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Puddles and poodles: Game reports from 1888

The Cubs, then known as the White Stockings, were scheduled to conclude a 4-game series against the visiting Boston Beaneaters at West Side Park on Friday, May 18, 1888.

There was life-threatening flooding along vast stretches of the Mississippi River that week, as far south as St. Louis.

The ballpark had its own problems with water.

The following appeared in the next day's Chicago Tribune (paragraph breaks added for easier reading):

..........

The Chicago Base-Ball Park bore a strange resemblance to a swamp yesterday afternoon.

The base lines, the pitcher's box, and the catcher's ground were not muddy, because they had been brushed off, but every other part of the grounds was either full of moisture or covered with water.

It is doubtful there was a space ten feet square on the whole outfield that was free from a pool of water. In [Cap] Anson's judgment the grounds were fit to play ball on, so the Chicago and Boston teams had to go on the field.

Anson, under the rules, was the sole judge of the question of the condition of grounds, and the Boston manager and players had to submit to his decision.

Some people thought Anson a poor judge of grounds, and suggested that he was a better judge of gate receipts, and in support of their belief pointed to the fact that there were about 2,500 persons present.

Anson is one of the club's stockholders.

Five innings were played, and the Bostons had taken their half of the sixth when Capt. Morrill asked that the game be called.

The score was 13 to 0 in favor of Chicago, and as the gate receipts as well as the game had been won by performance, Anson gracefully yielded to Morrill and the game was called.

Local pride made some of the spectators glad the game was played and won by the home team. Everybody present, including Anson, was glad when the farce ended.

..........

The Tribune that morning also featured this colorful, tongue-in-cheek account of what transpired among some of the spectators:

...

Nothing but flood news was posted on the bulletin board at the base-ball park yesterday. Mrs. Fred Johnson, who came early and took her usual place "in her set," remarked to Mrs. Green that she did not see what "Al" meant by the innovation.

Her husband, whom she had brought along, added that he couldn't account for it either. He thought if Mr. Spalding wanted to make an innovation that would interest his spectators he should have posted the standing of the thermometer.

Mrs. Green looked at Mrs. Johnson with an expression of "Well, I wouldn't let my husband interrupt a conversation with such guff as that."

Mrs. Johnson looked at her husband savagely and he subsided.

He had been sitting in the row behind her with his poor little handle resting on the handle of his umbrella. Mrs. Johnson told him to "come down from there" and sit beside her. She wanted to keep her eye on him.

He came down, and then Mrs. Johnson gave him the pug down to hold.

"I thought Freddy and Guppy needed some exercise," Mrs. Johnson said to Mrs. Sampson, in apology for having brought her husband and poodle, "and I got them ready and brought them over."

"Where did you get that pretty collar he has on?" inquired Mrs. Sampson.

"What do you mean?"

"Guppy."

"O, I got that at Al's when I got my season ticket. I had my name engraved on it in the prettiest monogram."

Mr. Johnson turned up the collar of his overcoat and became nervous. The conversation was getting personal, he thought.

"I wish you had let me gone [sic] to the office. The coal trade must be better today than since January," he said to his wife.

"S-s-h," hissed Mrs. Johnson with a scowl.

It was a long time before he made any further remark.

...

When the Chicagos came down from the clubhouse in a scow, Mr. Johnson told the man in front of him that he did not see how they could come as they did -- he thought the mush-ice was too thick.

Mrs. Johnson tramped on her husband's toes and patted Guppy on the head. Mr. Johnson looked jealously at Guppy, who sat on his knee. How often he had heard at home the remark, "Why can't you be quiet, like Guppy?"

Meanwhile the man who sat in front of Mr. Johnson expressed the belief that the players would be using skates before the close of the game.

That remark opened a conversation between the two men in the front row in which Mr. Johnson wanted to participate, but the frowns of his wife and urbane example of Guppy, which he was obliged to follow, held him down.

...

"There are great possibilities in ball-playing," said the man to the north, who had red hair.

"Yes," responded the other, whose scalp was clean as a barber could make it.

