On Sept. 30,1950, Harry Truman was President of the United States, a gallon of gasoline cost only 30 cents and Jim Gilbert threw his second straight no-hitter for the Minford Falcons.
Having already thrown a no-hitter against Valley High School 12 days earlier, Jim was facing the Clay Panthers with a chance to complete a feat that few in baseball had ever accomplished. But as the innings wore on, a throbbing pain began to slowly spread through his lower back.
“At the end of every inning, I had to go into the gymnasium and get one of those [vibrating belts] so I could be ready for the next inning,” Jim said.
Somehow, Jim was able to remain in the game and blow his rising fastball past Clay hitters. A few innings later, with his shoulder and back throbbing, he completed his second-consecutive no hitter.
However, his remarkable accomplishment never really sunk in.
“I took it all for granted back then,” Jim said.
Two years later, on Sept. 18,1952, his brother, Dan, recorded an unheard of six hits in a game, hitting a home run, a triple, a double and three singles against the Green Bobcats.
Dan has no recollection of the game, but a Daily Times article saved by his mother, Peachie, described his big day.
“The pitcher must have been awfully weak,” Dan joked.
In another game against Green that season, the third Gilbert brother, Ed, was just a sophomore trying to keep his spot in the lineup when he had a breakout day.
“I had two bunts in that game,” he said. “I was trying to keep up with my two older brothers, and I could get on just about every time with a bunt.”
Ed added another single, a double and a triple in the contest. Always chasing his older brother, he finished with five hits that day.
Though they were excited by their individual accomplishments, the Gilbert brothers were more concerned about wins and losses. Their manager, Minford legend Jim Scott, wasn’t concerned with personal records and didn’t keep extensive individual statistics.
“Team results were emphasized by our baseball coach,” Dan said. “You don’t win championships with individuals. You win championships with teams.”
Little did the Gilberts know, it would be their individual accomplishments that stood the test of time. But if not for a stroke of luck, their records would be lost forever.
As Jim and Dan moved on from high school, baseball stayed with them. Jim attended college and played baseball at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee before signing a Class AA contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He played a few seasons in the Western League with the Pirates’ affiliate in Lincoln, Nebraska. In a twist of fate, he faced former Reds pitcher Johnny Vander Meer: the only big-league pitcher to throw consecutive no-hitters. Eventually, Jim’s lingering back problems forced him into an early retirement.
Dan played freshman basketball at the University of Cincinnati, where he rubbed shoulders with Bearcat legends Jack Twyman and Oscar Robertson. But Dan’s passion remained on the diamond. He played four seasons under legendary coach Ed Jucker and was the catcher for eventual Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax. He had tryouts with both the Pirates and the Detroit Tigers, but between a co-op and the ROTC, he never had the chance to play in the big leagues.
After returning to southern Ohio, both Dan and Jim continued to be heavily involved in baseball. The two played semi-pro ball in Ashland, KY and eventually took coaching and teaching jobs. Jim coached baseball and basketball at the beginning of his 30-year teaching tenure at Minford, and Dan coached baseball for eight seasons at Wheelersburg before serving a stint as principal of Minford. Eventually, Dan returned to Wheelersburg where he served as a school counselor for 19 years.
While Jim and Dan remained close to home and to baseball, Ed took a different route. He worked on the family farm for a few years and played summer semi-pro ball with his brothers, but he found more stable work in brick-laying. Eventually, he moved to Florida in the midst of a building boom, and started his own construction company.
All the while, the brothers’ records stood throughout the state of Ohio. The problem was, no one knew it.
For nearly 60 years, their accomplishments existed only in the Gilberts’ memories. That is, until one of Jim’s former Minford players, David Warren, decided to do some carpeting for a friend’s New Boston rental property in 2008.
As Warren removed layer after layer of carpet, he came across a blanket of vintage Daily Times editions that were covering the home’s original hardwood floor.
“I just happened to see the one that said ‘Sports’ and it caught my eye,” Warren said. “I started reading it, and there it was: An article about Jim and the Minford Falcons.” The artifacts included an article about Jim’s back-to-back no hitters and an article mentioning his scoreless innings streak of 21. Warren showed Jim the articles and then enlisted the help of Jeff Berry, who taught at Minford with Jim..
The two began researching state records provided by the OHSAA. Along with the information Warren discovered and the article that Peachy Gilbert had saved about Dan’s six-hit game, the Gilbert brothers had the evidence they needed to rewrite the record books.
On Jan. 25, 2012, the Gilbert brothers submitted their records to the Ohio High School Athletic Association for official approval. It’s a common process for the OHSAA, even if the records are over half a century old.
“It happens all the time that record book items get sent in well after the player is out of high school,” OHSAA Director of Information Services Tim Stried said in an email. “Actually, more records get added years after the fact than right at the time of the accomplishment.”
Three months later, April 23, the OHSAA officially recognized all four records and added them to the official record book.
Since that time, Ed’s five-hit game and Jim’s scoreless inning streak have been bested and removed from the record book. But to this day, Dan holds the record for hits in a game (tied with 19 others) and Jim’s two consecutive no-hitters ranks third all-time (tied with five others). They can still be found in the OHSAA’s official record book.
But even 60 years later, true to Coach Scott’s philosophy, Dan still takes more pride in Minford’s team accomplishments, including the Falcons’ five-consecutive SOC Championships (1951-55).
“It’s nice to have that and it’s a shame we didn’t know about that years ago,” Dan said. “I relish more that we were SOC Champs at different times, we were Scioto League Champs at different times, we were Scioto County Tournament Champions in Class B at different times.”
Perhaps it is because the Gilberts’ were introduced to teamwork at an early age. As the trio progressed through their adolescent years while working on their parents’ farm, cooperation and hard work became a life-long motto.
“My dad (Hubert) and Mom were hard workers,” Dan said. “We were poor, but they managed to provide a good living.”
Every morning, the boys would wake up at four or five, and they would go milk the fleet of dairy cattle on the Gilbert family farm. After a big country breakfast, the boys would trek off to the Minford School District for a full slate of classes. After a long day of school and either baseball or basketball practice, most kids would be ready to relax in front of the TV. Not the Gilbert boys.
“We would come home from school, you’d hear him: ‘Git up! Come on!’” Dan said.
“He made sure we worked on the farm every minute we were there.”
“We didn’t get in any trouble. We didn’t have time!” he laughed.
Hubert worked his sons hard nearly every single day, even on Minford’s game days as the boys were required to finish their daily chores. But all three brothers agree: Without the work ethic their father instilled, the Gilberts would never have been able to accomplish what they did on the ball field.
“We were tough because of it,” Jim said. “We had muscles back then.”
“That made us ballplayers,” Ed added. “There was nobody that outworked us. Dad was behind that.”
“Dad believed in three things,” Dan recalled. “He made sure we went to school. He made sure we worked on the farm every minute we were there. And he believed in two sports, baseball and basketball.”
By their father’s standards, the Gilbert brothers have led successful lives.
Alex Hider contributed to this story