Thursday, October 23, 2014

Robertson's perfect-game ball . . . wasn't

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.

If his teammate is to be believed, the team-signed baseball that White Sox pitcher Charley Robertson prized as a souvenir of his 1922 perfect game wasn’t actually used in that game.

An unbylined article in the July 24, 1941, issue of The Sporting News made the case . . .

No Hits—One Error
            After 19 years, Johnny Mostil, former brilliant defensive White Sox outfielder, has disclosed that the autographed ball which Charley Robertson has as a souvenir of the last perfect game pitched in the majors, in Detroit, April 30, 1922, is not the ball which was in play. Johnny let the cat out of the bag in telling of his biggest thrill in baseball, his catch on the former Detroit catcher, Johnny Bassler, which ended the game. Basler his a low, screeching liner to left field, a few inches in fair territory, which Mostil snagged with a diving catch. Before he could regain his footing, an excited fan snatched the ball out of his hand.
            Back in the dugout, Kid Gleason, the White Sox manager, asked Johnny: “Where’s the ball?” Mostil told what had happened. “Quick, grab a ball, any ball,” said Gleason. So, Mostil picked up a practice ball, which he took to the clubhouse, where the players, club officials and admirers were already making a big fuss over Robertson. Mostil proudly handed the pitcher the ball, which all of the players autographed and which still is in Robertson’s possession.

That perfect game was about the only highlight of Robertson's eight-year major league career (1919, 1922-25 White Sox, 1926 Browns, 1927-28 Braves). Often plagued with a sore arm, he never had a winning season in the majors. His lifetime record was 49-80 with a 4.44 ERA, averaging 10.3 hits per nine innings.

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