“Is the Best the Game has Known”

23 Jul

Joining the Boston Braves for the 1914 season provided second baseman Johnny Evers with the opportunity to appear in one more World Series, and gave him the chance to take a very public swipe at one of his most famous former teammates, shortstop Joe Tinker.

In December of 1912 the Chicago Cubs traded Tinker to the Cincinnati Reds, and depending on which version of the story was to believed, Tinker and Evers had not spoken a word to one another for either five or six years.

Johnny Evers

Johnny Evers

Tinker said the two stopped talking in 1908 after Evers jumped in a horse-drawn cab leaving Tinker and other teammates behind before an exhibition game in Indiana leading to an on-field fight between the two later that day; Evers said a year earlier Tinker initiated the bad blood between the two by throwing a ball so hard to the second baseman on a force play that it injured his finger.

Evers said years later:

“I yelled to him, you so-and-so. He laughed. That’s the last word we had for-well, I just don’t know how long.”

The 1914 Braves got off to a horrible 4-18 start, and were still in eighth place on July 18, but surged to second place by August 10, winning 18 of 21 games.  By September 2 the Braves had first place to themselves, and ended up running away with the pennant, beating the second place New York Giants by 10 ½ games, and sweeping Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics in the World Series.

Evers, named Boston’s captain by manager George Stallings, led National League second basemen in fielding; hit .279 for the season, and .438 in the World Series.  Evers received baseball’s last “Chalmers Award,” a forerunner of the Most Valuable Player Award, which was presented from 1911-1914.  The award was sponsored by the Chalmers Motor Car Company and was presented to Evers along with a new car.

The runner-up for the Chalmers Award was Evers’ teammate, shortstop Walter James Vincent “Rabbit” Maranville.  Maranville, Evers and first baseman Charles “Butch” Schmidt were an excellent double-play combination throughout the season; Evers participated in a career-high 73 twin killings, more than he’s ever turned in a season with Tinker and Frank Chance.

Years later Maranville said of Evers:

“It was just Death Valley, whoever hit a ball down our way.  Evers with his brains taught me more baseball than I ever dreamed about.  He was psychic.  He could sense where a player was going to hit if the pitcher threw the ball where he was supposed to.”

Two days after the Braves won the World Series; Evers took the opportunity to take a swipe at his former teammate Tinker.  Evers told William Peet, sportswriter for The Boston Post that:

“(Maranville’s) the best shortstop the game has ever known.

“Better than Joe Tinker; your old side partner?

“Yes, he’s better than Tinker.”

Joe Tinker

Joe Tinker

Peet sad:

“Evers has been given credit for making Maranville the great player he has shown himself to be this season, but Johnny declares this s untrue, stating that Maranville learned the game and all its fine points unaided.”

Peet said Evers’ claim that Maranville “is a greater shortstop than Tinker is about the highest praise anyone can shower on the peppery little chap who was such a prominent factor n the Braves’ victory.”

Rabbit Maranville

Rabbit Maranville

Evers and Peet failed to mention where Honus Wagner would be ranked if Maranville was, in fact, “the best shortstop the game has ever known.”

No response from Tinker was recorded.

Evers and Tinker would not speak again for another decade.  In 1924, the two finally spoke when they were summoned to California by Chance, their former teammate and manager, who was dying.

Tinker, Evers and Chance

Tinker, Evers and Chance

Tinker, Evers and Chance were inducted into the Hall of Fame together in 1946 by the veterans committee; Maranville was elected by the Baseball Writers Association of America in 1954.

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2 Responses to ““Is the Best the Game has Known””

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Butcher Boy Schmidt | Baseball History Daily - July 25, 2013

    […] Schmidt was installed as the Braves first baseman in 1914, and as Boston made their improbable run to the National league pennant Schmidt   hit .285 with 71 RBI and .990 fielding percentage, and finished 16th in the voting for the Chalmers Award, for the most valuable player in the National League; teammates Johnny Evers and Rabbit Maranville finished first and second in the voting. […]

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

    […] John J. McGraw, Edward G. Barrow, James Burke, Miller Huggins, W.R. Johnston, Wilbert Robinson, Walter J. Maranville and many others who appreciate the comfort and protection which Cat’s Paw Rubber Heels give […]

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