The 1902 Southern Association season was so contentious that a headline in The Atlanta Constitution said the day after it ended:
To the Relief of All the Season is Now Over
In addition to the months-long battle between Charlie Frank and the league, there was an on-field incident that The Columbus (GA) Daily Enquirer called “an exhibition as was never before seen on an Atlanta Diamond.” Henry “Heine” Krug was at the center of it.
In February of 1902, Ed Peters, new owner and president of the Atlanta Firemen signed Ed Pabst to manage the team. Pabst had played the previous season with the San Francisco Wasps in the California League and brought with him to Atlanta his friend Krug, a 25-year-old shortstop who had been playing for West Coast professional teams since he was 17.
When Krug was signed The Constitution said he was “beyond doubt the star of the Pacific Coast,”
The Sporting Life said Krug had already signed a contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, but jumped the Phillies to join Atlanta.
Krug’s average never dipped below .300, and was very popular with fans and the press. The Constitution called him “The best all-around professional of the Southern Association” in June.
On July 15 the paper noted his “dashing, errorless work that has been classed as phenomenal.”
Two days later the tone changed dramatically.
The fourth place Firemen were playing Charlie Frank’s Memphis Egyptians and Krug was having a rough day. Early in the game a throw from first baseman George Winters hit Krug “and gave him a severe blow in the mouth.” Krug had walked off the field, intending to leave the game, but came back. He probably shouldn’t have.
Krug went on to make three errors, two of which The Constitution said “in the opinion of the crowd might have been avoided.”
The crowd began to taunt Krug and “Instead of taking the roast the bleachers proceeded to give him as any sensible player would take it, Krug seemingly lost his head and with all the vicious intent imaginable, he secured the ball and threw it with all his strength into the bleachers.”
The Constitution said Krug, “phenomenal” just two days earlier, now said the shortstop’s “conduct on former occasions has been offensive to the patrons of the game.” Although Krug was ejected from a game earlier in the week, there didn’t appear from newspaper reports to be any pattern of “offensive conduct.”
Atlanta bleacher fans “dodged the sphere” and no one was hurt. Team president Peters immediately approached Ed Pabst and “instructed him to order Krug out of the game.” Pabst refused:
“He did not like what he considered an infringement on his prerogative, and at once tendered his resignation as manager of the Atlanta team. President Peters was just as ready to accept as Manager Pabst was to tender, and within the space of a few seconds the ball player who has been managing the Atlanta team since the playing season of 1902 opened found himself deposed.”
Peters took over as manager and remained in the position for the rest of the season. His first act as manager was to remove Krug from the game and suspend him. The Constitution said:
“Krug’s baby act was witnessed by Sergeant Martin and policemen Norman and Hollingsworth. They placed him under arrest.”
Some reports said a bottle and rock were thrown at Krug, but the player said he didn’t see that and was reacting only to the verbal taunts. He appeared in court the following day and was fined $10.75; The Daily Chronicle said, “Krug appeared very penitent.”
Peters sold Krug’s contact to the New Orleans Pelicans the following day, but Krug refused to report sending a wire to Peters and Pelicans owner Abner Powell saying “that if he could not play in Atlanta he would not play,” in the league.
Despite the incident, there was no shortage of interest in Krug’s services. In addition to New Orleans, the Phillies, who he jumped to join Atlanta and the San Francisco franchise in the California League offered him contracts.
Krug signed with Philadelphia and made his debut with the Phillies on July 26; the day after Atlanta management petitioned the National Association of Baseball Leagues (NAPBL) to blacklist Krug.
No action was taken and Krug played out the season in Philadelphia, hitting .227 in 53 games. He spent 1903 with the San Francisco Seals in the Pacific Coast League (PCL). Peters sold his interest in Atlanta in 1903.
Before the 1904 season, the PCL and the NAPBL reached an agreement that made the league part of the National Association and no more an “outlaw league.” As part of the deal, PCL players who were under contract with other teams were returned. As a result, Krug returned to Atlanta.
The Constitution assured their readers:
“He has promised to be good and to do his best to help the team win. It is the belief of many fans in this city that he wishes to redeem the past.”
Krug played two incident-free, if unspectacular seasons in Atlanta, then played in the New York State League with the Scranton Miners and the American Association with the Indianapolis Indians.
The 31-year-old returned to San Francisco, where he was “negotiating for a place with the California State League,” and had accepted a position coaching the baseball team at Cogswell College. Krug underwent surgery for “an abscess upon his throat” on January 12, 1908, and died from complications from the operation two days later.
Two months after his death all had been forgiven in Atlanta. The Constitution named him to the paper’s “All-Atlanta Ball Team,” the best professional players to have played in the city. Krug “was a power with the stick. No better man ever played on the Atlanta team when it came to breaking up a game.”