August 6, 1908: Cardinals’ Johnny Lush twirls rain-shortened no-hitter in 6 innings
The highlights for the St. Louis Cardinals had thus far in 1908 been few and far between. Skipper John McCloskey’s squad quickly fell into the NL basement and had occupied the last spot uninterrupted since July 10. They had dropped nine of their first 10 games on a four-city road swing in the Northeast to fall to 31-63, the worst record of the 16 big-league teams and 26½ games behind the front-running Pittsburgh Pirates. Rain in Brooklyn had forced the postponement of the third of a four-game set, setting up a doubleheader on August 6 against manager Pasty Donovan’s seventh-place Brooklyn Superbas (35-57).
On another dark and gloomy day in the City of Churches, only 1,000 spectators tested the ominous skies and came out for a Thursday afternoon of the national pastime at Washington Park, located in the Park Slope neighborhood.
Toeing the rubber from the Cardinals’ eight-man staff was 22-year-old Johnny Lush. The slightly-built 5-foot-9, 160-pound southpaw debuted as the big leagues’ youngest player, just 18 years old with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1904. Touted as a potential two-way star, he batted .276 in 369 at-bats while chasing flies in the outfield, but lost all six of his decisions on the mound.
He broke through with an 18-win campaign in 1906 and also started 24 games in the field. That season was highlighted by an overpowering no-hitter with 11 punchouts against the Superbas at Washington Park on May 1. Acquired by the Cardinals in a trade in mid-1907, Lush was 5-11 so far in 1908, but had lost six of his last seven decisions.
On the mound for the Trolley Dodgers was George Bell, a tall 6-footer from south-central New York state, who went 8-16 as a 32-year-old rookie the previous year. He had tossed a stellar seven-hit shutout against the Pirates in his last outing to improve his record to 2-6 in 1908.
After Bell breezed through the first, whiffing two, the Superbas’ leadoff hitter, rookie Harry Pattee, drew a walk. Standing 5-feet-9 and weighing just 149 pounds, Pattee stole second, moving into scoring position with no outs and setting the tone for the game. With two outs and two strikes on cleanup hitter Tim Jordan, Pattee broke for third. According to the Brooklyn Standard Union, “he was on the bag” when home plate umpire Bill Klem, the game’s only arbiter, called him out in a decision for which he was castigated by the local press.1
The Cardinals rallied with two outs in the third. Though his experiment as a flychaser was over, Lush was still adept with the bat and singled down the first-base line for the game’s first hit and the Cardinals’ initial baserunner. Al Shaw followed with a single to right and Bobby Byrne, who entered the game batting .186, walked to fill the bases.
With a chance to give the Cardinals a rare lead, Red Murray lofted what the St. Louis Globe-Democrat described as an “easy fly” to Jordan at first.2 The Post-Dispatch waxed poetic that Murray “tried to puncture a rain cloud above the ball park.”3 Nonetheless on what should have been a routine and final out of the frame, Jordan “lost a towering soarer in the dark clouds and a feisty wind at the most crucial point,” reported the Brooklyn Eagle.4 En route to leading NL first basemen in errors for the third straight season, Jordan misjudged the ball, which landed behind him and in fair territory, according to the Brooklyn Times.5 Two runs scored while Byrne reached third.
Brooklyn newspapers roasted Jordan for the misplay, calling him a “bush leaguer” (Brooklyn Citizen)6 and singlehandedly blaming him for the team’s loss. Only the Eagle came to the defense of the slugger, who would lead the NL in home runs (12) for the second time in three seasons, retorting that some people thought “Murray should have been credited with a hit.”7
With Ed Konetchy at bat, Murray initiated a double steal. Pattee fielded catcher Bill Bergen’s bullet to second and quickly sent it back to him to erase Byrne at the plate to end the inning.
With an array of “puzzling slants,” Bell kept the Cardinals off balance and “deserved to hold the visitors runless,” opined the Standard Union.8 The Cardinals’ only other baserunner was Billy Gilbert, who legged out an infield single in the fifth.
Meanwhile, Lush mesmerized the Superbas with an array of “speedy slants and curves,” reported the Eagle, and yielded “no semblance of a hit.”9 The Post-Dispatch gushed that the host club “could scarcely foul the ball, so cleverly did [it] sail over the plate.”10
Lush’s wildness may have contributed to the Superbas’ failure to connect. He opened the third by issuing his third walk of the game, to Billy Maloney, who was batting a paltry .191 at game time. After Maloney moved up a station on Bell’s sacrifice, Pattee drew another walk. John Hummel’s fly out was deep enough to allow Maloney to scamper to third and Pattee subsequently pilfered second.
