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Random Game Callback, July 29, 1939
2006-07-29 03:59
by Bob Timmermann

The Cincinnati Reds got some good pitching in the first game and some big hitting in the second game as they swept a doubleheader at Crosley Field against the Philadelphia Phillies, 3-0 and 9-2. A crowd of over 17,000 came to see the first place Reds stretch their lead in the NL to 11 1/2 games over Pittsburgh.

The Phillies, who were in the midst of one of their worst stretches of play, were managed by Doc Prothro. Prothro tried Hugh Mulcahy in the opener and Ike Pearson in the nightcap. Mulcahy would finish his career with a record of 45-89 and was nicknamed "Losing Pitcher." The Reds, under the direction of Bill McKechnie, started Junior Thompson in the opener and Whitey Moore in the nightcap.

Thompson, who started just 11 times in 1939, pitched a complete game four-hitter against the Phillies. Thompson also had an RBI double in the first game to score catcher Ernie Lombardi with the game's first run. First baseman Frank McCormick drove in another and another run scored on an error.

In the second game, the Phillies managed to briefly hold on to a lead when Cincinnati second baseman Bill Werber dropped a throw from catcher Willard Hershberger on a steal attempt and shortstop George Scharein was credited with a steal of home.

But in the fifth, Cincinnati broke through for five runs on just four hits. Then in the sixth and eighth innings, shortstop Billy Myers would hit two-run homers, scoring right fielder Nino Bongiovanni each time.

1939 would be a big year for Cincinnati as the Reds won their first pennant in 20 years. The Cardinals would get hot down the stretch, but the Reds had enough of a cushion that the cruised home with a 4 1/2 game edge and a 97-57 record. The Yankees would sweep the Reds in the World Series.

The Reds placed seven players on the NL All-Star team: Lombardi, McCormick, second baseman Lonny Frey, outfielder Ival Goodman, and pitchers Paul Derringer, Johnny Vander Meer, and Bucky Walters. Walters would win the NL MVP award with a 27-11 record and a 2.29 ERA. Walters tied with Claude Passeau for the league in strikeouts with 137. Derringer finished third in the voting and McCormick was fourth.

In a sign of the times for baseball in 1939, Stan Hack of Chicago and Lee Handley tied for the NL lead in stolen bases with 17. The Cubs led the league in steals with 61. But there wasn't much power either as league leader New York hit just 116 home runs and league leader Johnny Mize had just 28.

The Phillies did not fare as well in 1939. They finished in last place with a 45-106 record, 50 1/2 games behind the Reds. The team's star was outfielder Morrie Arnovich, who batted .324, but hit just five home runs. No Phillies player hit more than nine home runs. The lowest ERA of any pitcher with enough innings to qualify was Boom-Boom Beck at 4.73. Beck earned his nickname for giving up numerous line drives off the wall. Beck got his career extended as he avoided military service in World War II. And the Phillies did use a pitcher named Jennings Poindexter.

Prothro would manage the Phillies for three seasons and won just 138 games while losing 320 for a winning percentage of .301. The Phillies would lose over 100 games from 1938-1942. Then they lost 90 and 92 games in 1943 and 1944 before cratering to 108 losses in 1945.

Sources: New York Times, Retrosheet,

2006-07-29 10:08:54
1.   das411
Hey Bob, wasn't this also the year that Vander Meer became the only person in MLB history to pull off a consecutive no-hitter streak?
2006-07-29 14:55:21
2.   das411
--poke with stick--

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