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

Advertisements

New Haven beats World Champion Boston Red Stockings 10-5

This is the 1873 Boston Red Stockings team photo. George Wright is seated on the left. Al Spalding is standing behind him.

This is the 1873 Boston Red Stockings team photo. George Wright is seated on the left. Al Spalding is standing behind him.

Even amongst New Haven’s biggest base ball boosters, no one thought they had much of a chance against the National Association champion Boston Red Stockings. After all, the Philadelphia Athletics, a good club in its own right, defeated New Haven by the combined score of 30-3 during the club’s brief road trip on June 23 and 24, running their tally to seven consecutive wins over Elm City. The club then followed those games with two losses to Yale and the TBs of Bridgeport (The Bridgeport Friendly United Social Club), a good amateur squad who had been providing a few players to New Haven when the team was shorthanded.

“What man in New Haven would have ventured to bet in favor of the New Havens yesterday afternoon?” opined the New Haven Register. “If any man had dared to make such a wager, ball-players would have rated him as the first of idiots.”

Harry Wright

Harry Wright

 

The likelihood that Boston, coming into the game with a 37-3 record to lead the National Association, would have any trouble dispatching the club was extremely slim. The Red Stockings had already beaten New Haven easily in the first two games of the season, and boasted a lineup of four future Hall of Famers on the field. The club’s leader was iconic baseball impresario Harry Wright. “The champions had evidently calculated on an easy victory over a club which has had as much hard luck as ordinarily can fall to the lot of such an organization,” said the New Haven Palladium.

If there was any day where Fortune had a chance of smiling on the helpless New Haven club, it was against Boston on Friday, July 2, a bright, warm afternoon in Connecticut.

George Wright

George Wright

 

Boston shortstop George Wright, in the midst of a season in which he would hit .333 and score over 100 runs in almost 80 games, was back home tending to a newborn. Ross Barnes, the club’s second baseman who would lead the National Association in runs and hits, was watching the game in street clothes. Their backups were Frank Heifer and Tommy Beals, capable performers who would certainly be able to start in New Haven, but paled in comparison to the starters.

Tommy Beals

Tommy Beals, one of the subs, playing against New Haven

 

New Haven had its own rash of injuries to deal with. Jim Tipper, the sure-handed centerfielder, got hurt in an exhibition game against Bridgeport. Ex-Red Stocking Jumbo Latham had a lame wrist.

The New Havens had their best game of the season, combining timely hitting, clutch fielding, and fine pitching to beat the league champs 10-5 in what the Register describes as a “intense and really painful” game.

Cal McVey homered against New Haven

Cal McVey homered against New Haven

 

After New Haven went down easily in the top of the first inning, Boston got on the board in the bottom of the frame with rare over the fence home run by leftfielder Cal McVey. New Haven broke the game open in the top of the second inning, scoring three runs on three Boston errors. New Haven added another two runs in the in the top of third, courtesy of three base hits.

Tricky Nichols

Tricky Nichols

 

Boston rallied for three runs on five consecutive hits in the bottom of the third, cutting the score to 5-4. New Haven’s bats came alive in the fourth and fifth innings, scattering five hits for three runs, putting the team ahead over Boston for good. For the final four innings of the game New Haven pitcher Tricky Nichols employed all of his guile, surrendering a single clean base hit and worked his way around four errors.

Billy Geer drove in two runs against Boston

Billy Geer drove in two runs against Boston

 

Six New Haven players got two hits a piece. Billy Geer drove in two runs, and Sam Wright (Boston captain Harry Wright’s brother), Tricky Nichols, and Tim McGinley each scored two runs for New Haven. Cal McVey of Boston had two hits and two runs, including his homer.

Sam Wright, Harry and George's brother, who got two hits on the day

Sam Wright, Harry and George’s brother, scored two runs on the day

 

Ross Barnes, humiliated at his team’s performance, left the game in the 7th inning, unable to watch its impending defeat. When the Boston made its final out, the crowd of 800 in attendance rushed the field “to shoulder (the players) promiscuously and individually, so great was their enthusiasm.” “It was a big thing to do, and our hopes an expectations of the home club are now in the ascendant,” the Register said.

