Elon Hogsett (Trading Card DB)

May 17, 1936: Elon Hogsett puts the brakes on Browns’ historically bad start

This article was written by Larry DeFillipo

Elon Hogsett (Trading Card DB)When the Baltimore Orioles dropped their 20th straight game to open the 1988 season, they broke the post-1900 American/National League record for fewest wins before losing 20. That mark had been held by a ghost from the Orioles’ past, the 1936 St. Louis Browns. (The Browns moved to Baltimore in 1954 and renamed themselves Orioles.) Following a season in which they drew only 80,922 over 76 games,1 the 1936 Browns started a disastrous 3-20.

Hopes had run high in St. Louis entering the 1936 season. The Browns followed up a solid 1935 second half (46-37, second-best in the AL) by posting the top record in Grapefruit League play.2 Dan Daniel of The Sporting News picked them to finish in fifth place, topping the AL’s second division, but he identified pitching as an obvious weakness for a club whose 5.26 ERA was the worst in the majors the year before.3

A sluggish 3-7 in their first 10 games, the Browns lost their next 13. Taciturn manager Rogers Hornsby summed up the deficiencies in the St. Louis pitching staff: “The pitching is what we call in the big leagues, lousy.”4 The St. Louis Globe-Democrat took to calling the team “Hornsby’s pitcherless Browns,” and quipped that the skipper’s dilemma was “figur[ing] out what to do with no pitchers when you have no pitchers.”5 Indeed. No AL or NL team in the twentieth century had as high an ERA through its first 23 games (7.86).

A shutout of the first-place New York Yankees gave St. Louis its fourth win, but the Browns dropped the next four, giving them the worst record through 28 games since 1901 (4-24). Some in St. Louis were demanding Hornsby’s scalp. “The year’s string of defeats … has disgusted the small crowd of fans who have been paying to see the battered, fretful Browns perform. They place the blame for the team’s inglorious showing squarely on Hornsby’s shoulders,” said one article.6 Still, most fans, as well as the local press, remained supportive.7

Craving a W, Hornsby sent recent arrival Elon Hogsett to the mound on Sunday, May 17, for the opener of a two-game home series against the Philadelphia Athletics. Until recently the Detroit Tigers’ top reliever, the 32-year-old lefty came to be a Brown as a result of early-season misfortune suffered by Detroit’s defending World Series champions.

On April 29 a collision between Tigers slugger Hank Greenberg and Washington Senators first baseman Jake Powell left Greenberg with a broken wrist and Detroit player-manager Mickey Cochrane desperate.8 The next day Detroit sent Hogsett, who had appeared in 220 games, mostly in relief, in eight seasons with the Tigers, to the Browns for first baseman Jack Burns. The Browns’ regular first baseman since 1931, Burns had been left positionless when St. Louis acquired 36-year-old Jim Bottomley in a March trade.

Hogsett got off to a rocky start in the Browns bullpen, allowing 14 runs and 17 hits in his first two outings, including a triple by 21-year-old Joe DiMaggio in the Yankee Clipper’s major-league debut. A pair of quality relief stints earned Hogsett his first start in more than 100 appearances, on May 13 against DiMaggio and company. He took the loss but did well enough for Hornsby to give him another start.

Seven games up on the last-place Browns, the Athletics were making their fourth stop on a five-city, 10-game road trip. They had won two of their last three, credited to manager Connie Mack shuffling his lineup to help shake a dry spell.9

A crowd of 4,100 paid their way into Sportsman’s Park for the afternoon tilt, with game-time temperatures in the mid-80s. Athletics first baseman Lou Finney greeted Hogsett with a first-pitch, opposite-field triple down the left-field line but went no farther. A pair of groundouts, sandwiched around a popup to catcher Rollie Hemsley, ended the threat.

Taking the mound for Philadelphia in the bottom of the first was 21-year-old Buck Ross, a rookie right-hander from the semipro Carolina Textile League. The “spindly” right-hander had pitched a complete game in his major-league debut 10 days earlier,10 but lost on a wild pitch in the ninth. This time, Ross took to throwing erratically right from the start; unable to find the plate, he walked the first three batters. That brought up Bottomley, the National League’s top run producer over the previous 15 years.

The Cardinals’ regular first baseman between 1923 and 1932, Sunny Jim had long been admired by fans – both for his productivity and his easygoing manner. “The all-time ‘ladies’ choice’ of major league baseball,” as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch described him, tripled to left-center field, clearing the bases.11

Shell-shocked, Ross walked Beau Bell, causing Mack to replace his young Tar Heel with another, 24-year-old Herman Fink. Appearing in the seventh game of his big-league career, Fink surrendered a first-pitch single to Sam West that scored Bottomley and advanced Bell to second. With Hemsley batting, Fink picked Bell off second, after which West stole second. Fink settled down after that, retiring Hemsley and the next batter, Tom Carey, to keep the score at 4-0.

