Notes from the Shadows of Cooperstown: January 12, 2009
Gene Carney Rolls
After running that exciting tourney between the major league stars of the "deadball" era and the "modern" sluggers, Gene Carney saw Rube Foster heading to the Deadballers\' clubhouse, and he subsequently learned that Rube had challenged the major leaguers to a best-of-seven with the Negro League stars.
You can find the roster for the Deadballers by clicking "Columnists" in the upper left-hand corner of our homepage, clicking "Gene Carney, " and then "clicking the first entry in our Deadballers vs. Sluggers tournament. Here are the players who made the cut for the Negro League Stars:
Joe Williams, Satchel, Cannonball Dick Redding, and Nip Winters will get the initial starts for the NLS team; out of the pen are southpaws Willie Foster and Leroy Matlock; righties are Ray Brown, Jimmy Newberry, and Arthur "Rats" Henderson.
The reserves of this team would make any manager drool, and you should see some of the guys that didn\'t make the roster! Cool Papa Bell, Rap Dixon, Oscar Charleston (Oscar is nudged out at 1B by Buck Leonard, and at DH by Mule Suttles, and the outfield is very crowded), Popeye Harris, Monte Irvin, John Lloyd, and Biz Mackey.
GAME ONE (All Games Played at Forbes Field, Pittsburgh)
The coin is flipped, Ty Cobb yells "Heads!" but it comes up Tails. Josh Gibson smiles, shakes Ty\'s hand, and says, "We\'ll be the home team." And so they are, for games One and Two, and if necessary, Six and Seven. Cobb signals for Walter Johnson, the DB starter, to give it a rest. Gibson waves Cyclone Williams toward the mound.
Williams works his way thru the Deadballers lineup carefully, giving up a walk in the first, a single to Lajoie in the second, then a single and a walk in the third, but ho runs. In the 4th, singles by Lajoie and Baker but they come with two out and Williams fans Bresnahan, his third K. His second K was a called third to start the inning, Honus Wagner arguing the call too long, and getting ejected as a result.
But Walter Johnson has started off with four goose-eggs, too, giving up just three hits, two to Judy Johnson. In the top of the fifth, Williams serves up a mistake-ball to Hugh Duffy, who deposits it into the lower deck down the right field line, and the Deadballers are up 1-0 on, of all things, a home run. Cobb follows with a shot to right but Turkey Stearnes hauls it in on the run. Williams then fans Speaker and Thompson. Walter gives up a two-out triple to Torriente in the fifth, but gets Lundy to bounce out, and the game starts to feel like a 1-0 affair.
Then without warning, the Deadball offense erupts. Unable to score more than three runs in any inning in the whole series versus the Sluggers, the "Little Guys" show they can explode. It goes like this: Eddie Collins, who took over for the Ejected Dutchman (Lajoie moved to short), walks and steals. Delahanty tries to bunt him over, but he draws a walk, too. Now Lajoie is bunting, but he fouls off two attempts, and gets the sign to swing away. He does, launching a triple into the LC gap to score two. Baker singles him in and steals while Bresnahan draws a walk. Duffy, who homered last inning, bunts them up a base. Cobb gets the intentional pass -- it\'s still just 4-0, and a DP ball from Speaker will keep it that way.
But the Gray Eagle sends Williams to the showers with a bases-clearing triple to center; 7-0. Enter Leroy Matlock, who gets Thompson on a fly to right, but Speaker streaks home, 8-0. Eddie Collins in up again, and this time he singles. Ed Delahanty doubles him in, and Lajoie\'s second triple of the inning plates the ninth run of the half-inning, giving the Train a 10-0 lead.
Ray Brown and Willie Foster come on to hold the Deadballers to just two more runs, both in the ninth after two were out, and both driven in by Cobb, who had been 0-for-4. So Game One ends 12-0, but it could easily have been much closer.
