A painting of baseball players from 1870

Tommy Bond Was a Good Pitcher

I’m not an expert on 1800’s baseball players at all.  I do have a passing interest in it just because there’s a mystery to the time period. The rules were different, stat tracking was different, box scores are hard to find and just any era of baseball before the World Series feels like lost history.

But if one recognizes 1871 as the first year of Major League Baseball (I believe MLB does not, they don’t start recognizing anything until 1876 when the National League began) there are over 30 years of baseball that took place before the first World Series in 1903. To put that into context, 32 years ago from today would cover 1991-2023. This is practically my entire life of baseball (I am 37 however I wasn’t completely following baseball in any capacity until I was probably 3 or so.)

When put into that perspective, that’s a long time. I personally wish to know more about that time period of baseball as we’re talking generations of a sport, the beginning of a sport that has so much legacy.

With that I wonder how players were selected to the Hall of Fame from this time period. I understand some inclusions like Albert Goodwill Spaulding, who not only was a great player back in the very early days of baseball, he ended up founding one of the most famous sporting good companies that is still in use today.

I understand men like Alexander Cartwright or Henry Chadwick who created rules and stats for the sport that are so ingrained in the sport.

It makes sense to me that a player like Cap Anson, who still holds the record for base hits by a Chicago Cub and also managed championship winning teams, is in the Hall of Fame.

There’s a player that stands out to me, however, that hasn’t been selected but he seems to be one of the best pitchers of his time. I’m going to reference stats here as I have no other way to judge a player who existed many years before there was any way to actually see him play but he has stood out to me because Tommy Bond was the best pitcher in baseball from 1877-1880.

In this stretch he won 40 games every year. He let the league in ERA twice and was the reason that his Boston team won back to back pennants in 1876 and 1877. He finished his career with a 234-163 record and a 2.14 ERA.


A painting of baseball players from 1870
                                                                                                                                 Library of Congress

Now, when I compare this player to modern day players with short periods of domination but without the numbers to support a Hall of Fame case I completely understand why he isn’t in but it’s players like Bond I feel need to be remembered in the context of history. Without that label of Hall of Famer he never really has had a legacy that lasted even though he was a very good pitcher at one point. He’s a player that has been completely forgotten over time and a player who would benefit in a more expanded “Hall of Very Good

I guess the point of this is nothing more than to point out a good player from this era. When going season to season on Baseball Reference, you see his name pop up on the top of leader boards for a short period of time and it was a name that drew my attention as that domination didn’t last very long and it’s a name that I personally would like to see mean just a little bit in the lore of baseball.

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