“That Night I was as Chesty as a Pouter Pigeon”

23 Aug

Red Donahue spent five seasons, and part of a sixth, during his 13-year major league career as a teammate of Napoleon Lajoie. In 1905, he told The Cleveland News that before they became teammates for the first time in 1898:

“For just a few days once, I imagined I had discovered how to cut down Larry’s batting average.

“I was with the Cardinals and Lajoie was with Philadelphia, when someone told me the big Frenchman could not hit a slow ball. When my turn came to face the Phillies, I handed up a slow teaser to Lajoie and he hit the ball to me for an easy out. Four times I tossed him out at first and each time on a high slow one.

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Donahue

“That night I was as chesty as a pouter pigeon and told the other pitchers to hand slow ones to Larry and he was easy money. Later, I again pitched against the Phillies and with visions of retiring the king I cut a fast wide one over and followed it with a slow ball just like those he had failed to get out of the diamond the last time I faced him.

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Lajoie

“Well, Larry met the ball and it went out of the lot. Next time I served him a high fast one, but the result was the same. He had a three-base hit.  I tried everything I had that day, but no matter where the ball went, high, low, wide or in close. Fast or slow, when Larry got ready to wallop it he did, and I was chalked up with four hits to my discredit.”

Everyone had Donahue’s number in 1896 and ’97–he was 17-59 with a 5.99 ERA—in 1898 he joined Lajoie in Philadelphia.

“So, Great Buck Ewing is Dead”

21 Aug

“So, great Buck Ewing is dead.”

That was Sam Thompson’s reaction when told by The Detroit News that Ewing had died at age 47.

Ewing was less than five months older than Thompson, who had come out of retirement to play in eight games for the Tigers just two months earlier.

“They’re slipping away, aren’t they, those fine old fellows who by their head work and lovable natures made the game what it is today! It was such men as Ewing, (Tim) Keefe, (Roger) Connor and a score of others who inspired me.”

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Ewing

Although roughly the same age, Ewing was in the major leagues for five seasons before Thompson made his debut:

“As a boy I used to read of the great Ewing, and I set him up as my ideal. He and Connor were always my idols.  Later, when I began to play in the big leagues and (later) went to Philadelphia, I roomed with Roger (in 1892), my acquaintance with—while it in no way lessened my regard for him—sort of pulled him from the pedestal. Ewing, however, I never became so closely attached to, and there was always the baseball idol worship about the man for me.”

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Thompson

Thompson said when he did interact with Ewing, it added “to this setting him higher as the ideal” of a baseball player:

“He was such a whole-souled, lovable chap. His wonderful work on the diamond in no way affected his disposition. He was always modest and retiring.”

And he said:

“There never lived a greater catcher or all -around ballplayer.

“Mike Kelly? Well, Kelly was a grand ballplayer all right, but he was the cunning player, the fellow with startling tricks. Ewing, on the other hand, was the thinker, the deep student of the game. His was the inside game. No player ever lived who could play the same kind of game that Kelly put up, but Ewing was of the different type. He was the more consistent thinker.”

Thompson said he believed Ewing was “the first catcher to get the infield signaling down t anything like a system,” and:

“He was the pioneer of present-day headwork behind the bat. He always had us hugging the bases. He devised tricks that are now common in baseball. They were figured out long before the game started. Kelly’s greatness, on the other hand, lay in his marvelous ability to grasp a situation quicker than lightning.”

He said when he played “with the old Detroit team we used to anxiously await who going to catch,” for the Giants:

“If it was (William ‘California’) Brown there was a sigh of relief. Not that we were belittling the work of Brown; it was simply that Ewing was so much better. He dazzled us. He had the infield under his control all the time. He had tricks of pulling us off the sacks that were new and we did not know what to do. That old Detroit bunch could win with Brown catching almost any day in the week, but with Ewing it was different.”

One man was responsible for New York’s success:

“It was Buck Ewing who won all those championships for the old Giants.

“Tim Keefe stood out as a wonderful pitcher. It was Keefe and Ewing. That old battery was the talk of the country.

“And yet Tim Keefe told me time and again, when they were at their best, that without Buck Ewing he would be no better than any other fairly good pitcher.

“’It’s all Buck,’ he would say, ‘he’s the boy who steadies me and gets the work done.”

