Friday, January 22, 2016

Only St. Louisan (Browns or Cards) to Get a Complete Game Win in his 1st MLB Appearance

Affton-born Ed Albrecht's CG debut on October 2 was only a rain-shortened 5-inning job. But it still counts as a complete game. It came in the 2nd game of a Sunday doubleheader on the last day of the 1949 season, between the Browns (who finished 44 games out) and the White Sox (34 GB). Albrecht allowed 3 runs but only 1 hit, a 2-run triple by Jim Baumer that followed a pair of walks. (That hit by the 18-year-old Baumer -- called up from class B despite hitting .218 in his first pro season -- gave him 4 hits in 10 trips for the year. He would not play in the majors again for 12 seasons, when he made a brief appearance with the '61 Reds.)

Bill DeWitt Sr. was the owner of the team in 1949.

To realize the local significance of this feat, imagine Max Scherzer had been signed by the Cardinals and pitched a one hitter and a complete game in his major league debut, a home game.

The 9,000 or so fans who turned out for the doubleheader at Sportsman's Park pushed the season attendance past the 270,000 barrier, and they likely witnessed a MLB first: Browns manager Zack Taylor used 9 different pitchers, each for exactly 1 inning. Since 1919, no other team has used more than 6 pitchers for exactly 1 inning in a 9-inning game.

Those Browns fans also got to see rookie star Roy Sievers go 5 for 5 in the first game, pushing his BA from .297 to .305, which helped him win the AL Rookie of the Year award. Sievers would collect over 1,700 hits in the majors, but that was his only 5-hit game.

All-in-all, Bill DeWitt gave the crowd their money's-worth.  An eventful last day of the season.  And two-for-one.  And only .24 inches of rain to suffer through to end the last game (obviously a hair-trigger on the head umpire's part with two teams so far out of the pennant race).

In an odd coincidence, Albrecht's ERA in both of his major league seasons was exactly the same as his career ERA of 5.40!

Brownie Ed Albrecht pitched a complete game 1-hitter
 in his big-league debut in front of the hometown fans

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Definitive Frank Saucier article

Frank Saucier's brief but memorable career now commemorated on a custom card

Frank Saucier had one of professional baseball’s most unusual careers. He was a true minor league superstar who could not carry that success into the major leagues and who is best remembered for the time he was lifted for a pinch-hitter.

His career was never marked with a baseball card issue. After reading about him in contemporary Sporting News accounts, I decided to create a custom card for him.

For the 1950 season, The Sporting News selected Frank Saucier, an outfielder in the St. Louis Browns system, as its Minor League Player of the Year.

Saucier’s selection was based on his .343 batting average with the San Antonio Missions, the Browns’ Class AA team in the Texas League. Saucier’s mark was tops in the circuit.

The accompanying photo in the Jan. 3, 1951, issue was bracketed with the headline, “Mr. Slug,” and the tagline “Missions’ Mighty Mauler”.

TSN opined that the perennially cash-strapped owners of the Browns, Bill and Charley DeWitt, could “put this 18-karat gold prospect on the auction block and come away with a tidy sum. Although he has never played in a major league game,” the paper continued, “Saucier probably would bring as much in the open market as any player in the organization.”

In writing the player profile of the POY, San Antonio sports writer Dick Peebles said, “If the Browns can get by for a couple of years and not part with Saucier, they may come up with the greatest individual drawing card they’ve had since George Sisler.”

Peebles described the 23-year-old Saucier as a “tall, handsome lad with the boyish face and crew haircut.” He said the kid had the attention of “everyone, all major league clubs included,” because of his “amazing ability to sock a baseball hard, often and to distant places.”

The Browns had signed Saucier in 1948 after he graduated with an engineering degree from tiny Westminster College in FultonMo. As a junior, Saucier had hit .519, a record in the Missouri College Athletic Union. The college’s baseball field is named for him.

He broke into pro ball with Belleville in the Class D Illinois State League as a catcher. He batted .357 that season.

He jumped to Class B ball with Wichita Falls for 1949. There he led the Big State League – and all of Organized Baseball – with a .446 average, winning the Hillerich & Bradsby Silver Bat award. That batting mark was 60 points higher than the runner-up.

His 1949 performance also earned him a trip to spring training with the Baltimore Orioles in 1950. The O’s weren’t a major league team then, they played in the Class AAA International League. Because the Orioles were well-stocked behind the plate, they sent Saucier to San Antonio.

Missions’ manager, former Browns middle infielder Don Heffner, was also good on catchers, but he needed a left fielder, so he began the process of converting Saucier to an outfielder.

