Richmond Virginians

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=Team History[edit]

The Richmond Virginians was Richmond, VA's entry into the American Association during the 1884 season. The game of baseball was introduced to the region in 1866, but it never really took off. This was due to the lack of support for the game as well as the fact that both Virginia and Richmond were experiencing drastic social changes as a result of post-Civil War Reconstruction. But that didn't stop those who enjoyed the game from either watching or even playing it. During the 1860s, the city's most prominent team was the Pastimes, who lost to both the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Marylands by a combined score of 127-55. They were replaced in the 1870s by the Brown Stockings.

The Virginians' origins are believed to date back to about 1878 an amateur baseball club. By 1882 the Richmonds were the principal adult baseball club, and were advancing towards professionalism by acquiring better players; as a result, the team's record against professional teams improved. The Richmonds defeated teams from Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia for an 11-3 record and an overall record of 31-8-2. On June 20, 1883, the city of Richmond organized the Virginia Baseball Association. Shortly thereafter, the team changed its name to the "Virginia Baseball Club". Over a 10-day northern tour which occurred between late August and early September the Virginias played against teams in Washington, DC, Wilmington, DE, Philadelphia, PA, Brooklyn, NY, Kingston, NY and Middletown, NY and went 5-3. When the season ended on October 20th, the Virginians had posted a 33-14 record. Of the 14 losses, 9 of them were to professional teams.

During the off-season, the Union Association was formed to oppose the National League and the American Association. Richmond’s representative at the meeting was William C. Seddon, the team president. However, Richmond was not asked to become a member of the new league. Of course this was only a temporary setback. On January 4, 1884, representatives from Richmond, Baltimore, Wilmington, Allentown, Harrisburg, Reading, Newark and Trenton met at the Bingham House in Philadelphia, where the Eastern League was established. Seddon was elected league president.

There was a bit of an incident involved with the hiring of the team manager. Initially, the team had approached St. Louis Browns manager Ted Sullivan to manage the team. However by February Sullivan had decided to renege on his agreement. In February he came to Richmond asking to be released, but the owners refused to do so. Sullivan then left promising to return, though apparently he had no intention of doing so because upon returning to St. Louis, he wired asking if he was still needed to be there for opening day. After receiving the owners' reply Sullivan said that he was not coming. Sullivan would wind up managing the St. Louis Maroons for $1,000 more than what the Richmond team offered. As a result, the team brought in a pitcher from New York named M.S. Allen to serve as team manager. It should be noted that most baseball books list a Felix Moses as team manager, who was in fact from New York.

Between April 3rd and May 14th the Virginians played exhibition games against National League teams from Providence, Cleveland and Philadelphia, which drew large crowds despite the cold weather. The Virginians season opened on May 14th against Harrisburg. By early August the Virginians had compiled a 28-30 record. It was then that the club officers received an invitation from the American Association to join the league. They were to replace the Washington Nationals, who had dropped out after compiling a 12-51 record, and finish out the Statesmen's schedule. Meanwhile the Eastern League was unhappy with the Virginians for leaving the league, especially seeing as how the team owed the league dues and fines. As a result the team was expelled.

The Virginians open their American Association season with a two-game home series against the Philadelphia Athletics on August 5-6. The Athletics won both games by a combined score of 19-4, but while the first game was a blowout as well as a shutout, the Virginians manage to hold the Athletics to 5 runs in the second. The team got its first win against the Brooklyn Atlantics in the third game they played. Unfortunately the team’s fortunes did not improve. Due to its two losses to the Athletics, the team dropped to eighth place where it would remain for most of the rest of the season.

When the season ended on October 15th, the Virginians had compiled a 12-30-4 record for a 9th place finish and an overall record of 40-60-4. Shortstop Bill Schenck led the team with 4 home runs, while outfielder Mike Mansell had the best batting average at .301. Pete Meegan won the most games with 7 and struck out 106. Although none of the team’s starting pitchers had an ERA under 4, Meegan’s ERA was the lowest with 4.32. The team was blown out in 16 games, including 3 shutouts, but blew out their opponents in only 6 games, and only shut out only 1 opponent. Of the 11 teams the Virginians faced that season, they had a .500 winning percentage or better against three: the Columbus Buckeyes, Indianapolis Hoosiers and the Pittsburgh Alleghenys.

After the season, it was decided that the team would resume its minor league status and re-join the Eastern League for the 1885 season. Felix Moses was replaced as manager by Joseph Simmons. The Virginians first played the Providence Grays in an exhibition match, where the National League champions were defeated 4-0. When the season officially opened, Richmond defeated Norfolk by score of 8-1. By August Richmond was in first place with a 46-11 record, and a 9-game lead over the Washington Nationals. While the idea of winning the championship was appealing to the front office, the fans had a different reaction. Because of the team's easy wins attendance began to drop. The club officers tried to raise money with little success. As a result the team was forced to sell off a couple of players, Billy Nash and Dick Johnson. Because of this, they lost their next five games, which put the team's chances of winning the pennant into question. By September things had gotten worse. Due to a lack of payment, the players initially threatened to disband the club, but instead voted to withdraw from the Virginia baseball club management and attempted to finish the season on their own, which did not work. The team ended up being unable to finish the season, and the pennant went to the Nationals. It would be 8 years before Richmond would have another professional baseball team.

In 1917 there also was a team known as the Richmond Virginians in the International League. The former Richmond Climbers had changed names that year. The club went 53-94, the worst record in the IL that year. William A. Smith and Otto Knabe managed the team, which was led offensively by 1B Hack Eibel (.301, 32 doubles), OF Bill Bankston (.300, 16 triples) and OF Charlie Hanford (.254, 12 homers, 82 runs). The top pitcher was Charlie Young (6-7, 3.58).

The most recent incarnation of the Virginians also played in the International League, from 1954 to 1964. They were an affiliate of the New York Yankees starting in 1956, but never won a pennant.

Year-by-Year Record[edit]

Year Record Finish Manager Playoffs
1884 28-30 -- Felix Moses Team joined American Association
12-30 -- Felix Moses Washington disbanded August 2 and was replaced by Richmond on August 5
1885 67-26 2nd Joe Simmons none
1917 53-94 8th William A. Smith (9-22) / Otto Knabe (44-72) none
1954 60-94 7th Luke Appling
1955 58-95 8th Luke Appling
1956 74-79 5th Ed Lopat
1957 81-73 3rd Ed Lopat Lost in 1st round
1958 71-82 6th Ed Lopat
1959 76-78 4th Steve Souchock Lost League Finals
1960 82-70 2nd Steve Souchock Lost in 1st round
1961 71-83 6th Cal Ermer
1962 59-95 7th Sheriff Robinson
1963 66-81 9th Preston Gomez
1964 65-88 7th Preston Gomez

Sources[edit]

  • "The International League: Year-by-Year Statistics" by Marshall Wright
  • Peter Filichia: Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebrations of All 273 Major League and Negro League Ballparks Past and Present, Addison Wesley Publishing Company (March 1993)
  • W. Harrison Daniel, Scott P. Mayer, Baseball and Richmond: A History of the Professional Game, 1884-2000, McFarland, Sep 16, 2015