America's National Game/Chapter 11

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Mills Zettlein Pearce Start Smith Ferguson Crane Pratt Chapman




IT IS the plan of this work, while telling in a general way the story of our national game, to deal rather with beginnings than with details. It has required libraries of volumes to chronicle facts of which here only the briefest outline can be given. Already consideration has been given to the first ball, the first bat, the first bases, the first diamond, the first grounds, the first club, the first association, the first contest, the first gate money receipts, the first row, the first tour, the first visit of an Eastern club to the West, the first trip of a Western club to the East and the first tour of a professional club in any direction. But it is manifestly impracticable to trace in these pages the history of all the good clubs, of all the skillful players, their many tours, their countless victories and their occasional reverses. Hence, those who might expect the minor details of the successful trips of the Athletics, of Philadelphia, and the Atlantics, of Brooklyn, to have a place just here, where they would chronologically belong, are reminded that- these tours were simply less sensational repetitions of that of the pioneer Excelsiors and Nationals, whose triumphant journeys have been heretofore quite fully given.

Something is due, however, to Base Ball organizations which at this period demonstrated the possession of surprising and surpassing excellence, and that obligation is met by giving the story of the games in which the great Red Stockings, of Cincinnati, were first made to acknowledge defeat—a calamity that seemed not only to break the record of that club but the hearts of its players as well—for the Red Stockings, under that title, did not outlive another year.

It was on the 14th of June, 1870, that the World's Champions of 1869, the theretofore unconquered Red Stockings, of Cincinnati, had their victorious career checked by the Atlantics, of Brooklyn. The game was played at the City of Churches, on Long Island, and attracted an immense concourse of spectators for the time. The line-up of the Atlantics was as follows: Ferguson, catcher; Zettlein, pitcher; Start, first base; Pike, second base; Smith, third base; Pearce, shortstop; Chapman, right field; Hall, center field; McDonald, left field. The gate receipts, at 50 cents as the admission fee, disclosed an attendance of 9,000 lovers of the game. No grandstand, with upholstered cushions, contributed to the comfort of the onlookers, but the entire crowd stood throughout the long and exciting contest.

The Red Stockings had their regular championship team, composed of the following professional players: Allison, catcher; Brainard, pitcher; Gould, first base; Sweasy, second base; Waterman, third base; George Wright, shortstop; McVey, right field; Harry Wright, center field, and Leonard, left field. At the end of the first innings the score stood 3 to 0 in favor of the Red Stockings, who were playing with their usual confidence and in splendid form. In the next three innings, however, the Atlantics got in four runs and shut out the visitors, thereby securing a lead of one run. Friends of the Atlantics began to enthuse over the situation; but the Cincinnati players, with the sublime courage that ever characterized their game, rallied, and in the next two innings gained two runs to one for the Atlantics, tieing the score, which remained unchanged in the ninth.

At the end of the ninth innings the Atlantics gathered up their bats, and the crowd, assuming that the game had ended with a draw, were preparing to leave the grounds, when Harry Wright, captain and manager of the Reds, with the bulldog tenacity for which his race—the English—is famed the world over, protested to the umpire that the game was not ended. He knew that the rules required a tie game, under such circumstances, to be continued. A sharp controversy ensued, in which the captain of the Atlantics, quite satisfied to having played the world-beaters to a tie, contended that the game was over. Finally the umpire and captains of both teams agreed to refer the question to Mr. Henry Chadwick, Chairman of the Committee on Rules of the National Association of Base Ball Players, who was in attendance at the game, and to abide by his decision. Mr. Chadwick without hesitation declared that Mr. Wright's contention was in accordance with the rules and that the game must at once be resumed.

The tenth innings began under renewed excitement.

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though it was the general opinion that the Red Stockings would win. In this innings the Atlantics had two men on bases—McDonald on second and Pearce at first—when Smith, the next man up, hit a pop-fly to George Wright at short. Then was introduced the first recorded instance of a play that later was not infrequently witnessed. Holding up his hands as if to catch the easy ball, Wright signalled to Waterman to get to his base. McDonald and Pearce, certain that the batsman would be out on such an easy fly—and not reckoning upon the fielder's choice—stood quietly at their bases. Then Wright purposely trapped the ball by scooping it up on the first bound and threw it to Waterman at third, who passed it to Sweasy at second, and McDonald and Pearce being forced by Smith's hit, made fair by Wright's strategic play, were both declared out before they realized what had happened to them. Of course. Smith made first in safety, but the double play had cost the Atlantics two men, as Wright intended, and the side was out, with ten innings played and the score tied.

In the eleventh innings, the Red Stockings went to bat and added two to their score. At this point the Brooklyn crowd of spectators, losing all hope of victory for the home team, started to leave the grounds—when the unexpected happened.

The score now showed the Cincinnati team two runs to the good, with two to tie and three to win as the demand from the Atlantics in their half of the eleventh. Brainard, of the Reds, who up to that innings had been pitching a great game, suddenly had a streak of ill luck, or something. At any rate, he let down in the quality of his work. The Atlantics, taking advantage of the fact and playing the game for all there was in it, began to bat fiercely. Smith opened with a clean base hit, and on a wild pitch made third. Start then hit a long fly to the outfield which McVey could not get because of the intervening crowd. Smith tallied and Start reached third. Ferguson made a clean hit, on which Start scored and the game was a tie, with Ferguson on first and nobody out.

