“The Best First Sacker in the Game”

27 Nov

Raymond V. Wilson was one of the biggest stars of early black baseball. The Freeman said the captain and manager of the Philadelphia Giants was, at the plate, “styled the colored Hans Wagner,” and “in his heyday the best first sacker in the game.”  The paper also said he was one of the game’s best base runners:

“Ray Wilson gives no indication of speed or race, but he possesses these two qualities in a surprising degree, and his stealing is magnificent.  His strong point, however, is avoiding the man with the ball.  He has a slide which carries him outside the base and around, his spikes clinging to the base.”

Ray Wilson

Ray Wilson

It is unclear where Wilson was born, but he lived for a time in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania before he became a member of the Cuban X-Giants in 1898.  The Harrisburg Telegraph said, the following season, in announcing that local catcher Clarence “Wax” Williams had joined the X-Giants “Ray Wilson, of this city, is playing first base on this crack team.”

The Telegraph said that Wilson played for several teams in Harrisburg, initially as a second baseman, “but his ability was soon learned and he was sent for.”

Wilson remained with the X-Giants through 1906, and then joined the Philadelphia Giants where he played for the remainder of his career.

It came to an end in the mid summer of 1910.

In a game at Bronx Oval, Wilson and the Giants were playing the Brooklyn Royal Giants.  The New York Age said Wilson was at bat, facing Brooklyn’s Harry Buckner and “was hit on the head near the temple and received a fracture which necessitated his retirement from baseball.”

By late July he began exhibiting strange behavior.

Other sources, including The Associated Press, said he received the injury earlier in his career, as a result of being “hit on the head by a swift line drive.”

The Freeman attributed some of the reason for Wilson’s becoming “somewhat demented” on his reaction to the death of his friend, Giants pitcher Sy “Bugs” Hayman, who was hit by a car on his way to a game, and died on July 4, 1910.

Bugs Hayman

Bugs Hayman

The injury, regardless of how it happened, as well as any other contributing factors, left Wilson nearly incapacitated, and he was sent to his mother’s home in Pittsburgh.

Just a week after arriving in Pittsburgh, The Associated Press reported that he had disappeared:

“(H)is relatives have asked the police to find him. Warning is given by the relatives that Wilson is insane and that he may not be captured without trouble.”

According to those relatives he was suffering from hallucinations:

“One of Wilson’s hallucinations was that someone batted a ball at him and that it broke through his hand and hit his head.  On such occasions he would lie down for hours, helpless from pain from the imaginary blow.”

On the day he disappeared, Wilson “picked up a newspaper to look at the ball scores.  He saw something which stirred him, and dashed from the house shouting that his head was hurting.”

Several days later he turned up in Tyrone, Pennsylvania, more than 100 miles from Pittsburgh.  The Tyrone Daily Herald said he had been arrested by railroad police “after insisting on going on to Harrisburg without paying his fare.”  Wilson was held in the Tyrone city jail until his identity was determined.  The paper said it was unlikely he would be prosecuted because he was “temporarily deranged, this accounting for his strange actions on the train.”

He was committed to the Pennsylvania State Hospital in Harrisburg where he died in September of 1912.  Most sources give Wilson’s year of birth as 1870, which would have made him 42 years-old at the time of his death, The Harrisburg Telegraph, in their brief death notice, listed his age as 35.

There was an intriguing claim made by Wilson’s hometown newspaper during his 1910 disappearance—although it was probably a conflation of the story of Charlie Grant.   The Telegraph said:

“While (John) McGraw was manager of the Baltimore team he endeavored to get Wilson into the major league by claiming the Negro was an Indian.  The subterfuge was discovered and Wilson was forced to remain in the Negro nines.”

With statistics being incredibly scarce, it is impossible to judge just how good Wilson was.  But, 15 years after his death, George “Chappie” Johnson—who had been in the game for more than 30 years was interviewed by W. Rollo Wilson of The Pittsburgh Courier:

“You want an all-time team you say?  I’ll pick you one and will challenge anyone to name a better outfit.  On this team of my choosing will be nothing but smart men. Every one will be able to hit, to bunt, to think…Here is your team, and note that old-timers are few and far between:

Chappie Johnson

Chappie Johnson

“Catchers (James “Biz”) Mackey, (Bruce) Petway, (George “Tubby”) Dixon; pitchers George Wilson of the Page Fence Giants, Nip Winters, Joe Williams, (Charles) Bullet Rogan;  first base, Ray Wilson of the Cuban X-Giants, second base John Henry Lloyd;  shortstop Dick Lundy;  third base Oliver Marcelle, utility, John Beckwith;  outfield Pete Hill, Oscar Charleston, Jess Barbour, (Cristobal) Torriente.”

