The Shortened No-Hitters

This article was written by Emil Rothe

This article was published in the 1977 Baseball Research Journal


    To include all of the many and varied statistics of baseball, references in the record books must be brief. Thus, much factual information that would help vivify a playing performance must, of necessity, be omitted. Of all the topical subdivisions in the record book, one of the most enigmatic is:  “No-Hit Games-Less Than Nine Innings.”  What happened? Why weren’t they played to completion?

    A review of the 19 such games played since the turn of the century suggests that maybe it is even a mistake to include them at all.  Countless other pitchers have hurled hitless ball for five, six, or seven or more innings only to be belted with one or more hits late in a game that was played to its normal conclusion. In fact Billy Pierce of the White Sox had a perfect game in his possession with only one more out to go in the ninth on June 27, 1958. A Washington pinch hitter, Ed Fitz Gerald, dispossessed him with a line double, just fair, down the rightfield line. Billy is not in the record book for an 8 2/3 inning no-hitter, let alone of perfect dimensions-nor are the many, many others who have nursed no-hitters into the late innings before an enemy uprising did them in.

    Despite this negative point of view, the “whys and wherefores” of those shortened no-hitters do engender interest. Three of them were budding perfect games. The longest of these was a seven-inning affair for the St. Louis Cardinals against Boston in the second game of a doubleheader August 11, 1907 by Ed Karger, a lefthander who had only one winning season in his six in the big show. On that day, however, Ed had the Doves (as the Bostons were then known) eating out of his hand; not one of the 21 men he faced reached first. Meanwhile, his teammates picked up one run each in the fourth and fifth plus two in the sixth and the Cardinals had swept the twinbill. Karger’s perfect game was cut short because of prior agreement.

    Rube Vickers of the Philadelphia Athletics pitched perfect ball for five innings against Washington in the second half of a doubleheader on the final day of the season in 1907. He was in only ten games that year but on October 5th he was nearly invincible and his five perfect innings were only a part of his day’s work! In the first game Connie Mack started a youngster, Charlie Fritz, who lasted only 2 2/3 innings-that, incidentally, was Charlie’s entire major league career.  Rube Waddell relieved Fritz who, in turn, was replaced by Vickers in the fourth. Vickers hurled brilliantly for the next twelve innings, allowing but four hits. His opponent, Charlie Smith, was hit hard but three Philadelphia runs were cut down at the plate. In the A’s 15th a bad throw by Tony Smith, shortstop for the Senators, trying to head off Topsy Hartsel at third, cost Washington the game, 4-2. That game consumed two and a half hours. Because Vickers had done such a great job in the first game, Manager Mack nominated him to start game two. The length of the first game caused the second to be called at the end of five innings because of darkness even though it had run less than an hour (major league games then started at 3 p.m.). Philadelphia had built a 4-0 margin in that time.

     On August 6, 1967 Dean Chance of the Minnesota Twins was perfect through five innings when rain, which had halted play for 25 minutes in the top of the fourth, finally stopped the contest and after a 57-minute wait it was called with 4½ innings in the book and the home-standing Twins holding a 2-0 lead. Both runs came in the fourth. Harmon Killebrew singled one in and scored the other. Less than three weeks later Chance pitched a full-length no-hitter against Cleveland (August 25th).

     Three of the other games had to be called, short of completion, because of darkness. Grant (Stoney) McGlynn went seven innings for St. Louis in the second game of a twin bill at Brooklyn September 24, 1906. The Dodgers scored a run off McGlynn in the first. Billy Maloney walked, stole second, went to third on Harry Lumley’s sacrifice and, when Tim Jordan was safe on an error by first baseman Shad Barry, Maloney scored. The Cardinals managed only three hits but Tom O’Hara scored in the sixth. The game ended in a one-all tie. Two other Brooklyns reached base, one on another base on balls and one on a second error. This is the only one of the 19 games surveyed that did not reach a decision.

    Two days later, September 26th, Lefty Leifield won an 8-0 no-hitter for Pittsburgh in Philadelphia. This was the second shutout that the Pirates threw at the Phillies that day. The hitless game had to be called after six innings because it had become too dark to continue play. Lefty walked two and one other Phil got on because of an error.  Leifield struck out six.

    Jim Tobin pitched his second no-hit contest of the season, a 7-0 whitewash, halted by darkness in Boston after the fifth inning. It was the second game of a doubleheader with Philadelphia June 22, 1944.  The Phillies had won the first by a 1-0 score in fifteen innings on a home run by Ron Northey off Al Javery who had pitched all the way for Boston. The date had been originally set up as an afternoon-twilight affair. Tommy Holmes led off in game two for Boston with a home run, and when Butch Nieman followed suit with a man on, Tobin had more runs than he needed. For the Phils, Tony Lupien drew a pass from Tobin in the first and Ray Hamrick got one in the third. Tobin’s first no-hit game of 1944 was against Brooklyn April 27 and was of regulation length.

