Adventures in Barnstorming—“Their Conduct was Disgraceful”

30 Oct

After the 1887 season John Montgomery Ward was celebrating his marriage to one of the most popular actresses of the era, Helen Dauvray, by touring the South playing exhibition games with the New York Giants–primarily made up of New York players but also included Mike “King” Kelly (who also brought his wife Agnes) of the Boston Beaneaters and Jerry Denny of Indianapolis Hoosiers.

John Montgomery Ward

John Montgomery Ward

The team arrived in New Orleans on October 29 and was greeted with a reception at the St. Charles Hotel.

The first game against the Southern League’s New Orleans Pelicans was played the next day at Sportsmen’s Park in front of 6000 fans.  New York’s Tim Keefe held the Pelicans to just two ninth-inning runs, in a 7-2 victory.   Ward had three hits.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune said:

“It was far from an ideal day for ball playing, for the weather was almost freezing and the wind blew in cutting blasts.  But those who admire baseball in this city were undeterred.”

The following day the Pelicans managed an 8-inning 4-4 tie:

“(The Pelicans) put up a game that would have done credit to any aggregation, and the only excuse for their not having bounced the Giants, was the fact that (Bill) Geiss and (Ed) Cartwright made inexcusable errors at the commencement that let in two runs.”

The Times-Picayune left out a large part of what happened that day.

Two days later the whole story appeared in papers across the country, The New York Times said:

“(S)everal members of the New York Baseball club were intoxicated when they entered the grounds to play with the New Orleans nine on Monday last.  Their conduct was disgraceful, and (Pelicans) Secretary (Maurice) Kaufman called on a police officer to eject them from the grounds.”

A wire report from New Orleans, that appeared in The Chicago Daily News said:

“There are several men in the New Yorks who have been drinking freely ever since they arrived in the city, and were not of course, in condition to play ball.”

Giants’ catcher William “Buck” Ewing, and Jerry Denny were identified as drunken players, but it was King Kelly who was most often singled out.  The wire report said when police attempted to arrest a drunken fan who had accompanied the players to the ballpark:

“Kelly jumped into the stand and tried to prevent the arrest, claiming the man was a friend of his…During the entire game the unseemly exhibition was kept up.  At one time Kelly climbed into the stand and drank beer with his friends, while the other men of the nine had already taken positions in the field to begin an inning.”

King Kelly

King Kelly

During the game Ward “took his wife from the grounds, and placing her in a carriage, sent her to the St. Charles Hotel, because of the disgraceful exhibition of some of the players.”

The game scheduled for November 2 was cancelled and The New York Times said the tour would be disbanded.

By the end of the week all parties were trying to downplay the incident.  Ward said members of the club “misbehaved in no way,” and instead said the cancellation was because it was discovered that Pelicans players had received $5 each for the games, and the Giants players only received $3.  The Pelicans and The Times-Picayune had a revised version of the events:

“The whole story is that a couple of the members met too many friends with tempting ways and reached the field in no condition to play ball.  The majority of the visitors were all right and were heartily ashamed of the conduct of their comrades.”

The paper said that the “New Yorks are in good trim again, however and at their own request a game was arranged for (November 4).”

The Giants won that game 5 to 3—New York catcher Buck Ewing pitched a complete game for the Giants (he pitched 47 innings during his major league career, with a 2-3 record and 3.45 ERA), beating the Pelicans best pitcher John Ewing.  Only 500 fans attended the game.

The series ended on November 6 with the Giants winning two games; a 3-1 morning game with “a very small crowd,” and an evening game in front of more than 6000 won by the Giants 5-4.

While the rest of the Giants continued on to Texas, Ward returned to New York for meetings to negotiate the recognition of the Brotherhood of Professional Baseball Players by the National League.  He rejoined the team on the West Coast later that month for a six-week barnstorming tour.

The Ward/ Dauvray marriage went about as well as the honeymoon in New Orleans—their divorce just six-years later was a very public, scandalous affair.  Ward, who was accused of being a serial philanderer, was actually barred from ever remarrying during Dauvray’s lifetime as part of the divorce decree.  He was able to get the ruling reversed in 1903 and remarried.

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17 Responses to “Adventures in Barnstorming—“Their Conduct was Disgraceful””

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