A n 1896 game that ended in moonlight

Darkness halting play was a regular concern before ballparks had lights, especially before Daylight Savings Time was adopted in 1918.

The average Major League game did not last 2 hours for the first time until 1936. But games often started at 3 or 3:30 p.m., so if a start was delayed or a game took longer than usual, it frequently could not be completed before night arrived.

In 1896, the Cubs, then known as the Colts, played a game that continued even after the sun went down.



On Tuesday, Sept. 15, the Colts played a third straight game at Cleveland -- their 10th stop on a mind-boggling, 24-game, season-ending road trip that had begun Aug. 14 and would end on Sept. 20.

This was the Colts' full schedule in 1896, from start to finish:

10 games on the road

22 games at home

22 games on the road

46 games at home

32 games on the road

The Colts had been 57-41-2, in fourth place, 10 games out of first, when their odyssey began. After losing the first 2 games at Cleveland, they were 70-55-3, still fourth, but 17.5 games behind.


The Spiders' 2 wins left them 75-45-6, good for second place, 10 games in back of front-running Baltimore.

Despite their record, the Spiders had difficult drawing fans. They ended the season 11th of the 12 teams in attendance, averaging only 2,375 per game. The Colts ranked third, at 4,669. The Reds were first, at 5,652.

Only 850 were on hand at League Park when the Colts and Spiders met on Sept. 15.



These were the headlines above the Chicago Tribune's account of the game that day:






Colts Ahead Up to the Ninth Inning,

When in Darkness the Pitcher's

Box, Being Indistinguishable from

the Grand Stand, Tebeau's Men Se-

cure Runs Enough to Tie the Score

-- Capt. Anson's Repeated Protests

Are in Vain.




His Conduct Is Plainly a Case of Cow-



Here is the start of the story that followed:


Cleveland, O., Sept. 15. -- [Special.] -- Umpire Emslie has made many bad mistakes recently, but his star performance was reserved for today, when he allowed the Spiders to tie the Colts by refusing to call the game until a half hour after it had become so dark it was difficult to distinguish the fielders from the base runners.

The ninth inning was played by moonlight, and the street lamps were burning when the players left the field.

It was clearly a case of cowardice on the part of the umpire. He evidently feared [Spiders player-manager] Patsy Tebeau.

[Colts player-manager Cap] Anson had been kicking for three innings to have the game called on account of darkness. The Colts had the game by the score of 6 to 3 up to the ninth inning.

In the eighth inning Anson threatened to call his men off the field and forfeit the game rather than continue playing when it was too dark to see second base.

Emslie gave him to understand, without saying so in as many words, that he would call the game before the first half of the ninth was finished. The Colts went to the bat and went out in order, fully expecting every minute to hear the game called

When the Spiders were called to the bat, Anson again approached Emslie, asking that the game be called. Emslie walked toward first base and exchanged a word with Anson which no one else heard.

Anson says he promised to call the the game as soon as a few balls were pitched. Anson told [pitcher Button] Briggs to go ahead.

Playing Is Continued.

Burkett was up and got a hit, but was doubled at second on McKean's hit to Dahlen. With two men out, Emslie evidently thought best to finish the game.

Childs was given his base on balls. Then Briggs attempted to hurry the game along by pitching over the plate.

Mclteer hit a drive to center, and as the fielders could not see the ball against the dark background of the grand stand, Childs went to third base before the ball could be returned to the diamond.

Then Zimmer hit down the third base line. Two men scored, and Zimmer went to second.

McGarr hit a single to left. Everitt returned it to the diamond in time to catch his man, but no one could see the ball until it rolled over the diamond to the grand stand.

In the meantime, McGarr went to third and Zimmer scored, tying the score, and Tebeau came to bat.

Considerable time had been consumed in wrangling after each hit, and it had become so dark that it was impossible to see the ball from the grand stand to the pitcher's box.

Briggs got ready to deliver the ball again in response to Emslie's orders when Anson told him he would fine him $1,000 if he threw it over the plate.

Finally he pitched two slow balls ten feet wide, and Emslie called the game, as he should have done a half hour before. It was exactly 5:42 p.m.



When the teams met again the next day, the Spiders won, 4-1.

Things did not go smoothly.

