Friday, November 18, 2011

Game 16, Friday, April 24, 1924

On Friday, April 25, 1924, the Seattle PCL ball club played the 16th overall game in what was their third series of the year. In the PCL of the time, a given series between teams lasted Tuesday/Wednesday to Sunday/Monday, so this was also the third week of the season. Generally, there were 7 games to a series, minus rain-outs, train delays, etc.

The Indians made it three straight against the Sacramento Senators, winning by a score of 9 to 1 behind the strong pitching of George Steuland, some great leadoff hitting from center-fielder Billy Lane, a massive home run from big first baseman Elmer Bowman, and the good eye of Ray Rohwer, who went 0 for 0, yet managed a 1.000 OBP. 

This is the game where the Indians pulled themselves out of the PCL basement and began their long climb towards catching the first place San Francisco Seals. They tied the Solon victory total at six, but thanks to poor weather in Salt Lake, the Indians had played a game less than Sacramento, thus eeking out a lead over that now last place team by the percentages, the Seattle 6-10 record being a .375 winning percentage compared to the .353 of the 6-11 team on the losing side of this days game. This is an essential feature of the Coast League of the time. Practically, each team will end up playing a differing number of games over the course of a season, between 196 and 210 usually. The main difference will be winning percentage, not overall wins and losses.

Ray Rohwer had a unique if not an extraordinary game, going 0-0 with 4 walks. He was in the middle of a three game stretch where he would get on base in 13 consecutive plate appearances. I’m not sure if there is an accurate PCL record for this time, when it was classified as a AA league, but 13 is a pretty good stretch. Hitting streaks were pretty well accounted for, but an on-base streak was not looked upon as kindly, and, without really knowing at all, I would guess Rohwer’s streak to be one of the better in PCL history. The longest such streak in MLB history is 17.

Rowher was born in Dixon, California in 1895. The Rohwer family, Jacob and Lena were his parents, were quite productive, accounting for at least four members of the 1916 Dixon Dairy City baseball team. In the picture to the right, Hans Rohwer is in the upper left, Ray is in the middle on the right, Eggert Rohwer is in the middle on the end, and Claude Rohwer is in the lower row in the middle. Ray would be the only one of these to make the major leagues. Ray went on to star at the University of California, graduating in 1917. Following that he went to officer training in France during World War I where he received a Lieutenant commission in August 1918. I’m not sure about college eligibility rules related to WWI, but it seems he came back to play some games in 1920 at Berkeley. From there he went to the Pittsburgh Pirates for parts of 1921 and 1922, and was then traded to Seattle. He would continue to have a great year in 1924, but would be traded in the off-season prior to 1925 for third basemen Frank Brazill from Portland. Eventually, he would wind up his career with Sacramento, near his hometown, retiring after 5 ½ years there in 1931. 

Rohwer, or rather the Rohwers, still played baseball though. I found a box score from a Woodland newspaper from 1933. It details a game between the Dixon Packers and Woodland Oaks, and Ray Rohwer was still making a difference with his bat. The 3-4-5 hitters were Claude, Ray and Eggert Rohwer, and they helped the Packers take this particular Valley League contest that day by a score of 3-2. At least one other brother, Otto, also played baseball for the UC Bears, being listed on the team in 1925-27. Otto later became a lawyer and was president of the Sacramento Chamber of Commerce when they sued in 1944 to keep the Sacramento ball club from being sold to out of town interests. 

As a total aside, but to provide complete coverage on all known professional baseball players in the US with a last name of Rohwer, I know the guy to the right is related, probably a Rohwer cousin since he was in high school in Spokane while Claude and Ray were competing against each other in the PCL (I don’t have the exact information but rather genealogical references), there is also a Ted Rohwer who was a half-back at Washington State University from 1926-28 (see right). He had pitched in two games in the minors in Illinois in 1930. For his collegiate endeavors, Ted Rohwer was elected to the WSU Hall of Fame in 1989. 

Claude Rohwer, who also left the University of California to serve in WWI, and was invited to Pittsburgh Pirates training camp in 1922 only to lose the third base job to fellow prospect Pie Traynor, was done with PCL ball by 1924, became Commander of the Dixon American Legion post by 1932, and died in car accident in 1940. Ray lived until 1988, passing away in Davis, California. Even though having a game with no at-bats but four walks is unique, Ray had an even more unique game on August 23, 1927, when his Sacramento team was visiting Los Angeles. Ray went 0-0 again, but had 4 sacrifice hits, 1 walk and 1 HBP.

