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Player-Manager Billy Webb Hit Three Home Runs in a Game

By: Brian Frank

In the long history of the Bisons, the team has had many outstanding managers. Legendary figures like George Stallings, Kerby Farrell, Ray Schalk, and Bill Clymer, as well as modern-era leaders like Terry Collins, Brian Graham, Eric Wedge, and Marty Brown have all left indelible marks on Buffalo baseball history by leading the Herd through unforgettable seasons, epic playoff races, and memorable post season battles. Their storied careers are honored with each of them being enshrined in the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame. Yet, for all the remarkable moments these men provided, none of them ever had an experience while leading the Herd quite like player-manager Billy Webb had in a wild, high scoring affair against the Newark Bears in 1925.

Webb spent all but five games of his 14-year playing career in the minor leagues. He starred for the Bisons in the 1920s and was one of the team's most productive hitters. He hit over .310 in all four seasons he played in the Queen City and tied for the International League lead in home runs in 1923 with 22. In August 1924, he took over as Buffalo’s manager, while continuing to play third base for the club. He had a characteristically solid season in 1924, hitting .310 with 14 home runs and 95 RBI. In 1925, he continued as player-manager and had another standout campaign.

It was a remarkable game in May of Webb's first full season as player-manager that became the signature game of his time with the Herd. The Bisons were off to a slow start with an 8-11 record when Newark came into Bison Stadium for an early season battle. Buffalo sent southpaw Dewey Hinkle to the mound to face former Bisons hurler Ed Tomlin in the first game of the series. Both pitchers had horrendous outings. The Buffalo Courier reported: “Every swing was a base hit or a home run, those players who became too tired to swing walked and, only for an occasional pitcher coming to the plate to record an out, the Newark Bears and the Bisons might be cannonading back and forth over the Ferry Street Diamond yet.”[1]

The Bears took a short-lived lead when they tallied two runs in the first inning, but the Bisons answered back in a big way. Billy Webb started what would be a monster inning for the Herd, by leading off the bottom of the second with a home run over the left-field wall. “The crowd regretted there was no one on base at the time… the regret was forgotten in the wild debacle that followed.”[2] Webb’s solo home run triggered an offensive outburst, as the Bisons were “inspired by the example of their leader.”[3] Jimmy Walsh and Dewey Hill followed up Webb’s blast by drawing walks, and both scored on shortstop Wes Kingdon’s triple down the right-field line. After Dewey Hinkle grounded out, Vern Spencer hit a groundball that shortstop Joe Faber was unable to handle, allowing another run to score. Ed Miller reached on an error, and Andy Anderson drew a walk to load the bases. “Disconcerted” hurler Ed Tomlin, then hit Bisons cleanup hitter Billy Kelly, to bring home Buffalo’s fifth run of the inning.[4]

Having turned the order over, Billy Webb once again stepped up to the plate, this time with the bases loaded. The Buffalo Evening News reported that after working the count full, “Billy didn’t pole the ball over the left-field wall this time. He didn’t even take the trouble to swing around that far. He just slapped it over the right-field fence and four more runners trotted across the plate.”[5] The Buffalo Times wrote that the ball landed on Woodlawn Avenue, but the Buffalo Express reported the ball “struck the top of the right-center field wall and bounded out of the park.”[6] Webb’s grand slam, his second home run of the inning, propelled the Herd to a 9-2 lead.

Billy Webb later in his career. Courtesy of the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

However, Buffalo’s power surge in the inning wasn’t over yet. “Not to be outdone by his manager,” Jimmy Walsh followed Webb by hitting “a terrific smash over the left-field fence, the ball clearing far over the heads of a group of squatters perched on a house many feet outside the park. It was one of the longest and hardest drives seen in many a day in any park.”[7] The prodigious shot went “over the roof of the barn on Masten Street.”[8]

Tomlin was able to retire the next two batters to finally escape his nightmarish inning in which 13 Bisons batted and 10 runners crossed the plate. The Buffalo Courier wrote: “just what Manager Onslow had against Tomlin in allowing him to be the victim of such an onslaught is unknown at this writing, but he was left to his fate until another scoring flurry in the fourth inning was well underway.”[9]

Newark battled back in the third inning. The Bears scored four runs and knocked Bisons starter Dewey Hinkle out of the game. He was replaced by lefty Edgar Lepard, who’d go on to finish the contest.

