Search results for 'death to flying'

“Death to Flying Things”

3 Apr

The nickname “Death to Flying Things,” is likely the only thing most baseball fans would know of John Curtis “Jack” Chapman, and even that is a morass of different and often questionable research.  He shares the nickname with one-time Brooklyn Atlantics teammate Bob Ferguson, and competing versions of the story disagree about whether first baseman/outfielder Chapman or infielder Ferguson is the one most commonly referred to by the nickname—and never with contemporaneous citations to back up the assertions.

Regardless, Chapman was an important figure during the advent of the game.

He was a well-known amateur player in the 1860s with the Brooklyn Atlantics (as opposed to the National Association team of the same name he and Ferguson played for in 1874) and the Quaker City’s of Philadelphia. Beginning at age 30 he played a total of 113 in the National Association, with Brooklyn and St. Louis, and during the National League’s inaugural season in 1876 he played and managed the Louisville Grays.

Jack Chapman, far right, with 1868 Brooklyn Atlantics

Jack Chapman, far right, with 1868 Brooklyn Atlantics

After the 1876 season, the career.246 hitter retired as a player.  Over the next 22 years he managed parts of ten seasons in the National League and American Association; including an 88-44 finish and American Association championship with the Louisville Colonels in 1890.  He also managed for 11 seasons in the minor leagues, retiring from baseball after the 1899 season.

When his managerial career ended Chapman was often asked to discuss the current state of baseball; carrying on a tradition as old as the game, and one that will never end, Chapman was adamant that the game as it was currently being played did not measure up the game during his prime.  In a column that appeared in several newspapers in 1900 he said:

“Our great national game is today in bad shape both financially and in other ways.  Whether this situation is caused by the rowdyism of the players I cannot say, but it seems to me that if the rules were strictly lived up to and the chief of umpires and his staff did their duty the game would soon climb back to the high plane it once occupied.

“The players of 10 and 15 years ago were just as fast, tricky and well up in the game as those of today…Years ago the ball used to have two and one-half ounces of rubber in it, whereas now there is only one ounce.  This reduction has made the sphere less lively and consequently easier to field…The men are now harnessed almost like football players, with gloves, pads masks and other paraphernalia.  We hadn’t these accessories in the old days, yet I don’t think the fielding is much improved.”

But mostly Chapman seemed to be concerned with his legacy as a manager:

“Probably no other man has brought out so many players as I have, mainly because I always have made it a point to be on the lookout for new blood by means of which I could improve my team…I think I may claim without anyone gainsaying my assertion, that I have turned out and sold to the National and other leagues more players who have proved to be crackerjacks than any other man living.

Robert Winchester and Mickey Welch, two old timers were ‘finds’ of mine, while Hugh Jennings, Roger Connor, Jimmy Collins, (Bill) Hoffer, (Harry) Howell and many others too numerous to mention in the major and minor leagues were developed by myself.”

Jack Chapman 1900

Jack Chapman 1900

Unfortunately, he said little and provided no details about the most significant incident of his career: as manager of the Louisville Grays in 1877 his team was the first to be involved in a gambling scandal:

“I had four men of my own team—(George) Hall, (Bill) Craver, (Al) Nichols and (Jim) Devlin—put out by the league because they were caught throwing a game.  That was the first time such a thing had ever happened, and it caused a great sensation at the time.”

“Death to Flying Things” died in 1916 in Brooklyn at age 73.

“Since I was a boy, I Have Heard this Question Asked”

9 Jan

Jack “Death to Flying Things” Chapman began his career in 1860 with the Putnam Club in Brooklyn, after spending 50 years in baseball, “Baseball Magazine” asked him to weigh in on the best players he had ever seen.

Chapman hedged on who was the greatest pitcher:

“Ever since I was a boy, I have heard this question asked.  I maintain that it cannot be answered, for the simple reason that there have been so many really wonderful pitchers…Let us go ‘way back in the old days.  There was Tom Pratt, Dick McBride, (Phonney) Martin, Jim Creighton, Arthur Cummings, Bobby Mathews, and Al Spalding, all first-class men.”

chapman

Jack Chapman

Of Spalding, Chapman said, “He had speed and command.  He knew how to use his head to fool and opponent.” McBride could “outwit” opposing hitters, and Mathews and Cummings were “foxy.”

Chapman also described what he said led to Creighton’s death in 1862—this version of events appeared later that year in Al Spink’s book, “The National Game,” and remained the narrative surrounding Creighton’s death until the home run story was debunked in recent years.

Chapman said of Creighton’s death:

“(B)aseball met with a most severe loss.  He had wonderful speed, and with it, splendid command.  He was fairly unhittable.”

creighton

Chapman rattled off another 20 names, then said:

“Now mind you, I am not undertaking to mention all the crack pitchers that ever lived—just those who occur to me.  Of course, I never knew one who was a bit better than Charley Radbourn, a man who would go in the box day in and day out and work under any and all conditions, who would pitch when men of the present day would shrink from undertaking.  Rad would go in the box when his arm was so lame that he could not lift it as high as his head when he started to warm up; yet he would keep at it and pitch a game his opponents could not fathom.  He was a very strong man, full of pluck, and used splendid judgement in his pitching.”

Chapman said the Providence Grays teams that Radbourn was a part of were “the best balanced” of their time.  Chapman mentioned third baseman Jerry Denny could “play with either hand,” and that:

“Rad was about as capable with his left as he was his right and was a wonderful fielder.  He liked to go on the field and warm up with the boys and would go in the infield or the outfield—it mattered not to him—anywhere there was an opening—he loved the game so well.  Rad could hit a little bit, too.”

radbourn

Radbourn

Chapman also singled out Charlie Ferguson, “who died in the zenith of his career.  Chapman said Ferguson, “could doubtless play every position better than any one man ever could.  He was also a very fine batsman and a speedy chap on the bases.”

