This day in baseball: Ty Cobb released

The Detroit Tigers released player-manager Ty Cobb on November 2, 1926. At first, Cobb announced his retirement at the end of 22 years with the Tigers, but when Cleveland Indians player-manager Tris Speaker also retired shortly thereafter, many heads turned. It soon came out that the two were coerced into retirement as a result of allegations of game-fixing brought about by Dutch Leonard, a former pitcher managed by Cobb.

Ty Cobb (public domain/Wikimedia Commons)

This day in baseball: Durocher named Manager for the Year

On October 23, 1951, Associated Press named New York Giants skipper Leo Durocher as the Manager of the Year. Under Durocher’s leadership, the Giants rallied from a 13 1/2-game deficit in mid-August to win the National League pennant. New York’s comeback was capped off against the Dodgers, in a three-game playoff series best remembered for Bobby Thomson’s fabled home run in the bottom of the ninth inning of the deciding game at the Polo Grounds.

Leo_Durocher
Leo Durocher (public domain)

This day in baseball: Earnshaw leads the A’s to World Series win

Philadelphia Athletics pitcher George Earnshaw defeated the St. Louis Cardinals, 7-1, on October 8, 1930 to secure a World Series victory for Philadelphia. Throughout the Series, Earnshaw collected two wins and a 0.72 ERA, and also pitched seven scoreless innings as Game 5 starter, but ended up with a no-decision as Lefty Grove relieved him in the eighth and took the win on Jimmie Foxx’s two-run homer. A’s manager Connie Mack gave more credit to Earnshaw for the Athletics’ World Series victory over the Cardinals than any other player.

GeorgeEarnshawGoudeycard
1934 Goudey baseball card of George Earnshaw of the Philadelphia Athletics (public domain)

“Baseball Days, ’61,” by Peter Balakian

Peter Balakian is an Armenian American writer and academic who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2016 for his collection, Ozone Journal. This collection includes the poem below, which shines a light on the fact that even as Roger Maris hit his historic 61st home run during the 1961 season, the world continued to move with myriad historic events simultaneously.

*

All summer the patio drifted in and out of light the color of margarine;
days were blue, not always sky blue.
At night the word Algeria circulated among the grown-ups.

A patient of my father had whooping cough, the words drifted into
summer blue. The evenings spun into stadium lights.
Kennedy’s hair blew across the screen. Castro was just a sofa.

I saw James Meredith’s face through a spread of leaves
on the evening news. The fridge sweat with orangeade,
the trees whooped some nights in rain—

a kid down the street kept coughing into his mitt.
Static sounds from Comiskey and Fenway came
though the vinyl, the plastic, the pillow—

So when it left Stallard’s hand, when Roger Maris’s arms whipped
the bat and the bullet-arc carried into the chasm the disaffections
at 344 ft. near the bullpen fence

under the green girder holding up the voices rising into the façade and over the
river
where a Baptist choir on Lenox Ave. was sending up a variation of Sweet Chariot
into the traffic on the FDR that was jammed at the Triboro

where a derrick was broken and the cables of its arms picked up the star-blast of
voices coming over the Stadium façade spilling down the black next-game
sign into the vector
of a tilted Coke bottle on a billboard

at the edge of the river where a cloud of pigeons rose over Roosevelt Island.
It was evening by the time the cars unjammed and the green of the outfield unfroze
and the white arc had faded into skyline before fall came

full of boys throwing themselves onto the turf with inexplicable desire
for the thing promised. The going. Then gone.

This day in baseball: Walter Johnson’s 36-win season

Washington Senators pitcher Walter Johnson defeated the Philadelphia Athletics, 1-0, on September 29, 1913 to record his final decision of the season. Johnson would appear in only one more game in 1913 and finished the season with an impressive 36-7 record and a mind-boggling 346.1 innings pitched. Over the course of the season, Johnson also notched two saves, 243 strikeouts, and only gave up 9 home runs and 40 walks. He concluded 1913 with an ERA of 1.14.

Walter Johnson (Library of Congress)

RIP Maury Wills

Maury Wills
Maury Wills, 1960 (University of Southern California Libraries / California Historical Society / Release under the CC BY Attribution license — https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)

Maurice Morning Wills was born October 2, 1932 in Washington, D.C. He began playing semi-professional baseball at the age of 14 and signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1950, upon graduating from high school. He made his major league debut with the Dodgers, now in Los Angeles, in 1959 and spent most of his career with L.A. He was a member of the Dodgers team that won the World Series in 1959, 1963, and 1965.

Wills was named the National League MVP in 1962, stealing a record 104 bases to break the previous modern era mark of 96 set by Ty Cobb. He was named to seven All-Star teams and was the first MLB All-Star Game Most Valuable Player in 1962. Wills also won Gold Gloves at shortstop in 1961 and 1962. Over the course of his fourteen-year career, Wills batted .281 with 20 home runs, 458 runs batted in, 2,134 hits, 1,067 runs, 177 doubles, 71 triples, 586 stolen bases, and 552 bases on balls in 1,942 games.

Wills was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, serving as a representative of the Dodgers Legend Bureau, from 2009 until his death. Maury Wills died on September 19, 2022, at the age of 89.

This day in baseball: Luque punches Stengel

On September 16, 1922 (some sources have the year down as 1923), Cincinnati Reds pitcher Adolfo Luque became so angry over the bench jockeying coming from the Giants bench that he set the ball and his glove down on the mound, then charged straight into the New York dugout. Luque punched Casey Stengel, believing Stengel to be the primary instigator behind the taunting. Luque was ordered to return to his bench by the police, who were attempting to subdue the reaction of the Polo Grounds crowd.

Adolfo Luque, 1919 (Library of Congress)