Tag Archives: Hartford Dark Blues

“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.

“Boys of ’76”

5 Jan

On February, 2, 1925, The National League magnates “paused in (their) schedule deliberations” to honor the league’s past, and kick-off the diamond Jubilee celebration.

Thomas Stevens Rice, of The Brooklyn Eagle said:

“In the very same rooms in which it was organized on Feb. 2, 1876, the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs met again yesterday.  These rooms are in what is now called the Broadway Central Hotel, then called the Grand Central Hotel.”

The Associated Press said:

“In the same room in which Morgan G. Bulkeley, of Hartford, Conn., was elected the first president of the National League, the baseball men, paid tribute to the character and courage of those pioneers a half century ago.”

Dozens of dignitaries were on hand, including, John McGraw, Christy Mathewson, John Montgomery Ward, and Governor John Tener

But, the stars that day were six of the surviving players who appeared during the league’s inaugural season:

George Washington Bradley, 72, who won 45 games for the St. Louis Brown Stockings; John “Jack” Manning, 71, who hit .264 and won 18 games as an outfielder and pitcher for the Boston Red Stockings; Alonzo “Lon” Knight, 71, an outfielder and pitcher for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1876 and hit .250 and won 10 games, and three members of the Hartford Dark Blues, Tommy Bond, 68, a 31-game winner; Tom York, 74, who played leftfield and hit .259, and John “Jack” Burdock, 72, an infielder who hit. 259. Also present was the only surviving umpire from the 1876 season–Calvin J. Stambaugh.

Calvin Stambaugh, right, the last surviving umpire from 1876 and Frank Wilson, a national League umpire from 1923 until his death in 1928.

Calvin Stambaugh, right, the last surviving umpire from 1876 and Frank Wilson, a national League umpire from 1923 until his death in 1928.

Other surviving 1876 players, including George Wright and and Al Reach cited “advancing age” for their inability to attend.

feb21925pix

Seated from left: York, Bradley, and Manning. Standing: Bond.

 Bozeman Bulger of The New York World said, in relating a conversation between too of the attendees, the event was notable for another reason as well:

“(S)everal of us younger men, moving over closer, discovered a contradiction of a tradition long cherished, that old-timers never could admit any improvement in the game or in the quality of the players.

“‘Have you seen this young fellow, Babe Ruth?’ Bradley asked of Manning.

“‘Yes, indeed,’ admitted Mr. Manning, ‘and don’t let anybody tell you that we ever had a man who could hit a ball as hard as that boy.  I doubt if there will ever be another one.'”

Bulger said the “Boys of ’76” also talked about how they “fought crookedness when a salary of $1,800 a year was considered big pay for a star.”  Bradley, who after baseball became a Philadelphia police officer, said:

“‘Oh, we had crooked fellows following us around back in ’76.  They pretended to make heroes out of us and would hang around the hotels.’

“‘One day Mr. (Chicago White Stockings President, William) Hulbert, a very learned man, advised me to keep away from these men.  He explained how they could ruin a boy and lead others into temptation . I was often approached, but thanks to that wise counsel, I kept myself straight, and I thank God for it today.  It’s worth a lot to me to look you younger men in the eye and feel that in turning the game over to you, we gave you something that was honorable.  It’s up to the players to keep it honorable.”

Tom York summed up his feelings about the game in 1876:

“‘Say, do you remember how proud we used to be after winning a game, when we walked home still wearing our uniform and carrying a bat–and the kids following us?  Ball players–all except Babe Ruth–miss that nowadays.”

 

bondmanning

Bond and Manning talk pitching at the Golden Jubilee kickoff event in 1925.

 

 

 

“It may well be Doubted whether Beals should be Permitted to play Second Base again”

23 Jul

Thomas Lamb “Tommy” Beals had a complicated relationship with Harry and George Wright.

George named his son, the Hall of Fame tennis player, Beals Wright after his friend and former teammate.  But, The Chicago Tribune said when the two played together, “George Wright and Tommy Beals went many a day without a friendly word,” a charge Wright denied.

After signing a contract to play second base for Harry Wright’s Red Stockings for 1876—the first season of the National League—Beals decided instead to jump the contact and go to Colorado where he worked as a miner.

