June 23, 1917 – Ernie Shore: 26 Up, 27 Down
We all have heard the story of Armando Galarraga, who pitched one of baseball’s “unofficial” perfect games. That wasn’t the first one.
Over 100 years ago, the Red Sox saw one of their pitchers record 27 outs in a row without letting a single batter reach base. However, it didn’t count as a perfect game. Why?
It’s an odd sequence of events that led to one of baseball’s most slept-on accomplishments.
Ernie Shore’s (left) name doesn’t splash through the baseball history books the way that Babe Ruth’s does, but in 1917 Shore teamed up with his then-Red Sox teammate to make history on the pitching mound. https://t.co/3kyk4rxRcO pic.twitter.com/6A7PkbXHG5
— National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum ⚾ (@baseballhall) April 19, 2020
Before Ruth became “The Great Bambino,” he was an incredible pitcher. Honestly, Ruth could’ve made the Hall of Fame sheerly due to his performance on the mound. In 1916, Ruth led the American League with a 1.75 ERA/158 ERA+ over 323.2 IP. Not only that, but his postseason ERA of 0.87 in 31 IP is the fourth-best of all time.
Ruth started 1917 at an excellent pace yet again. Going into his June 23 start against the Washington Senators, Ruth was 12 – 4 with a 2.35 ERA in 134 IP. At the plate, he was batting .380/.436/.540 with 0 HR in 58 PAs. He hadn’t quite found the long ball yet, but he was still carving out a path as a respectable hitter.
Nonetheless, Ruth began his start against the Senators innocuous enough with a leadoff walk to Ray Morgan. Ruth took issue with HP umpire Brick Owens’ strike zone and immediately started chirping Owens. The Boston Globe said that Owens replied, “get in there and pitch.”
Ruth shot back with “open your eyes and keep them open.”
When Owens threatened to eject Ruth, Ruth threatened to “bust [Owens] on the nose.”
Most umpires don’t respond well to physical threats, so Owens immediately tossed Ruth, who proceeded to charge Owens and deliver some wild haymakers, one of which landed.
Some sources say that the police removed Ruth from the field, while Ruth himself said in his own biography that Pinch Thomas and others dragged him away. With Boston looking for a pitcher who wouldn’t physically assault an umpire, they brought in Shore to clean up Ruth’s mess.
Shore was a solid pitcher, posting a solid 2.13 ERA/130 ERA+ and 1.123 WHIP in 613.1 IP from 1912 to 1916. During the two Red Sox World Series wins in ’15 & ’16, Shore pitched 34.2 innings of 1.82 ERA ball.
Shore only had five warm-up pitches to work with, and then he had to face Eddie Foster. After the very first pitch to Foster, the catcher, Sam Agnew, caught Morgan stealing second for the out No. 1. Just like that, Shore had a clean slate to work with. And he didn’t allow a single blemish the rest of the day.
Nine innings flew by in a mere one hour and 40 minutes. The Senators could barely hit anything out of the infield, and Shore cleanly handled any bunt they tried to sneak past him.
Decades later, Shore told The Sporting News that he had “never seen a more helpless team in baseball than Washington was that day.”
At the end of the game, Shore had a perfect line: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, and 2 K.
Ruth’s was a bit less spectacular: 0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, and 0 K.
100 years ago today, Babe Ruth is ejected after 1 batter. Ernie Shore relieves, the runner is out stealing, &Shore gets the next 26 in order pic.twitter.com/JxWhCWiZcX
— Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports) June 23, 2017
Unfortunately, throughout Shore’s career, he had always stood in Ruth’s shadow, and this game was no different. In the recaps that appeared in the following day’s newspapers, much was said about Ruth’s scuffle and little about Shore’s dominance.
This game went down in the history books as a perfect game at first. But in 1991, Commissioner Fay Vincent changed it to a combined no-hitter, which really does a disservice to Shore’s performance. After all, he was completely perfect.
In fact, he was better than perfect. How many people have faced just 26 batters and gotten 27 outs? Nobody besides Shore.
June 23, 1963 – Jimmy Piersall Runs the Bases Backwards
Jimmy Piersall was a sight to see on the baseball diamond. Piersall overcame his well-publicized struggle with bipolar disorder in his rookie season (which became the subject of a biographical novel and film entitled Fear Strikes Out) and Piersall spent 17 years in the majors.
Piersall regularly bowed after each catch. He fought with fans and players alike whenever he wasn’t talking to Babe Ruth’s monument in center field at Yankee Stadium. He even caused an ump to faint after shooting them with a water pistol.
Yankee Stadium, Sept 10, 1961 – In first game of Indians-Yankees doubleheader, two hooligans bolt from stands and attack Tribe centerfielder Jimmy Piersall, who held his own punching one in face and kicking other as seen here as teammate Johnny Temple and NYC cops rush in to help pic.twitter.com/EbL2yI3xl6
— Old-Time Baseball Photos (@OTBaseballPhoto) April 27, 2021
Despite these incidents, Piersall carved out a solid playing career due to his plate discipline and fantastic outfield arm. Stengel and Ted Williams even called Piersall the greatest defensive outfielder they ever saw.
As a two-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner, Piersall didn’t have much pop, topping out at 19 home runs in 1957. Over the years those numbers added up, and as Piersall began the 1963 season he sat at 98 career dingers.
How would this showman celebrate No. 100?
The day would come on June 23, 1963, with the New York Mets. A couple of days earlier, Piersall’s teammate Duke Snider hit his 400th career home run against the Cincinnati Reds. The future Hall of Famer received little fanfare for the occasion, and that’s not how Piersall wanted his milestone moment to go.
