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Comiskey’s “Sandusky Terror”

15 Sep

In February of 1899 The Chicago Inter Ocean said of Charles Comiskey, then owner of the Western League’s St. Paul Saints:

“It is also proper to state that C. Comiskey is, all things considered, the greatest story teller in this profession.”

Charles Comiskey

Charles Comiskey

The paper then related one of Comiskey’s favorite stories, told during that winter’s Western League meeting:

“’Speaking of ballplayers and their ways,’ he began, ‘did I ever tell you about my efforts to make a pitcher of the ‘Sandusky Terror?’  It happened while I was managing the old St. Louis Browns… It was in the early spring and I was in St. Louis waiting for my men to report for preliminary training.  (Browns owner Chris) von der Ahe had trouble in signing his star pitcher (Dave Foutz) that year, and when I looked over the list I found that I needed twirlers and needed them badly.  I told my troubles to Chris and he did his best to cheer me up.  He told me, among other things, that he had sent a railroad ticket to a young farmer who lived near Sandusky, and from all accounts was a wonder.  I didn’t enthuse, for I had had previous experience with these rustic phenomenons , but Chris said that a friend of his in Sandusky had bet him a case of champagne that the boy would prove a grand find.’

Chris von der Ahe

Chris von der Ahe

“’Next morning the boy from Sandusky showed up at the ballpark.  He was one of the biggest and strongest chaps I ever met in or out of baseball.  What is more, he had a pitching arm of tremendous powers, and after he passed the ball to me five minutes I saw that he had a world of speed and for a raw amateur, very fair control of the ball.’

“’Well, we started on a little training trip down South, and as a matter of course I took the boy with us.  His terrific speed and his willingness to learn made him popular with the members of the team, and they spent hours in catching him.  A week passed and I really began to think I had discovered the pitching star of the year.  Things went well until we struck Mobile..  When we drove up the hotel a fairly good looking woman of 30 or thereabouts walked up the bus and caught my Sandusky wonder by the arm.’

“’William,’ she said, ‘I want to have a serious talk with you.’

“’They strolled down the street arm in arm while the other players lounged around the hotel wondering what it all meant.  Half an hour later the couple returned.  The girl went into the parlor, but the young fellow called me to one side.’

“’Captain,’ he said, ‘I have gone and done it.’

“’Done what?’ I asked.’

“’Married Louisa,’ he answered.  ‘You see, she came all the way from Sandusky to teach school down in this part of the country, an’ she says she’s lonesome like an’ that playin’ ball for wages don’t suit her views.  Me an’ she kinder liked each other when she lived up in Sandusky an’ we’ve been writin’ letters to each other ever since she left home.  That’s how she knew I was with your club.  Captain, I guess that’s all, exceptin’ here’s the 60 cents I borrowed from you yesterday.  Louisa says I musn’t quit you owin’ a cent, and she gave me the money to hand to you.’

“’You don’t mean to say you’re going to quit the team,’ I gasped.  ‘Why, we will make a pitcher of you and pay you good wages while you are developing.’

“’That’s just it,’ he answered.  Louisa says I musn’t play for money.  Says her uncle, who is a preacher in the village, insists that it is wrong to do it.  Come in and ask Louis if I am not tellin’ you the truth.’

“’Well, I spent an even half hour in trying to induce that woman to change her mind, but she wouldn’t.  She said she had decided to make a lawyer out of her husband and that they would live on the money she earned teaching school until he was admitted to the bar.  Then she took her youthful husband away from the hotel and that was the last we ever laid eyes on the pair.  Later in the day I made a little investigation on my own account and found that the woman, who by the way, was at least ten years older than her new husband, had taken the boy straight to the parsonage and married him before he had been in the town twenty minutes.  I don’t know whatever became of the pair, but I believe to this very day that if the ‘Sandusky Terror,’ as the players nicknamed him, had gone back to St. Louis with the team he would have developed into another (Amos) Rusie.  I have never forgiven that pretty school teacher for making him jump our club, and, what’s more, I never will.’”

“The Great Baseball Question has been what will Capt. Comiskey do next Season”

3 Dec

In January of 1890 The St. Louis Globe-Democrat said what was on the minds of every baseball executive, writer, and fan:  “The great baseball question has been what will Capt. Comiskey do next Season”

For weeks there was speculation about whether Charles Comiskey, captain and manager of the St. Louis Browns, would remain in the American Association or join the Players’ National League of Professional Baseball Clubs (Players League), the league borne out of baseball’s first union the Brotherhood of Professional Base-Ball Players.

