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Baseball history unpacked, September 11

Hippo Vaughn in action, Cubs lose the World Series, Selma sails one, and other stories

MLB: SEP 11 Braves at Giants Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

.. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, Bleed Cubbie Blue brings a you a wildly popular Cubs-centric look at baseball’s past. Here’s a handy Cubs timeline, to help you follow along as we review select scenes from the rich tapestry of Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball history. The embedded links often point to articles that pertain to the scenes, such as reproductions of period newspapers, images, and/or other such material as is often found in the wild.

Today in baseball history:

  • 1875 - The first baseball game played with women professionals takes place in Springfield, Illinois. The diamond is half-sized and a nine-foot high canvas surrounds the entire field. The uniforms are similar to the male version, except the pants are shorter. (2)
  • 1886 - At Washington’s Swampoodle Grounds, backstop Connie Mack makes his major league debut when the Nationals, in a rare victory, edge the Philadelphia Quakers, 4-3. The journeyman catcher will post the most big league wins and losses as a manager, compiling a 3731-3948 (.486) record with the Pirates and A’s during his 53-year managerial career. (1)
  • 1917 - At Wrigley Field, Military Day is celebrated by a double victory for Chicago over the Reds, with Hippo Vaughn credited with both wins. Vaughn starts the opener and retires after an inning with his team ahead by three runs. The Cubs win, 6-5, with Vic Aldridge allowing two runs in five innings. Aldridge will eventually get credit for the win and not Vaughn. Vaughn then goes nine innings in the nitecap, striking out nine to win, 5-1. (3)

Box scores: Game one. Game two.

  • 1918 - In the earliest conclusion of the Fall Classic, Boston’s Carl Mays three-hits the Cubs 2-1, with the Red Sox winning the World Series in six games. The regular season was shortened by a month to meet the obligation of many major leaguers to leave their team, after being drafted into the military to serve in World War I. (1)

Cubs pitchers compile a 1.04 ERA, while Boston’s .186 BA is the lowest ever for a World Series winner, but they compensate by making just one error, a record not beaten this century in a six-game World Series. The Red Sox will realize $1,102 each, the Cubs $671, the smallest winner’s share ever earned. The inning by inning results of the game are relayed to Fort Devans, 58 miles away, via nine homing pigeons. (3)

Box score.

  • 1942 - Paul Gillespie homers in his first major league at-bat, hitting a solo shot off Harry Feldman in the second inning of the Cubs’ 4-3 loss to New York at the Polo Grounds. The Chicago reserve catcher will become the first of only two players in baseball history, along with John Miller (1966-1969), to a hit home run in their first and last big league at bats, when he blasts a round-tripper in his final plate appearance in 1945. (1)

Box score.

  • 1955 - In his first and only major league appearance, Fred Van Dusen, entering the game as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning for the Phillies, is hit by a pitch thrown by Humberto Robinson of the Braves. The 18 year-old bonus baby’s career ends with an on-base percentage of 1.000, but without a batting average. (1)*
  • 1968 - Tying a dubious major league record, Cubs right-hander Ferguson Jenkins loses his fifth 1-0 decision of the season as the Mets and Jim McAndrew beat Chicago with a lone run at Wrigley Field. The Canadian-born hurler will finish the season with a 20-15 record, but is 20-6 in games in which his team scores a run. (1)

Box score.

  • 1969 - The Cubs take a 1-0 lead into the third inning against the Phils when, with a 3-2 count on Dick Allen and runners on first and second, pitcher Dick Selma unexpectedly throws to third base instead of to home. The throws sails over the head of a surprised Ron Santo and the Phils’ Tony Taylor scores the tying run. Selma and Santo had practiced the move in spring training, but had never used it during the season. The Phils go on to win again. Al will have more on this game later today. (3)

Box score.

Box score.

  • 1979 - The Expos beat the Cubs at Olympic Stadium, 8-6, for their 82nd win of the campaign. The victory ensures Montreal of a winning season for the first in the 11-year history of the franchise. (1)

Box score.

  • 1980 - In a 6-5 win over the Cubs, Montreal’s Ron LeFlore steals his 91st base of the season and Rodney Scott steals his 58th, breaking the Major League-record for stolen bases by teammates in one season. Lou Brock and Bake McBride set the record with the 1974 Cardinals. (2,3)

Box score.

  • 1985 - Pete Rose of the Cincinnati Reds became the career hit leader with his 4,192nd hit to break Ty Cobb’s record. Rose lined a 2-1 pitch off San Diego pitcher Eric Show to left-center field for a single in the first inning. It was the 57th anniversary of Ty Cobb’s last game in the majors. (2)
  • 2001 - All major league baseball games are canceled due to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Flight #93, and the Pentagon. Games will not resume until September 17th. The Blue Jays take a 12-hour bus ride from Baltimore back to Toronto, and Yankee Stadium is evacuated as a precautionary measure. Former minor-league players Marty Boryczewski, Mark Hindy, Mike Weinberg, and Brent Woodall are killed in the attacks. (3)
  • 2008 - With his sixth-inning double in the 3-2 loss to the Cubs, Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols becomes only the third player in history to drive in 100 runs during his first eight major league seasons. The two other big leaguers to reach the plateau are Red sox outfielder Ted Williams, who also accomplished the feat for eight seasons from 1939-42, 46-49, and starting in 1924, fly-chaser Al Simmons did it for 11 years playing for the A’s (9) and the White Sox (2). (1,3)

Box score.

