Sunday, June 26, 2016


I have to admit that this is my favorite chapter. Though I've been a Yankee fan for most of my life, I couldn't help feeling a little sorry for the Dodgers having to face the greatest Yankee squads of all time in the World Series year after year. Before the 1955 season, when the Dodgers finally broke the curse, the Yankees had beaten them five times in postseason play. In fact, the only thing preventing the Dodgers from building one of the most powerful dynasties in history was the Yankees and Giants, who offered stiff competition for the NL pennant nearly every year during the 1950s. When I was twelve years old, I read Roger Kahn's The Boys of Summer and have been fascinated by the Brooklyn Dodgers ever since. When it came time to shorten my own book (which pales in comparison to Kahn's iconic work) I had difficulty deciding which biographies to eliminate. In the end, I ousted Billy Cox and Preacher Roe, neither of whom participated in the Dodgers' stirring seven-game victory over the Yankees in the '55 World Series. 

BEST RECORD: (105-49/ 1953)
HALL OF FAMERS: Walter Alston (MGR), Jackie Robinson (IF), Pee Wee Reese (SS), Duke Snider (OF), Roy Campanella (C)


Billy Cox
Third Base 
            Roger Kahn referred to Cox as “the most glorious glove on the most glorious team that ever played baseball in the sunlight of Brooklyn.” Cox was used as both a shortstop and third baseman, though he was slightly below average at short, pacing the loop in errors during the ‘46 slate with 39. At the hot corner (his primary station), he won a fielding title and finished among the top five in double plays four times, putouts three times and assists twice. During the ‘52 World Series, he put on a magnificent defensive display, drawing admiration from opponents. “That ain’t no third baseman,” Casey Stengel quipped, “that’s an acrobat”
            Cox came up through the Pirate organization, hitting .270 in a brief trial during the ‘41 slate. He then put his career on hold to serve in the Army. He saw combat in North Africa, Sicily, France and Germany. His unit followed front line troops, laying wires and setting up communications centers. The war experience was trying on his nerves and he dropped twenty-five pounds during his time in the service. His playing weight would later be listed at 150.
            He had a breakout season with the Prates in 1947, clubbing 30 doubles and 15 homers while driving-in 54 runs mostly out of the leadoff spot. In the offseason, he was included in a six-player trade that also sent pitching star Preacher Roe to Brooklyn.
            Cox was susceptible to injuries throughout his career, never appearing in more than 142 games in any season. During his seven years in Brooklyn, his batting averages ranged from .233 to .291. He was always a better hitter in the World Series, compiling a .302 average in three losing causes. His finest offensive Series came in ‘53 versus the Yanks, when he clubbed 3 doubles and a homer while driving-in 6 runs.
Cox missed the championship season of ‘55 when he was dealt to the Orioles. At the time of the transaction, Dodger president Walter O’Malley commented: “We regard Cox as the greatest glove man Brooklyn ever had.” He ended up getting traded to the Indians midway through the '55 campaign and opted for retirement instead. His lifetime fielding percentage is among the top marks of all time for a third baseman.
            Cox died of cancer in 1978 at the age of fifty-eight. At the time, he was working as a steward in a private club in his hometown of Newport, Pennsylvania.