Charles Comiskey, against slang in baseball stories.

Charles Comiskey

On January 15, in a letter to The Sporting News, Comiskey announced his decision:

“During the past few weeks many interviews have appeared with me in different newspapers of the country relative to my having signed a contract with the St. Louis and Chicago Brotherhood clubs.  Up to this writing I am mind and fancy free.  But before Saturday night, January 18, I will have signed a contract to play at first base for the Chicago Brotherhood team.  I take this step for the reason that I am in sympathy with the Brotherhood.

“I believe its aims are for the best welfare and interest of the professional players.  I believe that if the players do not this time stand true to their colors and maintain their organization they will from this day forward be at the mercy of the corporations who have been running the game, who drafted the reserve rule and give birth to the obnoxious classification system.

“I have taken all the chances of success and failure into consideration, and I believe that if the players stand true to themselves they will score the grandest success ever achieved in the baseball world.

“But besides having the welfare of the players at heart I have other reasons for wanting to play in Chicago.  My parents and all my relatives reside there, and the all the property I own is located in the city.  I was raised there and have a natural liking for the place.  But, outside of all these reasons, my relations with the management of the St. Louis club have, during the past year been so unpleasant I do not care to renew them.  I have many friends in St. Louis, and for their sake I hate to leave here, but the other reasons out-balance this friendship, so I will cast my lines with the Chicago club.

“This is the first letter I have written on the subject which seems to have interested the baseball world throughout the whole of the present winter.

“Yours respectfully, Chas. Comiskey”

A week before the season began The Chicago Tribune said Comiskey’s new club “on paper, is the greatest team ever organized.”   Despite the hype, Comiskey’s Chicago Pirates finished in fourth place.  The Players League lasted only one season and dissolved in November of 1890.

Comiskey’s backing of the Brotherhood against “the corporations who have been running the game” would probably have come as a surprise to many of those who played for him when he owned the Chicago White Sox.  Arnold “Chick” Gandil, banned from baseball for his role in the 1919 Black Sox scandal said of Comiskey in a 1956 article in “Sports Illustrated:”

“ He was a sarcastic, belittling man who was the tightest owner in baseball. If a player objected to his miserly terms, Comiskey told him: “You can take it or leave it.” Under baseball’s slave laws, what could a fellow do but take it? I recall only one act of generosity on Comiskey’s part. After we won the World Series in 1917, he splurged with a case of champagne.”

Chick Gandil

Chick Gandil

“Probably the Best Known bad man”

10 Apr

In 1908, Malcolm Wallace Bingay, the long-time writer for The Detroit News told of the “nervy ballplayers,” who were tough on the field but afraid of a “personal encounter,” while, ”There are some quiet ball players who play an ordinary game on the field who, when occasion demands, can show gamesmanship tom a degree that would surprise the average follower of the fighting business.”

Bingay named the current toughest man in baseball:

“Big John Anderson, now with Comiskey’s White Sox, as handsome a figure as there is in baseball, could, if he but cared, hold his own with most of the wrestlers in America. Not only this, but the big Swede, although naturally quiet, when thoroughly aroused, can put up a terrific battle. Among ball players he is probably the most respected man in the league when it comes to a personal mix-up. Anderson is a clever boxer, has a wicked punch in either hand and doesn’t seem to know what pain is when angry.

“Anderson is a physical culture crank. He is probably the most ideally built man in baseball. The grace with which he carries himself on the diamond is only brought out more clearly when he is boxing. And John doesn’t stop with the gloves. He is as wicked a rough-and-tumble fighter as one would care to run across.”

johnanderson

John Anderson

George Moriarty—then with the New York Highlanders—was, according to Bingay, “another bad man to bother.” Bingay said in 1907 in Chicago:

“(A) big fellow came from the bleachers. He hit the Yankee on the jaw and sent him staggering against the fence.

“’Moriarty seemed to come back like a piece of rubber,’ says (New York catcher) Ira Thomas, who saw the battle. ‘The fellow was far bigger than he, but Moriarty didn’t seem to care. Before the mob could get to him he had the man from the bleachers helpless.”

moriarty

George Moriarty

Thomas said the New York players were concerned about getting Moriarty out of the ballpark past the large throng of White Sox fans, until the fans realized it was a Chicago native involved in the fight:

“’Going from the grounds there was fear of a riot, and about 200 big men were lined up near the gates as we passed out.’