Thompson’s first major league game—July 2, 1885–was against the Giants, with Keefe on the mound (although he misremembered Ewing being behind the plate that day—it was Pat Deasley):

“I don’t recall whether I did anything in the game (Thompson replaced Gene Moriarty in right field after the latter was in the 5th inning, he was 1 for 2 and scored a run) but I do remember we won. We beat the Giants 4 to 0.

“That victory did more for me among the players than any one thing. They called me their mascot. New York had been beating them right along.”

 

Thompson said when he left the Phillies in 1898, he nearly played for Ewing:

“I had left Philadelphia and had decided to give up the game. Ewing was then managing the Reds and wrote me asking if I would come to Cincinnati. He said he thought he could put through a deal whereby I could sign up all right.

“I was sorely tempted, as I had always wanted to play in Cincinnati. I had always been given a good reception there and had played some of my best games there.

“I didn’t accept, however. I thought that I might not do as well as I had, and I didn’t want to show poorly after all the good work I had done in that city.”

“The two Best Batsmen of the Game”

19 Aug

Jack Doyle spent part of 17 seasons in the major leagues from 1889 until 1905. In 1910, he told William A. Phelon of The New York Telegraph that among hitters, “There were two men who were real topliners in their trade.”

It was, he said, “Hardly probable,” there was anyone better than Pete Browning and Ed Delahanty.

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Browning

Doyle said neither benefited from “scorers who make everything a hit except a dropped pop fly.”

But, the two were largely dissimilar:

“(T)here never were two men more radically different in their ideas and their opinions of the game than those two great sluggers.”

“Pete Browning was an artist. To him baseball was an art or profession and batting an absorbing passion.

“Delahanty was a workman. Baseball to him was labor or a trade and batting simply part of the daily toil.

“When Browning left the field, the game wasn’t over. He continued to talk batting, theorize on batting, and I think dreamed of batting all night long.

“When Delahanty left the ballpark, the game was all through for the day, as if he were a laborer going home for supper. He ceased to think baseball and would only talk baseball when someone started the conversation that way.”

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Delahanty

Each handled success differently:

“Pete Browning made five hits one afternoon. He kept his clubmates awake for hours, telling it over and over. ‘Old Petey’s eyes is pretty bright yet, huh?’ he shouted. ‘Reckon the old man ain’t there with the hits no more, eh?’

“When Delahanty made the record in Chicago, four home runs and a single (July 13, 1896) and was told that he had outdone all former deeds, he grunted, said ‘That right?’ And wanted to know who won the second race.”

Their reaction to adversity differed as well:

“If Browning failed to make a hit at the time of need, he would have tears in his eyes and would bitterly bewail his misfortune. If Delahanty fell down in the pinch, he shrugged his shoulders, hoofed back to the bench and began to talk racing or the weather.

“When an outfielder galloped to the fence and pulled down one of Browning’s mighty drives, Pete would regard it as a personal insult, and glower at the defender like a baffled tiger. When an outfielder robbed Del of a home run, Ed would grunt ‘Good catch bo, didn’t think you’d get it!’ and forget it forever.”

And, of course, no one treated their bats and eyes the way Browning did:

“Pete Browning spent hours polishing his bats, hours rubbing his eyes, in the belief that it made them brighter. Delahanty, perhaps, spent an occasional half-hour fixing up his bats on a rainy afternoon.

“If you had told Pete Browning that the business was losing money, and that he would have to cut his salary next season, he would have accepted the money rather than lose the chance to play the game. If you handed that talk to Delahanty, he would have sneered scornfully, and remarked that you’d have to come up with 500 more beans before he’d even look at a contract.”

The two did have two things in common, he said:

“Neither Peter nor Del cared much where their teams finished on the season. Pete thought only of his hits and the glory of making them, Del thought of a comfortable winter life on the money he made in the summertime.”

Also, he said neither could bunt:

“Del wouldn’t simply try. Pete, with much groaning and protestation, would be coaxed to make the attempt, but his attempts were fizzles. Pure, old-fashioned, straightaway sluggers, both of them, and the two best batsmen of the game.”

“Baseball Thrives on war!”

16 Aug

The Philadelphia Inquirer said of Dr. Ferdinand Cole Lane:

“(He) is a man who can be counted on to come home from a radio quiz program with a washing machine, a mink coat, a refrigerator, a world cruise and other prizes.”

