Philadelphia was off to a sluggish 19-18 start in 1912. The Athletics had not regained their championship form after winning their second consecutive World Series the previous October. The team was in fourth place on June 5 when it made its first appearance of the season in St. Louis.
Based on recent history, the Athletics had reason to believe this trip would restore their fortunes. In 1911 Philadelphia won 10 of the 11 games played at Sportsman’s Park. They had done nearly as well in 1910, taking 9 of 11. The Browns, 12-30 and nestled in the American League basement, had not enjoyed a home-field advantage against Philadelphia since 1908, when they topped the Athletics 8 games to 3.
Owner-manager Connie Mack chose right-hander Jack Coombs to start the first of four games against the Browns. Coombs was 6-1 so far. His 28 wins in 1911, and his 31 wins in 1910 topped the American League. His lifetime 14-3 record against St. Louis was a harbinger of success, as was his May 22 victory over the Browns in Philadelphia.1
George Stovall — managing just his fifth game for the Browns — tapped right-hander Roy Mitchell to oppose Coombs. Mitchell had been largely ignored by Stovall’s predecessor, Bobby Wallace, and had thrown a mere five innings of relief in two games thus far. Mitchell joined the Browns late in 1910, and since then was just 8-10 overall. While his past accomplishments were modest, he was the only Browns pitcher to beat the Athletics in Sportsman’s Park in 1911.2
Whatever motivated Stovall to start Mitchell, he could not have made a better choice. Mitchell not only limited the Athletics to five hits and one run, he also reached base five consecutive times, stroking three singles and walking twice. He drove in one run and scored three as the Browns overwhelmed Philadelphia 13-1. The headline in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch summed up things well: “Our Browns, Not the Athletics, Looked Like World’s Champions.”3
Neither team scored in the first inning, and in the top of the second Mitchell retired all three Athletics batters. The Browns’ half of the second started innocently, when Del Pratt’s popup was caught in front of home plate by third baseman Home Run Baker.4 The Browns’ Ed Hallinan singled, and he went to second when Philadelphia shortstop Jack Barry made “a swell stop” of Wallace’s bounding ball behind second base and threw to first for the out.5
With two outs and a runner at second base, St. Louis exploded. The Browns put seven runs in the books before the third out could be penciled in. Browns catcher Paul Krichell doubled to score Hallinan with the first run, and Mitchell singled home Krichell for the second. The Browns’ outburst continued with two more singles, a hit batsman, a double, and another single. They scored five more times, and built a 7-0 advantage.6
The Athletics responded with one run in the third inning. Jack Lapp started the rally by bouncing a fluky single7 over Mitchell’s head, and he went to second on a wild pitch.8 When shortstop Hallinan booted Coombs’s grounder, Lapp gained third, and Coombs made it to first.9 Bris Lord flied to left for the first out, but Coombs moved to second and Lapp tagged up to score what turned out to be the only Philadelphia run.10 Rube Oldring singled, advancing Coombs to third. Eddie Collins struck out, but Oldring stole second base on the pitch to put runners on second and third with two outs.11 The Athletics’ efforts fizzled when Baker popped out,12 and they never mounted a serious scoring threat after that.
“To the delight of the fans,”13 Coombs did not come out to pitch the third. Instead, Mack “began trotting out his recruit flingers.”14 It was unusual in that era to use four pitchers in one game, but Mack did just that. Boardwalk Brown was the first of three lesser known pitchers to follow Coombs. Brown was “a youth picked up from one of the semi-professional teams in Atlantic City.”15 St. Louis battered him for three hits and two runs — one scored by Mitchell — to balloon its lead to 9-1.
Brown gave way to Doc Martin, a Tufts University graduate, who pitched the next two innings for Philadelphia.16 Martin allowed a single to start the fourth, but promptly picked the runner off base, and completed a scoreless inning.17 The fifth inning looked promising for Martin too when Krichell took a called strike for the first out. But he walked Mitchell, triggering a three-run rally (highlighted by Stovall’s two-run triple) that put the Browns up 12-1.18 Mack pulled Martin, who never again played in a major league game.
While neither Brown nor Martin was effective for the Athletics in the middle innings, Mitchell was superb. He gave up a single in the fourth, but recorded three straight outs in the fifth.19
In the sixth Mitchell needed a little extra effort to get his team off the field. Burt Shotton “made a great running catch” of a long fly to deep center by Eddie Collins,20 and Baker grounded out. Pinch-hitter Harl Maggert struck out, but he reached base when Krichell dropped the third strike and then threw low to first.21 Stuffy McInnis did not take advantage of the error, though, flying out to Shotton.
When the Browns came to bat in the bottom of the sixth, they faced 18-year-old Herb Pennock. The left-handed teenager, who would pitch in the major leagues for 22 years, register a 241-162 record, and gain a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame, was pitching in just his third major-league game. He allowed the Browns’ final run — and Mitchell’s third hit — but he finished the game “in fine style.”22
Over the last three innings, Mitchell allowed just one more baserunner — Oldring got his third single — and he finished the 13-1 win with ease.23 Perhaps no one was happier about the outcome than Stovall, who enjoyed his first victory as Browns manager after enduring four defeats to begin his reign.
Mitchell struck out just two but walked no one. The Post-Dispatch declared, “It was a real treat to watch Mitchell pitch.”24 Another reporter boasted, “It was the best exhibition a Brownie pitcher has given here this season.”25 One commentator thought Mitchell had earned “a regular turn on the hill.”26
The St. Louis Globe-Democrat praised Mitchell for hitting “like a real slugger.”27 It was arguably Mitchell’s best day at the plate in his 122-game career.
Mitchell could not repeat his pitching success. On June 9 he was tagged for 13 hits and issued five walks in a 9-2 loss to Boston. Five days later he started again, but was yanked in the first inning. Mitchell pitched sparingly after that. For the season, he logged just 62 innings in 13 games — seven were starts — ending the campaign 3-4 with an earned run average of 4.65.
The Browns finished the year 53-101, but managed to slip past the New York Highlanders to claim seventh place. They lost the season series to Philadelphia once again, winning only six of 22 contests, including just four of 11 in St. Louis. The Athletics finished 90-62, but third behind pennant-winning Boston, and Washington.
2 He pitched all nine innings to defeat Philadelphia 8-2 on August 22, 1911, in the first game of a doubleheader. https://retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1911/B08221SLA1911.htm.
3 “Our Browns, Not the Athletics Looked Like World’s Champions,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 6, 1912: 19.
4 “Stovall Wins His First with Browns; Lowrey Is Signed,” St. Louis Star and Times, June 5, 1912: 13.
5 St. Louis Star and Times.
6 St. Louis Star and Times.
7 St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
8 St. Louis Star and Times.
9 St. Louis Star and Times.
10 St. Louis Star and Times.
11 St. Louis Star and Times.
12 St. Louis Star and Times.
13 “Missouri Cyclone Strikes Mackmen,” Philadelphia Inquirer, June 6, 1912: 10.
14 “Browns Give Mack’s Champions Beating,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, June 6, 1912: 13.
15 St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
16 St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
17 St. Louis Star and Times.
18 St. Louis Star and Times.
19 St. Louis Star and Times.
20 St. Louis Star and Times.
21 St. Louis Star and Times.
22 Philadelphia Inquirer.
23 St. Louis Star and Times.
24 St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
25 Philadelphia Inquirer.
26 “Mitchell’s Good Showing Earns Him Place as Regular on Slab Staff,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 6, 1912: 19.
27 St. Louis Globe-Democrat.