Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up other Things #11

22 Sep

Floto on Baseball’s Most Powerful Men

Otto Clement Floto was one of the more colorful sportswriters of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century’s.  The Denver Post’s Woody Paige said of the man who was once worked for that paper:

“In the early 1900s Floto was The Denver Post’s sports editor and a drunk, barely literate, loud-mouthed columnist–sounds like a description of that guy in my mirror–who didn’t believe in punctuation marks, wrote about fights he secretly promoted on the side, got into shouting matches with legendary Wild West gunman–turned Denver sportswriter–Bat Masterson.”

Otto Floto

Otto Floto

Floto, in 1910, provided readers of The Post with his unvarnished opinion of baseball’s most powerful figures:

John T. Brush—The smartest man in baseball, but vindictive.

Garry Herrmann—Smart, but no backbone; the last man to him has him.

Ban Johnson—Bluffs a great deal and makes it stick.  Likes to talk.

Charles Comiskey—Shrewd as can be.

Connie Mack—Shrewd and clever; knows the game better than anyone.

Charles Murphy—A hard fighter, but backs up at times.

George Tebeau—More nerve than any other man in baseball, very shrewd.

Barney Dreyfus—Smart, but always following, never leading.

As for John McGraw, Floto allowed that the Giants’ manager was “Pretty wise,” but attributed his success to the fact that he “has lots of money to work worth.”

Too Much Money for Players, 1884

The Cleveland Herald was not happy when pitcher Jim McCormick jumped his contract with the Cleveland Blues in the National League to the Union Association’s Cincinnati franchise.  Although teammates Jack Glasscock and Charles “Fatty” Briody also jumped to Cincinnati, the paper saved most their anger for the first big leaguer to have been born in Scotland.

Jim McCormick

Jim McCormick

The paper noted that McCormick, who was paid $2500 by the Blues, had received a $1,000 bonus to jump:

“(A) total of $3,500 for joining the Cincinnati Unions to play the remainder of the season.  This is equal to $1750 a month, which again divided makes $437.50 a week.  Now McCormick will not play oftener than three times a week which makes his wages $145.83 per day for working days.  The game will average about two hours each, so that he receives for his actual work no less than $72.91 an hour, or over $1.21 a minute for work done.  If he was not playing ball he would probably be tending bar in some saloon at $12 a week.”

McCormick was 21-3 with a 1.54 ERA in 24 games and helped pitch the “Outlaw Reds” to a second place finish in the struggling Union Association.  After the Association collapsed was assigned to the Providence Grays, then was sold to the Chicago White Stockings.  From July of 1885 through the 1886 season McCormick was teamed with his boyhood friend Mike “King” Kelly—the two grew up together in Paterson, New Jersey and were dubbed “the Jersey Battery” by the Chicago press—and posted a 51-15 record during the season and a half in Chicago, including a run of 16 straight wins in ‘86.

He ended his career with a 265-214 record and returned home to run his bar.  In 1912 John McGraw was quoted in The Sporting Life calling McCormick “the greatest pitcher of his day.”

The pitcher who The Herald said would otherwise be a $12 a week bartender also used some of the money he made jumping from Cleveland in 1884 the following year to purchase a tavern in Paterson.

Not Enough Money for Owners, 1885

In 1885 J. Edward “Ned” Allen was president of the defending National League Champions –and winners of baseball’s first World Series—the Providence Grays.  He told The New York Sun that baseball was no longer a profitable proposition:

“The time was when a man who put his money into a club was quite sure of coming out more or less ahead, but that is past.  When the National League had control of all the best players in the country a few years ago, and had no opposition, salaries were low, and a player who received $1,500 for his season’s work did well.  In 1881, when the American Association was organized in opposition to the league, the players’ salaries at once began to go up, as each side tried to outbid the other.  When the two organizations formed what is known as the National Agreement the clubs retained their players at the same salaries.

“Several other associations were then organized in different parts of the country and were admitted under the protection of the National Agreement.   This served to make good ball-players, especially pitchers, scarce, and forced salaries up still higher, until at the present time a first-class pitcher will not look at a manager for less than $3,500 for a season.  (“Old Hoss”) Radbourn of last year’s Providence Club received the largest amount of money that has ever been paid to a ball-player.  His wonderful pitching, which won the championship for the club, cost about $5,000 (Baseball Reference says Radbourn earned between $2,800 and $3,000 in 1884), as did the work of two pitchers and received the pay of two.

The Providence Grays--Champions and unprofitable

The Providence Grays–Champions and unprofitable

“Some of the salaries which base-ball players will get next season are; (Jim) O’Rourke, (Joe) Gerhardt, (Buck) Ewing and (John Montgomery) Ward of the New York Club, $3,000 each.  (Tony) Mullane was to have played for the Cincinnati Club for $4,000 (Mullane was suspended for signing with Cincinnati after first agreeing to a contract with the St. Louis Browns).  (Fred) Dunlap has a contract with the new League club in St. Louis for $3,400.  These are only a few of the higher prices paid, while the number of men who get from $2,000 to $3,000 is large.  At these prices a club with a team costing only from $15,000 to $20,000 is lucky, but it has not much chance of winning a championship.  To this expense must be added the ground rent, the salaries of gate-keepers, and the traveling expenses, which will be as much more.

“As a high-priced club the New York Gothams leads, while the (New York) Metropolitans are nearly as expensive.  The income of these two clubs last year was nearly $130,000, yet the Metropolitans lost money and the New York Club (Gothams) was only a little ahead.  The first year the Metropolitans were in the field(1883) their salary list was light, as were their traveling expenses, and at the end of the season they were $50,000 ahead.”

