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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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.

New Haven returns home from unsuccessful road trip, loses to Hartford 12-0

1875 Hartford Dark Blues

1875 Hartford Dark Blues

One might think that with the additions of three new players and a win under their belts, the New Havens would be ready to turn it around. It was not to be.

The club finished its road trip with four straight losses, losing a close game to Washington on June 1, 8-7 and subsequently being routed by Philadelphia Whites 18-2 on June 3, and by the Philadelphia Athletics 13-5 and 14-2 on June 4 and 5.

The team would return home by boat on June 11 to play the Hartford Dark Blues, a game whose stakes, both on and off the field, couldn’t be higher. The New Haven Evening Register argued that the odds were stacked against the club from the beginning. The team got started after most other teams had been comprised, and since it was made up of mostly amateurs, the city of New Haven should be giving it a pass for its poor play.

“It is no easy task to start a professional club. The management here have had every obstacle to encounter and as yet their efforts have not been met with the reception which they merit,” opined the New Haven Evening Register.

New first baseman Juice Latham in 1875

New first baseman Juice Latham in 1875

The Register believes that the recent signings of Juice Latham, Ed Somerville, and Tim McGinley shows “meritorious sagacity” on the part of the club’s directors.

Charlie Gould, the Elm Citys first captain

Charlie Gould, the Elm Citys first captain

More changes appear to be in the air. The Hartford Courant reported that the directors were planning to dismiss Charlie Gould from his position as captain (the 19th century equivalent of manager) and replace him with the newly acquired Latham. “We wish to deny this in toto,” said the Register. “Captain Gould’s services will not be dispensed with and the management of the club have never entertained such an idea.”

Regular pitcher Tricky Nichols was expected to be fully recovered from a finger injury that prevented him from making the road trip. “He has been practicing faithfully since his hand has allowed him, hence he is good playing condition. His services, of a very valuable nature, have been greatly missed by the boys during their late trip, and they can loay some their defeats to this and this alone,” the Register said.

Nichols would play an important continued role for the team in the future, but not against Hartford on June 11. Apparently not fully recovered from his injury, Nichols gave way to regular third baseman Henry Luff, pressed into service in the box during the road trip. Luff has been working on a curve ball, the Register said, with good results. “He has every indication of making a very successful pitcher, hard to hit,” the Register said.

Candy Cummings shut out New Haven

Candy Cummings shut out New Haven

Luff gave up 15 hits to Hartford and with Candy Cummings virtually unhittable for the Dark Blues, New Haven lost 12-0 in front of 1,500 people, their largest crowd of the season. “Many who came upon the grounds with faces indicative of pleasure left with looks of despondency,” the Register said.

“The residents of the Elm City (were) thinking that their reorganized nine were going to make a hot fight against the Hartfords,” the Hartford Courant said, their sneer coursing through the ink on the page.

New Haven mounted a single rally the second inning. They had the bases loaded in the second inning with no one out, only down 2-0 before Tim McGinley, Sam Wright and John McKelvey were quietly retired.

Hartford picked up two runs in the second inning, and single runs in the fourth and fifth before exploding in the seventh inning. They scored five times, with Henry Luff allowing five consecutive base hits. Hartford added another three runs in the bottom of the eighth. “The New Havens were out-hitted and out-fielded at every point,” said the Hartford Courant.

Candy Cummings' plaque at the Hall of Fame. Virtually none of the information on it is factual.

Candy Cummings’ plaque at the Hall of Fame. Virtually none of the information on it is factual.

Cummings, allegedly the inventor of the curve ball, finished the game only allowing New Haven five hits, with only a single runner reaching second base after the second inning. Hartford first baseman Everett Mills was the hitting star for the club with three runs scored and a pair of hits, including a double and a triple. Tom York added two hits and two runs scored, including a triple.

Both the Register and the Courant made special note of Hartford catcher Bill Harbidge. He replaced an injured Doug Allison and contributed fine defensive play and a base hit to the victory. A quick side note about Harbidge – he was a rarety, a lefthanded catcher,and would be the first in National League history when he played the position in 1876. He was known as “Roarin'” or “Yaller” Bill and he also had extensive knowledge of Shakespeare’s works, according to Baseball-reference.com.

 

Bill Harbidge, Hartford's backup catcher

Bill Harbidge, Hartford’s backup catcher

Ed Somerville, playing with a sprained ankle, provided New Haven’s only offense, managing two singles. Sam Wright, who played well in the field in the game, managed to pop out to the catcher all three times at bat.

New Haven finished the day with a record of 1 win and 20 losses. Hartford was 20-5, trailing the first place Boston Red Stockings by 5 and a half games. The two clubs would meet again the next day.

 

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