Results tagged ‘ 1946 World Series ’

Old rumors become new at Hall of Fame Library

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

Rumors are nothing new to baseball.

But no matter how unsubstantiated they may be or at least may seem to be, they had to come from somewhere. Earlier this week we saw yet another example: Albert Pujols, arguably the biggest name in the game, considered in a trade for Ryan Howard, the slugging St. Louis native.

03-19-10-Hayes_DiMaggioWilliams.jpgBoth stars balked. They say haven’t heard anything and the clubs aren’t saying anything. When the report surfaced, it also spawned references to Joe DiMaggio for Ted Williams, another famous non-deal.

In 1946, the Yankees and the Red Sox both denied the idea – in the media at least. Combing through the Library at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, you can find a number of items about what could have been – a blockbuster that would “set the American League on its ear!” as Richard Ben Cramer put it in the DiMaggio biography “The Hero’s Life.”

The Sporting News headlines just before and during the 1946 World Series show both teams denying interest. But after trading Joe Gordon – another future Hall of Famer – to Cleveland, accounts hint the Bombers needed an overhaul with the Yankee Clipper on the trading block.

The dynamics of DiMaggio for Williams were much simpler than Howard for Pujols. Both pull hitters could have easily taken advantage of their new parks: Williams hitting into the short porch in right wearing pinstripes, and DiMaggio banging hits and lofting flies over the Green Monster in crimson stockings.

Gossip started swirling before the Series started, but denial on both sides all-but-signaled the death of the story. In the Oct. 16, 1946, Sporting News, Red Sox management said Williams wasn’t for sale while the Yankees expressed a lack of interest.

03-19-10-Hayes_DiMaggioWilliams2.jpgThat set the stage for one of the most inconspicuous conversations in baseball history at Toots Shor’s in New York City. Sometime in December 1946, the future Hall of Fame executives of the two rivals sat down for a long night at the tavern. After several hours, Yankee owner Larry MacPhail proposed the swap to Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey. MacPhail said DiMaggio could play next to his brother, Dom, and let fly over the Monster – just 315 feet away. Yawkey suggested Williams could crush Ruth’s record aiming at stands just 296 feet away. Before the night ended, the two shook – DiMaggio for Williams, straight up.

But the next morning, Yawkey called MacPhail to nix the deal. According to the book “The Era” by Roger Kahn, Yawkey said: “I can’t do it. They let Babe Ruth out of Boston. If I let Williams go, the fans will crucify me.”

Some versions of the story, like the one in “Emperors and Idiots” by Mike Vaccaro, say Yawkey tried to salvage the deal by asking for “the kid catcher from Newark” but MacPhail declared: “You’re out of your mind,” to throw in Yogi Berra, who would also be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

It goes to show that you can never be sure about baseball rumors. Howard for Pujols? It could happen. DiMaggio for Williams almost did.

Trevor Hayes is the editorial production manager at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Colorful Browns memories

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

Bill Purdy was born and raised in St. Louis. But last week, he and his wife, Mary Beth, experienced what felt like a homecoming in Cooperstown.

For a few days at the Baseball Hall of Fame, Purdy relived a youth spent as close to the big leagues as you can get without being listed in a box score.

5-28-09-Hayes_PurdyHornsby.jpgPurdy grew up a fan of the St. Louis Browns and by the time he entered high school, they were his obsession. As a catcher during his teen years, Bill was a fan of Les Moss, who caught for the Browns from 1946-53. They shared a similar trait aside from catching.

“He was about as slow as a turtle running the bases, and I wasn’t fast either,” said Purdy, who supports the Hall of Fame as a Member of the Museum’s development program. “But I sure could hit the ball.”

It was Purdy’s catching ability, however, that dictated his baseball life after 1952. Bill Veeck, who purchased the Browns in 1951, was working to create greater interest in the team. So in 1952, the future Hall of Fame executive held a promotional contest to work as a bat boy for the Browns. Purdy won the contest.

During the middle of the season, the Browns needed someone to catch batting practice, so Purdy started doing that. For the rest of the season, he was the team’s bat boy and batting-practice catcher. In 1953, he served as just the batting-practice catcher and also traveled with the team.

As the bullpen catcher, he caught many legends, including the seemingly ageless Negro league great and future Hall of Famer Satchel Paige; an aging Virgil Trucks, who won 177 big league games; Harry Brecheen, who won three games in the 1946 World Series with the Cardinals; Don Larsen, who threw the only perfect game in World Series history; Bob Turley, who went on to win four World Series games, two rings and five pennants with the Yankees; Ned Garver, who won 20 games for the last-place Browns in 1951; and Tommy Byrne, a left-hander and part of the Yankees dynasty in the 1940s and ’50s.

5-28-09-Hayes_PurdyMug.jpgPurdy also has one great memory from a trip to Yankee Stadium in 1952. Like the players, Purdy kept his uniform, catcher’s mitt and the rest of his equipment in a trunk. The trunks were unloaded from the team’s train and taken straight to the clubhouse at the ballpark. Just before the team went to New York, the Browns were carrying three catchers, something the Yankees apparently knew. St. Louis’ third-string catcher, however, was sent to the Minors before the team arrived and another catcher wasn’t called up — something the Yankees apparently didn’t know.

“I’m assuming that the clubhouse man from the Yankees saw my stuff in there and thought I’d been activated,” Purdy said. “So they printed the scorecard with my name and number on it. I have it to this day, and it will baffle any historian here, because you won’t find my name on the list of active players. But my name is on the scorecard from Yankee Stadium — it’s the same scorecard that had Mantle, Berra and Casey Stengel on it.”

That scorecard, along with autographed balls and other artifacts — including seat frames from old Sportsman’s Park with original Busch Stadium seats in it — are among the memorabilia Purdy still has from his days with the Browns.

But the stories are what he treasures most.

Trevor Hayes is the editorial production manager at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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