Monday, November 30, 2009

The 1876 Brown Stockings: McGeary Vindicated

On June 1, 1876, the Philadelphia City Item published the following letter:

It having been asserted, and published over the country, that the defeat of the St. Louis baseball club in Brooklyn last Saturday was due to the "crooked" playing on the part of Mr. McGeary, he was, in deference to the National League, suspended from play until the matter should be investigated. I immediately came to the city and have made careful inquiry into the matter. Justice to the accused requires me to say publicly through the press that there is no evidence, aside from the fielding errors made by him in that game, that McGeary was false to his club, and therefore he was reinstated today.

To many people the mere restoration of Mr. McGeary to his former position in the club will not be any assurance of his innocence. I am authorized to say that the St. Louis club will pay a reward of $250 for any proof that he was directly or indirectly interested in any pool, wager, or money consideration on the game alluded to.

Yours respectfully,
C.O. Bishop, Vice President, St. Louis

-Daniel Ginsburg, The Fix Is In: A History of Baseball Gambling and Game Fixing Scandals

Mike McGeary has been "vindicated" by the managers of the St. Louis Browns, and he will go back to second base again. An investigation was duly held, and the investigators were "satisfied" that Mike hadn't sold out that Mutual game after all. In the Athletic-Brown Stocking game Saturday Joe Battin made three errors, and it was lucky for him that the Browns were not defeated. If they had been he would certainly have been a subject for an "investigation."
-Chicago Daily Tribune, June 11, 1876 (originally printed in the Cincinnati Enquirer)

They didn't have to worry. Joe Battin's turn was coming.

So, in the end, this was much ado about nothing. Not all that shocking really. I made the comparison before between accusations of game fixing during the 19th century and accusations of PED usage today. Make five errors in a game in 1876 and you were a fixer. Put up historically great numbers between 1990 and 2009 and you're juiced. Of course, there were people fixing games in the 19th century and there were guys on steroids in the 21st century. But it wasn't everybody all the time.

And I'm not drawing a moral equivalence between throwing games and steroids because I don't see one. They are two completely different things. As the old coach once said, "You play the game to win." One of these things helped you win and one didn't. No comparison.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

1876 Brown Stockings: Notice Of Suspension

McGeary, the captain of the St. (Louis) Browns, and who has been playing second base all the season, has been suspended by the manager of the nine for "crooked" playing in a game with the Brooklyn Mutuals last week.
-Daily Arkansas Gazette, June 1, 1876

McGeary has been suspended, charged with selling the St. Louis-Mutual game of May 27.
-Chicago Daily Tribune, May 31, 1876

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The 1876 Brown Stockings: An Incident Worthy Of Note

The Clipper weighs in on the McGeary game:

One plain fact was elicited in the week's play, and that was that the St. Louis team, with all playing their level best to win, is one strong enough to successfully cope with the best in the League; but if doing their best can not be insured, the strength they possess becomes comparatively useless...But there appears to be other drawbacks in the composition of the team, which will tell against their record before the season is over. There was an incident connected with this game which is worthy of note. Cuthbert, before the game began, was very active in the field, holding difficult fly balls with ease. After the second inning had ended, though he had not handled the ball in the game, he declined to play further, the alleged cause being "a sore hand." Pearce was put in to play in his stead at left field, and the veteran, when he stepped up to the bat, received a hearty greeting of applause.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, June 1, 1876

The Cuthbert incident was mentioned in a previous post and the insinuation was that Cuthbert left the game in disgust, angered by McGeary's play.

I'm still surprised that there were rumors of game fixing surrounding the club in 1876. It's not that this kind of thing wasn't going on (see the 1877 Brown Stockings) but that I've never heard anything like this in connection with the 1876 Browns. We can now say that, regardless of the facts on the field, there were allegations of game fixing surrounding the Brown Stockings in both 1876 and 1877.

I believe that the most relevant question right now is whether or not there were any allegations made against the 1875 Brown Stockings. As of right now, I'm not aware of any but it seems like we need to take a closer look at that. Allegations of game fixing against the 1875 club would significantly change the story of the 1875-1877 Brown Stockings.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The 1876 Brown Stockings: Poor Tom

Philadelphia, May 29.-Headquarters St. Louis B.B.C.-Tom Miller died this afternoon at 5 o'clock. S.M. Graffen, Manager.

The above telegram will be read with profound regret by every lover of base ball in the country. Miller, by his unobtrusive and gentlemanly demeanor in private, and his skill on the ball field, had endeared himself to all, and the announcement of his death is all the more painful from its suddenness. Tommy was a natural ball player. As a catcher he had no superior in the profession, and his throwing to bases was superb. Were it not for his weakness at the bat, Clapp would never have superseded him. He was an especial favorite with the Directors of the St. Louis club, who admired him for his honesty, and the faithful way in which all his duties were performed. The brilliant manner in which the pluck little fellow supported Bradley last season is a matter of record. The success of the Browns last year was due in a great measure to Miller's catching. He will be remembered as long as the National game has an existence for his skill and will never be forgotten by the thousands who were honored by his friendship.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 30, 1876

I know I've posted this piece about Miller's death before but I figured I'd repost it in the context of the Brown Stockings 1876 season. In the same issue, the Globe ran the following:

Mr. Thomas Miller, change catcher of the St. Louis Base Ball Club, died at the residence of his parents, in (Philadelphia), this afternoon. His associates grieve deeply at his loss, and the engagements of the club have been canceled until after his interment. The game with the Athletics to-morrow is therefore off.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

I got myself a niece and a great-niece in the last year and a half and I can't tell you how thankful I am for them. I've been very fortunate in that I get to spend a great deal of time with them. It may be a dog eat dog world out there and we may all be wearing milk bone underwear but it doesn't really matter when you get to hang out with those two chubby little ham hocks.

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the lands!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the Lord is God!
It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people,
and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him, bless his name!
For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures for ever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
-Psalm 100

I've been watching pretty much nothing but Westerns lately so I'm in the mood to share these with you:

The Searchers is simply the greatest Western of all-time and I'll accept no argument about that. The science is settled.

One of the best things about Westerns is the music and this is my favorite.

Since it's a holiday, I'll also share this: the showdown between Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson from Once Upon A Time In The West. Keep an eye out for Claudia Cardinale (hubba hubba).

And just so we're clear, here's my top ten all-time Westerns:

1. The Searchers
2. Once Upon A Time In The West
3. The Magnificent Seven
4. Unforgiven
5. Fistful of Dollars
6. Rio Bravo
7. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence
8. My Darling Clementine
9. The Outlaw Josey Wales
10. She Wore A Yellow Ribbon

Very heavy on the Duke, Clint and Henry Fonda. I'm pretty settled on 1 through 4 but 5 through 10 changes from time to time. Sometimes High Noon sneaks in there; sometimes The Good, the Bad and the Ugly; sometimes Winchester '73. But Shane never makes the list.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I Had To Do It

Sorry but I just couldn't resist posting this. I've seen it three times at three different blogs I follow and watched it every time. Consider it a Thanksgiving aperitif.

The 1876 Brown Stockings: A Very Awkward Predicament

McGeary is the principal topic of conversation in base ball circles, at the present time, and the manner in which he has stirred up certain gentlemen is amusing in the extreme. At the time McGeary was engaged by the St. Louis Club there were only two newspapers in the country that saw fit to speak of the man as a "marked" player, and to maintain that the Browns had made a vital mistake in hiring him. The Globe-Democrat and the New York Clipper are the journals referred to, and the result was that bigoted partisans availed themselves of every opportunity to sling mud at Mr. Henry Chadwick, the base ball editor of the Clipper. Because that gentleman maintained that McGeary and Blong had been guilty of discreditable acts and should not have been employed, he was roundly abused by those who were willing to overlook the former records of the men in the hope that their playing skill would enable the St. Louis Club to win the championship. If McGeary is the traitor that the Brown Stocking manager, by his telegram, would lead the public to believe, the officers of that club have learned the lesson which Chadwick maintained they would be taught before the end of the season. It is exceedingly lucky that this expose has occurred thus early, thereby enabling changes to be made in the team, which, later in the season, might prevent the Browns gaining one of the first places in the championship race. If the charges against McGeary can be substantiated, the National game will profit greatly thereby. The League will doubtless see that he is punished, and punished so severely that other players will be deterred from similar actions. A noticeable fact in connection with this affair is that the very men who could see nothing wrong in the engagement of players with tarnished reputations are now howling like hyennas at the result of the game in Brooklyn on Saturday. "Such is life."

