Regular readers may have noticed two changes in the last several weeks here: I have begun consistently posting Monday through Friday, and a fellow Society for American Baseball Research member Joe Guzzardi has contributed a Wednesday guest post. Joe recently offered to provide Saturday content as well, for the duration of the baseball season. Effective immediately, I’m pleased to offer this new bonus day of content. Joe’s Saturday column, “Double the fun,” looks at famous doubleheaders.

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In recent blogs, I’ve written about Vern Law’s titanic 18-inning starting effort, Tom Cheney’s 16-inning, 21-strikeout masterpiece, and a tribute to the long lost doubleheader.

Graham Womack, in his regular Tuesday feature, Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? chronicled the great career of Brooklyn Dodger hurler Don Newcombe.

Today, I’ll roll marathon pitching, doubleheaders and Newcombe into a single post.

On September 6 1950 in a twin bill against the Philadelphia Phillies, Newcombe started both ends. That season the Dodgers played erratically and by early September, the team trailed the Phillies by 7-1/2 games.

Although the Dodgers had the Boys of Summer line up led by Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges and Duke Snider, pitching was thin, to put it kindly.

Newcombe and Preacher Roe, both with 19-11 records anchored the staff. Behind them were a pot luck group that included Carl Erskine (7-6), Erv Palica (13-8), Dan Bankhead (9-4) and Bud Podlielan (5-4). Their marginal success came thanks to heavy Dodger hitting rather than pitching skill.

With the season winding down, Newk was one of the few pitchers manager Burt Shutton could count on so he tapped him to start the first game. The Phillies countered with rookie righthander Bubba Church who took to the mound with an 8-2 record.

According to the Sporting News, Newcombe and Dodger manager Burt Shotton had talked on the train to Philadelphia about the prospect of his pitching both ends.

Reporter Joe King wrote that Shotton told Newcombe, “You can do two if you pitch a shutout in the opener.” Since Newk blanked the Phillies 2-0 on three hits in an efficient 2 hours 15 minutes, he got the nod to take the mound again in the second tilt.

“I figured he was hot right then and ought to try again,” Shotton said.

As the second game warm ups began, fans noticed that Newk was down in the bullpen taking his tosses. Realizing that something special was about to begin, the capacity crowd of 32,379 gave the Dodger stalwart a loud ovation.

Newcombe pitched valiantly allowing just two runs over seven innings but left the game trailing Phillie ace Curt Simmons, 2-0. Shotton then pulled Newcombe for a pinch hitter, even though he was one of the baseball’s best hitting pitcher. The Dodgers eventually rallied for three runs in the bottom of the ninth to win, 3-2.

Newcombe’s pitching line for the day: 16 IP, H 11, ER 2, BB 2, SO 3

The Giants and the Cardinals shelled Newcombe (13 IP; 10 ER) in his next two starts. Yet the Dodgers, inspired by Newcombe’s heroic effort, played top notch baseball for the rest of the season but ultimately fell two games short.

The Dodgers wrapped up its season against the Phillies with Newcombe absorbing the loss against Robin Roberts (20-11). That game brought down the curtain on majority owner/team president Branch Rickey’s Dodger tenure. Walter O’Malley replaced Rickey and immediately fired Shotton. Chuck Dressen took over as the new Dodgers manager.

Under O’Malley and Dressen, the Dodgers won four of seven National League pennants and one World Series before leaving for Los Angeles.

Newcombe went on to become a three-time 20 game winner. In 1956, Newcombe won the Most Valuable Player award and became baseball’s first Cy Young Award recipient.

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Joe Guzzardi is a Wednesday and Saturday contributor here and belongs to the Society for American Baseball Research, as well as the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America. Email him at guzzjoe@yahoo.com.

  1. vinnie says:

    Here’s a nice article that expands on the subject of one pitcher starting both ends of a double header.

    http://prestonjg.wordpress.com/2009/09/12/a-thorough-account-of-pitchers-who-have-started-both-games-of-a-doubleheader-in-the-major-leagues/

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Bob Dean, Graham Womack. Graham Womack said: New feature at Baseball: Past and Present, "Double the fun." One famous doubleheader looked at every Saturday. http://bit.ly/cJsM7d [...]

