A rainy day in Cincinnati added to the misery of Boston manager Frank Selee as he saw his team routed by the last Cincinnati squad, 16-7, at League Park before a crowd of 1,811.
Boston was expected to be one of the best squads in the NL, which was back to full strength after a third league, the Players League, folded after one season in 1890. But Boston came into this game with an 11-11 record. Cincinnati was 8-15.
The game matched up two of the greatest pitchers of the 19th Century. Selee started John Clarkson, a future Hall of Famer, who would win 328 games in 12 seasons. Cincinnati manager Tom Loftus picked Charley Radbourn, better known as "Old Hoss". Radbourn had won a record 59 games for Providence in 1884. 1891 would be the last season for this future Hall of Famer.
The game did not start well for Boston. Cincinnati opted to bat first. Bid McPhee led off with a walk and Arlie Latham followed with a grounder to Clarkson, who tried to force McPhee at second only to find no one covering the base. Lefty Marr hit a fly ball to Steve Brodie in center, who threw back to first to double off Latham, but McPhee tagged and scored. Boston took the lead in the bottom half of the inning when Brodie singled and Bobby Lowe followed with a home run.
In the third, Radbourn led off with a bunt single and McPhee tripled him home to tie the score at 2-2. Then Marr hit a grounder to Latham, who tried to get a double, but ended up getting none. Bug Holliday singled to load the bases. Mike Slattery then walked to force in a run to make it 3-2 Cincinnati. John Reilly hit into a force play at second and it was 4-2 Cincinnati. Germany Smith grounded out, but Bob Clark walked to load the bases again. Radbourn then chased them all home with a double.
For reasons not specificed in the Boston Daily account of the game, Radbourn left after this inning. He supposedly left the field singing "They used to be the caper, but they don't go now!" Tony Mullane came in to pitch.
Down 7-2 now, Boston got one run when Billy Nash doubled and came around to score on two sacrifices. Boston scored single runs in the fifth and sixth and Boston was down just 7-5. But in the seventh, Cincinnati strung together two triples, a single and an error to score four times and take an 11-5 lead.
Boston scored another run in the seventh to close within 11-6, but Cincinnati got a 3-run homer from catcher Jerry Harrington (who had replaced Clark in the middle of the game) to make it 14-6 Cincinnati after 7 1/2 innings.
In the ninth, Selee finally decided to replace Clarkson on the mound.
Clarkson remained in the box until the ninth, when Tom Tucker went into pitch, [Harry] Stovey to first base, [Charlie] Getzein to left field, [Charlie] Ganzel to the bench, Clarkson to right field and Manager Selee nearly insane.
Cincinnati would score twice in the ninth off of Tucker and Boston's lone run in the ninth made the final 16-7.
The 1891 season would get better for Boston as they won their fourth NL pennant with an 87-51 record, 3 1/2 games better than Chicago. Cincinnati would finish in seventh place at 56-81, 30 1/2 games behind Boston.
Clarkson would have a pretty good year in 1891 as he had a 33-19 record. Teammate Kid Nichols was 30-17. The staff ERA was 2.76, best in the NL. Boston also led the league in runs scored with 847. The team was adept at drawing walks, leading the league with 532. Stovey tied for the NL lead in home runs with 16. Boston was a very example of a 21st century team as they lead the league in walks, strikeouts, and were second in home runs. They were second in stolen bases with 289, although they were awarded then for taking extra bases on hits.
As for Cincinnati, they scored the fewest runs in the NL with 646. The pitching staff wasn't great either with the sixth highest ERA in the NL at 3.55. (The league ERA was 3.34.) Radbourn appeared in only 24 games and had a 4.25 ERA. The Reds had won an American Association pennant in their first year of existence in 1882, but they would not win the NL flag until 1919.
Boston had four future Hall of Famers: Clarkson, Nichols, King Kelly (who was at the end of his career) and Joe Kelley, a 19-year old rookie. Selee would eventually make it to Cooperstown as a manager. Cincinnati had two future Hall of Famers in Radbourn and McPhee.
Source: Boston Daily, Retrosheet, Baseball-Reference.com