Moore’s Lasting Achievement Taken Away by Rule Change
Vince Guerrieri | On 11, May 2016
For 90 years, Cleveland pitcher Earl Moore was the answer to a trivia question. He’d thrown the first no-hitter, not just in Indians history, but in the history of the American League.
But a rule change in 1991 relegated Moore from his only bit of baseball immortality to a historic footnote.
Moore, a Pickerington native, had been pitching for the Dayton team of the Interstate League, when he attracted the interest of Jimmy McAleer, who was a player and manager of the Cleveland team being formed in a new major league being formed to challenge the National League.
The Cleveland team – then the Blues – signed Moore for $1,000, and he started the second game in the team’s history, taking the loss against the White Sox. And he was facing the White Sox again on May 9 in front of a crowd estimated around 500 at League Park, and was dealing. Not only had he given up no hits, but he’d only given up one walk.
He was staked to a two-run lead in the third when Candy LaChance hit a bases-loaded single with two outs. But the White Sox would tie the game in the fourth. Dummy Hoy walked, and Fielder Jones hit a chopper to Erve Beck at second base. Beck knocked the ball down, bobbled and threw to first, but Jones was ruled safe by umpire Al Manassau – a call that was met with derision in the next day’s Plain Dealer, which called him incompetent and his work wretched. With runners at second and third, Moore tried to pick Jones off third, but threw the ball into the stands, scoring two runs.
The score remained tied into the top of the 10th. First the no-hitter was broken up by Sam Mertes. Then, it appeared that the inning would end in a double play, but the Plain Dealer said Frank Shugart ran out of the base path, eluding Beck’s tag, and the go-ahead run scored. The White Sox tacked on another run, and the Blues couldn’t come back, dropping to 4-10 on the season.
The Blues finished the year 54-82, but Moore acquitted himself well, going 16-14. He went 17-18 in 1902 as the Blues started to acquire more talent, including a Wisconsin native named Addie Joss and position players like Elmer Flick and Napoleon Lajoie. In 1903, Moore had his best year in the American League, going 20-8. Injuries really derailed his career, causing him to miss significant time the next three seasons. He had rheumatism in 1904, and a broken foot curtailed his productivity for the next two years. In 1907, he was dealt to the New York Highlanders (later the Yankees), and two years later, he went to the Phillies, where he posted a brief comeback. A year later, his most notable achievement was picking a fight with John McGraw while he was coaching first base.
He spent 1913 with the Cubs, and hanging on to his career by his fingernails, jumped to the Federal League in 1914, playing for Buffalo before retiring and returning to Pickerington.
His death in 1961 was barely a blip on the radar in Cleveland, earning just a passing mention in Plain Dealer sports editor Gordon Cobbledick’s column.
And in 1991, his record was stricken. He technically was regarded as a pitcher of a no-hitter, having pitched nine innings without giving up a hit. But a new committee on statistical accuracy, formed and chaired by Commissioner Fay Vincent, ruled that a no-hitter was any game of nine or more innings that ended with no hits. No longer would shortened games – even ones where the pitcher didn’t pitch in the bottom of the ninth because his team was leading – count, nor would games where the first hit was given up in extra innings. Moore’s no-hitter was one of 50 that were stricken from the record books, making the Plain Dealer’s account even more prescient: “It is doubtful if any pitcher who ever played professional ball can complain of such a hard luck losing as that of Earl Moore yesterday.”