Sunday, June 9, 2013

June 6- New York Giants

It’s funny how much the game has evolved in a little over a century. Pitchers can top out at a little over 100-MPH, home runs are hit on a near game-after-game basis and no one has managed to hit or top the .400 batting average mark since Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox bested that mark during the campaign of 1941. But with all of the records that have come to be shattered over the last 15 to 20 years or so very few people have any idea how or when a lot of the more obscure stats came to be. Yes, we have ESPN and the Elias Sports Bureau to help out on occasion with literally the most random of stats that we all secretly enjoy reading in our heads using Tim Kurkjian’s voice, but very few of us really know anything about those particular games. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if most of you read the rest of this pot with Kurkjian’s voice providing the narration.

I should first point out that I received a heavy amount of bad intel about this cap, which, in the end, is really my fault for not double-checking my sources. I bought this New York Giants cap off of the Lids Web site a few months through their Cooperstown Collection line as I have been trying to build up my collection of older caps as they tend to have better stories that have proven the test of time. Based on the colors alone I knew that it was a cap used before the 1950s as the cap worn in their later years pretty much resembled an all black version of the current home New York Mets cap. Basically it’s the most iconic of all New York era Giants caps. What every few people outside of the New York era seem to remember is that there was a vast time period in which the Giants’ team colors where blue, white and orange, the colors that the Mets wear today. If you read my post from June 5th you’d know that the two sources I use the most are and Now, when researching this cap I did in fact use both of those sources and in both cases they said that this cap was used from 1936-1939, which is perfect for the story and my marking below. However, upon further review from various other hat Web sites including Mickey’s Place, I have come to find out that the cap used from 1936-1939 resembles the modern day Mets cap but with a white “NY.” I verified this through five Web sites, all of which are shops based out of Cooperstown. What’s even more unusual is that the logo on this cap was in fact used on the jersey for a much longer time from, but in an array of colors. For instance, this shape of the “NY” logo with a blue border and white interior was used from 1936-1939. The version currently shown on this cap was used on the jerseys from 1940-1946. This exact hat was only used for one year in 1948. After finding all of this out I about had a cow. If there’s one thing I hate it’s having all of the wrong facts because the last thing I want to do is mislead all of you, the readers. Rather than be frustrated I continued my search to figure out why the intel I had received from such reliable sources in the past could be so wrong, especially considering the fact that after scanning through several photos on the Hall of Fame Web site my original findings appear to be correct. So, I did one more search to figure out what the problem was. This time I typed in “1948 New York Giants cap,” and much to my approval, I found out that I was only off by one year. The all black with an orange “NY” logo was first used in 1947. This particular cap was used from 1940-1946. I could have been a lot worse I suppose. Granted, I did have a few posts earlier in the year where I made a mistake or two in my research, which I really hoped wasn’t going to happen again.

When it came to marking this cap up I came across a stat from 1939 which trigged this whole research and hat purchase mess. And while it started with one particular game I soon came to find out that it has become a pleasant surprise for some teams and a truly nightmarish reality for one team.

6/6/39- Hall of Fame manager John McGraw’s final year as manager of the Giants came about a quarter of the way through the 1932 season. He had gone 17-23 that season and decided to hang it up for good. McGraw only managed one more professional game in his lifetime, the 1933 All-Star game as an honorary manager. In 1934 McGraw died at the age of 60 due to uremic poisoning, a condition caused by poor kidney functioning which causes urine to contaminate the blood.

After McGraw had stepped down in 1932 the Bill Terry era begun as he finished the season with a 55-59 record. In his first full season in 1933, Terry and the Giants finished the season with a record of 91-61, the best in the National League. The Giants then squared off against a Joe Cronin managed Washington Senators team who had gone 99-53 in the World Series. The Giants won handily four games to one. Despite four consecutive 90+ win seasons following their World Series victory the Giants only made to one more Series in that stretch in 1937 in which they lost to the New York Yankees in five games. After that loss, the dark years came for Terry as he was replaced by Hall of Famer Mel Ott at the end of the 1941 season.

In 1939 the Giants went 77-74 on the season, good enough for a fifth place finish out of the eight teams that made up the National League. Despite how tenacious the Giants teams of yesteryear were, only three players from this squad ended up making the Hall of Fame: Mel Ott, who I mentioned a moment ago, Carl Hubbell, one of the greatest pitchers of his era and Tony Lazzeri, a player who was voted in by the Veterans Committee and probably wouldn’t have been given a second glance in today’s era. There was one other player on the team this season who should be in the Hall of Fame based on his name alone and that’s Johnny “Ugly” Dickshot, whose only year with the Giants came in ’39.

When June 6, 1939 came around it was pretty much just another day at the ball yard. The 19-24 Giants were playing host to the 29-14 Cincinnati Reds at the Polo Grounds just on the cusp of Harlem, New York. Right off the bat this story gets interesting. The starting pitcher for the Reds was Johnny Vander Meer. For any baseball historian this name should ring a bell. Almost a full year prior (June 11, 1938) Vander Meer threw a no-hitter against the Boston Bees and four days later he threw another no-hitter against the Brooklyn Dodgers, becoming the only person in history to throw no-hitters in back-to-back starts (I’ll go into more detail on this feat in a later post). A year later, he was set to make history again, sort of. Vander Meer only lasted two outs as he gave up three quick runs to the Giants. His replacement, a righty named Peaches Davis, closed out the side. Davis then got tagged for a few runs himself through the next nine outs as he got to two outs in the fourth inning with catcher Harry Danning coming up to bat.

With no one on base Danning tagged Davis for the first home run of the game. Next up, Ott… who hit a single. Next up, first baseman Frank Bonura who hit a single as well. Next up, centerfielder Frank Demaree… who took Davis yard with a three-run shot. Giants. Next up, Lazzeri… who hit a single. Next up, second baseman Burgess Whitehead. With a runner on first Whitehead cranked back and swung for the fences, just like his teammates before him. 12-0 Giants. After the third home run Reds’ manager Bill McKechnie had seen enough of Davis and called to the bullpen for righty Wes Livengood. The next batter, pitcher Manny Salvo. Prior to his at-bat Salvo was batting .077 on the season. With numbers like that, Livengood thought he had an easy final out on his hands. Nope! Salvo cranked a solo shot over the left field wall to give the Giants a 13-0 lead. Next up, left fielder Jo-Jo Moore… who hit a solo shot himself. 14-0 Giants. Next up, shortstop Billy Jurgess… who struck out to finally end the fourth inning.

By the end of the game Ott would get himself a home run off of relief pitcher Junior Thompson and Moore would hit his second of the day for a total of seven home runs hit by the Giants in their 17-3 routing. Seven home runs had been hit in a game before; however, this ended up being the first time in MLB history which five home runs would be hit in a single inning, let alone with two outs.

In MLB history there has yet to be a game in which a team has hit more than five home runs in an inning. In fact, only five times, including this game, has a team hit five home runs in an inning. Of the five games in which this has happened the Reds were the losing/pitching team in four of them. That’s ridiculous!

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