In the July 12, 1999, edition of Sports Illustrated, the magazine listed some memorable dates in the history of Tiger Stadium in Detroit. The item for May 1, 1939, read, “Lou Gehrig played his 2,130th consecutive game–the last of his major league career.” Not only did Gehrig not play his last game in Detroit, but there was no game on May 1, an off day. Actually, Lou played his last game at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, April 30, 1939, against Washington. In fact, Gehrig played the first and last games of his streak against the Senators in New York.
Gehrig’s streak started on Monday, June 1, 1925, as the Yanks lost to Washington, 5-3. He batted for Pee Wee Wanninger in the eighth inning against Walter Johnson and flied out to Goose Goslin in left field. In the last game of the streak at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, April 30, 1939, Lou was 0-for-4 and in his last at-bat in the eighth inning he flied out to center fielder George Case against the pitching of Pete Appleton. The Senators won the game, 3-2.
The Yankees left for Detroit on the night of April 30. The next day, May 1, was an off day. Gehrig had just about made up his mind to bench himself after Sunday’s loss to Washington. Since Manager Joe McCarthy had spent the off day at his home in Buffalo and did not arrive in Detroit until the morning of May 2, Gehrig was waiting for him and told him that he was benching himself for the good of the team. In the game that afternoon, Babe Dahlgren played first base and rookie Charlie Keller got a start in left field. Joe DiMaggio had injured his ankle several days before and did not make the trip. The Yankees jumped all over the Tigers to the tune of 22-2. Rookie Keller led the attack with a triple, home run, and six runs batted in.
Fan Interference Kept Babe Ruth From 60 Home Runs in 1921
In 1921, twenty-six-year-old Babe Ruth, in his second year with the Yankees, turned in one of the greatest slugging performances in major league history. He led the American League in home runs, runs scored, runs batted in, bases on balls, and slugging percentage. He was second in doubles, fourth in triples, and only Harry Heilmann and Ty Cobb bettered him in batting average.
Ruth came close to reaching 60 home runs in 1921. In a game at Yankee Stadium on July 5, as the Yanks beat the Athletics, 7-5, Ruth was robbed of a home run in the fourth inning when a fan reached out and touched the ball before it had surmounted the stands. The ball hit just above the top of the lower stand, and some eager fan in an effort to grasp it just managed to touch it. The Babe, who had reached third on on the blow, had to go back to second.
Following are some of the long home runs Ruth deposited around the league in 1921:
May 14, at Cleveland. Ruth hit a home run off Jim Bagby into the center field bleachers, one of the longest ever hit at Dunn Field, and marked the first time any player had hit into that particular section.
May 25, at St. Louis. In the seventh inning, Ruth hit a home run off Urban Shocker into the center field bleachers. It was the longest home run ever hit on the grounds. The fence at the point where the ball sailed over was 550 feet from home plate.
June 13, at the Polo Grounds, New York. In the seventh inning Ruth hit a home run off Howard Ehmke, Detroit, into the center field bleachers, just to the right of the screen, a territory never before invaded by a batted ball.
June 14, at the Polo Grounds, New York. For the second time in two days, Ruth hit a ball into the center field bleachers. He hit two home runs off George Dauss of Detroit, and the second one entered the center field bleachers, just a few points northward and somewhat longer than the drive the day before.
July 18, at Detroit. Nine days after Harry Heilmann of the Tigers hit a record drive, Babe Ruth came into Detroit and surpassed Heilmann’s hit, which Harry Bullion, of the Detroit Free Press, had measured at 515 feet, the distance from home plate to the barn door which the ball hit across the street from the park. From his personal observation, Bullion stated the Ruth blast, off southpaw Bert Cole, went at least seventy-five feet farther than the ball hit by Heilmann, making the total distance of Ruth’s drive 590 feet.
Doc Crandall’s No-Hitter Broken Up by Brother with Two Out in Ninth
Otis (Doc) Crandall was a favorite of manager John McGraw when he was a member of the New York Giants from 1908 through 1913. He was 67-36 for the Giants both as starter and relief pitcher. He was one of the best relief pitchers of his era. He also was a good hitter with an average of .285. Crandall jumped to the Federal League in 1914, and in two years with St. Louis in that league he won 34 games while losing 24. After the Federal League ceased operation after the 1915 season, Crandall spent the rest of his career in the Pacific Coast League until 1929, except for two games with the St. Louis Browns in 1916 and five games for the Boston Braves in 1918.
On April 7, 1918, while pitching for Los Angeles, Pacific Coast League, Crandall came within one out of pitching a no-hitter. Otis had his spitball jumping over the plate and looked unhittable. With the game out of reach, the score was 14-0. Doc might have felt secure since it was his brother, Karl Crandall, coming to the plate for Salt Lake City. Otis smiled at his brother, but Karl, a pretty good hitter, was all business and banged out a sharp single. Doc had to settle for a one-hitter.
