Thirteen hits aren’t enough: New Haven falls to Saint Louis 9-7

Joe Battin, the Saint Louis second baseman who got three hits against New Haven on July 30, 1875

Joe Battin, the Saint Louis second baseman who got three hits against New Haven on July 30, 1875

Any sign of life in the New Haven ballclub was cause for celebration. A nice victory against Saint Louis, one of the better entries in the National Association, was certainly a reason to get supporters to come out to the ballpark. “Attendance was large both inside and out, and the interest was well kept up by the closeness of the score to the very end,” the Register said.

With both teams combining for a total of 27 base hits, Saint Louis defeated New Haven 9-7 on July 30, 1875. While New Haven’s bats were lively, the gloves were slipshod at best, a continued bugaboo for the team throughout the season. “The fielding of the New Havens was rather loose on one or two occasions where sharp play was required,” the Register opined.

The New Haven Palladium intimated that the Brown Stockings opted to use a livelier ball during the game but “didn’t make anything by it.” Whereas today the manufacture of baseballs is standardized, that was not the case in 1875. Clubs had the choice of a number of different types of balls, some with more bounce than others. The size of the ball was standardized in 1872 – weight was between 5 and 5.25 ounces, and the circumference was between 9 and 9.25 inches. However, the core of the baseball and the elasticity of the cover varied, according to Peter Morris’s book “A Game of Inches.”

The Brown Stockings jumped to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on a trio of base hits surrounding an error by New Haven second baseman Ed Somerville, one of two he’d make on the day.

New Haven, whose batting had been improving as the season went on, put up three in the top of the second. Somerville doubled to lead off the inning, and Jumbo Latham followed with a single. Sam Wright and Johnny Ryan reached on an error and a fielder’s choice, scoring Somerville. Rightfielder John McKelvey, who struggled at the plate the bulk of the season, hit a two-run double to right field.

Lip Pike, the first Jewish major leaguer

Lip Pike, the first Jewish major leaguer

Tricky Nichols, the New Haven pitcher, allowed the St. Louis club to tie the game in the bottom of the third on a double by Lip Pike, the center fielder, and an a triple by second baseman Joe Battin.

A word on Joe Battin, who would get three hits in the game. Battin had a brief stay in Philadelphia in 1874 after pulling a knife on a teammate who accused him of laying down. He would continue in the National League when it was formed in 1876. However, he and pitcher Joe Blong were identified by gamblers as throwing games in 1877, according to researcher Paul Batesel, and they were moved out of the league. Battin would resurface from time to time, amassing time in 10 major league seasons. “He came to be the subject of a running joke that he acquired his surname because he never did ‘any battin,’” wrote researcher David Nemec.

Back to the action. Nichols and St. Louis pitcher George Bradley settled down for a while at the midpoint of the game. At one point, Nichols allowed a single hit over three innings, striking out two. Bradley answered him in kind. New Haven threatened to blow things open in the third, the fifth, and the seventh innings. St. Louis played very tight defense and held them to two runs.

New Haven held the lead, 5-4, going into the bottom of the 7th inning. Lip Pike led off the inning with a single. Battin followed up with a single to center, and a dreadful overthrow by Ed Somerville allowed both runners to score. Saint Louis added a run in the bottom of the 8th to make the score 7-5.

New Haven had one final offensive burst in them. Bradley got two quick outs in the top of the 9th before allowing a single to Henry Luff. Tim McGinley, the catcher, doubled, scoring Luff. Somerville, seeking to atone for his defensive sins, hit a hot grounder back at Bradley, who threw widely to first. Amidst bedlam in New Haven, McGinley scored, tying the game at 7.

Battin singled off Nichols to start the bottom of the 9th. Hague hit a hot shot to rightfielder John McKelvey, who attempted to throw him out at first. The umpire called Hague safe, a decision that enraged the New Haven faithful. Pitcher George Bradley, a decent hitter, slammed a single to right. McKelvey made the first overthrow on the play, and Nichols, in turn, made a second throwing error to allow both runners to score, giving the Brown Stockings the victory.

