In 1885, the Kewanee Reds played the Chicago White Stockings; It didn’t go well

(Special from Kewanee, Illinois – Saturday, September 12, 1885)En route to Gateway City for a weekend series against the St. Louis Maroons, the nationally acclaimed Chicago White Stockings briefly stopped en route to quickly dispatch the top nine small-town hometowns of Illinois, the Kewanee Reds, 12-1 in an exhibition game on Monday.

Fans in and around Kewanee, a town on the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad 150 miles southwest of Chicago, had been talking about the game for weeks. When the date was finalized, those fans started planning to see the game. In addition to the Kewaneeans, fans from Galva, Toulon, Geneseo, Cambridge, Annawan and other nearby towns flocked to Kewanee to see the nation’s first professional team take on one of Illinois’ top amateur teams. The CB&Q. ran special trains from villages along its route, offering discounted tickets to the game.

The year-old Kewanee Base Ball Association, expecting large crowds, had erected a large number of new seats on the beautiful, partially fenced field located in a natural amphitheater at the northwest corner of Main and Ninth. But its fandom exceeded expectations, with around 2,000 spectators creating standing-only conditions, and with admission takings approaching $700.

1885 Chicago White Stockings

The Haxtun Steamer Heater Co., which sponsored the Reds (often referred to as “the Haxtun Steam Heaters”), closed its shop for the game, as did a number of businesses and stores in downtown Kewanee.

Prior to the match, a rumor had circulated in nearby towns that the “real” White Stockings would not be playing that day. However, as a local scribe wrote, “we believe that those who witnessed some of the exceptionally beautiful pieces were convinced that the report was false”.

The Chicago-Kewanee exhibition game was the starting point for the Kewanee Baseball Tournament featuring teams from Burlington, Elmwood, Peru and Chicago (the Kents), in addition to the Kewanee Reds.

The White Stockings arrived by CB&Q.’s 2:13 p.m. westbound train, disembarked at the Village Depot on Railroad Square, and proceeded quickly north on Main Street to the Grade One Diamond. After the Reds won the toss and opted to get the visitors home plate first, the game began.

From the outset, it was clear that some locals were ‘shaken’ by the famous visitors, giving up four runs in the first set by making a number of their eleven errors which, if not made, would have resulted in a ‘blank’. “. wash” instead of a “four-point”. In the second inning, the “Chicagos” crossed two more points and a possible rout was in progress.

Cape Anson
Wally Snyder
Billy Sunday

Late in the first, the Reds’ Frank “Mussy” Musgrave started with a ball that Abner Dalrymple failed to catch, going to second base. But Musgrave was then caught leaning the wrong way and was abducted. Art Twineham and Wally Snyder followed with easy outings and hopes of an equally fast start by local fans were dashed. The Reds lost one, two, three in the order over the next two innings while the White Stockings recorded another run in the third.

After a goalless fourth for both teams, the visitors scored three in the fifth. After allowing 10 runs, not all earned, Jim Sweeney was replaced on the mound by Toulon’s ‘Doc’ Hall, who shut down the visitors over the next two innings. But then the White Stockings finished their scoring with one in eighth and another in ninth off Hall. Young right fielder Billy Sunday led the visitors with three runs scored while hitting two hits.

The hometown boys had put runners on base in the fourth, but came away empty-handed. The Reds scored their only point in the seventh when John Clarkson replaced Jim McCormick “in the box”. Snyder doubled the new pitcher, went third over Charlie Wilson, then came home on a generous “mistake” by Tom Burns. While the Kewaneeans had two singles and a double in the last two innings, they again failed to score.

Summarizing the game, the local writer said that “[i]It’s only fair that our boys beat the best while the great Clarkson was in the “box”, and that [the White Stockings] found Sweeney’s curves more difficult to achieve than Hall’s.

The score of the box

After the game, the Chicagoans boarded a CB&Q. train for Monmouth, where they stopped for three hours before continuing on to St. Louis. They spent their time waiting in Jim William’s billiard room, where they showed that they could “handle the ivory balls honorably if not as well as the base ball”.

While at Monmouth, it was reported that White Stockings frontman Cap Anson boasted that although they beat Kewanee 12-1 it “might as well have been 30-1. . . . [B]but as they were being paid a certain amount to play there, out of courtesy they allowed Kewanee to have a run [on Burns’ ‘error’].” Anson flatly denied that the Chicagoans would have to pocket an extra $300 if they shut out the Reds. “There was no such arrangement, the White Stockings received a certain sum regardless of the outcome of the match.”

The tournament following the exhibition match was plagued by inclement weather, which forced the postponement of some matches. It was finally completed on Saturday, with the Kewanee nine finally beating the Elmwood side in a runaway, 20-4 in a crowded game. The Reds had previously beaten the Sheffield boys 12-8 and, in the best game of the tournament, narrowly beat the Chicago Kents 4-1 in an exceptionally well-lined game.

For his efforts, the Kewanee Reds won first place for $200, the Kents won $100 for second place, while the Elmwood Blues won third place for $50. With the White Stockings-Reds gate split starting Monday, the Kewanee team took home over $500. A great payday for the hometown boys, even though they painfully experienced first-hand the difference between professional and amateur baseball.

(Author’s note: The White Stockings were the predecessors of the Chicago Cubs and later became them.)

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