As the Tip-Tops and Peppers traveled from Brooklyn to Harrison, New Jersey, for the second game of their two states/same-day twin bill, they may have been delayed by the estimated 15,000 fans also on their way to the Newark team’s ballpark.1 Even if inflated, the number suggested that Federal League baseball was far more popular in northern New Jersey than in Brooklyn, where only 2,500 fans had reportedly seen the morning game.
Clearly Peppers club President Pat Powers knew what he was doing in placing the transplanted Indianapolis club in Harrison, where the team could draw fans not only from neighboring Newark, but also from Jersey City and, unlike New York City teams, could play on Sunday. So successful were the Peppers that they drove minor-league teams in both New Jersey cities out of the market. But the high turnstile count for the Labor Day afternoon game may not have been as impressive or at least as profitable as the figures suggest. Although attendance at Peppers games was strong early in the season, especially Sunday doubleheaders, American League President Ban Johnson claimed it tailed off thereafter to “minor-league levels.” Desperate to increase attendance, Powers and team owner Harry Sinclair decided to cut prices in early August, lowering the traditional 25-cent minimum admission to a mere dime. While the move definitely increased attendance, the impact on profits was far more problematic.2
The large crowd, of course, had little interest in the club’s financial issues; their concern was whether the Peppers would be able to stay in the pennant race. Only a half a game behind Pittsburgh on September 2, the Newark team had gone into the Labor Day doubleheader two games back and had done nothing to improve its position by losing the opening game in Brooklyn. The afternoon contest featured two pitchers, Tom Seaton and Cy Falkenberg, who had just “recently swapped uniforms.”3 After a largely mediocre career, Falkenberg, at age 32, had “developed a deadly emery ball” that enabled him to go 23-10 for Cleveland in 1913 despite not even pitching in the major leagues the prior year. Unsurprisingly, his performance caught the eye of Federal League scouts and Falkenberg jumped to the Indianapolis club, for which he went 25-16 on the 1914 Federal League championship team.4 Falkenberg’s performance had fallen off in 1915, however and the Peppers traded him to Brooklyn for the younger Tom Seaton, giving Falkenberg added incentive for that afternoon’s game in Harrison.
Perhaps both pitchers drew on extra motivation to show their former team they had made a mistake, since the game turned out to be a pitchers’ duel which, although low-scoring, “scintillated with brilliant plays.”5 After an uneventful first, Benny Kauff singled to center to lead off the second for Brooklyn, advanced to third, and then tried to score on Al Halt’s fly ball to Newark center fielder Edd Roush. The future Hall of Famer would have none of it, making “a perfect peg to the plate,” where catcher Bill Rariden “gently put the ball on Kauff,” doubtless a euphemism by the Newark Evening News writer.6 Having helped his team dodge that bullet, Roush then got things started for his team in the bottom of the inning by working out a walk and then moving to second on an infield out. Up next was Frank LaPorte who hit ball toward the right-field bleachers, located “about a mile from home plate.” It looked like a home run, but George Anderson “set sail with all speed” and made the catch, leaving the surprised, not to mention frustrated, Pepper standing on the base line shaking his fist at Anderson.7
The contest remained scoreless into the top of the sixth, when with two out the BrookFeds had Anderson on third and Kauff, the so-called Ty Cobb of the Federal League, at the plate. Regardless of the accuracy of that moniker, Newark catcher Rariden was concerned enough about Kauff to signal Seaton to walk him intentionally. Seaton, however, who had played with Kauff in Brooklyn, shook off the signs while the Brooklyn batter challenged him to “Send it over, Tom, until I give it a sleigh ride.”8 Accepting the challenge, Seaton threw a pitch that Kauff indeed gave a ride, over the head of shortstop Jim Esmond, driving in a run that according to the Eagle “looked as big as a dollar to a man on pay day.”9
Probably sorry he hadn’t listened to his catcher, the Newark pitcher closed out the Tip-Tops and then led off the bottom of the sixth “catching Falkenberg napping” by beating out a bunt. Vin Campbell bunted and Falkenberg, after fielding the ball, threw unsuccessfully to second, putting two runners on with none out. Seaton and Campell were then sacrificed to second and third, setting the stage for “a series of plays” that “had the fans yelling with delight one instant and cast into gloom the next.” Esmond “hit the ball a sharp rap” right back to Falkenberg and Seaton tried to score, but was tagged out in the ensuing rundown. Esmond tried to advance to second on the play, but Grover Land, the Brooklyn catcher, threw to second baseman Lee Magee, who tagged Esmond out. Caught up in the excitement, Magee threw home, where he had Campbell dead to rights for what would have been an exciting, but superfluous fourth out.10
Brooklyn put runners on base again in the top of the seventh, but the threat ended when Fred Smith was tagged out at home vainly trying to complete a double steal.11 The Peppers were still down only one run, but when the first two men went out in the bottom of the seventh, things looked bleak for Newark. Up came LaPorte, the “old war horse of the American League,” who this time, going to left field, “smashed one a mile high and about twenty feet outside of the left field foul line.” Although Claude Cooper could easily have let it go foul, he “ran with might and main” and “with one hand picked that ball out of the atmosphere.” Whether LaPorte, who on this day “seemed to be the particular victim of wonderful plays,” shook his fist at Cooper wasn’t recorded. But the Newark fans, who the Eagle claimed were as a rule “bitter and hostile,” recognized a good play when they saw one and “jumped from their seats as one man and cheered the brilliant outfielder to the echo.” Doubtless, the “one Brooklyn rooter there” was also pleased.12
Although Newark managed a hit in the eighth (the Peppers had only three in the game), they couldn’t muster a run then or in the ninth and Falkenberg won a 1-0 “hard fought pitching duel.”13 Other than his bad judgment in pitching to Kauff, little fault could be found with Seaton, who limited Brooklyn to five hits, all singles. Not only had Falkenberg given Newark’s fornt office reason to rue letting him go, his three-hit shutout kept his former team spiraling downward in the pennant race. The lost Labor Day put the Peppers a full three games behind first-place Pittsburgh and only a single percentage point ahead of third-place St. Louis. Worse yet, the Peppers lost their next three games to Brooklyn, too, part of an eight-game losing streak that would drop Newark out of the race; they ultimately finished fifth. Nor did the large attendance overcome the disappointment at the close loss and, with the lower ticket prices, the financial returns couldn’t have been that rewarding. Neither club had gotten much of a financial reward from their labors on Labor Day and it didn’t require an astute observer to see that the Federal League’s days were numbered.
1 “Falkenberg Outpitches Seaton in Great Battle at Newark,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 7, 1915: 20.
2 “Brookfeds Take Morning Game, 5 to 1, “Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 6, 1915: 2; Daniel Levitt, The Battle That Forged Modern Baseball: The Federal League Challenge and Its Legacy, (Lanham, Maryland: Ivan R. Dee, 2012), 203-04, 206, 208-09, 214.
3 “Seaton Downed By Falkenberg In Mound Duel,” Newark Evening News, September 7, 1915: 17.
5 “Falkenberg Outpitches Seaton in Great Battle at Newark.”
6 “Seaton Downed by Falkenberg in Mound Duel.”
7 “Falkenberg Outpitches Seaton in Great Battle at Newark.”
8 “Seaton Downed by Falkenberg in Mound Duel.”
9 “Falkenberg Outpitches Seaton in Great Battle at Newark.”
10 All quotes from “Seaton Downed by Falkenberg in Mound Duel.”
12 All quotes from “Falkenberg Outpitches Seaton in Great Battle at Newark.”
13 “Seaton Downed by Falkenberg in Mound Duel.”