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.

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2 Responses to “Bugs Versus Rube”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. “There will be Cliches” | Baseball History Daily - June 30, 2014

    […] “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 […]

  2. “And Mr. Waddell made good” | Baseball History Daily - September 16, 2015

    […] over the years that may or may not have been 100% truthful.  One of his favorite subjects was Rube Waddell, who was the subject of as many apocryphal stories as any player of his […]

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