“All together our boys have no need of bewailing their ill-luck, and they may be assured that in the last two games with the Browns they have far transcended the hopes and expectations of all that wish them well,” the Register said.

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New Haven downs Saint Louis, 7-3

A game from the 1850s in Flushing, New York that shows women in attendance. I'd like to think New Haven wasn't different in 1875.

A game from the 1850s in Flushing, New York that shows women in attendance. I’d like to think New Haven wasn’t different in 1875. (from the New York Clipper and ourgame.mlblogs.com)

One of the early concerns of 19th century base ball executives is that the game was too rough and tumble to attract female spectators. It’s true that the stands in a National Association game could be filled with drunken hooligans, brazenly betting on the game, but that doesn’t seem to be keeping women away in New Haven. Or, conversely, perhaps this is an indicator that the “cranks,” the 19th century term for a fan, were a little better behaved in New Haven.

“Notwithstanding the heat a very fair crowd assembled, fairer than usual if such a pun be permissible, for many representatives of the gentler sex were witnesses of the game,” said the Register, also noting that some male members of the crowd weren’t too happy with their presence.

No matter. Perhaps the New Havens were inspired by them, downing the Saint Louis club by a score of 7-3 on July 28, 1875 in front of another large crowd.

George Bradley, the losing Saint Louis pitcher

George Bradley, the losing Saint Louis pitcher

The game initially looked as if it was shaping up to be a pitcher’s duel. Both Saint Louis’ George Bradley and New Haven’s Tricky Nichols fired four scoreless innings apiece to start the game.

St. Louis jumped on the board first in the top of the 5th inning, scoring one run on a pair of New Haven errors and a questionable call by umpire Bill Boyd of the Atlantics, his first of a few on the day.

Bill Boyd, the Atlantics outfielder whose umpiring caused trouble for New Haven

Bill Boyd, the Atlantics outfielder whose umpiring caused trouble for New Haven

New Haven matched them with a run in the bottom of the 5th on singles by Sam Wright and Johnny Ryan. Saint Louis added runs in the sixth and eighth innings. The run in the eighth wasn’t without controversy. Ned Cuthbert walked to lead off the inning, an inordinately rare occurrence in 1875, coming around to score. “Boyd, the umpire, gave Cuthbert his base on three balls, two balls being called where it should have been two strikes,” the Register reported. “His unfairness was chiefly confined to the calling of balls and strikes, but it was quite manifest to that respect after the seventh inning,” the Palladium said.

The run ultimately wouldn’t matter in the face of one of New Haven’s bigger offensive explosions of the season. As 19th century games so often do, victory often turns on defensive breakdown and the ability of the offense of capitalize.

New Haven scored two runs in the sixth inning on a pair of Saint Louis errors and a single by Henry Luff, the hitting star of the day. In the bottom of the eighth inning, New Haven batted around, scoring four times to cinch the win. Nichols led off the inning with a single. John McKelvey hit a hot flyball to centerfielder Jack Chapman (who flirted with being New Haven’s first captain in the offseason), who dropped the ball and then made an overthrow on the play, allowing both men to score. A pair of errors by second baseman Battin and third baseman Hague split up a triple by Henry Luff and an RBI single by Tim McGinley. “The New Havens fairly outdid themselves, and their batting in the eighth inning called forth loud applause,” the Register said.

Since upsetting Boston on July 2, New Haven was playing credible ball, amassing a record of three wins and four losses, after beginning the month with a 2-24 season record. The addition of players from defunct franchises around the league and the change to a new captain seems to have done a world of good. “People in this city are beginning to believe we have a base ball nine,” the Palladium said.

