“It may well be Doubted whether Beals should be Permitted to play Second Base again”

23 Jul

Thomas Lamb “Tommy” Beals had a complicated relationship with Harry and George Wright.

George named his son, the Hall of Fame tennis player, Beals Wright after his friend and former teammate.  But, The Chicago Tribune said when the two played together, “George Wright and Tommy Beals went many a day without a friendly word,” a charge Wright denied.

After signing a contract to play second base for Harry Wright’s Red Stockings for 1876—the first season of the National League—Beals decided instead to jump the contact and go to Colorado where he worked as a miner.

Tommy Beals

Tommy Beals

He eventually left Colorado and went to the West Coast where he played a handful of games in 1879 for the San Francisco Mutuals and Oakland Pioneers in the California League.  In the spring of 1880 he signed a contract with the Chicago White Stockings.

Harry Wright protested the signing of his former player, or as The Tribune said:

“Some parties in Boston have been making a wholly unnecessary fuss over the engagement of Beals by the Chicago Club, claiming that after engaging to play with the Bostons in 1876 he refused to report for duty.”

The Tribune noted that the contract was actually signed before the league was officially founded on February 2, 1876, but:

“The Boston people argue that, although the League was not in existence at the time Beals retired from baseball, it was agreed, upon its formation, that that all contracts existing between clubs and players should be recognized.”

The newspapers in Wright’s former hometown of Cincinnati weighed in.  The Commercial Gazette encouraged the Boston protest and said Wright should make it “a test case (and) prevent the Chicago Club from playing him during the coming season.”  The Cincinnati Enquirer took the opportunity to accuse Wright of protesting activities he was himself regularly guilty of engaging in:

“The disposition shown by the Boston Club management to create an unpleasantness in the matter of the engagement of Tommy Beals by the Chicago Club, upon the ground that Beals was under some sort of engagement with Boston four or five years ago, has had the effect of recalling some reminiscences calculated to show that the pharisaical kickers of the Hub are in no position to give us the ‘holier than thou’ racket.  In the first place Boston has slept upon its rights, if it ever had any, in the Beals case so long that the matter is outlawed long since, and ought never be raked up at this late day, especially in view of the fact that Chicago acted in good faith and without any suspicion of a cloud upon its title to the services of Beals.

“In the next place Boston had better be repenting for some of its own sins before assuming the role of exhorter towards other folks.  That club has now under contract three players whose engagements will not bear the closest kind of scrutiny.  In 1877 the Boston Club, in the middle of the season, committed an act of piracy on the Lowell Club of which it ought to be ashamed, by jerking (John) Morrill and (Lew) Brown out of the Lowell nine in regular highwayman fashion, both these players being then under contract for the entire season in Lowell…we (also) find that (Jack) Burdock was under contract to Chicago in 1875 and never showed up.  He might have been expelled by Chicago, but was not, and continues an honored and valued member of the Boston outfit.  In 1876, again Thomas Bond was suspended from play and pay by the Hartford Club, of which he was then a member, and in spite of this cloud upon his name and fame, was engaged the following year by Boston, and has been there ever since.”

Morrill, Burdock and Bond were all still members of the Red Stockings, comprising three-fourths of the team’s infield.

The Enquirer also criticized Boston because the team acted to “choke off” an attempt by Hartford Manager Bob Ferguson to bring the allegations which led to Bond’s suspension to light during a league meeting—Bond, during a season-long feud with Ferguson had accused his manager, among other things, of “selling” games.  Bond was suspended by Ferguson on August 21 of 1876 despite posting a 31-13 record for the second place Dark Blues—Bond’s replacement as Hartford’s primary pitcher was Candy Cummings.

Tommy Bond

Tommy Bond

The Enquirer took a final shot at Wright noting that when the league instituted the new rule for 1879 which barred non-playing managers from the bench “Boston squealed because Harry Wright couldn’t enjoy privileges  denied to everybody else, and this year they are playing baby about Beals on grounds equally absurd.”

The Tribune laid out Chicago’s long list of grievances for “plenty of ‘queer’ work in which Boston has been engaged.”  In addition to the incidents mentioned by The Enquirer, The Tribune said in 1877 after Albert Spalding had secured infielder Ezra Sutton for Chicago, “Sutton was worked upon by Boston and went there to play.”

So, according to Boston’s critics the club’s entire 1880 infield had come to the team via questionable circumstances.

The Boston Herald responded:

“It is not to be expected that the Chicago Club will recognize the position of the Boston Club in this matter, and release Beals.  That organization has on more than one occasion, shown its utter contempt for League rules, or in fact, for anything that interferes with its own particular self, and, to expect justice in this case, is not to be thought of.  In the meanwhile, the Boston Club will probably not take any official action in the premises, but let the Chicago Club enjoy all the honor (?) there is in playing such a man.”

After the weeks of allegations, posturing and name-calling in the press, the season began on May 1; Boston never lodged a formal complaint about the signing of Beals.

Chicago cruised to the National League title, spending only one day (after the season’s second game) out of first place.  Beals, rusty from his layoff made little impact for the champions, hitting just .152 in 13 games at second base and in the outfield.  By August, with the fight to defend his signing long forgotten, The Tribune said after a rare Beals start in a 7 to 4 loss to the Worcester Ruby Legs:

“Beals played as though he had never seen a ball-field before…It may well be doubted whether Beals should be permitted to play second base again…any amateur who could be picked at random would be likely to do better both in fielding and batting.  Worcester would have made two or three less runs yesterday if second base had been left vacant altogether, as what time Beals didn’t muff grounders he threw wild and advanced men to bases they would not otherwise have reached.”

Beals was 0 for 3 with three errors that afternoon—for the season he committed 4 errors in thirteen total chances at second for a fielding percentage of .692.

Let go by Chicago at the end of the season, Beals’ professional baseball career was over and he returned to the west.  In 1894 he was elected to one two-year term in the Nevada State Legislature as a Republican representing a district that included the town of Virginia City.  By 1900 he was back in Northern, California, where little is known about his activities.  He died in Colma, California in 1915

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