On a mid-August Sunday afternoon, the Baltimore Terrapins arrived at Weeghman Park (the future Wrigley Field) to take on the Chicago Chi-Feds in the first of a four-game series. Ten days earlier, Baltimore had finished a 13-game homestand by beating the Chi-Feds two out of three to join Chicago atop the Federal League standings. However, the Terps then took to the road and won only two of six games (with three losses and a tie) against the Indianapolis Hoosiers before being swept by the Kansas City Packers.
Now tied for third place, skipper Otto Knabe’s Baltimore team was desperate for a win. Meanwhile, manager Joe Tinker’s Chicago squad had been clinging to first place since the beginning of July, with never more than a four-game lead. Tinker handed the ball to Rankin Johnson, a rookie right-hander who had just joined the Federal League club two weeks earlier, after spending the first half of the 1914 season with the Boston Red Sox.1 Knabe countered with southpaw Bill Bailey, who was also making just his third start of the season.2
The batting hero of the game was Johnny Bates, another player who was on the merry-go-round of teams in 1914. He started the season with the Cincinnati Reds, was released on July 8, and signed with the Cubs two days later. However, the National League club released him on August 1, and he was signed by Baltimore on August 6. He enjoyed instant success in the new Federal League, coming into this game batting .353 with an on-base percentage of .476.
Both pitchers kept their respective opponents in check, and the first five innings saw nothing but zeros on the scoreboard. In the fourth frame, the fans witnessed a strange plate appearance. According to C.E. Sparrow of the Baltimore Sun, Terps third baseman Jimmy Walsh took a called strike that he “did not like and stepped out of the box. Johnson put over a strike and then a ball. Walsh was still out of his position. Walsh got into the box just as the next ball was crossing the plate. In swinging he slipped and hurt his injured left knee.”3 This forced Knabe to replace him with Enos Kirkpatrick, who grounded the next pitch back to Johnson for the out.
Then came the top of the sixth. Johnson retired Vern Duncan, bringing Bates to the plate. Johnson tried to get his fastball past Bates, but Bates “landed on the sphere with all his force, and it traveled high and far,”4 toward the right-field bleachers, causing “a hundred or more fans [to rise] as one to catch the ball as they saw it coming in their direction.”5 As Bates trotted around the bases, the hometown fans groaned, but by the time he reached second, “the spectators found themselves and vigorously applauded, continuing until the former Cub reached the dugout. The band, for there was one, was too amazed to strike up any tune.”6 It was Bates’s only home run of the season for Baltimore (he had hit two with Cincinnati).
The Chi-Feds tried to respond with a rally in their half of the inning. Johnson led off and grounded out to Knabe at second base. Al Wickland stroked a single to right field. Harry Fritz followed with another single, also into right field, advancing Wickland to third. Dutch Zwilling hit a comebacker to the mound. Bailey fielded it and threw to third, trying to get Wickland, but the runner made it back safely. With the bases loaded, Bailey “then pulled himself together,”7 striking out Art Wilson swinging. Wilson returned to the dugout and threw his bat. Austin Walsh wasted the opportunity when he went down looking at strike number three.
Baltimore threatened again in the top of the eighth. Benny Meyer singled with one down. Duncan bunted Johnson’s offering and then beat out the throw. Meyer never stopped running and an alert first baseman Fred Beck fired across the diamond to third baseman Fritz, who “caught Meyer by an eyelash”; the rally was then stifled when Bates was retired.
The real excitement of the game took place in the bottom of the eighth. With one out, Fritz walked. Zwilling fouled off the first pitch by Bailey. Home-plate umpire Charles Van Sickle tossed a new ball to Bailey, and Zwilling re-entered the batter’s box. Jimmy “Bruno” Block, a catcher for the Chi-Feds, was coaching first base, and he started yelling at Van Sickle that Bailey “had soiled”8 the new ball.
Van Sickle stepped behind the batter and raised his hands to stop play just as Bailey delivered the pitch to Zwilling. Suddenly, “there was a crack, a flash, and two runs were over the plate, the ball being driven into the right field bleachers,”9 to almost the same spot where Bates’s homer had landed. Manager Knabe raced to home plate, objecting that time had been called, and therefore the ball was out of play when hit. Knabe demanded that Zwilling return to the batter’s box. Tinker sprinted out of his dugout and “jumped into the thick of the battle of words and said there was nothing doing.”10
Van Sickle called to Monte Cross, the other umpire, to hold a conference. Charles Weeghman, president of the Chi-Feds team, came onto the field and backed up his manager “when Joe swore he would not continue unless the two runs were allowed to score.”11 However, league President James Gilmore was also present at the game, sitting right behind home plate. Both sides continued to argue and “something like 4,000 fans were howling for gore in the stands.”12 Finally, as Weeghman pleaded for a solution to the dispute, Gilmore told his umpire to stand firm. The umpire ordered Zwilling back into the batter’s box. Weeghman weakened but told Tinker to play the game under protest. After the game, Gilmore said that “Umpire Van Sickle was correct in his ruling, but had he been umpiring he would have forfeited the game.”13 Tinker did protest, but, according to the Baltimore Sun, “there is no danger of Gilmore throwing out the contest, for he backed up his umpire.”14
So, after close to 25 minutes, Zwilling stepped back into the batter’s box, and Bailey resumed pitching. What happened next could only have infuriated Tinker more, as the Terrapins escaped any damage with a strike-’em-out-throw-’em-out double play. As Bailey fanned Zwilling, Fritz tried to steal second base, and catcher Fred Jacklitsch threw a strike to shortstop Mickey Doolin, who applied the tag on Fritz for the final out of the inning. The Chi-Feds went quietly in the ninth, three up and three down, with Bailey striking out Beck for the game’s final out.
For Baltimore, “Bailey’s twirling was sensational.”15 He set a personal season high with 12 strikeouts. He scattered four singles and two walks in earning his first win of the campaign. The top of the Terrapins’ order, all outfielders, dished out most of Baltimore’s offense. Meyer was 3-for-4, Duncan was 2-for-4, and Bates was 1-for-3 with the game-winning blast. For Chicago, Johnson pitched well enough to win, but his record fell to 2-1. Player-managers Knabe and Tinker each went hitless in three at-bats.
Interestingly, both teams had the next day off, and according to the Baltimore Sun, “some of the players probably will take in the American League game.”16 Zwilling exacted a little revenge in the Chi-Feds’ next game (August 18), homering against Baltimore in a 5-4 loss. His 16 round-trippers for the season led all Federal League sluggers. Zwilling played parts of four seasons in the majors; he spent 1910 with the Chicago White Sox (American League), 1914 and 1915 with the Chicago Chi-Feds, and 1916 with the Chicago Cubs. He finished his career swatting 30 home runs for Chicagoland fans.
In addition to the sources mentioned in the Notes, the author consulted baseball-reference.com and retrosheet.org.
1 On July 28, 1914, Johnson was traded by the Red Sox (with Fritz Coumbe and Ben Egan) to the Cleveland Naps for Vean Gregg. He then jumped to the Chi-Feds, making his first start for Chicago on August 8.
2 Bailey played for the St. Louis Browns from 1907 through 1912 but then did not pitch again in the majors until August 1914.
3 C.E. Sparrow, “Bates’ Homer Wins It,” Baltimore Sun, August 17, 1914: 6.
8 Handy Andy, “Tinx Drop Game; Only Run Homer,” Chicago Tribune, August 17, 1914: 13.
9 “Near Riot Halts Chicago Federal Game Half Hour,” Quad-City Times (Davenport, Iowa), August 17, 1914: 9.
11 Handy Andy.