Wednesday, May 14, 2014

War work made Galehouse Sunday pitcher

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 military's needs for manpower during World War II wrecked havoc on major league baseball rosters in the first half of the 1940s. Teams took the field with gray-beard 40-somethings, peach-fuzz teenagers and all manner of 4-Fs including a one-armed outfielder.

When the 1944 season got underway the draft commission ruled that men who were classified 2-A or 2-B by virtue of their jobs in civilian activity or national defense would be reclassified as 1-A and subject to the draft if they left their necessary civilian occupation to play professional baseball.

Some teams tried to patch together lineups with part-time players, working weekends, holidays and night games when they could come to the ballparks from their "regular" jobs as essential war workers in factories, shipyards, etc.

The pennant-contending St. Louis Browns were among the teams that made use of such part-time players.

One of the most notable was right-handed pitcher Denny Galehouse. Though he was only about a .500 pitcher, Galehouse was an inning-eater in his 11th big league season in 1944. 

From mid-May through the 4th of July, Galehouse was the Browns Sunday pitcher. After his six-day work week at the Goodyear aircraft plant in Akron, Ohio, ended on Saturday, he would hop a train for wherever the Brownies were playing on Sunday, usually pitching the first game of a doubleheader, then rushing back to Akron 

On May 14 he was in Philadelphia, on the 21st he was in New York. He went "home" to St. Louis on May 28, June 4 and June 11. It was off to Detroit on June 18. He missed the Sunday games on June 25 and July 2, but was on the mound in relief for the second game of the July 4 doubleheader at Philadelphia.

Despite his gameness in working a full-time job during the week, riding the rails on Saturday nights and pitching major league ball on Sundays, Galehouse was not particularly effective. He was 0-3 during that stretch and the Browns never won one of his Sunday games.

With the Browns hanging onto first place in the American League, Galehouse left his war work to pitch full-time on July 20. He won the next five games in which he appeared. With St. Louis tied with the Tigers for first place at the end of September, he pitched a complete game shutout over the Yankees in the penultimate game of the regular season, setting up the Browns to cop the pennant on the last day.

Galehouse was the starter in the first game of the World Series, beating the Cardinals 2-1 and going the distance. The Browns won despite getting only two hits, while Galehouse gave up seven safeties to the Cardinals. In the fifth game of the Series, Galehouse again pitched a complete game, but was the loser, 2-1, despite striking out 10. The Browns went on to lose Game 6 and the Series.

Galehouse being 33 years old, with dependents, Galehouse was drafted and spent the 1945 season in the Navy. His duty mostly consisted of pitching on the powerhouse Great Lakes Bluejackets at Chicago. He returned to the Browns in 1946. He was sold to the Red Sox in June, 1947, pitching for Boston through the first days of 1949. He played most of 1949 and 1950 with Seattle in the Pacific Coast League before retiring. His career major league records over 15 years was 109-118 with a 3.97 ERA. 

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