June 28, 1875: Rowdy crowd helps visiting Red Stockings tie Athletics in Philadelphia
The Boston Post summarized the game succinctly:
“The base ball match here to-day between the Boston and Athletic clubs resulted in a drawn game of 10 to 10. A tenth inning was commenced, the Bostons having made two runs, and the Athletics having two men out and two on bases, when the game was suspended on account of the excited crowd encroaching on the field, and before the field could be cleared the rain prevented the completion of the game.”1
Preston Orem observed more than 80 years later that when a home club could not win, then its own crowd could assist to avoid the loss.2
After a decisive loss to the Athletic at their field two days earlier, the Boston season record was 35 wins and 3 losses, while the Athletic were 25 wins and 7 losses, seven games behind Boston and second in the standings. The game scheduled for Monday, June 28, 1875, at the Athletic grounds was the sixth in their 10-game series, in which Boston led with three wins, one loss, and one tie. A Boston win almost ensured a series victory over a powerful rival and an easier path to the national championship. The game outcome represented the peak of the tensions surrounding the conflation of the annual convention proceedings and the Davy Force case.3
“Hot and sultry” rain fell for an hour after 2:30 P.M., but it improved the playing field conditions.4 Shortly after 4:00 P.M., with the odds about even and the “gambling toughs” present, 5,000 spectators watched as Dick McBride, the Athletic captain and pitcher, won the coin toss and selected the Boston nine to bat first.5 Albert Spalding pitched for Boston.
Through the top of the fourth inning, Boston built a sizable lead. In the first inning, Boston scored two runs. Ross Barnes, batting second, successfully executed a fair-foul single. The Athletic scored one run. In the second, the Athletic twice loaded the bases, but were unable to score a run. In the third inning, Boston scored two runs on hits by Andy Leonard and Cal McVey, and errors by George Bechtel and John Clapp. In the fourth, Boston scored three unearned runs to increase its lead to 7-1. Boston ran the bases aggressively and capitalized on poor fielding by Bechtel in right field for two consecutive at-bats and George Wright stole home on a poorly thrown ball by Clapp.
In a big fourth inning, the Athletic scored five runs on a walk, a stolen base by Davy Force, and errors by Leonard and Barnes. They tied the contest at 7-7 in the sixth, drawing “loud shouts” from the crowd when Clapp scored from second base on a wild pitch. The Athletic took an 8-7 lead amid loud applause in the seventh, when Ezra Sutton singled, Barnes missed a double play, and scored from third base when McVey made an error on Bechtel’s hit.
The lead changed again in the top of the eighth, when Boston scored three runs on four hits. The Times reported that with the score 9-8, umpire Charlie Gould ruled a hit by McVey foul, although Athletic captain McBride appealed that Wes Fisler had fielded the ball on its first bound.6 McVey then went out at first on strikes, but Barnes scored on the play. (The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Tommy Beals, Harry Schafer, and Leonard had scored the runs.)
In the bottom of the ninth the Athletic tied the score again. Bill Craver hit a line drive single, then scored on Sutton’s triple. Sutton scored when George Hall flied out to right. The crowd exhibited “tense excitement” from the action and from a storm that approached from the southwest.7
The game reports vary for the Boston half of the 10th. The Chicago Tribune wrote that Boston scored two unearned runs due to errors by Clapp and Bechtel. The Boston Globe said two runs scored on five hits, and added that Barnes was erroneously ruled out when a spectator stopped his hit and threw it to Bechtel. The Boston Daily Advertiser reported five safe hits. The Times wrote that Clapp missed Schafer’s ball hit foul on the bound, Schafer then singled to right, Bechtel made an error fielding the ball, which passed him, and Schafer made it to third base; Schafer scored on a single by Barnes; Barnes scored when George Wright hit a ball for a double. The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote that White hit a triple and scored on a hit by Wright, who in turn scored on a hit by Barnes.8
Whichever sequence was correct, they agreed that Boston led 12-10. In the Athletic half of the inning, leadoff batter Dave Eggler flied out and Force fouled out to White. Clapp reached first on an error by Barnes. Fisler hit the ball into the crowd, which was beginning to encroach on the playing field along the right-field line, for a “safe foul,” and took first base, and Clapp went to second base. The Boston Daily Advertiser provided the report for what occurred next:
“The crowd by this time had encroached within ten feet of the foul lines, and the feeble attempts of the policemen to keep them back was futile, and it was plainly evident that they were bent on breaking up the game. … had Craver taken his position promptly as striker when the umpire called for him, the game would no doubt could have been play out, but his failing to do so cause some unnecessary talk, whereupon the crowd rushed in and put a stop to further proceeding. …”9
The Times of Philadelphia said of the crowd on the playing field: “The more respectable portion of the spectators remained in their seats, but a large mob of half-grown boys and roughs poured on the grounds, and in a few minutes spread over the infield.”10
The police together with the Athletic players were unable to move the crowd back. When rain poured for half an hour, spectators continued to occupy the field rather than take cover in the pavilions. After the rain ceased, both the Boston and Athletic players were willing to complete the game, but Gould refused to continue it because the ground was “soaked” and play “impossible.”11 Nevertheless, spectators continued to occupy the playing field, until an hour later when Gould officially returned the game to the ninth inning with the score tied 10-10.12
