Philadelphia in the 1881 Eastern Championship Association

This article was written by Robert D. Warrington

This article was published in the Spring 2019 Baseball Research Journal


The Eastern Championship Association (ECA) was formed in 1881 by baseball clubs from New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, DC. Two teams from Philadelphia were among its members, including the first one with the nickname Phillies.

The Eastern Championship Association (ECA) was formed in 1881 by baseball clubs from New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, DC. Two teams from Philadelphia were among its members, including the first one with the nickname Phillies.

The Association had an unsettled existence — reflecting the institutional instability that afflicted organized baseball in the final quarter of the nineteenth century — and lasted only one year. Nevertheless, it served as a critical steppingstone in returning Philadelphia ball clubs to a professional league structure, from which they had been excluded since 1876. This article briefly describes the formation of the Association, but focuses on the members from Philadelphia — in particular, the Phillies.

A NEW BASEBALL ASSOCIATION APPEARS

The ECA was founded on April 11, 1881, at a meeting in New York City attended by representatives of several major independent baseball clubs. The organization was intended to be “a paying circuit for the clubs named between New York and Washington.”1 Those present were William W. White of theNationals of Washington, Louis H. Mahn of the “new Boston nine,” William Barnie of the Atlantics of Brooklyn, John Kelly of the New York team, and James Mutrie of the Metropolitans of New York.2 In addition, the Athletic club of Philadelphia sent a message heartily endorsing the Association and pledging to join it.3

The impetus for the ECA was based on several factors, one of which was captured by the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper in an article that supported the city’s participation in the Association:

Not since the old Athletic Club was expelled from the National league during the Centennial year has baseball been so popular in this city. Many attempts have been made in the past five years to revive the old-time interest, but all have proved partial failures, simply because there was no recognized association outside of the league for the club to connect itself with. This want has been supplied this season by the organization of the Eastern Championship League….4

Owners of the independent clubs who established the ECA believed that without a league structure within which to compete, people would regard their seasons as nothing more than a succession of individual games. The Association provided a forum to crown a champion, and the anticipation of the best record gaining that title made each win count toward a greater goal.5 Every ECA club wanted to bring home a championship, and owners judged the excitement of such a competition would convince people who lived in the cities they represented to show their support by becoming paying customers at the turnstiles.

The ECA, it is important to note, was not a rebel movement formed to challenge the National League’s monopoly on major league status; instead, it was intended to cooperate with the League to make clubs in both organizations more profitable. The major advantage in becoming an adjunct to, rather than a rival of, the NL was that it allowed games to be scheduled between Association and League teams. Staging these games in ECA cities exposed NL baseball to wider audiences — especially in the larger metropolitan areas represented only in the Association — and held the prospect of potentially lucrative paydays. ECA fans, it was judged, would be especially eager to cheer on their hometown crews if the opponents to be vanquished were major league teams.

THE ASSOCIATION EXPERIENCES A SHIFTING STRUCTURE

In addition to creating the ECA, representatives at the inaugural meeting established arrangements for operating the new organization:

  • The schedule would run from April 20 through October 1.
  • Applications for membership would be accepted until May 15.
  • Association teams would play 12 games against each other — six apiece at each home ballpark.
  • If a club dropped out before the season concluded, none of the games it played against other Association members would count in determining the champion.
  • So long as doing so did not prevent them from fulfilling their 12-game obligation to the ECA, member teams could also play games against NL opponents, college teams, independent clubs and “commercial nines.”6
  • The “Mahn dead ball” — named after Boston’s Louis H. Mahn — would be used in all games between Association teams.7

The need for a provision governing what to do if a team disbanded before the season’s end was well founded. As was characteristic of baseball organizations 1869­–1900, the ECA’s size and membership fluctuated as the season progressed.8Initially, it consisted of six teams,  three from New York City — Metropolitans, Quicksteps, and New Yorks, the Atlantics from Brooklyn, the Nationals from Washington, DC, and the Athletics from Philadelphia.9

Attrition set in by mid-June, caused by clubs being unable to maintain their financial solvency. The Nationals disbanded, citing “lack of interest” among fans, and were replaced by a team in Albany, New York.10 The New Yorks dropped out next and were replaced by the Domestics of Newark, New Jersey. Additional changes in ECA membership occurred over time.11