Preacher Roe
            The year after his retirement, Roe surprised Brooklyn fans by admitting that he had regularly used a spitball during his playing days. The admission itself was the only surprising part. The fact that he had been moistening his offerings was common knowledge among batters who sometimes joked that they tried to “hit the dry side” of the ball when Roe was dealing.
            The son of a rural doctor in Arkansas, Elwin Roe’s nickname was derived from his early aspirations of becoming a minister. His father had been a minor league player during the Deadball Era and hoped one of his sons would follow in his footsteps. Elwin carried it one step farther, aspiring to the majors in 1944.
            Roe attended Harding College in Arkansas, averaging 18 strikeouts per game. The Cardinals signed him to a contract before the ’38 campaign, but he fared poorly in his only start. He toiled in the St. Louis farm system from 1939 through 1943 and was eventually traded to Pittsburgh. With the Pirates in ’44, he went 13-11 with a 3.11 ERA. The following year, he led the NL with 148 strikeouts and won 14 more games. He appeared to be on the fast track to stardom before an unfortunate incident occurred in the offseason.
            Roe had taken a job teaching math and coaching basketball at Hardy High School in Arkansas. While disputing a call during a basketball game, he was punched out by the referee. His head hit the floor and he suffered a fractured skull. For the next two seasons, he experienced periodic headaches and dizziness. He was a ghost of his former self on the mound, posting a dismal 4-15 record with a 5.25 ERA in 1947. The Dodgers noticed that the Pirates weren’t spotting him any runs in many of his starts and decided to take a chance on him.
            Roe never regained his velocity after the head injury, but he became a craftier pitcher, mixing speeds and toying with a spitball. He had a deceptive technique when loading up the ball that involved spitting into the palm of his hand then tugging on his belt. If batters appeared to be ready for a “wet one,” he would throw an off-speed pitch or a weak fastball, which he called his “fake spitter.”
            The wily left-hander soon became one of Brooklyn’s most successful pitchers. Between 1948 and 1953, he compiled a 90-33 record with earned run averages typically hovering in the high-two’s to low-three’s. He was named to four straight All-Star teams and led the league in winning percentage during the ‘51 slate, when he posted a phenomenal 22-3 mark. He won ten straight decisions twice that year.
            Roe played in three World Series with the Dodgers. In Game 2 of the ‘49 Fall Classic versus the Yankees, he was hit by a drive off the bat of Johnny Lindell. A hole was drilled into his torn fingernail to alleviate the swelling. He finished the game in pain, polishing off a 6-hit 1-0 victory. In the ‘52 Series against New York, he tossed another 6-hitter and was credited with the win in Game 3. He made his last postseason appearance in ‘53, scattering 5 hits in the second game. Unfortunately, two of them were homers by Billy Martin and Mickey Mantle. He was strapped with a 4-2 loss.
            The veteran hurler made just fifteen appearances during the ’54 campaign and was finished in the majors after that. Though Roe was quite intelligent, he preferred to maintain the image of a country bumpkin, which is how he was perceived by many fans. He was reportedly paid $2,000 to confess his sins to Sports Illustrated writer Dick Young. The article was not well received by insiders and Roe became somewhat of an outcast. He ran a large, successful grocery store in West Plains, Missouri after baseball. He was ninety-two years-old when he died in 2008.  

Friday, June 24, 2016

BASEBALL'S DYNASTIES AND THE PLAYERS WHO BUILT THEM Omitted Bios (Chapter 10 New York Yankees 1936-1939)

While the Yankees squads of the 1920s were undoubtedly among the greatest ever assembled, the Bombers of the late 1930s took greatness to another level. Before then, no club had ever won three consecutive world championships—let alone four. And while the Babe Ruth era continues to captivate generations of fans, the Yankees attained their highest level of success after Ruth was gone. 

There are so many great stories surrounding this club, I could have written an entire book about it. When it came time to shorten this chapter, I settled on George Selkirk--a little known outfielder whose rise to stardom was preempted by the arrival of Charlie Keller and Tommy Henrich.

HALL OF FAME PLAYERS:  Joe McCarthy (MGR), Joe DiMaggio (OF), Joe Gordon (2B), Bill Dickey (C), Red Ruffing (P), Lefty Gomez (P)


George Selkirk
            Born in Huntsville, Ontario, Selkirk is among a select group of Canadian players who found success in the majors. At one time, he considered a career in professional wrestling, but changed him mind. He got his nickname “Twinkletoes” from his Newark teammates, who noticed his unusual habit of running on the balls of his feet. Selkirk spent portions of eight seasons in the minors and was affiliated with the Cardinals and Tigers before joining the Yankee farm system. All were powerful teams, making opportunities severely limited.
            With Ruth’s numbers on the decline, Selkirk was called to New York in August of 1934. He hit .313 in 46 games, earning a permanent roster spot. When the Bambino left for Boston the following year, Selkirk was faced with the unenviable task of replacing him. During Ruth’s Grapefruit League debut against the Yankees at St. Petersburg, Selkirk played in right field for New York. He collected a pair of hits, including a triple over Ruth’s head. The Associated Press remarked that Ruth was “conspicuously outplayed” by Selkirk that afternoon.
Though Selkirk was by no means “Ruthian,” he was a solid player all around. From 1935-1937, he reached the .300 mark at the plate every year. He had 55 RBIs in 54 games before a collarbone injury kept him out of action for five weeks during the ’37 slate. He finished the season with 68 ribbies and a .328 batting average. 
            After a down year in ’38, Selkirk came back strong the following season, hitting .306 and reaching the 100 RBI threshold for the second time in his career. Equipped with a keen batting eye, he walked 103 times, running his on-base percentage up to .452 (both of which were career-high marks). He added 21 homers and 103 runs scored to his list of accomplishments in ‘39.
            Selkirk appeared in every World Series from ’36-’39 with varying degrees of success. He hit a pair of solo homers and batted .333 against the Giants in the ’36 Fall Classic. In all, he reached base by hit or walk in eighteen of twenty-one postseason games. He gathered five World Series rings altogether.
            By 1941, Joe DiMaggio, Tommy Henrich and Charlie Keller were the Yankees’ starting three. Selkirk saw increasingly less action. He retired the following year. Finished as a player, he managed in three different minor leagues for eleven seasons. He later worked in the Kansas City A’s front office and served as GM of the Senators from ’63-’68. He was inducted into the International League Hall of Fame and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. He was seventy-nine years old when he died in 1987.

