19 to 21
John Shiffert has been a sportswriter off-and-on since he was in the 11th grade at Germantown Friends School . . . which is longer ago than he cares to admit. A native Philadelphian currently living in exile outside of Atlanta, he is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research, a true red Phillies fan who is still enjoying re-living the 2008 baseball season, a certifiable history nerd, and the author of three baseball history books, the most recent of which, "Base Ball in Philadelphia," is the story of the game in the City of Brotherly Love from 1831 to 1900. His fourth book, on that very same 2008 baseball season, "The Breaks Even Out and Midnight Comes Quickly for Cinderella," is now available.
Contact John at JohnShiffert@mail.clayton.edu.
19 to 21…
Volume 11, #15, May 15, 2013
Happy Anniversary, Raul Sanchez
To a certain generation of Phillies fans, it is only right and proper that Zack Greinke should return from his fight-related injury on May 15. While Greinke may be a rare case of a player getting seriously injured in a baseball fight, such contretemps are hardly rare, and today marks the 53rd anniversary of a real dilly.
May 15 was a Sunday in 1960, and as was the custom in those days, the Phillies and Reds were playing a doubleheader; in this case, at Crosley Field. Game One was televised back to Philadelphia, and what the local audience saw that day, to say nothing of the Reds fans actually in attendance saw, was a memorable war in the top of the eighth inning.
Although the season was still young, the Phillies were already in the second division, despite the presence in the dugout of the best tactical manager to ever wear the pinstripes (and maybe any other major league uniform), that is, Gene Mauch (number 4 in your program). Although Mauch would build a contender in Philadelphia within three years, the reason for the Phillies’ 10-17 record going into the game was pretty clear, a starting lineup that featured; Tony Curry (the Bahamian cricket player who proved that, by the mid-20th Century, the skills from one game did not translate well to the other), Pancho Herrera batting cleanup (and he did a lot of cleaning up, he later ate his way out of the majors), failed Red Sox prospect Ted Lepcio at third, and possibly the worst catcher in major league history, Cal Neeman, behind the plate. In point of fact, the only two decent players in the lineup for the Phillies were Tony Taylor and Johnny Callison.
Of more interest in this tale was the Phillies’ starting pitcher, once and future Celtics power forward, 6-8 Gene Conley. Opposing Conley at the start of the game was future Phillie Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish. Despite the Phillies’ less-than-imposing lineup, McLish was long gone by the time the top of the eighth rolled around, the Phillies having battered “Buster” (McLish’s nickname, along with his six given names) and his immediate successors – both of whom would be far better known for other things than for their roles in this game -- for nine runs. For trivia experts, McLish was first relieved by a 20-year-old Claude Osteen (who would go on to win 196 games in the majors) and then by pitcher/author Jim Brosnan, who would only write two of the best books in baseball history.
Trailing 9-1 going into the top of the eighth, Reds manager Fred Hutchinson figured there was no use wasting another front line pitcher, so he stuck Raul Sanchez, who had 47 games of major league experience in 1952, 1957 and 1960 behind him, but only one major league appearance in front of him, in to pitch. Sanchez was destined for a short, but memorable, stay on the mound. His sequence went as follows (remember, the Reds are down by eight runs at the start of the inning); walk, stolen base, ground out, single (making the score 10-1), fly out, single, hit batter (loads the bases), hit batter, walk, hit batter, ground out. Jay Hook pitched the Phillies’ ninth for the Reds.
In the space of four batters, Sanchez hit three of them, and walked one. It should be noted that in the course of 90 major league innings, Sanchez walked 43 batters and hit seven, so he didn’t have the greatest control in baseball. Or, maybe he was ticked off that Tony Taylor stole second with an eight-run lead after his leadoff walk. Whatever the cause, Sanchez hit Lepcio to load the bases, hit Neeman to force in a run (about the only way he could get an RBI), walked Joe Koppe to force in another run, and then hit Conley to force in yet another run, making the score 13-1 and setting off a full-scale riot. Now, you’d think, after seeing Sanchez hit two of the three previous batters, that Conley would have been ready for anything, or at least ready to get out of the way. However, he objected rather violently to getting plunked in the rear, and headed for the mound where he, in the words of Robin Roberts in his biography, “started hurting people.” In case you’re wondering, Sanchez was 6-0 and weighed all of 150 pounds.
As a secondary bout to the main event, Frank Robinson took umbrage at something Roberts said to him on his way in from the bullpen and, after Conley was finally calmed down, the two future Hall of Famers had a tete-a-tete, literally.
“I went after him, and he went after me,” wrote Roberts. “His head hit me right in my right eye socket, and I ended up with a black eye. It was not one of my proudest moments.”
On the brighter side for the Phillies, they ended up winning the game 14-3, with Conley pitching a complete game for his first win of the year. That’s right, Conley wasn’t thrown out of the game for charging the mound, nor was Sanchez for hitting three out of four batters, nor were Robinson and Roberts for their meeting of the minds. Trust an eyewitness (at least on the TV screen), it was the kind of fight that today would have gotten at least the pitchers thrown out of the game, if not hauled off to jail. And they say baseball never changes…