adventures in baseball archeology: the negro leagues, latin american baseball, j-ball, the minors, the 19th century, and other hidden, overlooked, or unknown corners of baseball history...with occasional forays into other sports
Last year I identified Dick Redding’s whitewash of the Cuban Stars at Atlantic City on August 28, 1912, as the “first Negro league no-hitter.” Here’s an even earlier candidate, though it depends on how you define “Negro leagues.”
On April 21, 1911, the aptonymousJohn Goodgame of the West Baden Sprudels set down the French Lick Plutos with zero hits, striking out eleven and walking one, at Pluto Park in French Lick, Indiana.
(Indianapolis Freeman, April 29, 1911, p. 7)
The only issue here, I guess, is whether the game meets the requirements to be considered a “black major league” game. I’ve included the 1911 Sprudels in the Negro Leagues DB but not the Plutos, but this is simply because I haven’t found any box scores for Plutos games vs. other black teams. (The 1912 Plutos are in the DB.) Here’s a Plutos lineup from a game against a white semipro team three weeks later:
On July 17, 1903, DannyMcClellan of the Cuban X Giants faced the semipro Penn Park Base Ball Club of York, Pennsylvania, and set them down on no hits and no runs, with not a batter reaching first base. It’s the first known case of an African American pitcher throwing a perfect game.
(Philadelphia Inquirer, July 18, 1903, p. 6)
Sixteen years later, a tall, gangling young pitcher named Reuben Curry, working for Gilkerson’s Union Giants, did the same thing against the Wellsburg, Iowa, team, hurling a perfect game as his teammates cruised, 10 to 0.
(Chicago Defender, September 20, 1919, p. 9)
McClellan’s perfect game is pretty well-known—it appears in every bio of him, and there’s even somebody who wants to commemorate it with a historical marker. But Curry’s feat, unlike McClellan’s, remains almost completely unknown. In part, this is probably because the Wellsburg team was completely anonymous, consisting mostly or entirely of amateurs.
The Penn Parks, by contrast, were a pretty solid semipro team—the day after McClellan’s gem they even brought in the St. Louis Browns’ Red Donahue to try to bring down the X-Giants, to no avail:
(Philadelphia Inquirer, July 19, 1903, p. 14)
This made three straight shutouts of the Penn Parks by the X-Giants (Rube Foster had whitewashed them on July 16).
José Muñoz with the 1910 Stars of Cuba, sporting number “5”
on his sleeve (the Stars were one of the earliest professional teams to use
After writing about Dick Redding’s no-hitter in 1912,
apparently the first no-hitter in what we call “Negro league” history, I
realized that there was an even earlier no-hitter that has gone completely
unnoticed. It wasn’t strictly
speaking in Negro league play: it occurred on October 30, 1904, in Havana’s
Almendares Park. Habana’s José
Muñoz blanked the Cuban X Giants, allowing no hits, while his opposite number,
Emmett Bowman, was wild, walking six and hitting four batters. It was the last game of the X Giants’
series in Havana, and they went out on a sour note, losing 12 to 0.
This feat has fallen between the cracks historically, as it
was not in an actual Cuban League game, but it still deserves recognition.
Here’s what appears to be, for now, the earliest known Negro league no-hitter (that is, a no-hitter in a game between top-flight black professional teams in the U.S.), preceding Frank Wickware’s 1914 gem by two years.
Apparently Bill Holland claimed that Redding threw some 30 no-hitters in his career, but I can’t recall anyone, player or historian, mentioning this one—versus the Cuban Stars in 1912—in particular. There is this article, which says he went 43-12 in 1912 with seven no-hitters, including a perfect game. I couldn’t find seven, but I did come up with one more no-hitter, the one mentioned briefly in the story above—and it was in fact a perfect game: