The Spitter History Project: The AA Cometh, 1882-1883
A/K/A: Hello American Association. No, not that one.
Best Teams: 1883 Philadelphia Athletics (66-32), 1883 St. Louis Browns (65-33), 1883 Boston Beaneaters (63-35), 1882 Cincinnati Red Stockings (55-25), 1882 Chicago White Stockings (55-29),
Worst Teams: 1882 Worcester Ruby Legs (18-66), 1883 Philadelphia Quakers (17-81), 1883 Baltimore Orioles (26-68), 1882 Baltimore Orioles (19-54)
Average Roster Size: 16
Average Pitching Staff Size: 5
Roster Highs: 1883 Baltimore Orioles, 1883 Philadelphia Quakers each with 29 – Philadelphia had to pick up a lot of players on the fly to fill out the numbers during their first, horrid season. Baltimore did that a little bit, but changed players a lot because of ineptitude.
Roster Lows: 1883 Chicago White Stockings, 11 – A solid eight, with two strong pitchers (Larry Corcoran and Fred Goldsmith), with a young Billy Sunday as the sub who played just 14 games.
Staff Highs: 1882 St. Louis Brown Stockings, 10 – Jumbo McGinnis (who was 5’10, 197) pitched pretty well in 45 starts, but they had issues finding a change pitcher and eight others started a game.
Staff Lows: 1882 Providence Grays, 1883 New York Metropolitans, 2 – Providence had greats Old Hoss Radbourn and John Montgomery Ward, so no other pitcher was needed. The NY squad had Tim Keefe, who was as great as Radbourn and Ward. Jack Lynch, though, was found wanting at times.
Players Who You Should Know (But May Not): Grasshopper Jim Whitney, Ezra Sutton, Joe Hornung, Tony Mullane, Hugh “One Arm” Daily, Jumbo McGinnis, Jack Farrell, Charley Bennett, Jack Burdock, Harry Stovey, Fred Goldsmith, Larry Corcoran, Charlie Buffinton
Names, Names, Names: Fatty Briody, Abner Dalrymple, Buttercup Dickerson, Jumbo Latham, Blondie Purcell, Sleeper Sullivan, Stump Weidman
Died Too Soon: Jim Devlin
Solid Leadership: Lon Knight, Pop Snyder, Honest John Morrill, Jim O’Rourke
Horrible Mismanagement: The 1882 Worcester Ruby Legs were bad, but the 1883 Philadelphia Quakers were much worse. Blondie Purcell captained for most of the dismal year. Baltimore’s first two years in the AA were lame due to bad personnel, but nothing can match the 1883 Pittsburgh Alleghenys for personnel issues.
Rule Changes: You had to catch a foul ball on the fly now, instead of one bound.
Let’s Play the Feud: National League vs. American Association; Chicago vs. Boston in the NL, Philly and St. Louis in the AA.
So, Here’s the Thing: Even with franchises in backwater towns like Troy and Worcester, the National League was a pretty solid concern going into 1882. Their strict rules forced some clubs from entering the league. A group from Cincinnati, who lost their NL franchise in 1880, wanted to meet with others who wanted baseball for the ‘common’ man – which meant cheaper admission, beer and liquor in the stands, and Sunday baseball where permitted. After some intriguing starts, six franchises in major cities (including Philadelphia, who left the NL in 1876) formed the first American Association. While they did offer general admission for only a quarter, and allowed the sale of booze and Sunday baseball, they also didn’t want to get in too big of a ruckus with the established NL and did follow their blacklist and reserve clauses but that flared up when the NL raided the AA for a couple of players.
After the 1882 season, the two leagues went to ‘war’ and had intriguing shadowy signing issues. Part of it was the AA expanding into New York and Columbus, OH. The NL also moved its backwaters to New York and Philadelphia, setting up direct competition in those markets. However, that became moot when the leagues and another minor league entered an agreement about reserve clauses and other details in early 1883.
On the field, the National League’s Chicago White Stockings remained at or near the top. Led by Cap Anson and bankrolled by Albert Spalding and others, the team was solid, stable, and for the most part professional. Pitchers Fred Goldsmith and Larry Corcoran were stalwarts in the box, and Anson’s core group of players were amongst the best offensive team around.
Providence was also up and coming. Harry Wright built his team around a solid nine with Old Hoss Radbourn being the primary pitcher in both seasons. They didn’t quite make it to the championship, because in 1883, Honest John Morrill took over as manager of the Beaneaters and tore through the league in August and September, gathering the pennant. It helped that Boston had mostly home games near the end of the year – they were 41-8 at home.
The 1883 AA pennant race between Philadelphia and St. Louis scintillated those towns. Philly battled through injury after injury and won the league by one game despite having stalwart pitcher Bobby Mathews injured, and having to rely on old George Bradley, third baseman Fred Corey and young Jumping Jack Jones in the box down the stretch. Cincinnati finished just five games behind, always lurking but never able to really put a scare into the top teams.
On the other hand, liquor, beer, and wine, (and laudanum) were starting to become too tempting for some players. Some managers like Anson kept a pretty low tolerance for inebriation, while others didn’t mind it so much as it didn’t affect their performance on the field.
Then there were the 1883 Pittsburgh Alleghenys, a drinking club that played baseball on the side. It was a lusher’s paradise. For some reason, management brought together notorious carousers like Bollicky Bill Taylor, Buttercup Dickerson, George Creamer, Denny Driscoll, Mike Mansell, Bob Barr, The Only Nolan, and others that drank and fought their way through the AA, on and off the field. They had talent, because they didn’t finish last, but they were notorious for their antics. One third of the team was so inebriated that they were even fined and suspended for being drunk and disorderly due to their actions in an August game at Louisville.
Despite some of the boozing, all in all, there were two relatively solid, stable leagues for professional players to showcase their wares. Most all of the teams made money, and fans were excited as well. The reserve clause was expanded to 11 players (almost the entire team, really) in that 1883 agreement, but the stability of the time meant players weren’t really worried about losing a payday.
Of course, seeing money was afoot, that meant others wanted to get into the baseball game. A young man who inherited money was bored, and caused a lot of trouble in 1884.