Any sign of life in the New Haven ballclub was cause for celebration. A nice victory against Saint Louis, one of the better entries in the National Association, was certainly a reason to get supporters to come out to the ballpark. “Attendance was large both inside and out, and the interest was well kept up by the closeness of the score to the very end,” the Register said.
With both teams combining for a total of 27 base hits, Saint Louis defeated New Haven 9-7 on July 30, 1875. While New Haven’s bats were lively, the gloves were slipshod at best, a continued bugaboo for the team throughout the season. “The fielding of the New Havens was rather loose on one or two occasions where sharp play was required,” the Register opined.
The New Haven Palladium intimated that the Brown Stockings opted to use a livelier ball during the game but “didn’t make anything by it.” Whereas today the manufacture of baseballs is standardized, that was not the case in 1875. Clubs had the choice of a number of different types of balls, some with more bounce than others. The size of the ball was standardized in 1872 – weight was between 5 and 5.25 ounces, and the circumference was between 9 and 9.25 inches. However, the core of the baseball and the elasticity of the cover varied, according to Peter Morris’s book “A Game of Inches.”
The Brown Stockings jumped to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on a trio of base hits surrounding an error by New Haven second baseman Ed Somerville, one of two he’d make on the day.
New Haven, whose batting had been improving as the season went on, put up three in the top of the second. Somerville doubled to lead off the inning, and Jumbo Latham followed with a single. Sam Wright and Johnny Ryan reached on an error and a fielder’s choice, scoring Somerville. Rightfielder John McKelvey, who struggled at the plate the bulk of the season, hit a two-run double to right field.
Tricky Nichols, the New Haven pitcher, allowed the St. Louis club to tie the game in the bottom of the third on a double by Lip Pike, the center fielder, and an a triple by second baseman Joe Battin.
A word on Joe Battin, who would get three hits in the game. Battin had a brief stay in Philadelphia in 1874 after pulling a knife on a teammate who accused him of laying down. He would continue in the National League when it was formed in 1876. However, he and pitcher Joe Blong were identified by gamblers as throwing games in 1877, according to researcher Paul Batesel, and they were moved out of the league. Battin would resurface from time to time, amassing time in 10 major league seasons. “He came to be the subject of a running joke that he acquired his surname because he never did ‘any battin,’” wrote researcher David Nemec.
Back to the action. Nichols and St. Louis pitcher George Bradley settled down for a while at the midpoint of the game. At one point, Nichols allowed a single hit over three innings, striking out two. Bradley answered him in kind. New Haven threatened to blow things open in the third, the fifth, and the seventh innings. St. Louis played very tight defense and held them to two runs.
New Haven held the lead, 5-4, going into the bottom of the 7th inning. Lip Pike led off the inning with a single. Battin followed up with a single to center, and a dreadful overthrow by Ed Somerville allowed both runners to score. Saint Louis added a run in the bottom of the 8th to make the score 7-5.
New Haven had one final offensive burst in them. Bradley got two quick outs in the top of the 9th before allowing a single to Henry Luff. Tim McGinley, the catcher, doubled, scoring Luff. Somerville, seeking to atone for his defensive sins, hit a hot grounder back at Bradley, who threw widely to first. Amidst bedlam in New Haven, McGinley scored, tying the game at 7.
Battin singled off Nichols to start the bottom of the 9th. Hague hit a hot shot to rightfielder John McKelvey, who attempted to throw him out at first. The umpire called Hague safe, a decision that enraged the New Haven faithful. Pitcher George Bradley, a decent hitter, slammed a single to right. McKelvey made the first overthrow on the play, and Nichols, in turn, made a second throwing error to allow both runners to score, giving the Brown Stockings the victory.
“All together our boys have no need of bewailing their ill-luck, and they may be assured that in the last two games with the Browns they have far transcended the hopes and expectations of all that wish them well,” the Register said.