|The 17-Inning No-Hitter|
By Jack Rudolph
May 10, 1909, started out to be a lousy day in Winchester, Kentucky. A cold rain fell during the morning and, although it stopped about noon, the day continued unseasonably chilly for the blue grass country in May, with dark, heavy clouds threatening to unload again at any moment.
The home-town Hustlers were meeting their fiercest Blue Grass League rivals, the Lexington Colts, that afternoon in their first encounter of the season. Garner's Park should have been jumping, but with the weather showing no disposition to cooperate, only about 300 fans showed up.
Hardy loyalty paid off, though, as their rookie pitching ace Fred Toney threw a no-hitter and the Hustlers sneaked past the Colts, 1-0, on a perfectly executed squeeze play in the last inning. After nearly 70 years, they still talk about that game in Winchester.
It was no ordinary no-hitter. It went 17 innings, a feat still unchallenged as the longest no-hit game in professional baseball history.
A tall, powerful kid from Tennessee with an apparently tireless right arm, Fred was in the first full season of what was to be a highly successful pitching career. Showing eye-popping speed, precision control and unflappable cool, the big 20-year-old struck out 19, issued only one base on balls and hit one batter. Of four others who reached base on errors, one made it on Toney's own wild throw of a dribbler back to the box. Just two runners got past first base and none saw
He needed everything to outlast Lexington's starter, a newcomer named Baker, making his first effort for the Colts. Little was known about Baker and even less is remembered, since he departed the scene before the season was over, but he was almost as invincible as Toney. If it hadn't been for his throwaway in the 17th inning, the game might have ended in darkness with nobody the winner.
From the moment Umpire Wilson intoned "Play Ball!" and the sparse crowd set up an encouraging chatter, the hill rivals served notice they were going to be mean. Toney struck out the first two men to face him. Baker walked Winchester's lead-off man, then started a double play to wipe him out. Campbell singled through the infield but was left on first when Ellis popped up.
Both pitchers, backed by alert defensive play, continued to mesmerize the hitters through the top of the sixth. For Lexington, Kaiser was safe in the second inning on Barney's off-target throw and moved up on an infield out, Fieber drew the lone base on balls off Toney in the third and Stockum got aboard in the fifth when Toney threw away his infield bouncer. Neither advanced.
Goosetree drew a pass in the second and Ingles waited out another in the fifth. The former died on first and Ingles was forced at second when Kaiser came in fast to take Horn's line drive up the middle on one hop and throw the base-runner out. Horn was safe on the fielder's
choice but Toney struck out to end the inning.
Baker faltered in the sixth but Winchester blew the opening, thanks to inept base-running and sharp Colt infield play. With one out, Chapman singled but took too long a lead off first and was trapped. Campbell and Ellis followed with successive hits, the former taking third. Ellis promptly lit out for second and backstop Coyne put on a Convincing act of trying to head him off. His throw was intercepted by Hall and the latter's relay back to the plate cut down Campbell trying to score on the delayed double steal.
By this time it had dawned on the crowd that Toney had a no-hitter going, and the tension closed down even lower than the threatening cloud banks. Pleas for Fred to ram the Colts' bats down their throats alternated with breathless silences as successive batters faced him and whoops of relief when he disposed of them. Toney responded by retiring the last 14 batters in the regulation nine innings.
Meanwhile, Baker was conceding nothing. He permitted a runner in each inning, on a pair of walks and Barney's eighth-inning safety. One was out stealing and the others languished on first.
When word of the remarkable duel filtered downtown, business on Winchester's main drag was virtually suspended while everybody gathered in front of the Winchester Sun office to follow the game second hand. There being no such luxury as a press box telephone, let alone a press box, the Sun set up a bicycle relay to bring news of progress at the end of each half inning.
Tension on the street matched that in the ball park as the string of zeroes marched across the Sun's front window. Each report that another round had gone by without a hit off Toney was greeted by cheers and subdued discussion until the arrival of the next courier.
The two teams were playing as if the pennant rode on the outcome of every pitch (which, as a matter of fact, it did, Winchester ultimately winning the championship with one less defeat than runner-up Richmond). From the eighth through the 16th neither pitcher allowed a hit, the equivalent of a full nine-inning, double no-hitter.
Toney got stronger the more he worked. He struck out at least one batter in every inning except the 15th and got five in a row between the 10th and 12th. He nicked Kaiser with an errant curve in the 10th, then went on his five-strikeout splurge, whiffing the side in the 11th on only 11 pitches.
Fred was getting some eye-boggling support, too, especially from Ingles, Goosetree and Chapman. Three times the Hustler shortstop sprinted back on the outfield grass to pull down looping Texas leaguers, and he also raced behind second to scoop up Kaiser's skimming daisy- clipper and throw him out by an eyelash. Goosetree made a couple of glossy stops of viciously hit balls and once almost fell into the empty third base bleachers to haul in a foul fly.
Chapman ranged all over the middle outfield to make fine running catches. He dropped a towering smash by Hall after a long dash in the 12th that might have been called either way but was ruled an error because the fielder got both hands on the ball. Hall stole second but was stranded there.
Baker's hex on the Hustlers was equally effective. Campbell got on for a third time when the Colt hurler juggled his roller to the mound in the 11th and Ingles strolled in the 12th, but both expired on first. Toney became the second base runner of the afternoon to reach third base when Kaiser muffed his fly leading off the 13th. Barney and Chapman sacrificed him around but Baker got Campbell on an easy fly.
Ellis broke the hitless deadlock by opening Winchester's half of the 1 7th with a clean shot into left field, Schmidt laid down a sacrifice bunt to Baker who, with plenty of time to make the play, threw wild to first. Ellis raced to third and Schmidt pulled up at second as the crowd began to talk it up. Goosetree's best effort, however, was a foul pop back of first base.
Baker slipped a strike past Ingles, and then Ellis came streaking in with the next pitch. As Ellis, Baker and Coyne converged on the plate, Ingles dragged a perfect squeeze bunt down the first base line and Ellis slid under Coyne with the only run of the long, tense afternoon.
The roar that went up as Umpire Wilson signaled the score could be heard halfway across town. When word of the victory reached the business district, every automobile horn in the area began to honk, to be followed shortly by a chorus of factory whistles.
The box score of organized baseball's longest no-hit game follows.
Lexington 000 000 000 000 000 00 - 0
Winchester 000 000 000 000 000 01 - 1
Base on balls-off Baker 6, off Toney 1; Struck Out-by Baker 6, by Toney 19; Hit by Pitcher-by Toney 1; Left on base-Lexington 6. Winchester 11; Stolen bases-Stockum Kaiser, Hall; Sacrifice hits-Barney, Chapman; Double play-Baker to Kimbrough to Stokum; First base on errors-Lexington 4, Winchester 3; Attendance - 300; Time 2 :45; Umpire-Wilson.
After two winning seasons with Winchester, Toney moved up to Chicago in 1911 but didn't stick. He spent most of the next four years with Louisville in the American Association, although he rode the Cub bench for a time each spring. Manager Johnny Evers' abusive language turned the soft-spoken Toney off, and he never pitched well for Chicago.
Drafted by Brooklyn in the fall of 1914, Fred was sold to Cincinnati during the winter and pitched for the Reds, New York Giants and Cardinals through 1923. He didn't play ball in 1924 and closed out his career with hometown Nashville the following year.
Toney's big moment in the majors occurred on May 2, 1917 when he pitched ten hitless innings to outlast Jim "Hippo" Vaughn of the Cubs in the only double no-hitter in major league history.