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.

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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.

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