Their home-field victory over the Pittsburgh Rebels in the opener of the October 6, 1914, doubleheader gave Baltimore’s Terrapins 80 wins for the season against 68 losses, and they remained in third place in the Federal League standings, while their visitors stayed put in seventh.
For the second match of the Tuesday afternoon twin bill, played before a crowd of 2,300, player-managers Rebel Oakes of Pittsburgh and Otto Knabe of Baltimore left their lineups nearly intact, the only change besides the moundmen being Knabe’s substitution of Doc Kerr behind the plate in place of Fred Jacklitsch, who was resting on the laurels of his three-hit, two-run, three-RBI performance in the curtain-raiser.
Taking the mound for Pittsburgh was George LeClair, a 27-year-old Vermonter pitching in his first (and next-to-last) major-league season. Before signing with the Federal League, he toiled briefly for Montreal in the Eastern League and Bridgeport in the Connecticut State League. LeClair’s record in 20 games up to this point was 4-2. His most recent appearance was on October 1, when he turned in a seven-strikeout complete-game victory over the Buffalo Blues.
Facing off for Baltimore was Frank Smith, who had spent seven years as a regular in the Chicago White Sox rotation. He went 16-9 with a 2.08 ERA in his rookie tour in 1904. He later threw two no-hitters for the White Sox and was a member of their World Series championship team in 1906. In 1909, his last full season in the Windy City, he led the staff with 25 wins while topping the American League in games started, complete games, innings pitched, and strikeouts. He then had brief stays with AL Boston, NL Cincinnati, and Montreal of the International League, where he chalked up 33 wins in 1912 and 1913. The stocky and muscular Smith worked as a furniture mover in offseasons, which gained him the nickname “Piano Mover.” One of the key weapons in his pitching arsenal was a spitball, which he learned alongside Big Ed Walsh in Chicago.1 His start on October 6 was his 20th for the Turtles.2
Neither team scored in the first four innings. In the opening frame, Rebels right fielder Jimmie Savage advanced as far as third base but was picked off there by Smith. In the home half of the third, Smith himself made a two-out base hit and reached second base on Jack McCandless’s safety. But Vern Duncan was unable to deliver the goods.
It was the bottom of the fifth when the Diamondbacks3 finally put a dent in LeClair’s armor. Third baseman Jimmy Walsh and manager-second baseman Knabe went out, but Kerr notched the third Baltimore hit of the game and was driven home by Smith’s second hit in as many at-bats, this one a triple into left-center field.
Pittsburgh rallied in the seventh inning. Savage drew a walk, one of only two surrendered by Smith. Manager Oakes grounded out, moving Savage to second. Ed Lennox’s double off the wall in left drove Savage home, evening the score, 1-1.
There were other threats but none came to fruition. In Baltimore’s sixth, center fielder Johnny Bates walked and then made a steal attempt. Umpire Monte Cross at first judged Bates out, but after some disputation reversed his call. This drew a disgruntled response from Reb second-sacker Jack Lewis, who, probably already in a bad way due to his five errors so far in the day, jawed his way into an ejection by Cross. So Bates was safe at second with one out, but was left stranded there by Harry Swacina and Enos Kirkpatrick.
In the Pittsburgh eighth, the Rebs had Claude Berry on third and Davy Jones on second, but shortstop Kirkpatrick threw out Savage at first to preserve the deadlock. Kirkpatrick had a busy day in the infield, with five assists in the first game and seven in the second. Three of them came in the ninth inning, when he threw out Oakes and Lennox, and then, after a Steve Yerkes double, nailed Hugh Bradley at first for the third out.
Each team had another unsuccessful crack at victory in the 10th inning, but darkness got the better of them all, and the game ended there, a 1-1 tie, the same as the second game the day before, although that one had lasted only eight innings. Jacklitsch was brought back at the end to pinch-hit for Smith but could not replicate his opening-game success, becoming a LeClair strikeout victim.
Smith and LeClair’s pitching lines were nearly identical. For Smith: 10 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 Ks; for LeClair: 10 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 Ks. The Baltimore Sun summed up the pitching duel thus: “The Piano Mover displayed his best form of the season and the Smoky City hurler, who has been making great strides lately with his puzzling change of pace, perhaps never pitched better.”4
Smith in fact would come back to pitch the second game of the Wednesday, October 7, doubleheader, as well as the Terrapins’ October 9 game against Brooklyn. In total, the Piano Mover pitched 26⅓ innings in the space of four days in the season’s final week.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org.
1 Sam Bernstein, “Frank Smith,” in David Jones, ed., Deadball Stars of the American League (Washington: Potomac Books, Inc., 2006), 491-492.
2 Variation on the Terrapin nickname, used, for example, in “Rebels’ Sixth Place Chances Given Setback at Baltimore,” Pittsburgh Daily Post, October 7, 1914: 12.
3 Another variation on Terrapins, used, for example, in “The Terrapin Windup,” Sporting Life, October 17, 1914: 17.
4 “Terrapins Win and Tie,” Baltimore Sun, October 7, 1914: 5.