Monday, May 13, 2013
One more note on iron man pitchers
By David Schoenfield
Last week, I wrote about the game Leon Cadore and Joe Oeschger each pitched 26 innings, battling to a 1-1 tie.
The great Steve Wulf reminded me of a couple more iron man performances. In 1926, Indians pitcher Dutch Levsen started and won both games of a doubleheader against the Red Sox, pitching two complete games and allowing four hits and one run each game. He's the last pitcher with two complete-game victories in one day.
What I can't figure out is why manager Tris Speaker had him pitch both games. Levsen wasn't a particularly distinguished pitcher, in his first full season in the majors, although having a decent season. He hadn't pitched particularly well entering that late August doubleheader, having been knocked out in the third inning a couple starts prior. The Indians entered the day in second place, 8.5 games behind the first-place Yankees. The Red Sox would end up losing 107 games that year, so maybe Speaker saw it as an opportunity to save one of his better pitchers for the next series, especially after Levsen cruised in the opening game.
We don't know how many pitches Levsen threw. He faced 30 batters the first game and walked just one with no strikeouts, so it's possible his pitch count was well under 100. In the second game, he had two walks and again struck out nobody.
Still, the day may have taken its toll. Levsen would win only five more games in his major league career.
Jack Scott of the Phillies was the last pitcher to throw two complete games in one day, splitting a doubleheader the following season. Scott was a journeyman right-hander (he'd lead the NL with 21 losses that year) who beat the Reds 3-1 in the first game, allowing six hits and striking out nobody, and came back to throw eight innings in 3-0 loss in the second game.
With good reason, the doubleheader trick soon fell out of favor, although Brooklyn's Don Newcombe nearly accomplished the feat in 1950, throwing a complete game victory in the first game to beat the Phillies 2-0 and going seven innings in the nightcap (getting a no-decision). From Aug. 17 to Sept. 6, Newcombe started seven games in 21 days and pitched 59.1 innings ... and had a 1.37 ERA. The Dodgers were in second place, 5.5 games behind the Phillies, so this appears to be a matter of manager Burt Shotton riding his hot hand as hard as possible. (The Phillies would end up clinching the pennant on the final day of the season.)