Tuesday, January 1, 2019

New Year, New Start

I must apologize for the radio silence over the last four months, I took a break from base ball as the result of an unsatisfying string of events and temporarily walked away from the game, but I've returned and am ready to conclude my look at the 1888 Colonels and look ahead to new ventures with this blog.

To explain what happened, we need to go back to September and a two-game series in Cincinnati. The first game proved close, with my club in the lead, and a disagreement over a fair-foul argument turned ugly. The attitudes shown by a few of my teammates turned the disagreement into a near fistfight, this is not why I wanted to play vintage base ball and I had my fill of this attitude, one that showed throughout the season in multiple unpleasant incidents (at least in my eyes). As a result, I decided that while I love the game, I cannot abide bad sportsmanship and an attitude that brings it into disrepute.

After speaking with my father and my wife, I quit that evening. Looking back, I would've handled my resignation differently, but not the act itself. As early proponent of the game Henry Chadwick said, "barked chins and broken fingers may be easily mended, but a disfigured reputation may never be entirely repaired." The course being charted could only lead to dishonoring the game, I had to go.

In addition, around that time, the attitudes by certain fans of the modern game on social media proved ugly as the playoffs neared. That, combined with the Cincinnati kefuffle made me decide I needed a break and I focused more intently on my other interests. That's what I've done, but the time away did me good. I'm ready to get back at the history of the game.

While I don't know if I'll ever play again (I hope to), but if not I'll still chronicle its past and its meaning to the Commonwealth. So, be looking for new material here shortly.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

The 1888 Colonels-July Takes a Turn for the Better

Before we delve into the adventures of the 1888 Louisville Colonels, let me apologize for my lax blogging of late. My other love in addition to base ball is auto racing, the IndyCar Series in particular. Between attending the race at Mid-Ohio and working on a project for an esteemed motorsports writer, I've had little time for my blog. With the project approaching conclusion, I've gotten some time back for my blog.

As June faded to July, the Colonels started playing at a level approaching what the Falls City faithful hoped at the start of the season. Lack of talent at some positions as well as a wretched start doomed any chances Louisville had to contend for a winning season, much less the pennant, but the club played better as June went on.

Louisville opened the month on July 1 at home against the Baltimore Orioles and lost the first game 6-1. Ramsey, 20 pounds lighter as a result of his recent illness, pitched well, but the old bugaboo of poor defense bedeviled the Colonels again. At the bat, Louisville stranded nine runners and at the end of the day the Derby City throng of 3,500 went home disappointed.

In other news, the Courier-Journal stated the owners of Association clubs desired to meet to discuss reconsidering the $.50 fee for admittance to their games. Crowds dwindled at Association games, as the doubling of admission fees turned many potential spectators away. For clubs like Louisville, a poor record, combined with the increased price killed them at the turnstiles.

The next day saw Louisville pound Baltimore 13-6. Ice Box Chamberlain pitched well, not walking a single batter, which stood in stark contrast to the Orioles' John Smith, who walked nine Colonels.

This bright result on the scoreboard also contrasted with the dark tidings in the Courier-Journal. The Colonels finally released infielder Will White, White had recently been benched for "indifferent play," but he'd never really enjoyed playing in Louisville and the dissatisfaction on both sides culminated to this decision to let him go. 

Other teams offered Louisville money for White, but he requested part of the sale price to any of these clubs. Owner Mordecai Davidson refused, so after ten days he cleared waivers and could sign with any club he chose.

In addition, an unnamed western paper (probably from St. Louis or Kansas City, but I cannot corroborate this) stated there was a conspiracy among Toad Ramsey, Guy Hecker, and John Kerins to throw games. The allegation offered no proof, but with past accusations swirling around the club, especially with Hecker, it couldn't have been comforting for Louisville fans.

On July 3, both Louisville and Baltimore crossed the Ohio and went to New Albany for an exhibition. Scott Stratton pitched well for the Colonels, but they lost 4-3. 

The next day, Independence Day featured a twin bill between the Colonels and Orioles. The holiday promised to feature big crowds, and more baseball meant more spectators.

