“Silly Assertions by a Brace of Newspaper Nincompoops”

1 Apr

Adrian Constantine “Cap” Anson’s Chicago White Stockings cruised to the National League championship in 1880.  The team was never out of first place and won the pennant by 15 games over the Providence Grays.

The 1880 National League Champions

The 1880 National League Champions

Two influential newspapers, The Cincinnati Enquirer and The Washington Capital spent the offseason downplaying the White Stockings’ victory and questioning the team’s integrity.

The Enquirer’s OP Caylor had a long-time feud with White Stockings—and National League– President William Hulbert which heated up further at the close of the 1880 season when the Cincinnati Reds were banished from the National League.   Cincinnati management routinely leased the team’s Bank Street Grounds out for Sunday games—games where beer was sold as well.  Hulbert pushed through a ban on both practices for the 1881 season, then, as was his original intent, forced the Reds out of the league.

William Hulbert

William Hulbert

Caylor attributed the White Stockings’ success to favorable schedules approved by Hulbert’s “well-trained minions,” and he declared:

“The League, as owned and operated by Hulbert, is rotten and corrupt.”

The Capital, an independent, crusading weekly, took it further.  Not content to limit the accusations to off-field corruption, the paper claimed it was common knowledge Chicago had thrown games late in the season.

Over their last fourteen games, the White Stockings were 9-4 with a tie.  The Capital said:

“Everybody knows that when the Chicagos had the championship well in hand last season they gave games away to attract gate money…(Hulbert) does not seem to know that the public knows that every time his league goes into secret session it is to concoct some means of swindling the public or the players, or both.”

The Chicago Tribune would not let the insults stand.  Their defense was no surprise, in 1875 the paper’s baseball writer, Lewis Meacham had been Hulbert’s conduit for selling the public on the formation of the National League as a successor to the National Association–one free of drunkenness, gambling and corruption.  While Meacham had died in 1878, the paper remained Hulbert’s staunch ally.  The Tribune said:

Silly Assertions by a Brace of Newspaper Nincompoops

“Everybody knows that this assertion is a silly falsehood, without a shadow of basis in fact or reasonable probability.  So far from losing games to attract gate-money, the Chicago club finds that nothing pays so well as to win all games and lose none.  If such a thing were not possible, the club that should go through the greater part of a season without once suffering defeat would attract more patronage and make money than any club ever organized.

“Reason and fairness are, however, wasted upon two such hopeless imbeciles as the fellows who butcher base-ball in the columns of The Washington Capital and The Cincinnati Enquirer.”

The Tribune said jealousy over the lack of a National League club in each city was the only explanation:

 “The Capital man has been standing on his head ever since the League was impelled by geographical reason to refuse the Washington club’s application for admission;  and The Enquirer man has been similarly inverted both as to body and brain ever since the Cincinnati Club was kicked out of the League on account of its refusal to abolish Sunday games and beer jerking on the club grounds in Cincinnati.”

like most 19th-Century allegations of malfeasance on and off the field, the allegations were quickly forgotten.

The White Stockings cruised to another championship in 1881 with a 56-28 record, finishing nine games ahead of second place Providence.  It was Hulbert’s final season.  He died three weeks before opening day in 1882.

The Tribune, Hulbert’s greatest ally to the end, said upon his death:

“His great force of character, strong will, marked executive ability, unerring judgment of men and measures, and strict integrity and fairness were of incalculable value to the league, and he was rightly considered to be the brains and backbone of that organization.  In him, the game of base-ball had the most useful friend and protector it has ever had; and in his death the popular pastime suffers a loss the importance of which cannot easily be exaggerated.”

Fred Downer

30 Mar

In August of 1953, “Jet Magazine” said people were talking about:

 “That affectionate hug baseball immortal Ty Cobb gave Chicago news dealer Fred Downer.”

By then, Frederick Douglas Downer was largely forgotten.

Before playing as a professional, he was, according to The Pittsburgh Courier, the “star” of the Morehouse College baseball team in Atlanta.