The Bisons responded in the fourth with five runs of their own. It started with a bloop single by Andy Anderson. After Billy Kelly hit into a fielder’s choice, Billy Webb doubled for his third hit of the day. “The Bisons again showed that they were eager to duplicate the sterling performance of their manager.”[10] Jimmy Walsh was hit by a pitch to keep the rally going. Bears manager Eddie Onslow finally, mercifully, pulled Tomlin from the game. Reliever Myrl Brown then allowed back-to-back doubles to Dewey Hill and Wes Kingdon. A pair of walks and a hit batsman later, and Buffalo had a 15-6 lead and Brown’s day was done.

After Newark tacked on three more runs in the fifth and another in the sixth, Buffalo would add to their run total. Billy Webb led off the bottom of the fifth and once again worked the count full before drilling the ball over the left-field wall for his third home run of the afternoon. Webb went on to ground out to second in the seventh, but singled in the eighth for his fifth hit of the day.

When the dust settled, Buffalo had an 18-10 win. However, it wasn’t all pretty for the Herd. Bisons hurlers allowed 12 hits and 10 walks, while Buffalo fielders committed eight errors. But Buffalo’s big bats were more than enough to overcome its sloppy play in the field. The Buffalo Express wrote: “Buffalo yesterday looked to be about the hardest hitting club in the league. From Anderson straight down the line to the pitcher, every man hit savagely and timely.”[11] Bisons catcher Dewey Hill went 3-for-5 with two doubles, and shortstop Wes Kingdon was 3-for-4 with a triple and a double. Kingdon, “in addition to wielding a wicked willow, negotiated a couple of fielding plays that brought forth salvos of applause. He participated in two snappy double plays that killed off Newark rallies making a miraculous running catch in left-center field on one of them.”[12]

Box score from Billy Webb's remarkable three homer game.

In a game that had many offensive heroes, no one stood out like Buffalo’s manager. Webb was the catalyst in the Bisons big 10 run second inning, when he hit two home runs, a grand slam and a solo shot. He added another solo blast in the fifth for good measure and finished 5-for-6 with three home runs, a double, a single, five runs scored, and six RBI.

Webb finished the 1925 season hitting .336 with 19 home runs and 73 RBI, while managing Buffalo to a fourth place finish. He went on to play five more seasons in the minors, one in Buffalo, three in Toronto, and one in Binghamton. He also managed a few seasons with Binghamton and Galveston, before becoming a third base coach for the Chicago White Sox for five seasons and White Sox farm director for three years. He died at the young age of 47 of a heart attack suffered while driving to Comiskey Park to work.

In a life dedicated to baseball that saw him play and manage in the minors, and play coach, and work in a major-league front office, Webb surely never had a better day in baseball than a May afternoon in Buffalo in 1925.

[1] “Webb Raps Three Homers, Two in Same Inning, as Herd Tramples Bears 18 to 10,” Buffalo Courier, May 4, 1925.

[2] “Webb Setting Good Example for His Herd,” Buffalo Times, May 4, 1925.

[3] “Webb Raps Three Homers…, ”.

[4] “Webb Hits Three Home Runs as Buffalo Outslugs Bears,” Buffalo Evening News, May 4, 1925.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Chet Youll, “Billy Clouts His Way to Batting Mark,” Buffalo Morning Express, May 4, 1925.

[7] “Webb Raps Three Homers…, ”.

[8] “Webb Setting Good Example for His Herd”.

[9] “Webb Raps Three Homers…,”.

[10] Youll.

[11] Youll.

[12] “Webb Raps Three Homers…,”.

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