August 23 has highlights tales of two relievers; one is a veteran, one a rookie; one was twice the other one’s age. Both start with the letter G….
August 23, 1948: Reds reliever Harry Gumbert connected for a 10th inning walk off home run as the Cincinnati Reds beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 3-2, at Cincinnati’s Crosley Field.
The home run was Gumbert’s only hit for the year (1-25, .040 Avg) and one of only five career home runs in his 15 major league seasons. Gumbert connected off Phillies veteran Schoolboy Rowe in his only at bat after entering the game in the eighth inning in relief of Reds starter Ewell Blackwell. The win kept the Reds in seventh place, 17 1/2 games behind the league leading Boston Braves. The Reds would finish the season in seventh place with a 64-89 record, one-half game in front of the last place Chicago Cubs (64-90).
38-year-old Gumbert was an ace reliever for the Reds at this point in his career. He led the National League with 61 game appearances, with 46 games finished and (retroactively) with 17 saves. He was 10-8 with a 3.47 ERA, pitching 106 relief innings. At a time when pitchers commonly “pitched to contact” he struck out only 25 batters all year, walking 34, but only allowing five home runs. In Gumbert’s five years with the Reds, he was 40-37 with a 3.61 ERA. For his career, he finished 143-113 with a 3.68 ERA. His biggest win season came in 1939 with the New York Giants, when he finished 18-11 with a 4.32 ERA.
The 1948 Reds’ offense was led by 31-year-old slugging outfielder Hank Sauer who placed fourth in the league with 35 home runs in his first full major league season. He batted .260 with 97 rbi and an .844 OPS. He also led the league by striking out 85 times at the plate and was traded to the Chicago Cubs in mid-season 1949 after slumping to .237 with four home runs in the first 42 games of the season. He rebounded to finish the 1949 season at .275 with 31 home runs and 99 rbi. He won the NL MVP award in 1952 when he batted .270 and led the major leagues with 37 home runs and 121 rbi. One of the worst trades in Reds annals, the details of his trade to the Cubs can be found here. The Reds had drafted Sauer from the New York Yankees organization in the 1939 minor league draft.
The hard luck story of the year was Reds young pitcher, Kent Peterson, who finished the year 2-15 with a 4.60 ERA. Peterson, 22, was coming off a 6-13 season (4.25 ERA). Peterson’s career line was 13-38 with a 4.95 ERA. With the Reds, Peterson was 13-37 and his .260 won-loss percentage is the lowest of any Red with more than 25 career decisions. In fact, only four Reds with more than 10 decisions had a lower career W-L percentage than Peterson.
August 23, 1970: Young 19-year-old Don Gullett has the best game of his rookie season, striking out eight in four innings of relief, including the first six batters he faces in a Reds 7-5 win over the New York Mets.
The Reds win earned them a split of the doubleheader as the Mets had won the first game, 5-4, with the Mets scoring three times in the bottom of the ninth inning off Reds star closer Wayne Granger. Granger walked Joe Foy with the bases loaded to force in the winning run for the Mets in that first game.
Gullett’s second game effort was dominant to say the least. Gullett entered the game to start the sixth inning with the Reds trailing Tom Seaver and the Mets, 5-4. In order, Gullett struck out Bud Harrelson, Wayne Garrett, Cleon Jones, Ken Singleton, Donn Clendonon, and Ron Swoboda, all members of the 1969 Mets World Championship team, in his first two innings of work. When the Mets finally did make contact, both Joe Foy and Duffy Dyer fouled out to catcher Bench before the Mets ever placed a ball in fair territory against Gullett. Tommie Agee, the ninth batter for the Mets to face Gullett, finally hit a fair ball and that was a flyout to centerfield. In the ninth inning, Gullett struck out Harrelson and Garrett again before Jones flied to right field to end game. Gullett faced 12 batters, struck out eight, two fouled out, and two flied out.
Meanwhile, the Reds scored what proved to be the go-ahead and winning runs in the top of the seventh when pinch hitter Jimmy Stewart connected for a three-run homer off Seaver to provide what proved to be the final margin, 7-5. It was Stewart’s only home run of the year and the last one his career despite playing for three more seasons. Stewart hit eight home runs in ten major league seasons.
As a rookie, Gullett pitched almost exclusively in relief, pitching 44 games (2 starts) and 77 innings. He was 5-2 with a 2.43 ERA, striking out 77 batters. He entered the starting rotation the following year and went 16-6 with a 2.65 ERA. Gullett pitched seven seasons for the Reds, going 91-44 with a 3.03 ERA and 13 career shutouts. He left for free agency after the 1976 season and signed with the New York Yankees. Injuries finally did him in, and Gullett retired after the 1978 season with a 109-50 career record. His career won-loss percentage of .686 is listed as seventh highest of all time.
The 1970 Reds won the National League West title with a 102-60 record and swept the Pittsburgh Pirates three games to none to win the National League title. The Baltimore Orioles defeated the Reds in the 1970
World Series, four games to one.