On September 10, 1934, the Pittsburgh Pirates had a .500 record (65-65) and they were in New York at the Polo Grounds, taking on the first place New York Giants, with their 85-49 record. It looked like a mismatch on paper with those records and home field advantage, but it wasn’t so bad once you take a look at the lineup put out by the Pirates that day. The first five spots were all Hall of Famers. The starting pitcher was Hall of Famer Waite Hoyt. Six future Hall of Fame players in one lineup and a seventh one ended up with a significant milestone in his career later in the game.
This was a Monday afternoon contest in front of a crowd of approximately 8,000 fans. The Giants had their own Hall of Famers to worry about in the lineup. Bill Terry, Mel Ott and Travis Jackson created a powerful 3-5 hitters in the middle of the New York batting order. The Pirates would see a fourth Hall of Famer by the time this game was done, making it a total of 11 future Hall of Famers in one game.
The Giants sent 23-year-old, right-hander Hal Schumaker to the mound with his 21-6 record. He retired the Hall of Fame outfielder trio of Lloyd Waner, Freddie Lindstrom and Paul Waner in order with three ground outs. Waite Hoyt allowed a one-out single in the first, but got a ground ball double play from Bill Terry to end the inning.
Schumaker retired Arky Vaughan and Pie Traynor to start the second, before walking Gus Suhr. A Tommy Thevenow ground out ended the frame. The Giants got on the board in the second. Mel Ott doubled to start the inning, then he scored two batters later on a sacrifice fly from Hank Lieber. Gus Macuso followed with a solo homer to make it a 2-0 game.
The Pirates got a lead-off single from catcher Tom Padden to start the third inning, but three straight Hall of Famers (the first being Hoyt) were retired in order to end the inning.
The Giants increased their lead in the third inning. Hughie Critz hit a solo homer after the first two batters were retired. Bill Terry followed with a single, then scored on a two-run homer by Mel Ott, his 33rd of the season. With Schumaker on the mound at home, a five-run lead probably seemed insurmountable at the time.
The Pirates immediately chipped away at that lead. Paul Waner walked to start the inning, but Vaughan and Traynor each grounded out, with a force out at second base on each play. With Traynor on first, Gus Suhr singled. Tommy Thevenow and Tom Padden each followed with RBI singles to make it 5-2. The Pirates sent up Red Lucas to pinch-hit. Lucas was a pitcher, but he was also used often as a pinch-hitter during his career. It didn’t work on this day, as he flew out to end the inning.
Heinie Meine took over on the mound in the bottom of the fourth and retired the side in order. The Pirates went quietly in the fifth as well, as their Hall of Fame outfield trio was retired in order for the second time in the game. The Giants turned a Jo-Jo Moore single in the fifth into their sixth run. Moore stole second base, then scored on a Bill Terry single.
The Pirates scored in the sixth, but a bad base running decision may have cost them a bigger inning. Pie Traynor singled, then moved to second base on a two-out single from Thevenow. Tom Padden singled to score Traynor, but Thevenow was thrown out a third base to end the inning. Pirates trailed 6-3 and their time was running short.
After Meinie got through the sixth with no damage, the Pirates got some help from the New York defense. Lloyd Waner walked, then Paul Waner came up with two outs. He grounded back to the pitcher, but Schumaker threw it away and second baseman Hughie Critz added an error before the play was over, scoring Lloyd Waner from first base.
Burleigh Grimes came on in the seventh to pitch for the Pirates. He was signed as a free agent six weeks earlier and was with his third team of the season. Now 40 years old, he was nearing the end of his Hall of Fame career. Grimes had a little bit of luck in the seventh, which helped keep the game from getting out of hand. He allowed a lead-off double to Jo-Jo Moore, who would score two batters later on an RBI single from Bill Terry. Met Ott then hit a liner towards first base, which was caught by Suhr, who completed an unassisted double play to end the inning.
The Pirates were retired in order in the eighth and the Giants were limited to a Travis Jackson single in their half of the inning. That sent it to the ninth with the bottom of the order up. Tom Padden grounded to third base to start the inning, but he was able to reach on a miscue by Johnny Vergez. Pinch-hitter (for Grimes) Earl Grace reached on a single. The Hall of Famers then got to work. Lloyd Waner made it 7-5 with an RBI single. Freddie Lindstrom had an RBI ground out to make it 7-6. Paul Waner walked, then the Giants went to the great Carl Hubbell to faced Arky Vaughan and Pie Traynor with one out and a one-run lead.
Hubbell immediately lost the lead, allowing a Vaughan single that tied the score. Pie Traynor then gave the Pirates the lead with a sacrifice fly to center field. With Gus Suhr up, Arky Vaughan attempted to steal second base. A bad throw into center field by the catcher allowed Vaughan to steal second, and he attempted to go to third base on the play. Another bad throw by the center fielder allowed Vaughan to score, giving the Pirates an insurance run.
Ralph Birkofer came on for the save (not a recognized stat then) and sandwiched one walk around three fly balls to give the Pirates the 9-7 victory. The last out was off of the bat of Bill Terry, representing the tying run.
This game was the 270th victory in the career of Burleigh Grimes. It was also his final big league win. Waite Hoyt had 237 wins and Carl Hubbell won 253 games during his career, so it was quite the grouping in one game. Hal Schumaker “only” had 158 career wins, but he also missed three years due to service during WWII.
Here’s the boxscore and play-by-play courtesy of Baseball-Reference.