Albert Spalding was a great pitcher and an even greater entrepreneur. (National Baseball Hall of Fame)

The Western Baseball Tours of 1879

This article was written by Brock Helander

This article was published in The National Pastime: Baseball in Chicago (2015)

Even before the start of the 1879 National League campaign, several baseball clubs were reported to be contemplating post-season tours of the west. Despite the high cost associated with such undertakings, Chicago decided in April to make the trip and the Cincinnati club was also reported to be interested.

A great pitcher and an even greater entrepreneur.With professional sports still in its infancy, the infrastructure for such tours had to be built and run by the theater industry. Once Chicago contracted with theatrical promoter William Kelly in September, two other stage men, Jack Haverly and Robert Miles, pursued similar plans. Chicago, under Kelly, and Cincinnati, under Miles, initiated tours—but were preceded by forays taken by the Omaha and Rochester clubs.

The first inkling that an eastern baseball club was considering a western tour—a huge undertaking only previously done by the famous Cincinnati Red Stockings in 1869—came in December 1878, when Providence manager George Wright reportedly discussed such a trip.[fn]Chicago Tribune, December 8, 1878 , p. 7.[/fn] In January, the New Bedford club of the National Association, managed by F. C. Bancroft, was said to be arranging a California tour, but such plans collapsed once Bancroft and his captain Jim Mutrie abandoned New Bedford in favor of Worcester.[fn]Cleveland Leader, January 22, 1879, p. 7; New York Clipper, February 1, 1879; Chicago Tribune, February 2, 1879, p. 11; Chicago Tribune, March 23, 1879, p. 11.[/fn] Around the same time, J. H. Montague of the San Francisco club in the Pacific Baseball League visited Eastern baseball cities in hopes of making arrangements for National League clubs to visit the Pacific coast.[fn]Chicago Tribune, February 9, 1879, p. 7.[/fn] 

In the meantime, baseball in San Francisco was changing. In February 1879, the Oakland club and the Athletic, Mutual, and California clubs of San Francisco resigned from the Pacific Baseball League and formed the California Baseball League. (J.H. Montague played for the last-named club in 1878.) The Pacific League would now be comprised of the Reno, Eagle, Star, and Knickerbocker clubs, all of San Francisco.[fn]San Francisco Bulletin, February 13, 1879, p. 2; Sacramento Daily Union, February 14, 1879.[/fn] 

The New York Clipper published the schedules of both leagues in March. The Pacific League would play solely on Sundays at the Recreation Grounds in San Francisco, located at Twenty-fifth and Folsom Streets and seating 4,000. The grounds, opened November 26, 1868, hosted the famed Red Stockings of Cincinnati from September 25 to October 4, 1869. The Red Stockings won all seven games played there.[fn]New York Clipper, March 8, 1879; November 27, 1868, Daily Alta California (San Francisco);[/fn]

The California League would play on Saturdays and Sundays, commencing April 6, at the new grounds on Fourteenth and Center Streets in Oakland.[fn]New York Clipper, March 22, 1879.[/fn] The Oakland Baseball Grounds, sometimes referred to as the Oakland Cricket Grounds, adjoined Oakland Trotting Park and sat 3,000.[fn]Sacramento Daily Union, April 12, 1879; New York Clipper, February 22, 1879; New York Clipper, March 22, 1879; New York Clipper, April 19, 1879; Daily Alta California, May 10, 1879.[/fn]

In March 1879, the Chicago Times reported that Spalding brothers Albert and Walter, in regard to their western trade in baseball goods, had received inquiries from clubs in large far west towns concerning a potential visit by the Chicago club.[fn]Chicago Times, March 30, 1879, as cited at[/fn] The Chicago Tribune later stated that Al Spalding and Chicago and NL President William Hulbert had considered such an excursion.[fn]Chicago Tribune, September 28, 1879, p. 7.[/fn] By April, the Chicago club had definitely decided to make the tour, scheduling a departure date of October 2.[fn]Chicago Tribune, April 1, 1879, p. 5; (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, April 12, 1879, p. 1; New York Clipper, April 12, 1879.[/fn]

