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The ignominious Yankees debut of Spud Chandler

He went on to become an MVP winner, but Chandler’s debut wouldn’t have given that impression.

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Spud Chandler put together an extremely accomplished baseball career. He was part of three World Series-winning Yankees teams. In the 1943 World Series, he threw two complete game victories, allowing just two runs (one earned) combined. Chandler made four All-Star games, and even won an AL MVP in 1943. He has the second-highest winning percentage of any pitcher to win at least 100 games. Not quite Hall of Fame worthy, but Chandler was really good. He also had one of the more ignominious debuts in Yankees’ history.

Chandler was a two-sport star at the University of Georgia, starring on both the baseball and football fields. While in college, he rebuffed multiple offers from teams, hoping to someday play for his favorite squad, the Yankees. After his career at Georgia, he received his wish and signed with the team in 1932. From there, he would have to wait quite a while to make the bigs.

An arm injury related to his football career caused Chandler’s stint in the minors to stretch on for years. After five full seasons and parts of a sixth in the minors, the Yankees called up the then 29-year-old early in the 1937 season.

On May 6, 1937, manager Joe McCarthy called on Chander to make his major-league debut against the Detroit Tigers. He was brought in to relieve Frank Makosky, who had been pinch-hit for the previous inning. The Yankees had once led the game 6-3, but blew the advantage and trailed 7-6. Chandler wouldn’t help the cause.

The first batter Chandler faced was Detroit’s Marv Owen, who had yet to record a hit in the young season. Naturally, what followed was not only Owen’s first hit, but a triple. Next up: pitcher Tommy Bridges.

The 1937 season was one of Bridges’ better years at the plate, but it still wasn’t much to write home about. The pitcher recorded just three extra-base hits all season. One of them happened that day against Chandler. Bridges doubled home Owen.

The game was still within striking distance, which likely led to McCarthy removing Chandler after just two batters. Kemp Wicker came in for him, but he allowed another couple runs to score, including Bridges. That added another earned run to Chandler’s tally.

After one career game, Chandler had zero career innings pitched, and an ERA of infinity. He faced two batters and not only allowed both to reach, but allowed extra-base hits to both.

Chandler wouldn’t have to wait long for his next chance, getting the start three days later. His first career batter retired actually came on a sacrifice bunt after the first two White Sox hitters reached base. His first career, non-gifted out came when he got Zeke Bonura to fly out following the bunt.

The Yankees and Chandler took the loss in that May 9th game, but he allowed just two runs on five hits. After going 0.0 innings in his debut, Chandler went eight in his second and is credited with a complete game.

Luckily for both him and the Yankees, Spud Chandler’s career resembled his second ever game much more strongly than his first.


Data courtesy of Baseball Reference