The first no-hitter at Boston’s Fenway Park was thrown by a hometown pitcher, but not a member of the Red Sox. It was by George Davis of the National League’s Boston Braves, during the Miracle Braves’ improbable push from last place to the World Series championship in 1914.1
Boston’s National League team was making a run as the 1914 season was approaching its end. The Braves had been 11 games out of first place at the end of May and were still nine games out at the end of July. In fact, they were in last place on every day but one from May 8 through July 18. Then they started winning. They were 11-2 in the last 13 games of July. On August 25, after a 16-4 stretch (there was one tie) they reached first place for one day. They regained first on September 2 and hadn’t let go.
They were in first – but only by one game over the New York Giants – as Wednesday, September 9, dawned.
Fenway Park, which had opened in 1912, offered significantly larger seating capacity than the Braves’ home field, the South End Grounds. The Braves’ crowds had increased as the pennant race heated up, and Red Sox President Joseph J. Lannin allowed the Braves to use Fenway Park at no charge. The Braves, awaiting construction of Braves Field, played all of their home games after Labor Day 1914 at Fenway Park.2
Because of the rescheduling of a June 29 rainout, there were two Braves games played at Fenway Park on September 9. The Philadelphia Phillies won the first game with ease, 10-3, scoring five runs in the first inning and two in the second off pitchers Gene Cocreham and Dick Crutcher and seeing their own Pete Alexander improve to 22-13.
Braves manager George Stallings had Davis, a 24-year-old right-handed spitballer nicknamed Iron, start the second game. Davis had pitched in only 12 big-league games coming into the 1914 season and was 0-1 (4.91) for the season thus far, with just 14⅔ innings under his belt.3 His only previous major-league victory came in August 1912, as a member of the New York Highlanders. He had spent most of 1914 playing for the Harvard Law School baseball team.
The Boston Post declared that in selecting Davis to start, “Stallings played a trump card that he has had up his sleeve for over a month. … Davis had what he announced as the best breaking spitball he had ever seen.”4
Neither team scored in the first inning, but the Braves got on the board in the second. Right fielder Possum Whitted led off with a single and third baseman Red Smith singled to left one out later. Shortstop Rabbit Maranville hit the ball directly to Phils second baseman Bobby Byrne, who committed an error, and the bases were loaded.
Catcher Hank Gowdy grounded to short. Jack Martin threw to second for the force, but Byrne’s relay for an inning-ending double play went astray, Gowdy and first baseman Sherry Magee collided “violently,” and both Whitted and Smith scored.5 It was 2-0, Braves.
In the top of the second inning, plate umpire Ernie Quigley was hit in the neck by a foul tip off the bat of Byrne. “He was knocked unconscious and for a time was thought to be seriously hurt. He was unable to move for half an hour, but midway through the game appeared on the field and finished out the afternoon on the bases.”6
The Braves added two more runs in the fourth. Smith led off with a single. Maranville walked. Both tagged up and took a base on Gowdy’s long fly to center. Pitcher Davis, who batted left-handed, singled through left fielder Beals Becker’s legs, driving them both in and giving himself a 4-0 lead.
Davis pitched on. He dug himself a hole when he walked the first three batters in the top of the fifth, but he struck out catcher Ed Burns and got Gavvy Cravath, batting for Tincup, to hit to Maranville for a double play.
They added a pair more in the eighth, off Philadelphia’s third pitcher, Joe Oeschger. With two out, Gowdy singled. Davis got another hit – his third of the game. They were the only three hits he had all year, and he finished 1914 going 3-for-18 at the plate (.167).8 Mann tripled to the fence in right-center and it was 7-0.
Davis pitched the ninth without giving up a hit and secured his no-hitter, the only one in the National League in 1914. The Braves pitcher walked five batters, and there were two errors by Braves fielders (both by third baseman Smith), but Davis kept Philadelphia hitless.
Only two balls had been hit to the outfield by Phillies batters in the entire game. One was “a soft fly to Les Mann” in center field.9 The other was a ball hit to right field in the eighth inning. Whitted made a great catch, saving the no-hitter. It was a “low liner” on which Whitted initially stepped back, but quickly realized that the wind was holding it up and rushed in “just in time to scoop the ball with his left hand only a few inches before it struck the ground.”10
Davis struck out four; the rest of the outs were handled by Braves infielders. First baseman Schmidt had 14 putouts. The Boston Globe’s Melville Webb wrote that Davis pitched his game “without making his fielders do much extraordinary work behind him.”11 Webb declared the walks weren’t due to any wildness by Davis but “due mainly to his effort to nip the corners of the plate.”12
Davis made five more appearances in 1914, including four starts. On October 1 he threw four innings of no-hit ball against the Giants at the Polo Grounds, but then was gotten to for six runs, fortunate to win, 7-6.
