Irvin G. Hall

(Age 88) Longtime Hillendale resident was an infielder with the Philadelphia Athletics during World War II

December 15, 2006|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN REPORTER

Irvin Gladstone Hall, an infielder with the old Philadelphia Athletics during World War II who played in one of the American League's longest games - a 24-inning tie in 1945 with Detroit - died in his sleep Tuesday at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium. The longtime Hillendale resident was 88.

Mr. Hall was born in Alberton, a small town on the Patapsco River that was renamed Daniels, and raised in Hampden. He was a 1936 graduate of Polytechnic Institute.

"He didn't play baseball in high school, but played a lot of sandlot baseball around Baltimore and then tried out for the Eastern Shore League," said a son, Mark A. Hall of Catonsville.

Though Mr. Hall wasn't considered good enough to make the baseball team at Poly, he went on to play six years in the minors and four in the American League - all with the Philadelphia team that later became the Kansas City A's and then the Oakland A's.

In 1937, he launched his professional career with Pocomoke City in the old Shore league and played there until being signed by a team in Syracuse, N.Y., in 1939.

Mr. Hall was a shortstop with Williamsport in the Eastern League when he was signed in 1943 by the Athletics, then managed by the legendary Connie Mack.

"Playing baseball for Connie Mack was a great thing," Mr. Hall said in an interview for Along the Elephant Trail, a publication of the Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society.

"If you made a bad play, or didn't think something through, instead of screaming at you like most managers, he would call you over and quietly discuss the play," he said. "If you couldn't play for Connie Mack, you couldn't play baseball."

Mr. Hall's career was almost cut short by the draft. Ordered to report for induction into the Army at 6 a.m. July 21, 1945, in Philadelphia, he bade farewell to players and coaches and celebrated his last evening of civilian life with an expensive dinner, a nightclub floor show, and drinking beer with several players from the Cleveland Indians, the team the A's had played earlier that day.

Much to Mr. Hall's surprise, draft board physicians gave him a 4-F rating - medically unfit for service.

"I kept saying if I could play big-league baseball, I sure was able to carry a pack in the Army," he told Sun sports columnist John Steadman in 1995. "But the doctors insisted they were giving the orders - not me."

Mr. Hall hailed a cab and sped to Shibe Park in North Philadelphia, where the A's were facing the Detroit Tigers in a 3:15 p.m. game.

With no sleep for 24 hours and no breakfast, Mr. Hall raced into the ballpark, stopping only long enough to grab a Coca-Cola and two hot dogs while heading for the locker room. By 3 p.m., he was in uniform and sitting in the dugout.

"I believe Connie Mack, our manager, thought he was looking at a ghost," Mr. Hall said in the 1995 article. "The day before he wished me luck and promised we'd see each other when the war was over."

Mr. Mack erased the replacement second baseman's name from the lineup card and wrote in Mr. Hall's, and Mr. Hall took the field in front of 4,526 fans for what was to become a marathon game - and the longest in the American League to end in a tie score.

"I remember in an early inning of the long game, I was the pivot man on a double play and Dick Seibert, our first baseman, was almost begging me to get rid of the ball after I made the force at second," Mr. Hall said in the newspaper interview. "I was so wiped out I just couldn't get much on the throw, but I still got it there in time to get the second out."

After 24 innings that had lasted 4 hours and 48 minutes, with the score tied at 1-1, umpire Bill Summers called the game because of darkness. "It was getting increasingly difficult to see the ball because of the shadows cast by the high stands of Shibe Park," the umpire explained to The New York Times.

Impressed by Mr. Hall's efforts in the game, Mr. Mack awarded him a $1,500 bonus check for "playing hard," Mr. Hall said in the newspaper interview - a tidy sum considering that his salary for the year was $4,500.

"He was a very modest man and didn't like talking about himself," said another son, Richard M. Hall of Towson. "He did like to tell stories about Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, George Kelly and Joe Gordon."

Mr. Hall's playing career ended in 1946, with a batting average of .261 through appearances in 508 games - most of them at second base and shortstop, according to the reference book Total Baseball. He subsequently coached the Aberdeen Pheasants in North Dakota for four years - a Northern League team affiliated with the St. Louis Browns.

From 1952 to 1967, Mr. Hall worked in the engineering department of the old Glenn L. Martin Co. in Middle River on the Mace missile project and also coached the Martin Bombers baseball team.

In 1968, he joined the Baltimore County Bureau of Engineering and worked as a mechanical engineer until retiring in 1987.

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