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Unlikely Heroes Lead Herd to Victory Over Defending N.L. Champs

By: Brian Frank

Our Heavy “2 sluggers” took the shine

Clear off the great Chicago nine,

By nine to four- that was the score-

With two home runs, and seven more!

Four out of five- well that will do:

O’Rourke we still have faith in you![1]

After finishing third in the National League the season before, the Buffalo Bisons entered the 1882 season with high hopes. Unfortunately for them, six of their first 10 games were against the two-time defending National League champion Chicago White Stockings. Surprising many baseball fans at the time, the Herd got off to a fast start against the team that would eventually change their name to the Chicago Cubs. Buffalo’s success was due in part to a hot new pitcher and a pair of home runs hit on this date 135 years ago.

The Chicago White Stockings were one of the strongest teams of the nineteenth century, winning the pennant in five out of seven seasons from 1880 to 1886. One constant on Chicago’s championship teams was player-manager Cap Anson. The future Hall of Famer entered the season as the league’s defending batting champion, having hit .399 in 1881. The White Stockings also featured George Gore, who hit .298 and led the league in runs scored the season before, Abner Dalrymple, who hit .323 in 1881, and future Hall of Famer Mike “King” Kelly, who played shortstop and hit .323 in 1881. Chicago led the league with a .295 team batting average in 1881, far ahead of the next closest team, Buffalo, who hit .264.

The Bisons were no push-overs themselves, coming off a third place finish. The Herd had four future Baseball Hall of Famers in Pud Galvin, Dan Brouthers, Deacon White, and Jim O’Rourke. Galvin was 28-23 in 56 games pitched in 1881, with a 2.37 ERA. “Big Dan” Brouthers, one of the greatest hitters of the nineteenth century, hit .319 in 1881, and led the league in home runs with eight. Deacon White hit .310, and Jim O’Rourke hit .302 the previous season. The Bisons also featured Jack Rowe, who hit .333 in 1881, and Hardy Richardson, who hit .291, as well as slick fielding, but light hitting, shortstop Davey Force.

The 1882 Buffalo Bisons.

Perhaps the biggest curiosity for fans to start the season was Buffalo’s newest pitcher, Hugh Daily. When Daily debuted for the Bisons on Opening Day, he became the first pitcher missing a hand to make the major leagues. He lost his left hand due to a gun accident when he was 13 years old. To play baseball, he had a special pad made for his left arm, which he used to trap the ball between the pad and his right hand. Daily would also become known for having a volatile temper, often arguing with umpires, opposing players, and teammates.

In 1882, the National League was entering its seventh season, and baseball rules and equipment were still evolving to become what baseball fans are familiar with today. Among some of the more obvious differences from the modern game are that most players in 1882 still played the game without gloves, pitchers were not allowed to deliver a pitch above the waist (although many would push the bounds of that rule,) batters were allowed to call for a low or high pitch, and eight balls were needed for a base on balls.[2]

On Opening Day against Chicago at Buffalo’s Riverside Grounds, fans were at first curious, and then delighted by their new pitcher, Hugh Daily. The Buffalo Courier reported on the Bisons 7-5 victory, writing that “Much debate was indulged in before the game commenced, as to the possibility of a man having only one arm being able to play base ball successfully. Before the game was half over, however, all doubting Tomases were convinced that they were looking upon one of the most remarkable pitchers the diamond field has ever seen.”[3]

The second game of the series was cancelled due to snow, ice, and cold. The next day, Pud Galvin pitched a complete game shutout over the White Stockings, and the Bisons won 5-0. White Stockings player-manager Cap Anson complimented Buffalo on their play, but added some caution, stating “that is the way I like to be beaten… The Buffalos fairly outplayed us, and to them belongs the victory. But, mind you, I think we’ll win the championship all the same.”[4]

Chicago White Stockings player-manager Cap Anson.

A make-up of the snowed out game was postponed due to rain the following day, and the White Stockings headed to Cleveland to take on the Cleveland Blues. After enduring a number of weather postponements, and dropping three of four games in Detroit, Buffalo headed to Chicago for a three game series.

In the first game in the Windy City, Pud Galvin had a rough outing, giving up eight runs in the first two innings. Chicago scored 15 runs on 21 hits, and trounced the Bisons by a score of 15-2.

