“That Shows how a Baseball Player’s Mind Works Sometimes”

20 Apr

Associated Press (AP) reporter Paul Mickelson spoke with New York Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, “In the spacious reception room of his big brewery on Third Avenue,” in February of 1937.  The subject; Ruppert’s complaint about the “unreasonable demands” of his players, specifically Lou Gehrig and Lefty Gomez whom the “owner aimed punch after punch.”

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Jacob Ruppert

Ruppert said Gehrig and Gomez had cost the Yankees the pennant in 1935 because of their post season barnstorming tour of Japan:

“’Gehrig comes to my office contract in hand and says he ought to get more than $31,000 next season.’ The Colonel opened up on his star first baseman.  ‘He doesn’t say a word about his poor season in 1935 when he got $31,000 too.  He doesn’t mention that he made more than $6000 in the World Series.  All he could remember is what he did (in 1936).

“So, I told him about it, refreshed his memory.  I told him we were just getting back some of the money we lost in the lean years and that if he and Gomez hadn’t gone to Japan we would have won the 1935 pennant.  He hasn’t much to say but he leaves his contract.  Hmph.”

During his “poor season” in 1935, Gehrig hit .329 with 30 home runs and 120 RBI.

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Gehrig

He then turned his attention to Gomez, who followed his great 26-5 2.33ERA season with a 1215 3.18 ERA in 1935 after the Japan trip after his second straight sub par season in 1936 (13-7 4.39), Gomez’ salary was cut from $20,000 to $13,500:

“’And Gomez.  He’s got a lot of nerve saying we offered him a bat boy’s salary.  He’s lucky we didn’t cut him worse than we did.  After he got back from Japan, he couldn’t pitch up a dark alley.  He did a poor job in ’35 and not much better last season.  Still we paid him well. Hmph.”

 

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Gomez

Ruppert wasn’t finished, and next directed his wrath at Jake Powell.  Powell was acquired by the Yankees from the Washington Senators in June of 1936, and hit .302 with New York, and led the Yankees with a .455 average in the World Series:

“’He beats them all,’ said the colonel.  ‘He calls my attention to the number of hits he made in the World Series.  That’s a laugh.  On that basis, what about poor (Bill) Dickey?  He made only three hits to Powell’s 10.  I suppose then, I should pay Powell three times as much as I pay Dickey.  That shows how a baseball player’s mind works sometimes.”

Powell got a raise to $9000 for the 1937 season.

Ruppert finished the interview with his favorite story from the 1936 series.  Catcher Bill Dickey hit .120.  Rupert said Dickey approached him in his box before one at bat:

“’Rub this bat for me Mr. Rupert,’ he said.  ‘Then I’ll hit a home run sure.’

“’Bill went up to bat with blood in his eyes,’ laughed the colonel.  “And struck out.’”

Gomez continued his holdout until March 5 when he accepted his pay cut, Gehrig signed March 18, The AP reported that he signed for $36,000; Gehrig had asked for $40,000.

“I was Weak as a cat. Then I Began to Feel Old-time Form”

18 Apr

When Rube Waddell signed with his final team, the Virginia (MN) Ore Diggers of the Northern League, a reporter from The Duluth News-Tribune tracked him down at the team’s hotel in Duluth:

“’I am just as good as when Connie Mack found me.’

“Thus spoke George Edward Waddell, better known as Rube in the world of peanut eaters, pop drinkers and umpire roasters, as he sat in a big leather arm chair in the Hotel Lenox lobby.  The reporter had trouble spotting the former star slab-man of the Athletics, who is now a full-fledged member of Spike Shannon’s Virginia Ore Diggers.  A glance at the hotel register disclosed the name ‘G. E. Waddell.’ Then a careful survey of the rainy-day loungers discovered a big, lanky individual, the center of an admiring group, unrolling tales of the diamond between puffs of a perfectly good cigarette.

“When he learned the newspaper’s mission, the Rube waved the others away gently to one side, enclosed our mitt in his big and famous left lunch hook, and began a rapid-fire discourse.

with a jitney in the pot.  Say, I have had two attacks of pneumonia and blood poison all within three months!’  And the big fellow fished out another pill and lighted it from the stump of the late departed one.”