The Braves finished in first place, with plenty of room to spare, 10½ games ahead of the second-place Giants. They played the 1914 World Series against Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics, winning the first two games on the road, 7-1 in Game One and 1-0 in Game Two, behind pitchers Dick Rudolph and Bill James. Game Three was in Boston, at Fenway Park, started by Lefty Tyler but won by James in the 12th. Both teams scored twice in the 10th. The Braves swept the Series with a Game Four 3-1 win by Rudolph. Rudolph had been 26-10 in the regular season, James had been 26-7, and Tyler had been 16-13. Stallings chose to stick with his trio and Davis was not used in the Series.
After Harvard’s 1915 spring semester ended, Davis joined the Braves once more, appeared in 15 games, with nine starts, and was 3-3 with a 3.80 ERA. It was his last foray in the majors. He pitched in two games for the Double-A (International League) Providence Grays in 1916, but lost both.
Davis later went into law, then brokerage, and politics, and later founded the Buffalo Astronomical Society, which became his passion. His granddaughter wrote SABR biographer Rory Costello that Davis “fluently read and wrote Greek, Hebrew, Latin, and Arabic, and he read Sanskrit. He learned these languages to help him in his passion.” He “picked up Arabic using two dictionaries and no tutor. He also owned volumes in Egyptian hieroglyphics, and his monographs showed familiarity with Chinese.”13
Without doubt, any time he chose to reflect on his time in baseball, he could take a measure of pride in having thrown the first no-hitter at Fenway Park.14
This article was fact-checked by Laura Peebles and copy-edited by Len Levin.
Photo credit: Trading Card DB.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org.
1 For more of the 1914 season, Bill Nowlin, ed., The Miracle Braves of 1914: Boston’s Original Worst-to-First World Series Champions (Phoenix: Society for American Baseball Research, 2014), a collaborative work of 39 SABR members. The Braves had finished in last place for four seasons in a row, 1909 through 1912, edging up to fifth place in 1913.
2 The Braves returned the favor in 1915 and 1916, because Braves Field offered more seating than Fenway Park. The Red Sox played home games of both the 1915 and 1916 World Series at Braves Field, for that reason. This particular day, cold weather cut attendance, listed at 7,500. The Boston Post reported 10,000.
3 Davis had started seven games for the New York Highlanders in 1912 and was 1-4 (6.50).
4 Ed McGrath, “Braves Win No-Hit Game,” Boston Post, September 10, 1914: 1, 10. McGrath wrote that Davis had only needed some time and coaching to better gain control of the pitch.
5 The characterization was McGrath’s.
6 “Phils Did Not Get Hit in Afterpiece,” Philadelphia Inquirer, September 10, 1914: 10. The account in the Inquirer was clearly supplied by Melville Webb of the Boston Globe. The Post article noted that several doctors from the stands came to his aid and that he was carried from the field while still unconscious.
7 Evers, in his first season in Boston after 12 years and two World Series championships with the Chicago Cubs, had come to the Braves in a February 1914 trade. He was selected for the Chalmers Award as National League MVP, with teammates Maranville and Bill James finishing second and third.
8 Davis also struck out once in the game, batting right-handed against left-hander Rixey. Davis was 11-for-61 (.180), with one extra-base hit, a double in 1915, in his major-league batting career.
9 R.E. McMillin, “Pitcher Davis Yields Phillies No-Hit, No-Run,” Boston Journal, September 10, 1914: 1, 9.
10 “No-Hit, No-Run Game Pitched by Young Davis,” Boston Herald, September 10, 1914: 1, 10.
11 Melville E. Webb Jr., “Davis Keeps Quakers Hitless and Runless,” Boston Globe, September 10, 1914: 1.
12 Webb, 6.
13 Rory Costello, “Iron Davis,” SABR BioProject, at https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/iron-davis/.
14 There have been 14 no-hitters thrown at Fenway Park in its first 111 seasons, 1912 through 2022. Nine were thrown by Red Sox pitchers, with others thrown by Davis, George Mogridge, Walter Johnson, Ted Lyons, and Jim Bunning. “Fenway Park No-Hitters,” NoNoHitters.com, accessed August 25, 2023, https://www.nonohitters.com/fenway-park-no-hitters/.