“He was a Rube Waddell, a Cy Young”

22 Sep

In 1905, Napoleon Lajoie told a story to a reporter for The Cleveland News about “a wizard in the person of a pitcher who applied for a job in Philadelphia<’ when Lajoie played for the Phillies in 1899:

Napoleon Lajoie

“We were out for morning practice one day when a tall, angular, awkward man, who looked more like a sailor than an athlete, gained admittance to the park and asked permission to work with us.”

Lajoie said the man was sent to the outfield and “did fairly well catching fungoes;” he then asked to pitch.

“Big (Ed) Delahanty made two or three swings at the twisters y=the stranger served up to him, and then he turned around to me: ‘Nap, that fellow’s a ringer,’ he said. We all laughed at Del’s remark, but the laugh didn’t last. I was as helpless before him that day as I am nowadays before Jack Chesbro’s spitball, when it is worked right. Duff Cooley was mad all over because he couldn’t hit the new-fangled curves.”

Delahanty

Lajoie said when he stood behind the man as he pitched, he:

“(W)atched in open-mouthed wonder the zigzag, round-the-corner, hide-and-seek curves he pitched against the grandstand. It was hard to tell whether you were on a ballfield or in the delirium tremens ward of an inebriate hospital.”

He said he asked the man what he did for work:

“’Oh, most anything,’ he said ‘Anything that will earn me bread and butter and a place to sleep. Help load ships, sweep crossings—anything.’”

Lajoie said the man was told he could “earn $500 or $600 a month.”

He said he invited the man out the next day to meet manager Bill Shettsline.

“He was there at the appointed time and showed Shetts his paces. (Bill) Bernhard, (Red) Donahiue and the other pitchers looked on him with voiceless astonishment. He was a Rube Waddell, a Cy Young, a John Clarkson, a Charles Radbourn and Eddie Beaton [sic, Beatin], and a Clark Griffith combined in one.

“Shettsline told him to come to the office the next day and signa contract. That night we all had dreams of the pennant and of the consternation the new pitcher’s debut would create in the ranks of the other clubs.”

But it was not to be.

“He disappeared as suddenly as he appeared and as completely as if he had jumped into the muddy waters of the Schuylkill. Detectives hired by the club hunted high and low for him, and we even advertised in the papers, but we got no trace of him whatever.

“And never before and never since have I seen such a marvelous exhibition of masterful pitching as that unknown man in shirtsleeves and overalls gave that day in the presence of the most famous hitting team ever organized.”

Fred Clarke: “How I Win”

17 Sep

“Hit and hustle.

“The whole secret of winning is contained in those two words.”

So said Pittsburgh Pirates manager Fred Clarke, as part of a series of syndicated articles which asked some of baseball’s biggest stars to talk about “How I Win,” Joseph B. Bowles, a Chicago journalist, interviewed Clarke before the 1910 season.

Clarke

Clarke said:

“There is less difference between the ability of players to perform than most persons think. The great difference is in their courage, nerve and determination to win.

“I believe in hitting and in hitting to help the team, for after all the work of the individual player is not worth much unless he directs every effort to helping the other players on the club. The thing that makes (Honus) Wagner the greatest hitter in the world is his willingness to help baserunners, combined with his ability to help them. He is the best man playing the hit and run game, either on the bases or when at bat, in the world, and his willingness to spoil his own record to win for the team shows the difference between him and some others.”

Clarke told Bowles that style of play is how his team won the 1909 World Series and “is the way every winning team I ever have played with or against has won.”

A team was like a machine, he said, and “One might as well throw a wrench into the engine as to put a discordant player into a good club.”

Clarke addressed “much talk” of the importance of intelligence players:

“Of course, a player must have intelligence and be able to think and remember, but I think the greater part of baseball ‘brains’ consists of close attention to the game every instant, and both on and off the field. The worst mistakes made by players are not those that come from lack of brains so much as from lack of attention to what his own team or members of the other team are doing or trying to do.”

As for his managerial style:

“My players think I am something of a crank on discipline, and on keeping in condition. Perhaps that is so. I believe in careful training in the spring, and still more careful training and conditioning during the entire season.

‘The modern player must study himself if he is to succeed and continue to succeed. He must know his own condition and avoid either growing stale or indulging himself too much either in eating or drinking. I think cigarettes are the worst things possible for a player, both for his wind and for his eyes.  If a player takes a drink of ale or beer, he ought to do it after a hard game, or when he feels himself in danger of going stale.”

Clarke with a different take on smoking, three years later

Finally, of what it takes to win; Clarke said:

“Also, a winning team ought to fight for every point; claim it and go after it; not rowdyism, but aggressiveness is the point. It makes the other side less confident and helps get an ‘even break’ which is all any team should ask.”

Clarke’s defending World Series champions slipped to an 86-67 record and third place finish in 1910.

“Damndest Hitter I Ever saw, a Born Natural”

10 Sep

After Satchel Paige arrived three hours late for a 1953 interview with Wendell Smith of The Pittsburgh Courier, and talked about his family and his expectations for the upcoming season,  Smith asked Paige who were the toughest batters he faced in the American League:

Wendell Smith

“I can’t name ‘em all, but I can tell you some of ‘em. Among the modern players there’s Mickey Mantle, Dale Mitchell, Phil Rizzuto, Larry Doby, and Minnie Minoso.

DiMaggio was tough, too, before he retired. He was sure some hitter. But of all the hitters I ever faced, I think Josh Gibson, who is dead now, was the toughest. You could fool him and before the ball got to te plate, he could get that bat around and hit the ball out of the park. Damndest hitter I ever saw, a born natural.”

Paige wanted to talk to Smith about his own hitting prowess:

“Satchel considers himself a hitter, too. He rates himself right along with the Gibson’s and DiMaggio’s, Doby’s, and Mitchell’s.

“’Only difference,’ he said. ‘I’m not a long ball hitter. Me and Rizzuto hit liners.’”

Paige

Smith asked:

“If a pitcher were smart, what could he throw to a ‘dangerous’ hitter like Satch in a tight ballgame with the winning run on second base?

“’Well, if he was smart,’ Satchel said, thoughtfully ‘he’d curve me. He’s throw all the curves he could think of. That’s my weakness, curves. But he better make ‘em bad. Off the plate. If he throws them in there, over the plate, I’ll jump on ‘em. I jump on curves over the plate. Bing…I hit ‘em on a line over second base, me and Rizzuto.”

Smith pointed out to Paige that:

“(He) hit a ‘mighty’ .205 last season [sic, .128]

”’Shucks,’ he said, “I know a lot of regulars who didn’t hit that good.’”

 Paige was 3-9 with a 3.53 ERA and 11 saves in 57 appearances for the last place, 54-100 St. Louis Browns.  He hit .069.

“I Don’t Know how Long I’m Gonna Last”

8 Sep

Wendell Smith, of The Pittsburgh Courier said:

“Leroy (Satchel) Paige, the pitcher, is one of the few individuals living in this world today who isn’t conscious of the fact that a long time ago someone invented that unique devise popularly known as a clock.”

Paige

The occasion was an interview shortly before spring training in 1953; Paige arrived three hours late:

“Seems as though he had missed the plane in Kansas City, directed the taxi driver to the wrong section of town after his arrival, and then, after reaching his destination, decided it was time to eat.

‘Man’s gotta eat, you know,’ the skinny Methuselah of baseball said as he came through the door. ‘Can’t think on an empty stomach.”

Paige said:

“I don’t know how long I’m gonna last, but as along as I’m around, I’ll enjoy it. I don’t know if I’ll last ten more years, five years, or fail to last out the coming season. But however long it is I’ll enjoy it.”

