June 18, 1889: After a disappointing loss to St. Louis on a last-inning error, Brooklyn Eagle sportswriter Henry Chadwick turns to poetry to describe the defeat:
Only a fly ball hit the air, directly to the hands of the left field player
Eagerly watched by thousands of eyes, for on that catch depended the prize
Hands were ready to give applause, for Darby had offtimes given them cause
But for once – as luck would have it –he failed.
June 19, 1889: The Brooklyn Bridegrooms bounce back from a disappointing loss to first place St. Louis as Brooklyn’s Bob Caruthers blanks visiting Baltimore 9 to 0
June 20, 1889: Brooklyn Bridegrooms president Charles Byrne creates baseball’s first non-smoking section at Washington Park starting with a Ladies Day game in which Brooklyn defeats Baltimore 14 to 3. According to the Brooklyn Eagle, “selfish smokers” must sit elsewhere in the grand stand, “where they may smoke themselves into dried hams if they choose without annoying the ladies.”
June 21, 1888: Brooklyn Bridegrooms team secretary Charley Ebbets hosts a picnic for his friends at Washington Park along with an informal baseball match between the “Bo Peeps” and the “Putty Blowers.” The Putty Blowers win by a score of either 11 to 4, 6 to 5 or 10 to 8 in a “most amusing burlesque of the national game.”
June 22, 1889- The Fifth Avenue branch of the Union Elevated Road from the Brooklyn Bridge to Washington Park opens to the public. The time from the bridge to the baseball park, including all stops, is 12 minutes.
June 23, 1888: The Brooklyn Bridegrooms narrowly retain first place in the major league American Association with a 4 to 3 win over Philadelphia in 10 innings as pitcher Mickey Hughes improves his record to 9 wins and only 1 loss.
June 24, 1886: Brooklyn rolls up the most runs in any American Association game so far this season as it pummels Baltimore 25 to 1. Brooklyn bangs out 29 hits, including 5 by catcher Bob Clark.
June 25, 1885: Brooklyn slugs 29 hits, 6 of them singles by infielder George Pinkney, to beat the Philadelphia Athletics 21 to 14. The game is marred by 15 Brooklyn errors and 12 by Philadelphia. Pinkney’s 6 singles still stands as a record for most singles in one game.
June 26,1889: The Brooklyn Bridegrooms defeat Columbus 10 to 3 behind pitcher Adonis Terry, who also hits an inside-the-park homer on a ball slugged into the horse-drawn carriages parked behind the outfield.
June 27, 1890: Shortstop Germany Smith’s 2-run homer leads the Brooklyn Bridegrooms to a 7 to 2 win in the National League over Cap Anson’s Chicago team.
June 28,1888: The Brooklyn Bridegrooms stay within 3 percentage points of first place St. Louis with a 9 to 7 win over Louisville led by a key 2-run double by Bob Caruthers, playing center field on day he wasn’t pitching.
June 29, 1889: The third place Brooklyn Bridegrooms begun a crucial road trip by scoring 3 runs in the first inning and hanging on to defeat the second-place Philadelphia Athletics by a score of 3 to 2. Bob Caruthers pitches the win.
June 30, 1889: Adonis Terry pitches Brooklyn into second place in the major league American Association in an 8 to 3 win over the Philadelphia Athletics in Philadelphia.
July 1, 1883: The new Brooklyn baseball team in the minor league Interstate Association loses to Pottsville 2 to 1 before one of the team’s first Ladies Day crowd as Brooklyn club president Charles Byrne becomes a leader in regularly attracting women to the national game by admitting ladies free on designated days.
July 2, 1890: Brooklyn falls back to third place in the National League by losing to first place Cincinnati 6 to 1.
July 3, 1888—“Black Jack” Burdock makes his debut at second base as the Brooklyn Bridegrooms sweep a doubleheader at Cincincinnati. The 36-year-old Burdock is known as a good-field, no-hit second sacker with a big drinking problem.
July 4, 1889: The Brooklyn Bridegrooms split a double header with first place St. Louis, losing the first game 4 to 3 and winning the nightcap 12 to 10 thanks to 9 St. Louis errors, including 3 by third baseman Arlie Latham.
July 5, 1888: Brooklyn’s “Big Three” – Bob Caruthers, Dave Foutz and Doc Bushong who were all acquired from the St. Louis Browns—are greeted with a parade in the Mound City before Brooklyn tops the Browns 6 to 3 behind the pitching of Caruthers.
June 17, 1885: Brooklyn players protest the use of minor league pitcher John “Phenomenal” Smith by purposely making 11 errors in a 18 to 5 loss to the St. Louis Browns. Brooklyn club owner Charles Byrne issues fines totaling $500
June 16, 1885: Brooklyn loses to a strong St. Louis Browns team 11 to 4, which gets 4 hits from third baseman Arlie Latham and strong pitching from Bob Caruthers.
June 15, 1893: Former Brooklyn outfielder and captain Darby O’Brien dies of tuberculosis in Peoria, Ill., at age 29
June 14, 1870 – The amateur Brooklyn Atlantics defeat the all-professional Cincinnati Red Stockings in Brooklyn 8 to 7 in 11 innings; it is Cincinnati’s first loss in two years
June 13, 1889: The Brooklyn Bridegrooms defeat the visiting Cincinnati Reds 2 to 1 on a 3-hitter by Adonis Terry after the Cincy team takes 40 hours to make the train trip to Brooklyn, including a 16-hour delay due to flooded tracks without any sleeping cars.
June 12, 1888: The Brooklyn Bridegrooms top Cleveland 8 to 5 behind pitcher Bob Caruthers, who also hits 2 home runs.
June 11, 1890: The Brooklyn Bridegrooms are shut out by Boston 3 to 0 even though Bridegrooms pitcher Adonis Terry gives up only 4 hits.
June 10, 1886: Brooklyn President Charles Byrne wins adoption of a new American Association rule requiring base coaches to stay at least 75 feet from home plate. The goal of the rule is to stop base coaches from running up to home plate between pitches to harass the catcher.
June 9, 1883: The new Brooklyn minor league team draws more than 3,000 people to Washington Park for a Ladies Day exhibition game against the major league Cincinnati Reds. Cincy, which currently is in 2nd place in the American Association, wins 3 to 1 in a closely played game.
June 8, 1889: Brooklyn centerfielder Pop Corkhill slugs two homers and knocks in 5 runs as the Bridegrooms beat the Cincinnati Reds 14 to 6.
June 7, 1889: The Brooklyn Bridegrooms play an exhibition game against a “picked nine” with proceeds going to victims of the Johnstown Flood. Brooklyn wins 13 to 7 with manager Bill “Gunner” McGunnigle pitching underhand as he did during his playing days before the advent of overhand pitching.
June 6, 1885: A Philadelphia newspaper praises Brooklyn baseball president Charles Byrne for introducing the rain check, allowing patrons a ticket to another game if a match is rained out. Except for the rain check, “introduced by Mr. Byrne,” during recent rainy weather not half of the spectators at Philadelphia Athletics games “would have taken the risk of seeing but a few innings and losing their money.”
June 5, 1913: Chris Von der Ahe, the former “Der Boss President” of Brooklyn’s American Association rival, the four-time champs St. Louis Browns, dies penniless in St. Louis of cirrhosis of the liver at age 62. The Browns later become the St. Louis Cardinals.
June 4, 1891: Star Brooklyn first baseman Dave Foutz is injured in a 3 to 0 loss to Chicago when a Chicago player steps on Foutz’s hand and smashes a finger.
June 3, 1890: The Brooklyn Bridegrooms pound the defending world champions New York Giants at the Polo Grounds 20 to 6 as outfielder Oyster Burns drives in 5 runs with 4 hits
June 2, 1915: Former Brooklyn first baseman Dave Orr dies in Richmond Hill, N.Y. at age 55. Orr had a career batting average of . 342, the same as Babe Ruth
June 1, 1883: Handsome young pitcher William “Adonis” Terry becomes a matinee idol at the new Brooklyn team’s Ladies Day games. Terry’s “quiet, gentlemanly behavior on and off the field, combined with his good looks, has made him the pet of the fair patrons of the game,” this day’s Brooklyn Eagle reports.
May 31, 1886: In an odd piece of scheduling, Brooklyn sweeps a Decoration Day doubleheader against two different visiting teams—defeating Cincinnati 8 to 6 in a morning game and topping Louisville 9 to 6 in an afternoon game. The total attendance of more than 13,000 people is the highest yet at Washington Park.
May 30, 1889—A record baseball crowd of more than 30,000 people turns out for the first games in Brooklyn’s rebuilt Washington Park after a fire in early May. In a Memorial Day doubleheader, St. Louis wins the morning game but the Brooklyn Bridegrooms come back to win the second contest 9 to 7.
May 29,1890—The Brooklyn Bridegrooms pull off their second triple play in just over a week in a 8 to 4 win over Cap Anson’s Chicago Colts. Like the first one, this goes from second baseman to shortstop to first baseman Dave Foutz, who throws home to catch a runner trying to score from third base.
May 28, 1887: Brooklyn beats Louisville 9 to 5 led by Germany Smith’s home run to move back into third place in the major league American Association.
May 27, 1888– Brooklyn’s Adonis Terry pitches his second no-hitter in three years as the Bridegrooms defeat Louisville 4 to 0 in Brooklyn.
May 26, 1887: Louisville’s “sluggers” score 11 runs in a single inning and knock Brooklyn back to 4th place with a 27 to 9 trouncing.
May 25,1889: In Columbus, Ohio, the umpire declares visiting Brooklyn a forfeit winner 9 to 0 after Columbus captain Dave Orr is thrown out of the game and his team refuses to play on. Brooklyn President Charles Byrne agrees to forgo the forfeit and resume the game after Columbus decides to play without Orr. Brooklyn wins 6 to 3.
May 24, 1883—The Brooklyn Bridge officially opens connecting Brooklyn with Manhattan. The Brooklyn base ball team schedules exhibition games with teams from across the bridge—the New York Metropolitans and New York Gothams.
May 23, 1886—The Brooklyn baseball team plays its first Sunday home game, defeating the St. Louis Browns 13 to 12. The game is played at the team’s park in Ridgewood, N.Y., in Queens County instead of Brooklyn’s Washington Park in Kings County, where Sunday baseball is banned.
May 22,1887: Brooklyn bangs out 20 hits to beat the American Association champs St. Louis Browns 9 to 5 behind the pitching of John Harkins before 10,000 fans at Brooklyn’s Washington Park.
May 21, 1890—The Brooklyn Bridegrooms turn the first triple play in Dodgers franchise history as second baseman Hub Collins fields a grounder, flips it to shortstop Germany Smith for a force at second, Smith fires to first baseman Dave Foutz, who after out No. 2 throw home to catcher Tom Daley to catch a sliding Cincinnati player for the third out.
May 20,1888: Brooklyn Bridegrooms pitcher Bob Caruthers “Chicagos” (blanks) the visiting Kansas City Cowboys 9 to 0 in a Sunday game at Ridgewood Park.
May 19, 1889– Much of Brooklyn’s home field Washington Park burns to the ground in a late-night fire. Team secretary Charles Ebbets vows to rebuild by Decoration Day.
May 18, 1889—Brooklyn’s Adonis Terry outduels St. Louis Browns ace “Icebox” Chamberlain to lead the Bridegrooms to a 5 to 3 win in St. Louis.
May 17,1885: After the Brooklyn baseball team gets off to a start of 6 wins and 9 losses, a Brooklyn Eagle headline asks, “What Is the Matter With the Brooklyn Team?”
May 15, 1889- The Brooklyn Bridegrooms, after a slow start this season, defeat Cincinnati 10 to 5 for their 6th straight win as they move into second place behind the St. Louis Browns in the American Association.
May 14,1888 The visiting Brooklyn Bridegrooms defeat Cleveland 7 to 3 in a game ended in the 6th inning because of snow and sleet.
May 13, 1888—The Brooklyn Bridegrooms win their 6th game in the last 8 by beating the Philadelphia Athletics 8 to 3 behind pitcher Adonis Terry, who gives up only 4 hits.
May 12, 1883—The Brooklyn Baseball Club plays its first game in the new Washington Park, defeating Trenton of the Interstate League 15 to 6. The game draws 6,000 people, surpassing the 5,000 at the National League game of the New York Gothams (later the Giants). The same day Brooklyn owner Charles Byrne hires as an assistant young Charles Ebbets.
May 11,1888: After a St. Louis Browns loss, idle Brooklyn moves ahead of St. Louis into second place in the American Association behind Cincinnati.
May 10, 1890: Centerfielder Pop Corkhill becomes the first Brooklyn Bridegrooms player in Dodgers franchise history to hit a home run in the National League as Brooklyn tops Philadelphia 6 to 4.
May 9, 1883: In its first game in Brooklyn, the new Brooklyn baseball team defeats Harrisburg of the minor league Interstate Association 7 to 1 in a game played in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.
May 8, 1889 – The Brooklyn Bridegrooms clobber Louisville 21 to 2 behind pitcher Bob Caruthers as Brooklyn second baseman Hub Collins, a Louisville native, scores four runs
May 7, 1883— The new Brooklyn baseball club in the minor league Interstate Association defeats the Pottsville (Pa) Anthracites 5 to 2 at a scheduled home game played in Newark because Brooklyn’s new Washington Park isn’t ready yet.
May 6, 1886—Brooklyn socks 22 hits to defeat Baltimore 15 to 13 as winning pitcher Henry Porter scatters 18 Baltimore hits.
May 5, 1884—Brooklyn wins its first home game in the Major Leagues, defeating the American Association Washington Nationals 11 to 3 under manager George J. Taylor.
May 4, 1889—The Brooklyn Bridegrooms win their third straight game over the Philadelphia Athletics by a score of 9 to 5 behind little Mickey Hughes.
May 3, 1890—In their first meeting since the 1889 “World’s Series,” the new National League Brooklyn Bridegrooms defeat the New York Giants 7 to 3 in Brooklyn’s Washington Park behind pitcher Bob Caruthers.
FROM CHARLEY BYRNE TO MAGIC JOHNSON
SIX THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOWN ABOUT THE FIRST DODGERS OWNERS:
By Ronald G. Shafer, author “When the Dodgers Were Bridegrooms.”
A. Charles H. Byrne, a New York real estate investor, and George J. Taylor, a former night editor at the New York Herald. It was Taylor’s idea to start a team in Brooklyn in 1883. Byrne provided financial backing.
2. Who joined Byrne and Taylor as co-owners?
A. As costs of building Washington Park rose to over $30,000, Byrne recruited two casino owners: his brother-in-law Joseph Doyle and Ferdinand “Gus” Abell, who became the team’s chief financial backer. Byrne was club president and the driving force behind the team.
3. When did the team begin playing?
A. In 1883 in the minor league Interstate Association. That same year Charley Byrne hired as his assistant a young Charles Ebbets.
4. When did the team join the Major Leagues?
A. In 1884 in the American Association, then a major league along with the older National League. The team had no nickname and was known simply as the ‘Brooklyns.”
5. Who was the team’s first manager?
A. George Taylor, in 1883 and 1884, before he returned to the newspaper business. Co-owner Charley Byrne was also the manager from mid-1885 to 1887.
6. When did the team become known as the Bridegrooms?
A. In 1888, after several players married just before the season began under new manager Bill “Gunner” McGunnigle. The team won the American Association pennant in 1889 and the National League pennant in 1890.
The line of Dodgers franchise ownership begun in Brooklyn in 1883 continues. A new group of Dodgers owners led by basketball great Magic Johnson were officially introduced at a news conference today at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. You can read a report on the event here from the Los Angeles Times
May 2, 1884: Adonis Terry becomes the first pitcher in Dodgers franchise history to win a major league game as Brooklyn wins its first game in the American Association, beating the Washington Nationals 7 to 5 in the nation’s capital.
May 2, , 1890— Brooklyn Bridegrooms third baseman George Pinkney‘s consecutive game playing streak ends at a record 577 gamess after he is spiked in a game against the Boston Beaneaters.
MAY 1 IS A HISTORIC DAY OF FIRSTS IN DODGERS HISTORY —
May 1, 1883—The new Brooklyn baseball team plays its first game ever, in the minor league Interstate Association, and loses at Wilmington, Del., by a score of 9 to 6.
May 1, 1884—Brooklyn plays its first major league game, in the American Association, under manager George Taylor, and is trounced by the Washington Nationals 12 to 0 in Washington.
April 30, 1885: Brooklyn opens its 1885 home season at Washington Park losing 6 to 5 to Baltimore before nearly 4,000 people.
April 29, 1890: The Brooklyn Bridegrooms in their first season in the National League even their record at 3-3 with a 5 to 2 win over the Boston Beaneaters behind pitcher Mickey Hughes.