Within days, Cincinnati was reported also to be considering a western trip.[fn]Cleveland Leader, April 9, 1879, p. 3, citing the Boston Herald.[/fn] In May, the New York Clipper announced that James H. Love, the superintendent of the newly-opened Oakland Baseball Grounds, was seeking to hear from clubs intent on visiting California.[fn]New York Clipper, May 17, 1879.[/fn] In June the Daily Alta California noted that the Pacific Baseball League was about to act on the proposition of the Chicago club to visit California.[fn]Daily Alta California, June 2, 1879.[/fn] Also in June, the Rochester club was reported contemplating a trip to California.[fn]Boston Herald, June 5, 1879, p. 1; New York Clipper, June 14, 1879.[/fn]

Nonetheless, the first baseball club to travel to California was Omaha of the defunct Northwestern League. On July 9, Omaha’s players were paid off pursuant to the decision to disband and reorganize as a co-operative team.[fn]Omaha Daily Herald, July 10, 1879, p. 8.[/fn] On their way to San Francisco, Omaha played the Deseret club of Salt Lake City on July 24, 25, and 26, winning the first two games 8–2 and 7–3 and losing the third 15–8.[fn]Omaha Daily Herald, July 27, 1879, p. 8.[/fn] They left July 27 and arrived in Sacramento three days later, defeating the Blue Stockings of Sacramento 11–7 August 2 at Agricultural Park.[fn]Omaha Daily Herald, July 31, 1879, p. 8; Sacramento Daily Union, July 31, 1879; Sacramento Dally Union, p. August 4, 1879.[/fn]

On Sunday, August 10, the Knickerbockers of San Francisco defeated Omaha 3-0 at the Recreation Grounds in San Francisco. Although attendance estimates varied widely, the New York Clipper pegged the crowd at more than 6,000 based on gate receipts.[fn]San Francisco Chronicle, August 11, 1879, p. 3; Omaha Daily Herald, August 12, 1879, p. 8; New York Tribune, August 19, 1879, p. 8; New York Clipper, August 23, 1879.[/fn] On Sunday, August 17, Omaha and Oakland played a ten-inning 3–3 tie before a crowd estimated at nearly 4,000 at the Oakland Baseball Grounds.[fn]Daily Alta California, August 18, 1879; New York Clipper, August 30, 1879.[/fn] On August 24, the Knickerbockers defeated Omaha 2-1 before 4,000 in Oakland.[fn]New York Clipper, p. September 6, 1879.[/fn] One week later, Omaha returned to Sacramento and beat the Blue Stockings 14–7.[fn]Sacramento Daily Union, September 1, 1879.[/fn] On Sunday, September 14 at the Recreation Grounds, Omaha bested the Knickerbockers 6–5 in 10 innings.[fn]Daily Alta California, September 15, 1879; New York Clipper, October 4, 1879.[/fn]

The Rochester club, known as the Hop Bitters, was the next to travel west. The club had taken the place of the National Association’s disbanded Capital City of Albany club in May, and was largely comprised of players from the Capital City, including Richard Higham, John Manning, Tim Murnane, and Andy Leonard, with Joe Simmons as manager.[fn]Watertown (New York) Daily Times, May 10, 1879, p. 3; Boston Globe, May 21, 1879, p. 1; New York Clipper, May 31, 1879.[/fn] The club’s membership in the National Association was a matter of dispute. Springfield manager Bob Ferguson had voted for the club’s admission, but, after he resigned in June, the club directors maintained that they had not approved Rochester’s admission.[fn]Springfield (Mass.) Republican, June 5, 1879, p. 5; Springfield Republican, July 31, 1879, p. 5; New York Clipper, August 16, 1879.[/fn] Furthermore, Rochester disbanded in mid-July, briefly reorganized as two teams, and then continued as a co-operative, although the Association Judiciary Committee had still not ruled on its membership by October.[fn]New Haven Register, July 21, 1879, p. 1; Brooklyn Eagle, July 18, 1879, p. 3; New York Clipper, July 26, 1879; New York Clipper, October 11, 1879.[/fn]

