Sunday, February 28, 2010

Some Thoughts On Ball-Playing In The Illinois Country, Part One

I wrote a bit about this last week and I thought I'd share some of my thoughts and findings regarding early ball-playing in the Illinois Country in the late 18th and early 19th century.

Before I proceed, let me define the concept of the Illinois Country for those who are unaware of it. Essentially, the Illinois Country was a geographical, rather than political or legal, entity. It was the part of North America, claimed, explored and settled by the French in the 17th and 18th century, that is pictured in the above map. While the borders of the Illinois Country were largely undefined, basically it was the great river valley that was created by the Mississippi, Ohio and Missouri Rivers. The northern border was normally considered the Illinois River, the eastern border was the Wabash River and the western border was undefined (but certainly extended west of the Mississippi). Before France lost her territories east of the Mississippi to England after the French and Indian War, the Illinois Country was considered part of Upper Louisiana. After the French and Indian War, the Mississippi River became the western border of the Illinois Country.

I think that the concept of the Illinois Country is useful for looking at the spread and development of baseball in America for several reasons. First, it takes out the arbitrariness of modern state borders. It allows us to look at the spread of the game in Illinois, Missouri, Indiana and Iowa as an organic whole rather than on a state-by-state basis. It gives us a look at the bigger picture in a more natural way. Secondly, when we look at ball-playing in the Illinois Country, we are looking at the influence that two different cultures had on the game. In general, the area was settled first by the French and then by Anglo-Americans and each culture was unique. It's safe to assume that each culture was playing different ball-games and that the interaction between the two in the Illinois Country had an effect on the development of the game in the area. Finally, I believe that the concept of the Illinois Country gives us not only a geographical and cultural construct to work with but it also gives a well-defined time frame to investigate. We know when the first Europeans came to the area and we know when the first settlements were established. Looking at the history of the Illinois Country allows us to go to the beginning of ball-playing in the area.

My look at ball-playing in the Illinois Country, however, leaves out one thing that I think I should mention. There is substantial evidence of ball-playing by the Native Americans in the Illinois Country and there is no doubt that they were playing ball games prior to the arrival of the Europeans. Personally, I find this rather interesting and have enjoyed reading 18th century accounts of Native American ball games. But, for our purposes, I'm not certain if these accounts are relative to an investigation into the development and spread of pre-modern baseball in the Illinois Country. There is no evidence that I'm aware of that shows these games influencing pre-modern baseball. I may very well be and would love to be wrong about this. I'm open to any arguments or ideas that anyone would like to suggest about Native American ball-playing and how it should be treated in an investigation of the development of the pre-modern game.

All of this information was developed while working on the SABR Spread Project and I should thank Larry McCray for, one, involving me in the project and, two, focusing my attention on Illinois. As I've said many times, I'm very parochial in my research and thinking. I'm interested in 19th century baseball in St. Louis and that's where my focus has been. This parochial mindset has given me a set of biases that has blinded me to certain possibilities when it comes to the spread of the pre-modern game and the origins of ball-playing in St. Louis. It's always been my thinking that any ball-playing in the region originated in St. Louis and spread outward from there. St. Louis was the biggest town, had the most people and the largest cultural and economic impact on the region. St. Louis influenced other towns in the region the way the gravitation of the Earth influences the orbit of the Moon. What I've failed to think about is that the Moon also has influence on the Earth and the towns and people of the Illinois Country had a cultural and economic influence on St. Louis. Also, and just as important, St. Louis was not the first settlement in the Illinois Country. There were Europeans living in the area before the city was established and that's also something that I overlooked.

While getting the Spread Project underway, Larry passed along a couple of early Illinois references from the Protoball Chronology that peaked my interest. Attempting to run down more information about these references, I got pulled into the history of the settlement of the Illinois Country. Over the next few days, I'll share some of what I found as well as some speculation about the origins of ball-playing in the Illinois Country.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Looking Forward To Six Straight Against The Chicagos

The Brown Stockings reached home Sunday, and this afternoon, after a much needed rest of two days, will play the Chicago Clubs at the Grand Avenue Ball Park. A great deal of interest is manifested here and at Chicago over the result of these games this week, as it will have much to do with the final result of the struggles between these two clubs in the race for the championship. They will finish the games to be played here between these organizations, and the numerous admirers of the sport in this city will have no other opportunity of witnessing the organizations which stand the highest in the League play again this season. Chicago, ingloriously beaten last year by the St. Louis Club, this season engaged at an enormous salary the best players in the profession, and have apparently determined on securing the pennant of 1876. The nine is thus far at the top of the heap, but as much of its success is due to smiling fortune as good playing, and the Chicago Club has won several games which properly belonged to their opponents, some lucky circumstance occurring, or a doubtful decision of an umpire rendered just in time to give it victory.

As Chicago has been lucky, St. Louis has been unlucky, and several games were lost when the superb playing of the club should have scored them a victory. With a few unfortunate exceptions, the St. Louis Club have throughout the season made as good a showing as Chicago. It is not yet too late for St. Louis to retrieve her lost laurels. There is a possibility of the championship coming to this city if the Browns can get the best of their opponents in the next two weeks' play. The friends of the home club are hopeful, and some even so confident as to believe that such an event will yet happen.

The Brown Stockings are now playing for all they are worth, and their most solicitous admirers could not desire a better exhibition than they have been giving lately. There is no reason why they should not keep up the good work for two weeks longer. Their victories over Chicago would doubtless insure them first position, but to defeat the terrible nine from the breezy borders of Lake Michigan will require some hard work upon the part of the Browns, which they are certainly capable of showing, and if Bradley only does what he is able to do in the pitcher's position to-day, the friends of the club need not fear the result.