THE ATHLETICS’ UNSETTLED ENTRY INTO THE ECA

The name “Athletics” goes back to the origins of baseball in Philadelphia.12 The semi-professional versions of the team played between 1860 and 1870, compiling a record of 298-40.13 They evolved into the all-professional Athletics that represented the city – in the 1871 National Association (NA) — a club that won the pennant — and the NL’s 1876 Athletics, which were booted from the league after refusing to make their final western trip to cut their financial losses.14 The Athletics club of 1881 was the latest iteration with that moniker and it emerged from the debris of the previous Athletics team that had folded during the summer of 1880. Restructured into a new organization in September 1880, the club was at that time the most well-known independent club in Philadelphia.15

The ECA was eager to have Philadelphia represented among its members, and the Athletics were quickly granted admission. It was announced in mid-April that the club would play home games at Oakdale Park, Charles “Chick” Fulmer would be the team’s manager, and he would be assisted by Charles Mason. Both men began recruiting players, according to one newspaper report, and the Athletics planned to take the field in May.16

Chick Fulmer plays an intriguing role in the somewhat convoluted evolution of Philadelphia’s relationship with the ECA. Journeying through a nomadic baseball career, Fulmer was a member of teams based in 10 different cities. His stops included Philadelphia, where he was on the roster of the NA’s Athletics 1873–75. Never a great player but certainly a capable one, especially defensively, Fulmer was courted by clubs seeking to upgrade their capabilities.17

But the Athletics were not alone among Philadelphia’s independent clubs with an eye on joining the Association to increase their legitimacy and profitability. In early May, a newspaper report disclosed rumors that another team was being organized in the city to play in the ECA.18 Two weeks later, an article appeared stating the Athletics were being reorganized, and in what turned out to be more than just a coincidence, Chick Fulmer did not appear in any games played by the Athletics in early and mid-May.19 The New York Clipper brought these threads together in a late May report:

The Athletics have secured exclusive use of Oakdale Park for four days each week, the Olympics practicing every Tuesday and Friday. Brouthers and Hays of the Brooklyn Atlantics are wanted by the Athletics to strengthen them. All communications for the Athletics should be addressed to H.B. Phillips, manager, 258 N. Ninth Street, Philadelphia. Charley Fulmer has organized a strong nine that will probably play at Twenty-Fourth Street and Ridge Avenue, and be known as the Philadelphias. Fulmer’s team includes Caperoon, pitcher; O’Brien, catcher; Householder, Fulmer and Fouser on the bases; Myers, shortstop; and Luff, Berklebach, and Landis in the outfield. A series of exciting games may be looked for between these rival nines.20

Fulmer had returned to his peripatetic ways by severing ties with the Athletics and forming his own team to compete in the Association. His decision compelled the Athletics to reorganize by combining with a “prominent” — albeit unnamed — club “so as to present a representative nine able to hold their own with the best organizations in the country.”21 The Athletics also needed a new manager, and the position went to Horace Phillips.22

While he was well acquainted with switching teams, the reasons for Fulmer’s about-face are not entirely clear. Several possibilities exist. He may have undertaken the move to gain greater leverage with the Athletics’ owners — Bill Sharsig and Charles Mason — over the operation of the team and/or distribution of profits from games.23 Fulmer also may have savored an opportunity to help operate a franchise from the front office, not just manage players on the field. Alternatively, he may have believed having a second Philadelphia team in the Association would allow, as the newspaper article noted, “a series of games between these rival nines.” They could be scheduled to fill open dates during the season, converting incomeless days into potentially profitable ones by attracting large numbers of paying customers to watch an intra-city rivalry.

Whatever Fulmer’s motives, his reported flirtation with leading the Philadelphias was brief and ended abruptly. On May 30, the Athletics played the Nationals at Oakdale Park, and in a report recapping the game, “The Athletics were strengthened by Charles Fulmer, who played second base and will captain the nine hereafter. The Athletics won by a score of 6 to 2.”24 For reasons that remain unclear, he returned to the Athletics and played for the team the rest of the season. But his position with the club was diminished. The mid-April newspaper report had stated Fulmer would be the manager while the late-May report indicated his role was as team captain. Phillips would manage the Athletics with Mason as assistant manager.25 That arrangement continued throughout the season.

THE PHILLIES EMERGE, BUT NOT FOR LONG

Fulmer’s relationship with the Philadelphias was over, but the club was not finished, and an opportunity to join the ECA still beckoned. Some of the players identified as those Fulmer was recruiting still wound up on the team and formed the nucleus of its roster. They were Henry Myers, Jack O’Brien, Frank Berkelbach, and Doc Landis. Myers also served as team manager.26 Landis played for the Athletics earlier in the season and then switched to the Philadelphias.27 Another former player, Charlie Waitt, was mentioned as possibly involved in organizing the team.28

Although not a member of the ECA, the Philadelphias played their first game against the Association’s Nationals on June 6, 1881. It took place at Oakdale Park — the Athletics’ home ballfield — as one of two games. The Nationals played the Philadelphias in the morning, and the Athletics in the afternoon.29

A newspaper report on the Philadelphias’ game called them a “new club.”30 Another acknowledged the club had been reorganized with a new lineup:

The Philadelphia Club has recently been reorganized with the following nine: Sweeney, pitcher; O’Brien, catcher; Shetzline, Reynolds and Dixon on the bases; Myers, shortstop; Barber, Birchall and Landis in the outfield; with Lomas, tenth man and change-pitcher. The Philadelphias played their opening game on the morning of June 6that Oakdale Park; the Washingtons then defeating them after a close and exciting contest by a score of 5 to 3.31

The fact the Athletics permitted the Philadelphias to use their ballpark indicated they were not opposed to a second Philadelphia-based team joining the ECA once Fulmer had returned. The financial benefits of an intra-city rivalry still applied. Games between the Athletics and Philadelphias might draw sizable crowds when no other games were scheduled.32 The use of Oakdale Park by the Philadelphias also reflected the fact the club was still searching for a home ballpark, but it was a quest that would be resolved within the month.

Cordial relations between the Philadelphias and Athletics were again in evidence on June 11 when members of the former stepped in to help stage a game against the latter. Circumstances surrounding the hastily arranged contest were described in the New York Clipper :

The threatening aspect of the weather on June 11thcaused the non-appearance of the Metropolitans of this city in Philadelphia, when they were booked to play the Athletics. A large assemblage had gathered at Oakdale Park and the Athletics arranged to play a picked nine, including six of the new Philadelphia Club. Billy McLean acted as umpire, and a close contest was anticipated, but the Athletics won easily, the figure being 14-1.33

The Philadelphias did not have to wait long to enter the ranks of the ECA. A newspaper article reported in mid-June:

The Philadelphia Cub, including such well-known players as Sweeney, O’Brien, Shetzline, Reynolds, Dixon, Myers, Barber, Lomas and Landis, have been admitted into the Eastern Championship Association, taking the place of Louis H. Mahn’s Boston team. The Philadelphias secured the grounds at Twenty-Fourth Street and Ridge Avenue, where many improvements will be made, including a new grandstand and fence. Their opening game with the Atlantics of Brooklyn June 17th was postponed on account of rain.34

The ballpark at “Twenty-Fourth Street and Ridge Avenue” was named Recreation Park. The location had been used to play baseball since the Civil War, and would figure prominently in Philadelphia baseball in the years ahead.35, 36

With their game on June 17 rained out, the Philadelphias’ first game as a member of the ECA was against an Association opponent — the Quicksteps of New York — and was played at Recreation Park on June 24.37 In addition to being the club’s inaugural ECA game, it was remarkable for another reason. Although heretofore called the Philadelphias in newspaper reporting, an article in the next day’s Philadelphia Inquirer describing the contest unveiled the club’s nickname — a moniker that was far more portentous for the history of baseball in Philadelphia.

First use by a newspaper of ‘Phillies’ as a nickname for a baseball club in Philadelphia. (Philadelphia Inquirer, June 25, 1881)

 

The initial game for the Eastern baseball championship between the Philadelphia and New York Clubs was played at Twenty-fourth Street and Ridge Avenue yesterday afternoon in the presence of about five hundred people. Contrary to general expectation, the Philadelphias won the contest after outplaying their opponents at all points. The Philadelphia club has just been organized and, considering that this is the first game they have played against a good club, and that they did not have their full nine in the field, the victory is all the more creditable … Two bases on called balls and an error of Tracy gave the “Phillies”emphasis added] an unearned run in the second inning….38

This author believes this represents the first time the “Phillies” nickname appears in newsprint linked with a Philadelphia professional baseball team. Another Philadelphia baseball club would form in 1882 and make a far more enduring claim to the nickname, but the 1881 ECA team was the first to have the “Phillies” moniker applied to it, and thereby claim an important niche in the city’s baseball history. Newspaper reporting of the period often identified longstanding clubs by their team names rather than by the cities they represented. In the ECA, these included the Atlantics of Brooklyn, Athletics of Philadelphia, and Nationals of Washington.

Newly formed clubs, however, were initially identified by adding an ‘s’ to the names of their home cities — to make them easy to recognize, distinguish them from other teams playing in the cities, and because they had not acquired their own names. Such Association teams were the Albanys, New Yorks, and Philadelphias.39 As nicknames for such clubs became better known, they appeared in newspaper game coverage for identification purposes. Consequently, the use of “Phillies” in the article, especially with quotations around the word, shows it was a nickname for the Philadelphia Club, and undoubtedly would have appeared more frequently in newspaper coverage had the team continued to exist.40( The club is referred to as the Phillies through the remainder of this article.)

The Phillies got off to a victorious start as a member of the Association, beating the Quicksteps by a 10–1 score. The Athletics played the Quicksteps the next day and defeated them 10–5 at Oakdale Park.41

The second contest pitting the Phillies against an ECA opponent occurred on July 2, when the team visited the Polo Grounds in New York to take on the Metropolitans. It was a lopsided affair with the home team pummeling the visitors 18–4. The Metropolitans scored nine runs off Landis over three innings, and then added the same tally off Lomas during the rest of the game. Over 1,200 spectators watched the contest.42

The next recorded games played by the Phillies took place in Baltimore on July 4 and 5. The club’s opponent were “a local nine,” and the visitors won both games. Landis pitched for the Phillies in the first game, and Lomas occupied the pitcher’s box in the second contest.43

And then the Phillies were gone, relocated to a new city. The New York Clipper reported the abrupt transfer in this manner:

Baltimore, MD will be represented on the ballfield during the remainder of the season by a strong professional team managed and captained by Henry Myers, with its headquarters at Newington Park. The Philadelphia nine has been transferred bodily to Baltimore and strengthened by some prominent local players. The new team, including Caperoon, pitcher; Whiting, catcher; Sweeney, Shetzline and Barber on the bases; Myers, shortstop; and O’Rourke, Morgan and Landis in the outfield, played their opening game on July 14thwith the Peabodys — the amateur champions of Baltimore. The professionals secured a signal victory the figure being 8 to 1 in their favor.44

None of the reports on the Phillies’ departure from Philadelphia offered an explanation for the move, but the reasons almost certainly mirror those of other ECA clubs that disbanded after a short period of time — financial insolvency.45 The Nationals had disbanded on June 11 because, according to one newspaper account, “it was impossible to arrange sufficient games to prove pecunarily [sic ] profitable.”46 During the approximately one month between the Phillies’ entrance into the Association and their relocation to Baltimore, the club was able to play only three games against Association opponents — the Nationals, Quicksteps, and Metropolitans — the contest against the Atlantics having been rained out. Other than two games against an amateur team in Baltimore, the club was inactive.

The Phillies, moreover, were clearly overshadowed by the Athletics in scheduling games.47 The Athletics played four games against ECA opponents and two more against an NL club over seven days in late June, and four of them were held in Philadelphia. With the exception of the Quicksteps — who played the Phillies on June 24 and the Athletics on June 25 — the other clubs visiting the city played only the Athletics.

The Athletics also consistently drew larger crowds. For example, the National League Bostons  opposed the Athletics at Oakdale Park on June 22 and 23. The first game drew 4,000 customers, while the second attracted 3,000 fans, dwarfing the number of seats the Phillies were able to fill in their home games against Association opponents.48 The Phillies, moreover, were idle on those dates. Why Boston and other NL clubs that visited Philadelphia for two-game sets versus the Athletics would not or could not split the series — one game each against the Athletics and Phillies — isn’t clear, but it unquestionably contributed to the latter’s financial woes.

The Phillies also encountered difficulties scheduling games against other ECA teams. For example, on July 4, while the Phillies were playing a game against an amateur club in Baltimore, the Athletics had two games against the Association’s Atlantics. The first game was held in the morning and took place at the West Chester fairgrounds. It attracted “a large crowd.” The afternoon duel occurred at Oakdale Park and was watched by 3,000 spectators.49 Again, it is uncertain why Brooklyn was unable to play one game versus the Phillies and the other against the Athletics — as the Nationals had done on June 6 — especially on a holiday likely to attract a large number of spectators to the ballpark.

Another contributing factor to the Phillies’ demise probably was that Philadelphia’s fan base was inadequate to support two baseball franchises profitably. Clearly, the Athletics were the premier team in the city that drew marquee opponents and attracted the biggest crowds. Just as the New Yorks folded after they did not compete successfully for fans with the Metropolitans, the Phillies disbanded after they were similarly disadvantaged. In all likelihood, the Phillies, like the Nationals, were not “pecunarily [sic ] profitable.”

