“He is a $900 Man”

6 Jul

Frank Leonardo Hough had a major conflict of interest.  While sports editor for The Philadelphia Inquirer, he also held a 12.5% interest in the Philadelphia Athletics from the club’s inaugural season until 1912—he also served as the team secretary for several seasons while working at the paper.  Another Philadelphia sports writer, Sam Jones of The Associated Press also held a 12.5% interest in the team.

Frank L. Hough

Frank L. Hough

Perhaps it was Hough’s close association with an American League team that made him one of the most vocal advocates for the rights of current and former National League players while the leagues battled for star players.

In 1902, he told his readers the story of how William “Bill” Duggleby, who jumped from the Phillies to the Athletics after the 1901 season,  was treated—Hough said he was “Human Chattel”–while a member of the Phillies:

“These are the facts:

“William Duggleby, pitcher played with the Auburn Club, of the New York State League, during the season of 1897.  In the fall of that year, he was drafted by the Philadelphia Ball Club.”

According to Hough, Duggleby was offered $900 for the season, a $25 raise from his salary in Auburn.

Hough pitched just nine games for the Phillies in 1898 and said Hough “was farmed or rented,” to minor league clubs for the remainder of 1898 and in 1899 and 1900.

“Thus it will be seen that although he was under the absolute control of the Philadelphia Club from 1897, he played only a few games in the season of 1898 with that organization.  He had no control over his own services.  He could not even say where he would play, or where he would not play.  That matter was determined by the treasurer of the Philadelphia Ball Club.”

William Duggleby

William Duggleby

Hough noted that while Duggleby “developed considerable skill,” and had three good seasons in the Eastern League (12-11, 22-16, 17-10) and drew considerable interest from  a “half dozen” major league teams, he only received $900 from the Phillies each season:

“The clubs that rented Duggleby did not know him in the financial end of the transaction at all.

“Had Duggleby the right to sign wherever he could have made the best bargain he would have undoubtedly received at least $1800 a season for his services—just twice as much as received under the White Slave system of the National League.”

Hough said Duggleby likely only had six to 10 years total earning power and “lost three years in which he should have received a salary somewhere commensurate to his ability.”

That, however, said Hough, was not the worst of it.  In 1900, Duggleby was with the Toronto Canucks, who paid the Phillies “$225 per month for his services,” while Duggleby was paid just $150 a month.

“No convict from a Texas or Georgia penitentiary was ever rented or leased to break stone on a quarry or repair roadways in colder blood than was Duggleby to the Toronto Club.

“If Duggleby was not a white slave in a free country, what in the name of all that is fair was he?…Of course, Duggleby did not have to wear ball and chain—that might have interfered with his playing ability. But he had no more control over his actions than would the most hardened criminal consigned to the quarries.”

Just days after Hough made the case for Duggleby’s victimhood—and after he appeared in just two games for the Athletics— the pitcher returned to the Phillies.  Said to have been paid $3250 by the Athletics, Duggleby accepted a $2400 contract with the Phillies.  He told The Sporting Life:

“There was no great reason for my going with the American League in the first place, but after I had given my word to go with Connie Mack’s team I did not feel like breaking it. Then came the decision in the (Napoleon) Lajoie case, and a notice from Manager (Bill) Shettsline to report to him or meet with the same fate as Lajoie. I went to see Shetts at once and asked him if the club really intended to proceed against all players that were under reserve. He assured me that they would. Well, under the circumstances I saw nothing for me to do but go back to the National.”

Hough’s tone changed considerably after Duggleby left the Athletics; in addition to referring to the pitcher in a headline as a “Vertebraeless Youth,” he said

“Without awaiting the outcome of the efforts to be made today to secure an appeal (in the Lajoie case)… (Duggleby) runs to cover like a frightened hound…Evidently the treasurer of the Philadelphia Ball Club sized up Duggleby right in the first place.  He is a $900 man.”

Duggleby, who posted a 20-12 record for the Phillies in 1901, only had one winning season after (18-17 in 1905).  He pitched in the major leagues until 1907.  Duggleby had one other distinction:  During his initial trial with the Phillies in 1898, he hit a grand slam in his first major league at-bat on April 21–for 70 years he remained the only player to hit a grand slam in his first game until Bobby Bonds hit one during his debut (his third at-bat) on June 25, 1968; Jeremy Hermida equaled the feat in his first major league at-bat in 2005.

Hough remained a stockholder and officer with the Athletics while simultaneously reporting on baseball for The Inquirer, until he sold his interest to Connie Mack in 1912.  He was the paper’s sports editor until his death the following year.  (While Hough’s middle name was said to be Leonardo throughout his life, his Pennsylvania death certificate lists it as Lewis)

A Baseball Fan’s Diary

3 Jul

While writing for The Cleveland News in 1907, Grantland Rice wrote a poem–“A Baseball FAn’s Diary”– that summed up how many thought–and still think–about their home team throughout the course of the season.

