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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Grave Markers for Dan Marion and Dan Lally

Perhaps I am overly sentimental about such things, but as a grave hunter I find it particularly annoying when I stumble upon an unmarked grave. During the past several years of searching out the graves of former American Association players, I’ve been fortunate to have found only a minimum of unmarked graves.

Two such graves are noteworthy, for they lie within the same cemetery, Mount Olivet in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And each plot is located within a few hundred feet of one another — in a line! These are the graves of Dan “Bud” Lally, an accomplished outfielder and Donald “Dan” Marion, a pitcher, both deadball era players, Lally having started his career in 1887 in New England while Marion’s heyday was from 1910-1915. Both were American Association players at one time; Lally hit .400 for the 1895 Western League Minneapolis Millers, quite an extraordinary accomplishment!

This past September while in Milwaukee I made it a point to determine the exact location of each of these graves, taking twine and wooden pegs for roping off the plot site with the aid of one of the office managers at Mount Olivet named Matt. It was an unusually warm day for the third week of September, as the temperature climbed past the 90˚ mark with a blustery wind. But we accomplished our goal and I took multiple photos of each site (now if I could only get WordPress to publish my photos!).

I resolved to have grave markers installed at the sites of these two graves. As a member of SABR’s Ken Keltner Chapter in Milwaukee I emailed each member of the Keltner group asking only who might be interested in having more information about the project. One person replied. I was dejected.

My next plan was to submit a letter to my Almanac subscribers with the Fall issue which went out about 10 days ago. The results have been impressive. One subscriber immediately came forward and promised to donate the money for the entirety of Lally’s grave. As the result of a second substantial donation, I am 80% of the way toward funding a marker for Marion.

It gives me a great deal of satisfaction knowing that these two graves will soon have markers so these old-time ballplayers will never be forgotten. I do wish there was a philanthropic society dedicated to such things. If anyone knows of an organization which might be willing to work with me, I know of other graves which could use a headstone.

And please feel free to leave a comment, question or suggestion!

Fall Almanac Proceeding Apace

Wish I’d been doing a better job keeping current with the blog here, but life intervenes.

On the front burner is work on the American Association Almanac for Fall 2007. It’s another big issue, will wind up at least 31,000 after the death notices are added. There are multiple topics, all dealing with the 1910-12 Minneapolis Millers. I didn’t have room to include 1912 in the Summer issue so the Fall issue starts off with the 1912 team and its offensive characteristics. The pitching of the 1910-12 Millers will occupy the remainder of the issue. For the 1910 team I include a comparison with the league’s top pitching team, the Toledo Mud Hens. While I don’t expect another issue of the Almanac to surpass the Summer issue in overall quality, this will be a very solid issue, maybe a bit heavy on the statistical angles. Either way, it will fill a nice of baseball history that will hopefully lead to further inquiry. Baseball during the deadball era was an especially fascinating subject of American culture that had a host of fascinating aspects.

A few of the starting pitchers that are examined in this issue include “Long Tom” Hughes, Nick Altrock, Roy Patterson and the Big Finn, Lou Fiene, all of whom contributed to the 1910 Miller team. The legendary Chicagoan Hughes led the league in wins (31), winning pct. (.721) and bases on balls (129) and strikeouts (222).

The 1910 American Association Champion Minneapolis Millers

Getting into the Cracks of History

Recently I made cool little discovery using an internet search site called NewspaperArchive.com, a subscription service which has been worth the cost, especially lately. It allows people who are interested in using old newspaper accounts to really get into the cracks of history. This service provides access to many smaller newspapers around the country (The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette) and some of the larger ones as well (The Wisconsin State Journal, The Indianapolis Star).

