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.

66

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.

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.

New Haven beats Chicago 6-1, silencing the critics

Was a kid like this trying to see New Haven play Chicago for free?

Was a kid like this trying to see New Haven play Chicago for free?

A crowd of intrepid, baseball-mad street urchins had figured out a way to taking in free baseball at the Howard Avenue Grounds. Just outside the park, which may have been the first to sell advertising on its walls, there was a huge tree which gave a nice vantage point on the outfield. The boys, “whose eyes were doubtlessly larger than their pocketbooks,” clamored up the tree and had taken to hanging there during games. The penny pinching New Haven management didn’t like the boys’ inventiveness and looked for a way to end the freebies.

“Now the manager had looked of late with an evil eye upon this non-paying crowd and accordingly myrmidons were sent to divest prolific tree of its living fruit. Soon, slowly and sorrowfully, these non-paying tenants left their roost and sought terra-firma with woebegone looks,” according to the Register.

For the record, myrmidons, in classical mythology, were skilled warriors trained and commanded Achilles. According to the Iliad, they were loyal and brave to a fault. I’m not quite sure the New Haven Register reporter is using the correct analogy for a group of adults chasing kids away from a ballgame.

 

The management scourge now eradicated, New Haven defeated Chicago 6-1 on July 21 at home in front of a large (paying) crowd buoyed by the club’s recent performance. “This victory was somewhat surprising to many, although all must have remarked that that the home nine is vastly better than it was a few weeks ago,” said the New Haven Palladium.

The 1876 White Stockings

The 1876 White Stockings

 

The White Stockings, or Giants as the papers referred to them, had made some injudicious comments to the local media. It seems that the club’s leadership had assumed that because of New Haven’s lack of success, that the club had folded. “The papers that have persistently published that statement can print it again tomorrow with appropriate comments,” the Palladium said.

The locker room chatter seems to have jelled the New Havens. They jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning, with Captain Juice Latham driving in the run. Chicago answered with a run in the bottom of the first, which would be all they’d get on the day. New Haven pitcher Tricky Nichols fired zeroes the rest of the way, striking out five Giants.

New Haven scored in four consecutive innings, the fourth through the seventh, against George “The Charmer Zettlein, who gave up 13 hits on the day. In the fourth, New Haven scored twice, taking advantage of Ed Somerville’s double, two Chicago errors, and an RBI single by Tricky Nichols.

 

Chicago catcher Scott Hastings is bottom center in this team shot of the 1871 Rockford Forest Citys

Chicago catcher Scott Hastings is bottom center in this team shot of the 1871 Rockford Forest Citys

Even the defense, normally a bugaboo for New Haven, showed up against Chicago. In the bottom of the fourth inning with Giant runners on first and second, Scott Hastings singled over the head of centerfielder Billy Geer. Geer, normally an infielder, heaved a throw from deep center to Nichols, the cutoff man, who in turned fired to catcher Tim McGinley, putting out the runner coming from second. McGinley, one of the better players on New Haven, then threw to Henry Luff at third to complete the unusual double play. It squelched the White Stockings’ best rally of the afternoon. “Whereat the crowd of spectators began to clap their hands and rejoice for they began to think the home nine was greatly underrated,” said the Register.

Ed Somerville would lead the league in errors at second base in 1875

Ed Somerville would lead the league in errors at second base in 1875

 

Ed Somerville got three hits and both drove in and scored a run. Nichols drove in two runs of his own for New Haven. Chicago catcher Scott Hastings got three hits in a losing effort. “The wish of yesterday, i.e., that we might record a victory for New Haven, was fulfilled,” the Register wrote.

Meet the new New Haven captain: Juice Latham

Juice Latham, depicted here in 1875, was named captain of the New Havens in mid June, replacing Charlie Gould

Juice Latham, depicted here in 1875, was named captain of the New Havens in mid June, replacing Charlie Gould

George Latham was the only member of the New Haven Elm Cities to have not one, but two great nicknames. The club’s new field boss, appointed in mid-June 1875 was known alternately as Jumbo, for his stocky build, or Juice, for either his lack of speed on the base paths or his reputation as an umpire baiter and overall wild man on the ball field. Latham, only 22 years old in 1875, was an unlikely choice as the New Haven base ball club’s new captain, replacing the hapless Charlie Gould, who was moved to business manager.

