From A Researcher’s Notebook (1982)

This article was written by Al Kermisch

This article was published in the 1982 Baseball Research Journal


Old Orioles’ Record for Triples Doubled Up

The old Orioles of the 1890’s were one of baseball’s legendary teams. They played their home games in Union Park, Baltimore, one of the larger playing fields in the National League. As a result the Orioles did not hit too many home runs, but they got their share of doubles and triples and set some records along the way. But one record the Old Orioles have been credited with is one they never made, that for hitting nine triples in one game. The game in which the Orioles were supposed to have set the record took place in Baltimore on September 3, 1894, in the first game of a Labor Day doubleheader against Cleveland. The Orioles were in the midst of a great drive toward their first major league pennant and all Baltimore was baseball mad. Over 25,000, the greatest baseball attendance in Baltimore up to that time, crowded into the ballpark. The actual paid attendance was 20,450, but more than 5,000 stormed through the gates and over the fences and surged onto the playing field. This necessitated a ground rule and it was agreed that no hit should go for more than two bases unless the ball was hit over the fence. Consequently, all the triples credited to the Orioles by the recordkeepers were actually doubles – two each for Dan Brouthers and Steve Brodie, and one apiece for Joe Kelley, Heinie Reitz, Hugh Jennings, John McGraw and Willie Keeler.

The Orioles took both ends of the twinbill – 13-3 and 16-3, the second contest being called after six innings because of darkness. It was a Red-Letter Day for future Hall of Famer Kelley. Joe was a perfect 9 for 9 in the 15 innings of play – 4 for 4 in the first game and 5 for 5 in the abbreviated nightcap. Five of his nine hits were doubles, four in succession in the short second game. And Kelley did not pick on any novice in the afterpiece, either, for none other than the great Cy Young took the pounding.

While the Orioles lose their record for most triples in a nine-inning game they should gain one for most doubles in a double-header. By adding the nine doubles of the first game to the 12 they made in the second contest the total of 21 tops the 17 made by the Cardinals against the Cubs in a twinbill at St. Louis on July 12, 1931. The Cards made four in the first game, won by the Cubs 5-4, and 13 in the second as they won 17-13 before a Sunday crowd of 45,770, the largest ever for a baseball game in St. Louis up to then. There were so many fans on the playing field that many pop flies that any good infielder normally catches fell for ground-rule two-base hits among the surging customers, many of whom actually pushed aside the fielders in scrambling for souvenirs. It was estimated that of the 32 doubles registered by the two teams that afternoon, only about five or six would have been anything but easy outs under normal circumstances.

 

Earl Weaver Weaved Magic in Oriole Openers

Earl Weaver, in his last year as Oriole manager, suffered through the worst start ever for a Baltimore team in the American League with a 2-10 mark, but he did manage to open the season with a victory and complete an amazing record in opening games.

In his 14 full seasons in the American League, Weaver’s clubs won 11 and lost only three in the official opening games of the season. In their home openers under Weaver, the Birds were also 11-3, but came close to winning all of them. The three losses were all extra-inning games – two 12-inning games and one ten-inning affair. In 1969, the Orioles lost to the Red Sox 5-4 in 12 innings when Weaver had to bring in rookie Mike Adamson, who gave up the winning run. In 1975, the Orioles again lost to the Red Sox 6-5 in 12 frames on a Carl Yastrzemski home run off Doyle Alexander. In 1979, Texas topped the Birds 2-1 in 10 innings when rookie Larry Harlow misplayed a routine fly ball by Juan Beniquez and Bump Wills followed with a single for his first major league hit to make a loser out of Jim Palmer.

Weaver’s record in the opening games of Championship Series and World Series was perfect. The Orioles appeared in six Championship Series, winning four and losing two, but began each one with a victory. Although Weaver’s teams were able to take just one World Series while losing three, they won all four opening games. Altogether, not including the home openers, Weaver was 21 and 3 for the combined openers of the season, Championship Series and World Series, for a percentage of .875!

 

Dorr Displayed Great Control for 1882 Browns

Pitcher Albert “Bert” Dorr joined the St. Louis Browns of the American Association late in the 1882 season. He pitched in five games, won two, lost six, and one resulted in an 11-inning 6-6 tie. Despite his losing record in his only major league season, Dorr displayed amazing control. He walked but one batter in the 79 innings he pitched. In his first four games, Dorr pitched a total of 32 innings without issuing a base on balls. On September 7, in losing 4-1 game against Cincinnati, he walked Joe Sommer – the first batter in the game. He then completed another 47 innings without giving up another pass.

