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“Pulling a Lave Cross,” Eddie Collins on the Life of a Ballplayer

24 Feb

In 1914, Eddie Collins contributed an article about the life of a major leaguer in The National Sunday Magazine, a syndicated insert that appeared in several papers across the country.

Eddie Collins

Eddie Collins

He described the beginning of his first road trip in the big leagues:

“It happened two days after I had joined the Philadelphia Athletics.  As ‘Mr. Sullivan,’ (Collins initially played under the name Edward T. Sullivan), still being an undergraduate at Columbia, I had watched two games from the grandstand at Shibe Park.

“The series over, Manager (Connie) Mack told me to report at the railroad station in time to catch a train that was leaving at six o’clock.  The Athletics were to make a quick September (1906) swing around the circuit.”

Collins said he was “about the first one at the depot,” and “eager as a boy” to begin his big league career.

Once on the train, he described the reaction of the players the first time the porter announced that dinner would be served:

“What transpired, immediately, might have led one to believe that the porter had insulted nearly everyone in the car.  There was a stampede.  Every one of the Athletics was up and rushing down the aisle, throwing aside magazines and newspapers, tumbling and pitching toward the door. The porter was knocked over and it is no exaggeration to state that one of our players—a very fleshy outfielder with elephantine tread (Topsy Hartsel)—walked over him in his haste.

“’What’s the matter with those fellows?’ I asked a veteran who had not joined the stampede.

“In justice to him, be it explained that he had a sprained ankle and couldn’t run.

“’They’re pulling a Lave Cross,’ he threw over his shoulder, as he hobbled after the others as fast as his lame ankle would permit.

“I came to know what ‘Pulling a Lave Cross’ meant.”

Lave Cross

Lave Cross

Collins explained the term, which referenced the former Athletics player:

“He was in the big leagues for years and during that period, he was never beaten into a dining car or eating room of any sort.  He always caught the first cab out of the station; he always was the first to plunge into the sleeper and select the best berth.  He never ran second where personal comforts or tastes were at stake.  During all his years, and the competition is keen, he was supreme.”

Collins said while Cross’ behavior might have been extreme, “haste” was “a habit inbred in all successful” ballplayers:

“I have noticed that after the game we all dress like firemen getting three alarms, race back the hotel, race into the dining room, race through our meal.  Then we saunter out into the lobby and kill two or three hours trying to see which foot we can stand on longer.  At first I marveled at this, then I found myself racing along with the rest of them.”

Calling himself, and his colleagues “rather peculiar individual(s)” Collins said of ballplayers:

“On the field, all his energies and thoughts are concentrated on one idea—the winning of the game.  His day’s work done, however, he throws that all off.  His first desire is to avoid the crowds and excitement.  Then he persistently refuses to talk baseball.  If you want to make yourself unpopular with big league ballplayers, drop into their hotel some night and try to talk baseball to them. “

Collins next provided readers with “some idea of ballplayers out of spangles,” to bring them into “closer touch.”

Honus Wagner, he said, was not a fan of fans:

“Down in Carnegie (PA) there are about twenty unfortunates…who are taken care of solely through Wagner’s generosity.  He has a heart as big as his clumsy looking body, but he hates the baseball ‘bug.’  Frequently wealthy fans have called at Wagner’s hotel on the road and tried to engage him in conversation.  Generally he will excuse himself and going over to the elevator boy will sit and chat with him for an hour at a time.  Wagner’s worst enemy will not tell you he is conceited, but he hates the fans prying into his affairs.”

Honus Wagner

Honus Wagner

Connie Mack, he said, “is the same kind of man” as Wagner:

“Connie is forever handing out touches to old time players.  He is always thinking of anybody connected with baseball from the bat boys up. I know he insisted out little hunchback mascot (Louis Van Zelst) getting a share of the World Series’ money—not that any players objected—but it was Connie’s thought first.

“’Little Van comes in on this,’ he said.”

Louis Van Zelst

Louis Van Zelst

 

Collins also talked about how his teammates occupied themselves on the road:

“You will never find Chief Bender, our Indian pitcher, hanging around the hotel.  Too many original fans are apt to salute him with a war-whoop.  Besides, he is golf mad and when not on the diamond, he is to be found on the links… (Carroll “Boardwalk”) Brown, the young pitcher who did so well for us last year, is a billiard expert… (Stuffy) McInnis and (Eddie) Murphy are the ‘movie fiends’ of our club and are the only ones (Collins said many players were scared to go to the movies because they thought it would damage their eyes).  They can call the name of every star as soon as they see the face on the screen. Jack Barry, our shortstop, is inordinately fond of Hebrew literature and Biblical history.  This, although he, as well as his name, is Irish.”