Ross Barnes couldn't near to watch his Bostons lose to New Haven

Ross Barnes couldn’t near to watch his Bostons lose to New Haven

 

The win was the single biggest day of the season thus far for the New Haven club. “At the end the people carried the members of the New Haven nine about the field on their shoulders, amid great excitement,” according to the Hartford Courant.

I’m not quite sure how to quantify how much of an upset this game was. The Boston club was comprised of veterans, the best players in the land who’d amassed a record of 154 wins and 52 losses in National Association play over the previous four years. The only players in New Haven’s July 2 lineup with previous professional experience was the first baseman Charlie Gould, who’d enjoyed some success with Boston, and retreads Johnny Ryan and Billy Geer, who collective hit under .200 in National Association competition. The closest analogy I can think of would be if a modern Rookie League ballclub defeated the MLB World Champs. The difference in skill level was that pronounced.

Yale defeats New Haven 6-4; the curve baffles Elm City

Charles Hammond Avery, star Yale pitcher, in an 1874 team photo on the wall at Mory's in New Haven

Charles Hammond Avery (standing center), star Yale pitcher, in an 1874 team photo on the wall at Mory’s in New Haven

The best pitcher in New Haven in 1875 wasn’t getting paid for his work. His name was C.H. Avery and he was a true phenom. Twenty-one year old Charles Hammond Avery, known colloquolly as Ham, was the senior captain of the Yale baseball team in 1875.

According to baseball historian Harold Seymour, Avery was one of the first pitchers to throw the curveball. The truth is very complicated. For his part, Candy Cummings, the Hartford pitcher the Baseball Hall of Fame recognizes as the first man to throw a curveball, parsed the distinction, saying Avery was one of only three other pitchers who mastered the pitch with an underhand delivery.

Fred Goldsmith, who claims to have taught Avery the curveball

Fred Goldsmith, who claims to have taught Avery the curveball

Fred Goldsmith, a future New Haven Elm City Club player, was another player who claimed primacy in the evolution of the pitch. Even he said initially that Avery was the inventor of the pitch, but later recanted his assertion claiming he was the first to curve the ball. Goldsmith claimed he was walking down the street in New Haven near the Green, tossing a ball around when a man in a Yale sweater, turning out to be Avery, asked to play catch. Goldsmith, a teenager, threw a curve befuddling Avery, who demanded to learn the pitch. Or so the story goes.

The provinance of the pitch is uncertain. Legendary baseball manager Connie Mack claimed that Avery was the first pitcher to throw a curve in a collegiate game, shutting out Harvard 4-0 in 1874. In the end, baseball historians enshrined Cummings as the inventor of the pitch (he learned curving seashells on the shore in his childhood home in Massachusetts), while Goldsmith and Avery were essentially relegated to footnotes in baseball history.

Avery had things well in hand when he face New Haven on June 21, 1875. It was common for National Association teams to schedule contests against local college or amateur teams as a way of lining their coffers and getting in a bit of practice. New Haven already played Yale twice times over the course of the season. Yale almost beat New Haven during their last exhibition before the game was washed away by rain. However, local pundits believed that with the acquisitions of first baseman Juice Latham, catcher Tim McGinley, and second baseman Ed Somerville, would tip the game in favor of the professionals.

The pundits were wrong. The Bulldogs defeated the professionals by the score of 6-4.

New Haven jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning when Ed Somerville singled. He then scored on three consecutive passed balls by Bigelow, a common 19th century malady when a curveball pitcher meets a barehanded catcher.

Yale scored twice in the bottom of the third inning to jump into the lead. New Haven took advantage of two Yale errors to score three runs in the top of the fourth inning, but Ham Avery took control of the game, striking out 7 in an era when it was extremely difficult to do so. “To make a long story short, Avery, the Yale pitcher, never did better, and the New Havens were utterly unable to hit him with any effect,” said the New Haven Register.

After surrendering a pair of hits in the 5th inning, Avery retired the final 15 New Haven players in a row, allowing Yale to chip away at unlucky Tricky Nichols for four runs. “Nichols pitched with greater skills than usual and he seems to have improved very much,” the Register said.

