One of the best games of the season will be played at the Grand Avenue Park this afternoon, between the Buckeyes, of Cincinnati, and the St. Louis Brown Stockings. Will White and Miller, of the old Cincinnati League club, will do the pitching and catching for the visitors. Big Charlie Jones and long John Kelly are also among the Porkopolitan players. The team is undoubtedly the strongest that has visited St. Louis this season, and the Browns will have to play up to their very highest standard to avert defeat.
I know that a lot of sports writing involves hyperbole and that's fine. But I don't think it's too much to ask for the Globe to be consistent in their hyperbole. On July 17th, they declared that the Ravens of Cincinnati were the greatest team Porkopolis had ever put together and a month later they say that the Buckeyes are the best club to visit St. Louis in 1881. I don't think both statements can be true.
Regardless, the Buckeyes were a pretty good team and probably the best club to visit St. Louis by August of 1881. So, really, I guess what is still bothering me is the idea that anybody would say that the 1881 Ravens were better than the 1869 Red Stockings.
The Chicago clubs, who have during the present season sustained defeat at the hands of the Browns, some time ago hit upon a novel way of getting even. This was to pick nine men, one or two from each club, and with them to form a nine that would regain the lost laurels of the city by the lake. This nine was picked and have trained together, and will appear on the Grand Avenue Park this afternoon. The Browns will meet them.
This “All Chicago” team was made up of players from the Eckfords, Franklins, Dreadnaughts as well as Will Foley, “late of the Cincinnati League team” and “Furlong, late of the Milwaukee League team…” The box score, published the next day, is darn near unreadable so I’m not going to bother with it. The Browns won the game 15-6.
At Compton Avenue Park this afternoon the Ravens, of Cincinnati, will be the guests of the St. Louis Red Stockings. The visiting club has been in existence for ten years, and has always been regarded as the strongest organization ever had in Cincinnati, with the exception of the League teams. Their black uniforms with white trimmings are oddly attractive. The Ravens have scored numerous victories in Louisville and adjacent villages, as well as being at the top of the heap at home…
I just want to say that the Ravens of Cincinnati is a great name for a baseball team. Also, I think that the "strongest organization" that Cincinnati had produced by 1881 was the 1869 Red Stockings. But what do I know?
The Dubuque base ball team, the crack organization of the Northwest, came to grief at the Grand Avenue Base Ball Park, yesterday afternoon, the popular Brown Stockings adding another well-earned victory to their long list of triumphs this season. It was the best week-day attendance seen at the park thus far this year, and while the spectators were very impartial in distributing applause, it could be seen that they were gratified at the success of the home players. Recognizing the fact that the task on hand was a difficult one, the Brown Stockings presented as strong a team as they have placed in the field in many a day, Baker being the only absentee. McGinnis was in the pitcher’s square, Seward behind the bat, and the Gleason boys in their home positions. This is a rare sight in week-day contests, and one that lent confidence to the other members of the nine and the club’s many well-wishers.
This was kind of a reunion of the 1879 championship Dubuque club, with five of the members of that great team on the field in this game. The Gleason brothers, Charles Comiskey, Tom Loftus, and Ted Sullivan were all members of the club that won the championship of the Northwestern League. Loftus had also played a few games for the NL Brown Stockings in 1877. So I'm not surprised that this game drew a nice crowd. I know I would have liked to have seen it. It's a shame that they couldn't get Radbourn to come to town and take part in this.
This game is also historically significant. It was, as far as I can tell, the first time that Comiskey played in St. Louis. The following season, of course, he would be playing with Von der Ahe's new AA Brown Stockings and would go on to achieve great things in St. Louis. But his first time stepping onto the field at the Grand Avenue Grounds was in 1881 as a member of the Dubuque Rabbits.
The St. Louis and the Chicago Browns met at the Grand avenue Park yesterday afternoon, and each tried to out-bat the other. They lost sight of everything else but this. The result was that the Chicago team got in the most hits, but the home team, while they were doing this, got in the most runs, and so won the game. Good base running and fair fielding proved too much for the visitors…
The most interesting thing here is the possibility that the umpire of this game was Dan Devinney. Given the fact that he was still umpiring UA games in St. Louis in 1884, I've always thought that this was him.
Devinney had umpired numerous Brown Stockings' games in 1877 and got caught up in the gambling scandals that erupted that year. In August of 1877, he accused George McManus, the manager of the Brown Stockings, of offering him a bribe in exchange for favorable calls. Later, Jim Devlin would testify that members of the Louisville club paid Devinney to throw games to them.
Baseball, at that time, had a serious problem with corruption. Players, managers, and umpires were all colluding to throw games and the integrity of the game was in question. I think a lot of baseball fans knew what was going on. I don't think any of this came as a huge surprise to people who followed the game and I think the game was being harmed by this corruption. I don't think it's a coincidence that baseball suffered through some rather difficult economic times in the late 1870s, when all of this was going on.