Grantland Rice

Grantland Rice

April Fifteenth

Hurrah!  The season’s started!  The opening game’s to-day!

The fans are swarming to the park to see our heroes play;

The whole darn town is turning out to get in on the fun.

And cheer the team that has the flag already good and won.

They have a silver loving cup for Johnson, and a cane

For every other player; oh, they’re raving, wild, insane;

They’re cheering like Comanches, all impatient for the fray.

To see our team jump in and take the field on opening day.

May Fifteenth

Cheer up, the race ain’t over yet, although our prospect’s frayed;

What matter if the team has dropped the first twelve games they’ve played.

It makes no difference, rooters, that we’re on the bottom rung;

Remember, fans, before you knock, the season’s very young.

June Fifteenth

Say, Johnson, fire that Riley; he’s a lemon through and through.

Who told you Smith could play the game?  And Jones is rotten too.

Can that big dub Jackson now, and throw him off the nine;

The infield you have signed for us is something of a shine.

July First

I’ve seen some awful yellow teams in my day, I’ll admit;

But this bunch couldn’t catch a cold; they neither field nor hit.

Say, this is on the level—I could not believe my eyes

The day I saw that outfield squad drop fourteen easy flies.

When a shortstop makes twelve errors in one game, he’s getting stale;

The time has come to ride him out of town on a rail.

And when a pitcher passes up a dozen men per game—

I wouldn’t like to say it, but I know his proper name.

July Fifteenth

Say, fire that Johnson right away, you guys that own the club;

He’s nothing but a wooden-headed, drunken, brainless dub.

He’s a holy show as manager, as I said from the first;

You’ve got to hand it to him as the one and only worst.

October First

Hurrah!  The season’s over, and I’m glad the race is past.

I know we finished in the rut this year—a hopeless last!

We didn’t do a blooming thing but hit the chutes and slump;

But next year keep your eye on us—we’ll  be there from the jump.

“The Aristocrat of all Mascots”

1 Jul

Shortly after the 1920 World Series, The Associated Press (AP) claimed to have discovered why the Brooklyn Robins, after taking two out of three games from the Indians at home, dropped four straight in Cleveland:

“At last the secret…is out.  The Dodgers declined to take their mascot, Eddie Bennett, with them to the lair of the Indians, and without his lucky presence they were swamped.  And not only that.  Bennett, indignant over having been left at home, has quit the Brooklyns!  That’s revenge!”

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle said, Bennett, a Brooklyn native, came to the attention of baseball fans in 1919 when he served as bat boy and mascot for the American League Champion Chicago White Sox:

“(H)e used to hang around the players’ entrance to the ballparks on both sides of the bridge.  The Yankees were playing at the Polo Grounds then, and one day one of the White Sox noticed a wistful little fellow in the front row of hero worshippers.”

Eddie Bennett

Eddie Bennett

White Sox outfielder Oscar “Happy” Felsch, noticed Bennett suffered from kyphosis (the excessive curvature of the spine—in Bennett’s case it was said to have been caused by an injury when he fell out of his stroller as an infant) and asked “’Are you lucky?’ ‘Sure,’ cried Eddie Bennett eagerly.”  With Bennett serving as bat boy, the Sox defeated the Yankees.  With that:

“Felsch spoke to Eddie Cicotte about taking him back to Chicago. Cicotte spoke to Manager (William) Kid Gleason.  Eddie Bennett became the official White Sox mascot.”

Bennett spent the rest of the season with the Sox and roomed with pitcher Dickie Kerr on the road. After the Black Sox scandal broke—Bennett told reporters, “I was one of the honest ones”—the 16-year-old returned to New York and went to work for the Robins.

Dean Snyder, writing for Scripps’ Newspaper Enterprise Association, said of Bennett during Brooklyn’s pennant run:

“(The Robins) bought the kid a swell uniform and told him to hang around.

“From the day he started as the official mascot…things began to look up.”

But, Snyder noted, Bennett was strictly a mascot and not a bat boy in Brooklyn:

“Little Eddie is a hunchback. The players positively forbid him to touch their bats.  They just want him to stick around. They’re might superstitious about their war clubs.”

After being left home by the Robins for the club’s ill-fated trip to Cleveland, Bennett jumped to the Yankees; he told The AP:

“I’m going to be with a real club this year.  Oh boy, to watch that (Babe) Ruth sock them every day.”

Bennett with Ruth

Bennett with Ruth

For the third straight season, Bennett was part of a pennant winner, and for the third straight year his team lost the World Series.  But this time he stayed put and remained a fixture with the Yankees for another decade.

