Ernie Lombardi

Ernesto Natali Lombardi (April 6, 1908 – September 26, 1977), was an American professional baseball player. He played in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a catcher for the Brooklyn Robins, Cincinnati Reds, Boston Braves, and New York Giants during a career that spanned 17 years, from 1931 through 1947. He had several nicknames, including "Schnozz", "Lumbago", "Bocci", "The Cyrano of the Iron Mask" and "Lom". He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986.

Baseball writer Bill James called Lombardi "the slowest man to ever play major league baseball well." The fact that he was so slow spoke to what an outstanding hitter he was. Lombardi was an All-Star for seven seasons,[a] he hit over .300 for ten seasons and finished his major league career with a .306 batting average despite infields playing very deep for the sloth-like baserunner. He is listed at 6'3" and 230 lbs, but he probably approached 300 lbs towards the end of his career. He was also known as a gentle giant, and this made him hugely popular among Cincinnati fans.[1]

Ernie Lombardi
Ernie Lombardi Reds
Catcher
Born: April 6, 1908
Oakland, California
Died: September 26, 1977 (aged 69)
Santa Cruz, California
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
April 15, 1931, for the Brooklyn Robins
Last MLB appearance
September 17, 1947, for the New York Giants
MLB statistics
Batting average.306
Home runs190
Runs batted in990
Teams
Career highlights and awards
Member of the National
Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Baseball Hall of Fame Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg
Induction1986
Election MethodVeteran's Committee

Early life

Lombardi grew up in Oakland. He attended McClymonds High School, the same school from which baseball star Frank Robinson and basketball star Bill Russell later graduated.[2]

Baseball career

Minor League

ErnieLombardiGoudeycard
Baseball card of Lombardi

Lombardi started his professional baseball career for his hometown Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League. He hit well (over .350 with power in 1929 and 1930) and had a strong arm. His talents were soon noticed by the Brooklyn Robins, who purchased his contract for $50,000.

Major league

Lombardi played his rookie season for the Robins in 1931 and hit .297. However, Brooklyn had too many quality catchers at the time and Robins' manager Wilbert Robinson contemplated using the strong-armed Lombardi as a pitcher. Instead, he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds shortly before the start of spring training for the 1932 season. Lombardi flourished in his first year for Cincinnati, batting .303 with 11 home runs and 68 runs batted in. In 1935, he hit .343, but was not selected as an All-Star until 1936, when he hit .333 that season. In 1937, he hit .334 and made the All-Star team. In 1938, he was selected as an All-Star again, and hit a league-leading .342 with 19 home runs, drove in 95 runs, and won the National League (NL) Most Valuable Player Award. Lombardi became one of the Reds' most productive and popular players. He was the catcher for left-hander Johnny Vander Meer's back-to-back no-hitters, accomplished on June 11 and June 15, 1938. He was again an All-Star the next two seasons, and his hitting skills and leadership helped the Reds to the National League pennant in 1939 and 1940, and the World Series title in 1940.

While Lombardi played for the Reds as the starting catcher, three-year teammate and backup catcher Willard Hershberger became the only major league player to commit suicide during a season. Hershberger, who thought he had been having difficulties playing as a replacement for an injured Lombardi for a few games in 1940, told manager Bill McKechnie in private that "my father killed himself, and I'm going to do it, too!" After failing to appear at the stadium the next day, the Reds checked Hershberger's room at the hotel on August 3 only to find that he had slit his throat and wrist.

In 1942, the Boston Braves (NL team) purchased Lombardi's contract, and he became an All-Star and led the NL and Braves that season with a .330 batting average (albeit, in only 309 at-bats); the next batting title to be won by a catcher came more than 60 years later when Joe Mauer won the AL batting title in 2006. As of 2017, Lombardi remains only one of three NL catchers to win a batting title (the others are Cincinnati Reds catcher Bubbles Hargrove in 1926 and SF Giants catcher Buster Posey in 2012). His final All-Star selection was during the 1943 season (MLB cancelled the 1945 All-Star Game and no All-Stars were named that season[3]), before Boston traded him to the New York Giants before the 1944 season began. He enjoyed three productive if unspectacular seasons with the Giants before seeing his playing time diminish over the next two seasons. Lombardi retired from the major leagues after the 1947 season, having compiled a .306 career batting average, 190 home runs, 990 RBI, 601 runs and 430 walks.

The six foot, three inch, 230-pound Lombardi was legendarily slow-footed, and during the course of his major league career he grounded into 261 double plays. Aside from being the leader in grounding into double plays during four seasons, he also holds the MLB record for grounding into a double play once in every 25.3 plate appearances. An opposing manager once jokingly said that Lombardi was so slow, he ran like he was carrying a piano — and the man who was tuning it. Defenses would often position all four infielders in the outfield when Lombardi came to the plate. Despite this, he became an outstanding catcher on the basis of his strong, accurate arm and his ability to "call" a game.

