Lost Advertisements–“Spark plug of Huggins’ Machine”

17 Apr

cozydolanA 1915 Coca-Cola ad featuring Albert “Cozy” Dolan of the St. Louis Cardinals.

“Like chooses like–no wonder the ‘spark plug of (Manager Miller) Huggins‘ machine’  likes this live wire beverage.”

Dolan, a 32-year-old utility infielder and outfielder who had never appeared in more than 100 games in a season before 1914, was an unlikely spokesman, given that most Coca-Cola ads of the period featured the game’s biggest stars.

He stole 42 bases for the Cardinals in 1914, but he hit just .240. In 1915, he hit .280 and stole 17 bases in 111 games.

While hardly great numbers, Dolan’s time in St. Louis was a huge success when compared with his disastrous 35-game tenure with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Dolan was traded to the Pirates by the Philadelphia Phillies for third baseman Bobby Byrne and pitcher Howie Camnitz in August of 1913 and became the team’s starting third baseman but hit .203, had a fielding percentage of .937 and became the target of angry fans.

Cozy Dolan

Cozy Dolan

Richard Guy of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette described his time with the Pirates:

“He looked bad and he was object of revile by those who criticize, and he failed.”

Joe Kelly of The Pittsburgh Chronicle said:

“No player ever was ridden harder by players and fans than was the former International League speed boy when he performed at Forbes Field.  Perhaps few who held down a berth regularly ever deserved more criticism, for his performances were on the awful order.  But it’s a hard job to make good when hoots and howls follow every poor play, and the few successful ones are greeted with ironical applause.  Dolan got off wrong at Forbes Field and he seemed to be sensitive, too sensitive, to the crowd’s attitude.  There comes to mind a scene last summer when the Pirates were leaving their club house.  They came out in twos and threes, laughing and joking, but among the first was Dolan, all alone.  His face was strained and drawn and worried.  He had failed that day, and he knew it…The fans poured their criticism on his head, and he sat tight and took it without a whimper.  There is something in a guy like that, or the major league managers wouldn’t keep him sticking around.”

Dolan stopped “sticking around” after 1915.  Huggins released his “spark plug” at the end of the season.  He returned to the minor leagues, playing three seasons in the American Association, then became a coach for the New York Giants in 1922.

In 1924, received a lifetime ban from Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis for his role in an attempt to fix a game.

 

Jules Pujol

15 Apr

Jules Pujol was an infielder and outfielder for several professional teams in and around his hometown of New Orleans during the 1880s.  Statistics are unavailable for much of Pujol’s career, but his best season was with New Orleans in the Southern League in 1887 when he hit .314 in 82 games–he played sparingly, and hit no better than .242 after that.

Pujol was born in New Orleans on December 12, 1864.  When he was not playing baseball he was a member of New Orleans’ all-volunteer fire department–the Fireman’s Charitable Association.

Pujol’s statistical decline after his .314 season might be attributed to an incident on Bourbon Street in New Orleans in March of 1888.  Pujol was out celebrating after New Orleans’ annual “Fireman’s Day Parade,” when, according to The New Orleans Times-Picayune he was “Shot and dangerously injured by Police Officer Albert Torregano.”

Pujol was fighting with another man in the bar when the officer approached:

“The officer attempted to make pace and requested Pujol to stop, when the latter said: ‘You want some of it, too,’ and struck him in the face and knocked him down.

“As the officer got up he again asked Pujol to quit, when Pujol knocked him down again, and his brother Luis came up saying, ‘Let me get at him, ‘ and also struck (the officer), and while he was lying there they both kicked him and beat him about the legs and body.”

The officer finally drew his weapon and shot Pujol, “striking Jules under the left shoulder-blade.”  Despite being shot, Pujol “continued chasing the officer.”  Pujol finally “fell to the floor from the loss of blood,” and was taken to the hospital where the wound was “pronounced very dangerous.”  The bullet had “passed through his right lung and striking the third rib lodged in his stomach.”

So dangerous was the wound that several newspapers printed a wire report which said:

“Jules Pujol, late third baseman of the New Orleans club, who was shot in the Crescent a week ago, is dead.”

