Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things, Bill Joyce Edition

2 May

Scrappy” Bill Joyce’s managerial career ended badly.  In 1898, the player-manager was fired by New York Giants owner Andrew Freedman and replaced by Cap Anson—only to return as manager for the remainder of the season after Anson failed to turn the seventh place club around.  The turmoil took its toll on Joyce; after four straight .300 plus seasons, he hit just .258 in 1898.

Although just 32, and despite numerous reports of his imminent return to the Giants—or several other teams, including the St. Louis Browns, Washington Senators, and Cleveland Spiders— as a player or manager persisted for the next several years, he never played or managed another major league game.

He returned to his hometown, St. Louis, and opened a bar with Patsy Tebeau, and then later ran his own establishment after the two dissolved their partnership.  And, perhaps because of the way his career ended, and because of his inability to ever again secure an on-field job, he never stopped talking baseball, and became a popular source for sportswriters.

Scrappy Bill Joyce

Scrappy Bill Joyce

The Superstitious Jesse Burkett

Joyce told The Boston Globe in 1905 that “Ball Payers are a superstitious lot,” and that Jesse Burkett was among the most superstitious.

He said Burkett had one day received a tip at the racetrack on a horse that did not come in.

“After the race Jesse made one of his characteristic snaring, sarcastic remarks (to the tipster), who whirled around, and, knowing Jesse’s susceptibility to superstition said: ‘I’ll put the Spanish curse on you for a week.’

“The next day Burkett failed to get a hit and muffed a fly.  The next day he booted a grounder and struck out twice.  That night he sent for (the man).

“The racetrack man came down to the Lindell Hotel (in St. Louis), where Jesse was stopping.”

The man accompanied Burkett, who “was as serious as if he was making his will” to his room:

“(Burkett) unwrapped a package lying on a dresser and taking out a beautiful silk cravat said:

“’George, I’ll give you this ascot–it cost me $2—if you’ take off the Spanish curse.  I can’t make a hit while it is on.’”

The man snapped his fingers and said:

“’It’s off.’

“’Here is the tie,’ said Jess.”

According to Joyce:

“(T)he next day  Jesse made three hits.”

Joyce’s Tavern

In 1910, his tavern was located at 215 North Sixth Street in St. Louis.  But his love of taking baseball nearly cost him the business.

In August of 1910, The St. Louis Republic said:

“’Scrappy’ Bill Joyce, former captain of the New York Giants, and Washington’s old third baseman, forfeited his saloon license today because he kept open until 1 AM, Sunday, July 24, while holding a ‘fanning bee’ with (New York Giants Manager) John McGraw and Sam Crane, a New York sporting writer.”

Joyce testified in front of the city’s excise commission that no drinks were served after midnight, “All he and the two guests did until the policeman arrived was talk baseball.”

Later that month, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said, Crane, the former infielder, then writing for The New York Journal, and McGraw, both came back to St. Louis and met personally with the excise commissioner, Henry S. Caufield—who would later serve as governor of Missouri—and said the incident was “primarily their fault,” while both backing up Joyce’s assertion that no drinks were consumed after midnight.  As a result of their efforts, Joyce was allowed to keep his license.

“Told in a Man’s Way by a lot of Men”

While continuing to operate his tavern in St. Louis, Joyce finally got back into professional baseball.

In 1911, he became owner and manager of the Missoula (Montana) franchise in the newly formed Union Association.  But by August The Salt Lake City Tribune said he had been stripped of the franchise “for nonpayment of salaries.”  He later did  some scouting for the Federal League’s St. Louis Terriers.  While assessing current players, Joyce came to the conclusion shared by many of his 19th Century brethren. He told The St. Louis Globe-Democrat:

Bill Joyce, 1911

Bill Joyce, 1911

“Baseball today is not what it should be.  The players do not try to learn the fine points of the game as in the days of old, but simply try to get by.  They content themselves if they get a couple of hits every afternoon and pay an errorless game.  The first thing they do each morning is to get the papers and look at the hit and error columns.”

It was, of course, nothing like it was during his career—when the game was more scientific:

“When I was playing ball there was not a move made on the field that did not cause everyone on the opposing team to mention something about it.  All were trying to figure why it had been done and to watch and see what the result would be.  That move could never be pulled again without everyone on our bench knowing just what was going to happen.

“I feel sure that the same conditions do not prevail today.  The boys go out to the plate, take a slam at the ball, pray that they’ll get a hit and just et it go at that.  They are not fighting as in the days of old.”

And the way they behaved after a loss:

“Who ever heard of a gang of ballplayers, after losing a game, going into the clubhouse and singing at the top of their voices?  That’s what happens every day after the game at the present time.  Immediately after the last man is out the players make a dash for the clubhouse, the ‘quartet’ hits up a song and the whole squad joins in.

“In my days, the players went into the clubhouse after a losing game with murder in their hearts.  They would have thrown any guy out on his neck if they even suspected him of intentions of singing.  In my days the man who was responsible for having lost a game was told in a man’s way by a lot of men what a rotten ballplayer he really was.  Generally, he was told to go back to carrying the hod or to the police force.  It makes me weep to think of the men of the old days who played the game and the boys of today.  It is positively a shame and they are getting big money for it, too.”

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