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This Week in Port Jervis History

On July 14, 1877, the Port Jervis Delawares played the Philadelphia Athletics at the Main Street Baseball Grounds (where the field at the Middle School is today). The Delaware Baseball Club was founded in 1859, as an amateur team in Port Jervis. The Athletics were the predecessor to the major league team, which is now the Oakland Athletics. In the previous season, in 1876, the Philadelphia Athletics played in the National League. In December of 1876, however, the Athletics were expelled from the National League for having refused to travel to play the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Brown Stockings at the end of their season due to financial troubles. The Athletics and the New York Mutuals, who were also expelled from the National League for the same reason, joined the new League Alliance. The League Alliance, which only lasted one season, was started by Albert Goodwill Spalding, the pitcher and founder of the Spalding sporting goods company. The right fielder for Philadelphia in their game against Port Jervis was George Bechtel. In 1875, Bechtel and Bill Craver of the Philadelphia Centennials were sold to the Athletics for $1500, becoming the first known baseball players to be sold to another team. The following year, Betchel played for the Louisville Grays. In a game against the New York Mutuals, Bechtel made three errors in key situations during the game, raising suspicions. Three weeks later, Betchel wired a teammate a message saying they could make $500 if they lost the game that day. His teammate reported him to management and the Louisville Grays suspended him. Bechtel became the first player to be banned for life by the National League. Players for the Delawares included Stephen F. Ingram pitching, Mike “King” Kelly catching, Jack Lynch in right field and Crane at first base (likely Stephen Crane’s older brother Edmund who is buried in Laurel Grove cemetery). King Kelly went on to play for and manage several major league teams. Kelly, who died when he was thirty six, was one of the most successful baseball players of his time as well as a celebrity. He was the first baseball player to author an autobiography, Play Ball, was paid more than any baseball player of his time, and the first popular song in America, "Slide, Kelly, Slide" was written about him. The Delawares shut out the visiting Athletics 10-0 (including Kelly’s RBI double in the eighth inning).

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