Mark Koenig Made His Mark On Game

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Pregame Pepper

Did You Know?

Charlie Morton threw 16 pitches in World Series Game 1 after breaking his fibula on a Yuli Gurriel line-drive . . .

Atlanta trade pickup Jorge Soler, who had led off 16 times in his eight-year career, not only became the first man to lead off a World Series with a home run but did against a pitcher who had never allowed one . . .

Soler and Adam Duvall, who also homered for the Braves in Game 1 against the Astros, are the first teammates to homer in a World Series game after joining that team in midseason trades . . .

Two of Jose Altuve’s hits in the AL Championship Series tied games . . .

After 22 years without a World Series in Atlanta, the average price of a Truist Park ticket for the 2021 Fall Classic is an astronomical $2,691, according to WalletHub . . .

The average TV viewership for the 2020 World Series (Dodgers v. Rays) was a record-low 9.79 million, down 30 per cent from 2019.

Leading Off

[Editor’s Note: The author’s new book about the Yankees, The Least Among Them, was just released by Artemesia Publishing to outstanding reviews.  This passage is an excerpt from the full text.  Paul's award-winning novel Scattering the Ashes also has many references to baseball and the New York Yankees.]

Mark Koenig and The Babe’s Called Shot 

By Paul Semendinger, Ed.D.

Mark Koenig was the Yankees’ shortstop during the era of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.  Much of history has forgotten Koenig but he played a significant role in one of baseball's most legendary stories.

Koenig was the Yankees’ starting shortstop throughout the late 1920s. He usually served as the number two batter in the lineup, hitting right in front of Babe Ruth. But, in 1930, Koenig got off to a slow start. By the end of May, he was batting only .230 and he was traded, along with future Hall-of-Famer Waite Hoyt, to the Detroit Tigers. 

That began Koenig’s new life as a nomad. He eventually bounced between four teams over the remaining six years of his career, but in that time he influenced one pennant race and, in an indirect way, one of the most legendary moments in the history of baseball. 

In 1932, Koenig was starring in the minor leagues when his contract was purchased in early August by the Chicago Cubs who were looking for infield depth because of a shooting incident that involved one of their players. 

The Cubs’ shortstop in 1932 was Billy Jurges. In a situation that most likely influenced author Bernard Malamud when he wrote The Natural, Jurges was shot by a showgirl, Violet Valli, after she entered Jurges’ hotel room and was rebuffed by him. 

Valli brandished a .25-caliber pistol and as Jurges struggled for the gun, Valli fired three shots, injuring herself and Jurges, who sustained injuries to his left hand, ribs, and right shoulder. Interestingly, Jurges never pressed charges and Valli went on to some fame in Chicago as this incident brought her celebrity status. 

As it relates to baseball, the Cubs, in the heat of a pennant race, needed a shortstop and called upon Koenig to fill that position.  

Koenig appeared in his first game for Chicago on August 14. That day, the Cubs sat atop the National League by the tiniest of margins. Within days, Koenig’s great play cemented him as the team’s shortstop. Overall, he batted .353 and was instrumental in the Cubs winning the NL pennant. But, when it came time for the Cubs players to vote on player shares for the 1932 World Series, they elected to offer Mark Koenig only a half-share of their earnings.  

That outraged the Yankees players who felt that the Cubs wouldn’t have even won the pennant if not for their former teammate. When the World Series began, the Yankees, most notably Babe Ruth, taunted the Cubs by calling them, among other things, cheapskates. The Cubs gave the taunts right back, especially targeting Ruth. The name-calling continued through the first two games, which were won by the Yankees. 

The third game of the World Series was played in Chicago. Wrigley Field was packed, the fans were eager to see a victory. Their beloved team had not won a World Series since 1908. Chicago was thirsting for a world championship. 

In the top of the first inning, Ruth hit a three-run home run to give the Yankees a convincing lead just as the game was getting underway. The resilient Cubs battled back, even after Lou Gehrig hit a home run of his own. Aiding the Cubs comeback was a ball misplayed by Ruth in the outfield. By the end of the fourth inning, the game was knotted at four. 

During the game, fans and the Cubs players screamed and yelled pejoratives at Ruth. Lemons flew out of the stands at him when Ruth was in the outfield. By the time he came to bat with one out in the top of the fifth inning, the tumult was rising even more.  

Charlie Root was pitching for the Cubs. He got off to a fast start by throwing a called strike on Ruth. This brought louder screaming. Root missed the strike zone on his next two offerings but was able to even the count at two balls and two strikes after another called strike. By this point the ballpark was in a frenzy. The Cubs players were relentless in their attacks on Ruth, some even leaving the dugout to hurl their verbal attacks at the baseball legend. 

