Russ Ford (TRADING CARD DB)

May 20, 1915: Buffalo Blues bats come alive in St. Louis

This article was written by Brian Frank

Russ Ford (TRADING CARD DB)The start of the 1915 season was going so poorly for the Buffalo Blues that many thought the team might be jinxed.1 After winning five of 10 games to start the season, the Blues lost 16 of their next 19 games, and were sitting in last place in the Federal League, with a pitiful record of 8-21. To make matters worse, the weather had been miserable. Buffalo’s first two games against the St. Louis Terriers were postponed because of rain, snow, and frigid temperatures. The two postponements combined with an off day and a rainout in Newark, and the ice-cold Blues hadn’t played in five days.

The Buffalo Evening News suggested that the weather in St. Louis was further proof of the “hoodoo” on the Blues and their manager Larry Schlafly.2 But Schlafly attempted to downplay the team’s slow start and remain optimistic, saying, “I don’t think any of the teams are playing in regular form yet. … One thing I can say, and that is that my team’s going to be up there. None of us is discouraged, and neither are the folks at home. Last place in May doesn’t mean last place in October.”3

The Blues sent Russ Ford to the mound to break the team’s six-game losing streak. Ford had been Buffalo’s ace in 1914, when he went 21-6 with a 1.82 ERA. But after the league outlawed his famed emery-ball pitch during the offseason, the right-hander struggled out of the gate in 1915, and he entered the game in St. Louis with a 1-2 record, and a 6.23 ERA.

The Terriers had a 12-14 record and were in sixth place, 4½ games out of first. They sent Bob Groom to the mound. Groom was off to a great start, with 2.24 ERA, and a 5-2 record, including a shutout in his last start, against Baltimore. Not exactly the ideal pitching matchup for Buffalo to turn things around.

After the cold, rainy weather the Blues had suffered through the last few days, the team was ecstatic to finally be able to take the field. The Buffalo Morning Express wrote: “That little ray of sunshine Larry Schlafly has been wishing so hard for shone on Saint Louis for several hours this morning and after the Buffalo Feds caught a glimpse of it and basked in it there was no stopping them.”4

Buffalo wasted little time getting on the scoreboard. In the top of the first inning with one out, Jack Dalton singled, Baldy Louden walked, and cleanup man Tex McDonald singled to bring home the first run of the game. But St. Louis answered back in the bottom of the inning, as Russ Ford “was wild as a March hare at the opening.”5 Ford allowed a walk and a couple of singles, including an RBI single by Ward Miller to tie the game.

In the second, a great throw by Blues right fielder Tex McDonald prevented the Terriers from taking the lead. McDonald picked up a ball stroked by Ernie Johnson and his “line heave to the plate … got (Grover) Hartley by several inches.”6

After the miserable weather the last few days, wrote the Buffalo Courier, “the game was played in a sea of mud. Despite this, the Buffalo infielders had little difficulty in pulling off some fast stops and managed to throw without setting themselves. St. Louis did not have such luck.”7 The poor playing conditions contributed to Terriers shortstop Ernie Johnson twisting his ankle in the third inning, when he “made a great play on (Joe) Agler’s slow roller, slipped as he threw and turned his ankle.”8 He remained in the game for a few innings, but eventually had to depart.

More bad baserunning helped bail out Ford in the third. With two on and nobody out, Delos Drake hit a line drive to center field that was tracked down by Jack Dalton. The runner at second, Bobby Vaughn, was almost at third when Dalton caught the ball and was easily doubled off. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch called Vaughn’s blunder “the worst piece of base running” of the day.9

Buffalo put a couple of runs on the board in the fourth. Tex McDonald tripled with one out. The next batter, Hal Chase, struck out. The Buffalo Courier described the ensuing play: “Chase fanned, but Hartley dropped the ball. Prince Hal, seeing McDonald stealing home had thrown his bat. McDonald was safe by an inch.”10 Tom Downey then belted a triple to center field, and when shortstop Ernie Johnson dropped the relay throw, Downey kept going and “made the circuit” to increase the Blues lead to 3-1.11

The Blues broke the game open in the fifth. Singles by Walter Blair, Russ Ford, and Jack Dalton produced a run. Baldy Louden singled to load the bases, chasing Groom from the game in favor of Ernie Herbert. But Herbert didn’t fare much better. After Ford scored on a wild pitch, Tex McDonald singled home a pair of runs, putting the Blues ahead 7-1.

The Blues tacked on a run in the sixth. Blair drew a walk, Ford singled, and Louden contributed an RBI single to add another run to what was turning into a rout. With Buffalo comfortably in the lead, Blues manager Larry Schlafly pulled Ford from the game and turned to Hugh Bedient, who was “virtually unhittable” the rest of the way.12

Buffalo continued adding to its lead in the eighth. Blair doubled, and was sacrificed to third by Bedient. Jack Dalton doubled home the Blues’ ninth run. Baldy Louden then doubled home Dalton, and Tex McDonald cashed in the final run of the day, with a single, his fourth hit of the afternoon, giving the Blues an 11-1 lead.

After struggling through the early stages of the season, “Schafly’s charges recovered their batting eyes with a vengeance.”13 The Blues finished with 11 runs on 17 hits. Jack Dalton had a big day with three hits, including a double, while driving in two runs. But the biggest bat of the day belonged to Tex McDonald. The Buffalo Courier wrote: “Tex McDonald did enough in the old ball game to win it all alone. Any subsequent efforts by his teammates were entirely superfluous and were made merely for the satisfying effects of the official averages.”14 McDonald went 4-for-5, with a triple and four RBIs, and scored a run by stealing home. He also prevented a St. Louis run from scoring, when his throw from right field beat Hartley to the plate in the second.

The offensive outburst provided the Blues with a much-needed win during a trying start to the season. The Buffalo Morning Express wrote that “Larry Schlafly declared after the game, just before the team departed for Kansas City, he had shaken off the jinx and the team had started a winning streak.”15 After enduring a tough stretch of poor play and bad weather, the Buffalo Commercial may have said it best after the one-sided win, when it wrote, “The Buffalo Feds have deserted the gloomy side of baseball street and have gone for a little stroll in the sunshine.”16

Sources

In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also consulted Baseball-Reference.com.

 

Notes

1 “Schlafly Hopes to Shake Jinx in Game Today,” Buffalo Evening News, May 20, 1915: 22.

2 Ibid.

3 “Hitting Right Into the Cold,” Buffalo Morning Express, May 20, 1915: 13.

4 “Blues Slugged Two Pitchers,” Buffalo Morning Express, May 21, 1915: 13.

5 “Buf-Feds Come to Life and Trounce Terriers Soundly,” Buffalo Courier, May 21, 1915: 10.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

8 Ibid.

9 “Newark Here Today,” St. Louis Post Dispatch, May 21, 1915: 19.

10 “Buf-Feds Come to Life.”

11 Ibid.

12 Ibid.

13 Ibid.

14 Ibid.

15 “Blues Slugged Two Pitchers.”

16 “Buffalo Feds Suddenly Uncork a Batting Streak and Win in a Gallop,” Buffalo Commercial, May 21, 1915: 6.

Additional Stats

Buffalo Blues 11
St. Louis Terriers 1


Handlan’s Park
St. Louis, MO

 

Box Score + PBP:

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