On March 28, 1907 the New York Giants took the field against the Philadelphia Athletics in the second game of a five-game exhibition series at New Orleans’ Athletic Park.
The umpire was new. Charles Louis “Chief’ Zimmer, after a 19-year career a major league catcher had tried his hand at managing in 1906. His Little Rock Travelers finished last in the Southern Association with a 40-98 record.
The Atlanta Constitution said:
“Zimmer underestimated the strength of the league, and brought men into it who did not have the goods to deliver.”
After Zimmer was dismissed by Little Rock he joined the Southern Association’s umpire staff.
The Giants/Athletics series would be among his first games as a professional umpire.
The Giants won the first game 4 to 3. The Giants scored two runs with two outs in the bottom of the ninth off Jack Coombs for the victory. The Philadelphia Inquirer said:
“Zimmer umpired a god game… (but) the rowdy element in the Giants broke loose frequently, and the Chief had many disputed with some of the men.”
The second game did not go as well. The Inquirer said:
“The Giants were the first at bat, and the first two men were retired. (Art) Devlin and (Cy) Seymour then signaled safely to the outfield, each moving up a base on (Rube) Oldring’s throw…(Frank) Bowerman was then up to the bat. (Eddie) Plank soon had two strikes and one ball on him.”
With a one and two count the Giants claimed Plank balked when he threw to third and picked Devlin off. Zimmer said he didn’t. Roger Bresnahan and Mike Donlin, coaching at first and third, “rushed at Zimmer from the coaching lines and a wordy war ensued.” Manager John McGraw came out of the dugout and ‘a half hour was consumed in ‘beefing.’”
Zimmer finally ordered McGraw back to the bench and:
“Play was about to start again when a remark made by McGraw caused Zimmer to order McGraw off the grounds. The New York manager refused to go, and a lively tilt between him and Zimmer took place, the entire New York gang surrounding the “Chief” in an effort to bulldoze him. But Zimmer was not to be frightened.”
New Orleans police officers came out on the field as Zimmer declared the game a forfeit after a half inning.
McGraw said his team would not play in the game scheduled two days later if Zimmer was the umpire. The Inquirer said Athletics Captain Harry Davis “informed McGraw that inasmuch as the giants had turned down Zimmer as the umpire the series might as well be called off.” New Orleans Pelicans owner Charlie Frank also threatened to bar the Giants from Athletic Park.
On March 30 McGraw arrived at Athletic Park with only nine players consisting of “nearly all the youngsters in camp.”
With both teams on the field, Zimmer approached the Giants dugout and asked for the team’s lineup and was told the Giants would not play if he were not replaced as umpire. Zimmer announced that the Giants had again forfeited and the Giants left the ballpark. Frank’s New Orleans Pelicans took their place and pitcher Mark “Moxie” Manuel defeated the Athletics and Rube Waddell 4 to 2.
The series was over.
Before the Giants left New Orleans that evening, McGraw confronted Thomas Shibe, business manager of the Athletics and son of team president Ben Shibe, in the lobby of the St. Charles Hotel. The Inquirer said:
“Manager McGraw backed up the entire New York team, insulted Thomas Shibe…by calling him vile names. McGraw alleged that Tom had informed several persons that he had heard McGraw using insulting language to Umpire Zimmer… pursuing the same cowardly tactics which have made him famous over all the base ball circuit (McGraw)did not keep within reach of Shibe. He kept well within the group of rowdies which make up his team, and thus being forfeited from any attack from Tom, naturally was as brave as a lion.”
The paper said McGraw disappeared from the scene as soon as members of the Athletics arrived in the lobby.
Frank Leonardo Hough, baseball writer for The Inquirer, took McGraw to task for his actions, and charged the New York press with allowing McGraw and Giants’ management to intimidate them out of “writing the truth” about the team:
“The press of no other city in the Union would stand for the tactics employed by the Giants. Such a condition of affairs would be impossible in Boston or in Philadelphia. There are any number of thoroughly equipped baseball reporters in New York City—reporters who know the game from A to Z, who, if permitted to write the game as they see it, would be the peers of any bunch of critics the country over. But, unfortunately they are under an awful handicap. Let them criticize the Giants to the latter’s disadvantage and their occupation is gone. They will be made to feel the displeasure of the august heads of the Giants by being debarred from the Polo Grounds.
“Now and then a paper will stand by its representative, but only in rare cases. Charley Dryden, Sam Crane, Joe Vila, Eddie Hurst and numerous others were barred from the grounds.”
Hough said some reporters “stand on their manhood, and take up other fields of newspaper endeavors. But the majority of them, less favored perhaps, cannot afford to fight with the bread and butter, and consequently they are compelled to go along, glossing over the Giants’ bad breaks or bad playing as lightly as possible, while others crook the pregnant hinges of the knee until they become almost hunchbacked and ignore everything and anything that might reflect upon the Giants. That is the reason why the New Yorkers are the best uninformed baseball public in the country.”
No disciplinary action was taken against McGraw; Giants owner John T. Brush was said to have reimbursed Charlie Frank for $1,000 in lost revenue. The Giants finished in fourth place in 1907, the Athletics third, as the Chicago Cubs ran away with the National League pennant, beating the second place Pittsburgh Pirates by 17 games.
Hough continued to write about baseball for The Inquirer despite being an investor in the Athletics (Hough and Sam “Butch” Jones of The Associated Press each held a 12 ½ percent stake in the team beginning in 1901—Jones became a full-time Athletics employee in 1906, Hough remained a sportswriter during the twelve years he held his stock). He sold his stake to Connie Mack in 1912 and died in 1913.
Chief Zimmer’s tenure as an umpire did not improve much after his first experience in New Orleans. He opened the season as a member of the Southern association staff, but on July 9 announced his resignation. His final game was on July 13 in Nashville.