The Grays disbanded after the 1885 season.

The Wealthiest Ballplayers, 1894

19 Sep

In 1894, major leaguer turned sportswriter, Sam Crane wrote about the wealthiest players in baseball in The New York Press:

(Cap) Anson is probably the wealthiest ball-player on the diamond today.  His wealth has been estimated anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000.  It is, without doubt, nearer the latter sum than the former.”

"Cap" Anson

“Cap” Anson

Anson’s fortune would be long gone, due to a series of poor investments and other financial setbacks, by the time he died in 1922.

“From the time he joined the Chicago club he has enjoyed a big salary.  In his nearly 20 years’ connection with the club he has acted as manager and captain since the retirement as a player of A.G. Spalding in 1877.  Anson, of course received extra salary as manager, and has also been a stockholder in the club…He has been fortunate, too, in real estate transactions in the “Windy City,” under the tutelage of Mr. Spalding, and could retire from active participation in the game without worrying as to where his next meal was coming from.”

The men who Crane said were the second and third wealthiest players managed to keep their fortunes.

Jim O’Rourke is thought to come next to Anson in point of wealth.  Jim came out as a professional player about the same time as Anson.  He did not get a large salary at first with the Bostons, which club he joined in 1873.  He remained with the team until 1878, when he went to Providence.  Jim was young and giddy when he came from Bridgeport to Boston, in 1873, and did not settle down into the staid, saving player he now is…He was a ‘sporty’ boy then, and liked to associate with lovers of the manly art.  Patsy Sheppard was his particular friend in the ‘Hub,’ and James made the boxer’s hotel his home for some time.  When he went to Providence in 1879 Jim began to think of saving his money, and from that time on his ‘roll’ began to increase.

Jim O'Rourke

Jim O’Rourke

Dan Brouthers has received big salaries only since 1886, when he, as one of the famous ‘big four,’ was bought by Detroit from Buffalo.  But since then he has pulled the magnates’ legs and socked away the ‘stuff.’  He has been situated so that he has been able to make the magnates ‘pony up’ to the limit, and Dan had no mercy.  He said he was out for the ‘long green,’ and he got it.  When the Boston club bought Brouthers, (Abram “Hardy”) Richardson, (Charlie) Bennett, (Charles “Pretzels”) Getzein and (Charlie) Ganzell, Dan grasped the opportunity and got a big bonus and also a big salary.  He made the Detroit club give up a big slice of the purchase money before he would agree to be sold.

Dan Brouthers

Dan Brouthers

“The Brotherhood war, when Dan jumped to the Boston Players league was another favorable opportunity for him, and he grasped it and the boodle with his accustomed avidity.  Dan has planted his wealth in brick houses in Wappingers Falls (NY), and can lie back at his ease with his 30,000 ‘plunks’ and laugh at the magnates.  It is this feeling of contentment that has made Dan almost too independent and has affected his playing lately (Brouthers appeared in just 77 games in 1893, but hit .337, and hit .347 in 123 games in 1894).  Dan is what ballplayers call ‘hard paper,’ which was a most distinguishing characteristic of every one of the ‘big four.’”

Detroit’s “Big Four” consisted of Brouthers, “Hardy” Richardson, James “Deacon” White and Jack Rowe.

“Hardy Richardson was not so awful bad, but Jim White and Jack Rowe took the whole bake shop for being ‘hard papes.’  They have both been known to start on a three weeks’ trip with 80 cents each, and on their return Jim would ask Jack, ‘How much have you spent?’  Jack would reply:  “I haven’t kept run of every little thing, but I’ve got 67 cents left.’   Jim would remark gleefully: ‘Why, I’m three cents ahead of you; I’ve got 70 cents.’  And Pullman car porters are blamed for kicking when a ball club boards their car!  Jack and Jim would sleep in their shoes for fear they would have to pay for a shine.  The only money they spent was for stamps in sending home papers, which they borrowed from the other players.  They are both well off now, however, and can afford to laugh at the players who used to guy them.”

(Charles) Comiskey has been fortunate in getting big money since 1883.  (Chris) Von der Ahe appreciated the great Captain’s worth and paid him more and more every year.  The Brotherhood business enabled him to make a most advantageous contract, and as manager and Captain of the Chicagos he received $7,000 salary besides a big bonus.  His contract with Mr. (John T.) Brush to play and manage in Cincinnati called for $23,000 for three years and $3,000 in cash.  This was made in 1891 and runs this year (1894).  Comiskey has his money invested in Chicago real estate, which is paying him a good income at the present time.

(John “Bid”) McPhee, (William “Buck”) Ewing, (Harry) Stovey, (Paul) Radford, (Ned) Hanlon, (Jack) Glasscock, (Tim)Keefe, (Charles “Chief”) Zimmer, (Charlie) Buffington, (Charlie) Bennett, and (Fred) Pfeffer are players who are worth from $10,000 to $15,000, which has all been made by playing ball.  There are only a few more players who have much in the ‘stocking.’”

“The Poet-Pitcher”

17 Sep

Edward Benninghaus Kenna came from a prominent West Virginia Family; his father, John Edward Kenna was a United States Senators.  Another West Virginia Senator, William Edwin Chilton was often referred to as Kenna’s uncle—he was his father’s former law partner and best friend, but they were not related.

Edward B. Kenna, circa 1900

Edward B. Kenna,1900

He was, according to The Kansas City Star:

“(A)n unusually well-educated young man,.  He spent four years at Mount St. Mary’s College and was graduated there in 1898.  His post graduate course of one year was taken at Georgetown University, and the following three years he spent at West Virginia University, studying law.”

