Tag Archives: Jimmy Wood

“In the Sixth Inning the Fun Began”

27 Aug

Samuel Jewett Kelly came from a prominent Cleveland family, his grandfather started one of the most prestigious law firms in the city and his father served as a judge and member of the city council.  Samuel, born in 1866, became a well-known journalist, and for more than a decade before his death in 1948 he wrote articles for The Cleveland Plain Dealer chronicling Cleveland in the 19th Century.

In 1937 he wrote about Cleveland’s first professional league baseball game on May 11, 1871—The Forest Citys versus the Chicago White Stockings.

The Forest Citys of Cleveland participated in the first game of the newly formed National Association on May 4 in Indiana, shut out 2 to 0 by Bobby Matthews of the  Fort Wayne Kekiongas,  followed by two road games in Illinois versus the Forest Citys of Rockford (a 12-4 win) and the Chicago White Stockings (a 14-12 loss).  Now they were taking the field in front of a crowd of about 2,500 for Cleveland’s first home game.

Kelly described the scene:

“White shirts trimmed in blue, blue hose and belt, high russet leather shoes, big monogram (a crossed “C” and “F”) on the shirt.

“When they walked out on the field and took their places, wearing neatly shaped white cloth caps and blue band and the rim bound with ribbon of the same color, they looked fine pictures of old-time ball players. Many of them wore quite fluffy side-whiskers while some had goatees with mustache.”

When Jimmy Wood and the White Stockings arrived in Cleveland they brought with them James Henry Haynie, a reporter for The Chicago Times and the National Associations recording secretary.  Haynie would serve as umpire for the game.   (Kelly incorrectly gives his middle initial as “L”)

Some reports said the arrival of Haynie with the Chicago team was a surprise, and a different umpire was expected, others (including Kelly’s recollection 65 years later) said Haynie was one of five potential umpires that forest City manager Charlie Pabor approved.  Regardless of the circumstances by which he arrived, Haynie, like many other umpires of the 1870s took a lead role in the game’s outcome.

Charlie Pabor

Charlie Pabor

According to Kelly:

“That first professional game in Cleveland ended unexpectedly in a furor of excitement in the eighth inning, almost a riot.”

The game was tied 6 to 6 through five innings.  Kelly said “in the sixth inning the fun began.”

With one out and Chicago at bat Ed Pinkham and George Zettlein walked:

 “(Michael ’Bub’) McAtee hit a grounder to (Ezra) Sutton at third (Jim) Carleton at first, cutting McAtee off for the third out, as everybody said.  But umpire Haynie said different and Chicago piled up five runs that inning.”

The Forest Citys came to bat in the eighth inning down 18 to 10.  According to Kelly:

“There had been five decisions against Cleveland.  In the eighth there was one more.  It was the last straw.  Pabor was declared out at third and after consulting with the officers of the club the Forest Citys agreed to surrender the game as it stood and appeal …Everybody swarmed on the field and talked to their heart’s content”

The game was awarded to the White Stockings–the first forfeited game in the National Association.

Many histories of Cleveland baseball implied that Haynie (universally misidentified with the wrong middle initial—an indication that all relied entirely on Kelly’s 1937 account) was a one-time “plant” intended to steal the game from the Forest Citys.  In reality he served as an umpire for several games throughout the season, including Chicago’s game with Fort Wayne two games later, without incident or charges of favoritism.

A “Dispatch” to The Pittsburgh Commercial after the Fort Wayne game, a 14-5 Chicago victory, said:

“There were some doubts about taking (Haynie), owing to his reported partiality shown the Whites at Cleveland, but since the game has closed both clubs have expressed themselves satisfied by his decisions, which were all made promptly.”

The first National Association game in Cleveland was an appropriate beginning for the team.  The Forest Citys finished in eighth place in the nine team league with a 10-19 record, and folded after posting a 6-16 record in 1872.  There was no big league baseball in Cleveland again until the Blues joined National League in 1879.

James Henry Haynie

James Henry Haynie

___

A postscript:

James Henry Haynie served in the 19th Illinois Volunteer Regiment in the Army of the Cumberland during the Civil War.  After the war he went to work for The Chicago Times where he remained until 1875 when he became foreign editor of The New York Times.  He later served as a Paris-based correspondent for several newspapers.  He returned to the United States in 1895 and died in Boston in 1912.

Haynie covered the Great Chicago Fire in 1871 for The Times.  Twenty years after the fire a reporter for The Chicago Republican named Michael Ahern claimed that he, Haynie and John English, a reporter for The Chicago Tribune had together created the story that the fire was the result of a cow belonging to Catherine O’Leary kicking over a lantern.

