The New Haven Elm Citys have lost almost every way possible thus far during the 1875 season. They’ve been pummeled. They’ve handed games away via errors and passed balls. They’ve played very good teams fairly closely. They’ve lost because of injuries, ineffectiveness and incompetence. They’ve even forfeited because of a tantrum thrown by their manager. At some point, something has to break their way.
“Our nine have been defeated so often, and withal, have played so many close losing games with superior clubs, that its seems a real pleasure to record a victory,” said the New Haven Evening Register.
After 15 straight losses to start the 1875 season, the club beat the Washington Nationals by the score of 9-2 on May 31, 1875. Henry Luff, the former third baseman forced into pitching duties with the injury of regular starter Tricky Nichols, recorded his first victory of the season.
No play by play account of the game was immediately available – New Haven publications didn’t tend to send their writers on the road, and the Washington D.C. papers I have access to didn’t seem to carry stories about it. So, the particulars heroics have been lost. I can only imagine that the sense of relief around the club was palpable. Some onfield success would likely draw better players and more fans to the games. There was a continued sense from coverage of the team that success would breed more success.
The New Haven papers thought enough of the game to publish the box score several days later. Centerfielder Jim Tipper led the offense with three runs scored and two hits. Catcher Tim McGinley, one of the club’s new acquisitions, and pitcher Luff, chipped in three hits and a run scored each. Johnny Ryan, the left fielder who moved behind the plate when McGinley got injured later in the game, scored two runs. John Hollingshead got a pair of hits for Washington.
It may be only a single victory, but there is a feeling around the club that things are looking up. The local press has been encouraged by the acquisition of catcher McGinley and infielder Ed Somerville.
The big move, and one that could spell trouble for Captain and first baseman Charlie Gould, was the signing of 23-year-old first baseman George ‘Juice’ Latham, recently of the Boston Red Stockings where he hit .269 in 16 games.
A brazen rookie, Latham wrote a letter to iconic Red Stockings Captain Harry Wright asking for a job with the team. Wright took a shot and offered him a three month contract. Latham’s performance was considered merely adequate, but Wright thought enough of him to facilitate his arrival in New Haven, at least according to one version of the story found in his file at the Hall of Fame library. The other story of how he came to New Haven is that Harry Wright wanted him to accompany the team to England and Latham refused, prompting his dismissal. No matter the reason for Latham’s arrival, the Register felt that he would help bring more victories to the ailing franchise. “The nine will be very materially strengthened,” the Register said.
One more game against Washington coming up, and then the Elm City Club will start their trek back to Connecticut.