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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

The Championship Banner Hoodoo

8 Jun

The Cubs raised their 1907 World Championship flag at West Side Grounds on May 21, 1908—the flag “orange letters on a blue field” according to The Chicago Inter Ocean; The Chicago Tribune described it as “royal purple and gold.”

I.E. Sanborn of The Tribune said “There were music, flowers and enthusiasm in bunches” at the ceremony, until:

“(T)he world’s champions spoiled it all by an exhibition which made the handsome creation of royal purple and gold hang its graceful folds in shame.”

The Boston Doves beat the Cubs 11-3.

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The Box Score

The Pittsburgh Press said the game was part of a trend:

“Undesirable happenings have attended the raising of the world’s pennants. The flag won by the Chicago Cubs from the Detroit Tigers was unfurled in Chicago Thursday.

“The result was saddening to the superstitious ones. The Cubs were walloped good and plenty by the Boston Nationals. It being necessary for the Cubs to sacrifice three pitchers in the carnage.”

The paper said the was a “Hoodoo connected” to the raising of championship flags.

“In the spring of 1906 the New York Giants floated the big flag in the Polo Grounds before a large crowd.”

The New York Times said of the June 12 ceremony:

“With admiring thousands following at the wheels, the New York Giants, the champion baseball team of the world—at least last year—paraded down Broadway in automobiles yesterday morning. Before and behind them marched a small army of boys baseball clubs…Mounted police clattered ahead of the procession to make clear the way. It was a great triumph for the Giants.”

The Times said the flag was “of blue bunting, trimmed with gold, is 45 feet long and 20 feet wide, and contains the inscription New York Baseball Club, 1906 Champions of the World.”

Then, “the Giants, whose fielding was extremely poor, while their batting was of an inferior order, only three men out of ten being credited with safe hits.”

They lost to the Reds 6 to 1.

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The Box Score

Then, said The Press, there was May 14, 1907, “the notable flag raising on the Chicago South Side Grounds.”

I. E. Sanborn described that flag raising:

“Just as 15,000 throats were swelling with the first notes of the grand paean which was to have marked the climax of Chicago’s biggest baseball fete, just as the silken banner, emblematic of the highest honors of the diamond, had shaken out its folds over the White Sox park and started its upward climb in response to the tugs of the heroes of the day, Comiskey’s veteran flagstaff swayed, trembled in every fiber, then broke squarely off in the middle and toppled back to the earth which reared it.

“The tall spire of pine which had withstood for seven years the fiercest gales, which had flaunted defiantly three American League pennants and a dozen American flags until they were whipped to ribbons by the wind, proved unequal to the task of lifting a world’s championship banner.”

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The scene just before the pole broke

The game itself lasted just four batters when “a heavy shower” ended the game with Washington “and drenched thoroughly the gay raiment of the great crowd, only a part of which could find shelter under the protected stands.”

The Press noted that not only did the Giants and White Sox have bad luck on flag-raising day, both “failed to repeat as winners” and said:

“The big flag may prove a hoodoo.”

“The one man who Understood his Foibles and Frivolities”

27 May

J.G. Taylor Spinks said, “The names of Connie Mack and Rube Waddell are synonymous in baseball…It was Mack who was the first and the last to tolerate Rube, the one man who understood his foibles and frivolities.”

I

mack

Mack

n 1942, Mack told The Sporting News editor about acquiring Waddell for the first time in 1900, after Waddell had been suspended by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“I was managing Milwaukee in the newly formed American League…We were in a pennant fight with the Chicago White Stockings—now the Sox—managed by Charles Comiskey. I needed pitchers badly. I had a good club, except that I was weak in the box. I remembered the Rube—no one could forget him—after he shut out my club in Grand Rapids with two hits the year before.”

Mack said he knew Waddell was “hard to handle,” and did not get along with Pirates manager Fred Clarke:

“(B)ut I knew that Clarke was a bad disciplinarian and hot-headed to boot. I had an idea I might be able to handle the Rube.”

Mack said he traveled to Pittsburgh to meet with Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss and asked, “if it was all right if I tried to get Rube.”

Dreyfuss consented and said, “We can’t do anything with him maybe you can.”

Mack called Waddell who was playing for a semi-pro team in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania:

“’Hello,’ he growled.

