by Frank Hyde
February 21, 1950
Caldwell Living Disproof of Adage Lightning Never Strikes Twice; It Got Him Three Times
"Baseball players today have every chance in the world," the big fellow pointed out. "But they are not taking advantage of it. For the greater part the young pitchers are lazy. They'll throw a few then hunt for a shady spot. When they're not throwing they ought to be running."
Any club needing a graduate of the rugged old school could do worse than land Caldwell. Slim did yeoman duty for the punchless old New York Highlanders back in the days when the club that was to become the feared Yankees couldn't swat its way through a piece of wet tissue. When he wasn't pitching he played the outfield and when not in the garden he was the club's top pinch hitter. He was and still is the only hurler in major league history to hit grand slam home runs on consecutive days. When the Yanks sold him he got mad and chucked a no-hit, no-run game at them his first trip to N.Y. with Cleveland. The next day he stole home with the winning run to beat his old mates again, 1-0. Those Highlanders, doormats of the American League for years, were so impotent they once gave Ray one run over a 42-inning span. He made it stand up for a 1-0 win over Detroit.
Ray is walking, talking disproof of the old adage that lightning never strikes twice. It struck him three times. Once he was knocked down by a bolt while on the mound facing the A's in his first game as a Clevelander. The Tribe was ahead, 3-2, and Cy Perkins was the Philadelphia hitter with two out. The bolt knocked Ray flatter than the rainwater around him, but after a couple of minutes on his back staring into the overcast, he got up and fanned Perkins to end the ball game. The next day a fellow named Robert Ripley wired Ray an offer of $100 and a round trip ticket to appear on his New York program.
Those strange little quirks of fate have played important roles in Ray's life. The aftermath of that no-hitter against the Yanks has a local angle and I'll always call it one of the strangest coincidences I have ever witnessed. Tris Speaker was talking to the Jamestown Falcons at the annual Wolf Club banquet a few years ago. Tris managed Cleveland when Ray was in the sere and yellow of his great career. Ray sat at one of the tables listening to his former skipper.
"Ray Caldwell here," Speaker was saying. "was the last man to throw a no-hit, no-run game against the Yankees just 28 years ago." Two hours later the wire services flashed a bulletin: "Bobby Feller stops Yanks with no-hit, no run game."
Ray won 20 for the '20 Indians and he and Stanley Coveleskie virtually pitched the Tribe to the pennant - a feat Cleveland was not able to repeat until 1948. That '20 World Series with Brooklyn saw Bill Wambsganss make the first and only unassisted triple play in Series history, and Elmer Smith hit the first grand slam homer in the storied annals of the big show. Ray started in the third game against the Dodgers and again fate took a backhander at the man Connie Mack said would have been the greatest pitcher of all time if he could have started with a winning club. With two down and one on in the first, Zack Wheat hit an easy grounder the Luke Sewell booted to put the Old Iron Man in trouble. A few moments later, the Brooks had two runs across, the winning margin, and Ray was on the bench. Speaker, for some unknown reason, never gave his 20-game winner another chance in the Series.
They're going to have a night for Ray and Dizzy Dean down at Birmingham next fall. They say the Jamestowner and Ol' Diz brought the Barons two Southern Association pennants. They were great favorites south of the Mason-Dixon, so Zip Newman, intrepid Birmingham sports editor who has been around almost as long as the Southern Association itself, is heading a committee that plans a big blowout for the two old fireballers. I don't know much about Dean, but as far as Caldwell is concerned, they couldn't do it for a better guy.