Lost Pictures–1924 House of David

26 Apr

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A 1924 promotional photo of the House of David baseball team, from the Israelite House of David, the Adventist sect based in Benton Harbor, Michigan.  The photo was distributed to Midwest newspapers during the barnstorming team’s tour that season.

Promotional materials promised, “Some wonderful baseball players are on the House of David team,” including Jess Tally, “The bearded Babe Ruth.”  And “Cookie Hannaford the phenomenal first sacker.  “The team claimed Tally had hit 34 home runs in 132 games in 1923, and 11 through the team’s first 31 games of 1924.

 

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Tally

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Hannaford

The team always claimed that several members of the club, “Rejected major league jobs, refusing to clip their whiskers.”

Dick Jess, who had managed Babe Ruth’s 1921 barnstorming tour, was the promoter for the House of David tour, and described the team as:

“Bewhiskered, barberless, shaveless baseballists, and foes of the barber trust.”

“I Haven’t Heard of any Club Owners Refusing to accept the Patronage of Colored People”

24 Apr

Damon Runyon called Dan Parker, “The most consistency brilliant of all sportswriters.”

Parker wrote a column and was sports editor of The New York Daily Mirror from 1926 until the paper folded in 1963.

 

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Dan Parker

 

Parker often used his column, “Broadway Bugle” to agitate for change in sports.  He crusaded against fixed wrestling matches, disreputable “Racetrack touts,” and the influence of organized crime in boxing—these columns led to several investigations, the disbanding of the corrupt International Boxing Club, and several criminal convictions, including Frankie Carbo, a member of the Lucchese crime family.

Parker was also an early crusader for the integration of professional baseball.  In 1933, Parker lent his name and influence to The Pittsburgh Courier’s “Crusade for comments from baseball celebrities” who supported integration.

Parker wrote to Chester Washington, The Courier’s sports editor:

“I don’t see why the mere accident of birth should prove a bar to the Negro baseball players who aspire to places in organized baseball.  I haven’t heard of any club owners refusing to accept the patronage of colored people. Rutgers didn’t draw any color line when Paul Robeson proved himself the best man for the place he was fighting for on the football team.  The All-American selectors didn’t go into a huddle about Paul’s complexion when they picked him for a place on the mythical eleven, football’s highest honor.

 

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Paul Robeson

 

“The U.S. Olympic Committee didn’t consider Eddie Tolan’s or Ralph Metcalfe’s lineage when they were picking the strongest sprinting team possible for last summer’s games.  If the Negro athlete is accepted without question in college football and amateur track and field events, which are among the higher types of sports, I fail to see why baseball, which is as much a business as it is a sport, should draw the line.

“In my career as a sports writer, I have never encountered a colored athlete who didn’t conduct himself in a gentlemanly manner and who didn’t have a better idea of sportsmanship than many of his white brethren.  By all means, let the Negro ballplayer play in organized baseball.  As a kid, I saw a half dozen Cuban players break into organized baseball in the old Connecticut League.  I refer to players like (Armando) Marsans, (Rafael) Alameda, (Al) Cabrera and others (Almeida, Marsans, and Cabrera played with the New Britain Perfectos in the Connecticut State League in 1910). I recall the storm of protest from the One Hundred Per Centers at that time but I also recall that all the Cubans conducted themselves in such a manner that they reflected nothing but credit on themselves and those who favored admitting them to baseball’s select circle.

“The only possible objection I can find to lifting the color line in baseball is that the Yankees might then lose their great mascot.  I refer to my good friend, (Bill) “Bojangles” Robinson, who chased away the Yankee jinx last season with his famous salt-shaker. The Yanks didn’t draw the color line on their World Series special to Chicago for Bill accompanied us on the trip.  On the way back, at every town where we stopped for a few minutes, the crowd hollered for Babe Ruth. Babe would make an appearance and then introduce Bojangles who would tell a few stories, go into his dance and make the fans forget about baseball as he ‘shuffled off to Buffalo.’

 

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Bill “Bojangles” Robinson

 

“I read your paper every week and find your sports pages well edited and thoroughly enjoyable.”