“’Hello, is this you, Rube?’ I asked.

“’Who in the hell are you?’ he roared.

“I knew I had made a mistake. I remembered I had heard he did not like the name Rube, so I started again.

“’Hello Eddie, how are you? This is Connie Mack of Milwaukee. I’d like to have you pitch for my club.’

“I’m satisfied here,’ he said.

“’I’ll give you good money. A great pitcher like you can win the pennant for me. You’d like it in Milwaukee, and the people will like you, too.’

“’No, I’ll stay here,’ Rube replied. ‘They like me here. They do everything for me, and I couldn’t let ‘em down. I’m not going to run out on ‘em.’ Then Waddell hung up the receiver.”

rube3

Rube

Mack said:

“I guess I should have spent my time talking about beer.”

He returned to Milwaukee but continued to send Waddell “a telegram every day and bombarded him with letters.”

Two weeks later, Mack received a wire:

“Come and get me.”

Mack said he traveled to Punxsutawney and met Waddell at his hotel:

“We went downstairs and had breakfast, and how he ate—four eggs, a stack of cakes, coffee and home-fried potatoes.”

Waddell told Mack he had “a few odds and ends” to take care of before they left for Milwaukee.

Mack said:

“’Wait until I get my hat,’ I was thinking I’d better not let him out of my sight.

“We walked down the main street and into a dry good store. ‘How much do I owe you?’ asked Rube. ‘Ten dollars and a quarter,’ said the owner and handed me the bill.

“I paid it. Rube then took me into a hardware store. ‘How much was that fishing rod, line and rest of the stuff I bought a month ago?’ ‘Twelve dollars and 35 cents,’ said the clerk. I paid that.”

Next said Mack, they stopped at a saloon to settle up a tab, then a dozen more stops at various businesses, finally arriving at the Adams Express Company:

“He owed $8 there. A friend had shipped him a dog C.O.D. I don’t know how he ever got the dog without paying for it.”

He told Waddell he was running out of money, but Rube assured him he only had one stop left—Mack paid $25 at “one of those three-ball places” to get Waddell’s watch back.

Mack told Spink he was concerned some local fans might be upset about losing the great pitcher, so he and Waddell stayed in the hotel room the rest of day and left 15 minutes before they were due to board the train for Milwaukee. When they arrived at the station:

“I saw a group of men coming up the platform—six or seven of them, big fellows, too. They stopped about 20 feet away and beckoned Rube.

“As rube left me, a fellow walked over. ‘You Connie Mack? He asked brusquely. ‘Yes,’ I replied. ‘Well, I want to shake your hand. My friends and myself have come down here to thank you. You are doing us a great favor. Waddell is a great pitcher, but we feel that Punxsutawney will be better off without him.’”

Mack and Waddell went to Milwaukee, and a trade was completed with Pittsburgh for a player to be named later (Bert Husting), with the stipulation that Mack would have to return Waddell to the Pirates before the end of the season, if requested.

Mack said of Waddell’s stay in Milwaukee:

“He became a sensation. He had everything—color, ability, and an innate sense of what to do. He made the fans laugh, he made them cheer.”

Waddell spent just more than a month in Milwaukee—he won ten games; two of which came on August 19. After beating Chicago 3 to 2 in 17 innings in the first game, Mack asked him to pitch the second game—Mack and Chicago captain Dick Padden had agreed the 2nd game would only be five innings so the Brewers could make their train:

“’Say, Eddie, how would you like to go fishing at Pewaukee for three days instead of going to Kansas City?’ I knew Pewaukee was Rube’s favorite spot. He cut loose with a big grin, ‘All you have to do is pitch the second game,’ I said. ‘Give me the ball,’ said Rube. He pitched the five innings and won by shutout.”

The Chicago Tribune said of Waddell’s performance that day:

“(H)is feat of pitching both games and allowing Comiskey’s men only two runs in the whole twenty-two innings captivated the fans so completely that he had the whole 10,000 of them rooting for him before it was over.”

The next day, Mack said he received a telegram from Dreyfuss requested that Waddell be returned to Pittsburgh.

Mack, in Kansas City, wired Waddell in Wisconsin to tell him he was going back:

“Rube wired right back, ‘I’ll quit baseball before I play for the Pirates again. Will join you in Indianapolis.”

