Bobby Eager was a popular, if not enormously talented, catcher for eight seasons in the California and Pacific Coast Leagues. After his career, when he wasn’t at his job with Standard Oil, The San Jose News said he could be seen in town “any afternoon when the weather is right, fanning with a bunch of fans.”
The paper decided he enjoyed telling stories about his career so much, they offered him an occasional column to tell his stories and share his opinions.
One of his favorite subjects was Rube Waddell, who spent part of the 1902 season on the West Coast. Eager called him “The greatest southpaw pitcher” he had seen.
“When Rube Waddell was with Los Angeles he was the life of the club. There was never a dull minute with Waddell on the bench. If ever there was a nut he was it. They called him a rube. Don’t know where they picked up the name, but he was anything but what his name would indicate. With all his antics Waddell was a wise coot, and if you think he wasn’t I would like to have the extra money it cost (Angels Manager) Jim Morley to keep him on the team.
“It was a cold day that Rube didn’t ‘touch’ Jim for a five-spot. Rube was getting a fat salary—as fat as salaries went in those days… Never knew exactly what Waddell got, but I know it was more than any other player on the club pulled down.
“While Rube was on the club Morley slept with one eye open. He was always afraid of losing him. On this occasion, Waddell had just made a borrow off Jim of a twenty-spot when word drifted into Morley’s billiard parlor that Waddell was seen going toward the railroad station. The rumor was sufficient to stir Morley.”
The manager quickly took action.
“Morley rang up the depot and found a train left in 10 minutes for the East. He dashed out on the street, jumped into the first carriage he saw and drove pell-mell to the train. Into the Pullman car he hiked and sure enough, there was Waddell. He had bought his ticket and was going back to report to Connie Mack, who had come through with more money. At first, Waddell denied he was leaving. He said he just came down to see a friend off, but he soon had to admit that he had a ticket.
“Jim came through with another piece of change and Waddell surrendered his ticket and returned to the team. But he wasn’t with it very long before he beat it.”
Waddell “beat it” for good on June 20, leaving the West Coast for Philadelphia. He was 11-8 with a 2.42 ERA with the Angels, with the Athletics he was 24-7, 2.05–he pitched a total of 444 innings that season.
Eager said despite the money Los Angeles was out, “I doubt if Morley lost much on Waddell for he was always a drawing card when he pitched and one good thing about Rube he was never lazy. He would pitch every day if you would let him.”