The same-game Dodger debuts of Gil Hodges and Chris Haughey

I started my day researching the opening game of the New York Mets’ 1969 championship season, but that project was soon hijacked by researching the one-game major league career of a teenage pitcher during World War II.

Gil HodgesThe man who connected these projects was the manager of the ’69 Mets, Gil Hodges. In Arthur Daley’s New York Times column on April 9, 1969 — the morning after the Mets’ 11-10 opening day loss in the first regular season game ever played by the Montreal Expos — Hodges recalled his own debut as a major league player in 1943. Since I have a thing for checking the memories of old ballplayers, I put Hodges’ memory to the test, and to my surprise he was absolutely correct. In his first game, on the final day of the 1943 season, the 19-year-old Hodges (the New York Times game story said he was 18) came off the bench to play third base, struck out twice and walked against Cincinnati lefty Johnny Vander Meer and stole a base. (While he didn’t mention it to Daley, Hodges also made two errors in what was his only major league appearance at third base until 1957.)

Hodges also seems to have accurately remembered the circumstances behind his stolen base. Leo Durocher was manager of the Dodgers then; Hodges told Daley:

My impression is that the Reds were trying to break a double play record for the year that Leo Durocher had a piece of. So Leo wanted to reduce every chance of an easy double play. Whenever our runners reached first, Leo would shout, “Get going, fellows,” and flash the steal sign. No one lingered long on first, including me.

Hodges may be exaggerating how aggressively the Dodgers ran that day; his was one of only two stolen bases. But caught stealing was not an official statistic at the time, so we don’t know if any Dodgers were thrown out trying to steal. And not many Brooks were on first base to begin with, as they accumulated just two singles and four walks in the game.

But Hodges was right about the record. The Reds turned two double plays in the game to finish the season with 193 — one short of what was then the National League record of 194, set by the 1931 Reds, whose regular shortstop was Leo Durocher. Pretty impressive memory, Mr. Hodges.

Before I went back to reading about the ’69 Mets, I scanned the box score of Gil’s first game…and as a result I still haven’t gone back to reading about the ’69 Mets. There was a name in the Brooklyn box score I didn’t recognize, Chris Haughey. And then his pitching line caught my eye:

Haughey pitching

The seven innings in relief was unusual enough. But TEN walks? And NO strikeouts? Then I checked his record and found it was the only major league game he ever pitched in…and it came on his 18th birthday. Time to go down the rabbit hole…

Chris Haughey

Chris Haughey

A New York Times story on Sept. 3, 1943, said, “The Dodgers signed 17-year-old Christopher Haughey of Bayside [a neighborhood in Queens, the New York City borough next to Brooklyn], a right-handed pitcher. ‘I’ll pitch him in at least one game before the season ends,’ declared Durocher.” Keep in mind this was during World War II, many professional players were in military service and it wasn’t uncommon for teenagers to get a shot at playing in the majors. Just after Haughey signed, on Sept. 6, 16-year-old Carl Scheib would take the mound for the Philadelphia A’s, and the next year Joe Nuxhall made his infamous big league debut as a 15-year-old.

Haughey had gained some prominence in New York baseball circles in the summer of 1943 by pitching three no-hitters in a North Queens CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) league, although a news story published after his Dodger debut indicated some observers thought the no-hitters were the result of “friendly scorekeeping.”

Anyway, Durocher almost didn’t keep his promise to use Haughey in a game. Going into the final day of the season, the Dodgers were one game ahead of Pittsburgh for third place in the National League, but the Pirates had a doubleheader at home against Philadelphia and could move ahead of the Dodgers with a sweep and a Brooklyn loss. The difference between third place and fourth was not just a matter of pride but a matter of money, specifically about $350 per player, a not-insignificant amount at the time. (The 1944 Sporting News Baseball Guide and Record Book reported the third-place Dodgers’ share of World Series receipts was $756.60 per player, while each member of the fourth-place Pirates earned $400.01.)

From The New York Times of Oct. 4, 1943

From The New York Times of Oct. 4, 1943

So Leo’s starting pitcher in the season finale at Cincinnati was Whit Wyatt, a veteran of the Dodgers’ 1941 National League championship team whose 14 wins in 1943 led the squad. But, according to the game story in the next day’s New York Times, once the scoreboard showed that the Pirates had lost the first game of their doubleheader, clinching third place for the Dodgers, Durocher pulled Wyatt and sent Haughey to the mound. The Times’ Roscoe McGowen wrote that Durocher had promised Haughey’s mother his son would appear in a game. McGowen also wrote that Haughey was “not yet 18 years old,” apparently remembering that he had been 17 when he signed a few weeks earlier, but the day was indeed his 18th birthday. To that point he was the youngest player ever to pitch for the Dodgers; only one younger pitcher has appeared for them since, Charlie Osgood, who was 17 when he played in his only game on June 18, 1944.

