When the Brooklyn Tip-Tops and Newark Peppers met in Brooklyn on September 6, 1915, for a repeat performance of the two states/one-day doubleheader they had played on Memorial Day, any hopes for Federal League box-office success were long since gone, especially in Brooklyn. Not only was Robert Ward’s Brookfeds team offering a lower-quality product, their timing for competing with their cross-borough rivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers, couldn’t have been worse.1 Long a National League doormat, Charles Ebbets’ team on Labor Day 1915 was not only much improved, but tied for second just four games out of first. As far back as June, Ebbets had bragged to his fellow National League magnates that his team was outdrawing Ward’s team by five to one.2 At that point Ebbets may have been exaggerating, but with the Dodgers in their first pennant race in what must have seemed a lifetime to Brooklynites, the reported attendance at the respective Labor Day morning games in Brooklyn was in that range, 10,000 at Ebbets Field compared with 2,500 at Washington Park.3
Since the game at Ebbets Field was far from a sellout, it’s more than a little difficult to understand the motivation of the fans who put down their hard-earned quarters to watch a Tip-Tops team 10 games under .500, leading only last-place Baltimore. Perhaps the numbers were inflated, a not uncommon practice by team executives.4 Newark, on the other hand, was still very much alive in the Federal League pennant race, just two games back of front-running Pittsburgh. The Peppers, however, had recently fallen off the pace, losing five of eight to sixth-place Buffalo and then splitting a doubleheader the day before with cellar-dwelling Baltimore, hardly the stuff pennant winners are made of. The pitching matchup for the morning game at Washington Park mirrored the two teams’ places in the standings. On the mound for Brooklyn was Jim Bluejacket (aka William Smith) who after winning five straight earlier in the season, had lost seven of his last eight, entering the game with a 7-9 record, while Newark pitcher Harry Moran was 12-7.5
Apparently neither impressed with the Newark hitters nor depressed by his own recent poor performance, Bluejacket quickly set the Peppers down in order in the top of the first without a ball being hit out of the infield. Moran wasn’t so fortunate, giving up a single to leadoff batter George Anderson and then wild-pitching him to second. The Newark pitcher did nothing to help his cause by walking Ralph “Hap” Myers, and one of the chickens came home to score (if not roost) on Hugh Bradley’s error. Benny Kauff, the supposed Ty Cobb of the Federal League, reached first on the error, giving Brooklyn two on with one out, but Moran escaped further damage by retiring the next two batters. There was no scoring after that until the sixth, although the Tip-Tops got two on again in the third, but failed to score. After escaping that jam, Moran settled down, striking out the side in the fourth. The Newark pitcher tried to help his own cause with a single in the top of the fifth, but was thrown out trying to reach second, probably an acceptable risk with two out.
Moran began the bottom of the sixth by walking Myers for the second time and Brooklyn loaded the bases without getting the ball out of the infield on a bunt by Lee Magee and an infield hit by Kauff. This time there was no escape for Moran, Claude Cooper singled in two runs, knocking the Newark pitcher out of the game in the process. George Kaiserling, who had appeared in both games of the prior day’s doubleheader, came on in relief and cut the rally short without any further scoring. Down 3-0 after six innings, Newark finally got some offense going in the top of the seventh, beginning with Al Scheer’s double to left. Peppers hopes were raised even higher when Frank LaPorte hit a liner to right, but any cheers were quickly stifled when Anderson made an excellent play to run the ball down. Ahead 3-0, Bluejacket foolishly tried to pick Scheer off second and threw the ball away, sending him to third. Brooklyn seemed to be coming apart at the seams at that point when the pitcher’s miscue was followed by an error by third baseman Al Halt allowing Scheer to score.6 Next up was Newark catcher Bill Rariden, who singled, putting the tying runs on base. Bluejacket still had something left, however, retiring the next two Peppers and stranding the runners.
Since Kaiserling had been removed for a pinch-hitter, Harry Billiard came on in relief for Newark and got off to a bad start by hitting Anderson with a pitch. After the Brooklyn baserunner advanced to second on a sacrifice by Myers, Magee followed with an infield hit putting runners on first and third. The situation continued to deteriorate as Newark’s defense came unglued when Vin Campbell dropped Kauff’s liner to right, allowing Anderson to score and again putting runners at first and third. Trying to test the faltering Newark defense even further, Kauff broke for second and was thrown out, but Frank LaPorte’s poor throw home allowed Magee to score Brooklyn’s fifth and final run. Newark had no intention of going quietly, however, and put two runners on in the eighth on Jimmy Esmond’s infield hit and a walk to future Hall of Famer Edd Roush. But Bluejacket was more than up to the task, getting Scheer on a groundout and striking out LaPorte looking. This close to an infrequent victory, the Brooklyn pitcher wasn’t about to let it get away and he closed out the game by setting Newark down in order in the ninth for a 5-1 win.7
When the game ended, the players adjourned to their respective locker rooms to shower and change into street clothes before heading to Harrison, New Jersey, for the afternoon game.8 Since, like most Deadball Era games, the game had lasted less than two hours, the fans still had most of their holiday at their disposal.9 While some may have followed the Tip-Tops across the Hudson, it’s likely at least a few made their way to Ebbets Field for the afternoon game, where the Dodgers completed a doubleheader sweep of the first-place Phillies. While Ebbets’ club eventually finished third, it had clearly captured the baseball market in Brooklyn and it was probably fortunate that the Tip-Tops played only six more home games in what would prove to be their final season.
1 Although known to history as the Dodgers, the Brooklyn team went by multiple names during its early years including Bridegrooms and Superbas. After Wilbert Robinson became manager in 1914, the name Robins became increasingly popular for the next 15-plus years.
2 Ebbets to National National League owners as reported in Daniel R. Levitt, The Battle That Forged Modern Baseball: The Federal League Challenge and Its Legacy (Lanham, Maryland: Ivan R. Dee, 2012), 210.
3 “Brookfeds Take Morning Game, 5 to 1,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 6, 1915: 2; “Superbas Win Tight Game From Phillies,” Brooklyn Standard Union, September 6, 1915: 1.
4 Levitt, 121.
5 Born William Smith to an Irish father and Shawnee mother, the Brooklyn pitcher had changed his name to Jim Bluejacket for reasons that have never been completely resolved. See sabr.org/bioproj/person/073c9f7f.
6 While neither Retrosheet nor Baseball-Reference shows an error by Halt in this game, both the Standard Union (“Brookfeds beat Newark, 5-1”), and the Eagle (“Brookfeds Take Morning Game, 5 to 1”), record the error in the play-by-play and in the box scores.
7 All game details are taken from “Brookfeds Beat Newark, 5-1” Standard Union, September 6, 1915: 1.
8 It’s unclear how the two teams traveled from Brooklyn to Newark. The absence of contemporary media reports suggests the means of transportation was not considered newsworthy. Most likely they took the Hudson Tubes (today’s PATH) from lower Manhattan to Harrison and some other means from Washington Park to lower Manhattan.
9 “Brookfeds Take Morning Game, 5 to 1.”