Collins also shared his manager’s rules for the Athletics when the team was traveling:

 “It is one of Mack’s rules that we are only allowed to play cards on the trains…Connie is against card playing, which only leads to-night after night sessions, ill feelings and finally, disruption. I could tell you of at least one American League team that was broken by card games…Everybody has to be in bed by half past eleven and report in Mack’s room at half past ten in the morning.  For an hour Mack talks baseball, planning our campaign for the day.”

After Mack’s meeting, it was time to eat, and Collins shared his insights on ballplayers and food:

He said a “young pitcher on our club” should be a star, but “he has a weakness for roast beef,” and “persists in stuffing himself at noon time.”  He didn’t name the pitcher.

 “Walter Johnson, the greatest pitcher in baseball, also has a noonday weakness.  It is ice cream, but he seems to thrive on it.  Jack Barry feels off-color if he does not get his slice of pie…On the day he is going to pitch, Eddie Plank, our veteran left-hander, always eats tomato soup.  He thinks he would lose if he did not observe this ritual.”

Collins concluded:

“There is great temptation for the young minor league player, being put up at first class hotels…to eat his head off.  I honestly believe that more good youngsters have been ruined for big league work simply from overeating than any other extraneous cause.”

Other than their general disdain for ‘bugs,’ Collins said, in the end, players of the current era were unrecognizable from their counterparts of a generation earlier:

“Ballplayers today are scrupulously careful never to offend anyone in any way.  Especially do they take pride in being Chesterfields when women are around.”

Collins’ “Ten Commandments”

5 Oct

The Philadelphia Inquirer said in February of 1916, Eddie Collins of the Chicago White Sox, had broken “into the ‘Gospel League,’ after  the second baseman gave a temperance speech in front of “500 persons” at the Epworth Methodist Church in Palmyra, New Jersey church.

collins2

Eddie Collins

Despite Collins telling his audience he wasn’t  “contemplating a pulpit career,” the paper said they “(A)pplauded like World Series fans when he handed ‘booze’ some wallops that would have done credit to Billy Sunday.”

Collins’ talk focused on the evils of alcohol:

“I come to bring a message to your young people, from a baseball player’s viewpoint, of the necessity of clean living and I will be glad if anything I say will help any of you fight the battle of life…Temperate living in necessary for success in any field of action.”

He also praised his former manager from the pulpit:

“Life is a whole lot like playing baseball under Connie Mack’s orders.  Mack is the greatest baseball general the world has ever known and any man who has ever played on the old Athletics honors respects and loves the boss.”

Sunday said he approved of Collins taking to pulpit and providing a “boost” for baseball:

“The way to make the great game respectable is for every player to be respectable himself.”

The Inquirer told readers the following day that the Columbia University graduate had little in common with the evangelist who often mangled the language:

“The statement that Eddie Collins is emulating Billy Sunday is entirely erroneous…Eddie had a perfect record at the bat and fielded cleanly with the King’s English.”

Billy Sunday, evangelist

Billy Sunday, evangelist

Within a week, The Philadelphia Press said:

“Eddie Collins’ dip into evangelism has had a home-run effect among church people throughout the country, and he now is swamped with invitations to address church congregations, bible classes, and Sunday school meeting.

“The requests have swept in upon him at his home in Lansdowne (Pennsylvania) in such a deluge that he said today he had reached the point where he would have to give up base ball if he were to meet all the engagements asked.”

Collins told a reporter:

“I am gratified to learn that my little talk of last Sunday and my rules of life amounted to something but I don’t rank as an evangelist and can’t follow that calling.”

Instead of leaving the diamond for the pulpit, Collins printed and had distributed to churches, several thousand copies of part of the talk, what he called “The Ten Rules of Life.”

Some reporters, including William Peet of The Washington Herald, referred to the list as “Collins’ Ten Commandments:”

First: Safeguard your honor

Second: Don’t overeat

Third: Be a good loser

Fourth: Smile

Fifth: Keep good hours

Sixth: Have courage to do right

Seventh: Don’t think you know it all

Eighth: Be prompt

Ninth: Don’t drink alcoholic drinks

Tenth: Think clean thoughts.