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Lane

After receiving a Doctorate and working as a researcher, studying “the sea, and sea life,” for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and a brief stint teaching at the University of Virginia, he became the editor of Baseball Magazine from 1910 to 1937.

In December of 1917, with the United States at war in Europe, Lane wrote:

“We wonder if you realize baseball thrives on war!

“Our Civil War made baseball America’s national sport. The soldier played baseball in their leisure hours and when they disbanded, they carried home with them a lasting love for the game.”

Lane said the “present world conflict in the same way is making baseball the international game.”

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Baseball at the Front

He said baseball was the “chief diversion and recreation” of for people stateside, noting the “record-breaking” crowds at the World Series.

“Washington has warned us that the 1918 war strain will be more severe than any other year—regardless of the war’s duration.

“Baseball will do its bit at this critical time, not as a luxury but as a necessity. Baseball will furnish relief from the tense mental strain which awaits growing casualty lists. Baseball will give needed diversion to the soldier in the trenches, to the drafted man in the training camps, to the laborer and the artisan and the businessman in our cities.

“Baseball, in short, will act as a national escape valve for feelings too strong to be suppressed. Baseball is as necessary in time of war an ammunition or khaki uniforms.”

Baseball, he said provided, “peace and health and sanity,” for the public:

“(T)he great American public, wearied and surfeited with war news, turns from sensational headlines to baseball scores and to this great sport which has become one of the needs of the hour.”

Lane, after leaving the magazine in 1937, returned to his roots and dedicated the remainder of life studying and writing several books about nature.

“There’s a Player the Newspapers Made”

14 Aug

In 1907, Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss told The Pittsburgh Press:

“There’s a player the newspapers made.”

The player in question was Tommy Leach.

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Leach

“Leach is a pure product of the newspapers, but a product of which the newspapers should be proud.”

Dreyfuss said it made Leach “mad to tell him that,” but that the Louisville papers were responsible for his career:

“They roasted him so hard (when he played for Dreyfuss with the Colonels in 1898 and ’99) trying to drive him from out of the business that I got mad and said I’d stick to Leach as long as I had a dollar, and I did.”

Dreyfuss said Leach, “was very bad at that time I must admit.”

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Dreyfuss

But, he said he felt the papers “had it in” for Leach:

“I knew he could do good work, for I had seen him perform in the New York State League, but when he went to Louisville he seemed to scare at the cars and his fingers were all thumbs. My, how the papers did roast that boy. I suppose if they hadn’t done so, Leach might have been released, but when they took to devoting columns to his bad plays, simply singling him out for a mark, I took his part and our day soon came.”

Dreyfuss said he was sure that had he bent to the “newspaper roasts” of Leach and released him, “he would likely have never been given another chance in fast company.”

Leach played for Dreyfuss’ Pirates through the 1912 season, and finished his career with the team in 1918 when the 40-year-old, whose last major league game was in 1915, appeared in 30 games for the club whose roster had been depleted because of World War I.

The Story of the Story of Browning’s bat

12 Aug

On the Louisville Slugger website, the simple story of how 17-year-old Bud Hillerich “changed the game of baseball forever,” is told.

According to company, Hillerich watched Browning break his bat during a Louisville Eclipse game in 1884, and offered to make him a new one—Browning sat at his side as he made the bat, and with that, “one of the most iconic brands,” was born.

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Pete Browning

That humble origin story was not enough for two of the most prominent baseball writers of the 1920s, who both told their readers more dramatic versions of the story nearly 20 years after Browning’s death.

Fred Lieb, then sports editor of The New York Telegram, told his version in February of 1923 as part of a series of articles he wrote on the game’s history for the Al Munro Elias Sports Bureau:

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Fred Lieb

“They still tell a story around the Hillerich and Bradsby factory in Louisville about Pete when he came in one night and would not leave the factory until they had made him a new bat.”

Lieb said Browning was “brooding,” having cracked “his most successful bat,” and walked to the factory:

“(F)ortunately, some of the men were working. He insisted that one of the workmen leave his lathe and get busy on making him a new bat. Personally, he selected the piece of timber and then had it put on the lathe.

“He had his old bat with him as a model, and insisted the new bludgeon be an exact duplicate. From time to time he would have it taken out of the lathe to see how it ‘felt.’ Then he would want a little more taken off here and a little more there. If too much was taken off, then an entirely new club would be prepared.

“It was early in the morning when he left the factory satisfied and happy. An exact duplicate of his lucky bat had been reproduced.”