Kenna played football and baseball at all three schools—and coached both sports at Richmond College in 1900, the same season he made his professional debut with the Toledo Mud Hens in the Interstate League..

He was also a poet who had two anthologies of his poems published, and was later the editor of The Charleston Gazette.  While most current sources say his nickname was “The Pitching Poet,” during his lifetime he was nearly always referred to by the slightly less lyrical “The Poet-Pitcher.”

Despite his education, and pedigree, The Star said:

“Seeing Kenna on the ball field one would not think that he was the possessor of so many distinctions.  He does not attempt to hold himself aloof from his teammates, but on the contrary is one of the most energetic (players) in the pursuit of victory and when not in the pitcher’s box is on the coacher’s line haranguing the opposing players and urging the members of his own team to their best efforts.  Coaching is one of his hobbies and he is particularly successful at this line of work.  He finds special enjoyment in ‘kidding’ the bleacher element…He says that base ball is not an uplifting pursuit either morally or intellectually, but is an enjoyable one.”

He pitched two games in the major leagues—with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1902, but said the two most interesting games of his career were back-to-back starts in 1904, while he was a member of the Denver Grizzlies in the Western League.

When Kenna joined the Louisville Colonels in the following season, The Louisville Times told the story of the games—both against the Des Moines Prohibitionists:

“(He) was touched up for nineteen safe hits, and yet his opponents failed to get a runner over the pan.  In one inning he was hit for a triple, a double and three singles, and still his opponents failed to get a man home.

“The first batter up hit for a triple, but was nailed trying to stretch it into a homer.  The next man doubled down the left field line, but was afterward caught off second by the poet.  The next three batters hit safely, and then Kenna got down to work and fanned the next batter with the bases full.

“Two days later Kenna was sent in against the same team.  For eight innings he did great work (allowing no hits) and his teammates made but one error.  He had perfect control and during this period gave only one base on balls.  The Denver team managed to get one runner across the pan, which looked as good as a hundred when the ninth inning was about to close.  The bard fanned the first two batter, but the third reached first on a fluke (a second error).  Then (Bob) Ganley, who is now with Pittsburgh, stepped to the plate and drove out a home run, which won the game.  Only one hit was made off his delivery, and yet Kenna lost the contest by one score.”

He was 16-13 for the Colonels in 1905 when, on September 1, he and seven other members of the team were injured in Kansas City when an electric trolley car crashed into the wagon they were riding  to the ballpark.  Kenna was the most seriously injured, and  reportedly suffered broken bones in his right (pitching) hand, a fractured left arm, a concussion, broken nose and an eye injury.  The Kansas City Star said he was listed in serious condition at a local hospital.  Despite the extent of his injuries—which ended his season– Kenna sent a telegram to family members in Washington D.C., saying simply

“Nothing serious; strained arm.  Don’t worry.  Ed.”

He never fully recovered.  He returned to Louisville in 1906, and struggled, finishing the season 12-21; but he hit .325 in 166 at bats.  Given his new found success as a hitter—his best previously recorded average was .225—Kenna decided he was through as a pitcher:

The Louisville Times said:

“Kenna announces that from now on he will be an outfielder, and he hopes (team President George) Tebeau will play him in right field on the Louisville team next season.  Kenna is simply tired of pitching.”

The Colonels accommodated him, but he struggled at the plate and was released in July after hitting just .143.

Edward Kenna, circa 1910

Edward Kenna, circa 1910

Kenna returned to West Virginia, newspapers and poetry.  About the time his book “Songs of the Open Air, and Other Poems” was published in early 1912, he left his job at the , and went to Florida to attempt to recover from what was described simply as “a heart condition.”  He died in Florida on March 22.

The Sporting Life said of the thirty-four-year-old’s funeral in Charleston:

“(It) was one of the largest ever seen here.  All races and creeds showed their deep grief for this beloved man.”

Kenna’s younger brother John Edward Kenna Jr. was also a right-handed pitcher; he was 15-6 for the Chattanooga Lookouts in the South Atlantic League in 1909 and 7-7 with the Worcester Busters in the New England League in 1910—also born in Charleston on January 6, 1883, he died there on May 5, 1956.

Comiskey’s “Sandusky Terror”

15 Sep

In February of 1899 The Chicago Inter Ocean said of Charles Comiskey, then owner of the Western League’s St. Paul Saints:

“It is also proper to state that C. Comiskey is, all things considered, the greatest story teller in this profession.”

Charles Comiskey

Charles Comiskey

The paper then related one of Comiskey’s favorite stories, told during that winter’s Western League meeting:

“’Speaking of ballplayers and their ways,’ he began, ‘did I ever tell you about my efforts to make a pitcher of the ‘Sandusky Terror?’  It happened while I was managing the old St. Louis Browns… It was in the early spring and I was in St. Louis waiting for my men to report for preliminary training.  (Browns owner Chris) von der Ahe had trouble in signing his star pitcher (Dave Foutz) that year, and when I looked over the list I found that I needed twirlers and needed them badly.  I told my troubles to Chris and he did his best to cheer me up.  He told me, among other things, that he had sent a railroad ticket to a young farmer who lived near Sandusky, and from all accounts was a wonder.  I didn’t enthuse, for I had had previous experience with these rustic phenomenons , but Chris said that a friend of his in Sandusky had bet him a case of champagne that the boy would prove a grand find.’

Chris von der Ahe

Chris von der Ahe

“’Next morning the boy from Sandusky showed up at the ballpark.  He was one of the biggest and strongest chaps I ever met in or out of baseball.  What is more, he had a pitching arm of tremendous powers, and after he passed the ball to me five minutes I saw that he had a world of speed and for a raw amateur, very fair control of the ball.’

