Danny McClellan, Reuben Curry
On July 17, 1903, Danny McClellan 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.
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.
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:
This made three straight shutouts of the Penn Parks by the X-Giants (Rube Foster had whitewashed them on July 16).
Getting back to Gilkerson’s Union Giants—if their opponents were generally unimpressive, they still put together a pretty talented team in 1919. Their pitching rotation consisted of Curry, Jack Marshall, George Harney, and Hurley McNair. Curry, McNair, and Marshall would all go straight into the Negro National League the following year, and Harney would get there by 1923.