The Tabasco Kid and “Blind Toms”

4 Mar

Kid Elberfeld, “The Tabasco Kid,” while managing the Springfield Midgets in the Western Association in 1930 “wrote” a series of articles for The Springfield Leader:

“A young chap was in the house one day reading some of the many clippings and letters that were sent to me by fans, and even reporters who had a dislike for me”

Elberfeld

Elberfeld said, “it seemed reporters couldn’t roast me enough,” so many fans wrote as well to “bless me down the line.”

His visitor observed: “They did everything to you on a ball field but pull a gun on you.”

Elberfeld’s Response:

“Sonny, that, too happened to me twice in my life. The only reason they didn’t publish it is that it would be a knock to the police of the town to pull a gun on a poor little boy like me.”

He said the first incident took place in Atlanta while he was managing the Little Rock Travelers. 

“Both clubs were up in the race fighting for every point. Sam Mayer the Atlanta captain, and I were at home plate arguing over a decision with the umpire. Sam said something to me I didn’t approve of and I grabbed his shirt.

“Police as a rule were always johnny-on-the-spot when our team was on the field in that town, immediately I felt something stuck in my side. I looked down and saw a nice, bright and shining pistol poked in my ribs. I said, ‘Say, look here’—I put my hand on the gun and pushed it away— ‘that damned thing, might go off.’ I don’t know why, but the policeman stuck it in his pocket.’

“not a word was mentioned in the paper about the policeman pulling the gun on me.”

He said he manager of the Travelers during the second incident as well—this one took place in Memphis. Elberfeld was having a “tough time with the ‘Blind Toms,’ his term for umpires:

“Boys used to say it was the hometown of the league president and the umpires wanted to show him they could run Kid and his players. If the umpires realized what a bad effect this had on my team, they would have been a little more lenient with the players and me.”

Elberfeld had a contentious relationship with Southern Association President John D. Martin–a Memphis attorney—Martin became league president in 1919 and suspended Elberfeld twice in the first month of the season—The Kid threatened to The Memphis News Scimitar after the second suspension that he would “manage my club from the grandstand hereafter,” to avoid additional fines and suspensions.

 Already believing the league’s umpires were particularly hard on him in Memphis, Elberfeld “was putting up a verbal battle,” with the umpire, who ejected him:

“I refused to heed his request and he immediately called out a police squad.

“Here they came. I was standing at home plate. First one pushed me, then another. I finally began pushing a little myself, but they grabbed me quick. I thought they put me in a vice and pulled me along. I was about to break away and run, when a big policeman stuck a gun in my back and said, ‘walk along.’ I did, never hesitating to the street, when they turned me loose.”

Elberfeld never stopped yelling at umpires, even at the point of a gun; and he said he never listened to anyone in the stands:

“Don’t listen to the fans, for everybody who comes to a ballgame gets crazy just as soon as they enter the park, and they are not responsible for what they say or do. Even the owners, secretary, umpires, and manager are irresponsible under the stress of the game, and the newspaper men are worse.”

Elberfeld did not appear to have any brushes with police on the field in 1930, although he was regularly combative and never let up on the “Blind Toms,” his Springfield Midgets finished 64-73, fifth place in the six-team Western Association. Elberfeld was let go after the season.

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