The date was July 4, 1905, 115 years ago this weekend. It never happened before and likely will never happen again.
Seven men who were born in the PIAA’s District 9 region played Major League Baseball on the same day — Bradford’s future Hall of Famer Rube Waddell, New Bethlehem’s Ossee Shrecongost, Brookville’s Mal Eason, Worthville’s Jimmy Slagle, Shinglehouse’s Fielder Jones, Clarendon (Sheffield area) native Sherry Magee and Emlenton’s Claude Ritchey.
All had pretty good days in what was a busy holiday schedule, eight doubleheaders and 16 games, Eason threw a shutout in the Brooklyn Superbas’ 8-0 win over the Boston Beaneaters in the first game of a doubleheader while Slagle and the Cubs swept the St. Louis Cardinals, 3-2 and 11-1. In Cleveland, Jones as player-manager for the Chicago White Sox, earned a split with the Naps with an 8-2 win in the opener before losing 5-2 in the second game.
In Philadelphia, Magee and the Phillies split a doubleheader with the first-place New York Giants, winning the opener 2-0 and dropping the nightcap, 6-3. And in Pittsburgh, Ritchey and the Pirates swept the visiting Cincinnati Reds, 8-2 and 8-1.
But the headline of the day originated in Boston at Huntingdon Avenue Baseball Grounds — Fenway Park wasn’t built until 1912 — where the Philadelphia Athletics swept the Boston Americans. After winning the first game, 5-2, the A’s needed 20 innings to finally beat the hosts, 4-2.
Waddell, who got the final two outs in the first game to get the win, started the second game … and kept on pitching.
And never left the game.
Waddell went all 20 innings and outdueled another Hall of Famer by the name of Cy Young.
Waddell’s battery mate and one of his best friends and roomie Shrecongost put in what’s believed to be the most impressive day of work as a catcher in pro baseball … ever. He caught all 29 innings.
Here’s the Independence Day scene 115 years ago and how those seven area players performed:
THE WORLD — The main world headline was the two-year war between Russia and Japan and then a Russian revolution. U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, just entering his first full term, mediated the peace treaty in Portsmouth, N.H., in September.
THE NATION AND AREA — There were 45 states in the Union — New Mexico, Arizona, Hawaii and Alaska were still territories — and the population count stood at 83.8 million. Today’s population is 331 million.
In Jefferson and Clarion counties, the numbers were very similar to today’s statistics, even more populous as in Jefferson, the population was between 59,000 and 63,000 (1900 and 1910 census counts) while Clarion stood between 34,000 and 36,000. Today’s numbers have Jefferson and Clarion at 38,000 and 43,000 respectively.
The day after Independence Day saw coverage of the celebration carnage nationwide with accidents with fireworks and other explosive devices.
The Boston Globe reported that early returns from all sections of the country totaled nearly 1,700 casualties and 46 deaths. “The giant cracker and the toy cannon were responsible for many serious injuries and the ‘gun that wasn’t loaded’ was another source of mischief.’”
In 1905, around 78,000 vehicles were registered in Pennsylvania, which had a population of 6.9 million.
In other notable statistics, the average size of a family was around five and the annual family income was $827.19. A dollar back then is worth around $29 today, to put things into a little more perspective.
BASEBALL BACK THEN — Major League Baseball consisted of 16 teams in the American and National Leagues, which were separate entities. The AL came into existence in 1901 and the World Series was initiated in 1903 with no World Series occurring in 1904. So the 1905 season was looking for it second Fall Classic to actually happen.
In the National League: New York Giants, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Beaneaters (Doves in 1907, Rustlers in 1911, then finally Braves in 1912 through 1952 when they moved to Milwaukee and then 1966 when they landed in Atlanta for good), and Brooklyn Superbas (eventually Robins and then Dodgers for good by 1932).
In the American League: Philadelphia Athletics, Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers, Boston Americans (Red Sox by 1908), Cleveland Naps (Indians by 1915), New York Highlanders (Yankees by 1912), Washington Senators and St. Louis Browns.