“’Well, we started on a little training trip down South, and as a matter of course I took the boy with us.  His terrific speed and his willingness to learn made him popular with the members of the team, and they spent hours in catching him.  A week passed and I really began to think I had discovered the pitching star of the year.  Things went well until we struck Mobile..  When we drove up the hotel a fairly good looking woman of 30 or thereabouts walked up the bus and caught my Sandusky wonder by the arm.’

“’William,’ she said, ‘I want to have a serious talk with you.’

“’They strolled down the street arm in arm while the other players lounged around the hotel wondering what it all meant.  Half an hour later the couple returned.  The girl went into the parlor, but the young fellow called me to one side.’

“’Captain,’ he said, ‘I have gone and done it.’

“’Done what?’ I asked.’

“’Married Louisa,’ he answered.  ‘You see, she came all the way from Sandusky to teach school down in this part of the country, an’ she says she’s lonesome like an’ that playin’ ball for wages don’t suit her views.  Me an’ she kinder liked each other when she lived up in Sandusky an’ we’ve been writin’ letters to each other ever since she left home.  That’s how she knew I was with your club.  Captain, I guess that’s all, exceptin’ here’s the 60 cents I borrowed from you yesterday.  Louisa says I musn’t quit you owin’ a cent, and she gave me the money to hand to you.’

“’You don’t mean to say you’re going to quit the team,’ I gasped.  ‘Why, we will make a pitcher of you and pay you good wages while you are developing.’

“’That’s just it,’ he answered.  Louisa says I musn’t play for money.  Says her uncle, who is a preacher in the village, insists that it is wrong to do it.  Come in and ask Louis if I am not tellin’ you the truth.’

“’Well, I spent an even half hour in trying to induce that woman to change her mind, but she wouldn’t.  She said she had decided to make a lawyer out of her husband and that they would live on the money she earned teaching school until he was admitted to the bar.  Then she took her youthful husband away from the hotel and that was the last we ever laid eyes on the pair.  Later in the day I made a little investigation on my own account and found that the woman, who by the way, was at least ten years older than her new husband, had taken the boy straight to the parsonage and married him before he had been in the town twenty minutes.  I don’t know whatever became of the pair, but I believe to this very day that if the ‘Sandusky Terror,’ as the players nicknamed him, had gone back to St. Louis with the team he would have developed into another (Amos) Rusie.  I have never forgiven that pretty school teacher for making him jump our club, and, what’s more, I never will.’”

11,297,424

12 Sep

The Chicago Tribune baseball writer Hugh Fullerton was fond of saying:

“Once upon a time there was a baseball bug down in Cincinnati who figured out there were 11,297,424 possible plays in baseball.  This, of course, was counting only straight and combination plays and taking no account of the different kinds of fly hits and grounders, which all are different.  He proved it conclusively and the next day the team made one that wasn’t on the list.

“Every play, every throw, every hit is different.  That is why baseball is the national game, and there are freaks in the game that make even the case hardened regular sit up and yelp with surprise and joy.”

Hugh Fullerton

Hugh Fullerton

Fullerton made a career of telling stories about those plays; some might have even been true.

A few more of them:

“Philadelphia lost a hard luck game to Cleveland in the old twelve club league.  The score was close, Philadelphia had two men on base, and Ed Delehanty was at bat.

“He cracked a long drive across the left field fence—a sure home run.  The ball was going over the fence high in the air, when suddenly it changed its course, dropped straight down, hit the top of the fence and bounded back into the lot.

Ed Delahanty

Ed Delahanty

“The crowd, which had given up in despair, was astonished.  The Cleveland left fielder got the ball and, by a quick throw, cut down the runner at the plate and Delehanty was held at second.  The next men went out and Philadelphia was beaten.

“Investigation after the game proved that the ball had struck a telephone wire reading to a factory just outside the grounds.”

Tom Corcoran had one of the oddest baseball experiences in the history of the National League at the old Eastern Park grounds in Brooklyn years ago, in a game against Boston.  The game was played on the morning of Labor Day, and there had been a hard rain the night before.  In the early part of the game Corcoran, going after a ground ball, felt his foot slip and his ankle turn, and, half falling, he stopped the ball and then fell.  He turned to pick up the ball to throw out his man, and saw no ball—although there was a hole six inches across, into which his foot had plunged.  The runner, reaching first, stopped and saw Corcoran with his arm plunged to the elbow in the ground, and after hesitating a moment, he ran on down to second.

Tom Corcoran

Tom Corcoran

“Corcoran, meantime, had been thinking.  His fingers were clutched around the ball, and yet he waited, pretending to be groping for the ball.  The runner started on, and as he passed, Corcoran dragged the ball out and touched him out.”

“One of the funniest plays I ever witnessed was pulled off on the old Baltimore grounds along in 1896, and it was good-natured, happy Wilbert Robinson who made the blunder that resulted in the defeat of the Orioles when they might have won the game.

Wilbert robinson

Wilbert Robinson

“The struggle was between Chicago and Baltimore and it went into extra innings.  In the eleventh, with a Chicagoan on second Doctor Jimmy McJames made a wild pitch, the ball shooting crooked and bounding around back of the visitors bench with Robby in close pursuit.  The ball rolled back of the water cask and disappeared.  Robby made one frantic grab back of the cask, and then, straightening up, hurled a sponge full of water at McJames, who was covering the plate.  The Doctor grabbed it, and as the water flew all over him he tagged Jimmy Ryan…In spite of the fact that the play beat Baltimore, the crowd yelled with delight over it, and Robby, who had made the sponge throw as a joke when he found he could not get the ball in time, appeared as much pleased as if he had won the game.”

