Cubs Put Two Balls In Play At The Same Time!

Cubs Put Two Balls In Play At The Same Time!

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Cubs Put Two Balls In Play At The Same Time!

Yes…it really happened to the 1959 Cubs.

My recent post featuring the Cubs at spring training in Scottsdale, Arizona got me thinking about this play, which has been called one of the most unusual in major league history. In the featured photo I posted, the big blond player on the left was 6’ 2” Bob Anderson, and on the right was Dick Drott.

As a long-time Cub fan, it just so happens I actually remember both Anderson and Drott. I also recall that Bob Anderson, although he had a modest seven year career (36-46, 4.26 ERA) from 1957-1963, was involved in a freak play. It occurred in a game between the Cubs and Cardinals at Wrigley Field on June 30, 1959. As a kid, I remember watching this game on WGN and I can even recall Jack Brickhouse’s wild description as the play unfolded.

For maybe the only time in major league history, there were actually two balls in play at the same time, including the bizarre sight of two different balls thrown at virtually the exact moment to second attempting to catch Stan Musial who was trying to take an extra base after a walk. I’ll try to describe the action. Stay with me, it gets a bit confusing…

In the top of the fourth inning, right-hander Bob Anderson was on the mound for the Cubs and had a 3-1 count on Stan Musial. Anderson’s next delivery was errant and hit off both Cub catcher Sammy Taylor and home plate umpire Vic Delmore and rolled all the way to the backstop. Delmore called “Ball Four,” and Musial started to jog down to first.

Both Anderson and Taylor immediately shouted out that Musial had foul-tipped the ball. They got into Delmore’s face arguing about it at home plate. Since catcher Taylor didn’t go after the ball, the Cardinal’s bat boy shagged it down and then rolled it towards Cubs’ field announcer, Pat Pieper, seated behind home plate. Musial, seeing Taylor in a heated dispute and not retrieving the wild pitch, then wisely made a break for second.  

Sensing what was going on, Alvin Dark, the Cubs’ alert third baseman, scooped up the rolling ball before it reached Pieper, and threw it to shortstop Ernie Banks in an attempt to nail Musial.

Meanwhile, during the dispute at home plate, umpire Delmore absentmindedly pulled out a new ball and handed it to Taylor. The pitcher Anderson, seeing that Musial was trying for second, grabbed the new ball, and, at the exact time that Dark threw his ball to Banks, Anderson threw the new ball to second baseman, Tony Taylor. Just to add to the confusion, Anderson’s throw sailed over Tony Taylor’s head and went into centerfield.

Try to picture the scene: Two thrown balls simultaneously in flight towards second base, one on its way to the shortstop Banks; and the other on its way to the second baseman Tony Taylor. But this one sails over Tony Taylor’s head. Now the play goes from the sublime to the ridiculous…

Musial didn’t see Dark’s throw to Banks. He had his back to home plate and was watching Anderson’s ball sail into centerfield, gauging in his mind he could make third easily. But half way there, he gets the shock of his life: He’s tagged out by Ernie Banks!…holding the original ball! Musial could only stare in disbelief. He couldn’t believe his eyes: “Where did that come from? I just saw the ball sail into centerfield!”

After a delay as the umpires huddled trying to sort out the mess, Musial was ruled out since he was tagged with the original ball. Cardinal manager Solly Hemus protested the game, saying that there had been interference with the bat boy picking up a ball in play. Thankfully for all involved, the bizarre play made no difference, as the Cardinals won the game, 4-1.

There was a sad aftermath to the play: Vic Delmore’s umpiring contract was not renewed for the 1960 season. Less than a year after the incident, Delmore died at age 44. Alvin Dark recalled years later, “It was a mess and I really felt sorry for Vic Delmore…I remember everyone laughing at him. That play ruined him, and he was a great fellow and a good umpire.”

Gary Livacari

Photo Credits: All from Google search

Information: Excerpts edited from the Bob Anderson Wikipedia page.

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I'm a baseball historian who also loves to write. My forte is identifying ballplayers in old photos, and my specail interest is the Dead Ball Era.

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