Monday, May 24, 2010,
This week 65 years ago...
Pitcher Bob Ludwig took the only loss of his three-year prep career and the Muskegon’s only loss from 1941-1945. The Big Reds’ 55-game win streak is still third-longest in state history.
The Chronicle said on May 23, 1945:
The Muskegon Big Reds, rolling along undefeated since the opening game of the 1941 season, were nipped 4-3 Tuesday afternoon at Marsh Field as the Grand Haven High school nine snapped the long, 55-game winning streak.
Grand Haven won the game on two big runs in the first half of the extra inning eighth inning by bunching three singles and two Muskegon errors. The defeat was a heartbreaker for Coach Harry Potter, the Muskegon players and the fans because Muskegon had come from behind in the sixth to tie the score after trailing for four innings and Muskegon had the pepper to come through with one run after two were out in the last of the eighth.
This long, history-making winning streak of 55 games began back on April 25, 1941 for the Big Reds. On that day, Muskegon defeated Montague in the season’s opener and then went on to win every game in the 1941, 1942, 1943 and 1944 seasons and on into the 1945 schedule.
In addition to holding the honor of defeating Muskegon, Grand Haven today stands first in the northern half of the Southwest Michigan Conference.
Johnny Mahder, sophomore southpaw, was the winning hurler, limiting Muskegon to seven hits. Bob Ludwig hurled an eight-hit game for Muskegon.
Entering the first of the extra inning, with the count tied at 2-all, Grand Haven got started when Mahder was safe on an infield error after two were out. DeWitt and Fekete singled to fill the bases and then Mahdre came home on an infield error. The Bucs ran the margin to 4-2 when DeWitt crossed the plate on Westerhof’s single.
Ludwig smacked out a double after one was out to get a Muskegon rally started in the last half of the eighth. Mahder than fanned Jack Streeter for the second out, but Tom Carr brought Ludwig home with a rousing double. Muskegon trailed 4-3 but the game ended as Fuller flied out.
Muskegon started the game in good style in the first inning when catcher Don Ohs walloped a homer. Grand Haven countered with two runs in the second when DeWitt and Fekete, who had hit both safely, came home on a single by Westerhof and a fielder’s choice.
The game was tied by Muskegon in the sixth when Jack Streeter singled to drive in Nick Yonker, who had walked and went around to third on a fielder’s choice and another walk.
More on the story
By Dave LeMieux
Memories last a lifetime
Now 82, losing pitcher Bob Ludwig still remembers the end of Muskegon’s win streak.
“You would ask me about that,” said the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame inductee with a chuckle. “Thing is, we could’ve won it with a base hit. It was just one of those things.”
“The thing about that game wasn’t that it ended the streak, it’s that we lost. You have to remember, the guys on that team had never lost before,” Ludwig said.
Something else you need to know about Ludwig and the 1945 Big Reds is that they never lost again.
The Big Reds’ 55-game win streak still ranks as the third best in state history behind Grand Haven’s 56 (1960-1962) and Homer’s 75 (2004-05).
The Big Reds finished the 1945 season 10-1 and were 59-1 from 1941-45.
On June 5, 1945, Ludwig and the Big Reds avenged the streak-ending loss by beating host Grand Haven 3-0 for the Southwestern Conference’s Northern Half title. Ludwig gave up just three hits and struck out 11 to get the win.
On June 9, 1945, at Upjohn Field in Kalamazoo, Muskegon won its fifth straight Southwestern Conference title with a three-run, two-out rally in extra innings to beat Kalamazoo Central 6-4.
Ludwig, pitching his third game in a week, including a 12-0 win over Muskegon Heights, went all nine innings against Central, striking out seven to finish his three-year prep career with an 18-1 record.
Ludwig’s two no-hitters at Muskegon came two weeks apart during his sophomore season. He might have had at least two more if it weren’t for fleet left hander Larry Boone from rival Muskegon Heights.
Boone broke up a pair of Ludwig no-hitters with sixth-inning bunt singles; one on May 12, 1944 and another on May 11, 1945.
“He could run like a deer and laid down a couple of bunts down the third base line,” said Ludwig, who now counts Boone among his best friends. “It was just baseball.”
“I got copies of those (box scores) from Coach Harry Potter’s daughter Ann (Potter) Moore and sent them to Larry. I didn’t put my name on them. I just wrote, ‘What a dink,’” Ludwig says, laughing at the memory.
It’s a laugh the two old rivals share every month when they meet for breakfast at a local restaurant with a group of other old-timers from the area.
“Those Heights guys turned out not to be so bad after all,” Ludwig says.