New Haven drops two more to Athletics; losing streak at 13

There are occasions where New Haven, mired in an 11-game losing streak, will play better than the score. May 19, 1875, against the Philadelphia Athletics, a solid ball club, was one of those occasions.

New Haven battered Philadelphia pitcher Dick McBride for 16 hits, their highest total this season, but couldn’t push the runners home. New Haven lost to Philadelphia 12-5. “It is with pleasure that we note the marked improvement in batting exhibited by our boys,” the Register said. “They found little trouble in hitting McBride.”

John Clapp

John Clapp

Catcher John Clapp drove in four runs for Philadelphia, and third baseman Ezra Sutton scored three times and had three hits. For New Haven, Henry Luff, Jim Tipper, and Sam Wright each had three hits.

Ezra Sutton

Ezra Sutton

Tricky Nichols employed his typical bend not break manner of pitching for the first four innings, allowing only a single clean hit and stranding the White Stockings who reached on errors. “They could not get the hang of Nichols’ pitching,” the Register said.

New Haven scored first in the bottom of the first inning. Billy Geer led off the game with a single and Henry Luff drove him in with another base hit. Philadelphia came back with two runs in the top of the fifth to take the lead.

The clubs traded runs, with Philadelphia leading 7-5 going into the ninth inning, giving New Haven a plausible chance at coming back. In the top of the ninth, Ezra Sutton got his third hit of the day. Nichols then forced two quick outs. Hits by Rocap and Richmond, an error by Rit Harrison, playing out of position at shortstop due to an injury, and two more hits by Davy Force and Clapp, led to five runs. The New Havens’ spirits were crushed, going quietly in the bottom of the ninth. “Again was New Haven defeated, by this time by a first class club, and the score for the first eight innings would have done credit to any organization,” the Register said, always looking for the silver cloud.

John Smith, the new shortstop, played in a single game for New Haven, going hitless and making three errors

John Smith, the new shortstop, played in a single game for New Haven, going hitless and making three errors

In the second game of the short series with Philadelphia, played Saturday, May 21, 1875, a series of injuries showed just how thin the New Haven roster actually was. Sam Wright, the regular shortstop, had gotten hurt several days earlier and was unable to play. John Smith, a shortstop who’d been playing with the amateur club in Bridgeport, was signed to replace him. He’d actually had National Association service, getting 6 hits in 40 at-bats for Maryland and Baltimore over two seasons.

New Haven lost a listless 15-2 laugher. “The number of spectators at the ball game yesterday was exceedingly small, when the reputation of the Philadelphia club s considered. A one-sided and uninteresting game was feared, and the result justified the expectations,” the Register said.

Nichols, who’d thrown every inning of every game thus far, broke his finger in the top of the first inning. He finished the inning but was unable to proceed. “Under these circumstances, it was evident that the Athletics would pile up the tallies,” the Register said presciently.

Indeed they did. Without an adequate replacement – most teams only had one regular pitcher – the rout was on. Third baseman Henry Luff took the box in his place, going six innings and giving up 12 hits and 11 runs. They also tried left fielder Johnny Ryan for the final two innings, in which he gave up a run on three hits and two walks, an accomplishment in and of itself when nine balls constituted a walk.

Dick McBride

Dick McBride

In the meantime, Dick McBride (who would later get fired as captain in the middle of a game late in the season) showed his good stuff for Philly, scattering seven hits and allowing two meaningless runs in the eighth inning. John Clapp had another good game, scoring four times and getting two hits. Ezra Sutton, Davy Force, and Al Reach (who would become a sporting goods magnate like his contemporary Al Spalding), each had three hits. Cap Anson, a Hall of Famer perhaps more infamously known as the man who would create baseball’s long time color barrier, scored three times and got a couple of hits.

Cap Anson

Cap Anson

Jim Tipper managed a pair of hits for New Haven, as well as making several good plays in the field, prompting profuse praise from the New Haven Register. Billy Geer also added a pair of hits, including a double, and drove in both runs.

New Haven takes on the Brooklyn Atlantics and the New York Mutuals next.

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New Haven player makes seven errors in one inning; the team loses two games to Washington

If there was ever a good chance for the New Haven Elm Citys to break out of their winless streak, it would be on May 15 and 17, 1875 against Washington.