Fred Downer

Fred Downer

His first professional experience was with the Atlanta Cubs in 1919—the team was colloquially called the Atlanta Black Crackers for years, and newspapers referred to them by both names until 1922 when the “Cubs” name was permanently dropped.  Years later, Downer told The Chicago Defender he also played with the Knoxville Giants during this period.

In 1921, Downer and Gerard Williams, his teammate at Morehouse and with the Atlanta Cubs, went north to join the Pittsburgh Keystones.   Downer is listed by several sources as the club’s manager, but in the 1970s he told The Defender said he “played under the management of (William) Dizzy Dismukes.”  Dismukes was also the Keystones’ manager the following year when the team entered the Negro National League.

Downer appears to have played independent and semi-pro ball during 1922.

While not listed on any extant rosters, Downer spent some time with the Cleveland Tate Stars in 1923—in an interview given in 1972 Elander “Vic” Harris, who debuted with the Tate Stars as an 18-year-old that season, said Downer, who he had gotten to know in Pittsburgh was with the club. Harris told The Van Nuys (CA) News he tried out as a first baseman but was installed in the outfield, leading to Downer being let go.

Downer returned to Pittsburgh and assumed management of the Keystones in 1924. After a single season in the Negro National League, the Keystones had dropped out, and the team continued operations as a semi-pro club.

Downer, and another Georgian who also played with the 1923 Cleveland Tate Stars, Mathis Williams, managed and played for the semi-pro version in 1924 and ’25.  The Keystones barely treaded water financially.

Mathis Williams

Mathis Williams

In June of 1925 The Pittsburgh Courier said:

“Of the colored clubs in action, none but the Homestead Grays are making any money…Fred Downer and his Pittsburgh Keystones are practically a thing of the past.”

Within a month the team disbanded and Downer was through as a player.

The following year, he and his wife Marian Foster Downer, a reporter for The Pittsburgh Courier—and later The Chicago Defender– relocated to Chicago.  She continued to write for The Courier’s society page while Fred began covering baseball and boxing for the paper and acted as The Courier’s Midwest circulation manager.

In addition to covering most major Midwest-based events–including the annual Negro League East-West All-Star Game and several championship fights—Downer started the Atlas News and Photo Service which distributed content to Black newspapers.

Downer with Negro American League President Dr. John D. Martin posing for a press photo announcing that Downer's Atlas News and Photo Service would exclusively distribute photos from  spring training in 1941.

Downer with Negro American League President Dr. John D. Martin posing for a press photo announcing that Downer’s Atlas News and Photo Service would exclusively distribute photos from spring training in 1941.

Marian Foster Downer also wrote about sports for The Defender.  Her article on the 1935 East-West All-Star Game—won by the West 11-8 on George “Mule” Suttles’ three-run home run after Webster McDonald walked Josh Gibson to face him—was headlined:

Our Girl Scribe Sees Mule’s Hit

Marian Foster Downer--The Defender's "Girl Scribe"

Marian Foster Downer–The Defender’s “Girl Scribe”

In 1945, Fred Downer proposed a new path for Negro League baseball, writing in a Chicago-based magazine called “New Vistas:”

“If the white majors won’t hire good colored players, then the Negroes should build their own parks and hire the best players regardless of race.  This will build up competition, and competition will break down many barriers.”

Downer was covering the World Series at Wrigley Field in 1932 and was on-hand for Babe Ruth’s “called shot.”  The Courier’s Sports Editor Wendell Smith said Downer was “One of Babe’s most staunch and loyal supporters,” and was determined to find the ball.

 “His decision to find the ball Ruth hit resulted in a search that has been a detailed and intensive as any by a ‘G-man.’  Fred scoured every baseball haunt in the Chicago area.”

According to Smith, Downer expanded his search throughout the Midwest, with no luck.

Downer later told The Chicago Defender he found the ball and bought it from a former Chicagoan who had moved to Michigan.  He called the ball “one of his prized possessions.”

The actual provenance of the ball and its current whereabouts are unknown.

