Posts Tagged ‘Nig Clarke’

The Incredible Home Run Game of 1902

June 3, 2011

Nig Clarke

Like all of baseball in 1902, the Texas League played with a “dead” baseball. It contained no cork center or tightly wound cord around all points of circumference and, to put it plainly, a batted ball simply did not travel all that far when struck. At least, not by today’s standards. It sure didn’t travel like an out-of-time-and-place bottle rocket.

All of that changed for one singularly incredible long ago afternoon in Ennis, Texas. The date was June 15, 1902.

The high-flying Corsican Indians/Oil Citys (depending upon whom you believe) had a Sunday game scheduled against the lowly and appropriately named Texarkana Casketmakers. To avoid breaking the Sunday Blue Laws that prohibited the playing of baseball on the Lord’s Day, the game was moved to nearby Ennis, Texas, where folks took a more liberal attitude about doing or watching anything fun on the Sabbath.

Unfortunately, we do not have, nor has there been, a thorough decisive study of what this field in Ennis looked like and what it contained. It may have contained very short fences or no fences at all. We simply don’t have the clear information, but it would be nice if we did because of what happened there on that site in one afternoon. Excerpt for an invasion on that one day of time traveling steroids dealers, the events of that game are hardly explainable in a credible way. True. Very good teams may slaughter very bad teams on any given day, but hardly in the way, and to the extent, that this one took place – in a contest between human beings, using the ball, bats, and other equipment available in 1902.

The thing that day created was a long-living monster of enigma on baseball’s ever floating island of perpetual curiosity. What happened to make it all possible?

In brief, the brutally favored Corsicana nine won the game, 51-3, stroking twenty-one (21) home runs along the way to their bug-smashing victory over the hapless Casketmakers from Texarkana. 19-year old catcher and future major league catcher Justin Jay “Nig” Clarke took all the individual cake that day offered by stroking eight (8) home runs in eight (8) consecutive times at bat.

Holy Orange Crush! Eight home runs in eight straight times at the plated in one game? Is that even possible? Yeah. Sure it is. It happens in slow pitch softball probably every Friday night in the beer leagues. But – in the hard-heaving dead ball era of the real game? I never thought so – until I learned about this game.

Corsicana was good, all right. Their 1902 club once won twenty-seven (27) straight. They ended up winning the Texas League that year by 28.5 games over their nearest opponent. Also, Texarkana was both bad and poorly supported as the expected result. By July 1902, the ironically named Casketmakers would ¬†open the door on their handiwork and climb in for their burial as just another team that didn’t make it.

None of the usual suspect factors account for one of the great anomaly games in baseball history. Maybe it was what they were drinking – or not drinking – on that particular day.

In his nine-season MLB career (1905-1911, 1919-1920), Nig Clarke hit a total of six (6) career home runs. That being noted, please explain how Clarke once bashed eight (8) home runs in eight consecutive times at bat in one little 1902 Texas League game. People must have asked Clarke a question to that same point over the course of his entire life. (Nig Clarke died in 1949 at the age of 66.) Until we find Clarke’s answer reported somewhere, we shall just have to wonder what light his personal view may shed upon what was certainly one of the most curious and suspect days in baseball history.

Have a nice Friday and great weekend, everybody! – And watch out for all those elusive enigmas along the trail of life’s adventure.