On October 6, 1882, a dream brought to life in Pittsburgh the previous fall ended triumphantly when the Cincinnati Red Stockings beat the National League’s Chicago White Stockings 4-0, proving that teams from the fledgling American Association could go toe-to-toe with the established teams of the National League, which had been founded six years earlier. The victory must have been particularly sweet for the Red Stockings, which had been kicked out of the National League for selling beer at the ballpark and playing baseball on Sundays.
But Pittsburgh fans could only give grudging respect to the Red Stockings, as the Alleghenys had dropped ten of sixteen games against the eventual American Association victors.
The Alleghenys ended a break-even inaugural season with 39 wins, 39 losses, and one tie. They started on a positive note, beating Cincinnati 10-9 before an estimated 1,500 fans at the Bank Street Grounds. The Cincy first baseman stranded the winning runs on base and was released the same day. His replacement? The umpire from the first game! The Red Stockings doubled up the Alleghenys over the next two games, winning 7-3 and 19-10. Charlie Morton's great-great-grandfather may have played for the 1882 Alleghenys - there was a Charlie Morton on the team - but there is no record that he pitched the second game. After winning the fourth game, the Alleghenys returned home for a one-game homestand against the St. Louis Brown Stockings. The bizarre scheduling continued as the Pittsburgh club went back to Cincy for a single game, then returned home for a long series against the Red Stockings, the Louisville (Luh'ville to natives) Eclipse, and - again for only a single game - St. Louis. The Alleghenys finished their first month of professional ball with a 6-5 record.
Home games were played at Exposition Park, near the confluence of three rivers. The Dead Ball era website has some great pictures. Unfortunately, like all good things, they paved paradise and put up a parking lot.
The Alleghenys started June with an 11-game road swing out west - well, as west as it got in those days. They played St. Louis, Luh'ville, and CIncy (there were only six teams in the American Association). Setting the tone for the next 100+ years, they struggled on the road and endured a five-game losing streak. They returned home for four games against Philadelphia. On July 4, 1882, the Alleghenys travelled to St. Louis, where they swept another one game series by the score of 6-5. Unfortunately, they had sunk to 5th place, with a 12-16 overall record. The only team behind them in the standings was the struggling Baltimore Orioles, at 3-26. The Alleghenys closed out July with a 5-6 homestand.
In August, the American Association apparently replaced the drunk in charge of scheduling. The Alleghenys' schedule became more rational, if still strange by current standards. They travelled to Philly for four games, returned home for five games against the Orioles, then went on the road to Luh'ville and St. Louis. A four game series against the Philadelphia Athletics wrapped up August; the Alleghenys won three, improved to a 30-34 record, and slipped into 4th place ahead of the Orioles and the Brown Stockings.
The Alleghenys had a late season surge, beating the Orioles four straight and taking three of four from the Athletics. The Orioles foiled a sweep by forcing a 7-7 tie in the fifth game of the series. At 37 and 35, it looked promising until the Alleghenys returned home, where they were eclipsed by the Luh'ville Eclipse, who took four of the six games that ended the season.
The Allegheny hitters were led by outfielders Ed Swartwood and Jack Leary (who pitched the Opening Day game in Cincy). If you ever wondered why its called the "dead ball" era, Swartwood led the team with - wait for it - four home runs. He also led the team with 21 walks, which was particularly difficult to do (except for Allegheny pitchers) since you needed seven balls to be rewarded a walk. (Hopefully, Cocktails will not add an off-color remark regarding this piece of historical trivia.) Swartwood had a solid career and in 1884 was the first player to reach base against an opposing pitcher (Al Atkinson) who then got 27 outs without giving up another hit.
The ace of the Alleghenys' three-man rotation was Harry Salisbury, who won 20 and lost 18. Unfortunately, his teammates suspected him of tossing his last game against Luh'ville, which the Alleghenys lost 20-6. They believed Salisbury had signed a contract with the Eclipse for the 1883 season, but he never pitched again after 1882. Denny Driscoll and Harry Arundel rounded out the starting three, who gave up an astounding 72 walks (at 7 balls/walk). Four other pitchers, two of whom were position players, pitched at least one inning that season.
And that's a wrap on the first year of professional ball in Pittsburgh. Hopefully, spring training will get here soon!
For those interested in further reading, may I suggest The Beer & Whiskey League, by David Nemec. Player stats and the season records were all found at www.baseball-reference.com.