, , , , , ,

Guest blog by Keith Spalding Robbins

The newspaper photo of the South Orange Ridgewoods that were coached by the Stonehams also shows the photo of future MLB pitcher Eddie Fallenstin. As youngster in Maplewood, Ed Fallenstin grew up with baseball. His father was involved in the first Lackawanna League in Summit. And with the Stonehams’ patronage of the South Orange Recreation Department, many of Giants players were visitors to the historic Cameron Field baseball diamond giving baseball clinics and day camps.  Most notable was the one game exhibition by The Babe and Lou Gerhig in 1929 in which over 12,000 fans attended the NJ Semi-pro finals. Meeting and seeing of these great players of the 20’s and 3’0s inspired a young Eddie to make it in the Majors.

Although he won the little league title for Charles Stoneham’s team in the early 1920s and then Lackawanna League titles for the Maplewood Maples, he was not signed by the Giants. The Newark Bears got him first.  After getting signed by the Bears he was assigned to Wilkes-Barre for a NY Penn League team. On June 1, he was noted that he had caught the eye of the manager and “would make good for the club.” (Wilkes-Barre Times Leader Jun 1, 1931). He did well there and moved up, making it to the Phillies in 1931 as a 22 -year old rookie with some promise. After a not too successful season mostly in relief with the woeful Phillies, they were only 35 games back in 1931 he was released. After a summer of ‘32 back in minors of Western Pennsylvania, this time at Scranton. He would finish the season with the Jersey City Skeeters. The Braves of that era were not known as a good team but always looking for pitching. And they found and signed Ed Fallenstin in time to start the 1933 season.

On the last Sunday of April, the old Braves field was buzzing, and near capacity crowd of some 35,000 loyalists filled the old ball park. The Giants were in town for a doubleheader, and expectations were not great, as the Braves were in their all too familiar last place position, while the Giants were atop the early season standings. In newspaper reports across the country noted, “The Boston Braves, climaxing a sudden rise from the National League Cellar to the first division.” The Braves had done the most unexpected, and swept the Giants.

The key pitcher in game one, in just one hour and twenty-eight minutes had achieved baseball success, a three hit, shut out. No Giant got past second base.  The youngster on the hill for the Braves was making his first major league start. The newspaper accounts described him as, “…a Maplewood, NJ boy pitching his first full major league game…, a long and lean rookie.”  Ed Fallenstin had just got his first MLB victory.

It was a gem and a good team effort, with the pitcher getting wo strikeouts and giving up just one walk. The Braves suddenly reliable infield turning three double plays resulting in one over the game minimum number of batters came to the plate to face the rookie. Two doubles by eventual Hall of Famer Rabbit Maranville, batting 8th were enough.  The Braves won 3-0.

Yet on April 30, 1933 against Carl Hubbell and the NY Giants, the future NL MVP, and the 1933 World Champions of Baseball, Fallenstin pitched the game of a lifetime. At Braves Field on the last Sunday of April 1933 with one of the largest crowds in years, Horace Stoneham’s MLB Giants were soundly beaten by his former Little League star player.

Yet the story continues, for later that summer this time the game was at the Polo Grounds, and hopefully with some of his hometown friends and old teammates in the stands. It was June 15, a thursday afternoon game. The Giants again found themselves facing their little league nemesis, Braves rookie Ed Fallenstin. The Giants did find a way to master his pitches. Twenty-seven Giant at bats created 10 hits and three runs, in just five innings. Removed for a pinch hitter in the 6th, even though he had hit a one out two run scoring double in the 4th, Fallenstin’s day was done.

The lead was held by Tom Zachary, and when the last out was recorded Maplewood’s best little leaguer had done it again. Ed Fallenstin was victorious and had beaten the Giants and his former little league coach.

The scribe for the rival Dodgers, the old Brooklyn Eagle noted Ed Fallenstin pitched effective ball against the Giants and drove in two runs. (Brooklyn Eagle June 16, 1933.)

Later that summer on July 3rd back in Boston, the Giants finally got even. Although it took some help from a not-so-sure Braves infield.  In that fateful fifth inning with help from a fielding error, a two- out walk, followed by a double and then single, the Giants had finally tagged Fallenstin. It was his only MLB loss. That inning the Fallenstin and the Braves needed to make four outs, and in before getting that critical inning ending out, three unearned runs scored and sealed the fate for a 5-2 Giants victory.

During the Summer of ’33 it was, Ed Fallenstin, a Boston Brave, a true Little League Giant tamer. If, if only not for a costly 5th inning lead off error.

He pitched in just a few more games, thus ending his short-lived and otherwise unremarkable MLB career. He did not beat another team nor lose to one either, and finished up with a record of 2-1, with an era of 5.52 and a WHIP of 1.800.

Given his release, he played for many years in semi-pro ball in NJ. In a unique turn, Fallenstin ended up in pitching for the Braves, but this time it was for the Belmar NJ Braves.