Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Rusty Tipple

So, when they were extolling Domingo German's magnificent effort the other day on YES, they mentioned that his 9 strikeouts in his first start were the most by any Yankee since Dan Tipple, in 1915.

Say what?

This seems to be a year of miracle and wonders, with young Yankees reaching all sorts of new milestones, such as El Conquistador surpassing Mickey Mantle to become the youngest Bomber ever with a walk-off home run.

I am lucky enough—that is to say, old and decrepit enough—to have seen The Mick play.

But Dan Tipple?

Thanks to the wonderful resource that is baseballreference, I was able to turn up what information there is on Mr. Tipple very quickly—and there is very little.

Daniel Slaughter Tipple was also known as "Big Dan"—thanks to his six feet of height and 176 pounds—and as "Rusty," which I guess implies he was a redhead.  He was a son of the prairie, born in Rockford, Illinois, in 1890, and died and was buried in Omaha, in 1960, age 70 years and a month-and-a-half more.

Dan made his major-league debut with the Yanks in that 1915 season, the first one under the leadership of the colonels, Ruppert and Huston. At that point, the franchise was still a mess—without a home of its own, playing in the Polo Grounds and paying rent to the Giants.

The roster was full of players who were on their way up, or on their way down, or just treading water.  There was pitcher Dazzy Vance, who went 0-3 and hurt his arm, but who would eventually make his way back to the big leagues and become a Hall of Fame pitcher (and character) with the Brooklyn Robins.

There was Birdie Cree, just 5-6 and 150 pounds—you can see how Tipple got that "Big Dan" moniker—and who had looked like a star just four years earlier, when he hit. 348 with 22 triples and 48 stolen bases, but who was playing out the string now, hitting .214 in his last major-league season.

There was Sailor Bob Shawkey, and Wally Pipp, and Roger Peckinpaugh,  who would stay on long to become key players in the First Dynasty.

And there were a whole bunch of guys who sounded like escapees from a book of boys baseball fiction:  Luke Boone, Doc Cook, Hugh High, Skeeter Shelton, Pi Schwert, Frank Gilhooley.  Pitchers such as Jack Warhop, Boardwalk Brown, King Cole, and Cy Pieh.

And there was Rusty Tipple. He made his debut on September 18, an inning of relief work in a game the Yanks lost.

Then came the big start. Big Dan Tipple threw the second game of the fifth doubleheader the Yanks had played in a week. He won, 6-1, giving up a home run to Braggo Roth, but otherwise scattering four hits and five walks, and striking out those 10 little Indians.

Among the other hitters he faced were Bill Wambsganss, who Ring Lardner would call the first man ever to pull off a triple play in the World Series without the assistance of a vowel.  And Ray Chapman, who would be hit by a pitch and killed on that same Polo Grounds field, five years later.

As for Rusty, the win earned him one more start, again at the back of a home doubleheader, this time on October 6, the next-to-last game of the season.

Big Dan pitched another complete game, and once again surrendered only one earned run. But this time he lost, 4-2, thanks to three errors, including one by Tim Hendryx, who must have been dreaming of playing Monterey out in centerfield.

The opponent was the Boston Red Sox, who had clinched the pennant long before, and were just enjoying a warm-up before their World Series date with the Phillies. Their winning pitcher was a brash young 20-year-old, a kid who loved to play in the Polo Grounds, and banged a double off Tipple, as well as winning his 18th game.

He was Babe Ruth.

And...that was that.

Dan Tipple's final major-league line was 1-1, with a 0.95 ERA, and two complete games.

There's no indication of why he never got a second shot in the majors. The next season, Tipple won 20 games for Jack Dunn's International League Baltimore Orioles—a team usually as good as several in the majors.

Didn't get him back up.  He missed a year—probably because of the war—in 1918, but afterwards he was back pitching well in the highest levels of the minors for several more seasons. But the call never came again.

I have no idea why—though his fate wasn't that uncommon back in the day of independent minor leagues, and tight major-league rosters.

I like to imagine him rocking in his chair on some big front porch in Omaha near the end of his life, telling his grandson and his friends, "Yep, I pitched against the great Babe Ruth. Mighta beat him, too, if the boys had picked it a little bit better behind me."

The kids would look up a little dubious at the old-timer: "So why didn't you stick then?"

Rusty Tipple pushes his spectacles back a little on his nose and looks out over his wide green Omaha lawn, stretching out before him like a fresh May infield.

"Well, I don't know. I don't rightly know."


Rufus T. Firefly said...

Is Frank Gilhooley related to Jeff?

Anonymous said...

There used to be a baseball literary magazine named Elysian Fields. It was a quarterly and I subscribed to it back in the day. Prior to that it was the Minneapolis Review of Baseball. This piece would have fit quite nicely.

I miss that rag.

Doug K. (Up way too early for some reason)

Carl J. Weitz said...

Horace, if you're old enough to have seen Mickey play like I did then you might have seen this in the Sunday comics in the early 60's. Enjoy!


HoraceClarke66 said...

Thanks, Doug K. and thanks, Carl! I did read Mutt & Jeff every Sunday, but I had not seen that one.

Funny, when I was a kid and Mantle and Mays were still playing, it seemed to me that they had reached a state of immortality—already!—that exceeded even that attained by such superstars as LeBron or Jordan today.

