Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Luke Boone, St. Paul Stalwart

On this date in 1982, American Association standout, Luke (Danny) Boone, born Lute Joseph Boone on May 6, 1890 at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, died at the age of 92 in Pittsburgh.

Boone began playing in the American Association at the age of 26, joining the Toledo Mud Hens and playing second base (78g) and third base (20g) in 1917.

Boone's career was highlighted by the seven consecutive years he played for the St. Paul Saints (1919-1925). These were the halcyon seasons of the Saints when they won championships in 1919, 1920, 1922 and 1924 with some of the strongest teams ever fielded in the American Association's 61-year history.

During his time with St. Paul, Boone was primarily a shortstop who owned a hot bat his first few seasons as a Saint. In 1922, the 5'9" Pittsburgher played in all 167 games leading the club in that department as well in several other key offensive categories. Batting .287 that year, Boone was St. Paul's leader in hits (181-tied with outfielder Bruno Haas), RBI (115), doubles (36), home runs (8) and strikeouts (51). His 56 walks helped offset the 51 strikeouts, and his 20 stolen bases augmented his reputation as an aggressive player.

The Saints finished the 1922 season with a record of 107-60 (.641) under their long-time manager Mike Kelley. They finished 15 games over second-place Minneapolis, their arch rival next door, against whom they won 13 games and lost 11 that year.

Boone's best year as a Saint came in 1923 when he appeared in 162 games, all of them at shortstop. He batted .308 (the first time in his career hitting over .300), belted a career-high ten home runs and produced a club-high 196 hits, including 42 doubles, another career high. The Saints, despite a record of 111-57, finished in second place, just two games behind Wilbur Good's Kansas City Blues.

Boone brought a handful of seasons' worth of professional experience to the five American Association teams he played for. A former New York Yankee (1913-1916) who played 27 games for his hometown Pittsburgh Pirates in 1918, he was among the 45 American Association position players with ten or more seasons under their belt who played from 1902 to 1962.

All told, Boone appeared in 1,660 American Association games in his 14 consecutive seasons (1917-1930). He rapped out exactly 300 doubles, scored 885 runs, and amassed 244 stolen bases. His career .278 batting average was the result of connecting for 1,671 hits (better than one per game) in 6,002 at-bats.

View Boone's obituary and grave marker, located at the Jefferson Memorial Park in Pittsburgh, at this website: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Boone&GSiman=1&GScid=45197&GRid=22910512&

Monday, July 14, 2014

The First All-Star Game

Eighty years ago this week the American Association put its first cadre of All-Stars on display. The event took place July 19, 1934 at hitter-friendly Nicollet Park in Minneapolis. Interesting how this anniversary corresponds with MLB's 2014 All-Star game to be played tomorrow night at Target Field in Minneapolis, just a few miles due north of where Nicollet Park once stood. The Millers defeated the All-Stars, 13-6.

The 1934 American Association All-Star Team

The contest pitted the American Association All-Stars against the Minneapolis Millers, the club which was in first-place on the pre-selected date. In the photo above are (with position played during game): BACK ROW:  GEORGE HOCKETTE (lhp), ALLAN SOTHORON (mgr), EARL WEBB (rf), MEL ALMADA (lf-cf), LIN STORTI (2b), ERNIE WINGARD (1b), FRED BEDORE (3b), and JACK KLOZA (lf). FRONT ROW:  TONY RENSA (c), GENE TROW (rhp), MILT GALATZER (cf), BILL BRENZEL (c), JOSE OLIVARES (ss), GARLAND BRAXTON (lhp), and AL NIEMIC (ss). Thanks to Bud Holland for sharing this photograph with me. It originally appeared in the July 20, 1934 edition of the Minneapolis Journal.

It was called a "doggy" affair, but in fact it was quite a game. Here are a few of the highlights:

• Minneapolis right-hander and Oklahoma native Ray Starr got the start, shutting down the All-Stars in his two innings of work, striking out the first two men he faced.

• The Millers tallied first, putting up a run in the first inning against starting pitcher Garland "Gob" Braxton, Milwaukee's ace lefty. The run came after successive singles by left fielder Ab Wright, first baseman Joe "the dynamic Dutchman" Hauser, and catcher Bubbles Hargrave, the 2-3-4 men in the lineup.

• A triple play in the fourth got Minneapolis-born hurler, Gene "Bubba" Trow, representing the St. Paul Saints, out of trouble. With Buzz Arlett (rf) and Spencer Harris (cf) on first and second, respectively, Babe Ganzel (3b), batting in the eighth slot, slapped a liner to Milwaukee's Lin Storti (2b) near the bag at second. Storti grabbed the seed, stepped on second to force Arlett who had started for third, and threw to Brewers' first baseman Ernie Wingard to complete the circuit.

• The All-Stars tied the game in their half of the third when Rosy Ryan gave up consecutive singles to Milwaukee's Tony Rensa (c), Kansas City's Al Niemic (ss) and Toledo's Milt Galatzer (cf), the 7-8-1 men in the batting order.

• Minneapolis grabbed the lead in their half of the third after Wright reached on an error by Indianapolis third sacker Fred Bedore. Hauser followed with a home run, his 31st of the season, making the score 3-1, Millers after three.

• With the score 4-3 in the sixth, the Millers scored three runs to take the lead for good against Trow who was wild and the least effective of the three All-Star pitchers. After singles by Wright, Arlett and the recently acquired veteran Russ Young (c), Hauser doubled.

• Hauser belted his 32nd home run of the 1934 season in the seventh with leadoff man Andy Cohen (2b) and Wright aboard on singles.

• Hauser garnered 11 total bases with four hits in five trips, adding six RBI

• Wright posted four hits in five trips, including a home run and two RBI

• Facing George Hockette in the eighth, Andy Cohen tripled over Galatzer's head in center, driving in Ganzel (single) and pitcher Tiny Chaplin (single).

• Ill-fated pitcher Tiny Chaplin made his Miller debut in the game, coming on in relief of Ryan to start the sixth. Chaplin scored a run and came home with the win.

• Galatzer, Bedore, and Rensa each had two hits on the day.

• Trow was the losing pitcher.

• The All-Stars posted a quadruple-slat picket fence, scoring one run in each inning from the third to the sixth.

• Minneapolis scored runs in graduating order with one in the first, two in the third, three runs in both the sixth and seventh, and finally posting four tallies in the eighth inning.

• The Millers out-hit the Stars, 13-12.