Mack said he knew the move would cost him the pennant but “played fair with Dreyfuss.”

He wrote a letter to the Pittsburgh owner explaining the situation and suggesting someone be sent to Indianapolis to get the pitcher.

“Dreyfuss sent his veteran catcher, Chief Zimmer, and Zimmer came to me. ‘There’s only one way to get Rube to go back with you,’ I told him. ‘You have to take him out, buy him a suit of clothes, some shirts and some ties—even some fishing stuff if he wants it.

“Zimmer took the tip. Rube got a new suit—and I lost a pitcher who won ten and lost three and fanned 75 men in 15 games.”

Waddell’s time in Pittsburgh ended the following May when he was sold to the Chicago Orphans. Mack said:

“Clarke and Rube were unable to get along…they were in constant arguments.”

“Piggy Ward, and Rightly Nicknamed is he”

15 May

After his off-season heroics, pulling an Altoona, Pennsylvania man from a fire, Piggy Ward, having been released by the Washington Senators, joined the Scranton Coal Heavers in the Eastern League for the 1895 season; The Scranton Times called him, “a very good man and will be heard from on the lines.”

He quickly became popular with his new club. The Scranton Tribune said:

“(He is) clearly a favorite with the unwashed bleacher—or, with the grandstand, for that matter…He is large bodied, somewhat round shouldered and looks awkward in repose. In action he is one of the quickest on the team and plays and steals bases with a vim and action that is refreshing.”

He hit .357—45 players with at least 200 at bats hit better than .300 that season in the Eastern League—The Sporting News said his manager found a way to get the most out of Ward:

“(Billy) Barnie gave him instructions to be in bed at least two nights a week. A little sleep and less booze and Ward is all right.”

 

ward1902

Ward caricature, 1902

His “coaching” did not seem to change, and on several occasions, according to the Scranton newspapers, he was ordered off the field “for offensive coaching.” And he was unpopular in the other league cities.

After Ward was thrown out of a game with the Rochester Browns in the third inning, The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle said:

“’Piggy’ Ward, and rightly nicknamed is he.”

He was even less liked in Buffalo; The Courier said: “Ward is one of the most offensive coachers extant, and he would gain friends by bottling some of his exuberant flow of nonsense.” While The Enquirer was even less charitable:

“(H)is calliope-like voice is about as musical as a dynamite blast in a stone quarry. He evidently imagines he is pretty all right as a ‘kidder,’ but what he doesn’t know about being funny would fill several large volumes. Altogether as a joker, ‘Piggy’ is a rank, dismal, decided failure.”

The Tribune noted that the second baseman was a bit eccentric in other ways as well:

“Ward has a nondescript practice uniform which is a cross between the scant apparel of a Feeje [sic] islander and the hay-making garb of a farmer. It consists of a white negligee coat cut like a robe de chambre and reaching to the knees, a pair of loose trousers of the same color which reach to the shoe tops, a white cap and a sleeveless undershirt that is open to the waist.”

In 1896, Ward was again in Scranton, and he had vowed in the off season to be in the best shape of his life. In a letter to The Tribune he said he spent the winter “handling a pair of spirited mules,” and expected to report to Scranton weighing 185 pounds, down from his 217 the previous season. The paper said he appeared to have lost 20 pounds from the previous season upon his arrival.

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Piggy Ward

Also, in 1896, his one-man “coacher” show became a two-man show when Arlie Latham, released by the St. Louis Browns in mid May, joined the Coal Heavers. The Springfield (MA) News was one of the rare league newspapers that thought it was good thing:

“With two such comedians…the Scranton team ought to prove a great drawing card on the circuit, The Springfield crowd are anxious for Scranton series here.”

Neither made it through the season, Latham was released July 17, Ward, one month later.  When Ward signed with the Toronto Canadians, The Wilkes Barre Record said:

“Ward is a great batter and base runner. There we quit.”

The Wilkes Barre News said:

“(Ward) is just where he belongs on that gang of Toronto hoodlums.”

Al Buckenberger’s Canadians were considered to be the dirtiest team in the league, The Springfield Union said with the addition of Ward:

“The opponent that gets around first base now without being tripped is lucky to get past Piggy Ward in safety and is sure to be blocked or tripped at third by Jud Smith.”

