This article was written by John J. O’Malley
This article was published in the 1980 Baseball Research Journal
September 29, 1980 marked the 100th anniversary of one of the landmark dates in New York baseball history — the first baseball game played in the original Polo Grounds. This was not a major league game as New York City did not have a National League club at that time.
In early September 1880, the New York Herald had reported the organization of a new independent professional team to be known as the Metropolitan Baseball Club of New York under the management of James Mutrie. The playing field, located between 6th and 7th Avenues and extending from 110th to 112th Street, was secured under the auspices of the Manhattan Polo Club.
While a grandstand was being constructed and other changes and repairs made to prepare the grounds for opening day, the management announced the signing of the team players — mostly from the lately dissolved Rochester franchise. They included:
Walker……….1st Base Kennedy . . . . Left Field
Brady………..2nd Base Pike………Center Field
Farrell………3rd Base Hawes……..Right Field
All this was an amazing change in fortune for Mutrie. A nine in Brockton, Mass., which he had organized and managed went out of existence by the end of July. On September 11, pitching for an amateur club known as the New York nine at the Union Grounds in Brooklyn, he was driven from the mound in the first inning as Brooklyn scored six runs and went on to defeat New York by 19 to 0.
That was the final game for the amateur New York club. It is doubtful if New Yorkers regretted its absence. Against the Unions, it had undergone losses by 7 to 4, 9 to 2 and 19 to 0 scores.
The new team played its first game at the Union Grounds in Brooklyn on September 15 against the amateur Union club. With Hugh Daily, their remarkable one-armed pitcher on the mound, the Metropolitans triumphed 13 to 0 as Daily limited the Unions to three hits.
The Metropolitans played ten more games in the next two weeks against amateur clubs in Brooklyn and Jersey City, winning all but one.
New York would play only one more game that year against amateur opposition. That took place on October 2 at the Union Grounds as the Metropolitans crushed the Manhattanville College nine by a 12 to 3 score. Daily was given the day off as New York business manager John B. Day took the mound. Seven bases on ball given the Metropolitans made his task an easy one.
The complete record of New York against amateur teams follows:
Sept. 15 New York……….13 Brooklyn…………….0
Sept. 16 New York……….15 Brooklyn…………….0
Sept. 17 New York…………3 Brooklyn…………….0
Sept. 18 New York…………7 Brooklyn…………….5
Sept. 20 Jersey City………..4 New York…………..3
Sept. 21 New York……….14 Brooklyn…………….4
Sept. 22 New York………..6 Jersey City………….3
Sept. 23 New York………..5 Jersey City………….1
Sept. 24 New York………..8 Jersey City………….0
Sept. 25 New York……….10 Jersey City………….4
Sept. 27 New York……….15 Jersey City………….5
Oct. 2 New York……….12 Manhat. College… 3
A crowd of about 2,000 passed through the gates of the Polo Grounds on September 29 to witness the opening of the first professional ball field within the limits of what was then New York City. The New York NL entry had played its home games at the Union Grounds in Brooklyn, which was a separate political entity until 1898. The Washington Nationals were delayed in arriving at the grounds with the result that the game, originally scheduled for 3:30, actually started at 4:20.
With the Mets batting first, Brady reached third on a long hit to left center and scored on an error. In the second inning, New York added a run on a series of errors and wild pitches. Washington tied the score in the second on a hit, a dropped fly ball and throwing errors. New York put the game away in the fifth as Kennedy tripled and scored on Daily’s hit. Daily himself scored shortly thereafter on Brady’s sacrifice hit. The score was 4 to 2 for New York at the end of five innings. Darkness prevented the sixth inning from being completed and the score reverted to the fifth. The ragged fielding – each team made seven errors — could not obscure the strong performance of Hugh Daily who allowed only two hits in the game.
Washington was guilty of 18 errors in the games of September 30 and October 1 as New York and Daily made a sweep of its three-game Series against the Nationals.
New York played an additional 16 games in its inaugural season of 1880 — all against National League Opposition. In those games, it would face some of the greatest pitchers of the day including Mickey Welch of Troy (six times), Jim McCormick of Cleveland (twice) and Larry Corcoran of Chicago (three times).
The five-game series against Worcester between October 4 and 9 was a disaster for New York. The Metropolitans won one, lost three and tied one. New York led or tied in earned runs scored in four of those games but fielding errors proved the difference in the final results. New York could at least take pride in its hitting: it scored 23 runs against John Lee Richmond of perfect game fame who was on the mound for Worcester in four of the games.
The series with Worcester also saw two new names added to the Metropolitan roster. With the regular National League season ended, Jim Mutrie signed the Providence battery — catcher Emil Gross and pitcher John Montgomery Ward — for the few games remaining in New York’s 1880 schedule. They made their debut in the October 7 game in which New York outscored Worcester 12 to 6.
