“Fans Inclined to be Fair find it Difficult to side with Wickware”

7 Oct

Frank Wickware is best remembered for defeating Walter Johnson and a team of minor league players 1 to 1 in Schenectady, New York in October of 1913.  He was pitching for the Mohawk Giants, and the game was very nearly cancelled after the pitcher and his teammates initially refused to take the field, claiming they were owed six weeks of back pay.

Frank Wickware

Frank Wickware

The New York Times said the crowd of 6,000 nearly rioted, the police were called to control the crowd and more than an hour after the game was scheduled to begin “the financial difficulty was settled and the game started.”

As a result of the “strike,” and the late start, the game was called after only five innings.

The incident in Schenectady wasn’t the first time in 1913 that Wickware took center stage in a controversy over money—the first time it contributed to the cutting short a much anticipated series of games.

On July 17 the Rube Foster’s Chicago American Giants were to begin a five-game series with the Lincoln Giants in New York.

Rube Foster

Rube Foster

Roderick “Jess” McMahon, the owner of the Lincoln Giants, went to Schenectady before the series and signed Wickware, who he intended to start in the first game.

The New York Age said:

“Thursday afternoon before the game…McMahon spied Wickware all togged up in and American Giant suit.  He inquired of the pitcher why he was not in a Lincoln Giant uniform.  Wickware promptly told him that he was going to pitch for the American Giants.

“McMahon protested to Rube Foster against Wickware playing on the American Giants in view of the fact that he had given him money (allegedly $100), but the manager of the American Giants insisted that Wickware do the pitching for his team.  The two managers argued for over an hour, when the game was called off.”

The series was resumed the following day without Wickware.  The Lincoln Giants were ahead in the series 2 games to 1 before the game scheduled for July 22.  McMahon recruited Charles Earle of the Brooklyn Royal Giants to play left field in place Robert “Judy” Gans who was ill.  Foster objected to the substitution and refused to play the game despite there being “A large crowd.”

The Age said Wickware and both teams were doing damage to the future of black baseball:

“Fans inclined to be fair find it difficult to side with Wickware or regard him as a hero.  To accept money from one manager and then want to play for another is a piece of reasoning which does not favorably impress those who believe that one should keep his word at all times.  Just such conduct of Wickware’s will do much to injure the progress of baseball among colored clubs.”

“The sooner the managers of the colored teams get together and agree upon a working basis for their mutual protection the better.  Manager McMahon seems to have developed a habit of borrowing players from other clubs which should not be permitted. “

Roderick ":Jess" McMahon

Roderick “:Jess” McMahon

Wickware would remain one of the dominant pitchers in black baseball into the 1920s.  He continued to jump when teams when a better offer came—he played for four clubs in 1914, jumping a contract each time.  In 1925 Wickware was in a bar on 135th Street in New York with Lincoln Giants teammates Oliver Marcelle and Dave Brown.  After an altercation in the bar, a man named Benjamin Adair was shot and killed in front of the bar.

One report in The Freeman said witnesses claimed Adair was with the three players when a fifth man ran from building “shouted ‘I got you,’ and fired point-blank at Adair,” The New York Amsterdam News said “four men were quarreling on the sidewalk, when one drew an automatic.”

In either case, Brown disappeared and was assumed to me the shooter.  Wickware and Marcelle were never charged; there has been much mythology about Brown and speculation about the date and place of his death, but no definitive evidence has been presented.

McMahon and his brother Ed sold their controlling interest in the Lincoln Giants in 1914 and owned the Lincoln Stars from 1914-1917.  The McMahon’s were also boxing and wrestling promoters—which continues to be the family business.

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4 Responses to ““Fans Inclined to be Fair find it Difficult to side with Wickware””

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] Wilson of the Cuban X-Giants, second base John Henry Lloyd;  shortstop Dick Lundy;  third base Oliver Marcelle, utility, John Beckwith;  outfield Pete Hill, Oscar Charleston, Jess Barbour, (Cristobal) […]

  2. Lost Advertisements–The Leland Giants’ New Ballpark | Baseball History Daily - April 3, 2015

    […]  Come and visit our park and see Rube Foster, the World’s Greatest Pitcher, assisted by (Frank) Wickware and (Charles) Dougherty, the season’s sensation, (Bruce) Petway and (Pete) Booker, the stars […]

  3. “Three of the Greatest Pitchers the Game ever has Produced” | Baseball History Daily - July 15, 2015

    […] three were John Donaldson, Frank Wickware, and Jose […]

  4. Lost Advertisements–American Giants at Dyckman Oval | Baseball History Daily - July 8, 2016

    […] The Bacharach Giants swept two doubleheaders from Empey’s club that month behind the pitching of “Cannonball” Dick Redding and Frank Wickware. […]

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