With the Superbas a single away from tying the score, Harry Lumley grounded weakly to second to end the inning. The Standard Union dismissed Lush’s pitching, claiming he “didn’t seem to have a thing” and offered a partisan explanation for the Superbas zeroes: “The Donovites hit the ball hard, but every time drove it right at a fielder.”11
As the temperature dropped from about 80 to 70 during the course of the game,12 a rain shower popped up at the end of the fifth inning, forcing umpire Klem to call time and send the players back to their respective dugouts.13
On a now rain-slickened diamond, Bell dispatched the Cardinals in order for the fourth time in six innings. Praised as the offensive “feature of the game” by the Standard Union, Pattee led off the bottom of the sixth with his third free pass and filched his third base in what proved to be a rough day for rookie Jack Bliss, donning the tools of ignorance in his 18th career start. By this time, “it was very dark,” noted the Brooklyn Times and Lush took advantage of the conditions, punching out Hummel and Lumley.14 Brooklyn’s cleanup hitter, big Tim Jordan, came to the plate with a “chance to redeem himself,” opined the Citizen, but grounded meekly back to the mound for the third out.15
“Rain came down in buckets” after Jordan’s out, wrote the Eagle.16 After waiting the required 30 minutes with no change in the downpour, Klem declared the game official [the game time was 58 minutes]. A quarter-hour later, he called off the second game.17 The Standard Union described the field as a “sea of mud,” and noted that “it will take some hustling on the part of [the grounds crew] to get it in good condition” for the Cincinnati Reds series set to start the next day.18
Lush’s walk-filled, six-inning no-hitter propelled the Cardinals to a rare win. It was an “angenehme Überraschung” [a pleasant surprise], reported Die Westliche Post, one of St. Louis’s many German-language dailies, and added sarcastically, “zur Abwechslung einmal ein Spiel gewannen” [for a change they won a game].19
Epilogue: Lush finished the season with an 11-18 record and a 2.12 ERA. In the nadir of the Deadball Era, teams scored an average of just 3.3 runs per game in 1908. The Cardinals tallied a big-league-low 2.4 runs per game, and finished with the worst record (49-105) in the majors.
Lush’s abbreviated no-hitter made him the first pitcher to author no-nos against the same team. He lost that unique record after 85 years when, in September 1991 the Committee for Statistical Accuracy, chaired by Commissioner Fay Vincent amended the definition of a no-hitter to include only those games that last at least nine innings and end with no hits. An estimated 36 abbreviated no-hitters were removed from the ranks, including Lush’s rain-shortened second no-hitter against the Superbas.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author accessed Retrosheet.org, Baseball-Reference.com and SABR.org.
1 “Jordan’s Muff Proves Costly; Lush Twirls No-Hit Game,” (Brooklyn) Standard Union, August 7, 1908: 4.
2 Cardinals Win from Brooklyn,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 7, 1908: 4.
3 Lush Pitches a No-Hitter,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 7, 1908: 10.
4 “Expected Double Victory Turned Into No-Hit Defeat,” Brooklyn Eagle, August 7, 1908: 14.
5 “Tim Jordan’s Muff Gave St. Louis the Victory,” Brooklyn Times, August 7, 1908: 8.
6 “Jordan Worked With the Rain,” Brooklyn Citizen, August 7, 1908: 3.
7 “Expected Double Victory Turned Into No-Hit Defeat.”
8 “Jordan’s Muff Proves Costly; Lush Twirls No-Hit Game.”
9 “Expected Double Victory Turned Into No-Hit Defeat.”
10 Lush Pitches a No-Hitter.”
11 “Jordan’s Muff Proves Costly; Lush Twirls No-Hit Game.”
12 Weather Forecast,” Brooklyn Eagle, August 7, 1908: 5.
13 “Jordan’s Muff Proves Costly; Lush Twirls No-Hit Game.”
14 “Tim Jordan’s Muff Gave St. Louis the Victory.”
15 “Jordan Worked With the Rain.”
16 “Expected Double Victory Turned Into No-Hit Defeat.”
17 “Jordan’s Muff Proves Costly; Lush Twirls No-Hit Game.”
18 “Jordan’s Muff Proves Costly; Lush Twirls No-Hit Game.”
19 “Baseball,” Westliche Post (St. Louis), August 7, 1908: 5.
St. Louis Cardinals 2
Brooklyn Superbas 0
Box Score + PBP:
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