July 3, 1968 – Luis Tiant 19Ks in 10-Inning Complete Game
The Indians were hosting the Twins for a four-game series leading up to the Fourth of July holiday. After splitting the first two games, Luis Tiant was on the mound against the Twins Jim Merritt.
Tiant pitched brilliantly, but was challenged early. With Twins on first and second in the top of the second he struck out Minnesota shortstop Jackie Hernandez looking to end the inning.
Although he scattered six hits, no Twins baserunner made it past first again until the top of the tenth.
Although not generating as many strikeouts, Merritt had an outstanding night as well. He struck out seven Indians, gave up only four hits and a walk. The pitching duel lasted into extra innings.
In the top of the tenth, Rich Reese doubled to left field. Frank Quilici followed with a well-executed bunt that advanced Reese to third. With runners at the corners and no outs, Tiant struck out John Roseboro, Rich Rollins, and Merritt in quick succession to end the threat.
Indians left fielder Lou Johnson led off the bottom of the tenth with a single, and advanced to second on an error. With Johnson in scoring position as a result of the miscue by Jackie Hernandez, Tribe catcher Joe Azcue stepped to the plate. Azcue knocked a single into right field, easily scoring Johnson and sending the Indians into the holiday on a winning note.
Tiant would finish 1968 with a league-leading 1.60 ERA, and a 21-9 record. Seven of his 21 wins were shutouts.
Game 44 was the second half of a Friday double-header. Mel Harder was matched up with Bump Hadley of the St. Louis Browns. Both pitchers put up impressive stat lines. Harder gave up six hits, struck out four, no walks.
For the Tribe, Dick Porter doubled to left to lead off the game. After Bill Cissel was put out on a line drive to left field, Johnny Burnett drove Porter home with another double to left field. Harder and Hadley would continue to battle through the evening.
Browns threatened in the bottom of the 7th with runners at 1st and 3rd. Harder got Sam West to ground out to third and end the inning. In the end, Hadley gave up only four hits and two walks but the one run in the first was all that Harder needed to get the complete game win.
Mel Harder was known for command of his pitches and being strategic, rather than overpowering hitters with speed. Not unlike the Indians of today, the pitching staff of the early 1930s was one of the best in the league, but the offense was sub-par. In 1933, Harder led the league with a 2.95 ERA, but finished 15-17 in the win-loss column. Poor defense was a factor, but this was mostly due to a lack of run support, (the Indians scored three runs or less in 20 of his 31 starts).
A year earlier in 1932, Mel Harder threw the first official pitch at Municipal Stadium. In 1993, he was honored to throw a ceremonial “last pitch” at the Stadium after the final home game of 1993.
Harder pitched for 20 seasons with the Tribe 1928 to 1947, only Walter Johnson of the Senators pitched more consecutive seasons (21) for one team. He then served as the Indians’ pitching coach from 1948 to 1963, revolutionizing the role of a pitching coach in the MLB by promoting the use of the sinker and mentoring the pitching staffs of the great 1948 and 1954 teams.
May 25, 1926 – George Uhle Walks Off His Own 11 Inning Complete Game
George “Bull” Uhle was the most dominant pitcher of 1926. Uhle was a native Clevelander and graduate of West High School. As a teenager, he played in the semi-pro industrial leagues around Cleveland, eventually landing a spot on the Standard Parts team, and a lucrative manufacturing job with Standard.
In 1919, Uhle reported to Indians Spring Training in New Orleans with a stipulation in his contract that he could not be sent to the minor leagues. He was resolved to return to Cleveland either on the roster or to his job. He later said. “If I wasn’t good enough for the majors, I wanted my release. I figured I could do better working at Standard Parts.”
Uhle earned a spot on the pitching staff, and developed his game throughout the 1920’s, including pitching in the 1920 World Series. A ligament ailment set him back a bit in the early half of the decade, but by 1926 he was hitting his stride.
The St. Louis Browns were at League Park (then called Dunn Field after owner Sunny Jim Dunn) for a Tuesday afternoon contest. George Uhle was matched up with Tom Zachary of the Browns.
Harry Rice led off the game for St. Louis with a double into left field. After two outs, Ken Williams doubled into left. Rice scored easily and put the Browns up 1-0 in the early going.
In the bottom of the second inning, the Indians got on the board when George Burns dropped a double into right and then was driven in by a Homer Summa single to tie the game.
The starting pitchers battled through the first six innings, until the Tribe broke through against Zachary. In the bottom of the sixth Luke Sewell led off with a single into right field. Batting at the bottom of the order, Uhle singled to center, advancing Sewell to third base.
Charlie Jamieson and Freddy Spurgeon reached on consecutive errors by Browns second baseman Ski Mellilo. Tris Speaker scored Uhle on a fielder’s choice. Joe Sewell walked, and then Jamieson scored on a sacrifice fly by George Burns, bringing the score to 4-1 Indians.
