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  • Writer's pictureKirk Jenkins

Louisville’s First Major League Baseball Team

Before we embark on the final series of the simulated 1936 Negro League series, we have a brief palate-cleanser series. Meet our first team – Louisville’s very first major league team, the 1876 Louisville Grays. The Grays, charter members of the National League, played in the creatively named Louisville Baseball Park, which was just south of downtown, bounded by Magnolia, Fourth, Hill and Sixth streets. They were managed by reserve outfielder Jack Chapman and finished their inaugural season 30-36. Their opponent? Well, you’ll have to wait till Wednesday for that.

The Grays’ usual catcher was Pop Snyder, who played in 56 games while hitting only .196. First baseman Joe Gerhardt led the team in home runs, if that’s the right term, with two, hitting .260 for the year. Second baseman Ed Somerville clocked in at .188 for the year, playing in all but two of the Grays’ games. Shortstop Chick Fulmer was one of the hitting stars, playing in every game and hitting .273. Third baseman Bill Hague played every game too, hitting .265. The outfield was meh: Johnny Ryan hit .253, Scott Hastings hit .253 (both Ryan and Hastings were everyday players) and Art Allison hit .208.

The Grays’ starting rotation? Well, that’s an anachronism for 1876. Twenty-seven-year old Jim Devlin pitched every game in 1876, missing only one start and 17 innings all year. He wound up with an ERA for the year of 1.56, which perhaps explains why Jack Chapman didn’t feel the need for any other regular starters. Jim Clinton, who got the one start that Devlin didn’t, was 0-1 for the year with an ERA of 6.00. Jimmy Ryan finished one game and ended at 5.63 and sixteen-year-old Frank Pearce pitched the final four innings in one game, ending with an ERA of 4.50.

Amazingly given that record, the following year, it looked for most of the season as if the Grays were going to win the National League championship. Until . . . well, let’s just say it didn’t end well.

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