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Baseball history unpacked, May 30

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Chance ploinked five times, the last victory for the spitball, Ruth’s final contest, Eck’s no-no, and other stories

Tinker; Evers; Chance

In our last pulse-pounding episode, we saw how Matt Clement once ploinked the bases full, and touched on other stories taking place on May 28. Today we train our Cubs-colored glasses on another day, and tease out that day’s tales, including Frank Chance’s greatest hit-by-pitches, the last victory for the spitball, Babe Ruth’s final contest, Dennis Eckersley’s no-no, and other stories. Please enjoy immoderately.

Here’s a handy Cubs timeline.

Today in baseball history:

Box score. We’ve previously touched on the storied career of Icebox Chamberlain, but Bob Lowe is a new one for us. He was a second baseman (and sometime outfielder) who played for 18 years and amassed 20.2 WAR; not great, but Hall-of-Pretty-Good. He played for the Cubs in 1902 and 1903 — the first year was productive, the second year shortened by injury. In 1894, he had his best year, compiling a .346 batting average and 319 total bases. Charles Faber of SABR has more, which includes a cool anecdote about Lou Gehrig meeting Lowe after the former had duplicated the feat.

  • 1904 - At Cincinnati’s Palace of the Fans, 32-year-old Cubs first baseman Frank Chance is plunked by a pitch five times during a doubleheader. In the first game of the twin bill, the future Hall-of-Famer loses consciousness briefly when one of the misguided pitches hits the ‘the Peerless Leader’s’ head. (1)

Anthony Rizzo has nothing on Chance, eh? That’s some serious ploinkage. Especially that last, which is pretty clearly a concussion. I’m sure nobody here needs to have the legend of Frank Chance detailed for them -- you can get that information readily from his HoF page, which is embedded in the link. If not, he’s #15 of the Top 100 Cubs of all time, and was immortalized by being part of “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon.”

  • 1913 - Red Sox outfielder and future Hall of Famer Harry Hooper becomes the first major leaguer to start both games of a doubleheader with a home run. The feat will not be repeated until 1993, when A’s leadoff hitter Rickey Henderson opens each game of a twin bill against Cleveland with a homer. (1)

Box score 1. Box score 2. Hooper was part of the Million-Dollar Outfield, along with Tris Speaker and Duffy Lewis. He was seen by many observers to be the best of the three, and he and Speaker are enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Lewis didn’t play well enough for long enough to join them.

Heathcote was a very good player, says Bill Johnson, instrumental in Chicago’s 1929 pennant chase, and once reached base seven times in a nine inning game, taking two walks and going 5 for 5.

Flack was a fleet-footed man who immediately upgraded the Cardinals’ running game, but that wasn’t enough. The Belleville, IL native has been accused of helping to throw the 1918 World Series, but doesn’t seem to have done so, despite a throwing error and a couple of pickoffs. Eddie Cicotte “has referenced the 1918 Cubs as having inspired the “Black Sox.”

Box score 1. Box score 2.

Box score. This was the first game of a doubleheader. The play took place in the bottom of the fourth. The Cubs won that game but split the twin bill. Harry and George Wright are the only other brothers in the Hall of Fame. ooney played for seven years and was not in fact tremendous.

  • 1930 - Rogers Hornsby receives his MVP award and is given a thousand gold coins by National League president John Heydler at a ceremony at home plate prior to the Cubs’ contest against St. Louis. Ironically, the ‘Rajah’ will break his ankle while advancing to third base during the Wrigley Field contest and will not play again until the middle of August. (1)

Heydler is not well-known but was reportedly a decent man and a good President of the NL, responsible at least partly for bringing Kenesaw Mountain Landis to the Commissioner’s office. Hmm. That might mitigate against the previous, but it is what it is.

  • 1934 - Burleigh Grimes notches the last victory by a pitcher legally allowed to throw a doctored pitch, tossing four innings of shutout ball in relief in the Yankees’ 5-4 extra-inning win over the Senators in the Bronx. The 40-year-old spitballer is the last of the 17 hurlers given permission to throw pitches altered by a foreign substance after they were banned in 1920. (1)

Box score. Charles Faber writes about Grimes, at length.

  • 1935 - At the Baker Bowl, Babe Ruth of the Boston Braves plays his final major league game, going hitless in a first inning at-bat against the Phillies. On June 2, the former Yankees superstar will announce his retirement from baseball. (1)

Box score.

  • 1967 - Whitey Ford, nearing 41, announces his retirement from baseball because of an elbow injury. His final appearance was a start in Detroit on May 21, but he lasted just one inning for the Yankees. The stylish lefthander closes out with 236 career wins and only 106 losses for a .690 percentage. (2)
  • 1977 - Twenty-two-year-old Dennis Eckersley fires a no-hitter as the Indians top the Angels 1-0. Frank Tanana, with three shutouts in his last four games, takes the loss. (2)

Box score. Eckersley’s tales will be told another time.


Thanks for reading.