 

Joe DiMaggio O.B. Debut Day Ruth Called Shot

Fifty years ago on October 1, 1932, the Yankees defeated the Cubs 7-5 in the third game of the World Series before 49,986 at Wrigley Field. It was the game in which Babe Ruth’s second home run of the day in the fifth inning was the one in which Babe called his shot. He hit a tremendous drive over the bleacher screen in center after indicating in pantomime that he proposed to hit the ball there.

On that same afternoon in San Francisco, 17-year-old Joe DiMaggio made his debut in Organized Baseball. He had been invited to work out with the Seals for the last few days of the season. San Francisco had given Augie Galan, the regular shortstop, permission to leave a few days early since he was anxious to get started on a trip to Hawaii. Joe’s older brother, Vince, an outfielder with the team, told Manager Ike Caveney that Joe could play shortstop and the young DiMaggio was inserted into the lineup. Joe got one hit in three times at bat, a triple off Ted Pillette, as the Seals defeated the Missions 4-3. In the field he handled two putouts and two assists without an error. Joe also played shortstop in the final two games of the season the following day. After going 0 for 4 in the opener, he got a double in two trips and batted in two runs in the finale.

The following year Joe proved to be the outstanding rookie in the San Francisco camp and was signed to a contract. Brother Vince was released during the first week of the season but later caught on with the Hollywood club. Joe played the outfield and got off to a slow start but caught fire in late May and set a new PCL record by hitting safely in 61 consecutive games. He was finally stopped by Ed Walsh, Jr. on July 26. He was 0 for 5, but still drove in the winning run with a fly ball in the ninth inning to give the Seals a 4-3 win over Oakland. Eight years later, while in the midst of his 56-game major league batting streak, DiMaggio, in reminiscing about that winning fly ball, stated: “If I had struck out the game would have gone into extra innings and maybe I’d have gotten another rap. Funny, eh? – winning the game and blowing your streak at the same time.”

Joe played the first four months of the 1933 season as “DeMaggio” and it was not until Charley Graham, owner of the Seals, was making arrangements to have Joe’s name engraved on the gold watch given to him when he broke Jack Ness’ PCL consecutive game hit record, that the discrepancy was noted. Joe had signed his contract as “De Maggio” but one of his older brothers, who witnessed it, signed “DiMaggio.” Joe was waiting to take batting practice when Graham asked him about the correct spelling of the name. “Spell it any old way,” replied Joe as he got ready to take his swings. Graham was persistent, however, and Joe finally admitted it was “DiMaggio” and the way to spell his name was finally settled.

 

Walter Johnson’s Record Shutout Total Shrinks

When Walter Johnson finished his career with the Washington Senators in 1927 he was credited with 113 shutouts – the major league record. His total is now carried as 110 in The Sporting News Record Book. Of course, this is still 20 more than the second man on the all-time list, Grover Cleveland Alexander, who finished his career with 90. During the past year I have received several inquiries from SABR members about the change. It seems that three games have been deleted from Johnson’s record because they do not meet the modern criteria calling for complete games even though they were credited as shutouts in the years pitched. In none of the games was Johnson taken out because he was in any kind of trouble. In fact, he pitched extremely well in each game and left only after the Senators had a big lead.

The games in question were pitched in 1913, 1914 and 1915, respectively. On July 9, 1913, Johnson pitched six innings, giving up only two hits, fanned one and walked one and left with a 7 to 0 lead. Bert Gallia finished up as the Nats beat the Tigers 9-0 in the second game of a doubleheader at Detroit. On July 3, 1914, the Senators downed the Red Sox 12-0 in Washington. Walter pitched seven innings and allowed six hits, fanned five and issued two bases on balls. He departed with a 9-0 advantage and turned the game over to Harry Harper. Then on June 19, 1915, Johnson allowed but two hits in seven innings, struck out four and did not walk a batter as the Nats beat the Tigers 7-0 in Washington. In addition, Walter was three for three at bat, including a double and triple. He turned the 7-0 advantage over to Doc Ayres, who completed the shutout.

 

Brickyard Kennedy’s Two Wins in Day Ignored

William “Brickyard” Kennedy pitched 12 years in the majors, winning 183 games and losing 164. In 1893, he won 26 games while losing 19 for Brooklyn in the National League. That was the year that the pitching distance was increased from 50 feet to 60 feet, six inches, and Kennedy was the first hurler to pitch and win two complete games in one day under the new pitching distance. But for some unknown reason he is not even included in the record books with the pitchers who have pitched and won two complete games in one day.