Devinney was a part of that corrupt system. He had no business umpiring baseball games in 1881. Everybody knew what he was and what he had done. He should have been shunned but here he was in 1881, umpiring games again for the Brown Stockings.
Two teams from abroad have made a raid on St. Louis and will both appear before the base ball public this afternoon. At the Grand Avenue Park the Eckfords, of Chicago, will play the Browns to-day, to-morrow and Monday while at the Compton Avenue Park a very strong nine from Cincinnati will be entertained by Manager McNeary’s reorganized Red Stockings. The Porkopolitan team is made up as follows: Miller, c.; Will White, p.; Reilly, 1st b.; Pierce, 2d b.; Mernie, 3d b.; Booth, s.s.; Jones, l.f.; French, c.f.; and Eden, r.f. The Reds will present Decker, Blong, Levis, Morgan, Overbeck, Schenk, Cunningham, Houtz and Croft in their home positions. The Browns will be out in full force, and their antagonists will occupy the following positions: Featherstone, c.; Sullivan, p.; McQuaid, 1st b.; Sautry, 2d b.; Haley, 3d b.; Roche, s.s.; Kantlin, l.f.; Normile, c.f., and Gillegan, r.f. It will be observed that both the Chicago and Cincinnati clubs present much stronger teams than on their previous visits, and the contests will undoubtedly be close and exciting.
This looks like a big Fourth of July baseball extravaganza. You have clubs in town from both Chicago and Cincinnati to play the Brown Stockings and the Reds, respectively. This was the kind of thing that hadn't happened in St. Louis over the previous years since 1877. It's evidence that the market had recovered very well and to the point where it could support two major series going on at the same time. That's a big step forward in the recovery of the St. Louis baseball market.
I also have something in my notes about two Chicago clubs - the Dreadnaughts and the Athletics - coming to St. Louis at the end of June. The Dreadnaughts were supposed to play the Brown Stockings around the 26th but were "unavoidably detained at home" and didn't make the trip. The Athletics were supposed to play the Reds and I don't know if that game was played or not. But, again, it looks as if the baseball market, in general, had recovered to the point where it was profitable for these clubs to be making road trips.
The St. Louis Red Stockings were beaten [in Cincinnati] by the Cincinnatis. They were minus the services of their regular pitcher and first and second basemen. In the fourth inning the Cincinnatis sent twelve men to bat, making eight hits and eight runs. In the next inning ten men went to bat, making six hits and four runs. Then Oberbeck came in to pitch, and in the last four innings only four hits were made off him. White was almost invincible. The fielding on both sides was superb. Mitchell, of Cincinnati, played with the Reds. There was a good crowd in attendance despite the threatening weather.
This is the only box score I have in my notes for a Reds game in 1881. You can see that Charlie Hautz and Billy Redmond, who had played with the 1875 Reds, were still playing with the club. Interestingly, several of their teammates from that 1875 team, including Pidge Morgan, Trick McSorley, and Joe Blong, were playing with the rival Brown Stockings but would also get in some games with the Reds.
I love those 1873-1876 Red Stockings teams and the 1875 Reds are probably my favorite 19th century baseball team. They're not much more than a footnote in the history of the game but it was a good group of players. The 1881 team were really a different club than that group but I have a soft spot in my heart for that Red Stocking moniker. They also don't have much to do with the restoration of major league baseball in St. Louis but I usually don't pass up a chance to talk about the Reds.
An old base ball enthusiast who has followed the game very closely from its infancy got to talking about his favorite sport the other day. He is a Missourian, and 27 years ago was living in St. Louis. He seldom was absent from a big game in those days, and, being a player himself, he mingled considerably with the boys...
So this came up in my last post when I was talking a bit about Ned Cuthbert and quoted David Nemec's biography of Cuthbert from Major League Baseball Profiles, Volume One. Dave quoted the above article from TSN and I figured I'd run it down. The most interesting thing about the entire article was the above bit about Cuthbert.
It's not a particularly flattering profile of our boy but it's interesting because we rarely get such details, from this era, about a player's style. Reading the article, you get a really great sense of Cuthbert in the field and how he played defense.
I'm not sure exactly how to take this article. There have been a lot of outfielders over the course of the history of baseball who have been accused of showboating and, specifically, of making easy catches look hard. Usually it's good outfielders who are accused of this kind of thing. Bad outfielders never get accused of showboating and playing to the crowd. I give you exhibit A:
Then again, maybe Cuthbert was a bad outfielder. A bad outfielder would freeze on balls hit in front of him and have to scramble in to get them. A bad outfielder would go back on a shallow ball and then adjust. I know this because I was a bad outfielder. I've scrambled around the outfield, like a chicken with my head cut off, only to readjust and make a good-looking catch. I wasn't a showboat; I was just a bad outfielder.
