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.

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Intrastate rivalry begins, Hartford beats New Haven 6-3

1875 Hartford Dark Blues

1875 Hartford Dark Blues

Before the Yankees and the Red Sox, Connecticut’s first great baseball rivalry, stoked gleefully by the press and anticipated by the clubs as a moneymaker, was between the Hartford Dark Blues and the New Haven Elm Citys.

Over 4,000 people, including several hundred ladies, assembled on May 5, 1875 at what was known as the Colt property in Hartford to watch what the New Haven Evening Register described as “what was expected to be a one sided game.” “However, you can never count upon anything and the glorious uncertainty of base ball was evident to all yesterday,” the paper said.

Hartford continued its winning streak to open the campaign, defeating New Haven 6-3. However, the New Haven press saw the game as an improvement over the club’s previous performances. “The confidence of the people of this city in the New Haven nine, which was slightly weakened by the games with the Yale and Centennial nines, out to be restored by the excellent game played yesterday with the Hartfords,” according to the New Haven Daily Palladium.

The Old State House in Hartford, Connecticut's capital in 1875

The Old State House in Hartford, Connecticut’s capital in 1875

According to writer David Arcidiacono, the tension between the two cities was primarily bred of politics and not sports. Since the 17th century, the capital of Connecticut alternated between New Haven and Hartford every other year. When that relatively strange arrangement became untenable in 1873, the choice of capital city was put to the voters to decide. Hartford won the referendum, 37,000 to 31,000.

The sting of the voters’ rebuke still hurt New Haven’s civic pride, which manifested in strange ways. For example, New Haven objected to the umpiring work of Charlie Daniels in the May 1 game against the Centennials, balking that he was assigned to the game at all. Daniels was a talented and honest umpire, one who would go on to work for years in the National League. But he was from Hartford, and that was enough for the New Haven club to disqualify him. The Register protested that it had nothing to do with his domicile and everything to do with his absence from the umpires roster prior to the game. The paper, everyone thought, doth protest too much. “Queer town, that New Haven; having lost the semi-capital, it doesn’t even want a Hartford umpire at her base ball matches,” the Hartford Post claimed.

Bob Ferguson

Bob Ferguson

There was also a certain amount of 19th century smack talk going on, bulletin board fodder that surely enraged the courtly New Haven Captain Charlie Gould. “The stockholders will probably have the pleasure of seeing the name of their club at the foot of the list at the close of the season,” Hartford captain Bob Ferguson said, assessing the Elm Citys’ chance of success. “Pleasant prospect for ‘em, isn’t it?”

A sign on the border of East Haven and New Haven bore the inscription “New Heaven.” “Still the people down there wonder why their pet nine can’t play base ball,” said the Hartford Post.

The truth was, the Elm Citys couldn’t truly compete with Hartford. The club had gone 16-37 in 1874, but had completely turned over its roster in 1875. They had two effective pitchers in Tommy Bond and Candy Cummings (who would go to the Hall of Fame for ostensibly inventing the curveball). Catcher Doug Allison was considered one of the league’s best receiver, and also could help at the plate, hitting .285 over the course of his National Association career. First baseman Everett Mills was coming off a season batting .332. Captain Bob Ferguson, the game’s first switch hitter, was known as a brainy field leader and fine third baseman, garnering him one of baseball’s great nicknames, “Death to Flying Things.” Every man in the lineup was a veteran ballplayer with a track record of success. Hartford would be a formidable opponent for the league this season.

Despite the war of words, primarily coming from Hartford it seemed, the clubs still had to play the game. The Dark Blues were “as weak at the bat against (pitcher Tricky) Nichols as (New Haven) was against Cummings,” according to the Hartford Courant.

Everett Mills

Everett Mills

After no score for the first two innings, Hartford jumped out to a commanding 3-0 lead. Everett Mills lead off with a single for Hartford and advanced to second on a ground out. Nichols struck out catcher Doug Allison (he of the mangled hands). Nichols was poised to get out of the inning before New Haven had a defensive meltdown. Jack Burdock grounded to New Haven third baseman Henry Luff, who botched it for an error. Tom Carey singled, but Luff wildly overthrew catcher Stud Bancker for his second error of the inning, allowing two runs to score. Candy Cummings hit one right through shortshop Sam Wright’s wickets for another error and another run.

John McKelvey, outfielder and third baseman

John McKelvey, outfielder and third baseman

New Haven would come back in the top of the sixth inning to make it a game again. “The Hartfords were somewhat demoralized in the sixth inning, and this demoralization allowed the visitors to secure three runs,” was the Hartford Courant’s assessment. Pitcher Tricky Nichols singled to short center. Billy Geer reached on what the Register described as a “foolish” error by Hartford second baseman Jack Burdock. Right fielder John McKelvey, one of New Haven’s best hitters, singled, scoring Nichols, with Geer right behind him on a throwing error by centerfielder Jack Remsen. Johnny Ryan reached on an error by Ferguson, but inadvertanly helped bring in the third run of the inning. He was throw out stealing, and McKelvey scored on the play.

