Tag Archives: Cincinnati Red Stockings

“The Things That Bring Good Luck to the Various Clubs”

26 Nov

In 1886, The St, Louis Post-Dispatch noted:

“Gamblers and old women are not the only ones who are given to superstitious observations of signs and to the carrying of luck tokens…Baseball players are more given to that sort of thing of late years than any other class of men.”

Under the Headline The Things That Bring Luck to the Various Clubs, the paper laid out the different “mascottic tastes” of the teams.

The paper said the success of the Cincinnati Red Stockings the previous season, was attributed in part to “Kid Baldwin’s pink jersey,” but the team’s fortunes turned in 1886 after:

“(A)fter a St. Louis laundry women’s daughter eloped in ‘Kid’s’ jersey and the club is now in last place.”

The Louisville Colonels had recently found a new “lucky hanger-on,” for a mascot; a calf born with a caul—the rare instance has long been the subject of superstition. The team took the calf ad proceeded to take five out of six games from the defending champion St. Louis Brown Stockings.

Pete Browning of the Colonels,“(C)arries a loaded die in the hip pocket of his knickerbockers for luck.  Before a recent game somebody took the die out of Pete’s pocket and he failed to make a hit that day,” ending a long hitting streak.

petebrowning

Pete Browning

The paper said that Brown Stockings captain Charles Comiskey and third baseman Arlie Latham disagreed on the best mascot for the team:

“Comiskey argued in favor of a mule, for which he has a kindly fellow feeling, and he said he knew where he could get one cheap.  Latham held out for (a small white) mouse because he owned one and won the day, though Comiskey still believed in the efficacy of the mule, and had his heel spikes made out of a cast-off shoe from the foot of his favorite animal.”

The mouse died–suffocating when Latham, carrying the mouse, got in a fight with teammate Doc Bushong—right around the time Louisville acquired their calf and the Brown Stockings dropped those five games to Louisville,

The Post-Dispatch said New York Giants President John Day had recently had a prospect for a new mascot for the team:

“(He) tore his hair out the other day when he was informed that the youngster born with a full beard in Williamsburg had died. Day was sure that he would have in him one of the best mascots in the country.”

The paper noted the better known mascots, “Little Willie Hahn,” of the Chicago White Stockings and Charlie Gallagher of the Detroit Wolverines—who was said to have been born with a full set of teeth—and said of other National League clubs:

williehahn

Willie Hahn

“The Bostons never had a mascot because they haven’t luck enough to find one.  The Washington and Kansas City teams are unable to get a mascot to even look at them.”

And concluded:

“The strangest thing about a baseball mascot is that he is occasionally traitorous and transfers his services to the other side without the slightest warning.  He will never play with a cripples, badly-managed or broken-up team, and as soon as a club begins to go down hill it is a clear case of desertion by the mascot.”

 

 

“An Impenetrable Mystery Surrounds the Whereabouts of Arlie Latham”

13 Aug

Arlie Latham was missing.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch said:

 “An impenetrable mystery surrounds the whereabouts of Arlie Latham, the great third baseman of the Brownstocking Club.”

In two days, the defending American Association champion Browns were scheduled to play a preseason “World’s Championship” series with the National League champion Chicago White Stockings, and Latham was missing.

The paper said there were “wild-eyed” rumors that Latham had arrived in town and was at the home of his mother in law, “Mrs. Garvin, No. 2315 Chestnut Street.”

lathampix

Arlie Latham

The Garvin’s next door neighbor even “came downtown…and stated positively that he had seen Latham on (April 3) walking around the yard and removing clothes lines from the back fence or engaged in some equally domestic occupation.”

The paper said there were several stories circulating about Latham:

“(T)hat (Browns) President (Chris) von der Ahe had seen him and knows that he is here…(they) understand each other and have prepared a big surprise for the audience at the opening game…and that all the differences between them as to salary has been amicably settled.”

Or:

“Latham is laid up at his wife’s mother’s house on Chestnut Street and is suffering with malarial fever.”

Or:

“The present abode of Latham (is) a mystery.”

The final story was based on the fact that “numerous letters” were waiting for Latham unclaimed at the Laclede Hotel “where he generally stops when in the city.”

