1944: Elmer Gedeon

May 28, 2012

Because it is Memorial Day, I am reposting this blurb on Elmer Gedeon that I originally published in April 2008.

April 20, 1944

Elmer Gedeon was part of an athletic family from the beginning. His uncle Joe was a major league ballplayer who made a little history of his own by being the only player banned as a result of the Black Sox scandal that wasn’t actually a member of the team that threw the games.

Elmer followed in his uncle’s athletic footsteps, however, and became a multi-sport athlete at the University of Michigan. He lettered in three different sports, but his best was probably track and field, in which he was a two-time Big Ten Champion, helping his team to earn multiple National Championships. Elmer also played football and baseball in college.

Upon graduation in 1939, Gedeon signed with the Washington Nationals. After spending the first part of that season in the minors, he was called up in mid-September and appeared in five games for Washington. He spent the 1940 season playing in Charlotte, and though he received another September call to Washington he did not appear in any games. Gedeon was set to return to spring training in 1941, but was drafted to the military in January of that year instead.

Gedeon joined the Air Force and ended up flying missions as a captain in France. Gary Bedingfield chronicled the events of April 20 at Baseballlibrary.com:

On April 20, Gedeon piloted one of 30 B-26 Marauders that left Boreham to attack construction works at Bois de Esquerdes. It was the group’s thirteenth mission. Gedeon’s bomber was severely hit by flak over France, and co-pilot Lieutenant James Taaffe, who had been sitting alongside Gedeon when the airplane was hit, was the only crew member able to escape as the bomber plunged to the earth, carrying Gedeon and five others. He is buried at St Pol, France.

Gedeon was listed as MIA for more than a year. Finally, in May of 1945, his father received confirmation of Elmer’s death from a commanding officer who explained that his burial site had been located.

Gedeon was one of two major league players who were killed in action during World War II. The other was Harry O’Neill of the Philadelphia Athletics, who was killed at Iwo Jima in March 1945.

Baseball Reference page

Another Bio


Baseball In DC During WWII

November 11, 2010

Mark Hornbaker at Nationals Daily News posted some stories shared by George Case III (son of George Case, Jr. who played for the Nats from 1937-1945). It is well worth a read.

One of the stories is about Buddy Lewis:

Buddy Lewis, “flew the Hump” in a DC 3 during the war – my dad related an interesting story about Buddy – in 1943, Buddy stopped by Griffith Stadium to say “good-bye” to his Washington teammates – he told them that he had to take his plane out of Andrews but to look for him – my dad was in the on deck circle and there was Buddy Lewis in a DC3 coming in low and fast over Griffith Stadium dipping his wings and my dad threw his bat in the air as his way of saying “we know it’s you Buddy – be safe.”


1941: “Senators Lose a Game They Had Already Won”

August 16, 2010

….so read the headline in The Sporting News.

Friday August 15, 1941

The Nats were ahead 6-3 in the eighth inning of the game against the Boston Red Sox at Griffith Stadium when the umpires called a halt due to rain. After a 40-minute delay, the game was called – under league rules a victory for the home team.

Boston manager Joe Cronin noticed that the Washington grounds crew did not cover the field during the rain delay. Had the rain stopped, he said, the game would not have been able to continue due to the sloppy condition of the field. He claimed that Washington had an interest in letting the field get soaked and protested the game to the league.

On August 28, AL President Will Harridge ruled the game a forfeit. In effect, Washington lost a game in the standings without even playing. Clark Griffith complained, but ultimately the game is still in the record book as a 3-0 win for Boston, with no wins or losses assigned to pitchers.


1948: Satch’s First Major League Start

August 2, 2010

Tuesday August 3, 1948

The (probably) 42-year-old star of the Negro Leagues became a very old major league rookie with the Cleveland Indians in 1948. He made eight appearances for the Indians in the month of July, and made such a good accounting for himself that he got his first major league start against the Nationals on August 3, in the thick of a rare pennant race for Cleveland.

A crowd of 72,434 turned out for the game, which at the time was the largest crowd for a night game ever in the city of Cleveland. The Nats scored a couple of runs early, but Paige was able to hang in. His team finally scored him some runs in the middle innings, and when Old Satch was lifted for a pinch-hitter after seven innings of work he had allowed three runs on seven hits – though four of those hits were described as “bleeders” by The Sporting News. The Indians went on to win the game 5-3, and Paige earned his second major league victory.