The next day, Hugh Daily took the mound to the wonderment of Chicago baseball fans. Chicago’s Inter Ocean newspaper reported that:

The one-armed pitcher, Daily, or rather one-handed, was a decided novelty to most of the spectators, and his peculiar yet excellent style of play, both as pitcher and at the bat, won the admiration of the crowd, and he was applauded whenever he stepped up to the home plate. His swift delivery and the peculiar twist of the balls thrown seemed to puzzle the champions, and the heavy record of struck-out and fouled out marks him of the single hand as a very valuable man.[5]

The Buffalo Morning Express noted that Daily could have shut out the champs, if not for two errors and two passed balls. Daily gave up just two runs on six runs in nine innings and player-manager Jim O’Rourke went three-for-five with a home run, in the Bisons 6-2 victory.

Buffalo's new pitcher, Hugh Daily.

Buffalo took the field at Chicago’s Lakefront Park on May 18, 1882, having won three out of four against the White Stockings to start the season. The Inter Ocean reported that the weather for the final game of the series was “all that could be desired, bright sunshine and not too cold, with but a gentle breeze.”[6] Bisons player-manager Jim O’Rourke had to decide whether to give the ball to Pud Galvin, who labored through the first game of the series, or go back to the hot Hugh Daily on zero days’ rest. The Chicago Daily Tribune wrote “Finding that he had in the one-armed Daily a Chicago-proof pitcher, O’Rourke had the good sense to make the most of the fact, and, contrary to general expectations and to the rule of alternating pitchers which is followed in nearly all the clubs, Daily was found again in front of the Chicago batsmen…”[7] Chicago countered with right hander Fred Goldsmith, who had gone 24-13, with a 2.59 ERA in 1881.

The game did not start off well for Buffalo. Chicago leadoff man Abner Dalrymple walked, and eventually came around to score to give the White Stockings a 1-0 lead. The inning featured some shaky defense by the Bisons, as catcher Deacon White was charged with three passed balls.

Buffalo's second baseman Hardy Richardson, when he played with the Detroit Wolverines.

However, the Bisons bounced back in their half of the first. Left fielder Blondie Purcell led off with a single. After Jim O’Rourke flied out to center field, Dan Brouthers reached first on an error by second baseman Joe Quest. Hardy Richardson then stepped to the plate with two men on, and launched one over the left field fence for a three-run home run, giving Buffalo a 3-1 lead. The Chicago Daily Tribune wrote that:

This rattled Goldsmith, and out of mere nervousness he gave Jim White his base on balls. Foley came in with a base hit, and a passed ball allowed White to succeed in stealing third. Rowe’s two-baser brought him home and filled second and third, whereupon little Davy Force fell on the ball and sent it fair over into Michigan Avenue, and again three runs came in on a single hit.[8]

The blast was Davey Force’s only home run in a career that lasted 15 major league seasons, including 10 years in the National League.[9] Force’s surprise homer gave the Bisons a 7-1 lead, and also provided the Herd with the unusual accomplishment of hitting two home runs in one inning. As the Buffalo Express wrote “two home runs in one inning! Who ever heard of the like before?”[10] For a number of reasons, home runs at the time were much more rare than today, as is evidenced by the fact that Detroit’s George Wood led the N.L. with seven home runs for the entire season in 1882. Two home runs by a team in one inning was quite a feat at the time, let alone two three-run home runs in an inning, with one being a player’s only home run of his 15 year career. The Buffalo Courier wrote that “Twice in this glorious inning did the Buffaloes get two men each time on bases, to have them brought home by Richardson and Force. This is a combination of circumstances which is not liable to occur again this season. Nevertheless the Buffalo boys are entitled to the credit, and their exploit was a glorious achievement.”[11]

Bisons shortstop Davy Force in 1878.

From that point on, Hugh Daily took control of the game. The Inter Ocean described Daily’s delivery as “an underhand twisting throw, and the balls fairly hiss past the plate. The difficulty of hitting him is evident when the motions of the batter are watched, for often the ball was past before the strike was made, while at other times the willow would cut through the empty air at least a foot above the ball.”[12] Despite reports that he might be nursing a lame arm, the Buffalo Courier wrote that “the Chicagos could not solve his mystic curves, and their hits were feeble and scattered.”[13] The White Stockings managed to scrape out runs in the second, third and sixth, but as the Chicago Daily Tribune reported “the rest of the hitting was scattered and ineffectual, especially as the fielding on the Buffalo side was strong and sharp.”