At noon yesterday the Directors of the St. Louis Club held a meeting and decided to sift the charges against McGeary thoroughly, and, if they are well founded, he will at one be expelled from the League. The action of Manager Graffen in suspending McGeary for the time being was also upheld, and that official was notified to that effect. It is very evident that the gentlemen connected with the club intend doing all in their power to suppress fraud of every description. The death of Miller and McGeary's suspension place the Browns in a very awkward predicament, as they are now without substitutes in the event of injury, illness or accident. For this reason it is more than likely that the nine players left will do their level best to show St. Louisians that they are worthy of the confidence reposed in them, and the team may possibly be strengthened, instead of weakened, by the club's misfortunes.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 30, 1876

It was a rough couple of days for the Brown Stockings. They lost to the Mutuals, McGeary was accused of throwing the game and suspended and then Tom Miller died in Philadelphia. Such is life, indeed.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The 1876 Brown Stockings: The Old Leaven Of Crooked Play

The unwise policy adopted by the League Association of mixing up unreliable and "marked" men with their reorganized teams, on the principle of forgiving past misdeeds and trusting to a strict enforcement of stringent laws against foul play to prevent fraud in the professional arena, is just now beginning to show its fruit. The Eagle pointed out the error last March, in its comments on the action of the League Convention and for this all sorts of abuse was poured upon the writer, especially by the St. Louis papers. There is nothing like experience, however, as a teacher for some people, and professional club managers will not learn from any other source, as a general thing. The League Association threw the Philadelphia Club out of the arena, ostensibly on account of the "crooked play" countenanced by the Club, and yet the League Clubs have since absorbed every man who played in the Philadelphia team in 1875.

The most marked of the suspected minority of the Philadelphia team of that year, was McGeary, a fellow whom Burdock of the Hartfords openly charged with offering him $1,000 to sell a game. Another player engaged by the St. Louis Club for 1876 was Blong, who was just as openly charged by the Cincinnati Times with selling a game as Captain of the Star nine of Covington. Now here was an element introduced into an otherwise well selected team, which was calculated to be greatly demoralizing in its influence before the season was over, and results are apparently proving that it already has been baneful in its effects. But without further preface, reference is now made to the peculiar occurrences which marked the contest of Saturday between the Mutual and St. Louis nines, in which the first cropping out of the old leaven of crooked play appears.

Facts and facts only are submitted below for the consideration of the League Directory, whose attention is called to what may be termed "the play of a marked man."

In the first game between the St. Louis and Mutual nines McGeary put out five players on his position at second base, three of which were by beautiful running catches of "short high balls," or balls which are hit so as to fall between the infielders and the out fielders. He made but one error and that was on a hot ground ball from Hick's bat, his throwing, especially, being very accurate. In the second game he put out six players in his position, four of whom were by similar fly catches to those of the first game, two of them, as before, being running catches back of second base. In these games he plainly showed what he could do when he chose to play ball, his earnestness, activity and skill being noteworthy, for he is undoubtedly a fine player. But the contrast between his play in these two games and that he exhibited in Saturday's game was so striking as to elicit marked comment from all who beheld it. But for the gross and unmistakable misplays he made in the first two innings in Saturday's game the Mutuals would certainly not have scored a run. Moreover, after the game had practically been given into their hands by his errors, he played the position as well as ever, putting out four players without an error, the Mutuals not scoring a run, in the last seven innings. If the errors had been such as the exigencies of the game admitted of there would be no need of complaint; but they were not. The errors-if such they may be called-were palpable misplays. First he throws a ball with great speed to Mack at second base, when within twenty feet of him; then he throws a ball home as many feet above the catcher's head; then he drops a ball which he gets hold of, and thereby misses a catch similar to several which he made several times without difficulty in the previous games; and finally he again throws the ball in over the catcher's head, and by these errors he allows the Mutuals to escape blanks, and to score six unearned runs. After the damage is done, and the game is in the hands of his opponents, he plays his position without an error. So palpably "crooked" was his work that one of his companions left the field in disgust, though ostensibly for other reasons, and those of the crowd who had seen his brilliant fielding in the previous games could not help being struck with the contrast. If Dehlman or Clapp, or others of the nine had done this, their reliable record might have pleaded in their behalf, and led to a verdict of poor fielding being given. But here is a man who is charged with offering another player a thousand dollar bribe. Taking this into consideration, what other conclusion can be arrived at than the one in question?

It is stated that the matter is to be "investigated" by the St. Louis Club officials. It is due to the honest players of the club that this should be rigidly done. An analysis of the play plainly shows avoidable errors, and if circumstantial evidence tells anything in ball play it tells that this game was "given away" in the first two innings. It was hoped that the Centennial year would have not been marked by a single instance of "crooked play," but it looks very unpromisingly now for such consummation being arrived at while such work is permitted.

Besides McGeary's suspicious play there is an unaccountable contrast in the effect of the pitching in the first two innings compared with that in the last seven. The Mutuals led off with two base hits, the comparative ease with which they punished Bradley's delivery in these two innings to that of the previous games eliciting surprise. Singularly enough they scored five base hits in the first two innings and four afterward in seven innings. This might have been the result of the demoralizing effect of the McGeary fielding, but it was commented upon as rather peculiar.
-Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 30, 1876

Well, well, well:

-When I started this little project, I stated that one of the reasons I was picking the 1876 Brown Stockings to chronicle was that unlike the 1875 or 1877 club there was little drama surrounding the team. They weren't the first professional club in St. Louis or the one that finally defeated the Chicago professionals or the one that was tainted by scandal or the one that destroyed professional baseball in St. Louis for several years. They were just this nice, quiet, little club that went about their business and was probably the best of the Brown Stocking clubs. I guess that's all kind of out the window now, isn't it?

-I'm not familiar enough with his writing style to say for certain but I assume this is Mr. Henry Chadwick in full-fledged attack mode and an ax to grind. This was a really long, wordy piece when all he really wanted to say was "I told you so."

-Ironically, this piece is probably the best description of McGeary as a defensive player. According to Chadwick, McGeary was one hell of a defensive second baseman. He had an accurate arm, was fantastic going back on the ball and was all-around "brilliant" at the position.

-Chadwick, an eyewitness, flat out states that McGeary threw the game. He didn't mince words or dance around the question. Chadwick wrote that the game was given away by a crooked ballplayer. That's a very bold statement.

-And he threw George Washington Bradley under the bus for good measure.

-I understand that anytime anything hinky happened in a 19th century baseball game, people started yelling fix. But it gets a little tiring and you can never really be sure whether you should take it seriously or not. Considering everything that would happen in 1877, I think that this incident should be looked at more. I'm not saying anything about McGeary's guilt or innocence but only that more research is needed.

-One time, back in the day, I watched a Braves/Giants game and Bob Brenly was playing third base for San Francisco that day. He made four errors in one inning and I think two errors on one play. Not once did I think Brenly was throwing the game. Of course, I think he also went on to win the game with a home run in the ninth. And he was a catcher playing out of position. But the point is that if Chadwick had seen that, he'd have gone on to write ten thousand words on how Brenly was crooked and the game was corrupted by his inclusion in the fraternity. Then again, if I saw that Ross Barnes put on fifty pounds of muscle in the off season and was knocking the ball all over the park, I'd be certain that he was on PEDS.

