Clocking in at 3 hours and 20 minutes, it was the longest game of the still-young 1934 baseball season.
A three-hour game is about average in the MLB these days. That is, if there were baseball, which there is not.
The New York Yankees bested the Chicago White Sox at Yankee Stadium on May 11, 1934 – 7-6, in 14 innings.
It was an Earle Combs triple followed by a Sammy Byrd single in the 14th that led to the walk-off win off of White Sox pitcher Whitlow Wyatt.
(Byrd had been brought in, as he often was, to pinch run for Babe Ruth in the 7th and took over for him in right field.)
Wyatt, the White Sox pitcher, gave up just three hits in 6-1/3 innings of work, but it was those last two in inning 14 that did him in.
Wyatt was brought in to relieve “Sad Sam” Jones who had gone seven innings for the Sox and gave up six runs.
Sad Sam Jones. He doesn’t look very sad to me.
Jones’ nickname came from a sportswriter who thought that the pitcher looked a little sad on the mound one day and Jones was stuck with “Sad Sam” for the remainder of his life. Jones later explained that perhaps he just seemed sad because he pulled his ball cap down low which shaded his eyes and made him look a little more downcast than others.
On May 11, I suspect Whit Wyatt was the sadder of the Sox.
All of this? Interesting, sure.
But, May 11, 1934 was a peculiar day in baseball.
There were eight games played and five went to extra innings.
And, there was this additional weirdness in New York.
Only 4,000 attended the Yankees-White Sox game, a puny turnout by Yankee Stadium standards. Of that total, 3,000 were local schoolboys attending the game as “guests” of Yankees owner Colonel Jacob Ruppert. (Sorry, schoolgirls, no free baseball for you.)
The Yankees were, at 15-6, comfortably in first place and the White Sox, at 5-13, were comfortably in last.
It was a Friday afternoon in the springtime. Temperature at game time in the 70s.
Babe Ruth in right field. Who would miss a chance to see Babe Ruth?
Where was everybody?
Inside. That’s where they were.
It was the day of the dust storm. The dust storm that is often, today, in history classes called The Great Dust Storm, its letters capitalized to emphasize it was no run-of-the-mill storm.
A withering drought in the Great Plains, coupled with gusty winds, low humidity, and the lack of sheltering trees and protective farming practices sent some 300-million tons of farmland into the air and over the East Coast.
On May 9, the storm dumped an estimated 12-million pounds of dust and silt on Chicago. It reached New York on May 11.
The May storm was neither the last nor the worst of the dust storms that blanketed parts of the United States during the 1930s.
But, it was the one that directly affected some of the largest population centers, including New York City.
Dust “lodged itself in the eyes and throats of weeping and coughing New Yorkers,” The New York Times reported.
Visibility was obscured. It left, the New York Daily News noted, “a sickly yellowish pall” on the city.
At 3:15 p.m., game time in the Bronx, visitors to the top of the Empire State Building could no longer see Central Park. The Statue of Liberty was, the Times reported, just a “smudge of gray” in the distance.
But, there’s no report of players being affected by the dust, no reports of games being postponed or cancelled, and no reports of the dust affecting the games.
There was no danger, the Health Department insisted, noting that the dust had come from “clean open spaces.”
The Yankees jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first, tacking on another run in the 3rd and one in the 7th. The lowly White Sox chipped away with a two-run fifth and a four-run eighth. The game stood tied six-all in the 9th.
Let’s let the Chicago Tribune take it from here:
“In the ninth inning [White Sox left fielder] Frenchy Bordagaray had kept the game alive with a one-handed catch of a drive by Earle Combs after he had fallen down.”
“He” being Bordagaray, although I understand your confusion, dear reader.
OK, Tribune, continue:
“With one down in the 14th, Combs again drove one Frenchy’s way and again the little man skidded on the seat of his pants, but this time he was no circus performer. The ball caromed away for a triple and a minute later Sammy Byrd singled, sending in Combs with the winning marker.”
And, that was the ball game.
The dust storm made its way off shore. The New York skies cleared.
The Yankees would finish the season in second, seven games back of the Detroit Tigers. The White Sox would finish 47 games back. Last place. The St. Louis Cardinals would win the World Series.
Babe Ruth was traded to the Boston Braves before the 1935 season. He retired that June.
Sammy Byrd would quit baseball in 1936 to become a professional golfer. He is the only person to play in both a World Series and a Master’s Tournament.
Whitlow Wyatt would go on to have successful seasons with the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1940s. He later became a noted pitching coach with the Phillies and Braves.
The dust storms would continue, along with years of massive shortages of farm goods and crushing economic hardship.Embed from Getty Images
A 1935 dust storm. But, it looks freakishly familiar, doesn’t it?
All was not well in the United States. But, at least there was baseball.