Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The Old Ball Game

May 19, 1887.  Wheeling, West Virginia.  To see larger version go here.

About 1,500 fans, the largest crowd of the season, turned out on a Thursday afternoon to see the hometown team play the formidable squad from Kalamazoo, Michigan, according to the Wheeling Daily Register.  The local boys, known as the Green Stockings, pulled off an upset scoring two runs in the ninth to win 9-7 despite being outhit 18 to 13.

The Daily Register reported that both teams were dissatisfied with the umpiring:
The umpiring of Mr. Tarkington was the rankest yet seen on the home grounds, his decisions being simple miserable and directly against Wheeling at the most critical points in the contest. It is not often the winning team finds occasion to protest against the umpire, but that he was way off on balls and strikes, was apparent to everybody who was in a position to judge. As both captains are equally loud in their denunciations of his work, it is safe to say that he will not officiate to-day.
The Green Stockings had joined the Ohio State League that year as West Virginia's first minor league team.

There are several notable differences between the modern game and the 1887 contest in Wheeling.
The home team batted first instead of last.

The game back then was much more error-filled.  In this contest the Green Stocking committed three miscues while their Michigan rival made six errors.

The box score shows both teams fielding a right and left fielder along with a player with the designation of M, which I surmise means a middle (or center) fielder.

In the photo there are two men on base with a left handed batter at the plate and none of the fielders wear gloves.

According to the box score the Kalamazoo pitcher had 13 assists.  Were the Green Stockings bunting all day?
The Green Stockings were also an integrated squad with Sol White (pictured below, standing second from left) playing third base.

In the off-season the league changed its name to the Tri-State League and banned Negroes from playing.  Though the formal ban was soon rescinded, no more African Americans played for the Green Stockings.  Sol White went on to a long career in the Negro Leagues as player, manager, and coach.  He was also author of History of Colored Base Ball (1907), the first and, for decades, the only history of colored ball players.  Sol White was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.

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