Monday, May 18, 2015

May 18, 1898: Chicago's Walter Thorton Drills Three St. Louis Batters In A Row

     On May 18, 1898, Chicago Orphans pitcher Walter Thorton tied a major league record by hitting three consecutive batters during the fourth inning of a 11-4 St. Louis Browns win in Chicago.  The third hit batsman forced a run in what turned out to be a six run inning for the St. Louis club. The record for hit batsman has been tied by eight other men, but it has yet to be broken, which I am sure no pitcher in the game want to have the dubious distinction of being that guy.

     St. Louis' first baseman George Decker led the Browns charge with four hits in four trips, which included two clutch hits with the bases full. One of those hits was a double that cleared'em all. Decker spent just one year in St. Louis. He had been loaned to the Browns after a fire among other things left the team owner in financial peril. The agreement made would have Decker returned to the Chicago club at season's end, but an unscrupulous practice by Browns owner Chris Von der Ahe twisted that fate, as he granted the first baseman a release in July of that 1898 season without notifying anyone in Chicago.

     There are just nine men in the club, three batsman hit in succession club. Pink Hawley was the first man to set the record as a member of the Browns in 1894. Walter Thorton was the second man to join the club with his wheels off the bus performance in 1898. Earl Hamilton of the American League's St. Louis Browns joined the club in 1912, then it would be more than 61 years before Dock Ellis of the Pirates became a member in 1974. Knuckleballer Wilbur Wood of the White Sox joined him in 1977. After Wood's joined the club there would be another long hiatus before C.J. Nitkowski hit three in a row as a member of the Houston Astros in 1998. One year later Steve Sparks of the Angels in 1999. To round things off Javier Vasquez drilled three in a row in 2010 as a member of the New York Yankees. While the club is not exactly one that any pitcher would want to be in, the club is still historic nonetheless.

     Couple of side notes: The Orphans became known as the Cubs in 1903. And in the actual notes of the game (pictured with the box score to the right) there was talk of a mutiny with the Browns players. The players had not received a paycheck in some time, which was in large part due to the fire that strained the owner's bank account. According to John Snyder's Cardinals Journal the players did receive a paycheck the day after this game was played, so the crisis was averted. There is also the mention of a foul ball strike being called, which at the time was a rare occurrence. This goes to show that the great game of baseball has always been in a constant state of evolution. While rules may change in time, the core of what makes baseball a great game has remained the same.


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