April 28, 1890:The Brooklyn Bridegrooms play their first home game as a National League team, defeating the Philadelphia Phillies, 10 to 0 behind Bob Caruthers.
April 27, 1886: Brooklyn defeats the New York Metropolitans 6 to 3 in the first game at the Mets’ new home field in Staten Island.
April 26, 1890: The Brooklyn Bridegrooms 1890 home opener, the club’s first in the National League, is postponed for the third time because of rainy weather.
April 25, 1885: After losing to Baltimore the day before, Brooklyn rebounds to beat the Orioles 9 ot 2 before 4,000 people, the largest April crowd so far at Washington Park.
April 24,1885: Brooklyn loses to Baltimore 6 to 4 in the opening day major league American Association game at Brooklyn’s Washington Park.
April 23, 1890: The Brooklyn Bridegrooms lose for the third time in an opening four-game series at Boston against the Beaneaters.
April 22, 1890: After scoring their first National League win, the Brooklyn Bridegrooms are pummeled by the Boston Beaneaters 11 to 1 as John Clarkson pitches his second win of the opening series of 1890.
April 21, 1890: The Brooklyn Bridegrooms get the franchise’s first win in the National League, defeating the Boston Beaneaters 7 to 6 behind pitcher Mickey Hughes.
Here is the original newspaper report of the franchise’s very first National League win.
From the Brooklyn Eagle, April 22, 1890
BOSTON, Mass. April 21-
The Brooklyn team played their second championship game with the Bostons to-day at the South End Grounds in the presence of about fifteen hundred people only, though the weather was comparatively mild and pleasant to that of yesterday, and they had the home team virtually defeated after the fourth inning, the score at that time standing at 6 to 1 only, with the visitors in the van. In fact, the home batsmen could do little or nothing with Hughes’ pitching in the first eight innings of the game, a home run hit over the left field fence in the second inning earnlng the only run they scored up the ninth inning , only five hits being scored off Hughes’ pitching up to the last inning.
The game opened in favor of Brooklyn by 2 to 0, the visitors earning both their runs by the triple hit of O’Brien and doubles by Burns and Foutz. In the fourth inning the Brooklyns again punished Getzein’s pitching to the tune of four earned runs off five clean hits. Then both sides stopped run getting, fungo hitting marking the batting of both sides. At the close of the eighth inning the score stood at 6 to 1 and an easy victory was almost certain for Brooklyn; but in the ninth inning O’Brien lost his temper and Hughes and Collins their heads., Hughes pitching wild and without judgment in this inning, and the result was that the home team — who just gloried in the way they had got the visitors rattled – scored no less than five runs off three hits and four battery errors, and the kicking O’Brien, Collins and Hughes indulged in led to each of them being fined by the umpire. After the game was over, however, he remitted the fines. He showed his incompetency by arguing the the players on disputed points, when all he had to do get a watch, note the time for one minute and declare the game forfeited if the kicking was longer indulged in. The home team also kicked but not to the extent the visitors did. The umpire was a substitute officially ordered to act by President Young in the place of McDermott, who was taken sick. The result of the kicking was that the Bostons were enabled to tie the score at the end of the first part of the ninth inning. Then Brooklyn went in and scored the winning run on Burns’ two-bagger following Collins’ single.
The crowd indulged in yelling when local men were on the bases in order to aid Long and Tucker in their bullylike coaching. It was anything but a pleasant game or a goodly display of batting, as the hits were mostly flies to the outfield.
Clark caught finely and Collins and Pinkney did good work in the infield. Eight easy chances for catches were given the outfielders by the visitors, scarcely a gound bll hit being made.
The full score is appended:
BOSTON (N.L.) BROOKLYN (N.L)
R 1B PO A E R 1B PO A E
Long, s.s. 1 0 1 2 0 O’Brien, l.f. 3 2 1 0 0
Donovan, c.f. 0 0 1 0 1 Collins, 2b 1 2 5 1 0
Sullivan l.f. 0 0 5 0 0 Burns, r.f. 1 2 0 0 0
Tucker, 1b 0 1 7 0 0 Foutz, 1b 0 2 8 0 0
Ganzel, r.f. 0 1 0 0 0 Pinkney, 3.b. 0 1 2 2 0
Lowe, 3b 1 2 4 0 1 Corkhill, c.f. 0 1 2 0 0
Smith, 2b 1 1 0 2 0 Smith, s.s. 1 1 2 3 0
Bennett c 1 0 2 0 0 Clark, c. 1 1 6 1 0
Getzein, p 1 1 2 3 0 Hughes 0 0 0 3 0
Brodie, r.f. 1 2 2 0 0
Total 6 8 24 7 2 Total 7 12 27 10 0
April 20, 1908 – Legendary Brooklyn baseball writer Henry Chadwick, known as the “Father of Baseball,” dies in Brooklyn at age 83
April 19, 1890—The Brooklyn Bridegrooms play their first National League game, losing in Boston to the Boston Beaneaters and pitcher John Clarkson by a score of 15 to 9.
April 18, 1925—Brooklyn baseball owner Charles Ebbets dies in New York at age 65. Ebbets began working for the team as aide to then co-owner Charles Byrne in April of 1883.
April 17, 1883: The players for Brooklyn’s new baseball team report for field duty at Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, where they will practice until the club’s new Washington Park field is ready.
The Los Angeles Dodgers turned a rare triple play in Sunday’s 5 to 4 win over San Diego. The franchise’s first triple play came in its first year in the National League, on May 21, 1890, as the Brooklyn Bridegrooms defeated the Cincinnati Reds. On the play, second baseman Hub Collins fielded a grounder, flipped it to shortstop Germany Smith for a force at second, Smith fired to first baseman Dave Foutz, who after out no. 2, threw home to catcher Tom Daley to catch a sliding Cincinnati player for the third out .
April 16, 1887—Brooklyn opens the 1887 season with a 14 to 10 win over the New York Metropolitans despite making 11 errors.
April 15, 1889: In a pre-season warm up, the Brooklyn Bridegrooms blank minor league Newark 9 to 0 behind Bob Caruthers.
April 14, 1890: Brooklyn Bridegrooms President Charley Byrne has his gold watch stolen by a pickpocket at New York’s Fifth Avenue Casino during a boxing match between “Gentleman Jim” Corbett and Dominick McCaffrey. Corbett wins the match with a TKO in the fourth round.
April 13, 1889—In an exhibition game at Brooklyn’s Washington Park, the Brooklyn Bridegrooms defeat the World Champion New York Giants and star player catcher Buck Ewing for the first time in Brooklyn team history.
April 12, 1884—Brooklyn baseball president Charles Byrne announces that every home game will be ladies day in the 1884 season, with ladies admitted free with a paying customer. “We have found by experience that when there is an assemblage of ladies at our matches, we get a more orderly gathering.”
April 11, 1888—Sporting Life suggests that Brooklyn’s baseball club be called the “Bridegrooms,” after several players marry before the start of the 1888 season. The name sticks.
April 9, 1891: A.C. McNeill, a Chicago prosecutor seeking to close down illegal gambling dens in the Windy City, tells a court that his nephew, Brooklyn Bridegrooms pitcher Bob Caruthers, lost $9,000 to Chicago gamblers.
April 8, 1888: At a Brooklyn Bridegrooms exhibition game, club president Charles Byrne points to recently acquired pitcher Bob Caruthers and tells an astonished visiting guest, “That is Mr. Caruthers, and we pay him a salary of $5,000 for seven months service just to play ball as he can play it, and we paid $8,500 for his release from the club which held him to service.”
April 7, 1890: Stocky Brooklyn outfielder Oyster Burns bets $10 that he can beat skinny pitcher Bob Caruthers in a 100-yard run. Burns loses.
April 5, 1890—The new National League Brooklyn Bridegrooms defeat the new Brooklyn American Association team 4 to 1 in an exhibition game.
April 4, 1921: Former Brooklyn Bridegrooms outfielder John “Pop” Corkhill dies in Pennsauken, N..J. at age 62, from complications following an operation.
April 3, 1889: The Brooklyn Bridegrooms adopt a “puny little monkey,” a gift from a Brooklyn policeman, as team mascot.
April 2, 1887: Brooklyn baseball president Charles Byrne writes a letter rejecting a challenge by New York Giants owner Charles Day that their two teams play a series of winner-take-all exhibition games.
April 1, 1890: The Brooklyn Bridegrooms return to Washington Park for the first time as a National League team. The squad includes 11 married men and five bachelors.
March 31, 1883: The new Brooklyn baseball club is voted into the minor league Interstate Base Ball Association for the 1883 season.
March 30,1889: Brooklyn Bridegrooms players unanimously elect first baseman Dave Foutz as team captain for the 1889 season.
The Los Angeles Dodgers club has published a great new photo book called Dodgers From Coast to Coast, The Official Visual History of the Dodgers. The coffee-table book, compiled by team historian Mark Langhill, traces the history of the Dodgers franchise back to its beginnings in Brooklyn in pictures and words. I wrote the chapter on the start of the club in Brooklyn in 1883 through the early 1900s when Charles Ebbets took over as owner. The book’s introduction is by legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully and the preface is by legendary manager Tommy Lasorda. The book will go on sale April 10 online and at opening day at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, the 50th anniversary of the first game at the stadium. It’s a must for Dodgers fans everywhere.
March 29, 1891: Brooklyn baseball players begin workouts at the local Prospect Heights gymnasium: “A course of work with the dumb bells, chest weights, iron dumbbells and other exercises was indulged in.”
A group headed by basketball legend Magic Johnson has been named to purchase the storied Dodgers franchise in Los Angeles. The group agreed to pay $2 billion to purchase the team from Frank McCourt. More details from the Los Angeles Times.
SIX THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOWN ABOUT THE FIRST DODGERS OWNERS:
By Ronald G. Shafer, author “When the Dodgers Were Bridegrooms.”
1, Who were the first owners of the Dodgers franchise in Brooklyn?
A. Charles H. Byrne, a New York real estate developer, and George J. Taylor, a former night editor at the New York Herald Tribune. It was Taylor’s idea to start a team in Brooklyn in 1883. Byrne provided financial backing.
2. Who joined Byrne and Taylor as co-owners?
A. As costs of building Washington Park rose to over $30,000, Byrne recruited two casino owners: his brother-in-law Joseph Doyle and Ferdinand “Gus” Abell, who became the team’s chief financial backer. Byrne was club president and the driving force behind the team.
3. When did the team begin playing?
A. In 1883 in the minor league Interstate Association. That same year Charley Byrne hired as his assistant a young Charles Ebbets.
4. When did the team join the Major Leagues?
A. In 1884 in the American Association, then a major league along with the older National League. The team had no nickname and was known simply as the ‘Brooklyns.”
5. Who was the team’s first manager?
A. George Taylor, in 1883 and 1884, before he returned to the newspaper business. Co-owner Charley Byrne also was the manager from mid-1885 to 1887.
6. When did the team become known as the Bridegrooms?
A. In 1888, after several players married just before the season began under new manager Bill “Gunner” McGunnigle.
March 28, 1890—The Brooklyn Bridegrooms arrive in Charleston, S.C., on the boat trip back to Brooklyn from spring training in St. Augustine, Fla. “The trip up from Florida was a rough one, and there were several pretty sick ball players in the party.”
March 27, 1886: Brooklyn baseball president Charles Byrne expresses high hopes for the 1886 season: “Every possible effort to strengthen the team has been made, the main object of the directors being to have an organization that the people of Brooklyn may be proud to recognize as worthy of their city.”
March 26, 1889: The Brooklyn base ball club reaches an agreement with the owner of the Wallace Park in Ridgewood, N.Y., to again play Sunday games on the grounds. Sunday baseball is banned in King County, home of the team’s Washington Park in Brooklyn
March 25, 1889: Brooklyn baseball players begin preparing for the 1889 season by playing hand ball at Casey’s Court in Brooklyn.
March 24, 1891. The Brooklyn Bridegrooms, at the urging of new manager John Montgomery Ward, sign catcher Con Daily, who previously played for Ward’s Brooklyn team “Ward’s Wonders” in the former Players’ League.
March 23, 1887: Brooklyn baseball president Charles Byrne announces two new uniforms for the 1887 season: “One uniform is to be of a bluish gray trimmed with red, with red stockings and belt to match. The second uniform will be white, with a small blue stripe.”
March 22, 1888: Bill “Gunner” McGunnigle arrives in Brooklyn to take over as manager of the Brooklyn baseball team.
March 21, 1889: Brooklyn Bridegrooms players Adonis Terry and Doc Bushong, along with several teammates, ride bicycles in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park preparing for the 1889 season.
March 20, 1890—The Brooklyn Bridegrooms win their first spring training game, defeating the Chicago Colts 3 to 2 at Ponce de Leon Park in St. Augustine, Fla.
March 19, 1928: Former Brooklyn Bridegrooms pitcher Tom Lovett dies in Providence, R.I. at age 64. Lovett had a major league career record of 88 wins and 59 losses in six seasons, and in 1891 pitched the first no-hitter in Brooklyn’s National League history
March 18, 1891: Incoming Brooklyn Bridegrooms manger John Montgomery Ward decides to play second base instead of replacing Germany Smith as the team’s shortstop after Brooklyn fails to sign second baseman Lou Bierbauer, who instead is grabbed from the Philadelphia team by the Pittsburgh Alleghenys. Some writers begin calling the Pittsburgh team the Pittsburgh Pirates.
March 17, 1890: Cap Anson’s Chicago Colts again defeat the Brooklyn Bridegrooms 3 to 1 in a spring training game in St. Augustine, Florida, as Brooklyn pitcher Bob Caruthers and first baseman Dave Foutz cope with “sore arms.”
March 16, 1884: The Brooklyn baseball club advertises that “a limited number (100) of season tickets, admitting purchaser to ground and grand stand to all League, American Association championship and exhibition games in which the Brooklyn Club plays, are now offered for sale, price $20.
March 15, 1885: The Brooklyn baseball club seeks “Proposals for the privileges of the grounds for the coming base ball season, viz: bars, cigar stands and lunch counters are invited.”
March 14, 1886: The American Association’s Board of Directors rules that Brooklyn’s contract signing of E. A. Burch, formerly of the New York Mets, is valid and within the association’s rules.
March 13, 1890: The Brooklyn Bridegrooms again lose to Cap Anson’s Chicago Colts in a spring exhibition game in St. Augustine, Fla., by the score of 5 to 4.
March 12, 1890: Brooklyn Bridegrooms players in St. Augustine, Florida, make a favorable impression on other guests at the Cordova Hotel. “Some of the hotel guests thought that when the ball players came they would be a party of roughs, and were surprised to see the fine lot of men comprising the team.”
March 11,1890: Brooklyn loses its first spring exhibition game in St. Augustine, Florida, to the National League Chicago team managed by Cap Anson
March 10, 1890—A newspaper reports that “base ball has become quite a ‘fad’ with society people at Jacksonville and St. Augustine (where Brooklyn has arrived for spring training] and that carriages gather on the grounds every afternoon and the grand stand is filled with fashionable belles to see the professionals play.”
March 9, 1899: Former Brooklyn Bridegrooms manager Bill “Gunner” McGunnigle dies in Brockton, Ma., at age 44 from lingering illness after being thrown from a horse-drawn carriage that was struck by an electric trolley car. McGunnigle’s three-year winning percentage of .658 in Brooklyn, with two pennants, is the highest for any manager in Dodgers franchise history
March 8, 1889: All Brooklyn Bridegroom players have signed for the 1889 season except catcher Bob Clark, “who wants higher pay, which he will not get.”
March 7, 1886: As soon as the cold weather stops and the frost leaves the ground the improvements at the Brooklyn baseball club grounds will begin, the Brooklyn Eagle reports.
March 6, 1887: The Brooklyn baseball club’s plan for ladies day “is the best, free admission to the fair sex, except on holidays and Saturdays, and then they are only charged for admission to the grand stand,” the Brooklyn Eagle says.
March 5, 1897: Former Brooklyn Bridegrooms player and manager Dave “Needles” Foutz dies of asthma in Waverly, Maryland at age 40. Foutz had a career batting average of .276, and a pitching record of 147 wins and 66 losses. His .690 winning percentage ties him with Whitely Ford as the second highest in baseball history.
March 4, 1888: For the first time the Brooklyn Baseball Club hosts the annual meeting of American Association owners in Brooklyn.
March 3, 1889: Brooklyn pitcher Adonis Terry and third baseman George Pinkney become fathers of baby boys
March 2, 1890: The Brooklyn baseball team leaves snowy Brooklyn by boat for St. Augustine, Fla., site of the first southern spring training in team history.
March 1, 1883: The new Brooklyn Base Ball Association is incorporated with a capital of $20,000 and plans to complete construction of the Washington Base Ball Park by May of 1883.
