Monday, May 28, 2012

The 1884 Maroons: The Scorpion And The Frog

Yesterday's game between St. Louis and Kansas City Unions, with the first inning left out, was one of the prettiest contests of the year.  The visitors presented Barney McLaughlin as their pitcher.  He had ridden all the way from Reading, Pa., and when he appeared on the field he was feeling stiff and tired.  When he began pitching he showed great speed and in and out-curves of no ordinary degree, but did not have good command of the ball.  In addition, he was harshly dealt with by Umpire Devinney, who called balls that were delivered directly over the plate.  McLaughlin protested at first and then good naturedly stood in the box and laughed at the deal he was getting.  At the same time the crowd hissed vehemently.  After the visitors had retired in the first inning without scoring Dunlap led off for the St. Louis with one of his patent drives to center.  A moment later he was clearly caught napping by McLaughlin's throw to Cudworth, but Devinney decided "not out."  The crowd hissed Devinney for declaring him safe.  This seemed to rattle Devinney, and he commenced calling balls rapidly.  Shafer was the first to go to his base on balls.  Then Rowe hit safe to right, filling the bases.  Gleason, who came next, stood up without attempting to strike, and Devinney called seven balls in succession, Gleason went to first, while Dunlap walked home, the crowd in the meanwhile hissing Devinney, and calling to him to step down and out.  Quinn, the next batsman, hit to Davis, who picked up the ball, 
Touched Third Base,
and then threw home to head Shafer off at the plate.  Devinney, to the surprise of all, declared Rowe safe at third and Shaffer out at home, when without doubt both men were retired.  Boyle then hit safe to center, and McLaughlin threw home to catch Rowe.  Baldwin jumped high and caught the ball, but Rowe scored.  Boyle then hit safe to center, and McLaughlin threw home to catch Rowe.  Baldwin jumped high and caught the ball, but Rowe scored.  Brennan, like Gleason, made no attempt to strike, and was sent to his base on balls, Gleason scoring on the decision, and the crowd hissing Devinney again.  Ryder, the next man, also stood still until sent to first on balls, and Quinn walked home.  Werder hit to Strief and was fielded out at first, while Boyle scored.  Dunlap hit safe to left and Brennan tallied, but Ryder, who tried to follow him home,
Slipped And Fell
after passing third and was caught between the plate and the bag.  Here were 6 runs, not one of which should have been scored.  The crowd, which had hissed Devinney all through the inning, called for his removal.  Manager Sullivan, getting excited, asked President Lucas to change Devinney at once and substitute Seward, who was in attendance, or he would take his men off the field.  The request was granted and Devinney retired without a word.  The 6 runs, however, took the life out of the game, and although the fielding was sharp on both sides during the balance of the contest, the visitors played with less spirit then they would otherwise have done.  But pretty plays on both sides partially made up for the one-sidedness of the contest...The play of the Kansas Citys warranted the good opinion already formed of them.  They play ball all the time, and, with a good pitcher like Black, whom they expect to-day, they will be able to make the pace warm for any club in the Union Association...
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 3, 1884

P.H. Devinney was as crooked as the day is long and I was surprised when I first saw that the UA had hired him to umpire games.  I'm surprised that anybody would give the guy a job in baseball after the 1877 scandals.  The folks in St. Louis were well aware of what Devinney had done in the past and, as their reaction in this game shows, they had little patience for his nonsense.

There are two great sentences in this piece.  The first: "Manager Sullivan, getting excited, asked President Lucas to change Devinney at once..."  I think that "getting excited" is a euphemism for "was really and completely pissed off."  The second sentence that I like is "...Devinney retired without a word."  Sure, why not?  His work was already done, the game was firmly decided for the Maroons in the first inning and the gamblers were assured of their money.

By the way, I think that, in what was a rather uninteresting season, this may be the most interesting game the Maroons played all season.  That's kind of sad because it wasn't interesting because of anything the players did on the field but, rather, the game stands out because of the crookedness of the umpire.

And if you didn't pick up on the reference in the post title, you might want to go back and reread Aesop.  Devinney is the scorpion and baseball is the frog.

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