 

“This Fellow has about as much Judgment of Balls and Strikes as a Six-year-old Kid”

10 Sep

Umpire baiting was an art form for managers like John McGraw.  In 1906 Tim Murnane wrote in The Boston Globe about the way McGraw, and his players, intimidated a first-year umpire named John Conway during a game between the New York Giants and Boston Beaneaters.

On May 1 the Giants had defeated the Beaneaters 7 to 5, and according to Murnane:

“I was very much interested with the tactics of the Giants in a game here, when they found the clever Irvin Young in the box, and knew it would take extra work to defeat the local team.

“Umpire Conway was behind the bat in this game, and the New York boys went after the young umpire from the first ball pitched until the last man went out.  Conway was consistently giving Young the small end of the decisions on balls and strikes, and yet the New York men tried to make it appear that he was giving them a terrible roast.  The Giants worked like sailors, never letting up;  in fact, their good work with the stick and on the bases was commendable in every way, and what they were saying to the umpire could only be heard in the front seats, and perhaps that was a good thing for the game.”

Tim Murnane

Tim Murnane

Murnane said the actions of the Giants were reminiscent of those of McGraw and other members of the Baltimore Orioles in the 1890s, but “this time it was umpire and not their fellow players,” who were the target:

“As each man passed the umpire they would make some remark, until finally (Dan) McGann, (Roger) Bresnahan and McGraw were put out of the grounds by Conway.  Note the four names, all of Celtic origin, every man out for a salary, the umpire doing his best to please, and doing it certainly in a fair way to the visitors, and yet the trio must be doing something for effect, perhaps to give the umpire something to think of when he went to New York, or perhaps to affect his work in the next game.  There was an object in the uncalled-for nagging.  The result was that Pitcher Young was actually affected, and put up a weak all-round game as the contest went along, the Giants finally winning out as a result of his poor work.”

The Giants doubled-down on their harassment of Conway after the game was over.  Murnane said Fred Knowles, the Giants Secretary,

“(I)nformed me that the New York players complained of Conway’s breath, saying that he had been drinking and was under the influence of liquor during the game.  What are the honest facts?  A friend of mine at the same hotel with Conway and Bob Emslie (the other umpire) told me that he was with the umpires the night before, as well as that morning, and heard them refuse to take a drink of any kind.  I was speaking to Conway just before the game, and took pains to note if he had been drinking, and I can say positively that he had not.”

Murnane’s comments are curious, given that he said Knowles informed him of the accusation after the game, yet he claims he “took pains” to confirm whether Conway was drinking before the game began.

“Now, doesn’t it seem unfair to pass around cold-blooded lies about an umpire doing his duty, to a management who naturally listens to stories of this kind, and then tries to make it easy for players?  I could forgive every act of the New York men, as they are out for blood, and are fine ballplayers, but I must pass up players who will try to harm a good, honest fellow, for Conway is a good umpire and had the nerve to pick the big fellows out, and no two men in the business need the call-downs that McGann and Bresnahan do.”

Murnane’s Boston colleague, Jacob Charles Morse of The Herald, called the Giants actions “reprehensible,” but said the umpire was partially to blame:

“Had Conway started in at the very first a lot of trouble might have been obviated, but it was not until he had allowed the New Yorks to kick at strikes and decisions, to leave their places, something strictly forbidden by the rules, and to bellow like bulls.  Bresnahan could be heard all over the field telling the umpire to ‘get out.’  Early in the game a bunch gathered around the umpire without the least expostulation, and went back to their places when the seemingly felt like it.”

Despite McGraw, McGann and Bresnahan receiving three-game suspensions for their actions, Morse said “The penalty imposed for the actions of the individuals was ridiculously light; not at all commensurate with the gravity of the offense.”

Things did not get any easier for Conway.

He had another run-in with the Giants at the end of June which resulted in another McGraw ejection.

He was also assaulted by two different St. Louis Cardinals; William “Spike” Shannon in June, and Mike Grady in August.  The August incident, during a game in Boston, required police to escort Conway from the field and resulted in a three game suspension for Grady.

Mike Grady had two altercations with Conway

Mike Grady had two altercations with Conway

After a second incident with Grady; this time in Pittsburgh on September 4, The Pittsburgh Press took the side of the Cardinals catcher, and harshly criticised Conway:

 “Umpire Conway officiated the game at Exposition Park yesterday afternoon.  To be more exact, a man named Conway attempted to imitate a real umpire, but the attempt was a failure…this fellow has about as much judgment of balls and strikes as a six-year-old kid, and he makes some of the weirdest mistakes ever seen.  To make matters worse, Conway thinks he is funny and laughs at his poor decisions…The Press never condones umpire baiting, but Conway called one strike on Grady that was not within two feet of the plate, and it is little wonder indeed that Michael was exasperated.

“It is to be hoped that Conway’s career as an umpire in the National League will end with the present season.  There are a score more competent men umpiring in the minor leagues today.  Conway is not fit for the position he occupies.  He takes trouble with him wherever he goes, owing to his inefficiency.”

National League President Harry Pulliam apparently agreed; Conway was not retained for the 1907 season.

He joined the Eastern League in 1907, but trouble continued to follow him.  In June he was assaulted by Toronto Maple Leafs second baseman Tim Flood—which resulted in Flood serving 10 days in jail.

Tim Flood

Tim Flood

 

Less than a week later, after the Jersey City Skeeters scored a run in the ninth inning to beat the Newark Sailors 2 to 1, Conway was attacked by fans in Newark’s Wiedenmayer Park.  The New York Times said:

 “A mob waited after the game until Umpire Conway left the dressing room on the grounds for the train, and when he appeared in the street the mob hooted, hissed and threw mud at him.”

