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