Billy Geer drove in two runs for New Haven, and the papers pointed to Latham as playing particularly good defense. Yale catcher Bigelow drove in three runs and George Knight scored two runs for the Bulldogs.

Avery had a chance to turn professional after his graduation in 1875. Hall of Famer Harry Wright offered him $3,400 per season to join the Boston Red Stockings. To place this offer in context, the average National Association ballplayer made between $100 and $150 per month. In fact, the offer to Avery was $400 more than Wright paid Al Spalding, the Red Stockings’ current superstar pitcher. The Yale graduate had other plans in mind. “Avery, a Skull & Bones Society blueblood, thought professional baseball beneath him and demurred,” according to baseball historian John Thorn.

Avery returned to his hometown of Cincinnati and became a successful lawyer, dying in 1927.

Meet the new New Haven captain: Juice Latham

Juice Latham, depicted here in 1875, was named captain of the New Havens in mid June, replacing Charlie Gould

Juice Latham, depicted here in 1875, was named captain of the New Havens in mid June, replacing Charlie Gould

George Latham was the only member of the New Haven Elm Cities to have not one, but two great nicknames. The club’s new field boss, appointed in mid-June 1875 was known alternately as Jumbo, for his stocky build, or Juice, for either his lack of speed on the base paths or his reputation as an umpire baiter and overall wild man on the ball field. Latham, only 22 years old in 1875, was an unlikely choice as the New Haven base ball club’s new captain, replacing the hapless Charlie Gould, who was moved to business manager.

The move was necessary. New Haven picked up a few decent players from some disbanded clubs around the league, and while strengthening the roster improved play, it was clear that Gould was over his head. “The New Haven nine is not well-managed apparently. Thus far it has been a more experimental team, hence its losses,” said the Brooklyn Eagle.

Enter Latham, who was recently hired from Boston to shore up the infield. Latham was born in Utica, New York in 1852. After his school days, he worked as a bricklayer while gaining notice on the town’s baseball club. His career flourished in Canada, starting his professional career playing first base in 1867 with clubs in Ottawa and Toronto, alternately working in a local factory and as a baggageman on a train.

According to his obituary, Harry Wright, the impresario of the dynastic Boston Red Stockings, saw Latham play in Canada and invited him on a tour of England in 1874. One of his obituary claims that Latham refused the prestigious appointment, but that doesn’t match up with the historical record. According to David Archdiacono’s research, Latham brazenly wrote Wright, asking for a job with Boston. “You must remember you are unknown to the club either personally or by reputation, and that when I saw last you were not able to run, although in all other respects I was favorably impressed with your playing,” Wright wrote in a letter to Latham.

Latham signed a three-year contract with the club for $560 for 1875 and $800 for each of the next two seasons. The contract was not ironclad and Latham was on an initial three-month probation period with Boston at the start of the season. He acquitted himself adequately, hitting .269 with 13 runs batted in in 16 games. However, this performance wasn’t up to Wright’s exacting standards, and he let Latham go.

Or, was his on field performance the only reason for his release? Another of Latham’s hometown obituaries offers a different reason for his arrival in New Haven. “The New Haven team was going to pieces and Mr. Wright released Latham to go to New Haven and take charge of the nine for the balance of the season,” according to a Utica newspaper obituary found in Latham’s Hall of Fame Library file.

No matter the reason. Latham had his work cut out for him, taking the reins of a club with a record of 2 wins and 21 losses and no cash in the bank available for improvement.

For a complete bio of Latham’s life, click here: http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/faf09fc5

 

 

 

 

 

Latham named New Haven captain; Gould demoted

Juice Latham, depicted here in 1875, was named captain of the New Havens in mid June, replacing Charlie Gould

Juice Latham, depicted here in 1875, was named captain of the New Havens in mid June, replacing Charlie Gould

New Haven had been hit with baseball fever, but you wouldn’t know it from the ticket receipts over at the city’s professional ballpark, the Howard Avenue Grounds.

On the upper end of Orange Street, in what would currently be the heart of East Rock, neighborhood kids gathered in open fields to play the game. “Complaint has frequently been made to the police that … crowds of noisy boys congregate on the lots, and after finishing their game, amuse themselves by digging holes in the concrete sidewalks and knocking off the tops of picket fences with their bats,” the Palladium huffed.