Paige told Smith he was going to Hot Springs, Arkansas before joining the St. Louis Browns for spring training:

“Although you’d never notice it, I’m fat now. I weigh 207 pounds. When I’m in shape, I weigh about 177.”

He also said he would be healthier in 1953 than he was during his previous major league seasons:



“See, when I came up in 1948, I had stomach trouble. But it’s almost gone now. Course I still have gas and burp a lot, but I feel better. I might win as many as 18 games this year. Bet Bill Veeck would like that.”

Satchel Paige, 1953

Paige had to produce:

“’Ain’t no use kiddin’ myself,’ he said seriously, ‘I gotta make good now. I got me a wife and four children, three girls and a boy.”

Paige’s wife Lahoma had recently given birth to his son Robert:

“’She just had that boy two months ago,’ he said proudly, ‘and you should see him.’

“Does he want his newly born son to be a baseball player? ‘Sure,’ Satchel said, emphatically, ‘course I want him to be a ballplayer. But that seldom happens. When you want your sone to be something, he turned out to be something else,’

“’Know what my son will probably be?’ Because I like fishin’ and huntin’ so much, he’ll probably be a game warden.’ He laughed heartily.”

I Have Yelled a lot of Games out of bad Umpires”

9 Jun

Wallace Louis Bray was so well known by the pseudonym Happy Hogan, that some sources still do not include his given name. The Santa Clara, California native spent his entire professional career as a player and manager on the West Coast.

He was popular enough to be featured as the only non-big-league manager to be included in a series of syndicated articles by Chicago journalists Joseph B. Bowles called “How I win.”

He wrote Bowles:

“I am willing to write what I know about winning ballgames to help out the young fellows and perhaps give them some points. I tell it to them so loud and so often I might as well print it.”

happyhogan

Happy Hogan

Hogan said:

“The difference between a winning ball player and a losing one is all in the disposition of the man himself. Almost any ball player who is skillful enough with his hands and feet to play minor league ball is good enough for the major leagues if he only will study the game, and has the courage and the nerve to go forward.”

He said the “great weakness” of most players was their lack of interest in studying the game:

“(T)o win a man must devote a lot of time and thought to every point of the game. I attribute what success I have had in the profession to the fact that I always have kept hustling and studying the game.”

He said that after he each game:

“I get out by myself and study it over, figuring how plays were made, and how they might be improved upon, and then I try to explain my theories to players. I find that when the manager can go into his own clubhouse and discuss plays with his men, he not only helps himself, but helps the team.”

Hogan said he believed in “strict discipline on ball fields, but I also believe in fighting the umpires when they are wrong.”

Hogan said he questioned calls before they were made:

“I believe claiming everything in sight and claiming it quick. If there is a chance for argument on a decision make the claim for decision before the umpire makes his decision and the chances are you will get the decision by thinking quicker than the umpire did.”

And once the umpire had rendered a decision:

“Yell real loud at the umpire and then quit, for there is no good nagging at a man, no matter how bad he may be. Let the yell be loud enough to impress him. I have yelled a lot of games out of bad umpires, but I claim I never yet have let out a yell when I did not think I was right.”

As for how to win on the field:

“I am a firm believer in doing the unexpected all the time and upsetting the other team by making plays for which they are not looking. Playing for one run at a time is my theory, and when runners are on bases, within scoring distance, I believe in abandoning all the rules of the game in order to get the runs home. It may be bad baseball to hit with three balls and no strikes, but if a hit will score runs I want the batters to hit. It may be bad baseball to refuse to sacrifice with men on bases and none out, but if the player sees a chance to hit through the field, let him hit. I try to place the responsibility on the player himself, and to rely upon his judgment as to when to hit, or not to hit.”

Hogan said, “The unexpected” is what wins “and breaks up games and makes contests more spectacular and exciting.”

