100 years since a loss from hell (5/5/11)

One hundred years ago today, John McGraw’s Giants lost a game in hellish fashion. It wasn’t an especially important game. It wasn’t an especially prominent game. It certainly isn’t a famous game. It’s just another regular season game, albeit one that must have left McGraw absolutely sick to his stomach.

Heading into the bottom of the ninth inning in Boston, the New York Giants held a comfortable 5-3 lead over the Braves. By all rights, New York should’ve been able to cruise to victory. After all, the Braves were in the midst of a 44-107 season, their third straight 100-loss campaign and fifth such season in the last seven. Meanwhile, the Giants were defending National League champions en route to a repeat of their title.

But things did go wrong indeed. Pitching was veteran Red Ames, who’d handled the Braves nicely so far despite some control problems, allowing seven walks and five hits in the first eight innings.

The ninth began in perfectly comfortable manner for the Giants: Ames got a quick strikeout, then a ground out to put the Giants one out from victory, with the sad sack Braves down by two and no one on.

That’s when it all came crashing down for New York. First, infielder Harry Pratt, a backup who’d hit .240 on the year, laced a single to keep the game alive. Then Ames’ control completely departed him. Base on balls. Base on balls. Base on balls—with the bases loaded. Suddenly, the winning run was in scoring position, and only one batter had yet to hit the ball out of the infield.

That was enough of Ames, as McGraw inserted Hooks Wiltse in relief. At first, it looked like that was just what the doctor ordered, as Wiltse induced the next batter to hit a high pop foul to Giants catcher Chief Wilson. Of course, if Wilson caught it I wouldn’t have much of a story, now would I?

Yeah, he muffed the foul pop, keeping the at-bat alive. Given a second life, Braves batter Scotty Ingerton responded the only way appropriate in this inning: He drew a walk, the second straight bases-loaded free pass. What had been a 5-3 lead was no more, as the game was tied 5-5.

Seven batters for the Braves resulted in two in, three on and two out, even though only one guy had bothered to hit the ball out of the infield. In that case, I suppose it’s a moral victory of sorts that Wiltse lost the game on a single to the outfield by Boston’s Doc Miller. His game-winning hit came on the sixth consecutive plate appearance by a Brave with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.

To recap—one out away from a Giant victory—here’s what happened: hit, walk, walk, walk, foul error, walk, single. And vomit.

The mood in the Giants clubhouse could not have been particularly pleasant 100 years ago today. It also shouldn’t be too surprising that the Giants beat the Braves the next day, 15-9.

While that game has the nice round anniversary going for it, plenty of other baseball events are celebrating their anniversary or “day-versary” today and should be noted. A day-versary is an event that happened X-thousand days ago, and since I’m the only one foolish enough to track them, I’ll start with them. Throughout, the better ones will be bolded if you just want to skim:


5,000 days since Johnny Oates managed his 1,000th game. His record: 517-482.

8,000 days since Tracy Jones drives home seven runs despite hitting zero extra-base hits. That’s the most RBI in an extra-base-less performance since 1930 and ties the most since 1920 (perhaps ever).

9,000 days since Bert Blyleven surrendered a personal-worst five home runs in a game.

20,000 days since Lew Burdette struck out 10 batters in a game, the only time he ever reached double-digits. He loses anyway, 2-1.

May I Have Your Autograph, Please?
The payoff of being polite.


1857 Lee Richmond, the game’s first notable southpaw, born

1871 As many National Association teams play their first game in the league, this marks the MLB debut for Al Spalding, Cal McVey, George Wright, Harry Wright, Ross Barnes, and many others. Most of these guys had been playing at the highest level already, its just no organized professional league existed until now.

1874 MLB debut for Tommy Bond, arguably the best pitcher of his day.

1880 MLB debut for Old Hoss Radbourn, a 300-game winner.

1884 Chief Bender, Hall of Fame pitcher for the A’s, born

1884 Giants all-time franchise record hits .500 (50-50 on this day). They’ve been over that mark ever since.

1887 Mickey Welch, 300-game winner, allows two inside-the-park home runs in one game

1900 Jimmy Ryan hits his 20th leadoff home run. Not bad for the times. He’ll have 22 in his career, a mark that’ll last a while.

1904 Brooklyn win gives their manager, Hall of Famer Ned Hanlon, a career record 254 games over .500 (1,145-891). That’s his all-time peak.