Twenty-one years after he witnessed Ruth’s “called shot,” Downer—by then he had left  The Courier and owned three newsstands on Chicago’s South Side– was again at Wrigley Field where he had an encounter that raised questions in the Black press about a long-held opinion of another baseball legend.

Ty Cobb stopped in Chicago on his way back to his California home from Cooperstown, to attend a game between the Cubs and the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Downer was born in Cobb’s hometown of Royston, Georgia in 1896.  The Defender said of the relationship between the two:

“(Downer) got his start in baseball chasing fly balls for Ty Cobb as a kid.”

The California Eagle said:

“Downer was raised around the Cobb’s household in Royston, Georgia.”

Wendell Smith said of Cobb’s day at Wrigley:

“(T)here were two things said about (Cobb) that were, apparently, the gospel truth:

  • He could hit any living pitcher.

  • He would hit any living Negro.”

Smith said the second “truth” was “merely a matter of hearsay.”

And, he said:

“(H)e gives no indication today of intolerance.”

In addition to his embrace of Downer, Cobb was asked which players on the field most impressed him:

“’Why that catcher there, he said, pointing to Roy Campanella.  ‘He’s the best ball player I’ve seen in many a year…That fella’s a great catcher,’ he volunteered.  ‘The very best in the game.  He reminds me a little of Roger Bresnahan.  If he can stick around for five or six more years they’ll have to put him alongside the game’s all-time catchers.’”

Downer continued to operate his newsstands well into his 70s.  At the corner of 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue, The Defender said, he would:

“(S)ell morning newspapers (and) answer hundreds of questions pertaining to his long career.”

Fred Downer

Fred Downer

Frederick Douglas Downer died in Chicago on March 10, 1986.

Miller Huggins

27 Mar

Miller James Huggins was born on this date in 1879.  The Hall of Fame Manager of the New York Yankees played 13 seasons as a second baseman for the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals.

Miller Huggins

Miller Huggins

In 1911, he told Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Record-Herald about “The greatest play,” he had seen during his career.

Huggins said it was a play made the previous season—July 30, 1910–by his teammate, shortstop Arnold “Stub” Hauser during a game between the Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs, and was described by Charles Dryden of The Chicago Examiner as “the only quadruple play ever made.”

“The play was wonderful, not only because of the situation and the manner in which it was accomplished, but because of the fact that Hauser kept his head all the time and thought as quickly as he acted.

“The situation was this:  we had the game won, but (Frank) Chance and his Crabs were fighting hard and hitting harder.  It took a lot of fielding and desperate work to hold the lead we had gained as they had men on the bases in almost every inning and kept threatening to pile up a bunch of runs almost any minute and beat us out. “

In the fifth inning, with Solly Hofman on first and Jimmy Sheckard on second, Chance hit John “Red” Corriden’s first pitch:

“Chance hit it like a streak of lightning almost over second base, perhaps two or three feet to the third base side of the bag and on a low line.  The ball was hit so hard that I hadn’t a chance to get near it, although I took a running jump in that direction.  It didn’t seem that Hauser, who was playing short, could make it touch his hands.  He came with a run, and as he saw the ball going past he dived for it, and made it hit his left hand while it was extended at full length.  He just stabbed at the ball, and although it hit his hand he, of course, could not hold it.  He was staggering, almost falling, and the ball popped up in the air perhaps a couple of feet, and as it started to fall to the ground Hauser, still falling, grabbed it with his hand and clung to it.  I had covered second, hoping he would be able to get the ball to me when I saw him hit it with his hands.  (Instead of throwing to Huggins) He staggered over second base (to retire Sheckard) and shot the ball to first (to retire Hofman).  As he touched second he spiked me so severely that I had to quit the game.  That is why Dryden called it a quadruple play, as it retired three Crabs and myself at the same time.  I’m proud now that I got spiked, as it gave me a part in the greatest play I ever saw on a ball field.”

