Rare Thievery For Shoeless Joe In Cleveland

Joseph Jefferson “Shoeless Joe” Jackson had many accolades in his 13-year MLB career.

His baseball life, although lengthy by deadball-era standards, was nonetheless sadly shortened for his role in throwing the World Series in 1919. Still, Jackson amassed a lofty .356 lifetime batting average, having never hit below .308 in any full-time season, a truly remarkable feat.

1912 was no different, really, in terms of being remarkable. Yet amid all the sensations Jackson would showcase before and after this season, one gem of a game is often overlooked.

Jackson had a fantastic .395/.458/.579 slash line for the 1912 season, to go along with 121 runs scored, nearly twice as much as the next highest player for the 5th place Cleveland Naps (Indians.) He would also swipe 35 bases that year to easily lead the team. On August 11th, in an 8-3 victory at League Park over the visiting New York Highlanders (Yankees), Jackson would take four bases and score twice in the game. That he totaled up those numbers is not surprising, but how he did it, is.

In the first inning, Jackson would keep his name in the discussion with the great Ty Cobb as being one of the few who could confidently steal home successfully. But Jackson wasn’t done yet. In the seventh, Shoeless Joe would achieve the rare stolen base cycle, swapping second, third and then home, in succession, in the same inning. At the time, Jackson was just the fifth player in MLB history to steal home twice in the same game, and even today he remains just one of eleven players ever to accomplish the sterling feat. That he did so while also stealing all three bases in the same inning makes this event stand out.

No player has stolen home twice in the same game since Vic Power pulled it off on August 14, 1958, ironically also while playing for the Indians, at home, and 46 years nearly to the day since Jackson’s marvel.

Image result for Shoeless Joe 1912

Ty Cobb, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Sam Crawford in 1912

While only eleven players have stolen home twice in the same game, swapping all three bases in the same inning is essentially equally as rare. To date, stealing all three bases in the same inning has happened just 50 times in baseball history. The most recent occurrence was by Dee Gordon on July 1, 2011 while playing for the Dodgers against the Angels in Anaheim. Pete Rose also did it in 1980, but before that nobody had done so since Harvey Kendrick in 1928. Some players just breathe rarefied air, even for one inning.

Nobody would ever consider stealing home twice in a game, or swapping all three bags in the same inning easy or commonplace, but don’t say that to Ty Cobb or Honus Wagner, as each man had a stolen base cycle in the same inning an astonishing four times in their careers. But for Jackson, stealing home twice and capturing all three bags in the same inning, both in the same game, was a phenomenal accomplishment.

Sources: http://www.baseball-almanac.com/feats/stealing_second_third_home.shtml

https://www.baseball-fever.com/forum/general-baseball/trivia/80231-i-stole-home-twice

https://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/CLE/1912.shtml

Photo Credit:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoeless_Joe_Jackson

First Time For Everything; Three Times In One Game

They say lightning never strikes the same place twice. There’s also a first time for everything. But how often does a first time for something happen at the same place, at the same time, three times?

In Game Five of the 1920 World Series, that’s exactly what occurred.

The Cleveland Indians and Brooklyn Robins (aka Dodgers) were locked in what was sure to go down as a phenomenal best-of-nine, if the first four tightly contested games were any indication. With the Series tied at two games apiece, Cleveland sent Jim Bagby to the mound against Brooklyn spitballer Burleigh Grimes, who blanked the Indians 3-0 in Game Two.

An overflow crowd filled League Park in Cleveland for the contest, with temporary bleachers added to right and center fields, increasing the capacity for the game but also shortening the distance to those fences. After completing his warmup, Bagby sat in the Cleveland dugout, when player-manager and future hall of famer Tris Speaker began going over the lineup with his pitcher. After a few minutes sitting in silence and seemingly staring off to nowhere, Bagby spoke up.

“I think I’ll bust one out to those wooden seats. They seem just about right for me to hit.”

Speaker ambled away.

