“Keister was Bogus”

5 Apr

In March of 1901, second baseman Bill Keister jumped the St. Louis Cardinals for the Baltimore Orioles; St. Louis signed Dick Padden a week later to replace him.

Patsy Tebeau, who had managed the Cardinals to a 42-50 record before being let go in August, had no shortage of vitriol for his former player. He told The St. Louis Globe-Democrat:

“Padden has Keister beaten in every department of the game, and when it comes to ‘inside play’ the Baltimorean is entirely lost sight of.”

Keister had been purchased by the Cardinals with John McGraw and Wilbert Robinson before the 1900 season. The purchase of Keister had, said Tebeau, cost St. Louis “a good round chunk. And while not “Knocking any, it was illy spent.”

Tebeau

Then more knocking:

“Keister was bogus, a gold brick, a nonentity or what you will, and much of our ill-success in the early part of the race was due to his bobbling.”

Keister was not just bad, but historically bad, he said:

“If I live to be as old as Henry Chadwick, I never will forget a play Keister made in Philadelphia. We were playing a red-hot game with the Phillies, with a score of 2 to 1 in our favor along about the seventh inning. (Roy) Thomas and (Jimmy) Slagle both began by getting on base and (Ed) Delahanty sacrificed them along. (Napoleon) Lajoie followed with a stinging bounder straight at Keister. It came to him quick as a flash and on the first bound.  Fast as Thomas is, he was a goner at the plate had Billy slapped the ball home.

“But he didn’t, nor did he play it safe and shoot to (first baseman Dan) McGann. He balked for a moment and then slammed the sphere to the third corner. McGraw wasn’t within 15 feet of the sack but seeing the throw he ran over best he could. Biff came the ball, McGraw, and Slagle all in a heap.

“Slagle was safe, McGraw had his ankle turned, and the sphere kept on to the fence. All three runners scored, we were beaten, and McGraw, besides, was laid up for several weeks.”

Keister

Tebeau called it, “the worst play that was ever made by a professional.”

The play in question happened on May 25, and he got most of the details correct; except the score was 2 to 0 and it happened in the sixth inning. The Globe-Democrat described the play less dramatically the previous spring:

“Lajoie hit fast and high to Keister. The little second-sacker threw to McGraw at third, in an attempt to head off Slagle. The ball and runner reached ‘Muggsy’ at the same time. In the collision McGraw was spiked in the foot and the leather rolled to the fence, giving the Quakers their lone three runs in the contest.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and The Republican both wrote that McGraw was on the bag awaiting Keister’s throw, contrary to Tebeau’s recollection.

All three papers agreed that McGraw was badly injured beyond having his “ankle turned.” In addition to the collision, the Cardinals captain was spiked in the foot. The Post-Dispatch said the game was delayed 10 minutes before McGraw returned to the field—he was removed from the game after the end of the inning. The Republic said his toe was “badly split” and that he, “dropped like a poppy cut down by a cane twirled in the hands of a careless stroller.”

With McGraw in and out of the lineup over the next several weeks, the Cardinals went from 3 ½ games back to 11 games back after a disastrous 5-15 June.

Tebeau held a grudge:

“I consider that Keister was a star in Oysterville in 1899, but out in Missouri, where the ‘fans’ have got to be shown, he was about the worst I ever saw.”

“The worst” Tebeau ever saw played three more seasons in the major leagues; Keister was playing outfield and hitting .320 for the Phillies in August of 1903 when he tore a ligament before the August 26 game in Brooklyn. He never played in the major leagues again but played eight more seasons in the minors.

Tebeau never managed in the big leagues again. He killed himself 18 years later; Louis Dougher of The Washington Times said Tebeau wrote in a suicide note:

“I am a very unhappy and miserable man.”

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