This is the first in a series of articles about the great 1880 Washington National’s baseball club which had claim to the title “World Champions.” The Nationals were the champions of the National Association and defeated the National League champion Chicago White Stockings in a post season series by four games to three and one tie. There was no official announcement of such, the series was played locally and was an ad-hoc affair but let’s have some fun with it.
His early season write up is descriptive of the young hurler. “The graceful and deceptive “curvist,” though but 25 years of age, is one of the best pitchers in the ranks. He claims New York City as his birth place and began baseball in Brooklyn as shortstop and third baseman. For the season on 1877 he went with the Port Jervis Club as a general utility man. The succeeding year, he started with the Hartford’s as shortstop, and the regular pitcher not “panning” out well, he took his place. In this position he was eminently successful and approached perfection with rapid strides. When the Hartford’s disbanded in 1878 he was secured by the Nationals, and has pitched for them ever since. Lynch is reliable and energetic, and last year there were less hits from his pitching than from any of his colleagues. His batting average was .245; fielding average .955.” Not mentioned is that Lynch graduated from Fordham University.
In early April the Nationals head out on a long circuit to play several National League clubs. The early 1880s would be pivotal one for the “League.” The power of the League grows during this period. In 1880 it was located in the following cities. It was not based in New York, Philadelphia or Brooklyn, the top three cities. It was still possible for independent teams like the New York Metropolitans and the Washington Nationals to prosper.
Boston 5th 362,830
Buffalo 13th 155,134
Chicago 4th 503,185
Cincinnati 8th 255,139
Cleveland 11th 160,146
Providence 20th 104,857
Troy 29th 56,747
Worcester 28th 58,291
8 April in a game against the Providence Paul Hines took occasion to send his compliments to Jack Lynch by a hot liner that careened near the left knee, hurting terribly. He stayed in the game. While praising the work of Lynch the press did find something to criticize him for, “Jack Lynch pitched well, but he should not allow so many men to get their bases on balls.”
The next day Washington ties the Providence Grays. Lynch is credited with 103 balls called against him and 21 strikes. John Montgomery Ward goes for Providence.
24 April, the Nationals move on to Chicago and come back to split the four games series with Cap Anson’s Chicago White Stockings. The press reports, “The game in Chicago was of the rough and tumble order. The rains from the previous day in the morning make the grounds unsuitable for good playing, and it was with difficulty that the players could maintain their footing while running. In the fifth inning, the Chicago’s fell all over the grounds, allowing the Nationals to get their three runs. Jack Lynch pitched excellently, being finely backed up by Pop Snyder. “We intend to lay out Cleveland,” is the team’s new line. Jack Lynch struck out five. Time of the game is three hours.
Lynch is getting noticed. The Cincinnati Enquirer appeared in black during the stay of the Nationals in that city. For the “coming champions” to be beaten by a non-League club was too much for the sensitive nerves of the youth who has charge of baseball on that journal, and so he proceeded to warn other cities to beware of and to Watch Jack Lynch’s pitching, as it was over handed and unlawful.
Lynch’s great season runs into trouble on 9 August. The Nationals and Rochester’s clubs were to have played a game in New York, but the Rochester’s misunderstanding the arrangements failed to come in time. So a picked nine was formed up out of the large number of players present, with Derby and Baker acting pitcher and catcher. The Picked Nine won by a score of 6 to 3. In the first inning, Lynch had the misfortune to break one of the tendons of his right arm and had to retire. Joe Gerhardt supplying his place. Lynch’s painful injury is painful and it will be some time before he resumes play.
It is difficult to interpret medical injuries from this period. Some players will suffer from what is called a charley horse or a lame arm and there is little to properly evaluate the medical condition of the player. Also the rule change to allow the pitcher to throw from above the waist was still in the future. But ten days later Lynch is back in the box in a 6-4 loss to Rochester in Brooklyn.
22 August, Lynch is much better, his arm not being so badly injured as was at first supposed. He continues to pitch despite having a lame arm.
29 September, the New York Metropolitans host the Washington Nationals at the hastily converted Polo Grounds, the first professional baseball game ever played on Manhattan Island.
It is a 4-2 loss but Lynch is said to have pitched in splendid style, only three hits being made off him.
8 October An Inter-league playoff series is held between the Washington Nationals, champions of the National Association and the Chicago White Stockings, champions of the National League.
The first game of the series is held on 9 October, it is a Chicago victory 7 to 4 over Washington.
Jack Lynch was not in shape and according to the press should have been retired from the pitcher’s position. “Rheumatics” are said to be affecting him, and he is in no condition to present the ball. George Derby was brought in to take his place, Lynch taking Derby’s place in right field.”
One day later Lynch is happy. His wife delivers a baby boy, who weighs in at twelve pounds. Jack says that in 1900 he will be the “boss” pitcher.
Despite his lame arm he takes the box on 13 October. Another loss to Chicago, the score 4 to 2.
In 1881 he is 10-9 for the Buffalo Bosons. In 1882 he pitched for New York in the League Alliance, returning to the majors in 1883 with New York in the American Association. His best year was in 1884, he was 37-15 with the AA New York Metropolitans. His final year was in 1890 with the 1890 Brooklyn Gladiators, he was 0-1 with an ERA of 12.00, he is 33 years old. John Lynch pitched seven seasons in the majors, his record was 110-105. For the 1880 club he is credited with a record of 20-6 with an ERA of 1.14. He died in the Bronx in 1923, he was 66 years old.