He was escorted to the train station by “a squad of policemen.”

Just weeks into the 1908 season Conway decided he had enough, and resigned.  The Sporting Life said he “quit umpiring to go into business.”

Conway never worked a professional game again, although he worked several Ivy League games before giving it up all together in 1910.  He died in Massachusetts in 1932–the same year McGraw, too ill to continue baiting umpires, resigned as manager of the Giants.

“The Dream of an Ardent Baseball Fan and Admirer brought to Realization”

8 Sep

The Associated Press (AP) reported the same day that Hall of Famer Joe McGinnity was released by the New York Giants that he, along with a partner had purchased an Eastern League franchise, the Newark Indians, for $50,000—more than $1.3 million in current dollars.

Joe McGinnity

Joe McGinnity

The following month, The AP told how McGinnity and his co-owner, Chicago businessman Henry Clay Smith, came to be partners:

“There is an interesting story connected with the deal whereby Joe McGinnity and H.C. Smith of Chicago purchased the Newark club of the Eastern League, which reveals the identity of Mr. Smith and portrays the rise of a penniless man to a millionaire, who remained true to his first love in the baseball world.

“H.C. Smith is now a leading member of a Chicago manufacturing company, was station agent for the Chicago & Alton Railroad at Auburn, a little town south of Springfield, IL., working on a modest salary, with nothing better in view, 12 years ago…it was in those days that he learned to admire McGinnity as a ballplayer.

“That was the time when McGinnity earned the sobriquet of ‘Iron Man.’ He would work six days a week, pitching for country teams all over central Illinois, and on Sunday he would go to Springfield and play with the Springfield team.”

One of McGinnity’s teammates on that semi-pro team in Springfield was Dick Kinsella, who would become a minor league magnate and confidant of John McGraw:

“(Kinsella) remembers the connection between H.C. Smith and Joe McGinnity in the olden days.

“Smith was one of Joe’s staunchest and most consistent admirers, and from the time he first knew him until the present day, his admiration has not abated.  In 1895 Smith left Auburn and went to Chicago, where he became engaged in the brokerage business, at which he prospered.  Later he became connected with his present company, gradually working his way to the top, until he was a man of wealth.

“Learning that the New York Giants were going to release McGinnity, Smith at once arranged with Joe to get hold of some team, for which Smith would furnish the money.  The result was the purchase of the Newark club, the dream of an ardent baseball fan and admirer brought to realization, and a home assured the famous Joe McGinnity, all through the regard, which a station agent in a country town felt for a ballplayer whom he considered the best he had ever known.”

McGinnity

McGinnity

The 38-year-old McGinnity started 46 games, and posted a 29-16 record with a 1.66 ERA for the 2nd place Indians during his first season as co-owner and team president.

Harry Wolverton, who had been hired as manager by the previous ownership was retained by the McGinnity and Smith.

Harry Wolverton

Harry Wolverton

 

There are several versions of the story of how McGinnity came to replace Wolverton as manager late in the season—some say Wolverton was let go for trying to remove McGinnity from a game, others say Wolverton took another position.  The real story, based on contemporaneous accounts in The Newark Evening News, was simply that Wolverton was injured before the team’s final road trip, and McGinnity took over.  In the winter of 1909 Wolverton purchased his release and McGinnity became the team’s full-time manager.

McGinnity and Smith owned the Newark Tigers through the 1912 season.  McGinnity managed the team to a second place finish in 1910 and a seventh place finish in 1911.  The team joined the International League in 1912, and finished third.

McGinnity won 87 games and lost 64 in 151 starts during his four seasons in Newark.

He and Smith sold their shares in the club after the 1913 season.

An Umpire’s Revenge

5 Sep

In July of 1910 the Cotton States League released an umpire named Hunt (his first name has been lost to history).

A week after he was let go the first place Greenwood Chauffeurs were in Jackson, Mississippi to play the second place Tigers.  The Jackson Clarion-Ledger told the story:

“Ex-Umpire Hunt was in Jackson last night.

“If you don’t believe that statement ask some of the members of the Greenwood baseball team.

“They can testify to it.

“They can also show bodily evidence in support of the fact.

“He also had on his fighting clothes, and this is another fact they will swear to

“There are others who are willing to testify that he would have made a better show against Jack Johnson than did (Jim) Jeffries, among them Deputy Sheriff Sanders.

“Hunt was a short while back in the employ of the Cotton States League officiating in the capacity of umpire, but his performance last night demonstrated that he is better fitted for the prize ring.

“He was also fired, or at least relieved of his official duties on account of a howl made by certain players, the merits of which The Clarion-Ledger knows nothing.

“As before stated Hunt was in town and while standing at the corner of Mill and Capitol Streets, met Orth Collins of the Greenwood team, who accused him of umpiring games and betting on them at the same time.  This offended Hunt’s dignity, and on Collins reiterating the accusation, he was promptly knocked down…Hunt walked away, going to his supper in a nearby café.  Having satisfied his appetite, he proceeded to the Lemon Hotel, headquarters for all the baseballists, and where the Greenwood team had congregated preparatory to taking their game.  Entering Hunt espied his old friend Jack Law, catcher for the Greenwooders, and saluting him, asked that he use his good offices in patching up the differences between him and the mighty Orth.  But Jack, who reports say, was feeling his rye, was somewhat in belligerent humor himself, and he promptly pasted Hunt one in the face and received a knockdown in return.  Hunt then squared himself for action, but in doing so stumbled over a chair and fell to the floor and was immediately covered by second baseman (Ray) Rolling, who had gone to the assistance of Law.  In the meantime Law had recovered himself and kicked his ex-umpship in the eye, and to use Hunt’s expression ‘that kinder made him mad,’ and those who witnessed his subsequent performance, were perfectly willing to believe it.

