New Haven drops first three games of road trip, including one by forfeit

One would think that the change of scenery afforded by a southern road trip, in tandem with the addition of new players signed to key positions would change the New Havens’ luck. Not so. New Haven dropped two quick games shortly after leaving by boat to travel to New York. They first lost to the Brooklyn Atlantics, a team that would only win a pair of games in 1875, 14-4 on May 26, at an exceedingly hot and underattended game, according to the New York Sun. A day later, the Elm Citys played the New York Mutuals, and lost 8-5.

The modern day New York Mutuals, showing off the vintage uniform.

The modern day New York Mutuals, showing off the vintage uniform.

There were also the first rumblings of internal strife on the team. Pitcher Tricky Nichols, recuperating from a broken finger, was rumored to have expressed some dissatisfaction with the way the season was going thus far, complaints that had to be put to rest in the press. “Nichols is not going to leave the New Haven nine, so Ryan sends word. They will get a good team together, he says, if it takes all summer,” according to the Brooklyn Eagle on May 26, 1875.

The New Havens arrived in Washington D.C. to play the Nationals on May 30. The Washington National Republican, one of the few publications that directly covered the game, offered one of the few precise descriptions found in print of the New Haven uniform. “The visitors being attired in white flannels, trimmed in dark blue, blue and white plaid stockings, and the name of their organization on the breasts of their shirts,” the paper said.

With the additions of Ed Somerville and Tim McGinley, New Haven believed that they had a good chance to break its winless streak. “With these additions they have indulged the assurance that they are able to get away with our boys, and are evidently a little chagrined by the fact that they alone should be victimized by the representatives of the National Metropolis,” said the Washington National Republican. “This is a very credible feeling but it should not be indulged at the expense of friendly demeanor and courteous rivalry,” the paper said.

Umpires were local baseball men who needed to be approved by each team in order to work a game.

Umpires were local baseball men who needed to be approved by each team in order to work a game. The man in the suit near home plate is handling the job.

New Haven’s behavior during the game was anything but courteous. Early in the game, the umpire failed to award Johnny Ryan first base on a base on balls. It appeared the umpire was unaware of the rule. New Haven Captain Charlie Gould, quite properly, took the umpire to task over his error. The umpire reversed his decision, but his error began and deluge of argument from both teams throughout the game.

The ump is wearing a top hat in this 1872 woodcut.

The ump is wearing a top hat in this 1872 woodcut.

“Just here, let all gentlemen having any regards for the feelings and opinions of the patrons of the national game, and at the same time who are not posted in the latest edition of the baseball regulations, and had some experience in the art of umpiring, take a fool’s advice and take a fool’s advice and not put themselves up to be figureheads, to be insulted and mocked by the representatives of the common herd who always congregate at a ball game,” fussed the National Republican.

Getting into the spirit of the thing, the Olympics then began questioning the legality of New Haven pitcher Henry Luff’s delivery. Nineteenth century pitchers were obliged to keep their release point below the waist, something they claimed Luff was not doing. “It is extremely annoying to a crowd assembled for amusement to listen to quarrels of this description, and there is no surer method of bringing the game into dispute and disgusting the public,” the National Republican said.

Steve Brady tripled against the New Havens

Steve Brady tripled against the New Havens

In between the screaming and the shouting, a ball game took place. Washington jumped out to a three run lead in the top of the first inning, a rally assembled out of two errors, a single and a triple by second baseman Steve Brady, one of the better players on the club.

New Haven quickly answered with two in the bottom of the first, both scoring on a double by Luff, and four in the bottom of the second inning, with doubles by Gould, Ryan, and Luff leading the way.

New Haven held a 9-5 lead until the top of the seventh inning, when they remembered who they were and had a utter break down. Errors by Billy Geer, Henry Luff and John Bancker led to a four run inning for Washington.

Washington's winning pitcher in the second game

Bill Parks was Washington’s change pitcher

Washington then made a strategic pitching change, a extraordinarily infrequent occurence in the National Association, switching starting pitcher Bill Stearns to the outfield and bringing Bill Parks to the box. Parks threw two hitless innings, giving up a single unearned run.

In the top of the ninth Washington scored two more runs on clean hits by the shortstop Bill Daily and by Stearns, now playing center. It was 11-10 Washington going into the bottom of the inning.

Gould must have been apoplectic. His club had fumbled away a substantial lead, and now was dealing with a fresh pitcher on the mound who had already beaten them earlier this year. After just a few pitches to Jim Tipper, apparently inspired by the Olympics’ antics, Gould began to complain about Parks’ delivery, something he didn’t do the first time the clubs faced each other. The umpire dismissed Gould’s complaint, and in a moment of pique, he pulled his club off the field.

In the ensuing row, the fans rushed the field, making it impossible for the beleaguered umpire to restore order. “Chin music prevailed,” said the Republican. “And the umpire declared the game forfeit by the visitors.”

“The actions of Gould cannot be justified under any circumstances,” the paper said. Actually, in a sense, they can be. Gould was a prideful man who had competed on some of the most powerful baseball teams of the decade. Facing a 15 game losing streak, it is possible that this successful man’s calm demeanor snapped, and rather than face the loss on the field, he fled on technicality. It’s a very human response to the pressures he’d been facing in the press, and certainly from the stockholders.

Gould would have a chance to revenge himself on the Olympics the next day.

