Historical Hitter

Historical Hitter October 28th: John Montgomery Ward

John Montgomery Ward cardToday was the day Monte Ward joined the Baseball Tourists en-route. Ward had arrived late for his Giants had just gotten done with their successful 1888 World Series in Missouri, playing against the American Association Browns.

It was the Tourists second game in Denver, and a day of acclimation did wonders for the players and the game, as Sporting Life highlighted this game as “A More Satisfactory Game.”

We played a great game of ball to-day, one of the prettiest In fact that it has ever bean ray good fortune to witness.

Played in front of 4,000 fans at River Front Stadium in Denver were “wild with enthusiasm and half that number left the grounds with voices horse from cheering.”

The entrance of the game’s first superstar was just as specular a pitcher – the second pitcher to toss a perfect game – was currently short stop of the Giants of New York and thus Short Stop of the All Americans. His presence at the game electrified the crowd and was an inspiration to his team mates. The Sporting Life reported the joyous and heroic scene as,

… short was covered by John M. Ward himself in a style that no one but Ward has mastered. John was evidently not unknown in Denver, for when he stepped to bat in the opening inning, the big and enthusiastic crowd gave him a welcome at which any player might justly have felt gratified. The famous short stop strategic batting caught the spectators as favorably as did his fielding and base running and he was cheered again and again for his efforts.

The Hall of Fame, which inducted Ward in 1964 posted the influence of Ward as being the model baseball player, off field player negotiator and eventually President of the Boston Braves:

“No player before or after his day on the diamond ever did more to bring the sport to its present high standing and popularity. He was considered the model ballplayer of the century.”

Ward played 17 years from 1878 to 1894 for The Players league and National League teams. His primary team was the New York Giants. But he was a teenage prodigy pitcher for the defunct Providence Grays. As a pitcher he was 164-103 pitching a total of 2469.2 innings with a career WHIP of 1.043. For Providence he went 145-87 with a 1.98 ERA and 1.022 WHIP. As short stop of the Giants, hit .275/.314/.347, overall he played in 1827 games and knocked out 2107 hits, and has an incomplete record of 540 stolen bases. (Only 9 of the 17 years are their records for stolen bases.)

The game featured to magnificent fielding plays on balls hit to the deepest part of center field.

It was Hanlon’s catch of Sullivan’s still longer fly to far center, however, that caused the crowd to lose its head completely. Away off into the blue air that the sphere, until it was almost lost to sight and away across the field sped Hanlon as though the very devil was after him, while Mart Sullivan was making the dust fly around the rummy. Once Hanlon turned lo look upward and then sped on again, faster if possible, than before.

His right hand was still extended, however, and in it be held to the ball. For perhaps five seconds that crowd held its breath, seeming not to believe its eyes. Then, as the great outflelder sprang to his feet and the All-America players turned toward their bench, such a cheer went up as one rarely hears upon a ball field or anywhere else. It was one wild, uncontrollable chorus of yells, yip-yahs, and hooray a, accompanied by a simultaneous waving of hats, canes and handkerchiefs…

John Montgomery WardThanks to the greatest of fielding plays, the game was deadlocked after nine innings. It would be the World Series hero Ward who in the top of the 11- inning in a manner only reserved for baseball icons to deliver the game winning hit. Thus All-Americans 9 Chicago 8.

The Denver Times would report that it was “the best game ever played in Denver.”

“I believe [baseball] to be a fruit of the inventive genius of the American boy. Like our system of government, it is an American evolution, and while, like that, it has doubtless been affected by foreign associations, it is none the less distinctively our own.” – John Montgomery Ward in “Base-Ball: How to Become a Player” (Published in 1888).




Baseball Hall of Fame,

Lamster, Mark, Spalding’s World Tour: The Epic Adventure that Took Baseball Around the Globe-And Made It America’s Game. Public Affairs: New York, 2006

Sporting Life, Volume 12, Number 6 November 14, 1888

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