The Record

15 Jun

Edward Payson Weston became famous in 1861, after he made a bet that he would walk from Boston to Washington D.C. if Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 election—for the next five decades “The Pedestrian” became well-known for his endurance walking feats, and for popularizing competitive walking.

Grantland Rice—sportswriter and poet–of The New York Tribune, paid tribute to Weston in one of his baseball poems in 1916:

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Grantland Rice

The Science of Batting

There are more than many ways

To teach a bloke to bat;

To teach a bloke the way to swing

And make his average fat

But of the many styles

That bring a thrill or throb,

One always plays it fairly safe

To hit the ball like Cobb

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Cobb

The Science of Pitching

There are also many ways

To pitch a baseball right;

To hold the hits to three or four

And bag a winning fight.

And yet the safest is.

Bereft of any fuzz,

To put the same stuff on the ball

That Walter Johnson Does

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Walter Johnson

The Record

Weston has walked for many a mile

Giving all records a wrench;

But he never struck out and had to walk

From the home plate back to the bench.

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Weston

“Cuppy’s Coolness”

13 Jun

Chief Zimmer said:

“It would be interesting to know how many games Nig Cuppy ever won for Cleveland by sheer coolness.”

He told The Cleveland Press in 1904:

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Chief Zimmer

“I have caught him in many an important game, but I never saw him give the slightest indication of nervousness, no matter how critical the situation.”

To illustrate Cuppy’s “coolness,” Zimmer told a likely apocryphal story from an 1895 game—the details don’t match any game from that season:

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George “Nig” Cuppy

“At Baltimore one day we had the Orioles beaten 2 to 1 in the first half of the 11th inning.  In their half the Baltimores got three men on bases with two out.  Then came up Hughey Jennings, who generally managed to get hit with a pitched ball about every other time at bat (Jennings led the National League in HBP from 1894-1898 and holds the all-time record, 287).

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Hughie Jennings

“Two strikes were called and then three balls, the crowd meanwhile going into a delirium of delight.  Then Cuppy beckoned to me and I started in to meet him.  Naturally, I thought he wanted to discuss the kind of a ball to serve Hughey net, but all he said was:

‘”Give me a chew of tobacco, and be —– quick about it.’

“’I handed him a big handful of fine cut then went back to my position.  Jennings was fairly bending over the plate, hoping to be hit with the ball and force in the tying run.  Cuppy, cool and collected, looked up for my signal, and I called for a waist-high ball straight across.

“The smack of the ball in my glove was simultaneous with Umpire Tim Hurst’s incisive ‘three strikes,’ and the game was over.

“’That’s fine tobacco, Chief, said Nig as he came in.  Where do you buy it?’”

“The Opposing Pitchers were Cheating”

11 Jun

Writing in The Pittsburgh Courier in 1936, Cum Posey owner of the Homestead Grays said the “greatest pitching battle of the Gray’s history and a fielding feature that stands out as the best ever witnessed by the writer,” happened in the same 1930 game.

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Cum Posey

The night game was played August 2, 1930 in Kansas City, between the Monarchs and the Grays, after the teams had spent several weeks playing a series of games in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

It was the most famous game of Smokey Joe Williams’ career—some sources incorrectly date the game as August 7 because of the dateline on The Courier’s contemporaneous story about the game.

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“Smokey” Joe Williams

Williams faced Chet Brewer of the Monarchs.  Posey said:

“Before the game, the writer and Mr.(James Leslie) Wilkinson of Kansas City had an agreement that neither pitcher would use the ‘emery’ ball. The Grays got two men on base in the first inning, when Brewer brought out his ‘work,’ and there was no score.

“Joe Williams was then given a sheet of sand paper and the battle was on.”

Six years earlier, The Courier confirmed Posey’s recollection about doctored balls:

“The opposing pitchers were cheating without the question of a doubt.  An emery ball in daylight is very deceptive but at night it is about as easy to see as an insect in the sky.”

Posey picked up the story:

“For eight innings not another Gray and no Monarch reached first base.  Kansas City hadn’t made a hit off of Joe, with one down in the ninth (actually the eighth).  Newt Joseph in attempting to bunt, lifted a ‘pop’ over (first baseman Oscar) Charleston’s head.  Charleston had come in fast for the bunt and the ball went for two bases.”

