Random Game Callback, July 4, 1912 - no hitter edition
by Bob Timmermann
All 16 teams in the majors played doubleheaders on this holiday. Normally a doubleheader between the sixth and eighth place teams in the American League would have gone unnoticed, but Detroit pitcher George Mullin threw the first no-hitter in the history of the Tigers franchise, shutting out St. Louis 7-0 in the second game of the doubleheader. Mullin's masterpiece finished a sweep of the Browns as the Tigers won the opener 9-3 at Navin Field in Detroit.
Mullin was a 32-year old righthander, celebrating his birthday this day, whom the Tigers had tried to get rid of on waivers a couple of weeks earlier. Mullin had won 20 games five times for the Tigers and was the staff ace for the 1909 pennant winners when he went 29-8 with a 2.22 ERA. 1909 was the third of three consecutive pennants for Detroit and the Tigers came close in 1910 and 1911, but 1912 was a disaster.
Outfielder Ty Cobb was suspended indefinitely by American League president Ban Johnson after attacking a fan in the stands in New York in May. Cobb's teammates protested by refusing to play their game in Philadelphia on May 18. So manager Hughie Jennings rounded up a group of players in the Philadelphia area and tried to play the game and the Tigers were destroyed 24-2. With threats of further reprisals by Johnson and a plea from Cobb, the Tigers went back on the job the next day, but age and injuries to the Tigers key players had consigned them to the second division.
In the opener, St. Louis manager and first baseman George Stovall started 20-year old George Baumgardner. Jennings started Ed Willett. The Tigers got 10 hits in the game as Cobb went 3 for 3 with a home run, a stolen base and he was hit by a pitch. The Browns got three hits from second baseman Frank LaPorte.
The second game featured what was supposed to be the lesser pitchers on the staff in Mullin for Detroit and 21-year old Willie Adams for the Browns.
The Tigers offense scored single runs in each of the first three innings to take the pressure off of Mullin. But Mullin didn't need much help as the Browns failed to hit anything hard off of him all day.
Mullin wasn't perfect as he walked five batters, including Browns center fielder Burt Shotton three times. Browns third baseman Jimmy Austin walked twice.
Mullin also came close to treating the fans to a no-hitter with a triple play in it. At one point in the game (the newspaper account doesn't say which inning), Laporte reached on an error by Detroit shortstop Donie Bush. Austin followed with a walk. This brought up left fielder Willie Hogan who hit a low liner that Mullin snared and then he threw to second to double off Laporte and then Bush fired to first baseman George Moriarty for the apparent triple play. But the baseline umpire, Jack Sheridan (there were two umpires used this day), ruled that Laporte was safe at second although Austin was out at first. So Mullin had to settle for an unusual 1-6-3 line drive double play.
In the ninth inning, Shotton drew his third walk of the game. Right fielder Heinie Jantzen flied out and first baseman Joe Kutina fouled out. The last man in the way of the no-hitter was shortstop Del Pratt. Although Shotton stole second during the at bat, Mullin was not deterred and he got Pratt to fly out to Cobb in center field. The wire service account made an allusion to Cobb possibly being angry at Mullin for sending a congratulatory telegram to Cleveland star Nap Lajoie at the end of the 1910 season, congratulating him on winning the batting title. That was one of baseball's most contentious batting races and you can read about it here.
No Tigers pitcher would throw another no-hitter for nearly 50 years when Virgil Trucks threw one on May 15, 1952.
Detroit and St. Louis would finish sixth and seventh in the AL in 1912. The Tigers were 69-84 and the Browns were 53-101. The New York Highlanders were last at 50-102. Boston won the pennant at 105-47 and won a thrilling 8-game World Series over the New York Giants (there was one tie game.)
Despite the suspension, Cobb still led the AL in hitting at .409. Cobb also had 23 triples (second to Cleveland's Joe Jackson who had 26). Cobb was third in stolen bases with 61. Mullin finished 1912 with a 12-17 record and a 3.54 ERA. Mullin would be sold to Washington in 1913 and he pitched in the Federal League in 1914 and 1915 for Indianapolis and Newark.
Sources: Washington Post, Retrosheet, Baseball-reference.com