Archive | June, 2014

“There will be Cliques”

30 Jun

William Ingraham “W.I.” Harris was one of the most important baseball writers of the 19th Century, but like Charles Emmett Van Loan three decades later, he died young and is mostly forgotten today.

He was sports editor for The New York Press, which was billed as “The aggressive Republican newspaper of New York,” and The New York Star.  The Sporting Life said of Harris:

“He feels strongly in any given direction and talks earnestly. One cannot be long in his presence without being convinced of his unswerving honesty and sincerity.”

He was, along with Ren Mulford Jr. of The Cincinnati Times-Star, an outspoken critic of the Players League, and said he agreed with Mulford’s assessment that the appearance of the Brotherhood, and the resulting “baseball war” was “a campaign for the preservation of baseball law on one side and its destruction on the other.”

William Ingraham Harris

William Ingraham Harris

Harris was also considered the best prognosticators among contemporary baseball writers, and before the 1890 season began he said:

 “For the past two years I have had the satisfaction of naming the champions of both major associations before a championship game had been played…and last season (in the National league), with the exception of Pittsburgh and Cleveland, I located the exact position at the finish.”

He said he would not attempt to handicap the results of the three leagues in 1890:

“The writer who ventures to make predictions as to the results of the championship fight in any one of the many leagues at this stage of affairs takes an enormous risk on masticating a pretty tough crow later on.”

But, said Harris, he was “willing to take my chances on giving one tip,” before the beginning of the season.  The “tip” went against the conventional wisdom, in fact, it went against what the entire baseball world considered a certainty; the fate of the club The Chicago Tribune called “The greatest team ever organized.

“(I) shall not undertake to pick any winners this year until the season has been well started.  I propose, however, to nominate one team that will not win a pennant, and that is the Chicago Brotherhood team.  In making this assertion I am bucking against general sentiment, or rather general belief.  The consensus of opinion is the other way.  There is no doubt that on paper the Chicago Brotherhood team is in many respects one of the greatest aggregations of baseball stars ever got together, but there are some potent reasons against its success.“

Harris was critical of the team’s catchers and pitchers:

(Conrad “Dell”) Darling never was a first class catcher and never will be.  (Charles “Duke”) Farrell is a strong hitter, and at times a most brilliant catcher, but he is not a steady or remarkably heady catcher.  Boyle is a good one, but he isn’t in it with such good men as (William “Buck”) Ewing, (Jack) Clements, (Charlie) Bennett, (Charlie) Ganzel, (George “Doggie’) Miller, (Connie) Mack, (Michael “King”) Kelly, (John “Jocko”) Milligan, (Paul) Cook and (Cornelius “Con”) Daily.  On catchers the team is all right on quantity, but short in quality.

“As to pitchers, (Mark) Baldwin, in 1887 and 1889, was a star In 1888 he was not to be depended on.  Baldwin doesn’t take care of himself as he should in the winter time.  As a pitcher he ranks among those who may be great at any time, but who keep you guessing on the dates.

(Charles “Silver”) King, in condition, is a ‘tip topper.’  He was a failure in the League once before, and in the world’s Series against New York didn’t astonish people to any extent.”

He dismissed the other two pitchers, Frank Dwyer and Charlie Bartson as a “medium man” and “unknown quantity,” and said “Unless strengthened in the battery department, and probably not then, this team will not land first.”

He conceded that “The outfield and infield are well-nigh perfect.”  But, there was a bigger problem than the weak pitching and catching; Harris predicted tension between second baseman Fred Pfeffer, who had raised $20,000 for the creation of the Players League, recruited most of his Chicago White Stockings teammates to jump to the Brotherhood, and was one of the club’s directors, and team captain and first baseman Charles Comiskey:

“(T)he Comiskey-Pfeffer or the Pfeffer-Comiskey combination.  By the way, which is it?  The answer to this will have quite a bearing on the general result…There will be cliques.  Germany and Ireland will be at war in less than a month.  The public may not know, but the lack of harmony will be there and will have its effect.  Comiskey is a great baseball captain.  At least he was in the American Association.  His methods are well-known.  He was supreme at St. Louis.  Everything went.  The men had no respect for (owner Chris) von der Ahe.  They feared Comiskey.  At Chicago Comiskey will find some men who have just escaped from the rule of a greater captain than himself, perhaps a harder task master.  They have reveled all winter over the prospect of freedom from that restraint, proper and effective though it was.  They are stockholders—yes magnates—now.  Will they swallow Comiskey’s manners on the field and in the dressing room?  As Charlie Reed sings, ‘Well, I guess not.’ (Reed was a famous minstrel performer in the 1880s and 18890s)

“Comiskey must change his methods.  He will have to gag himself; he will have to, figuratively, kiss the baseball blarney stone; he will have to be cheerful, under protest; and, above all, if harmony be his objective point he will have to please Director Pfeffer.  He may not try to do these things; he probably won’t.  Comiskey will have his way.  He always has had it.  He can only rule by practically despotic methods.”

