July 12, 1900–21-year-old lefty Noodles Hahn tosses the first no-hitter of the 20th Century as the Reds beat the Philadelphia Phillies at home, 4-0. Hahn walked two, hit one and struck out eight in tossing the only no-hitter of the year.
According to the Baseball Biography Project sponsored by SABR (Society for American Baseball Research), Hahn, was the first pitcher to reach the career 100-victory mark since the pitching distance was moved back from 50 feet to 60’6″ in 1893. He reached the point two months after turning 24. Only Bob Feller has reached the 100 victory plateau at an earlier age.
Hahn received his nickname for his favorite food as a child, or at least, the lunch meal he most often ate as a child. He started pitching professionally at age 16 and the Reds’ owner John Brush purchased him on the advice of former Reds manager Charlie Comiskey. Hahn went 23-8 in his rookie season with the Reds, leading the league with 145 strikeouts. Hahn had contract issues after his rookie season. From the SABR site:
Prior to the start of the 1900 season Hahn had contract problems that he was “unable to adjust to his satisfaction.” Though newspapers of the time were usually unsympathetic to players in such circumstances, the Boston Herald remarked at midseason that Hahn had been justified in his salary stand, and that he was generally regarded as the best left-handed pitcher in the National League.
1901 was Hahn’s best season when he went 22-19 for a team that won only 52 games all season. He won 42% of his team’s victories, the second highest percentage in National league history behind Steve Carlton’s 46% in 1972 for the Philadelphia Phillies. Hahn struck out a career high 239, winning the strikeout total for the third consecutive season of his three year career. On May 22, Hahn struck out 16 hitters, the first pitcher to do so in a nine-inning game since the mound was moved, and a record that would stand until Dizzy Dean struck out 17 in 1933. However, Hahn was getting very frustrated with his teammates, and the brand new American League was paying higher salaries hoping to entice players to jump from the National League. From the SABR site:
Not surprisingly, the new American League, fresh off its inaugural season, tried to entice Hahn to enter its fold. While Hahn was in the process of negotiating a salary of around $3,500 with the Reds, Harry Killilea, principal owner of the Boston Americans, came to Cincinnati and offered him a salary of $4,000 to jump. Hahn liked Cincinnati and had a sweetheart there that he didn’t want to leave, but he also wanted some assurance that the Reds would improve. “I pitched 40 games during the past season, yet I did more work than if I had pitched 80 games with a winning team behind me,” he told The Sporting News. Hahn showed remarkable prescience by telling the Cincinnati Enquirer: “If a fellow can’t get a fat salary in 1902, he will never reach for I think something will give before the war is another year old.” While pondering his baseball future, Hahn took a couple weeks off to go hunting in the woods near Madeira, Ohio. In the end, Hahn accepted a salary of $4,200 to stay with the Reds, a dramatic increase over his salary of $1,800 only two years before. His new contract made Hahn the highest paid Red, an honor most acknowledged he deserved.
Hahn’s next two seasons were also outstanding. He finished second in the NL in ERA in 1902 at 1.77 as his record improved to 23-12, and he went 22-12 the following year with a 2.52 ERA. At age 25, he went 16-18 with an ERA of 2.06, but hurt his arm in 2005 and was never quite the same again.
Hahn pitched over 300 innings in each of his first four major league seasons and was quoted as saying he knew his arm would not hold up, so he went to veterinary school for a post-career profession. It made for a good career for Hahn after his baseball days were over. Hahn was allowed to keep a locker at Crosley Field and regularly pitched batting practice through 1946 when he was 68 years old.