June 17, 1889. George Goetz, The “Fallen Phenom”

I can’t tell you much about Philip Goetz, but I can tell you this.

He was born in Pennsylvania around 1836. He was a shoemaker who married a girl named Ann. They lived in Greencastle, had some children – Clara, Alice, Grace, George, Rose, Frank, Ruth, Mollie, and Ross. Maybe more. I can’t be sure.

Philip Goetz died, age 77, in 1913.

This isn’t about Philip, anyway. And, it’s not about Greencastle, Pennsylvania, although the Goetz family was growing and thriving there in the 1860s when the Civil War was raging and Greencastle was the site of skirmishes, battles, and Confederate encampments, and is just 10 miles from Chambersburg, 30 miles from Antietam, and 35 miles from Gettysburg.

Greencastle, Pennsylvania

It’s not about any of that. It’s about Philip Goetz’s eldest son George, who was born in 1865, after all of that, and there is precious little known of him, either.

Except for this.

In a baseball game on June 17, 1889, George B. Goetz, son of Philip and Ann, was the Baltimore Orioles’ starting pitcher.

It was his first major league appearance. His last one, too.

George is a bit hard to find, not least because he is known as George only on the 1870 census, when he is five, and in his one game for the Orioles.

Everyone else, it seems, called him Bert.

Why? Here’s my guess. Our George B. Goetz, the son of Philip, “a shoemaker,” was born in tiny Greencastle in 1865.

George H. Goetz, the son of John, a “dealer in shoes,” was also born in tiny Greencastle … in 1864.

George H., the elder of the Georges, perhaps got dibs on the name.

This is only a guess. It will not be my only guess about George B. Goetz.

But, I don’t need to guess about the game on June 17, 1889. Continue reading

“We Bob Up” — June 10, 1947 In St. Louis

This “Any Ol’ Game” series was meant to be a celebration of long-forgotten baseball games of little consequence. Games without a Babe Ruth … a Jackie Robinson … a Willie Mays. Games where records are not broken. History is not made.

I’ve stumbled stupidly into important “Any Ol’ Games” in recent weeks. History-making games. But, not today.

Meet me in St. Louis. June 10, 1947.

In 2020, this weird, unwell, non-season season, where the likelihood of any baseball is disappearing like cotton candy being washed by a raccoon …

… into this emptiness, I have found the treasure.

A random, forgotten game.

On June 10, 1947, the two worst teams in the American League faced off – the eventually-to-become-the-Twins-but-for-now-still Washington Senators at the eventually-to-become-Orioles-but-for-now-still St. Louis Browns.

How nothing of a game was it? It was so nothing that the ever-cash-strapped Browns didn’t even bother advertising it in the local paper.

This may explain why only 6,808 showed up for the game.

Or, it may be that everyone stayed home to catch the other St. Louis team – the struggling, but far more beloved, Cardinals who were playing in Philadelphia – on the radio.

Maybe it was because the St. Louis Browns were lousy. And, so were the Senators.

Who wants to see that?

The Browns started 1947 with a loss, ended 1947 with a loss, and sandwiched 93 more losses in between to finish the season 59-95. Dead last – 38 games back of the first-place Yankees.

But, I’m jumping ahead. Continue reading

Toot-Toot! Oh, To Be In Fox Lake In 1868

By Royalbroil via Creative Commons

I don’t know much about Fox Lake, Wisconsin. I’d never even heard of it before now.

I bet it’s nice.

1914’ish

Fox Lake, a town of about 1,500 that’s 70-odd miles northwest’ish of Milwaukee, does include an actual lake and Wisconsonites (Wisconsonians?) consider it one of the best in the state for fishing, especially if you like walleye, which is a decidedly Midwestern thing. The lake is also amply populated by northern pike and crappie, along with muskie, bluegill, and bass, but really it’s the walleye that brings the fishermen back to Fox Lake.

Public Domain

I was delighted to discover that Fox Lake is the hometown of Bunny Berigan, the great jazz trumpeter. I had a friend who was head-over-heels for Bunny Berigan and how she picked him out of all the jazz trumpeters in the world escapes me. What, Miles Davis wasn’t good enough?

Maybe it was because of Berigan’s 1935 hit “Chicken and Waffles” …

 

Or maybe she was just soft on Wisconsonites (Wisconsonians?).

(Bunny, whose real first name was Roland, died in 1942 of cirrhosis. He was 33. Fox Lake’s long-running annual Bunny Berigan festival ended, sadly, in 2018.)

If you are now thinking there ain’t no way, no how this story is going to come around to baseball, then clearly you don’t know me well. Continue reading

Any Ol’ Game: May 25, 1935, Boston Braves at Pittsburgh Pirates

I choose the years in this Any Ol’ Game pandemic series pretty much at random. I purposely don’t read all those “This Day In Baseball” posts. I don’t want anything special to get in my way – I want to find a game that’s so ordinary it’s been pretty much forgotten. I want to find the beauty in that unsung game.

The date is always the day that I post. Simple enough. But, sometimes strange things happen when I choose a year.

Very strange things.

Maybe I don’t pick the games after all. Maybe they pick me.

Take 1935.