From the Tribune:







Prefers to Calculate on Decisions

Against His Team Rather than to

Get Them Under the Guise of Fair

Umpiring -- More Talking than Play-

ing in the Game Yesterday, Con-

stant Wrangling Over Decisions

Marring the Sport.




Game Stolen from the Colts by Umpire



Cleveland, O., Sept. 16. -- [Special.] -- Patsy Tebeau's men and Umpire Emslie defeated Anson's Colts today in a ball game where there was more oratory than base hits.

The Spiders had the best of it at both angles, but there is no telling who would have won had the game been played on its merits.

The feature of the day was Mr. Emslie. He could scarcely have made more mistakes if he had been blindfolded, and the strange part of it was that every close decision and several that were not close went against the visitors.

Tonight, Capt. Anson telegraphed to [National League] President Young: 'Appoint Wilson to umpire tomorrow instead of Emslie.' Wilson is the Cleveland pitcher who umpired the game during the last series the colts played here, in which the Colts were literally robbed of the game.

It will be remembered Umpire Lynch was forced into leaving the field by Patsy's men, and then the home team took advantage of the rule for such cases and appointed two of their own men to do the umpiring. Wilson was one of them.

Four Cleveland men in succession were sent to base on balls by him, forcing in the winning run. Capt. Anson's estimate of Emslie's honesty may be imagined from the fact he considers Wilson the fairer of the two, and has asked that he be appointed to officiate tomorrow, when the two clubs will play off the tie game of yesterday.

Emslie Begins His Work.

Emslie's queer work began with the first play of the game and did not end until the last man was out. It would have been a fast game but for the wrangling. Nearly a half hour was consumed in this way.

The climax came when Anson left first base and threatened to call his men off the field in the fifth inning. He nearly came to blows with Emslie, and a sensational scene was narrowly averted.

Neither side played good ball except the batteries. [Pitchers Clark] Griffith and [George] Cuppy were both in great form.

Several of the Reds' [sic] base hits were scratches, and at least half of their runs were due to Emslie.

He robbed the colts of a run in the second inning by declaring Ryan out at the plate when every other man inside the grounds, including the players of both teams, knew he was safe, and the majority were honest enough to admit it. . . .

Ryan hit a long fly to left, which Burkett muffed, Ryan going to second. McCormick struck out, and Pfeffer hit to Tebeau and was out at first.

Ryan attempted to score on the play and was half way between third and home when Tebeau threw the ball, catching him in a pocket [i.e., rundown], but McGarr threw high to the plate and Ryan slid in safe. He had crossed the plate before Zimmer touched him. Emslie called him out. It was not even close. . . .

In the last half of the fifth Cuppy walked and Burkett bunted to McCormick, who threw Burkett out at second, but Emslie again said "Safe," when the man was out ten feet. . . .

It became dark during the sixth inning and before the ninth was over it was difficult to see the ball, but as it was more than a half-hour earlier than when he refused to call the game last night Emslie did not dare put an end to the farce, although Tebeau demanded it.



The tie game on Tuesday had been scheduled to be replayed on Thursday, when both teams had an off day.

The Spiders had other ideas.

From the Tribune:






Refuses to Play Because the Grounds

Are Damp -- Afraid Cincinnati Will

Push His Team for Second Place

And Will Take No Chances.


Cleveland, O., Sept. 17. -- [Special.] -- The Spiders showed the white feather today by refusing to play off the tie game with the Colts.

After keeping Anson in ignorance of his intention until the last moments Tebeau informed him the game would not be played.

The excuse was "wet grounds," but the field was never in better condition. No rain had fallen since early morning, and not much then.

Tebeau thinks he has a "cinch" on second place, and he does not care to take any chances. He knows he pulled out of a narrow hole in the last three games and is taking no chances of defeat when he can take advantage of a home team's privilege by calling the game off on a purely technical excuse.



Tebeau's ploy paid off.

The Spiders won 2 of 3 games at home against the Reds, then split 4 with Louisville, and wound up second, at 80-48-7. They were 9.5 games behind champion Baltimore and 2.5 ahead of third-place Cincinnati.

After departing Cleveland, the Colts had only 2 games left, at St. Louis. They won the first, but lost the second, making their final record 71-57-4.

The Colts were tied for fourth with Boston following their last game. The Beaneaters had 5 games left and won 4 of them, to end up 74-57-1 and knock the Colts down to fourth fifth place.

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