This Week in Milford

May 11, 2022

“Know Who Else Had Trouble Handling Balls? My Mom!”

Filed under: actual action, Bad Jokes, baseball, talking hand, Valley Tech — teenchy @ 9:03 am

Today’s baseball history lesson is the story of Bert Shepard. Bert Shepard’s major league career lasted all of one game, a relief pitching stint for the Nationals/Senators on August 4, 1945 against the Red Sox. It was his journey to the bigs that made Bert’s career all the more memorable.

Shepard, a lefty, had played semipro and was playing sandlot ball when he was discovered and signed by the White Sox in 1939. He struggled with control problems, was released, finished high school, and then signed another pro contract in 1941, this time with the Cardinals. In their famed system, Bert again showed flashes of talent at the C and D level but still struggled with control. At the beginning of 1943, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps, where he attended flight school, earned his pilot’s wings and was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant. In early 1944, Shepard joined the 55th Fighter Group in England and was soon flying P-38 Lightnings over the continent.

On May 21, 1944, Bert was flying his 34th mission over Germany when, after having destroyed a train and an oil tank on a strafing run, his P-38 was taken down by flak. He was knocked unconscious when a shell grazed his chin and his plane hit the ground at full speed. Miraculously, Shepard wasn’t killed, but soon faced another threat when the angry German farmers who found him turned their pitchforks on him. A Luftwaffe doctor, Ladislaus Loidl, and two armed soldiers soon arrived at the scene and held back the farmers at gunpoint.

The Luftwaffe doctors amputated Shepard’s leg 11 inches below the knee. He was later transferred to a prison camp where a Canadian medic fashioned an artificial leg for him. Shepard began playing catch with a cricket ball and then resumed pitching a baseball. In February 1945, Bert was involved in a prisoner exchange and returned to the US. He began practicing baseball with some players from a local semipro team. Realizing that he was still able to throw his familiar pitches, Shepard became determined to resume his professional baseball career. Shepard went to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington to be fitted with a new prosthesis, where he was visited by Robert Patterson, the Undersecretary of War, who presented him with a commendation for his service, valor, and courage. Patterson asked Shepard what his goal was, and the former flyer replied he wanted to play baseball. Undersecretary of War Patterson called his good friend Clark Griffith, owner of the Senators, who then offered Shepard a tryout.

Griffith signed him to a major league contract, but had no intention of using him in a regular game, figuring to keep him around to serve as coach and batting practice pitcher. In addition to pitching BP Bert visited veteran’s hospitals, offering encouragement to other wounded veterans, and made a training film for amputees returning from the war. Finally on August 4, with the Nats down 14-2 in the top of the fourth, and the Red Sox with the bases loaded and two out, Washington manager Ossie Bluege brought Shepard in to try and stop the damage. The Nats were playing their fourth consecutive doubleheader, and an already thin pitching staff was getting battered by Boston. Shepard struck out the first batter he faced, George “Catfish” Metkovich. He stayed in the game and, for the remaining five innings, gave up only one run on three hits.

With the Nats battling the Detroit Tigers for the AL pennant in 1945, Bluege was reluctant to use Shepard again. His only other on-field highlight occurred on August 31 when he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross between games of a doubleheader. Washington released him on September 30; he was resigned in 1946 but, with the return of so many pleyrs from the war, Shepard failed to make the team and would never play in the majors again. He would, however, meet Ladislaus Loidl, the Luftwaffe doctor who saved his life, at his home in Austria in 1993.

The reason I’m posting the Bert Shepard Story is because, unlike Gregg Hamm, Shepard could field bunts.

Of course, you need to see bunts to be able to field them but, once fielded, you should be able to make the throw to first. Why Valley Tech baserunner feels the need to share his insights with Scooter is beyond me; he should have saved them for the bench. Now Scooter will have to come up with signals for the Milford infielders to play in for the bunts. His Nolan Ryan reference implies that the Hammmmer will start striking out a bunch of Techsters but still lose the game anyway.

Today’s post title, of course, a reference to Regular Show‘s Muscle Man, who never was able to get the mom joke format down pat.

13 Comments »

  1. We usually love to laugh at Milford’s lack of coaching. This season has gone way beyond that, to where I read each days installment numbly, with jaw hanging low.

    Comment by Downpuppy — May 11, 2022 @ 9:57 am

  2. Valley Tech kid: “Your pitcher is a lousy fielder. We all need to start bunting.”
    Scooter: “You know who else was a bad fielder? Nolan Ryan.”
    Valley Tech kid: “Well, that shut me right down. Here’s the deal, Scooter – you nicknamed yourself Scooter, didn’t you? Yeah, thought so. Anyhow, here’s the deal. We’re all going to bunt. Your pitcher can’t field them. In fact, he probably can’t even see well enough to stay out of the way of the infielders trying to get to the ball. So we’ll do that for a few innings, and see if your man looks like a first ballot Hall of Famer, or if Milford is trailing by six runs.”

    Comment by Philip — May 11, 2022 @ 10:15 am

  3. It’s sporting of Scooter to stick up for his pitcher, but his silly Nolan Ryan comparison doesn’t even make sense, especially since NR would probably drill a few batters in the ribs if they started bunting too much, unlike Mr. Magoo here, who doesn’t seem to have that kind of nasty attitude. A better response to Scooter would be “…shut the fuck up, Skippy, or whatever the fuck your name is….we’re gonna be bunting our asses off as long as coke-bottle face is out there, and you can’t do shit about it…” and where…the…fuck…is…Gil?

