The 1958 season was one of change in minor-league baseball, especially at the highest level. With the migration of the two New York National League teams to California, there was a realignment of locations and affiliations. New Pacific Coast League teams were established in Spokane, Phoenix, and Salt Lake City. Minneapolis of the American Association changed its affiliation from the New York Giants (now with Phoenix) to the Boston Red Sox (formerly with San Francisco in the PCL).
June 15 was both Father’s Day and the trading deadline, and the Minneapolis Millers hosted the Indianapolis Indians in a doubleheader at Metropolitan Stadium. In front of 3,069 spectators, the teams split two games. Indianapolis won the opener, 8-0, before Minneapolis discovered home plate in time to win the nightcap, 8-4.
In the first game, Carl Thomas was on the mound for Indianapolis, then affiliated with the Chicago White Sox. It was as if the team’s manager, Walker Cooper, used a roulette wheel to determine his starting pitcher. Twenty-one different pitchers were used in 1958 by Indianapolis, and seven pitchers started 10 or more games. Thomas had lost his prior four decisions. The offense was a blend of young and old from 19-year-old Johnny Callison to 43-year-old player-manager Cooper. And the roster included a player on loan from the Washington Senators. (The Senators did not field a Triple-A team in 1958.) But on this day, Thomas went all the way, shutting out Minneapolis, making it 25 consecutive scoreless innings for the Millers’ batters. Thomas’s Indianapolis mates supported him with 13 hits, including four home runs.
Bert Thiel was on the mound for the Millers. The 32-year-old had been around since 1947, and Minneapolis was his eighth minor-league stop. He had pitched very briefly with the Boston Braves in 1952. His major-league career consisted of four appearances and a total of seven innings pitched.
It didn’t take long for Indianapolis to solve Thiel. Second-inning homers by John Romano and Harmon Killebrew staked Thomas to a 2-0 lead, and the Indians added another run in the third on a single by Callison. Callison drove in Ted Beard, who had reached base with one of his three hits in the twin bill. Romano’s homer broke a 0-for-20 slump. Thiel left the game for a pinch-hitter, Lou Clinton, in the bottom of the third inning.
Killebrew, a future Hall of Famer, was having a bad season so far. Wrote The Sporting News, “the [Indianapolis] Indians finally gave up on Harmon Killebrew.”2 For Killebrew, on loan from the Senators, it was only his second homer of the season. His batting average was .215 in 38 games, and by the end of the day the one-time bonus baby had been sent to Chattanooga, Washington’s affiliate in the Double-A Southern Association, in exchange for third baseman Stan Roseboro. Killebrew was a victim of the Bonus Rule of 1953-57, under which talented players signed to bonus contracts wound up sitting on major-league benches. Roseboro had been around for a while. He first gained notice as a sandlot player in the Pacific Northwest in 1945, playing in an All-Star game to determine Seattle’s representative for the annual Esquire’s All-American Boys Baseball Game in New York. He was not selected. He had started playing professionally in 1951.
The Indians piled it on in the middle innings. They victimized Al Schroll for three runs in the fifth inning. Schroll had entered the game in the top of the fourth inning after Thiel left the game for a pinch-hitter. Schroll, after seven minor-league seasons, had begun the 1958 season with the Red Sox but had been sent back down to the minors in May.
The key hit in the fifth-inning rally was a two-out, two-run triple by Callison, driving in Thomas and Beard. Johnny came home on a single by Romano. The Indians bruised Schroll again two innings later. He surrendered two runs on back-to-back homers by Callison and Romano in the seventh inning before giving way to Jack Spring, who pitched scoreless ball in the final two innings for the Millers. Callison’s 12th homer of the season gave him the league lead. Romano’s two homers gave him 11 for the season.
The shutout was preserved in the final innings as shortstop Al Facchini started two double plays. Facchini had gotten his start on the sandlots of Northern California and represented San Francisco in the 1948 Hearst Sandlot Classic in New York before signing with the Boston Braves organization. The infielder, who spent two years in the military during the Korean War, was in his eighth minor-league season. On each of the double plays, he threw to second baseman Bobby Winkles, who relayed the ball to first baseman Joe Altobelli. Both Winkles and Altobelli became big-league managers. The defensive gem of the game was a diving catch by Indianapolis left fielder Eddie Phillips, a career minor leaguer who had had a cup of coffee (nine games) with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1953, appearing exclusively as a pinch-runner and scoring four runs.