"When I was a boy it was 'town ball' and 'cat,' " said the red-headed man. "Then some fellow who was too lazy to walk got up a game on horseback called 'polo.' But this here we are looking at is a new one of them all. I never thought they could play the game in navigation."

"Nor Id," replied the smooth-headed man.

"Nobody but Spalding would have thought of this."

"No. But I think he has struck a great idea. When the players become more seafaring he can move the grounds out into the lake. He might put the grand stand on pontoons."

"Well, that's so. The necessary territory -- out, say, a mile or two -- could be got cheap, and you know Spalding's playing ball for the money there is in it."

"It would knock out a number of men who are now good players."

"It would that. There's Kelly, for example. The water where he is, out in right, is only about three feet deep, and you see he has on a life-preserver. Now he wouldn't be any good in deep water."

...

Mrs. Johnson, having subdued her husband, was taking much interest in the game.

When Mr. Wise, a Bostonian, knocked the ball past second base, on which Burns was anchored. Mr. Burns could not swim, so he held his place on the bag while Mr. Williamson, who in an all-round athlete, dived down and got the ball. He came to the surface sniffing his nose for breath and then had what Mrs. Johnson called "a narrow escape."

The ball fell out of his hands and he was required to grab it quickly. It was not more than a foot under the water when he brought it up the second time.

Mrs. Johnson was much alarmed. She had heard that a man who went under water twice was lost. She felt uneasy about Mr. Williamson, whom she called "Eddie."

Mr. Johnson undertook to explain that it was only in cases of drowning that the second sink was fatal, but his wife's frown placed him and Guppy again on an equality of silence.

Mrs. Johnson, Mrs. Green, Mrs. Stone, Mrs. Sampson, and the other ladies "in their set" had quite a jolly conversation at this point about how they would look with their feet incased in small pontoons such as the players were wearing.

...

The Chicagos made six runs in the first inning, but it was the result of a conspiracy on their part.

They had sent the Bostons to bat in the first half of the inning. The water was then clear. While the Chicagos were in the field they "riled" the water up so that it was no longer transparent.

The advantages of this were many and great.

In one instance Mr. Williamson started to steal second. He moved by surface navigation for about three quarters of the distance and then suddenly disappeared from view.

Mr. Nash looked for him but the water was impenetrably black to anybody but a Chicago man, so that Mr. Nash did not see Mr. Williamson until his hand reached up over the top of the base and he proceeded to haul himself "up on dry land."

When Mr. Williamson had his hand on the base, he was safe, because the rules of the game, as Mrs. Johnson said, "do not require that any particular part of the runner's body touch the bag."

...

Incidents of this sort occurred frequently.

There are some good swimmers in the Boston nine but their aristocratic environments have confined their aquatic exercises to such resorts as Bar Harbor, Brighton Beach, Long Branch, etc., where the water is clear and the sands are bright.

It is said that the best man the Bostons have would be lost in so small a local stream as the Chicago River.

...

Mrs. Green expressed a good deal of anxiety as to how Chicago's new pitcher, a Mr. Brothers late of San Francisco, would get along.

"O, I think he will get along all right," said Mrs. Sampson.

"Yes, pitchers are used to water," ventured Mr. Johnson.

"Be still, Freddy, or I shall send you home," said his wife, sharply.

...

Mr. Johnson subsided and fondled the dog, while the ladies laughed and the men in the front row proceeded further with their discussion of the new game which they agreed should be called "buoy ball."

The game was called just as the Boston rounded the turning point for the sixth time. The score was 13 to 0 in favor of Chicago.

Mr. Spalding was highly pleased. Three thousand people had paid to see the game.

Mrs. Johnson was perfectly delighted. All the ladies agreed that they would remember the game as long as they lived.

Mr. Johnson complained because he and Guppy had been required to sit there in the cold so long.

Mrs. Stone said to him that it wasn't as disagreeable as sleighriding, and that he ought to be thankful that his wife had brought him along.

Mrs. Johnson said he was thankful. She invited the other ladies to bring their families along some time. They promised her they would do so.

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