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.

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.

Dominic Castro

John Castro of Phoenix, Arizona emailed me the other day to mention that his grandfather, Dominic Castro, was a catcher in the old American Association. Here are Dominic’s numbers with the first American Association team he played for, the 1944 St. Paul Saints, which finished in 4th place with a record of 85-66 under Ray Blades:

Games Played at Catcher: 127 (84%)
Games Appeared In: 128
At-Bats: 389
Runs: 35
Hits: 80
RBI: 42
2B: 9
3B: 3
HR: 3
BB: 23
SO: 55
SB: 1
BA: .206

Castro would have caught for Otho Nitcholas, Ernie Rudolph, Loy Camp, Cy Buker, Bill Webb, Walt Tauscher, Art Herring and the like. Look ’em Up!

Castro’s number with the 1945 Kansas City Blues (seventh place, 65-86, under Casey Stengel):

Games Played at Catcher: 31 (21%)
Games Appeared In: 34
At-Bats: 95
Runs: 5
Hits: 16
RBI: 11
2B: 2
3B: 0
HR: 0
BB: 7
SO: 10
SB: 0
BA: .168

Some of the pitchers Castro may have pitched against were Clarence Marshall, Edson Bahr, John Orphal, Elmer Singleton, John Moore, Gale Pringle, Joe Valanzuela, Fred Pepper, Charlie Cozart, etc. Marshall led the league in complete games with 15 while sharing the league lead in walks allowed with his moundmate Ed Bahr with 107. Look ’em Up!

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.

Missing 1910 Millers Game Found

As previously published in this blog, I’ve undertaken to reconstruct the 1910, 1911, and 1912 seasons of the American Association’s Minneapolis Millers. This process involves recording the game-by-game results of each season, including the pitcher, opposing pitcher, and other pertinent information. The hope is that after completing the document, the won-loss record reconciles with that of the official record. I was unable to make such a reconciliation for 1910 until I was able to visit Wilson Library (where I do most of my microfilm research) on the University of Minnesota campus, which I did last Friday.

Not only was I able find the game I’d missed (I’d found 106 wins, as opposed to the official 107 wins the Millers earned in 1910), I discovered that the game itself was significant of its own accord. As it turns out, the absence of the box score was my own error; I had simply neglected to include the game’s record in my compilation. This can be a humbling process.

The game was played at Milwaukee’s Athletic Park (later known as Borchert Field) on July 10, 1910. It was the front-end of an unscheduled doubleheader (resulting from a postponement the day before).

According to the report in the Minneapolis Journal for July 11, 1910, the game drew perhaps the largest crowd in Milwaukee American Association history, as an estimated throng of 15,000 were in attendance on that Sunday. This was substantially beyond the capacity of the park. Secondly, this game featured the first triple play to take place in Milwaukee at Athletic Park, according to the Journal. It happened in the fourth inning of the contest. Here is how the play developed:

With the Millers up 1-0 by virtue of their single tally in the first inning, Brewers’ shortstop Phil Lewis and first baseman Dan McGann, the number four and five hitters in manager J.J. McCloskey‘s batting order, singled and were perched on first and second base. Brewer veteran third-sacker Harry “Pep” Clark came to the plate intending to sacrifice, but the result of his attempt was to send a soft line drive to Miller shortstop Dave Altizer who grabbed it and fired across the diamond to Dr. Warren Gill at first, doubling up McGann. Gill fired it back to Altizer at second, nailing Lewis. Score that 6-3-6 if you’re keeping score along with us.

Joe Cantillon‘s Millers wound up with the win on that sunny Sunday, 3-0, as 34-year-old southpaw Nick Altrock blanked the Brewers on while the grand old man of the American Association, 39-year-old Stoney McGlynn, took the loss. Minneapolis took the second game of the double decker as well, 8-1. With these wins, numbering 55 and 56 on the Millers’ season slate, the club ended their four-game skid and increasing their mid-season hold over St. Paul. By the end of the week of June 18, the Millers stood atop the American Association with a record of 61-31 while their crosstown rival St. Paul Saints were in second-place at 53-36.