Reports of Pujol’s demise were premature.  Three weeks after the shooting he was released from the hospital.  The Times-Picayune declared him “cured.”

In April, the assault case against the Pujol  brothers was “continued indefinitely.”  Neither were ever tried,  Louis returned to the fire department, and Jules left for Texas. He played for the Galveston Giants and Houston Babies in the Texas Southern League in 1888 and finished his professional career the following season with mobile in the Southern League.

In 1891, he became a Lieutenant in the newly formed New Orleans Fire Department.

Pujol and four other firefighters, including his brother Louis, were awarded the department’s highest honor for saving nine lives in a fire at the Grunewald Opera Hall at Baronne and Canal Streets in 1892.  According to the book History of the Fire Department in New Orleans (1895), the five went to the roof of a neighboring building, and then swung “A rope to the burning building, hauling a ladder over to bridge from one to the other, and passing the endangered persons across it to a place of safety.”

Jules Pujol, second from left

Pujol rose through the ranks of the department and was an assistant chief–serving under his brother, Chief Louis Pujol–on February 23, 1924, when he responded to a fire at a warehouse on Canal Street.  Pujol died after being trapped in the building when the walls collapsed.  Five other firefighters were seriously injured.

He is interred at Greenwood Cemetery in New Orleans.

A shorter version of this post was published on September 13, 2012

“I am, I Believe, more Inclined to fear the Jinx”

12 Apr

In 1910, Johnny Evers “wrote” an article in “Baseball Magazine” about superstitions:

“’On the Cubs’ team, for instance, I am, I believe, more inclined to fear the jinx than any other member of the club.  In batting practice before the game the general belief is that if you are not hitting the ball hard or up in the air you will bat well in the game ofttimes as a result. In many cases I have seen a player hit two or three balls hard and on the line and then go to the bench and refuse to bat anymore, saying, ‘I’m saving mine for the game.’”

Johnny Evers

Johnny Evers

Some of Evers’ other superstitions:

“Going to the different parks in the cars the sight of a funeral along the road is regarded as an ill omen.  The same applies to a (handicapped person) unless you toss him a coin.  A wagon load of barrels is a good sing.  Frequently a man, having gone a mile out of the way to purchase something on a day when his club happened to win, will continue to travel the roundabout pathway so long as the club is in that particular city or until his teammates lose.”

As for superstitions during a game:

“Watch a man when the inning is over.  If the inning previous was favorable to a player, observe him go over and be particular to locate the same spot to lay down his glove.  You doubtless have often seen a player attired in a soiled and far from presentable uniform.  Beneath all that lurks our old friend the jinx.  The player will stick to the dirty garments so long as his team is winning.  When the streak is broken the laundryman gets a chance at his clothing, but not before.”

[…]

“Not for the world could you induce the average major league pitcher to resume work with a new shoe lace.  He will tie up the remnants and go ahead, hoping to make the laces last throughout the session.  The players don’t want the bat boys to hand them their clubs either.  On our home grounds of course, Red Gallagher, the bat boy, has a sort of standing job swinging the sticks, but he always tries hard to drive away the hoodoo.  Watch him salivate the handle of every bat before it goes in the hands of its owner.”

In addition to bat boy spit, Evers said there were other superstitions among the Cubs:

“Keep your eyes glued on Tinker when he goes to bat.  Joe has a habit of walking straight from the bench to the plate to the plate for the first time up.  If he gets a clean hit that time he’ll repeat in the second trip, but if he fans or fouls out or is tossed o death on an infield drive Tinker certainly will waltz out in a circle, going back to the plate.  This is the way he hopes to break the hoodoo.”

Joe Tinker

Joe Tinker

[…]

“Recall how Manager (Frank) Chance refused to have the Cubs pose for a team picture during the closing days of the League race in 1908.  He was especially fearful that the photographer might work a jinx on the players and jeopardize our chances of beating Detroit.    (Ed) Reulbach is a mighty superstitious chap.  I remember how one of Ed’s friends approached him when the big pitcher was mowing them down for his record of fourteen straight victories (In 1909 Reulbach tied the record set in 1904 by Joe McGinnity and Jack Chesbro). He wanted Reulbach’s cap, the one he had worn during all those games, but Ed refused to part with the headgear.