Parker’s letter was released shortly after Heywood Broun of The New York World-Telegram made waves at the 1933 Baseball Writers Association dinner when he said:

“I can see no reason why Negroes should not come into the National and American Leagues.”

Broun and Parker were joined by another prominent sports writer, Gordon Mackay, who had been sports editor at three Philadelphia papers—The Enquirer, The Press and The Public Ledger—who wrote to The Courier:

“I believe that there are scores of Negroes who would make good in the big minors and in the majors.  Take some of the men I used to know—John Henry Lloyd, Rube Foster, Big (Louis) SantopPhil Cockrell, Biz Mackey and others—why, Connie Mack or the Phillies would have been strengthened with any of them on the best teams they ever had.”

The Courier’s Washington was hopeful that the sentiments of three powerful sportswriters would have some impact:

“Fair-minded and impartial writers like Broun, Mackey, and Parker can do much towards breaking down the barricaded doors of opportunity to capable colored ballplayers which lead into the greatest American game’s charmed circle.  And we doff our derby to ‘em.”

“I Saw this Same Proud Bird of Freedom, the American Eagle, Soaring Aloft”

21 Apr

“Land and Water” was a British magazine that existed in various incarnations from the early 1860s until 1920.

In 1874, the magazine opined on the Boston Red Stockings and Athletics of Philadelphia crossed the Atlantic to play baseball in England:

“The Yankees have come over to show Englishmen what baseball really is in its pure, unadulterated state.  America swears by baseball, and when America swears the earth totters.  You want, I admit, to see the Yankees at work before you can understand the science and niceties of the sport.  They are wonderful in all reality when they are stripped and ready for the fray.  Baseball encourages fielding more than anything, and the Yankees are perfect marvels in the matter of fielding.  Kittens are dull and apathetic by comparison if you estimate their playfulness.”

The British were impressed with the way the Americans practiced:

“You see them all over the ground before the real business begins in different groups, all at exercise of some sort.  The first thing that strikes you will be their skill in catching, and their extraordinary aptitude for fielding and returning the ball smartly, in whatever position they may be placed, or in whatever fashion it comes.  You see no respect for persons, for the ball is thrown as hard as ever it can be hurled, and yet, though the distance is only a few yards, it is caught like lightening, and there is the action for return as the game were in progress and one of the bases empty.”

The magazine asked Cricketer Tom Brown his opinion of the American game:

“Cricket is more than a game, it is an institution, and baseball will never supersede or do the slightest injury to our own natural sport in any way.”

In spite of Brown’s assessment, the magazine conceded that baseball would “prove a pleasant relief after some of our own British amusements.”

 

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A “Harper’s Weekly” woodcut from the 1874 tour.

 

And, the magazine said, the relative speed of a baseball game might appeal to some British fans:

“It is not everyone that can afford to spare three days or one whole day for sport, however much his inclinations may lead him. It is this drawback alone prevents the acclimatization of cricket in America, and it is by a parity of reasoning the absence of all the waste of time that makes baseball such an enthusiasm over the Atlantic.  You will have to see a game before you can appreciate its advantage.  You may come to scoff, but in all probability, you will go away to pray.  A game at baseball rarely, if ever, exceeds two hours in duration.”

But, watching the exhibition would be nothing close to experiencing a game in Boston or Philadelphia, the magazine said:

“A contest between Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire at cricket is perhaps the nearest approach in an English way, but the roar that proceeds from every Yorkshire throat when a Nottingham wicket falls at Sheffield, is a mere whisper compared with the hubbub that attends a baseball game of interest from the first ball pitched to until the last strike.”

The game was explained to readers by comparing it to cricket:

“The positions of pitcher and catcher are closely akin to those of our bowler and wicket-keeper, though the latter is more of a combination of wicket-keeper and long-stop. Much of the success of the nine depends on the manner in which these two posts are filled, as to succeed they should thoroughly understand each other, and be well acquainted with each other’s movements…A fieldsman at baseball must have good nerves, and not be easily disconcerted.  He is especially to be perfect, or else every mistake is registered to his disadvantage.  It is without s doubt an excellent plan, but the records of the game are pitiless, and every error is registered by the scorer with the same merciless severity and strict impartiality.”

