Can’t Buy a Hit

The second bizarre pitching performance of the 1917 season includes the hapless St. Louis Browns and Chicago White Sox. In 2 of 3 games over 2 days, the Browns no hit the Sox. The Browns had their number for at least one weekend.

On Saturday, 5 May 1917, the Browns and White Sox played a single game in St. Louis. For the White Sox, ace Eddie Cicotte took the mound, opposed by lefty Ernie Koob. In the first, Buck Weaver singled. It was a close play, made difficult by the fact the second baseman hadn’t fielded it cleanly. By the end of the day the official scorer had consulted with a number of reporters and officials and changed the play to E4 (error by second baseman Ernie Johnson). It’s a crucial change, because it was the only hit Koob gave up that day. With the change, Koob had thrown a no hitter besting Cicotte 1-0. The score wasn’t in doubt, only the hit. So Koob, who won only 24 games for his entire career, had a no hitter.

The next day, 6 May, was a Sunday. The teams played a double header. In game 1, the Browns beat up on the White Sox 8-4 with Eddie Plank taking the win. Right hander Bob Groom relieved in the eighth inning, pitched two no hit innings and picked up a save. Then Groom started game 2. Like Koob, he didn’t give up a hit, winning 3-0. This time there was no controversial play. So Groom had pitched a total of 11 no hit innings during the day picking up both a win and a save (which he never knew, dying prior to the save becoming a stat).

Neither Koob nor Groom were particularly great pitchers. Koob went 6-14 with a 3.90 ERA in 1917. For a career he was 24-31 with an ERA of 3.13 over 125 games and ended up with more walks than strikeouts (186 to 121). His final season was 1919 and he died in 1941. Groom was 8-19 (the 19 losses led the AL), with an ERA of 2.94 in 1917. For his career he was 120-150 with a 3.10 ERA over 367 games. He had 783 walks and 1159 strikeouts. He ended his Major League career in 1918, only a year after his no hitter, and died in 1948.

A couple of interesting points to make here: First, it’s the only time the same team threw no hitters on back to back days (in 1968 there were no hitters on back-to-back days, but by different teams, and in 1990 there were two no hitters thrown on the same day, but in different leagues). Second, the Browns were on their way to finishing a dismal 7th (in an 8 team league) 43 games back. The pennant winner? The Chicago White Sox, who won the pennant by nine games and the World Series in six games. So the Sox were a better team, but for one weekend they simply couldn’t buy a hit off two marginal pitchers playing for a weak team in St. Louis. Who would have guessed it?

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2 Responses to “Can’t Buy a Hit”

  1. Catherine Petroski Says:

    Bob Groom’s pitching career wasn’t the total disaster this seems to imply. Ten pitching seasons in the majors was not insignificant, and his 1912 season was the kind many pitchers would kill for. That his 1917 no-hitter (his 3rd in organized ball, though his only one in the majors) happened at the end of his professional career makes it all the more remarkable.

  2. verdun2 Says:

    Let’s see now, I believe I said “neither Koob nor Groom were particularly great pitchers” not that Groom was a “disaster”. He’s certainly better than Koob. He has a losing record for a career, but wins 24 games in 1912. He also loses 26 in 1909, his rookie year. In the Federal League he’s 24-31 and the Federal League isn’t much of a league (see my comments on it in an earlier post). Over 2300 innings he gives up 2200 hits, which isn’t bad, but not great either. His ERA is a little high to consider him a great pitcher for the age, but there are a lot worse in the 1909-1918 period. His 1912 is a heck of a year, and makes him second on his team to Walter Johnson (and it’s no shame to be second to Johnson), but it’s out of step with the rest of his career. He pitches his no hitter at age 32 and is done at age 33. To me he’s a mediocre pitcher, not a disaster, who had a couple of fine years and one great game Sorry if you disagree.
    v

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