While the people of St. Louis would be happy in the possession of the boss Centennial ball club, Chicago could not survive the shock of a reverse, feeling, as she would, that all her efforts to out-distance this end of the bridge had proved futile. The largest crowd of the season should be on hand this afternoon.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 15, 1876

After taking two of three from Louisville, the Browns were eight games out of first. But with six straight games against Chicago, played between August 15 and August 26, the Browns had an opportunity to close the gap with their rival. The teams had split four games and the season series (as well as the mythical Championship of the West) was hanging in the balance.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Houtz Rejects Cincinnati's Overture

Cincinnati wants Houtz, but he does not wish to serve in a league nine. For which decision Indianapolitans unite in saying "Good boy," not "Good-bye."
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 15, 1876

I would imagine that Charlie Houtz was not alone in not wanting to play with a League club. I'm certain that many players were comfortable and making a decent wage playing with some of the minor professional teams. The League, in 1876, was a long way away from having all the best players in the country on their clubs.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Red Seals

The St. Louis Lead and Oil Company's "Red Seals" defeated the Southern Company's "W.H. Gregg" nine yesterday by a score of 9 to 7.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 13, 1876

I'm not sure what a Red Seal is but it's now my favorite 19th century club nickname.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

For The Sake of Common Decency And Suffering Humanity

Had the writer of the subjoined communication been in St. Louis yesterday afternoon, when this office was surrounded by hundreds of citizens, anxious to learn the news from Louisville, he might have formed some idea of the intense interest taken in the national game. If base-ball scores are an eye-sore to him, he can easily skip the sporting column and devote himself to the mass of useful and entertaining information contained in the other pages:

To the Editor of the Globe-Democrat:

Newman, Ill., August 10, 1876.-As a favor requested by many citizens of this city, I ask as a favor to please discontinue the publication of the "innings and outings" of the different base ball associations in your vicinity. This nation has barely gotten over the dreadful shock of the Beecher and Tilton scandal, and for the sake of common decency and suffering humanity (I mean those suffering from such degrading bores) we ask this favor. And will in conclusion say that we will pay just as much for your paper, and will read it with greater appreciation in the future than in the past, if these publications are discontinued at once. Very truly yours,

Frank Wells,
In behalf of his many friends.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 11, 1876

I now know more than I've ever wanted to know about the Beecher-Tilton scandal. For those who want some of the salacious details, I provide links. My favorite thing that I've read recently: "The Beecher-Tilton scandal is an example of a nineteenth-century scandal that did not involve murder." Having spent the last several years reading nineteenth century newspapers, I can attest that that is a true statement.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The 1876 Brown Stockings: Another Beauty

The game here to-day was another beauty. Although it rained hard all day Friday, Friday night, and also this morning, the grounds were found to be in fit condition to play, although the outfield was rather moist in some places. Louisville was sent to bat, and, after the first two strikers had retired, Hague sent a two-baser to far left, a passed ball advanced him to third, and he reached home on a wild pitch. After the first two strikers for St. Louis had retired, McGeary hit safe past short; Battin bunted one to Hague, and a tremendously high throw, over Gerhardt's head, scored McGeary and put Battin on third; Battin immediately afterward scored on Cuthbert's nice liner to left. The respective scores remained the same up to the seventh inning, when the Browns, by good batting, got in the winning run. Blong struck a safe liner to center; Pearce retired on a splendid running fly catch by Ryan; Bradley and Dehlman both batted safe singles past short, and the bases were full; Mack sent a long foul fly to left, and another magnificent running catch by Ryan disposed of him; Blong remained on his base, and scored after the catch was made. Clapp ended the inning by batting to Fulmer, who threw Dehlman out at second. Ryan, by excellent base running, scored Louisville's remaining run. He led off with a safe liner to left, went to second on Gerhardt's short fly to center. Devlin knocked up a high fly to Pearce, who, to make a double play, did not try to catch it. When he picked it up to throw to third, Ryan was already there, and the only one caught was Gerhardt at second. Devlin ran to second to draw a throw from Clapp, and McGeary, throwing a trifle wide of the home playe, in return gave Ryan his run. In the ninth inning Hastings, the first striker,, got first on an error of McGeary, but Fulmer, hitting to short, led to a double play by Pearce, McGeary and Dehlman. Somerville was thrown out by Battin, and the game belonged to St. Louis.

Bradley pitched excellently. McGeary had a great deal of work to do and accomplished it well, some fine running stops going to his credit, and both Pearce and Battin stopped a throw to bases very accurately. Cuthbert and Battin led at the stick, Cuthbert making his second safe hit in the ninth inning. The Browns' errors numbered but four-McGeary's wild throw home and fumble of a grounder, Bradley's wild pitch and Clapp's passed ball. The playing of both nines in every particular was remarkably even, the Browns winning on their merits.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 13, 1876

Monday, February 22, 2010

The 1876 Brown Stockings: Hard Fought And Beautifully Contested

Between 800 and 1,000 people witnessed the game to-day. It was hard fought and beautifully contested throughout, Louisville winning by superior batting and fielding. Men were on bases in every inning except two, and as the score was close, it gave the game additional interest. Louisville went first to the bat, and scored singles in the second, fifth, sixth and eighth innings. In the second, Hastings took first on three balls. Fulmer and Somerville put in hot grounders past first, which scored Hastings. With Somerville on first and Fulmer on third,, Clapp and McGeary accomplished a beautiful double-play. Somerville ran down to draw a throw from Clapp, and it was drawn very prettily, Clapp throwing to McGeary and catching Somerville, and McGeary returning in time to catch Fulmer at the home plate.

In the third inning Somerville hit safe, and got second on a force hit by Collins. Ryan went out on a long fly to Pike. Somerville ran to third. Pike threw straight into Battin's hands, who muffed, and another run was scored.

Safe singles in the sixth inning by Hague, Snyder, Fulmer and Somerville earned another run, fine playing by St. Louis disposing of the side, and leaving men on first and third bases.

