Lost Advertisements–PM Whiskey, “Rube Waddell, The One-Man Ball Team”

2 Oct


A 1951 advertisement for PM De Luxe Blended Whiskey–part of a series of ads featuring “Pleasant Moments in Sports,” stories from Bob Considine, co-author with Babe Ruth of the “The Babe Ruth Story.”

This one features an oft-told Rube Waddell legend:

“Edward ‘Rube’ Waddell, pitcher for the old Philadelphia Athletics, was one of baseball’s zaniest ‘characters.’  It was in an exhibition game in 1902 that he pulled his most famous stunt.

“In the last half of the ninth, ‘Rube’ sent all his players off the field, leaving only the catcher behind the plate. Then with magnificent arrogance, ‘Rube’ struck out the last three batters on  nine pitched balls.”

As with all Waddell stories, there was some truth and a good deal of embellishment in Considine’s account.  While the contemporary coverage of the game differs on some aspects of the performance, they all agree that Waddell pitched to just one batter after members of the team left the field in the ninth inning.

The game in question was played at Steelton, Pennsylvania against that town’s YMCA team. The Athletics won easily, 10 to 2, and Waddell pitched the eighth and ninth innings for Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Inquirer said:

“Waddell was the entertaining feature of the match, and in the last inning called in all the infielders after two men were out.”

The Harrisburg Daily Independent, which provided more in-depth coverage of the game, said:

“Rube Waddell was in all his glory at Steelton yesterday and his funny antics before and during the game were well worth the price of admission.”

The paper said before the game Waddell entertained the fans chasing “flies in the hills until he was perspiring,” and spent part of the early innings taking a “nap in his private carriage which carried him from (Harrisburg) to Steelton.”



As for his time on the mound, the paper said Waddell struck out the first two batters he faced in the eighth, then after getting two strikes on the third batter, named “Irish” McManigal:

“(W)hen he pitched the third ball (he) remarked, ‘Take your seat.’ ‘Irish,’ however, surprised the Rube and rapped out a pretty single to center field.”

Waddell gave up another hit in the eighth and the YMCA scored a run.

“The next inning Rutherford hit to Waddell and the Rube did a cake walk to first base to catch Rutherford.  Berry then hit to Monte Cross, but he threw wild to first and Berry reached third base.  Then the Reuben settled down and struck Lawlor out.”

The Daily Independent said Waddell did not call in the fielders, but instead, on their own:

“The Athletic players behind Waddell left the field and with a man on third base he and (Ossee) Schreck (Schrecongost) were left to put out the side.

“The Rube did not know his teammates had deserted him and when told to look around by Schreck he discovered the fact.  Then to make more complete the comedy Schreckengost [sic] sat down and the Rube struck out Albright while the crowd howled with merriment.”

The Harrisburg Telegraph provided a third set of contemporaneous “facts:”

“In the last inning when two men were out all the Athletics left the field except Waddell, Powers and L. Cross.”

The paper likely misidentified Schrecongost as Michael “Doc” Powers–Schrecongost had replaced him behind the plate in the eighth, and Lave Cross had already left the game–so the player who stayed on the field might have been shortstop Monte Cross.  The Telegraph also added another detail missing in the other reports:

“(Waddell) gave the batter three balls and the crowd was wild, but their last hope faded rapidly away as Rube put three fine ones over the plate and the striker was out.”

The Box Score

                           The Box Score

Considine likely cribbed his version from Harry Grayson, the sports editor of The Newspaper Enterprise Association syndicate.  Grayson told the three-batters-nine-pitches story several times throughout the forties, and that legend stuck.


“Rube received the Princely Salary of but $4 a Week”

30 Sep

In 1903, The St. Louis Republic told the story about the arrangement that briefly made Rube Waddell a college man in 1897.  It involved Dr. Thomas H. George who was the manager of the baseball team at Volant College, a small state Normal School (Teacher’s College) in Volant, Pennsylvania.


                            Rube Waddell

George said that he wrote to Waddell “asking his terms,” and upon hearing back that the pitcher had requested one dollar per game, George sent a telegram telling him to meet the team for a game in Waupun, Pennsylvania.

“Rube did not get the telegram until nearly noon on the day of the game, whereupon he hitched up a pair of his father’s horses…The game was nearly over when Waddell reached the field of action…he immediately broke into the game, giving the crowd a yell.”

