The Connection Between the 1882 Troys and the 1883 New Yorks

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12 Responses

  1. Great piece, thanks!

    I had always thought that team was in Worcester, PA, probably because it replaced and was replaced by Philadelphia teams.Report

  2. Road Scholar says:

    I’m not particularly a baseball fan nor a history geek, but that was a quite enjoyable read. Thanks!Report

  3. Jaybird says:

    Dude. AWESOME guest post. Awesome.Report

  4. RTod says:

    Hey!!! You wrote it!

    Just wanted to say a quick thanks before I read it. May return with something more interesting to say later after reading…Report

  5. RTod says:

    Wow. That was really awesome, Richard. I think I was assuming your do something like “let me tell you kids about a man called Cap Anderson” — which I would have loved.

    This was so much more, and I feel like I learned a to I had no idea about that now I feel compelled to research… not the least of which is Jay Cook & Co, which feels like it’s going to be a “the more thing change…” kinds of things.

    Please continue to pick your own topics of no requests come. I would LOVE more.Report

  6. Burt Likko says:

    1. I loved this post. As in, more than a friend. I loved everything about it from the writing style to the subject matter to the free-feeling shifts in focus from economic to sporting to geographic issues. It makes me feel like I was living along with the year-to-year shifts in the sport.

    2. Amazing to think that in 1873, the failure of a single financial brokerage house could collapse the entire U.S. economy. <sarcasm>Thank goodness we’ve instituted the obvious safeguards of enforcing diversification in market participants for particular securities and patrolling against misuse of insider information and trade-pooling to protect against that sort of thing from ever happening again.</sarcasm>

    3. How obvious must it have been that the early 1880’s New York and Philadelphia teams were throwing games that teams playing in places like Boston and Chicago were thought honest by comparison!

    4. I’m struck by the organic methods used by nineteenth-century baseball to organize playing schedules and playoff rules, which seemed very fluid from year to year as compared to the rigid structure of a modern American league. It has the same sort of flavor as the intra-league and inter-league differences in European football (soccer) leagues.

    5. I can’t wait to read about Metropolitan Baseball Association v. Simmons! Worcester and Troy got a raw deal and maybe they should have had the stones to have sued. Maybe one of them could have become like the Green Bay Packers of football — a major league team in a smaller city that, ab initio, seems to have no business hosting a top-tier sports franchise, but got one through an accident of history and the prevailing economic conditions of long-ago, and somehow it still works.

    6. Was the experience of Worcester and Troy a significant player in the eventual antitrust exemption put in place for major league baseball?

    7. Once again, I intensely enjoyed this post.Report

  7. Richard Hershberger says:

    First off, thank you everyone for the kind words. To play off of RTod’s “Cap Anderson” (by which he meant “Cap Anson”) remark, that stuff tends to bore me to tears. Here is what I find interesting in my early baseball research, in no particular order:

    Organizational history. Should you and seven of your closest friends decide to organize a baseball league, you have a pretty good idea what you are aiming for, even if getting there is a problem. They did not have this luxury in the 1870s. There were no previous organized team sports (except for cricket, which for various interesting reasons didn’t help them much as a model). They were quite literally making it up as they went along. This resulted in cycles of problems followed by solutions, which often had unforeseen consequences resulting in new problems to be solved. Finally at the back end of this process you have the modern sports league. Sorting out how they got here from there fascinates me.

    Rules history. This is much like the organizational history, with a repeating cycle of problems and solutions and new problems. There is an unbroken chain of rules from 1845 to the present, with rapid evolution from the late 1850s to the early 1890s. Some features we consider pretty fundamental (e.g. called strikes and balls) were actually rather Rube Goldbergish kludges. So again, it is a matter of figuring out how they got here from there.

    Cultural history. We tend to look at sports as a mere diversion: entertaining, but unconnected to the important stuff. Yet look closer and you find Frederick Douglass involved in baseball before the Civil War, and his sons Frederick and Charles even more so after. Elizabeth Cady Stanton organized a woman’s baseball club. Tammany Hall consider it worthwhile to support and promote a baseball club. So now we find baseball intertwined with race and gender issues, as well as pure machine politics. Perhaps Douglass and Stanton and Boss Tweed simply were fans, but this seems inadequate. If they took it seriously enough to devote time and energy and money to baseball, perhaps we should give it a closer look.

    I am largely uninterested in tales of pennant races or mighty blows of the bat, except inasmuch as they inform my other interests. You have to know who is good and who isn’t to figure things out, after all. But if you ask me about Cap Anson’s stats, I’ll look them up at, just like you would.Report

    • Cap Anson was, of course, one of the chief instigators of segregation in baseball, which makes him an important historical figure way beyond his stats.Report

      • Richard Hershberger in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        “Cap Anson was, of course, one of the chief instigators of segregation in baseball…”

        This is debatable. It is a bit like a group of kids playing with matches in a fireworks factory. You can point at the individual whose specific act set off the explosion, but if it hadn’t been him it would have been another one. Baseball saw a brief period of limited integration. This was made possible partly by a moment of comparatively liberal social conditions, and partly by the baseball boom of the 1880s creating a strong demand for players. Both were passing by the end of the decade. Putting segregation on Anson is the dark side version of the Great Man fallacy.

        Not that this isn’t to say that he was a terrible person, albeit an excellent team captain.Report

    • Regarding cultural history — we should care about baseball in America, sport in America, the same way we care about theater and literature and cuisine and religion. It’s a big part of how people self-identify: “I am a Dodgers fan.” “I am a Giants fan.” It occupies a portion of the mental space occupied by Americans of all ranks and classes and walks of life; it is small-d democratic in the sense that our high and mighty and our disadvantaged and downtrodden find common ground for emotional engagement. Your point about Frederick Douglass and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Boss Tweed is well-taken: baseball was part of the vision of a good life, a part of that vision that they shared. As Walt Whitman said in 1888:

      I like your interest in sports ball, chiefest of all base-ball particularly: base-ball is our game: the American game: I connect it with our national character. Sports take people out of doors, get them filled with oxygen generate some of the brutal customs (so-called brutal customs) which, after all, tend to habituate people to a necessary physical stoicism. We are some ways a dyspeptic, nervous set: anything which will repair such losses may be regarded as a blessing to the race. We want to go out and howl, swear, run, jump, wrestle, even fight, if only by so doing we may improve the guts of the people: the guts, vile as guts are, divine as guts are!

      Paraphrased a century later by Ron Shelton as:

      Walt Whitman once said, ‘I see great things in baseball. It’s our game, the American game. It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us.’ You could look it up!

      Long live baseball.Report

  8. Chris says:

    That was… Spectacular. I have never been eager to read about a court case, but now I am. Can’t wait for a second post.Report