And while the “official” story on the company website says Browning had “a trio of hits,” the following game, Lieb did them one better:

“That afternoon he slapped out four hits.”

Lieb closed by asking his readers:

“Can anyone imagine a player of today staying up all night to superintend the making of a new bat?”

One year later, just after Bud’s father, John Frederick “Fred,” Hillerich died, Bozeman Bulger, the sports editor of The New York World, who also wrote a nationally syndicated column, further embellished the story.

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Bozeman Bulger

In Bulger’s version, it was Fred who “never tired of telling the story of Browning’s night visit to the then small factory,” in Louisville:

“His favorite bat had been cracked. None other would do.”

In Bulger’s story, Browning arrived just as the factory workers were leaving.

“’I got to have a bat, and have it tonight,’ said Pete, ‘or I can’t sleep. If I don’t get my hits tomorrow, I’ll go daffy.’”

After Browning, “with an expert eye,” picked out the piece of timber “having the most solid wood,” the shop foreman told him:

“’(W)e’ll turn it for you tomorrow. We know your model.’”

In Bulger’s version, Browning had not brought the broken bat with him:

“’Tomorrow,’ exclaimed Browning. ‘Listen, I don’t care what it costs, and I’ll but supper for the gang. You fellows stay here and get the man on the lathe. I want that bat turned just right. But I’ve got to have it tonight.”

After feeding the factory workers, “The foreman and the lathe man,” returned to the factory with Browning, and after “They turned the stick again and again,” Browning said the bat “felt just right.”

It was “well after midnight,” and in Bulger’s version, Browning also had four hits that day, and soon “Others took up the fad.”

Six months after Fred’s death,  his hometown paper, The Louisville Courier-Journal, in a long article, under the headline “Baseball bat industry brings fame to city,” told the story.

In this version it was not Hillerich, but one of “the turners” who was “an ardent fan,” who stayed late to make Browning’s bat. When it was to his liking, Browning was so pleased with the bat he left with it “without waiting for the final polishing.” The paper qualified the claim about Browning’s performance the following day, saying “Tradition has it,” that he had four hits.

Lieb, Bulger, and The Courier-Journal did not mention Hillerich attending the Eclipse game on the day in question.

Bud Hillerich, who spent his winters in Florida, told his version the story to The Miami Herald in 1944.

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Bud Hillerich

In his own telling, he doesn’t mention having attended the game that day, but instead says Browning approached his father about making a bat:

“Dad refused. He said, ‘we don’t have time to turn out such junk. Besides baseball is just a passing fancy. But if you can find my son, Bud, he might make a bat for you.”

Bud Hillerich died in 1946 in Chicago, en route to the winter meeting in Los Angeles, his obituary in The Courier-Journal failed to mention the Browning story.

“He’d Deliberately do Something to Rile a Hostile Crowd”

9 Aug

Edgar Munzel covered baseball for Chicago Newspapers from 1929 until 1973; he, along with Gordon Cobbledick, from The Cleveland Plain Dealer, received The J.G. Taylor Spink award in 1977.

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Munzel

While writing for The Chicago Sun in 1943, Munzel was in a French Lick, Indiana hotel, “seated in a circle on lobby chairs.” With Harry Heilmann, then a Tigers broadcaster, Jimmie Wilson and Kiki Cuyler, Cubs manager and coach, and Tigers pitcher Dizzy Trout.

Munzel said Trout was there “only as a sideline agitator to keep Heilmann in a reminiscent vein,” while the three former players told stories about players fighting with fans after Wilson said how a group of soldiers in the stands “were really on me, Must’ve been from Philadelphia.”

Wilson said:

“Boy, how they used to give it to you there, even when you were the home team. Did you ever have them hollering at you Harry?”

Heilmann said:

“I’ll never forget those Philadelphia fans as long as I live…Ty Cobb had injured his hand in a fight with some butcher in Detroit and I had to play centerfield for the Tigers. Well, those Philly fans had paid to see Cobb and they took it out on me—called me every variety of busher they could think of.”

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Heilmann

Wilson, a Philadelphia native who spent 11 seasons with the Phillies, said the city’s fans loved watching Cobb play the Athletics:

“I think they got half their enjoyment trying to get him mad. I still remember watching a game as a kid when Cobb got so hot, he charged right into the stands and challenged everybody.”

