A very funny game story from 1890

The world's first newspaper was published in the first decade of the 17th century.

Papers in France, Germany and Italy all have been cited as the first.

Whichever it truly was, someone may well have remarked, "Today's newspaper is tomorrow's fish wrapper."

Variations of that statement -- tomorrow's waste paper, tomorrow's bird cage liner, tomorrow's litter box liner, etc. -- have continued to be uttered up to the present day.


The vast majority of articles in newspapers never are read by anyone again beginning the day after their publication.

Yet old papers are bursting with stories that deserve a new audience. I often come across such stories while researching the history of the Cubs.

One such is an account of a game that took place more than 133 years ago, on Thursday, June 12, 1890, at West Side Park in Chicago.



It was the opener of a 3-game series between the Cubs, then known as the Colts, and Allegheny City, aka the Alleghenys, today's Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Colts began the day with a record of 21-16, tying them with Brooklyn for third place, 4.5 games behind league-leading Philadelphia.

The Alleghenys were a woeful 9-30, dead last, 17.5 games behind the Phillies and 13 behind the Colts.

The final score reflected those records, as the Colts, batting first, won by 16-3.

The following story appeared on page 2 -- yes, 2 -- of the next day's Inter Ocean newspaper. It had neither the name nor initials of its author.

At that time, Pittsburgh's official name had no final "h".

Some paragraph breaks have been added for easier reading, as have some breaks in the the text.




Anson's Colts Have a Picnic with

the Grimy Lads from



A thousand people, in round numbers, saw the merry side of baseball yesterday.

A gallant company of young men came out from the town of Pittsburg to play ball. They marched upon the field bravely enough, with flowing gray suits fluttering in the breeze and their faces set with the courage that is born of despair.

Sir Gay Hecker [manager of the Alleghenys], with a heart as light as any maiden, put a man named Schmitt -- Frederick Schmitt -- in to pitch.

There are people who deny Mr. Hecker any sense of humor. This act of the misunderstood Hecker hurls the lie back into their teeth.


The whole history of this sad gray afternoon -- for it has a sad side, too -- may be read in the conduct Mr. J. Palmer O'Neill [owner of the Alleghenys], who is looking after the interests of his pets and sat in the grand stand yesterday afternoon for that purpose.

When the Pittsburgs trotted jauntily on the field, Mr. O'Neil looked proudly around and observed:

"Ah, there, my charmers! How is this for a worn-out, antiquated, under-paid crew of ball tossers! Don't they loom up, though?"


It chanced in the first inning that each club turned in two runs. Cooney was sent to his base on balls and Carroll got first on a fumble of Smalley's.

After Wilmot's out to first, and after Schmitt had given Anson his base on balls, Cooney came in on a crazy stop and throw of Crane's.

Andrews' hit brought in Carroll. Even after this Schmitt gave still another man a base on balls -- Burns. But there were no more runs.


"Isn't your pitcher a trifle wild?" inquired a neighbor to the Pittsburg director.

"Not in a thousand years," replied Mr. O'Neil. "My friend, Mr. Schmitt is as steady as a clock. Just wait till this game's over; you'll see they won't monkey with my man Schmitt."

And sure enough, after the Pittsburgs rang up two on singles by Decker and Berger, neither side saw the light for three innings.


"Just look at my friend Schmitt's action!" exclaimed Mr. O'Neil, enthusiastically. "Isn't he a bird? Why, he won forty-three games for Saginaw out of sixty-two!

"Now, down at Cincinnati," continued the magnate, "we were glad to get away, but we'll wake you all up, yet! I've as busky [sic] a lot of young men as there is in the business. No sinkers on their feet, I tell you!"


At this point, the beginning of the fourth inning, Cooney, who played a wonderful all-around game of ball, happened to get first on an imbecile play of Sam Crane's. Then Carroll lined out a choice two-baser.

"Why don't Schmitt give that man Carroll a high ball?" cried Mr. O'Neil, excitedly. "If I were down on that bench I'd fine him, sure as a gun!"


After which Captain Anson came to the bat. Mr. Schmitt looked pityingly at the captain and sizzled the ball toward the plate.

Then something happened. There was a dark brown sound, like hitting a fat man with a bass viol. The ball mounted in a southeasterly direction and dropped in front of a Harrison Street saloon. Anson waddled home after two men. [Score: 5-2]

"I am afraid," observed Mr. O'Neil, "that the German is a trifle nervous to-day."


The Pittsburgs made one run more, a total of three, on a double by the Foghorn [George Miller] and a triple by the Manager. That was the end; the gas district layout never scored again.

O'Brien, in the sixth, got to the first bag on a low throw by Miller. Hutchison followed with a hit. Then two men flew out.

Here were two men on the bases and two men out. Mr. Schmitt nerved himself for a supreme effort, and gave Carroll a base on balls.

"Schmitt's getting careless," said Mr. O'Neil.


Then the pitcher hove a sign and gave Wilmot a base on balls.

