Minneapolis Millers
Protested Games

Excerpted from
On to Nicollet: The Glory and Fame of the Minneapolis Millers
Stew Thornley

When the Minneapolis Millers packed up their spikes and shin guards for the final time following the 1960 American Association season, they had racked up 4,800 wins against 4,366 losses since the formation of the league in 1902, good for a .524 winning percentage, best by far of all the teams which had ever played in the Association.

The Millers held the top spot in the league with 37 first-division finishes over the years, and shared the lead for pennants won—nine—with the St. Paul Saints. Minneapolis hosted the American Association All-Star game four times, more than any other city. In addition, the Millers held the distinction of being the only Association team to never finish in the cellar.

However, there is one category—protested games—for which no official statistics are kept. Had they been, the Millers may have found themselves Number One in this department, as well.

Over the years, the Millers displayed an uncanny knack for winding up in the middle of games which had been formally protested, many of which took place in post-season play.

1932 Junior World Series—The Play of Six Decisions
The most bizarre protest of them all may have been the one that took place during the 1932 Junior World Series—a post-season series that had been played off and on between the champions of the American Association and International League. The Association champion Millers faced the International League Newark Bears, the top farm team of the New York Yankees.

The series was tied, two games each, and Game 5 was also deadlocked, 8-8, in the top of the ninth at Nicollet Park in Minneapolis. With two out and runners at the comers, Newark’s Johnny Neun laced a low liner into short left-center. Centerfielder Harry Rice seemingly captured the drive with a diving, back-handed stab and slid on the ground for a considerable distance before coming up with the ball. Both the second and third-base umpires signaled out, bringing a group of protesting Bears, led by manager Al Mamaux, out of the Newark dugout. After listening to the Newark arguments, the umpires huddled and reversed their decision, ruling that Rice had dropped the ball, which allowed the go-ahead run to score. Out charged Miller skipper Donie Bush, demanding an explanation. Again, the umpires called an impromptu conference, and, again, they came out with a different decision, ruling once more that Rice had caught the ball, which, of course, brought a return of Mamaux to the field. This scene continued—the arbiters listening to the remonstrations of the offended manager, huddling, and emerging from the convocation with a ruling opposite of their previous call—until a total of six decisions had been made and the game had been delayed 40 minutes. Bush finally ended the rhubarb by announcing his intent to formally protest the ruling, rather than trying to persuade the men in blue to reverse their decision one more time. A pursuit of the latter option may have proven more productive as a vote of the league executives, composed of an equal number of representatives from the American Association and International League, ended in a partisan deadlock, allowing the Bears 12-9 win to stand. The next night a three-run, ninth-inning rally gave the game, 8-7, and the series, 4 games to 2, to the Newark Bears.

1955 Playoffs—Breaking Up a No-Hitter Twice
The Minneapolis Millers won the 1955 regular-season title in the American Association with a powerhouse team that set a new Association record by hitting 241 home runs.

The Millers swept the Denver Bears in the opening playoff round and then faced Omaha to determine who would advance to the Junior World Series against the champions of the International League.

After the Millers took the first two games at Nicollet Park, the series shifted to Omaha for a Saturday night game. In contrast to the slugfests of the opening contests, Game 3 was a tight pitching duel. The game was scoreless after six innings, and Cardinal starter Stu Miller had yet to allow a hit when he faced Monte Irvin, leading off the Minneapolis seventh. Irvin took a half-swing at a 0-1 pitch, and third-base umpire Bob Stewart, without waiting for a request for help from the plate-umpire, Eddie Taylor, signaled that Irvin had gone far enough with his swing for the pitch to be called a strike. Taylor, however, stuck to his guns and ruled the pitch a ball, bringing Stu Miller off the mound to ask why he refused to accept Stewart’s call. Invoking a league rule calling for the automatic ejection of any pitcher protesting a ball or strike decision, Taylor threw Miller out of the game.

The Omaha fans, seeing their pitcher ejected while working on a no-hitter, began hurling seat cushions and other debris on the field; it took three policemen to pack off one large, unsteady fan who charged onto the diamond, and even General Manager Bill Bergesch got into the act, asking the arbiters to consult with American Association president Ed Doherty, who was in the box seats. The umpires consented, and Doherty, overruling Taylor, allowed Miller to stay in the game. This brought Minneapolis manager Bill Rigney out of the dugout to announce his intent to protest the game should the Millers lose.