The paper sent a reporter to the Garvin house to interrogate Latham’s mother in law:

“The bell was answered by the lady herself, who when Latham was asked for, replied:

“’Mr. Latham is not here.’

“’When did he leave?’

“’Last fall some time.’”

Mrs. Garvin said she had received a letter the da before from her daughter who she said was in Lynn, Massachusetts.

Mrs. Garvin asked the reporter:

“’What interest do you take in Mr. Latham?’

“Don’t you know the Browns are going to play the Chicagos Thursday?’

“’No, I didn’t know anything about that.’”

The reporter told Mrs. Garvin there were reports Latham had been seen at her home:

“’Well, I can’t see how anybody could say such a thing.’”

The Post-Dispatch then sought an answer from the Browns owner:

“Extensive questioning could bring no definite answer from President von der Ahe regarding the mystery.”

The Browns owner did tell the paper:

“No, you can put that down positively he has not signed with the club, and what’s more I’m not going to come to his terms.’

“’What does he want?’

“’Well, he says he won’t play with us this year unless I pay him $2800, and I’ll never do that.”

vonderahe

von der Ahe

According to von der Ahe, he offered Latham $2500 for the season:

“’I’ve made him an offer that is sufficiently good for his services, and if he doesn’t want to sign for that, he needn’t.’”

When the Browns opened the series, Latham was still missing.  Eight thousand people turned out for the first game against Chicago and Lou Sylvester played third.  The Browns lost six to three.

But, apparently, the reports that Latham was in town were incorrect.

The Post-Dispatch said von der Ahe received a telegram from Latham during the game saying he would be in St. Louis that evening.

The Chicago Tribune said Latham accepted $2500 for the 1887 season.

Latham arrived in St. Louis on the evening of April 7, and started for the Browns the next day, The Post-Dispatch said:

“Latham shows up in excellent for and guards their third bag.”

He went 0 for 2 with two walks in a seven to four Browns victory.

The White Stockings won the series four games to two.  Latham hit .440 with 11 hits in 25 at bats.  The regular season started the day after the series.

The Browns won another American Association championship in 1887, finishing 14 games ahead of the Cincinnati Red Stockings.

Latham, arguably, had his best season.  He hit .316, and with the loose scoring for stolen bases in 1887 he had 129.

Bed Check, 1887

31 May

In 1887, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch set out to find out “How managers watch their players on the road.”

 

schmelz

Gus Schmelz

 

The paper spoke to Gus Schmelz, manager of the Cincinnati Red Stockings of the American Association; the previous season, Schmelz managed the National League St. Louis Maroons:

“He thinks, of course, that all good ball-players should retire early, and regards plenty of sleep as conducive to good condition.  Most managers agree with him on this head and some of them have difficult tasks in seeing that their men are under the cover at the proper hour. This is particularly true when the club is on the road and when the aggregation is anxious to have a good time with their friends in the city.”

The paper said Jim Mutrie of the New York Giants had what he thought was a great plan to ensure his players were in bed early:

“(H)e keeps a book which he leaves with the hotel clerk who checks off the players’ names with the hour of their application for the key and late comers may expect free lectures the morning following.  This plan is an excellent one, but it may be news to Mutrie to know that some of his pets return as early as 10 o’clock for their keys, are checked off in regular order and after ascending in the elevator to their rooms, as it were, return by the stairway when all is quiet, and come back in the small hours.”

As for John “Kick” Kelly, the new manager of the Louisville Colonels:

“Kelly says his plan is to wait up for the boys, and hammer at their doors until the whole club is housed, but even this plan is easily circumvented by the ingenious players who rack their brains for schemes to outwit their keepers.”

 

kickkelly

Kick Kelly

 

The only manager who had a plan that was working well, according to the paper, was:

“One of the most prominent and best-known managers in the country, whose name it is unnecessary to mention, has recently adopted a new plan for keeping track of his men, and from which there seems no loop-hole of escape. His orders to his men are that everyone should be asleep by 11 o’clock, thus giving them ample time for repose.  When traveling, this rigorous manager waits at the hotel desk until the hands of the clock point to 10:30, and then every key in the rack which opens his rooms is turned over to him.  These he carries with him to his own, and the tardy player must rouse him up and obtain his key or else stay away during the whole night.  In either case, the unfortunate man has a sure guarantee of a sound tongue-threshing, if not a comfortable fine.  The plan has operated with immense success thus far, but whether it will continue to do so remains to be seen.”

