December 27, 1904: John Shea
Born on this day 115 years ago, John Shea made his way to the major leagues fairly quickly. The defining moment of his professional baseball career came in just his 24th year of life. After putting forth a solid 1928 campaign with the Class-A Pittsfield Hillies, going 8-4 with a 4.22 ERA in 96 innings, the Boston Red Sox took notice. Shea, having been born in Everett, Massachusetts, was a New England kid through and through.
The opportunity to pitch for his hometown Red Sox was almost too good to be true. Even better: he got his chance to prove himself against Babe Ruth and the mighty Yankees one year removed from the most dominant season in baseball history, certainly to that point in the sport's relative infancy. It was Game 1 of a doubleheader at Fenway Park between the two budding rivals when Shea got his shot. June 30, 1928 was the date and the Yankees were world beaters once again, winners of 48 of their first 64 games.
Shea was the last man out of the bullpen, summoned to pitch the top of the ninth inning with the Yankees already leading 9-3. He just missed facing Babe Ruth, who was retired for the final out of the previous inning. Of course, that meant facing Lou Gehrig in his major-league debut. He walked the legendary Yankee lefty and proceeded to allow a double to Bob Meusel. Ken Williams grounded out to second base, which scored Gehrig and extended the Yankee lead to seven runs.
Gene Robertson grounded out back up the middle, forcing Shea to field his position and throw on to first. It was another RBI groundout as Meusel, who had moved up to third base, scored on the play. Finally, he was out of the inning after Johnny Grabowski grounded out to short. He allowed just one base hit, but two earned runs, running his career ERA to 18.00.
Boston scratched out one run in the bottom of the ninth and the Bronx Bombers won 11-4. New York predictably went on to win its second straight World Series and had swept the Fall Classic for the second straight year, the first time a team had ever done that. As the Yankees were celebrating their victory, Shea was trying to figure out where he would play next after his rough outing. He landed back with Pittsfield during the 1929 season, but it appeared his confidence was shot.
In just 10 appearances for the Hillies, he went 0-3 with a 6.58 ERA. With that, his professional baseball career was over. Though he hadn't been hit too hard, his lifetime stats will never look good thanks to the Yankees' opportunistic base running. Still, in looking back on his career, he was able to tell anyone who would listen about the time he faced "Murderer's Row" and came out feeling okay on the other side.