Bagby got through the top of the first inning with a harmless single being the only damage. It was then that the Indians jumped right on Grimes, a stark turnaround from his untouchable performance just a few days prior. Three straight singles by Charlie Jamieson, Bill “Wamby” Wambsgannss and the great Tris Speaker loaded the bases for Elmer Smith with nobody out. On a 1-2 count, Smith drilled a Grimes junkball deep over the right field fence for a grand slam, the first in Series history.

It was the kickstart to one of the most sensational World Series games of all time.

In the bottom of the fourth, still leading 4-0 and with two men on, Bagby stepped to the plate. It was time to deliver on his pregame prophecy to Speaker. Deliver he did, as he crushed a hung pitch from Grimes into the temporary bleachers in right-center, giving the Indians a 7-0 lead and chasing Grimes from the game. It was the first ever home run by a pitcher in World Series play.

Those two accolades apparently were not enough on this day, however, as the most spectacular would happen half an inning later.

Brooklyn would start the top of the fifth with two straight singles by Pete Kilduff and Otto Miller. This brought up Clarence Mitchell, a solid-hitting pitcher who replaced Grimes the inning before. Cleveland second baseman Bill Wambsganns played deep against Mitchell, a left-handed hitter with a tendency to pull the ball. On a 1-1 count, Mitchell lined the ball up the middle toward second base. Wamby, in decent position, made a break for the ball but it seemed to be a sure single. Kilduff and Miller raced out immediately, thinking the ball would get through, but Wamby was able to snowcone the ball on the fly for the first out. With his momentum carrying him right toward the bag, he stepped on second base for out number two, doubling up Kilduff who was unable to tag. Turning to his left, Wamby saw Miller stop short of second base, dead in the water. He and everyone but Wamby was astonished that the ball had even been caught. With shouts of “tag him!” from shortstop Joe Sewell, a rookie and future hall of famer called up to replace the tragically deceased Ray Chapman, Wamby calmly applied the tag to a stunned Miller and began jogging back to the dugout. The crowd sat in stunned silence for several moments. As he got closer to the dugout, the standing-room-only throng began to cheer loudly as they realized what just happened: The first unassisted triple play in World Series history.

To this day, it’s still the only unassisted triple play in a World Series game.

Legendary writer Ring Lardner would note, with distinction, that “it was the first time in world series history that a man named Wambsganns had ever made a triple play assisted by consonants only.”

The Indians would go on to finish off the Dodgers 8-1 on this day, and then cap it off with 1-0 and 3-0 shutouts in Games Six and Seven to win the Series, five games to two.

It’s one thing to play, and win, a pivotal game in any series. But to have three specific firsts in the history of the game, one of which is the only first to date, all in the same game, is something not short of marvelous.

Sources:

The Pitch That Killed: The Story of Carl Mays, Ray Chapman, and the Pennant Race of 1920. Mike Sowell, New York: Macmillan, 1989.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/postseason/1920_WS.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/BRO/1920.shtml

Booze, Lightning and Death. The ’19-’20 Indians Redefine ‘Taking One For the Team’

Simply put, the Cleveland Indians of 1919-1920 had one of the most bizarre and both fortunate – and unfortunate – runs to a World Series championship in baseball history.

Led by the great player-manager Tris Speaker, the Indians benefited immediately from the Red Sox dismantling after the 1919 season, and later from the public unrest and inner turmoil from the 1919 World Series that plagued the White Sox down the stretch in the 1920 pennant race, before eight of their star players were suspended that September. After finishing a strong second in 1919, the Indians picked up in 1920 right where they left off. They captured the AL pennant, and then proceeded to beat the Brooklyn Robins (later Dodgers), to win their first World Series in franchise history.

Along the way, however, were two incredible incidents in August 1919 and August 1920 that were never seen before, or have been since. The first of which was where the Indians caught lightning, literally, with the signing of a pitcher.

