Secretariat, DiMaggio, and the teenager

Once in a while, the crazy present makes you long for the past.  I'm sure that people back then had their problems, but at least you didn't have a political party indicting the other party's likely nominee in the upcoming election.  No banana republic back then!

So we remember this weekend in happier times.

Let's start with Joe DiMaggio who took his hitting streak to 25.  Joe went 1 for 5 against Washington and the streak kept going.  Wonder how many suspected on June 10, 1941 that it would go to 56?  The record back then was 44.

Second, a few days after the D-Day invasion this week in 1944, a young man named Joe Nuxall made baseball history.  Here it goes:

On the afternoon of June 10, 1944, just 3,510 individuals came out to Crosley Field for a contest between the Cincinnati Reds and the league-leading St. Louis Cardinals, who were working toward a third straight pennant.    

Most of the fans probably showed up to see Stan Musial, the future Hall of Famer.  What they saw was a little bit of history when Joe Nuxall came out of the bullpen to pitch for the Reds.  He was a big young man, 6-3, 195 lbs.  It went okay for the teenager that day as we remember:   

Nuxhall joined the Reds roster, staying with them until school ended in June, reporting when night or weekend games were being played. He expected to just take things in and did so until the bottom of the eighth inning on Saturday, June 10. Nuxhall recalled, “…the Cardinals are just killing us; it’s thirteen to nothing. Finally Mr. McKechnie told me to go warm up. Really he yelled twice. The first time he said ‘Joe,’ I didn’t pay any attention, figuring he was talking to someone else. The second time it was a little louder, and I went down and warmed up.” But not before he tripped over the last step out of the dugout and fell flat on his face. Nuxhall continued, “Jeez God, I was scared to death. … I was throwing the ball all over the damned place.”

Nervous or not, Nuxhall got the first batter he faced, George Fallon, to ground out to shortstop after going to a full count. Mort Cooper then received a walk. Augie Bergamo popped up to shortstop Eddie Miller. Then the realization of where he was hit him full force. The next batter was Debs Garms, the 1940 National League batting champion. Nuxhall threw a wild pitch, allowing Cooper to move to second, then walked Garms. Stan Musial came to bat and singled to load the bases. Nuxhall’s meltdown came in full earnest. He walked the next three batters, forcing in three runs, before second baseman Emil Verban singled in two runs.

With that, McKechnie came out to end Nuxhall’s agony, saying, “Well, son, I think you’ve had enough.” Jake Eisenhardt came in and walked Fallon before inducing Cooper to pop out to first.

Nuxhall faced nine batters, walking five, allowing two singles, throwing a wild pitch, and giving up five earned runs. Cincinnati went down in order in the bottom of the ninth.

Well, he could have done better but he was 15 and facing the mighty Cardinals.  Joe was sent back to the minors and came back in 1952 and enjoyed a 16-year major-league career: a 135-117 pitching record, a 3,90 ERA and 83 complete games, or about what the entire league throws these days.  After baseball, he called the Reds' game on the radio for 38 seasons, retired in 2004 and died in 2007.  I should add that I remember him on the radio, especially in 1978 when I followed Pete Rose and his 44-game hitting streak.

Last, but not least, there is a horse, and I don't mean Mr. Ed.  

Fifty years ago this week, everybody was watching a horse race and we were not disappointed.  This is the story:    

With a spectacular victory at the Belmont Stakes, Secretariat becomes the first horse since Citation in 1948 to win America’s coveted Triple Crown: the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. In one of the finest performances in racing history, Secretariat, ridden by Ron Turcotte, completed the 1.5-mile race in 2 minutes and 24 seconds, a dirt-track record for that distance.

You need to watch the video, because it is unbelievable.    

Too much politicization of the DoJ?  Take a break and enjoy yourself with a little history this weekend.

P.S.  Check out my blog for posts, podcasts and videos.

Image: NYPL Public Domain Collection

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