News From Terre Haute, Indiana

July 14, 2012

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE: 1947 Phillies: July features Grasmick’s iron man feat Part V

Mike McCormick
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Rain and wet grounds forced three postponements of the Terre Haute Phillies’ Booster Day game during June of 1947.

By the time that special event to raise money for an electric scoreboard at Memorial Stadium was held on July 10, Terre Haute was in sole possession of first place in the Three-I League by one-half game.

To accomplish that feat, the Phillies had been able to defeat Danville a few times  though Dodgers’ pitcher Carl Erskine outdueled southpaw Al Porto, 3 to 2, on the road and won again in relief at Terre Haute. At the end of June, Erskine’s record was 11-1.

Porto got revenge against Danville before 3,192 home fans on June 28, his birthday, 11 to 1. And Ed Sundra, with his family present, shutout the Dodgers, 6 to 0, on a 5-hitter.

The Phillies led the league in hitting and Wally Jakowczyk was battling Springfield’s Hank Arft for the batting crown. Both were hitting above .350. And Charley Hood, Dick Welker, Puddinhead Jones, Bill Higdon and Gene Olive boasted averages above .280.

On June 28, Higdon wed Cecile Hinson of Linden, Ala., his girl friend since their days at the University of Alabama, at the Maple Ave. Methodist Church. Manager Jack Sanford gave the bride away, Hood was best man and Jones’ wife was matron of honor. Terre Haute’s pitching corps was fortified in late June by the addition of 18-year old righthander George Thomas from Baltimore. The “Big Phillies” dispatched esteemed pitching coach George Earnshaw to Terre Haute to work with the entire mound staff.

On the negative side, second baseman Guy Glaser injured his knee and missed more than a week, forcing Sanford to insert himself into the starting lineup.

Sundra was chosen to face Evansville in the recast Booster Day game. He limited the Braves to six hits to win, 3 to 1, before 5,000 fans. Glaser, Jakowczyk and Hasenmayer made spectacular defensive plays while Welker and Jones provided batting power.

Terre Haute maintained an advantage during extra-curricular competition, too. Pitcher Lou Grasmick won the fungo-hitting contest with a 359-foot clout, defeating the Evansville’s Bob Whicher. Reserve catcher Vince Oltman placed the ball in the barrel on his first throw to second base to win the accuracy throw. And Higdon won the 60-yard dash over an eight-man field that included Welker, the 1946 winner.

Herman “Lefty” Compton, representing Rea Park, won the golf contest, placing his drive within 16 feet of the centerfield flag pole. Other contestants were Willard Kayser of the Country Club of Terre Haute, Norm Dunlap, Jr. of the Stadium course, Mike Kaperak of the Elks and Lester Wolf of the Phoenix Club.

Booster Day also was “Farewell Night” for Whitey Gluchoski, the popular 24-year old pitcher who was named manager of the Phillies farm club at Appleton (Wis.) of the Wisconsin State League. The Fans Association gave him a traveling bag and $200 in cash.

Securing possession of first place was an achievement but keeping it proved more difficult. Jakowczyk went on a home run binge to steer the Phillies past the Springfield Browns twice during a three-game home series and continued his barrage against Decatur. Bill Boyle’s decision to play Sunday games in the evening due to the heat worked as 3,522 attended July 13 as the Phillies beat the Commodores in the first game, 14 to 5.

The lowly Commies won the last two games of the series, 14 to 9, and 3 to 0, despite Jakowczyk’s bat. Syracuse University alumnus Walt Koehler, who had pitched well in his debut, yielded seven runs in four innings. Then Decatur pitcher Don Remke  shackled the Phillies with four hits, wasting a good mound effort by Bill Jankowski.

Meanwhile, Phillies rookie trainer Leon Cobb, a two sport athlete at Indiana State, accepted a job as head football coach at Noblesville High School.

Grasmick pitched brilliantly in the first game of an isolated three game series at Springfield to win, 13 to 1, but the Browns countered with 13 to 3 and 7 to 3 victories. The Phillies returned to Memorial Stadium — already host to more than 75,000 fans during the 1947 season — intending to face Davenport in three straight doubleheaders.

Sundra got the local team off to a good start with a three-hit seven inning 6 to 0 shutout before 2,958 spectators. Jakowczyk added to his home run total in the sixth inning. A downpour after the opening game sent the crowd scurrying for the exits.

Before the July 22 doubleheader, Grasmick declared that he would pitch both contests. The statement was greeted by smiles and chuckles. The Cubs were not laughing at the end of the day. The Phillies righthander threw two four-hit complete games, winning 6 to 1 and 6 to 0, before 3,323 cheering Ladies Day fans.

It was a rare pitching feat for the post-World War II era.

The two clubs split their final doubleheader. The Phillies won the seven inning opener, 8 to 6, but lost the nightcap, 7 to 6, in 10 innings. Due to the earlier rainout the teams agreed to meet in Terre Haute on Saturday, July 26, for another doubleheader.

Jankowski, who fanned 13 batters and allowed only four hits, and Porto, returning from a four-week layoff with a sore arm, pitched well in back-to-back home victories over Waterloo. But the White Hawks evened the series with 18 to 1 and 7 to 5 triumphs to put Terre Haute three full games behind league-leading Danville.

Nearly 3,400 fans watched Davenport and Terre Haute split the make-up doubleheader at Memorial Stadium. Sanford was ejected by umpire Lee Storner in eight inning of the second game and an unidentified fan tried to attack Storner after the game.

Both teams drove all night to find that a windstorm had blown down a light pole at Davenport’s John O’Donnell Stadium. Sanford and Cubs manager Dick Kerr agreed to cancel the game but — after the players dispersed — Chicago farm director Jack Sheehan ordered it to be played at 3:30. The Phillies showed up but Davenport did not and was forced to forfeit. Manager Kerr was given a new job and replaced by Morrie Arnovich.

The Cubs won Arnovich’s first three games, 10 to 4, 3 to 2, and 5 to 4. Koehler was shelled in Game One, resulting in his release. No longer battling for the lead as the Three-I League entered August, Terre Haute replaced Koehler with pitcher Jack Brittin, a future major leaguer.

Continued to next week