After the 1896 season, some of the papers in the Eastern League cities suggested rules changes to eliminate Ward’s type of “coaching.” The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle said:

“The majority of ‘fans’ take as much delight in lively, witty coaching, such as has made Arlie Latham and Billy Clymer famous…There need not be anything offensive in aggressive work by men on the lines…but all players are not like Clymer (and Latham) and that big beast s like ‘Pig’ Ward make themselves obnoxious by their actions and language when in the coacher’s box.”

The Syracuse Herald suggested adopting a rule “ousting ‘Pig’ Ward and others of his ilk from the game entirely.”

Whether it was an attempt to improve his image or a function of playing on a smaller stage—with his hometown Lancaster Maroons in the Atlantic League and the Mansfield Haymakers in the Interstate League—Ward seemed to stay fairly quiet and avoid controversy among the press in the league cities from 1897 through 1899.

The 5’ 9” Ward seems to have played in his later years at between 220 and 230 pounds from various reports. Frank Rinn, who managed Ward for the three seasons in Lancaster talked to The Hartford Courant about him:

“Although he is heavy and sluggish Piggy has more ginger than a dozen ordinary players. Rinn was telling the other day how hard it was to get Ward to train…He was sent out to coach once and he pulled a cushion out from under his shirt and had a good seat on the ground.”

Ward bounced from no less than eight teams between 1900 and 1905, including playing for John McCloskey again—in 1902 in Pacific Northwest League with the Butte Miners—Ward stayed with the McCloskey for the entire season this time—winning a championship and receiving a gold watch and chain at season’s end for being voted by fans as the team’s most popular player in a promotion for a local jeweler. He also led the league with a .332 batting average; only seven players in the six-team Pacific Northwest circuit hit .300 or better that season.

wardkellybutte1903

Ward and Butte Miners teammate Thomas Kelly in 1903.

The Cincinnati Times Star, still not recovered from his tenure with the Reds nearly a decade earlier said of Ward winning the watch:

“The booby prize was the best Ward could have captured in a similar contest during his stay in this city.”

In 1903, Ward reverted to some of his old ways.  With an already signed contract to return to Butte and a $100 advance in his pocket, he signed a contract and collected a $100 advance from the Portland Browns in the upstart Pacific Coast League. He ended up back in Butte, and when McCloskey left the club to manage the San Francisco Pirates, he told the Butte newspapers that Ward, who was already the team captain, was his choice to succeed him as manager; the club instead named shortstop Billy Kane manager.

When rumors swirled in 1905 that the cash-strapped Pacific National League might cut player salaries, The Spokane Chronicle said Ward tried to form a player’s union chartered by the American Labor Union which was formed in 1898 as the Western Labor Union to create a federation of mine workers. The rumored pay cuts never came, nor did the union.

Ward was reported to have died in January of 1906; the news made all the Philadelphia dallies and several other East Coast papers, and over the next month spread West.  The papers had confused Piggy—Frank G. Ward—with Frank P. Ward, a former amateur player who had died in Newark, N.J.

Ward was seriously injured that same winter when working as an electrician; he was shocked and fell from a pole.

The news of his death—despite being corrected in the papers—and the accident, were enough to make many believe Ward had died. When he traveled to Chicago in August of 1911 for former teammate Charles Comiskey’s birthday, The Chicago Daily News said Comiskey was shocked to see Ward, “whom he thought was dead.”

The not-dead Ward did not play professionally in 1906—the Frank Ward who appeared with the Glens Falls-Saratoga Springs team in the Hudson River League—listed among Ward’s career statistics on Baseball Reference—is a different Frank Wad.

He was hired in 1907 as an umpire in the Northwestern League. The Butte News celebrated the move:

“’Piggy’ promises to be as popular an umpire as he was a player…He is firm, has a good voice, and is known to all the of the Northwest, and President (William Henry) Lucas made a 10-strike when he appointed him  on the league staff.”

He lasted just two games. The Spokane Press said he:

“(B)roke down completely last night. This morning he was almost a nervous wreck. A collection was taken up among the ballplayers and he was sent back to his home in Scranton, Pennsylvania”

The paper said Ward’s wife had suggested he take the position because it might “build him up,” after the electrocution, but the stress was “too much for him.”