Tommy Beals

Tommy Beals

He eventually left Colorado and went to the West Coast where he played a handful of games in 1879 for the San Francisco Mutuals and Oakland Pioneers in the California League.  In the spring of 1880 he signed a contract with the Chicago White Stockings.

Harry Wright protested the signing of his former player, or as The Tribune said:

“Some parties in Boston have been making a wholly unnecessary fuss over the engagement of Beals by the Chicago Club, claiming that after engaging to play with the Bostons in 1876 he refused to report for duty.”

The Tribune noted that the contract was actually signed before the league was officially founded on February 2, 1876, but:

“The Boston people argue that, although the League was not in existence at the time Beals retired from baseball, it was agreed, upon its formation, that that all contracts existing between clubs and players should be recognized.”

The newspapers in Wright’s former hometown of Cincinnati weighed in.  The Commercial Gazette encouraged the Boston protest and said Wright should make it “a test case (and) prevent the Chicago Club from playing him during the coming season.”  The Cincinnati Enquirer took the opportunity to accuse Wright of protesting activities he was himself regularly guilty of engaging in:

“The disposition shown by the Boston Club management to create an unpleasantness in the matter of the engagement of Tommy Beals by the Chicago Club, upon the ground that Beals was under some sort of engagement with Boston four or five years ago, has had the effect of recalling some reminiscences calculated to show that the pharisaical kickers of the Hub are in no position to give us the ‘holier than thou’ racket.  In the first place Boston has slept upon its rights, if it ever had any, in the Beals case so long that the matter is outlawed long since, and ought never be raked up at this late day, especially in view of the fact that Chicago acted in good faith and without any suspicion of a cloud upon its title to the services of Beals.

“In the next place Boston had better be repenting for some of its own sins before assuming the role of exhorter towards other folks.  That club has now under contract three players whose engagements will not bear the closest kind of scrutiny.  In 1877 the Boston Club, in the middle of the season, committed an act of piracy on the Lowell Club of which it ought to be ashamed, by jerking (John) Morrill and (Lew) Brown out of the Lowell nine in regular highwayman fashion, both these players being then under contract for the entire season in Lowell…we (also) find that (Jack) Burdock was under contract to Chicago in 1875 and never showed up.  He might have been expelled by Chicago, but was not, and continues an honored and valued member of the Boston outfit.  In 1876, again Thomas Bond was suspended from play and pay by the Hartford Club, of which he was then a member, and in spite of this cloud upon his name and fame, was engaged the following year by Boston, and has been there ever since.”

Morrill, Burdock and Bond were all still members of the Red Stockings, comprising three-fourths of the team’s infield.

The Enquirer also criticized Boston because the team acted to “choke off” an attempt by Hartford Manager Bob Ferguson to bring the allegations which led to Bond’s suspension to light during a league meeting—Bond, during a season-long feud with Ferguson had accused his manager, among other things, of “selling” games.  Bond was suspended by Ferguson on August 21 of 1876 despite posting a 31-13 record for the second place Dark Blues—Bond’s replacement as Hartford’s primary pitcher was Candy Cummings.

Tommy Bond

Tommy Bond

The Enquirer took a final shot at Wright noting that when the league instituted the new rule for 1879 which barred non-playing managers from the bench “Boston squealed because Harry Wright couldn’t enjoy privileges  denied to everybody else, and this year they are playing baby about Beals on grounds equally absurd.”

The Tribune laid out Chicago’s long list of grievances for “plenty of ‘queer’ work in which Boston has been engaged.”  In addition to the incidents mentioned by The Enquirer, The Tribune said in 1877 after Albert Spalding had secured infielder Ezra Sutton for Chicago, “Sutton was worked upon by Boston and went there to play.”

So, according to Boston’s critics the club’s entire 1880 infield had come to the team via questionable circumstances.

The Boston Herald responded:

“It is not to be expected that the Chicago Club will recognize the position of the Boston Club in this matter, and release Beals.  That organization has on more than one occasion, shown its utter contempt for League rules, or in fact, for anything that interferes with its own particular self, and, to expect justice in this case, is not to be thought of.  In the meanwhile, the Boston Club will probably not take any official action in the premises, but let the Chicago Club enjoy all the honor (?) there is in playing such a man.”

After the weeks of allegations, posturing and name-calling in the press, the season began on May 1; Boston never lodged a formal complaint about the signing of Beals.