1941: A Triple Steal Defeats Hudson in the 13th

June 23, 2010

Wednesday June 25, 1941

Nat’s hurler Sid Hudson did just about everything a pitcher could be asked to do. He held the opposition scoreless for 12 innings. Unfortunately for the home team, Johnny Rigney of the White Sox did the same.

Hudson had allowed only three hits prior to the 13th inning, but a single and a double put runners at second and third with one out. The situation immediately became the best scoring threat of the game for the Sox.

After the intentional walk to load the bases, Hudson threw an unintentional walk to Luke Appling and the White Sox pushed home the first run of the game.

With the bases loaded, the White Sox executed a triple steal. Joe Kuhel – whose double had really started the scoring threat, scored on the front end, with Wright taking third and Appling taking second.

Hudson retired the next two batters to escape with no further damage done, but Rigney was too good, pitching his 13th shutout inning to lead his team to victory.


1944: Baseball’s First Casualty of World War II

May 31, 2010

Because it is Memorial Day, I am reposting this blurb on Elmer Gedeon that I originally published in April 2008.

April 20, 1944

Elmer Gedeon was part of an athletic family from the beginning. His uncle Joe was a major league ballplayer who made a little history of his own by being the only player banned as a result of the Black Sox scandal that wasn’t actually a member of the team that threw the games.

Elmer followed in his uncle’s athletic footsteps, however, and became a multi-sport athlete at the University of Michigan. He lettered in three different sports, but his best was probably track and field, in which he was a two-time Big Ten Champion, helping his team to earn multiple National Championships. Elmer also played football and baseball in college.

Upon graduation in 1939, Gedeon signed with the Washington Nationals. After spending the first part of that season in the minors, he was called up in mid-September and appeared in five games for Washington. He spent the 1940 season playing in Charlotte, and though he received another September call to Washington he did not appear in any games. Gedeon was set to return to spring training in 1941, but was drafted to the military in January of that year instead.

Gedeon joined the Air Force and ended up flying missions as a captain in France. Gary Bedingfield chronicled the events of April 20 at Baseballlibrary.com:

On April 20, Gedeon piloted one of 30 B-26 Marauders that left Boreham to attack construction works at Bois de Esquerdes. It was the group’s thirteenth mission. Gedeon’s bomber was severely hit by flak over France, and co-pilot Lieutenant James Taaffe, who had been sitting alongside Gedeon when the airplane was hit, was the only crew member able to escape as the bomber plunged to the earth, carrying Gedeon and five others. He is buried at St Pol, France.

Gedeon was listed as MIA for more than a year. Finally, in May of 1945, his father received confirmation of Elmer’s death from a commanding officer who explained that his burial site had been located.

Gedeon was one of two major league players who were killed in action during World War II. The other was Harry O’Neill of the Philadelphia Athletics, who was killed at Iwo Jima in March 1945.


1950: Griffith Moves the Fences Back

May 5, 2010

Sunday May 7, 1950

Griffith Stadium had always played as a pitcher’s park. Clark Griffith, in hopes that some new acquisitions might supply his team with some more power- something the Nats had historically lacked, had temporary bleachers installed in the outfield of Griffith Stadium. The bleachers covered left and left-center field and made home run distances an average of 19 feet closer to home plate. Perhaps as important, the addition allowed 854 more paying customers into the ballpark.

The temporary seats didn’t quite work out as planned. First, not a single person occupied the seats in their first ten games of existence. This couldn’t have been surprising to Griffith, who had been having trouble selling tickets for a long time in Washington. What was likely more disturbing to Griffith and the Nats’ office was the way the opposition was taking advantage of the shorter porch in left field. The Sporting News reported that, of the nine home runs hit into the temporary seats,  eight had been hit by the opposition, meaning that essentially Griffith’s new dimensions were helping the Nats to lose. The final straw might have been Gil Coan’s grand slam on May 7 that helped the Indians to a 10-5 win.

Griffith got rid of the temporary stands by the next day.


1943: Nats Trade for Bob Johnson

March 16, 2010

March 20, 1943

“Indian” Bob Johnson had been with Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s since he broke into the league at the age of 27 in 1933. Over the span of 10 seasons, Johnson accumulated some gaudy numbers in Philadelphia. For his career, he was batting .298/.395/.520 with 252 home runs. Johnson’s racked up 78.2 WARP3 during that time span.

