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Changing Pirates History: Harry Gardner


If you saw the “This Date” article from yesterday right when I posted it in the morning, you would’ve read about Harry Gardner retiring just one of the seven batters he faced in his last big league outing on April 14,1912, his only appearance that season. If you read it about ten minutes later, you would’ve read a slightly different version of his last game, one that doesn’t match any online sources you will find. Thanks to some help from pre-war baseball fans, Craig Wright and Sam Goodman, I was able to confirm my version of his last game doesn’t even match what you would read in old baseball encyclopedias.

It all started while checking his line from the game on baseball-reference.com, which matches up with all other online sources I checked afterwards. It says he faced seven batters, got one out, gave up three hits, one walk and six runs but none of them were earned. I went to an online source to see if I could find a boxscore, and hopefully a game description.  I first found that boxscore by itself, and noticed right away something didn’t make sense. Gardner supposedly came into the game in the bottom of the 7th inning with the Pirates leading 7-5 over the Cincinnati Reds. If Gardner did give up six unearned runs like his pitching line has read for the longest time, and the final score of the game was 11-7 for the Reds, how come Harry had a 0-0 record on the year? He would’ve obviously been the losing pitcher.

With the help of a good friend named Kevin Cummings, who is longtime researcher of baseball history himself, I decided to look further into this game to find out the mistake. Finally finding a copy of “The Gazette Times” from April 15,1912, I was able to track down the play-by-play recap of the game and figure out the discrepancy.

Babe Adams started the game for the Pirates, giving up three runs in four innings, leaving with a 3-2 deficit. Lefty Leifield came on in relief to start the fifth inning and he allowed two runs right away. Pittsburgh came back with one in the sixth, then a four spot in the top of the seventh to take the lead. Here is where the problem with Gardner’s stats begins.

Leifield faced three batters in the bottom of the seventh. The first one reached on an error by second baseman Alex McCarthy. The second batter also hit one to McCarthy, which was ruled generously to be a hit by the hometown scorer. The third batter of the inning tried out McCarthy again and he booted a third ball, this one looked to be a double play grounder. That was the end of the day for Leifield and out came our subject, Harry Gardner, to make his first(and only) appearance of the season. Here is the summary of what happened with Gardner on the mound that day:

1st batter: single, scored two runs

2nd batter: pop out to Gardner, 1 out

3rd batter: walk, filled the bases.

4th batter: triple to deep center field, scored three runs. The first runner being credited to Leifield, which made the game very briefly, 8-7 Reds.

5th batter: double, scored the third run off Gardner, making the score 11-7.

6th batter: fly out to left field, two outs

7th batter: foul out to third base, end of inning.

In the bottom of the 8th inning, Gardner was replaced on the mound by Hank Robinson, ending his major league career. That explains why he didn’t get credited with the loss and most of his numbers still match up to what they currently show. The two differences are, he actually pitched one inning, instead of 1/3 of an inning and he gave up three unearned runs instead of six. In the grand scheme of things, the differences are minor but one has to wonder, just when exactly were his stats first credited wrongly?

Harry Gardner lived another 49 years after this game, passing away in 1961 with a 1-1 major league record and a 4.46 ERA, but 51 years later, when you add on those two extra outs, he actually lowered his career ERA to 4.40. Not bad for someone who made his last major league appearance 100 years ago.

John Dreker
John Dreker
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball. When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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