The first game saw Baltimore down Louisville 9-3 in front of 4,000. Second and third base let the Colonels down as Reddy Mack and Joe Werrick contributed the bulk of Louisville's ghastly 12 errors. 

Baltimore on the other hand fielded flawlessly and first baseman Tommy Tucker hit the first over the fence home run at Eclipse Park all season. To the modern fan, this may sound strange, but over-the-fence home runs didn't occur often in the pre-live ball era (1920 on). The outfield dimensions of most parks tended to be much bigger in this era, and the balls weren't as lively off the bat as they were later. If one saw a home run, it would've been an inside the park home run. 

The second game of the July 4 doubleheader proved a complete turnaround from the morning. Toad Ramsey "as lively as a lark," started for the Colonels and proved "almost invincible in the box." Louisville played a perfect game in the field, which "could hardly be expected after the miserable showing of the forenoon game," winning 4-1.

Baltimore's Bert Cunningham's curveball beguiled the Falls City nine, but the heart of the Louisville order managed to carry the day as Chicken Wolf and Pete Browning carried the day for the offense.

After a brief respite, Louisville welcomed Cleveland to Eclipse Park for a four game series starting on July 7 during a fierce heatwave in the Ohio Valley.

Louisville vanquished Cleveland 6-3 in the first game as a crowd of 800 sweltered. Chamberlain started for the Colonels and though wild, "pitched a winning game." 

Both teams hit hard, but ran poorly, leaving 18 runners total on base.

Louisville continued its winning ways the next day, winning 9-0 behind Toad Ramsey's "invincible as ever" pitching. Ramsey struck out seven as Louisville threw its first shutout of the season.

Louisville whitewashed Cleveland again the next day, 3-0 in front of 3,000. John Ewing, Louisville's recent addition pitched brilliantly and hit a triple. Chicken Wolf also hit a triple as the Colonels played an all-around solid game.

Louisville won five of the last six games. They did so without the services of Pete Browning, who'd been missing in action again (possibly due to alcohol). The Courier-Journal hinted if "The Gladiator" didn't change his ways, he'd be permanently replaced. Luckily for Louisville, pitcher Scott Stratton could also play an excellent centerfield (a 19th Century Shohei Ohtani).

The Colonels swept Cleveland the next day, winning 7-4. Browning miraculously returned and made several defensive plays in center. 

In other news, the St. Louis Browns signed Will White, he went from one of the worst teams in the Association to one of the best.

Louisville continued its homestand as the Philadelphia Athletics came to town next and promptly won 4-1. Toad Ramsey started for Louisville and walked six batters, at one point loading the bases with three straight walks. Louisville native Gus Weyhing started for the Athletics and had the Colonels at his will the whole of the contest.

Louisville evened the series the next day 14-4. The Colonels rapped out 19 hits and stole 13 bases as they batted around Mike Mattimore freely. Reserve first baseman Wally Andrews starred offensively for the Colonels, going 4-6 on the day.

Louisville won again the next day, 5-1 as Guy Hecker made his return from an injury suffered in St. Louis the month prior. He didn't strike out a single batter, but his pitching continually induced bad contact.

Poor Colonel baserunning and sparkling Philadelphia defense kept the game close. Louisville "ran the bases like a lot of plow horses." 

Browning went 3-5 but the superb Athletic defense robbed him of a home run. 

After the game, team captain John Kerins stated he'd invert his middle infielders, moving Reddy Mack to shortstop and Hub Collins to second.

The Athletics split the series the next day, winning 11-5. The recent success of the Colonels induced 4,500 to come out to on a Sunday, and their attitude could hardly be considered appropriate for the Sabbath. The throng proved loud and obnoxious, with the Philadelphia Times stating umpires ejected at least a dozen spectators. The cacophonous crowd delayed the game at times as the players could not hear the umpire.

Ice Box Chamberlain started for Louisville and got hit hard. He had poor control of his pitches and emotions, walking off the field in the sixth after hitting a batter. Scott Stratton came in to mop up, but little could be done as Gus Weyhing once again had the Colonels in his thrall.

Lave Cross caught for Louisville and had a rough day as he made multiple errors.

