Monday, December 19, 2011

The 1884 Maroons: Sounds Like A Heck Of A Catch

Between 1,500 and 2,000 people witnessed the second game between the Keystone Club, of Philadelphia, and the St. Louis Unions, played yesterday afternoon at Union Park.  As in the first meeting between the same nines the local team won.  The visitors were outbatted and outfielded, but by bunching hits earned most of their runs.  William Sullivan, a new discovery, occupied the pitcher's box for the home team for six innings.  He showed that he was a promising twirler, but hardly a safe one to put against experienced players.  In the third inning Dickerson opportunely became sick and Taylor was uniformed and sent out to left field.  Then in hte seventh inning Taylor's opportune presence was utilized by his going to the box, Sullivan retiring to right and Shafer moving to left.  Dickerson said his trouple was neuralgia.  Some unsympathetic people intimated that his affliction was superinduced by the hard hitting the Keystones were doing on Sullivan's delivery.  The visitors presented Bakely and Gillen.  Weaver had been announced to pitch, but was indisposed.  Bakely was hit for 17 singles and a total of 22 bases, and Gillen, whose support was brilliant in many respects, allowed three balls to pass him.  Brennan had one passed ball charged against him, but handled the widely differing deliveries of Sullivan and Taylor with equal ease and reliability. 
The feature of the game was a catch by Dunlap that deservedly elicited general and prolonged applause.  In the second inning, when Dunlap was playing about ten yards from second, Cross hit a high-line ball almost directly over second, the hit appearing to be safe beyond doubt.  To the astonishment of the entire assemblage, Dunlap ran back, sprang into the air, and with a right hand reach performed the seemingly impossible feat of capturing ball.  The performance has never been surpassed on a St. Louis ball ground.  
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 30, 1884

So...what DID Dunlap do?  Just your regular, old two for six with three runs scored.  He also turned a double play in the field.  And he made a running, jumping one-handed catch of a line drive that was hit ten yards to his right.  No big deal.

The reference to "William Sullivan, a new discovery" is interesting and may point to an error in the records.  It looks to me that the record has Sleeper Sullivan pitching this game for the Maroons.  The problem is that William Sullivan can not be Sleeper Sullivan.  Sleeper Sullivan's name was Thomas Jefferson Sullivan not William and he was not in any way a new discovery.  Sleeper Sullivan had played in the major leagues since 1881 and was with the Brown Stockings in 1882.  He was a popular player in St. Louis and I think that the Globe's baseball reporter would have recognized him and identified him properly.  

Unless there was some kind of attempt at deception going on, we have to take the reporting at face value and conclude that William Sullivan, rather than Sleeper Sullivan, pitched this game.  But Baseball-Reference does not list William Sullivan on the Maroons 1884 roster, although, when you search for William Sullivan, you get this.  Something is wrong here and my gut feeling tells me that the error is on our end.  

I'm going to look into this some more and see what I can find but, right now, I think that the record is in error.  Maybe the Globe has it wrong or I'm missing something but I don't think so.  We'll see.  

Note:  This gets curiouser and curiouser.  In Major League Baseball Profiles, 1871-1900, Volume One, David Nemec states that Sleeper Sullivan pitched in the game on May 29, 1884.  Peter Morris, on the other hand, states at his website that there is "overwhelming evidence" that William Sullivan, rather than Sleeper Sullivan, pitched in that game.  I'll check in with both men but I'm more than inclined to agree with Peter on this one.

Note the second:  Talked to Peter about this and he shared some references that I hadn't seen about William Sullivan and the May 29th game.  In my opinion, the evidence is pretty conclusive that this game should be credit to William Sullivan, rather than Sleeper Sullivan, and Peter has passed all of this on to the powers that be in order to get the record corrected.    

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