Note:  While it seems unusual that John Henry Lloyd, almost unanimously considered the greatest shortstop in Negro League history, was placed at second, Johnson told The Courier:

“Among the men John Henry Lloyd stands out as the greatest second baseman of all time, and he is supreme at that bag yet.  Of course he made his greatest reputation as a shortstop, but I always thought second base was where he belonged.”

“The Farce of the Season”

26 Nov

In November of 1885 Topeka, Kansas was scandalized by baseball game.

The Daily Capital said:

“A social game of baseball, whether the contestants are skilled professionals of ambitious amateurs, is always a matter of some interest and pleasure both to the participants and the spectators; but a sensational exhibition, such as was witnessed at the fairgrounds yesterday afternoon, is another and quite a different thing.  The fact that it attracted a crowd of several hundred men and boys does not divest the spectacle of its questionable character, and it is surprising that an outfit of this kind should receive such substantial encouragement in a city like Topeka, where a claim to ordinary civilization is advanced and where the spires of nearly a hundred churches cast their shadows upon an enlightened and progressive people.”

The Daily Commonwealth was more succinct:

“The farce of the season was the game of baseball played yesterday afternoon.”

The cause of the outrage was “The Fairies of the Field,” a traveling female team.

The Daily Commonwealth noted that the team arrived in Topeka on a “Sante Fe train, traveling in a special car, painted red, perhaps because their advent into a town causes the town to assume that color.”

Neither of the Topeka papers were impressed with the ball-playing ability of the visitors, who faced a “picked nine” of local male amateurs and semi-pro players.

The Daily Capital:

“The nine females who formed the principal attraction were awkward and scrawny and had no knowledge whatever of the national game they were abusing.”

The Daily Commonwealth:

“The ‘belles’ can’t throw any better than any other woman can, and can hit a ball with about as much force as a ten year old boy.”

The Daily Capital didn’t bother to disclose the final score, “The details of the game are not worthy of extended notice.” The Daily Commonwealth gave the final score, but attributed the Fairies’ 19 to 7 victory in the four-inning game to “assistance” from the umpire, and the generousness of “The home nine (who) gave them every opportunity to make runs.”

Despite the reception in Topeka, the team was popular and performed to large crowds the previous year at the World’s Fair in New Orleans, then spent the summer and early fall of 1895 barnstorming across the Midwest.  The Fairies were generally received with more respect and enthusiasm than what they faced in Topeka, but the reviews of their skills varied.

The Minneapolis Tribune gave the team a glowing notice after a game in August of 1885 “attended by 700 men and eight women,” and said:

“The Fairies of the Field were in fine form and flitted coyly over the luxuriant sward as blithe and chipper as a Mayday butterfly.”

The paper said one of the Fairies—Genevieve McAllister—“wields the willow after the style of Jim O’Rourke,” and Clara Corcoran, who played third base was said to be the niece of Chicago White Stockings pitcher Larry Corcoran.”  The Tribune said of the team’s pitcher:

“Miss Royalston—“the expert and lady-like pitcher of the visitors…formerly lived at Detroit, and learned the art from the study of (Frederick “Dupee”) Shaw, the wizard.  She takes a graceful three-lap pirouette on the left toe, and while the batsman is dazzled by the rapidity with which the stripes on her polonaise fly by, the ball comes out from somewhere and the umpire calls a strike.”

The St. Paul Globe's rendering of one of the 'Fairies.'

The St. Paul Globe’s rendering of one of the ‘Fairies.’

The Fairies defeated the Minneapolis men 8 to 7.

The St. Paul Globe said after a loss at Stillwater, Minnesota “witnessed by a crowd of 1,200 or 1,300 persons,” composed of “Every profession in Stillwater, excepting the clergy, from street urchin to the capitalist, was represented.”

The Globe said of the visitors:

“The girls, seven brunettes and two blondes, were attired in red hose, plaid dresses reaching to the knee, red caps and slippers.  All wore belts, and two or three black jerseys, and were powdered and panted like ballet fairies.”