Ryan's single and Gerhardt's three-baser earned the last run scored in the eighth. Battin's long hit between center and left in the fourth gave him two bases. Cuthbert sent on a fly to Devlin. Blong made a two-baser to right center and sent Battin home. An error by Gerhardt allowed Blong to score, and, St. Louis doing no batting the rest of the game, the score remained at two. Bradley, the first striker in the eighth inning, led off with a beautiful three baser, but the succeeding strikers were not equal to the emergency. Dehlman foul tipped to Snyder. Pike hit hard to third, of which Hague made an excellent stop, and threw Bradley out at home. Clapp closed the inning by making a weak hit to Devlin, and as the strikers in the ninth inning went out in batting order, the game closed in favor of Louisville. The umpiring, by Wm. Walker, of Cincinnati, was excellent. The best playing for the Browns was done by Pike, Clapp, McGeary and Battin. In the sixth inning Pike fielded a ball splendidly home from far center, and retired Snyder. Louisville won the game essentially on batting, the Browns playing an excellent fielding game.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 11, 1876

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The 1876 Brown Stockings: The Great American Whitewashers

The base ball bird paid Louisville another visit to-day, and again left its mark on the home nine. St. Louis scored two in the first inning. Pike went to first on a clean hit, and stole second on Snyder's bad throw. Clapp was given a base on balls. McGeary went out to Somerville, and Battin should have done likewise, but was given a life on a missed fly by Somerville, Pike scoring and Clapp taking second. Battin was thrown out by Snyder, and Clapp scored on safe singles of Blong and Cuthbert. In the third inning, after two outs, Cuthbert hit to left for three bases, and came home on a clean hit by Blong. No more runs were made. Louisville did not reach first till the eighth inning, when Snyder was given that base by Clapp's failure to catch the third strike. Errors by McGeary and Dehlman gave Snyder third and Hastings first, ,where they were left. In the ninth inning, Gerhardt got in the first base hit for Louisville.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 9, 1876

This was Bradley's fourteenth shutout of the season. I've lost track of the one, two and three hitters that he threw in 1876.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Close Examination Of League Rules

Strange as it may seem, a close examination of the League rules will disclose the fact that there is no provision or penalty in them for a set of players who try to play a purposely bad batting or fielding game of ball.-[Courier-Journal.]

Nor for enticing players away from non-League clubs.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 7, 1876

Since I haven't bothered checking the League constitution, I have no idea if any of this is true or not. I'm just passing it along because it made me chuckle. That and I haven't gotten around yet to writing up the Brown Stockings/Louisville series. Hopefully by Sunday, I'll be back in the swing of things and I'll cover the Louisville series and two series against the Chicagos.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Ball At Motard's Mill

...Henry Gratiot says as a boy [he] played ball against Motard's mill with other boys, was a sort of resort for them...
-A History of Missouri, Volume II

Towards the end of the Spanish colonial era in Louisiana, Nicolas de Finiels observed from the west side of the Mississippi that there was a functioning windmill on the Missouri River at St. Charles, which was "the only one that has succeeded in the Illinois Country, and it had several false starts before it began to function. There was an attempt to build one of wood in St. Louis on the slope of the plateau where the fort is located, but in this case ingenuity tried to liberate itself by blazing a trail beyond its capacities." This unsuccessful windmill was undoubtedly that built by Joseph Motard, which Henry Gratiot fondly remembered in 1825, claiming that he had "a perfect knowledge of the situation of Motard's windmill, for when a Boy he has frequently played Ball against this same Mill."
-French Roots In The Illinois Country: The Mississippi Frontier in Colonial Times

I'm still attempting to run down the original 1825 quote but what we have here is the earliest reference to ball-playing in St. Louis that I'm aware of. This is exciting stuff.

Henry Gratiot (pictured above) was the son of Charles Gratiot, a merchant who moved to St. Louis in 1781 and married into the prominent Chouteau/Laclede family. Henry (or Henri) was born in 1789 and lived in St. Louis until 1825. Joseph Motard began operating his mill on Mill creek in St. Louis in 1788.

Assuming that Gratiot would no longer be considered a child after 15 or 16 years of age (if not younger), we can place his ball-playing at Motard's mill sometime in the last decade of the 18th century or in the first few years of the 19th century. Lets call it sometimes between 1795 and 1805. Considering that St. Louis did not become part of the United States until 1804, I think that it's safe to say that ball-playing was taking place in St. Louis while it was still under French or Spanish rule.

What kind of ball game was this? It's impossible to say without more information. My first thinking was that this was a form of barn ball, which was played in Illinois in the early part of the 19th century. But, given the cultural differences between the people who settled St. Louis and those who settled Illinois, I'm not particularly confident about that. While we may never know what specific kinds of ball games were being played in St. Louis in the 18th century, at the very least we now have evidence that there was ball-playing going on. And that's the important point.

I've also found a great deal of information about ball-playing in the Illinois country in the 1820s and 1830s that, I believe, speaks to the spread of the pre-modern game in the Midwest. It's reasonably interesting stuff and, one of these days, I may write something up and post it. While it isn't specifically about St. Louis or the greater St. Louis area, I think it sheds some light on what may have been happening in St. Louis with regards to pre-modern ball-playing.

