Sunday, June 22, 2014

An Exciting Game in a Different Era

After another exhibition win on July 5 and a rainout of a league game on the 6th, Fargo returned to regular action against Grand Forks, visiting the Senators’ park for a four game series. Playing some of their best ball of the season, hopes were high for the Divorcees. A fine matchup was in store for the cranks that day, as Deacon Phillippe faced Senator ace Charlie Hutton. A collision in the previous series with Wahpeton gave Hutton a stiff arm, but it did not seem to bother Grand Forks’ young talent. The crafty lefty struck out the side in the third inning on his way to seven punch outs against just one walk. Each team scored once in the fifth inning, but in the sixth Grand Forks scored twice and the Divorcees just once to claim a 3-2 lead. Neither team put a run across the plate in the seventh or eighth inning. Entering the ninth, Fargo needed one run to tie and two runs to win. Unlike modern day games, the home team did not always bat last in the Red River Valley League of 1897. On that day, the Divorcees came to bat last with a chance for a walk-off win. Two men were out when Josh Reilly strode confidently to the plate and knocked a single into center field.* Following the Fargo second sacker was the pitcher Phillippe, who came to the plate batting 0 for 9 for the season. The Deacon picked a fine time for his first hit. Hutton put one over the center of the plate, and Phillippe clobbered it over the right field fence for a game-ending two-run homerun. The Grand Forks fans were stunned. Phillippe’s clutch hit, his quality pitching, and a fine defensive performance led the Fargo club to a win in the opener. (Forum July 8).  

*(Reilly, before his at bat, rubbed the head of Fargo’s mascot Oscey Gordon for good luck. To understand Reilly’s action, it is first helpful to be aware that the conception of a mascot in that era was far different from what it is today. Frank Fitzpatrick explains it this way: “The (mascot) custom grew out of a patronizing society's ignorant belief that the more socially outcast one was, the greater his worth as a good-luck charm. Humpbacks; dwarfs; those with crossed eyes; the mentally ill; and, of course, blacks and Indians were widely seen as talismans. It wasn't long until superstitious sports teams were cruelly using them for that purpose.” This description surely fit Fargo’s mascot Oscey Gordon, who was black, probably a child, with a full head of hair. Reilly’s action of rubbing the black boy’s head was commonly believed to bring good luck and was a tactic even employed by the great hitter and notorious racist Ty Cobb.)

“The disturbing history of baseball's mascots” Philadelphia Enquirer online – June 22, 2014