Rube and Ossee

10 Mar

Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics were expected to repeat as American League champions in 1906.  The 1905 team won 92 games, finishing two games ahead of the Chicago White Sox, and lost to the New York Giants in the World Series.

The 1906 Athletics were in first place as late as August 11, but faded to fourth place, losing 33 of their last 52 games and finishing 12 games behind the champion White Sox.

Much of the blame for the poor finish was directed at Rube Waddell.

Rube Waddell

Rube Waddell

Waddell, 27-10 in ’05, dropped to 15-17 after fracturing his thumb in May of ’06.   The Philadelphia Inquirer said he was driving a rented carriage, “At Twenty-second Street and Ridge Avenue he became involved is a collision with a delivery wagon…he turned his horse quick to avoid the wagon, and when he found that the wagon was sure to hit the carriage he jumped and landed on his thumb.”  He sat for two weeks and never found his form from the previous season.

Waddell’s recovery was slowed, it was suspected, because of his off-field habits.  The general opinion of the fans and press was summed up by The Wilkes-Barre Times which said:

“Waddell has refused to appreciate that the modern ballplayer positively must keep in condition and ‘deliver the goods.’  The famous Mike Kelly could spend a $100 bill the night before playing a championship game and not report the next day.  It was regarded in those days as a joke.  That day has gone by.”

Waddell’s personal catcher, Ossee Schrecongost—Schreck—was also blamed for the collapse.  Schreck was sent home by Mack for the remainder of the season on September 22.  During a series in St. Louis he failed to return to the team hotel after a night out with “some German friends.”  Schreck said:

“Mack told me to pack up and go home.  That’s all there is to it.  We did not have any argument.

“Mack wants to try out a lot of juveniles this trip.  I do not think he is sore at me, and do not think I stand suspended.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer disagreed:

“For the good of the cause, Ossie Schreckengost [sic] was sent home by Manager Mack tonight suspended for the rest of the season.

“Schreck has not taken care of himself this year (as) an athlete should, and to his shortcomings more than anything else Manager Mack attributes the slump of the team in mid-season.  To Schreck St. Louis is the most attractive town on the circuit.  Yesterday he succumbed to its blandishments.”

Ossee Schrecongost

Ossee Schrecongost

Either as a result of their drinking, the fact they were said to have “tanked” the Athletics season, or both, The Washington Post suggested that “Waddell and Schreck should be dubbed the tank battery.”

The battery mates and road roommates were sent their contracts for 1907.  Waddell was threatened with a pay cut if he didn’t stay in shape.  He quickly signed.

Mack is quoted by many sources over the years saying Schreck refused to sign his contract until Waddell agreed to no longer eat crackers in the double beds they shared on the road.

It is generally considered an apocryphal story invented by Mack years later—and often even said to have happened before the 1904 or ’05 seasons rather than 1907.

But, the story was not the invention of Mack.  There was actually a letter purported to be written by Schreck “from his home in Cleveland” (it is not known who actually wrote the letter), and reprinted in several newspapers between the 1906 and ’07 seasons:

“Dear Connie:  This is not a touch for any advance, or an increase in salary, but something much more serious, and as it won’t be long before the Athletics start south for spring practice, I am going to ask you to put Waddell under another charge this year.

“While I did not mind Rube bringing mocking birds and a reptile or two into our sleeping apartments down south, I do object to his habit of eating crackers in bed.  This Rube does nightly.  Not a single night last spring did Waddell retire without his south paw containing a dozen crackers, many of them resembling animals.

“By the time Rube, or Eddie, as he wishes to be called in southland, had got outside of these crackers, I was in anything but a sleepy mood, due in a measure to his crunching of the crackers.  It did not seem to interfere with Eddie.  He would turn over and go to sleep at once when through.

“Had it stopped her, all would have been lovely.  It didn’t however, and the natural result was that the bed was full of crumbs.  This had been going on for years, and frequently have I welcomed a night on the road with an upper berth, so as to escape Waddell and hid crumbs.

“This complaint may seem trivial to you, after your varied experiences with Rube, but I can assure you that the crumbs that came from those crackers were anything but ‘crumbs of comfort’ for your humble servant.  In closing, I would like to suggest that if you can put a clause in Waddell’s contract that he is not to eat crackers in bed during the season of 1907.  I am sure Waddell and I will continue to be real good friends as of yore.  Yours truly, Ossee Schreck

“P.S.—I wish all of the boys, and of course this takes in you, a happy new year.  Am doing light training.  O.S.”

Whether or not the “cracker clause” was inserted in Waddell’s contract, the Rube/Ossee battery was together for all but four of Waddell’s 33 starts in 1907, but the relationship between “the real good friend’s of yore” began to deteriorate that season;  likely because Schreck had cut back his drinking considerably, while Waddell continued to be Waddell.

Despite a 19-13 for the second place Athletics in 1907 Waddell had become a distraction and more trouble than he was worth.   The Inquirer said he was sold to the St. Louis Browns after “Ruben made himself objectionable to his club mates, and for the good of the club’s future Manager Mack concluded that it would be the part of wisdom to let him out.”  Waddell was 33-29 in parts of three seasons in St. Louis.

Schreck remained in Philadelphia until September of 1908 when he was sold to the Chicago White Sox, his big league career was over at the end of that season, after eight games with Chicago.

The two old teammates died just three months apart in 1914, Waddell was 37, and Schreck was 39.  The Inquirer said:

“’Thuh batt’ries for today: for Philadelphia, Waddell and Schreck!’  It has lo these many days been but a memory, and now there is only memory left of the famous diamond combination.  They flashed in dazzling brilliancy across the baseball horizon and disappeared as quickly as they came.  And both died old young.”

Advertisements

3 Responses to “Rube and Ossee”

  1. W.G. Braund August 20, 2015 at 7:13 am #

    I’ve written a novel about Rube’s wacky career and life and Ossee is certainly a main character in the Rube’s antics.

    see http://www.rubewaddell-kingofthehallofflakes.com
    The author’s e-mail address is wgbraund@gmail.com.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. “He was the Greatest Receiving Catcher” | Baseball History Daily - September 23, 2015

    […] Freeman Ossee “Schreck” Schrecongost’s was most famous for being Rube Waddell’s catcher with the Philadelphia Athletics. […]

  2. Lost Advertisements–PM Whiskey, “Rube Waddell, The One-Man Ball Team” | Baseball History Daily - October 2, 2015

    […] This one features an oft-told Rube Waddell legend: […]

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