Buffalo added another run in the fifth inning in controversial fashion. After Dan Brouthers reached on an error by right fielder King Kelly, and Hardy Richardson singled, the Inter Ocean vividly described the hubbub that followed:

(Deacon) White sent an easy fly to (first baseman Cap) Anson, which he purposely dropped, thinking to make a triple pay. He, while not on his base, threw the ball to (second baseman Joe) Quest, which put out Richardson, but Brouthers got a run. The umpire decided White out at first, which allowed a double play. This was palpably unfair, and the decision raised a small tempest in the diamond, in which the two captains grew quite red in the face. Anson raised the point that the umpire could not alter his decision and stood upon the playing rules, which are, that the umpire cannot reverse his decision upon the testimony of any player or outsider. The umpire, after some cognition, ordered White to hold first base, and announced that he had changed his mind, while uninfluenced by any player or outsider.[14]

Hardy Richardson finished the scoring by singling home Dan Brouthers in the seventh inning to put the Bisons up 9-4.

Buffalo had won four out of five from the defending champs. The Buffalo Courier stated that “Chicago tonight is about as mad a baseball city as can be found. That the Champions should have been so badly beaten on Wednesday was something not thought of, but that the Buffaloes could follow this up by administering such a defeat as was that of to-day, is something quite beyond the comprehension of the oldest baseball inhabitant.”[15] The hot start was due in no small part to Hugh Daily. The Courier went on to say that “On the first day that Daily pitched in Buffalo, The Courier declared him to be a most remarkable pitcher. The past two weeks have only proved this to be a fact. In no game so far played have over seven hits been gained off him, and in three of the games in which he has pitched, the opponents were the Chicagos.”

The Buffalo Courier also noted that Buffalo’s victory over Chicago “was a disastrous defeat for the Champions, as it clearly showed that their best days are over, and that there are now several clubs whose material is equal, if not superior to that contained in the Chicagos.” The doom and gloom outlook for the White Stockings was clearly overstated, as they were 5-5, only a half-game behind Buffalo, and three games behind the league leading Detroit Wolverines. Despite their early season struggles against the Bisons, the White Stockings bounced back to win their third consecutive National League pennant and cement themselves as one of the greatest teams of the nineteenth century.

The Bisons went on to finish the season tied for third with the Boston Red Caps, behind Chicago and Providence. Hugh Daily finished 15-14 with a 2.99 ERA in 29 starts for the Herd, before moving on to pitch for the National League’s Cleveland Blues the following season, where he threw a no-hitter in 1883.

Although Chicago defended the pennant, the Bisons had their number for one marvelous two-week stretch in May. The Herd gave Buffalo baseball fans early season hope by winning four out of five against the champs, led by unlikely heroes, including a one-handed pitcher and a home run by a light hitting shortstop.


[1] “The Buffalos on the Rampage in Chicago,” Buffalo Commercial Advertiser, May 19, 1882.

[2] Peter Morris, A Game of Inches, Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2006. Morris notes that “Until sometime in the 1880s, almost all reliable sources agree, most catchers and first basemen were wearing no more than simple finger gloves, and most other fielders were bare-handed.”

[3] “Daily’s Day,” Buffalo Courier, May 2, 1882.

[4] “A Brilliant Game,” Buffalo Morning Express, May 4, 1882.

[5] “Turning the Tables,” Daily Inter Ocean, May 18, 1882.

[6] “Chicago’s Chagrin,” Daily Inter Ocean, May 19, 1882.

[7] “Chicago Again Vanquished by the Heavy Batsmen from Buffalo,” Chicago Daily Tribune, May 19, 1882.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Force also played five years in the National Association.

[10] “Baseball Matters,” Buffalo Express, May 19, 1882.

[11] “Chagrined Chicago,” Buffalo Courier, May 19, 1882.

[12] “Chicago’s Chagrin,” Daily Inter Ocean, May 19, 1882.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Chagrined Chicago,” Buffalo Courier, May 19, 1882

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