Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Perfect Game - in Relief

Five years ago this month I almost saw a perfect game. It was in Oakland. Curt Schilling had not allowed a baserunner until the 6th when a guy reached on a Lugo error. It was a room-service grounder and Lugo should have easily made the play. But he didn't. We got to the bottom of the 9th, two outs, no hitter still in place, and Shannon Stewart singles. Schilling retires the next guy and it's a one-hit shutout. But if Lugo had made that play, Stewart would not have gotten up in the 9th and it would have been not only a no-hitter, but a Perfect Game. But there's better Perfect Game story.

Red Sox pitcher Ernie Shore

It was 95 years ago today that the strangest Perfect Game in Major League Baseball history took place. It was game one of a double-header at Fenway Park, with the Red Sox facing the Washington Senators (they became the Minnesota Twins in 1961).

The starting pitcher for Boston was Babe Ruth. Leading off for the Senators was Ray Morgan. Ruth wound up walking Morgan on four pitches. When home plate umpire Brick Owens (is that where the name Brick in "The Middle" came from?) made the ball four call, Ruth was so agitated that he called Owens "the most foul name imaginable" according to the Boston Globe writeup. (Just this week the Supreme Court overturned the "fleeting expletives" fines that the FCC had leveled against ABC and Fox for F-bombs that aired during award shows, and given that today you can say "sucks" and "WTF?" on network tv during family viewing time, one has to wonder what was the most foul name imaginable back in 1917?)

Back to the game. Owens ejected Ruth, who was not known for taking this sort of thing well. Ruth then marched up to home plate and took a swing at the umpire. That got him hauled off the field and he was hit with a $100 fine and a ten-game suspension. The catcher, Pinch Thomas (there were a lot of colorful ballplayer names back then) was also ejected.

So, Sox pitcher Ernie Shore comes trotting in from the bullpen as a reliever. It's the top of the first, one on, nobody out. Morgan decides to try and steal second, but Ernie Shore senses this, throws to first and picks him off. Shore then proceeds to retire the next 26 Senators in a row, resulting in a 4-0 win that was a Perfect Game in relief.

It stayed in the record books that way for years until someone decided that, because Morgan originally reached 1st base on Ruth's walk, it was a no-hitter but not a perfect game. Wondering what ever happened to Ernie Shore? His Sox career met the same fate as Babe Ruth. He was sold to the Yankees by owner Harry Frazee.

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