Jan 12 2011

Daffiness

Published by at 4:30 pm
Under Baseball | Vignettes

B

rooklyn has a long and storied history as a baseball town. Of course most people know the long tenure that the Dodgers enjoyed in Flatbush, but how many people know that the early names for the franchise included the nicknames the Bridegrooms, Superbas, and Trolley Dodgers. During the tenure (1914-1931) of one particularly colorful manager, Wilbert Robinson, were often referred to as the Robins in honor of their manager, who had acquired the nickname “Uncle Robbie”.

'Uncle Robbie' Robinson

Robinson rose to prominence as a catcher for the savvy, hard-nosed Baltimore Orioles of the 1890s, setting a record in 1892 with seven hits in a nine-inning game. After serving as a Giants coach for his ex-teammate and close friend John McGraw, Uncle Robbie was named manager of the rival Brooklyn franchise in 1914. Maintaining his jovial and easygoing demeanor, he led the Robins to their first two World Series appearances in 1916 and 1920.

When Robinson retired in 1931 there was some discussion about renaming the Robins the Brooklyn Canaries, but the name Brooklyn Dodgers returned to stay following Robinson’s retirement.

As he entered the cab, the driver asked him how the contest was going. “Pretty good,” the passenger replied. “The Dodgers have three men on base.” The cabbie responded, “Yeah, which base?”

In their later years, the 1940s and 1950, the Brooklyn Dodgers took their baseball seriously. Before that time they were known as the Daffiness Boys, and the daffiest of them all was Babe Herman, who besides being a great hitter and a dreadful fielder was a genuine eccentric when negotiating the base paths. The Babe was the sparkplug for the crazy time the Dodgers ended up with three men on base — the same base.

This signature Dodger play from this era occurred when Herman doubled into a double play, in which three players – Dazzy Vance, Chick Fewster, and Herman – all ended up at third base at the same time.

Babe Herman

The game with the Boston Braves was tied 1-1 in the bottom of the seventh with the bases filled and one man out. Hank DeBerry was on third, Dazzy Vance on second, and Chuck Fewster on first, with Herman at bat. Herman hit a hard drive to right, and the runners held up a moment to see if the ball would be caught, an eventuality that Herman had never seemed to take into consideration when running the bases.

The ball banged against the fence and DeBerry came in to score. Vance rounded third and headed for the plate. Fewster was between second and third when he was shocked to see a steaming Herman bearing down on him, also on his way to third. Mickey O’Neil, coaching at third, also spotted Herman making his mindless headlong dash and began screaming “back, back.” Vance, almost home, stopped, thinking the frantic instructions were meant for him, and turned back for third. Fewster, running for his life, got to the base standing up just as Vance came sliding in from home and Herman from second. Thus here were three confused Dodgers on third base.

The Boston third baseman got the ball after it had been thrown home and tagged Vance and Herman but actually missed the tag on Fewster, who just sort of wandered off the base in a daze. In fact, the Boston third baseman had not actually tagged anybody. The lead runner Vance was entitled to the base, so the tag on him was meaningless. There was also no need to tag out Herman, since he was out automatically for passing Fewster. Meanwhile, Fewster simply decided a double play had ended the inning. He trotted over to second base to pick up his glove on the short outfield grass and take up his fielding position there. Finally Doc Gatrea, the Boston second baseman, called for the ball and slapped the tag on Fewster, who would have been safe if he had simply gone back to second.

With the tag, the umpire yelled, “Fewster, you’re out.”

Fewster replied, “I thought I was out five minutes ago.”

That ended the confusing inning with one run in. Babe Herman never could understand why he was subjected to so much abuse although he did admit that while he had not tripled into a triple play as some said, but had certainly doubled into a double play.

There was a famous joke that originated when a fan had to leave Ebbets Field before the completion of a Dodgers game. As he entered the cab, the driver asked him how the contest was going.

“Pretty good,” the passenger replied. “The Dodgers have three men on base.”

The cabbie responded, “Yeah, which base?”

After his removal as club president, Wilbert Robinson returned to managing, and the club’s performance rebounded somewhat.


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