Learning the ropes as a fly-chaser, as Peebles put it, Saucier’s batting suffered and he went hitless in his first 10 trips to the plate. He quickly overcame that slump, however, and by mid-season was belting ‘em to the tune of a .375 average.

A couple of nagging injuries (he knocked himself unconscious chasing a line drive into an outfield fence, injuring his shoulder) caused his batting average to drift down to .340, as well as to miss the Texas League All-Star Game, to which he had been an overwhelming choice for left fielder.

He finished the regular season with 151 hits, including 23 doubles, 12 triples (three of them successively in one game) and nine home runs.

In winning the Texas League playoffs and the subsequent Dixie Series against Nashville, champions of the Southern Association, Saucier hit .408 in 17 games.

Peebles compared Saucier physically to Ted Williams. Slightly over six feet tall, and weighing 175 pounds, Saucier swung an unusually light bat, generating power to all fields with a pair of strong wrists.

In the off-seasons, Saucier was employed by the George F. Martin Oil Co., Tulsa, where he was being groomed for an executive position. Despite his success on the ballfield, Saucier was quoted as saying that he wasn’t sure he wanted to make a career of playing baseball.

Saucier was married during an off day in the Dixie Series in 1950, and honeymooned inVenezuela, where he played winter ball.

The Browns claimed his contract for 1951, intending to bring him to spring training, where St. Louismanager Zack Taylor would convert him to a first baseman.

Holding out for a significant cash bonus, Saucier refused to report to the Browns and on April 17, was put on the suspended player list for failure to report and sign a contract. Unlike many ballplayers in that era, Saucier had options.

An oil well in which he had an interest came in a gusher and Saucier was doing well working the oil fields around OkmulgeeOkla. He kept his hand in baseball by helping coach the local American Legion team.

One of the first things on Bill Veeck’s things-to-do list when he acquired control of the St. Louis Browns midway through the 1951 season was to come to terms with erstwhile minor league batting champion and then-current Oklahoma oilman Frank Saucier.

In the days just prior to and just after his assuming ownership of the cellar-dwelling and attendance-challenged Brownies on July 5, Veeck had circulated through the grandstand and bleachers at Sportsman’s Park to seek fan input on what they wanted from the team.

Repeatedly he was asked about the status of Saucier. Veeck said at least half the fans he spoke with asked what he was going to do about the holdout.

Veeck got on the phone on the night of July 4 and at 1:30 a.m., finally tracked Saucier down at the home of his parents in WashingtonMo. Veeck urged Saucier to hop into a car with his wife and come to St. Louis.

When Saucier demurred, Veeck told him to sit tight and he (Veeck) would be right out. He hired a limousine and driver and an hour later he was sitting in the Saucier’s living room. An hour after that he had persuaded Saucier to agree to terms. By 4:30 a.m., Veeck was on his way back to St. Louis where later that day he dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s to formalize transfer of the team.

Veeck had recognized that getting Saucier into a Browns’ uniform would energize the fan base and help him improve on the team’s miserable gate showing of just 108,000 paid attendance at the all-star break.

“I like Saucier’s attitude,” Veeck was quoted, “He likes to play ball, has a lot of confidence in himself but is quite reserved in discussing his own ability. I’ve watched him work out and I like him more every time I see him swing that bat.”

Bringing Saucier into the fold might not have guaranteed that the Browns could improve on their 23.5 game deficit in the American League but it would make the turnstiles hum.

It was the same motivation Veeck had in his stealth campaign to bring Satchel Paige back into the major leagues. Veeck had first brought Paige into Organized Baseball while he was owner of the Cleveland Indians in 1948. The ageless pitcher was instrumental in the Indians’ World’s Championship that season. After Veeck was forced to sell the team in his divorce settlement in 1949, Paige had returned to lucrative barnstorming, which baseball experts speculated had netted him $50,000 a year.

In 1951, Abe Saperstein, who owned both the Harlem Globetrotters and the Chicago American Giants of the Negro American League, had convinced Paige to forsake the road for a berth on his team. Veeck was almost certainly behind this tie-up as it gave him access to Paige’s services at a moment’s notice. It was no coincidence that when Veeck put together his ownership group for the purchase of the Browns, Saperstein was one of the team’s 16 stockholders.

Saucier made his major league debut against the Yankees on July 21, grounding out as a pinch-hitter. His first start came in left field the next day in the first game of a doubleheader. He grounded out twice, struck out and walked in four tips to the plate; he also made two errors in left field.

Veeck appeared nonplussed, “I’m positive Saucier will hit for us,” he said. “I saw him enough in the Texas League and he’ll hit plenty to all fields. And don’t forget, this is his spring training period,” Veeck alibied.

