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Doc Amole Throws First American League No-hitter

October 17, 2016

Doc Amole, Public Domain

 

In 1900, the Bisons were members of the American League, which was a new minor league that formed out of the reorganization of the Western League. The new league consisted of the Buffalo Bisons, Milwaukee Brewers, Indianapolis Hoosiers, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Blues, Minneapolis Millers, and the newly added Chicago White Stockings and Cleveland Lake Shores.[1] The league would go on to declare itself a major league before the 1901 season.

 

Despite finishing in seventh place in the Western League in 1899, Buffalo manager Dan Shannon was confident that his team would have a strong showing during the 1900 season. Shannon told the Buffalo Express that “I am making no predictions, but will say this much, the critics who cannot see our team anywhere but at the bottom of the list have another guess coming.”[2] Part of the reason for the optimism going into the new season was that, as the Buffalo Enquirer stated, the team was “made up of almost entirely new players. Four-fifths of the members of the Bisonic aggregation have never worn a Buffalo uniform before today.”[3]

 

Buffalo opened the season on the road against the Detroit Tigers. The Buffalo Express reported that either Doc Amole or Charles Baker would be Buffalo’s starting pitcher, as manager Dan Shannon said “It depends which one warms up the best.”[4] The Buffalo Times correctly predicted that Shannon “is particularly anxious to lend the initial game on the right side of the ledger and it is therefore more likely that he will put (Doc) Amole in to pitch today. The clever southpaw is in the best form of any of Dan’s twirlers and has asked to be given the honor of pitching the first ball.”[5]

 

Morris “Doc” Amole was a twenty-six year old left handed pitcher who already had a few stints in the major leagues playing for the National League’s Baltimore Orioles and Washington Senators. His first major league start with the Orioles was a 3-0 loss to the Cleveland Spiders and legendary hurler Cy Young. Even though he lost to Young that day, Amole pitched a complete game, allowing only six hits and three unearned runs.

 

Amole pitched for the Bisons in 1898 and went 11-10, but in 1899 his record fell to 8-14 for the Herd.[6] His 1899

season was also marred by an arrest prior to the season in Baltimore for disorderly conduct, and he was later fined by the Bisons for “keeping late hours.” Buffalo released him during the season due to these issues, but the team later re-signed him before the season ended. There is evidence that he battled a drinking problem through much of his career.[7] Despite his rocky 1899 season, Amole was viewed as Buffalo’s top pitcher heading into the 1900 campaign.

 

Doc Amole, April 20, 1900, Buffalo Courier 

 

Due to a rainout in Chicago, Buffalo’s game in Detroit was the first American League game ever played. After the traditional parade to open the season, Buffalo’s Julius Knoll stepped into the batter’s box at Bennett Park at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull Avenues (future sight of Tiger Stadium) to start the new American League season. After fouling off a bunt attempt, Knoll grounded out to third baseman Ed Wheeler, and the new league’s season was underway.

 

In the Detroit first, Tigers leadoff hitter Harry Bay reached on an error by Buffalo second baseman Tim Flood, and then went to second on a wild pitch. After Dick Harley walked, Kid Elberfeld sacrificed, advancing each runner a base. The Buffalo Commercial Express described the scene as Amole got two strikes on cleanup hitter Suter Sullivan “The crowd on the bleachers became nervous when Sullivan had made two strikes. Amole turned in the box, viewed the bases, and the crowd on the bleachers held their breath. Amole looked at the man at bat, and then let the ball sally forth, with terrific speed. Manager Franklin jumped to his feet, the crowd on the bleachers yelled, it was all up; Sullivan had struck out.”[8] Amole then induced Lew “Sport” McAllister to pop out in foul territory to end the inning.

 

Buffalo got on the board in the third inning, when leadoff man Julius Knoll “stopped a curve ball with his arm,” and then scored on a double by Tim Flood, giving the Bisons a 1-0 lead.[9]

 

The Tigers threatened again in the fourth inning, when Kid Elberfeld walked and Dick Harley was hit by a pitch. After Suter Sullivan was retired, Sport McAllister sacrificed the runners to second and third. With a chance to finally get a run in for Detroit, Tigers first baseman Jack Ryan hit a groundball to Buffalo shortstop Bill Hallman, who threw home to catcher George Speer. Speer tagged Elberfeld out at the plate to prevent Detroit from scoring. Ed Wheeler grounded out to second base to end the inning.

 

Buffalo scored another run in the sixth inning, when Detroit second baseman Suter Sullivan’s error allowed Jake Gettman to reach first. Gettman stole second and went to third on a wild pitch. Scoops Carey then singled to drive in Buffalo’s second run of the game.

 

As Amole continued to hold Detroit without a hit, Buffalo put together a rally in the seventh inning to increase their lead. Catcher George Speer reached on an error, and Detroit pitcher Jack Cronin hit Doc Amole, to put runners at first and second with nobody out. After Julius Knoll fouled out, and Tim Flood grounded into a force out at third, Buffalo’s John Shearon doubled to score Amole and Flood and make the score 4-0. Back to back hits by Jake Gettman and Scoops Carey drove Shearon home, and the Bisons led 5-0.

 

In the top of the ninth, Buffalo leadoff man Julius Knoll reached when Tigers right fielder Sport McAllister muffed a fly ball. Detroit’s ragged defense continued when shortstop Kid Elberfeld dropped Tim Flood’s pop-up, putting runners at first and second. After John Shearon sacrificed both runners up a base, Jake Gettman hit a two-run double to right field, giving the Bisons a 7-0 lead. Scoops Carry grounded out, advancing Jake Gettman to third. Bill Hallman then singled home Buffalo’s eighth run of the game, but he was thrown out by left fielder Harry Bay trying to stretch the hit into a double.

