During the 1936 season, the Pittsburgh Pirates finished eight games out of first place. The Brooklyn Dodgers ended up 25 games out of first place, only ranking ahead of the 100-loss Philadelphia Phillies. On July 28th of that season, the Pirates and Dodgers were two evenly matched clubs and it took extra innings to decide the contest.
The Pirates were trying to salvage this road series at Ebbets Field, which saw Brooklyn win three straight games, including a Sunday doubleheaders on July 26th that ended with two walk-off wins for the hometown club. The Pirates also dropped Monday’s contest, which was played in front of 485 fans. The crowd was a little bit better on Tuesday, as 1,859 fans rattled around Ebbets, hoping to push their seventh place champs to victory.
The Pirates were sending out lefty Ralph Birkofer to start this game. He would end up finishing his career with the 1937 Dodgers, with his final game coming less than a year after this game. At the time of this contest, he had a 5-3, 4.26 record. His mound opponent was right-hander Tom Baker, who had an 0-7, 4.21 record at the time. Baker’s record/ERA showed just how poorly the Dodgers played at this time. In June, he made six appearances and had a 3.62 ERA in 37.1 innings. He lost all six games.
Neither pitcher was around for the decision. Birkofer gave up five runs in 4.1 innings. Baker allowed three runs and nine base runners in 2.1 innings. As an interesting side note, one day after starting this game, Baker pitched in relief during both games of a doubleheader.
The Pirates opened up the scoring in the first inning with a Lloyd Waner single, followed by a Paul Waner triple. The Pirates had a walk, double, walk and single in the second inning, but they failed to score a run. Birkofer gave up two singles in the bottom of the second, but kept the Dodgers off the board.
In the third inning, Gus Suhr and Arky Vaughan drew walks. They would score on singles by Bill Brubaker and Tom Padden. The second single came against Max Butcher, who would go on to become a strong pitcher for the Pirates. He joined the team exactly three years after this game in a trade for Gus Suhr.
The Dodger got through against Birkofer in the bottom of the third. He issued a one-out walk, then with two outs, he allowed a single and a two-run double to make it a 3-2 game.
It’s amazing that the Pirates traded for Butcher because he had one of the worst innings without allowing a hit in the fourth. The Pirates scored three runs on five walks and a sacrifice fly. It might actually be more amazing that Butcher batted for himself in the bottom of the inning and stayed in the game. He wasn’t done giving up runs either. Butcher allowed a two-run triple in the fifth by Vaughan, which scored Paul Waner and Suhr. That gave the Pirates an 8-2 lead against one of the league’s worst teams, but Birkofer gave some of those runs right back.
Brooklyn added three runs in the fifth on a homer, double and two straight RBI singles. That brought on reliever Mace Brown, who got out of the inning without any additional damage.
The Dodgers chipped away at the deficit in the sixth with one more run. In the eighth, Brown gave up a single, walk and double, which made it 8-7 and ended his day. Red Lucas came on in relief and Brooklyn tied it on a sacrifice fly. The Pirates put two men on in the top of the ninth and the Dodgers had a runner in the bottom of the inning, but neither could scored the go-ahead run, sending the game into extra innings.
It didn’t take long for the Pirates to score, but they needed some help. A double by Suhr and a single by Vaughan, put two men on with one out. Bill Brubaker came to the plate and lifted a ball to center field that was dropped when Eddie Wilson lost it in the sun. Suhr scored, but the Pirates couldn’t tack on any insurance runs. It wouldn’t matter however, as Red Lucas limited the Dodgers to a single in the ninth for the win.
Suhr scored a career high four runs in this game and he collected four hits. Both of the Waners had two hits and two runs scored. Vaughan had two hits and drove in three runs. Tom Padden had three hits and drove in two runs. Pep Young was ejected in the eighth after arguing a call while on defense. The Dodgers used 17 players in this game, which was almost unheard of back then.
Here’s the boxscore and play-by-play
courtesy of Retrosheet.
Here are links to the previous Game Rewind articles:
Pirates vs Mets, July 1, 1966
Pirates at Phillies, August 3, 1990
Pirates vs Pirates, March 11, 1928
Pirates vs Padres, May 14, 1975
Pirates vs Paterson, May 7, 1933
Pirates vs Reds, August 22, 1969
Alleghenys vs Red Stockings, May 2, 1877
Pirates vs Phillies, June 27, 1993
Pirates vs Moose, August 17, 1924
Pirates vs Giants, August 26, 1926
Pirates vs Pirates, March 8, 1933
Pirates vs Phillies, June 8, 1903
Alleghenys vs Hoosiers, June 15, 1889
Pirates vs Cardinals, September 28, 1937
Pirates vs Yankees, July 5, 1923
Pirates vs Reds, April 27, 1912
Pirates vs Indians, July 17, 1999
Pirates vs Cubs, April 21, 1991
Pirates at Reds, April 14, 1909
Pirates vs Reds, April 14, 1960
Pirates at Braves, August 23, 1971
Pirates vs Giants, September 16, 1962
Pirates vs Athletics, July 20, 1959
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.