November 27, 2022

It Could Have Been Worse, Milwaukee

March 31, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Opening day 2011 saw the Milwaukee Brewers suffer an improbable defeat, allowing four runs in the ninth inning – punctuated by a two-out, three-run game-winning home run by Ramon Hernandez – in a 7-6 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.

A deflating loss? Yes. Crushing? No doubt. Frustrating? Of course. The worst loss in opening day history? Hardly. OK, the worst in Brewers history? Well…

In 1901, the American League started its inaugural season with a team in Milwaukee. This version of the Brewers lasted only one season and really is directly related to the Baltimore Orioles franchise – moving to St. Louis to become the Browns in 1902 and then to Baltimore in 1954 – yet, they do share the same name with their distant cousins of more than a century later.

The AL was set to open with a full slate of games on April 24, 1901, however rain washed out all but the contest between Cleveland and Chicago in the Windy City.

The Brewers probably wished it rained April 25, too. Or at least before the ninth inning of their game at Detroit.

Things started well for Milwaukee, however, as the Brewers took a 7-0 lead after three innings. Detroit would score two in the fourth and one in the fifth, but Milwaukee would seemingly put the game away with three runs in each of the seventh and eighth innings. Detroit would get one back in the eighth, but the Brewers still had a seemingly insurmountable 13-4 lead. Seemingly.

Pink Hawley (and that is not a nickname; his full name was Emerson Pink Hawley) had pitched the first six innings and was replaced by Pete Dowling. No reason was given for this change, but it was likely not due to ineffectiveness in this era of complete games (the Brewers would complete 107 of their 139 starts). Hawley had allowed just five hits and one walk in his six innings. So perhaps it was just to give someone else some work in a lopsided game.

Needing just three outs to finish off this rout, Dowling gave up a lead-off double to Doc Casey then a run-scoring single to Jimmy Barrett. Still, that only made it 13-5. But Kid Gleason and Ducky Holmes followed with singles and Pop Dillon doubled to score two more and make it 13-7.

When Kid Elberfeld hit another double, manager Hugh Duffy had seen enough. Unfortunately he hadn’t the foresight to get anybody warming up, but he still brought in Bert Husting to, as the Associated Press put it, “save the game.”

Amazingly, a cold-armed Husting was able to retire Kid Nance, but then he walked Fritz Buelow and surrendered singles to pitcher Emil Frisk and Casey, to now cut Milwaukee’s lead to 13-11.

Husting came back and struck out Jimmy Barrett. Two were now out and Duffy surely was breathing a little easier and perhaps even smiled as Gleason hit a grounder to Jimmy Burke at third base … that is until Burke muffed the hit.

The fans at Bennett Park – reported to be between 9,000-10,000 were now “in a perfect frenzy” and Holmes kept the inning alive by also reaching base.

Dillon then stepped up and knocked his second double of the inning – and fourth of the game, which is still an American League opening day record (and only done one other time in the major leagues by Cincinnati’s Jim Greengrass in 1954) – and the winning runs crossed the plate.

After witnessing a 10-run ninth inning, “pandemonium reigned” among the Detroit faithful. “The great throng rushed out on the diamond, and Dillon was hoisted on the shoulders of six men, and, surrounded by the shouting thousands, carried about the grounds until he begged to be put down.”

Things wouldn’t get much better for Milwaukee in Detroit. The next day the Brewers held a 5-2 lead after seven innings, only to surrender two runs to the Tigers in both the eighth and ninth. On April 27, the Brewers led 9-7 after six only to lose 13-9 as Detroit tallied once in the seventh and five times in the eighth. And in the series finale April 28, Milwaukee broke a 5-5 tie with a six-run seventh inning, only to see Detroit score three times in the eighth and four in the ninth for yet another disheartening loss.

So, was Milwaukee’s loss to the Reds on Thursday bad? Of course. But as you can see, it could be a whole heck of a lot worse.

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