“Suspend him Again, Brother Petit”

7 Apr

Edward “the Only” Nolan, the 22-year-old rookie pitcher for the Indianapolis Blues was scheduled to pitch against the Providence Grays on June 20, 1878, but just over a month after his major league debut, “The Only” was already mired in controversy.

The Cincinnati Enquirer said:

“Nolan did not pitch today—cause why, he was suspended, and is at present under a very dark cloud of suspicion.”

The paper said W.B. Petit, president of the Indianapolis club had received, “telegraphic information” from Indiana that it was “generally understood in the pool-rooms” that the Grays would win the game if Nolan started, and alluded to, “several decidedly loose plays” made by Nolan during his two previous starts.

On June 15, Nolan and Indianapolis lost 7 to 4 to the Boston Red Stockings; Nolan committed three errors—“inexcusable muffs” according to The Boston Globe. The day before the suspension, Nolan gave up nine runs and committed five errors in a loss to the Grays.

The Hoosiers play in recent days, just a month and a half into the season led The St. Louis Globe-Democrat to predict that the team, “stands a much better chance of disbanding than of winning the championship.”

The Enquirer said the pitcher had been suspended based on the charges:

“Nolan seems quite indifferent, while the rest of the nine show discontent and disgust with his conduct.”

Petit met with the team before the game in Providence, and during the game:

“(Catcher Silver) Flint appeared to be broken up about something and was quite morose…The Nolan business seems to have demoralized the whole party.”

The Indianapolis People pronounced the pitcher guilty and yawned at the news:

“It was discovered that (Nolan) was selling out the games to the gamblers. As if this was anything new in base ball literature!”

The Indianapolis Journal said of Nolan, who had played for Indianapolis the previous season when the team was a member of League Alliance:

“It is known to many that he was picked up in that sort of rascality last fall, and in the judgment of the elect he should never have been given his place again. He was only retained through the clemency of the directors, and his play all through the season thus far indicates that the confidence of the directory in his reformation was misplaced”

The Journal addressed the team’s directors directly:

“If they didn’t know it before, The Journal will hasten to inform them that the only way to make a club successful is to preserve its integrity.”

The paper was not waiting for an investigation and said Nolan, “should never be permitted to pitch another game for the Indianapolis club.”

Five days later the Indianapolis directors issued a letter reinstating Nolan, which said in part:

“The charges against you of crooked ballplaying have been carefully investigated and we fail to find proof of an irregularity on your part in this respect.”

The People noted:

“We believe the Scotch used to return the verdict ‘not proven,’ declining to take the responsibility of saying the accused was ‘Not guilty.’”

“The Only” beat Cincinnati in his first game back. A 9 to 5 victory: he committed one error and gave up just one earned run.  The Indianapolis News said he was, “Quite effective.”

The suspicions never completely dissipated. When Nolan was “batted out of his position” by Boston in 12 to 4 loss on July 14, O.P. Caylor in The Enquirer said:

“Suspend him again, Brother Petit.”

The Journal also questioned Nolan’s performance in the game with Boston:

“(He) acted in a very disagreeable manner and threw the game away from the start.”

Nolan’s relative honesty on the field was overshadowed in August by his general lack of honesty when, days after leaving the team for the funeral of his brother “William” in Paterson, New Jersey, The Chicago Tribune said:

“(He) has been acting strangely of late, and Thursday refused duty on the ground that his brother was daed…It appears from the best evidence at hand, that no brother was dead, or ill.”

He was su a pended by the club.

The Indianapolis News, in reporting Nolan’s expulsion acknowledged that “his habits have utterly ruined him,” but defended his integrity and used the occasion to take a shot at Caylor:

“Nolan’s expulsion is believed by the stockholders of the club to be caused by his bad habits ad not from crookedness. Last spring, in the knowledge of one of the stockholders, the gamblers of Cincinnati made several attempts to buy him and failed. That they did not succeed has prejudiced the reporter of The Cincinnati Enquirer against him to the full extent of his ability and from that time forward that paper has studiously abused and misrepresented not only Nolan but the entire Indianapolis club.”

Nolan was not reinstated until 1881 and had four more brief major league stints in the National League, American Association, and Union Association. He finished his career 23-52 record in 79 games with five different clubs.

Nolan’s hometown newspaper, The Patterson Morning Call said he gave up baseball in 1887—he was just 30—after signing a contract to play in the Eastern League:

“He was met by Mayor C.D. Beckwith of this city. The mayor offered him to name him to the police force.”

Sgt. Nolan

Nolan spent 16 years on the force, rising to the rank of sergeant; he died in Patterson in 1913.

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