‘”Is George Moriarty there/’ the leader yelled to me.’

“’He is,’ I said, ‘expecting a fight.’

“’Well, tell him that we’re from the South Side and don’t go back on the boys who come from here. Tell him we’ll fight for him if he needs help.’”

But, said Bingay:

“Probably the best-known bad man, when he wants to ne, in baseball is Bill (Kid) Gleason.”

Gleason was just 5’ 8” and weighed 160 pounds, but Bingay said he was “the biggest little man that ever stood in shoe leather.”

Kid_Gleason

Kid Gleason

Despite his size:

“He has the strength of a giant and is as agile as a wild cat. Bill was the man who kept Kid Elberfeld playing good ball around Detroit. When the Kid wouldn’t behave himself, Bill would take him out back of the clubhouse and give him a thrashing.”

Jimmy Williams, the St. Louis Browns infielder, was, according to Bingay, “as quiet as any of them and yet he is as wicked a man when crossed as there is.”

Tigers pitcher Bill Donovan told Bingay a story about Williams when the two played together on the “all-American” team that barnstormed the West Coast during the off-season.  There was a fan in one town who “was a giant in strength, always in an ugly mood, and always hunting for trouble.”

Donovan said:

“’Now Jimmy wasn’t hunting for trouble, understand. He was minding his own business when this chap got gay. Williams knew of his reputation but never hesitated. He gave the big duffer such a whipping that he begged for mercy. After that anybody in town could chase the bully up an alley. The citizens warmly thanked Jimmy for what he had done.’”

Bingay said the manager of the Tigers, was the opposite of the quiet players on the field who had no problem throwing a few punches:

“No man ever displayed more nerve on the ball field than Hughie Jennings, who for years was a league sensation. Yet, Jennings never had a fight in his life. He’s as peaceful as a Quaker off the field.”

“He has not a Single Friend on the Team”

18 Mar

Having been called “The greatest team ever organized,” by The Chicago Tribune, the 1890 Chicago Pirates of the Players League turned out to be one of the biggest disappointments in baseball history, finishing fourth in the eight-team league.

The club suffered from a “lack of discipline” according to The Chicago Times. Charlie Comiskey was cited often for his inability to maintain order on the team. The most glaring, and most reported example took place on September 4.

The Pirates, 11 1/2 games out of first place, were playing the Pittsburgh Burghers.

The Pittsburgh Press said:

“Jimmy Ryan and Tip O’Neill, two of the Chicago Players’ League club outfielders, had an animated spat after Ryan had been retired at third base…Jimmy claimed that Tip had not coached him properly, and made use of some very offensive language. He then turned round to Comiskey, who had been an eyewitness to the whole proceeding, and with an oath said that unless O’Neill was laid off that he—Ryan—would lay himself off.”

The Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette said the incident was “one of the dangers” the papers had warned of when speaking against the formation of the Players League:

“(S) of the players might take advantage of a condition of affairs brought about by the brotherhood movement, and, with and idea that they had as much to do with the running of things as anybody else, refuse to submit to necessary discipline.”

Comiskey immediately suspended Ryan and told him to return to Chicago.

“Jimmy was accordingly paid up to date and furnished with a ticket for the Windy City.”

The Press said Ryan’s teammates applauded the move:

“’You have no idea of how mean that fellow Ryan has been this year,’ said a Chicago player. ‘He has not a single friend on the team today. He is a good ballplayer, he does not drink and no man on the team takes better care of himself then the same Ryan. He has a bad attack of his old complaint, the swelled head. Comiskey has been very lenient with him and he has been playing good ball.”

Ryan was the team’s leader in batting average and RBIs at the time, but Comiskey vowed to make an example of his best offensive player in order to restore discipline, and had no problem calling out a few others, although not by name.

Charles Comiskey

Comiskey

He told The Chicago Inter Ocean:

“Yes, I am through with this man and he will not play under me any longer. He has been trying to have his own way on everything. There are three or four men in this club whom I have been compelled to take, and they have an idea that they can run things to suit themselves.”

Comiskey said Ryan “acted very ungentlemanly” and blamed the play at third on him. He said Ryan was thrown out because he failed to slide, but none of the news reports mentioned whether O’Neill told him to slide.

