August 21st, 2014

Out at Home, Postscript

TNP 1983_front cover

TNP 1983 front cover, art by Mark Rucker

In the months after Jerry Malloy’s “Out at Home” was published, in the 1983 issue of SABR’s annual The National Pastime, Vern Luse–a contributor to TNP’s debut issue–wrote to me about a discrepancy between Malloy’s depiction of the 1883 confrontation between Cap Anson and Fleet Walker and a Toledo Blade account of the game. I relayed his concerns to the author and, in the next “regular issue” (the succeeding one had been a special pictorial number), published their exchange. It is, I believe, a perfect illustration of the spirit of SABR.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following comments by Vern Luse and Jerry Malloy have been abstracted from a number of letters received in this office over several months. The last issue of TNP featured Malloy’s article “Out at Home,” which detailed how baseball drew the color line in 1887. He wrote: “In 1884, when Walker was playing for Toledo, Anson brought his White Stockings into town for an exhibition. Anson threatened to pull his team off the field unless Walker was removed. But Toledo’s manager, Charley Morton, refused to comply with Anson’s demand, and Walker was allowed to play. Years later Sporting Life would write: ‘The joke of the affair was that up to the time Anson made his “bluff” the Toledo people had no intention of catching Walker, who was laid up with a sore hand, but when Anson said he would not play with Walker, the Toledo people made up their minds that Walker would catch or there wouldn’t be any game.”’

This has long been the accepted account of the first Walker-Anson confrontation, and has appeared in print on numerous occasions in this century. Here Vern Luse, SABR’s premier authority on minor-league baseball before 1900, sets the story straight:

TNP 1983_back cover, art by Mark Rucker

TNP 1983 back cover, art by Mark Rucker

THE ARTICLE “Out at Home” by ]erry Malloy contains a critical error that may have been caused by resort to secondary or tertiary sources. This can be adequately documented by reference to the primary source of the period, the local daily newspaper, in this case the Toledo Daily Blade of August 11, 1883; it contains a full column article, plus box score, covering the exhibition game between Toledo, of the Northwestern League, and the Chicagos, of the National League.

Some background on the incident. The National League, American Association, and Northwestern League signed an agreement (usually known as the Tri-Partite Agreement) in the spring of 1883. In a sense, this was the origination of the concept of “Organized Baseball.” It was a contract between three equals, not between two “majors” and one “minor.” The baseball season of 1883 extended from April through September, even into October, much as today. However, only 84 championship games were scheduled in the Northwestern, stretching from May 1 through September 30, and 98 in both ,the National League and American Association, over approximately the same span. The multitudes of open dates, even taking into account the relative slowness of railroad transportation, allowed–indeed, required–the teams to set up a schedule of exhibition games. In general, National League and American Association teams did not play exhibitions against each other, either intra- or interleague, but only with outside teams.

Toledo’s geographical position, its relatively good baseball team (ultimate winners of the Northwestern’s 1883 championship), and the relative prosperity of the city dictated that Toledo become a frequent exhibition opponent of major league teams. Toledo played such contests against the New York Metropolitans, the New York Nationals, Columbus, and St. Louis prior to the scheduled date, August 11, 1883, of a game with Chicago of the National League.

Chicago was a particularly attractive exhibition opponent. They were the three-time champions of the NL, and were heavily engaged in battle with Boston for the 1883 pennant. With Toledo closing in on a pennant as well, a very large gate was anticipated. Exhibition contracts usually called for both a guarantee and a “rain guarantee,” and for the visitor to receive a portion of the receipts over a specified amount. On August 11, Chicago was to receive its guarantee when the game was “called” by the umpire–that is, when the game began.

Moses Walker had been catching almost every Northwestern League game, and his hands were badly banged up, so he was not scheduled to play in the exhibition fray. Cap Anson specifically refused  to have his Chicagos take the field against Walker. Charles Morton, Toledo manager/captain, informed Anson that if Chicago did not play, no guarantee would be forthcoming. This argument was sufficiently strong that the exhibition was played-with Anson at first base for Chicago and Walker in right field for Toledo. The score of the game was Chicago 7, Toledo 6, in 10 innings, illustrating the relative strength of one of the top minor league teams of 1883 and the premier major league team of the time (Chicago was to finish-second to Boston in 1883).

