Perfect…..Sort of

The year 1917 had a couple of unusual pitching performances. In this post and a later one, I’m going to take a look at them.

The 23rd of June 1917 was a normal baseball day in Boston. The games (it was a doubleheader) were in the afternoon and the Washington Senators were in town. Fortunately for the Red Sox, Senators ace Walter Johnson wasn’t supposed to pitch so the first game should have been just another outing in an attempt to grab the pennant. Instead, the Sox fans were treated to a once ever happening, a perfect game in which the winning pitcher only faced 26 batters.

The Sox sent lefty ace Babe Ruth (you forgot he was a pitcher, didn’t you?) to the mound against Senators right-hander Doc Ayers. The Washington lineup was : Ray Morgan (2b), Eddie Foster (3b), Clyde Millan (cf), future Hall of Famer Sam Rice (rf), Joe Judge (1b), Charlie Jamieson (lf), Howard Shanks (ss), John Henry (c), and Ayres. Not exactly Murder’s Row. For the season, Rice would hit .302 and lead the team with 25 doubles, 69 RBIs, and 35 steals, while Judge would lead the team in slugging at .415. On the other hand, Jamieson was a backup outfielder who played in only 20 games that season and hit all of a buck 71.

It should have been a relatively easy day for Ruth, but he was already arguing with the umpire Brick Owens after the first pitch. On four straight pitches he walked leadoff hitter Morgan. Enraged, Ruth charged the ump and managed to slug him. Ruth was escorted off the field by police and catcher Pinch Thomas was also tossed out after apparently making some comments about the ump’s ancestors. In came Sam Agnew to catch, and to pitch the Sox called on 26 year old right-hander Ernie Shore.

Shore had been in the Majors for a while. He’d won more than he’d lost, managing 19 wins in 1915 and 17 in 1916. He’d split two decisions in the 1915 World Series victory over Philadelphia and had won both starts in the 1916 win over Brooklyn. So Shore wasn’t some bum being brought in to fill a hole, but he’d not expected to pitch that day and had only five warmup pitches before throwing his first real pitch.

Senators owner/manager Clark Griffith sent Morgan on the first pitch. Catcher Agnew threw him out by a comfortable margin. Then Shore set down Foster and Millan to end the inning. And that was it for the Senators. Shore shut them down completely, allowing no hits, no runs, and striking out two. At the end of the game the score stood 4-0 with Sox center fielder Tilly Walker, third baseman Larry Gardner,  catcher Agnew, and pitcher Shore scoring runs while right fielder Harry Hooper and Agnew each drove in a pair (remember, Agnew was in the lineup only because Pinch Thomas was tossed out in the first inning).

Shore had pitched at perfect game. Well, sort of. There was that nagging problem of Morgan reaching on a walk, but then Shore hadn’t pitched to him, Ruth had. And of course Shore was pitching when Morgan was thrown out at second. So all 27 outs were made with Shore on the mound, but he’d only pitched to 26 men. Hadn’t happened before, hasn’t happened since. For years baseball carried it as a perfect game, but noted Ruth had walked a man. Since the changes in rules it’s no longer considered “perfect” but merely a joint no hitter.

Shore played eight years in the Majors going 65-42 with a 2.47 ERA, 271 walks, and 310 stikeouts over 982 innings. Not a bad career, but certainly nothing special. He died in 1980, known for one game. It was a heck of a game.

BTW—-special piece of trivia. Harry Hooper played right field and led off for the Red Sox. In 1922 he was in the outfield for the White Sox when Charlie Robertson threw a perfect game for Chicago. As far as I can tell, Hooper is the only player to participate in two “perfect” games (but see below).

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2 Responses to “Perfect…..Sort of”

  1. Cliff Blau Says:

    Ron Hassey caught two perfect games: Len Barker’s and Dennis Martinez’s.

  2. verdun2 Says:

    change noted

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