September 20, 1907: Nick Maddox pitched the first no-hitter in Pirates' franchise history


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Nyjer Morgan's defense in center field has been scintillating.

Steve Pearce has gotten his share of hits and RBIs.

As promising as those two September call-ups have been for the Pirates this year, they are not close to being as spectacular as was Nick Maddox in September 1907.

Nick Maddox might be the all-time best September call-up in Pirates history.

Not only did the right-hander go 5-1 with a 0.83 earned run average in his six starts, but he also pitched the first no-hitter in the Pirates' history. He remains the youngest pitcher in major-league history to throw a no-hitter.

That was 100 years ago today at Exposition Park when Maddox, making his third major-league start, was two months short of his 21st birthday.

Not that he thought it was any big deal.

"Aw, that and a dime will get you a cup of coffee," Maddox would say throughout his life.

"He was modest," his son, Jim, said, "and tough."

Good, too. Way too good for Brooklyn that day 100 years ago.

Nick Maddox, a right-hander, beat the Superbas -- as the future Dodgers were known then.

The final score was 2-1, and there were a couple other unusual aspects to that no-hitter, which featured legendary umpire Bill Klem behind the plate.

Pirates player-manager Fred Clarke had the only two hits of the game, both off spitballer Elmer Stricklett, who was only a couple of weeks from the end of his brief and unspectacular 35-51 career.

All three runs were unearned.

Brooklyn scored its run in the fourth, thanks to errors by Maddox and shortstop Honus Wagner.

Maddox made a high throw over first baseman Harry Swacina's head, allowing Emil Batch to reach base.

"They scored me with an error," Maddox said. "But, hell, man, I threw it straight to the first baseman. Sure, it went over his head, but he should have jumped for it."

Batch scored when Wagner threw away Al Burch's ground ball.

"I don't hold that against Honus," Maddox said. "He saved my no-hitter in the ninth."

That was after the Pirates scored a run in the fifth and another in the eighth.

With two outs in the ninth, Billy Maloney, a speedy but light-hitting center fielder, chopped a ball over Maddox behind the mound.

Wagner darted in and ... well, let Maddox tell you what happened: "A ball was hit right over my head and -- pfft -- Wagner was over there to get it. I don't think he ever held the ball. He just swooped it over to first."

"I realized in the eighth inning that Nick had a no-hitter," Wagner said years later, "and I wanted him to get it. He got the side out all right in the eighth and had no trouble with the first two men in the ninth.

"But the last hitter hit a high bouncer over the pitcher's head. The ball seemed to hang in the air. When it finally came down, I let fly to first base without even looking for the bag. The throw just beat the runner."

Maddox, born in Baltimore Nov. 9, 1886, eventually stretched his hitless streak to 13 consecutive innings. He did not allow a hit in his final two innings in the start before his no-hitter and didn't yield a hit in the first two innings of his next start -- a 14-1 victory against manager John McGraw's New York Giants.

"He certainly looks like a comer," McGraw conceded. "He had my men guessing. He seems to have everything that winning pitchers should possess and he should make a fine addition to the Pittsburg [sic] pitching staff for next season. There is little of the minor-leaguer about him."

On that day, Maddox was less than two weeks removed from having pitched for the minor-league Wheeling Stogies of the Central League. He was 13-10 for the Stogies, but allowed only 47 runs in his 29 games before the Pirates purchased his contract.

Years later, Maddox would use that mediocre record to console his son, Jim, who had lost four games pitching for Millvale High School in the early 1950s.

"That don't mean nothing, son," Maddox said. "Why, I lost four games in one week and then the Pirates bought my contract."

Maddox certainly looked like a comer.

In 1908, he was 23-8 with a 2.28 earned run average. The next year, he was 13-8 (2.21) and helped the Pirates win the World Series against Ty Cobb and the Detroit Tigers by getting a complete-game win in the third game.

By 1910, Maddox began having arm trouble. He was 2-3 (3.40) that season and released. He never pitched in the majors again.

He returned to Baltimore for a while, married there and came back to Pittsburgh, where he and wife, Elizabeth, raised nine children while Maddox worked at the old Fort Pitt Brewery in Sharpsburg.

He often told people the key to pitching well, and Patrick Duffy, Jim's nephew who lives in Oakmont, and Jim, who retired after 35 years as a roofer, remember Nick's advice clearly.

"He'd say, 'You had to have hop on the ball and a change of pace,' " Patrick said.

"And," Jim said, "he'd say, 'Stick the curve ball [uh, in your pocket]. Only throw it to let them know you have one.' "

There seems little question Nick Maddox had some hop on the ball.

The Pirates did not have another no-hitter until Cliff Chambers pitched one against the Boston Braves, 3-0, May 6, 1951.

Maddox, who died in Pittsburgh 2 1/2 years later, listened to the final two innings of that game on the radio. While he conceded he was rooting for Chambers to get the no-hitter, he could not help adding that pitchers were different in his day.

"Those guys today aren't pitchers -- they're throwers," Maddox said. "Talk about fastballs! Why, in my day, I'd throw one so fast past that guy [Ralph] Kiner [that] he'd get pneumonia from the wind."



The few and the dominant

Since Nick Maddox threw the Pirates' first no-hitter 100 years ago today, there have been only five others:

Pitcher

Date

Opponent

Score

Cliff Chambers

May 6, 1951

Boston

3-0

The skinny: Second game of a doubleheader

Bob Moose

Sept. 20, 1969

New York

4-0

The skinny: Gets Art Shamsky for final out

Dock Ellis

June 12, 1970

San Diego

2-0

The skinny: Ellis later says he was high on LSD

John Candelaria

Aug. 9, 1976

Los Angeles

2-0

The skinny: A Monday night national TV game

Cordova/Rincon

July 12, 1997

Houston

3-0

The skinny: Win on dramatic Mark Smith walk-off HR in 10th inning

Special mention

Harvey Haddix *

May 26, 1959

Milwaukee

0-1

The skinny: Lost, but some argue it was greatest game ever pitched

* -12 perfect innings broken up in the 13th


Paul Meyer can be reached at pmeyer@post-gazette.com .


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