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August 9, 1954 – Indianapolis Indians vs. American Association All-Stars

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Indianapolis Indians vs. American Association All-Stars
August 9, 1954
Victory Field
Attendance: 10,948

American Association Programs
20 pages

 

21-year old Herb Score pitched the first two innings of the 1954 American Association All-Star Game for the host Indianapolis Indians.  He blanked a team of All-Stars culled from the Association’s other seven clubs and it was no surprise – Score was the finest minor league ballplayer in the country that summer.  For the season, Score led the Association in wins (22), innings (251.0) E.R.A. (2.62) and strikeouts (an incredible 330!)

In fact, the entire 1954 Indianapolis club was a fearsome bunch.  They came into the game with a commanding 15.5 game lead in the American Association pennant race.  Score’s minor league roommate and lifelong friend, Rocky Colavito, mashed 38 home runs and drove in 116.  This was the first American Association All-Star Game in eight years, but before the annual exhibition went on hiatus in 1947, the All-Star squad defeated the host team six consecutive times.  That streak came to a halt at Indianapolis’ Victory Park (later known as Bush Stadium) as Indianapolis prevailed 3-2 before a near capacity crowd of 10,948.

Score was named the 1954 Sporting News Minor League Player-of-the-Year.  The following summer he was promoted to Cleveland and won American League Rookie-of-the-Year honors, with 16 wins and a league-leading 245 strikeouts.  In 1956 he was even better (20-9, 2.53 ERA) and Cleveland fans salivated over possessing one of the dominant hurlers of the American League through the 1960’s.  In early 1957, a few months before Score’s third Major League campaign, Boston Red Sox General Manager Joe Cronin reportedly offered the unprecedented sum of $1 million to buy the 23-year old’s contract from Cleveland.  Indians’ GM Hank Greenberg refused.

But Score’s life was marked by extraordinary propensity towards freak accidents and illness.  As a toddler, he was run over by a truck and later in childhood was bedridden for nearly a year with rheumatic fever.  As a high schooler, he had an appendectomy and fractured his ankle playing basketball.  On May 7, 1957 Score started a game against the New York Yankees at Municipal Stadium in Cleveland.  In the first inning Gil McDougald of the Yankees smashed a line drive back up the middle that struck Score, breaking bones in his face and damaging his eye.  He would miss the rest of the season.   Making a comeback the following year, Score tore a tendon in his arm.  After the arm injury, he never regained his form as dominant pitcher.

The Indians traded Score to the White Sox in 1960.  Meanwhile back in the minors, the Indianapolis Indians had changed Major League parent clubs several times during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.  By 1962, Indianapolis was a White Sox farm club, although it still used the “Indians” name.  Score found himself back in Indianapolis for most of the 1962 season, appearing in 26 games and winning 10.  But the Score’s time was over and after 20 more games in Indianapolis in 1963 he retired at age 30.

Score returned to Cleveland as the Indians’ television and (later) radio play-by-play man in 1964.  He stayed for 34 seasons, retiring in 1997.  Score passed away in 2008 at age 75.  The Indianapolis Indians continue to play to this day and are the second oldest minor league baseball team in America, trailing only the Rochester Red Wings in longevity.

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Written by AC

February 7th, 2014 at 11:29 pm

1949-1960 Charleston Senators

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Charleston SenatorsCentral League (1949-1951)
American Association (1952-1960)

Born: 1948 – Charleston joins the Central League for the 1949 season
Folded: January 17, 1961

Stadium: Watt Powell Park

Team Colors:

Owners: Community stockholders

 

The Charleston Senators of 1949-1960 (actually two different franchises) were the most recent in a spate of minor league baseball clubs to operate under the “Senators” nickname in the West Virginia city during the first half of the 20th century.    Previous incarnations of the Sens played from 1910-1916 and again from 1931-1942.

Baseball returned to Charleston after World War II when the Senators joined the Class A Central League as a new Cincinnati Reds farm club for the 1949 season.  The Sens lasted three years as a Reds affiliate until the Central League itself folded following the 1951 season.

The 1952 season started with no baseball at Watt Powell Park.  But on June 23, 1952, the Chicago White Sox’ struggling Toledo Mud Hens farm club in the American Association moved to Charleston in mid-season.  The club took back the Senators identity on arrival in West Virginia and finished the year with a ghastly 46-107 record.

The Senators continued to be dreadful for the next two years as a White Sox farm club and again in 1955 as a parent-less independent team.  One highlight during the 1955 independent season was the arrival 39-year old former Negro League star Luke Easter, who bashed 30 home runs and drove in 102.  But the team itself was terrible again and finished 55-99.

Charleston SenatorsThe Sens’ fortunes finally changed in 1956 when the Detroit Tigers became Charleston’s parent club and stocked the team with young prospects, including Jim Bunning, Charlie Lau, and Hal Woodeschick.  In 1958, the Senators won their first and only American Association pennant with an 85-66 record.

The Tigers pulled out after the 1959 season and the Washington Senators as Charleston’s new parent club for 1960. (For the first and only time, Charleston’s long-standing Senators nickname – quite coincidentally – aligned with their Major League patron).  Although the Senators were typically a laughingstock Major League franchise, they stocked Charleston with a host of top prospects in the summer of 1960, including Jim Kaat, Don Mincher and Zoilo Versalles.

Charleston lost $30,000 as a community run ball club during the 1960 season – enough that the team’s debts became a threat to the 1961 season.  In addition, the Washington Senators were in the midst of moving to Minneapolis to become the Minnesota Twins and were embroiled in a financial dispute with the American Association over the rights fee that Senators owner Calvin Griffith would have to pay to displace the AA’s St. Paul Saints and Minneapolis Millers franchises.  (The American Association asked for $1.6 million.  The ever tight-fisted Griffith initially countered with $50,000.)  Charleston was caught in the middle of the dispute, to an extent, as a member of the Association seeking compensation from Griffith and the Major League club declined to bail Charleston out of its red ink.  After four months of trying to re-capitalize the ball club and find a way to field a team in 1961,Sam Lopinsky, the President of the community stockholders, threw in the towel on January 17, 1961.

Baseball did return to Charleston and Watt Powell Park midway through the summer of 1961 when the Class AAA San Juan Marlins relocated from Puerto Rico in midseason.  That created the unusual scenario of a West Virginia team named after a salt water sporting fish, but that is a story for another day.

 

==YouTube==

24-minute documentary “Rounding Third: Watt Powell Once More” from West Virginia Public Broadcasting, circa 2004.  Great vintage footage of Luke Easter with the Sens.

 

==In Memoriam==

Slugger Luke Easter, who starred for the 1955 Senators, was murdered in an armed robbery in Ohio on March 29, 1979.  He was 63.

Marvin Milkes, who was the Senators last General Manager in 1960, later became GM of the Seattle Pilots and a prominent character in Jim Bouton’slandmark memoir Ball Four.  Milkes died of a heart attack while working out at a gym on January 31st, 1982 at age 58.

Zollo Versalles hit .278 in a 139 games for Charleston as a 20-year old in the summer of 1960.  Five years later, he was the American League MVP for the Twins.  Versalles died at age 55 on June 9, 1995.

 

 

==Links==

American Association Media Guides

American Association Programs

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Written by AC

December 28th, 2013 at 6:35 pm