City Series by Frederick Ivor-Campbell: 19th Century series

Article reprinted with permission from Total Baseball, First Edition, copyright Sport Media Enterprises Inc.

You can click on the series title to see a summary of the games with the line scores, pitchers of record, and home runs when known. These are based on boxscores in the book The Forgotten Championships by Jerry Lansche, published in 1989 by McFFarland & Company. (It may be available from or Alibris.) Due to the difficulty of obtaining consistent and reliable information about these games, the accuracy of the data shown in the series summary pages cannot be guaranteed.

In the 19th Century (and even in the first part of the 20th), the home team could choose to bat first and often did. One reason was being able to hit a new baseball, which most often was the only one used in the game. In some years, a walk was counted as a hit.

But the city and regional series that most often drew large crowds were those between clubs from different major leagues. The first such series took place in 1882, the first year there were two major leagues, between Ohio's National League Cleveland Blues and the Cincinnati Red Stockings of the new American Association. Because the AA was regarded by the NL as an illegitimate upstart, the three-game series was played in defiance of "protests and warnings."

1882 Ohio: Cleveland Blues (NL), 2; Cincinnati Red Stockings (AA), 1

The Reds had run away with the AA pennant while Cleveland had finished its season barely above .500, in fifth place. Yet even though the series was held in Cincinnati, the Reds were able to capture only one game from the older club. Cleveland's George Bradley, a veteran pitcher whose best years were behind him, faced the Reds in the opener and gave up the game's first run in the third inning. But he blanked the Reds the rest of the way as his Blues scored three runs to win. The Blues started an outfielder, Dave Rowe, in the box for Game Two, and he gave up enough runs before Bradley relieved him in the third inning to assure Cincinnati of at least one win. In the finale, though, Cleveland pitched its ace, Jim McCormick, against Harry McCormick (no relation) of the Reds, a good enough pitcher, but not in Jim's class. The large Cincinnati crowd saw Jim McCormick blank their Reds on three hits, while the Blues took advantage of nine hits and ten Cincinnati errors to capture the Ohio championship with an 8-0 win.

1883 Ohio: Cleveland Blues (NL), 2; Cincinnati Red Stockings (AA), 0; one tie

Cincinnati repeated as host to Cleveland for an Ohio series the next year. Both clubs had played well, enjoying winning season records, although neither contended seriously for the pennant. Cleveland again defeated the Reds, this time with victory in the first two games. Their 8-1 win in the opener was a near repeat of their third-game win the previous year, as the Blues again capitalized on Red errors (and five passed balls). Will Sawyer, Cleveland's third-ranked pitcher (ace Jim McCormick played all three games in right field), meanwhile held Cincinnati to five hits, shutting them down over the final eight innings.

The Reds' ace Will White made his only pitching appearance of either series in Game Two. But although he was the AA's best pitcher, Cleveland hit him hard, with twelve hits. Only the fact that five Blues were thrown out at home kept Cleveland's score as low as five runs. Cincinnati hit Cleveland's Hugh "One Arm" Daily hard, too, and held a 4-0 lead after four innings. But the Reds scored no more before darkness halted play after eight, and Cleveland won the game and the series by one run. In the meaningless third game Cincinnati took an early lead. Cleveland went ahead with a three-run seventh, but before darkness ended the series an inning later, the Reds scored to tie the game. This was the end of the Ohio series for the foreseeable future, as the Cleveland franchise folded at the end of a disastrous 1884 season.

Two city series were inaugurated in 1883 that continued for several years. Both New York and Philadelphia entered new teams in the NL, and both played their AA counterparts for their city titles in October.

1883 New York: Metropolitan (AA), 2; Gothams (NL), 1; one tie

New York's Metropolitan Club was also new to the big time in 1883, finishing fourth in the AA while the NL Gothams (later known as the Giants) could do no better than sixth in their league. In their series of four games, the teams proved nearly equal. The opener featured splendid fielding and a pitching duel between aces Tim Keefe of the Mets and the Gothams' Mickey Welch, which was not settled until the Mets pushed across a run in the last of the tenth to break a 2-2 tie. The clubs' second-line hurlers, Monte Ward of the Gothams and Jack Lynch of the Mets, pitched just as effectively the next day. The Gothams carried a 3-2 lead into the last of the ninth, but the Mets scored a tying run when Gotham catcher Buck Ewing—claiming it was too dark to see—took his position fifty feet behind the plate, allowing the tying Met run to score from second. The game was then called for darkness.