The Boston Daily Advertiser provided the tension present: “… (I)t was one of the most exciting games ever played in this city. … The excitement ran high when the Athletic tied the game in the sixth inning, increased when they took the lead in the seventh, and was at fever heat when the tenth inning was commenced.”13 Any number of factors in combination likely heightened spectator frustration. The Times noted poor play, with too many errors by Bechtel and incorrect calls by Gould, who was unable to keep his composure under the stress of challenges for his decisions.14 Indeed, the Athletic management believed that Gould’s decisions gave Boston three unearned runs.15
The New York Clipper noted the lack of preparation by the Athletic management even though a crowd had previously occupied the field to prevent the completion of a game on May 27.16
The June 28 game was one of a series of confrontations involving Boston or the Athletic home crowds. The New York Clipper observed that Boston club followers were often loud and directed harsh words to the visiting nine. Philadelphia sportswriters often fanned the flames against visiting clubs, particularly Boston. It attributed the spectators’ bad behavior to partisanship favoring the home club.17 The Times of Philadelphia did not disagree; “(I)t was simply the spontaneous movement of an overwhelming multitude that carried all before it by its own weight.”18
The Clipper declared that the clubs controlled behavior within their parks and should offer sufficient security and eject ill-behaved spectators. It said club managements should guarantee visiting teams a fair playing field and act to end rowdy behavior, which included “discreditable partisan comments, this howling at a player when he misses a ball, and the derisive cheers when any error is committed, while every play of the local nine is lauded, be it good, bad or indifferent, so that it help the local nine.”19
In the aftermath, the Athletic management promised to provide a “clear field” to the Boston club. In turn, N.T. Apollonio, Boston club president, committed the Boston Association directors to improve the public discourse within their own grounds.20
This article was originally published in "Boston’s First Nine: The 1871-75 Boston Red Stockings" (SABR, 2016), edited by Bob LeMoine and Bill Nowlin. To read more articles from this book at the SABR Games Project, click here.
1 Boston Post, June 29, 1875: 2.
2 Preston D. Orem, Baseball (1845-1881) From the Newspaper Accounts (Altadena, California: Self-published, 1961), 220.
3 The Force controversy was adjudicated during the NA annual convention, held in Philadelphia in March 1875, ruling in a dispute between Chicago and the Athletic over claims to Force’s services. Although it did not directly involve the Boston club, the outcome upset manager Harry Wright, who found himself entangled in his own public dispute with the Athletic club. As the facts behind the Force dispute became known, the New York Clipper published its opinions and letters from Chicago and Philadelphia interests alongside Wright’s views. The New York Clipper supported the 1875 Judiciary Committee’s interpretation of the NA contracting rules, and the Force decision. As the dispute continued, the Clipper advised the clubs to cease their public conflict and refused to print further related correspondence. Instead, the dispute carried into other pages, and Wright circulated a request that clubs boycott games with Athletic, but he was not broadly supported. See William J. Ryczek, Blackguards and Red Stockings: A History of Baseball’s National Association, 1871-1875 (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 1992), 186-191. This account is also summarized by Christopher Devine in Harry Wright: The Father of Professional Base Ball (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2003), 118-119. See also New York Clipper, March 13, 1875: 395, 397; March 20, 1875: 403; and April 17, 1875: 18.
4 Unless otherwise indicated, the account of the game is drawn from the Philadelphia Inquirer, June 29, 1875: 3, and the Times (Philadelphia), June 29, 1875: 1.
5 Chicago Tribune, June 29, 1875: 5. New York Clipper, July 10, 1875: 115.
6 This is the same Charlie Gould who had played with the Red Stockings in 1871 and 1872. In 1875, Gould was the player-manager for the New Haven Elm Citys.
7 See also Boston Globe, June 29, 1875: 5.
8 Chicago Daily Tribune, June 29, 1875: 5; Boston Globe, June 29, 1875: 5; Boston Daily Advertiser, June 29, 1875: 1.
9 Boston Daily Advertiser, June 29, 1875: 1.
10 The Times (Philadelphia), June 29, 1875: 1.
12 Gould relied upon Section 7 of Rule 7, NA rules: “If a game cannot be fairly concluded, it shall be decided by the score of the last equal inning played.” New York Clipper, June 5, 1875: 77. The Philadelphia Inquirer observed that the decision “satisfied the crowd,” which then began to slowly exit the field. See also Chicago Tribune, June 29, 1875: 5.
13 Boston Daily Advertiser, June 29, 1875: 1.
14 The Times (Philadelphia), June 29, 1875: 1.
15 Chicago Tribune, June 29, 1875: 5.
16 New York Clipper, July 10, 1875: 115. The Boston Daily Advertiser (June 29, 1875: 1) editorialized: "That a game should be broken up twice by an unruly crowd in the same season, on the grounds of a club that claims to be one of the first in the country, is not only a disgrace to that club, a downright insult to their opponents, but a severe blow to the interests of the game, not only in this city, but elsewhere." The May 27 game was at the Athletic field, between the Athletic and Boston, and ended in an official tie. As on June 28, spectators entered the field in the bottom of the 10th. During the top of the 10th, Boston scored three unearned runs. With one Athletic out and a runner on second base, the crowd rushed the field when the umpire left (he claimed to need a drink of water). When he returned, he was unable to clear the field and ended the game with the score reverting to the score at the end of nine innings, 3-3. See also Chicago Tribune, May 28, 1875: 8, and Orem, 215.
17 New York Clipper, July 10, 1875: 115.
18 The Times (Philadelphia), June 29, 1875: 1.
19 New York Clipper, July 10, 1875: 115.