Though the first half of the month ended in a loss, the Colonels played much better. In spite of the usual issues with Pete Browning and rumors of throwing games (admittedly vastly unsubstantiated), things looked better. 

Once again, the Louisville Courier-Journal, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Daily News,  The Philadelphia Times, newspapers.com, and baseball-reference.com made this post possible.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Barons Defeat Monarchs at Whitaker Bank Ballpark

Special-The Bluegrass Baron Club of Lexington defeated the Moscow Monarchs 11-6 today in a special match at Whitaker Bank Ballpark after a Lexington Legends doubleheader.

The Barons struck hard in the early going, taking a 9-0 lead into the middle innings. The Monarchs rallied furiously, cutting the lead to 9-6 in the top of the eighth, but could get no closer.

Both teams struck hard and defended brilliantly, making exceptional plays in the field. Jason "Speedy" Wells of the Barons in particular made a daring, crucial over-the-shoulder catch deep in right field, to the thunderous applause of the throng who stayed to watch the contest.

Though the Barons lost the services of their venerable ace pitcher Ben "Pops" Clouse for the season due to a knee injury, Travis "Ami" Wise filled in capably in his stead.

The game proved one of the special matches in the history of both clubs, especially the Barons, who won in front of an appreciative Lexington audience.

Baron catcher, Kevin "Ace" Garland deserves much praise for making the arrangements for this thrilling match, working closely with the Legends to ensure a thrilling day for all.

After a brief respite, the Barons and Monarchs meet again on September 9 in Moscow, Ohio.


Thursday, July 19, 2018

The 1888 Colonels-June Takes a Turn for the Better Amidst Turmoil

The beginning of June saw the crises of the 1888 season come to a head. The ownership of the Louisville changed hands to Mordecai Davidson, manager John Kelly resigned, and the Colonels suffered a disastrous eastern road trip.

The battered Falls City aggregate arrived home on June 8 and at that time John Kelly formally handed in his resignation as manager and immediately accepted a job as umpire in the National League. Club owner Mordecai Davidson stated he'd assume the day-to-day responsibilities of running the Colonels.

The Courier-Journal conducted a postmortem of the season thus far and acknowledged bad luck, and most especially injuries to the catchers contributed mightily to the failures faced by the Louisville nine. The paper stated Louisville's pitchers could not throw as hard as usual due to injuries faced by the catchers. While the start proved discouraging, the paper seemed hopeful for a turnaround in the Colonels' fortunes.

The future indeed seemed brighter on June 9, as the Kansas City Cowboys arrived at Eclipse Park and promptly received a 14-4 thrashing by the Louisvilles. The game proved close until the sixth inning, when Louisville blew the game open. The Colonels played with the "old time vim and dash" exhibited by Falls City's clubs in years past. All Louisville players except Hub Collins got a hit and the crowd of 500 went home happy.

The next day saw another win for the Derby City boys, as they won 5-1 in a rain-shortened, six inning contest. 

They missed a sweep the next day, as Kansas City won 8-7.  Both clubs played well, but the Cowboys timed their hits just a little better. 

Considering the other world news of the day, things weren't so bad. Germany's Kaiser Frederick lay dying, the sovereign only recently assuming the throne from his father, Kaiser Wilhem I. Beloved American poet Walt Whitman fell ill and the nation feared the author of Leaves of Grass would soon join Kaiser Frederick in death. The fate of a ballclub in Louisville didn't seem so momentous in comparison.

After a short, three-game home stand, the Colonels boarded a train westward to face the St. Louis Browns and the Cowboys.

Louisville lost the first game against St. Louis 3-2 on June 13, after leading most of the day. A gruesome injury to Guy Hecker compounded the sorrowful tidings of the loss. He received a spike wound on his left hand in a play at the plate and subsequently fainted as a result of blood loss. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch stated Hecker would leave for Louisville that night to have a specialist look at his crippled hand.

In the words of the Post-Dispatch, Hecker's injury would "hurt Louisville's strength, if indeed such a thing be possible."