“Chicago has been Successful in her Efforts to Wrest the Base Ball Supremacy from Cincinnati”

26 Aug

In 1916 Jimmy Wood recounted his greatest triumph, his Chicago White Stockings’ two victories over the Cincinnati Red Stockings.

“When we went to Cincinnati for that first game even our most loyal rooters were pessimistic.  It was not that they lacked confidence in our ability, but because they feared we would be ‘jobbed’ by some Cincinnati umpire, or menaced so by the rowdy crowds that we wouldn’t play our real game because of fear of violence if we should win.”

Most of the doubts in Chicago had disappeared.  Even The Chicago Tribune, which pronounced the team a failure before Wood and Tom Foley had completed putting it together and remained critical through their early struggles, allowed that the game was “liable to be a close one.”

The White Stockings would benefit from the injury to Red Stockings shortstop George Wright; and contrary to Wood’s recollection, they also benefitted from the selection of the umpire.

Wood’s 1916 account told a far-fetched story of the selection of the game’s umpire:

“Just before the game we made an announcement to the stands that we wanted some spectators to umpire the game for us—and that Cincinnati and Chicago residents were barred.  From out of the stands, after a long delay, stepped a salesman, named Milligan, from Philadelphia.  He convinced us quickly that he was thoroughly conversant with the game, and he was named an umpire.”

William Milligan might have been a salesman, but he was also a former member of the West Philadelphia Club amateur baseball team with whom Chicago outfielder Ned Cuthbert played briefly in 1867.  The Cincinnati press also discovered that he had traveled to Cincinnati with the White Stockings and stayed with them at the Gibson House Hotel.

The Cincinnati Gazette said of Milligan:

“The umpire was doubtless a very nice sort of man, but he knew precious little of base ball.  His decisions were given in a weak and faltering voice and after much hesitation, and we hardly think Captain Harry Wright could have made a worse selection.”

Wood cast the umpire in a much different light:

“Milligan was of an heroic mold.  He umpired that game fairly and squarely as he saw it.  He played no favorites.”

The Gazette also noted George Wright’s absence as “a serious drawback upon the nine, and they do not now play with the vim and energy usual to them when the King is present at short field.”  Despite that, the paper did give some credit to Wood’s club:

“The Chicago nine could not have been in better condition for a grand trial of skill with the famous Cincinnatis than they were yesterday.”

George Wright, Red Stockings shortstop missed the first game

George Wright, Red Stockings shortstop missed the first game

The White Stockings won the game 10-6 leaving; The Gazette said the “The base ball public of Cincinnati will feel deeply humiliated,” by the loss.

The New York Times said as a result of the victory Chicago was experiencing “the warmest expressions of delight, the more so, as no one anticipated it.”

The Chicago Tribune’s headline and sub headline were less subdued:

WHITE ABOVE THE RED

 The Redoubtable Red Stockings Defeated by Chicago’s $18,000 Nine. When the Garden City Sets Out to Do a Thing, She Does it. It Took Money      to Accomplish the Business, but it is Done.

Jimmy Wood

Jimmy Wood

Wood said in his questionable 1916 account that after the victory his team barely escaped the fans:

“Immediately after the game was over the crowd swarmed upon the field, intent upon wreaking vengeance upon us.  I had anticipated this move and instructed my players for a quick get-away.  When the last out was made we dashed for the exits and jumped into our carriages.  As we ran across the field many of us were struck with stones and bottles.”

After the White Stockings made their escape—allegedly with umpire Milligan joining them for the return trip—back to Chicago where Wood said “we were given a greeting unlike any ever accorded ball players before.”

The following month the rematch was played at Chicago’s Dexter Park.

Wood claimed in 1916:

“Before the game began, 27,000 admissions at $1 each had been sold, with another 25,000 in a wild scramble for tickets…The paid admission for the game was 27,000; the ‘free admissions’ went well beyond 25,000, making a 52,000 crowd within the park when the call ‘play ball’ sounded.”

According to every contemporary report of the game the attendance was around 15,000 (The Chicago Tribune said it was 18,000), still an incredible crowd for 1870, but far less than Wood’s memory.  The Cincinnati Commercial also observed that “Not more than 500 ladies were present.”

For this game the mutually agreed upon umpire was Brooklyn Atlantics catcher Bob (the other“Death to Flying Things”) Ferguson.