Comiskey stayed true to word that he was “through” with Ryan—until 11 days later, when the Pirates returned to Chicago from their road trip.

Ryan was back in the lineup for the second game of a September 15 double-header with the Buffalo Bison.

The Tribune said:

“When the second game was called, Jimmy Ryan appeared to take his place at center. He was warmly received and responded by hammering the ball around in desperate fashion.”

Ryan was 3 for 4 with a triple in a 7-3 Chicago victory and continued to hit for the last two weeks of the season; he led the Pirates with a .340 average and 89 RBIs.

“The greatest team ever organized,” was broken up when the Players League folded after their inaugural season. Ryan returned to the Chicago Colts. Comiskey and O’Neill went back to the St. Louis Browns.

“Cincinnati’ll be Sorry if They let me go”

14 Jan

Hitting above .300 but currently bed ridden with a kidney ailment, Pete Browning was unceremoniously released by the Cincinnati Reds on July 15, 1892, after the club had signed outfielder Curt Welch who had been released two days earlier by the Baltimore Orioles.

Browning had joined the Reds on May 22 after being released by Louisville.

browning.jpg

Browning

Just before the Reds released Browning, manager Charles Comiskey told The Cincinnati Enquirer:

“There has been some complaint about fielder Pete Browning, I don’t see where it comes in.  I know he isn’t the best fielder in the world, but I can get along with a little poor fielding, providing he keeps up his current batting lick.”

Business Manager Frank Bancroft disagreed with his manager.  The Reds beat the New York Giants 3 to 1 on July 10, after Welch made two catches in center field The Enquirer said robbed Jack Boyle and Harry Lyons of extra base hits.

The paper reported on a conversation at the team hotel between Bancroft and Comiskey after the game:

“’If Browning had been in Welch’s place today when that hard hit went out the batter would have been running yet.  The game would have been tied and perhaps lost to us.  Welch save us twice.  It’s a boss fielding team, isn’t it, Charley?’”

Comiskey responded:

“’It is for a fact, and I’m glad to see it, after what I’ve had to handle for the past three months.”

Browning remained sick in bed at Baltimore’s Eutaw House for several days, when he returned to Cincinnati, he told The Cincinnati Times-Star:

“I tell you, Cincinnati’ll be sorry if they let me go and keep a man like Welch.  Pete’s got kidney troubles, I guess.  I will go down to West Baden Springs (Indiana) if Comiskey says so, I think that will help my batting.”

Over the next month Browning’s whereabouts, state of mind, and next destination were the stuff of speculation.

The Times-Star said in early August that Browning remained in Cincinnati “although he does not attend the games or associate with his former baseball playing friends.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer said he was “brokenhearted since his release,” and there was “absolutely no demand for his services.”

The Boston Globe and The Washington Times said he was about to sign with the Senators.

On August 14, The Louisville Times said Browning was getting in shape in West Baden, two days later The Cincinnati Enquirer said, “Browning is lost again,” and had left Indiana.  The paper also announced that day that Welch had been released after hitting just .202 in 25 games.

browning2.jpg

Browning

At the same time, Browns owner Chris von der Ahe was telling The S. Louis Post-Dispatch:

“I’ve got a man scouring Indiana after Pete Browning.”

After he found him, The St. Louis Republic said Browning “was offered $3500 to sign” by von der Ahe but refused.  In response von der Ahe said he had “no use” for Browning.

On July 31, The Louisville Times reported that former Louisville Colonels Director Larry Gatto received a telegram from Bancroft:

“Requesting that he see Pete Browning and notify him that if he wanted a place on the team he could report at once.  When Larry showed the telegram to Pietro the latter at once started on a run for his home to pack his grip.  He will leave this morning for Cincinnati to resume his old place with the Reds.”

Browning returned to the Reds lineup on September 2nd against Brooklyn, The Enquirer said:

“He had his ‘lampteenies’ trimmed and hit the ball in good style (he was 3 for 4).  Pete however, seemed to lose his head on the bases, and was caught twice after he reached first. In the third inning he ran as far as second on a long fly from Comiskey’s bat, (Bill) Hart caught the ball and threw it in before the Gladiator could scramble back to first.  Then in the fifth he was caught napping off first by (Tom) Kinslow.”

The fifth place Reds were 17-17 the rest of the way with Browning back in the lineup. He hit .303 for the season.

Browning was let go again by the Reds and joined the Louisville Colonels in 1893.

