“The Experiment Was a Failure, But the Crowd Laughed”

27 Nov

In July of 1890 the Hartford franchise in the Atlantic Association–occasionally but not officially dubbed the “Nutmeggers” by the local press—were struggling financially.  So much so that the public was called upon to help raise enough money to meet payroll and get the team through the season.

The Sporting Life said a “meeting for the revivification” of the team was held on July 21, and a fundraising picnic was planned for August.  But the team’s best hope to raise enough money was  July 24: a game by electric light.

The first nighttime game was played a decade earlier, but the novelty of two professional teams playing under lights was enough that 4000 fans attended the exhibition game against the Baltimore Orioles at Ward Street Grounds.

The consensus opinion of the contest was summed up in The New York World headline:

The Experiment Was a Failure, But the Crowd Laughed

The paper said the game was lighted using “nine arc lamps in different sections of the field,” but the “light was dim and the players could hardly be distinguished…The game was a farce, but everybody was good-natured and the enterprise proved a first-class benefit for the home club.”

Only four innings were played.  The final score is in dispute.  Most recent accounts say Hartford won 20-19.  Most contemporary accounts, including The World and The Sporting Life said the score was 26-19.

The Baltimore Sun said Hartford’s net profit of $300 from the game enabled “management of the club to pay the players in full to July 15.” However, The Sun said there was a cost, Hartford catcher George Stallings was injured and “unable to play today as a result of last night’s so-called ballgame.”

George Stallings

George Stallings, injured in “so-called ballgame”

The proceeds from the night game and public contributions were not enough.

On August 14 Hartford was unable to come up with the $75 guarantee for the visiting Wilmington Blue Hens, and the game was cancelled.  Two days later, despite what The Sporting Life called “the club’s gallant fight,”  Hartford disbanded.

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