Chicago cruised to the National League title, spending only one day (after the season’s second game) out of first place.  Beals, rusty from his layoff made little impact for the champions, hitting just .152 in 13 games at second base and in the outfield.  By August, with the fight to defend his signing long forgotten, The Tribune said after a rare Beals start in a 7 to 4 loss to the Worcester Ruby Legs:

“Beals played as though he had never seen a ball-field before…It may well be doubted whether Beals should be permitted to play second base again…any amateur who could be picked at random would be likely to do better both in fielding and batting.  Worcester would have made two or three less runs yesterday if second base had been left vacant altogether, as what time Beals didn’t muff grounders he threw wild and advanced men to bases they would not otherwise have reached.”

Beals was 0 for 3 with three errors that afternoon—for the season he committed 4 errors in thirteen total chances at second for a fielding percentage of .692.

Let go by Chicago at the end of the season, Beals’ professional baseball career was over and he returned to the west.  In 1894 he was elected to one two-year term in the Nevada State Legislature as a Republican representing a district that included the town of Virginia City.  By 1900 he was back in Northern, California, where little is known about his activities.  He died in Colma, California in 1915

“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.

“Offered him $1,000 to Throw the Game”

21 Aug

Pitcher George “Charmer” Zettlein began his professional career with the Chicago White Stockings in 1871 when his friend, manager Jimmy Wood convinced him to leave the Brooklyn Atlantics.  He followed Wood to the Troy Haymakers, Brooklyn Eckfords and Philadelphia Whites, and they returned to Chicago together in 1874.

1875 would be the end of their professional association.

It’s unclear where the trouble began.  When Wood’s “private” conversation with a reporter from The St. Louis Democrat was printed verbatim in the newspaper, Zettlein was the only Chicago player he said anything negative about—referring to his friend “as a poor batter and runner.”   Whether the comment contributed is unclear, but shortly after the season began, and the team started struggling, The Chicago Tribune said there was undisclosed “trouble” between the pitcher and manager.

George Zettlein

George Zettlein

Rumors of tension between the two heated up when allegations of throwing games were leveled at team captain Dick Higham; Zettlein also became a target of rumors, including second-hand reports that Wood accused him of “laying down.”  The Tribune said the day after Higham was replaced as team captain:

“It is known that the name of Zettlein was brought before the meeting (of the White Stockings directors) in connection with hints before made that affected his honesty.  It is due to Mr. Zettlein to say that no charges were made against him…the conviction is generally expressed that the White Stockings pitcher works hard to win.”

After the White Stockings and Zettlein lost 15-3 to the Mutuals in New York on July, 31 Wood and his pitcher were finished.  Zettlein sent a letter to club President William Hulbert accusing Wood of “arbitrary and unjust” treatment, and demanded his release.

The Tribune said:

“(Zettlein) will play ball in Chicago no more, except as the member of some visiting club.  He has asked to be relieved from the contract which binds him to the Chicago management.  His request has been granted, and he will not return here with the club…Zettlein states that Wood’s conduct towards him during their Eastern trip has been unbearable.”

Part of Zettlein’s dissatisfaction was that Wood played him at first base in three games; although he had played at least one game in the field every season except 1874, seemingly with no complaints.

The Tribune said Zettlein claimed Wood “has systematically imposed upon him to such an extent that he cannot remain.”

Already on the East Coast, Zettlein immediately signed with the Philadelphia Whites.  His troubles weren’t over.

After less than a month with the Whites, the vague rumors in Chicago turned into direct allegations from his new teammates.  The Philadelphia Times said on August 31, after an 11-3 Athletics loss:

“After the game between the Philadelphia and Hartford (Dark Blues) clubs yesterday, while the (Athletics) players were undressing an exciting discussion took place to the cause of the severe defeat.  (Third baseman/manager Mike) McGeary was angry and he charged (outfielder Fred) Treacy with being in collusion with the gamblers and selling the game, and pointing to Zettlein, said, ‘And there’s another one who’s in it.’”