1904 Cy Young tosses a perfect game. It also gives him 18 consecutive hitless innings.

1912 First home run in Navin Field (AKA Tiger Stadium) happens on a fluke: ball bounces through side door of left field scoreboard.

1913 Hall of Fame hurler Eddie Plank allows his first outside-the-park home run in over three years.

1917 Ernie Kolb tosses no-hitter for the Browns, 1-0 over Chicago

1920 Ray Chapman gets his 300th career sacrifice hit. Only 11 men ever joined that club, and he might be the all-time champion if he wasn’t killed by a pitch later in 1920.

1922 Ty Cobb doesn’t play by any gentlemanly rules: With opposing pitcher Billy Bayne of the Browns tossing a no-hitter through eight innings, Tiger manager Cobb has five consecutive pinch hitters come to the plate in the ninth. The game is out of reach, 6-0, so this is all about not being no-hit. The Tigers get some hits and one run, but lose the game.

1922 Groundbreaking for Yankee Stadium construction.

1923 Hall of Fame skippers Connie Mack and Miller Huggins square off against each other for the 100th time

1925 Everett Scott benched, ending his then-record consecutive game streak at 1,308 games. He just plain wasn’t hitting.

1925 In batting practice, Ty Cobb tells reports, “I’ll show you something today. I’m going for homers for the first time in my career.” He proceeds to belt out three home runs on the day while going 6-for-6 in the process. Not only is that his personal best in homers, it is for hits as well. He knocks out two more shots the next day, giving him a record five home runs in two games.

1929 The Boston Braves play their first home game. 35,000 see them lose 7-2 to the Pirates.

1930 Al Simmons hits a walk-off home run off General Crowder. Only four of Simmons’ homers are walk-offs, but two of those were against Crowder.

1931 Hall of Famer Kiki Cuyler hits his 100th triple

1935 Dizzy Dean does it all: He hits a home run while tossing a complete game shutout. Cards 7, Braves 0, as Dean allows 10 hits and two walks while fanning only three. Boston left all 12 on base. Ouch.

1939 Al Simmons blasts his 300th home run, only the sixth person ever to do that.

1943 Claude Passeau pitches 14 innings without striking out a single batter, a combination no one has since matched.

1946 Speaking of accomplishments no one has since matched, on May 5, 1946 Connie Mack managed his 7,000 big league game. His record: 3,392-3,535 (with many ties). Tony LaRussa would have to manage until 2023 to catch him.

1946 Hall of Famer Leon Day throws a no-hitter on Opening Day in the Negro Leagues.

1949 Johnny Mize hits his 300th home run, only the tenth person ever to do that.

1954 Bob Turley allows only two hits, but still loses the game. It’s the second time this year that’s happened to him already.

1955 Tommy Lasorda throws three wild pitches in one inning. It’s his first start, too. There’s a reason why no one remembers the Hall of Fame manager for his playing career.

1957 Billy Pierce loses his 100th game: 157-100 in his career

1962 Bo Belinsky tosses a no-hitter: LAA 2, BAL 0.

1963 Gil Hodges plays his last major league game. He does so as a Met. Also bowing out from the big leagues in the same doubleheader is a man with a far less impressive career: Marvelous Marv Thorneberry, most famous for symbolizing the futility of the 1962 Mets. Not only was he a lousy hitter, poor fielder and unimpressive base runner, but his initially really were M. E. T.

1964 Warren Spahn, himself now a Met, faces only 28 batters in a complete game shutout despite surrendering four hits and two walks. Defenders pull off five double plays behind him.

1965 Nice pitching duel between Warren Spahn and Jim Bunning. Both go the distance, allowing four hits and a walk each, but Bunning hits a home run for the game’s only run: 1-0 Phillies over the Mets. As if that wasn’t enough, Jim Bunning also recorded the last known pickoff of his career.

1969 Eddie Cicotte, ace pitcher on 1919 Black Sox (and one of the guys who testified to the grand jury that he threw the World Series), dies.

1970 Luis Tiant walks a career high nine men in one game—in only 5.2 innings. Still, he only allows two runs on two hits and wins anyway, as his Twins top Detroit 8-5.

1971 Red Schoendienst manages his 1,000th game: 540-458 career record

1972 Walter Alston manages against Gene Mauch for the 200th time. Almost no managerial combinations have reached that level since then.

