During the 1936 season, Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Paul Waner won his third batting title with a .373 average. As you can imagine, he probably didn’t have too many 0-for-5 days during the season. One of those rare bad days happened on July 21st while batting third against the Philadelphia Phillies at the Baker Bowl. Luckily for Waner, a few of his teammates picked up the slack that day.
The Pirates had a 44-41 record, with Ralph Birkofer on the mound. The 27-year-old lefty had a 5-3, 3.87 record coming into the day. The Phillies were 33-52, with 28-year-old right-hander Orville Jorgens on the mound. He was 6-7, 4.60 going into this game. The Pirates lineup included Hall of Famers Lloyd and Paul Waner, as well as fellow Cooperstown inductee Arky Vaughan. The big name in the Phillies lineup was Hall of Fame outfielder Chuck Klein, who would end up playing for the Pirates a few years later.
The start of this game wasn’t a sign of things to come. Both sides went down in order in the first inning. The Pirates had a great scoring opportunity wasted in the second inning. Gus Suhr singled to lead-off the inning, then Bill Brubaker hit a one-out double to put two runners in scoring position. Pep Young was intentionally walked to load the bases, but the move paid off. Jorgens struck out Tom Padden and Birkofer to end the threat.
Philadelphia took advantage of that missed opportunity by the Pirates. A walk and a single, with the batter moving up to second on the throw to third, put two runners in scoring position with no outs. A ground out, error, and a fly ball, made it a 2-0 game. It could have been worse, but a Phillies runner was thrown out at the plate.
In the third, the top of the Pirates order went down in order again. In the bottom of the frame, the Phillies got a one-out double and a two-out walk. A double by Bill Atwood scored one run, then Birkofer made his second throwing error and it was costly. On a grounder back to the mound, he threw wildly over Gus Suhr’s head and two runs scored. I’ll note here that the play-by-play linked below differs, saying he threw to third base, but multiple game recaps mention Suhr by name and say first base. The Phillies had a 5-0 lead, but for the second inning in a row, they had a runner get thrown out at home. This particular one was the third out of the inning on an attempted straight steal of home.
The Pirates could have been dejected by a 5-0 score early, but they didn’t let it affect them. They quickly made this a game in the fourth when the first six batters on the inning reached base. The inning started with a double by Suhr. Arky Vaughan singled, bringing home Suhr with the first run. Brubaker hit an infield single, then Pep Young poked one into left field to make it 5-2. The Pirates went to their bench, bringing in pitcher Red Lucas to hit for catcher Tom Padden. That might sound very odd, but Lucas was a better hitter than Padden and often pinch-hit. In fact, he was used 43 times off the bench in 1936. Lucas walked to load the bases, then Fred Schulte pinch-hit for Birkofer. He singled off of reliever Euel Moore, making it a 5-4 game.
Lloyd Waner grounded out for the first out, but it also brought home the tying run. Woody Jensen singled, then stole second base. Paul Waner made the second out of the inning, followed by a walk to Suhr to load the bases again. The second RBI single of the inning by Vaughan moved everyone up one base and gave the Pirates the lead. A walk to Brubaker made it 7-5, then Young singled off of reliever Pete Sivess to bring in two more runs. Red Lucas batted for the second time as a pinch-hitter and grounded out to end the inning.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Pirates went to Bill Swift on the mound, with Hal Finney behind the plate. Swift allowed a two-out single, but nothing else. In the fifth, Swift batted lead-off and reached on an error. That was followed by back-to-back homers by Lloyd Waner and Woody Jensen. For Waner, it was his first home run since June 21, 1934, which was an inside-the-park homer. His shot in this game carried over the right field fence. The last time he hit one out of the park was September 9, 1931 at Forbes Field.
The Pirates had a 12-5 lead, but they weren’t done in the fifth after the homers. Suhr doubled, Vaughan walked and Brubaker made it 13-5 with an RBI single to center field.
The bottom of the fifth saw two runners reach against Swift, with a single and fielding error by Brubaker. The score remained the same though, and the Pirates had a quick top of the sixth. Jensen singled, but he was erased on a caught stealing. Both Lloyd and Paul Waner struck out in the inning. I don’t know how many times that may have happened in the same inning, but my guess is not many. Paul Waner struck out 325 times with the Pirates in 15 years, which made him a human windmill compared to his brother, who went down 167 times in 17 years. In fact, Lloyd had just five strikeouts in 1936, all season!
The Phillies went down in order in the sixth, then the Pirates went right back to work in the seventh. Gus Suhr singled, Vaughan walked, then Brubaker came through again with an RBI single, making it 14-5. Young doubled to make it 15-5, then reliever Herb Harris came in. Hal Finney grounded out to bring home the 16th run. Lloyd Waner doubled to make it 17-5, and then the Pirates took off their hitting shoes for the rest of the game.
The last 2 1/2 innings of this game were anti-climatic. Swift wasn’t perfect in any of the final three innings, allowing a single in the seventh and two singles in the eighth. He retired the first two batters in the ninth before Chuck Klein tripled to center field. Dolph Camilli singled to bring home Klein, then Bill Atwood doubled. The game ended there, with Lou Chiozza popping up to the catcher to end the festivities in a quick two hours and 29 minutes, sending home whatever remained of the 2,500 original fans in attendance.
The Pirates got four hits from Suhr, Brubaker and Young. Jensen and Vaughan each had three hits, while Young and Lloyd Waner each drove in four runs. Pittsburgh had 21 hits total in the game, seven of them going for extra-bases, while ten of them came with runners in scoring position. Swift pitched an excellent game, only seeming to tire at the very end. He allowed one run in six innings.
For the Phillies, Herb Harris pitched four games in his big league career and this contest was his MLB debut. He threw three shutout innings against a team that just put up 17 runs in this game. He followed that with eight runs allowed over four innings in his other three games combined.
Here’s the boxscore and play-by-play from Baseball-Reference.