Feb. 29, 1836: Dickey Pearce, a star shortstop for the original Brooklyn Atlantics and the inventor of the bunt, is born in Brooklyn.
Feb. 28, 1888: A letter writer to the Brooklyn Eagle, says he has “rejoiced in the steady and unwavering tenacity of the management in their efforts to to elevate the character of ball playing and submit to their patrons the best exhibitions of the sport that their players could give. “
Feb. 27, 1889: New York Giants manager Jim Mutrie boasts that scheduling three exhibition games in April against Brooklyn, with the winner of each game to collect all of the receipts, is a sound “business proposition” because “I firmly believe the New York club will win every game.”
Feb. 26, 1888: Brooklyn third baseman George Pinkney and outfielder Darby O’Brien are training in the gym in their hometown of Peoria, Ill. “and are in first class trim,” the Brooklyn Eagle reports. “Pinkney has reduced his flesh.”
Feb. 25, 1891: Brooklyn baseball president Charles Byrne asserts that the Brooklyn Bridegrooms will remain in the National League and not return to the American Association.
Feb. 24, 1915: Former Brooklyn pitcher William “Adonis”Terry dies in Milwaukee at age 50. Terry won 197 games and lost 196 during his career, and he pitched two no-hitters.
Feb. 23, 1888: Brooklyn baseball president Charles Byrne fields questions from the press about the planned increase in ticket prices to 50 cents from 25 cents, which Byrne strongly backed. One Brooklyn Eagle correspondent warns that the higher fare will deter the so-called “rough element,” which he says is the class that really understands and supports baseball.
Feb. 22, 1885: The Brooklyn baseball team this season “will have six American players, three of Irish parentage, three of German parentage and one of French Canadian birth,” the Brooklyn Eagle reports.
Feb. 21, 1891: Brooklyn President Charles Byrne publicly opposes blacklisting National League players who join American Association teams as proposed by Chicago White Stockings owner Albert Spalding.
Feb. 20, 1890: The Brooklyn baseball field at Washington Park, the Brooklyn Eagle reports, “has been well manured and reseeded in the bare spots and never before has it been in such good condition at this season of the year as it is in Feburary now.”
Feb. 19, 1888: The Brooklyn Eagle backs the increase of American Association admission rates to 50 cents from 25 cents with the backing of the Brooklyn team because “it will be far more to the advantage of the club’s best interests to see the stands occupied by …a better class of admirers of the game” than to have more “of the rough element crowding the grounds.”
Feb. 18, 1890: Brooklyn president Charles Byrne rejects a request from John Montgomery Ward, player-manager of the new Brooklyn Players’ League team, to play an April exhibition game against the Brooklyn Bridegrooms.
Feb. 17, 1884: The Brooklyn Eagle predicts the city of Brooklyn “will be most creditably represented in every respect in the American championship arena in 1884,” the team’s first year in the major league American Association.
Feb. 16,1889: Brooklyn pitcher Bob Caruthers stops in St. Louis, where he previously hurled, on his way with his wife to Hot Springs, Ark., to begin preparations for the 1889 season.
Feb. 15, 1885: Nearly all of the players of the 1884 Brooklyn team have been signed to play for the club in 1885.
Feb. 14, 1886: Brooklyn baseball writer Henry Chadwick, in his “Base Ball Book of Reference,” advises that in selecting a team captain one class of player to avoid is “ the one including those of quick temper, without self control, dictatorial in their manner, imperious in commanding, and too fond of having this and that done simply because it is their desire that it should be so.”
Feb. 13,1889: The owner of the Ridgewood, N.Y. baseball park warns that the Brooklyn Bridegrooms will lose access to the park for its Sunday games unless the club pays $100 that it still owes from last season.
Feb. 12, 1891: George Chauncey, president of the Ridgewood land and improvement company that holds the lease on the Eastern Park baseball stadium used by the former Brooklyn Players’ League team, files legal action to keep that team from consolidating with Brooklyn’s National League team.
Feb. 11, 1885: Brooklyn baseball president Charles Byrne writes the Brooklyn Eagle to deny a story that the team has acquired grounds at Coney Island for the purpose of playing Sunday baseball there despite a local law banning baseball games on Sundays.
Feb. 10,1890: The Brooklyn baseball club makes arrangements to take the team to St. Augustine, Florida, later in the month for the club’s first spring training at a facility to be shared with the National League Chicago team.
Feb. 9, 1890: Brooklyn baseball President Charles Byrne receives a letter from Mrs. George J. Smith stating that a hand injury suffered by her husband, Brooklyn shortstop Germany Smith, is “only of a slight nature, and he would be entirely over it in a week.”
Feb. 8, 1888: New Brooklyn catcher Doc Bushong, recently acquired from St. Louis along with stars Bob Caruthers and Dave Foutz, predicts that Brooklyn will win the 1888 American Association pennant “as sure as twice two is four.”
Feb. 7, 1888: Brooklyn pitcher Bill “Adonis” Terry begins playing hand ball at the Brooklyn Hand Ball Club to prepare for the 1888 season.
Feb. 6, 1888: Brooklyn’s acquisitions from the St. Louis Browns – pitcher Bob Caruthers, outfielder Dave Foutz and catcher Doc Bushong , are dubbed “The Big Three” by newspaper writers.
Feb. 5, 1891: John Montgomery Ward, star shortstop and manager of Brooklyn’s former Players’ League team “Ward’s Wonders,” signs to manage the Brooklyn Bridegrooms in 1891. He replaces Bill “Gunner” McGunnigle, who is let go after winning two straight pennants.
Feb. 4, 1888: Bill “Gunner” McGunnigle, manager of the pennant-winning minor league team in Lowell, Mass., signs to manage Brooklyn in the 1888 season.
Feb. 3, 1889: John Corkhill, the centerfielder purchased by Brooklyn late in the 1888 season, “is bald-headed and the boys kindly allude to him as Pop,” the Philadelphia Times reports.
Feb. 2, 1889: Brooklyn President Charles Byrne travels to Philadelphia to try to arrange spring exhibition games with the National League’s Philadelphia Athletics.
Feb. 1, 1885: Brooklyn owner Charley Byrne announces baseball’s first no-smoking section at Washington Park for the 1885 season. “It will be a relief to numbers of patrons to get rid of the smoking annoyance in the grandstand,” the Brooklyn Eagle comments.
Jan. 31,1889: Thomas B. Day, the owner of the New York Giants, the 1888 National League pennant winner and World’s Series champions, reluctantly agrees to play the Brooklyn Bridegrooms in three exhibition games in April.
Jan. 30, 1887: Brooklyn signs nearly all of all the rest of its players after previously acquiring three star players from the American Association pennant winner St. Louis Browns: Catcher Doc Bushong, outfielder Dave Foutz and pitcher Bob Caruthers.
Jan. 29 , 1888: Brooklyn president Charles Byrne draws fire in a letter to the Brooklyn Eagle from a fan protesting Byrne’s role in boosting the American Association’s admission price from 25 cents to 50 cents for the 1888 season: “He promised for the last two years to give patrons of Washington Park better ball and he did not do so.”
Jan. 28, 1891: National League champions the Brooklyn Bridegrooms announce the signing of catcher Tom Daly, pitcher Tom Lovett, shortstop Germany Smith, third baseman George Pinkney and outfielder Darby O’Brien for the 1891 season.
Jan. 27, 1883: Regarding the Brooklyn baseball park being built on the grounds where Revolutionary War soldiers under General George Washington fought the British, the New York Clipper notes: “The old house known as Washington’s headquarters is to be reconstructed and made one of the attractions of the place.” (The Old House initially is used as a ladies restroom.)
Jan. 26,1890: The Brooklyn Eagle reports that “[Tom] Lovett, Brooklyn’s erratic pitcher, has opened a liquor store in Providence, R.I. “
Jan. 25, 1889: Second baseman “Bid” McPhee of the Cincinnati Red Stockings offers a forecast on the 1889 American Association pennant chase: “The Brooklyns ought to win it . . . They have a good fielding team and are particularly strong in pitchers.”
Jan. 24, 1891: Edward Linton, a stockholder of the former Brooklyn team in the Players’ League, drops his lawsuit against consolidation with the Brooklyn Bridegrooms. Linton agrees to accept $9,000 for his stock.
Jan. 23, 1883: The start-up of Brooklyn’s new baseball team draws praise in the Brooklyn Eagle: “It is well to state that the club is in the hands of gentlemen of means ample enough to carry the enterprise through to a successful issue.”
Here is the original story from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle of Jan. 23, 1932 under the headline:
“Brooklyn Base ball Club Will Officially Nickname Them ‘Dodgers’ Ebbets Field Leaves It to Writers, Who Choose Old “Handle’
By Thomas Holmes.
Henceforth, the Brooklyn baseball club will officially be known as the Dodgers. This was decided at a meeting of the Brooklyn Chapter of Baseball Writers at Ebbets Field yesterday.
The Brooklyn ball club has had no official nickname in its 41 years of existence in the National League although it has rumbled along under half a dozen semi-official aliases. Originally, the Brooklyn players were known as Bridegrooms. In Ned Hanlon’s time, the team Superbas. Along about that time also, Charley Dryden nicknamed the club the Trolley Dodgers. In recent years, “Robins” proved fairly popular, but with the end of Wilbert Robinson’s long reign as manager, that nickname lost most of Its significance.
“Bridegrooms” and “Superbas” were unwieldly names. The weakness of “Robins” as a nickname was the name’s natural link to Wilbert Robinson. Through the years, “Dodgers” has hung on pretty well. Since the passing of Mr. Robinson, there has been agitation in various quarters to settle upon a nickname that would be universal and un changing. Alive to the discussion, Ebbets Field last week notified the Brooklyn baseball writers, that it would officially adopt any nickname that the writers desired. Yesterday, the scribes voted for “Dodgers,” preferring it to “Kings.” which was the only other nickname that received serious consideration.
President Frank B. York and Treasurer Steve McKeever, notified of the decision, immediately announced that the 1932 uniform of the ball team would have “Dodgers” inscribed across the breast in large letters, thus leaving no doubt as to what the nickname of the team shall be.
Jan. 21, 1889: Brooklyn Bridegrooms first baseman Dave signs to play with the new Columbus, Ohio, team in 1889. During the 1888 season, Orr was suspended after he skipped some games to go to the Coney Island amusement park.
Jan. 20, 1883: The grounds for the new Washington Park being built at Fourth Avenue in South Brooklyn – the site of the Washington skating pond – are graded and drained in preparation for the baseball team’s first season.
Jan. 19, 1888:
After a snow storm, Brooklyn baseball secretary Charles Ebbets tends to a toboggan slide at the team’s Washington Park field. “The snow storm was a great help to Charley Ebbets’ toboggan field, as it provided the snow he wanted, and he piled up heaps of it by the grandstand as a store for future use next week in case cold weather should spoil the field surface,” the Brooklyn Eagle reports.
Jan. 17, 1888: The Kansas City Cowboys are accepted into the American Association to replace the New York Metropolitans, after the Mets were bought out by Brooklyn in late 1887.
Jan. 16, 1888: The American Association convenes a meeting in Cincinnati to try to find a replacement franchise for the New York Metropolitans after Brooklyn bought out the Mets club in late 1887.
Jan. 15, 1888: The sports editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer predicts that Brooklyn will finish second in the major league American Association in 1888 behind the Cincinnati Red Stockings. He writes that Brooklyn is “the strongest team in association but unruly and unsteady.”
After Brooklyn’s surprise signing of top players from the former Cleveland team, The Brooklyn Eagle chastises newspapers that questioned whether Brooklyn President Charles Byrne was doing enough to strengthen the team for the 1885 season: Byrne “is a gentleman who quietly goes about his business without troubling others with what is none of their business.”
Jan. 13, 1884
Two teams featuring players from the Brooklyn baseball club play “Base Ball on Ice,” skating on ice in a baseball game at the Washington Park field. A team managed by sportswriter Henry Chadwick defeats a squad led by Brooklyn manager George Taylor by a score of 41 to 12.
JAN. 12, 1906: Hotel and casino owner Joe Doyle, one of the original owners of the Brooklyn Bridegrooms club, dies in New York at age 67.
JAN. 11, 1883: A notice in the New York Clipper by the new Brooklyn baseball club seeking players to form the team states: “The Brooklyn management will under no circumstance employ any player where integrity of character is not a feature of his recommendations, nor anyone who has not a clean record of temperate habits.”
JAN. 10, 1891: Sporting Life declares that Brooklyn Bridegrooms co-owner and president Charley Byrne “ably aided” Chicago White Stockings owner Albert Spalding to kill off the Players’ League after only one season.
JAN. 9, 1887:
New baseball rules for 1888 will no longer allow batters to order that the ball be pitched either high or low. “This does away with the arduous work the umpire was subjected to under the old code in deciding waist high balls,” the Brooklyn Eagle comments
Jan. 8, 1889:
Brooklyn pitcher Mickey Hughes is criticized in the Brooklyn Eagle for his pay demands after winning 25 games in his rookie year: “Pitcher Hughes had immense cheek in asking for an increase of salary after having been paid $66 a game for his small share of the pitching last season.”
JAN. 7, , 1891: E. F. Linton, a stockholder in the group owning the Brooklyn team known as Ward’s Wonders in the former Players’ League, wins a temporary court injunction barring a consolidation of the team with the National League Brooklyn Bridegrooms club
JAN. 6, 1889:
Brooklyn’s George Pinkney, in a Brooklyn Eagle article, describes the desired attributes of a third sacker: “A good third baseman should be a wideawake and lively man, because he has little time to consider after a ball is hit to him, for they are of the hot and sharp kind.”
JAN. 5, 1885:
Brooklyn signs several top players of the National League’s former Cleveland team at 12:10 a.m, – the precise end of a 10-day waiting period to sign released players — after hiding the players in a Cleveland hotel so rival clubs wouldn’t have a chance to bid for them. The new players include shortstop Germany Smith and third basemen George Pinkney.
JAN. 4, 1898 –
Charles H. Byrne, the co-founder and first president of the Brooklyn baseball franchise, dies in New York of Bright’s Disease at age 55. Sporting Life says Byrne “was easily the greatest magnate of them all.” Among other things, Byrne was the leading innovator of Ladies Day and invented non-smoking sections, the rain check, coaching boxes and the first triple header in baseball history.
Jan. 3, 1886: The Brooklyn Bridegrooms try to sign two New York Metropolitan players – first baseman Dave Orr and outfielder Chief Roseman –after the major league American Association goes to court to try to block the sale of the Mets to a Staten Island group headed by Erustus Wiman, who owns the Staten Island ferry
Jan. 2, 1883: Brooklyn sportswriter Henry Chadwick reminisces about “base ball” back in the 1860s, when umpires didn’t call balls and strikes unless a batter simply refused to swing at anything: “I once saw Al Smith, in a match between the Brooklyn Atlantics and the New York Mutuals, pitch sixty balls to one batsman before the first strike was called.”
Welcome to a new feature, This Day in Early Dodgers History. Each day this site will feature an event or development in the early history of Brooklyn Dodgers baseball that happened on that date. Here’s today’s entry:
Jan. 1, 1888: The New York Clipper comments on free-spending Brooklyn club owners Charles Byrne, Gus Abell and Joe Doyle after a poor 1887 season: “Their team, lacking energy and earnestness in their work, have finished a bad sixth in the race and this result roused up the club trio to extra exertions in getting together a winning team for 1888.”
Just in time for Christmas, the website Steve Goddard’s History Wire’s list of books added my When the Dodgers Were Bridegrooms. Goddard regularly lists books of interest, so thanks, Steve, for listing mine on the History Wire. Baseball books make great gifts for baseball fans.
Famous TV talk show house Larry King reportedly is part of a group seeking to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers. Larry, who now lives in Los Angeles, has been a Dodgers fan since he grew up in Brooklyn and rooted for the Brooklyn Dodgers. According to ESPN
Larry King, the legendary talk-show host who has a small stake in one of the investment groups seeking to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers, ripped outgoing Dodgers owner Frank McCourt during an interview with 710 ESPN’s Steve Mason and John Ireland on Wednesday, saying McCourt has “destroyed” the storied franchise.
“He has destroyed this team, and it is just sad to me to see what has happened to it,” said King, who is part of a group headed by Chicago White Sox executive and Beverly Hills insurance agent Dennis Gilbert.
King, a longtime Dodgers season-ticket holder and a visible presence in the Dugout Club seats at many home games, said McCourt’s biggest failure was that he became too enamored of the trappings of being the owner of the club at the expense of his responsibility to put a competitive team on the field.
“I think Frank got caught up in the L.A. aspect of the life,” King said. “The Dodgers became secondary to the … lifestyle of being Frank McCourt, Dodger owner. He liked that image of walking into a room. Basically, he is a nice guy, I don’t think he is an owner. I just don’t think he is cut out to own a baseball team. He is cut out to be a real estate guy who does deals. He is a deal guy … .
