On July 10, 1934, at the Polo Grounds in New York City, Carl Hubbell did something that baseball fans talk about to this day. Pitching in the All-Star Game, he struck out five of the best hitters the game has ever seen – all in a row.
For decades, the lefty’s achievement ranked as the best in an All-Star game for consecutive strikeouts, a feat not matched until 1986. But that’s not even the part everyone remembers. It’s the fact he struck out the following players, three in the first inning and two in the second:
All were future Hall of Famers. They collective hit .329 for their careers. The fact you know all their names as the third decade of the 21st century is about to begin shows how good they all were.
Hubbell set them all down. In order.
Who Was Carl Hubbell?
Born June 22, 1903 in Carthage, Mississippi (but raised in Oklahoma), Hubbell began his Major League Baseball career with the New York Giants in 1928. He never left, playing his entire career with the Giants until his retirement in 1943.
Along the way, Hubbell racked up a number of great achievements. He pitched a no-hitter in 1929. He won the World Series with the Giants in 1933 against the Washington Senators, pitching victories in Games 1 and 4.
Hubbell was the National League Most Valuable Player in 1933 and 1936. He played on nine All-Star teams.
Hubbell himself was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1947. After his retirement, he worked for 35 years as the Giants director of player development, then later as a scout.
But, as with so many players (and people in every walk of life), it’s what he did on one single day that is remembered the most almost a century later.
Hubbell in the 1934 All-Star Game
One of the most beautiful aspects of what Carl Hubbell did that day is that it surprised him as much (or more) than anyone else.
He said, according to the Baseball Hall of Fame, “I never was a strikeout pitcher like Bob Feller or Dizzy Dean or Dazzy Vance. My style of pitching was to make the other team hit the ball but on the ground. It was as big a surprise to me to strike out all those fellows as it probably was to them.”
Another interesting part of the story is that he started off the game by giving up a hit to the Detroit Tigers second baseman Charlie Gehringer and then walked the Washington Senators left fielder Heinie Manush.
Not a great start. But the thing about Hubbell was when he got hot, he stayed hot. For example, he pitched an 18-inning shutout against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 2, 1933. In May 1937, he won his 24th consecutive game.
On this day in 1934 at the Polo Grounds, he got hot, once again. Hubbell later said he was only trying to strike out Ruth, thinking he could then try to coax Gehrig into hitting into a double play. Instead, employing his screwball pitch deftly, he:
- Struck out Ruth swinging
- Struck out Gehrig, who took a swing as Gehringer and Manush successfully pulled off a double steal (a bit of aggressive managing by American League skipper Cronin, a player-manager at the time)
- Stuck out the right-handed Jimmie Foxx, also swinging, leaving two on base
In the top of the second, he opened the inning by fanning Al Simmons and Cronin.
Striking out five players in a row in an All-Star was not matched until another lefty, Fernando Valenzuela, did it in the 1986 summer classic (a Kirby Puckett ground out kept him from reaching six).
It’s a remarkable achievement to this day and something that Hubbell – who died in 1988 – will always be remembered for doing, even among his other remarkable achievements.