Chapman said of Cy Young:

“No man ever had better command of the ball than did this pitcher.  Here certainly is a model ball player, just as modest as he is skillful.”

While Chapman named as many as 20 “greatest” pitchers, he settled easily on the best player of all-time:

“To name the best man in baseball history in any position is almost invariably a matter of opinion and often one is just as good as another.  I know of but one ballplayer upon whom I firmly believe the burden of opinion will rest as the best ballplayer ever produced, and that man is John Henry [sic, Peter] Wagner— ‘Honus,’ as he is known.  He certainly is the best card and is strong in every particular.  He is a wonderful batsman, base runner and fielder.  He makes easy work of the most difficult plays, and he would certainly excel in any position to which he were assigned—whether in the outfield or the infield.  Wagner is fairly in a class by himself.  Others have shown for awhile then lost their glory, but Wagner shines forever.”

wagner

Wagner

When Chapman died six years later, The Brooklyn Eagle mourned the loss of “one of the few remaining links between the pioneer days of baseball and the present.”

“The Brown Stockings, A Gloomy Title”

14 Sep

Shortly before the 1875 National Association season, the St. Louis Brown Stockings visited Louisville to play an exhibition against the semi-pro Olympics.

The Louisville Courier-Journal wrote with admiration about the building of a professional club in St. Louis:

“The signs of the times indicate a far livelier season of base ball than has ever been enjoyed in America by lovers of the great national pastime.  Especially will this be the case in the west, to which part of our country the great baseball wave has been slowly moving for several years.”

The paper said St. Louis was acting to eclipse Chicago as the “capital” of baseball in the west:

“In order to be honorably represented in the base ball arena, the Mound City folks formed a stock company; gathered in $20,000 from wealthy merchants and millionaires, procured twelve experts in the national game, and now the city smiles while she thinks how her club will walk forward to the pinnacle of fame this year.”

Recruited from “Eastern states,” The Courier-Journal said of the St. Louis team:

“The Brown Stockings, a gloomy title for so gay a set of fellows, though it is rather the fault of St. Louis papers than the base ballists, that they are forced to wear it.  All in all, the St. Louis club is composed of as handsome a set of fellows as ever handled the willow or tossed the ball.  We refer to face as well as form.  Since their engagement by a St. Louis stock company the base-ballists have been under gymnastic training…The members have perfect understanding of each other’s movements, and act accordingly.”

Noting that many of the players had spent the previous season in Brooklyn, the paper said they chose to “come west, like all good people ought to do.”

The Courier-Journal reporter interviewed outfielder Jack “Death to Flying Things” Chapman, who offered a wealth of information on the 19th Century ballplayer:

chapman

Jack Chapman

“(He) is six feet high, and splendidly built, being a ‘man as is a man.’  He only weighs one hundred and seventy-seven and isn’t married, though he contemplates taking a partner someday.”

Chapman, the “best looking man on the team,” who “is much liked by his associates,” was designated the “team scholar” to talk to the press in the absence of manager Dickey Pearce who was ill.  He said:

“St. Louis is bound to be the greatest place on the continent for base ball this season.  Her stock company offered big inducements, and we accepted.”

As for the people who had built the club, Chapman said, they were:

“Very rich and nice people…(the club’s) officers are mostly millionaires, who desire their city ably represented in base ball.  The people ‘turn out’ there in the thousands, and are all agog with base ball excitement.  Five thousand people witnessed our practice game last week.”

Chapman was asked about salaries:

“Substitutes get from $900 to $1200.  Regulars receive $1000 to $2500.  Bob Ferguson (the other “Death to Flying Things), of our old club, gets $2500 this year for captaining the Hartfords.”

Asked what players did in the off-season, Chapman said:

“A good many loaf, and others work at different jobs.  Generally whatever they hit upon that suits.”

As for the St. Louis club’s prospects to overtake the Boston Red Stockings as the nation’s dominant team:

“We hope to do it, and I believe we shall.  The Reds are a good team, made excellent by having stuck together so long.  I consider the (Philadelphia) Athletics the stronger nine this year.  Harry Wright is the best captain in America.  The (New York) Mutuals were the best club last season, and but for the bad feeling among the members would now be champions.”

Finally, Chapman was asked whether he thought Louisville could support a professional team:

“I do, indeed, and am surprised she hasn’t one.”

Chapman was hit and miss on his predictions.  The Brown Stockings were the best club in the west, finishing the season 39-29, but no where close to playing at the caliber of Wright’s Red Stockings (71-8) , the Hartford Dark Blues (54-28), or the Athletics (53-20).

He was correct about Louisville’s chances to get a professional club, The Grays, with Chapman as manager finished fifth in the inaugural season of the National League.

“How ‘Sun’ Daly Became a Coacher”

7 May

In 1898, Dan Shannon explained how James J. “Sun” Daly started coaching, and also took a shot at a former rival.  Shannon was then managing the Wilkes-Barre Coal Barons, a team he managed in 1894 and 1895 and again from 1897-1899.

He told the story to The Wilkes-Barre Record:

“’Did I ever tell you how ‘Sun’ Daly became a coacher?’

“’Why, you know Jim Daly was never known to open his mouth from the minute he got into his uniform until he was ready to tell the waiter at the supper table that he would have some macaroni,’ said Shannon.  ‘One day in 1894—when I was managing Wilkes-Barre—Buffalo came along for her second series of games.  Daly was playing right field—at least he was out there for that purpose. (Tom) Vinegar Vickery was in the box and there was a manager on the bench for Buffalo, who, I believe, afterwards took my place and made a mess of it in this city.  He was asked to resign by the management, and being obstinate, was released for incompetence.”

shannon.JPG

Dan Shannon

The Buffalo manager Shannon was referring to was Jack “Death to Flying Things” Chapman, and he was close, but not quite right with his description.  Chapman succeeded Shannon as manager of Wilkes-Barre.  His tenure was short and rocky.  The Coal Barons struggled out of the gate and by June, The Wilkes-Barre News-Dealer called Chapman “a failure as a baseball manager,” and said:

“(I)t is quite safe to say if Chapman was not manager the team would stand well to the front. “

On July 3, with the Coal Barons tied for last place with a 19-35 record, Chapman resigned.  The News-Dealer said “The public demand…has been granted at last.”