Stealing Bats, 1889

26 May

In 1889, The Cincinnati Enquirer said of the quest the average ballplayer made to secure a bat to his liking:

“The average ball-player has trouble in securing a bat of the size and weight to suit his fancy.  He will run over the stock of bats in sporting goods stores, buy pieces of wood and have them turned, and go miles to secure the article, but the season may be half over before he will find one that suits him exactly.  When he does find one to his fancy he will have trouble in keeping it, as opposing players will try to steal it.”

The paper said theft was so common:

“A bat is looked at as common property, and there is no crime in base-ball to swipe a bat providing you do it without getting caught.”

The Enquirer said John Reilly of the Red Stockings was a “Bat crank,” and “(H)as a mania for hunting good sticks.’”   Reilly was asked if he ever had a bat stolen:

“’I should say I did,’ was John’s reply.  ‘There are ball-players who make a business of stealing good bats.  I never knew Pete Browning to ‘swipe’ a bat, but you can get a trade out of the Gladiator at any stage of the game.  He has always got a stick or two to trade, and about the first thing he does when he strikes a lot is to size up the opposing club’s pile of bats and tries to drive a bargain.”

 

reilly

John Reilly

 

Reilly said there was a problem with Browning’s trades:

“Some of the Louisville players complain that Pete never trades his own bats, but grabs the first one he runs across in the Louisville pile.”

As for Browning’s use of heavy bats, Reilly said:

“Pete uses the heaviest bat of any man in the business…he had one here once that must have weighed twelve pounds.  It felt like it had an iron sash weight in the end of it.  Once, when I was in Louisville, I saw a bat floating around in a bath tub in the clubhouse.  ‘Whose bat is that? I inquired.  ‘it belongs to me,’ replied Pete:  ‘I put it in there so it will get heavy.”

petebrowning

Pete Browning

Reilly also told the story of “a splendid stick,” that had been stolen from his team in 1888.  Hick Carpenter had acquired the bat in a trade with John Sneed of the New Orleans Pelicans:

“(N)early all the players were using it.  We had it until sometime in May when it disappeared.  That was the last we saw of it until the Clevelands came around late in the summer.  One of our players saw the bat in the Cleveland club’s pile, and at once claimed It.  The Clevelands stopped the game and would not play until the bat was returned.  (Charles “Pop”) Snyder said it might belong to us, but he didn’t know anything about it.  He claimed that Tip O’Neill, of the St. Louis Browns brought it to Cleveland and forgot it, and that (Ed) McKean took it.  We had to give it up”

Reilly said another bat had been stolen from him in 1888:

“I cut the letter ‘R’ in the knob of the handle…I did not run across it again until late in the season in Brooklyn.  The bat had been painted and the knob sawed half in two to get rid of the little ‘R.’ I claimed the bat but did not get it”

Reilly said the New York Metropolitans, the American Association franchise that folded in 1887, were:

“(T)he best bat swipers in the business. They would leave New York on a trip with an empty bat bag and after they had played on a few lots they would have bats to sell.”

“Base-ball Established as a Business calls upon us to revise our Notions of its Usefulness”

16 Feb

Concern over the post-Civil War baseball boom was not isolated to obscure, financially troubled newspapers.  Shortly after The Harrisburg Topic editorialized on the “silly, even foolish” attention to baseball, The New York Times weighed in on the subject.

While not as staunchly against the game as their Pennsylvania counterparts, The Times had serious concerns:

“The game of baseball is, in many respects, worthy of encouragement.  In a community by far too much given to sedentary occupations and dyspepsia, it furnishes and incentive to open-air exercise, and we should be glad to see it even more resorted to than it is, among the class who would profit most by its benefits.”

Yes, said The Times, baseball was a fine outlet for “our merchants and lawyers and over-worked clerks, after their day of harassing mental labor,” but what loomed on the horizon was the cause for grave concern:

“It is one of the defects of our national character, however, that no sooner do we get hold of a good thing of this sort, than we proceed to make it hurtful by excess.  Base-ball as a recreation was well enough, but base-ball established as a business calls upon us to revise our notions of its usefulness.”

