Tag Archives: Eddie Rommel

“Take him out”

27 Jan

Stanwood Fulton Baumgartner pitched in parts of eight seasons for the Phillies and Athletics, then spent thirty years as a baseball writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Sporting News.

In 1945, he said his former manager Connie Mack:

“(I)s a kindly person. His 62 years in baseball have been marked by few displays of emotion.

“When the Athletics made their famous 10-run rally in the fourth game of the 1929 World Series he merely wigwagged his scorecard a bit faster. Even when Burleigh Grimes thumbed his nose at him in 1931, Connie merely smiled.

“Yet he once shook his fist at Babe Ruth—and that gesture cost him $5,000.”

Baumgartner said the story was about a young pitcher who, 1924 “(H)ad sold himself to Connie Mack,” after a successful minor league season in 1923.

baumg

Stanwood Fulton Baumgartner

The pitcher, he said:

 “(W)asn’t a success. Every time he stepped out of the dugout fans would shout, ‘Take him out.’”

The pitcher “pleaded for one last chance,” before Philadelphia would have to pay the pitcher’s purchase price of $5000 if he stayed on the roster after May 30.

“That very morning, Mack made up his mind to send the young pitcher back to New Haven. He ordered a train ticket.

“Eddie Rommel was starting (the second game of a double header that day) for the Athletics. As Rommel started to warm up, the young left-hander went to his locker. There he found the ticket for New Haven.

“The young fellow felt a terrific emptiness. But he changed his shirt and went back to the bench.”

Early in the game, Baumgartner said Mack told the young pitcher he would take the mound if Rommel needed to be relieved.

The Yankees scored two runs in the fourth and sixth innings—including a Babe Ruth two-run home run—and Rommel was lifted for pinch hitter Paul Strand in the seventh, with Philadelphia trailing 4 to 1.

The young pitcher came out for the bottom of the seventh inning with the Athletics still trailing by three runs. He retired New York in order for two innings while Philadelphia scored four runs in the eighth on three singles and a Bing Miller home run off Sad Sam Jones.

With a 5 to 4 lead, Mack sent the young pitcher out for the ninth inning:

mack

Connie Mack

“Wally Shang, first Yank at bat in the ninth inning, fanned; then Everett Scott was caught at first for the second out (Baumgartner’s memory was faulty more than twenty years later, the contemporaneous account in The Philadelphia Record said Scott struck out, and Fred Hofmann was retired for the second out). The Athletics breathed a sigh of relief. Only one more man to go! But (pinch hitter) Joe Bush got a one-base hit. Then the left-hander hit Aaron Ward with a pitched ball; and Joe Dugan made first base after an easy grounder took a bad hop against Chick Galloway’s chest.”

Here again, Baumgartner’s memory was faulty.  Bush did single, but the next two batters were pinch hitter Wally Shang, who walked, then Dugan, who did not reach on error, but was hit by a pitch—Galloway’s error had come earlier in the game.

In any event, what Baumgartner recalled correctly was that the Yankees had loaded the bases trailing by one run, with Babe Ruth due up.

“As the Babe walked to the plate, a wave of futility engulfed the pitcher. Tomorrow, he knew, he would be back in New Haven—in the minors and oblivion.

With a shrug of despair, he looked at catcher Frank Bruggy for a signal. But Bruggy was looking for a sign from Connie to bring in another pitcher.”

Baumgartner said Mack stood up in the dugout, and the pitcher’s “heart sank,” but then:

“Connie did the most amazing this baseball fans had ever seen. He shook his fist at Babe Ruth. The pitcher watched that fist and a wave of confidence surged up within him. Now he saw only Ruth and his catcher.

“Bruggy signaled for a curve and Ruth swung and missed.

“Bruggy signaled for another curve. Again, Ruth swung; missed.

“The third pitch was a slower curve. Ruth swung with every ounce of his 220 pounds. There was click as the bat met the ball. But it was only the click of a foul ball. Bruggy smothered it in his glove for the third out, and the game was over.

“Hundreds of cushions whirled out of the stands onto the diamond. Connie Mack Draped his arm around the pitcher.

‘”Give me that ticket to New Haven,’ he whispered. ‘You won’t need it now.’

“That night Connie Mack made out a check to the New Haven club for $5000.

“How do I know? I was the pitcher”

baumgartner

Baumgartner

Neither The Record nor The Inquirer mentioned the embellishments of Mack’s fist shake, the “Hundreds of cushions,” nor that Ruth’s strikeout was foul tip in their coverage of the game. He likely overstated his imminent return to New Haven as well—Baumgartner, although used sparingly,  had pitched well and won two games in relief before the May 30 game–—but what was true is he had learned to tell a good story in the intervening two decades.

“Babe Ruth has a Locker full of Charms”

13 May

Eddie Collins had spent 25 years in the major leagues as a player, coach and manager by 1930 when he spoke to a writer for “Every Week Magazine” about superstitions.

Eddie Collins

Eddie Collins

The article noted:

“Collins, by the way, has been credited with being one of the most superstitious players in the national game.  His habit of sticking a piece of chewing gum on the button of his cap has almost become a tradition.  If the pitcher had two strikes on him, Eddie would jerk off the cap, yank the gum from the bottom, stick it in his mouth and chew violently.”

But, Collins, a graduate of Columbia University, didn’t consider himself superstitious and told the magazine:

 “The average man playing professional baseball today is too well-educated actually to believe you can make home runs by picking up hairpins or adopting any of the other numerous superstitions which have come to be so much part of the game. “

As for the obvious superstitions he and many other players, educated or not, subscribed to, Collins said they were merely “eccentricities,” and that “Having them gives confidence.”

That said:

“The late George Stallings was one of the most sensible men baseball has produced.  He was the personification of common sense and one of the last persons in the world you would credit with being superstitious.  Nevertheless, a single scrap of paper tossed on the ground in front of the dugout meant all sorts of bad things to George. It upset him completely and his managerial skill seemed to fade.”

George Stallings

George Stallings

Joe Sewell of the Cleveland Indians was another “college man,” someone who “generally loses any belief in omens.”  But, Sewell “after his last crack at the bat during practice” insisted on running towards third and touching the bag before anyone else did.  One day in Cleveland, the too educated to be superstitious Sewell started towards third, only to see Collins, also too educated to believe in superstitions, had:

“(D)ashed out of the Athletics’ dugout and touched the sack ahead of Joe and Joe didn’t get a hit during the afternoon.”

Joe Sewell

Joe Sewell

Next was Urban Shocker, who insisted no one touched his glove during a game.  Despite being “too wise a man to believe” such a thing, Collins told how during a game against the Athletics, “Eddie Rommel spotted the glove and knowing Shocker’s eccentric regard for it, walked over and picked it up, examined it and then tossed it back on the turf.”  The “too wise” Shocker:

“(S)aw red.  He became visibly unsettled.  He blew up the next inning.”

As for the game’s biggest star:

Babe Ruth has a locker full of charms, fetishes and tokens; fastened to the door is a wooden horseshoe with a four-leaf clover carved on it, and on top stands a totem pole and other curious objects guaranteed by enthusiastic donors to bring luck.”

Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth

Collins said the previous season when the Athletics were on their way to Chicago for game 3 of the World Series with the Cubs:

“(T)here was a fan on the train with us  who had a great fondness for canned pineapple.  He insisted the players eat some the morning of the game predicting we’d win if we did.  Well, we did, and we won.”

Collins said he, and the rest of the Athletics, too smart for superstition:

“Had pineapple every morning the rest of the series.”