The Courier did not describe the hit as a bunt in the original game story.

Posey continued:

“Joseph stole third.  “The Grays infield of Judy Johnson, (Jake) Stephens, (George) Scales, and Charleston came in on the grass…Moore (Posey misidentifies the batter—it was actually James ‘Lefty’ Turner) a young first baseman, was at bat, and hit a half liner, half Texas leaguer over Stephens’ head.  Jake turned at the crack of the bat and started running with his hands in the air.  While still out of reaching distance of the ball, Stephens stumbled and, taking a headlong dive, caught the ball six inches from the ground.”

The Courier was less specific in the 1930 coverage but said Stephens “went back” for Turner’s “sure Texas leaguer,” and “made a spectacular catch to rob the Monarchs of a possible victory.”

Williams retired Brewer to end the inning.

Brewer and Williams continued their duel until the top of the 12th when Brewer walked Charleston (the game’s only base on balls) and scored on Chaney White’s single for the game’s only score.

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Chet Brewer

Williams struck out the side in the 12th, completing the one-hitter with 27 strikeouts.

Brewer gave up just four hits and struck out 19, including 10 straight—he struck out the side in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.

Williams is widely known to have recommended Buck Leonard to Posey resulting in Leonard’s signing with the Grays in 1934.  Lesser known is the story Leonard told Red Smith of The New York Times in 1972:

“’Williams—he was tending bar on Lenox Avenue—asked me if I’d like to play for a good team.  He called up Cum Posey, who had the Homestead Grays.  Posey sent travel expenses but not to me; he sent the money to Williams, who gave me a bus ticket and $5.’

“’Do you think,’ Leonard was asked, ‘that Smokey Joe took a commission?’

“Laughter bubbled out of him.  ‘All I know, when I got my first pay check they held out $50.  That bus ticket didn’t cost $45.”’

“Robison Laughs at Pitcher George Cuppy’s Threat”

8 Jun

George “Nig” Cuppy staged an unusual holdout before the 1897 season. He sent a letter to a friend in Cleveland which was published by The Cleveland Press:

“Before leaving the country I thought it best to write briefly in the way of explanation. You will not see my name in any score card this summer—possibly never again. I intend to enlist with a party of friends in the Cuban army. I expect to leave Logansport (Indiana) for Cuba December 26.”

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Cuppy

Cuppy said he would join the Cuban rebels—who had just lost their highest ranking officer Lt. General Jose Antonio Maceo y Grajales–fighting for their independence from Spain.  Cuppy, whose middle name was Maceo, was often referred to by sportswriters as “The Cuban Warrior,” or “The Cuban Hero,” because of his famous namesake.

The following day, The Cleveland Plain Dealer talked to Cleveland Spiders owner Frank Dehass Robison about Cuppy’s plans:

“President Robison laughs at pitcher George Cuppy’s threat to join the Cuban army.  He doesn’t for an instant entertain the idea that Cuppy is serious in his announced determination to go to the rescue of Maceo’s followers.”

Robison said:

“I am at a loss to know how we can fill his place. You see, Cuppy has for a long time been working on a big enterprise.  He proposes to build a hotel and has a great scheme to save on the ground lease.  He intends to have only one room on a floor and to build the hotel 126 stories high.”

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Robison

Robison said Cuppy’s building would include 125 elevators so “guests will be saved the annoyance of stopping,” and said that his pitcher had attempted to get him to invest in the plan:

“’It seems he was unsuccessful, for this is what I hear from him,’ and Mr. Robison handed out a telegram, under a Logansport date which read as follows:

“’I’m off for Cuba.  Will sell my hotel scheme to (General Valeriano) Welyer (Spanish Governor of Cuba) for Spanish hospital.  Cup.”

Robison might not have taken Cuppy seriously, but others did.  His hometown paper, The Logansport Journal said:

“(Cuppy’s) friend turned the letter over to a newspaper correspondent, who telegraphed he news far and wide…And now George’s troubles have fairly begun.  He received letters by the dozen yesterday from fellows who want to join his party.”

Cuppy might have preferred Cuba.  After winning 120 games in his first five seasons, Cuppy hurt his arm in 1897 and won just 42 games in his final five seasons.