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Cartoon of Waddell that appeared with the original story

Waddell’s first game with Virginia was rained out:

“’Gee, I am sorry it rained and spoiled the game, but I was in hopes it would clear up so I could try my new fishing tackle.  I hear this is a great country for fishing, and believe me; I am going to find out how the steams around here will produce.  But I guess I will try my skill at pool this afternoon.  I can beat them all at pool.  I am going down to the bowling alley before I leave this town and show up a few of the local cracks, too.

Waddell told the paper he was surprised to have been sent to the Northern League by the Minneapolis Millers’ Joe and Mike Cantillon in the spring:

“’I was weak as a cat.  Then I began to feel old-time form and I said:’

“’Mike, I’m ready to join the club.’

“’Why, you belong to the Northern League,’ he told me, ‘Now what do you think of that?’ ‘Had the contract all signed up and didn’t say anything to me.  It made me pretty sore.  Everyone got the impression that I was going back.  There is nothing to it.  My arm is in good shape and I can pitch just as good a game as any of the big fellows today.  Why, I had offers from every Federal League club in the country.”

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Rube Waddell

Waddell said he was excited about the future of the Northern League:

“There is a great opportunity for the Northern League.  The clubs are playing good baseball.  Well, I am contented, and I am going to like it fine. I have known Spike Shannon for years.  Well, I am off now to play pool.’”

The paper predicted:

“Waddell will be a big drawing card in the Northern League.  That is certain—if he stays here.”

Waddell only stayed another five weeks, he pitched his last professional game on June 28; he was dead the following April.

“Rube was a Jester, Baseball’s First and Only”

16 Apr

In 1914, Roy J. Dunlap was a reporter for The St. Paul Pioneer Press.  He had come to the paper the previous year from The Duluth News-Tribune where he covered baseball and served as official scorer for the Duluth White Sox in the Northern League.

Shortly after Rude Waddell’s death on April 1, 1914, Dunlap told readers about the final game Waddell appeared in as a pro July 3, 1913 (In his original version, Dunlap said the game was played on June 28, but The Virginia Enterprise and other papers confirm the game was played on the 28th).  Waddell was pitching the Virginia (MN) Ore Diggers against the White Sox.

“Waddell made millions of dollars—for the club owners.  His big, jolly nature never permitted him to turn his jesting to his own pecuniary benefit.  For Rube was a jester, baseball’s first and only.  Beside him Germany Schaefer and Nick Altrock are only superclowns.”

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Rube

Dunlap said of Waddell’s final game:

“Those 2,000 or more fans who sat on the bleachers or in the grand stand and doubled up with laughter at the jester’s antics probably never will forget that eventful day.  Perhaps Rube knew it would be his last fling.  The more one thinks of his work in the twelve grueling innings the more he is impressed that Rube felt the intuition of an invisible fate.  Rube ever has been fate’s plaything. Fate molded him into a jester, and has criss-crossed his eventful life since.

“Rube admitted it.  He never could explain why he went fishing the day he was scheduled to pitch while fans called for him and irate managers scoured his old haunts, gnashing their teeth; he never could explain why he went to a fire in the midst of an exciting game or why he rescued drowning men from the bottom of a lake.

“Rube’s last year in baseball was filled with misfortune.  He was stricken with a fever in the training camp at Minneapolis American Association team at Hickman (Kentucky, where Waddle came down with pneumonia after helping to the save the city from a devastating flood) and was not in shape to pitch at the opening of the season.”

Waddell began the 1913 season with the “Little Millers,” the Minneapolis club in the Northern League, and as Dunlap put it:

“The old listless, wandering spirit nature seemed to grip him and he became careless.”

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Rube Waddell

Waddell was released by Minneapolis, then:

Spike Shannon…manager for the Virginia team, which was in last place, put in a bid for Rube.  Probably Shannon figured him from a gate standpoint.  His team was a poor attraction because of its cellar position almost from the start.  If that were his motive he made a shrewd move.  Rube Waddell was a drawing card and this power he held until the last.

“Waddell joined the Virginians at Duluth one rainy day early in June.  He was still suffering from a ‘game’ leg, although it was on the mend, and he was able to be in a game once in awhile.”

Then, said Dunlap, Waddell disappeared:

“Shannon knew where he was, but beyond an evasive answer he would shed no light on Rube’s whereabouts.

“The team traveled about the circuit and the fans called for Rube, but Rube was not there.  Then one day, press dispatches carried a thrilling story, and the secret was no more.”

