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Lost Advertisements: Big Six for Coke

14 Feb

bigsix1915

A 1915 advertisement:

“Big Six Drinks Coca-Cola–They’re fine teammates, these two–universally popular, always reliable, tested by time and proved good.”

After 12 straight seasons winning at least 22 games, Mathewson was on his way to a 8-14 record with a career high 3.58 ERA in 1915. Towards the end of that season he wrote in his syndicated column:

“Fans are enough interested in me to write and ask whether I think I am at the end of my days as a pitcher. Of course all big leaguers are optimistic when it comes to a question of age. And they are more sensitive about this than an unmarried lady over 35. But I don’t think this will be my last season in big league ‘spangles.’ Can’t a man who has been working it for fifteen years have an off summer once in awhile?”

Mathewson did return in 1916 at 35; he was 4-4 3.01 ERA in his final season with the Giants and Reds.

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.

“Fifty bucks, Buck”

10 Feb

Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Tribune called Buck Ewing “the greatest of them all,” after Ewing died in 1906.

Fullerton said, “Ewing stories will be told for generations,” and shared one about a bet with Mike “King” Kelly.

”It happened back in the days when the players of the different clubs were friendly and met at night to discuss and argue over their games instead of sulking separately and discussing their woes.”

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Ewing

He said that day, Kelly had stolen two bases “off the king of catchers,” and Kelly, “kept harping on it until Buck was a bit nettled.”

Ewing told Kelly:

“Well Mike, if Danny Richardson plays second tomorrow, I’ll bet you $50 you don’t steal a base.”

Kelly took the bet, and Fullerton said the following day “three or four of us who knew of the bet sat together in the stands.”

 

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Kelly

Kelly singled in the third inning:

“(O)n the first ball pitched; he tore for second with a fair start. Buck threw. The ball went like a shot, straight towards the bag, perhaps three feet up the line towards first, a perfect throw to catch any runner—except Kelly. Richardson got the ball five feet ahead of the runner. He was stooped over and swung his body quickly to tag Mike, he expecting the King to make one of his famous twisting slides. Instead, Kelly leaped, jumped clear over Richardson, and lighted flat on his back on top of second base.

“Above the roar of the crowd arose Kelly’s voice, and what he said was this:

“Fifty bucks, Buck.”

“That is something Mr. Chesbro”

5 Feb

In 1905, The Chicago Tribune promised readers that an interview would “Undoubtedly cause a sensation.”

The subject?

“Jack Chesbro for the first time tells of the ‘spit ball,’ by which he won forty-one victories last year”

According to The Tribune:

“All last summer Chesbro persistently refused to tell the secret. Manager Clark Griffith did not know how Chesbro got his control and scores of pitchers in the two big leagues vainly tried to emulate him.”

chesbro

Jack Chesbro

Chesbro attributed “over thirty of the forty-one victories” to his use of the spit ball, and the paper said:

“Many baseball pitchers will be surprised when they read Chesbro’s explanation, and, according to him, fans and experts who have thought they really knew something of the ball have been groping in the dark.

“The wetting of the ball by Chesbro is done simply and solely in order in order that the ball may slip off the index and middle fingers first and from the thumb last…It has been supposed that the spit ball must be pitched slowly. Chesbro, on the contrary, says the ball is only effective when pitched with speed.”

Chesbro told the paper:

“The spitball has come to stay and is easily the most effective ball that possibly be used. It is easy to pitch once you have acquired its secrets. I have never yet read an explanation of it that was anywhere near correct.”

Chesbro said he injured the fingers of New York’s catchers Deacon McGuire and Red Kleinow early in the season, but later he was able to let them know “just how far the ball would drop and whether it would drop straight or outside,” before throwing a pitch.

Chesbro said old time players would find the pitch impossible to hit:

“Cap Anson couldn’t hit the spitball in a hundred years. In fact, I would be willing to bet Anson couldn’t even catch it.”

Chesbro said Norwood Gibson of Boston had “better control of the ball” than any spitball pitcher he saw.  Chesbro said his wild pitch that “gave Boston the pennant” on the final day of the season was because “I simply put a little too much force on the ball,” and because Boston pitcher Bill Dinneen was throwing the spitball too, “so that it was slippery.”