  3. Joe M. says:

    Interesting to see that he was shelled in his next 2 appearances. Did trying to get the win in the 2nd game of the doubleheader end up costing them 2 wins down the road? Even more interesting that they ended up falling 2 games short.

  4. I think the deeper issue is how the Dodger organization has consistently overused its pitchers. Maybe I’m biased as a longtime Giants fan, but I look at their rival to the south and see how some of their best pitchers burned out early, including Orel Hershiser, Fernando Valenzuela and Sandy Koufax, not to mention Newcombe.

  5. Mark says:

    Interesting that Newcombe lost the next two games after the doubleheader and the Dodgers fell short for the pennant by two games…

  6. David Gold says:

    I remember Newcombe’s feat — I was 10 and a rapid Dodger fan — but I did not remember that he was hit hard in his next two starts. Thanks for reviving that memory.

    There is an error in the post. Dressen was not the manager for all of the four following pennants and the one world series title. Walter Alston replaced Dressen after the 1953 season and managed the team for the 1955 and 1956 pennants and, of course, the 1955 world series. And he won three more world championships with the LA Dodgers, in 1959, 1963 and 1965.

    Graham Womack raises an interesting point about whether the Dodgers overused pitchers. One could add Don Drysdale and Carl Erskine to his list. But was this the Dodgers, or did most teams do it. It was not uncommon for pitchers to have a few good seasons and then fade. This happened regularly with the Yankees (Bob Turley, Jim Bouton, Allie Reynolds). The big exception was Whitey Ford who they protected because they thought he wasn’t strong enough to handle a heavy load. After being in the majors for a decade, Ford had his best seasons in the 1960s, when he pitched regularly on three days rest. Even a Hall of Famer such as Robin Roberts was not the same pitcher after he turned thirty. Pitchers frequently pitched with “sore arms” in the days before MRIs, arthoscopic surgery and ligament replacement surgery. I’ve often wondered how many pitchers from the 1950s and 1960s would be actual or potential Hall of Famers if they had access to modern training and medical techniques.

  7. Hi David, thanks for commenting. I think you bring up some good points about lots of teams from Newcombe’s era overusing their pitchers. My guess is that more did than did not.

  8. artcohn says:

    The Dodgers finished 2 games behind because in the last of the ninth with 2 outs Cal Abrams couldn’t score from second on Duke Snider’s single to center. that would have won the game and forced a playoff.

  9. Jerry stern says:

    The feat by Newcombe on Sept. 6 indeed was great moment in Dodger history. It was a critical game because with three weeks to go it was the start of a comeback, and the real drama occurred on the last regular game of the season.

    Graham Womack says that the 32000 fans cheered for Newcombe as he came in for the second game. I heard the game on radio and have to express doubts that the Phillies fans cheered Newcombe. The Phillies were in a rare pennant race and the game was at Philadelphia.

    Artcohn notes that the Dodgers lost the final game because Cal Abrams couldn’t score on Snider’s single to centerfield with two outs in the 9th. Actually there were no outs, which makes the decision to send Abrams home (with the heart of the order coming up) especially dumb. The single by Snider was a sharply hit line drive to Ashburn who was coming in to cover second base on a pickoff at second base that never materialized. Abrams was out by a mile. Robinson walked. Furillo popped out for the second out. Then, with two outs, Hodges hit a long fly to right center field, which was caught in front of the scoreboard. In the 10th inning, Dick Sisler hit a home run off Newcombe with two men on base. A win would have tied the Dodgers and Phillies with a playoff game to decide the pennant.

  10. Hi Jerry,

    Joe Guzzardi wrote this article as a guest post. He contributes guest posts here every Wednesday and Saturday. My name automatically shows as the byline, though I generally put that Joe wrote the article in the header and footer.

    I invite you to come back soon. We are posting six days a week, Monday through Saturday.

    Thanks for reading and sharing,
    Graham Womack