Washington skipper Clark Griffith had reason to be confident. The former star pitcher, seven-time 20-game winner, and successful player-manager for three different franchises had transformed the Senators from laughing stock to baseball’s biggest surprise in his first season in the nation’s capital. A charter member of the AL, the Senators had never posted a winning record or finished higher than sixth. Preparing to complete a three-game set with the sixth-place Cleveland Naps (51-61) as part of a three-week homestand, the Senators (69-44) were firmly ensconced in second place, nine games behind the Boston Red Sox. Though the chances of dislodging Boston from their perch seemed slim to none, the Old Fox was not about to give up trying.
Rain the previous day had necessitated a doubleheader on a warm and muggy Tuesday afternoon with temperatures in the mid-80s. Before the twin bill could get underway in the one-year-old steel-and-concrete National Stadium, a controversy erupted when Griffith attempted to jockey for position and pull a fast one. After informing home-plate umpire Tommy Connolly that Lefty Schegg was his starter, Griffith changed his mind when Naps skipper Harry Davis announced that his ace Vean Gregg would start. Griffith quickly recognized that Schegg, a 22-year-old southpaw making his big-league debut, was no match for Gregg, an emerging star coming off 23 wins and an AL-best 1.80 ERA in his rookie campaign. Sensing a disaster, Griffith backtracked and told Connolly that Walter Johnson would start. “Griff forgot the rules,” opined D.C. sportswriter J. Ed. Grillo, “and thought that he could announce Schegg as his pitcher and then send Johnson to the slab.”1
Connelly objected to Griffith’s rules violation and ordered Schegg to the mound. In what proved to be his only big-league start, Schegg retired leadoff batter Buddy Ryan and then saw Griffith approach the mound. The Old Fox yanked him and called on the Big Train. The Senators’ strong suit was their pitching, which eventually led the AL in team ERA (2.69), more than compensating for an average offensive club. Griffith wanted a matchup of aces, especially with his on a historic roll. The 24-year-old was coming off consecutive seasons with 25 wins and entered the ’12 campaign with an 82-78 lifetime slate. Laying claim as the majors’ best hurler, Johnson had won his last 14 decisions, tying Jack Chesbro’s 1904 AL record, and led all big leaguers with 27 wins (7 losses) and seven shutouts. During the streak, which had begun on July 3, the Big Train had made 17 appearances, 11 of which were starts, logged 113 innings, and limited batters to a paltry .177 average.
After Johnson breezed through the first, Gregg walked leadoff batter Clyde Milan and, like Schegg’s, his outing was done. Feeling the pressure to win in the midst of the Naps’ steak of 25 losses in their last 37 games, first-year-skipper Davis felt a victory was unlikely against the Big Train, and pulled his star for “supposedly easier game,” noted sportswriter Joe S. Jackson.2 Jogging in to replace Gregg was 24-year-old Bill Steen, a rookie right-hander with a 5-4 slate as a swingman.
Notwithstanding the manipulation of pitchers, the game unfolded as an unlikely pitching duel. Steen held the Senators hitless through four innings. Howie Shanks led off the fifth with a scorcher to Naps shortstop Roger Peckinpaugh, who corralled the ball near the outfield grass, but his off-balance throw, according to the Washington Post, eluded first baseman Art Griggs and landed near the stands, enabling Shanks to take second.3 Shanks advanced to third on Steen’s wild pitch and then scored the game’s first run on George McBride’s single. After Eddie Foster walked in the sixth, Danny Moeller’s blast to right field “scratched the paint off the scoreboard ads,” reported the Washington Times, for a double.4 Chick Gandil, acquired in a trade with the Montreal Royals of the International League in late May and in his first full season in the majors, hit a blooper into short center, scoring both runners to make it 3-0.
Staked to a three-run lead and given the way Johnson had pitched since the beginning of July, a Senators victory seemed imminent. The “star slinger was great for six innings,” gushed Jackson in the Post, and had yielded only three hits, two of which were scratches.5 Johnson was a different pitcher in the last three innings, when he “seemed to lose everything except a turn of speed,” reported Jackson, and the Naps “threatened to annihilate” him, opined sportswriter William Peet of the Washington Herald.6 Shoeless Joe Jackson, who entered the game batting .382 after posting a .408 average the previous campaign, led off the seventh by belting one “far over Milan’s head [in center field],” according to the Post, and reached third.7 Nap Lajoie, the former skipper after whom the team was named, followed with a single to put the Naps on the board. Three batters later, Lajoie scored on a single by Fred Carisch, who scampered to second when Milan overran the ball.8 With the game-tying run in scoring position, Johnson retired Peckinpaugh to end the threat.
