Protested Games Cause of Muddled Records

This article was written by Ray Gonzalez

This article was published in 1985 Baseball Research Journal

The position of league president is a sinecure. All he has to do is preside over league meetings, make some public appearances, approve player contracts, handle other routine duties and attend games. Nothing to it. At least that is what many fans doubtless believe.

But what about protests of games? They can present extremely sticky situations, especially when they involve a powerful organization such as the New York Yankees. Just ask Lee MacPhail. The famous George Brett pine-tar incident will forever remain vividly etched in his memory.

An earlier American League president, William Har­ridge, was called upon to rule on three protested games involving the Yankees. In two instances he sided with the opposing team. One can imagine the reactions of the New York club’s management. On the other occasion he ruled in the Yankees’ favor. All three protests, especially the first, resulted in unusual ramifications affecting baseball’s records. Some publications still count the three games as ties and credit the Yankees with having played 85 tie games in their 83-year history when they actually have had only 82.

The first of the three protested games led by far to the most confusion among the sport’s record-keepers. Even today the achievement of one Hall of Famer is listed incorrectly because of a mixup dating back to that contest.

The disputed game took place in Detroit on August 1, 1932. The Yankees that season were en route to their first of eight pennants under manager Joe McCarthy. Earl Whitehill started on the mound for the Tigers against Danny MacFayden. Although Tony Lazzeri had batted No. 5 and Ben Chapman sixth for some time, the Yan­kees’ official lineup this day had them reversed. Nevertheless, in the second inning Lazzeri went to the plate as New York’s fifth batter and, suspecting something was amiss, asked umpire Dick Nallin whose turn it was. Told the lineup card showed Chapman should be up, Lazzeri claimed a mistake had been made, and McCarthy was summoned from the dugout. He explained he had erred in filling out the lineup card and asked Nallin to permit him to switch the two names. The umpire consented.

When Lazzeri proceeded to single, Detroit manager Bucky Harris rushed onto the field. He contended Lazzeri should be out for batting out of turn. Nallin disagreed, holding that a change could be made in the batting order if it was followed throughout the game. Harris then announced he was playing the contest under protest. When the Yankees went on to win, 6-3, the protest wound up on Harridge’s desk.

Several weeks later the A. L. president ruled in favor of Detroit, pointing out that Nallin had no right to approve a change in the official lineup. Harridge ordered the game played over in its entirety. The replay, set up as part of a September 8 doubleheader, ended in a 7-7 tie because of darkness, but Detroit posted a 4-1 victory when the game was played over the next day.

Record-keepers at the Howe News Bureau, the league’s official statistician at the time, entered all of the figures from the August 1 protested game on the individual player sheets. So far so good. But in tallying up the players’ statistics at the end of the season the Howe statisticians did not credit any of the the 23 players who participated in the contest with a game played although they did count their at-bats, hits, innings pitched, etc., from the game, including a victory for MacFayden and a defeat for White ­ hill. The team records were handled in similar fashion.

As a consequence, the official 1932 American League averages issued by Howe and published in the Baseball Guides show Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig with 132 and 155 games played, respectively, when in reality they appeared in 133 and 156 contests. It wasn’t until four years later — during the winter of 1936-37 — that this nonsensical situation was rectified, at least in part, by crediting Ruth, Gehrig and several others with an additional game. Ironically, compilers of the initial edition of The Base­ball Encyclopedia became caught in the same trap.

In looking over the Guides or the official player sheets, they picked up the original incorrect game totals. The upshot was that the first (1969) issue of the publication showed Gehrig, for instance, with 155 games in 1932 and a career total of 2,163 — rather than 2,164. This in effect also trimmed The Iron Horse’s consecutive-game streak of 2,130 by one. Fortunately, the games totals of Ruth, Gehrig, Charlie Gehringer, Gee Walker and the three pitchers — MacFayden, Whitehill and Whit Wyatt — were corrected before the second edition of The Baseball Encyclopedia appeared, but the most recent edition still has the wrong games totals for the 16 other players. The confusion arising from the August 1, 1932 pro­tested game also is reflected in another way in some current record books. Because of the mixup they give an erroneous figure for a notable accomplishment. Gehring­er, one of two players to own a pair of streaks of 500 or more consecutive games, is shown with skeins of 511 and 504 contests. Actually the latter streak covered 505 contests, counting the protested game. The iron-man skein began June 25, 1932 and extended through August 11, 1935.

