Sunday, August 16, 2009
All-Star Game marked 75th anniversary of Carthage-area native Hubbell's feat
As far as I can tell, it went unnoticed in this area and did not receive a great deal of attention nationally, but it was fitting that the All-Star Game was played in Missouri during the 75th anniversary of a Missourian giving perhaps the best pitching performance in all-star history. I wrote about it in the July 11, 1994, Carthage Press:
Five strikeouts put the name of screwball throwing lefthander Carl Hubbell in the record book even more than the 253 victories he recorded during a remarkable 16-year career with the New York Giants.
The Hall of Fame lefthander, who was born in Maple Grove, 14 miles from Carthage, earned his place in All-Star history 60 years ago ths year on July 10, 1934, when he struck out five batters in a row.
It didn't look like it would be Hubbell's day when the first batter to face him, Detroit Tiger Hall of Fame second baseman Charlie Gehringer singled and moved to second on an error. Heinie Manush walked to put runners on first and second.
The next three batters were the most feared hitters in the major leagues in 1934, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Jimmie Foxx. The three combined to hit 127 home runs that year 1,741 lifetime.
Ruth held the one year home run record, 60, which stood until Roger Maris hit 61 in 1961. He also had seeason in which he hit 59 and 54 home runs.
Gehrig, a teammate of Ruth's on the Yankees' fabled Murderers' Row, holds the American League record for RBI in one season, 184, and for at least one more season, holds the record for most consecutive games played, 2,130. (Cal Ripken Jr. broke the record the following season.)
Only Ruth and Maris have hit more home runs in a season than Foxx. (This column, of course, was written before the steroid era when Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds all passed Foxx, Ruth, and Maris.) The Philadelphia Athletics slugger hit 58 in one season and had more than 500 during his career.
Hubbell's screwball had that terrible trio eating out of his hands. The pitch looked normal as it ame into a right-handed batter, then suddenly broke down and to the left.
Ruth took a called third strike. Gehrig struck out swinging, with Gehringer and Manush executing a double steal on the third strike.
According to an Associated Press account, Gehrig advised Foxx. "You might as well cut, it won't get any higher." It may have been good advice, but it didn't help Foxx, who also went down swinging.
The National League took a 1-0 lead on Cardinal second baseman Frankie Frisch's hoem run in the bottom of the first. Hubbell continued right where he left off in the second inning.
He fanned the first two batter, future Hall-of-Famers Al Simmons of the Athletics and Joe Cronin, who later served as American League president.
Yankee catcher Bill Dickey broke the streak with a single. According to the AP account, Gehringer said, "I was happy to see that. It was starting to get embarrassing."
The next batter was Yankee pitcher Lefty Gomez. The umpire reportedly asked Gomez, "Are you trying to insult Hubbell, coming up here with a bat?"
Gomez became the Giant lefthander's sixth strikeout victim. Hubbell retired the side in order in the third inning, but didn't pick up any more strikeouts.
"I guess I won't ever forget the '34 All-Star Game," Hubbell said years later. "
I've often been asked what I was throwing to Ruth and Gehrig and Simmons and those fellows. Well, it's a little complicated.
"I was throwing everything I knew how, including fastballs and curves, but the only thing they got a chance to hit was the screwball. I saw to that very carefully. It was the only thing they hadn't seen and I knew what they could do with the other stuff if I ever got it within range."
Hubbell's storied career was filled with other memorable moments, including an 18-inning shutout win over the Cardinals on July 2, 1933. He won the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1936 when he set a record, at that time, of 46 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings (later broken by Don Drysdale) and compiled a 26-6 record.
He pitched a no-hitter against the Pirates in 1929. He compiled a 253-154 lifetime record and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1947. He died in an automobile accident in 1988.
Still, when baseball fans speak of Carl Hubbell, they speak of that 1934 All-Star Game accomplishment.
"That all-star thing naturally figured in my most enjoyable moments," Hubbell told former Carthage Press Sports Editor Corky Simpson in 1973, "but really, once a person gets to the big leagues, his goal is to get to the World Series. I had been with the Giants five years before we got there and then, the fact that I pitched the first game and we won, that really was a great satisfaction. That's the peak of all you can achieve."
The Carthage area native's electrifying performance at the 1934 All-Star Game, striking out Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx, Simmons, and Cronin, will be talked about as long as baseball is played.
Reportedly, Cronin felt he didn't deserve to be put into the same category as those other players, according to an Associated Press account.
"I hit a foul ball off him," the Hall-of-Famer said proudly.