Game Rewind: Pirates at Phillies, July 23, 1930

I was looking for something to do for the birthday of George Grantham, an underappreciated player in Pittsburgh Pirates history. We already did a feature article for him in our Obscure Pittsburgh Pirates series, so that was out. He had a large bio in today’s history article, plus he was part of our Card of the Day series just a few days ago. I tried looking instead for his best career game, which in my opinion, happened during the 1925 season when he went 4-for-4 with a double, two homers, six RBIs and a walk on June 22nd. We just completed a season recap from 1925 here, so that game has already been covered recently. So I then found a game from 1930 in which Grantham set/tied two personal highs for a single game. This game has so much more though, which you will see in the recap below, making it a perfect subject for a Game Rewind article.

The 1930 season was a huge year for offense in baseball. On July 23rd, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Pirates played a doubleheader. The first game that day very much had the feel of a deadball era game. It ended in a 2-1 score and Pie Traynor was the hero, hitting a ninth inning homer that proved to be the difference. Grantham had a decent game, going 1-for-2 with a walk and a sacrifice hit. It was a well played, quick game, which took exactly 100 minutes to play. Game two that day was much different.

The lineups for the second game had some all-time greats. The Pirates had Paul Waner, Lloyd Waner and Pie Traynor in the lineup. The Phillies had Hall of Famer Chuck Klein, who would play for the Pirates in 1939. They also had Lefty O’Doul, a name that would be more familiar if he spent more of his career in the majors instead of starring on the west coast in the Pacific Coast League. O’Doul batted .349 in 11 big league seasons, winning two batting crowns. Also in the lineup for the Phillies that day were Tommy Thevenow and Denny Sothern, who would both soon join the Pirates. Sothern was just six weeks away from joining Pittsburgh, while Thevenow joined the Pirates in a disastrous deal five months later which saw them give up on young infielder Dick Bartell for two aging veteran who combined for -2.2 WAR. Bartell put up 35.9 WAR after the deal, despite missing two full years to service in WWII. On this particular day in 1930, Bartell was at shortstop for the Pirates, batting between Traynor and Gus Suhr in the lineup.

One of the Pittsburgh papers said of game two that it was the type of game “so often witnessed in Baker’s shrunken gardens”. The Phillies played in the Baker Bowl, which was considered to be extremely small by many, especially compared to Forbes Field. While that is true of right field, the Baker Bowl was 341 down the left field line and 408 to center field, which is not small by today’s standards. The right field line was just 280 feet from home plate and it didn’t quite jut out to center field, with right-center measuring at 300 feet. A very large wall in right field, at one point going 60 feet high, made it difficult to take full advantage of the short porch, at least as far as home runs were concerned, but it basically acted like the Green Monster at Fenway Park now.

The pitchers in this game were Erv Brame for the Pirates and Ray Benge for the Phillies. Neither was a star pitcher, but they both had a decent run in the majors. Brame actually led the National League in complete games in 1930, but this wouldn’t be one of those games. The two of them lasted six innings total on this day in a game that saw ten pitched used. The Pirates were 42-46 coming into this game, while the Phillies were in last place at 31-53.

The top of the first for the Pirates saw a walk to Paul Waner and nothing else. The Phillies got a double and a walk, but nothing else, and the first inning looked like a continuation of game one.

In the second, the Pirates got a double by Traynor, who scored two batters later on a sacrifice fly by Gus Suhr. Catcher Rollie Hemsley hit a two-out single to get the pitcher up to the plate and Brame responded with a home run to make it 3-0. The Phillies went quietly in the bottom of the second.

The Pirates extended that lead in the third inning and knocked out the starting pitcher with no outs. Grantham walked, and singles by Traynor and Adam Comorosky made it 4-0. After one out, Suhr made it 5-0 with a sacrifice fly. Hemsley singled, then Brame drove in another run with a single to make it 6-0. After an out by Lloyd Waner, rain started to fall.

In the bottom of the third, Philadelphia put two men on, then a grounder moved both runners into scoring position. Clean up hitter Don Hurst sent a fly ball to Lloyd Waner in center field, who caught it and threw out the runner coming in from third base for an inning-ending double play. After that play, the game was stopped for eight minutes due to the rain according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

In the fourth inning, Grantham hit a one-out double and then moved to third base on an out by Comorosky. Traynor singled to shortstop, but Grantham didn’t score on the play. The Pirates had runners on the corners with two outs and Mother Nature took center stage again, delaying the game with rain. When it cleared up, Dick Bartell and Gus Suhr each walked to make it 7-0. A third Phillies pitcher came on, former Pirates pitcher Chet Nichols, who got Hemsley to ground out to second base to end the inning.

In the bottom of the fourth, Philadelphia loaded the bases with one out on a double, walk, strikeout and single. The Phillies pinch-hit for Nichols, bringing on another former Pirates player, infielder Fresco Thompson. He doubled to left field, which cleared the bases, though Thompson got thrown out at third base for the second out. Lead-off hitter Tripp Sigman then knocked his fourth home run of the season, making it a 7-4 game.

In the top of the fifth, the Pirates faced a new battery, the fourth Phillies pitcher and second catcher. Brame batted for himself and was thrown out on a grounder to shortstop. Lloyd Waner singled off of the wall, then his brother hit into a twin killing to end the inning. Brame batting for himself was interesting because he faced one batter in the bottom of the fifth. Clean-up hitter Don Hurst hit his seventh homer of the season to lead-off the inning, chasing Brame and bringing on Glenn Spencer. The Phillies collected two more hits in the inning, but Spencer kept it a 7-5 game.