The next day, St. Louis again defeated the Falls City crowd 13-7 as Ramsey received "wretched support" from the Colonels. This defeat indeed seemed small, as news of the death of Kaiser Frederick reached America. Frederick's death meant Kaiser Wilhem II assumed the throne of Germany, as 1888 became the "Year of Three Emperors." The new Kaiser's policies in time helped contribute to the First World War, but that was 25 or so years in the future.

Back in Missouri, the Browns completed their sweep of the Colonels the next day, as they thumped the Colonels 12-3. St. Louis chased Ice Box Chamberlain out of the box in the second inning, and Louisville played in a "half-spirited, listless manner."

Louisville couldn't leave the Mound City fast enough, and the next day (June 16) they played the one team that almost guaranteed a break in a Colonel slump, Kansas City. Chamberlain again started and again got hit hard, but today he held on. In spite of being on the receiving end of a four-run first, the Colonels won 6-5. 

The Courier-Journal reported that day President Davidson lowered prices for all seats to $.50, with boys under 12 admitted for $.25, and ladies free on Thursdays when accompanied by a man. 

On June 17, the Colonels managed a two-game sweep of the Cowboys by the narrowest of margins, winning 7-6 as timely hitting saved the day for the Falls City club. 

After their 2-3 "Show-Me State" excursion, the Colonels made for the Queen City to play a four game tilt against the Reds, with two games in Cincinnati and two in Louisville.

The first game, played on June 21, shared headlines with the Republican National Convention, who set about determining their candidate for president. Being out of the White House, there was much more division than the Democrats encountered earlier in the month.

Louisville proved more decisive than the GOP as they defeated the slumping Reds 15-9. The Colonels took advantage of the Reds' suspect pitching and shoddy defense. Louisville hit well and in the words of the Cincinnati Enquirer, "presented a marked and favorable contrast to the banged-up, crippled, and dilapidated team" they'd played a month before.

The Reds evened the series the following day in dramatic fashion in the eleventh inning 10-8. This game surged back and forth (I would love to have seen a win percentage graph from this game) with the game being tied twice. Cincinnati took a 8-5 lead to the ninth, where Louisville promptly tied the score. The Colonels could do no more, however, and Cincinnati pushed two runs across in the top of the eleventh.

The next day, the series shifted to Louisville amidst a steady drizzle which fell upon the field all day. Rain stopped the game for 30 minutes during the third inning. The wet grounds and soggy ball contributed to the lackluster performance of both clubs and darkness mercifully put an end to the 10-10 game after the Reds scored two runs to tie it in the ninth. 

As a bit of an aside, Cincinnati's uniforms proved the second most interesting part of the "dreary, drawn out battle." I won't go into detail here, as the 19th Century base ball uniform database "Threads of Our Game" does a much better job of documenting the Reds' togs from that game than yours truly, though I'm happy to say my research of the Courier-Journal archives found a gem of a quote from this game about the Cincinnati uniforms, which certainly made me chuckle.

(Cincinnati's sartorial choices didn't elicit mockery alone, as the  Colonels' maroon uniforms elicited similar sneers, you can see their finery on "Threads of Our Game" as well. You're welcome in advance for all the valuable time you'll spend seeing the wonderful uniforms worn by base ball clubs in the 19th Century.)

The most interesting aspect of the third game in he series revolved around Pete Browning, who made his grand arrival in Louisville on June 23.  He'd lapsed from his temperance pledge made at the start of the season and got "roaring drunk" in Kansas City during the recent series with the Cowboys.

Browning got so intoxicated he bought a fishing pole and began fishing in a gutter in front of Louisville's hotel. As Louisville left for Cincinnati, Browning stayed and further enjoyed what Kansas City had to offer. 

Browning, "as is his usual" apologized and asked for mercy from Louisville's management, which was granted at a cost of a $100 fine (over $2,500 in 2018). As funny as this episode may sound, Browning's alcoholism had left a streak of such incidents through his playing career and would sadly contribute to an untimely and unfortunate death in the future for the "Gladiator."

Cincinnati closed out the series with Louisville in fine fashion, winning 11-4. The Colonels looked poor, as Scott Stratton got hit hard. Cincinnati pitcher Tony Mullane managed to stymie all but three Louisville batters that day. Browning, Chicken Wolf, and Joe Werrick all managed two hits apiece, but unfortunately the rest of the Louisvilles could do little against "The Count."

