May 11, 1913: Shoeless Joe Jackson’s first-inning grand slam sparks Naps over Yankees

This article was written by Thomas E. Merrick

Shoeless Joe Jackson (TRADING CARD DB)A Sunday crowd of 19,950 — overflowing into fair territory in left field — flocked to Cleveland’s League Park on May 11, 1913, for the first of four games between the Cleveland Naps and the New York Yankees. The game was promoted as “Frank Chance Day,” to honor New York’s popular player-manager.

Chance — in his first year at the helm in New York after an unceremonious dismissal at the end of the 1912 season ended his 15-season tenure as a player with the Chicago Cubs, overlapped by eight seasons as Cubs manager1 — received a big ovation when he first appeared on the field, and was warmly applauded before pinch-hitting in the ninth, but Cleveland’s Shoeless Joe Jackson was the day’s brightest star. Jackson clubbed a first-inning inside-the-park grand slam, batted 4-for-4, and drove in 5 runs, leading the Naps to a 7-2 win.

The contest drew the Naps’ largest attendance so far in 1913, and it was hailed at the time as the second largest baseball crowd ever in Cleveland.2 Cleveland fans were excited about the Naps, who had just won three of four games from the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox. Cleveland sported a 16-7 record — its best start since the American League gained major-league status in 1901. Even the 1908 team — which came within a half-game of a pennant — was just 13-10 after 23 games.

The pitching matchup favored the Naps. Cleveland’s eight-year veteran Cy Falkenberg — a tall, thin right-hander — had mastered the emery ball in 1912 while banished to Toledo of the American Association.3 Falkenberg returned to Cleveland in 1913, baffling batters with his new pitch and winning his first five starts. In 45 innings Falkenberg had surrendered a mere four earned runs, resulting in an earned-run average of 0.80.

The Yankees countered with young left-hander Al Schulz, who debuted with New York in September 1912 after winning 25 games for Savannah in the Sally League. He opened 1913 in the Yankees bullpen before making his first start of the season on April 24. Schulz was not pitching effectively, struggling to an 0-4 record and a 4.17 ERA. Opponents had collected 43 hits and 12 walks off him in 36⅔ innings.

The Yankees threatened in the first. Bert Daniels grounded sharply, but second baseman Ray Chapman speared the ball and whisked it to first for the out. Harry Wolter doubled, and advanced to third base on Roy Hartzell’s groundout to Cleveland first baseman Doc Johnston. The inning proved unfruitful when Birdie Cree bounced back to Falkenberg, who tossed to Johnston for the third out.

In Cleveland’s half of the inning, the Naps loaded the bases off Schulz without a ball leaving the infield. Johnston beat out a bunt to second baseman Hartzell “by an eyelash.”4 Chapman smashed a ball to Yankees shortstop Claud Derrick near second base, and according to reporter Gordon MacKay of the Cleveland Leader, Derrick “immediately proceeded to gum up the cards.”5 Rather than stepping on second for an easy force out and firing to first for a possible double play, Derrick ignored second base, and threw late to first.

With two runners aboard and no one out, Ivy Olson slapped a slow roller between first and second. Hartzell, Hal Chase, and Schulz all converged on the ball, and Chase grabbed it, but with no one covering the bag, Olson arrived safely at first.

That brought Jackson to the plate with three runners aboard. The talented left-hander sent an offering from Schulz “like a dart”6 to the fence in right-center field. Center fielder Wolter set himself to catch the rebound off the wall, but the ball caromed oddly past both Wolter and right fielder Daniels. By the time Wolter corralled it, all three baserunners had scored, and Jackson was rounding third.

Wolter pegged the ball to Derrick, the relay man, who fired a missile to catcher Ed Sweeney. The ball and Jackson reached the plate together, but Jackson — with the crowd cheering wildly — slid across home plate to tally Cleveland’s fourth run.

Schulz’s troubles continued, and only great defense kept the score from mounting. Napoleon Lajoie flied out, but Joe Birmingham dropped a fly ball just inside the left-field line for a double. Jack Graney’s hard smash was scooped by second baseman Hartzell, who made a great throw to nip Graney at first as Birmingham sped to third.

Fred Carisch ripped a liner to right field, and Daniels made the defensive play of the game to finally end the inning. Daniels raced to the ball, grabbed it at his shoe-top, toppled into a somersault, and stood up with the ball still in his mitt. The Cleveland faithful — who could afford good sportsmanship with a four-run lead — saluted Daniels with thunderous applause.

Falkenberg sailed along until the fourth inning, when the Yankees capitalized on his wildness to cut the lead to 4-2. After a double play erased one Yankees baserunner, consecutive singles by Chase, Sweeney, and Ezra Midkiff produced New York’s first run. Falkenberg walked pinch-hitter Jack Lelivelt, filling the bases, and pitcher Ed Klepfer7 — who had relieved Schulz after the disastrous first inning — drew another walk to force Sweeney home. Falkenberg — with relievers warming up — wriggled off the hook when Daniels swung and missed on a “high and wide” full-count pitch.8

The Naps increased their lead in the fifth when Johnston singled, went to second on a sacrifice, and took third on a fielder’s choice. Jackson bunted safely — recording his third hit and fifth RBI — as Johnston scampered home.