Fred Pfeffer

Fred Pfeffer

Harris correctly concluded that Brooklyn, New York, and probably Boston (the eventual champions) would finish ahead of Chicago.  At season’s end, The Chicago Times summed up how prescient Harris had been about the fourth place team in the Players League:

“The outside world cannot fully realize the bitter disappointment felt here over the poor showing made by Comiskey’s team during the season just closed.  Surely it was strongest aggregation of players ever collected in one club, but its lack of success was mainly from two causes—lack of discipline and the miserable condition of certain members of the club.

“There has been absolutely no discipline in the team, and some of the men paid as much attention to Comiskey’s orders as they would to a call from some church congregation.  An order to sacrifice was met with a smile of scorn, and the ball was hammered down to an infielder, who made an easy double play.”

Harris died the following summer on July 7, at age 33, of tuberculosis.  The Boston Globe, the first paper he worked for, said:

“Being of a most observing nature, a ready thinker and as it were, a lightening calculator, he managed to foretell many of the leading baseball events of the year weeks ahead…Mr. Harris was without exaggeration, one of the brightest of his class, a ready and graceful writer and a hard worker.”

W.I. Harris (#5), as a member of the New York Reporters Baseball Club at the Polo Ground in 1889.

W.I. Harris (#5), as a member of the New York Reporters Baseball Club at the Polo Ground in 1889.

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“Monte’s Baseball Religion”

27 Jun

 

Even in a game dominated by superstitions some stood out.  The St. Louis Star reported on what Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Montford Montgomery “Monte” Cross thought was necessary for a rally—to the annoyance of some teammates– during a game with the St. Louis Cardinals in May of 1900:

Monte Cross

Monte Cross

“One of Monte Cross’ queer hobbies is that the bats must not be crossed when they lie in front of the bench…just as (Harry) Wolverton, the first man up in the fifth inning, stepped to the plate,  Cross looked at the pile of bats, and at one jumped into the air, shouting: ‘Four runs this time.  It’s a cinch.  Never failed yet.’

“’Sit down, you’re crazy,’ said (Al) Maul.

“’I tell you we’re going to get four runs this time.  Do you see that?’ he asked, pointing to the pile of bats.

“’See what?’

“’Why those four bats sticking out further than the rest.  That means we’ll get just as many runs.  Just you wait and see.’  Everybody laughed, but Monte was evidently very much in earnest, so they waited, all thinking how they’d kid him when the side was out.  Then Wolverton made a hit.

“’It’s a starter!’ cried Cross. ‘Now watch me.’ But Cross aired to (Mike) Donlin.  Then the next man walked.

“’There’s four hits coming sure,’ said Cross.  Just then (Roy) Thomas cracked a single scoring Wolverton.  Then (Napoleon) Lajoie and (Elmer) Flick got in their work, and the five runs were scored.

“’Whenever you see bats fixed that way look out for runs,’ observed Cross, triumphantly.

“’All right,’ replied (Ed) McFarland.  ‘Shove out about six of those sticks and we’ll win sure.’

“’That doesn’t go.  Don’t touch them for heaven’s sake!’  Fairly screamed Cross.  ‘The bat boy has to do it when he isn’t thinking.’

“The players all had a good laugh over the circumstance, and no doubt some of them became converts to Monte’s baseball religion.”

While the Phillies scored five runs during Cross’ “lucky” inning, it didn’t seem to matter to him that he failed to contribute to the rally, and the Phillies lost the game 10 to 5.

The Box Score

The Box Score

Kid Nichols

25 Jun

Add Hall of Famer Charles “Kid” Nichols to the list of those who were convinced that players from an earlier era were of better quality than those “of today,” even if the earlier era was less than a decade before.

Kid Nichols

Kid Nichols

While pitching for the Kansas City Blue Stockings in the Western League in 1903, the 33-year-old pitcher told a group which included a reporter for The Associated Press:

“I am not so sure that the ball players of today are much superior to those of ten years ago in general utility.  It seems to me there was more life and spirit in the games of a decade ago than in those of the present regime.  They weren’t so mercenary in those days and there was much more sportsmanlike spirit.  Nowadays the paramount question with the average player is salary.  He doesn’t care so much about the record of the team he plays with makes as opportunities offered him to make himself individually famous and thus increase the value of his services.  In many clubs teamwork is lacking on account of the intense desire of some of the men to make an impressive showing by individual work.  In the old days one didn’t hear so much of the individual as the playing of the team as a whole an in my opinion baseball would stand on much firmer foundation if the same spirit prevailed nowadays.”

Among the best:

“Take old (Tommy) McCarthy for instance.  As an outfielder none of them had him beaten, and in my opinion there is not an outfielder his equal now.  It was McCarthy who originated the trap ball which he worked so effectively.

“He was absolutely the headiest man in the outfield I ever saw.  You have seen outfielders throw men out at first on line drives, but you haven’t seen it done often.  I’ve seen McCarthy spoil many a legitimate one-base hit by that same play.  Another favorite play of his was this:  A man would be on first and second.  The man at bat would drive to left.  McCarthy would snap it up on a short bound and flip it to second as quick as a flash in time to catch the man who had run off first.  In turn the second baseman would throw the ball to third in time to head off the man who had started from second.  Thus a really legitimate one-base hit was turned into a double play.

