Jack Rooney Remembers the 1929 World Series

A couple of weeks ago, I had an opportunity to interview Jack Rooney, who as a 6-year old watched the 1929 World Series from his roof across the street from Shibe Park. I posted some of his memories in a piece I did for the Philly Post last week. Here are some more memories from Jack, who recently wrote a book about growing up in the shadow of Shibe called Bleachers in the Bedroom. We pick up the interview towards the end of the one in the Philly Post piece. I’ll have some more of that interview posted later in the Series. 

PSH: I’ve always thought that Al Simmons isn’t really appreciated enough in Philadelphia. Do you think that?

Jack: I think that’s true. Winning the batting championship, hitting .360 or so, hitting 35 or 36 home runs, and playing excellent outfield. Even at the time, he didn’t get the credit he deserved. You know how Philadelphia fans have a tradition of booing some of their stars. Well, Simmons was no exception. They got on him. He had an unorthodox batting stance. Foot in the bucket type stance, and so they’d yell, “Al get your foot out of the bucket!”

He also looked relaxed when he played.He’d get to fly balls, but it didn’t look like he was exerting that much effort. He’d just lope over. He was fast but smooth. Whereas players like Jimmie Foxx and Mickey Cochrane were real intense. So they got cheered and he got booed. And then there was some ethnic things there. Simmons was Polish, his name was really Szymanski, and people got on that.

I remember Eddie Rommel was a star of the A’s. A star pitcher. A knuckleball pitcher, won 26 games one year. And he was still pitching, though not as effectively, at this time. I remember a game where he was getting hit around, and they started singing Bye Bye Rommel to the tune of Bye Bye Blackbird, and the whole crowd started singing. My father got mad. He said, “What kind of fans are these? The man won 26 games, and now they’re treating him like this.” I learned early that that’s what happens in baseball.

Did you go to a fair amount of games or mostly just watch from the roof?

Mostly watched from the roof. And of course you’re working too, so for example you parked cars, and if you told that person you’d watch their car, after the game, you want to be there so you can say, “I watched your car, Mister.” (and hope you made a little money).

As a 6 year old, I suspect you remember more of the excitement surrounding the Series than you do about the actual games themselves.

Oh absolutely. One of the things I remember, for example, during one of the the Series games, Tommy Leech and his wife came to visit. Tommy Leech is an old time ballplayer who played with the Pittsburgh Pirates and some other teams from about 1901 to about 1918. He was a star player, played in the first World Series. He came up, he regaled us with stories of what it was like in the old days, and he said, “Oh, the modern game isn’t as good as when we played. How many bases have they stolen?” And he criticized the A’s for not stealing many bases and just going for the long ball.

Who was your favorite player on that team?

My favorite player was a guy named Max Bishop, the 2nd baseman, partly because he was small and had a reputation for being a smart ballplayer. He led the league in walks and runs scored.

The Phillies were terrible back then. Did you know any Phillies fans or was most of the city in love with the more successful A’s?

Some of my friends used to tell me that the city used to divide among A’s fans and Phillies fans, and kids who were A’s fans would get in fights and arguments with Phillies fans, but in our neighborhood, they were all A’s fans. But my grandfather was a Phillies fan and that used to annoy my father, because he would come to the games, he and one of his friends, and got in free of course, and they would talk about much more entertaining the Phillies games were with Chuck Klein and Lefty O’Doull and they were better than Al Simmons and Jimmie Foxx. My father used to get irritated. My grandfather used to enjoy doing that.

He was a plumber, and he’d be on the job, and when 1 o’clock approached, he’d tell the person, “I have to go back and get some tools” and he’d go over watch the ballgame, and when the game was over, he’d come back.

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.

9th Inning Rally Makes A’s World Champions

“We want beer! We want beer!” chanted the Philadelphia denizenas as President Herbert Hoover made his way to his front row seat at Shibe for Game 5. Well, the crowd didn’t just want beer, they needed an illegal ice-cold beverage after the heart-stopping thriller at Shibe that would have knocked Carrie Nation off the wagon with it’s intensity.

The Cubs had their backs up against the wall after that devastating loss in Game 4, but instead of withering into winter the Bruins stood up to fight behind their man Pat Malone, who was crushed by Mack’s men in Game 2. There would be no repeat, as Malone’s combination of fastball and curve absolutely dominated the A’s for 8 innings. The A’s managed two measly singles and only one man to get as far as second base. The Cubs, meanwhile, got to Ehmke in the 4th, with 4 straight hits bringing home Kiki Cuyler and Riggs Stephenson and sending Ehmke to the showers. In came Rube Walberg, the 32 year-old who had been discovered at age 25 while throwing chunks of coal at fence posts at his brothers coal yard in Seattle. To the Cub hitters he was as hard to crack as anthracite, as he racked up 6 strikeouts in 5.2 innings while allowing only two hits.

