Cliff Lee and Pea Soup

Yesterday I asked the great Reuben Frank on twitter when the last time was that a pitcher threw 200 innings, had an ERA as low as Cliff Lee, and won 6 or fewer games. The answer was incredible. Here’s that story. Thanks Roob for letting me know.

Cliff Lee is having a year for the ages. Lee has thrown over 200 innings. He has 6 wins. He has a 3.12 ERA. The last time a pitcher pitched this well and got screwed over this badly by his teammates? His name was George “Pea Soup” Dumont, and the United States was in the midst of World War I.

Dumont was born in Minneapolis, and started his pro career in the minors with the incredibly named Fargo-Moorehead Graingrowers. He came into the league with a bang, throwing 2-hitters in each of his first two big league starts with the Washington. But the success wasn’t sustained. In 1916 he battled injury and illness, and spent most of the season in the minors. In 1917, he was awesome…but simply couldn’t earn Ws. (It kills me that baseball-reference’s game logs go back to 1918, but not 1917. You have to think he had a ton of 1-0 and 2-1 losses.) He finished the year with a 5-14 record, despite a 2.55 ERA. Brutal. By contrast, team superstar Walter Johnson had an only slightly lower ERA that year (2.21), but a 23-6 record.

Nonetheless, he was only 21 years old and appeared to have a bright future. Appearances can be deceiving. In 1918, he went to work in Wilmington, Delaware as part of the War effort and missed most of the season. In the 1918 offseason he was dealt to the World Champion Red Sox in exchange for several players, including the incredibly named Slim Love (how is there not a rapper named Slim Love? Seriously.) He struggled in Boston, going 0-4 with a 4.33 ERA in only 35+ innings of work. He was then sent to the minors, where he spent the rest of his career. He was once signed by the Yankees, but didn’t get along with manager Miller Huggins and thus didn’t make the team. He returned to Minneapolis, where he became a car parts foreman and later a tavern owner. Musta been pretty cool to grab a beer at that tavern and listen to the bartender talk about former teammates Babe Ruth and Walter Johnson..and about the year he got hosed by his teammates.

To learn more about George Dumont, be sure to read his SABR project page.


The Real Miracle at the Meadowlands 2

A couple of years ago, when the Eagles pulled off their miraculous comeback win over the Giants, culminated by a DeSean Jackson TD with no time left, people called it the Miracle at the Meadowlands 2. In fact, it was Miracle at the Meadowlands 3. Some people seem to have forgotten the 2nd one. Which is too bad, because it’s just as crazy as the other two.

The Eagles had stumbled out of the gate in 1988, going 1-3 in the mont of September. They finally started to right the ship in late October, and by November 20th, they were riding a 3 game winning streak into the Meadowlands. The Giants, meanwhile, were 7-4 and tied with the Cardinals atop the division.

It was 48 degrees and pouring rain at kickoff, and it never let up. Randall Cunningham was rendered rather ineffective (14-36, 224 yards) by the rain and the Giants D, and the running backs combined for a mere 43 yards (Randall put up another 64 on the ground.) But the Birds caught a couple of breaks, and also knocked Giants QB Phil Simms out of the game with a bruised shoulder in the 3rd quarter. His replacement, Jeff Hostetler, was completely ineffective, but the Giants still clung to a 17-10 lead with less than 5 minutes left. That’s when Cunningham connected with Keith Jackson over the middle. Jackson was hit by Terry Kinard at the 2 yard line, and coughed it up. It tumbled into the end zone where Cris “All He Does is Catch Touchdwon Passes” Carter proved that he could also recover touchdown fumbles. The game went into overtime.

In overtime, Jeff Hostetler threw a pass into the arms of Eagles defensive back Terry Hoage, and the Birds took over on the Giants 41. They marched the ball down the field to the 13, then Luis Zendejas lined up for the winning field goal. The snap was good, the hold was good, and…”I didn’t see anything,” said Clyde Simmons. ”I just heard a thud.”