Addie Joss’ Pigeon

6 Jun

Before he was called “The Human Hairpin,” Addie Joss picked up the nickname “Juneau Slat,” after the Wisconsin town.

Generally, Joss appeared to be less superstitious than many of his brethren whose lucky charms, curses, and “hoodoos” were chronicled on a regular basis in newspapers.

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Joss

But, in 1907, after he signed with Cleveland for $4,000 after a brief holdout, The Cleveland Plain Dealer said he had “a hunch that he would join the Naps,” several days before he signed, because of a bird:

“Early last week Joss went to his home to have some photographs made in uniform.  While posing in the yard Joss noticed a carrier pigeon alight upon his front porch and walk through the door, which had been left open, the day being warm.

“’What do you think of that bird?’ the Juneau Slat demanded of a friend in a surprised voice, as the bird disappeared inside the house.

“’You know the old saying, that a dove is the harbinger of peace,’ the friend replied.”

Joss quickly followed the bird into his the house:

“Addie’s search for the pigeon took him to the kitchen, where the bird had established itself.  Joss made a temporary cage for the homer out of an orange box, and extracted from the friend a promise of silence until the bird proved itself a prophet of good or a bird of ill omen.

“As has been established, the pigeon lived up to its reputation, for on Friday (March 8) night Joss was summoned to Cleveland by the owners of the baseball club, and at noon Saturday peace had been established and he signed a contract.”

Joss went on to win 27 games and posted a 1.83 ERA, pitching a career high 338.2 innings in 1907.

He never said what became of the pigeon.

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things #23

4 Jun

Evers Shuts Down Donlin

Mike Donlin’s final comeback ended with a final stop with the New York Giants as a coach and pinch hitter.

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Mike Donlin

Frank Menke of Hearst’s International News Service said Donlin tried to get under Johnny Evers’ skin in the last series the Giants played with the Braves:

“Evers, the peppery captain of the Boston Braves, walked up to the plate…watched three strikes whizz by and was declared out.

“’Oh, I say, Johnny,’ chirped up Donlin.  ‘What was you waiting for?’

“Quick as a flash Johnny shot back:

“’I wasn’t waiting for the first and fifteenth of the month so as to get rent money, anyway.’

“The retort hurt Mike who was holding down the job as pinch hitter and coach for the Giants not because of his ability in either department, but through the friendship of Manager (John) McGraw.”

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Johnny Evers,

Donlin appeared in just 35 games for the Giants, all as a pinch hitter, he hit just .161.

Comiskey Can’t Understand Padden

By 1906, Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Tribune said of the importance of “a man whose brain is as agile as his body…Never was this fact so impressed upon me as a few years ago when I was sitting with (Charles) Comiskey.”

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Charles Comiskey

Fullerton and Comiskey were watching the White Sox play the St. Louis Browns:

“Commy was talking, half to himself, about Dick Padden, who was about as quick a thinker as ever played the game.

“’I can’t understand it,’ soliloquized the Old Roman.  ‘He can’t hit. He can’t run. He isn’t good on ground balls.  He’s not any too sure of thrown balls, and his arm is bad.’ He stopped a moment and then added: ‘But he’s a hell of a good ballplayer.’”

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Dick Padden

Jones Shuts Down Altrock

Nick Altrock won 20 games for the 1906 White Sox, after an arm injury and his general disinterest in staying in shape, Altrock slipped to 7-13 the following season.

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Nick Altrock

Late in 1907, The Washington Evening Star said:

“Altrock is the champion mimic and imitator of the American League…Nick delights to give his various imitations, and much amusement do his companions find in these diversions of Altrock.

“The other day at Chicago, and just a few minutes before the game between the New Yorks and the Windy City aggregation began, the big pitcher was delighting the members of his own team, as well as several of the New York bunch, with his clever imitations of notable people, when he suddenly turned to Fielder Jones, the captain and manager of the Chicagos, and asked:

‘”What shall be my last imitation for the evening, Fielder?’

“’Why,’ replied Jones, with that sober look of his, ‘as I am going to pitch you this evening, Nick, suppose when you get in the box you give us an imitation of a winning pitcher.”