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Jack Chapman

Shannon and Chapman also both managed the Louisville Colonels in the American Association for parts of 1889–Shannon was 10-46, and Chapman 1-6, as two of the four managers of the club that finished with a 27-111 record.

Shannon continued his story:

“’Well, Daly was in right field, and up to the fourth inning had let four ground balls go by him, and muffed one fly ball.  When the Bisons finally got us out, Daly came in from right field to the coacher’s box at first base, dropped his mitt on the grass, and, getting in position, commenced to coach.  We were all of us thunderstruck, for every player knew that Daly would never think of coaching unless from some extraordinary impulse.’”

daly

Sun Daly

Shannon said the usually silent Daly:

“(K)ept up a running fire of coaching, never glancing towards the bench.  Three of the Buffalo crowd went out in their order and Daly quietly picked up his mitt and returned to the action in right.  When they had retired the boys again Jim again stopped at first base and commenced his sing-song-catch-a-ky-me-oh.  Finally, I was inclined to ask the cause of his sudden change and so I called over to him from second base:’

“’What on earth are you doing over there, Jim, hollering like that?’

“’What do you s’pose I’m doing?’ asked Jim. ‘D’you think I’m going into that bench after that exhibition out’n the field and get a tongue lashing from the likes o’ him! Nit! It’s a dumb sight more pleasant taking a hack at coaching!’

“And that’s the way Sun Daly became a coacher right here in Wilkes-Barre,’ said Uncle Daniel.”

“The Moment he got a Glove on his Hand he was Another Man”

3 Feb

In 1911, 66-year old John Curtis “Jack” Chapman, “Death to Flying Things,” wrote an article in “Baseball Magazine” about his “discovery” of Hughie Jennings 20 years earlier:

Jack Chapman

Jack Chapman

“I had taken my Louisville team of the American Association to Philadelphia when Jack Ryan of our club was hurt and had to be taken from behind the bat.  We were hard up for a substitute and had pressed into service Tommy Cahill.  I was put to it for a catcher and began skirmishing around for a man who would fit into place.

“Casually reading the paper the evening of my trouble I noticed an account of a game between the Lehightons and some other team, in which a young man named Jennings, who caught, seemed to be the whole show.”

Jennings had played with a local semi-pro team in Lehighton, Pennsylvania in 1889, and returned to the town to play for a semi-pro club in 1891, after playing in the Atlantic Association and Eastern Interstate League in 1890.

Hughie Jennings

Hughie Jennings

Chapman said of Jennings’ performance for Lehighton:

“He had fifteen putouts and four or five base hits, a home run among them.  I rushed to a telegraph office and sent a hurry-up call to his home in Moosic, a little mining town six miles from Scranton, asking him if he would not join my Louisville team.

“It did not take long for his affirmative to get back.

“I wired him in return that I would give him $175 a month if he proved satisfactory, and directed him to answer me at Boston and for him to report at Louisville.  When we got back to Louisville this young man reported to me at the Fifth Avenue Hotel.

“I will have to admit that I was disappointed with his looks, for his general appearance was somewhat verdant.  It was with fear and trembling that I watched him at his first tryout, for I had begun to think that I had invested in a salted mine.

“But the moment he got a glove on his hand he was another man.  A simple mitt worked wonders with him.  I had no chance to work him out behind the bat…First baseman (Harry) Taylor was injured.  Here was an opportunity for my new man to show the stuff he was made of.

“’Jennings,’ I said to him, ‘you will have to go out to first, as there is no one else who can play the bag.’

“’Mr. Chapman,’ he answered, ‘I have never played the position in my life, and fear that I cannot fill the bill.’

Chapman said, despite Jennings’ protestations, he told him again “I have no one else at all,” and installed him at first base:

“’All right; I’ll do the best I can.’

“Things began to happen.  He tickled the crowd by the way he pulled down high sailers, reached for wild ones, and dug balls out of the dirt.  His best was amply good.  I might add that I was tickled, too.

“He covered the base for a week.  When Taylor recovered, though, Jennings had to be relegated to the bench.”

At that point, Chapman said, Tommy Cahill, who had been pressed into duty behind the plate, but was the club’s best shortstop, became ill.  Although he played at least one game at the position the previous season in the minor leagues, Chapman claimed Jennings told him he had never played there when he was asked to fill in at shortstop:

“’Do what you can.’ I urged.

“’I’ll do my best,’ replied he.

“Again the crowd was tickled.  He covered more ground than any man I ever saw in my life.  He went after everything; errors never troubled him; he seemed born for the place…From the very first leap he has been a topnotcher. “

After Chapman left Louisville in 1892, Jennings struggled and was hitting just .136 in June of 1893 when he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles.  After finishing the 1893 season with a .255 average in Baltimore, Jennings hit .335, .386, .401, .355, and .328, the next five seasons, and the Orioles won three National League championships.

“This kind of Argument is the Veriest kind of Twaddle”

1 Dec

After just one season in the National League—a 24-36 record and a fifth place finish in 1878–the Indianapolis Blues disbanded.  Four members of the Blues joined the Chicago White Stockings—Silver Flint, Joe Quest, Ned Williamson, and Orator Shafer.

The 1879 White Stockings

The 1879 White Stockings

The White Stockings had been a disappointment in 1878, finishing in fourth place with a 30-30 record under Manager Bob Ferguson.  President A.G. Spalding, who had named Ferguson as his successor when he retired from the field, announced that first baseman “Cap” Anson would replace Ferguson for 1879.

The changes gave the Chicago press high hopes for 1879.

