Wednesday, July 25, 2012

On This Date: Sunday Exhibition Slaughter

July 25, 1897 - Unfortunately for Fargo, their Sunday afternoon slaughter of Wahpeton-Breckenridge didn't count in the standings. Still, the Divorcees 22-5 exhibition win over the Methodists must have been satisfying. Fargo continued to languish in last place in the RRVL, despite playing better baseball in recent weeks. Sunday's game was a wild, error-filled contest, with the teams combining for a shockingly awful 21 errors. It is hard to fathom how so many fielding miscues could occur in a minor league game. Charles C. Alexander's biography on Ty Cobb provides some insight. He highlights several aspects of baseball at the turn of the century that were unique to that era. Though much of baseball has remained unchanged in the 115 years since the Red River Valley League of 1897, one key item of contrast is found in the equipment. The fielders worked with gloves that Alexander describes as "flimsy little devices", grossly ineffective when compared with today's options. Alexander also notes that scorekeepers of games didn't give the players any breaks despite the primitive equipment. Furthermore, the lack of regularly replaced baseballs made fielders throw with less accuracy, and the pitchers didn't help with their notorious doctoring of the ball. The playing fields didn't aid fielders either, and were not tended to by full-time grounds crews. Uneven ground was more the rule than the exception. Perhaps for the RRVL, the best example of a less than ideal playing field would be the home park of the Grand Forks club. On this field, the Senators and their opponents had to contend with a cement bicycle track that was part of the baseball diamond.

Fargo and Wahpeton-Breckenridge were slated to play the final game of their series Monday afternoon. Oscar Peterson was the starting pitcher for the Divorcees, and the Methodists countered with Oliver Berg. Unfortunately for Ed Corbett and his team, the end of the series would not mark the end of trouble for the W-B franchise. Corbett spent the day in Crookston discussing the possible transfer of his team. According to the Forum, there was considerable excitement about a new rivalry between Crookston and Grand Forks. The team's transfer from W-B to Crookston was scheduled for August 2.

Fargo Forum and Daily Republican July 26, 1897 p. 4 "An Awful Score"
Charles C. Alexander Ty Cobb Oxford University Press, 1984, p. 29-30.

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