Just to tease you a bit, I'll say that the arrival of Yankee settlers in central Illinois in the 1820s had a profound impact on the amount of ball-playing that was taking place in the Illinois country and it appears that they brought many of their ball games with them when they moved to the frontier. My thinking at the moment (which may very well change) is that these Yankee settlers influenced the ball games that were being played in St. Louis in the antebellum era rather than the Creole St. Louisans infuencing the Illinois and Missouri hinterland.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Bit More About Collins

The Memphis Blues have disbanded, and Dan Collins, the jumper, is at home in New Orleans.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 15, 1876

The proceeds of the benefit game for the Old Memphis Blues only got one man off, Dan Collins (it is alleged) pocketing the proceeds and leaving town without bidding the others good-by.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 24, 1876

I'm rather fascinated by Collins and would like to learn a bit more about him. He was born in St. Louis in 1854 and died in New Orleans in 1883, not even thirty years old. From my point of view, he is most famous for jumping from the Empire Club to the Chicago White Stockings in 1874, an event that helped bring about the organization of the Brown Stockings. He got into three games for Chicago that year and appears to have returned to St. Louis. In 1875, he was playing with the reorganized Red Stockings in the second half of the season and was most likely playing for a local club prior to that. In 1876, he obviously played with the Reds and Louisville, before ending the season in Memphis.

After that I don't know what happened to him. He was still a very young man and was likely playing baseball somewhere. But I can't find anything on him after 1876. I also can't verify the date of death. If anybody has any more information on Collins, I'd love to see it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Collins Affair, Part Three

The following letter from President Haldeman of the Louisville Club, explains itself. That club was notified of Collins' standing before he reached Louisville, and there can be no excuse for having played him. Now that all the circumstances connected with the case are understood, it is not likely that Collins will be permanently engaged. No disagreement existed between him and the Red Stocking management until he broke his contract and jumped. the subjoined letter will repay perusal:

Louisville, Auguast 8, 1876.-Thos. McNeary, Esq., Manager St. Louis Reds: Dear Sir-Your telegram of the 5th was duly received, and placed in the hands of our Manager, Mr. J.C. Chapman. Mr. Collins, as I am advised, has no engagement with the Louisville B.B.C. He was employed by one of our directors to play while two of our men, who were sick and disabled, were unable to perform duty, and he has played in two games this week. He was so employed before anything had been heard from you, and when we were not aware his leaving was counter to your wishes. Of course we have nothing to do with any difficulty between you and Mr. Collins; but we have no desire to interfere with any of your arrangements, and had we been aware of your disinclination for him to leave your club we would not have thought of giving him even temporary employment. Very respectfully yours, etc.,

W.N. Haldeman
President Louisville B.B.C.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 12, 1876

For the record, Collins played in seven games for Louisville. I know that Collins played for Louisville against Chicago on August 6 and that he played in two games against the Browns on August 10 and August 12. He did not play in any other games for Louisville between August 6 and August 12. Therefore, giving Louisville the benefit of the doubt and assuming that they were not aware of the contract relationship between Collins and the Reds prior to August 12, the club played Collins in four more games after being made of the relationship and stating that they had no desire to interfere in the arrangements of the Reds. Of course, it's highly unlikely that Louisville was not aware of the contractual relationship between Collins and the Reds when they signed him.

I think the bottom line here is that Haldeman was not being truthful. I believe that Louisville would have continued to employ and play Collins if he had been good enough to play in the League. He was not good enough and that was why Louisville got rid of him. It had nothing to do with the fact that they wanted to respect his contract with the Reds.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Collins Affair, Part Two

It will be seen by the subjoined special telegram that Louisville, after nine successive attempts, has at last succeeded in winning a game of ball from Chicago, but the splendor of the victory has been disgracefully dimmed by the manner in which it was accomplished. The Louisvilles played Collins in spite of the protest entered by Manager McNeary, of the St. Louis Red Stockings, furnished the President of the Kentucky Club by telegraph, in order that he might be fully aware of the fact that Collins had not been released before engaging him. The release was refused for the reason that the Reds have entered for two tournaments to be played in Michigan, this week, and as they were to have such strong opponents as the Buckeyes to contend against, it was necessary that their full team should be placed on the field. The secession of Collins, who had played with the nine all season, of course weakens it and diminishes the chances of the club winning first money in the tournaments, so that all can see the injustice done the management by the action of the Louisville Club. This is, however, merely a side issue. The League was organized with the avowed purpose of instituting much needed reforms, and especially to cover cases as this. That the Reds belong to another association cuts no figure in the matter whatever, and it remains to be seen whether the Louisvilles will be sustained in their dirty action by other League clubs. The Reds have fulfilled their contracts with the players to the letter, and the boys have been kept together at a loss to the management, who knew they had a nine which, if it remained intact, would next year be able to take a prominent position in the championship arena. The "revolving" of Collins, while it may cripple the organization for a few days, will have no other effect, a much stronger man in every respect having been engaged to take his place, and he will be with them shortly. No one having the interests of the National game at heart will, however, fail to severely condemn the Louisville club for its action in the premises.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 6, 1876

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Collins Affair, Part One

Dan Collins, center fielder of the St. Louis Red Stockings, left for Louisville last night, treating the management in a shameful manner. On Thursday he was paid his salary to the 1st of the month, and yesterday he vanished, saying never a word. He had asked for a release, in order that he might join the Louisvilles, but was informed by Mr. McNeary that he could not be spared. The club has fulfilled the terms of its contracts with all its players, to the letter, and been especially kind to Collins in retaining him when he was playing a game at third that would put an amateur to blush. The following telegram was sent to the President of the Louisville club last night, and it remains to be seen whether that gentleman and the League will disgrace themselves by hiring Collins under the circumstances:

St. Louis, August 4.-W.N. Haldeman, President Louisville B.B.C.; Louisville, Ky.: Collins has left for Louisville without any release from us, and we protest against his engagement by your club. We do not owe him a cent; have fulfilled our part of the contract to the letter, and his engagement will reflect great discredit on the National game.

Thomas McNeary,
Manager St. Louis Reds.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 5, 1876

This has nothing to do with anything, but still: While looking at Dan Collins' page at B-Ref, I noticed that he scored a one on the Hall of Fame Monitor. Can somebody explain to me how you get one HoF Monitor point? Do you get one point for showing up and putting a uniform on? Does every player score at least a one on the HoF Monitor? Can you score a zero? Can you get a negative score?