But the St. Paul paper was not as impressed with the Fairies as their counterparts in Minneapolis, summing up their performance in Stillwell:

“They can’t play ball a little bit.”

When 1,500 turned out for a game in St. Paul, The Globe was equally unimpressed:

“Four innings were played, the score being 14 to 4 in favor of the picked nine, who could have made it 44 to 4 if they chose.  At the close of the fourth inning the manager called, ‘Game! Grab your bases,’ which each basewoman did and the fairies vanished, leaving behind the most disgusted audience that ever went to see a game of baseball.”

Handbills that promoted the team’s appearances read “Have never been here before, may never come again.”

True to the advertisements the Fairies of the Field disbanded shortly after their ‘farce’ in Topeka, and never came again.

’I guess I am Rotten”

24 Nov

It was in doubt where Pete “The Gladiator” Browning would play in 1892.

There is no record of exactly how he parted ways with the Cincinnati Reds—Released by the Pittsburgh Pirates, Browning hit .343 for the Reds in 55 games in 1891 after signing with the club on June 29—but, by January of 1892 there were a steady stream of rumors about where he would sign.

Pete Browning

Pete Browning

Speculation included the Baltimore Orioles and St. Louis Browns, but Browning opted to return home to Louisville, and signed with the Colonels—he was released again after an early spring salary dispute, but signed a new contract with the team a week into the season.

Browning returned Louisville with much fanfare.  The Courier-Journal said, after he contributed two singles and two sacrifice hits in a 7 to 2 victory over the Chicago Colts:

“Prodigal Pete…walked out—‘Prods’ do not return in carriages—to his old home in left field at Eclipse Park yesterday afternoon, where he had spent a happy, happy youth before the false adulation of the outer world called the Gladiator away.”

After am 11-3 start, the Colonels were returning to form, and were beginning to look like the ninth place team with a 63-89 record they would be at season’s end.

To make matters worse, “Prodigal Pete” struggled after his first game, hitting just .247—94 points less than his career average—in 21 games.

Browning explained his sump to Harry Weldon of The Cincinnati Enquirer:

“’I guess I am rotten. I guess I ought to be out of the business,’ said Pietro Gladiator Browning, as he walked on the field.  ‘Old Gladdy ain’t to his speed yet, but he’s hitting ‘em, and hitting ‘em good, but not as good as he will hit ‘em though, cause he’s got the catarrh, and is stopped up in the head.  When you’re stopped up your ‘lamps’ ain’t right.  Wait until the sun gets hot and the catarrh leaves the old hoss.  Then the pitchers will have to look out.  Will I lead the league in hitting?  Why not?  Look out for me.  None of ‘em are getting away from me in the outfield.  Did you read about me going up in the seats and pulling down a fly that saved the game?  I can do it right along.  None of them big stars, Jim) McAleer, Curt Welch or any of the rest of them fellows have the best of old Pete on fly balls.  The old boy is still ready money, and worth one hundred cents on the dollar.”

Within days the Colonels gave up on the Gladiator and handed him his release on May 18.

For a time Browning got his “lamps’ right again.  After signing with the Reds again, he hit .303 the rest of 1892.  He returned to Louisville in 1893 and hit .355 in part-time role.

“He Looked like an Animated Bean Pole”

21 Nov

Hall of Fame Pitcher Addie Joss was discovered, according to his first professional manager, by a man who made a living playing pool with his nose.

Addie Joss

Addie Joss

 

Bob Gilks was Joss’ first manager with the Toledo Mud Hens in the Interstate League.  In 1910 he told the story of the pitcher’s discovery to a reporter for The Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader:

“’About ten years ago,’ says Gilks.  ‘I was running the Toledo team in the Interstate League for Charlie Strobel.“

Gilks said he was approached by “Professor Lewis.”  Professor Henry Lewis was the stage name of a man named Herman Cohn, who preformed billiards exhibitions using his fingers, nose and other body parts; Cohn/Lewis also considered himself a good judge of baseball talent:

“(Lewis said) ‘Gilks, I’ve found a pitcher who is a wonder.  He’s playing…in the wilds of Wisconsin, and if you get him and he makes good all I want is $25.  His name is Joss.

“I went after Joss and signed him.  When he showed up at Toledo he looked like an animated bean pole.  He seemed about six and half feet tall and weighed more than 75 pounds, but not much more.

“Joss was a weakling then.  He would go into a game and pitch all kinds of curves and benders for three innings.  Then he’d get tired and I‘d have to take him out.  He complained of pains and I took him to a doctor who decided that Addie had growing pains.

