RED OLDHAM – Sully Baseball Unsung Post Season Hero of October 15

Sporting News

Sporting News

OCTOBER 15, 1925 – World Series Game 7

I will confess this entry of “Sully Baseball Unsung Post Season Heroes” is the inspiration for the entire series. I have a fascination with Pirates pitcher Red Oldham and wanted to celebrate his unlikely and mostly forgotten World Series heroism.

I have written a few blog posts about him and wanted to write this series to give recognition to Red and the other players whose fame has dimmed over the years. Arguably the most obscure person to ever clinch Game 7 of a World Series, John “Red” Oldham began the 1925 season in the minors and would end the 1926 season in the minors, never to reach the majors again. But in between he would experience World Series glory.

The Pirates won the 1925 pennant and faced the defending World Champion Washington Senators and their superstar pitcher, Walter Johnson, in the World Series.

Initially it looked like no contest. The Senators ran up a 3-1 lead in the series, thanks to a pair of complete game victories by Johnson. The Pirates took a back and forth Game 5 and over came a 2-0 deficit to win Game 6 and force a winner take all Game 7 with Walter Johnson on the mound.

Heavy rains delayed Game 7. With the infield soaked, the Pirates grounds crew decided to dump barrels of gasoline on the dirt and light it on fire to dry it out. There were different environmental rules back then.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh manager Bill McKechnie tried to figure out how to juggle his pitching staff in the finale against the Big Train. At one point he considered using Red Oldham to start, even though he had not used the 31 year old lefty for the entire World Series.

Oldham had played for the Tigers in the 1910’s and early 1920’s and did not exactly set the American League ablaze like the infield at Forbes Field. The most famous incident in his career was having Ty Cobb dress him down and basically tackle him during a game in Detroit.

After bouncing around the minors and getting in trouble with the commissioner for playing in outlaw leagues, Oldham somehow found himself on the Pirates midway through the 1925 season. Injuries forced the team to find some left handed depth in their staff. Oldham appeared in 11 games, 4 of them starts. He threw three complete games and recorded a save.

McKechnie decided against starting Oldham and turned to Game 5 winner Vic Aldridge. Oldham would sit in the bullpen and witness one of the strangest Game 7’s in baseball history.

Aldridge did not make it out of the first inning as the Senators gave Johnson a 4 run lead before he even took the mound. Johnson kept the lead in a steady rain and mist but he was by no means dominant.

In the 7th inning, future Hall of Famer Pie Traynor tripled home the tying runs but was thrown out trying to make it an inside the park homer.

In the 8th, the Senators took the lead on a Roger Peckinpaugh homer and Washington player/manager Bucky Harris let Walter Johnson bat. Despite his struggles, Johnson was going to complete the game.

With the rain picking up, Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis nearly called the game and declared the Senators World Champs, but decided to let the game play in the downpour and fog.

Johnson was gassed but had a 7-6 lead with 2 outs and nobody on in the 8th, he was 4 outs from a World Series repeat. But Earl Smith doubled and Carson Bigbee smacked a game tying RBI double. Then a walk and an error loaded the bases. Still no relief for Johnson who faced future Hall of Famer Kiki Cuyler. He hit a drive to right field into the fog. It was declared a ground rule double. Washington right fielder Joe Harris said it was foul by 10 feet. There was no replay then. The Pirates took the lead and were three outs from winning the World Series.

McKechnie had already used Aldridge, Johnny Morrison and Ray Kremer as pitchers. Another one of his pitchers, Emil Yde was used as a pinch runner. With his options running out, he turned to Oldham.

Given a two run lead, Oldham had a little wiggle room. But Washington lineup offered little comfort. He would face Sam Rice, Bucky Harris and Goose Goslin. While you may not know those names well, go to Cooperstown. All three are enshrined there. An unknown who began the season in the minors had to face three future Hall of Famers with the World Series on the line.

On a 2-2 count, Oldham got Rice looking. One away. With no balls and 2 strikes on Bucky Harris, he recorded an out with a line drive caught by second baseman Eddie Moore. Now only Goslin remained.

With the count 1 ball and 2 strikes, Goslin was called out looking. Oldham had done it. He got the save and the Pirates, in the pouring rain and mist, became the first team to erase a 3-1 hole and win the World Series.

American League president Ban Johnson admonished Senators manager Bucky Harris for leaving Walter Johnson in for too long. And the Senators were one commissioner’s decision from repeating in the 8th.

But it was the Bucs title and the most obscure Pirate had closed it out. By the next June, Oldham was let go by the team he pitched to the title and was not with the club when they won the 1927 pennant. After a few years toiling in the minors, Oldham retired and eventually died in California.

His deeds have faded with time and his one moment of glory took place appropriately during a misty day that was hard to see, much like his foggy legacy.

But his clutch performance, retiring three future Hall of Famers to clinch Game 7 of the 1925 World Series should be recognized somewhere. That makes him the Unsung Postseason Hero of October 15.

The Sully Baseball Official BBA Awards Ballot



As a proud member of the Baseball Blogger Alliance, every year, I submit my vote for the individual awards and I post them publicly.

