“It Didn’t Take A Feather Out Of Me.”

july 15 spokane press 1905

One of the greatest games in baseball history happened on the Fourth of July.

It really did.

On July 4, 1905, the Philadelphia Athletics and the Boston Americans played a doubleheader at Boston’s Huntington Avenue Grounds.

Doubleheaders, in those days before stadium lights, began bright and early in the morning.

huntington avenue grounds

(1910) Public Domain image.

Huntington Avenue Grounds

The A’s took the morning game 5-2. At some point late in the game, the A’s quirky lefty Rube Waddell came in, pitched in relief, and got a couple outs.

This would be of only passing note, except that Waddell then started the afternoon game. And, pitched a 20-inning complete game. And, won. Beating Cy Young (who also pitched all 20).

Every game your team wins is a great game. But, this really might have been the greatest.

box score

Twenty innings pitched by two of the greatest pitchers ever.

This conversation really happened:

The Baseball Bloggess: “How about that ‘the greatest baseball game on record’ happened on the Fourth of July?”

Editor/Husband: “How about that ‘the greatest baseball game on record’ was 20 innings and was over in three hours and 31 minutes?”

(The average nine-inning game these days – what with all the commercials and instant replay and batting gloves and infield shifting – hovers around the three-hour mark.)

Waddell later estimated that he threw 250 pitches in that single game. Cy Young thought he pitched slightly fewer.

(No one counted in those days.)

“That 20-inning game was the best game I ever pitched,” Waddell said. “But it didn’t take a feather out of me. I felt just as good after the game was over as I did during the contest.”


(1909) Permission: SDN-055366, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum.

Rube Waddell

“I can’t claim that I did better work than Young,” Waddell said. “I had the luck. … The fact that it was the Fourth of July kept me going, and I guess the shooting of revolvers and the fireworks and the yelling made me pitch better.”

Wait, what? Revolvers?

Fireworks, in the daytime?

Holy crap.

Our great-grandparents were crazy (and dangerous)!

Waddell was nicknamed “Rube” because he was thought to be a little slow, a goofy, country bumpkin. Young was nicknamed “Cy” – for Cyclone – because it was said he threw fastballs so hard they would destroy the wooden grandstand walls.

Waddell loved a good drink and would skip starts to go fishing or wrestle alligators or play street games with neighborhood kids. He could become so distracted on the mound that he would just up and leave. (Fans of other teams suggested that holding a puppy up at a game would distract Waddell from his work.)

But, his pitching itself, including a powerful fastball and deceptive curve, reflected a focus and control that he lacked in other aspects of his life. On at least one occasion, he was so “on” that he shooed his outfielders out of the game and proceeded to strike out the side.

cy young pub domain 1908

(1908) Permission: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division #LC-USZ62-77897 DLC

Cy Young

Cy Young was far less colorful, except when he pitched. He threw the first perfect game of the modern era (against, wouldn’t you know it, the A’s and Waddell in 1904) and won 511 career games, the most by any pitcher ever, which is why pitchers today vie for the Cy Young award and not the Rube Waddell award.

Here’s your 20-second 20-inning recap of that Fourth of July game.

The Americans went up 2-0 in the first. The A’s tied it up with a two-run home run in the sixth. Then, for the next 13 innings, nothing.

Finally, sometime before dark, in the 20th inning, Boston – and Young – faltered. A couple Boston errors, and a batter hit by pitch, allowed the A’s to cobble together two runs, and a victory.

Despite the loss, it was, Young said, “the greatest game of ball I ever took part in.”

waddells glove

The glove Waddell used that day is in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.


Both Waddell and Young are in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Their combined 20-inning complete game was a pitching record that stood – for one season. In 1906, the A’s and Americans met again at Huntington Grounds. This time the A’s Jack Coombs and the Americans’ Joe Harris combined for a 24-inning complete game. (The A’s won that one, too.)

The Philadelphia A’s moved to Kansas City in 1955 and Oakland in 1968. They are currently 52-33, the best record in baseball.

The Boston Americans are now called the Red Sox. They are currently 38-47. Their Fourth of July game today with the Baltimore Orioles has been rained out. Doubleheader tomorrow!

Oh, hey … one more thing!

Waddell went 0-for-8 at the plate in that 1905 game. Only one other player has gone 0-for-8 in a game AND gotten the win. And, it was against Boston, too.

