Second of a Series...
Perhaps it was something in the water in Ashtabula County in post-Civil War America. After all, the first Ashtabula County man to play in the majors — John Lee Richmond, born in Sheffield Township and raised the son of Baptist minister in Geneva — threw the first perfect game in Major League Baseball history on June 12, 1880.
Talk about setting the bar high right off the... bat!
And while the guy who had task of following the trail Richmond blazed from the largest county in the Buckeye State to the majors as a hurler, Ed Cushman, was not able to match Richmond’s perfection, he did come close.
Cushman was born in Eagleville on March 28, 1852, the son of Leander and Mary (Birdsell) Cushman, who came to Ashtabula County from their native New York State.
The second in a family of five children, Cushman received his education in Eagleville.
As a young teenager, he accepted a position with the railroad, working as a brakeman for the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway.
Despite his youth, Cushman excelled working for the railroad as he was promoted to conductor at the tender age of 16.
He spent 18 years working on the railroad, the last six as extra passenger conductor.
At age 311⁄2, Cushman decided it was time for a career change.
To the diamond
Having toiled as a left-handed hurler for years on ballfields across Ashtabula County and the Northeast Ohio region, Cushman took up the game.
On July 6, 1883, the 6-foot, 177-pounder made his professional debut for the Buffalo Bisons.
He worked in seven games that season, all of which were starts, and finished with more than respectable numbers for a 31-year-old rookie — 3 wins, 3 losses and a 3.93 earned run average. In 50.1 innings, he allowed 61 hits, 41 runs (22 earned), striking out 34 and walking 17.
Cushman moved on to the Milwaukee Brewers for the 1884 season. The Brewers later joined the newly formed and ill-fated Union Association as a late-season replacement.
Cushman pitched extremely well for Milwaukee, albeit on an abbreviated schedule.
He started four games, winning all of them, two being shutouts and one, perhaps channeling the efforts of fellow Ashtabula Countian, being a no-hitter.
On Sept. 28, 1884, Cushman twirled a no-hitter against the Washington Nationals, leading the Brewers to a 5-0 triumph.
He was far from finished, though, as 6 days later, on Oct. 4, 1884, Cushman held the Boston Reds hitless for 8 innings.
He finally allowed a bloop single in the ninth inning, settling for a 1-hitter and a 2-0 shutout triumph, barely missing on baseball immortality by throwing back-to-back no-hitters.
That was eventually accomplished in 1938 by another southpaw, Johnny Vander Meer, of the Cincinnati Reds.
Cushman finished the 1884 season with a 4-0 record, completing all four games, and an 1.00 ERA. In 36 innings pitched, he was touched for but 10 hits, 4 earned runs and he struck out 47. Most impressively, he walked only 3 in 36 innings of work on the bump.