Dunlap here claimed while Waddell was away from the team “camping” he saved two men from drowning—the story likely a conflation of the oft told story of Rube saving a woman from drowning, and his role in recovering the body of a drown man in Tower, Minnesota on July 9, 1913, The Associated Press said Waddell recovered the body, “after several good swimmers had failed.”

At some point in late June, Waddell rejoined the team, pitched and played outfield, and was scheduled to pitch June 28:

“Waddell was advertised to pitch the first game.  The curious fans filled the grand stands and bleachers.  When the big fellow stepped out to warm up he was cheered to an echo.  But underneath it all there was a note of sadness.  None could help recalling his career.  They saw, in their imagination, Rube Waddell standing in the pitcher’s box at Shibe Park, Philadelphia.  They saw him in the height of glory striking out man after man, and heard again the plaudits of the fans.  Then in reality they saw him in a minor league, one of the newest and greenest in organized baseball and Waddell was pitching for the tail enders.

“Waddell had the art of jesting down to a fine point.  He never displayed it to a better advantage than that day.  He knew when to pull the funny stuff and when to tighten.  He did his best to win that game because he knew the crowd expected it.  But he was pitching against a youngster (Harry “Pecky” Rhoades) who was hitting his best stride, and it was youth against ill health and stiffened joints.  Duluth won the game 2 to 1.  Rube fanned 12, but his team did not give him the slugging support.  His opponent struck out 17 Virginians.”

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Pecky Rhoades

Dunlap continued his story, telling the story of how Rube began the game:

“Rube walked to the plate, keeping step to the hand clapping of the crowd.  He surveyed carefully the pitcher’s box, gave his outfield a careful glance, turned, bowed to the crowd, motioned to the batter to get closer to the plate and put over the first pitched ball-a strike.  The catcher returned the ball, but Rube’s back was turned.  He was looking at something out in centerfield.  The fans shouted but he never looked around.  Suddenly he made a quick step, his face still turned away, put his hand behind his back and caught the ball.

“He retired the batter in short order on strikes.  Rube smiled.”

Both The Duluth News-Tribune and The Virginia Enterprise reported the same score and strike out totals the day after the game, The News-Tribune called the game “One of the great pitching duels seen here.”

Said Dunlap of Waddell’s death:

“Before the end he sent out a little message.  He said in it a few words, but it was a sermon.  Had this commandment been followed by the author the name of Rube Waddell might have been with that of Mathewson today, and fans would be speculating on when he would be too old to pitch.

“This is the sermon-message:

“Tell the boys to cut out the booze and cigarettes.”

Segregation and Spring Training, 1961

11 Apr

Will Grimsley was a New York based sportswriter for The Associated Press for nearly forty years; he covered 35 World Series and at least that many spring training’s.

Before teams opened their camps in 1961, he reported on segregated living arrangement.

Grimsley introduced readers to the woman who housed the Milwaukee Braves

“Mrs. K. W. Gibson’s boarding house at 211 Ninth Avenue is a modest, spotlessly clean two-story dwelling which stands out in the dilapidated Negro section of Bradenton.

“Mrs. Gibson prides herself on “setting the best table in town.”

“The tiny, gray-haired matron for years has been house mother for Negro members of the Milwaukee Braves baseball team.  ‘I’ve treated them like my own sons,’ she said.

“At Mrs. Gibson’s place, the Negro players have basic comfort and ‘eat high on the hog’ as the saying goes.  Yet, they sleep two to a room; queue up for use of the two bathrooms and sometime bicker over the choice of a television program on the single set in the living room.”

Hank Aaron said:

“Sometimes the place is so crowded they have two guys sleeping in the hall.  You wake up in the morning and rush for the bathroom and if you’re the last one all the hot water is gone.”

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Mr. and Mrs. K.W. Gibson in their Bradenton home.

Grimsley said of their teammates’ accommodations:

“The white members of the team meanwhile have headquartered in a Bradenton motel. This year they move into a new motel in the center of town—glistening glass and stone, wall-to-wall carpeting, private baths, television sets and a modern central dining area”

“Aaron, Wes Covington and Andre Rodgers have been most outspoken in criticism of Jim Crow treatment.”

