The Career of a Yankee – Joe Glenn
(Editor’s Note – I just saw that yesterday was the 79th anniversary of the only time that Ted Williams ever pitched in a baseball game. That fact reminded me of the story of Joe Glenn, a little-known Yankee.
We first ran this piece in November of 2017. Since that piece first appeared on the blog (SSTN was less than a month old back then) we have had hundreds of thousands of new visitors to the site. (We are fast approaching our one millionth page view!) With the Yankees playing tonight, and a quiet day ahead, this seemed like a good time to share this great story with our readers. ENJOY!)
Joe Glenn was a catcher who played for the New York Yankees, St. Louis Browns, and the Boston Red Sox, mostly during the 1930’s.
Hidden among Glenn’s rather undistinguished career are a few unique moments that help to illustrate why the history of baseball is so fun to study.
Glenn first appeared in the Major Leagues in 1932 with the Yankees. A late-season call-up, he appeared in six games and managed two hits in 16 at bats. Both of Glenn’s hits, two singles, came in the same game off long-time Major League pitcher Sad Sam Jones.
Sad Sam Jones played for the Yankees from 1922-1926.
In 1933, Glenn spent most of the season in the minor leagues, but, again had a September call-up appearing in five games at the very end of the season. Glenn was the starting catcher, playing the entire game, for each of the Yankees final four games in 1933. Of these, the most memorable was the last game of the season – October 1, 1933. Strictly speaking, a season ending game between the second place New York Yankees and the seventh place Boston Red Sox wouldn’t be especially memorable, but this game was, as it highlighted Babe Ruth. This contest was the last game that Babe Ruth ever pitched.
The 38 year-old Ruth pitched a complete game against the Red Sox that day. He allowed five runs off 12 hits and three walks. Ruth didn’t strike out any batters. Nonetheless, the Yankees bested the team from Boston that day 6-5. The Babe pitched just well enough to win. Fittingly, the Great Bambino also homered in the game.
Glenn spent the 1934 season in the minor leagues, but reached the big leagues for good in 1935. That did not mean that he played a great deal. In the entire 1935 season, Glenn appeared in only 17 games. As the third-string catcher behind future Hall-of-Famer, Bill Dickey, there just wasn’t a lot of playing time for Joe Glenn. In fact, all but four of his appearances came after August 21.
In 1936, Glenn became the number two catcher on the Yankees. That year he played in 44 games. It was also in the 1936 season that Glenn hit his only home run as a Yankee. The big hit came off future Hall-of-Famer Lefty Grove and helped the Yankees defeat Grove (and the Red Sox) 5-4.
The New York Yankees were the World Series Champions in 1936, 1937, and 1938. Joe Glenn was a member of those teams. Unfortunately for Glenn, he never appeared in a World Series game.
Early in the 1938 season, Glenn had the misfortune of ending a game in a particularly memorable fashion. The opponent, again, was the Red Sox. The pitcher, again, Lefty Grove. Trailing 6-1 in the bottom of the ninth inning, Glenn came up with two runners on base, and no outs (George Selkirk had reached on an error and Joe Gordon had walked). In a play that involved three future Red Sox Hall-of-Famers, Glenn hit an offering from Lefty Grove right at first baseman Jimmy Foxx. Foxx grabbed the line drive, then threw it to shortstop Joe Cronin who then returned the ball to Foxx. In an instant, the game was over. Joe Glenn had lined into a game-ending triple play.
Joe Glenn had a much more positive experience in August of that year when he was the catcher for Monte Pearson’s no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians, a game the Yankees won 13-0. This was only the third no-hitter in Yankees history. The previous no-hitter had come in 1923 when Sad Sam Jones (the same pitcher Joe Glenn touched for his first two Major League hits) had no-hit the Philadelphia Athletics.
Monte Pearson’s no-hitter was unique in the way it played out. In that game, he allowed only two base-runners; both on walks. The walks came in succession to begin the fourth inning. To start the game, Pearson retired the first nine batters. He then walked the consecutive batters to begin the fourth inning before retiring the final 18 batters to close out his no-hitter.
In 1939 Joe Glenn moved on to become the starting catcher on the St. Louis Browns, a terrible team that won only 43 games all year. That year Glenn appeared in 88 games and hit a respectable .273. He also added four home runs to his career totals. Two of the home runs came in the same contest, on July 28 against the Boston Red Sox in a game the Browns won 11-6. Glenn’s last home run came on September 17 against the New York Yankees. He hit that homer off his former battery mate, Vernon “Lefty” Gomez, another future Hall-of-Famer.
In 1940, Joe Glenn found himself as a member of the Boston Red Sox. In a career where he played sparingly, but seemed to be involved in unique games or situations, Joe Glenn had one more memorable game to play in.
On August 24, 1940, The Red Sox were playing the Detroit Tigers and losing mightily. Down 11-1 heading into the eighth inning, Red Sox manager Joe Cronin called his left fielder, a young Ted Williams, to close out the game. Williams pitched the final two innings, allowing three hits and walking no batters. Ted Williams’ finest moment as a pitcher may have been when he struck out Rudy York, one of the stars in the game at that time. (York would finish the 1940 season 8th in the MVP voting after batting .316 with 33 homers and 134 runs batted in.)
That was the only game Ted Williams pitched in his illustrious career. As such, Joe Glenn became the only player to ever catch both Babe Ruth and Ted Williams. That game was also Joe Glenn’s last in the Major Leagues.
The Boston Globe (August 25, 1940)
MLB.com ( A Tribute to Ted Williams)
Babe: The Legend Comes to Life by Robert W. Creamer