Saturday, April 5, 2014

Koy, Mueller made home run history

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.

On Opening Day, April 19, 1938, Ernie Koy and Heinie Mueller made baseball history by becoming the only players to hit home runs in their first major league at-bats in the same game.

The Phillies were hosting the Brooklyn Robins before a tiny crowd of 1,000.

Koy was a 28-year-old rookie, starting in left field and batting third for Brooklyn. In the top of the first inning, he homered off Wayne LeMaster.

Leading off the bottom of the first, Mueller, the Phillies 25-year-old second baseman, poled his round-tripper off Van Lingle Mungo. 

The Robins won the game 12-5.

Koy and Mueller were the 12th and 13th major leaguers to hit a home run in their first at-bat. Since then, more than 100 others have done so.

Ernie Koy had spent a five-year apprenticeship in the minor leagues before getting his chance with Brooklyn. He had hit 16 home runs in the minors in each of the previous three seasons. He'd spend five years in the National League with Brooklyn (1938-40), the Cardinals (1940-41), Cincinnati (1941-42) and the Phillies (1942). 

He hit 10 more round-trippers in his rookie season, and ended his career with a total of 36.

Emmett Mueller had come to the Phils after eight years in the minors, mostly in the St. Louis Cardinals extensive farm system. At 5'6" he was one of the smallest men in the majors at the time.

Mueller played four years for Philadelphia, hitting 16 more home runs, including three more in his rookie year. 

As far as a baseball card legacy, Mueller was limited to the 1939 and 1940 Play Ball sets. The back of his 1940 PB noted, "'Heinie' goes in for painting and interior decorating as a hobby."

Ernie Koy will be found on only one career-contemporary baseball card, in the 1941 Double Play set.

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