The new, professional game, said The Times, even lacked the one benefit the paper supported—a healthy outlet for players:

“On the contrary, it is so dangerous to life and limb, that in insurance language it would be labeled extra hazardous.  Fatal accidents on the ball-filed have been so common of late as hardly to excite remark, and maiming is the rule and not the exception among members of first-class clubs.  One of the best players of the Red Stockings was so injured in a recent match that he is unable to walk without crutches. (George Wright injured his right leg in an August game in Cincinnati against the Troy Haymakers).  In fact a veteran base-ball player, whose teeth have not been knocked out, or whose bones have not been repeatedly broken, is a lucky rarity.”

George Wright

George Wright

And, like many of the other voices against the growing popularity of the game, The Times said the “moral aspect of our national game” was the most troubling issue:

“At its best, it is an excuse for gambling; at its worst, a device for viler ‘jockeying’ and swindling than ever disgraced the turf.”

The professional game was a scourge that needed to be dealt with:

“It seems time, therefore, that we should ask ourselves what is to be gained by giving to the business of ball-tossing the consideration and importance which seem ludicrously disproportionate to the subject, and are well calculated to seduce the unthinking into profitless pursuit.  Perhaps we may set down to the score of journalistic hyperbole the assertion of one Western paper that the dissolution of the Red Stocking Club would be a national calamity.; but nonsense hardly less preposterous is hourly talked and telegraphed over the country on the same topic.  The spectacle of grave merchants calling a public meeting and subscribing thousands of dollars to establish a club which shall be able to beat another club is sufficiently diverting.  But when we come to have printed in our telegraphic column, side by side, with the war dispatches, and scarcely yielding to them in importance, the various interesting announcements, first, that John Smith has been expelled from the Pipkinsville B.B. Club for getting drunk, and then, next day, that he has been restored, apparently for the same reason, and that the fact has been a matter for public rejoicing, amusement in tinctured with disgust.  We are tempted to suspect that we have been worshipping a very senseless idol and that a young man of health and energy may find many ways of earning a livelihood more creditable to himself and more profitable to his country than by playing in baseball matches.”

Despite the concern about the press “worshipping a very senseless idol,” The Times continued to dutifully report baseball stories at the same rate as the paper had before the editorial; including the November announcement that the Red Stockings were disbanding.

“Dunnie’s” Narrow Escape

28 Jul

Samuel Morrison “Dunnie” Dungan returned home to Southern California in 1889 after graduating from Eastern Michigan University– the Michigan State Normal School– and joined the F.N. Hamilton’s a powerful San Diego-based semi-pro team that included 39-year-old Cal McVey, a member of Harry Wright’s Cincinnati and Boston Red Stockings teams from  1869 through 1875 (with a detour to Baltimore in 1873).

In the spring of 1890 the Oakland Colonels, champions of the California League in 1889 recruited Dungan to catch for them during a series of exhibition games in Los Angeles.  The Oakland squad did not impress Southern California critics.  The San Diego Union said:

“It is drawing it mild to say that it was the rottenest game that been played on the ground.  If it was not a fake, than the Oaklands cannot play ball.  Do they suppose up about San Francisco and Oakland that they can bring down to Southern California a lot of boys and show the Southerners how to play ball?”

Samuel Dungan

Samuel Dungan

The Union said the Hamiltons, as well as two other San Diego teams, the Schiller & Murthas and the Llewellyns “can beat the Oakland team out of sight.”

The paper said only one player stood out:

“Dungan, the San Diego catcher, who caught for the Oaklands both days, was about the only redeeming feature of that club…And he does not pretend to be a professional.”

As a result of his play during the exhibitions, Dungan was signed by the Colonels;  he still caught occasionally but was now primarily an outfielder.  Team owner Colonel Thomas P. Robinson was unable to restrain his enthusiasm when Dungan was signed, telling The Oakland Tribune:

“I believe Dungan is the greatest batter we’ve ever had here—better than (Lou) Hardie or (Vince) Dailey, the latter of whom I rank as the best of the old men.”

Fred Carroll, a California native who played with the Pittsburgh Burghers in the Players League in 1890, called Dungan “the only scientific batter on this coast.”

