October 21, 1918: Ralph McCabe
On this day 101 years ago, Ralph Herbert McCabe was born in Napanee, Ontario north of the border. His road to the show was a long and winding one and required him to continue playing in the minor leagues while World War II was raging overseas. Even with such a shortage of major-league talent during the war years, McCabe never earned a call up.
He initially signed with the Yankees in 1941, just a few years after they had acquired the rights to Joe DiMaggio, who in that season would hit safely in 56 consecutive games. McCabe wasn't able to crack it with their Class-D farm club, though, and was a property of the Pittsburgh Pirates by 1942. Taking a big step in 1943, going 5-5 with a 2.01 ERA across Single-A and Double-A, McCabe quickly got on people's radars. Perhaps he would reach the big leagues after all.
Again in 1944, he pitched fairly well splitting time between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Albany Senators. Apparently it wasn't enough to keep a job with Pittsburgh, though, as he was traded to Cleveland in 1945, the year the war finally came to an end. In 1946, he had a clear starting role with the Oklahoma City Indians, going 10-7 with a 3.79 ERA. It was a performance that finally earned him a call up to the major leagues.
He arrived in Cleveland in September and eventually, on September 18, he got his shot. Barely 3,000 people came to League Park to watch the 65-79 Indians host the 70-74 Washington Senators. McCabe was handed the ball to start the game in front of the modest crowd and he struggled in his first taste of the big leagues. Over four innings, he allowed five earned runs on just five hits while walking two. He was prone to the long ball; he gave up three home runs.
Interestingly, his one career plate appearance was a sacrifice bunt. That's a true rarity among "cup of coffee" players. Finally, Joe Krakauskas came on to relieve him, but the damage was already done. McCabe was left with an 11.25 career ERA and the Indians were tagged with an 8-1 loss. Thus, McCabe's career record fell to 0-1. It seemed unlikely he would get another shot in 1946, but perhaps 1947 would provide another chance to prove himself.
However, with a future Hall of Famer like Bob Feller on the Indians' staff, it was going to be tough to grab one of the other couple spots in the rotation. Feeling the pressure, McCabe struggled in 1947, going 6-11 with a 4.94 ERA in Oklahoma City. It was becoming apparent his career may have run its course. The hurler took 1948 off and his former franchise won the World Series. Cleveland claimed the Fall Classic for the last time in franchise history as their title drought has now run to 71 years.
Briefly, McCabe attempted a comeback in 1949 when he went 13-2 with a 2.20 ERA for the Longview Texans of the East Texas League. He certainly put up encouraging numbers, but it wasn't against a level of competition anywhere near comparable to the major leagues. At age 30, after nearly a decade in organized ball, the Canadian right hander finally decided to call it quits. He moved back to Canada where he lived out his days until his death on May 3, 1974. Just three years later, the Toronto Blue Jays would be approved as baseball's second Canadian MLB team, joining the Montreal Expos.