Monday, June 20, 2016

BASEBALL'S DYNASTIES AND THE PLAYERS WHO BUILT THEM Omitted Bios ( Chapter 9 St. Louis Cardinals 1930-1934)

The story of the "Gashouse Gang" Cardinals has captivated fans for generations. Like the Baltimore Orioles of the nineteenth century, they ran the bases with reckless abandon and never backed down from a fight. Their swagger and determination endeared them to a generation of Depression-Era fans, who saw them as working class heroes. No one embodied the spirit of the club more than Dizzy Dean, a trash-talking, golden-armed bumpkin who won 102 games in a glorious four-year span. Dean would often boast of the feats he would accomplish on the mound beforehand, contending that "It ain't bragging if you can back it up." Today's omitted bio belongs to Dizzy's softer-spoken and less-accomplished brother Paul, whose promising career was cut short due to an arm injury sustained during his third season. Had there been a Rookie of the Year Award in 1934, Paul would undoubtedly have won it. Had he arrived in the majors sooner and retained his effectiveness a little longer, I would undoubtedly have included him in this chapter. 

BEST RECORD: (101-53/ 1931)
HALL OF FAME PLAYERS: Burleigh Grimes (P), Jesse Haines (P), Dizzy Dean (P), Chick Hafey (OF), Jim Bottomley (1B), Frankie Frisch (2B/ Mgr.), Leo Durocher (SS), Joe Medwick (OF), Dazzy Vance (P)


Paul Dean


            Dean lived in the shadow of his older brother throughout his brief career. Serious and somewhat reserved, he was strapped with the nickname “Daffy” to complement his loud-mouth brother’s wacky moniker. By most reports, he disliked it.

            Paul and Dizzy were the sons of Albert Monroe Dean, a tenant farmer in Arkansas. Their mother died of tuberculosis when they were quite young and parental guidance was lacking. The family moved to Yell County in 1920 and later to Oklahoma. Dizzy didn’t even finish elementary school.

            Paul got his start in the minors at the age of eighteen. He went 22-7 for the Columbus Redbirds in 1933 and made the parent club out of spring training the following year. Before the ’34 campaign began, Dizzy issued one of his famous boasts: “Me and Paul are gonna win forty-five games.” Dizzy carried his end of the bargain, prevailing in 30 contests. Paul closed the deal with a 19-11 record.    

            Had there been a Rookie of the Year Award in 1934, the younger Dean would have been a top candidate. Frankie Frisch once remarked that Paul was actually a better pitcher than his brother. “He didn’t need a curve,” said Frisch, “not when he threw the damnedest, heaviest sinker you ever saw. When a batter hit one of those pitches, his hands stung as painfully in July as if he’d swung at an icicle in December.”

            Mixing the sinker with a lively fastball, Dean averaged more strikeouts per nine innings than any pitcher in the circuit (including his loud-mouthed brother). In the second game of a doubleheader against Brooklyn on September 21, he tossed a no-hitter. Dizzy, who had allowed just three hits in the opener, was not to be outdone. “If I’da known [Paul] was gonna throw one, I’da thrown one, too,” he quipped.

