A totally bananas ejection story

One of the cool things about Retrosheet’s new ejections database is that it includes a “reason” column that succinctly explains why a player, coach, manager, trainer, mascot or cameraperson was removed from the premises.

I became interested in “Stalling” as a reason after reading about the adventures of Gil McDougald and Casey Stengel during a Yankees game in 1951. This was a bizarre escapade and it motivated me to filter Retrosheet’s list of nearly 19,000 ejections to look for others of a stalling nature.

They don’t happen often anymore. The last is listed in 1997 (Tigers manager Buddy Bell and catcher Raul Casanova). Current Braves manager Brian Snitker was tossed for claiming his opponent was stalling during a game in 2018, but no one was tossed for the actual action itself.

The most intriguing “stalling” listing comes from a Phillies-Pirates game on June 9, 1906 because of two words:

“Game forfeited.”

A review of newspapers from the era allows us to recount it thusly. For those of you who view Eagles fans booing Santa Claus as the origin of Philadelphia sports venom, you might want to learn some history here.

The Phillies entered the top of the eighth inning leading the Pirates, 1-0. However it was getting late and the teams had played through rain, and it was getting dark. There were no lights that could be turned on.

The Pirates’ first two batters in the inning reached via error, with even the account of the Pittsburgh Daily Post blaming darkness for the miscue. Phillies pitcher Togie Pittinger then threw a wild pitch and allowed a tying single to Fred Clarke. Honus Wagner followed with a go-ahead hit, and again darkness was blamed.

Pittinger then took it upon himself to make it obvious to home plate umpire Bill Klem that the conditions were unplayable. He hit the next two batters, botched a comebacker, allowed a double, hit another batter and balked, clearly on purpose. Klem ejected Pittinger, refused to allow the Philies to bring in their pitcher of choice (center fielder Roy Thomas) and waited for McCloskey to come in. McCloskey then threw at the Pirates hitter, three times, at which point Klem ejected him and forfeited the game to the Pirates.  

At this point, it began to rain very, very hard and the combination of bad weather and perceived bad judgement greatly angered the Philadelphia fans.

In the craziness that followed the great Pirates shortstop, Wagner, may have saved Klem’s life. He helped escort Klem from the field, holding a baseball bat and knocking away bottles and cushions that were thrown Klem’s way.  Meanwhile as the Pirates left, they were showered with bricks and bottles, per an account from Clarke, the team’s manager.

The Phillies team president, Bill Shettsline, said he would protest the game, but the record reflects the Pirates were the winners.

It should be noted that it seemed like the Pittsburgh newspapers didn’t object to the Phillies claim of darkness, and the Philadelphia newspaper thought the Phillies were way out of line in their stalling approach.  They did all seem to agree that what followed from the fans was totally bananas.

There were three things in the newspapers the next day that were particularly interesting.

One was a box titled “Alarmist’s Joke” by the Daily Post. It told of a rumor spread throughout the city that Clarke had been murdered by Philadelphia fans (!). Fans repeatedly called the paper to make sure Clarke was alright (he was).

Another was that this wasn’t the only game that day with a major umpiring dispute.

In a game between the Brooklyn Superbas and Chicago Cubs, the host Superbas were denied a walk-off grand slam by an umpire’s call and went on to lose, 2-0. Umpire Jim Johnstone required a police escort to leave the field.  The Brooklyn Daily Eagle noted that one fan waited outside the team offices for Johnstone, asking each person who left if he were the umpire, (oy!) before leaving.

The last was the lede from the Philadelphia Inquirer the next day.

“To start with, it must be stated that all umpires are rotten: some are rottener than others, and Klem may be a shade rottener than the rottenest. But there is no possible way by which the unsportsmanlike tactis of the Phillies in holding up over 9,000 persons while they resorted to tactics which were discredited 10 years ago and which are now only employed by crosslots clubs, can be condoned.”

And one last thing: John McCloskey, the pitcher who ended the game with his three headhunting pitches, pitched in only 3 MLB games in his career! Per his SABR BioProject bio, he pitched in the minors until 1912, became a miner, and died in a tragic accident in 1919.

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