A Bizarre Game of Baseball

This article was written by John F. Pardon

This article was published in the 1981 Baseball Research Journal


The 1981 minor league baseball season had at least one unique experience and that was a 32-inning tie game between Rochester and Pawtucket that was continued at a later date amidst all kinds of excitement. But 30 years ago, in 1951, there was an even more unusual game in the Class D Mississippi-Ohio Valley League where Danville (Illinois) gave Vincennes (Indiana) a beating by the score of 40-5. However, the score, which was the highest for one team in modern times, does not fully reveal the several abnormalities which took place in this game, all resulting from the way the Vincennes “manager” directed the team.

SABR member Phil Piton, former President of the National Association, called this game to our attention and provided the basic source document, a July 30, 1951, letter to George Trautman, President of the National Association, from Robert Rouse, General Manager of the Vincennes baseball club. It is such a complete report that it is most convenient and appropriate to quote the letter here in full and then tie up any loose ends after that. Here is the letter.

Mr. G. M. Trautman, President
National Association
Columbus, Ohio

Dear Sir:

Your letter to Mr. Horace Parrish, President of the Vincennes Baseball Club, has been handed to me for reply. This letter was regarding a complaint by Mr. George J. Kromer against Mr. Parrish and Mr. Raymond Werner, Secretary of the Club.

In an agreement dated March 28, 1951 Mr. Parrish and Mr. Werner agreed to let Mr. Kromer take over the management of the Vincennes Club, on the field, for the 1951 season. Mr. Kromer had stated that he was an old time professional ball player and had managed professional clubs at Blytheville, Arkansas and Blackwell, Oklahoma. Kromer further stated that he had a system of play that had developed several major league players and would teach that system to the Vincennes Club. In return for letting him “coach” the club, Kromer agreed to pay the Vincennes Club $5,000.00 when the agreement was signed and another $5,000.00 on June 1, 1951.

Kromer paid the first $5,000.00 and arrived in Vincennes in time for spring training. At that time I had my first meeting with him and he sat down to give me what he called the “Sizzels” of baseball. Kromer made it plain at once that baseball had been played all wrong for 75 years. He referred to such men as Cobb, Speaker, Alexander, Hornsby, Ruth and Musial as “dummies” and stated that none of those men played any better than the average sandlot kid. I was informed that this spring training would be different and would be run the right way. It, in part, consisted of using sponge rubber balls instead of baseballs, always throwing the ball in the infield to any base on two or more bounces, never using a glove or mitt to catch a ball and to catch with both arms extended rigidily in front of you with all fmgers spread apart as far as possible. Never to run, as that would tire you and for pitchers not to throw.

To warm up, a pitcher was to hold his arms upraised for 10 minutes. He was then ready to go. To strengthen the eyes, players were asked to look into the sun for 15 minutes. For hitting practice, players went to the plate with a 3-2 count on them. Kromer stationed himself behind the mound as umpire. The pitcher delivered. If the ball was over and the batter took the pitch, he was out and another man came up. If the pitch was bad, the batter walked and a new man came up. If the batter fouled the pitch, he was out. New man. The only way a batter could get more than one pitch was to hit the first one for what Kromer judged to be a base hit. In that event, he stayed up, still with the 3-2 count.

Naturally, after two days of this I knew that something had to be done so I started taking Kromer on “scouting trips” every day while one of our veteran players conducted spring training. When the season opened, I was able to convince Kromer, whose age is 75, that the road trips were too hard for him and that he should not make them. At home I could watch him and keep him from causing too much trouble. My task was to try to keep Kromer happy in order to protect the owners, who know little of baseball and take no part in the operation of the club, because of Kromer’s investment, and at the same time see that the players were not subjected to a lot of the “hocus pocus” that Kromer believed in. Things went along well until June 17th. On that day we were playing at Danville. Kromer, unknown to me, had hidden himself on the club bus and made the road trip. This was the chance he had been waiting for. He submitted a lineup for the first game of a doubleheader that found outfielders pitching, pitchers in the infield and infielders in the outfield. The players tried to show Kromer that this was bad baseball but he replied that if they were ball players they could play just as well one place as another. The result was Danville 40, Vincennes 5. After the unbelievable score, Kromer left the park and club and didn’t return for three days. When he did arrive, it was to brag about how he made headlines in papers all over the country as a result of the game at Danville.

I tried to explain that things like that were very bad for the game and could only result in causing the club trouble with both the League and the National Association. I was soundly cursed by Kromer and further informed that no one could do a damn thing about it because he had a contract and could run the club the way he wanted to. The same evening, June 20th, one of the players told me that Kromer was again drawing up a lineup with players out of normal position. I went to the players’ bench and talked with Kromer. He refused to alter his plan. I then called the club president, Mr. Parrish, and he tried to talk with Kromer but Kromer hung up.

Mrs. Parrish came to the park to talk with Kromer but he refused to alter his plan and used bad language in her presence – When nothing else would work, I again went to the players’ bench, tore up Kromer’s lineup and informed him that he could no longer manage the club. He had already broken his contract because he had not paid the second $5,000.00 that was due on June 1st. Kromer left the field and the next day sent a letter thanking the club owners for the chance they had given him and stating that he was “resigning” and going home. It must have been while he was at home that he wrote your office. I understand that our League President and the Sporting News also received a similar letter.

Kromer is now back in Vincennes. He goes to the ball park every night and spends a lot of time with me. He does not, however, try to manage the club. Today, when Mr. Parrish handed me your letter, I asked Kromer when and why he had written your office. He replied, “I don’t remember ever writing to Mr. Trautman”.

That is the story. I know it sounds unbelievable but it is true. In fact there is much, much more that could be added but I think this is enough to give you some ideas about Kromer. If you should desire more information, I can send you a few of Kromer’s “sizzel sheets”, full of information about the new strike zone, complete information on why a batter should strike out on one strike or walk on two balls, how a ball game should be only four innings or a lot of other things that I’ll bet even your office never thought of.

I am not trying to make a joke of this thing but it is hard to keep from seeing some humor in the thing when one knows that Kromer sincerely thinks that baseball is all wrong and that he, alone, has the answer that will save it.

Yours very truly,

Robert M. Rouse

Robert M. Rouse, Gen. Mgr.

Vincennes Baseball Club

 

While there is no attempt here to draw conclusions from this incident, it can be noted that in the 30 years since that 1951 game, baseball is still being played much the same way as before. In fact, it was played pretty normally in the second game of that June 17 doubleheader. After Kromer left the park the Vincennes team showed what it could do under reasonably normal conditions when it beat Danville 8-7 in the 7-inning nightcap.

That was quite a comeback from the 40-5 disaster which saw the substitute Vincennes pitchers give up 32 hits and 13 walks. The Vincennes fielders, only three of whom were in their regular positions, kicked in with eight errors. The Danville team had 61 at bats, but only one home run was achieved in the one-sided contest. The box score is not carried here to spare the reader.

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