Tommy Bond and the Hartfords defeat New Haven 4-3

Tommy Bond

Tommy Bond, one of the 19th century’s greatest pitchers

Tommy Bond, a 19-year-old Irish native in 1875, is virtually forgotten today, but he was for a time the highest paid player in professional baseball. Looking through the history of the early professional days of the sport, Bond’s name keep recurring as a pitching innovator, one of the men who changed the role as simply a feeder for the action to a influence on the game itself.

Bond, according to researcher Peter Morris, was the first person to learn the curveball from Hartford teammate Candy Cummings. He was also known for throwing a fast “raise ball,” a submarine style pitch delivered from about six inches off the ground and described by Morris as an inverted sinker, and a variation on a spitball in which a small amount of glycerin was deployed on his fingertips. These characteristics helped Bond be one of the 19th century’s most dominant pitchers.

New Haven, with its anemic bats, was no match for this vast pitching arsenal, losing 4-3 to Hartford on July 24, 1875. “The finest feature of the game was Bond’s wonderful pitching, after he had settled down to work. His work during the last three innings we have never seen excelled, the curve being remarkably effective. The ball when half the distance to the striker had been traversed would seem to threaten some part of his body, bit would take a sharp turn just in front of the plate and pass over it,” the Palladium said. Bond’s pitches either resulted in weak swings or called strikes.

“The game was anybody’s until it ended,” the Palladium said, ever the booster.

Hartford jumped out to a quick two run lead, scoring in the top of the first inning on a single by shortstop Tom Carey and a double by leftfielder Tom York. New Haven cut the lead in half in the bottom of the second inning on an Ed Somerville walk, a single by Juice Latham and a helpful error by Hartford catcher Doug Allison.

New Haven had a defensive breakdown in the top of the 5th inning, making four errors, allowing Hartford to take a 4-1 lead. “Had it now been for bad errors by the home nine … they would have won; but errors form a part of every game of ball, and are no excuse for defeat,” the Palladium said.

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In the bottom of the inning, New Haven rallied with three clean hits off Bond to score two runs. At this point in the game, both Bond and Nichols proved unhittable. Both men each threw four scoreless innings, Nichols striking out one batter and Bond two. New Haven managed to get two runners on in the bottom of the ninth inning, but Allison put down the uprising by throwing out both men stealing.

The gnarled hands of Hartford catcher Doug Allison

The gnarled hands of Hartford catcher Doug Allison

While the game might not have been a success on the field, Hartford proved to be an excellent natural rival for the New Haven club. The Elm Citys had been playing a bit better as of late. “The game … conclusively showed that the improvement in the nine is not temporary or the work of chance, but an improvement that will stay,” the Palladium reported.

The 1876 Hartford Dark Blues, featured above, made the transition to the modern National League with many of the 1875 players still on the roster

The 1876 Hartford Dark Blues, featured above, made the transition to the modern National League with many of the 1875 players still on the roster

That improvement and the presence of the Dark Blues, who were currently second in the National Association behind the dynastic Boston Red Stockings, made for an appealing ticket. “The game between these two clubs drew another large crowd … and if the home club continues to make money at the same rate we may expect to see them in appear upon the grounds ere long in dress suits,” the Register said.

A small side plot began to develop during this game. Charlie Pabor of the Brooklyn Atlantics made his first appearance in New Haven, umpiring the game impartially and well. It wouldn’t be long before Pabor took a greater role in the Elm Citys’ saga.

New Haven gets “Chicagoed” by Saint Louis, 6-0

This team photos of the 1876 Saint Louis team features many men who competed against New Haven

This team photos of the 1876 Saint Louis team features many men who competed against New Haven

The Saint Louis Brown Stockings, New Haven’s next opponent, were a veritable who’s who of early baseball history and a fine base ball club. Ned Cuthbert, the 30-year-old left fielder, was credited by baseball historians with being the first player to both slide and steal a base, both incidents occurring in 1865. No matter that the slide and the stolen base were certainly part of the game from its earliest playground days, Cuthbert gets the credit.