-I really need to find a new picture of Mike McGeary.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The 1876 Brown Stockings: Here We Go Again

The third game of the Mutual-St. Louis series was played this afternoon in Brooklyn, in the presence of about 1,500 people, Mr. Daniels umpiring. The Mutuals won the toss, and took the field at 4 o'clock. Cuthbert went out by Hallinan's assistance. Clapp was saved by an error of the same player, and scored on Pike's two-baser to right field. For the Mutuals, Holdsworth and Start made safe hits. Tracy hit to McGeary, and the latter threw wild to Mack, to make a double play, Holdsworth scoring. Start was forced at home plate on Hallinan's hit to Mack. Another bad throw by McGeary of Craver's hit let Tracey home, and Hallinan scored on Hick's high fly to Blong. Booth ended the inning for three runs by going out at first.

In the second inning Blong, Bradley and Dehlman went out in the order named. After Mack had cleverly disposed of Matthews and Nichols, Holdsworth hit safe, and Battin muffed Start's grounder. McGeary muffed Tracey's fly, and threw high home to catch Holdsworth. Hallinan hit safe past third, and two runs came in. Hick's high fly to Battin ended the inning for the three runs.

In the third inning Mack and Cuthbert went out at first. Clapp also retired on a line hit to center, well caught by Holdsworth. Booth, matthews and Nichols were retired on weak hits to the in-field. In the fourth inning McGeary took first on Hallinan's juggle, stole second, and scored while Battin was being thrown out at first, Pike and Blong being the other outs. Holdsworth retired on a weak hit to Bradley. Start and Tracey made safe hits, the former being forced out at third on Hallinan's hit to Bradley, and, as Craver also hit to Bradley, he retired.

The fifth and sixth inning saw both sides blanked in first-class style, Battin putting three players out in splendid style, and the Browns all going out on fly balls. The remaining innings were devoid of interest, save the eighth, when Bradley and Dehlman, by errors of Hallinan and Craver, made their bases. Mack then hit direct to Nichols, and a double play resulted, destroying all hopes of the St. Louis Club making a rally. The game was lost by the bad playing of McGeary, whose errors gave the Mutuals every run they made.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 28, 1876

McGeary had five errors in the game and let's just say that we're going to be talking about that for the next few days. The Globe's headline for this article was "McGeary Responsible for a Brown Stocking Defeat." Anybody want to guess what the New York press had to say about all of this? Mike McGeary. The Brown Stockings. The New York press. Nineteenth century baseball. Anybody? I'll take "Accusations of Game Fixing" for a thousand, Alex.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Traveling East By Train In 1876

Since we're talking about the 1876 Brown Stockings heading out on their first eastern road trip of the season, I thought I'd pass along this article I found about a trip from St. Louis to Washington, D.C. that took place in May of 1876:

We left St. Louis Friday night at 7:05, via the Ohio and Mississippi railroad, for Washington, arriving in Cincinnati for breakfast at 8 o'clock. The distance is three hundred and forty miles-four miles less than from Little Rock to St. Louis-and we made it in four hours less time than is consumed on the Iron Mountain road. Saturday was passed rolling across the broad acres and beautiful farms of southern Ohio, except toward night, when we passed into the southeastern corner, where the country is very sparsely settled, rugged and mountainous. The farmers were busy with their labor-saving machines, and crops looked forward. The farms along the Hocking valley were in a delightful state of progression. At 5:30 we crossed the Ohio river on an elegant bridge, stopped to change engines at Parkersburg, W. Va., and were soon whirling eastward on the Baltimore and Ohio road. Here it is that the obliging "conductaire" is not his own chief cook. He is accompanied by a "ticket collector," who walks backward through the train just ahead of the conductor, first taking tickets and money, and after noting receipts passing the same to the conductor. The company cannot have any respect for its employees to subject them to such surveillance. Seeking the sleeper at Grafton about 10 o'clock, Sunday morning at 8 o'clock found us in this great national whirlpool of political excitement. All the way along we noticed travel centennialward very light, and conversing with the people found that no very great reduction had been made in the cost, and that the middle classes would not go unless tickets were placed at lower rates. Many strangers from abroad in town, and hundreds of tourists to Philadelphia about the city.
-Daily Arkansas Gazette, May 25, 1876

One would imagine that our ballplayers found similar conditions as they travelled around the country, east to west and back and forth, throughout the season.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The 1876 Brown Stockings: The High-Water Mark

The games between the Mutual and St. Louis clubs have always been noted for their brilliancy, and the second game of the Centennial series this afternoon on the Union grounds was no exception. Better pitching and finer fielding, with three exceptions, are rarely seen. The outfielding of both nines was grand. Only a small audience was fortunate in witnessing the display. Mr. Daniels again officiated as umpire and called play at 4 o'clock, the Mutuals going to bat first.

Holdworth opened with a liner between short and third, but, after Start had been caught out by Pike, he was run out by McGeary in trying to steal second. Tracy finished the inning by a foul fly to Bradley. Cuthy died at first by Nichol's good play, and Clapp hit to Holdsworth and retired. McGeary earned first and immediately stole second, where he was left, Tracey attending to Pike's hit. Hallinan gave Clapp an easy chance. Craver drove a hot liner near Pike and stopped. Hicks struck out. The Browns did no better, Battin retiring on the bound to Hicks, and Blond and Bradley on good catches by Tracy.

In the third inning, after McGeary had caught Booth out, Matthews earned first, where he was left. A fine foul fly catch by McGeary, made back of first base, disposed of Nichols, and Holdsworth struck out. Dehlman pushed one to Matthews, and found the ball at first base before him. Mack drove a hard one past Nichols, reached first, stole second, and went to third on Cuthbert's base hit. Cuthy allowed himself to be caught between second and first, and while being put out Mack scored. Clapp was third out on another hard hit to center. In the fourth inning, Start, Tracy and Hallinan were the outs for the Mutuals in the order named, Cuthbert making a brilliant running catch. The Browns got in another run in their half of this inning, a bad throw of Hallinan's sending McGeary to second. Start's muff gave him third and Pike first. Battin hit to second, and while being put out McGeary scored, Blong and Bradley immediately after going out on fly catches by Nichols and Holdsworth.

The fielding in the next four innings was of the sharpest possible kind, eleven of the thirteen Mutuals who went to the bat being retired on fly catches, every one of which elicited enthusiastic applause. But one reached first base, and that was Craver, who led off in the eighth inning with a line hit over second, only to be left as his three followers retired without helping him further than third base. The fielding of the Mutuals was not one bit inferior to that of their opponents, for though Dehlman led off the fifth inning with a safe hit and stole second, he was left by the next three strikers, and Clapp opened the sixth with a two-baser, no run could be scored. A magnificent catch of Tracy being noticeable.

The ninth inning was opened by Nichols, who retired on a difficult running catch by McGeary. Holdworth and Start earned their bases. Tracy hit high and Bradley dropped it to make a double play, but Battin's bad throw to second saved Start, Holdsworth alone being put out. Hallinan hit hard to Battin, who, instead of touching third, threw wild to first, and the bases were full. A magnificent stop and throw of Mack's redeemed the errors and closed a magnificent game. The Browns made no effort to increase their score in the last half of the ninth inning.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 26, 1876

A couple of quick notes before I get to the point I really want to make:

-That was a crazy top of the ninth.

-This was George Washington Bradley's fifth shutout of the season. He's lead the League in 1876 with sixteen.


Going into the season, the Brown Stockings, their fans and many in the press declared the club to be a serious contender for the championship. But the truth is that they never really challenged Chicago for the pennant. In the end, they finished tied for second but six games out of first. After the first month of the season, they never were a true threat to win the championship.

This was not because they were a bad club. The 1876 Brown Stockings were a good, if flawed, baseball team. Under normal circumstances, they may have been a real threat to win the pennant but the problem was that the Chicagos were an outstanding baseball team and ran away with the thing. I'm not going to go into to how Chicago put their club together or the great players they brought in (except to say that Ross Barnes was awesome) but there was not a club in the country that could have challenged them for the championship. Maybe if the Browns had bought George Hall and Ezra Sutton from Philadelphia and had them replace Joe Blong and Herman Dehlman in the lineup, they would have had enough to catch Chicago. Maybe.

