Pomrenke: Perfection in a pennant race

From SABR member Jacob Pomrenke at The National Pastime Museum on April 16, 2015:

It’s hard for a perfect game to get overshadowed. For many years, newspaper editors have been known to rip up their front pages and make room for a no-hitter on the other side of the country. But on October 2, 1908, in the midst of a thrilling pennant race that captivated the country like never before, Addie Joss’s historic performance against the Chicago White Sox wasn’t the most important baseball story of the afternoon. You could even make a case that he wasn’t the most dominant pitcher that day at Cleveland’s League Park.

Joss was one of the greatest pitchers of his generation, but few fans today know his name. He was a four-time 20-game winner for the Cleveland Naps (now the Indians) at the turn of the twentieth century, battling for supremacy in the American League with the likes of Cy Young and Rube Waddell. He posted 45 shutouts in nine seasons, and his 1.89 career ERA ranks second all-time. Armed with a powerful fastball and a hard-breaking curve, Joss had a distinctive corkscrew delivery that baffled hitters and kept the ball hidden until it was already past them. In modern times, his motion might draw comparisons to Luis Tiant or Orlando Hernandez. However, his time in baseball was the shortest of any player inducted into the Hall of Fame; he tragically died of tubercular meningitis in 1911 at the age of 31.

If I had to choose which game in baseball history I would have most wanted to see, Addie Joss’s perfect game in 1908 would be on a very short list. His performance came under the most nerve-wracking conditions this side of Don Larsen, in the final week of the closest pennant race in Major League history. Cleveland’s 1–0 win over the White Sox put them in a temporary tie for first place. It was a thrilling contest in which the only run was scored on a wild pitch that allowed a Naps runner on third base to trot home.

When the game was over, Cleveland fans celebrated like they had won the World Series. But a week later, their season was over—with the Naps finishing just a half-game behind the Detroit Tigers, an unfortunate scenario that would change baseball’s rules forever.

Read the full article here: http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/perfection-pennant-race

Originally published: April 16, 2015. Last Updated: April 16, 2015.