Yes, the ballplayer is to be listed only with the actor or the sailor when it comes to the superstitious phase of life.”

Lost Pictures–Tris Speaker and Laddie Boy’s Brother

10 Apr

trisIn 1921, the most famous dog in the world was Laddie Boy; the Airedale Terrier was the first celebrated Presidential Dog.  Laddie Boy was presented to President Warren G. Harding on March 5, 1921–the day after his inauguration–by a Toledo, Ohio breeder–his father  was an international champion Airedale named Tintern Tip-Top.

Laddie Boy had his own chair at Harding’s cabinet meetings, “wrote” articles about his life at the White House, and after Harding’s death a statue of Laddie Boy–paid for with donations collected by newsboys across the country–was commissioned and displayed at the Smithsonian Institution.

laddieboy

Laddie Boy poses on the White House lawn in his chair.

Nearly two months after Laddie Boy went to the White House, one of his lesser-known brothers was presented to Player-Manager Tris Speaker of the defending World Series Champion Cleveland Indians on opening day of the 1921 season.

Speaker became a fan of the breed and later bought Airedales from another Ohio breeder, Walter Lingo.  Lingo, to promote his breeding business–Oorang Kennel Company–hired another one of his customers, Jim Thorpe, and together they organized the Oorang Indians National Football League franchise.

Jim Thorpe--Airedale fan

Jim Thorpe–Airedale fan

“He Drinks one Glass of Whiskey a day while Training”

8 Apr

The Associated Press (AP) said in 1912 that 45-years-old Denton True “Cy” Young “(B)aseball’s most interesting veteran has gone  to Augusta, Georgia, to join his teammates of the Boston Nationals at their training camp.”

Young had gone to Augusta from Hot Springs, Arkansas, where The AP said he had spent several weeks performing his annual ritual for getting into shape, “He started going there years ago.”

Cy Young, third from left, with Bill Carrigan, Jake Stahl and Fred Anderson at Hot Springs in 1912

Cy Young, third from left, with Bill Carrigan, Jake Stahl, and Fred Anderson at Hot Springs in 1912

Among his secrets: “He drinks one glass of whiskey a day while training.”

Young shared his training regimen with the wire service:

“First week:  The regular daily baths at Hot Springs.

“Second week:  Baths and road work.  He dresses in flannels and sweater and does 10 to 15 miles on the road.  He tramps, sprints and climbs hills. He does not touch a baseball.

“Third week: He continues baths and road work.  He fields and tosses the ball. He handles bunts to reduce his stomach.  At the end of the third week, he pitches his first ball.”

Cy Young

Cy Young

Young said after he began throwing pitches, he had no set rule for one to begin throwing hard:

“Young doesn’t attempt a fastball until he is just right and no one but himself can tell when this will be.  He says he doesn’t know how he knows when the moment arrives, but he just naturally begins to speed them across and perhaps to put ‘something on the ball’ at the correct time.  The result is you never hear of Cy Young complaining of a sore arm, or wrenched back, as many youngsters do.”

Young, by all accounts, pitched fairly well in  games in Georgia and went north with Boston.  But, he never appeared in a game.  An April story that said he was retiring to take a baseball writing job at The Boston American proved untrue.  Finally, on May 23, Young was scheduled to pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The AP said:

“The veteran was sent out to warm up to pitch for Boston against the Pirates…but his salary wing refused to behave.”

Young vowed to return to his farm “and get into shape,” in order to return before the end of the season.

His training regimen finally wasn’t enough.  His career was over.

Hearing that Young was returning to his farm, his Boston teammates took up a collection “to defray Cy’s expenses and $44.39 was raised.”  The AP said some of the young players didn’t realize the collection “was a joke…He is worth $75,000 and owns 160 acres of land in Ohio…Cy smiled and spent a good hour hunting up the younger players and returning their money.”

