By DON McCORMACK - firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Movin’ on up
Cushman’s spectacular 1884 campaign caught the attention of the Philadelphia Athletics, a member of the American Association.
The Athletics signed the Ashtabula County native and he started 10 games, posting a 3-7 record and a 3.52 ERA. In 87 innings, he allowed 101 hits, 77 runs (only 34 earned), striking out 37 and walking 17.
Cushman was moved to the New York Metropolitans, where he was used frequently. Appearing in 22 games, all starts, he went 8-14 with a 2.78 ERA, working 191 innings, giving up 158 hits, 59 earned runs, striking out 133 and walking 33.
For the season, he went 11-21 with a 3.01 ERA, pitching 278 innings, giving up 259 hits, 182 runs (93 earned), fanning 170 and issuing 50 free passes.
He was named team pitcher of the year.
Cushman became a true workhorse for the Metropolitans the next two seasons working 325.2 innings in 1886 (17-21, 3.12) and 220 in 1887.
On Sept. 16, 1886, Cushman, facing the Pittsburgh Alleganys, struck out eight consecutive batters. For the second season in a row, he was named team pitcher of the year.
In 1887, Cushman struggled, posting a 10-15 record and a 5.97 ERA.
A step back
At age 35, Cushman went to the minors for the first time in his career. In 1888, he pitched for Des Moines, Iowa in the Western Association.
In an amazing twist of fate, the Des Moines club was managed by another Ashtabula County native — Charles Hazen Morton.
A former player himself, Morton was born on Oct. 12, 1854 in Kingsville. The two Ashtabula Countians were together in Des Moines in the 1888 and 1889 seasons, Morton serving as player-manager.
In 1890, Morton took over as manager of the Toledo Maumees, who moved to the majors as a member of the American Association.
And Morton, perhaps throwing his fellow Ashtabula Countian a bone, took Cushman and several other guys who played for him in Des Moines to The Show with him.
Cushman rewarded his manager by taking the ball often, working 315.2 innings in 40 games, 38 of which were starts.
He allowed 346 hits, 208 runs (147 earned), struck out 125 and walked 107, finishing with a 17-21 record and a 4.19 ERA.
On Oct. 11, 1890, Cushman made the final appearance of his major-league career.
He played six seasons for five teams in three different major leagues, winding up with a 62-81 record and a 3.86 ERA. In 1225.2 innings, he gave up 1264 hits, 847 runs (525 earned), striking out 607 and walking 359.
Not done, though
Even at age 38, Cushman couldn’t put the game to the side. He pitched in the minors for Rochester, N.Y. in the 1891 and 1892 seasons before moving to Erie of the Eastern League in 1893, helping that club win the pennant.
Finally, at age 41, his strong left arm, which had served him so well, had had enough and Cushman retired.
One newspaper account testified to Cushman’s crafty abilities on the mound, saying, “Mr. Cushman was one of the few pitchers who had absolute control of the ball, coupled with great speed.
“His left-handed curves were the pride and wonder of his fellow players — and the worry and downfal of his opponents.”
Back to his roots
Having hung up his spikes, Cushman went back to what he knew first in life — the railroad.
He liked the Erie area, so he settled in the city and worked as a conductor for the New York Central Railroad.
On Nov. 18, 1885, he married Emma Swalley, an Erie native.
While still working for the railroad, Ed and his wife opened a restaurant in Erie, The Corner, located on the corner of Eighth and State streets. The couple resided at 822 State St.
He was a member of the Order of Railway Conductors, the Knights Templar, Elks, Shriners, Masons, Knights of Pythias and Royal Arcanum. He was a republican.
Ed and Emma were married for almost 30 years until the time of his death, which came on Sept. 26, 1915 in Erie at age 67 after an illness that lasted more than four months.
Ed Cushman rests in Erie Cemetery.
McCormack is the sports editor of the Star Beacon. Reach him at email@example.com.