Statistics are incomplete for the 1890 California League season, but both The Tribune and The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Dungan was the league’s batting champion.  The Los Angeles Herald said he hit .332.  The Colonels finished third in the four-team league.  The Tribune said it was “probable that Dungan will go East.”

He was first rumored to be heading to be heading to the Washington Statesmen in the American Association but ended up signing with the Western Association’s Milwaukee Brewers.

It was Dungan’s departure from the West Coast in the spring of 1891 that led to the biggest headlines of his career.

The San Francisco Chronicle told the story:

“Sam Dungan, the ballplayer who was with Oakland last season and who led the California League in batting, is being pursued by an irate wife who says she will follow him to the end of the earth if necessary to again clasp him in her arms.  It seems that last year among the many conquests Dungan made in Oakland was Miss Mamie Bodgard.  She became wild over him, and at last was introduced to him.  After the season Dungan came south to his home in Santa Ana, but communication between himself and Miss Bodgard kept up.  She sent him many dainty perfumed notes.  Finally the marriage of the couple was announced and it created no great surprise.

“Now comes the thrilling part of this story.  Two hours after the marriage had taken place (in Los Angeles) Dungan left his bride and journeyed to Santa Ana, where he had an interview with his parents, who are well and favorably known and rank among the leading families.  Sam is a college graduate and was the idol of his parents.  Mrs. Dungan also journeyed to Santa Ana.  She did not go to the home of the Dungan’s, but went to the Richelieu Hotel.  She is a most pronounced brunette, rather petite, and is reported to have a temper.  The couple had parted, and the news of the separation soon became noised around.  Mrs. Dungan consulted a lawyer to have her ‘hubby’ restrained from leaving Santa Ana, but the heavy hitter eluded his young wife and started for Milwaukee, giving his bride the slip at Orange, she being on the same train with him that far.”

The jilted bride told a reporter for The Los Angeles Herald that she was “a grass widow,” but vowed to pursue Dungan to Milwaukee.  Mrs. Dungan’s trip to Milwaukee was unsuccessful.

A year later The Herald reported that a court in Santa Ana had awarded Mrs. Dungan $25 a month  “and she is very elated in consequence.”  She was said to have gone to Milwaukee twice the previous year and had taken to reading “Sammy’s love letters on the street corners,” of Santa Ana:

“Mrs. Dungan is an excellent dresser and is an exceptionally handsome woman.  She doubtless could be induced to kiss and make up, but the parents of her husband stand in the way of a reconciliation.  The Dungan’s are anxious to have Sam get a divorce, but he  can’t very well, and Mrs. Dungan says: ‘Never in a thousand years.'”

A divorce was finally granted in 1893.  Sam Dungan remarried in 1900.

Dungan went on to play parts of five seasons in the major leagues, mostly with the Chicago Colts and had a .301 career batting average.  He was an excellent minor league hitter, putting up several excellent seasons—including averages of .447, .424 and .372 in 1894, ’95, ’97 with the Detroit Creams and Detroit Tigers in the Western League. He also hit a league-leading .337 in 1900 for the Kansas City Blues in the inaugural season of the American League.

Dungan returned home to Santa Ana after retiring at the close of the 1905 season and participated in many old-timers games in Southern California.  The Santa Ana Register reported on his heroics during a 1924 fundraising game for former player Ed Householder who was dying of stomach cancer—Dungan joined Sam Crawford, Gavvy Cravath, Fred Snodgrass and other West Coast baseball legends for the game in Los Angeles:

“Yesterday, Dungan, now a prosperous Santa Ana resident and rancher, proved that years have not dimmed the remarkable eye nor time deprived the power from his arms and shoulders that enabled him, year after year, to outhit the other big league players of his day.

“Dungan rapped out a two-bagger with two men on the cushions in the tenth inning.  This blow broke up the game.  Previously Dungan had smashed out three other bingles.  Thus, Dungan of Santa Ana, the oldest man on the field in point of years, was the heaviest hitter just as he used to be years ago.”

Dungan died in Santa Ana in 1939.

“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.

“Show yourself a man, Borchers, and Leave Boozing to the Weak Fools”

10 Feb

After defeating the Boston Beaneaters and “Old Hoss” Radbourn in his major league debut, George Borchers returned to the mound five days later in Chicago and beat the Philadelphia Quakers and William “Kid” Gleason 7 to 4.

