Tag Archives: Davy Force

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.

Davy Force

28 Oct

David W. “Davy” Force was a popular figure in 19th Century baseball.  Francis Richter, founder and editor of The Sporting Life said the five-foot four-inch Force was, along with George Wright ”the two greatest shortstops of the early days of baseball.”  Nick Young, National League president, told Ren Mulford Jr. of The Cincinnati Enquirer that Force was second only to Wright as the greatest.

Davy Force

Davy Force

Force played in the National Association and National League from 1871 to 1886, and finished his professional career in the Western Association with the Sioux City Corn Huskers.

He remained popular, and well-known enough that multiple newspapers reported in 1890 that the former player “sided with the Brotherhood,” and supported the Players League; he even made news that year for growing a beard:  “Force has raised a crop of whiskers as long as himself. “

So when it was reported on Christmas Eve of 1896 that Force had shot and killed a man—a former ballplayer no less–in a San Francisco bar and then fled, the news was reported in papers across the country.

The Louisville Courier Journal:

Ball Player Kills Another

The Cincinnati Enquirer:

Old Cincinnati Ball Player Kills a Man in Frisco

The Salt Lake City Tribune:

Baseball Player Shoots Another Without Warning

The Chicago Tribune:

Police now on Lookout for Force

The Baltimore Sun:

‘Davy’ Force Wanted for Killing a Man

Towns where Force had been a popular player were quick to distance themselves.  The Sioux City Journal said that while fans “took a sort of paternal and patronizing interest” in Force when he played in Sioux City “the Golden Gate murder is quite another story…If he has been leading a wild, reckless life, possibly discouragements and vicissitudes have made a different man of him.”

The victim, Joseph Manning, was described as “an ex-ballplayer,” and in various articles was conflated with former big leaguers Jim Manning and Tim Manning.

Once it was determined Manning was not Jim or Tim, no one seemed to know anything about him.

Seven days after the murder, Abraham Mills, former National League president, issued a statement:

“I have known Davy Force almost continuously since I engaged him in 1867 to play in the Olympic Base Ball Club of Washington.  For the last seven years he has been in the employ of the company for which I am an officer, (The Otis Elevator Company) and is a steady, hard-working man, and I fully believe his statement that he never knew a Joseph Manning, and that he has never had any serious difficulty with or made any assault of any kind upon any ballplayer, either during or since his professional career.”

Mills’ statement was printed in only a fraction of the newspapers that reported the shooting.

The accusations faded, and by the time Force died in 1918 there was no mention of the case of mistaken identity in the ballplayer’s obituary.

Who exactly Joseph Manning was, and whether he was actually a professional baseball player, remains a mystery; as does the identity of the “Davy Force” who killed him in San Francisco.

“He must either admit that he sold yesterday’s game or acknowledge that he cannot play ball”

20 Aug

Heading into the 1875 season Chicago White Stockings manager Jimmy Wood was confident about his team’s chances.  The Chicago Tribune said:

“(Wood) says the men are strictly temperate, are all first-class ball players, and will enter the field without any of the petty jealousies and ill-feelings that weakened the nine last year.”

The St. Louis Democrat also printed “private” comments Wood made maligning the abilities of the Brown Stockings in comparison to his team.

Jimmy Wood

Jimmy Wood

Unfortunately for Wood the decline of the White Stockings began even before opening day.

The first blow to the team was what became known as “the Davy Force” case.  Force signed a contract to return to the White Stockings for the 1875 season on September 18, 1874; unfortunately for Chicago he also signed a contract to play for the Philadelphia athletics on December 5.  The Sporting News described the adjudication of the Force case:

“(In December) the matter was brought up and the judiciary committee (of the National Association) awarded Force to the Chicago club…At the spring meeting of the Association, held in Philadelphia, the Athletic club got in its political work.  Mr.(Charles) Sperling, of Philadelphia, was elected president of the Association, and he appointed a new judiciary committee which reversed the ruling of the old committee.”

The arbitrary nature of the new ruling—that Chicago did not have the right to sign Force for 1875 before the end of the 1874 season—enraged White Stocking President William Hulbert, and was one of the many complaints about how the National Association operated that led to the organization of the National League the following season.

With Force gone, Wood chose Dick Higham to be the team captain.  The 23-year-old Higham had played for the Baltimore Canaries and New York Mutuals, and Wood described him as “one of the surest and heaviest batters in the country, has experience and is a first-class base-runner. “  That perception of Higham quickly changed in Chicago.