Umpire Bob Ferguson

Umpire Bob Ferguson

In recounting the game in 1916, once again Wood’s recollections were far from accurate, but reporter and “baseball historian” Frank G. Menke did nothing to verify Wood’s memories:

“Things broke badly for us in the early innings.  An error or two on the part of my boys, mixed with several long hits by the Red Stockings, gave them a lead of five runs.  Later on they increased it and when the seventh inning was ended the score stood 11 to 2 in favor of the Cincinnati club.”

Actually, Chicago scored one run in the first inning, Cincinnati tied it in the third, the red Stockings scored four in the sixth and the White Stockings added one in the seventh; making the score 5 to 2 at the end of seven.  The White Stockings scored 14 runs in the last two innings and won 16 to 13.

The Chicago Republican said:

“From first to last the game was one of the finest ever seen in the country…Up to the end of the fifth inning not a point was lost on either side, and even then the increase in the scores was rather the effect of an increase in the strength of the batting than the result of errors.”

The Chicago Tribune said:

“It has been done again; this time in a manner which leaves no doubt as to whether Chicago has been successful in her efforts to wrest the base ball supremacy from Cincinnati.”

Of course the newspapers in the two towns viewed the performance of the umpire differently.

Chicago’s take, from The Republican:

“Of the umpire, Mr. Ferguson, too much cannot be said in praise…he presented one of the best specimens of an umpire ever seen.  It is sufficient, perhaps, to say, that neither side questioned one of his decisions.”

And Cincinnati’s from The Gazette:

“The umpire was against us, the weather was against us, the crowd was against us, the heavens were against us, the ground was against us, the pestilential air of the Chicago River was against us, the Chicago nine were against us, and last, but not least, the score was against us.”

However, The Cincinnati Commercial did praise Ferguson, saying he “umpired the game superbly.”

Wood and Tom Foley had achieved their goal in organizing the White Stockings; they had defeated Harry Wright’s Red Stockings.  They were named “champions” of the National Association of Base Ball Players that year (in a disputed decision—and a story for another day).

After his baseball career ended in 1875 Wood went into various business ventures in Chicago.  In 1891 he bought a tavern on Dearborn Street with another famous Chicago ballplayer, New Williamson—the two remained partners in the business until Williamson’s death in 1894.  Wood eventually settled in New Orleans, he died while on a trip to San Francisco in 1927.

Foley, remained well-known in Chicago for his connection with baseball, but became even better known for his role in popularizing billiards.  The Associated Press called him “the father of base ball and billiards in the west,” in his 1926 obituary, and said Foley was:

“Promoter of the first amateur billiard tournament in the country, Foley made a significant contribution to the game when he was a prominent member of the committee which in 1882 formulated the balk line form of play.  He was himself an expert cueist and held the Illinois championship for two years.”

Tom Foley "King of base ball and billiards in the west"

Tom Foley “King of base ball and billiards in the west”

More more bit of billiard trivia about Foley.  In 1897 The New York Times reported that he had opened the first “Billiard parlor for women,: when he created a “ladies annex” to his new pool hall in Chicago:

“Foley has a friend who likes billiards and also likes his wife, but refuses to buy a billiard table for his better half.  He told Foley about it the other day, and Foley after a little thought determined to test the scheme which he now announces.”

“Eighteen Thousand Dollars Squandered by Chicago”

22 Aug

Almost 50 years after he helped to organize the Chicago White Stockings Jimmy Wood told the story of the team’s founding to Hearst Newspapers sports writer Frank G. Menke in a series of articles.

Wood said he read an ad in a New York newspaper in late 1869, seeking to “form a team to represent Chicago and to defeat the Cincinnati Red Stockings.”  Wood said:

“Chicago wasn’t such a wonderfully large city then and it was doing everything possible to boom the town.  And it was jealous of Cincinnati because of the great publicity Cincinnati had gained through the medium of its 1869 ball team which had won 56 out of its 57 games.”

Wood, along with Tom Foley, who had placed the ad, (not to be confused with Thomas James “Tom” Foley, who played outfield for the White Stockings in 1871) set out together to build a team.

Wood called it the most difficult task of his life, attempting to sign players for “a team that had as its ultimate purpose the beating of the Reds in a three-game series.”

The press was ready to call the entire operation a failure in January—a point never referred to in Wood and Menke’s “historical” account.  The Chicago Tribune declared:

“We are not to have a first-class base ball club.  That is the long and short of it.  The thing has fizzled.”

The Tribune cited Wood and Foley’s “bungling inefficiency” as the reason Chicago should not expect much from the undertaking.

