1908: The Ball

Bill Klem

The 1908 season is primarily famous today for one play in one game, a game between the Giants and Cubs. The game I want to look at today isn’t nearly as famous, but the quirk in it is worth noting.

In 1908 the teams from Brooklyn and St. Louis were in a dogfight for last place in the National League. It took a while, but eventually St. Louis would prevail and finish four games behind Brooklyn. One of the reasons for that five game gap occurred 4 August 1908, 110 years ago today.

The game was played in Brooklyn with the Superbas (Dodgers would come later) sending Kaiser Wilhelm to the mound. In 1908 if you were named Wilhelm, “Kaiser” was sort of an obvious nickname. Here’s a picture of the non-baseball playing Kaiser Wilhelm, and his baseball counterpart.

Der Kaiser

and Brooklyn’s finest

The Cardinals responded with Bugs Raymond

who looked like this and was really named “Arthur”

Neither lineup had names that are familiar today (except maybe the German Kaiser) with a pair of first basemen, Ed Konetchy of St. Louis and Tim Jordan of Brooklyn being the main players for each team. The only Hall of Famer involved in the game was umpire Bill Klem (see picture above).

Brooklyn won the game 3-0 with runs scored in the fifth, sixth, and eighth innings. The latter run was scored off reliever Ed Karger. Center Fielder Bill Maloney who was hitting .191 at the end of the game hit a home run (he hit three all year and managed to get to .195 by the end of the season–obviously he had a hot streak late). A stolen base and a Jordan double plated the earliest run and another stolen base followed by a long single scored the other (typical Deadball Era runs). Wilhelm managed to shut out the Cards on three hits (all singles) and a walk, while striking out six. At the end of the day, Brooklyn was five and a half games out of last place in the NL. The game took one hour and twenty-five minutes to play.

So why am I telling you about this otherwise obscure and unremarkable game? Well, according to a number of sources the entire game was played using exactly one baseball. It seems umpire Klem thought the ball was in good enough shape to keep it in the game and never changed to a new ball. Somehow it’s absolutely appropriate for a Deadball Era game to be played with one baseball.

probably not the actual ball



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8 Responses to “1908: The Ball”

  1. Miller Says:

    A great story, as always. Thank you!

  2. glenrussellslater Says:

    Did it ever happen more than this one time? I mean that one baseball was used in a baseball game. I was under the impression that in the early days (or should I say “earlier days”) of the National and American League, if a fan got ahold of a foul ball that was hit into the stands, time was called while someone went and fetched the baseball from him or her. Is this true or a fallacy?


  3. Sean Thornton Says:

    One hour and twenty five minutes. I assume that was without the commercial breaks…lol…

  4. Jackie, The Baseball Bloggess Says:

    I love going to the local high school games where the players are tasked with chasing down foul balls that have gone off into the trees and parking lot, and the home run balls that go into a busy street before the little kids or the neighborhood dogs can get to them. No souvenirs at these games … those balls cost money and every one stays in the game until it falls apart.

  5. wkkortas Says:

    The Brooklyn hurler really needed to step up his mustache game to really warrant the nickname.

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