By Phil Ellenbecker
Almost a year to the date after Chicago had pummeled the A’s 29-6, 11 days into their inaugural season in Kansas City, the Athletics offered some payback with a 15-1 drubbing of the White Sox on April 21, 1956. It came before a Saturday crowd of 15, 608 at Municipal Stadium.
As in the 1955 April blowout between the two teams, in which the Chisox took a 14-3 lead after three innings, this one was over early. And Kansas City’s knockout blow this day was even more emphatic. A 13-run second and one more in the third put the A’s up 14-1.
What made Kansas City’s second-inning outburst especially notable was that all of the 13 runs scored with two out. This tied the major league record for most runs scored with two out set by Cleveland in a 27-3 win over Boston in 1923.
Not that Art Ditmar needed that much help. The K.C. starter, who qualified as A’s ace this year with a 12-22 record and 4.42 ERA, threw a complete-game one-hitter, allowing no earned runs while striking out three and walking five, in winning his first start of the year.
The A’s sent 17 batters to the plate in the second, and mainly they stung the Sox to death with singles – 11 of them, along with two doubles, two walks and a triple.
Although all the runs scored with two out, the A’s jumped on Chicago starter Sandy Consuegra from the start. Jim Finigan led off with a single and advanced to third on Joe DeMaestri’s double. After consecutive ground outs by Ditmar and Vic Power, Forrest “Spook” Jacobs beat out a grounder to shortstop Luis Aparicio for a hit, bringing in the first run of the inning.
(Why Spook? Jacobs was dubbed “Spook” for his uncanny ability to dump baseballs just over the heads of opposing infielders. Also of note, he was the first player to get hits on his first four at-bats in the major leagues.)
Enos Slaughter followed with another RBI single, and Harry “Suitcase” Simpson added a two-run single. (“Suitcase” because he played with a total of 17 different negro, major and minor league teams during his professional career.)
After a walk to Gus “Ozark Ike” Zernial (“Ozark Ike” after a popular comic-strip character), Bill Fischer relieved Consuegra and Joe Ginsberg greeted him with a run-scoring single. Hector Lopez, who’d come in for Finigan as a pinch runner after Finigan turned an ankle at third in his earlier at-bat, then delivered the big blow of the inning with a two-run, opposite-field triple to right field, making the score 7-0. DeMaestri followed with his second hit of the inning, a run-scoring single, and Ditmar singled him to second.
Goodbye Fischer, hello Harry Byrd, the AL Rookie of the Year in 1952 with the A’s when they were in Philadelphia.
And hello Byrd, said Power with a two-run double. 10-0 Kansas City. Jacobs’ second single of the inning scored another run. Slaughter walked, and back-to-back RBI singles by Simpson (also 2 for 2 in the inning) and Zernial made it 13-0.
Morrie Martin, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II and received two Purple Hearts, relieved Byrd and brought an end to the lesser carnage at Municipal this day by retiring Ginsberg to end the inning.
Ditmar gave up his only hit and only run in the fourth. Earl Battey singled with one out and came around to score courtesy two errors by Jacobs at second.
Ditmar breezed after that, facing the minimum 15 batters, helped by a double play, over the final five innings.
A’s manager Lou Boudreau substituted freely after the second. Jacobs was the only position player to go all the way and finished the day 3 for 5 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Simpson was 2 for 4 with three RBIs and Ginsberg 2 for 5.
The A’s went on to finish 52-102 in the American League that season, eighth and last, with a final record of 52-102, their worst record in their 13-year tenure in K.C. The White Sox finished third, 15 games back of the Yankees, who won won their seventh pennant and sixth World Series in eight years.