Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Bowman, 0-for-41, called to pinch-hit

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.

The situation was baseball melodrama at its finest.

In the first game of an Aug. 12, 1945, doubleheader at the Polo Grounds the game was on the line.

The Reds were down 2-3 in the ninth inning. Two were out and Cincinnati had runners at second and third.

Pitcher Vern Kennedy, batting ninth, was due up. Ace Adams had taken the mound for the Giants after starter Van Mungo had given up back-to-back singles to open the innings.

With the tying run at third and a go-ahead run on second, Jimmie Wilson, filling in as Reds manager while Bill McKechnie was on leave tending to a sick wife, called for a pinch-hitter.

Up to the plate came pitcher Joe Bowman. He flied out to center, ending the game.

You have to wonder what Wilson had been thinking. 

Prior to that pinch-hit appearance, Bowman had gone 41 straight at-bats without a hit. He was batting .057 at the time. Sure, he was a left-handed batter facing the right-handed Adams, but Kennedy also hit lefty and he was batting .233 at the time.

Bowman had been called on as a pinch-hitter nine times previously that season. He had gone 1-for-8 with a walk.

To be fair, Bowman had once been a good-hitting pitcher. With the Pirates in 1938 he had hit .333. In 1939 he had batted .344, but had been only 6-for-33 (.182) as a pinch-hitter.

Following his Aug. 12 at-bat, Bowman had only one more pinch-hit appearance that season, also unsuccessful. 

The 1945 season was Bowman's last year in the major leagues. He'd been a big leaguer in all or parts of 11 seasons since 1932, with two years in the military during World War II. He had a lifetime pitching record of 77-96 with a 4.40 ERA. His lifetime batting average in the bigs was .221.

Bowman's only mainstream baseball card appearances were in the 1939 and 1940 Play Ball sets.

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