The Brooklyn Bridegrooms won the 1890 National League Championship by 6 ½ games over the Chicago Colts behind pitcher Tom Lovett who posted a 30-11 record.
Just three years earlier there was speculation that Lovett’s career might be over due to overwork.
Born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1863, Lovett began his professional career with Waterbury in the Connecticut State League in 1884. He appeared in 16 games for Philadelphia Athletics in the American Association in 1885 and was in the New England League with the Lynn/Newburyport Clamdiggers.
In 1887 he signed with the Bridgeport Giants in the Eastern League and dominated the league in May and early June. Despite getting off to a fast start (the team was 20-5 in May), Bridgeport was suffering a decline in attendance and the franchise was in trouble.
At the same time community leaders in Oshkosh, Wisconsin were determined to win the Northwest League championship, and they put enough money together to offer to purchase Lovett who was 21-3, as well as Tug Wilson, Bridgeport’s catcher and leading hitter, and shortstop Dan Shannon, the Eastern League’s leading base stealer.
Lovett was 20-2 for Oshkosh (40-7 for the season) and they easily won the championship, but he did not pitch during the season’s closing days; The Sporting Life reported that “Lovett is said to be lame in the arm.”
Despite speculation well into the next spring that his arm was permanently “lamed,” Lovett recovered and posted a 30-14 season in 1888 with Omaha in the Western Association. In the fall of 1888 he was purchased by Brooklyn, then in the American Association.
Lovett was 17-10 in his first season with Brooklyn, and followed that with his pennant-winning performance in 1890. He then dropped to 23-19 in 1891 as the team fell to 6th place; Lovett threw a 4-0 no-hitter in June against the New York Giants.
After the 1891 season Brooklyn attempted to cut his salary to $2800 (various sources say he either earned $3000 or $3500 in 1891). Lovett demanded $3500 and turned down a compromise offer of $3200.
He said he could earn more money operating his tavern in Providence and chose to sit out the 1892 season.
The Sporting Life called it, “A vain and foolish kick against salary reduction.”
In this case the critics might have been correct. The Lovett-less Grooms improved from 61-76 in 1891 to 95-59 in 1892.
Hat in hand, he returned to Brooklyn for the 1893 season signing for $2400.
Lovett pitched in only 14 games and had a 3-5 record before hurting his arm again. The following season he pitched for the Boston Beaneaters until he was released in July. His Major League career over, Lovett finished 1894 in the Eastern League with the Providence Clamdiggers and spent 1895 with the renamed Providence Grays in the same league.
Lovett, most likely baseball’s first true hold out, spent the rest of his life in Providence and died in 1928.