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The 1890 Philadelphia Athletics

After John Montgomery Ward lead most of the top flight players away from the American Association and the National League into the Players League. there was an influx of lesser players into the AA. In particular, the Athletics was loaded with players from the many leagues that surrounded Philadelphia. It is hard to believe, but every small town, and they are numberless, were part of leagues of varying quality. In addition, the Philadelphia Area had many amateur teams that played mostly on Saturdays. While not a big source of future major leaguers, there were a few.

When the first attempt at a comprehensive Baseball Encyclopedia came out in 1951, authored by Hy Turkin and S C Thompson, but of whom Ernie Lanigan , Tom Shea and Lee Allen were great contributors, it was a pioneering work. And there were many cases where there was no documentary evidence besides the boxscores to say who they actually were.

The practice in the 19th century was for writers to use only the last name for the ball player in the story line unless it was one of the best known players. Also, initials were more often used than first names. So in many cases the player had to be inferred from stories referring backwards to what a player did in the past.

The American Association was severely hurt by the Players League, and the A’s went bankrupt. But they continued to play. As the season neared it’s end, Manager Sharsig started using local players without big league experience.

When Turkin and Thompson completed the first Encyclopedia, the 1890 A’s were a particularly bad example of players who are “most likely” the player rather than the actual player. By September, the newspapers were calling the team Sharsig’s amateurs. And on the last day, October 12, 1890, the A’s played at their Sunday place in Glouchester, NJ, with an attendance of 20 customers, and the game was called after 5 innings. That day Manager Sharsig used 4 players who made their one and only major league appearance. And while they all have first names appended to the last name appearing in the boxscore, there is no evidence whatsoever who they were.

Below is the 1890 roster with the games played and the debut date for the 1890 debut players.

On the seasons last game, McBride, Stafford, Sterling and Sweigert appeared. Appended to McBride was John F, a ball player and minor league umpire from Phillipsburg,NJ who was 11 years old in 1890. To Sterling was John A , a local pitcher who also played in the Pennsylvania State League and was 25 in 1890. Years later Robert M was added to Stafford by Tom Hufford, an 18 year old from North Carolina who mostly played in the South. And more recently Hampton was added to Sweigert, from who knows where. There was a Hampton Swygert foud by Peter Morris who was born in South Carolina and played in the South. There was a note in 1911 about a Hampton Sweigert who was an amateur athletics official from New Jersey but the source is no longer known.

The Philadelphia Inquirer said that Sterling was a Camden, NJ boy who wore a strange hand made uniform. This may not be John. There was a McBride who played for the Kurtz Club of Philadelphia but otherwise I have no idea who the player was.

Charles Stecher turned out to be William Theodore Stecher from Riverside, NJ. He pitched for the Riverside team for many years, but went professional with the Harrisburg team in 1890 and the A’s got him from there.

Al Sauters turned out to be Albert C Sauter who was 22 years old in 1890 and became a jeweller and watchmaker for many years in Philadelphia. He lived in Philadelphia to around 1930. He played until at least 1898 locally as an amateur

Bill Price was a William G Price

On October 2, 1890 the A’s went to play Columbus and they picked up 2 local amateurs, pitcher Lackey and catcher Macey. So far there is no evidence as to who they were. The local newspaper had no information on amateurs and they did not mention first names in the game story. In the boxscore they did call Macey Mackey in the passed balls, but that is not evidence. In the Columbus City Directory the only Lackey was William D and the only Macey was Hayes a blacksmith, but he was in his late 30s

Ed Green was a longtime local infielder who also did some pitching. We have him born in 1850 and dying in Utah in 1917 but that is most likely not him.

George Crawford was a Californian who came East in 1884 to play in the minor leagues, but was no longer playing by 1890. Public Ledger Pha 10 13 90 "Manager Sharsig has picked up a young right fielder named Crawford who with a little experience promises to develop into a second Fogarty"

Samuel Campbell was a local catcher who had played with Lancaster in May 1890 , was born in Philadelphia in 1870 and was the son of Samuel S Campbell, a confectioner. Campbell played 2B in a doubleheader in Philadelphia on October 11. However there was a 2B from Philadelphia named Peter L “Bunty” Campbell who was 22 years old in 1890 and had played for Hazleton,Pa in 1888 and 1889. It seems more likely that it is him. He died around 1914 while running a saloon in Philadelphia. But so far no direct evidence.

Help on the story from Reed Howard