After the above game on May 25, 1876, the Brown Stockings found themselves in third place, two games behind Chicago and Hartford. This is the closest they would get to first place for the rest of the season. In June, the club would win six games in a row and only pick up one game on the Whites. In July, they'd win seven in a row and not make up any ground at all. Between May 27 and July 22, the Brown Stockings would go 17-8 and lose 3.5 games in the standings. Think about that for a minute. The Browns played .680 ball and lost 3.5 games in the standings. It's ridiculous.

I guess my point is that their is no pennant race in this story. There's no tale of a valiant club challenging a juggernaut and falling short. It's just the run of the mill story of a good team getting blown out of the pennant race by a great team. However, St. Louis and Chicago would play six games in eleven days in August with the season series still up in the air. So we have that part of the story to look forward to. And George Washington Bradley still has eleven more shutouts and a no-hitter to throw.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The 1876 Brown Stockings: A Little Exhibition Game

By Telegraph.

Elizabeth, N.J., May 24.-St. Louis 6; Resolutes, 3.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 25, 1876

I missed the notice for this game and had to go back and find it. I'll look around and see if I can find anything else about the game but no promises.

Update: I found a bit more in the May 25, 1876 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Several games were played yesterday, May 24, worthy of note. At Elizabeth, the St. Louis nine had work to do to whip the Resolutes of that town, by 6 to 3. The score stood at 2 to 1 only at the close of the sixth inning. The same nine played as that which defeated the Mutuals 12 to 3, except that Dick Pearce played in McGeary's place at second base, Dick putting out six players there.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Unearned Runs In 1876

I was prattling on about unearned runs the other day and wondered if anybody had looked to see how many unearned were scored during the 1876 season. With the question kicking around in the back of my head, I looked for the information and found it at BRef. After doing a little math, I figured out the percentage of unearned runs scored in the National League in 1876 and thought I'd share the information.

Team Runs Earned Runs %ER %UER

StL 222 78 35.1 64.9
Chi 257 116 45.1 54.9
Hart 261 116 44.4 55.6
Bost 450 176 39.1 60.9
Lville 334 121 36.2 63.8
NY 412 173 42.0 58.0
Phi 534 197 36.9 63.1
Cin 575 238 41.4 58.6

NL Total 3045 1215 39.9 60.01

Pretty simple stuff. I went to the pitching totals and took the total numbers of runs allowed by each club and the total number of earned runs allowed. I divided earned runs by total runs scored and multiplied by 100 to get the percentage of earned runs each club allowed. Then I subtracted the percentage of earned runs from one hundred to get each club's percentage of unearned runs allowed. I added up the club totals, multiplied, divided and subtracted and got the percentage of unearned runs allowed in the NL in 1876. Feel free to correct me if the math or methodology is wrong.

Sixty percent of runs scored in the NL in 1876 were unearned. By way of comparison, 8.4% of runs allowed by the 2009 St. Louis Cardinals were unearned (and they were not a great defensive club). For some reason, I had that 60% number in mind when I started doing this so I'm thinking that someone, somewhere already did this exercise and came up with the same number. I'm not all that bright and I don't believe in coincidences so I must have read about this somewhere.

Applying this information to our investigation of the 1876 Brown Stockings brings up an interesting question. Were the Brown Stockings the best defensive club in the League? They certainly had the reputation of being an outstanding defensive club and the St. Louis Globe-Democrat stressed the importance of defense to their success. Looking at the raw numbers, the Browns lead the League in fewest runs allowed, fewest earned runs allowed, fewest errors and highest fielding percentage and that would support the idea that they played good defense. However, the 1876 Brown Stockings led the League in percentage of unearned runs allowed and that tells me that their defensive reputation may be bit exaggerated.

The Browns were a good defensive club and I wouldn't argue otherwise but I can't say that it's obvious that they were the best defensive club in the League. They committed fewer errors and had a better fielding percentage than Chicago or Hartford but gave up a higher percentage of unearned runs than either club. Based on that (and comparing their team defensive stats) I think that you could make an argument that Chicago and Hartford were every bit as good defensively as St. Louis.

On the other hand, the Brown Stockings scored substantially fewer runs than either Chicago or Hartford and there is no doubt that their success was built around pitching and defense. Maybe we should be giving more credit for the club's success to George Washington Bradley. The Browns, with Bradley on the mound, just didn't give up many earned runs. To score against Bradley, you had to hope that the defense behind him was booting the ball around. That may be why I was so amazed at the number of unearned runs the club was giving up in April and May of 1876. Not only were they giving up a lot of unearned runs but most of the runs that they gave up were unearned. The unearned runs simply stand out more in that context.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The1876 Brown Stockings: A Signal Victory

In the presence of about two thousand people, the St. Louis Club opened their Eastern series of games with a signal victory over the Mutual Club, of Brooklyn. Mathews and Hicks made their reappearance for the Mutes, after an absence of about ten days. The game was remarkable for heavy batting and brilliant fielding. The weak spot in the Mutuals was in the pitching department, Mathews not having had any practice since his sickness.

The game opened with the Browns at the bat. Cuthbert took first on called balls, and scored on Pike's hit. Clapp earned first, and was sent home by a safe hit of Blong to center. Pike was put out at the home plate trying to score on the same hit. The other outs were McGeary and Battin on the fly to Tracy and Matthews. The Mutuals opened in splendid style, Holdsworth, Start and Tracy filling the bases immediately by hard, safe hits. Hallinan, the big batter, disappointed every one by tipping out to Clapp. A passed wild pitch let Big Jim in. Craver struck out, and Hicks retired at first. Thus a very dangerous looking inning ended very luckily for St. Louis

The Browns' second inning decided the game. Battin opened with a fly to Tracy and retired. Blong earned first and Bradley struck out. Dehlman, after being given a life by Tracy on a foul fly, took first on called balls. Mack reached first the same way. Cuthy hit safe. Clapp was sent to first on called balls. McGeary, Pike and Battin followed with clean hard line hits, and before Blong forced Pike out at third base six runs were scored. The Mutuals being blanked, all doubt as to the result of the game was over.

In the third inning Battin and Blong led off with safe hits, but the latter, with Bradley, were victimized in a double play by Hallinan, Craver and Start. Dehlman making the third hand out, left Battin on third. Start, Tracy and Hallinan went out in the order named. The Browns added three runs to their score in the fourth inning, Mack and Cuthbert getting first on wild throws by Hallinan and Matthews, and with McGeary scoring, on the safe hits of Clapp, McGeary, Pike and Battin, Clapp being put out at the home plate by Holdsworth and Hicks. Pike was run out between third and home, and Bradley at first base. For the Mutuals, Craver hit safe, Hicks got one past Mack. Booth tried one to the same player, but was doubled up with Hicks by Dennis, McGeary and Dehlman. Craver, going to third on the play, scored on Clapp's high throw to Battin to catch him napping.

One, two, three was the order of retirement for both sides in the fifth inning. After retiring the Browns for a blank in the sixth inning, the Mutuals made a desperate rally, Hallinan, Craver and Hicks following each other with safe hits, the former scoring. A good running catch by Pike disposed of Booth, and by Bradley's assistance a double play was made. Craver having run to third on the hit, and Pike overthrowing to second. Matthews ended the inning by hitting to Mack. The remainder of the game was remarkable for nothing of moment in the way of scoring. Base hits by Dehlman and Mack yielded the former a run in the eighth inning. Only one of the Mutuals reached first, Booth earning that base in the ninth inning.

