By J.J. Cooper
May 20, 2004
Depending on whom you listen to, Tennessee Smokies righthander Brad Thompson either broke the minor league record for consecutive scoreless-innings pitched or fell just short of the record Wednesday night.
Thompson’s consecutive scoreless-inning streak ended at 57 2/3 innings Wednesday night, when West Tenn first baseman Mike Dzurilla singled to right-center to drive in Richard Lewis with two outs in the sixth.
Thompson’s 49 scoreless innings to start the season set a Southern League record. When his 8 2/3 scoreless innings to finish last season is added in, Thompson finished with 57 2/3 scoreless innings.
According to the National Association, that is 1 1/3 innings short of the minor league record, set when Birmingham’s Irv Wilhelm threw 59 scoreless innings in 1907. (Orel Hershiser set the major league record, also 59 innings, with the Dodgers in 1988.)
But the Smokies say Thompson holds the record, as they point out the Birmingham Baron’s records compiled from several sources indicate Wilhelm’s streak was 56 innings.
So when Thompson picked up the first out of the fifth inning Wednesday night, he received a 30-second standing ovation, as the team announced to Thompson and the 3,073 fans at Smokies Park that he had set a minor league record.
The NA believes he fell short of the record thanks to research by Memphis Redbirds general manager Dave Chase. Looking back at microfilms of Memphis Commercial Appeal sports sections from the 1907 season, he discovered a game story detailing Wilhelm’s complete-game shutouts in both ends of a doubleheader on Sept. 14. In the game story, it said Wilhelm had set what was thought to be a world record with his 59 scoreless innings.
Chase, who is also executive director of the Museum of Minor League Baseball, sent his information to Minor League Baseball. Presented with the news on the afternoon before Thompson’s start against West Tenn, Minor League Baseball’s media relations director Jim Ferguson called, e-mailed and faxed the information to the Smokies an hour before game time.
The Smokies received the information, but they believe their records are more accurate. In a statement on Thursday, they said they have been in constant contact with the Barons about the record.
“Therefore, until the Birmingham Barons choose to re-write their records, the Tennessee Smokies believe that Thompson established a new high for consecutive scoreless innings pitched with his performance Wednesday evening,” the statement said. “The Barons recognize that records can be altered and corrected by new findings, but at the current time, they haven’t been presented with documents that would alter any of Wilhelm’s records.”
Because of the lack of complete records for many defunct minor leagues, it is possible further research will find someone with a longer streak. However, it is safe to say Thompson’s streak ranks as one of the longest in baseball history. His overall stats for the season are nearly unfathomable, 7-0, 0.18.