COURTESY OF FORDHAM UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES DIGITAL COLLECTIONS
In a closely contested baseball game on a long-lost Saturday, the Fordham nine fell to Yale University by a score of 3-1. With the score tied in the ninth inning, the Rams allowed two runs and were unable to respond in the final frame. The date was April 19, 1902.
Entering the 1902 season, the team from St. John’s College, already referred to as “Fordham” in newspapers, anticipated a very successful season. Captain Jack Doscher, St. John’s College (SJC) ’03, was only a junior but was leading a team full of senior talent. In fact, catcher John Butler, SJC ’02, had even spent time playing professional baseball the previous year before returning to the varsity team.
While Fordham fielded a roster of talented, mature players, the Yale nine had far less to work with at the beginning of the season. Many of their best players had graduated in 1901, and Captain Ray Guernsey, Yale University (YU) ’02, was forced to field a team with sophomores and even freshmen. They were considered a team attempting to rebuild, but instead, they simply built on the successes of previous years.
Along with Guernsey and pitcher John Garvan, YU ’02, a new freshman star appeared in New Haven. E.L. Cote, YU ’05, quickly established himself as a mainstay on the Yale roster in his first year. He became the starting left fielder and even appeared on the mound in relief for Garvan. Despite losing much of their core from the previous year, the Ells had managed to quickly reinvigorate their program.
Before facing the Rams, Yale was already having an excellent month. On April 5, they played the Philadelphia Athletics, a professional baseball team managed by Hall of Famer Connie Mack and featuring Nap Lajoie, one of the greatest players of the era. Garvan shut out the A’s for five innings, and the Ells hung on to win in a 7-5 upset.
On Thursday, April 16, before traveling to New York, Yale competed well against a tough Amherst College team in a 3-3 tie. That same day, Fordham trounced St. Francis Xavier College, known today as Xavier High School, by a score of 18-0.
That weekend, the Yale nine traveled to the Bronx to take on the Rams at a field that has since been converted into Edwards Parade, or Eddies. Before the game, Guernsey announced that Cote would start on the mound, but that did not occur. In the shadow of Hughes Hall, Garvan started for the Ells against Fordham captain Doscher.
In the top of the second inning, Yale struck first to take a 1-0 lead. Fordham responded immediately, with second baseman Eddie Swetnam, SJC ’02, hitting a triple in his next at-bat and scoring later in the inning to tie the game, 1-1.
Following this early offensive exchange, neither team scored until the ninth inning. For eight innings, Fordham pitching had only allowed one hit, but that would change. In the ninth, the Rams allowed a double and multiple walks to load the bases. A single by right fielder A.Y. Wear, YU ’02, drove in Yale’s second run of the game to take a 2-1 lead.
Later in the inning, shortstop Louis Hartman fielded a ball and threw home for a play at the plate. Hartman’s throw was low and H.B. Miller, YU ’04, scored easily to increase Yale’s lead, 3-1. The Rams returned to bat in the bottom of the ninth but failed to score, giving the Ells the close, hard-fought victory.
The loss was the beginning of a difficult stretch for Fordham, as they lost to Lafayette and Holy Cross soon after, the latter of which Yale would go on to defeat. Yale had a season far exceeding people’s original expectations, while Fordham may have underachieved given the experience on its roster.
Of the 18 men who played that day, only two Fordham players went on to play professional baseball. The Rams’ catcher Butler returned to professional baseball, but struggled for several seasons on three different teams before retiring. After graduating in 1903, Doscher had a five-year career, mainly pitching for the Brooklyn Superbas. He retired in 1908 after 27 recorded appearances.
Despite doing very little in the game, the best-known player on the 1902 Yale roster was second baseman Johnny De Saulles, YU ’02, who got most of his hits in the fall as the captain of a historic Yale football team. After graduating, he briefly worked as a football coach before entering a career in business and politics. In 1917, just 15 years after his appearance at second base against Fordham, he was murdered under mysterious circumstances. In what would become one of the most high-profile criminal trials of the decade, his ex-wife was named the prime suspect but ultimately found not guilty, and his killer was never identified.
Meanwhile, rookie star Cote went on to have an illustrious college baseball career, becoming one of the most well-known players of his era in New Haven. However, there’s no record he ever played professional baseball.
Since that innocuous day on Eddies in 1902, thousands of college baseball games have taken place in the Bronx. The only reason this particular game is remembered is because a single photo remains to commemorate it. The names Doscher, Butler and Swetnam have been replaced countless times on the Fordham roster, most recently in 2020 by the names Stankiwiecz, Semo and Tarabek. Those players of the past were remembered by a few brief statistics if they reached the professional level, and very little at all if they pursued anything else.
Not every player on the 2020 Fordham baseball roster will play at the professional level, just as not every art major will join the ranks of Picasso and Pollock. Some will become lawyers, some accountants and others teachers. Hopefully, none will be most remembered for high-profile criminal trials, but many will be remembered for nothing at all.
Hundreds of thousands of Fordham students — athletes and art majors alike — have walked on the pathway in front of Hughes Hall in the time since, over a century later. Each of those students have contributed something to the community around them and the world thereafter, but almost invariably, those contributions are forgotten with time and further progress. Players on the 1902 Fordham baseball team were far luckier than most, however.
The preservation of a single photo, hidden away in the archives, is proof that each and every student has their moment at Fordham. For two hours in April, 118 years ago, 18 men stood in the heart of Rose Hill, and they contributed to something.