Stud Bancker, the New Haven catcher, has been having a rough season. Coming from a Easton, Pennsylvania amateur team that sent nine men into professional ball, there were hopes that Bancker could shore up the most important position on the 19th century diamond, behind the plate. He struggled with injuries, needing a courtesy runner early in the season, and his hitting left much to be desired. However, his fielding, up to this point, had been adequate — until the game against the Philadelphia Whites on May 8, 1875 in New Haven.
Bancker’s poor play cost New Haven a win against Philadelphia, falling 3-2. Two of Philadelphia’s three runs came across as a result of passed balls, and a third passed ball and a pair of stolen bases against him helped yield the third run. “The general appearance of the visiting club was very favorable,” the Register conceded.
Tricky Nichols, New Haven’s starting pitcher, spread out three hits in what was a hard luck performance. Cherokee Fisher, the Philadelphia starter known for the speed of his pitches, gave up seven hits, but was able to come through in crucial situations to prevent further damage. “Fisher’s pitching seemed to bother the New Haveners some, and foul outs and outs on strikes were frequent,” the Register reported.
New Haven Captain Charlie Gould lost the toss and was forced to bat first, another example of the field boss’s bad luck, the New Haven Register opined. The weather continued to be a problem, killing the box office. “It had rained so violently in the morning that many supposed that there would be no game and hence few were in attendance,” according to the New Haven Register.
Second baseman Billy Geer, thus far a stalwart for the New Havens, led off with a single to right. He advanced to third on a passed ball and scored on a ground out to third base, giving New Haven a rare lead 1-0.
Philadelphia, entering the game with a 4-2 record, tied it up on the first of New Haven third baseman Henry Luff’s three errors and the first of Bancker’s passed balls. The Whites took the lead in the botttom of the third inning, when Nichols issues a rare walk – so rare as to be his first issued during the season – to reserve outfielder Bill Crowley. A clean single by catcher Pop Snyder moved Crowley to second. Bancker’s second passed ball allowed Crowley to score from second.
The Philadelphia Whites were a team on rise. After finishing 1874 with a .500 record, management completely revamped the team, retaining in 1875 a single player, shortstop Chick Fulmer, from that campaign. Starting pitcher Cherokee Fisher was the key player on the team. Third baseman Mike McGeary came over from the Athletics, and hit .321 in ’74. Tim Murnane, known for his sportswriting career later on, anchored first base. It was a veteran club, the kind New Haven would have trouble with all season long.
New Haven tied the game in the top of the sixth inning on back to back errors by Murnane and left fielder Lefty McMullin, allowing Johnny Ryan to score.
Philadelphia, who for the most part did not hit Nichols hard, limped to the winning run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning on back to back errors by shortstop Sam Wright and third baseman Luff, scoring Fulmer.
New Haven rallied to put two runners on in the top of the ninth, but two of the club’s weakest hitters, Bancker and Nichols, went quietly to dash their hopes.
The New Haven Register contined to show an appalling lack of discernment in its baseball coverage. Rather than take the team to task for its inepititude, perfectly within its right as the team fell to 0-7, the Register seemed to applaud them for merely getting a bit better. “Those who were absent missed a fine display of base ball, and it may be a long time ere such an opportunity befalls them again,” the Register said.
As if things couldn’t get darker for New Haven, the Hartford Courant reported that Tricky Nichols would no longer play for the club. “It’s statement … made on the authority of Nichols himself,” the Register said. With only nine men on the team, and no one else available to pitch, the loss of Nichols would degrade the club’s status from inept to utterly incompetent.
The club would have an opportunity to even the score with the Philadelphias on May 10.
SCORE BY INNINGS
NEW HAVENS – 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 – 2
PHILADELPHIA – 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 – 3
WP – Cherokee Fisher LP – Tricky Nichols (0-7)
Philadelphia lineup – Lefty McMullin; Mike McGeary, 3b (1 runs); Bob Addy, rf; Orator Shaffer, 3b; Cherokee Fisher, p (winning pitcher); Tim Murnane, 1b (one hit); Chick Fulmer, ss (1 run); Bill Crowley, 1b (1 run, 1 hit); Pop Snyder, c (1 hit)
New Haven lineup – Billy Geer, 2b (1 run, 1 hit), John McKelvey, rf (1 hit), Johnny Ryan, lf (1 run); Henry Luff, 3b; Jim Tipper, rf (2 hits); Charlie Gould, 1b; Sam Wright, ss (1 hit); Stud Bancker, c (1 hit); Tricky Nichols (1 hit – losing pitcher)