Collins’ statements about alcohol were used by various temperance organizations seeking prohibition.  Ads like the one below with quotes from Collins, Ty Cobb, and Connie Mack, and Admiral Robert Peary, as well as boxers Jess Willard, John L. Sullivan, and Joe Stecher appeared in newspapers and handbills distributed throughout the country.

temperance

Billy Evans’ Best Infielders

2 Jun

In his nationally syndicated column, Billy Evans was asked to pick the best 10 infielders he saw during his career as an umpire from 1906 to 1927. He said, “The period has been more productive in great infielders than stars at the other positions.”

billyevans

Billy Evans

Evans starting four were:

1B: George Sisler

2B: Eddie Collins

SS: Honus Wagner

3B Jimmy Collins

The other six were: Hal Chase, Napoleon Lajoie, Rogers Hornsby, Pie Traynor, Buck Weaver, and Roger Peckinpaugh.

Evans acknowledged:

“(A)t only one position do I feel safe against the opinion of fandom and critics and that is shortstop with Hans Wagner as the selection. The great Honus stands out at that position, a remarkably brilliant performer in all departments of the game. I cannot name anyone who quite compares with him.”

wagner2

Wagner

And despite his bias towards the American League, Evans said “Wagner is out if front of all” AL’s shortstops he saw “by a considerable margin.”

He said of his choice for Wager’s backup:

“Although Roger Peckinpaugh was anything but a slugger and couldn’t be rated as more than a fair hitter, I like him better than any other shortstop I have ever seen in the American League. Just as great a fielder as Wagner, one of the smartest players that ever stepped on a major diamond, and a dangerous hitter, particularly in the pinch.”

He said that with “three such sterling performers” at second base, some might disagree with him but:

“I have never seen a smarter player than Collins. On every club that he ever played he was the directing genius, the spark plug. Very fast, a great hitter, an awkward yet brilliant fielder.”

Evans said he picked Weaver as his third-string third basemen, however:

“Were it not for the fact that Weaver dropped out of baseball when he was at the peak of his career, he probably would have established a standard for third base play that would have given him the number one rating.”

buckweaver

Weaver

As for the choice at first base:

“(I)t is simply a matter of taking your choice between George Sisler and Hal Chase. Sisler was a trifle the better batter, Chase a bit better fielder. Sisler a trifle faster. I would give Sisler a slight edge although it might be possible for many to see an equal margin in favor of Chase.”

“The Realization of Their Carelessness”

1 Jun

After the 1910 season, Hugh Fullerton, writing in “The American Magazine” said baseball had no universal language.

“Each team has its different system of coaching, its different language of signs, motions, cipher words, or phrases, and no one man can hope to learn them all.”

Fullerton said the “worst of trying to study” the signs of various clubs was trying to track when they changed:

“If Arlie Latham jumps into the air and screams ‘Hold your base!’ it may mean ‘Steal second,’ today and tomorrow it may mean ‘Hit and run.’ One never can tell what a sign means. Hughie Jennings hoists his right knee as high as his shoulder, pulls six blades of grass and Jim Delahanty bunts. You are certain that Jennings signaled him to sacrifice, so the next day when Ty Cobb is bat and Jennings goes through the same motions, you creep forward and Cobb hits the ball past you so fast you can’t see it.

“If Connie Mack tilts his hat over his eyes and Eddie Collins steals second as the next ball is pitched, naturally you watch the hat, and lo, Jack Barry plays hit and run. You hear Clark Griffith yelp ‘Watch his foot!’ and see two of his players start a double steal. The next time he yells ‘Watch his foot!’ you break your neck to cover the base, and both players stand still.”

latham2

Arlie Latham 

Fullerton said most fans gave up trying to figure out signs but they “mustn’t do that. Someday right in the middle of a game, you’ll strike the key to the language and read through clear to the ninth inning.”

He compared that moment to getting “away one good drive,” in golf, “forever afterward you are a victim,” and can’t stop.

“Did you ever watch Hugh Jennings on the coaching line near first base during a hard-fought game? He doubles his fists, lifts one leg and shakes his foot, screams ‘E-yah’ in piercing tomes and stooping suddenly plucks at the grass, pecking at it like a hen. It looks foolish. I have heard spectators express wonder that a man of ability and nearing middle age could act so childishly. Yet hidden somewhere in the fantastic contortions and gestures of the Tigers’ leader there is a meaning, a code word, or signal that tells his warriors what he expects them to do.”

Jennings said of his signs:

“I change almost every day. I change every time I suspect there is a danger of the meanings being read. I am a believer in as few signals as possible and of giving them when they count, and I find that a lot of antics are effective in covering up the signals.”

