Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The 1884 Maroons: The Best Contest They Had Ever Witnessed

Over 7,000 persons witnessed yesterday's game at the Union Grounds.  Strengthened by the Cleveland trio the Crincinnati Unions undoubtedly present the strongest team that has visited St. Louis this year, and, while they are a magnificent appearing lot of men, the League discipline has penetrated their ranks, and their movements on the field now resemble those of a military organization rather than a ball team.  The sensational feature of yesterday's game was the appearance on the Union grounds of Tom Dolan, who for so many years has rendered the Brown Stockings good service.  The game was not called promptly, and the crowd fretted and fumed for ten or fifteen minutes.  They were not aware of the fact that Dolan was dressing preparatory to taking the place of Baker behind the bat.  Baker was not feeling well, and so Dolan's services were brought into play.  As Tom walked out of the Union club house, accompanied by Sweeny, a small boy shouted: "There's Tom Dolan.  He is coming out to catch Sweeny."  The news spread like wildfire, and as Dolan walked across the field a cheer was sent up the like of which has not often been heard on the grounds.  It told that Dolan was a prime favorite with the people, and that if a quarrel had taken place between him and his old employers the base-ball-loving public were willing to take his side of it.  He was not only cheered when he crossed the field, but given a genuine ovation when he went in to face Sweeney, when he put on his mask, when he went to bat and when he made the hit which brought in the only run the St. Louis team scored in the game.  Early yesterday morning Dolan told Mr. Lucas that he has severed all connection with the Brown Stocking Club. 

Dolan's Explanation.

"I and my friends said he believed that I have been doing as good work behind the bat and with the stick as Deasley, and though he is paid nearly twice as much as me I have not complained on that score, but only asked that I be allowed to alternate with him in the catcher's position.  This privilege is granted on all nines, and that I was able to hold my own I think was proven on the late trip, as I caught in the two games we won from Colombus, while Deasley caught the two we lost at Louisville.  It was fairly and squarely my turn to catch to-day, and I asked to be allowed to do so, but both Von der Ahe and Williams refused me that privilege.  Being tired of being made a fool of I told Von der Ahe that I was done working for him."

Dolan, after making this statement, offered his services to Mr. Lucas.  The latter declined to sign Dolan then but asked him to call at the Union Grounds before the game in the afternoon, which he promised to do.  Then Dolan consulted a lawyer, who is also a personal friend, by whom he was advised to ask of Mr. Von der Ahe that he be allowed to catch in the game against the Indianapolis Club and in the event of a refusal, to at once sever his connection with the Browns and join the Unions.  According to Dolan's story he went to Sportsman's Park yesterday afternoon and said to Mr. Von der Ahe, "Are you going to let me catch," to which that gentleman replied, "Put on your uniform."  This Dolan accepted as an order to go on the field as tenth man, and, instead of complying, he suggested that the President of the Browns should visit the infernal regions.  Mr. Von der Ahe retorted, "I'll put you through for that," and Dolan walked out of the grounds, boarded a streetcar and rode down to Union Park, where he arrived just in time to take part in the game.  He signed no contract, but was taken at his word that he had left the Browns for good and was looking for employment, and was sent out in Baker's place to support Sweeny.  Mr. Lucas left with his team for Pittsburg last night.  Before going he told Dolan not to act hastily, and promised to engage him on Thursday next for the Union team, provided he still felt like signing with that organization.  If he signs he will be taken on the Eastern trip.

A Great Game.

The home team were the first to bat and were retired without scoring.  In the second inning, after Harbidge had made a safe hit, Sylvester reached first but forced Harbidge at second, Sweeny getting the ball and throwing to Dunlap.  McCormick then hit hard to right field for two bases, sending Sylvester to third.  McQuery, the new man, followed with a bounding hit along the foul line, which the crowd pronounced foul, but which Seward said was fair.  Two runs crossed the plate, and they were the only runs the visitors got in the game.  In the fifth inning, after two men were out, the local nine scored their only run.  Boyle made a terrific hit to center and Burns, who ran well for the ball, just reached and muffed it, Boyle going to second on the drop.  Dolan then hit a hot grounder at Crane.  The latter let the ball get by him and Boyle scored.  From the fifth to the ninth, the home nine worked like Trojans to score.  Dunlap drove the ball away over the left field fence, and it seemed to sail safe, but the umpire called "foul."  Other long hits were made, but the fielders took in everything that happened along.  In the ninth Shaffer hit a beauty to left for two bases, Rowe sensibly sacrificed and Shaffer trotted to third.  Then Gleason went to the bat and a hit to the outfield on which Shaffer could score was looked for, but instead the ball was sent rolling to Crane, who threw home and Briody caught Shaffer at the plate.  Boyle was the last chance, but he proved an easy victim for McCormick, who struck him out, and the game was at an end.  Sweeny and McCormick both pitched in grand form.  On total bases Sweeny was the most effective.  Briody and Dolan both caught magnificently.  The game as a whole was both brilliant and exciting, and the spectators were constantly manifesting their enthusiastic appreciation of the exhibition.  As a matter of fact, some of the oldest patrons of the national game in the city declared it was the best contest they had ever witnessed on any ball field.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 24, 1884

There's so much going on in this article that I have to go to the bullet points:

  • With the addition of the three National Leaguers, Cincinnati was every bit the club that St. Louis was and their record the rest of the way proved that.  If Cincinnati had started the season with this roster, there would have been a serious pennant race.
  • The argument that the UA was a one team league doesn't stand up.  Yes, it took Cincinnati until August to put their team together but, again, Cincinnati was the equal of St. Louis.  
  • But the league was a mess.  The weakness of the rosters were a direct result of Lucas' decision not to sign players who were already under contract.  This was a noble decision but, in the end, it hurt the quality of league.  By August, when Lucas and the rest of the UA got tired of the NL and AA poaching players from their rosters, that policy was thrown out and Cincinnati was able to strengthen their club.
  • And the Maroons were able to add a catcher.  If Lucas had stuck to the old policy of not signing players already under contract, he never would have signed Dolan.
  • But, seriously, what kind of league allows a guy to walk in off the street, tell them he just quit his old club and then starts him without even signing him to a contract?  That's about as bush league as it gets. 
  • Dolan's explanation of why he quit the Browns was also kind of weak.  He basically said that he was better than Deasley, didn't get to play enough and wasn't happy with his pay.  So he quit and ran over to the Union Grounds looking for a new job.
  • Also, it should be noted that this was an exhibition rather than a league game.     

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