With two wins in two starts the 19-year-old Borchers was, according to The New York Evening World, one of the most sought after players in the National League:

“There are several league clubs who would like to get hold of Borchers, the latest Chicago wonder, the only thing in the way of his acquisition is the $10,000 (the White Stockings were asking).”

Chicago probably should have sold Borchers while there was interest.  He injured his arm sometime in June, missed most of July, and according to White Stockings Manager “Cap” Anson “lacks the heart to stand heavy punishment.”

George Borchers

George Borchers

After his fast start, Borchers was just 4-4 in 10 starts when Chicago released him and Chicago’s other 19-year-old “phenom” Willard “Grasshopper” Mains (1-1 in 2 games) on September 6.

The Chicago Tribune said Borchers was on his way to Cincinnati to play for the Red Stockings, “he has plenty on speed and good curves, and it will not be surprising if he makes a success in the American Association.”

After the Cincinnati deal failed to materialize, Borchers accepted $100 in advance money to join the Stockton franchise in the California League.  After receiving the money he never showed up in Stockton.

No less a figure than the “Father of Baseball,” Henry Chadwick held out hope that Borchers would eventually be a successful pitcher:

“There is a chance that a first-class pitcher, who played in the Chicago team last season, is going to reform the bad habits which led to his release by Captain Anson in August (sic) last. I refer to Borchers.   (John Montgomery) Ward told me that Borchers was a very promising pitcher, and had he kept himself straight be would undoubtedly have made his mark. I learn that be is going to try and recover his lost ground, and if be shows the possession of the moral courage to reform, and the intelligence to keep temperate, he will yet find his way to fame and fortune. Show yourself a man, Borchers, and leave boozing to the weak fools of the fraternity who indulge in it at the cost of a fair name and of pecuniary independence.”

Borchers didn’t appear ready to “reform.”  Between the 1888 and ’89 season, according to The San Francisco Chronicle, he signed a contract to play for the Canton Nadjys in the Tri-State League, receiving $100 in advance money and also signed a contract with that Kansas City Cowboys in the American Association, receiving a $300 advance.

In February of ’89 Borchers was awarded to Canton.  Kansas City offered to purchase his contract.  Canton Manager William Harrington said in The Sporting Life that “Borchers will play in Canton or not at all.”

Borchers left for California.

Upon arriving in Sacramento Borchers was arrested as a result of the Stockton contract.  The Los Angeles Herald said:

“George Borchers, the well-known baseball player, was arrested this afternoon on a warrant from Stockton, charging him with having received money by false pretenses.”

Borchers pleaded guilty and paid a fine in March.  In April he attempted to sign with the Sacramento Altas.  The San Jose Evening News said:

“Sacramento being in need of a pitcher, induced Borchers to agree to play there and asked the Stockton Club to allow him to do so.  This President Campbell (of Stockton) refused and the league directors have sustained the action.”

The California League ruled Borchers ineligible for the season.

With too much time on his hands, Borchers couldn’t stay out of trouble.  The Associated Press reported on June 27:

“Shortly after 11 o’clock tonight a barn belonging to Mrs. Borchers, mother of George Borchers, the well-known baseball pitcher, was destroyed by fire, causing a loss of nearly $1000.  When the Fire Department arrived on the scene George Borchers tried to prevent the firemen from fighting the flames.  He was drunk and very boisterous.  Finally Chief Engineer O’Meara ordered his arrest.  When two officers took him in custody he fought desperately, and had to be handcuffed and placed in a wagon before he could be got to prison.”

The story said Borchers, who “has been loafing about town (Sacramento) for several months, drinking heavily” had made threats that he’d burn down the barn because his mother would not give him any more money.  Mrs. Borchers had “recently expended a large sum of money to get him out of trouble at Stockton.”

Whether his mother paid his way out of this or not is unknown, but the charges against Borchers went away, and he spent the remainder of the 1889 baseball season pitching for a semi-pro team in Merced, California.

He returned to the California League on March 23, 1890 when he pitched for Stockton in the season opener against the Haverlys at San Francisco’s Haight Street Grounds.  Borchers and Stockton lost 11 to 5.