Zettlein and Treacy had been teammates, with Wood, on the 1871 White Stockings.  Both players denied the charge, and both were immediately suspended by the team pending an investigation.  At the same time the two suspended players charged that McGeary was the gambler, and said a Hartford player, well-known for his integrity could back up their allegations.  The Times said:

“Zettlein and Treacy had a talk with (Jack) Burdock, of the Hartfords…a meeting of the Philadelphia club was held, at which the subject was brought up.  Zettlein and Treacy were present, and made statements to the effect that Burdock (intended to show) that prior to the game McGeary had approached him and told him he had a large amount of money bet on the success of the Philadelphias and offered him $1,000 to throw the game so that the Philadelphias should win, and that he refused to have anything to do with such an arrangement.”

Burdock was also said to have additional information, including a charge that “McGeary approached him with (other) offers, saying they could make plenty of money,” but there is no record of Burdock ever discussing McGeary, or the allegations publicly.  The Times said “there was an exciting discussion over these astounding charges, “and that a committee was appointed to conduct an investigation.

Mike McGeary

Mike McGeary

Like most of the “investigations” into allegations of gambling in the National Association there appears to have been little real investigation of any of what was happening with the Philadelphia Whites.  Within a week the team announced that the “charges were not sustained.”  The only fallout from the scandal was that Bob Addy replaced McGeary as manager for the final seven regular season games.

In October when the Whites met the Athletics in a 10-game Philadelphia series, Zettlein walked off the mound during the sixth inning of the tenth game with his team behind 7 to 3.  The Philadelphia Inquirer said “Zettlein left the field, giving as an excuse that some of his men were trying to lose the game.”

Zettlein, (7), Wood (8), Treacey (9), as teammates with the 1871 Chicago White Stockings.

Zettlein, (7), Wood (8), Treacey (9), as teammates with the 1871 Chicago White Stockings.

Jimmy Wood never managed again after 1875.

After poor seasons during the National League’s inaugural year in 1876, Zettlein (4-20 for the Athletics) and Treacy (.214 and 39 errors for the New York Mutuals), two of the principals in the 1875 scandal were out of baseball.  McGeary, who joined the St. Louis Brown Stockings in 1876, would become a major figure in the 1877 game fixing scandal of 1877.  As with the charges 1875, nothing was proven and after sitting out the 1878 season McGeary returned to the National League and played until 1882.

“To be Hissed and Hooted at in the East is too much”

20 Jun

In 1886  Thomas Jefferson “Tom” York retired after a fifteen-year career.   As a 20-year-old he joined the Troy Haymakers in the National Association in 1871, he was with the Hartford Dark Blues for the National League’s inaugural season in 1876, and finished with the Baltimore Orioles in the American Association; he also served two brief stints as a player/manager with the Providence Grays.

York, who suffered from rheumatism, had considered retiring before the 1894 season after the Cleveland Blues sold him to the Orioles, but The Baltimore American said he was induced to continue playing with a $5000 salary and “the scorecard and cushion (concession)” at Oriole Park.  After hitting just .233 in 1884, he was only able to play in 22 games the following season before calling it quits.

Tom York, middle row, far right, with the 1876 Hartford Dark Blues

Tom York, middle row, far right, with the 1876 Hartford Dark Blues

Just before the beginning of the 1886 season York was hired as an American Association umpire.  After the May 22 game in Baltimore which the Orioles lost 2-1 to the Louisville Colonels, The Baltimore Sun said:

“(York) received a dispatch yesterday ordering him to Brooklyn.  Instead of going he telegraphed his resignation.  His reason for doing so was the abuse he received from some of the spectators of Saturday’s game.  In fact, he was nearly equal to that of John Kelly, ‘the king of umpires.’  He declared (Pete) Browning’s hit near the foul line a fair hit.  He was in the best position to know, but, as it was made at a critical point, some of the audience objected, and York came in for pretty severe abuse.”

The paper said York also made a “questionable decision,” when he “evidently forgot that it was not necessary to touch a runner in a force,” and incorrectly called a runner safe at second:

“York became discouraged and the Association lost a good umpire.”

Within weeks York became a National League umpire; that didn’t last long either.

On June 30, the Kansas City Cowboys lost at home to the New York Giants 11-5, The Chicago Inter Ocean said York “was escorted from the grounds by the police on account of disapproval manifested over his umpiring.”

Less than a month later, after York was “roundly hissed” at the Polo Grounds after making “some very close decisions against the New Yorks,” in a July 22 game against the Philadelphia Quakers, he sent a telegram to National League President Nicholas Young resigning his position.  York told The New York Times:

“I have been badly treated in the West, but to be hissed and hooted at in the East is too much.  I have often heard that an umpire’s position was a thankless one, but I have never realized it before.  It’s bad enough to be hissed and called a thief, but in the West when the local club loses an umpire in fortunate if he escapes with his life.  Of all the cities in the league Kansas City is the worst.”