Kennedy performed the feat on May 30, 1893, in a morning and afternoon holiday attraction against Louisville at Brooklyn. In the morning contest Kennedy blanked the Colonels 3-0 on two hits, both by George Pinckney, and in the afternoon he gave up six hits and won 6-2.

 

Corcoran Pitched with Both Hands in Regular Game

In the 1979 Journal I pointed out the day in 1882 that Tony Mullane of the Louisville club of the American Association pitched with both hands in a league game at Baltimore. Recently I ran across another pitcher who threw with both hands in a regular game. He was Larry Corcoran, the diminutive Chicago pitcher, who did so in a National League game at Buffalo on June 16, 1884. While Mullane pitched with both hands as a lark, Corcoran did so through necessity. He had a sore hand but had to pitch when Cap Anson allowed Fred Goldsmith to visit Canada. Corcoran tried to pitch, using his right and left hands alternately, but had to be taken out of the box after four innings. The Buffalo Commercial Advertiser of June 17, 1884, described the game as follows:

The Chicagos tried four pitchers yesterday afternoon at Olympic Park and then couldn’t down Buffalo. Larry Corcoran was the first victim, but there was some excuse for his failure to puzzle the bisons. He had a felon and when a felon is on a pitcher’s right index finger he has no business in the box. Why in the name of common sense Anson permitted Goldsmith to go to Canada and persisted in playing Corcoran, when the little man was suffering excruciating pain is a question nobody can answer. It was an act at once brutal and stupid. Larry used his right and left hands alternately, but it was no go, and Anson finally had it knocked into his head that Corcoran must be relieved. It was not, however, until two home runs and five singles had been made by Buffalo and three had gone to first on balls that he ordered Corcoran to short, Kelly to third and Williamson to the points.

King Kelly and Fred Pfeffer followed Ned Williamson in the pitcher’s box as the Bisons swamped the Ansonmen 20-9. Corcoran’s sore hand did not affect his batting. He had three hits in four at bats, including two triples. Corcoran’s pitching hand must have healed rather quickly, for 11 days later he pitched a no-hitter against the hard-hitting Providence club, winning 8-0 at Chicago. It was his third major league no-hitter; the others being achieved in 1880 and 1882.

 

Indianapolis Experimented with Baseball by Gaslight

Attempts to play baseball by electric light before 1900, however crude, always fascinated baseball promoters since such events were sure to attract thousands of patrons. It is interesting to note, however, that in August 1888, the directors of the Indianapolis club of the National League were enthused about playing baseball at night but, surprisingly enough, not by electric light. They experimented with gaslight, and even went so far as to schedule a league game with Chicago. On August 22, the Indianapolis Sentinel commented on the success of the experiment the night before:

A large number of visitors went to the park last night to witness the experiment of ball playing by the light of natural gas. The experiment was considered a decided success. Only two lights were used when sixteen are intended. As Col. John Martin put it, the play last night was superior to that of the Detroits in the ninth inning yesterday. The success of the experiment opens a wide field for the extension of the great national game. If ball can be played at night in Indianapolis, they will become a greater ball town than New York. The success of the first effort has determined the management to thoroughly pipe the grounds, and sixteen of the largest torches the company can furnish were ordered placed in position immediately. The first league game will be played by gaslight possibly a week from Saturday night with Chicago. Both New York and Chicago are anxious to try the experiment, and President Day, of the former, offered to pay all the expense of putting in the lights if he could realize half of the receipts of one gaslight game. Manager Spence and all the directors are highly elated over the results of last night’s trial and speak in glowing terms of the prospects for the game thus opened up.

After the second experiment, however, which was held on Thursday, September 6, the glowing enthusiasm had given way too much doubt. The Sentinel of September 7 expressed the pros and cons of the experiment the night before:

A small crowd gathered at the baseball park last evening to witness the experimental illumination with natural gas. Among the spectators were the board of directors, baseball players of high and low degree, and about five hundred uninvited people who managed to gain entrance to the grounds and whom it was found necessary to eject before the experiment could be proceeded with. At 9 o’clock the gas was turned one and lighted by the use of Roman candles. Immediately the diamond shone in a blaze of glory. Indeed, President Brush says that the blaze is too glorious, that there is too much light. Whether this is true or not, something is wrong and it is doubtful whether Indianapolis will ever enjoy baseball by gas. The pitcher, batsman and catcher can work successfully as by daylight. The fielders, too, can do very nicely on fly balls barring an inability to see the ball immediately after it leaves the bat. But on ground balls is the difficulty. They cannot be seen with any satisfaction. It is thought, however, that if some of the lights are lowered and brought in some distance from the fence, grounders will be as satisfactorily handled as liners, flies and thrown balls now are. A standpipe behind second base will also help matters. The directors have by no means decided to give up the experiment as yet.

