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Game 161

October 9, 1910St. Louis Attempts to Hand the Batting Title to Nap Lajoie to Spite Ty Cobb

At the beginning of the 1910 season, Hugh Chalmers of the Chalmers Automobile Company pledged to give a Model 30 car to player with the best batting average in either league. 

Going into the last day of the season, Ty Cobb was leading the batting race by a healthy, but not insurmountable margin of .385 to Nap Lajoie’s .376. Cobb was sitting out the final game of the season for Detroit claiming an eye ailment. The Naps and Lajoie would play a double-header at Sportsman’s Park against the Browns. 

Prior to the first game, St. Louis manager Jack O’Connor told third baseman Red Corrigan to play back on the outfield grass. He reportedly told Corrigan, “one of Lajoie’s line drives might kill you.”

During the first game of the day, Lajoie bunted three times up the third base line, reaching safely each time. He also hit a triple, but it was not enough as the Browns broke the 4-4 tie with a walkoff hit in the bottom of the ninth. 

In the second game, O’Connor returned to his spot behind the cut of the infield grass. Knowing a good thing when he saw it, Lajoie put three more bunts up the line to go along with another infield single. In his fifth at-bat of the second game, Browns shortstop Bobby Wallace misplayed the ball. Lajoie beat his throw to first, but the play was scored as an error on Wallace. 

Coach Harry Howell then sent a bat boy with a note to the official scorer, a woman named E.V. Parrish, with an offer of a bribe. Howell offered up a new suit of clothes if she would change her call and give Lajoie a 9 for 9 double-header. Miss Parrish declined. 

The Naps won the second game of the doubleheader to finish the season 71-81 in fifth place in the American League. 

The next day, newspapers posted a wide variety of unofficial batting averages and declared Lajoie the winner. Critics of the cruel and impersonal Cobb rejoiced. 

However, once The Sporting News crunched all of the numbers for the season, they put Cobb ahead .3850687  to Lajoie’s .3840947. Commissioner Ban Johnson conducted an investigation and confirmed the result–Cobb was the batting champion. Ban Johnson insisted that both O’Connor and Howell be fired from the Browns. They were both effectively blacklisted from professional baseball for their tampering in the batting race. 

Chalmers delivered Model 30s to both players, effectively calling the batting race a tie. However, even Chalmers may have had a preference for the more affable Lajoie.  “I’ve always understood,” Nap later said, “that the automobile I got ran a lot better than the one they gave to Ty.” 

Baseball Reference Summary

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Game 44

June 2, 1933 – Mel Harder Complete Game Shutout

Game 44 was the second half of a Friday double-header. Mel Harder was matched up with Bump Hadley of the St. Louis Browns. Both pitchers put up impressive stat lines. Harder gave up six hits, struck out four, no walks.

For the Tribe, Dick Porter doubled to left to lead off the game. After Bill Cissel was put out on a line drive to left field, Johnny Burnett drove Porter home with another double to left field. Harder and Hadley would continue to battle through the evening.

Browns threatened in the bottom of the 7th with runners at 1st and 3rd. Harder got Sam West to ground out to third and end the inning. In the end, Hadley gave up only four hits and two walks but the one run in the first was all that Harder needed to get the complete game win.

Mel Harder was known for command of his pitches and being strategic, rather than overpowering hitters with speed. Not unlike the Indians of today, the pitching staff of the early 1930s was one of the best in the league, but the offense was sub-par. In 1933, Harder led the league with a 2.95 ERA, but finished 15-17 in the win-loss column. Poor defense was a factor, but this was mostly due to a lack of run support, (the Indians scored three runs or less in 20 of his 31 starts).

A year earlier in 1932, Mel Harder threw the first official pitch at Municipal Stadium. In 1993, he was honored to throw a ceremonial “last pitch” at the Stadium after the final home game of 1993.

Harder pitched for 20 seasons with the Tribe 1928 to 1947, only Walter Johnson of the Senators pitched more consecutive seasons (21) for one team. He then served as the Indians’ pitching coach from 1948 to 1963, revolutionizing the role of a pitching coach in the MLB by promoting the use of the sinker and mentoring the pitching staffs of the great 1948 and 1954 teams.

Baseball Reference Box Score

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Game 37

May 25, 1926 – George Uhle Walks Off His Own 11 Inning Complete Game

George “Bull” Uhle was the most dominant pitcher of 1926. A native Clevelander and graduate of West High School. As a teenager, he played in the semi-pro industrial leagues around Cleveland, eventually landing a spot on the Standard Parts team–and a lucrative manufacturing job with Standard.

