Monday, March 8, 2010

The 1876 Brown Stockings: Right Here The Trouble Began

Between 6,000 and 7,000 enthusiastic admirers of the national game witnessed a disgraceful row at the Grand Avenue Park yesterday afternoon, for which the ball players from the Garden City were entirely responsible. No such crowd has been seen in the park this season, the grounds being lined on all sides. The game commenced promptly at a quarter to 4 o'clock, with the White Stockings at the bat. They were disposed of for nothing, while the Browns, on their first attempt, got in an unearned run, Pike making a safe hit, and scoring on a wild pitch and a passed ball. In the fourth inning McVey tied the game, earning first and tallying on an error by Dehlman and an overthrow by Blong.

In the fifth inning the Whites assumed the lead, errors by Battin, Clapp and McGeary giving Glenn a run. The next inning was a bonanza for the home club, the Browns striking one of their splendid batting streaks, after one man was out, and scoring three runs, two of which were earned by the fine batting of Battin, Cuthbert, Blong and Bradley. Two more were tacked on by the home nine in the seventh inning, for which glaring errors by Bielaski, McVey and Hines, and safe hits by Pike and Cuthbert, were responsible. At this stage of the game it was dollars to cents that St. Louis would win with ease; but in the eighth inning, after two men were out, Battin gave Peters first, on a miserable throw, and splendid hits by McVey and Hines brought him home.

The score stood at six to three when the ninth inning commenced, and the first striker for Chicago went out. Spalding then earned first, but Bielaski flew out to Mceary. A passed ball by Clapp and a safe hit by Glenn brought Spalding home. Barnes, for the first time in two games, hit safe, Glenn going to third and he to second. Peters faced Bradley and sent a swift bounder to McGeary, which was thrown elegantly, but Dehlman muffed and the men on bases came home, Barnes by the fastest kind of running. McVey then struck out, but the score was a tie.

The Browns went in for the winning run, and McVey went in to pitch. McGeary's very difficult fly was missed by Peters, and an execrable throw by McVey to catch him at first gave Mike third immediately afterwards. Battin flew out to Barnes. Cuthbert was the next striker, and right here the trouble began.

He batted an easy grounder along the line of third base, and McGeary started for home. The ball struck him as he ran and rolled away from Anson. The question at once arose whether the interference was accidental or not. The umpire held that it was not, and decided that McGeary's run should count. This should have settled the matter, but it did not. Both nines surrounded Mr. Walker, the umpire, and chinned at each other at a great rate. He very properly refused to reverse his decision, and was sustained by the large crowd, who were perfectly satisfied that he was right. Capt. Spalding made some inquiries among his men, particularly Anson, and again button-holed the umpire, who wouldn't be talked out of his opinion.

President Hurlburt, of the Chicago Club, was next appealed to by Spalding, and immediately afterwards the White Legs entered their carriages and drove away amid a storm of hisses, howls and groans. This action of the Chicago Club can not be too severely censured. Spalding is as familiar with the rules as any man breathing, and Hurlbert is anxious to be classed in the same category. They well knew that there was only one thing for them to do after Walker had given his decision, and that was to play the game out-under protest, if they wished. That was their only recourse, and the only act left for the umpire to perform, after they had refused to do so, was to declare the game forfeited to St. Louis by a score of 9 to 0, which he did.

The contest, as far as it went, was one of the worst-played this season, a great amount of muffing being indulged in on both sides, Pike, Cuthber, Anson, Glenn and Spalding being the only players not charged with errors. Clapp, Battin, Dehlman, McVey, Bielaski and White played a fielding game that would have caused amateurs to blush. Dehlman's error in the ninth inning was the most costly of the game. Had he held the ball thrown by McGeary the Chicago score would have remained at four, and the disgraceful row which ended the game would not have occurred. McVey also distinguished himself in the ninth inning by his bad throw, which sent McGeary to third.

The redeeming features of the game were Anson's third base play, and splendid line catches by Peters and Pearce. Anson guarded third throughout as it has never been guarded before in this city, as a glance at the score will show. The batting of the Browns was very heavy, and that of their opponents very weak, until the last two innings, during which they got four of their seven base hits, but not until the third man had been given a life in each instance. Pike's batting especially was a model display, his three safe hits being beauties. Battin and McVey also did very effective work for their respective teams. A detailed account of the game will be found appended, the score of the game as played being given, although a score of 9 to 0 goes on record.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 22, 1876

Here's the Globe's detailed account of the bottom of the ninth:

McGeary came to the front, his side needing one run to win. McVey relieved Spalding in the pitcher's position. Peters failed to capture McGeary's difficult fly, and McVey's wild throw let him around to third. Battin flew out to Barnes. Cuthbert hit an easy bounder towards third, and McGeary, who was running in, knocked it out of the line, which created considerable excitement, the Chicagoes claiming that McGeary did it purposely. The umpire, however, decided that it was accidental, and, as McGeary had tallied, the game was won. Cuthbert, while the men were disputing stole to second and third.

I'll have more on this disgraceful row over the next couple of days and we'll get Chicago's side of the story. I really don't think the whole thing was that big of a deal. McGeary probably did kick the ball on purpose but the umpire, intimidated by the home crowd, wasn't about to call interference. The game, once the umpire refused to overturn his call, was essentially over. Chicago storming off the field didn't change anything. Was it poor sportsmanship? Sure. But the game was over. Big deal.

Interestingly, the score of this game is listed at B-Ref and Retrosheet as 7-6 rather than 9-0, although they both note that the game was forfeited to St. Louis. I think this brings up the question of whether or not the stats from this game count in the record. The game was not played to completion and was forfeited by Chicago. The stats shouldn't count but I think that they're included in the record. Bradley certainly got the victory. Is he credited with giving up six runs or zero? I'm a little confused about how the official record is treating this game.

Also, I'm amused by the fact that Cuthbert stole second and third while everyone was standing around arguing. That's heads-up baseball.

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