After two close contests, Games Three and Four were blowouts. Neither Keefe nor Welch proved effective in Game Three, but the Gothams committed more errors and gave the Mets a 10-5 win. The situation was reversed in the final game, when the Gothams drove out Lynch with twelve runs in the first three innings. First baseman Dave Orr eventually took over the pitching duties and dampened the Gotham bats, but the rescue came too late to prevent the Gothams' only series win, 15-3.

1884 New York: Metropolitan (AA), 1; Gothams (NL), 1; one tie

The Mets won the AA pennant in 1884 and warmed up for their three-game series with NL champion Providence (for the "championship of the United States"—what we now view as baseball's first World Series) with three games against the Gothams for the city title. Although the Gothams had tied for fourth in the NL, the best the Mets could do was win one game against them and tie another. In the first two games the Mets took a four-run lead in the first inning. In Game One the Gothams tied the score before darkness halted play after five innings, and in the second game the Mets' sloppy fielding allowed the Gothams to catch up again. But the Mets this time scored a tie-breaking run in the last of the sixth before darkness closed in.

The series finale drew only a small crowd. Although darkness held the game to just five innings, the Mets committed ten errors, throwing away the game to the Gothams 9-7. A week later Providence swept the Mets for the world title.

1885 New York: Giants (NL), 2; Metropolitan (AA), 1

John Day, who owned both the Mets and the Gothams, sent pitcher Tim Keefe and Met manager Jim Mutrie over to the Gothams in 1885 to strengthen the club. As a result the Gothams made a strong run for the NL pennant and became known as the Giants, while the Mets dropped to seventh in the AA. Not surprisingly the Giants defeated the Mets in the city series, although the games were much closer than might have been expected. In the opener the Mets tagged former teammate Keefe for nine hits while their pitcher, Jack Lynch, held the Giants to seven. But the Giants bunched their hits more effectively and won 5-3.

Keefe starred in Game Two four days later, not only hurling the 6-5 Giant victory, but leading his team with two hits and a pair of runs scored. With the series already decided, several Giant regulars skipped the third game. Mickey Welch pitched effectively, holding the Mets to just four hits. But two of them came in the first inning and, combined with an error, made possible two Met runs. The Mets scored no more, but they didn't need to, as Buck Becannon shut out the Giants through five innings before darkness brought the game and the series to an end.

1885 New York Area: Giants (NL), 1; Brooklyn (AA), 0; one tie

In between their games with the Mets, the Giants also played a series with Brooklyn, a fifth-place finisher in the AA. Welch pitched the opener—officially a three-hit 4-2 Giant win in seven innings. Actually the score stood 5-4 in the Giants' favor in the last of the eighth, with a Brooklyn runner on third and none out when the game was called for darkness, and the eighth-inning scoring was erased from the record.

The second Giants-Brooklyn game was in the seventh inning when darkness ended it in a 3-3 tie. There was to have been a third game, but Brooklyn released its players for the season. So the Giants took on a "Brooklyn" team made up of players from several clubs, including Giant pitcher Welch. The Giants knocked Welch for twelve hits, while Larry Corcoran held Brooklyn to six hits and hit a home run himself, to help New York take a 6-3 win.

1886 New York: Giants (NL), 3; Metropolitan (AA), 1

1886 New York Area: Brooklyn (AA), 3; Giants (NL), 1

In 1886 the Giants, who had finished third in the NL, played their metropolitan opponents four times each. They defeated the seventh-place Mets three games to one, but lost by the same margin to a greatly improved Brooklyn team that had enjoyed its first winning season while finishing a solid third, 91 games ahead of the AA's fourth-place club. The Giants won their first two city series games, defeating the Mets 4-1 and 5-3, then took on Brooklyn and lost 7-2. They came back for another pair of wins, clinching the Mets series with a 3-0 shutout as Mickey Welch scattered four hits over the five innings played, then repaying their loss to Brooklyn with their own 7-2 win.

But then, after a day of rest, the Giants lost their final three games. First Brooklyn defeated them, coming back from a 1-6 deficit as Welch yielded seven walks (and Giant third baseman Dude Esterbrook made several costly errors), scoring four runs in the last of the sixth (and final) inning for an 8-6 win. Then Brooklyn's Adonis Terry shut them out on two hits to capture the series. Finally, the Mets salvaged some dignity by tying the Giants in the top of the ninth and scoring three runs in the tenth for their only series win.

There was no more postseason interleague city series play in metropolitan New York for twenty-four years. The Mets folded after the 1887 season. The Giants did face Brooklyn once more in the post-season before Brooklyn switched to the NL in 1890: in 1889 the Giants defeated Brooklyn in the World Series, six games to three.

1883 Philadelphia: Phillies (NL), 2; Athletics (AA), 1

The Athletics/Phillies series in Philadelphia, which began the same year as the Gotham Giants/Mets series, continued longer than any other nineteenth-century city series—through 1889. The two teams seemed mismatched as they entered the inaugural series in 1883. The Athletics has just won the AA pennant, while the Phillies had finished last in the NL, twice as far out of first place as the league's next-worst team. The first game of the three appeared to confirm the mismatch: The A’s veteran hurler George Bradley stopped the Phillies on two singles as his team blended eleven hits with eleven Phillie errors for thirteen runs before darkness ended the debacle at 13-3 after seven innings.

Bradley continued his mastery of the Phillies through five innings of Game Two, five days later. But the game (and the series) turned around when five Phillies scored on six hits in the sixth inning to take a 6-4 lead. They won 8-4 as their pitcher John Coleman (who had lost a major-league-record 48 games during the season) blanked the A's on just one hit over the final six innings.

Another week went by before the series finale, but the result was nearly the same as in Game Two. Coleman yielded only one earned run as he stopped the A's on four hits. The Phils, meanwhile, unloaded on Athletics ace Bobby Mathews (a 30-game winner during the season) for an eleven-hit 8-3 win and series triumph.

1884 Philadelphia: Phillies (NL), 3; Athletics (AA), 0

In 1884 the Athletics again finished the regular season with a much better record than the Phillies, but in the city series, they lost all three games. The opener was the closest contest. Phillie newcomer Con Murphy—one day short of his twenty-first birthday—held the A's scoreless through five innings, and although he then weakened, the Phillies put together a four-run seventh to give him a 6-4 win.

Two days later the Phillies defeated the A's a second time, in an error-filled slugfest shortened to seven innings by darkness. Murphy again pitched for the Phillies, giving up a home run to A's star Harry Stovey and hurling three wild pitches. But the Phillies took advantage of A's errors to score twelve runs and overwhelm the A’s nine.

With the series already decided, only a few hundred spectators attended the finale, and they began to leave after the first inning. Although the game was a benefit for the Athletics' players, they performed as if they didn't care. The Phillies scored against them in five of the first six innings, and when they began again to pummel the A's in the seventh, the game was halted, with the score for the six completed innings standing at 13-5.

1885 Philadelphia: Phillies (NL), 3; Athletics (AA), 2

In a preseason series in 1885, the Athletics defeated the Phillies, four games to two. But in postseason play the Phils recaptured the honors of the city, three games to two.

The two clubs had put together similarly mediocre regular-season records, and they traded wins through the first four games of their five-game fall series. The Athletics took the opener 7-2, as pitcher Bobby Mathews held the Phillies scoreless on two hits after the first inning, and singled in the fifth himself to start a five-run rally that broke a 2-2 tie and assured him of the victory. The Phillies retaliated the following day, parlaying ten hits and eight walks into seventeen runs, while holding the A’s to two. Mathews returned to the box for the Athletics in Game Three and stopped the Phillies on four hits (and one run, on a passed ball), while his A's knocked Phillie Ed Daily for ten hits and seven runs. Daily fared better when the clubs met two days later for Game Four. Eight A’s hit safely, but none walked and only three scored, while the Phillies put nine hits and Tour walks together with several Athletic errors for six runs, to even the series at two games each.

Club aces Mathews and Charlie Ferguson faced each other in the finale for the first time in the series. Fans looked for a close match, but the A’s defense was porous and Mathews was hit hard. The Phillies had overcome an early Athletic lead to move ahead 9-4 when rain halted the game and concluded the series with two away in the last of the seventh.

1886 Philadelphia: Phillies (NL), 1; Athletics (AA), 0; one tie

The 1886 Philadelphia series was the shortest between the two clubs. The Phillies, with their best season to date, had finished a strong fourth in the NL, while the A's, with their worst, had finished sixth in the AA. Not unexpectedly, the Phillies defeated the A's handily in the opener, 5-0. But when the A's surprised them with a 6-6 tie in a six-inning contest two days later, the Phillies refused to continue the series and disbanded their team until spring.

1887 Philadelphia: Phillies (NL), 3; Athletics (AA), 2; one tie

Relations returned to normal in 1887. In the spring the teams played each other eleven times, each winning five games and tying the other game. During the season the Phillies rose all the way to second place, their highest finish of the century. The A's also improved in the standings—to fifth—but were still 30 games out of first. Yet once again the postseason series was closely contested.

The Phillies, in fact, were lucky to gain a tie in the opener. The A’s led 3-1 after eight innings, but with two away in the Phillie ninth, two batsmen hit safely. With men on first and third, the A’s catcher threw the ball away on a stolen base attempt; both Phillie runners scored to tie the game, which was called after the tenth inning, with no further scoring.

