by Frank Hyde
July 18, 1945
Part 4 of 7
Caldwell Hit Homers on Three Consecutive Days for Yankees
When it comes to sudden switching
And they need some heady pitching,
Or the chances of the Yanks are pretty dim,
You can hear the bleachers bellow:
"Better get that other fellow;
If you want to win the game just call Slim."
When the moments get to flitting
And they need some real pinch hittin,
Then an anxious gleam appears in Wild Bill's glim,
"Say this isn't golf," he mutters,
"And I've got no use for putters,
So I guess I'll have to send the call for Slim."
There he slouches, cool and grinning,
In the straining crucial inning,
For there's nothing in the world that bothers him;
With a careless swing he meets it,
Like a streak of light he beats it,
Something happens when they send the call for Slim.
He's the reinforcing propping
When the Yankees take to dropping;
He's a bunch of nerve and made to order vim;
It is certain while they've got him
That they Yanks won't hit the bottom;
When they're in a hole they'll simply call on Slim.
The last paragraph of the foregoing poem, which was published in 1914 in a leading Midwest newspaper and which is one of Ray Caldwell's favorite keepsakes, is certainly true in every respect for from 1913 through 1918 "Slim" literally carried the Yankees on his broad shoulders.
Glance back through the records for 1913 and you'll find Caldwell, who now operates a tavern in Onoville, NY with Ty Crandall, also up for a fling at the big show with the Phils after a stretch with Buffalo, Rochester and Newark of the International, and a fling with Bridgeport, Scranton and Manchester, continued his service as "Jack of all trades" for the Yanks through that season by playing the outfield, pitching three times weekly and being used as the club's standard pinch hitter, as well as doing a relief stint on the mound when occasion demanded.
As we told you in preceding chapters, Caldwell, who was born at Corydon, PA, but spent most of his boyhood in Salamanca, came up to the old Highlanders, later to become the Yankees, from McKeesport in 1911. He started his major league career under the managership of George Stallings, destined to guide the Miracle Braves of 1914 to the pennant and World Series. Stallings resigned after two weeks and Hal Chase took over as manager. Chase was later replaced by Wild Bill Donovan.
Three Rays of Sunshine
It was Donovan who built the Yanks from a cellar clinging nine into an average .500 ball club during the years John McGraw and the great Giants were basking in the metropolitan and world baseball highlight.
"We had Ray Keating, Ray Fisher and myself one year," Ray Caldwell recalled when we interviewed him recently. "And I'll never forget how Wild Bill, during some of his lighter moments, used to refer to us as his 'three Rays of sunshine.'"
Caldwell never hies back in memory to those Yankee years but the season of 1913 looms above those preceding it, for it was during that year he accomplished two of the greatest feats to ever be written in the lengthy annals of diamond lore.
Hits Homer as Pincher
It started when one of those hot afternoons about midway through the season of 32 years ago Wild Bill signaled Ray in to hit for Danny Boone during the crucial moment of a game. There was one out and one on when "Slim" strode to the plate, took a ball, a strike then, Wham! Out of the park, a game-winning homer.
The following day produced practically the same setting - late inning tied score, two out. Wild Bill thumbed Ray to the bat rack and sat back to watch history in the making. Caldwell doesn't remember today just what the count was when "his" pitch came in. He promptly belted it out of the park for another homer!
This gets sort of like the fabled ants who kept going back for another grain of sugar, so we'll change the setting and lend more luster by explaining Ray was due to pitch the next day. The Yanks were playing the Athletics and as usual were having a lot of trouble getting a run for their tall righthander. Doesn't sound much like the Bombers as we know them today, does it? Anyway, late in the game a single, walk and hit batter found the Yanks with the bases loaded, two down and the Athletics leading by a run. It was Caldwell's turn to the platter and as he strode out the fans gave him a great hand, recalling his home run blows of the preceding two days.
Grand Slammer While Pitching
Cries of "Win your own game, Ray," rang out - appeals you hear so many times when a pitcher comes to bat but seldom ever see fulfilled. But this hot, sultry afternoon back in 1913 was to be different. Baseball drama far more climactic than ever could possibly drip from the pen of the most imaginary writer of sports fiction was in the offing.
Ray worked the string to 2-2 when in came a fastball that barely caught the outside corner. Maybe it was meant to be a wasted pitch - a bad ball to a dangerous hitter. No one will ever know. Regardless, Caldwell stepped in, took a tremendous swipe and the little white pellet fast faded to aspirin proportions as it sailed high and far against a blue, cloudless background on its 380-foot home run journey!
The records show no other pitcher in the history of the majors has ever equaled or closely approached Caldwell's feats of those three days... Twice up as a pinch hitter, homers both times, then a four-run game-winning clout as a pitcher!