The Big Train helped his own cause on the bottom of the seventh. McBride led off with a scratch single to first, moved up a station on Eddie Ainsmith’s sacrifice bunt, and then reached third on Steen’s wild pitch. Proficient with the bludgeon, Johnson collected one of his 20 RBIs in 1912 by grounding through the box and into center field to give the Nationals, as the club was often called, a 4-2 lead.9
Johnson was “forcing himself to the finish line,” wrote Grillo in the Evening Star.10 With one out in the eighth, Ryan singled. Joe Birmingham followed with another single, but right fielder Danny Moeller made a remarkable play that the Post claimed “probably saved the game.”11 His long and accurate throw to Foster at third nailed Ryan for the second out. Birmingham was subsequently caught trying to swipe second to end the inning. A “combination of bad baserunning and inability to follow up cost the Naps,” declared the Post.12
After Willie Mitchell tossed a one-two-three eighth in relief of Steen, a taxed Johnson took the mound in the ninth facing the heart of the Naps’ order. Shoeless Joe led off with a single. Lajoie, who at age 37 was still a threat and batted .368 in ’12, went for the win instead of sacrificing and popped up. Griggs’s single brought the potential winning run to the plate with only one out. But the ever-cool Johnson retired both Olsen and Carisch on routine flies to Moeller to end the game in 1 hour and 50 minutes.
The Big Train recorded his AL-record-setting 15th consecutive victory and 28th of the season despite yielding 10 hits (his most since a 13-hit complete-game victory over the New York Yankees on May 28 in which he also fanned 10) in 8⅔ innings. He didn’t walk a batter and fanned only three. Three days later he tossed a six-hitter to beat the Detroit Tigers, 8-1, for his 16th straight victory. The streak ended on August 26 when Johnson gave up two runs hurling the final 2⅔ innings of relief in a 4-3 loss to the lowly St. Louis Browns. He finished the season with a 33-12 slate and led the majors with a 1.39 ERA and 303 strikeouts.
Less than a month after Johnson’s record-setting victory, the Boston Red Sox’ Smoky Joe Wood equaled his mark with his 16th straight win. Wood ended the season with a big-league-most 34 victories for the eventual World Series champs.13 As of 2020, Johnson and Wood still held the AL record for most consecutive victories, and were later joined by the Philadelphia Athletics’ Lefty Grove (1931) and the Tigers’ Schoolboy Rowe (1934).
The 1912 season was an extraordinary campaign for winning streaks by pitchers. Johnson and Wood fell short of the New York Giants’ Rube Marquard, who began the season by winning his first 19 decisions, which as of 2020 was still the major-league record for most consecutive victories in one season. Carl Hubbell of the Giants holds the big-league record for most consecutive victories over multiple seasons, stringing together 24 in 1936-1937.
Davis sent Gregg back to the mound in the second game and had the matchup he wanted against his ace. Carl Cashion, a robust 6-foot-2, 200-pounder, was Griffith’s choice. Praised by beat reporter Grillo as the “most promising pitcher on the staff” other than Johnson, the 23-year-old Cashion was in his first full season and had a 5-2 slate (6-7 career) as a swingman.14 Beat writer Peet asserted that Cashion “would be one of the best in the world [if] he could only control the ball.”15 And for one abbreviated game, he could claim he was.
Gregg, who entered the game with a 14-10 slate en route to winning 20 games, came out “like a house afire,” wrote the Washington Times.16 He “had his south side slants working properly,” noted Peet.17 Through five innings, he fanned nine batters, including the side in the fifth; however, he struggled with control in one inning which, along with some shoddy defense, led to his demise.
