Friday, February 15, 2013
1950 Browns couldn't avenge 29-4 loss
Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too.
Jerry Reed once sang, "When you're hot, you're hot; when you're not, you're not."
In mid-1950, the perennial doormat St. Louis Browns were "not" and the Boston Red Sox "were."
On June 7, the Brownies, in seventh place in the American League, were in Boston for a midweek series against the third-place Red Sox. The home team handed the visitors their ass in a 20-4 rout; it was the Browns' 13th straight loss at Fenway Park.
But that wasn't the worst drubbing the Browns took in the series.
The next day Boston scored a modern-record 29 runs in beating St. Louis, who managed just four tallies.
Browns manager Zack Taylor was roundly criticized for not bringing in a "first-line pitcher" to stop the bleeding in either game. He responded that he hadn't wanted to mess up his rotation. "Why send good pitching after bad?", he was quoted.
Cliff Fannin started for the Browns and was knocked out after giving up eight runs, all earned, and walking four. He took the loss. Clarence "Cuddles" Marshall came on in the third and gave up nine runs and five walks. Thirty-two-year-old rookie Sid Schacht pitched 3.2 innings, giving up 12 runs (nine earned) and two walks. Tom Ferrick closed the game for the Browns, allowing just one hit to the final three batters. The Browns ace pitcher, Ned Garver, also got into the game, pinch-hitting for Fannin in the top of the third inning. He struck out and for whatever reason, Taylor put Marshall on the mound in the bottom half of the frame.
A week after the massacre, both Ferrick and Schacht were gone from the Browns. In an eight-player deal with the Yankees, St. Louis traded Ferrick and optioned Schacht to New York's farm club in Kansas City for the remainder of the season. The Yankees also gave the perpetually cash-poor Browns $50,000.
While each member of the Red Sox had at least one base hit in the game, the top Boston producers were Ted Williams, of course, who had a pair of home runs and two walks with fiv e RBIs. Bobby Doerr hit three home runs and a single, driving in eight runs. Walt Dropo had a pair of homers, two singles and a walk, for seven RBIs.
Red Sox manager Joe McCarthy was criticized for not benching his regulars; he didn't use a single pinch-hitter, defensive substitute or relief pitcher in either game.
Apologists pointed out that if Red Sox benchwarmers had been put into the game, they might have been so anxious to prove themselves that the scores may have become even more lopsided. An unnamed editorial-page writer for The Sporting News waxed eloquently, " . . . it would have been a more pleasant experience if McCarthy had made some small effort to temper the wind on the shorn lamb. It is conceivable that replacements would have been even more vigorous in their lust for hits and would have sent the score and the hit total to even greater heights. But replacements might have been made, just the same."
The writer suggested that veteran Red Sox second baseman Bobby Doerr and third baseman Johnny Pesky, who had been nursing a bad back, might have been rested.
Then the writer, toeing the company line that in that era seemed to be to bash the Browns at every opportunity, put these words in the mouth of anonymous fans, "When is the American League going to do something about this eyesore on its map, this insult to the patrons of St. Louis, and all the seven other cities."
Two of the umpires in the 29-4 game also had something to say. Eddie Rommel, who had been in pro ball since 1918, called the affair a "disgrace." He commented that he had never before seen a pitcher (Chuck Stobbs) walked four times (Stobbs also had two hits in the game).
Umpire Joe Paparella said, "Those Red Sox batters were swinging from their heels; yet what did the Browns pitchers try to do? They kept trying to throw the ball past them instead of using their safe stuff."
Taylor later vented about the situation. "Managing a ball club, particularly a young team like mine, is no joke. Mind you, I'm not asking any soft touches or favors from anyone. But I'd expect the other fellow to treat me like I'd treat them if I were in an identical spot. In all my years in baseball I've never played a club that refused to put in the subs when the score got too one-sided.
"Don't worry, the Browns haven't forgotten," Taylor continued. "That unmerciful beating, totally uncalled for, may cost the Red Sox the pennant. For I'll guarantee one thing--they'll never cakewalk through my club again. The Red Sox are going to see how funny it is whenever they meet us from now on. My kids are fighting mad."
Taylor made good on his vow in the final game of the series. Behind Dick Starr, the Browns beat Boston 12-7.
After that, however, Taylor's prediction of the Browns becoming avenging angels and foiling the Red Sox pennant hopes fell flat. St. Louis lost the next 12 games in which they faced Boston. The Browns didn't break the skein until Sept. 14, when Dick Starr again came through, beating Boston 6-3. The teams split their final two games of the season.
The Red Sox didn't win the pennant in 1950, but the Browns had nothing to do with it. Boston never got closer than two games behind the Yankees.
Whether or not the June 7-8 humiliations he piled on the Browns were a factor, McCarthy was replaced as Red Sox manager on June 20. The team said it was for health reasons, but McCarthy didn't publicly support that contention.
How hot were the Red Sox when the Browns ran into them in early June? In the seven-game span between June 2-8, Boston won six. They scored 104 runs in that period, batting .406 as a team, with 18 home runs and 101 RBIs.
Three Red Sox players batted .500 or higher during that run. Al Zarilla batted .586 with seven doubles and 11 RBI. Ted Williams hit .536 with five home runs and 16 RBIs. Walt Dropo, A.L. Rookie of the Year, was 18-for-36 with four home runs and 19 RBIs.
The 28 hits that Boston had on June 8 were not a record; the Giants had 31 in a game in 1901. The 56 runs scored by the Red Sox June 7-9 did set a record for three consecutive games. The Red Sox 25-run margin of victory on June 8 remained the modern record until the Texas Rangers beat the Baltimore Orioles 30-3 on Aug. 22, 2007. The all-time major league record for margin of victory was the 36-7 beatdown that Cap Anson's Chicago Colts put on Louisville on June 29, 1897.