In part, I guess, that was because the press did not report on their every foible (not that Mays, at least, had much in the way of foibles to report).

But I think it was also because they WERE so relatively accessible. Not only did Mays play stickball with kids in the streets of Harlem, but Mantle apparently did the same with kids in the Bronx. For at least one whole season, he also walked to the Stadium every game day, through Central Park.

I think it's the difference between hill gods and sky gods. Hill gods, in their way, were even more awe-inspiring because they might actually pop up some time!

Alphonso said...

I wonder if there was an ancestry connection to Enos Slaughter?

Anonymous said...

Or Random Slaughter.

Doug K.

Anonymous said...

Also, I can't decide if Rusty Tipple is the name of a drink as in "Give me a Rusty Tipple hold the ice." I'm open to what the recipe might be.

Or if Rusty Tipple is a good porn name. Open to the gender of "Rusty". It kind of works both ways as I'm sure Rusty does anyway.

Doug K.

Anonymous said...

Last thing as long as I'm serial commenting...

I am only old enough to have seen Mantle strike out repeatedly. First games in attendance are in the 67-68 range. It was always disappointing. Then again I once saw Pele blow a shoot out kick for the Cosmos.

From the NYT - Hey Horrace they did soccer even then. May 2nd 1977

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ., May 1—The Cosmos lost to the St. Louis Stars, 3.2, today in their second straight shootout,

They lost because of their inability to score when they dominated the game. It was Pele's 1,328th soccer game, but the Brazilian displayed little of his famed ebullience and brilliance.

“I am not satisfied at all with my game today,” Pete said after the Cosmos had fallen victims to the Stars in the shootout at Giants Stadium. “I didn't do well. The team played well but we couldn't score.”

As in last Sunday's game against Dallas, the Cosmos were the dominant team today before 20,112 fans and in ideal weather. They took 33 shots on goal, two more than last week, but all they had to show for it was two goals. Ironically, both goals were scored by defenders, which goals not happen very often in soccer, particularly in the North American Soccer League.

The Cosmos trailed twice to a team that had not won on the road since July 5, 1975. Pete and his teammates were unable to capitalize against Dave Jokerst, the Stars’ goalkeeper, who had trouble holding the ball and players who showed great desire but not as much imagination."

So maybe I'm a jinx.

Doug K.

Vampifella said...

Believe it or not, my name is very close to Rusty Tipple. It's more like Rusty the Don't Squeeze the Charmin Guy, for those who are old enough to know what I'm talking about. I was ridiculed for years over my last name and I would have loved to been a Tipple instead. LOL!

Anyway great article! Love to see more of them!

13bit said...

Doug, I remember seeing Pele play at Downing Stadium in something like 1976 or '77. Also saw Mantle about ten years earlier. Saw Namath in his all-too-soon fading years. And saw Jeter many times in his last few years, when maybe somebody else should have been playing instead of giving Jeets his long victory lap.

There are no jinxes. There is only Juju.

Tonight we dance with the girls from The Fens.

HoraceClarke66 said...

Thanks, guys!

Doug K., we're probably about the same age. I saw Mantle in 1967 and 1968, too. He went 0-2 with t2 walks at the Old Stadium, as they lost to the Angels. Then I saw him get a clean single in Fenway Park, as Stan Bahnsen beat the bad guys, 1-0. That was it.

The Comos were a riot. I saw them a couple times out in the Meadowlands, in a sold-out stadium, 77,000 fans. You ever see the documentary on them, "Once in a Lifetime"? Hilarious.

I love all the Rusty Tipple ideas, too!

JM said...

Man, this is one great post. Kudos, sir. Wonderfully done.
I saw Mick get thrown out on a ground ball to right field. That was sad. Amazing he could even walk, really.

I went to Hofstra University on Long Island. The Jets used to--maybe still do--train there. One Saturday night, I was at Bill's Meadowbrook, a very convenient bar near the campus. It was late. It was really late, like, 3 a.m. And there was Willie Joe, standing at the bar with two good-looking blondes who were a little bit of all over him. He left with the girls sometime later.

The next day, Joe took the field for a one o'clock (I think) game and threw three interceptions. The Jets lost. And I was watching pieces of the game, thinking, wow, he must be really hungover (as I am today, by the way) and completely exhausted from the blondes (I no longer have that kind of problem, sadly). It was, in its Broadway Joe way, glorious.

HoraceClarke66 said...

First, I apologize for the typo above, in referring to the "New York Comos." But I love the idea: a soccer team named for "Mr. Relaxation." What WOULD that be like?

John M., yeah, by the end—or even long before the end—Mantle was just a mess. Which makes what he did all the more incredible.

Jane Leavy's book contends that he tore his ACL falling in that !@# sprinkler hole in the 1951 World Series AND NEVER REALLY GOT IT REPAIRED. According to Leavy, he basically put in an 18-year, HOF career with a torn ACL.

Sure, the crazy drinking came from his being sexually abused as a kid, and sure, it came from the drinking culture he grew up in. But let's face it: it probably came as well from dealing with the constant pain.

And yet, even in his last couple years, Mantle was still the best player on the Yankees, still leading the team in games played. If anything, he has become an underrated player in our memory.