In a sight that would be bizarre by today's standards, Boston and New York of the National League played to an 8-8 before 2,000 fans at the Polo Grounds in a game that was called after eight innings for reasons that don't seem particularly clear.
Boston and New York were making up an earlier rainout and were playing just a single game, not a series. The National League office forgot to schedule an umpire for this game, so, under the rules of the day, the visiting team was allowed to choose the umpire for the game. And Boston captain Jack Burdock, filling in for John Morrill who was at his father's funeral, and who was also the team's second baseman, chose his backup catcher, Tom Gunning, a 22-year old rookie. New York captain John Ward wasn't pleased with the choice, but he had no recourse.
Both teams had their ace pitchers going, although in this era, teams didn't carry many pitchers anyway. Boston started Charlie Buffinton and New York started Mickey Welch.
New York led 1-0 after one, but in the third, the New York Times account indicated that Gunning was starting to give Boston favorable calls and this allowed Boston to tie the score. Nevertheless, New York scored two in the fourth to lead 3-1.
In the sixth, New York scored three more times against Buffinton and took a commanding 6-1 lead. Then the game started to get weird.
In the top of the seventh, Gunning started to squeeze the strike zone on Welch and forced him to come over the plate with everything and Boston was able to score three runs. Oddly, Welch did not walk anyone. The Times account said that Gunning was feeling pressure from his teammate Burdock, who was "in the worst humor possible, and he pranced around the field and yelled in a manner to believe he was a fit subject for a lunatic asylum..."
But in the bottom of the seventh, New York pushed across two more and Burdock decided to remove Buffinton as pitcher. However, he couldn't take him off the mound, so Buffinton moved over to first base. Shortstop Sam Wise came in to catch, right fielder Bill Crowley moved to short, catcher Mert Hackett went to went to right fielder, and first baseman Mike Hornung came in to pitch. Or did he? Hornung has no record of ever pitching a game in 1884 according to the sources I checked.
Then in the top of the eighth, Boston's bats came through for four more runs to tie the game. And in the bottom of the eighth, New York went out in order.
At this point, according to the Times account, Burdock yelled at Gunning to call the game because of darkness. And so Gunning did. However, there still seemed to plenty of light to play for an inning or two more. The fans at the game stormed the field and went after Gunning. The police were able to get Gunning away, but not before a New York fan slugged him. Ward thought the game was called because New York had the heart of its order coming up in the ninth.
Regardless, the decision stood, an 8-8 tie. The game would have to be replayed. And it was on August 15 and Boston won 3-1.
Boston was just one game out of first behind Providence on this day, but Boston would not repeat its pennant of 1883 and Providence, behind Charley Radbourn's 59-win season, won the pennant by 10 1/2 games. New York finished in fourth place. Providence went 37-9 from August 1 on. Radbourn started 18 consecutive games at one point.
Sources: Retrosheet, Baseball-reference.com, New York Times