75th anniversary: Carl Hubbell finally losesby Chris Jaffe
May 31, 2012
75 years ago today, a nice run for Hall of Fame starting pitcher Carl Hubbell finally came to an end. On May 31, 1937, the Meal Ticket, as people called the Giants ace, lost to the Brooklyn Dodgers, ending a winning streak of 24 straight decisions for him. That’s still the longest winning streak for any single pitcher in baseball history.
On July 13, 1936, Hubbell was the tough luck loser in a 1-0 decision to the Cubs. Four days later, Hubbell picked up a win, and by the end of the year had 16 consecutive victories. He began 1937 with a mark of 8-0 before his number finally came up on May 31, 1937.
From the beginning to the end, here were Hubbell’s pitching statistics: 27 G, 22 GS, 19 CG, 2 SHO, 207.2 IP, 159 H, 45 R, 41 ER, 38 BB, 103 K, 9 HR, 2 saves, and a 1.78 ERA. Oh, and of course a 24-0 record.
Hubbell left the game trailing only once in this span. On July 26, 1936, with the winning streak only at three games, the Reds tagged him for four runs in seven innings for a 4-2 advantage over New York. However, the bullpen held Cincinnati for the next two innings and in the bottom of the ninth, the Giants rallied for three runs and a 5-4 triumph.
Hubbell’s Game Score in that near miss was 43, his worst total in the stretch and one of only three times his Game Score was below 50. (In fact, it was one of only three starts with a Game Score below 58). Hubbell had fortune shine his way, but he was also doing a damn good job.
Not only was Hubbell damn good, but he was also damn consistent. Only four times in his 22 starts did he allow more than two earned runs. That ain’t bad. In half of his starts, the opposing clubs scored one run or less.
Consistent also describes Hubbell’s offensive support. The Giants rarely lit the world on fire in Hubbell’s starts but could be counted to do their share. They plated more than six runs only three in the 22 starts, but they were held to less than three runs only twice—and Hubbell won both of those games, 2-1. They usually scored 3-5 runs. The overall offensive production was 106 runs in 22 starts (4.82 R/G), which is really nice but nothing out of this world.
Consistently terrific pitching combined with consistently quality offense combined with another factor to make Hubbell’s streak happen—good timing.
On May 4, 1937, Hubbell allowed a streak-worst six runs (only three earned), but that was one of the days the Giants bats really erupted, and he won 7-6. On Aug. 26, 1936 Hubbell allowed a streak-worst five earned runs, but the Giants scored just enough, 6-5 for the win. Twice he surrendered four runs, but the Giants won both games, 5-4. In all, there were nine one-run victories.
Some will say it’s better to be lucky than good, but Hubbell was lucky and good. He was lucky and great.
But that was all before May 31, 1937. Brooklyn tagged him for a pair of runs in the first, another pair in the third, and when they pushed another run past him in the fourth it was time for Hubbell to hit the showers. It was his shortest outing in over a year. Brooklyn kept pouring it on, assuring that Hubbell wouldn’t be saved by a no-decision. The Giants lost, 10-3.
His winnings streak no more, Hubbell initiated a four game losing streak, something he hadn’t done since April 1932.
In many ways, the winning streak was Hubbell’s last hurrah. He’d been among the best pitchers in baseball for the last several years. From Opening Day 1933 until the end of the streak, Hubbell was 101-42 with an terrific 2.34 ERA. But beginning with May 31, 1937, Hubbell was 14-8 with a pedestrian 3.70 ERA for the rest of 1937. That’s roughly what he did for the next several years.
Today marks not only the 75th anniversary of the end of Hubbell’s losing streak, but the end of Hubbell’s prime.
Aside from that, many other events today celebrate an anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that occurred X-thousand days ago today). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you just want to skim the lists:
4,000 days since Mike Piazza enjoys his best game ever, according to WPA. He’s 2-for-3 with two walks, and a homer run and two RBIs as the Mets top the Yankees, 8-7.