The move was necessary. New Haven picked up a few decent players from some disbanded clubs around the league, and while strengthening the roster improved play, it was clear that Gould was over his head. “The New Haven nine is not well-managed apparently. Thus far it has been a more experimental team, hence its losses,” said the Brooklyn Eagle.

Enter Latham, who was recently hired from Boston to shore up the infield. Latham was born in Utica, New York in 1852. After his school days, he worked as a bricklayer while gaining notice on the town’s baseball club. His career flourished in Canada, starting his professional career playing first base in 1867 with clubs in Ottawa and Toronto, alternately working in a local factory and as a baggageman on a train.

According to his obituary, Harry Wright, the impresario of the dynastic Boston Red Stockings, saw Latham play in Canada and invited him on a tour of England in 1874. One of his obituary claims that Latham refused the prestigious appointment, but that doesn’t match up with the historical record. According to David Archdiacono’s research, Latham brazenly wrote Wright, asking for a job with Boston. “You must remember you are unknown to the club either personally or by reputation, and that when I saw last you were not able to run, although in all other respects I was favorably impressed with your playing,” Wright wrote in a letter to Latham.

Latham signed a three-year contract with the club for $560 for 1875 and $800 for each of the next two seasons. The contract was not ironclad and Latham was on an initial three-month probation period with Boston at the start of the season. He acquitted himself adequately, hitting .269 with 13 runs batted in in 16 games. However, this performance wasn’t up to Wright’s exacting standards, and he let Latham go.

Or, was his on field performance the only reason for his release? Another of Latham’s hometown obituaries offers a different reason for his arrival in New Haven. “The New Haven team was going to pieces and Mr. Wright released Latham to go to New Haven and take charge of the nine for the balance of the season,” according to a Utica newspaper obituary found in Latham’s Hall of Fame Library file.

No matter the reason. Latham had his work cut out for him, taking the reins of a club with a record of 2 wins and 21 losses and no cash in the bank available for improvement.

For a complete bio of Latham’s life, click here: http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/faf09fc5

 

 

 

 

 

Latham named New Haven captain; Gould demoted

Juice Latham, depicted here in 1875, was named captain of the New Havens in mid June, replacing Charlie Gould

Juice Latham, depicted here in 1875, was named captain of the New Havens in mid June, replacing Charlie Gould

New Haven had been hit with baseball fever, but you wouldn’t know it from the ticket receipts over at the city’s professional ballpark, the Howard Avenue Grounds.

On the upper end of Orange Street, in what would currently be the heart of East Rock, neighborhood kids gathered in open fields to play the game. “Complaint has frequently been made to the police that … crowds of noisy boys congregate on the lots, and after finishing their game, amuse themselves by digging holes in the concrete sidewalks and knocking off the tops of picket fences with their bats,” the Palladium huffed.

One old lady got hit with a ball, and filed a report with police. “The orderly portion of the community think it is about time a stop should be put to these practices,” the Palladium said.

While the cops were chasing around the baseball playing youth of the city, a group of sober businessmen huddled together, trying to figure out a way to keep the town’s professional baseball team going. Town fathers wanted the club to win, and there was palpable disappointment around the city at the squad’s poor play. The local newspapers were loath to point fingers – good innings were lauded as a step forward, let alone victories – but word was out around town. The New Haven club was not worth the price of admission. The Board of Directors were businessmen who had acheived some success in their working lives, and they’d be damned if their franchise would fail.

The stockholders voted on June 19 to increase the capital stock from $3,000 to $5,000. The owners of the club needed a quick influx of cash to help keep the team out of the red. They also appointed a committee of three people to attempt to increase the number of season tickets sold. “With new energy infused all around, the public will doubtlessly take largely increased interest in the success of the club,” the Register reported.

Another move, more crucial to the club’s competitive position, was to cancel its western trip. The National Association had no set schedule. Teams were expected to schedule an even slate of home and away games against each other over the course of the season. If a team didn’t book a full schedule of games, they were rendered ineligible for the team championship. New Haven, with an exceedingly poor record, was not going to compete with Boston, Hartford, or Philadelphia for league preeminence. But tanking a road trip was a serious matter, and one that would have long term implications for the club in the future.