“The Decomposition of a Perfectly Healthy Game”

1 Jun

Umpire Billy Evans said:

“Perhaps nothing shows up an umpire worse than for the catcher to hold up the ball on him, after he has declared the pitch a ball, while the receiver is equally confident it should have been a strike.  Repetition of the stunt often draws a tin can and sometimes several days’ rest.”

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Billy Evans

After the 1908 season, in his nationally column, Evans said that some umpires took it more personally than others:

(Gabby) Street, who broke into the American League last season and established a record that makes him stand out as one of the best backstops in the business, looks on his first run in with Silk O’Loughlin with a lot of humor.  Nothing hurts the arbitrator any more during the game more than to intimate that he possibly could be wrong, and when Street held up a ball, to inform Silk that his judgment was questioned, he almost keeled over.

“’Throw it back; throw it back, busher,’ yelled Silk in his loudest voice.

“Street complied at once and didn’t question the arbitrator any more during the game, but admits that O’Loughlin kept up a continual chatter over the incident throughout the rest of the contest.

“’Don’t forget this is your first year in the league Street, and I’ve been up here six or seven seasons.  I’ll do the umpiring and you tend to the catching, and you will find you have plenty of work to keep you busy.  Sometime you will hold one of those balls up to me when I’m not feeling good and you will probably draw a week’s vacation.”’

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Gabby Street

And, the umpire said, it wouldn’t just be him:

“’Unless you want to have all the umpires in the league a bunch of soreheads you had better forget that trick of holding up the ball.’ These were just a few of the things Silk got out of his system during the remainder of the game, and Street didn’t make any effort to contradict him.”

Four years later, after ejecting Street, then a member of the New York Highlanders,  from a game with the Tigers, for arguing balls and strikes, O’Loughlin faced one of the most harrowing incidents of career.  The New York Sun said:

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Silk O’Loughlin

“First, (Manager Harry) Wolverton was chased off the field, then (pitcher Jack) Quinn… was put out for kicking over a called ball and throwing his glove, and then Street aired his opinion of O’Loughlin as an arbiter and was summarily dismissed..”

The ejections led to “Certain spectators in the grand stand with an acute sense of fair play threw bottles out at O’Loughlin, who stood his ground without flinching in the face of the glassware bombardment and the hooting which went with it.”

The New York Tribune said the incident was “the decomposition of a perfectly healthy game (and) was a frightful site.”

After the game, a 9 to 5 Detroit victory, The Tribune said:

“O’Loughlin was surrounded by a lusty corps of Pinkertons after the game, and was protected from a crowd of spectators who acted threateningly.”

When O’Loughlin died during the 1918 influenza epidemic at age 42, Evans, who worked behind the plate in the last game O’Loughlin worked,  said, “Baseball was a serious proposition for him,” and told the late umpire’s hometown paper, The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle that he “planned to write a biography of O’Loughlin’s life soon.”

Evans never wrote the book.

Wagner is the Nearest Approach to a Perfect Baseball Machine”

30 May

Claude Johnson was the long-time sports editor for The Kansas City Star.  Al Spink, in his book “The National Game,” called the paper “one of the greatest newspapers in the Western world,” and said of Johnson:

”He is a real baseball enthusiast… (The) sports pages are widely read and perfectly edited by little Johnson… (he) ought to be dancing in the big league.”

When the Pittsburgh Pirates came to town to play exhibition games with the American Association Kansas City Blues, Johnson wrote a long profile of Honus Wagner:

“Hugh Fullerton, who writes on baseball topics, has said that Hans Wagner is the nearest approach to a perfect baseball machine ever constructed.  ‘Constructed ‘ is good.  Wagner is put up solidly, after the fashion of government architecture.  And you may take it straight from any bug who ever saw Hans Wagner that he is some baseball machine.“

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 Honus Wagner

Johnson said in the Kansas City games Wagner had the “star role:”

“Do you know, it’s lots of fun to watch Hans Wagner play ball.  A good deal of this is due to the fact that Honus enjoys it himself.  He has as much fun playing ball as a kid on a corner lot.  He romps about and kids the opposition…and nags good naturedly the umpire. For Hans is field captain this year and feels that he must do some beefing.  But beefing is hard work for Hans.  He is too good natured.  Hans would much rather take a bun decision with a humorously protesting wave of his enormous hands and make up for it later by one of his terrific wallops.

