Friday, January 22, 2016

Only St. Louisan to Get a Complete Game Win in his 1st MLB Appearance for a St. Louis team

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 games out).

The doubleheader had a lot to commend itself: the first game would feature a stunt from the pitching mound never seen in a regulation baseball game before or since.  The second game would feature a start from a 20-yo rookie, a St. Louis native making his debut, one who had already pitched an incredible 332 innings in the minor leagues in 1949 (by comparison, the AL leader for innings pitched in '49 was the Red Sox' Mel Parnell with only 295.1 innings) and winning 29 of 41 decisions.  Yes, Virginia, if he won that start he would be a 30-game winner that season!

Albrecht allowed 3 runs but only 1 hit, a 2-run triple by Jim Baumer that followed a pair of walks as the Browns bested the Sox 5-3. (Jim Baumer is a story in itself.  Baumer was only 18-years-old and was the youngest player in baseball that year.  He was called up from class B in September by Chicago despite hitting only .218 in what was obviously his first pro season out of high school.  The triple he laced against Albrecht gave him 4 hits in 10 trips for the year.   A .400 hitter.  An auspicious start indeed.  But inexplicably, he would not play in the majors again for 12 seasons, when he was over 30 years old, making a brief appearance with the National League champion '61 Reds.  And then Baumer was done with baseball!)

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

To realize the local significance of this feat, imagine Max Scherzer from Parkway Central High School had been signed by the Cardinals and pitched a one hitter and a complete game in his major league debut, a home game.  (The crowd at new Busch Stadium would have gone nuts!)

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 (they counted 10ks like the Cardinals count 100ks today). In the first game, 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.

And although the fans at the time had no way of knowing it, they were witnessing the seventh-last pitcher to get 30-wins, minor leagues or major leagues.  30-game winners, a staple of the Deadball Era, but not seen at the major-league level since Dizzy Dean for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1934,  were about to get as rare as hen's teeth, even in the minor leagues.  (The last 30-game winner was Denny McLain,  a half-century ago when major league baseball raised the pitcher's mound.  It was lowered again the next year.  Experts confidently predict that with the way they limit innings nowadays, there will never be another 30-game winner).

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 (the umpires probably had a hair-trigger for calling the game due to rain with two teams so far out of the pennant race and the fans already getting more than their money's worth for the price of one admission).

In an odd coincidence, Albrecht's ERA in both of his major league seasons was exactly the same: 5.40.  And what was his career ERA then?  5.40, of course.

In his big-league debut, playing for the home team in the town where he grew up, he 

pitched a complete game 1-hitter.  It doesnt get much better than that.

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