Pud Galvin stood 5-feet-8 and weighed 190 pounds. Despite that stocky frame, Galvin won 365 major-league games, including a no-hitter for the National League’s Buffalo Bisons against the Detroit Wolverines on August 4, 1884.
Buffalo and Detroit played five games in Detroit from August 2 to 8 and Galvin started four of them. He pitched a one-hit shutout on August 2, the no-hitter on August 4, and a three-hit shutout on August 7. He finished the series with 12 innings on August 8, allowing only an unearned run. Seven days, 39 innings from Galvin, and no earned runs yielded.1
Galvin’s no-hitter on August 4 came under cloudy skies in Detroit with temperatures in the 60s.2 The Bisons entered the game winners of six in a row and 10 of their last 11. The Wolverines arrived losers of five in a row and seven of their last eight.
Billy McLean was the game’s lone umpire. McLean also worked two previous no-hitters: Hugh Daily’s on September 13, 1883, and Larry Corcoran’s on June 27, 1884, just five weeks before Galvin’s.3 He also umpired the first game in National League history, on April 22, 1876, in Philadelphia. McLean was a former boxer who gave boxing lessons to Hall of Famer Cap Anson.4
Detroit batted first, as many home teams did in this era, and went down in order. Buffalo scored once in the bottom of the first on catcher Jack Rowe’s RBI single. The second inning produced the same results, no baserunners for Detroit and a run for Buffalo, this one scoring on an error by Wolverines shortstop Henry Buker.
After Galvin pitched a one-two-three third, the Bisons exploded for eight runs in the bottom of the inning. The rally included six singles, a double, and a misplay by right fielder Stump Weidman that allowed batter Dan Brouthers to round the bases. The Wolverines were set down in order again in the top of the fourth; the Bisons added another run in the bottom of the fourth to go up 11-0.
No Detroit hitters reached base off Galvin in the fifth or sixth, and the third perfect game in major-league history was within reach. Both of the previous perfect games had happened in 1880: Worcester Ruby Legs lefty Lee Richmond pitched one against the Cleveland Blues on June 12 of that year and Providence Grays pitcher John Montgomery Ward threw one against Buffalo five days later. Galvin was the losing pitcher in Ward’s perfect game.
The Bisons scored two runs on four singles in the bottom of the sixth to push their lead to 13-0. Galvin set down the Wolverines in order in the top of the seventh and the top of the eighth. A perfect game was only three outs away.
The Detroit Free Press reported that there was only one play in the first eight innings in which a Wolverines batter came close to reaching base. It’s unclear what inning the play took place, but Buffalo third baseman Deacon White was the fielder who preserved the bid for perfection. Per the newspaper account, Detroit’s Milt Scott “dropped the ball to the left of the plate and would have reached first, but for the wonderfully lively fielding by Deacon White.”5
White spent much of his early career as a barehanded catcher, but in 1884 he was 36 years old, in his 14th major-league season, and had shifted primarily to third base. He played 108 games at third that season and only three games at catcher.
The Bisons added five more runs in the bottom of the eighth on five singles and errors by Detroit second baseman Charlie Bennett and center fielder Ned Hanlon. Buffalo led 18-0 at the end of eight innings.
Detroit pitcher Frank Meinke led off the top of the ninth and was retired for the first out. Galvin was two outs away from a perfect game. The next batter was Buker, who hit a groundball to third base. White scooped it up and made an accurate throw to first, but Brouthers dropped the ball. Buker was safe at first and the perfect-game bid was over.
An error was charged to Brouthers, so Detroit remained hitless. Galvin struck out Chief Zimmer for the second out of the ninth, putting him one out away from a no-hitter. Detroit’s lineup circled back to the top; the day’s leadoff hitter, George Wood, stepped up to bat. Galvin struck him out for his ninth strikeout of the day, clinching the no-hitter.
Eight hundred fans at Detroit’s Recreation Park witnessed Galvin’s no-hitter. The game took 1 hour and 42 minutes to complete.
