Tuesday, January 17, 2012


It's 1876 and the Syracuse Stars exploded on to the national scene. After moving into their new home at Lakeside Park on May 5, 1876  they won the first contest against Ithaca 8-6. They now awaited the arrival of the  Lynn Live Oaks for a two game series later the month. The Stars lost the first 8-3 but captured the rematch behind the hurling of Henry McCormick 18-7. More national teams followed,  August 28th Boston was held to a single run in a 4-1 Stars win and the St Louis Browns were shutout by McCormick three days later 7-0. The powerful Chicago White Stockings were next splitting a pair of games in September. Losing the first game 8-4 helped the hungry Stars take revenge on that September 20 rematch 2-0 as McCormick out dueled later to be Hall of Famer Albert Spaulding. The key was McCormick's ability to shutdown  another Hall of Famer Cap Anson without a single base hit. The home stand attracted upwards of 4.000 fans which was a new team attendance record.

October 7, 1876- each member of the Stars team received a "Gold Badge" in the shape of a star. The star shaped badge was attached to a cluster of baseballs and bats with a pin attached to the back with their names inscribed.

The 1876 season ending totals read 46 wins, 13 loses. Henry McCormick success with his  new curved pitch led the Stars to the top of the baseball world. His defeat by the Chelsea Club of Brooklyn on August 25 broke a string on 16 straight victories and a period of three months since his last defeat. There were also some setbacks. John Dunn played in his last game in a Stars uniform in July and resigned due to a hand injury. Mr. Brackett handled the club with varying success until the latter part of June when he made the announcement to the Board of Directors that unless he could receive financial aid, he would have to disband the nine. The Stars were playing brilliantly and rather than see it go to pieces, several gentlemen of this city came forward and advanced the necessary funds ($1,700) for which season tickets were issued.

The July 24 team meeting resulted in a re-organization of the "Star Base Ball Association". A Constitution and by-laws were adopted and capital stock of $3,000 issued. One hundred and twenty shares of  $25 each, nearly every share was taken by its members. A new board was set up consisting of Philip.S. Ryder, E.N. Underhill, Horatio White, W.I. Ross, William Hart, Frank Marsh, G.H. Perry, John J. Towne, George Porter, G.A. Cool and Robert Townsend. At a subsequent meeting of the board, the following officers were elected- President- Philip S. Ryder, Vice President- Hamilton S. White, Secretary- Robert Townsend, Treasurer- E.N. Westcott. Soon the broad made free admission to the park for ladies for non-league games. League contests the 25 cent entrance fee still applies, but with a reduction for grandstand use 10 cents.

The financial affairs of the club were now on a sound basis, but before long it became apparent to the directors that Mr. Brackett was not the man who could make a general success of the rest of the season. At a general meeting on August 19, the board excepted his resignation and Mike Dorgan appointed in his place. Mr. Brackett soon signed on a to manage Auburn. During July personal changes had occurred, Ham Allen and Pep Hall had replaced McGlynn and Purray. While on August 24, manager Mike Dorgan signed former Live Oaks outfielder James Tipper to finish out the season. We could fill a volume of details and comments on that first professional season in Syracuse Baseball History and one of the most brilliant and successful seasons ever played. At seasons end president Philip S. Ryder was presented with a beautiful gold badge by Stars team members as evidence of the appreciation and respect which was felt by ever man. Team photos were taken by Mr. Ryder on October 16. The Stars were pictured in there new brown uniforms trimmed with white, brown stockings and white hats with brown trim.

High expectation rained for 1877, in the fall Mr. Ryder quickly signed McKinnon, Farrell, McCormick, Hall, Tipper, Geer and Auburn native Mike Mansell. Mansell is one of three brothers who all played professional baseball and was a member of the Buckeyes of Columbus, Ohio in 1876. He join the Stars for one late 1876 exhibition game and showed his outfield skills.

The Star Base Ball Association had a banner year in 1877. Their 64-43-3 record included two victories over League Champion- Boston. The Twinklers were described as an amateur team by some writers. Al Spaulding, who sometimes overlooked the fact to get the truth, called the Stars a strong semi-pro outfit. The New York Sun lamented, "That miserable little amateur baseball club from the obscure village of Syracuse seems to be giving our noble western professionals a vast amount of hardwood". The Stars Association was the only team not included in an organized league in 1877.