Four months after Ward’s reunion with Comiskey, The Pittsburgh Gazette Times said he was “near death,” a pitiable wreck,” suffering from “brain disease,” in an Altoona hospital.

Ten months later, on October 23, 1912, 45-year-old Piggy Ward died. The Altoona Tribune called him “one of the most famous diamond stars in the land,” and said:

“He possessed several expensive pins, a beautiful watch, and other jewelry presented to him by admirers when he was thrilling fandom with his feats.”

“He is Thoroughly Incompetent and Could do no Better”

12 May

After the Cincinnati Reds traded for Piggy Ward in June of 1893, Alonzo Flanner of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said of his first visit to play the Browns with his new club:

“Ward, one of Comiskey’s latest acquisitions, is a great baseball player. He got his base every time he came to bat yesterday. He steals bases with a gavotte step and coaches like a cow with a cough but can’t field a little bit.”

Flanner had more to say later the same month:

“Ward, the young man with the waddle and voice like a catarrhal cow, who essayed to play right field for Cincinnati. He shows the happiest faculty for muffing, fumbling, and wild throwing of any young man masquerading in a League uniform and drawing salary.”

The observations appear to be accurate; in 42 games with the Reds, Ward hit .280, stole 27 bases, and made 13 errors in just 75 chances in the outfield. The Reds released him in August.

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Frank Gray “Piggy” Ward

The Cincinnati Enquirer said of Ward’s two-month tenure with the club:

“His opening was a dream. For weeks after he started in with the Reds, he was the talk of the town. He stood on the topmost pinnacle in the esteem of the local enthusiasts. Then came the awful exhibition of yellow fielding in the Fourth of July games.”

Ward played right field in the first game and left field in the second against Philadelphia on July 4. He was charged with two errors in the first game and one in second, and the paper said, “His miserable work in the field,” accounted for “no less than six” of Philadelphia’s 15 runs in their 15-14 victory in the first game, but allowed:

“Ward should not be blamed too harshly, because he is thoroughly incompetent and could do no better.”

After the Fourth of July debacle, The Enquirer said:

“No one could be found to fill his place as well, and again Ward had a chance to show himself. So well did he take advantage of this opportunity that it is safe to say of all the players that have been released by the Cincinnati Club none of them ever left behind such a feeling of universal regret as this same Ward.”

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The Cincinnati Enquirer after the July 4 double header

The Enquirer was so appalled by Ward’s performance that the paper referenced it at length a year later on Independence Day:

“The Exhibition of how not to play the game of ball given by Piggy that day will never be forgotten by those unfortunate enough to witness it. Such fielding was nauseating.”

The Cincinnati Commercial Gazette said, “There is nothing that that so disgusts a Cincinnati base ball crowd as poor fielding.”

Ward had arrived in Cincinnati with a reputation. He appeared in a major league game at age 16—playing third base for the Philadelphia Quakers on June 12, 1883; he was 0 for 5 and reached on an error. The Philadelphia Times description of Ward’s debut is ironic given later assessments of his skills:

“(Ward) fielded well but was weak at the bat and a very slow runner.”

After that single game, he bounced all over the US and Canada—and made two more brief stops in the big leagues between 1887 and 1891—after his first game in the outfield for the Quakers in his second trial with the club in 1889, The Philadelphia Enquirer said, “he proved conclusively he cannot play the outfield.”

He was also, by all accounts, a bit eccentric:

While playing with the Hamilton Hams in the International League, The Toronto Mail said he, “tried one of his supposed funny fakes.”

Ward handed a potato to pitcher Bill Pfann who was supposed to throw the potato over first baseman Ed Swartwood’s head.  Pfann was apparently slow on the uptake and threw the potato to Swartwood “and (Toronto Canucks Tom) McLaughlin was therefore not caught by the trick.”

Ward made at least one other documented attempt at the hidden ball trick—this time without a potato—during his brief stop with the Baltimore Orioles in June of 1893 in a game with Louisville. The Baltimore Sun described the play:

“Ward walked to the pitcher’s plate as if to advise (Kirtley) Baker on some point of the game. Then he walked back to first base. Baker resumed his position on the plate as if to pitch, but (Fred) Pfeffer had seen Ward take the ball and did not remove his foot from first base.”

Pfeffer pointed out the situation to umpire Michael McLaughlin and Baker was charged with a balk.