George said the game was already lost, but Waddell did not allow a baserunner.

“That night Waddell signed a contract…doubling the amount which Waddell had agreed to pitch for, also giving him board and lodging.  As Volant only played two games a week, the Rube received the princely salary of but $4 a week.  There were many extras, however, as the rooters had a habit of taking up a purse for him after he won, which was, by the way, every game he pitched.”

The text of Waddell’s contract was included with the story, it read in part:

“The party of the second part (Waddell) agrees to pitch ball for the Volant College team during the season of 1897 for and in consideration of $2 for each game of ball played and pitched by said party of the second part. Said party of the first part (Volant) agrees to furnish…suitable room and boarding…This contract to hold good from May 18, 1897 to June 25, 1897.”

The story quoted George talking about one of Waddell’s “eccentricities” while pitching for Volant:

“Rube had a bad habit of throwing to bases without looking at the base to which he was throwing.  As a result the ball would go half a mile before it would be recovered, and every man who happened to be on the bases would score.  Consequently we had to instruct the basemen to play only for the batter, and not pay any attention to the base runner.  That used the Rube all up, for he delighted in throwing to the basemen with all his strength. When he found, however, that the guardians of the sacks were playing off from the bags, and not looking for throws, he stopped the practice.”

The story also claimed that even a contract covering just five weeks was too much for Waddell to honor:

“(Rube) deserted the Volant team upon the day they wanted him the most, commencement day, when a game had been scheduled with Mount Union College…The reason for (jumping) was that at the (nearby) town of Greenville there was fireman’s tournament in progress and a huge crowd would be on hand.  Now, Rube always liked to show off in front of a large crowd, and consequently he preferred going where the attendance would be larger.  He also took part in th firemen’s races which were held that day.”

There was no record of Waddell having attended a class during his brief college career.  He made his major league debut that same season, in September.

Volant College closed after a fire destroyed the school in 1911.

“Waddell got in his Deadly Work”

28 Sep

On July 12, 1902, Rube Waddell beat the Boston Americans 3-2, throwing a five-hitter.  The Philadelphia Times said:

“Waddell’s brilliant work enables Mack’s men to down Boston.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer said, “Waddell got in his deadly work at critical a stage…was by striking out the batsmen. He seduced nine on strikes.”


                     Rube Waddell

The Inquirer also mentioned that before the game:

“Waddell and George (Candy) La Chance engaged in a friendly wrestling match, much to the amusement of the spectators.  It was finally won by Waddell, who came within an ace of putting both (of) LaChance’s ears to the ground.

Candy LaChance

Candy LaChance

In later years, LaChance’s teammates said the wrestling match was an attempt to keep Waddell out of the game.  In 1905, Albert “Hobe” Ferris told The Chicago Inter Ocean:

“Waddell was going to pitch and big George said to (Boston Manager Jimmy) Collins:  I’m going to fix Rube so we will hit him all over the field.

“Now, as you know, Rube is willing to wrestle anyone, and George challenged him to a friendly bout.  Right on the grass they sailed in.  LaChance was trying hard to get a hammerlock on Rube’s left arm, so that he could put it out of business for the afternoon.  But after six or seven minutes’ fooling Rube got a fall, and then, much to the disgust of La Chance and Collins, he shut Boston out with four hits and fanned twelve of us, getting George three times.

“’I suppose,’ said Collins after the game, to LaChance, ‘that if you had wrestled ten minutes longer Rube would have shut us out without a hit and struck out twenty men.”

As with most stories about Waddell, later versions embellished some of the facts.  In 1918, Bill Dinneen, the losing pitcher in the game—and American League umpire from 1909-1937—told a version of the story to a reporter for The New York Sun.

Bill Dinneen

                      Bill Dinneen

In Dinneen’s version, “Waddell picked him off his feet as though he were a baby, held him high over his head and dashed him to the earth in a heap.”  Dinneen also claimed “LaChance was barely able to play first base for us that day; he was so sore and bruised.”  His version also got the details of the game wrong:

“As for Rube, he shut us out with two hits.”

In 1922, Nick Altrock, who didn’t join Boston until September of 1902– two months after the game—retold the story one his syndicated articles for The Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA).  Altrock got the date wrong (1903), claimed “the two wrestled for an hour,” and said Waddell “struck out 14 men and shut out Boston 1 to 0, allowing three hits.”

