Labor of ‘glove’
I recently crossed paths with one of our older gloves, which I knew was used by Rube Waddell in a 20-inning game. The smooth, brown leather glove, lacking a web, laces between the fingers and nearly any padding, looks more like a driving or work glove than the early-20th century baseball glove it is. It has long intrigued me, so I took the time and opportunity to research both the game and the glove.
Legendary Philadelphia Athletics manager Connie Mack donated the glove to the Hall of Fame in 1942 – an artifact from a game the Athletics had played in Boston 37 years earlier, on July 4, 1905. On that day, Philadelphia’s Rube Waddell pulled the glove on in preparation for confronting Cy Young, as the pair of future Hall of Fame pitchers faced off in the second game of an Independence Day doubleheader. Young, 38, might have been a decade older than Waddell, but he was still the ace of the Boston Americans (today’s Red Sox), and had thrown a perfect game the year before at home to beat Waddell.
At the start of the game, Waddell promptly gave up two Boston runs in the bottom of the first; however, these would be the last runs the Americans would score for the next 19 innings. The ageless Young matched the Philadelphia pitcher, giving up only a two-run homer in the sixth, and at the end of nine the score was tied, 2-2.
This being the era when pitchers generally completed what they started and pitch counts were unheard of, both hurlers came back and pitched scoreless 10th, 11th, 12th, and 13th innings. And still the game continued. At the end of 19 innings, both Waddell and Young were still going strong, pitching out of jams and recording outs by the bushel. Across the game’s last 10 innings, each side recorded just four hits. Waddell had pitched the equivalent of two consecutive shutouts. Finally, in the top of the 20th inning, the Boston defense stumbled behind Young, giving up two unearned runs and yielding a 4-2 lead to the visiting Athletics. Over 20 innings, Young had racked up nine strikeouts and walked no one.
It was at this point, of course, that Philadelphia manager Connie Mack decided to bring in the Athletics closer—NOT. Like every other pitcher of the era, Waddell was his own “closer” (neither the term nor the position having been invented yet), so he resumed his place on the mound, with this glove, where he recorded the last three outs to close out the epic game for the win. Waddell had struck out 11 and walked only four.
The game itself was played much more briskly than might be expected. The teams combined for 28 hits, nine errors, and left a combined 28 men on base, but the game was over in just 3:31, scarcely longer than today’s average nine-inning game. Boston made no substitutions in the game, Philly only one—shortstop John Knight, who was knocked out by a Cy Young pitch to the head in the 20th inning. Most of the ballplayers, in fact, played all of both games that day, including Ossee Schrecongost (“Ossee Schreck” in the press), the stalwart Athletics catcher who set a still-standing record of 29 innings caught in one day.
After the game, Waddell guessed he threw more than 250 pitches; Young estimated 290. After such a marathon, how good could the pitchers be the next time they climbed the mound? Amazingly, not only did both players make their next start but they pitched wonderfully. After two days of rest (typical for the era) they faced each other again on July 7. Waddell repeated his victory over Young, this time by a 2-1 score, but only Young pitched a complete game. Waddell did not leave the game because he was tired, however; he had hurt his hand stopping a grounder and was replaced in the eighth by another future Hall of Famer, Chief Bender, who closed out the win!
John Odell is the curator of history and research at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.