Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Game In Question

Chicago snatched a victory out of the jaws of defeat in fine style here to-day.  A two-base hit by Clapp and a single by Croft gave St. Louis an earned run in the fourth inning.  In the fifth, after two hands were out, Clapp and Dorgan scored on errors by Anson and McVey and two hits, which were all the runs St. Louis could squeeze in.  In the sixth inning an overthrow by Force gave McVey second, and he tallied on Anson's two-base hit.  In the seventh Eggler earned first, and was sent home by Bradley with an earned run, with two men out.  Battin made a miserable muff of Eden's bounder, and Brad got in with the tieing run.  In the eighth inning, with two men out, Anson stole second on Battin's muff of Clapp's fine throw, which reached him in plenty of time to catch the striker, and Hines then brought in the winning run by a solid hit to left.  Clapp's catching, Peter's fielding, Dorgan's throwing, and Croft's first-base play were the features of the game.
-Chicago Daily, August 25, 1877

This is the game, played on August 24, 1877 in St. Louis, that Joe Blong and Joe Battin  were alleged to have thrown.  The Brown Stockings lost to Chicago that day by a score of 4-3 after having a three run lead through five innings. 

(William) Spink alleged that two Brown Stockings had conspired with Chicago gambler Mike McDonald to fix the St. Louis-Chicago game of August seems clear that (Spink) intended to target pitcher Joe Blong and third baseman Joe Battin as the dishonest Brown Stockings...Evaluating the player performances of August 24, Spink complained, "The game was lost, after it had been won, by Battin, who has been the weakest spot in the St. Louis nine all season.  In the early part of the contest, Blong pitched well, but towards the end went to pieces, his wild pitching and lack of headwork...proving very costly."
  -Before They Were Cardinals

In the game, Blong had three errors and Battin two.  Battin's drop on Anson's steal appears to be the glaring error that had everyone scratching their heads and, in retrospect, pointing fingers.  Force also was named in the scandal by the Chicago papers and his throwing error is probably the reason for that.   


David Ball said...

Anybody can commit an error, but once the legitimacy of competitive effort comes under question, then everything starts to look suspicious. There may have been more to the question marks placed against Force's name, though. He had played for Chicago in 1874 and seems to have had a somewhat rough experience with the hypercritical Chicago press. Then he signed a contract to come back in 1875, backed out and signed another to play for the Athletics in Philadelphia and was finally awarded to the latter club after a highly contentious dispute.

As a result of all this, Force was under something of a cloud at this time, especially in Chicago. Other than these matters, however, I don't think there were ever any black marks against Force during a very long career.

Jeffrey Kittel said...

The Chicago Tribune wrote on Nov. 4, 1877 that "There has been as much crookedness in St. Louis as Louisville. The attempt to cut off the investigation by hanging Joe Blong and Joe Battin is like stopping a fountain of salt." They go on to mention Force by name and mention the error. Cash believes that one of the reasons Force got dragged into this was because Spink, writing in the Globe, left plenty of room for speculation about which players were involved. McGeary's name also got thrown into the mix by the Chicago papers, largely because his name had come up in accusations of this sort on numerous occasions over the previous few years (and as recently as early August 1877).

We're really dealing with two problems here. The first is that we don't know for certain what happened with these StL/Chicago games. There was no admissions of guilt, nobody stepping forward to say what really happened. The best reporting was done by Spink and he didn't specifically name the players involved. You can look at the game, look at later actions, look at some of the things that others were saying and come to solid conclusion that Blong and Battin had sold games. But we have no way of knowing for certain if it was just those two.

The second problem is a general culture of corruption that seems to have existed around the Brown Stockings. There's these games against Chicago, accusations that they threw games against Boston, Louisville, etc., the Devinney accusation against McGeary, the influence of umpire L.W. Burtis on games (and his proximity to the club)-all of this together paints an ugly picture and, like you say, everything (and everybody) starts to look suspicious.

I don't see any evidence that Force or McGeary were involved in fixing the Chicago games. The Chicago papers were engaged in a bit of schadenfreude while at the same time attempting to deflect attention from the Chicago aspects of the scandal. I wasn't aware of Force's problems with the Chicago press and that certainly puts their accusations in a different light.