The generally listless showing this day infuriated President Davidson, as the defeat coupled with Browning's alcoholism and Toad Ramsey's mysterious illness which somehow managed to go away when he went to a saloon, proved too much. 

Shortstop Bill White became the target of Davidson's ire as he was suspended for his subpar performance in the recent days. However, in White's defense, he didn't carouse (at least not openly) and had been playing with a high fever the last few days. An indignant White demanded his release and if he could not obtain it, he'd retire to his Ohio home to run a general store. 

White's suspension wasn't the only personnel matter on the day, as the Colonels signed pitcher John Ewing and catcher Henry "Farmer" Vaughn from Memphis of the Southern League. The battery proved one of the best in the loop and the Courier-Journal hoped the duo would bolster the improving Louisville club.

In spite of the difficulties of the previous days, the Colonels had indeed played better than at any point during the season. Their better play came as a nasty surprise to the next club to come to the Falls City, the Association-leading Brooklyn Bridegrooms.

On June 26, the day after Benjamin Harrison won the Republican nomination for President, Louisville defeated Brooklyn 7-6.

A crowd of 1,000 saw Ice Box Chamberlain outduel Bob Caruthers, who uncharacteristically walked four batters. Louisville played a few men out of position, with Chicken Wolf at short, pitcher Scott Stratton in centerfield, and local amateur standout Hercules Burnett in right. In spite of the rearranged state of the club, the Colonels superbly supported Chamberlain and came back from an early deficit in the win. The win vaulted them out of the cellar, as the bumbling Kansas City Cowboys took possession of that exalted position. 

The Bill White situation further developed, as Davidson stated he'd attempt a trade with St. Louis for shortstop Joseph Herr.

Brooklyn evened the series the next day, winning 9-7. The Bridegrooms hit hard and often, and Brooklyn's pitching proved too tricky for the Colonels to fully overcome, as a late rally came up short.

Louisville won again the next day 6-1, dropping Brooklyn out of first place. The Courier-Journal stated "Chamberlain was invincible" and he received first-rate support from the rest of the club, especially Lave Cross at catcher. Wolf, still at shortstop and played it "as if he had been in that position all his life.

Louisville's new battery of John Ewing and Farmer Vaughn debuted in the closing match of the Brooklyn series and indeed the month of June. They performed well, with work that "was all that could be desired." Ewing's out curve and drop ball confounded the Brooklyn batters throughout the contest. However, Browning's sprained ankle and two runs scored off of errors by Chicken Wolf proved the difference in the 3-2 loss.

After a tumultuous start, June ended much more optimistically for Louisville. As June waned and July began, the American Association standings looked as such:

St. Louis
Kansas City

Many valuable resources contributed to this post. Special thanks to Craig Brown at "Threads of Our Game" for allowing me to link to his pages on the uniforms for the 1888 Colonels and 1888 Reds. The Louisville Courier-Journal, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, www.newspapers.com, and www.baseball-reference.com all proved incalculably vital in compiling this post.

Thank you again for looking!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Barons Play Two Against Iron Horses


The Iron Horses Club of Eastwood (Dayton), Ohio and the hometown Bluegrass Barons Club of Lexington met for two matches yesterday, with the Baron Club winning both sets.

The clubs played through a soaking, humid heat that drenched the contestants in buckets of perspiration, but doing little to sap the dash and energy of either club. Both sides struck hard, ran smart, and defended beautifully, however, the Barons managed to bunch their hits in a tremendous 16 run second inning in the first match. This prodigious output proved decisive in winning the desperate contest.

A perfect deluge, complete with thunder and lightning, inundated the field just after the start of the second game. With the bolts from the blue, both teams sought safety and shelter, and at this time, your humble correspondent's intrepid wife sought safe harbor in Frankfort, some 30 miles off. However, sources close to the Barons say both teams played an outstanding game on a now wet Waveland field, with the Kentuckians coming out on top.

Both sides enjoyed each other's company afterwards and the Iron Horses left for the long trip back to the Buckeye State in good spirits.

