The year: 1938. The setting: New York’s Polo Grounds.
It’s the top of the sixth inning, Cubs and Giants tied 1-1, Billy Herman leads off the inning with a single.
As was fairly typical of the time, the next hitter was asked to bunt. That was Augie Galan, who did in fact lay down a bunt down the first base line. Giants catcher Harry Danning picked up the ball and threw to second baseman Lou Chiozza, who was covering first. Chiozza dropped the ball, and Galan should have been safe, but plate umpire George Magerkurth called Galan out for interfering with the throw.
We don’t have any photos or video of this play, but what we do know is that Galan and Cubs manager Charlie Grimm vehemently argued the play. Neither was ejected — perhaps Magerkurth knew he was wrong, but umpires in that day didn’t often change their minds — and Grimm announced he was playing the game under protest.
That led to the following scene, as written by Irving Vaughan in the Chicago Tribune:
Having lost the argument, the Cubs decided they were entitled to a little harmless fun. Just as play was about to be resumed there came an aerial display from the Cub dugout. Masks, chest protectors, sweaters, coats, baseballs, bats, Turkish towels, and even a box of paper drinking cups, which scattered like snowflakes, sailed into space. Umpire Moran finally called Magerkurth’s attention to what was going on behind his back, so the latter strutted over to the bench and had a nice quiet talk with the boys. They consented to quiet down and the game went on.
John Drebinger of the New York Times called it a “terrific rumpus” and added:
Grimm and his cohorts threw about forty fits and finally all the paraphernalia out of their dugout, including a shower of white towels.
Via the New York Times, here’s a photo of the argument:
No. 19 is coach Red Corriden and No. 9 is outfielder Frank Demaree, who was the next hitter. It’s hard to tell for sure, but it appears Grimm is at the left.
In any case, the Cubs wound up not scoring in that inning and the Giants took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the inning on a home run by Jo-Jo Moore. But the Cubs tied the game in the top of the eighth on an RBI single by Galan and won the game with a two-run ninth that was helped by some bad Giants defense. The Cubs win made Grimm’s protest moot.
The Giants were leading the National League by 5½ games even after that Cubs win with a 19-5 record. The Cubs trailed all year until a 21-5 September, highlighted by a 10-game winning streak and Gabby Hartnett’s famous “Homer in the Gloamin’,” won the 1938 N.L. pennant by two games.
This come-from-behind Cubs win, and dugout-tossing antics, all happened 85 years ago today, Wednesday, May 18, 1938.