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Norwood Gibson

Chesbro who had seen Elmer Stricklett throw the spitball in Sacramento in 1902 and again in the spring of 1904, said of the second encounter:

“It was down at New Orleans last spring. I saw Stricklett throw one, and I quickly said: That is something Mr. Chesbro, that you must acquire. I watched Stricklett closely and noticed how he wet his fingers. I did the same and soon discovered it was the thumb that did the work”

The Tribune sad Chesbro was spending the winter tending to “two of the fastest horses in western Massachusetts,” one purchased for him by Highlanders owner Frank Farrell which “bears the name spitball.”

After revealing the secrets of his spitball after his 41-12 season in 1904, Chesbro was 66-72 for the remainder of his career which ended in 1909.

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:

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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.

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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.”

“Her Pitching is Free, Easy, and Graceful”

31 Jan

“What do you think of a twirler who is a girl?” Asked The Brooklyn Citizen in 1906.

“Perhaps some day Cy Young and Christy Mathewson will give way to a pleasant faced young lady who will proceed to make the batters puncture the air with holes and simply froth at their inability to solve her delivery.”

moyer

The “pleasant faced young lady” was Carrie Moyer, the “daughter of a baker” from Macungie, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Allentown. Moyer had recently shut out a local semi-pro club “the strong Temperance team,” on just two hits over eight innings while pitching for the Allentown Moxies.

It wasn’t the first notice Moyer had received for her pitching ability; The Allentown Leader said earlier that summer:

“She has a deceptive delivery of curves and other ways of fooling a batsman. Her speed is remarkable for a girl and she seems not to mind the exertion necessary as a pitcher.”

The Washington Post described her curve ball:

“She gives to her ball a peculiar twist, which disconcerts a batter far more than the speediest straight-liner. Her pitching is free, easy, and graceful, and she possesses remarkable endurance.”

The paper quoted one of her opponents:

“Just when you have about measured the distance where you are going to land that ball, it is safe in the hands of the catcher.”

The Post also assured readers that Moyer was “not mannish in nature,” and “the last person in the world one would take as possessing any knowledge of the national game, much less playing it.”

Moyer was paid through the summer of 1906 to pitch for various semi-pro clubs in the area; The Citizen said the money was earmarked for tuition to “music school in New York.”

Moyer’s brother Willis was her usual catcher until he crushed his thumb in an accident in the family bakery in 1909; despite losing her catcher, she kept pitching.

Moyer left music school and later attended Hood College. The Baltimore Sun said shortly after she graduated from the school in June of 1912 that she “decided to abandon the game,” after she turned down an offer to pitch against a club in Frederick, Maryland.

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Moyer, 1935

After baseball, Moyer entered another male dominated field, and according to The Allentown Morning Call, in 1935, she was “one of the two women state fingerprint experts in the country.” Moyer was employed by the Bureau of Criminal Identification of the State of Massachusetts; ten years later she became supervisor of the Massachusetts Bureau of Criminal Investigations.

She died February 11,1979 at age 89.

“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.”

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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.”

“Take him out”

27 Jan

Stanwood Fulton Baumgartner pitched in parts of eight seasons for the Phillies and Athletics, then spent thirty years as a baseball writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Sporting News.

In 1945, he said his former manager Connie Mack:

“(I)s a kindly person. His 62 years in baseball have been marked by few displays of emotion.

“When the Athletics made their famous 10-run rally in the fourth game of the 1929 World Series he merely wigwagged his scorecard a bit faster. Even when Burleigh Grimes thumbed his nose at him in 1931, Connie merely smiled.

“Yet he once shook his fist at Babe Ruth—and that gesture cost him $5,000.”

Baumgartner said the story was about a young pitcher who, 1924 “(H)ad sold himself to Connie Mack,” after a successful minor league season in 1923.

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Stanwood Fulton Baumgartner

The pitcher, he said:

 “(W)asn’t a success. Every time he stepped out of the dugout fans would shout, ‘Take him out.’”

