Tag Archives: Doug Allison

“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.

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things #3

26 Apr

Tools of ignorance

As catchers began to wear more equipment the was widespread disapproval.  In 1884 The New Haven News said:

“With his frontal liver-pad, his hands cased in thick gloves and the familiar wire helmet on his head, the average baseball catcher looks for all the world like an animated combination of a modern bed-bolster and a medieval knight.”

Roger Bresnahan, 1907, more than 20 years after catcher's began to look like "medieval knights."

Roger Bresnahan, 1907, more than 20 years after a catcher began to look like a “medieval knight.”

Cuban Giants Challenge

In August of 1888, The Freeman declared the Cuban Giants “virtually the champions of the world.”

The paper said that the first professional black baseball team, were willing to take on any ballclub, but:

“The St. Louis Browns, Detroits (Wolverines) and Chicagos (White Stockings) afflicted with Negrophobia and unable to bear the odium of being beaten by colored men, refused to accept their challenge.”

1887-88 Cuban Giants--"virtually the champions of the world."

1887-88 Cuban Giants–“virtually the champions of the world.”

The Elizabeth Resolutes

The Elizabeth (NJ) Resolutes were one of the worst professional teams of baseball’s infancy.  The 1873 National Association team only played 23 games, losing 21, and from the beginning of the season, the franchise was on the verge of demise.

The New York Herald summed up the general feeling about the team in an August article:

“The Resolute Club, whom everyone hoped had disbanded, as was reported, put in an appearance on the Union grounds yesterday afternoon and played the (Brooklyn) Atlantics, committing, as usual, about five hundred errors.”

It was the first, and last, game on the mound for pitcher Len Lovett.

The Herald concluded:

“The game was a most wretched affair.”

dougallison

Catcher Doug Allison who hit .300, and his brother Art, who hit .320, were rare bright spots for the resolutes.

“The ‘Original’ up-behind-the-bat Man”

17 Apr

Douglas L. Allison was largely forgotten by 1907.

He caught for Harry Wright’s Cincinnati Red Stockings from 1868-1870, joined the newly formed National Association as a member of Nick Young’s Washington Olympics in 1871, and was an inaugural member of the Hartford Dark Blues during the National League’s first season in 1876; in total he played for parts of 10 seasons in the American Association, National League, and National Association.

Doug Allison, standing third from left, with the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings

Doug Allison, standing middle, with the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings

It was the death of a contemporary that brought him back into the public eye.

On April 21, 1907, Nathan Woodhull “Nat” Hicks died in Hoboken, NJ.  Hicks had also been a catcher, having played for the New York Mutuals, Philadelphia Whites and Cincinnati Reds in the National Association and National League from 1872-1877.

Hicks’ obituary, including the one in The New York Times, gave him credit for being the first catcher to stand directly behind the batter:

“To catch behind the bat without the elaborate protection of mask, protector, great glove, and shin guards, as Nat Hicks was the first to do, required a grit and endurance that few of the high-priced artists of the diamond today would care to emulate.  Hicks created a sensation by catching behind the bat with his naked hands and body unprotected.”

Doug Allison couldn’t let that stand, and he contacted a reporter from The Associated Press to set the record straight:

“Nat Hicks was a great catcher for the short period that he stood in the limelight of public opinion, but the press of the country is away off in giving him credit as the ‘original’ up-behind-the-bat man.”

While coming forward to claim the distinction, Allison insisted it wasn’t important to him:

“Not that I wish to claim any such record, for after all it does not carry any great weight or glory, but just the same I think figures will prove that I was among the first, if not the first, of any of the backstops  to attempt that trick that was the mystery of the game.”

Allison said that while catching for a team in the Manayunk neighborhood of Philadelphia he developed a “theory,” and “began to believe it possible to get close up to the bat,” in order to prevent runners from stealing:

“I put my theory in action, and that was way back in 1866…My success in this style of play was remarkable, and naturally the talk of the place, until our game began to draw crowds simply because ‘Allison was behind the bat.’  This is not egotism, but the fact, and my method soon had lots of imitators.”

Allison said the following season while playing with the “Gearys, the leading amateur team of Philadelphia,” he was discovered by “that greatest of all baseball generals—Harry Wright.” And while with the Red Stockings he “continued up under the bat with plenty of success.”

As for “my friend Nat Hicks,” Allison said:

“(He) did not break into the game until 1870 and could not have started that play for which so many newspapers have been giving him credit, and while disliking to cloud their stories, it seems right to correct the popular impression of this important epoch in the history of baseball.”

A print from the 1870s depicting "Nat" Hicks "behind the bat" with the New York Mutuals.

A print from the 1870s depicting “Nat” Hicks “behind the bat” with the New York Mutuals.

Having set the record straight, Allison returned to his job in the dead letter office of the United States Post Office in Washington D.C.  He died in 1916 at age 70.