Thursday, September 8, 2011

The 1884 Maroons: The Long-Talked Of Opening

The long-talked of opening of the Union Grounds took place yesterday afternoon, and the promoters of the new enterprise felt considerably surprised, as well as highly flattered, at the compliment paid them by the gathering together of a crowd which in size resembled the gatherings of a year ago when the base ball fever was at its height, and when the Grand Avenue Grounds were taxed even beyond their capacity.  The immense grand stand which can seat 8,000 persons was full to the brim, while crowds stood around the fences and hundreds viewed the game from the open seats.  There were at a low estimate 10,000 persons inside the grounds, while a thousand or two more viewed the game from house-tops or other available elevations.  The new team, when it appeared, was heartily cheered, and as the players neared the grand stand they were obliged to tip their hats again and again.  The crowd had in mind perhaps the manly action of Dunlap, Shaeffer, Rowe and Gleason, the players who had broken the reserve rule and got blacklisted in consequence, but who had stood by their contracts like men.  The Unions were in their new uniforms, and looked very neat and handsome, and considering the fact that they had but little time for practice, they made
An Excellent Showing,
both at the [bat] and in the field.  Dunlap especially loomed up as a batsman, and although Hodnett was pitching well, he hit him for four double baggers and a single out of six times at bat.  Shaeffer was unlucky in his hitting, and never once got a good crack at the ball.  Once, however, he hit to the short fielder, and then by most wonderful running beat the ball to first.  By this good sprinting he earned a base hit.  Dickerson surprised the crowd by dropping an easy fly, and then regained his lost ground by running away out and making one of the prettiest catches on record.  Taylor played first well.  Gleason at third made a bad throw home, letting in the only two runs scored by the Reserves, but his play in the position before and after that error was never excelled.  He handled every hot ball sent him, and his throwing over to first was simply perfection.  Five assists and four put-outs constitute a good enough record for any third baseman.  Roche at short field seemed backward in his work and to appreciate the fact that he was a newcomer.  As a result Gleason was allowed to do the bulk of the work coming his way.  This is not a bad fault, however, and Roche will remedy the defect if the opinion formed of him in his practice games is borne out.
The Battery.
Tom Sullivan, who did the catching, was suffering from a lame arm and was not able to do himself justice, but Tom, although facing Werden for the first time, handled the hot shot well and worked his partner so well that not one of the Reserves was allowed to take first on balls.  At center field Dave Rowe, unlike Roche, was too ambitious if anything.  Dave covered a wide tract on ground and ran after everything that came his way, like a sprinter in the first ten yards of a hundred.  But at the bat Rowe, like Dunlap, made the leather fly, all of his hits being clean ones and right from the shoulder.  His hit to center was the longest of the game.  For the Reserves young Quinn, of Dubuque, was the brightest star.  He covered first like a veteran, taking everything that came his way and handling high and low balls with equal skill.  Whitehead had a lame arm and was unable to take his place behind the bat.  Brennan filled the position and proved himsefl one fo the very best of the local players.  He also batted well.  Cross, at short, also did good work.  Blong, Baker and Tracy did well in the field and Berry, at second, cleanly handled every ball sent his way.  Hodnett pitched splendidly and promises to do even better as the season progresses.  Of the game itself there is no need of elaboration.  There was no stake up, no championship involved, and so, although nearly all did well, there was not that spirit put into the game after the first five innings that there would have been had there been some goal in view.  The claim that the grounds were not large enough, which was made by some well-wishers of the club, was scarcely borne out yesterday, not a fair ball being knocked over anyone of the fences.  By Sunday next the opera chairs for the grand stand will be in place, and the reserved portion will be reserved in fact, other improvements will be made during the week, and the drawbacks of yesterday, if there were any, will be remedied.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, April 7, 1884

Long-talked of, indeed.  It's good to leave behind the baseball politics and the machinations of the off-season and finally get to the game on the field.

While the off-season was fascinating and it was important to cover the creation of the UA and the Maroons, this little project is, for me, all about following Fred Dunlap through his magnificent 1884 season.  In 1883, Dunlap was, arguably, the best player in the game and I don't think that there is any doubt that he was the best second baseman in all of baseball.  He was about to turn twenty-five years old, was at the peak of his talents and would just tear up the UA in 1884.  It's going to be fun to see that on a day to day basis.

So without further ado, let's introduce a new feature here at TGOG:

What Did Dunlap Do?

What did Dunlap do on April 6, 1884, in his first game with the Maroons?  He simply went five for six with four doubles and two runs scored.  Not a bad start.


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