by Harold Friend
The Brooklyn Dodgers hosted the Boston Braves in the 1934 season opener. Casey Stengel tabbed Van Lingle Mungo as his pitcher. Mungo was a 23 year-old right hander who had been Brooklyn's top winner the year before, winning 16 games with a 2.72 ERA. Braves' manager Bill McKechnie was starting Fred Frankhouse, who had also been a 16-game winner in 1933.
Fireworks Before and During the Game
Before a crowd of about 28,000 fans, Stengel's Dodgers beat Boston, 8-7. There were fireworks before and during the game. A fan in a field box behind first base set off a string of firecrackers just as the players and the band lined up to march to the flagpole for the playing of the national anthem. The fireworks were followed by a large piece of bunting catching fire in the upper stands. Fragments of burning bunting fell as fans in the lower stands ran for cover. The fireworks perpetrator was not arrested because it was 1934, not 2009.
The Ceremonial First Pitch
To add to the confusion, home plate umpire Ernest Quigley failed to allow Brooklyn borough president Raymond Ingersoll to make the ceremonial first pitch. After Van Lingle Mungo delivered a strike to Boston's Bill Urbanski, Quigley stopped play, gave Ingersoll the baseball, and the politician pitched it to Brooklyn catcher Al Lopez.
"Brooklyn" on the Dodgers' Uniforms
One other bit of irony occurred. The Brooklyn Dodgers wore their new home uniforms for the first time. No longer was "Dodgers" inscribed across the front of the jersey. It was replaced by "Brooklyn."
After eight innings, Brooklyn led 8-4, but the Braves made it interesting. Boston had three runs in, runners on first and third, two outs, and Pinky Whitney at the plate. Whitney hit a line drive to third baseman Joe Stripp and the game was history.
Stengel had thoughts of taking out Mungo in the ninth inning, and he had two conferences, but the conferences were not with his pitcher. Stengel spoke to catcher Al Lopez, not Mungo, before making his decisions. It was 1934, not 2009.
Two Brooklyn Home Runs
The Dodgers hit two home runs in the game, which was unexpected, since not one Brooklyn player had hit as many as 10 home runs the previous season. The Dodgers lacked offense and their pitching staff was basically Van Lingle Mungo, but it was a new season, there was a new manager, and optimism reigns in April.
A First Division Finish?
When each league consisted of eight teams, being in top four finishers was usually considered an accomplishment, especially for a team that had just finished sixth. The least Brooklyn fans expected was a first division finish, since Bill Terry's Giants seemed destined to repeat as champions. Things moved slower in the 1930s, at least with respect to baseball, and moving up from sixth to fourth was viewed as a step toward the goal of winning the pennant.
Many experts believed that Brooklyn could finish fourth. The Giants' Eddie Brannick said, "I'll put Brooklyn in fourth place. With Sunday baseball in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Brooklyn won't have to make those Saturday night jumps back home to get in a Sunday game. Furthermore Bob Quinn (Brooklyn general manager) is a fine fellow and some of my best friends are Brooklynites."
Beating Boston on opening day was great, but it was a long season, and the Dodgers were a team with many problems. They lacked pitching depth, and were offensively challenged. One hope they had was that Hack Wilson, who set the National League single season home run record when he hit 56 in 1930, and who set the still-standing single season RBI record of 190 (corrected to 191), would return to form.
Reg. U.S. Pat. Off.By JOHN KIERAN.. (1934, January 29). Sports of the Times :All Over but the Shouting. . New York Times (1857-Current file),20. Retrieved July 6, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2005). (Document ID: 95471914).
By ROSCOE McGOWEN.. (1934, April 18). TWO HOMERS HELP DODGERS SCORE, 8-7 :Wilson and Taylor Connect as Stengel's Men Subdue the Braves Before 28,000. . New York Times (1857-Current file),25. Retrieved July 6, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2005). (Document ID: 97142856).