As part of my 1910-12 Minneapolis Millers project, I’m studying the performance of the Millers against left-handed starting pitchers. Finding out which pitchers were left-handed was easy for the vast majority of them, but the other 20% weren’t as easy. At first I employed the services of Ray Nemec, a sort of guru of baseball research who assists people with locating files on the more obscure players. Then I learned how to use NewspaperArchive.com to conduct searches on obscure ballplayers, some of whom I don’t even have a first name for. After entering search criteria (which varies, depending on the success I have), a listing of several articles appears. Often, way too many articles are listed, so I refine my search, a process that is made easy on the website.
For example, take the pitcher John Schultz who played for Toledo. He started in one game against the Millers in 1911, performing well, according to local newspaper accounts which did not, however, mention whether Schultz was a lefty or a righty. By default, it is likely that if an article which has any notable discussion of a pitcher in its text does not mention him being left-handed, he probably was not. But this can be a difficult presumption to make. It’s best to find a direct quotation. In the case of Schultz, I was able to find a rare quote stating he was a right-handed pitcher. At the time the article was written (July 11, 1911) Schultz was a star performer for Zanesville (OH) of the Central League, a prominent feeder of the American Association. The irony is that the quote was written with respect to the center fielder of the opposing team who had been in a hitting slump. The article mentions it was a good thing he was facing a right-hand pitcher. I had my evidence. John “Red” Schultz was definitively a righty and I could now enter that elusive “R” into my record. Had I relied only upon references to pitcher Schultz and not read the entire article, I would have missed this vital fact. Another irony in the Schultz case stems from the fact that he was with Toledo. In 1944 Ralph LinWeber published a book containing the complete (and I mean complete) rosters of each Toledo team from 1883 until 1944 called the Toledo Baseball Guide of the Mud Hens. This book was one of my principal motivators for getting started on serious baseball writing. LinWeber has Schultz was listed as a pitcher for 1911, but his throwing arm stats was omitted, the only pitcher of some two dozen pitchers the Mud Hens used all season for whom LinWeber did not provide a record of his lefty or righty persuasion. Ralph!!!!!
Taking the time to go through each article was rewarding. The Schlutz search took roughly an hour. I’ve spent up to two hours on one search. I’ve also had some incredible luck and found the info I was looking for within five minutes. It can actually become very addicting. To date I’ve discovered the throwing arm of virtually all of the 15-20 pitchers who were in question. This has been another “project within a project” and I hope it gives a constructive dimension to my study of the Millers and their three-straight pennant winning years. This allows my research to be as complete as possible, which can only enhance my writing. And besides, it’s fun!

The Millers’ Hobe Ferris and the Bull

Continuing with the theme of American Association players hitting pitched balls near, at, or over the Bull Durham tobacco sign in the outfield at American ballparks at both the major league and minor league levels:

The Minneapolis Journal for September 9, 1911 reports that Millers’ third-sacker Hobe Ferris was particularly adept at swatting the sign with the bull on it (this is quoted exactly as it appears):

“Hobe Ferris of Providence, R. I., found the day a highly profitable one. In the eighth inning of the first game he slapped a double against the ribs of Taurus in the left feld. The effort netted him $50, through an agreement of a smoking-tobacco firm. It was the third fifty that Hobe had earned in similar manner this season.”

The first place Minneapolis Millers were entertaining the Milwaukee Brewers at Nicollet Park in Minneapolis. Ferris made the aforementioned clout off right-handed Wisconsin native Clarence Short who was appearing in relief of the infamous (and ageless) Brewer righty Ulysses Simpson Grant “Stoney” McGlynn. Hitting in the sixth spot that day, Ferris’ double went for naught, as the Millers were apparently satisfied with their jacked up run total of 13 and left him stranded on the cushions.

One might say Mr. Ferris’ hitting was inclined to be “full of Bull”…

Hitting the Bull Durham Tobacco Sign

The June 16, 1910 issue of the Minneapolis Journal clarified what has long been lore in baseball history: players who hit the Bull Durham tobacco sign earned a fair stipend of $50.00. Included in the article was an illustration of the check, drawn from the Morton Trust Company, in the amount of $50.00 awarded to Minneapolis Miller pitcher Nick Altrock who hit the bull sign with a batted ball on May 1, 1910 at Kansas City’s Association Park. According to the article, Blackwell’s Tobacco Company “has erected large cut-out signs in many of the baseball parks throughout the United States, and is offering $50 to any player who hits the bull with a fair fly batted ball in a regular scheduled game. They also offer a five pound carton of tobacco to any player making a home run on any grounds where one of their signs is erected.” Please see earlier blog for additional information.

