The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Court Hall Remembers . . .

Medford's Most Thrilling Game

Court Hall Remembers---
(Recollections of Jackson County Sporting Events by Veteran Sportsman.)

    I remember the longest, the most thrilling and one of the best-played baseball games ever pulled off in Southern Oregon. This memorable game, that is remembered by many old-time friends, was played on July 7, 1906. During the year 1905 to 1910 Grants Pass had some good ball clubs. During the years 1905 and 1906 the Grants Pass ball club developed the most wonderful pitcher that ever sprang from the bushes in Southern Oregon. Judd Pernoll was his name, and my, how that old boy could pitch! I remember on one occasion when Pernoll struck out twenty-two Medford batsmen. His average strikeouts per game was fifteen. This contest was to be Pernoll's last exhibition before joining the big league. Ken Williams, one of the greatest hitters ever developed here, was playing on the Grants Pass team. Medford also had a pretty good ball club that was composed mostly of home talent, except the [pitching] battery. Knowing that our Medford club did not have any chance against a pitcher like Pernoll, I sent to Salinas and got Lefty Cooper, who had just been outlawed from the major leagues for some infraction of the rules. Cooper had the greatest control for a southpaw that I ever saw. When pitching, he could deliver the ball just exactly where he wanted it. There are many old-time fans today who claim that Cooper was the best pitcher Medford ever had. In my opinion Cack Henley was superior. Cooper had no superior in catching batsmen off base. The only way a batsman could play safe with Cooper pitching was to hug first base. I don't remember of a batsman ever stealing second on him. On this memorable day of July 7, 1906, the fans were more enthusiastic than usual. The expectancy of a great game was no doubt the case of this. The grandstand bleachers and sidelines were filled with a mass of humanity. The day was hot, and both pitchers warmed up nicely. There was a silence in the great crowd as the umpire called out the batteries, Pernoll and Phelps for Grants Pass, Cooper and French for Medford. Then a great cheer from the crowd rent the air and the game was on. In the first three innings both sides were retired in one, two, three order. Not a man had yet reached first base. In the first half of the fourth Pernoll hit a hard liner right through the top of an oak tree that was used as the left field foul line, along the left field fence. There was considerable wrangling whether the hit constituted a two-bagger or a home run. Finally Medford gave in to Grants Pass, and the game resumed. The Medford boys were a little sore over the umpire's decision, and used every artifice possible to get that run back.
    It seemed to me as inning after inning passed that we never would get the run necessary to tie the score. At the end of the seventh inning Medford had only got two dinky little hits, and not a man had reached second base; nor had Grants Pass done any better except for Pernoll's home run. Johnny Wilkinson, our first baseman, and hard hitter, came to bat in the eighth inning with one man down. Johnny shot a sharp single over second and reached second base on an out. Purdy shot another single over short and Wilkinson by fast running just did beat the throw home.
    The score was now tied, and the Medford fans were frantic with joy. The cheering was so deafening that the game had to be stopped for a few moments. Both pitchers were still going great. Cooper, if anything, seemed to be getting better. In the last half of the ninth inning the crowd was yelling for us to score. Our heaviest batters were coming up, and it looked like we might have a chance to win. Miles went out on an infield tap. Old Reliable Pug [Frank] Isaacs shot a long single into right. By this time everyone was on their feet yelling like maniacs. Rothermel came to bat and shot a hot liner towards third that looked like a sure hit. The Grants Pass third baseman leaped high in the air, caught the ball with one hand, and doubled old Pug up at first. With loud groans of disappointment the crowd settled back in their seats.
    Both teams were fielding perfectly; not an error had been made by either side. Four more innings passed with only one man reaching second. In the thirteenth inning Grants Pass got a man on second, but a fast double play, Miles to Wilkinson, nipped the Grants Pass rally.
    The shades of night began to appear; the umpire was debating about calling the game; the crowd was calling, "Play 'er out, play 'er out!" This suited both teams, and the game was on again. Both sides were retired in quick order in the fourteenth. In the fifteenth Grants Pass made a great effort to win. Ken Williams, first man up, shot a sharp single over second, and a moment later was forced out by a field tap, the batsman reaching first. The next man up hit into a double play, Cooper to Wilkinson, retiring the side.
    Again Wilkinson came to bat for Medford, with one man down; Wilkinson walked. Wilkinson made second on an out. Nearly fifteen innings had been played with errorless ball; score one and one. Two men down for Medford, and Wilkinson on second. One chance in one hundred to score. How was it to end? Slim Purdy, rather a weak hitter, came to bat. Wilkinson, knowing this, was playing well off second. Suddenly Pernoll whirled and threw the ball, fast and low, to second base. The ball passed on through the baseman, out to center field. Wilkinson started to third; Pernoll, backing up to throw. To the surprise of everyone, Wilkinson rounded third and started for home. Pernoll caught the ball, chased after Wilkinson about halfway down the base line, tossed the ball to Phelps, who dropped it. Wilkinson won the game by his daring base running. Had Pernoll played for the batter instead of throwing to second, the game would have ended in a tie.
    What a game to witness--fourteen and one-half innings with errorless ball; ten double plays, eight hits for Grants Pass and seven for Medford. Pernoll struck out seventeen men, Cooper fourteen. I never expect to see another game played in Southern Oregon with so many thrills. Even back in "the good old days" this "was a great country."
Medford Mail Tribune, March 16, 1930, page 6

Last revised September 2, 2009