September 2 in Cleveland, the Hop Bitters defeated the amateur Forest Citys of Cleveland 3–0 in a game called after seven innings due to darkness.[fn](Cleveland) Plain Dealer, September 3, 1879, p. 1; Cleveland Leader, September 3, 1879, p. 8.[/fn] Four days later, in Chicago, the Hop Bitters swamped Dubuque 15–3.[fn]Chicago Tribune, September 7, 1879, p. 7.[/fn] Dubuque, another former member of the Northwestern League, included a number of men who became well-known in baseball history: manager Ted Sullivan, Tom Loftus, Hoss Radbourn, brothers Bill and Jack Gleason, and Charles Comiskey. Moving on to Dubuque, the Hop Bitters again defeated that city’s club, 10–6 on September 8, lost to them 6–5 on September 9 and 10, and trounced them 12–2 on September 12.[fn]Omaha Daily Herald, September 9, 1879, p. 1; Omaha Daily Herald, September 10, 1879, p. 5; Omaha Daily Herald, September 11, 1879, p. 1; (Chicago) Daily InterOcean, September 13, 1879, p. 2.[/fn] The clubs played two games on September 13, Rochester winning the morning game 8–1 and losing the afternoon game 6–3.[fn](Chicago) Daily InterOcean, September 15, 1879, p. 6.[/fn] Continuing west, the Hop Bitters stopped in Salt Lake City, obliterating the Deserets on September 18 and 19, the latter date by a 28–3 score.[fn]Salt Lake Daily Tribune, September 19, 1879, p. 4; Salt Lake Daily Tribune, September 20, 1879, p. 4.[/fn]

Mainstay Chicago third baseman. The Rochester club arrived in San Francisco on the evening of September 23[fn]San Francisco Chronicle, September 26, 1879, p. 1.[/fn] and played California League teams at the Oakland Grounds through October 11. On Sunday, September 28, Rochester plated six runs in the second inning and held on to beat the Mutuals 10–7 before 4,000 fans.[fn]San Francisco Chronicle, September 29, 1879, p. 5.[/fn] They defeated the Athletics 21–2 on October 2, scoring 19 runs in the final three innings; the Oaklands 14–3 on Saturday, October 4; and the Californias 16–5 the following day.[fn]San Francisco Bulletin, October 3, 1879, p. 1; San Francisco Chronicle, October 5, 1879, p. 8; San Francisco Chronicle, October 6, 1879, p. 3.[/fn] On October 11, the Hop Bitters bested the recently-organized Haymakers 10–1 before a crowd described as “immense.”  Sunday October 12, Rochester defeated the Knickerbockers 9–5 at the Recreation Grounds before an estimated 10,000, described as the largest crowd ever assembled on the Pacific Coast.[fn]Daily Alta California, October 8, 1879; San Francisco Bulletin, October 13, 1879, p. 2; New York Clipper, October 25, 1879.[/fn]

On September 9, Chicago President William A. Hulbert signed a contract with the managers of the Bush Street Theater to send his team to California for a month.[fn]Chicago Tribune, September 11, 1879, p. 5.[/fn] Charles E. Locke was the proprietor of the theater.[fn]Daily Alta California, June 3, 1879.[/fn] Theatrical promoter William W. Kelly of Chicago, originator of the Authors’ Carnival in San Francisco, would act as business manager of the team.[fn]Chicago Tribune, September 28, 1879, p. 7; Daily Alta California, November 4, 1879.[/fn]

Once word got out that Chicago would tour California, a flurry of baseball-related activity broke out involving other theatrical promoters. One party was represented by Robert Miles, of the Grand Opera House of Cincinnati, and Nick Roberts, of the Humpty Dumpty Troupe. Another was represented by Jack Haverly, manager of Haverly’s Theaters in Chicago and Brooklyn.[fn]New York Clipper, May 24, 1879.[/fn]

Miles was reported to be endeavoring to secure the Providence and Cincinnati clubs for a San Francisco tour.[fn]Chicago Tribune, September 21, 1879, p. 7.[/fn] Miles and Roberts reportedly engaged Buffalo and Cincinnati to visit California.[fn]Cincinnati Daily Star, September 24, 1879, p. 7; St. Louis Globe-Democrat, September 25, 1879, p. 3.[/fn] In October the Clipper reported that Buffalo’s California trip had been abandoned and that several of its key players— Clapp, Galvin, Force, and Rowe—were wanted by the Cincinnati club.[fn]New York Clipper, October 11, 1879.[/fn]

Haverly was said to be negotiating with Boston, Providence, and Cleveland, according to one account, and F. C. Bancroft of the Worcester club by another account.[fn]New Haven Register, September 22, 1879, p. 4; Springfield Republican, September 22, 1879, p. 5; Cleveland Leader, September 23, 1879, p. 5.[/fn] Haverly closed an agreement on September 23 to take Providence to California, outbidding Miles. The deal guaranteed $2,000 and required that no games be played on Sunday.[fn]Cleveland Leader, September 25, 1879, p. 3, citing the Cincinnati Enquirer; St. Louis Globe-Democrat, September 25, 1879, p. 3; New York Clipper, October 4, 1879.[/fn]