Lawrence Taylor had ripped through the middle and blocked the kick. Defensive end Clyde Simmons scooped the ball up at the 15 (there was no lateral as Merrill Reese states in the video) and started running it in. It was a heads up play, as a lot of guys didn’t realize that was he was doing was legal.

”We chased him,” said Leonard Marshall, the Giant defensive end. ”But I think a lot of us thought they couldn’t do that.”

It was legal, since Simmons had picked it up behind the line of scrimmage. And it got the Eagles into the playoffs. Both the Giants and the Eagles finished the season with 10-6 records, but the Eagles went to the playoffs on account of the fact they had beaten the Giants twice that season. To think, if Clyde Simmons hadn’t picked up that fumble…it might have been the Giants playing in that absurd game at Soldier Field in the playoffs. And another interesting note: this game took place 10 years and 1 day after the original Miracle in the Meadowlands.

Quotes and the storyline came from the boxscore of the game and this 1988 NY Times piece.


1929 World Series Begins October 8th!

It’s almost here! Our second annual real time World Series**, where I’ll be reporting on the Series as it happens, 83 years to the day after it happened the first time. I’ll get exclusive photos,  find interviews with the principles, write it all in present tense as if I’m covering it, and we’ll “watch” the games in real time. Oh, and for this series we’ve actually got some video! Going to be a ton of fun. I’ll start introducing you to the teams, their managers, and star players next week. But a brief background on the two teams:

The Cubs were led by Philly-born manager Joe McCarthy, who grew up idolizing Connie Mack. He would become better known as manager of the Yankees in the 1930s and 40s. The Cubs had run away with the pennant that year, going 98-54 and winning the NL by 10.5 games over Pittsburgh.

The A’s were led, of course, by Connie Mack, and had absolutely throttled the AL that year, never leading the League by less than 7 games after June 10th. The Yankees, with essentially the same lineup as the 1927 Murderer’s Row, finished the season 18 games behind the A’s. An excellent Sports Illustrated piece in 1996 called the The Team that Time Forgot, and they are undoubtedly one of the greatest baseball team’s in Major League history. Tom Verducci has them ranked 4th all time.

So get ready to step into the time machine next week. We’re going to have a lot of fun with this.

**To check out our coverage of the 1911 World Series we did last October, click here.


Quinn vs. Root in Game 4 Tilt

 The question often comes up: how old is A’s pitcher Jack Quinn? Nobody knows for sure. He refuses to give his birthday, or even his birthplace. “I’ll tell my age when I quit,” he told one sportswriter. Most folks believe it was 1883. As for his heritage? Not sure there either. Some say Russian, others say Indian, and still others say Polish or Greek. The most likely story? He was born in Slovakia (part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the time of his birth) in 1883 with the name Johannes Pajkos. His family moved to America when he was young, and his mother and father both passed away by the time he was a teenager.

He played for a factory baseball team, but his discovery was by pure chance. He was stumbled upon, remarkably, when he caught a foul ball at a semi-pro game and whipped it back so hard and accurately to the catcher that the manager signed him on the spot.

He bounced around the majors for years, and when Connie signed him in 1925 it marked his 7th team since he entered the bigs in 1909. He’s been a mainstay on the A’s staff ever since. Now 46 years old, this afternoon he will become the oldest pitcher to start a World Series game.** He has a number of pitches, including a fastball, changeup, curveball, and a spitter (He was grandfathered in when the spitter became illegal in 1919.)

His opponent will be Charlie Root, who started Game One of this tilt, and the tough-as-nails righty was quite effective, I must say.

*Most of the info about Jack Quinn comes from his SABR page.

