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 Post subject: Fourteen men out
PostPosted: Thu Jul 06, 2006 8:25 pm 

Joined: Sat Nov 01, 2003 1:01 am
Posts: 741
Location: The Empire State
This is a thoroughly enjoyable baseball trip through the mists of time, from today's New York Times. Anybody know if Mule Haas is related to Moose Haas (I am serious)?

July 6, 2006
60 Years and 1,000 Tales Since 14 Were Ejected

Sixty years is a long time to stretch a memory. But Dario Lodigiani is certain that the reason that he and 13 other Chicago White Sox players and coaches were ejected from a game against the Boston Red Sox had nothing to do with a ventriloquist in the stands.

"It was Mule Haas," said Lodigiani, now 90 and living in Napa, Calif., referring to one of Chicago's coaches at the time.

History has not always been so sure. What started as an ordinary game on July 19, 1946, has evolved into a sometimes extraordinary tall tale. With every telling, from the initial game-day report to a perennial "Today in History" blurb, the 14 Men Out story demonstrates how easily a yarn can turn into myth, especially in baseball, where the history runs deep and the folklore deeper.

The basics are unchallenged: Boston's Ted Williams was at the plate in the third inning when pitcher Joe Haynes threw at least one pitch that knocked him down. The umpire Red Jones gave Haynes a warning, and the White Sox began heckling Jones from the third-base dugout at Fenway Park.

Jones, apparently unsure of the primary source, eventually ejected all but Manager Ted Lyons, Haas, a trainer and a batboy on the bench. By several accounts, the most derisive term tossed toward Jones was meathead.

In subsequent retellings of the story, some spice was tossed in, including the topper: The antagonist was not on the bench but was a ventriloquist sitting in the stands, a sort of Edgar Bergen gone bad.

"In 1946, after ejecting a record 14 Chicago White Sox players for razzing him from the dugout, umpire Red Jones discovered the culprit was a ventriloquist in the stands," is the perennial "Today in History" entry from Broadcast News, a division of The Canadian Press, which is a news-gathering agency akin to The Associated Press.

Mining the truth is difficult. Most of the players from that game, and all of the coaches and the two umpires, are dead. The only recorded history includes a couple of articles on the game, a few photographs and the periodic rewriting of the events.

The idea of a ventriloquist may have been planted with an account of the game in The Sporting News on July 31, 1946. Headlined "Heckling Ventriloquist Throws Voice, Baffled Red Jones Throws Out 14 Hose," the article by Ed Burns began: "The Chicago White Sox have a ventriloquist on the team and despite intensive research and violent action during the White Sox game in Boston on July 19, Umpire Red Jones is not sure of the identity of the artist, or culprit."

A few sentences later, he wrote: "Then the ventriloquist yelped into action. ..."

The notion of someone jeering an umpire through closed lips caught on. In The New York Times on Aug. 30, 1946, the sportswriter Arthur Daley wrote: "Not very long ago the Chicago White Sox were tormenting Red Jones by the simple device of letting one of their members employ to the full his talents as a ventriloquist. The distraught Jones thumbed one fellow after another out of the game until he'd cleaned off the bench — and still that eyrie voice continued."

In an April 1963 article for Sport magazine, titled "Pity the Poor Umpire," Ralph Schoenstein described the thankless duty of baseball's on-field arbiters. The article included quotations from the actual argument between Jones, the umpire, and Lyons, the manager.

It was vivid description, but Schoenstein wrote that Lyons was the first to be tossed. Other accounts over the years were filled with various discrepancies, too, from the score and the attendance to the timing of the ejections. An article by The A.P. from the day of the game reported that Boston's Dom DiMaggio was on base and stole second when Williams was dropped by the close pitch. But a caption accompanying a grainy photograph seemingly conflicted with that sequence, suggesting that DiMaggio was at bat in the third inning as the first batch of White Sox was ejected.

It all underscores both the difficulty of recreating details of events before computerized archives or even cable-television highlights, and the ease with which simple retellings can be spun to legend.

Schoenstein, who has since written more than a dozen books, said he did not remember the Sport article or the specific bench-clearing anecdote. "I'm sorry to say you have more information than I do," he said when reached at his New Jersey home.

