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[dropcap]O[/dropcap]ne of the interesting parts in writing this series is the consideration of the historical backdrop during the time in which a game took place. Our present lives interweave elements such as baseball, current events, and popular culture together in such a manner that they exist as one rich experience; however, a box score gives us just the names and the numbers: who scored a run in the third inning, what player ground into a double play in the seventh. There’s no context provided that necessarily makes a box score interesting in and of itself; every game in baseball history has a story to tell, though, and it’s up to the reader to go beyond, to suss out the meaning that lurks beyond names and numbers. And so, I present to you today’s game: June 10, 1945.
Baseball and Cultural Miscellany
No doubt for the 30,933 attending the day’s doubleheader between the White Sox and the Tigers, the games were a welcome respite from larger events occurring contemporaneously. The United States was in the final pushes of its Pacific Theater campaign, a costly 82-day battle at Okinawa that would conclude twelve days later on June 22. At home, Americans had experienced their own sacrifices (and perhaps to us today, oddities). To name a few: food rationing had been in effect since May 1942; the U.S. Mint had, for a time, converted all pennies from copper to steel; and, Americans were encouraged to provide their own food production through the use of victory gardens.
Baseball, too, experienced its own hardships. From a player standpoint (as you’ll see from the lineups listed below), many of the players starting were well past their prime, or likely would not have seen a major league roster at all during peacetime. In total, baseball contributed more than 500 of its major league players and an estimated 4,000 minor leaguers over the course of the conflict. Wartime rationing required other sacrifices from baseball, too: in 1943 the balls were changed from rubber to balata, making the ball less lively. Gasoline rationing caused teams to hold Spring Training in northern locales (the Sox and Cubs played in Indiana) from 1943-1945, and an outright cancellation of the All-Star game in 1945 due to wartime travel restrictions.
That baseball existed at all, though, is a testament to its popularity with the United States public and, perhaps more notoriously, its President. In a famed response (known as “the green light letter”) to a 1942 letter from Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis asking whether baseball’s doors should be shuttered until the war was over, Roosevelt responded:
I honestly feel that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going. There will be fewer people unemployed and everybody will work longer hours and harder than ever before. And that means that they ought to have a chance for recreation and for taking their minds off their work even more than before.
In entertainment news, the number one hit topping the broadcast charts on this day was Sentimental Journey by Les Brown and His Orchestra, with Doris Day as the vocalist: this was the first number one hit of Day’s storied career, and it topped the charts for over two months according to Billboard.
At the cinema you could pay .35 cents to see the popular hit Wonder Man starring Danny Kaye and Vera Ellen (both of White Christmas fame, if you’ve watched that during the holidays). The New York Times was a fan, dubbing the film “fantastic”, and “an exhibition of most everything [Kaye] can do”.
On the White Sox front, one notable debut for present-day White Sox fans was Billy Pierce, just nine days before on June 1. The twist, however, is that Pierce made his debut not with the White Sox but the Tigers; in fact, he would come on in relief in game two of today’s doubleheader. Pierce would ultimately be traded to the White Sox after the 1948 season in what Bill James called in his Historical Abstract “the most lopsided trade of the decade.” Pierce, too, was surprised, as quoted from his SABR bio:
In November, I went over to my fiancée’s house. We turned on the radio and I learned from a disk jockey that I had been traded to the White Sox. I was traded for Aaron Robinson and 10 grand because the Tigers wanted a left-handed-hitting catcher who could take advantage of the short porch in right field. The Tigers wanted to give the Sox Ted Gray instead of me, but Chicago wouldn’t go for it. . . . It was a bad shock to be traded from Detroit.
Robinson would go on to have a decent season with Detroit in 1949, worth 2.4 WAR over 110 games, but would ultimately be out of the league following the 1951 season.
Around baseball, the 1945 Hall of Fame Election reminds me of the 2013 election (where nobody was voted in). The BBWAA did not achieve a 75% consensus on any player, despite a variety of qualified candidates (Ed Walsh and Ted Lyons among them, in addition to the famed trio of Tinker, Evers, and Chance alongside a host of others). At the time, the BBWAA only met once every three years to elect new members, adding to the criticism of a future backlog. Thus, the rules were amended to allow for annual elections. The Old Timers Committee ultimately did elect ten players, mostly from the turn of the century: Roger Bresnahan, Dan Brouthers, Fred Clarke, Jimmy Collins, Ed Delahanty, Hugh Duffy, Hughie Jennings, King Kelly, Jim O’Rourke, and Wilbert Robinson.