One old lady got hit with a ball, and filed a report with police. “The orderly portion of the community think it is about time a stop should be put to these practices,” the Palladium said.

While the cops were chasing around the baseball playing youth of the city, a group of sober businessmen huddled together, trying to figure out a way to keep the town’s professional baseball team going. Town fathers wanted the club to win, and there was palpable disappointment around the city at the squad’s poor play. The local newspapers were loath to point fingers – good innings were lauded as a step forward, let alone victories – but word was out around town. The New Haven club was not worth the price of admission. The Board of Directors were businessmen who had acheived some success in their working lives, and they’d be damned if their franchise would fail.

The stockholders voted on June 19 to increase the capital stock from $3,000 to $5,000. The owners of the club needed a quick influx of cash to help keep the team out of the red. They also appointed a committee of three people to attempt to increase the number of season tickets sold. “With new energy infused all around, the public will doubtlessly take largely increased interest in the success of the club,” the Register reported.

Another move, more crucial to the club’s competitive position, was to cancel its western trip. The National Association had no set schedule. Teams were expected to schedule an even slate of home and away games against each other over the course of the season. If a team didn’t book a full schedule of games, they were rendered ineligible for the team championship. New Haven, with an exceedingly poor record, was not going to compete with Boston, Hartford, or Philadelphia for league preeminence. But tanking a road trip was a serious matter, and one that would have long term implications for the club in the future.

The board of directors also opted to kick Charlie Gould out of the captaincy. He would be retained as player and as business manager of the squad, but his 2-21 record mandated that a change needed to be made. Twenty-two year old Juice Latham, recently signed after spending a short period of time with the Boston Red Stockings, took over as the club’s new field boss.

It would remain to be seen whether the changes would result in success on the field.

 

New Haven makes 21 errors, loses to Hartford 10-0

Hartford pitcher Candy Cummings shut out New Haven for the second time in a week

Hartford pitcher Candy Cummings shut out New Haven for the second time in a week

There was some sense in New Haven baseball circles that the recent 3-2 win over the Hartford Dark Blues would be the beginning of something good for the club, which was currently mired with a record of two wins and 20 losses.

“We may well believe that this reverse was also a surprise to Hartford and their backers. The New Havens received many well-earned congratulations yesterday and will now take up the bat with renewed courage,” boasted the New Haven Palladium.

But it was not to be. New Haven continued its consistently losing ways, dropping their June 14 game 10-0 in Hartford in front of approximately 500 people. New Haven managed only five hits against Candy Cummings. Hartford, on the other hand, had their way with starter Johnny Ryan and substitute pitcher Henry Luff, carving out 11 hits, including three by catcher Doug Allison and two by third baseman/captain Bob Ferguson.

Bob Ferguson, captain of the Hartford club and the first switch hitter in baseball history

Bob Ferguson, captain of the Hartford club and the first switch hitter in baseball history

“The bulletin board was studied as the game progressed, and as inning by inning the New Havens scored ciphers, and the Hartfords rolled up tangible figures faces grew elongated, and when the score of 10 to 0 in favor of the Hartfords was recorded, such as had hazarded a bagatelle or so in the exuberance of their souls on the New Havens retired from the busy throngs far from the maddening crowd,” wrote the New Haven Journal.

Tim McGinley was injured against Hartford but was forced to stay in the game

Tim McGinley 

Again, a lack of depth hurt New Haven. Catcher Tim McGinley injured his hand during the game, but with no reserves at all (unlike New Haven, most National Association team had about 12 men on the roster), captain Charlie Gould was forced to improvise. Johnny Ryan, who had previously been pitching, moved behind the plate where he had gained some experience in exhibition games. Henry Luff, normally a third baseman, moved to the box. He had pitched quite a bit – with little success – during the recent road trip. McGinley couldn’t come out of the game or New Haven would have to forfeit, so he went to third base. It was a ramshackle arrangement.

Consequently, New Haven made 21 errors in the game, according to the box score, with Ryan and McGinley accounting for 13 of them. Hartford played errorless ball.