“But, speaking of outfielders, Willie Keeler was about as good as any of them for all around ability.  He was like lightning on his feet and was no slouch at hitting.  He certainly did things to me one day in Baltimore.  He faced me four times and this is what he did:  Made four hits to four different parts of the field off of four different kinds of curves.  Keeler was the hardest man to fool I ever pitched to.”

Nichols said Herman “Germany” Long, his teammate for 12 years was:

“(O)ne of the greatest shortstops in the business.  He played with Boston while I was a Beaneater, and of course I had good opportunities to watch him work.  He could cover a world of territory and was a sure and accurate fielder.  You hear many people say that Hughie Jennings in his palmy days was the best infielder ever developed.  In my opinion Long could cover a foot more territory than Jennings.

“When it comes to catchers my preference is, and always has been, Charlie Bennett, whose legs were cut off in a railroad accident at Wellsville, Kansas.  Charlie was always consistent and knew what his brain was given to him for.  He was also an accurate, quick thrower…Martin Bergen was another good catcher.  He was the one who went crazy, you know, and murdered his wife and children.  Bergen always was ‘a little bit off of the top,’ but when he took a notion to do his best, his playing was beyond criticism.  Ed McFarland and (Billy) Sullivan are two right good men, and then there was reliable old Jim McGuire and Charles Zimmer, both of whom were cracker jack.”

bergen

Martin “Marty” Bergen–” always was ‘a little bit off of the top,’

Nichols said as a pitcher “I can hardly be considered a competent judge” of fellow “slabsters,” but continued:

“Personally, I admire the old war-horse, Cy Young, more than any of the others.  He is certainly a remarkable man.  Of the left-handers there a few better than (Frank “Noodles”) 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 Jack Taylor, Joe Corbett, (Bill) Bernhard, of Cleveland and our own Jake Weimer.

Nichols was largely forgotten as one of baseball’s great pitchers by the time the Baseball Hall of Fame’s inaugural class was selected in 1936.  In the late 1940s, a push for his inclusion was led by sportswriter Grantland Rice.  Rice frequently mentioned the pitcher in his columns and in the summer of 1948 quoted two Hall of Famers regarding Nichols’ prowess:

“A few decades ago I asked Christy Mathewson to name the best pitcher he ever faced.  ‘That’s easy,’ Matty answered.  ‘His name is Charles Kid Nichols of Boston.  Nichols isn’t a good pitcher.  He is a great one.’

“I recalled this talk when the mail brought a letter from Ty Cobb at Menlo Park, California.

“‘I think everyone has overlooked one of the greatest pitchers of all time,’ Cobb Writes.  ‘His name is Kid Nichols.  Here are just a few of his records from 1890 to 1906:

“1.  Won three consecutive games on three consecutive days, all pitched in different cities.

“2.  Won 20 or more games for 10 consecutive years.  He won 360 and lost 202. (Nichols’ record was 361-208)

“3.  Won 28 or more games for eight consecutive seasons.  (Nichols won more than 28 games seven times, and not consecutively).”

Despite the inaccuracies in the letter, Cobb and Rice continued to campaign for Nichols and the push to honor him worked.  He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1949.

Nichols, right, with Pie Traynor, left, and Branch Rickey at the Hall of Fame in 1949. Traynor was elected in 1948, but his plaque was not presented until 1949

Nichols, right, with Pie Traynor, left, and Branch Rickey at the Hall of Fame in 1949. Traynor was elected in 1948, but his plaque was not presented until 1949

“What Right has Hanlon to Show me How to Hit?”

23 Jun

How are hitters created?  Bozeman Bulger of The New York Evening World attempted to answer the question, and described the hitting styles of some of the game’s biggest stars in 1906:

“Batting is a natural gift and to be a success the player must be allowed to swing the willow in his own sweet way.”

Bulger said John McGraw who “For nine years…had a batting average of .330” (actually .346 from 1893 to 1901) was asked his secret:

“Don’t know, I simply used my eye and my arms and figured it out.”

When McGraw played for the Baltimore Orioles, Manager Ned Hanlon tried to show him “how to hit (and) on one occasion he corrected him sharply.”  McGraw said:

“That set me to thinking, and I went to my room and dug up a lot of old records.  In these I saw that Hanlon had never hit as good as .300, that is for a period of two or three seasons (Hanlon hit .302 in 1885) while I had been hitting over .300 right along.  Therefore, I asked myself ‘what right has Hanlon to show me how to hit?’”

Ned Hanlon

Ned Hanlon

Bulger said

“In the past few years Yale and Harvard and Princeton and other colleges have employed coaches to teach them how to hit.  The experiment was futile, and no hitters were developed that did not already possess the gift.

“Take the great batters of to-day and you will find that no two of them stand at the plate alike.  Long since astute managers have found that it is a useless waste of time to attempt a correction of habits easily acquired.  To be successful a ball player must do everything in a perfectly natural manner.  This is paramount in batting.”