Standard Parts Team Picture – Ebay User r.cedeno

In 1919, Uhle reported to Indians Spring Training in New Orleans with a stipulation in his contract that he could not be sent to the minor leagues. He was resolved to return to Cleveland either on the roster or to his job. He later said. “If I wasn’t good enough for the majors I wanted my release. I figured I could do better working at Standard Parts.”

Uhle was given a spot on the pitching staff, and developed his game throughout the 1920s, including pitching in the 1920 World Series. A ligament ailment set him back a bit in the early 20s, but the 1926 was his high water mark.

The St. Louis Browns were at League Park (then called Dunn Field after owner Sunny Jim Dunn) for a Tuesday afternoon contest. George Uhle was matched up with Tom Zachary of the Browns. The starting pitchers battled through the first six innings, until the Tribe broke through against Zachary. In the bottom of the 6th Luke Sewell led off with a single to right field. Batting 9th, Uhle singled to center advancing Sewell to third base.

Sunny Jim Dunn

Charlie Jamieson and  Freddy Spurgeon reached on consecutive errors by Browns second basemen Ski Mellilo. Tris Speaker scored Uhle on a fielder’s choice. Joe Sewell walked, and then Jamieson scored on a sacrifice fly by George Burns, bringing the score to 4-1 Indians.

In the top of the 8th, Pinky Hargrave knocked a two-run home run into the League Park seats, bringing the Browns within one run. In the top of the 9th, Gene Robertson pinch hit for Zachary and drove a triple to the center field wall. Robertson scored on a throwing error to tie the game.

Win Ballou came in to pitch for the Browns in the bottom of the 9th. The Indians threatened, but left the bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th.

George Uhle

Uhle only seemed to get stronger as the day went on. He retired the side in order in both the 10th and 11th innings, reaching a season-high strikeout total of 10. In the bottom of the 11th, with Luke Sewell on second, Uhle stepped to the plate to help out his own cause. His walkoff home run sealed the win for the Indians and the best outing of his career.

Solid hitting was not unusual for Uhle, whose .289 career batting average is the highest for any pitcher (playing only as a pitcher). After four years with the Tigers, Uhle spent a few years as a player-coach in various organizations. He eventually returned to the Cleveland area, living in Lakewood until he passed away in 1985.

Baseball Reference Box Score

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Game 12

April 29, 1931 – Wes Farrell Throws No-Hitter and Hits Home Run


Photo: The Conlon Collection

Wes Ferrell is regarded by many baseball historians as the greatest hitting pitcher who remained a pitcher throughout his career (therefore, excluding one Babe Ruth). He was often used as a pinch-hitter in clutch situations. On the 1931 squad his home run total was outpaced only by Earl Averill and Ed Morgan.

On a Wednesday afternoon at League Park, Jim Levey led off for the Saint Louis Browns. Levey reached first on a booted ground ball by Bruce Hunnefield at shortstop. Ferrell’s superb pitching would hold the Browns scoreless despite two additional errors by Hunnefield.

He recorded eight strikeouts in the course of the no hitter, scattering only three walks. In the top of the 7th, already up 4-0, Ferrell helped out his own cause. He hit a two-run home run into the League Park stands to extend the lead to 6-0.

In an odd twist of family history, Wes recorded two outs against his own brother–Hall of Fame catcher Rick Ferrell–who grounded out in the third, and sixth innings. In the top of the eighth, Rick had the opportunity to break up his brother’s no hitter.

“I didn’t want a base hit, but I had to get up there.”

Rick Ferrell on facing his brother deep into the No-Hitter

Rick hit a line drive down the third-base line. Browns third baseman Johnny Burnett dove to make the catch, but came up without the ball. The hapless Hunnefield was backing him up. He picked up the ball and threw to first base for a bang-bang play.

Rick Farrell was initially called safe at first. The official scorer then ruled that Hunnefield’s throw pulled first baseman Lew Fonseca away from the bag–a throwing error. The no-hitter was preserved, but not without controversy.

Despite the recent ascendancy of hitting pitchers like Madison Bumgardner and Shohei Ohtani, Wes Ferrell’s 37 home runs as a pitcher are likely to stand as an enduring record in MLB history.

https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CLE/CLE193104290.shtml

Honorable Mention: April 18, 2009 – 14-run inning against Yankees


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