September 20, 1949: Dizzy Sutherland
Poor, Dizzy Sutherland. Another victim of small sample size making his career MLB stats look awful. Howard Alvin Sutherland was born on April 9, 1922 in the nation's capital and very likely would have been able to break into the major leagues sooner had World War II not escalated right as he was entering his prime. Germany invaded Poland when he was 17 and on a day that has lived in infamy, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor when he was just 19.
Sutherland was a cab driver as the world was thrown into disarray overseas. In January 1943, he reported to the U.S. Army base at Fort Meyer, Virginia where he began service to his country. Just eight months after his service began, he and others were mistakenly dropped behind German lines in Salerno, Italy during an airborne assault.
Luckily, Sutherland was able to escape the skirmish with his life, but not before he had been wounded three times and been taken as a prisoner of war. He remained in a POW camp until WWII ended two years later and by that time, he had lost nearly 100 pounds. He was left emaciated, but the Allied Forces had declared victory and Sutherland was finally set to return home.
Upon his return, he resumed driving a cab in Washington, D.C. and played semi-pro baseball on the weekends. It was a hobby of his and he was a pretty sensational pitcher at that level. During one such game, Spencer Abbott, a professional baseball scout was so impressed with Sutherland's performance that he signed him to a contract with the Charlotte Hornets, a Class-B Washington Senators farm team.
The lefty reported to the Hornets and dazzled the organization in his rookie season in which he 18-10 with a 3.22 ERA in 229 innings of work. His performance was enough to earn him a call up to the big-league club, where on this day 70 years ago, he got the nod as the Senators' starting pitcher against the St. Louis Browns. It was a matchup of cellar dweller teams (the Browns at 49-97 and the Senators at 45-98) and fewer than 2,000 fans showed up to Griffith Stadium to witness it.
Sutherland's day got off to a rocky start when he walked the first two men he faced. Then, Jerry Priddy hit a grounder that hit off Sutherland's glove and kicked over to second baseman Al Kozar who made the throw to first in time for the initial out of the inning. Roy Sievers then grounded to third base where Eddie Yost snagged it and tagged out Dick Kokos, who was trying to advance to third. However, a run scored and the Browns had claimed a 1-0 lead.
After walking yet another batter, Sutherland got out of the inning by getting Les Moses to fly out. The second inning is where everything really fell apart. Again, Sutherland walked the first two batters of the frame. This time, he couldn't walk the tightrope as Joe Ostrowski clubbed a double, which scored both runners. Sutherland issued yet another walk before allowing Kokos to drive in two runs with a base hit.
With runners on first and third, still no outs, manager Joe Kuhel had seen enough. He yanked his rookie pitcher and relieved him with Dick Welteroth, who only allowed the runner from third to score and got out of the rest of the inning unscathed. Sutherland had pitched just 1+ inning and allowed five earned runs, ballooning his career MLB ERA to 45.00. Washington lost the game, leaving Sutherland with an 0-1 career record as well.
In 1950, Sutherland was back in Charlotte trying to prove himself. He did exactly that, going 17-15 with a 3.30 ERA. It was enough to earn him another call up with the Senators in September, but in his second go around in the major leagues, he was never called upon in a relief appearance. He returned to Charlotte again in 1951, but struggled to a 4.40 ERA, though his record was 14-8. He did continue playing baseball through the 1953 season, where he was a member of the Richmond Colts in Piedmont League.
When it finally sunk in that he was never getting back to the major leagues, Sutherland called it quits. The veteran enjoyed another 26 years before passing away in Washington, D.C. where he had been born, raised, and had pitched in his one MLB game. Sutherland is buried among other American heroes at Cheltenham Veteran's Cemetery in Cheltenham, Maryland.