4,000 days since Blake Stein fans eight consecutive batters.
5,000 days since Danny Darwin appears in his last game. Darwin has thrown the most innings by any pitcher in the All-Star game era (1933-onward) without making an All-Star selection.
6,000 days since Hall of Fame umpire Al Barlick dies at age 80. He umped in the NL from 1940-72 and reputedly had the loudest ball/strike call in the game.
7,000 days since the Twins release starting pitcher Cory Lidle.
8,000 days since Whitey Herzog resigns as Cardinals manager, ending his dugout career.
8,000 days since Andy Hawkins pitches 11.2 IP for the Yankees. It’s the last time the Yankees have had a pitcher record more than 27 outs in a game.
8,000 days since Jack Morris has one of the greatest games of his career. He allows just one base runner, a one-out first inning single. That runner is immediately nailed in a GIDP, too.
9,000 days since the Tigers narrowly top the Twins 8-7 in Game Three of the 1987 ALCS. Detroit scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to win it.
9,000 days since in Game Four of the NLCS, the Giants top the Cardinals 4-2, as Jeffrey Leonard has homered in every postseason game so far.
20,000 days since the best-known relief stint in Dodgers history, according to WPA. Ed Roebuck pitches nine scoreless inning out of the bullpen for a 1.132 WPA.
30,000 days since 1950s star pitcher Johnny Antonelli is born.
40,000 days since Ernie Shore, Red Sox pitcher from the 1910s, is born.
1859 An amateur ball club is organized in Philadelphia, one of the game’s first. Philadelphia will be an early hub for the game.
1869 It’s the first rainout in professional baseball, as a game between the Cincinnati Red Stockings and Antioch Nine is postponed due to the weather.
1884 Oscar Walker of the Brooklyn Dodgers becomes the first person in franchise history to get six hits in one game.
1892 A Cubs win puts manager Cap Anson’s record 387 games over .500 (924-537), his all-time personal peak.
1897 Fred Tenney of the Braves gets six hits in one game.
1902 The Indians sign free agents Nap Lajoie and Bill Bernhard.
1914 White Sox hurler Joe Benz tosses a no-hitter for a 6-1 win over Cleveland.
1920 All-time great pitcher Pete Alexander hits a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th for a 3-2 Cubs win over the Reds.
1921 For the only time in his career (unless he had one before 1918), Hall of Fame pitcher Herb Pennock fans more than eight in a game, when he whiffs 10 for Boston against the A’s.
1923 Yankees owner buys two more sets of uniforms so his players can wear clean outfits for each game. This is unprecedented.
1924 Hall of Fame pitcher Red Ruffing appears in his first game.
1925 Great hitting second baseman Rogers Hornsby manages his first game. He’ll manage on-and-off into the 1950s.
1927 Homer Summa of the Indians hits into a walk-off triple play versus the Tigers.
1927 Jimmie Foxx launches his first career home run.
1927 Johnny Neun of the Tigers pulls off an unassisted triple play. One occurred the day before, but none will occur for 40 more years.
1930 Dave Bancroft, Hall of Fame shortstop, appears in a final game.
1932 Hall of Fame outfielder Heinie Manush hits his 100th career triple. It takes him just 1,238 games.
1932 Connie Mack becomes the first manager to ever helm 5,000 games today. His record at this point: 2,595-2,345.
1932 Hall of Fame hitter Harry Heilmann plays in his final contest.
1934 Heinie Manush joins the 2,000 hit club, and he does it in style, going 4-for-6 on the day. (He’d previously gone 4-for-5 in his 1,000 hit club game).
1935 First baseman Bill Terry hits the 16th inside the park home run of his game.
1936 Dizzy Dean allows a career worst 19 hits in one game. He pitches 12 innings and the Cardinals win anyway, 8-7 over the Reds.
