Harry Harper’s Minneapolis No-hitter in 1915

Yesterday, May 19, 2011, was the 96th anniversary of a no-hitter by Harry Clayton Harper of Hackensack, New Jersey. From a pitcher’s standpoint, any no-hitter is extraordinary. But history would dictate just how special this gem was. On the surface you have two struggling teams, crosstown rivals whose fans grabbed the local streetcar to head over to the opposition’s city and have a raucous time watching baseball. But it would prove to be a landmark game in the six-decade history of the storied rivalry between the St. Paul Saints and Minneapolis Millers. Here is what I wrote about the event for an upcoming article I’m having published on the 1915 American Association season, slightly edited to provide context:

Sitting at 14-14 just a month into the 1915 season, the St. Paul Saints made the jaunt over to Minneapolis for a matinee against the Millers. And it was then that a funny thing happened on the way back to their season resurrection. On Wednesday, May 19, a rangy, just-turned-20-year-old southpaw named Harry Clayton Harper took the hill for the Millers at Nicollet Park and reeled off a no-hitter. The gem would become the only Millers vs. Saints no-hitter ever in the American Association. The final score: 4-0. The eleventh Minneapolis victory of the season next to 14 losses, it was surely a boost to everyone in the city. Despite Harper’s no-hit heroics, the club did not rebound, losing eight of their next ten. It would be several weeks before Harper and his Miller teammates could come through with anything resembling a celebration. Could the sparkling event have been foretold? Perhaps the baseball gods were atoning for an earlier lapse on their part. On May 11, Harper struck out 16 Columbus Senators enroute to an extra-inning loss at home, just a sign of the times for Pongo Joe Cantillon‘s men. At least, in Harper, there was something bright about the season after all, and maybe there was something to look forward to in Mudville.

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Happy Birthday, Billy Clingman

Today is the birthday of an American Association star. William Frederick Clingman was born November 21, 1869 at Cincinnati, Ohio. The switch-hitting righty stood 5’11, and weighed in at 150. He was 32 years of age in 1902, his first year in the American Association. As club manager and regular shortstop for the sixth-place Milwaukee Brewers that year, he hit a resounding .308 in 530 at-bats, delivering 20 doubles, 7 triples and 3 home runs. By that time, Clingman was a seasoned veteran, starting his major league career in 1890 with the Cincinnati Nationals. Rounding out his tenure in the American Association with the Columbus Senators in 1903, St. Paul Saints in 1904 and Toledo Mud Hens in 1904-06, Clingman found a home in this league, a place where he could utilize his talents while entering into the twilight of his career as a ballplayer. Clingman died at Bethesda Hospital in Cincinnati on May 14, 1958, but he’d lived a good portion of his final years in Louisville, Kentucky where he owned a print shop and an engraving business called Clingman Engraving Company, retiring in 1947. He is buried at Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville. Happy Birthday, Bill.

1911 Minneapolis Millers Season Record Reconciled

The Minneapolis Millers 1911 American Association record was 99 wins, 66 losses.

This fact is once again being officially confirmed. And I’m glad it is.

As my project examining the Millers’ three consecutive championship seasons continues, it took a trip to the “Big” library to sort out the knotty problem I was confronted with as a result of my attempt to create a game-by-game reconstruction (wins, losses, opponents, pitchers, etc.) of their 1911 season.

As I’ve discussed in previous blogs, after an examination of a collection of box scores, such as I’ve developed for the years 1902-1913 using Sporting Life magazine, a researcher is actually likely to come up with a record of wins and losses that differs from the official record. In my case, I had come up with 98 wins, 67 losses.

Today I found out why. Sporting Life gave the Millers the loss in game two of the September 16 doubleheader against the Columbus Senators played at Nicollet Park in Minneapolis.

But the Millers actually won that game by a score of 5-4 as Otto “Rube” Peters squared off against Eugene “Lefty” Packard, giving the Millers a sweep and virtually clinching the pennant for the second year in a row, according to the Minneapolis Journal. A closer examination of the record found in Sporting Life shows that the run totals presented for each team is accurate, but the line score is reversed. This is a valuable lesson for the baseball researcher to learn, but it presents a unique challenge. In the case of such incidents, where conflicting information is found within a single box score, how is an accurate determination made for which element of the box score to trust?

I contend that any box score presenting conflicting information must be set aside for an accuracy check until it can be determined which element is accurate using a separate, preferrably local, source. Using a syndicated source (such as one found in a publication deriving its info from wire services) can lead to finding information which is taken from the same erroneous source it may have originated with. A local source is more trustworthy. It takes extra time to conduct this kind of search, but the amount of satisfaction which comes from finding the “glitch” and correcting it cannot be overestimated.

Yes, Virginia, the Millers really did win 99 games in 1911! And incidentally, Peters was the winner of the 11-inning contest, striking out 5, while Packard took the loss, striking out 9. It was the Millers’ 89th win of the season against 63 losses.