“I am a fan. I’m paying over $300 a seat for every game, I have six seats. I’m putting this money into the team, I hope they do well. I would like to see the owner do well. But instead of bidding for the top free agents, he’s buying another house. … If I run into Frank, I’m kind, I smile and I say hello, and he says hello. He has been to my house for dinner when he first got the team. But … he’s not cut out to be an owner, and I think the league made a mistake, frankly, in giving him the franchise.”
King, who also was part of a Gilbert-led group that tried to buy the Texas Rangers when that club was in bankruptcy more than a year ago, confirmed that his financial stake in the group is comparatively small. The primary backing for the group comes from Jason Reese and Randy Wooster, two top executives with Imperial Capital, a Los Angeles-based investment bank.
King, who said he has been a Dodgers fan since his uncle took him to his first Brooklyn Dodgers game at Ebbets Field in 1943, added that improvements to 50-year-old Dodger Stadium should be first on the new owner’s list of priorities.
“ It is still a great stadium, but it needs work,” he said. “I want to see the Dodgers come first. If we own the team today, I think we should go into hock to try to get anybody we can get that is at the top of that [free-agent] list,” including, he added, Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder.
“If the club costs a billion, you’re going to have to put another hundred, $200 million into this, because this is a franchise that demands a winner. This is L.A. This is not some small little hick town. This is L.A., and L.A. deserves the best. I think that should be our goal.”
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.
The Los Angeles Dodgers soon will have a new owner after Frank McCourt finally agreed to give up the storied franchise that began in Brooklyn in 1883. How did it all start?
1, Who were the first owners of the Dodgers franchise?
A. Charles H. Byrne, a New York real estate developer, and George J. Taylor, a former night editor of the New York Herald Tribune. It was Taylor’s idea to start a team in Brooklyn in 1883. Like most newspapermen, Taylor had little money, but he did have a lease on property in Brooklyn. After costs of building Washington Park rose to over $30,000, Byrne recruited two casino owners — his brother-in-law Joseph Doyle and Ferdinand “Gus” Abell, who became the team’s chief financial backer.
2. When did the team begin playing?
A. In 1883 in the minor league Interstate Association. When the first-place Camden, N.J., team folded in mid-season,Brooklyn bought their top players and won the flag.
3. When did Brooklyn join the major leagues?
A. In 1884 in the American Association,then a major league along with the older National League.
4. Who was the team’s first manager?
A. George Taylor in 1883 and 1884, before he returned to the newspaper business. Co-owner Byrne also was the manager from mid-1885 to 1887.
5. Who was the driving force in the ownership?
A. Charley Byrne clearly was in charge. A small, visionary and intelligent man known as the “Napoleon of Base Ball,” he was widely considered one of baseball’s top owners. He developed baseball as a business aimed at attracting a broad fan base. He was the leading advocate of Ladies Day, which he believed improved behavior at games. He invented non-smoking sections and the rain check. In 1889, Brooklyn set a 19th century season attendance record of 354,000.
6. What other contributions did Byrne make to baseball?
A. Among other things, he was responsible for creating coaching boxes. In the early rowdy days of baseball, base coaches such as St. Louis’s Charles Comiskey would run up next to the catcher and yell obscenities in his ear. In 1886, Byrne pushed through a rule requiring bases coaches to stay 75 feet from home plate.
7. When did the team win its first pennant?
A. The Brooklyn Bridegrooms – its nickname after several players married just before the 1888 season— won the American Association pennant in 1889 after Byrne purchased the entire New York Mets team and three star players from the champion St. Louis team and hired manager William “Gunner” McGunnigle. Brooklyn played the New York Giants in the “World’s Series,” losing 6 games to 3.
8. When did Brooklyn win its second pennant?
A. Brooklyn switched to the National League in 1890 and became the only team in baseball history to win consecutive pennants in two different major leagues. That year top players revolted and formed a third major league, but Brooklyn players remained loyal due to Byrne’s generous treatment. Byrne and Chicago owner Al Spalding were credited with killing the players’ league after one season.
9. How did the owners save the franchise in 1891?
A. After the 1890 baseball war left all teams in dire financial straits, the Bridegrooms took on investors from the players’ league Brooklyn team, who insisted on replacing McGunnigle with player-manager John Montgomery Ward. Brooklyn didn’t win its next pennants until 1899 and 1900 after merging with the Baltimore Orioles.
10. What happened to the original owners?
A. Charley Byrne died in 1898 at age 55. He was succeeded as club president by Charles Ebbets, whom Byrne had hired in 1883 as a ticket taker. In 1892, Joe Doyle sold out to Gus Abell, who became majority owner. In 1902, he sold out to Ebbets, who owned the team until his death in 1925. In 1932, the team was officially named the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Ron Shafer,, When the Dodgers Were Bridegrooms, Gunner McGunnigle and Brooklyn’s Back-to-Back Pennants of 1889 and 1890 (McFarland Publishing) 2544 William Tankard Drive Williamsburg, Va. 23185 757 345-6227 firstname.lastname@example.org www.brooklyndodgershistory.com
I will be signing copies of When the Dodgers Were Bridegrooms at the William & Mary Barnes and Noble bookstore in Williamsburg, Va., on Sunday, Nov. 20 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thanks for checking out my website and would love to hear your comments.
BROOKLYN, N.Y. – (Oct 31, 1889) The players for the world champion New York Giants and the Brooklyn Bridegrooms each met the day after the end of the World’s Series to divvy up their shares of the game receipts. The Bridegrooms also presented a surprise gift to their manager Bill “Gunner” McGunnigle.
The Giants gathered yesterday at the Polo Grounds where owner Tom Day announced that New York had taken in $12,056.15 from the Series. Each Giants player received $380.13 from the games, but a total of about $500 each including proceeds from the benefit show at the New York Opera House. Oddly, the team did not vote a share to manager Jim Mutrie, perhaps because he is part of management as a co-founder of the team. The night after the Giants won the Series, however, Mutrie received free drinks at the bars all along Broadway.
The Bridegrooms met yesterday at Washington Park. President Charles Byrne reported that each Brooklyn player would get $359. 61. The players voted a full share to manager Bill “Gunner” McGunnigle.
The team then presented their manager with a $200 gold watch. Dave “Needles” Foutz spoke for his teammates when he said, “Hoping your heart will beat long after the machinery of this watch has rusted into dust, we remain your friends and admirers, the Brooklyn Baseball Club.”
McGunnigle, obviously blushing during the presentation, responded, “Boys, you caught me unprepared. I can assure that you whatever happens the watch will not visit my ‘uncle’; that it will be kept in a chamois case and that it will always be carried in a pocket over my heart.”
Just as the 1889 World’s Series ended, the National Brotherhood of Professional Baseball Players confirmed rumors by announcing yesterday that its members – including many of the game’s star players — would form a third major league, the Players’ League, in 1890. The new league will include a team in New York made up of many players of the champion Giants. Another team in Brooklyn will be managed by New York’s star shortstop John Montgomery Ward.
There also are unconfirmed rumors that the 1889 American Association champions Brooklyn Bridegrooms may switch to the National League in 1890.
NEW YORK, N.Y. – (Oct. 30,1889) The New York Giants captured their second straight World’s Series championship yesterday with a 3 to 2 win over the Brooklyn Bridegrooms. After trailing in the Series three games to one, New York won five straight games.
The plucky Brooklyn boys didn’t go out without a fight. The Bridegrooms jumped off to a first-inning lead against Hank O’Day when Darby O’Brien walked, Hub Collins bunted his way on and Oyster Burns knocked in both men with a long double to the center field fence.
Adonis Terry, who had been badly battered by New York in the previous game, was in the box again for Brooklyn. The Giants quickly made the score 2 to 1 as Mike Tiernan doubled and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by John Montgomery Ward. Brooklyn squandered several scoring chances against O’Day, and in the sixth inning New York finally tied the score 2 to 2 when Ward reached first on an error, stole second and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Danny Richardson.
In the Giants’ seventh, Terry walked O’Day, Slattery hit into a force out and then stole second base. Terry buckled down and struck out the great Buck Ewing, which should have ended the inning. But Brooklyn catcher Doc Bushong muffed the pitch for a passed ball, allowing Slattery to score the go-ahead run. Terry got New York out without further damage, but now Brooklyn trailed 3 to 2.
The Bridegrooms were still down by a run when they came to bat in the bottom of the ninth in a do-or-die situation. Germany Smith bunted and reached first when pitcher O’Day bobbled the ball. Bushong, already the goat of the game because of his passed ball, then bunted into a double play. Darby O’Brien walked to keep Brooklyn’s hopes alive. But when O’Brien tried to steal second base, catcher Ewing gunned him down for the final out, giving New York the world’s championship for the second straight year.
Brooklyn put up a stronger battle than most experts had expected against the mighty Giants, but in the end the team from across the bridge was just too strong. Buck Ewing and John Montgomery Ward made all the difference.
BROOKLYN, N.Y. – (Oct. 29, 1889) New York moved within one game of winning its second straight World’s Series championship yesterday with a 16 to 7 drubbing of the Brooklyn Bridegrooms.
The Giants pummeled Brooklyn’s Adonis Terry, who up until yesterday had been Brooklyn’s most effective pitcher in the Series. Meantime, Cannonball Crane rolled up his third win in the post-season contests.
New York began the shelling in the first inning when the Giants loaded the bases, and Roger Connor knocked in two runs with a single to right field. Danny Richardson singled in two more runs, stole third and came home on a sacrifice fly to give New York an early 5 to 0 lead.
Brooklyn struck back in its half of the inning when Hub Collins walked, and Dave “Needles” Foutz hit a hot liner to right center that got by Mike Slattery for a two-run homer.
New York silenced hopes of a Brooklyn comeback in the second inning by adding four more runs to make the score 9 to 2. In the third, Art Whitney batted in another run to make it 10 to 2 Giants. New York piled it on against Terry in the fourth, boosting the score to 12 to 2 led by Connor’s triple.
That was all for Terry. In the fifth inning, the Adonis switched places with first baseman Foutz, who took over the pitching. Foutz blanked New York in the fifth, but in the sixth inning the Giants opened their lead to 15 to 2 as many of the Brooklyn faithful began exiting the stands.
The Bridegrooms attempted a come-back in the eighth inning as Oyster Burns hit a two-run homer to narrow the score to 15 to 4. But after New York added a run in the top of the ninth, the Bridegrooms trailed 16 to 4 as they came up for their last bats. Darby O’Brien tripled in two runs and scored on a passed ball. But it was too little, too late. The teams play again tomorrow at New York’s Polo Grounds, with Brooklyn needing a win to stay alive.
BROOKLYN—(Oct 28, 1889) There was no World’s Series game yesterday since it was a Sunday, but both the Brooklyn and New York clubs are counting their blessings at the box office.
Even though rainy weather and transportation snarls have held down attendance at some of the first seven games of the best-of-11 Series, gate receipts already have exceeded the total for last year’s 10-game series between New York and St. Louis. The Series so far has drawn 41,815 people. At a minimum ticket price of 50 cents, that totals more than $20,000, not including the extra charge for grand stand tickets. When the latter is calculated, the total so far easily will be double the $24,000 taken in last year for the entire series.
So far, crowds at Brooklyn’s Washington Park are running ahead of the crowds at New York’s Polo Grounds. This was not unexpected. During the regular season, Brooklyn’s attendance of more than 353,000 people was the highest in baseball history and fully 50,000 more than the previous record.
The World’s Series will resume here today.
NEW YORK – (Oct. 27, 1889) The New York Giants took a 4 game to 3 lead over the Brooklyn Bridegrooms in the World’s Series with a convincing 10 to 7 win here yesterday.
The Giants battered Brooklyn starting pitcher Tom Lovett, a 17-game winner during the season, in his first appearance in the Series. New York scored eight runs off Lovett in the second-inning before manager Bill McGunnigle ended the pitcher’s misery by bringing in ace Bob Caruthers.
Wet weather held the crowd to under 3,000 people, the smallest at the Polo Grounds for any Saturday game this season. Cannonball Crane was again the pitcher for New York, and he blanked the Bridegrooms in the top of the first inning. In New York’s half of the inning, Mike Slattery reached second on a throwing error by third baseman George Pinkney and scored on Buck Ewing’s single to make the score 1 to 0.
Then in the bottom of the second inning, the roof caved in on Lovett. Jim O’Rourke doubled to left, and Lovett walked the next two batters to load the bases. Mike Tiernan singled to center, batting in two runs. Buck Ewing knocked in another with a single to right. Roger Connor doubled, and Danny Richardson homered over the left field fence. Then O’Rourke slugged another homer, this one over the center field fence. New York was up 9 to 0.
Brooklyn didn’t give up, though. Darby O’Brien opened the third inning with a walk, and Hub Collins slapped a base hit. Crane walked the next two batters, forcing home Brooklyn’s first run. With the bases loaded, Pinkney singled in a second run. An error by shortstop John Montgomery Ward gave the Bridegrooms a third tally, and an infield forceout added another, making the score 9 to 4.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Brooklyn manager Bill “Gunner” McGunnigle sent Bob Caruthers in to replace the shell-shocked Lovett. Parisian Bob held New York at bay as Brooklyn continued its comeback in the fifth inning. Tom “Oyster” Burns led off with a walk and went to second on a single by Dave “Needles” Foutz. Pop Corkhill walked to load the bases, which were then emptied by George “Germany” Smith, who socked a triple to left field. Smith tried to score on the play, but leftfielder O’Rourke retrieved the ball from beneath the seats and threw the Brooklyn player out at home plate. But the hit narrowed New York’s lead to 9 to 7.
New York finally got to Caruthers for a run in the sixth inning, making the score 10 to 7. Then in the seventh inning, New York manager Jim Mutrie sent his ace Tim Keefe in to replace Crane in the pitcher’s box. New York added another run in the bottom of the inning to make the score 11 to 7. Keefe proceeded to shut down the Bridegrooms without a hit in the final three innings to secure the win for the Giants. Today will be an off day since it is Sunday, and the Series will resume in Brooklyn on Monday.
By Ronald G. Shafer, author of When the Dodgers Were Bridegrooms
1. Where did the name World Series come from?
2. Who won the first “World’s Series.”?
3. When was the first subway series in New York?
4. What manager got stiffed when players divided their winner shares?
5. When were the first post- season games called the World Series?
6. Who hit the first home run in World Series history?
7. Who pitched the first shutout in World Series history?
8. What was the first National League team to win a World Series?
9. Who was the first African-American to pitch in a World Series game?
10. Who made the final out when the New York Yankees’ Don Larsen pitched the only World Series no-hitter and perfect game in 1956?
1. Back in 1885 when the St. Louis Browns (now the Cardinals) won the major league American Association pennant, owner Chris Von der Ahe challenged Albert Spalding, the owner of the National League champion Chicago White Stockings (now the Cubs), to a “world championship series.” That name was too long for newspaper headlines, so the papers shortened it to “World’s Series.”
2. That would be Nobody. St. Louis claimed victory 4 games to 3 , but that didn’t count the second game when Browns captain Charley Comiskey (the same guy who later built Chicago’s Comiskey Park) pulled his team off the field in protest to end the game. Chicago counted the same game as a forfeit win. In the end, the two owners agreed to call the series a tie, 4 games to 4.
3. In 1889 the New York Giants beat the Brooklyn Bridegrooms (now the Dodgers) 6 games to 3. It wasn’t really a subway series, though, because subways hadn’t been invented yet. It was more of an elevated train series, because that’s how fans traveled then – or by horse and buggy.
4. In that 1889 series, New York Giants players each got $380.13 from the games but didn’t vote a share to manager Jim Mutrie. Maybe it was because Mutrie was part of management as a co-founder of the team. As a consolation, the night after the Giants won the series all of the bars along Broadway served Mutrie free drinks. Brooklyn players voted a full losers’ share to their manager Bill “Gunner” McGunnigle.
5. The first World Series was in 1903 when the Boston Americans in the new American League defeated the National League champs Pittsburgh Pirates 5 games to 3. The Boston Americans soon after became the Boston Red Sox, thus providing early proof that the Red Sox didn’t always choke down the stretch.
6. In the very first inning of that 1903 game Pittsburgh right fielder Jimmy Sebring, a .277 hitter that year, hit an inside-the-park homer off Boston pitcher Cy Young. Pittsburgh won the game 7 to 3 but Boston won the Series 5 games to 3.
7. Boston right-hander Bill Dineen, in the second game of the 1903 Series, blanked Pittsburgh 3 to 0, giving up 3 hits. In that same game, Boston’s left fielder Patsy Dougherty, a .331 hitter during the season, became the first player to hit 2 home runs in one World Series game.