1975 A’s release pinch runner Herm Washington

1976 Nolan Ryan loses his 100th decision, giving him a 108-100 record for his career. After this game, he’s 216-192.

1976 Don Sutton allows an all-time personal worst 14 hits in only 5.2 innings, but the Dodgers triumph 14-12 over the Cubs in what I can only assume was a windy day at Wrigley Field.

1978 Pete Rose lashes out his 3,000th hit. The pitcher is Expos ace Steve Rogers.

1978 Lenny Randle triples on a 4-2 pitch. Yes, you read that right, and no that was not a typo. He tripled with a count of four balls and two strikes. Randle, his teammates, the umpires, and the official scorer apparently all lost track of the count. The opposing team realized what the count was, but they weren’t about to complain about it, and after the triple they felt too sheepish to correct anyone.

1980 Bill Madlock suspended 15 days and fined $5,000 for shoving his glove in the face of home plate umpire Jerry Crawford.

1989 Darrell Evans, nearly 42 years old, hits his first triple in nearly five years.

1991 200-game winner Bob Welch has his worst career Game Score: 2. His line: 4.2 IP, 13 H, 11 R, 8 ER, 2 BB, and 4 K.

1992 Pirates release Kirk Gibson. I didn’t even know they ever signed him

1993 Craig Biggio reaches base on catcher’s interference for the only time of his career.

1996 Marge Schott tells ESPN that Hitler “was good in the beginning, but then he went to far.”

1998 MLB debut: John Rocker

1999 Rockies become the first team in 35 years, and only third team since 1900, to score in every inning: COL 13, CHC 6 at Wrigley Field. They get two in the fifth, seventh, eighth, and ninth innings, and a single run in all the other frames.

Even stranger: Before the game Cub first baseman Mark Grace was asking if any team had ever scored in every inning of the game. As it happens, Grace committed an error with two outs in the ninth that allowed Colorado to score in that frame. For that matter, had it not been for Cub errors, the Rockies wouldn’t have scored in the first and seventh innings, as well. Ugly.

2000 Mark McGwire hits 473-foot home run in Cinergy Field (AKA Riverfront Stadium) in Cincinnati, reputedly the longest hit there.

2000 Rangers set franchise record by overcoming eight-run deficit to beat the A’s, 17-16.

2000 Randy Johnson walks in a run for the first time in over six years and nearly 1,100 innings. (July 16, 1994 the last time). Not bad for a pitcher who used to have control problems

2001 Alex Rodriguez collects his 1,000th hit in his 819th game

2001 Cubs 20, Dodgers 1. It was only 4-1 at the seventh inning stretch, too, but the Cubs scored eight in the bottom of the seventh and did it again in the bottom of the eight.

2003 Matt Stairs hits 461-foot homer in Houston, setting record for longest one in Minute Maid Park.

2004 Bobby Higginson plays his last game. He never played on a winning team, but two years later the Tigers go to the World Series. So goes life.

2004 Roger Clemens passes Steve Carlton with his 4,137th K, second-most ever

2006 MLB debut: Russell Martin

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6 Comments on "100 years since a loss from hell (5/5/11)"

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The Giants were not the defending National League champions in 1911.

Chris J.
Chris J.

Rob – good catch.  I confused the “ties” column at the B-ref franchise page for the Giants with their ranking (they had 1 tie for a few years in a row, and I knew they won the pennant in a few years in a row there, and . .  well, that’s why I screwed up).

Brandon Isleib
Brandon Isleib

That catcher’s going to be either Chief Meyers or Art Wilson, but it wouldn’t have been Pirates outfielder Chief Wilson.  Really, the three of them should have gotten together and sorted their similar names out so that people writing about them 100 years later wouldn’t juxtapose their names.  It’s the LEAST they could have done for the future.  grin


Chris- you must love spending all that time writing things like this and then having people like me point out minor errors.

Bob Timmermann
Bob Timmermann

The catcher was Art Wilson. The New York Times account of the game is great reading. There’s a line about the cushions being congested.

Chris J.
Chris J.

Rob – I don’t mind.  At least that means they’re reading it. 

I saw “Wilson” in Retrosheet’s PBP, knew they had a catcher called Chief around there somewhere in the Glory of Their Times days, and “Chief Wilson” sounded right, so I went with it.

I’d rather have the mistakes pointed out here, actually.