July 18: North Dakota's Unique Baseball Record
North Dakota has a rich baseball history. Legends of the game, including Roger Maris and Satchel Paige, have a connection to the state.
Barnstorming teams traversed the state and entertained crowds in summers gone by, and there’s a record from 1891 that really stands out.
On July 18th that year, a game between the Fargo Red Stockings and the Grand Forks Black Stockings of the Red River Valley League ended in a scoreless tie after twenty-five innings, when the umpire finally called it a game due to the gathering darkness.
The Red River Valley League had just reorganized that year. Grand Forks had struggled to garner fan support, so manager Tom Hill moved the series to the military encampment at Devils Lake, hoping to draw more fans.
The remarkable game was part of a series of four, with Grand Forks winning the first game, Fargo the second, and Grand Forks the third.
The game set many impressive statistics. Both pitchers, William Gibbs for Grand Forks and George Raymer for Fargo, each struck out eighteen. Twenty-five runners were stranded, and eleven double plays occurred. What is impressive by modern standards is that both pitchers completed the entire game! Since no score was recorded, neither pitcher could claim a shutout. The Grand Forks Herald concluded, “That is the kind of ball the boys are playing, and as stated in previous issues, they are thoroughly deserving of good support and hearty encouragement.”
Despite Grand Forks winning the series, the Black Stocking’s woes came to a head as manager Hill disbanded the team after the following game. He demolished the ballpark, selling the lumber to pay his debts and the remaining salaries, thus ending the Red River Valley League, which did not return to professional status for another six years in 1897.
The Black Stockings are part of the broad baseball history in Grand Forks, and even though many involved in the game faded into obscurity, they cemented their place in baseball history that late summer afternoon in July.
Dakota Datebook by Daniel Sauerwein
- Eriksmoen, Curt. “The longest scoreless professional baseball game took place in North Dakota in 1891.” Fargo Forum. Fargo, ND, May 20, 2023. https://www.inforum.com/lifestyle/the-longest-scoreless-professional-baseball-game-took-place-in-north-dakota-in-1891. Accessed June 16, 2023.
- Hagerty, Tim. “North Dakota Nothing: The longest scoreless game in history.” The Sporting News. November 23, 2014. https://www.sportingnews.com/us/mlb/news/north-dakota-nothing-the-longest-scoreless-game-in-history-fargo-grand-forks-devils-lake/vp4qxm4dmzsh1uaasttgmdzyo. Accessed June 16, 2023.
- “Record Breakers.” Fargo Daily Argus. Fargo, ND, July 20, 1891, page 5.
- “Record Smashed.” Grand Forks Daily Herald. Grand Forks, ND, July 19, 1891, page 5.