As for the game itself, the magazine’s correspondent said:

It was on Thursday afternoon last (July 30) that I saw this same proud bird of freedom, the American Eagle, soaring aloft. It was the first appearance of the American champions on English soil; and for one, I was curious to see the Yankees disport themselves in England at their own pastime…(the teams) were wonderfully well matched, too, in every way the competing nines; and the wonderful aptitude and agility shown by the catcher, the unerring accuracy displayed by all fieldsmen, and the general dash and briskness of the play all around, elicited frequent applause.”

The Athletics won the game 14-11 in 10 innings, in front of a crowd of just 500.  The magazine’s correspondent was too polite to mention the small crowd:

“Towards the end, we had got thoroughly excited, and the interest was universal.  It may be that we should have enjoyed it more throughout had we only understood, some of us, the state of the game…Nevertheless, there was but one feeling amongst us, that the Americans had shown us some excellent sport, and taught us, unintentionally perhaps, more than one useful lesson.  There was such backing up, as one would like to see in every cricket match if there was only a chance.  There was an amount of discipline, too, among the players that would have gratified the most inveterate martinet, and an air of unselfishness among the players that was devoid of anything like the taint of personal gratification.  It may be that baseball will show up conspicuously some of the faults of our English game. If so the American invasion will not have been in vain.”

 

“It’s a Nice Game for a Poet or Orator”

18 Apr

Marcus C. “Brick” Pomeroy, publisher and editor of The La Crosse (WI) Democrat was no fan of President Abraham Lincoln—a Copperhead, who opposed the Civil War and desired an immediate peace settlement with the Confederacy—he called the president “fungus from the corrupt womb of bigotry and fanaticism.”

 

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Brick Pomeroy

 

After the Civil War, he briefly turned his attention to baseball.  In 1867, he wrote in The Democrat about his experience with the game:

“The doctor said we need exercise.  Doctors know.  He told us to join base ball, we joined.  Bought a book of instructions, and for five days studied it wisely, if not too well.  Then we bought a sugar scoop cap, a red belt, a green shirt, yellow trousers, pumpkin colored shoes, a paper collar and a purple necktie, and with a lot of other delegates, moved gently to the ground.

“There were two nines.  These nines were antagonists.  The ball is a pretty little drop of softness, the size of a goose egg, and five degrees harder than a brick.  The two nines play against each other.  It is a quiet game, much like chess, only a little more chase than chess.

“There was an umpire.  His position is a hard one.  He sits on a box and yells ‘fowl.’ His duty is severe

“I took the bat.  It is a murderous plaything, descended from Pocahontas to the head of John Smith.  The man in front of me was a pitcher.  He was a nice pitcher, but he sent the balls hot.  The man behind me was a catcher.  He caught it too!

“The umpire said ‘play.’ It is the most radical play I know of, this base ball—Sawing cord wood in moonlight rambles beside base ball.  So the pitcher sent a ball towards me.  It looked pretty coming, so I let it come.  Then he sent another.  I hit it with the club and hove it gently upward.  Then I started to walk to the first base.  The ball lit in the pitcher, or his hands, and somebody said he caught a fly.  Alas, poor fly! I walked leisurely toward the base.  Another man took the bat.  I turned to see how he was making it, and a mule kicked me in the cheek.  The man said it was the ball.  It felt like a mule, and I reposed on the grass.  The ball went on!

“Pretty soon there were two more flies, and three of us flew out.  The other nine came in, and us nine went out.—This was better.  Just as I was standing on my dignity in the left field, a hot ball as they called it, came skyrocketing toward me.  My captain yelled ‘take it.’

“I hastened gently forward to where the ball was aiming to descend. I have a good eye to measure distances and saw at a glance where the little aerolite was to light.  I put up my hands.  How sweetly the ball descended. Everybody looked—I felt something warm in my eye!  ‘Muffin!’ yelled ninety fellers, ‘muffin be damned! It’s a canon ball!’  For three days I had two pounds of raw beef on that eye, and yet I paineth!

