Bad call by the umpire blows the game for New Haven, they fall to Chicago 4-3

Oscar Bielaski's bad call gave Chicago a 4-3 win over New Haven

Oscar Bielaski’s bad call gave Chicago a 4-3 win over New Haven

When the New Haven-Chicago game went into extra innings on July 22, 1875 the young boys at the ball park became “wild with excitement,” the papers said. Extra innings was still a big deal in the 1870s, and it meant the New Haven was only a bounce and a bit of luck away from back to back wins agains a tough competitor. Those kids were disappointed, but it had nothing to do with how the Elm Citys performed.

Thanks to a dicey call by the umpire, the Chicago White Stockings rallied in the bottom of the 10th inning to defeat the Elm Citys 4-3 on July 22, 1875. “The fight was close and exciting, but the crowd were evidently disgusted with the actions of some of the Whites as well as with a decision of the umpire in the 10th inning,” the Register correspondent said.

Chicago outfielder Oscar Bielaski served as umpire in the game, not an uncommon occurrence in 19th century baseball. The need for an umpire became apparent in the 1830s, according to baseball researcher Peter Morris, but those men were charged with enforcing decorum and individual club rules. Through the 1860s, umpires were often chosen from the ranks of leading community members and accorded the utmost in respect. Over time, as umpires became more expect to render their own judgements on what was going on during the contests, rather than simply bowing to the notions of the players or some other entity.

An 1859 photo of the Brooklyn Excelsiors show the umpire in all of his 19th century glory, top-hattted, bespectacled and respected. It would change in the next decade.

An 1859 photo of the Brooklyn Excelsiors show the umpire in all of his 19th century glory, top-hattted, bespectacled and respected. It would change in the next decade.


By the 1870s, the umpire functioned much as he does not – all judgments were considered final. Local baseball people, even on occasion members of the home team, would call games so long as they had the approval of both teams. There were times when clubs, just to be antagonistic, would withhold approval of the chosen arbiter. Perhaps New Haven should have thought twice before allowing a member of the Chicago club, a team under suspicion for underhanded play, to call the game.

With the score tied at three, Chicago pitcher Mike Golden led off the bottom of the 10th with a single and advanced to third on errors by rightfielder John McKelvey and pitcher Tricky Nichols. John Miller hit the ball down the left field line. Bielaski called the ball fair, a questionable decision that enraged the New Haven faithful, allowing Golden to score the winning run. “The crowd was greatly incensed against the umpire … and he was spirited away from the grounds in a hack as soon as the game way over,” the New Haven Palladium reported.

“The victory should have been with the home club, and their defeat is a matter or no discredit to them,” the Register said.

New Haven played Chicago very closely, scoring one run in the second inning and two in the fourth, primarily as a result of poor fielding on the part of the White Stockings, including three errors each by catcher Scott Hastings and centerfielder Paul Hines. New Haven first baseman Juice Latham drove in two of the runs, making the biggest contribution to New Haven’s anemic offense.

Paul Hines

Paul Hines


Chicago’s runs came in the 3rd, 5th and 9th innings, also mainly as a result of poor fielding by New Haven shortstop Sam Wright, who made three errors in the game, two of which contributed to runs. In the ninth inning, Jim Devlin tripled, followed up by Paul Hines’ triple. Hines was the hitting star for Chicago, getting three hits and driving in one run.

Mike Golden's curveball befuddled New Haven batters

Mike Golden’s curveball befuddled New Haven batters


Mike Golden, Chicago’s change pitcher and a backup outfielder, offered a decidedly different look than the regular starter George Zettlein, befuddling New Haven’s bats. Zettlein was known for his speed, but Golden was said to throw “curves to the right,” not a regular sight for New Haven batters. Nichols was said to throw “curves to the left,” perhaps an early variant on a sinker.

Despite the loss, it was clear that New Haven was clearly improving. They were more competitive, Nichols was back in top form, and the fielding was a bit cleaner than it had been in the past. The results showed the club’s hard work, going 2-2 in July. New Haven’s next game would be against the St. Louis Brown Stockings, one of the better clubs in the league.