June 15-One that got away

*1964 | CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – This date in 1964 is infamous for older Chicago Cubs fans. It’s the day the team let a youngster named Lou Brock go in a six-player deal with the rival St. Louis Cardinals. The marquee name the Cubs got was right-handed starter Ernie Broglio. Brock played 16 more seasons for the Cardinals and ended up in the Hall of Fame. Broglio was out of baseball in less than three years after the trade.

Of course, hindsight is 20/20. Brock was a speedy, 24-year old outfielder who was hitting .251 at the time of the trade and struck out a lot. At the same time, he showed promise as a base stealer and had some pop in his bat.

Some described Broglio at the time as an “aging” hurler. In fact he was 29, and was no slouch. He won 21 games for the Cardinals in 1960 and 18 in ’63. Unfortunately, he won only 7 games for the Cubs over the next two and a half years and was out of baseball by 1967.

Brock paid off for the Cardinals right away. He hit .348 and stole 33 bases the remainder of the ’64 season, helping St. Louis win the World Series against the New York Yankees.

Also part of the trade were pitchers Jack Spring and Paul Toth who were sent to the Cardinals along with Brock for Broglio, pitcher Bobby Shantz and outfielder Doug Clemens.

Lou Brock stats
More Lou Brock

June 14-The real Roy Hobbs

*1949 | CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Eddie Waitkus was shot by a deranged fan on this date in 1949. The event became the inspiration for The Natural, first a novel, then a movie.

The book was written by Bernard Malamud in 1952. The movie came out in 1984 starring Robert Redford. The character in the book and movie, Roy Hobbs, was out of baseball for a while after being shot, but eventually made a dramatic comeback.

Eddie Waitkus didn’t make quite as dramatic a comeback, but was back in the Phillies lineup in 1950, and went on to play six more years in the majors.

Waitkus started his career with the Chicago Cubs in 1941, but World War II interrupted and he ended up in the Philippines. He didn’t return to the Cubs until 1946. It was during this time that a young Chicago secretary named Ruth Ann Steinhagen became obsessed with Waitkus. Though not a term used at the time, she became a stalker. The Cubs first baseman was oblivious to the attraction.

Waitkus was traded to the Phillies before the 1949 season. The Phillies played a one-game series in Chicago in May, but a three-game series in June brought Waitkus closer to Steinhagen for an extended period for the first time since he left the Cubs. She got a room at the upscale Edgewater Beach Hotel where the Phillies were staying. She lured him to her room by using the name of a former high school friend of his. When he arrived Steinhagen shot him in the chest. He was close to death several times before the bullet was successfully removed.

Ruth Ann Steinhagen was never put on trial for the shooting, instead she was committed to a mental institution.

The Natural by Bernard Malamud, published by Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1952
Associated Press (AP), New York, November 10, 1950, via Ellensburg Daily Record, Ellensburg, Washington
More on Eddie Waitkus

JUNE 13-Yankees, Tigers instigate riot

*1924 | DETROIT, MICHIGAN – You think fans get out of control today? Few events of this generation would match what occurred in Detroit today in baseball history – June 13, 1924. The New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers got into a melee that became a full-blown riot involving fans at Detroit’s Navin Field. The situation got so out of control Detroit had to forfeit the game.

Tensions between the two teams had been building for days, led by Tiger star Ty Cobb, and Yankee star Babe Ruth. The animosity came to a head in the 9th inning of this, the 3rd game of the series. The Yankees’ Bob Meusel was batting. He got hit by a pitch from Detroit’s Bert Cole and proceeded to charge the mound. Several fights broke out.

The Associated Press went on to describe it this way in the next morning’s newspapers: “By this time the disorder was general and all Yankee and Tiger players were fighting among themselves. This was the signal for the irate fans to swarm upon the field. Policemen rushed from all corners of the park, but they were unable to cope with the situation.”

Seeing that peace could not be restored, the umpires declared the game forfeited to New York.

After the dust settled, the American League suspended Bert Cole and Bob Meusel, and fined Babe Ruth.

Contributing Sources:
Detroit, June 13, 1924, The Baltimore Sun
Greater Astoria Historical Society


*2010 | BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTES – Boston Red Sox outfielder Daniel Nava did something today in baseball history – JUNE 12, 2010 – that had only been done once before – hit a grand slam on the first pitch he saw in the major leagues.

Kevin Kouzmanoff is the only other player to accomplish what Nava did. Kouzmanoff hit a grand slam on the first major league pitch he saw for the Cleveland Indians on September 2, 2006.

It’s a fete that will never be topped – tied, yes – but never topped, because there’s only one first pitch, and four is the most runs that can be driven in with one swing of the bat.

Ironically, Daniel Nava, was never a home-run hitter. He played in 60 games for the Red Sox in 2010, had 188 at-bats and that first pitch slam was his only home-run that year. In his, as of today, seven year major league career, he’s hit a total of 27 home runs.

June 12,2010 box score/stats/play-by-play
Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9BLMdRRZ-s
Nava takes historic swing, Ian Browne, MLB.com, June 12, 2010


June 11-Vander Meer out-hits Boston

*1938 | CINCINNATI, OHIOCincinnati Red Legs pitcher Johnny Vander Meer got more hits than the entire Boston **Bees (today’s Atlanta Braves) team on this date in baseball history – one. Vander Meer no-hit the Braves 3-0 in the first of his two consecutive no-hitters.

There are records in baseball many believe will never be broken; Joe DiMaggio‘s 56 game hitting streak, Cy Young‘s 511 career wins, Don Larsen‘s World Series perfect game (it may be tied, but broken? Unlikely). What about this one? What are the odds someone will throw THREE no-hitters in a row? It’s highly unlikely the record will ever be tied.

Vander Meer walked three and struck out four in his first no-hitter. He was down right wild in the second consecutive no-hitter, walking eight and striking out seven. Vander Meer created some drama in the 9th by walking the bases loaded before inducing the Dodgers’ Leo Durocher to fly out to center.

June 11, 1938 Cincinnati/Boston box score/stats
June 15, 1938 Cincinnati/Brooklyn 2nd no-hitter box score/stats
The Image of Their Greatness, by Lawrence Ritter & Donald Honig, 1979
Consecutive no-hitters

**The Boston Braves were known as the “Bees” for 5 seasons from 1936 to 1940.