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Aaron and Covington

Duffy Lewis, traveling secretary of the Braves, expressed shock that Aaron and some of his teammates were not thrilled with the situation:

“Why, we thought they had an ideal setup and we’ve never heard a fuss.  That Mrs. Gibson sets the best table I’ve ever seen.  I’ve eaten there myself.”

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Braves in Bradenton

Grimsley conducted “A reporter’s survey” of each team’s spring training quarters with details provided by the teams and/or their spring training hotels. He said hotel managers were, “generally jumpy and gun-shy on the issue but many (were) ready to acknowledge that the problem soon must be met head on—maybe next year.”

Some highlights:

Yankees:  “Have trained at St. Petersburg for years.  The Soreno, a resort hotel, has politely said ‘no’ to Yankee owner Dan Topping’s request that all players…be housed ‘under one roof.”

Tigers: “Local ordinance in Lakeland, FL forbids four Negro players to stay at club headquarters, New Florida Hotel.

Athletics:  General Manager Frank Lane told Grimsley “We are not spearheading any political movements,” when asked why Bob Boyd, the only African-American with the club would not be staying with the rest of the team at the George Washington Hotel in West Palm Beach, FL.

Reds:  “Eight Negros on roster to be housed and fed in private homes, not at team headquarters at Floridian Hotel, Tampa.  Both club and hotel said they never had difficulty and not rocking the boat.”

Pirates:  “Headquarters at Bradford Hotel, Fort Myers, FL.  ‘We don’t anticipate any trouble,’ said the hotel’s resident manager, Howard Green.  ‘The colored players will get excellent accommodations in private homes.”

Phillies:  “Again will stay at Fort Harrison Hotel in Clearwater.  General Manager John Quinn wants all players in same hotel, but no immediate prospect.”

Twins:  “Five Negro players to be housed in new motel, while headquarters will be Cheery Plaza in Orlando, FL”

Senators:  “(T)o train at Pompano Beach, FL. The chamber of commerce is working on housing which will be segregated.”

White Sox: “Bill Veeck, president, is negotiating with Sarasota, FL., civic leaders to have six Negro players…stay with rest of team at Sarasota Terrace.  Negroes likely will wind up at motel.”

Orioles: “McAlister Hotel in Miami…says there has been no correspondence on the matter.”

According to Grimsley, the Cubs, Giants, Dodgers, Indians, Angels, and Red Sox all had integrated accommodations—the Dodgers—who housed all players “together at old air base in Vero Beach,” were the only team in Florida with such an arrangement.  The other five trained in Arizona and California.

Grimsley concluded:

“Next year or the year later perhaps, but not now—the baseball clubs must abide by the traditions of the people whose land they have invaded for a couple of months of each year.”

Bill Nunn Jr., sports editor of The Pittsburgh Courier, interviewed Aaron a week after the original story:

“’I’ve said it before and I’ll keep repeating that I don’t like the situation the way it now stands,’ Aaron disclosed here.  ‘I think it’s wrong for us to have to live apart from the rest of the team.’

“At the same time Aaron went out of his way to emphasize that he didn’t want the numerous Negro friends he has made in Bradenton to be offended by his stand on this matter.

“Aaron was speaking specifically of Mr. and Mrs. K. W. Gibson, the people in whose home he and members of the Braves stay while in Florida.

“’Mrs. Gibson was hurt over all the things she heard concerning our statements about Bradenton.  She thought we were being critical of her and her home.’

“’Actually that wasn’t the case at all.  We were trying to get over the point that we didn’t like being segregated against our will.  I explained all this to Mrs. Gibson.  I told her about the moral issues concerned.  I think she’s on our side now.'”

United Press International (UPI) reported the following spring that, “The Braves switched their Bradenton hotel headquarters to nearby Palmetto this spring to permit integration of their athletes.”

UPI said six clubs “still have the integration problem:” the Orioles, Tigers, Athletics, Twins, Senators, and Pirates.

“I Claim that that First Putout was a Record-Breaker”

9 Apr

When Fred Mitchell was in the process of leading the Cubs to the 1918 National league pennant, George Stallings told boxer turned sports columnist James Corbett that Mitchell was, “a genius as a leader of ball players.”

Corbett said:

“And if anyone should know the ‘what’s what’ concerning the chieftain of the Cubs it’s this same Stallings, who had Mitchell as a lieutenant for over eleven years.”