Joss went along this way all year, and next season he showed up sick again.    The doctor gave him some pills and cured him, and Addie grew strong.  He filled out and began to pitch like a whirl wind.”

Wilks’ contention that he was often required to “take him out” is belied by the statistics—Joss had 33 complete games in 34 starts in 1900.

“Joss did so well the next year (25-18) I knew some big league club would grab him, so I told Strobel, and he decided to go to Addie’s home, invite him to spend a few weeks in Toledo and keep him under cover so no one would find him.

“This was just before Easter and Addie didn’t want to leave home until after that day.  He persuaded Strobel to return to Toledo, promising to follow later.  And a couple of days afterward Bill Armour slipped into Juneau (Wisconsin) with Charlie Somers’ bankroll and signed Joss.”

Joss was 17-13 for Cleveland in 1902.

According to The Times-Leader, Gilks and Strobel failed to pay the pool player his $25 despite the tip which led to Joss’ signing.

A Ripley's Believe it or Not Drawing about one of "Professor Lewis'" billiard feats.

A Ripley’s Believe it or Not Drawing about one of “Professor Lewis'” billiard feats.

“Either they think that Everybody is Gullible, or else they are Weak Mentally themselves”

19 Nov

Until a broken ankle in 1902 slowed him, George Van Haltren was one of baseball’s best leadoff hitters; a .316 hitter with 2544 hits during his 17 seasons.   After a disappointing 1903–.257 in  84 games—his major league career was over, and he went home to the West Coast where he spent six seasons in the Pacific Coast League (PCL).

George Van Haltren

George Van Haltren

A member of the Seattle Siwashes during his first year in the PCL, Van Haltren was asked by The Oakland Tribune—the paper called him “an ultra-scientific batsman,” to share his expertise:

“Every ball player occasionally meets other players who call themselves ‘place hitters.’  The assertions of the majority of these players are such that either they think that everybody is gullible, or else they are weak mentally themselves.  They tell you they ‘can put the ball where they please,’ and that ‘it is easy when you know how.’

“Never take any stock in such twaddle.  These place-hitters would be just the men to have around when the ‘fans’ are calling on the home team to ‘hit ‘em where the fielders ain’t!’  But when it comes to delivering the goods, I have noticed, they are generally short.

“As a matter of fact, the batter often tries to hit to a certain field, and sometimes he is successful, but no man can give a guarantee when he goes up that the ball he hits will take any special direction.  If place-hitting could be carried out to the fine point that some players say they have it, they would be able to hit safely every time they came up.

“To the young player I would say: Don’t get in the habit of planting your feet on the ground and not moving them until you have swung at the ball.  Get a stride and advance a little toward the ball as you hit.  Do not step too far and accustom your eyes and hands to the change such a step makes.  Learn to hit squarely every ball that passes over any part of the plate between the knee and shoulder, and devote the most practice to what you are weakest on.

“Learn to think and act quickly and to keep your head at all times.  In a contest do not always do the same thing under the same circumstances.  Give your opponents a surprise whenever you possibly can.”

By the time he arrived on the West Coast, Van Haltren was no longer able to give his opponents “a surprise” as often as he could before the ankle injury; he hit .270 for Seattle in 1904, he played five seasons with the Oakland Oaks, hitting .255 before retiring in 1909.

Van Haltren died in 1945 without ever drawing serious Hall of Fame consideration.  A good argument for his enshrinement can be found here.

A “King” Kelly Story

17 Nov

In 1905 Elmer Ellsworth Bates of The Cleveland Press told a story about how the game had changed over the past two decades.

Ellsworth said that during the 1880s he witnessed an incident at the Café in Cleveland’s Weddell House Hotel involving Mike “King” Kelly.  Bates said he was with umpire “Honest John” Gaffney when Kelly came in:

Mike "King" Kelly

Mike “King” Kelly

“(T)he swing doors flew open and about half of the players of the Chicago team—Kelly in the lead—marched in.  The game between Cleveland and Chicago that day had been a stormy one, and Gaffney had assessed fines right and left.

“Kelly had been the chief offender.  Drawing at first a $5 penalty for disputing a decision, he had called Gaffney names at $5 or $10 a name until he owed the National League $50.  Kelly had left the ballpark vowing he would attend to Gaffney later.  I expected trouble when Kelly came in, for it wasn’t his first visit to that part of the hotel that night.

