Going into the 1940 season, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Reds were expected to battle again for the National League pennant. The bookmakers deemed St. Louis a slight favorite, but weeks into the season the team had yet to meet expectations. When the teams met at Crosley Field on May 13, their seasons were heading in different directions. The Reds had swept the Cardinals 7-1 and 13-4 in a doubleheader the day before in St. Louis. The Cardinals slumped to 8-13; Cincinnati, meanwhile, paced the NL at 15-4. The contest occurred on ladies day, and the Cincinnati Enquirer box score showed the attendance as “6,606 paid, 9,370 women.”1
The game was not originally scheduled for this day, but Ohio River flooding postponed the initial contest. With both teams having the day open and headed east anyway, the league rescheduled the game for 3:00 P.M., but apparently failed to inform the umpires. When game time arrived with no umpires present, frantic phone calls began. Umpire Larry Goetz, who lived in Cincinnati, was located, and he made it to the ballpark for a 3:29 first pitch. Those lost 29 minutes would matter. Goetz worked behind the plate, with Cardinals pitcher Lon Warneke officiating at third base and Reds coach Jimmie Wilson at first base.
Reds manager Bill McKechnie originally planned to start Bucky Walters, but changed his mind an hour before game time. Seeking to work a southpaw into his righty-heavy rotation,2 McKechnie handed the ball to Johnny Vander Meer for his first action of the season. Mort Cooper started for the Cardinals. The 27-year-old right-hander was two years away from becoming a wartime ace with St. Louis. He had struggled so far, entering the game 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA after four appearances.
After a scoreless first inning, Johnny Mize opened the scoring when he led off the second inning with a line shot over the center-field fence for a 1-0 lead. After Pepper Martin’s grounder back to Vander Meer, the Reds pitcher walked Don Padgett and Joe Orengo. Vander Meer struck out Cooper for the second out but surrendered his third pass of the inning to Jimmy Brown. With the bases loaded, Stu Martin sent a line drive into center field. Unlike Mize’s hit, Martin’s did not have the distance and Harry Craft made the catch. After the game, Craft revealed that he twisted his knee on the play.3 While he finished the game, Craft would sit out almost two weeks.
The Cardinals increased their lead in the top of the third. With one out and Joe Medwick on first base, Mize blasted Vander Meer’s pitch halfway up the right-field bleachers for a 3-0 lead. Vander Meer gave another walk, this time to Pepper Martin. After Padgett popped up to second baseman Lonny Frey, Martin accounted for the final out when he was thrown out by Ernie Lombardi attempting to steal second base.
Eddie Joost opened the Reds’ third with a groundout to second baseman Brown. Vander Meer followed with a single to center field, and the Reds pitcher crossed the plate on Billy Werber’s double into left field. Werber advanced to third on Frey’s fly ball to Pepper Martin, and dashed home on Cooper’s wild pitch with Ival Goodman batting. Left fielder Medwick collected Goodman’s fly ball to end the inning with the Cardinals’ lead reduced to 3-2.
Orengo opened the Cardinals’ fourth with a high fly ball that “sailed majestically”4 over the center-field fence and out of the park. Cooper singled and Vander Meer’s day ended with the Reds trailing 4-2. McKechnie opted for right-hander Johnny Hutchings. The Reds reliever got into the action immediately when he fielded Brown’s sacrifice bunt for the first out. Stu Martin’s groundout to Frey advanced the Cardinals pitcher to third base. Slaughter could not bring home Cooper as his liner toward Joost made it no farther than the shortstop’s glove.
The Reds tied the game in the fourth inning. Frank McCormick and Lombardi hit back-to-back singles to start the inning. Craft doubled to left field to score Frank McCormick, and Lombardi stopped at third. Mike McCormick lifted a fly ball to Medwick that scored Lombardi and brought the Reds even. Craft remained at second, but received company on the bases when Joost walked. Cooper’s quick reaction stopped the Reds’ threat when he nabbed Hutchings’ line drive and “whirled around after grabbing the ball and whipped it to Brown to double Craft off second.”5 The call at second was close, but the double play ended the inning.