Henry McCormick again was in the pitchers box, but this time without Mike Dorgan behind the plate. Dorgan had signed on with the St. Louis Brown in early January at a reported contact price of $1,600. Thus Dorgan became the first Syracusan to reach big time status. In his place Mr. Ryder landed what was to be a shinning star in the Stars stable that being slugger Dick "Buzz" Higham from the old New York Mutuals. The English baseball mercenary swung a potent stick. He twice led the National Association and the National League before embarking on his ill-fated career as an umpire. Higham became Stars captain with manger duties split between Frank Marsh and Philip S. Ryder.

McCormick's underhanded slants from 45 feet were good for 59 victories and 30 defeats. Henry McCormick started and finished 100 games. New faces were Dick Higham. William "Hickory" Carpenter, Pete "Monkey" Hotaling, James "Speed" Clinton and Mike Mansell.

Lloyd Johnson note baseball historian wrote in his 1984 S.A.B.R. article "Long 1877 Duel of Zeroes Put Syracuse on Map". What Loyd's article referred to was the contest of May 1, 1877 that year between the Stars and the St. Louis Browns a member of the National League. Henry Chadwick called it in his New York Clipper article as "The Grandest Game Ever Played". Newspaper sports pages across the country screamed that it was "One of the most remarkable games ever". The game itself witnessed two teams battle to a 15 innings scoreless tie 0-0. Never had two squads played so long without scoring. There was heavy hitting, splendid fielding and universal brilliant play. The St Louis club managed seven hits off  Henry McCormick, while Syracuse had only two off Tricky Nichols. The closet either team came to scoring a run was in the eighth frame. A sparkling catch and strong throw by Stars outfielder Pete Hotaling caught the St. Louis's Davy Force as he tried to score from third after the catch.

With this game the Stars served notice that it could play in a "fast" league. The Stars lineup that day read- Hall (rf), Geer (ss), Higham (c), McKinnon (1b), Carpenter (3b), Hotaling (lf), Mansell (cf), Farrell (2b) and McCormick (p).

The games played against Auburn were always the most profitable. Some four thousand fans came to Lakeside Park for their July 4th contest. The day before 1,000 Syracusans paid 50 cents a head to see the champion Boston Reds go down to defeat 2-0 behind McCormick's curve ball.

The Star Association banked $900 from their first western swing and 41,000 from the second. The only Eastern trip started with a crowd of 4,00 in Boston. A second game drew considerable fewer. It can be assumed that those two games paid for the entire trip. Catcher- outfielder Pete Hotaling returns behind the plate on the July 10th waring a wire mask for protection. Hotaling had been struck in the eye by a foul tip in early June.

Early in the season the Stars pulled off there first triple play. Alex McKinnon hit the only home run of the year in August. August 27, Henry McCormick defeated his nemesis, the Only Nolan of Indianapolis, twice in one day. The morning game was a no-hitter and the afternoon ended in a 5-3 Stars victory.

September 10, a  $1,000 tournament for non-league teams started in Pittsburgh between the hometown Alleghenies, Indianapolis, and the Stars. Pud Galvin the Only Nolan and Henry McCormick were in the pitchers box. McCormick dueled to the delight of the fans and to the detriment of the pool sellers. The Stars lost to the Alleghenies, beat Indianapolis an then  won a hard fought 10 innings contest against the Alleghenies. Betting was heavy and bookies circulated the rumor that this encounter had been rigged. On the last day day of the tournament Syracuse lost to Nolan. The made each team even at two wins and two loses.

The team teams then went to Chicago to resume their series. The Stars opened with wins over both teams and then lost to Indianapolis in extra innings. In the thrilling finale the Stars outlasted the Allegheny club 6-4 to prevent another tied series. Betting and arguing were a part of the game in 1877, and were somewhat responsible for the growing fan interest. The Chicago Times denounced the tournament as a "swindle" with the outcome fixed by gamblers, especially the championship game won by the Stars on September 22. Later two Allegheny team members confirmed that the Chicago games were "fixed" and that a number of Allegheny team directors had bet on Syracuse.

 Hoping to capitalize on the fans' insatiable appetite for baseball, Syracuse joined Auburn, Buffalo, Binghamton and Rochester for a New York Championship Tournament. Cold weather, an early tie and a lost to the host team Rochester sent the Stars home. The year ended with a 7-6 victory against the Cricket Club on October 11. Alex McKinnon's .293 batting and .954 fielding percentage led the brilliant club that out scored its opponents by over 100+ runs.

