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Random Game Callback, April 24, 1886
2006-04-24 03:59
by Bob Timmermann
The National League was not going to start its season until April 29, but the rival American Association was finishing up its first week of games this Saturday in 1886 (and would even play games on Sunday!) with three games. The marquee battle was between the Brooklyn squad and the Metropolitan squad as the New York entry was often called that season. The Metropolitans played their home games at the St. George Cricket Grounds on Staten Island. Staten Island, like Brooklyn, would not become part of New York City until 1898.

Although the Metropolitans had won the 1884 AA flag, they had hit hard times in 1885, finishing 44-64. Meanwhile Brooklyn was working its way up improving from .385 to .473 in its first two years in the AA.

On this day in 1886, the teams would meet at Brooklyn's home ground, Washington Park. and about 7,000 fans would watch ("almost one-half of them ladies" according to the New York Times.) And the home team would pull out a 4-3 win.

Metropolitans manager Jim Gifford started Ed Cushman at pitcher while Brooklyn manager Charlie Byrne countered with Henry Porter. The Metropolitans used just four pitchers all season while Brooklyn used only five, with one pitcher appearing in only one game.

Brooklyn scored first thanks to some Metropolitan mistakes. Right fielder Steve Brady dropped a fly ball off the bat of Brooklyn's Bill McClellan. A passed ball by Jim Donahue moved McClellan over a base and he scored on a base hit by Ed Swartwood.

The Metropolitans did all their scoring in the second. Left fielder Steve Behl drew a walk (reduced to just five balls that season). Then singles by Brady, Tom McLaughlin, and Cushman, capped off by a double by Frank Hankinson scored three runs.

In the third, Brooklyn got a run back. George Pinkney had a one-out double and came around on singles by McClellan and Swartwood. McClellan tried to steal third and appeared to be out, but the lone umpire, Bob "Death to Flying Things" Ferguson, called him safe. Ernie Burch sacrificed McClellan home to tie the game at 3-3.

There was no more scoring until the seventh. Catcher Jimmy Peoples singled with one out and then advanced two bases on a passed ball by Donohue. Porter then hit a slow grounder that allowed Peoples to score with what proved to be the winning run.

Brooklyn and the Metropolitans would play a close season series. In 20 games, Brooklyn won 10, the Metropolitans won 9 and there was one tie. Overall, Brooklyn fared better, finishing in third at 76-61, although that was still 16 games behind pennant winner St. Louis. The Metropolitans finished 53-82 and would get rid of Gifford as manager and replace him with the umpire for this game, Ferguson. Neither team featured any players who would make much of a mark in baseball history, although Metropolitan first baseman Dave Orr would finish with a career .342 batting average in eight seasons.

The Metropolitans would last one more season in the American Association before eventually ceding control of New York to the NL Giants. Brooklyn would regress in 1887, but bounce back in 1888 to finish second and then win its first pennant in 1889. The next year, Brooklyn switched leagues to the NL and won the pennant there too. And the longstanding Dodgers-Giants rivalry would be born.

Sources: New York Times, Retrosheet, Baseball-Reference

2006-04-24 04:25:07
1.   joejoejoe
The American Association is being revived this May year as an independent minor league with the marquee franchise being the St. Paul Saints.

I wonder if MLB will ever have another merger or a modern competitor like the ABA or AFL? One hundred and three years is a long time to go without a challenge.

2006-04-24 07:26:12
2.   Bob Timmermann
It's 106 years since the AL started actually. It started in 1900 and became "major" in 1901.

I think the antitrust exemption pretty much precludes any viable competition.

2006-04-24 10:45:40
3.   joejoejoe
I used the date of the first official World Series (1903) but you are correct about the date the AL was formed. It says on Baseball Reference that the WS was played as an exhibition prior to 1892. Those first games involved the NL and AA or even two NL teams.

From Wikipedia:
"The National League became a 12-team circuit with monopoly status for the rest of the decade. The league became embroiled in numerous internal conflicts, not the least of which was a plan supported by some owners (and bitterly opposed by others) to form a "trust," wherein there would be one common ownership of all twelve N.L. teams. The N.L. used its monopoly power to force a $2,400 limit on annual player wages in 1894.

Then, the league contracted to eight teams for the 1900 season, eliminating its teams in Baltimore, Cleveland, Louisville, and Washington. This provided an opportunity for competition. Three of those cities received franchises in the new American League in 1901. The A.L. declined to renew its National Agreement membership when it expired, and on January 28, 1901, officially declared itself a second major league. By 1903, the upstart A.L. had located teams in Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and St. Louis. Only the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates had no A.L. team in their markets."

2006-04-24 11:28:05
4.   Bob Timmermann
The early attempts at World Series were somewhat halfhearted. Two of them ended in ties.

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