The bottom of the second commenced innocuously with Gandil whiffing and Ray Morgan being thrown out trying to steal after he had coaxed a walk. Shanks drew another free pass and took a long lead, planning “delayed steal,” wrote Peet.18 Catcher Steve O’Neill rifled a bullet to rookie first baseman Doc Johnston, who had been acquired a week earlier from the New Orleans Pelicans in the Class A Southern Association and was making his first start at first. According to Grillo, Johnston “whirled around and touched the bag,” anticipating that Shanks would slide back, but the speedy rookie was well on his way to second.19 McBride walloped a missile to third, which “nearly knocked the underpinnings off Olson,” reported Peet.20 In an inexplicable move, Ivy Olson took left fielder Buddy Ryan’s return throw and attempted to nab McBride at first, but threw the bill wildly past Johnson, enabling Shanks to saunter home for the game’s first run while McBride advanced to second. The next batter, John Henry, playing in his first game since July 12 after injuring his left knee, doubled, driving in McBride.21
The Senators’ two runs were more than enough for Cashion, who “never looked better,” gushed the Times.22 Errors by McBride at short gave the Naps one baserunner in each of the first two frames. Catcher Henry atoned for the first by erasing Birmingham on an attempted steal. With two outs in the second Olson hit a screecher to McBride, who according to Peet “got in front of the drive, had both hands on the ball, and fumbled” and had no play at first.23 In what proved to be the only potentially tricky scoring decision of the game, Peet noted that all three official scorers ruled unanimously that the play was an error and not a hit. Cashion’s “speed was terrific, his control good,” said the Times.24 The Carolina Curver (Peet’s moniker for the North Carolinian25), walked only one batter, his mound opponent Gregg, in the third.
Rolling along, Cashion tossed his third straight one-two-three inning in the sixth, but didn’t have a chance to finish the game. As reported by the Cleveland Press, the teams had agreed prior to the first game to conclude the second contest early so that the Naps could catch a train to Boston, where they had a game against the Red Sox the next afternoon.26
Cashion’s abbreviated no-no lasted just 65 minutes. He fanned two and faced 20 batters. Over the final six weeks of the season, Cashion proved to be a durable hurler, completing seven of his eight starts; however, he was unable to harness his heaters and curves, walking 7, 8, and 10 batters in three of those distance-going affairs. He concluded the campaign with a 10-6 record and a 3.17 ERA, and completed 13 of 17 starts among his 26 appearances. He walked 103 in 170⅓ innings, which eventually spelled his doom. He made only four more starts for the Senators over the next two seasons, finishing his career with a 12-13 record and one shutout: his no-hitter.
The next truncated no-hitter in the majors was also by a Senators hurler and also took place in Griffith Stadium: Walter Johnson held the St. Louis Browns hitless through seven innings in the rain-shortened first game of a scheduled doubleheader on August 25, 1924. Griffith Stadium witnessed only one regulation no-hitter in its 51-year history (1911-1961) and it came from an unlikely hurler. Swingman Bobby Burke, who made only 88 starts in his 10-year career, defeated the Boston Red Sox, 5-0, on August 8, 1931.
In 1991 Major League Baseball’s Committee for Statistical Accuracy changed the definition of a no-hitter, defining it as a regulation complete game of at least nine innings.27 This definition eliminated 36 shortened no-hitters from the record books, among them Cashion’s and Johnson’s in Griffith Stadium.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author accessed Retrosheet.org, Baseball-Reference.com, SABR.org, and The Sporting News archive via Paper of Record.
1 J. Ed. Grillo, “Griffith’s Team Is on Another Winning Streak,” (Washington) Evening Star, August 21, 1912: 10.
2 Joe S. Jackson, “Johnson Sets New League Record; No-Hit Game Is Pitched by Cashion,” Washington Post, August 21, 1912: 8.
4 Senator, “Johnson and Cashion Make Records at National Park,” Washington Times, August 21, 1912: 10.
6 William Peet, “Johnson Wins Fifteenth; Cashion Allows No Hits,” Washington Herald, August 21, 1912: 6.
9 Johnson collected 547 hits and batted .235 in his career. He knocked in a career-best 20 runs twice: in 1912 and 1925.
13 Both pitchers were remarkable during their record-braking streaks, though Johnson might have been slightly better. He made 19 appearances (12 starts, 7 relief outings), logged 130⅔ innings, yielding 87 hits (.186 batting average), fanned 109, and walked 20. Smoky Joe also made 19 appearances, including 16 starts, logged 145⅔ innings, held opponents to a .219 batting average (114 hits), fanned 122, and walked 30.
16 Washington Times.
22 Washington Times.
24 Washington Times.
25 Washington Times.
26 “Johnson Makes New Record; Naps Tie Old Losing Mark,” Cleveland Press, August 21, 1912: 10.
27 “Close, but No Cigar,” Nonohitters.com (nonohitters.com/near-no-hitters/).
Washington Senators 4
Cleveland Naps 2
Washington Senators 2
Cleveland Naps 0
Box Score + PBP:
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