His 1963 article, however, was seemingly the first to peg the culprit.

"After the bench had been cleared, Red heard one lone tenor voice that still insisted he was a meathead," Schoenstein wrote. "He went to the dugout and saw a big windbreaker hanging in the corner. Protruding from it were two feet with spiked shoes. He grabbed the windbreaker from the nail, uncovering Mule Haas, a White Sox coach."

Lodigiani was Chicago's third baseman, but he was in the dugout that day because of an injury. He was among the first to be ejected from the game. Lodigiani did not hesitate when asked who the culprit was.

"Mule Haas used to pull the raspberry like this" — Lodigiani blew a mighty tongue-between-the-lips Bronx cheer into the phone — "and the umpire didn't know who to blame, so he tossed the whole dugout."

He said Haas had a gift for making whoopee-cushion noises with his mouth, usually by putting his hands to his lips. "He'd hide down on the runway and come back and let the blast go," Lodigiani said.

No ventriloquist that day in Boston? No one in the stands?

"No, it was Mule Haas, the third-base coach, from the dugout," Lodigiani said.

The other living White Sox are not so sure, but none suggested the heckler was in the stands. Infielder Leo Wells, now 89 and living in Stillwater, Minn., said he did not remember being kicked out. Reached in Paris, Tex., the 86-year-old outfielder Dave Philley, who played 17 games with the White Sox in 1946 near the start of an 18-year major league career, said he did not believe he was with the team at that time and did not remember hearing about the episode.

But outfielder Ralph Hodgin does remember. It was the only ejection of his major league career. The Sporting News article called him "silent Ralph Hodgin, one of the quietest players in the majors."

"Jones wasn't calling too good, and they got to hollering at him," Hodgin, 90, said from Greensboro, N.C. "He didn't learn who was hollering at him. I was at the end of the bench, and he saw me open my mouth, so he threw me out. I just went in and sat down, and here come the rest of them."

Asked about Lodigiani's contention that the culprit was Haas, Hodgin said, "It probably was."

By most accounts, Hodgin was quickly followed by Lodigiani, Edgar Smith and the coach Bing Miller, seen in photos offering his glasses to Jones as he crossed near home plate on the way to the clubhouse.

"Until 1952, both clubhouses were side to side," said Dick Bresciani, vice president for publications and archives for the Red Sox. "And both teams and the umpires had to go up the runway that's still there today, behind the Red Sox' dugout."

Rich C. Lindberg has written 11 books about Chicago, four of them on the White Sox, including "The White Sox Encyclopedia." He has been a team historian for 30 years. Like Bresciani in Boston, he had never heard about a ventriloquist and certainly not one in the stands.

"The story sounds apocryphal," Lindberg said. "The accounts I've read said just that the Sox were heckling Red Jones. There was a lot more bantering in those days between the players and the umpires."

Lindberg's account in the encyclopedia called the 14 ejections "an unofficial record of sorts." Freddy Berowski, a researcher for the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., said there was no mention of a ventriloquist in the Hall's archives and no indication what the record for ejections might be. The Elias Sports Bureau, the official statistician for baseball, does not track ejections.

The suggestion that the ejections stemmed from a ventriloquist in the stands, not a heckler in the dugout, has been forwarded by Broadcast News to 500 radio and television stations every year since at least 1995, and probably far longer. Broadcast News officials cannot trace the item's origins, but they would like to know if it is false.

"If we can correct history, we certainly will," said Terry Scott, the acting news director for Broadcast News.

The Red Sox went on to win the game, 9-2, to take an 11½-game lead over the Yankees. They won the American League pennant in 1946, losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, and Williams was named the American League's most valuable player. In 2004, the Red Sox won their first World Series since 1918.

The White Sox won the World Series in 2005, their first since 1917.

The teams begin a three-game series tomorrow in Chicago. If there is a ventriloquist in the stands, heckling the umpire so completely to force the ejections of 14 men from the dugout, no doubt the controversy will be captured by cameras, analyzed after the game by players and coaches, and turned into one of the more memorable stories in sports.

And those involved could do something that is difficult 60 years later, and sometimes impossible in ventriloquism. They could speak for themselves.

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