Walter Johnson notches a 7-hit shutout, but he had lots of help, from his defense and Lady Luck. With two on and one out in the first, Buck Leonard scorched a ball to right but Lajoie leaped and snared it and made an unassisted DP. With a runner on second in the third, Lundy lined to Lajoie who fired to Wagner for another DP. Gibson singled to start the fourth and took off on a hit-and-run, only to have Leonard line to Eddie Collins, and then flip to first, a third DP in four innings. Josh Gibson ended the sixth with a mundane 6-4-3 DP, and fittingly, the game ended with Gibson on third in the ninth, having tripled, and Buck Leonard lining to Baker, who turned his shot into -- a DP. I think the word that fits best is "snake bit." Those hard-hit balls that are converted from hits to two outs, are hard to overcome, and the Deadballers pulled off five.
I confess that before this game, I was already thinking ahead to making up a team of Deadballers and Sluggers, that would more closely match offenses with the Negro League stars. And I might do that. But this game showed that the Deadballers can play with these legendary supermen of what Ken Burns called Shadowball.
It was a rout -- easier to accept, in many ways, than a close loss. Buck O\'Neil dominates the post-game interviews, no one can dampen his enthusiasm, he\'s just happy to see all these fine fellows on the same diamond, and watch out tomorrow because ol\' Satchel will be tossin\'.
Satchel indeed is on the hill as Game Two starts. His mound opponent, as they say, is Three Finger Brown. I guess if you could pick two pretty good duelers, Brown and Paige would not be a bad choice.
Satchel catches breaks in both the first and second innings, when the Deadballers put runners on (Cobb & Wagner singling), but both times by starting the runners, on the hit-and-run, follow-up hits are turned into outs by the moving infielders. In the third, the Deadballers break on top when Duffy doubles and Cobb knocks him in. Speaker flies out, but then Cobb steals second, and comes home on Thompson\'s single. Honus Wagner\'s triple makes it 3-0.
Meanwhile, T-F Brown retires the first nine Negro Leaguers, Tubby Scales smash to Wagner being the closest they come to a hit. In the top of the 4th, Frank Baker doubles. Ray Schalk bunts him to third, and Cracker is safe when Josh Gibson\'s throw to first goes into the dirt and Leonard can\'t scoop it. Hugh Duffy follows with a clean hit to right, scoring Baker to make it 4-0, but Schalk is out at third on a nice throw by CF Pete Hill.
The Negro Leaguers finally get on the board in their 4th. With one out, Hill singles and steals, and after Brown fans Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard -- frustrated yesterday -- singles in the first NL run. Mule Suttle follows with an RBI double, it\'s 4-2.
Satchel Paige, on the ropes early, settles in, retiring the Deadballers 1-2-3 in the 5th and 6th. His teammates tie the score in their 6th, when Hill doubles and Gibson whacks a long HR to left. It\'s 4-4.
Top of the 7th, the visitors small-ball ahead. Duffy gets it started with a single and Cobb is called on to hit-and-run, and Ty finds the vacated hole with a precision single, first & third. Speaker flies to shallow left, no chance for Duffy to score, but Sam Thompson follows with a deeper fly to right, Stearnes throw is a hair late and it\'s a 5-4 game.
Brown has regrouped after Gibson\'s HR, and retires the next six batters. In the 8th, Judy Johnson singles but that\'s it. So after eight innings, it\'s 5-4. The Deadballers are looking for an insurance run in their ninth. Shoeless Joe Jackson pinch hits for Schalk, and lines a homer to right. 6-4. Duffy follows with jis fourth hit, a single, and Cobb forces him. Then Speaker connects and drills a double off the scoreboard in left, Cobb flies home and it\'s 7-4. Paige reluctantly gives up the ball, Matlock takes over. Sam Thompson is looking for a fast ball and gets it on the first pitch, and rockets it into the upper deck in right, and the Deadballers are on top, 9-4. For Thompson, 4 RBIs.
Old Pete Alexander comes on to finish the game for Brown. He is greeted by a Mule Suttles shot that clears the 365\' mark in left. An out later, Tubby Scales whacks a curve in the stands in right, and it\'s 9-6. But Alex fans Torriente, and after Lundy works a walk on 3-2, Judy Johnson goes down on three high hard ones. The Negro Leaguers needed a rally, and sometimes a double or triple does more to get one started than a homer. Oh well.
So the Deadballers go up 2-zip in games. This loss must feel better for Buck O\'Neil, who is still smiling for the cameras long after the field has emptied of players. No snake bites -- no DPs at all. And the hitters are starting to get the solid part of the bat on the ball. That four-run ninth was a bit demoralizing, but 9-6 is better than 12-0 any day.
