The Post-Journal

Onoville Man Who Hurled No-Hitter Against New York Yanks in 1919 Says 'Wasn't Much'

Funny how the past sometimes comes up and slaps you like a cold-handed spook, and how, when you go delving back among the records, you run into many things and how a lot of the time they all tie in to prove again and again what a small hunk of dirt and brimstone this really is we are now living on.

Now, take this case for instance: We're rolling through the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside on our way to Bradford to watch our Falcons battle the Blue Wings when John Albright says, "I'll give you a knockdown to this guy," and we say, "What guy?" and John says, "Why Ray Caldwell, of course. He lives over here in Onoville, runs a tavern called the Red Wing."

Then we muse a while, for the name doesn't register, but we twist in the seat for we know it should. Finally, John comes to the rescue. "Sure, and you remember Ray Caldwell, pitched for Cleveland in 1920, was a right-hander and one of the greatest. I saw the fellow throw one at the White Sox in Chicago years and years ago. Man, oh man, what a chucker!"

Caldwell, Coveleskie and Cleveland

Sure, now we remember, and when the old brain cell gets to clicking (the wife says cell, not cells, is right) we recall Caldwell and Cleveland, and there was another fellow - Stanley Coveleskie, and that name rings a bell, too, and we remember that Coveleskie who, with Ray Caldwell and Jim Bagby, pitched the Indians to the only A.L. pennant and World Series bunting the Tribe has ever won, is an uncle of a fellow we're going to see play, although there's a slight difference in the spelling - Stan Covaleskie of Bradford, who catches for the Blue Wings.

That's what we mean by slapping you sudden-like. One minute you're rolling along a Pennsy highway on your way to see two Class D ball clubs play and the next minute you're talking about big league ball, and you go back to Cleveland and Caldwell, which brings up Coveleskie and as Coveleskie comes into the picture you have an item for the well-known book - one of the three fellers who hurled the Indians to their only flag is running a tavern within a handful of miles of where his old teammate's nephew is backstopping, maybe on his way to the big show, too.

We Call on Caldwell

Well, we roll up to the Red Wing and pile out and John tries the door, which is locked. Then he calls, "Ray, where are you?" in that soft, mellow voice of his that comes boomin' back along the wooded valley like a Puget Sound foghorn to make the plaster trickle down inside in a snowy flutter. Finally, the door opens and a big fellow, who fills it comfortably, greets us. That was Ray Caldwell, the old fireball maestro.

He's 57, Ray is, but he looks nearer 45. He stands a little over six-feet and still weighs in the neighborhood of 200 pounds. We get the quiz started and Ray leans those big arms on the bar - arms that still resemble a couple of recoil braces for a French 75 - and tells us about himself in short takes.

"You'll have to pump this fellow 'cause he don't want anyone to think he's bragging," John had warned us, and we found out he was right with a capital R.

"Sure, I was up to the big time," Ray opened slowly, "from 1910 to 1921... Just an ordinary thrower... Had a pretty good year with the Indians when we won the pennant and Series... Had to slow down and use the head in later years though..."

'It Didn't Amount to Much'

Then we gave him a verbal pushing around and he finally mutters lamely, "I did pitch a no-hit, no-run game against the Yankees once, but that didn't amount to much. I was lucky."

We had to get into a booth and sit down after that one. This fellow gives up a no-no against one of the greatest bunch of fence-busters in the business, even back in '19, and says," It didn't amount to much."

If Ray were a bragging man it is natural he would have waxed eloquent over that no-hitter against the Yanks, for they were his old teammates. In fact, he toiled for the Yankees, who were known as the Highlanders when he joined them, for nine years - 1910 to 1919- before being traded to the Boston Red Sox, where he served for half a season, moving on to Cleveland and his first and only World Series with the Tribe, who made their first and only appearance in the fall classic in 1920.

We go after him some more then and he kinds of prods his memory back through the colorful years and his face lights up. "Then there's the time I stole home with the winning run against those same Yanks to break a 0-0 deadlock in the ninth... And you might tell 'em about the time lightning struck me while I was on the mound. I sure made a liar out of the feller who coined that phrase about 'lightning never striking in the same place twice' because that was the second time it conked me... Then I hit home runs on consecutive days as a pinch hitting pitcher in 1915."

Colorful Era of Baseball

So we get back to Cleveland of '20, the great Tribe team that Tris Speaker brought down the stretch in a whale of a run with the Yankees and White Sox at one of the most turbulent times in the history of our national pastime. We say turbulent because the infamous Black Sox scandal had just broken and the game had its back to the wall. Ray Chapman was killed by a pitched ball that year, Kenesaw Mountain Landis was on his way into the high commissionership chair, the first unassisted triple play in World Series history was made and the first World Series home run with the bases loaded was hit. And a massive kid had recently moved into the big show from the minors who was destined to go down in history as one of the all-time greats of the game. His name was George Herman Ruth... Yep, they were great and colorful years and their recounting by a man who was a key figure in the picture when it was painted makes a pretty good story, but too long to jam into our limited space at one taking so we'll tell you more about Ray Caldwell and those dim years when baseball was on the comeback trail in later editions of The Post-Journal sport pages.

Go to Part 2


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