1937 Long John Reilly, 1880s batter who hit for three cycles, dies.
1938 Lou Gehrig play in his 2,000th consecutive game played.
1943 Paul Dean, pitcher and brother of Dizzy, appears in his last game. Paul was a talented pitcher who blew his arm out.
1944 Al Unser blasts his only home run of the year, and boy is it ever a good one—a pinch-hit grand slam home run for a 6-2 Tigers win over the Yankees.
1947 Jimmie Wilson, a manager with a horrible lifetime win-loss record, dies.
1948 Lou Boudreau hits his only career grand slam.
1949 Indians fan Charley Lupica climbs up a flagpole, settles on a platform, and announces he won’t come back down until the defending world champions Indians are in first place. They’re in seventh at the time. They never get to first, but owner Bill Veeck talks him down at the end of the season.
1950 Washington trades Eddie Robinson to the White Sox for three players.
1955 The Kansas City A’s sign bonus baby third baseman Clete Boyer.
1959 Rookie pitcher Jim Perry allows the first home run of his career, walk-off shot. He’ll last until 1975 and win over 200 games but never allow another walk-off shot.
1960 Yankee catcher Yogi Berra has a miserable day, going 0-for-4 with a K and three GIDPs. The Yankees lose, 3-2 to Baltimore.
1962 Robin Roberts has his 200th career loss, giving him a career record of 234-200. Since his 100th loss, he’s gone 75-100.
1964 It’s the longest doubleheader ever, as the Mets and Giants tangle for 32 innings over nine hours and 52 minutes. The second game goes 23 frames before San Francisco wins, 8-6. Gaylord Perry pitches 10 innings of scoreless relief for the Giants in a no-decision, earning the best known WPA score ever for a Giants reliever. It’s the first of a lively ball era record 40 times Perry gets at least 28 outs in one stint. Willie Mays plays three inning at shortstop in the contest.
1965 The Reds win, putting their all-time franchise record to .500 (6,129-6,129). It’s been over .500 ever since.
1966 Steve Hargan becomes the last Indians reliever to ever toss at least nine innings out of the bullpen when he goes 10 innings.
1967 Atlanta purchases Charlie Lau from the Orioles.
1967 Kenny Lofton, terrific centerfielder, is born.
1967 Two quality pitchers make their debut in the same game: Pat Dobson and Mike Marshall.
1968 Don Drysdale tosses his fifth consecutive shutout. He nearly doesn’t as he hits a batter with the bass loaded, but umpire Harry Wendlestadt rules the batter didn’t try to move out of the way of the ball. Though rarely enforced, it is in the rules. Drysdale is able to keep his streak going.
1970 The White Sox top the Red Sox 22-13, in a game featuring 40 hits (24 by the White Sox). Luis Aparicio and Walt Williams have five hits for the White Sox.
1970 Rico Carty of the Braves hits three home runs in one game.
1973 The Cubs get 10 runs in one inning against the Astros – all are unearned runs. They begin their big inning with two outs, and a error by Doug Rader begins the fun.
1973 Brian Downing makes his big league debut.
1974 The Padres acquire Horace Clarke from the Yankees.
1975 For the fifth and final time in his career, Cesar Tovar gets the only hit in a one-hitter. That’s a record Eddie Milner later ties. He gets a sixth inning single.
1976 New Braves owner Ted Turner announces over the team’s public address system that if the Braves lose today (and they do) that all 2,994 in attendance can come back the next day as his guests.
1977 Joe Torre manages his first game.
1978 Tony Perez hits his 300th home run.
1978 Jim Fregosi plays in his last game.
1978 Seattle signs free agent Tom Paciorek.
1979 Don Sutton allows 13 hits in a game—all singles. He gets the win, as the Dodgers top the Giants, 12-10. Sutton has the worst Game Score for any starting pitcher in the 1970s who got the won: 14. His line: 6.2 IP, 13 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 3 BB, and 5 K.