            In the ’34 Series, the Dean Brothers accounted for their team’s entire win total. Paul tossed complete game victories in Games 3 and 6, getting charged with just 2 earned runs. Graphically demonstrating the difference between their personalities, Dizzy bought a plane with his World Series money while Paul bought a farm.

            Paul’s sophomore campaign was a carbon copy of his rookie effort, though he posted a slightly lower ERA and drew a few more assignments. He finished the season at 19-12. The Cardinals won 96 games, which was only good enough for second place that year. The following spring, Dizzy convinced Paul that they could get more money by holding out. When training camp opened, Paul stayed on his newly purchased Arkansas farm and told reporters: “They say I’m too young to be making so much money. Well, I’m old enough to win a danged lot of ball games for them.” With so many folks feeling the effects of the Great Depression, numerous journalists admonished the Dean Brothers for their greed. Manager Frankie Frisch commented acerbically: “There are ten million people out of work in this country yet Dizzy Dean is willing to sacrifice the income of approximately $50 to fill the role of a playboy.” Both players started the season with little or no conditioning. Paul ended up injuring his arm and was never effective again.

            From 1936-1941, Paul won just 12 games. In 1942, he appeared to be back in form, going 19-8 with the Houston Buffaloes. Signed by the Browns in ’43, he made just three appearances and ended up being released. After his playing days, he managed in the minors for several seasons. He later coached at the University of Plano in Dallas, Texas—a school for students with learning difficulties. For years, he made a living off of his Arkansas farm.

            The name of “Daffy” Dean was mentioned in assorted versions of Abbot and Costello’s famous “Who’s on First?” sketch. Dean also appeared in a 1934 comedy short alongside his brother. Shemp Howard, a member of the Three Stooges, starred in the eighteen-minute film, which was entitled “Dizzy and Daffy.” In it, Howard played a half-blind minor league pitcher who enhanced the reputation of the Dean Brothers by handing them their nicknames.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

BASEBALL'S DYNASTIES AND THE PLAYERS WHO BUILT THEM Omitted Bios (Chapter 8 Philadelphia A's 1929-1931)

I really like this chapter because Connie Mack has always been one of my favorite historical baseball figures. He was such a great strategist and a kind, noble man. This was the last hurrah for Mack. After fielding some of the worst teams in the majors from the end of the Deadball Era through the 1920s, he re-built a dynasty. The A's knocked off the Cubs and Cardinals in consecutive World Series, but fell prey to St. Louis in a 1931 October rematch. Some of the greatest players of all time appeared in that Series, including Jim Bottomley, Frankie Frisch, Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Cochrane and Lefty Grove. When it came time to shorten this chapter, I settled on pitcher Eddie Rommel since his days as a starter were long behind him by the time the 1930s arrived. He was extremely valuable out of the bullpen, however, and his bio is well worth a look here.

BEST RECORD: (107-45/ 1931)
HALL OF FAMERS: Connie Mack (Mgr), Lefty Grove (P), Mickey Cochrane (C), Al Simmons (OF), Jimmie Foxx (1B)



Rommel was born and raised in Maryland. By high school, he had grown to 6-foot-2 and weighed 200 pounds. While working as a steamfitter’s helper in a shipyard during WWI, he sustained a horrible burn on his pitching hand. This prompted him to experiment with a knuckleball. He eventually mastered the art and aspired to the majors.
            Rommel was purchased then released by the Giants shortly before the 1919 campaign. Connie Mack personally traveled to Newark to see him pitch for the Bears and liked what he saw. By 1920, the twenty-two year old right-hander was appearing regularly on the mound for the A’s.
            Rommel was a workhorse in the early part of his career, placing among the top ten in innings pitched five times. Between 1922 and 1925, he averaged 21 wins per year, leading the league twice. Doubling as a starter and a closer, he made more than fifty appearances twice in that span. As Mack slowly assembled a star-studded rotation, Rommel began appearing increasingly in relief.
            During the Athletics’ heyday of 1929-1931, Rommel was an important member of the staff. Though he started only twenty-five games, he made a total of ninety-two appearances. He compiled an impressive 28-11 record with 7 saves and a 3.41 ERA. He saw limited action in the postseason as his staff mates rarely needed relief. In 1930, he remained on the bench throughout the Series. 
            In his final season of 1932, Rommel won just one game, which happened to be the worst outing of his career. Looking to save money on train fare for a single make-up game in Cleveland, Connie Mack brought just two pitchers with him. It proved to be a mistake as starter Lew Krausse got shelled in the second inning. Rommel was brought on in relief and endured one of the worst drubbings in major league history, coughing up 29 hits, 9 walks and 14 runs in 17 innings. At least he had something to show for it as the A’s pushed across the winning run in the eighteenth inning. Rommel was never effective again.
            Released at the end of the ’32 slate, Connie Mack hired him as a coach. He worked in that capacity for two seasons then moved on to an umpiring career. He officiated in the American League for twenty-two seasons, presiding over six All-Star Games and two World Series. When his baseball days were behind him, he worked as a clerk in the office of Maryland Governor, Millard Tawes. He passed away in 1970.