Hogan managed the Vernon Tigers for six full seasons, never winning a pennant—his teams finished second  twice—his club was 16-18 in 1915 when a cold developed into double pneumonia and the man The San Francisco Chronicle called “unquestionably the most popular figure” in the Pacific Coast League, died at age 37.

 

 

 

The Championship Banner Hoodoo

8 Jun

The Cubs raised their 1907 World Championship flag at West Side Grounds on May 21, 1908—the flag “orange letters on a blue field” according to The Chicago Inter Ocean; The Chicago Tribune described it as “royal purple and gold.”

I.E. Sanborn of The Tribune said “There were music, flowers and enthusiasm in bunches” at the ceremony, until:

“(T)he world’s champions spoiled it all by an exhibition which made the handsome creation of royal purple and gold hang its graceful folds in shame.”

The Boston Doves beat the Cubs 11-3.

cubsdovesbox

The Box Score

The Pittsburgh Press said the game was part of a trend:

“Undesirable happenings have attended the raising of the world’s pennants. The flag won by the Chicago Cubs from the Detroit Tigers was unfurled in Chicago Thursday.

“The result was saddening to the superstitious ones. The Cubs were walloped good and plenty by the Boston Nationals. It being necessary for the Cubs to sacrifice three pitchers in the carnage.”

The paper said the was a “Hoodoo connected” to the raising of championship flags.

“In the spring of 1906 the New York Giants floated the big flag in the Polo Grounds before a large crowd.”

The New York Times said of the June 12 ceremony:

“With admiring thousands following at the wheels, the New York Giants, the champion baseball team of the world—at least last year—paraded down Broadway in automobiles yesterday morning. Before and behind them marched a small army of boys baseball clubs…Mounted police clattered ahead of the procession to make clear the way. It was a great triumph for the Giants.”

The Times said the flag was “of blue bunting, trimmed with gold, is 45 feet long and 20 feet wide, and contains the inscription New York Baseball Club, 1906 Champions of the World.”

Then, “the Giants, whose fielding was extremely poor, while their batting was of an inferior order, only three men out of ten being credited with safe hits.”

They lost to the Reds 6 to 1.

giantsredsbox

The Box Score

Then, said The Press, there was May 14, 1907, “the notable flag raising on the Chicago South Side Grounds.”

I. E. Sanborn described that flag raising:

“Just as 15,000 throats were swelling with the first notes of the grand paean which was to have marked the climax of Chicago’s biggest baseball fete, just as the silken banner, emblematic of the highest honors of the diamond, had shaken out its folds over the White Sox park and started its upward climb in response to the tugs of the heroes of the day, Comiskey’s veteran flagstaff swayed, trembled in every fiber, then broke squarely off in the middle and toppled back to the earth which reared it.

“The tall spire of pine which had withstood for seven years the fiercest gales, which had flaunted defiantly three American League pennants and a dozen American flags until they were whipped to ribbons by the wind, proved unequal to the task of lifting a world’s championship banner.”

soxflag

The scene just before the pole broke

The game itself lasted just four batters when “a heavy shower” ended the game with Washington “and drenched thoroughly the gay raiment of the great crowd, only a part of which could find shelter under the protected stands.”

The Press noted that not only did the Giants and White Sox have bad luck on flag-raising day, both “failed to repeat as winners” and said:

“The big flag may prove a hoodoo.”

The Very Life of the Game Depends on This”

5 Jun

Bill Klem said, “There is only one thing I like as well as umpiring or seeing a game of ball, and that is playing golf.”

Klem “wrote” an article for The Pittsburgh Press about his career in 1916:

“It was shear love of the national pastime that impelled me to become an umpire.”

klem

Klem

As for his philosophy of how to do his job, Klem said an Abraham Lincoln quote, “impressed me in connection with umpiring baseball games.”

Except it wasn’t a Lincoln quote:

“He remarked that a government that is least governed is best governed, and I think that applied to our national sport in a large degree.”