Lombardi finished his professional career in the minor leagues for the Oakland Oaks, a championship team in 1948.

"Lombardi's Big Snooze"

During the fourth game of the 1939 World Series, in the 10th inning, with the score tied and runners on first and third, Joe DiMaggio singled. One run scored, then Reds outfielder Ival Goodman fumbled the ball. Yankees right fielder Charlie "King Kong" Keller, well known for his sturdy physique, beat the throw to catcher Lombardi and inadvertently hit "The Schnozz" in his groin. Unfortunately for the Reds and Lombardi, he had failed to wear his protective cup and Lombardi was in pain and dazed. DiMaggio raced around the bases and scored while the ball was just a few feet away from the dazed Lombardi. The press was hugely critical of the sensitive catcher because of this and it came to be known as "Lombardi's Big Snooze". Bill James, in his Historical Baseball Abstract, says that "Lombardi was now the Bill Buckner of the 1930s, even more innocent than Buckner, and Buckner has plenty of people who should be holding up their hands to share his disgrace." James called Lombardi's selection as the Series goat "absurd." James noted the Yankees were already ahead three games to none and that DiMaggio's run merely made the final score 7–4 instead of 6–4.

Later life

In 1953, Lombardi had been battling depression and agreed to go to a sanatorium. While on his way to the facility, Lombardi slit his throat from ear to ear with a razor. He received blood transfusions and was initially listed in critical condition, but within a couple of days newspaper reports said that he would survive.[4] Lombardi worked as an attendant in the Candlestick Park press office and later as a gas station attendant in Oakland, California. Lombardi was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 1958. He died in 1977 and was buried at the Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland.

Legacy

Lombardi was posthumously inducted into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame in 1982 and the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986. In 1981, Lawrence Ritter and Donald Honig included him in their book The 100 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time. In 2004, The Cincinnati Reds dedicated a bronze statue of Lombardi at the entrance of Great American Ball Park.[5] He was honored along with four other Crosley Field Era Reds: Joe Nuxhall, Ted Kluszewski, Frank Robinson, and Pete Rose.

The Cincinnati Chapter of the BBWAA annually award the Ernie Lombardi Award to the Reds' team MVP.[6]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ MLB cancelled the 1945 All-Star Game and did not name All-Stars that season.

References

  1. ^ James, Bill (2003). The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract (1st paperback ed.). New York, London, Toronto, Sydney, Singapore: Free Press. p. 381. ISBN 978-0-684-80697-6. Retrieved 17 June 2017.
  2. ^ "Individual achievements". California Interscholastic Federation Oakland. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
  3. ^ Baseball Did You Know? – VII, 1945 All Star Game Replacements [1] Retrieved July 28, 2015
  4. ^ "Lombardi to survive cut". Sarasota Journal. April 10, 1953. Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  5. ^ "Ernie Lombardi". Downtown Cincinnati Inc. Retrieved 17 May 2019.
  6. ^ See: Cincinnati Reds award winners and league leaders § Other achievements.

External links

1931 Brooklyn Robins season

The 1931 Brooklyn Robins finished in 4th place, after which longtime manager Wilbert Robinson announced his retirement with 1,375 career victories.

1932 Cincinnati Reds season

The 1932 Cincinnati Reds season was a season in American baseball. The team finished eighth and last in the National League with a record of 60–94, 30 games behind the Chicago Cubs.

1936 Cincinnati Reds season

The 1936 Cincinnati Reds season was a season in American baseball. The team finished fifth in the National League with a record of 74–80, 18 games behind the New York Giants.

1937 Cincinnati Reds season

The 1937 Cincinnati Reds season was a season in American baseball. The team finished eighth and last in the National League with a record of 56–98, 40 games behind the New York Giants.

1938 Cincinnati Reds season

The 1938 Cincinnati Reds season was a season in American baseball. The team finished fourth in the National League with a record of 82–68, 6 games behind the Chicago Cubs.

1938 Major League Baseball All-Star Game

The 1938 Major League Baseball All-Star Game was the sixth playing of the mid-summer classic between the all-stars of the American League (AL) and National League (NL), the two leagues comprising Major League Baseball. The game was held on July 6, 1938, at Crosley Field in Cincinnati, Ohio, the home of the Cincinnati Reds of the National League. The game resulted in the National League defeating the American League 4–1.

1938 Major League Baseball season

The 1938 Major League Baseball season.

1939 Major League Baseball All-Star Game

The 1939 Major League Baseball All-Star Game was the seventh playing of the mid-summer classic between the all-stars of the American League (AL) and National League (NL), the two leagues comprising Major League Baseball. The game was held on July 11, 1939, at Yankee Stadium in The Bronx, New York City, the home of the New York Yankees of the American League. The game resulted in the American League defeating the National League 3–1.

