Boston chills New Haven on Opening Day


Al Spalding shut out the Elm Citys on Opening Day 1875

There was plenty of news to print on April 19, 1875.

The front page of the New Haven Register was a crazy newsprint quilt of items – local news given equal play with obscure world events. In North Haven, a minister exhorted his congregation to make sure they were vaccinated. Henry Beecher, the most famous minister of the time, was engulfed in a New York scandal that filled the front pages of newspapers across the country. Police claimed a baby on Bradley Street was abducted by a “somambulist” — a sleepwalker.

At the bottom of the page was a short notice about baseball – or should I say, base ball, in the parlance of the time period. The Elm City Club of New Haven, in its first ever professional game, lost to the champion Boston Red Stockings 6-0. About 1000 people saw the game in Boston’s South End Grounds, bearing up on a cold windy day. So, New Haven – at least in a professional sports sense – finally goes big league.

Sound End Grounds in Boston, the site of the Elm Citys' first game

Sound End Grounds in Boston, the site of the Elm Citys’ first game

The game took place on the centennial of the the Battles of Lexington and Concord, which took place April 19, 1875. The holiday would become known as Patriots Day, and traditionally be known for the running of the Boston Marathon.

All things considered, the New Havens did well their first game. I have been reaching for an equivalent modern match up for New Haven versus Boston that day – perhaps an Arena League Football team playing the Super Bowl champs, or the 1998 Yankees playing their own A-ball team seems closest to me. No matter what description one uses it promised to be a gross mismatch.

The Register, which offers the best baseball coverage of the local newspapers, describes it thusly:  “It being considered that our boys had never played together and in their home positions before this game, the show which they made against the champion Bostons was a very creditable one,” said the New Haven Register. The Register also pointed out, in a bit of local boosterism, that Hartford the previous year had gotten pummelled by Boston 25-3 – given the local venom of which should be the capital of Connecticut, Hartford or New Haven, the papers tended to take potshots at each other whenever possible.

The New Haven Daily Palladium yawned at the New Haven effort against Boston. “The game was not a very exciting one, the visitors making several errors, but by some good playing in several instances they managed to keep the champions score down to six,” the Palladium wrote.

New Haven’s downfall came primarily in the second inning when a combination of poor fielding and bad pitching by New Haven starter Tricky Nichols allowed Boston to score four runs. The Register attributed Nichols’ problems to his being “chilled.”


Andy Leonard had three hits for Boston

Boston slugged 15 hits altogether off Nichols, with second baseman Ross Barnes leading the way with a couple of hits and runs scored. Centerfielder Andy Leonard and catcher Deacon White each had three hits. Al Spalding, the best pitcher in the country at that point, pitched a shut out and added a couple of hits.


Ross Barnes scored a couple of runs for the Red Stockings

New Haven couldn’t do much against Boston, which played fine defense in addition to pitching well. Billy Geer, the second baseman, got three hits. The Register cited the fielding of centerfielder Jim Tipper as being exemplary. Sam Wright appeared in the game for New Haven against his two brothers, George, the shortstop, and Harry, the manager.

Billy Geer got three hits of New Haven's six hits

Billy Geer got three hits of New Haven’s six hits

Boston would travel to New Haven in another day to play them in their home opener at Hamilton Park. “It is bound to be exciting and our boys will do their best to win. They are worthy of encouragement for their gallant struggle,” the Register said.


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

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