And then Babe Ruth pointed. Later some would swear he pointed to the mound as if to say, “You have only two strikes on me, I get one more.” But many others swear that he pointed to center field and indicated that he would hit the next pitched ball over the fence. Had Babe Ruth just called his next hit?  

What happened next is clear. Ruth hit Root’s pitch into the seats for a home run giving the Yankees a 5-4 lead. The blast was one of the longest ever hit at Wrigley Field. It was majestic and, considering the moment, absolutely amazing. That was the legendary “Called Shot.” 

Debate may rage about whether Ruth actually called his shot, but the results were obvious. He rose above the bench jockeying and slammed a home run.  

While the blast is still debated even today, there is contemporary evidence that Babe Ruth called his shot. That evening’s edition of the New York World Telegram had a headline that read, “RUTH CALLS SHOT AS HE PUTS HOMER NO.2 SIDE POCKET.”  

After Ruth’s long home run, Lou Gehrig batted and hit a home run of his own. These homers propelled the Yankees to victory. The next day, the Yankees finished off their World Series sweep.  

And thus, a legend was born, in part because some Cubs players didn’t vote a full World Series share to former Yankee Mark Koenig. 

Paul Semendinger, Ed.D., is an elementary school principal and is also the Editor-in-Chief of Start Spreading the News, a blog primarily about the Yankees.  At 53 years old, Paul pitched the game of his life last summer at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, helping his team win the tournament. Paul can be found on Twitter @DrPaulRSem.

Cleaning Up

By Dan Schlossberg

Though most of the baseball headlines this fall will concern the progress of labor negotiations forced by the Dec. 1 expiration of the Basic Agreement between owners and players, the Baseball Hall of Fame promises to gets its share of attention too.

It will make four separate announcements concerning players and personalities who would join members of the Class of 2022 elected by the Baseball Writers Association of America [BBWAA] in January.

The Golden Days Era Committee and the Early Baseball Era Committee will consider candidates on separate 10-member ballots, while single winners of the Ford C. Frick Award for outstanding broadcasting and the BBWAA Career Excellence Award (formerly the J.G. Taylor Spink Award) for journalistic achievement will all be announced at the Baseball Winter Meetings in early December.

Golden Days candidates — including umpires, executives, and managers as well as players — must have made an impact from 1950-69, while the Early Baseball nominees must have been prominent before 1950. Negro Leagues players will be considered.

To win election, candidates must receive at least 12 votes from 16-member panels of journalists and historians. That 75 per cent of the vote is the same required for players when they are up for election.

The three finalists for the BBWAA Career Excellence awards are the late Marty Noble of Newsday, Baseball America founder Allan Simpson, and ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian.

This year’s Frick award will go to one of eight nominees in the “Broadcast Beginnings” category. One of them, former Cincinnati Reds radio announcer Waite Hoyt, is already in the Hall of Fame gallery as a pitcher for the New York Yankees.

Eras Committee ballots have yet to be determined.

A boomlet for former Brooklyn Dodgers star Gil Hodges, who qualifies as a Golden Days candidate, would hardly be a shocker — he’s been widely regarded as one of the most overlooked players in voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

All winners will be announced at Disney Swan & Dolphin Hotel, site of the winter meetings, and enshrined during 2022 Induction Weekend in Cooperstown on July 24.

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ covers the game for forbes.com, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, Ball Nine, Here’s The Pitch, and Latino Sports. E.mail him at ballauthor@gmail.com.


Timeless Trivia

Late-starting games, endless commercials, and total absence of day games conspire to depress TV ratings for the World Series, which hasn’t come close to matching the 54.86 million viewers who watched the Philadelphia Phillies clinch the 1980 classic against the Kansas City Royals in Game 6 . . .

The last World Series game to draw a TV audience of 30 million was Game 7 of the 2002 series between two wild-cards, the Angels and the Giants (30.88 million) . . .

The scintillating 1-0, 10-inning Game 7 of the 1991 World Series (Braves vs. Twins) was seen by 50.3 million — but streaming and social media did not exist then . . .

By 2016, when the Chicago Cubs were en route to breaking a 108-year hex, the audience was 41 million with television and streaming combined . . .

FOX, home of the World Series since 2000, will pay $729 million a yea through 2028 for its broadcast rights package.


Know Your Editors

HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Brian Harl [bchrom831@gmail.com] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [nymfan97@gmail.com] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [ballauthor@gmail.com] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.

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