The next protested Yankee game occurred on August 6, 1937. It was played in Yankee Stadium with Cleveland providing the opposition. Bob Feller went into the bottom of the ninth inning with a 5-2 lead, but New York rallied to knot the score. In the tenth Hal Trosky, tagged reliever Johnny Murphy for a homer to give the Indians a 6-5 edge.

Myril Hoag led off the New York tenth with a single. After Arndt Jorgens was sent up to pinch-hit for Murphy, Cleveland manager Steve O’Neill pulled Feller in favor of Joe Heving. Jack Saltzgaver then replaced Jorgens as the Yankee hitter. After failing twice to sacrifice, Saltzgaver singled sharply to right field, moving Hoag to second base. Frank Crosetti followed with a sacrifice to advance both runners. Red Rolfe, next up, was called out on a controversial third strike for the second out.

The Yankees’ hopes now rested with Joe DiMaggio, who was 0-for-2 with three walks. He ran the count to 3-2 against Heving before lining a drive toward third baseman Odell Hale. The sharply hit ball caromed off his glove and sailed down the line, rolling into foul territory in left field for an apparent game-winning two-run double.

However, plate umpire Charlie Johnston signaled foul ball. This brought McCarthy racing from the dugout. After arguing briefly, the Yankee manager induced Johnston to consult with third base umpire George Moriarty.

Informed by Moriarty that the ball had struck Hale’s glove — a fact the plate umpire apparently had not seen because the batter blocked his vision — and that the Cleveland third baseman was three feet in fair territory at the time, Johnston reversed himself and ruled the DiMaggio drive a fair ball, giving New York a 7-6 victory.

Now it was O’Neill’s turn to storm at the umpires. He charged that Johnston’s original call and gestures indi­cating the ball was foul caused left fielder Moose Salters to slow his pursuit and thereby deprived the Indians of a possible chance to cut down the winning run at the plate. When his argument proved fruitless, the Cleveland skip­per filed an official protest with the league office. Har­ridge subsequently upheld the claim and ordered the game replayed on September 15 as part of a doubleheader.

The Yankees themselves did the protesting in the last of the three disputed games — and emerged victorious. Following four successive world championships, the Bronx Bombers found themselves struggling in June of 1940. When they took the field at Comiskey Park on June 20, they were in the throes of a losing streak which reached five that day, with three of the defeats coming in Chicago. Tempers among the Yankees personnel under­standably were getting shorter and shorter.

Monte Pearson opened on the mound for New York that afternoon against Johnny Rigney. The pair hooked up in a brilliant duel. In the second inning Bill Dickey lofted a long foul fly to left field. Moose Salters, a central figure in the earlier protested contest, raced over and gloved the ball. As he grabbed it, his cap fell off, and in reaching for the headgear he dropped the ball, but umpire John Quinn ruled he had made a legal catch. McCarthy came steaming onto the field to dispute the call but to no avail. He subsequently protested the game.

Meantime, with Rigney tossing a five-hitter and extending the Yankees’ runless streak to 20 innings, the game remained scoreless going into the bottom of the eleventh. Pearson, who had permitted nine hits up to that point, saw Mike Tresh lead off the eleventh with a single. After Rigney sacrificed, Bob Kennedy singled Tresh across for Chicago’s second successive 1-0 victory.

Unfortunately for the White Sox, league president Harridge ruled in favor of the Yankees’ protest. He held that Quinn’s contention that Salters dropped the ball in the act of throwing was not supported by the three other umpires. Although no pitcher was given a victory or defeat in the 1937 Yankee-Cleveland protested game, Rigney was credited with a win and Pearson tagged with a loss in the 1940 game. As a result that year’s averages listed Rigney with a 15-18 record and Pearson with 7-6. It wasn’t until several years later that the record books corrected their records to 14-18 and 7-5, respectively.