Thirteen hits aren’t enough: New Haven falls to Saint Louis 9-7

Joe Battin, the Saint Louis second baseman who got three hits against New Haven on July 30, 1875

Joe Battin, the Saint Louis second baseman who got three hits against New Haven on July 30, 1875

Any sign of life in the New Haven ballclub was cause for celebration. A nice victory against Saint Louis, one of the better entries in the National Association, was certainly a reason to get supporters to come out to the ballpark. “Attendance was large both inside and out, and the interest was well kept up by the closeness of the score to the very end,” the Register said.

With both teams combining for a total of 27 base hits, Saint Louis defeated New Haven 9-7 on July 30, 1875. While New Haven’s bats were lively, the gloves were slipshod at best, a continued bugaboo for the team throughout the season. “The fielding of the New Havens was rather loose on one or two occasions where sharp play was required,” the Register opined.

The New Haven Palladium intimated that the Brown Stockings opted to use a livelier ball during the game but “didn’t make anything by it.” Whereas today the manufacture of baseballs is standardized, that was not the case in 1875. Clubs had the choice of a number of different types of balls, some with more bounce than others. The size of the ball was standardized in 1872 – weight was between 5 and 5.25 ounces, and the circumference was between 9 and 9.25 inches. However, the core of the baseball and the elasticity of the cover varied, according to Peter Morris’s book “A Game of Inches.”

The Brown Stockings jumped to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on a trio of base hits surrounding an error by New Haven second baseman Ed Somerville, one of two he’d make on the day.

New Haven, whose batting had been improving as the season went on, put up three in the top of the second. Somerville doubled to lead off the inning, and Jumbo Latham followed with a single. Sam Wright and Johnny Ryan reached on an error and a fielder’s choice, scoring Somerville. Rightfielder John McKelvey, who struggled at the plate the bulk of the season, hit a two-run double to right field.

Lip Pike, the first Jewish major leaguer

Lip Pike, the first Jewish major leaguer

Tricky Nichols, the New Haven pitcher, allowed the St. Louis club to tie the game in the bottom of the third on a double by Lip Pike, the center fielder, and an a triple by second baseman Joe Battin.

A word on Joe Battin, who would get three hits in the game. Battin had a brief stay in Philadelphia in 1874 after pulling a knife on a teammate who accused him of laying down. He would continue in the National League when it was formed in 1876. However, he and pitcher Joe Blong were identified by gamblers as throwing games in 1877, according to researcher Paul Batesel, and they were moved out of the league. Battin would resurface from time to time, amassing time in 10 major league seasons. “He came to be the subject of a running joke that he acquired his surname because he never did ‘any battin,’” wrote researcher David Nemec.

Back to the action. Nichols and St. Louis pitcher George Bradley settled down for a while at the midpoint of the game. At one point, Nichols allowed a single hit over three innings, striking out two. Bradley answered him in kind. New Haven threatened to blow things open in the third, the fifth, and the seventh innings. St. Louis played very tight defense and held them to two runs.

New Haven held the lead, 5-4, going into the bottom of the 7th inning. Lip Pike led off the inning with a single. Battin followed up with a single to center, and a dreadful overthrow by Ed Somerville allowed both runners to score. Saint Louis added a run in the bottom of the 8th to make the score 7-5.

New Haven had one final offensive burst in them. Bradley got two quick outs in the top of the 9th before allowing a single to Henry Luff. Tim McGinley, the catcher, doubled, scoring Luff. Somerville, seeking to atone for his defensive sins, hit a hot grounder back at Bradley, who threw widely to first. Amidst bedlam in New Haven, McGinley scored, tying the game at 7.

Battin singled off Nichols to start the bottom of the 9th. Hague hit a hot shot to rightfielder John McKelvey, who attempted to throw him out at first. The umpire called Hague safe, a decision that enraged the New Haven faithful. Pitcher George Bradley, a decent hitter, slammed a single to right. McKelvey made the first overthrow on the play, and Nichols, in turn, made a second throwing error to allow both runners to score, giving the Brown Stockings the victory.

“All together our boys have no need of bewailing their ill-luck, and they may be assured that in the last two games with the Browns they have far transcended the hopes and expectations of all that wish them well,” the Register said.