Orth Collins--one of Hunt's victims

Orth Collins–Hunt’s first victim

“Shaking himself loose from Rolling, Hunt ‘riz’ to his feet and then the fireworks went off and the pyrotechnics shot out in every direction.  Four of the other players of the Greenwood bunch decided to take a hand against the athletic umpire, but very soon regretted their rashness in ‘rushing in where angels dare not tread,’ and were kept busy for a few minutes picking themselves up from the floor.

“Hunt backed himself up against the counter and his arms began working like piston-rods with battering ram attachments, and every time he stretched them out somebody went down.  (Clyde) Frakes, who officiates as catcher when Jack Law is occupying the bench, got into the scrap rather late, but he lost no time in getting out of it.  In fact, it is said that one lick delivered at the psychological moment started his feet to moving with such rapidity that he was unable to get any control over them until he found himself seated on in the A & V train (Alabama & Vicksburg Railroad) ready to pull out for Vicksburg.  Other players who showed an inclination to help their brothers in distress, hesitated and finally decided that discretion was the better part of valor and contented themselves with being ‘lookers on.’

“After the fight had gone some three or four round Hunt recognized that some of the men persisted in getting up after being knocked down by him, and not caring to continue the performance indefinitely, he gathered  two spittoons, one in each hand, and let one of them fly at a belligerent who was making for the stairway, and it is said that it hastened his speed to such an extent that his moving form became like Mark Twain’s coyote, ‘only a yaller streak,’ and that only lasted for a fraction of a second before he entirely disappeared from view.  The other cuspidor went in another direction, as also did most of the spectators.  Hunt was getting wild in his aim and not being able to distinguish friend from foe, and knocking down everybody and everything that came in reaching distance, the last being Jack Law, who had got back into the scrap, only to receive another swat, the like of which, spectators declared, was never before delivered to mortal man.

“Having put all his opponents hor de combat.  Hunt found himself in the arms of Deputy Sheriff Sanders, but not knowing him to be such, he was preparing himself for a last mighty effort when the deputy sheriff hastily volunteered the information that he was a peace officer intent on doing his duty, and the roaring lion subsided like an innocent lamb, and meekly announced that he didn’t ‘want to hurt any man attending to his own business.’”

Hunt and six of the Greenwood players were arrested.  Four of the players were immediately released, but Law and Rolling, along with Hunt were held over for trial the following day.  All three were fined and released.

The Clarion-Ledger said although Hunt was “out of a a job at present…his friends will insist that he go into immediate training and challenge the holders of all the championship titles in the universe.”

Greenwood held on to beat Jackson by a half game for the pennant.

It’s unclear whether Hunt ever worked again as an umpire, but The Washington Times suggested that if Ban Johnson “wants a fighting umpire, one who can take the players and administer punishment on the ball field without fear of his blouse being torn to shreds or dirtied, here is the boy.”

Matty and the Federal League

3 Sep

Despite the controversy during 1913 over ghost-written articles appearing under the bylines of major league players, Christy Mathewson continued to  “write” articles that were distributed to newspapers by the “Wheeler Syndicate.”  The Wheeler Syndicate was the creation of John Neville Wheeler, a reporter for The New York Herald, and widely known to be the writer of Mathewson’s articles.

Christy Mathewson with John McGraw

Christy Mathewson with John McGraw

Shortly before the beginning of the 1914 Mathewson “wrote’ a story about the outlaw Federal League, and the attempt the nascent league’s president made to secure his services:

“Until I had definitely signed with the Giants again, I made no comment on the Federal League or the offer of that organization to me.  In fact, there was nothing definite in the way of an offer until I received a telegram from President (James A.) Gilmore a few hours after putting my signature to a National league contract…The proposition came out of a clear sky and was unexpected.  I have learned since that the Federals believed I was signed up all winter and that it was not until a New York newspaperman happened to mention the fact to Gilmore.”

James A. Gilmore

James A. Gilmore

A New York reporter (likely Wheeler) told Mathewson how Gilmore came to find out he wasn’t yet signed:

“’We were sitting around the Waldorf late one night, fanning and discussing the Federal League, when one of the boys said to Gilmore: “’Why don’t you make Matty an offer and get some publicity out of it anyway?

“’He’s signed isn’t he?’ asked Mr. Gilmore.

“’No more than I am.  His contract expired last season, and he has not signed the new one yet.’

“’Gilmore at once left the party and sent a telegram to you.  Then he announced his action to us newspaper men, and the story appeared in the papers the next day.’”

At the time of the offer Mathewson was asked by a reporter from The Los Angeles Examiner whether he would consider joining the Federal League, and said “he would consider the offer.”  He now claimed “all the time I knew I would not desert the New York club which had practically made me in baseball.”