In a late-season deal in 1919, the Indians acquired pitcher Ray “Slim” Caldwell from the Yankees. A solid pitcher, but unfortunately known more as an underachiever caused by his drinking, carousing and penchant for buggery than his accomplishments on the hill. Caldwell was always regarded as a player with extraordinary talent, but who loved the bottle more than the game. Speaker, though, felt he could get through to the 31-year old veteran and help the Indians win the pennant. To do so, Speaker had to put a special (and rather ridiculous), clause in Caldwell’s contract. It read:

“After each game he pitches, Ray Caldwell must get drunk. He is not to report to the clubhouse the next day. The second day he is to report to Manager Speaker and run around the ball park as many times as Manager Speaker stipulates. The third day he is to pitch batting practice, and the fourth day he is to pitch in a championship game.” (1).

After confirming that there were no errors in this absurd clause, Caldwell shrugged and signed. What happened next was both figuratively and literally a sign from above.

On August 24, Caldwell made his first start with the Indians, against the Philadelphia Athletics at League Park in Cleveland. Leading 2-1 with two outs in the top of the ninth, a thunderstorm suddenly rolled in, throwing bolts of lightning all around the ballpark. One such bolt struck Caldwell square in the head, knocking him to the ground, unconscious. One account has the bolt striking the metal button on the top of his cap, then exiting through the metal cleats in his shoes. After several minutes, Caldwell got back up and demanded he finish the game, which he did. Amazing. So amazing was it in fact, that years later he later appeared on the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not radio show (2).

Speaker’s odd plan worked, as Caldwell won five of his six starts with the Indians, with a cool 1.71 ERA in that span. He would continue his strong, and focused, performance in 1920, going 20-10 and helping the Indians get their rings. Speaker’s plan, and a little electricity through the brain, apparently knocked something right for Caldwell.

One year later, almost to the day from Caldwell’s bout with the bolt, tragedy struck.

On August 16, 1920 in a key game against the Yankees at the Polo Grounds in New York, Cleveland’s star shortstop Ray Chapman came to bat in the fifth inning. Submarine-style Yankee pitcher Carl Mays uncorked a fastball that hit Chapman in the left temple, knocking him flat to the ground. He died 12 hours later in a New York hospital, becoming the first and only player to have died from an injury sustained in an MLB game.

Despite the terrifying ordeal, Speaker was able to rally his team down the stretch and slip past the collapsing White Sox by two games to take the pennant, and then the World Series 5-2 over Brooklyn.

It’s a strange, eerie, and sad game. For the two seasons of 1919 and 1920, the Indians experienced as much, or more, of all of that than anyone in baseball. Credit must be given to the great Tris Speaker here too. Regardless of certain gambling accusations that would later tarnish his Hall of Fame career, Speaker did an incredible job not just playing (he only hit .388 in 1920), but managing his club in the wake of strangeness and tragedy, and utilizing a then-new platoon system for most of the season which was key in keeping his players fresh. ‘Ol Spoke and the boys got it done.

Sources:

(1) Tris Speaker: The Rough and Tumble Life of a Baseball Legend, Timothy M. Gay, The Lyons Press, 2007.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/CLE/1920.shtml

(2) http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/8311d756

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/c/caldwra02.shtml

A Perfect Game, Perfected?

To date, there have been just 23 perfect games thrown in over 210,000 Major League Baseball games played. The feat is equally as rare as it is incredible. But has there ever been such a thing as a perfect perfect game? Cleveland’s Addie Joss may have given us the answer 108 years ago.

Some historians consider the 1908 season one of, if not the greatest in the history of baseball for it’s two tightly contested, down-to-the-wire pennant races in both leagues, the famous Merkle Game becoming the most controversial in baseball history, and on a sad note, even a couple riots and deaths. Packed in the midst of all that stretch run craziness was a key October game between the Cleveland Naps (Indians) and the Chicago White Sox, who were both neck and neck with the Detroit Tigers for the American League pennant. It was a must-win contest for both teams and the fans at League Park in Cleveland expected to see a good game between Hall of Fame hurlers Addie Joss and Ed Walsh. What they got however, was maybe the greatest pitching duel of all time.