    Young baseball fans, attuned to flight schedules that can span the country in an afternoon, must be reminded that there was a time when major league clubs had only the trains to transport them from city to city to keep scheduled dates.  The distance covered by a plane in an hour might take a train ten to twelve hours to transverse. It was therefore necessary, sometimes, to stop a game short of nine innings to allow a team to meet a train schedule. This was generally done by previous agreement between the teams involved; no inning to start after a pre-set time. Four of the shortened no-hitters were curtailed for that reason.

    One of those was a seven inning game pitched by Jake Weimer against Brooklyn in Cincinnati, August 24, 1906 as the second of two games. The Reds won, 1-0, when the winning run scored with two outs in the last inning to be played. Weimer walked one man and hit another while Cincinnati played errorless ball. Howie Camnitz of Pittsburgh won in similar fashion in the second game of two on August 23, 1907.  The Pirates had won the first game from the New York Giants by a 4-2 score in the tenth. Only five innings of game two could be played before time ran out. Camnitz gave up five bases on balls and hit a batter. The lone run came in the Pirates’ third when Honus Wagner singled, stole second, and came across on a single by Ed Abbaticchio.

    The Chicago Cubs played a doubleheader in St. Louis on Sunday, July 31, 1910. Three Finger Brown won the opener, 9-3, and King Cole bagged the nightcap, 4-0, in seven innings. The second game was cut short because both teams had to catch a train for the east coast.  The Cubs had a run home and the bases full in the last of the seventh when time ran out, and the game was called with Chicago ahead 4-0. Cole had walked three and a bobble by Johnny Evers accounted for the four St. Louis batters who reached base.

    Jay Cashion, who was a member of Washington’s pitching staff for varying tours of duty from 1911 through 1914, was credited with a six inning no-hitter August 20, 1912 versus Cleveland. He chose a bad time to scintillate because he worked the second of two slated for the day. Walter Johnson took the hill for the Senators in the first contest and all he did was win his 15th straight of that season, 4-2, setting a new American League record for consecutive victories up to that point. Cashion, himself, was perfect but the Indians did put two men on base because of a pair of errors by shortstop George McBride.  Cashion’s teammates got him a couple of runs in the second. The first game only consumed an hour and 55 minutes and the second had only gone five minutes past an hour but Cleveland had to catch a train for Boston so only six innings could be played. Rain or bad weather terminated the rest of the short no-hitters.

    Leon (Red) Ames had just joined the New York Giants when Manager John McGraw selected him to hurl the second game of a scheduled two in St. Louis September 14, 1903. The Giants had won the first 8-2. In his first big league start, Ames had a fine fast ball and excellent control. He struck out seven and walked but two. A storm had threatened all afternoon and it got so dark the game had to be called at the end of five innings with the score 5-0. Red’s pitching opponent, Mike O’Neill, deserved a better fate; he surrendered only four hits but his mates committed five errors. Leon Ames also held Brooklyn without a hit through 9 1/3 frames on opening day, April 15, 1909, but the first of seven hits spoiled that no-hitter and he lost, 3-0, in the 13th. There is a certain irony in that Ames gets an official no-hitter for a game in which he gives up seven hits, but no no-hitter for a game where he gives up no hits.

    Rube Waddell, eccentric southpaw on Connie Mack’s A’s, was nearly perfect in a one-man show with the St. Louis Browns on August 15, 1905. A heavy rain washed out the game in Philadelphia just as the A’s had completed their turn at bat in the fifth, leading 2-0. Of the 15 men that Rube faced, nine struck out and three others bounced weakly back to the mound and Waddell handled them all. The only Brownie to reach base did so on Rube’s own error.

    On May 26, 1907 Ed Walsh of the World Champions Chicago White Sox, recorded a rain-shortened no-hitter over the New York Highlanders in a game with farcial overtones. Threatening clouds had hovered over Chicago all day but the Sox elected to start the game anyway. Rain fell almost continuously and, on occasion, there were hailstones in evidence on the diamond. Walsh surrendered one run in the first when he walked both Kid Elberfeld and Hal Chase and then served up two wild pitches, Elberfeld scoring on the second errant pitch. The Sox got four in their half of the first off New York starter, Al Orth. With the score 4-1 in the fourth and rain falling steadily, Clark Griffith (The Old Fox), manager of the Highlanders, tried to delay the game in the hope that it would have to be called before New York could complete its fifth inning.