“I’ll bet I get more publicity for my 100th homer than you got for your 400th,” Piersall told Snider.
So Piersall had an idea for a special celebration, and he even practiced it, too. The moment came in the fifth inning when Piersall led off against Dallas Green. On the first pitch of the at-bat, Piersall lofted a 270-footer down the foul line at the Polo Grounds for a home run. He unveiled his big plan: he ran the bases backward.
Piersall didn’t go from third to second to first; he ran all the bases in the correct order. Piersall just did it while facing backward. The fans loved it. The players… not so much. I guess this was an unwritten rule that no one knew existed until that moment.
Unfortunately for Piersall, his manager Stengel felt so disgusted by the celebration that he released Piersall days later.
Piersall had the last laugh as he finished the season with the Los Angeles Angels.
The Mets finished the season dead last in the NL (51 – 11). The Angels finished second-to-last in the AL (70 – 91).
June 23, 2003 – Barry Bonds Creates 500/500 Club
Barry Bonds was so good he ran out of records to break. So he decided to create his own.
68 players have 300 SBs. 74 have 400 SBs. 39 have 500 SBs.
152 players have 300 HRs. 57 have 400 HRs. 27 have 500 HRs.
Just eight players are in the 300 – 300 club. On Aug. 23, 1998, Bonds became the only person in the 400 – 400 club.
And on June 23, 2003, a 38-year-old Bonds became the charting member of the 500 – 500 club.
Toward the end of his career, Bonds abandoned his speed in favor of his ridiculous power. Over the first 14 seasons of his career, Bonds averaged more stolen bases (33) than homers (32). But once entered his otherworldly prime in 2000, he rarely stole. He didn’t need to steal when he could jog around the bases every at-bat. From 2000 and on, Bonds averaged 40 HRs and just 7 SBs.
His 500th home run happened at the beginning of his record-breaking 2001 season. On April 17, Bonds landed on home plate with an exclamation point after sending No. 500 deep into a feeding frenzy in McCovey Cove.
At that time, Bonds sat at 472 stolen bases—good for 40th all-time.
Whenever Bonds wasn’t crushing dingers, he would give himself a challenge by swiping a bag or two. Entering the ’03 season, Bonds was just seven bases shy of No. 500.
The next day, the Giants began their second season series against the rival Dodgers. The two teams were fighting for a spot atop the NL West—both teams were tied at 44 – 30.
Bonds struggled throughout the entire game, recording an out in a different way every time (K, 1B-P, F8 and ꓘ).
But in top of the 11th, with the score tied 2 – 2, Bonds led off against Eric Gagné, who would later win the Cy Young that same year. Entering that game, Gagné had a 1.85 ERA and absurd 15.69 K/9. This was back when pitchers had to use steroids and not spider tack, so strikeout rates that high were a rarity. The next highest K/9 for a reliever was 12.82 for Mike Remlinger.
Anyways, Bonds being Bonds, he worked a walk on a full count against baseball’s toughest pitcher. And on the second pitch of the next AB, Bonds stole No. 500 with baseball’s best defensive catcher working the plate.
Even in the middle of one of his worst hitting performances of the entire year, Bonds finds a way to play an absolutely critical role for the Giants. The next batter, Benito Santiago, drove Bonds home with a first-pitch single to left field to give the Giants a 3 – 2 win and sole possession of first place.
“Now is not the time to talk about 500-500,” Bonds said after the game. “I’m exhausted.”
June 27, 1999 – The Last Kingdome Game
The Kingdome stands as an icon for Seattle. Many players and fans considered it a dump. But it was their dump.
47 years ago this week, construction begins in Seattle on the Kingdome. pic.twitter.com/6hy2eTNnPj
— Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports) November 2, 2019
For the Mariners’ first two decades of existence, they called the Kingdome home. The stadium hosted the beginning of many all-time great baseball careers, from Randy Johnson to Ken Griffey Jr. to Álex Rodríguez. Even though it took the Mariners 15 years to achieve their first winning season, the Kingdome played host to some of the best baseball moments in Seattle history. And there is no moment more special than the one that saved baseball in Seattle.
Although Seattle baseball would stick around after this hit, the Kingdome was on its last legs. With the Mariners threatening to leave Seattle if the city didn’t build a more modern replacement stadium, the King County Council approved the construction of Safeco Field, which began in 1997.
T-Mobile Park under construction as seen from the top of the Kingdome, 1998 #Marinrrs
Image credit: Seattle PI. pic.twitter.com/DLVlZzpWb3
— MLB Cathedrals ⚾️ (@MLBcathedrals) November 22, 2020
It took a bit over two years to finish construction, and the Mariners planned to move into the new home after the 1999 All-Star break. This meant that June 27 would be the Kingdome’s swan song.
56,530 fans filled the domed colossus, the highest attendance since Opening Day 1998.
Rusty Greer took García deep for a two-run bomb in the top of the first. ButGriffey Jr. came through to save the day (as he usually did) and he replied with a three-run bullet down the line.
Baseball theater indeed. It’s only fitting that The Kid had the final blast in Kingdome history.
The momentum swung to the Mariners, and the Rangers didn’t put up a fight the rest of the game as they went scoreless the rest of the way. Meanwhile, Edgar Martinez got in on the action with an RBI double in the third. Then, Brian Hunter drove the final run in with a fifth-inning single to give the Mariners a 5 – 2 lead.
The score stayed right there through the ninth when Mariners closer José Mesa came in to close out that chapter of Seattle baseball.
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