A feature of the game was the number of times an inning was ended by one player, Nichols, putting the Browns out by himself in the fifth inning, Dehlman doing the same for the Mutuals in the seventh, and Mack fielding the three batsman all out at first base in the eighth inning. The play of Mack, Hallinan, Nichols, Dehlman and Start was remarkably fine. But one fly ball was hit to the St. Louis out-field during the game. To-morrow the St. Louis Club plays in Elizabeth, N.J.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 24, 1876

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

1876 Brown Stockings: The Chicagos Patch Up Their Prestige

The Chicagos managed to-day to patch up their prestige a little, which had been left sadly out of repair by the events of the previous day. They turned the tables on their St. Louis opponents in a substantial, if not in a very handsome, style, winning the game by a score of 6 to 3. The game was quite evenly contested, both in the field and at the bat, but the home club contrived to pop in their errors at the least critical junctures, and what most surprised the 6,000 people in attendance, they actually struck two or three fair streaks of batting, and sped around the bases at a lively rate, in spite of the excellent fielding of their competitors. Neither side, on the whole, made a good batting display, and the outfielders hardly performed their share of the work.

The Browns won the toss. Battin signalized himself, the first thing, by a low throw to first, permitting Barnes to take his base on a poor hit. By a neat double-play, however, Anson was retired on a fly catch by McGeary, and Barnes was caught between first and second. McVey's grounder went right through Mack, and he took an unearned base, upon which he was left, as Hines failed to cross the plate. The Browns retired with even greater precipitation. Cuthbert lifted a high one, which Glenn gathered. McGeary fouled out to White, and Pike dropped the ball at second base, whence it was neatly fielded to first before he got there.

The game was won for the Whites in the second inning. Bradley helped the thing along by permitting Spalding to take first on called balls. Bielaski feebly wailed the leather to second, and was cut off at first. Then the fun commenced. White made a beautiful base hit to center field, and Spalding took third. Peters made a fair foul base hit, giving Spalding an unearned run, and advancing White to third base. Glenn then sent a grounder to the left field, which Cuthbert picked up nimbly and sent home just as White crossed the plate. Clapp failed to gather in the ball, as he should have done, and, striking White on the shoulder, it bounded one side twenty feet, and Peters got home. White's run was earned. The crowd was wild with enthusiasm, and breathed easier in the expectation that the Whites would now certainly retrieve their fallen fortunes of the day before. Barnes then went out on a high fly to center field, and Glenn was nipped by Clapp as he essayed to reach the home plate before the ball did. The Browns failed to emulate the example of their opponents. Pike gracefully retired on three strikes. Anson caught Battin's little fly, and after a neat base hit to center field by Blong, Bradley retired the side by lodging a foul fly in Anson's hand.

The third inning was noteworthy only for the splendid fielding of a hot grounder from Cuthbert's bat by Barnes to McVey. Dehlman excited a storm of hisses by hunting a ball at his feet, after which exploit he ingloriously attempted to reach first base. Neither side made a base hit. A fine effort by the Browns to tally in the fourth was thwarted in the nick of time. Clapp made a clean base hit to center field. McGeary and Pike were then retired, Clapp advancing to third. Battin then sent a hot grounder to Barnes, which was fielded in the finest possible form to first, where it lodged in McVey's hands just as Clapp was within five feet of home.

The fifth inning presented no interesting features, except a fine base-hit to left by Dehlman, which filled him with such conceit that he tried to steal second, and came to grief. In the sixth, the Whites scored another unearned run. Anson went out on a foul tip to Clapp. McVey then tapped the ball gently, and sent it rolling to Mack, who fielded it well to first, but Dehlman made a horrible muff, and McVey took his base, whence he had the cheek to steal to second. Hines then made a two-base hit to left field, bring McVey Home. The side was then retired. In the latter half of the inning Mack was sent to first on called balls, and by the time that Cuthbert and Clapp had taken their seats, he had reached second. McGeary then sent a ball way over the short fielder's head, and made a creditable effort to get home, but was cut off almost over the plate by a fine throw from Hines to White.

The Chicagos revived their batting powers for another fail display in the seventh inning. White made a fine base hit to center. Peters made another first base hit, and White took second. A short ball from Glenn's bat was fielded from Bradley to Battin in time to cut off White at third. Battin then, in his haste to shorten Glenn's life, threw rather high to first, and the ball hit Dehlman on the bridge of his nose, turning his thoughts heavenward for a minute, while Glenn took second, and Peters third. Game was suspended for a few minutes to enable Dehlman to recover his breath. Barnes then sent a grounder to Mack, which was fielded to third in time to cut off Glenn, and Peters meantime came home. A base hit from Anson's bat brought Barnes home, and the Whites had scored two more unearned runs.

The exhibition of the Whites in the two last innings was not worthy of detailed mention. In the seventh, the Browns tallied their first run. After Cuthbert and Clapp had been easily retired, McGeary made second base on an error of Anson's in fumbling the ball and then throwing wild to second. A fine base hit from Pike's bat to right field brought McGeary home, amidst the hearty cheering of the audience. The Browns made their only earned run in the eighth inning, on a safe hit from Blong, a fair-foul base hit from Dehlman, and a fine base hit from Cuthbert to the left field gave Blong a tally. McGeary tallied again in the ninth inning, thanks to a very bad muff of his fly by Glenn and Battin's base hit. Pike, Blong and Bradley retired the club gracefully and ended the game, leaving Battin on second base.

Bielaskie took Addy's place in right field yesterday, to see if he would make a better record than that young man had achieved in the preceding game. He did nothing at the bat, and had only one opportunity in the field, which he improved in good style. Pools on the game sold at odds of $10 to $7 in favor of Chicago. Only a small number were disposed of.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 21, 1876

And so the 1876 Brown Stockings ended the first part of their western schedule with a loss to the Chicagos but with an overall record of 7-5. They also split their four games with the Whites and established themselves as a championship contender. After this game, the club would head east for twelve games and the championship wheat would get separated from the pretender's chaff.

Monday, November 16, 2009

1876 Brown Stockings: How The News Was Received

The friends of the Brown Stockings who were with the boys in spirit if not in flesh, yesterday, after hovering around the Globe-Democrat bulletin-board in the hot sun, all afternoon, were well repaid for their devotion, and went away happy. That base ball admirers depend upon this journal at all times for fresh and reliable news was evinced by the hundreds who thronged Fourth and Pine streets, in the vicinity of the office, the latter thoroughfare being almost impassable. at the close of the third inning, with Chicago in the lead by a score of one to nothing, the croakers, who hand on the outskirts of every crowd, saw nothing but defeat in store for the Browns. When five innings had been played and St. Louis had regained her lost ground, an enthusiastic cheer went up, which denoted how much interest was taken in the welfare of the home club. The one run gained by St. Louis in the fifth inning being supplemented by two in the sixth and a whitewash for Chicago, set the boys to yelling with might and main, the betting men to hustle for a chance to hedge, and the cool-headed ones, who never lose faith in their favorites, to smile satisfactorily as they saw that the Browns were playing their faultless fielding game, that they had nerve enough to wrest the lead from their powerful rivals, and that, bar accident, they could not lose. The Chicago reporters, who are unwilling to concede that anybody knows anything about base ball except themselves, and who imagine that no club in the arena stands the ghost of a show to win the championship from their pets, must have felt sick when they saw the futile efforts of the men whom they lured from Boston to cross the home plate and retire without being able to score in the last six innings. They felt bad at being beaten-wanted to die when beaten by St. Louis-and were ready to turn their toes up reverentially to the daisies on finding that they had been beaten by a ration of four to one, and that they merely escaped receiving a nest of goose eggs by a freak of fortune. It is to be hoped that these gentlemen may profit by the lesson taught them yesterday. For their information, it may be stated that there are base ball clubs in St. Louis and Hartford, and that both cities are entered for the championship.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 20, 1876

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The 1876 Brown Stockings: Nervous In Contemplation Of Painful Ideas

The Brown is above the White to-night, much to the disgust of a small army of Chicago pool-buyers, who staked heavily on their favorites, and at odds of two to one. It was the old, old story-the Whites could not bat Bradley's pitching, and as one stalwart athlete after another deliberately retired on three strikes the hilarity and confidence of the audience underwent a painful subsidence. In short, the Whites accepted defeat on their own grounds to the tune of 4 to 1. It was one of the most exciting sporting events that has ever occurred in this city, and was witnessed by six thousand people.