American League Umpire Billy Evans, in one of his syndicated columns, said Bennett took his position very seriously and related a story about seeing him in a restaurant during a Yankee losing streak:

“Bennett was seated across from me at a table in the diner. We were served at about the same time, and I noticed he ate but little of the food he had ordered.

“’Something wrong with the food Eddie?’ I ventured.

“’The food is all right, I guess there is something wrong with me,’ replied Eddie.

“’Cheer up, Eddie.  The Yankees can’t lose all of them,’ I said with a laugh.

“’Babe hasn’t made a home run in a week.  The team never gets any runs for Bob Shawkey.  Every time Scotty (shortstop Everett Scott) makes an error it means a run.  Waite Hoyt has a bad inning every game,’ was Eddie’s come back.

“’Why worry about these things, Eddie?’ The Yankee mascot looked at me in a puzzled manner, as if I might be joshing him.

“’That’s my business, I’m a mascot,’ said Eddie in all seriousness.  ‘I am supposed to bring luck, to help Ruth make home runs, keep Scotty from making errors, have the team get runs for Shawkey, and no bad innings for Hoyt.’

“Eddie was disgusted at my failure to appreciate the importance of his position.”

In 1928, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle called Bennett “(T)he aristocrat of all mascots…eight flags in 10 years is the mark for other mascots, living and still to be born to try to equal.  It will probably never be beaten.”

Bennett’s career came to an end in May of 1932; according to The United Press (UP) he was riding in a cab which crashed and “was pinned to a pole,” Bennett suffered several broken bones, including a leg broken in several places, and spent months in the hospital. (The AP said he was hit by the cab while walking).

He made a brief, dramatic return to the Yankees a year later.

On May 23, 1933, Bennett entered the Yankees clubhouse on crutches in the midst of what The International News Service called “The great home run famine.”  Neither Babe Ruth nor Lou Gehrig had hit one since April 30:

“It was the longest home run slump for the twins since they started making life miserable for American League pitchers.  For weeks they rubbed their carcasses and bats with sundry kinds of magic oils and rabbit’s feet, consulted Yogi’s and employed every luck charm known to the superstitious in an effort to shake off the jinx.  It took Eddie Bennett, the little cripple who formerly was the club’s bat boy, to shatter the jinx.  Before yesterday’s game he solemnly tapped both sluggers with his magic crutch and that turned the trick.”

Eddie Bennett

Eddie Bennett

Both Ruth and Gehrig hit home runs off Oral Hildebrand (who came into the game with a 6-0 record) in an 8 to 6 victory over the Cleveland Indians.

It was a final happy moment for Bennett.

While he continued to be paid by Yankees owner Jacob Rupert, depression and alcoholism consumed the last years of his life.  The 31-year-old, “aristocrat of all mascots,” was found dead on January 17, 1935, according to The UP “cold and stiff in his drab rooming home…He lived out his days among his baseball trophies, drinking steadily”

Edit:  As noted in the comments, I say above that Bennett left the White Sox “when the scandal broke,”  which implies September of 1920 when the grand jury was impaneled. I should have said “when rumors of the scandal broke,” which began during the 1919 series and continued throughout the 1920 season.

“Honest John” Anderson’s Swing

29 Jun

While the New York Highlanders were training in Birmingham, Alabama before the 1905 season, outfielder “Honest John” Anderson told a reporter from The New York Herald-Tribune that he had developed a secret weapon:

“He claims to have discovered a way to swat the ball that will fool the fielders just as effectively as (Jack) Chesbro deceives the batters with his spitball.”

Anderson, a 10-year veteran, with a .297 career batting average entering 1905, even had a name for his swing:

“The ‘Tangent’ he calls it. Anderson declares he has developed a method of putting an ‘english’ on the ball when he hits it that will cause it to deflect from  its true course in a similar manner to a billiard ball…Just how he twists the bat to accomplish this Anderson refuses to divulge.”

Honest John Anderson

Honest John Anderson

The paper told readers that Anderson was working hard on his “new stunt,” and would “have it down to a fine art,” by the time the club broke camp:

“The advantages of the trick, if he gains control of it, are manifest.  It will turn many a fly or certain out into a safe hit.”

Anderson clearly had not made “a fine art” of the “Tangent” by the beginning of the season.  He hit just .232 in 32 games before being claimed on waivers by the Washington Senators.  He played through 1908; his career average dropped six points after he made his discovery.

“It smacks of Old-fashioned Common Sense”

26 Jun

For more than a century, major league baseball has looked for ways to increase hitting.  Or, as Bozeman Bulger of The New York World put it in 1917

“Overhauling the rules of baseball to make it harder for the pitcher and more of a joy ride for the boys who wield the ash has always been a favorite winter pastime.”

