The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Saturday, July 14, 2001


Hanging with Score Card Harry

I'm on the road this weekend, spending a couple days up in sunny Northampton, Massachusetts, at my friend Nick's mother and stepfather's place. Interestingly enough, Nick's stepfather is the great-grandson of Harry M. Stevens, the famed sports concessionaire. Stevens occupies a prominent place in the creation of the baseball experience. He is credited with introducing both hot dogs and scorecards to the sporting public, and built an empire around these staples.

There are a few pieces of Stevens-related memorabilia hanging in a hallway here. There's a bio of "Score Card Harry" from the New York Clipper, dated June 27, 1896. It details the growth of Stevens' operation, beginning in Columbus of the Ohio State League, in 1887, and continuing through his gaining the right to sell scorecards at the Polo Grounds in 1895. Also on the wall is the cover of one of those 1895 scorecards for the New York Base Ball Club (the Giants), featuring a full-color illustration of a ballfield from the first base side. A spectator with top hat, moustache, and cigar is in the foreground.

The item which has caught my fascination for the better part of this afternoon is an even older scorecard. This one is a 2-color card from 1892, the offical score card of the Washington Base Ball Club (the Senators). It features a photo of Boston catcher and future Hall of Famer Mike "King" Kelly on the cover, and the scorecard is unfolded into four panels. On the front side are ads for sporting goods, alcohol, and tobacco. The back is also visible thorugh a cutout on the other side of the frame. The lineups for a game between the Senators and the Cleveland Spiders are printed. Here they are (I used to fill in the first names):

Paul Radford, 3B
Tommy Dowd, 2B
Dummy Hoy, CF
Henry Larkin, 1B
Jocko Milligan, C
Charlie Duffee, LF
Danny Richardson, SS
Frank Killen, P
Patsy Donovan, RF

Cupid Childs, 2B
Jake Virtue, 1B
George Davis, 3B
Ed McKean, SS
Jimmy McAleer, CF
Jesse Burkett, LF
Jack O'Connor, RF
Chief Zimmer, C
George Rettger, P and Cy Young, P (both listed)

The Washington lineup isn't much, befitting a team which went 58-93 and finished 10th out of 12 teams. The most recognizable name is that of Dummy Hoy, a 5'4", 148 lb deaf-mute outfielder who, according to the Baseball Online Library, was the reason umpires adopted hand signals for safe, out, and strike calls. Hoy went on to rack up over 2000 hits, played in four major leagues (NL, AL, Players League, and the American Association), and lived to the ripe old age of 99. He even got to throw out the first pitch of a World Series game in 1961, the year of his death. The only other Senator I recognize, but who wasn't in the lineup that day, is Deacon McGuire, a catcher who played in 26 seasons. McGuire's last appearance in the bigs is one for the annals; in 1912, when he was 48 years old, he was part of a one-game makeshift team fielded by the Detroit Tigers. The regular Tigers were on strike in support of a suspended Ty Cobb, and the replacements were pounded 24-2 by the Philadelphia A's.

The Cleveland lineup is much better; they went 93-56, and finished second in the NL. Cy Young you know about (511 wins, and an award named after him, for you rookies out there). George Davis was in the second year of a Hall of Fame career which included over 2600 hits. Jesse Burkett was even better than Davis, hitting over .400 three times (the only other man to do that that Cobb fella). Burkett, known as "the Crab" for his cheerful disposition, ran off a seven-year span in which his hit totals ranged from 198 to 240, and he finished with 2850 for his Hall of Fame career.

The Spiders' lineup was incredibly stable. Only two bench players saw any action, and of the seven pitchers, two appeared in only one game and another (the aforementioned Rettger) in five. Young pitched in 53 games, completing 48 out of 49, going 36-12 with a 1.93 ERA. They just don't make 'em like that anymore.

Returning to the scorecard, the back has several alcohol ads, including one for Faust Beer, "the Healthiest and Finest Drink you can offer your friend," brewed by Anheuser Busch, and Pabst Milwaukee Beer, which "leads them all, and everybody uses it." For those who use too much of it, there are ads for the Silver Ash Institue for the Cures of Alcohol and Opium Habits, and the Blackstone Gold Cure Institute for the Cure of Liquor, Opium, and Morphine Habits. I don't know about you, but I'm picturing an opium den under the bleachers of Boundary Field, where the Nats played.

The scorecard itself is only partially filled out, listing what appears to be a line score for each team; if this is to be believed, the Senators scored 11 runs in the first inning, added two in the sixth, and five in the seventh (I'm a bit skeptical). The Spiders apparently managed only one in the sixth and three in the seventh, making the final score 18-4. Another possiblity is that the scores are cumulative, and that the 11 in the first is actually a tally of two, in which case the final would have been 5-3. The inning-by-inning boxes aren't filled in, but there are some dots in totals columns (AB, R, 1B, TB, SH, PO, A, E) which reveal that whoever was scoring lost interest fairly early (two players have three at bats, the rest one or two).

Anyway... Stuart Rose, Stevens' great-grandson, obtained the scorecards and other items at an auction after the business (which was passed down to Stevens' sons upon Harry Stevens' death in 1934) was sold. Stuart was kind enough to break out the auction catalog, which includes some amazing reproductions of the types of memorabilia more likely to wind up in a Sotheby's auction than an eBay one:
• the cover of the program from Opening Day at Yankee Stadium (April 18, 1923)
• an autographed photo of Babe Ruth hitting his 60th home run (!!!), inscribed "To my second Dad, Harry M. Stevens, from Babe Ruth, Dec. 25th, 1927"
• a photo of a giant hot dog which reads:
50 Years Old
Look How He's Grown
Golden Jubilee Testimonial Dinner to the Stevens Boys
on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Hot Dog
by the New York Baseball Writers.
Hotel Commodore, Jan. 14, 1941.
• the cover of the first Mets program, from 1962, featuring a diapered baby
• the cover of the program for the first Ali-Frazier heavyweight championship fight, featuring a garish Leroy Niemann painting, at Madison Square Garden, dated March 8, 1971.

It's that scorecard that blows me away though, the way a 109-year old piece of paper, a cryptic telegram from the past, revealed some of its secrets, but kept others for itself (what was the date? how did those runs score? was the scorer a busy Harry M. Stevens himself?). All in all, an extremely compelling collection of items, and a thoroughly fascinating way to spend a few hours on a Saturday afternoon. Thanks again to Stuart Rose, his wife Wally, and my pal Nick Stone for their hospitality and for giving me the opportunity to rummage through their memorabilia.

posted by Jay  # 11:10 AM
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