“My Forte is Base-Ball, and not Speaking”

28 May

The Red Stockings arrived in Wheeling, West Virginia on June 29, 1869; the final stop on their 21-game tour, which began in Mansfield, Ohio on June 1.  They had won the previous 20 games on the trip and The Cincinnati Enquirer said:

“The only real sensation which our city has enjoyed of late has been that created by our victorious Red Stockings on their Eastern tour.”

The Wheeling Intelligencer said of their arrival:

“These celebrated base ballists reached our city last evening, over the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.  They were met at Benwood by a committee of reception, on behalf of the Baltics…Quite a crowd gathered at the depot to greet them, and when the train reached here (Wheeling) they entered a special omnibus and were driven at once to the McClure House.  After brushing off the dust of travel and refreshing the inner man, they were taken in charge by the committee and spent the remainder of the evening in sightseeing.  They are courteous in their manners and jubilant at the prospect that the arduous labors of the month’s campaign are so nearly ended.  A more splendid tour has never been made by any club.  They (will) return to the Queen City with a record of unexampled brilliancy.”

The paper said admission to the game at the Wheeling Fair Grounds was 25 cents for adults and fifteen cents for children, and told their readers:

“We would advise all who wish to witness the finest playing ever seen in this region, to be present.”

Advertisement for the Wheeling game.

Advertisement for the Wheeling game.

The game was played the following day (some sources incorrectly list the date of the game as July 1).  The Intelligencer said:

 “At one o’clock yesterday afternoon, the long anticipated game of baseball between the Red Stockings, of Cincinnati, and the Baltics, of our city, was opened.

“The Red Stockings were first at the bat and succeeded in making almost a score of runs (the Red Stockings scored 11).  The Baltics came to the bat and were whitewashed.  The same ill luck happened them during the three innings played (4 ½ innings were played).  At four o’clock the game closed—the Red Stockings being compelled to leave at that hour so as to make an evening train to Cincinnati…They went off in the best possible spirits—feeling conscious that they were the champion base ballists in the country.  In their recent tour they did not sustain a single defeat. “The game yesterday was witnessed by about fifteen hundred persons , among them a large number of ladies, and although the Red Stockings almost annihilated one of our home clubs, the fine playing of the strangers elicited the heartiest and warmest applause.  As the play progressed the excitement amounted almost to enthusiasm.  Good order was preserved throughout the game. “We neglected to mention in the proper place that the score stood at the close: Red Stockings, 52; Baltics, 0. Time occupied, three hours.”

While the Wheeling paper didn’t mention rain, The Cincinnati Enquirer said rain caused the early ending:

“The Cincinnatis went to bat for the fifth inning and scored eight runs, making the total score of fifty-two.  It now commenced to rain and game was called, the Baltics not being given the opportunity to be white-washed gain.”

The official score was 44-0, and the Red Stockings had completed a 21-0 month-long road trip on their way to a perfect 65-0 record. The Enquirer said of their return:

“Our victorious Red Stockings, the first nine of which met and conquered all the first-class base-ball clubs of the country, after a tour of one month, arrived at home at ten o’clock yesterday morning via the Little Miami Railroad.  The day when our boys should arrive home, has during the past week been eagerly looked for, and arrangements to give them a hearty welcome were completed.”

Four thousand people turned for the return:

“The train arrived at the depot promptly on time, when the boys, amid the enthusiastic cheers of the spectators, were escorted to carriages provided for the occasion and taken over the line of march prescribed to the Gibson House.  At the head of the procession was the Zouave band in an open transfer wagon, gaily decorated with flags and banners.”

After the team arrived at the Gibson House, they appeared on a hotel balcony:

“Loud calls were made for Mr. (Aaron Burt) Champion, President of the club, (Harry) Wright, (Charlie) Gould and (Doug) Allison, and, in fact, every member of the nine.”

Doug Allison

Doug Allison

After the team members were “shown to private apartments where they had an opportunity of resting.”  Later, they appeared again:

“(T)he nine dressed in their neat white uniforms, with the well-known red stockings, were seated in carriages and driven to the Union Grounds where fully 3,000 people persons has assembled to again welcome them and witness the game with a picked nine.”

Before the game the team was presented with a 27 ½ foot long ash baseball bat “lettered with the names of the First Nine and the two substitutes.” The Red Stockings beat the local picked nine 53-11. A banquet was held in the team’s honor that evening.  The Cincinnati Commercial said it was a “glorious reception…An extra pig was killed in honor of the ‘boys.’”  The Enquirer said the crowd called on the Harry Wright to make a speech:

“Loud calls were made for Harry Wright, Captain on the Nine.  He arose and rather bashfully asked to be excused from making a speech; it was something that he was not in the habit of doing, but he would do all in his power to aid in keeping the reputation of the nine.”

One-by-one each player on the team refused to give a speech for the crowd.  Wright’s brother George said “Gentlemen, you must excuse me, as nobody else is making speeches.  My forte is base-ball, and not speaking, therefore I’ll stop short.”

George Wright

George Wright

The closest thing to a speech came from one of the team’s two reserves, James Fowler.  Fowler rarely played, and appeared in only one game during the tour—Allison was hit over the left eye by a foul ball during the June 24 game with the Maryland Club of Baltimore, George Wright moved behind the plate and Fowler played the final three innings at short.  Fowler, primarily acted as the team’s scorekeeper, does not appear in the team photo and is usually not listed on the team roster. Fowler told the crowd:

“Mr. Champion says that I slept through all these matches; if I didn’t play I talked, and helped in that way.  I am happy to be a member of the Cincinnati Nine—or rather Eleven.”

The Red Stockings "Eleven" minus James Fowler

The Red Stockings “Eleven” minus James Fowler

While none of the players were willing to give a speech, the crowd, and local dignitaries, made a series of toasts to the team.  The Enquirer said:

“At a late hour our reporter left the scene of conviviality, at which time the company were enjoying themselves in the happiest manner, and doing all in their power to manifest their appreciation of the victorious ‘Red Stockings.’  So ended the grand ovation—the most complete, in every respect, ever extended to any similar organization in the country.”

Despite the late night and “conviviality,” the Red Stockings beat the Olympics of Washington twice that week, 25 to 14 and 32 to ten.

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5 Responses to ““My Forte is Base-Ball, and not Speaking””

  1. Cliff Blau May 28, 2014 at 6:13 pm #

    Shouldn’t the score of that game have been “there was no game”, since they didn’t complete five innings? That was the rule in 1869, according to Total Baseball V. 3.

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