Courtesy of John Thorn

September 28, 1883: Athletics secure American Association pennant

This article was written by Matt Albertson

Courtesy of John ThornThe Philadelphia Athletics arrived in Louisville for a four-game series on September 26 with a 3½-game lead over the second-place St. Louis Brown Stockings. To win the American Association pennant, either Philadelphia needed to win at least one game against the Eclipse or St. Louis needed to lose one game against the lowly Pittsburgh Alleghenys. Confident of the outcome, club executive Charles Mason left the team for Philadelphia to help prepare for a championship parade when the Athletics returned home. But the Athletics could not catch a break: Pittsburgh proved no competition for St. Louis, losing the first two games of their series, 20-3 and 6-2, while Philadelphia’s pitching proved incapable of limiting the Eclipse offense.

On September 28 Philadelphia held a 1½-game lead over St. Louis. With the pennant in the balance, manager Lew Simmons sent the well-rested fan favorite Jumping Jack Jones to the pitcher’s box.1 The right-handed Jones was a late-season pickup by the Athletics, who needed to fortify their arm-weary pitching. He entered the game with a combined record of 10-7 and a mark of 4-2 with the Athletics.2 Jones was opposed by ace Eclipse right-hander Guy Hecker (28-22).

Louisville captain Joe Gerhardt lost the toss and the Athletics elected to bat last. Philadelphia’s Jones was working on five days’ rest and the paltry crowd of 500 at Eclipse Park hoped he might perform his famous leap. The Louisville Courier-Journal noted that he “caused the spectators much amusement by his antics in the box.”3 Pete Browning led off the affair with a weak fly to left fielder Jud Birchall. Jack Gleason singled to left but was doubled up when Hecker sliced a ball to Mike Moynahan at shortstop. The Athletics were also retired quickly; Birchall flied out to Leech Maskrey in the outfield, Harry Stovey struck out, and Lon Knight was retired by Gerhardt.

The contest remained scoreless until the fourth inning, when the Athletics took the lead. Jones retired Eclipse hitters Jack Gleason, Hecker, and Sleeper Sullivan in order. Knight led off for the Athletics in the bottom of the frame and hit a weak groundball to first base. Next, Moynahan singled to left field, then stole second. With Jack O’Brien at bat, Hecker uncorked a wild pitch and Moynahan scrambled home for the game’s first run. Hecker then walked O’Brien (seven balls were required for a walk in 1883). To make matters worse, O’Brien stole second and scored on Fred Corey’s single. Joe Gerhardt and Gleason were then retired to end the frame with the Athletics leading 2-0.

Not content to surrender the game without a fight, the Eclipse rallied to tie the game in the fifth inning. Jumbo Lathamreached base on an error and stole second. He scored on a double by Maskrey. Chicken Wolf was then fielded out by third baseman Fred Corey. Next, Tom McLaughlin fouled out to O’Brien. With two outs and one on, Gerhardt was safe at first on an error by Stovey at first base, and Maskrey scored to tie the game, 2-2.

In the Athletics’ sixth with one out, Moynahan and O’Brien reached base safely. Moynahan scored on a wild throw. Fred Corey then singled to left field. Both O’Brien and Corey scored on Bob Blakiston’s single to center field. Blakiston was caught off second base for the second out. Hecker walked Cub Stricker with two outs but got out of the inning when Jones hit into a fielder’s choice, with McLaughlin recording the third out at second base. At the end of six innings, with Hecker laboring to find the strike zone, the Athletics held a 5-2 lead.

The Eclipse took the lead in the top of the seventh inning as Jumping Jack began to falter. The Philadelphia Press noted that intense excitement abounded at Eclipse Park. Jones walked Latham to open the frame and he went to second on a single by Maskrey. Both runners scored on a double to right by Wolf. Knight fielded the ball in the outfield and the relay throw from Cub Stricker sailed over O’Brien’s head, allowing Wolf to score. Unsettled, Jones walked McLaughlin for the second base on balls of the inning. Gerhardt flied out to Knight and Browning flied to Birchall. With two out and McLaughlin on first, Jones surrendered a single to Gleason. McLaughlin scored when Hecker helped his own cause with a single. Sullivan grounded out to first to end the inning with the Eclipse in the lead, 6-5.