1939 World Series

The 1939 World Series featured the three-time defending champion New York Yankees against the Cincinnati Reds, who were making their first Series appearance since winning the scandal-tainted 1919 World Series. The Yankees swept the Series in four games for the second straight year, winning their record fourth consecutive title (they would later win five straight from 1949 to 1953). Yankee manager Joe McCarthy won his fifth title, tying the record held by Philadelphia Athletics manager Connie Mack.

In the 10th inning of the final game, a famous play at the plate typified the Series. "King Kong" Charlie Keller scored when he and the ball both collided with catcher "Schnoz" Ernie Lombardi, and then Joe DiMaggio also scored while Lombardi, rolling on the ground, tried in vain to retrieve the ball. Lombardi had been smacked in the groin, but the puritanical press reported it as Lombardi "napping" at the plate.

The Yankees matched the Reds in hits with 27, but out-homered them 7 to 0 and out-scored them 20-8. Keller led the Yanks with seven hits, three home runs, six RBI, eight runs scored, a .438 average and a 1.188 slugging percentage. Both teams played sterling defense for most of the series until the ninth inning of Game 4. Up until then the Reds matched the Yankees with committing just one error for the series. But Cincinnati committed a total of three errors in the ninth and 10th innings of Game 4 which led to five unearned runs, sealing the New York sweep.

Keller broke the record for most homers by a rookie in a World Series game with two in Game 3. Also in Game 3, Junior Thompson gave up five hits in ​4 2⁄3 innings worked. Four of the five were home runs, tying the record for long balls allowed during a Series game set by the Cubs' Charlie Root in 1932.

Despite the loss, the Reds were an organization on the rise, having improved from eighth and last in the National League in 1937 (56–98, .364) to fourth in '38 (82–68, .547) and first as NL champions in '39. Ironically, despite being dominated by the Bronx Bombers in the 1939 Series, the Reds would return in 1940 to win the World Series while the Yankees finished behind Detroit and Cleveland in the AL pennant race, snapping their consecutive World Series streak at four.

At a cumulative time of seven hours and five minutes, the 1939 World Series is one of the shortest World Series in real time, and was shorter than the third game of the 2018 World Series that lasted 7 hours, 20 minutes and was 18 innings long.

1940 Major League Baseball All-Star Game

The 1940 Major League Baseball All-Star Game was the eighth playing of the mid-summer classic between the all-stars of the American League (AL) and National League (NL), the two leagues comprising Major League Baseball. The game was held on July 9, 1940, at Sportsman's Park in St. Louis, Missouri, the home of the St. Louis Cardinals and St. Louis Browns. The game resulted in the National League defeating the American League 4–0.

1940 World Series

The 1940 World Series matched the Cincinnati Reds against the Detroit Tigers, the Reds winning a closely contested seven-game series for their second championship 21 years after their scandal-tainted victory in 1919. This would be the Reds' last World Series championship for 35 years despite appearances in 1961, 1970, and 1972. Meanwhile, Bill Klem worked the last of his record 18 World Series as an umpire.Other story lines marked this series. Henry Quillen Buffkin Newsom, the father of Detroit's star pitcher Bobo Newsom, died in a Cincinnati hotel room the day after watching him win Game 1. Newsom came back to hurl a shutout in Game 5 in his memory. Called on to start a third time after a single day of rest by Tiger manager Del Baker, he pitched well in Game 7 until the seventh inning, when the Reds scored two runs to take the lead and eventually the game and the Series.

The Reds' star pitchers Paul Derringer and Bucky Walters won two games apiece, with Derringer winning the decisive seventh game. Walters hurled two complete games, allowing only eight hits and three runs combined. He also hit a home run in Game 6 in the midst of his 4–0 shutout, which sent the Series to a Game 7.

It was redemption of sorts for the Reds, who returned to the World Series after being swept by the Yankees squad in 1939. The Reds' win in Game 2 against Detroit snapped a 10-game losing streak for the National League in the Series going back to Game 6 in 1937.

The victory culminated a somewhat turbulent season for the Reds, who played large stretches of the season without injured All-Star catcher Ernie Lombardi. And on August 3, Lombardi's backup, Willard Hershberger, committed suicide in Boston a day after a defensive lapse cost the Reds a game against the Bees. Hershberger was hitting .309 at the time of his death. The Reds dedicated the rest of the season to "Hershie." One of the stars in the World Series was 40-year-old Jimmy Wilson. Wilson had been one of the Reds' coaches before Hershberger's suicide forced him back onto the playing field as Lombardi's backup. With Lombardi hurting, Wilson did the bulk of the catching against Detroit and hit .353 for the Series and recorded the team's only stolen base.

Reds' manager Bill McKechnie became the first manager to win a World Series with two different teams, at the helm of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1925, after trailing three games to one against Walter Johnson and the Washington Senators.