Baltimore did not escape the Phillies’ fate.50 The club played its last game on August 27, 1881, and did not finish the season.51 Earlier in the month, Myers left as manager of the Baltimore team, shifting to the Providence Grays of the NL.52 That arrangement, however, lasted only a short period, and Myers returned to the Baltimore club to help it reorganize.53

DISTINGUISHING THE PHILLIES FROM THE ATHLETICS

The ECA’s Phillies team is mostly lost to history; indeed, some baseball reference sources do not acknowledge the club’s existence, listing only the Athletics as Philadelphia’s entry in the Association. For example, Baseball-Reference.com does not identify the Phillies as one of the ECA’s clubs in the 1881, and assigns all the players who were with the team as having been on the Athletics’ roster.54 These oversights are likely attributable to the Phillies’ brief existence, but they have unquestionably contributed to the club’s obscurity in Philadelphia’s baseball past.

What is certain is that the Phillies and Athletics were separate teams. The sequence of games on June 24 and June 25 against the Quicksteps illustrate the presence of the two clubs in the Association. Newspaper articles recapping the games identify the Quicksteps’ opponent on June 24 as the Phillies and June 25 as the Athletics. The first game was played at Recreation Park — home of the Phillies — and the second at Oakdale Park — home of the Athletics.55

In addition, when the Phillies were at the Polo Grounds playing the Metropolitans on July 2, the Athletics were at home on the same day playing the Atlantics at Oakdale Park.56Lineups of the Phillies and the Athletics for their games that day show the clubs had entirely different rosters:

 

Phillies’ Lineup
July 2, 1881

Athletics’ Lineup
July 2, 1881

Henry Myers, SS

Jud Birchall, LF

John Shetzline, 2B

Sam Weaver, RF

Doc Landis, P

Henry Luff, CF

Ed Whiting, C

Eddie Fusselback, C

Jerry Sweeney, 1B

Chick Fulmer, 2B

Frank Berkelbach, LF

Cub Stricker, SS

Dixon, 3B

Joe Battin, 3B

Lomas, CF

Charlie Householder, 1B

Charlie Barber, RF

Gid Gardner, P

 

Numerous newspaper accounts also confirm Philadelphia had two clubs in the ECA during the 1881 season. For example, the New York Clipper ran an article July 9 identifying the seven clubs in the Association as the Metropolitans, New Yorks and Quicksteps of New York, the Albanys of Albany, the Atlantics of Brooklyn, and the Athletics and Philadelphias of Philadelphia.57 While there was a small amount of player crossover between the Phillies’ and Athletics’ clubs — Landis played for both teams — that was consistent with the frequent movement of players among NL and ECA teams in 1881.

THE HAMILTON DISSTON CLUB

As noted, when the Phillies folded and the franchise transferred to Baltimore, most of the players went, too.58 Some, however, subsequently departed Baltimore either of their own accord or were released and returned to Philadelphia. Fortuitously, yet another club was being organized in the city where they could ply their trade. According to a newspaper article reporting the development:

A new professional club to represent Philadelphia has lately been organized, and will be called the Hamilton Disston in compliment to one of the most popular young men of the Quaker City. John J. Ryan, a well-known veteran who had figured prominently in past seasons with the Bostons and Louisvilles will captain the new nine, and Charles E. Gross Jr. will act as manager. Negotiations are now pending to lease the ground at Twenty-Fourth Street and Ridge Avenue and put it in first-class condition. The Disstons will open with the following nine: Lomas, pitcher; Whiting, catcher; McCartney, Reynolds and Meyerle on the bases; Greenwood, shortstop; and Ryan, Slater and Berklebach (sic) in the outfield. The management will improve the nine as occasion offers. All clubs visiting Philadelphia are requested to communicate with Chas. E. Gross Jr., 659 North Thirteenth Street, in regard to dates.59

Lomas, Whiting, Slater, and Berkelbach had previously played for the Phillies. Despite the description of the Disstons as “professional,” however, they were really an amateur team that played amateur opponents. For example, the club played its first game on August 4, defeating the Graffley amateur club by a score of 11 to 9.60 There is no evidence to indicate the Disstons lasted past the 1881 season.

