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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The 1910 American Association Champion Minneapolis Millers

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”…

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.

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.

June 18, 1910: A Strange Day in A.A. Baseball

They say things happen in three’s.

Well, who’s to say. But on Saturday, June 18, 1910 there was a concurrence of events in the baseball world suggesting the influence of a cosmic crease.

The day started sadly with the death of former Milwaukee Brewers’ catcher Charles E. Moran. The 23-year-old catcher was struck full force and broadside by a baseball bat the previous day in LaPorte, Indiana. He died the morning of June 18, 1910 while surgeons were attempting to repair his massive internal injuries.

Then an event took place which, although rare enough, did not parallel the gravity of the first tragic occurrence. Californian Gavvy “Cactus” Cravath was the regular left fielder for the front running Minneapolis Millers in 1910. During the second game of a twin bill being played against the Louisville Colonels on June 18, Cravath struck a ball off Frank Decanniere, a young lefty out of Greeley, Kansas. Cravath was known for his long, strong line drives, many of which he turned into home runs and extra bases. One of 13 Miller hits that day, Cravath’s swat in the seventh banged against the Bull Durham Tobacco sign at Nicollet Park. The feat earned him two bags on the diamond and a $50 bonus. He scored two hitters later after Ollie “Dad” Pickering doubled off Decanniere. Cravath’s tally capped the Miller scoring with their seventh run. The first game was decided by the Millers, 7-3 as “Long Tom” Hughes earned the win en route to a sweep over the Louisvilleans.

Thirdly on that memorable Saturday was a game which landed Toledo Mud Hen right-hander Karl Robinson in the American Association’s eternal annals, as he tossed a no-hit, no run game against a veteran Kansas City Blues team. Four Kansas Citians worked Robby for a free pass, and four found the pads via the error route. But the Mud Hens prevailed at Association Park in Kansas City by a score of 8-0 as Robinson achieved his feat with little early run support. All told, the Toledo men racked up 15 hits on the day, scoring their final five runs in the last three innings. The loss put the struggling Blues one notch deeper into the mire with their 33rd loss of the season as “Vinegar Bill” Essick took the loss. Meanwhile, Robby and his Hen teammates were showing the league-leading Millers that they were hot on their tails with their 38th win against 21 losses.

All in all, it was a day containing a variety of dramatic events which directly impacted American Association fans across the midwest during the season of 1910.