Some rule changes were fairly new:
— The distance from the mound to home plate was moved back five feet to the current length of 60 feet, 6 inches in 1893.
— In 1901, the NL adopted the foul strike rule where the first two fouls counted as strikes and then didn’t count. Prior to that, no fouls counted as strikes. The AL adopted the rule in 1903.
— In 1904, the height of the mound was limited to as high as 15 inches than the level of baselines but could be changed under that height. Then in 1950, the height was mandated to stay at 15 inches. Then after 1968, the mound was lowered to 10 inches.
— The sacrifice fly rule was adopted in 1908, the same year shinguards for catchers were re-introduced.
— Not until 1910 were baseballs made with a lighter cork center. Prior to that, the center was a hard rubber core. And balls were replaced infrequently during games.
— Thus, we were in the early stages of what historians call the Dead Ball Era from 1900 until Babe Ruth started hitting home runs in 1919. From 1901 through 1918, MLB teams owned a .254 batting average with 3.9 runs, 8.4 hits and 0.15 home runs per game. But while the numbers appear pitching dominant, the strikeout rate was much, much lower than today’s game, ranging anywhere from teams striking out 3 to 4 foes per game.
Today? Well, in 2019 teams batted .252 with 4.8 runs, 8.65 hits and a whopping all-time high 1.38 home runs per game and 8.81 strikeouts per game, also an all-time high.
In 1905, team rosters weren’t filled with relievers much at all. Teams used an average of about nine pitchers all season. Teams hit a home run once every seven or eight games and nobody in either league hit more than nine home runs.
In a 16-team league, 16 pitchers won 20 or more games, 21 threw 300 or more innings and pitchers completed about 80 percent of their starts. Those numbers in 2019: Two 20-win pitchers, 15 threw over 200 innings and none over 223, and pitchers completed 45 games (out of 4,858) all season.
Teams haven’t averaged over a stolen base per game since 1916 and in 1905, 55 players stole 20 or more bases. Last year, in a 30-team league that number was 21.
There’s the context. Here are the stories:
JULY 4, 1905
DOUBLEHEADER HOLIDAY — From the beginning of the modern era, at least until the 1960s, baseball scheduled doubleheaders on the Memorial Day, July 4th (unless it was on a Sunday) and Labor Day. Today, there aren’t any scheduled doubleheaders.
Back in the pre-lighted parks days, doubleheaders started with a late-morning game, then an afternoon contest as they were called in the papers. So on July 4, 1905, there were 16 games and some of them dandies.
THE RUBE AND OSSEE SHOW — The Athletics were on the road for a twinbill against the Boston Americans and it was certainly a memorable one in the “Hot July sun,” reported the Boston Globe.
In the first game, the A’s broke a 2-2 tie with three runs in the top of the eighth to win 5-2. Waddell, the third of three pitchers, got the final two outs in the bottom of the ninth in what by today’s standards would be a save. But Waddell was credited with his 15th win of the season.
Schrecongost started and batted eighth, going 0-for-4.
In the nightcap, or afternoon game, it turned out to be a marathon showdown between two Hall of Fame starters in Waddell and Cy Young of Boston.
Young was already 38, but still had six years remaining in his career. He was the oldest pitcher in the Majors by three years and only four players were older.
Waddell, 28, was a legendary flake, or nut case, or one of the most eccentric players who ever played the game. And he was a big rival of Young.
The year before, Young threw the second of his three no-hitters in what was a perfect game against the Athletics. Waddell had taunted him in a previous matchup, calling him “old man,” but the usually reserved Young fired back after tossing the perfecto.
“How did you like that one, you hayseed?” he said after throwing baseball’s first perfect game from 60 feet, 6 inches.
Boston had two other Hall of Famers in the lineup that day — third baseman Jimmy Collins and left fielder Jesse Burkett, in his 16th and final season.
