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Oh, Danny Boy
It turned out that the clutch pinch hit double Chuck Klein delivered in Brooklyn a year ago in May was not his last hurrah after all. The Phillies decided that a diminished Chuck Klein was a better option than a LeGrant Scott at his best, and in March signed the aging (35) slugger to play right field in 1940. Bad move, Phillies. Klein played in 116 mostly losing games (103) causing fans to wonder who was that guy batting third and masquerading as Chuck Klein; the Chuck Klein they knew could hit .218 with seven homeruns and 37 RBIs with one hand tied behind his back. In a late September game at the Polo Grounds, Klein homered off Carl Hubbell in a 6-0 Hugh Mulcahy win, the 299th of his career. In 1941 he finally did call it a career when one of his nine hits was homerun number 300.
Probably it wouldn’t have mattered in the final standings, but there were those who wondered why the Phillies waited so long before giving a chance to a 24 year-old rookie outfielder named Danny Litwhiler; in 36 games late in the forlorn season, the kid hit .345 with five homeruns and 17 RBIs. On September 2nd at Shibe Park, in the first game of a doubleheader against the Giants, Litwhiler hit a grand slam homerun in a Kirby Higbe win (14-19, 3.72 ERA). In the second game, Litwhiler, batting second in the lineup ahead of Joe Marty, was 3 for 5 with a two-run triple in a 6-5 win for the sweep. Walter “Boom-Boom” Beck was the winning pitcher in that game over Paul “Daffy” Dean who, after all the glory years with the St.Louis Cardinals, was ending his career as a New York Giant.
Boom-Boom Beck was a forgettable pitcher with a memorable nickname. In 1940 he started 15 games for the Phillies, completing four; he won four and lost nine on the season, in line with his 12-year major league record of 38-65. He got his nickname in 1934 while pitching for the Brooklyn Dodgers against the Phillies in Baker Bowl. Dodger manager, Casey Stengel hung the moniker on him after hearing the boom of several linedrives off the rightfield wall, and a resounding Boom when Beck fired the ball against the wall when Casey came to remove him from the game.
On the 11th hour of the 11th month, the Phillies surrendered once again, and traded Kirby Higbe to the Brooklyn Dodgers for three players and $100,000.