The Philadelphia Athletics, the Wagner Institute, and John Wilkes Booth

Excited about Scott Alberts of the Athletic Club of Philadelphia coming to speak at the store on Saturday, I was doing a little research on the Athletic Club and came across this amazing lithograph. It was drawn by John L. Magee in 1867, and it shows a highly detailed picture of a baseball game between the Athletic Club of Philadelphia and the Atlantics of Brooklyn. The game in question took place on October 22nd, 1866, and was named the Second Great Match Game of the Championship.

1866

Be sure to click on the photo to check out some of the detail. A few things to note. For one, it appears that men have all the Standing Room Only seats, but there a considerable amount of women at the game, all of them sitting in the bleachers. The game was played at the ballpark the team used in the 1860s. It didn’t have a name, but it was located right beside the Wagner Institute (more on that soon). There is a pickpocket who has just gotten busted, it appears, in the lower left, with the stolen pocketwatch in hand.

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In the middle, bottom, we see a man holding a sheet of paper with the words Toodles on it.

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That man appears to be Edwin Booth, brother of John Wilkes Booth, and he’s presenting Toodles to his business partner, John Sleeper Clark. Booth and Clark managed the Walnut Street Theater at the time, and Toodles was a popular play that Clark regularly starred in. Below is a photoraph of Clark, proving it to be him. And not only would it make sense for the other man to be Booth, but the aquiline nose and prominent jaw certainly make it look like him.

Screen shot 2014-09-18 at 3.15.22 PM(Before we go any further, I want to be sure to give credit where credit is due. The picture comes courtesy of Baseball Researcher, and his friend Rob Pendell found out about Toodles. Just incredible detective work, and I thought a few more people might be interested in this.)

Booth and Clark weren’t only business partners, they were also brothers-in-law, as Clark had married Booth’s sister Asia. In fact, Clark spent time in prison after the Lincoln assassination because he handed over letters John Wilkes Booth had sent him before the assassination to the Philadelphia Inquirer, which then published them. Less than a year after attending this ballgame, he moved to London with Asia and his kids.

(It wasn’t Magee’s first time drawing a Booth. Around the same time, he had drawn this picture of John Wilkes being tempted by the devil to kill Lincoln.)

The ballpark was located right next to the Wagner Institute, as you can see in the picture below. I have posted it next to picture I took at the Wagner a couple of weeks ago. I believe the place I took the picture would have been right around where the Athletics clubhouse was. Which makes it appear that John L. Magee was probably drawing from a window in the back of the Institute while he was watching the game. It would make sense, as the picture does seem to drawn from an elevated vantage point.

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As for the game itself, the two teams had built quite a rivalry, and three weeks previous a record crowd of 30,000 had come out in Philly to see the two teams play (that’s more people than the Phillies average per game this season). The crowd had been so large that the game had to be cancelled. One week previous to the October 22nd game, they had gone to head to head again, in the first game of the championship, and 18,000 had shown up in Brooklyn to see the Atlantics win 27-17. The Athletics had been hurt by the 44 errors they made. It was a rare loss for the Athletics; they would finish 23-2 that season in league play, averaging almost 50 runs a game. Atlantic wasn’t too shabby themselves. They finished 17-3.

As for the players, after consulting with Scott Alberts, who is speaking at Shibe Sports on Saturday at 5:30 p.m., here they are:

  • At bat is Dick McBride. He was a star pitcher for the team.
  • On deck is Al Reach. Once his playing career was done, he ran a sporting goods store that made him millions. He also helped found the Phillies and was their first team President. His partner at his store was Benjamin Shibe, the man who the store is named after (he co-founded the A’s with Connie Mack). You will now find a historical marker at Reach’s stores former location, 1820 Chestnut.
  • Dan Kleinfelder is running to second. He batted leadoff and played outfield.
  • Checking in at the table is Charles Gaskill. An outfielder, he would die at the age of 32 in 1870.
  • Sitting next to him is Count Sensenderfer. Born on Spring Garden with the name John Phillips Jenkins Sensenderfer in 1848, he was called the Count because of his aristocratic air. He was a star, but his career was beset with injuries. He later served two terms as Philadelphia County Commissioner.
  • Sitting next to him is Patsy Dockney. This Ireland-born star was renowned for his toughness. The night before a game in St. Louis, he got in a knife fight and needed 50 stitches. The next morning, he asked a nurse to fetch him some water, slipped out the door while she was gone, and ran down to the ballpark to catch that days game.
  • Standing next to him is Ike Wilkins. Don’t know much about the Athletic shortstop except that a trophy bat presented to him was found in a Philly attic a few years ago.
  • And sitting to the far right is Lip Pike. The first Jewish baseball star, he was a 21-year old rookie at the time of this game. He had hit 6 home runs in a single game earlier that year. Nonetheless, he was kicked off the team the next year. He was born in New York, however, and according to his SABR bio, non-native players were frowned upon by the A’s. By the time baseball officially went pro in 1871, he was a star for the Troy Haymakers. There’s a pic of him below.

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In Game 2, it was all Athletics, as they were leading 31-12 when the game was called of rain after 7 innings*. The bad weather didn’t stop people from coming out to see the game, however (including at least one well-prepared man, standing near the batter, with an umbrella). 20,000 were on hand to cheer on the home squad, including a pickpocket, an assassin’s brother, and a bleacher full of ladies. Thank you, John L. Magee for creating something so remarkable almost 150 years ago.

*Game 3 was never played; there was an argument about gate receipts.

We have Athletic club t-shirts you can purchase here. Scott Alberts, of the vintage baseball club Athletics, will be speaking at Shibe Sports at 5:30. Admission is free, and beer and snacks will be provided.


The First Scorecard in Baseball History?

A very cool article in today’s Inky about an 1866 Philadelphia Athletic scorecard.

On Thursday, nearly 145 years after someone penciled in the starting lineups on it, this yellowing baseball relic will be auctioned at Swann Galleries in New York, where experts expect it to fetch $5,000 to $7,000.

“As far as anyone knows,” Swann’s Rick Stattler said, “this is the first printed baseball scorecard ever.”

It was handed out to fans who, in a virtually unprecedented move, were charged 25 cents to watch the Oct. 1, 1866, game between Philadelphia’s Athletics and Brooklyn’s Atlantics at a 15th and Columbia ball field.

According to various accounts, the promoters had sold 8,000 tickets in advance and, in another exceptional action, some of the nominally amateur players privately had agreed to split the proceeds.

Unfortunately, another 25,000 or so fans flocked to the North Philadelphia site that Monday afternoon, a gathering so large and rowdy that the game had to be canceled after just a half-inning.

“There was just no room to play, and the police couldn’t keep the crowds off the field,” said Stattler, citing various newspaper accounts. “The first baseman said he didn’t have any room to make plays at first base. There are reports that at least one spectator was pulled off with blood streaming from his head. Things got pretty rowdy. Finally, in the bottom of the first inning, when a New York guy hit a ball into the crowd, they decided they just couldn’t go any further.”

Someone had entered the lineups on the surviving scorecard, presently owned by collector Eric Caren, and filled in the activity from the top of the first. As was commonplace then, the home-team Athletics hit first, scoring two runs that further fanned the huge gathering’s fire.

A few notes about the game. First of all, one of the Brooklyn Players later played for the Phillies, and had the greatest nickname in Philly history. That would be Bob “Death to Flying Things” Ferguson.

RELATED: How booze helped the A’s win the 1871 championship.

RELATED: Wes Fisler scores baseball’s first run.