Diet Tips from Tim Murnane

6 Apr

Tim Murnane, who began his career as a first baseman for Middletown Mansfields in the National Association in 1872 and later was a member of the Boston Red Stockings in the National League’s inaugural season in 1876, would go on to become one of the most influential baseball writers in the country.

Tim Murnane

Tim Murnane

Writing in The Boston Globe in 1906, he said he had discovered the one thing that caused the greatest harm to a baseball player.

“Over-feeding kills off more ballplayers than accidents or hard work on the ball-field.”

Murnane suggested two solutions.  First, he recommended that, “The Fletcher system should be taken up by the veteran ballplayers without delay.”

The “Fletcher System” or “Fletcherizing” was a then very popular diet technique put forth by a “self-taught nutritionist” named Horace Fletcher.  Fletcher claimed, in several books published during the first decade of the 20th Century that the key to weight loss was to chew food so completely that it was virtually liquefied before swallowing.  Called “The Great Masticator,” Fletcher counted Thomas Edison, Henry James, Franz Kafka, John D. Rockefeller, J.C. Penny—and apparently Tim Murnane—among his adherents.  His theories had fallen out of favor, replaced by diets based on calorie intake, by the time of his death in 1919.

Horace Fletcher "The Great Masticator"

Horace Fletcher, “The Great Masticator.”

Secondly, Murnane said, “(T)he rules of eating should be laid down by the management of every club.”

He said Harry Wright, who had been Murnane’s manager in Boston, “(W)as about the first baseball man to keep a close watch over his players during meal time,” and insisted they eat lightly before games.

“’Just a plate of soup.  That’s plenty,’ would be Mr. Wright’s cry as the players filed into the dining room for lunch.  The greatest athletic performances on the field have been accomplished on practically empty stomachs.”

[…]

“I have known at least half a dozen good ballplayers being passed up in Boston on account of paying no heed to the manager’s advice about overloading their stomachs.  Frank Selee was just as much of a stickler in this line as was Harry Wright, and both were remarkably successful baseball managers.  The manager who does not pay especial attention to this end of the players’ life must lose out, for his team will be unable to keep up a fast clip very long after the boys commence to take on flesh as the result of overfeeding and drinking.”

Murnane had other diet tips for readers:

“A ballplayer cannot drink too much good milk.  The greatest drinker of milk I ever knew was James O’Rourke, and Jim, after thirty-three years on the ball-field, is just as lively a 10-year-old today.  O’Rourke never used tobacco in any form, nor ever indulged in malt liquors, but what a milk drinker he has been all his life and what credit to the national game, from every angle you view the old sport!’

Jim O'Rourke

Jim O’Rourke, “The greatest drinker of milk.’

Murnane blamed the disappointing performance of the Boston Americans in 1905 (Fourth place, 78-74, 16 games out of first) on the dietary habits of the team:

“To be honest, I think the Boston Americans last season practically ignored condition from first to last.  I never witnessed on one ball team so many men out of form by being overweight…This club would have won at least one dozen more games had they taken good care of their stomachs, and no one knows this better than Captain (Manager Jimmy) Collins himself, who has said it will be a much different season with the Boston club next season.”

The next season, 1906, was much different, but not in the way Collins had hoped.  The team was 35-79 when Collins was replaced as manager by Charles “Chick” Stahl, and finished in last place with a 49-105 record.

Murnane concluded:

“Baseball was never intended for a fat man’s game, and Captain Anson was the only heavyweight who ever piloted a pennant winner, although my old friend Charley Comiskey was growing a bit stout when his boys carried off the prize five years ago.”

 

Lost Advertisements–The Leland Giants’ New Ballpark

3 Apr

lelands

 

An advertisement for the opening of the Leland Giants’ newly refurbished ballpark, Normal Park, at 69th and Halsted Streets in Chicago, on May 15, 1910.  Just three weeks earlier, Cook County Judge Jesse Baldwin had given the team, managed by Andrew “Rube” Foster, the right to use the name Leland Giants.

Rube Foster

Rube Foster

May 15 would be the first regular season game for the Leland Giants after the split between Frank Leland and Foster over finances, which resulted in the formation of two separate teams–Leland’s team would be called the Chicago Giants.

