Red Munger’s Great Jackie Robinson Story

George

George “Red” Munger
St. Louis Cardinals
Pittsburgh Pirates
(77 Wins -56 Losses, 3.83 ERA)

Shortly before his death twenty years ago on July 23, 1996, native Houstonian and former Cardinal and Pirate pitcher George “Red Munger” shared this beautiful story about Jackie Robinson with me on an afternoon trip to his place to simply hang out, watch some Astros on TV with Red and former Buff and Browns slugger Jerry Witte – and just talk some baseball. We got around to talking about 1997 coming up as the 5oth anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the big league color line when Red suddenly pulled us into this great personal story about a man he both respected and admired as a competitor. It happened on the very first game the Cardinals played at Ebbets Field, I’m pretty sure, but I cannot float that out there as fact since I failed to confirm the date with Red.

Researcher’s Regret Duly Noted: Try to avoid talking with storytellers without writing instrument of recorder handy. I had neither item with me that day. And, when Red died less than two weeks later, my opportunities for date confirmation had elapsed.  All I know is that Red told the story as though it were the first time he had faced Jackie as a batter. And, according to Baseball Almanac.com, that would have made it the first meeting of the season between the Cardinals and Dodgers at Ebbets Field on May 6, 1947.  Red Munger started to game, but left after giving up 6 runs through 2 outs in the bottom of the 6th. The Dodgers would go on to win the game, 7-6, but the loss would go to reliever John Grodzicki – but all these details are simply the fat on the meat of a story that otherwise rings true.

The Story. The National League wasn’t ready for a man of Robinson’s courageous, quick-thinking, talented, and aggressive spirit. Robinson was getting on base and stealing bases without consequence. That is, until that day he faced Munger and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Oh, Robinson started fine. Reaching first base on a single and then stealing 2nd base with a mind-set that now turned to 3rd. But that’s when Cardinal Shortstop Marty Marion called time out and sprinted to the mound for a brief heads-up chat with pitcher Munger.

Marion had right away noted the bouncing bunny hop cadence of how Robinson led off and returned to 2nd base on a couple of pitches. Beyond mentally noting them, he counted the steps Robinson had taken, from and back to the bag. – So many steps hopped off*- the bag. – So many steps hopped back to bag. – “Hmmm!” Marion thought.

And Marty had drawn a conclusion: Jackie’s lead from 2nd was excessive. A good throw to the bag at 2nd from Munger and they would nail him for his first “welcome to the big leagues, picked-off-out experience.”

Marion communicated his news to Munger and asked for a good low throw on the 3rd base side of 2nd base before he threw another pitch to the plate. Marion didn’t promise where he would be at the time of the throw. Munger already knew that he would be right there at the base with his glove, waiting for the low pitch on the 3rd base side of 2nd when it came.

It worked. Marion was right. Munger’s blind-trust throw was true. Marion was there to catch it. And Robinson got back just in time to be called out on the awaiting.

The Dodger crowd released a down beat growl of disappointment. Munger and Marion did all they could to restrain their smiles of satisfaction. They didn’t want to make Robinson mad, but it was too late for that kind of thing to be prevented. Robinson was already mad – and embarrassed too. – Was stirring up Jackie Robinson worth one little out?

“I expected to see Robinson running straight back to the Dodgers dugout after the ‘out’ call,” Munger said, “but that’s not what happened. He got up from the dirt and started running straight at me. I wasn’t sure what to make of that move for a minute, but I soon enough found out. Looking straight ahead as he passed me, Robinson says, loud and clear out of the side of his mouth, as he otherwise appeared to ignore me to the crowd, ‘You’ll never do that again!’

“And, you know what?” Munger added with a smile. “We never did.”

RED MUNGER St. Louis Cardinals 1943-44, 1946-52

RED MUNGER
St. Louis Cardinals
1943-44, 1946-52

RED MUNGER Pittsburgh Pirates 1952, 1956

RED MUNGER
Pittsburgh Pirates
1952, 1956

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

____________________

eagle-0range
 Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

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One Response to “Red Munger’s Great Jackie Robinson Story”

  1. David Munger Says:

    The one thing that really impressed my Dad, about Jackie Robinson the man, was the way he held his cool. He said the insults that man had to tolerate were far and away the worst things he ever heard directed at one person in his life. Besides being a hell of a ballplayer he was a hell of a man. From all I’ve read Jackie Robinson’s life, this constant abuse effected him in later life. I guess he had the last laugh because #42 will never be assigned again in MLB.

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