Homer in the Gloamin’

Fighting through players and fans in order to touch home.

I haven’t done a Hall of Fame post in a while, so I decided to do one today because I couldn’t think of anything I really wanted to write about. Before doing today’s post, I had never heard of Gabby Hartnett, and I definitely hadn’t heard of the “Homer in the Gloamin'”. I actually had to triple-check that I spelled that right. When stuff like that happens, I look it up, and you benefit.

The 1938 Chicago Cubs were a good team that wavered between 2nd and 4th for most of the season. Offensively, the entire lineup was oddly even. There were no standouts but no pushovers either. Bill Lee and Clay Bryant led the staff with 22 and 19 wins, respectively, but again, there were no major standouts. It was just a solid all-around team.

In front of them, the Pittsburgh Pirates spent the early part of the season in the middle of the pack, but a 13-game winning streak at the beginning of July vaulted them within a half game of first. They took over on July 18th and began building a significant lead. Johnny Rizzo had a terrific season, belting 23 HR and driving in 111. As for the pitching staff, it had contributions from a lot of guys, five having between 11 and 15 wins.

Coming into September, Pittsburgh held a 7 game lead over the Cubs, but the Cubs came charging while the Pirates fell off. The Cubs rattled off an impressive 21-5 month while the Pirates had a mediocre 13-14. The two teams met for the penultimate series of the season. The lead was down to a game and a half, and Chicago took the first game of the series 2-1 behind Dizzy Dean.

On September 28, the teams met for a crucial game, the winner would hold the lead in the division. The first eight and a half innings went as expected, a hard-fought 5-5 tie. Unfortunately, it was getting dark, and Wrigley Field would only grudgingly put lights in 50 years later. If the game was called (it was up to the umpire to do so), the game would have to be replayed the next day … the whole game … all over again. The umpires had decided that after the ninth inning, the game would be called. Enter Mace Brown, closer of the Pirates (though the definition of closer has substantially changed). He put down the first two “lovable losers”, and he only had Gabby Hartnett left. A shadow of his former self, Hartnett got two quick strikes. But Brown made a serious mistake and left one over the plate. Hartnett bashed it into the darkness (the word “gloaming” meant twilight) to send Wrigley into a frenzy.

That brought the Cubs win streak to 9, a fast finish for a team that needed it. The Cubs added two more to that streak. Beaten, the Pirates dropped 4 of their last 5. The Cubs went on to win the NL pennant, but they were outclassed and swept by the New York Yankees for the World Series.

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