New Haven downs Saint Louis, 7-3

A game from the 1850s in Flushing, New York that shows women in attendance. I'd like to think New Haven wasn't different in 1875.

A game from the 1850s in Flushing, New York that shows women in attendance. I’d like to think New Haven wasn’t different in 1875. (from the New York Clipper and ourgame.mlblogs.com)

One of the early concerns of 19th century base ball executives is that the game was too rough and tumble to attract female spectators. It’s true that the stands in a National Association game could be filled with drunken hooligans, brazenly betting on the game, but that doesn’t seem to be keeping women away in New Haven. Or, conversely, perhaps this is an indicator that the “cranks,” the 19th century term for a fan, were a little better behaved in New Haven.

“Notwithstanding the heat a very fair crowd assembled, fairer than usual if such a pun be permissible, for many representatives of the gentler sex were witnesses of the game,” said the Register, also noting that some male members of the crowd weren’t too happy with their presence.

No matter. Perhaps the New Havens were inspired by them, downing the Saint Louis club by a score of 7-3 on July 28, 1875 in front of another large crowd.

George Bradley, the losing Saint Louis pitcher

George Bradley, the losing Saint Louis pitcher

The game initially looked as if it was shaping up to be a pitcher’s duel. Both Saint Louis’ George Bradley and New Haven’s Tricky Nichols fired four scoreless innings apiece to start the game.

St. Louis jumped on the board first in the top of the 5th inning, scoring one run on a pair of New Haven errors and a questionable call by umpire Bill Boyd of the Atlantics, his first of a few on the day.

Bill Boyd, the Atlantics outfielder whose umpiring caused trouble for New Haven

Bill Boyd, the Atlantics outfielder whose umpiring caused trouble for New Haven

New Haven matched them with a run in the bottom of the 5th on singles by Sam Wright and Johnny Ryan. Saint Louis added runs in the sixth and eighth innings. The run in the eighth wasn’t without controversy. Ned Cuthbert walked to lead off the inning, an inordinately rare occurrence in 1875, coming around to score. “Boyd, the umpire, gave Cuthbert his base on three balls, two balls being called where it should have been two strikes,” the Register reported. “His unfairness was chiefly confined to the calling of balls and strikes, but it was quite manifest to that respect after the seventh inning,” the Palladium said.

The run ultimately wouldn’t matter in the face of one of New Haven’s bigger offensive explosions of the season. As 19th century games so often do, victory often turns on defensive breakdown and the ability of the offense of capitalize.

New Haven scored two runs in the sixth inning on a pair of Saint Louis errors and a single by Henry Luff, the hitting star of the day. In the bottom of the eighth inning, New Haven batted around, scoring four times to cinch the win. Nichols led off the inning with a single. John McKelvey hit a hot flyball to centerfielder Jack Chapman (who flirted with being New Haven’s first captain in the offseason), who dropped the ball and then made an overthrow on the play, allowing both men to score. A pair of errors by second baseman Battin and third baseman Hague split up a triple by Henry Luff and an RBI single by Tim McGinley. “The New Havens fairly outdid themselves, and their batting in the eighth inning called forth loud applause,” the Register said.

Since upsetting Boston on July 2, New Haven was playing credible ball, amassing a record of three wins and four losses, after beginning the month with a 2-24 season record. The addition of players from defunct franchises around the league and the change to a new captain seems to have done a world of good. “People in this city are beginning to believe we have a base ball nine,” the Palladium said.

New Haven gets “Chicagoed” by Saint Louis, 6-0

This team photos of the 1876 Saint Louis team features many men who competed against New Haven

This team photos of the 1876 Saint Louis team features many men who competed against New Haven

The Saint Louis Brown Stockings, New Haven’s next opponent, were a veritable who’s who of early baseball history and a fine base ball club. Ned Cuthbert, the 30-year-old left fielder, was credited by baseball historians with being the first player to both slide and steal a base, both incidents occurring in 1865. No matter that the slide and the stolen base were certainly part of the game from its earliest playground days, Cuthbert gets the credit.

