Mack’s Gambit Pays Off; Ehmke Brilliant in Game 1 Win

Two months ago, in the midst of his season-long struggles with his health and his pitching, 35-year old Howard Ehmke was called into Connie Mack’s office, located in the spire above the main entrance to Shibe. He saw the 15 telegrams on the desk of Mr. Mack when he walked in the room. He had cleared waivers. No team wanted him. “Howard,” said Mack when Ehmke had taken a seat. “I am going to let you go. I am sorry.”

“Mr. Mack,” pleaded Ehmke. “Please give me a chance. My arm hasn’t been right, but I’m trying all the time to get it into shape. I’ll even let you suspend me without pay until such time as my arm improves and I can pitch again. I’ve been in the league for a long time and I never have been on a championship team. Just let me go into the World Series and then you can do anything you wish.”

Mack thought it over, then said, “All right, Howard, we’ll just let this rest between ourselves…I’ll give you another chance. And when you tell me your arm is right I’ll take you up.”*

It was a beautiful day for baseball yesterday in Chicago, and that glorious young ballpark they have in Chicago was packed to the gills with over 50,000 fans. Most of them were expecting to see a heavyweight bout between Charlie Root and Lefty Grove. Instead they watched in shock as a few minutes before gametime as sidewinder Howard Ehmke, so close to being released two months earlier, started to warm up. Two months earlier, not a single team wanted Ehmke on their team. And yet here he was, starting Game 1 of the 1929 World Series. Apparently, he thought his arm was right.

The fans were indeed treated to a pitching duel, as Root was every bit as good as advertised. Ehmke, meanwhile, struggled a bit in the first. He allowed a single to Woody English, then Rogers Hornsby caught a hold of one that brought the whole house to its feet, but was snagged just in front of the bricks in right by Bing Miller. Ehmke found himself in trouble again in the 3rd, as the Cubs got runners to 2nd and 3rd with only one out and Hornsby and Hack Wilson the next two at the plate. Disaster seemed eminent. But Ehmke calmly struck out the mighty Hornsby, then did the same to Wilson, and the scoreboard continued to fill with aughts.

Ehmke got stronger as the game went on, striking out the side in the 6th. Root was every bit as effective, keeping the mighty A’s to a mere two hits through 6 innings. But in the top of the 7th, the Beast went into Beast mode. Jimmie Foxx (right) delivered a shot into the left field bleachers, and the A’s took a 1-0 lead.

Ehmke got into trouble again in the bottom of the the 7th, as the Cubs had runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out. But Ehmke coaxed pinch hitter Cliff Heathcote to fly out to shallow left, then struck out pinch hitter Gabby Hartnett.

The game went into the 9th inning with the A’s holding that slimmest of margins. Reliever Guy Bush was on the hill for the Cubs. MIckey Cochrane led off the inning with a single. The Cubs should have then gotten a double play, but young shortstop Woody English booted the ball, and the A’s had runners on 1st and 2nd. Up came Jimmie Foxx. He too hit one right at English…and English flubbed it again! Now the A’s had the bases loaded with no outs, and a  Bing Miller single knocked in two. The A’s took a 3-0 lead into the 9th with Ehmke still on the hill.

In the bottom of the 9th, Kiki Cuyler reached 2nd on a throwing error by Jimmy Dykes, and scored on a Riggs Stephenson single. Charlie Grimm followed up with another single, and now the Cubs brought the winning run to the plate in the form of pinch hitter Footsie Blair. But Mack stood by his man, and Ehmke got Blair to groundout. Up came another pinch hitter, Chick Tolson, standing in for the pitcher. And Ehmke ended this most memorable Game 1 by doing what he had done all game…earning a strikeout. It was a World Series record 13th strikeout, and the A’s victoriously headed back to their clubhouse with a 1-0 Series lead.

*quotes come courtesy of an October 9th, 1929 article in the Milwaukee Journal.

Jimmie Foxx Powers A’s to Game 2 Win

I cannot imagine a bigger fan of the Eastern Shore of Maryland than Mr. Connie Mack. That small spit of land supplied him a hero in 1911 in the form of one Mr. Frank “Home Run” Baker, and it has done so again in this World Series. Jimmie Foxx is the pride of Sudlersville, and in fact his first ever baseball gig was playing for Mr. Baker himself in Maryland. Baker, whose beef with Mack has long since past, informed his former skipper of the Double X’s hitting prowess, and Mack signed him to play first base. The 21-year old man child had his break out year this season this year, knocking 33 balls over the wall and supplying 118 RBIs to boot.

And now he’s a World Series hero. After knocking a ball over the bricks in Game 1 to score the first run of the Series, he returned in Game 2 and opened the scoring yet again. This time it was a 3-run shot off of Pat Malone in the 3rd inning that cast a pall over Wrigley Field and kickstarted the Mackmen on a cold windy day in which they’d gun down the Cubs 9-3 to take a 2 Games to 0 Series lead. And Foxx wasn’t finished, as he later hit a single and a double. It’s been a hell of a week for Jimmie, whose wife Helen gave birth to Jimmie, Jr. on October 3rd. She and the baby have listened to their breadwinner’s heroics via radio in a hospital room in Dover, DE.

Of course, Jimmie wasn’t the only hero of Game 2. Al Simmons sent a rocket shot into the bleachers top of the 8th inning to finish off the Bruins and supply the final score.

