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 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.

New Haven beats World Champion Boston Red Stockings 10-5

This is the 1873 Boston Red Stockings team photo. George Wright is seated on the left. Al Spalding is standing behind him.

This is the 1873 Boston Red Stockings team photo. George Wright is seated on the left. Al Spalding is standing behind him.

Even amongst New Haven’s biggest base ball boosters, no one thought they had much of a chance against the National Association champion Boston Red Stockings. After all, the Philadelphia Athletics, a good club in its own right, defeated New Haven by the combined score of 30-3 during the club’s brief road trip on June 23 and 24, running their tally to seven consecutive wins over Elm City. The club then followed those games with two losses to Yale and the TBs of Bridgeport (The Bridgeport Friendly United Social Club), a good amateur squad who had been providing a few players to New Haven when the team was shorthanded.

“What man in New Haven would have ventured to bet in favor of the New Havens yesterday afternoon?” opined the New Haven Register. “If any man had dared to make such a wager, ball-players would have rated him as the first of idiots.”

Harry Wright

Harry Wright

 

The likelihood that Boston, coming into the game with a 37-3 record to lead the National Association, would have any trouble dispatching the club was extremely slim. The Red Stockings had already beaten New Haven easily in the first two games of the season, and boasted a lineup of four future Hall of Famers on the field. The club’s leader was iconic baseball impresario Harry Wright. “The champions had evidently calculated on an easy victory over a club which has had as much hard luck as ordinarily can fall to the lot of such an organization,” said the New Haven Palladium.

If there was any day where Fortune had a chance of smiling on the helpless New Haven club, it was against Boston on Friday, July 2, a bright, warm afternoon in Connecticut.

George Wright

George Wright

 

Boston shortstop George Wright, in the midst of a season in which he would hit .333 and score over 100 runs in almost 80 games, was back home tending to a newborn. Ross Barnes, the club’s second baseman who would lead the National Association in runs and hits, was watching the game in street clothes. Their backups were Frank Heifer and Tommy Beals, capable performers who would certainly be able to start in New Haven, but paled in comparison to the starters.

Tommy Beals

Tommy Beals, one of the subs, playing against New Haven

 

New Haven had its own rash of injuries to deal with. Jim Tipper, the sure-handed centerfielder, got hurt in an exhibition game against Bridgeport. Ex-Red Stocking Jumbo Latham had a lame wrist.

The New Havens had their best game of the season, combining timely hitting, clutch fielding, and fine pitching to beat the league champs 10-5 in what the Register describes as a “intense and really painful” game.

Cal McVey homered against New Haven

Cal McVey homered against New Haven

 

After New Haven went down easily in the top of the first inning, Boston got on the board in the bottom of the frame with rare over the fence home run by leftfielder Cal McVey. New Haven broke the game open in the top of the second inning, scoring three runs on three Boston errors. New Haven added another two runs in the in the top of third, courtesy of three base hits.

Tricky Nichols

Tricky Nichols

 

Boston rallied for three runs on five consecutive hits in the bottom of the third, cutting the score to 5-4. New Haven’s bats came alive in the fourth and fifth innings, scattering five hits for three runs, putting the team ahead over Boston for good. For the final four innings of the game New Haven pitcher Tricky Nichols employed all of his guile, surrendering a single clean base hit and worked his way around four errors.

Billy Geer drove in two runs against Boston

Billy Geer drove in two runs against Boston

 

Six New Haven players got two hits a piece. Billy Geer drove in two runs, and Sam Wright (Boston captain Harry Wright’s brother), Tricky Nichols, and Tim McGinley each scored two runs for New Haven. Cal McVey of Boston had two hits and two runs, including his homer.

Sam Wright, Harry and George's brother, who got two hits on the day

Sam Wright, Harry and George’s brother, scored two runs on the day

 

Ross Barnes, humiliated at his team’s performance, left the game in the 7th inning, unable to watch its impending defeat. When the Boston made its final out, the crowd of 800 in attendance rushed the field “to shoulder (the players) promiscuously and individually, so great was their enthusiasm.” “It was a big thing to do, and our hopes an expectations of the home club are now in the ascendant,” the Register said.

