This article was written by Tom Pardo
In this present era of pitch counts, innings limits, and rare complete games, it is difficult to imagine two starting pitchers grinding it out over the course of a 16-inning contest. Yet such was the case on July 8, 1924, when Cincinnati Reds left-hander and future Hall of Famer Eppa Rixey prevailed over Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Hal Carlson, 2-1, in what was the longest game played at Redland Field since a 6-4 loss to the New York Giants in 17 innings on August 27, 1920. The game was completed in just three hours before a small weekday crowd of 4,980.1
Even though the lengthy battle had a postseason intensity, it had been evident by midseason that the Reds and Phillies were not competing for the National League lead. Cincinnati entered the game firmly ensconced in fifth place with a 36-41 record, 14 games behind the league-leading New York Giants. Under the leadership of first-year skipper Jack Hendricks, who was suddenly thrust into the manager’s job upon the sudden death of Pat Moran at the outset of spring training, the Reds were a talented club in spite of their mediocre performance. Offensively, Cincinnati was led by future Hall of Famer and center fielder Edd Roush, third baseman Babe Pinelli, rookie second baseman Hughie Critz, first baseman Jake Daubert, and catcher Bubbles Hargrave.
During the 1924 season, the Reds hitters sported the NL’s second best team batting average,.290. Equally impressive were the Reds’ starting pitchers, ranked first in ERA for 1924 at 3.12. Led by veteran Rixey, the rotation also included Carl Mays, who sported a 20-9 mark in 1924, Cuban Dolf Luque, Pete Donohue, and Rube Benton.
The Phillies trailed the Reds in sixth place with a record of 30-41. Art Fletcher was in his second year as the Phillies’ manager. In contrast to the Reds, Philadelphia lacked offensive production. The club would finish the 1924 season in seventh place in team batting despite the presence of four slugging stars, center fielder Cy Williams, second baseman Hod Ford, third baseman Russ Wrightstone, and first baseman Walter Holke. Pitching was even more wanting as the Phillies finished the season in last place in most major pitching categories. Only two starters, Jimmy Ring and Bill Hubbell, managed to win 10 games during the 1924 season.
The duel in the fading sun was not only the nightcap of a doubleheader, it marked the end of a very long day for the Phillies. En route to the Queen City the night before, the train carrying the team was delayed in the Pittsburgh area because of a freight-train accident. The Phillies arrived at Redland Field only an hour before the first game, whose start was slightly delayed.2
Even though the Phillies were rushed into action, their efforts were rewarded with a 10-inning victory in the first game, 3-1, behind the five-hit pitching of right-hander Bill Hubbell. The contest was tied, 1-1, heading into extra innings, despite a thwarted opportunity by the Reds in the seventh when Edd Roush was stranded on third after smashing a triple to the right-field corner with no one out. The Phillies scored two in the 10th thanks in part to a throwing error by Reds second baseman Hughie Critz. Dolf Luque suffered the loss for the Reds, making his record a dismal 5-10, once again the victim of poor run support that had plagued his performance since 1922.
The second game featured veteran hurlers Eppa Rixey and Hal Carlson. Rixey was an intimidating presence on the mound at 6-feet-5 and a tough competitor who was known to upend a clubhouse after a loss. A native of Culpeper, Virginia, and a reliable arm in the Reds’ starting rotation since 1921, Rixey relied heavily on offspeed pitches. Strikeouts were very few: He averaged less than three per outing in his career.3 For the current season, Rixey entered the contest with a 6-7 record, having last pitched on July 4 and earned a 4-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Carlson was born and raised in Rockford, Illinois. A pitcher with reasonable abilities, Carlson was a spitballer until the pitch was banned in 1920. Thereafter, he changed his repertoire to include mainly curveballs and fastballs. Carlson’s career was plagued by numerous health problems, some attributed to his exposure to poison gas while serving as a machine gunner during World War I.4 Coming into this game, Carlson had a woeful 4-9 record although he did shut out the Reds, 2-0, at Redland Field on May 11. The last time he faced the Reds, on June 7 at the Baker Bowl in Philadelphia, he faced Rixey and was shellacked 10-4.
