In the early years of baseball, the period before the sports’ early organization into professional leagues, the Brooklyn Atlantics were a truly fine team, one of the founding clubs of the National Association of Base Ball Players, an amateur group.
The club had fallen on hard times recently but the patina was still there. Brooklyn finished 22-33 in 1874, and turned over 7 of its 9 regulars coming into this season. Bill Boyd, a portly outfielder who was a fireman in the offseason, and club manager Charlie Pabor were the only players on the roster with any history of success in the National Association.
In short, they were perfect opponents for the new New Haven baseball club to test its mettle against. The New Haven Evening Register, in the lead up to the game, liked the Elm Citys’ chances. “It is expected that the two clubs are quite evenly matched that an interesting time may be expected. Let New Haven go in and win their first game now. The present is the time to do it,” the paper wrote.
New Haven would have to wait a bit longer, losing a close one to Brooklyn 3-2 on April 26, 1875, at least partially due to some questionable umpiring. “The spectators were not so numerous as they were last Saturday [against Yale in the first game at the Howard Avenue Grounds], but what they lacked in numbers they made up for in appreciative enthusiasm,” said the New Haven Daily Palladium.
A rarity developed for the first five innings – a well played, well-fielded pitcher’s duel. Tricky Nichols (0 wins, 3 losses) limited Brooklyn to four hits over the first five innings. John Cassidy was even better, holding New Haven hitless through five. “The excitement of the crowd was at fever pitch and all expected a very close game,” the Daily Palladium noted after the fifth inning. “An entire ‘Chicago’ was expected,” the Register said, using the 19th century term for a shutout.
Nineteen century baseball games turn on physical mistakes and the opposition’s ability to capitalize on them. The sixth inning was mistake central for both teams.
The Atlantics led off the 6th inning with a single by Henry Kessler. Al Nichols doubled over right fielder Henry Luff’s head. Second baseman Billy Geer took Luff’s relay throw and chucked the ball over catcher Stud Bancker, allowing both runners to score.
New Haven, having difficulty scoring runs in the early part of the season, was faced with a do or die situation in the bottom of the 6th. The inning started off with a single by Johnny Ryan, who stole second and advanced to third on a single by Tricky Nichols. Cassidy, who struggled with wildness early in the game, got two quick strikes on Geer before the next pitch eluded catcher Jake Knowdell, with both runners scoring on the play.
Leading off the ninth, Cassidy singled. A single by Bobby Clack advanced the runner to third. Both hits were clouded in controversy. The New Haven Register, critical of the umpiring of Hartford resident Charlie Daniels, claimed that both fair-foul hits – a 19th century rule that allowed a ball that struck in fair territory and then rolled foul before reaching first base to be in play – were actually simply foul balls. Charlie Pabor, known as The Old Woman in the Red Cap, a truly fine nickname, drove in the winning run on a grounder back to pitcher Nichols.
The Register continued to boost the club’s efforts, despite the results. “New Haven has every reason to be proud of her nine. The work they did yesterday, against the odds opposed to them, makes them rank well in the professional arena,” the paper wrote.
The papers differed on how Daniels performed in the game against Brooklyn. “Several times the spectators manifested their disapprobation of his rulings in a very marked way,” according to the New Haven Evening Register, noting the problems with the fair-foul hits and a strikeout. The Palladium didn’t agree. “The umpire’s position is always a thankless one, and we were unable to perceive any glaring manifestations of of partiality yesterday,” the Palladium said.
It would turn out that Brooklyn and New Haven would have similar trajectories in 1875, and John Cassidy and Charlie Pabor would end up playing important role in the baseball lives of both cities.
** The Elm Citys were slightly banged up heading into the game with Brooklyn. Catcher Stud Bancker was playing with a sprained ankle, prompting the need for a courtesy runner in the game. Outfielder Johnny Ryan got hit in the face with a foul ball while catching in a scrimmage against Yale. In the early going, because the Elm Citys started to sign players late, the club only fielded nine men. Lester Dole, the son of a Yale University professor and the team’s preseason gym instructor, played in a couple of scrimmages as an outfielder to provide the squad a bit of depth.
** After the Register baited the Hartford Dark Blues in print early in the week, the nascent Hartford/New Haven rally took on a new twist. Brooklyn, who had recently played Hartford, had insisted that Charlie Daniels, an amateur ballplayer from the Connecticut capital, call the game. Naturally, Captain Charlie Gould not only balked at Daniels’ presence, but early in the game had to actually pull out the rule book to educate the ump. I mean literally show the guy a rule book.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Brooklyn – 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 1 – 3
New Haven – 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 – 2
W – John Cassidy L – Tricky Nichols (0-3)
Brooklyn lineup – Bill Boyd, rf (2-5); Henry Kessler, ss (2-5, 1 run); Al Nichols, 3b (2-4, 1 run); Fred Crane, 1b (1-4); Tom Patterson, 2b (0-4); John Cassidy, p (1-4, 1 run); Jake Knowdell, c (0-4); Bobby Clack, cf (2-4); Charlie Pabor, lf (0-4, 1 rbi)
New Haven lineup – Billy Geer, 2b (0-4); Sam Wright, ss (0-4); Henry Luff, rf (0-4); Stud Bancker, c (0-4); John McKelvey, 3b (1-3); Charlie Gould, 1b (0-3); Johnny Ryan, lf (1-3, 1 run); Jim Tipper, cf (0-3); Tricky Nichols, p (1-3, 1 run)