DOWNTOWN -- After the blog entry earlier this month about Stan Musial's "lost" home run and possible rained-out Triple Crown, an army of eager researchers joined the quest for documenting the existence of the weather-erased homer or bust this local myth. My inbox was loaded with tips, suggestions, information, questions (did I think to check the New York papers?), offers to help and links. Many, many links.
And then, one day, I received this email from author David Vincent:
I should also point out that the lost homer in New York never happened - at least not that season. We have already thoroughly researched that one.
Vincent's name may be recognizable. He is, in many corners, Mr. Home Run. He invented and spurred the initial research behind Retrosheet's definitive catalog of Lost Home Runs. It is that list that spurred this search for Musial's Lost Home Run, a hit that has become part of the accepted history of his record-setting MVP season of 1948, but also a hit that has lacked the needed verification for a place among other rained-out, canceled or otherwise lost homers.
The distilled history of this search was recounted in a previous blog entry -- http://www.stltoday.com/blogzone/bird-land/bird-land/2008/04/the-search-for-the-mans-lost-homer/"> which can be found here -- and it has been repeated many times before me.
Since that blog, some new information has been collected. Most of it provides more questions than answers. But a fair trove of info gives background on other searches and where they came up empty on the home run that puts the legend in Musial's legendary 1948 season.
The clues, starting with Mr. Vincent's explanation of their own research:
Dave Smith looked at all the possible days that this "rain out" could have happened in New York. If they had started a game and not completed it, there should be some mention in one of the many NY papers available to us. There is none. This report is no more true than the one about Dick Radatz striking out Mickey Mantle as many times as he said - and was reported when he died.
Many readers went through the process of finding potential dates for the rainout. The favorite is Aug. 3. (http://www.vivaelbirdos.com/2008/4/2/389088/musial-missing-homer-proje">Viva el Birdos had a discussion that also came to that conclusion. And http://www.birdsonthebat.org/showthread.php?t=49671">Birds on the Bat delved into the topic with relish.) The original schedule had a game scheduled for that day, and Retrosheet game logs show a doubleheader played on Aug. 4. Several people emailed me a New York Times article that was one of the first pieces of evidence acquired years ago.
Christopher Kirsch, an economics major at SIUE, was kind enough to duplicate the key article and email it to me:
Written by Louis Effrat, it reads:
Having gone from one extreme to the other, with something that could be described conservatively as a record-shattering crash, Leo Durocher today will try to get his Giants back on the happy medium beam in a slight variation of the old two-a-day routine.
The rain which forced a postponement of last night's scheduled clash with the Cardinals, also forced the clubs into a novelty. Schedule conditions being what they are, with time running out, it was necessary to card last night's game for tonight.
Recourse of the Giants to the two-a-day routine was dictated by a schedule which finds the Cardinals here for only one more playing date in September. Manager Durocher does not expect to find the switch too much of a hardship. Leo has Sheldon Jones and Larry Jansen primed for the Cards, Jones looking for his eleventh victory while Jansen will be going for No. 15.
It is the last paragraph there describing the pitching matchups that is most intriguing. A few of the original searchers -- the ones who wrote me about the homer several years ago -- recall that the home run was hit at the Polo Grounds (location check), that it happened in August (rainout check) and that pitcher was Dave Koslo. All of that information is needed to get the homer logged on Retrosheet. None of it is yet confirmed.
But there is a clue concerning Koslo. According Retrosheet's http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1948/VNY101948.htm">Giants game log from 1948, Koslo started games on July 29 and Aug. 7. Nothing inbetween. Whether he pitched an inning or two here or there is difficult to determine. But there is his conspicuous absence from a start right around the confirmed rainout ...
There is also a conspicuous absence of coverage from the time period.
Steve Gietschier, who works at The Sporting News, was kind enough to check their archives from 1948 to see if there was any mention of a rained-out homer in Musial's MVP season. In coverage around that August rainout, he found no mention of a home run hit that did not count. Moreover, he checked the November issues of the magazine for coverage of Musial's MVP award. The theory being that someone somewhere would have mentioned that Musial came a home run shy of the Triple Crown and that home run was lost to rain.
