Jackson’s Forgotten Baseball Star

Still Holds the Record for Longest No-Hitter

Joseph Strong

By Stephen D. Bowling

July 31, 1927 – Only one Breathitt County baseball player holds a Major League Baseball record. Joseph “Talt” Strong pitched the longest no-hitter and rightfully has his place in the records books. Yet, little is known about this pitching ace, and no acknowledgment of his accomplishment can be found in the annals of our local history. Hopefully, this short posting can bring some attention to this Breathitt County baseball player.

Joseph Talton Strong was born in Shuckey Bean Hollow, about 4 miles from Jackson on August 4, 1902. He was the third of eight children born to Edward Harry and Emma (Russell) Strong. Joseph was the grandson of Henry Strong and Patsy (Spicer) Strong. Henry Strong and his wife, Patsy, were born to slave mothers and their white masters shortly before the Civil War.

His father, Edward “Ned” Strong, worked in Jackson at various jobs, including the Jackson Quarry on Marcum Heights. He helped cut many of the stone walls, window seals, and foundations in Jackson’s historic buildings.

Joesph Talton Strong is listed as “Talt” Strong in the 1910-1911 Breathitt County School’s Student Census. He and his brothers attended the District A, Division 1 Colored School, which later became the Rosenwald School in Jackson.

Joseph Strong completed the eight required grades to graduate from Rosenwald and then worked briefly in a Breathitt County coal mine before going to Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio. As a Wilberforce Bulldog, he was more interested in baseball than academic studies. Not surprisingly, when the opportunity to play baseball professionally presented itself, Strong jumped at the chance.

At 5 feet 11 inches and 176 pounds, Strong joined the Cleveland Tate Stars in 1922, where he played in 17 games with 27 at-bats, had a batting average of .370, and an on-base percentage of .469. His batting and pitching attracted notice from other teams, and in 1923, Strong moved to the Milwaukee Bears.

Over the next 15 years, Strong played left field and pitched for nine different teams across the Negro Leagues, including the Cleveland Tate Stars, Milwaukee Bears, Chicago American Giants, Baltimore Black Sox, Hilldale Club, Homestead Grays, St. Louis Stars, and the Pittsburgh Crawfords. His longest stint was a five-year career with the Baltimore Black Socks.

Headline- Black Sox “Ace” Twirls No-Hit GameThe Pittsburgh Courier, August 6, 1927, page 17.

After five years of professional play, he officially entered the Negro League records books on July 31, 1927. During the first game that Sunday at Baltimore’s Maryland Baseball Park, Strong pitched hitless baseball against the Hilldale Club for 9 innings with the score tied 1-1 innings. He continued to pitch in the extra innings holding Hilldale to only one run. Strong and the Black Sox got the win 2-1 after a Pete Washington home run in the bottom of the 11th inning- a walked-off smash over the left-field fence. His accomplishment was not the first no-hitter in the Negro Leagues and would not be the last. It was, however, the longest by a single pitcher.

Strong dominated the game striking out five, and missed a perfect game by one walk and one hit batter. Hilldale’s only run was unearned, resulting from third-inning errors by third baseman Mack Eggleston and shortstop Scrappy Brown. Black Sox star Jud Wilson tied the score at 1-1 in the bottom of the eighth with a homer to center field. Hilldale went on to win the seven-inning nightcap by a score of 3-2 before darkness forced the cancellation.

Often one of the youngest players on the team, other players gave stone several nicknames, including “Tal,” “Baby Face,” or simply “JT.” He was an anomaly in baseball because he hit left-handed and pitched with his right hand. In his 162-game career, he was 77-74 as a pitcher, but one moment will always remain in the records books.

The 2-1 victory was the longest no-hitter ever recorded in the Negro Leagues and was longer than any recorded in the Major Leagues. The task was astonishing to many, although the story from The Pittsburgh Courier was reprinted in very few newspapers across the country. Major League Baseball did not recognize the accomplishments of the negro leagues, and the remarkable feat of Joseph Strong quickly faded.

By the 1930 Census, Strong lived in Middletown, Butler County, Ohio with his parents and listed his profession as a “ballplayer for a professional team.” With his career winding down, Strong left baseball. He soon married Fannie C. (Daubery) Mayfield. Their wedding on September 28, 1937, in Jefferson County, Ohio, was a small affair, and the couple settled into life in Butler County, Ohio.

By 1940, he was renting a home on Centre Avenue in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania for $23 per month and working in a steel mill. Strong told the census taker that he worked 16 weeks in 1939 and made $360.

The birth date given on Joseph Talton Strong’s World War II draft registration makes him two years younger. No record of his military service could be found. It is possible that, as a steelworker, he was declared an essential worker and exempted from military service for war production.

He moved back to Middletown near his father and family. Little is known about his later life in Butler County, Ohio. He worked for years on the assembly line and retired from the Frigidaire Corporation. He married Ruth Samantha Lewis, and she preceded him in death on October 26, 1981. He spent his years in retirement on the golf course and bowled several times a week. An active Mason, he attended lodge regularly and was a member of the Tried-Stone Lodge #83 of the Prince Hall Free and Accepted Masons in Middletown. Many of his closest friends never knew of his time as a baseball player or his incredible performance in 1927.

Joseph T. Strong’s obituary in The Middletown Journal on Sunday, November 16, 1986, page A2, does not mention his baseball days or his fantastic feat. – Obituary compliments of Adam Wanter of the MidPointe Library System, Middletown, Ohio.

Joeseph Talton Strong died November 12, 1986, at his home in Middletown, Butler County, Ohio. Funeral services were held at the Tried Stone Baptist Church. He was buried in the Woodside Cemetery in Middletown, Butler County, Ohio, beside his wife Ruth (Lewis) Strong. His obituary did not mention the no-hitter or his time as a professional baseball player.

On December 16, 2020, Major League Baseball announced that they would “elevate” the seven organizations known as the Negro Leagues to “Major League” status and recognize all records and statistics for those teams. Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. told reporters that teams who played in the leagues from 1920-1948 and all player statistics would be accepted into the major league records books. Strong surpassed four white players who pitched 10-inning no-hitters to claim a unique spot in the records books.

More than 34 years after his death, one of Jackson’s native sons, Joseph Talton Strong, now officially holds the record for the longest no-hitter in major league baseball history and will, most likely, for all times.

© 2022 by Stephen D. Bowling.


About sdbowling

Director of the Breathitt County Public Library and Heritage Center in Jackson, Kentucky.
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