BEYOND THE ECA

When the ECA season concluded, the Athletics finished in second place behind the New York Metropolitans. Overall, the club played 92 games and finished with a 42–50 record.61 These figures include games against clubs in the Association and NL, and contests against college, commercial, and independent teams. During their brief existence, the Phillies played only five games, going 1–2 against Association opponents, and 2–0 versus an independent club in Baltimore.

The Association lasted only one season. Rumors that it would disband began as early as July.62 The ECA’s shaky financial foundation and revolving-door membership contributed to its demise, as did the fact the more powerful clubs — the Metropolitans and Athletics — sought major league status by joining the NL or aligning with an organization that would rival that League. After its application for admittance to the NL was rejected, the Athletics joined the new American Association (AA) for the 1882 season.63 The AA was organized in November 1881, and challenged the NL’s monopoly on major league status, a step the ECA was neither designed for nor capable of doing.64 The Phillies were reconstituted — now under the leadership of H.B. Phillips and A.J. Reach — and admitted to the NL-affiliated League Alliance in 1882.65 The move served as a prelude to the club’s ascension to the NL the next year.66

Despite its short-lived existence, the ECA provided a critical steppingstone in transitioning the structure of baseball in Philadelphia from a loose aggregation of independent teams into a league organization. It welcomed the original “Phillies” franchise in 1881, and while that team experienced a fleeting existence and is little remembered, it served as the forerunner of a club with the same nickname that was established the following year and continues to this day.

ROBERT D. WARRINGTON is a native Philadelphian who writes about the city’s baseball past.

 

Notes

1 “An Eastern Championship,” New York Clipper, April 16, 1881.  “Playing circuit” is subject to interpretation. It most likely meant the league was intended to be profitable.  Spectators would pay an admission fee to watch games, and players would receive salaries.  Whether players’ salaries were guaranteed or dependent on ticket gate revenue for each game is unclear.

2 “Baseball Men in Council,” New York Times, April 12, 1881. These cities were for a variety of reasons unrepresented in the National League. David Nemec, The Beer and Whisky League (New York: Lyons & Burford Publishers, 1994), 16.

3 New York Clipper, April 16, 1881.

4 “The Championship,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 28, 1881. Baseball was frequently spelled as two words in the nineteenth century, including in the article as it appeared in the Inquirer. To ensure consistency in this text, the contemporary spelling of baseball is used throughout, as it is for other words that were spelled differently over a hundred years ago. Shortstop, for example, is spelled as one word in this text, although it was hyphenated in the 1880s.

5 What exactly a club would receive for winning the ECA championship was not decided at the initial meeting. Presumably, a handsome trophy would be awarded. In early July, the Mayor of Albany, New York, a city represented in the Association by the Albanys, announced he would award a gold ball to the champion team, although whether this prize was intended to complement an Association trophy was not made clear. “BASEBALL,” New York Clipper, July 9, 1881.

6 “Commercial Nines” were teams sponsored by businesses. For example, the Rosenberg Manufacturing Company sponsored a baseball team, as did the August, Bernhelm, and Baner Company, both located in Brooklyn, NY. “BASEBALL,” New York Clipper, July 9, 1881.

7 New York Clipper, April 16, 1881.

8 David Nemec, The Great Encyclopedia of 19th Century Major League Baseball (New York: Donald I. Fine Books, 1997), 165. Nemec notes, “Between 1869 and the close of the nineteenth century nearly 900 professional baseball franchise were launched; more than three-quarters of them went belly up in two years or less and only 50 lasted as long as six years.”

9 New York Times, April 12, 1881.

10 https://en.wikipedia.org/wk/1881_in_baseball.

11 Philadelphia Inquirer, July 28, 1881.

12 The lineage of various franchises that claimed the name Philadelphia Athletics, and machinations involving the 1881 version before its entry into the ECA is covered in, John Shiffert, Base Ball in Philadelphia: A History of the Early Game, 1831-1900 (Jefferson: McFarland & Company), chapters 4-9.

13Ibid., 42.

14 David Jordan, The Athletics of Philadelphia: Connie Mack’s White Elephants, 1901-1954 (Jefferson: McFarland & Company, 1999), 8-9.

15 Shiffert, Base Ball in Philadelphia, 97.

16 “BASEBALL,”New York Clipper, April 23, 1881.

17 Charles F. Faber, “Chick Fulmer,” Baseball Biography Project, https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/309302d5.

18 “BASEBALL,” New York Clipper, May 7, 1881.

19 “BASEBALL,” New York Clipper, May 21, 1881.

