Sunday, August 15, 2010

August 15, 1926: Three men on base

UPDATE: This event has been replaced. For the new entry, click here. 

BROOKLYN - Babe Herman was a great hitter for Brooklyn in the 1920s and 30s. His hitting might have been good enough to get him in the hall of fame except for the fact that he was a terrible fielder, so much so that it was a running joke around Brooklyn. Still, even with that, he might have still been elected to the hall of fame if not for one unfortunate play where he doubled into a double play.

The Robins, as they were called for about 15 years in that time, were playing the Boston Braves in a doubleheader on August 15, 1926. In one at bat in the first game, Herman, a rookie that year, came to the plate with pitcher Dazzy Vance on second base and second baseman Chick Fewster at first. (Babe, Dazzy, and Chick. Why don't ballplayers have nicknames any more?) Herman ripped a ball that was certain to be extra bases. As he rounded second, the third base coach yelled at him to stop there. Vance, thinking the coach was yelling for him, went back to third, just as Fewster was pulling up there. Meanwhile, Herman was ignoring everything and slid safely into third.

And that's how the Dodgers got three men on third base.

The Braves got the ball in and tagged all three runners. The common misconception was that Herman had tripled into a triple play, but the rules of baseball state that the lead runner, in that case Vance, was entitled to the base. Since Herman and Fewster were out, Herman had managed to double into a double play.

The play came to define both Herman and the Dodgers/Robins of that era, a team whose players - and, often, management - couldn't get out of their own way. Herman played well until he was 42, finishing with a career average of .324, including single seasons of .381 and .390, but he never lived down the day he doubled into a double play.

For decades after that play, there was a joke floating around Brooklyn. One Dodger fan would ask another how the game was going.

"Great," the second fan would say. "The Dodgers have three men on base!"

"Oh yah? Which base?"

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