Looking at today’s baseball birthday’s I see that Ducky Medwick was born today, in 1911. His parents named him Ducky, but most people called him Joseph Michael. How could you not like a ballplayer named Ducky?
Ducky was a member of the famous “gashouse gang,” the Cardinals teams of the ’30s, and he could hit the ball some. He won the Triple Crown and NL MVP in 1937, when he hit .374 — yes, .374 — with 31 home runs and 154 runs batted in. He finished up with a lifetime batting average of .324.
In the 1934 World Series Medwick got taken out of the seventh game in, in Detroit. Apparently the Tigers fans didn’t like the way he slid hard into third base after hitting a triple, and were throwing a lot of garbage at him out in left field in the bottom half of the inning. (The Tigers fans were used to a more genteel style of play, such as Ty Cobb used to show them, where he would slide carefully into third base on a triple and then dust off the opposing third baseman after the play was over.) Anyway, in order to get the play going again, and, they say, for Ducky’s own safety, Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis, baseball Commissioner, who just happened to be there that day, ordered Medwick off the field. To be fair about it, he also ordered the Tiger third baseman out of the game too, a guy named Marv Owen.
Above you see a picture of Ducky standing out in left, the fans pelting him with garbage, an image from the newsreel available on shutterstock. After the game, (which the Cardinals won, 11-0, winning the series,) Medwick said “Well, I knew why [the Tiger fans] threw that garbage at me. What I don’t understand is why they brought it to the park in the first place.”
A good question.
And what about Frank Chapman? Frank was born sometime in November, (might as well call it the 24th) in 1861, and broke in with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1887, the starting pitcher on 22 July against the Cleveland Blues. Chapman gave up six runs, four earned, in five innings of work. Eight hits, two walks, four strikeouts, and oh for two at the plate. He got credit for a complete game, as Blues starter Mike Morrison declared a forfeit, with the Blues ahead by two, after a heated argument with the umpire. So, complete game, but he doesn’t get a victory or a defeat. I wouldn’t have thought that was possible.
That was it for Frank Chapman’s career in the bigs. Perhaps he was disenchanted with the experience. But another odd thing about this is that for years they thought Frank Chapman was Fred Chapman, (who was born on 24 November) and this appearance by Fred Chapman would have been when Fred was just 14 years old, making him the youngest player ever to play in the majors. (Such as it was.)
But it wasn’t Fred after all, as shown in research by SABR guy Richard Malatzky. So, well, never mind. It just goes to show, you never know. Who’da though you could pitch a complete game and not get a win or a loss? That’s the way baseball go. You just never know.
Which led me to Joe Nuxhall, who is actually the youngest guy (or so we believe at this point in time, to the best of our knowledge) ever to play in major league ball. Joe was just 15 (well, 15 years and 361 days, to be exact) when he pitched two-thirds of an inning for the Reds on 10 June, 1944.
Joe got the first guy out in that game. But then gave up five walks, two hits, a wild pitch, and five runs before being pulled. In 1945 Joe decided to finish high school, and then he went back to baseball, and came up with the Reds again in 1952, and was a pretty decent pitcher for them, making the All-Star team in 1955 and ’56.
Anyway. Happy Birthday Ducky, Fred, Frank, and Joe Nuxhall too, (a bit late on Joe, July 30th.) Good game, all.