“You have to be Diplomatic Sir, you have to be Diplomatic”

29 Oct

“Wild Bill” Setley’s adventures did not all take place on US soil.  In 1911 Cincinnati Reds pitcher George McQuillan told William A. Phelon of The Cincinnati Times-Star a story about Setley’s attempt to organize a barnstorming tour in Cuba two years earlier.

Bill Setley 1895

Bill Setley 

“Setley went over to Cuba early in the winter, and conceived the idea that fortunes were to be made in the island.  He wired to a number of ballplayers, urging them to come over, an telling them Cuba was just full of money.  Quite a number of the boys went over on spec, all paying their own fares, and in the near future they all went broke.  The Cubans wouldn’t come across with any money for salaries, some of the boys, being Southern-born, refused to play when they found the Cuban clubs were mostly (black players), and in two weeks Havana was overrun with hungry ballplayers.    They hunted Setley up and chided him for his statement that the island was full of money.  ‘It is,’ said Setley, ‘and I gave you no misinformation.  But I didn’t say anything about your taking any of that money away with you.  The island is fuller of money than before , for you fellows have spent all you brought with you, thus adding to the total.’

“After starving a few days, the boys all got over their race prejudices and caught on with various clubs.  And, a few days later they had the sublime delight of seeing Setley get his.  He was umpiring a big Sunday game at Havana, with an enormous audience in the stands.  His decisions were either fearfully bad, or else he had got the Spanish terms for ball, strike, safe, and out badly twisted when he tried to learn them.  Suddenly, when he called a man out after he had stamped both feet upon the plate, the audience uprose and came flooding towards Mr. Setley.

“Bill had a gun.  Always toted one.  But here came 5,000 Cubans with long knives and machetes, and Setley didn’t stop to make any gun plays.  Far from such.  Out through the gate he galloped, and straight down the Cuban road.  On and on he went, the mob shaking machetes in full cry behind him, and presently he became a speck upon the far horizon.  He had won.  Nobody could catch him.

“Next day I met him, and asked why he didn’t draw his gun and stand at bay.  ‘My boy,’ said he, ‘our relations with Cuba are strained enough as it is.  What would have been the result had I shot down half a dozen of those fellows?  You have to be diplomatic sir, you have to be diplomatic.”

There was no shortage of Setley stories.  Albert Francis “Red” Nelson, who pitched in the major leagues between 1910 and 1913, and played in a number of the minor leagues Setley worked as an umpire, told a few to The Memphis News-Scimitar in 1911.

Red Nelson

Red Nelson

Nelson said when he was playing in the Three-I league:

“A player named (Jim) Novacek was at bat (with the count 3 and 1).  Ball came along, on the outside, way wide.  ‘Strike,’ said Setley.  Novacek roared and howled, quite naturally.  Next ball was also wide .  ‘Four balls, take your base,,’ quoth Setley.  As Novacek started for first he exclaimed sneeringly, ‘That ball was in exactly the same place as the one you called a strike, just before.’  ‘In that case,’ said Setley, ‘I will do anything to oblige you.  Three strikes—you’re out!”

Nelson claimed that Setley had been involved in an incident he said took place in Rock Island, Illinois that included a few elements of the Cuba story;

“Setley is, in my opinion,  a funnier card among umpires than (Rube) Waddell ever was among eccentric ball tossers…On one occasion he was umpiring in some town—I think it was Rock Island—and a couple of his decisions turned the tide in the favor of the Peoria club.  The Rock Island fans promptly stormed into the field and took after Setley, who fled through the gate and down the street with the mob in mad pursuit.  And as Setley ran he threw up one arm in commanding fashion and shouted: “I hereby forfeit this game to Peoria, 9 to 0, you sons of monkeys.”

Nelson also told yet another version of the “mirror story,” which appeared in print in many different versions over the years.  Nelson’s version located the story “at Peoria,” but unlike most versions, failed to name any of the other participants.

It was not unheard of for Setley to simply create a new rule—in force for one game only—when the mood struck.  In one case, while working a Western Association game between the Muskogee Redskins and the Coffeyville White Sox he instituted a one-game only rule that would make him a hero with today’s advocates for shorter games.  The Muskogee Times-Democrat approved as well:

“Umpire Bill Setley yesterday set in force the rule annulling the privilege of the pitcher to throw to a baseman to warm up between innings, and the practice of throwing the ball around the infield, which takes up so much time.  The rule worked well, as the game, with nineteen runs, was finished in a minute over an hour and a half.”

Charles Barngrover

27 Oct

Charles Andrew Barngrover pitched in just a handful of minor league games, but his career as an itinerant professional baseball player in the first decade of the 20th Century provides a window into the world of the hundreds of young men who traveled the country earning a living on the fringes of the game.

He was born on Jun 1, 1883 in Ellinwood, Kansas, and started his career with a team in Great Bend in 1902; the league was comprised of most of the Central Kansas cities that would make up the Kansas State League when it was formed in 1905.

In 1903 he joined a team in Larned, Kansas and was involved in an incident that that made headlines across the state.

The Topeka Daily Capital said Barngrover and his teammates “fought their way from the hotel to the Hutchinson & Southern depot in Kingman last night after a disagreement concerning a 17-inning ballgame.”  When the fleeing ballplayers reached Hutchinson, Barngrover described the chaos to a reporter from The Hutchinson News:

“The Kingman boys have a good club and they managed to put it on us by a score of 3 to 0 in Monday’s game.  We had a series of three games in sight and were to receive $25 a game.  The game yesterday (Tuesday) was a hard one and there was a tie at the end of the ninth inning.  The tie lasted until the seventeenth inning.”

In the seventeenth, the umpire, a Larned player, called a close play at the plate in favor of his team, which gave the visitors a 7 to 6 victory.

“When the decision was made (a $60 side bet) was turned over to us and five of us started for town.  The Kingman club and the citizens generally went after the other Larned) boys (about the call) saying it would have to be changed of the $25 a game would not be forthcoming. “

According to Barngrover the umpire was forced to reverse his decision, and the four remaining Larned players told to take the field.  Kingman quickly scored a run and claimed victory.

“A short time after this the crowd came into town.  The Kingman boys found that we had the side bet money and they came to the hotel and demanded it.  We refused to turn loose and the fight started…There were about forty Kingman boys in the mob and they said they were going to get us.  Baseball bats and everything else in sight were used and we fought all the way from the hotel to the depot and stood them off until the train came in…As we got on the train we heard someone say that there were several broken heads in the crowd…We were lucky to get out alive, as the Kingman people are the worst we ever went up against.”

The following year, Barngrover’s hometown paper, The Ellinwood Leader reported that the pitcher “was lynched at Fort Worth, Texas a short time ago.  It is said that during a ball game he disputed a decision of the umpire and struck him over the head with a bat, killing him.  The crowd was so angered they avenged the murder by hanging him.”

The Hoisington (KN) Dispatch added:

“(Barngrover’s parents) are fairly well to do and highly respected…He pitched several games for Hoisington last spring but was not so popular among the ballplayers here on account of being accused of throwing a game.”

Several weeks later The Leader reported that the rumor was wrong; Barngrover’s parents had received word from him that he was in San Francisco, the paper gave no explanation for how the rumor arose, or whether or not Barngrover was involved in any such incident in Texas.

It’s unclear where Barngrover played after arriving in San Francisco in the spring of 1904, but he turned up two years later in Reno, Nevada.  The Nevada State Journal said the local agent for the Rainier Brewing Company had organized a team which “will defeat any Nevada team,” and signed Barngrover, who the paper said was “reputed to be the best amateur pitcher in California.

The stop in Nevada lasted just three months, and by June he was back in Kansas pitching for a team in his hometown and pitched for them on and off for the remainder of the 1906 season.  In August The Kansas City (KN) Globe said he had joined a barnstorming club called the National Bloomers:

“(He) is wearing bloomers and appearing as ‘Lady Rupert, one of the two World Renowned Lady Pitchers.’”

In 1907 he made his first appearance with a team recognized by the national agreement when he was signed by the Springfield Midgets in the Western AssociationThe Hutchinson News was not thrilled with his prospects:

“Hutchinson fans are wondering whether or not Barngrover can stick at Springfield.  He got off extremely lucky in three of his games but in the other four or five he has been radically wrong.”

Charles Barngrover

Charles Barngrover

After just 10 games, and a 4-6 record, he was released and returned to Kansas to play for a semi-pro team in Kinsley.  Barngrover then went from Kansas to Colorado to New Mexico and back to Kansas the next two years, playing with various semi-pro teams.

And, while he does not appear on any published rosters, Barngrover pitched in two games for the Western League Champion Des Moines Boosters in September; a 15-8 victory over the Topeka Jayhawks and he pitched the final two innings of an 11 to 4 loss to the Sioux City Packers.

He began the 1910 season, according to The Sporting Life, under the name “Smith” pitching the Quincy Vets of the Central Association to a 13-inning opening day victory over the Burlington Pathfinders—the game was later awarded to Burlington and after just one game, Barngrover was on the road again, to the Minnesota-Wisconsin League, where he was a combined 2-9 in eleven games with the La Crosse Outcats and the Rochester Roosters.

Barngrover, as "Smith" won his only game on the mound for the Quincy Vets

Barngrover, as “Smith” won his only game on the mound for the Quincy Vets

The wandering pitcher spent the next two seasons bouncing back and forth from the semi-pro fields of Kansas to La Crosse for a handful of games in 1911; then to Utah in 1912, where he spent a month with the Ogden Canners of the Union Association, and back to Kansas again.

He spent one more season pitching in Kansas before retiring.

Barngrover went to work for the Fort Worth & Denver Railway; it was as a result of his second career that he received the most media attention.

In the fall of 1921 he was indicted by a United States grand jury for theft of interstate shipments.  Barngrover cooperated with the government and, according to The Fort Worth Star-Telegram “was the government’s star witness in the prosecution of four men indicted with him.”  In all twenty-three men were indicted for stealing more than $100,000 in goods; the indicted men would hide in rail cars and throw “stolen goods along the tracks as the trains left Fort Worth, which were picked up by other members of the gang in motor cars.”

On March 10, 1922, Barngrover was preparing to testify at the trial of several more co-conspirators. While he had been fired from his job after the indictment, he was at the rail yard talking to former coworkers when he was shot and killed.  Two days after his murder, The Star-Telegram said:

“The body of C.A. Barngrover, ex-railroad man, self-confessed boxcar robber and Government witness, was placed in a modest grave in Greenwood Cemetery Saturday afternoon.

“And while the funeral services were said over his grave, police were endeavoring to solve the mystery surrounding the identity of the assassin who, concealed in a boxcar, shot Barngrover to death…Barngrover had 3 cents in his pockets when killed.”

A railroad employee was indicted for the murder, but there is no record of a conviction in the case.

Brief Bios–Ferris and Angier

24 Oct

Doc Ferris

Ernest H. “Doc” Ferris won 20 games twice over eight seasons in the low manors between 1913 and 1923, and posted a respectable 109-86 record.  The otherwise forgotten right-hander also pitched one of the most efficient games in baseball history.

Ferris was born on September 7, 1887 in Blue Ash, Ohio; the youngest of 13 children.  There is little information about his early life on his father Solomon’s farm, with the exception of a few brief mentions in Cincinnati newspapers of his being active in the Hamilton County Ohio Farmer’s Alliance.

The first reference to him related to baseball was when the 25-year-old signed a contract with the Durham Bulls of the North Carolina State League in 1913.  After two sub .500 seasons –10-12 in 1913, 9-16 with the Asheville Tourists—he had his best season in 1915, when he won 27 games (he lost 12) for Asheville.

Ernest "Doc" Ferris

Ernest “Doc” Ferris

In 1916 he was signed by the Columbia Comers of the South Atlantic League.  The Highlight of Ferris’ 18-15 season was during a 3 to 1 victory over the Albany Babies on July 18.  The Columbia State said:

“Doc Ferris probably made a new record for the league by going through the game with only 73 pitched balls, 14 of which were balls and 59 strikes…the Columbus pitcher did not issue a pass…Ferris set up a record that will probably stand for many moons.  To go through nine innings pitching only 73 balls is a remarkable feat.  The smiling hurler was seldom in the hole, going to three balls on only one batter.”

The game was completed in 78 minutes.

The Box Score

The Box Score

(Charles “Red” Barrett of the Boston Braves set the major league record for fewest pitches in a game, when he shut out the Cincinnati Reds 2-0 in Crosley Field on August 10, 1944–he threw just 58 pitches–Barrett’s game was also three minutes shorter than Ferris’ effort.)

After pitching for and managing the Asheville Tourists and Hagerstown Terriers in 1917 and 1918, Ferris quit baseball for two years, and according to The Durham Morning Herald accepted “a responsible position with a manufacturing concern.”

In 1921 he returned to the diamond, pitching three seasons for the Greensboro Patriots in the Piedmont League—after going 20-9 in his first season, he slipped to 6-9 and 4-5, before retiring for good after the 1923 season.

After baseball Ferris operated a company that manufactured and installed canvas awnings.  When he started the business he told The Greensboro Daly News:

“During the eight years I sweated in the blazing sun, I often thought of the advantage it would be to have and awning overhead, so when I finally decided to quit the diamond I naturally gravitated into selling the things that looked so attractive to me while I was pitching.”

Doc Ferris

Doc Ferris

Ferris died in Greensboro on November 11, 1964.

Shorty Angier

Malbourne Addison “Shorty” Angier was a teammate of Doc Ferris with the Durham Bulls in 1913.   Angier was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1892, but grew up in Durham. His grandfather, and namesake, was a prominent Durham merchant.

Angier made a name for him himself as a teen in the Piedmont League—before 1920 various quasi-professional/industrial league incarnations of the Piedmont operated; he played for Durham Hosiery in 1911 and 1912.

When he was signed by the Durham Bulls in 1913, The Charlotte Evening Chronicle said he “hit around .400 in the Piedmont League last year,” and had turned down offers from two other North Carolina State League teams, the Charlotte Hornets and Greensboro Patriots.  The expectations were high:

“Those that have seen Angier play predict that he will make good in the league and that the next few years will see him in the big company.”

The Charlotte Observer described his physical appearance:

“(S)tocky torso, the hefty underpinning, and abbreviated neck.”

Whatever ability he had with the bat in the Piedmont League left him as a professional.  Angier hit just .199 during his first season at Durham in 1913.  After a hot start the following season—he was hitting nearly .400 in July—he finished with a .268 average.  In 1915 he hit .175.

Although a weak hitter, he  was one of the best athletes in the North Carolina League—during the league’s “Field Day” activities in 1914 The Charlotte News said he “easily won” the distance throwing competition and his 15 and 1/5 second time circling the bases was the league’s best.

He split the 1916 season between the South Atlantic League Columbia Comers (where he was again teammates with Doc Ferris) and Jacksonville Tarpons; he hit a combined .175 for the year.

The following spring The Durham Morning Herald reported that Angier was in a local hospital in critical condition after “the young man swallowed poison.”

The Greensboro Daily News said Angier drank from a bottle that he was not aware contained “poisonous medicine,” but the paper said “attempted suicide was discounted,” by his friends.

Whether the poisoning was a contributing factor or not, Angier did not play in 1917, and went to work at a tobacco store he co-owned in Durham.

After volunteering for military service in the fall of 1917—he was a second Lieutenant in the cavalry, stationed in Columbia, South Carolina—he returned to his business in Durham.

Each season from 1919 through 1921, North Carolina newspapers reported that Angier would be joining the Durham Bulls; although he does not appear in any surviving team records, Angier played in a handful of games for the team in September of 1921.

He never played again after his brief return to the diamond in 1921.  Angier owned several tobacco and grocery businesses in and around Durham and later relocated to Green Cove Springs, Florida where he died in 1937.

Advertisement for Angier's cigar store

Advertisement for Angier’s cigar store

“The Words ‘Baseball Team’ are used Advisedly in this Instance”

22 Oct

Far from considering their local club a source of civic pride, The Springfield Leader was not thrilled about the prospects for the Missouri city’s baseball team, the Midgets on the eve of the 1907 Western Association season:

“Springfield will have a baseball team this spring.  The words ‘baseball team’ are used advisedly in this instance and with somewhat of a reserve.  A ball team is made up of nine men, not all of whom are ballplayers and sometimes not any of them.  Nine men dressed in similar uniforms and scattered in the orthodox fashion over the diamond and in the outer gardens, are generally understood to constitute a baseball team.  The difference between that sort of a team and a team as defined and understood by a genuine fan and follower of the game is almost as wide as the gulf that separates two classes of residents in the next world.