Bulger then wrote about the “peculiarities” of some contemporary hitters:

Sam Mertes of the Giants invariably pulls his left foot back as he swings at the ball.  Mertes also crouches with somewhat of a forward lean and keeps his feet wide apart.

Roger Bresnahan and Mike Donlin, two of the greatest hitters in the world, are what are called vicious swingers.  Bresnahan has absolutely no fear.  He never thinks of being hit, but runs squarely into the ball, and when he plants his bat squarely against it a scorching line drive follows.  Nobody hits a ball with more force than Bresnahan.

“Donlin stands with his feet about one foot apart and usually holds the bat perfectly rigid at his waist, slanting at an angle of about 45 degrees.  He can either ‘chop’ or swing hard with the same degree of accuracy.  Donlin is said to be the greatest natural hitter in the business.  He says he has no idea how he does it.

George Stone, one of the most remarkable batters of the age, has a (boxer Jim) Jeffries  crouch at bat which has caused experienced baseball managers to say George wouldn’t last as soon as the pitchers got next to him.  Stone puts a terrific amount of weight into one of his blows, swinging with his shoulders and smashing a line with fearful force.

George Stone

George Stone

“His position has been termed awkward, inelegant, and not conducive to good hitting, but Stone to-day leads the American League with a better average than the great (Napoleon) Lajoie.

“Larry is the personification of grace and elegance at bat.  He has that careless indifferent method which attracts, is devoid of nervousness but active and alert.  Infielders will tell you that there is a force in the balls smashed by Lajoie which makes them unpleasant to handle.  Lajoie is the finished artist.

“His great rival in the National League Honus Wagner is just the opposite.  Hans grabs his stick at the end, holds it high about his shoulders, and when he swings his legs are spread from one end of the batter’s box to the other.  Wagner is awkward standing almost straight and goes after outcurves and drops with equal avidity.  Hans often reaches to the far outside of the plate for a low outcurve and plants it into right center field.

Charlie Hickman stands at the outer edge of the box and swings with his body and shoulders His fondness for the balls on the outside of the pan are known to opposing pitchers.  Lave Cross puts his two feet into the angle of the batter’s box nearest the catcher, while (Dave) Altizer usually spreads out, varying this position with a crouching posture, from which he runs up on a ball.”

Lost Pictures–Walter Johnson Steamrolls the American League

20 Jun

walterjohnsonsteam

A 1912 publicity photo featuring Walter Johnson at the wheel of a steamroller, and Senators catcher Eddie Ainsmith with the shovel at Griffith Stadium in Washington.  The photo was taken on June 17; the Senators had just returned from Cleveland having won 16 straight games–all on the road.  During the streak, the Senators had gone from 17-21 in sixth place, to 33-21, just one and a half games behind the Boston Red Sox.

The Washington Times said “It was considered an omen of continued triumph” that the steamroller was “found on the grounds.”

The Senators won the following day and continued playing well the rest of the way, finishing 91-61, their first winning season in the team’s 12-year history.  But, it was not good enough to catch the Red Sox who finished 14 games in front.

Johnson had his first of two 30-win seasons, finishing 33-12 with a league-leading 1.39 ERA.

Ainsworth played in the major leagues for 15 years, the first nine with the Senators.  The Washington Post said before the season opener in 1915:

“For the seventh consecutive year Walter Johnson will work in the opening clash for the home folks, and in nearly as many seasons will Eddie Ainsworth be his battery mate.  This pair always work together and no pitcher and catcher in either league are better acquainted when it comes to baseball.”

Eddie Ainsmith

Eddie Ainsmith

Several weeks after Ainsmith was traded to Boston (then to Detroit on the same day) in January of 1919, Louis Dougher a writer for The Washington Times said:

“When Eddie Ainsmith was traded to Detroit via Boston, Clark Griffith shattered on of the crack batteries…it was Johnson and (Charles “Gabby”) Street.  Then when Gabby slowed up and gave way to a successor, it rapidly became Johnson and Ainsmith.”

Age, more than the departure of Ainsmith slowed Johnson down, but he still won 140 games and posted three 20-win seasons after his personal catcher was traded.

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up other Things #9

18 Jun

The Business of Bats–1896

The Louisville Courier-Journal said in the spring of 1896 that their city “is now conceded to be the bat market of the world.”

That year, J. F. Hillerich & Son, a company that “was in practical obscurity three years ago,” had already “received orders to manufacture 75,000 bats this season.”

(Many sources, including the Louisville Slugger Museum, say the name change from Hillerich Job Turning to Hillerich and Son took place in 1897, but the names “& Son” and “& Son’s” were used in advertisements as early as 1895)

An advertisement for flag poles which appeared in Louisville papers on the eve of the 29th Encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic in September of 1895 shows the company name as J.F. Hillerich & Son's.

An advertisement for flag poles which appeared in Louisville papers on the eve of the 29th Encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic in September of 1895 shows the company name as J.F. Hillerich & Son’s.

