“Chicago has been Successful in her Efforts to Wrest the Base Ball Supremacy from Cincinnati”

26 Aug

In 1916 Jimmy Wood recounted his greatest triumph, his Chicago White Stockings’ two victories over the Cincinnati Red Stockings.

“When we went to Cincinnati for that first game even our most loyal rooters were pessimistic.  It was not that they lacked confidence in our ability, but because they feared we would be ‘jobbed’ by some Cincinnati umpire, or menaced so by the rowdy crowds that we wouldn’t play our real game because of fear of violence if we should win.”

Most of the doubts in Chicago had disappeared.  Even The Chicago Tribune, which pronounced the team a failure before Wood and Tom Foley had completed putting it together and remained critical through their early struggles, allowed that the game was “liable to be a close one.”

The White Stockings would benefit from the injury to Red Stockings shortstop George Wright; and contrary to Wood’s recollection, they also benefitted from the selection of the umpire.

Wood’s 1916 account told a far-fetched story of the selection of the game’s umpire:

“Just before the game we made an announcement to the stands that we wanted some spectators to umpire the game for us—and that Cincinnati and Chicago residents were barred.  From out of the stands, after a long delay, stepped a salesman, named Milligan, from Philadelphia.  He convinced us quickly that he was thoroughly conversant with the game, and he was named an umpire.”

William Milligan might have been a salesman, but he was also a former member of the West Philadelphia Club amateur baseball team with whom Chicago outfielder Ned Cuthbert played briefly in 1867.  The Cincinnati press also discovered that he had traveled to Cincinnati with the White Stockings and stayed with them at the Gibson House Hotel.

The Cincinnati Gazette said of Milligan:

“The umpire was doubtless a very nice sort of man, but he knew precious little of base ball.  His decisions were given in a weak and faltering voice and after much hesitation, and we hardly think Captain Harry Wright could have made a worse selection.”

Wood cast the umpire in a much different light:

“Milligan was of an heroic mold.  He umpired that game fairly and squarely as he saw it.  He played no favorites.”

The Gazette also noted George Wright’s absence as “a serious drawback upon the nine, and they do not now play with the vim and energy usual to them when the King is present at short field.”  Despite that, the paper did give some credit to Wood’s club:

“The Chicago nine could not have been in better condition for a grand trial of skill with the famous Cincinnatis than they were yesterday.”

George Wright, Red Stockings shortstop missed the first game

George Wright, Red Stockings shortstop missed the first game

The White Stockings won the game 10-6 leaving; The Gazette said the “The base ball public of Cincinnati will feel deeply humiliated,” by the loss.

The New York Times said as a result of the victory Chicago was experiencing “the warmest expressions of delight, the more so, as no one anticipated it.”

The Chicago Tribune’s headline and sub headline were less subdued:

WHITE ABOVE THE RED

 The Redoubtable Red Stockings Defeated by Chicago’s $18,000 Nine. When the Garden City Sets Out to Do a Thing, She Does it. It Took Money      to Accomplish the Business, but it is Done.

Jimmy Wood

Jimmy Wood

Wood said in his questionable 1916 account that after the victory his team barely escaped the fans:

“Immediately after the game was over the crowd swarmed upon the field, intent upon wreaking vengeance upon us.  I had anticipated this move and instructed my players for a quick get-away.  When the last out was made we dashed for the exits and jumped into our carriages.  As we ran across the field many of us were struck with stones and bottles.”

After the White Stockings made their escape—allegedly with umpire Milligan joining them for the return trip—back to Chicago where Wood said “we were given a greeting unlike any ever accorded ball players before.”

The following month the rematch was played at Chicago’s Dexter Park.

Wood claimed in 1916:

“Before the game began, 27,000 admissions at $1 each had been sold, with another 25,000 in a wild scramble for tickets…The paid admission for the game was 27,000; the ‘free admissions’ went well beyond 25,000, making a 52,000 crowd within the park when the call ‘play ball’ sounded.”