Dick Higham

Dick Higham

Despite starting the season with an 11-2 record, the White Stockings were never going to catch the first place Boston Red Stockings, who won their first 26 games, and as the losing began team morale suffered.

As the team struggled, blame fell to Higham from fans, the press, and management.  The Tribune went so far as to question his integrity:

“It is not a pleasant thing to say of any ballplayer that his being left out of a nine increase interest of a game, but this is true of Higham; and yet he is one of the best players in the country when he wants to be…It may be Higham’s fault, or his misfortune, that he is suspected of purposely losing games.”

By the end of June Scott Hastings had replaced Higham as catcher (he was moved to second base) and he was stripped of his captaincy, which was given to outfielder John Glenn.

The Chicago Inter-Ocean had defended Higham in July declaring that there was “no tangible evidence” for the “charges…bandied about the streets,” but that would change by August after an 8 to 4 loss to the Athletics during which Higham “let balls go by him without attempting to stop them” and made two throwing errors:

“Higham’s play in yesterday’s game has caused some very ugly rumors to be circulated, in which he predominates as the leading character.  His play in the eighth inning was something extraordinary, and it was quite evident he did not want to save the Chicagos from defeat.  Many are fearless in asserting that he sold the game, and base their accusation on a circumstance that seems very plausible.  Probably Higham can explain what he was doing with a Chicago character at Pratt’s billiard hall waiting for the pool selling, and when he found out there was none what point he gave his companion when they both went to Foley’s and there bought pools on the Athletics.  Many persons, who claim to know, boldly assert that Higham was in partnership in the investments. ..He must either admit that he sold yesterday’s game or acknowledge that he cannot play ball.  In either case the Chicago management can easily do without him. “

The Tribune said the directors of the White Stockings had offered a $500 reward for evidence that any player had been “tampered with,” in any way:

“This offer is meant to cover proof that a player has received money to sell a game, or has promised to help lose a game with a view to profit.  The directors will not insist on absolute proof, such as the law would require, but will pay the reward named for evidence that will convince any fair man of the guilt of the accused party.”

It was never reported whether the reward was given to anyone, or if anyone made an effort to claim it.

On August 20 the White Stockings released Higham; as a result The Inter-Ocean said, “(T)he patrons of the game have begun to think more favorably of the nine, and generally remark that now they can witness an honest game.”

Higham finished the season with the New York Mutuals.  His unpleasant months in Chicago were not the first or last time his integrity was questioned.  While with the Mutuals in 1874 there were allegations that he had been involved in throwing a game against Chicago, and In 1882, Higham, while serving as a National League umpire, was dismissed for what The New York Times called, “’crookedness’ in his decisions in games between the Detroit and other clubs.”

During the drama over Higham, The Inter-Ocean also reported that utility infielder Joe Miller, who was slated to replace Higham at second base “had some misunderstanding,” with Wood and his “connection with the Chicago nine was severed.”

With the team mired in sixth place, and the former team captain chased out-of-town under a cloud of suspicion, it wasn’t surprising when the local papers started to predict the end of the line for the manager.

The Inter-Ocean not only said that the White Stockings would likely relieve Wood of his duties at the end of the year “attributable to his leniency to the players, which is truly a part of bad management,” but correctly speculated  “(Boston Red Stockings pitcher Albert)  Spalding will be the manager,” in 1876.

There’s one more chapter in the story of the 1875 White Stockings—tomorrow.

No Such Thing as “Off the Record”–Even in 1875

19 Aug

James Leon “Jimmy” Wood was a baseball pioneer.  The second baseman began his playing career as a 17-year-old in Brooklyn with the Eckfords in 1860.  After spending a decade as one of the best-known players on the East Coast Wood went to Chicago where he became the first manager of the newly formed White Stockings.

Wood is sometimes credited with being the man who invented spring training (a claim first advanced by Al Spink of The Sporting News) because in 1870 he took the Chicago team to New Orleans for a series of games with local teams, the Robert E. Lee’s, the Lone Stars, the Pelicans and the Southerns—most of those sources fail to mention that Harry Wright’s Red Stockings were in New Orleans at the same time.  (Wood’s reminiscences about the early days of the White Stockings coming up later this week).

Jimmy Wood, 1871

Jimmy Wood, 1871

Wood also managed the team the following season, when the White Stockings became one of the charter members of the National Association.  They finished second in 1871  but disbanded as a result of the great Chicago Fire in October.

