June 17-Who’da thunk it

*1962 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK – The centerfield bleachers in the old Polo Grounds in New York, home to the New York Giants before they moved to San Francisco, were 475 feet from home plate. Quite a poke. Before June 17, 1962 only one player had hit a home run into those bleachers – the Milwaukee BravesJoe Adcock. At 6’4″ Adcock looked the part of a slugger. 

On June 17, 1962 a second ballplayer hit a ball into the center field bleachers of the Polo Grounds, but you’d be surprised who. It was Lou Brock, a man known more for his base stealing than slugging. Brock wasn’t exactly unfamiliar with the slow trot around the bases. He finished his career with 149 home runs and over 900 runs driven in.

Brock was still playing for the Cubs on this date, but would be traded to St. Louis two years later where he’d spend the rest of his hall of fame career as a Cardinal.

Bill Grimes is a member of SABR (The Society for American Baseball Research)

 

June 16-Yankees revisit a peaceful RFK

*2006 | WASHIGTON, D.C. – The New York Yankees returned to RFK Stadium in Washington, D. C. on this date in 2006. They beat the Washington Nationals 7-5 in inter-league play.

The last time the Bronx Bombers played at RFK was September 30, 1971 – the last game played by the old Washington Senators.  The Yankees won that game too, but by a 9-0 forfeit when fans stormed the field in the bottom of the 9th and wouldn’t leave. The fans were upset with the Senators leaving the nation’s capital for the second time in ten years.

Here’s where you need a scorecard to keep track; The Senators left the first time in 1961 and became the Minnesota Twins, but the deal that allowed owner Calvin Griffith to leave Washington for the Twin Cities brought a new franchise to D.C. in 1961 also called the Senators. The new Senators played at old Griffiths Stadium, still owned by the Griffiths’ family, until “District of Columbia Stadium” was ready in 1962. D.C. Stadium became known as RFK Stadium after Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1968.

The new Senators’ attendance reflected their play – dismal. They moved again in 1971, this time to the Dallas where they became, and remain, the Texas Rangers.

To pour salt on the wounds of fans in Washington, D.C., the Minnesota Twins (the original Senators) made it to the World Series four years after leaving the nation’s capital (1965). And they won the World Series in 1987 and 1991.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
Washington Senators

June 16, 2006 box score/play-by-play

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.

READ MORE:
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.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
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

a STORY from today in baseball history