The St. Louis team was fairly entitled to the victory for the general superiority of their playing. To be sure, their fielding errors exceeded in number those of thier opponents, but the errors of the Chicagos were fatal in their consequences. They were committed at the most critical points of the game, and, for the most part, by men from whom, in the light of their previous record, better things were to have been expected. The batting of the home nine was simply execrable. It is the general impression here that they failed at the willow, not so much because Bradley is an unhittable pitcher as because the Chicagos think that he is, and get so nervous in contemplation of this painful idea that they aimlessly paddle the wind with his bats whenever he confronts them. The Brown Stockings batted well, but they owed their victory still more to their fine fielding display.

Cuthbert was first to step across the plate. He opened with a short hit over short stop's head. Clapp followed with a hard hit to Spalding, who fielded it to Peters in time to cut off Cuthbert at second, and from Peters it traveled to first, in time to retire Clapp, making a fine double play. McGeary made a safe hit, and took second on a passed ball. Pike lifted a high foul fly to Addy, who got square under it, and then miserably muffed it. Pike then went out to Anson. Barnes then went to bat, and struck out. Anson fouled out to Clapp. McVey accidentally hit the leather, and sent it over the short-fielder's head. Hines batted a ball at his feet, but reached first on a low throw by Clapp, and then he and McVey moved along a base on a wild pitch. The prospects were good for a run, but Spalding spoiled them by tipping a little fly to Bradley.

In the second inning Anson made his first bad error this season, missing an easy fly from Battin's bat, but by another fine double play by Spalding and Barnes, Battin and Blong were both retired. Bradley then went out on a fly to Hines. Of the Whites, Addy, White and Peters vainly pawed the air, and the side retired in one, two, three order.

The interest in the third inning was enhanced by the first run of the game, and the only one for the Chicagos. Dehlman went out to Anson, White captured Mack on a foul fly, and Spalding disposed of Cuthbert at first. Barnes then took first base on a short fair-foul hit, and by monkeying over the base, induced Bradley to throw the ball in bad style, and Barnes took second. Anson, for a wonder, made a safe hit, and by fast, daring running Barnes tallied. The St. Louis boys now made a beautiful double play, Cuthbert catching a fly from McVey, and then cutting off Anson at second.

In the fourth inning Clapp made a fine hit to center for two bases and was carried to third by a safe hit from McGeary. A tally for St. Louis seemed inevitable, but the fates ordered otherwise. Pike hit to Peters, who helped to put McGeary out at second, and Blong retired on a hot foul tip to White. There was great rejoicing in the Grand Stand at this exhibition of sharp fielding. White left the men of the muff-colored hose still without a run. The Chicagos disgusted everybody by the weak handling of the willow for the remainder of the game. They invariably retired in lovely one, two, three order; in the fifth inning the game was tied through Glenn's bad fielding. Bradley went out from Spalding to first. Dehlman made a long hit for two bases, and then Mack struck a short safe ball to left field. On account of Glenn's slow handling of the ball Dehlman was enabled to tally.

The sixth inning was the crusher. The always reliable Glenn gave the game right away, allowing the visitors to score two unearned runs by dropping a fly, and then failing to field the ball home or anywhere else, he retired McGeary on a fly. Pike hit a long one for two bases, and Blong helped him along with a single baser. Bradley sent a fly to Glenn, which he permitted to go through him, and then held the ball while Pike and Blong ran home. Spalding was responsible in a measure for Glenn's muff, as he allowed Anson to run for it, too. Chicago was blanked again.

Both sides were white washed in the seventh inning, a clever display of muffing by Addy in right field being the most remarkable feature. Safe hits were made by Cuthbert and White.

In the eight inning Anson let a ball go between his legs and Battin got a base. Blong and Bradley brought him in by safe hits. Mack was then sent to first on called balls and the bases were full, but no more runs were made. Nothing of consequence was done during the rest of the game.

The audience was remarkably cheerful under the circumstances. The past experience of Chicago base ball audiences has taught them to hush, and a large amount of fortitude for use for reverses is constantly on hand. Joe Simmons umpired the game, and gave good satisfaction. A large amount of money changed hands on the result. Pools had sold at two to one on the Whites. Among the heavy losers is Joe Mackin, the Dearborn street saloon-keeper, who had a similar experience in St. Louis a few weeks ago. The fourth game between these two clubs will be played to-day, and the Chicagos feel quite sanguine that they will turn the tables on their opponents.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 20, 1876

-This was the first game of a fourteen game road trip that would take the Brown Stockings to Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Hartford and Boston.

-After this victory, the Brown Stockings were in third place, 2.5 games behind first place Hartford and two games behind Chicago.

The 1876 Brown Stockings: The Red Legs Have Evidently Become Demoralized

Twenty-five hundred spectators witnessed another decidedly tame base ball contest at the Grand Avenue Park yesterday afternoon, in which the representative nines of St. Louis and Cincinnati were the contestants. Both teams were out in their full strength, Pearson resuming his position behind the bat for the Red Legs, and doing much better there than his substitute the day previous. The Cincinnatis improved very little, if any, over their game of Saturday, of which yesterday's contest was a counterpart. Several easy flies were dropped, and much wild throwing indulged in by the Red Legs, who, by their recent defeats, have evidently become demoralized. Gould secured their only tally in the first inning on a low throw by Battin, which Dehlman failed even to stop, thereby allowing the striker to reach second, from whence he was brought home on Pearson's model hit. The Red Legs could do nothing with Bradley's pitching, so well was it supported on all sides. Fisher and Pearson are each credited with two safe hits, and Foley and Kessler with one each, which was the sum total. Perfect fielding kept the Cincinnatis down to one run, while hard batting and loose play gave the Browns eleven runs, two of which were earned. The home men, one and all, did so well that it is unnecessary to particularize...
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 17, 1876

Random notes:

-Here's the TL;DR version: Man, the Redlegs are bad. I'm not even going to bother to write two paragraphs about this crap team. Check the box score.

-Nine unearned runs given up by the Reds and fifteen errors. That's not good. The Brown Stockings committed seven errors and the only run they gave up was unearned (Battin threw the ball away to put the first batter on; fly out to center; ground out, 5-3; and then a base hit by Pearson to bring in Gould). Not exactly a sharply played game.

-I need to create a spreadsheet and start tracking home attendance for the Brown Stockings. Neither BRef nor Retrosheet has the attendance for the season and I'm interested in what it was. My general understanding is that attendance was down from the 1875 season and I'd like to know if that was really true. Of course, all I have to go on is the newspaper reports and we have to take those with a grain of salt. But what else do we have?

-By the way, I love "demoralized" as a euphemism for "not good at all." The 2009 St. Louis Rams are demoralized. The Chicago Cubs have been demoralized for over one hundred years. Perfectly awesome. But if you throw in "evidently" then you're just being a smart ass.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The World's Champion Fielder

East Liverpool in Major Leagues.-Curtis Welsch played with the Crockery City team in 1877, '78, '79, '80, '81, '82. Then he was sent by Manager W.J. Calhoun to Toledo where he played two years. He went to St. Louis in 1885 and remained there for three consecutive years as a member of the great St. Louis Browns, owned by the famed Cris Von Der Ahe and managed by Charles Comiskey. Welch became the "World's Campion Fielder." He was finally sold to the Philadelphia Americans and finished his career with the Cincinnati Nationals. He passed away in East Liverpool in 1896.
-Harold B. Barth, History of Columbiana County, Ohio

Curt Welch was twenty-two years old during his first major league season with Toledo in 1884. Therefore, if I'm doing the math correctly, he was fifteen when he started with the Crockery City club. I've stated a few times that most of the guys that Von der Ahe sold off after the 1887 season had peaked as players. Welch was not one of them. He was only twenty-five when he was sold to Philadelphia and was a very good everyday player through 1891.

