“The Story of the Story Fogel Wrote”

9 Jul

The day before Philadelphia Phillies president and owner Horace Fogel was banned from baseball by his fellow National League magnates, one of the witnesses in the case against him said Fogel was being “used” by the “instigator” of the story that appeared in The Chicago Evening Post, and contributed to the action taken by the National League.

The charge seemed to confirm a rumor that swirled around the Fogel case for months; that the Philadelphia Phillies owner was acting on behalf of Cubs owner Charles W. Murphy.

Under the headline, “The Story of the Story Fogel Wrote,” William S. Forman, sports editor of The Evening Post wrote:

“Charles W. Murphy authorized me to tell Fogel that Murphy had suggested writing the story.  On this representation Fogel wrote it and signed it.  He sent it to Murphy, who read it before I ever saw it.  It came to me from Murphy’s office; and if Murphy had not approved the story it never would have been published.  The man who is morally responsible for that article and the charges it contained is Murphy himself, and I have Fogel’s own word for it that he wrote it simply “to help Murphy fight his battles” with the National League.

“It is not the first time Murphy has made Fogel the goat.  Previously Murphy had sent me another article signed by Fogel and told me Fogel had writing it, and wanted it published…Months afterward I learned that Murphy himself had writing it and Fogel had merely signed it because he was requested to do so by the Cubs’ President.  It was a defense of Murphy who had been criticised…by a Chicago baseball writer.”

Charles Webb Murphy

Charles Webb Murphy

Murphy, who spent his entire National League career engaged in countless feuds with fellow owners, players, managers, umpires and writers, denied the charge and said Forman was motivated to tell the story as a result of one of Murphy’s other feuds, telling reporters:

“This is a lot of rubbish; why I hardly know this man Forman, but I can guess readily that his paper is sore because we let Frank Chance go.  His paper thinks that by pounding me it will make a hit with Chicago fans, but it will find it is mistaken.“

The Associated Press said the other league owners were not buying Murphy’s explanation:

“(I)t is claimed that every magnate expects charges will be brought against (Murphy) by President (Thomas) Lynch and he may go the way of Fogel if the test votes to date are any criterion.”

Despite the rumors and the “test votes,” Murphy said “the suggestion that charges will be brought against me is all rubbish.”

Murphy was correct.  Despite the evidence, and despite his ongoing feuds with the league president and at least half of the National League magnates, charges were never brought by the league.

Murphy had another feud-filled, stormy year in Chicago in 1913.  After the season The Associated Press said:

“For the first time since the problem of pushing Charles W. Murphy out of the National League received serious consideration there is smooth working machinery ready to grip the club president and move him to a seat beside Horace Fogel. “

While a deal was being made to get Murphy out of the National League, Damon Runyon said:

“We grant you that Charles Webb Murphy should be thrown out of baseball, if only to quiet the beating pulse, and lave the fevered brow of Chicago, but we do not go to be o’ nights with a dull anger smoldering in our in’ards and we do not get up o’ mornings low in mind and spirits and feeling that out existence is is blackened and posterity besmirched because Charles Webb Murphy is still around.  We know that when they throw him out, as they doubtless will throw him out, there will be someone else ready to take his place as official Bugaboo, for there must be a Bugaboo in baseball, else we might have no baseball.”

Eventually it was agreed that Charles Phelps Taft would purchase Webb’s interest in the Cubs, and he resigned as team president in February of 1914; although it was unclear just how much the sale netted him.  Murphy said he owned 53 percent of the team’s stock and that the sale was for more than $500,000.  Frank Chance, Mordecai Brown, and others claimed Murphy “Never owned more than fifteen or twenty percent of the club stock.”

But the transaction with Taft would not be the end of Murphy.

Murphy was still owned part of the Cubs’ West Side Grounds and Philadelphia’s Baker Bowl, home of the Phillies.  In addition it was reported at the close of the 1914 season that Murphy held a mortgage on the Cubs stock, and claimed to own a controlling interest in the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Chicago Examiner said:

“Charles W. Murphy, who everybody supposes was ‘kicked out’ of baseball last spring, is not out at all, but very much in…He practically admits it himself when he does not deny controlling Cub stock , and asserts that he may take over the Philadelphia club before long… (National League President John Tener) declared some months ago that Murphy was out of the National League, now admits that Murphy may own some stock that he does not know about.

“Murphy says openly that he is Tener’s landlord, meaning that Tener is a stockholder in the Phillies and that the Phillies owe Murphy plenty of rent for their grounds.”

The Examiner said Murphy was interfering with the negotiations to sell the Cubs to Charles Weeghman, and at the same time was owed a lump sum payment of more than $100,000 by the other Phillies investors; if the payment was not received “at the stated time Murphy will foreclose and take possession of the Phillies.”

In The Philadelphia Inquirer, Phillies President William F. Baker quickly denied Murphy’s assertion that the former Cubs owner was in a position to take possession of his ballclub and that Tener ever owned stock in the team:

“It is true that Murphy and Mr. Taft own the Philadelphia ballpark, which the club has leased for a long time. But that does not alter the fact that Murphy is in no way interested in the club’s affairs…I intend to call the attention of the National League to this matter for the purpose of stopping Murphy for all time.”

William F. Baker

William F. Baker

By late December of 1914 Murphy was finally out of the National League for good.

As for whether Murphy was forced of baseball or left of his own accord, several recent sources point to a self-serving article Murphy wrote in “Baseball Magazine” in 1919 as evidence that he was not forced out.  Murphy, while acknowledging that Tener “was not ‘crazy’ about me,” Murphy said:

“No force was required. Despite that fact I read every once in a while that I was forced out of baseball–knocked down the back steps, as it were, and kicked into the yards behind… I sold out to Mr. Charles P. Taft and without force, but for what every other thing of value is obtained–a price. Imagine a man being forced to take $500,000 for a baseball franchise.”

Given that the $500,000 figure, while repeated credulously in countless books and articles in the last 100 years, has never been confirmed (it’s fairly certain that most of Murphy’s stake in the Cubs strictly on paper and was, in fact, Taft money, making Chance and Brown’s speculation on the value more realistic), and that Murphy conveniently left out his attempts to insert himself in the operations of two team the year after “no force was required” to remove him from the game, his protestations should be taken at face value.  Although he retained his interest in the Baker Bowl, he was never actively involved in the operations of a team again.

Murphy, who started his professional life as a sportswriter (for Taft’s Cincinnati Enquirer), managed to remain involved in baseball by writing articles about the game for “Baseball Magazine,” many, like the one quoted above, focused on restoring his reputation.

Murphy returned to Wilmington, Ohio where he financed the construction of the Murphy Theater, a landmark that still stands.  He eventually returned to Chicago where he died in 1931.  The Associated Press said he left “An estate estimated at nearly $3,000,000,” his stake in the Baker Bowl and the ownership of the theater being his largest assets.

Murphy made one last pitch to get back in the game–next week.

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2 Responses to ““The Story of the Story Fogel Wrote””

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Charles Murphy’s Last Stand | Baseball History Daily - July 16, 2013

    […] National League had almost completely rid themselves of Charles Webb Murphy in 1914; the owner who had ongoing feuds with nearly every other league magnate, league officials, umpires, […]

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    […] of the International News Service.  Kilgallen, called “an editor’s dream of a reporter,” by Damon Runyon, occasionally wrote about baseball in between covering, as he said, “every conceivable type of […]

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