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, 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.)
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.
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.
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.