Lost Advertisements–“Fast Games–League Stuff”

31 Jul

blackpels

blackpels2Above are two advertisements for a six-game, three town series between The New Orleans Black Pelicans and the Monroe Monarchs in 1931  Both teams were members of the Louisiana-Texas Colored League.

After single games in Bastrop and Tallulah, the clubs played four games, including a Sunday doubleheader at Monroe’s Casino Park.  The ad for the two games in the smaller towns promised “Fast Games–League Stuff,” and “An opportunity for these towns to witness regular league games.”

Both advertisements said that “Black Diamond” would be on the mound for the Pelicans.

Pitcher Robert Pipkin was so popular in his native state in the early 1930s that he was more often referred to by the nickname “Black Diamond” than his actual name–which was just as often misspelled Pipkins or Pipken or Pipkens.  The Chicago Defender said the left-hander was six-feet tall and weighed 180 pounds.

Black Diamond

Black Diamond

Typical of Negro League players of the era, Pipkin played for at least a dozen professional and semi-pro teams from 1928-1942.  With the exception one season with the Cleveland Cubs (1931), he spent his entire career in the south.  In addition to the Pelicans, he played for the Birmingham Black Barons, the Houston Black Buffaloes and local New Orleans clubs like the Flinkote Giants and the Dr. Nut Algiers Giants.

While he had a somewhat mythic reputation in Louisiana, even in the white press–The Monroe Morning World called him “One of the greatest Negro hurlers in the entire country”–he was generally unknown in the North.

The note at the bottom of the advertisement for the three games in Monroe is a reflection of the times in Louisiana:

“Separate Accommodations for White People

“Separate entrance in charge of white official; also separate section in grandstand as well as special parking grounds with watchman in charge.”

 

“A Boy he Lived and a Boy he Died”

29 Jul

When Rube Waddell died on April 1, 1914, he was eulogized by sportswriters across the country.  Perhaps no one captured the essence of baseball’s most eccentric personality than William George “Billy” Murphy, sports editor of The St. Louis Star, who called the departed pitcher “The Peter Pan of the National Game.”

The other left-handed Rube

Waddell

Murphy said:

“A boy he lived and a boy he died.  He knew naught of the great problems of sociology or philosophy, but lived in the realm of love, adventure, romance, gallantry, and grace.

“The tales that are told of him, if written, would be classics in the folklore of childhood.  He was but a little child himself.

“A man of baseball genius, of an ardent temperament, reckless of physical laws and self-indulgent, he paid the penalty.”

Murphy

Murphy

The story of Waddell’s catching pneumonia while helping to stack sandbags to save the town of Hickman, Kentucky, which contributed to his contracting tuberculosis, the cause of his death, has been told often.  But Murphy told another story about Waddell’s stay in Hickman—at the home of Joe Cantillon, his manager with the Minneapolis Millers.

 “Memory of Rube Waddell will live forever in the heart of Joe Cantillon…’Rube’s big heartedness has never been exaggerated,’ said Joe.  ‘In fact, his generosity never has been fully told.  Year before last down at Hickman the Rube was with me at Christmas time.  A storekeeper called me up Christmas Eve and told me the Rube was inviting everybody who passed the store to step in and get fitted for a pair of gloves.  The merchant thought the Rube had gone daffy and wanted to know if he should stop him.  I told him ‘no,’ to let Rube have his fun, and if he couldn’t pay for it I would.  He gave away forty pair.

“Rube was lonesome and the Christmas spirit was upon him and he couldn’t do anything else that would have brought him more pleasure.”

JoeCantillon

Cantillon

Murphy said Waddell, for “all his buffoonery, was brave and would go the limit to help a woman or child.”

 

“Waddell was the greatest of all the southpaws and his name will live forever in the history of America’s national game.

“There was not a selfish bone in his body and he did much good.  He was indeed a little boy who never grew up.  He made many happy and lived his life as he saw it.

“May his rest be as sweet as was his life.”

