1919. It would be a year that would live in infamy in baseball's history. It's been the subject of numerous books by historians and novelists. So go read those if you want to find out about the White Sox and the Reds. Today, we go back to the Polo Grounds for a 15-inning, 4-4 tie between two of the AL's lesser lights that year, the New York Yankees and the Washington Senators. Why? Because it was one weird game.
First of all, the day before the Yankees and Senators had played a 12-inning 0-0 tie. The game was called at 6 pm because the umpires thought that there was a law in New York that required all Sunday games to end at that time. As it turned out, the law didn't say that and the teams could have kept playing.
Nevertheless, the two teams recovened the next day in hopes of getting in one game of their scheduled four game series. The first two had been rained out.
Washington manager Clark Griffith started Jim Shaw. New York manager Miller Huggins chose Allan Russell. With players still missing because of wartime commitments, the starting lineups were still something of a hodgepodge. The Yankees started George Halas in right field, then a rookie outfielder whom some people thought was better suited to football. Washington started Harry Thompson in left field. Thompson was a pitcher most of the time.
Washington scored the first run. Sam Rice singled and moved to second on a sacrifice by catcher Patsy Gharrity. Thompson singled home Rice for the first run and picked up one of his three career RBIs.
The Yankees took the lead in the fifth. Frank Baker singled and moved up to second on a ground out. Left fielder Duffy Lewis singled home Baker to tie the game. Ping Bodie then hit a grounder to third baseman Eddie Foster who tried to force Lewis, but threw the ball away and runners were at second and third. Catcher Muddy Ruel then scored Lewis with a ground out. The Yankees scored again the sixth on a double by Roger Peckinpaugh and an RBI single by Baker.
After seven innings, Griffith pulled Shaw and then did something unusual for the era, he double switched. Doc Ayers came in to pitch and batted sixth and Joe Leonard came in to play left field for Thompson and batted ninth.
Russell appeared to be headed for a win in the ninth, but first baseman Joe Judge led off with a home run. Foster then beat out an infield hit. Shortstop Howie Shanks sacrificed the runner over. Rice walked to load the bases. Gharrity then hit a grounder to Peckinpaugh, who relayed it to second baseman Del Pratt, but his relay skipped past first baseman Wally Pipp and Foster scored to tie the game with Gharrity moving all the way to third.
So with two outs and a runner on third, the relief pitcher Ayers was at the plate. So, naturally, Gharrity tried to steal home. The ball and Gharrity both arrived at home at the same time and Gharrity and Ruel collided and rolled over. And in the process of that, the ball came out of Ruel's grasp and umpire Brick Owens called Gharrity safe. Huggins was enraged and came out to argue and was ejected.
Although Huggins was gone, his team wasn't done. Ayers, not sure of what to do with his sudden good fortune, walked four Yankees to force in the tying run. Huggins, or whomever he left in charge, also pulled off a double switch in the ninth inning. Lefty O'Doul, then a rookie pitcher, who eventually would become a great hitter, batted for Halas in then ninth (Halas went 2 for 22 in the majors.) O'Doul struck out and Bob Shawkey came in to relieve and batted in Halas's leadoff spot while Bill Lamar came in to play right field and bat ninth.
But the lineup machinations wouldn't help either team. No one would could score in extra innings and the game was called on account of darkness after the 15th. The four games in New York were all made up in July during a stretch when the Yankees and Senators played each other nine times in one week in two cities.
The Yankee starting pitcher, Russell, would end up being sent to the Red Sox along with Bob McGraw and $40,000 on July 29 to Boston in exchange for pitcher Carl Mays, who had jumped the Red Sox and refused to play for them. Mays would have a tumultuous career with the Yankees, including a fatal beaning of Cleveland shortstop Ray Chapman in 1920. But Mays would go 26-11 in 1920 and 27-9 in 1921. Of course, starting in 1920, Yankee pitchers started to get a lot more run support as the result of another acquisition from the Red Sox.
The 1919 Yankees finished in third place in the AL at 80-59. The Senators would finish in seventh at 56-84. The season was shortened because of World War I, which was over, but there were still personnel shortages. Although the Senators might have seemed bad, the Philadelphia Athletics went 36-104 in 1919 (.257) and finished 52 games behind the White Sox.
Washington's two best pitchers, Walter Johnson and Jim Shaw were a combined 37-31, but the rest of the staff was 19-45.
Sources: New York Times, Retrosheet, Baseball-Reference.com