Married Men Off the Infield
The 1929 Phillies’ pitching staff was bad, to put it mildly – they allowed 1,038 runs to score, 918 earned, for a staff ERA of 6.13. And yet the team, at 71-82, won 28 more games than the year before, and eased to a fifth place finish, 27 ½ games behind the winning Chicago Cubs, and 7 ½ behind the 4th place St. Louis Cardinals.
As bad as the pitching was, the hitting was phenomenal; a team batting average of .309, highest in the league. Notably, the team hit .340 in 76 games at Baker Bowl (39-37), and .277 in 77 games away (32-45). Every regular hit over .300, Lefty O’Doul leading at .398, followed by Chuck Klein (.356). Four players batted in over 100 runs - first baseman Don Hurst, 125; third baseman Pinky Whitney, 115; outfielders O’Doul, 122, and Klein, 145. Hurst hit 31 homeruns, O’Doul, 32, and Klein, 43. Klein’s homerun total, and O’Doul’s batting average led the league. Fans loved to see the ball fly, and attendance increased by 100,000 over 1928 but still a league last at 281,200.
Looking back, the entire league in 1929 put up amazing batting numbers, significantly higher in all categories to 1928, raising the eternal question – was there something different about the ball? It never occurred to anyone in those days to question whether hitters had stumbled upon some kind of performance enhancing subtances. They were just good hitters. Klein’s 145 RBIs was only good enough for a league fourth behind the Cubs’ Hack Wilson (159), the Giants’ Mel Ott (151), and Rogers Hornsby’s (now with the Cubs) 149.
On May 17 and 18, at Baker Bowl, the Phillies and Brooklyn Robins/Dodgers scored a total of 67 runs in three games. Brooklyn won, 14-13 on the 17th, then the teams split a doubleheader on the 18th, 20-16 Brooklyn in game one, and 8-6 Phillies in game two.
On June 19, at Baker Bowl, the Giants swept a doubleheader 15-14 in 11 innings, and 12-6. The Giants’ Mel Ott, a four year veteran at age 20, hit two homeruns and four doubles on the day against the Phillies’ batting practice pitchers.
On August 10, at Baker Bowl, the Phillies led St. Louis 8-0 after five innings, but the Cardinals rallied and tied the game at nine to send it into extra innings. Pete Alexander came on to pitch four scoreless innings as the Cardinals won 11-9 in the 11th inning. It was the 373rd and final win in Alexander’s career.
October 5, at Baker Bowl, the Giants and Phillies played yet another doubleheader, this one to end the season. Entering the game, Chuck Klein and Mel Ott were tied for the league lead in homeruns with 42 each. In game one, Klein homered off 26-year-old Giants lefthander Carl Hubbell, in the second of a 16-year career that would earn him a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Hubbell later came to be called “King Carl”, and “the mealticket”. Phillies’ pitchers then proceeded to hand Ott five intentional walks, including one with the bases loaded, to ensure that teammate Klein wins the homerun .championship with 43, to that date, the highest ever recorded by a National League hitter.
Lefty O’Doul rapped six hits in the doubleheader to give him a National League record 254 on the season.By max blue
- Baker Bowl, Chuck Klein, Don Hurst, Lefty O'Doul, Pete Alexander, Philadelphia Phillies, Pinky Whitney