- The Washington Times - Monday, May 20, 2002

The pitch to leadoff batter Ray Morgan of the Washington Senators missed the plate, or so umpire Brick Owens thought. "Ball four," he said, waving Morgan down to first base.
A slender 22-year-old left-hander named George Herman Ruth was pitching for the Boston Red Sox. Outraged, he charged toward the plate.
Owens, a veteran ump who did not debate decisions, had a temper as short as the Babe's. "Get back on the mound or you're out of the game," he yelled.
"If you chase me, I'll punch your face," threatened Ruth.
"Yer outta here," Owens replied, presumably ducking as the enraged Ruth swung at him unwisely with his pitching hand. Fortunately for all concerned, the punch missed, and teammates hustled the pitcher off the field. Ultimately, he would be fined $100 and suspended for 10 days.
Now Red Sox manager Jack Barry was in the throes of a dilemma: He needed a replacement pitcher, and with another game to follow that afternoon, his choices were limited. Finally, Barrow summoned Ernie Shore, Ruth's former roommate and a fellow member of the team's starting rotation.
The date was June 23, 1917, at Boston's 5-year-old Fenway Park and the most unusual of major league baseball's 15 perfect games and 215 no-hitters was unexpectedly to ensue.
Given extra time to warm up, Shore caught a break when Morgan was caught stealing. Then the 26-year-old right-hander retired the next 26 batters to crash into the record books as the Red Sox won 4-0. In most listings of perfect games, Shore's name is included with an asterisk.
Oddly perhaps, perfectos were less common in the Dead Ball era than they have become in recent decades. Shore's was the only one in the majors between 1908 (Addie Joss for Cleveland) and 1922 (Charlie Robertson for the Chicago White Sox). And when Jim Bunning did it for Philadelphia in 1964, it was the National League's first in 84 years.
North Carolinian Shore and Marylander Ruth were hardly kindred spirits. Only three years removed from a Baltimore orphanage, the Babe did not exactly personify sophistication. They roomed together when Ruth joined the Red Sox in 1915, but after a short time Shore asked manager Bill Carrigan for a change.
"Why, I thought you and the Babe were friends," Carrigan said.
"There's a place where friendship stops," Shore replied. "I told him he was using my toothbrush, and he said, 'That's all right I'm not particular.' And Mr. Carrigan, a man wants some privacy in the bathroom."
Carrigan could not afford for the two pitchers to be unhappy. As the Red Sox won consecutive World Series in 1915 and '16, Shore's record was 35-18 and Ruth's 41-20. In 1917, however, Boston would finish second behind the powerful Chicago White Sox as Ruth went 24-13 but Shore slumped to 13-10.
As it turned out, neither man had much of a pitching future. Ruth, of course, became a full-time outfielder in 1919 and broke every major league slugging record by hitting 29 home runs on his way to 714 dingers lifetime and baseball immortality. After the 1917 season, Shore enlisted in the military to fight in World War I and was never the same after he returned. Traded by cheapskate Red Sox owner Harry Frazee to the New York Yankees in 1919, Shore won just seven games over the next two seasons and was out of the majors at the age of 30. His lifetime record for seven seasons: 65-43, with a dazzling 2.45 ERA.
Coincidentally or otherwise, Shore's major league career overlapped Boston's glory years. They were the Yankees of the teens (although members of Red Sox Nation will blanch at the comparison), winning pennants and World Series in 1912, '15, '16 and '18. The last came under the managerial hand of bushy-browed Ed Barrow, who later spent 25 years as the Yankees' general manager or president.
Then Broadway producer Frazee, losing money on his theatrical productions, began what became known in New England as the Rape of the Red Sox repeated trades of key players to the Yankees for cash and/or what are now called "prospects." The most notorious was the deal that sent Ruth to New York in 1920 and triggered the "Curse of the Bambino."
But on one June day in 1917, 2 months after the United States entered the "war to end all wars," the Red Sox and Ernie Shore were masters of all they surveyed. Twenty-six consecutive batters retired how's that for the greatest relief job of all time?

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide