Ed Rowen (Courtesy of John Thorn)

May 24, 1883: Athletics extend season-long winning streak to 10 games

This article was written by Eric Miklich

Ed Rowen (Courtesy of John Thorn)

 “United! Brooklyn and New York by the Great Bridge. The Mighty Structure Completed,” loudly proclaimed the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on May 24, 1883.1 Extensive accounts of the history of the formation of the New York Bridge Company on April 16, 1867, including the peaks and valleys of the massive project, were detailed for three days by the Eagle. Upon the Brooklyn Bridge’s opening, it was reported that over 150,000 people crossed over the East River.2 While the celebration over the bridge continued, so did the business of baseball.

Major-league baseball had been absent from America’s largest city since 1876, when the Mutual Club was suspended from the National League for failing to complete its final Western road trip in September. New York rejoined the fray when the Metropolitans entered the American Association in 1883 and the Gothams joined the NL the same year.

Philadelphia, America’s second largest city, had its 1876 NL club suspended for the same reason as the Mutuals; however, when the American Association began operations in 1882, the Athletics reemerged, and in 1883 Philadelphia placed a second club in the National League.

Baseball had survived and expanded without the money and influence of the nation’s two largest cities for over five seasons. The exposure New York and Philadelphia each offered could only strengthen the business of baseball.

In 1882, the Athletics finished second to Cincinnati in the American Association, 11½ games out of first. The city of Cincinnati was also returning from a one-year hiatus from major-league baseball, when it joined the American Association. Upon the Athletics’ return, they employed 24 players in 1882; however, the club retained only four for the 1883 campaign. They allowed 26-game winner Sam Weaver to seek employment elsewhere and replaced him with legend Bobby Mathews, a career 191-game winner. Mathews’ résumé included four consecutive seasons of 25 wins. He was the winning pitcher in the first professional league game played in the National Association, in 1871. Mathews and his Kekiongas of Fort Wayne shut out the Forest Cities of Cleveland, 2-0. 

Philadelphia, with its rebuilt roster, started the 1883 season very strong, jumping out to a 13-1 record, which easily led the American Association. Cincinnati, which started out 4-0, was second at 8-5, followed by Louisville at 7-6 and New York at 8-7, 5½ games out of first place. Philadelphia’s one setback was a 15-7 loss to Baltimore on May 9 in the final game of their series. Since then, the Athletics were undefeated in nine games. On the 24th, in victory number 10, it was the contributions of two holdovers from the 1882 roster, catcher Jack O’Brien and second baseman Cub Sticker, that led the way offensively

Temperatures were in the low 70s with fair skies the afternoon the Great Bridge opened and more than 10,000 spectators3 turned up north of the historic festivities at the Polo Grounds I4 to see if the Metropolitans of New York could end Philadelphia’s good fortune.

The first game of the series featured the pitching matchup of future Hall of Famer Tim Keefe of New York and Philadelphia’s Bobby Mathews. It was the third time in the young season that Keefe and Mathews faced each other, with Mathews winning both of the first two games. The right-handed Keefe, in his fourth major-league season and first in New York, entered the game with a record of 6-5. While with Troy of the NL, Keefe was a sub-500 pitcher. Mathews, a veteran right-hander, had an early-season record of 7-1. 

According to the Times of Philadelphia, “The game was one of the poorest played here this season and was one-sided from the beginning to end.”5 Philadelphia scored a run in the second inning and three in the third inning, while holding the Metropolitans scoreless. After both teams failed to score in the fourth inning, the Athletics, aided by sloppy fielding by the Metropolitans, unloaded on Keefe and scored seven runs to open up an 11-0 lead. The Mets committed 10 errors, five of them by rookie second baseman Sam Crane.

New York was held to two hits until the sixth inning, when it got two more, including right fielder Chief Roseman’s second double of the game. This brief success led to the home team scoring its only two runs of the day. Mathews allowed only two more hits over the final three innings in the 11-2 victory. The Athletics totaled 13 hits against Keefe. O’Brien and Stricker led the way with three hits each, with O’Brien collecting a triple. Harry Stovey and player-manager Lon Knight both added a pair of hits.

Mathews went the distance and earned the victory, improving his record to 8-1. Keefe, who struck out seven Athletics, took the loss, dropping his record to 6-6. Charlie Daniels was the umpire and time of the game was 2 hours and 10 minutes.

Mathews, who struggled during the second half of the season, went on to finish with a record of 30-13. Keefe, who led the league with 68 starts, 68 complete games, and 619 innings pitched, finished the season with a record of 41-27.

Philadelphia’s 10-game winning streak was the team’s longest of the season. The St. Louis Browns would closely chase the Athletics for the entire season, allowing Philadelphia little chance to relax. The Athletics put together three more significant winning streaks during the season. They won six games in row twice, June 21-30 and July 28-August 4, and seven in a row September 4-13.

Philadelphia stumbled in the final week of the season but recovered to win the pennant by one game over St. Louis in what was the closest finish to that point in a major-league pennant race. New York finished in fourth place with 54 wins.



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author relied on Baseball-reference.com and Retrosheet.org, and articles in the Cincinnati Commercial Gazette, Philadelphia City Item, Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette, and Sporting Life.



1 “United! Brooklyn and New York by the Great Bridge,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 24, 1883: 1.

2 Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

3 “Athletic vs. Metropolitan,” New York Clipper, June 2, 1883: 173.

4 David Nemec, The Great Encyclopedia of Nineteenth Century Base Ball, 2nd Edition (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2006): 272.

5 “The Ball Field: The Athletics Win a Sweeping Victory of the Metropolitans in New York,” the Times (Philadelphia), May 25, 1883: 3.

Additional Stats

Philadelphia Athletics 11
New York Metropolitans 1

Polo Grounds
New York, NY

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