by Frank Hyde
June 13, 1953
Caldwell Up Hard Way
Ray Caldwell, in many ways, is one of the greatest baseball personalities to ever don a uniform. He was unique in that he arose to the heights with the New York Highlanders, forerunners of the New York Yankees, but a far cry from the mighty Bombers our sons and daughters admire today.
The Highlanders were absolutely the most futile major league team to ever trot out on to a field.
Yet Caldwell, working the hill for the New Yorkers of the 1911-1914 era, drew the acclaim of baseball's leading figures.
It was Connie Mack who said, "Give Ray Caldwell a winning ball club behind him and he would go down in history as the greatest pitcher of all time."
Many men who would have been mighty had they been performing in their elements - in their class - have been lost in the historical limbo that surrounds the game. Caldwell was no exception.
He once toiled 49 innings over a six game span before the Highlanders got him a run. And he made it stand up in a 1-0 decision over Detroit.
Despite such effete support, Caldwell actually broke even in 1914, winning 14 and losing a like number.
Today's illustrious resident of Onoville was a handy-Andy with a bat during his sere and yellow years and as result when he wasn't pitching he played the outfield.
Caldwell is the only pitcher in the history of the game to hit home runs on three successive days. He turned the feat on June 10 and 11, 1913 as a pinch hitter and repeated on June 12 while pitching.
But one of his greater achievements was hurling a no-hit, no-run game against New York when he was playing for Cleveland in 1919. The Highlanders sold Ray to Boston and that autumn was dealt to the Indians. On his first trip back to New York with the Tribe, he called Manager Lee Fohl aside and said, "Let me pitch against these guys today."
He got his request and hurled a no-hit, no-run game.
His was the last no-no spun against New York until Bob Feller turned the trick, also for Cleveland, 27 years later - April 30, 1946.
The Indians were back in New York a few weeks later and Caldwell again asked for the chance to work against them. But it wasn't his turn and Fohl said no. So Ray went in as a pinch runner in the ninth inning and stole home with the winning run that beat his former mates 1-0.
It is likely the season of 1919 that was the most eventful in Ray's career. In addition to his shunting to Cleveland via Boston and his ultimate performance against New York, he made baseball history with an incident at Cleveland. Pitching against the Philadelphia A's, Ray had a 2-1 edge with two men down in the ninth when he was knocked cold by a bolt of lightning. Revived after several minutes, he returned to the mound and fanned the last Athlete to accomplish the victory.
His 20 triumphs for Cleveland in 1920 and his appearance against Brooklyn in the World Series is another abstruse notch in the history of a man who has lived and played the game as have few before him.
There were other achievements and other heroic deeds along the lengthy and turbulent trial from 1911 to his fadeout days with Birmingham in 1929.
For instance there's the time in 1913 that he went in against the A's with the bags full, none down and fanned Eddie Collins, Amos Strunk and Home Run Baker with nine pitched balls.
Ever hear of Collins, Strunk and Baker? Just ask grandpap how those old boys could swing a willow!
Or how about his striking out 145 batters in 200 innings in 1911, the year he broke in under Frank Stallings. Or his sixth place ranking in earned run averages in 1914, despite the inept club he worked for, a club that was last in the American League in team fielding.
And don't overlook the time Ray of no-hit fame broke up a no-no. They used him as a pinch hitter against Guy Morton one day when the Alabama Blossom, then spinning 'em for Cleveland, was sailing along hitless and runless with two down in the eighth. So Ray smacked a home run to slam the door to immortality in Guy's grizzled puss.
He knew them all and dueled them all in a day when baseball bred a hardy clan. Some of his mound frays with Walter Johnson, Eddie Plank, Chief Bender, Smoky Joe Wood, and Ed Walsh were jewels that still sparkle in the game's annals.
They are going to have to enshrine Ray Caldwell in Jamestown's new hall of fame sooner or later. If not this year, next year. If not then, the following year. You don't keep guys like "Ol' Slim" out of places that pay off on performance plus.