Just as often happens with phenoms in their first big league “spring training,” Saucier failed to live up to expectations. Whether it was because of the long holdout, the fact that his oil interests robbed him of focus and ambition to make a mark in the major leagues, or reported nagging injuries,  Saucier went down in flames.

For the rest of the season, Saucier was used mainly as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner.

On Aug 7, he garnered his only major league hit, a pinch-hit double off the Indians’ Mike Garcia in a 5-1 Browns loss.

He got only his second start in the second game of the Aug. 19 doubleheader at Detroit. After opening the game in right field, he was due to lead off the bottom of the first when he was lifted for a pinch-hitter: Eddie Gaedel.

Frank Saucier was the unwitting fall guy in Veeck’s most famous stunt. In his book, Veeck, as in Wreck, the Browns owner said, “This is the only part of the gag I feel bad about. Frank was a great kid with great promise and all he is remembered for is being the guy the midget batted for.”

A week later he got is third and final start. His lifetime major league record stands at 18 games, with 14 at-bats. Besides his lone hit, he walked three times, one of them bringing in his only RBI and leading to his only big league run. He struck out four times and was hit by a pitch once.

Saucier’s baseball career came to an end in 1952 when he was called back into service for two years with the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. During World War II, Saucier had served nearly three years. At age 18 he had been one of the youngest officers ever commissioned by the Navy. He served on the U.S.S. Barnstable and was part of the Navy’s V-12 rocket program.

After the Korean War, Saucier returned to civilian life, first in the oil business, then as vice president of the Amarillo (Tex.) Savings and Loan Assn.

Publicly, Saucier took his role in the Gaedel debacle gracefully. Teammates, however, have since told baseball researchers that he was not happy with that legacy.

Frank Saucier’s baseball legacy did not include any card issues. My 1951 Bowman-style custom card is an attempt to rectify that oversight. If the background of the card looks familiar to vintage card collectors, it is because it was seen on teammate Ned Garver’s card in the ’51 Bowman set.

I wonder how Frank pronounced his patronym? In a 1950 article in TSN, the pronunciation was phonetically given as "saw-shay." In poking around a genealogy site, I discovered that different branches of the family pronounce it: a) so-sure, b) so-shay, and c) saw-see-yay. 

[Eds.  based on people with that name in the St. Louis area, plus Frank's own contentment with our pronunciation when we at the fan club speak to him on the phone, we believe the name is pronounced "so-'shay"].

Friday, January 8, 2016

Will we soon be saying "Remember the Rams?" as we've been saying for over 63 years, "Remember the Browns?"

Click on photo to enlarge.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Comments from George Baker

Baseball should be proud of Griffey and Piazza.  Griffey's plaque will be the first one showing an inductee in a Mariner cap.  A big deal in this part of the country.

It was nice to have a slight interruption in the constant Seahawk talk.


Some day, long after I have departed the planet, a new generation of baseball writers will look at the stats of Jackson, Rose, Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Clemons, Palmeiro, and perhaps a few others and wonder what all the fuss was about.  They will be immune to such current characteristic flaws as boozing, womanizing, PED use, and numerous other shortcomings.  (and they will not hold biases against great DH's) 

This society is culturally going downhill.  America will soon likely elect a female President whose advisors make Richard Nixon's personnel look like Sunday School teachers.  Today's flaws will be tomorrow's rites of passage.

The younger baseball writers will no doubt have been involved in these kinds of activities themselves.  They will not blackball players who have the stats for induction. 

Most, if not all, of the players named above will be inducted into the Hall.

Bagwell, Raines, Hoffman, and maybe a few others who barely missed the needed percentages this year will eventually make the HOF. 
Remember that it took four years of balloting to select Piazza to the Hall.

From Bill Rogers

And what about Ken Williams and Roy Sievers in the Hall?

Monday, January 4, 2016

Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas Greetings from Fan Club Member, David Barr . . .

While there are many great Christmas baseball names like:

Steve Christmas
Lee Tinsley
JT Snow 
Jamie Carroll 
Rob Deer

I like our own! Dick Starr

Happy Holidays all.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Oriole Fans Get Short End of Team History

A Browns fan recently contacted the Baltimore Orioles this past September (Sept. 2015) to see if they would have any interest in a baseball loaded with autographs of Browns players.  Here's the response they received.

" -----Original Message-----
From: Orioles Customer Service <>
To: JS <>
Sent: Thu, Sep 17, 2015 12:05 pm
Subject: Re: bal - Other - None - Autographed baseball

Dear Mr. ***

Thank you for contacting the Orioles. Our collections begins with the transfer of the Browns to Baltimore in 1954 so we do not include anything from before the team moved. 

