Monday, November 25, 2013

#228 Don Gross



I'm not really sure what prompted Topps to pose pitcher Don Gross holding a bat in Seals Stadium much less use the shot on his 1959 card. It's not like he was a good hitting pitcher or a converted position player. Just a curiosity of the set I guess.

Anyway, the left-handed Gross signed with the Reds in 1950 after playing (though not lettering apparently) at Michigan State University. He worked his way up through the Reds' chain with some impressive numbers, spent 1953 in the military, and debuted in July of 1955 with Cincinnati.

He went 4-5 that first half season in 11 starts over 17 appearances. He split the '56 season between the Reds and AAA Havana and then was 7-9 in a spot starters role in 1958. He was traded to the Pirates after that season in a deal that brought Bob Purkey to the Reds. While Purkey went on to All Star status with the Reds Gross won only six more games as his career finished with him bouncing around the minors through 1963.

A near no-hitter against the Braves that turned into a tough luck 1-0 loss on May 28th of 1958 was his career highlight. Or maybe not. Gross was part of a wacky 9 run bottom of the ninth rally that the Giants put together on May 5, 1958 in Seals Stadium.

Cruising along with an 11-1 lead Vern Law looked to finish off the Giants with three more outs. Then this happened:

Leading off, Ray Jablonski singles, and so does Orlando Cepeda. Hank Sauer reaches on an error and the bases are loaded. Willie Kirkland flies out. Jim King hits a pinch double to score two. John Antonelli doubles in two more to make it 11-5. Bob Speake hits a pinch double, the third in a row by the Giants and it's now 11-6. Curt Raydon replaces Law and promptly walks Willie Mays who is then forced at second, the second out of the inning.

Ray Jablonski then hits a 3 run homer to draw the Giants to within two at 11-9. Ron Blackburn comes on to pitch and gives up a homer to Cepeda and it's suddenly a one run game! But were are not quite done. Sauer walks, representing the tying run and on to pitch comes our guy, Don Gross. He walks pinch hitter Bob Schmidt and Jim Finigan, hitting for King grounds to short where it's booted for an error. The bases are now loaded. Any of the 5,502 Giants fans who had stayed to the end on a runaway game must have thought the were about to witness one of the best comebacks in baseball history.

But Don Taussig, the fifth pinch hitter of the inning, pops out to second to end the fiasco and give Don Gross a save, his first of seven that season.

Bottom line on the Giants ninth inning:
9 runs, 7 hits including three consecutive doubles and back-to-back homers, 3 walks, 
5 pinch-hitters, a pinch-runner, 2 errors and 3 LOB.

The line score:
                1  2  3   4  5  6   7  8  9    R  H  E
                -  -  -   -  -  -   -  -  -    -  -  -
Pirates         0  2  0   0  0  1   5  0  3   11 14  3
Giants          1  0  0   0  0  0   0  0  9   10 12  1

And now that I think about it, given the the picture on this card was taken in '58 at Seals Stadium in San Francisco, might Gross have been trying to send some subliminal message by holding up a bat? Taunting the Giants on the day following that crazy game? I guess we'll never know.

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