**he still holds the record…Moyer was 45 when he started Game 3 of the 2008 WS.


Cubs vs. A’s LIVE Game 4

Bing Miller, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, and Mickey Cochrane look to lead the A’s past the Cubs in Game 4 this afternoon (photo taken before Game 1 at Wrigley). You can watch live right here on our playomatic. Or if you’ve got your ticket (below) come on into another sellout at Shibe. Here are your starters for the Athletics and here are your starters for the Cubs. We’ve had a fairly calm, routine World Series so far. I’ve got a funny feeling we’re going to see something dramatic this afternoon.


Boomer Beats the Birds

The November 24th, 1996 matchup between the Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles was one of the most exciting games in Eagle history, featuring thrilling special teams play, two improbable comebacks, and 37 points scored in the last 11 minutes of the game.

The Eagles came into the game 7-4, but after a scorching start under coach Ray Rhodes and Ricky Watters they had lost their last two contests.  The Cardinals had won two in a row and with a 5-6 record were trying to make a late push towards the playoffs.

The first three quarters were fairly uneventful. Ricky Watters scored a TD for the Eagles in the first quarter, rookie Leeland McElroy had answered for the Cards in the 2nd, and otherwise Gary Anderson and Kevin Butler exchanged field goals. The Cards held a 16-13 lead entering the 4th, but then Boomer Esiason hit Pat Carter with a 6-yard pass to give the Cards a 22-13 lead with 10:58 left. Just over two minutes later, Ricky Watters went around right end from 4 yards out to pull the Eagles within 2.

Boomer Esiason then led the Cardinals on a methodical drive down the field and hit Larry Centers (remember how awesome that guy was on such terrible teams?) for a 4 yard score to give the Cardinals a comfortable 29-20 lead with 2:45 left in the game. Then things got crazy. Derrick Witherspoon (below right) returned the ensuing kickoff 95 yards to the house to pull the Eagles within 2. The Birds then attempted an onside kick. It went out of bounds, but fortunately for them one of their players was onsides. Due to a strange quirk in the NFL rulebook, it meant they got to kick again. This time the ball bounced out of the hands of the Cards Anthony Edwards and was scooped up by Johnny Thomas of the Eagles. He would have scored a TD on it, but NFL rules don’t allow recovered onsides kicks to be returned (boo! Lame rule.) The Eagles then moved into field goal range while running out the clock. The Cards answered by burning all 3 of their timeouts. Finally, Gary Anderson nailed a 32 yarder with 52 seconds left to give the Eagles a 30-29 lead.

The Cardinals got the ball back on the 35-yard line and Boomer Esiason went to work. With no timeouts remaining, he kept hitting receivers along the sidelines, confounding Eagles cornerbacks Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor. Finally, with 14 seconds left, he hit Marcus Dowdell from 24 yards out to give the Cardinals the win. It was one of Dowdell’s 3 career TDs. Esiason had led the team 65-yards down the field in 38 seconds with no timeouts left. It was a total collapse by Philly’s secondary. Boomer ended up throwing for 367 yards that day, 180 of them in the 4th quarter.

Ray Rhodes was crushed, saying he was at “an all-time low.” The defense took out their frustration on the Giants the next week, allowing an incredible 121 yards of total offense to New York. They would rally to finish the season 10-6, and lose to the Niners 14-0 in the playoffs. The Cardinals would only win one more game all season.

RELATED: Eric Allen’s incredible INT return against Boomer Esiason, one of the most thrilling plays in Eagle history.


Game 4: The Greatest Comeback in World Series History

The score was 8-0 when Al Simmons (left) came up in the 7th inning of Game 4. The Bruins had knocked old Jack Quinn out of the box, and not treated relievers Rube Walberg and Eddie Rommel too kindly either. Charlie Root had stifled the White Elephants bats all game, and was cruising toward an easy victory.

“The Athletics had acted more or less like wooden Indians for six innings, and I think I was never in better form in my life,” said Root after the game. “My curves were breaking sharply over the corners of the plate and my control was good.”