*— About Fred van Dusen, from Sam Zygner of SABR:

Fred Van Dusen: From bagging groceries to the big leagues

During the summers of 1954 and 1955, Fred Van Dusen received his fill of the elixir and drew attention from scouts from every major league team. The brash and boyishly handsome kid out of Bryant High School in Jackson Heights, New York, was exhibiting all the necessary tools: hitting for power and average, speed in the field and on the base paths, and a rocket arm. Representing the Astoria Cubs (Kiwanis) team from Queens, in the Hearst Sandlot Classic (HSC) held in the Polo Grounds, the 6’3”, 180-pound high school junior was turning heads. The HSC was one of premier tournaments in the country for young talent, featuring the likes of Whitey Ford, Billy Loes, Gene Conley, Al Kaline, and Moose Skowron, just to name a few. Hall of Famer Al Simmons, serving as a manager for the J-A All-Stars, cited the youngster from Queens PSAL as the top performer of the tournament.

By graduation, the 18-year-old “phenom” was prepared to sign on the dotted line. The Van Dusen family was impressed by Phillies owner Robert Carpenter Jr. and they chose the Philadelphia Phillies and their generous bonus.

Van Dusen would later refuse his bonus choosing instead to play in the minor leagues, but in 1955, like other Bonus Babies, Van Dusen was unfairly ostracized by most of his teammates. Rarely able to even appear in the batting cage, he waited impatiently to contribute. Finally, on September 11, 1955 at Milwaukee’s County Stadium, manager Mayo Smith signaled Van Dusen to step into the on-deck circle and prepare to hit. In the bottom of the ninth inning, with the Phils trailing the Braves 9–1, lanky right-hander Humberto Robinson stood on the mound ready to deliver the pitch. “I was numb, but I told myself to get up there and go down swinging,” said Van Dusen. On an 0–2 count Robinson delivered a bending curveball that nicked Van Dusen on the left knee, sending him to first base. The next batter, Stan Lopata, struck out, and Richie Ashburn popped out to right field to end the game. It would turn out to be Van Dusen’s only major league appearance, giving him the distinction to be the only major league player hit by a pitch while never making an appearance on the field.

Even though his major league career was short-lived, Van Dusen recounted with great pride, “Wow, you know, even to be on the field with those fellas was something.”

After reporting to the Phillies spring training camp in 1956, Van Dusen was farmed out to the Wilson Tobs of the Class-B Carolina League. It was a struggle for the 18-year-old, and he blamed his own immaturity for his lack of success. “It happens to a lot of young players back in those days. I don’t think it happens today as much because they’re more mature.” He added, “But to come out of high school, go to the big leagues and sign, it was quite an emotional situation for a kid because you went from delivering groceries to being a big leaguer.”

Van Dusen rebounded strongly in 1957 at Class-B High Point-Thomasville, finding his stroke and batting .310 in 119 games while bashing 25 home runs. He was named the Carolina League “Player of the Year” and appeared to be back on track. Brimming with confidence, Van Dusen was sure he would return to the Phillies in 1958, but instead was assigned to Triple-A Miami of the International League. As a 20-year-old brash youngster, he said with a smile, “They don’t know what they’re doing” and added “Chuck Essegian and I are the only .300 hitters on the roster. Don’t worry, though, I’ll be back. I’ll have such a great season; the Phils will have to get me back.”

Van Dusen’s stay in Miami was brief; he appeared in 22 games while batting a paltry .167 with one home run and 5 RBIs. “I really stunk up the joint down there to be honest with you,” Van Dusen said. Not used to being platooned, he was especially frustrated and found himself demoted to Class-A Williamsport of the Eastern League for the rest of the season. Van Dusen returned to the Grays in 1959 and finished the season batting .272 in 106 games, with 14 homers and 65 RBIs. Most impressive was Van Dusen’s OBP of .437.

Van Dusen stayed in the Phillies organization his whole career. He spent 1960 with Asheville of the Sally League and Indianapolis of the American Association and in 1961 with Chattanooga of the Southern Association. By then he could see the handwriting on the wall. “You go from prospect to suspect,” explained Van Dusen. He added, “You see younger guys pass you by and you know it’s time to pack it in.”

Following his baseball career, Van Dusen found his niche in insurance and built his own lucrative business. He found love with his wife of 38 years and raised a happy family.

Now retired and living in Tennessee, Van Dusen received national attention when he threw out the first pitch on October 2, 2012, before a late season contest at Marlins Park. Van Dusen had been invited to this game to honor Adam Greenberg, who had become the second player to be hit by a pitch and never appear in the field. In his one-day comeback to the major leagues, Greenberg realized his dream of an official at-bat when he struck out on three pitches facing R.A. Dickey. Greenberg’s ceremonial at-bat returned Van Dusen to his solitary spot as the only player to be hit by a pitch and never appear in the field.

Van Dusen summed up his life experience:

You know they say youth is wasted on the young. Because by the time you figure it out…I look at it as an experience. What I did learn was how to take defeat and get through it. I wish I could have learned that a little sooner, but that’s how the game is. Because you don’t always learn by doing it the hard way, but I learned by doing it the hard way.

I bet Adam Greenberg could relate.


Thanks for reading.