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

BASEBALL'S DYNASTIES AND THE PLAYERS WHO BUILT THEM Omitted Bios (Chapter 7 New York Yankees 1926-1928)

Today's post deals with the so-called "Murderer's Row" Yankee squads of the late-twenties. Only three clubs collected more wins than the '27 Yankees (in a 154-game schedule). Of those three, none came close to matching the number of Hall of Famers produced by the Bombers. In that era, manager Miller Huggins had enough talented players sitting on his bench to give any team in the majors a run for the money. Statistics from the '27 season are mind boggling. At one point, the Yankees were 66 games above .500. They shut out opponents eleven times and won 43 games by five or more runs. They finished eighteen and a half games ahead of their closest competitors and held onto first place from opening to closing day. Talk about complete domination!    
The problem with this chapter of my book was that it was a bit too long. As I said before, my original premise was to focus on the lesser known players who made significant contributions to their clubs. When my publisher asked me to concentrate on Hall of Famers as well, I was left with over a dozen thumbnail bios for this chapter. Four of those bios didn't make the final cut. All of them are worth reading (at least in my opinion)--especially Urban Shocker, a pitcher who might have ended up in the Hall of Fame if not for a congenital heart defect.  

Number of Pennants: 3
Number of Championships: 2 
Best Record: 110-44 (1927)
Hall of Famers: Miller Huggins (Mgr), Lou Gehrig (1B), Tony Lazzeri (2B), Babe Ruth (OF), Earle Combs (OF), Herb Pennock (P), Waite Hoyt (P), Leo Durocher (Utility) 


Urban Shocker
            Shocker began his career as a catcher at the semi-pro level. He logged his minor league experience in Ontario with teams from Windsor, Ottawa and Toronto. Between 1913 and 1916, he assembled a 60-28 record on the mound. The Yankees acquired him in September of 1915 then sent him to the minors to prove himself the following year. He did exactly that, going 15-3 while stringing together 54 consecutive scoreless innings.
            Shocker was used sparingly in his first two major league seasons. He showed promise with a 12-8 record and 2.61 ERA in thirty-eight games. Before the 1918 slate, he was traded to the Browns with four players and cash for Eddie Plank and Del Pratt. Plank, a Hall of Famer, was forty-one years old and past his prime. He didn’t even play that season. Pratt, an infielder, had three excellent years in New York while Shocker became one of the most successful hurlers in the majors.
            Shocker was among seventeen pitchers allowed to throw the spitball after it was banned in 1920. Before every offering, he would put his glove up to his face to give the appearance that he was moistening the ball. As batters anticipated the “wet one,” he would sneak fastballs by them. He employed the spitter mostly as an out-pitch when he was in a jam.
From 1920-1924, the slender right-hander collected more wins than any pitcher in baseball (107). He peaked at 27 victories in 1921. After an off year in ’24, he was dealt to the Yankees for three players, among them fading mound star Bullet Joe Bush.
            Shocker had a congenital heart valve defect. According to multiple sources, his condition was so severe, he had to sleep sitting or standing up. Even as his health began to fail, he pitched brilliantly, developing a reputation as one of the craftiest hurlers of the era. In The Yankee Encyclopedia, researcher Mark Gallagher remarked that Shocker was “quite possibly the most courageous man in sports history. Urban bravely fought in his last few years to play baseball and indeed for life itself.”
            In 1926, Shocker won 19 games for the Yankees and recorded a 3.38 ERA. The long season took a toll on him as he was only moderately effective in the World Series, making two appearances and getting saddled with a Game 2 loss. He began to show the effects of his illness more dramatically in 1927. Though he notched an outstanding 18-6 record with a 2.84 earned run average, he made just four appearances in June and later became too ill to pitch in the World Series.
            Before the 1928 campaign, he expressed displeasure with his contract and announced he would retire to work in the radio business. He changed his mind, but ended up making just one appearance before leaving the club. After his departure, he pitched in a Denver exhibition tournament. It was a rocky outing. He later caught pneumonia and was hospitalized. According to his wife, he was asking for a newspaper to find out who was pitching for the Yankees just minutes before his death. He was only thirty-seven when he passed away.

