Irving Darius “Bump” Hadley was pretty average as pitchers go: a journeyman starter for the Senators, Browns, White Sox and Yankees, Hadley compiled a forgettable 161-165 career record. But unlike most pitchers with comparable statistics, Hadley had two claims to fame — he played on four pennant winners with the Yankees (from 1936 through 1939) and he’s known in baseball history as the man who beaned Detroit Hall of Famer Gordon Stanley “Mickey” Cochrane.
The Cochrane beaning is still accounted one of the most violent acts in the game, occurring on this date in 1937, as the Tiger’s Cochrane stood at the plate in New York in a game against the Yankees. Cochrane was a known quantity: a beloved figure in Detroit (he came over from the Philadelphia A’s in 1934), he wasn’t much to fear behind the dish — but he could hit. The word on Cochrane was to pitch him inside, to keep him off the plate.
That’s exactly what Hadley did. Short and squat, Hadley (“a durable moundmaster“) was named after a children’s book character popular during the Great Depression, and as he stood on the mound on May 25, 1937 he thought he’d put one high and tight on the arrogant Cochran. The ball got away from him, cracking Cochran in the right skull and sending him to the ground. When his teammates reached him, Cochrane was out cold.
Removed from the field on a stretcher, carried by teammates Elden “Big Six” Auker and Schoolboy Rowe, Cochran was rushed to a hospital with three skull fractures, where he hovered near death for the next week. “He just lay there and quivered. I thought for sure he was going to die,” Auker later said.
The beaning was national news, and featured on the cover of Time Magazine, which wrote a long investigative piece on the beanball wars then raging in baseball. Detroit mourned — and waited: Cochrane was a city hero, having led the Tigers to their first world championship in 1935 as a player-manager. He was accounted as one of the city’s heroes during the darkest days of the depression, giving the motor city faithful reason to hope for a future of more baseball conquests.
Cochrane regained consciousness after six days, and returned to the Tigers. But he never played again: doctors told him that if he took another one to the skull, he’d die. He served as a manager for the Tigers through the middle of 1938, but he seemed not to be himself. Some of that had to do with the beaning, a lot more with his inability to play. “It was so pitiful to see him sitting there, frustrated at not playing,” Auker later remembered. “He almost went crazy he couldn’t stand it. We all felt terrible.”
Cochrine’s story is interesting, of course — he was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1947, though primarily for his feats with a bat. Behind the plate he was less than average. When the Athletics played the Cardinals in the 1931 World Series, Pepper Martin ran wild on Cochrane, stealing five bases. Cochrane was publicly blamed for the embarrassing series loss by A’s pitcher George “the Duke of Swarthmore” Earnshaw.
Bump Hadley’s story, however, is as interesting — if not more so. While never elected to the Hall of Fame, Hadley gained a deserved reputation as a workhorse, pitching an astonishing 316 innings for the 1933 Browns. In all, he started 355 games in his major league career, and even served as a reliever — notching 25 saves. The word among his teammates was that, if only he’d been on competitive teams, he might have become famous. He seemed always ready to pitch, he was never injured.
He brought that same tenacity to his post-baseball career, when he decided that his winsome personality might play good on the radio. He became an announcer for the Boston Red Sox and, later, the Boston Braves. He was a pioneer of sorts, as one of the first color commentators on television. He teamed up with Leo Egan in Boston to provide play-by-play for the Boston Braves.
And “Bump” could be crusty — he felt bad about beaning Cochrane, but he used it well, and for his own benefit as a radio commenter and baseball sage. He hosted a popular sports show on Boston’s WBZ radio, one of the first of its kind. His sign off? “Heads up,” he’d tell his listeners, “and keep pitching.”