The Federal League’s Newark (New Jersey) Peppers, in the midst of a four-game winning streak, were hosting the Kansas City (Missouri) Packers for game one in an expected four-game series. The Peppers were doubtless happy to be hosting anyone after coming off a five-city, 21-game road trip.1 Newark dipped to 43-43 after losing seven of the first 10 games, but were now the hottest team in the Federal circuit, going 9-1-1 to finish the tour. The first-place Packers were starting an even more arduous, 26-game sojourn with stops in Newark, Brooklyn, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis that would consume the remainder of August.
The schedule makers had given both teams a couple of days off, then rain wiped out the scheduled series opener on August 6.2 Consequently, Newark hadn’t played since August 2 while KC hadn’t played since the 3rd. Newark, though, was coming off two extra-inning games in Chicago. They beat the Whales 3-2 in 12 innings in the second game of a doubleheader on Sunday, August 1, and whipped them again by the same score the next afternoon although this time it took 16 innings. Peppers starter Earl Moseley went the distance for his 10th win. Both teams were well-rested to start the Saturday afternoon tilt, which as it turned out was a virtue.
The Packers started 28-year-old Gene Packard, possessor of an 8-11 record in two seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, who was, at 20-14 in 1914 and 13-7 so far in 1915, the KC ace. Newark countered with Ed Reulbach, an established star in the National League, where he played nine stellar seasons with the Cubs (136-65, 2.24 ERA, two World Series titles) before being traded to Brooklyn in August 1913. He had a lackluster season-plus with the pedestrian Superbas/Robins but, after being released by Brooklyn in the offseason, signed with Newark. He was one of the big stars in the independent league, one of the players of high quality giving the Feds a major-league luster.
The Peppers struck first with a run in the fifth when third baseman and future big-league manager Bill McKechnie, with one of his three hits in the game, drove in his backstop, Bill Rariden. The Packers came right back with a tally of their own in the top of the sixth. The score remained tied 1-1, each team had a runner thrown out at home and each hurler posted zeroes, inning after inning until the 13th.3 This time it was Kansas City to break through first. After an error by Peppers first baseman Emil Huhn, the Packers left fielder Al Shaw, 0-for-4 with a walk so far, followed with a single. A double by third sacker Bill Bradley and a sacrifice by Art Kruger made it 3-1 KC heading to the bottom of the frame. Would player-manager George Stovall, nursing a two-run lead, put his closer in the game? No, of course not. This was 1915 and the closer and the save were still more than 50 years in the future. Reulbach had pitched 13 innings and it was not shocking when Packard trudged to the Harrison Park4 hill to finish what he’d started.
McKechnie got things going with a one-out single. When shortstop Jimmy Esmond followed with a double, Newark had runners at second and third with just one out. Cleanup hitter and future Hall of Famer Edd Roush, hitting .319, belted a single to left, plating McKechnie. An error by Shaw allowed Esmond to score and Roush to move to second. This set up the first controversy that was to mar the game. Packard walked left fielder Al Scheer, then induced a potential inning-ending double-play grounder from veteran second baseman Frank LaPorte. Scheer was forced but Packers shortstop Pep Goodwin could not make the play on LaPorte. Goodwin claimed interference by the runner and while he argued his case with umpire Spike Shannon, Roush scored the winning run on a close play.5 The visitors, naturally, were none too pleased with this outcome and argued their case vociferously. Too vociferously, in fact, with KC catcher Ted Easterly trying to punch home-plate umpire Jim Johnstone. A “near riot”6 ensued with Newark fans streaming onto the field. It was the third consecutive extra-inning win for Newark, consuming a total of 40⅔ innings. It was the 10th win of the season for Reulbach, who joined teammates Moseley and Harry Moran with identical 10-7 records.
After the Newark fans came onto the field no further untoward activity was reported. The second controversy to come from this game took two more days to unfurl. Reulbach had a wicked breaking ball in the contest, inducing 13 comebackers from Packers batters. He also threw two wild pitches, “twisters,” that Rariden couldn’t handle. Second baseman George Perring, who was at the plate when the tornadoes rolled in, asked umpire Johnstone to look at the ball. The longtime National League arbiter saw an S-shaped ridge of clay applied to the ball but, claiming the ball wasn’t defaced, allowed it. Not satisfied, manager Stovall took the ball to the stands to show it to Federal League President James Gilmore, who refused to make a ruling at the game.7 He did though, take the issue under advisement, and two days later ruled Reulbach’s invention illegal. The mud ball joined its ball brethren, the emery ball, the talcum ball, and the licorice ball, on the proscribed list. Any attempt to use the illegal pitch would now come with a $50 fine.8
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also consulted Retrosheet.org and Baseball-Reference.com.
1 Newark’s road trip should have lasted one game longer but the August 3 contest was postponed due to “wet grounds” at Weeghman Park. “Baseball Standings,” Rockford (Illinois) Daily Register-Gazette, August 4, 1915: 5.
2 “Standings and Results,” Rock Island (Illinois) Argus, August 7, 1915: 12.
3 “Umpire Arouses Newark Fans,” New York Times, August 8, 1915: 30.
4 Philip J. Lowry, Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebration of Major League and Negro League Ballparks (New York: Walker Publishing, 2006), 95.
5 Edmund B. Gearhart, “Newark News Nuggets,” Sporting Life, August 14, 1915: 11.
6 “Near Riot at End of Newark Game,” Duluth (Minnesota) News-Tribune, August 8, 1915: 2.
7 R.M.C., “Ever Hear of ‘Mud Ball’?” Kansas City (Missouri) Star, August 9, 1915: 2.
8 Additionally, umpires were directed to rub the gloss from any new ball before putting it into play. Further, the use of anything to add moisture to the ball was prohibited. “Mud Ball Goes,” Philadelphia Inquirer, August 10, 1915: 10.