Monday, April 5, 2010

The 1876 Brown Stockings: Working My Way Back To You

The Browns defeated the Resolutes [in Elizabeth, N.J., on September 18] by [a score of] 4 to 3. Bradley pitched and McGinley caught. The weather was bad, and the attendance slim.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, September 19, 1876

The Brown Stockings met the Alleghenys at Pittsburg yesterday, and met with an unexpected defeat. The score at the end of the game stood: Alleghenys, 4; Browns, 3. Bradley pitched, and McGinley caught; Mack played first, and Blong umpired. The Browns arrived here two hours behind time, and had to play without dinner.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, September 20, 1876

The Brown Stockings played yesterday with the Indianapolis club, the score at the close standing-Browns, 11; Indianapolis, 3. The weather was unpropitious and the grounds were in bad condition. The attendance, however, was very fair. The Browns will arrive at home this morning.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, September 24, 1876

What? You thought I was going to post the Four Seasons version?


David Ball said...

This time we get some information as to the lineup the Browns were using for exhibition games. In one case, they contrived to use both their unsatisfactory shortstops in the lineup, and in at least two of the games they replaced Bradley's regular battery mate, one of the best catchers in the game, with an uncertain rookie. That was considered a real handicap for a pitcher.

This is of interest because it's a factor I never see considered when people claim their success in exhibitions against NL teams shows that outside teams were equal or even superior to the League clubs in the late '70's. I haven't studied the matter carefully, but from what I've seen I believe it was probably very substitutes, especially their second-line batteries, in exhibitions against outside teams.

Of course, these teams typically carried eleven-man rosters, so there was only so far they could go in resting their regulars, but resting their best battery alone would weaken most teams considerably. And, setting aside the concrete disadvantage League clubs were leaving themselves by playing subs, the practice shows that these games were not taken as seriously as League championship contests. I think we can assume that feeling was shared by the players as much as anyone.

We don't usually draw any very fine conclusions from exhibitions; why make an exception for these games?

Jeffrey Kittel said...

I agree that we shouldn't read too much into the results of these exhibition games. And I have no doubt that the League players didn't place much importance on them. However, these games were a big part of the schedule and were important because they helped defray the cost of the League road trips. I would assume that most clubs were doing the same things the Browns did here-play exhibitions on the way east or west and then play their way back home.

While the outcome of the games weren't important to the League clubs, they couldn't go to far in playing what scrubs they had because they needed to draw a crowd. They needed to put on a good show so that they could sell tickets, make money and pay for the train. Play the scrubs, go through the motions and dog it and you might kill that market for your club in the future. So the League clubs did have some incentive to play well in the exhibitions.