Game Two was just as close. The lead switched back and forth until the Phillies tied the game with a run in the seventh. In the last of the ninth, with the score at 5-5, the Phils combined a walk, a stolen base, and a hit for the winning run.

The Athletics came back to take the next two games, hammering fifteen hits for eleven runs in Game Three before darkness ended play in the eighth with the score 11-6, and bombarding the Phillies with ten hits and ten runs in the first two innings of Game Four before Phillie pitcher Dan Casey settled down to blank them on two hits the rest of the way. Thanks to their own heavy hitting—and five walks and two hit batsmen by the A’s Gus Weyhing—the Phillies gradually narrowed the gap, but finished one run short of a tie.

After two days rest the Phillies returned rejuvenated and battered the A's with fifteen hits for an easy 9-2 win that evened the series at 2-2-1. After a day of rain, the Phillies really unloaded in Game Six with twenty-three hits off the hapless Weyhing, to take a 17-2 victory and the series advantage. There was to have been a seventh game the next day, but it was canceled because of cold weather, leaving the Phillies the champions of Philadelphia yet again.

1888 Philadelphia: Phillies (NL), 2; Athletics (AA), 1

Both Philadelphia teams finished third in 1888. The Athletics, though, had defeated the Phillies five games to two in preseason play, and had produced much the better seasonal won-lost record, while leading the AA in batting, slugging, and runs scored. In the fall series—three games this year—they overcame the Phillies in the opener 8-5. But then their bats fell silent as the Phils buried them in the final two games, 8-0 and 12-0.

1889 Philadelphia: Athletics (AA), 3; Phillies (NL), 3

Through 1888 the Phillies had won all six postseason series with the Athletics, but in 1889 their streak ended. They had slipped a notch in the NL standings, while the A's again had finished third, with the AA’s best hitting. In postseason play the A’s edged the Phillies in their first game 4-3 and overwhelmed them 10-1 in the second. The Phillies replied in kind in Game Three with a 12-2 win, but the A's gained a 3-1 series advantage two days later with a 9-0 whitewash.

Once more, however, the Phillies came back, winning the final two games 3-1 and a narrow 5-4 to salvage a series tie. For the first time, the Athletics could claim a share of the fall title.

It was their last opportunity. After an 1890 season in which both clubs lost players—and fans—to the rival Players League, the Athletics went out of business. Philadelphia's Players League club replaced the A's in the AA for 1891, but as the AA itself folded at season's end, the Philadelphia city series was not resumed until 1903, when the Phillies met a new team, also called the Athletics, which played in the new American League.

1885 St. Louis: Browns (AA), 4; Maroons (NL), 0

The St. Louis Browns were easy winners of the AA pennant in 1885, while the city's Maroons (who had won the pennant of the outlaw Union Association the year before) finished last in their first NL season. Yet there was more interest in the city series between the two clubs than in the World Series between the Browns and NL champion Chicago. Attendance ranged between two and three thousand for the World Series games held in St. Louis in mid-October, but the first city series game, held the day after the Browns-Chicago games, drew "the largest crowd of the season"—there was not even standing room left. And when the city series resumed a week later (after the Browns had completed World Series play, tying Chicago for the world title), five times as many spectators showed up as had attended any one of the World Series games.

The Browns scored first in every game with the Maroons and never fell behind, winning all four games as their star pitchers Bob Caruthers and Dave Foutz held the opposition to just one earned run in the series. Twice the Browns scored four runs in the first inning (in Games One and Three), and twice (in Games Two and Four) shut out the Maroons. The first three contests proved easy wins (5-2, 6-0, 11-1); only in the 1-0 finale did the Maroons manage to hold the Browns close.

1886 St. Louis: Browns (AA), 5; Maroons (NL), 0

The Browns repeated as pennant-winners in 1886, and although the Maroons rose to sixth (above two teams new to the NL), they remained helpless against the Browns in postseason play. The city games were scheduled as a best-of-nine series, but only five were needed as the Browns won them all. The opener featured matching five-hitters by the Browns' Dave Foutz and the Maroons' John "Egyptian" Healy. Foutz hurled a shutout, but three of the Browns' hits came in the fourth inning and—with an error and a wild pitch—produced three runs, the game's only scoring.

Nat Hudson held the Maroons to three hits the next day as the Browns buried their opponents 10-1. Eight Maroon errors gave the Browns a 7-2 win in Game Three. In the fourth game the Browns broke a tie in the sixth inning and held on to win 4-2. They then took a week out to defeat Chicago in the World Series before polishing off the Maroons in Game Five with a come-from-behind 6-5 victory. As one paper observed: the Browns "are now the champions of the city, of the American Association, and of the world." It was the last St. Louis series of the century, for the Maroons folded before the start of the next season.