“(Hillerich) is known to every ball player of any note in the United States.  A Courier-Journal reporter yesterday afternoon found orders from (Ed) Delehanty of the Philadelphias; (Hugh) Duffy of the Bostons, (Jesse) Burkett of the Clevelands and many other noted batsmen in the little factory at 216 First Street. Eight years ago (James Frederick) Jim Hillerich did not have money enough to buy a wagon load of ash, from which bats are made.  This season his business amounts to more than $50,000 which is done in ball bats alone.

“When a team arrives in the city the first thing the members do is to have a race for this bat factory to select some new ‘sticks.’”

The paper said the company’s output in 1895 had been twice that of 1894 and “The business this year amounts to four times as much as it did last year.”

The ash for Hillerich’s bats was grown in Indiana and Kentucky “and is felled and split by fifty men.  All the bats are hand-turned”

Washington’s Brief Craps Scandal–1891

In June of of 1891 The Washington Herald reported trouble in the ranks of the American Association’s ninth place Washington Statesmen.

The team was playing for their second manager (there would be a total of four that year), the first, Sam Trott had been let go after just 11 games.  The Herald said when Charles “Pop” Snyder was installed in place of Trott “the directors thought they had at last secured a pilot who would successfully carry them through the breakers.”

The team lost 16 of their first 19 games under Snyder and the paper said “steps are being taken to secure a new man to fill Snyder’s place.”

Chief among Snyder’s failing was:

“(W)hen a discovery was made at the grounds by some interested parties.  It was in the morning, and the men should have been practicing in order to better their playing, but instead were found, it is said, engaged in the seductive pursuit of playing ‘crap.'”

The only player the paper named was catcher James “Deacon” McGuire who, at one point during the game was ahead $56.  The Herald quoted an unnamed team official:

“‘We pay them good salaries, from $250 to $350 per month, and they ought to give us good ball.’ observed one director, after exhausting himself in giving expression to some very emphatic language regarding the crap incident.”

Deacon McGuire

Deacon McGuire

One week later the paper said:

The Herald cheerfully publishes this denial:  Manager Snyder makes a plain statement of the case, to the effect that one morning, the day of the extreme heat, while the men were in the shade, umpire (John) Kerins pulled out the ivories and the men in the spirit of fun went at the game.  It did not last ten minutes and it was the only time it occurred during the season.”

Snyder was replaced as manager a month later by Dan Shannon who fared no better (15-34); he was replaced by Tobias “Sandy” Griffin in October.

 The Reason for Baseball’s “Mania”–1869

The Milwaukee Semi-Weekly Wisconsin editorialized on the growing popularity of baseball in July of 1869:

“A few years ago the game of baseball which every male in the land, perhaps, had played from his youth up, was dignified by being elevated into a ‘national game,’ and set off with printed rules and regulations.  Forthwith the sport became the rage of young and middle-aged, and clubs were formed all over the land.  It was suddenly found that the game was just the thing to develop muscle and invigorate the frames of school boys and men of business, clerks and mechanics, sedentary men and farmers.”

The Associated Press gives with the utmost minuteness the score of every match game–no matter though it may have taken place in the obscurest village of the far east.  Across and up and down the continent these reports go side by side with the most important matters of state, of commerce, of international policy, often times taking up more space than news of the greatest moment.”

The paper asked “What has given this sudden impetus to the ‘national game?’ Is it the result of an increased desire for physical culture?  Is it because men feel more than ever the importance of exercise?  Not at all…There is another reason for the mania.”

That reason was gambling:

“We have nothing to say against baseball or any other sport when carried on simply as a recreation; we approve of them and think they ought to be encouraged; but the trouble is they degenerate into a machine for betting , and thus they become the means of corrupting the morals of the youth.  Americans seem to be rapidly acquiring an appetite for betting…This passion for outside  betting is increasing, and this is the reason why these match games are telegraphed over the country with such minuteness…Men bet on an election or a  baseball match who would not go into a gambling saloon for any consideration.”

The conclusion of the editorial was a foreshadowing of the role of gambling during baseball’s next five decades”

“It may be a comparatively small evil to make or lose five dollars upon some kind of match game, but this is only the beginning of an evil which too frequently grows into a magnitude which cannot always be computed.”

 

 

Spring Training, 1900

16 Jun

There was never a dull moment during the Chicago Orphans 1900 training trip to Selma, Alabama.  New manager Tom Loftus arrived with twenty-three players from West Baden, Indiana on March 23—two more players, Jimmy Ryan and Bill Everitt would be joining the team in a few days.  The Chicago Tribune said, “Loftus is pleased with the grounds and the players are agreeably surprised at the town and hotel.”

Tom Loftus

Tom Loftus

The team was greeted in Selma with a parade and presented keys to the city; the stay in Alabama went downhill from there.

Rain in Selma disrupted the team’s practice schedule and the day Jimmy Ryan arrived it was revealed that there was a conflict between the leftfielder and his manager.

The Chicago Inter Ocean said Ryan, who claimed playing left field in Chicago’s West Side Grounds the previous season had damaged his eyes, announced he would not play the “sun field” for the team in 1900.

“(Ryan) intimated there was nothing in his contract which calls upon him to play in the sun field and that he will not do it unless he is given more money.”