Galvin’s batterymate that day was Rowe, who caught 65 games for Buffalo in 1884. Rowe’s .943 fielding percentage led the National League that year. He played eight seasons in Buffalo and later managed the Players’ League team there in 1890. Rowe, White, Brouthers, and Hardy Richardson were known as the “Big Four,” the players Detroit wanted to acquire so desperately that they bought the entire Buffalo team for $7,000 in September 1885 in order to get them.6
The day after Galvin’s no hitter, the Buffalo Commercial recapped the game and pointed out that Galvin allowed only one Detroit hit in his complete game earlier in the series, and commented, “The work of this famous ball tosser in these two games is marvellous.”7
The Detroit Free Press blamed the Wolverines more than they credited Galvin, writing, “It may not be much of a feat to shut out without a hit such a lot of weak batters as Detroit has managed to consolidate.” The article’s subheadlines read “SHUT OUT BY 18 TO 0, AND DO NOT EVEN MAKE A BASE HIT” and “The Detroits Suffer the Worst Defeat of This or Any Other Season.”8
The Detroit scribe might have had a point; the Wolverines batted .208 as a team in 1884 and had the fewest hits, runs, and RBIs in the National League that year.
The 18-0 win remains the most lopsided no-hitter in major-league history. The Chicago Cubs came close to matching Buffalo’s blowout in Jake Arrieta’s no-hitter on April 21, 2016, in Cincinnati. The Cubs beat the Reds 16-0 that night.9
Buffalo outscored Detroit 43-3 in the five-game series. The Bisons finished 64-47 that season, in third place, 19½ games behind the National League champion Providence Grays. The Wolverines finished last with a 28-84 record, 56 games out of first.
The no-hitter was a highlight in a season full of highlights for Galvin. He went 46-22 for a .676 winning percentage – the best single-season winning percentage of his career. His 46 wins tied his career high. His 1.99 ERA was the best of his career in years that he pitched a full season. His 636⅓ innings were eclipsed only by the 656⅓ he threw the year before. Galvin started 72 games in 1884 and completed 71 of them. His 12 shutouts that season were his career high. No matter the measurement, 1884 was one of the top seasons in the Hall of Famer’s career.
It was Galvin’s second career no-hitter. His first was on August 20, 1880, in Buffalo’s 1-0 win at Worcester, which was the first no-hitter by a visiting pitcher in major-league history. The rainy weather that day limited the crowd size to “not more than 125 people” and soaked the ball until “it had the consistency of a leather bag filled with jelly. When the ball was hit into the air it immediately flattened like a bullet from a gun on striking the water, and when it fell into a player’s hands the spatty noise was like what we would expect to hear if a flap-jack or mud-pie had fallen from a highth on some hard, flat substance.”10
Galvin pitched 15 seasons in the major leagues and appeared in 705 games. His 365 wins are the fifth most in major-league history and his 646 complete games are the second most.
Despite those totals and a 2.85 career ERA, Galvin was overlooked by various Baseball Hall of Fame committees in the 1940s and 1950s. Buffalo baseball historian Joseph Overfield felt Galvin was deserving of the game’s ultimate honor and wrote articles outlining the pitcher’s achievements. Overfield befriended Galvin’s descendants and organized a campaign that helped Galvin finally get elected to the Hall of Fame in 1965.11
One of the lines etched on Galvin’s plaque in Cooperstown states, “Pitched no-hit games in 1880 and 1884.”
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author used Baseball-Reference.com, Newspapers.com, and Retrosheet.org.
2 AccuWeather, email correspondence with certified consulting meteorologist Steve Wistar, January 4, 2021.
4 John Thorn, “Billy McLean,” Our Game, May 31, 2016, https://ourgame.mlblogs.com/billy-mclean-f66f079efffa?gi=8e69a1356e8c.
5 “SPORTING MATTERS,” Detroit Free Press, August 5, 1884: 8.
6 David Lee Poremba, Baseball in Detroit: 1886-1968 (San Francisco: Arcadia Publishing, 1998), 1.
7 “BASE BALL,” Buffalo Commercial, August 5, 1884.
8 “SPORTING MATTERS.”
9 “Galvin tosses most lopsided no-hitter, 136 years ago today,” NoNoHitters.com, https://www.nonohitters.com/2020/08/04/galvin-tosses-most-lopsided-no-hitter-136-years-ago-today/.
10 “BASE BALL. BUFFALOS 1, WORCESTERS 0.” Buffalo Commercial, August 21, 1880.
Buffalo Bisons 18
Detroit Wolverines 0
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