“In the cranium of the thoroughbred lover of the great national game a ball team is made up of ball players.  The mere wearing of a glove and uniform and being stationed somewhere in the playing field is not the only essential to a ball team as far as the fan is concerned.  The real test of a ball team is the ability of the bunch to play ball.  That is what the fans demand and what they expect.  Of course they do not object to the men wearing uniforms and gloves, but those are merely minor affairs, wholly secondary to the skill of the men in putting up a stellar exhibition of the game.  No ball team is a ball team unless the individuals who compose that team can play ball.  That is the doctrine of the fans, tested in the furnace of experience and labeled bottled in bond 100 percent pure.

“With these two propositions laid down and comprehended it is necessary to see which class the Queen City of the Ozarks will be when his honor, the umps, announces the batteries and informs the rivals that it is time to play ball.

“Springfield will have nine men with uniforms and gloves.  That is a settled fact.  They will undoubtedly have the pleasure of seeing a few men on the field who can play ball.  But so far as the ability of the outfield to put up a kind of game that father used to make is concerned—as Hamlet the melancholy Dane of Shakespearean repute once remarked in of  his famous after dinner speeches—‘Aye, there’s the rub.

“Somewhere in the neighborhood of two score men have been signed by Manager (Frank Richmond) Pierce (a Springfield bank executive) to try out with the bunch that is to report now in a few days.  A few, a very small few, are known to have played ball before.”

The paper singled out on player in particular for ridicule; shortstop John Welter hit .201 the previous season, and committed 60 errors in 88 games:

“(T)he big shortstop made a very poor impression last season and it is not likely that he could have signed in a 10-year-old kid corner lot league.”

The Leader was also upset about the sale of the team’s two best players, pitcher Harley “Cy the Third” Young, who won 24 games, and third baseman Gus Hetling, who led the team in most offensive categories, to the Wichita Jobbers:

“Both these players were good, and as the city did not need good players they were sold to make a little money.  As long as the fans don’t care for a good article of ball there is no use in paying the salaries to men who can play. Duds are good enough for any fan to watch and they are considerably cheaper, so what is the use in wasting money.  The fact that Wichita will likely come here and Young will allow the Midgets about one or two hits and Hetling will field without an error and knock the ball out of the lot three or four times, will make no difference.  The fans will still have the pleasure of seeing them play.”

The Leader said Pierce was not entirely to blame, because his stockholders “refused to come across with any coin.”

In response, Pierce told the city’s other newspaper, The Republican; his team would consist of “some of the highest salaried players that have ever signed with Springfield.”

Despite Pierce’s claim, the team fared about as well as The Leader predicted; winning just 46 games, with 92 losses, and Pierce sold his interest in the team in June—his first, and last, tenure as a baseball executive lasting just a few months.

After acquiring Springfield’s two best players—Young and Heitling—Wichita cruised to the league championship with a 98-35 record.

With the addition of Heitling (4) and Young (10) Wichita easily won the 1907 Western Association championship.

With the addition of Heitling (4) and Young (10) Wichita easily won the 1907 Western Association championship.

Young was 29-4 for Wichita; after the 1907 season he was sold to the Pittsburgh Pirates.  His major league career consisted of just 14 games with the Pirates and Boston Doves, posting a career 0-3 record.  He played seven more seasons in the minor leagues, but never won twenty games again.

Heitling hit .275 for the champions and played 10 more seasons, most on the Pacific Coast.

Welter, the shortstop The Leader said didn’t belong “in a 10-year-old kid corner lot league,” hit .222 (there are no surviving fielding totals for the season) and never played professionally again after 1907.

After two more seasons as one of the doormats of the Western Association this incarnation of the Springfield Midgets folded in 1909.

Harley Parker

20 Oct

Harley Park Parker was a renaissance man; a physician, an ambidextrous golfer, a billiard player who trained champions, in addition to being a major league pitcher—he was 5-8 with a 5.90 ERA in parts of four seasons with the Chicago Colts and Cincinnati Reds.

He is also responsible for what might be the worst single game pitching performance in professional baseball history.

The 22-year-old Parker was pitching for the Grand Rapids Rippers (several newspapers in other in the other Western League cities called the team the Rustlers) against the Kansas City Blues (newspapers were split between referring to the club as the Blues or the Cowboys) on July 25, 1894.

Harley Parker circa 1895

Harley Parker circa 1895

The Kansas City Gazette said:

“The ball bats of the Kansas City Blues in the game against Grand Rapids collided with Pitcher Parker’s curves thirty-nine times yesterday, and yielded as many runs.”

The Blues actually had thirty-eight hits, to go along with 13 Grand Rapids errors.

The Kansas City Star said:

“(The Blues) hit him at will yesterday, for singles, doubles, triples and home runs.  It was a slugging match, the like of which had never before been seen in a professional game at Exposition Park, and while the Rustlers did some very sloppy fielding, there was world of free, sharp and hard hitting.”

Every member of the Kansas City line up had at least two hits, and three players, Sam Nicholl, Ollie Beard, and pitcher Pete Daniels, collected six each.

The final score was 39 to 10.

The Box Score Grand Rapids vs Kansas City

The Box Score Grand Rapids vs Kansas City

The game was indicative of Parker’s season; he finished with a 15-18 record with a 6.23 ERA—in addition to the 193 earned runs he gave up in 278.2 innings, his team gave him horrible support, and he allowed 194 unearned runs.