“Baseball is full of Authenticated instances of Woman’s Influence over it”

27 Jul

In 1905, The Washington Evening Star said:

“The unwritten history of baseball is full of authenticated instances of woman’s influence over it…Not infrequently a sweetheart’s or a wife’s objections to the game cause a star to forsake the diamond for work for which he is not fitted in the least degree, and at which he makes only a living at best.

Bill Lange is a case in point.  Up to (1899) he was one of the best ground coverers in the profession, and as a batsman had a high average.  From the day of his wedding, his wife kept at him to leave the game, urging him to take the step on the grounds of personal safety.  Bill reasoned with her and told her time and again that he knew of no other job for which he could make $4,500 in six months.  But Mrs. Lange was obdurate, and so, when his last season closed Bill ruefully announced to his manager that the diamond would never know him again.  And it has not, though he has annually been tempted by numerous flattering offers. ‘I have given my word to my wife,’ he says simply, ‘and so long as she feels as she does about the game I shall not take up the bat.’”

 

Bill Lange

Bill Lange

Lange never played another professional game

The Evening Star said that occasionally a wife would change her mind, and allow her husband to play professional ball; George “Del” Howard was one such player.

Howard—under his middle name Elmer—was a member of the Mattoon, Illinois team in the Indiana-Illinois League in 1899.

“Howard took as his wife the daughter of a prominent citizen of a central western town.  They had scarcely settled down after their honeymoon when Mrs. Howard began pleading with her husband to give up the game, naming as a reason that she had a strong dislike for it.  She was so insistent that finally Howard reluctantly severed connections with the game, and secured employment selling agricultural implements.

“But he did not give up all hope of returning to the diamond.  During the months that he was engaged in telling farmers of the merits of his particular make of wheat drills and mowers he spent his spare time endeavoring to get his wife interested in baseball. At first it was hard and slow work, and had to be accomplished diplomatically, but little by little he progressed to the point where Mrs. Howard would accompany him to games.  Then Howard explained every play made, told her about the players, introduced them to her, and made her acquainted with the woman folk of the players who were in the grandstand.

“At the end of four tedious years his work of education bore fruit.  Mrs. Howard came to him one day, confessed that she had changed her mind about baseball, declared that she would rather have him on the diamond than an agent for farm implements, and further caused him great joy by appending that he couldn’t get their quickly enough to suit her.“

After a five-year absence from baseball, Howard signed with the Omaha Rangers in the Western League in 1904.  He hit .316 in 144 games (finishing second to William “Bunk” Congalton of the Colorado Springs Millionaires for the batting title) and was purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies.

Del Howard

Del Howard

Traded to Pittsburgh for three players, the 27-year-old Howard made his major league debut for the Pirates on April 15, 1905, in Cincinnati with his wife Jessie in the stands.

Howard’s rookie season was his best; he hit .292 in 123 games with the Pirates.  He played in the major leagues for five seasons and was a member of the 1907 and ’08 World Series Champion Chicago Cubs.

Howard played and managed in the minor leagues through 1922. His wife Jesse died in California in 1933.  He died on his 79th birthday on December 24, 1956.

“Negro Baseball is Here to Stay”

24 Jul

At the close of the first Negro National League season in 1920, The Kansas City Sun declared “Negro baseball is here to stay.”

The paper made several observations about the state of the league and its future and picked the league’s first all-star team.  Beginning with a bit of bragging, the paper said that in spite of the Chicago American Giants winning the pennant, “Kansas City proved to be the best Negro baseball city.”

The Chicago American Giants

The Chicago American Giants

As evidence of Kansas City’s dominance, The Sun said:

“One hundred thousand White and Negro fans attended the Monarch games at Association Park the past season without the least bit of friction…(and) played to more local fans than the Kansas City Blues (of the American Association)…Negro teams used to play for a keg of beer, but now they play for $5,000 gates.”

The league as a whole, according to the paper, drew “more than 700,000 fans.”

but, it was not all a glowing review, The Sun did acknowledge one of the league’s biggest difficulties in the inaugural season, “(They) did not discover any real Negro umpires the past season;” inconsistent umpiring would remain an issue in subsequent years.