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Mitchell

Mitchell, however, had no problem pointing out the times he might not have been the fastest thinker on the field. He recounted one example to Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Herald and Examiner during that pennant winning season:

“The place was St. Louis and the time one season when Fred was a member of the Yankees (1910). The bases were brim full of Browns and the batter banged the ball to second base. Mitch, who was catching, stepped in front of the plate to take the throw, and as he set himself for the peg he heard a noise behind him. Thinking it was the runner scoring from third, he quickly threw the ball to Hal Chase at first to stop the batter. To Mitchell’s surprise, Hal came tearing in and winged the ball right back to him. Then a runner started for second and Mitch shot the pill down to Jack Knight. Jack did the same thing Chase had done; he ran in and banged the pellet right back to Mitch.”

Mitchell picked up the story:

“’By this time I figured that they must want me to keep the ball, so I held it. I looked around and discovered that there were four men on the three sacks, as the the runner had stayed at third, for some reason or other. So I touched the plate for a force out. The man at second had held the base because the runner ahead of him had not advanced and this left two men on first. So, I chased down there, shin guards, protector, big mitt and all, and ran one of the base runners towards second. That forced the man there towards third, so I rounded second after him. Just as I got to shortstop, the runner (who had been on second, rounded third and) made a dash for the plate. So I pegged home from short and Chase tagged the man for a double play.”

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Mitchell, 1910

Mitchell said he received:

“(A) good bawling out for running around the infield and leaving the plate unprotected.

“I claim that that first putout was a record-breaker, for it went from second to catcher, catcher to first, a first to catcher, catcher to short and short to catcher before I got wise to the fact that there was a force play at the plate.

“I later learned that the noise I thought was the runner scoring had been made by the next batter who picked up the bat near home plate so the runner could slide.”

“Sweeney Emptied his Revolver”

6 Apr

Charlie Sweeney was attempting to resurrect his career in 1886.  The previous season he was 11-21 for the St. Louis Maroons and had alienated most of his teammates when after a fight with outfielder Emmett Seery during a post-season exhibition tour.

Things didn’t start much better in 1886.  Sweeney was beaten up in May by five “thugs,” as he walked home from Union Grounds in St. Louis—some have speculated that Seery was behind the attack.

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Charlie Sweeney

Regardless of who was responsible, the beating led to Sweeney petitioning for, and being granted, permission to carry a gun in St. Louis.

Sweeney was 5-6 with a 4.16 ERA on June 27, when, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, he and catcher Tom Dolan attended the St. Louis Browns game, and took part in:

“(A) little difficulty at Sportsman’s Park…in which these two players took an active and disturbing part, for which the Maroons managers thought called for prompt and severe action.”

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Tom Dolan

The details are scarce; wire reports simply referenced “ungentlemanly conduct” on the part of the Maroons players, but in any case both were released for their behavior.

Within days of being released and within weeks of being granted permission to carry a gun, it was obvious an armed Sweeney was not a good idea.

In July, The Sporting News reported on an incident following his release:

“The hands of the big clock on the wall pointed to the hour of two, and the bartender thought it was time his congregation should disperse and meander homeward.

“He locked the side door and stood near the front entrance, inviting all the boys that were there to take a walk.

“Charley Sweeney was among the number, and he rather objected to leaving the place at that early hour.

“Some of the boys took hold of him and jerked him out of the door.  He had no sooner reached the sidewalk than the door was slammed upon him.  Sweeney was furious.

“He drew the revolver which he has carried about him lately and made an attack on the front door.

“In a moment pistol shot seemed to be coming from every direction.  The bullets, however, all came from Charley’s favorite weapon.

“The few favored ones who had been left behind on the inside were paralyzed with fear.  Some of them climbed over the counter and hid under the pop bottles and kegs of beer.

“Others jumped behind posts, and held their positions with a tenacity that was simply wonderful t behold.  Others made their escape, through the windows in the rear, for the doors were all locked, while a few scrambled under the table and did their best to get out of harm’s way.

“Sweeney emptied his revolver and then reloaded and emptied it again.  The fourteen shots attracted the attention of the police, who soon surrounded the building and called upon Sweeney to cease firing.

“He in the coolest manner possible, put his revolver in his pocket, laughed and walked away.”