Fullerton said Mack was “one of the most successful men” at “interpreting” opponents’ signs:

“Before the Chicago Cubs went into their disastrous series against the Athletics they were warned that if such a thing were possible Mack would have their signals. At the end of the game they called a meeting to revise signals, changing entirely, being certain the Athletics knew almost every kind of ball that was going to be pitched.”

Fullerton allowed that the Cubs instead might be tipping their pitches, because he was sitting with Ty Cobb during the series, and:

“(He) repeatedly called the turn on the ball that would be pitched before it was thrown, judging from the pitcher’s motion, and the Athletics may have been doing the same thing.”

Fullerton also said of the Cubs, that although they were “the cleverest baseball team in America, composed of smart men and a great manager, for years paid less attention to active coaching on the baselines,” than other teams.

“Possibly the reason was the confidence in their own judgment and their continued success, Frank Chance’s men made few blunders and the neglect was not noticeable, except to constant observers until 1908. Any player who happened to be idle went to the coaching lines and most of the time inexperienced substitutes did line duty. In 1908 during their fierce fight for the pennant, the realization of their carelessness was brought home to them and since then Chance has employed quick-thinking, clever men on the base lines, principally relying on (Ginger) Beaumont and (John) Kane.”

john kane

John Kane

Fullerton dated Chance’s new appreciation for competent coaching to July 17, 1908; that day the Cubs beat Christy Mathewson and the Giants 1 to 0 on an inside the park home run by Joe Tinker. Heinie Zimmerman was coaching third base for the Cubs.

The Chicago Inter Ocean described the play:

“Joe, the first man up in the fifth, hit one of Matty’s best as far as any ball could be hit in the grounds without going into the stands. Where the center field bleachers join the right field 25 cent seats is a V-shaped inclosure. Joe drove the ball away into this dent, and it took Cy Seymour some time to gather the elusive sphere. When Cy finally retrieved the ball, Tinker was rounding third.

“Zimmerman grasped this as the psychological moment to perpetrate one of the most blockheaded plays ever pulled off. He ran out onto the line and seized Joe, trying to hold him on third, when the ball was just starting to the diamond from deep center field. Joe struggled to get away, as his judgment told him he could get home, but Heinie held on with a grip of death. Finally, Tink wriggled away and started for the plate.”

 

heinie

Zimmerman

The paper said Tinker would have been thrown out had Al Bridwell’s throw to the plate been on target:

“Had Tinker been caught at the plate the 10,000 frenzied fans would have torn Zim limb from limb. Chance immediately sent Evers out to coach at third base and retired Zim to the dark confines of the Cubs’ bench.”

Thus, said Fullerton:

“Chance began to develop scientific coaching, and discovering its full value, took the lead in the matter, employing skilled coachers.”

“Almost Every Ballplayer has his Individual Superstition”

4 May

“Almost every ballplayer has his individual superstition,” said The Philadelphia Record in 1918:

On days when Cy Young pitched, “he would always see that the bat boy placed the bats with the handles towards the infield,” Young would not tolerate crossed bats.

“Christy Mathewson always placed his glove, face up, near the sideline, and would never allow anyone to hand it to him when returning to the box.”

Bob Harmon wore his hat crookedly on the right side of his head during his first big league win, and “always wore his cap on one side of his head when working.”

harmon

Harmon

Philadelphia’s two former aces, Chief Bender and Eddie Plank, had theirs:

“Bender always pitched his glove to the sideline as he walked out of the box, He never was known to lay it down. He would get his signal from the catcher and step into the box from behind and always right foot first…Plank would never warm up with a new ball on the days he worked. He always hung his sweater on a certain nail in the dugout and ‘woe be unto’ the player who moved it.”

Eddie Collins—arguably the most superstitious player among his contemporaries— “has a certain way to put on his uniform. He always dresses from his feet up.”

Johnny Evers—who believed himself to be one of the most superstitious among his contemporaries— “always believes that his club would win if he put one stocking on with the wrong side out.”

evers2

Johnny Evers

Napoleon Lajoie and Honus Wagner’s superstitions were tied to bats:

“Lajoie had a certain bat which he used in the game and under no conditions would he allow anyone to use it, for the reason that the player using it might get a hit which really belonged to the owner of the bat…Wagner would never allow a player or bat boy to make any move to disarrange the bats or to start putting them away until the last man was out in the last inning, no matter how the score stood.”