“Then I wanted to go home, but my gentle captain said ‘nay.’  So I stayed and stayed.  Pretty soon it was my strike.  ‘Brick to the bat!’ yelled the umpire.  I went, but not all serene as my wont.  The pitcher sent in one hip high.  I missed it.  He sent in another neck high. It struck me in the gullet.  ‘Fowl,’ yelled the umpire.  He sent in the ball again.  This time I took it square and sent it down the right field, through a parlor window—a kerosene lamp, and rip up against the head of an infant who was quietly taking it’s nap in his mother’s arms  Then I slung the bat and meandered forth to the first base.  I heard high words and looked.  When I slung the bat I had with it broken the jaw of the umpire and was fined 10 cents.”

 

1870

An 1870 Woodcut by Rogers and McCartney of Boston, which would have been an appropriate illustration for Pomeroy’s article

 

Pomeroy said the game was as dangerous to spectators as players:

“The game went on.  I liked it.  It is so much fun to run from base to base  just in time to be put out, or to chase a ball three-fourths of a mile down hill, while all the spectators yell ‘muffin!’ or ‘go round a dozen times!’ Base ball is a sweet little game. When it came my turn to bat again, I noticed everybody moved back about ten rods!  The umpire retreated twelve rods.  He was timid.  The pitcher sent ‘em in hot. Hot balls in time of war are good; but I don’t like ‘em too hot for fun.  After a while I got a fair clip at it., and you bet it went, cutting the daisies down the right field.  A fat man with his dog sat in the shade of an oak enjoying the game. The ball broke one leg of the dog and landed like a runaway engine in the corporosity of the fat man.  He was taken home to die.”

Back on defense, Pomeroy said:

“Then I went on a double quick to the field and tried to stop a hot ball.  It came toward me from the bat at the rate of nine miles a minute. I put up my hands, the ball went sweetly singing on its way with all of the skin from my palms with it.

“More raw beef!”

Pomeroy summed up his experience playing ball:

“That was an eventful chap who first invented baseball.  It’s such fun.  I’ve played five games, and this is the glowing result:

Twenty-seven dollars paid out for things.

One bunged eye, badly bunged

One broken little finger

One bump on the head.

A sore jaw.

One thumb dislocated.

Two sprained ankles

One dislocated shoulder, from trying to throw a ball a thousand yards

Two hands raw from trying to stop hot balls

A lump the size of a hornet’s nest on my left hip, well back.

A nose sweetly jammed, and five uniforms spoiled from rolling in the dirt at the bases.

“I have played two weeks, and don’t think I like the game.  There is not a square inch on, in or under me but aches.  I sleep nights dreaming of hot balls, ‘flys, and ‘fouls,’ and descending skyrockets.’  I never worked so hard since Ruth stole wheat, and never was so lame since the burning of Luther.

“I am proud of my proficiency in the game. It’s fine exercise—a little easier than running through a thrashing machine, and not much either.  It’s a nice game for a poet or orator—‘twill make one sore beyond all accounts.

“I’ve looked over the scorer’s book, and find that in two weeks I’ve broken seven bats, made one tally, broken one umpire’s jaw, broken ten windows in adjoining houses, killed a baby, broke the leg of a dog, and mortally injured the bread basket of a spectator, knocked five other players out of time by slinging my bat, and knocked the waterfall from a school marm who was standing twenty rods from the field, a quiet looker on.

“I’ve used up fifteen bottles of arnica liniment, five bottles of lotions, half a raw beef, and am so full of pain that it seems as if my bones were but broken bats, and my legs the limbs of a dead horse chestnut, instead of the once elegant trotters.

“P.S.  All ladies in favor of ‘universal suffering’ are invited to join our club”

After his brief interest in baseball, Pomeroy moved from Wisconsin to New York, to Chicago, and back to New York where he published various newspapers.  In 1880 he was president of a company that proposed to dig a tunnel through the Rocky Mountains; the company sold $7 million worth of stock, but eventually went bankrupt before and work on the project was begun.

He died in 1896.

Glory Thieves

6 Apr

In 1958, two men, one who had just died in a Detroit rooming house, and another, who was living in Dayton, Ohio, claimed to be former major league pitcher Jack Rowan. Rowan played for the Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs, Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies over parts of seven seasons from 1906-1914.