Well, shoot. I had to go and look into this and it's not nearly as interesting as it looks at first glance. No, you can not have negative HoF Monitor points (although I'd still give Steve Jeltz a negative 32) and you have to do something specific to earn points. It looks like Collins picked up his point by leading the NA in strikeouts as a pitcher in 1874. He had 18 K's that year. So Collins picked up his HoF Monitor point by striking out 18 guys in the National Association. I can't say that the accomplishment really impresses me that much. While that mighty achievement does give him more HoF Monitor points than Jeltz or Yuniesky Betancourt, he still falls short of such immortals as Kiki Calero and Oliver Perez.

I'll have more on the Collins Affair over the next couple of days. Consider yourself warned.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The 1876 Brown Stockings: The Thirteenth Shutout

The downy flutter of St. Louis' festive goose was heard in Cincinnati this afternoon. It is the first time a professional Cincinnati club has ever been Chicagoed at home, and Mr. Bradley can stick another feather in his cap from the tail of his goose. Not more than 200 people were present. This falling off from Tuesday's game promises now, on account of bad management, to become greater yet. The home club only made two safe hits, one by Clack in the third inning, and one by Dean in the ninth, Sweasy and Booth got bases on called balls, and Clack, Snyder and Booth on errors of Battin, Pearce and Blong. Neither, however, got further than third base.

Dean commenced pitching by turning his back to the home plate, and facing right about to deliver the ball, as in Chicago. The Browns rather liked it. Pike led off for a base to center. Clapp, McGeary and Battin followed with scientific hits to right, on which Pike came in-an earned run-and left the bases full. Then Cuthbert's hard hit was beautifully stopped by Foley, who stepped on his base, threw home, and forced out Clapp and McGeary in a double play. Blong's base hit to center brought Battin home on the second earned run. Pearce out on a fine catch of a low fly by Pearson.

In the second inning the Browns made three more runs on base hits by Bradley, Pike, Battin and Cuthbert, assisted by errors of Booth, Dean and Kessler, and Battin was caught at home trying to run in from second on Cuthbert's safe hit. They scored one in the sixth by base hits of Pearce, Clapp and Pike, and errors of Foley and Snyder. In the next inning they made six more by base hits of Battin, Pearce and Bradley, and two errors by Snyder and one by Sweasy.

After the visitors had knocked nine safe hits out of Dean's back-sided delivery, he faced about, and through the rest of the game threw square from the shoulder. The Browns said they only tolerated it because they have such a soft thing. Unless the Reds get a pitcher they will go to pieces. The crowd to-day hooted Dean and filled the air with quacking in the ninth inning. The features of the Browns' playing were Bradley's pitching and Clapp's catching, McGeary's second base play and Dehlman at first. Bradley and Clapp never worked harder and better together. Of the Reds, Foley and Sweasy carried off the honors. In spite of his two errors, which were excusable, Foley played magnificently.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 4, 1876

This was Bradley's thirteenth shutout of the year. Only four pitchers in the history of baseball have thrown 13 or more shutouts in a season: George Bradley, Pete Alexander, Jack Coombs and Bob Gibson.

I was intrigued by the description of Dory Dean's delivery for some reason. It immediately made me think of Luis Tiant. Interestingly, the first two pitchers Peter Morris mentioned when talking about deceptive pitching deliveries in A Game of Inches were El Tiante and Dean:

Speaking of Luis Tiant, by the late 1870s, a few pitchers were experimenting with deliveries in which they turned their backs to the batter. In an 1876 game, Cincinnati pitcher Dory Dean "brought out a new delivery, which consisted in facing second base with the ball in hand, and then turning quickly, letting it come in the general direction of the stand, without any idea where it really was going to land" (Chicago Tribune, July 28, 1876). The Chicago Tribune characterized this as a "foolish boy's trick," and the White Stockings might have questioned its legality if they hadn't been too busy running around the bases in a 17-3 win.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Bradley Talks A Bit Of Smack

Bradley made his boast before the game commenced yesterday that he was going to "lay himself out" for Jones, and he did it. Charley pasted him so badly in St. Louis that Brad wanted to get even. Things are about square, we guess.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 3, 1876

On July 22, Jones had three hits in a 5-1 loss to the Brown Stockings. His third hit was lost in grass and Jones came all the way around to score. I guess Bradley was not especially happy with that and was gunning for Jones the next time he faced him.

In the August 1 game, Jones went hitless and struck out twice.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The 1876 Brown Stockings: Sitting Down On The Cincinnatis

The St. Louis Browns came over here to-day, and sat down on the Cincinnatis to the tune of 19 to 3. They weren't feeling well, either. Fully 1,000 people were out to see the game, and the day was delightfully cool. In the first inning, the Reds went to the bat, Jones led off by striking out. Booth flew out to Pike, and Gould hit to McGeary. For the Browns, after Pike had struck twice, he made a fine three-base hit to center, while the crowd cheered lustily for their next year's center-fielder. He scored on Clapp's hi to clack, who threw home too late.

In the second inning, after Pearson was out, Dean reached first by Battin's fumble. Sweasy retired on a foul tip, and Foley brought Dean home by a terrific hit to left for three bases. Clack brought Foley home by a base hit to right. The Reds scored another run in the last inning. After two were out, Sweasy made a base hit to right, and went to second on a wild pitch. Foley batted him home by a hot ball which hit McGeary's leg and went past Blong in right field. The Browns got in two runs in the second inning by errors of Clack and Jones, and base hits by Dehlman and Clapp.

In the fourth inning they made six more runs by errors of Sweasy and a wild pitch of Dean, and base hits of Bradley, Dehlman, Clapp and McGeary, four of the runs being earned. In the seventh inning, before the second man was out, the Browns earned eight runs on successive base hits by Cuthbert, Blong, Bradley, Dehlman, Pike, Clapp, McGeary, Battin and Cuthbert, the last being a two-baser. At this point Dean was sent to short, and Clack brought in to pitch. Bob never pitched before in his life, but in the remainder of the game the Browns only made two base hits off of him, the ninth run in the seventh inning being made by Cuthbert, who was on second when Dean was removed.

