The Pittsburgh Rebels made it three in a row over the pennant-contending Indianapolis Hoosiers before a crowd of 1,700 at Exposition Park in Pittsburgh on July 24, 1914. The Hoosiers were in the midst of a tight Federal League pennant race with Chicago, Baltimore, and Brooklyn. The win allowed the lowly Rebels to escape the cellar. The starting pitcher for the home team was Cy Barger. Manager “Whoa Bill” Phillips tapped George Mullin for the visitors.1
The game featured one of the league’s hottest hitters, Indianapolis’s Benny Kauff. Aided by an earlier 23-game hitting streak, he entered the game hitting a robust .385. Just a week earlier, Kauff had been anointed as the “Ty Cobb of the Feds” in a syndicated column in the Washington Post and several other national newspapers.2 Ultimately, the speedy Kauff finished the season atop the league in several significant hitting categories, including runs scored, total hits, OBP, OPS, stolen bases, and his league-leading .370 batting average.
The Hoosiers got the scoring started in the top of the first when Vin Campbell led the game off with a triple into the right-field corner. Carl Vandagrift drove him in with a sacrifice fly to left. While the Rebels didn’t match the run in the bottom of the frame, Davy Jones’s stolen base created some fireworks of another kind. Umpire Spike Shannon’s “safe” call was vehemently disputed by second baseman Jimmy Esmond. After arguing to no avail, Esmond spiked the ball into the ground, and Shannon tossed him from the game.3
Charlie Carr opened the second inning for the Hoosiers with a triple, and scored after the next batter, Edd Roush, singled. Carr, who last played in the majors with Cincinnati in 1906, had been recruited back into action a few weeks into the season to play first base after the slow start of Biddy Dolan.4 The Hoosiers extended their lead in the third to 3-0 thanks to a home run by Campbell, his sixth of the year, to right-center field.
As the Rebels batted through their lineup a second time, they began to chisel away at the Hoosiers’ lead. Using a walk and a stolen base by Jimmie Savage, they opened their scoring with an RBI double by Ed Lennox in the fourth. The Rebels tied the game in the fifth with a rally that began with a base hit by Ed Holly and a hit-and-run single by Claude Berry that advanced Holly to third. Holly scored on Barger’s groundout back to the pitcher, Mullin. A second run scored on player-manager Rebel Oakes’ single to center. Pitcher Mullin, a former Detroit star who led the American League with 29 wins during the Tigers’ AL championship 1909 season, was pulled by Phillips after the inning’s end. Mullin finished 1914 with a record of 14-10 with a tidy 2.70 ERA for the eventual pennant-winning Hoosiers.
In the sixth, the Rebels continued their scoring against the new hurler, Harry Billiard. Hugh Bradley opened with a walk and advanced on a sacrifice by Jack Lewis. Berry followed with a run-scoring single and the Rebels took the lead. However, their lead was short-lived, as the Hoosiers tied the game again at 4-4 the next inning. The inning started with a bunt hit by Roush. He moved to second as second baseman Lewis booted George Textor’s grounder. Textor was forced at second, leaving runners at the corners. The Hoosiers tied the game with one of the most exciting plays in baseball: a double steal with Roush scoring from third.
After that there very few opportunities for either team to score. Only three runners advanced to scoring position. As the game wore on, Rebels hurler Cy Barger seemed to grow stronger, including holding Kauff to just a single for the game.5
The Rebels nearly won the game in the 10th. Oakes singled to start the inning and advanced to second on Lennox’s walk. Bradley sacrificed them to second and third. Lewis then hit a short foul ball down the left-field line, where Roush made the catch and gunned Oakes down at the plate by a good margin. Carr came in from first base in to make the putout.6
The game remained tied until the 12th. And when the end came, it came quickly. Jones led off the bottom of the inning with a scorching triple down the left-field line. The next batter, Savage, followed with a line single over second base to drive in the winning run for the Rebels.7 Barger pitched the entire 12 innings, scattering 10 hits while striking out four.