Perhaps most importantly, The Sun said the current season “Made baseball a safe investment,” and “Made baseball contracts legal.”

The final point was overly optimistic, as contract jumping and player raids were a serious detriment to the league throughout its 11-year run.

The Sun also picked the league’s first all-star team:

Pitchers:  “Bullet” Joe Rogan, Monarchs, Bill Drake, St. Louis Giants

Catchers:  George “Tubby” Dixon, Chicago American Giants and John Beckwith, Chicago Giants

First Base: Ben Taylor, Indianapolis ABC’s

Second Base: Bingo DeMoss, Chicago American Giants

Third Base: Bartolo Portuondo, Kansas City Monarchs

Portuondo

Bartolo Portuondo, all-star third baseman

Outfield: Jimmie Lyons, Detroit Stars, Cristobal Torriente, Chicago American Giants, and Hurley McNair, Kansas City Monarchs

Utility:  John Donaldson and Tank Carr, Kansas City Monarchs.

“A Lajoie Bunt”

22 Jul

Francis “Red” Donahue was a teammate of Napoleon Lajoie in Philadelphia and Cleveland.  During a road trip in New York with the Indians in 1904 he told a story to Elmer Ellsworth Bates of The Cleveland News:

“I never come to New York without recalling the first time (Fred) Dutch Hartman of the old New York team ever saw Lajoie in a game.  Hartman had just began playing third base for the Giants and he had to be coached all the time by his teammates.

Fred "Dutch" Hartman

Fred “Dutch” Hartman

“The Phillies came over here and when Larry came to bat Hartman appealed to his fellow players for instructions.

“‘Play in for this fellow,’ was the tip.  ‘He’s liable to bunt.’

“Hartman went in about 30 feet and pushing his cap back on his head waited for the bunt.  The pitcher swung up a nice one and Larry smashed it.  The ball went away at awful speed.  It brushed the top of Hartman’s head, struck squarely in the middle of his cap and carried that piece of headgear with it clear out against the left field fence.  The other 17 players roared, but Hartman couldn’t see the joke.

Napoleon Lajoie

Napoleon Lajoie

“‘I thought you said he would bunt,’ said he.

”That was a Lajoie bunt’ said (Giants center fielder George) Van Haltren.  Wait and see him hit one with no cap to interfere with the ball.”

 

“Demmitt!!”

20 Jul

Arthur “Bugs” Baer was a humorist and sportswriter—widely credited with coining the nickname “Sultan of Swat” for Babe Ruth—who often included his own cartoons with his articles.

Baer worked for The Philadelphia Public Ledger, The Washington Times, and William Randolph Heart’s King Features Syndicate, before moving to Hollywood where he wrote several film scripts, including the titles for “Headin’ Home,” the first movie Babe Ruth appeared in.

An example of Baer’s newspaper work; after a May 1914, 1-0 Washington Senators victory over the Chicago White Sox in 10 innings–Sox pitcher Jim Scott took a no-hitter into the 10th before allowing a single to Chick Gandil:

“Demmitt!!

“That’s the word.

“Oh! No!  We don’t mean what you mean.  (Ray) Demmitt is the right fielder on the Chicago White Sox, although we admit that it sounds as if he wasn’t.  He is the lad who made a brilliant one-legged stop of (Howie) Shanks’ drive in the tenth yesterday, allowing the ball to bruise our perfectly good right field wall and Jim Scott’s heart at the same time.  He came racing to snag the ball just like one of these pictures you see in the “Police Gazette.”  Just like a regular ball player, same as they have in big cities.  You’ve heard about those kind.

Demmitt!!

Demmitt!!

[…]

“The old pill went through him just like the Congressional Limited goes through Elkton, Maryland.  And Chick Gandil flat wheeled around the bases same as the Fourteenth Street car does around Thomas Circle…What we wanted to ask is did you notice how everything moved in cycles of one?