Washington was winless like New Haven, but unlike New Haven, they were utterly uncompetitive. Most of the men on the roster did not have extensive league experience, local men from Baltimore and Washington of “no particular distinction,” according to baseball researcher Paul Batesel.

The team had given up an astounding 20 or more runs in six of their first 11 losses of the season. They gave up more than 10 runs in three more games. The club’s best offensive showing was eight runs in a single contest and they had been shut out three times. “Everyone expected that the New Haven nine would win their first game on Saturday,” the Register said.

Not only would New Haven not win the first game on the 15th, losing by a score of 8-4, they would drop their second game on May 17, 10-7. “Almost everyone expected victory for the New Havens … and almost everyone was disapointed by the result,” said the New Haven Daily Palladium, which seemed to have stopped sending reporters to cover the games.

Jim Keenan, New Haven's new backup catcher

Jim Keenan, New Haven’s new backup catcher

In a season full of misadventures thus far, one could argue this was a low point. Injuries had started affecting the club. Johnny Ryan, the regular left fielder was injured, prompting the signing of an amateur named Sullivan. Henry Luff, the third baseman, also was missing from the lineup. John ‘Stud’ Bancker was struggling with injuries to his hands, a common ailment for 19th century catchers, forcing 17-year-old New Haven native Jim Keenan to join the club.

In the first game of the two game series, New Haven jumped out to an early lead with two runs in the top of the first inning, with a hit by the amateur Sullivan prompting the rally against Nationals pitcher Bill Stearns, a Civil War veteran (the club’s other starting pitcher, Bill Parks, also served in the war). However, promptly in the bottom half of the inning, Washington scored five runs on five clean basehits, something of an anomaly in error-ridden 1875 ball. “Very singularly it strikes us every man on the Washington club called for a high ball. There were no exceptions to this rule, and surmises were rife as to the cause,” the Register wrote.

New Haven didn’t quite capitulate – yet. They scored a run in the third inning, second baseman Billy Geer scoring on a single by Henry Luff, and a run in the fourth inning when Sam Wright singled and scored on a three base error by the second baseman Steve Brady.

Washington administered the coup de grace in the bottom of third inning, scoring three times, again on five base hits.

After the second game against Washington a couple of days later, on May 17, even the normally forgiving and effusive New Haven Register was at a loss. “Hardly any comment is needed upon the game yesterday,” the paper said of the 10-7 loss.

Washington's winning pitcher in the second game

Bill Parks was Washington’s winning pitcher in the second game

The paper commented for the first time that the club was guilty of lackadaisical play, at least in the early innings. The Register became incredulous of the team’s play, and moved towards the didactic. “To achieve success in base ball, as in everything else, hard work must be done from the start,” the paper said.

Billy Geer made at least seven errors against Washington in one inning

Billy Geer made at least seven errors against Washington in one inning

The New Havens must not have been paying attention in the Register’s classroom. After a scoreless first inning, second baseman Billy Geer had an utter and complete meltdown. In one inning, he dropped three throws, made three throwing errors himself, and dropped a fly ball. It appears, according to the often hard to decipher newspaper reports of the time, that Geer made at least seven errors himself in one inning, leading to six runs scoring on one clean hit. Even in barehanded ball, this is a special level of ineptitude. “The game was poorly played on both sides and abounded in errors,” said the Palladium.

Let’s take a look at the modern day equivalents. Bob Brenly, ordinarily a catcher, made four errors in a single inning playing third base for the San Francisco Giants in 1986 against the Atlanta Braves (he also hit two home runs that day to make up for it.) Many players over the years have held the same ignominious record.

Pitcher Tommy John of the New York Yankees once made three errors on one play, which takes some doing.

Washington scored another four runs on three hits in the top of the fifth inning, continuing to hit well against New Haven pitcher Tricky Nichols. New Haven put up two runs in the bottom of the second, one in the third, and four garbage runs in the eighth, mostly on Washington errors, but this game was over with the final score 10-7. “The New Havens played with little vim, except in the latter part of the game, when they strove hard to win,” the Register said.

The New Haven Elm Citys drop to 0-10 on the season. It isn’t likely to get better anytime soon, with the Philadelphia Athletics coming into town for two games on May 20 and 21, 1875.