Fact or fiction? Was 1908 Cubs ace shorted by MLB record book?
Before I go shopping for the ingredients to my Super Bowl classic, New Mexico-style Green Chile, let's do some much needed hot-stove league chatter. . .
One of the perils of writing historical fiction is that people assume you have somehow diminished the historical facts. I disagree.
While researching my novel, The Run Don’t Count: The Life and Times of Frank Chance and His 1908 Chicago Cubs (Amazon Books), I even encountered a discrepancy that could bump a forgotten pitcher into the top five of baseball’s consecutive-scoreless-innings-pitched records.
And so, I have a suggestion/request for any Sabrmetricians—licensed or unlicensed—who are interested in a Deadball pitching issue.
Cubs righthander Ed Reulbach finished the regular season with a streak of 44 consecutive scoreless. He added another six innings at the start of the 1909 season. Which would appear to be 50 consecutive scoreless to me.
Which would be the fifth longest streak in MLB history.
The Run Don’t Count is a novel because I wanted to pump some life into the Deadball Era. My research was as extensive as any nonfiction histories: Endless perusals of daily newspapers in Chicago, New York, Pittsburgh and other cities. A library of pertinent books. A trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
I just thought it would be more fun to dramatize how Tinker and Evers could not speak to each other but still be a seamless double-play combination. I wanted to show what made Frank Chance a peerless leader.
I thought it was fascinating that Three-Fingered Brown could be such a soft touch off the mound and such a stone-cold hurler on the mound.
I thought it was amusing when Ed Reulbach ate chocolate candy as a pick-me-up before a game. And I wanted to delve into how he could pitch two shutouts in the same doubleheader.
That’s when I ran across the missing six innings in his scoreless streak.
If a record like that needs to be accomplished in the same season, fine. As I said, I’m more into the drama and humor of the Cubs who won 530 games in five seasons than the numbers.
But here’s what I found. If a true sabrmetrician wants to pursue this, let me know.
REULBACH’S 50 SCORELESS INNINGS
Sept. 17, 1908: The last two innings at Boston
Sept. 19: 10 scoreless innings in a 0-0 tie at Philadelphia, called by darkness.
Sept. 26: 18 scoreless innings in a doubleheader at Brooklyn. Won 5-0 and 3-0. Only pitcher to throw two shutouts in same doubleheader.
Oct. 1: A nine-inning 6-0 shutout at Cincinnati.
Oct. 3: Five shutout inning at Cincinnati. Left with a 15-0 lead.
April 18, 1909: Six shutout innings before losing 4-1 to St. Louis.
The Oct. 1 shutout, by the way, is the game in which Reulbach was ``credited’’ with downing some pre-game chocolate. . . And by the way, Reulbach is the only pitcher to pitch two shutouts in one doubleheader. Talk about a record that will never be broken.
TEN LONGEST SCORELESS STREAKS (FROM ELIAS SPORTS BUREAU)
1, Orel Hershiser, Dodgers, 59 IP, Aug. 30-Sept. 28, 1988
2, Don Drysdale, Dodgers, 58 IP, May 14-June 8, 1968
3, Walter Johnson, Senators, 55 2/3 IP, April 10-May 14, 1913
4, Jack Coombs, Athletics, 53 IP, Sept. 5-Sept. 25, 1910
5, Bob Gibson, Cardinals, 47 IP, June 2-26, 1968
6, Zack Greinke, Dodgers, 45 2/3 IP, June 18-July 26, 2015
7, Carl Hubbell, Giants, 45 1/3 IP, July 13-Aug. 1, 1933
8 (tie). Cy Young, Red Sox, 45 IP, April 25-May 17, 1904
8 (tie). Doc White, White Sox, 45 IP, Sept. 12-30,1904
8 (tie). Sal Maglie, Giants, 45 IP, Aug. 16-Sept. 4, 1950
By my calculation, there should be a line like this. . .
5, Ed Reulbach, Cubs, 50 IP, Sept. 17, 1908-April 18, 1909.
That would bump Bob Gibson to No. 6. Pretty good company, eh?
Reulbach also had winning streaks of 17 and 14 games, the only 20th Century pitcher to do that. He also led his league in winning percentage for three straight years (1906-08). Only one other pitcher, Lefty Grove, has done that.
And yet, Reulbach apparently has never received so much as one vote for the Hall of Fame.
As I said, I was more interested in telling a dramatic story. But I do believe all my facts are straight. Including this curious one about Ed Reulbach.