Mathewson also took the opportunity to deny another rumor; that he was in California working on behalf of National and American League franchises to help them protect their players from the Federal League said:

“I saw several reports in the newspapers during the winter and early spring months that I was the agent of organized baseball on the Coast and that I had been busy counterbalancing the bids of the Federal League agents for the players spending the winter there.  As a matter of fact, I kept clear of both baseball on the diamond and the politics of baseball last winter because I did not care to have it on my mind.   Was having too much fun playing golf, and it is not in my province as merely a player to try to influence others to take certain steps which some day they might regret and then blame me for their mistakes”

Mathewson used his former teammate, catcher Art Wilson, as an example of how he had not given any players advice about accepting Federal League offers—Wilson had jumped from the Giants to the Chicago Feds during the winter:

“(Wilson) received a big offer to go with the Federals with the promise of a large piece of advance money.  Wilson has been pining for the chance to work regularly with a big league club for two or three years now and was weary of sitting on the bench, absorbing information in this position about how it is done in the majors.  As I said in a previous article, Wilson even asked (Manager John) McGraw to transfer him to a minor league team this season so that he could have an opportunity to work daily.  Now, if the Federal League turns out to be a big success, and if I had advised Wilson to refuse its offer and stick with the Giants, he might have said to me some day:

“’Well, I took your advice and am still sitting on the bench.  If I had gone with the Feds, I might have been a star now.’”

Art Wilson

Art Wilson

The move did result in additional playing time for Wilson.  From the time he joined the Giants in 1908 until he jumped to the Feds, he had appeared in just 231 games over six seasons.  In 1914 and ’15 he appeared in 233 Federal League games, hitting .291 and .305.

Mathewson, who had been paid $9,000 by the Giants in 1913, would not reveal how much he was paid by the Giants for 1914: “It is at the request of the New York club that I do not state the terms.”  He did, however, say exactly what he was offered by Gilmore to jump.  He said after not responding to the initial telegram from the Federal League president—a telegram that did not mention terms–he received a second:

“’Newspaper reports state you do not take Federal League offer seriously.  Get acquainted with the Federal League officials and be convinced we are not four flushing.  I will give you $65,000 for three years service as manager of a Federal League club–$15,000 advance money.  If satisfactory, meet me at the Waldorf Thursday, at my expense.  Wire answer Chicago.’”

Mathewson said he “was torn with regret” for refusing the offer that would have more than doubled his salary.

“It would be like leaving home if I were to pass up the Giants now.  I don’t think I would feel right in any other uniform.”

Mathewson said “the Federals have been spending money very liberally,” but placed the credit for the success the league had in inducing players to jump with Joe Tinker.  Tinker had jumped the Cincinnati Reds to join the Chicago Feds as player-manager.  Mathewson said:

“At first there was little confidence in the backers of the new organization until Joe Tinker jumped…The ball players had faith in Tinker because he is rated as one of the shrewdest in the business.  If the Federal League lives and goes through, Joe should get credit for it, because he is the man who has collected practically all the players for it.”

Joe Tinker

Joe Tinker

Both 33-years-old Mathewson (24-13 3.00 ERA) and Tinker (hit .256 in 126 games and led the Chi-Feds to a second place finish) had their last productive seasons in 1914.

Mathewson continued to “write” articles for the Wheeler Syndicate until 1916, when Wheeler sold the operation to the McClure newspapers.  Almost immediately after the sale, Wheeler formed the Bell Syndicate, and occasional articles under Mathewson’s byline were distributed by Bell through 1919.

Happy Labor Day—the Oberbeck Case

1 Sep

Henry Oberbeck is barely a footnote in baseball history—he appeared in 66 American Association and Union Association games in 1883 and 1884, hitting just .176—but he scored a rare, early victory for the rights of players.

Henry Oberbeck

Henry Oberbeck

 

In 1883, after appearing in just two games with the Pittsburgh Alleghenys, Oberbeck was released and signed with the Peoria Reds in the Northwestern League.

No records survive for Oberbeck’s time in Peoria, but the outfielder caught the eye of St. Louis Browns owner Chris von der Ahe, and the St. Louis native jumped his contract with Peoria to sign with the Browns on May 24.

Chris von der Ahe

Chris von der Ahe

Oberbeck’s short tenure with St. Louis was unimpressive.  He played four games, and was hitless in 14 at bats.  The Browns released him on June 23.

He found himself out of a job in the American Association, and was unable to return to Peoria because he had been blackballed by the Northwestern League.

Oberbeck filed a law suit in St. Louis claiming the Browns owed him the entire amount of his contract –$785.  The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said the “case is regarded as a test,” and is “being fought very earnestly.”

The March, 1884 trial included testimony from  Overbeck’s teammates, catcher/outfielder Tom Dolan and pitcher George “Jumbo” McGinnis.  Dolan, a .204 lifetime hitter whose .214 average lowest among the Browns 1883 regulars testified that Oberbeck was a poor hitter who “hit wind nearly every time.”  McGinnis also said Overbeck deserved to be released.

Despite the testimony of his teammates, the jury found in favor of Oberbeck and ordered the Browns to pay him $431.12—although most newspapers incorrectly reported the amount paid as $738.

The press assumed the decision would have a lasting impact.  The Post-Dispatch said:

“The case is one of interest to base ball players, inasmuch as it proves that the contracts are binding upon the part of the club as well as the player.”

Oberbeck was signed by the Baltimore Monuments of the Union Association for 1884, and played a total of 60 games for Baltimore and the Kansas City Cowboys that season—he hit .186 as an outfielder/first baseman and was 0-5 in six appearances as a pitcher.

The Browns appealed the case and lost, but by the time the appellate court upheld the original decision in Henry Oberbeck v. Sportsman’s Park and Club Association in April of 1885, Oberbeck’s victory for the rights of baseball players was already largely forgotten.

In 1885 The Post-Dispatch said Oberbeck had been reinstated by the Northwestern League, although there is no record of his ever having returned to the league.   The Youngstown Vindicator said he had signed with that city’s team in the Interstate league for 1885 season.

No statistics survive for Oberbeck after 1884, and his groundbreaking role in baseball’s labor movement is all but forgotten.

He returned to St. Louis after his career and worked for the post office until his death from cancer in 1921.

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