Prior to spring training in 1943, Johnson announced that he would not return to Philadelphia unless he received a bonus based on last year’s attendance, a clause he thought to be part of his contract. Mack disagreed, claiming that attendance did not rise to the level where the bonus would kick in, so Johnson demanded a trade.

On March 21, 1943 Mack sent Johnson to the Washington Nationals in exchange for Bobby Estalella and Jimmy Pofahl; the former a 32-year old starting third baseman, the latter a three-year utility infielder.

The Nats had not had a winning season since 1936, and the AL Pennant in 1933 seemed a distant memory after a 62-89 finish in 1942. With Johnson and under new manager Ossie Bleuge, Washington was able to turn things around. That Nationals finished 1943 in second place, although the record can be a bit deceiving during the war years when many star players were overseas.

For his part, Johnson was among the better hitters on the team. In the lineup among Mickey Vernon and Stan Spence, Johnson was able to help a team in the middle of the AL in run scoring the previous year, lead the league in runs in 1943.

Johnson hit .265/.362/.400 with seven home runs and a 5.8 WARP3 and made the AL All-Star team in his only season with Washington. He was sold to Boston the following year, where he would play out his final two seasons (both All-Star seasons as well).

Estalella played three full seasons in Philadelphia, and had some success, compiling a 14.8 WARP3. The A’s were just plain bad during that time, and finished dead last in two of those seasons, with a fifth place finish in 1944. Pofahl did not play a single game for the A’s.


An Excuse and a Link

March 8, 2010

I’ve been buried in the final stages of editing my thesis this weekend, so my creativity is somewhat spent. I should have something new tomorrow. In the meantime, here is a link to Mark Hornbaker’s Q & A with George Case III, son of Nats’ outfielder George Case.

A couple of interesting tidbits:

5. Was your father excited when he was traded back to Washington on March 4, 1947?

Again, I was only 6 but I do remember seeing a letter from Clark Griffith saying “George, I’m bringing you back home.” My dad had been injured most of the year in Cleveland and he was only 31 years old in 1947 but I think he and Mr. Griffith knew that it was just about the end of my dad’s playing career – he wanted to try playing again in 1948 after an operation on his shoulder at Johns Hopkins but the injury and a bad back would result in his retiring from the game he loved. I do think he was very grateful to Mr. Griffith for bringing him back to Washington for what would turn out to be his final season.

….

7. Do you have any other facts about your father you want to share with the readers?

My dad also was timed in 1943 for circling the bases in 13.5 seconds – that was really a record although Evar Swanson was credited with circling the bases in 13.2 seconds from a running start – my dad’s record time was from a standing start at home plate.


1948: McBride Sets an AL Mark for Putouts in LF

July 2, 2009

Friday July 2, 1948

In a footnote to the Nats’ 2-1 extra-innings win over the Yankees in the Bronx, Tom McBride set a league mark by making either 11 or 12 putouts in left field over the course of the 12-inning game.

The New York Times had 11 putouts listed for McBride, and there was (unsurprisingly) no mention of the record in James P. Dawson’s write-up of the game.

Charlton’s Baseball Chronology, accessed at baseballlibrary.com, records McBride’s total as 12 for the afternoon, saying that it was an AL record for putouts in left field in an extra-inning game. I can find no listing for that particular record, but I do know, thanks to baseball-almanac.com, that the current nine-inning record for left field putouts is shared by Willie Horton and Paul Lehner, who each had 11 in a single game (Horton in 1969, Lehner in 1950).

For what it is worth, Lyman Bostock shares the record for center field putouts with Jacoby Ellsbury, each having recorded 12 in a game. Bostock did it on May 25, 1977 in the second game of a doubleheader at Fenway Park.

McBride also figured prominently in the offense that day. His walk in the seventh inning pushed the eventual tying run to second. The runner, Carden Gillenwater, moved to third on a sacrifice fly, then scored on another. The game was won when Gillenwater hit a home run off of Tommy Byrne in the top of the 12th inning.

Walt Masterson was the fly-ball inducing pitcher who, according to the boxscore in the NYT, recorded 20 of his 36 total outs on outfield fly balls.


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