Just Ask Piver: There Was A Hit

BATAVIA, N.Y. - Time has a way of throwing the mind a curve or two, but Vern Piver remains certain of this much 40 years later: He was safe.

The one-time Batavia Clippers' second baseman swears his foot jammed into that puffy, saw-dust filled base before the throw arrived in the webbing of the first-baseman's mitt. He's convinced the umpire was wrong.

Not that the blown call has been eating at him for the past four decades. Quite the contrary. He realizes that if he had gotten his way and had been awarded that infield single, the story line of one of the most remarkable games in baseball history would have been ruined.

Piver's game-ending out in that Aug. 20, 1952 contest between Batavia and Bradford, Pa., preserved the only double no-hitter in the history of the New York-Penn League - and perhaps professional baseball.

Researchers at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown said the only thing that came close was the duel between Fred Toney of the Cincinnati Reds and Jim Vaughn of the Chicago Cubs on May 2, 1917. Neither team managed a hit through nine innings, but Vaughn's streak ended in the 10th.

Batavia's Jim Mitchell and Bradford's Frank Etchberger faced a combined total of 53 batters that summer evening 40 years ago in MacArthur Stadium (now Dwyer Stadium) without allowing a hit.

Bradford wound up winning the game, 1-0, the run scoring on a throwing error in the top of the eighth.

"Damndest game I've ever been involved in," said Piver, a 58-year-old lumberjack in Fort Bragg, Calif., a two-hour drive up the Pacific coast from San Francisco.

"I felt I was safe on that dribbler, but in a game like that you know the umpire isn't going to give the runner the benefit of the doubt. I can't really blame him, though. That's probably the way I would have called it, too."

Had Batavia shortstop-manager George Genovese not thrown that ball away in the eighth, Mitchell and Etchberger might have been stringing zeros into the wee hours of the morning.

Piver said he was too upset after making the final out to understand the historical significance of the game.

"Hell, I was just an 18-year-old punk trying to hustle my way to the major-leagues at the time," he said. "I wasn't thinking about history. I just wanted to get on base so we could win that game."