November 9, 2012
Stoney's Unbelievable Feat
U.S. Grant "Stoney" McGlynn pitched for three seasons in the major league, from 1906 to 1908. His only full season was in 1907, when he pitched in 39 games for the St. Louis Cardinals -- and led the league in losses with 25. His 352.1 innings, 329 hits allowed, and 114 earned runs also led the senior circuit that season. It's a fair to say that his baseball career did not amount to all that much.
McGlynn died in the summer of 1941 at the age of 69. The headline for his obituary written by the Associated Press was "Stoney McGlynn was Baseball Wonder Man". According to the AP report (and McGlynn himself), McGlynn made history in 1907 by recording three outs without ever throwing a pitch.
"St. Louis Cardinals were playing Cincinnati in 1907," McGlynn recounted recently. "The Reds whaled our starting pitcher and got off to a big lead.
It sounds pretty remarkable, almost like it's a story from some random farm league in the middle of nowhere. Bases loaded, no outs, 3-0 count and somehow McGlynn is able to pick off all three runners before even attempting a pitch? No wonder McGlynn loves telling the story.
Except I have a hard time finding any way to prove it. Box scores at sites like Baseball Reference and Retrosheet don't go that far back and even newspaper searches for that long ago are hard to come across. For all we can do, it might as well be a story from a random farm league in the middle of nowhere. We do have some tools to work with, though, so let's try that.
McGlynn finishes his story with a few more details: Ed Konetchy, a young first baseman, hits a pinch-hit home run; and the Cards end up winning the game 10-8. Does any of this help us find the one game Stoney McGlynn remembered for the rest of his life?
The Reds and Cardinals played each other 22 times that season. St. Louis won eight of those 22, but none by a score of 10-8. In fact, none of the Cardinals' wins were high-scoring in any way (the most runs they scored in a win was six), taking some of the drama out of the story. It could always be that McGlynn embellished that part of the story (or remembered incorrectly) to make his tale better to tell. Let's ignore that and instead focus on the home runs (we do have a complete record of every home run ever hit in a Major League Baseball game). Ed Konetchy hit two home runs in 1907, his rookie season. Neither were against Cincinnati. So how about someone else?
In their 22 games against each other, Cincinnati allowed only three home runs to St. Louis: Art Hoelskoetter off Jake Weimer on June 29, Red Murray off Roy Hitt on September 5, and Red Murray off Bob Ewing in the second game of a double-header on September 8. The only one of those games that St. Louis won was September 5, and that was by a score of 6-5. It's not exactly 10-8, but it could fit the whole "we were down a whole lot before storming back for the win" sense from McGlynn's story. Do we know if McGlynn pitched that day? Sadly, no. I can't find any kind of box score for that day (or any of the others) in Google News or The Sporting News archives. In all of 1907, McGlynn pitched in relief only six times. Bugs Raymond, who McGlynn mentions above as the first reliever, only pitched in relief twice that season. Technically, this is no reason to disbelieve McGlynn's story, but it does make it harder to trust, especially with the other obvious errors of detail he left in.
Sadly, that's about where our resources stop. We know that McGlynn pitched in 45 games for St. Louis that year, but we don't know which ones. It could be any of them. We know that St. Louis won eight games versus Cincinnati and that, in one of those victories, someone hit a home run that may or may not have sparked a big comeback. Even still, we don't actually know if that part of McGlynn's story is true. Dramatic details like that tend to get added to stories to make them more interesting over the years. In fact, we don't even know if the game was against Cincinnati or took place in 1907. These stories really take on a life of their own over the years and the decades.
But I want to believe. A pitcher coming in to face a rampaging offense with the bases loaded and no outs and somehow managing to escape that situation without throwing a pitch?! That's the kind of story I love to hear. And, seeing as how I haven't found any specific evidence to disprove the story, I am going to choose to believe it...
Hey! Did you hear about the pitcher who got three outs without throwing a pitch?!