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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.