York said there was another incident Kansas City the day before he was escorted from the field by police:

“On June 29 when the New York men beat the Cowboys 3 to 2 (William “Mox”) McQuery hit a ball over the fence, but it was foul by 25 feet, and I declared it so.  After the game Vice President (Americus) McKim, of the Kansas City club wanted to know how much money I would get from the New Yorks fir That decision.  I remarked that I received my salary from the league and did not take a penny from the New Yorks or any other none.  Then he grew furious, and said he would end my days.  This in conjunction with other things incidental to the life of an umpire has made me tired of the business, and I intend to make room for some other victim.”

Despite quitting both leagues within two months, The Baltimore American said the American Association sent York a telegram in two months later “asking him if he wanted an appointment as umpire.”  The paper said “York replied no, emphatically, as his past experience was sufficient to justify his remaining at home.”

York remained at home for the rest of the season and the next, but while he never worked as an umpire again he returned to baseball in 1888 as manager of the Albany Governors in the International Association.  Over the next decade he was connected with several East Coast minor leagues, including the Connecticut State League, the New York State League and the Eastern Association, as a manager and executive.

York retired to New York where he became one of the many former players employed at the Polo Grounds at the behest of manager John McGraw.  In 1922 The New York Telegraph described his position:

“York has the pleasant post of trying to keep the actors, tonsorial artists and plumbers out of the press stand.  It is old tom who examines your pink paste board and decides whether you are eligible for a seat in the press cage.”

Tom York, 1922

Tom York, 1922

In February of 1936, as preparations were being made for York, along with James “Deacon” White, George Wright, Tommy Bond,  to be honored that summer at the  All-Star Game  as the last four surviving players from the National League’s first season, the former player, manager, executive and umpire died in New York.

“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.

“The most Extraordinary of the Championship Contests so far”

8 Feb

A game recap and box score from the National League’s inaugural season.  On August 26, 1876, the Chicago White Stockings defeated the St. Louis Brown Stockings 23-3 in Chicago.

Cap Anson, 50 errors in 1876

Cap Anson, 50 errors in 1876

Among the game highlights, White Stockings 3rd baseman Cap Anson made five errors, on his way to 50 for the season, Brown Stockings pitcher George Bradley also committed five (he only had 12 for the season) and the two teams combined for 28 errors.

The Chicago Inter-Ocean said the game was the turning point of the season in the White Stockings drive for the first league championship in a breathless, meandering report:

“The closing game of the Chicago-St. Louis series which was played Saturday at the Twenty-Third Street grounds, proved to be by all odds the most extraordinary of the championship contests so far.  As if determined to wipe out every record of the St. Louis having ever won a game from them, the Chicagos turned themselves loose and broke Bradley’s heart…Nearly 5,000 witnessed the game, and the enthusiasm rose at times to fever-heat.”

The story said Anson redeemed himself for his errors “two or three” of which were “comparatively easy balls,” by hitting a triple and a home run:

“Obtained on a terrible drive to right field which went clear to the fence…The Chicago batting was tremendous, and the visitors were kept on a continual hunt for the ball.”

The box score:

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Albert Spalding, Chicago’s manager, and pitcher, who batted 7th started all but six of the White Stockings 66 games in 1876. Bradley, who batted third, started all 64 of the Brown Stockings games and pitched 573 of the 577 innings played by St. Louis—outfielder Joe Blong pitched 4 innings in one game.  Bradley also pitched the National League’s first no-hitter against the Hartford Dark Blues on July 15.  As expected with the number of errors, Bradley gave up 151 unearned runs for the season.

1876 St. Louis Brown Stockings, George Bradley

1876 St. Louis Brown Stockings, George Bradley, standing center, Joe Blong, standing left

After his 45-19 season for the third-place Brown Stockings, Bradley was acquired by the White Stockings in 1877, with Spalding moving to 1st base.  The White Stockings finished 5th with a 26-33 record, Bradley was 18-23.

St. Louis finished fourth, Blong split time between the outfield and the mound and went 10-9 for the Brown Stockings.