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Cubs pinch hitters, 1876-1900, Part 1

His full name was William Frederick Schriver, but to baseball he was known as "Pop."

A catcher and first baseman, he played for 7 teams between 1886 and 1901, stepping to the plate more than 3,000 times.

In one of them, based on my extensive study of 19th Century box scores, he became the first pinch hitter in the history of the Cubs, making a hit on a play that today would be ruled a foul ball.

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NO SUBSTITUTIONS, PLEASE

Pinch hitters are among many aspects of baseball that are so common, it seems that they must always have been part of the game.

But they were not.

During the first 5 seasons of the National League, 1876-80, no changes were permitted to the 9 players who started the game.

From 1881-88, a substitution could be made only if a player was injured -- and the opposing team's captain had to agree to the switch.

In 1889, the name of 1 potential replacement could be written on the lineup card handed to the umpire. The rule said the substitute could enter the game only at the beginning of an inning.

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FIRST OF THEM ALL

On Aug. 10, the New York Giants played a game at Indianapolis. The Giants' starting pitcher, Hank O'Day, gave up 5 runs in the top of the fifth inning, leaving the Giants behind, 6-3.

O'Day was due up in the bottom of the inning. But Giants captain Buck Ewing instructed Mickey Welch, another pitcher, to bat in place of O'Day.

Welch struck out, but the Giants tallied 6 runs before the inning ended. Welch then blanked the Hoosiers the rest of the way to complete a 9-6 victory.

(Welch won 27 games that season and 307 in his 13-year career. O'Day played in the big league for 7 years, umpired for 30 and managed for 2, including for the Cubs in 1914. Both are in the Hall of Fame)

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'CANNOT BE SUPERCEDED'

There was some grumbling over Welch having batted for O'Day, as the rule had been intended to allow a substitution only in the field.

So after the season the rule was modified, with language added specifying that "a batsman cannot be superceded by a player," as the Columbus Press explained.

A second substitute also was permitted in 1890.

The following year, teams were allowed to substitute as many players as they desired -- and at any time, in the field or at bat.

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ANSON PROTESTS

On the steamy afternoon of June 11, 1891, the Cubs (then known as the Colts) played the last of 4 games at Boston. They had won the first 2, but a 13-0 shellacking the previous day had left them just 1 game ahead of the second-place Giants.

After 7 innings, the Beaneaters held an 11-3 lead and Colts player-manager Cap Anson was fuming.

Boston scored another run with 1 out in the eighth, on Bobby Lowe's fifth hit of the game. Charlie Bennett, the Beaneaters' 36-year-old catcher, was due up. Fred Lake 24, batted instead.

"Anson waited until Lake had been given his base on balls," the Chicago Tribune reported the next day. "then announced as coolly as the weather permitted that he protested the game on Lake going in.

"This called forth a low, gurgling laugh from [umpire Tim] Hurst which froze on his lips when the old man offered to bet $100 even that he was right. The bluff went and Bennett relieved Lake at first base.

"The crowd hooted and Mr. Hurst thought audibly that Uncle Anson was making a lot of trouble about a small matter."

When the inning ended, Lake replaced Bennett behind the plate. Boston eventually won, 14-6.

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TEBEAU'S 'BRILLIANT IDEA'

About 6 weeks later, on July 25, the Colts held an 11-10 lead at Cleveland. The first batter for the Spiders in the top of the ninth inning singled, and the second walked.

"Then from the brain of [manager] Patsy Tebeau sprang a brilliant idea," the Tribune explained. "Ralph Johnson had been on the bench and Tebeau resolved to send him the bat in place of [pitcher Lee] Viau, whose hitting ability never yet threatened the world with a conflagration.

"The idea as far as Johnson was concerned was good enough, as he is a hitter par excellence, but Pat seemed to forget that by sending Johnson to bat he put Viau out of the game entirely."

After a passed ball, Johnson grounded sharply to second baseman Fred Pfeffer. His throw home arrived well ahead of the runner, but the catcher dropped the ball. He picked it up and threw wildly to third, permitting the second runner to score.

Johnson wound up on third and came home moments later on a single. A double and another single increased the Spiders' lead to 14-11.

...

"The Clevelands went out at last, and then Patsy Tebeau was confronted with a conundrum," said the Tribune.

