In 1912, Joe Kelley, former player and manager (and future Hall of Famer) told William A. Phelon, sports editor of The Cincinnati Times-Star, a story about the lack of civility in baseball and a game Kelley claimed took place when he was with the Baltimore Orioles in the 1890s:
“You can try to refine and civilize baseball all you want and you can make a parlor game out of it by giving the umpires power of life and death, but you can’t kill off the players’ tongues unless you stun ‘em with an ax.
“Years and years ago, I well remember, two ball clubs tried to pull a polite and courteous ballgame, just to see how things would work. The old Baltimores and the old Bostons (Beaneaters)—which were real ball clubs both of them—held a conference one afternoon. There had been a lot of talk and newspaper criticism about rough house work and bad language—and we wanted to show the press and public that we could be good, decent people after all. We agreed to try out the polished conversation and Golden Rule stuff for this one occasion, and Tim Hurst, who was slated to umpire, agreed to help the good work along.”
“The first half inning went by something lovely. Even when Tim called a strike on Tom McCarthy that was a foot over his head, there was no outbreak. Say Tom, very gently, ‘Wasn’t that ball a trifle high, Mr. Umpire?’ And says Tim, all courtesy, ‘I fear I may have erred in judgment, Mr. McCarthy. Kindly overlook it, if you will.’ And in our half, when Jack Doyle went down to second in a cloud of dust, and Tim said ‘Out,’ Jack jumped up, and red in the face, yelled ‘What the —-‘ and caught himself in time. ‘Pardon me,’ says Jack, ‘but I honestly thought that Mr. Long failed to touch me.’ And says Herman Long, equally polite, ‘I am under the impression that I did touch Mr. Doyle.
“And in the very next inning the blow-off came. Three on and two gone with Hughey Jennings batting. (Heinie) Reitz made a dash for home on what he thought was a passed ball. The Boston catcher (Charlie Ganzel) recovered it, but as he dove for the putout, Jennings wandered against him and knocked him 10 feet away. ‘Out fer interference,’ yelped Hurst—and then everybody arrived at the plate all in a bunch.
Kelley said there was a chaotic scene at home plate. Reitz was screaming at Hurst while Jennings and Ganzel nearly came to blows:
“’Fer Moses sakes remember,’ I interposed, ‘that this is supposed to be a polite courteous game, just to show how well we can behave—‘ and somebody hit me across the map with a catching glove.
“’I can lick every wan av yez,’ howled Tim Hurst, and I’ll do it, too, if you’re not back in your places inside a half-minute.’
“’You’re a cheap crook,’ said John McGraw.
“’You’re all a bunch of yellow dogs,’ said Herman Long, addressing the whole Baltimore team, sort of impersonally.
“and when the police arrived the rules of etiquette had been fractured so badly I never heard of their being reinstated. That was, I think, the first, last and only time that a courteous ball game was staged in big league company.”