On April 4 of 1880, the California League San Franciscos and Athletics met at the Recreation Grounds (the park was located at 25th and Folsom).
Two newspapers in town treated the key play of the game very differently.
The San Francisco Bulletin’s coverage of the game was headlined:
Extraordinary Base-Ball Play
The San Francisco Chronicle headline:
An Uninteresting Game with a Score of 4 to 1—Very Poor Playing on the Part of the San Franciscos
Hall of Famer James “Pud” Galvin was pitching for the Athletics; Galvin, in a contract dispute with the Buffalo Bisons, played several months in California before jumping the Athletics to return to Buffalo in May.
The second baseman was Jim McDonald, a 19-year-old San Francisco native.
The Bulletin’s first paragraph referred to “The feature of the game” and said:
“(Taylor) struck a powerful ‘liner’ to second base, which was neatly captured by McDonald, and placing his foot on second forced Mast out, and then threw the ball to first in time to cut Piercy off. The play was vociferously applauded. There is but one other instance in the history of the national game where this play has been made.”
(The article was referring to Providence Grays center fielder Paul Hines’ disputed unassisted triple play, turned two years earlier versus the Boston Red Caps)
The Chronicle, while mentioning McDonald’s play was less impressed, mentioning the play deep into its much longer recap of the game. The paper noted that McDonald made three errors earlier, and “in a measure he redeemed himself by an effective pay in the eighth inning,” the paper described the play and noted that McDonald “was deservedly applauded for it.”
Despite the triple play The Chronicle questioned the wisdom of McDonald being in the lineup:
“(McDonald) is a player of some promise, but the policy of putting him in the important position he fills is a questionable one. In his practice games his playing in brilliant, but in a match contest he appears to lack the necessary confidence, and in baseball vernacular he falls all to pieces.”
McDonald played primarily on the West Coast, but had a brief career in the East, spending time in all three major leagues in 1884 and 1885. He played two games for the Washington Nationals in the Union Association, 38 with the Pittsburgh Alleghenys in the American Association and five with the Buffalo Bisons in the National League.
After his playing career ended in 1894, McDonald was an umpire in the National League and California League, and a West Coast boxing referee; he officiated many fights including Jim Jeffries 1898 victory over Peter Jackson and Abe Attell’s 1903 20 round draw with Eddie Hanlon.
His active career came to an end in 1904 when he was diagnosed with Tuberculosis; he died in 1914 in San Francisco.