Addie Joss Day: An All-Star Celebration

This article was written by John R. Husman

This article was published in Road Trips: SABR Convention Journal Articles

This article was originally published in “Baseball in Cleveland,” the 1990 SABR convention journal.


Addie Joss (NATIONAL BASEBALL HALL OF FAME LIBRARY)More than two decades before the first interleague All-Star game, the elite of the American League’s players gathered at Cleveland’s League Park. They played the Cleveland team July 24, 1911, to celebrate the career of one of the game’s greats and to honor his memory.

Adrian Joss was among the game’s best and the rest of the best turned out to play in his honor that day. Quite simply, Addie Joss was a whale of a pitcher. In an abbreviated nine-year career he amassed 160 wins, 46 by shutout, for a solid but never championship Cleveland club. Along the way he hurled two no- hitters, one of them a perfect game, and seven one-hitters, one in his major league debut.

His career ERA was an incredible 1.88 and ranks second among all pitchers ever. He gave up a meager 16 home runs for his entire career, remarkable in any era.

For his efforts, Joss was admitted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1978 by vote of the Veterans Committee that waived the 10-year rule. Joss’ brilliant career was cut short at its zenith by tubercular meningitis. He died April 14, 1911, two days after his 31st birthday.

Never before had a player of such stature, and one so respected, died while still in the game. The baseball world was stunned. Joss’ funeral at Toledo, Ohio, where he had made his home, was a major event. The Cleveland team was scheduled to play in nearby Detroit. League President Ban Johnson granted a postponement at the last moment so Joss’ teammates, along with a number of the Tigers, could attend the rites. Hundreds of others attended, including the entire spectrum of society. They all loved Addie. The funeral sermon was preached by ballplayer-tumed-evangelist Billy Sunday.

The All-Star game was the brainchild of Cleveland management and Vice-President E. S. Barnard. He aimed to field “the greatest combination of All-Star players who ever appeared on one field in the history of the game.” The All-Stars would play the Cleveland team for the benefit of Joss’ widow and children. Tickets were offered on a subscription basis as “a great many patrons of the game expressed a willingness to pay more than the regular price for Joss Day tickets.” Some paid $100 for boxes.

Finding a day to play the game was difficult as the league schedule had no built-in break. Monday, July 24th, was selected as it was set aside for travel. The western clubs were about to make their second invasion of the season of the four eastern cities. Rain would ruin the event. There was no other date available. After Sunday’s game the field was carefully tarped.

Barnard and his executive committee were not bound by fan preferences as is the case today in selecting All-Stars. They went after the very best, first securing permission of the teams and then agreement from the players themselves. No one turned them down. All were anxious to be part of the event. The great Ty Cobb was one of the first to respond, saying he would surely be there. Famed Washington fireballer Walter Johnson said, ‘I’ll do anything they want for Addie Joss’ family.” Chicago pitcher Ed Walsh was enthusiastic over being asked to take part and offered to pitch the entire game for Cleveland.

The players just mentioned are members of the Hall of Fame, an indication of the caliber of player that took the field that day. Future Hall of Famers Sam Crawford of Detroit and Tris Speaker of Boston joined Cobb in the outfield. Three of the infielders were destined for the Hall of Fame, the Philadelphia A’s Eddie Collins at second and his teammate Frank “Home Run” Baker at third, along with Bobby Wallace of the St. Louis Browns at short. Hal Chase of New York, who is regarded as the best defensive first baseman ever by many, rounded out the infield.

There were baseball brains among them, as Chase and Wallace also managed their teams. Besides Johnson, “Smoky Joe” Wood of Boston and Russ Ford of the New York Highlanders shared pitching duties. Alas, the Chicago schedule prohibited Walsh from participating. His Sox were the only team not represented, but they sent $140. If there was a weakness on the team it was at catcher, there being no premier receiver in the American League at the time. Gabby Street, Johnson’s receiver at Washington, was chosen. His backup was the A’s Paddy Livingston, no doubt selected because he was from Cleveland’s West Side. Rounding out the squad were utility infielder Germany Schaefer and outfielder Clyde Milan, both of Washington. Manager was Jimmy McAleer of Washington, a former Cleveland skipper. That these players were the league’s best is borne out in the numbers they put up. Led by Cobb’s gaudy .442, the All-Stars, less pitchers, had a team .333 batting average going into the game.The four outfielders had a combined .380 average while the infield checked in at .334. The overall average was reduced greatly by the averages of the light- hitting catchers, both barely over .200.

The pitchers, likewise, were among the league’s best. That year Johnson won 25 games. Wood 23, and Ford 22. These players were the best. The Cleveland Press reported that the team would cost $500,000 to buy.

On the Cleveland side of the field were two more future members of the Hall of Fame. Manager/infielder Napoleon Lajoie was one. He was such a legend in his own time that the Cleveland team was named for him, the Naps. And another living legend, Cy Young, in his last season, started the game for Cleveland. Also playing for Cleveland was “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, a player of Hall of Fame quality, but never to be enshrined because of his involvement in the Black Sox scandal of 1919.

That these players would come together on the same field was the ultimate tribute to Joss. There was no lost love among several of the players. Many of the hard feelings revolved around the hated Cobb. He was not even on speaking terms with his fellow Tiger outfielder Sam Crawford. Cobb had left the marks of his spikes on Baker and was in a heated and close chase with Collins for the stolen base leadership. Cobb had just battled in 1910 with Lajoie for the league batting championship. Cobb endeared himself to no one when he sat out the last two games of the season to protect a seemingly safe lead.

On the final day, however, Lajoie got eight hits in a double header. Six of his hits were bunt singles and some say third baseman Red Corriden of St. Louis purposely played back allowing Lajoie safe passage. Baseball schedules then fostered the players knowing each other well, rivalries flourished and conflicts grew, and sometimes became bitter. Players were bound to teams and most often played with the same one for years. Teams played each other 22 times in a season. These players knew each other well. The game for Joss transcended all this.

The game was a celebration. The atmosphere was World Series-like, the only sign of mourning was the flag at half-mast. Germany Schaefer did not play, but was a star of the show. Using a megaphone, he announced the lineups and called the game. Schaefer, who once stole second, then first, then second again, was the comedian extraordinaire. He coached for both teams.

The pre-game warm ups were a highlight of the day. Everyone, including the Cleveland players, were in awe of the collective talent and skills displayed by All-Stars. Schaefer was at first for infield practice sitting on the bag, and demanding accurate throws.

The game itself was not a classic. Young started for Cleveland. Speaker, Collins, and Cobb started the game with hits for a quick two runs, and the Stars never looked back. Wood started so that he and Speaker could catch an early train to Boston. In a quick one hour and thirty-two minutes, the Stars coasted to a 5-3 win. The 15,272 fans that turned out, along with others, contributed

$12,931.60 to Mrs. Joss. The Plain Dealer said, “It is safe to say that never before in the history of the national game have so many real ball players appeared on one lot for a single game of the pastime.” After 86 years, that may still be a true statement. But Mrs. Joss said it best of the game, “Addie had real friends, even amongst his bitterest rivals on the ball field.”