Parker had a similarly disastrous day as a major leaguer seven years later.  While pitching for the Reds against the Brooklyn Superbas on June 21, 1901 Parker allowed 21 runs on 26 hits in a complete game loss—“Wee Willie” Keeler was 5 for 5 with a rare home run (he hit just 33 during his 19-year career).

The Box Score Cincinnati vs Brooklyn

The Box Score Cincinnati vs Brooklyn

During his five minor league seasons Parker was only above.500 once; 5-4 in 1898 with the Minneapolis Millers; he was 5-8 as a major leaguer.

Parker briefly owned a Central League franchise in 1911, the club moved from Grand Rapids, Michigan to South Bend, Indiana, but even with the move he was forced to sell the team at mid-season because of financial difficulties.

That same year he also had a short stint as an umpire that ended with a trip to the United States Capitol.

In August, after one of Umpire Jack Sheridan’s frequent resignations—he returned to his position days later—American League President Ban Johnson hired Parker to the league staff.

Less than a month into his tenure Parker was on the field for one of William Herman “Germany” Schaefer’s stunts.  On August 4, Schaefer’s Washington Senators were playing the Chicago White Sox.  With the score tied in the ninth inning Schaefer stole second, hoping to draw a throw to allow Clyde Milan to score from third base; Sox catcher Fred Payne did not throw to second.  Schaefer then led off second base on the first-base side and returned to first on the next pitch.

The Washington Herald said:

“Umpire Harley Parker, who was officiating on the bases, was near first at the time.  When he saw Schaefer coming back to first Parker accosted the comedian ball player with the query: ‘What are you doing here?’

“’I have stolen second.  Now I am stealing first,’ said the Nationals’ troublemaker.

“’Well, if you stay down here I’ll call you out,’ said Parker.

“(White Sox) Manager (Hugh) Duffy in the meantime had ordered Doc White to throw the ball to John “Shano” Collins at first.  Germany thought discretion the better part of valor, and made a dive back toward second.  In the meantime Milan was tearing down toward home.  Collins wheeled and threw home, Milan being tagged out at the plate.”

Germany Schaefer

Germany Schaefer

Duffy was standing in the middle of the diamond arguing with Parker and home plate umpire Tommy Connolly as Milan was thrown out at home—Washington protested that “the play shouldn’t go because Chicago had ten men on the field.  Manager Duffy having stayed out to the middle of the diamond.”

Connolly and Parker finally ruled that Milan was out.  Washington went on to win the game 1 to 0 in 11 innings.

Harley Parker, 1910

Harley Parker, 1910

The following month Parker was again in Washington working a series between the Senators and the White Sox when, while sitting in the lobby of Washington’s Driscoll Hotel, according to The Washington Star he was approached by an “officer from the United States Senate,” who told Parker “I have a warrant for you.”

Parker was taken to the United States Capitol.

“The officer of Uncle Sam marched the arbitrator up to the desk of Vice President (James Schoolcraft) Sherman in the senate, the most august assemblage in the United States.

“’I guess I’ve got your man at last,’ said the officer as he introduced Parker to the vice president.

“’I sent for you to inquire about that play when Germany Schaefer went back to first after stealing second,’” said Sherman and Parker drew a sigh of relief.

“It was just like eating pie for Parker to explain the play and he did so to the satisfaction of all concerned.  Sherman admitted the play bothered him more than any problem that had come up in the extra session of congress and that was going some.”

Parker did not work as an umpire again after the 1911.  He returned to Chicago to practice medicine and teach billiard; contemporary newspaper accounts said he trained two champions—Calvin Demarest and Welker Cochran.

He died in Chicago in 1941.

“Women have been the cause of Ruin of more Good Clubs than Anything Else”

17 Oct

In 1907 Hugh Fullerton wrote in The Chicago Herald about the outside influences that he felt did the most damage to a ballclub:

Hugh Fullerton

Hugh Fullerton

“There are dozens of things that happen to keep a team from landing a pennant about which the general public is entirely ignorant and which never can be explained clearly.

“For instance, one of the mysteries of baseball was the breaking up of the famous White Stockings team.

“Hundreds and thousands of people cursed the management of the Chicagos for selling off star players and wrecking the club—and few ever knew why it was.  The management felt worse over it than the fans possibly could feel—but it was inevitable.  A scandal in the club concerning two members and the wife of one of them started the trouble.  Threats to kill each other were made—and the disruption of the club became absolutely necessary.  The sale of (Mike “King”) Kelly (1887) and (John) Clarkson (1888) was the beginning –and after a time all parties to the scandal were let out—and Chicago was given a decade of losing clubs.”

Mike "King" Kelly

Mike “King” Kelly

He claimed the reason for the breakup of the White Stockings was a common one.

“Women have been the cause of ruin of more good clubs than anything else.  They need not necessarily be bad women.  There was one club in the old twelve-club National League which, for two years, was knocked out of all chances of winning merely because the wife of one of the players was an inveterate gossip.  She knew everything that went on in the club and retained it until she had half the players up in arms against each other.

“One of the best manager s in the country today frowns upon all women and his players, under his direction, forbid their wives to mention the subject of baseball to each other.  The result is that there is the best feeling in the club.  Almost every member of the team is married, their wives meet socially at all times—and baseball is tabooed by common consent.

“I know a catcher, one of the toughest, hardiest fellows in the business, who nearly was ruined as a catcher by the women of the club.  He was so strong and tough that you couldn’t have dented him with an ax, but one day he split his hand a little bit.  He thought nothing of it, and was ready to catch the next day when the women got to pitying him and telling him he ought to take good care of it.  When he left the grounds he had tied up the injured place with a rag—and was all right.  By the next morning he was ready to go to the hospital—and he did lay off for two weeks, all because the women made a martyr of him.”