___

Speaking of Huggins.  I receive a fairly steady stream of advance copies of books, and while I read most of them, I don’t recommend many. Too many rely heavily on recycled information from secondary and tertiary sources, often repeating faulty information and perpetuating myths.  A soon to be released book about Huggins is a pleasant exception.

colonelandhugcover

The Colonel and Hug: The Partnership That Transformed the New York Yankees, by Steve Steinberg and Lyle Spatz, will be released on May 1. In addition to being a thoroughly researched, well-written, definitive, biography of both Huggins and Yankee owner Jacob Rupert, the book does an excellent job of weaving the story of the Yankees in the broader context of the 1920s.

Where are they Now?–1896 Edition

25 Mar

In 1896, The Buffalo Times noted the “delightful trait of character in the true blue base ball fan,” to know everything about “the fortunes of a favorite player…and (who) long after the object of his solicitude has retired from the glare of publicity, will make inquiries concerning his favorite’s occupation and residence.”

In an effort to satisfy the curiosity of the “true blue” fan The Times went “to pains to collect,” information regarding the current place of residence and employment of major leaguers from the previous decade:

Nearly 50 players had already died, and about 20 were still connected with the game as managers, umpires or sportswriters.

The profession with the highest concentration of former players besides those who remained connected with baseball, was the saloon business; The Times found 14 players engaged in saloons, including James “Pud” Galvin, Joseph “Reddy” Mack, and Frank Hankinson.

There were five police officers, including, Charlie Jones and Jack Lynch, of the New York police force.

Two were incarcerated—Charlie Sweeney was in California’s San Quentin Prison for manslaughter, and Frank Harris was in jail in Freeport, Illinois awaiting execution for murder; his sentence was commuted in April of 1896.

Frank Harris

Frank Harris, convicted murderer

Five former players were firemen, three of them, John “Monk” Cline, Tom McLaughlin and William “Chicken” Wolf, were all members of the Louisville Fire Department:  Wolf was involved in an accident while responding to a fire in 1901 which left him with a severe head injury and contributed to his death two years later.

Other highlights:

Clarence “Kid” Baldwin—Tramp (Baldwin died the following year in a Cincinnati mental hospital)

Warren “Hick” Carpenter—Pullman car conductor

William Holbert—United States Secret Service

William “Blondie” Purcell—Racetrack bookie

William "Blondie" Purcell

William “Blondie” Purcell

Ed Andrews—Orange grower

George “Jumbo” McGinnis—Glassblower

Daniel “Cyclone” Ryan—Actor

Pitcher turned actor Daniel "Cyclone" Ryan, circa 1903

Pitcher turned actor Daniel “Cyclone” Ryan, circa 1903

John Frank Lane (1880s umpire)—Actor, he was most famous for appearing in plays written by Charles Hale Hoyt, a former sports writer for The Boston Post, and the man responsible for putting Mike “King” Kelly on the stage.

Tragic Exits 3

23 Mar

Eddie Meade

Edward “Eddie” Meade appeared headed to the big leagues.  After beginning the 1926 season with the Kinston Eagles in the Virginia League, the 24-year-old left-hander was acquired at midseason by the St. Paul Saints of the American Association and posted a 12-7 record with a 3.40 ERA in 22 games.

Meade began the 1927 season with a 6-0 shutout of the Louisville Colonels on April 17.  The same week he recorded his first victory, The Associated Press said he was about to become a member of the defending American League champions:

“The Yankees talked of possible reinforcements in the shape of Eddie Meade, of St. Paul, called the best young pitcher in the American Association.”

Eddie Meade

Eddie Meade

During the same week, Meade became ill; although the nature of the illness was never disclosed.  Eight days later he started a game with the Columbus Senators but was pulled after giving up six runs in the fifth inning of 9 to 8 loss.  Five days later he pitched in relief against Louisville, but The Minneapolis Journal said he lasted less than an inning due to his “impaired physical condition.”

When the Saints left Minnesota for a series in Kansas City on May 16, Meade stayed behind.  The following evening Meade checked into St. Paul’s Boardman Hotel and shot himself to death.

