Tag Archives: Dickey Pearce

“The Brown Stockings, A Gloomy Title”

14 Sep

Shortly before the 1875 National Association season, the St. Louis Brown Stockings visited Louisville to play an exhibition against the semi-pro Olympics.

The Louisville Courier-Journal wrote with admiration about the building of a professional club in St. Louis:

“The signs of the times indicate a far livelier season of base ball than has ever been enjoyed in America by lovers of the great national pastime.  Especially will this be the case in the west, to which part of our country the great baseball wave has been slowly moving for several years.”

The paper said St. Louis was acting to eclipse Chicago as the “capital” of baseball in the west:

“In order to be honorably represented in the base ball arena, the Mound City folks formed a stock company; gathered in $20,000 from wealthy merchants and millionaires, procured twelve experts in the national game, and now the city smiles while she thinks how her club will walk forward to the pinnacle of fame this year.”

Recruited from “Eastern states,” The Courier-Journal said of the St. Louis team:

“The Brown Stockings, a gloomy title for so gay a set of fellows, though it is rather the fault of St. Louis papers than the base ballists, that they are forced to wear it.  All in all, the St. Louis club is composed of as handsome a set of fellows as ever handled the willow or tossed the ball.  We refer to face as well as form.  Since their engagement by a St. Louis stock company the base-ballists have been under gymnastic training…The members have perfect understanding of each other’s movements, and act accordingly.”

Noting that many of the players had spent the previous season in Brooklyn, the paper said they chose to “come west, like all good people ought to do.”

The Courier-Journal reporter interviewed outfielder Jack “Death to Flying Things” Chapman, who offered a wealth of information on the 19th Century ballplayer:

chapman

Jack Chapman

“(He) is six feet high, and splendidly built, being a ‘man as is a man.’  He only weighs one hundred and seventy-seven and isn’t married, though he contemplates taking a partner someday.”

Chapman, the “best looking man on the team,” who “is much liked by his associates,” was designated the “team scholar” to talk to the press in the absence of manager Dickey Pearce who was ill.  He said:

“St. Louis is bound to be the greatest place on the continent for base ball this season.  Her stock company offered big inducements, and we accepted.”

As for the people who had built the club, Chapman said, they were:

“Very rich and nice people…(the club’s) officers are mostly millionaires, who desire their city ably represented in base ball.  The people ‘turn out’ there in the thousands, and are all agog with base ball excitement.  Five thousand people witnessed our practice game last week.”

Chapman was asked about salaries:

“Substitutes get from $900 to $1200.  Regulars receive $1000 to $2500.  Bob Ferguson (the other “Death to Flying Things), of our old club, gets $2500 this year for captaining the Hartfords.”

Asked what players did in the off-season, Chapman said:

“A good many loaf, and others work at different jobs.  Generally whatever they hit upon that suits.”

As for the St. Louis club’s prospects to overtake the Boston Red Stockings as the nation’s dominant team:

“We hope to do it, and I believe we shall.  The Reds are a good team, made excellent by having stuck together so long.  I consider the (Philadelphia) Athletics the stronger nine this year.  Harry Wright is the best captain in America.  The (New York) Mutuals were the best club last season, and but for the bad feeling among the members would now be champions.”

Finally, Chapman was asked whether he thought Louisville could support a professional team:

“I do, indeed, and am surprised she hasn’t one.”

Chapman was hit and miss on his predictions.  The Brown Stockings were the best club in the west, finishing the season 39-29, but no where close to playing at the caliber of Wright’s Red Stockings (71-8) , the Hartford Dark Blues (54-28), or the Athletics (53-20).

He was correct about Louisville’s chances to get a professional club, The Grays, with Chapman as manager finished fifth in the inaugural season of the National League.

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.