On September 29, the Boston Journal reported that the Boston club had entered into a contract with C. E. Lowell of Boston and Charles E. Converse of San Francisco for a western trip commencing October 13.[fn]Boston Journal, September 29, 1879, p. 4.[/fn] Boston subsequently abandoned the project, “owing to the failures of the parties who had contracted with the Bostons…to come to time.”[fn]Chicago Tribune, October 26, 1879, p. 7, citing the Boston Herald.[/fn]

On October 6, Joe Mack, manager of the Cleveland baseball team and connected with Haverly’s Brooklyn Theater, visited the office of the New York Clipper and stated that he had conducted the negotiations with Boston and Providence but had abandoned the project when Providence proved incapable of providing its strongest team. George Wright and Joe Start had declined to go.[fn]Cleveland Leader, October 10, 1879, p. 8; New York Clipper, October 11, 1879.[/fn]

The Chicago team, captained by first baseman Adrian “Cap” Anson, was just one win behind first-place Providence on August 15. For the season, the club had secured the services three players from defunct NL teams—outfielder Abner Dalrymple, once of Milwaukee, and catcher Frank “Silver” Flint and third baseman “Ned” Williamson, late of Indianapolis—as well as outfielder George Gore. These five players would anchor the Chicago team that would win five pennants from 1880 to 1886. Anson, however, began missing games in August due to liver problems and did not accompany the team on its final eastern trip, when it went 3–12–1 and suffered nine losses and one tie between September 3 and September 23.[fn]Chicago Tribune, August 14, 1879, p. 5; Chicago Tribune, August 24, 1879, p. 7.[/fn] Chicago ultimately finished tied for third, three wins ahead of Cincinnati.

Prior to the departure of the Chicago club, the Chicago Tribune announced that Al Spalding, the secretary of the Chicago club, would accompany the team to California.[fn]Chicago Tribune, September 14, 1879, p. 7.[/fn] The club also secured the services of pitcher Larry Corcoran, who had played for the National Association Springfield and Holyoke clubs, and pitcher Jim McCormick and shortstop Tom Carey of the Cleveland club, their early releases having been granted.[fn]Springfield Republican, September 22, 1879, p. 5; Cleveland Leader, September 22, 1879, p. 8.[/fn] On September 29, expelled pitcher Edward “The Only” Nolan was reinstated, allowing National League clubs to play the Knickerbockers, for whom Nolan had been pitching.[fn](Chicago) Daily InterOcean, October 1, 1879, p. 2.[/fn]

William Kelly arrived in Chicago September 27 and he and the Chicago team left town October 5.[fn]Chicago Tribune, September 28, 1879, p. 7; Chicago Tribune, October 5, 1879, p. 7.[/fn] They passed through Omaha October 6 and played games in Salt Lake City October 9, 10, and 11, defeating the Deseret team by the respective scores of 24–4, 14–0, and 13–9, McCormick pitching all three games.[fn]Sacramento Daily Union, October 7, 1879; Salt Lake Daily Tribune, October 10, 1879, p. 4; Salt Lake Daily Tribune, October 11, 1879, p. 4; Salt Lake Daily Tribune, October 12, 1879, p. 4; New York Clipper, October 25, 1879.[/fn]

The club arrived in San Francisco on the evening of October 14 and five days later defeated the Californias 13–0 at the Oakland Baseball Grounds before a mere 1,000.[fn]San Francisco Bulletin, October 15, 1879, p. 3; San Francisco Bulletin, October 20, 1879, p. 3; New York Clipper, November 1, 1879.[/fn] The Chicago club met opponents throughout the following week at the Recreation Grounds, besting the Athletics 8–2 on October 20, the Mutuals 23–0 on October 21, the Oaklands 11–1 on October 22, and the Mutuals again 11–1 on October 24.[fn]San Francisco Bulletin, October 21, 1879, p. 3; San Francisco Bulletin, October 22, 1879, p. 1; San Francisco Bulletin, October 23, 1879, p. 2; San Francisco Bulletin, October 25, 1879, p. 4.[/fn] The Chicago club played two games on Saturday, October 25, trouncing the Mutuals 11–1 and, with Corcoran pitching, shut out the Oaklands 18–0.[fn]New York Tribune, October 27, 1879, p. 1; New York Clipper, November 1, 1879. The New York Tribune had the Mutuals’ game at the Recreation Grounds and the Oakland’s games in Oakland. The New York Clipper had both games played in San Francisco.[/fn]

