April 1, 2010
You Can Blog It Up
Dead Player of the Day and Other Notes #4
Dead Player of the Day
In which I pick a page from the encyclopedia at random and riff on what I find.
Bill Bevens-RHP-1944-1947 (1916-1991)
Robyn Hitchcock has a song called “Sinister But She was Happy.” Floyd Clifford Bevens’ song might have been “Snakebit But He Was Happy,” although I have no idea of knowing how happy he actually was. Bevens was Bobby Witt if Bobby Witt had thrown the most famous game ever but lost it. Everyone knows that the Yankees’ Bevens took a no-hitter (albeit with eight walks and a run allowed on a fielder’s choice) into the ninth inning of the fourth game of the 1947 Yankees-Dodgers World Series only to lose his 2-1 lead and the game when Brooklyn’s Cookie Lavagetto doubled with two outs, chasing home two runners—one on base as the result of an unintentional walk and a stolen base, the other there because, with two outs and first base open, Bevens’ manager, Bucky Harris, ordered (on a 3-1 count) a free pass to a barely-ambulatory Pete Reiser, a call that put the winning run on base. You probably also knew that the Lavagetto game was the last start of Bevens’ major-league career and his penultimate appearance, the final chapter coming in Game 7, when he pitched 2.2 innings of scoreless relief. But did you know that on April 30, 1946, Bevens also lost this game?
A hard thrower, Bevens had pitched extremely well for the Yankees in 1946, his 2.23 ERA equating to a 155 ERA+. (5.5 WARP). His 249.2 innings clearly affected him, as his walk rate jumped from 2.8 per nine to 4.2 in 1947, although it was only after Game 4 that Bevens said his arm was hurt. After his arm ruined him for the majors, Bevens kept pitching in the minors through 1953. In a 1951 profile of him for Collier’s magazine, Tom Meany wrote:
The extent of his subsequent slide downhill is beast measured, perhaps, by something that happened in Salem. When Bill returned to his home town in the fall of 1947, a World Series celebrity, he was given a six-hundred-dollar-a-month job by a beer company as a good-will ambassador. His duties were not exactly arduous, since they entailed merely standing around and letting potential customers gape at him.
When Bevens came back with his dead arm after the 1948 season, the same firm hired him—at half the price—for the backbreaking job of loading beer on trucks.
I'll be chatting today here at BP at 1 PM EST. Submit your questions now if you'll be too busy to attend live, though I can't imagine what you would be doing that would be more compelling than one of my chats.