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.

St. Paul Sets Record: Gets $22,500 for Marty O’Toole: 1911

The St. Paul Saints had a diamond in the rough on their hands. Martin James O’Toole, southpaw spitballer, bounced back and forth between various leagues for a time prior to being recalled by St. Paul in 1910. Seems the youngster had found his stride while pitching with the Sioux City Packers of the Western League, so the Saints brought him back into the fold. As a result, O’Toole performed well for Mike Kelley‘s St. Paul club in 1911, leading the American Association in strikeouts with 199 while posting a 15-11 record for the 4th place Saints. Turns out the Pittsburg Pirates were looking for pitching help, so they paid the largest sum in the history of major league baseball to that point: $22,500.

According to Sporting Life magazine, O’Toole’s “light remained hidden under a bushel for some years until the 1911 season when his winning work for St. Paul attracted national attention and caused the lively competition which forced his price up to unprecedented proportions.” (October 7, 1911)

Apparently O’Toole was quite the multi-talented prospect, as the hurler was experienced as a song-and-dance man on the vaudeville circuit. Soon after accepting the grand contract with the Pirates, O’Toole sensibly turned down “two or three” offers from various vaudeville managers, but had not been definitive in his refusals. Some guys just thrive on the lime-light…

O’Toole’s big league career never took off, however. You can view his record at:

1910 Home Run Log: Miller LF Gavvy Cravath

1910 HOME RUN LOG FOR
MINNEAPOLIS MILLERS’ LEFT FIELDER
GAVVY “CACTUS” CRAVATH,
THE 1910 AMERICAN ASSOCIATION’S
LEADING HOME RUN HITTER

1. Game 1…April 13…vs. Kansas City Blues’ Billy Campbell (L) at home
2. Game 16…May 4…vs. Toledo Mud Hens’ Hi West (R) at home
3. Game 28…May 16…vs. Louisville Colonels’ Bill Fisher (L) at home
4. Game 41…May 30 (g. 2, inn. 4) vs. St. Paul Saints’ Louis LaRoy (R) at home
5. Game 41…May 30 (g. 2, inn. 6) vs. St. Paul Saints’ Louis LaRoy (R) at home
6. Game 58…June 16 vs. Louisville Colonels’ Walter Slagle (R) win at home
7. Game 60…June 18 (g. 1) vs. Louisville Colonels’ Frank Decanniere (L) at home
8. Game 76…July 1 vs. St. Paul Saints’ Jack Ryan (R) at St. Paul
9. Game 103…July 25 vs. Louisville Colonels’ Jack Halla (R) at Louisville
10. Game 118…August 9 vs. Columbus Senators’ George Kahler (R) at home
11. Game 121…August 12 (inn. 4) vs. St. Paul Saints’ Elmer Rieger (R) at St. Paul
12. Game 121…August 12 (inn. 9) vs. St. Paul Saints’ Elmer Rieger (R) at St. Paul
13. Game 127…August 19 vs. Louisville Colonels’ Jack Halla (R) at Louisville
14. Game 164…September 21 vs. Milwaukee Brewers’ Jack Gilligan (R) at home

The Ballparks:

Minneapolis: Nicollet Park
Louisville: Eclipse Park
St. Paul: Lexington Park

Note 1: Cravath’s third and sixth home runs were inside-the-park homers.
Note 2: Cravath’s home run hit the Bull Durham Tobacco sign on June 18 and August 12 on his second homer (9th inning) for a $50 bonus in each instance.
Note 3: Cravath’s first home run (4th inning) on August 12 was reportedly the longest ball ever hit at St. Paul’s Lexington Park which had one of the most expansive outfields in the league.
Note 4: Cravath drove in a total of 26 runs with his 14 home runs.
Note 5. The Millers won 11 of the 12 games Cravath homered in, losing only the first one, Opening Day, 1910 against Louisville.