A Thousand Words–Jim Jeffries and Baseball

12 Jul

jeffries

 

Former Heavyweight Champion Jim Jeffries fields a ground ball at his ranch in Burbank, California as he prepares for “The Fight of the Century,” against reigning  champion Jack Johnson; Johnson pummeled the former champ on July 4 in Reno, Nevada, retaining his title on a TKO in the 15th round.

Behind him is Harley M. “Beanie” Walker, sports editor of The Los Angeles Examiner.

A decade earlier, while champion, Jeffries along with fellow fighters John L.  Sullivan and “Gentleman Jim” Corbett began making appearances as umpires (Corbett also played at times) in many minor league games.  The use of fighters as umpires appears to have been the idea of Atlantic League president, and future Hall of Famer Ed Barrow, although all three fighters appeared at professional games in many leagues across the country.   When Barrow died in 1953, Al Abrams of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said he once paid Jeffries “60 percent of the gate receipts,” for appearing at a game.

After Jeffries defeated Corbett in 1900 he did a series of  appearances at ballparks across the country. The Kansas City Star said:

“Jeffries had an easy time as the players were so scared they forgot all the baiting tactics.”

Jeffries often included a sparring exhibition as part of his appearance, when he didn’t, fans usually left disappointed.    The St. Joseph (MO) Herald said during his 1900 ballpark tour:

“He merely walked up and down between first and second bases, but was not heard either by the crowd or the players, to make any decisions…The crowd had expected that Jeffries, besides umpiring the game throughout, would be placed on exhibition and put through his paces…such remarks as ‘Where’s the punching bag?’ and ‘Who’s going to box with him?’ were heard among the crowd, and when no bag or sparring mate was produced the disappointment of the spectators was so apparent that it had a depressing effect on the teams.”

Jim Jeffries

Jim Jeffries

“Beanie” Walker would leave the newspaper business in 1917 and become a screenwriter for movie producer Hal Roach, writing title cards during the silent film era and dialogue for talkies.  Walker wrote for Roach’s films featuring Laurel & Hardy, Harold Lloyd, and Our Gang.

Beanie Walker

Beanie Walker

Walker is also credited with coining the nickname for a  redheaded teenage pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels in the Pacific Coast League with an excellent fastball, who would became the first big league player from Arizona.  Lee William “Flame” Delhi only pitched one game for the Chicago White Sox;  the 19-year-old, who had already pitched nearly 700 inning of professional ball (not including two seasons of winter ball), had a dead arm by the time he joined the Sox.

Flame Delhi

Flame Delhi

 

Advertisements

10 Responses to “A Thousand Words–Jim Jeffries and Baseball”

  1. Interesting post. John L. Sullivan was a huge baseball fan, or “crank” in the days. He played semiprofessional baseball and attended Boston Red Stockings games at the South End Grounds while growing up in the 1870s. After becoming heavyweight champion, Sullivan was hired by major league team owners not only to umpire games but to appear as a pitcher as well in exhibition games. On May 28, 1883, he pitched for the New York Metropolitans at the Polo Grounds in return for half the gate. He uncorked three wild pitches, committed four errors, and surrendered hit after hit. Still, his squad won twenty to fifteen and he did hit a double, albeit with the other pitcher lobbing the ball to him. Most important to Sullivan, he walked away with around twelve-hundred dollars.
    Three days later, he suited up to pitch for another American Association squad, the Philadelphia Athletics, against a semi-professional team. The results were much better as he held the opposition to a pair of runs in a fifteen to two rout.

    • Thom Karmik July 16, 2013 at 6:33 pm #

      Thank you for that information. I have read quite a bit, and posted some, on Corbett and people like Mique Malloy who were very active in both sports, but was less familiar with John L’s activity. Looking forward to your book.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. “There was probably none so Unique as Shreve” | Baseball History Daily - July 24, 2013

    […] Shreve, who had been assigned to pitch, strutted to the box with the swagger that would have made John L. Sullivan look cheap when John L. was monarch of all in the fistic business.  ‘Just watch me fellows, and […]

  2. The First Triple Play in the West | Baseball History Daily - September 12, 2013

    […] League and California League, and a West Coast boxing referee; he officiated many fights including Jim Jeffries 1898 victory over Peter Jackson and Abe Attell’s 1903 20 round draw with Eddie […]

  3. Lost Advertisements–”Kid” Gleason for Cat’s Paw Rubber Heels | Baseball History Daily - November 22, 2013

    […] managers and ball players in both leagues–Patrick J. Moran, Walter Johnson, John J. McGraw, Edward G. Barrow, James Burke, Miller Huggins, W.R. Johnston, Wilbert Robinson, Walter J. Maranville and many others […]

  4. “What Right has Hanlon to Show me How to Hit?” | Baseball History Daily - June 23, 2014

    […] Stone, one of the most remarkable batters of the age, has a (boxer Jim) Jeffries  crouch at bat which has caused experienced baseball managers to say George wouldn’t last as […]

  5. An Umpire’s Revenge | Baseball History Daily - September 5, 2014

    […] who are willing to testify that he would have made a better show against Jack Johnson than did (Jim) Jeffries, among them Deputy Sheriff […]

  6. Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up other Things–Sunday Baseball Edition | Baseball History Daily - February 4, 2015

    […] Champion John L. Sullivan, arrived in Cleveland, Ohio on Friday, September 11, 1885.  The Cleveland Press said he would be […]

  7. “A Ballplayer can’t chase ‘Chickens’ and Chase Flies” | Baseball History Daily - February 25, 2015

    […] to that point, when he was paid $5,000 by Charles Comiskey of the Chicago White Sox for 18-year-old Lee “Flame” Delhi in 1911; Delhi appeared in just one game for the Sox the following season and was out of organized […]

  8. Collins’ “Ten Commandments” | Baseball History Daily - October 5, 2015

    […] from Collins, Ty Cobb, and Connie Mack, and Admiral Robert Peary, as well as boxers Jess Willard, John L. Sullivan, and Joe Stecher appeared in newspapers and handbills distributed throughout the […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s