Philadelphia clawed a run back in its next turn at bat. Slugger Bob Johnson, dropped from cleanup to sixth in Mack’s recent lineup makeover, tripled and came in on a fly ball by Skeeter Newsome. Two innings later, Johnson brought the A’s a run closer on an RBI single that brought in slugger George Puccinelli, a former Brown who’d walked ahead of a Pinky Higgins single. A sacrifice by Newsome moved both runners up, but Higgins was nailed at the plate by Browns third baseman Harlond Clift on a fielder’s choice. Fink followed with a run-scoring single for his first RBI as a major leaguer.12 It was a 4-2 game.

Hogsett returned the favor in the bottom of the inning. Hemsley singled, Carey doubled, and Hogsett lofted a fly ball that scored his batterymate.

The pendulum swung Philadelphia’s way in the fifth. First, Rabbit Warstler scored from second on a one-out double by Puccinelli. The top hitter in the A’s lineup coming into the game, Puccinelli was caught in a rundown after trying to advance on Higgins’ roller to shortstop. Two batters later, Newsome singled in Higgins from second, tying the score at 5-all.

Carey’s line drive with the speedy West on first seemed destined to put the Browns back on top in the sixth, but a “somersault catch” by center fielder Wally Moses chased West back and kept the game deadlocked.13

St. Louis broke the tie in the seventh thanks to the previously struggling Moose Solters. A rookie utility outfielder when he was acquired in 1935 from the Boston Red Sox, Solters had blossomed into an everyday player and the Browns’ top run producer, but had only one extra-base hit in his last 30 at-bats. With two out in the seventh, Solters drove a 3-and-2 offering from Fink into “the sun seats” in left for a solo home run.14 Bottomley followed with his third hit of the game, a single. Puccinelli then mishandled Bell’s hit to right, allowing Sunny Jim to score from first. Puccinelli was charged with an error, one of 15 he committed in 1936, tops among AL right fielders.

Staked to a two-run lead, Hogsett retired the side in order in the eighth, fanning pinch-hitter Rusty Peters in between a pair of comebackers.

The last of three Carolinians to toe the rubber for Philadelphia took the mound in the eighth, 21-year-old George Turbeville, who was born in a Palmetto State town that bore his family name. One week removed from serving up Joe DiMaggio’s first career round-tripper, Turbeville gifted the Browns an insurance run. He hit leadoff batter Carey, threw one in the dirt that allowed Carey to advance a base, then watched him scamper home on Lyn Lary’s single.

Hogsett walked Warstler to start the ninth, but retired the next three batters on fly balls, the last, off the bat of Higgins, caught by the sure-handed West, a three-time All-Star, in center.15

With the win, St. Louis avoided becoming the first team since the 1894 Washington Nationals to lose 25 games in under 30 tries. Two more wins followed, giving the Browns their first three-game winning streak of the year.

One week after this game, Fink and Turbeville each surrendered grand slams to Tony Lazzeri during a 25-2 blowout in which the Yankees second baseman set a new AL record of 11 RBIs.16

Buoyed by Hogsett winning six straight decisions between May 26 and July 1, St. Louis caught up to the Athletics in early July. The Browns finished seventh, 4½ games ahead of the Mackmen, and drew over 93,000 spectators, 15 percent more than they did in 1935.17

While Hogsett’s victory on May 17 may have helped Hornsby keep his job, a loss Hogsett was responsible for a year later proved to be the final game Hornsby managed in a Browns uniform. Hornsby was relieved of his duties “for cause” on July 21, 1937, one day after Hogsett’s four-hit, two-walk, five-run disaster in the nightcap of a doubleheader, an outing in which he retired only two batters.18



This article was fact-checked by Russ Walsh and copy-edited by Len Levin.



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted game summaries published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis Globe-Democrat, St. Louis Star, and Philadelphia Inquirer, as well as Rory Costello’s SABR biography of Elon Hogsett and C. Paul Rogers III’s SABR biography of Rogers Hornsby. The author also obtained pertinent information from Baseball-Reference.com, Retrosheet.org, Stathead.com, Baseball-Almanac.com, and box scores located at: 



Photo credit: Elon Hogsett, Trading Card Database.



1 The Browns’ seasonal attendance for 1935 remains, through the 2023 season, the lowest of any AL or NL team since 1901, excluding 2020, when COVID-19 precautions dictated that most major-league games be waged in empty venues.