The day after his suicide, The Journal said, “it was learned today that Meade was slated to go to the New York Yankees in the fall.”

St. Paul Manager Nick Allen told The Associated Press:

“He was one of the hardest working youngsters we ever had on the club and the outlook for his future was bright, as he had only two years in baseball.  The only motive he could have had for such action would be mental depression.  He was not married.  The nature of his illness was no cause for alarm, but he apparently believed it otherwise.”

Tommy Coates

Thomas A. “Tommy” Coates was born in Omro, Wisconsin on February 18, 1886 (Baseball Reference lists his middle initial as “O” but birth and death records  list it as “A”).

After starring, along with his older brother Hiram, on Omro High School’s undefeated baseball team in 1901—The Omro Herald called the team “possibly the best in the state”—Coates played industrial league and semi-pro ball in Central and Northern Wisconsin.

After playing in Rhinelander, Wisconsin in 1908, The Oshkosh Northwestern said:

“Coates had lots of confidence in himself, and during the winter months the Omro boy came to the city one day and sought out “Pink” Hawley. Hawley agreed to give him a trial.”

Emerson Pink Hawley, a Wisconsin native who pitched in the major leagues for a decade, was the manager of the Oshkosh Indians in the Wisconsin-Illinois League.

Tommy Coates

Tommy Coates

 “Coates came to this city from his home at Omro (for his tryout).  He donned baseball togs and he ‘made good’ from the start.”

Coates, who The Northwestern said  was “tall (and) built something like the great Ty Cobb,” became the Indians starting left fielder one week into the season and went on to lead  the team with a .299 batting average (he hit .002 better than his 19-year-old teammate Heinie Groh).

In September, The Sporting News reported that with just one season of professional experience, Coates “Looks good to Connie Mack,” and was drafted by the Philadelphia Athletics. He was the only member of the Indians drafted by a big league club in 1909.

At season’s end in September, Coates, with an invitation to train with Mack’s club in the spring, spent most of his time hunting.

On October 11 Coates was in a row-boat with a friend, hunting in a marsh near Omro.  The friend told The Omro Herald:

“Tom saw a mud hen rise up on the right hand side.  He turned about quickly and took hold of his gun which was at his left side and pulled it toward him…I turned about as soon as I heard the shot, and to my horror saw Tom lunge forward.”

Coates accidentally discharged his gun, shooting himself in the left eye.

Twelve days after the Oshkosh Indians received a $300 check from Connie Mack—his draft price—Coates was dead.

The Northwestern said:

“He was quiet and unassuming. After making a sensational play in the field or batting out the hit that won the game…the Oshkosh fans could not induce Coates to doff his hat.  He would return to the bench with face covered with blushes.”

[…]

“His more ardent admirers were confident he would make good in the American League, and one of their first thoughts upon hearing of the unfortunate accident, was the promising career he had before him.”

Lost Advertisements–Larry Doyle for Coca-Cola

20 Mar

larrydoylecoke

A 1916 advertisement for Coca-Cola featuring New York giants Captain Larry Doyle.

Four years earlier, when Doyle led the Giants to a National League championship–hitting .330 and winning the Chalmers Award as the league’s most valuable player–he told a reporter from The New York Evening Journal that his success was driven by a snub from White Sox Manager Jimmy “Nixey” Callahan:

“When he was playing in a western minor league city (the Three-I League with the Springfield Senators) the (New York) Highlanders heard of him and asked Callahan, then playing independent ball (in Chicago’s City League), to look him over.  Callahan watched Doyle perform in several games and then wired the Highlanders:

“‘He isn’t fast enough.  Can’t field and isn’t a first-class hitter.’

“So Doyle was passed up and Callahan sent in a bill for $200 to cover his expenses and time.  Then (John) McGraw walked up…and paid $4,000 (actually $4,500) for Doyle, who couldn’t be purchased now for three times that amount.  All of which goes to show that some of the best judges of ball players make serious mistakes.”

 

 

“The Next Babe Ruth”

18 Mar

After he hit 11 home runs in 1918, and for the next two decades, stories about the discovery of “The Next Babe Ruth” became commonplace in newspapers across the country.