The Athletics had four Hall of Famers in the dugout, three of them pitchers with Waddell, Eddie Plank and Chief Bender, and owner/manager Connie Mack. Plank started the first game and Bender appeared as a pinch-hitter.
In the bottom of the first, the Americans scored their only runs of the game. Kip Selbach singled, moved to second on Freddy Parent’s bunt and scored when Burkett “hit the bleachers in left for two bases.” Chick Stahl then doubled in Burkett, which the Boston Globe felt should have been a single and error on A’s leftfielder Bris Lord.
That was it for the Americans on the scoreboard. They finished with 15 hits, but Waddell was stingy in the clutch. He also walked four but stranded 17 Boston runners. The hosts had more than one chance to score again.
In the fourth, a Waddell throwing error on a pickoff attempt to get Bob Unglaub at first pushed the runner to third with two outs, but Waddell got an inning-ending groundout.
Parent was on second in the fifth inning with two outs, but Burkett lined out to Danny Hoffman in center.
Boston’s biggest threats came in the eighth and 10th. In the eighth, Parent tripled over Lord’s head in left to lead off the inning, but Waddell whiffed Burkett, Stahl and got Unglaub to fly out. Then in the 10th after two outs, Burkett singled and Stahl doubled, but Unglaub’s fly to deep center was pulled in by Hoffman near the fence.
Boston failed to get a runner to second until the bottom of the 20th. Down now 4-2, Unglaub doubled to deep center, but Waddell secured a long day and a second win by getting Collins on a popup and Hobe Ferris to fly out deep to Lord in left to end the game.
Meanwhile, the A’s — who didn’t draw a walk off Young the entire game and had three two-out singles the first five innings — didn’t tie the game until the top of the sixth when the eventual AL home run champion Davis ripped his third homer of the season and first since June 16. Davis led the league with eight homers and it was the second of four straight years he led the league in round-trippers, his totals being 10, 8, 12 and 8, making up 38 of his 75 homers hit over his 22-year-career.
Davis’ drive over Stahl’s head in center was a “clean” home run, the Globe reported. It’s likely it didn’t go over a fence.
Shrecongost, who went 2-for-8 in the second game, doubled with one out in the seventh but was stranded a third after Young got Waddell on a groundout and Lord on a flyout.
In the top of the 14th, Lave Cross reached on one of six Boston errors, but was stranded at third. Shrecongost doubled for the second time in the top of the 15th but didn’t go any further.
In the top of the 19th, Hoffman reached on another Boston error and Davis was hit by a pitch to put two on with no outs. Cross fouled out trying to bunt the runners over, then Hoffman was thrown out at the plate when Socks Seybold grounded out to Collins at third.
Finally, someone scored in the top of the 20th, the A’s taking advantage of more Boston miscues. Danny Murphy reached on an error by Collins. The ground ball was “fumbled by Jimmy as if he was tired and hungry, which no doubt he was,” Boston Globe wrote. Young hit John Knight on the head with a pitch and Knight was replaced by Monte Cross.
Shrecongost popped up a bunt between first base and the pitcher’s mound and it was misplayed by the first baseman Ferris, who hesitated thinking Young might have a chance to make a play on the ball. With the bases loaded and one out, Waddell grounded to Parent at shortstop. Parent fumbled the ball, giving him no chance to throw home to get Murphy, although he threw out Waddell.
Young whiffed Lord for the second out before Hoffman singled in Shrecongost. Young got a forceout to end the inning.
In Boston’s last chance in the bottom of the 20th, Unglaub doubled to deep center with one out, but Waddell got Collins to pop up to shortstop and Ferris to fly out on a deep drive to Lord in left field.
“Wild throwing and weak hitting” cost Boston wrote the Globe. “Mack’s brains helped out wonderfully in the second game, and Boston never had the Quakers guessing once, while the visitors continually had Boston on the frying pan.”
And of course, some hometown commentary from the Globe.