"That German ought to be heavily fined," said Director O'Neil, nervously.


Anson was now at the plate. Schmitt grew rattled and banged in the ball like an insane man. Anse went to first after four balls that made the catcher hustle to corral them.

"That Dutchman is the worst I ever saw," said Mr. O'Neill, abstractedly running his walking stick through his hair.


Of course, with every base on balls, a Chicago man had been forced home. The runs were piling up higher than interest on a chattel mortgage.

Andrews followed Anson at the bat. The pitcher, Schmitt, was desperate. He gritted his teeth and danced around in his cage like a wild man of Borneo.

He peppered throws in the air everywhere except over the home plate.

"Four balls," shouted [umpire] Lynch, and Andrews ambled to first, and still another man trotted home.

Mr. O'Neil was speechless. He glared down at Frederick Schmitt and tried to talk, but the words refused to come.


Burns came next to bat and found an opening in right field for a single. A one-legged boy with the string-halt could have hit Schmitt at that period.

But Burns was run down between first and second, and that gave an intermission and Mr. Schmitt time to figure out where he was. [Score: 10-3]


But the trouble broke afresh in the next inning. Strange to relate, Mr. Schmitt gave Kittridge a base on balls; Cooney made a hit, as usual.

Then Carroll made a two-bagger as easy as pie. Two more runs. [Score: 12-3]


The ninth was a fitting finale. Kittridge hit safely. So did Cooney. Then Carroll took a mean advantage of the helpless Schmitt. He slapped the first faltering ball on the back for a home run over the Congress Street wall.

It was after this that Wilmot popped up an easy fly just back of the pitcher's box. Schmitt ran back for it, and Miller also ran for it. It seemed such sure death that Wilmot walked back to the bench.

What was the astonishment of the crowd at this moment to see the pitcher, whose think-works had evidently slipped a cog in the awful strain, suddenly duck and let the ball hit him a resounding jolt on the back!

The ball rolled away, and Miller, who had stood paralyzed with astonishment, got it and tossed it to first.

It was the worst case of rattle that has ever been seen in Cook County.


After this, Schmitt, whose mind seemed to be wandering, perhaps back to the happy days when he won forty-three games out of sixty-two for the Saginaws, threw the ball at the catcher like a man pitching horseshoes.

Two men went for first on balls, making twelve who had been sent that way, and O'Brien followed with a hit.

At this point Hecker did a thing he ought to have done long before. He requested Mr. Schmitt to resign, and sent in Miller.

Hutchison hit the Fog Horn for a base, and Kittridge flew out, which ended the farce.


Mr. O'Neil, after the game, had the expression of the Spartan boy with the fox chewing his suspenders.

"I shall release Schmitt at once," he said.



He didn't. But after the Alleghenys completed the series against the Colts and returned home, O'Neil told the Pittsburg Dispatch: "Schmitt made a fool of our game in Chicago the other day. After Anson made a home run off him he sent a dozen men to bases on balls and would laugh at his own tomfoolery.

"He was fined $50 and suspended for 30 days for his work."


The 24-year-old rookie left hander does not appear to have pitched again for the Alleghenys; his name does is not found by searches of Chicago or Pittsburgh newspapers during the remainder of the season -- either as "Schmitt" or as "Schmit," with one "t," as it is listed in official baseball records.

His entry in those records does not call him Frederick, but "Crazy," one of his 2 nicknames. The other was "Germany," although he was born in Chicago.



Schmit's final record in 1890 was 1-9, with a 5.83 earned run average. His only win was a shutout on May 13 at Cincinnati in which he allowed just 3 singles, walked 2, hit 1, struck out 4 and threw a wild pitch.

He started a total of 10 games, completing all but the one against the Colts. He also finished a game in relief.

The next year, he pitched in 4 games for St. Paul/Duluth of the Western Association, then went 23-16 with teams in Macon, Memphis and Mobile of the Southern Association in 1892.


Schmit made it back to the National League that year, going 1-2 for Baltimore, then was 3-2 for the Orioles and 0-2 for the Giants in 1893.

After spending 1894 back in the minors, he was out of baseball for a year. He returned in 1896 to spend time with no fewer than 4 teams in the New England and Virginia leagues.

Schmit sat out 2 more seasons, went 2-17 for the historically bad Cleveland Spiders (20-134) in 1899, then did not pitch in 1900.


In 1901, he was 0-2 in 4 games between April 30 and June 8 with the Baltimore Orioles of the new American League.

He concluded his checkered career in 1902, at age 36, by going 1-3 in 5 games for the Dallas Griffins of the Class D Texas League.

Over 9 seasons, with 16 teams in 9 leagues, Schmit's known record is 37-64, including 7-36 in the Major Leagues. He appeared in 54 big league games, starting 48, completing 37 and finishing 6 more.

His ERA was 5.45. His ERA+ was 70. His WAR was -4.7.


Schmit was 74 when he died in Chicago on Oct. 5, 1940 -- 50 years, 3 months and 23 days after his nightmarish game against the Colts.

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