Also of note here is supposedly only the third ball ever hit out over the right field fence by a right handed hitter. I’ve been looking for a picture of the field from that time to gauge an idea of the size of the park. Also, I haven’t been able to find a game description of either Kamm’s or Meusel’s home runs, but I’m searching. Once again, hot off the presses of the Seattle Daily Times, from one of up to seven daily editions, a transcription of a dusty, faded day:

Indians Continue To Bunch Their Hits To Beat Sacramento
Bowman Drives Out Homer Clearing Right Field Wall for One of Longest Blows in Seattle’s History

THREE straight for the Seattle tribe of Indians is the score today in this first series at home with Sacramento as the result of a finely pitched ball game turned in by George Steuland and some more lusty hitting by his mates. The score was Seattle, 9; Sacramento, 1.
     Steuland now ranks with Suds Sutherland for the honor of the best pitched games of the year. Suds held Los Angeles to one run in the Sunday doubleheader there.
     Steuland pitched a beautiful game. And his mates backed him up in perfect style, nary a bobble occurring behind him while a snappy double play he engineered with Sam Crane and Bowman in the first inning helped him out of one of the two holes he got into by putting the first man on base.

Stingy With Hits
     The big Dakotan allowed but six hits. Kopp singled as first man up and was snagged in that aforementioned double play. Cochrane walked in the second, but he got no further,   Mollwitz and McNeeley lifting towering flies.
     Hughes singled as second man in the third inning, but Kopp lofted to Ray Rohwer and Claude Rohwer fanned on three pitched balls, two beautiful tantalizing curves and a fast one through the heart.
     Steuland balked the only run in for Sacramento in the fourth. Siglin walked, advanced on an infield out and then Cochrane also walked, Mollwitz forced Cochrane, Siglin taking third and the pair started a double steal. Steuland gave Mollwitz a big lead, stopped his pitch and threw to get Siglin, who was allowed to score unmolested. McNeeley grounded out to end that trouble.
     Steuland retired the side in the fifth, seventh and eighth. He had two men on from singles in the sixth, but fanned Mollwitz for the third out. Cochrane and McNeeley singled in the ninth, but Schang, sent in as a pinch-hitter, lofted to Ray Rohwer and the victory was won.

Just One Hit Wasted
     For the third straight game the Indians made every hit but one count. Eldred’s long double to right was wasted in the third inning. The nine other Indian bingles figured in the run getting some way.
     Bill Hughes, who was chosen to take the punishment by Manager Charley Pick, was hit for a single by Billy Lane in the first inning. Cliff Brady bunted foul on the first ball, then with the Solon infield expecting him to bunt again, singled sharply to left field. Crane did bunt and the two midgets advanced a base each.
     Brick Eldred sent a long fly to Cochrane, on which Lane scored and Brady took third. Then came the hit de luxe, Bowman’s homer over the right center field fence.
     Seattle fans who have attended baseball games in Coast League park regurlarly for years have seen just three balls hit over that fence by right-handed hitters- Bob Meusel, when he was with Vernon; Willie Kamm when he was with San Francisco and then Bowman’s yesterday. There have been flies dropped over the fence close to the foul line, but Bowman’s drive cleared the Shell Oil Company’s sign in right center, traveling on a line and clearing the wall with yards to spare. It was some drive.
     Hughes pitched nice ball from then on to the seventh, only Eldred’s double and bases on balls to Bowman and Rohwer in the third and a walk to Rohwer in the sixth marring his work.
     The Indians came back with another of the irresistible rallies in the seventh. Steuland was out when Lane doubled to left. He stole third and scored when Koehler threw into left field.
    Brady then walked and Sam Crane singled. Eldred forced Crane. Brady reaching third and scoring when Claude Rohwer kicked Bowman’s ground ball. Hughes walked Ray Rohwer for the fourth time and Ted Baldwin, whose hitting eye had been missing all week came through with a looping single to right, scoring Brick and Bowman.
     Steuland’s line single to center, Lane’s blow to left, Brady’s sacrifice and Crane’s double would the Indian scoring in the eighth.

Fans Following Play
     Another good week day crowd was on hand and with good weather on tap today and tomorrow the Coast League park is going to be taxed to the limit.
     It has been many years since Seattle has boasted of a club with a scoring record of 120 runs in sixteen games, a fielding record of only seventeen errors in sixteen games, eight of which have been played perfectly.
     And, with good pitching apparently on the road following the showings of Sutherland, Gregg, Plummer and Steuland the outlook is promising to say the least.

Lane and Rohwer Stand Out
     The work of Billy Lane and Ray Rohwer since the team returned home has been little less than phenomenal.
     Wednesday Lane hit three doubles, drew two walks and scored three runs.
     Thursday he singled twice, doubled and sacrificed, scoring two runs in five trips to the plate.
     Friday he singled twice, doubled and scored three runs.
     That makes his total nine hits, five of them doubles, and eight runs for the three games.
     Ray Rohwer on Wednesday sacrificed, singled and scored a run in four trips to the plate.
     On Thursday he tripled twice, singled twice and walked in five trips beside scoring twice.
     And yesterday he walked every time he came up, four in all.
     His record shows five hits, two of them triples, five bases on balls and a sacrifice hit as well as three runs.
     Yesterday he handled six fly balls in left field too.
     No wonder they’re winning games.

The images of the Rohwer brothers are from the Dixon Public Library's digital archives and exhibitions. Follow the pic's to link to that. Support Public Libraries!

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