In reality, however, that was the end of the experiment and baseball by gaslight in the majors died a natural death.

 

Kaat Loser on 23rd Anniversary

On the night of August 2, 1982, the Pirates defeated the Cardinals 4-2 in 17 innings at St. Louis. Veteran Jim Kaat was the loser in relief although he was touched for only two hits in six innings, a pretty decent performance for a 43-year-old hurler with a record 24 years service in the majors. The irony of the occasion, however, was that Kaat was pitching on the 23rd anniversary of his major league debut for Washington on August 2, 1959, and he was a loser on that occasion, too. Kaat was just up from Chattanooga of the Southern League and Manager Cookie Lavagetto started him in the second game of a doubleheader at Chicago.

Kaat lasted only two and two-thirds innings, giving up two hits and three runs (only one earned) and walking three as the Nats lost 9-3 for their 16th loss in a row. But between that day of his debut and his 23rd anniversary Kaat had won 282 major league games. Jim registered his first big league victory on April 27, 1960, the Senators defeating the Yankees 5-4 at New York. Kaat started and gave up three hits and four runs (only one earned) in seven innings. He walked two and struck out four. Pedro Ramos finished up for him. Whitey Ford took the loss and it was a home run by Jim Lemon with two on in the eighth inning that made Kaat a winner.

 

Vickers Set Modern Passed Ball Mark in Joke Game

The modern record for most passed balls by a catcher in a major league game is six and was set by Harry P. “Rube” Vickers, a rookie pitcher with Cincinnati in 1902. In a game at Pittsburgh on October 4, 1902, Vickers was used as a catcher for a few innings. It was the closing day of the 1902 National League campaign and was one of those ridiculous affairs that happened so many times in the old days. The Cincinnati players were miffed since they thought the game should have been cancelled because the grounds were in bad shape after an all-night rain and it was still drizzling at noon. However, Barney Dreyfuss, the Pittsburgh magnate, insisted that the game be played since he wanted the Pirates to break the all-time record by winning 103 games. Cincinnati manager Joe Kelley wasn’t pleased with that decision and showed his wrath by having his players make a farce of the game. The starting infield for the Reds presented quite a spectacle. Regular shortstop Tommy Corcoran moved over to second base and the three others were all left-handed throwers – Noodles Hahn at first, Cy Seymour on third and Mike Donlin at short.

Kelley put Vickers in to catch and the three pitchers he used were first baseman Jake Beckley and outfielders Donlin and Seymour. Donlin and Seymour began their careers as pitchers and Beckley had hurled a few games in his first year in baseball, but in 1902 each was a hard-hitting regular. Donlin appeared in only 36 games for the Reds that season but not for the reason of sitting on the bench. He didn’t join the club until August after serving a six-month sentence in the Baltimore City Jail for assaulting an actress on a Baltimore street the previous winter.

During the game the Cincinnati players smoked cigarettes with brazen affront, with Kelley, Donlin and Seymour blowing the smoke offensively. Kelley smoked while at bat and refused to get rid of the cigarette even when ordered to do so by umpire Hank O’Day. But Chief Zimmer, the Pirate catcher, snatched it from him and threw it away. Vickers had just joined the club a few weeks before and had pitched the previous day, losing to Jack Chesbro 5-1. His catching was pathetic and his six passed balls seemed to give him great pleasure. His teammates howled at his antics as he blew his nose before going after the ball and using his handkerchief with great care and deliberation. At that he played only a few innings and was replaced by Heinie Peitz.

The Pirates won the game easily 11-2 and had their record of 103 victories, which was to last only until 1906 when the Chicago Cubs set the all-time mark of 116 wins. Dreyfuss was so incensed that he threatened to prefer charges against Kelley for unbecoming conduct on the field. In response the Cincinnati pilot said that anyone who would open the gates on such a day should be arrested. At any rate, Dreyfuss sent the fans home happy by refunding all the money taken in at the gate.

 

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