One of the first was Joe Doyle, “The Babe Ruth of Great Lakes,” signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in November of 1918.  Doyle was the star of the team representing Camp Dewey at Great Lakes Navel Training Station where, The St. Louis Globe-Democrat said he made a name for himself, hitting “a dozen home runs and nine triples…(and) flogging a home run over the Camp Dewey Drill Hall, a smash that might be compared to a lift over the left fences of any major league park.”

Doyle began his professional career the following spring with the Houston Buffaloes in the Texas League and played his entire career in Texas.  “The Babe Ruth of Great Lakes” hit just eight home runs over five minor league seasons.

Ben Paschal had the distinction of being declared “The Next Babe Ruth” twice.  When the Boston Red Sox purchased Paschal from the South Atlantic League’s Charlotte Hornets in July of 1920, Manager Ed Barrow told The Boston Herald he had acquired “A second Babe Ruth.”

Paschal joined the Red Sox after Charlotte’s season ended in September.  He had 10 hit in 28 at-bats, but no extra base hits, and was returned to Charlotte after the season.

After four more excellent seasons in the South Atlantic League and Southern Association (he hit .335 with 68 home runs from 1921-1924) he was  purchased by the New York Yankees for $20,000 in August of 1924.

Ben Paschal

Ben Paschal

Paschal was again dubbed the “Second Babe Ruth” by newspapers.  His second stint as the second Ruth was longer and more successful than his first.  From 1924-1929 he hit .309 in with 24 home runs in 750 at-bats as an outfielder playing behind Ruth and Bob Meusel (Meusel was himself dubbed “Another Babe Ruth” by Manager Miller Huggins when he joined the Yankees in 1920).  On Opening Day in 1927 the Second Babe Ruth pinch-hit for Ruth (who was 0-3 and struck out twice) in the sixth inning; Paschal singled, and the Yankees went on to an 8 to 3 victory over the Philadelphia Athletics.

Then there was Dorothy Hodgens.  In 1921, Hodgens was a 20-year-old student at Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.  Hodgens briefly became a celebrity and was called the “feminine Babe Ruth” by many newspapers after The Associated Press (AP) reported that while growing up in Philadelphia Napoleon Lajoie said she was “the only girl he ever knew who could play ball.”

After her picture appeared in papers across the country, Hodgens, who played several sports at the school, was interviewed by The Harrisburg Evening News as she was “ready to enter a basketball game:”

“Yes, I’m terribly fond of baseball, and I’ve been playing it ever since I’ve been a bit of a youngster.”

She said Lajoie was a neighbor in Philadelphia when she was a child:

“Lajoie used to come out and pitch ball with the boys and girls in the neighborhood.  He told me I was the only girl he ever knew who could pitch and gave me a box of league balls that I have treasured ever since.”

Dorothy Hodgens "The Feminine Babe Ruth."

Dorothy Hodgens “The Feminine Babe Ruth.”

While she said her real ambition was to become an actress, Hodgens said, “I never expect to give up baseball entirely though, and I certainly think that every girl should learn to play the game.”

The “Feminine Babe Ruth” disappeared from the public eye shortly afterward.

And finally, there was “Another Babe Ruth” who had a brief moment in the limelight in the fall of 1920.  This one was a three-and-a-half pound white Leghorn Chicken who was named “Babe Ruth,” and had just established a new record.

"Babe Ruth"

“Babe Ruth”

The AP said:

“(T)he home run king has a rival…She bats 326 eggs, and this beats the record of 314 (for a single year).  By experienced poultrymen, her record of 326 perfect eggs is considered the most remarkable in the history of the poultry industry.”

There was no report of how she performed the following season.

“Walsh? Ed Walsh? Who’s he?”

16 Mar

On May 1, 1912, as a result of a contract dispute, press operators walked off or were locked-out, of their jobs at 10 Chicago newspapers.  The following day, drivers and newsboys walked out in sympathy, and ultimately three more unions joined.

