Federal League Park, also known as Handlan’s Park, was first used for professional baseball in 1914, providing a home for the St. Louis Terriers of the newly formed Federal League.1 Like other professional ballparks of the day, it included no stadium lighting, a fact that required games to be conducted during daytime, sometimes held hostage by a fading sun or threatening cloud cover.
On May 29, 1915, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle described the conditions for a scheduled doubleheader between the Brooklyn Tip-Tops and the St. Louis Terriers as “staged in almost inky darkness,”2 noting that “black clouds overcast the sky during the entire afternoon, and it was questionable whether either contest would be finished.”3
The visiting Tip-Tops offered an anemic performance in the opening game, falling 11-0 in youthful manager Lee Magee’s first visit to St. Louis’s Federal League entry. The Eagle observed, “Lee [Magee] trotted out Tom Seaton. But he might as well have taken the mound himself.”4
The inference was that manager Magee was saving his stronger pitching option for game two, avoiding the Terriers’ game-one starter Eddie Plank, the winner of 284 major-league games before joining the Federal League. Seaton allowed seven runs in a single inning, while Plank tossed a three-hit shutout, seemingly validating Magee’s strategy.
With the opening-game beating behind them, the Tip-Tops sent Fin Wilson to the mound in the nightcap. Wilson, although possessing an unimpressive 0-2 record in the early going, promised a fresh arm with a 2.35 earned-run average through five appearances, his most recent outing having come 14 days earlier against Baltimore.
St. Louis manager Fielder Jones countered Magee’s second-game choice with Dave Davenport, a towering right-hander who had been 10-15 the season before, split between the Cincinnati Reds of the National League (2-2, 2.50 ERA) and the Terriers (26 starts, 8-13, 3.46 ERA for the last-place team.)
Both pitchers tossed scoreless opening innings, but St. Louis continued its scoring monopoly in the second. Babe Borton led off with his only hit of the game, was sacrificed to second by Ward Miller, and took third on a wild pitch. An infield groundout by catcher Grover Hartley scored Borton, and the Terriers led 1-0.
Brooklyn answered in the top of the third. Al Halt coaxed a walk from Davenport, Grover Land singled, and pitcher Wilson sacrificed. George Anderson tripled to give the Tip-Tops their first lead of the day, 2-1. With the infield playing in, Anderson was cut down at the plate on Magee’s infield grounder. Benny Kauff flied out to Terriers right fielder Jack Tobin to end the inning.
Wilson hung tough for Brooklyn, pitching scoreless innings in the third and fourth, but after he retired Hartley to lead off the bottom of the fifth, Charlie Deal doubled and scored on Ernie Johnson’s single to right. Davenport followed with a sacrifice, moving Johnson to second. Defensive lapses by Brooklyn gave St. Louis both momentum and the lead.
Wilson’s delivery to Tobin resulted in a groundball to third baseman George “Tex” Wisterzil, who booted the ball, allowing Johnson to reach third. St. Louis attempted a double steal, and catcher Land “caught Johnson off third on a perfect peg,”5 but Wisterzil failed to handle the throw, which rolled into left field as Johnson scored and Tobin took third. Bobby Vaughn walked, then the Terriers got another run when Tobin scored on a delayed steal, with Vaughn making the final out in a rundown between first and second.
Tip-Tops pitcher Wilson deserved better, allowing three runs on two hits, neither of them earned.
Now trailing 4-2, Brooklyn rallied in the top of the sixth. Manager Magee singled off Davenport’s glove, and Kauff’s home run to right field quickly tied the score.
St. Louis was held scoreless in the bottom of the frame, and with Davenport answering the call in the seventh, Brooklyn was scoreless.
Wilson was seriously challenged in the bottom of the seventh. With one out, Deal singled and Johnson was hit by a Wilson delivery. Deal subsequently strolled off second, drawing a throw from Land, and “dashed to third without the slightest chance of a play being made on him.”6
With one strike on Davenport, St. Louis manager Jones inserted Doc Crandall as a pinch-hitter, ending Davenport’s mound foray with five hits, four earned runs, and six strikeouts.
Crandall was walked at the instruction of Magee. With the bases loaded, Deal was forced at home on Jack Tobin’s shot to the mound, and Vaughn ended the inning by grounding to Magee, who forced Tobin at second.
With the gloomy, overcast day, and the twin bill having started at 2:00 P.M., time and conditions were trending toward darkness.
Lefty Doc Watson opened the eighth on the mound for St. Louis. With one out, Brooklyn’s Magee tripled to center and Kauff walked. Terriers manager Jones brought in right-hander Bob Groom, a veteran of five seasons with the Washington Senators before joining the Terriers the year before and losing 20 games against 13 victories.
In response, Magee substituted left-handed batter and former St. Louis Cardinal Steve Evans for Hap Myers. Evans’s tap in front of the plate resulted in the second out, with Magee holding at third, and Kauff taking second. Claude Cooper was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Wisterzil, having as bad a day at the plate as he had in the field, struck out for the third time to end the threat.
St. Louis did little damage in the bottom of the inning, and neither team produced a threat in the ninth.
Daylight was rapidly giving way to a disappearing sun and enduring cloud cover. Anderson led off the 10th for Brooklyn with a double to center, but was out in a rundown on Magee’s tap to pitcher Groom. Magee went to second on the play, and Kauff, who had belted a round-tripper in the fifth, was walked.
Evans smashed the first pitch to him to right-center for a sure triple, but LaRue Kirby made a spectacular catch, and Magee was doubled off second, dismissing the Tip-Tops’ final effort.
The Terriers had a final chance as daylight exited the park. Tobin walked to start the bottom of the 10th but was forced at second on Vaughn’s grounder. Vaughn stole second but ended his day there as Kirby popped out to Wisterzil and Borton fanned, after which the game was called because of darkness.
With the no-decision, Brooklyn and St. Louis ended the day in a tie for fifth place with .500 records, Brooklyn at 17-17 and St. Louis at 16-16.
A no-decision this early in the season wouldn’t seem significant, but for St. Louis it had huge implications at season’s end. With teams playing an uneven number of games, the final standings were determined by percentage points, and St. Louis finished second to the Chicago Whales by a mere .00086, thought at the time to be the narrowest margin of victory in baseball history.7
A game-ending hit by Kirby or Borton would have changed that order of finish.
In addition to the sources mentioned in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org.
1 Joan M. Thomas, “Federal League Park (St. Louis),” SABR BioProject, sabr.org/bioproj/park/52a299b0.
2 “Ten-Inning Tie Game Best Magee Could Do in St. Louis,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 30, 1915: 31.
7 “Terriers Miss Winning Pennant by Narrowest Margin in Game’s History,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 4, 1915: 15.