Dickey Pearce, the first modern shortstop

Dickey Pearce, the first modern shortstop

Dickey Pearce, a short and chubby 39-year-old of tremendous athletic ability, was credited with being a key innovator in the evolution of the position of shortstop. The position was thought of as a rover in the early days of the sport. According to SABR, the three infielders played close to their respective bases. Pearce felt he was more valuable closer to the action and moved himself left of second base. “Hence, he redefined the infield, in the process creating the now-familiar shortstop position,” wrote Scott McKenna. Pearce was also a pioneer of the bunt (alongside drug addicted Elm City Tom Barlow.)

Lip Pike, the first Jewish major leaguer

Lip Pike, the first Jewish major leaguer

The lists of firsts performed by Saint Louis players goes on. Lip Pike, the center fielder, is believed to be the first professional player. He was also the first Jewish player in the game. Poor Charlie Waitt, an atrocious hitter, also endured torment from the fans as the first man believed to wear a glove in a game. Rookie pitcher George Bradley, nicknamed “Grin” for his devilish smirk and behavior, would go on to throw the first no-hitter in what is considered the modern National League.

Charlie Waitt endured tremendous abuse from the fan for being the first to use a glove in a game

Charlie Waitt endured tremendous abuse from the fan for being the first to use a glove in a game

These men were not novices, and while New Haven had been playing better as of late the likelihood of victory was small. So, on July 23, 1875, Saint Louis shut out, or “Chicagoed,” to use the language of the day, the New Havens 6-0 in front of a healthy home crowd. “The faces of Pearce and Pike looked about the same as they did when we remember seeing them play on that famous old Atlantic team of that time … There was no flurry, no excitement when a ball was struck, but every play was taking in a matter of fact way,” reported the Daily Palladium.

Saint Louis jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the top of the first with Cuthbert reaching on an error, and Pike sending him home on a triple. Bill Hague drove in Pike with a single. The Brown Stockings added a pair of runs in the fifth inning on hits by Cuthbert and Pearce (and an error by New Haven left fielder Billy Geer), and another pair in the sixth on an error by second baseman Ed Somerville and a single by Dutch Dehlman. New Haven starter Tricky Nichols actually shut down the Brown Stockings in six of the nine innings, only surrendering eight hits, striking out two.

Grin Bradley was always looking for an angle

Grin Bradley was always looking for an angle

After racking up three hits in the first inning, at no point in the game was New Haven in any danger of scoring. It was Bradley’s fourth shutout of the year. Bradley was a fine pitcher, well on his way to a successful season, but he also had a reputation for doctoring the baseball. According to historian David Nemec, Grin would steam open boxes of baseball, then crush the balls in a vise. He’d put them back in the boxes, knowing that the umpire would pass him a dead ball when he pitched.

This was the fifth time New Haven had been “Chicagoed” this season. In the 1860s shutouts were an extraordinarily rare event in those high scoring amateur days. With the rise of professionalism in the 1870s, fielding improved and scoreless games were more likely. There was even an early sense that a 1-0 game was a perfect baseball game, a theory advanced by Henry Chadwick, a father of the game and an important early baseball writer.

In 1870, the Chicago White Stockings, an early baseball powerhouse, had some problems and not many tears were shed. “The White Stockings initially struggled, especially at the bat, but received little sympathy from other cities or the home town press,” wrote Peter Morris in “A Game of Inches.” When the club got shut out by the Mutuals of New York, the act of being held scoreless was deemed a “Chicago,” the Indian word for skunk. The term was used frequently in baseball writing throughout the 19th century.

Whether it was doctored baseballs or running into a team in fine fettle, New Haven was left to soul search about their club, now with 4 wins and 27 losses. The Daily Palladium offered up a novel explanation for the loss. “In batting and fielding, the Saint Louis excelled, and the record of so many errors on the part of the New Havens suggests the query whether or no the home club have been playing too much this week?” the Daily Palladium opined.

