MAY 20 – One-armed outfielder

*1945 | ST. LOUIS, MISSOURIPete Gray may have had his best day on this date in 1945. He helped the St. Louis Browns sweep a doubleheader from the New York Yankees 10-1 and 5-2. Gray had three hits and two RBI in the opener. He scored the winning run in the second game, and hauled in three great catches in the outfield. Maybe not the stuff of legend, except Pete Gray had one arm.

He was born Peter J. Wyshner in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania in 1915. He lost his right arm in a farm accident at age six. He played two solid seasons for the Class A Memphis Chicks in 1943 and ’44. The St. Louis Browns purchased his contract and brought him up to the big leagues in 1945. Gray’s major league career was just 77 games. He hit just .218 but had a .959 fielding percentage playing mostly left or center.

If not for World War II, which was still going on when the season started, when many regular players were in the military, it’s quite certain Gray would never have stepped between the lines during a major league baseball game. Still, Peter Gray made it to “The Show,” something millions can only dream about.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCE:
One-Armed Wonder: Pete Gray, Wartime Baseball, and the American Dream, by William C. Kashatus, McFarland & Company, 2001

MAY 19 – Almost perfect

*1981 | PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA – The first batter Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher Jim Bibby faced on this date in 1981 got a hit. Terry Harper would be the only Atlanta Brave batter not to go right back to the dugout. Bibby was perfect after Harper’s hit. He retired 27 hitters in a row for a one-hitter as he and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Atlanta Braves and Phil Niekro 5-0.

Bibby was not unfamiliar with low hit games, especially in 1973. He threw a no-hitter, a one-hitter and a two-hitter his second year in the majors.

Except for going 19-6 in 1980 and 12-4 in 1979 Jim Bibby’s won-lost record was unremarkable. He finished his twelve-year career just over .500 at 111-101, but his career earned run average was a solid 3.76. The year of his almost perfect game he was 6-3 but a very stingy 2.50 ERA.

Bibby was not unfamiliar with low hit games, especially in 1973. His record was 9-10, but he threw a no-hitter, a one-hitter and a two-hitter that year, his second year in the majors.

Jim Bibby came from a family of athletes. His brother, Henry Bibby, was a professional basketball player in the NBA, also coached the University of Southern California basketball team. Jim’s nephew, Mike Bibby (Henry’s son) played for the Sacramento Kings of the NBA.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
May 19, 1981 box score

 

MAY 18-Get me to the station on time

*1957 | BALTIMORE, MARYLANDDick Williams of the Baltimore Orioles hit a ninth-inning, game-tying solo home run against Chicago White Sox pitcher Paul LaPalme seconds before 10:20 p.m. on this date in 1957. If Williams had done anything else – taken a pitch, hit a foul ball, gotten a single, double or triple, struck out – any of those things, the game would have ended with the White Sox a winner because the Sox led and a curfew was about to put an end to the contest.

Curfews were fairly common in the major leagues into the 1950’s and 60’s. The initial impetus was World War II

The curfew was an agreement by the two teams ahead of time so the White Sox could catch the last train out of Baltimore. With the game now tied, it was suspended and replayed from the beginning at a later date. Baltimore ended up winning the next time.

Curfews were fairly common in the major leagues into the 1950’s and 60’s. The initial impetus was World War II, during which there were curfews to accommodate dim-outs (as in “dim” the lights) to save energy. Games all over the country had curfews putting a limit on how long a night game could last. By the 1970’s curfews were gone, and night games could last as long as it took.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCE:
Koppett’s Concise History of Major League Baseball, by Leonard Koppett, 1998

MAY 17th-The overly friendly confines

1979 | CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – On this date in 1979 the Chicago Cubs scored 6 runs in the first, 3 in the fourth, 7 in the fifth, 3 in the sixth, 3 more in the eight and still lost.

There were eleven home runs on this windy afternoon at Wrigley Field, a record at the time.

The Philadelphia Phillies beat the Cubs 23 to 22 in ten innings, but not before the Cubs made a miraculous comeback from a 21-9 deficit in the 5th to tie it 22-22 in the eighth.

There were eleven home runs on this windy afternoon at Wrigley Field, a record at the time. The ‘friendly confines’ were overly friendly on this date. It’s as though former NFL great Gale Sayers sneaked into Wrigley Field, which his Chicago Bears called home during football season, and ran off a few touchdowns.

The Cubs’ Dave Kingman had three home runs. Teammate Bill Buckner had a grand slam and seven runs batted in. The Phillies Mike Schmidt hit two home runs, including the game winner.

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The 45 combined runs by the Cubs and Phillies today in baseball is not even the record. You have to go back to August 25, 1922 when the same two teams combined for 49 runs when the Cubs beat the Phillies 26-23.

The most runs scored in an American League game is 36, done twice. The Boston Red Sox beat the Philadelphia A’s 22-14 on June 29, 1950. On August 12, 2008 the Red Sox beat the Texas Rangers 19-17.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL, May 18, 1979
May 17, 1979 box score/play-by-play
Runs Scored Records
MLB Rare Feats

MAY 14-Stands collapse causing stampede

cropped-cropped-ball-2.jpg1927 | PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – A section of the stands at Philadelphia’s Baker Bowl collapsed on this date in 1927 causing a stampede which killed a fan and injured more than 50. The 50-foot section of the lower deck seats down the first base line gave way during a Philadelphia Phillies – St. Louis Cardinals game throwing some 300 fans out of their seats.

According to newspaper reports at the time, “The collapse threw the crowd into a panic and it swarmed on the field…” (The Charleston Gazette, West Virginia). The game was suspended with the Phillies ahead 12-3.

The ball park was officially named National League Park, but gained its moniker Baker Bowl or Baker Field as a reference to one-time owner William F. Baker.

“The collapse threw the crowd into a panic and it swarmed on the field…”

Since the ball park had to be squeezed into Philadelphia’s street grid there were some interesting dimensions. For example, the right field foul pole was just 275 feet from home plate. Right center was only 300 feet away. These softball-like distances required the erection of a wall 60 feet high in right field. By comparison, the “Green Monster” in Boston is 37 feet high.

Contributing sources:
The Pinstripe Press
The Baker Bowl
Philadelphia Phillies

 

a STORY from today in baseball history