Toney's Library of Congress photo
Fred Toney on the mound for the Cincinnati Reds at old Crosley Field. Click to enlarge. (Library of Congress)

Spring is final­ly here, and you know what that means.  It’s the time when young men’s fan­cy turns to thoughts of… pause… base­ball!  Yes, it’s less than two weeks until open­ing day.  Last year the Reds final­ly fin­ished a full sea­son above .500, so there is excite­ment in the air.

If you fol­low base­ball at all and have lived in Winchester very long, you’ve prob­a­bly heard of Fred Toney.  Before he starred as a pitch­er for the Cincinnati Reds, Toney set a record that still stands as pro­fes­sion­al baseball’s longest no-hit­ter.  On May 10, 1909, play­ing for the Winchester Hustlers, he threw a com­plete 17-inning game against the Lexington Colts with­out allow­ing a sin­gle hit.  No one has matched that feat since.

Toney spawned a host of leg­ends regard­ing his pitch­ing prowess.  A local myth has a Winchester man, Henry H. Phillips, dis­cov­er­ing Toney in the woods of Clark County.  He sup­pos­ed­ly came upon Toney throw­ing rocks, one after the oth­er, into a small squir­rel hole in a tree 100 feet away. 

In actu­al fact, Toney was dis­cov­ered in Bowling Green, pitch­ing for an inde­pen­dent team in 1908.  The team dis­band­ed before Winchester could offer him a con­tract.  Someone from here fol­lowed Toney home to Nashville and got him to sign with the Hustlers of the Class D Blue Grass League for $60 a month. 

Only a hand­ful of fans were in the stands at Garner Park that May after­noon when Toney began his mas­ter­piece.  As the string of score­less innings grew, word got back to town and excit­ed cit­i­zens rushed out to the ball­park to wit­ness his­to­ry in the making. 

Fred Toney’s 1910 baseball card with the Hustlers
Fred Toney’s 1910 base­ball card with the Hustlers, orig­i­nal­ly avail­able in packs of Old Mill Cigarettes. Click to enlarge. (University of Louisville Libraries, Digital Collection)

In the bot­tom of the 17th inning, the Hustlers got a man to third base and scored him on a squeeze play to win the game.  The next day, the Lexington Leader grudg­ing­ly admit­ted that the 21-year-old Toney “twirled a mar­velous game dur­ing the sev­en­teen innings, allow­ing noth­ing resem­bling a hit.”  The pre­vi­ous longest no-hit­ter had been 10 innings.

The Chicago Cubs pur­chased Toney from Winchester for $1,000 in August 1910.  He dis­liked his brow­beat­ing man­ag­er, Johnny Evers, and was lit­tle used.  The Cincinnati Reds took him on February 22, 1915.  That sea­son Toney became one of the best pitch­ers in the National League.  He went 17–9 and placed sec­ond in win­ning per­cent­age and earned run aver­age (1.58).  Toney’s record would have been even bet­ter if he had pitched for a bet­ter team.  The Reds fin­ished in 7th place and ranked last in the NL in runs scored.

Box score for Toney’s 17-inning no-hitter.
Box score for Toney’s 17-inning no-hit­ter. Click to enlarge. (Winchester Sun)

His finest sea­son with the Reds came in 1917 under their easy-going man­ag­er Christy Mathewson, the for­mer Hall of Fame pitch­er.  Toney won 24 games with a 2.20 ERA, plac­ing sec­ond in the NL.  In July Toney pitched both ends of a dou­ble­head­er against the Pittsburgh Pirates, win­ning each game.  His best per­for­mance of the sea­son came on May 2 in anoth­er record-break­ing per­for­mance: a dou­ble no-hit­ter.  At a game in Chicago, he faced Cubs star pitch­er, Hippo Vaughn.  Both pitch­ers had no-hit­ters through nine innings, an event unprece­dent­ed in base­ball.  The Reds scored in the top of the tenth, and Toney main­tained his no-hit­ter in the bot­tom of the inning.  This was the first no-hit­ter ever pitched for the Reds and is tied for the longest no-hit­ter in the major leagues. 

Toney still holds sev­er­al club records for Cincinnati: low­est earned run aver­age in a sea­son (1915) and most shutouts in a sea­son (7 in 1917).  He fin­ished his career with the New York Giants, where he achieved anoth­er 20-win season.

During his career, Toney was reput­ed to be the strongest play­er in base­ball.  At 6’ 6” and 245 pounds, the Tennessee giant was known for his endurance.  He retired from base­ball in 1923, return­ing to his farm near Nashville where he died on March 11, 1958.

Once the talk of the sports world, Fred Toney’s 17-inning no-hit­ter is lit­tle known today except among base­ball afi­ciona­dos.  But he put Winchester in the base­ball record book.  As Casey Stengel used to say, “You could look it up.”

Note:  Garner Park was a base­ball field main­tained by William Garner, locat­ed behind his home on East Broadway (present address is Rowland Avenue).  He was a broth­er of Mayor John Garner.

  • Harry is a Mt. Sterling native who has lived in Clark County since1999. He has a pas­sion for the past and has researched and writ­ten exten­sive­ly about the his­to­ry of this area.