The pitcher “pleaded for one last chance,” before Philadelphia would have to pay the pitcher’s purchase price of $5000 if he stayed on the roster after May 30.

“That very morning, Mack made up his mind to send the young pitcher back to New Haven. He ordered a train ticket.

“Eddie Rommel was starting (the second game of a double header that day) for the Athletics. As Rommel started to warm up, the young left-hander went to his locker. There he found the ticket for New Haven.

“The young fellow felt a terrific emptiness. But he changed his shirt and went back to the bench.”

Early in the game, Baumgartner said Mack told the young pitcher he would take the mound if Rommel needed to be relieved.

The Yankees scored two runs in the fourth and sixth innings—including a Babe Ruth two-run home run—and Rommel was lifted for pinch hitter Paul Strand in the seventh, with Philadelphia trailing 4 to 1.

The young pitcher came out for the bottom of the seventh inning with the Athletics still trailing by three runs. He retired New York in order for two innings while Philadelphia scored four runs in the eighth on three singles and a Bing Miller home run off Sad Sam Jones.

With a 5 to 4 lead, Mack sent the young pitcher out for the ninth inning:

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Connie Mack

“Wally Shang, first Yank at bat in the ninth inning, fanned; then Everett Scott was caught at first for the second out (Baumgartner’s memory was faulty more than twenty years later, the contemporaneous account in The Philadelphia Record said Scott struck out, and Fred Hofmann was retired for the second out). The Athletics breathed a sigh of relief. Only one more man to go! But (pinch hitter) Joe Bush got a one-base hit. Then the left-hander hit Aaron Ward with a pitched ball; and Joe Dugan made first base after an easy grounder took a bad hop against Chick Galloway’s chest.”

Here again, Baumgartner’s memory was faulty.  Bush did single, but the next two batters were pinch hitter Wally Shang, who walked, then Dugan, who did not reach on error, but was hit by a pitch—Galloway’s error had come earlier in the game.

In any event, what Baumgartner recalled correctly was that the Yankees had loaded the bases trailing by one run, with Babe Ruth due up.

“As the Babe walked to the plate, a wave of futility engulfed the pitcher. Tomorrow, he knew, he would be back in New Haven—in the minors and oblivion.

With a shrug of despair, he looked at catcher Frank Bruggy for a signal. But Bruggy was looking for a sign from Connie to bring in another pitcher.”

Baumgartner said Mack stood up in the dugout, and the pitcher’s “heart sank,” but then:

“Connie did the most amazing this baseball fans had ever seen. He shook his fist at Babe Ruth. The pitcher watched that fist and a wave of confidence surged up within him. Now he saw only Ruth and his catcher.

“Bruggy signaled for a curve and Ruth swung and missed.

“Bruggy signaled for another curve. Again, Ruth swung; missed.

“The third pitch was a slower curve. Ruth swung with every ounce of his 220 pounds. There was click as the bat met the ball. But it was only the click of a foul ball. Bruggy smothered it in his glove for the third out, and the game was over.

“Hundreds of cushions whirled out of the stands onto the diamond. Connie Mack Draped his arm around the pitcher.

‘”Give me that ticket to New Haven,’ he whispered. ‘You won’t need it now.’

“That night Connie Mack made out a check to the New Haven club for $5000.

“How do I know? I was the pitcher”

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Baumgartner

Neither The Record nor The Inquirer mentioned the embellishments of Mack’s fist shake, the “Hundreds of cushions,” nor that Ruth’s strikeout was foul tip in their coverage of the game. He likely overstated his imminent return to New Haven as well—Baumgartner, although used sparingly,  had pitched well and won two games in relief before the May 30 game–—but what was true is he had learned to tell a good story in the intervening two decades.

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things, Bats

22 Jan

A New Bat

In 1906, The Chicago Daily News said:

 “The inventive genius of Americans finds its opportunities here and pitching machines and other contrivances are from time to time being brought forth and seeking to enlist the interest and endorsement of the professional and amateur players of the game.”

To that end, a Chicago man had made his contribution:

“The latest invention is that of a bat, the striking part of which has a covering composed of an inner layer of cloth cemented to the bat and an otter layer of rubber corrugated length wise.”

newbat

The Bat

The bat appears to have never been written about again.

