From a Researcher’s Notebook (1976)

This article was written by Al Kermisch

This article was published in the 1976 Baseball Research Journal


The National League started off without too much fanfare in 1876. Only one game was scheduled on its opening day on Saturday, April 22, with Boston playing at Philadelphia. Of course, that was 34 years before a President of the United States attended an opening game, but it wouldn’t have been too difficult for President Ulysses S. Grant to have attended the game if he had been so inclined. It just so happens that the President and his wife were visiting in Philadelphia that day, but the attraction that afternoon was not the baseball game but rather the centennial exposition which was officially scheduled to open the following month. President Grant was keenly interested in the exposition. He got a preview that day and was also there to dedicate the formal opening on May 10, 1876.

Spalding Was First

Baseball’s record books tell us that the first pitcher to pitch shutouts in his first two major league games was John Montgomery Ward on July 18 and July 20, 1878. But the honor really belongs to Al Spalding, who won 47 games in piloting Chicago to the first National League pennant in 1876. Spalding didn’t waste any time in recording his shutouts. He accomplished his feat in the first two games played by his club, both at Louisville. He won the opener 4-0 on April 25 and two days later triumphed by a 10-0 score. While Spalding’s name should be placed into the record book, Johnny Ward doesn’t even belong on the list since his two straight shutouts did not come in his first two games. He actually made his major league debut at Cincinnati several days before on July 15, losing 13-8. Providence then went to Indianapolis and Ward won 4-2 on July 16. He followed that with his shutouts over that club – 3-0 on July 18 and 4-0 on July 20.

Casey at K.C. in 1910

The late Casey Stengel was originally signed by his home town club, Kansas City of the American Association in 1910. He was sent to Kankakee in the Northern Association and when that league folded he was sent to Maysville in the Blue Grass League. Although his record doesn’t show it, Casey did make it back to Kansas City at the tail end of the 1910 season. He appeared in four games for the Blues, went to bat 11 times and made three hits, one a double, for a .273 average. In the outfield he registered five putouts, two assists and one error.

Quick Start Managers

In the long history of the majors only eight managers have been able to win pennants in their first two, three or four full years. They are Charley Comiskey, St. Louis AA, first four full, 1885 through 1888; Frank Chance, Chicago NL, first three full, 1906 through 1908; Hugh Jennings, Detroit AL, first three, 1907 through 1909; Ralph Houk, New York AL, first three, from 1961 through 1963; Earl Weaver, first three full, 1969 through 1971; Bucky Harris, Washington AL, first two, 1924 and 1925; Gabby Street, St. Louis NL, first two full, 1930 and 1931, and Mickey Cochrane, Detroit AL, first two, 1934 and 1935.

The above group accounted for 22 pennants in their first 22 full years. An imposing record, indeed, but in the years following their initial successes, the group has an amazingly low record of only two pennants in 71 seasons with only Chance, in 1910, and Harris, in 1947, able to dent the winner’s circle again. Of course, two of the pilots – Houk and Weaver – are still on the scene and could increase the percentage before they retire. Weaver has come close twice with divisional titles in 1973 and 1974.

On the other hand the top pennant winners – John McGraw, Casey Stengel, Connie Mack and Joe McCarthy – waited a few years before winning their first buntings. McGraw won 10 titles but not before his fifth year. Stengel also won 10 and his first came in his 10th year as a manager in the majors. Mack won nine flags and waited until his fifth year for the first, while McCarthy also won nine but won for the first time in his fourth year.

 

Managerial Box Score of the Early Winners                                   

 

 

 

 

Subsequent

Years

 

 

Pennants

Years

 

Pennants

Years

 

Comiskey

4

4

(first full)

0

6

 

Chance

3

3

(first full)

1

7

 

Jennings

3

3

 

0

11

 

Houk

3

3

 

0

10

 

Weaver

3

3

(first full)

0

4

 

Harris

2

2

 

1

27

 

Street

2

2

(first full)

0

3

 

Cochrane

2

2

 

0

3

 

 

22

22

1.000

2

71

0.027

 

Ruth Had 15 Pinch Hits

The Macmillan Encyclopedia credits Babe Ruth with 13 pinch hits during his career, but closer study shows 15 successful emergency hits for the Babe. He registered an additional pinch hit in 1918 and another one in 1924. These pinch hits are not visible in the box scores since Ruth stayed in the game each time and is listed in the outfield.