The version of the story with Altrock’s embellishments became the most often repeated and was still being told a decade later when Werner Laufer, The NEA’s sports cartoonist memorialized Waddell’s performance:


Lost Advertisements–Larry McLean for Sweet Caporal

25 Sep


A 1914 Sweet Caporal Cigarette advertisement featuring New York Giants catcher Larry McLean “a great favorite of the fans:”

“Once a smoker gets the taste of Sweet Caporal no other cigarette ever really satisfies him.  He always comes back to good old Sweets.”

McLean wore out his welcome in New York and ended his major league career the following season when he fought with Manager John McGraw, and McGraw’s right-hand man, “Sinister Dick” Kinsella in the lobby of the Buckingham Hotel in St. Louis.

It was hardly the first controversy for McLean, who battled–albeit not physically–with every manager he played for during his 13-year-career.  Sam Crane, the sports writer and former infielder, summed up McLean well in a 1910 article for “Pearson’s Magazine:”

“Larry McLean, of the Cincinnati Reds, as a mere mechanical catcher is hard to beat.  He has a splendid arm and can throw like a streak.  Larry is too, perhaps, the best batting catcher in either league, but his erratic habits make it impossible to place any confidence in him.”

Larry McLean

                                  Larry McLean

A year earlier, in May, McLean had deserted the Reds during an East Coast trip and was “suspended indefinitely” by Manager Clark Griffith, who told The Cincinnati Enquirer:

“When you have a man who is liable to run out at the first call of the wild, you are in an uncertain position all the time. I am perfectly free to say that I might not take McLean back on the team at all, and certainly not until he shows me that he means business.”

McLean was back in the lineup within days, and as he did throughout his career, pledged to a reporter from The Cincinnati Times-Star that he would “(C)onduct himself properly from now on.”

It was a pledge McLean made and broke several times throughout his career which ended at age 33.  He would be dead six years later, the result of a fight in a Boston bar.


“He was the Greatest Receiving Catcher”

23 Sep

Freeman Ossee “Schreck” Schrecongost’s was most famous for being Rube Waddell’s catcher with the Philadelphia Athletics.

Ossee Schrecongost

                Ossee Schrecongost

Years later, Connie Mack told Harry Grayson of the Newspaper Enterprise Association that Schrecongost was “the fizz powder in the pinwheel that was Waddell.”  He also told the reporter that Waddell’s catcher “was the wilder of the two in many respects.”

Schrecongost lived at least as hard as Waddell and caused his manager as many headaches, but more than 30 years after his final game, Mack said he did “more with gloved hand than any other catcher who has come along.”

Allan Gould, the long-time sports editor for The Associated Press said of the catcher:

“Schreck had the eccentric habit of doing as much of his backstopping as possible with his gloved hand only. This worried Mack, who considered it careless workmanship until Schreck convinced his manager he could do a better job one-handed than with two.”

His teammates felt the same.

Three years after Schrecongost’s final major league game, Harry Davis told Gordon Mackay of The Philadelphia Times:

Walter Johnson is some grand pitcher with a barrel of speed.  But I’ll tell you one old boy who would sit on a chair and catch the big fellow.  That’s old Schreck.  He’d catch Walter with that big glove on his fin, and then after he had eaten up the old smoke to the limit he’d yell to the big chap to put something on the ball.

“I’ve seen Rube Waddell cross Ossee six or seven times, and Schreck wouldn’t pay the least bit of attention to it.  Suddenly Schreck would go out to the box and tell the Rube with a bunch of billingsgate trimmings that would make your hair curl that he stop crossing him.

Rube Waddell

                                 Rube Waddell

“There never was a backstop like old Ossee.  He could catch all the speed merchants in our league with one hand, and then only use the other one to throw with.  He was the greatest receiving catcher, receiving alone, I mean, who ever tripped down the pike.  He was a wonder, that old boy.”

Davis wasn’t Schreck’s only teammate who claimed he was a “wonder,” Tully “Topsy” Hartsell told The Philadelphia Press he saw the catcher perform “the greatest stunt” he had ever seen in 1904:

 “Schreck had a bad finger, and the other catcher (Michael) Doc Powers, was also laid up.  The third catcher, who was Pete Noonan, was doing all the backstopping.  He got hurt one day and Schreck had to go in in the first inning.  He couldn’t let the ball strike his wounded and uncovered hand, and Topsy says he caught the whole game only using his gloved hand.