Both Carlson and Rixey sailed through the first two innings. In the third the Reds put a tally on the board when Hughie Critz, intent upon redeeming himself from his fatal fielding miscue in the first game, drove in catcher Ivey Wingo with a base hit. The Phillies tied the game in the fifth when Hod Ford doubled and Butch Henline drove him in with a single. Rixey made sure the Phillies would have very few chances after the fifth inning.
The Reds kept coming at Carlson, but to no avail. Cincinnati had scoring opportunities in 10 of the first 12 innings. As in the first game, the Reds’ bats went cold whenever they put at least one man on base.
But the Reds did make matters exciting for their fans still yearning for a home-team win. Wingo opened the home half of the eighth inning with a double. Utilityman Boob Fowler ran for Wingo and was thrown out at third on a bunt by Rixey. And in the ninth, Edd Roush led off with a double and moved to third when Curt Walker, who had come to the Reds from the Phillies in a trade for right fielder George Harper on May 30, laid down a successful bunt. Carlson intentionally walked Pat Duncan and Babe Pinelli to load the bases, then retired pinch-hitters Rube Bressler and Chick Shorten on a strikeout and groundout.
From the 11th through the 16th Rixey held the Phillies to two hits. The Reds, meanwhile, kept hammering the ball – they had 19 hits in the game – but the distance between third base and home plate might as well have been a mile. There were flirtations in the 10th and 12th innings and still not a winning run.
Finally, in the 16th inning, as dusk quickly began to settle on the Millcreek Valley, the Reds succeeded. Rixey helped his own cause by opening with a single to left field. He advanced to second when Critz bunted toward first base and beat the throw. First baseman Jake Daubert, who had last started for the Reds on June 26 and was still suffering lingering effects from a beaning earlier in the season, filled the bases with another successful bunt. Roush smashed a hard liner over center fielder Cy Williams, scoring Rixey with the walk-off run.
The victory snapped a three-game losing streak and launched a four-game winning streak for the Reds. While Philadelphia came up short, the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Jack Ryder wrote that the contest “would have done credit to two world’s champion teams.”5 Clearly it was a duel in which neither pitcher should have been credited with a loss. Carlson, despite leaving 19 Reds on base and yielding five inconsequential intentional passes, saw his record fall to 4-10. Matters would not improve for the Rockford native in 1924; he finished the season 8-17, and lost two more to the Reds.
For Eppa Rixey the game was a pitching masterpiece. Bob Newhall of the Cincinnati Commercial Tribune wrote that Rixey “pitched one of the most sterling games of his career.”6 Who would quibble with that assertion? The lanky left-hander scattered eight hits, walked four and struck out three to even his record at 7-7. Rixey became more effective as the game progressed. Brilliant pitching aside, it was Rixey’s bat and skillful baserunning that finally broke the deadlock and sent Reds fans home tired but elated.
The essay was fact-checked by Carl Riechers and copy-edited by Len Levin.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted the following:
“Phils Split Double Header With Reds,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 9, 1924: 19.
Phelan, W.A. “Red-Quaker Deadlock Breaks Continuity Record,” Wabash (Indiana) Daily Times-Star, July 9, 1924: 23.
Swope, Tom. “Twenty Runless Innings Played,” Cincinnati Post, July 9, 1924: 6.
1 Bob Newhall, “Cincinnati Team Divides Two Extra-Period Contests with Philadelphia,” Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, July 9, 1924: 8.
2 Jack Ryder, “Double-Header Briefs,” Cincinnati Enquirer, July 9, 1924: 13; Bob Newhall, “Bunts and Bingles,” Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, July 9, 1924: 8.
3 Greg Rhodes and John Snyder, Redleg Journal: Year by Year and Day by Day with the Cincinnati Reds Since 1866 (Cincinnati: Road West Publishing, 2000), 215.
5 Jack Ryder, “Cincinnati Team Splits Even With Philadelphia Nine,” Cincinnati Enquirer, July 9, 1924: 13.