Chicago committed 13 errors and gave up 15 hits as they dropped an 11-6 decision to Cincinnati before a crowd of about 1,000 people at Cincinnati's Avenue Grounds.
Cap Anson had taken over as player-manager of Chicago in the 1879, although he sat out this game. Terry Larkin was Chicago's starting pitcher. Cincinnati was piloted by first baseman Cal McVey, who had replaced Deacon White as the team captain (and essentially manager) earlier in the season. Will White, who started all but four of Cincinnati's game, started this one too.
Chicago's defensive problems all started when catcher Silver Flint hurt his thumb in the second inning and could not continue behind the plate. But without free substitution, Anson had to move around his players. So Flint went to center field and third baseman Ned Williamson went into catch. Right fielder Orator Shafer moved to third base. Center fielder George Gore moved to right field. As it ended up, nobody seemed comfortable in their new positions as every Chicago player, but one, Flint, made an error. Shaffer and Williamson each made three. Shaffer only handled one ball cleanly that was hit to him all game.
In the fourth inning, Chicago first baseman Jack Remsen and shortstop John Peters made errors and that would lead to six runs for Cincinnati and a 7-0 lead and the game was never in doubt after that.
An embarrassing moment for Chicago (unlike the 13 errors) came in the eighth. Cincinnati third baseman King Kelly hit a ball into the gap and tried for a double. The throw in to Chicago's Joe Quest appeared to be in time and Kelly took a wide path to the base to avoid the tag. The umpire ruled Kelly safe although Chicago argued that Kelly was out of the basepaths. However, no one called time while Chicago was arguing so Kelly ran the remaining 180 feet around the bases. Chicago had a play at home, but Larkin, the only man awake on the play, dropped the throw and Kelly scored.
On this day, Chicago still held a 2 1/2 game lead on Providence and was hoping to notch its second NL pennant to go along with the win in 1876. But Anson was not able to finish out the season as he we felled by a liver ailment. Then Larkin hurt his arm and Chicago fell apart down the stretch, going 8-9 in August and 4-12 in September. Providence would win its first NL pennant with a 59-25 record, five games better than Boston. Chicago finished in fourth, 10 1/2 games out, although under the convention of the time, Chicago would have tied for third since it had an equal number of wins as third place Buffalo. Cincinnati finished fifth at 43-37.
Kelly, a brash 21-year old, had a breakout season in his second year. He batted .348, third best in the league and slugged .493, third best also. Kelly would go on to play 16 seasons and is, along with Anson, one of the few recognizable names from the 19th Century for fans of baseball today. In 1880, Kelly would leave Cincinnati and join Chicago and lead them to the pennant.
There were two Whites on the Cincinnati team. In addition to Will, there was catcher Deacon White, who finished fifth in the league in batting average at .330. The pitcher White set a major league record by pitching 680 innings of ball in one season.
Sources: Retrosheet, Baseball-reference.com, Chicago Tribune