Each man had supporters who claimed he was the “real” Rowan.

The Dayton Rowan died in 1966—the question of who was the “real” Rowan died with him.

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Jack Rowan

In the end, one man had his greatest achievement stolen from him, and the other was the vilest of thieves; stealing an achievement and a legacy from someone who had earned it.

When someone erroneously claims military service it is called stolen valor. Given the role of baseball in the American fabric, for one to claim to have been a professional ballplayer when they did not achieve that status makes that person a glory thief.

In “Shoeless Joe,” W.P. Kinsella introduced fiction’s best known glory thief. Eddie “Kid” Sissions claims to be “The oldest living Chicago Cub,” while he actually had only an obscure minor league career. The book’s hero, Ray Kinsella, gives Scissions a pass when his lie is discovered:

“I imagine Eddie Scissons has decided, ‘If I can’t have what I want most in life, then I’ll pretend I had it in the past, and talk about and live it and relive it until it is real and solid and I can hold it in my heart like a precious child. Once I’ve experienced it so completely, no one can ever take it away from me.’”

Kinsella and his protagonist were too forgiving.

Countless are the number of times I have had someone who never came closer than a seat in the stands at a professional game tell me they played pro ball.  More incredibly, the phenomenon persists during a time when claims of a pro career can be verified within seconds.

Over many years in Chicago I ran into dozens of claimants to a professional baseball career; mostly barstool jockeys operating during a period when everyone didn’t have easy access to the internet in their purse or pocket. There were also many imposters–for some reason utility infielders were particularly popular–I met a fake Sammy Esposito, Craig Grebeck, Paul Popovich, Alan Bannister, and Mick Kelleher among others.

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The real Sammy Esposito

When I was living in Las Vegas, the old men who sat together drinking at one of the local’s casinos told me I had to meet their friend who, they said, had a cup of coffee with the Red Sox in the mid 1960s—even said he roomed with Rico Petrocelli on the road. Their hero never seemed to be able to come over when I was around—and of course, a quick search of Baseball Reference confirmed he never played professional baseball at any level. But he has regaled two generations of credulous Las Vegans with stories of his time with the Red Sox.

And there was the contractor who told me he had played in the Royals organization in the 1980s; two basic questions about the club’s affiliates during those seasons revealed him to be a glory thief—he hadn’t bothered to do the most basic research to make his claim credible. If his ball playing ability was commensurate with the quality of his work, it is likely he never played at a level higher than Little League.

It is also very possible the middle-aged guy with a gut and a story about his professional career at your softball game is a glory thief as well. If you are playing with a former professional, you know it.

I worked at a television station in Chicago during the late 90s and played 12” softball with the morning anchorman—Mike Pomeranz. Pomeranz pitched four seasons in the minors, was once traded for Lloyd McClendon, and is now a studio host and announcer for the Padres on Fox Sports San Diego.

My one vivid memory of softball with Pomeranz was playing first base—Mike, a southpaw was playing third—he fielded a ground ball and effortlessly and flat-footed put the ball in the pocket of my glove. I walked around with a handful of ice for the rest of the day. He didn’t need to tell anyone he played pro ball.

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Mike Pomeranz

I asked John Thorn, Official Historian of Major League Baseball for his take on what kind of person pretends to have had a professional baseball career:

“Calling Dr. Freud. Self-aggrandizement always reflects an undersized ego and uncertain sense of self, as if life were to be lived from the outside.”

Dr. Freud was not available for a second opinion but Dr. Rachel Annunziato was. Annunziato, associate professor of Psychology at Fordham University said:

“I would say given how easily such claims could be debunked these days, there might be concerns about significant mental illness—delusions–and perhaps antisocial personality characteristics which can include lying and manipulating.”

Dr. Annunziato allows that for a thief like Kinsella’s “Kid” Scissions, a professional, but one who didn’t make it to the big leagues the misrepresentation is mainly tied to ego:

“I suspect too that many were ‘close’ and perhaps have modified their story over time to protect (and) bolster self-esteem.”

And, finally, because my experience with glory thieves has been limited to bar stools and social situations, I asked someone who has dealt with them professionally to tell me about his experiences with them.