The dispute, which at times became violent, lasted until November.

The New York Times said at one point during the strike’s first week, less than 50,000 copies of the city’s four morning newspapers—limited to just four pages each– were distributed to a metropolitan area with a population of nearly four million.

Every Chicago paper, with the exception of The Day Book, Edward Willis Scripps’ advertisement free, pro-labor publication, suffered decreases in circulation and were forced to publish smaller editions for the first weeks of the strike.

The strike also had a negative impact on two other Chicago institutions.

The New York Tribune noted that during the first two weeks of May, while most of Chicago’s papers provided a minimum amount of baseball coverage, attendance at White Sox Park (renamed Comiskey Park the following season) and West Side Grounds “dropped off 30 percent.”

Writing in The Chicago Herald-Record after that paper had again begun publishing full-sizes editions in mid-May, sportswriter Hugh Fullerton was not surprised that less baseball news resulted in smaller crowds at the ballparks:

“Various major league club owners have, during their recent years of great prosperity, declared that baseball was independent of the newspapers.  Indeed such intellectual giants as C. Webb Murphy and Charles Ebbets have practically stated that the newspapers depended upon baseball for their circulation.  Of course, printing baseball news makes circulation for newspapers; else the newspapers would not print it.

“But during the last ten days Chicago has given the club owners and object lesson in the relative values.  There has been a strike of several trades allied with the newspaper printing business which resulted in crippling ten big dailies, restricting their circulation, besides cutting down the amount of baseball news and gossip printed.  The instantaneous result must have been a shock to the baseball magnates, who thought that the game was independent of the advertising.”

Hugh Fullerton

Hugh Fullerton

Fullerton, like the New York paper, said the attendance decline was “at least” 30 percent.

“I scouted around the city and discovered, rather to my amazement, that the lack of baseball news was received rather as a welcome relief from a necessary evil than as a bereavement.  A score of men told me they were glad they couldn’t get the news, that their employees could attend to business and that there was less waste of time…The town, which has been wild over the sensational race of the White Sox, cooled off in an instant.  I met fans who had been rooting wildly, who inquired whether or not the team was in town.”

Fullerton’s observations led him to the “startling proof that interest in baseball largely is manufactured by the papers.”

And, if the strike were to result in a further decrease in baseball news:

“I really believe that if the newspapers were to be suppressed for a couple of months, and one was to mention Walsh, people would say, ‘Walsh?  Ed Walsh?  Who’s he?’”

Ed Walsh

Ed Walsh

While the strike continued through the entire season, circulation and baseball coverage increased in June, giving no one the opportunity to forget Chicago’s best pitcher.

Attendance at Chicago’s ballparks rebounded as well.  By season’s end, Walsh’s White Sox drew more than 600,000 fans, despite a 20-34 swoon in June and July and a fourth place finish; while 514,000 fans  came out for the third place Cubs.

Lost Advertisements–“The Clever Konetchy Drinks Coca-Cola”

13 Mar

konetchy

A 1910 advertisement for Coca-Cola featuring St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Ed Konetchy:

“He likes it, he says, not alone for its deliciousness and its refreshing qualities, but because it relieves fatigue of body and brains and it is the best beverage for quenching thirst he’s ever tried.

“Such an endorsement from such a ballplayer should recommend Coca-cola to you, whether you be amateur or professional.”

Two years later, Konetchy shared his theories on batting and batting slumps, with The St. Louis Globe-Democrat:

“The ordinary person cannot for the life of him reason out why a ballplayer should be able to hit one part of the season and suddenly take a slump and act like a novice at the bat.  To one familiar with the playing of the game of baseball, the reason for this was a well-known fact.

“Good hitting, considering of course a natural player, generally depends upon the physical and mental condition of the man.  When he is in good shape, his eye is clear and his brain works quickly;  when he is out of condition his mind is dull and he loses his eye for the ball.”

