After igniting a controversy in Vermont’s Northern League in 1905 when he refused (as he had in college in 1903) to appear on the field with William Clarence Matthews, Sam Apperious returned to Alabama in 1906.
He played centerfield for the Montgomery Senators in the Southern Association. The Washington Post said in March “it is said that Connie Mack has arranged to try him out with the Athletics next fall.”
The Atlanta Journal said he was in Alabama, and not the big leagues, by choice:
“Apperious is a high-toned man, a graduate of Georgetown, and plays ball for his home town because he likes the game. He is not in the strict sense a professional, for he declines to go the big league, where he could easily get a much larger salary.”
It started with a fly ball to Apperious in an otherwise uneventful 9-0, June 10 victory over Charlie Frank’s Pelicans in New Orleans. The Journal said:
“It sailed so high in the air that Apperious, who caught it, concealed under his shirt and gave it Manager (Dominic) Mullaney. When cut open (the following day in the presence of Shreveport Pirates Manager Bob Gilks) it was found to be wrapped in rubber.”
Five days later the Atlanta Crackers were in New Orleans when, in the eighth inning after home runs by Pelicans’ William O’Brien and Mark “Moxey” Manuel, Atlanta second baseman and captain, Adolph Otto “Dutch” Jordan suspected something was wrong with the balls. The Atlanta Constitution said:
“(After Manuel’s home run) The ball was lost and new one was thrown out by the umpire, but before (Joe) Rickert, the next batter could go to the plate, Jordan picked up the ball and said he would not play, that the balls had rubber in them and that his men were being robbed…Jordan tried to purloin one of the balls, and only gave it up after he had been arrested by a half dozen policemen.”
Jordan was charged with petit larceny and released on $100 bond. The ball taken from him was reported to be in the possession of the New Orleans Police. Days later the Montgomery team gave the ball Apperious had kept to Southern Association President, William Kavanaugh. A full investigation was promised.
The Journal called for immediate action:
“Kavanaugh may be making investigations quietly and he may intend to act later, but what seems most in order just now is the suspension of the man who is said to be responsible for all the trouble in the Crescent City. The actions of Charlie Frank in causing the arrest of Otto Jordan and his being taken in a patrol wagon through the streets of the city in a uniform of Atlanta, is a disgrace and the mere thought given it the more repugnant it becomes to all decent people.
“It was a disgusting and uncalled for act and was done to cover up the outrageous contact of the man who put the rubber balls into the game.”
By the end of the week, Apperious denied that the ball opened in Shreveport was the ball he caught in New Orleans while Mullaney and the Montgomery club dropped their request for an investigation of Charlie Frank and the rubber balls.
On June 23 the Crackers mascot, a four-year-old goat named Yaarab (shared with the Atlanta fire department) died suddenly. A tongue-in-cheek article in The Constitution said: “when the news was flashed over the wires that Mullaney was another of Frank’s right-hand men, the goat betook himself to a bed of straw and curled up and bid his firemen friends a last farewell.”
Once Apperious and Mullaney withdrew their allegations, the scandal went the way of most of the annual scandals in the league; in early August The Sporting Life said President Kavanaugh declared the charges “entirely unfounded.”
Apperious appeared in 137 games for Montgomery in 1906 and hit .251. The Constitution called him “The fastest outfielder in the South.” The Montgomery Advertiser said he was “one of the best all-around ballplayers in the South.”
He only appeared in 24 more games. Early in the 1907 season, The Advertiser said he was “suffering with water on the knee.” Unable to recover from the injury, Apperious was released by Montgomery in June.
Apperious would never play again; he married and moved to Louisville, Kentucky.
The man who refused to take the field with William Clarence Matthews and the Cuban X Giants lived to see baseball integrated. He died in 1962. There is no record of him ever speaking to a reporter about his actions in Washington and Vermont.
A final note: The Washington Herald reported before the 1908 college baseball season that for the first time since 1904 Harvard would be playing Georgetown:
“When Sam Apperious was captain of the varsity nine Harvard insisted on playing a negro against the Blue and Gray, and Apperious viewed the game from the bench. This brought about a severance of athletic relations, but the old wounds have healed and the Crimson will play at Georgetown field on April 25.”
The game ended in a 2-2 tie after 10 innings.