Thursday, November 29, 2007

"The Greatest Game Ever Played In St. Louis" Part Two

My first post on the Browns' fifteen inning, 0-0 game against the Stars of Syracuse (which can be found here) was essentially Al Spink's take on the game. Bill Kelsoe also had quite a bit to say about the game in A Newspaper Man's Motion-Picture of the City. Reading Kelsoe's account of the game (which is posted below), I think you can understand why everyone made such a fuss. It sounds like it was one heck of a baseball game.

Greatest of St. Louis Ball Games
(From the Sunday Evening Telegraph, St. Louis, Mo., May 1, 1910)

Thirty-Third Anniversary Today of Remarkable Game at Sportsman's Park--"Billy" Kelso, a Veteran Baseball Authority, Writes Interestingly of Great 15-Inning Struggle Between the Old Browns and the Famous Syracuse Stars.

How many fans at the Cleveland-St. Louis game this afternoon know it was played on the grounds and on the anniversary of the day made memorable by one of the most remarkable contests in the history of baseball? The opponents of "our Browns" on May 1, 1877, were the famous Syracuse Stars, who had won two games on the way to St. Louis from the ex-champion Cincinnati Reds and who the season before had defeated all the big clubs in the national organization, including the Chicago champions and the Boston ex-champions.

The contest was specially noteworthy on account of the brilliant fielding. Some of the batters were famous as sluggers and they had on their batting clothes that day, but as fielders they did even better than as batters. Every chance given a fielder to put out a man was accepted. Fifteen innings were played and not a run scored, darkness then putting an end to the game.

The Stars played McKinnon, Farrell, Geer and Carpenter at, respectively, first, second, short and third, and the Browns, Croft, McGeary, Force and Battin. In the outfield were Mansell, Hotaling and Clinton at left, center and right for the visitors and Dorgan, Remsen and Blong for the home club. McCormack and Higham formed the Star battery and Nichols and Clapp ours.

Only one batter in the game reached third base, but he almost scored, missing the chance by less than half a second. It was in the eighth inning and Dave Force had made third on hits to right field by himself and Jack Remsen.

In my report of the game to the old St. Louis Times, I said:"Only one man was out as yet and the hard-hitting Croft was at the bat. It seemed as though the Browns were about to score and when Croft sent a long fly to back center field everybody was sure Force would get in. The fly settled in Hotaling's hands, however, and the next instant the ball came home like a shot and Davy was caught at the plate. The play was the finest of a game full of brilliant plays and Hotaling had to take off his hat in response to the cheers that greeted him. The second half of the inning was remarkable for a fine catch by Remsen and a piece of lightning fielding by McGeary."

Darkness Stops Great Battle

The game would have been worthy of a conspicuous place in baseball history even if darkness had come at the end of the regulation nine innings. As stated in the Times report, "the batting had, for the most part, been heavy and the fielding brilliant, but good as either the batting or fielding was during the first nine innings, that which followed was even better. From now until the close of the fifteenth inning, when darkness ended the contest, the spectators were kept constantly busy with their hands and lungs, applauding brilliant plays by individual fielders. Nichols opened the tenth with a long fly to Mansell's field. Dorgan tipped a swiftly pitched ball and Higham shot out his left hand and fastened his claws on it (foul-tips counted out when caught thirty years ago). Clapp sent a hot one through McKinnon and stole second, where he was left by a fly to Geer. The batting of the Stars netted no bigger results. McGeary stood in the way of Carpenter's bounder and Mike Dorgan's long legs and long throw prevented Higham from getting farther than second base on a ball batted nearly to the left-field fence. Only one man was as yet out, but the spectators were relieved a little later when Remsen froze to Geer's fly and McKinnon was put out by Croft."

Dorgan, who had captained the Syracuse Stars the year before, was noted both as an outfielder and catcher and was considered the heaviest batter of the home team. In the eleventh inning the fans all expected Force to reach third base on a hit to the left-field fence. "The instant the ball left Force's bat Mansell started on a run toward the southwest corner of the ball park (in 1877 the home plate was in the southeast corner of the park), and when the ball neared the ground in that corner his right hand was there to receive it. Mansel was on a dead run when he reached the ball, and the play was the best one-handed catch ever made on that ball field."

In the second half of the same inning "a ball from Hotaling's bat went like a shot in Blong's direction (right field) and it seemed as if nothing short of a miracle could prevent the batter from reaching first, but McGeary managed in some way to get a hand in front of it and the next instant the ball was held by Croft."

An Epochal Session

Joe Battin, one of the picked men who had represented the United States in an all-around-the-world series of games a few years before, opened the fourteenth inning with a stinging, crooked bounder which struck Geer in the breast and "rolled twenty feet away," but the ball beat the batter to first. "Mansell distinguished himself again by taking a fly from Force's bat on a dead run. Remsen now came in for another safe hit, the ball going to centerfield, but in running to second directly afterward he unfortunately collided with a hot liner from Croft's bat and was decided out" (much to the surprise of the spectators, as the decision was under a new rule).

The sun being almost down, it was decided to play only one inning more. As Remsen was the last out for the Browns in the fourteenth inning, Croft, the next batter, who had caused the out, was, under the old rules, the first up in the fifteenth. He hit safely and after Joe Blong's out stole second base. "Everything now depended on Nichols and Dorgan, neither of whom had batted McCormack for a single safe hit. Nichols struck fiercely, but wildly, for a double-bagger and brought forth a skyball for Farrell, and then Dorgan, the last hope of the Browns, faced the pitcher. He swung his bat as if to send the ball to the out fence, but the sad result was a high ball, which dropped into Carpenter's hands, and the Browns took the field for the fifteenth time."

Farrell, the first striker, stood at the plate without making a motion with his bat and was finally sent to base on called balls. McCormack batted a fly to Croft and Carpenter hit to Nichols, who threw to McGeary and forced out Farrell. Then Higham, the last hope of the Stars, came to bat. A two-base hit would bring home the man at first and win the game for the Stars. Higham made a desperate lunge at the first good ball pitched, but a twist was on the sphere. It bounded to Davey's feet and the next instant was shot into Croft's hands, and the game was over-a 15-inning game with a score of nothing to nothing.

The result seemed to satisfy the players, as well as spectators, and everybody was jubilant at having witnessed the most remarkable game on record. The batting under ordinary circumstances would have netted a score or more of base hits. The fielding was never excelled on a ball field."

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