Could New Haven land its first star?

Wintry weather in early spring 1875 delayed completion of the Howard Avenues Grounds, the New Havens home field. Captain and first baseman Charlie Gould intended to have the team together by April 20 and the season would begin by May 1 “or as soon as the ground is in proper condition for playing,” said the Middletown Daily Constitution.

In the meantime manager Billy Arnold is still trying to handle the increasingly delicate situation with drug addicted catcher Tom Barlow. Barlow is now arguing Brooklyn management promised he could break his contract with them if he got a better offer. Arnold intends to head to Brooklyn to talk with Barlow personally with the hopes of making heads or tails of this mess.

John McKelvey, outfielder and third baseman

John McKelvey, outfielder and third baseman

Barlow’s antics not withstanding, Arnold still has to fill the roster. He was considering an highly recommended outfielder and third baseman out of Rochester named John McKelvey for a spot on the team. With no scouting apparatus to speak of in that era, Arnold had to rely on personal references or simply applications from interested players. In this instance, he had received a letter from Rochester touting McKelvey’s play with the local team. A try out would be in order.

With is preliminary roster of marginal and inexperienced players, Arnold still was in need of an impact player, something that the press seemed to believe that Barlow could have been. To that end, Arnold opened negotiations with Long Jim Holdsworth, a 24-year-old who had been one of the leading players in the  National Association in 1874. Playing shortstop,  third base and the outfield for the Philadelphia Whites, Holdsworth hit .340 with 60 runs scored and 37 runs batted in in a season where the league batting average was .273. “Holdsworth is a fine player, and would be a valuable addition to the nine,” the Daily Palladium said.

For the New Haven nine, the initial intention as of middle of May is that they would play as many as 75 games in the 1875 season, according to the Middletown Daily Constitution. All of the Western teams, including St. Louis, Chicago, and Keokuk, would begin the season with a tour of the East Coast. Then, in turn, the eastern ball clubs – Boston, the three Philadelphia teams, Hartford, New York, Brooklyn, and Washington – would head out West. “It will be advisable for admirers of the game to secure season tickets, which will be sold at a low price,” said the New Haven Daily Palladium.

The leadership of the New Haven nine had reason to be believe theirs would be a successful venture financially. They were constructing an enclosed grounds near Howard Avenue, selling advertising on the outfield walls, and selling season tickets. We would call this diversifying one’s revenue streams.

The game, nationally, was growing. “Clubs are forming the throughout the length and breadth of the land, and even Canada is falling into line with club after club. Indeed, so strong are the indications of a remarkable lively season that dealers in the line of good used by the ball players have largely increased their orders to the manufacturers. One firm in New York last week ordered 75,000 bats and 1,000 dozen balls. It will require a train of eight cars to transport this number of bats,” according to the Philadelphia City Item.

Players are being signed. The ball park is being built. It would seem that the Elm City club is well on its way. It won’t be long before tension in senior management create the first big change of the season.

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