The winning pitcher, Thomas, a Minneapolis native, allowed singles to Jose Valdivielso, John Lundquist, Spencer “Red” Robbins, and Ed Sadowski, struck out two, and walked not a player in getting his first win of the season, bringing his won-lost record to 1-4. Present at the game was Thomas’s father, Carl Sr., who had pitched in the American Association for St. Paul and Louisville. His son’s win was a fine Father’s Day present. Young Carl wound up the 1958 season with a 9-9 record for Indianapolis. However, he did little to distinguish himself at the next level. He made it to the majors in 1960 with the Cleveland Indians and appeared in four games, all in relief. He pitched a total of 9⅔ innings and had a 1-0 record.
The shutout was the fourth suffered by manager Gene Mauch’s Millers over a span of seven days. Mauch said, “We’ll have a tough time staying in the first division on pitching and defense alone.”3 The team had an abysmal home record through June 15, going 14-20, seven of the losses by shutout, at Metropolitan Stadium. The Millers’ road record was a stellar 23-8, and their overall record placed them third in the American Association, 4½ games behind the league-leading Denver Bears. Minneapolis ended the season in third place as Charleston led the standings. Indianapolis, with the split, finished the day in seventh place. The Indians finished the season in sixth place.
In the playoffs, the Millers excelled. They defeated Wichita in six games, then swept Denver for the league championship.
The batting heroes of the 8-0 Indianapolis win, Johnny Callison and John Romano, each found success at the major-league level, although not with the White Sox. Callison, who finished the 1958 American Association season with 29 homers and 93 runs batted in, was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies after spending parts of the 1958 and 1959 seasons with the White Sox. With Philadelphia for 10 years, he was named to All-Star teams in 1962, 1964, and 1965, and led the National League in doubles (1966) and triples (1962, 1965). From 1960 to 1968, he played for his Minneapolis manager, Gene Mauch. He finished his career with the New York Yankees and on May 8, 1972, homered off Bert Blyleven at Metropolitan Stadium, becoming one of 28 players to homer at Metropolitan Stadium in both the minor and major leagues.
Romano was another to homer in both the majors and minors at Metropolitan Stadium. After finishing the 1958 American Association season with 25 homers and 89 RBIs, he was called up to the White Sox, where he saw limited action. After the 1959 season, he was traded to the Cleveland Indians, where he broke out in 1961, having his best season. He batted .299 with 21 homers and 80 RBIs and was named to the All-Star team for the first time. His second All-Star Game appearance came the following season when he hit a career-high 25 homers. Of his 129 major-league homers, 11 came at Metropolitan Stadium, the first being off Jack Kralick on May 9, 1962.
And that brings us to the third player who homered on June 15 and came back to homer at Metropolitan Stadium in the big leagues – 246 times. Harmon Killebrew was far from washed up. At Chattanooga he turned things around, batting .308 with 17 homers in 86 games, and he spent the end of the season with the Senators. The next season, 1959, he slammed 42 homers for the Senators and was on the way to the Hall of Fame, where he was inducted in 1984. When he retired, Killebrew’s 573 home runs were the most by a right-handed batter in American League history, topping the mark of 524 set by Jimmie Foxx who, in 1958, was the hitting instructor with the Minneapolis Millers. (Foxx had 534 career home runs but 10 were in the National League.)
In addition to Baseball-Reference.com and the sources shown in the Notes, the author used the following:
Briere, Tom. “Miller Drought Ends with 8-4 Victory after 8-0 Loss,” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, June 16, 1958: 23.
Koelling, Lester. “Indians Trade Killebrew for Third New Player in a Week,” Indianapolis News, June 16, 1958: 14.
“Thomas’ Shutout Gives Indians Split,” Indianapolis Star, June 16, 1958: 19.
1 Sid Hartman, “Hartman’s Roundup: Thomas’ First Game Here Is Shut Out,” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, June 16, 1958: 24.
2 The Sporting News, June 25, 1958: 36.
3 Bob Beebe, “Four Shutouts in Week Worry Mauch,” Minneapolis Star, June 16, 1958: 9B.
Indianapolis Indians 8
Minneapolis Millers 0
Minneapolis Millers 8
Indianapolis Indians 4
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