July 17, 1924: Jesse Haines throws the first no-hitter in Cardinals history

Fresh off the first 20-win season of his career the year before, Jesse Haines was in the midst of a miserable 1924 campaign.

The 6-foot, 190-pounder from Clayton, Ohio, recorded just one out in his season debut, and while he righted the ship with three wins in May, Haines appeared to be wilting in the summer heat. Heading into his July 17 start against the Boston Braves, the future Hall of Famer was just 4-12 on the season and had lost his last three decisions.

On July 17, 1924, however, Haines dominated a Braves lineup that ranked third in the National League, earning his place in history as the first pitcher in franchise history to throw a no-hitter.

“Haines had greater speed than I have ever found him using before,” Cardinals catcher Miguel Gonzales said. “His fast one had a bit of a jump and he had pretty good control.”[1]

Haines’ masterpiece took place before a packed house at Sportsman’s Park, though the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Dent McSkimming wrote that the crowd was unusually apathetic to the events of the day, as many were there for festivities benefiting the St. Louis Tuberculosis Society.

“It so happened that a great majority of the 15,000 persons who attended yesterday’s game were not fans and probably a majority did not realize and certainly did not appreciate the fact that they were being treated to a unique sight,” McSkimming wrote. “The annual Tuberculosis day festivity had attracted a very colorful and happy gathering to Sportsman’s Park and the ladies did give passing attention to the ball game. But as the hour grew late they grew restless and seemed more interested in the band and to the mass of variegated color in the stand than in the game.”[2]

McSkimming did note, however, that by the seventh inning even newcomers to the sport were caught up in the excitement.

Haines opened the game by retiring Gus Felix on a fly ball, then striking out Bill Cunningham and Casey Stengel. In the bottom half of the first, Wattie Holm singled and advanced to second on a wild pitch by Braves pitcher Tim McNamara. Rogers Hornsby followed with a single up the middle to score Holm and give St. Louis a 1-0 lead.

Haines retired the side in order in the second, then struck out Bob Smith and Mickey O’Neil before walking McNamara. He ended the inning by retiring Felix on a line drive to Hornsby at second base. Felix’s drive would prove to be the Braves’ hardest hit of the game.

In the bottom of the third, Haines led off with a single to left field. Jack Smith laid down a bunt single down the first-base line to put runners on first and second, but Holm lined out to left field and Hornsby flied out to Braves third baseman Cotton Tierney in foul territory. With two outs, Jim Bottomley hit a fly ball to center field, but Felix misplayed the ball, allowing Haines to score and make it 2-0.

In the bottom of the fifth, Hornsby and Bottomley each singled and Specs Toporcer was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Gonzales. Gonzales scored Hornsby on a fielder’s choice, and Jimmy Cooney hit a two-run single to left to score Bottomley and Toporcer.

With a 5-0 lead, Haines retired his eighth consecutive batter in the top of the sixth before he again walked McNamara. With two outs, he walked Bill Cunningham before getting Stengel to hit a ground ball back to him for the final out of the inning.

Cunningham would prove to be the Braves’ final baserunner, as Haines retired the next 10 batters he faced. Facing the top of the Boston lineup in the ninth, Haines retired Felix and Cunningham on fly balls, then got Stengel to ground out to Hornsby at second base for the final out of the game.

“Much as I need my base hits to earn my ham and eggs, I’m glad I didn’t do it,” Stengel admitted after the game. “That fellow had great stuff on the ball. Wonderful speed and pretty fair control. He deserves a lot of credit and it doesn’t make any difference that he was pitching against Boston. We’re not the hardest-hitting team in the league but we’re not the weakest either. Haines pitched a great game in my opinion.”[3]

Haines’ no-hitter is credited as the first no-hitter in Cardinals franchise history, though it was preceded in St. Louis baseball history. George Washington Bradley, pitching for the St. Louis Brown Stockings, held the Hartford Dark Blues hitless in an 1876 game for the first no-hitter in the history of the National League. In 1891, Ted Breitenstein of the American Association St. Louis Browns threw a no-hitter in his first professional start. After the collapse of the American Association at the end of the season, the Browns joined the National League, became the Perfectos in 1899, and ultimately became the St. Louis Cardinals in 1900.

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[1] Dent McSkimming, “Jess Haines Hurls No-Hit, No-Run Game Against Boston,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 18, 1924, Page 19.

[2] Dent McSkimming, “Jess Haines Hurls No-Hit, No-Run Game Against Boston,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 18, 1924, Page 19.

[3] Dent McSkimming, “Jess Haines Hurls No-Hit, No-Run Game Against Boston,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 18, 1924, Page 19.

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