The Boston Red Stockings squad was one of the original eight teams when the National League formed in 1876.1 In 1883 the team changed its nickname to the Beaneaters,2 and in 1907 changed it once more to the Doves. Up to this point, the NL team’s success was confined to the nineteenth century, with six first-place finishes from 1891 to 1898. Since 1901, when the American League was formed and the city of Boston also hosted an AL team (the Boston Americans, later the Red Sox), the Beaneaters had finished no higher than third. Further, in their previous two seasons (1905-1906) under player-manager Fred Tenney, they lost a total of 205 games, while winning only 100. Tenney skippered the Doves in 1907, but his job was in jeopardy.3
Through its first 11 games of the 1907 season, Boston had limped to a 4-6-1 record, placing the team in fifth place in the NL standings. On April 26 the Doves faced off against the Brooklyn Superbas in the final game of a three-game series, played at Brooklyn’s Washington Park under an overcast sky. The home-team Superbas labored under a last-place 1-7-1 record entering the contest.
Tenney gave the mound duties to left-hander Patsy Flaherty, his third start of the season. He had lost two one-run games in the young season.4 Brooklyn manager Patsy Donovan chose rookie Nap Rucker, a righty who was making just the third appearance of his major-league career. Rucker had also suffered two complete-game defeats in his previous two outings.5
Playing in just his second season in the majors, Johnny Bates was the leadoff batter for Boston. However, in the team’s first 11 games, he had produced an unremarkable .167 (8-for-48) batting average. His slugging percentage was .188; only one of his hits had gone for extra bases, and that was just a double. Things turned around on this day. Bates “opened the game with a triple,”6 but was stranded as Rucker struck out both Tenney and Ginger Beaumont and then retired Del Howard on an unassisted groundout to first baseman Tim Jordan.
In the third inning Bates beat out an infield single, but again the Doves did not capitalize. Neither team managed much offense, so both Flaherty and Rucker had shutouts in order until the bottom of the fourth, when Brooklyn’s Doc Casey hit a ball into the left-center gap, good for two bases. Brooklyn native Emil Batch sacrificed Casey to third, and, an out later, Casey scored on Jack McCarthy’s RBI single to center.
In the top of the fifth, the Doves threatened to tie the score. Flaherty started the inning with a single. Next up was Bates, who “walloped the ball up against the right field fence.”7 Flaherty stopped at third, giving Bates a double, but once more the Boston offense was shut down and both baserunners were left on base. Of note was a sensational one-handed catch by Whitey Alpermann off Tenney’s “low, sinking liner,”8 which saved two runs.
In the bottom of the sixth, consecutive two-out singles by Batch, Jordan, and McCarthy accounted for Brooklyn’s second run of the game. Although he trailed 2-0 after six innings, the Boston Globe reported that Flaherty “had Donovan’s men tied hand and foot.”9 For the most part, the Superbas batters were being held to singles.
In the top of the seventh inning, “the Tenneyites broke forth in a slugging storm, registered four runs by effective hitting, sent pitcher Rucker to the shed out of the rain and cinched the game.”10 Flaherty started the rally with a one-out double into right field. Bates “then gave the fans an awful jolt by raising the ball over the right field fence for the circuit.”11 The Brooklyn Daily Eagle told its readers, “Over the fence went the ball, and with it went another game.”12 The left-handed-batting Bates “met one of Nap’s shoots squarely, and the globule performed a curve onto First street and the game was tied.” Rucker was rattled, as he then walked Tenney. Beaumont singled, and with Howard in the batter’s box, both runners made a successful double steal. This proved fortuitous, as Howard then lined a singled to left, plating Tenney and Beaumont. Howard was retired on the play, but Boston now held a 4-2 lead.
With two outs, the bases empty, and Boston still batting, the rain started coming down. Brooklyn third baseman (and team captain) Casey strolled to the mound and “whispered instructions into Rucker’s ear.”13 If the game could be stopped, the score would revert to the end of the sixth inning, and the Superbas would win. Both teams, as well as the crowd, knew it. Rucker proceeded to allow a base on balls to Al Bridwell.