Beauregard Fitzhugh Moseley, who had been one of Leland’s primary financial backers but sided with Foster in the split, became the business manager of the new club and represented the team in court.  Under Moseley and Foster’s leadership, the club retained many of the club’s stars and added John Henry Lloyd and Grant “Home Run” Johnson to the roster:

“To the most select audiences in the city.  Games with the best talent procurable.  Come and visit our park and see Rube Foster, the World’s Greatest Pitcher, assisted by (Frank) Wickware and (Charles) Dougherty, the season’s sensation, (Bruce) Petway and (Pete) Booker, the stars (Pete) Hill and (Andrew) Payne, outfield phenomenon, (Frank) Duncan, (Wesley) Pryor, (Fred) Hutchinson, Lloyd and Home Run Johnson, celebrities, who can only be seen on our diamond.”

1910 Leland Giants--Seated, left to right, Johnson, Booker, Payne, Strouthers, Duncan, Pryor; standing, left to right, Petway, Lloyd, Hill, Dougherty, Bill Lindsay, Wickware, and Foster.

1910 Leland Giants–Seated, left to right, Johnson, Booker, Payne, Strouthers, Duncan, Pryor; standing, left to right, Petway, Lloyd, Hill, Dougherty, Bill Lindsay, Wickware, and Foster.

While Foster and Moseley’s club consisted of several of the core players from the 1909 Leland Giants, who had won the championship of Chicago’s City League, the league’s members rejected their request for league membership in 1910;  Frank Leland’s Chicago Giants were accepted into the league and The Chicago Tribune said it would be the Chicago Giants who would “hoist the pennant” signifying the 1909 championship at their ballpark, Auburn Park, at 79th and Wentworth,  on May 15.

When the Chicago Giants played their first City League game on May 1, the Leland Giants were on what The Chicago Inter Ocean called “Moseley’s 9,000 mile trip;” a spring training tour that covered 9,073 miles and included games in 10 states.

While they were not members of the City League, the Leland Giants played games against league teams throughout the season; including the May 15 opener.

The Chicago Defender said:

“Those in doubt about the popularity and ability of the 1910 line-up of the Leland Giants, had that doubt dispelled last Sunday if they were at the giants’ new park…B.F. Moseley presented the entire line-up, together with Manager (William C. “Billy”) Niesen‘s team, the Gunthers (a member of the City League) to 4,000 enthusiastic fans, comprising some of the best citizens of Chicago.”

The Defender described Normal Park as “one of the swellest and best-equipped ballparks in the city…it is clean and accessible to the (street) car lines and a credit to the race.”

As part of the festivities, at Normal Park–and at roughly the same time Frank Leland was about to”hoist the pennant” at Auburn Park, Niesen, on behalf of the City League gave the Leland Giants their own championship banner:

“(Niesen) presented the pennant to Rube Foster, as the champions of the city, a march was then formed, headed by the First Regiment K of P (Knights of Pythius) Band to the rear of the grounds, where the pennant, a beautiful flag in maroon, properly lettered ‘Leland Giants, City Champions’ was hoisted and unfurled to the breeze amidst great applause and music.”

The Lelands beat the Gunthers 5 to 1 behind the pitching of Frank Wickware.

Frank Leland’s Chicago Giants, lacked some of the star power of 1909 and  finished in second place in the City League.

Foster and Moseley’s Leland Giants fared better.  The “best talent procurable” won 35 straight games until June 11; The Chicago Tribune said “Lelands Defeated at Last–Gunthers break winning streak of colored players,” when, with Foster on the mound, they lost 3 to 1 to Niesen’s Gunthers.  It was a rare loss, the Leland giants won 106 games in 1910, with just seven losses.

Beauregard Fitzhugh Moseley

Beauregard Fitzhugh Moseley

The next season, with an infusion of cash from a new business partner, a white Chicago tavern owner, John Schorling–another former partner of Frank Leland, who was sometimes identified as Charles Comiskey‘s son-in-law–the Leland Giants became the Chicago American Giants and moved from Normal Park to “Schorling’s Park” at 39th and Wentworth, the former home of the Chicago White Sox.

 

 

 

“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.

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