“Waddell was allowed to balk as he liked, making a preliminary motion as if going to pitch and then throwing to first base, a clear violation of the written rules.”
Waddell’s line as he improved to 16-4: 20 innings, 15 hits, two earned runs, 11 strikeouts and four walks. 79 batters faced meaning he had to have thrown over 300 pitches.
Young’s line as he fell to 7-10: 20 innings, 12 hits, four runs, the final two runs unearned with nine strikeouts and no walks.
The combined game length of the doubleheader: 5 hours, 14 minutes. The 20-inning nightcap went 3 hours and 24 minutes.
Shrecongost’s 29 innings of catching saw him likely receive around 475 pitches. He led the AL in games at catcher, starts, complete games and innings. He threw out a league-average of would-be base stealers at 44 percent (102 of 190 were successful).
While Waddell and the A’s went on to the World Series — well, Waddell did not pitch and more on that later — Young suffered his first losing season at 18-19, although his stats were impressive as he compiled a 1.82 earned runs average over 320 innings while allowing just 248 hits and walking only 30 batters. His WHIP (walks and hits allowed per inning) was a career-low .867. Young’s Americans finished fourth at 78-74.
His career over after the 1911 season, Young still holds the all-time mark in eight different categories, including wins (511) and losses (315), games started (815), complete games (749) and batters faced at 29,565. That’s over 4,000 more than No. 2 Pud Galvin. All of those records are probably unbreakable.
EASON SPINS A RARE GEM — The 26-year-old Brookville native Eason lived in his hometown until age 16. He broke into the bigs with the Chicago Orphans of the NL in 1900 and he was on his fourth and final team of his six-year career in 1905.
Eason wasn’t in the majors in 1904, but he made 27 starts with the Superbas, who along with the Boston Beaneaters were the worst two teams in the NL. Eason got the ball for the first game of the twinbill at Washington Park in Brooklyn, which didn’t have Ebbetts Field around for another eight years.
Eason scattered seven hits and walked four while striking out two. He improved to 2-13 with his first win since April 13 when he also blanked the Beaneaters. He ended a streak of 12 straight losses.
In his previous start in June 29 at home against the New York Giants, Eason lost to Christy Mathewson in an 11-1 rout, getting chased after three innings of work, allowing eight hits, four walks and seven runs.
In that game, Giants subbed in Archibald “Moonlight” Graham late in the game. He didn’t get to bat in what was his only game as a Major Leaguer. Graham was used in J.P. Kinsella’s “Field of Dreams” 1982 novel about Joe Jackson. In the 1989 movie adaptation, Graham was played by Burt Lancaster.
For Eason, the season ended at 5-21 as he threw 207 innings and posted a 4.30 ERA. In his final season with the Superbas in 1906, Eason actually threw a no-hitter against the Cardinals on a St. Louis day that apparently reached 102 degrees.
“I wasn’t supposed to pitch,” recalled Eason in a 1951 interview in the Indiana Gazette when he returned to his native state for the Western Pennsylvania Old Timbers Baseball Reunion. “But at the last minute i got the nod because the pitcher slated to work was sick. I hadn’t slept too well the night before and hadn’t had anything to eat. But I put a few cabbage leaves under my cap to keep me cool and went to work.”
Eason wound up going 36-73 in 125 games before retiring and eventually landing back in the bigs as a NL umpire from 1911 through 1916, calling nearly 1,000 games and not backing down from the intimidation from managers and players that was common to that era.
Eason ejected 80 players, coaches or managers in his MLB run, including 28 in 1914 alone.
PIRATES SWEEP REDS AT EXPOSITION PARK — In 1905, Forbes Field was four years away from being built and Exposition Park was located in the vicinity of the North Shore stadiums where PNC Park and Heinz Field now sit.
The Pirates were an NL contender and their sweep of the Reds, 8-2 and 8-1, improved their record to 43-27, seven games behind the Giants and one ahead of the Cubs and 1 1/2 ahead of the Phillies.