8. In 1905, the National League New York Giants defeated the Philadelphia Athletics 4 games to 1. Giants pitcher Christy Mathewson pitched three shutouts. (There was no World Series in 1904.)
9. In 1948, the legendary Satchel Paige pitched two/thirds of an inning for the Cleveland Indians against the Boston Braves, giving up no runs as Boston won 11 to 5. Paige was approaching Social Security age at the time. Cleveland went on to win the series 4 games to 2.
10. Brooklyn Dodgers pinch hitter Dale Mitchell took a third strike called by umpire Babe Pinelli that Mitchell and even many Yankee players thought was high and outside. But, hey, how often does an ump get to umpire a perfect no-hitter in a World Series?
BROOKLYN, N.Y. (Oct. 26, 1889) Bill “Adonis” Terry pitched Brooklyn to within one inning of taking a commanding lead in the World’s Series yesterday, but New York’s John Montgomery Ward rode to a late-inning rescue to deadlock the post-season classic at 3 games to 3.
Terry, a 22-game winner this season, was magnificent as he held the heavy-hitting Giants scoreless through eight innings at Washington Park. Meantime, Brooklyn took a 1 to 0 lead in the top of the second inning off Hank O’Day. George Pinkney singled, and Joe Visner slapped another base hit to left field, but Pinkney was thrown out trying to go to third. Terry singled to send Visner home, but reserve shortstop Jumbo Davis hit into a double play to end the inning. Davis was playing in place of George “Germany” Smith, who was out “sick.” Translation: He had a hangover from the previous night’s team banquet.
Terry and O’Day then dueled into the ninth inning, with Terry giving up only three hits. When Terry retired the first two Giants in the top of the ninth, victory was almost in hand for the Bridegrooms. The Adonis had two strikes on star shortstop John Montgomery Ward, New York’s last hope, when Ward slapped a bounding single to right field. Then, with Visner behind the plate instead of the injured Bob Clark, Ward stole second base and then third base. Roger Connor slapped a ground ball to shortstop Davis that Germany Smith normally would have gobbled up to nail down the win. But Davis muffed the ball. Giants fans roared as Ward raced home to tie the game at 1 to 1.
The teams remained tied going into the 11th inning. Mike Slattery, filling in for the injured George Gore, slapped a single to right field. After Terry retired the next batter, Buck Ewing sacrificed Slattery to second base. Again, the batter was Monte Ward. This time Ward socked a ground ball to shortstop Davis and streaked for first like a deer. The throw by Davis to first was too late. Meantime, Slattery rounded third and raced home to put New York up 2 to 1.
O’Day set Brooklyn down scoreless in the bottom of the llth inning to give New York the crucial win. As the teams left the field, the New York fans cheered their hero, “Ward, Ward, Johnny Ward.”
Follow daily coverage of the 1889 World’s Series between the Brooklyn Bridegrooms and the New York Giants by clicking on “News.”
BROOKLYN, N.Y. – (Oct. 16, 1889) The Brooklyn Bridegrooms won their first major league pennant in the team’s six-year history as second-place St. Louis lost the first game of a double header in Cincinnati.
Cincinnati ended the suspense early by going up 5 to 0 in the first two innings against Jack Stivetts and won the game 8 to 3. Even though the Browns won the second game 2 to 1, Brooklyn needed only one St. Louis loss to clinch the American Assocition championship. The Browns had won 12 straight games before losing yesterday.
When news reached Brooklyn, the City of Churches went bonkers. Flags went up at city hall, and the city prepared to meet their conquering heroes when the team returned from Columbus. Team members did not know that St. Louis had lost until they arrived to cheering crowds at the Jersey City train station. Club President Charley Byrne, who had been working toward this day since he helped start the club in 1883, was visibly relieved.
The players boarded a boat to Brooklyn, and loud cheers could be heard as the vessel approached Fulton Ferry where thousands were waiting for them. Though formal ceremonies had been canceled because of the St. Louis maneuvering, the city erupted in spontaneous celebration. The players boarded carriages that paraded through the streets of Brooklyn, past city hall and then to Washington Park, where still more cheering fans were waiting.
The crowd was so large that star pitcher Bob Caruthers, manager Bill McGunnigle and team secretary Charley Ebbets missed the team carriages and took the elevated train to Washington Park.
Amid the celebration, president Byrne made plans to meet with officials of the National League champion New York Giants tomorrow to arrange a post-season “World’s Series” between the two teams. A celebration dinner for the champion Bridegrooms also is planned Oct. 24 at Brooklyn’s Academy of Music.
Final American Association Standings
Team W L GB
Brooklyn 93 44
St. Louis 90 45 2
COLUMBUS, Ohio –(Oct. 15, 1889) William “Adonis” Terry, pitching for the second straight day, led the Brooklyn Bridegrooms to a 6 to 1 win over Columbus to apparently clinch the first major league pennant in team history.
But the celebration was cut short by the news that St. Louis owner Chris Von der Ahe had won approval by the American Association Board of Directors to extend the season so that his Browns could make up four postponed games. St. Louis defeated Cincinnati yesterday 5 to 1, so if St. Louis can win all four games the Browns can still tie Brooklyn for first place.
Terry, the only remaining player from Brooklyn’s first team in 1883, was the hero again yesterday. Manager Bill McGunnigle had planned to pitch Bob Caruthers, but decided to send out Terry again after he so easily handled the Columbus team the previous day. This time the handsome righthander gave up only five hits and held his poise amid heckling from the noisy crowd.
“Will Terry has, by his gentlemanly conduct on all occasions, by his strictly temperate habits, determined pluck and perserverance in the face of difficulties, and earnest effort to do his best for the welfare of the club, long ago earned a reputation second to that of no one in the professional fraternity,” wrote Henry Chadwick, the legendary sportswriter for the Brooklyn Eagle. “But in the effective work he did in the box in the last two critical contests in Columbus he added laurels to his wreath which make him the star of his company in the closing battles of the campaign.”
In addition, Terry tripled in the fifth inning and scored on one of four errors by Columbus shortstop Lefty Marr. The Adonis ended the regular season with a record of 22 wins and 15 losses.
St. Louis had a King up its sleeve — pitcher Silver King—to keep pace with Brooklyn. Though King had been suspended for the rest of the season, owner Von der Ahe allowed him back to pitch the critical game against Cincinnati. King responded by notching his 35th win of the season against 16 losses.
After the games Brooklyn officials received news of the action to allow St. Louis to play games beyond the official end of the season Oct. 14 by making up two games with Cincinnati and two with the Philadelphia Athletics. The immediate impact of the action was to rain on parade plans by the city of Brooklyn when the team returns home tomorrow night. “It is inadvisable to have our friends make any arrangements for our reception,” said Brooklyn President Charles Byrne, who was furious at the league action.
This “ simply makes our championship race a farce. If we are deprived of the victory we have justly earned by these methods, we must trust our cause to an honest press and public sentiment,” Byrne said.
American Association Standings
Team W L GB
Brooklyn 93 44
St. Louis 89 44 2
More than 6,000 fans turned out for the game in the Ohio capital despite cold, windy weather. They were treated to a pitching duel between Terry and Hank Gastwright.
Columbus went up 1 to 0 in the very first inning when Terry walked Jim McTamany, who proceeded to steal both second and third base. He raced home on a sacrifice bunt by Ed Dailey.
Brooklyn came back to tie the score in the bottom of the inning when Darby O’Brien and Oyster Burns each walked. The two men pulled a double steal as Dave “Needles” Foutz fanned for the second out. George Pinkney’s single sent O’Brien home but Burns was thrown out at the plate.
In Brooklyn’s third inning, Hub Collins struck out but raced to first when the catcher missed the ball. Collins then stole second on the first pitch and scored on a single by Burns, to make the score 2 to 1.
The score stayed that way as the Bridesgroom bounced back from the previous day’s shocking defeat. Terry gave up only four hits as he won his 21st game of the season. Brooklyn got only three hits off of Gastright.
Brooklyn has only one game left in the season, and its 40-game winner Bob Caruthers is expected to be in the box today against Columbus. Meantime, St. Louis’s game at Cincinnati was again rained out.
American Association Standings
Team W L Pct GB
Brooklyn 92 44 .676
St. Louis 88 44 .667 2
COLUMBUS, Ohio— (Oct. 13) The sixth-place Columbus Babies threw the American Association pennant race into a tizzy yesterday by upsetting first-place Brooklyn 7 to 5.
The crucial game was scoreless for the first four innings as Columbus’s Mark Baldwin and Brooklyn’s 40-game winner Bob Caruthers matched goose eggs. Then Baldwin opened the fifth inning with a homer over the left field fence to give Columbus a 1 to 0 lead.
In the bottom of the fifth, three bases on balls and an error by shortstop Lefty Marr gave Brooklyn a run. Oyster Burns’s safe hit knocked in two more tallies, and a wild pitch by Baldwin put Brooklyn up 4 to 1.
Brooklyn was up 5 to 2 and on its way to another win when Columbus came to bat in the ninth inning. Baldwin opened with a single to center. With one out, Marr also singled to center. Pop Corkhill fielded the ball and threw wildly to third, allowing Baldwin to score. Ed Dailey pounded another hit, sending in Marr to narrow the score to 5 to 4. Caruthers walked the next batter, Jack Crooks. Columbus fans cheered wildly as Spud Johnson came to the plate. The cheers turned to moan when Johnson hit a fly ball towards Corkhill. The moans turned to cheers again when Corkhill misjudged the ball, which sailed over his head. Dailey and Crooks raced home to put Columbus up 6 to 5.
The crowd rose with wild cheering. Fans threw cushions and hats on the field in an celebration that lasted at least ten minutes. When peace was restored, Dave Orr hit a sacrifice fly to score Johnson to make the final score 7 to 5.
The Brooklyn loss “was a godsend for St. Louis, as it improves the Browns’ chances decidedly,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch cheered. “They are now within .007 of the Bridegrooms, being tied with them in the matter of games lost and three games behind them in the games won.” The St. Louis game at Cincinnati yesterday was rained out.
American Association Standings
Team W L PCT GB
Brooklyn 91 44 .674
St. Louis 88 44 .667 1 l/2
BROOKLYN, N.Y. – (Oct. 12) Although the American Association pennant race hasn’t been decided yet, city officials here yesterday announced plans to celebrate the “coming champions” Brooklyn Bridegrooms when the team returns home next week.
Following three games at Columbus, the team is scheduled to ride home next Tuesday by train to Jersey City and to then go by boat to Brooklyn. The plan is to meet the squad at 5 p.m. when it arrives by boat at Fulton Ferry. The team would be taken in carriages to Washington Park, escorted by members of local baseball clubs in uniform, carrying torches and led by a military band. Fireworks would be fired off en route. Also planned is a reception and banquet at the Academy of Music’s assembly rooms.
All that remains is for Brooklyn to win the three games in Brooklyn to stay ahead of St. Louis, which yesterday played an exhibition game against the National League’s Indianapolis team. Indianapolis won.The Browns are at fourth-place Cincinnati
American Association Standings
Team W L GB
Brooklyn 91 43 .679
St. Louis 88 44 .667 2
BALTIMORE—(Oct. 11, 1889) Catcher Bob Clark led Brooklyn to a 7 to 2 win over Baltimore yesterday behind the pitching of Adonis Terry. But St. Louis refused to fade from the tight American Association pennant race.
With the score tied 2 to 2, Brooklyn broke open yesterday’s game by plating four runs in the seventh inning. Clark singled, Terry reached on an error and both players scored on Darby O’Brien’s double. Dave “Needles” Foutz also doubled in two runs in the same inning.
Clark was the star of the day with four hits, four runs, two steals and seven put outs, plus one assist. Terry gave up only seven hits as he won his 20th game of the season.
The Bridegrooms were “full of ginger” as they headed to Columbus, Ohio, for the final three games of the season. Three wins there will seal the flag for Brooklyn. St. Louis remained only two games behind by beating Louisville 9 to 1 as Jack Stivetts raised his record to 12 wins and 6 losses.
American Association Standings
Team W L GB
Brookliyn 91 43
St. Louis 88 44 2
BALTIMORE – (Oct. 10, 1889) Brooklyn ace Bob Caruthers, pitching for the second straight day, notched his 40th win of the season, but his first as a brand new dad.
The Bridegrooms beat Baltimore 17 to 9 as Caruthers decided to stay here and pitch rather than return to Brooklyn to see his first child, a boy, who was born yesterday morning.
When Caruthers informed club president Charles Byrne of the blessed event, Byrne assumed that his pitcher would want to take time off to go home. “We cannot spare you but nevertheless I will grant you a leave of absence,” Byrne said.
To his surprise, Caruthers declined. ““The telegram says that my wife is doing well, and I know that in case I should go home and the club should then lose games she as well as I would be worried, and that might do more harm than if I remained away. I will therefore stay with the club until the season closes.”
So Caruthers, who had pitched Brooklyn to a win over Baltimore in the tight American Association race the day before, was again in the box yesterday. Brooklyn went ahead in the first inning when Darby O’Brien doubled and scored on a single by third baseman George Pinkney. But Caruthers, perhaps still nervous over his new state of fatherhood, gave up five runs to Baltimore in the bottom of the first.
The Bridegrooms came right back the next inning to tie the game 5 to 5, knocking Baltimore pitcher Matt Kilroy out of the box. In the fourth inning, Brooklyn battered Kilroy’s replacement, Frank Foreman, for five more runs, led by a triple by catcher Joe Visner. Brookliyn wound up with 20 hits in the game, while Baltimore roughed up Caruthers for 14 knocks. Still, Parisian Bob’s decision to stick with the team paid off as the righthander improved his record to 40 wins and 10 losses.
St. Louis kept pace in the pennant race as Icebox Chamberlain picked up this 31st win aganst 15 losses to lead the Browns to a 8 to 4 win over Louisville. Browns catcher Jocko Milligan led the attack with two homers and five runs batted in.
Chris Von der Ahe, the St. Louis owner, isn’t giving up on his team taking the pennant. “ I think we still have a good chance of winning,” he said yesterday in Louisville. “If the Brooklyns slip up we’ll be on them like a duck on a dung pile.”
American Association Standings
Team W L Pct GB
Brooklyn 90 43 .677
St. Louis 87 44 .664 2
BALTIMORE – (Oct. 9, 1889) Brooklyn outslugged the Baltimore Orioles 12 to 9 yesterday in a game marred by cold weather and 15 errors on both sides.
After trailing 3 to 0, the Bridegrooms came back to take a 6 to 3 lead after four innings paced by pitcher Bob Caruther’s triple. Then it was the Orioles’s turn to rally, moving up 9 to 7 after six innings, aided by misplays by Brooklyn shortstop Germany Smith. In the seventh inning, three errors by the Baltimore side and a single by catcher Joe Visiner put Brooklyn back in the lead 11 to 9. Brooklyn added another run in the eighth inning.
St. Louis kept pace in the American Association pennant race by downing Louisville 9 to 3 with Jack Stivetts pitching the win. The Browns and the Bridegrooms each have only five games left in the season.
American Association Standings
Team W L Pct. GB
Brooklyn 89 43 .674
St. Louis 86 44 .662
BALTIMORE – (Oct. 8, 1889) The American Association pennant race tightened yesterday at Brooklyn lost to Baltimore 3 to 2 on costly throwing errors by catcher Bob Clark and outfielder Darby O’Brien.
In game played before only 249 people, Brooklyn went up 1 to 0 in the second inning. But Baltimore struck back in the sixth inning on Irv Ray’s double and John Kerins’ single off Adonis Terry to move ahead 2 to 1. After Brooklyn tied the score at 2 to 2, Baltimore came to bat in the ninth inning. After two men were out, Ray singled and attempted to steal second. Brooklyn catcher Clark threw wild, and Ray reached third. Kerins then hit a fly ball to left fielder O’Brien, who threw wild to home, allowing Ray to score the winning run.
Terry took the loss, even though he gave up only five hits. Brooklyn got only five hits off Baltimore hurler Frank Forman.
St. Louis was idle yesterday, but picked up a half game in the standings. The Browns now trail Brooklyn by only two games.
American Association Standings
Team W L Pct. GB
Brooklyn 88 43 .672
St. Louis 85 44 .659 2
Lee, Noddle Leave ‘Em Laughing Out Loud
By Lisa E. Crowley
BROCKTON—After a no-holds barred, free-wheeling stand-up talk by former Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee and Brockton Rox coach Ed Noddle about their days in pro and minor league baseball, organizers have nearly met its financial goals for a plaque in honor of Brockton’s Bill McGunnigle—a pioneer and innovater during the early years of baseball.
“I think it put us over the top,” said West Bridgewater resident John McGunnigle, great-grandson of McGunnigle, who as manager/player led the legendary Dodgers franchise, then known as the Brooklyn Bridgegrooms, to an at-the-time unprecedented back-to-back pennants in 1889 and 1890.
