Cincinnati Reds Pitcher Fred Toney Won Only Double No-Hitter in Baseball History

Harold FriendChief Writer IOctober 21, 2011

Fred Toney
Fred Toney

Tony LaRussa would have had conniptions. Both managers, if they were managing today, would be excoriated in the media.

The greatest pitching duel, or at least one of the greatest pitching duels, would never have occurred and it never would have been remembered.

Wait a second. Upon further reflection, the pitching duel between the Cincinnati Reds' Fred Toney and the Chicago Cubs' Hippo Vaughn really has been forgotten.

May 2, 1917 was an extremely cold afternoon in Chicago. About 3,500 fans paid their way into Weeghman Park, which later became know as Wrigley Field, to see the Cubs face the Cincinnati Reds.

Fred Toney was coming off a season in which he had been 14-17 with a 2.28 ERA and a 114 ERA+. He had a good fastball to go with a devastating change of pace and would win 24 games in 1917.

In 1909, Toney had pitched a 17-inning no-hitter for Winchester, Ky in the Blue Grass League, finally winning 1-0.

Left-hander Vaughn was the Cubs ace. He would finish the 1917 season as the only Chicago starter to win more games than he lost. Vaughn had a great fastball and usually ranked among the league's strikeout leaders.

Reds manager Christy Mathewson started an all-right-handed lineup against Vaughn, who retired the first nine batters he faced.

Henie Groh walked to lead off the Reds' fourth inning but he was erased on a double-play. Greasy Neale reached on an error but was thrown out stealing. The only other Red to reach base was Gus Gertz, who led off the seventh with a walk. He was erased on another double-play.

After nine innings, Vaughn had faced only 27 batters, struck out 10 and hadn't allowed a hit. The problem was that the Cubs not only hadn't scored—they also were looking for their first hit.

Fred Toney was even better than Vaughn. Cy Williams walked in the second inning and again in the fifth. That was it for the Cubs "offense."

After nine innings, neither the Reds nor the Cubs had a hit. It is the only time that has happened.

The Reds won the game in the 10th inning when shortstop Larry Kopf hit a one-out line-drive single to right field for the first hit of the game. Greasy Neale flied out to center fielder Cy Williams for the second out, bringing up Hal Chase.

The greatest defensive first baseman in history—yes, he was better than Keith Hernandez—hit another fly ball to Williams in center, but this time, Williams dropped the ball, moving Kopf to third.

Jim Thorpe, the 1912 Olympic decathlon and pentathlon gold medal winner, hit a slow bouncing ball toward third that Vaughn tried to field. Kopf hesitated off third base and then broke for home. Vaughn, realizing that he had no chance to throw out the speedy Thorpe, fired home.

The problem was that the throw surprised catcher Art Wilson, who thought that Vaughn would throw to first. The throw hit Wilson in his chest protector as Kopf scored.

If the game were played today, neither pitcher would have gone nine innings unless one of them were named James Shields and the other were named Roy Halladay.

Toney struck out Larry Doyle for the first out, but Fred Merkle (amazing how many famous players were in the game) smashed a drive into deep left field that left fielder Manuel Cueto caught with his back to the fence.

Cy Williams was the batter.

Toney peered in to get the signal from Ivey Wingo, nodded assent and delivered ball one. Wingo yelled words of encouragement as he fired the ball back to Toney.

Once again Toney got the signal and nodded assent. Williams took ball two.

Williams fouled off the next two pitches to even the count.

For an inexplicable reason, umpire Albert Orth, a former pitcher, threw the ball that had been fouled off back to Toney. Years later, Arthur Daley of the New York Times wrote that the scuffed ball did a "dipsy-do" that couldn't have been better if Toney had "used a penknife on the ball."

The count went to 3-2 when, using the same ball, Toney threw Williams a sidearm curve that was swung on and missed to end the game.

The Cubs clubhouse was an atmosphere of bitter frustration after the game. Art Wilson broke down and tearfully apologized to Vaughn for not making the play on Kopf, but the best was yet to come.

Cubs owner Charlie Weeghman stuck his head into the Cubs clubhouse to yell to the whole team, “You’re all a bunch of asses!

Reference

Miller, Jim. "IT HAPPENED ONLY ONCE IN BASEBALL HISTORY--AND OH WHAT A GAME IT WAS." Sports Illustrated 23 June 1980: 96. General OneFile. Web. 21 Oct. 2011.

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