Heilmann, who played with and for Cobb, said:

“(He) was always doing something and quite often it was with an eye towards the gate. He actually considered it a personal affront if only a few thousand turned out and he’d deliberately do something to rile a hostile crowd on the road so the next day there’s be 40,000.”

He said is Boston, Cobb “threw a bat at Carl Mays’ head

“He did it in his usual clever way. Mays always looked at the ground during his one point in his underhanded delivery just before he let go of the ball. Cobb started heading for the pitcher’s mound just at the split-second Mays turned his eyes toward the ground. Thus, he was able to take a half dozen steps forward before Mays looked up again. By that time, he had let fly with the bat and it missed Mays’ head by inches.

“That day we had to have a police escort get us out of the park.”

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Cobb

Heilmann recalled a fight he participated in:

“(O)ne day a couple guys in the stands were giving us a brutal riding. Right after the game Cobb charged after one of them underneath the stands and I was right behind him.

“He swung at his man and I tried to reach over his shoulder at the other fellow. But it turned out our two annoyers were just a small part of a gang of about a dozen. What a going over they gave us. We wore adhesive from head to foot when it was over. But I always remember when they knocked Cobb down, he tackled his man around the legs as he was falling. He hauled him down with him and battled there underneath the pile, oblivious of everything else going on around him. He had the man he was after.”

Wilson said when he was managing the Phillies, he “got my man once, too.”

He said he had “been telling my players all year,” to ignore the heckling from their hometown fans:

“But there was one particularly obnoxious guy one day and I walked out towards the stands to bark back at him after the game. And when I did, he leaned over the railing and spit in my face.

“That infuriated me, so I ran into the stands and grabbed him by the lapels.”

But, Wilson said, he took pity on the man and let him go, despite fans “hollering for me to ‘let him have it.’”

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Wilson

Cuyler then told the story of the “funniest thing” he recalled about a player fighting a fan:

“(It) happened to Hack Wilson in Wrigley Field. Somebody was riding him unmercifully one day from a front row box. Hack went over to the grandstand rail at that point and put his legs up to climb over and –wham—the heckler knocked him back onto the field. Hack tried it again but before he could get his short legs over, he was smacked down once more. I think it happened a third time before somebody hauled the befuddled Hack away.”

“The only Great Game in the Country”

7 Aug

Smiling Mickey Welch spent his post-baseball years operating various businesses in Holyoke, Massachusetts, but visited Boston and New York often—until he eventually moved back to New York.

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Welch

In 1908, Welch, “one of the most famous pitchers of half a generation ago,” talked to Tim Murnane, the baseball writer for The Boston Globe, on a trip to visit his former teammate Tim Keefe in Cambridge, Massachusetts:

“’It certainly seems to me,’ said Welch a few days ago, ‘That the players of today have nothing over the stars of the past. I’m not at all prejudiced and I believe that I am at least fairly competent to judge, as I have kept right up with the many changes that have been made since I left the business.”

Murnane said of Welch:

“Mickey finished his career in the baseball world 15 years ago [sic, 16], but he still retains his deep interest in the great national game, and each season always plans to come to Boston or to go to New York to watch the work of the present-day players and compare them with those of his time, when by his superb work in the pitcher’s box he assisted in winning a couple of pennants and world championships for Gotham.”

Welch, who had just sold his salon in Holyoke, “to engage in the milk business with his oldest son, Frank,” asked Murnane:

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Welch, with wife Mary and seven of the couple’s nine children

“Where, for instance, is there today any greater baseball player than Buck Ewing was? Ah, he was the greatest of ‘em all—indeed the grandest that the game has ever known. Universally acknowledged by all followers of the sport as the king of catchers, he also shone in other departments, for he was a hard natural hitter, could run bases with the top-notchers and could play any of the infield or outfield positions as well as any of the regulars holding down those berths.”

Welch said he and Ewing—who died in October of 1906–were “the warmest of friends for years and that friendship dated from the days when as a member of the Troy team, I first became acquainted with him while he was with the Rochester club (in 1880).”

Welch said from the day Ewing joined Troy later that season and after they went to New York together when the Trojans disbanded after the 1882 season:

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Ewing

“Buck and I were chums and for all that time used to room together.”