And so it went until the 9th, the Cubs leading 2-0, the A’s a mere three outs away from boarding a night train out of B&O Station and rolling to Chicago.  Philadelphia Mayor Harry Mackey watched the 9th anxiously with the President and his wife. Unlike the President, Mackey is quite the baseball fan, having played for Lafayette’s diamond squad in 1890, and he seemed fretful as Malone kept sending A’s back to the dugout with their tails between their legs. No Mayor wants to have his home team look this feeble before the President.

It certainly didn’t do his pride any good when pinch hitter Walter French opened the bottom of the 9th with a strikeout. Up stepped Max Bishop. Bishop is the finicky sort, the type of fella whose numbers don’t always look supreme but who always ends up on base when it matters most. And “Camera Eye”, as he’s known, didn’t disappoint in the pinch here, shooting a single down the left field line.

Up stepped birthday boy Mule Haas, hoping to celebrate his 26th birthday with champagne. Malone took a deep breath. He was still only two outs away from swinging the momentum and the home field advantage back to Chicago. He had been told that Haas didn’t like them high and inside, so he was determined to deliver a pitch there. He did. Haas liked it. SMACK! As the Philadelphia Bulletin reported:

With shocking vigor he whammed the ball over the right field fence!

Had every seat in Shibe Park been carefully wired and equipped, a high voltage current suddenly turned on could not have brought that crowd to its feet more instantly than that steaming drive. 

Among the first up was the President. With Mayor Mackey he followed the flight of the ball.

“What…what is it?” asked Mr. Hoover.

“It’s a helluva fine drive, if you ask me!” shouted the Mayor. “I agree,” smiled the President.

The stands let loose a roar. When the ball shot over the wall the fans cut lose with vocal violence that was enough to flatten the grass.

In Game 4 it had been Haas who had delivered the memorable blow that Hack Wilson misplayed in the sun. After Mule’s joyous circling of the bases to tie up Game 5, Mack pulled him aside and said, “Well, they can’t say that Wilson misjudged that one.”

Malone fumed on the mound. Catcher Zach Taylor ran out to the hill, but instead of calming his pitcher, the two began to yell at each other. Up stepped the Mighty Cochrane. He dribbled one weakly to second. Two down, nobody on base. It looked like this game was headed for extras. But Bucketfoot Al Simmons had other ideas. WHACK! Simmons sent one screaming towards right center. The crowd rose. It smacked off the scoreboard in center and bounded back onto the playing field. Wilson played it perfectly off the carom and held the Polack to a double. Pandemonium overtook the crowd for the second straight game. Malone intentionally walked the dangerous Foxx to get to Bing Miller.

The 34-year old Miller has played on some awful teams in his career. The dreadful 1922 A’s, the despicable St. Louis Browns for two years. And now, after years playing in front of empty stadiums on dead-end teams, he approached the batter’s box with 2 outs, 2 on, in the bottom of the 9th inning of the World Series with 30,000 people, including the President, on their feet. He worked the count to 2-2. Miller looked to the dugout. He said after the game that Mr. Mack indicated to him to look for the curve. He choked up and did so. In came the pitch. The 6-foot right hander swung. It went soaring over the head of Hornsby into right center. Cubs’ right fielder Cuyler described the hit.

I will never forget the sensation I had when Miller hit that ball. I was playing for him in the middle of right field. Wilson was playing a little to the right of centerfield. And Miller hit that ball on a line exactly halfway between us. Neither one of us had a chance to get it. It was tough to stand there absolutely helpless and see that ball go careening out to the wall and know that the end had come and the Series was over. 

Simmons came bounding around third, leaping high into the air as he did so, exultant. Mayor Mackey shot out of the Presidential box and headed for home to greet the heroes. (That’s him, bottom right, in the photo below). The A’s were champions of the World for the first time since 1913!

Mayhem in the stands. The players rushed onto the field as the Cubs trudged slowly off of it. The President and his wife were both on their feet, cheering on the champions. And the grand old man, Connie Mack, was right in the middle of it. After the game, he said, “I was on a train half way back to Chicago when suddenly Mule Haas drove the ball clear of the fence. If it hadn’t been Haas it would have been someone else, for this team is the gamest that ever played baseball.”

A 1920s A’s Fan Reminisces

Just did an interview with Dr. John Rooney, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at La Salle University and former Philadelphia A’s fan. Rooney’s family lived on the block behind Shibe Field’s right field wall, and they used to charge admission for people to sit on the roof of their house and take in A’s games. This at a time when the A’s were the best team in the Majors, winning back to back championships in 1929 and 1930. Rooney has written a book about his experiences of being an A’s fan as a child, and is looking for a publisher. Here he shares a few memories with us. We at Philly Sports History thank Mr. Rooney for taking the time to respond to our questions. If you have any old memories of Shibe Park, or of old A’s and Phils teams, we’d love to hear them. Just send an email to johnny@johnnygoodtimes.com or contact us on facebook.

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