New faces in New Haven; injuries prompt several roster changes

Thirteen games into a winless season, the New Haven club was starting to struggle with injuries that forced players from the lineup. Pitcher Tricky Nichols was laid up with a broken finger. Sammy Wright, the shortstop, had a sprained ankle.

By and large, nineteenth-century baseball players played hurt. There were no pitch counts or rehab assignments to nurse a player back to health, and no disabled list as a mechanism to heal. With National Association teams tending to carry about 12 players on the roster, and New Haven generally carrying only enough to field a team, it meant new faces would put on a uniform.

Without a standardized scouting system, finding players was a difficult task. Willis Arnold, the club’s first general manager, went to find players in Brooklyn and Philadelphia, a sound idea at the time given both cities were hotbeds of the sport. With Arnold cashiered before the season even began, there doesn’t appear to have been a systematic effort by Captain Charles Gould in place to augment the roster in the event of injury. New Haven fell back on hiring players who were either recent Yale men, or members of the Bridgeport semi-pro team, including Sullivan, who performed well, Rit Harrison, who could hit but not field, and John Smith, who could do neither.

Tom Barlow, catcher for the Atlantics, Dark Blues, and Elm Citys

Tom Barlow, catcher for the Atlantics, Dark Blues, and Elm Citys

As the New Haven team planned its first road trip of the season, changes were necessary. Tom Barlow, the drug addicted catcher who gave two teams the runaround this offseason, returned to make the trip.

Jim Keenan, a future major leaguer who would serve as a backup for New Haven

Jim Keenan, a future major leaguer who would serve as a backup for New Haven

The New Haven Daily Palladium noted that a pitcher named Perroy was acquired to take Nichols’ place in the box, but it doesn’t appear from the records that he would ever play for the Elm Citys. Gould would choose to use outfielder Johnny Ryan and third baseman Henry Luff to handle the pitching. Seventeen year old Jim Keenan, a local amateur who would go on to a long major league career, would travel with the squad. Lester Dole, the son of the Yale professor responsible for the club’s conditioning in the preseason, would also serve as a substitute.

Lester Dole played in a single game for the Elm Citys. Became known as an educator and a championship walker

Lester Dole played in a single game for the Elm Citys. Became known as an educator and a championship walker

Aside from Keenan and Sullivan, who appeared in multiple games, none of the substitutes would have any impact on the team. Barlow, Smith, Harrison, and Dole would each appear in a single game with the team, with decidedly mixed results.

Ed Somerville would lead the league in errors at second base in 1875

Ed Somerville would lead the league in errors at second base in 1875

However, with clubs in the league folding and more players becoming available, help was on the way. The Washington Centennials went out of business on May 24 and New Haven quickly signed catcher Tim McGinley and second baseman Ed Somerville. Both players were rookies in 1875, but Somerville had already gained a reputation as a fine fielder and hitter, according to manager Jack Chapman’s scrapbooks, stored at the Baseball Hall of Fame library.  Somerville was hitting .228 when he signed with New Haven. McGinley hit .231 before arriving in New Haven.

Tim McGinley

Tim McGinley

With pressure mounting from the local press and stockholders concerned about their financial investment, Gould hoped that these players could help turn the team around. It turns out that in a small way they would.

 

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