It was Game No. 725 for me. The Chicago White Sox visited the Philadelphia As on July 21, 1950, for a game that had little draw. In the real contest that was played that year, 1,512 showed up at Shibe Park. I can understand why.
As my replay has progressed into the early dog days of the 1950 summer, I've seen a few things. The St. Louis Browns are lucky, having compiled a better record than they should; the Philadelphia Phillies are a very frustrating team to play with; the Cardinals are over achievers; and the American League Philadelphia team is pretty awful. They find creative ways to lose quite often.
Chicago came into the game with a less then stellar 35-56 record. They went 1-9 since the All-Star break, winning only once at Washington. The As were nearly as bad, going 2-7 since the break and losing once to Cleveland, 23-0, a week earlier.
So the table was set. This was bound to be a humdrum game, one to knock down quickly so I could get to the next game. Game 726 featured the Boston Braves, a team that has played well so far. And Game 728 was a clash between the AL-leading New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers, who were 5.5 games behind.
Joe Coleman, a D-rated pitcher started for the As, and Ken Holcombe, another pitcher with a “D,” took the mound for the White Sox. Already, the game looked bleak with those two starters.
Chicago scored one run in the first and then blasted seven runs across in the second inning, including six after a double play. Coleman threw four walks in a row at one point. So, the White Sox led 8-0 going into the bottom of the second.
Philadelphia responded with four runs of its own, mainly on a three-run homer by pitcher Coleman. I guess he thought he'd have to help himself out, what with the poor play of his As.
Philly scored three more in the fifth and took the lead in the sixth on a home run by pinch hitter Robert Wellman. But, because it was Philadelphia, the As gave up three runs in the top of the eighth on four singles and a walk, and trailed 11-9.
Then, in the bottom of the eighth, Elmer Valo, a meek 5-10 outfielder from Ribnik, Czechoslovakia, smashed one over the Shibe Park wall and the As took the lead yet again. All Bob Hooper, a C-rated reliever, had to do was get three outs for the victory.
Didn't happen. Second baseman Billy Hitchcock threw wild and White Sox catcher Philip Masi scored, tying the game at 12. Luis Aloma shut down the As in the bottom of the ninth and the game headed to extra innings.
Again, a reminder: This game had little meaning in the standings. If NBC was doing the Game of the Week back then, this would be on the bottom of their schedule. But it was entertaining.
After Carl Sheib shut down the White Sox in the 10th, Ferris “Burr” Fain led with a double for the As off of Chicago pitcher Randy Gumpert. Sam Chapman then squeezed a single past Sox second baseman Nellie Fox and Fain sped home, giving the As the win.
Philadelphia “improved” to 32-60, still in last place three games behind the 35-57 White Sox.
It had the making of a simple game, one to be generally overlooked as I am heading into the pennant drive and watching for the headliner teams like the Yankees, the Cardinals and the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Instead, this game, No. 725, turned out to be a fun and entertaining tilt. Two teams mired in last place with virtually no chance of evening making it to the upper tier of the standings played a great game. It featured four lead changes, extra innings, home runs by a little-used pinch hitter and a pitcher and 30 hits in all.
It's why we play each and every game of our replays.