It was a mild spring day, temperatures in the 60s with little chance of rain, as 21,0001 fans filed into Sportsman’s Park. The crowd filled the grandstand but left plenty of empty seats in the bleachers. After two lackluster seasons, the faithful were hoping to see a rejuvenated Browns team in the opening game of the 1925 season. The Browns gambled during the winter and dispatched pitcher Urban Shocker to the Yankees for right-hander Bullet Joe Bush. Bush (17-16 in 1924) was on the mound for the Browns against Indians’ lefty Sherry Smith (12-14).
The fans had barely settled into their seats from the pregame festivities when Indians outfielder Charlie Jamieson launched Bush’s second pitch on a high arc deep into the seats in right field. Jamieson was certainly no power hitter, and this four-bagger was the first of the career-high four he would hit that season. The Cleveland Plain Dealer dubbed it “The Hit Heard ’Round the Circuit.”2Jamieson would finish with just 18 home runs in his career.
Cleveland batted through its lineup and scored three more runs on three singles and errors by Browns first baseman George Sisler and second baseman Marty McManus. In the bottom half of the frame, Smith gave a run back, allowing a single by Gene Robertson and a double by Ken Williams. In the second, Jamieson led off with a single. A sacrifice bunt and a base hit plated him with the Tribe’s fifth run. Smith held the Browns scoreless in the bottom of the inning.
Bush was driven from the hill in the third when he surrendered three hits and two runs to put the Indians up 7-1. Right-hander George Grant came in to relieve and ended the inning with a groundout. The Browns rallied in the bottom of the third. Jack Tobin led off with a double to left. Following with a walk and three singles, the Browns made the score 7-4.
Catcher Glenn Myatt opened the Indians’ fourth with a home run to center field. Two infield errors followed but Grant coaxed a popup and then a double play to end the threat. Tobin singled with one out in the Browns’ half and advanced when an error allowed Robertson to reach base. Both men rode home on a home run from Williams that made the score 8-7. Right-hander By Speece came in to close out the inning.
In the Indians’ fifth, Jamieson singled to lead off the frame. After a steal of second, he came home on a double from Joe Sewell that also drove Grant to the showers. Manager Sisler brought in lefty Ernie Wingard, who quickly retired the side. With Speece on the mound, the Browns bunched an error and three singles to tie the score at 9-9. In just five innings the two teams had amassed 18 runs on 25 hits with the help of six errors.
Wingard retired the side in the top of the sixth. Speece walked the leadoff batter in the Browns’ half and then threw a wild pitch, prompting manager Tris Speaker to go to the bullpen for long and lanky lefty James Edwards. He retired Herschel Bennett on a grounder before catcher Hank Severeid doubled in a run. A walk and two singles plated two more and left runners on the corners. Garland Buckeye answered Speaker’s call to the pen and surrendered a sacrifice fly to Robertson and single to Sisler before getting the third out. The Browns now led 13-9.
Wingard saw Jamieson reach on an error and later issued a walk but held the Indians scoreless in the seventh. McManus led off the St. Louis seventh with a double and went to third on a sacrifice. Severeid smashed a line drive that shortstop Joe Sewell stretched out to catch miraculously. McManus was sure the ball went through and was easily doubled at third.
The Indians’ eighth started innocently enough with a walk. George Burns pinch-hit and lofted a flyball to center fielder Bennett, who muffed the catch. Two singles and a groundout scored three and left a runner on second. With the Browns now up by a single run, Freddy Spurgeon sent a flyball out to center, where Bennett again dropped the sphere. Speaker came to the plate and drove a homer to right that plated three unearned runs and sent Cleveland ahead 15-13.
Dixie Davis took the mound for the Browns in relief. He walked Joe Sewell but struck out Luke Sewell for the second out. Sisler was unable to handle a throw from McManus and Riggs Stephenson reached on the error. A walk to Burns loaded the bases. A single scored two before Davis surrendered the first major-league home run for outfielder Pat McNulty. (He had batted about 400 times previously.) Jamieson singled and McManus let Spurgeon reach on another error. The inning ended when Spurgeon was caught stealing. The Indians scored 12 runs on just six hits.
Five errors in the inning by the Browns were brutal. Bennett’s work in center field was especially abhorrent to the fans. Fan favorite Baby Doll Jacobson would normally have patrolled center, but he was in a salary dispute with owner Phil Ball. The fans chanted for Jacobson during the dismal eighth inning.3 Bennett had entered the game because starter Joe Evans became sick with a high fever.
Cleveland sent Joe Shaute to the hill in the Browns’ eighth and he gave the local fans some hope by walking the first two batters. A groundout and a double play quickly killed any enthusiasm and ended the inning. The Browns sent Ed Stauffer to the mound in the ninth. It was the second appearance of his career. Working like a seasoned veteran, he set down Speaker and the two Sewells. Despite two walks, two passed balls, and two doubles, Shaute held the Browns to a single run in the ninth for the 21-14 win. Ernie Wingard took the loss while Garland Buckeye picked up the victory.
The game ranks in the top 25 of high-scoring major-league games since 1901. The combined 35 runs are the most ever scored in an Opening Day game. The 10 errors by the Browns were not a modern major-league record; several teams had 12. However, to have just three players — McManus (3), Bennett (3) and Sisler (4) — perpetrate the damage is unique. The errors led to 13 unearned runs, which is nowhere near a record. The two teams played again on April 16 with the Browns losing 2-1. They would finish third while the Indians limped to a sixth-place finish.
Baseball-Reference.com has complete play-by-play for the game. baseball-reference.com/boxes/SLA/SLA192504140.shtml, last accessed on October 29, 2018. The local newspapers also included play-by-play in their editions.
1 The St. Louis Star and Times report on the game gave the attendance as 18,000.
2 “When the Indians Defeated St. Louis in the Opener,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 19, 1925: 82.
3 “Tribe Tallies 12 Runs in Eighth to Down Sislerites,” St. Louis Star and Times, April 14, 1925: 17.