Viau had entered the game in the seventh, taking over from starter Cy Young. The Spiders' only other true pitcher, Henry Gruber, had been hit hard the day before in a win over Pittsburgh.

So Tebeau summoned 20-year-old George Davis to the mound from center field, with Johnson going to center.

Davis got the first out, then surrendered a single and a walk. A double by Anson drove in both runners and Cliff Carroll followed with a walk-off home run: Colts 15, Spiders 14.

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DWINDLING LEAD

That win kept the the Colts in first by 1 game. They led by a season-best 7 games after beating Boston at home on Sept. 3 and were up by 6.5 after a win at Boston on Sept. 15.

But they lost to the Beaneaters the next day and dropped 3 in a row at New York, cutting their lead to 2.5 games.

The Colts' next series was at Cincinnati, beginning on Monday, Sept. 21.

The Reds, batting first, scored 3 runs in the first inning.

The Colts tallied once each in the second, third and fifth to tie the score.

The Reds went back on top, 4-3, in the seventh, scoring on an error, a single, a bunt and another error.

Neither team scored in the eighth.

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'SCHRIVER WENT TO THE BAT'

From the Tribune:

"At length the ninth inning came round as it has a habit of doing in ball games where rain or darkness do not interfere. The Cincinnatis had gone out with a run in the lead still.

"[Bill] Hutchison was the first many to face [Tony] Mullane, and his instructions were not to hit at the ball if it came sailing over like a toy balloon. Uncle [Anson] relied on Mullane's unsteadiness to win the day.

"He had not reckoned without his host. Bill stood with the steady, even pose of the Statue of Liberty, except that in place of a torch a scarred but historic club rested in his paws.

"When after a brief space [umpire Bob] Emslie screeched out 'four balls' Bill trotted gleefully to first base, and every Chicagoan was on his feet yelling advice or making a noise in some shape or other. Everybody was whooping it up.

"[Malachi] Kittridge had caught a superb game, but a good batter was needed now and Schriver went to the bat."

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'AGAPE IN WONDER'

Schriver, 25, was in his first season with the Colts. He had played 8 games Brooklyn in 1886, then 224 for Philadelphia in 1888-90.

In those seasons, his batting average was .244, in 589 at bats.

He had been with Milwaukee of the American Association before signing with the Colts on Aug. 17. He made his debut with them 3 days later, in a 14-2 rout at home against Cleveland.

"Schriver caught and ran bases in a fashion that made the visitors stand agape in wonder," the Tribune wrote.

He singled in his first at bat, during a 6-run third inning, and later made another hit and walked.

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'A BUNT WOULD DO IT'

When he pinch hit for Kittridge in the ninth inning on Sept. 21, ""His instructions were to put Hutch on second," the Tribune said. "A bunt would do it, and after a bunt he went. The ball bounded from his bat, went half way to third on a fly, struck inside the diamond, veered to the left, and rolled lazily to the stand.

"Hutchison went to second and Schriver easily landed at first.

" 'That's foul ball,' shrieked Mullane.

" 'No, sir,' said Mr. Umpire, 'the ball is fair.'

"The decision was correct, as a fly ball striking on fair ground in the infield and rolling into foul ground is a fair ball."

Note the reference to "a fly ball." Under the rules in force in 1891, had Schriver bunted the ball on the ground in fair territory, then it had rolled foul, it would have been foul. But because he popped it up halfway to third, it was deemed "a fly ball" and those resulted in a hit!

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PITCHER STORMS OFF

The Reds' pitcher was incensed.

"Mullane suddenly wheeled and walked toward the club-house," said the Tribune.

"The Cincinnatis gathered in a group while their plaintive voices broke through the awful din of the crowd in the stand calling on Tony to come back, but he would not."

Third baseman Arlie Latham was acting as manager for the Reds, filling in for Tom Loftus, who was in St. Louis, where his mother was ill.

"Latham looked nettled," the Tribune remarked, "and waved Billy Rhines into the box, and the trouble proceeded.

"Ryan bunted to Latham, who fumbled, and the bases were full.

"Wilmot sacrificed and Hutchison tied the score, while Dahlen's high fly, smothered by Holliday, sent Schriver across the plate with the winning run."

...

The 5-4 victory, featuring the Colts' first pinch hitter, came in their 1,637th National League game.

They would not use a second pinch hitter for nearly 2 years.

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TOMORROW: Later pinch hitters before the Modern Era

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