Ben Paschal
Outfield/ Pinch-Hitter
            Very stern-looking in photos, Paschal originally came up through the Indians’ organization. In his first major league appearance during the 1915 slate, he broke up a no-hitter with a pinch-hit single. It was Cleveland’s only hit of the afternoon against Tigers’ right-hander Bernie Boland. Paschal ended up in the Carolina State League in 1916 and the Central Association the following year. When the latter circuit folded, he returned to his farm and was out of baseball for two full seasons.
            Joining the Charlotte Hornets in 1920, he got another call to the majors—this time with the Red Sox. Despite hitting .357 in nine September games, he was sent back to Charlotte. Between 1921 and 1923, he was the Hornets’ most fearsome slugger, peaking in ’23 with a .351 batting average and 84 extra-base hits. Transferred to the Atlanta Crackers the following year, the Reds made him a generous offer. Had he accepted, he almost certainly would have gotten a chance to play full time. But in the end, the Yankees lured him to New York with a more lucrative bid. Paschal logged twelve at-bats for the Bombers in 1924 and would stay with the club for five more seasons.
            With Ruth, Combs and Muesel patrolling the Yankee outfield, Paschal watched a lot of games from the bench. When Babe Ruth went down with a stomach ailment before opening day of the ’25 campaign, Paschal got his first big break. In the season opener against the Senators, he hit a 2-run homer in a 5-1 Yankee win. Listening to the game on the radio, Ruth allegedly sat up in his hospital bed and said: “They don’t miss me much.” Paschal was removed from the lineup when Ruth returned on the first of June. The Yankees fared poorly that year, finishing in seventh place, but it was hardly Paschal’s fault. He hit .360 in eighty-nine games, including a pair of multi-homer performances.
            In 1926, Bob Muesel broke a bone in his foot and Paschal got another opportunity. He started thirty-four straight games from July 9 through August 11. He hit .324 in July before cooling off a bit in August. After finishing the regular season at .287, he appeared as a sub in five World Series games. His pinch-hit RBI single in the ninth inning of the fifth contest tied the score in a game the Yankees won in extra innings. Had the New Yorkers not squandered their 3-2 Series edge, Paschal’s clutch hit would have held more relevance.
            Paschal was little more than an afterthought in ’27. With Ruth’s 60 homers and Gehrig’s 175 RBIs, his presence went virtually unnoticed. But he made the most of his limited playing time, hitting .317 in fifty games. With so many talented players on the squad, his services were not required in the World Series that year.
            By 1928, it had become glaringly obvious that Paschal was never going to break through as a full time player. His name was used as potential trade bait more than once. In the end, the Yankees hung onto him through the ’29 slate, when his average slipped to .208. He continued in the minors until 1934.
            After his retirement, Paschal left baseball almost completely behind. He worked as a salesman in Charlotte, North Carolina and was reportedly very accommodating to those who recognized him. He died in 1974 at the age of seventy-nine.

