His one game was Bliss

File written by Adobe Photoshop¨ 5.0 You never know what you will find when scouring through obscure Yankee statistics. Most of what I find and tell you about is at least in somewhat recent history. But what I bring to you today is from the way-back machine. I found a pitcher named, Elmer Bliss, who holds a record of sorts. That obscure record is the most innings pitched in his one and only game outing without giving up an earned run. Bliss made one relief pitching appearance in his career and pitched seven full innings without yielding an earned run. He also won the game. In those seven innings, he gave up just four hits, did not walk anybody and struck out three. The date was September 28, 1903.

There are no box scores from that early a date. All we can ascertain is that he must have relieved a struggling starter and then pitched well enough to allow his team to come back and win the game, 7-6, against the Detroit Tigers at Hilltop Park. The team, of course, was called the Highlanders back then and were managed by Clark Griffith. Griffith was also the team's third starter. The game was meaningless in the grand scheme of things. It was the next to last game of a season that would see the Highlanders finish in fourth place, seventeen games behind the Boston Americans, who went on to win the World Series. The Tigers finished in fifth place.

It is not known how long Elmer Bliss was with the team that season. He had played 33 games with the Utica Pent-ups in the New York State League that same season. So who knows when he actually joined the Highlanders and how long it took him to get a chance to pitch...or play. Bliss was also an outfielder as we shall see in just a little while. He batted .281 for the Pent-ups. But Bliss' one game of glory finally came in that next to last season.

Without traveling to Pennsylvania to dig up old archives, little can be told about Elmer Ward Bliss. He was born on March 9, 1875 in Penfield, an area within Huston, Pennsylvania. He was the son of Austin and Mary (Henderson) Bliss. Austin was a carpenter who had served in the Civil War in Company G of the Pennsylvania Infantry. Elmer's middle name was in honor of his grandfather, Ward Bliss, a farmer and the first Bliss to settle in Pennsylvania.

The Bliss family is an ancient one in America and Elmer could trace his roots to a Thomas Bliss, a wealthy farmer in England. By all accounts, the Bliss family had a good life in England until there was a crackdown on Puritans beginning in the 1620s. Thomas and his sons, Jonathan, Thomas and George, were persecuted for their beliefs and the elder Thomas was recorded as being flogged by whips 30 strokes in 1632 and died soon thereafter. The sons decided to flee to America. Jonathan did not make it as he too died from his own tortures. Elmer descended from George, who left England in 1632 and settled in Lynn, Massachusetts.

Subsequent generations relocated to Rhode Island, New York and then finally, Pennsylvania. Elmer Bliss grew up in Huston, PA and lived with his mother and father until at least 190o where the family is listed in Dubois, PA, another Clearfield County town. Bliss' homes were in the upper reaches of Pennsylvania, just a few miles south of the New York State border. Elmer is listed as a day laborer in the 1900 census.

Bliss' professional baseball career is listed as starting in 1901, his first of three seasons at Utica. He was 26 at the time and it would not be a stretch to presume that he played many semi-pro games before that. After his one game in New York, following his season at Utica, the records do not show him pitching at all in 1904. He played the outfield for a team that split its time between Rochester, NY and Montreal. Or perhaps they were two separate teams. But he played 65 games and batted .261.

Curiously, his Highlander career had one more chapter. On May 11, 1904, in a game against the Cleveland Naps, Bliss played right-field and had one plate appearance. When adding that one plate appearance to the three he had in his one pitching effort the season before, he came to the plate a total of four times with no hits and no walks and struck out once. He would never be seen in the Major Leagues again.

And that is the head-scratching part. He had that one really effective outing for the Highlanders and then, while pitching for the Grand Rapids Wolverines ("Orphans" in his first season) in the Central League, he made 87 appearances in those three years and went 50-28. He continued to play a handful of games in the outfield as well and even became the second manager of the team as a player-manager in 1907.

In 1908, Bliss moved on to the Montgomery (Alabama) Senators in the Southern League. He played more outfield than pitched in 1908 but then went 14-7 in 27 appearances in 1909.

Elmer Bliss married a Pennsylvania woman named, Jayne Macquistion, in 1909 and his days of playing far from home were over. He would play one more season (1910) back in the New York State League for the Binghampton Bingoes, a team right over the boarder. He pitched thirteen games and played six others in the field. He batted .264 in his final season but his pitching record fell off drastically.

He has one more professional baseball record remaining as he managed the Wellsville (NY) Rainmakers in 1914. It looks like he might have played that year as well as the team has a "Bliss?" listed as a batter. If that was him, he batted .323 in 30 games, not bad for a guy then 39 years old.

Elmer and Jayne's only child, Albert, was born in 1915 and Elmer ended his baseball life. He settled in Bradford, PA and lived at 117 Williams Street according to his World War I draft registration card. By then he was a self-employed insurance agent, a career he would continue the rest of his working life. Jayne died in 1944 and Elmer in March of 1962 at the age of 87. He is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Bradford. Albert died in San Francisco in 1996.

It is hard to figure sometimes how a player gets such a little chance in the Major Leagues. Back when Elmer Bliss played, the minor leagues were nearly as powerful and lucrative as the majors. Even so, the Majors were where the best players played. Elmer Bliss has been a small footnote in baseball history until now. He only had one opportunity to pitch in the Major Leagues. But he made the most of it. He pitched one game and pitched seven innings without allowing an earned run and he got the win. Nice.