But, according to Fullerton, there was something almost as bad for a baseball team as women:

“Horse racing, however, has ruined almost as many clubs as women have.  Once a team gets interested in horse racing, and so far as winning goes, it might as well disband.

“One of the greatest troubles in the present New York National League team is the devotion of some of the players to the racing game.  (John) McGraw himself has been so successful at it that baseball has become sort of a side issue.  Many of his players have followed his example, and the result is they think more of horse racing than of baseball.

“Racing did more to wreck (Ned) Hanlon’s championship Brooklyn team than any other thing.  The Washington Park grounds are so close to the Brighton and Sheepshead tracks that players could see two or three races before the game.  Eventually baseball was forgotten and the conversation in the clubhouse dwelt only on horse racing.

(Cap) Anson had a crowd of horse race fans for several years, and the result on the work of the team was something frightful.  They talked horse racing even on the field, and had the telegraph operators throwing out messages telling what horses had won.”

And, he said, gambling in general had been detrimental to the Giants during the years Andrew Freedman owned the club (1895-1902):

“There always was a crap game or a poker game in the clubhouse, and the stakes were so high that bitter feeling was endangered.”

While Fullerton, for the most part, avoided naming names, he did single out one former Chicago manager, who had died five years earlier, for presiding over teams that were “ruined” by gambling:

“The Chicago team the second year under Tom Burns (1899) was wrecked by the same sort of deal, the manager setting a bad example in that respect.  Burns also was charged by the Pittsburgh owners with ruining their club, when he was manager (1892), by permitting and encouraging gambling.”

Tom Burns

Tom Burns

“We didn’t have any High-Faluting Baseball Paraphernalia”

15 Oct

The Seattle Star said of Dan Dugdale:

“No man in the Northwest can rival the experiences in baseball that Daniel E. Dugdale has had in the national game.”

In his 1934 obituary The United Press called Dugdale “the father of organized baseball in Seattle.”

Dan Dugdale

Dan Dugdale

Primarily a catcher, Dugdale played professional ball for more than a decade; including two stints in the National League with the Kansas City Cowboys in 1886 and the Washington Senators in 1894.  He retired after the 1897 season and made what was intended to be a brief stop in Seattle on the way to Alaska for the Klondike Gold Rush.  He never made it to Alaska, and in Seattle he organized most of the city’s early professional teams and built two ballparks.

Dan Dugdale 1894

Dan Dugdale 1894

Forty years after he began playing he shared his reminiscences about in the early 1880s in his hometown of Peoria, Illinois with Seattle reporter Leo Lassen:

“We didn’t have any high-faluting baseball paraphernalia for the deciding game of the Peoria, Illinois city championship in the summer of 1883.  I can remember that we used a piece of the curbstone for home plate.  Nobody except the catcher used glove, and he only had a fingerless glove of thin leather over both hands.

“Oh yes!  Of course my team, the Double Browns, won, or it wouldn’t start this story out right.  It was in that game that I got my start as a catcher.

“I had been playing shortstop, but the regular receiver split a finger and there wasn’t anyone else to catch, so I tried it.

“We stood back for the pitches except on the third strike, and except with men on bases, catching the ball on the first bounce when standing back.

Ted Kennedy, who later helped pitch one of Pop Anson’s Chicago teams into the championship, was hurling for our side that day, and baby but he could throw that ball with plenty of swift.

“’Don’t catch if you want to keep your health,’ Ted warned me before taking up my receiving duties…Kennedy was right.  The first time I stood up close to catch, the ball hit that curbstone plate and crashed into my mouth, knocking out teeth by the wholesale and putting me on queer street.

“But in those days no one considered quitting as long as it was possible to stand up and catch the ball.

“I finished the game and we won the championship, and I felt well repaid for it.

“That game started me on my baseball career as a catcher, after which I was to serve for 15 years as a receiver for clubs throughout the country.”

Kennedy wasn’t the only major leaguer Dugdale played with in Peoria.  In 1885 he played with one of the claimants to the title of invention of the catcher’s mitt—Harry Decker—and Dugdale talked about some of the attempts his teammate made to protect his hands four years before Decker was awarded the patent for the Decker Safety Catcher’s Mitt:

“(Catchers) had no shin guards, masks or big gloves in those days, and a fellow had to be almost a martyr to go behind the plate with fellows like John Clarkson, Amos Rusie and those old stars doing the pitching.

“The big catcher’s pad now in use in baseball, is the same glove that Harry Decker, a teammate of mine on the Peoria team in 1885, invented.

“Harry had been troubled with split fingers and he kept tinkering around with leather trying to figure out how to protect his left hand, which does the big work for all catchers.

“He had a thin, fingerless glove to start with and one day he slipped a piece of raw beefsteak between the glove and his hand and that glove gave him his first idea.  He used this protection for almost a season, using a fresh piece of meat each day.

“Then he tried shot in the pocket of the glove and put a piece of leather on top of the shot, leaving it between the two pieces of leather.

“This gave him the idea of building the mitt up bigger and lacing fingers on the back of the glove.

“One day he hit upon the idea of stuffing the glove with rags in the mitt for protection, and finally got some good felt and used that.  It has been in use ever since.”

Decker Safety Catcher’s Mitt

Decker Safety Catcher’s Mitt

Dugdale remained the most prominent figure in Seattle baseball until he was hit by a truck and killed in 1934.

