They’ve been playing major league baseball for quite a while now, so it’s hard to do something that’s never been tried before. Sure enough, as stunning as it was when the Milwaukee Brewers lifted starting pitcher Wade Miley after just one batter in Wednesday’s NLCS Game 5 against the Los Angeles Dodgers, it very much had echoes in a similar gambit during Game 7 of the 1924 World Series.
Then, as now, one team was trying to gain an advantage with some managerial deception. In that case, it was the Washington Senators' 27-year-old player-manager, Bucky Harris, who gave his starter an exceptionally quick hook.
Harris’s goal was to give his counterpart, New York Giants Manager John McGraw, a very difficult choice regarding the latter’s star rookie, Bill Terry. The Senators had been blistered by Terry’s hitting through the first six games of the series, but he was known to have a weakness against left-handed pitchers.
With that in mind, Harris gave a righty, Curly Ogden, his first start of the series, only to pull him after just two batters — with Terry due to come up third. McGraw decided against using a pinch-hitter, since that would have forced Terry out for the rest of the game, but the future Hall of Famer wound up going 0-2 against the lefty, George Mogridge, who Harris brought in from the bullpen.
On Wednesday, Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts stacked his lineup with right-handed hitters in anticipation of going up against the left-handed Miley. After the pitcher, who performed well in Saturday’s Game 2, walked leadoff batter Cody Bellinger on five pitches, Brewers Manager Craig Counsell replaced him with righty reliever Brandon Woodruff.
The move paid off; Woodruff not only got out of some trouble in the first but pitched into the sixth inning, giving up just one run over the first five. In an added benefit, the short stint amounted to an off-day session for Miley, who was quickly confirmed to be the Brewers' starter for Friday’s Game 6, meaning that he would be pitching then on full rest.
According to ESPN, Miley became just the second pitcher in postseason history to start a game and face just one batter, but the other, the Reds' Johnny Cueto in 2012, was forced out with back spasms, so the strategy behind Miley’s quick exit stands alone. Well, not entirely alone, as baseball history tells us, with the only difference being that Harris left Ogden in for two batters.
The ploy worked in the short term, and it helped the Senators win the game, 4-3, to bring the long-downtrodden franchise its first World Series triumph. In terms of Senators pitchers who aided the cause, though, the contest was actually more notable for the fact that Washington legend Walter Johnson was brought in to close it out, with the 36-year-old holding the powerful Giants scoreless from the ninth through the 12th inning to finally get the championship his stellar career deserved.
Johnson would go on to pitch for the Senators in the 1925 World Series, including in another Game 7, but Washington would lose that contest to the Pittsburgh Pirates. As for Ogden, his two-batter stint in 1924 ended up being the only postseason appearance of his five-year career, but it proved to be a memorable one, even 94 years later.
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