Nope. No mention.
Bob Broeg wrote the MVP story of The Sporting News, and there is no mention of the rained-out home run in his coverage.
Yet the story of it persists. As discussed in the previous blog. Broeg mentions it in his autobiography. Musial is quoted about in the oral history of the Cardinals and St. Louis baseball. And there have been subsequent news stories and features written locally that make reference to it. Has it become an urban legend?
Reader Jeff Karadja provided an ample amount of information in a series of emails. He offers up two possibilities for how other home runs -- lost and caught -- could have morphed into this one legendary homer.
I came across an article in the St. Louis Star-Times on August 5th, 1948. "Musial Wallops Longest Out" tells how Stan hit a ball 450 feet to right center that traveled further than any of his 26 homers thus far in '48. It was caught by rightfielder Willard Marshall. He hit it in the ninth inning of the Cards 7-2 win on August 4th. This out and Musial's first game of the Doubleheader homer could be the cause of this all.
The article went on to say "Because of the shape of the Polo Grounds the Giants shade their rightfielder in the gap allowing for the catch at the 455 foot mark near the bullpen. The ball would have departed any other major league ball park, and had the distance, for example, to land well up in the center field bleachers in St. Louis."
And, the second possibility:
After researching all week and finding nothing to prove a washed out 1948 Musial homer, I think it's (the fading memory of) facts from the past. Musial DID lose a homerun at the Polo Grounds due to a rainout. But it happened on August 25, 1951.
That is Vincent's opinion. That somehow memories have been spliced and stories retold to create a rained-out home run that did not happen. Not that Retrosheet and others -- like us in here -- haven't continued looking for verification of it. Retrosheet's standards are rightly strict, and again the purpose is not to rewrite history but to confirm a quirk of history. Ken Griffey Jr. wasn't the first to hit 50 home runs in three consecutive years. But he could have been had the weather been better.
David Smith, the president of Retrosheet who was mentioned above by Vincent, gave a detailed explanation of his research in an email exchange we had last week. He did what I did and many others did: Find the presumed rainout dates and start digging.
In his research he discovered what he called an "overall gain of one" home run by Musial because of various rain outs that season. In other words, he hit at least a home run in one of the rescheduled games, thus offsetting any possible rained-out homer.
Here was the explanation and summary of his report:
Here are the makeup dates for these five games:08-02 was originally an off day (makeup of 5-25) MUSIAL HOMER
08-04(1) was originally single game MUSIAL HOMER
08-04(2) was originally single game (8-03 makeup) MUSIAL NO HOMER
09-19(1) was originally single game MUSIAL NO HOMER
09-19(2) was originally single game (8-05 makeup) MUSIAL HOMER
This is tricky, because for the 8-04 and 9-19 doubleheaders, we have to assign one of the games as the scheduled one and the other as the makeup. I always think of the second one as the makeup, but I have heard from others that apparently the standard is that the first one is the makeup. However, clearly the game of 8-02 was a makeup of 5-25 and he did homer. He also homered in one half of each of the doubleheaders - the first game in one, the second game in the other. So no matter how you assign the makeups, ONE of those doubleheader homers had to be in a makeup game.
So my summary is that if he did have one washed out (and I still have no objective support for that), then he hit two others in makeup games that "would not have been played".
The key words that Smith used in his email to me and that confound anyone's search for the lost home run is this: Retrosheet and others have been unable to find "independent, objective corroboration" of the rained-out homer. The silver bullet would be a scorecard that confirms a partial game played on any of the rained-out dates that season. Leads on such a scorecard are being followed.
This (so far fruitless) quest has uncovered one other possible gem about Musial's '48 season.
Musial's 429 total bases in 1948 are the most by any hitter in the past 75 years. They also were 113 more than the second-highest total in the National League that season (Johnny Mize's 316). And Pat Knox, of Peoria, Ill., wrote in to say that in 1948 Musial broke a lesser-known record, the most total bases on the road. Knox writes that Musial had 251 on the road that year, busting Lou Gehrig's record by a base. Wrote Knox: "Maybe you have access to this information."
Like the Lost Homer, my search for confirmation on that info continues, too.