“So grandly contested were both pennant races, so great the excitement, so tense the interest, that in the last month of the season the entire nation became absorbed in the thrilling and nerve-racking struggle, and even the Presidential campaign was almost completely overshadowed”

Sporting Life, October 17, 1908.

“Big Ed” Walsh was on that day for the Sox. In fact he was utterly brilliant, going the distance and allowing just one unearned run on only four hits while striking out 15. And he lost.

Addie Joss, an extremely likable fellow by all accounts was just a tick better than Walsh that day. His unique corkscrew-style windup and blazing fastball cut down the pale-hosed hitters, and it wasn’t until after the sixth inning that fans began to realize that no Sox player had reached base. Joss’ teammates on the Naps (as they were nicknamed then in honor of their star player-manager Napoleon Lajoie), began to avoid him in the dugout between innings, a tradition that carries on to this day during any no-hitter in progress. The throng at League Park followed suit, and the final innings were viewed in silence, a scene that must have been quite eerie to behold.

Image result for Addie Joss

Down 1-0 in the top of the ninth and desperate to score a run, the White Sox turned to their bench. The first two batters went down quickly. With two outs, veteran “Honest John” Anderson, a strong lifetime .290 hitter stepped to the plate and if League Park could have been quieter than silence at that moment, it was. “A mouse working his way along the grandstand floor would have sounded like a shovel scraping over concrete,” wrote one reporter. With the count 0-2, Anderson rapped a grounder to third, where Bill Bradley, almost too casually, tossed to George Stovall at first. Stovall dug the low throw from the dirt in a nice play, but the ball popped out of his mitt. Fortunately, he was able to grab the ball in time for the 27th and final out of the game. It was then that League Park, lips sealed in a reverent, church-like fashion for the past couple innings, finally erupted. On a huge day where a win kept the Naps in the pennant race and virtually eliminated the Sox, one of the best pitching contests of all time ensued. Joss rose to a new height that day, throwing the second perfect game in big league history and maybe the most perfect game of all time. Not only was the stage huge, but Joss’ efficiency has never been matched.

He only threw 74 pitches.

With the AL pennant in sight, the Naps would race the Tigers to the very end, with Detroit squeaking past by just a half game. The Tigers would face the mighty Cubs in the World Series, losing four games to one.

Joss would finish the 1908 season with a strong 24-11 mark and a blistering ERA of 1.16. He would win 14 more games the following season and only make a handful of starts in 1910 while battling injuries. One of those starts was another no-hitter against the White Sox, also by a score of 1-0. The following year, Joss fell ill during spring training. By the time he was diagnosed with tuberculosis, the disease had set on too rapidly and reached his brain. Joss died April 14, 1911 at the age of 31. For his all-too-short nine year career, young Addie racked up 160 wins, 234 complete games, 45 shutouts, two no-hitters including a perfect game, and a lifetime ERA of just 1.89 which is second only to, ironically, Ed Walsh. His career WHIP of 0.96 is the lowest in MLB history.

In a short, but stellar career, Addie Joss earned much respect from teammates, fans and competitors alike. On this one day in October 1908, he not only delivered at a time his team needed it most, but in doing so he turned in perhaps the most perfectly efficient perfect game that baseball will ever see.

Sources: “Crazy ’08: How a Cast of Cranks, Rogues, Boneheads, and Magnates Created the Greatest Year In Baseball History”, Cait Murphy, HarperCollins.

http://www.baseball-almanac.com/boxscore/10021908.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/j/jossad01.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/w/walshed01.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/earned_run_avg_career.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/whip_career.shtml

Photo Credits: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/13/Addie_Joss_five_frames,_1911.jpg/800px-Addie_Joss_five_frames,_1911.jpg