The Cincinnati club, meanwhile, was in trouble even before it left town. The September 20 edition of the Clipper noted: “The Cincinnati players have received the requisite twenty days notice that their services will not be needed after Oct. 1.”[fn]New York Clipper, September 20, 1879.[/fn] The Chicago Tribune, always eager to denigrate any rival, soon noted that a Cincinnati paper had reported that the club that would go to California would “not be the present Club…but the members of the Cincinnati Club reorganized.”[fn]Chicago Tribune, September 21, 1879, p. 7.[/fn] On September 29 the National League held a special meeting in Buffalo to discuss the salaries and contracts of players. Cincinnati was not represented by its president, J. Wayne Neff, but by Hulbert of the Chicago club.[fn]Chicago Tribune, September 30, 1879, p. 5.[/fn]

Robert Miles made arrangements for the trip to California on October 3, cobbling together a team including captain “Cal” McVey, Mike “King” Kelly, Pete Hotaling, and William “Blondie” Purcell of the Cincinnati club, Davy Force, John Clapp, James “Pud” Galvin, and John “Jack” Rowe of Buffalo, Charles “Pop” Smith of the disbanded NA’s Springfield team, and Charley Jones of Boston.[fn](Chicago) Daily InterOcean, October 4, 1879, p. 2.[/fn] Cincinnati catcher Jim White did not want to play on Sundays, so he was out, and John Reilly of the Cincinnati Star club replaced Jones, who was threatened with expulsion by Boston manager Harry Wright.[fn]Cleveland Leader, October 6, 1879, p. 8; Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, October 6, 1879, p. 4; Chicago Tribune, October 12, 1879, p. 7.[/fn]

Miles, Nick Roberts, and the players left Cincinnati the evening of October 5, passing through Omaha on October 7 and arriving in San Francisco the evening of October 11.[fn]Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, October 5, 1879, p. 1; Daily Alta California, October 8, 1879; San Francisco Bulletin, October 11, 1879, p. 4.[/fn] On Sunday, October 12, Cincinnati shut out the Californias at the Oakland Grounds before a crowd variously estimated as 1,500 and 2,500.[fn]Daily Alta California, October 13, 1879; New York Clipper, October 25, 1879.[/fn] The Rochester team, about to head east, was induced to stay and play Cincinnati on Sunday, October 19. Rochester suffered its first defeat on the Pacific Coast, losing 8–4 to Cincinnati before 5,000 people at the Recreation Grounds.[fn]Sacramento Daily Union, October 18, 1879; San Francisco Bulletin, October 20, 1879, p. 3.[/fn]

In October, the Clipper noted that “(t)he advent of the Eastern professional nines at San Francisco, Cal., has materially assisted in breaking up the local associations of that city.”[fn]New York Clipper, October 25, 1879.[/fn] Later it reported that the games presented by “the Chicagos and Cincinnatis broke up the series of championship games of the Pacific and California Leagues, the result being virtually settled, however, in favor of the Knickerbockers and Californias, respectively.”[fn]New York Clipper, November 22, 1879.[/fn]

The Clipper observed: “The Chicagos, Cincinnatis and Rochesters had not, at latest advices, met with the pecuniary success anticipated in San Francisco, the public not taking kindly to the fifty-cent tariff, and not attending games except on Saturdays and Sundays.”[fn]New York Clipper, November 8, 1879.[/fn] The Clipper, however, subsequently reported: “The Rochesters’ recent trip to California was a successful one, pecuniarily and otherwise.”[fn]New York Clipper, November 29, 1879.[/fn]

On Sunday, October 26, Chicago and Cincinnati initiated a series of games at Recreation Park. Before a crowd estimated at 6,000, Chicago scored five runs in the eighth and defeated Cincinnati 9–4.[fn]San Francisco Bulletin, October 27, 1879, p. 1; Daily Alta California, October 27, 1879; New York Clipper, November 8, 1879.[/fn] The news emanating from the east, however, must have unsettled the Cincinnati players; the club’s directors met October 22 and resigned from the League the next day. The Star Club of Cincinnati then made application for admission to the National League.[fn]Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, October 24, 1879, p. 8.[/fn]