“’Hello, Gaf,’ Mike shouted, as he saw the umpire.  ‘Have a drink—you and your handsome friend.’

“’Much obliged Kel’ said Gaffney: ‘I’m not drinking today.’

“’Say Gaf,’ Kelly went on, ‘how much did you soak me today.’

“’An even $50,’ replied Gaffney, very quietly.

John Gaffney

John Gaffney

“’Reported it to the boss yet?’

“Not yet,’ was the reply.

“’Tell you what I’ll do,’ said Kelly, grabbing up the dice box.  I’ll shake you to see whether it’s $100 or nothing.’

“Gaffney started to walk away.

“’Come on, Gaf, be game,’ the other players called.

“So he came back.

“’Horses?’ asked Gaffney.

“Nope,’ said Kelly.  ‘One throw.’

“Gaffney spilled out aces and fours.  Kelly turned the box bottom side up, and, lifting it again, disclosed three fives.

“All right,’ said Gaffney, ‘the fine don’t go.’

“’Come on there, fellers,’ shouted Kel, starting for the door, ‘let’s go out and spend that $50.’”

“Is Napoleon Lajoie a Hoodoo?”

14 Nov

Napoleon Lajoie had his share of superstitions and sought to avoid “Hoodoo,” like most players of his era.  But, as Lajoie was winding down his long career, hitting un-Lajoie like .246 for a horrible Philadelphia Athletics team (36-117) in 1916, The Philadelphia Bulletin presented a case that Lajoie himself was the problem:

“Is Napoleon Lajoie a hoodoo?

Napoleon Lajoie

Napoleon Lajoie

“Several baseball managers and ‘Larry’ himself would like to know the answer.  And here is why:

“Lajoie, for many years recognized as the king of second basemen and dubbed ‘King Larry,’ now has visions of the waning of his baseball star of fame, and he has never played on a pennant-winning team…For years he hit well over the .300 mark—once over .400—was one of the most dangerous men to pitch to in a pinch, and fielded his position around second base in a finished, manner—so finished in fact, that he won the distinction of being the classiest second-sacker in baseball.  Every move of the big Frenchman was grace personified.

“Notwithstanding the fact that he was a star of the first magnitude, ranking with Hans Wagner of Pittsburgh—and they are the two real stars of baseball of former years—he never was able to help his team to the pennant.  So, when Lajoie was sold to Connie Mack dopesters and Larry himself thought he eventually would get into a World Series.  But alas!

“Larry joined the Athletics in the spring of 1915, and while his admirers were expecting him to get back his batting eye, which had apparently been dimmed while he was in Cleveland, Connie Mack decided to tear down his wonderful machine.  (Eddie) Collins, (Ed) Plank, (Charles “Chief”) Bender, (Jack) Coombs, and (Jack) Barry were sold (or released), while (Frank) Baker played bush league ball because Connie would not meet his salary demands, and the famous $100,000 infield of the Athletics was wrecked and the run making machine of the world champions was put out of commission.  And the hopes of Larry and his enthusiastic followers went glimmering.  He is on a tail-end team, just like he was at Cleveland.

“And worst of all from Lajoie’s point of view, the Cleveland team has been holding down first place in the American League for many weeks and is a contender for the pennant.

“The question, ‘Is Napoleon Lajoie a hoodoo?’ Again presents itself.”

While Cleveland was in first place as late as July 12, the Lajoie-hoodoo-free Indians still faltered and finished seventh in 1916.

After Philadelphia’s disastrous season—they finished 54 and a half games back—Lajoie accepted the position of player-manager with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the International League.  The 42-year-old second baseman hit a league-leading .380 and led the Maple Leafs to the championship in 1917—the first, and only of his career.

“I Never did trust an Umpire no how”

12 Nov

During an eight-year career spent in the California and Pacific Coast Leagues, Robert Joseph “Bobby” Eager was never a star, but was very popular with West Coast baseball fans.  Years after he played his final game for the San Jose Prune Pickers in 1909 he began writing occasional columns about the game for The San Jose News.

