Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The 1876 Brown Stockings: A Peculiar Struggle

The game at Grand Avenue Park yesterday afternoon, between the St. Louis and Louisville base ball nines, resulted in favor of the former, by a score of three to nothing, and was witnessed by about 1,500 spectators. Fulmer won the toss and the Browns were first at the bat, with Mr. William Osborne, of Louisville, again in occupancy of the umpire's position. His errors did not affect the result in any way, although some of them, in cases of foul balls being adjudged fair, were very bad. He also used poor judgement in calling balls and strikes, though evidently not from any partisan feeling, as he was more severe on Devlin than on Bradley. The former gentleman was not at all well, and played throughout the game without any spirit. In this game Chapman was substituted for Bechtel at right field, but Jack had nothing to do there and proved extremely unlucky with the stick, leaving men on bases on two different occasions.

Though by no means a brilliant struggle, the result being a foregone conclusion after the first inning, it was a peculiar one. A glance at the score will show that while each club committed the same number of fielding errors-five-and made the same number of base hits-bar one-Louisville got in no runs, while St. Louis secured three, one of which was earned. Luck had a good deal to do with this, St. Louis grouping her base hits, while those by Louisville came straggling along at unimportant junctures of the contest. McGeary, Pike and Battin led at the bat for St. Louis, while Gerhardt did the best service in that line for Louisville. In the field, Fulmer, Battin, Somerville and the two first basemen covered themselves with glory, the former particularly in the downfall of no less than ten players. Taken as a whole, the game was by no means exciting, and did not compare favorably with any of its predecessors this season.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 11, 1876

Some thoughts:

-I guess McGeary didn't have his "lucky" coin with him for this game.

-Has anybody done any work analysing earned/unearned runs in 1876 specifically or 19th century baseball in general? We know about the high number of errors but for some reason the low number of earned runs that I see on a day to day basis with the Brown Stockings in 1876 has surprised me a bit. Don't know why I'm surprised. Errors lead to unearned runs. The more errors, the more unearned runs. I'm just wondering what percentage of runs scored were unearned. It's a big number for sure.

-I don't know that much about him but Joe Gerhardt strikes me as a darn fine ballplayer. His stats don't look all that great but he was obviously good enough to play well past his prime, including a short stint with the Browns in 1890. There must have been something there that doesn't show up in his offensive numbers. Anybody know about his defensive reputation?


Ron Rollins said...

The Baseball Encyclopedia does a fairly good job of estimating ERA's for the dead ball era. I don't have the book here with me, but there is an eplanation for it.

I don't remember the method, but it might be worth checking out.

Jeffrey Kittel said...

Thanks. I'll check it out.

Cliff Blau said...

They used a different definition of earned runs then. A walk, stolen base, wild pitch, or anything other than a hit would make a run unearned.