When 18-year-old Cub made 5 hits in game

Phil Cavarretta played more games than all but 5 other Cubs: 1,953, during 20 seasons.

He played his 121st, Game 2 of a doubleheader at Philadelphia, on Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 21, 1935.

That day, Cavarretta was just 33 days past his 18th birthday.

So when he made a double and 4 singles as the Cubs earned a split against the Phillies, he became the youngest player ever to make 5 hits in a Major League game.

Cavarretta was 194 days, about 6 1/2 months, younger than Les Mann had been when made 5 hits, at age 19/227, in 1913.

Only 1 player has made 5 hits at age 19 since Cavarretta did it: Claudell Washington, 1974, the day before he turned 20.



Cavarretta was born in Chicago on July 19, 1916 and fell in love with baseball at an early age.

In grade school, he would earn free passes to see the Cubs play by helping to clean the stands at Wrigley Field after games ended.

A left-handed pitcher and first baseman, he led Lane Tech High School to the city championship in the spring of 1933 and his American Legion team to a national title that summer.

Meanwhile, his father had lost his job as a janitor and could not find work, nor could Cavarretta's older brother.

"Things were so tough I'd go to the coalyards and pick up the droppings from the coal cars and take them home to put in the pot-bellied stove," Cavarretta said when interviewed in 2001.

He told his high school and Legion coach that he would have to leave school to help out his family. The coach contacted the Cubs and persuaded them to give Cavarretta a tryout at Wrigley Field.

"I went out there and I must have weighed all of about 150 pounds," Cavarretta recalled. "I'm walking around and, geez, all these players are looking at me and they thought I was a batboy. . . . I was scared to death."

Eventually, Manager Charlie Grimm told Cavarretta to grab a bat.

"I had a real good batting session," Cavarretta said. "One, I hit out of the park. They were saying, 'Look at this guy, he's whacking that pea pretty good. We'd better sign this kid.' "

And so they did, for $125 a month.



He played his first professional game at age 17 years, 300 days, on May 15, 1934, for the Peoria Tractors of the Class B Central League. He hit for the cycle and drove in 4 runs.

After the league folded the next month, the Cubs sent Cavarretta to Reading, Pa., of the Class A New York-Pennsylvania League.

He was batting .310 in 108 total minor league games when he was summoned to join the Cubs. In his big league debut, at Brooklyn on Sept. 16, 1934, he struck out as a pinch hitter. He was 59 days past his 18th birthday.

Cavarretta grounded out when he pinch hit again 2 days later, at Philadelphia.

He did not play again for a week, until Sept. 25, when he made started at first base, against the Reds at Wrigley Field. Leading off the second inning, he lined a home run into the right field bleachers for the game's only run.

That was Cavarretta's only hit that day. But he made 2, 0, 2 and 3 in the Cubs' final games, making him 8 for 21 since joining the team.



On Opening Day of 1935, Cavaretta was 18 years, 273 days old.

Grimm kept him on the bench for that game, then anointed him as his success at first base, where Cavarretta ultimately started 145 of the Cubs' 154 games.

His batting average was just .255 at the end of April, then .269 at the end of May, during which he had his first 3-hit game.

He had 3 more in June and after making 2 hits on June 28 was batting .345 for the month, raising his average to a season-high .306. It was .298 at month's end.

On July 6, still 13 days from turning 19, Cavarretta made 4 hits for the first time, in a 13-inning win at Pittsburgh. He singled and doubled in his next game, boosting his average to .302, then managed only .213 over the 30 games that followed, leaving him at .275.

The Cubs were shut out at home on Aug. 7, but Cavarretta made 2 hits, beginning an 8-game stretch in which he was 13 for 31, .419.

The streak ended when he went 0 for 4 at Brooklyn on Aug. 16. He was 1 for 4 in the series finale, then a combined 1 for 11 in 3 games at Philadelphia.

A game scheduled for the next day was rained out, resulting in a doubleheader on Wednesday, Aug. 21.



The Cubs scored 4 runs in the top of the first inning of Game 1. Cavarretta, batting sixth, singled home the third run, knocking out the starting pitcher.

Midway through the fourth, the Cubs led, 8-2.

They were ahead, 10-4, midway through the fifth.

By the time they came to bat in the ninth, they were behind, 10-13.

Two singles, a ground out and 2 more singles made the score 12-13 and brought Cavarretta to the plate with 2 out and runners on first and second.

Besides his first-inning hit, Cavarretta had walked and doubled. But this time, he grounded out, ending the game.



Neither team scored in the first inning of Game 2. Frank Demaree led off the Cubs' second with a single. Cavarretta singled, too, but both were stranded.

In the third, an error and a single produced a run. With 2 out, Demaree singled, then Cavarretta doubled, making the score 2-0.

Two innings later, with 2 out, Demaree's single sent a runner to third and Cavarretta drove him home with his third hit. A walk and a 3-run double by Bill Jurges gave the Cubs a 6-0 bulge.



After the Phillies scored on a bases-loaded walk in their half of the fifth, the Cubs responded with one of the biggest innings in franchise history: 12 runs, on 9 hits, 4 walks and 2 errors.

Demaree doubled in the second and third runs. Cavarretta then singled.

Stan Hack delivered an RBI single. Back-to-back walks, the second to pitcher Bill Lee, forced in the fifth run. A single by Augie Galan and a sacrifice fly tallied 2 more.

Chuck Klein's single loaded the bases for Gabby Hartnett, whose single drove in the eighth and ninth runs.

Demaree doubled, scoring Klein, and Cavarretta concluded the assault by rapping a single that sent Hartnett and Demaree across the plate.


Demaree and Cavarretta now had made back-to-back hits 5 times, twice in the 12-run sixth.

In the eighth inning, each had a chance for a sixth hit, Demaree made an out. Cavarretta was safe on a 2-out error, setting the stage for Hack to single home the Cubs' 19th run.

The Phillies tallied 3 runs in their half of the eighth, making the score 19-5, and that is how the game ended.

The Cubs finished with 19 hits, more than half by Cavarretta and Demaree. Only 4 were for extra bases, all doubles, including 2 by Demaree and 1 by Cavarretta.



The 5 hits by Cavarretta raised his average to .286. It would never be that high after any subsequent game, as he batted only .231 in his remaining 31 games.

Of his 162 hits, 48 were for extra bases. The last of his 8 home runs, on Sept. 25 at St. Louis, earned the Cubs their 19th straight victory, 1-0, and clinched a tie for the pennant. They won 2 more before dropping their final 2, to finish 100-54.

Cavarretta's final slash line was .275/.321/.403, for an OPS of .726 and an OPS+ of 93 -- less than the average of 100, but pretty impressive for an 18-year-old!



He would post an OPS+ of 107 in 1937, then a number of at least 102 for 12 straight seasons from 1940-51. His high was 166 in 1945, when he slashed .355/.449/.500, leading the league in average and on-base percentage, as the Cubs won the pennant again.

He had 2 games with 5 hits that season, after having had only 1 since his first a decade earlier. He never had another.


Cavarretta served as player-manager of the Cubs from midway through 1951 through the end of 1953. In his last game as a Cub, on Sept. 20, 1953, he pinch hit to start the fifth inning and delivered his 1,927th hit.

In his 20 seasons with the team, he batted . 292/.371/.416, for an OPS of .787 and an OPS+ of 118. He smacked 341 doubles, 99 triples and 92 home runs.

Cavarretta played 77 games for the White Sox in 1954-55, then retired. When he played his last game, on May 8, 1955, he was 38 years, 293 days old

He was 94 years, 152 days when he died, on Dec. 18, 2010.

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