The Lee-Noddle inside-baseball discussion, held at Joe Angelo’s Café Sept. 22 and attended by nearly 100 people, featured the two-longtime ballplayers and friends sharing stories from their days in the baseball world, including Lee’s desire to punch out Bill Buckner when they were rising stars in California and Noddle’s memories of former Red Sox manager John McNamara, who beat out Noddle for skipper of the Pawtucket Sox and, who as Manager of the Year, went on to lead the Red Sox to the ill-fated World Series in 1986.
John McGunnigle said he and other supporters are close to having raised the estimated $4,000 toward installing a plaque in Bill McGunnigle’s honor at Campanelli Stadium—home of the Brockton Rox.
About $2,000 of the plaque’s cost was donated by MetroSouth Chamber of Commerce and Brockton 21st Century Corp.
The plaque is estimated to cost about $4,000 to manufacture and install.
John McGunnigle said he will not know the total cost of the plaque until he contacts Rox management to find out the actual cost to install the plaque, but either way, the Sept. 22 event made a large dent in fundraising efforts.
“It was a really fun and great night,” McGunnigle said.
Along with city officials, residents and baseball lovers from near and far, the crowd included Ronald G. Shafer, a 38-year reporter-editor for the Wall Street Journal, who has written a recently published book, “When the Dodgers were Bridgegrooms: Gunner McGunnigle and Brooklyn’s Back-to-Back Pennants of 1889 and 1890.”
Shafer, a resident of Williamsburg, Virginia, is married to Stoughton High School graduate Mary Lynch Rogers, the great-granddaughter of McGunnigle, whose connection to McGunnigle helped turn him on to the pioneering ideas McGunnigle implemented, and tried to implement, into baseball during the game’s formative years. “He really was ahead of his time,” Shafer said. (Pictured below signing book and with wife Mary at Cooperstown-Correction: Dodger Stadium)
Among Gunner McGunnigle’s (pictured, right) many accolades include being the first manager to win back-to-back pennants in 1889 and 1890. Not only did McGunnigle win the two championships, he did it in two different leagues. The Bridgegrooms were in the American Association in 1889 and then moved to the National League for the 1890 pennant.
It is still a feat that has not been repeated, Shafer said.
Shafer said McGunnigle was also the first manager to use hand, bat and other signals to direct players on base to steal or send messages to players identifying pitches the opposing hurler might throw—an advancement that is as much a part of today’s games as those more than 100 years ago.
Shafer said McGunnigle believed alerting his players to opponents pitches was so important he wanted to run electrical lines from the dugout to the batters box to essentially “wire” his players for signals from the bench.
Shafer said while the idea was ahead of its time, it was nixed by an electrician who said there was a chance players could be electrocuted.
McGunnigle is also a disputed inventor of the catcher’s mitt.
Shafer has unearthed a copy of Reach’s Official Baseball Guide from 1875 (below) that cites McGunnigle as using the first catcher’s mitt as a player for the Fall River team.
The guide states McGunnigle cut off the fingers of a brick layer’s gloves and used the glove to protect his hand in a game against a team from Harvard.
One of the Harvard players followed McGunnigle’s example and the catcher’s mitt caught on everywhere except in baseball’s hallowed Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N.Y. where Joe Gunson is credited with wearing the first catcher’s mitt in 1888—13 years after McGunnigle—while playing for a Kansas City team.
Part of the problem surrounding who invented the catcher’s mitt is a distinction between the so-called “pillow mitt” and McGunnigle’s innovation.
“Gunson claimed to have invented what is the modern big ‘pillow’ mitt, and some at the Hall of Fame agree. Other experts say it was Brooklyn Bridegrooms catcher Albert “Doc” Bushong,” Shafer said in an email.
“My book shows that Bushong was already using such a glove when Gunson claimed to have invented his. Doc had a degree in dentistry and wanted to protect his hands for a future career as a dentist, which he became in Brooklyn after retiring,” Shafer said.
Either way, McGunnigle used a glove in 1875–padded or not–to protect his hand from the steam of a pitcher’s velocity.
Shafer said it is too bad McGunnigle doesn’t get the credit he deserves and should have a place at Cooperstown highlighting his innovations because he did so much for the game.
“It was such a long time ago, and the game was changing so quickly and the Hall of Fame came so much later,” Shafer said. “McGunnigle should really have his own place,” Shafer said.
(Top photo, Lee, Joe and Sheila Angelo; McGunnigle photo courtesy Shafer and Hall of Fame; Reach’s Guide page courtesy Shafer)
SABR BASEBALL BIOGRAPHY PROJECT
Charles H. Byrne, the co-founder and first president of the Brooklyn Base Ball Club, was one of the most influential baseball club owners of the 19th century. Among other things, the diminutive Byrne, known as the Napoleon of Base Ball, was the man who:
- Created the franchise that would endure as the Brooklyn Dodgers and now the Los Angeles Dodgers.
- Promoted Ladies Day as a way to encourage better behavior at baseball games in a time when rowdy fans and players threatened to undermine the game’s growth.
- Established baseball’s first nonsmoking section at Brooklyn’s Washington Park.
- Introduced the rain check to induce fans to attend games on days when the weather was threatening.
- Created coaches’ boxes by pushing through a rule requiring base coaches to remain at least 75 feet from home plate.
- Built the teams that won Brooklyn’s first two major-league pennants, in 1889 and 1890.
- Moved Brooklyn into the National League in 1890.
- Arranged major-league baseball’s first tripleheader, in 1890.
- With Chicago’s Albert Spalding, helped kill the Players League, which threatened the National League’s existence.
- Played a pivotal role in the 1891 merger of the major-league American Association into a 12-team National League.
So who was this little-known visionary who helped shaped the game of professional baseball in its earliest days? Charley Byrne was born in New York City, the son of Irish immigrants, on September 10, 1843. An intelligent young man, he graduated from St. Francis Xavier College, attended law classes and worked as a sportswriter. He took a job in the purchasing department of the Union Pacific Railroad in Omaha, Nebraska, where he also was elected deputy sheriff. After his term was up, he returned to New York, where he began dealing in the city’s booming real-estate market.
Byrne soon became one of New York’s most eligible bachelors. He was small in size but muscular with a “shimmering black mustache” and a quick, sarcastic wit. He was bright, talkative, and articulate. He was even-tempered, believed in honor and fair play, and most of all he had a persuasive manner that could win even opponents over to his point of view. He also was a snazzy dresser. “Charley Byrne would be immaculate if there was a frost in Hades,” one sportswriter observed.ii
Byrne loved the New York theater, especially opera. In those days, he was much more interested in La Bohème than baseball. Then in the fall of 1882, he met 30-year-old George J. Taylor, a man with a dream. Taylor’s doctor had told the chain-smoking night editor of the New York Herald that he should find a healthier occupation. The newsman decided that managing a baseball team in the great outdoors would be the perfect solution.
Brooklyn had been without a professional team since 1875, even though it was the nation’s third largest city. (Brooklyn wasn’t annexed by New York City until 1898.) New York City, the country’s biggest metropolis, didn’t have a team either. But in 1883 the New York Gothams (later the Giants) were slated to play in the National League and the New York Metropolitans in the major-league American Association. So Taylor decided to start his own team.
He found a financial “angel” on Wall Street and obtained a lease for property in south Brooklyn to construct a stadium. When the backer backed out, Taylor went to see a lawyer in Manhattan. There he met Charley Byrne, who rented a desk at the office. Taylor, like Byrne, was a graduate of St. Francis Xavier College. The two men hit it off. As a former sportswriter, Byrne was familiar with Brooklyn’s past glories as “the city of base ball” with great amateur teams such as the Atlantics. He also figured that the planned opening of a great bridge connecting Brooklyn with New York would boost the economies of both cities. Baseball could be a great business if it could attract the average Brooklynite.
Though Byrne was well off financially, he needed more backers to start a baseball club. So he brought in his brother-in-law, “Uncle Joe” Doyle, who owned a casino on Ann Street in New York. Doyle in turn recruited millionaire Ferdinand “Gus” Abell, who owned casinos in Newport, Rhode Island, and a house in New York City. But Charley Byrne clearly was the man who ran the club. If a reporter asked about the team, Joe Doyle would point to his brother-in-law and say, “You will have to go to him, he is the Brooklyn talking-machine.”iii
The Brooklyn Club president had a clear idea of what was needed to succeed in this growing game of baseball. First, work began on constructing a state-of-the art baseball park, in the Red Hookiv neighborhood of Brooklyn. Byrne named it Washington Park because a stone house in the area was used by General George Washington as his headquarters during the Battle of Long Island in the Revolutionary War. (Byrne originally used the old stone house as a ladies restroom and then as the Brooklyn dressing room.)The park cost $32,000, a huge sum in those days.
Next came finding players for the team. Baseball at that time was a rough-and-tumble game. Both Byrne and Taylor were determined to raise the level of play to attract a higher class of fans. They placed an ad for players in the New York Clipper, seeking temperate “men of intelligence and not corner-lot toughs who happen to possess some skill as a player but whose habits and ways make them unfit for thorough team work.”v
Finally, the club needed to join a league. In March of 1883, Brooklyn was accepted into the minor-league Interstate Base Ball Association, joining teams from small towns in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. In less than nine months, Byrne and his colleagues had given birth to a ballpark and a team, and had joined a professional league. A new era in Brooklyn baseball was about to begin.
The new Brooklyn team played its first home game at Washington Park on May 12, 1883, two weeks before the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge. The minor-league game against Trenton, which Brooklyn won, drew more than 6,000 fans, exceeding the 5,000 at the opening game of the major-league New York Gothams at the original Polo Grounds. That same day, Byrne hired a young assistant and ticket-taker. His name was Charles Ebbets, and he would become an iconic figure in the history of the Brooklyn club.
The Brooklyns (the team had no nickname – not Grays or Atlantics as is sometimes written) were in the middle of the pack when the first-place Camden Merritts disbanded. Byrne quickly made a move that would become his trademark. He swooped in and snapped up Camden’s best players at top dollar and generous salaries. With the influx of the Camden players, Byrne’s team won the Interstate Association pennant in the club’s first year in existence.
Byrne’s eye was on the big leagues, though, and in 1884 he was able to move his club into the American Association, then a major league along with the National League. The team, with co-founder George Taylor as manager, was a financial success but finished far down in the standings. Clearly, better players were needed for the big leagues. But as 1885 dawned, Byrne seemed to be doing nothing. Then the news broke that at 1 a.m. on January 5, 1885, Brooklyn had signed the top players of the National League’s Cleveland club, which had been disbanded. Under baseball rules there was a ten-day waiting period before any team could sign released players. With co-owner Gus Abell bankrolling the purchase, Byrne had hidden the players in a Cleveland hotel until the deadline passed.
Other owners were furious. “The outraged and outwitted delegates from elsewhere discussed Messrs. Byrne and Abell in a manner that made the swearing of the army in Flanders sound like a Sunday school address – but that was the good it did them,” said Charley Ebbets.vi The New York Times called the surprising signing “the biggest sensation ever made in baseball.”vii Brooklyn also signed the Cleveland manager, requiring George Taylor to move to the front office as club secretary. Taylor eventually turned the job over to Ebbets and returned to the newspaper business.
The big move didn’t pan out because of quarreling between the new Cleveland players and the old Brooklyn players. It may have been at this point that Byrne first said, “Baseball players are like eggs. Sometimes they aren’t what they are cracked up to be.”viii Early in the 1885 season, he fired the manager, Charlie Hackett, and eventually made himself field manager as well as club president.
Byrne treated his players as if they were his sons, calling them his “lambs.” He took them as a team to cultural events, such as a showing of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado. He had players open savings accounts. “When the cold winds come blowing, gentle Annie, my boys will be enjoying their hard earned money, while other ball players that I know will be living on snow balls and wishing that summer was at hand before the winter has fairly commenced,” he said.ix
Byrne was making an even bigger mark as a baseball executive. He was the first proponent of regular Ladies Day games and in 1885 expanded the free entry for women to every home game. “We have found by experience that where there is an assemblage of ladies at our matches we get more orderly gatherings,” Byrne explained.x Many of the ladies came to see Brooklyn’s handsome young pitcher Bill “Adonis” Terry.
Byrne’s policy was influential. “The good effects of the move were at once noticed, and he has been wise enough to keep up the practice,” The Sporting News reported. “The spectators are now more respectful and careful about the style of language they use in addressing the players and the umpires. … If other managers would follow in Brooklyn’s footsteps and admit the fair sex to their grounds, it would not only have a good effect on the game generally but it would increase the attendance and enlarge the dividends of the club at the end of the season.”xi
To protect the ladies from odorous cigar smoke, Byrne created baseball’s first nonsmoking section. “It will be a relief to numbers of the patrons to get rid of the smoking annoyance in the grand stand,” the Brooklyn Eagle commented.xii
After he noticed that the threat of bad weather kept fans away from the park because they feared paying to see a rained-out game, Byrne invented the rain check. A Philadelphia paper noted that the wisdom of the rain check “introduced by Mr. Byrne was made very evident last week at the Athletic grounds. Threatening and rainy weather prevailed all week, yet large crowds were present at each game. But for the rain checks not half the people would have taken the risk of seeing but a few innings and losing their money.”xiii
Byrne also was concerned about unruly play, which he feared attracted the wrong kind of fans and turned off respectable customers. Rowdy play was the style of the champion St. Louis Browns (now the Cardinals), who were the original Rough House Gang under its owner Chris Von der Ahe and player-manager Charles Comiskey. Commy was not averse to slugging his own players, and he constantly berated umpires in the foulest of terms. If things weren’t going well, he would pull his team from the field and refuse to continue. While coaching at first base, Comiskey and his third-base coach would yell insults at the opposing pitcher and run up on each side of the catcher to shout obscenities in his ears.
In 1886 the American Association called a special meeting in Columbus, Ohio, to deal with the issue, with Byrne as the presiding officer. The Brooklyn president pushed through a resolution banning “offensive coaching” and a rule requiring that base coaches stay at least 75 feet from home plate. Thus, Charley Byrne effectively created coaches’ boxes.xiv In 1887 Byrne also won a rule imposing a $1,500 fine on a team if it refused an umpire’s order to continue play.
Because of his intelligence and attention to detail, Byrne became the most influential owner in the American Association. He was named the sole Association member, along with two National League owners, on baseball’s Arbitration Committee, which resolved disputes in both leagues. “The one man of the Association who has shown himself capable of successfully meeting the League diplomats on their own ground, appears to be Mr. Byrne, of the Brooklyn Club,” Sporting Life wrote.xv The Brooklyn president also was named to a three-member Association committee overseeing the umpires as well as head of the scheduling committee.
“Mr. Byrne has become the ruling mind in the affairs of the Association,” Sporting Life concluded. “In fact, MR. BYRNE IS THE ASSOCIATION. As a natural sequence of superior general abilities, he is president, secretary, board of directors and all the committees. He is ‘Captain, cook and all the crew on board the Mary Jane.’ The other members of the ring fondly delude themselves with the belief that they are participating partners, and their thinking so is one of the greatest tributes to the peculiar abilities of Mr. Byrne. Either by study or by intuition this admirable diplomat becomes thoroughly conversant with the subtlest governing characteristics of his colleagues, and he manipulates this knowledge so delicately, and yet so skillfully, that there is responding result without even the manipulation or the true product being observed by the objects of it.”xvi
Byrne’s critics in St. Louis took a darker view of the Brooklyn club president’s rise. “His smooth, oily ways are captivating and his glib tongue wields a power to manipulate at will,” said the St. Louis Post Dispatch.xvii But the “Little General” clearly was having a big impact on the national game.
Charley Byrne’s record as a field manager failed to match his prowess in the front office. After a losing 1887 season, Byrne fired himself and hired baseball pioneer Bill “Gunner” McGunnigle to be the club’s manager for the 1888 season. Byrne finished his managerial career with a respectable record of 174 wins and 172 losses.
In his job as club president, Byrne again made history with the most spectacular dealings in baseball history to that point. First, in late 1887, he and his partners paid $25,000 for the entire New York Mets club, which had moved to Staten Island. Brooklyn kept the cream of the players, including big first baseman Dave Orr and scrappy outfielder Darby O’Brien, and sold the rest for a new American Association franchise in Kansas City.
