By MARK HODAPP
A former hard-throwing righhander with the Tigers, Les Mueller may be best remembered for his single-game record of pitching 19 and 2/3 innings against the Philadelphia Athletics on July 21, 1945.
When Mr. Mueller walked off the mound for the last time that evening at Shibe Park, he had surrendered only one run to the Athletics.
Mr. Mueller died Oct. 25, at St. Paul’s Home in Belleville. He was 93.
The marathon game ended in a 1-1 tie after 24 innings called the game due to darkness, although it was about 8 p.m. on a steamy summer evening.
But rules prohibited turning on the lights for a day game.
Mr. Mueller signed with the Detroit organization after graduating from Belleville Township High School. His baseball career was interrupted by military service during World War II. After his time in the Army, he pitched for the Tigers when they were the 1945 World Series Champions.
After retiring from baseball, Mr. Mueller ran Mueller Furniture Store in Belleville with his brother Roland, with his late wife Peggy and then with his son Lynwood, who is the current owner with his son Mark Mueller.
Mr. Mueller was the last living person to have pitched against the Chicago Cubs in a World Series game.
“He pitched two scoreless innings of relief in game one,” Mark Mueller recalled Friday.
Mr. Mueller was also a Belleville alderman and was very involved in raising the money to build Citizen’s Park in Belleville, now home of Whitey Herzog’s field.
“He once played against the great Satchel Paige,” Mark Mueller said.
“In his first at bat off Satchel, he hit a triple off the top of the fence.”
Regarding the next three at bats, Mark Mueller recalled his grandpa saying with a big old grin: “And then Ole’ Satchel threw me nothing but curveballs and struck me out three straight times.”
Mueller played against Jackie Robinson in 1946 in AAA. Robinson tried to steal home on a ball that barely got away from the catcher. Mr. Mueller was quick to cover the plate. He received the throw and tagged Robinson out at home.
“He was the fastest player I had ever played against,” Mark Mueller recalled his grandpa once saying.
Mark Mueller also recalled his grandpa struck out Joe DiMaggio on a side-arm curveball in a spring training game.
“The ump didn’t ring him up, though,” Mark Mueller said.
The umpire later admitted to Mr. Mueller “he missed that one.”
Mr. Mueller later taught his grandson how to lower his arm angle and throw the side-arm fastball and curveball. Those have been and are still Mark Mueller’s best ‘out’ pitches as a pitcher with the Waterloo Millers in the Mon-Clair League.
Lynwood Mueller said his dad loved baseball, especially pitching.
“Back in his era before the relief pitching specialist, the starting pitcher was expected to go out nine innings or more,” Lynwood Mueller once told his son.
“Dad always tried to go the distance. He lived more than nine full decades, because of the way he lived his life. Webelieve he should be more than credited with a win.”