If I told you about one game from history where the Yankees made seven errors in a game, you would probably assume that they lost it. If I then included the fact that according to accounts of the game, they probably made even more than that, but were only taken pity upon by the scorers, you’re probably assuming the final score was even worse than you thought.
On August 29th, 1911, the then-New York Highlanders did all that. Yet, they somehow won the game in question.
That day with the Highlanders hovering around .500, they were in St. Louis to face off against the Browns. St. Louis went into that game with a 35-84 record, which probably explains quite a bit about how this game played out.
Against Highlanders’ starter Hippo Vaughn, the Browns put up four runs over the course of eight innings. However they did that primarily with quite a bit of help. The Browns recorded seven hits and three walks on the day, but were helped out a lot by New York’s defense.
Six different Highlanders combined to commit seven errors. Those six were Vaughn, left fielder Justin Fitzgerald, catcher Bob Williams, shortstop Otis Johnson, center fielder Charlie Hemphill, and third baseman Roy Hartzell, who made two. Harry Wolter, Earle Gardner, and Hal Chase were the only Highlanders to play that day who weren’t credited with an error. Chase being among that trio is especially surprising considering his reputation for allegedly fixing games.
I say those three “weren’t credited with errors” as opposed to “didn’t commit an error” because there’s a chance they did. The New York Times account of the game goes out of its way to say that the Highlanders made far more defensive miscues that the seven they were credited with.
Yet, the Browns only managed to put up four runs, despite all the errors, and also recording seven hits and three walks. Their final left on base total for the game was nine. It turns out, they probably needed to have scored a couple of those nine.
Despite the mess they made of the game, New York trailed just 4-3 going into the top of the ninth. Browns’ starter Roy Mitchell, who until the ninth had been pitching fairly well, lost his control. A pair of walks and then a hit by Hartzell, making up for his defensive performance, loaded the bases. Fitzgerland then tied the game with a single. Williams then added a hit, and despite playing a complete mess of a game, the Highlanders now led. They added a couple more runs and went to the bottom of the ninth up 7-4. There, Vaughn managed to get through the frame without anything catastrophic happening, sealing a very weird win.
The New York Times article on the game described the game as a “travesty on baseball.” It didn’t go too deep into how most of the game’s runs were scored saying doing so would “read like an account of a game between the ‘Little potatoes hard to peel’ and the ‘Funny little fellows from around the corner.’” Burn! I think?
Somehow, seven is not the most errors a Yankees’ team has made in a game. It’s actually not that close. In 1907, they made 10 in a game against the Tigers, which is the franchise record. In total, there are nine games in which a Yankees’ team had made more than seven errors in a game. In all nine of them, the opposing team won, and the closest of them was a four-run loss.
The 1911 St. Louis Browns finished with a 45-107 record, and considering their effort against the Highlanders on August 29th, it’s easy to understand why.
New York Times, August 30th, 1911
Baseball Reference Stathead