Monday, May 30, 2016

Long hits, longer HRs marked Hall's '57 season

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 March 8, I told the story here about Dick Hall's 25-day "no hitter".

The other day, while reading 1957 issues of TSN, another Dick Hall story caught my eye.

Hall, you may remember, came up to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1952 as an infielder/outfielder. He didn't start pitching at the big-league level until 1955, and never achieved a winning record in any season prior t 1961, after he'd been dealt to the Baltimore Orioles.

Hall spent 1955 in the Bucs' starting rotation, where he earned a 6-6 record with a 3.91 ERA. He was transitioned to the relief corps in 1956, going 0-7 with a 4.76 ERA.

His 1957 season didn't start out any better. About the best thing you can say is that in six relief appearances between April 21-May 5 he didn't lose any games (he didn't win any, either). The Pirates, however, lost all six games in which Hall pitched.

Hall's season debut in 1957 didn't go badly. He pitched the 7th inning in a 4-7 loss at Brooklyn, but didn't give up any hits, didn't walk anybody and struck out Gil Hodges.

The next day in the Polo Grounds, Hall gave up a hit and a walk, but no runs in 2/3 of an inning, in a 1-3 Giants win.

Things began to go worse on April 24 against the Phillies in Connie Mack Stadium. Hall again was called on to pitch the 7th inning. The Pirates were down 2-7. After getting two quick outs, Hall gave up a long home run to Stan Lopata (more about that later). He then hit Ed Bouchee and walked Willie Jones before getting the third out.

Hall gave up another home run in his next assignment, in Pittsburgh against the St. Louis Cardinals. Hall was called on in the top of the 9th, with the Redbirds ahead 4-0. He struck out Ken Boyer, then gave up a moon shot to Wally Moon before inducing outs from Hal and Bobby Smith. The Pirates batted around to tie up the game in the bottom of the 9th, and the contest went 13 innings before the Cardinals prevailed on a Stan Musial home run. Hall had been relieved by Roy Face in the 10th.

The following day was the nadir for Dick Hall. St. Louis was ahead 4-2 when Hall was called on with one out in the 8th. The first batter he faced, Walker Cooper hit a two-run pinch-hit home run. Hall went back to the mound in the top of the 9th. He walked Don Blasingame to open the inning, got a lineout from Eddie Kasko, the gave up a double to Musial and a triple to Chuck Harmon, scoring two more runs. He was then taken out and the Cards went on to win 2-9.

Hall next pitched on May 5, with the Redlegs visiting. The score was tied 1-1 when Hall entered the game with one out and two on in the top of the 5th. As happened on May 1, the first batter he faced, Frank Robinson, hit a home run; he got out of the inning with no further damage. 

Back on the mound in the 6th, Hall got a fly out from Hoak. then gave up a pair of singles and wild-pitched the bases full before being lifted for Ron Kline, who got out of the inning with no runs scored. Nevertheless, the Pirates went down 2-6.

In 5-2/3 innings of work to open the season, Hall had given up nine hits and seven runs, including the four home runs in successive games. He'd walked three, struck out three and hit a batter.

Shortly after the May 5 outing, Hall was placed on the disabled list. He returned to action on June 12 against the Redlegs and June 14 against the Cubs. In 4-1/3 innings in those two games, he gave up eight hits and five earned runs.

The Pirates then sent him out to AAA Columbus, were he finished the 1957 season with a 4-7 record.

Hall didn't play at all in 1958, he sat out the season with hepatitis. He returned in 1959 with the Pirates' AAA team at Salt Lake City. The rest cure had done good things for the pitcher and he led the Pacific Coast League with an 18-5 record. His 1.87 ERA was second-best in the circuit.

Hall got a September call-up to Pittsburgh, but in two games with the Pirates he could not approach his AAA success and he was traded to the Kansas City A's for the 1960 season.

In detailing Hall's tribulations early in the 1957 season, The Sporting News made a point of mentioning that two of the four home runs he gave up went for exceptional flights. 

On April 24 in Philadelphia, his home run to Stan Lopata cleared the roof of the double-decked left field stands, traveling an estimated 475 feet. Wally Moon's homer on April 30 at Forbes Field sailed over the right field roof. Moon was only the fourth major leaguer to do so, joining Babe Ruth, Ted Beard and Mickey Mantle (exhibition game).

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