The Barons return to action on August 5 at one o'clock when they play against the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame Club at Waveland State Historic Site.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Barons Lose Out of Heart of Vintage Base Ball Tournament

Special-The Barons played, and unfortunately lost both matches played today in the Heart of Vintage Base Ball Tournament. Losing 15-12 to Losantiville and to Moscow in the consolation game.

The Barons struck hard in the first match, but so too did the Black Stockings as the lead went back and forth throughout the contest. At the end of the time match, the scoreboard favored the gentlemen of Eden Park. 

Both sides played sharp ball, but Losantiville managed to bunch their hits just a bit better than did the Barons, which really decided the game.

In the consolation game, a determined late-game rally seemed to put the Barons ahead, but unfortunately they couldn't hold it against the hard-hitting Moscowites. Once again, the mighty men on the banks of the Ohio managed to hold off the brave Baron club.

The Cincinnati Vintage Base Ball Club, an aggregate of Red Stockings, Buckeyes, with a dash of Springfield Reapers added took home the winners honors for the 2018 edition of this tournament. Our hearty cheers go to them for their signal triumph. 

We also must thank our esteemed, honorable hosts, the Blackbottom Nine, for once again putting on a delightful tournament. Any day on the grass is a day well-spent.

Photos of Today's Contests

Saturday, July 7, 2018

The 1888 Colonels-Defeat, Discord, and Disarray

As May 1888 turned to June, the Democratic National Convention convened to nominate its pick for the Presidential Election, with their party holding the incumbent, Grover Cleveland, it seemed safe he'd be their man. But nothing was certain, as politics, both then and now is a tricky thing to predict.

Elsewhere, the U.S. Army's Commanding General, the hero of Stones River, Third Winchester, and Cedar Creek, and the savior of Yellowstone National Park, General Phillip Sheridan suffered a massive heart attack. "Little Phil" the pugnacious fighter and terror of rebel soldiers opened June fighting his biggest battle, one just to live.

Amidst those headlines, the Louisville Colonels made their own news, none of it good. By this point, the bad tidings didn't simply confine themselves to the diamond, but off of it as well. On June 1, the Baltimore Sun reported "Certain members of the Louisville Club have entered into a combination to oust John Kelly from the management," the paper went on to say, "they refuse to play for him and always lose the game when is well in hand."

When asked about this article, Louisville President William L. Lyons stated he'd heard these rumors, but could find no evidence of their truth. He said the biggest problem facing the club was the debilitating injuries at catcher and the subpar performance of his infield. The Colonels were simply not as good as he, or anyone else, thought they'd be when the season began.

He said, "if some of our players were released they would not be able to hold positions in any but minor league clubs." Which indicated he thought it a talent rather than moral issue, and also did a great job of publicly trashing the men who took the field every day for his team. He went on to say he'd suspend any player he suspected of deliberately subpar play.

Pete Browning, when asked, stated there was no truth to the reports of a conspiracy against John Kelly.

The same day, the Courier-Journal reported there was no substance to the story of a conspiracy and they'd found no evidence to back it up. The players, according to the article regretted something like this getting out as they felt worse for him than themselves over the streak of recent poor results.

According to the Courier-Journal, the fact that many of the recent losses suffered occurred in the later innings made it appear the Colonels were deliberately trying to lose, or not giving their best efforts. Kelly himself didn't see anything which indicated the club played in any way dishonestly.

For the Derby City faithful, this must've invoked painful memories of the 1877 Louisville Grays, who had a commanding lead in the National League, until some of their best players conspired to throw crucial games, thereby losing the pennant. Rumors of gambling players weren't uncommon in this era, so news like this always tended to go to the darker end of the spectrum.

Kelly, realizing his job may well be on the line, and to reset the season, had a meeting with his players prior to the June 1 match against Baltimore. He stated he'd start fining players for mental miscues in the field and on the bases. He also warned his players against eating heavy dinners (in this instance I believe this is the colloquial use of "dinner" for lunch, with what's commonly referred to as dinner being "supper.") as "a loaded stomach clouds the eye and you can't see the ball." (Don't laugh, as even well into the 20th Century, baseball people thought strange medical notions could deliver diamond results. I seem to recall reading about front offices telling pitchers with arm troubles to have their tonsils removed to help their gimpy arms).