Burger said former pitcher and current National League President John Tener was “(C)onvinced that the public wants more hitting.”

John Tener

John Tener

Tener and others shared their ideas for rule changes with Bulger on the eve of the meeting of the rules committee.

“Tener proposes making the home plate larger and at the same time allowing a batter to take his base on three balls instead of four.”

[…]

“Then comes Charlie (Buck) Herzog (of the New York Giants) with a suggestion, perhaps the most interesting of all.  It is the outpost of a real imagination that is comprehensive. Before announcing his plan, Herzog calls attention to the injustice of calling strikes on very hard hit line drives that fall foul by inches.  To all intents and purposes, those are real scientific hits, and the fact that luck causes them to fall foul should not act upon the batter as a penalty.  In other words, he is being severely punished for really doing scientific work. Herzog suggests, therefore, that a zone be described along those two foul lines between third and the fence and between first and the ground limits.  This zone should be at least ten feet in width, and any ball hit therein is not to be called a foul.  At the same time, it is not to be called a safe hit.  In other words, the batter loses his hit by bad luck, but it relieves him of an unjust penalty.”

Buck Herzog

Buck Herzog

Incredibly, Bulger completely endorsed Herzog’s proposed rules change and claimed, “Every ballplayer in America” would agree, because “It smacks of old-fashioned common sense.”

Another rule change was proposed by Percy Duncan Haughton.  Haughton, a long-time college football coach (Cornell and Harvard), and Harvard baseball coach in 1915 (he also played both sports at Harvard) had become a part-owner of the Boston Braves in 1916.  Bulger said:

“Mr. Haughton’s scheme has not been taken very seriously by those who were studying these problems while he was still a football player, but there is a real satisfaction in finding a new magnate so much interested in the sport.  The President of the Braves proposes that the distance from third to home and from home to first be lessened by several inches.  It might help the batter a little, but an extreme change like that would be pecking at the one fundamental of the game that has stood all tests.”

The most practical suggestion came from Giants Manager John McGraw, who proposed that no rules be changed, but advocated a more lively ball.

Bulger, however, was sure some rules would change:

“(T)he powers that be appear to be intent upon really turning out a new model.”

The New York World's rendering of the proposed changes.

The New York World’s rendering of the proposed changes.

When the meetings at the Waldorf Astoria in New York ended two weeks later, Jack Veiock of the Hearst Newspapers International News Service said:

“(I)t was confidently expected that the members of the rules committee would get together and make a few alterations in the baseball code as it stands today.

“But the rules committee did nothing of the kind  The wise old heads who are in control of baseball are satisfied with the rules.”

 

“If you say that Man was not out, you are a Liar”

24 Jun

At the height of Billy Sunday’s popularity as America’s most influential evangelist, his “gentlemanliness,” and ability, on the baseball field became more legend than fact.

Billy Sunday, evangelist

Billy Sunday, evangelist

John Brinsley Sheridan of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch attempted to dispel some of the legends in 1917:

“Sunday tells young men now ‘to play the game’ uprightly.  This is how Sunday played it in 1885:

“The Browns and Chicago were playing for the world’s championship before 10,000 persons, who paid from 25 to 75 cents to see the game…The Browns kicked on the decisions of Umpire (David F. “Dave”) Sullivan and refused to play unless he retired from the game.  They could not do that sort of thing on the lots nowadays.  When Sullivan retired, (Cap) Anson and (Charles) Comiskey, the leaders of the teams, agreed that William Medart, a pulley manufacturer of St. Louis, should umpire.  Medart was a spectator at the games.  He put on a mask and a protector and proceeded to umpire. “

William Medart

William Medart

In the ninth inning of game four, with Chicago trailing 3 to 2, White Stockings pitcher Jim McCormick reached first on an error by Comiskey.  A contemporary account in The Chicago Tribune said:

“(McCormick) was standing with one foot on the bag when Comiskey made a motion to throw the ball.  He never moved, but by force of habit Comiskey touched him and laughed.  The umpire, who was not appealed to at all, electrified the spectators and players by calling McCormick out.”

Sheridan said, “This is how a baseball reporter of the day (from The Post-Dispatch) described what happened next:

“Sunday, fists clenched, eyes blazing, ran at Medart and cried, ‘Robber, robber.  That man is not out.’  Medart advanced to meet Sunday with firm step and beetling brow and aid, ‘If you say that man was not out you are a liar.’  ‘Who says that I am liar?’ Cried Sunday. ‘I do,’ said Medart, assuming a posture of defense.  ‘I’ll make you pay for that,’ cried Sunday, advancing on Medart.  ‘You can collect now,’ replied Medart, boldly.”

McCormick also attempted to attack Medart, but Mike “King” Kelly “(S)topped McCormick and then forced Sunday to sit down.”

