October 2, 1891: Beaneaters win 18th consecutive game in pennant run

This article was written by Richard Cuicchi

Tommy TuckerOn the heels of clinching the National League pennant the day before, the Boston Beaneaters defeated the Philadelphia Phillies on October 2, recording a team-record 18th  consecutive win on the back of star hurler Kid Nichols.1 However, their league title came under a cloud of suspicion with Boston being the benefactor of alleged thrown games by the New York Giants during the preceding series, on September 28-30.

The Chicago Colts looked like certain pennant winners going into September. They led Boston in mid-September by 6½ games with 16 games remaining. However, on the 16th Boston began a remarkable stretch of 18 consecutive victories, not losing until their last game of the season. (The streak excluded a tie with Pittsburgh on September 17.) At the same time Chicago went 6-9 (not including a tie), with one of the wins coming on a forfeit by Pittsburgh.2

When the Beaneaters swept the New York Giants in a five-game series September 28-30 (including two doubleheaders), they took the league lead from Chicago and never relinquished it. Upset with the dismal end of their season, the Colts complained publicly that some of the Beaneaters victories were a direct result of the Giants benching their stars Buck Ewing, Roger Connor, and Amos Rusie in several of the contests.3

The  Beaneaters had been improved by several key moves by manager Frank Selee. In 1890 Selee brought Nichols with him from Omaha (Western Association) and added Bobby Lowe. Then he added outfielder Harry Stovey and infielders Joe Quinn and Billy Nash for the 1891 season after the rival Players’ League folded following the 1890 season.

In what might have been called the “Battle of the ‘Kids,’” Boston’s game with Philadelphia on October 2 was played before 912 fans at the Philadelphia Baseball Grounds.4 Selee put the 22-year-old Nichols on the mound for his 48th start of the season, while 24-year-old Kid Gleason took the hill for his 44th start for Phillies manager Harry Wright. In that era, it was not uncommon for teams to use only two or three regular starting pitchers during the entire season, accounting for the high number of games pitched by each.

The scoring began in the top of the first inning when Philadelphia’s Sam Thompson reached base on second baseman Quinn’s wild throw and scored after Ed Delahanty singled. Thompson scored while Delahanty was being run down between the bases.

In the top of the second inning with two outs, the Phillies scored again when Kid Gleason doubled and went to third on Billy Hamilton’s bunt single. Hamilton allowed himself to be caught between the bases, allowing Gleason to score.

Boston countered with a score in the bottom of the second frame when Nash walked, advanced to second on a passed ball by Jack Clements, and scored on a double by Tommy Tucker.  Philadelphia led 2-1.

In the fourth inning, Philadelphia got on the board a third time. Jerry Denny reached first base on Nash’s error. After Bob Allen doubled, William Brown’s sacrifice fly scored Denny. In the bottom of the fourth, the Beaneaters got their second run on singles by Steve Brodie and Nash and a sacrifice hit by Tucker, making the score 3-2.

Boston evened the score in the fifth inning when Herman Long got on base on a force out. On Long’s stolen-base attempt, substitute Philly catcher Bill Gray’s effort to throw him out wound up in center field. When outfielder Delahanty fumbled the ball trying to retrieve the errant throw, Long circled all the bases to score their third run.

Boston added two more runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. Charlie Bennett drew a base on balls and advanced to second on a passed ball. Nichols doubled to score Bennett and scored himself when Tucker hit a ball to the outfield terrace. In attempt to go all the way home, Tucker was thrown out at the plate.

With no runs being added by either team in the eighth and ninth innings, the final score stood at 5-3.

Only three runs between both teams were earned, as the game was marred by numerous errors and miscues, particularly by Philadelphia, whom the Philadelphia Inquirer characterized as suffering from “very bum fielding.”5

Both Nichols and Gleason had decent showings on the mound. In recording his 30th victory, Nichols gave up nine hits and two walks, while striking out three.6 Gleason yielded seven hits and three walks, as he recorded two strikeouts. He took his 22nd loss of the season against 24 wins for the season.

Boston finished the season 3½ games ahead of Chicago.

Nichols was also a critical part of the Beaneaters’ four additional pennant-winning teams in the 1890s. He had seven seasons of 30 or more wins with Boston and compiled 361 wins during his 15-year career. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1949 after being elected by the Old Timers Committee.

Gleason eventually gave up pitching and became a full-time infielder from 1895 through 1906. He was the manager of the 1919 Chicago White Sox when they were accused of fixing games in the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds.

After the 1891 season a special National League committee summoned the Giants management group to a formal inquiry to investigate charges that they had thrown late-season games allowing Boston to take the pennant. When the Giants seemingly offered plausible reasons for key players’ absences, the committee upheld the Beaneaters’ championship title.7

The Boston Globe reported that Selee believed his team won the league championship on its own abilities, crediting his team with faithful work.8

The Boston Reds, champions of the rival American Association, urged its league president, Zach Phelps, to issue a challenge to the National League to allow the champions of the two leagues to play a world championship series. The series had become an annual postseason tradition between the two leagues since 1884.9 Phelps proceeded with the challenge to N.E. Young, president of the National League, who declined it. Young responded that it would be a violation of the National Agreement, of which the two leagues had been participants, to play such a postseason series.10

Upon receiving notice of the National League’s refusal, Phelps declared that the Reds were entitled to carry the “World’s Championship Flag” for the 1892 season.11 However, the American Association merged with the National League that year, and the Boston Reds franchise ceased to exist.

The National League title by the Beaneaters in 1891 was the first of five under manager Selee in the 1890s.



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also consulted the following:

Boston Post, October 3, 1891: 8.

Boston Globe, October 3, 1891: 5.

The source for all game details came from a box score and game summary in the Philadelphia Inquirer, October 3, 1891: 3.



1 2016 Atlanta Braves Media Guide, 452. (The 18-game winning streak still stands as the record for the franchise, which includes the Boston team known as the Red Stockings, Beaneaters, Doves, Rustlers, Bees, and Braves; the Milwaukee Braves; and the Atlanta Braves.) In 2017 the Cleveland Indians’ 22 consecutive victories generated some discussion around the baseball world. Cleveland surpassed the 21-game streak of the 1935 Chicago Cubs, but was still shy of the 1916 New York Giants’ streak of 26. However, the Giants’ streak included a tie game, so the phrase “consecutive wins” was a cause for dispute. The issue is beyond the scope of this article, but the 1891 Boston club’s 18-game winning streak also included a tie game.

2 Richard Bogovich, Kid Nichols, A Biography of the Hall of Fame Pitcher (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2012), 51.

3 Ibid.

4 The Boston Post indicated the attendance was 912, while the Boston Globe reported 9,021. It seems unlikely that the latter attendance is correct, since the attendance on the day before was reported by the Globe as 1,000.

5 Philadelphia Inquirer, October 3, 1891: 3. The Boston Globe and Boston Post reported the number of earned runs by both teams as four.

6 The Boston Globe and Boston Post reported the number of hits yielded by Nichols as 10.

7 David Voigt, The League That Failed (Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1998), 36.

8 “Won on Its Merits,” Boston Globe, October 5, 1891: 5

9 The first such series was actually held in 1882 but was canceled in 1883.

10 Boston Globe, October 10, 1891: 2.

11 “President Phelps Claims the Title for Boston Reds,” Boston Globe, October 12, 1891: 5.

Additional Stats

Boston Beaneaters 5
Philadelphia Phillies 3

Philadelphia Baseball Grounds
Philadelphia, PA

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