merrick

Early Wynn (Trading Card DB)On July 15, 1942, Washington Nationals1 manager Bucky Harris stuck by 22-year-old rookie right-hander Early Wynn for 11 innings, through 15 hits and 4 walks. Wynn rewarded Harris with a 4-3 win over the Detroit Tigers.

Wynn first pitched for Washington in September 1939, making three late-season starts at age 19. He threw 20⅓ innings, absorbed two losses, and convinced the Nationals’ brass that he needed more minor-league seasoning. Wynn was sent to the Class B Piedmont League for 1940, and toiled in the Class A Eastern League in 1941.

In the EL, Wynn chalked up 16 wins for Springfield (Massachusetts), earning a second September trial with Washington. He grabbed the opportunity; impressing Harris and club owner Clark Griffith by pitching four complete games and compiling a 3-1 record with an ERA of 2.25.

Wynn followed his September 1941 performance with a good showing at spring training in Orlando, Florida, clinching a spot on Washington’s 1942 Opening Day roster. Manager Harris informed reporters in March, “I wouldn’t be surprised if Wynn is our best pitcher this year. He has everything it takes. He has good stuff and he gets it over the plate. I don’t see how he can miss.”2

By mid-July, when the Detroit Tigers arrived at Griffith Stadium for a three-game set, Harris’s prediction about Wynn was coming true. Wynn was 7-6, and the only member of the starting rotation with a winning record.

Coming into the series, neither Detroit nor Washington had been playing well. On Monday, July 13 the Nationals stopped a five-game losing streak by beating the Cleveland Indians, but occupied last place in the American League with a 30-54 record.

While Washington was idle on Tuesday, Detroit lost to the first-place Yankees in New York for the third day in a row. The Tigers were struggling in July, winning only four of 12 games, with another contest ending in a tie. With a 45-43 record, Detroit was clinging to fourth place in the AL by one game.

Tommy Bridges and Wynn were paired on Wednesday night for the initial game of the series. Bridges was in his 13th season with the Tigers. The 35-year-old right-hander had compiled a 178-126 career record, including a 7-3 mark so far in 1942. Bridges sported a 2.91 earned-run average, although in his most recent start, on July 4, he was tagged for six runs in four innings, taking a loss in Cleveland.

Wynn retired the Tigers in order in the first, notching one of his six strikeouts. Things never went so smoothly again; Wynn served up at least one hit in each of the next 10 innings, and also mixed in four bases on balls.

Washington grabbed the lead in the bottom of the first. George Case and Stan Spence opened the frame with singles. After an out, Roy Cullenbine singled Case home, giving the Nationals a 1-0 lead. Griffith had obtained Cullenbine on June 7 from the St. Louis Browns primarily for his good bat and defensive versatility, but also because Cullenbine, a husband and father, was less likely to be drafted into the armed forces now that the country was at war.3

Detroit got singles from Ned Harris and Jimmy Bloodworth in the second, and began the third with a single by Bridges, but did not score in either inning. It was in the fourth that the Tigers broke through; back-to-back doubles by Harris and Mike Higgins knotted things up, 1-1.

The Nationals regained the lead one inning later. Bridges walked Wynn leading off the fifth and Wynn scampered to third when Case slapped his second single. With runners on first and third, Spence looped a ball to center; Bloodworth, playing second base, ran out and caught the ball, “but was in no position to throw to the plate,” the Detroit Free Press reported.4 Wynn dashed home after the catch to make it 2-1.

Detroit bounced back with a run in the seventh. Barney McCosky began the one-out rally by singling off the glove5 of rookie shortstop Johnny Sullivan. McCosky was forced at second by Doc Cramer, who then took second on Rudy York’s single. With runners at first and second and two out, Harris rapped his third hit off Wynn, a single, sending Cramer home with the tying run.

Washington regained the lead in its half of the frame. Jimmy Pofahl beat out a roller to shortstop, and after Wynn fanned and Case flied out, Pofahl stole second base. Spence’s two-out single scored Pofahl, giving Spence two RBIs in the game and putting the Nationals back on top, 3-2.

Wynn could not hold the lead. McCosky walked to open the ninth and stole second. After an out, York singled to center and McCosky raced home to even the score, 3-3. In the bottom of the ninth, Pofahl walked with one out; Wynn’s bunt attempt was turned into a double play, sending the game to extra innings.

The Detroit 10th was notable for a fight between the teams’ second basemen, Bloodworth and Pofahl. Bloodworth singled, and while Dixie Parsons was striking out, Bloodworth raced for second. Pofahl covered the bag, took the throw, and made the tag to complete a double play. Bloodworth, out by at least three steps, “crashed into Pofahl, and tried to knock the ball out of his hands,” according to the Detroit Evening Times.6

Pofahl was momentarily on top of Bloodworth and “grabbed him around the head as they came up fighting.”7 Bloodworth “whirled, picked up the Senators’ second sacker,” threw him to the ground, and let him have a couple of punches.8 Teammates broke up the scuffle and escorted the fuming Bloodworth to the Tigers’ dugout.9 Since the tussle was quickly controlled, neither player was ejected.10

Wynn retired the first two Tigers in the 11th before Cramer tripled, and York walked. With runners at the corners and two out, the Tigers attempted a double steal by sending York sprinting to second while Wynn held the ball.11 When Wynn realized York was running, he threw to Sullivan, who fired the ball home, nipping Cramer just short of the plate for the third out12 and ending what proved to be Detroit’s final charge. The Tigers had left 13 runners on base.