But, The Cincinnati Enquirer did not agree.  The paper said while the Chicago club was “greatly strengthened where it was very weak,” they would still finish no better than fourth place unless they were “properly managed.”  Boston Red Stockings Manager “Harry Wright could take this team and run it up to second place at least.”

In January The Enquirer implied that in addition to questionable management, Chicago’s new players were going to be a detriment:

“A prominent baseball official of Boston, in a private letter written recently, sententiously remarks: ‘Look out for the Indianapolis element in the Chicago Club next year.’  There’s a text for everybody’s thoughts.”

The Chicago Tribune quickly fired back with an article under the headline:

“Harmony” vs. Energy

 “There has been a great deal said at one time and another concerning ‘harmony’ in nines, and those who had the most to say on the subject contended that it was an essential point to be carefully looked after in the formation of any club which hoped for success on the diamond field.  Now The Tribune does not wish to set itself up in opposition to the judgment of men who have made baseball and the management of those who play it a study and a business venture, but it does say that many of them have harped so long upon this matter of ‘harmony’ that it has become a kind of second nature, whereby their judgment has been sadly warped.  Of late a paragraph, started in Cincinnati, has been going the rounds, in which the general public is solemnly warned to ‘look out for the Indianapolis element in the Chicago Club’ during 1879.

“Now the President and Manager of the Chicago Club are probably about as astute and far-seeing as any in the business and in view of this fact and reflection on their judgment or sagacity is in bad taste, and the parties who make ill-advised criticisms on the course of any club in hiring men, are very apt to undergo the unpleasant experience of persons not brought up in New Zealand who indulge in the pastime of throwing boomerangs; their weapons may come back and inflict considerable damage on those who threw them.  Whether or not the White stocking nine of next season will be a ‘harmonious’ one, it is doubtful if anybody knows, and still more doubtful if anybody cares.

“At the risk of being howled at by several papers, the baseball columns which are presided over by young men whose practical ignorance of the game is exceeded only by their ability to construct tables which not even themselves can understand when printed.”

One of the “Young men” referred to was The Enquirer’s sports Editor Oliver Perry “O.P.” Caylor.

One of O.P. Caylor's tables "which not even themselves can understand when printed.”

One of O.P. Caylor’s tables “which not even themselves can understand when printed.”

The Tribune will say that the question of whether or not the Chicago nine of next season ‘harmonizes’ will probably make very little difference with its play.  Some of the men who enjoy the reputation of being first-class kickers and disorganizers are nevertheless very handy individuals to have around when a base hit or good field play in wanted.  Without intending either to arouse the wrath or flatter the vanity of the very amiable and stalwart young man, Anson, it may be said that his reputation as an experienced and prolonged kicker is one that any man might be proud of; but, in spite of those who preach that harmony is everything, he is acknowledged to be one of the best and most useful ball-players in the country.  (Cal) McVey, of the Cincinnatis, can also make quite a conspicuous kick, even when not specially called upon to do so; still he is a good ball-player.

Lip Pike is a disorganizer of the first water, but last season, when he used to hoist a ball out among the freight cars on the lake shore, people who were presumed to know a good player yelled themselves hoarse in his praise.  The list could be extended indefinitely, but such action is not necessary.  Those who organize nines on the basis of ‘harmony’ alone will never grow rich at the baseball business.  It is not possible to get together nine men who could travel around the country eating, sleeping, and playing ball together that would never get out of tune.  Nine angels could not do it, much less nine mortals, subject to the little idiosyncrasies that human nature is afflicted with. “

The Tribune likely assumed the “prominent baseball official of Boston,” was Manager Harry Wright, and next turned its attention to him, his brother, and his championship teams.

“Harry Wright has always been the prophet whom the ‘harmony’ men delighted to honor, and the success of the Cincinnati and Boston Clubs under his management has been laid entirely to the dove-like dispositions of the men engaged by him.  This kind of argument is the veriest kind of twaddle, and the history of the Boston Club proves the truth of this assertion.  George Wright and Tommy Beals went many a day without the interchange of a friendly word, and George and (Charlie) Gould did the same thing.  For one whole season Ross Barnes and Gould never exchanged a word, and glared at each other like opposing game chickens, but the Boston’s won the pennant that year (1872—National Association) all the same harmony or no harmony.

“Other instances of like character could be adduced were there any necessity therefore, but these, from the fountain head of ‘harmony,’ will suffice.  If a club wins the championship it will be because its men play ball, not because they are ‘goody-goody’ boys.  Your man who gets hot at something during a game, and then relieves his feelings by making a two or three base hit, is much more valuable than one who, although possessed of a Sunday-school temperament at all times, manifests a decided aversion to reaching first base., when the occupancy of that particular bag of sawdust would be of some value to the men who pay him high wages for playing ball.”

O.P. Caylor

O.P. Caylor

Caylor would not let the insult to him and to Harry and George Wright, go unchallenged:

The Chicago Tribune published some strange statements against the argument that in harmony there was always strength.  To prove that harmony was not always necessary to create strength in a baseball club, the writer made bold to say among other things that Tommy Beales [sic] when a member of the Boston Club, went many a day without the interchange of a friendly word with George Wright, and that the same feeling existed between George and Gould.  The writer knew from the first these statements were fiction, but in order to crush the fallacious argument our reporter left it to George Wright himself for an answer.  The letter is before us from which we quote, though we half suspect George would demur to its publication out of modesty if he knew it. “

Wright wrote to Caylor:

“(The Tribune) said Tommy Beales [sic] and I went many a day without the interchange of a friendly word, and that Gould and I did the same thing.  While they were with the Boston nine they were about my best friends.  Most of the time Beales [sic] boarded at my house, while Charley and I roomed together on trips.  I think the reporter was wrong in his argument against ‘Harmony’ as it was the great cause of the Boston Club’s success.  The credit for this mostly belonged to Captain Harry Wright.”

