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Weekly Column by Brian Codagnone

April 5, 2012

The Greatest Team Ever

Most people think the 1927 New York Yankees were the greatest team in baseball history, but they'd be wrong. Granted, they had the legendary "Murderer's Row": Earle Combs, Mark Koenig, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bob Meusel and Tony Lazzeri as well as a supporting cast of talented players led by legendary manager Miller Huggins. Still, their 110-44 win-loss record was nothing compared to the now all but forgotten Cleveland Dreadnaughts of the Federal League.

In 1915 the Cleveland Dreadnaughts went 157-0, the first, last and only major league baseball team to have a perfect season. Of course, with such stars as Orbs Doweled, Rube Crowder, Moonlight Bey, Highpockets Parkhurst, Dummy Hoyle, Specs Gaffney, Charlie "The Clenched Sphincter" Tammany, Lunger Lewis, Lou "Iron Lung" McClintock, Hans "Kraut" Himmler, Tony "Wop" Lombozzi, Moishe "Hebe" Berkowitz, Jimmy "Mick" O'Reilly, Stanley "Polack" Waslewski and, of course, their manager Lloyd "Six Toes" McGee, what else would you expect? Only Berkowitz isn't enshrined in the Hall of Fame because of his connection to the Blue Sox Scandal of 1921. Or because he was Jewish. Things were different back then.

The upstart league had raided the National and American Leagues of some of their finest talent, including Jack Quinn, Chief Bender, Edd Roush, Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown, Doc Crandall, Al Bridwell and Hal Chase as well as lesser known players such as Moose LaRue, Clyde "The Human Mystery" Krieger, Moses "Meat" Slaughter, Garters Matthewson, Chief Weaver, Doc Deacon, Farley "Death to Flying Things" Fletcher, Biscuit Pants Jennings and Cracker Holmes. By the time they started playing in 1914 some considered them a legitimate threat to the dominance of the established leagues.

The Dreadnaughts opened the 1915 season with a rollicking 19-0 win against the Toledo Turpetude. They then beat every team they faced and with each win their following grew. Every day, in every barbershop, saloon, haberdashery, smokehouse, apothecary, sawmill, gristmill, woolen mill, sweat shop and bordello the same question was asked: will the Dreadnaughts ever lose? As the season wore on the suspense grew. Every newspaper in the country was following the team; songs and poems were written about them and every sports writer from Ring Lardner to Grantland Rice was covering them night and day. Even President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that said, in part:

"As long as the Cleveland Dreadnaughts Base Ball Club continues to inspire America, I pledge to keep us out of the World War and the Negro out of Base Ball!"

But the losses never came. On and on they rolled, crushing every opponent. The closest they came to a defeat was in a game against their arch-rivals, the Chicago Stockyards. It was a blistering hot July day in Chicago, and Claude "The Invisible Man" Raines was on the mound for the Stockyards. Their infield, the combination of Jauron to Lamby to Swain (that the New York Tribune said "made 'Tinker to Evers to Chance' look like well masticated horse flesh") were making flawless play after flawless play. Tied in the twenty first inning, Stockyards manager "Pip" Longstocking decided to pull his starting pitcher for an untried rookie, "Rookie" Hobbs. In one of those stories that become a part of baseball legend, Hobbs faced the league's best batter, "Shiver" Metimbers. We'll let the Chicago World tell the story:

"Showing the demeanor and poise of a seasoned veteran, Rookie Hobbs twirled the horsehide toward Metimbers, known to one and all as "The King of the Long Ball". In a move that surprised no one, Metimbers knocked it over the fence and out of sight. Outraged, the spectators spilled onto the field and lynched Longstocking on the spot. His spirit as well as his rib cage crushed, Hobbs was returned to the minors."

Sadly, Hobbs never played another game in the major leagues.

Hobbs wasn't the only player left in the wake of the juggernaut that was the Dreadnaughts. They could do no wrong that year. Every player hit over .400 and three of their pitchers won 30 games. But it wasn't to last. At the end of the season the Federal League folded and the team disbursed to the four corners of baseball.

They're all gone now, the Federal league just a footnote of baseball history. But there remains in Cleveland a plaque where Shocker Field once stood. It reads "On this spot stood Shocker Field, home of the Cleveland Dreadnaughts of the Federal League (1914-1915) and the Cleveland Tortoises of the International League (1926-62)". It may be a toxic waste dump now, but there are those who swear that if you walk past on a perfect, warm summer night you can still hear the roar of the crowds and smell the popcorn. We think it's caused by the chemical fumes.






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©2012 Brian Codagnone
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Surf Our Site

Home ... Misfits . Rafferty .. . S1019 .. . Star Crossed....
. .
Ginger & Shadow. ..Embrace the Pun.. ..Cool Links . ..More Cool Links .
Oddities ..Link To Us... Guest Comics .. ..Books for Sale . Online Store..
The Cartoonists ..In The Zone . .Emotional Chaos . .Number 9