But, in the end, we should probably accept the eye witness account and say that Cuthbert was a good outfielder but a total hot dog. He was Hollywood Jim Edmonds before there was a Hollywood Jim Edmonds.
At the Grand Avenue Base Ball Park, yesterday afternoon, the St. Louis Brown Stockings narrowly escaped defeat at the hands of their worthy rivals, the Eckfords, of Chicago. The latter were aided by luck and the umpire throughout, but were unable to score a victory, owing to their utter inability to bat McGinnis. The Browns presented their strongest team, except that Macdonald was too ill to fill his customary place at second. It seemed as if the Browns regarded their task as an easy one, as their play was spiritless until toward the close, when they awoke to the necessity of having to do something to avert defeat. Cuthbert donned the old familiar uniform for the first time this season, and was greeted with cheers…
In the November 19, 1881 issue of the New York Clipper, they ran a picture of our boy Ned Cuthbert and a brief biography:
Edgar E. Cuthbert is well known to the patrons of base ball all over the country by his graceful skill in handling the ball and bat while connected with the leading clubs during the past seventeen seasons. He was born in Philadelphia, Pa., about thirty-four years ago, and commenced playing ball with the Keystones of his native city, with whom during the seasons of 1865 and 1866 he filled at times every position in the nine except that of pitcher. He commenced the season of 1867 as catcher of the West Philadelphia Club, but afterward joined the Athletics, playing right field during the remainder of that season. He continued with the Athletics during 1868 and 1869 as their left fielder and change catcher. In 1870 Cuthbert was the center fielder of the then newly-organized Chicago Club, and during the seasons of 1871 and 1872 he was again filling his old position at left field for the Athletics, and under whose colors he had participated in upwards of 300 games. Cuthbert was chiefly instrumental in organizing the Philadelphia Club in 1873, and his fine fielding, batting and base running materially helped the "Phillies" to attain their phenomenal success during that season, and led to his re-engagement by the Chicago Club in 1874. He was one of the first players engaged by the St. Louis Club, with whom he made a brilliant record, during the seasons of 1875 and 1876, both with the ball and the bat. The Centennial season was the last in which he played professionally, being engaged in business in St. Louis, Mo., where he has taken up his permanent residence. He has, however, occasionally played in local games during the past five seasons, and but a few weeks ago was credited with having made the most wonderful catch in the outfield ever witnessed in St. Louis. For many years Cuthbert occupied a prominent position as a player, his magnificent outfielding, safe and sure batting and fast base-running being each in turn deserving of commendation. Recalling with a friendly and cordial recollection his antics and drollery both on and off the ball-field, and the enjoyment and zeal with which he used to enter into the spirit of the game, we hope to have the pleasure of chronicling his appearance on the ball-field many seasons still to come.
My assumption has always been that Ned Cuthbert was a great baseball player but it's really difficult to quantify that. If you look at his Baseball Reference page, you'll probably come away unimpressed. But the record is incomplete. The guy played on some very good Philadelphia clubs before 1871 and that has to be taken into account. The record is also missing the years he spent with the Brown Stockings during the Interregnum. He was a field captain and manager and was good enough to play at the major league level until he was 39 years old, which says a great deal about his talent. The man played professional baseball at a very high level from 1865 to 1884 and there aren't too many people who did that.
David Nemec, writing in Major League Baseball Profiles, Volume One, doesn't seem to be a big fan:
Some historians consider [Cuthbert] the first player to employ a headfirst slide to steal a base and regard him as one of the best early-day outfielders and a particularly good judge of hard-hit balls. But the November 17, 1900, issue of TSN took exception, claiming that he "played to the grandstand," making every fielding chance look hard so as to please the crowd. Cuthbert was also accused of playing inordinately deep and purposely waiting until the last second as if he had misjudged a ball when it was hit in front of him and then, in a burst of speed, racing in and grabbing it off his shoe tops. Hot dog or not, he played past his time and in his last few seasons was almost a caricature of his former self.
Dave makes valid points. Cuthbert was probably a bit of a hot dog and certainly played past his prime but I think the idea that he was "one of the best early-day outfielders" is also fair. You can be a showboat, play too long, and still be one of the best players of your generation. None of that is mutually exclusive.
Also, note that nowhere in this post, while speaking about the greatness of Ned Cuthbert, did I say anything about him talking Von der Ahe into buying the Brown Stockings. I assume, if you've been reading me long enough, you already know how Von der Ahe got control of the club and, if you don't, stick around because I'm going to go over all of that again.