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Beebe and Rudolph Battle for 19 Innings

By: Brian Frank

One of the greatest pitchers’ duels in Bisons history, and certainly the longest, occurred on June 11, 1912, when Buffalo’s new veteran ace, Fred Beebe, and a young phenom for Toronto, Dick Rudolph, battled on the Buffalo Baseball Park mound for 19 long innings. Beebe joined the Bisons in 1912 at 32-years-old, already having pitched in seven major-league seasons, including a pair of 15-win seasons. Meanwhile, Toronto’s young ace, Dick Rudolph, was just 24-years-old and began pitching in the International League at the tender age of 19. Entering the 1912 season, he’d already won 95 games with the Maple Leafs, including two 23-win seasons.

The 19-inning marathon didn’t look like it was going to turn out to be a pitchers’ duel in the early going. The Bisons opened the scoring in their first at-bat. Milt Stock led off the bottom of the first by hitting a routine grounder, but third baseman Bill Bradley fired the ball over first baseman Tim Jordan’s head, and Buffalo’s “diminutive shortstop raced to the midway cushion.”[1] After Frank Truesdale struck out, Fred Beck lined the ball into center field for a single “which allowed Stock to tap the plate with the first tally of the game.”[2] Buffalo got its second run of the inning when Jimmy Murray grounded into a fielder’s choice, stole second, and came home when Swat McCabe “poked the pill to right for a long single.”[3]

Toronto didn’t waste any time getting on the scoreboard either. They cut the Bisons lead in half in the second inning when Bill Bradley “leaned on a straight pitch and planted the ball in a garden adjoining the left field wall” for a solo home run.[4]

The Herd increased their lead in the third on an unusual home run by Fred Beck. Beck hit a ball that went under the outfield scoreboard. Today, the play would be ruled a ground-rule double, but in 1912 Beck circled the bases for an inside-the-park home run. Birney P. Lynch recounted the unusual play rather colorfully in the Buffalo Courier, writing that Beck “grabbed a big hickory and strode to the plate with fire in his eye. Waiting until Rudolph had cast a couple of splitters past him, the sensational all-around player drew back his war club and smote. The ball sailed past (left fielder Bill) O’Hara and trickled through a hole under the scoreboard in left field while Beck sprinted around the circuit.”[5] The Buffalo Express added that “O’Hara clawed like a weasel on all fours, but the sphere remained out of reach until Beck was rounding third for home, when O’Hara plugged it toward the infield, but twenty seconds late.”[6]

Fred Beebe, May 8, 1914 Buffalo Enquirer.

The Leafs scratched out a pair of runs off Beebe in the fourth to tie the score. With one out, Al Shaw drew a walk to start the rally. He moved to second on a passed ball and scored on Tim Jordan’s single to right. Jordan then “stole second in a cloud of dust and gum shoed to third on a passed ball.”[7] Beebe struck out Bill Bradley, who’d homered earlier in the game, and seemingly escaped the inning, when he induced Amby McConnell to hit a ground ball to shortstop. However, Frank Truesdale “allowed the ball to slide through his fingers” and Jordan crossed the plate with the tying run.

After Toronto’s pair of runs in the fourth, both teams failed to bring another run home for the next 14 innings. The Buffalo Courier wrote “From that eventful period until the nineteenth, the players took their places at the bat, went through the motions of swatting and were turned back with the monotonous regularity of a passing parade.”[8] Beebe “had the Leafs eating from the hollow of his hand” and Rudolph “also twirled the battle off his life.”[9]

Both teams had chances to win the game in extra innings, but Beebe and Rudolph were able to escape jams when necessary to keep the opponents from crossing the plate. Buffalo had a runner at third base four different times from the 10th to the 19th innings, bringing hope to the crowd that victory was near, but each time “Rudolph tightened up and hopes were shattered.”[10]

Both pitchers also had tremendous support from the fielders behind them. The play of Toronto center fielder Al Shaw and Buffalo shortstop Milt Stock and first baseman Fred Beck stood out. The Buffalo Enquirer wrote that “Shaw of Toronto was a demon in the field, having seven put-outs to his credit, most of them being of the hair raising kind.”[11] In the 13th inning, Shaw’s catch of Beebe’s “bid for a homer… brought the heart throbs to the Herd and fans alike.”[12] The Enquirer wrote of Buffalo’s shortstop: “Stock’s fielding was a revelation, several of his stops and throws bordering on the phenomenal.”[13] Among other great plays he made, Stock gunned down Tim Jordan at the plate in the 14th inning. The Buffalo Express gushed over Buffalo’s first baseman’s fielding, writing that “Beck took them with one or both hands, over the runner’s head or on the ground.”[14]

Bisons first baseman Fred Beck, June 12, 1912, Buffalo Enquirer.

The tension in the ballpark continued to rise as the game wore on. Birney P. Lynch wrote: “It was a hard game for either pitcher to lose and it became apparent as the innings slid past that only the fortunes of baseball would render a decision.”[15]

Bisons center fielder Jimmy Murray made a tremendous play in the 18th to help keep the Maple Leafs from scoring. Murray threw out Bill O’Hara at third base, when he tried to stretch a double into a triple with one out. The Buffalo Commercial reported: “the throw from the center field fence by which Jimmy Murray retired O’Hara that time was the great, big, shining feature of the latter part of the game. O’Hara rounding second, saw where Murray was with the ball and he figured on a relay. Murray threw straight into (third baseman Art) Bues’s mitt, and that throw was all that saved the game from ending then and there in Toronto’s favor.”[16] O’Hara was incensed at being called out, and was ejected from the game for arguing.

