TRIVIA WINNER: The winner of this week's trivia contest is Jerry Jackson of Clinton, OK, who correctly answered the question of Maris/Mantle Retirements in 1968. The Prize: Starbucks Gift Card.
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NEW TRIVIA QUESTION: Joe Nuxhall broke into the big leagues in 1944 but did not win his first game until 1952. Who was the losing pitcher in Nuxhall's first win?
As a respecter of some of the early sportswriters who covered the game such as Ring Lardner, Grantland Rice and Damon Runyon, I occasionally like to pay tribute to them by writing a column in the style of the day. This is one of those columns about an average game between two of the oldest franchises in 1965. The Cincinnati Red Legs and the Pittsburgh Pirates. I hope you enjoy it.
The contest began as to what looked to be a barn-burner with both the home town Red Legs and the visiting Pittsburgh club scoring in the first frame. It however, ended up as a duel between aging moundsmen in a close ball game. As night fell on Crosley Field in Cincinnati on this Monday July 19, the barely more than 11,000 fans would be seated for only 2:18, and would be home in time to watch the highlights on the 11:00 news.
Pittsburgh came into the mid-July summer battle with a 46-47 record while the Cincinnati club was rolling along at 52-39. They were resting in second place in their league. They had won nine-of-13 games to this point. The Pirates had lost 11 of 15 coming in. In the words of a local broadcaster, the club which got it's name nearly 100 years ago by "pirating" a player from another team, couldn't steal a win during the stretch. That was when the Senior Circuit was dealing with more issues than just bases and balls, and when Barney Dreyfus' club absorbed the Louisville nine, including players such as Honus Wagner.
Facing the 37 year old Joe Nuxhall, who broke into the big leagues as a 15 year old kid in 1944, Bucs outfielder Manny Mota managed a one-base hit. He was followed by his Latin teammate, Bob Clemente who smacked a double to bring the speedy Mota around to score. The 1-0 lead was all Pittsburgh could manage at the time.
In the latter half of the inning, Vernon Law who is known as the "Deacon" due to his affiliation with a certain Utah church, didn't need too many tosses before seeing the scoreboard light up with a tie score. Red Legs lead off batsman Tommy Harper sent an early offering by Law into the right field seats for his 11th home run of the campaign. The score was tied but Cincinnati could manage no more off the former Cy Young Award winner.
Law was spectacular at age 35 setting down the next 12 Cincinnati batsmen in order before giving up a one-base hit to opposing third baseman Deron Johnson. Johnson was quickly erased as Tony Perez smashed a hard ground ball to shortstop Gene Alley, who flipped it to Bill Mazeroski who completed the double play with a quick toss to first sacker Donn Clendenon. It was a good thing too because Johnny Edwards followed with a single but was left stranded as Law retired the side.
The Pittsburgh club was not idle. In the fourth frame, lanky 6'4" Clendenon drove a Nuxhall pitch deep into the crowd to give the Pirates a 2-1 lead. Clendenon, who was recruited to play professional sports in football as well as basketball, at this point was happy baseball was hit choice of profession. Law and Nuxhall continued their mastery through seven innings of play. At that point, Pittsburgh took advantage.
In inning number eight, after Mota was retired, Clemente added a second hit on the day by reaching first base. Clendenon followed with the same before defensive wiz Mazeroski plated the final run of the game with his second one base hit. Clemente's run made it 3-1 Pittsburgh to close out the scoring.
Law however, was not done. Aside from getting two hits himself in the contest, the smooth sailing right hander closed down the Red Legs on two more hits over the last two frames and picked up his ninth win of the year. The Deacon tossed a complete game giving up only six hits, striking out four and did not offer a base on balls to any batter. After only winning 29 games in four years since his 20-9 Championship season of 1960, Law is well on his way to a Comeback Player of the Year Award as his ERA is flirting with 2.00 on the season.
The Pirates showed off why they are one of the best batting teams in the Senior Circuit, managing 12 hits off Nuxhall with five players getting two each. Nuxhall did keep the powerful Wilver Stargell from the basepaths. Stargell got the collar in five at-bats.