But the future evangelist could not be calmed down:

“Sunday’s eyes were blazing and his teeth were set.  When he sat down he continued to abuse Medart, who said, “Shut up your mouth, there Sunday, or I’ll put you off the field.’ Sunday shut up his mouth, but continued to glare at Medart.”

Medart, before his death in 1913, described the scene to Sheridan:

“Billy was a cocky guy in those days and was not disposed to back down for any man.  Rather fancied himself.  I was somewhat of an athlete, gymnast and boxer.  I fancied myself, too.  I am sure that Sunday and I would have collided had it not been for Mike Kelly.

“Sunday was livid with rage.  I was mad myself.  I did not seek the job of umpiring.  I only took it to ensure the progress of the game.  I was there as a mere spectator.  Probably I was the only responsible man in the stand that was known to the managers of both teams, and, therefore, acceptable to them.  I did the best I could, but I have no doubt my work was bad.  I had not umpired ten games in my life.  I was just an amateur with a taste for ball games(Medart had umpired National League games in 1876-77 and worked at least one more St. Louis game in 1887).”

Sheridan said the man responsible for keeping Sunday and Medart from coming to blows, was also the first, and a somewhat unlikely, supporter when Sunday was “saved.”.

“Most of the baseball players of the day were men who lived lightly.  Among the gayest and lightest of the lot was Mike Kelly, the famous $10,000 beauty, by many said to have been the greatest of all baseball players.  Kelly had been reared in the Roman Catholic faith, but the “king” of the ballplayers was not overburdened with religion.  Ballplayers all speak well of Kelly.  He is their idol.  He was wild and wooly, he lived life and died at 35 [sic, 36], but he was sweet to all men.  Most of the ballplayers of Sunday’s day were wont to ridicule him for his conversion at first.  All but Kelly, the wildest of the wild.”

Mike "King" Kelly

Mike “King” Kelly

According to Sunday:

“Kelly was the first man to meet me after the news of the conversion became public.  He shook me by the hand and said, ‘Bill, I am not much on religion myself, but I am strong for a man who honestly believes.

“After that, the boys all were for me.  Whatever Kelly said was law with them.”

As for Sunday’s ability as a player, Sheridan said:

“Many people say Sunday is a great evangelist.  He was not a great baseball player.  One of his many biographers says that Sunday always tried to hit the baseball where it would hurt his opponents most and help his friends most.  The fact of the matter is that Sunday was lucky to hit the ball at all…(I)t is certain that, not at any time, was Sunday’s bat feared by opposing pitchers or players.

Billy Sunday

Billy Sunday

“Nor was the evangelist-to-be a great fielder or runner.  He was very fast on his feet.  That helped him a lot (and) in fact was his best asset as a ballplayer…He could outrun such men as Curt Welch and Dickey Johnston 3 yards to 2 yards, but Welch and Johnston could outfield Sunday, for they got quicker starts on batted balls than Sunday.  When it came to baserunning much slower men could beat Sunday because they knew when to run and how to get a good start on the pitcher.  Sunday never learned these little niceties of baseball.  As a matter of fact, hey are not really learned.  They are like Sunday’s gift for preaching, something given a man, his genius.”

“Probably the ‘Boniest’ Bonehead Play Ever”

22 Jun

While some of the details changed in subsequent tellings, this story stayed substantially the same from when it was first presented in a column by sports writer William A. in 1913, until the final published version in 1957 in The New Orleans Times-Picayune.  One version called it, “Probably the ‘boniest’ bonehead play ever”

The story was told by and told about lefty Evan “Rube” Evans.  Born on April 28, 1890, in Sebring, Ohio, Evans was a career minor league pitcher who, when the story first appeared, seemed to be headed to the big leagues. 

Rube Evans

Rube Evans

The tall–he was reported by various sources as anywhere from 6′ 2″ to 6′ 4″–began his professional career with the Dallas Giants in the Texas League in 1910; he was 15-12 for the pennant winners, but The Dallas Morning News said he didn’t “take baseball seriously” until the following year, when he was 18-16 for the Giants:

“Before that, it seemed, the big, husky flinger looked at playing baseball something in the light of a joke.  Last season, though he came back into the game with a different viewpoint. He seemed to realize that ball playing was a man-sized business.”

After his 1911 performance, Evans’ contract was purchased by the New York Giants, and he joined the team for spring training in Marlin, Texas in 1912.  The Morning News said if he maintained his new found focus “and works as hard as he knows how to work he ought to stick.”

Evans quickly impressed the Giants with a pitch “takes a most freakish break,” according to The Washington Times:

“Rube Evans, the Giants left-handed recruit pitcher from Dallas, surprised bot Manager (John) McGraw and Coach Robby (Wilbert Robinson) by showing them a curve that is entirely new to the big league…The ball is delivered in exactly the same manner as the spitball, but he does not moisten it.”