Candy Cummings

Candy Cummings

Cummings regained control of the game for Hartford, throwing three scoreless innings, yielding a single hit, to finish out the contest. Nichols matched him until the bottom of the eighth inning. Allison and Burdock led off the inning with a pair of clean singles. A combination of an error by McKelvey and a couple of groundouts scored both runnings. Hartford also picked up a garbage run in the bottom of the ninth inning. Cummings finished off giving up only four hits, striking out four Elm Citys.

The Register singled out the performances of Geer, Gould, Bancker and Luff, and praised Nichols for overcoming his wildness. “As a whole, the nine seems to be improving very materially in their play. It is hoped now that they will keep up the play which they have shown, and we have no doubt that they will give the best nines in the country a close struggle,” the Register said.

Next up for New Haven, another strong club, the Philadelphia Whites.

SCORE BY INNINGS

NEW HAVENS – 0 0 0 0 0 6 0 0 0 – 3

HARTFORDS – 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 2 1 – 6

WP – Candy Cummings  LP – Tricky Nichols (0-5)

Hartford lineup – Doug Allison, c (1 run, 2 hits); Jack Burdock, 2b (2 hits, 2 runs); Tom Carey, ss (1 run, 1 hit); Candy Cummings, p (two hits – winning pitcher); Tom York, lf; Bob Ferguson, 3b; Jack Remsen, cf (1 run); Everett Mills, 1b (1 run, 1 hit); Tommy Bond, rf.

New Haven lineup – Billy Geer, 2b (1 run), John McKelvey, rf (1 run, 2 hits), Johnny Ryan, lf; Henry Luff, 3b; Jim Tipper, rf; Charlie Gould, 1b (1 hit), Sam Wright, ss; Stud Bancker, c; Tricky Nichols (1 run, 1 hit – losing pitcher)

Tom Barlow: Baseball’s first drug casualty?

One of the first bits of trouble for the New Haven franchise emerged in late February. Arnold attempted to sign Tom Barlow, a talented, yet troubled catcher and shortstop.

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

Tom Barlow

Barlow would have been a fine addition to the roster. He was a better than average offensive player, hitting .290 over the course of his career, and commonly regarded as one of the innovators of the bunt. He caught all his team’s games in 1873, and led the league in stolen bases a year later. He was also considered a fine defender in an era when an unsteady catcher could be a team’s undoing with constant passed balls and poor throwing.

According to the local press, manager Billy Arnold was accused of not acting honorably in his signing of Barlow. “The Barlow matter has been the subject of conversation in base ball circles, the sporting press taking unusual interest in the matter, and seem happy in heaping abuse upon Messrs. Arnold and Douglass [a member of the Elm Citys Board of Directors] for having signed Barlow for the New Havens when he was already signed for the [Brooklyn] Atlantics, which facts Mr. Van Deft of the Atlantics claims those gentlemen knew when they signed him,” the New Haven Daily Palladium reported.

Arnold promptly went back to Brooklyn and spoke with owner Van Deft, trying to make amends. Arnold also tried to seek out his erstwhile catcher, visiting “several of the places where he is generally to be found.”

The Daily Palladium claimed that because of Barlow’s malfeasance, he would be suspended for the season by the leaders of the National Association. It would take some time for this situation to be sorted out, creating tension between Arnold, the Board of Directors, Van Deft and league leadership.

Barlow’s situation was not simply a case of flagrant disregard for a contract, common enough at the time when players routinely jumped contracts for a better deal.

Barlow had suffered a serious injury while playing for the Hartford Dark Blues in 1874. He had been struck in the side by a fastball from pitcher Cherokee Fisher, a hurler noted for his speed.

Cherokee Fisher of the Hartford Dark Blues

Cherokee Fisher

In the 1870s, players played barehanded and without padding of any sort. Injuries as a result of errant throws were common. Doug Allison, a catcher in the National Association, was first reported to use a glove to nurse an injury in 1870. The first glove used in the way we understand them would be used this season, 1875, by a St. Louis outfielder/first baseman named Charlie Waitt. Waitt used flesh colored gloves, trying to mitigate the amount of aspersions on his manhood he would receive as a result of his innovation.

Doug Allison's mangled hands after years of pro ball

Doug Allison’s mangled hands after years of pro ball

Barlow’s treatment led to additional problems that would end up destroying his baseball career. In a sad letter to the Boston Times written in 1877, Barlow claims that he was given a shot of morphine by a doctor treating that injury. He quickly became severely addicted to the drug, spending as much as $8 a day to feed the habit.

He played his last two professional baseball games (one for New Haven) in 1875 at the age of 23, possibly baseball’s first drug casualty. “I’d rather have died behind the bat than having that first dose,” he said.

Nothing more is known about his life or how he died.

David Archdianoco goes into the Barlow story in tremendous detail here: http://www.efqreview.com/NewFiles/v21n1/onhistoricalground.html