When we created this site, we did it with the intention of being a Pittsburgh baseball history site, even though 99% of the focus will be on the Pittsburgh Pirates. Today’s Game Rewind is one of those times that we stray from the Pirates in a history article. There will be more in the future. If you’re wondering which one is the Pittsburgh team in the title, you’re probably not alone right now.
The 1915 Pittsburgh Rebels were in the Federal League. That was a Major League that existed for two seasons (1914-15), and the league had a big league team in Pittsburgh each year. The Federal League itself existed for three years, holding minor league status in 1913. The team name had a simple origin. They were named after their manager, Rebel Oakes, who also happened to be their center fielder. In 1913, the Pittsburgh Federal League team was named Filipinos, a clever nickname derived from their manager Deacon Phillippe, the great Pirates pitcher.
On April 24, 1915, the Rebels were in St Louis to take on the Terriers. Pittsburgh was 6-5 to begin the season, while St Louis had a 3-6 record. On this Saturday afternoon at Handlan’s Park, the Rebels sent 26-year-old lefty Frank Allen to the mound. He had a 24-13 record during his time in the Federal League, but it didn’t translate well to the National League before or after. He went 26-53 in five NL seasons. His mound opponent in this contest was veteran pitcher Bob Groom, who was an average pitcher for some very poor teams. He led the American League in losses in 1909, the led the Federal League in defeats in 1914, before wearing his second AL loss crown in 1917.
The lineups for these teams had some names familiar to die-hard followers of this site. Pittsburgh had Mike Mowrey at third base, Ed Konetchy at first base and Jim Kelly in right field. All three were recent former Pirates players at the time. St Louis had Ward Miller in left field. He was a member of the 1909 World Series champs (aka the other Miller on the team). They also had Grover Hartley and Doc Crandall, who have an odd connection in Pirates history. In 1933, both were coaches for the Pirates and they both played in an exhibition contest on August 8, 1933, a full 18 years after today’s featured game.
The first inning didn’t look good for the Rebels. They went down in order in the top of the inning, then Frank Allen loaded the bases on three walks in the bottom of the frame. With two outs, Grover Hartley had a chance to do some damage, but he grounded out to Mike Mowrey, who tagged third base for the final out. It was a rough first for Allen, but he would settle down.
The second inning went 1-2-3 for both clubs. The third inning was almost as quiet, with the Rebels getting just a walk by Allen, while the Terriers couldn’t get the ball out of the infield.
The Rebels got a lead-off walk in the fourth, which was immediately erased on a double play. Ed Koentchy walked with two outs, then Rebel Oakes flew out to left field to end the inning. The Terriers came up empty in the bottom of the inning, with ground outs to the pitcher and third base, and a fly ball to center field. It was scoreless through four frames.
In the fifth inning with one out, Jim Kelly grounded to third base. Charlie Deal of St Louis knocked down the hard shot, but his throw was wild and Kelly advanced to second base. The next batter lifted a fly ball to Ward Miller in left field. Kelly tried to tag up on the play, but he was thrown out for the 7-5 double play to end the inning. St Louis had two infield pop ups in the fifth (one to Allen), and a fly ball out to Kelly in right field.
Pittsburgh’s lead-off hitter Davy Jones singled with one out in the sixth inning. That was followed by two ground outs to end the inning. The Terriers’ lead-off hitter Jack Tobin crushed a long drive in the sixth that Jim Kelly caught with his back up against the right field fence. The rest of the inning went quietly, with a high fly to shallow center field and a grounder to shortstop. This contest was moving quickly and it remained scoreless through six innings.
In the seventh, Pittsburgh got a lead-off triple from Konetchy. After a grounder back to the mound for the first out, catcher Grover Hartley tried a pick-off throw to get Konetchy at third base, but it hit Konetchy in the back and rolled far enough away to allow the Rebels to get their first run. Pittsburgh got a two-out single and stolen base from Kelly, but the score remained 1-0 at the stretch.
Allen got a strikeout to start the bottom of the seventh, then a grounder right back to him for the second out. Hartley tried to atone for his mistake, hitting a liner to right field, but Kelly tracked it down for the third out.
The top of the eighth went 1-2-3, then Charlie Deal tried to atone for his costly error with a hard smack to center field, which was tracked down by Oakes for the first out. That was followed by a grounder to shortstop, and then pitcher Bob Groom watched a third strike to end the inning. Yes, they left the pitcher in to hit with a 1-0 score in the eighth.
Groom probably should have been lifted for a pinch-hitter because of what happened in the ninth (and also the at-bat in the eighth, I guess). Mike Mowrey singled to left field, then took second base when Ward Miller had trouble handling it. Konetchy put down a bunt that Groom picked up and fired to third base, with the throw being too late for the out. That put runners on the corners with no outs. Manager Oakes then lifted a long fly ball for a sacrifice fly that made it a 2-0 game. Jack Lewis then came up and grounded out to shortstop, with Konetchy getting tossed out at third base on the poor base running decision. Kelly lined back to the pitcher for the third out. Groom limited it to one run, but it took a bad base running decision and a hard hit out to get out of the frame without more damage.
In the bottom of the ninth, St Louis had Jack Tobin up to start the inning. He grounded out to Allen, then had something unsavory to say, which got him booted from the game. The next batter was Doc Crandall and he walked, then left for a pinch-runner. It was the first runner for St Louis since the first inning. Delos Drake then followed with a hard line drive to center field and manager Oakes made an outstanding catch to reel it in for the second out. The next batter was Babe Borton and he grounded out to shortstop to end the game. Allen had pitched a no-hitter! It was the second of five no-hitters thrown in Federal League history. He issued four walks and struck out four batters. The game time was an even 100 minutes.
When Cliff Chambers threw his no-hitter for the Pirates on May 6, 1951, a former writer for the Pittsburgh Press, who covered Allen’s game live, said that St Louis was hitting everything hard on this day and he was lucky to get out of the game with a win, never mind the fact that he threw a no-hitter. The game reports from that day talk about two very good defensive plays in particular, the catch by Kelly in the sixth and the one by Oakes in the ninth. From a play-by-play I found, it also sounds like the outs in the seventh by Grover Hartley and in the eighth inning by Charlie Deal were both hit hard. Most no-hitters do have 1-2 plays that really stand out, so that should take nothing away from Allen’s performance on this day. He dominated the Terriers and put his name in the record books for baseball history.
Here’s the boxscore from this game courtesy of Baseball-Reference.