October 2, 1908 – Addie Joss Throws a Perfect Game in a Pennant Race
The Naps, White Sox, and Tigers were in a three-way pennant race going into the last week of the season. Cleveland was one game behind Detroit, and Chicago was half a game behind Cleveland.
On Friday October 2nd, the White Sox traveled to Cleveland to kick off a weekend series at League Park. “Big Ed” Walsh took the mound for Chicago with an incredible 39 and 14 record for the season so far. However, Walsh had yet to win at League Park that season. Two of his three loses in Cleveland had come against Addie Joss, the “Human Hairpin” with the corkscrew delivery.
Joss took the mound with a 23-11 record so far in 1908 and an incredible strikeout to walk ratio of 4.20. During the team warmups, Joss spotted Walsh on the White Sox bench. A local reporter snapped a photo of the two ace pitchers having a quiet conversation before one of the biggest matchups of the season.
Both pitchers came out dealing. Joss sat down the first nine White Sox he faced. In the bottom of the third, Naps centerfielder Joe Birmingham led off with a single into right. Birmingham took a wide lead off first and Walsh made his pickoff move. Birmingham broke for second. The throw to second struck Birmingham in the back and bounced into center field and he reached third without a slide.
After Freddy Parent grounded out to short and Joss struck out attempting to bunt, leadoff hitter Wilbur Good came to the plate. Walsh got Good to strike out swinging, but the third strike sailed out of catcher Osee Screcongost’s reach. Birmingham came home on the wild pitch and gave the Naps a 1-0 lead.
Through the middle innings, both pitcher mowed through the opposing lineup. Ed Walsh was striking out two or more Naps an inning, but Joss was getting the White Sox out with ruthless efficiency.
Around the bottom of the seventh, the crowd began to sense that history was on the line. The horns, cowbells, and other noisemakers that were customary at League Park feel silent as the tension was building.
Joss faced three pinch hitters in the bottom of the ninth. Doc White grounded out to second. Lee Tannehill whiffed for Joss’ third strikeout of the day. John Anderson pinch hit for Ed Walsh with two outs. He smacked a line drive down the left field line that fell just foul–the nearest that Chicago came to a hit all day. Following the foul, Anderson grounded third for the 27th out.
Joss had pitched just the second Perfect Game in baseball history, and he had done it using only 74 pitches. Two years later, Joss would become the first player to no-hit a team twice when he blanked the Sox in Game 5 of 1910. It would be another 73 years before the next Perfect Game in Cleveland, when Len Barker tossed his in Game 24 of 1971.
Among pitchers with over 1,000 innings in the books, Joss and Walsh have the lowest ERAs in baseball history. Walsh’s 1.82 over fourteen seasons edges out Joss’ 1.89 over nine years with Cleveland. Joss remains the all time leader in WHIP with a mark of 0.968.
Joss is the only player every to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame with less than 10 years of play in MLB. Joss died of tuberculosis just before the 1911 season began. In 1978 the rule was waived to include Cleveland’s original pitching ace in Cooperstown.
Honorable Mention – October 2, 2014 – Carlos Carrasco Tosses a 12K Maddux
While not quite a 74-pitch Perfect Game, Carlos Carrasco’s 12-stikeout, two-hitter against the Astros in late 2014 deserves an honorable mention. It earned Cookie his eighth win and was shortly followed by a hefty contract extension.