“’Not only did he (only) use the glove to catch them,’ said Topsy, “’ but there wasn’t a stolen base or passed ball by him.  That’s the greatest catching feat I ever saw.”

Forever tied to Waddell, who died at age 37 on April 1, 1914, Schrecongost died just three months later, on July 9, at age 39.

The Associated Press said in his obituary:

“Grief over the death of the brilliant but eccentric Waddell…probably had much to do with hastening the end of the former great catcher.  Schreck told friends at the time that he ‘did not care to live now.  The Rube is gone and I am all in.  I might as well join him.’”

“Age is a Hard Master”

21 Sep

“Turkey Mike” Donlin spent his later years trying to earn a living as an actor; his limited success on the stage and screen forced him to accept several baseball jobs as well.  In 1922, he was hired as a scout by the Boston Red Sox—it was his most active season in the game since his final game with the New York Giants in 1914.

Mike Donlin

                Mike Donlin

Like most players of his era, he had a general disdain for the current state of the game.  He shared his disgust with a reporter from The Associated Press (AP) when he arrived in San Francisco after a trip through Texas:

“In the Texas League I found a majority of the players ill with a strange disease consisting of absolute refusal to run out flies or ground balls that look like easy outs. That kind of baseball is beyond me.

“I saw Texas League players getting as high as $700 a month loafing on balls hit to the infield and running to the bench on high flies.  They couldn’t do it and get away with it in my time.

“When I was starting $300 a month was a big salary and believe me, we earned all we got.  We ran out all our hits in those days and, not only that, we had to fight every inch of the way, not alone with spirit, but with our fists.”

The money seemed to bother him as much as the lack of hustle.

While in San Francisco he met Willie Kamm, who the Seals had agreed to sell for the then record amount of $100,000 (and three players) to the Chicago White Sox.  Donlin, who said the St. Louis Perfectos purchased him from Santa Cruz in the California League for $500 in 1899.

According to The AP when they were introduced Donlin said:

“I wanted to meet you, young fellow, because you’re the highest priced minor leaguer ever sold, and I’m the cheapest.”

Always short of money and never  one to refuse a paycheck, and perhaps encouraged by what he considered to be the lesser quality of current players, Donlin accepted an offer to join the Rock Island Islanders of the Mississippi Valley League for two games while he was scouting in the Midwest during August.

According to The Rock Island Argus, Donlin “one of the most picturesque characters the national pastime has ever produced,” was signed to a one-day contract to “keep within the league rules.”  There is no record of what the Islanders paid Donlin for the one-day stunt.

He played in both games as the Islanders dropped a doubleheader to the Ottumwa Cardinals.  The Argus said of his performance:

“Even Mike Donlin, once peerless performer for the New York Giants, fizzled as a mascot.  Mike donned an Islander uniform as per announcement and was seen in right field in both games.  Age is a hard master.”

Donlin “handled two chances cleanly” in the first game, but was 0 for 4 at the plate with two strikeouts, a foul out to third and a fly out which “sent the centerfielder to the scoreboard to haul (it) in.”

He fared slightly better in the second, going 1 for 3 with two ground outs and a single on a “Texas Leaguer into right field territory.”  No balls were hit to him in the second game.


      The Box Scores



He was no more successful as a scout than he was as a player that week in Rock Island.

Two days before he played with the team, Donlin watched the Islanders’ Carl Stimson pitch a 23-inning complete game against Ottumwa.  Stimson lost the game 4 to 2—he committed two errors in the 23rd inning—but allowed only 10 hits and struck out 18.

The 27-year-old Stimson was a sub .500 pitcher (10-15) who had come to Rock Island in a trade with the Waterloo Hawks just a month earlier, but Donlin was impressed with the performance and Stimson’s 6’ 5” frame—Stimson also might have benefitted from a minor illness his wife suffered that month, The Argus said he left the team for several days to attend to her and Donlin was not able to stay long enough to watch him pitch a second time.

The 23-inning game box score

       The 23-inning game box score

Despite only seeing him once, The Argus said Donlin was “convinced that Carl is worthy of a trial in the big show,” and recommended that the Red Sox purchase his contract.

