Thursday, December 22, 2005

Baseball in Early California, 2

The season of 1884 represented the beginning of the first golden age of California baseball, one that would last until the Panic of 1893 shut down baseball all over the state. And for several years, I might add.

After the multiple box-office failures of 1883, the 1884 season took almost forever to get started, with bats finally being crossed on July 27. The league concluded its season with all clubs crossing the finishing line on November 23. (An October rainout was rescheduled for November 27, after the season closed, but never came off.)

The 1884 season consisted of ten Sunday contests, and the California League would remain a Sunday-only affair until 1888, when the population centers would support more baseball. It also marked the first appearance of the great Haverly [Theater] team, and the first great California-bred pitcher, Billy Incell, who went 8-0 for the Haverlys, and led the league with 107 strikeouts.

For the first time ever, the same clubs came back for an encore season in the California League in 1885. The league got an early start (on February 1), but could only make through the May 24 games of a schedule that envisioned finishing in up in late November.

I don’t know if the cause of the collapse was anyway related to the completion it received by the California State League, which began play on May 10, but it could not have helped. The State League itself folded in within a few weeks (June 7), it could boast a first for professional baseball in California. Fred McKenzie of the Sacramento Union club came in to relieve Andy Piercy— one of the first great stars of 19th century baseball— pitched three innings of ball, good enough to pick up a save though he gave up 4 hits and 2 runs, and in doing so became the first African-American to pitch in a professional league in the state of California. McKinzie played for independent teams in and around Sacramento for a number of years. He also appeared in the California and California State leagues in three seasons.

Fred McKinzie

1885 Sacramento (California State)
1886 SF Californias (California State)
1887 Sacramento Altas (California)

Tomorrow I will continue with the 1886 season, a season in which the state had both the California and California State leagues, and the point where John Spalding’s pioneering work, Always On Sunday, picks up the California League story.

Note: I noticed a couple of omissions in the league chart that I published yesterday, which I had entered into my book by hand but had not typed into the chart itself, so I will correct it here in this post.

Click on Image to Enlarge League Chart


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