A Hot Stove Hiatus

14 Nov

hotstove

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

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

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

One Minute Talk: Sherry Magee

9 Nov

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

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

Sherry Magee

Sherry Magee

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

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

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

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

One Minute Talk: Pat Ragan

7 Nov

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

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

Pat Ragan

Pat Ragan

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

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

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

Tom Hughes

Tom Hughes

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

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

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

Chance versus Mack II

2 Nov

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

Johnny Evers

Johnny Evers

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

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

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

Frank Chance

Frank Chance

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

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

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

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

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

Evers said:

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

Evers said of managers in general:

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

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

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

Evers noted that for Mack to do the same:

Connie Mack

Connie Mack

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

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

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

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

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

Chance versus Mack

31 Oct

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

Johnny Evers,

Johnny Evers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frank Chance

Frank Chance

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joe McGinnity

Joe McGinnity

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

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

Evers continues making his case for Chance on Wednesday.

One Minute Talk: Frank Schulte

28 Oct

Frank Schulte found his stroke again in 1916.  The two previous seasons the left fielder hit .241 and .249 for the Chicago Cubs; when he was featured in the syndicated “One Minute Talks with Ballplayers” series in mid-July, he was hitting in the .290s:

Schulte

Schulte

“I do not feel a bit older than I did 12 years ago (Shulte was a 21-year-old rookie with the Cubs in 1904), and I do not find it any harder to play to ball.  The game has not advanced so much in that time as to make me take a back seat for any younger player and you will find that I will be well up in the batting averages by the end of the season.”

Schulte also took a shot at his managers in 1914 and 1915—Hank O’Day and Roger Bresnahan:

“I think I am giving the Cubs better baseball than I have for years because we have a manager (Joe Tinker) for whom it is a pleasure to work for.”

Tinker

Tinker

Schulte was hitting .296 on July 29 when the Cubs traded him to the Pittsburgh Pirates; he hit just .254 for Pittsburgh and finished the season at .278.

One Minute Talk: Nixey Callahan

27 Oct

As part of the 1916 syndicated series “One Minute Talks with Ballplayers, ” Nixey Callahan, manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, lamented his position:

“It’s the hardest job in the world to manage a big league ball club.  If you win the players discount the manager. ‘We made him’ they say.  If the club loses the cry is, ‘How could we win with such club management.’  Between owner and the public and internal troubles on a club the manager’s lot is no bed of roses, believe me.

Callahan

Callahan

“But it is a stirring life and there’s never any lack of interest if you look at things that way.  The most a manager can do is to teach and direct the players and endeavor to secure their best work.  Beyond that none can go.”

Callahan was not able to “secure” the Pirates “best work,” he was 85-129 with Pittsburgh in 1916 and part of 1917.  The team was 20-40 when he was let go in 1917

One Minute Talk: Lee Fohl

26 Oct

Cleveland Indians manager Lee Fohl, who played just five big league games, was against star players becoming managers:

“Most star players recently appointed manager have no knowledge of how to handle men, in fact, are poorly equipped for their task.  Many a minor league manager who has toiled for years unnoticed in bush circuits could show them cards and spades and beat them at their own game.

Lee Fohl

Lee Fohl

“There is a natural aptitude for managing just as there is for playing.  If I were an owner I would sooner entrust my club to the care of a man who has had experience in handling men, whether in the minors or otherwise, than to any high-priced otherwise inexperienced star player on the circuit.”

Fohl managed the Indians, St. Louis Browns, and Boston Red Sox for 11 seasons; his teams were 713-792.

One Minute Talk: Bill Carrigan

25 Oct

Bill Carrigan, on the verge of leading the Boston Red Sox to a second straight World Championship, had an unusual nominee for the best clutch hitter in baseball:

Carrigan, right

Bill Carrigan, (right)

“With all due respect to (Ty) Cobb, (Tris) Speaker, (Joe) Jackson and all the other sluggers, I would rather see Dick Hoblitzell up there with men on the bases than anybody else in the country.  He almost always hits the ball hard and on a line, and while he doesn’t get them all safe by a long shot, his record for advancing base runners is a wonder.

“You can feel reasonably sure, with Dick up there, that he will not strike out, anyhow.  He seems to have a happy faculty of making many safeties with men on bases than at any other time, which is something I can’t say for a lot of the fellows who are in the front rank every year.

Hoblitzell

Hoblitzell

Jack Barry is another fellow who is more dangerous in the pinches.  He isn’t a heavy hitter, but one of the most valuable.”

Hoblitzell hit .259 for the Red Sox in 1916, striking out 28 times in 489 at bats, and driving in 39 runs for the champions.

One Minute Talk: Tris Speaker II

24 Oct

Tris Speaker, on his way to his only batting title, was the only player who rated two “minutes” in the series in the syndicate “One Minute Talks with Ballplayers” series.  In this one he takes inspiration from an operatic diva:

“I was reading about Mary Garden the other day and it seems she is keeping her weight down to 124 pounds—says she’ll never weigh more than 124 ½.  Well, if Mary can stay within a half pound limit just by singing. I figure I ought to be able to by playing baseball.

 

Mary Garden

Mary Garden

“That’s my principal thought every day—to keep my weight within eight ounces of where it is.  I eat only two meals a day—breakfast and dinner and am sticking right at the 182-pound mark.”

Speaker

Speaker

Most sources list Speaker’s weight at 193