“He Threw his bat at the Contemptible Coward”

22 Jul

George Van Haltren was popular with the Chicago press during his three years with the White Stockings from 1887-1889; that changed when, after jumping to the Players League, he returned to Chicago with the Brooklyn Ward’s Wonders on July 28 of 1890.

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Van Haltren

In the opening game of a three-game series, Van Haltren, said The Chicago Tribune “got himself disliked in the seventh” inning:

“He was at the bat when a swift inshoot from Silver King landed clearly on his right shoulder (other papers said the pitch struck him in the ribs). Van Haltren glared at the pitcher for a moment and then deliberately threw the bat at him.”

The Chicago Inter Ocean said:

“(H)e turned and threw the bat with all his force at King. A bat is an unwieldy thing to throw and it miscarried several yards.

“’Loafer!’ ‘Viper!’ ‘Sneak,’ yelled the crowd. ‘Put him out!’ ‘Put the loafer out.’

“Van Haltren was unmolested. He should have been fired out of the game so quickly that he would have suffered asphyxiation but umpire Pearce [sic, Grace Pierce] was meek and lowly. Such a tongue-lashing from a crowd, however, a man has not suffered in a long time.”

The Chicago Herald was most outraged:

“To Van Haltren: If you were punished as you have deserved to be punished you would be ruled out of professional baseball forever. You have broken the greatest and the best of baseball laws. Men like Van Haltren should limit themselves to huckstering, street cleaning, or sewer digging. In those vocations the thug element is properly restrained, and the labor is dignified.”

The Tribune dismissed Van Haltren’s claim that King had thrown at him on purpose as “ridiculous” because:

“To show that it was an accident King hit (Bill) Joyce in the back with the next ball pitched. Joyce didn’t throw the bat at King; he threw him a reproachful look and wandered off to the bag.”

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Silver King

Most New York newspapers ran the Chicago papers’ version of the story, but The Brooklyn Eagle would not let it pass that King hit Van Haltren by accident, or that the outfielder was in the wrong.

The paper said:

“The New York papers have not done justice to Van Haltren…In the sixth inning King apparently tried to hit (Dave) Orr with the ball, and Van Haltren on the coaching line called out, ‘Never mid that, Dave, it won’t hurt you.’ King turned to Van Haltren, and in the hearing of all, including the umpires, said, ‘I’ll knock your head off when you come to bat again.’

“Thinking to pass it off jokingly Van replied with a smile: ’Oh, no, Silver, you can’t hurt me; you haven’t speed enough.”

The Eagle said, King purposely threw both pitches at Van Haltren—the pitch that hit him being “a terrifically fast ball,” which:

“(C)aught poor Van in the ribs. It was too much for even his gentlemanly disposition, and almost crazed by pain he threw his bat at the contemptible coward.”

King took the mound again against Brooklyn in the final game of the series on July 30. Brooklyn scored three runs in the first inning.

The Chicago Tribune said:

“(T)he first ball pitched after Van Haltren had tripped up to the plate in the second inning struck the batsman on his right shin bone. Of course, everybody expected to see Van Haltren draw a knife on King, but he didn’t. He placed his bat gently on the grass and limped off to first base. He may have done some thinking, but he didn’t do it out loud.”

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