Red Sox History: Ernie Shore pitches to perfection in relief of Babe Ruth

BOSTON, MA - CIRCA 1915: The Boston Red Sox Baseball Team poses for an annual portrait for the year 1915 in Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo Reproduction by Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - CIRCA 1915: The Boston Red Sox Baseball Team poses for an annual portrait for the year 1915 in Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo Reproduction by Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images) /

Shore dominated out of the Red Sox bullpen after Ruth got tossed

It’s extremely rare to see a starting pitcher get the hook with a no-hitter on the line. We saw it happen to Nick Pivetta in Thursday’s outing against the Tampa Bay Rays, an outcome that serves as a reminder of an infamous moment in Boston Red Sox history.

Pivetta was dominant on the mound, pumping in mid-90s fastballs while getting hitters to swing and miss at his breaking balls. He walked a pair and hit a batter but those were the only base runners he allowed until Austin Meadows reached on a fielding error by first baseman Michael Chavis with one out in the seventh inning. Pivetta retired the next batter on a ground out that moved the runner into scoring position with two down.

Unfortunately, the Red Sox offense couldn’t muster any run support for their starter. With the score knotted at zero, the potential winning run on second base and his pitch count climbing to 100, Pivetta was pulled from the game in the midst of a no-hitter.

Manager Alex Cora made the correct baseball decision given the tight situation and knowing his starter was never going to make it the distance anyway due to his pitch count. Still, we can’t overlook the rarity of this event.

Pivetta is the second Red Sox starter to be removed from a game after 6+ innings without allowing a hit, joining Babe Ruth, who tossed six hitless innings on May 20, 1916. Pivetta is also the first Red Sox starter to be lifted after 5+ innings without a hit since Ernie Shore on October 2, 1916.

The connection to these two teammates from over a century ago ties to another historic moment in franchise history that occurred almost exactly 104 years before Pivetta flirted with a no-hitter.

A near-perfect game in Red Sox history

On June 23, 1917, Ruth took the mound for a start against the Washington Senators. Yes, in case you’ve forgotten, before The Great Bambino established himself as one of the game’s greatest power hitters with the New York Yankees, he was the ace of the Red Sox rotation.

Ruth walked Senators’ lead-off batter Ray Morgan to open the game, granting ball four on a call that the pitcher adamantly protested. Ruth rushed to the plate to argue a dispute that got so heated that he went as far as to threaten to punch the umpire if he dared to eject him. Brick Owens tried to call his bluff by tossing the pitcher from the game and Ruth countered by following through on the threat, clocking the umpire in the head.

Can you imagine if this happened today? A player assaulting an umpire in this manner would almost certainly receive a very lengthy suspension, if not a lifetime ban. For Ruth, it was a mere 10-game suspension, a slap on the wrist for a pitcher who would only miss a couple of starts.

Once the scuffle was broken up and Ruth was escorted back to the dugout, Shore took over on the mound. Morgan was quickly thrown out attempting to steal second, and Shore set down the next 26 straight batters in a 4-0 victory.

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The outcome was initially classified as a perfect game by Shore but the league later changed the ruling by calling it a combined no-hitter despite that the starter failed to record a single out. Shore wasn’t responsible for the lone base runner and was the pitcher on the mound when all 27 outs were recorded.

This amazing accomplishment is made even more impressive when you consider that Shore had tossed five innings only two days earlier. Ruth’s ejection necessitated a rare relief appearance for Shore, who typically was in the rotation. He had been in a brief slump at the time, allowing nine earned runs over nine innings in his previous two starts but his near-perfect game quickly turned his season around.

Shore’s next start would also come on short rest on June 27. He surrendered four earned runs and took the loss against the same Senators team but it came in a complete game that lasted 11 innings.

Shore allowed more than three earned runs in only two of his remaining 14 appearances and finished the 1917 season with a 2.22 ERA. Granted, this was the dead ball era, but he was still among the league’s best that year.

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Ruth led the Red Sox to a World Series title in 1918 but Shore sat out that season while serving in the Naval Reserves. He was traded to the Yankees in December of that year and finished his career with two sub-par seasons in the Bronx. Shore would reunite with Ruth for his farewell season but let’s not speak of how the Babe ended up in pinstripes.