Murnane said that Welch, who “always made it a point to take the very best care of himself,” was in “as splendid condition,” as he was when he pitched:

“One of his favorite hobbies is walking, and on every pleasant day in the fall and winter he and Jack Doyle, also a famous old-time ball tosser, may be seen setting from the Welch home to take a jaunt to Mt. Tom, which is between Holyoke and the neighboring town of Northampton.”

Some nights Murnane said the two went out in the evening and “they sit for hours and talk over the good old days when they were players of mark in the fastest company.”

After all of those talks with Doyle about their days in baseball, he maintained:

“I’m throwing no bouquets at myself but have there ever been any better pitchers than Tim Keefe, John Clarkson and Charlie Radbourn? I say ‘no’ emphatically. Then look at the rest. Dan Brouthers has never been excelled as a batsman and I don’t believe he ever will be. He could land a ball farther and with less apparent effort than any ballplayer that ever swung a bat. I faced him many a time and I could never discover that he had any weakness.

“(Cap) Anson was also a fine hitter, as were Deacon White, Hardy Richardson, Jim O’Rourke, Mike Tiernan, (Ed) Delahanty, and George Gore, to say nothing of a dozen more whom I might mention. Jerry Denny has never been excelled as a third baseman, and Johnny Ward is the headiest man that has ever played shortstop. ‘Dickie’ Johnston, pride of Boston for years, and Curt Welch of the old St. Louis Browns and (Jimmy) McAleer of the Clevelands were easily the most brilliant outfielders of the past.”

Welch also believed “the best club in the history of the game,’ were the 1888 and 1889 Giants—Welch was 26-19 1.93 in ’88 and 27-12 3.02 in 1889 for those New York teams.

“Buck Ewing was the captain, and a magnificent one he was too. Buck used to catch nearly all of the games.”

Welch said of the team:

“We won the pennant rather easily in the National League in ’88, and fully as easily beat out the St. Louis Browns for the world’s flag. But the next season of ’89, we had to go some right up to the very last notch to pull away from the Bostons in the National League, the championship not being decided until the final day of the season when we won in Indianapolis while the Bostons lost in Pittsburgh. Then we met the Brooklyns, champions of the American Association. In a series of nine games, we won five”

Welch got two details wrong; while 1889 was the first pennant decided on the season’s final day and Boston did lose to the Pittsburgh Alleghenys, the Giants beat the Cleveland Spiders that day; also, in the series the Giants won six of the nine games with Brooklyn.

Welch vowed to Murnane, “I shall never lose my interest,” in “the only great game in the country.”

 

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #38

5 Aug

Scrappy Bill and Small Ball

The New York Herald lamented in August of 1897 about New York manager Bill Joyce:

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Joyce

“Scrappy’s Giants are doing less sacrificing than any team in the major league. Mike Tiernan has but one sacrifice to his credit. Scrappy, like Ed Hanlon, regards sacrificing as a necessary evil—a last resort.”

The paper wanted him to follow the example of Fred Clarke:

“(T)he captain of the Colonels in a firm believer in sacrificing early in the game for one run, as well as late in the contest, when a tally is of more importance than at an early stage of the game.”

Joyce’s third-place Giants sacrificed just 45 times in 1897; Clarke’s 11th-place Colonels were fourth with 101.

Cy’s Arm

During spring training in 1905, Naps pitcher Bill Bernhard told The Cleveland News:

“There is no use talking, there is only one Cy Young. When the rest of us pitchers report in the spring we act as if those deceiving arms of ours were made of glass and humor them accordingly. But not so with old Cy. The very day he reached Hot Springs a week or so ago, he cut loose as if he had been pitching all winter. Great Scott, but he had speed to burn, and the next day and the next it was just the same. And curve them? Well, you ought to have seen the old boy.”

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Young

That season, the 38-year-old Young was 18-19 with a 1.83 ERA for the Boston Americans.

Johnson’s “Destiny”

Grantland Rice’s lede in The New York Herald Tribune on the final game of the 1924 World Series:

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Rice

“Destiny, waiting for the final curtain, stepped from the wings today and handed the king his crown.

“In the latest and most dramatic moment of baseball’s 60 years of history the wall-eyed goddess known as Fate decided that old ‘Barney’ had waited long enough for his diadem of gold and glory. So, after waiting 18 years, Walter Johnson found at last the pot of shining gold that waits at the end of the rainbow.

