Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The First Perfect Game?

The game of the tournament began promptly at 3 o'clock, in the presence of 3,000 spectators, the contestants being the St. Louis Reds and Cass club, of Detroit. Not a member of the Michigan organization reached first base, and the Reds played without a single error. The Cass boys wanted to get one base hit to get even with the Mutuals in the morning, but failed. One base hit in two games was all that the Michiganders could get out of Morgan. The Reds secured thirteen safe hits, demoralizing their opponents and winning the game (by a score of 11-0)...
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 18, 1876

I was trying to run down some information on George Bradley's 1875 no-hitter yesterday and, as I usually do with things like this, I checked Peter Morris' A Game of Inches. Morris, of course, had some interesting things to say about the no-hitter and on the next page I noticed a reference to a perfect game that Pud Galvin pitched for the Reds on August 17, 1886. I figured I might as well check that out and see if I could find the box score in the Globe.

However, once I found the report of the game in the Globe, I noticed a few discrepancies between Morris' account and the contemporary game account. According to the "Special Dispatch to the Globe-Democrat," the pitcher for the Reds in the game against the Cass Club, and therefore the pitcher who threw the perfect game, was Pidge Morgan and not Pud Galvin. I also found a reference to a game in June of 1876 between the Stocks and the Reds where Galvin was playing the outfield for the Stocks club (and it was implied that he was also one of the club's pitchers) so it's possible that Galvin wasn't even on the Reds in August.

Just as interesting, Morris mentions the first game of the Ionia tournament, played earlier on August 17th, between the Reds and the Mutuals of Jackson. Morris mentions that Galvin, before throwing the perfect game, pitched a no-hitter against the Mutuals. However, according to the game report, the Mutuals had one hit. Morris did mention that the Reds made three errors and the game report has them making two so Morris is correct that three men did reach base for the Mutuals in that game but the discrepancy is in how they reached base. But again, the Globe states that Morgan, rather than Galvin, was pitching.

The reason that this is significant is that Morris states that the August 17, 1876 perfect game against the Cass club was the "first perfect game known to have been pitched at any level" and credits Pud Galvin with throwing the first known perfect game in baseball history. His source appears to be an article in the Ionia Sentinel from August 25, 1876. However, according to the Globe, the pitcher in the game was Pidge Morgan rather than Pud Galvin and therefore, if the Globe's account is accurate, Morgan should be credited with throwing the first perfect game.

Update: In their August 22, 1876 issue, the Globe-Democrat corrects itself. The Globe states that "In the two games at Ionia, Mich., on the 17th, when the Mutual and Cass clubs were Chicagoed by the St. Louis Red Stockings, Galvin instead of Morgan did the pitching, as was stated, due to a telegraphic error."

Galvin was playing with the Stocks in 1876 but there were rumors floating around in March that he had signed with the Reds. On June 21, however, Galvin "signed articles of agreement" to play with the Reds for the remainder of the season. He was obviously on the team in August when the Reds played in the Michigan tournament and did indeed pitch a perfect game against the Cass club. Whether or not the game against the Mutuals was a no-hitter or not is still up in the air. In the end it all depends on which scorer's report you accept. Regardless, Galvin had one heck of a day in Ionia.

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