Dickey Pearce, the first modern shortstop

Dickey Pearce, the first modern shortstop

Dickey Pearce, a short and chubby 39-year-old of tremendous athletic ability, was credited with being a key innovator in the evolution of the position of shortstop. The position was thought of as a rover in the early days of the sport. According to SABR, the three infielders played close to their respective bases. Pearce felt he was more valuable closer to the action and moved himself left of second base. “Hence, he redefined the infield, in the process creating the now-familiar shortstop position,” wrote Scott McKenna. Pearce was also a pioneer of the bunt (alongside drug addicted Elm City Tom Barlow.)

Lip Pike, the first Jewish major leaguer

Lip Pike, the first Jewish major leaguer

The lists of firsts performed by Saint Louis players goes on. Lip Pike, the center fielder, is believed to be the first professional player. He was also the first Jewish player in the game. Poor Charlie Waitt, an atrocious hitter, also endured torment from the fans as the first man believed to wear a glove in a game. Rookie pitcher George Bradley, nicknamed “Grin” for his devilish smirk and behavior, would go on to throw the first no-hitter in what is considered the modern National League.

Charlie Waitt endured tremendous abuse from the fan for being the first to use a glove in a game

Charlie Waitt endured tremendous abuse from the fan for being the first to use a glove in a game

These men were not novices, and while New Haven had been playing better as of late the likelihood of victory was small. So, on July 23, 1875, Saint Louis shut out, or “Chicagoed,” to use the language of the day, the New Havens 6-0 in front of a healthy home crowd. “The faces of Pearce and Pike looked about the same as they did when we remember seeing them play on that famous old Atlantic team of that time … There was no flurry, no excitement when a ball was struck, but every play was taking in a matter of fact way,” reported the Daily Palladium.

Saint Louis jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the top of the first with Cuthbert reaching on an error, and Pike sending him home on a triple. Bill Hague drove in Pike with a single. The Brown Stockings added a pair of runs in the fifth inning on hits by Cuthbert and Pearce (and an error by New Haven left fielder Billy Geer), and another pair in the sixth on an error by second baseman Ed Somerville and a single by Dutch Dehlman. New Haven starter Tricky Nichols actually shut down the Brown Stockings in six of the nine innings, only surrendering eight hits, striking out two.

Grin Bradley was always looking for an angle

Grin Bradley was always looking for an angle

After racking up three hits in the first inning, at no point in the game was New Haven in any danger of scoring. It was Bradley’s fourth shutout of the year. Bradley was a fine pitcher, well on his way to a successful season, but he also had a reputation for doctoring the baseball. According to historian David Nemec, Grin would steam open boxes of baseball, then crush the balls in a vise. He’d put them back in the boxes, knowing that the umpire would pass him a dead ball when he pitched.

This was the fifth time New Haven had been “Chicagoed” this season. In the 1860s shutouts were an extraordinarily rare event in those high scoring amateur days. With the rise of professionalism in the 1870s, fielding improved and scoreless games were more likely. There was even an early sense that a 1-0 game was a perfect baseball game, a theory advanced by Henry Chadwick, a father of the game and an important early baseball writer.

In 1870, the Chicago White Stockings, an early baseball powerhouse, had some problems and not many tears were shed. “The White Stockings initially struggled, especially at the bat, but received little sympathy from other cities or the home town press,” wrote Peter Morris in “A Game of Inches.” When the club got shut out by the Mutuals of New York, the act of being held scoreless was deemed a “Chicago,” the Indian word for skunk. The term was used frequently in baseball writing throughout the 19th century.

Whether it was doctored baseballs or running into a team in fine fettle, New Haven was left to soul search about their club, now with 4 wins and 27 losses. The Daily Palladium offered up a novel explanation for the loss. “In batting and fielding, the Saint Louis excelled, and the record of so many errors on the part of the New Havens suggests the query whether or no the home club have been playing too much this week?” the Daily Palladium opined.

The club had played four home games in the past week. The frantic rush – baseball was not yet played every day — could have been for two reasons. The club had been listing financially, undertaking a long road trip to New York to pay some expenses. The trip had not solved their problems, but playing a bunch of games in rapid succession could have helped. Also, it was important in the rules of the day, before scheduling became standardized, to play every club in the league an equal number of times. With the 1875 season rapidly moving along, the New Havens were going to have a hard time filling out their table.