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Random Game Callback, May 5, 1899
2006-05-05 03:59
by Bob Timmermann

Two of the lesser lights in the 12-team National League got together on a Friday afternoon at the Polo Grounds and the New York Giants were able to score three times in the ninth to pull out a 5-4 win over the Washington Senators before a crowd estimated at 1200. Washington started the day 4-12 and the Giants were 6-8, which put them in 11th and 9th places respectively.

Washington manager Arthur Irwin, whose main claim to fame may be that he died at sea (some reports say he may have drowned himself because of illness or because he apparently was a bigamist who was going to be found out), started Gus Weyhing on the mound. New York was managed by Jack Day (who apparently died on solid ground), but team captain and first baseman Jack Doyle called most of the shots. The Giants started lefthander Ed Doheny.

Doheny got off to a rough start and was scored on in the first two innings and Washington led 3-0. In the bottom of the second, there was some controversy. Washington second baseman Dick Padden appeared to have forced George Van Haltren at second base, but the umpire on the bases, Ed Andrews, called Van Haltren safe. Padden argued and was kicked out of the game. Scrounging around for a replacement, Irwin called on coach Arlie Latham to fill in at second base. Latham was one of baseball's first baseline coaches, although he provided little in the way of signs or assistance to runners. Latham's job was primarily heckling the opposition. Latham was 39 and hadn't played in the majors since 1896.

By the time the ninth rolled around, Washington led 4-2. Weyhing retired John Warner to lead off the inning. Kid Gleason, who would later earn more notoriety as the manager of the 1919 White Sox, then beat out an infield hit to Latham at second base. Tom O'Brien then drew a walk. Gleason and O'Brien then pulled off a double steal to put the tying runs in scoring position. Mike Grady pinch hit for third baseman Fred Hartman and walked to load the bases.

This brought up right fielder Pop Foster who singled to left, scoring Gleason and O'Brien to tie the game. Grady was thrown out at third, primarily because Latham threw a block on him at second base that umpire Andrews failed to see (such plays were not that unusual for the era however). On the throw to third, Foster moved up to second. This brought the pitcher Doheny to the plate.

Whether or not the Giants would have pinch hit for Doheny if the game were not tied is unknown, but Doheny got the call. And he delivered a clean single to center to score Foster with the winning run.

There wouldn't be many other opportunities for celebrating for either team in 1899. New York finished in 10th place with a 60-90 record, 42 games behind champion Brooklyn. Washington finished in 11th place at 54-98, 49 games out of first. The last place team that year was the Cleveland Spiders, who finished 20-134. 1899 marked the last year of syndicate ownership in the NL. An owner could control two teams then, and the owners of Cleveland, the Robison brothers, also owned St. Louis and they moved all of the good players to the St. Louis team and filled the Cleveland roster with players who could kindly be described as mediocrities.

Washington's NL franchise would be dissolved in 1900 and its best players would go to Boston, but the Senators had few stars. The best player was Buck Freeman, who led the league with 25 home runs, the second highest total in major league history at the time. Freeman also had 25 triples and he drove in 122 runs. For reasons I wasn't able to determine, Freeman managed to hit just 19 doubles.

The Giants problem at the time was its ownership. In particular, not many people liked the owner. The team was owned by a politically well-connected businessman named Andrew Freedman. Some have described him as the first George Steinbrenner. During his time as owner of the Giants (1895-1902), the team went through 16 managers (like Steinbrenner, some managers came back for a second tour of duty.) Some of the animus toward Freedman was sparked by anti-Semitism, but Freedman rubbed a lot of people the wrong way especially since he became so rich so fast. Freedman tried to prevent the American League moving in to New York, but ulitmately the Baltimore franchise of the AL was able to find a home and settled in New York in 1903. Freedman was also instrumental in financing the construction of much of the New York city subway system. I hear that gets used a lot.

The 1899 Giants had one superstar, although his fame was not recognized for quite a while. Shortstop George Davis, who would be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998, batted .337 in 1899. Davis was one of the best shortstops of his era from both and offensive and defensive standpoint. He finally played on a World Series champion when he was 35 years old and playing for the 1906 White Sox. Davis batted .295 in a 20-year career.

Sources: New York Times, Retrosheet, Baseball-Reference, and

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