“He is a $900 Man”

6 Jul

Frank Leonardo Hough had a major conflict of interest.  While sports editor for The Philadelphia Inquirer, he also held a 12.5% interest in the Philadelphia Athletics from the club’s inaugural season until 1912—he also served as the team secretary for several seasons while working at the paper.  Another Philadelphia sports writer, Sam Jones of The Associated Press also held a 12.5% interest in the team.

Frank L. Hough

Frank L. Hough

Perhaps it was Hough’s close association with an American League team that made him one of the most vocal advocates for the rights of current and former National League players while the leagues battled for star players.

In 1902, he told his readers the story of how William “Bill” Duggleby, who jumped from the Phillies to the Athletics after the 1901 season,  was treated—Hough said he was “Human Chattel”–while a member of the Phillies:

“These are the facts:

“William Duggleby, pitcher played with the Auburn Club, of the New York State League, during the season of 1897.  In the fall of that year, he was drafted by the Philadelphia Ball Club.”

According to Hough, Duggleby was offered $900 for the season, a $25 raise from his salary in Auburn.

Hough pitched just nine games for the Phillies in 1898 and said Hough “was farmed or rented,” to minor league clubs for the remainder of 1898 and in 1899 and 1900.

“Thus it will be seen that although he was under the absolute control of the Philadelphia Club from 1897, he played only a few games in the season of 1898 with that organization.  He had no control over his own services.  He could not even say where he would play, or where he would not play.  That matter was determined by the treasurer of the Philadelphia Ball Club.”

William Duggleby

William Duggleby

Hough noted that while Duggleby “developed considerable skill,” and had three good seasons in the Eastern League (12-11, 22-16, 17-10) and drew considerable interest from  a “half dozen” major league teams, he only received $900 from the Phillies each season:

“The clubs that rented Duggleby did not know him in the financial end of the transaction at all.

“Had Duggleby the right to sign wherever he could have made the best bargain he would have undoubtedly received at least $1800 a season for his services—just twice as much as received under the White Slave system of the National League.”

Hough said Duggleby likely only had six to 10 years total earning power and “lost three years in which he should have received a salary somewhere commensurate to his ability.”

That, however, said Hough, was not the worst of it.  In 1900, Duggleby was with the Toronto Canucks, who paid the Phillies “$225 per month for his services,” while Duggleby was paid just $150 a month.

“No convict from a Texas or Georgia penitentiary was ever rented or leased to break stone on a quarry or repair roadways in colder blood than was Duggleby to the Toronto Club.

“If Duggleby was not a white slave in a free country, what in the name of all that is fair was he?…Of course, Duggleby did not have to wear ball and chain—that might have interfered with his playing ability. But he had no more control over his actions than would the most hardened criminal consigned to the quarries.”

Just days after Hough made the case for Duggleby’s victimhood—and after he appeared in just two games for the Athletics— the pitcher returned to the Phillies.  Said to have been paid $3250 by the Athletics, Duggleby accepted a $2400 contract with the Phillies.  He told The Sporting Life:

“There was no great reason for my going with the American League in the first place, but after I had given my word to go with Connie Mack’s team I did not feel like breaking it. Then came the decision in the (Napoleon) Lajoie case, and a notice from Manager (Bill) Shettsline to report to him or meet with the same fate as Lajoie. I went to see Shetts at once and asked him if the club really intended to proceed against all players that were under reserve. He assured me that they would. Well, under the circumstances I saw nothing for me to do but go back to the National.”

Hough’s tone changed considerably after Duggleby left the Athletics; in addition to referring to the pitcher in a headline as a “Vertebraeless Youth,” he said

“Without awaiting the outcome of the efforts to be made today to secure an appeal (in the Lajoie case)… (Duggleby) runs to cover like a frightened hound…Evidently the treasurer of the Philadelphia Ball Club sized up Duggleby right in the first place.  He is a $900 man.”

Duggleby, who posted a 20-12 record for the Phillies in 1901, only had one winning season after (18-17 in 1905).  He pitched in the major leagues until 1907.  Duggleby had one other distinction:  During his initial trial with the Phillies in 1898, he hit a grand slam in his first major league at-bat on April 21–for 70 years he remained the only player to hit a grand slam in his first game until Bobby Bonds hit one during his debut (his third at-bat) on June 25, 1968; Jeremy Hermida equaled the feat in his first major league at-bat in 2005.

Hough remained a stockholder and officer with the Athletics while simultaneously reporting on baseball for The Inquirer, until he sold his interest to Connie Mack in 1912.  He was the paper’s sports editor until his death the following year.  (While Hough’s middle name was said to be Leonardo throughout his life, his Pennsylvania death certificate lists it as Lewis)

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