As the 1878 baseball year opened both Syracuse and Buffalo had joined the International Association. The Association was but one year old with these additions became stronger and a rival to the National League had existed since 1876. The entry fee was $30 and annual dues of $20 per club was assured. Visiting teams were guaranteed $75 and the number for deadheads (19th century term for those who do not play admission but still gain admittance) jumped from ten to twelve. The early International Association was one of the three new league which came into being in 1877. The League Alliance and the New England State League were the others.

The stock in the club reported as all taken amounts to 100 shares at $25 per share making a grand total of $2,500 to total value. New A.C. Spaulding uniforms were worn by all. The only question was if their new field at Newell Park (located at the corner of So. Salina and Croton Streets now known as East Raynor Avenue) with its seating capacity of 1,000 could be ready by opening day. In view of the large crowds expected the management has added 100 feet to the grandstand to seat an additional 550 fans. Mr. Rae the Stars manager resigned on May 6 due to poor health of his father, and would be replaced by Mike Dorgan. Also Stars umpire Joseph Young ends his on field relationship and his place is taken by former Stars great John J. Dunn.

The ball club lined up much as the previous year (with the exception of Dick Higham) Speed Clinton, Billy Geer. Moose Farrell, Henry McCormick, Alex McKinnon, Mike Mansell, Hick Carpenter and Pete Hotaling formed the nucleus of the Stars team. Jim Macullar from Lowell (1876) & Auburn (1877)  plugged the shortstop gap. Syracuse favorite Mike Dorgan returned from St. Louis to fill the captaincy and catching duties left by Higham who had returned to the National League. George Derby replaced Clinton as number two pitcher/outfielder behind Henry McCormick.

The 1878 newcomers did included one oldie, George Adams who patrolled the outfield in 1876 and was one of the two survivors of the original Live Oak jumpers. John Richmond held down infield position for the Athletics of both Philadelphia and Ithaca. He played shot for Binghamton before joining the Stars. Frank Heifer former member of the Champion Boston Red Stockings of"75 and later Erie and Buffalo. Tom Smith who came with John Richmond from Binghamton and Hal McClure played many years in the New England area.

Play in 1878 was similar to today yet not quite the same. Three called balls and the batters took his base. The umpire stood between first and home plate in foul territory. The batter could call for a high or low pitch. High strike zone was from the belt to the top of the shoulders. Low strike zone was from the belt to the bottom of the knees.

All summer defending champion Tecumseh found itself locked in a ding dong battle with Buffalo, Syracuse and Utica. Buffalo had the Alleghany club's stars- Galvin & Fulmer. Utica pushed by their slugging center fielder Hardie Richardson stayed tough. Tecumsch made up of a good defense was stronger than the previous year. The London, Ontario, teams had disbanded when they saw they had no chance. The Stars led the pennant chase all season. In 1878 the Stars were at the peak of a remarkable four year raise. Now they became the best team ever to carry the Syracuse name.

The whole season came down to Buffalo, Syracuse and the umpires. Buffalo had won 13 straight games on a home stand late in the season. Rivals claimed that it was due to umpire C.W. Nichols (the notorious homer) weird calls. In the league championship game the Buffalo's scored nine runs in the first two innings and held the Star to a single run. 3,000 howling, waving and screaming supporters shoved into the ballpark to watch this battle. In the pitchers box were future Hall of Famer James "Pud" Galvin against Henry McCormick. A tough loss, but the twinklers had one last trick to play.

Rochester disbanded on August 21. The Stars claimed a forfeit from them for a scheduled August 23 championship game. The Stars explained that though Rochester had released its players, they still existed as a club. If the win counted, Syracuse and Buffalo would be tied for the prize money and the pennant. October 3 the Stars defeated the Lowell's and claimed the International Association crown.

The final decision on the forfeit came the following February 18 during Los Angeles meetings. The 1878 pennant was awarded to Buffalo with a 24-8 record, Syracuse was 23-9. As per W. Lloyd Johnson's comment "We Was Robbed".

Mike Dorgan received the "Clipper Badge Award" for having the best fielding average in his position for 1878. The award was presented by the New York Clipper Newspaper a national publication.

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