On July 6, 1918, with the Red Sox trailing the Indians 4 to 2 at Boston, Ruth was elected to bat for Walter Barbare with two on and none out against Jim Bagby, pitching in relief of Fritz Coumbe. With the count two balls and a strike, the Babe tripled to right to drive in two runs to tie the score and when the relay throw went astray he came in with what proved to be the winning tally in a 5 to 4 Red Sox victory.

The other pinch hit came on July 8, 1924, in the second game of a double-header against the White Sox at Yankee Stadium. Ruth, still suffering from bruises sustained in bumping into the concrete wall at Washington a few days before, was on the bench after playing the first game, a 10-2 loss to Chicago. The Babe came in as a pinch-hitter for Harvey Hendrick in the seventh inning and singled in a run against Ted Lyons. He went to rightfield and got another single in the eighth inning as the Yankees won 8-5.

It is also interesting to note that the last time a pinch-hitter went to bat for Ruth the information was not available in the box score. It happened on April 12, 1927, with a capacity crowd of 72,000 on hand for opening day. Lefty Grove started for the Athletics and he was particularly rough on the Babe. Three times Ruth came up with runners in scoring position but he fanned twice and the other time popped to second baseman Eddie Collins. When his next turn at bat came around in the sixth inning, Ruth complained of feeling dizzy and manager Miller Huggins elected Ben Paschal to hit for the Bambino. He promptly singled to right, scoring Mark Koenig. Paschal stayed in the game in right field as the Yankees downed the A’s 8-3.

Farce Game Hurt Johnson Record

Walter Johnson held the major league ERA record for pitchers with over 300 innings in a season from 1913, the first year the American League compiled earned run averages, until 1968, when Bob Gibson broke it. But did you know that Johnson would still own that record if it weren’t for a farcical game played by the Senators and Red Sox in the final contest of the 1913 season. The game was played at Washington on October 4, and with nothing at stake, the two teams put on a good comedy show for a gathering of 8,000, including 3,000 servicemen.

The Senators used a total of 18 players, with eight of them taking a turn on the mound. This included manager Clark Griffith, and non-pitchers Germany Schaefer, Eddie Ainsmith and Joe Gedeon. Although Boston used only 11 players, outfielder Duffy Lewis played third base, pitcher Charley Hall started at second base while rookie Fred Anderson pitched all the way. Manager Griffith, 43 years old, pitched the eighth inning and his catcher was coach Jack Ryan, who was 44. Schaefer was supposed to be the rightfielder but spent most of his time roving between second and first bases. Many times the fielders had their backs to the batter. Several times four men were retired before the teams changed positions. The veteran umpires Tom Connolly and Bill Dinneen – were too busy laughing at the antics to pay too much attention to details.

In the ninth inning, with the Senators holding a 10-3 lead, comedian Schaefer brought the frolicking to a high pitch. He started the last inning as a pitcher and after Lewis bunted safely Griffith called in Johnson, who had played all the way in centerfield. Walter joined in the festivities by grooving a few pitches – giving up a single to Steve Yerkes and a double to Clyde Engle. Over Griffith’s objection, Schaefer ordered Johnson back to the outfield and assumed the pitching duties himself once again.

Before the inning was finished Ainsmith, a catcher and Gedeon, an outfielder, had also toed the rubber for the Nats. When it was all over the Senators had survived Schaefer’s shenanigans and eeked out a 10-9 victory. The final out was made by Lewis, who had started the inning with a hit. It wasn’t his turn at bat but Harry Hooper, who had made the last out in the eighth inning, didn’t think much of the Red Sox chances and had gone to the clubhouse for his shower. Lewis just moved up a notch without anyone noticing the difference.