Again, the saying of Charles Schultz (or Charlie Brown) comes to mind: "There is no heavier burder than a great potential." And all of these players have that great potential, every time they come to bat, or toss a pitch. The fact is that in every All Star Game, there is a winning and losing team. Buck O\'Neil is right to smile. He just enjoys watching the action.
The Deadballers are the home team, and send Big Ed Walsh to the mound. The Negro Leaguers counter with Richard "Cannolball" Redding. Both pitchers give up first-inning hits, but no runs.
The visitors get on the board first, Cool Papa Bell swatting a solo HR in the second. Redding fans two in a hitless bottom of the inning. With one out in the third, Pete Hill singles and on a hit-and-run, Josh Gibson singles him to third. Buck Leonard\'s long fly to left scores Hill, and Mule Suttle follows with a single. Now it\'s Cool Papa up again, and this time he whacks a triple to left, scoring both runners and giving his team a 4-0 lead.
Roger Bresnahan leads off the home third and bounces to the right side, Leonard feeds it to Redding covering, and the Duke of Tralee is out by a hair ... but so is Redding, he\'s pulled a muscle, and has to leave the game. Jimmy Newberry warms up and is greeted by infield singles by Duffy and Cobb. Then Tris Speaker clears the bases with a patented double, 4-2. Sam Thompson rips a hit up the middle, but Pete Hill guns down Speaker at home.
With two out in the 4th, Newberry gives up a hit to Eddie Collins, and Bresnahan doubles Cocky home, 4-3. The NLers get the run back in their fifth, on Gibson\'s single and Mule Suttles\' double. Visitors are up 5-3.
Arthur "Rats" Henderson replaces Newberry. Rats gives up four singles, to Cobb, Thompson, Wagner and Delahanty, before retiring the Deadballers, and now it\'s 6-5 home team. Christy Mathewson took over from Walsh after Suttles\' hit, and Matty retires eight in a row. The streak is broken by Suttles, who leads off the 8th with a long HR that fades away somewhere pver the left field wall. 6-6. Tubby Scales doubles with one out, but Matty gets out of the inning without further damage.
Henderson, tagged for four singles in the fifth, and two more in the sixth (no runs), suddenly finds his groove, and the Deadballers go down 1-2-3 in the 7th and 8th. Cy Young takes over for Matty as the ninth begins, and tosses his own 1-2-3. With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Speaker singles. Thompson grounds out, moving Spoke to 2nd, and Honus Wagner is given a free pass. Henderson then gets Delahanty on a comebacker. Extra innings.
Buck Leonard walks to start the tenth, but is tossed out by Bresnahan, trying to steal second. Young then fans Suttle and Bell. In the home 10th, Frank Baker puts on the pressure right away with a double. Eddie Collins is up to bunt, a sure bet -- but Cocky pops it up, Henerson grabs it and fires to second to nail Baker, two out, none on.
But Bresnahan singles, and Hugh Duffy cracks his fourth single of the day, sending Roger to third. When Duffy steals second, Cobb is walked. Henderson has pitched heroically -- but now he faces Tris Speaker, and Speaker pulls one through the hole into right, ending the game, 7-6.
The Deadballers out-hit their opponents, 18-11, fifteen of the hits being singles, and three doubles. They are clearly taking advantage of that edge they have in pitching, and now I\'m wondering why the folks who made up the APBA Negro League cards didn\'t do some inflating of the pitchers\' grades, as they seem to have done for the hitters. Still, you can\'t get a much closer game, and who knows, maybe it all hinged on that play by Redding that forced him out of the game (right before he could have upgraded a notch).
Buck O\'Neil still smiles as he protects his clubhouse from the press. "It ain\'t over yet, and my, my -- did we see some baseball out there today?" He is right, of course, no one who was at this game would dream of asking for a refund. This one took ten innings, but seemed to go \'way too fast.
The whole series seems to have gone too fast. The Deadballer fans fill the park, looking for a sweep. Smoky Joe Wood will take the mound first. The Negro Leaguers will send out Nip Winters, but Cannonball Redding says he\'s feeling MUCH better and could throw some if necessary.
