August 28th, 2014

Baseball of the Bygone Days, by Jimmy Wood, Part 4

Cincinnati Red Stockings of 1869

Cincinnati Red Stockings of 1869

Now for the fourth chapter of Jimmy Wood’s memoirs, unpublished since their serialization by a newspaper syndicate in August 1916. The opening segment may be read at http://goo.gl/SHvXtL.

Related by James Wood, Captain and Manager of the Famous Chicago White Stockings of  1870-71, to Frank G. Menke.

Somewhere along about Christmas in 1869, I noticed an advertisement in a New York paper which read something as follows:

“Ball players wanted to form, a team and represent Chicago and to defeat the Cincinnati Red Stockings.”

During the period of the late ’60s and early ’70s there was keen rivalry between Chicago and Cincinnati in a commercial way. Chicago wasn’t such a wonderfully large city then and it was doing everything possible to boom the town. And it was ealous of Cincinnati because of the great pub­licity Cincinnati had gained through the medium of its 1869 ball team, which had won 56 out of 57 games, the other resulting in a 17 to 17 tie with the Union team of Lansingburg.

The Chicago Plan for 1870, from New York Clipper

The Chicago Plan for 1870, from New York Clipper

And so Chicago decided that it must have a team to beat the Reds. Baseball wasn’t played to any great extent in the Illinois metropolis prior to that time. All the crack players were in the east. That is why the advertisement appeared in New York.

I answered the ad and in due time got a reply. It happened that I was among the first to write. The Chicago people told me they, under advice from Harry Wright, desired me to organize a club to beat the Red Stockings in 1870 and d__ the expense!

So I started to recruit my team. I figured the task would be easy, yet I found it the most difficult one of my life. Only a few of the many baseball stars that I approached cared to join a team that had as its ultimate purpose the beating of the Reds in a three-game series.

“It can’t be done,” most of the players answered me. “These Reds are unbeatable and we aren’t going to waste all of next spring and summer practising for it!”

Finally after much persuasion, I signed up a number of men who were real ball players but only after I had advanced them money out of my own pocket. The Chicago people hadn’t sent me any funds. Just as soon as some of those players had squandered their first advance money in drinking and gambling, they came for more, threatening to jump their contracts if we didn’t “”come through.” Finally, when my advances totaled beyond $1,200 and the players kept demand­ing more, I asked my father to go to Chicago and ascertain the financial responsibility of the Chicagoans.

Father wired back:

“Go the limit; Chicagoans will make good all your advances.”

Tom Foley

Tom Foley

When I got the message I hurried to Troy, N. Y., with Tom Foley, the representative of the Chicagoans, to get [Cherokee] Fisher and [Bill] Craver who had played in 1869 with the Troy Haymakers. Both were terrific hitters and I needed them, but I knew they would come high, as salaries went in those days. However, we signed up both men, contracting Fisher for $800 and Craver for $1,000. Then my team—eleven men—was complete.

Early in the spring of 1870 we arranged the details of our training trip to New Orleans. It was the sec­ond southern trip ever undertaken by a ball club. Foley, who was a cham­pion billiardist and one of the Chi­cago backers and is still living in Chicago, accompanied us south.

During our first week in the Louis­iana town we practiced among our­selves. Then we commenced to take on the teams in New Orleans. I be­gan by scheduling the weakest first, working up gradually to the hardest. We defeated the weaker teams in New Orleans–and then we beat the strongest. In each succeeding game my club appeared stronger both in batting and in fielding. Toward the end of our season in New Orleans we played an all-star New Orleans nine and won with ease.

Then I made the proposition that our regular nine should play a double team of New Orleans men, giving them 18 players in the field. The game itself was rather amusing be­cause the New Orleans captain had so many players under his command that he didn’t know where to play them all. However, he put one man behind the plate to assist the catch­er, four extras in the outfield, giving him seven altogether, and the rest were sprinkled around the infield. making a total of eight infielders.

Pitted against such a collection we won almost as easily as we had in playing nine men. In our final game in New Orleans I allowed the rival team six outs per inning to our three —and once again we won.

We worked our way north gradu­ally, as the teams do today, playing all the crack southern teams enroute and winning all of our games by overwhelming scores. We beat the Mem­phis team, champions of Tennessee, 157 to 1—and Foley was very angry because we had permitted the south­erners to score their lone tally!

At last we reached Chicago— and we got a wild ovation. The town had gone crazy over baseball. Our wonderful showing in New Orleans and our clean sweep through the south had caused the Chicagoans to feel that our chief aim—to defeat the Red Stockings—was a certainty.

Our first real game in the north was against the crack Rockford (Ill.) team—the club on which Adrian An­son and A. G. Spalding got their start. The Rockford people backed their team heavily in the betting that pre­ceded that game — but we swamped them. We scored 14 runs in the first inning and after the fifth inning were so far ahead that I gave my boys orders to take it easy, and by that additional victory set Chicago further aflame with baseball enthusiasm.

Bill Craver, Ars Longa rendition

Bill Craver, Ars Longa rendition

Then we started east to play out the schedule which was so arranged that the Cincinnati series did not come until the end of the season. Our success continued. My boys were wonderful batters and every addi­tional contest they engaged in seemed to increase their hitting power.

In those days ability to hit was the main asset of a player. In his batting power lay his baseball value. Not much attention was paid to per­fecting a team in fielding. It was fig­ured that fielding would come natur­ally but that batting must be devel­oped.

During the latter part of May two of my players took sick while we were on tour and I had to send them home. Shortly afterward two others joined the “hospital squad.” I filled in with amateurs, sent to me from Chicago, but I found quickly that they wouldn’t do.

So, along about June 4th when I found that my ailing quartet was not convalescing very rapidly, I cancel­led all our remaining June and July games and stayed in Chicago.

Late in July when all the players were back in shape we resumed team playing practise. All during the time the four boys were sick I kept the others at batting practise for two hours a day and the expertness in the hitting line continued to increase. About August 4th we resumed our schedule and played out the season, winning all of our games from the re­sumption in August until the end.

And then came the grand climax of the year—the task for which we had been preparing ourselves; the battle with the Cincinnati Red Stockings.

1870 Chicago White Stockings, with Jimmy Wood at center

1870 Chicago White Stockings, with Jimmy Wood at center

As challengers we were compelled to play the first game of the series—a best two out of three affair—on the home diamond of the Reds; on the same field where they never had tast­ed defeat. Only once during the two years—1869 and 1870—had the Reds been beaten and that was suffered in foreign territory, the Atlantic of Brooklyn turning the trick, in 10 in­nings, 8 to 7.

It being necessary for the first game to be played in Cincinnati and the second in Chicago, the place for the third—if a third was necessary— was to be determined by the flip of a coin.

When we went to Cincinnati for that first game even our most loyal rooters were pessimistic. It was not that they lacked confidence in our ability, but because they feared we would be “jobbed” by some Cincinnati umpire, or menaced so by the rowdy crowds that we wouldn’t play our real game because of fear of violence if we should win.

But we did win and the story of that game, together with the second in Chicago, which was witnessed by a crowd beyond 50,000, shall form the next chapter in this recital.

(Note—Chapter Five, which begins tomorrow, tells of the two most bit­terly contested ball games in baseball history. It tells of a game that drew 50,000 spectators—the biggest crowd that ever saw a professional baseball game in America.—Editor)

Chapter 5 tomorrow.

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