“One run won the game.  Demmitt’s one-legged stop allowed that one run to score and win one ballgame.  (Clyde) Zeb Milan (who made a bare handed stab of Demmitt’s sixth-inning single, and caught threw him out attempting to stretch it to a double) one-hooked stab saved the bacon, and Gandil’s one tentacled clutches chopped off many an error.

Hal Chase’s one-clawed catches of wide throws kept the Sox in the running and (Yancey) Doc Ayers’ great one-armed pitching put them out of it.  In fact, everybody acted as if they only had one arm.

Tommy Connolly did some fine one-cylindered umpiring.

“And Jim Scott gave a one-lunged cheer when Demmitt—there goes that word again—blew the game.”

Baer's cartoon that accompanied the article

The Baer cartoon that accompanied the article

Lost Advertisements–Harry Davis for Sweet Caporal

17 Jul

harrydavis

A 1914 advertisement for Sweet Caporal Cigarettes featuring Philadelphia Athletics Coach–sometimes referred to as the team’s “Assistant Manager” after their 1913 World Championship– Harry Davis:

Harry Davis says:

“If you can get the newspaper boys to give you a puff, you’re some satisfied.  That is if it’s a puff of Sweet Caporal.”

 

“Three of the Greatest Pitchers the Game ever has Produced”

15 Jul

In 1915, Frank G. Menke, who wrote for the Heart Newspaper’s International News Service told readers:

“The color line drawn so tightly around major league baseball has barred from major league fields three of the greatest pitchers the game ever has produced.”

The three were John Donaldson, Frank Wickware, and Jose Mendez.

In May, Donaldson, who pitched for the All Nations, had thrown 30 consecutive no-hit innings against Kansas City based semi-pro clubs.

Sketchy contemporary accounts with some transposed numbers in newspaper articles seem to have led to confusion about Donaldson’s feat in later years: some sources claim the streak was over two games—a regulation contest and a 21-inning game , but it appears from the earliest reports in The Kansas City Times and The Indianapolis Freeman that he pitched a nine-inning and 12-inning no-hitter against the Schmelzers, a powerful semi-pro club sponsored by the Schmelzer Arms Sporting Goods Company in Kansas City and another no-hitter against a team called the KCK (Kansas City, Kansas) All-Stars.  (Later in the summer of 1915, Schmelzers became the sponsor of the All Nations after the club lost their original sponsor, Hopkins Brothers Sporting Goods).

John Donaldson

John Donaldson

Menke quoted New York Giants Manager John McGraw’s assessment of the All Nations’ star after having watched him pitch in Cuba:

“If Donaldson were a white man, or if the unwritten law of baseball didn’t bar Negroes from the major leagues, I would give $50,000 for him—and think I was getting a bargain.”

Menke said of Wickware of the Chicago American Giants:

“(He) is another Negro pitcher who would rank with the Walter Johnsons, Joe Woods and Grover Alexanders if he were a white man…Wickware has marvelous speed, a weird set of curves and wonderful control.  And he has a trick that has made him feared among batters.  He throws what seems like a ‘bean ball,’ but his control is so perfect that he never yet has hit a batter in the head.  But when the batters see the ball, propelled with mighty force, come for their heads, they jump away, and the ball, taking its proper and well-timed curve, arches over the plate for a strike.”

Frank Wickware

Frank Wickware

The final pitcher on Menke’s list was Mendez,  another member of the All Nations:

“He’s known as “The Black Matty” and his work has been almost as brilliant as that of “The Big Six” of the Giants.  Mendez is only of medium height (5′ 9”), but he has terrific power in his arm.

“The Cuban Negro has a canny brain and he always has used it.  He has mixed his fastball with his slow one, has an assortment of beautiful curves and perfect control…Like Mathewson, he never pitches air-tight ball unless he has to.  He conserves his strength.  But when he needs to pitch hitless ball he does it.  When he needs to strike out a man he usually succeeds.”

Jose Mendez

Jose Mendez

Incredibly, a story about three pitchers who deserved notice by the major leagues written by an influential white sportswriter received barely a notice in the black press.