Ritchey, the second baseman, was legendary shortstop Honus Wagner’s double play partner for seven years from 1900 through 1906. Ritchey, 31 like Wagner, helped the Pirates win NL titles in 1901, 1902 and 1903, losing to Boston in the first World Series in 1903. He hit .255 with 29 doubles in 1905 and was a .273 lifetime hitter with 1,619 hits in 13 seasons overall.
Ritchey, nicknamed “Little All Right,” batted seventh in both games against the Reds. He was 2-for-4 with an RBI single in the first game while going 0-for-2 with two walks an and RBI in the nightcap.
He was the prototypical infielder for his time and before Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski came along, Ritchey was considered the Pirates’ greatest second baseman who was known as a clutch hitter as was Mazeroski, of course.
“(Ritchey) was the best man I ever saw in picking up ground balls between the bounces. Nothing seemed to fool him,” Wagner once said.
The Pirates never could catch the Giants, getting as close as five games when they took three of four in New York two weeks later, but wound up 96-57, in second place nine games behind the NL champion Giants and four ahead of the Cubs.
The Pirates finished third, second and second the next three years before winning the NL with 110 victories in 1909 and beating the Tigers in the World Series. That was also Ritchey’s final season as he appeared in 30 games with the Boston Beaneaters.
SHORTY SLAGLE PRESERVES SWEEP — The Worthville native has a plaque honoring him in the small borough located between Brookville and Punxsutawney. He played on two World Series champion Chicago Cubs teams in 1907 and 1908, but he and Cubs weren’t quite there yet in 1905.
The weather and holiday mood was reported by the Chicago Tribune:
“Brief and hurried showers butted into both games, but succeeded only in keeping down the attendance, which was large considering the threatening attitude of the elements all day. Noise was the feature of both games, as the fans went out well supplied with explosives of all kinds and found plenty of opportunity to use them in celebrating the double victory.”
Hosting the Cardinals at the West Side Grounds — Wrigley Field was built in 1914 — the Cubs won 3-2 and 11-1. Slagle led off and played center field in both games. In the first game, he was 1-for-4 with a run scored in the first inning after beating out an infield hit. At 5-foot-7, 144 pounds, Slagle was another example of the era. Speed, bunting and defense was his specialty.
Slagle made the play of the game in the ninth, turning a catch into a game-ending double play.
“Slagle dashed diagonally back toward Blue Island (a suburb of Chicago) and arrested the thing in mid-air,” the Tribune wrote. “Both runners were on their way home and it was an easy task to double up Grady before he could get back to first, ending the game.”
In the second game, the Cubs roughed up the Cardinals’ 35-year-old future Hall of Famer Kid Nichols. Slagle was 1-for-3 with two walks and three runs scored in the rout.
“Someone touched off a whole bunch of fireworks in the seventh inning and by the time the smoke had been blown from the scene of the accident, the Cubs scored five runs,” reported the Tribune.
The Cubs’ sweep moved them to 42-28 and a game behind the Pirates in third place, but that’s where they’d stay as they finished 1905 with a 92-61 record. Slagle wound up hitting .269 with a team-high 96 runs scored and 27 stolen bases
Slagle and the Cubs reached the World Series in 1906 after winning 116 games, but were beaten in six games by the cross-town rival White Sox. Slagle played in 127 games, but was not active for the postseason with an injury. The Cubs won 50 of their final 58 games before being shocked in the Series by the White Sox.
In 1907, the Cubs won the NL again with 107 victories and swept the Tigers in the World Series. Slagle hit .273 in the series, stealing six bases. He started in center for the Cubs in 1908, but wasn’t around again by the World Series that the Cubs won again in five games, limited to 104 games by an arm injury in what was his final season in the bigs.
Slagle played in exactly 1,300 games over 10 seasons, hitting .268 with 274 stolen bases. In 1902, he swiped 41 bases, second in the NL only to Honus Wagner.