    To that end he inserted himself into the game as relief pitcher for Orth. He took his time warming up. Just as he was about to pitch a heavy downpour hit the park and play had to be suspended. But, in ten minutes the rain stopped and umpire John Sheridan ordered the game to resume with Sox runners on first and third. Griffith then “lost control” and walked Billy Sullivan. He next served a cripple to Walsh which resulted in a double and two runs scored. At that point Chicago also got into the act. Sullivan loafed toward the plate on the hit and allowed himself to be tagged. When Ed Hahn hit a grounder, he took his time going to first and was reluctantly retired by the New Yorkers.

    The next Chicago batter was Manager Fielder Jones. He tapped to the mound (on purpose?) But Griffith let the ball go through his legs. Elberfeld, backing up the mound, fielded the ball and although Jones beat the throw to first, he refused to touch the bag. Sheridan called him safe but with Jones refusing to step on first and Chas (first baseman) refusing to tag him, Sheridan ordered New York to make the tag or face forfeiture of the game. The White Sox had two more runs home in the sixth with one man out when a heavy rain finally washed out the rest of the game; the score by that time had mounted to 8-1. The two bases on balls that he issued in the first were the only Highlanders to become base runners and Big Ed Walsh had his no-hitter. In 1911 Walsh fashioned a full length hitless game against Boston.

    The Dodgers and Cardinals were supposed to play two games in Brooklyn on August 6, 1908 but only got through six innings of the first one before rain flooded out the rest of the day. Johnny Lush, a St. Louis lefthander, held the home team hitless and although he walked five, none scored. The two runs that the Cardinals did get were tainted. Two years earlier Lush had pitched a nine inning no-hit game for Philadelphia; Brooklyn was also his victim on that occasion.

    Walter Johnson recorded his second no-hitter, a rain-shortened seven inning affair against St. Louis on August 25, 1924 in Griffith Stadium. It was the first of two games that were scheduled for the day. Two Browns reached, both on walks. The 2-0 victory was Walter’s sixth shutout of the season and the 107th of his career. His full length no-hitter was at the expense of Boston July 1, 1920.

    Fred Frankhouse, an up-and-down pitcher through ten seasons without great distinction, pitched no-hit ball for Brooklyn against Cincinnati for 7 2/3 innings August 27, 1937 when rain halted the game -permanently. After Fred had retired two in the eighth, a heavy downpour ended the contest. Brooklyn had collected five runs. Frankhouse issued six bases on balls and Jimmy Bucher made an error behind him but no Cincinnati runner reached third. Holding the Reds without a hit was totally out of character for Frankhouse. In his M.L. career he was touched for 2033 hits in 1888 innings.

    Toothpick Sam Jones kept his team, the San Francisco Giants, in the pennant race by pitching a 4-0 game against St. Louis on September 26, 1959. It was his 21st win and a no-hitter in seven innings.  There were two outs in the top of the eighth when, suddenly, wind-lashed rain swept in on Busch Stadium, shredding the American flag in center field in seconds. Umpire Frank Dascoli halted play and after a wait of more than an hour and a half, the game was officially ended.

     It was the first no-hitter against St. Louis since 1919 when Hod Eller of Cincinnati did it. Jones walked only two. Home runs by Willie Mays and Willie McCovey made it easy for Sam. In 1955 he had a full-length no-hit game when he was on the staff of the Cubs. That was the game in which he walked the first three Pirates to face him in the ninth and then proceeded to strike out the next three.

    John Whitehead, who had pitched his best ball for the Chicago White Sox, was traded to the St. Louis Browns early in 1939. In the spring of 1940 he was so ineffective that he was sent back to the minors and didn’t return to the Browns until midseason. Only two weeks after his return, he faced Cleveland in the second game on August 5, 1940. Only two of the Indians reached base in the six innings (rain ended the day’s play in the St. Louis half of the sixth inning).  Whitehead walked Frank Metha in the third and Hank Greenberg was safe on an error by Johnny Berardino in the fourth.

    One of the 19 games considered in this account would not have survived as a no-hitter if rain had not intervened when it did.

    Mike McCormick of San Francisco faced the Phillies in Philadelphia June 12, 1959. Through five innings he held the Phils without a hit although he had walked one. In that time the Giants had scored a run in the first, two in the fifth, and tacked on another in the first half of the sixth. In their half of that inning, the first two men for Philadelphia walked and Richie Ashburn beat out an infield hit to load the bases with nobody out. It was then that the rains came and it became impossible to continue. Since the Phillies had not completed the sixth, the entire inning was cancelled, including Ashburn’s hit and the Giants’ fourth run. So, it is recorded as a 3-0 win for San Francisco and a no-hitter for Mike-but a lucky one.

    So there they are, the 19 shortened no-hitters of this century.  From Ed Karger’s perfect game through seven innings, curtailed through no fault of his own, to McCormick’s five-inning affair in which he gave up a hit in the sixth which was wiped out by rain. They make up a strange collection-official games, but not really official no-hitters.

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