Bobby Eager

Bobby Eager

Eager backed up starting catcher Henry “Heine” Spies with the Los Angeles Angels:

“(O)ne of the best backstops the Coast has ever had.  Spies was known as the best foul ball chaser that ever put on a glove, barring none.  It seemed as though he really knew just where to go when a batter hit a long foul, he was right on the job.  I have played with him for five years and have never seen him misjudge a fly ball.  It got so that every time a foul ball went up, no matter where it went, the crowd would yell ‘Heine would have got it,’ even though the ball went out of the lot.  Well, to make a long story short, Los Angeles was playing and Heine was catching, Charlie Baum was pitching.  A foul ball went up and Heine chased the ball up against the grandstand and made a most wonderful catch, but it seemed as though the ball must have touched the stand in some way and Umpire (Jack) Huston ruled that it didn’t go.”

Henry "Heine" Spies

Henry “Heine” Spies

Eager said Spies argued Huston’s call, and as a result the umpire—who had been a teammate of Spies in 1891 with the Sacramento Senators—fined the catcher $5.

“The next day was pay day and when Spies went to get his dough he was 5 short.  He immediately hunted up Huston at Morley’s pool rooms, where most of the ball players hung out (in addition to owning the billiard hall, Jim Morley managed the Los Angeles Angels for four seasons).  He immediately demanded that Huston either give him the $5 back or they go to the mat, which Huston refused to do, of course.  There was trouble, and poor Heine was fined $50 by the president of the league for beating up an umpire.  I never will forget how hard Spies took it to heart.  He and I were going down Market Street, San Francisco, and we were looking in the different windows and we came across a big furniture store with a swell bedroom set for $50.  Heine looked at it for a long time.  I looked up to see the tears rolling down his cheeks, and turning to me he said: ‘See—see, Bobby, there, see what Huston robbed me out of.  I could have had that swell bedroom set if he hadn’t gone and fined me that $5.  I never did trust an umpire no how.  They all seem to be a bunch of burglars.”

In addition to his occasional work for the newspaper, Eager coached several local baseball teams and worked for the Standard Oil company until his death on February 2, 1926.

“The Annual Spring Typhoon has Blown up Again”

10 Nov

In 1906, despite being, on paper, the best team in the American League, the Cleveland Naps finished in third place, five games behind the Chicago White Sox.  The club had three twenty game winners—Addie Joss, Bob Rhoads, and Otto Hess—and four regulars who  hit better than .300—Napoleon Lajoie, William “Bunk” Congalton, Elmer Flick and Claude Rossman,

As the 1907 season approached, Grantland Rice, of The Cleveland News said the team was now a victim of the success of individual players:

“The annual spring typhoon has blown up again—only a bit worse than ever.  In nearly every big league camp well-known athletes are breaking into loud roars over the pay question, and there promises to be quite a batch of trouble before the storm is cleared away.  In this respect Cleveland heads the list, although Napland owners have one of the highest salary lists in the game.  Up to date Joss, Rhoads, (Terry) Turner and Congalton have balked, while neither Flick nor Hess have returned a signed contract.”

Grantland Rice

Grantland Rice

Rice said the club’s negotiations with Joss and Rhoads were at an impasse, and “just how it will end is a matter of uncertainty.”  The news of the team’s trouble signing their stars led Rice to a discussion of “just how much a major leaguer is supposed to receive for his work each season.”

“When a youngster breaks in he is never given less, or at least rarely so, than he received in his minor league berth.  His pay is boosted the greater part of the time, so the average debutante’s pay roll ranges closely around $1,800 providing he is recognized as a first class man.

“If he delivers the goods his first year out he can figure on about $2,000 or $2,200 for his next season, and then if he becomes established as a regular, his income should be somewhere in the immediate vicinity of $2,500.

“From this point upward it all depends on their rankings as stars.  You hear considerable about $5,000 contracts and better, but as a matter of cold, clammy fact, but few athletes draw over $3,000 or $3,500 at best.

“In the epoch of war salaries $3,500 or $4,000 was a fairly common figure—but no more.

“A high grade slabman along the order of Joss, Rhoads (Nick) Altrock, etc…will rake in about $3,000 now.  In his weekly letter in a Toledo paper (The News-Bee), Joss stated that he was offered $3,000 for his season’s work, but that he demanded more—just how much he didn’t say.

“George Stone drew $3,000 or there abouts last season and now that he has fought his way to the premiership in the School of Slugs he demands $5,000, at which figure Mr. (Jimmy) McAleer balks strenuously.  (Johnny) Kling also asks for $5,000, which sum Charley Murphy says he will not receive.