“I wasn’t much of a hitter and some seasons I used to get as many bases on balls as I did hits,” said Slagle in a 1944 interview. He was exaggerating because he never did. “I was only 5-foot-6 and batted left-handed and when I crouch over the plate, there wasn’t much for a pitcher to throw at.
“In fact, I used to walk so often that (former teammate) Carl Lundgren, one of our pitchers, once said that I was the only player he saw who stole first base.”
In 2007, through the effort of another Worthville native Randy Raybuck, Slagle was memorialized with a plaque in the middle of town and it was “dedicated to the memory of a country boy who made his mark on the world.”
MAGEE FACES MIGHTY GIANTS — The Phillies hosted the first-place Giants in front of a combined 30,000 fans at the Baker Bowl.
In the morning game, what looked to be a mismatch turned into an upset win for the Phillies, who beat Christy Mathewson, 2-0, as journeyman pitcher Jack Sutthoff tossed a three-hitter. Magee, a 20-year old in his second year with the Phillies, batted fifth and played left field. He was 0-for-4 with strikeout against Mathewson.
In the nightcap, the Phillies faced another future Hall of Fame pitcher in Joe McGinnity and lost 6-3 as Magee was 1-for-4 with a double.
The split put the Phillies 40-27 and in fourth place, just behind the Cubs and Pirates, and that’s where they wound up, in fourth at 83-69.
Magee was known as a five-tool player in his 16-year career that saw him hit .291 with 2,169 hits and 441 stolen bases. His best years were the first 11 with the Phillies. In 1905, he hit .299 with a team-high 180 hits and 98 runs batted in.
Magee’s was even better in 1910 where he won the NL batting crown (.331) while also leading the league in runs (110) and RBIs (123), a likely MVP season had there been such an award. In 1914, Magee led the NL in hits (171), doubles (39) and RBIs again (103) while hitting .314.
Magee finished his career with three years with the Boston Braves and then the Reds from 1917 through 1919, getting a couple of at-bats in the World Series against the Chicago White Sox what was the “Black Sox” scandal that year.
Magee’s reputation wasn’t a great one, called one of the “crabs” of the league during his prime.
One story on Magee’s career is titled, “Sherry Magee, Psychopathic Slugger.”
JONES, WHITE SOX STAY ATOP AL — A Shinglehouse (Oswayo Valley area) native, Jones found himself a key player and also manager for the Chicago White Sox, who finished no lower than third in the American League from 1903-08, Jones’ five years as a player/manager with the club.
While the White Sox’s first World Series title was a year away, they gave the Athletics a run for the 1905 title. Their doubleheader split with Cleveland — 8-2 win and 5-2 loss in the nightcap at League Park kept them in a first-place tie with the Naps at 39-22, 1 1/2 games ahead of third-place Philadelphia.
Jones was 1-for-4 with a double, walk, run scored and run batted in in the first game batting in the leadoff spot and playing center field. He was 1-for-4 with an RBI single in the nightcap. At that point, Jones was hitting .191, but rallied to finish the season at .245 with 17 doubles, 12 triples and 20 stolen bases.
The White Sox and A’s were tied for first place with 11 games games to go, but lost two out of three to the A’s in late September to fall behind two games behind the A’s with seven games remaining. They finished 4-3 while the A’s were 5-2 to beat them for the title by two games.
Jones played three more seasons with the White Sox, hitting .230 with 26 stolen bases for the 1906 World Series “Hitless Wonders” champs who upset the 116-win Cubs in six games. Jones wasn’t much of a factor, hitting .143 (3-for-21).
Jones, a highly regarded manager in his era especially with the 1906 title on his resume and a shrewd businessman outside the sport, eventually returned to baseball after a six-year hiatus to manage St. Louis in the new Federal League in 1914-15 and then the St. Louis Browns in the American League from 1916-18. He owned a .540 winning percentage in 10 years of managing.