George Wright

George Wright

Although it appears Wright spelled the name of his good friend Tommy Beals incorrectly, he got the spelling right 12 months later when he named his son—tennis Hall of Fame member –Beals Wright after his former teammate.

The Tribune allowed Wright, and Caylor, the last word, and dropped the dialogue regarding “harmony.”

Despite Caylor’s prediction, the White Stockings, under Manager Cap Anson, led the National League from opening Day through August 15.  Anson became ill during July, and as his performance slipped, so did the team’s fortunes.

Suffering from what The Tribune called “an acute affection of the liver…that had sadly impaired his strength and capacity for play,” Anson left the club on August 26 with a 41-21 record, in second place, just a game and a half back.

With Silver Flint serving as manager, and without Anson’s bat—he led the team with a .317 average—the White Stockings were 5-12 in the last 17 games, and a fourth place finish.

Harry Wright’s Boston Red Stockings finished second; his team, winners of the previous two National League championships lost some of the “harmony” that made them winners when his brother George Wright and Jim O’Rourke signed with the Providence Grays.  George Wright, in his only season as a manager, led the Grays to the 1879 National League championship.

“It may well be Doubted whether Beals should be Permitted to play Second Base again”

23 Jul

Thomas Lamb “Tommy” Beals had a complicated relationship with Harry and George Wright.

George named his son, the Hall of Fame tennis player, Beals Wright after his friend and former teammate.  But, The Chicago Tribune said when the two played together, “George Wright and Tommy Beals went many a day without a friendly word,” a charge Wright denied.

After signing a contract to play second base for Harry Wright’s Red Stockings for 1876—the first season of the National League—Beals decided instead to jump the contact and go to Colorado where he worked as a miner.

Tommy Beals

Tommy Beals

He eventually left Colorado and went to the West Coast where he played a handful of games in 1879 for the San Francisco Mutuals and Oakland Pioneers in the California League.  In the spring of 1880 he signed a contract with the Chicago White Stockings.

Harry Wright protested the signing of his former player, or as The Tribune said:

“Some parties in Boston have been making a wholly unnecessary fuss over the engagement of Beals by the Chicago Club, claiming that after engaging to play with the Bostons in 1876 he refused to report for duty.”

The Tribune noted that the contract was actually signed before the league was officially founded on February 2, 1876, but:

“The Boston people argue that, although the League was not in existence at the time Beals retired from baseball, it was agreed, upon its formation, that that all contracts existing between clubs and players should be recognized.”

The newspapers in Wright’s former hometown of Cincinnati weighed in.  The Commercial Gazette encouraged the Boston protest and said Wright should make it “a test case (and) prevent the Chicago Club from playing him during the coming season.”  The Cincinnati Enquirer took the opportunity to accuse Wright of protesting activities he was himself regularly guilty of engaging in:

“The disposition shown by the Boston Club management to create an unpleasantness in the matter of the engagement of Tommy Beals by the Chicago Club, upon the ground that Beals was under some sort of engagement with Boston four or five years ago, has had the effect of recalling some reminiscences calculated to show that the pharisaical kickers of the Hub are in no position to give us the ‘holier than thou’ racket.  In the first place Boston has slept upon its rights, if it ever had any, in the Beals case so long that the matter is outlawed long since, and ought never be raked up at this late day, especially in view of the fact that Chicago acted in good faith and without any suspicion of a cloud upon its title to the services of Beals.

“In the next place Boston had better be repenting for some of its own sins before assuming the role of exhorter towards other folks.  That club has now under contract three players whose engagements will not bear the closest kind of scrutiny.  In 1877 the Boston Club, in the middle of the season, committed an act of piracy on the Lowell Club of which it ought to be ashamed, by jerking (John) Morrill and (Lew) Brown out of the Lowell nine in regular highwayman fashion, both these players being then under contract for the entire season in Lowell…we (also) find that (Jack) Burdock was under contract to Chicago in 1875 and never showed up.  He might have been expelled by Chicago, but was not, and continues an honored and valued member of the Boston outfit.  In 1876, again Thomas Bond was suspended from play and pay by the Hartford Club, of which he was then a member, and in spite of this cloud upon his name and fame, was engaged the following year by Boston, and has been there ever since.”

Morrill, Burdock and Bond were all still members of the Red Stockings, comprising three-fourths of the team’s infield.

The Enquirer also criticized Boston because the team acted to “choke off” an attempt by Hartford Manager Bob Ferguson to bring the allegations which led to Bond’s suspension to light during a league meeting—Bond, during a season-long feud with Ferguson had accused his manager, among other things, of “selling” games.  Bond was suspended by Ferguson on August 21 of 1876 despite posting a 31-13 record for the second place Dark Blues—Bond’s replacement as Hartford’s primary pitcher was Candy Cummings.

Tommy Bond

Tommy Bond

The Enquirer took a final shot at Wright noting that when the league instituted the new rule for 1879 which barred non-playing managers from the bench “Boston squealed because Harry Wright couldn’t enjoy privileges  denied to everybody else, and this year they are playing baby about Beals on grounds equally absurd.”

The Tribune laid out Chicago’s long list of grievances for “plenty of ‘queer’ work in which Boston has been engaged.”  In addition to the incidents mentioned by The Enquirer, The Tribune said in 1877 after Albert Spalding had secured infielder Ezra Sutton for Chicago, “Sutton was worked upon by Boston and went there to play.”

So, according to Boston’s critics the club’s entire 1880 infield had come to the team via questionable circumstances.

The Boston Herald responded:

“It is not to be expected that the Chicago Club will recognize the position of the Boston Club in this matter, and release Beals.  That organization has on more than one occasion, shown its utter contempt for League rules, or in fact, for anything that interferes with its own particular self, and, to expect justice in this case, is not to be thought of.  In the meanwhile, the Boston Club will probably not take any official action in the premises, but let the Chicago Club enjoy all the honor (?) there is in playing such a man.”