Pfeffer told the paper:

“I did intend at first , for the fun of the thing, to let Ward touch me with the ball by stepping off the base and then calling the umpire’s attention to the balk, but it occurred to me that the umpire might not have seen the play and would therefore decide against me. You have to be careful on such points.”

Ward’s was also considered by many to be a clubhouse cancer throughout his career. He started the 1893 season with the New Orleans Pelicans in the Southern Association. After Ward left the Pelicans, The New Orleans Times-Democrat said team president Charles Genslinger called Ward “a dissenter of the worst type and kept the local club in constant internal turmoil until his departure.”

Among Genslinger’s charges were that Ward had been the “sole cause” of an early season uprising that caused several of the team’s best players—including Count Campau, Pat Luby, and Mark Polhemus– to attempt to secure their releases, and that manager Abner “Powell ordered Ward to stop smoking in uniform, and as he persisted in the disobedience to orders he was compelled to impose a heavy fine.”

More of Ward’s story tomorrow.

“I have had Enough of the Faithful Isle”

9 Apr

In January of 1899, Ted Sullivan was on a mission.  The man most famous for being the “discoverer” of Charlie Comiskey, was in New Orleans making plans.  The Times-Picayune said Sullivan and “some visiting baseball men” were meeting at the Grunewald Hotel (now the Roosevelt):

“America’s great national game, baseball, will be firmly planted in Cuba by the opening of the current baseball season…Ted Sullivan, the well-known baseball magnate, the man who has perhaps managed more teams than any other individual in the south, and who managed the Dallas, Texas team in 1895, has been in the city several days working up this Cuban proposition. He says one of the quickest ways to Americanize Cuba is to establish our national sports there, the first of which will naturally be baseball.”

tedsullivan

Ted Sullivan

The paper quoted one of the backers of the plan:

“Sullivan is the proper man to manage this Cuban scheme because he has had more experience than most any other man you could find. He knows Cuba, and he knows what they think of baseball down there. Twelve years ago, he took two teams to the island and introduced the great game down there.”

The backers predicted “Sullivan’s scheme will be a first-rate success.”

Three weeks later, Sullivan returned to New Orleans. The Times-Picayune said:

“Honorable Ted Sullivan, the baseball magnate…who was at the Grunewald a short time since on his way to Havana, has been heard from…Honorable Ted has returned, but he has returned with some very different views.”

No longer did Sullivan think Cubans would be “brought in nearer accord” with “Americans across the Florida straits,” within months:

“’I have had enough of the ‘Faithful Isle,’ declared this baseball champion after two weeks in Havana seeing what could be done. ‘No more of it for me. Between the pompous air of the non-speaking English people and the arrogance of our own Americans who have a little gold braid on their shoulders, you can, perhaps, you can imagine what a comfortable time down there visitors are having.”

Among Sullivan’s complaints:

“In darkest Africa you can find more English-speaking people than you can find in Havana today.”

The interpreters, he said, were of poor quality and “bleed you on prices,” he called them “social highwaymen.”

Sullivan also complained about the food:

“The menu would disgust a Mississippi River roustabout. The butter is so strong that it would have proven quite a valuable ally to the Spanish army, had the idea occurred to them. It could resist an attack of the Rough Riders and defy the projectiles from (Admiral William T.) Sampson’s guns.”

Sullivan presented a bit more of an optimistic outlook for baseball in Cuba to other newspapers—telling The Washington Times that he would be bringing a Cuban team to the states and that he watched a Cuban team beat a team comprised of American soldiers in two games.

But to those in New Orleans, where the plan for Sullivan’s Cuba mission was hatched, he was clear:

“In the opinion of Ted Sullivan, baseball in Cuba must wait awhile—it’s too early for the Americanizing of the Spanish city in that way.”

Ted Sullivan’s Rule Change

12 Feb

Suggested rule changes—even ones that would materially change the game—are nothing new.

Former manager, scout, baseball pioneer, and the “discoverer of Charlie Comiskey,” Ted Sullivan spent his later years telling stories and talking about the game’s origins and occasionally suggesting radical changes to the rules.

tedsullivan

Ted Sullivan

In 1912, he told The Chicago Daily News he had a rule change that “would meet with unanimous approval of the players.”