Ryan told the paper:

“Let some of the young fellows put on smoked glasses and try the sun field for a while.  I am a right fielder and am tired of getting the hard end of the deal.  If they want me to play in the sun field it is up to Loftus for it is worth more money.”

Loftus responded:

“I don’t understand any such talk as this.  Ryan will play where he will make the most money for the club…I am running this club just now, and the men will play where I put them.”

The dispute went on for several days and included an offer to Ryan to join Selma’s local team if he chose to quit.

Ryan wasn’t the only disgruntled player.  Clark Griffith, who won 22 games for the team in 1899 told The Tribune:

“It is only a question of time when we all have to quit, and the sooner a man quits the better off he will be, for it is a cinch he won’t have a cent, no matter how long he stays in this business.”

Clark Griffith

Clark Griffith

A few days later The Tribune said it appeared Griffith and utility man Charlie Dexter had quit

“Clark Griffith and Charles Dexter have announced they are no longer members of the Chicago ball team.  This morning the two men, one of whom Chicago ball cranks have relied on to bring the pennant westward, announced they will start with a week for Cape Nome to mine gold.

“Griffith has been wild all spring to go to Alaska.  Some friend offered Griffith and (Jimmy “Nixey”) Callahan $20 a day as common laborers if they would go to Cape Nome.  This morning Griffith and Dexter were talking and Griffith declared he would go in a minute if he could get someone to go with him.  Dexter accepted the chance, declared he would go, and within a few minutes the pair had deposited their diamond rings with Tim Donahue as a forfeit, each agreeing to forfeit the rings in case they failed to start for Cape Nome inside a week.  Both men are in earnest”

Loftus didn’t take Griffith’s plan seriously, but the threat highlighted the growing dissatisfaction of his star pitcher, which would be reflected in his performance during the 1900 season.  There was no report of whether Griffith and Dexter forfeited their diamond rings when they failed to leave for Alaska.

The final incident of the Orphans’ Selma trip resulted in one of the most unusual reasons for a game to be delayed.

Griffith was on the mound during the early innings of an intersquad game, Tim Donahue was at the plate when according to The Inter Ocean:

“(A) Southern Gentleman opened up with a .44.”

The Chicago Tribune said:

“Just as the game was starting a young native, inspired by a desire to show the players his ambidexterity with revolvers, crossed the bridge (over the Alabama River) firing volleys.  As he approached the park he began he began firing at will, and for ten minutes gave a wild South exhibition of cannonading inside the park.”

Once inside the park, the man fired first in the direction of the players, and then, after reloading, “at the feet” of several local children watching the game.

He then “turned his attention to the ball players.”  The Inter Ocean said:

“He began shooting across the diamond, and every man on the field made a slide on the ground toward the shelter of the grand stand in a manner which would have been a guarantee of the championship, if repeated in regular league games.”

The paper said Tim Donahue, “who was never known to slide a base, went fifteen feet on his ribs” under the stands.  While Jimmy Ryan “made a dash” for left field “which broke the sprinting record.  He was last seen crawling under a dog hole in an extreme corner of the grounds.”

The gunman was taken into custody by Selma police, and The Tribune said the playing was “nervous and erratic,” after the shooting incident, but incredibly the game continued and was completed.

Griffiths “Scrubs” defeated Donahue’s “Regulars” 13 to 12.

The Box Score

The Box Score

Things didn’t get any better for the team after they opened the 1900 season; the Orphans limped to a 65-75 sixth place finish under Loftus.  Ryan, who still often played the “sun field”, hit .277, his first sub .300 season since 1893.  Griffith, who won 20 games the previous six seasons, won just 14.  Charlie Dexter had his worst season, hitting just. 200 in 40 games and Donahue hit just .236 in his final season in Chicago.

Lost Team Photos–Harry Hooper’s 1907 St. Mary’s College Team

13 Jun

1907stmarypix

Harry Hooper, Hall of Fame outfielder for the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox (standing, far right), with the 1907 St. Mary’s College team.  The team, often called the best  pre-World War I college ballclub, also included pitcher Harry Krause (center, second from left), and catchers Charlie Enwright (center, second from right), and Ed Burns center, middle)–The San Francisco Chronicle referred to the 5′ 10′ Krause and the 5′ 6″ burns as “the midget battery.”

Coach Hal Chase is in the middle row, far left.

After the team’s final game The San Francisco Call said:

“The Phoenix baseball team of St. Mary’s, satisfied that it has conquered the world, has closed its schedule for the season.”

How good were they?

“Perhaps no California team has ever had a more brilliant career than has the 1907 phoenix.  Pitted 27 times against only first class teams, professional and amateurs, it has escaped from the fray without once having to bow to a foe.  Moreover, but 39 runs have been scored against the Phoenix all season, while the Phoenix players have scored 137.  No team made more than four runs on them, and this occurred but three times.  They have had eight shutouts, eight one run games, seven two run victories (and) one three run contest.”

 

Hooper, left, with Red Sox teammate George "Duffy" Lewis after the 1915 World Series

Hooper, left, with Red Sox teammate George “Duffy” Lewis after the 1915 World Series–the two were also teammates at St. Mary’s in 1906.