After the weeks of allegations, posturing and name-calling in the press, the season began on May 1; Boston never lodged a formal complaint about the signing of Beals.

Chicago cruised to the National League title, spending only one day (after the season’s second game) out of first place.  Beals, rusty from his layoff made little impact for the champions, hitting just .152 in 13 games at second base and in the outfield.  By August, with the fight to defend his signing long forgotten, The Tribune said after a rare Beals start in a 7 to 4 loss to the Worcester Ruby Legs:

“Beals played as though he had never seen a ball-field before…It may well be doubted whether Beals should be permitted to play second base again…any amateur who could be picked at random would be likely to do better both in fielding and batting.  Worcester would have made two or three less runs yesterday if second base had been left vacant altogether, as what time Beals didn’t muff grounders he threw wild and advanced men to bases they would not otherwise have reached.”

Beals was 0 for 3 with three errors that afternoon—for the season he committed 4 errors in thirteen total chances at second for a fielding percentage of .692.

Let go by Chicago at the end of the season, Beals’ professional baseball career was over and he returned to the west.  In 1894 he was elected to one two-year term in the Nevada State Legislature as a Republican representing a district that included the town of Virginia City.  By 1900 he was back in Northern, California, where little is known about his activities.  He died in Colma, California in 1915

Frank Bancroft

14 Jul

When Frank Carter Bancroft died in 1921 at age 74, “Spalding’s Official Baseball Guide” said:

“His executive ability and Knowledge of Base Ball, combined with the fact that he was for sport first and the show element of Base Ball secondarily, rendered him one of the most competent of men to handle the affairs of a professional team.”

Frank Bancroft

Frank Bancroft

While working in the front office of the Reds in 1892, Bancroft talked with Harry Weldon, sports editor of The Cincinnati Enquirer about some of the players who got their start with his teams.  He also didn’t seem to mind taking a swipe at a couple former players:

“Probably no man now before the public except Harry Wright or Adrian C. Anson have had a longer or more varied experience with the intricacies of the great National Game than Frank C. Bancroft.  He never wore the spangles, like a great many other managers, but he has been connected with the game in a managerial capacity since the early seventies.  ‘Bannie’ is one of the wittiest men in the profession and he has a fund of anecdotes about players and plays that are well worth hearing.  Many of the great baseball stars now before the public made their debut under Mr. Bancroft’s management.  Many of them who are now drawing $4,000 or $5,000 a season worked under Bannie for about one-tenth that amount and were glad to get it.  Bancroft was one of the leading lights in the original New England League, which graduated a great many of the stars of today.

“At the present time Mr. Bancroft is business manager of the Cincinnati Reds.  He has nothing whatever to do with the players. All of that part of the club’s affairs being under the supervision of Captain (Charlie) Comiskey.  All Bannie has to do is look after the gate, railroad rates and dates.  The other evening the veteran manager was in The Enquirer office and grew reminiscent.  His recital of the details of the debut of some of the stars is worth reproducing.

Harry Stovey, one of the greatest ballplayers today, began his professional career under Manager Bancroft.  He began his career in the pitcher’s box and graduated out of the ranks of a Philadelphia amateur team called the Defiance in 1877 (the Philadelphia Defiance were a professional team, part of the league Alliance).  Manager Bancroft heard of him, and in 1878 engaged him as a change pitcher for the New Bedfords.  G. Washington ‘Grin’ Bradley was the regular pitcher of the team, and as he was an every-day pitcher Stovey was never allowed an opportunity of displaying his pitching abilities on the New Bedford team.  He had to be content with warming the bench until fate was kind and he had a chance.

Stovey

Harry Stovey

“‘Stovey played his first game with our team at Baltimore,’ said Mr. Bancroft.  ‘we were making an exhibition tour when John Piggot, the first baseman, was taken ill, and as we only carried ten men, Stovey was called on to make an attempt to play first base.  His maiden effort was a brilliant one—so brilliant that it lost Piggott his job and made Stovey a fixture on first.  He had at least twenty putouts, no errors and several cracking hits to his credit that day.  He played the season with us, and his fame spread so that he was signed by the Worcester (Ruby Legs) League team and afterward with the Athletics Stovey’s salary the first season in New Bedford for $50 a month.  Now he is paid nearly that much a game.’

George Gore, the crack center-fieder of the New Yorks is another player who came into prominence with the New Bedfords that year.  Gore’s home was in Maine, at a little town called Saccarappa…Gore was about as green a specimen as ever stepped into the business.  He played a few games with the Fall Rivers, and then the New Bedfords got him.  He was a big, awkward country boy then, but he could run like a deer and hit the ball like a trip hammer.  Gore signed with the New Bedfords under Manager Bancroft for $50 a month, but he did not stay with them long.  His terrific batting attracted the attention of the whole baseball world, and soon the more prominent clubs were after him.  While the Chicagos were in Boston the late lamented (William) Hulbert, President of the National League, who was with them, ran up to New Bedford to have a talk with Gore.  Luck was with big George.  He had his eye with him, and made three home runs in the game.  That feat settled his fate.  Before Hulbert left New Bedford he had Gore’s name to a contract to play in Chicago in 1879 at $150 a month.  His career since that time is well known.  Today he is yet a great hitter, and reached first base as frequently as any player in the business, by either hits, errors or bases on balls.  His ability to reach first causes him to be selected to head the battery list of the New Yorks.