Sullivan’s plan “would unquestionably ameliorate the severity of baseball in respect to broken bones, wrenched tendons,” and other injuries:

“I would have this amendment put in the rules. I would allow players to overrun second and third bags just as they do first…this skidding into the bags feet first, headfirst or any old way to get there has put more good men out of business than anything else.”

Sullivan said, “As long as a base runner touches either bag that ought to be sufficient.”

He told the paper he had shared the idea with Ned Hanlon:

hanlon

Ned Hanlon

“(H)e thought pretty well of it, although he was inclined to argue that it might spoil the beauty of the game. He thought base sliding was one of the features of baseball, and if layers were allowed to overrun the bags this feature would go and baseball would suffer, but I don’t agree.”

Sullivan found little agreement and his idea gained no momentum.

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things: Clark Griffith

3 Feb

Griff out West

Griffith loved to tell stories about his time playing in Montana, one story the “truthfulness” of he “vouched” he told The Cleveland Leader in 1912:

leetgriffith

Griffith

“The scene was at Butte, back in the nineties (1892), and the story resulted from a baseball game between Missoula and Butte at the latter town. There were a lot of gamblers in Butte who wanted to back the team, so about $5000 was bet on the game.”

Griffith was on the mound for Missoula:

“Everything went along nicely for a while, with a monster crowd on hand hollering for everything it was worth for Butte to win.

“In the ninth inning Missoula was leading by one run, but after two were out Butte got a man on third and then the catcher let the ball get away from him. It rolled a short distance, but when the catcher went to retrieve it one bug leaned over the stand with a six-shooter in his hand. ‘Touch that ball and you are dead,’ he shouted. And the catcher stood stock still in his tracks.”

Griffith said the players “were scared stiff” and watched the tying run cross the plate.  He claimed Missoula scored in the 10th and won the game 5 to 4.

Griff on Lajoie

In 1900, Griffith and Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Tribune were watching Napoleon Lajoie take ground balls during practice:

“He looks less like a ballplayer, handles himself less like an infielder, goes at a ball in the strangest style, and gets them more regularly than any fellow I ever watched. He fights every ball he picks up, scoops them with without looking, and keeps me nervous all the time.

lajoie

Napoleon Lajoie

 

“Every time a grounder goes down to him, I want to bet about three to one he will fumble, but he always gets them. He has some system for making the ball hit his hands which I don’t understand.  And I’ll tell you a secret: He has a system of making his bat hit a ball which drives pitchers to drink.”

Griff’s All-Time Team

In “Outing Magazine” in 1914, Griffith presented his all-time team:

P: Amos Rusie

P: Walter Johnson

P: Cy Young

P: Christy Mathewson

C: Buck Ewing

1B: Charles Comiskey

2B: Eddie Collins

3B: Jimmy Collins

SS: Herman Long

LF: Bill Lange

CF: Tris Speaker

RF: Ty Cobb

Griffith’s most surprising pick was choosing Comiskey over his former teammate and manager Cap Anson. He told the magazine:

“(Comiskey) was the first man to see the possibilities of the position. Before his day a first baseman was only a basket. He stood glued to the bag, received the balls thrown to him, but never moved away.”

Charles Comiskey

Charles Comiskey

He said Anson, “Although a great player, was not Comiskey’s equal.”

He chose Long over Honus Wagner he said, because “Hans has a barrel of ability, but he’s not such a foxy player as many persons think, but he is a wonderful batter.”

Griffith called Jimmy Collins, “The most graceful fielding third baseman the game has ever seen,” and said Tris Speaker ”is the most remarkable outfielder that ever lived.”

As or his chosen catcher, Griffith said:

“Buck Ewing never has known an equal as a catcher. I call him the best ballplayer the world ever has known. The only man who approached him was Mike Kelly of the old Chicago White Sox, Kelly too, was a wonder, but not quite equal to Ewing.”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #35

1 Jul

Comiskey versus Anson

In 1888, Ren Mulford, writing in the Cincinnati Times-Star compared Charlie Comiskey to Cap Anson:

Charles Comiskey

Charles Comiskey

“Charlie Comiskey, who for several years has successfully piloted the St. Louis Browns to victory, possesses many of the characteristics which made Anson famous. He teaches his men to sacrifice everything in order to advance the interests of the club, but unlike Anson he never humiliates his men on the field. When it is necessary to reprimand any of them for an error or misconduct, he does it quietly. He uses good judgment in picking up players but lacks patience in developing the men.”