Accounts vary over how much Decker received from the sale of the mitt patent to A.G. Spalding.   He  is one of the enigmatic 19th Century players for whom there is no information on the date or location of his death.

After his career ended in 1891 he was convicted of numerous crimes—most involving forgery, but also including larceny and bigamy; several of his crimes involved other ballplayers.

Throughout his career Decker had a reputation as a womanizer; The Philadelphia Inquirer called him “The Don Juan of the Diamond,” but by 1890, perhaps exacerbated by his being hit in the head by a pitch, he went from lovable rogue to serial offender.  He racked up arrests and convictions in at least six states and an involuntary commitment to the Elgin State Hospital in Illinois over the next 25 years.

Victims of his crimes included Dugdale, and Al Reach, both of whose names appeared on forged checks in separate cases, and Jack Horner and Pat Pettee, teammates of Decker’s in 1891 during his brief stay with the New Haven Nutmegs in the Eastern Association.  Decker was convicted of stealing property worth $150 from Horner and $55 from Pettee after the two had allowed him to stay in the apartment they shared.

Decker’s trail goes cold after he was released from California’s San Quentin Prison in 1915.

Leo Lassen, the reporter Dugdale spoke to, went on to become the radio voice of the Seattle Rainiers of the Pacific Coast League from 1931 through the 1961 season.  Some surviving audio can be found here.

Lost Advertisements–George Gibson for Coca-Cola

13 Oct

gibsoncoke

Pittsburgh Pirates Catcher George Gibson was coming off one of the most impressive seasons ever–he caught in 134 straight games, and a total of 150 for the World Series Champions–when this advertisement appeared:

George Gibson of the Pittsburgh Nationals

(Champions of the World)

led the league as a catcher with a percentage of .983 and caught more games than any other catcher last year.  He writes us that he is enthusiastic about Coca-Cola.  You, too, will like Coca-Cola, because it relieves fatigue, refreshes, quenches the thirst and is absolutely wholesome.

The Coca-Cola Company wanted to attribute Gibson’s iron man performance in 1909 to his choice of beverage, but before the season Gibson, from his home in London, Ontario wrote to Barney Dreyfuss, Pirates president and told him about his secret for getting in shape for the campaign.  The Pittsburgh Dispatch printed the letter:

I had a letter from (Pirate outfielder John) Chief Wilson the other day.  All he writes about is hunting.  He says the quails are so thick down where he is (Bertram, Texas) that you have to cut a path through them when you go hunting.  Nothing like that up here.  I have seen a lone jack rabbit this season and I have been chasing him to keep in condition, but to date I have not captured him.  He is the limit for speed.  One jump and he lands in the next town.  He would make a good trainer.  If I can catch him alive I will take him to Hot Springs and let the boys get in condition by chasing him.”

Jim Delahanty’s Idea

10 Oct

Before the 1911 season, Hugh Fullerton, in The Chicago Examiner, told the story about Jim Delahanty’s plan to improve his hitting.  The Detroit Tigers second baseman was having a conversation with teammates:

Jim Delahanty

Jim Delahanty

“’I think,’ said Delahanty, ‘that if someone would kick me between the eyes real hard, I’d lead the league in hitting.’

“’What’s the angle of that remark?’ Asked Sam Crawford.

“’If I were you,’ said Davy Jones, ‘I’d hire a mule to kick me three of four times, and maybe I’d hit 1000 per cent.

“’I’ll tell you what I mean,’ said Del.  ‘When I went to the Atlantic League I was just a fair hitter—fair, bordering on rotten.  If I hit .225 I felt pretty good, and if I fell below that I wasn’t much surprised.

‘”Well, I had been going along fairly well for a few weeks, when one day I started stealing second.  I intended at first to slide behind the bag, but the baseman changed position, and I tried to switch and slide in front.’

“’The result was I slid awkwardly, and as he touched me out and blocked me his knee hit me bang between the eyes.  I saw forty million stars, and got up dizzy and feeling funny.’

“’Everything seemed changed, and I seemed to be looking through a veil all the time.  Everything on mu right side looked uphill and everything on the left downhill.  For about ten days I was the worst hitter in the world, not excepting Jack Pfiester.  It worried me.’

Jack Pfiester

Jack Pfiester

“’I think in three weeks I got two base hits, and what seemed funny to me was that I made both these hits off curve balls that fooled me.  The fact is my eyes had been banged out of gear and I was swinging about four inches below where the ball really was, and the only times I hit it was when it fooled me.’

“I was all upset and ready to quit when one day I drew a base on balls and tried to steal.  The shortstop was coming to cover the bag, and as I slid his knee caught me right between the eyes and knocked me cold.

“’When I batted the next time I saw the ball perfectly, or thought I did, and up I went into the .250 class.  A year later I got another crack between the eyes—and immediately improved still further in hitting.  Now I’m waiting for the kick that will put me in the .350 class.’

“Crawford was silent for some time.  Then he said:

‘”Say, did (Napoleon) Lajoie ever mention being hit between the eyes with a pile driver?’”

A .283 lifetime hitter, Delahanty had his best season at the plate in 1911, with career bests in nearly every offensive category, including average (.339) and RBI (94).

There is no record of him having received the desired blow to the head before the season began.

“Stories of his Badness are told all over the League”

8 Oct

After “Bad Bill” Eagan finished the 1898 season with the Syracuse Stars –he hit just .227, his lowest recorded minor league season average—then returned to his native Camden, NJ–Eagan started his amateur baseball career in Camden as a pitcher, his catcher was another Camden native, William “Kid” Gleason.

