Umpiring in the Good Old Days

Last Sunday Umpire Smith was attacked by a mob, after the Cincinnati-St. Louis game, and the Globe-Democrat describes the scene as follows: “Had the umpire been a pick-pocket, who had just retired from business with a competency obtained from the rough element of those present, he could not have been more roundly abused. Each inning after the sixth, at critical intervals, the hoodlums yelled and hooted at him. The most disgusting phase of their conduct was at the close of the game. Smith left the grounds, with the Cincinnati players, and was followed to the herdic by a gang of rowdies, who yelled, howled and shouted to slug the – – -. Smith reached the herdic in safety, and the players followed him in. as the vehicle passed through the gate it was met by another mob of young roughs. The latter were armed with chunks of macadam, and, as the herdic passed into Grand avenue, they fired a volley of stones at it. The missiles were undoubtedly directed at Smith, as nearly all hit that end of the coach. One of the stones broke a pane of glass. Another hit Smith on the side of the head, and hurt him severely. Incensed at the cowardly assault, Capt. Snyder ordered the driver to come to a halt, and, as he obeyed instructions promptly, Snyder, Carpenter, Macullar and two or three others jumped to the ground and made at the gang. The latter turned tail as they saw the Cincinnati boys get out of the herdic and scattered like a pack of scared hounds. Then the players returned to the coach, but had no sooner reembarked that the cowardly mob surrounded them again. At this juncture the mounted police went to the rescue, and the hoodlums were scattered right and left, while the visitors were driven away at a lively rate.  Source: Boston Herald September 17, 1882

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35 thoughts on “Umpiring in the Good Old Days

  1. The article says it is a coach. Even if it didnt say coach you can tell by the context. Im wondering what “macadam” is.


    • Yeah, but… There was a complicated taxonomy of horse-drawn conveyances, with subtle social baggage carried by each type. You find this in old novels, where the author says what some character is driving, and the reader is expected to infer from this facts about said character. It can be quite opaque, to the point where a modern reader might not even realize he was supposed to glean something from this factoid, much less what.

      In the instant case, it is a bit unusual that the vehicle was specified so narrowly. I normally see the more generic term “omnibus” (or, if the writer is going for a breezy tone, a ” ‘bus”). The herdic was a new invention from just the previous year. So these people had a sweet ride, with the newest technology. Make of this what you will.


      • There was a complicated taxonomy of horse-drawn conveyances, with subtle social baggage carried by each type. You find this in old novels, where the author says what some character is driving, and the reader is expected to infer from this facts about said character.

        This reminds me of when I read American Psycho, and I didn’t get that the constant naming of brands/labels was supposed to tell you both about the narrator’s obsessions, as well as what he is inferring about the other characters from them. I just thought Ellis was a terrible writer who used brands/labels in place of characterization.

        It wasn’t until I saw the movie that I got the (hilarious) joke.


  2. Actually, in this case they do change. An incident like this is pretty much unthinkable today. The level of security doesn’t allow for it. This development occurred within my adult lifetime. Think of Morganna the Kissing Bandit. Such a thing would not be allowed today. I remember when it was normal for the crowd to run onto the field at the end of a big game. There are photos of fans perched on the outfield fence, ready to jump down with the last out. The players in the meantime would run for the clubhouse to beat the crowd. Again, simply not done anymore.


  3. Does anyone else imagine Richard sitting in an old recliner, reading 100-year-old newspapers, and living with a veil of ignorance over his face that tells him the last century didn’t happen?

    “Ya know… I think this Yankees squad is much ado about nothing!”


    • The Yankees–that would be the Boston team, right?

      Sadly, however, no recliner. I sit at a computer reading PDF files. The flash drive is a great boon to research.


      • If it weren’t for your presence on the internet, I’d imagine you as someone who pays exorbitant sums to all around him to keep him convinced it is still the 1890s. Kind of like “The Village”. Like, some kid in a newsies cap shows up every morning with your old newspaper and gives you updates on the Titanic or whatever the hell else was happening back then.


        • It might even be true. I don’t know. But in that era it is entirely possible that the Baltimore franchise shut down and went home, and the league then looked around for a replacement.

          I would look for two things to test the claim: the ownership and the reserved players. If Baltimore and New York had the same ownership, then clearly they were the same franchise. If the New York ownership paid money to the Baltimore ownership, then you have a prima facie case that they were the same franchise, with a sale and a move occurring roughly simultaneously. The reserve clause ties the players to the franchise, regardless of any moves or ownership changes, so if you see substantially the same players in 1902 Baltimore and 1903 New York, then this is a strong argument for their being the same franchise.

          This isn’t my era. I go in for mind-numbingly detailed knowledge of baseball up to about 1885. After that I am just some guy. Want to know my opinion of the Black Sox? I have none. I have never studied it enough to formulate an opinion. There are guys whose mind-numbingly detailed knowledge focuses on that. I would ask one of those guys. How big an asshole was Ty Cobb? I’ve read a few books, but they are the same ones you have read, if you care. Should the Union Association be considered a major league? That is in my wheelhouse. I could go on at length.

          So getting back to the Baltimore-New York question, I have no special insight. I just pulled up their rosters on There is only one regular starter on both rosters. This is consistent with their being separate franchises. But that’s all I’ve got. If pressed, I would refer the question to the SABR Dead Ball Era committee.


  4. You ever read any of the Ron Luciano books? (I would be shocked if you have not). My favorite parts was when he tells the stories of the times in the minors where he and his crew are skedaddling out of ballparks to avoid hostile crowds.

    But as you say elsewhere in the thread, different times. (though some minor league managers like to play for sportscenter)


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