His time in the league would be short.

In Early May he began complaining of a sore arm; The San Francisco Call said that “Borchers is known to have received an offer from the New York Brotherhood (Players League) Club and the Stockton directors think he’s playing for his release.”

On May 11 Borchers, according to The Sacramento Bee arrived at the ballpark in Stockton, on horseback and “extremely drunk.”  Catcher/Manager Mike DePangher sent Borchers home.  Borchers instead went on a bender that ended the following evening in a Stockton restaurant where he was arrested for being drunk and disorderly.

The Call said:

“If he took this means to sever his connection with the Stockton Club and join the Brotherhood, he not only brought disgrace in more sense than one upon himself, but has probably ruined his chance of an Eastern engagement.”

Borchers was fined $10 in court, the Stockton club fined him $100 and suspended him for the remainder of the season and sold his contract to Portland in the Pacific Northwest League–but not before the Sacramento Senators attempted to use him in a game.  The Call said Stockton protested:

“(Sacramento) Manager (George) Ziegler thought it best not to play him.  When George was informed that he was not to play he good-naturedly said:  ‘All right, old man,’ and then added, ‘One suspension, one release, all in two weeks.’”

George Ziegler

George Ziegler

On June 1 he won his first start for Portland, beating Spokane 7 to 6.  The Oregonian said “Borchers pitched a splendid game for the Portlands.”

Borchers split the remainder of the season between Portland and Spokane, compiling a 14-14 record with a 1.44 ERA.  When the Pacific Northwest League season ended Borchers returned home to play in the California League again; The Sacramento Record-Union printed a letter from his manager at Spokane, William “Kid” Peeples:

“Borchers has been pitching ball out of sight, and has not tasted a drop of liquor while up north.  He says he is going to stay straight, and finish the season with the Sacramentos.  He will have all the California boys guessing, as he did here.”

The San Francisco Call said Borchers was “a dismal disappointment” after he lost his first two starts for the second place Senators—both losses were against the league-leading San Francisco Haverlys.  San Francisco Manager Mike Finn filed a protest with the league, claiming Borchers should be declared ineligible because he was still on the reserve list of the Spokane club.

Mike Finn, manager, San Francisco Haverlys

Mike Finn, manager, San Francisco Haverlys

In his third start Borchers allowed Stockton to score three runs in the first inning on five walks and a wild pitch, but settled down and won 7 to 6. He beat Stockton again three days later, 15 to 10. The Record-Union criticized all four of his performances and said he had reverted to “his old ways.”

The 21-year-old finished the 1890 season with a 2-2 record for the second place Senators; San Francisco won the championship.  At the end of the season the California League upheld Finn’s protest over Borchers and fined Sacramento $500.

The rest of the George Borchers story on Wednesday.

Harry Wright Returns to Cincinnati

17 Dec

In 1871, Harry Wright took several of his Red Stockings players, as well as the team name, moved to Boston and joined the newly formed National Association.  Wright’s exit from Cincinnati was contentious, but despite that he was invited back for an exhibition game in July between his former team and a “picked nine” consisting of the members of Wright’s current team and the Washington Olympics.

Advertisement for the July 3, 1871 game

Advertisement for the July 3, 1871, game

The Cincinnati Enquirer said the two thousand people in attendance indicated “that the interest in base-ball is not dead in this city, but only needs the stimulus of first-class games to awaken it to renewed life.”

The paper said:

“The old Reds did not have the services of George Wright (who was injured), and did not play with the skill characteristic of them in 1868-’69, which may have been due to fact that there was nothing at stake than gate money.”

Albert Spalding pitched for the “picked nine” and beat Wright’s club, with Asa Brainard pitching, 15-13. The Enquirer said former Cincinnati players Cal McVey and Charlie Gould, who both joined Wright in Boston, “have improved in their batting powers.”

Wright’s team led 10 to 4 through five innings, but the opponents posted a five-run sixth which included a home run by Davy Force and added two in the seventh and three in the eighth.

The box score

The box score

One sign that all might not have yet been forgiven in Cincinnati:  while Harry Wright was listed in the box score and the inning-by-inning recap of the game, The Enquirer didn’t use his full name in any of the game advertisements or articles.