Prince Hal Chase, said the paper, believed he could not get a hit “unless he spits in his hands and touches his cap before a pitcher delivers a ball.”

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.”

“This Little Comedy of Superstition”

29 Jan

Billy Evans wrote a nationally syndicated column throughout his time as an American League umpire; he also wrote occasional articles for “St. Nicholas Magazine,” a monthly for children that operated from 1873 until 1943.

billyevans

 Evans

In the April 1914 edition, Evans told a story to illustrate how “Baseball players are perhaps the most superstitious class of people in the world.” Evans’ story was from the 1913 World Series:

“The Athletics, a team made up mostly of college men, and supposed to possess more intelligence than the average ball team, were the actors in this little comedy of superstition. For years the Philadelphia club stayed at the same hotel in New York, one very close to Forty-Second Street.”

Evans said Connie Mack decided:

“Perhaps it might be better to have the players stay at a hotel further uptown during the series. He thought his would enable the team to be free from the noise and excitement in the downtown hotels. Arrangements for the change had been practically completed when the players heard of the proposed shift.”

mack

Mack

Evans said the players met in small groups, then convened in one large group to discuss the move.

“Then the meeting ended, and one of the players, a college graduate, (likely the notoriously superstitious Eddie Collins) made his way to manager Mack. He called the latter aside, and advised him, in substance, as follows:

“’The boys understand that you intend changing hotels.’

“’Only During the World Series,’ answered Mack. ‘I thought they would like to get away from the noise and bustle,’

‘They have delegated me to request no change be made in hotels during the World Series.’”

collins2

Collins

Mack argued that the new hotel “far surpassed” the team’s current lodgings. The player responded:

“We have won several pennants, and always stayed at this hotel. When we beat the Giants for the World Series in 1911, we stayed at this hotel. And the boys would much prefer staying here during the present series. Most of them think a change in hotels would surely ‘jinx’ or ‘hoodoo’ them.”

Mack backed down, “Right here then is where we’ll stay.”

Said Evans:

“The player who had acted as a committee of one rejoined the others and made known the outcome of the conference. And then to justify their superstition, the Athletics went out and beat the Giants.”

“The most Aggravating Pitcher”

13 Jan

Louis Lee Arms, writing for The St. Louis Star in 1913, like many of his contemporaries, presaged the pitch clock when reporting on the ace of the Philadelphia Athletics pitching staff:

“The next time Eddie Plank pitches at American League Park many fans who desire to get home approximately during the same month that they started for the ball yard, so that their friends may not think they have been upon a European tour or some other long vacation, will forego the pleasure of watching even such  a brilliant baseball scientist as Plank in action.”

Arms called Plank “the most aggravating pitcher” in the league.

plank.jpg

“He draws himself within himself after the fashion of a mud turtle once he finds himself in a pinch and there is nothing but the shell.”

Arms said in his last start against St. Louis, Plank “consumed from thirty to sixty seconds” between each pitch:

“Plank’s reasoning is obvious. He figures that wit a man in the batting box anxious to hit, the longer he hesitates in throwing the ball the more perturbed and overwrought becomes the batsman, with the result that he cannot hit normally, highly psychological as anyone can see.”

plank2.jpg

Plank

Arms described Plank’s routine after a pitch:

“Receive the ball from the catcher.

Then drop it.

Rub dust on it.

Expectorate upon the glove.

Rub the ball vigorously upon the glove.

Turn and talk in an animated way to Eddie Collins.

Step upon the pitching slab facing the catcher.

Nod dissent to several signals.

Expectorate again upon the glove.

Nod an assent to the signal of the catcher.

Back off the pitching slab.

Pluck several blades of glass.

Walk up to it again.

Turn and gaze about the ball field to see that the outfield is properly placed.

Wave one outfielder into position

Make a sarcastic remark to the umpire.

Make ready to pitch.

Consume five seconds in looking steadfastly at the ground.

Pitch.”

Arms concluded:

“Exaggeration Not a bit of it. This is exactly what Plank did on several occasions Monday in the first and second innings when he was in a pinch.”

Plank slowly won 18 games and one more in the World Series for the World Champion Athletics.

When he died 13 years later, Umpire Billy Evans said of Plank’s routine:

“No pitcher in the history of the game ever kept the batter or umpire as much on edge.”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #37

24 Jul

The Science of Survival

Brian Bell was a sports columnist for The Associated Press before eventually becoming Chief of their Washington D.C. bureau.