Height of Pitcher’s Mound in 1941 Varied From 7 Inches to 15 Inches
The height of the pitcher’s mound was set at ten inches in 1969, a year after the pitchers completely dominated the hitters. From 1903 through 1949, any height up to fifteen inches was allowed. In 1950, rule 1.09 stated that the pitcher’s plate shall be on a mound 15 inches high. It is interesting to note that in 1941, the year that Ted Williams hit .406 and Joe DiMaggio hit in 56 straight games the two superstars faced the pitchers with the height of the mounds in the American League ranging from seven inches to fifteen inches.
The heights of the mounds in the American League in 1941 were as follows:Briggs Stadium in Detroit 15 inches
Yankee Stadium in New York 14 inches
Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis 14 inches
League Park in Cleveland 13-1/4 inches
Fenway Park in Boston 13-1/8 inches
Shibe Park in Philadelphia 12 inches
Comiskey Park in Chicago 12 inches
Griffith Stadium in Washington 7 inches
Sammy Gray Lost Job with Browns in 1934 Over Pair of Stockings
If you did not live through the Great Depression of the 1930s it may be difficult to understand the following article which appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1934:
“April 13–St. Louis. Sammy Gray’s determination to keep his rocks resulted in his unconditional release.
“Hornsby suspended Gray when he told the manager, `I’m not going to lend my socks to anyone.’ It seems there was a shortage of socks in camp. A team-mate complained he was sockless and Hornsby set out to get a pair. He eyed the players on the bench and demanded Gray’s socks. Gray, indignant, insisted: `I’m not going to give my socks up.’ Hornsby’s anger flared. He ordered Gray to take off his uniform. Gray complied. Later, the club announced Gray’s release. He signed with Milwaukee.”
Gray was thirty-six years old at the time. He never pitched in the majors again. He had compiled a record of 111 wins and 115 defeats with the Athletics and Browns in his ten years in the American League. He won 20 games and lost 12 for the Browns in 1928, with a 3.19 ERA.
AL Rule on Day-Night Games Curtailed Great Effort by Al Milnar
On August 11, 1942, Al Milnar, Cleveland southpaw, pitched one of the best games of his career but had to be content with a scoreless fourteen-inning tie with Detroit in the first game of a twi-night double-header in Cleveland, before 13,116 fans. Milnar lost a no-hitter with two out in the ninth inning when Roger Cramer singled to right field. He gave up only one other hit, a single by Rudy York with one out in the thirteenth inning. Tommy Bridges pitched for the Tigers and gave up nine hits.
The game was called after fourteen innings because of darkness. It was a shame that the game could not continue under the lights, but in those days a league rule prohibited a game started in daylight to be finished under the lights. A few minutes after the players left the field the lights were turned on and the pitchers came out to warm up for the second game, which was won by Detroit, 3-2.
The Day That the Usually Mild-Mannered Connie Mack Lost His Cool
In a National League game at Union Park, Baltimore, on June 3, 1896, the Orioles defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates, 5-4, when southpaw Frank Killen hit Hugh Jennings with the bases full in the ninth inning to force in the winning run. Tim Keefe and George Weidman umpired the game, and Pittsburgh wrangled with Weidman all day. In the fourth inning, when Bill Hoffer was given his base on balls, Denny Lyons shook Weidman while the rest of the team crowded about him. Even the usually mild-mannered Connie Mack, the Pittsburgh manager, was hissed by the crowd when he refused to permit the umpire behind the bat to wear catcher Joe Sugden’s mask. In those days it was customary for the umpire to use the mask of the catcher whose side was at bat, but Mack uncharacteristically ran out and took the mask away from Weidman. Oriole captain Wilbert Robinson lent Weidman a mask.
Umpire Weidman seemed unable to control the Pittsburgh players. Elmer Smith threw a ball over the bleachers, and pitcher Killen took a new ball and ground it into the dirt.
Tommy McCarthy Was Still Potent with Bat at Age Fifty-Five
Tommy McCarthy was a star outfielder in the major leagues from 1884 through 1896. He played with Boston, Union Association; St. Louis, American Association; and Philadelphia, Boston, and Brooklyn in the National League. He was elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1946. In 1918 McCarthy was manager and part owner of the Newark club of the New International League. Although McCarthy was fifty-five years old at the time, he pinch hit several times for Newark.
In the second game of a doubleheader in Baltimore on July 13, 1918, won by the Orioles, 6-3, McCarthy entered the game as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning and rapped out a single but was cut down trying to stretch it into a double. The hit came off Ralph Worrell, Jack Dunn’s sensational rookie southpaw, who won 25 games that year, more than any other pitcher in Organized Baseball. (Dunn had high hopes that Worrell would turn out to be another Babe Ruth, but fate intervened. He entered the service at the end of the season and died of influenza in an army camp in November, 1918.)
On September 2, the last day of the season, McCarthy pinch hit again, singled and scored a run.