“Hans has a lot of little mannerisms on the field.  He is a born comedian, though so bashful he will hide himself under the bat rack if he sees a reporter coming.”

Johnson said Kansas City fans were as impressed with his work in the field as at the plate:

“Most of what you read of Hans is about his tremendous hitting, and it is all true, too.  But Hans is a miraculous fielder, also.  He has a style that is all his own.  No bush leaguer would dare try to play short like Hans Wagner.  He plays wherever he pleases; retreating to the edge of the outfield grass, whence only his mighty arm would carry to first in time to head off a fast runner.  When he goes after a ground hit he goes after it like a runaway gondola loaded with coal—but he gets it, if it is getable.  And when once one of those ponderous hands clamps down on the pellet there it remains quietly until the great shortstop wings it on its way.

“Wagner’s pegging is something to ponder.  Several times in the Kansas City series he would field a sharply hit line drive lazily, merely lobbing the ball over to first and beating the runner only by a step.

“’Shucks,’ remarked some of the bugs who were watching Honus for the first time, ‘that guy’s as slow as molasses.  A fast man would have beat him.’

“Wait a bit though.  There goes a fast man—and his hit was a slow one .  But he’s out, by the same distance.  And if you want to see Honus really peg, watch him finishing up a double play.  The big frame moves like a streak.  He gets the ball away in a twinkle—and it nearly knocks the first baseman off the bag.”

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Wagner

Next Johnson described Wagner at the plate:

“At bat Honus is a study.  He is built like a piano mover above the waist and below he resembles a pair of parenthesis.  He is one of the few celebrities who can stand bowlegged and pigeon-toed at one and the same time, and he does it with ease and aplomb.  At least it looks very much like aplomb.

“Hans twiddles his ponderous bat as if it weighed about as much as a feather duster.  He balances it between his fingers, pulls down his cap and takes his stand–bowlegged and pigeon-toed—well back of the plate.  You see the reason for the latter.

“Wagner watches the ball from the time pitcher starts his delivery.  He steps into the pitch with a long, swinging stride, and meets the ball with a heave of his whole powerful frame.  It looks very easy, and there is a certain grace about it too.  But what you mainly notice is the streaky appearance of the ball, whatever way it may travel, tearing its way through the hands of an infielder or flying like an arrow over the outfield.”

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Wagner

Johnson said, in the final game of the series, Wagner “walked into the first” pitch he saw in the eighth inning:

“He did not seem to hit the ball hard, yet, it soared away into the top of the center field bleachers—one of the longest hits ever made inside the park.”

The Pittsburgh Post called the home run, “a wallop into the center field bleachers…the longest hit of the series.”

As for Wagner himself, Johnson said:

“Hans is a likable chap—a retiring, modest sort of star.  He is fond of dogs and collects strays in nearly every city he visits.  He can’t bear to see a dog hungry.  If he can’t provide for them elsewhere he ships them home, where he has a dog farm collected in that way.  Hans’ main pet is a Dachshund, whose legs, he says, are dead ringers for his own.

“And he’s a great old boy, is Honus.  And you can start something with nearly any bug by suggesting that there is a greater player doing business today.”

Memorial Day–Jimmy Robertson

28 May

Born in Albany, Oregon on August 31, 1919, James G. “Jimmy” Robertson attended Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.  The Salem Statesman Journal called him:

“A hustling catcher and court star under coaches Spec Keene and Howard Maple at Willamette.  He was voted to Northwest conference teams in both sports.”

After graduating in 1942, Robertson signed his first professional contract with the Salem Senators in the Western International League (BR, and other sources conflate Robertson with several other players, including a shortstop by the same name who played with Salem in 1940).

Robertson made his professional debut on May 6; Salem defeated the Tacoma Tigers 6 to 2.  He was 0-2, with a sacrifice, was hit by a pitch, and scored a run.  The Journal said:

 “He caught a mighty smooth game.”

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Jimmy Robertson

The next day, Robertson collected his first three professional hits, and first three RBIs in an 11 to 6 victory over Tacoma.