 

Detroit entered the ninth inning without a hit, and they provided little challenge for Amole in the final frame. After Dick Harley grounded out for the first out, shortstop Dick Elberfield became Detroit’s first baserunner since the end of the fourth inning when Amole hit him with a pitch. Tigers cleanup hitter Suter Sullivan flew out to Buffalo centerfielder Jake Gettman, for the second out, and Sport McAllister hit a foul pop-up to Bisons first baseman Scoops Carey to end the game and complete Amole’s masterpiece. Doc Amole had thrown a no-hitter in the first American League game ever played. As the Buffalo Express described, Amole “was in grand form, had all sorts of curves and speed and kept the Tigers guessing so effectually that only once in the game was there anything that approached a base hit.”[10]

 

Only five Detroit batters reached base during the game, as Amole walked two, hit two batters, and one Detroit batter reached on an error. Buffalo played a fine game in the field, but the Detroit fielders looked rusty in their first game of the year. The Buffalo Express stated that “There is no going behind the returns, the Tigers played a bad game of ball, viewed from any angle. Eight errors were accumulated during the nine innings and five of that number proved costly.”[11] One reason given for Detroit's sloppy fielding was that Buffalo had managed to play some exhibition games, while the Tigers “had little practice with an opposing team having been slow to get together, and they have only been ‘fiddling’ with themselves.”[12]

 

 Box Score, April 20, 1900, Buffalo Enquirer

 

The Buffalo Enquirer reported on Bisons fans receiving word of the remarkable feat back in the Queen City:

 

It was news of the kind that baseball fans of this city delight in reading which flashed over the wires last night from Detroit the intelligence that Buffalo had defeated Detroit in the first game of the season. It was news which warmed the cockles of the hearts of every true Buffalonian when the additional statement was made that the Detroit sluggers with their best pitcher in the box had been shut out without a run, the first goose-egg of the season, but all of the above was nothing to the joy experienced when the news was read that pitcher Doc Amole of the Buffalo aggregation had made a new record in baseball, one which will probably stand for many a year if not to the end of time, by shutting the Detroiters out without a single hit.[13]

 

The Enquirer also recounted how fans back in Buffalo began reaching out to the star pitcher, saying “Amole after the game was congratulated on all sides not only by the herd of Bisons here to root for their team, but a score or so of telegrams flashed over the wire from Buffalo containing words of praise for the left-handed twirler.”[14] It was the second time in a year that Buffalo fans were able to celebrate a no-hitter, as Buffalo’s Chummy Gray had thrown one in the home opener in 1899.

 

Amole would go on to post a 22-22 record in 1900, throwing 342 innings with 35 complete games.[15] He pitched two more seasons for the Bisons, going 25-37, but he never made it back to the major leagues again.

 

The Bisons would go through four different managers during the 1900 season, including owner Jim Franklin and his son Joe Franklin. The team finished a disappointing seventh in the eight team American League, with a 61-78 record. After the season, the American League declared itself a major league, and despite assurances from Commissioner Ban Johnson that Buffalo would remain in the league, the commissioner dumped Buffalo in favor of a team in Boston for the 1901 season. The new Boston Americans eventually changed their name to the Boston Red Sox.

 

But the game on April 19, 1900 will never be forgotten. It was the first American League no-hitter, in the league’s first game ever, although the A.L. was still a minor league at the time. In a game that will always be remembered in the annals of baseball history, perhaps the Detroit Free Press said it best:

 

It is sad to lose the opening game of the season; sadder still to be shut out, and positively mournful to be sent back to the clubhouse with the batting average of each and every man badly punctured; but that is exactly what Doc Amole did, and the act will never be forgotten so long as baseball lives. Perhaps the wound will heal sufficiently to allow forgiveness to be granted and due credit allowed the twirler for his wonderful feat; but forgotten never![16]

[1] One of the big rule changes heading into the 1900 season was the shape of home plate. Previously, home plate was square-shaped, with one corner pointing toward the pitcher and another toward the catcher (thus the phrase “painting the corners.”) However, in 1900 home plate took on the look it has today, five sided with a flat side toward the pitcher, and a corner pointing toward the catcher. “The Baseball Championship Season Has Arrived,” Buffalo Times, April 19, 1900.

[2] “Looks Blue at Detroit,” Buffalo Express, April 19, 1900.

[3] “Baseball Season of 1900 Starts in American League,” Buffalo Enquirer, April 19, 1900.

[4] “Looks Blue at Detroit,” Buffalo Express, April 19, 1900.

[5] “The Baseball Championship Season Has Arrived,” Buffalo Times, April 19, 1900.

[6] Joe Overfield, The 100 Seasons of Buffalo Baseball (Partners Press: Kenmore, NY, 1985), 189-190.

[7] Bill Lamb, “Doc Amole,” http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/c355add5 .

[8] “’Doc’ Amole,” Buffalo Commercial Advertiser, April 20, 1900.

[9] “Pitching Won Brilliant Game Yesterday,” Buffalo Courier, April 20, 1900.

[10] “Whitewash Record,” Buffalo Express, April 20, 1900.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] “Baseball Outlook is Bright for a Successful Season in this City,” Buffalo Enquirer, April 20, 1900.

[14] “Doc Amole Made Record in Detroit,” Buffalo Enquirer, April 20, 1900.

[15] http://www.baseball-reference.com/register/player.cgi?id=amole-001doc .

[16] “Basket of Fresh Goose Eggs,” Detroit Free Press, April 20, 1900.

 

 

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