Latham on Comiskey

Arlie Latham and Charles Comiskey were together with the St. Louis Brown from 1883-1889, and Latham jumped the Browns to join the Players League with Comiskey in 1890, helping to form the Chicago Pirates–“The greatest team ever organized.” But from the beginning the team was beset with discipline issues and struggled.

lathampix

 Latham

Comiskey benched Latham, who was hitting just .229, in July.  The Chicago Tribune said several attempts were made to trade Latham, and when nothing materialized, he requested to be released and he was on July 29.

Latham returned to the National League, joining the Cincinnati Reds, then aired out his grievances with his former boss and friend when he was with the Reds in Boston in August. The Boston Globe’s Time Murnane said Latham was at the United States Hotel talking to members of the Pittsburgh Burghers who were in town playing Boston’s Brotherhood club:

“Some of Pittsburgh’s Players League boys were anxious to know why Latham was released from Chicago.

“’Comiskey did it,’ was his answer. ‘He has been after me for some time, and said I was playing crooked ball. I was laid off in St. Louis last season for the same thing, but this year Commie was cross and ugly all the time.’

“’You see, he has plenty of money and can afford to be stiff. I dropped three short fly balls in the last game I played in Chicago and Comiskey came and told me that he was on to me and would stand it no longer.’

“’I asked for my release and got it that night. My arm was very sore, but the other men would not believe it. I wanted to stay in the Players’ League and sent word to Al Johnson (owner of the Cleveland Infants) saying I was open for engagement.’”

Latham alleged that Comiskey or someone connected with the Chicago club had a role in blackballing him from the league:

“’I heard from (Johnson) once and then he stopped. I suppose the Chicago people interfered.’”

The Chicago Tribune said Latham actually received an offer from Cleveland but joined the Reds when they offered more money.

Murnane said when Latham arrived in Cincinnati, in an attempt to “get some good work out of the ‘Dude,’” that Reds manager Tom Loftus made him captain:

“(Latham) has been known for years as one who could keep the boys all on the smile while he shirked fast grounders.”

But Murnane claimed he had already worn out his welcome with some of the Reds:

“Since Latham’s release by Chicago he has taken pains to run down the Players’ League until the members of that organization have soured on him (two days earlier) he went out of his way to abuse the Brotherhood, and the result is that he is already getting himself disliked by several level-headed members of his own team.”

Latham stayed with the Reds with five seasons, and Comiskey again became his manager from 1892-1894.

Blame it on Hulbert

After winning the inaugural National League pennant in 1876 with a 52-14 record, expectations were high for the Chicago White Stockings in 1877.

hulbert

Hulbert

After a 26-33 fifth place finish, The Chicago Evening Post said the blame rested in one place:

“There are a great many men in America who do not know how to run a ball club, and Mr. (William) Hulbert, President of the Chicago club, appears to be one of the most conspicuous. The public is familiar with the fact that this year’s White Stocking Nine was more of a disgrace to the city than a credit and there was a considerable wonderment as to why a nine that in 1876 swept everything before it, was in 1877, obliged to content itself with the last place in the championship struggle [sic, Chicago finished fifth in the six-team league).

“From all that can be learned, it would seem that part of the season’s ill success should be attributed to the manner in which the men have been treated by Mr. Hulbert. There are complaints that he was continually finding fault, until the men became discouraged and lost heart in their work. Just how true this is The Post does not propose to determine, but simply gives publicity to a letter from Mr. Hulbert to Paul Hines, in which he distinctly charges Hines with not trying to play.”

According to The Chicago Tribune, the letter, sent in July, suggested that Hines was not “playing half as well,” in 1877 as he had the previous season—Hines’ average dropped from .331 to .280.

The Post said the letter showed how little Hulbert knew:

“To those who have attended the games this season this charge will bring a smile, as Hines is notoriously one of the hardest working and most reliable ballplayers in the country.”

The White Stockings finished fourth the following two seasons, but won back-to back pennants in 1880 and ’81, the final two before Hulbert’s death in April of 1882—the White Stockings won their third straight pennant that year.