A game to remember

A game to remember

History shows the Phillies played their first game on May 1, 1883, losing to the Providence Grays, 4-3, at Recreation Park, located at 24th and Columbia Avenues. No one, including the new management headed by Alfred J. Reach, made a fuss about the first game. There was no band, no flag-raising, no mayor on hand to throw out the first pitch. Perhaps it was all old hat to the fans, for many had seen the team do its Spring Training at home.

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer game story of May 2, "The fielding was good on both sides, but the batting was weak." Each team had six hits. The Grays made five errors; the Phils had three.

Another newspaper reported, "The Phillies started well against Frank Bancroft's crack Providence Club, which had Ole Hoss Radbourne pitching. They got three runs off Radbourne, while, until the 8th, John Coleman, the Phillies hurler, had held the Grays scoreless. But in that 8th, three singles and a double, with a base on balls, brought four runs across and Providence won the ball game."

The Philadelphia Record reported "four balls were used up in the game!"

Left fielder William (Blondie) Purcell got the Phillies' first hit and scored the first run. He singled to left-center in the first inning and scored on a ground out. After 17 games (4-13 record), the 29-year-old Purcell replaced Bob Ferguson as manager.

Coleman, 20, went the distance in the season opener and took the loss. The right-hander finished the season with a 12-48 record in 65 games (61 starts) and a 4.87 ERA. Even though his record produced a winning percentage of .200, righty Art Hagan, the No. 2 starter, finished 1-14 for a .067 win percentage.

The Phils' first win came after eight losses on May 14 -- a 12-1 victory at Chicago. The 0-8 start remains a club record. They ended their inaugural season with six losses and a tie and finished last, 17-81, 46 games out of first place. Their longest winning streak was two games, three times. The longest losing streak was 14 games.

Some of the more interesting rules and practices that were in effect in 1883:

• Gloves were made of thin leather and did not cover the fingers.

• The pitcher's "mound" was a flat surface, 50 feet from home plate (it became 60 feet, 6 inches in 1893).

• Home plate was a 12-inch square (instead of the present-day five-sided figure 17 inches wide).

• Catchers did not wear chest protectors (until 1885) or shin guards (1907). Catchers were positioned 20 or more feet behind the batter and caught the ball on a bounce.

• Batters were permitted to ask for a high or low pitch (rule was abolished in 1886).

• A pitcher had to throw seven balls in order to issue a walk. Pitchers were required to throw underhanded (overhanded began in 1884).

• Rules prohibited the use of a new ball until the beginning of a new inning, no matter how worn or disfigured the ball might have been.

• No games were played on Sundays.

• There was one umpire a game. He was paid $5.

• Players had to pay $30 for their uniforms (clubs began paying for them in 1912).

• Player salaries were limited to $2,000 annually. Team rosters were 11 or 12 players.

Larry Shenk is in charge of alumni relations and team historian for the Phillies. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.