In September 1922, out of pennant contention, the Cleveland Indians mounted a youth drive of remarkable proportions. The team brought in 19 players, so many that it had trouble finding uniforms for them all, and manager Tris Speaker gave them game action as he could.1
The youngsters didn’t bring back memories of the 1920 Indians, who won the World Series, or the 1921 team, which finished a close second in the American League pennant race. Many of the newcomers vanished as quickly as they came, like first baseman Eucal “Uke” Clanton (one game, one at-bat, one strikeout); shortstop Chick Sorrells (two games, one at-bat); third baseman Ike Kahdot (four games, two at-bats, one strikeout); and pitcher Elmer “Doc” Hamann, who faced seven hitters in his only game, allowed all seven to reach base, and left the majors with a lifetime ERA of infinity.
Others fared slightly better, like pitcher Phil Bedgood, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound righty from Georgia. After spending much of the season at Chattanooga of the Class A Southern Association,2 Bedgood pitched a complete-game victory against the Boston Red Sox in his major-league debut in the second game of a doubleheader on September 20, 1922. It was his only big-league win.
Bedgood, 24, had gone 8-18 with a 4.50 ERA in Chattanooga, walking 137 hitters in 214 innings. This performance got him described as “a pretty crude article” by The Sporting News.3
But his size and raw stuff were impressive enough to earn him notice by the Indians. The week of his debut, the same publication raved that Bedgood “has a fastball that crackles as it twists across the plate and a curve ball that really curves where he wants it to.” The article also quoted an unnamed umpire who described Bedgood as “a new Amos Rusie.”4 Rusie, known as “the Hoosier Thunderbolt,” had become legendary for his pitching speed, winning 246 games in a major-league career of only 10 seasons.5
The Cleveland Plain Dealer hailed the newcomer as the most promising of several young Cleveland pitching prospects: “[He] pitches as if he knows how. Every ounce of his big body gets in behind each pitch and his every hurling action appears smooth.”6
The Indians entered the day in fifth place with a 73-73 record with one tie, 16½ games behind the first-place Yankees. Manager Hugh Duffy’s Red Sox were in eighth and last place with a 57-88 record, 32 games behind. The Indians had swept a doubleheader from the Red Sox the day before. Cleveland continued its dominance by winning the first game on September 20, 5-2, as pitcher George Uhle won his 20th game of the season. Over the course of the full season, Cleveland racked up a 16-6 record against Boston, including a 9-4 record at home at Dunn Field.7
To face Bedgood, Duffy called on righty Bill Piercy, who entered the game with a 3-8 record and a 4.23 ERA in 28 games, including 11 starts. He’d made one start and three relief appearances against Cleveland in 1922. In his first game of the season, on May 20, he’d started against Cleveland at Boston’s Fenway Park, giving up four runs (three earned) in five innings and taking the loss. The September 20 start was Piercy’s last appearance of the season, although the Red Sox had seven games remaining after the doubleheader.
The Indians gave their rookie pitcher a lead in the second inning. Pat McNulty singled to shortstop Frank O’Rourke and took second on O’Rourke’s errant throw. Stuffy McInnis singled, and both runners scored when Steve O’Neill laced a double off the 45-foot-high right-field wall.8 Bedgood, in his first major-league at-bat, sacrificed O’Neill to third, and Charlie Jamieson brought him home with a fly out. Cleveland led, 3-0.
Bedgood’s wildness put the lead in jeopardy early on. In the first inning, he walked Mike Menosky and hit Del Pratt. In the second, he hit the first two batters of the inning, Dick Reichle (who’d made his big-league debut the day before) and Pinky Pittenger. “Even the umpires had a laugh” at Bedgood’s nervous lack of control, the Boston Globe reported. The Cleveland Plain Dealer described him as “wilder than a black sheep sowing oats.”9
Still, the rookie escaped both innings without giving up a run, thanks in part to an unassisted double play by Bill Wambsganss in the second inning. With one out, the shortstop—well-known for turning an unassisted triple play in the 1920 World Series—caught a line drive by pitcher Piercy and stepped on second to end the inning.10
The Red Sox finally caught up with Bedgood in the fourth inning. Pratt walked and moved to third on Shano Collins’s single, Boston’s first hit of the game. Bedgood retired the next two batters on popups—one fair, one foul—but walked eighth-place batter Ed Chaplin, a .207 hitter entering the game. Piercy, hitting .129 entering the game, picked up his only three RBIs of the season with a bases-clearing, game-tying double after Bedgood fell behind in the count and was forced to throw a fastball over the plate.11 Menosky brought in Piercy with a single to give the Red Sox a 4-3 lead.
Bedgood “settled down and pitched magnificent ball,”12 scattering three hits over the next four innings, keeping Boston off the scoreboard and giving his mates the chance to catch up. In the sixth, they did, as O’Neill’s single and Jamieson’s double brought home a fourth run for Cleveland. The Indians reclaimed the lead in the eighth off Piercy. McNulty drew a walk, was sacrificed to second, and crossed the plate on O’Neill’s double. It was the catcher’s fourth hit and third RBI of the day.13
Boston mounted one final threat in the ninth as Muddy Ruel, pinch-hitting for Piercy, singled. But Bedgood closed out the inning to finish off a 5-4 victory in 1 hour and 50 minutes.