The club had played four home games in the past week. The frantic rush – baseball was not yet played every day — could have been for two reasons. The club had been listing financially, undertaking a long road trip to New York to pay some expenses. The trip had not solved their problems, but playing a bunch of games in rapid succession could have helped. Also, it was important in the rules of the day, before scheduling became standardized, to play every club in the league an equal number of times. With the 1875 season rapidly moving along, the New Havens were going to have a hard time filling out their table.

 

Bad call by the umpire blows the game for New Haven, they fall to Chicago 4-3

Oscar Bielaski's bad call gave Chicago a 4-3 win over New Haven

Oscar Bielaski’s bad call gave Chicago a 4-3 win over New Haven

When the New Haven-Chicago game went into extra innings on July 22, 1875 the young boys at the ball park became “wild with excitement,” the papers said. Extra innings was still a big deal in the 1870s, and it meant the New Haven was only a bounce and a bit of luck away from back to back wins agains a tough competitor. Those kids were disappointed, but it had nothing to do with how the Elm Citys performed.

Thanks to a dicey call by the umpire, the Chicago White Stockings rallied in the bottom of the 10th inning to defeat the Elm Citys 4-3 on July 22, 1875. “The fight was close and exciting, but the crowd were evidently disgusted with the actions of some of the Whites as well as with a decision of the umpire in the 10th inning,” the Register correspondent said.

Chicago outfielder Oscar Bielaski served as umpire in the game, not an uncommon occurrence in 19th century baseball. The need for an umpire became apparent in the 1830s, according to baseball researcher Peter Morris, but those men were charged with enforcing decorum and individual club rules. Through the 1860s, umpires were often chosen from the ranks of leading community members and accorded the utmost in respect. Over time, as umpires became more expect to render their own judgements on what was going on during the contests, rather than simply bowing to the notions of the players or some other entity.

An 1859 photo of the Brooklyn Excelsiors show the umpire in all of his 19th century glory, top-hattted, bespectacled and respected. It would change in the next decade.

An 1859 photo of the Brooklyn Excelsiors show the umpire in all of his 19th century glory, top-hattted, bespectacled and respected. It would change in the next decade.

 

By the 1870s, the umpire functioned much as he does not – all judgments were considered final. Local baseball people, even on occasion members of the home team, would call games so long as they had the approval of both teams. There were times when clubs, just to be antagonistic, would withhold approval of the chosen arbiter. Perhaps New Haven should have thought twice before allowing a member of the Chicago club, a team under suspicion for underhanded play, to call the game.

With the score tied at three, Chicago pitcher Mike Golden led off the bottom of the 10th with a single and advanced to third on errors by rightfielder John McKelvey and pitcher Tricky Nichols. John Miller hit the ball down the left field line. Bielaski called the ball fair, a questionable decision that enraged the New Haven faithful, allowing Golden to score the winning run. “The crowd was greatly incensed against the umpire … and he was spirited away from the grounds in a hack as soon as the game way over,” the New Haven Palladium reported.

“The victory should have been with the home club, and their defeat is a matter or no discredit to them,” the Register said.

New Haven played Chicago very closely, scoring one run in the second inning and two in the fourth, primarily as a result of poor fielding on the part of the White Stockings, including three errors each by catcher Scott Hastings and centerfielder Paul Hines. New Haven first baseman Juice Latham drove in two of the runs, making the biggest contribution to New Haven’s anemic offense.

Paul Hines

Paul Hines

 

Chicago’s runs came in the 3rd, 5th and 9th innings, also mainly as a result of poor fielding by New Haven shortstop Sam Wright, who made three errors in the game, two of which contributed to runs. In the ninth inning, Jim Devlin tripled, followed up by Paul Hines’ triple. Hines was the hitting star for Chicago, getting three hits and driving in one run.