The six-game series against Troy — billed by the New York Clipper as deciding the state championship of New York – must rank as the high point of the Metropolitans’ 1880 season. Troy’s lineup in those games included the future 300-game winning pitcher Mickey Welch on the mound and fellow Hall of Famers Roger Connor and Buck Ewing in the infield.
The contest of October 11 was Hugh Daily’s final appearance of the year. With Troy ahead 2 to 0 at the end of two innings, he walked off the mound following a dispute. A newcomer to the New York roster named Schenck took his place. Schenck performed creditably enough in the remaining seven innings allowing only 7 hits and 2 runs. But that was enough for Troy to gain the victory 4 to 2.
Schenck made two more appearances on the mound for New York that year. On October 12, he limited Troy to three runs on four hits. Fielding lapses by the Metropolitans gave Troy two of those runs. That was sufficient for Welch who held New York to one run on eight hits. On October 13, both clubs made the experiment of testing the merits of a new ball in the game. The results were farcical. As the New York Clipper reported, there was no chance afforded the fielders for skill. The ball once hit could not be stopped in the infield without the risk of broken fingers. In the game won by Troy 14 to 12, only five runs — all scored by New York — were earned. The teams made 25 errors between them. Such was Schenck’s farewell appearance of the year.
The first five innings of the October 14 game, which were scoreless, featured a triple play by Troy. In the second inning, with two on base, Hawes hit a sharp liner to Troy shortstop Caskins who caught it, threw to Connor at first who in turn threw to Ferguson at second for the third out. Ward won the game 5-1.
The following day, New York again bunched its hits, as it came up with six runs in the third inning and went on to win 7 to 6, behind Foley who was making his first appearance on the mound for New York.
Ward returned to the mound on the 16th — the final game of the Troy-New York series. With the score tied 1 to 1, New York exploded with seven runs in the seventh inning to take the game 9 to 3, evening the series at three victories each.
The two-game series against Cleveland also resulted in a standoff. Cold weather on the 18th held the attendance at the Polo Grounds down to about 600 as Foley faced Jim McCormick. It was no contest as McCormick held New York to three hits, Cleveland easily winning 9 to 3. The roles were reversed on the 20th, as Foley edged McCormick 4 to 3.
An error, a passed ball, a hit and an infield grounder gave New York a run in the third inning of their first encounter with Chicago on October 19. That was the extent of their scoring as Larry Corcoran limited the Metropolitans to four hits. With New York outfielders playing far back against the hard-hitting Chicago lineup, Anson had his batters shorten up their swing, producing a series of Texas Leaguers. All told, Chicago scored ten runs on 13 hits off the offerings of Ward, with every member of the White Stockings getting at least one hit.
Corcoran took the mound again on the 21st, shutting out New York on three hits as Chicago scored nine times against Foley. The final game of the season took place on October 23. Cold winds held the attendance at the Polo Grounds down to about 300, as Chicago and Corcoran made a clean sweep against New York 5 to 2.
The complete record of the independent New York team against professional teams follows:
|Sep 29||New York 4||Washington 2|
|Sep 30||New York 8||Washington 6|
|Oct 01||New York 7||Washington 3|
|Oct 04||Worcester 7||New York 3|
|Oct 06||Worcester 8||New York 7|
|Oct 07||New York 12||Worcester 6|
|Oct 08||New York 10||Worcester 10|
|Oct 09||Worcester 4||New York 3|
|Oct 11||Troy 4||New York 2|
|Oct 12||Troy 3||New York 1|
|Oct 13||Troy 14||New York 12|
|Oct 14||New York 5||Troy 1|
|Oct 15||New York 7||Troy 6|
|Oct 16||New York 9||Troy 3|
|Oct 18||Cleveland 9||New York 3|
|Oct 19||Chicago 10||New York 1|
|Oct 20||New York 4||Cleveland 3|
|Oct 21||Chicago 9||New York 0|
|Oct 23||Chicago 5||New York 2|
Few of the names of the original Metropolitans are familiar to the average fan. Ward would return to New York in 1883 — the brilliance of his play eventually gaining him Hall of Fame status. Daily struck out 483 men in 1884 — a record for righthanders that prevails to this day.
Just over two years later, Jim Mutrie brought New York not one but two major league clubs — the Metropolitans who entered the American Association and a second club which joined the National League, replacing Troy. His teams would win pennants in 1884, 1888 and 1889, but he is remembered by the average fan as little more than a cheer-leader as one day in 1885, he urged on the National League club with the cry “come on, you Giants” creating an immortal nickname. Baseball knows few greater ironies.