A towering Southern farm boy with the mind of an engineer, pitcher Ernie
Shore is forever linked with Babe
Teammates on three clubs and in two World Series, they together tossed
what many fans and some historians long considered a perfect game, albeit
an odd one, in which the Babe faced the first batter and Shore the final
The second of Henry and Martha Shore’s five sons, Ernest Grady Shore was
born on April 24, 1891, in rural Yadkin County, North Carolina. His family
raised tobacco, wheat, peas and other crops near the hamlet of East Bend,
twenty-three miles northwest of Winston-Salem. Henry’s father also had a
Tall, rangy, and awkward, young Ernie never liked farming. As
a teenager he occasionally played outfield for a local team called the Red
Strings. In 1910 he enrolled in the preparatory department at Guilford
College in Greensboro, N. C., the only Quaker college south of
Philadelphia. Shore hoped to become a civil engineer. He would teach
mathematics at Guilford in the off-seasons after graduating in 1914.
Shore pitched on the college’s baseball squad for five seasons, including
two years after he had turned pro. Shore’s college record was 38-8-2.
New York Giants Manager John
a famous judge of young talent, asked his scouts to have Shore come out
for a trial in 1912.
McGraw used the raw right-hander almost exclusively to pitch batting
practice. On June 20th, however, he dispatched Shore to relieve George
the ninth inning of a 21-2 blowout at Boston. The outing went badly. Shore
got an unmerciful pounding, and on ten hits the Braves scored ten runs.
This inning was the only one Shore ever threw for the Giants. McGraw
ordered him down to Indianapolis in September. The move looked to Shore
like an attempt to deprive him of all rights to the World Series receipts.
He told McGraw that hr should not go. Suspended by his irascible
skipper, Shore went home to East Bend, lost his share of the series money,
and felt rather sour at baseball on all accounts.
Shore paid a $25 fine the following January to gain reinstatement by the
National Commission. He played in 1913 at Greensboro in the North Carolina
State League. He posted a respectable
11-12 record for the tail-end club. Jack
Baltimore in the International League then drafted him for $400.
Dunn’s 1914 Orioles were considered one of the best minor-league clubs
ever assembled. He had two wonderful pitchers in Babe Ruth and Shore. But
a new Federal League team in Baltimore siphoned off his fan base, so Dunn
quickly sold Shore, Ruth, and catcher Ben
the majors. Many expected them to land with Mack’s Athletics, but instead
they all went to the Boston Red Sox.
Shore made his Boston debut on July 14th at home against the Indians. It
went much better than his inning in the same city against the Braves.
Shore was cool and deliberate in the box, and he showed the Cleveland
Club a dazzling assortment of fast balls, curves and change of pace and
held them to two hits, winning his game, 2 to 1.
The big right-hander won four games in less than a month and stayed with
the big club while Ruth went back down to the minors in Providence. Shore
posted a remarkable 10-5 record in just half a season.
In 1915, Ruth and Shore assembled
matching 18-8 records for the season. Shore had the better ERA, 1.64 to
the Babe’s 2.44. Shore had such good movement on his pitches that
Washington and Hugh
Detroit both accused him of doctoring balls. Shore attributed his
remarkable break to the size of his hands and fingers.
Shore and his former Baltimore teammates roomed together on the road, but
man-child Ruth was a poor match for the mild-mannered Southerner. A story
circulated for years that Shore had asked for a new roomie after the Babe
had used his toothbrush without asking and then said innocently, “That’s
all right, Ernie, I’m not particular.” Ruth actually used his shaving
brush, Shore said, but it made a better story the other way. The Babe was
soon paired with the next in a long succession of roommates. While in
Boston, Shore lived in the home of legendary Mayor John Francis “Honey
The Red Sox met the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1915 World Series. Ruth
didn’t take the mound at all during the series and batted only once as a
pinch-hitter. Shore started Games #1 and #5.
Shore faced Grover
Cleveland Alexander in
the opening game. He pitched well but Alex got all the breaks in a 3-1
Philadelphia victory. Even as an elderly man, Shore recalled that if the
Phillies’ hits were lined up end-to-end, they still wouldn’t reach the
took the next two games, each a 2-1 squeaker. Shore then faced George
Game #4. This time the luck was all on his side. Sensational fielding and
pure luck saved him several times. The Red Sox wrapped up the series
in Game# 5 with a 5-4 victory, the fourth consecutive one-run decision.
Shore had another decent season the following year. He finished 1916 at
15-10, but Ruth was much better at 23-12. Shore nonetheless was again
assigned to Game #1 of the World Series with Brooklyn. Facing Rube
Boston, he was shaky but leading 6-1 entering the ninth inning. Then
walks, bobbles, and screaming singles quickly brought in three Dodger
runs. He was lifted for Carl
two outs, which he found rather tough. Mays gave up another run to make
the score 6-5 before getting the final out.
Shore rebounded to conclude the Series with a 4-1 win over Jeff
Game #5. He subdued the Dodgers with three scattered hits, one of them an
infield scratch. He had Brooklyn hypnotized. Its only run drifted in on a
Despite the North Carolinian’s star turn in the series, Ruth continued to
eclipse Shore in 1917. Shore’s greatest moment on a ball field was ahead.