Tempers overheated in the sixth, resulting in Daniels’ ejection. After one out, Birmingham walked. With Graney at bat, he bolted for second. Catcher Sweeney threw high, over the infielders, and Birmingham headed for third. Wolter, who was shallow in center field, snatched the ball and threw a bullseye to Midkiff covering third. Birmingham slid, and it appeared Midkiff secured the ball, and tagged Birmingham short of the bag, but umpire Eugene McGreevy yelled, “Safe!”

Irate Yankees immediately surrounded McGreevy, including Daniels, who charged across the diamond from right field and “made so much fuss that he was sent to the bench.”9 A fly out and strikeout stranded Birmingham at third.

Jackson started Cleveland’s final rally in the eighth with his fourth hit: a ground-rule double into the patrons camped in left. Lajoie’s bunt single moved him to third. Jackson trotted home for the Naps’ sixth run on Birmingham’s single to right, and Lajoie raced to third.

Lajoie was out at the plate when a squeeze attempt went awry, but Birmingham went from first to third on the play. He dashed home with Cleveland’s final run when Carisch singled.

Falkenberg held New York scoreless in the ninth to complete Cleveland’s 7-2 victory. He raised his record to 6-0, even though he was not sharp. Falkenberg yielded seven hits and two walks, hit two batters, and unleashed two wild pitches. New York left eight on base.

Schulz’s catastrophic first inning dropped him to 0-5. He would have better days, completing the year 7-14.

The win raised the Naps’ record to 17-7, a half-game behind the first-place Philadelphia Athletics. Cleveland ended the season in third place, trailing Washington and the pennant-winning Philadelphia Athletics.

New York fell to 5-17 with the loss, but claimed the next two games from Cleveland, 4-3 and 8-5, and settled for a 15-inning tie before leaving town. The Yankees spent most of 1913 in eighth place before edging into seventh — ahead of the St. Louis Browns — in the waning days of the season.

Falkenberg won his first 10 decisions, and finished the year 23-10. He placed second in the American League in wins and tied for second in strikeouts, trailing only Walter Johnson in both categories. It was a surprising performance considering that Falkenberg had never previously surpassed 14 wins in a season and that his major-league pitching log prior to 1913 was 76-83.

The next year Falkenberg jumped to Indianapolis of the new Federal League, where he won 25 games for the pennant-winning Hoosiers. He led the FL in games, innings pitched, and strikeouts.

Jackson’s five RBIs were a career best, a total he matched three times, but never exceeded. His perfect day at the plate raised his batting average to .429, and at season’s end he came to rest at .373, behind only Ty Cobb’s .389. Jackson led the AL in hits (197), doubles (39), and slugging (.551) in 1913.

Jackson’s grand slam was the first of three he hit during his career. His second came nearly seven years later, in the second game of a July 1920 doubleheader in Washington, when his ninth-inning blast rallied the Chicago White Sox past the Senators, 8-5.10

 

Sources

MacKay, Gordon. “Falkenberg Wild, but Jackson’s Big Hitting Gleans Win Over Yanks,” Cleveland Leader, May 12, 1913: 10. Accessed through https://www.geneologybank.com.

The author consulted Baseball-Reference and Retrosheet.org for box scores and other pertinent data.

https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CLE/CLE191305110.shtml

https://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1913/B05110CLE1913.htm

 

Notes

1 Gregory Ryhal, “Frank Chance,” SABR BioProject, Frank Chance — Society for American Baseball Research (sabr.org).

2 “Yesterday’s Crowd Sets Record for New League Park,” Cleveland Leader, May 12, 1913: 11. The attendance was surpassed only by the 20,729 who came out on October 3, 1908, to watch the Naps and Chicago White Sox battle in the final days of a tight pennant race.

3 Eric Enders, “Cy Falkenberg,” SABR BioProject, Cy Falkenberg — Society for American Baseball Research (sabr.org).

4 “Jackson Cleans Up with Bases Filled,” New York Sun, May 12, 1913: 8.

5 Gordon MacKay, “Falkenberg Wild, but Jackson’s Big Hitting Gleans Win Over Yanks,” Cleveland Leader, May 12, 1913: 10.

6 MacKay.

7 On August 21, 1915, the White Sox obtained Jackson by trading Klepfer, Braggo Roth, $31,500, and a player to be named to Cleveland.

8 Henry P. Edwards, “Before Enormous Crowd, Naps Overcome Yankees,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 12, 1913: 7.

9 “Jackson Cleans Up with Bases Filled.”

10 Jackson’s third and final grand slam came in a loss to the Boston Red Sox on September 4, 1920.

Additional Stats

Cleveland Naps 7
New York Yankees 3


League Park
Cleveland, OH

 

Box Score + PBP:

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