According to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, “[I]t rained harder and the crowd called on Umpire [Bob] Emslie to call the game.”14 The Brooklyn players also began pleading with the umpire, but to no avail. Tenney then inserted his own strategy into the situation. With two outs, the Doves just needed Bridwell to get out and the inning could proceed to the bottom half, when Boston would try to get Brooklyn out in short order, thereby finishing an inning with Boston in the lead. Tenney “ordered Bridwell to stroll down to second.”15
On the first pitch to Claude Ritchey, Bridwell started walking to second base. Brooklyn catcher John Butler threw to second baseman Alpermann, who caught the ball but refused to tag Bridwell. Bridwell then walked to third, but this time, no throw was made. On the next pitch, Bridwell marched to home plate and Butler had no choice but to tag Bridwell for the final out of the inning. All the while, “Emslie watched the proceedings in calm resignation.”16
In the bottom of the inning, Flaherty walked both Phil Lewis and Butler with none out. The crowd’s screams to call the game now turned to shouts of encouragement for their team. But by this time the rain had lessened in its intensity. Flaherty worked out of the jam and preserved his team’s lead. The game continued.
After an uneventful eighth, Brooklyn had a good chance for a rally in the final frame when relief pitcher Harry McIntire batted and hit the ball down the right-field line for three bases. Unfortunately for the hometown fans, Flaherty retired the side for the victory, his first of the season.
Each team mustered 11 hits, but the outburst in the seventh inning carried the Doves to victory. According to the Boston Globe, “four times [Bates] faced Rucker and toyed with the sphere for a home run, a triple, a double and a single.”17 In addition to Bates’s performance, Beaumont collected three hits and Flaherty helped his own cause by batting 2-for-4. Bates faced McIntire in his fifth at-bat, clouting a long fly ball to center, but Billy Maloney’s “circus catch”18 counted as an out.
With this 4-for-5 performance, Bates’s batting average jumped to .226 and his slugging percentage rocketed to .358. He finished the season batting .260. Interestingly, he hit only one other home run during the 1907 campaign.19
Bates had become the third player in Braves franchise history to hit for the cycle, joining Beaneaters players Herman Long (May 9, 1896, against the Louisville Colonels) and Duff Cooley (June 20, 1904, against the Philadelphia Phillies). His rare feat was also the first time in three seasons that a batter had accomplished hitting for the cycle. (In addition to Cooley, New York Giants outfielder Sam Mertes hit for a reverse natural cycle on October 4, 1904, against the St. Louis Cardinals.)
In addition to the sources mentioned in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com, MLB.com, Retrosheet.org, and SABR.org.
1 The other seven teams were the Chicago White Stockings, the Hartford Dark Blues, the St. Louis Brown Stockings, the Louisville Grays, the New York Mutuals, the Philadelphia Athletics, and the Cincinnati Reds.
3 In 1907 Tenney’s Boston Doves were 58-90, and Tenney was traded to the New York Giants in an eight-player deal (December 13, 1907). He came back to manage the Boston Rustlers in 1911, but a 44-107 finish resulted in the end of his managerial days. (He was released by Boston on March 20, 1912.)
4 The first was a 6-5 loss to Philadelphia Phillies, and the second a 1-0 heartbreaker to the New York Giants.
5 Although Rucker allowed three and two runs, respectively, in his first two starts, his teammates had provided him with a total of two runs support.
6 “By Bunching Their Hits,” Boston Globe, April 27, 1907: 6.
7 Boston Globe.
8 Boston Globe.
9 Boston Globe.
10 Boston Globe.
11 Boston Globe.
12 “Altogether Too Much Bates and Not Enough of Rain,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 27, 1907: 14.
13 Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
14 Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
15 Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
16 Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
17 Boston Globe.
18 Boston Globe.