The quote, “that government is best which governs least,” is usually attributed to Henry David Thoreau; the quote appears in Civil Disobedience” published in 1849, but a form of the quote was in popular use for at least a decade before that. Regardless, Klem wrongly attributed the quote that informed his career as an umpire.

“There must not be too many umpires. The making of decisions must rest with one or two men and their ruling must be the final word. The very life of the game depends on this. Baseball has attained its tremendous popularity because of the extreme fairness with which the game is played.”

And “the umpiring systems in both major leagues” were critical to that popularity:

“The umpires have had a lot to do in making baseball the grand institution it is today. Every umpire of my acquaintance, and I dare say, others in the smaller leagues whom I do not know, strive at all times to be strictly impartial, to render decisions according to the dictates of their judgment.  In all my career as an umpire I have striven to do this, ever in the belief that I was doing my mite to keep the game at the high moral standard it enjoys today.”

Klem reminded fans that umpires “are always in a much better position from which to judge a play” than their critics:

“(O)ften our decisions ruffle the partisans. I suppose baseball always will be so. This uncertainty and excitement is the very fabric of the game itself. Baseball soon would relinquish its hold on public interest if it were otherwise. However, I should like the ‘fans’ to remember that umpiring is not the easiest pursuit in the game of life. Like all humans, an empire may err occasionally. But it is safe to say that 90 times out of a hundred he is right in his decisions.”

“I Want a Band of Scrappers”

4 Jun

In the spring of 1913, John McGraw told a reporter from The New York Daily News that he had resolved that he and his players would “not to question the umpires’ decisions this season.”

mcgraw

John McGraw

McGraw’s former teammate, Detroit manager Hughie Jennings told The Detroit News in response:

“McGraw may have given his men those instructions, but an Irishman always has the right of expressing a second thought.

“The Tigers will be one team this year that will not stand for incorrect decisions on the part of the umpires. When an umpire makes a mistake the fans of the American League can depend on it that my players will display their displeasure. I wouldn’t give a cancelled stamp for a man who would not assert his rights.”

hughie

Hughie Jennings

Jennings said he liked having a certain type of player on his team:

“I want players who will fight their way through a league race. I want a band of scrappers, not a collection of faltering youths. I do not believe in starting a riot on the ballfield or anything or anything that pertains to rowdyism, but I certainly do believe in having the spectators know that we will display vim and ambition when our position is trampled upon.”

Jennings said that’s why his teams won:

“The Tigers fought their way to three pennants, and while I am leading the team, they will fight their way to others. If they fail to win it will be because a better team was out ahead. It will not be because we are out gamed.

“There isn’t any question in my mind but that umpires in the major leagues give their rulings as we see them, but we are all wrong at times, and when we are wrong others immediately interested have the right to correct us. So, it is with umpires.”

McGraw was ejected just three times in 1913—he had 132 career ejections as a manager and won his fifth National League pennant: Jennings was ejected just once that season.  His fighting teams failed to win another pennant.

“Spalding Threw a fit”

3 Jun

“The applause of thousands that once thundered across the baseball fields of the National League still echoes in the ears of a quiet man of sixty-three [sic, 68] who goes so unobtrusively about his simple duties in caring for a furnace at the plant of the New York Continental Jewel Filter Company at Nutley, NJ, that few know he was once one of the greatest figures in baseball.”

So, said Joaquin B. Calvo, writer for The New York World in 1922. The man he was describing was George Gore who played 14 major league seasons from 1879 to 1892:

georgegore

Calvo noted that Gore had done some catching before his major league debut and, “his gnarled and twisted fingers today bear mute testimony to this.”

Gore (or Calvo) knocked five years off the former player’s age, saying he was born in 1859 rather than 1854.

