Monday, May 24, 2010

On This Day in 1953...

1953 Johnston Cookies Braves #11 Max Surkont

One of the most popular players for the Braves during the 1953 season, their first in Milwaukee, was pitcher Max Surkont. Max, a picture of perserverance, signed his first contract at the age of fifteen (with the Cardinals) and would not make his major league debut until twelve years later (and two years after that Max would become a regular starter in the majors). In August of 1950, he would be purchased from the White Sox and spend the next four seasons with the Braves. During that '53 season, Surkont won nine of his first ten decisions, including an Opening Day 2-0 win over the Redlegs-which was the very first major league game played in Milwaukee. But on May 25, 1953, Milwaukeeans, and the rest of the baseball world, would remember Surkont for something else. Surkont would beat the same Cincinnati team on the back end of a doubleheader to raise his record to 6-0, making baseball history in the process.

Max's historic night began in the second inning, as he struck-out (ironically) pitcher Herm Wehmeier to end the inning. Wehmeier would later become somewhat of a nemesis to the city of Milwaukee and their beloved franchise. He would be the man who in 1956 would not only snap Henry Aaron's 25 game hit streak, but would also break the heart of the Braves and their fans by defeating the Braves on the final Saturday of the '56 season- crushing their hopes of the N.L. pennant. But this night belonged to Max Surkont. After the first strikeout to end the second, Surkont would then go on to strike out the side in the third and fourth innings, tying the major league record for consecutive strikeouts at seven. In the bottom of the fourth inning, with Surkont at-bat, the rains came and time was called-putting the record in jeopardy. Thirty-three minutes later the game resumed, and while playing in a light rain Cincinnati came to back to bat in the top of the fifth. Andy Seminick would then strikeout to begin the inning, and Max Surkont had the record, as long as the game would become official. Immediately after the strikeout, time was once again called, causing Milwaukee manager Charlie Grimm to complain. Grimm's complaints worked, and the game once again resumed. The next two batters would be retired (although not by strike out) and the game would become official. There would be one more delay that night (of 40 minutes), and the Braves would go on to win 10-3 as Max Surkont finished with 13 K's. Max's record would stand for 17 years, until Tom Seaver would break it by striking out 10 hitters in a row.

The 1953 season would be Surkont's last one in Milwaukee, as he and five other players (along with $100,000) were traded the day after Christmas to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Danny O'Connnell. Max would pitch in the big leagues for four more seasons, but would never match the success he had in Milwaukee.

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