July 16, 1913: Oh, you Brewers! Squeeze play ends 19-inning battle
“This year Columbus is fighting desperately for the lead with Milwaukee. Both teams are traveling at top speed and both are composed of youngsters sensational and veterans reliable, who are trampling upon opposition with no regard for feelings.” — Pittsburgh Press, July 6, 1913
Before a pivotal three-game series at Milwaukee’s Athletic Park from July 15-17, 1913, the Columbus (Ohio) Senators were in second place in the eight-team American Association, 4½ games behind the first-place Milwaukee Brewers. The Senators were led by right fielder and manager Bill Hinchman; center fielder Kemper “Skeeter” Shelton, said to be “the fastest man in baseball”;1 catcher Syd Smith, a workhorse who caught every game;2 and pitcher Leonard “King” Cole, a right-hander who compiled a 38-11 record for the Chicago Cubs from 1910 to 1911 but was demoted to the minors after a disappointing 1912 season.
The Brewers were riding an eight-game winning streak. “Oh you Brewers!” was a rallying cry of their fans, and a goat was the team mascot. Popular third baseman and manager Harry “Pep” Clark had played for the Brewers since 1904. Among his experienced teammates were Tom Jones, a 39-year-old first baseman, and Newt Randall, a 33-year-old right fielder. Larry Gilbert, the team’s 21-year-old center fielder, was a sensational youngster.
In the first game of the series, Cole demonstrated that he deserved to be in the major leagues by throwing a no-hitter against the Brewers,3 snapping their winning streak. In the second game, on Wednesday, July 16, the starting pitchers were right-handers Jack Ferry of the Senators and Joe Hovlik of the Brewers. Ferry possessed one of the best curveballs in baseball, though, like Cole, he was recently demoted from the National League.4 Hovlik was a crafty spitballer. The game commenced at 3:00 P.M. with 2,500 fans in attendance. The temperature was 84 degrees.5 The umpires were Fred Westervelt and Charlie Irwin.
Shelton led off the game by drawing a walk. He advanced to second base on Elmer Bensen’s sacrifice, moved to third on Hinchman’s infield single, and came home on Ray Miller’s single. Randall led off the bottom of the first inning with a single. Shelton fielded Phil Lewis’s single in center field and threw to third baseman Pete Johns to try to nab Randall. The ball bounded away from Johns, however, allowing Randall to score and Lewis to reach third base. Lewis came home on an infield out, and the Brewers led 2-1.
In the top of third inning, Shelton led off with a single, moved to third base on a single by Bensen, and scored on Hinchman’s single. Clark then replaced Hovlik with southpaw Ralph Cutting, who promptly gave up a bloop single to Miller that scored Bensen. The next inning, with a man on and two outs, Shelton blasted a home run off Cutting, “a terrific drive over the garden wall,”6 and the Senators led, 5-2.
A baserunning blunder foiled the Brewers’ efforts in the bottom of the fifth. Randall led off with a single, Lewis fouled out, and Russell “Lena” Blackburne singled. Johnny Beall, recently acquired from the Chicago White Sox, hit a sharp grounder to second baseman Bensen, who made a fine play but his throw was not caught by first baseman Miller. With the ball lying on the ground a few feet from Miller, Randall rounded third and bluffed as if he were heading home, but he chose to return to third base. Blackburne, though, assumed that Randall was heading home and ran with his head down to third base, arriving to find his teammate standing on the bag. Randall came off the bag and was tagged out. Jones drew a walk to load the bases, but Clark’s scorching liner to center field went straight into Shelton’s hands for the third out.
The Brewers eked out a run in the bottom of the sixth on a walk, single, and sacrifice. The next inning Alfred “Buster” Braun, a spitballer from Sheboygan, Wisconsin, became the third Milwaukee hurler of the game, and he silenced the Columbus bats. Meanwhile, Ferry continued his excellent work, delivering “a big, sweeping curve and a beautiful drop”7 to the Milwaukee hitters.