Fan Services Team- Em Mar

Baltimore Orioles
p: 888.848.BIRD l f: 410.547.6279
333 West Camden St. l  Baltimore , MD 21201"

Monday, December 7, 2015

Browns as World Series Champs

Fan Club member, Jim Keddy, writes:  "I have just read a Bio of  Billy Sunday. He played for the Chicago White Stockings in 1886 against the St. Louis Browns, Champions of the American Association for the World Championship . . . . and the Browns won.


So that being the case , 2016 will mark the 130th Anniversary of the Browns winning the W.S. (as it was in that day). Who said that the Browns were never the Series Champs. Look it up, or check it out. Let it be known.

In 1886, the St. Louis Browns won the American Association championship with a record of 93–46, while the Chicago White Stockings won the National League championship with a record of 90–34. The two teams agreed to meet each other in a best-of-seven pre-modern-era World Series, with the winner taking all the prize money. It was the second straight year that the Browns and White Stockings met in the World Series The six games of the series were played on six consecutive days.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Radio legend to present on "the teen scene" of the '50s and '60s, in the era of "Elvis, the Beatles, Ike and Tina Turner and the St. Louis Browns."

Radio Legend Johnny Rabbitt Promotes 'Dance Through the Decades' Centennial Event

Nov. 10, 2015
Radio Legend Johnny Rabbitt Promotes 'Dance Through the Decades'
'Dances Through the Decades' celebrates the centennial through the language of dance with a variety of performances and events.
Friday's all-day "Dance Through the Decades" event will celebrate the centennial through the language of dance with a variety of performers, lectures and other interactive events.
One presenter will be Ron Elz, the radio legend who will present on "the teen scene" of the '50s and '60s, in the era of Elvis, the Beatles, Ike and Tina Turner and the St. Louis Browns. Hear a radio promo [mp3] of Friday's events in Elz's "Johnny Rabbitt" character.
See a full lineup of "Dance Through the Decades" events, which include presentations by Webster faculty, staff, students and community legends like Elz. 
Earlier this week, Department of Dance chair and assistant professorJames Robey was on KMOX to talk about Friday's events, including his own presentation with students on modern dance at 2 p.m. 
About Johnny Rabbitt
This year marks the 61st year in radio for Elz. The St. Louis icon first broadcast in St. Louis as rock and roll DJ Johnny Rabbit in 1962. For the past seven years, “Johnny” has hosted KMOX’s Saturday night “Route 66” playing the big hits of the '50s through the '70s. He adds interesting bits of information about St. Louis and its history throughout the program.
Read a 2014 St. Louis Magazine profile of Elz here, and a "walk down memory lane" with him from theLadue News in 2015 here.
Elz's knowledge of St. Louis is detailed and deep. He grew up on Flora Place in the St. Louis Shaw neighborhood and has lived in the St. Louis Hills area for 40 years. He has written two books on St. Louis trivia and is working on two more about St. Louis.
He is an inductee of the St. Louis Radio Hall of Fame, but Ron has earned what quite possibly is an even greater honor: Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, the nationally known St. Louis “must go,” offers the Johnny Rabbitt Chocolate Covered Cherry Custard. This concoction, it turns out, is another St. Louis favorite.

Monday, November 2, 2015

George Walden, Last Browns Front Office Staff

George F. Walden a lifetime member of the St. Louis Browns Historical Society, died Saturday, October 24, 2015 at age 87.
A professional baseball writer and scout, he was inducted into "The Midwest Professional Baseball Scouts Association Hall of Fame". George worked in the Browns front office where he wrote and distributed news releases for the Browns and their 12 farm clubs. He also served as the clubs statistician, yearbook editor, tryout camp and minor league spring training camp publicist. He is believed to have been the  last living member of the Browns front office.
George worked as Baseball Scout for the Kansas City (Oakland) A's, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals, and the New York Mets. George scouted and was instrumental in signing Jason Isringhausen with the New York Mets. George leaves behind many friends and a loving family.

Fun World Series Factoid Overlooked by the Media . . .

Contratulations Royals . . .

The original New York Metropolitans Major League franchise won their 1st pennant in 1884 in the American Association. The franchise dissolved in 1888 and was replaced by . . . wait for it . . . the 1888 Kansas City Cowboys.

Their star player was future Hall of Famer "Sliding Billy" Hamilton, shown on his 1888 baseball card, who still ranks 3rd among all-time stolen base leaders (behind only Henderson & Brock).

The American Association vanished into Major League Baseball history after the 1891 season, pre-dating the birth of the American League by 10 years.