March 6, 1888 in Houston came to light in the middle of a rainy period. The new Houston base ball club was set to play what we think was their first competitive professional game against a team from elsewhere, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, at 3:30 PM that same afternoon. The game would be played at the Houston Base Ball Park at a still unconfirmed location near our present downtown area.
Some say Houston came into stick and ball battle that day decked out as the Houston Babies, a tribute to the fact that they were the last of the new Texas League clubs to get their organizational act together to join the loop. Others say that the Houston club, like their guests from Ohio, hit the field that first time as the Houston Red Stockings. Still others contend that our first local professional team may not have even bothered to drag a nickname with them for those first few games. These guys wore their team identity splashed in large red letters across the jerseys covering their hearts – and, as was the case for the men in today’s photo of the 1889 club, the letters in 1888 also spelled out “HOUSTON.”
Houston didn’t fare too well in that first game. A pitcher named “Flood” went the distance for Houston, but Cincinnati still won big, 22-3. Deep water puddles dotted the playing field that day, necessitating a search for several lost balls in play. Apparently the game ball lacked a certain buoyant quality – and probably aided by their use of the same ball for the whole soggy game.
Here’s the first box score from that first Houston professional game in town played between a team representing Houston against a club from another city on March 6. 1888:
Cincinnati Red Stockings – 22
Houston Babies – 3
|Harry Howard, 2B||4||1||1||1||1||2|
|H.B. Dauthett, CF||4||0||3||3||0||1|
|Pat Flaherty, LF||4||0||0||1||0||0|
|Daniel Murphy, 3B||4||0||0||2||0||2|
|James Vogel, RF||4||0||1||1||0||0|
|Thomas J. Flood, P (L)||3||0||0||1||10||6|
|R.H. Craig, 1B||3||1||0||11||0||0|
|Joseph Lohbeck, C||3||0||0||7||4||2|
|Jack Horan, SS||3||1||1||0||5||1|
Earned Runs: Cincinnati 8, Houston 3.
Bases on Balls: Cincinnati 4, Houston 2.
Strike Outs By: Flood 7, Serad 5.
Left On Base: Cincinnati 7, Houston 4.
2BH: McThee (2), Kappel, Serad, Dauthett, Horan.
Passed Balls: Lohbeck 6, Keenan 1.
Wild Pitches: Flood 3.
Stolen Bases: Howard, Dauthett, Craig (1 each), Cincinnati 8.
Umpire: Kid Baldwin.
Time of Game: 1 Hour & 45 minutes.
Assuming this contest really was the first Houston professional home game, first baseman R.H. Craig scored the first run in home game (or any game) history in the fourth inning. Already trailing 4-0, Craig led off with a walk and then stole second. After Lobeck then flew out to right and Horan was retired in some unspecified way, second baseman Harry Howard singled to left to plate Craig for the locals’ first run in history. The boys would score two more on the day before going down hard by finl tally of 22 to 3.
Our anonymous Houston Post reporter described Howard’s historic RBI line drive over the Cincy shortstop’s head as “a corker.” The same reporter left this comment for the ages about Houston pitcher Thomas Flood: “Flood’s speed surprised (Cincinnati), but owing to a sore finger he could not control his balls or get in any of his deceptive curves.”
The Post reporter also admitted to giving up scorekeeping in the sixth inning, His opinion of the Houston team pretty much imbedded itself in this throwaway comment about the fielding of second baseman Howard: “…like every other man in the (Houston) team, (Howard) appeared to be stiff.”
Unfortunately, 1888 would not be the last year that a bunch of stiffs took the field for Houston.