But Simmons led off the bottom of the 7th inning with a monstrous shot that landed on the roof in left. As John McCullough of the Inquirer wrote, “Oh sweet, oh refreshing, oh salubrious sound! In the clean, clear crash of well seasoned ash against resilient horse-hide! To the heart of the fan far sweeter than the tinkle of ice in a tall frosted glass, or the melody of an instrument with 10 strings.”

As the ball cleared the left field wall, Jimmy Dykes turned to Connie Mack, who was sitting next to him in the dugout, and said, “Well, we won’t be shutout anyway.”

“That was nothing to disturb one,” said Root. “Al is likely to hit a homer off of anyone and we still had a 7-run lead to work on.”

No-one on the dispirited A’s bothered showing up at home to slap Simmons on the back, not even the batboy. But Jimmie Foxx claimed afterwards that the homer sparked the A’s. “We had played dead for six innings, and then decided it was time to wake up.”

Wake up they did. Wrote McCullough, “The sand lots never produced a more unexpected, unkind, or sanguinary seventh inning than that which young Mr. Simmons ushered in with such vigor and dispatch.”

Foxx followed Simmons with a single. Up came Bing Miller. He lofted a lazy fly ball into center that should have been the first out of the inning. But Hack Wilson lost it in the sun, and there were now runners at first and second and nobody out. Jimmy Dykes rapped a single to left, then Boley hit one to right. The bats were alive, the crowd was electric, and Root was in trouble.

The score was now 8-3. George Burns popped out to short for the first out of the inning, and any Cubs fans in the ballpark relaxed a bit. But Max Bishop followed that up with another single to score Dykes, and Root was done. In came reliever Art Nehf. Arthur Neukom Nehf, you may recall, was the winning pitcher in the deciding games of both the 1921 and 1922 World Series. He would not be a winner this time.

The crowd was in a frenzy as Nehf warmed up and prepared to pitch to Haas with men on first and third. It was about to get louder. Mule Haas connected on a Nehf fastball and sent it screeching towards center field. Hack Wilson was right there. It appeared that the rally would be quashed.

Was there still a belief in a Sun God, you can believe that Philadelphians would be building a splendid new temple today. Hack Wilson (right) began for the ball, then went back, then threw his hands up in frustration. He had lost his second one in the sun. The  ball came down right in front of him, then scattered through his legs. The barrel chested wonder started after it, but it teased him, rolling a few feet ahead of him all the way to the wall, and Stephenson in left had to come all the way over to pick it up. Meanwhile, Athletics were circling the bases and the crowd was losing it’s collective mind. Into the safety of home came Boley, in came Bishop, and in came Haas.

“They howled. They screamed,” wrote McCullough. “They threw soft seats at each other and committed mayhem on each others hats. Up out of the caverns of the stands there welled a terrific roar, wordless, jumbled, ecstatic. Whistles, yells, howls, the drum fire of hand-clapping and the rumble of pounding feet.” It was reported that excited cops fired blanks into the air.

As Haas rounded third, Dykes pounded the back of the person next to him. “He’s goin’ to make it! He’s goin’ to make it!” In all of the excitement, he didn’t realize he was violently thrashing the 67-year old Mack on the back, and the coach fell to the dugout floor.

“I’m terribly sorry,” said Dykes as he reached for Mack’s hand to lift him back up. The delighted Mack would have none of it. “It’s all right, Jimmy. Everything’s all right! Isn’t this a wonderful rally!”

Still, the Cubs clung to an 8-7 lead with one out. Up stepped the mighty Cochrane. Nehf had no interest in negotioating. He quickly walked him. Now Al Simmons, who had started the inning, came back up to the plate. The crowd at this point was in pure bedlam. Not since Tulip-mania in the Netherlands in 1637 had so many people succumbed to such madness all at once.