Captain Charlie Gould had a decision to make. Without starting pitcher Tricky Nichols, who was recovering from a hand injury, it seemed that the club had no chance against the professional Hartford hitters. With the team scheduled to play Hartford again the next day, Gould simply decided to not show up. After the 10-0 loss on June 14, the club packed up and took the late train to New Haven, a fairly desperate move on every level. According to the New Haven Union, the club decided it was better policy to forfeit the game rather than “suffer a disasterous defeat for want of a good pitcher.”

Friends of the New Haven club were crushed by the turn of events. While attendance at home games was relatively low, people were paying attention to the club’s fortunes and looking for answers. “One impression was that the club had got demoralized over its success in Rhode Island, while the Hartforders had stuck solely to business. Other had another theory, and the uncertaintt of all things were here below was propounded as a good rule to apply to the case, Nobody had settled the question at a late hour,” the Journal said.

New Haven would play the Philadelphia Athletics later that week.

New Haven wins its second game of the season, beating rival Hartford 3-2

Johnny Ryan, ordinarily an outfielder, pitched well against Hartford, holding them to two hits

Johnny Ryan, ordinarily an outfielder, pitched well against Hartford, holding them to two hits

New Haven was able to rebound from a 12-0 drubbing at the hands of the Hartford Dark Blues, winning its second game of the season 3-2 on Saturday, June 12, 1875.

The clubs traveled to Providence, home of the successful minor league Grays, to play a lucrative road game, but it seems they expected a bigger turnout. “There were about 1,200 people present, the one sided game of 12 to 0 on Friday probably keeping many away,” said the Hartford Daily Courant.

With Hartford having an excellent season and New Haven limping along, the box office was suffering. No one seemed to expect New Haven to win a lot of games, but the lack of earnest competition was keeping people away. “The disappointment in the result may be imagined, for althought it was hardly to be expected that the New Haven club could outmatch the renowned Hartford club, still it was galling to see a whitewash,” according to the New Haven Journal.

Providence seemed to be different, with patrons actively rooting for New Haven to do well. “Such a surprise was a godsend,” said the New Haven Register.

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

Ed Somerville

Hartford took an early one run lead in the game again substitute starting pitcher Johnny Ryan. New Haven responded with all of its runs in the top of the third inning. John McKelvey and Ed Somerville had a couple of hits each for New Haven, with McKelvey, Johnny Ryan, and Charlie Gould scoring runs for the club. It was pitching and defense that carried the day for New Haven, certainly an anomaly thus far this season. Hartford only managed two base hits in the game, by Tom Carey and Jack Remsen.

Jack Remsen got one of two hits for Hartford against New Haven

Jack Remsen got one of two hits for Hartford against New Haven

The combination of Somerville and catcher Tim McGinley foiled a double steal attempt in the eighth inning. With runners at first and third, the runner at first attempted to steal. He drew a throw from McGinley, but a quick return throw from Somerville, an excellent defender, cut down the tying run at the plate. In the bottom of the ninth, with two runners aboard, left fielder Jim Tipper, who has been credited with playing excellent defense all season long, made a running catch to save the game. “The two magnificent plays and Ryan’s pitching won the game for New Haven without a doubt,” said the New Haven Register.

New Haven centerfielder Jim Tipper led the team to its first win with three runs scored and two hits.

New Haven leftfielder Jim Tipper

New Haven will play Hartford another two times in the next week. Patrons are just too caught up in wins and losses, said the New Haven Register. In one of the more interesting arguments about sports made in a while, the Register felt that results didn’t much matter. It was only the fact that the players were making a strong effort that warranted public support. This could be read two ways. There is the obvious and first meaning, simple mindless boosterism, which the Register had certainly been guilty of thus far. Or, it could mean something more nefarious. The league had been plagued with players throwing ballgames. High profile players on the Chicago club had been suspected and publically accused of negatively influencing the outcome of games. Perhaps the Register was assuring potential patrons that despite the poor outcome, the New Haven club was putting forth its best efforts.

“The nine did well in their game on Saturday — they did nobly and we hope for a repetition of it today. But we are not too sanguine. We will not be discouraged by a defeat knowing that the boys will do their best to place another victory to their credit,” the New Haven Register said.