Next, Byrne pulled off a historic deal with St. Louis owner Chris Von der Ahe, acquiring three St. Louis stars for a record $19,000. They were catcher Doc Bushong, outfielder Dave Foutz, and pitcher “Parisian Bob” Caruthers, who also signed a contract for a record pay of $5,500. The stunning deal made Byrne the talk of the baseball world. “Certainly, if pluck and energy, combined with liberal outlays of money, can achieve success in securing first-class players with which to improve his team, Charley is going to get it,” wrote legendary sportswriter Henry Chadwick.xviii
Before the 1888 season began, several Brooklyn players married, prompting sportswriters to give the team its first nickname: the Brooklyn Bridegrooms. The Bridegrooms turned out to be the bridesmaids that year, finishing second behind St. Louis. But Charley Byrne was determined. He opened the club’s pocketbook to acquire star outfielders Pop Corkhill and Oyster Burns as well as second baseman Hub Collins and pitcher Tom Lovett.
The result: In 1889, Brooklyn battled St. Louis down to the final day of the season. After winning the last game in Columbus, Ohio, Byrne and his Bridegrooms headed home by train not knowing the outcome of the St. Louis contest. When the train arrived, the team got word that St. Louis had lost, giving Brooklyn its first pennant. When Byrne heard the news, “his worried face relaxed into a contented smile, and his entire nervous system underwent a change,” Sporting Life said. “The strain had been long and severe, and the reaction was immediate.”xix
The Brooklyn club president quickly arranged the team’s first “World’s Series” with the National League champion New York Giants. The Giants were a heavy favorite with a lineup that featured six future Hall of Famers: Buck Ewing, John Montgomery Ward, Tim Keefe, Roger Connor, Mickey Welch, and Jim O’Rourke. No Brooklyn player would make the Hall of Fame. Nevertheless, Brooklyn roared off to a three games to one lead before losing the Series six games to three. Byrne’s consolation was that his moves to draw average fans to Brooklyn games resulted in a regular-season attendance of 336,000, the highest for any baseball club in the 19th century.
Charley Byrne then played a key role in a baseball revolution in 1890. First, when St. Louis owner Chris Von der Ahe moved to install his own anti-Byrne candidate to head the American Association, Byrne took Brooklyn into the National League. Fellow owners immediately made him a member of the league’s board of directors. They also relied heavily on Byrne and Chicago White Stockings owner Albert Spalding in coping with a development that threatened the League’s very existence: a revolt by the leading players of the day.
The players, led by Brotherhood president John Montgomery Ward, had formed the Players League as a third major league, with teams in every National League city. The champion New York Giants and most other National League clubs were decimated by defections. Brooklyn was one of the few teams to retain nearly all of its players, thanks to Byrne’s history of fair treatment. Speaking for many of his teammates, Brooklyn’s Hub Collins said, “Mr. Byrne treated me like a king, and I never hesitated about signing my contract for next season.”xx
With its team intact, Brooklyn swept to the National League pennant in 1890, making it the only team in baseball history to win consecutive championships in two different major leagues. Along the way, Byrne also made history by holding baseball’s first tripleheader, on September 1, 1890. Byrne heard that the rival Brooklyn Players League team, managed by Monte Ward, planned a Labor Day doubleheader. So he scheduled three games with visiting Pittsburgh. The Bridegrooms won all three games and outdrew the Players League twin bill. There have been only three tripleheaders in baseball history.
The pennant race was overshadowed by the battle between the National League and the Players League. The National League formed a war committee headed by Chicago’s Spalding, who vowed to crush the rebel league. He scheduled National League home games to directly compete with the home games of the Players League. This was a two-edged sword, especially for teams like the Bridegrooms, who had to compete in Brooklyn not only with the Players team but with a new American Association club.
The slash-and-burn strategy worked, destroying the Players League after just one season. Though Byrne had a soft spot for players, he was a team man who not only supported but also helped lead the battle by Al Spalding against the rebel league. “There is no dodging the statement that Mr. Spalding and Mr. Byrne accomplished the downfall of the Players League,” concluded Sporting Life.xxi But many baseball observers agreed that if Byrne had been in the National League sooner, he might have tempered some the league’s high-handed treatment of players that helped lead to the revolt. Brooklyn manager Bill McGunnigle, Sporting Life reported, said that “if the National League was run by such a man as the man he worked for on the Brooklyn team, there would be no Brotherhood, there would be no cause for one, and it would be impossible to form one.”xxii
After Brooklyn’s second pennant in two years, Brooklynites hailed Byrne as a conquering hero. At a postseason celebration at the Grand Opera House, “the mention of Byrne’s name was like putting the match to a dozen cannons,” Sporting Life reported. “As the little president stepped from the wings he faced a cheering, shouting gathering that sent their combined greeting at him like a cyclone. He looked wonder-eyed over the foot-lights, his legs wobbled and it was evident he was suffering a slight stroke of stage fright. But he had lots of time to get over it for the cheering was taken up again and again, lasting several minutes.”
Byrne struggled to regain his composure as he began to read his prepared remarks. The words of the usually articulate baseball man seemed stiff, and then a page of his written speech fell to the floor. Byrne, according to Sporting Life, “colored up” and continued talking as he stooped down to try to retrieve the paper, never taking his eyes off the audience. Finally, as he got to the end of a sentence, he managed to grab the missing paper. After only the slightest pause, he crumpled the paper up in his hand, stuffed the rest of his speech in his pocket, and began speaking from the heart.
“Like a born orator, he started in and electrified his hearers,” Sporting Life wrote. “There was no limit to his eloquence and the good, solid English he hurled at the big gathering worked all to a pitch of enthusiasm that burst bounds when he told them in language unmistakable that he was in a position to say that Brooklyn had in all probability seen the last of the base ball war and that next season would mark a return to old principles, and that Brooklynites would have only one club and one championship, and interest being undivided, another good spell of times would be quite a surety. This declaration was the windup of the night, and was received with a general and united shout.”xxiii
But Byrne, like nearly every other major-league baseball owner, was facing huge financial problems. Squabbling between the three leagues in 1890 had turned off baseball fans and attendance had fallen sharply. National League clubs rushed to woo investors from the disbanded Players League clubs, and Brooklyn was no exception. Byrne brought in investors from the former Players League Brooklyn team, Ward’s Wonders, but at a price.
First, he agreed to move the Bridegrooms’ games from Washington Park to the more distant Eastern Park, which had been built for the Players League team. Second, the investors demanded that John Montgomery Ward be made manager of the Brooklyn Bridegrooms. Byrne agreed, and Gunner McGunnigle was replaced despite two straight pennants.
In 1891 the American Association also folded. Byrne played a major role in merging some of the Association’s teams into a 12-team National League and drawing up a new National Agreement for baseball. He became a champion of the minor leagues. “These smaller clubs are absolutely necessary for the good of baseball,” he said, “and they must be encouraged.”xxiv
Byrne’s club struggled in the 1890s, and he never won another pennant. Attendance dipped at remote Eastern Park, where fans had to dodge trolley cars to get to the park. For a while the team became known as the Trolley Dodgers. The struggles took a toll on Byrne’s health. The Brooklyn club president, who never married, took leave from his post and went to Hot Springs, Virginia, to try to heal. But he couldn’t keep his mind off baseball. He had the Brooklyn team supply bats, balls, and uniforms for the employee team at his hotel. In the winter of 1897, despite ill health, he felt obligated to attend the National League meeting in Philadelphia. Afterward, Byrne’s health worsened further, and he fell into a coma.
On January 4, 1898, Charley Byrne died from Bright’s disease at his Manhattan home at the age of 54. Charles Ebbets succeeded him as Brooklyn club president. Byrne left behind a legacy that is unmatched among baseball executives of his day. “From the year Mr. Byrne made his advent in the base ball arena, up to the year of his last illness, he was foremost in every movement that was calculated to benefit the national game,” said Hall of Fame sportswriter Henry Chadwick.xxv
Byrne always put the interests of baseball above his own. “We are merely the backers of a sport that appeals to old and young,” he said. “If we betray that trust, we betray the cardinal principle of the game that we control.”xxvi
The Brooklyn baseball president’s “apparent anxiety to conserve only the best interests of the national game was dear to him more than anything else on earth,” Sporting Life said. “In that respect, he was easily the greatest magnate of them all.”xxvii
Charley Byrne’s name faded from view as baseball moved into the 20th century. But based on the opinions of those involved in baseball in the late 1800s, no executive made more contributions to the early development of America’s national game and the storied franchise that became the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers than Charles H. Byrne. The record is clear: The “Napoleon of Base Ball” deserves a place in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
Ronald G. Shafer, When the Dodgers Were Bridegrooms, Gunner McGunnigle and Brooklyn’s Back-to-Back Pennants of 1889 and 1890 (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company Inc., 2011).
The Sporting News
New York Times
New York Clipper
iv The area is now called Lawn Park Slope. See Philip J. Lowry, Green Cathedrals (New York: Walker & Company, 2006), 35.
SABR BASEBALL BIOGRAPHY PROJECT
William “Gunner” McGunnigle had a flair for fashion on a baseball field that likely will never be matched. McGunnigle managed and coached the bases wearing black patent-leather shoes, a cutaway suit coat, lavender trousers, a silk tie and a derby hat. “It’s only a good looking man like yours truly who could wear patent leathers on the field and get away with it without getting shot at,” he once joked to a reporter.i
The legacy of pioneer baseball man Bill McGunnigle goes far beyond patent-leather shoes, however. As a player he was credited with inventing the catcher’s mitt in 1875. As skipper of the future Brooklyn Dodgers, he won Brooklyn’s first two pennants and remains the only manager in baseball history to win consecutive championships in two different major leagues. He has the highest winning percentage of any manager in Dodgers franchise history.
William Henry McGunnigle was born in Boston, the son of Irish immigrant parents, on New Year’s Day of 1855. When he was a boy, the family moved to nearby East Stoughton (now Avon), next to Brockton, then the shoemaking capital of the world. Billy’s father, James F. McGunnigle, became a Civil War hero as a twice-wounded Union officer. At the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse, a rebel bullet smashed into McGunnigle’s chest, but his life was saved when the bullet hit a hunting watch that he carried over his heart in his shirt pocket. The watch had been a gift from a friend back home.
After the war young Billy, who had inherited his father’s dashing good looks, began playing baseball on East Stoughton’s green fields. After the eighth grade, he dropped out of school and began working in a local shoe factory to help support the family, which now counted six children. On November 24, 1874, he married Mary McCullough, the pretty daughter of Irish immigrants. But Billy also had another love, the game of baseball, and it would change his life.
Billy was watching an 1873 game between teams from the towns of Brockton and Grafton when Brockton’s catcher was injured. Brockton’s captain, Owen Canary, asked if anyone in the crowd could catch. “A young fellow of eighteen came out of the woods with a gun on his shoulder and asked for a chance to catch the pitching of Joe Hallett, local twirler for the Brockton nine,” said Canary. “I gave it to him, and he made good.”ii Billy’s strong throwing arm earned him a new nickname: “Gunner.”
In 1874 Gunner led the Howard Juniors, an amateur team in Brockton, to the Junior Championship of Massachusetts. “He was delighted and inspired when he hit his first home run in Brockton, ran crazily around the bases and turned a somersault as he crossed home plate to win the game. He decided that baseball was the game for him,” one of McGunnigle’s sons, William, wrote in a letter to the Baseball Hall of Fame.iii
At this time, towns were starting to hire professionals to bolster their amateur teams. In June of 1875, the club in Fall River, Massachusetts, recruited McGunnigle to be the team’s first pro player. Though he was only 5-feet-9 inches tall and weighed just 155 pounds, young McGunnigle became the team’s starting catcher. In those days, catchers snared the pitcher’s underhand tosses without a glove or mask. As a result, a catcher’s hands took a severe beating.
When McGunnigle’s hands became very sore, the innovative young man decided to do something about it. Before a game with Harvard College, he borrowed a pair of thick bricklayer’s gloves. He tried them out during practice, but found they restricted his throwing. So he got out a jackknife and cut the fingers off the right-hand glove.iv The padded mitt “was an immediate success,” the New York Sun said, that “will save the broken fingers known until now.”v
Just who really invented what in the early days of baseball is often hard to pin down. But according to the 1895 Reach’s Official Baseball Guide, “The catcher’s mitt was first used in 1875 by William McGunnigle of the Fall River team.”vi
Before the 1876 season rolled around, young McGunnigle had more big ideas. The National League began that year. McGunnigle argued that “Fall River was just as ripe for pro ball as Boston” or any other big city.vii He persuaded the team’s owner to hire more professionals, and Fall River roared to the New England Association championship.
The speedy McGunnigle switched to the outfield, dazzling fans with spectacular barehanded catches. After a second-place finish in 1877, McGunnigle decided it was time to move on, much to the regret of local observers. “He is the greatest right fielder we ever saw,” said the Fall River Daily Herald.viii
In 1878 McGunnigle signed for a salary of $700 with Buffalo in the International Association. The team’s star player was a stocky, 22-year-old pitcher named Jim “Pud” Gavin. McGunnigle became Buffalo’s change pitcher – filling in for the few games Gavin didn’t pitch – and on other days played right field. Dashing Billy McGunnigle, now also known as “Mac,” quickly became a fan favorite. “This handsome young man has no superior in the country as a right fielder, prancing over his territory with a nervous energy which is destruction to everything sent his way,” the Buffalo Express said.ix
Mac’s specialty was charging like a shortstop to field a ball hit to right field and gunning the batter out at first base. “I have seen McGunnigle throw out as many as seven men in one game from right field to first base,” said Buffalo teammate Sam Crane. That season the New York Clipper newspaper awarded Mac its Clipper Prize as the league’s best right fielder, emphasizing his throwing 28 runners out at first, “his work in this respect being the best on record.”x He also hit .243 for the season.
After Buffalo won the International Association pennant, both the team and McGunnigle moved into the major leagues in 1879 when the club was accepted into the National League. During the season Mac was benched because of weak hitting. But when Galvin was injured, McGunnigle pitched two straight wins over the Chicago White Stockings (today’s Cubs), enabling Buffalo to edge Chicago for a respectable third-place finish. McGunnigle hit an anemic .170 for the season, but rolled up a pitching record of 9 wins and 5 losses with a 2.62 earned run average.
Over the winter McGunnigle and his wife, Mary, stayed in Buffalo while Gunner worked at Staley’s Shoe and Boot Store on Main Street. The McGunnigles’ second child, William, was born in Buffalo in 1880 and their third, Mary, arrived in 1882. Like their father, both children were born on New Year’s Day.
McGunnigle began the 1880 season as Buffalo’s captain and manager. He also became part of baseball’s first pitching rotation, with McGunnigle pitching one game and newcomer Tom Poorman hurling the next. The change was born out of necessity after Pud Galvin left to play in California. McGunnigle won his first game, but his arm went lame and he was released after only 17 contests. He played in only three more major-league games – one with the Worcester Ruby Legs in 1880 and a doubleheader with Cleveland in 1882. Gunner’s short big-league career ended with a .173 batting average, and a pitching record of 11 wins and 8 losses.
Mac eventually returned home to Brockton, where he worked as a cigar salesman as his arm healed. Then in 1883 he was recruited to captain a team in Saginaw, Michigan, in the new Northwestern League. His teammates included future Hall of Fame pitcher John Clarkson. Saginaw finished second to Toledo, which was led by African American catcher Moses “Fleet” Walker. But Saginaw was awarded the pennant when Toledo joined the major-league American Association in 1884. (When that happened, Walker became the first African American to play in the big leagues.)
Meantime, an expanded Northwestern League ran into financial trouble and began selling off its players. McGunnigle was sent to the league’s Bay City, Michigan, team, where he joined hard-hitting Jim “Cuddy” Cudworth, who would become his best friend. Then the Bay City team folded, and Mac ended up in Muskegon, Michigan.
McGunnigle returned to Brockton in 1885 to form a new team in the Eastern New England League. Now 30 years old and sporting long sideburns and a handlebar mustache, he was a confident and self-educated man. In private he was “a story teller in several dialects, had a good singing voice and a hearty appreciation of friendships. His family cherished him and his numerous friends took great delight in his company,” his son William later recalled.xi His pals included heavyweight boxing champion John L. Sullivan. Mac was a snappy dresser, preferring natty light trousers and cutaway jackets.
The new Brockton team was led by McGunnigle as playing manager and his Bay City buddy Jim Cudworth. About this time, all of baseball began allowing pitchers to throw overhand. But the pitcher’s box remained 50 feet from home plate, and hit batters didn’t get to take first base. Batters, as Mac discovered, were sitting ducks.