The visitors strike first. Mules Suttles doubles with one out in the second and after Bell grounds out, Tubby Scales pokes one down the line and it just makes it over the screen, 2-0. Winters starts strongly, retiring the side 1-2-3 in the first two innings, fanning three. Oscar Charleston homers to right to open the third, Wood walks two, but avoids further scoring. Winters turns in another 1-2-3 and it\'s 3-0 after three.
Wood sets down the NLers in order in the 4th, fanning two. Duffy draws a walk to open the home 4th, the first runner Winters has allowed, but he\'s quickly erased as Cobb\'s shot is turned into a 4-6-3 DP. Then Speaker walks and races to third on the first Deadballer hit of the game, a single by Thompson, but Honus Wagner flies to left to end the threat.
Top of the 5th, Charleston singles and is forced by Pete Hill. Josh Gibson clouts a mammoth home run to make it 5-0. Joe Wood walks Buck Leonard, and Iron Man McGinnity comes in from the pen, to retire Suttles and Bell and end the inning. Sam Crawford, giving Ed Delahanty a rest, starts the home 5th with a single, and steals second. Nap Lajoie promptly singles to right, ending Winters\' shutout try. Scales make a great stop and throws out Baker, and Bresnahan grounds out, too. But Hugh Duffy hits one down the line in right, and it sneaks over the screen (right where Tubby\'s landed), and it\'s 5-3. Cobb pounces on the stunned pitcher with a single and steal and Speaker walks, but Winters regroups and fans Sam Thompson.
McGinnity retires the side in order in the top of the sixth, and his teammates small-ball a run for him in the bottom. Cannonball Redding has taken over the mound duties. Honus Wagner singles to left, steals, moves to third on Crawford\'s bouncer to first, and the Dutchman flies home on Lajoie\'s long fly to center. 5-4.
Oscar Charleston doubles to start the 7th, his third hit, and Hill moves him over a base on a grounder to Lajoie. The infield pulls close, and Josh Gibson raps it hard but right at Nap Lajoie, who tosses home to nail Oscar. In the home 7th, Redding walks Bresnahan, and Hugh Duffy rips one down the left field line, and it clears the wall, a two-run dinger to put his team up 6-5. Leroy Matlock takes over, and retires Cobb, Speaker and Thompson in order. But time is running out.
McGinnity needs six more outs, and he gets two of them right away, striking out Suttles and Bell. But Scales rips a double. Monte Irwin pinch hits, and draws a walk. Rap Dixon is sent up to swing for Lundy, but Dixon\'s long fly is hauled down by Duffy. Matlock gives up just a harmless single in the home 8th, and it comes down to the ninth. Oscar Charleston\'s bid for a fourth hit is caught on a line by 3B Baker, one out. Pete Hill walks, and if Josh Gibson can do it again -- but he grounds to short; Hill was moving and there\'s no DP. Buck Leonard stands in against the Iron Man, runs the count full, then swings and -- misses. The final is 6-5, the Deadballers have pulled off the sweep.
The hits were even today, a first, and like the last two contests, this game could have gone either way. The visitors left seven men on base, the home team just five, but two of those guys in visiting gray had made it to third. There were other little things: Scales was retired in the sixth on a great play by Wagner, so he was not on base when Charleston doubled.
Buck O\'Neil is signing autographs for the media, chatting up a storm. It is easy to imagine both teams getting together after this series and having a dinner in a restaurant full of food and jazz and not leaving till the joint closes. The next day, everyone is back at the park for a cookout -- chicken at the grill on first, ribs on second, steaks on third, catfish at home. It\'s a family affair, no reporters. The Sluggers are there wit their families, too.
Because this series was so short, and the games so close (after Game One), I just have to let these two teams go at each other again. But this time, I will over-rule the APBA pitching grades. All pitchers will start the series as Grade A\'s, and go from there. I make the announcement over the P.A. at the height of the infield picnic, and the news is greeted with cheers all around. The Sluggers want to challenge the winners of the rematch, under the same conditions -- I knew they would. And I think I see some friendly wagering going on -- is that Bill Klem holding the money? I turn away, it\'s only a game.