1942 Boston Braves season

The 1942 Boston Braves season was the 72nd in franchise history.

1944 New York Giants (MLB) season

The 1944 New York Giants season was the franchise's 62nd season. The team finished in fifth place in the National League with a 67-87 record, 38 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals.

1986 Baseball Hall of Fame balloting

Elections to the Baseball Hall of Fame for 1986 followed the system in place since 1978.

The Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) voted by mail to select from recent major league players and

elected Willie McCovey.

The Veterans Committee met in closed sessions to consider older major league players as well as managers, umpires, executives, and figures from the Negro Leagues.

It also selected two players, Bobby Doerr and Ernie Lombardi.

Casper Asbjornson

Robert Anthony (Casper) Asbjornson (June 19, 1909 – January 21, 1970) was a catcher in Major League Baseball who played for the Boston Red Sox (1928-1929) and Cincinnati Reds (1931-1932). Asbjornson batted and threw right-handed. He was born in Concord, Massachusetts.

Asbjornson was 19 years old when he debuted with the Boston Red Sox in 1928, being one of seven catchers used by the Red Sox in an unsuccessful attempt to replace retired Grover Hartley. Later, he saw more action with the Cincinnati Reds as a backup for Clyde Sukeforth and Ernie Lombardi in part of two seasons. His best year was 1931, when he posted career-highs in batting average (.305), runs batted in (22) and games played (45).

In a four-season career, Asbjornson was a .235 hitter with one home run and 27 RBI in 97 games.

Asbjornson died in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, at the age of 60.

Cincinnati Reds award winners and league leaders

This article is a list of baseball players who are Cincinnati Reds players that are winners of Major League Baseball awards and recognitions, Reds awards and recognitions, and/or are league leaders in various statistical areas.

Hugh Poland (baseball)

Hugh Reid Poland (January 19, 1910 – March 29, 1984) was an American professional baseball catcher, manager and scout. A native of Tompkinsville, Kentucky, he attended Western Kentucky University. Poland threw right-handed, batted left-handed, and stood 6 ft (1.8 m) tall, weighing 185 lb (84 kg).

Poland's baseball career began in the St. Louis Cardinals' far-flung farm system of the 1930s. He eventually reached the highest minor-league level (then Double-A), but his Major League Baseball debut did not occur until 1943, when at age 33 Poland appeared in a New York Giants uniform on April 22. He was traded five days and four games later to the Boston Braves, with infielder Connie Ryan, in exchange for future Baseball Hall of Fame catcher Ernie Lombardi. But, unlike Lombardi, Poland was exclusively a reserve catcher during his MLB career. He appeared in all or parts of five seasons (1943–44; 1946–48), for the Giants, Braves, Philadelphia Phillies and Cincinnati Reds, batting a meek .185 with no home runs and 19 runs batted in in 83 games played.Poland's minor league managerial career preceded his MLB service when, at age 30, he skipped the Cardinals' Cambridge Canners affiliate in the Class D Eastern Shore League in 1940. In 1949, he rejoined the Giants and managed in their farm system through 1954, including service with the Triple-A Ottawa Giants and the Double-A Nashville Vols. He then scouted for the Giants' franchise until his death, at age 74, in Guthrie, Kentucky.

Reds Legends of Crosley Field

Reds Legends of Crosley Field is a group of bronze sculptures by artist Tom Tsuchiya, located at the main entrance of Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, Ohio. The sculptures represent four Crosley Field era Cincinnati Reds players: Ted Kluszewski, Ernie Lombardi, Joe Nuxhall and Frank Robinson. These players were selected by a fan vote conducted by the Cincinnati Reds.Kluszewski's statue was unveiled on Opening Day, March 31, 2003, to coincide with the official opening of Great American Ball Park. The statues of Nuxhall and Robinson were dedicated in the summer of that year. Subsequently, Lombardi's statue was unveiled in June 28, 2004.

Willard Hershberger

Willard McKee Hershberger (May 28, 1910 – August 3, 1940) was an American baseball catcher for the Cincinnati Reds of Major League Baseball (MLB) from 1938 to 1940. In 160 career games, Hershberger recorded a batting average of .316 and accumulated 5 triples and 41 runs. He is the only major league player to date to commit suicide during the season.

Born and raised in California, Hershberger attended Fullerton Union High School where he was a baseball standout. He was signed by the New York Yankees and was part of their minor league system for eight years. He was traded after the 1937 season to the Cincinnati Reds, where he found a place on the major league roster as a backup behind Ernie Lombardi. For three seasons, Hershberger played in relief of Lombardi, stepping in if he needed a day off or was injured. After a slump in late July and early August, Hershberger committed suicide on August 3, 1940 in his hotel room; the Reds went on to win the 1940 World Series in his honor.

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