The paper did not elaborate on how Evans’ “dry spitter” was different from versions reported on during previous seasons–including the one thrown by Christy Mathewson of the Giants–but according to The New York World, “McGraw says he will try and teach it to Rube Marquard.”

Despite his “dry spitter,” Evans failed to make the team and was returned to Dallas where he posted a 22-12 record for the Giants.

In 1913, he joined the New Orleans Pelicans in the Southern Association but appeared to be headed to the Cleveland Naps before he threw a pitch in the regular season for the Pelicans.  In March, Evans shut down the Detroit Tigers 3 to 1 on five hits and followed that up with a four-hitter (and 3 to 1 victory) against the Naps.

The Cleveland Press said, “(Naps Manager Joe) Birmingham plans to cut down his squad considerably.  It is said recruits (Hugh) Peddy, (Pete) Shields and (Ward) McDowell will be left here in trade for one good pitcher, probably Southpaw Rube Evans.”

With Evans apparently on the verge of joining the Naps, the story of his “bonehead” play was told by Phelon, then repeated widely:

“(Evans) has one curious habit—a trait which has aroused much wonder on the part of every manager under whom the southpaw has been toiling.  When given an order by his manager or captain, Mr. Evans always stops, cocks his ears, and demands a repetition of the directions.  Naturally he is first taken for a simp, or bonehead, but when further acquaintance with him shows that he is a gentleman of intelligence and high mentality, the field leaders are muchly puzzled.

“’I always want my orders repeated,’ quoth Mr. Evans, ‘so that I will never again make such an error.”

(The 1913 version of the story, which quotes Evans,  places the incident in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, some later versions say it happened in 1913 with the Pelicans, still others say it was in Portland, Oregon; however, the original publication predates Evans’ time on the West Coast which did not begin until May of 1914).

Evans said he had pitched into the ninth inning when the opposing team put a runner on third with one out, when his manager told him if the other team attempted a squeeze play to “bean him.”  Evans said:

“’I knew no more what a squeeze play was than the man in the moon, but my orders rang in my ears as I started winding up.  Just as a swung up my arm, the fellow on third tore for the plate…I took careful aim at the oncoming runner, and pickled him with a fine shot to the back of the cranium.  Three seconds later the crowd was coming towards me with roars of fury, and I got over the back fence just in time.

“’Well how was I to know that I should have hit the batter and not the runner?  Ever since I have insisted on duplicate orders, so that I would know just what to do.’”

His acquisition by Cleveland never materialized and he had a disappointing 12-15 record in 1913, in a season split between New Orleans and the Birmingham Barons.

It is also in question whether Phelon’s characterization of Evans as a “gentleman of intelligence and high mentality,” was entirely accurate given his inability to stick with clubs who were impressed with physical abilities.  After his second chance to pitch in the majors didn’t materialize, the remainder his of career was marked by long stretches of mediocrity, charges of bad behavior and comparisons to another left-handed “Rube.”

In August of 1913, he was suspended for the remainder of the season by the Birmingham Barons for, according to The Birmingham Post-Herald, “Failure to keep in condition.”  The Sporting Life’s Chandler Richter called him “Erratic,” The Oakland Tribune said he was”Eccentric,” a wire service retelling of the “beanball” story from 1915 said he “earned a nationwide reputation as a ‘squirrel,” another called him “the real eccentric,” when compared to Rube Waddell.

The other left-handed Rube

The other left-handed Rube

His two-year tenure with the Portland Beavers in the Pacific Coast League (PCL) began when he wore out his welcome in New Orleans in May of 1914 and was sold to the Beavers.  It was particularly rocky.  The Spokane Daily Chronicle said Evans and Beavers manager Walter “Judge” McCredie “got along like a pair of strange bulldogs.” He was suspended at least once, again for the euphemistic “failure to be in proper condition,” and gave up a game-winning home run to Jack Ness of the Oakland Oaks when he accidently threw a pitch over the plate while attempting to intentionally walk Ness.  At the close of the 1915 season, Portland let him go for what The Portland Oregonian called “His inability to take care of himself.” Of his 9-22 record the paper said:

“Rube ran into gobs of adversity.”

After leaving Portland, Evans played parts of three seasons for the Salt Lake City Bees in the PCL–in 1917 he was 21-9, but when McCredie was named manager of the Bees in 1918, Evans time with the team was nearly over.  Before the season, The Oregonian said, “Evans did not take kindly to the idea of having to take orders” from his former manager and was threatening to jump the club.  He finally did jump in June after appearing in 14 games and posting a 3-8 record.