In 1931 he related a story:

“(I)t was a dangerous strategy to place close in with (Napoleon) Lajoie at bat. Once when Cleveland was playing in Detroit. (Bill) Coughlin, the Tigers Third sacker, played in close with Bill Bradley up, for the Cleveland third sacker was adept at dragging bunts. Then when Lajoie came up, Coughlin retreated to a position well beyond third base for Nap could hit balls down the third base line as though the ball had been fired from a rifle.

“The fans razzed Coughlin, yelling questions at to him to whether there was any lack of courage in getting out of range of one of the big fellow’s bullet-like hits. Finally, Bill walked over to the foul line and help up his hand for silence. He got it.

‘”Ladies and gentlemen.’ He said, ‘I wish to make an announcement. This is a game of of science and skill, not bravery.’”

coughlin

Bill Coughlin

Jennings on Kauff

Benny Kauff was on his way to hitting .308 for the New York Giants in 1917, Hughie Jennings, the manager of the Detroit Tigers, told the Newspaper Enterprise Association was not impressed:

kauff.jpg

Benny Kauff

“(He) says Benny Kauff would bat about .250 if in the American League.

“’Kauff was a wise boy when he elected to go with the Giants,’ says Hughie.  There are a dozen, or more, outfielders in the American League who are far superior to him.  I could name any Detroit outfielder, two on the Chicago club, two with Cleveland, one with St. Louis, one with Philadelphia, one with Washington, three with Boston, and two with New York who are superior to him.’

“’Kauff is not a good hitter.  He is a fellow who stands up at the plate and slams away at the ball.  A wise pitcher would have him in the hole all the time.  The pitching in the American League is admitted to be much better than that served in the National; the fielding is also better.’”

Bill Klem’s All-Time All-Stars

Bill Klem had been a National League umpire since 1905 and had worked 17 World Series by 1939—he would work his final World Series in 1940.

The New York Daily News asked him that year to name his all-time all-star team—most interesting in where it varies from other such teams named by “experts” during that period.  The paper said:

“Bill still insists he never made a mistake, so this team must be right.”

Pitchers:

Carl Hubbell

Grover Cleveland Alexander

Walter Johnson

Mordecai Brown

Christy Mathewson

Catchers

Roger Bresnahan

Wilbert Robinson

Johnny Kling

Gabby Hartnett

First Base

Hal Chase

Second Base

Frankie Frisch

Third Base

Jimmy Collins

Shortstop

Honus Wagner

Utility Infielders

Eddie Collins

Bill Terry

Harry Steinfeldt

Outfield

Ty Cobb

Ginger Beaumont

Babe Ruth

Utility outfielders

Tris Speaker

Fred Clarke

“A Perfect Infield Machine”

8 Jul

In his column in Collier’s Magazine, Grantland Rice said their was a “heated argument” among experts as to whether the current infield of the Philadelphia Athletics—Stuffy McInnes, Eddie Collins, Jack Barry, and Frank Baker—or the recently broken up infield of the Chicago Cubs—Frank Chance, Johnny Evers, Joe Tinker, and Harry Steinfeldt—was  “the greatest infield that ever played.”

Rice took the question to Dan Brouthers, who:

“(H)as been a good bit closer to ringside and who should know.

“Daniel has been on some fair infields himself…He has played on the best and has seen the others pass in parade before him year after year.”

brouthers

Brouthers

Brouthers told Rice:

“Why, a choice between Cubs and Athletics for greatest infield? They were both good and the Athletics are still in business. But neither ranks as the best—not for me when I think of that Boston infield of 1897, with Fred Tenney at first, Bobby Lowe at second, Herman Long at short, and Jimmy Collins at third.”

Brouthers said the Beaneaters infield was:

“(T)he best combination of batting and fielding power, brains, speed, and smoothness. It has them all beaten, and I doubt if its equal will ever be gathered together again. There wasn’t an angle of the game at which they were not stars. They may have no more power than the Athletics four and but little more smoothness than the Cubs, but in the combination of all things that go to make up a perfect infield machine they must be set out in front of the others with something to spare.”

Brouthers said of the question of whether the Chicago or Philadelphia infield was better:

tecs.jpg

Steinfeldt, Tinker, Evers, and Chance

“As between the old Cub infield, now scattered to the eternal winds, and the Athletics quartet, the former was a smoother-running machine, but it lacked the crushing wallop which has always graced the Mackian avalanche. One had the edge in alertness, the other leads with the punch. Between these rival qualities the competition in the way of supremacy is still a matter for open debate.”