On July 22 in Brockton, McGunnigle stepped into the batter’s box to face pitcher Dick Conway of the Lawrence, Massachusetts, team. Mac dodged the first pitch, a fastball thrown squarely at his head. “The second was directly in the direction of the first, and the batter only saved himself by dropping suddenly on all fours to the ground,” the Brockton Weekly Gazette reported. When “a third ball sped from the pitcher’s hand like a bullet from a gun … the unfortunate batsman could not avoid the ball in time. And it struck him with a crash, which was heard in every part of the grounds. Poor ‘Mac’ fell like an animal beneath the butcher’s axe, and his quivering form was drawn up in agony as he lay upon the ground.”xii
McGunnigle was badly hurt, but returned to play that season. After he had recovered, the notorious incident eventually led to a family poem that Mac’s daughter Mary passed on to her children:
McGunnigle led the Shoe City team to first place when the season ended in October – at least Brocktonites thought he did. Second-place Lawrence was allowed to play some postponed games and then won a three-game playoff with Brockton. Mac returned the next year, but the team played poorly. When the owners ordered McGunnigle to fine the players, he refused to do so and quit the team, leaving with Cudworth to play for the Haverhill, Massachusetts, squad.
Then in 1887, the New England League’s Lowell, Massachusetts, team hired McGunnigle as its player-manager. Led by McGunnigle’s underhand pitching and the hitting of Cudworth and future Hall of Famer Hugh Duffy, the Lowell Browns won the championship. Mac was a hero in Lowell but not in rival towns. One day while the team was on the road, he was getting a shave in a barbershop when the talk turned to the Lowell nine. “That darned McGunnigle,” the barber said. “If I had him here, I’d cut his big throat.” Mac chose to keep mum.xiv
Gunner’s triumphs gained wider attention. McGunnigle “as a manager, player and general on the field is head and shoulders above anything in the league and excelled by precious few in the country,” said Sporting Life. “In the minds of the baseball public,” the Boston Globe said, McGunnigle’s name “is a household word.” The pennant-winning manager caught the eye of Charley Byrne, president of the Brooklyn team in the American Association, who hired McGunnigle as Brooklyn’s new skipper for a pay of $2,500.
Byrne also was making other moves to strengthen the Brooklyn team, which had been perennial also-rans in the major-league American Association to the champion St. Louis Browns, led by player-manager Charles Comiskey. First Byrne and his partners purchased the entire New York Mets team and kept the best of the players. Then Byrne spent an unheard total of $19,000 to acquire three star players from St. Louis – pitcher “Parisian Bob” Caruthers, outfielder Dave Foutz, and catcher Doc Bushong.
Just before McGunnigle’s first season began in 1888, several of the Brooklyn players married, earning the team a new nickname: the Brooklyn Bridegrooms. The new team and manager made their Brooklyn debut on April 16, 1888, against Cleveland. McGunnigle was no longer a playing manager, and he didn’t wear a uniform. The natty, mustachioed Mac was attired in a dark suit, a bright tie, a shirt with a high white starched collar, a derby hat, and black patent leather shoes with removable spikes, a shoe that he had invented and patented. (Umpires and visiting players, who usually changed into their uniforms at hotels, could remove the spikes and avoid tearing the carpeting.)
Despite the star players, McGunnigle and the team struggled. In August, Mac seethed over press reports that he was merely an empty suit on the bench, and that club president Charley Byrne really ran the team. “I have seen it in print, and I understand that it started in the West, that I am only a figure-head in the Brooklyn Club, and simply carry out Mr. Byrne’s orders. This is false all the way through,” Mac told reporters.xv
According to Charles Ebbets, who was Brooklyn’s club secretary at the time, McGunnigle “was really the first manager Brooklyn ever had. Prior to that Mr. Byrne had been the actual manager although others had worn the title.”xvi
After Brooklyn closed the season by winning ten straight games to finish second to the St. Louis Browns, club president Byrne decided that McGunnigle deserved another chance. The Brooklyn players unanimously supported the decision, with many declaring that Mac was the best manager they had ever played for.
As an ever-optimistic Irishman, McGunnigle had no doubt about the 1889 baseball season. The Brooklyn manager vowed to “make a head long plunge from the top of one of the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge into the East River” if the Bridegrooms didn’t capture the pennant.xvii
After a slow start, Brooklyn jumped into first place in another close race with St. Louis. McGunnigle became known as the thinking man’s manager.
“Let me say a word of William McGunnigle, a man whose modesty tends to push his light under a bushel,” wrote one Sporting Life correspondent. “He does not court notoriety and always hugs the bench with his players. He is with his men at all times and on all occasions he is figuring at some method by which a profitable trick may be learned. Mac’s mind is ever on base ball, and you can seldom switch him off it, both in and out of school. The players think a heap of him, and the close attachment existing between he and they is evidenced in the fact that he is always a welcome guest to their circle.”xviii
Mac blew a tin whistle to get his players’ attention. He studied opposing catchers and managers. “McGunnigle was the first of the great sign stealers,” said Lee Allen, the former official historian of baseball at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. “He was also the first manager to signal to players by waving a scorecard on the bench. Nervous as a sitting hen, McGunnigle also gave signs by tapping bats, drumming away as if he were a telegrapher.”xix
It was later disclosed that the ever-inventive McGunnigle had some wild ideas that he wanted to try. One of his ideas “was what the boys called his electric heel tapper,” Sporting Life reported. Mac’s idea was to put a small metal plate in the batter’s box that would be wired to a button on the bench. McGunnigle would press the button to send shocks to his batters to signal what the pitcher was about to throw. He even called in an electrician to get a cost estimate, but dropped the idea when the electrician warned that the electrical current “might prove dangerous.”
Before long, the innovative manager had another idea. Brooklyn’s Washington Park had a big sign above the center-field fence. It was a cigarette advertisement with a huge picture of a dog’s head. McGunnigle wanted to paint one eye black and one eye white. “He proposed to manipulate the eyes by electricity, for, be it understood, Mac is an Edison in embryo,” Sporting Life said. “A straight ball coming he would let down the white eye. The black eye would indicate a curve ball.” His players kidded him out of that one.xx
Even without shocks or winks, manager McGunnigle led Brooklyn to its first major-league pennant in 1889, winning the American Association flag by one game over St. Louis. Brooklyn played its first “World’s Series” against the National League’s New York Giants, who were led by six future Hall of Famers including Buck Ewing, Tim Keefe and John Montgomery Ward. Brooklyn took a surprising three games to one lead before the Giants stormed back to take the Series, six games to three.
In the clubhouse after the Series, Brooklyn players showed their esteem for their manager by presenting him with a gold watch and chain and a diamond-studded locket. Perhaps recalling his father’s Civil War adventure, McGunnigle told the players: “Boys, you caught me unprepared. Of course, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your kindness. I can assure you that whatever happens the watch will never visit ‘my uncle’; that it will be kept in a chamois case and that it will always be carried in a pocket over my heart.”xxi
In 1890 Brooklyn switched to the National League. That year McGunnigle and all of baseball got caught up in a storm. Many of the top players, led by Brotherhood president John Montgomery Ward, revolted and formed a third major league with teams in the very same cities as the National League. Almost all of Brooklyn’s players remained loyal to the club, and McGunnigle was able to lead the team to a second straight pennant, its first in the National League.
After spending a day on the bench in the final road series against Cleveland, when Brooklyn won all four games, a Sporting Life reporter wrote: “There isn’t a Brooklyn player who works harder to win a game than does Billy McGunnigle. He is here, there and everywhere sliding from one end of the bench to the other, always with a bat in his hand and one at his feet, and as nervous as a sweet girl graduate just before firing off her essay.”xxii
McGunnigle and Brooklyn also made history that year by playing in baseball’s first tripleheader in a September 1 clash with Pittsburgh. The Bridegrooms won all three games. There have been only three tripleheaders in the history of baseball, and McGunnigle was involved in two of them. He was the manager of the Louisville Colonels when they played the second tripleheader, on September 7, 1896, losing all three games to Baltimore. The third triple bill took place on October 2, 1920, when Cincinnati won two of three against Pittsburgh.
Few men in the history of baseball at the time could match McGunnigle’s winning record, Sporting Life noted: “A great deal has been said at odd times of various players and managers who have been connected in their time with many champion teams, but one man, with a more remarkable record than any of the others many mentioned, has been entirely overlooked, simply because he is altogether too modest for the pushing baseball world and never blows his own horn. That man is Manager McGunnigle of the Brooklyn Club. … Even [Cap] Anson doesn’t approach McGunnigle’s record of handling winning teams by a long shot. Nine firsts and three seconds in 14 years is simply phenomenal.”xxiii
Despite his success, McGunnigle became a victim of the fallout from the great baseball war. The Players League died after only one season, but the three-league competition had turned off fans and attendance plummeted. The surviving National League and American Association teams scrambled to woo investors from the former Players clubs. The Brooklyn Bridegrooms took on minority investors from the Players’ Brooklyn team, called Ward’s Wonders after its manager Johnny Ward. But as part of the deal, the Bridegrooms had to agree to make Ward the team’s manager. Bill McGunnigle was let go despite having won two straight pennants.
McGunnigle never spoke publicly about the dismissal, and the Brooklyn Eagle noted only that Mac “left this city with the best wishes of the men who employed him.” In his three years managing Brooklyn, McGunnigle won 267 games and lost 139 for a winning percentage of .658, still the highest in Dodgers franchise history.
There were hints that Mac left Brooklyn voluntarily so he could spend more time with his growing family in Brockton. Such speculation was undercut by the fact that in the middle of the 1891 season McGunnigle jumped at the chance to take over as manager of the last-place Pittsburgh team in the National League. But he got caught on the wrong side of an ownership dispute and was let go at the end of the season.
Still, McGunnigle left his mark. One of his players, catcher Connie Mack, noticed McGunnigle signaling with bats and scorecards. Mack later became manager of the Philadelphia Athletics for 50 years and was famed for signaling his players with a scorecard.
In 1892 McGunnigle returned home to manage another baseball team in Brockton. In July of that year, he helped baseball player Fred Doe organize the first professional Sunday baseball game ever played in New England, playing at Rocky Point Park in Rhode Island despite a state law barring baseball on the Sabbath.
Over the next few years, Mac became involved with polo and indoor baseball played on roller skates. His family had grown to seven children. He remained devoted to his wife, Mary. In 1895 he wrote about what makes a good marriage:
“Husband and Wife. Never should both be angry at the same time. Never deceive; confidence once lost, can never be wholly regained. Always leave home with a tender goodbye and a pleasant word, for they may be the last. Do not require a request to be repeated. Never reproach the other for an error which was done with good motive, and with the best judgment at the time. Never neglect the other for all that there is on earth. (I have done this) from Nov. 24, 1874 to this date.”xxiv
Mac returned to the National League in mid-1896 as manager of the last-place Louisville Colonels. During a stop in Washington, D.C., he took his players to the White House, saying he knew President Grover Cleveland. The players assumed it was another of Mac’s practical jokes. At the White House President Cleveland greeted McGunnigle, “Why, Mac, how are you? We haven’t met in years.” The president, who was from Buffalo, explained to the startled players that he had seen McGunnigle play there in the late 1870s.
Despite a verbal two-year contract, Louisville fired McGunnigle after one season. He sued and won a small settlement out of court. McGunnigle’s five-year record as a major-league manager totaled 327 wins and 248 losses, for a winning percentage of .569.
Gunner returned to Brockton, where he opened a pub and poolroom downtown across from city hall. On the night of July 22, 1897, he was returning home with several others in a horse-drawn carrier that was struck by one of Brockton’s new electric trolley cars. Mac was thrown to the street and badly injured. Ironically, the man who once managed a team that became known as the Trolley Dodgers was done in by a trolley car.
McGunnigle never recovered his health and died on March 9, 1899, at the age of 44 at his home at 35 Arch Street. Among friends who attended his funeral were heavyweight boxing champions John L. Sullivan and Jim Corbett. McGunnigle, one obituary said, “seldom talked of his record and achievements, and the details of one of the most interesting careers in the baseball world passes with its subject.”xxvi
In 1915 prominent Boston Globe sportswriter Tom Murnane predicted that “some day there will be an institution to honor the pioneer heroes of the diamond and also the modern stars. When that day arrives, Billy McGunnigle, because of outstanding playing ability, sagacious leadership and aggressiveness, should be one of the first enshrined therein.”xxvii The National Baseball Hall of Fame opened in 1936 in Cooperstown, New York. In 1978 Murnane received the Hall’s J.G. Taylor Spink Award, conferred annually on a sportwriter.
Bill McGunnigle’s managing career didn’t last long enough for him to be considered for the Hall of Fame. However, there is a room at the Hall of Fame museum in Cooperstown devoted to baseball in the 19th century. Certainly, Gunner McGunnigle, the inventor of the catcher’s mitt and one of the most innovative baseball minds of the game’s early days, deserves a mention there.
Ronald G. Shafer, When the Dodgers Were Bridegrooms, Gunner McGunnigle and Brooklyn’s Back-to-Back Pennants of 1889 and 1890, (Jefferson, North Carolina: MacFarland and Company Inc., 2011).
xiv Robert A. Kane, “Billy McGunnigle,” Baseball Research Journal Volume 28 (Cleveland: SABR, 1999), 17.
Lee Allen, The Giants and the Dodgers (New York: Putnam, 1964), 25.
From the Virginia Gazette, Aug. 18, 2012
By Ronald G. Shafer
With the 1920 Republican convention in Chicago deadlocked after nine ballots, party bosses in the proverbial smoke-filled room lined up behind handsome Ohio Senator Warren G. Harding. But first they asked if he had any embarrassing skeletons in his closet.
“Nothing,” said the silver-haired Harding, who won nomination on the next ballot. The Ohioan, however, neglected to mention his mistresses and an illegitimate child. When one socialite lover threatened to tell all, the party sent her and her husband on a free trip around the world until the election was over.
Don’t expect any surprises at this month’s Republican convention in Tampa (Aug. 27) or the Democratic gathering early next month in Charlotte, N.C. (Sept. 3). Presidential conventions these days are pretty cut and dried. But they once were loaded with suspense because the outcome wasn’t known until the delegates voted.
Sometimes a dark horse could come out of nowhere to win. That happened in 1844 when the Democratic convention in Baltimore nominated future president James Polk on the ninth ballot. He wasn’t even a candidate until the eighth ballot.
At the 1860 Republican convention in Chicago, New York Senator William Seward led 11 rivals on the first two ballots. Abraham Lincoln of Illinois was a close second. At the end of the third ballot, three Ohio delegates switched their votes to put Abe over the top.
At the 1924 Democratic meeting in New York delegates voted a record 103 times over 16 days before picking West Virginia’s John W. Davis. Famed journalist H.L. Mencken complained that, “The convention is almost as vain and idiotic as a golf tournament.”
By the 1960s, voters in party primaries selected nominees before the convention began. So the drama was about choosing the vice presidential candidate. At the 1960 Democratic convention in Los Angeles John F. Kennedy stunned everybody, including his brother Bobby, by picking archrival Lyndon Johnson.
The televised conventions became magnates for protesters. At the infamous 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, police beat up anti-war protesters as millions watched on TV. Nominee Hubert Humphrey never did recover and lost to Richard Nixon.
The conventions calmed down but still could be exciting in person as I discovered as a Washington editor for the Wall Street Journal. My first was the 1976 Democratic meeting in New York that nominated Jimmy Carter. My most memorable moment was when Carter tried to pay tribute to the late Hubert Horatio Humphrey but called him “Hubert Horatio Hornblower.”
My most exciting convention was the 1980 Republican meeting in Detroit. On the eve of the vote for veep, Ronald Reagan still hadn’t named a running mate. From the convention floor, I could see former President Gerald Ford making the rounds of the network-TV booths above. Rumors swept the convention that Ford was Reagan’s choice.
Meantime, George H. W. Bush, the runner-up in the primaries, had retreated to a local bar. Late in the evening, Reagan asked Bush to be his running mate. By the time the news was announced at the convention it was after midnight, far past our deadlines for all but the final edition.
I was sitting next to the editor of the Des Moines Register, who got on the phone to Iowa and screamed words I had only heard in movies: “Stop the presses.” Papers with the headline that Ford was the veep choice were already on the delivery trucks, but the editor got them back in time.
Bush was the presidential nominee at the 1988 Republican convention in New Orleans where he gave his famous speech, “Read my lips, no new taxes.” He also surprised everybody by picking young Indiana Senator Dan Quayle as his running mate. Reports immediately emerged that Quayle had avoided the Vietnam War by joining the Indiana National Guard with help from his publisher father. Cynics joked that Hollywood was making a movie about Quayle’s wartime experiences called “30 seconds over Muncie.”
My last convention was the 2000 Democratic meeting in Los Angeles. After walking on stage for his acceptance speech, Al Gore gave his wife, Tipper, a long, hard kiss. But in the election he failed to win one for the Tipper, and the Gores later divorced.
These days with even the vice presidential choices known beforehand, the political conventions are about exciting as loading the dishwasher. The parties tailor the proceedings to the TV audience, scripting them as one long political ad.
Old Warren Harding and his mistresses would be so bored.
James City author Ronald G. Shafer is the former Washington Political Features Editor of the Wall Street Journal.