Evans went to Portland and finished the 1918 season in the semi-pro Shipyards League, The Oregon Daily Journal said upon his arrival:

“Rube Evans was through at Salt Lake and McCredie was probably saved the trouble of wearying his hand by writing out Rube’s release, when Rube left.”

In 1919, he played for the Rupert franchise in the semi-pro Southern Idaho League; while successful, his reliance on the emery ball for his success didn’t make him friends.  The Twin Falls Times said:

“When Rube Evans lugged the emery ball into the S.I.L. he failed to do anything beneficial to the league.  Rube will win a few more games for the Rupert club, but he has lowered the standard of sport in the league.”

Evans had one more season in professional baseball, posting a 10-7 record with the Regina Senators in the Western Canada League in 1920.  In an August 15 doubleheader against the Edmonton Eskimos Evans was ejected for arguing with the umpire while facing the second batter of the first game; he came back to lead the Senators to 5 to 3 victory in the second game, giving up two runs in 7 2/3 innings, and hitting a three-run home run in the sixth.

Rube Evans

Rube Evans

After the 1920 season, he returned to Ohio and spent the next decade playing semi-pro baseball there and in Western Pennsylvania.  His last headlines came in 1924 when he pitched six innings for the Sharon (PA) Elks team in an exhibition game against the New York Yankees.  The Elks lost 10-8, Babe Ruth went 2-4 with a double for the Yankees.

Evans’ playing days ended in Akron, Ohio.  He pitched for and managed the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company team, and stayed on with the company as a rubber worker.  He died on January 30, 1950.

A clue to some of Evans’  erratic behavior is contained in his death certificate.  The pitcher spent the last three and a half years of his life in Ohio’s Cambridge State Hospital; his cause of death was listed as “General Paresis,’ brought on by syphilis.

A shorter version of this post appeared on June 3, 2013

Lost Pictures–Roger Bresnahan and Toy

19 Jun

bresnahanandtoy

 

The Chicago Cubs were 14 games over .500 and in second place, just two a half games behind the New York Giants on July 25, 1914.  The team lost 14 of their next 17 and wound up in fourth place.  (the Giants finished second to the Boston Braves).  At the end of the season, first-year Manager Hank O’Day was let go by the Cubs and returned to umpiring.  Catcher Roger Bresnahan was named as O’Day’s replacement.

Later in the off-season, there was another drama taking place off the field.  It involved Clara Maduro:

In December, The Chicago Daily News said:

“Because the female of the species is more deadly than the male, Clara Maduro, the brown bear mascot of the Cubs, must die.  The wee cub, which fans saw drinking milk from a bottle or eating ice cream cones at the West Side park last summer, has grown to giant proportions, and while of a pleasant disposition is inclined to break loose at times. Hence, Clara will be executed New Year’s Day.”

A month earlier, The Chicago Tribune reported:

“‘There’s a woman being strangled at Wood and Taylor Streets,’ was the message received by Desk Sergeant Comstock of the Warren Avenue station last night.  ‘Send a lot of policemen.’

“The patrol wagon with a number of detectives was sent to the location, which proved to be on the west side of the National League ballpark.

“A loud howling was heard from the inside, and upon investigation it was found the bear mascot of the Cub team, which had been locked in a cage in the team’s quarters had broken its chains and was roaming about.”

After an outpouring of outrage and concern from Chicagoans, The Daily News reported that Clara Maduro “has been saved through the protest that followed the announcement.”  The bear was initially placed with a local saloon owner named Joe Biggio; later reports said the bear went to the Lincoln Park Zoo.

With Clara out, it was determined that a bear cub mascot was not the best idea for 1915.  So in March, the team introduced their new mascot, Toy.

The Tribune said:

“‘Toy,’ the 1915 Cub mascot is a canine of high degree and more likely to become a permanent fixture than the baby bear which grew so big and developed such a crabbed disposition that he [sic] had to be discarded last fall.  ‘Toy’ used to be the mascot and assistant caddie of a feminine golf expert who was a visitor at Tampa during the Cubs stay there and who became such an ardent baseball fan that she bestowed her pet on the team when the Cubs departed for the north.”

The Cubs started the season strong and led the National League until mid-July, but the team faltered badly and ended the season in fourth place with a 71-82 record.

Toy did not “become a permanent fixture;” when Charles Weeghman bought the team after the 1915 season he replaced both Bresnahan and Toy.

Weeghman did not learn from the past and introduced the Cubs new mascot in November.  A bear cub whose mother was killed during a Wisconsin hunting trip, was presented to the team by the hunter, either a state senator named Albert J. Olson or Cubs stockholder J. Ogden Armour–newspapers reported both, but the bear’s name, Joa, would suggest the latter.

It is unknown what became of Toy.

