Ernie and the Babe

Sometimes a treasure is found in the most unexpected places. Last week my wife and I were exploring Cooperstown, NY the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. We stopped by a used book bookstore which was a rabbits warren of packed shelves and heaps of books on the floor. It was a place seemingly without order, which was also part of its charm. You had the sense that hiding within each pile was a gift waiting to be found.

Being a bookstore in Cooperstown there were lots of books and memorabilia related to baseball. Over one bookshelf was a dusty photograph depicting two baseball players seated by a dugout. One was instantly recognizable, the great Babe Ruth. The other was unfamiliar. Both were young, wearing the uniform of my Red Sox. Clearly this was early in Babe’s career before being sold to the Evil Empire (the Yankees). Who was the other guy sitting beside Babe?

Babe and Ernie

The owner of the shop didn’t know. I took a photo with my phone and texted it to my buddy Bruce. Bruce knows more about baseball than I will ever know. He has kept a scorecard for the thousands of games he has attended over the course of his lifetime. He’s also a walking baseball encyclopedia. Within minutes Bruce texted me back, providing the answer to our mystery man: Ernie Shore.

Later a web search of Ernie Shore provided lots of stats on the pitchers life. I learned he had grown up and played ball in the Carolina’s, been recruited by Baltimore and traded with Babe to the Sox. One headline caught my attention:

Ernie Shore’s ‘Perfect’ Game and Babe Ruth’s Ejection in 1917

The Boston Globe covered this game with as much attention to the fracas that got Babe Ruth ejected after walking the first batter as to Ernie Shore’s feat of retiring the 26 batters he faced in relief, which, with the first batter being thrown out stealing, made 27 straight outs, if not quite an absolute perfect game. It happened at Fenway Park on June 23, 1917, in the first game of a doubleheader vs. the Washington Senators. Here’s part of the Globe’s account:

No-Hit, No-Run and No-Man-to-First Performance
Modest Ernie Shore took a place in the Hall of Fame as a no-hit, no-run, no man-reached-first base pitcher in the curtain-raiser of the twin bill with the Griffmen at Fenway Park yesterday. It was the best pitching seen in this city since 1904 when Cy Young put over a similar feat, the only difference being that Uncle Cyrus pitched to every batter, while the Carolina professor did not get into the exercises until after Ruth, who had walked Morgan, the first batter, had been removed from the pastime for striking Umpire Brick Owns. . .

The rest of the article had to do with Babe punching the ump for not calling a strike. Babe being tossed opened the door for the ‘modest Ernie Shore’ to enter the game and make history. Now this photo of Ernie and the Babe hangs by my desk. In the photo Babe seems to be looking away. But Ernie seems to be looking directly at me. Sizing me up. I wonder if he had that same look on June 23, 1917 when he pitched a perfect game, knocking back 27 batters in a row.

Sometimes you find a treasure in the most unexpected places.

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