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New Haven and New York in pitcher duels; New York wins 2-1 in 11

Bobby Mathews, a small man at 5'5", 140 lbs, mastered the curve and the spitball, making him one of the first great pitchers

Bobby Mathews, a small man at 5’5″, 140 lbs, mastered the curve and the spitball, making him one of the first great pitchers

There couldn’t be a greater juxtaposition in the National Association between clubs than between the New Haven Elm Citys and their opponents on May 11, 1875, the Mutual Club of New York.

The Mutuals, formed out of a fire company and backed by Boss Tweed, had been playing baseball since 1858. The club was an amateur marvel, claiming championships and most of the earliest baseball stars. The Mutuals had something that New Haven didn’t – pedigree. But that doesn’t win baseball games. Since joining the National Association in 1871, the club was essentially a below-.500 team with pedigree. That changed in 1874 when they rode Bobby Mathews’ arm to a record of 42-23.

In addition to Mathews, the club did retain a few old pros for the 1875 season. Long Jim Holdsworth, who spurned New Haven in the off-season, was retained to provide a bit of offensive punch. Joe Start, known as Old Reliable, was coming off a season where he hit .314, and continued to hit well in 1875. Nat Hicks, the captain, lend good defensive support behind the plate and hit a respectable .274 in 1874. They had the kind of veteran talent New Haven couldn’t secure off the field and couldn’t handle when they were playing them on the field.

Despite a break in the difficult weather plaguing the early season, people were still staying away from Howard Avenue Grounds, with only about 300 in attendance. “There should have been a larger number of spectators on the grounds, but doubtless many supposed that the game would be a repetition of that on Monday,” the Evening Register said, referring to the team’s 13-0 loss against Philadelphia.

Great mustache

Great mustache – Bobby Mathews

New Haven duelled the Mutuals for 11 innings, losing 2-1, remaining winless on the season. “Matthews (sic) – the best pitcher in the country – troubled our boys not a little by his curves, and Nichols, not to be behindhand, did likewise by the visitors,” the Register said.

Mathews himself is an interesting figure, worthy of a moment. He was only 5’5”, weighing about 140 pounds, and he managed to pitch all of his teams games in 1874 and all but one in 1875. He is credited with throwing the first spitball and was known as a crafty pitcher, not one who would overpower you with his fastball. His pitching philosophy is quoted in Peter Morris’ Game of Inches: “Good, straight pitching, thorough command over the ball, a good ‘out-curve’ and a good ‘in-shoot’ are what the great pitchers are working with today, and I, for my part, don’t believe in anything else.”

Tricky Nichols, who might never win a game at this point

Tricky Nichols, who might never win a game at this point

The clubs were locked in a scoreless tie for five innings. Tricky Nichols, New Haven’s pitcher, was bending quite a bit, but not breaking. He allowed baserunners in each of the first five innings, with his defense pulling together to quell the threats. Bobby Mathews dominated,scattering three hits in the first five and striking out five Elm Citys in the first six innings. “The New Havens were quickly retired and as the Mutuals met with a like fate, everything was serene,” the Register said.

In this engraving Nat Hicks is behind the plate for the Mutuals

In this engraving Nat Hicks is behind the plate for the Mutuals

The Mutuals broke through first in the bottom of the sixth inning – the game was played in New Haven, but Captain Charlie Gould again lost the coin toss and had to bat first. New York’s Eddie Booth singled to right field to lead off the inning. He then stole second – his first of two key stolen bases in the game – and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Nat Hicks, the Mutuals catcher and captain, hit a fly ball to left field that scored Booth.

New Haven tied it in the top of the seventh. Gould singled over the shortstop. An error by third baseman Joe Gerhardt advanced Gould to third, and Nichols picked him up with a fly ball to left. “Gould scored for New Haven amidst great applause,” the Register wrote.

It was at this point in the game where the different between the skill of Mathews and Nichols became apparent. Mathews set down 11 of the last 12 batters he faced in a dominant performance. Nichols still had runners on constantly, and with a weak club like New Haven, it was sure to result in disaster. On cue, disaster arrived in the bottom of the 11th inning, the longest game the Elm Citys played thus far this season, and it was named Eddie Booth and Henry Geer.

Billy Geer made three errors

Billy Geer made three errors

Booth led off the 11th inning with a base hit that slipped between third and short and promptly stole second. With one out, Nat Hicks hit a grounder to Geer, who let it go through his legs, allowing Booth to score the winning run. New Haven was, to use the Register’s term, skunked.

Despite the loss, New Haven had much to be proud of. The club’s offensive woes continued, but they hung close against Mathews, one of the best arms in the league. Tricky Nichols pitched a good game. New Haven played good defense, Geer’s three errors on the day notwithstanding.

The Elm Citys’ next two games, both against the Washington Nationals, a team facing the same kind of problems both on the field and at the gate, could be just the tonic to cure the club’s woes.

SCORE BY INNINGS

NEW HAVEN – 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 – 1

NEW YORK – 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1- 2

WP – Bobby Mathews LP – Tricky Nichols (0-9)

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

New York – Joe Start, 1b (1 hit); Jim Holdsworth, ss; Candy Nelson, 2b (2 hits); Eddie Booth, rf (2 runs, 2 hits); Joe Gerhardt 3b; Nat Hicks, c (2 hits); Pat McGee, cf (1 hit); Count Gedney, lf; Bobby Mathews (winning pitcher)