“The Things That Bring Good Luck to the Various Clubs”

26 Nov

In 1886, The St, Louis Post-Dispatch noted:

“Gamblers and old women are not the only ones who are given to superstitious observations of signs and to the carrying of luck tokens…Baseball players are more given to that sort of thing of late years than any other class of men.”

Under the Headline The Things That Bring Luck to the Various Clubs, the paper laid out the different “mascottic tastes” of the teams.

The paper said the success of the Cincinnati Red Stockings the previous season, was attributed in part to “Kid Baldwin’s pink jersey,” but the team’s fortunes turned in 1886 after:

“(A)fter a St. Louis laundry women’s daughter eloped in ‘Kid’s’ jersey and the club is now in last place.”

The Louisville Colonels had recently found a new “lucky hanger-on,” for a mascot; a calf born with a caul—the rare instance has long been the subject of superstition. The team took the calf ad proceeded to take five out of six games from the defending champion St. Louis Brown Stockings.

Pete Browning of the Colonels,“(C)arries a loaded die in the hip pocket of his knickerbockers for luck.  Before a recent game somebody took the die out of Pete’s pocket and he failed to make a hit that day,” ending a long hitting streak.

petebrowning

Pete Browning

The paper said that Brown Stockings captain Charles Comiskey and third baseman Arlie Latham disagreed on the best mascot for the team:

“Comiskey argued in favor of a mule, for which he has a kindly fellow feeling, and he said he knew where he could get one cheap.  Latham held out for (a small white) mouse because he owned one and won the day, though Comiskey still believed in the efficacy of the mule, and had his heel spikes made out of a cast-off shoe from the foot of his favorite animal.”

The mouse died–suffocating when Latham, carrying the mouse, got in a fight with teammate Doc Bushong—right around the time Louisville acquired their calf and the Brown Stockings dropped those five games to Louisville,

The Post-Dispatch said New York Giants President John Day had recently had a prospect for a new mascot for the team:

“(He) tore his hair out the other day when he was informed that the youngster born with a full beard in Williamsburg had died. Day was sure that he would have in him one of the best mascots in the country.”

The paper noted the better known mascots, “Little Willie Hahn,” of the Chicago White Stockings and Charlie Gallagher of the Detroit Wolverines—who was said to have been born with a full set of teeth—and said of other National League clubs:

williehahn

Willie Hahn

“The Bostons never had a mascot because they haven’t luck enough to find one.  The Washington and Kansas City teams are unable to get a mascot to even look at them.”

And concluded:

“The strangest thing about a baseball mascot is that he is occasionally traitorous and transfers his services to the other side without the slightest warning.  He will never play with a cripples, badly-managed or broken-up team, and as soon as a club begins to go down hill it is a clear case of desertion by the mascot.”

 

 

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things–Quote Edition 2

22 Oct

More random quotes and observations that follow no theme or thread:

Cap Anson told The Chicago Daily News in 1904:

“I consider (Charles) Radbourn and John Clarkson the greatest pitchers I ever saw.  Buck Ewing was just about the best catcher that ever wore a mask.  He could catch, throw, bat and run and had a good head.”

cap1

Cap Anson

After Frank Baker hit home runs off Christy Mathewson and Rube Marquard in the 1911 World Series, he told The Philadelphia American:

“There seems to be much speculation as to what sort of balls were thrown me when I made my home runs…Well, I hit them and I know what they were.  Matty threw me an inshoot, but what would have been an outshoot to a right handed batter, while the Rube threw a fast one between my shoulder and waist.

“Connie Mack told me when I went to the bat that I would not get a fast one, and he was right  I set myself and looked them over against Mathewson and when he tossed me that curve and I saw her starting to break, I busted her, that’s all.”

baker2

Frank Baker

Thirty-four year old Bill Bernhard told The Cleveland News about seeing 38-year-old Cy Young in Hot Springs, Arkansas in spring of 1905:

“There is no use talking, there is only one Cy Young.  When the rest of us pitchers report in the spring, we act as if those alleged deceiving arms of ours were made of glass and humor them accordingly.  But not so with old Cy.  The very first day that Cy reached Hot Springs, a week or so ago, he cut loose as if he had been pitching all winter.  Great Scott, but he had speed to burn and the next day and the next it was just the same. And curve them? Well, you ought to have seen the old boy.”