[…]

“The other day as were leaving the field of St. Louis, I heard a fan, referring to one of our players, remark: ‘They ought to bench that fellow, he can’t hit anything.’  As a matter of fact, the man to whom he referred was one of the best stickers of our team and had merely been up against a little hard luck.  For three or four days, I have watched this player and almost every time he came to bat he had met the ball squarely but could not seem to place it into fair territory.  This is a fact that is not taken into consideration by a great many baseball lovers.  They judge a man’s ability to hit by reading the scores in the next day’s papers, not at all stopping to think that a man who has no hits credited to him may have done far more towards winning the game than the player who annexed two or three safeties.”

Congress Plays Ball

11 Mar

On July 16, 1909, the United States Congress took over Washington’s American League Park.  More than 1000 Washingtonians paid 75 cents to watch Democrats and Republicans in, what The Washington Post called an “affair (that) was advertised as a ball game.”

The Washington Herald said:

 “Hurrah for the Democratic party!

”No joking—the faithful followers of Jefferson, or whoever it was that gave (William Jennings) Bryan’s friends their principles, certainly did do things to the tried and true lieutenants of Speaker (Joseph Gurney) Cannon at the National Park yesterday afternoon, when two baseball teams composed of members of the House of Representatives fought it out for seven innings in some of the hottest rays Old Sol has dealt out to Washington this summer.”

[…]

“Republicans and Democrats alike were free traders, so far as errors and two or three base hits were concerned.”

The game ended after seven innings, the Democrats winning 26-16.

The Democrats

The Democrats

The Associated Press (AP) said:

“More varieties of baseball were played in that game than ever crowded into seven innings before and strange as it may seem not all of the varieties were bad.  The Democrats put up a rattling good game in the field—sometimes.”

The Box Score

The Box Score

The AP said one of the highlights of the game was the collision between Republican catcher James F. Burke (PA) and pitcher Joseph H. Gaines (WV) in front of home plate on a pop up, “While (Burke) and the pitcher were doing the ‘Alphonse and Gaston,’ three Democrats with a warped idea of chivalrous courtesy raced home.”

The Republicans

The Republicans

The Washington Times was more critical of the abilities of the lawmakers, singling out several:

“Before going further it is necessary to state that for the Democrats the man who attracted the most unfavorable notice was Handsome (James Thomas) Heflin of Alabama, who, with the help of a collie dog, covered left field for his party in a lamentable, sad and sorrowful style.  Heflin is tall and stout, and not to say sebaceous, and he and the dog went on the principle that they could catch every fly and stop every grounder by simply staring the ball out of countenance.  Heflin played the position like a merycotherium.  He probably does not know what that mean, but a glance at the dictionary reveals it to be an animal like a rhinoceros, ruminant, contemplative and far from agile.”

Nick Longworth (OH), who was dressed in a golfing suit, and hit at the ball as if he thought it had been teed for him (he struck out twice) is suffering this afternoon from a wrenched erector spinae muscle, caused by continually looking up and seeing flies, which he had misjudged go sailing over his head in center field.”

congressman Longworth at the plate.

Congressman Longworth at the plate, Congressman Kinkead is the catcher

The Times said, in general:

“Most of the players in trying to catch the ball held up their hand as if they expected someone to place in them very gently a salary check or a piece of pie.  On grounders they all had holes in their legs and could not stop a thing.”

Despite the overall criticism, the paper did mention three players on each team for being, at least, passable on the field.

Among the three Republicans was former big league pitcher, turned Pennsylvania Congressman, John Tener who played shortstop and had two hits and made just one of his team’s nine errors.  The other two Republican standouts were Albert F. Dawson of Iowa and Leonard Paul Howland of Ohio.

The three ”best fielders” among the  Democrats were Eugene F. Kinkead and William Hughes  of New Jersey and William Oldfield of Arkansas.

Congressman Hushes at the plate.

Congressman Hughes at the plate.

The game raised $320.55 to for the Washington Playgrounds Association “for the benefit of the children of Washington.”

The nation’s biggest baseball fan, President William Howard Taft skipped the game to play golf with Vice President James S. Sherman.

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