Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Double, HR and K - all in one at-bat

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.

"I'm the only hitter in history to get a double, a home run and a strike out in the same time at bat," Milwaukee Braves 1B/C/LF Gene Oliver was quoted in the Aug. 10, 1963, Sporting News by Milwaukee baseball beat writer Bob Wolf.

The incident happened during the first game of a Sunday doubleheader on July 28, 1963, at County Stadium against the Cincinnati Reds. 

Oliver had started the game at first base. He'd been hit by a Jim Maloney pitch in the fourth inning.

When he came to the plate in the sixth, the Braves were behind 3-4 with one out and nobody on. Oliver hit a line drive down the third-base line; what looked like a sure double that might start a big inning.

Umpiring at third base, Lee Weyer called it a foul ball, even though, Wolf wrote, "it appeared to have raised a cloud of foul-line lime and a heated hassle ensued."

Braves manager Bobby Bragan and third-base coach Jo Jo White contested the call. Bragan insisted that Weyer accompany him out to the spot in question. Weyer refused. Bragan said he going to go anyway. The umpire told him that if he did, he was out of the game. Bragan did, and he was. 

Weyer also ejected White. Perhaps White got too personal about the umpire's lack of experience. At age 26 Weyer was not only the youngest umpire in National League history, but was also believed to be biggest arbiter in major league history, at 6' 6" and 235 pounds.

Meanwhile, back at home plate, Oliver belted the next pitch over the left field wall, apparently tying the game. Home plate umpire Al Barlick, however, ruled it a no-pitch because Oliver's teammates had called time out to get a replacement coach in the third-base box to replace White.

Oliver was called out on strikes; Barlick called him out of the game when Oliver threw down his bat in the general direction of Weyer at third.base. 

The Reds held their 4-3 lead for the win.

The game had been on national television. There some 7,000 Little Leaguers among the crowd of 20,500 in the park. Journal writer Chuck Werle said the kids "probably will grow up hating umpires."

Oliver and White were later fined $25 by NL President Warren Giles; Bragan was not fined.

He had proved an instant hit with Milwaukee's fans when he came over from St. Louis on June 15 in the deal that had sent Lew Burdette to the Cardinals. Oliver had hit 6-for-12 in his first three games. 

Milwaukee had been desperate to find a first baseman who could hit. If he was a right-handed bat, as Oliver was, so much the better. Norm Larker, Tommie Aaron and Lou Klimchock would hit a combined .189 that season with a pair of home runs among them. In his 95 games for Milwaukee, Oliver hit 11 home runs to tied for fourth-best on the team. His batting average for 1963 was .250.

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