The Babe took the mound at Fenway
the first game of a Red Sox-Washington doubleheader on June 23, 1917.
the first three pitches to leadoff batter Ray Morgan all
balls. After heated jawing, Ruth blew up on Owens’ ball four call and
charged with fists flying. Shore loyally maintained decades later that
Ruth hadn’t actually struck Owens, but the Bambino admitted in his
autobiography, “I really socked him right on the jaw…They’d put you in
jail today for hitting an umpire.” Teammates had to drag the ejected
hurler off the diamond.
Shore from the bench for an emergency start. “Try to get through this
inning,” he said. Shore tossed his five allotted warm-up pitches and
began. Morgan tried stealing on the first pitch but Boston catcher Sam
him down. Shore then retired two batters with five more pitches and
returned to the dugout. The big right-hander said he felt fine, so Barry
sent him to the bullpen to warm up properly while Boston batted.
Shore came back out and retired the next 23 consecutive batters. Then Mike
up to the plate, the last chance for the Senators. The speedy outfielder
laid down a bunt ordered by manager Griffith. The bunt was pretty good,
Shore recalled, but Jack Barry rushed in from second for a bare-hand grab and
flip to first for the out. Shore had retired each of the 26 batters he’d
faced, plus the man left on base by Ruth. Modest Ernie Shore took a place
in the Hall of Fame as a no-hit, no-run, no-man-reached-first base
pitcher, the Boston
proclaimed of the Washington game. But whether it constituted a perfect
game or simply a unique no-hitter would be debated for decades. The only
clarity in 1917 came from William
secretary of the American League. He wired a sportswriter a month
afterward: “Ernie Shore is credited with a no-hit game in the official
scores of June 23rd.”
America was meanwhile fighting World War I in Europe. Enlistments and the
military draft began depleting big-league rosters that summer as Shore
joined Barry and teammates Chick
enlisting in the Naval Reserves. Shore ended the season at 13-10 with one
save as the Red Sox finished second to Chicago. The Sox volunteers then
reported for duty in November.
Barry assembled a powerhouse First Naval District ballclub at the
Charlestown Navy Yard. Unofficially called the Wild Waves, the team played
Harvard, other local colleges, and various military teams. Shore
pitched while assigned as a yeoman in the district paymaster’s office.
The North Carolinian took the mound on May 5th as Barry’s Navy nine faced an
Army team from Camp Devens skippered by Red Sox teammate Harold
The free game before 40,000 fans at Braves
high grade, declared the Globe,
with Shore “pitching in world championship form” in a 5-1 victory. But
Barry’s team soon became an embarrassment of riches for the Navy, which
began shipping out players. It eventually would disband the team
altogether, citing “exigencies of the service.” Several teammates left
for sea duty, but Shore remained in Boston. He pitched another gem against
Camp Devens at Fitchburg, Massachusetts, on June 9th, defeating Braves’
prospect Rube Rube Cram 2-1 in ten innings.
Shore was then assigned to officers’ school at Harvard. He received an
ensign’s gold stripe in December 1918, becoming the only big-leaguer to
earn a Navy commission during the war (although five weeks after the
Ensign Shore was traded to the Yankees the next day, sent to New York with
Leonard and Lewis for pitchers Slim
Love and Ray
and outfielder Frank
This exchange was the first of the blockbuster deals that would dismantle
the heart of the Red Sox team and reassemble it in New York.
Whatever Shore’s hopes about going to sea, the Navy didn’t need another
newly minted one-striper after the war. He exchanged his dress blues for
pinstripes in time for 1919 spring training.
The Yankees dispatched him with pitcher Bob
and first baseman Ham
the minor-league Vernon Tigers for shortstop Johnny
January 1921. (The Vernon club played outside Los Angeles in the Pacific
Coast League.) Some time during that year in the service he lost the smoke
on his fast ball. He went away to the last war and came back a year later
with a dead arm.
His career ended quietly in 1922. Shore asked for and received his release
in July, without having pitched an inning for anyone that year.
He hoped to run a ballclub in New England, but instead returned to
Winston-Salem to open a car dealership. Shore thus began his life outside
baseball. Five years later he opened an insurance
agency after car sales fell during the Depression. In 1936, deeply in
debt, Shore was pressed by a group of friends to run for sheriff of
Forsyth County. He ran hard, won a runoff election, and remained in office 34
Often wearing a civilian suit with his badge clipped to the belt, Shore
had a lasting effect as a lawman. By the time he
retired in 1970, Shore headed a modern department with 70 deputies.
In 1956, Sheriff Shore helped raise funds to build a new minor-league
ballpark in Winston-Salem. (Ernie Shore Field remained in professional use
until 2009, when it was replaced by a new facility, sold to Wake Forest
University, and renamed.)
The long debate over Shore’s amazing 1917 relief performance continued.
Some record books listed it as a perfect game, others didn’t. The debate
was finally settled in 1991 when an eight-man “committee of statistical
accuracy” headed by Commissioner Fay Vincent dropped Shore’s game from the
list of perfect games. It instead became a combined no-hitter with Ruth.
The committee also removed the asterisk from Maris’ home run record (the
main issue it was created to address).
Shore wasn’t alive to hear the verdict. The retired sheriff had been in
poor health after a stroke in 1975. He died three months following the
death of his wife of 54 years, passing away at home in Winston-Salem on
September 24, 1980. An old friend in the sheriff’s department remembered
Shore not as a ballplayer but as a law enforcement officer, a leader in
our community and a friend to our county.