The Orioles’ Chris Davis, the designated hitter, was moved to pitcher at the end of a 17-inning game against the Red Sox in May 2012 when the team ran out of available pitchers. He hadn’t ever pitched in the big leagues before. He pitched two scoreless innings. He got the win. He hasn’t pitched since.

(Editor/Husband would want me to tell you this: That 2012 O’s – Red Sox game? It took six hours.)

Watch the two-minute highlights here.


Happy Fourth of July!

8 thoughts on ““It Didn’t Take A Feather Out Of Me.”

  1. Editor/Husband has a good point. Would an audience sit through a movie if it was six hours long? Is baseball defeating itself with these long, long games? Would even a fan enjoy the O’s doubleheader tomorrow if it went on for12 hours? (Having never been a serious student of the game, perhaps that was a silly question to ask.) Anyway, thanks for the intro to Rube and the interesting info on Cy. Keep your words coming!

    • Oh, Gloria, et tu? But, see, unlike a movie, no one expects you to just “sit there” for six hours. Baseball isn’t a passive spectator sport at all — there is dancing and stretching and clapping and standing-up-and-cheering to be done! Granted, six hours is a bit much, but today’s average game is really only about 3 hours, which is just a wee bit longer than today’s blockbuster movies. And, no one shushes you at a game when you stand and cheer. As for that six-hour game, we did watch (all of it!) on television, although I probably was catching up on a few chores and other tasks as it went onward.

      As your own Cubbie himself Ernie Banks once said, “It’s a beautiful day for baseball — let’s play two!” :)

  2. More than 20 years ago, the Baseball Bloggess accompanied me to the longest baseball game I ever sat through (kudos to Editor/Husband) occurred on Independence Day 1992 at the former Metrodome in Minneapolis, when the Minnesota Twins clipped the Baltimore Orioles 3-2 in 15 innings, four hours, 40 minutes. The game was highlighted in the 10th inning when Randy Milligan connected with the bases loaded and the score tied 1-1. Moose got all of it; the question was would it be fair or foul. I didn’t have to watch the flight of the ball to know the outcome because the Baseball Bloggess (and practicing Buddhist/Catholic) started to levitate toward the teflon roof with excitement. The ball curled foul by about two rows and she quickly fell to Earth, well at least her seat behind home plate (talk about earthlink). The Twins scored the winning run at 5:15 p.m. and Kathy Carneal (wife of broadcaster Herbert) waved from our row and yelled in her Virginia accent, “Great game, boys!” We were 14 rows behind home plate, but the beer vendors made sure Kathy was their last stop before concession sales closed. There’s other little stories to share from that same game. The next morning, Andre Agassi would win his first and only Wimbledon title while I was ordered to finish BB’s linguini and clams from dinner the night before. It truly amazes me how deeply fond of baseball my friend has become. If we got together and talked baseball, the conversation would last quite awhile. Here’s to Jack for the “freedom” she and editor/husband have found in the game of baseball. Jim

    • I remember as the game carried on, that people reluctantly started to file out … more and more of them. It was getting late. It was a beautiful day. It was the 4th of July. And, here we all were … trapped inside. And, the locals had places to go, barbecues and picnics and fireworks. But, not us, we stayed. I was sure my O’s would win. Just sure of it. No matter how dire the game, no matter how lost, I’m always just sure we could be back in it … if only.

      How in the world can you remember what we ate? (You’d have to eat ALL my clams these days … nearly 20 years a vegetarian!)

  3. What a wonderful story for the Fourth! Indeed the world would be better if it was all baseball and yoga. And barbecues and picnics and fireworks. I can’t agree our predecessors were dangerous if their celebratory firing of revolvers resulted in no injuries. Back then probably most of the gentlemen in the stands had at least a pocket pistol on his person as surely as his pocket watch.
    Not to mention the ladies like Mrs. Dallis of my childhood who always traveled with her little silver purse revolver Hard to comprehend the stamina of those pitchers;seems strange in a way that no one of record ran four-minute miles back then, but modern athletes seem to be setting records all the time–except in baseball pitching, where a nine inning game is a novelty. I love baseball! Thanks for this story.

    • I wonder what Cy Young and Rube Waddell would say about today’s 100 mph flamethrowers? And, pitch counts! They would just shake their heads in wonder, I guess. Thanks so much for stopping by … Happy 4th of July!

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