From the baseball wayback machine: 100 years ago, a no-hitter won a championship for The Citadel

The sinister war clouds loom to-day
High in the north, o’er Hampton Park,
Where, lined for the forthcoming fray,
A battlefield spreads grim and stark.

Maroon is glinting through the air,
The Light-Blue’s brilliant in the sky;
And hostile pennons flutter fair
as student and cadet go by.

I dare not try to dope it out,
This rapid, sharp, enthusing clash,
Where one good team goes off in rout
As one good team sees Victory flash.

Defeat must crush one fighting nine
When one attains undying fame —
But take if from me, Friend O’ Mine,
It sure will be one lovely game.

The News and Courier, May 25, 1912

The Citadel and the College of Charleston had each fielded a baseball team in the years before 1912, and had met on numerous occasions, with the CofC prevailing more often than not. In 1912, however, there was a bit more formality to the series, as for the first time a tangible goodie was on the line.  A silver cup, the Allan Trophy, would be presented to the winning side.

After a postponement due to rain, the best-of-three series began on April 27 at College Park, then home of the College of Charleston. It was apparently not ideally suited to handle large crowds.  Some overeager patrons had to occasionally be moved off the playing field, delays that resulted in a total game time of an interminable two hours and five minutes.

The game started with a bang, as in the top of the first the CofC pulled off a 5-3-4 triple play. After the cadets scored one run in the third inning, the College responded in the bottom half of the frame with a five-spot. The Citadel’s starting pitcher, Jimmy Fair, was decidedly less than fair, allowing four hits (including a double) and also issuing a walk. His defense didn’t help him any, though, as two errors were also committed in the inning.

Fair was replaced on the mound by starting second baseman and team captain C.D. Gibson, who allowed just two runs over the final six innings. The Citadel rallied late, scoring three runs in the eighth and nine innings, but fell short by a score of 7-5.

Yesterday we went up-town,
An’ the College started kickin’ our dawg aroun’.
But we caught the Bantam an’ roasted him brown,
So they better quit kickin’ our Bulldog aroun’.

Game 2 was played at Hampton Park, home diamond of The Citadel, on May 11. Hampton Park may well have been the first “regular” home park for the cadets; in its history, The Citadel has also played home baseball games at Stoney Field, WLI Field, College Park, and Riley Park, and probably a couple of other places as well.

Sumter native Wendell Levi again started on the mound for the College of Charleston. Levi was also a fine basketball player and a noted expert on pigeons. The right-hander had a rough afternoon, relatively speaking, allowing five runs, including two in the first inning that set the tone for the game. Both runs were unearned, however, as the Maroon defense was not particularly good on the day.

Gibson, after pitching well in relief in Game 1, started Game 2 for the cadets and was outstanding in what may have been his first career start as a pitcher. He allowed just one unearned run while going the distance, and also drove in two runs at the plate. The Citadel won the game 5-1, with the stage set for a decisive Game 3.

Game 3 was also played at Hampton Park, on May 25, after The Citadel won a coin toss to decide which squad would host.   The game started at 4 pm sharp before an enormous crowd of nearly two thousand people, most of whom had paid 25 or 35 cents for the privilege of watching the encounter. The large number of patrons overwhelmed the city streetcar service, so some fans had to walk long distances to the game.

Levi and Gibson again started for their respective nines. The preview in The News and Courier had stated that pitching would decide the game:

If Gibson can go the distance with the form of last game the Blue should win. Whether Levi weakens again, or whether he can repeat past performances in mystifying the Citadel batsmen probably answers the query for a Maroon triumph. Gibson is a novice, Levi is a veteran, at the pitching art. Their right wings will decide the outcome.

Both pitchers would turn in outstanding efforts. Levi, pitching in the final game of his career, struck out eight in a complete-game effort while allowing just one run on three hits and no walks. He also had to pitch around six Maroon errors.

His only mistake would prove costly, though. In the bottom of the third inning, a double error put a cadet on second base with one out. The Citadel’s shortstop, Ed Antley, then doubled to left field, scoring the game’s only run.

Meanwhile, Gibson was proving too much for the Bantam hitters. He was at times what could be termed “effectively wild”, as he hit two batters. In an amusing incident in the second inning (amusing for The Citadel, at least), another wayward pitch from Gibson caused a CofC batter to duck; the ball struck the bat and bounced back to Gibson, for an easy 1-3 putout.

Gibson walked only two batters while striking out four. He was helped by fine defensive work (the cadets only committed one error).

In the top of the ninth, after a leadoff walk and fielder’s choice, the CofC had a runner on first with one out. Gibson recorded his fourth strikeout of the game for the second out, and as the batter swung and missed, the catcher threw to first base, catching the runner napping. Jimmy Fair (now playing first base for The Citadel) threw to a covering Antley at second, who tagged the runner out to end the game.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard of a no-hit game ending like that…

The post-game hijinks were, as usual, slightly over the top:

A big parade, featuring the Minstrel Ad Club, the band, the sponsors and players in four carriages, the Allan trophy cup, and the battalion, wound its vociferous way through King Street in celebration of the victory after the game.

Tomorrow, the College of Charleston and The Citadel will meet in the Southern Conference baseball tournament. It’s a big game, but it will be tough to match the drama of 1912.

I”ll let the (seemingly anonymous) sportswriter-poet who wrote so majestically for The News and Courier one hundred years ago have the final word:

The tumult and the shouting dies
As Student and Cadet depart,
The one with somewhat quiet mien,
The other with more blithesome heart

They leave the darkening park to me,
And as I watch the sun’s last flame
Fading, a voice comes distantly:
“You bet it was one lovely game.”

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