The article went on to say that once granted a gun permit from the city after the beating:

“Ever since that he has gone around carrying a small arsenal in his rear pocket, and on several occasions has seen fit to flourish his weapon and threaten to let daylight out of those who happened to be in his way.”

Sweeney’s major league ended the following season, at age 24.

In 1894, he was convicted of manslaughter after shooting a man in a bar in San Francisco.

He was dead before his 39th birthday.

Chicago Cubs, Charity Patients

4 Apr

The Chicago Daily News noted the day Charles Webb Murphy gave up on the idea of his Chicago Cubs winning the 1913 National League pennant.

The local papers had counted the Cubs out for weeks; Murphy hung on until they were mathematically eliminated on September 19:

“Murphy today drew down the advertisement he has been running in the local papers: ‘The Cubs may yet cop the pennant.’”

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One of Murphy’s ads

The paper pointed out that they could finish no better than second, but said to do so, “the Cubs will need the services of an earthquake.”

Webb didn’t get his earthquake and quickly found himself at the center of a major scandal just outside the West Side Grounds as the Cubs limped to a third place finish.

The Cubs’ neighbor, Cook County Hospital became the subject of a large-scale corruption investigation that hit the papers just as Webb’s ads were disappearing.

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West Side Grounds, Cook County Hospital is visible beyond the grandstand

An investigation ordered by Cook County Board President Alexander Agnew McCormick had revealed that the hospital’s warden, Henry L. Bailey had, according to The Chicago Inter Ocean, allowed politically connected county residents who could afford medical services to receive treatment for free—he was also accused, but cleared, of pocketing the profits derived from selling corpses for medical research.

On September 22, The Chicago Tribune reported a new charge:

“The investigation will also be directed into the alleged exchange of season tickets to the National League baseball games for free medical attention and medicine for indisposed ballplayers. Investigators have brought in evidence that indicating to them that the million dollar baseball club of Charles Webb Murphy received the same solicitous care as did those undeserving ones who entered the free wards on the personal cards of politicians.”

The Tribune said “a number” of passes “found their way” into the hands of hospital administrators.

Murphy immediately denied that any of his players received free treatment.

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Charles Webb Murphy

Within a day, The Chicago Evening Post said otherwise:

“The hospital authorities admitted treating members of the Cubs’ team without charge. President Murphy said no ballplayer of his team had ever been treated free at the hospital.

“The records of the hospital show among the charity patients a man named John Evers, American, baseball player, treated for two weeks and discharged from the hospital much improved.

“Another man named Henry Zimmerman, American, baseball player, was entered as a charity patient in the institution several times.

“Another page in the record bore the name of James Sheckard who was treated gratis for a broken finger.”

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Johnny Evers

Additionally, The Tribune alleged that “a number of ballplayers had photographs taken of their injuries at no cost.” The paper said x-rays usually cost between $10 and $25, and said it was difficult to say exactly how many players received free x-rays because many names and patient records were falsified, but quoted one record which included a payment waiver and said:

“For Mr. Murphy, by personal order of Henry L. Bailey.”

Murphy dug his heels in and told the papers none of his players received free hospital care.

From New York, Frank Chance took the opportunity to contradict the denials of the owner who he had spent most of 1912 feuding with before being dismissed and sent to the Yankees , telling The Daily News:

“Whenever a Cub player was injured it was customary to go over to the County Hospital and be cared for. I couldn’t attempt to say how many x-ray examinations have been made of the players there. Murphy was always friendly to the officials at the institutions.”

Webb became an early example of waiting out the news cycle,

He never backed down. Never admitted that his players had received free services and the story disappeared later in the fall of 1913. Forgotten forever by the time Murphy sold his interest in the Cubs to to Charles Phelps Taft before the 1914 season.

“They Have the Most Wonderful Ballpark in the Country”

2 Apr

The Interstate Association lasted less than one full season. The eight-team league with clubs in Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan, organized in 1906, seemed a stretch to some, to begin with. The Richmond (IN) Palladium said:

“League baseball will be an experiment in several of the cities…There has been little interest in the national sport at Muncie for several years, while Marion was a failure the second season it had a berth in the Central League.”

The experiment failed quickly; the league struggled from opening day and folded in July.