On October 27, Justus Thorner, president of the Star club, met with William Hulbert, the NL’s (and Chicago club’s) president. Hulbert guaranteed the admission of the Star club to the League, but also demonstrated that the five-man reservation rights of clubs agreed to at the September 29 League meeting did not allow the Star club to succeed to the reservation rights of the old Cincinnati club. Perhaps not coincidentally, Chicago had signed away Cincinnati’s Mike “King” Kelly for 1880 around October 16.[fn]Chicago Tribune, October 28, 1879, p. 7; Chicago Tribune, October 17, 1879, p. 5.[/fn]

Cincinnati, now a team in limbo, punished Corcoran’s pitching on November 1, defeating Chicago 12–5.[fn]Daily Alta California, November 2, 1879; New York Clipper, November 15, 1879.[/fn] The following day, Cincinnati again prevailed 5–1.[fn]Daily Alta California, November 3, 1879.[/fn] On Saturday, November 8, Chicago scored the deciding run in the ninth inning, edging Cincinnati 3–2.[fn]San Francisco Chronicle, November 9, 1879; Daily Alta California, November 10, 1879; New York Clipper, November 22, 1879.[/fn]

On November 4, William Kelly was reported “dangerously ill” at the Palace Hotel.[fn]Daily Alta California, November 4, 1879.[/fn] Around this time, Nick Roberts had a row with Charles Locke and left San Francisco for the east.[fn]New York Clipper, November 15, 1879.[/fn] Evidence suggests that the financial arrangements of the Chicago and Cincinnati clubs had changed.[fn]A lengthy article from the December 17 edition of the Cincinnati Enquirer, reprinted in the December 27 issue of the New York Clipper, irresponsibly referring to Kelly’s illness as a suicide attempt, stated: “It was after this occurrence that the managers of the other team (Cincinnati) made the mistake of taking up the Chicago team, thereby sinking still more money.” New York Clipper, December 27, 1879. Also rumors circulated that the two clubs had agreed to play five games, the winner to receive $500 or $1,000 plus game receipts. San Francisco Chronicle, November 9, 1879, p. 4; Cleveland Leader, November 13, 1879, p. 5; New York Clipper, November 15, 1879. Al Spalding and the Chicago Tribune vehemently denied the allegations. Chicago Tribune, November 12, 1879, p. 6; Chicago Tribune, November 23, 1879, p. 11.[/fn]

Cincinnati and the Knickerbockers were scheduled to play on Sunday, November 16. But William J. Kohlman, manager of the newly-opened Union Grounds, had procured a writ of prohibition on Saturday night to “restrain Charles E. Locke, of the Bush-street Theatre, from playing a match game of base-ball between the Knickerbockers and Cincinnatis at the Recreation Grounds on Sunday, or playing any games in which the Cincinnati and Chicago club are interested…. Kohlman sets forth that he has a contract with Locke, under which he has the sole management of the Recreation Grounds until December 7th.”[fn]San Francisco Bulletin, November 17, 1879, p. 1.[/fn]

Earlier, Locke had leased a tract of land at Townsend and Seventh Streets for a baseball field seating 6,500. The initial match was intended to be a contest between Cincinnati and Chicago, but the Union Grounds did not open until November 2.[fn]San Francisco Bulletin, October 16, 1879, p. 1; Daily Alta California, November 1, 1879; Daily Alta California, November 4, 1879; New York Clipper, November 15, 1879.[/fn]

In deference to the injunction, Cincinnati did not play the Knickerbockers—but Chicago did. Playing with Remsen replacing Anson at first base, and Corcoran in center field, Chicago defeated the Knickerbockers 5–4 before 2,500 despite seven strikeouts by Nolan.[fn]San Francisco Bulletin, November 17, 1879, p. 1; New York Clipper, December 6, 1879.[/fn] On November 18, Anson, Corcoran, and Flint left San Francisco for Chicago.[fn]San Francisco Bulletin, November 19, 1879, p. 3; Chicago Tribune, November 24, 1879, p. 5.[/fn] Spalding had preceded them, arriving in Chicago November 11.[fn]Chicago Tribune, November 12, 1879, p. 6.[/fn] He called the trip disastrous, stating that “the club came out all right because their contract was guaranteed, but the projectors of the scheme lost money.”[fn](Chicago) Daily InterOcean, November 22, 1879, p. 7.[/fn]

