Saturday, March 6, 2010

The 1876 Brown Stockings: The Most Brilliant And Most Wonderful Game On Record

And out comes the roster for Bradley's fifteenth shutout. Only Pete Alexander, in 1916, had more in a single season.

The 2,500 spectators who were present at Grand Avenue Park yesterday afternoon witnessed the most brilliant as well as the most wonderful base ball game on record, the Chicago White Stockings being defeated for the fourth time this season by the St. Louis Browns. The score was three to nothing, all three runs being earned. The Whites won the toss, and their opponents were sent to the bat promptly at 4 o'clock, Mr. Walker, of Cincinnati, having again been mutually agreed on as umpire, and doing much better than in the game on Tuesday.

Not an error was made until the last half of the eighth inning, when Anson was sent to first on called balls, and not a run scored until the ninth. Three errors in all were made, one by White, of Chicago, who missed a difficult foul bound in the ninth inning, which, however, cost nothing, and a similar error by Clapp in the same inning, with a like result.

The batting of the Whites in the face of Bradley's extremely effective pitching was very weak, White being the only one to make a safe hit. The batting of the Browns, on the contrary, was tolerably fair, Clapp getting in three model hits, McGeary two, and Pike, Battin and Dehlman one each. McGeary and Pike each got doubles. The game was won in the ninth inning, when the home team made its wonderful spurt at the bat. After Bradley had retired on a fly to Peters, Dehlman earned first on a fair foul just out of Anson's reach. Pike then flew out to Hines, but Clapp, McGeary and Battin gallantly came to the rescue, and by their skill and nerve brought in three earned runs, Capt. McGeary coming in for the lion's share of the enthusiastic applause, which was deafening, by his magnificent drive to left center, on which Dehlman and Clapp, by fast running, scored the winning runs.

The fielding of both teams was simply perfect, the players of each nine being compelled to face the hardest kind of balls. In the first inning a strategic piece of fielding by Barnes, Peters and Anson disposed of the side after Clapp and McGeary had earned their bases. Red-hot liners were handled with the greatest of ease by Peters, Anson and McGeary, that by the former being taken with one hand. Extraordinary stops and throws were made by Anson, McGeary and Spalding, and Anson, Battin and White captured several extremely difficult foul flies. Most of the work was done by the in-fielders on both sides, and where all did so well, it is useless to discriminate. The game was won fairly and squarely on its merits, the fine fielding of the foreigners going for naught in the face of the fine batting of their adversaries. It is safe to predict that many a long day will elapse before another such desperate struggle is witnessed on the green diamond...
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 18, 1876

There's a great deal of hyperbole in the press accounts of 19th century baseball games but this was indeed a most brilliant and most wonderful game. The Globe did not exaggerate at all when describing it as such.

Only three errors in the game, one of which was a walk given up by Bradley. No score through eight innings. The Browns scoring three two-out runs in the ninth. McGeary with the big hit, "a corking drive over short" that brought in the winning run and "elicited uproarious cheering from the large crowd in attendance." Fantastic game.

Without going back and checking, this has to be the best fielded game the Browns were involved in that season. Only the three errors and, more shockingly, no unearned runs. The errors themselves were rather minor. The walk isn't something that we would even consider an error today. In the top of the ninth, "Bradley's foul bound was missed by White, but he then flew out to Peters." In the bottom of the inning, "Bielaski's foul bound escaped Clapp, but his foul fly was well held by Bradley..." So we had a walk and the two catchers each missed a putout on a foul-bound. That's about as crisply a fielded game as you're going to get in 1876.

So we have the two best teams in the League who happen to have a bit of a bitter rivalry going on, still fighting it out for the League championship and the season series, and playing baseball at the highest level. The only way this game gets any better is if St. Louis had scored their runs in the bottom of the ninth.

And we also have Bradley shutting down Chicago on a one-hitter. Chicago only had two base-runners all day. Three, if you count a fielder's choice in the fifth. "White earned first on a corker to center, but was forced at second on Hines' easy bounder to Battin, Hines himself being caught napping at first by Bradley and Dehlman." In the eighth, Bradley walked Anson to lead off the inning and he advanced to second on a fielder's choice before being stranded. Those were the only two scoring opportunities for Chicago all day.

This was a great game.

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