The thousands of fans outside the Philadelphia Press offices fell silent each time the game was deadlocked. Now, with the Athletics down by a run in the late innings, the throng were distraught.4 The Athletics were again on the brink of losing another opportunity to clinch the pennant as they had in the previous two games. Finally, the A’s tied the game in the bottom of the eighth inning. Moynahan hit a ball to third and reached second base on an errant throw by Gleason. He advanced to third on O’Brien’s fly out to Maskrey and scored on a hit by Corey that tied the game, 6-6.

Jones and Hecker made quick work of their opposition in the ninth inning and the contest moved into extra innings. In the bottom of the 10th, Hecker walked the hobbling Stovey5, who limped to second when Hecker uncorked a wild pitch. Knight then ripped a ball to center, advancing Stovey to third. Moynahan strode to the plate with Philadelphia’s season and pennant on the line. “Hecker held the ball, stared at the plate, took a run, and fired. Moynahan swung and connected. At the crack of the bat, left fielder Pete Browning and center fielder Leech Maskrey dashed for the ball as it shot between them.” Stovey easily staggered home and plated his league-leading 110th run scored.6

The Athletics won, 7-6, and clinched the pennant. The Philadelphia Press updated the scoreboard outside its office at 6:30 P.M. to show the victorious tally. “The anxious crowd caught sight of it in a second, and when it was seen that the Athletics had won the game, such a shout as rent the heavens has seldom been heard before, round following round of cheers.”7 At the Athletic team headquarters a similar scene took place. A silk banner with the words “CHAMPION ATHLETIC” in large gold letters was hung across the street. Preparations for a victory parade were being made by the club brass as soon as the team returned home from Louisville three days later.

Philadelphia was electrified by the victory. “Upon receipt of the news of this victory in Philadelphia immense crowds blocked the streets in the vicinity of the bulletin boards displayed by the daily papers, and the excitement was similar to that with which the news of some great battle was greeted during war-time,” a contemporary report said.8 A reception committee of prominent city politicians was assembled and left Philadelphia to meet the champion Athletics in Harrisburg, where speeches were made on behalf of the club. The train stopped again in Lancaster, where excited fans cheered the wrong passenger car but stampeded to the players’ car when they realized the mistake. Two bold individuals boarded the car searching for Jack Jones. The train finally pulled into Philadelphia’s Broad Street Station at 7:45 P.M. and the team was met by a crush of people numbering in the thousands. “Fully ten thousand men and boys, several hundred horses and one mule … took part in the parade,” the Philadelphia Times reported.9 Admirers cheered until they were hoarse and the throng outside the station swarmed the city blocks surrounding the station. “So dense was the crowd that the officers for ten or fifteen minutes could not force an opening for the carriages in which the players embarked at the station door.”10



In addition to the sources cited in the notes, the author consulted and



1 The term “manager” did not mean the same thing in the nineteenth century that it does today. Lon Knight was the Athletic captain, which roughly equated to a present-day field manager. Simmons entered into the club’s ownership group with Charlie Mason and Billy Sharsig late in 1881 and was made the business manager. The Philadelphia Times reported on September 28 issue that Mason told Knight to pitch Jones in the series’ first game but that the decision was overruled and Bobby Mathews instead pitched the first game.

2 Jones was 6-5 with a 3.50 ERA for the National League’s Detroit Wolverines before joining the Athletics.

3 “The Champions,” Courier-Journal, September 29, 1883: 8.

4 Edward Achorn, The Summer of Beer and Whiskey (New York: Public Affairs, 2013), 226.

5 Stovey sprained his ankle badly when he slipped on the turf chasing a foul ball in a game against St. Louis on September 21. Achorn, The Summer of Beer and Whiskey (New York: Public Affairs, 2013), 210.

6 Achorn, 227.

7 “At the Athletics’ Home,” Philadelphia Press, September 29, 1883: 1.

8 “Base-Ball Champions,” Harper’s Weekly, Vol. XXVIL, No. 1399 (1883): 654.

9 “The Base Ball Parade,” Philadelphia Times, October 2, 1883: 1.

10 “The Base Ball Parade.”

Additional Stats

Philadelphia Athletics 7
Louisville Eclipse 6
10 innings

Eclipse Park
Louisville, KY

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