The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio


June 9, 2013

Pitcher perfect

133 years ago Wednesday, John Lee Richmond, born in Sheffield Twp. and raised in Geneva, threw the first perfect game in Major League Baseball history


Other firsts

While the perfect game was obviously Richmond’s most notable baseball achievement, he was involved in several other groundbreaking events:

  • After leading Brown to the college championship, he joined the struggling Worcester squad, then in the National Baseball Association, as the premier college player. In his pro debut, he fired a no-hitter and won 47 games in a rookie season in which he hit a lofty .368, second best in the league, while completing his junior year as a college student at Brown.
  • Largely because of Richmond’s prowess on the mound and at the plate, Worcester was admitted to the National League the following season. As possibly the first “franchise player,” Richmond was paid a then-record salary of $2,400. Richmond was the first left-hander, or “heartside heaver,” as they were called back then, to pitch on a regular basis.
  • He is also credited as the first pitcher to use a curve ball to consistently record outs.
  • Not only was his gem against Cleveland famous for the perfect game, Cleveland manager McCormick stacked his lineup that day with right-handed hitters, the first-known instance of platooning, something that would become an everday occurrence in years to come.
  • Finally, in a college baseball convention on Dec. 6, 1879, a constitution was drafted that included a section barring a student from playing baseball for his college once he signed a professional contract or played with a professional team, something Richmond had already done. The ruling applied to future cases, though, and Richmond was left free to play pro ball as he had joined the team before the rule was adopted.

His early years

Richmond was born right here in Ashtabula County on May 5, 1857 in Sheffield Township, one of nine children of Cyrus R. and Eliza Tinan Richmond.

His father was a Baptist minister here, as was his father before him. A few years later, the Richmond’s moved to Geneva, where his father was minister of the Baptist Church during the Civil War.

John Lee went on to attend the Prepatory Department of Oberlin College in 1873 at age 16 before moving on to Brown in the fall of 1876, the year of Major League Baseball’s first season.

George Custer had just fallen to Crazy Horse and his warriors in Montana.

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