Of Bleachers, Bottles, and Shutouts

Ninety-eight years ago today, September 12, 1915, Chattanooga came to Sulphur Dell for one last three-game series in Nashville, a scheduled doubleheader on the 12th and a single game on the 14th.  Nashville was heading for fourth place in the Southern Association, but the Lookouts were running neck-and-neck with the Vols and felt they had a reasonable chance to overtake them and the Memphis Chicks for third.

Riding a four-game streak of shutouts, Chattanooga won the first game over Nashville 6-0, adding to their improbable streak.  In the second game with the Lookouts leading 9-0, umpire Dan Pfenninger calls a forfeit in favor of the Lookouts due to  disturbances in the stands caused by his unpopular decision to remove Vols outfielder George Kircher from the coaching line.

When Nashville Vols manager Bill Schwartz vehemently argued against the umpire’s decision regarding Kircher, bottles were tossed from the Sulphur Dell stands literally covering the field.  The disturbance continued for ten minutes as some fans began to infiltrate the playing field, finally being dispersed by an officer.

Four spectators who had been seen hurling bottles onto the field were arrested, although no one was hurt and play was resumed in the bottom of the second inning.

In the bottom of the third umpire Ted Breitenstein twice reversed a decision at second base and another disturbance began as a bottle aimed at Pfenninger struck Nashville catcher Gabby Street on the arm.  At that time the game was called a forfeit and once again the crowd surged onto the field, threatening Lookouts manager Kid Eberfield who had climbed into the bleachers and taken a bottle away from a raucous fan before his players removed him from the fray.

The spectator had hit Eberfield on the head with a thrown bottle and an offensive display then ensued before some Lookouts players interfered with Eberfield’s verbal barrage aimed at the poor fan.

The umpires and the constable cleared the field as the game was called a forfeit in favor or Chattanooga.

Two days later, the Lookouts came back for the last meeting of the season to win in another shutout to increase their record.  In Mobile the next day, the Sea Gulls put across a run in the second game of a doubleheader with the Lookouts that ended Chattanooga opponent’s scoreless streak at 54 innings.

In June of 1903 the Pittsburgh Pirates held their opposition to 56 scoreless innings during a nine-day stretch, a major league record that still stands.  Had it not been for the forfeit in Nashville, Chattanooga might just have held the record for all of organized baseball.

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