Arthur Irwin is another player whom Manager Bancroft put in the business. ‘He made a grand impression in his opening game with me,” said Manager Bancroft.  ‘I was then manager of the Worcester League team, and we were on the hog train for a while, owing to Charlie Bennett’s glass arm and Buck (William “Farmer”) Weaver’s faint heart.  Matters were so bad that a crisis was at hand.  A meeting of the stockholders of the club was called, and it was voted to place the team in my hands for one month, and if no improvement was shown at the end of that time I was to be given the chase.  It was a dying chance for me, and you could gamble that I had my eyes and ears open for a savior of some kind.  Arthur Irwin was then playing with an amateur team called the Aetnas, of South Boston, and I engaged him to play short with the Worcester.  (J. Lee) Richmond, the once famous left-handed pitcher, who played here with the Reds in 1886, was then with the Brown University team and he was telegraphed to come for a trial.  We played the Chicagos that day, and we shut them out, only one man getting first base.  Irwin made a great hit at short, and Richmond was a wizard.  Irwin was a fifty-dollar-a-month man, and that was the start of his professional career.  Richmond is now a physician at Geneva, Ohio.’”

The game Bancroft referred to was an exhibition between Worcester (a member of the National Association) and the National League’s Chicago White Stockings played on June 2 in Worcester. Richmond walked the first batter, Abner Dalrymple, and then retired the next twenty-one before the game was called after seven innings.  The Chicago Tribune said Richmond struck out 8.  Worcester tagged Frank Hankinson for 12 hits and 11 runs (Chicago also committed 11 errors).  Bancroft was correct that Richmond became a physician, but by 1892, he was no longer practicing and was working as a teacher in Toledo, Ohio.

J. Lee Richmond

J. Lee Richmond

“Big Roger Connor of last season’s New Yorks, but now of Philadelphia, received his professional introduction under Manager Bancroft.  ‘It sounds queer to say that such a cracking hitter as Roger Connor was ever released for poor batting, but such was the case’ said Manager Bancroft

“’I had him with the New Bedfords in 1878, but he was hitting so poorly that I released him.  He afterward signed with the New Havens the same season, but the disbanded.  Roger left New Haven and went to Waterbury, his home, where he joined an amateur team in that city called the Monitors.  Up to that time he had batted right-handed, but he decided to turn around and try it left-handed.  The change saved his life.  He blossomed out as a great slugger, and his reputation has been growing ever since.

“Connor, like Stovey, began his professional career at $50 a month, and has since climbed to the top rung of high salaried players.  Many young players of today should look upon these as examples for honest and temperate habits have enabled them to remain at the head of the profession, while the path is strewn with a multitude of others who might have been where they are if they had not thought this world was a continuous round of gaiety and fun and discovered their mistake when it was too late.”

 

“No Exhibition was ever Received in this City with more Enthusiasm”

2 Jul

The New York World unveiled a newly updated attraction for baseball fans on August 6, 1889; the “Baseball Bulletin,” a version of which had also been introduced at the Boston Music Hall earlier that summer.

The Boston Music Hall "Bulletin Board."

The Boston Music Hall “Bulletin Board.”

The Associated Press said some fans thought the board was “an advantage over the actual game, in that it not only reproduces the plays graphically and simultaneously, but it keeps at the same time a simple and conspicuous record of the contest.”

The New York World's "Bulletin Board."

The New York World’s “Bulletin Board.”

The Boston Herald said their board measured “fifteen feet square.”  New York’s board was an improved version of one that had been used the previous October for the Giants six game to four World Series victory over the American Association’s St. Louis Browns.

The crowd on Park Row for the 1888 World Series

The crowd on Park Row for the 1888 World Series

The board was the creation of  reporter Edward Van Zile of The World; Van Zile received a patent for the invention, although it was another member of the paper’s staff, Publisher Joseph Pulitzer’s secretary Edwin A Grozier, who turned it into a profitable enterprise. After purchasing the original rights from Van Zile, Grozier improved the design and received his own patent.

The World said the new version was a bigger sensation than the one introduced the previous October:

“’Perfection’ is the word which expressed the verdict of the baseball public who had the good fortune to witness the game between the New York Giants and Baby Anson’s team on The  World’s Baseball Bulletin Board yesterday afternoon…it is safe to say that no exhibition was ever received in this city with more enthusiasm than was the baseball bulletin.

“And the crowd too!  What a vast number!  There must have been fully 10,000 people in the audience, and the way they cheered when the Giants made a run was a sound that would have made Baby Anson sick.”

The presentation of the game took place on New York’s “Newspaper Row” (Park Row), with a crowd on the east side of the street

“(E)xtending from above The World Building to far below it (and) on the west side of the street the crowd was much larger.  There was a long line of people from Mail Street almost down to the other end of the big Federal Building.

“No point from which the game could be witnessed was left vacant.  The boys climbed up and lodged themselves in among the pillars of the Post Office…Even the lamp post was monopolized by the urchins, and when our boys made a good play they generally led the cheering.”

The “expert board operator placed the Chicago men in the field,” for the first inning, and leadoff hitter George Gore at the plate:

“When (Gore) slid down to first base the crowd were just ready to cheer, but they saw him put out and they reserved their applause for another occasion.

“They did not have long to wait, however, for (Mike) Tiernan and (Buck) Ewing  each succeeded in gaining bases, and then big Roger Connor was placed over home plate

“The crowd held its breath in anticipation of what was to come.  Their enthusiasm was drawn up to a high pitch, and was just waiting for a chance to break its bonds.  And they got it!  The little red disk representing Connor slid up to first and Tiernan slid across home plate.  Then there was a volley of cheers.  It broke forth clear and strong, and the sound could be heard blocks away.

“Up on the tops of the tall buildings in the neighborhood the cheers of the crowd could be heard resounding forth as a victorious army returning from battle.

“And it was all the same through the game. A great many people were attracted to the spot by the cries of the crowd, and when they saw the baseball bulletin they all united in declaring it to be the greatest thing they had ever seen.”

Chicago scored seven runs off Tim Keefe in the ninth to tie the score at 8.  The crowd’s “disapproval resolved itself into a continued groan.”

The Giants scored two runs in the tenth, and when the white Stockings came to bat in the last half of the inning:

“(T)he crowd watched more intently than at any time before.As each Chicago man went out there was a yell, and when they all went out without having made a run it was impossible to say a word that could be heard.”