When the league records were issued in 1913, the American League statistician paid no attention to Johnson’s pitching stint in the joke game. He credited Johnson with a 1 .09 ERA and that’s the way it went into the official records. It wasn’t until many years after Johnson had retired that a game by game check of his career revealed that the two men he had put on base in that jocular ninth inning had scored and had to be charged as earned runs, thereby increasing his ERA to 1.14. That’s how the final game of 1913, which the Boston Globe called “the most farcical exposition of the national game that was ever staged,” cost Johnson the ERA title 55 years later when Gibson turned in a 1.12 earned run average for the Cardinals.

First Fox Fourbagger at Fenway

The late Nellie Fox hit only 26 home runs during his long major league career and did not hit his first one until his sixth season and his 250th game in the big show. It may have come a little late but Nellie’s first was quite a dramatic one. He hit in on May 15, 1951, at Fenway Park, Boston. It came in the 11th inning and gave the White Sox a 9-7 victory over the Red Sox. Earlier in the game – in the fourth inning – Ted Williams hit his 300th career home run.

In the eighth inning of that game, freshman manager Paul Richards, who is returning to the managerial ranks this season after an absence of 15 years, electrified the week-day throng of 8,923 by moving relief pitcher Harry Dorish to third base while he brought in Billy Pierce to pitch to Ted Williams. After Williams popped up, Richards brought Dorish back and, although the Red Sox got the tying run off him, he stayed in the contest and was the winning pitcher.

That afternoon the Red Sox were celebrating the 50th anniversary of their first American League game in Boston. Twenty-nine oldtimers who had played, managed or umpired in the American League during its first year as a major loop, attended the game as guests of the Red Sox. They were: Connie Mack 89, Dummy Hoy 89, Frank Scheibeck 85, Cy Young 84, Hugh Duffy 84, Clark Griffith 81, Joe Sugden 81, Tom Leahy 81, Ollie Pickering 81, Bill Hoffer 80, Tom Connolly 80, Lew McAllister 76, Frank Fultz 76, Billy Sullivan Sr. 76, Harry Gleason 76, Fred Parent 75, Charlie Hemphill 75, Billy Friel 75, Wid Conroy 74, Harry Howell 74, Jimmy Williams 74, Roy Patterson 74, Fred Mitchell 73, Billy Maloney 73, Bill Bradley 73, Earl Moore 72, Paddy Livingston 71, George McBride 70, and Jack Bracken 70. Eight of the 29 had participated in the very first American League game played at Chicago on April 24, 1901, won by the White Sox over Cleveland 8 to 2. For the White Sox, Griffith was the manager, Hoy played center, Sullivan caught and Patterson pitched. Pickering played rightfield for Cleveland, with Bradley on third and Hoffer on the mound. Connolly umpired the game.

Red Sox Liked Braves Field

Fenway Park in Boston opened in 1912 but the Red Sox have not always played their World Series home games in that park. In both 1915 and 1916 the Sox played their title games at Braves Field, a new facility with a much larger seating capacity. The Red Sox were perfect at Braves Field, taking two out of two from the Philadelphia Phillies in 1915 and three in a row from the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1916. The longest World Series game, Babe Ruth’s 14-inning 2-1 victory over the Dodgers, was played at Braves Field on October 9, 1916. Incidentally, when the Miracle Braves shocked the baseball world by taking four straight from the Philadelphia Athletics in 1914, they played their two home games at Fenway Park, which could accommodate more fans than their old grounds. So for three straight years the Boston teams were 7 and 0 playing their home World Series games in their neighbor’s park.

Roberts and Lemon

New Hall of Famer Robin Roberts won exactly 300 games in his Organized Baseball career – 286 in the majors and 14 in the minors. Roberts made his 0. B. debut for Wilmington in the Inter-State League on April 29, 1948. He started in sensational fashion, defeating Harrisburg 19-1 on five hits, fanning 17, including eight of the first nine batters.

Bob Lemon, another newcomer to the Hall, was a pretty good hitter during his infielding days in the minors. He had a great day while playing third base for the Orioles in the International League on April 26, 1942. Lemon got six hits, including four home runs and a triple, in a doubleheader against Montreal at Baltimore. In the first game he was 5 for 5, with three home runs, a triple, five runs scored and five runs batted in as the Orioles won 10-5.

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