Bill Deane was Senior Research Associate for the Baseball Hall of Fame from 1986-1994, and shared several great stories:

“I’d often be asked to verify that someone played minor league baseball—typically a family member or friend of the questioner. As often as not, I’d find there was no evidence of Grandpa having played professional baseball at any level, and have to come up with a tactful way of telling them so.”

Deane heard many stories about another would-be former Boston player while at the Hall of Fame:

“I frequently got calls about a Sal Rizzo, who claimed to have played for the Red Sox and set some sort of record for triple plays. The calls came from people who were considering a business venture with Rizzo. He must have been a smooth talker, because when I told them there was no such person who played major or even minor league ball, they were sure I was mistaken.”

Another of Deane’s encounters seems to fit Dr. Annunziato’s assessment that some glory thieves might be delusional:

“Another ‘former major leaguer,’ James Durler, wrote frequently, requesting copies of his big league records so he could apply for a pension. The man said he had played in the majors between 1967 and 1970, and listed his birth date (December 3, 1954), teams, positions, and other details of his career. After checking fruitlessly for any evidence that he played in the majors or even the minors, it dawned on me that the guy would have had to be 12 years old when he began his career. I wrote him back with my findings, but he continued to write every month or so, each time listing different teams with which he played and different details about his career, but always the same birth date and same range of playing years. My responses got more and more sarcastic over the years, before I finally let go of my need to answer every letter.”

More recently Keane met someone else claiming to be a former Red Sox; in this case, even the man’s wife wasn’t quite sure of the truth:

“I had a face-to-face experience with an impostor. A man moved into the Cooperstown area in 2003, and told the Town Clerk (who happened to be my wife, Pam) that he was Chuck Schilling, who played for the Red Sox from 1961-65. He said he had been Carl Yastrzemski’s roommate and told all kinds of stories about his career. Pam told me about the encounter, and I thought an interview with Schilling would make a great story for the local newspapers. I researched his career thoroughly so I would be prepared, and then I happened into him when I visited the Town building and he was there again. Pam introduced us.

“Chuck seemed older than he ought to have been, and didn’t look much like the guy I researched, but of course he’d aged 40 years since then. He went into a self-deprecating routine about his career, and how he was such good friends with Yaz. I got suspicious when I asked him a couple of questions he should have known the answer to, but didn’t, such as if he remembered his first home run. When your first big league homer is a grand slam off the best curveball pitcher–Camilo Pascual–of your generation, and part of a six-RBI day, I think you’d remember it. So, I figured either the guy is a fraud, or he has no memory, either way making for a bad interview.

“I phoned him to set one up anyway, and got his wife. He was outside, but she asked me ‘Are you sure you’ve got the right guy?’ She said that he sometimes claims he played for the Red Sox, other times is tight-lipped about it. But she also said her husband was born in 1927 (the ballplayer was born in ’37), and spells his name ‘Schelling.’ I guess he knew the jig was up by the time he got to the phone. ‘Listen,’ he said, ‘I’m not the Chuck Schilling who played ball, I was just kidding.’”

Whichever one of the two Jack Rowan’s was the real deal, he probably would not have gotten the joke.

A Hot Stove Hiatus

14 Nov

hotstove

A  cartoon from The Chicago Inter Ocean on the eve of the 1913 American League meeting.

As the Hot Stove League commences, Baseball History Daily will be taking a brief hiatus while I relocate.  I hope to be back posting by Black Friday.  In the meantime, please follow me on Twitter @BBHistoryDaily, I will continue to Tweet while on the road over the next couple of weeks.

Thanks to everyone who reads, comments and contacts.  See you in a few weeks.

One Minute Talk: Sherry Magee

9 Nov

In 1916, The Newspaper Enterprise Association ran a series of brief articles called “One Minute Talks with Ballplayers.”

Sherry Magee, Boston Braves outfielder attributed the success of his team’s pitching staff and his own .241 average to Braves Field

Sherry Magee

Sherry Magee

“No team can hit on the Boston National League grounds.  The fence is so far from the plate and the slope so great from the infield to the fence that the batter can just about see the top of the fence in centerfield.