Medwick popped up to Frank McCormick in foul ground to start the fifth, but Hutchings’ control issues cost the Reds. He walked Mize, who advanced to second on a wild pitch with Pepper Martin batting. Pepper flied to out Goodman in right field for the second out, but Hutchings walked Padgett and gave up a run-scoring double to Orengo. Mize’s run put the Cardinals ahead 5-4.
The Reds broke out the bats in the home half of the inning. Werber hit his second double of the game, and Frey’s sacrifice bunt moved him to third. Goodman’s fly ball to Slaughter in right field scored Werber to tie the game. Cooper’s fastball struck Frank McCormick’s left forearm to keep the inning alive. Lombardi’s double deep into left field allowed the big first baseman to lumber home from first base. With Cincinnati now ahead 6-5, Cardinals manager Ray Blades brought in Curt Davis to replace Cooper. Davis started inauspiciously by walking Craft and giving up a hit to Mike McCormick that plated Lombardi for a 7-5 score. Joost received an intentional pass to load the bases. Pinch-hitter Johnny Rizzo, who joined the Reds on May 8, popped up to end the inning.
Elmer Riddle replaced Hutchings on the mound for the sixth and soon surrendered the lead. Brown and Stu Martin singled to begin the inning, and they moved into scoring position on Slaughter’s sacrifice. Medwick doubled to right field to score the pair, tying the game at 7-7. After Riddle intentionally walked Mize, Milt Shoffner entered the game and got the Reds out of inning without further damage. In the home half, Davis allowed a leadoff double to Werber and a single to Frey before Clyde Shoun replaced him. The Cardinals swingman induced a double-play ball from Goodman and a grounder from Frank McCormick to keep the score tied.
After a slugfest through six innings, Shoffner and Shoun turned the game into a pitchers’ duel that extended into extra frames. While no runs were scored as the game stretched toward dusk, one notable event was Werber’s double in the eighth inning. That two-bagger was his fourth of the game, allowing Werber to tie a major-league record he already shared with 16 others.
In the 13th inning, Mize achieved his own milestone with his two-out home run off Shoffner into the bleachers. That home run, Mize’s third of the game, allowed the Cardinals slugger to break the NL record he had shared with George Kelly for the most three-homer games. This was the third time Mize managed that feat.
Shoun took an 8-7 lead into the bottom of the inning. Craft and Mike McCormick each grounded out to shortstop Orengo. McKechnie called on Willard Hershberger to pinch-hit for Joost, and the Reds’ backup backstop doubled to right field. McKechnie made further moves to tie the game. Lee Gamble ran for Hershberger at second base, and pitcher Bucky Walters pinch-hit for Shoffner. The game appeared over when Walters struck out; however, the ball got by catcher Bill DeLancey6 and rolled into the Cardinals dugout. Gamble scampered to third as Walters alertly claimed first base. Blades brought in veteran Jack Russell to end the rally, but Werber smashed his first pitch into left field for a single. Gamble scored to tie the game, 8-8. Frey’s fly to Pepper Martin sent the game into the 14th.
There would not be a 15th inning, but not because the deadlock was broken. Against Joe Beggs, the Cardinals managed only three groundouts. The Reds could do no better than fly balls to each of the Cardinals outfielders. With the game even at 8-8, umpire Goetz could see no way forward in the darkness, and he called the game shortly after 7:00 P.M.. A timely start might have allowed another inning or two. Although Mize’s and Werber’s feats entered the record books and Shoun and Shoffner pitched well in extended relief roles, neither their heroics nor their teammates’ efforts could break the tie. The two teams packed up and headed east on a special train designed to prevent any fraternizing.7 August 11 was established as the date for the replay of this makeup game.
This article was published in “Cincinnati’s Crosley Field: A Gem in the Queen City” (SABR, 2018), edited by Gregory H. Wolf. To read more articles from this book at the SABR Games Project, click here.
1 Lou Smith, “Reds, Cards Battle Fourteen Innings to Tie,” Cincinnati Enquirer, May 13, 1940: 11.
2 “Werber Ties Record for Doubles With Four Consecutive Two-Baggers,” Cincinnati Enquirer, May 13, 1940: 12.
3 “Notes,” The Sporting News, May 23, 1940: 8.
4 “Werber Ties Record”: 12.
5 “Werber Ties Record”: 11.
6 DeLancey entered the game in the bottom of the ninth.
7 “Werber Ties Record”: 12.