The fine playing of the Reds was done by Foley, Snyder, Booth, and Pearson. Pearson, by magnificent throwing from right field, caused two double plays and caught Pearce once before he reached first. Snyder's one-hand catch of Pike's long fly, and a fine running catch of another of Pike's long flies, was never equalled on the home grounds. All the Browns played beautifully, Clapp, Pike and Dehlman taking the honors. Bradley was very effective. Dean proven a failure. "Cherokee" Fisher umpired the game satisfactorily, as he does everything he undertakes, and met with quite an ovation. The loudest calls for him went up from the crowd when Dean was removed, but he goes to Jackson, Mich., to play with the Michigans.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 2, 1876

Clapp, McGeary, Battin, Cuthbert and Dehlman all had three hits for the Brown Stockings and McGeary, Cuthbert and Bradley all scored three runs. And this was not the Browns' highest scoring game of the season. On June 14, against Boston, and September 8, against Philadelphia, they scored twenty runs.

Without doing any math, I'm pretty sure the Browns scored more runs against Philadelphia than any other club. Besides the twenty run outburst in September, they had games were they scored 17, 16 and 15 runs against the Athletics. I guess they liked hitting against Lon Knight and George Zettlein.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

So Much For The Very Best Authority

It is now stated, on the very best authority, that George Hall, the hardest hitter in the fraternity, will be one of the St. Louis out-fielders next season.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, July 30, 1876

Hall did not play for the Browns in 1877. But I pass this along for two reasons. First, it's more evidence of the rumors, uncertainty and chaos that was surrounding the team in July, 1876. Second, and more importantly, I wrote this in November: "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." It looks like somebody was thinking along the same lines.

So really, I'm just posting this because it makes me look smart. It doesn't happen that often so let me have my moment and then we'll all move on with our lives.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The 1876 Brown Stockings: Dissatisfaction, Recrimination And Envy

To the Editor of the Globe-Democrat:

St. Louis, July 29, 1876.-It is a good rule to let well enough alone, and the Brown Stocking management would have done well to recollect it when they laid off Pearce, who had been playing a beautiful game, and replaced Mack at short. The result might have been the same in the first two Louisville games, but the chances are that it would not. We all see, too, the result of engaging players for the ensuing year in the height of the playing season. Dissatisfaction, recrimination and envy take the place of unity, good nature, and the determination of each player to do his level best. They all laughed at Chadwick when he urged club managers to stop the pernicious practice a year ago. It will be adopted by the League next year for their very preservation.

-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, July 30, 1876

When I get to writing up this part of the Brown Stockings' story, I think "Dissatisfaction, Recrimination And Envy" will make a nice chapter title.

By the way, it certainly looks like we have a bit of a shortstop controversy. Mack had a bit more power (and I use the term loosely) while Bad Dickey was probably the better fielder (even if he was forty years old). Six of one, half dozen of the other. Neither covered themselves with laurels in 1876. There's a reason the club picked up Davey Force for 1877.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The 1876 Brown Stockings: The Twelfth Shutout

The Brown Stockings turned the tables on their base ball rivals from Louisville at Grand Avenue Park yesterday afternoon in a very decided manner, beating them by the one-sided score of seven to nothing. Snyder's hand gave out in the second inning, and as this magnificent catcher was forced to exchange places with Hastings, it seemed to take all the vim out of his comrades, who not only played a very loose game in the field, but could do nothing with the stick, Fulmer being the only man credited with a base hit, and that a very lucky and questionable one. The Browns, on the other hand, each batted freely, Clapp and Mack each leading with two beauties. Especially did they wield the willow with effect in the eighth inning, when after three chances for outs had been declared by their opponents, Clapp, McGeary, Battin and Mack followed each other in rapid succession with stinging and safe hits. Not a single run was earned during the game, however. The Browns' play in the field was also very fine, the only errors charged being a dropped foul fly by Mack, a dropped foul bound by Clapp, a muffed throw by Dehlman and a base given on called balls by Bradley. For Louisville, Gerhardt, Hague and Chapman did some beautiful work in the field, the former especially distinguishing himself in the first inning by catching Pike and Clapp at third on the right field bounders sent him by the latter and McGeary-a play never before attempted on a St. Louis ball field. Cuthbert being ill, and Allison, who was lame, did not participate in the game...
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, July 30, 1876

Only six pitchers in the history of baseball have thrown twelve or more shutouts in a season: George Washington Bradley, Pete Alexander (twice in back-to-back years), Jack Coombs, Bob Gibson, Pud Galvin and Ed Morris. Gibson, in 1968, is the only pitcher to do it since 1916. I'm not sure how to properly rate Bradley's 1876 season but I'm giving it some thought and I'll probably write something up when we get to the 16th shutout. I do know one thing: it was a heck of a good year.

Interesting thing about Gerhardt throwing out two runners at third. I'm not certain what they mean. Was a first baseman throwing out runners at third unique? It's a tough play and you don't see it all that often but it's not that big of a deal. Maybe it was the fact that he did it twice in an inning. Also, was Gerhardt playing way off the base in shallow right field? First, why? And second, that would make for a long throw to third. I'm really not sure what to make of all this. Maybe they meant that Chapman threw out two guys trying to go to third.

Also note that the umpire was "Eddie Haley, the song and dance artist." Sadly, this is not the Ed Haley who wrote "While Strolling Through The Park One Day."