The rookie allowed seven hits, four runs (all earned) and four walks, while striking out five. He hit three batters and threw a wild pitch. Piercy, meanwhile, gave up 12 hits and five runs (all earned), walked two and struck out one. He hit two batters, including Bedgood.
But the number most newspapers seemed to care about was Bedgood’s weight, which was included in wire-service game stories printed throughout the country. “Bedgood is a tiny thing, tipping the scales at 215 pounds,” a Kansas newspaper elaborated.14 One number conspicuous in its absence was the game’s attendance, which was not listed in newspaper box scores at the time and is not available on Baseball-Reference or Retrosheet.15
It was Bedgood’s only major-league appearance of 1922. He returned the following season to pitch in nine games between June 23 and September 15. His first appearance was excellent, as he worked 6⅓ innings of shutout relief in mop-up duty against the St. Louis Browns. But many of the others were ineffectual, and he closed the season with an 0-2 record and a 5.30 ERA.
Despite The Sporting News’ prediction that Bedgood would be “a sure fire bet as a winner,” poor health appears to have cut his career short.16 According to one news item, he was “handicapped from the start by sickness” in 1923; the following spring he sprained his ankle and developed a sore shoulder.17 Arm problems drove Bedgood to retire partway through the 1924 season, and the Indians capped his career by releasing him in April 1925.18
According to Baseball-Reference, Bedgood was working for an automobile dealership in Florida when he died of a ruptured appendix at age 29 in 1927.19 A brief obituary in the Miami Herald did not cite a cause of death, but said the former pitcher had been ill for two weeks and “his death was not unexpected” as his condition declined.20 Although he died only about 3½ years after his final major-league appearance, the once-promising fastballer had apparently fallen so far off the baseball map that The Sporting News, a.k.a. “The Bible of Baseball,” made no mention of his passing.21
This article was fact-checked by Gary Belleville and copy-edited by Len Levin. The author thanks John Fredland and Vince Guerreri for research assistance.
Unless otherwise noted, all play-by-play information in this story is taken from “Rookie Bedgood Wins Second for Indians,” Boston Globe, September 21, 1922: 10.
In addition to the specific sources cited in the Notes, the author used the Baseball-Reference and Retrosheet websites for general player, team, and season data and the box scores for this game:
1 Chris Rainey, “Doc Hamann,” SABR Biography Project; Chris Rainey, “September 21, 1922: Doc Hamann Makes Inglorious Debut for Indians,” SABR Games Project. Accessed August 23, 2022. These stories mention that Speaker also held several intrasquad games, with veterans facing rookies, to help him evaluate the newcomers.
2 At the time, Class A was the second-highest level of the minors, behind Class AA.
3 Francis J. Powers, “Indians Still Shy Their Great Desire,” The Sporting News, December 28, 1922: 2.
4 Francis J. Powers, “Speaker’s Effort Is for Real Pitching,” The Sporting News, September 28, 1922: 2. This article also includes information on the Indians’ youth drive of September 1922.
5 Rusie was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1977, some 35 years after his death.
6 Stuart M. Bell, “Indians Gain on Tigers by Taking Two More from Boston While Tigers Lose,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 21, 1922: 20.
7 The ballpark is generally remembered as League Park but was known as Dunn Field from 1916 through 1927, when James Dunn owned the Indians.
8 Bill Johnson, “League Park (Cleveland, OH),” SABR Biography Project. Accessed August 23, 2022.
10 Wambsganss turned his unassisted triple play while playing second base in Game Five of the 1920 Series. The Boston Globe noted that Wambsganss could have turned a triple play on Piercy’s liner if one had been needed, but there was already one out.
13 The four hits tied a career high. O’Neill achieved this feat in 10 games; this was the ninth. His career high for RBIs in a game was five, achieved on June 17, 1914, in a 7-2 Cleveland victory over Washington.
14 “Baseball Chatter,” Hutchinson (Kansas) News, September 21, 1922: 3. Bell, of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, reported that Bedgood had “squeezed into a 185-pounder’s uniform” for his big-league debut.
15 As of August 2022.
16 Powers, “Indians Still Shy Their Great Desire.” The article also described Bedgood as having “a world of speed and good control,” a statement only half-supported by his 1922 performance.
17 “Jinx Follows Phil Bedgood,” Allentown (Pennsylvania) Morning Call, March 25, 1924: 19.
18 “Sport Briefs,” Dayton (Ohio) Daily News, April 9, 1925: A10.
20 “Ex-Player’s Funeral Held at Fort Pierce,” Miami Herald, May 12, 1927: 10.
21 A search of The Sporting News’ online archives on August 23, 2022, turned up no reference to Bedgood in 1927.