“Clark Griffith nearly Ended the Life of William Phyle”

19 Nov

Bill Phyle was expelled from baseball after failing to back up his allegations that the 1903 Southern Association pennant race was fixed—four years earlier he had an even more eventful season.

Phyle started his career as a pitcher; he was 18-9 in 1897, and 21-21 in 1898 for the St. Paul Saints when he was traded to the Chicago Orphans for Frank Isbell.

Bill Phyle

Bill Phyle

He appeared in three September games, winning two with a 0.78 ERA, and was expected to contribute the following season.

In March of 1899 Phyle failed to report to Hudson Hot Springs, New Mexico to join manager Tom Burns and Orphans for spring training.

The Chicago Tribune said the pitcher had refused to sign his contract:

“It is asserted on good authority that pitcher Phyle has refused so far to sign a Chicago contract owing to the insertion of a temperance clause in the document…Phyle objects strenuously to the temperance contract which has been offered to him.  He has asserted positively within the last three weeks that he would never sign such an agreement.”

The Tribune said the contract clause wasn’t the only issue that might keep Phyle from playing in Chicago in 1899; the pitcher had, inadvertently, alienated Burns and team president James Hart the previous September:

“Phyle was unfortunate in his entry into the major league in incurring the displeasure of the Chicago president and manager.  There is a peculiar story connected with the affair.  Last year some members of the Chicago team believed that someone was carrying reports to Hart and Burns regarding the conversations of the players concerning their opinions of the heads of the club.  One night in Washington some of the men put up a job on the man they suspected in order to find out if their suspicions were correct.    In the presence of the man in question they made unflattering remarks regarding the president and manager of the club, and Phyle, being an innocent party to the plot, listened, approved some of the statements quoted as facts, and also took up the discussion.  It is asserted the conversation was carried to President Hart and Manager Burns.  At any rate, Phyle has been in disfavor since that time.”

The Tribune said Phyle was the only player who was given a contract that included a temperance clause.

With the situation at an impasse, Charlie Comiskey, Phyle’s manager in St. Paul, intervened.  The Chicago Inter Ocean said Comiskey, who called Phyle “one of the most promising youngsters” in baseball, sent a “tersely worded” telegram to the pitcher who “decided to sign the Chicago contract temperance clause and all.”

Phyle reported to Hudson Hot Springs ten pounds overweight on March 21.

Three days later he went duck hunting with teammates Clark Griffith, Bill Lange, Jack Taylor and Jimmy Callahan at A.G. Spalding’s New Mexico ranch.  The Inter Ocean said of the trip:

“A bullet from a Winchester rifle in the hands of Clark Griffith nearly ended the life of William Phyle, the promising young pitcher of the Chicago ball team.”

Clark Griffith

Clark Griffith

Phyle, unbeknownst to Griffith, remained in the group’s boat while Griffith fired on a flock of ducks flying near the boat:

“Griffith pulled the trigger and a ball tore its way through the stem of the boat…The ball carried in a direct line over the young pitcher’s head, and could not have missed him by more than six inches.”

Phyle was shaken, but unhurt, while “Griffith’s nerves received such a shock that he was weak and almost prostrated for some time after.”

Things didn’t get much better for Phyle after his near-death experience—tomorrow.

Advertisements

11 Responses to ““Clark Griffith nearly Ended the Life of William Phyle””

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. “The fans make us the ‘goat’ for Everything” | Baseball History Daily - November 21, 2013

    […] But in early February The Chicago Inter Ocean said even though Phyle had met with team President James Hart nothing had been resolved.  Phyle told the paper he was offered a contract but was “in no hurry […]

  2. “Evans, who, at the Least, is Incompetent” | Baseball History Daily - December 2, 2013

    […] two men out in the bottom of the inning.  The Inter Ocean said “(Sox Manager Fielder) Jones and (second baseman Frank) Isbell nearly came to blows with the umpire and members of the Athletic […]

  3. Lost Advertisements–Mike Martin’s Liniment | Baseball History Daily - December 27, 2013

    […] first full-time trainers.  Martin was working as the athletic trainer at Columbia University when Clark Griffith hired him to work with the New York Highlanders, he followed Griffith to Cincinnati and then […]

  4. Lost Team Photos–1903 New York Highlanders | Baseball History Daily - January 3, 2014

    […] Clark Griffith will have charge of the team, and will bring them in with him this afternoon on the […]

  5. Spring Training, 1900 | Baseball History Daily - June 16, 2014

    […] wasn’t the only disgruntled player.  Clark Griffith, who won 22 games for the team in 1899 told The […]

  6. Kid Nichols | Baseball History Daily - June 25, 2014

    […] Hahn, of Cincinnati; (Christy) Mathewson and (Joe) McGinnity are undoubtedly valuable men.  Clark Griffith is, I think, the headiest pitcher that ever stepped on a rubber.  Among the other great ones are […]

  7. “It is Feared that the Cares of his Office are making an old man out of Tim” | Baseball History Daily - August 18, 2014

    […] LaPorte was declared out at first base on a close decision.  Manager (Clark) Griffith rushed over to the base line, and, throwing his cap in the air, protested against the decision.  He […]

  8. “People who saw the Sport are still Laughing” | Baseball History Daily - December 17, 2014

    […] was a conspicuous success on his initial day, and has been nothing in the way of box work since.  (Clark) Griffith did not do very well the first tie he pitched for (Cap) Anson, and he is the best of all […]

  9. “I mentioned Satchel and Josh and Cool Papa, I told Him he was Missing the boat” | Baseball History Daily - May 18, 2015

    […] years later, Sam Lacy from The Baltimore Afro-American met with Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith in an attempt to revive the […]

  10. “You got away with Something that time, Buck” | Baseball History Daily - March 2, 2016

    […] worked it on us several times,’ said Jim McAleer, formerly of the Red Sox, while Clark Griffith admits that Washington suffered the same […]

  11. Clark Griffith, “How I Win” | Baseball History Daily - March 14, 2016

    […] 1910, Cincinnati Reds Manager Clark Griffith spoke to journalist Joseph B. Bowles for one of  a series of syndicated articles in which […]

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