Nov 22

“That will cost you $5.”

The year is 1899 and people are staying away from the ballparks. The popularity of the game is in decline.

Syndicate Baseball. Cross ownership allows the owners to strip the best players from Cleveland and Baltimore. The Spiders go into a death spiral and are nicknamed the Exiles when the owners transfer games out of Cleveland. In Baltimore the resilient John McGraw keeps the team playing better than anyone could have expected.

The small clique of powerful owners had wanted to drop four teams in 1899 but ownership issues in New York and St, Louis prevented this. In order to generate more revenue they demand the other owners lay baseball on Sunday and dispense with ladies days. The Wagner’s make plans to play Sunday baseball up the road in Maryland and this would have happened in 1900. Their attempt to get rid of the popular ladies day events in Washington meets with a hostile backlash and they quickly relent.

Rowdyism. On field violence is keeping some enthusiasts home. Only in the Western League is there peace.

Here are some tales reflecting the way the game was played.

Thursday 7 September 1899
Philadelphia 1
Washington 5

The work of Billy Dinneen was the most artistic exhibition of pitching that has been seen on the home grounds for many seasons. The hard-hitting Quakers were simply paralyzed with that old complaint, “inability to hit.” The great Ed Delahanty was four times at bat, and the best he could do was to knock a fly into Buck Freeman‘s mitt. Four men struck into space, and only two got a free pass to first The two hits made were of the scratch order, The game went on to the fifth inning Without either side scoring or having any favorable opportunity to score. In the sixth the Quakers made their only tally, on Al Orth‘s base on errors, Roy Thomas‘ out, and Monte Cross‘ single. The Senators were out after the pigskin and forced Orth for fifteen hits, and a two and one a three-bagger. Dinneen added to the glory of his fine work in the box by making four timely hits, making a batting average for the day of 1.000. A little unpleasantness occurred in the third inning which marred the pleasure of the game. Umpire Hunt gave a decision at first base to which Dan McGann took serious exception, and in the argument which followed Dan was put out of the game. Hunt says Dan struck him, and Hunt ought to know. This pair of indicator manipulators seem to have it in for the Senators. Win Mercer, who, in the absence of Dick Padden, is captain of the team, and by virtue of the authority vested in him by that position, has a right to address the umpire, either in protest or in caution with reference to a play. During the progress of the game Mercer said to Umpire Ed Swartwood; “Mr. Umpire, please call those balls.” Swartwood turned upon him savagely and answered, “That will cost you $5.” Mercer will probably protest against the fine. The circumstance is only mentioned as showing what the Senators have been up against. The Washington’s made their first run in the seventh inning after two men were out. Shad Barry went to first on balls and scored on Kitt Kittridge’s slashing drive to right center. Dinneen beat out a beautiful bunt, and Jimmy Slagle singled, scoring Kittridge. In the eighth, with one out, Freeman hit to center, for three bases and came home on General Stafford’s single. In the ninth inning, after two were or out, with two on bases. Stafford hit to Monte Cross, who threw wild, Stafford going to the second, Mike Roach and Freeman scoring. Ed Delahanty’s catch of Freeman’s fly, which was taken on the run about a foot from the ground, and Dinneen’s pitching were the features. The clubs will play again tomorrow afternoon, and, it being regular ladies day, a goodly audience will doubtless be present. The attendance was 1,500. Time 1:45. Umpires, Swartwood and Hunt. Line-up, Slagle-Cf, Mercer-3b, O’Brien-Lf, McGann-1b, Freeman-Rf, Stafford-2b, Barry-SS, Kittridge-C, Dinneen-P.

Dark Days for Umpires

Several days after Dan McGann punched Mr. Swartwood, umpires continued to take it on the chin.

Another disgraceful scene upon the diamond was witnessed at the Washington Park grounds, Brooklyn, on yesterday in the game between the Champions and the Superbas, growing out of a decision made by Bob Emslie, to which some fans in the grandstand excepted. At the close of the game several of these partisans jumped upon the field and one of them, assaulted Emslie and was promptly knocked down. Pandemonium then reigned and it required club officials and police to save Emslie from the fury of the indignant spectators who followed them out of the park. The game at St. Louis was also characterized by rowdyism. Arlie Latham and John Gaffney were assaulted by a mob from the bleachers and grandstand. Such outbreaks as these are fast destroying the pleasures of the sport and prompt and efficient measures are imperatively demanded to save the game from further disgrace.

A final word from Umpire Oyster Burns in May 1899

After the row in Pittsburgh the other day, the most notorious town in the circuit for this sort of thing, Umpire Oyster Burns is reported in a paper of that city to have said: “‘This is nothing compared with what we encounter in some towns. You ought to see them in Baltimore, they come at us with knives and guns, but we get used to it. It used to frighten me at first, though now it hardly bothers me.