In its inimical style, the Chicago Tribune reported:

“From the members of the Chicago team who returned from California Sunday, and other sources, it is learned that the condition of the Cincinnati team which went to San Francisco several weeks ago is pitiable, the men being entirely without money either to live on or come home with. They were taken out there by somebody who alleged that Locke, of the Bush Street Theatre, San Francisco, was interested in the snap, but that individual declined to assume a responsibility which seemed to include only the paying out of money. Nick Roberts, who took the crowd across the Continent, came back some time ago, but the unfortunate players could not follow his example, as it takes money to travel. (T)wo weeks ago the men were far behind in the payment of board, and in hourly expectation of being violently ejected from the hotel upon which they had conferred their disastrous patronage.”[fn]Chicago Tribune, November 25, 1879, p. 5.[/fn]

Kohlman next engaged the Cincinnati players and the remaining Chicago players for a series of games at the Recreation Grounds.[fn]New York Clipper, November 22, 1879. A few days earlier, the San Francisco Bulletin had reported that “Messrs. Fritz and Shear, managers of the Recreation Grounds, have engaged seven of the Chicago Club…to play here during the winter months.” San Francisco Bulletin, November 19, 1879, p. 3.[/fn] On November 22, in the best game yet played by the eastern clubs, Cincinnati beat Chicago 1–0, the winning run scoring on Rowe’s ninth-inning home run. On Sunday November 23, before 2,500, Cincinnati defeated the Knickerbockers 7–4.[fn]San Francisco Bulletin, November 24, 1879, p. 2; New York Clipper, December 6, 1879.[/fn] Four days later, on Thanksgiving Day, the Knickerbockers subdued Chicago 6–4 as Nolan struck out nine.[fn]San Francisco Bulletin, November 28, 1879, p. 2; New York Clipper, December 13, 1879.[/fn] This was the first victory by a home club since the easterners arrived. In what was announced as the last game of the season, the Knickerbockers defeated Chicago 14–9 on December 7 in front of a meager 500.[fn]Cleveland Leader, December 16, 1879, p. 3; New York Clipper, December 27, 1879.[/fn]

The December 17 edition of the Cincinnati Enquirer gave this account of the trip to California:

“(Cal) McVey… persuaded Manager Bob Miles of the Grand Opera-house that it would be a grand success, and Miles agreed to back it with his money. The trip might have been made to pay expenses, at least, had it been well managed. Therein lies the miserable failure. Nick Roberts, after taking the team across, stayed but two or three weeks, and then came home, turning everything over to Locke of the Bush-street Theatre….

“Locke was the man who was to manage the affair on the Pacific Slope, and put up half the money. The firm of Locke & Miles then took half-interest in the Chicago venture, and they thus got still deeper in the complication. (Miles) wrote to Sam Colville of the Folly Company, who has been in San Francisco all Winter, and who is a sort of half-partner of Miles.”

A letter from Colville, dated December 3, reckoned the accounts of the two ball clubs, showing Chicago’s gross loss as $4,776.05, Cincinnati’s gross loss as $3,566.18, and Miles’ loss as $2,977.09. The letter continues: “To sum up the whole matter, I consider this speculation the worst-managed affair that ever was attempted, and in relation to which I consider Roberts censurable.”

The article continues: “Mr. Miles immediately telegraphed $1,250 to Mr. Colville, wherewith to settle the outstanding claims and bring the team to Cincinnati. Mr. Colville made the mistake of putting the money into Locke’s hands, instead of applying it himself to the debts of the team. Locke was ‘way in the hole,’ to use an idiom of speech, and he pocketed the money.”

A series of dispatches ensued. John Clapp, in a missive dated December 13 wrote to Miles: “There are five weeks’ board-bill and three weeks’ salaries due. We cannot get our tickets. What do you intend doing? Answer quick.” Another dispatch, also dated December 13, from Charles “Pop” Smith, read: “JUSTUS THORNER, Cincinnati Baseball Association: Send $100 at once. Locke has gone back on us. No way to get home. Answer immediately.”