The Indianapolis Freeman ran the story with no further comment, and no mention of who wrote the original story, simply attributing it to The Indiana Daily Times which had run Menke’s piece.

The Chicago Defender and The Pittsburgh Courier ignored the story entirely.  The New York Age didn’t mention Menke’s story, but the same week did make a pitch for black players—not with the positive portrayal of three great pitchers as Menke had done, but by highlighting the bad behavior of some major leaguers.

Lester Aglar Walton, who wrote about baseball and theater for The Age and later became the United States Ambassador to Liberia, said:

“(I)f baseball magnates are not color prejudiced can it be that they have misgivings as to how Negro players would conduct themselves on and off the field if permitted to play in the big leagues?  However, if this is their chief cause of concern and the stumbling block in the way of crack Negro players, big league managers should be reminded of the Ty Cobbs, Larry McLeans and others who have distinguished themselves by acts of ruffianism on and off the diamond.”

Lester Aglar Watson

Lester Aglar Watson

Walton related the story of McLean’s recent fight with Giants Manager John McGraw and coach “Sinister” Dick Kinsella in the Buckingham Hotel in St. Louis.

“(H)ad McLean been a colored player the incident in St. Louis would have brought about the disbarment of all Negroes from hotels in St. Louis—had a policy of accommodating Negroes existed.”

Larry McLean

Larry McLean

Walton also noted that when white teams met black teams on the field after the regular season, “The mixing of the races does not provoke racial conflicts and the best of feelings exist” among the players.

Then, he asked the men who owned major league clubs:

“The question is therefore put up to big league magnates that if the Indian with his dark skin and the Cuban are permitted to play in the big leagues, and if there is not the least possibility of the record for ruffianism established by the Ty Cobbs and Larry McLeans being eclipsed, why not give the Negro player a chance?”

As would be the case for three more decades, there was no reply.

“Stars for A’s, Pep for Phils—In Negro Ranks”

13 Jul

The push to integrate baseball in the late 1930s and early 1940s came most frequently from the black press and American Socialists, but occasionally a white voice would call for the color line to be broken.

In May of 1940, with both Philadelphia teams struggling and headed towards last place finishes (Phillies 50-103, and Athletics 54-100), The Philadelphia Record made the case under the headline:

Stars for A’s, Pep for Phils—In Negro Ranks

“Experienced players are available who could strengthen the A’s shaky pitching staff and give the Phils the batting punch they need.  These players could make potential champions out of any of the other also-rans in either major league.”

[…]

“But they are Negroes, and organized baseball says they can’t come in.”

The previous season, Phillies Manager James Thompson “Doc” Prothro, a Memphis native, told The Pittsburgh Courier he would welcome players from the Negro Leagues on his club:

“I certainly would, if given the opportunity to sign up a good Negro ball player.  I need good players, and if I ran across a colored boy who could make the grade I wouldn’t hesitate signing him.”

Doc Prothro

Doc Prothro

The Courier’s Wendell Smith said that when the Phillies manager made the statement:

“Prothro draped his right arm across our shoulders and we walked along, as though to assure us he realized the unfairness of the major league color line.  It seemed he wanted to convince us that he was against it as much as we were.”

Wendell Smith

Wendell Smith

Now as Prothro and the Phillies headed towards their second straight 100 loss season, one of Philadelphia’s daily papers agreed that it was time:

“In all baseball law there is not a single line barring colored players from the game.  Several major league managers have said they would jump at the chance to sign the best of them.  Some owners have declared they would vote to admit them.

“But no vote ever is taken on the subject.  No manager or owner dares defy the Jim Crow tradition which in the past has been the most inflexible unwritten law in the game.”

Most importantly, the paper said, the “unwritten law” had left a key group out of the decision:

“No one seems to have consulted the fans…There is an even chance—and a whole lot more—that a few thousand fans who have been staying away from the A’s and the Phils might turn out to see what (Satchel) Paige and (Josh) Gibson and a few more like them, might do in the major leagues.”