20 “BASEBALL,” New York Clipper, May 28, 1881. The inclusion of Fouser’s name in the article is odd. Bill Fouser was an infielder/outfielder who played in 21 games for the Athletics of the NL in 1876. That was the extent of his major league career. His name is never mentioned again in connection with the Philadelphias. https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/f/fousebi01.shtml.

21 New York Clipper, May 21, 1881.

22 New York Clipper, May 28, 1881.

23 Shiffert, Base Ball in Philadelphia, 97.

24 “BASEBALL,” New York Clipper, June 4, 1881.

25 Mason is identified as assistant manager in a newspaper article that describes improvements to Oakdale Park that were carried out under his supervision. “BASEBALL,” New York Clipper, July 23, 1881.

26 “New York Defeated,” Philadelphia Inquirer, June 25, 1881; New York Clipper, July 9, 1881.

27 Landis had pitched for the Athletics in a game May 9 against the Metropolitans. In addition to pitching, Landis played the outfield. “BASEBALL,” New York Clipper, May 14, 1881. Caperoon pitched for the Athletics but did not play for the Philadelphias. New York Clipper, May 14, 1881. He did pitch, however, for the Baltimore club after the Philadelphias’ franchise was relocated to that city. “BASEBALL,” New York Clipper, August 13, 1881.

28 New York Clipper, May 7, 1881. Charlie Waitt was an outfielder and first baseman who played in the National Association (1875), National League (1877, 1883) and American Association (1882). In 1883, he was on the Phillies, but his tenure with the club lasted one game. www.baseball-reference.com/players/w/waittch01.shtml.

29 “Baseball,” Philadelphia Inquirer, June 6, 1881. Washington defeated the Athletics 8-0 in the afternoon.

30 “Baseball,” Philadelphia Inquirer, June 7, 1881.

31 “BASEBALL,” New York Clipper, June 11, 1881. The inclusion of Birchall’s name on the Philadelphias’ roster is a mistake. Jud Birchall played for the Athletics during the 1881 season.

32 There is no evidence the Philadelphias and Athletics ever played a game. It is unclear why such a contest was never scheduled, but several factors may account for it, including, the Philadelphias’ brief existence and the availability of other clubs to visit the city for games. Despite the potential appeal of an intra-city Philadelphia ballgame, playing other clubs, especially those in the NL, was almost certainly judged to draw a larger crowd.

33 “BASEBALL,”New York Clipper, June 18, 1881. In another example of cooperation between the two clubs, Frank Berkelbach, an outfielder for the Philadelphias, was selected by the Athletics to umpire one of their home games against the Albanys on July 9, 1881. The home team won the closely-contested affair 7-6. “Baseball,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 11, 1881.

34 New York Clipper, June 25, 1881. The statement that the Phillies replaced Boston is odd. Boston was never part of the Association. While Boston’s Louis Mahn attended the inaugural meeting of the ECA, it was to advance his baseball interests by having the Association adopt his ball for use in games, which it did. Mahn tried the same tactic later that year when he attended a meeting on November 2, 1881, called to organize the American Association. Other attendees soon discovered that Mahn was not there to enroll a Boston entry, but instead, to advocate for the use of his ball in games played by the new league. The American Association did, nevertheless, agree to have Mahn’s sporting goods company supply baseballs for its games. Nemec, Beer and Whiskey League, 21-23.

35 Recreation Park had been used as a ballfield by independent clubs for years, and it continued to be so even after the Philadelphias selected it as their home. For example, while the Philadelphias were in Baltimore playing “a local nine,” the Graffley and Mailineaux amateur nines played a game of baseball at Recreation Park on July 4th. “Baseball,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 4, 1881.

36 Rich Westcott, Philadelphia’s Old Ballparks (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1996), 9-14. Westcott provides an overview of the history of Recreation Park, calling it the “Birthplace of the Phillies.”

37 The Philadelphias had played the Nationals on June 6th, but that took place before the former had been admitted to the ECA. The game against the Atlantics, which would have been the Philadelphias first contest against an Association opponent after joining the ranks of the ECA was, as noted, rained out.

38 “Baseball,” Philadelphia Inquirer, June 25, 1881. The Phillies used two substitute players in their lineup because, as stated in the article, “they did not have their full nine in the field.” The substitutes were Slater and Reynolds — their first names are unknown — who according to available records played in that game and never again in the ECA. https://www.baseball-reference.com/register/league.cgi?id=9a276014.