Nehf was replaced by Sheriff Blake, who was brought in to plug the dam with his fingers. It was no-use. The dam burst, and the onrush continued. Simmons got his second hit of the inning, a single, and Foxx followed suit. Foxx’s single scored Cochrane, and the game was tied. Out went the Sheriff, and in came Pat Malone. He decided to further incite the crowd by immediately pelting Bing Miller with a pitch. Up came Jimmy Dykes, who only moments earlier had sent his manager spilling to the dugout floor. If Mack hadn’t forgiven him then, he sure as heck did after this at-bat.

CRACK! The ball went hurtling into left. Riggs Stephenson took off after it. The Cubs were now desperate for a great defensive play, something to turn the tide. Stephenson dove for the ball…and it bounded off the edge of his glove, then dribbled out and hit the ground. Had heavy artillery gone off in the crowd, you would not have heard it over the din of the Philly faithful. Simmons scored for the second time in the inning, as did Foxx. The A’s were up 10-8. The A’s had collected 10 runs in the inning. Until then, the Cubs had earned one out. Malone, furious, then sent both Joe Boley and George Burns packing, but the damage had been done.

As if the Cubs weren’t dispirited enough, trotting out to the mound for the front of the eighth was Lefty Grove. He made mincemeat of the shellshocked Bruins, striking out four of the final six batters, and allowing only one ball to leave the infield. That was a fly to right by Rogers Hornsby which Bing Miller easily grabbed for the final out of the game. The A’s have a 3-1 Series lead. And Cubs fans have to wonder if they’ll have to wait ’til next year for their 21-year World Series drought to come to an end.


The 7th Inning Parade (Cartoon)

 


Game 5 Today at 3 p.m.

The A’s try to finish the Series with a win at home. You can “watch” the game here on backtobaseball. The Cubs hope to shake off their Game 4 disaster and send the Series back to Chicago. Despite Lefty Grove’s pleading to start, it looks like Mack is going to go with Ehmke once again. The hero of Game 1 will try to shut down the Cubs bats again. On the hill for the Cubs will be Pat Malone. He got blasted in Game 2. Can he rebound with a solid performance today and keep Cubs’ fans hopes alive? (pic above is of Jimmy Dykes scoring in Game 4.)


The 1912 Phils and the Titanic

On September 20th, 2012, the Phillies scored 8 runs in the first inning against the New York Mets. Elias Sports Bureau said that the last time the Phils had scored that many in the first inning of a game on the road was 1912. I wanted to know who they were playing that day, so I hit up the one man on twitter who I thought would know: Reuben Frank, probably even more of a Philly sports history junkie than I am. Roob did not disappoint. He reported that the last time it happened was on April 15th, 1912, when the Phillies took on the Brooklyn Dodgers (also known as the Robins at that time) at Washington Park. It was the 4th game of the 1912 season, with neither team on its way to a particularly memorable season. But the Phillies 8-run explosion did happen on a very memorable day: At 2:20 a.m. that morning, the Titanic had sunk entirely beneath the waves. The sinking was in the newspaper that morning, but all that was known was that it had struck an iceburg. As the day went on, and reports continued to pour in, you have to think that the talk of the ballpark that day wasn’t the Phillies big first inning, but people spreading gossip and asking for updates. There were all sorts of crazy rumors going around New York that day, as some papers reported that the ship had been rescued and was being towed in and others reporting that it had sunk.

It was a big week for baseball as well. Five days after the Phillies 8-run inning, the Red Sox began play at their new stadium, Fenway Park. (Here is a spectacular panorama of Fenway taken two years after it opened.)

The Phillies would go on to win that game, 10-6. They would finish the season 73-79, 30.5 games behind the pennant winning New York Giants. The team contained a few of our old favorites, like Gavvy Cravath and Sherry Magee. They were led by player-manager Red Dooin, who claimed that to have introduced the shinguard to baseball, and featured pitching stars Lefty Alexander and the enigmatic Tom Seaton, who would be embroiled in controversy a year later.

Philly.com posted an awesome tribute to the 1912 Phillies here, with lots of photos. Well worth a look.