Monday, February 8, 2010

For The Fun There Is In The Game

Mr. Swancutt, manager of the Belleville Browns, requests the statement made that his team will play any organized amateur club for the fun there is in the game, but not for money, as the former manager of the club desires.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, July 28, 1876

I think somebody missed the memo about the nature of baseball in the postbellum era.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The 1876 Brown Stockings: Out-Fielded and Defeated

By magnificent fielding, a tolerable exhibit at the bat, and fine base running, Chapman's crew again scored an important victory over the Brown Stockings at the Grand Avenue Park, in the presence of about eight hundred spectators, many of whom were ladies. The game was poorly umpired by Mr. Quinn, of Chicago, whose decisions were frequently erroneous. The Kentuckians took the lead in the second inning by scoring two unearned runs, on errors by Bradley, Mack and Battin, and Hague's long drive for two bases. In the fourth, Pike, by a fine base hit and a three-base drive by Bradley, earned the only run of the game. The score was tied in the sixth inning, Pike again earning his base, and coming home on a base hit by Battin and a sacrifice hit by Blong. This was all St. Louis could do in the way of run getting, while Louisville scored singles in the seventh and eighth innings by errors by McGeary and Cuthbert, and the good batting of Fulmer, Snyder and Devlin. During the game Cuthbert and Ryan made magnificent catches. The main features of the contest, however, was Snyder's brilliant work behind the bat, and his superb throwing to bases, every man who attempted to steal being easily caught. Somerville's second base play was also a splendid exhibition. The four errors charged to Louisville consisted of a misjudged foul fly by Snyder, grounders juggled by Fulmer and Somerville, and a dropped foul fly by Hague. Fine fielding won the game, the visitors being outbatted.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, July 28, 1876

You can't shut-down Pop Snyder; you can only hope to contain him. But should I really be refering to 21 year-old Charles Snyder as "Pop?" Why do I have a feeling that he picked up that nickname later in life?

Anyway, this is the kind of baseball game that I really like. Low-scoring, good defense (at least by Louisville) and tight-going into the late innings. This would have been a fun game to watch. And check out the top of the order for St. Louis. Zero hits by Cuthbert, Clapp and McGeary. I might not know much but I do know that you're not going to score many runs when the top three spots in the order take an O-fer.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Died Of The League

The Indianapolis management is endeavoring to engage McSorley and Houtz, of the Covington Stars.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, July 27, 1876

The Cincinnati Gazette of Thursday says: The Stars have gone to pot. The club was formally disbanded last night. No games are expected for the balance of this season, and it has hardly been a paying institution this year. We believe the club stands "square" with its nine. The epitaph on this club might be, "Died of the League." The rule forbidding the playing of any League club with them starved them out. Houtz, Flint, McSorley and Golden will leave to-night for Indianapolis.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, July 29, 1876

According to this report, Covington disbanded on Wednesday, July 26th. Indianapolis must have been trying to grab some of their players before the club disbanded and I assume it's possible that this added to their troubles. Regardless, the Stars were a fascinating club and played a significant role in the history of St. Louis baseball. Even their demise effected the careers of several St. Louis players and the National League. I have a soft-spot in my heart for the 1875-1876 Covington Stars.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Al Pierce

At the Stocks' Park yesterday afternoon, the Black Stockings defeated the Independents-both strong colored clubs-by a score of 18 to 14. Al Pierce did not strive with the brilliancy of a Wright at short.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, July 29, 1876

Al Pierce, I believe, was playing with the Independents and most likely was the club's manager as well. He's a rather interesting gentleman who was an outstanding athlete and had the reputation as a successful gambler. It's unique that the Globe would mention him by name, regardless of the derogatory nature of the reference.

I think it says something about his status in the community that he's mentioned in a newspaper which, to a great extent, ignored black baseball and black athletes. The reference to Pierce, without any other information other than that he was playing short, leads one to believe that he was well-known in St. Louis.

Edit: Brilliant reader James Brunson corrected me in the comments. Pierce was playing for the Black Stockings. The Independents were a Kansas City club. Much thanks to James. And, again, I make no apologies for stealing Joe Posnanski's shtick (but I like to credit him because he's the best baseball writer in the business).

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The 1876 Brown Stockings: The Kentuckians Use Up The Browns

Probably twelve hundred spectators witnessed the game at Grand Avenue Park yesterday afternoon, between the Louisville and St. Louis clubs, in which the latter was beaten by a score of 7 to 4. The visiting players both outbatted and outfielded their opponents, but won the game, nevertheless, more by good luck than good guidance. In the first inning an error by Somerville, and a two-base drive by Pike, gave St. Louis a run, which was offset in the fourth by Ryan's base hit, a wild pitch and beautiful running. Ryan taught the home players a lesson in base stealing, by getting to second on Gerhardt's fly to Pike, after the ball had settled in that player's hands. The fifth inning was a fatal one to St. Louis. Battin opened with a low throw, and followed this up by missing an easy fly, by which he hoped to accomplish a double play. Mack then juggled a ball from Somerville's bat, and as Ryan, Gerhardt and Devlin followed with model hits six men tallied, and the game was virtually at an end as far as winning was concerned, although the Browns made a good rally in the next inning, Mack, Cuthbert and Clapp tallying on a fine hit by the former, errors by Devlin and Gerhardt, and elegant drives by Battin and McGeary. Clapp's catching was one of the main features of the game, he retiring nine players and assisting three times without an error.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, July 26, 1876

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Role Of Civic Pride In The Development Of Professional Baseball In St. Louis

I'm going to pass along this article I found about the role that civic pride played in the development of professional baseball in St. Louis in the postbellum era. I thought it was interesting and figured that you might like to take a look at it. Rather than post excerpts from the article, I encourage you to read the whole thing (and, just so you know, it's a pdf file rather than a web page). It was written by Gregg Lee Carter and appeared in the Missouri Historical Bulletin in July of 1975.