The Box Score

The Box Score

The paper commemorated their innovation with a poem:

A boy was passing down the street,

Another lad he chanced to meet;

‘I’ll bet,’ he said, ‘we’re licked once more.

What is the score?’

A merchant coming down that way,

Lifted his bearded head so gray;

And ceased o’er book and cash to pore—

‘What is the score?’

A preacher wrestled with his text,

And wondered what he’d best say next;

Then called out through his study door;

What is the score?’

The Mayor in his office sat

And pondered over this and that,

The said: ‘I’m sure the game is o’er.

What is the score?’

If they had only chanced to go

Into the middle of Park Row,

And see the bulletin of The World,

And the glorious pennant there unfurled,

They’d never ask the question more

‘What is the score?’

The  World predicted the initial crowd was just the beginning:

“Today’s game between the Chicagos and the New Yorks will be duly recorded on the board.  There is room for everybody to see, and it is expected that the crowd will be twice as large as yesterday.”

The following day the paper did not say the crowd had doubled—to 20,000—but claimed it was “The largest crowd that had ever been on Park Row,” for the Giants 4 to 2 victory over the White Stockings.

Crowds continued to come to Park Row as the Giants battled the Boston Beaneaters and won the pennant on the final day of the season.

Baseball Bulletin Boards, and other versions of the concept, remained a popular feature well into the 20th Century. More often than not they were sponsored and presented by local newspapers.

The New York Sun presented their own "Baseball Bulletin Board"  on New York's Park Row in 1914

The New York Sun presented their own “Baseball Bulletin Board” on New York’s Park Row in 1914

 

“I am thoroughly Disgusted with the Business”

12 May

Robert Vavasour “Bob” Ferguson shares claim, with Brooklyn Atlantics teammate Jack Chapman, to the nickname “Death to Flying Things,” although it will likely never be resolved which had the name attached to him first.

Bob Ferguson

Bob Ferguson

What is clear is that Ferguson was an important figure in 19th Century baseball –a player, manager, umpire and executive, and the game’s first switch hitter.

Ferguson was, given the reputation’s of 19th Century  umpires, uniquely popular.

The St. Louis Republican said he was “about the most brilliant of any…He never allowed his word to be questioned and was the most successful umpire in that regard ever in the profession”

The Louisville Post said “Ferguson plays no favorite from the time he calls play.  He sees all men alike and tries to do justice to them.”

The Sporting Life said he was “The only umpire who can satisfy New York audiences.”

In May of 1886 Ferguson resigned from the American Association’s umpire staff to manage the New York Metropolitans, until May of 1887, when he was let go by New York and returned to the association staff.  The Philadelphia Times said his services were so sought after that he was offered “$1200 for the remainder of the season.  This is much in excess of the regular umpire’s salary, but (the Cleveland Blues, Brooklyn Grays and St. Louis Browns) have agreed to stand the additional expense if Ferguson will accept the position.”

Even when criticizing Ferguson for possessing “a whole barrel full of that commodity known as mulishnessThe Cincinnati Enquirer said, “There is no disputing his honesty.”

Intractability was the one major criticism of his work, but Ferguson thought it an asset.  Shortly after returning as an umpire in 1887 The Washington Evening Star said during a game between New York and Philadelphia, a runner starting from second base, noticing Ferguson’s back turned after a passed ball cut third base and scored easily.  Ferguson was alleged to have said:

“I felt morally certain that he did not go to third base, as he scored almost as soon as the base runner who was on third at the time.  But before I could do anything in the matter the crowd began to hoot and I declined to change my decision.  Let an umpire be overcome just once by the players or the crowd and he never will be acknowledged afterward.”

But, despite the respect he sought and received, on and off the field, in 1888 Ferguson told  a reporter for The New York Mail and Express—which said Ferguson was noted for his “bluntness and firmness” as a player– how he really felt about being an umpire:

 “I did not choose it; that is to say, I did not seek it very earnestly.  I had been active on the ball field for so many years that I knew it would be only a question of a short time when my efficiency as a player would be impaired to the extent of my being forced to retire, and the position of umpire being possible for me to obtain and in fact offered to me, I accepted it that I might surely be able to continue upon the field, where I have spent most, and in a general way the happiest years of my life.

“How do I like it?  I do not like it at all.  An umpire, not withstanding newspaper talk regarding his being master of the field, is practically a slave to the whims of players.  He does not, as is generally supposed, go upon a field, and upon the slightest provocation fine a player to any amount simply because that man does not act in accordance with his ideas.  He is not there for that purpose.  He is simply the representative of the officers of the association in which he happens to be employed.

“I give all clubs, whether weak or strong, an equal chance.  The position of an umpire is one that no self respecting man can hold long without wondering whatever possessed him to accept it, and wishing to be free from it.

“But everyone has to earn a livelihood, and I am endeavoring to earn mine, but I will say I am thoroughly disgusted with the business and will welcome the day when I can say: ‘Robert, you are free; your slavery days are over; you can now enjoy the fruits of your labor.’  Don’t misquote me now and say that I am disgusted with the national game, for it would be utterly untrue.  I am fond of baseball, as my many years on the diamond will attest; but to be a player, which position I loved, is one thing; to be an umpire is another.”

Ferguson remained in the American Association through 1889, then joined the Players League as an umpire in 1890, and returned to the American Association for the 1891 season, his last; The Sporting Life said “the Association soured on him” because “his expense bill” was much larger than any other umpire.”

Ferguson tried to get a position with the National League in 1892, but according to The Chicago Tribune he “does not seem to be much sought after.”

Ferguson retired to Brooklyn where he died in 1894 at the age of 49.

Oliver Perry Caylor said in The New York Herald said he was “an umpire of recognized fairness and merit…His honesty was always above suspicion, and scandal never breathed a word against his upright life professionally.”