Umpires for this Game
You may note that there are just three umpires for the game instead of the usual four we’re used to in today’s game. This is no accident: from 1933-1951, Major League Baseball went with three man crews (in 1952, at the recommendation of today’s home plate umpire, Cal Hubbard, MLB would move to four). Before 1933, baseball operated on just a two man crew.
- Home: Cal Hubbard
Cal Hubbard is the most accomplished of the three umpires for today’s game, umpiring from 1936-1951, retiring only after a hunting accident damaged his eye. After 1951, he held a 17-year tenure as supervisor of umpires, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1976. Hubbard also holds the distinction as the only man in both the Baseball and Football Hall of Fames. Prior to umpiring, Hubbard was a noted linebacker for the New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers.
- 1B: Ernie Stewart
Ernie Stewart worked only a short time as an umpire, from 1941-1945. Stewart worked the 1942 All-Star game, and was also an umpire at the game Joe DiMaggio’s hit streak ended.
- 3B: Hal Weafer
Like Stewart, Weafer also had a limited run as an umpire, from just 1943-1947. There’s a quirky story, though, from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about Weafer’s path to the big leagues. Evidently he was instructed to lose weight in order to ump. From the September 16, 1942 edition:
“Trim your weight about 10 or 15 pounds and I’ll get you to the major leagues next season.” Weafer went on a strenuous diet. He whittled his weight from 220 to 170 and now weighs 180. Weafer has not only watched his diet but he has kept his weight down by going to the Maine woods at the close of the baseball season and chopping Christmas trees for several months. This, says the arbiter, is a good conditioner.
|Chicago White Sox||Detroit Tigers|
Play by Play
A balmy and above-average 78 degree day greeted the ballplayers for today’s matchup. On the bump for the Tigers was Dizzy Trout (father of Sox pitcher from the late 70s and early 80s, Steve Trout). Dizzy was coming off an excellent 1944 season that saw him finish second in MVP voting to teammate Hal Newhouser, and he dispatched Sox batters quickly in the first, getting three flyouts to center fielder Doc Cramer off the bats of Wally Moses, Roy Schalk (no relation to Ray), and Oris Hockett.
The Tigers’ half of the first saw pitcher Johnny Humphries take the mound for the White Sox. Originally part of Cleveland’s organization in 1938, Humphries had his best years with the Sox from 1941-1944 before finishing his career in 1946 with Philadelphia. Humphries got two quick outs from Skeeter Webb (son-in-law to Detroit manager Steve O’ Neill) and Eddie Mayo on popups to first and second, respectively. The shutout bid would end early, though, as the next batter, Roy Cullenbine, hit a home run to make it 1-0 in favor of the home team. A 5-3 groundout from Rudy York ended the frame.
From the second through the eighth, Dizzy Trout continued to be on his game, inducing weak contact up and down the lineup. Looking at the box score, a Sox runner wouldn’t make it past second until the top of the ninth. Trout induced (by my count, at least) 11 outs by groundouts, three by strikeout, and a variety of weak flies, while allowing two walks and several singles.
Humphries, while boxed into a corner by Detroit’s hitters multiple times, gamely stuck with it. After a 4-3 groundout by Doc Cramer (who would later become a White Sox coach, and is credited with developing Nellie Fox) and a walk to Jimmy Outlaw to start the third, Sox catcher Mike Tresh caught Outlaw stealing to get the second out. It’s a good thing, too, as the next batter, Bob Maier, tripled to get into scoring position. A flyout from Bob Swift ended the threat.
A quiet third from Humphries gave way to the fourth, and the next Detroit scoring chance. Cullenbine was first up and continued to see the ball well, ringing a double out to right. A walk to Rudy York put runners on first and second (York, by the way, held the record for most home runs in a month with 18, until Sammy Sosa hit 20 in June 1998; Giancarlo Stanton tied York with 18 in August of last season). A fielder’s choice advanced Cullenbine to third, and a walk to Jimmy Outlaw loaded the bases with just one out. Bob Maier hit a flyball deep enough to score Cullenbine to make it 2-0 Tigers, but Humphries was able to wriggle out of more trouble by way of another Bob Swift flyout.