cyyoung

Cy Young

In 1915, The Chicago Daily News noted that Charles Comiskey “isn’t given to boosting players very often,” but that Catcher Ray Schalk was an exception:

“Schalk shows more life than any other player I have ever seen.  He is level headed and his thinking and natural ability stamp him as one of the greatest catchers in the world today, and he can claim equal distinction with the great and only Buck Ewing, considered in his day the peer of all backstops.

schalk

Ray Schalk

Dave Landreth was a baseball promoter from Bristol, Pennsylvania who had a brief foray into professional baseball when he served as director of the Baltimore Terrapins in the Federal League.  He told a story to The Bristol Courier about Lew Richie—Richie was born in nearby Ambler, Pennsylvania, and pitched for Landreth in semi-pro leagues before making is pro debut in 1906 at age 22:

“Landreth hired Richie to pitch the morning game of a holiday twin bill for the county championship, and after winning and fanning 18 men, all for five dollars, Richie came back in the afternoon and insisted on hurling that game , too, for nothing.

“Somebody ‘kidded’  him about winning the morning game on a fluke, and Lew wanted to show them—and he did, winning that game as well.”

richie.jpg

Lew Richie

Tim Donahue had a reputation for being tough during his eight seasons in the major leagues.  The catcher told The Chicago Evening Post he had only encountered one man who made him back him down:

“I was never put down and out but once.  It was when I was playing semi-professional ball too, and was quite a young lad.  There was a big fellow named Sullivan on the other side and I tried to block him at the plate.  He swung on my jaw and I thought a load of bricks had dropped on my head.  I finally came to, but I didn’t block Sullivan any more.  That’s the only time I would ever clear out.”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things–Quote Edition

12 Oct

When you spend hours pouring over microfilm and web based newspaper archives you find something every day that is interesting but not enough for a standalone post—these are random quotes and observations that follow no theme or thread, I just think they should not be lost to the mists of time.

Cy Young was asked by The Cleveland News in 1909 if there would ever be a successful ambidextrous pitcher in the major leagues:

“Elton Chamberlain, who was with Cleveland in the early 90s, essayed to perform this feat occasionally, but about all he had with his left arm was a small amount of speed and a straight ball. The way pitchers have to work nowadays a man who can use one rm and use it effectively is quite a man as pitching goes.”

chamb

Elton Chamberlain

In 1909, Time Murnane noted in The Boston Globe that Billy Sunday, as an evangelist was earning more than 10 times what the “highest-paid men” in baseball were making. Of Sunday’s ability he said:

“No doubt Mr. Sunday is a very good evangelist, much better it is hoped than he ever was as a ballplayer. Mr. Sunday was a fast runner. That marked his limit as a baseball star. He could not hit or field or throw well enough to make it worthwhile talking about.”

billysunday2

Billy Sunday, evangelist

In 1946, Grantland Rice of The New York Herald Tribune asked Connie Mack during a discussion of Bob Feller which pitcher he felt had the “greatest combination of speed and curves,” of all time:

“He hesitated less than two seconds. ‘Rube Waddell,’ he said. ‘The Rube was about as fast as Feller, not quite as fast as (Walter) Johnson. But the Rube had one of the deepest, fastest-breaking curves I’ve ever seen. Johnson’s curve ball was unimportant. Feller isn’t as fast as Johnson but he has a far better curve ball.’”

Mack did, however, concede:

“’Feller and Johnson were far more dependable than the Rube who now and then was off fishing or tending bar when I needed him badly.’”

rube

Rube

In 1916, in his nationally syndicated American League umpire Billy Evans asked Napoleon Lajoie about the best pitchers he faced:

“I never faced a wiser twirler than Chief Bender…he made a study of the art. If a batter had a weakness, the Chief soon discovered it, and from that time he made life miserable for that particular batsman. His almost uncanny control made it possible for him to put into execution the knowledge he would gain of the batter’s weakness. I know of a certain big league player, and he was a good one, who would request that he be taken out of the game any time Bender worked…Best of all, he had the heart of an oak and in a pinch always seemed to do his best work.”

chiefbender

Chief Bender

In 1907, the Washington Senators hired Pongo Joe Cantillon to manage the team, Ted Sullivan, “the man who discovered Comiskey,” was never shy about taking credit for an idea, and told The Washington Star:

“As I was instrumental in enticing Cantillon to come to Washington I know the salary that was offered, and I saw the contract. It was nearly twice the salary of a United States Senator, and there is not a bench manager today in the eastern country that is getting one-half the salary of Cantillon. The Washington management has corrected all the errors of the past in getting a baseball pilot who knows all the bends and shallows in the baseball river.”

pongo

Pongo Joe

Despite the money, and Cantillon’s knowledge of the “bends and shallows,” the Senators finished 8th twice and 7th once during Cantillon’s three seasons in Washington, he had a 158-297 record during his only stint as a big league manager.

