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Bob Ryan

Two-day bash in '50 is one to celebrate

OK, the Texas Rangers have kicked the 1950 Red Sox and 1955 White Sox out of the record book by scoring 30 runs against the Orioles last Wednesday. So come and see me when they score 49 in back-to-back games.

On June 7, 1950, the Red Sox beat the St. Louis Browns, 20-4. People were impressed. The next day, they beat the Browns, 29-4. Now some people were appalled.

"The 49 runs amassed by the Red Sox these last two days constitute a farce," sniffed the Globe's Roger Birtwell.

People were used to a half-century of the Browns being the Browns, but this was ridiculous. At that point in the 1950 season, the Red Sox were 5-1 against St. Louis and had scored 85 runs, with 16 homers, 5 triples, and 20 doubles.

It was a bad match. The Browns were relentlessly awful, and the 1950 Red Sox were one of the great offensive machines of all time.

A few pieces of evidence:

The 1950 Red Sox scored 1,027 runs. They were the last major league team to hit .300 as a club (.302). They had an on-base percentage of .385, a slugging average of .464, and a robust OPS (on-base plus slugging) of .849.

Red Sox players were 1-2 in the league in runs scored, 1-2 in runs batted in, and 1-2 in total bases.

Dom DiMaggio even led the American League in stolen bases with 15 (an all-time low, the tactic being a low priority in those days).

Ted Williams, who broke his elbow making a catch off Ralph Kiner in the All-Star Game and was never, by his own admission, the same again, hit a (for him) modest .317. Four teammates hit higher.

It was the year Billy Goodman led the league in hitting at .354. It was Walt Dropo's phenomenal rookie year in which he had 34 homers, drove in 144 runs, and slugged .583. It was Bobby Doerr's last effective season (.294-27-120) before back woes ended his career at age 33. It was the year Vern Stephens followed up his 159-ribbie year with 144 more. It was the year five players scored more than 100 runs, led by DiMaggio with 131.

In a league of clear haves and have-nots, the Browns weren't even the worst team. They would finish at 58-96, 40 games out. That was six games better than Connie Mack's horrid Philadelphia A's.

The Browns arrived in Boston for the first game of a three-game series having played in Philadelphia the night before. The finished playing at 11:10 p.m., hurriedly showered and packed, and made a 12:05 a.m. sleeper train to Boston. They hit Fenway at noon for a 2 o'clock game.

Everyone knew they'd be in trouble against the formidable Red Sox, but no one was expecting 20-4. The Sox pounded out 23 hits against three St. Louis pitchers.

The Boston press did not take the game at face value. Birtwell and others decried the fact that the Browns had been forced to play the A's at night rather than in the afternoon. There was, of course, no viable union to protect them. Anyway, Birtwell reasoned that the Red Sox would never have put up with such unfair treatment, but the hapless Browns were a different matter.

"Most of them [i.e. the Browns] are players of minor league caliber who are getting unexpected opportunities to play on a so-called major league club," he wrote. "As a result, they are in no position to squawk about being imposed upon."

Money, of course, was the issue. Browns management had agreed to play at night in the hopes of leaving with a better check as their 20 percent share of the gate receipts.

That freshly written check was for $687.50.

"Had the game been played in the afternoon," explained Birtwell, "the attendance of 2,750 might have been smaller and the Browns might have had lost from $200 to $300 in the size of the check from the Athletics."

The Browns had a better night's sleep, but things did not improve. On Thursday, June 8, the Red Sox beat them, 29-4, knocking out 28 hits while establishing a record with 60 total bases. Al Zarilla had four doubles. Dropo hit a homer and drove in seven. Ted hit two and drove in five. And Doerr hit three and drove in eight. Asked if he had ever hit three before, the almost unimaginably self-effacing second baseman said he "couldn't remember." (He hadn't.)

The Red Sox got eight in the second, five in the third, and seven in the fourth. Everyone in the lineup had at least two hits, except for leadoff man Clyde Vollmer, who went 1 for 7 with a walk while becoming the first man in the 20th century to bat eight times in a nine-inning game. Pesky had five hits and reminded everyone that it was basically an annual occurrence.

All this was taking place on a 90-degree scorcher of a June day, so Sox management cleared the bleachers while the game was in progress, placing the displaced fans under cover in the grandstand.

According to Globe columnist Jerry Nason, one press box wag observed, "They should have invited the Browns to the grandstand instead."

When apprised of the numerous record his team had set, Williams was unimpressed. "To heck with the records," he snapped. "What was the attendance?"

Informed that the gathering was 5,105, The Thumper boomed, "That's terrible!"

Thus did the press corps confirm, however obliquely, that, as they had long suspected, there was indeed an attendance clause in his contract.

The back-to-back assaults on the St. Louis pitching staff had been so brutal that St. Louis vice president Charley deWitt was asked to comment. "Our kids are doing OK," he said from the home office. "We're not going to get panicky over losses at the hands of Boston or any other team in the American League."

God bless baseball. After being outscored, 49-8, in two games, the Browns won the final game of the series, 12-7.

"The drinks are on me," said St. Louis skipper Zach Taylor. "I don't ever remember wanting to win one as much as this."

All of Boston's magnificent offense couldn't camouflage a mediocre pitching staff. The Sox were in third place when this mighty offensive display took place, and third they would remain, four games out. They even lost their manager when, 59 games into the season, Steve O'Neill replaced Joe McCarthy.

The Yankees would win the second of what turned out to be five consecutive world's championships.

$687.50. The Red Sox get that in Fenway tours before lunch.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at ryan@globe.com.

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