    Comment by franku2016 — May 11, 2022 @ 10:32 am

  4. …and it don’t help that he’s using the same mitt that he was using back when he played in 2nd grade Pinto-league

    Comment by franku2016 — May 11, 2022 @ 11:59 am

  5. As someone with a cat named Fives, I can tell you that telling Muscle Man “My Mom” jokes never gets old. My wife can tell you that listening to them, however, does get old.

    As for the strip… I’m just happy this dumb conversation is happening on the baseball field.

    Comment by billytheskink — May 11, 2022 @ 1:42 pm

  6. Panel 4: “Well since that ain’t Nolan Ryan pitching on the mound right now, we’ll take our chances you little sawed off runt!”

    Panel 4: “And you know who played second base without being a half-smart wiseassed loudmouth? Napoleon LaJoie! Maybe you should take some inspiration from him, ya fuckwit!!”

    3. Extra credit to the equally stupid loudmouth from Valley Tech blabbing his knowing about Hamm’s secret weakness so the Mudlarks have plenty of time to adjust by having all the infielders cheat in a couple of steps…

    4. Sorry, but I’ve just got to keep on saying it until it finally makes sense: THE ONLY WAY FOR GILBERTO AND KAZUO TO HAVE NOT DISCOVERED THIS A LONG FUCKING TIME AGO IS IF THEY NEVER, EVER HELD FIELDING PRACTICE FOR PITCHERS… AND I REFUSE TO BELIEVE GILBERTO IS SO HORRIBLE A COACH THAT HE WOULD COMPLETELY NEGLECT A FUNDAMENTAL TEAM BUILDING BLOCK THAT WOULD BE COMMON SENSE TO EVEN VOLUNTEER REC LEAGUE PEE-WEE COACHES(!)

    Comment by hitorque — May 11, 2022 @ 2:33 pm

  7. 5. And a hearty “FUCK YOU” to Greggg Hamm because I do need to keep the blame squarely where it belongs… I hope that if he can’t be bothered to give a shit about his own vision and potential consequences for his long-term health, he’d AT LEAST give a shit about his selfishness hurting the team? Holy damn… And I thought that girl playing basketball while limping through a complex knee sprain or whatever without telling Gilbertina was selfish…

    Comment by hitorque — May 11, 2022 @ 2:42 pm

  8. He should have come back with, “And your point is?” And then possibly added, “You know who else was a bad fielder? Freddy Johnson, who retired with a career record of 8-37 with a 14.72 ERA.”

    (I just made up the name and stats, but it makes a point.)

    Comment by MopMan — May 11, 2022 @ 3:19 pm

  9. Oh yeah, the girl who had her knee drained or injected or whatever who was hurting the team. Remember how that was integral to the story? Oh, wait, yeah, she never hobbled again and it was never referenced again and it meant ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to the story. At least this time the problem won’t magically vanish.

    Comment by MopMan — May 11, 2022 @ 3:21 pm

  10. Skeeter is such a dumb ass. He blew an opportunity for some trivia. Such as, name me one of the 7 catchers who caught Nolan Ryan’s no hitters. Hard Art Kusyner is one, former White Sox bullpen coach, who I guess was quite the comedian. Sorry, I have no quips or quotes from him. Just what I ve heard .
    This whole scenario about the hard of seeing pitcher is not plausible. Did he just become blind this year? Regardless, he would not be successful at his craft if he can’t see well. Apparently he’s not walking everyone or he wouldn’t be out there. So this is more Rubin balderdash!
    Day 14 and no Gil sighting.

    Comment by Jive Turkey — May 11, 2022 @ 3:29 pm

  11. Frank raises an excellent point, Nolan Ryan had a lot of 15-11, 18-15 seasons, price he paid for his 100MPH fastball that when it was on, it was on, otherwise he hit the showers because his fastball often went awry and he rarely threw other pitches(curve, slider) , so hitters just laid off the heaters out of the strike zone(I witnesssed this a number of times). But to say he was a lousy fielder is stretching it. The man was a fitness guru who kept himself in excellent shape which contributed to his ability to pitch well into his ’40’s. He wasn’t anywhere near like Steve Carlton who was not only a great pitcher but fielded his position very well but few pitchers were in Lefty’s class.
    Thorpiverse, find another dead horse to beat in the ground.

    Comment by tdrewhardin — May 11, 2022 @ 4:38 pm

  12. @tdrew … I tried to find something on Ryan’s fielding. His lifetime fielding percentage was .895, but how does that compare to others? I cannot find anything about the average pitcher’s fielding percentage. Seems like the numbers have to be out there someplace (Carlton was .952 and Seaver was .960, so I guess Ryan was probably below average).

    Comment by Philip — May 11, 2022 @ 4:50 pm

  13. @Philip, Ryan did lead the league in errors by a pitcher for 4 consecutive years and was top 5 in that category on several occasions, further fueling the perception that he was a poor fielder. His fielding percentage appears to have improved a good bit through the 80s and into his later career, though, which is interesting.

    tdrewhardin is right, Ryan’s reliance on his fastball resulted in him walking a lot of batters and throwing more than his share of wild pitches. Ryan also liked to hunt strikeouts and often walked batters rather than throwing them something he thought they might make contact with. Ryan is famously the all time leader in strikeouts by a tremendous margin (800+ over Randy Johnson, and 1,500+ over long-time 2nd place Steve Carlton)… he’s also the all time leader in walks by a tremendous margin (900+ over Carlton). Like with his fielding, Ryan actually notably improved his walk rates during the last decade of his career and he did so while largely maintaining his high strikeout rates. Unfortunately for his W-L record, he wasn’t on very many good teams and never advanced in the 4 playoff series he did pitch in after he won a ring with the Amazin’ Mets.

    Comment by billytheskink — May 12, 2022 @ 7:17 am


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