One event that was hoped for but never materialized this day was the arrival of newly acquired Frank Delahanty from Buffalo for Tex McDonald. Instead, he arrived the following day. Frank was the brother of Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty and three other ballplaying brothers, Jim, Joe, and Tom. While many of the Rebels were sorry to see McDonald traded away, they understood manager Oakes’ desire to win.8 Oakes, named captain of the team a day before the season started, replaced Doc Gessler after a lethargic 3-8 start by the club. At age 30, Oakes became one of the youngest managers in the three major leagues.9 He had been one of Pittsburgh’s big signings over the winter. Oakes was enticed by a salary raise and the noninclusion of a contract clause banning his use of alcohol that the Cardinals were insisting on.10 McDonald seemed less thrilled with the trade, and even haggled over travel expenses. Even when expenses were paid, he said, “I may be back tomorrow night anyway. I am going after more money in Buffalo and if I don’t get it I am coming right back here. I can’t be traded unless I want to go.”11 Evidently McDonald was appeased as he was in the Buffeds’ lineup hitting third in the batting order the following day.
In other news of the day, Hoosier veteran Charlie Carr opined on the need for the Federal League to make adjustments. Speaking from his years of experience in the major and minor leagues, he said that before the Federal League could dictate any terms to the National and American Leagues “it must strengthen its circuit by the addition of at least two teams in cities which are good in a baseball sense, and it must acquire more high class ball players.” He went on to say that it would not surprise him “in the least to have them effect a consolidation of sorts. The club owners, too, will have to distribute the franchises advisedly in a manner that will mean peace and stability in the game for the next 30 years.”12
News accounts echoed Carr’s doomsday thoughts from the public that week.13 Even International League President E.G. Barrow chimed in, saying that “the time has come for retrenchment in all the leagues.”14
The day’s win assured the Rebels of winning the five-game series. The Rebels had been at the bottom of the standings virtually all season. They swept the Hoosiers in the following
day’s doubleheader as well. The games went 12 and 13 innings, meaning many of the players logged 37 innings over the two days. Arguably, the series represented the Hoosiers’ low point of the season. Coupled with a home loss to Kansas City the next day, the resulting six-game losing streak was the Hoosiers’ longest of the season. It was the only one longer than four games during their Federal League championship season.
For the Rebels, the sweep was one of two season-high five-game win streaks. While escaping the cellar for the moment, they would find themselves in and out of it for the remainder of the season, and only a collapse of the St. Louis Terriers, who lost 10 of their last 11 games, allowed Pittsburgh to finish out of last place.
In addition to the sources included in the Notes, the author also consulted Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org.
1 “Rebels Cop in Twelfth Frame!” Pittsburgh Sun Telegraph, July 25, 1914: 7.
2 Robert Peyton Wiggins, The Federal League of Base Ball Clubs (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2009), 138.
3 “Jones — Savage Rally Wins for Rebels,” Pittsburgh Gazette Times, July 25, 1914: 8.
4 Wiggins, 135.
5 “Rebels Cop in Twelfth Frame!”
6 “Rebels Win 12-Inning Battle and Fight Way Out of Cellar,” Pittsburgh Post, July 25, 1914: 12.
8 “Rebels Are Eager to Vacate Cellar,” Pittsburgh Chronicle Telegraph, July 24, 1914: 14.
9 Wiggins, 120.
10 Daniel R. Levitt, The Battle that Forged Modern Baseball: The Federal League and Its Legacy (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc, 2012), 62.
11 “McDonald May Not Play with Buffalo Team,” Pittsburgh Press, July 24, 1914: 28.
12 Richard Guy, “Carr Sizes Up the Federals,” Pittsburgh Gazette Times, July 24, 1914: 11.
13 David J. Davies, “Public About Disgusted with Wrangling Now Going on Among Baseball Magnates,” Pittsburgh Dispatch, July 26, 1914: 2-4.
14 “Barrow Is Pessimistic Over Baseball Situation,” Pittsburgh Dispatch, July 25, 1914.