In the sixth, Pittsburgh started with a walk to Grantham, then Comorosky reached on an error. Traynor walked to load the bases, then Bartell made it 9-5 with a double. Gus Suhr then hit a grounder to second baseman Bernie Friberg, who threw home to get Traynor at the plate. Rollie Hemsley then singled to center, which scored Bartell, but Hemsley was thrown out at second base to end the inning.

The Pirates were up 10-5 going into the bottom of the sixth. With one out, Lefty O’Doul doubled, then moved to third base on a ground out by Chuck Klein. Hurst then came up and sent a ball over the right field wall for his second home run. The Phillies had two more hits in the inning, but the score remained 10-7.

In the seventh, Lloyd Waner singled, then got forced out at second base on a grounder by his brother. After Grantham popped out to second base, Comorosky doubled off of the right field wall. Klein picked it up and threw to Friberg, who gunned it home to cut down Big Poison and keep the score 10-7. The Phillies got two singles off of Spencer to start the home half of the seventh. Steve Swetonic then came on and got a grounder that led to one out and runners on the corners. A walk to Lefty O’Doul loaded the bases, then Chuck Klein drove in two runs with a single to cut the Pirates lead to one. The dangerous Don Hurst stepped to the plate with two men on, but Swetonic got him to hit into a double play to end the inning.

In the eighth, the Phillies went to their fifth pitcher of the night. Hap Collard gave up a single to Traynor, which was followed by three straight outs to end the inning. Philadelphia tied the score in the bottom of the inning on a one-out homer by Friberg, his third of the season. That sent the game to the ninth inning with a 10-10 score.

The Pirates made two quick outs to start the ninth, then Paul Waner smashed the ball over the right-center fence to make it 11-10. It was his first home run of the season. After a single by Grantham and an out by Comorsky, Swetonic looked to close out a victory. The Phillies basically repeated what the Pirates did in the top of the inning. Two quick outs were followed by a game-tying home run from O’Doul. A grounder to first by Klein sent the game to extra innings.

In the tenth, the Phillies went to lefty Les Sweetland, who would be their last pitcher of the day. He had a quick inning, with Traynor flying out to Klein, Bartell striking out, and Suhr grounding out to second base. Swetonic had a quick inning as well, as he got two ground outs and an infield pop up to end the frame.

In the 11th, Hemsley singled and Swetonic walked. Lloyd Waner sacrificed both runners into scoring position. Paul Waner came up and lined a ball down to third base, which was caught, resulting in a double play. Thevenow doubled to lead-off the bottom of the inning, but a sacrifice was just the first of three straight outs to send this game to the 12th.

In that 12th inning, Grantham walked to begin the frame. Small ball in a 22-run game continued with another sacrifice bunt. It worked though when Traynor grounded to third base and the ball was booted. Grantham continued on home and the catcher dropped the throw to make it 12-11. Traynor moved to third base on the play and then scored on a sacrifice fly by Bartell. The Pirates got a single and a walk, but they let Swetonic bat and he grounded out to strand the runners.

In the bottom of the 12th, O’Doul popped to shortstop for the first out. Klein singled, then went to third base on a Hurst single. Pinky Whitney singled in Klein and Hurst stopped at second base. Friberg flied out to Comorosky for the second out, then Thevenow tied it 13-13 with a single. Larry French came on in a bad spot, but he got a grounder to Pie Traynor to end the inning.

In the 13th, the Pirates went to a pinch-hitter for Lloyd Waner, bringing on Ira Flagstead, who was unknowingly just six days away from the final game of his 13-year career. He was thrown out on a swinging bunt for the first out. Paul Waner made the second out. Grantham walked, then went to third base on a single by Comorosky. Pie Traynor then came up and hit a three-run homer to make it 16-13. The Pirates almost added more as a Bartell double, Suhr walk and a wild pitch, put two men in scoring position, but Hemsley flew out to O’Doul in left field to end the frame.

French struck out the first two Phillies in the bottom of the 13th, but this game couldn’t end that easily after everything else that went on. O’Doul singled and moved up to second and third without a throw (credited as defensive indifference). Klein singled, then did the same thing, moving to third base without any throws. He scored on a double by Hurst. Pinky Whitney ended the game…with a grounder to French, who threw to first base for the final out and a 16-15 win.

The Phillies collected 27 hits in the game and the Pirates had 23 of their own. There were also 16 walks in the game. Pie Traynor had himself a day with five hits, four runs and four RBIs in this game. He hit game-winning homers in the final inning in both games. Grantham set his career high with five runs scored and tied his high with four walks. He also had a single and a double, reaching base six times. The first seven batters for the Phillies all had at least three hits, with Hurst and Friberg each collecting four hits.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette the next day,this game set/tied/challenged a bunch of records. The records set were total times at bat in a game and total bases in a game. They tied the record for most assists, and came within one of tying records for hits in a game, extra-base hits in a game and pitchers used in one game. At 3:41 minutes, it was nine minutes short of the longest game ever.

That hits record, which was set during a Phillies game in 1922, still stands as the all-time record 91 years after the game covered here. The at-bats, whether it meant literal at-bats or plate appearances, was not a record. I am not certain if it was the record at the time, but a 1920 game between Brooklyn and Boston went 26 innings and the two teams had 171 at-bats total, compared to 117 for this game. Even if you count plate appearances, it was 139 plate appearances in this particular game, which fell well short. As you might imagine, the 26-inning game also had many more assists, so that too was not a record. Obviously newspaper writers weren’t sitting in front of a computer like me, though that 26-inning game was a pretty big deal and not that old, so…

Anyway, the Pirates swept the doubleheader by a 2-1 and 16-15 score. The tough luck losers saw their pitcher allow just two runs in game one and their hitters pound out 15 runs in game two, and they had nothing to show for it.