What do Billy Rohr, Dave Morehead, Dave ‘Boo” Ferris, George Hockette, Buck O’Brien, Larry Pape and Rube Kroh have in common?
Herb Kroh was the first Red Sox pitcher to throw a shutout in the first game he ever pitched. He beat the St. Louis Browns in St. Louis 2-0 allowing just two hits, on September 30, 1906. He appeared in only eight games for Boston in two seasons going 2-4.
They all pitched shutouts in their major league debuts with the Red Sox and none of those games came at Fenway Park. Kroh, Pape and O’Brien made their debut’s before Fenway Park was here and only Larry Pape did it at home, a 2-0 win against the Senators at the old Huntington Avenue Grounds. All the rest did it on the road.
George Hockette was the first lefty to do it, also beating the Browns in St. Louis 3-0 in September of 1934. George was 4-4 in a major league career that spanned 1934 and’35’ with the Red Sox.
In an interesting meaningless quirk, all seven pitchers won 2-0 (four of them) or 3-0 (three). And in a far more meaningful interesting quirk, only two of them pitched for more than three years with the Red Sox and only one of them became a full-blown star.
“Buck” O’Brien and Larry Pape both pitched for the Red Sox during Fenway Parks inaugural season of 1912. O’Brien is forever immortalized as the man who hurled the first ever pitch at America’s Most Beloved Ball Park as he was the pitcher on April 20, 1912.
O’Brien (above) was 29-23 pitching for the Red Sox in 1911, ’12’ and ’13’. Pape was 13-9 in 1909, ’11’ and ’12’.
Kroh and Hockette combined to pitch 131 2/3 innings for the Red Sox and they started a total of only 13 games. Hockette threw another shutout in one of his starts but the brilliance that both exhibited in their debuts quickly dissipated.
On April 29, 1945 “Boo” Ferris took to the hill at Shibe Park in Philadelphia. The 24 year product of Mississippi State had a bit of control trouble yet despite walking six, he did not allow a run as he outdueled Bobo Newsome beating him and the A’s 2-0. And just for good measure he got three hits in his three at bats.
Ferris’ debut season of 1945 was two years before the Rookie of the Year Award or he may have been the winner going 21-10 with a 2.96 ERA. He was the ace of the pennant winning staff of 1946 with a 25-6 mark and he was 1-0 in the ’46’ World Series.
“Boo” was on the threshold of superstardom when in July of 1947 he snapped of a curveball and heard his shoulder pop. He struggled to a 12-11 mark in 1947, went 7-3 in ’48’ and though he pitched in ’49’ and ’50’ he had no decisions, his arm and his career were gone leaving the Fenway Faithful to mutter “what might have been”?
Dave Morehead was 20 years old when he took to the mound at DC Stadium on April 13, 1963 and following his debut the word “phenom” was heard to describe him. He struck out 10 Senators that day on his way to a five hit 3-0 victory.
Morehead showed not only flashes of brilliance but flashes of dominance early in his career, including a no-hitter in 1965.
Like Ferris, Morehead also fell victim to a shoulder pop. His came on Patriots Day (April 19, 1965) while pitching in a drizzle at Fenway Park. Delivering a pitch, he slipped a bit on the wet mound and when he let go of the pitch, his shoulder and essentially his career went with it. He pitched six years with the Red Sox going 35-56, his promise never fulfilled.
Perhaps the most dramatic pitching debut in Red Sox history came in Yankee Stadium on April 14, 1967. Twenty-two year old William Joseph Rohr was on the hill making his first start in the majors and he was pitching against Yankee Hall of Fame lefty Whitey Ford. The 6′ 3″ southpaw had shown promise winning 14 games for the Red Sox AAA team in Toronto in 1966 and he impressed new Red Sox manager Dick Williams enough in the spring to earn a trip north.
Fellow rookie Reggie Smith led off the game with a home run giving Rohr and the Red Sox a 1-0 lead. Little did anybody know that was all the young lefty would need or that a drama for the ages was about to unfold.
The first 10 Yankees went down and then Yankee right fielder Bill Robinson walked with one out in the fourth. The Yankees first base runner was followed by Rohr’s first strikeout as he got Tom Tresh. Joe Pepitone walked and Elston Howard stepped in with two on and Rohr induced a fly to right, preserving both his nascent ho-hitter and the Red Sox 1-0 lead.
The two leftys battled through the seventh inning with Rohr allowing but two walks and as the Sox came to bat in the eighth, they held on to a 1-0 lead and Rohr was clinging tight to his no-hitter!
Joe Foy hit a two run homer in the eighth giving Rohr and the Sox some breathing room and the drama meter spiked when Mickey Mantle was announced as a pinch hitter leading off the Yankee eighth. Rohr got him on a fly to right and then made an error allowing pinch hitter Lou Clinton to reach. He walked Horace Clarke but got Bill Robinson to hit into an inning ending double play.
He was three outs from a no-hitter in his major league debut!
Tom Tresh led off the ninth inning and he scorched a ball to left field in the direction of Carl Yastrzemski. Yaz went back and….well forget me telling you about, let Ken Coleman do it! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BoD1xEJSXo
Following “one of the greatest catches we’ve ever seen” Joe Pepitone flied to Conigliaro in right and now only Elston Howard stood between Rohr and history. The Yankee catcher slammed history’s door in Rohr’s face with a single to right center and the kid lefty settled for a one hitter when third baseman Charley Smith flied to Conigliaro to end the game.
Billy Rohr pitched in only 27 games in his big league career, 10 with Boston and all of them in 1967. He was 2-3 with the Red Sox in 42 1/3 innings yet he is and forevermore will remain a part of Fenway’s most jubilant year!
And so it was at this time in Fenway Park history, major league debut shutout time!