“I’ve no Uniform that will fit a Giraffe like you”

3 Aug

Most biographies of Harry “Slim” Sallee, if they mention his brief time with the New York Highlanders in 1906, simply say he never appeared in a game because of “(A)n abundance of pitcher’s” on Clark Griffith’s club which battled the Chicago White Sox for the pennant.

The colorful 6’ 3” 180 pond Sallee, with the Cardinals in West Baden, Indiana before the 1912 season, told a reporter for The St. Louis Republic that there was more to his departure from New York, and while the story might have been a creation of Sallee’s imagination, it seems more appropriate for a pitcher as famous for hard-drinking, suspensions, and fines as he was for his 174 career wins.

Slim Sallee

Slim Sallee

Sallee reminded the reporter he was:

“An American League discard…Yes, sirree, I was turned down cold by Clark Griffith when the ‘Old Fox’ was managing the New York Americans …I joined the Yanks in the fall in St. Louis, Griff looked me over and said: ‘I’ve no uniform that will fit a giraffe like you.  Maybe I’ll be able to get one in Chicago.  Here’s a ticket—handing me a pocket register to keep tabs on people passing through the turnstile—go out and check up the bleacher gate this afternoon.

“Four thousand geeks passed through the bleacher turnstile at Sportsman’s Park that afternoon and I kept punching that register until I became almost black in the face.”

Sallee said he was given the same assignment in Chicago on September 21 -23 when New York took three out of four games from the White Sox and moved into first place.  New York went to Detroit and lost three straight, then dropped a game in Cleveland on the 27th,dropping three games back of the White Sox.  In Cleveland:

“‘Griff dug up an old uniform and told me to warm up.  The thermometer hung around the freezing point.

Clark Griffith

Clark Griffith

“Wonder if that crazy man thinks I’m goin’ to cut loose and take chances of ruinin’ my salary wing in this kind of weather said I to myself.

“Griff went to the plate himself. I ‘lobbed’ a  couple over and the ‘Old Fox’ roared like a mad bull. ‘You’ve got a lot of nerve trying to slip that stuff over on me,’ growled Griff.  ‘Put something on that ball.  I can’t detect anything that looks like a wiggle on your curve and you haven’t shown enough speed to break a pane of glass.’”

Sallee said he told Griffith:

“I’m there, Clarkie, old chap, with the real goods, but I couldn’t think of cuttin’ loose with my speed in this kind of weather.  I’m a hothouse plant from down in Old Alabama—I played with Birmingham that year.  Give me a chance when the sun is shinin’ and the thermometer is around 90 in the shade, and I’ll show you some pitchin’ that will curl your grey locks.”

Sallee said Griffith threatened to put him “back on the gate.”

“’No, you don’t,’ said I. ‘Pay me off and also come across with a ticket for Higginsport (Ohio, Sallee’s hometown) I’m through with the New York club and Clark Griffith.  And don’t send for me next spring.”

Whether because of too much depth on the mound or because of the story Sallee told, Griffith sold him to the Williamsport Millionaires in the Tri-State League.  Sallee went 22-5 in Williamsport in 1907 and the Cardinals purchased his contract in August

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