Gore repeated the story of having been “the first holdout” when in 1878 he negotiated his first contract with Albert Spalding before signing with the White Stockings. While the story was substantially the same as his other telling’s over the years, Gore added the detail that his asking Spalding for $2500 after initially being offered $1500 was the suggestion of Giants manager Jim Mutrie:

“He gave me some good advice, and one day I set forth to meet A. G. Spalding. Mutrie had told me to ask for $2500 and when I mentioned the figure Spalding threw a fit.”

Calvo said of Gore’s current activities::

“One of Gore’s greatest delights today is in teaching the young boys on the sandlots how to stand up at the plate, how to swing their bodies, and how to get that all important snap in the wrists as bats crash against balls. He is extremely active and has never lost his love for the game and, as he says, he tastes a little of the glory of yesterday when he plays with the youngsters and hears their cries of delight when he pounds out a home run.”

gore

Gore

Calvo asked him about being forgotten:

“Ah, well, it’s a busy world, he says modestly enough and the Cobbs and the Ruths of tomorrow will just as surely shove Babe and the Georgia Peach into oblivion, as they in their turn, have helped a thoughtless public to forget the diamond heroes of nearly half a century ago.”

Gore said of the differences in baseball in those nearly 50 years:

“The ball is livelier, but I don’t think the game is. In fact, I don’t think there is much science in baseball today as there was in the days when Anson and Spalding and others were putting their wits against some of the brightest minds baseball has ever known.”

Of Ruth, he said:

“I think he is a wonderful hitter, with a style all his own. I have never seen anything like it. There is a snap to his wrists when he hits the ball that accounts for the tremendous distance he knocks the pill. It isn’t his weight or strength; it is just his knack of hitting the ball.”

In closing, Calvo said Gore:

“(O)n days that he can get away from his furnace, he slips unnoticed into the stands at the Polo Grounds, the roaring applause of the mob blots out the picture of 1922 and brings back in sweetened memory those plaudits of the ‘80s that were for him alone.”

Billy Evans’ Best Infielders

2 Jun

In his nationally syndicated column, Billy Evans was asked to pick the best 10 infielders he saw during his career as an umpire from 1906 to 1927. He said, “The period has been more productive in great infielders than stars at the other positions.”

billyevans

Billy Evans

Evans starting four were:

1B: George Sisler

2B: Eddie Collins

SS: Honus Wagner

3B Jimmy Collins

The other six were: Hal Chase, Napoleon Lajoie, Rogers Hornsby, Pie Traynor, Buck Weaver, and Roger Peckinpaugh.

Evans acknowledged:

“(A)t only one position do I feel safe against the opinion of fandom and critics and that is shortstop with Hans Wagner as the selection. The great Honus stands out at that position, a remarkably brilliant performer in all departments of the game. I cannot name anyone who quite compares with him.”

wagner2

Wagner

And despite his bias towards the American League, Evans said “Wagner is out if front of all” AL’s shortstops he saw “by a considerable margin.”

He said of his choice for Wager’s backup:

“Although Roger Peckinpaugh was anything but a slugger and couldn’t be rated as more than a fair hitter, I like him better than any other shortstop I have ever seen in the American League. Just as great a fielder as Wagner, one of the smartest players that ever stepped on a major diamond, and a dangerous hitter, particularly in the pinch.”

He said that with “three such sterling performers” at second base, some might disagree with him but:

“I have never seen a smarter player than Collins. On every club that he ever played he was the directing genius, the spark plug. Very fast, a great hitter, an awkward yet brilliant fielder.”

Evans said he picked Weaver as his third-string third basemen, however:

“Were it not for the fact that Weaver dropped out of baseball when he was at the peak of his career, he probably would have established a standard for third base play that would have given him the number one rating.”

buckweaver

Weaver

As for the choice at first base:

“(I)t is simply a matter of taking your choice between George Sisler and Hal Chase. Sisler was a trifle the better batter, Chase a bit better fielder. Sisler a trifle faster. I would give Sisler a slight edge although it might be possible for many to see an equal margin in favor of Chase.”