“I Remember Well the First Day Latham Coached”

11 Jun

Arlie Latham “The Freshest Man on Earth” is generally credited as the first full-time third base coach.  Even before John McGraw hired him to coach third for the New York Giants in 1909, Latham’s antics as a “coacher” were already legendary—in 1907 Ted Sullivan, one of baseball’s pioneers and Latham’s manager with the St. Louis Browns, told The Washington Evening Star about Latham’s first time.

Ted Sullivan

Ted Sullivan

“’I remember well the first day Latham coached,’ said Sullivan.  ‘It was in Cincinnati in 1883.  I must confess I never had much use for a ‘fresh’ player, and soon after Latham reported I was not backward in telling him he was too d— fresh, but  I later discovered that he was a wonderful player, and that his freshness was of a most harmless and hilarious nature.  But after I gave him the reprimand I noticed he was a little timid about saying anything, but was still of good cheer.

“One day in Cincinnati Will White had the Browns on his staff with his little stingy rise ball.  My best men were on the bases and there was no one on the line.  I asked the men on the bench, ‘Is there no one here able to coach a little?’ Latham speaks up and says, ‘I will coach if you want me.’”

Never one for understatement, Sullivan said what happened next:

“Well, if Gabriel had entered a graveyard and blown his trumpet, and the tombstones had loosened their grip on the dead, it would not have created more of a sensation.  Latham walked out to the home plate and to the consternation of umpire, players and myself, delivered this talk to pitcher White:

‘My Dear Mr. White, we have been very courteous to you during the game, but as the Browns need a few runs we will have to be rude to you for awhile,’ and then stalking off to third base went through those gyrations that afterward made him famous all over America.  White was dumbstruck at the flow of words that afterward fell from Latham, and he became so rattled that the Browns batted him out of the box and won the game.”

Will White

Will White

No Browns game in Cincinnati that season matches well with Sullivan’s initial account—he continued to tell the story to reporters for more than a decade and sometimes said instead the game was “against Cincinnati—the game that best fits Sullivan’s description was a 9 to 5 Browns win over the Reds on May 16. But, contemporary accounts attribute White’s faltering, which led to the Browns come from behind victory, to a knee injury rather than any “flow of words” from Latham.

“Latham was the original funny man in the coacher’s box, and he stood in a class entirely by himself.  He has had many imitators, but they have never reached the position that Latham occupied, for he was a genius in the work and never used language that would offend the ears of the most prudish.

“Many years ago it used to be Latham’s great aim to get out on the coaching line here in Washington in the games that local pet—Win Mercer—was to do the pitching.  It will be recalled that Mercer was an extremely handsome fellow, and often it fell to his lot to pitch on Ladies’ Day.  Latham took the greatest delight in endeavoring to disconcert Mercer, the large number of ladies being mad enough to pull his hair, while at the same time they were convulsed with laughter at his sayings and antics.  He and Mercer were great chums, and when Latham was secured by the Wagners (J. Earl and George) to travel with the Washingtons (in 1899) for coaching purposes alone the two were inseparable, thus showing that though a thorough minstrel and actor, his chaff never broke into bitter personalities  or severed friendships.

“We have our Hughey Jennings and others of today, but in the history of baseball there has only been one ideal coacher from the line—Arlie Latham.”

Latham with the New York Giants

Latham with the New York Giants

When McGraw hired Latham two years later, Bozeman Bulger, sports writer for The New York Evening World said the Giants’ new third base coach had just as much fun as a minor league umpire as he did when coaching—Bulger was a writer for The Birmingham Age-Herald while Latham was working in the Southern Association:

“I had the fun one time of traveling with Latham while he was an umpire in the Southern (Association).  On one of those days the Birmingham club was playing at Little Rock, and Pat Wright was playing first for Little Rock, and Pat Millerick, of Birmingham was at the bat.  He hit a little grounder toward short, and for a moment it was fumbled.  Pat went lumbering down to first.  Seeing that he couldn’t quite make it on the run, he slid for the bag.  Pat Wright at the same time got the ball a little wide and slid for the bag himself, so as to beat the runner.  The feet of both hit the bag at about the same time.”

Latham made no call on the play.

“’Judgment!’ yelled Millerick, as he threw up his hand.

“Everybody waited for Latham to make a decision.

“’Wait a minute,’ said Arlie, ‘I want to do this thing right.’  He then rushed into the clubhouse and came out with a tape measure.  While the crowd sat in suspense Latham deliberately measured the feet of the two Pats—Millerick and Wright.  It was shown that Wright’s foot was one inch longer, and Millerick was promptly declared ‘Out!’  Nobody had the nerve to question the decision.”

Bugs Versus Rube

9 Jun

Charles Emmett Van Loan is largely forgotten today, but from 1904 until his death in 1919 at age 42, he was considered one of the best, and most prolific, baseball writers in the country.

Grantland Rice said:

“Van Loan was not only a great story-teller.  He was the first writer of his time to see the romance and the glamour of the game, mingled with its amazing fund of humor.”