The Record never followed up on their call to integrate.  The issue was forgotten in Philadelphia.  As both teams limped to their last place finishes the fans that were never consulted on the issue stayed away in droves. The Athletics drew 432,135—sixth out of eight American League teams.  The Phillies had the worst attendance in the major leagues, just 207,177.

“A Gilded Youth”

10 Jul

Byron D. J. McKeown was born to wealth in 1872 or ’73 (census records say he was born in july of 1872, his death records list his birth year as 1873).  His father, John, immigrated to Western Pennsylvania from Ireland and struck it rich in the oil business.  By the time he died in 1891 he owned oil wells throughout Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and more than 40,000 acres of land in Mississippi; depending on the source he was worth from $2-$10 million.

Byron, one of five brothers, inherited a large portion of his father’s fortune, although there was a legal battle over the estate for more than 20 years—John’s Irish relatives said they were his proper heirs because they claimed John and his wife were never married.

In 1896, the wealthy 23-year-old, who had been playing amateur baseball and formerly played at Washington and Jefferson College, decided to become a professional baseball player and bought his own team.  The Warren (PA) Evening Democrat said:

“There are but few men of wealth among baseballists, and in all the world there is but one millionaire player.”

McKeown organized a team in the Interstate League in his hometown called the Washington (PA) Little Senators (Some sources incorrectly place the team in Washington D.C.).  His college teammate, David Curran, was the team captain.

The Sporting Life called McKeown “A gilded youth who follows the game for pastime.”  McKeown said:

“I am just playing for the sport of it; I have nothing else to do.  I have a leaning towards baseball and thought I would cultivate it”

There are no statistics for McKeown, but the few surviving assessments of his ability as a player are positive.  Toledo Mud Hens manager Frank Torreyson said:

“McKeown can hit the ball…sometimes he is liable to drive it out of sight.”

The Washington (PA) Observer said:

“McKeown is making quite a record as a first baseman.”

While he appears to have played well, things didn’t go smoothly for McKeown’s team.

While Washington, Pennsylvania, with a population of just more than 7000 was, by far, the smallest town in the Interstate League, initially, there was excitement for the club.  The Observer said that the Western Pennsylvania Agricultural Association was providing a home field for the team at the Washington County Fairgrounds.

The Sporting Life said McKeown was “Sure to receive strong financial support from Washington enthusiasts.”

He didn’t.

Professional baseball was not a hit in the small Pennsylvania town.  By the end of July The Sporting Life said the team had lost more than $4000 dollars and had recently played a home game that had only brought in $3.50 in total receipts.

By September McKeown had lost more than $8000 and decided to disband the team before the end of the season. The Observer said that at one August game there was not a single paid attendee.

Over the next several months, McKeown attempted to buy another Interstate league franchise, the Saginaw Lumbermen.  He told a reporter from The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he had “every one of last season’s players reserved,” and would “put a strong team on the field.”

The bid to buy the Lumbermen fell through and after a brief stint as first baseman for an Elks Club team, McKeown seems to have lost interest in playing professionally or owning a team.

Two years later McKeown joined the 10th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, “The Fighting 10th” and served in the Spanish-American War.  The Pittsburgh Daily Post said:

“Western Pennsylvania is sending one of her millionaires  to the front to fight for Cuban Independence…Mr. McKeown has been in sympathy with Cuba in their fight against their mother country.”

Curran, his college and minor league teammate, joined him.

McKeown also fought in the Philippine Insurrection and played first base with his regiment’s baseball team in Manila (Curran played second).

He returned to his business interests in Pennsylvania, and after his 25-year-old wife Nellie died of peritonitis in March of 1902, he began to drink heavily, and his death on November 24,  1904, was attributed to alcoholism.(Several Pennsylvania newspapers said he died on November 23; his death certificate says November 24).

The man responsible for Washington, Pennsylvania’s only professional baseball team, was buried in the Washington Cemetery.

his is an update of a post that originally appeared on December 26, 2012.

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