Season Recap: 1884
League Champion: Providence Grays
1884 – At the annual meeting of the minor-league Northwest League, the first-place Toledo Blue Stockings are declared the league champion for 1883. But because Toledo has moved from the NWL to the major league American Association for 1884, the NWL pennant is awarded to the second-place Saginaw Greys. The NWL also rescinds its prohibition of Sunday baseball and the sale of beer at its ballparks, thereby aligning itself with AA policy and against the National League policy.
1884 – In a five-inning game played on ice skates in Brooklyn, Chicago White Stockings ace pitcher Larry Corcoran leads his team of mostly amateurs to a 41 – 12 win over a team composed of mostly professionals. Corcoran’s team was assembled by veteran sportswriter Henry Chadwick. In four days, the pros will beat Corcoran and another group of amateurs, 16 – 8.
1884 – P/IF Terry Larkin, released from prison after serving several months for beating his wife and shooting a policeman, is rearrested for threatening to shoot his father. Larkin will eventually be freed to conclude his major league career this year, playing for the Washington Nationals and the Richmond Virginians in the American Association.
1884 – The Union Association admits the Boston Reds club organized by George Wright, bringing the number of teams to eight. The UA also decides to stick with the seven-ball walk rule, and the schedule is expanded to 112 games, with the percentage system adopted for determining the champion team. The regular season opens with three games. Baltimore Monumentals pitcher Bill Sweeney throws a five-hit, 7 – 3 victory over the Washington Nationals. It is the first of what will be a season-high 40 victories for Sweeney, 12 more than his closest rival, Hugh Daily.
1884 – During an exhibition game between the National League Philadelphia Quakers and American Association Philadelphia Athletics, umpire William McLean, reacting to fans’ taunts, hurls a bat into the stands, hitting but not injuring a spectator. McLean is arrested after the game, but the charges are soon dropped.
In a National League contest played at the South End Grounds, Umpire Van Cort infuriates the visiting Detroit Wolverines when he calls their batter out on a third-strike foul tip. Mike Hines, the Beaneaters’ backstop, clearly did not catch the strike three because the ball becomes wedged in his catcher’s mask.
With RF Mike Dorgan committing 5 errors‚ New York loses to Providence‚ 19 – 5‚ at the Polo Grounds. The New York Times reports that the game is so bad that “the Siamese Embassy [staff] occupied the stockholder box and showed their knowledge by leaving in the middle of the game.” Charlie Sweeney (8-1) has 4 hits‚ 3 doubles and scores 4 times.
Taking advantage of a ground rule change which scores balls hit over Chicago’s inviting 180-foot LF fence as home runs (instead of doubles)‚ five players hit round-trippers in the White Stockings’ National League home opener against Detroit‚ winning 15 – 5. Chicago will hit 142 homers – last year they hit 13 – during the 112-game season (more than 90 percent of them at home) to set a record that will last until the 1927 New York Yankees. The rule change appears to be unilaterally made by Cap Anson‚ and the other league owners will squawk to no avail. But the league will set a minimum distance of 210 feet for an outfield fence after the season.
1884 – Dissatisfied with umpire Jack Brennan’s calls, hundreds of fans storm the field at Oriole Park in an American Association game between the Orioles and Louisville Eclipse. One man wielding a large revolver threatens to shoot Brennan if he makes any more bad calls. Police have to be called in to clear the mob, and after the game, which ends in a 4 – 4 tie, Brennan is slugged to the ground by a fan and has to be taken to the Orioles clubhouse, then to OF Jim Clinton’s home for his own protection, before being whisked out of town on the first train.
Due to inflammation in his right index finger, Larry Corcoran of the White Stockings (Cubs) pitches both left-handed and right-handed in a game against the Bisons. The natural right-hander hurlsambidextrously for four innings, alternating throwing arms, before moving to shortstop in Chicago’s 20-9 loss at Buffalo’s Olympic Park.
The Buffalo Bisons were in Cleveland playing the Blues when in the bottom of the first the Sam Moffet, led off for Cleveland. He doubled, but he was the number eight hitter on the official lineup card. He was declared out. Under today’s rules, the correct lead off hitter, Bill Phillips, would have been called out.
Meriden, ahead 5-3 in the top of the ninth inning, wins the Connecticut State League contest when Hartford forfeits because the team refuses to use a new ball, needed to replace the one that was hit foul into a marsh behind home plate, citing the sphere did not come from a box sealed by the league secretary. The suddenly shortened game also featured the only home run hit that season at the Meriden ballpark, a round-tripper stroked by its captain, future Hall of Fame manager Connie Mack.
1884 – The National League agrees to allow overhand pitching, but rules that pitchers must keep both feet on the ground throughout their pitching motion in order to reduce the velocity of their pitches. They still must throw the ball at the height requested by the batter. In addition, teams are now required to supply a separate bench for each club at their park to limit inter-team fraternization.