Hal White, who had been pitching since Bridges left for a pinch-hitter after seven innings, began the bottom of the inning by getting a fly out to left. He did not get another out; Jake Early walked and went to second on Sullivan’s single to right. Pofahl smacked a 2-and-1 pitch solidly to center for a single, bringing Early home and delivering the win to Washington, 4-3.

Pofahl had a very good evening; he collected his 23rd RBI, raised his batting average from .210 to .216 with his 2-for-4 performance, stole a base, scored a run, and – after avoiding ejection – smacked the game-winning hit. The light-hitting infielder – in his third and final major-league season – did not get his next RBI until September 6.

Wynn bumped his record to 8-6 with the complete-game win. It was the first time in his major-league career that he had pitched more than nine innings. Over the years Wynn logged 20 extra-inning pitching performances, going 10-8 with two no-decisions.

Washington beat Detroit the next two days to sweep the series, extending its winning streak to four. The Nationals won once more when the Browns came to town, chalking up their first five-game winning streak of 1942.

Despite Wynn’s extended effort against Detroit, he was not given extra rest before his next start. Facing the fourth-place Browns in the second game of a doubleheader on July 19, Wynn was clobbered, lasting only three innings and taking the loss. It was a long time before he won again.

From July 22 through August 11 the Nationals put together their best baseball of the season, posting a 12-4 record, including two wins without a loss against both the pennant-bound Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. But three of their four losses during that stretch were pinned on Wynn.

After the extra-inning win against Detroit, Wynn was “hammered hard and often,” according to the Washington Evening Star,13 something club owner Griffith blamed on Wynn’s lack of conditioning and poor work habits.14 Wynn lost 10 straight decisions – eight as a starter and two in relief – giving up 88 hits and 44 earned runs in 47 innings. His promising rookie campaign derailed; Wynn’s ERA ballooned from 4.32 to 5.44, while his record plummeted to 8-16.

He rebounded by throwing complete-game wins over Detroit on September 13 and over the Philadelphia Athletics on September19 to finish the season 10-16. Only Bobo Newsom (11-17) was credited with more wins for Washington in 1942.

Later, under the tutelage of Mel Harder in Cleveland, Wynn became a very good pitcher. Among his accomplishments were five 20-win seasons, a Cy Young Award in 1959 for the pennant-winning Chicago White Sox, and 300 major-league wins. Wynn was selected for the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.



This article was fact-checked by Jim Sweetman and copy-edited by Len Levin.



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org for pertinent information, including the box score and partial play-by-play. The author also relied on game coverage in the Detroit Free Press, Detroit Evening Times, Washington Post, and Washington Evening Star, and reviewed SABR BioProject biographies for several players participating in the game.





1 Nationals was the team’s official nickname from 1905 to 1956, although they were often called the Senators outside of Washington. See Ed Coen, “Setting the Record Straight on Major League Team Nicknames,” SABR Baseball Research Journal, Vol. 48 No. 2 (2019). The author reviewed seven newspaper articles to write this story. “Nats” or “Nat” was used 38 times, and “Senators” twice, both times in the same Detroit newspaper article. “Nationals” did not appear in any of the articles.

2 Burton Hawkins, “Wynn Will Lead Nats’ Hurlers, Harris Feels,” Washington Evening Star, March 27, 1942: 54.

3 Burton Hawkins, “Players with Families to Keep Baseball Going, Griffith Feels,” Washington Evening Star, July 16, 1942: 46. According to Griffith, married men with children “are way down the list” of those to be drafted.

4 “Bloodworth and Pofahl Tangle After Collision,” Detroit Free Press, July 16, 1942: 14.

5 “Bloodworth and Pofahl Tangle After Collision.”

6 “Tigers Slide in Standings,” Detroit Evening Times, July 16, 1942: 25.

7 “Bloodworth and Pofahl Tangle After Collision.”

8 “Tigers Slide in Standings.”

9 “Tigers Slide in Standings.”

10 “Bloodworth and Pofahl Tangle After Collision.”

11 Shirley Povich, “Pofahl Fights in 10th, Beats Tigers in 11th,” Washington Post, July 16, 1942: 22.

12 Povich. Both Retrosheet.org and Baseball-Reference.com say in their play-by-play that Cramer was picked off third, but based on the descriptions offered in the Washington Post and Washington Evening Star, that is incorrect.

13 Burton Hawkins, “Wynn Only Lags in Spurt Nats’ Hurlers Stage,” Washington Evening Star, August 13, 1942: 23.

14 Hawkins, “Wynn Only Lags in Spurt Nats’ Hurlers Stage.”

Additional Stats

Washington Nationals 4
Detroit Tigers 3
11 innings

Griffith Stadium
Washington, DC


Box Score + PBP:

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1940s ·