In addition to his newspaper work, which included stints in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Denver, Van Loan wrote some of the most popular fictional baseball stories of his era—he published four collections of baseball stories, as well as anthologies of  boxing, horse racing and golf stories.

Hugh Fullerton said of his death:

“Van is dead and sports in America have lost their greatest interpreter, and fighters, ball players and athletes of all grades have lost their best friend.”

Charles Emmett Van Loan

Charles Emmett Van Loan

As sports editor for The New York American in 1910 Van Loan weighed in on the two most interesting pitchers of the day:

“In the race for distinction as the most erratic, eccentric and daffy pitcher of the big leagues “Bugs” Raymond is leading by an elbow over our old friend, G. Edward Waddell, known to fame and a portion of Missouri as the ‘Rube.’

“The battle between G. Edward and the ‘Bug’ has been a close one.  For many moons Waddell held the belt for eccentricity.  If he had not been a wonderful baseball player, he would have been chucked to the minors years ago, but pitchers like Waddell are so rare that they must be preserved to the game.

Bugs Raymond

Bugs

“We all remember the sorrows of Oscar Hammerstein and the many tribulations forced upon him by his singers, particularly the women.  A woman with a wonderful voice can get away with anything short of murder in the first degree by blaming it upon her artistic temperament—which is an ornamental means for plain unadorned meanness, selfishness or petty spite.  If a soprano got jealous of another woman and tore up her contract, refused to sing her roles and played smash generally, she could blame it upon her artistic temperament, and all was forgiven.  What a shame the ‘Rube’ never heard about that artistic temperament thing!  It would have been such a handy alibi for him.

“Waddell stuck in the limelight by virtue of his ability to throw a ball like a streak of lightning and throw it twice or three times in the same place…In between his marvelous performances the ‘rube’ established himself as a bartender, a side-show barker, an actor, a sidewalk comedian, a rough and tumble battler and a very competent vessel for mixed liquors.  He enjoyed the proud eminence of supreme bug of the major leagues and everything was lovely until ‘Bugs’ Raymond happened along.  ‘Bugs’ went the ‘Rube’ one better.  Waddell in his balmiest days never had a special keeper engaged, by the management to take him gently but firmly by the elbow and steer him away from temptation.

Rube

Rube

“You never heard of a chorus girl with an overdose of the artistic temperament.  A chorus girl who develops tantrums is fired immediately.  You never heard of an eccentric ballplayer who was not a good one, a bad player would be sent  back to herd the cows and coax the potatoes out of the ground with a hoe.

“’Rube’ and ‘Bugs’ are good players.  Raymond almost drove (John) McGraw to despair last season, for the chubby manager realized what an excellent pitcher ‘Bugs’ really was and tried to save him for the hard finish of the season.  McGraw even went so far as to try physical persuasion upon his big, but erratic southpaw, upon the ground that a swift wallop on the nose is sometimes better than a ream of argument.

“McGraw tried to keep money out of Raymond’s hands, figuring that if he never had a cent he would be forced to keep his nose dry.  No use.  ‘Bugs’ had too many friends.  His admirers were always ready to purchase even if ‘Bugs’ had to look up in the air when it came his turn to deliver orders to the gent in the apron.

“’Turn him loose on a desert isle’ said one of the players, referring to Raymond, ‘and inside of an hour he will turn up with a flask on his hip.  How he does that I don’t know.  I guess he just charms that liquor.

“Unfortunately George Edward must retire from the competition.  Boston is his hoodoo town,  By reason of matrimonial troubles ‘Rube’ was forced to cut Boston off the pitching list, and just as the clouds cleared away, bing! On the elbow with a red hot liner, and out goes the ‘Rube’ with a broken bone.

“At the end of last season nobody believed that McGraw would make another effort to reform the thirsty Raymond.  It was thought that in spite of the fact that ‘Bugs’ won 600 percent of his games, he would get the gate, but McGraw decided to try it again on the ground that a pitcher of Raymond’s class is worth saving at any cost.  McGraw is willing to gamble.  Should he fail to straighten out the big spitballist everybody will say:  ‘I told you there wasn’t any use.’  On the other hand, should the private keeper keep ‘Bugs’ away from the disturbance water and his pitching be up to his usual standard, everyone will say that McGraw showed excellent judgment in hanging on to his souse paw through thick and thin.

“An erratic pitcher is a hard strain on a team.  The men behind him never know when he is going to blow up and they are kept on a strain whenever the eccentric one works.

“When ‘Bugs’ goes into the box in good condition, his head clear and his muscles hardened by work, he pitches good enough baseball for any man’s club.  His keeper has been steering him away from the gin mills for some time—touch wood everybody—and at last accounts McGraw was hopeful that the problem had been solved.

“They say the ever loving ‘Rube’ is consumed with jealousy because ‘Bugs’ has a keeper.  A man with a broken wing doesn’t really need a keeper.”

McGraw was unable “to straighten out the big spitballist,” Raymond’s big league career was over by June of 1911, and he was dead just more than a year after that.  Waddell’s major league days were over within weeks of Van Loan’s observations, and he was dead less than four years later.