I am going to simply list my choices and if you have any issues or disagreements with me, please leave them in the comment section below or click HERE to get to my Twitter handle


The Connie Mack Award (Manager of the Year):

1. Bruce Bochy, San Francisco
2. Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh
3. Mike Matheny, St. Louis

1. Buck Showalter, Baltimore
2. Mike Scioscia, Los Angeles
3. Bob Melvin, Oakland


The Willie Mays Award (Rookie of the Year):

1. Jacob deGrom, New York
2. David Buchanan, Philadelphia
3. Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati

1. Jose Abreu, Chicago
2. Danny Santana, Minnesota
3. Yordano Ventura, Kansas City



The Goose Gossage Award (Reliever of the Year): 

1. Drew Storen, Washington
2. Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta
3. Tony Watson, Pittsburgh

1. Wade Davis, Kansas City
2. Sean Doolittle, Oakland
3. Dellin Betances, New York



The Walter Johnson Award (Pitcher of the Year): 

1. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles
2. Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati
3. Adam Wainwright, St. Louis
4. Jordan Zimmermann, Washington
5. Cole Hamels, Philadelphia

1. Felix Hernandez, Seattle
2. Corey Kluber, Cleveland
3. Chris Sale, Chicago
4. Dallas Keuchel, Houston
5. David Price, Tampa Bay and Detroit


The Stan Musial Award (MVP): 

1. Giancarlo Stanton, Miami
2. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh

3. Buster Posey, San Francisco
4. Jonathan LuCroy, Milwaukee
5. Josh Harrison, Pittsburgh
6. Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles

7. Anthony Rendon, Washington
8. Jhonny Peralta, St. Louis
9. Jason Heyward, Atlanta
10. Russell Martin, Pittsburgh

1. Mike Trout, Los Angeles
2. Josh Donaldson, Oakland
3. Jose Altuve, Houston
4. Alex Gordon, Kansas City
5. Michael Brantley, Cleveland
6. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
7. Victor Martinez, Detroit
8. Nelson Cruz, Baltimore
9. Adam Jones, Baltimore
10. Jose Bautista, Toronto

So let’s see how my votes lineup with the final tallies.

Cliff Lee can’t lose? Neither could THESE 5 guys!

It seems like a foregone conclusion by anyone NOT named Lisa Swan that Cliff Lee will win tonight in Yankee Stadium and put the Yankees in a 2-1 hole.

He’s awesome! He’s unbeaten in the post season!
He can NOT lose!

Where have I heard THAT before?
Oh yeah… many times and believe it or not with people with more impressive post season credentials than Cliff Lee.

I am going to pull out five examples of a dominant pitcher entering a can’t miss game with everything in their favor lost…

Beware Cliff Lee, THESE guys had an easier team to face than you do tonight!

Philadelphia Athletics

Game 1 – 1914 World Series.

The Boston Braves stormed into the World Series with a worst to first August rally, but now had to face the defending World Champion Athletics and their future Hall of Fame ace starting game 1.

It wasn’t supposed to be close, and it wasn’t. Except it was the Braves, led by Hank Gowdy, Rabbit Maranville and pitcher Dick Rudolph who rolled, 7-1.

Washington Senators

Game 7 – 1925 World Series

Arguably the greatest pitcher of all time finally got his shot to pitch in the World Series in 1924. He got his jitters out by losing two games but winning Game 7 out of the Bullpen.

In 1925, the Big Train was rolling for the repeat, winning Games 1 and 4. When the Pirates forced Game 7, it was no problem. Johnson was rested and ready.

Washington gave him a 4 run cushion before he even took the mound and the World Series was a foregone conclusion. But the Pirates kept battling and in the 8th inning, Kiki Kuyler doubled home the go ahead run. The 9-7 win was saved by Red Oldham, a personal obsession of mine.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Game 2 – 1966 World Series

Koufax was one of the most dominating forces in baseball history in the mid 1960s and rose to the occasion in the World Series, winning the MVP in the 1963 and 1965 Series. When the Orioles roughed up Don Drysdale in Game 1 of the Series, there was no panic in Los Angeles. Koufax was going to take the hill.

For the first 4 innings, it was vintage Koufax. But the Dodger defense betrayed him, committing 6 errors over all. Koufax lasted only 6 innings in the 6-0 loss, which turned out to be his final game. Future Hall of Famer Jim Palmer got the win.

St. Louis Cardinals

Game 7 – 1968 World Series

Bob Gibson had already won 2 World Series MVPs but the 1968 series was looking like his masterpiece. He struck out 17 in the opening shutout and threw another complete game win in game 4 (his 7th straight complete game World Series win.)

In Game 7, he was throwing a 1 hit shutout into the 7th when Curt Flood slipped and couldn’t catch Jim Northrup’s 2 out fly ball which turned into an RBI triple. The Cardinals wouldn’t recover and the Tigers won the game 4-1 to clinch the series.

Oakland A’s

Game 1 – 1990 World Series

The A’s and Dave Stewart learned their lesson after losing the 1988 World Series to the Dodgers. They were 12-1 in the 1989 ALCS and World Series and 1990 ALCS combined. And Dave Stewart was the MVP of the ’89 World Series and ’90 ALCS. He was unquestionably the best big game pitcher in baseball.

He took the mound against the Reds ready to dispatch of them quickly to give Oakland back to back titles. Eric Davis had other ideas, homering off of Stewart in the first inning.

Stewart lasted only 4 innings and the Reds won 7-0. Stewart would regain his stuff for Game 4 but still lost, 2-1 as it was the Reds who pulled off the sweep.

So there you have 5 examples of guys who had bigger reputations than Cliff Lee who couldn’t get the job done.

I’d think of more but that should give you a strong foundation. If Koufax and Gibson can lose the big game, why not Lee?

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