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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Sartorial splendor: The Elm City club unveils their uniforms

The New Havens made a key decision for the upcoming National Association campaign – they decided on their new uniform. “[The uniform] will consist of white flannel cap, shirt, and knee breeches, with blue stockings and trimmings, and the name of the club on the breast of the shirt in English letters,” according to our friend at the Daily Palladium.

The paper would be more expliciting in its description of the uniform in a later story: “The uniforms of the Hartford, New Haven, and Athletic club are very nearly alike,” the Palladium reported on March 15, 1875.

The 1875 Hartford Dark Blues. The New Havens wore a uniform almost identical to this one.

The 1875 Hartford Dark Blues. The New Havens wore a uniform almost identical to this one.

This is helpful to us at the remove of over 130 years – the Elm City club left no photographs behind to show us what the team looked like on the field. The Hartford Dark Blues did leave contemporary photos.

I believe that the letters spelling out New Haven on the front of the uniforms looked generally like this:

Jim Creighton, baseball's first superstar from the 1860s. Notice the E on the front of the uniform.

Jim Creighton, baseball’s first superstar from the 1860s. Notice the E on the front of the uniform.

Or, perhaps the name on the front of the white uniform looked like lettering on the belts of these Brooklyn Excelsiors uniforms.

Here is a photo of the Excelsiors, with Creighton in the middle. The team name was listed on the belt on English script, the kind of script on the front of the Elm City club's uniform

Here is a photo of the Excelsiors, with Creighton in the middle. The team name was listed on the belt on English script, the kind of script on the front of the Elm City club’s uniform

The last vestige of the Old English lettering found on the front of the Elm City uniform is in the current home jersey of the Detroit Tigers.

One of the best uniforms in the current major leagues. The D is an example of the script found on New Haven's uniform

One of the best uniforms in the current major leagues. The D is an example of the script found on New Haven’s uniform

Often times the 19th century uniforms featured components that we might consider a bit uncomfortable while playing a ball game, such as neckties. Here are the 1874 Philadelphia Athletics.

The 1874 Philadelphia Athletics. Great neck ties

The 1874 Philadelphia Athletics. Great neck ties

This man, an amateur from 1871, shows a very good example of a 19th century era uniform.

This man, an amateur from 1871, shows a very good example of a 19th century era uniform.

Non sequitur. For a few years, back in the mid-Oughts, I played slow pitch softball with a team called Midwood Electric. We played on Sunday evenings thoughout the summer. I shouldn’t say we played – they played, I kept the scorebook and hit a very light .400 as a part-time designated hitter, although I did win one of the two games I pitched. Makes me 2-0 in my life. The first year the team was together, we wore a simple green t-shirt and frankly, the team looked like garbage on the field.

When you look bad, you play bad. Poor form all around.

When you look bad, you play bad. Poor form all around.

The second year, we got really nice gray sleeveless shirts with blue trim and a yellow Michigan M on the chest. I wore my number 56 in homage to Pilots pitcher and Ball Four author Jim Bouton. Other popular numbers – 2 (Derek Jeter), 23 (Don Mattingly), 69 (well, you know), and 99 (Charlie Sheen in the movie Major League). One guy on the team wore the number he had as a minor leaguer in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. We looked good and we weren’t too bad, if I remember correctly.

(Update: here it is. Nice take on the 1984 Topps card)

midwoodcardSCOOPS

Given what would happen in the next several months, I wonder if my slow-pitch team couldn’t have beaten the Elm Citys?

The Baseball Hall of Fame has a fine website devoted to the evolution of the baseball uniform.