Barth leaves out a few of the clubs that Welch played for, including Baltimore in 1890 and 1891, Brooklyn in 1892 and Louisville in 1893. Welch was still a young man when his major league career ended, being only 31 years old. However, he was an alcoholic and basically drank himself out of baseball. His drinking cost him jobs with both Baltimore and Cincinnati. In 1894 and 1895, he played with Syracuse of the Eastern League but by then he was already showing signs of the consumptive illness that took his life in 1896.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The 1876 Brown Stockings: Batting With Vim

The thirty-five hundred spectaters at Grand Avenue Park yesterday afternoon were very much disappointed at the poor showing made by the Cincinnati Club against the famous Brown Stockings; who are at present playing a wonderful fielding game, and batting with vim. The Red Legs made a pretty picture as they appeared on the field. They are an athletic and well-behaved set of ball players, and have thus far this season made a creditable record. They were unfortunate yesterday in again being without the services of their valuable little catcher, Pearson, who, in the first inning hurt his hand so badly that he was compelled to retire, thus necessitating the sending of Will Foley-a model third baseman-behind the bat to support Fisher's ferocious pitching. Foley having been tried in the strange position but once before, the result was, as might have been anticipated, a series of damaging errors, principally passed balls and wild throws, which told disastrously against the visitors.

The game commenced promptly at 4 o'clock, with Cuthbert at the bat, and Jimmy Wood, the famous second baseman of the old Eckford nine, in the umpire's position. From the first inning to the last, the Reds failed to score a single tally, their batting being extremely weak, and the fielding of the home team almost perfection. But two safe hits were made, one a scratch by Kessler and the other a corker by Foley, off Bradley's swift pitching. This was a terrible fall for batsmen to take who had created such sad havoc with the Browns only a few days before, and a result that was not at all anticipated by the Cincinnati gentlemen. On the other hand, the Browns wielded the willow with great effect, the main feature of the game being the manner in which Battin punished Fisher every time he came to the bat. He faced the "Cherokee" five times, and on each occasion secured a base hit, no two of them dropping in the same part of the field. Pike also helped his average along by three fine hits, while Cuthbert, Clapp, Dehlman and Mack got one each. Clapp caught magnificently throughout, although charged with two errors. He retired ten of his opponents, three or four sharp foul tips cleanly handled, being credited to him. McGeary muffed a difficult fly, and one man was sent to his base on called balls, these four errors being all that were charged to the Browns. For the visitors, nothing very brilliant was done in the field, except a very vine catch at left center by Jones, which brought down the house. Kessler had a good deal of easy work to do at short, and did it in a fair manner. The only man who played up to the mark in the infield was Fischer. His pitching was of necessity slow, and therefore punished. He was evidently afraid to let himself out on Foley, and the Browns were not slow in profiting thereby.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 14, 1876

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?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Christ. Von Der Ahe, Lessee

The Victoria Cricket and Athletic Club sports will take place, weather permitting, on Thanksgiving Day, November 25, at the Grand Avenue Base Ball Park, kindly furnished for the occasion by Mr. Christ. Von der Ahe, lessee.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, November 7, 1880

It's going to be tough to find an earlier reference to Von der Ahe running the Grand Avenue ballpark than we have here. In October of 1880, August Solari announced that he was not going to renew his lease on the grounds and Von der Ahe took it over. In March of the following year, he formed the Sportsman's Park and Club Association to manage the grounds. The above reference comes less than a month after Von der Ahe took over the grounds.

Monday, November 9, 2009

1000 Posts

This is my 1000th post here at TGOG and I guess that counts as some kind of milestone so I'm breaking out the videos. If you don't like the Beatles, you should probably just skip this and wait for a relatively significant Von der Ahe post tomorrow. Anyway, I'm typing this up at 2:30 in the morning without using my left thumb (which really isn't as difficult as it sounds). I cut a large piece of it off last night (no exaggeration; I think I'm disfigured for life) while chopping up some chicken and it's wrapped up pretty good. While contemplating whether or not I should go to the hospital and get stitches or wait until tomorrow to see if the wound stops bleeding, I've been watching Beatles' videos on YouTube. Good times. I thought I'd share some of my favorites (and it was a difficult process paring it down to the ones I picked). And as a bonus to all my loyal and brilliant readers, I'll include this link to the single greatest video ever: Pete Maravich playing HORSE. If you like basketball and have never seen this, do yourself a favor and check it out. I'm not sure what I've watched more: Pistol Pete playing HORSE or the first video of my 1000th post.

One Two Three FAWR:

I found some great stuff tonight. Lots of live performances I've never seen, including this clip from the Cavern Club in 1962:

A 1963 performance of She Loves You-in color:

A performance of one of my favorite songs on Shindig in 1964:

I had no idea this video existed and it's amazing to hear the song live.

Sadly, no touring after 1966 but there are the TV performances. I think this is 1968 on the David Frost Show.

My favorite song from the rooftop performance (and that entire concert is on YouTube; Part 1, Part 2, Part 3; did I mention that I love YouTube):

And as I mentioned, tomorrow we have a short but (I think) significant post about Von der Ahe and the Grand Avenue grounds. After that, it's back to the 1876 Brown Stockings. Much thanks to everybody for reading and I appreciate your support. I probably would have quit doing this a long time ago if I didn't have such great readers. It's a lot of fun doing this with you and I always look forward to your comments and emails. So congratulations to you guys for putting up with me this long.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Joe Battin's Obituary

Akron, O., Dec. 11 (AP).-Joseph V. Battin, 86, once the highest salaried player in baseball, died here today.

Battin's baseball career included 15 years with major clubs, beginning with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1874. Later he played with the St. Louis Browns as catcher and captain of the team. At the peak of his career he drew $700 a month.

Connie Mack was playing with the Minor League Hartford Club when Battin spotted him and recommended him to the Washington Senators.
-Washington Post, December 12, 1937

No mention of the gambling scandal. People will forget a great deal over sixty years.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Soft Ball Trick

"Frank" Bancroft recently told a story explanatory of the occasional successes in the pitcher's box of George Washington Bradley. According to an exchange it was "Mike" McGeary who taught Bradley the soft ball trick.

The balls were always taken out of the paper boxes by McGeary and pounded until they became quite soft. Mac would have his men play a short field from the start and one or two runs were generally enough to win the games at St. Louis.

Bradley could make a soft ball talk, and with Clapp to coach him it was 3 to 1 they could win any game they played at home.

Bradley got a big reputation out his work that season and was secured by the Chicago Club for 1877 to take Al Spalding's place.

The ball was made livelier the next year, as the public demanded more batting, and without the help of McGeary and Clapp, Bradley made a bad failure and was released that fall.

The next season, while Bradley was with New Bedford, the Chicagos went there for a game, and Bradley proceeded to work his celebrated trick. He took the box containing the ball into the kitchen of the hotel and steamed it so that the label would come off.

Then he carried it to a carpenter's shop wrapped in the heel of a stocking, put it in a vise and pressed it until it was as mellow as a ripe pear. Then he put it back in the box, sealed it up and took it out to the game.

The ball was thrown to the umpire, who broke open the box and tossed the ball to Bradley. The latter grinned in his own original, fiendish style, and took his place in the box. "Brad" could make the soft ball do everything but talk. He sent it in with all kinds of shoots and curves.

In consequence New Bedford knocked the Windy City team out by a score of 5 to 1. Bradley was the hero of the hour. He could have had anything in New Bedford from the City Hall to a crank's best girl. These tactics were kept up and they won the championship of the New England League.

