In July of 1963, in two separate ballgames which were played sixteen days apart, Cleveland Indians pitcher Pedro Ramos did two things I will never forget. Even though I was only six years old at the time, the memories of what Ramos did in those two games have been a part of my history as a baseball fan.
The first unforgettable thing that Ramos did was this: after being removed from a game due to a poor relief pitching performance, Ramos walked toward the dugout, took off his glove, and drop-kicked it into the stands. This happened on Monday, July 15, during a day game against the Minnesota Twins, in their Metropolitan Stadium. Back then only about one in four Indians games were televised, so I spent a lot of time that year listening to the games on the radio. I have a vivid memory of being shocked that a big-league player would do such an unthinkable thing as to kick his glove into the stands. I knew that if I had taken MY baseball glove and kicked it around the yard over my poor play, my parents would have punished me on the spot.
My shock quickly turned to joy, though, when I learned what happened next. As the Plain Dealer of July 16, 1963 reported: ” . . . the glove landed about five rows back and was caught by a young boy [ . . . who] refused to relinquish it.” That seemed fair to me! Ramos later got the glove, his favorite, back from the boy in exchange for another one.
Indians manager Birdie Tebbetts fined Ramos $50 for the stunt. The PD quoted Ramos as saying “I did it because I’m mad at myself. I find out it costs money to get mad.”
Before being removed from the game, Ramos faced six batters, retiring only one. He gave up two hits and two walks, and another batter reached base on an error. The Indians went on to lose the game, 13-1.
Barely two weeks later, on Wednesday, July 31, the Indians played a doubleheader at home versus the Los Angeles Angels. I have no memory of listening to the first game on the radio, although the Indians won that game, 1-0, thanks to a home run by Fred Whitfield and a sterling performance by starting pitcher Barry Latman (9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 10 K).
I definitely remember listening to the second game, though. Ramos started and won that game, going 8⅓ innings. He had a weird outing, as he gave up 11 hits, 2 walks, and 5 runs while striking out 15. But that’s not why I remember the game nearly 50 years later. I remember it for what Ramos did at the plate: he hit two home runs. More memorably, his second homer of the game was also the second of four consecutive homers given up by Angels reliever Paul Foytack in the seventh inning. After retiring the first two batters he faced, Foytack gave up home runs to Woodie Held, Ramos, Tito Francona (father of new Indians manager Terry Francona), and Larry Brown. Amazingly, Angels manager Bill Rigney didn’t yank Foytack after the fourth homer. Foytack stayed in the game and gave up singles to Willie Kirkland and Jerry Kindall before getting Whitfield to ground out to first to end the inning. The Indians won the game, 9-5.
I remember listening to this game on the radio and getting really excited when Ramos hit his second home run. At my tender age, it was probably the first time I’d ever heard of a pitcher hitting two homers in one game. When Francona hit his home run, I ran across the street to tell my parents, who were visiting with neighbors. I ran back across to our house just in time to hear that Brown too had homered. When I ran over to the neighbors’ house again with my amazing news, my parents thought I was making stuff up. It’s hard to blame them for not believing me. It was the first time in American League history that four consecutive batters had hit home runs.
On September 5, 1964, with his ERA at 5.14, the Indians traded Ramos to the New York Yankees, who used him in the bullpen during their pennant run that month. Ramos pitched splendidly in that role, with an ERA of only 1.25 over 13 appearances. Ironically, Ramos’s last appearance in 1964 came against the Indians on Oct. 3 at Yankee Stadium. He pitched a scoreless ninth inning and the Yankees beat the Indians 8-3, thus clinching the pennant. Unfortunately for the Yankees, Ramos was acquired too late in the season to be eligible to play in the World Series, which the Yankees lost to the St. Louis Cardinals, 4 games to 3.
Ramos retired from baseball in April of 1970 after four disappointing outings with the Washington Senators. As Peter C. Bjarkman reported in a well-researched article for SABR, Ramos led a turbulent life after his baseball career ended, with arrests for cocaine smuggling, aggravated assault, drunk driving, and carrying a concealed weapon. Ramos did three years in a Miami penitentiary in the 1980s.
His relatively short tenure with the Indians took place many years ago, so for all but the most devoted of Indians fans, and for those, like me, of a certain age, Pedro Ramos is a forgotten Indian. But because of what he did in two games in July of 1963, he is a player I will never forget.