Last column took us back a hundred years to 1920. As you recall, it was Babe Ruth’s first season with the New York Yankees, and the Yanks played their home games in the Polo Grounds owned by the National League’s New York Giants. America had 48 states at the time and the country’s total population was under 107 million.
On Saturday, May 1, the Brooklyn Dodgers were scheduled to play the Boston Braves. Both teams thought the game would be rained out as a persistent drizzle fell all morning and early afternoon. But it wasn’t.
The rain and cool temperature kept the attendance at Braves Field below the 4,500 mark. The starting pitchers, Leon Cadore of Brooklyn and Joe Oeschger of Boston, were both Chicago natives, right-handers, and 28 years old.
The Dodgers scored a run in the fifth inning and the Braves tied the game in the home half of the sixth. The game remained tied at one for the next 20 innings with both pitchers still in the game. At 6:50 p.m., the umpires and managers decided to cease play deeming it too dangerous to continue in the dark. (Lights wouldn’t be installed in some major league parks until the next decade.) The game only lasted as long as it did because May 1 was the first day of Daylight Savings Time.
To this day, Oeschger and Cadore hold the record for pitching the most innings (26) in one game. And Oeschger became the only pitcher in major league history to pitch 20 innings twice. (He worked 20 innings in one game in 1919.)
For the most part, it was a frustrating day for batters on both sides. Only two players had three hits. Braves second baseman Charlie Pick had his worst offensive day in pro baseball as he went hitless in 11 trips to the plate.
Both pitchers were interesting fellows. Cadore, who attended college, started his major league career with Brooklyn in 1915 and spent nine of his big league seasons with the Dodgers. He roomed with Dodgers zany outfielder Casey Stengel and the pair remained great friends.
Cadore married the daughter of Dodgers owner Charlie Ebbets, for whom the famed Brooklyn ballpark was named after. After his pitching days, Cadore worked on Wall Street before moving northwest to Spokane, Washington. He died there in 1958 at 66.
Cadore’s former roomie, Casey Stengel, was managing the Yankees at the time and was asked for his comments on the pitcher who had a major league career record of 68-72 with a 3.14 earned run average. “He was a wonderful pitcher, much better than his record showed,” Stengel recalled. “He was a wonderful man with a brilliant mind. He was a great letter writer and corresponded with me all through the years.”
Joe Oeschger was also an educated man. After his 12-year pitching career (1914-1925) when he posted career numbers of 82-116 and 3.81 ERA, he taught physical education for 27 years for the San Francisco Board of Education. He enjoyed relating that he was traded from the Boston Braves to the New York Giants in 1924 as part of the deal sending Casey Stengel to the Braves.
Perhaps the most interesting man to play in that long game 100 years ago was Hank Gowdy. Gowdy caught 21 innings for the Braves and was the most popular man in the whole city of Boston according to a newspaper poll at the time.
Gowdy was the first major league player to enlist in World War I and went on to become a decorated hero due to his fighting and leadership on the front lines in Europe. When he returned from the war, Gowdy was offered large sums of money to tour America and talk about his experiences. He turned the offers down to concentrate on his baseball career and catch up with his family.
When his 17-year major league playing career ended in 1930 with a lifetime batting average of .270, Gowdy coached for the Braves, Giants, and Cincinnati Reds before enlisting in the military when World War II broke out, becoming the only man who played in the majors to serve in both world wars.
Because he was 53-years-old at the time, he was commissioned a major and assigned to head athletics at Ft. Benning, Georgia, where the playing field would ultimately be named Hank Gowdy Field. After the war, Gowdy returned to a baseball uniform and managed the Cincinnati Reds and several teams in the minor leagues. He died at 76 in 1966 while living in Columbus, Ohio.