Mike Golden's curveball befuddled New Haven batters

Mike Golden’s curveball befuddled New Haven batters

 

Mike Golden, Chicago’s change pitcher and a backup outfielder, offered a decidedly different look than the regular starter George Zettlein, befuddling New Haven’s bats. Zettlein was known for his speed, but Golden was said to throw “curves to the right,” not a regular sight for New Haven batters. Nichols was said to throw “curves to the left,” perhaps an early variant on a sinker.

Despite the loss, it was clear that New Haven was clearly improving. They were more competitive, Nichols was back in top form, and the fielding was a bit cleaner than it had been in the past. The results showed the club’s hard work, going 2-2 in July. New Haven’s next game would be against the St. Louis Brown Stockings, one of the better clubs in the league.

New Haven beats Chicago 6-1, silencing the critics

Was a kid like this trying to see New Haven play Chicago for free?

Was a kid like this trying to see New Haven play Chicago for free?

A crowd of intrepid, baseball-mad street urchins had figured out a way to taking in free baseball at the Howard Avenue Grounds. Just outside the park, which may have been the first to sell advertising on its walls, there was a huge tree which gave a nice vantage point on the outfield. The boys, “whose eyes were doubtlessly larger than their pocketbooks,” clamored up the tree and had taken to hanging there during games. The penny pinching New Haven management didn’t like the boys’ inventiveness and looked for a way to end the freebies.

“Now the manager had looked of late with an evil eye upon this non-paying crowd and accordingly myrmidons were sent to divest prolific tree of its living fruit. Soon, slowly and sorrowfully, these non-paying tenants left their roost and sought terra-firma with woebegone looks,” according to the Register.

For the record, myrmidons, in classical mythology, were skilled warriors trained and commanded Achilles. According to the Iliad, they were loyal and brave to a fault. I’m not quite sure the New Haven Register reporter is using the correct analogy for a group of adults chasing kids away from a ballgame.

 

The management scourge now eradicated, New Haven defeated Chicago 6-1 on July 21 at home in front of a large (paying) crowd buoyed by the club’s recent performance. “This victory was somewhat surprising to many, although all must have remarked that that the home nine is vastly better than it was a few weeks ago,” said the New Haven Palladium.

The 1876 White Stockings

The 1876 White Stockings

 

The White Stockings, or Giants as the papers referred to them, had made some injudicious comments to the local media. It seems that the club’s leadership had assumed that because of New Haven’s lack of success, that the club had folded. “The papers that have persistently published that statement can print it again tomorrow with appropriate comments,” the Palladium said.

The locker room chatter seems to have jelled the New Havens. They jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning, with Captain Juice Latham driving in the run. Chicago answered with a run in the bottom of the first, which would be all they’d get on the day. New Haven pitcher Tricky Nichols fired zeroes the rest of the way, striking out five Giants.

New Haven scored in four consecutive innings, the fourth through the seventh, against George “The Charmer Zettlein, who gave up 13 hits on the day. In the fourth, New Haven scored twice, taking advantage of Ed Somerville’s double, two Chicago errors, and an RBI single by Tricky Nichols.

 

Chicago catcher Scott Hastings is bottom center in this team shot of the 1871 Rockford Forest Citys

Chicago catcher Scott Hastings is bottom center in this team shot of the 1871 Rockford Forest Citys

Even the defense, normally a bugaboo for New Haven, showed up against Chicago. In the bottom of the fourth inning with Giant runners on first and second, Scott Hastings singled over the head of centerfielder Billy Geer. Geer, normally an infielder, heaved a throw from deep center to Nichols, the cutoff man, who in turned fired to catcher Tim McGinley, putting out the runner coming from second. McGinley, one of the better players on New Haven, then threw to Henry Luff at third to complete the unusual double play. It squelched the White Stockings’ best rally of the afternoon. “Whereat the crowd of spectators began to clap their hands and rejoice for they began to think the home nine was greatly underrated,” said the Register.