Stimson joined the Red Sox the following spring, but was slowed by an ear infection and finally joined the club in June.  Donlin’s discovery appeared in just two games over one month in the big leagues, giving up 12 hits, five walks, and 10 earned runs over four innings before being released.

Donlin continued making appearances on the stage, had small acting roles in dozens of movies, occasionally worked as a scout, and struggled to make a living.  In 1927, he began to suffer from a heart ailment and remained broke and in poor health and until his death in 1933.

“Daily Chats with Famous Ballplayers”

18 Sep

In 1916, a series of two to three paragraph items called “Daily Chats with Famous Ballplayers” (some papers called the feature different names) appeared in several smaller West Coast and Midwest newspapers.

Some highlights:

Oscar “Ossie” Vitt, third baseman for the Detroit Tigers, who survived a beaning from Walter Johnson of the Washington Senators on August 10, 1915:

“The world stopped moving when the ball nicked my bean.  Johnson thought I was killed and I guess I thought so myself for awhile, so far as I was able to think at all.

Ossie Vitt

                             Ossie Vitt

“My head proved to be the goods alright and wasn’t worse for wear.  But it upset Johnson so much that he couldn’t locate the plate and we pounded him all over the lot (Vitt was hit leading off the first inning—Johnson gave up eight runs after that in six innings and lost 8 to 2 to Detroit).”

St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Henry “Hi” Jasper on the superstition of teammate Harry “Slim” Sallee:

“Sal’s pet superstition is that it’s bad luck for him to warm up with any catcher but the one who is to work in the game with him.

“If the playing backstop has batted last and has to put on his shin guards and armour before warming up, Sal will never throw a ball to the plate to any man who may come out of the dugout with a mitt.  He will throw either to the first or third baseman.”

Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Al Mamaux on a lesson learned during a loss to the Chicago Cubs in September of 1914:

“Smart old timers can always make it tough for youngsters just breaking in.  I remember one day when I was the goat for a trick pulled by Roger Bresnahan.”


                  Al Mamaux

Mamaux said Chicago had two runners on base and Bresnahan was coaching third.

“(He was) talking real friendly like to me (then) hailed me suddenly as the ball was returned to me.  ‘Say Al, toss me that ball I want to look at it,’ said Roger.  I didn’t give it a second thought…tossed it towards him and I’ll be darned if he didn’t step to one side and yell to the runners to beat it home.  Each advanced a base and would have scored if Jimmy Viox hadn’t run his head off to recover the ball.  Believe me that one cured me.”

George Stallings, on suspensions and how badly the Boston Braves needed George Stallings:

“You don’t have to call an umpire all the names in the calendar to draw a suspension.  I got three days off for just remarking to (Charles “Cy”) Rigler that he ought to go to jail for umpiring a game like he did the other day.

George Stallings

                            George Stallings

“Nothing that I could say or do would make any difference.  What I can say though right now is that the action of (National League) President (John) Tener, coming as it does, with the race so close, appears peculiar to say the least (Tener said the suspension was for a series of altercations that Stallings and his players had with umpires during the two months before the August suspension was announced).

“Without any braggadocio I can say that my suspension will cripple my club considerably.  I know what my presence means to the club and so does President Tener.”

Boston won all three games during Stallings’ suspension and regained second place, but finished the season in third, five and half games behind the Brooklyn Robins.

“And Mr. Waddell made good”

16 Sep

William A. Phelon, like Hugh Fullerton, told many stories over the years that may or may not have been 100% truthful.  One of his favorite subjects was Rube Waddell, who was the subject of as many apocryphal stories as any player of his era.

Rube Waddell

                    Rube Waddell

In 1912, Phelon, then writing for The Cincinnati Times-Star, told a story that he claimed happened while Waddell was pitching for Chicago and Phelon was writing for The Chicago Daily News:

“When Rube Waddell was much younger than he is today—to be exact, back in the golden days of 1901–he was with the Chicago club, and he was just as original and interesting as at the present time.  In just two respects the Rube was very different then—he was a heavy batter (not exactly heavy, but waddle hit .237 in 334 at bats through 1902, and .129 in 732 at bats thereafter), and he was a fiend for work.  You couldn’t put him on the slab too often to suit him, and you could throw him very few shoots  that he couldn’t hit.”


“One pleasant summer afternoon, during the Rube’s short stay with the Chicago club, he was feeling unusually hilarious, and worked his head off to show up the opposition.  Never did the Rube have finer curves or better speed.  Zim, zipp, the ball hurtled through the ether, and the batsmen were helpless before his terrific delivery.  He held the hostiles to perhaps three hits, struck out ten men, and made a three-bagger on his own accord.  It was a great day for Rube and the crowd went wild about him.

“Next morning, while Jim Hart, the boss of the Chicago club, was in his downtown office, a delegation of bankers called upon him.  ‘We are all coming out this afternoon, Mr. Hart,’ said the spokesman of the crowd, ‘and we have bought up a whole front row of boxes.  There’s only one thing we are sorry for, however—we had all hoped to see Waddell pitch, and we thought he would be due to work today.  If we had known that he was going in yesterday, we’d have been there instead of this afternoon.”

Waddell in Chicago, 1901

        Waddell in Chicago, 1901

According to Phelon, Waddell was made aware that the bankers were disappointed he would not be pitching and said he’d “go in again” the next day.

“And Mr. Waddell made good.  He went back on the slab that afternoon and pitched a gorgeous game, winning in easy style, while the rapturous bankers whooped and bellowed in the boxes.

“About ten days later, Mr. Waddell walked into the office of the banker who had been the spokesman for the delegation.  He was cordially received and invited to sit down in the inner sanctum.  Mr. Waddell, roosting his hat upon the rosewood desk, lit a cigar, crossed his knees, and said, smilingly:

“‘Are you a believer in reciprocity?’

“’Why of course,’ said the banker.  ‘What about it?’

“’Well, Mr. Banker,  I did you a favor the other day, didn’t I?’

“’You certainly did.  I was extremely grateful to you Mr. Waddell.’

“’Then Mr. Banker, suppose you reciprocate.  Lend me $50.’

“And Rube got the fifty.  Did the banker ever get it back?  Does a Hyena fly?  Why ask such foolish questions.”



“The Phillies were Somewhat Crippled by the absence of Roy Thomas”

14 Sep

Charles “Chief” Zimmer was acquired by the Philadelphia Phillies to play for and manage the team in 1903; it was assumed he couldn’t do worse than Bill Shettsline who led the team to a 56-81 record the previous season.  He did.

Unlike nearly every other “Chief” in 19th Century baseball, Zimmer had no Native American blood and various stories have circulated as to the origin of the nickname.  His 1949 obituary said:

“In 1886 he joined Poughkeepsie as captain and manager…”since we were fleet of foot we were called Indians.  As I was the head man of the Indians somebody began to call me “Chief.”  It stuck.”

The Pittsburgh Press said in 1904:

“Zimmer received his sobriquet as ‘Chief’ because of his facial resemblance to an Indian, although he is a German.”

Zimmer was one of the best catchers in baseball for more than a decade.  He had brief trials in the National League with the Detroit Wolverines and American Association with the New York Metropolitans from 1884 and 1886, and was playing for the Rochester Maroons in the International Association in 1887 when his contract was purchased for $500 by the Cleveland Blues of the American Association.


Chief Zimmer

Zimmer was the starting catcher for the Blues when the team moved to the National League and became the Cleveland Spiders in 1889, and remained in Cleveland until 1899.  In 1890, he caught 111 straight games; which was the Major League record for 19 years.

By January of 1903 the 43-year-old’s best days were behind when Philadelphia acquired him on waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates and named Zimmer manager.

After a 2-2 start, the Phillies never saw .500 again and Zimmer quickly lost control of his team.

The team went into June with an 11-26 record.  Things got worse that month in Cincinnati when Zimmer put the team’s captain,  centerfielder and leadoff man Roy Thomas into the lineup–Thomas was  a devout Christian who did not want to play on Sundays.  The Philadelphia Record said:

“Manager Zimmer had some trouble getting Roy Thomas to play in the Sunday game, he claiming that he had not contracted to play on Sunday, and that he had no desire to break the Sabbath.  In the end, however, Zimmer prevailed and Thomas went into the game.”

The Philadelphia Times said Zimmer talked to the team’s new owner, James Potter, who was reported to have said:

“So he won’t play today, eh?  Well, then place him on the bench today, tomorrow and for the remainder of the season, without pay.”