In the top of the eighth inning, Pinky Hargrave knocked a two-run home run into the League Park seats, bringing the Browns within one run.
Gene Robertson pinch hit for Zachary in the top of the ninth inning. He drove a triple to the center field wall. Robertson scored on a throwing error to tie the game.
Win Ballou came in to pitch for the Browns in the bottom of the ninth. The Indians threatened, but left the bases loaded to send the game to extra frames.
Uhle only seemed to get stronger as the day went on. He retired the side in order in both the tenth and eleventh innings. Uhle achieved his season-high strikeout total with ten.
In the bottom of the eleventh, Homer Summa drew a walk to lead things off. Rube Lutzke dropped a bunt down the first base line which moved Summa over to second. Luke Sewell knocked a single into right field. Brown’s outfielder Harry Rice fielded the ball and fired home. He gunned down Summa for the second out of the inning while Sewell advanced to second.
Uhle stepped to the plate looking to help out his own cause. The Bull blasted a walk-off home run over the tall right field wall at League Park. He sealed the win for the Indians and the best outing of his career.
Solid hitting was not unusual for Uhle, whose .289 career batting average is the highest for any pitcher (playing only as a pitcher). After four years with the Tigers, Uhle spent a few years as a player-coach in various organizations. After baseball, he returned once again to the Cleveland area. He lived in Lakewood until he passed away in 1985.
The most unusual thing about this game is that it was not unusual at all for the time. The Indians were bad, and Gaylord Perry was brilliant. The Royals were in for a Wednesday night game on the Lakefront. Just short of 4,600 fans were in attendance.
In 1972, Perry won 24 games on an Indians squad that managed just 72 wins on the season. 20 of those 24 wins were complete games.
Perry was out to a hot start, striking out Freddie Patek and Cookie Rojas to begin the game.
In the bottom of the 3rd, the Tribe rallied with two outs. Del Unser drew a walk to get things started. Jack Brohamer singled to center, and Alex Johnson brought them home with a 3-run homer.
With Jim Rooker pitching in the bottom of the 6th, the Indians scored two more runs on RBI singles by Frank Duffy and Gaylord Perry helping out his own cause.
Richie Scheinblum put KC on the board with an RBI single in the top of the 7th. Freddie Patek drove in another Royal run in the top of the 8th with an double to right field.
All in all, Perry pitched a complete game. He posted seven strikeouts, two earned runs on five hits and two walks.
A solid performance, but standard data for Gaylord Perry who accounted for fully 39% of the Indians wins during his tenure with the team.
His success stemmed mainly from his talent as a pitcher, but also from the performance of being Gaylord Perry. Although the spitball had been outlawed in 1920, Perry admitted to doctoring balls with saliva, KY jelly, sweat, and virtually any viscous substance at hand. He even occasionally threw a “puffball” where he would rosin his hands so thoroughly the ball would leave his hand in a distracting plume of dust.
Perry had an elaborate setup that included touching his cap, belt, glove, and other parts of his uniform. Whether the ball was doctored or not, hitters were so focused on catching him in the act that they whiffed on entirely legal pitches.
“I don’t even have to throw it anymore, because the batters are set up to believe it’s there, waiting for ’em.”
Whatever the truth of the matter, the persona that Perry created around himself makes for a legend in Tribe history. He went on to become the first pitcher to earn the Cy Young in both leagues–with the Tribe in 1972 and the Padres in 1978. He also cut one of the great early-90s SportsCenter commercials.
The first inning was a rough one, with two hits, a walk and a wild pitch putting the Indians in the hole by a run to start the game.
However, that would be the only multi-hit inning of the game and the only walk recorded. Nagy recorded seven strikeouts–rather high for the pitcher, who usually relied on his sinker to force ground ball outs–and scatter five additional hits over a complete game.
The Indians offense that evening would prefigure some of the offensive explosions the team was famous for in subsequent years. The five-hit, five-run fourth inning featured a towering two-run home run by Albert Belle and a three-run home run by “Hard Hittin” Mark Whiten.
Carlos Baerga would homer in the top of the 5th, followed by Sandy Alomar in the top of the 6th. Ultimately delivering an 11-1 win in Yankee Stadium.
Although he is remembered best for his efforts with the championship teams of the mid-90s, 1992 was perhaps Nagy’s best year in the majors. He had a 17-10 record (.630), far outpacing the Indians overall winning percentage of .469.
This performance, along with other gems in the first half of 1992 earned Nagy a spot in the 1992 All-Star Game. After pitching the bottom of the 7th for the AL, he batted in the 8th because there were no players left to pinch-hit. Nagy wore a Texas Rangers batting helmet and hit an infield single. He is very likely to be the last pitcher ever to get a hit in an All-Star Game, since the designated hitter has been used in all All-Star Games since 2011.