When the game resumed, Stu Miller retired Irvin and Rance Pless but lost his no-hitter and shutout when Bob Lennon, who had hit 64 home runs for Nashville in the Southern Association the previous year, sent a towering fly over the 380-foot mark in left-center.

The Millers’ Whitey Konikowski, also pitching well, had given up only two hits until Omaha catcher Dick Rand homered with one out in the eighth to tie the game. One out later, Wally Lammers singled and Don Blasingame homered to right. The scoring ended there, Omaha coming away a 3-1 victor to pull within one game of the Millers in the series.

With Minneapolis’s protest still pending, President Doherty called the opposing managers and the four umpires together for a midnight conference at a downtown hotel, at which time Doherty overturned his earlier decision and upheld the protest, ordering the game replayed from the seventh inning on, with a one ball-one strike count on Irvin and Stu Miller ejected from the game. This meant Miller’s no-hitter was once again intact, although he would not be allowed the chance to complete it.

Omaha immediately protested Doherty’s action, appealing the ruling to the directors of the other association clubs, but the directors backed Doherty. The Cardinals protested again, just before the start of the game that afternoon, on the grounds that “not sufficient time was taken in arriving at a decision on Rigney’s original protest.” This final challenge did not worry the Millers as it would require a meeting of the executive board of the minor league, which was not scheduled to convene for several months, to rule on Omaha’s latest appeal.

The Millers took advantage of the favorable ruling they received on their protest. When the protested game in Omaha resumed, Bob Tiefenauer took Stu Miller’s place on the mound and got Irvin to ground his first pitch to shortstop Dick Schofield. But Schofield booted the ball for an error and Irvin was safe at first. Pless followed with a sacrifice, bringing up Bob Lennon, whose home run the night before (which was erased from the official records by the protest) had been the first hit off for the Millers. This time he tripled off the center-field fence 400 feet away—narrowly missing another home run—to score Irvin and give himself the possible distinction of being the first player to ever break up a no-hitter twice in the same game. Lennon was squeezed home by Dave Garcia, and the Millers added five runs in the eighth en route to a 7-2 win. Minneapolis took the regularly-scheduled game, 7-3, to sweep the four-game series and move on to the Junior World Series for the first time since their 1932 encounter with Newark.

Aided by the protest, the Millers became the first team in American Association history to win eight straight playoff games. They made it nine in a row with an opening victory in the Junior Series versus the International League champion Rochester Red Wings. The series went the limit with the Millers winning the decisive seventh game, a game which also marked the end for 60-year old Nicollet Park.

1959 Playoffs
In 1959, with the Millers then playing at spacious Metropolitan Stadium in suburban Bloomington, Minneapolis and Omaha decided to give Ed Doherty another headache.

Meeting in the opening round of the American Association playoffs, the teams split the first four games. In game 5, September 15th at the Met, a young second baseman, activated by the Millers just before game time to replace service-bound Lee Howell, hustled home with the winning run in the last of the tenth, sparking a rhubarb in which Omaha pitcher Frank Barnes had to be restrained from attacking umpire Tom Bartos, who had made the call on the close play at the plate.

The umpire’s decision on the play stood, but, after the game, Omaha general manager Bergesch announced he was protesting the game for another reason, questioning the eligibility of the new second baseman. Ruling that the player had not been certified for eligibility until September 18th, President Doherty upheld another Minneapolis-Omaha protest and ordered the entire game replayed.

The next night the Millers won the replayed game, as well as the regularly scheduled contest, to capture the league semi-final series without the services of their new second baseman, Carl Yastrzemski.

With Yaz officially eligible two days later, the Millers went on to defeat the Fort Worth Cats for the league championship before bowing to the Havana Sugar Kings in seven games in the Junior World Series.

Omaha dropped out of the American Association following the 1959 season. Thirteen months later, Calvin Griffith’s announcement that he would transfer the Washington Senators franchise to Minnesota signaled the end of the Minneapolis Millers. Ed Doherty was one man who would not miss them.

Copyright 1982 Stew Thornley

Minneapolis Millers Yearly Standings

Notable Millers

Nicollet Park

Twin Cities Ballparks

Minnesota’s First Major League Baseball Team

Minnesota’s First Major League Baseball Game

The Beginning and End of Nicollet Park

Night Baseball in the Twin Cities

Millers Rivalry with St. Paul Saints

Millers vs. Havana in 1959 Junior World Series

Minneapolis Millerettes

The Legend of Andy Oyler’s Two-foot Home Run

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