Major League Baseball umpire and Toledo native Jim Joyce may lose sleep over his blown call Wednesday night that robbed Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga of a perfect game.
Joyce was seen sobbing in post-game interviews. Galarraga lost what a Genoa family still celebrates today.
The attention around Galarraga’s one-hitter provides Genoa resident Michael Mann another reason to reminisce about his great grandfather, John Lee Richmond of the Worcester Ruby Legs, who pitched the first perfect game in major league history.
“When I was growing up it was dinner table discussion,” Mann said. “He was like the celebrity of the family.”
The Worcester Evening Gazette called the 27 up-27 down moment on June 12, 1880 “the best game on record” and Baseball Almanac presents a comprehensive box score on the publications’ website. June 12, 2010 will mark the 130th anniversary of Richmond’s perfection.
Just as in Detroit’s 3-0 victory Wednesday, Worcester’s opponent was Cleveland. For the Tigers Wednesday, it was the Indians, and for the Ruby Sox in the late 19th Century, it was the Cleveland Blues of the National League.
“J. Lee,” as he was called, pitched perfection at the former Worcester Agricultural Fairground. The Ruby Legs defeated the Blues, 1-0. The “spot” where J. Lee stood when he tossed this game is now marked by a plaque located on the campus of Becker College in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Worcester had the only three hits, while the Blues committed two errors leading to the only run.
According to Baseball Almanac, the run occurred when second baseman Fred Dunlap received and bobbled a throw from Blues pitcher Jim McCormick. Worcester’s Arthur Irwin took off for home plate and Dunlap threw the ball home, but it sailed over Doc Kennedy’s head.
Baseball Almanac goes on to add another important fact — “Did you know that only five days later, on June 17, 1880, John Ward tossed the second perfect game in National League history? Two historic events in less than a week and one that would not be seen in the senior circuit again until June 21, 1964 — 84 years later.”
During that 84-year stretch, there were six perfect games, but all were in the American League.
J. Lee Richmond, originally from Ashtabula County, was first awarded a bachelors degree from Brown University in Rhode Island. He went on to medical college at what is now Columbia University and became a medical doctor.
“That’s where he got started. Then, kind of for the fun of it he decided to get into baseball because he really enjoyed baseball,” Mann said. “In fact, the anniversary of the perfect game is June 12th, which is next week.”
Dr. Richmond was one of the last players to compete professionally and play college ball at the same time. Soon after, professionals were banned from playing amateur.
Once he left baseball, he came to Toledo and Dr. Richmond became one of the first science teachers at Scott High School. Then he went on to teach at what is now the University of Toledo, Mann said.
It was while a 30-year-old teacher at Scott that Dr. Richmond met his wife, 17-year-old student Mary Noami Chapin. They had three daughters — one of them Mann’s grandmother.
Dr. Richmond passed away close to the time Mann’s mother was born, so his mother did not remember him. Born May 5, 1857, in Sheffield, Ohio, Dr. Richmond passed on October 1, 1929, in Toledo.
In June of 2000, Dr. Richmond’s descendants and baseball historians gathered at his cemetery marker in North Toledo to mark the 120th anniversary of his perfection on a major league mound. One resident traveled from Madison, Connecticut, Mann said, while two great-great-great grandchildren sang “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and a family friend read the poem “Mighty Casey and the Mudville Nine.”
Mike Mann is the father of Genoa businessman Joel Mann, Dr. Richmond’s great-great grandson. Mike, who is employed at a Toledo-area Smucker’s packaging plant, is the cousin of Toledo Mud Hens baseball historian John Husman, also a great grandson of Dr. Richmond’s. Mann’s and Husman’s mothers were sisters, and today Husman is a renowned baseball author, charter member of the local Roger Bresnahan Chapter of the Society of American Baseball Research, and the founder of the Black Swamp Frogs vintage baseball team based in Sylvania.