The excitement at this situation was intense. For a while, so wild was the crowd over this unexpected turn in the fortunes of the game, that it was impossible to proceed. The turmoil and confusion were so great that nothing could be done. Things certainly did look good to Brooklyn, and they seemed brighter still when, immediately after resuming the game, Zettlein hit a swift grounder to Gould, which the first baseman failed to get, thus advancing Ferguson to second. Gould, chagrined at his mishap in failing to get Zettlein's ball, attempted to stop Ferguson, threw wild, and Ferguson, seeing that the ball was not well handled, took a forlorn chance and succeeded in beating it home, scoring the winning run in this historic eleven-inning game, which ended 8 to 7, breaking the Red Stockings' theretofore uninterrupted series of victories, lasting for over an entire year.

After this signal check to their long and triumphant career, the Red Stockings did not encounter another defeat until July 7th, on which date they played their return game with the Philadelphia Athletics, at Cincinnati. On June 22d the Cincinnati team had beaten the Athletics at Philadelphia in a very close game, 27 to 25. But on this occasion the Athletics had their revenge, beating the Red Stockings on their own grounds by a score of 11 to 7. In this year, in addition to their victory over the Red Stockings, in the game here referred to, the Athletics played seventy-seven games, winning sixty-six and tieing one. The official record, in its table of runs, credits the Athletics with a grand total of 2,222 to 710 for their opponents.

The death of the National Association of Base Ball Players, which occurred in 1871, was expected, natural and painless. Everybody who was interested in the welfare of our national game had been looking forward to this consummation, not only with resignation, but with some degree of impatience. The organization had outlived its usefulness; it had fallen into evil ways; it had been in very bad company; and so, when the hour of its dissolution came, no sorrowing friends were there to speak a tearful farewell. If the National Association of Base Ball Players, following its demise, had any obsequies, they do not appear of record. The "dear departed" seems to have gone to its long rest unmourned, unhonored and unsung.

The following, from the pen of the late Henry Chadwick, at that time editor of Beadle's Base Ball Player, the official organ of the game—from which publication this excerpt is made—will be of interest as telling the story of the last hours of the Association:

"The National Association of Base Ball Players, which was organized in 1857, existed until 1867 on the basis of individual club representation. In the latter year, however, the original constitution
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Fred. Crane, 2b. ATLANTICS, OF BROOKLYN R.J. Pearce, s.s.
J. Galvin, c.f. J.C. Chapman, l.f. J. Start, 1b. S. Smith, r.f.
F. Norton, c. C. J. Smith, 3b. Peter O'Brien T. J. Pratt, p.
was practically ignored, its laws set aside and a reorganization effected on the basis of a representation by delegates from State Base Ball associations, a system perfect in its theory, and one which would be thoroughly successful if carried out under a well written constitution. Each annual convention since 1867, however, has seen a diminished interest in the Association and its meetings at the hands of the amateur class of the fraternity; the crude and incomplete constitution under which the reorganized association has governed the fraternity having allowed the meetings to be controlled almost entirely by an unscrupulous clique of men hailing from the professional clubs, assisted by tools selected from some of the amateur organizations. Under such circumstances, it is not surprising that the close of the season of 1870, was marked by a so-called 'National Convention' which, in the character of its general proceedings and in the election of its chief official, afforded a practical illustration of the fact that the National Association, under its existing organization, had ceased both to elicit and merit any further respect or consideration at the hands of the reputable class of the fraternity.

"In the first place, the several State associations found it difficult to obtain a representative quorum at their preliminary conventions. New York, which by some peculiar tactics—well known in certain political circles—entered the convention with a representation based on the existence of eighty-five clubs, could scarcely raise a quorum of delegates at the State convention, not over a dozen clubs sending delegates; not over forty clubs existing in the State, nor has there been for two years past. The clique in question obtained the controlling power in the convention by presenting nine delegates, the majority of whom were merely their serviceable tools. Massachusettss could not raise even ten clubs, and had to come under the claim of fractional club representation. New Jersey had but eleven clubs represented at the State convention; Indiana but three; the District of Columbia but five; Connecticut but ten, and Missouri the same. Illinois claimed twenty odd, while other States, having State associations, ignored the Association altogether.

"From the initiatory proceedings to the very close of the convention, ample evidence was shown that the majority vote of the delegates had been manipulated in the interest of one man. Some few there were of the delegates present, hailing from amateur clubs, who manfully battled against the ruling clique for the interests of the amateur class of the fraternity, but they finally had to succumb, and all of these retired in disgust from the farce in which they had been involuntary participants. It was well for the general interests of the fraternity, however, that matters should have taken the course they did, or otherwise we should have had to suffer the infliction of another like convention. One result of the proceedings of this convention was to occasion a movement to be started in favor of the organization of a National Amateur Association, in which no such characters as controlled the convention in question can ever obtain influence or position.

"Before this convention adjourned, it rescinded the penalty attached to Wansley since 1865, and that player, who instigated the plot to sell the game between the Eckford and Mutual Clubs in 1865, is now a player 'in good standing' in the professional fraternity. Unluckily, the professional delegates afterwards not only violated their written constitution, but stultified themselves, by adopting a resolution of expulsion against Craver, of the Haymakers. In the one case, however, the Mutual and Chicago delegates favored Wansley's admission, and in the other they were bitterly down on Craver. It was pointed out that no such action as that expelling Craver could constitutionally be taken by the convention, as all matters of that kind must be adjudicated by the judiciary committee. But the explanation had no weight and the constitutional law was ignored. So ended the last convention of the National Association of Base Ball Players."

In December, 1871, a meeting was called for the formation of an Amateur Association, and subsequently, in March, 1872, an adjourned meeting was held for the same purpose at New York. At this meeting seventeen clubs were represented, seven of which were from leading colleges. The election of officers resulted in the choice of F. B. Wood, of the Champion Club, of Jersey City, as President, who thus became the chief executive of the first National Association of Amateur Base Ball Players. This new amateur association continued for one year and then ceased to exist. Since that time the game has been under the direction and control of the professional element.