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December 2, 1889: Howard Armstrong

Born in East Claridon, Ohio on this date in 1889, Howard Armstrong was an early bloomer when it came to baseball. Playing for factory club teams in Ohio and Canisteo, he made a name for himself wherever he picked up a glove and a ball. Surprisingly, that never landed him a spot on a farm team before being signed by the Philadelphia Athletics in 1911.

Philly was in the middle of yet another strong season, having already clinched the American League pennant by the time Armstrong came aboard. They sat at 98-47 on the night he was given the ball against the Cleveland Indians, who came to town 76-70. While Armstrong didn't give up any earned runs in three innings of work, shoddy defense behind him allowed two Indians to score. The lead that spotted Cleveland wouldn't let up as they won the game, 4-3.

Armstrong, despite having not allowed an earned run and exiting the game with a 0.00 ERA, was stuck with the loss. Talk about a tough-luck loser. He had helped preserve the Athletics' pitching staff, though, as they prepared to line themselves up for World Series success. In fact, Chief Bender pitched the very next game for Philly,another step along his journey to the Hall of Fame.

Philadelphia finished the season 101-50 and prepared to face the New York Giants in the Fall Classic. Obviously, having been a late-season addition, Armstrong was not on the roster. Philly dropped the first game of the best-of-seven series, but rattled off four wins in their next five times out to claim their second straight World Series title. It is not known whether or not Armstrong was awarded a World Series share or ring. What is known is that following that season, he set off for the minor leagues, intent on getting back to Philadelphia to play for a perennial World Series contender.

The hurler would spend the next two seasons pitching for the Class-C Savannah Indians in the Sally League. In his age-22 and age-23 seasons, he combined to go 20-18 with a 3.12 ERA. That included a sterling 10-4, 2.56 ERA performance in 1913 across 130 innings. However, that year was the last time he recorded an appearance in a professional baseball game. Within a few years, he had eloped with Lucy Douglas and moved to Hamilton, Ontario in 1917.

The couple had three children, Robert, James, and Thomas, but sadly, it wouldn't be long before Armstrong succumbed to a likely staph infection, which claimed his life in 1926 when he was just 36 years old. Armstrong is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Canisteo, New York.


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