Ad for Toledo Blade, 1883

Ad for Toledo Blade, 1883

I believe the evidence, based on the article in the Toledo Daily Blade of August 11, 1883, excerpted below, is clear: Anson, early on, exhibited his prejudices, but he just picked on the wrong management to push around. When I had the microfilm of the 1883 Blade, I was unable to secure a photocopy of the relevant article and box score because our little library doesn’t have a microfilm printer. Steve Lauer, one of our SABR members with whom I’ve corresponded in the past, provided this material. [ED.: The printed microfilm was too faint to permit facsimile reproduction.]

The National Champions Narrowly Escape Defeat in a 10-Inning Game

Baby Anson and the Color Line–No More Chicago’s in Ours–The Score of Yesterday’s Game–Notes.

The Color Line

Walker, the colored catcher of the Toledo Base ball Club, who, by the way, is a gentleman and a scholar, in the literal sense, and was a source of contention between the home club and that swelled organization (literal, again) the Chicago Club.

The national champions came to Toledo yesterday morning, and their arrival created quite a sensation at the Union depot, where it was first thought they were Haverly’s Mastadons [sic] or Callendar’s Consolidated, their sun burned faces leaving it a matter of doubt as to their being tainted with black blood. They wore white tiles [sic] and blue uniforms, and under the command of the swelled baby (literal again) of Marshalltown, Capt. Anson, created a very considerable impression. Shortly after their arrival in the city the managing director of the Toledo Club was waited upon and informed that there was objection in the Chicago Club to Toledo’s playing Walker, the colored catcher. It was not stated that Walker, being a “nigger,” might contaminate the select organization of visitors, but that was the only inference to be drawn from the announcement. The New Yorks, Metropolitans, Columbus and St. Louis clubs, organizations outside of the N.W. League, had played with Walker against them and had experienced no unpleasant results save as his excellent play had militated against them, but the Chicago club was of more delicate fiber, more susceptible to deliterious [sic] influences and hence could not play, with a colored catcher against them.

Fleet Walker Bobblehead, 2014

Fleet Walker Bobblehead, 2014

Walker has a very sore hand, and it had not been intended to play him in yesterday’s game, and this was stated to the bearer of the announcement for the Chicagos. Not content with this, the visitors during their perambulations of the forenoon declared with the swagger for which they are noted, that they would play ball “with no d__d nigger,” and when the Club arrived at the grounds Capt. Anson repeated the declaration to the Toledo management. What would have been gratifying to Toledoans would have been for the management to have ordered Capt. Anson and his crew off the grounds, without more ado, but this was not done. The management had put McQuaid in to play, and as announced in the morning, had not intended to play Walker, but when Capt. Anson made his “break,” the order was given, then and there, to play Walker and the beefy bluffer was informed that he could play his team or go, just as he blank pleased. Anson hauled in his horns somewhat and “consented” to play, remarking, “we’ll play this here game, but won’t play never no more with the nigger in.” Walker was put in right field, and played a faultless game, despite his sore hand …

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here, Malloy’s response to Luse’s findings:

I greatly appreciate learning the details of the first Anson-Walker encounter in, as you decisively establish, 1883. [ED.: On July 14, 1887, Anson successfully intimidated the management of the Newark team in the International league, forcing the removal of Newark’s black battery–Walker and George Stovey–before Chicago would consent to play.] Although I relied extensively on primary sources for events that occurred in the International League season of 1887 (the focus of my attention), I did, as you surmise, base my brief account of the Chicago-Toledo game on secondary sources. I do, however, acknowledge full responsibility for any and all inaccuracies in the text.

I find it especially interesting that your (correct) version of the game in question bolsters my central points: by 1887, Anson was able to disqualify black opponents, something he had been unable to accomplish only a few years earlier. I certainly wish I had known of this before I wrote my article.

Even more important than its service to my thesis, however, is the fact that your account is accurate. It is the duty of SABR to push back the boundaries of knowledge wherever possible, and to rectify this error on my part does just that.