George Pipgras
            Pipgras got his start with Madison of the Class-D Dakota League in 1921. He earned a promotion to the higher ranks the following year, fashioning a 19-9 record with Charleston of the South Atlantic League. He was property of the Red Sox in ’23 until a January trade sent him to the Yankees along with first baseman Harvey Hendrick. Hendrick would have his best seasons in Brooklyn. Pipgras would benefit from the big bats in the Bronx.
            There was no room for the right-hander on a star-studded Yankee staff when he arrived. Pipgras made just 17 appearances in ‘23/’24 then was sent back down to the minors to work on control issues. Miller Huggins refused to give up on him and, in 1927, he was called up again. Making twenty-one starts and eight relief appearances, Pipgras posted a 10-3 record. He faced the Pirates in Game 2 of the World Series that year, going the distance in a 6-2 Yankee win. There were some formidable hitters in the Pittsburgh lineup that day, including the Waner brothers and third baseman Pie Traynor. By the time it came around to Pipgras’s spot in the rotation again, the Yankees had swept the Series.
            1928 was Pipgras’s finest season. He led the league with 24 wins and 300.2 innings pitched. He also posted the lowest ERA of his career at 3.38. In the World Series, Huggins handed him the ball in Game 2 once again. He yielded just 4 hits and struck out 8 in a 9-3 win. On his way to victory, he held Hall of Famers Frankie Frisch, Chick Hafey, Jim Bottomley and Rabbit Maranville to a combined 3-for-14 showing at the plate.
            Over the next four seasons, Pipgras would win 56 games for the Yanks. He appeared in the ’32 Series against the Cubs, getting a tough Game 3 win. He coughed up 5 runs in 8 frames, but the Bombers spotted him 7 runs thanks to Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, who belted two homers apiece. That was the infamous “called shot” game. Pipgras retired with a 3-0 record and 2.77 ERA in postseason play.
            In his heyday, Pipgras had one of the liveliest fastballs in the league, but he couldn’t always spot it. He struggled with wildness throughout his career, averaging nearly four walks per nine innings. He was among the leaders in hit batsmen and wild pitches several times. With a 4.09 lifetime ERA, it’s doubtful he would have been as successful on a non-contending club.
            Traded to Boston in ’33, he broke his arm in a freak accident. While delivering a curveball, he felt a bone snap. He began a rapid descent to the minors after that. Pipgras later embarked on an umpiring career. He reportedly had a hot temper and could be rather hasty with his ejections. In one game between the Browns and White Sox, he ejected a total of seventeen players. One biographer noted that he had a narrow strike zone, which made him a “batter’s umpire.” He definitely enjoyed the job, commenting to a reporter in 1938: “I’ve had my share of thrills during my years with the Yankees and Boston Red Sox, but I get just as much kick out of baseball in the umpiring ranks. You don’t get any newspaper headlines, but it’s great work nevertheless.”
            After quitting umpiring, he worked as a scout. He passed away in Florida at the age of eighty-six.

Pat Collins
            Between 1917 and 1929, Collins had five stints in the minors. He played for the Browns on and off from 1919 through 1924, serving as back-up to the capable Hank Severeid, who was among the best all around catchers in the majors during that span. In August of 1925, Collins was dealt by St. Paul of the American Association to the Yankees.
            When first-stringer Benny Bengough developed a sore arm in 1926, Collins assumed the bulk of the catching responsibilities. He was up to the task, placing among the league leaders in assists and runners caught stealing. He was pretty reliable with a bat as well, hitting .286 in 102 games. Demonstrating patience at the plate, Collins drew 73 walks during the ’26 slate for a dazzling .433 on-base percentage. By late season, however, he had come down with a sore arm of his own, prompting the Yankees to acquire his former teammate, Hank Severeid. Severeid played in all seven World Series games, leaving Collins to serve as a substitute in three contests.
            With Severeid’s release at seasons’ end, Collins returned as the Yankees’ top catcher in ’27. He appeared in 92 games and hit .275 with 36 RBIs. He continued to wear out opposing pitchers, accruing a .handsome .407 on-base percentage. In the ’27 Fall Classic, Miller Huggins employed a rotating three-man catching platoon that featured Collins, Bengough and Johnny Grabowski in that order. Collins was the only member of the group to hit safely, going 3-for-5 with a double in Game 4.
            Huggins maintained the platoon system during the regular season in ’28. Bengough went down for a spell with a hand injury and the younger Grabowski saw a bit more playing time than Collins. In a diminished role, Collins fared somewhat poorly at the plate, hitting just .221. Bengough started all four games of the ’28 Series and Collins didn’t see any action until the late innings of Game 4. He doubled in his only at-bat, finishing his career with a .500 batting average in postseason duty.
            When Bill Dickey came up in 1929, Collins was deemed expendable. He was traded to the Braves that year and eventually demoted to the minors. His made his last professional appearance with the Kansas City Blues during the 1932 slate. He developed a heart condition in later years and died in his Kansas City apartment after attending an A’s game. He was sixty-three years old.