The Tigers again didn’t do much in the fifth, and so Humphries was back out on the mound for the sixth inning. Tired of Cullenbine teeing off on his pitches, Humphries plunked him instead. After a flyout by York, Doc Cramer singled to put runners at first and second. Outlaw was up next, though, and the runners were going on contact. First baseman Kerby Farrell managed to get the force out at second, but either Humphries didn’t get to first in time, or he dropped the relay throw, because Outlaw was safe at first on an E1, scoring Cullenbine and giving the Tigers a 3-0 lead. A Maier flyout ended the inning.
Continuing the trend of alternating quiet and loud innings, Humphries pitched a quiet seventh and gave way to Buck Ross in the bottom of the eighth. Ross, who had a rather unremarkable 10-year career with Philadelphia and Chicago (this would be his last season in the majors), went 1-2-3 to send the game to the ninth, and the last opportunity to get some runs on the board.
As I mentioned before, Dizzy Trout had pitched well to this point, allowing no runners to get past second, and allowing only weak contact from Sox hitting. Some chinks in the armor had appeared in the eighth, with a couple of singles and a walk, but a double play and a strikeout ended any threat.
The ninth, however, was a different story. Tony Cuccinello (who would later coach for the White Sox under Al Lopez) led off with a walk. With Cuccinello running, a single by Kerby Farrell put runners at first and third with nobody out. Cass Michaels ground into a force at second, which scored Cuccinello and put the Sox within two runs, 3-1. Trout next walked Mike Tresh which brought the go-ahead run to the plate in the form of pinch hitter Bill Nagel. Nagel advanced Michaels to third on a fielder’s choice, bringing Wally Moses to the plate. Control problems continued to plague Trout: Moses drew a walk and loaded the bases, prompting manager Steve O’Neill to call upon staff ace Hal Newhouser to put out the fire. Newhouser was the obvious choice in this situation: he was in the midst of a sparkling three-year stretch of his Hall of Fame career which saw him go 80-27, while averaging a 1.99 ERA/2.34 FIP. He also won the MVP in 1944 and 1945, and finished MVP runner-up in 1946. At first, it looked like O’Neill’s faith in his ace wouldn’t be rewarded, as Newhouser promptly balked to make the score 3-2. Roy Schalk popped out to first, though, ending the scoring threat and the game, and getting Newhouser the save. The Tigers won, 3-2.
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he White Sox were able to split the day’s doubleheader, winning game two 9-4 on the strength of a grand slam by Bill Nagel, though they would ultimately lose the season series, 10-12. The Sox were 20-23 at the start of this game, and would finish the first half at a game over .500, 39-38. A poor second half, though, saw them finish the season in sixth place with a 71-78 record.
This wasn’t anything new, unfortunately. The Sox were mired in a decades-long slump that started not long after the 1919 Black Sox scandal. After finishing second in 1920 at 96-58, they would not finish higher than third (and often placed seventh or eighth out of eight teams) until the breakout teams of the late 1950s. Some fine individual player efforts went wasted, too: Red Faber, Eddie Collins, Ted Lyons, Al Simmons, Luke Appling; all terrific, Hall of Fame players, that just didn’t have enough of a surrounding cast to get them over the hump (sound familiar?).
The Tigers, on the other hand, were in great shape. The 1945 season, of course, was a championship season, and saw them win the World Series against the Cubs four games to three. That marked their fourth appearance in the Fall Classic since 1934, and the Tigers would go on to finish in second place in both 1946 and 1947.
Random Box Score White Sox record: 1-2
-Baseball Hall of Fame
-Bazer, G. & Culbertson, S. (2001). Baseball during World War II: The reaction and encouragement of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and others. NINE: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture, 10(1), 114-129. https://doi.org/10.1353/nin.2001.0044
-Historic New York Times
-James, B. (1986). The Bill James historical baseball abstract. New York: Villard Books.
-Library of Congress
-Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
-National Weather Service Almanac
-Shatzkin, M., Holtje, S., Thorn, J., Rucker, M., & Charlton, J. (1990). The ballplayers: Baseball’s ultimate biographical reference.
-Society for American Baseball Research