Bradley was again in consequence and signed with Troy next season at a good salary.
-The North American, December 27, 1895

Friday, November 6, 2009

John Clapp's Obituary

Ithaca, N.Y., Dec. 18.-John Clapp, formerly a National League baseball player, dropped dead at midnight last night while in the discharge of his duty as night sergeant of the city police department. He had just assisted a patrolman in making an arrest when he was stricken with apoplexy.
-Washington Post, December 19, 1904

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Lip Pike Is Dead

Lip Pike, once famous as a ball player, is dying at Brooklyn of heart disease.
-Chicago Daily Tribune, October 12, 1893

"Lip" Pike, the old centerfielder, is dead. He was famous in the day of the old Atlantics and St. Louis Browns.
-Chicago Daily Tribune, October 13, 1893

Pike died on October 10th. His widow died in 1909 and her obituary in the New York Times (August 29, 1909) is rather interesting:

Mrs. Lipman E. Pike, widow of the famous baseball player of thirty years ago, died on Friday...She was a well-known figure at the Polo Grounds and all other baseball fields throughout the country during her husband's life. She kept an elaborate set of scores of all the baseball games she ever attended and was at one time supposed to know more about the game than any other woman in the United States.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

George Bradley's Obituary

Bradley, First No Hit, No Run Pitcher, Dies at 79

George Washington Bradley, the first man to pitch an official no hit no run game in major league baseball, died at his home (in Philadelphia) last night (October 1) of a heart ailment. He was 79. While playing with St. Louis Bradley, on July 15, 1876, pitched his team to victory over Hartford in a contest in which he held the oppossing club without a hit or run.
-Chicago Daily Tribune, October 4, 1931

Update: One of my brilliant readers reminded me last night that Joe Borden gets the credit for throwing the first professional no-hitter. If you consider the NA to be a major league, which I do, then Borden should also be credited with throwing the first no-hitter in major league history. Bradley should rightly be credited with throwing the first no-hitter in NL history.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The 1876 Brown Stockings: Bradley Throws A Two-Hit Shutout

At Grand Avenue Park yesterday afternoon, Chapman's Crew, as the Louisville base ball players are alliteratively designated, made their first appearance before a St. Louis crowd, and created a very creditable impression by their gentlemanly behavior and skill on the field. They were out in full force and found foemen worthy of their sharpest tricks in the famous Brown Stocking team. About 3,000 spectators availed themselves of the beautiful weather and were well repaid for their visit to the Park. the Louisville lads presented a very handsome appearance in their neat, white uniform with blue facings, and their showy, striped blue and white stockings.

Lucky McGeary, as usual, won the toss, and promptly at 4 o'clock Hastings stepped up to the plate and play was called by Mr. Wm. Osborne, a noted Louisville amateur, who had been chosen as umpire. That gentleman evinced a little nervousness, but on the whole gave satisfaction to the contesting nines, his slight errors resulting from an evident earnestness to do what was right. The game eventually ended in favor of St. Louis by a score of 5 to 0, although not a run was scored on either side, and not a base hit credited to the Browns until the seventh inning. The fielding of the home team throughout was simply perfect, and it was undoubtedly the finest fielding display ever witnessed in the history of the game. But one error was committed, and that a very excusable one by Clapp, who fell down in a desperate attempt to capture a foul bound just in front of the plate. Not another chance was missed, the infield stopping hard hit bounders with the utmost ease and throwing with the accuracy of Dollymount marksmen. The only ball sent to the outfield gave Cuthbert a chance to earn a prolonged round of applause by one of the running catches which has made him famous. Clapp and Bradley worked together better than ever. The most effective work for Louisville was done by Somerville, Fulmer and Snyder; the former attending to second base without an error, and making one very difficult fly catch in right field. Fulmer maintained his reputation as one of the very best short fielders in the country, being credited with assisting in two double plays, which were the features of the game. In the second inning he, Gerhardt and Snyder, disposed of Bradley and Blong in style, and in the seventh he froze to Blong's red hot liner and caught Pike off second. In the first six innings not a base hit was secured off Devlin, but in the last three five clear hits were made, Clapp and Pike each getting in two, one of the latter's being a drive for three bags, which brought in two earned runs, and would have brought home three had not Mack preceded the others. Louisville was unusually weak at the bat, only two clean hits having been made off Bradley; one each by Hague and Devlin. The game, taken as a whole, was unusually interesting, and the return contest which takes place on Thursday, will undoubtedly draw out a large crowd.

A difference of opinion exists as to whether Blong's fly to center in the second inning should be credited as a base hit or not. Pike, Eggler, Hines, or any first-class center fielder could easily have secured it, but as the ball was badly misjudged by Hastings, that player is here charged with an error. He acknowledged after the game that he had badly misjudged the ball.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 10, 1876

Monday, November 2, 2009

St. Louis Badly Beaten: An Early Von Der Ahe Story

President Von der Ahe was almost heart-broken over the defeat of the St. Louis base-ball nine by the Athletic Club to-day. As he walked from the grounds a vision of the champion flag slowly fading away came before him and he wept. Dashing the tears away with a great effort he pulled his broad sombrero down over his face, jumped into a bobtail car, and went down town. Arrived at his hotel, he shot off a dozen electric bells and ordered the whole St. Louis nine to his room. The boys soon came up. There was not a smile. They arranged themselves around the room, some on te bed, others on chairs, and still others lounged on the velvet carpet of the wealthy President's room. Von der Ahe gazed upon the crowd and the crowd, with their still unwashed faces, glared back at him. By a great effort Von der Ahe spoke. "Boys, Von der Ahe is de President of de Cent Lewis Club. Von der Ahe is de manager of de Cent Lewis Club. Von der Ahe is de boss manager of the Cent Lewis Club. Vhy did you loose dot game to-day?"

Silence reigned all around. If the State House clock had been nearer it would have been heard to tick. Arlie Latham, from his downy perch on Von der Ahe's bolster, was the first to recover, and he answered: "Why, you see, boss, we had devilish hard luck."

"Yes," chorused the nine, "we had devilish hard luck." Von der Ahe gazed upon his nine. His nine stared back. He knew they had often won games for him. He also remembered how many fines he had paid and how many bad bonds he was on. He turned his eyes upon the stolid countenance of Lewis and then a smile ruffled across his Teutonic face as he said: "Vell, boys, if it was hard luck, dot settles it. You can't win a game ven you have hard luck. Dots so. Dat vas ail right." The nine felt relieved. They arose to a man, shook Von der Ahe's hand, and then filed down to the dinning-room, where they terrified the colored waiters with their orders for supper. The score of to-day's game was 11 to 1 in favor of the Athletics.
-The New York Times, September 5, 1883

Without doing any kind of search through my notes, I'd say that this is one of the earliest Von der Ahe stories that I've come across. For those who don't know what a Von der Ahe story is, I'd define it as any story that attempts to mine humor by portraying Chris Von der Ahe as a buffoon. The common elements in a Von der Ahe story include his German accent, his general ignorance (especially of baseball), and his emotional nature. Usually there is a foil, often Arlie Latham or Ted Sullivan (who specialized in telling Von der Ahe stories), who outwits an angry or confused Von der Ahe by some witty retort or action.

While this kind of humor, portraying immigrants as ignorant and finding humor in their "otherness," was common during the era, the result of all these stories over time has been to create an inaccurate picture of Von der Ahe. Von der Ahe was a self-made man, a successful businessman, and an innovative baseball magnate. But, thanks largely to these stories, he is remembered today as a clown and buffoon. Even if there is some truth in the stories (and many of them just seem to be yarns made up out of whole cloth), the way they are told, focusing on the accent and always presenting Von der Ahe as the butt of the joke, has had the effect of creating an inaccurate and on-sided portrayal of Von der Ahe.

Von der Ahe, like most people, was complicated and can't be captured by a one-dimensional portrayal. Could he be a buffoon? Of course. Did he have moments of genius? I think so. He was a womanizer and a spendthrift but he was also extraordinarily kind-hearted and innovative. There were many people that hated him and probably just as many that loved him. Many mocked him and many admired him. He was certainly more than the stupid clown who appears in the stories.