Ross Barnes couldn't near to watch his Bostons lose to New Haven

Ross Barnes couldn’t near to watch his Bostons lose to New Haven

 

The win was the single biggest day of the season thus far for the New Haven club. “At the end the people carried the members of the New Haven nine about the field on their shoulders, amid great excitement,” according to the Hartford Courant.

I’m not quite sure how to quantify how much of an upset this game was. The Boston club was comprised of veterans, the best players in the land who’d amassed a record of 154 wins and 52 losses in National Association play over the previous four years. The only players in New Haven’s July 2 lineup with previous professional experience was the first baseman Charlie Gould, who’d enjoyed some success with Boston, and retreads Johnny Ryan and Billy Geer, who collective hit under .200 in National Association competition. The closest analogy I can think of would be if a modern Rookie League ballclub defeated the MLB World Champs. The difference in skill level was that pronounced.

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 faces in New Haven; injuries prompt several roster changes

Thirteen games into a winless season, the New Haven club was starting to struggle with injuries that forced players from the lineup. Pitcher Tricky Nichols was laid up with a broken finger. Sammy Wright, the shortstop, had a sprained ankle.

By and large, nineteenth-century baseball players played hurt. There were no pitch counts or rehab assignments to nurse a player back to health, and no disabled list as a mechanism to heal. With National Association teams tending to carry about 12 players on the roster, and New Haven generally carrying only enough to field a team, it meant new faces would put on a uniform.

Without a standardized scouting system, finding players was a difficult task. Willis Arnold, the club’s first general manager, went to find players in Brooklyn and Philadelphia, a sound idea at the time given both cities were hotbeds of the sport. With Arnold cashiered before the season even began, there doesn’t appear to have been a systematic effort by Captain Charles Gould in place to augment the roster in the event of injury. New Haven fell back on hiring players who were either recent Yale men, or members of the Bridgeport semi-pro team, including Sullivan, who performed well, Rit Harrison, who could hit but not field, and John Smith, who could do neither.

Tom Barlow, catcher for the Atlantics, Dark Blues, and Elm Citys

Tom Barlow, catcher for the Atlantics, Dark Blues, and Elm Citys

As the New Haven team planned its first road trip of the season, changes were necessary. Tom Barlow, the drug addicted catcher who gave two teams the runaround this offseason, returned to make the trip.

Jim Keenan, a future major leaguer who would serve as a backup for New Haven

Jim Keenan, a future major leaguer who would serve as a backup for New Haven

The New Haven Daily Palladium noted that a pitcher named Perroy was acquired to take Nichols’ place in the box, but it doesn’t appear from the records that he would ever play for the Elm Citys. Gould would choose to use outfielder Johnny Ryan and third baseman Henry Luff to handle the pitching. Seventeen year old Jim Keenan, a local amateur who would go on to a long major league career, would travel with the squad. Lester Dole, the son of the Yale professor responsible for the club’s conditioning in the preseason, would also serve as a substitute.

Lester Dole played in a single game for the Elm Citys. Became known as an educator and a championship walker

Lester Dole played in a single game for the Elm Citys. Became known as an educator and a championship walker

Aside from Keenan and Sullivan, who appeared in multiple games, none of the substitutes would have any impact on the team. Barlow, Smith, Harrison, and Dole would each appear in a single game with the team, with decidedly mixed results.

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

However, with clubs in the league folding and more players becoming available, help was on the way. The Washington Centennials went out of business on May 24 and New Haven quickly signed catcher Tim McGinley and second baseman Ed Somerville. Both players were rookies in 1875, but Somerville had already gained a reputation as a fine fielder and hitter, according to manager Jack Chapman’s scrapbooks, stored at the Baseball Hall of Fame library.  Somerville was hitting .228 when he signed with New Haven. McGinley hit .231 before arriving in New Haven.

Tim McGinley

Tim McGinley

With pressure mounting from the local press and stockholders concerned about their financial investment, Gould hoped that these players could help turn the team around. It turns out that in a small way they would.