“For it was Johnson at last, the old Johnson brought back from other years with his blazing fastball singing across he plate for the last four rounds, who stopped the Giant attack from the ninth inning through the 12th and gave Washington’s fighting ballclub its World’s Series victory, 4 to 3.

Washington won just at the edge of darkness, and it was Johnson’s great right arm that turned the trick. As (Earl) McNeely doubled and (Muddy) Ruel galloped over the plate with the winning run in the last of the 12th, some 32,000 fans rushed upon the field with a roar of triumph never known before, as for more than 30 minutes, packed in one vast, serried mass around the bench, they paid Johnson and his mates a tribute that no one present will ever forget.”

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Johnson

Rice’s account of the game was recognized as the best “major league baseball story of the year” by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

 

“Diabolical—Nothing Else.”

2 Aug

The introduction of baseball cards in cigarette packages by the American Tobacco Company was largely uncontroversial—except in the company’s backyard, the heart of tobacco country.

The Charlotte Observer was the first large paper to condemn the practice. In August of 1909 the paper editorialized:

“(T)rading upon the small boy’s passion for baseball as well as for collecting to make a cigarette fiend of him, is diabolical—nothing else.”

The Observer described the “mania” among the city’s boys:

“More especially the likenesses of Ty Cobb and Hans Wagner are most desired, and until a week ago only a few pictures of Cobb had been found, two of these being in the possession of the Buford Hotel cigar stand.”

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“Most desired” among the boys of Charlotte

The paper said 13 Cobb cards were then found in purchases made at “The Wilson Drug Store, on East Trade Street,” and “The boys of the street went wild.”

The Observer conceded that some of the younger boys took the cards then sold the five-cent packs of cigarettes were offered to passers by for two packs for five cents, but maintained their editorial opinion that young kids were being induced to smoke.

The Raleigh News and Observer agreed about the “baseball picture bait,” and added:

“The cigarette trust, it seems, would stop at nothing to get money.”

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Old Mill ad “Baseball pictures and a valuable coupon in each package.”

The cause was taken up by numerous papers across the state, The Statesville Landmark said:

“(I)f the enormity of the offense was appreciated as it should be it would arouse a spirit of indignation in North Carolina that would stop this traffic in the bodies and souls of boys.”

The Winston Sentinel said:

“It will do more to start young boys smoking than any other agency of which we can conceive.”

The Raleigh Times said the introduction of the “baseball pictures” coincided with an increase in “the number of licenses to sell cigarettes” in the city:

“That the boys are buying the cigarettes is a settled fact and there are always people who will sell anything for money.”

But smoking wasn’t the only concern. The Reidsville Review said:

“Almost any day groups of youngsters may be seen on the streets of Reidsville ‘matching’ pictures of baseball men. It seems a harmless amusement, yet it is gambling all the same, and has been so decided by a judge in Washington (NC). He dismissed the first bunch of boys brought before him for matching baseball pictures with a reprimand but intimated that hereafter he would impose the gamblers’ sentence.”

“Matching pictures” was simply flipping game where a card was won or lost if landed face up or down.

One major daily paper in the state took up the cause of the tobacco company, The Greensboro News said:

“Considerable criticism, and of a right severe kind, has been leveled lately at certain cigarette manufacturers for their practice of putting pictures of baseball players in their cigarette boxes.”

The paper said the “criticism” was based on an incorrect notion, and claimed “we have our doubts” that more children were smoking:

“Our observation is that he relies mainly on begging his pictures from the large boys and grown men.”

The paper acknowledged, “Of course, some very small boys smoke,” but claimed the increase in cigarette sales was not because of the “baseball pictures,” and instead due to changing “tastes of the public,” for “ready-made cigarettes” rather than rolling them themselves.

The paper concluded their theory was “far more reasonable than the baseball picture idea.”

The brief outcry changed nothing—by the time American Tobacco introduced cards, the company which had a virtual monopoly on the sale of “ready-made” or manufactured cigarettes since it was formed, had a near monopoly on the sale of all tobacco. At the same time, the company was already defending itself from the federal anti-trust case that led to the 1911 Supreme Court decision which dissolved the company.

The “baseball picture” craze did result in at least one homicide in North Carolina. In 1910, The Laurinburg Exchange reported that a 16-year-old had hit another 16-year-old “in the head with a ginger ale bottle,” during an argument over a “matching game with baseball pictures out of cigarette packages,” rendering the victim unconscious–he never regained consciousness and died a week later.