Wednesday, 22 April 2015

1886-06-23 Rain Out Basball Tactics

“There was more fun at Dundurn park yesterday than at any previous game of ball played on the same grounds ever afforded.”

Hamilton Spectator.   June 22, 1886

 It was a regular season baseball game that began under threatening skies. The game involved two International League professional teams, the visiting Binghamtons versus the home team, the Hamiltons.

The Spectator afforded a great deal of space for its reporter to recount in some amusing detail what happened at the game:

“The game opened in the usual style. The Hamiltons made three in the first inning, and three in the second, and it looked much as if they could have gone on producing triplets to the end.

“Binghamton knocked out a couple of singles, and at the close of the first half of the fifth inning the score stood 6 to 2.

“Then came the fun. A gentle drizzling rain began to fall, and it looked as if it would presently develop into a deluge.

“For the information of people who do not live in Hamilton, the information is here interjected that it requires five complete innings to make a legal game.

“Of course, the Bings wanted to prolong the inning until the rain fell big enough to induce the umpire to declare the game off.

“Of course, the Hamiltons wanted to rush things, complete the inning, and count a won game.

“The Bings were very slow in their movements in taking the field. Little umpire Hoover endeavored to accelerate their motions; but the Bings had suddenly become weary. Then they began to throw the ball away out into the field and to walk slowly after it.

“Some sharp talk from Hoover got the inning started. Collins was at bat. Pitcher Becannon tossed him an easy one, and Collins moved his bat across the plate, carefully avoiding the ball. One strike, said Hoover.

“In the course of time, the ball was returned to the pitcher, and after he had monkeyed away all the time he possibly could, he tossed another easy one. Collins again avoided it, and Hoover remarked two strikes.

“By this time, the audience was convulsed with laughter, and the Bings were getting wild, and were hoping for a regular Noah’s ark deluge.

“Pitched Becannon thought it a good scheme to throw in a wild one, which Collins didn’t strike it knowing the catcher couldn’t get it. The fourth ball resulted in another strike; but the catcher moved out of the way, and let it go by.

“Collins wandered slowly off the line, and the umpire mentioned that he was out for so doing.

“Terrific laughter among the audience, and much hatching of schemes among the Bings.

“McGucken to bat. The first ball was about two feet over his head, but he struck viciously across the plate about six inches from the ground. One strike, remarked the umpire.

“It is doubtful if the Bing pitcher ever made so many consecutive strikes before. The next ball came, and McGucken changed his tactics. He hit the ball feebly out to short, who agilely got out of its way, and let it go by.

“But the batter didn’t budge and was put out for not running.

“Then came Mickey Jones to bat. Manager Sullivan sat on a bench. He whistled to his men and made signs. Presently, they tumbled

“Lo!  An inspiration! They would change pitchers. The captain looked around to see which fielder was farthest from the box, and called in the man from the right garden.

“The man from right came in very slowly. Umpire Hoover remarked that there was no use in that sort of monkeying; that they’d have to play ball if it rained buckets.

“Another inspiration seized the Bing captain. The pitcher couldn’t pitch without that ornamental skin thing that some pitchers use to make people think their arms are sore. It took a good deal of hauling and grunting to get it on the new pitcher’s arm. The fact that it was put on the wrong arm don’t count.

“It is marvelous that the new pitcher hadn’t head enough to insist on a few trial balls. He finally got into the boz, picked up the ball, fondled it softly, wiped one hand on his bifurcated garment, looked around to see that the field was all ready, studied the ball awhile, wiped the other hand, looked at first base to see if the baserunner who wasn’t there could be thrown out, looked around the horizon, fondled the ball a little more, repeated all these preliminaries and added some more, and then let her go.

“Jones made an awful swipe at the ball, and came within four or five feet of hitting it. It was a narrow escape. The next one hit Mickey’s bat. He stood still, and the umpire punished him for his dilatoriness by declaring him out.

“The fifth inning was then complete, and the score remained 6 to 2.

“The laughter in the grand stand was uproarious, and the Bings looked as if they had been beaten at two games.

“And that was about the size of it.

“The Hamiltons then took the field, and afterplaying a few minutes, umpire Hoover came to the conclusion that it was raining.

“And Hamilton won.”1

1 “The World of Sport : The Hamiltons Down Binghamton in a Five Inning Game.”

Hamilton Spectator.  June 23, 1886.

The time of the game 55 minutes, and the attendance was numbered at 350 paying customers.

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