“If the fence was 20 feet higher it would be a great field for batsmen, but as it is now there is nothing but the sky for a background.  There isn’t even a building in back of the wall in sight of the batter.  How is a batter going to hit a brand new white ball looking into a skyline of the same color?”

“It also is almost impossible to gauge any kind of a ball as there is no background of any description.”

Magee’s .241 average in 1916 was the  worst performance as a big leaguer–his only lower average was as a part-time player with the 1919 Cincinnati Reds in his final season–he ended his career with a .291 average over 16 seasons.

One Minute Talk: Pat Ragan

7 Nov

In 1916, The Newspaper Enterprise Association ran a series of brief articles called “One Minute Talks with Ballplayers.”

Pat Ragan talked about his Boston Braves teammate, Tom Hughes.

Pat Ragan

Pat Ragan

Hughes won just 19 games over parts of five seasons in the major leagues from 1906-1914, then, in 1915 and 1916, he won 32, including a 16-3 mark in 1916.  His success was attributed to doctoring the ball.

“(Hughes) is accused of scratching the surface of the ball with his fingernails, but that’s all bunk.”

While Ragan conceded that “No pitcher likes to hurl a pure white ball, “he said that wasn’t Hughes’ secret:

Tom Hughes

Tom Hughes

“There is no kick about the way Tom pitches.  He simply has mastered something new and I doubt if there are other fellows who can do with knuckle clutch pitch what he can.  He pitches it as a knuckleball partly overhand and partly side arm.

“The great wiggle it takes or the quick break is due to the way he delivers it and the number of fingers he uses when he throws the ball.”

After his two seasons as a 16-game winner, Hughes was hampered by arm injuries and won just five more games in 1917 and 1918.

Chance versus Mack II

2 Nov

After explaining some of Frank Chance’s best virtues in a 1910 article in The Chicago Herald, Johnny Evers got down to explaining why he felt his manager was superior to the manager of the Cubs’ World Series opponent:

Johnny Evers

Johnny Evers

Connie Mack, and my information comes from men in the American League, directs the play of his team by a series of signals given from the bench.

“We will say, for instance, that a Philadelphia player reaches first.  From that moment he has two things to do.  First, he must watch the pitcher.  And with a man like (Mordecai) Brown on the slab, this alone is sufficient to keep a man busy.  In addition to this, he must also watch Connie Mack, who, by a signal, given with a scorecard, by the crossing of his legs or something of the sort, tells him that he must steal on the next ball, that the hit and run will be tried, or signals some other play.  That method keeps the base runner’s attention divided between the bench and the pitcher.  He dares not take his eyes off of either.

“With Chance it is different.  He has his signals so perfected that all the base runner must do is to watch the man following.

Frank Chance

Frank Chance

“Say that Cub player reaches first.  When the next batter goes to the plate he has been instructed as to what is expected of him and also what is expected of the base runner.

“And it becomes his duty to signal the man on the bases concerning his duty.

“Maybe Chance has told the man going up to try the hit and run on the second ball.  The batter slips the signal to the man on the base…And since (the batter) and the pitcher are on  a line, you can see that the whole process is simplified.”

Evers said Chance’s system was better because “it makes it all the more difficult” for opponents to steal signs.

He said his manager was also not rigid in his orders, which “won him the enduring friendship of his men.”  And Chance rarely sent players to the plate “with ironclad instruction.”

Evers said:

“He tells you to do the unexpected, and that if you believe you can catch the enemy unawares to do it.  That is the reason that the Cubs ‘pull off’ plays.”

Evers said of managers in general:

“I have played under the playing manager and under the man who manages from the bench, and I can’t for the life of me see where the latter is nearly as effective as the playing leader.

(Frank) Selee was a bench manager and a good one in his prime.  Yet he was never part of the play as Chance is, and the reason was because he was not on the field.  Even after the ball is hit the playing manager has an opportunity of instructing his players.

“He can tell where to make the play.  It’s utterly impossible for a bench manager to do this.  Again, the playing manager at a critical stage of the game, and especially if he is playing an infield position, as Chance does, can issue instructions to the pitcher, telling him what and where to pitch.  He can do this in a natural manner and without attracting the attention of the crowd.”