“Finally Manager Miles yesterday telegraphed Mr. Colville as follows: ‘SAMUEL COLVILLE, Bush-street Theatre, San Francisco, Cal.: Clapp telegraphs that he starts to-day, paying his own fare. If Locke don’t settle with the club, make him refund, as he holds me.”

The article concludes: “Nobody will be the loser but Mr. Miles, and he has come out of the affair with clean hands and another proof added to his reputation for honest business transactions.”[fn]New York Clipper, December 27, 1879, reprinted from the December 17 edition of the Cincinnati Enquirer.[/fn]

Clapp left San Francisco on December 16 and later denied the stories about the Cincinnatis’ extreme distress in San Francisco.[fn]New York Clipper, January 3, 1880.[/fn] Kelly, Hotaling, Purcell, Force, Smith, and Reilly arrived in Cincinnati on December 28. The Cincinnati Daily Star noted: “The boys are looking well and hearty and express themselves much pleased with their trip.”[fn]Cincinnati Daily Star, December 29, 1879, p. 8; New York Clipper, January 10, 1880.[/fn]

William Kelly had the final word. In a letter to the Clipper, from the Palace Hotel, dated January 7, he stated:

“The baseball venture was, I admit, a disastrous failure, but I invested my money willingly, and had sufficient confidence in the enterprise to believe that I should be well repaid for my investment; but, unfortunately, I associated with me as a partner Chas. E. Locke of the Bush-street Theatre, whose lack of knowledge, etc., of both clubs compelled me to lose every dollar I had placed in the enterprise. Mr. Locke not only deprived me of the management and receipts of the ball-matches, but while I was East securing the players he took charge of the ‘Authors’ Carnival,’ which I originated here, and pocketed several thousand dollars made thereby, without surrendering to me the half I was entitled to by agreement; a threatened lawsuit, however, brought him partially to his senses, and he is now endeavoring to effect a settlement with my attorneys.

“R. E. J. Miles of Cincinnati is fully exonerated from any blame, for I know positively that he sent sufficient money to return the club several days before they started, Locke merely retaining them here so that they would be obliged to accept his fifty-cents-on-the-dollar proposition. Both clubs could have been made to pay with proper management, had not Nick Roberts and myself been forced from the field. The result was a total loss of $9,000, with R. E. J. Miles and myself principal losers ‘by a large majority.’”[fn]New York Clipper, January 24, 1880.[/fn]

At the NL’s annual meeting, held December 3 in Buffalo, the resignation of the old Cincinnati club was placed on file and the Star club admitted to membership by unanimous vote. The Star club was represented by O. P. Caylor and Justus Thorner, who was elected to the Board of Directors.[fn]New York Clipper, December 13, 1879.[/fn] The stockholders of the new Cincinnati club met on December 22 and elected Thorner president.[fn]New York Clipper, January 30, 1880.[/fn] Of the tour players, Cincinnati retained John Clapp, Charles “Pop” Smith, William “Blondie” Purcell, and John Reilly of the old Star club. Davy Force, James “Pud” Galvin, and John “Jack” Rowe returned to the Buffalo club, staying into 1885, the club’s final season. “Cal” McVey, however, remained in San Francisco and never played in the National League again.

For Chicago, in addition to the players who went on tour and remained through the five pennant-winning campaigns in seven years, Mike “King” Kelly played for Chicago through 1886. Second baseman Joe Quest played for Chicago through 1882 and Larry Corcoran, once signed, went 170–83 for the club from 1880–1884. Jim McCormick returned to Cleveland and posted a record of 135–100 from 1880 to 1883.

Despite the financial losses, the tours of the Omaha, Rochester, Cincinnati, and Chicago clubs aroused interest in baseball in Omaha, Dubuque, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Oakland. Furthermore, the tours drew national attention in the New York Clipper. Frank Bancroft and the Worcester team did tour after the season, going to Cuba billed as the Hop Bitters on the first international journey since the 1874 tour of England by the Boston Red Stockings and the Athletics of Philadelphia.[fn]New York Clipper, November 29, 1879.[/fn]

BROCK HELANDER is the author of “The Rock Who’s Who” (1982), “The Rock Who’s Who Second Edition” (1996), “The Rockin’ 50s” (1998), and The Rockin’ 60s” (1999). Since joining SABR, he has focused on researching baseball in the nineteenth century, particularly 1877-1881. He has contributed to “Nineteenth Century Notes,” the “Baseball Research Journal,” “The National Pastime,” and SABR’s BioProject.