“The Words ‘Baseball Team’ are used Advisedly in this Instance”

22 Oct

Far from considering their local club a source of civic pride, The Springfield Leader was not thrilled about the prospects for the Missouri city’s baseball team, the Midgets on the eve of the 1907 Western Association season:

“Springfield will have a baseball team this spring.  The words ‘baseball team’ are used advisedly in this instance and with somewhat of a reserve.  A ball team is made up of nine men, not all of whom are ballplayers and sometimes not any of them.  Nine men dressed in similar uniforms and scattered in the orthodox fashion over the diamond and in the outer gardens, are generally understood to constitute a baseball team.  The difference between that sort of a team and a team as defined and understood by a genuine fan and follower of the game is almost as wide as the gulf that separates two classes of residents in the next world.

“In the cranium of the thoroughbred lover of the great national game a ball team is made up of ball players.  The mere wearing of a glove and uniform and being stationed somewhere in the playing field is not the only essential to a ball team as far as the fan is concerned.  The real test of a ball team is the ability of the bunch to play ball.  That is what the fans demand and what they expect.  Of course they do not object to the men wearing uniforms and gloves, but those are merely minor affairs, wholly secondary to the skill of the men in putting up a stellar exhibition of the game.  No ball team is a ball team unless the individuals who compose that team can play ball.  That is the doctrine of the fans, tested in the furnace of experience and labeled bottled in bond 100 percent pure.

“With these two propositions laid down and comprehended it is necessary to see which class the Queen City of the Ozarks will be when his honor, the umps, announces the batteries and informs the rivals that it is time to play ball.

“Springfield will have nine men with uniforms and gloves.  That is a settled fact.  They will undoubtedly have the pleasure of seeing a few men on the field who can play ball.  But so far as the ability of the outfield to put up a kind of game that father used to make is concerned—as Hamlet the melancholy Dane of Shakespearean repute once remarked in of  his famous after dinner speeches—‘Aye, there’s the rub.

“Somewhere in the neighborhood of two score men have been signed by Manager (Frank Richmond) Pierce (a Springfield bank executive) to try out with the bunch that is to report now in a few days.  A few, a very small few, are known to have played ball before.”

The paper singled out on player in particular for ridicule; shortstop John Welter hit .201 the previous season, and committed 60 errors in 88 games:

“(T)he big shortstop made a very poor impression last season and it is not likely that he could have signed in a 10-year-old kid corner lot league.”

The Leader was also upset about the sale of the team’s two best players, pitcher Harley “Cy the Third” Young, who won 24 games, and third baseman Gus Hetling, who led the team in most offensive categories, to the Wichita Jobbers:

“Both these players were good, and as the city did not need good players they were sold to make a little money.  As long as the fans don’t care for a good article of ball there is no use in paying the salaries to men who can play. Duds are good enough for any fan to watch and they are considerably cheaper, so what is the use in wasting money.  The fact that Wichita will likely come here and Young will allow the Midgets about one or two hits and Hetling will field without an error and knock the ball out of the lot three or four times, will make no difference.  The fans will still have the pleasure of seeing them play.”

The Leader said Pierce was not entirely to blame, because his stockholders “refused to come across with any coin.”

In response, Pierce told the city’s other newspaper, The Republican; his team would consist of “some of the highest salaried players that have ever signed with Springfield.”

Despite Pierce’s claim, the team fared about as well as The Leader predicted; winning just 46 games, with 92 losses, and Pierce sold his interest in the team in June—his first, and last, tenure as a baseball executive lasting just a few months.

After acquiring Springfield’s two best players—Young and Heitling—Wichita cruised to the league championship with a 98-35 record.

With the addition of Heitling (4) and Young (10) Wichita easily won the 1907 Western Association championship.

With the addition of Heitling (4) and Young (10) Wichita easily won the 1907 Western Association championship.

Young was 29-4 for Wichita; after the 1907 season he was sold to the Pittsburgh Pirates.  His major league career consisted of just 14 games with the Pirates and Boston Doves, posting a career 0-3 record.  He played seven more seasons in the minor leagues, but never won twenty games again.

Heitling hit .275 for the champions and played 10 more seasons, most on the Pacific Coast.

Welter, the shortstop The Leader said didn’t belong “in a 10-year-old kid corner lot league,” hit .222 (there are no surviving fielding totals for the season) and never played professionally again after 1907.

After two more seasons as one of the doormats of the Western Association this incarnation of the Springfield Midgets folded in 1909.

Advertisements

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