Robertson had appeared in just 21 games, hitting .250, when he was drafted, his final game was June 14.  The Statesman Journal said:

“That was a nice sendoff the 800-odd fans gave Jimmy Robertson on Sunday when he came to bat for the first time against the Tigers.”

In his last plate appearance, Robertson was hit by a pitch:

“But Jimmy didn’t mind as it came during that terrific seventh when Salem brought the house down.”

The Senators split a double header with Tacoma that day.

The Statesman Journal said:

“Yep, the Navy gets itself a good man in Robby, and when Uncle Sam is through with him, we hope he brings his dash and fire back to play for our Senators.”

Robertson trained as a pilot in North Carolina and Texas and went to the South Pacific in December of 1943 serving as a flight leader of a B-25 Mitchell bomber squadron.

The Statesman Journal said:

“First Lt. James G. Robertson, better known over the Willamette Valley and Western International baseball league as Jimmy, or ‘Jeem,’ basketball and baseball star has been killed in action in the South Pacific.”

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First Lt. James G. Robertson

According to Robertson’s hometown paper, The Albany Democrat-Herald, the telegram sent to his wife–who gave birth to a daughter while Robertson was in the service–on April 24, 1944 gave no other details other than he had “died in the line of duty.”

The Eugene Guard said:

“He was a great competitor and his friends and acquaintances may be sure he got in some good licks…before the third strike.”

He is buried at Willamette Memorial Park in Albany.

King Kelly’s Contract

25 May

Mike “King” Kelly signed in 1891 to captain the new American Association club in Cincinnati and joined the Boston Reds in that league after Cincinnati released him in August.  But after just eight days with the reds he jumped to the Boston Beaneaters of the National League.

The New York World called Kelly’s action, a “Hard blow to the Association.”

Kelly jumped as representatives of the two leagues were engaged in a “Peace conference” at Washington’s Arlington Hotel.

The Baltimore Sun said:

“The action of Kelly had the effect of breaking up pending negotiations, for the time being at least, the Association representatives leaving the conference when the League men refused to give them any assurance that would be compelled to remain with the Reds.”

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Mike “King” Kelly

The Chicago Evening Post claimed to have the story behind Kelly’s move, and concluded which team he “morally” belonged to:

“It is held by persons who urge that they know that the King signed a Boston (NL) contract and accepted advance money two months before (he signed with Cincinnati).  The incident happened at the Fifth Avenue Hotel (in New York) last winter during the conferences that finally ended in the dissolution of the brotherhood.  One night Kelly came into the hotel ‘broke,’ having spent the afternoon and his roll at Guttenberg.”

Guttenberg was a racetrack located across the river from Manhattan, in what is now North Bergen, New Jersey—open from 1885-1893, it was at the time, the only track that held winter racing in a winter climate.

The Evening Post said Kelly found “His old friend, Director (William) Conant of the Boston (National League) triumvirate.”  Kelly said:

“’Bill, I’m dead broke.  Can I touch you for a few hundred?’

“’I don’t know Kel’ was the reply.  ‘I guess, though, you can have the money if you’ll sign a contract to play ball with me.’”

The paper said the two went upstairs to Conant’s room:

“A League contract was produced and a roll of greenbacks was spread before the King’s beaming countenance.  ‘Kel’ picked up the money, signed the contract and then put both the money and the document into his pocket, with the cool remark:

“’When I get ready to return this contract to you, Bill, I will.  See?’

“And with that he walked of.”

The Evening Post said Kelly initially signed with the Boston Reds after his release from Cincinnati because he tried to borrow more money from Conant:

“Conant refused to accommodate him unless that contract was handed over.  But ‘Kel’ was obstinate, and not getting the money from Conant, went over to (Charles A.) Prince, who gladly gave it to him.”

But, Kelly quickly decided to honor the “contract” he signed with Conant:

“These are facts, every one of them, from which it must be inferred that Kelly was really under contract morally to the Boston League people all the time that he played with Cincinnati and the Boston Reds.”

The Beaneaters were in second place, four games behind the Chicago Colts, on the day Kelly jumped, August 25.  Kelly only appeared in 16 games and hit just .231, but Boston went on a tear, winning 30 of their last 40 games after the King joined the club, and overtook Chicago for sole possession of first place on September 30, and won the pennant by three and a half games.