Strange But True: Bobo Always Forgot to Duck

Normal Louis “Bobo” Newsom was a very good pitcher who won more than 200 games in his major-league career. He was somewhat zany and quite talkative. Bobo also had a very hard head.

While he was with the Washington Senators, Bobo pitched the opening game of the 1936 season against the New York Yankees. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was watching the game.

In the third inning Ben Chapman, the speedy Yankee outfielder, dropped a bunt down the third-base line. Third baseman Ossie Bluege raced in, grabbed the ball with his bare hand, and fired it toward first base. Normally the pitcher drops to his knees in such a situation, in order to give the infielder a clear view of first base. For some reason Newsom didn’t duck. The ball smacked against Newsom’s jaw with great force.

Newsom’s head jerked back. He reeled, staggered, and wobbled around the infield holding his head. Time-out was called while his teammates gathered around him.

“Are you okay, Bobo?” Bluege asked anxiously. “Should we get an ambulance?”

“Wow, what a sock,” gasped Newsom. Then he said, “Hey, the President came to see ol’ Bobo pitch, so I’ll pitch.”

Bobo hung in and pitched a 1-0 shutout over the Yanks.

On another occasion a batter belted a line drive right back at the pitcher’s box. The ball hit Bobo just above the forehead and bounced into center field. Time-out was called. Bobo assured everyone he was alright, and he proceeded to finish the game. Between innings he told his teammates that he was “hearing pretty music.”

That night a newly married sportswriter met Bobo in the lobby of a hotel and introduced him to his bride. Bobo bowed courteously and said, “Madam, would you like to feel the bump on my head?”

Sometimes Bobo talked too much, and that was the reason he had another close encounter with a baseball. In 1935 he faced Earl Averill of the Cleveland Indians. Averill was one of the hardest hitters in the American League. Bobo slipped over two quick strikes and then began to taunt the batter.

“Earl,” he called out, “the next pitch is comin’ in over the outside corner, waist high.”

Bobo pitched and Averill swung. The ball came zooming off the bat and struck Bobo in the leg. He hobbled after the bounding sphere and managed to throw Averill out at first. However, Bobo’s bragging was a costly mistake. Although he managed to finish the game, Averill’s drive had broken a bone in Bobo’s kneecap and the pitcher was sidelined for five weeks.

From The Giant Book of More Strange But True Sports Stories by Howard Liss. Illustrations by Joe Mathieu.

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  1. Seems Bobo also had over 200 losses on his record, making him one of only two pitchers to have more than 200 wins while still ending with a sub-.500 record.
    He also died at age 55 from cirrhosis, so lots of clean living there.

  2. Poor Bobo.  He was probably the unluckiest pitcher who ever pitched 20 years in the Majors.
    Non sequitur, I don’t know how but reminds me of scene from a Night Court Ep that involved a dead clown.  The morgue attendant came over to Judge Fielding, removed the sheet and uttered something to the effect of “Bobo had a booboo, clown shoes and water don’t mix.” and that line had me in stitches.

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