“It was Hard for me to get Used to Some of the Boneheads”

4 Oct

Most baseball writers and dozens of baseball figures caught the twenty greatest “fever” during 1911 and 1912.

After Frank Baker hit .375 with two home runs and five RBIs, leading the Philadelphia Athletics to their 1911 World Series victory over the New York Giants, Grantland Rice opined in The New York Mail:

baker2

Frank Baker

“The twenty greatest ballplayers, picked exclusively for this column by John McGraw and the Giants—John Franklin Baker.”

The Washington Times said Germany Schaefer was asked to put his twenty greatest list together shortly after the end of his best season in 1911:

“Write ‘em out and send ‘em to me,’ the newspaperman suggested.

“Germany did.  The list read as follows: ‘Germany Schaefer, Germany Schaefer, Germany Schaefer, Germany Schaefer, Germany Schaefer, Germany Schaefer, Germany Schaefer, Germany Schaefer, Germany Schaefer, Germany Schaefer, Germany Schaefer, Germany Schaefer, Germany Schaefer, Germany Schaefer, Germany Schaefer, Germany Schaefer, Germany Schaefer, Germany Schaefer, Germany Schaefer, and Germany Schaefer.’”

Germany Schaefer

Schaefer

The Philadelphia Record asked Connie Mack for his twenty greatest list, Mack refused but told the paper “if his life depended on any game of ball,” he would start Chief Bender:

“Do you know, Bender has never yet failed me in a crisis?  Whenever there is a game that the fortunes of our club hinge on I’ve sent in the Chief and he has delivered every time.”

Billy Hamilton, who made a couple of the lists that circulated during 1911 and 1912, told The Boston Globe he was upset no one had named his former teammate Marty Bergen:

“Why, I can’t see how you can possibly leave him out…He and Buck Ewing were in a class by themselves among the men I have seen behind the bat.  I have never seen anything like that snap throw of Martin’s, with the ball always on the runner.”

Wild Bill Donovan then put Bergen on the list he chose for The Detroit News:

  • Ed Walsh
  • Jim Hughes
  • Christy Mathewson
  • Duke Farrell
  • Marty Bergen
  • Hal Chase
  • Fred Tenney
  • Napoleon Lajoie
  • Eddie Collins
  • Jimmy Collins
  • John McGraw
  • Hughie Jennings
  • Herman Long
  • Ty Cobb
  • Bill Lange
  • Ed Delahanty
  • Willie Keeler
  •  Fielder Jones
  • Fred Clarke
  • Bobby Wallace

Donovan told the paper of Ed Walsh:

“If Walsh were worked about once in four days, instead of being asked to go in three times a week as often is the case now, I believe that he would be unbeatable.”

edwalsh

Ed Walsh

In lauding Farrell, his teammate in Brooklyn, Donovan took a swipe at many of the catchers he worked with during his career:

“The big Duke was a wonderfully heady man, and the only catcher who ever lived on whom it was impossible to work the hit and run game.  Any time Duke called for a waste ball, you could bet your next paycheck that the runner was going to go down.  After pitching to man of his intelligence it was hard for me to get used to some of the boneheads that I encountered later.”

One more list—attributed to several papers and sportswriters at the time—appeared first in The Pittsburgh Gazette-Times, and chronicled the “Twenty greatest blunders in baseball:”

20blunders

As the craze was dying down, The Chicago Tribune said Ted Sullivan, the man who I credited with discovering Charles Comiskey—and Comiskey’s favorite scout, would put together “a list of the twenty greatest baseball actuaries of all time were he not a bit doubtful about the other nineteen.”

“The Twenty Greatest Fever”

2 Oct

In November of 1911, an interviewer asked industrialist Andrew Carnegie to name the 20 greatest men of all time.  Within days, Carnegie’s list was parsed and picked apart, and led to what The Chicago Daily News called “The twenty greatest fever.”

Lists of the twenty greatest everything appeared in papers across the country for the next year.  Of course, the question was put to many baseball figures and led to a number of interesting lists and quotes.

