August 18, 1883: Another easy victory for Athletics over Columbus Buckeyes
The two teams that met at the recently renovated Jefferson Street Grounds in Philadelphia on August 18, 1883, were traveling in very different directions. The Philadelphia Athletics carried the best record in American Association. Meanwhile, the Columbus Buckeyes, in their first season in the Association, had most recently suffered a four-game sweep by the St. Louis Browns. They had lost 12 of their previous 15 games and were just 2½ games out of the league’s cellar. A day earlier, in the first of a 16-game Eastern swing, the Buckeyes had been the victims of an 11-1 romp by the Athletics.
Along with the addition of the New York Metropolitans, Columbus brought the American Association in 1883 to eight teams. This would be the Buckeyes’ second trip to Philadelphia. Between May 30 and June 4 they had played three games against the Athletics, dropping two. Included on the team roster was the major leagues’ first deaf mute, pitcher Ed Dundon. Dubbed “Dummy,” he had learned the game while at the Ohio Institute for Education of the Deaf and Dumb. Among other things, the school was known for its exceptional baseball program, which developed numerous professional players. While there, Dundon became the school’s star pitcher.
With a crowd of 8,000 to 10,000 watching, the Philadelphias came to the plate first and put two runners on base but were unable to push either across the plate.1 In the bottom of the inning, Columbus did a bit better. With one out, shortstop John Richmond singled and went to second when Philadelphia left fielder Jud Birchall let the ball get past him. Known as an outstanding fielder, Birchall later redeemed himself with the Athletics’ play of the game, a running, over-the-shoulder catch. A passed ball and a single by former Athletic Pop Smith put the Buckeyes on the board. During the previous season Smith had played 20 games for Philadelphia but his .092 batting average didn’t warrant a return. Instead, he headed for Columbus and was having a fine season, leading the league in triples. His RBI gave the Columbus nine its only lead of the day.
In the top of the second inning, the Philadelphias went ahead with three runs. Third baseman Fred Corey led off with a single. Catcher Ed Rowen and second baseman Cub Stricker followed with doubles, scoring two runs. With one out, first baseman Harry Stovey, the team’s most dangerous hitter and one of the best in the American Association, smacked a single to center, scoring Stricker with the Athletics’ third run.
Philadelphia native Stovey had played the previous three seasons for the Worcester (Massachusetts) Ruby Legs in the National League. Born Harry Stowe, he changed his name to Stovey so that his mother, who abhorred baseball, wouldn’t know he was playing professionally.2 In 1880, his rookie season, Stovey led the league in extra-base hits, and tied for the home-run lead. A power hitter, he was also a fleet and daring baserunner who was always among the league’s top basestealers. When the Ruby Legs folded after the 1882 season, Stovey moved back home and joined the Athletics. It was a move that suited him well. His first season in Philadelphia was the best of his 14-year career at bat. In 1883 he led the league in runs scored, doubles, home runs, and extra-base hits, and finished with a .304 batting average.
The Buckeyes clawed back in the bottom of the third. Right fielder Tom Brown opened with a single but was forced at second by Pop Smith. An error by first baseman Stovey got Smith to second and a wild pitch moved him to third. He came home on a groundball to second baseman Stricker.
With the help of numerous Columbus errors, the Athletics responded with a pair of runs in the fourth and four more in the fifth. Singles by Bradley, Stricker, and Birchall and a bad throw by the Buckeyes’ catcher, Rudy Kemmler, accounted for the two fourth-inning runs. The fifth-inning tallies were aided by a slew of Columbus miscues. Kemmler let a third strike get past him, enabling the Athletics’ leadoff hitter, center fielder Jack O’Brien, to hustle to second. He scored when Corey singled to left. Rowen’s single scored Corey; aided by “a terrible wild throw,” the Philadelphia catcher ended up on third.3 He scored a batter later when the Buckeyes’ second baseman made another bad throw to the plate on Stricker’s groundball. One batter later, Stricker scored after “a spectacular over his head catch” by the Buckeyes’ center fielder, Fred Mann.4 Stovey then delivered his third single of the game and ended up on third base as a result of two more errant throws. Mercifully for Columbus, the inning ended with Stovey still at third, but the Athletics led 9-2.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Buckeyes scored twice. Left fielder Harry Wheeler opened with “a rattling hit past shortstop.”5 Richmond dropped a single to right and Wheeler scored on a bad throw to second. Richmond followed him home on a two-out single by Mann. Columbus had closed the deficit to five runs, but the worst was yet to come for the Buckeyes.
As they came to the plate in the sixth, the Philadelphia Times reported, the Buckeyes “appeared very tired and played the game through in a listless manner.”6 One Buckeye who should have been particularly tired was pitcher Frank Mountain. He had been on the mound through the entire 11-1 drubbing the previous day and was the recipient of the current pounding. Mountain was a well-traveled pitcher by the time he took the mound against the Athletics. Since becoming a professional in 1880 he had been with five teams, including Worcester, where he had finished the previous season alongside Harry Stovey, Fred Corey, and Fred Mann. Though he won 26 games in 1883, he also led the American Association with 33 losses and gave up more hits, walks, and runs than any other Association pitcher.
The Athletics tacked on another run in the seventh when Birchall singled to right, stole second, and scored on Stovey’s fourth hit. In the eighth inning Philadelphia further demonstrated that on this afternoon “the Athletics had their batting clothes on.”7 Twelve men came to the plate and eight of them scored. The first four hitters – O’Brien, Corey, Rowen, and Bradley – all singled and all scored. With one out Birchall doubled to left, driving in two more. He was followed by Stovey, who tripled. One hitter later, shortstop Mike Moynahan also tripled. The final run of the inning scored when Corey blasted a double, his second hit of the inning, that bounced off the left-field fence.
With the game well out of hand, the Buckeyes mounted one last effort in the bottom of the eighth inning. Not known for his hitting, Mountain drilled his second home run in two days over the left-field fence. He hit three home runs during the entire 1883 season. Mountain’s shot closed the Columbus attack for the day. The Athletics finished their scoring in the top of the ninth when right fielder and team manager Lon Knight singled, went to third on another Columbus error, and scored on a long fly ball to left field.
At the end of the day the Philadelphia fans left the Jefferson Street Grounds satisfied that they had seen their hometown nine at its best. The 19-run outburst matched the Athletics’ highest run output of the season. Two weeks earlier the Philadelphias had scored 19 runs against Pittsburgh. The team also solidified its league lead in runs scored. For the season the Athletics averaged 7.35 runs per game, almost two runs more than the league average. More importantly, the win kept the Athletics in first place, two games ahead of the St. Louis Browns.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Retrosheet.org, Baseball-Reference.com, and SABR.org.
1 “Another Easy Victory,” The Times (Philadelphia), August 19, 1883: 2. See also “Sports of the Field,” Philadelphia Inquirer, August 20, 1883: 2. The Times reported, “The crowd numbered nearly ten thousand,” while the Inquirer claimed that “about 8000 persons witnessed” the game.
2 Matt Kelly, “19th Century Star Harry Covey” Pre-Industrial Series (2016), National Baseball Hall of Fame.
3 “Another Easy Victory.”
4 “Another Easy Victory.”
5 “Another Easy Victory.”
6 “Another Easy Victory.”
7 “An Easy Time,” Cincinnati Enquirer, August 19, 1883: 2.
Philadelphia Athletics 19
Columbus Buckeyes 5
Jefferson Street Grounds
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