The talk seemed to give new energy to the slumping Louisville club as they defeated Baltimore 14-2 that afternoon. Guy Hecker started, giving up seven hits. Louisville banged out 19 of their own, as every Colonel in the lineup got at least one hit. Chicken Wolf went 3-5 as did shortstop Bill White.

The next day, Louisville and Baltimore closed out the series by playing two. The Orioles swept the day and made "the most of every opportunity which Louisville this year has been offering every club with which it comes in contact." They batted around Scott Stratton in the first match, winning 11-5.

Louisville did better in the second contest, losing 5-4, as Toad Ramsey pitched well until the eighth inning, when he left the game after beginning to feel unwell.

After the double defeats, Louisville departed Baltimore for Cleveland, to begin a four game series there on June 4.

On the off-day, the Courier-Journal elaborated on the accusations the Colonels laid down to get John Kelly fired. "Nothing in the conduct of the men seem to indicate a conspiracy or even dissatisfaction." The article once again noted the Colonels were frankly, not a good team.

It had also been their misfortune to start their season playing against the strongest clubs in the league. Up to this point, they'd played 20 of their first 35 games against Brooklyn, St. Louis, and Cincinnati, the top three clubs in the standings. They'd gone 2-18 against such a formidable schedule. They'd not done much better against the rest of the Association, save Kansas City.

The biggest problem thus far centered around their infield. Second baseman George Mack, shortstop Bill White, and third baseman Joe Werrick committed many errors in the field, giving many good teams more outs than they may have otherwise had. To make matters worse, their batting did not make up for the defensive slack. For instance, George Mack slashed the following for 1888: .217/.320/.289 (that's batting average, on-base percentage, slugging average) with an offensive wins above replacement (WAR) of .5 (his fielding percentage stood at .907). The rest of the infield was little better.

First base had a revolving cast of characters, pitcher Guy Hecker played there on occasion, as did three other players throughout the season. The outfield and pitching staff for the most part could stand against any in the league, but the infield play killed the Colonels.

Back to the June 4 article, it identified Hecker as the potential source of discontent within the team, stating he had was an opinionated man who did not hesitate to share his ideas. He had some disagreements with Kelly, but the article said the two talked and everything seemed fine.

Louisville started it's series against Cleveland in losing fashion, losing the first two games 8-5 and 6-5. The Courier-Journal stated little about these games and I don't have access to a Cleveland paper from this era, so I don't have a whole lot to share about these contests. However, compared to the news of June 6, 1888, these games really didn't matter much.

On June 6, William L. Lyons, the President of the Louisville Club and three other board members sold their interest in the Colonels to Mordecai Davidson, the club secretary who'd been with the team since the beginning.

The discord of the on the field ineptitude the Colonels showed on their eastern trip came to a head this meeting. Lyons, as he'd stated to the Courier-Journal, wanted to release first baseman Skyrocket Smith, George Mack, Bill White, and Joe Werrick and purchase an entirely new infield. Davidson thought the idea reckless and firmly disagreed.

One must remember in 1888 baseball clubs didn't have farm teams from which they could call up young players. They had to find and sign talent from the many minor league clubs around the country and hope they panned out. If not, the club plopped down a lot of money and got had nothing in return for such an outlay.

With the leadership at an impasse, Lyons decided he'd had enough as President of the Louisville Club. With this Davidson took over the leadership of the Louisville Colonels. The Courier-Journal stated the young businessman was well-liked by the players.

He hoped to get the club back on track, stating baseball was "too firmly established in Louisville for the citizens to allow the club to go to pieces and interest in the game to die out." He said he'd look into the problems and make corrections, thereby improving Louisville's standing. The paper also said Kelly probably would be released as manager, something then as now is typical when new ownership takes over a club. They want their people, and if the club's not performing well, the axe falls sooner.

