Friday, October 25, 2013

RIP, Bill Sharman - Check Out Details About His Historic Dodger Game

Bill Sharman, best known as a former Lakers coach and Basketball Hall of Famer, also wore Dodger Blue early in his life.  From 1950 to 1955 he played within the Dodgers farm system, and was even called up to the Brooklyn Dodgers during the Dodgers pennant chase late in the 1951 season (the year of Bobby Thomson's home run).  Unfortunately, he never got into a game, but his legacy in Blue remains.

Sharman holds the special distinction of being the only ballplayer to ever be ejected from a Major League game, and to have never actually played in a game.

When I first heard of his passing earlier today and read about this fact, I couldn't help but think that I knew something about the game where he was ejected.  Then it hit me.  I wrote about this event just a couple of months ago.  Read that post here

I'll recount it below.

On Thursday, September 27, 1951 in a game against the Boston Braves the Dodgers were in the midst of historic meltdown.  The Dodgers had held a 13.5 game lead over the Giants, but it had quickly whittled itself down to a game with a week left to play.  So, every game at that point was important.

As that afternoon game went on, the Dodgers and Braves found themselves tied at 3 in the 8th inning.  Then, a crazy turn of events happened.

Preacher Roe was on the mound for the Dodgers with runners on first and third, and nobody out.  The Dodger infield was playing in to keep it a tied game.  “Specs” Torgeson, Boston's first baseman, grounded to Jackie Robinson at 2nd base, and he quickly threw home to Roy Campanella to tag out the potential go-ahead run.  But, according to home plate umpire Frank Dascoli it was too late.  Dascoli called the runner safe.

The Dodgers were beside themselves.  Campanella argued vehemently.  Players on the field and Dodger coaches screamed.  Soon, they surrounded the umpire.  The Dodger bench joined the chorus and wouldn't let up.  Words, that I'm sure are unprintable, were bandied about.

Roy Campanella was ejected from the game.  Soon, coach Cookie Lavagetto was ejected.  Then, (as play was about to resume) the unimaginable happened.  The umpire ejected the entire Dodgers bench.

That's right, the home plate umpire threw out every Dodger player and coach who were not already on the field.

As you can imagine, the Dodgers lost that day, and eventually lost the pennant.  Check out Tom Conmy's post at Behind the Bag for his description and some great photos from this game.  Below is a LIFE Magazine photo of the bench walking off the field.

UPDATE:  For the record, I should make note that Sharman and his other Dodger teammates may not have actually been ejected from the game.  They may have just been told to vacate the dugout and spend the rest of the game in the locker room.

Bill Sharman had a lifetime professional batting average of .281 in 5 minor league seasons.  He hit a total of 52 home runs and had a slugging percentage of .411.  Claire Noland and Jerry Crowe at the LA Times put together a great writeup on his career, here.

Here are Bill Sharman's minor league statistics, via Baseball Reference:

Pic above via @Dodgers on twitter.

UPDATE:  Below is a press photo from the contested play-at-the-plate that caused Bill Sharman and his teammates to be thrown out of the game.

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* Dodgers Blue Heaven home page *

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