The demise of the Interstate Association created an opportunity for another league in its first season. The Southern Michigan League had just five clubs—Mt. Clemens, Jackson, Tecumseh, Kalamazoo, and Battle Creek—and according to Sporting Life:

“(H)as taken the Saginaw territory of the defunct Interstate Association, with Clarence Jessup as manager of the team.”

Jessup had managed the Marion, Indiana club in the Interstate Association, and brought with him to Saginaw his best player, 18-year-old shortstop Donie Bush (most biographies of Bush say he spent part of 1906 with the Marion, Ohio team in the Ohio-Pennsylvania League, but according to The Sporting Life he was sent by the Dayton Veterans in the Central League to the Marion, Indiana club in the Interstate Association in April.)

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Donie Bush

The Dayton Journal suggested that Bush and James Elmer Duggan, who had been sold to Marion with Bush, should be returned to the Veterans after the Interstate Association disbanded:

“The (Saginaw) club will be strengthened…by several of the Marion players. This doubtless explains the failure of Bush and Duggan to report here. Jessup may bump up against it good and hard if he persists in keeping these two players away from here.”

A lot was expected of the league’s new entry and Sporting Life said:

“Saginaw now has a salary list that will take a corking good attendance to pay off, but the fans promise loyal support.”

Jessup’s club finished last in their half-season in Saginaw, and the town failed to field a club for the Southern Michigan League’s 1907 campaign. The reason might have been the Saginaw ballpark.

Apparently hastily built on the site of a former lumber yard, the playing field in Saginaw might have been less than optimal.

The Superior (WI) Times told the story the following spring:

“They have the most wonderful ballpark in the country at Saginaw, Mich. Originally the field was a lumber yard and it is not much better today, the sod having been worn away in spots, allowing sawdust to percolate through.”

The paper spoke to William “Billy” Ragan, an infielder for the Jackson Convicts during the 1906 Southern Michigan League season. During one game:

“The batter hit a slow grounder toward third and the pitcher and third sacker started for the ball. About the time the latter was ready to pick up the sphere the earth seemed to move from under his feet, a cloud of dust struck him fairly in the eyes and the ball rolled to the left field.

“Another time when on the field Ragan kept jumping up and down around the third bag but was abruptly called down by the pitcher, who yelled, ‘Don’t you see you are jostling me off the rubber and I can’t pitch until you keep still?

“A little later in the game, Ragan was at bat and on an adverse decision by the umpire, the Saginaw team came running in to object in a body.

“A strange sight greeted Ragan’s eyes. The park seemed to swim before him, rolled like the swell of Lake Erie after a storm and little spurts of dust came shooting up all over the infield.

“’It’s an earthquake,’ screamed (Ragan) and he made ready, to make a hasty exit, but the laughter of his fellow players quieted him down and he pinched himself to make sure it wasn’t a dream.”

Ragan said he asked the Saginaw catcher what was happening. The catcher explained the park had been built over the old lumber yard:

“There are a lot of boards just under the surface. Every time you step on one end you tilt up the other end. This throws up the dirt and when the pitcher yelled at you a little while ago you were on one end and he on the other of a plank and you were bounding him around.”

Presumably, with a more stable ballpark, Saginaw joined the Southern Michigan League again in 1908.

Lost Advertisements–Jack Lapp for Sweet Caporal

17 Jul

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A 1914 advertisement for Sweet Caporal Cigarettes featuring Jack Lapp, “One of the brilliant young catchers of the World’s Champion Athletics.”

“When you’re out of Sweets, you’re minus the best cigarette a man can smoke.  The real tobacco flavor of Sweet Caporal is immense.”

Lapp’s career ended at age 31 in 1916, when various illnesses forced his retirement.

The catcher died in 1920 of Pneumonia.

 

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Lapp

 

Connie Mack said of Lapp:

“When in his prime, he was the greatest of American League catchers.  Few realized the greatness of Jack, but for those who knew baseball, he was held in high esteem.”

Lost Pictures: “They All Look Alike to the Leland Giants”

4 Jul

  

Rube Foster and the Leland Giants were nearly unbeatable, it seemed, in 1907 as depicted in a cartoon from The Chicago Defender. 

Foster, along with outfielders Pete Hill and Harry Moore, catcher Pete Booker, and shortstop Nate Harris left Sol White‘s Philadelphia Giants to Koin the Leland’s that season.

With the infusion of new talent the club was nearly unbeatable, posting a 110-10 record, including 48 straight wins.