Evers noted that for Mack to do the same:

Connie Mack

Connie Mack

“(H)e would have to stop the game and send some player to the diamond.  That procedure never did any pitcher any good.

“Say that there is a man on second or third and that a dangerous man is up.  I have heard Chance tell the pitcher to make the batter hit a bad one, and if the man at the plate refused that it would be alright if he was passed.  Mack could not do this.  It would be too complicated for signals.  About all he could do would be to signal the pitcher to pass the man.

“Connie Mack may have excellent judgment in the selection of his pitchers and in appraising the value of his men, but I am confident that he has nothing on Manager Chance in this department of the game.

“The Chicago man is adept at picking the man who is ‘right.’  Time and again I have known the fellows to pick a certain man to pitch and Chance would select some other.  But he usually picked the right one, and there is absolutely no doubt in my mind but that he will pick the right ones in the big series.”

The bench manager beat the playing manager in the 1910 series;  Mack and the Athletics beat Chance and the Cubs four games to one.

Chance versus Mack

31 Oct

On the eve of the 1910 World Series, Chicago Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers made the case in The Chicago Herald that his manager was better than the manager of their American League opponent:

Johnny Evers,

Johnny Evers,

“It is but natural that I should favor Chance.  Just the same sentiment alone does not sway me when I say that he will outwit Connie Mack and that his managerial ability will be one of the greatest assets of the Cubs.

“Chance is without an equal in putting fight into a team.  Here is a concrete example of his ability to fight against odds.  Incidentally, it throws a mighty interesting sidelight into our fight for the pennant of 1908.

“In the latter part of the season, we were playing in Philadelphia.  We lost a game which seemed to put us hopelessly out of the race.”

After losing 2 to 1 to the Phillies on September 18, the Cubs dropped 4 and ½ games behind the league-leading New York Giants.

“In those days we were riding to and from the grounds in carriages and we were pretty thoroughly licked that evening.

“We didn’t have a thing to say, for it seemed that our last hope had vanished and that we could not possibly get into the World Series.

“I think it was (Joe) Tinker who finally broke the silence.  ‘Well, cap, we are done and we might as well celebrate our losing tonight,’ he said.

“Chance thought a few minute.  ‘No, we won’t,’ he answered.  ‘Boys, we have been pretty good winners.  Now let’s show the people that we can be good losers.  Let’s show then that we never give up; that we are never beaten.  Let’s show then we play as hard when we lose as when we win, and that we fight for the pure love of fighting, whether it means victory or defeat.’

“Well, sir, you can’t imagine how that cheered us.  We did fight and the baseball world knows that we won.”

Frank Chance

Frank Chance

The Cubs went 13-2 after that loss to the Phillies, setting the stage for the October 8 game with the Giants to decide the pennant—the replay of the September 23, Merkle’s boner game:

“Chance’s ability as a fighter is not his only asset, for he mixes shrewdness with his fighting.

“And to my mind, he never gave a better illustration of his shrewdness than he did on that memorable afternoon that we met the giants in that single game.”

Evers said “a scheme had been framed up to beat” the Cubs, and when the team was six minutes into their allotted 20 minute of batting practice:

(John) McGraw came up with bat and ball. We were told that we had been given all the time that was ours and would have to quit.  Well, we were careful to find out just how long we had been batting, and Manager Chance then went up to protest.

Joe McGinnity, the old pitcher, shoved him from the plate and struck him on the chest with a bat.  The first impulse of Chance was to strike back.  He restrained himself, and, looking the old pitcher squarely in the eye, he told him that he would smash his nose the first time they met outside the ballpark.

Joe McGinnity

Joe McGinnity

“Chance returned to the bench and we talked it over.  Chance guessed the scheme in an instant, and within a few hours what we suspected became a fact.  McGinnity was there to invite an attack.  Had Chance fought him, a policeman would have been called and both men would have been escorted from the field.  The Giants would have lost a man they had no intention of losing, while the Cubs would have lost their manager as well as their first baseman, and the team would have been demoralized.”

Evers said Chance’s restraint “gave me a better insight into his real character than anything I ever witnessed before.”

Evers continues making his case for Chance on Wednesday.