1979 Pat Underwood makes his big league debut as starting pitcher—and the opposing starter is his brother Tom Underwood. Pat wins, 1-0.
1980 Gary Carter hits the second of his two career inside the park home runs.
1981 Star pitcher Jake Peavy is born.
1983 Yankees owner George Steinbrenner is suspended one week due to his criticism of umpires.
1983 The Yankees release starting pitcher Doyle Alexander.
1983 Ryne Sandberg hits the first of his five career grand slams. He won’t get another until 1991.
1986 For the only time in his career, Wade Boggs goes 5-for-5.
1988 Dave Stieb tosses the first of his five complete game one-hitters (all of which pre-dates his no-hitter).
1988 Yankee pitcher Neil Allen goes nine innings in a relief outing. It’s the last time any big league pitcher has gone that long in one relief stint. He enters the game in the first and makes it to the end for a 5-0 win over the A’s.
1988 Ozzie Smith hits his first home run since the 1985 NLCS.
1989 John Wetteland makes his big league debut.
1991 Ken Griffey Sr. appears in his last big league game.
1991 The Mets trade second baseman Tim Teufel to the Padres for shortstop Gary Templeton.
1993 Greg Maddux wins his 100th game.
1994 Houston releases relief pitcher Mitch Williams.
1995 Wade Boggs hits the only pinch-hit homer of his career. It’s one he works for too, as it’s an 11-pitch at bat that results in a three-run home run.
1996 Frank Thomas reaches base for the 57th consecutive game, his longest streak.
1996 In an Indians-Brewers brawl, Albert Belle flattens Fernando Vina with a forearm blow that breaks his nose. Julian Tavarez throws umpire Joe Brinkman to the ground in it.
1997 Ila Borders becomes the firs woman to play in the minors, as a reliever for the St. Paul Saints. She allows three runs without recording an out.
1997 Jose Cruz Jr. makes his big league debut.
1999 Veteran umpire Frank Pulli takes it upon himself to introduce instant reply to baseball. He uses a TV camera to rule that Cliff Floyd’s homer was not, in fact, a home run.
2002 The Phillies all-time franchise record bottoms out to its all-time low: 1,243 games under .500 (8,360-9,603). They tied it five days later but never “better” it.
2002 The Royals hit three consecutive home runs in the 11th inning.
2003 The Cubs release reliever Rod Beck.
2003 Matt Williams appears in his last game.
2004 Juan Gonzalez, veteran slugger, appears in his last game.
2006 The Astros and Roger Clemens agree on terms for a one-year deal.
2006 Mike Matheny appears in his final game.
2006 James Shields makes his big league debut.
2006 The Royals replace GM Allard Baird with Dayton Moore.
2007 The Giants trade reliever Armando Benitez and cash to the Marlins.
2007 Roy Halladay wins his 100th game for a 100-50 record.
2008 Manny Ramirez hits his 500th career home run.
2008 Tony LaRussa becomes the first person to mange 2,000 games for the Cardinals. (Red Schoendienst managed 1,999 games for them). This makes LaRussa all-time franchise leader in games managed.
2010 Gustavo Chacin homers in his only at bat of the season. He’s only the fifth player to ever do that.
2010 Alex Rodriguez hits his 20th career grand slam.
2010 Ken Griffey Jr. appears in his final career game.
2010 The Tigers designate one-time phenom Dontrelle Willis for assignment.
2010 Esmerling Vasquez has a nightmare scenario for a pitcher – he performs the rare walk-off balk for a 5-4 Arizona loss to the Dodgers.
History instructor by day, statnerd by night, Chris Jaffe leads one of the most exciting double lives imaginable; with the exception of every other double life possible to imagine. Despite his lack of comic-book-hero-worthiness, Chris enjoys farting around with this stuff. His new book, Evaluating Baseball's Managers is available for order. Chris welcomes responses to his articles via e-mail. Oh, and now he's on twitter.