Bad Bill Eagan

Bad Bill Eagan

The Harrisburg Telegraph—Eagan had spent two seasons playing in the Pennsylvania city—told the story:

“Bill Eagan the once great second baseman of the Harrisburg Club, in a fair example of what rum will do when it gets the upper hand of a man.  Eagan would have been one of the leading players of the profession if he had left strong drink alone.  He was a sure fielder, hard batter and quick baserunner and ought to be in his prime as a player by this time, but he has drained too many mugs and now winds up in a police court at his home in Camden, NJ, on a charge of attempted murder.

“Eagan was intoxicated yesterday and displaying a 48-caliber revolver, placed it to his temple and remarked: ‘I am going to kill my wife and blow my brains out.’ He paid Barber Riceman fifty cents which he owed him, and also paid a nearby saloon keeper $1 for drinks that he had bought.  Then he returned to the barber shop, said good-bye to his friends, and exclaiming; “Now I am free from debt and am ready to do the job,’ he started for his home and put the threat into execution.

When he arrived home Eagan fired two shots at—and missed–his wife, and then attempted to shoot one of the responding police officers, but because of “a quick blow from (another police officer’s) club the murderous weapon was knocked from the crazed man’s hand.”

The Chicago Tribune said:

“William Eagan, or, as he is known in the baseball profession, ‘Bad Bill’ Eagan, is a player of national reputation.  He is an ignorant man, and stories of his badness are told all over the league.  He was considered one of the best ball players in the profession.”

The Tribune said about Eagan’s brief stay with Pittsburgh earlier in 1898:

“He failed to behave himself, and drunkenness was the charge which let him out as a Pirate.”

Eagan was held in the Camden jail from October of 1898 until March of 1899; it is unclear what he was formally charged with, and he was never tried.

In spite of his reputation, baseball wasn’t done with “Bad Bill” yet.  Shortly after his release from jail, Syracuse sold Eagan’s contract to the Western League’s Detroit Tigers.  His statistics for the season don’t survive, but Eagan seems to have gone back to his old habits.  After he sat out both games of a double-header with the Kansas City Blues in July, The Kansas City Journal said:

“’Bad Bill’ Eagan acquired a jag yesterday and succeeded in making a holy show of himself.  Such creatures and ‘Bad Bill’ should be out of the game.”

Eagan was also seriously injured the same month when, according to The Associated Press, during a game with the Columbus Buckeyes, while trying to stretch a double into a triple:

“Eagan threw himself, feet foremost toward the bag.  His spike caught in the base sack and his right leg was given a terrible wrench.  ‘Bad Bill’ screamed with pain and in an instant was surrounded by members of both teams… (He) had thrown out his kneecap.  (A doctor) pushed the cap back and then the injured player was carried to the bench.”

Whether the injury contributed or not is unknown, but by August The Sporting Life reported that he had again worn out his welcome:

“Bad Bill” Eagan has worn a Detroit uniform for the last time. Eagan has not behaved at all and (George) Stallings has got through for good and all with him.”

George Stallings

George Stallings

One more team was willing to take a chance on Eagan; he was signed for 1900 by the Youngstown Little Giants in the Interstate League.  After appearing in just 26 games The Sporting Life reported that:

“Eagan has been playing ball in Youngstown, OH, but he said he needed a rest.  He came to Detroit for that purpose Saturday morning, and he paid $5 in the police court this morning for the first installment. “Bad Bill” said he was so glad to get back and he met so many friends that he rather lost track of the proceedings. He had fallen Into a Rip Van Winkle sleep when the policeman picked him up. “Bad Bill” paid his fine and went out for the “rest.” Bill doesn’t think much of Youngstown, he says. “

The Youngstown Vindicator said Eagan was released by the Little Giants before he left for Detroit

In either case, he had finally run out of chances, and never played another professional game.

The Indianapolis News said, in late August of 1900, that Eagan was:

 “(P)icked up on the streets of Detroit) insane.  He was removed to the emergency hospital, where he became violent and it took a number of men to overpower him and take him to the station and confine him in a padded cell.  Drink caused Eagan’s downfall. Sober he was a hard working ambitious ball player; if a drink or two were given to him he became a dangerous maniac.”

He was released after several days, and the the many premature rumors of his death began at that point, while Eagan continued to tend bar in Detroit. In April of 1904 w he became ill and was sent to a tuberculosis sanitarium in Denver.  Ten months later “Bad Bill” was dead at age 35.

Despite having played just six games with Chicago in 1893 Eagan made such an William A. Phelon that more than 20 years later he wrote in “Baseball Magazine:”

 “Although the poor fellow had few chances given him in the big league, I always thought there never yet was a second baseman who mixed and mingled in the furtherance of infield plays like Bad Bill Eagan. Possibly I can best symbolize Eagan’s style of second-basing, for the present generation, by stating that he played second just about as (Fred) Tenney played first. (Eddie) Collins doesn’t go so far from second as Eagan did, nor does he carry out nearly so many plays—but it’s quite likely he could if he had to—if he didn’t have, through the past few years, the marvelous (Jack) Barry cutting in and taking his half of the proceedings.

Eagan, though, was almost uncanny at times. I saw him working with (Cap) Anson on first and (Bill) Dahlen at short. It might be taken for granted that Eagan would have to move round considerably on the side toward first, with the ponderous and fast-aging Anson on station one, but Dahlen was then in the flush of his youth and a moving streak at short—when he wanted to be. Yet I saw Eagan bewildering Dahlen as well as Anson by the phantom-like rapidity of his movements, and the way in which he suddenly appeared at the spot where the play should be kept going, arriving on the ground before Dahlen could even draw back his arm to throw.”

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