One of the first to weigh in was Chicago White Sox owner Charles Comiskey, in The Daily News:

  • Buck Ewing
  • King Kelly
  • Cap Anson
  • Charlie Ferguson
  • Fred Pfeffer
  • Eddie Collins
  • Honus Wagner
  • Jack Glasscock
  • Harry Lord
  • Ty Cobb
  • Fred Clarke
  • Willie Keeler
  • Tom McCarthy
  • Napoleon Lajoie
  • Charles Radbourn
  • Bobby Caruthers
  • Christy Mathewson
  •  Clark Griffith
  • Ed Walsh
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Charles Comiskey

Comiskey said Eddie Collins, who would acquire for $50,000 three years later, was the best current player:

“He’s got it on all the others in the game today.  I don’t know that a good lawyer went to waste, but do know that a mighty good ballplayer was found when Eddie decided to give up the technicalities of Blackstone for the intricacies of baseball.   There isn’t much use saying anything about Connie Mack’s star, everybody knows he is a wonder as well as I do.”

Cy Young was asked by The Cleveland News to name his 20 greatest:

“I guess we’d have to make a place for old Amos Rusie, ‘Kid’ Nichols should be placed on the list too, ‘Kid’ forgot more baseball than 90 percent of us ever knew.  And there was Bill Hutchinson, just about one of the greatest that ever lived.  You can’t overlook Walter Johnson, and, by all means Ed Walsh must be there.  The same applies to Mathewson.  Then comes my old side partner, Bill Dinneen.  Bill never was given half enough credit.”

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Amos Rusie

Young rounded out the battery:

“I’d pick old Lou Criger first of all the catchers.  George Gibson of the Pittsburgh team, to my way of thinking, stands with the leaders.  Give the third place to Oscar Stanage of Detroit, and I feel safe in saying that I have chosen a really great catcher.”

Young said:

“Doping out the infields is comparatively easy.  Without hesitation I would name Hal Chase, Eddie Collins, Nap Lajoie, Hans Wagner, Bobby Wallace, Jimmy Collins, Herman Long, and Charlie Wagner.”

Young said of his infield choices:

“You can’t get away from Bobby Wallace for a general all round gentlemanly player, he has never had a superior at shortstop unless that man was Honus Wagner.  Maybe Johnny Evers is entitles to consideration, but I never say him play.”

As for his outfielders, Young said:

“Ty Cobb’s equal never lived, according to my way of thinking, and I doubt if we will ever have his superior.  Say what they will about Cobb, but one who is true to himself must acknowledge his right to rank above all other players.

“I chose Cobb, Fred Clarke of Pittsburgh, Tris Speaker of Boston and Bill Lange for the outfield, and regret that the limitations prevent me from choosing Jim McAleer.  McAleer was the best fielder I have ever seen.  I say that with all due respect to Cobb and other competitors.

“Tris Speaker is a marvel, and only because of his playing at the same time as Cobb is he deprived of the honor of being the greatest outfielder…Many fans of today probably don’t remember Bill Lange.  Take my word for it, he was a marvel.  He could field, bat, and run bases with wonderful skill.  No man ever had the fade-away slide better than Lange.”

The reporter from The News noticed that Young had, “chosen his twenty greatest players without mentioning his own great deeds,” and asked Young whether her felt he belonged on the list.  Young said:

“Oh, I’ve heard a whole lot of stuff about myself as a player, but I was but ordinary when compared to the men I name as the greatest in the game.”

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Cy Young

When Ty Cobb presented his list of the 20 greatest current American League players to The Detroit News, the paper noted his “Very becoming modesty” in leaving himself off of his list.  Cobb’s picks were:

  • Ed Walsh
  • Bill Donovan
  • Walter Johnson
  • Jack Coombs
  • Vean Gregg
  • George Mullin
  • Billy Sullivan
  • Oscar Stanage
  • Ira Thomas
  • Hal Chase
  • Napoleon Lajoie
  • Eddie Collins
  • Jack Berry
  • Owen Bush
  • Frank Baker
  • Harry Lord
  • Sam Crawford
  • Clyde Milan
  • Joe Jackson
  • Tris Speaker
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Ty Cobb

Cobb included Bobby Wallace, Russ Ford, and Heinie Wagner as honorable mentions.

More of the lists and quotes from “The twenty greatest fever,” on Thursday