As far as pitching, it goes without saying that the Cubs’ Pat Malone was sent to the showers early. On the A’s side, George Earnshaw ran into a bit of trouble in the 5th inning, giving up 3 runs, and Mack wasted no time calling in Lefty Grove from the bullpen. Grove cruised through the 2nd half of the game. Pre-Series talk that the Cubs righties would pound a man named Lefty was proved to be bologna.

Game 3 will be played in Philadelphia on Friday, and to hear Foxx talk of it after the game, it will be little more than a coronation for the best team in baseball. “Having hit the best pitchers the Cubs have to offer, it looks to me as though the result of the Series is a foregone conclusion. Our aim now is to take four straight.” Ah, the swagger of youth. 21-years old, a new father, and a World Series hero. Perhaps someone should ask Jimmie Foxx what the view is like from the top of the world.


Bush Brings Bruins Back from Brink

A fine pitching effort by the Cubs Guy Bush in Game 3 put the Chicago Cubs right back in this Series. The man with the unorthodox delivery kept the A’s off-balance all game. Of course, on the flip side, George Earnshaw did the same to the Cub. Funny game, baseball. Earnshaw pitched much better than he did in Game 2, when he got the win, and yet took home the loss in Game 3.

The Cubs had an opportunity to bring one home in the second, when Hack Wilson led off with a triple. But Earnshaw bore down, and after a ground out to short, Riggs Stephenson hit a sharp grounder to second. Little Max Bishop grabbed the pill and fired it home, where Mickey Cochrane slapped the cuffs on Hack. Rally extinguished.

The A’s introduced positive integers to the scoreboard with a run in the 5th, as a Bing Miller single brought Mickey Cochrane home.

As all baseball fans are aware, walking the opposing team’s pitcher almost always comes back to bite you, and the 6th inning proved no exception. Earnshaw led off the inning by walking .165 hitter Bush. That should have been no problem, as after a quick out Woody English then grounded one to Jimmy Dykes at third, who should have ended the inning by starting a double play. Instead he strangled the ball, and the Cubs now had themselves a bonafide rally. Singles by Hornsby (right) and Cuyler brought home three runs, and the game might as well have ended right there, as the rest of the scoreboard showed zeroes and the Cubs had a 3-1 win.

The A’s had no-one to blame but themelves after this one. “We had all kinds of opportunities to make it three in a row, but we just could not connect with men on the bases,” said Jimmie Foxx after the ballgame. “Bush pitched a great game, especially in the pinches, and well deserved the win.”

Indeed, the A’s generated a rally in the 7th, and with two runners on, an Al Simmons drive to deep center brought the crowd to their feet. But the ball was caught at the wall, and with runners on 2nd and 3rd, all Jimmie Foxx could do was dribble one in front of the plate for the third out. Rally extinguished.

Nonetheless, the A’s felt confident following the loss. “Today’s another day and, unless I miss my guess, the series will stand three to one in our favor by night,” said Foxx. Added Connie Mack, “I have plenty of good pitchers left for duty in the Philadelphia end of the Series. I believe that we will take both and end the Series here on Monday.” Game 4 starts today at 3 p.m. at Shibe.

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 Last Position Player to Earn a Win for the Phils? Jimmie Foxx

Wilson Valdez was not the first position player on the Phillies to pitch in a game. The most recent was Tomas Perez, who did it in 2002. But it’s been a while since a position player got a W. 66 years, in fact, and the circumstances were quite different though the opponent was the same.

Jimmie Foxx was one of the greatest power hitters in baseball history, hitting his 500th by the time he was 32 years old. The first baseman was called up by the Philadelphia Athletics in 1925 and spent 11 years in Philly before being shipped to Boston. By the early 1940s, he was well past his prime, and probably would have been out of baseball if not for the fact that most of the remaining ballplayers not at war were scrubs (He didn’t go to war because of a sinus problem). And so he kicked around a few years longer, and in 1945 the Phillies decided to honor their longstanding tradition of hiring Hall of Famers once they were well past their primes. The Phils were mired in yet another last place finish (Between 1919 and 1947 they were last or next to last 24 times), and would finish 52 games out of first. On August 19th, the Phils faced off against the Reds in a double header. Manger Ben Chapman realized he didn’t have any fresh arms to pitch the 2nd game. The following is from a Boston Globe article in 1980 via Seamheads:

In 1945, when he was 37, Foxx had slipped badly and was hanging on by his fingertips with the Phillies. One day, Ben Chapman, Phils’ manager, came to Jimmie.

Chapman told Foxx, “We’re desperate. Would you mind getting yourself into shape to pitch? We don’t have anyone who can get the ball over the plate.”

Foxx’s answer, according to Arthur Daley’s book, Kings of the Home Run: “I couldn’t go nine innings under any conditions, I’m not even sure I could get anyone out.”

And Chapman’s response: “Just hang in there as long as you can. If by some miracle, you could last five innings, that’s all I’ll ask. I’ll take you right out.”

Foxx did better than that against the Cincinnati Reds: at the end of five innings, he had a no-hitter. So of course Chapman left him in the game.

But, Daley wrote that “in the sixth, Jimmie’s arm was as dead as a dinosaur, and he felt just as heavy. The Reds nicked him for a hit and that was it. He [Chapman] yanked Foxx while he was still a winning pitcher and brought in a reliever to preserve the victory.

In fact, that’s not quite true. Foxx stayed into the 7th, and gave up 4 hits before being yanked with two outs in the 7th (Interestingly, the losing pitcher for the Reds that day was named Howie Fox). Andy Karl came in to get the save.

You folks who watched that game last night, don’t ever forget it. If precedent holds, we won’t see another one until 2067. Here’s the box score to the Jimmie Foxx game.