Apparently, rumblings of a change had occurred for the days proceeding the sale. The Courier-Journal reported Guy Hecker's wife mentioned in a letter to him which he received when the team played in Brooklyn and stated Davidson looked as if he'd take control of the club. Hecker showed the letter to the other players and they told Kelly. The Courier-Journal intimated this may have been what caused the insinuation of player dissatisfaction.

Louisville celebrated the change in ownership on June 6, by losing a 23-19 defense/pitching optional match with Cleveland. Hecker started and Cleveland hit him hard. His defense didn't back him up, as the Falls City nine committed 13 errors on the day, and if not for the scorer's "charitable scoring" the total could've been much higher. Hecker did with the bat what he couldn't get done in the box, going 5-6 with three doubles. Pete Browning went 4-6 with a triple. All-in-all a sloppy day.

While the Democratic National Convention unanimously nominated President Grover Cleveland in St. Louis The John Kelly Era for the Colonels came to an end the next day as he submitted his resignation. The Colonels got swept by Cleveland (not the president) that day 13-4.

In his letter, he told Louisville's outgoing president Lyons "my request for new blood has been urgent, but the directory does not seem inclined to expend money to strengthen the nine." He went on by saying, "very naturally it is not my wish to be at the head of a losing club, when a comparatively small outlay, judiciously made would, I do not hesitate to say accomplish the end we all have in view, namely to win games."

The Courier-Journal stated rumors had Guy Hecker taking over the club, but he shot down such ideas. Other players said they didn't like Hecker and would not play for him if he became the manager. It appears most of the dissent on the Colonels came from Hecker, but to the degree we saw earlier in my post is difficult to surmise, he seemed a clubhouse cancer for sure.

Despite what many fans think, managers don't have total control over the outcome of games. They do have influence, don't get me wrong. They can mismanage certain elements of the game (calling for bunts, underutilizing young players, playing marginal talent, poorly constructing batting orders, and pitching staffs, for more evidence, reference Bryan Price), but for the most part, they put out the lineups the front office gives them. If the club puts together a talented, competent roster, they have better odds of winning than if they don't. Managers as I said, can negatively impact the team's play to a degree, but even a Sparky Anderson or Joe Maddon can only coax so much out of a club. It's difficult to tell simply from reading articles from 130 years ago, but John Kelly apparently did the best he could to produce a competitive ball club with little in the way of resources at his disposal.

The Louisville club on paper had some real assets, it had the nonpareil Pete Browning, a talented Chicken Wolf, and a capable pitching staff for sure. It also had some glaring holes, namely the infield and a terribly depleted crop of catchers. Good clubs cannot have many holes and it is the job of the front office to fill them. If the management is unable or unwilling to do so, no manager or no team will win. This is the case so far with the 1888 Colonels.

I liken it to the start of the 2018 season for the Cincinnati Reds. They too have some talented pieces (more than the '88 Colonels did for sure), but there were holes that injury to key players and front office inertia exposed to start the season. These issues contributed to a horrific 3-18 start for the club. Reds manager Bryan Price lost his job over the horrendous stretch of ball, and he did bear some of that blame for reasons mentioned above, but he wasn't solely to blame. The front office made glaringly bad roster decisions (Yovani Gallardo anyone?) which really caused the bulk of the Reds troubles.

A new manager in Jim Riggleman so far has shown a much better club, and so far he's been more innovative in roster management for sure, but can you lay the vast improvement at his feet? Some of it, sure, but it's talent which made the difference. The return from the DL of important pieces (Eugenio Suarez, Scott Schebler, Michael Lorenzen, and Anthony DeSclafani) and the improvement of young talent made the Reds better. A more talented roster makes all the difference.

In short, winning is a product of function and loss of dysfunction, always has, always will. A squared away front office makes the moves to put a winner on the field, it's energetic, and innovative. A dysfunctional front office doesn't do those things, the club suffers, and so too do the fans. A Pete Browning (or a Joey Votto) can only do so much.

The next few days for Louisville would bring a new manager, and new hope. In the next post, we'll find out who that was and how he'd fare.

Once again the Courier-Journal, Baltimore Sun, newspapers.com, and baseball-reference.com all contributed the meat of this blog. I'm merely the interpreter/misinterpreter.