|A Bizarre Game of Baseball|
By John F. Pardon
The 1981 minor league baseball season had at least one unique experience and that was a 32-inning tie game between Rochester and Pawtucket that was continued at a later date amidst all kinds of excitement. But 30 years ago, in 1951, there was an even more unusual game in the Class D Mississippi-Ohio Valley League where Danville (Illinois) gave Vincennes (Indiana) a beating by the score of 40-5. However, the score, which was the highest for one team in modern times, does not fully reveal the several abnormalities which took place in this game, all resulting from the way the Vincennes "manager" directed the team.
SABR member Phil Piton, former President of the National Association, called this game to our attention and provided the basic source document, a July 30, 1951, letter to George Trautman, President of the National Association, from Robert Rouse, General Manager of the Vincennes baseball club. It is such a complete report that it is most convenient and appropriate to quote the letter here in full and then tie up any loose ends after that. Here is the letter.
Mr. G. M. Trautman, President
Your letter to Mr. Horace Parrish, President of the Vincennes
Baseball Club, has been handed to me for reply. This letter was re-
garding a complaint by Mr. George J. Kromer against Mr. Parrish
and Mr. Raymond Werner, Secretary of the Club.
In an agreement dated March 28, 1951 Mr. Parrish and Mr.
Werner agreed to let Mr. Kromer take over the management of the
Vincennes Club, on the field, for the 1951 season. Mr. Kromer
had stated that he was an old time professional ball player and had
managed professional clubs at Blytheville, Arkansas and Blackwell,
Oklahoma. Kromer further stated that he had a system of play that
had developed several major league players and would teach that
system to the Vincennes Club. In return for letting him "coach"
the club, Kromer agreed to pay the Vincennes Club $5,000.00 when
the agreement was signed and another $5,000.00 on June 1, 1951.
Kromer paid the first $5,000.00 and arrived in Vincennes in time
for spring training. At that time I had my first meeting with him
and he sat down to give me what he called the "Sizzels" of base-
ball. Kromer made it plain at once that baseball had been played
all wrong for 75 years. He referred to such men as Cobb, Speaker,
Alexander, Hornsby, Ruth and Musial as "dummies" and stated
that none of those men played any better than the average sand
lot kid. I was informed that this spring training would be different
and would be run the right way. It, in part, consisted of using
sponge rubber balls instead of baseballs, always throwing the ball
in the infield to any base on two or more bounces, never using a
glove or mitt to catch a ball and to catch with both arms extended
rigidily in front of you with all fmgers spread apart as far as possi-
ble. Never to run, as that would tire you and for pitchers not to
throw. To warm up, a pitcher was to hold his arms upraised for 10
minutes. He was then ready to go. To strengthen the eyes, players
were asked to look into the sun for 15 minutes. For hitting practice,
players went to the plate with a 3-2 count on them. Kromer sta-
tioned himself behind the mound as umpire. The pitcher delivered.
If the ball was over and the batter took the pitch, he was out and
another man came up. If the pitch was bad, the batter walked and
a new man came up. If the batter fouled the pitch, he was out.
New man. The only way a batter could get more than one pitch
was to hit the first one for what Kromer judged to be a base hit.
In that event, he stayed up, still with the 3-2 count.
Naturally, after two days of this I knew that something had
to be done so I started taking Kromer on "scouting trips" every
day while one of our veteran players conducted spring training.
When the season opened, I was able to convince Kromer, whose
age is 75, that the road trips were too hard for him and that he
should not make them. At home I could watch him and keep him
from causing too much trouble. My task was to try to keep Kromer
happy in order to protect the owners, who know little of baseball
and take no part in the operation of the club, because of Kromer's
investment, and at the same time see that the players were not
subjected to a lot of the "hocus pocus" that Kromer believed in.
Things went along well until June 17th. On that day we were
playing at Danville. Kromer, unknown to me, had hidden himself
on the club bus and made the road trip. This was the chance he
had been waiting for. He submitted a lineup for the first game of
a doubleheader that found outfielders pitching, pitchers in the
infield and infielders in the outfield. The players tried to show
Kromer that this was bad baseball but he replied that if they were
ball players they could play just as well one place as another. The
result was Danville 40, Vincennes 5. After the unbelievable score,
Kromer left the park and club and didn't return for three days.
When he did arrive, it was to brag about how he made headlines
in papers all over the country as a result of the game at Danvifie.
I tried to explain that things like that were very bad for the game
and could only result in causing the club trouble with both the
League and the National Association. I was soundly cursed by
Kromer and further informed that no one could do a damn thing
about it because he had a contract and could run the club the way
he wanted to. The same evening, June 20th, one of the players told
me that Kromer was again drawing up a lineup with players out
of normal position. I went to the players' bench and talked with
Kromer. He refused to alter his plan. I then called the club president,
Mr. Parrish, and he tried to talk with Kromer but Kromer hung up.
Mrs. Parrish came to the park to talk with Kromer but he re-
fused to alter his plan and used bad language in her presence - When
nothing else would work, I again went to the players' bench, tore
up Kromer's lineup and informed him that he could no longer
manage the club. He had already broken his contract because he had
not paid the second $5,000.00 that was due on June 1st. Kromer
left the field and the next day sent a letter thanking the club owners
for the chance they had given him and stating that he was "resign-
ing" and going home. It must have been while he was at home that
he wrote your office. I understand that our League President and
the Sporting News also received a similar letter.
Kromer is now back in Vincennes. He goes to the ball park
every night and spends a lot of time with me. He does not, how-
ever, try to manage the club. Today, when Mr. Parrish handed me
your letter, I asked Kromer when and why he had written your of-
fice. He replied, "I don't remember ever writing to Mr. Trautman".
That is the story. I know it sounds unbelievable but it is true.
In fact there is much, much more that could be added but I think
this is enough to give you some ideas about Kromer. If you should
desire more information, I can send you a few of Kromer's "sizzel
sheets", full of information about the new strike zone, complete
information on why a batter should strike out on one strike or
walk on two balls, how a ball game should be only four innings or
a lot of other things that I'll bet even your office never thought of.
I am not trying to make a joke of this thing but it is hard to
keep from seeing some humor in the thing when one knows that
Kromer sincerely thinks that baseball is all wrong and that he,
alone, has the answer that will save it.
Yours very truly,
/s/ Robert M. Rouse
Robert M. Rouse, Gen. Mgr.
Vincennes Baseball Club
While there is no attempt here to draw conclusions from this incident, it can be noted that in the 30 years since that 1951 game, baseball is still being played much the same way as before. In fact, it was played pretty normally in the second game of that June 17 doubleheader. After Kromer left the park the Vincennes team showed what it could do under reasonably normal conditions when it beat Danville 8-7 in the 7-inning nightcap.
That was quite a comeback from the 40-5 disaster which saw the substitute Vincennes pitchers give up 32 hits and 13 walks. The Vincennes fielders, only three of whom were in their regular positions, kicked in with eight errors. The Danville team had 61 at bats, but only one home run was achieved in the one-sided contest. The box score is not carried here to spare the reader.