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Random Game Callback, June 17, 1875
2006-06-17 03:59
by Bob Timmermann

In one of its lower-scoring games of the season, Boston didn't need much offense with a 4-0 shutout win over Hartford before a crowd estimated at 3000 at Boston's South End Grounds. In fact, Boston would not lose any games all season at the South End Grounds, going 35-0 en route to a 71-8 season.

Two of the best pitchers of the era matched. Boston started Al Spalding, a 24-year old righthander en route to a 55-5 season. Hartford started 19-year old Tommy Bond, considered one of the hardest throwers of his time. Bond would go on to win 234 games in a 10-year career.

Starting in center for Hartford was another famous pitcher, Candy Cummings, who would earn a spot in Cooperstown, because he is generally considered to be the inventor of the curve ball. (The claim is disputed, but Cummings does have a lot of evidence supporting him as at least one of the first players to throw a curve.) Cummings pitched only six years at the major league level and stopped pitching at age 28. His playing weight was listed as 120 lbs.

Spalding gave up two hits in the first to Hartford and then Spalding did not allow a single Hartford batter to reach base for the next seven innings. The Boston Daily Globe report of the game said that a very dead ball was used during the game and it got softer as the game went along.

Boston wasn't doing much against Bond either until the sixth. With two outs, Boston third baseman Harry Schafer singled, stole second and then scored on a single by shortstop George Wright. In the eighth, Boston used three hits and a wild pitch by Bond to score three runs. Hartford got two runners on in the ninth, but could not score. Boston made just two errors.

As expected, 71-8 was more than enough to win the NA pennant. Boston averaged over 10 runs a game and batted .320 as a team. Hartford finished in second place, although they hard the third best winning percentage. Philadelphia went 53-20 (.726) and Hartford was 54-28 (.659). But under the practice of the time, teams were ranked by the number of wins, not winning percentage.

1875 would be the last year for baseball's first pro league, the NA. The scheduling was erratic and teams came and went. While the big cities of the day were represented, such as New York, Brooklyn, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington, and St. Louis, there were also teams in Keokuk, New Haven, and Hartford. In 1876, the National Association would be replaced by the 8-team National League. Today's Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves (through Boston) are the two franchises can that can still trace their roots back to the NA.

Sources: Retrosheet,, Retrosheet

2006-06-17 22:02:02
1.   Greg Brock
Bob, you should do a special on King Kelly. Fans should know about the first baseball star in history. The first athlete I ever studied at UCLA, and an interesting tale. Just a thought for the resident SABR genius.

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