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

 

Ed Somerville got three hits and both drove in and scored a run. Nichols drove in two runs of his own for New Haven. Chicago catcher Scott Hastings got three hits in a losing effort. “The wish of yesterday, i.e., that we might record a victory for New Haven, was fulfilled,” the Register wrote.

Chicago trips up New Haven on error, wins 4-1

John Peters' pop fly was mishandled by New Haven, prompting a rally

John Peters 

When Chicago White Stocking John Peters’ gentle pop up arched between shortstop and third base in the top of the fourth in a scoreless game on July 19, 1875, New Haven had every reason to think that they had a chance of winning consecutive games.

Lest we forget, these are the New Haven Elm Citys, and at no point are they ever out of trouble. Peters’ fly ball traveled near third baseman Henry Luff and shortstop Sam Wright, both adequate defenders for barehanded ball. “The ball was Luff’s, but (team captain Juice) Latham said ‘Wright.’ Luff tried it and Wright knocked him over causing him to drop the ball … This mishap lost the game for New Haven,” the Register reported. John Glenn, who had doubled with two outs, scored on the play.

Two more runs scored later in the inning, sealing New Haven’s fate. The White Stockings beat New Haven 4-1 in an hour and a half in front of a good sized New Haven crowd looking to see if the hometown team could continue its winning ways. They had recently beaten the league champion Boston Red Stockings in a stunning upset. The club then took to the road, heading north to play amateur clubs in Rochester (ostensibly for some much needed revenue), making short work of those teams.

George 'The Charmer' Zettlein

George ‘The Charmer’ Zettlein

George 'The Charmer' Zettlein

George ‘The Charmer’ Zettlein

Neither of those clubs had a pitcher who threw as hard as Chicago starter George Zettlein. Zettlein, known as The Charmer for his agreeable demeanor, scattered five hits and struck out two batters, also driving in a run at the plate. Both centerfielder Paul Hines and utilityman Scott Hastings had a pair of hits and a run scored.

Paul Hines

Paul Hines

New Haven scored a single tally in the top of the 8th inning on a Tim McGinley single, driving in John McKelvey. Aside from the club’s implosion in the fourth inning, starting pitcher Tricky Nichols had a fine game for New Haven, striking out a season high four batters.

Zettlein’s fastball was the starting point for Bill James and Rob Neyer’s 2004 discussion of the pitch. James argued that the early years of the game were a contest between fielders and the batter, with the pitcher serving as an initiator of the action. The rules forcing pitchers to throw underhanded with a stiff wrist inherently and deliberately limited the talent of throwing hard. “George Zettlein … was alleged by old-timers to have thrown as hard as Walter Johnson. I don’t believe them, but then, I wasn’t there with a radar gun, so what do I know?,” James wrote.

The Chicago Fire of 1871

The Chicago Fire of 1871

 

Chicago’s journey back to the highest levels of the sports was an unlikely one. In 1871, the first year of the National Association, the club finished second with a 19-9 record, continuing the promise exhibited in the pre-NA days. However, the Great Chicago Fire, taking place in October of that year, destroyed the club’s grounds and all of its equipment. It took three years to rebuild a competitive organization. The White Stockings were a middling ball club in 1874 and that trend would continue through 1875, and even through the present day. The current Chicago Cubs are descendants of the original White Stockings organization.

Dick Higham

Dick Higham

There might have been other reasons for Chicago’s inconsistent play. In a league full of miscreants, the White Stockings seem to have had more than their fair share. Zettlein was accused of throwing games later this season, prompting his dismissal from the Chicago club. Dick Higham, the catcher, became the only umpire barred from baseball for betting on games. First baseman Jim Devlin, who was also an exceptional pitcher, was barred from baseball for life in 1877 for throwing games.

Jim Devlin

Jim Devlin

 

The worst of them all committed his misdeeds off the field. John Glenn was arrested in 1888 for assaulting a 10-year-old girl, and died in police custody when he was accidentally shot by a policeman trying to protect him from a lynch mob.

John Glenn

John Glenn