The 1870 article was at odds with wood’s nearly 50-year-old recollection that the problem of securing players was because of fear of taking on the Red Stockings:

“Scores of desirable players throughout the country applied for engagement, but delay after delay ensued…in short, everything was done precisely as it should not have been done, and the result is a total failure.  A base-ball club may, and probably will, be selected and announced within the next few weeks; but it will not be a nine capable of worsting all other clubs.”

Even Wood acknowledged that he might not have handled the process of securing players particularly well; he gave more than $1200 out of his pocket to players only to find out “some of those players had squandered their first advance money in drinking or gambling, they came for more, threatening to jump their contracts if we didn’t ‘come through.’”

Despite the slow the start, and doubts about whether or not it would be possible to put together a competitive team, Wood and Foley completed the roster that spring when they signed Bill Craver and William “Cherokee” Fisher away from the Troy Haymakers—although Fisher never played for the team.

Even The Tribune was on board; lauding Chicago’s newly formed “$18,000 team.”   The $18,000 White Stockings roster in addition to Wood and Craver, consisted of Ned Cuthbert, Charlie Hodes, Michael (Bub) McAtee, Levi Meyerle, Ed PinkhamFred Treacey, Marshall King, and William “Clipper” Flynn—a number of Chicago amateurs also filled in with the team throughout the 1870 season.

The 1870 White Stockings: Ned Cuthbert, Fred Treacey, Charlie Hodes, Bill Craver, Charlie Hodes, Levi Meyerle,Bob McAtee, , Marshall King, and William “Clipper” Flynn

The 1870 White Stockings: Ned Cuthbert, Fred Treacey, Charlie Hodes, Levi Meyerle, Ed Pinkham, Jimmy Wood, Bub McAtee, Bill Craver, Marshall King, and William “Clipper” Flynn

In May, the White Stockings arrived in New Orleans for a training trip.  Many books and articles credit Wood with being “the father” of spring training as a result of this trip; most cite Al Spink of The Sporting News as the source.  Most fail to mention that the Red Stockings trained in New Orleans at the same time that season, and even Wood didn’t take credit for being first.  Wood said in 1916 that his was “the second Southern trip ever undertaken by a ball club.”  The Atlantics of Brooklyn had made a similar trip in 1868, which included stops in New Orleans, Mobile, and Savannah.

Wood said the team won all of their games against New Orleans opponents—the Lone Stars, Pelicans, Robert E. Lee’s, and Southerns—“by overwhelming scores.”  He also claimed they defeated “the Memphis team, champions of Tennessee 157-1—and Foley was very angry because we had permitted the southerners to score their lone tally!”

The team played what Wood called their “first real game,” against Al Spalding and the Forest Citys in Rockford, Illinois and despite the Rockford fans backing “their team heavily in the betting…we swamped them.”

According to Wood, he and Foley shut the team down due to injuries “along about June 4th when I found that my ailing quartet was not convalescing very rapidly, I canceled all our remaining June and July games and stayed in Chicago.”

His 1916 recollection seems to be faulty here as well, as records indicate that the White Stockings played several games in June and July against amateur and professional clubs, including the season’s biggest disappointment for the team.

On July 6 the overconfident White Stockings lost 13-4 to the New York Mutuals, who had recently lost several games.  The New York Herald headline taunted:

Eighteen Thousand Dollars Squandered by Chicago

“With ‘hearts as light as the wind blows’ and feeling as happy as ‘big sunflowers’ the White Stockings crossed over to Williamsburg yesterday, there to teach the Mutuals of New York what a six months residence in Chicago could do in the art of base ball playing.  Never did a more confident party enter a ball field than the ‘nine’ created by Chicago…On the other hand, the Mutuals crossed over alarmed somewhat at the confidence of their opponents, and reflecting over their many defeats of late, denied not a syllable uttered.  They were quiet, reticent, in fact, and dressed for the fray as one might roll himself in a shroud preparatory to decapitation.  Underneath all of this, however, there was a determined will.”

On July 26, the Mutuals would beat Chicago again, this time on their home field, at the Dexter Park Racetrack at 47th and Halsted.  The Herald again taunted Chicago, calling the 9 to 0 victory “The Worst Whipping on Record.”

Despite the records indicating a fairly complete schedule during June and July, Wood, speaking in 1916 said “About August 4 we resumed our schedule and played out the season, winning all of our games from the resumption in August until the end.  And then came the grand climax of the year—the task for which we had been preparing ourselves; the battle with the Cincinnati Red Stockings.”

Wood’s memory was again at odds with the facts.  The White Stockings lost, at least, one August game at home, a 14 to 7 defeat at the hands of Spalding’s Forest Citys.

The story of Wood’s “grand climax of the year;” the Red Stockings series, coming up on Monday.

“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.

“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.