Okay, I'll post one little excerpt:

Continually striving to maintain her mythic self-image, post-bellum St. Louis began to manipulate every possible symbol that could both denigrate Chicago and dub her "The Future Great City of the World." Ludicrous as it may seem, baseball became one of these symbols. When St. Louis defeated Chicago on the diamond, her pride swelled. Her victory was just another testimony "to the supremacy of the Western city with the greatest population, the most flourishing trade, and the biggest bridge..."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

An Honest Rain Check Policy

To each purchaser of a ticket to the Grand Avenue Park when a League game is to be played, the St. Louis Base Ball Association furnishes a coupon on which is printed the following:

"If rain prevents the playing of five innings this coupon will be redeemed on presentation at ticket office."

This is a move which can not be too highly commended, and is one which will bear following by all organizations throughout the country. It will, without doubt, pay in the long run. On this subject, the Chicago Tribune justly says: "The St. Louis Brown Stocking management have determined that, when a game at Grand Avenue Park hereafter shall be interrupted by rain before the end of the fifth inning, they will refund the admission money to the spectators. This is an honest policy, and the managers make themselves deserving of a warm support from St. Louis people."
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, July 27, 1876

William Spink had championed an "honest" rain check policy since the beginning of the season and should be given some credit for the practice being adopted in St. Louis in 1876.

This could be somewhat significant if we're looking at the history of rain checks. I think that what the Brown Stockings were doing fits the definition of a rain check that Morris uses in A Game of Inches. The best Morris offers, with regards to the beginning of their use, is that they were being used before March of 1881. We now have specific evidence of their use in 1876.

I'm not suggesting that Spink and the Brown Stockings be given credit for the invention of the rain check because I don't know enough about the subject to say that. However, if the history of rain checks ever comes up for discussion, they should certainly be mentioned among the pioneers of the idea.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The 1876 Brown Stockings: A Lost Ball In The Tall Weeds (or A Winning Streak Goes To Waste)

There was no improvement in the attendance at Grand Avenue Park yesterday afternoon to witness the St. Louis and Cincinnati clubs play the seventh game of their series. It was a toss up whether Clack of Cincinnati, or Mack of St. Louis, would umpire, and as Gould won his associate filled the position. The Reds won the toss and sent their opponents to the bat shortly before 4 o'clock. Dean commenced by pitching wildly, and Cuthber was sent to first on three balls. Errors by Booth and Sweazy allowed him to tally. Singles by Clapp and McGeary, and a two-base drive to left center by Battin brought in two earned runs, and Battin also tallied on errors by Pearson and Booth. The outs were Pike, Bradley and Dehlman, the latter on a splendid stop and throw by Foley. For Cincinnati, Jones and Booth led off with base hits, but the former foolishly allowed himself to be caught at second on Booth's hit over McGeary, and Gould and Kessler were easily disposed of. In the second inning Pearce, Cuthbert and Clapp were

Retired In Succession,

Snyder making a good running catch of Clapp's foul bound. Pearson opened for Cincinnati with a beauty to right for two bases, and got to third on a passed ball, where he was left, Dean being thrown out at first, and Sweasy sending a red-hot liner direct to Dehlman, by which he and Pearson were doubled up. In the third Pike made a base hit, but McGeary, Battin and Blong were easy victims to Foley, Jones and Dean. Dean, Sweasy and Foley all died at first, McGeary making a fine one-handed stop of Foley's corker. In the fourth inning, Bradley and Cuthbert flew out to Kessler, and Snyder disposed of Dehlman on a foul bound. For Cincinnati, Jones got in a base hit, and Pearce missed a double play on Booth's bounder, but both were left, Snyder having been thrown out by Pearce, Gould striking out, and Battin capturing Kessler's foul bound. In the fifth inning Gould muffed Sweasy's beautiful throw, and Clapp was safe. McGeary got in a base hit, Battin's foul tip was splendidly held by Booth, after Pike had retired by hitting direct to Gould. Two men were left as another

Sharp Foul Tip

from Blong's bat was brilliantly held by Booth. Sweazy, after a fine base hit, was left, Foley, Pearson and Dean going out on weak hits. Bradley earned first in the sixth inning, but Dehlman hit to Sweazy, who doubled them both up in style, and Foley captured Cuthbert's foul fly, after Pearce had earned first by a fair foul. For Cincinnati, Snyder flew out to Blong, Jones got in his third hit on a long one to left, and as the ball was lost in the grass he came all the way home. Booth also made a base hit, but was left, Pearce throwing Gould out at first, and Kessler furnishing McGeary with a fly. In the seventh inning, Clapp, McGeary and Pike went out on throws by Foley and Dean, and a fly catch by Jones. For Cincinnati, Pearson flew out to McGeary, Dean was splendidly thrown out by Battin, and Sweazy by McGeary. The eighth inning was marked by the most brilliant play of the game. Foley's wild throw, after a splendid left-handed stop, gave Battin third. Blong retired on a foul tip. Bradley drove a difficult liner to right, which Pearson held, and by an accurate throw

Nipped Battin

at the home-plate. Foley, Snyder and Jones were disposed of in one, two, three order. In the ninth inning, Blong earned second and Bradley first. Dehlman hit to Dean, who threw too late to third, and all were safe. Pearce flew out to Gould. Cuthbert flew out to Jones, who might have ended the inning, but he threw wild to second, and Blong tallied. Dean threw Clapp out at first. The Reds failed to increase their score, Pearce throwing Booth and Gould out at first, and Battin doing the same thing for Kessler.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, July 23, 1876

So not exactly a great series of baseball games and I can't really blame the fans for staying away.

This was the Brown Stockings' seventh win in a row. When the started the winning streak, they were five and a half games behind Chicago. After this seventh win, they were five and a half games behind Chicago. They would lose their next two and find themselves seven and a half games back. They won their next four and picked up a half game. So, all and all, between July 8 and August 8, the Brown Stockings went 11-2 and lost a game and a half in the standings.

That's baseball for you.