Entering the bottom of the ninth, the Brewers trailed, 5-3, but defensive lapses by the Senators brought them back. With one out, Lewis grounded the ball slowly to second baseman Bensen, who was forced to hurry his throw to Miller at first base. Umpire Irwin initially called Lewis out, but changed his mind when he saw that the throw pulled Miller off the bag. Then “the crowd went wild” when Blackburne “drilled a smash to right”; he reached second base and Lewis scored after Hinchman’s throw “got away from Miller.”8 Shortstop Walter “Spooks” Gerber ably gathered Beall’s grounder and threw him out at first, while Blackburne advanced to third base. Jones grounded the ball to third baseman Johns, who threw wildly to first, and Blackburne scored the tying run.
With the game deadlocked at 5-5, Braun and Ferry dueled in extra innings and received strong defensive support. Jones doubled in the 12th inning but when he tried to stretch it to a triple, he “was nailed at third by a beautiful relay.”9 Milwaukee’s Johnny Hughes doubled in the 13th inning. Joe Burg, pinch-hitting for Braun, bunted the ball down the first-base line; Miller grabbed it and threw to third base in time to get Hughes.
Braun was particularly impressive, allowing only one hit in seven innings. Cy Slapnicka replaced him in the 14th inning, while Ferry persevered for the Senators. Gilbert led off the bottom of the 15th with a bunt single. Hughes moved him to second base with a sacrifice, and Slapnicka’s infield single sent him to third. With one out and runners on the corners, the Columbus infield played in. Randall grounded to Gerber at short, who threw Gilbert out at the plate, and the Milwaukee fans “groaned in unison.”10
Inning after inning, the pitchers’ duel continued. Smith led off the top of the 19th inning with a double against the left-field fence, and it looked as if the Senators might finally break the tie. But Slapnicka struck out Gerber and Ferry, and got Shelton to fly out to Randall to end the threat. It is surprising that Ferry was allowed to bat in this situation, after pitching 18 innings.
Blackburne led off the bottom of the 19th. He “roused the fans to a frenzy of excitement by meeting one of Pitcher Jack Ferry’s breast high curves with a healthy clout that drove the sphere with rifle shot speed under the eager grasp of Second Baseman Bensen.”11 Beall followed with a single to right field that sent Blackburne scampering to third base. Jones stepped to the plate, and Clark ordered a squeeze play. Blackburne headed home with the pitch, and Jones placed a perfect bunt on the right side of the infield, between Miller and Ferry. Miller made a desperate lunge for it but failed to come up with it, and Blackburne crossed the plate with the winning run. The final score was Milwaukee Brewers 6, Columbus Senators 5.
At the time, this 19-inning contest was the longest by innings in American Association history. The game took 3 hours and 45 minutes, and finished at 6:45 P.M. Nearly all of the fans stayed to the end.
Manning Vaughan of the Milwaukee Sentinel summed up the battle: “Frantic with intense interest, heart breaking situations and miraculous plays, the game will go down in baseball annals as one of the most historic ever played on the hilltop.”12 After Blackburne scored the winning run, “some of the more enthusiastic [fans] rushed on the field, slapped Brewer backs right and left, and tried to carry Clark to the clubhouse on their shoulders.”13
The Brewers finished the season with a 100-67 record and won their first American Association pennant. The Senators finished seven games back in fourth place.
Game coverage in the July 17, 1913, issues of the Milwaukee Sentinel and Milwaukee Journal.
Dennis Pajot, The 1913 American Association Brewers: Milwaukee’s First Championship Club, available at sabr.org/research/1902-1919-milwaukee-brewers-files.
Borchertfield.com, the Online Museum of the American Association Milwaukee Brewers, 1902-1952.
Milwaukee Journal, September 17, 1913.
1 Tacoma (Washington) Times, August 10, 1912.
2 Pittsburgh Press, July 6, 1913.
3 Sporting Life, July 26, 1913.
4 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 15, 1913.
5 Racine (Wisconsin) Journal-Times, July 17, 1913.
6 Milwaukee Sentinel, July 17, 1913.
11 Racine Journal-Times, July 17, 1913.
12 Milwaukee Sentinel, July 17, 1913.