Archive for March, 2013

Voiselle

I recently came across one of my previous stops in this journey.  During and following my career in journalism, I explored baseball history and produced a baseball history web site.  Prior to my final year in seminary, I was contacted by an anonymous buyer who purchased the web site from me.  I used the funds to pay for my final semester of seminary.

What follows is an historical piece that was published on several other websites.  I had the chance to meet Bill Voiselle, a pitcher from Ninety Six, multiple times prior to his death.  I enjoyed the conversations that I had with him and the chance to listen to his journey from Ninety Six to the major leagues.  

I hope that you will enjoy this glimpse into my journey.

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By Dean Lollis

After taking the National League by storm in 1944, Bill Voiselle was poised to carry the New York Giants pitching staff in the 1945 season.

During that year, however, Voiselle would become the subject of much talk over a $500 fine he received from his manager.

Giants’ player-manager Mel Ott declared before the season started that Voiselle would be pitching every fourth day, no matter where his turn in the pitching rotation would normally fall.

Voiselle responded by opening the season 8-0 before hitting a skid where he had suffered three straight losses. Ott was concerned about Voiselle’s performance.

“I asked him this morning whether anything was bothering him and he told me there was absolutely nothing,” Ott said.

The entire team was in a losing slide and Ott called his pitchers together to give them a new ultimatum.

According to an article that appeared in the New York Times on June 3, Ott had warned his pitchers “that a heavy fine would result if a hit followed of the next pitch of a nothing and two count.”

He said the pitchers would receive a $100 fine for breaking this rule.

“He surprised all of us with the meeting,” Voiselle, would later say.

The team was now entering a key series with the Cardinals and Voiselle approached his manager to volunteer for the start on June 1, 1945, at Sportsman’s Park.  His wish was granted.

Based on his early innings, Voiselle was off to a masterful start against the Cardinals and he entered the ninth inning with a 3-1 lead.

The Cardinals’ first batter, pinch-hitter Dave Bartosch opened the inning with a single, but Voiselle got Red Schoedniest to hit a fly ball for an out.

Then, the trouble came.

Voiselle threw two strikes to Cardinals’ outfielder Johnny Hopp to start out with an 0-2 count. Hopp connected on the next pitch and drove it into left field for a run-scoring triple. This pitch would prove to be costly for Voiselle who came back to get the next batter to ground out.

The situation was now a 3-2 lead for the Giants and two outs.

Ray Sanders stepped in for the Cardinals and, after two pitches, the count stood at one ball and one strike.

Mother Nature decided to get involved in the game and the winds picked up. Both teams were cleared from the field as a storm seemed imminent. He sat there for 53 minutes and the rains never came. Finally, the umpires cleared them to go back on the field.

“I just sat there in the dugout watching it,” Voiselle said, in a later interview. “I was surprised that he put me back on the mound.”

Sanders, facing Vosielle after nearly an hour delay, hit the pitch into right field. The ball fell in front of Ott as Hopp came home to tie the game. The next batter, Whitey Kurowski, hit a triple to score the winning run for the Cardinals.

Ott reacted after the game by fining Voiselle $500, five times more than he had originally stated, for not throwing a fastball on an 0-2 count.

For Voiselle, the fine was huge when compared to what he was earning in the major leagues.

“He fined me $500 and I was only making $3,500 at the time,” he said.

Newspaper accounts said the pitch had been a change-up over the center of the plate. Voiselle was quoted as saying that he had tried to throw the pitch “high and inside” to Hopp.

There was a happy ending to the story of the fine, however. On June 23, 1945, the Washington Post reported that Ott had decided to return the money to his pitcher because Voiselle was trying to break his losing streak.

“There’s no question of the pitcher’s team spirit,” Ott said.

In the years that would come, the story would be molded and reshaped. A column in the Washington Post a few years after the incident proclaimed that Voiselle had give up a home run to Hopp.

When Ott died on Nov. 21, 1958 and, when the Associated Press published his obituary, the fine had grown from $500 to $1,000.

Another retelling of the story popped up years later in “Baseball Digest.” In this version, Voiselle, pitching later in the year, throws a strike on an 0-2 pitch and begs the umpire to change his call to a ball because of what happened with the St. Louis incident.

This same retelling has also been attributed to another unnamed rookie pitcher who threw the strike and begged with the umpire because he didn’t want to be fined $500. Both of these retellings can be attributed to the “urban myths” of baseball.