According to every contemporary report of the game the attendance was around 15,000 (The Chicago Tribune said it was 18,000), still an incredible crowd for 1870, but far less than Wood’s memory.  The Cincinnati Commercial also observed that “Not more than 500 ladies were present.”

For this game the mutually agreed upon umpire was Brooklyn Atlantics catcher Bob (the other“Death to Flying Things”) Ferguson.

Umpire Bob Ferguson

Umpire Bob Ferguson

In recounting the game in 1916, once again Wood’s recollections were far from accurate, but reporter and “baseball historian” Frank G. Menke did nothing to verify Wood’s memories:

“Things broke badly for us in the early innings.  An error or two on the part of my boys, mixed with several long hits by the Red Stockings, gave them a lead of five runs.  Later on they increased it and when the seventh inning was ended the score stood 11 to 2 in favor of the Cincinnati club.”

Actually, Chicago scored one run in the first inning, Cincinnati tied it in the third, the red Stockings scored four in the sixth and the White Stockings added one in the seventh; making the score 5 to 2 at the end of seven.  The White Stockings scored 14 runs in the last two innings and won 16 to 13.

The Chicago Republican said:

“From first to last the game was one of the finest ever seen in the country…Up to the end of the fifth inning not a point was lost on either side, and even then the increase in the scores was rather the effect of an increase in the strength of the batting than the result of errors.”

The Chicago Tribune said:

“It has been done again; this time in a manner which leaves no doubt as to whether Chicago has been successful in her efforts to wrest the base ball supremacy from Cincinnati.”

Of course the newspapers in the two towns viewed the performance of the umpire differently.

Chicago’s take, from The Republican:

“Of the umpire, Mr. Ferguson, too much cannot be said in praise…he presented one of the best specimens of an umpire ever seen.  It is sufficient, perhaps, to say, that neither side questioned one of his decisions.”

And Cincinnati’s from The Gazette:

“The umpire was against us, the weather was against us, the crowd was against us, the heavens were against us, the ground was against us, the pestilential air of the Chicago River was against us, the Chicago nine were against us, and last, but not least, the score was against us.”

However, The Cincinnati Commercial did praise Ferguson, saying he “umpired the game superbly.”

Wood and Tom Foley had achieved their goal in organizing the White Stockings; they had defeated Harry Wright’s Red Stockings.  They were named “champions” of the National Association of Base Ball Players that year (in a disputed decision—and a story for another day).

After his baseball career ended in 1875 Wood went into various business ventures in Chicago.  In 1891 he bought a tavern on Dearborn Street with another famous Chicago ballplayer, New Williamson—the two remained partners in the business until Williamson’s death in 1894.  Wood eventually settled in New Orleans, he died while on a trip to San Francisco in 1927.

Foley, remained well-known in Chicago for his connection with baseball, but became even better known for his role in popularizing billiards.  The Associated Press called him “the father of base ball and billiards in the west,” in his 1926 obituary, and said Foley was:

“Promoter of the first amateur billiard tournament in the country, Foley made a significant contribution to the game when he was a prominent member of the committee which in 1882 formulated the balk line form of play.  He was himself an expert cueist and held the Illinois championship for two years.”

Tom Foley "King of base ball and billiards in the west"

Tom Foley “King of base ball and billiards in the west”

More more bit of billiard trivia about Foley.  In 1897 The New York Times reported that he had opened the first “Billiard parlor for women,: when he created a “ladies annex” to his new pool hall in Chicago:

“Foley has a friend who likes billiards and also likes his wife, but refuses to buy a billiard table for his better half.  He told Foley about it the other day, and Foley after a little thought determined to test the scheme which he now announces.”

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One Response to ““Chicago has been Successful in her Efforts to Wrest the Base Ball Supremacy from Cincinnati””

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. “Sunday was not a ‘real’ Ball Player” | Baseball History Daily - January 15, 2014

    […] told The Tribune reporter that Ned Williamson had the best arm he had […]

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