BOSTON, MA: Former Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield throw out a ceremonial first pitch before the game against the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. Wakefield was honored in a pregame ceremony by the Boston Red Sox. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Games of Note: The Red Sox defeat the Detroit Tigers 12-9 on August 2, 1940. That by itself isn't so notable, but how some of those runs scored is. Future Hall of Famer and shortstop Joe Cronin went four-for-five, hitting for the cycle for the second time in his career, and the fifth cycle in Red Sox history. Again, the cycle, by itself, isn't that special, but there's something intriguing about this one. Cronin had last cycled in 1929, 11 years earlier, and was the first player ever to cycle in two different games a decade apart.
Cronin was just 33 years old in 1940, and hit .285/.380/.502 with a 123 OPS+ that season. He would only have one more full season following that, though, when he played in 143 games in 1941 -- after that, Cronin accumulated just 183 more games between his age 35 and 38 seasons, before retiring early in the 1945 season. He did set a record for pinch-hit homers in a season in 1943, though, with five pinch-hit bombs, and was also the club's manager, back at a time when player/managers were a thing.
He remained the manager after retiring, leading the Red Sox to the pennant in 1946, and became the general manager before the 1948 season. He would hold that post for a decade before moving into the role of President of the American League.
Cronin's career in the front office is somewhat controversial, given that he was GM when the Red Sox were avoiding integration. As great as his Hall of Fame playing career was -- and he remains Boston's all-time win leader as manager, too -- that's a mark that won't come off of his record. You can't even blame the time period for it, as the Tom Yawkey-owned Boston Red Sox were the last team to integrate, bringing in their first black player -- Pumpsie Green -- the year that Cronin moved into American League offices.
Cronin was discussed in Al Hirshberg's What's The Matter With The Red Sox?, in the front office chapter that focused on, of all things, cronyism. Cronin hired friends, was a friend of Yawkey himself, and because of this, ended up filling up the team with scouts who were acquaintances and pals that were never fired. In Hirshberg's words, "A job as Red Sox scout was a ticket to permanent employment." These scouts, whether through their own ineptitude or by orders from above, failed to sign any of the talented black players the Red Sox tried out over the years, too -- we're talking Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays caliber players, can't miss Hall of Famers. And the only reason they were even tried out is because a city council member, Isadore H.Y. Muchnick, threatened to withhold his vote to uphold Sunday baseball in Boston until the Red Sox tried out black baseball players. It was a different time in a lot of ways.
Obviously, Boston didn't sign any of those players, and they continued to be lily white under Cronin and Yawkey. Yawkey eventually helped Cronin get the job as AL president, in order to remove him from the poor job he was doing as GM -- as Hirshberg notes, Yawkey couldn't just fire his friend, he had to make sure that he was rewarded for his poor tenure as GM with a cushy and powerful new gig. Things began to change for Boston after Cronin's departure, in the front office, on the field, and in the standings -- all facts for the better of the club. It's a shame that it had to be Cronin, a Red Sox great, who was at least partially responsible for the wrong direction Boston headed in for a decade (or that it had to happen at all), but that's how things went down during his time in the front office, a fact as inescapable as his productive career as a player.
Transactions: Remember when the Red Sox received Josh Wilson from the Pirates as part of a conditional deal in 2008? Probably not! But that's the kind of transaction we're talking about historically on August 2. It's just not a great day for that sort of thing.
Birthdays: It's 17-year Red Sox veteran and knuckleballer Tim Wakefield's 46th birthday, the first he hasn't celebrated while in a Red Sox uniform since the 1994 season. Or, to put it another way, this is Wakefield's first birthday without a Red Sox uniform since the introduction of the previous playoff model, when three divisions and the wild card were first introduced.