Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Game 145 history

Perhaps you have seen the Futility Watch section of Astros County. It started out as a joke to show that the Astros were vastly improved over 2012. Well. The 2013 Astros are improved (and on a better path - save for those pesky innings that come after the starter leaves the game. Now it's not so funny.

Anyhow, every day (for the most part) this section is updated on a Game-by-Game basis, comparing the records of the 2013 Astros to the 2012 Astros, the 2003 Tigers, the 1962 Mets, and the 1899 Cleveland Spiders. We're also keeping track of the Race for Rodon (the #1 overall pick in 2014) and the Strikeout Watch. These are depressing things with which to keep up.

But every now and then, something comes up that is mildly interesting. In our case today, it's extremely interesting. On Sunday, September 9, 1962, the 145th game of the season, the Colt .45s and Mets - both in their inaugural seasons in the Majors - did something strange.

The Colts came in to the game with a 56-87 record, having won their previous six games (including the first three games against the Mets) and 11 of their previous 14. They were in 8th place in the National League - 4.5 better than the Cubs and 21.5 better than the Mets, who were having a historically bad season. They were 12-50 from the All-Star Break to G145, 6-29 since taking three of five from the Reds in early August, and 1-11 in their previous twelve games.

G145 began at 4:00pm at Colt Stadium. The Mets had runners on 1st and 2nd before Colts' pitcher Bob Bruce got a strikeout and a flyout to end the top of the 1st. The Colts answered with five straight baserunners to take a 3-0 lead after one inning. New York got two runs back in the 2nd, but Al Spangler's double scored Bob Lillis to make it 4-2 Houston after two innings. Houston had a 5-2 lead when the Mets struck for three runs to tie the game in the 5th. A Bob Aspromonte triple scored Roman Mejias and a Hal Smith sac fly brought in Aspromonte for a 7-5 Houston lead. The Mets chipped away with a run in the 6th and 7th to tie the game. Houston's Don McMahon negotiated two walks in the 8th to get out of the inning, and New York's Ray Daviault retired the Colts on three pitches in the 8th.

And then, when you thought the Mets would take the field in the top of the 9th, they didn't. The game was over and called a tie. Why? It was 7pm.

Major League Baseball - thanks to what are known as Blue Laws - had a Sunday curfew for quite some time. In 1930s Boston, the curfew was 6:30pm. These Blue Laws restrict or ban certain types of activity on Sundays (in the United States) for religious standards. The first Blue Law in the colonies was enacted in Virginia in 1617, requiring church attendance and authorizing the militia to force colonists to attend church.  Beginning in the mid- to late-19th century, many southern and midwestern states passed laws to protect Sundays that would penalize people for not observing the Sabbath.

Texas had some of the strictest Blue Laws in the states regarding alcohol and entertainment. Since before the 1880s Texas had restricted the sale of alcohol on a Sunday. In 1961, the Texas legislature passed a series of laws banning the sale of 42 items (among them: furniture, clothing, hardware, appliances, jewelry, musical instruments, toys, draperies...) on consecutive Saturdays and Sundays - basically meaning "Not On Sunday." A lot of these were repealed in 1985, but ever wonder why you still can't buy a car or a bottle of bourbon in Texas on a Sunday? There you have it.

Courts in Connecticut and New York have declared these laws unconstitutional since the Blue Laws mix that whole Church & State thing. In 1984, state judges in Houston and Dallas declared the Blue Laws unconstitutional, too, mainly because prosecutors wouldn't enforce it - lead to the 1985 repealing.

A letter to the editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on August 15, 1958 reminds a previous letter-writer that "the 7 o'clock curfew was made to protect churches holding services holding services in the morning and evening. Some churches are next to a ball field. They hold services in the evening and it would certainly interfere with services going on if a ball game was in progress. There is a church directly back of Forbes Field." (The Oakland Methodist Episcopal Church?)

If you look at the Baseball-Reference play-by-play data, the Colt .45s went after the first pitch in nine straight ABs from the 6th-8th innings, making nine consecutive outs on nine pitches, likely in an effort to end the game, which they were leading 7-5 when they started hacking at the first pitch.

Interestingly enough, Rule 4.12(a)(1) - if I'm even writing that out correctly - still indicates that "a game shall become a suspended game that must be completed at a future date" if the game is stopped due to a curfew imposed by law.

Whether the 7-7 tie had any impact on how Houston and Texas in general viewed the baseball curfew is unclear. I was able to find start times for two Sunday home games in the 1963 season: An August 25 game against the Cardinals that began at 2:33pm and a June 30 game, again with the Cardinals, that began at 8pm - one hour after the 1962 Sunday baseball curfew would have taken effect.