2 Charles R. Stark Jr., “At the Sports Desk,” Spokane (Washington) Spokesman-Review, April 12, 1936: 41.

3 Daniel M. Daniel, “Daniel Views Tigers as Stronger Outfit,” The Sporting News, April 9, 1936: 3.

4 Associated Press, “Bad Start, Worse Pitching Better Outlook, Says Rog; Cain, Pearson, Hurl Today,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 5, 1936: 11. The Browns’ beleaguered staff in the early weeks of the 1936 season included Ivy Andrews, the team’s most reliable starter in 1935 and a member of the 1932 Red Sox squad whose records for ineptitude the Browns surpassed in 1936; Roy Mahaffey, a rotation member on the A’s pennant-winning teams of the early 1930s; scatter-armed curveballer Jim Walkup; side-armer Earl Caldwell; Georgian Sugar Cain; and rubber-armed swingmen Jack Knott and Russ Van Atta.

5 Associated Press, “Foxx Swats Two Homers as Red Sox Pound Pitcherless Browns, 9 to 6,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 8, 1936: 10; W.H. James, “Reflections from the Sidelines,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 11, 1936: 14.

6 John P. Gallagher, “Disgruntled St. Louis Baseball Fans Demand ‘Scalp’ of Manager Hornsby,” Los Angeles Times, May 18, 1936: II-12. The Times story is also notable for suggesting that low attendance at Browns games was reviving talk of the Browns moving to Milwaukee or Baltimore.

7 “Brownie Notes,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 17, 1936: 20; James M. Gould, “Browns’ Future a Bit Brighter With Improvement in Pitching,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 15, 1936: 3C. In a sidebar to its summary of the Browns’ May 16 loss to the Washington Senators, the Post-Dispatch said, “Strangely enough, despite the poor showing of the Browns, there haven’t been the slightest disposition of the part of the fans to ride them. Instead, everybody cheers at every possible chance.” Two days earlier, the Post-Dispatch’s James Gould highlighted how Browns pitching had improved in recent games and said, “[I]t must be remembered that 128 games remain on the schedule.”

8 Charles P. Ward, “Greenberg’s Broken Wrist Will Keep Him Out for Month,” Detroit Free Press, April 30, 1936: 15.

9 James C. Isaminger, “Johnson Hits Homer With Higgins on to Win Tilt for A’s,” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 15, 1936: 19.

10 The game was also Ross’s professional debut; he went straight from the semipro ranks to the majors. James C. Isaminger, “Solters’ Home Run in 7th Tops Macks,” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 18, 1936: 13; “Norwood Baseball Player Now with Philadelphia Club,” Albemarle (North Carolina) Stanly News and Press, March 3, 1936: 1.

11 “Here Comes the Sun!” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 24, 1936: 16. Feelings of affection for Bottomley lingered long after the Cardinals traded him away in December 1932. In detailing how some fans might differ with baseball writer Hugh Fullerton’s choices for his all-time St. Louis baseball team, one St. Louis Globe-Democrat columnist in January 1936, two months before Sunny Jim returned to Mound City, said: “However impossible it is to satisfy each and every man who had ever seen a big-league ball game there’s little doubt that every woman would be perfectly satisfied if ‘Sunny Jim’ Bottomley were picked for every position on the team.” Maurice O. Shevlin, “The Sporting Mill,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, January 9, 1936: 9.

12 The hit was the second of Fink’s major-league career. His first came in his first big-league at-bat, against Cleveland Indians pitcher Monte Pearson.

13 Glan L. Wallar, “Solters’ Homer Helps Browns Down Macks, 8-5,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 18, 1936: 10.

14 “Solters’ Homer Helps Browns Down Macks, 8-5.”

15 West’s .988 fielding percentage in 1935 led all major-league regular center fielders. He finished the 1936 season second to Al Simmons among AL regular center fielders, with a .980 fielding percentage. It was West who replaced Babe Ruth in the ninth inning of the inaugural All-Star Game, played at Chicago’s Comiskey Park in July 1933.

16 Lazzeri’s record still stood entering the 2024 season.

17 Despite the increase, the Browns still drew less than half the number of spectators that every other AL/NL team did, and only about one-fifth as many as the team they shared Sportsman’s Park with, the Cardinals.

18 Herman Wecke, “Hornsby Fired as Manager, Bottomley Takes Charge,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 21, 1936: 1B. Hornsby’s penchant for gambling is widely considered the “cause” for which he was let go.

Additional Stats

St. Louis Browns 8
Philadelphia Athletics 5

Sportsman’s Park
St. Louis, MO


Box Score + PBP:

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1930s ·