Weeghman introduces Toy's replacement

Weeghman introduces Toy’s replacement

 

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up other Things #15

17 Jun

Fullerton’s Prediction

Seven years before he watched the events of the 1919 World Series unfold from the press box, Hugh Fullerton warned readers of The Chicago Record-Herald:

“Baseball as a great national sport is in greater peril today than ever before.  Not until the present week did I realize this fact.  The gamblers, bookmakers and handbook men, who ruined horse racing…and who made fighting a noisome scandal, have attached themselves to baseball this year as never before”

Hugh Fullerton

Hugh Fullerton

“The King of them all for Superstitiousness”

In 1916, Napoleon Lajoie, then a member of the Philadelphia Athletics, told The Cleveland Press:

“I have known many a ballplayer who collected hairpins, held his breath if he saw a circus horse, but Bill Armour was the king of them all for superstitiousness.

Bill Armour

Bill Armour

“If you put a ladder in front of the door to his room Bill would have jumped out of the window sooner than have come under that ladder.  I think he would have stayed in there and starved to death rather than let the ‘jinx’ take him overboard because he went under a step-ladder.   Me?  No, I am not superstitious, it’s all nonsense.

“Going to fetch me a black cat?  Don’t bring it up here; we have enough bad luck as it is without any black cat hanging around the clubhouse.”

Napoleon Lajoie

Napoleon Lajoie

Black cat or not, Lajoie was correct about the Athletics “bad luck.”  The team finished in eighth place with a 36-117 record.  The forty-one-year-old Lajoie hit just .246; 92 points below his career average.  He retired at the end of the season.

“Any old Manager can run a Team of real Baseball Players”

Bill Dinneen pitched in the major leagues for 12 seasons, and a month after his playing career ended he began his 28-year tenure as an American League umpire

Bill Dinneen

Bill Dinneen

In 1910, he told Joseph Samuel “Joe” Jackson, sports editor of The Washington Post, how major league clubs should allocate money:

“’If I were a club owner, I would invest $15,000 in a scout and $5,00 in a manger  And old manager can run a team of real baseball players  But the best leader in the world can’t make bad material good  Every major league team needs a thoroughbred judge of raw material more than a teacher of baseball tricks’’’

Jackson said Dinneen’s observation confirmed what he thought while watching the Philadelphia Athletics beat the Chicago Cubs four games to one in that year’s World Series

“His remarks come merely to emphasize what the world’s series showed—that a club that is hitting the ball over the lot, and giving its pitchers support, will set at naught all schemes to beat it by carefully thought out plans that might be applicable if the other fellows would stop making so many base hits”

John Milton Dabney

15 Jun

Born in November of 1867 in Richmond, Virginia, the son of former slaves, John Milton Dabney spent his childhood working for his father who became a successful restaurant owner and caterer in Richmond after the Civil War.

In 1885, Dabney went to work at the Argyle Hotel in Babylon, Long Island.  He joined the hotel’s baseball team (ostensibly composed of the hotel’s service workers, but some of the best amateur players on the East Coast were recruited for the team by head waiter Frank P. Thompson, as Dabney likely was), intended to provide entertainment for the summer tourists.

The Argyle Hotel Athletics fared well against the strongest amateur teams in the area and caught the eye of a white promoter, John F Lang.   Under Lang’s management, the team began touring that summer as the first professional African-American baseball team, the Cuban Giants.  The following year, Lang sold the team to Walter Cook.

John Milton Dabney

Initially a left fielder, Dabney also pitched and played first base for the Cuban Giants in 1885-86 and for the Cuban X-Giants in the 1890s.

Dabney went to work for the United States Postal Service and played baseball in Richmond for decades–he also played football for the Richmond Athletic Club and worked as a boxing referee.  According to the Baltimore Afro-American, “No amateur team in Richmond was complete unless Milton Dabney played first base.”

In 1897, Dabney  captained the Eclipse, a team based in Richmond, The Richmond Planet said:

“Dabney, who will play first base is perhaps one of the most celebrated colored players in the United States  He has played on clubs all over the country, notably with the Cuban Giants  He knows the game from A to Z and can be depended on at all times”

While Milton Dabney was a pioneer of black baseball, his older brother Wendell Phillips Dabney was a pioneer in another field.  An author, composer, and publisher of The Enterprise, and later The Union,  Cincinnati-based black newspapers, The Chicago Defender called him “The dean of Negro journalists.” he was one of the most prominent African-American newspaper publishers and political activists of the first half of the 20th century.

Wendell Phillips Dabney

Wendell Phillips Dabney

Dabney eventually went to live in Newark, New Jersey, where his son owned a funeral home, he died in a nursing home there in November of 1967, four days short of his 100th birthday.  Until his death, he was oldest surviving retired postal carrier in the country, and the last surviving member of black baseball’s first professional team.

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