The board of directors also opted to kick Charlie Gould out of the captaincy. He would be retained as player and as business manager of the squad, but his 2-21 record mandated that a change needed to be made. Twenty-two year old Juice Latham, recently signed after spending a short period of time with the Boston Red Stockings, took over as the club’s new field boss.

It would remain to be seen whether the changes would result in success on the field.

 

New Haven wins! Defeats Washington 9-2

New Haven centerfielder Jim Tipper led the team to its first win with three runs scored and two hits.

New Haven centerfielder Jim Tipper led the team to its first win with three runs scored and two hits.

The New Haven Elm Citys have lost almost every way possible thus far during the 1875 season. They’ve been pummeled. They’ve handed games away via errors and passed balls. They’ve played very good teams fairly closely. They’ve lost because of injuries, ineffectiveness and incompetence. They’ve even forfeited because of a tantrum thrown by their manager. At some point, something has to break their way.

“Our nine have been defeated so often, and withal, have played so many close losing games with superior clubs, that its seems a real pleasure to record a victory,” said the New Haven Evening Register.

After 15 straight losses to start the 1875 season, the club beat the Washington Nationals by the score of 9-2 on May 31, 1875. Henry Luff, the former third baseman forced into pitching duties with the injury of regular starter Tricky Nichols, recorded his first victory of the season.

No play by play account of the game was immediately available – New Haven publications didn’t tend to send their writers on the road, and the Washington D.C. papers I have access to didn’t seem to carry stories about it. So, the particulars heroics have been lost. I can only imagine that the sense of relief around the club was palpable. Some onfield success would likely draw better players and more fans to the games. There was a continued sense from coverage of the team that success would breed more success.

New acquired catcher Tim McGinley led New Haven to its first win of the season

New acquired catcher Tim McGinley led New Haven to its first win of the season

The New Haven papers thought enough of the game to publish the box score several days later. Centerfielder Jim Tipper led the offense with three runs scored and two hits. Catcher Tim McGinley, one of the club’s new acquisitions, and pitcher Luff, chipped in three hits and a run scored each. Johnny Ryan, the left fielder who moved behind the plate when McGinley got injured later in the game, scored two runs. John Hollingshead got a pair of hits for Washington.

It may be only a single victory, but there is a feeling around the club that things are looking up. The local press has been encouraged by the acquisition of catcher McGinley and infielder Ed Somerville.

New first baseman Juice Latham in 1875

New first baseman Juice Latham in 1875

The big move, and one that could spell trouble for Captain and first baseman Charlie Gould, was the signing of 23-year-old first baseman George ‘Juice’ Latham, recently of the Boston Red Stockings where he hit .269 in 16 games.

A brazen rookie, Latham wrote a letter to iconic Red Stockings Captain Harry Wright asking for a job with the team. Wright took a shot and offered him a three month contract. Latham’s performance was considered merely adequate, but Wright thought enough of him to facilitate his arrival in New Haven, at least according to one version of the story found in his file at the Hall of Fame library. The other story of how he came to New Haven is that Harry Wright wanted him to accompany the team to England and Latham refused, prompting his dismissal. No matter the reason for Latham’s arrival, the Register felt that he would help bring more victories to the ailing franchise. “The nine will be very materially strengthened,” the Register said.

One more game against Washington coming up, and then the Elm City Club will start their trek back to Connecticut.

New Haven kicks away home opener, loses to Boston 14-3

Harry Wright, Red Stockings manager, who defeated New Haven twice in a row to start off the 1875 season

Harry Wright, Red Stockings manager, who defeated New Haven twice in a row to start off the 1875 season

For a couple of innings on April 21, 1875, it was almost as if the New Haven Elm Citys and the Boston Red Stockings switched roles.

In the first inning, New Haven jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead, taking advantage of a couple of hits by Billy Geer and Sam Wright and a Boston error “amidst great applause,” the Register said. Boston went very quietly in the bottom of the inning.

