News From Terre Haute, Indiana

History

July 28, 2013

Historical perspective: Victory over Louisville Eclipse spurs confidence

TERRE HAUTE — If the reaction of those in attendance means anything, July 8, 1883 — 130 years ago — was a big day for Terre Haute baseball fans.

It was the day the Terre Haute Awkwards, one of the city’s first professional teams, defeated the Louisville Eclipse, Jr., 4 to 1.

The opponent was the reserve team for the Louisville Eclipse, a member of the major league American Association.

The exhibition game was played at the Awkwards’ new amphitheatre at 17th and Wabash. The crowd was considered large and, according to post-game reports, the players were inspired by the presence of “so many ladies.”

The local team had one disadvantage. The players did not arrive home from their game at Peoria until 4 a.m., leaving little time to rest before the 2:45 p.m. game.

Team captain Al Buckenberger had “his usual good luck,” according to the Terre Haute newspaper by winning the coin toss and choosing to bat last. Mike Stack was the Awkwards’ temporary manager. Andy Kaufman was the umpire.

Walter “Peek-A-Boo” Leach, an Indianapolis product, was the starting pitcher for the home team, and James “Deacon” McGuire was the catcher. It was McGuire’s first appearance in a Terre Haute uniform (or any pro team uniform, for that matter).

The first batter for the Eclipse, dressed in colorful yellowish-brown uniforms,  was second baseman Tom McLaughlin, a starter for the Eclipse major league team. He hit a high foul fly. Veach called out the ball was out of play but McGuire pursued it and made a spectacular catch against a screen protecting “the Ladies section.”

The play received ample applause and set the tone for the game. The next two men were retired in succession.

The Awkwards scored in the bottom of the first. Left fielder Ed Horn singled and Veach brought him home with a double.

The visitors scored their only run in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game on successive hits by Charles “Chub” Collins and August “Gus” Ruhl, assisted by an error.

Terre Haute shortstop Douglas “Shorty” Barnes opened the bottom of the eighth with a sharp single to centerfield. Five of the next seven batters got base hits and three runs were scored. Horn, Ed Halbriter and Buckenberger were credited with RBIs.

The scene while the Awkwards were on a roll was “exciting in the extreme.” The Eclipse refused to play until the unruly crowd quieted down and threatened to score in the bottom of the ninth but the side was retired with two men on base.

The victory was a product of timeliness: precision hitting and the inability of the visitors to hit Veach in crucial situations.

The Terre Haute Gazette lauded the Awkwards’ catcher from Albion, Mich.: “McGuire … is all that could be desired.”

Gate receipts for the game were $221.65. The Eclipse got one-half of that sum.

The Awkwards was one of two very strong independent professional teams in the city. They dominated the north half of the city. The Terre Haute Blues were the best team on the south side.

There was an intense rivalry between the two. Each club recruited players from far outside Terre Haute.  

On July 30, 1883 tryouts were held and the two teams consolidated. Among those who apparently did not tryout or did not make the cut were Andy Gallagher of Terre Haute, father of movie star Skeets Gallagher, Thomas C. Stunkard, later a prominent Terre Haute physician, and veteran Blues first baseman Major Milner.   

Veach was not on the Hottentots’ 1883 roster but played for Kansas City of the Union Association in 1884, Louisville of the American Association in 1887 and both Cleveland and Pittsburgh of the National League in 1890.

Those who made the roster were fitted for new gray uniforms with “Terre Haute” printed across the front. Caps of the new “Terre Hautes” were bottle green. Stockings and belts were brown. An enterprising journalist provided the nickname, “Hottentots.”

The team traveled around the eastern U.S. playing exhibition games against some of the nation’s best pro and semi-pro teams. It’s success resulted in the fruitful effort to join the Northwestern League in 1884, perhaps the nation’s best minor league.

That association effectively launched Terre Haute’s 73-year relationship with organized professional baseball that ended, sadly, on July 3, 1956.

The directors of the 1883 Terre Haute Baseball Association were Edwin Ellis, Merrill N. Smith, Eli W. Leeds, Charles W. Robinson, George A. Hammerstein and Charles E. Vandever.

Ellis was president, Leeds was treasurer and Alonzo “Cap” Duddleston succeeded Robinson as secretary. Duddleston played briefly for the Terre Haute Blues.

When the season ended on Oct. 8, McGuire and third baseman Will Andrus of Orono, Ontario, were tied for the best batting average on the team at .309.  First baseman Al Stump of Terre Haute and pitcher-third baseman James Donnelly of New Haven, Conn., were tied at .298 for third place.

The remaining roster looked like this:

Outfielder-catcher Charles Krehmeyer, St. Louis, .288; second baseman Albert “Cod” Myers, Terre Haute, .284; first baseman-outfielder Horn, Detroit, .282; second baseman Buckenberger, Detroit, .268; shortstop Barnes, Indianapolis but a native of Brownsburg, .267; infielder Sam Hill, Terre Haute, .251; pitcher-outfielder Henry Murphy, New Orleans, .250; pitcher-outfielder Halbriter, Auburn, N.Y., .173; pitcher-outfielder Billy Nelson, Terre Haute, .168; and pitcher-outfielder Arthur T. Packard, Ann Arbor, Mich., .130.

McGuire, Krehmeyer, Myers, Buckenberger and Nelson later played in the majors. Halbriter played with the Philadelphia A’s of the major league American Association in 1882.

And Henry Murphy pitched for Indianapolis in 1883 before the Awkwards acquired him.

 

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