May 25, 1935, a Saturday, was any ol’ day.

Embed from Getty Images

Jesse Owens

I was more interested in discovering what was going on in Ann Arbor that day at the Big 10 Championships where a 21-year-old Ohio State track and field star named Jesse Owens would set five world records and equal another in a span of 45 minutes.

3:15 p.m. – At 9.4 seconds, Owens equals the world record in the 100 Yard Dash

3:25 p.m. – Owens sets a world record with a 8.13 meter long jump

3:34 p.m. – Owens sets, in 20.3 seconds, two world records (in yards and meters) in the 220 yard/200 meter dash

4:00 p.m. – Owens sets, in 22.6 seconds, two world records (in yards and meters) in the 220 yard/200 meter low hurdles

While most of us know Owens from his Olympics heroics in 1936, his accomplishments between 3:15 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. on May 25, 1935 are known by many as the greatest 45 minutes ever in sports history.

The NY Daily News, 5/26/1935

(The day’s reports had yet to recognize Owens’ two additional “meters” records in the 200 meter and 200 meter low hurdles races.)

That Owens did all this with a back injury so severe that he could barely bend over and touch his knees and his coach nearly pulled him from the event, makes it all the more remarkable.

Surely, one historic sporting event is enough for a single day like this. Continue reading

Any Ol’ Game: May 22, 1972, SF Giants at LA Dodgers

It has been brought to my attention that my “Any Ol’ Game” pandemic series has been biased by only covering American League games. In my defense, I haven’t even gotten to an Orioles game yet. But, yes, dear reader, you are correct. Let’s fix that.

What better teams to represent the National League than these two …

The San Bernadino County Sun, 5/23/1972

May 22, 1972

It was the first meeting of these legendary rivals since a benches-clearing brawl in September 1971, triggered when Giants pitcher Juan Marichal plunked Dodger Bill Buckner.

Sports Illustrated, 9/27/1971

Giants manager Charlie Fox called the May 22 rematch a “typical donnybrook.”

A Donnybrook, Live and In Color!

But, to be honest, this game doesn’t seem all that donnybrookish to me. No brouhahas, ballyhoos, williwaws, or kerfuffles on this pleasant Monday evening at Dodger Stadium.

But it was still one of baseball’s greatest, orneriest rivalries.

Need a ticket to the game? EBay has this one … just $10.

The Giants would defeat the Dodgers 9-8, thanks in no small part to 5 RBI from the Giants young slugger Dave Kingman.

Kingman proclaimed: “Beating the Dodgers is the biggest thrill in baseball to me. If I could put all my hits together I would hope they were against the Dodgers.”

This is, I’m sure you’ll agree, one of the greatest sports quotes ever. Continue reading

Any Ol’ Game: May 15, 1941, Chicago White Sox at New York Yankees

You never know when you will just happen to be in the right place, at the right time, to witness something that will turn out to be important and historic.

OK, sure, a lot of the time you do know you’re witnessing something important and historic.

But, that kind of reasoning is not helping me make my point today.

My point is this …

Sometimes you don’t know.

The New York Yankees were shmooshed on May 15, 1941.

I’m going to write that again, because it was fun to write.

The New York Yankees were shmooshed, crushed, demolished, creamed, pounded, trounced, wrung out and hung up to dry on May 15, 1941.

(This is fun!)

The Chicago White Sox did the shmooshing and 13-1 was the final score.

New York Daily News, 5/16/1941

The Yankees had last won a game back on May 8. In their next five games – all losses – the Yankees were outscored 40-12.

Some 9,040 “hooting and hissing” Yankees fans turned out to watch the Yankees slide to 14-15 on the season.

(As an Orioles fan, I can confirm that a 14-15 record doesn’t sound all that bad.) Continue reading

Any Ol’ Game: May 11, 1934, Chicago White Sox at New York Yankees

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.

Chicago Tribune, 5/12/1934

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.

Sammy Byrd

(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.)

Whitlow Wyatt

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. Continue reading

Any Ol’ Game: May 4, 1903 – Washington At Boston

I am so tired of World Series reruns. Is that all ESPN and MLB keep in their archives? A handful of mostly Yankees games? I just want to see a game … a regular, any ol’ game. A game that will surprise me, not because it stands the test of time, but simply because it’s baseball.

Monday, May 4, 1903, Washington Senators at Boston Americans

The American and National Leagues would play the first-ever official World Series in October 1903.

But, on May 4, you couldn’t have guessed that the Boston Americans would win that Series.

First off, the squabbling National and American Leagues wouldn’t even agree to hold an interleague championship until August.

And, second, on May 4, the Boston Americans weren’t great. They weren’t even particularly good.

Coming off of a so-so 1902 season, the Americans (who wouldn’t be called the Red Sox until 1907) were 6-7 on May 4, mired in the middle of the pack and 2.5 games back of the White Sox. The Washington Senators were 2.5 games back, too. (The Senators would finish the season tied with the Cardinals for the worst record in baseball.)

It wasn’t a particularly news’y Monday, that May 4, but this Gold Medal Flour ad on page one of The Boston Globe caught my eye.

Fun Fact: Flour — Or The Lack Of It — Is Still Front-Page News Continue reading