“From this list we jump to the drawing cards of the game such as Lajoie, (Honus) Wagner, (Wee Willie) Keeler, (Christy) Mathewson, etc…

“Lajoie’s figures range somewhere above $8,000 and something shy of the $9,000 mark.

“Wagner is supposed to draw $5,000 for his work.

“If reports sent out from New York are true, Keeler’s yearly ante is close to $6,000, while Mathewson draws in about the same.

Hal Chase won’t miss $3,500 very far.

“But the high-priced teams are not pennant winners by a jug full.

(Charles) Comiskey and (Connie) Mack hew closer to the line than any others in Ban Johnson’s circle, and yet these two have won more pennants than all the rest put together.  In fact, they’ve gotten away with all but the two which Boston nailed.

“Mack had one of the cheapest, if not the cheapest team in the American League through 1905, the last year he copped the pennant.  Comiskey’s world champions of 1906 were far below Cleveland, New York or even Boston, from the salary standpoint.

“It looks funny to figure the cellar champions of a league paid more than the holders of the world’s title, but if all the figures were given out, the White Sox payroll would loom up under Boston’s to a certainty.

“The full salary cost of running a big league club varies from $40,000 to $50,000, or maybe $55,000 a year.

“A set of figures somewhere between $45,000 and $50,000 would probably hit at the higher average.

“There was a time when Boston’s payroll was close to $70,000 and (Clark) Griffith’s was only a notch below—but this golden era for the ballplayer has passed.”

According to The Washington Post, Joss had earned $3,2000 in 1906 ($2,700 and a $500 bonus), the biography, “Addie Joss:  King of Pitchers,” said he was paid $4,000 in 1907—Joss, who was 21-9 with a 1.72 ERA in 1906, followed that up with a league leading 27 wins (against 11 loses, with a 1.83 ERA) in 1907.

Addie Joss

Addie Joss

Fellow twenty game winners Rhoads and Hess both saw their production slip (15-14, 6-6), and only two regulars—Flick .302 and Lajoie .301—hit better than .300, and the team’s batting average slipped 28 points from the previous seasons.

The Naps finished fourth in 1907.

Lost Advertisements–Jimmy Austin for Farmers and Merchants Bank

7 Nov

austin

 

A 1924 advertisement for Southern California based Farmers & Merchants Bank featuring Jimmy Austin:

Jimmy Austin (or James “Pepper” Austin), the wild-cat third-sacker of the St. Louis Browns, is another of Farmers & Merchants famous depositors.

Jimmy Austin is entering into his twenty-first year in baseball; he is assistant manager and coach of the St. Louis Browns, on which team he has played for fourteen years; he is holder of the world’s speed record for circling the bases.

He has long been a consistent savings depositor of the Farmers & Merchants’ and has relied on us to make many of his investments.  Only recently we purchased three lots and a house for him at Laguna Beach and paid Spot Cash for them out of his savings.

Jimmy can retire anytime he wants to, and when he does, he will have more than enough to satisfy the average man’s idea of wealth–And his accumulations have been made by his habit of depositing regularly to his savings account in the Farmers  Merchants Bank

Austin is probably best known for being the third baseman in the famous 1909 Charles Conlon photograph of Ty Cobb sliding.

Conlon's 1909 photograph

Conlon’s 1909 photograph

In 1930 Conlon–then a proofreader for The New York Telegram–told  the story of how he came to capture what the paper called “the greatest baseball action picture ever taken.”

“Cobb was running wild on the bases that year, and the Tigers were fighting for a pennant.  I used to spend a lot of time down near third base chatting with Jimmy Austin who was a good friend of mine.

“Ty had worked his way down to second that day and the batter was trying to bunt.  As the pitcher’s arm went back to throw the ball Cobb sped for third.  Austin backed into the bag for the throw and Cobb hurled himself into the dirt, spikes flying.

“My first thought was that my friend Austin was going to be cut down by the Georgian.  I stood there motionless with my box in my hand.  I saw a blur of arms and legs through a screen of flying dirt It was a bright day and I could see Cobb’s lips grimly parted and the sun glinting off his clenched teeth.

“Austin never got his hands on the catcher’s throw.  He was knocked over.  He wasn’t hurt, however, and I was relieved because we were pretty good friends.

“Then I began to wonder if by any chance I had snapped the play.  I couldn’t remember, but I decided to change plates anyway.  It was lucky that I did, because when I printed up my stuff that night, there was the whole thing, as plain as day.”

 

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