Wednesday, June 29, 2022


Much went amuck right away in LA on Friday, June 29, 1962: it was a warm, unusually humid early summer night, particularly for southern California, and it had an immediate--and quite bizarre--impact on the game that evening between the Dodgers and the Mets.

Teenage monster fall down, go boom...
Walt Alston was careful in choosing opponents for his fifth starter, "teen-age monster" Joe Moeller. (If you look up Moeller's game logs, you'll see that he never once faced the San Francisco Giants, a fact that cannot be accidental.) So the Mets, an expansion team struggling like no other in baseball history, seemed to be a perfect fit.

But Moeller had become increasingly erratic month-by-month, with walk percentages that were rising ominously as the season progressed (April: 10%, May: 14%, June: 17%). With fourth starter Stan Williams showing similar tendencies, the usually taciturn Alston was becoming actively vocal about the need for reinforcements--but none were forthcoming.

So the teenage monster took the mound against the Mets. He walked canny walkman Richie Ashburn on a 3-2 pitch, then got Rod Kanehl on a fly ball to right. But then he proceeded to walk Gene Woodling, Frank Thomas and Charlie Neal to force in a run. 

Alston, sweating profusely, trudged to the mound and took the ball from Moeller, who wiped sweat from his eyes for the entire time it took for Ron Perranoski to amble in from the bullpen. After the teenage monster and his rueful manager had departed, Perranoski delivered his first warm-up pitch to catcher Norm Sherry--and threw it all the way to the backstop. Sherry gave "Perry" a quick double-take, and threw him a new ball, shaking his head.

Was it a premonition? Oh, yes. Perranoski went 3-2 to catcher Sammy Taylor--and walked him, forcing in a run. (2-0 Mets.) He went 3-0 to Felix Mantilla, threw a strike--and then threw one in the dirt that Sherry kept from going to the backstop. That forced in another run. (3-0 Mets.) Elio Chacon--the excitable shortstop who'd gotten into that dustup with Willie Mays earlier in the season--decided it was time to swing away, flailing at a bad pitch, fouling off the next, and then taking a pitch from Perranoski that was over the heart of the plate for strike three. 

But that was only the second out. Next up was the Mets' starting pitcher Jay Hook, who clearly had the "take sign" on throughout the at-bat. Try as he might, Perranoski could not get the ball over for a strike: it appeared that his eyebrows were melting away in the humid night. He nipped the corner on 3-0 for a strike, and then just missed with his next pitch, forcing in yet another run. (4-0 Mets.) A disconsolate Alston came to the top step of the Dodger dugout, paused, then raised his hands in a gesture of frustration as he retreated.

Richie Ashburn, who'd drawn a walk about twenty-five minutes earlier, came up for his second at-bat of the inning. He took a ball. And another ball. And a strike! (The crowd cheered derisively.) Then Ball Three, accompanied by groans. Then--strike two! A hush in the humid night took hold as Perranoski delivered the payoff pitch...

Ashburn slapped it on the ground, past the pitchers mound, just to the right of second. Maury Wills, shaded straightaway, made a dive for it, but the ball squirted past him into center field. Two more runs scored, making it 6-0 Mets--and it was their first hit of the game.

A glassy-eyed Alston emerged from the dugout and brought in mop-up man Phil Ortega, who threw one pitch to Rod Kanehl--who hit a pop fly that first baseman Ron Fairly caught in foul territory. A refugee from Brooklyn could be heard as the Dodgers left the field to a generous smattering of catcalls: "You see, you bums--THAT's how you do it!!"

Seven walks, one hit, six runs. How close to a record are we for the most walks in a single inning? Not that close, surprisingly. The Washington Senators walked eleven Yankees in the third inning of a game played on September 11, 1949. And the Chicago Cubs walked nine batters--including Don Hoak and Roy McMillan twice--in the fifth inning of a game against the Reds on August 24, 1957. So, as you can see, this was child's play...

Hook managed to keep a lid on things as the game progressed, giving back a run here and a run there, but bending, not breaking. Ortega gave up a homer to Felix Mantilla in the third, and then the real Mr. Erratic entered the game for LA in the fifth: Stan Williams. As if there hadn't been enough walks in the game already, Stan made everyone in the park slap-happy by walking eight more Mets in his five innings of grave-digging. He walked two in the fifth, one in the sixth (Rod Kanehl, one the hardest men to walk in baseball history), three in eighth, and two in the ninth.

That made a total of sixteen walks issued to a team that wound up the year with a 40-120 record. The Mets managed only four hits in the game, but they won this one in a cakewalk. (Tomorrow would be completely different, however.) Final score: Mets 10, Dodgers 4.

IN SF, the two managers--Gene Mauch of the Phillies, and Al Dark of the Giants--demonstrated how to overwork starting pitchers. Mauch let his young lefty Dennis Bennett pitch to 42 batters over nine full innings--that's a "batters faced" total that today is much more likely to require two starts to reach. Bennett would develop arm trouble later in the year and had his effectiveness (and his career) cut short.

Dark went one better--he left his pitcher (Billy O'Dell) in the game for its entire length--twelve innings. It was the first of two games where O'Dell pitched more than nine innings in a game. The total number of batters faced for O'Dell in this game: 46. (And that still wasn't the most number of batters he'd faced in game during '62: back in April, Dark had left him to go all the way in a 19-8 win against the Dodgers: O'Dell faced 47 batters in that one.)

All of that was crazy, but it likely stemmed from Dark having played in an era (the post-WWII era into the late 50s) when long starter outings were much more common. As the table at left indicates, starters pitching more than nine innings was more frequent in the 1946-56 time frame--which was Dark's heyday as the Giants' starting shortstop. Oddly, however, the Giants really weren't a team that used that practice very often at that time--it seems to cluster with the Braves (Warren Spahn--22 times) and the Phillies (Robin Roberts--18 times). Of the eight teams that played all twenty-three years depicted in the table, the Giants have the lowest total of such games, with the Dodgers next-to-last. But the concept of a starter exceeding nine innings was clearly still a mainstream one even in 1962, where a dilution of pitching talent may have forced managed to consider the idea more frequently.

Oh yes: Ed Bailey hit a homer off Jack Baldschun leading off the bottom of the 12th to win the game for SF. Final score: Giants 4, Phillies 3 (12 innings).