Wood next played for and managed two teams that wouldn’t survive the year; the Troy Haymakers went bankrupt in July and the Brooklyn Eckfords who folded at the conclusion of a 3-26 1872 season.

After leading the Philadelphia Whites to a second place finish in 1873, Wood returned to Chicago and the newly re-formed White Stockings.

Wood was slated to play second and serve as captain, but would never play a game for the White Stockings or any other team.  After falling at his home during the spring of 1873, he developed an abscess on his leg, which kept him out of the lineup as the infection got worse.

In July The Chicago Tribune said:

“The well-known base ball player and former captain of the Chicago nine Jas. Wood, has had his leg amputated.  He has been unable to play this summer, owing to a disease of the bones, and has been under medical care for some months.  He was a most conscientious player, and has the esteem of all with whom he was connected.”

On August 20 The Chicago Inter-Ocean said Wood was named “manager of the club for the remainder of the present season and for the season of 1875.”  While he “officially” served as manager for the last 23 games of the season, both The Inter-Ocean and The Tribune said Wood was “unable to assume active duties,” and would be led on the field by team president William Hulbert (called “Hurlburt” by The Inter-Ocean).

By the spring of 1875, Wood had returned full-time to the management of the White Stockings, with plans to take the team for “two weeks of practice,” in April.

The Chicago manager had an off the record conversation with a reporter for The St. Louis Democrat in which he unfavorably compared the newly formed St. Louis Brown Stockings to his own team.  The paper printed the manager’s comments verbatim; even including his assertion that the comments were “private:”

“Now, said he, let us compare the players individually.  ‘For catcher there is (Tom) Miller and Higham; the former is inexperienced, poor runner, fair batter, and the only catcher you have, while Dick Higham is one of the surest and heaviest batters in the country, has experience and is a first-class base-runner.  (George) Bradley and (George) Zettlein—Zett is a poor batter and runner, to be sure, but on a pitch you ought to know as much as I can tell you.  I do not know anything about Bradley, but, if (Jim) Devlin pitches, I think we have the best of it, as he was second on our batting list last season.  First base, (Herman) Dehlman and (John) Glenn,  the former may play the base the best, but in batting, base running and general playing, Glenn can discount him.  Second base, (John) Peters and (Joe) Battin.  Well, I won’t compare notes with them, as anyone ought to know that Peters is head and shoulders above Battin in every respect.  (Davy) Force and (Dickey) Pearce, shortstop.  There is no better player in the country than Force, he being one of the very best batters.  Pearce has been one of the best, but, I think his race is run.  This is private, remember(Frank) Fleet and Warren White, third base.  Why just think of it; there is as much difference in them as in Battin and Peters.  White is first-class at the bat, and led the score on the Baltimore team last season, and is a fine base-runner in the bargain, while Fleet is not as good, by a jug full.  (Ned) Cuthbert and (Paul) Hines, left field.  The latter took balls away out in Cuthey’s field last season (Hines had played left field, with Cuthbert in center for the White Stockings the previous season).  Hines stands better at the bat—Cuthey is a fast baserunner.  (Lip) Pike and (Oscar) Bielaski center field.  Pike is the hardest batter, but no surer than Bielaski, while both are about the same in the field, they being the fastest runners in the country.  (Jack “Death to Flying Things”) Chapman and (Winfield Scott) Hastings right field.  The former won’t begin to show up with Hastings, as he is one if the finest batters and catchers in the business.

“’Take us all in all we are much stronger at the bat.  While St. Louis has but Pike and Cuthbert for base runners, we have but one poor base-runner in Zett; all the others are first class.  We have change pitchers and catchers—St. Louis has not.  If we don’t beat St. Louis eight out of ten games, we deserve to be thrown into the lake.’”

Dickey Pearce, "his race is run," according to Wood

Dickey Pearce, “his race is run,” according to Wood

A few of the players Wood referred to in early March ended up playing different positions, or like Davy Force, of whom Wood said “There is no better player in the country,” didn’t play for the White Stockings at all.

Regardless, he underestimated the ability of most of the St. Louis’ roster, while wildly inflating his club’s prospects; Wood’s team would underperform all season, finishing 30-37 in sixth place, behind the fourth place (39-29) Brown Stockings.

Wood wildly overestimated the quality of his team and presided over a season of dysfunction and scandal.  More on the 1875 White Stockings tomorrow.