This is not the Charlie Osgood who pitched for the Dodgers in 1944; besides, this fellow's birth name was Charles Wood III.

This is not the Charlie Osgood who pitched for the Dodgers in 1944; besides, this fellow’s birth name was Charles Wood III. (But, like Chris Haughey, this fellow attended Fordham University.)

For what it’s worth, it looks like the only other player in major league history who made his debut on his 18th birthday was Larry Dierker, who went on to a fine career that included 139 wins and being named to two All-Star teams. But Dierker’s debut was even rockier than Haughey’s.

Aside from his control issues, Haughey did an admirable job in his debut. Over his first six innings he allowed just two hits, both bunt singles, although the Reds did score two unearned runs in the fifth inning when Hodges let what appeared to be a double-play grounder go through his legs with the bases loaded. (The New York Times story doesn’t state this, but Hodges may have also entered the game with Haughey once third place was clinched. He replaced catcher Mickey Owen, with Bobby Bragan moving from third base to Owen’s spot behind the plate.) The Reds then broke through for three hits and four runs in the eighth inning, one of those runs being unearned thanks to an errant throw by catcher Bragan trying to pick a runner off third.

By the way, the game was not just the major league debut for Haughey and Hodges but the first professional game played by each. Hodges had left college to sign with the Dodgers that summer and was sent to their Class D farm club in Olean, N.Y., but did not appear in a game with them. Apparently the two teenagers were road roommates with the Dodgers. Also, it would appear Haughey is the only player in major league history whose only appearance came on his birthday; he’s also one of only a few who debuted on his birthday.

I’ve used Baseball-Reference.com’s Play Index feature, searching box scores back to 1916, to see if Haughey set any major league records in his debut. For instance, how about most walks allowed by a pitcher in his first major league game:

Player Date Tm Opp Rslt IP H R ER BB SO
Skipper Friday 1923-06-17 WSH CHW L 3-5 11.0 4 5 5 14 4
Jimmy Freeman 1972-09-01 (2) ATL PHI W 11-5 9.0 8 5 5 11 5
Harry Courtney 1919-09-13 WSH DET W 9-8 8.0 12 8 7 11 2
Dick Weik 1948-09-08 (2) WSH PHA L 2-5 5.2 5 4 4 10 3
Chris Haughey 1943-10-03 BRO CIN L 1-6 7.0 5 6 3 10 0
Tom Drake 1939-04-24 CLE CHW L 3-9 5.1 7 5 3 10 0
Bill Zuber 1936-09-16 CLE BOS W 13-3 4.2 2 3 3 10 2
Roy Sanders 1917-04-18 CIN PIT W 7-5 6.0 4 5 5 10 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/31/2013.

But the record was actually set before 1916: Bruno Haas walked 16 in his debut for the Philadelphia A’s on June 23, 1915, in which he went the distance in a 15-7 loss to the Yankees. Haas never played in the majors after six appearances on the mound in 1915, but he went on to get more than 2200 hits in a long minor league career as an outfielder.

Grier “Skipper” Friday went the distance in his major league debut, which was also his only major league complete game, one of only two major league starts, and his only major league decision. In his other start, four days after his debut, he walked just one batter in seven innings.

Jimmy Freeman, a tall skinny lefthander, is by far the most recent player on the list above. Asked if he had been nervous after his 11-walk debut, he said, “Why do you think I walked all those people? I’ve never been that wild in my life.” No account of the number of pitches he threw in the game survives, but it had to have been substantial. He faced 44 batters, the most for any pitcher in his major league debut since World War II; no pitcher has faced more than 40 batters in his first outing since then. Freeman won his next start and never won a major league game after that, finishing with a career ERA of 6.87.

Dick Weik’s major league career was nothing short of remarkable: he walked 237 batters in 213-2/3 innings over parts of five seasons, with a 6-22 record and a 5.90 ERA. (He’s the only pitcher in major league history who has worked more than 76 career innings and allowed more walks than innings pitched.) The low point was allowing 13 walks in seven innings against the White Sox in 1949 (although he allowed just three runs); only two players have ever issued more walks in a game (since 1916), and both needed extra innings to do it. His minor league record was no better, including 173 walks in just 132 innings for Chattanooga of the Southern Association in 1948.

You’ll notice Tommy Byrne issued 13 or more walks in a game three times; he also had another four games with double-digit walks. Nobody else since 1916 has had as many games issuing 10 or more walks. Get this: J.R. Richard had three games in which he issued double-digit walks, going only six innings in two of them, yet was the winning pitcher in all three.