39 The long-lived Metropolitan baseball club was identified by its full nickname, “Metropolitans,” and also by a shortened version of same, “Mets.” Both were used interchangeably in reporting on the club’s games. For examples of “Mets” appearing in newspaper accounts, see, New York Clipper, May 7, 1881, June 18, 1881, July 23, 1881, August 27, 1881, and September 17, 1881.

40 The NL Philadelphia baseball club was referred to as the “Philadelphias” and the “Phillies” in newspaper coverage of games during the team’s inaugural season in the league (1883). Philadelphia Inquirer, various dates.

41 “Baseball,” Philadelphia Inquirer, June 27, 1881.

42 New York Clipper, July 9, 1881.

43 “BASEBALL,” New York Clipper, July 16, 1881.

44 New York Clipper, July 23, 1881.

45 The Inquirer reported, “The Baltimore Club has recently organized and is composed entirely of Philadelphia players under the management of Henry Myers, formerly of the Athletic and Philadelphia Clubs.” “Badly Beaten,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 21, 1881.

46 New York Clipper, June 18, 1881.

47 Ironically, 73 years later in 1954, it would be the Philadelphia Athletics who relocated to another city (Kansas City) because of a shaky financial foundation, and the fiscally solid Phillies who remained. There was also a belief among some American League owners and league president William Harridge that Philadelphia no longer had a sufficient fan base to support two major league teams — the same thinking that may have contributed to the transfer of the ECA’s Phillies to Baltimore in 1881. See Robert. D. Warrington, “Departure Without Dignity: The Athletics Leave Philadelphia,” SABR Baseball Research Journal (Fall 2010), https://sabr.org/research/departure-without-dignity-athletics-leave-philadelphia.

48 “BASEBALL,”New York Clipper, July 2, 1881. The Phillies drew only 500 spectators to their game against the Quicksteps at Recreation Park on June 24th. Philadelphia Inquirer, June 25, 1881.

49 “Baseball,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 5, 1881.

50 When the Baltimore club was established, it was announced that its headquarters would be at the Newington Park ballfield, and that E. W. Gardner would be its business agent. A newspaper article praised Gardner, saying his appointment “should be a guarantee that the affairs of this new professional organization should be attended to in an efficient manner.” But the club lasted just over a month in the ECA. New York Clipper, July 23, 1881.

51 “BASEBALL,”New York Clipper, September 3, 1881.

52 “BASEBALL,”New York Clipper, August 20, 1881.

53 “BASEBALL,”New York Clipper, September 10, 1881. After Myers returned to Baltimore, he became the team’s player/manager when it was a member of the American Association in 1882. In addition to Myers, others who had played for the Phillies in 1881 were on the Orioles’ roster in 1882: John Shetzline, Doc Landis, and Ed Whiting. Nemec, Great Encyclopedia, 190.

54 https://www.baseball-reference.com/register/league.cgi?id=9a276014

55 New York Clipper, June 11, 1881.

56 New York Clipper, July 9, 1881.

57 New York Clipper, July 9, 1881.

58 All but two of the players who were in the Phillies’ lineup for the game on July 2 were in Baltimore’s lineup for the club’s first game on July 20 against, appropriately enough, the Athletics. The exceptions were Doc Landis and Lomas. They were replaced in the lineup by John Caperoon and John O’Rourke. Caperoon had been mentioned as one of the players being recruited for the Philadelphias by Chick Fulmer. The Athletics won by a score of 15-4. Philadelphia Inquirer, July 21, 1881.

59 “Baseball in Philadelphia,” New York Clipper, August 6, 1881.

60 New York Clipper, August 13, 1881.

61 “BASEBALL,”New York Clipper, December 17, 1881.

62 “BASEBALL,”New York Clipper, July 30, 1881.

63 For more information about the Athletics 1881 season, its role in the creation of the American Association, and team manager Horace B. Phillips, see Brock Helander, “Prelude to the Formation of the American Association,” https://sabr.org/research/prelude-formation-american-asociation.

64 Nemec, Beer and Whiskey League, 21-22.

65 Al Reach is an important figure in early organized baseball and in Philadelphia’s baseball history. For a biographic sketch of Reach’s career as a baseball player, sports manufacturing entrepreneur and Philadelphia Phillies’ president, see, Rich Westcott and Frank Bilovsky, The Phillies Encyclopedia, 3rd edition (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2004), 365-367.

66 New York Clipper, December 17, 1881.

© SABR. All Rights Reserved