Thomas relented, but told reporters before the game::

“I’m playing under protest.  There’s nothing in my contract that exempts me from playing on Sunday, but when I signed it I had no idea that the Philadelphia Club would change hands and abandon old precepts.”

The following Sunday, with the Phillies in Chicago, The Associated Press (AP) said:

“Thomas made his protest doubly strong and backed it up by staying out of uniform that day.”

After Philadelphia’s 4 to 2 loss, The Chicago Tribune said:

“The Phillies were somewhat crippled by the absence of Roy Thomas who does not like the new ownership of the club, because it believes in Sunday games. which Roy does not.”

As a result The AP said,  other players on the slumping team suddenly found religion.

“Now several other members of the team declare that they are as much opposed to playing baseball on Sunday as is Thomas and that their religious scruples are just as strong as his.”

The article quoted an unnamed member of the Phillies:

“(I)f the club insists on showing partiality to Thomas the others who also object to playing on Sunday, but who are willing to help out the club, will insist on the same privileges.”

Zimmer faced a full-blown revolt as they prepared to embark on a 19 game road trip:

“All of which portends a pleasant trip in the West for Zimmer when he starts out again.”

The Philadelphia papers did not continue to pursue the story during the Phillies’ 4-15  road trip, but it seems that for the remainder of 1903 Thomas backed off of his demand as he appears in box scores for several Sunday games in the final three months of the season.

Roy Thomas

Roy Thomas

The Phillies limped to a 49-86 seventh place finish, seven less victories than the previous season under Shettsline.  Zimmer was dismissed at the end of the season and was replaced by Hugh Duffy.

Thomas’ Sunday request was granted the following season, with manager Duffy making most of his appearances as a player in 1904 on Sundays when his centerfielder took the day off.  There is no record of teammates complaining about Thomas’ Sunday schedule under Duffy’s management.

Regardless of the team’s new-found harmony, the Phillies under Duffy finished 52-100.  Potter sold the team after the 1904 season to Bill Shettsline.

A shorter version of this story was posted 12-18-2012.


“A Knocking Umpire had Attempted to keep Speaker back”

11 Sep

Jesse Doak Roberts was a prominent figure in Texas baseball.  He was the two-time president of the Texas League (1904-’06 and 1920-’29), and had an ownership stake and managed clubs in the Texas and North Texas Leagues.

Jesse Doak Roberts

Jesse Doak Roberts, circa 1929

In 1911, the then owner of the Houston Buffaloes gave The Houston Chronicle his version of how Tris Speaker ended up in Boston:

“I want to tell you the story of the force that endeavored to act against the rise of Speaker—a force that did not succeed, but which cost me $700 in purchase money, and it was a knocking umpire.

“When Speaker was going at his best in his last year in this league (1906), I had made arrangements with Charlie Comiskey to purchase Tris for $1500…the deal was almost closed.”

Roberts said he was approached “by a (Texas) League umpire,” during a late-season game in Austin who, he claimed, demanded “a commission” for recommending Speaker:

“I told him that I had never asked an umpire to sell one of my players and would not—that I would prefer that they would not recommend any of them…I must have angered him, for he knocked the greatest Lone Star player to Comiskey (later) I got a draft from the Old Roman: ‘We can’t use Speaker.’

(George) Huff, then scouting for Boston, was in town.  He came around to see me and asked what I would take for Speaker.  I told him $1500.  He said that was too much for a class C player—that he would give me $500.”

Roberts said he then tried to sell Speaker to the St. Louis Browns (the biography “Tris Speaker: The Rough and Tumble Life of a Baseball Legend” said Roberts had attempted to sell Speaker to St. Louis earlier that season)

“I refused to accept (Huff’s) offer and wired (Jimmy) McAleer at St. Louis.  I told him I would sell him Speaker under a positive guarantee that he would make good.”

Tris Speaker "hardest hit"

                                 Tris Speaker 

Roberts said McAleer never responded and he “finally made an agreement to sell the boy for $800 cash,’ to Boston.

“A knocking umpire had attempted to keep Speaker back and had kept us from getting the difference between Comiskey’s price if $1500 and Boston’s of $800. And the White Sox lost a great player.”

Roberts never named the umpire who he said cost him $700.


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