Checking the 1971 Little Red Book of Baseball, I find five pitchers who issued at least 14 walks in a game prior to 1916. In addition to Haas, three pitchers each gave up 16 walks in a 19th-Century game, one of them in the Players League, and Christy Mathewson’s younger brother Henry walked 14 in a game on Oct. 5, 1906. That was Henry Mathewson’s only major league start; he had one relief appearance prior to that, one after, and did not walk a batter in either.

How about the most walks allowed by a pitcher who didn’t strike out anyone? While the table above shows Haughey holds that mark for pitchers making their debut (although two other pitchers had done it previously, and we can’t say for sure if anyone had walked that many or more in a debut prior to 1916), two others walked more:

Player Date Tm Opp Rslt IP H R ER BB SO
Sid Hudson 1948-08-07 WSH DET W 3-2 8.2 6 2 2 12 0
Bill Zuber 1943-09-14 NYY PHA W 6-5 4.1 3 5 5 11 0
Al Papai 1949-09-19 SLB PHA L 4-7 8.0 12 7 5 10 0
Phil Marchildon 1948-06-24 PHA SLB W 6-5 4.2 1 4 3 10 0
Chris Haughey 1943-10-03 BRO CIN L 1-6 7.0 5 6 3 10 0
Tom Drake 1939-04-24 CLE CHW L 3-9 5.1 7 5 3 10 0
Ed Morris 1931-04-25 BOS NYY W 5-4 7.2 4 3 2 10 0
General Crowder 1926-07-29 WSH CHW W 7-3 10.0 7 3 3 10 0
Dana Fillingim 1920-06-04 BSN NYG L 8-11 9.0 8 11 10 10 0
Hod Leverette 1920-05-08 SLB DET L 4-5 6.1 4 4 4 10 0
Roy Sanders 1917-04-18 CIN PIT W 7-5 6.0 4 5 5 10 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/31/2013.

Bill Zuber showed his 10-walk, two-strikeout debut in 1936 was no fluke by walking 11 without a strikeout in 1943, less than three weeks before Haughey’s game…and managing to squeeze those walks into just 4-1/3 innings! Zuber walked 11 of the 26 batters he faced before being lifted. Phil Marchildon, held as a prisoner of war by the Germans during World War II, walked 10 of 24 batters before he was pulled from his 1948 game even though he had allowed just one hit.

Sid Hudson, who went on to have a long career as a major league pitching coach, won 104 games in his major league career, but his 1948 season was a nightmare, with a 4-16 record, a 5.88 ERA and more than twice as many walks as strikeouts. His 12-walk, no-strikeout “masterpiece” wasn’t one of his 16 losses, though; he was removed from the game with the score tied 2-2, and his Senators went on to win in the 10th inning.

Haughey does share the record (again, at least since 1916) for most walks issued in a game by a relief pitcher who didn’t strike out anyone. He shares that mark with Tom Drake, who likewise walked 10 and struck out no one in his major league debut, in 1939. Unlike Haughey, Drake did pitch again in the majors, but his career lasted only 18 games with a 6.13 ERA. No other relief pitcher who didn’t strike out a batter walked more than eight; one of those was Babe Ruth, who did so in an 11-inning relief appearance in 1919.

So what happened to Chris Haughey? He entered the military in February 1944, and Gary Bedingfield tells some of his story on his fabulous website devoted to ballplayers who served in World War II, Baseball In Wartime. Haughey trained radio operators stateside before being discharged in 1946. He spent that season in the minors and struggled, then was drafted by the Cardinals and went 15-7 for their St. Joseph (Mo.) farm club in the Class C Western Association in 1947. That would be the pinnacle of his professional career, and after three more undistinguished seasons he left baseball. He went on to earn a degree in engineering from New York’s Fordham University, worked for an oil company and owned a men’s clothing store, and according to this story was still working at Macy’s at age 79. He apparently is still alive today, nearing his 88th birthday, in Fremont, California, in the Bay Area.

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One thought on “The same-game Dodger debuts of Gil Hodges and Chris Haughey

  1. davidbelmontwriter

    I am thrilled to find this piece. “Mister Haughey” was the custodian of PS 83, a pubic school (grades 1 – 6) in Astoria, Queens, while I was a student there (1958-63). He told us he had played pro baseball, tho I don’t recall him ever speaking of his brief stint in the majors. He used to play dodgeball with us during lunch. I am currently writing a short memoir piece about once catching his shot, a combination of luck and divine intervention. Thanks for your excellent writing and research.

    Reply

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