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Chet Carmichael Throws First Perfect Game in League History

By: Brian Frank

A perfect game is one of the rarest individual accomplishments a pitcher can achieve. In the long history of the International League, which traces its origins to 1884, there have been only 16 games when not a single batter reached base. However, eleven of those pitching gems were in shortened seven or five inning games. Only five perfect games were thrown in full nine innings contests. The first perfect game in league history was of the nine inning variety, and was thrown by Bisons pitcher Chet Carmichael in 1910, when the league was still known as the Eastern League.

Carmichael was a right-handed pitcher from Muncie, Indiana. He only had a brief professional career, which lasted just three seasons. In 1909, his first season of pro-ball, he had a solid year for the last place Cedar Rapids Rabbits in the Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League. Carmichael managed to go 11-16, which might not look so good at first glance, however, he pitched for a pathetic Rabbits team that went 31-107. He was quickly scooped up by the Cincinnati Reds, and made two relief appearances for them, allowing six runs in seven innings. Those two outings would end up being the only major league games of his career.

In 1910, the Reds farmed Carmichael to Buffalo. The 22-year-old hurler joined a Bisons team that struggled through the season, and ended up finishing in sixth place, 21.5 games out of first. They were sitting in fifth place with a 43-55 record, when Carmichael pitched his historic game at Jersey City in August. The day after Carmichael’s masterpiece, the Buffalo Evening News wrote: “It is charming to note amid a season of misfortune, one brave and unique deed stands out like the rock of Gibraltar in the Mediterranean Straits. The lowly Herd, humbled often in the dust and all but drowned in the whitewash vat only last week, emerged yesterday with a halo. It was a great victory and many misdeeds will be overshadowed in the light of this single achievement.”[1]

Chet Carmichael, Buffalo Express, August 10, 1910,

It rained for over an hour before Carmichael’s historic performance, holding attendance down to approximately 200 fans. The Jersey City Skeeters sent former Bisons hurler Rube Kisinger to the hill. Kisinger had been a mainstay in Buffalo’s rotation from 1904 through 1909, and, somewhat ironically, had thrown a no-hitter just a year earlier for the Herd against Rochester.

Kisinger got off to a solid start against his old teammates, allowing just one baserunner through three innings, a single in the first inning. But after the third, a lame hip forced him to exit the game.[2] He was replaced by right-hander Harry Camnitz.

The Bisons broke through against Camnitz in the fifth. Their mini-rally began on a sloppy fielding play by Jersey City with one out. The Buffalo Courier described: “George Smith slammed a safe one into center, and because of the slow fielding by (left fielder Wally) Clements and (centerfielder Pep) Deininger, the Buffalo second baseman reached the halfway station and then kept on running toward third. Deininger made a fine throw into (third baseman Jimmy) Esmond’s hands, but the latter muffed the ball and Smith slid on the bag safely.”[3] Bisons first baseman Eddie Sabrie then drove home the only run of the game, when he “came to life with a duplicate hit to the same territory, pushing Smith across the plate with the victory, while he rested up on second.”[4]

Meanwhile, Carmichael was mowing down the Skeeters. The Buffalo Times noted that “While Carmichael was accorded perfect support yesterday, much of the credit is due to him. There were no phenomenal fielding stunts to aid him. He had perfect control and the ball always fell into the hands of waiting fielders.”[5] The Bisons infielders were busy, as Carmichael struck out only four batters, and allowed only five balls to be hit to the outfield the entire game. The Buffalo Courier wrote that Carmichael “… handled his shoots in such a way as to compel the opposition to aim their drives directly at the waiting fielders. He had complete control and received perfect support.”[6]

Buffalo threatened again in the eighth when their first two batters reached base. In true Deadball Era fashion, Rip Williams and Chet Carmichael both reached on bunt singles. Harry Pattee attempted to sacrifice the runners along, but first baseman Bill Abstein fired the ball to third to cut down the lead runner. The next two batters grounded out to end the inning.

A failed squeeze play cost the Herd a chance to score in the ninth. The Buffalo Express described the inning: “Henline uncorked the third two bagger on the visitors’ string and was pushed up to third on McCabe’s sacrifice. With Smith up, Henline tried to work the squeeze, but it went wrong, for while the center fielder (Henline) dashed in, Smith made no attempt to swing. Henline broke back to third, but was thrown out by Crist.”[7]

Carmichael began the ninth by getting James Walsh to ground back to the mound. He struck out Ches Crist for the second out of the inning. Carmichael cemented his place in I.L. history when he got pinch-hitter John Butler to fly out to center field to end the game. The Buffalo Commercial wrote: “Carmichael’s feat has seldom been equaled. Perfect control, rare good judgment, an assortment of twisters, straight ones, fast ones, slow ones, combined to bring home the record for the young Bison twirler.”[8]

Box Score, Buffalo Courier , August 10, 1910

Reports swirled after the game that the Reds would soon recall Buffalo’s new star, while the Herd hoped they’d be able to retain his services. The Buffalo Courier proclaimed: “The great game pitched by Carmichael shows clearly that in this youngster the Herd has one of the best pitchers in the league. He is young and strong and the prediction has been freely made that next season he will turn out to be the star twirler of the league. His performance yesterday was a notable one.”[9]

Unfortunately for Carmichael, his star shown bright, but burned out quickly. He finished the 1910 season with Buffalo, going 13-12 on the mound. When the season was over, Bisons manager Billy Smith signed with the Chattanooga Lookouts of the Southern Association to be their manager. A few months later, the Reds sold Carmichael to Chattanooga. After struggling through the 1911 season, he was out of professional baseball and it was reported that he had returned to Jersey City, the scene of his greatest game, but to a much different job. The Buffalo Courier reported: “Chester is now using the power of his once great right flipper to apply the brakes and release the power on a street car. It is said that he has lost the control of his right arm.”[10]

After Carmichael's amazing performance, forty-two years passed until the International League had another nine inning perfect game. Bisons pitcher Dick Marlowe was the next pitcher to achieve the feat, when he beat Baltimore in 1952. The only other perfect games of the nine inning variety have come since 2000: Tomo Ohka with Pawtucket in 2000; Bronson Arroyo with Pawtucket against the Bisons in 2004; and Justin Germano with Columbus in 2011. But no matter how many pitchers accomplish this rare exploit, a Bisons pitcher will always have the league’s first, and Chet Carmichael’s brief career will be remembered for that one incredible afternoon in Jersey City.

[1] “No Hits, No Runs Off Carmichael,” Buffalo Evening News, August 10, 1910.

[2] “Carmichael Pitches No Hit, No Run Game Against Jersey City,” Buffalo Courier, August 10, 1910.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] “Chet Carmichael Breaks All Records,” Buffalo Times, August 10, 1910.

[6] “Carmichael Pitches No Hit, No Run Game Against Jersey City,” Buffalo Courier, August 10, 1910.

[7] “Shut ‘Em Out With Nary a Hit,” Buffalo Express, August 10, 1910.

[8] “No-Hit, No-Run Game for Mike Carmichael,” Buffalo Commercial Advertiser, August 10, 1910.

[9] “Buffalo May Possess the Star Twirler of the League Next Season,” Buffalo Courier, August 10, 1910.

[10] “Carmichael a Motorman,” Buffalo Courier, February 14, 1912.

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