After 18 innings, Fred Beebe finally showed signs of tiring in the 19th. Tim Jordan led off the inning by hitting a ball that Bisons left fielder Grover Gilmore made a “circus catch” on, relieving the fans “of their anxiety for the moment. But not for long.”[17] The next batter, Bill Bradley, hit the ball to deep left-center field and ended up with a triple. Buffalo brought the infield in with a runner at third and one down. The Buffalo Commercial reported: “McConnell hit the second ball pitched toward (first baseman) Beck, who was playing 30 feet nearer the base than he would have played if Bradley had not been on third base. The ball traveled at a wicked pace when it went by Beck, who made a great stab to (try to) get it.”[18] Bradley crossed the plate with what proved to be the winning run, and McConnell ended up at third with the second triple of the inning. Beebe retired the next two batters on a strikeout and a pop-foul to escape any further damage.

The Bisons put a runner in scoring position in the 19th, but “Rudolph held like a stone wall to the end.”[19] With two down, Truesdale reached on a ball too hot for third baseman Bradley to handle. Up stepped Bisons first baseman Fred Beck, who already had five hits in the game, including the under-the-scoreboard home run way back in the third inning. After Truesdale stole second, Beck hit a shot up the middle, but Rudolph fielded it and “raced to first base, ending the game.”[20]

Toronto hurler Dick Rudolph, Public Domain.

The newspapers reported that the 19-inning game was the longest in the history of the International League. The game took three hours and 40 minutes, which was considered a long game by the standards of the day. The teams were supposed to play a doubleheader, but the first game took so long that the second game was postponed.

Both starting pitchers were phenomenal. Rudolph allowed three runs on 15 hits and three walks, while striking out nine Buffalo batters. Beebe gave up four runs on 13 hits and four walks, while striking out five in his 19 innings of work. The Buffalo Commercial aptly remarked on Beebe that “He lost the greatest game in the history of the league, but he went down with colors flying.”[21]

Despite the fact the Herd lost, Buffalo baseball fans left satisfied. The Buffalo Enquirer wrote: “The 8,000 fans who witnessed yesterday’s sensational nineteen inning clash between the Herd and the Leafs will have an interesting tale to unfold for posterity. It was by far the most brilliant game of baseball ever seen in these parts and one that has seldom been equaled in the history of the greatest of all sports… the Bisons, in defeat, never endeared themselves more to the hearts of Buffalo fandom.”[22] The Enquirer also reported that although 8,000 fans were in attendance, “ten times that many regret their absence.”[23] The Buffalo Evening News added: “There was something sensational doing almost every minute in that baseball battle and no one who saw it will ever forget it.”[24]

Beebe and Rudolph left their marks on their respective team’s histories during their long careers. Beebe went on to win 76 games for Buffalo over a four year period. His two best years with the Bisons were 1914, when he went 22-10, and 1915, when he threw a no-hitter and went an incredible 27-7 with a 3.35 ERA. Rudolph finished the 1912 season with a 25-10 record and a 2.83 ERA, giving him 120 wins in his Leafs career, including three 20-win seasons. He then went on to star in the major leagues for the Boston Braves, winning 121 games in 13 major-league seasons. The pinnacle of his career came with the 1914 Braves, when he went 26-10 with a 2.35 ERA. The Miracle Braves, managed by former Bisons skipper George Stallings, won the National League pennant by 10½ games after being in last place on July 4. Rudolph hurled complete game wins in Games 1 and 4 of the 1914 World Series, allowing only one earned run in 18 innings, as the Braves swept Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s.

The afternoon of June 11, 1912, was a day that still stands out in the long, storied careers of the two hurlers. The Buffalo Commercial commented that “For a number of reasons, it was one of the most remarkable games in the history of the league.”[25] The incredible 19-inning battle in which both pitchers went the distance remains one of the more unique games in Bisons and International League history.

[1] “Bisons Lose Record Breaking Game in Nineteenth Inning,” Birney P. Lynch, Buffalo Courier, June 12, 1912.

[2] “Was Grand Baseball,” Buffalo Morning Express, June 12, 1912.

[3] “Bisons Lose Record Breaking Game in Nineteenth Inning.”

[4] “Was Grand Baseball.”

[5] “Bisons Lose Record Breaking Game in Nineteenth Inning.”

[6] “Was Grand Baseball.”

[7] “Bisons Lose Record Breaking Game in Nineteenth Inning.”

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] “Toronto Triumphs in Wonderful Contest,” Buffalo Enquirer, June 12, 1912.

[11] Ibid.

[12] “Fits and Starts of Yesterday,” Buffalo Enquirer, June 12, 1912.

[13] Ibid.

[14] “Was Grand Baseball.”

[15] “Bisons Lose Record Breaking Game in Nineteenth Inning.”

[16] “Buffalo and Toronto Set New League Record in a Great 19-Inning Contest,” Buffalo Commercial, June 12, 1912.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] “Was Grand Baseball.”

[20] “Buffalo and Toronto Set New League Record in a Great 19-Inning Contest.”

[21] Ibid.

[22] “Toronto Triumphs in Wonderful Contest.”

[23] “Fits and Starts of Yesterday.”

[24] “Bisons and Maple Leaves Set New League Record,” Buffalo Evening News, June 12, 1912.

[25] “Buffalo and Toronto Set New League Record in a Great 19-Inning Contest.”

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