[The Lansche book does not show the Maryland series. The series summaries for the next two are based on information found in The Washington Post.]

1886 Maryland: Baltimore Orioles (AA), 3; Washington Senators (NL), 2

The year 1886 featured one new regional major league series, between Baltimore of the AA and the new Washington club of the NL "for the championship of Maryland." (The series carried on an earlier rivalry between Baltimore and the minor league Washington Nationals.) Both clubs finished at the bottom of their leagues and were somewhat evenly matched, with the Orioles edging the Senators three games to two. None of the winning margins in the five games was closer than three runs, but only the opener was a blowout—a 19-1 Washington victory in six innings. Baltimore revived to shut out the Senators 6-0 when the series resumed three days later, and took the series lead the next day with a 6-3 win. Washington evened things with a 3-0 whitewash in Game Five, but lost the deciding game the next day 6-2. Because of darkness, none of the games went the full nine innings.

1887 Maryland: Washington Senators (NL), 3; Baltimore Orioles (AA), 1

The "Maryland" series continued for one more season before fading away. In 1887 Baltimore had enjoyed a resurgence, rising to third place in the AA, while Washington rose only one place out of the NL cellar. But in their postseason series it was the Senators who took the trophy, winning three of four. The Senators averaged a run an inning in Game One in defeating the Orioles 7-4. (Once again darkness ended all the games before nine innings could be played.) Baltimore reversed the score and evened the series with a 7-5 win the next day, but the Senators took the next pair by decisive 5-2 and 7-0 scores to lock up the championship.

1889 Ohio: Columbus Colts (AA), 2; Cleveland Spiders (NL), 1

1889 Ohio: Cincinnati Red Stockings (AA), 3; Cleveland Spiders (NL), 2

Only Philadelphia hosted a city or regional series in 1888, but in 1889 Philadelphia was joined by an Ohio championship that featured three clubs: Cleveland of the NL, and Cincinnati and Columbus of the AA. Every day but two between October 15 and 26, two of the three teams played each other. Cincinnati had enjoyed the best regular season: finishing fourth, it was the only one of the three teams to compile a winning record. Columbus and Cleveland finished sixth in their leagues, but Columbus—a newcomer to the AA—had done well to beat out two more established clubs in its first year.

In the Ohio round-robin Columbus did even better, compiling the best record to win the championship. With an overall won-lost series record of 4-1, the Colts easily outclassed Cincinnati (3-4) and Cleveland (3-5), twice defeating the other clubs, while losing once to Cleveland's Spiders.

In games between the two AA clubs, Columbus beat Cincinnati twice by identical 5-2 scores. The interleague play can be subdivided into series between Cleveland and Columbus, and between Cleveland and Cincinnati. Cleveland lost both series, to the Colts 1-2 and to the Reds 2-3. The Spiders defeated Columbus in the opener of their three-game set 5-3, but lost the others (in seven innings each) 9-6 and 6-2. Against Cincinnati the Spiders twice held a series advantage, winning an opening shutout 4-0 and, after losing 8-5, recovering to win a seven-inning contest 4-1. But the Reds then recovered to capture the final pair, 7-2 (the largest, victory margin of any of the ten Ohio games) and 3-1.

1890 Ohio: Cincinnati Red Stockings (NL), 2; Cleveland Infants (PL), 1

Neither Columbus nor the Cleveland Spiders took part in an Ohio series the next year, but Cincinnati (which had shifted from the AA to the NL over the winter) played postseason series with three clubs from the new Players League, including three games with the Cleveland Infants, splitting the first two and winning the third. None of the three games offered much suspense. The Reds led all the way in the opener, winning easily 11-4. Game Two was tied 2-2 at the middle of the sixth inning, but from then on the Infants pulled steadily away to an 8-2 conclusion.

Only three hundred spectators showed up for the finale. They were treated to a Cincinnati romp, 14-1, with the Reds scoring seven times in the eighth inning before darkness put an end to the slaughter. As neither Columbus nor Cleveland's NL club participated in postseason play, it may be stretching things to proclaim victorious Cincinnati the champion of Ohio.

Such as it was, the 1890 Ohio series marked the end of interleague city and state championships until early in the next century. The PL died that winter after only one season, and the AA folded at the end of 1891. Not until the arrival of the American League on the major league scene in 1901 would such series again be possible.

Unsanctioned 20th Century series

Sanctioned 20th Century series

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