Baseball order was restored beginning in the third inning when Boston turned aggressive baserunning, a pair of New Haven errors, and some timely hits into three runs, starting a 14-3 rout, featuring 10 errors by the Elm Citys. “Notwithstanding the rawness of the weather — reminding one of November, rather than April — a large crowd gathered yesterday afternoon, on the old grounds at Hamilton Park … everyone shivered and shook, but all stayed until the game was over,” said the New Haven Daily Palladium.

The Elm Citys were playing at Hamilton Park, the home of Yale’s baseball team off Whalley Avenue near Hubinger Street and West Rock, because their home field at Howard Avenue wasn’t complete.

Hamilton Park, the home of Yale football and baseball in the 19th century, was located near Edgewood Park

Hamilton Park, the home of Yale football and baseball in the 19th century, was located near Edgewood Park

The Boston half of the third inning, deemed “disasterous” by the Register, began with a triple by Deacon White over centerfielder Jim Tipper’s head. Jack Manning and Juice Latham reached on consecutive errors, scoring White. George Wright then hit a two-run single. Boston followed it up with a run in the fourth, three more in the fifth inning, and single runs in the seventh and eighth.

Deacon White, a future Hall of Famer, started the rout for Boston with a triple

Deacon White, a future Hall of Famer, started the rout for Boston with a triple

This game allows us to point out another quirks in the 19th century game. The team batting first was agreed upon by coin toss or some other means, not by being the visiting team. In addition, all nine innings were played regardless of the score — Boston led 9-3 going into the bottom of the ninth, where they scored five more, all with two outs in the inning.

Ross Barnes gets three hits against New Haven

Ross Barnes gets three hits against New Haven

Ross Barnes led the Bostons with three runs and three hits. George Wright drove in four runs. “For the Bostons, all did well, and it would be invidious to particularize,” the Register said.

Charlie Gould drives in one of New Haven's three runs

Charlie Gould drives in one of New Haven’s three runs

New Haven scratched out a additional run in the seventh on a single by Captain Charlie Gould – who surely regrets scheduling Boston by now – driving in Henry Luff.

The New Haven Register, ever the booster, praised the New Haven team for its efforts against such a good squad. “Taken as a whole the game was a creditable one but the last innings could have been bettered very easily,” reported the Register.

The Register cited Billy Geer and Sammy Wright as all around standouts, with third baseman John McKelvey and Luff hitting well. Luff made several baserunning blunders, killing a pair of New Haven rallies. Pitcher Tricky Nichols and McKelvey each made three errors in the game.

John McKelvey, outfielder and third baseman

John McKelvey, outfielder and third baseman

In an echo of the argument between former general manager Willis Arnold and the Board of Directors, the New Haven Register astutely argued that Boston might not have been the best choice of opponent to start the season.  “Let the boys brace up and when they encounter clubs of more recent organization then the Bostons, we are confident that they will not be behindhand,” the Register said.

New Haven drops to no wins and two losses. Their next National Association opponent is the Brooklyn Atlantics on April 26, 1875.

***

NEW HAVEN – 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 – 3

BOSTON – 0 0 3 1 3 0 1 1 5 – 14

Earned runs – Boston 1, New Haven 1; Errors – New Haven 10, Boston 3 Time of game: 1 hr, 50 minutes

New Haven lineup – Billy Geer, 2b (1 run, 1 hit); Sam Wright, ss (1 run, 1 hit); Henry Luff, rf (1 run, 2 hits); Stud Bancker, c; John McKelvey, 3b (3 hits); Charlie Gould, 1b (1 hit); Johnny Ryan, lf; Jim Tipper, cf; Tricky Nichols (losing pitcher, 0-2)

Boston lineup – George Wright, ss (1 runs, 2 hits); Cal McVey, cf (2 runs, 1 hit); Ross Barnes, 2b (3 runs, 3 hits); Al Spalding p (1 run, 2 hits – winning pitcher); Andy Leonard, lf (2 hits); Deacon White, c (1 runs, 2 hits); Jack Manning, rf (2 runs, 0 hits); Juice Latham (1 run, 0 hits); Harry Schafer, 3b (3 runs, 0 hits).