Cubs' stall that backfired in 1874

A previous post described an over-the-top effort by the Cubs in 1913 to avoid a loss to the visiting Cardinals by preventing a game from becoming official.

Their stalling and deliberate misplays were so pronounced that the umpire eventually forfeited the game in the fourth inning.

Recently, I came across an account of a similar attempt, nearly 40 years earlier, in 1874, when the Cubs were known as the White Stockings and were a member of the National Association, the first true professional league, which lasted from 1871-75.


It happened on Sept. 28, in the next-to-last game of a disastrous, month-long road trip, during which the Whites went 6-12 and fell to fifth place.

This time, their antics came in the top of the ninth inning, with darkness falling, after the Philadelphia Athletics had scored twice to take the lead.

The players on both teams, as well as the fans, knew that if the inning could not be completed, the Athletics' runs would be voided and the game would become a 7-7 tie.



1874 was the Whites' first season following a 2-year hiatus following the Great Chicago Fire of Oct. 9, 1871. The Whites began the year by winning 14 straight games against amateur teams, then blanked the Athletics, 4-0, at home in their first National Association game on May 13.

But after their first road trip, June 11-July 1, the Whites were just 8-14 in league play. They improved to 21-18 during a 2-month home stand, won the opener of their second Eastern tour, then dropped 7 in a row.

They had won twice against the Athletics at Philadelphia on Tuesday and Thursday, Sept. 22 and 24, only to be beaten the next 2 days, at Brooklyn and New York, scoring just 1 run in each game.



The Whites were idle on Sunday, as professional baseball was banned on the Sabbath in nearly all states, cities and towns in 1874. It would not be legal in Pennsylvania until 1934.

Monday found the Whites back in Philadelphia, once again facing the Athletics, who had employed several of the Whites' top players during the clubs' 2-year hibernation.

Following is most of the Chicago Tribune's account, published the next day, of what transpired. Several paragraph breaks have been added for easier reading.




Game Between the Chicagos and

Athletics Yesterday.


The Former Club Gets on Its High

Horse and Is Declared the

Loser 9 to 0.


Special Dispatch to The Chicago Tribune.

PHILADELPHIA, Pa., Sept. 28. -- This afternoon on the Athletic grounds was seen one of those old-time contests between "Blue Legs" [i.e., Athletics] and the celebrated "Revolvers," which delighted large audiences when half of that team were quartered temporarily in this city.

There was the same division in the crowd, and the Lake City boys [i.e., Whites] were great favorites.

The game was well played for the most apart, and opened with two runs for the Athletics and none for their opponents. A missed fly by [left fielder Ned] Cuthbert and a bad throw to third allowed the Athletics one run in the third inning. . . . .

Cuthbert made the first run for his side, in the third inning, by a three-base [hit], and came home on a muff of [Fergy] Malone's hit. . . .

At the conclusion of the fourth inning the scores were tied [at 4], the Athletics having made two and the Chicagos three by errors and good batting.

The playing on both sides was sharp in the next inning, and no runs were scored, but in the seventh the Blue Legs added two by good batting, while their opponents again tied the score, securing three on a two-base hit by [Davy] Force, who assisted materially in the work. . . . The eighth inning ended in a blank for both sides. . . .


The unhappy and unfortunate part of the game now comes to be related. The Athletics went in for their half of the ninth inning. Darkness was fast coming on, and the ball could hardly be distinguished.

However, the fielders did well until the Athletics scored two runs. Then [Whites captain] Malone requested the umpire to call the game. This he would not do.

The Chicago men refused to catch the ball, and allowed eight runs to be scored.

[Catcher] Malone gave [Ezra] Sutton a life on strikes [i.e., dropped a third strike], and threw the ball wide of [first] base. [John] Glenn made no attempt to secure it.

[Al] Reach sent [shortstop John] Peters an easy one, which he purposely let by him. Malone made a miserable feint of attempting to cut off a hand [make an out], at second base, and threw over [Paul] Hines' head.


This work was kept up so long that the crowd became disgusted. The attempt to throw the game so as to have a draw was too transparent, and under the rules, the umpire could have declared two or three hands out, but was perplexed by the disgraceful state of affairs that he would not do so.

After the Athletics had scored 8 runs and two hands were out, [pitcher George] Zettlein came in and handed the ball to the umpire, saying, "There's no use playing any more. We give up."

[Umpire William] McLean then decided the Athletics to have won the contest by a score of nine runs to nothing. The field was covered [with people] in an instant, and the crowd became very disorderly.


Zettlein, who had been the principal in this disgraceful waiting game, and in which the remaining members of the nine were not a whit behind, was subjected to numerous indignities. While he was being escorted from the grounds, some miscreants spit tobacco juice over his shirt and threatened him with violence.

There was no disturbance, however, and the throng dispersed, growling and discontented.



The final score eventually was ruled to be 15-7, rather than 9-0, with all batting, pitching and fielding records to be included in official statistics.

When the teams met again 2 days later, on Sept. 30, they played another close game, with considerably less dissension.

From the Tribune of the following day:


PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 30. -- This was a poor day for outdoor sports, and the attendance at the match game between the Athletic and Chicago clubs was meager. Those who were present, however, evinced a wonderful amount of courage, to stand shivering in the cold and rain for two hours, with the thermometer considerably below summer heat, and a strong northwest wind whistling through the pavilions.

It was not a good day for the Athletics, either, as the sequel shows, for they presented a very weak team against the Chicagos' strongest. However, the Blue Legs managed to keep ahead until the last inning, when they became demoralized, and the Lake City boys made just enough runs to win the game and no more.

Barring the second inning, -- where the Athletics made a total of seven runs, and none earned . . . -- they did nothing of any note, and the score of the Chicagos gradually crept up.


[After 8 innings, the Whites trailed, 9-7.]

The Chicagos went in for the last inning, and won the game, the fielding of the Athletics being miserable. [Levi] Meyerle, Hines, and Glenn each made first-base hits, and Meyerle scored by the assistance of the two batters back of him and a muff by [catcher] McGeary on an easy one from Sutton.

[Jim] Devlin sent [shortstop] Battin a medium-paced liner, which went directly through his legs and rolled down into the field, when Hines and Glenn both scored, gaining the game for their side.

The three hands [Athletics batters] which followed went out easily, and the contest was over.

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