The Centennial Club of Philadelphia came into its May 1 home game with New Haven having lost its first four games of the season. If anyone was ripe to be beaten, it was the Centennials, struggling on the field and listing at the box office.
New Haven’s first win would have to continue to wait, falling to the Centennials at Columbia Park 12-5. Fred Warner got three hits and scored four runs for Philadelphia, and the Elm Citys made at least 10 errors – one column of the box score counts at least twice that number. The box score seems to differentiate between errors that allow runners to reach first base, and errors made once a runner reached first.
Rain inundated the field, forcing Umpire Dole to call the game after three innings, a boon for New Haven who was already down 7-0. Having not played a minimum of five innings, New Haven’s deficit would have been washed away by rule if not for a strategic error by Elm Citys Captain Charlie Gould. “At the urgent request of one of the Centennials’ backers, who vociferated most violently, Captain Gould continued the game, but under protest,” the New Haven Evening Register reported.
New Haven did mount a comeback, scoring one run in the fourth inning and four in the fifth inning before being shut down the rest of the way by Centennials pitcher George Bechtel. Billy Geer, John McKelvey, Jim Tipper, and Tricky Nichols each had a couple of hits for New Haven, and Gould himself scored two runs (and made eight errors in the game).
Gould’s major decisions thus far during the season have not generally worked out. Starting the season against Boston, something Gould agreed to, resulted in two losses. Tinkering with the lineup only appears to have exacerbated the problem. “Our nine, if they intend to win a game, must be assigned positions, and must play them in each and every game, as by this only can success be attained,” the Register fumed.
The Centennial Baseball Club was also a newcomer to the National Association. According to Paul Batesel’s research, long time Philadelphia Athletic Hicks Hayhurst believed the city could support more than two teams and attempted to cash in on the baseball craze. The name itself was marketing ploy intended to cash in on the nation’s upcoming centennial.
But the problems endemic to New Haven – not enough players or money – became magnified with the Centennials. The club managed to sign four players with prior experience, making them more successful than New Haven in that regard. However, those men came with baggage. Three of the players – John Radcliff, Bill Craver, and George Bechtel – had been accused of tampering with the integrity of games and were later expelled from the sport for game fixing. Another player, Fred Treacey, signed contracts with two teams at the same time.
The fate of the Centennials, who would only last as a team through the end of May, would impact the New Havens later on in the season.
One final note. Notwithstanding the rain delay and the multiple errors, the game only took two hours to play.
There is something to the idea of pace, something lost in the modern game. Everyone steps out of the box and adjusts every piece of equipment on their bodies (watch Mike Hargrove do this, known as the Human Rain Delay), and pitchers parade around the mound as if the next pitch determined the fate of mankind (Jeff Weaver used to be great for this). Managers manage a game other than the one they are watching, chasing infintesimal percentages mainly to look as if they are doing something (Joe Girardi, looking at you, although I suppose we really have Tony Larussa to blame for the onslaught of bad middle relievers in every game.)
There is something pure about the idea of you put your best nine guys out there, and I’ll get mine and we’ll see how it goes. And on May 1, 1875, that’s exactly what happened between New Haven and Philadelphia.
Side note, the Centennials had a lot of off the field firsts. Bill Craver and George Bechtel were sold to the Philadelphia Athletics on May 26, 1875 for $1,500, a move to encourage the team to disband, according baseball-reference.com. It was the first sale of players in baseball history. Bechtel was also the first man ever permanently banned from the game.
SCORE BY INNINGS
NEW HAVENS – 0 0 0 1 4 0 0 0 0 – 5
CENTENNIALS – 3 2 2 0 0 1 1 1 2 – 12
WP – George Bechtel LP – Tricky Nichols (0-4)
Centennials lineup – Bill Craver, ss (2 runs); Len Lovett, rf (1 hit, 2 runs); George Bechtel, p (1 run, 1 hit – winning pitcher); George Trenwith, 3b (1 run); Fred Treacey, lf (1 run); Fred Warner, cf (4 runs, 3 hits); Ed Somerville, 2b; Tim McGinley, c (1 run); Charlie Mason, 1b (1 hit).
New Haven lineup – Billy Geer, 2b (1 run, 2 hits), John McKelvey, rf (1 run, 2 hits), Charlie Gould, 1b (2 runs), Jim Tipper, cf (2 hits), Henry Luff, 3b (1 hit), Sam Wright, ss; Stud Bancker, c; Johnny Ryan, lf (1 hit); Tricky Nichols, p (1 run, 2 hits – losing pitcher)