Professional baseball returned to Cincinnati in 1876 when the reds became an inaugural member of the National league.

“If Jones Refrains from any more ‘Baby’ Whining”

17 Sep

In June of 1877 the struggling– financially and on the field–Cincinnati Reds disbanded.  The defending champion Chicago White Stockings, mired in fifth place in the six-team league, signed Reds second baseman Jimmy Hallinan and outfielder Charley Jones.

Both players had signed with Chicago believing there was no chance that the Cincinnati franchise would be saved.  Some stories claim Lewis E. Meacham of The Chicago Tribune, who worked with White Stockings President William Hulbert to organized the National League, got Hallinan drunk and convinced him to sign. There were also non-specific, unsubstantiated rumors of “coercion”  being used to secure Jones.

Within days enough money was raised by the Reds new president J.M. Wayne Neff to continue the operation of the club, and Jones made it clear he wasn’t happy to be in Chicago; the Chicago press wasn’t particularly happy with Jones either.

Charley Jones

Charley Jones

When the White Stockings new outfielder failed to join the team before two straight losses in Hartford to the Dark Blues, The Chicago Inter Ocean said:

“(I)f Jones refrains from any more ‘baby’ whining, and shows up like a man and a reputable ball-player there should be no reason why the nine should not win.”

Jones officially became a White Stocking on June 26, an 11-0 win over the St. Louis Brown Stockings; Jones had a single in four at bats.  Two days later they beat St.. Louis again 6 to 2, Jones was 2 for 4 with two RBIs.

During those three days the Reds were petitioning the National League to return Jones  to Cincinnati (they made no effort to reacquire Hallinan), Hulbert refused and the league refused to force the issue.  A prominent Cincinnati attorney, Edgar M. Johnson sent a letter to the White Stockings requesting that Jones be released, the letter read in part:

“We, as you probably know, have succeeded in reorganizing the base-ball club here.  The task has been a hard one, and even now we find that it will be almost impossible for us to get along without Jones…I ask you, as a favor that our club will always appreciate, that you will honorably release Jones and permit him to rejoin us.”

On June 30 Charley Jones’ two-game career with Chicago came to an end.

The Cincinnati Enquirer announced that an agreement had been reached, Hulbert had agreed to release Jones and “recognized the fact that (Jones’ contract) had been obtained in an unfair manner.”

The Chicago Tribune saw the situation differently; Hulbert made a “graceful concession to the evident feeling in Cincinnati,” and by releasing Jones carried out “the idea of doing what he could for the new (Reds) club.”

Chicago papers were quick to point out to their readers that the release of Jones, and the signing of former Philadelphia Athletics outfielder Dave Eggler to take his place, would not hurt the White Stockings:

The Inter Ocean:

“Eggler is generally considered a fine ballplayer, and there are many who think a much better fielder, runner and batter than Jones.  Last year his record in all of these important points was far in advance of Jones’.’’

The Tribune:

“There can be no doubt that Eggler will fully fill Jones’ place and the club will certainly lose nothing by the change.”

Dave Eggler

Dave Eggler

Eggler hit .265 in 33 games in Chicago.  Jones hit .313 for the Reds.

The White Stockings finished in fifth place with a 26-33 record, the Reds were sixth with a 15-42 record.

Speaking of Charley Jones

Jones (born Benjamin Wesley Rippay) was once, for a short period in the 1880s, baseball’s all-time home run leader.  He hit 56 in a 12-year career from 1875 to 1888.  He missed 1881-82 after being blacklisted from the National League because of a dispute over money owed to him by Boston Red Stockings owner Arthur Soden, despite his claim being upheld in court.  He returned to major league baseball with the Cincinnati Red Stockings in the American Association in 1883.

Colorful was a word often used in regard to Jones; and probably his most colorful mention in the press came between the 1885 and ’86 seasons.  The Cincinnati Star-Times reported on some unrest in the Jones household:

“Charles W. Jones, the well-known base ball player, was accosted by his wife Monday night, while he was making himself agreeable to another woman.  Mrs. Jones threw cayenne pepper in her spouse’s eyes causing such intense suffering that he had to be taken to the hospital.”

While there was no report of any lasting effects, Jones’ batting average did drop 52 points; from .322 in 1885 to .270 in 1886.