Crawford’s Bat Sense

Tigers infielder turned umpire and writer George Moriarty said in 1926, that his former teammate Sam Crawford “was known among ballplayers as the best judge of a piece of wood,” in baseball.

moriarty

George Moriarty

Moriarty said players always asked Crawford’s opinion because “on site,” or sound, he could pick out a good bat:

“Claude Rossman (in 1908) then playing first base for Detroit, had just smashed a vicious drive to the outfield, and through his bat to the ground, saying ‘Boys, that’s some stick.’ Crawford, standing close by, heard the bat strike the ground, and remarked that it was cracked under the tape. To the other players the bat gave no evidence of having a defect when it hit the earth and, consequently, they thought that for once Sam was wrong.

“Rossman had used that bat for years, and the black tape around the handle appeared cemented to the bat from the constant use and the exposure to the sun.”

samcrawford

Sam Crawford

Rossman, said Moriarty, cut the tape off the bat to verify whether Crawford or his teammates were correct

“The result showed that Wahoo Sam was still supreme in his judgment of bats, as the club was cracked in four separate places under the tape.”

Reach Bats 1884

Al Reach, the National Association ballplayer turned sporting goods magnate told The Philadelphia Record in 1884 that it was already difficult for manufacturers to get enough material:

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Al Reach

“We can’t get enough of the wood we want for making baseball bats. The second growth of ash is the best, and that is hard to get. It comes from Wisconsin and Michigan and should lay a year to season after being out before it is used. To kiln-dry it makes the bats brittle. Our Red Band bats are made of the second growth of ash, and they have become very popular, although we turned out the first lot only last summer. There are two other styles of bats—the professional ash which was popular with professional players before the Red Band came out and the American Willow (really basswood) which sells best in country towns and goes in company with the cheaper class of bats.”

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Reach Red Band

Reach said, overall, the company turned out “between 600 and 900 gross” the previous year, or between 86,400 and 129,600 bats.

 

“A Gentleman in Every Sense of the Word”

20 Jan

“The upward climb of baseball as an honorable profession,” is how, in 1908, Bozeman Bulger described the transformation from the 19th Century game to the current game in The New York World.

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Bozeman Bulger

 

“Fans who have watched the championship games for the past twenty-five years often comment upon the fact that the ballplayer of today is so different from the product of the 80s. The difference lies in the fact that the present-day athletes of the diamond are vastly superior not only in ability, but in education and general culture. The average player that is seen every day on the diamond is a gentleman in every sense of the word.”

Not just that, said Bulger but in many homes of current players “can be found libraries,” and some “are really connoisseurs of art.”

Bulger’s example of the current, honorable player was New York Giants first baseman Fred Tenney, who told him:

fredtenney

Fred Tenney

“I have often been asked why I chose to be a ballplayer when I had several professions open to me. Some seem to think it is a downward to branch out into professional baseball. I always answer by saying that doctors, lawyers, bankers, and writers are plentiful, but in the entire United States there are not more than 200 first-rank ballplayers. They have scraped this country from Canada to the Gulf—even to the coal mines—with a fine-tooth comb, but they can find no more.”

Tenney asked Bulger:

“What profession can we find that is better for a man than baseball? It is both honorable and profitable, and that is why I am a professional ballplayer.

“Yes, I am a college graduate. I won my diploma from Brown University. I entered the national game knowing full well what I was doing, and I have never had a cause to regret it. The profession is not only honorable and profitable, but it is healthful. I have a little home at Winthrop, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston, and to be there with my wife and little girls after the season, I assure you, is a most happy existence.”

Bulger said he had visited Tenney at home earlier during the season, and observed:

“(T)he first baseman of the Giants is an artist as well as an athlete. He spends most of his leisure hours in water-color studies. Some of his pictures are not only clever, but show that he has made a thorough study of art.”

Tenney said he felt a need to “uplift” baseball:

“Of course, I know that the profession of ball playing has not been looked upon as one of the highest professions. May of our professions did not rank very high at the start…I regard it as quite an honor to be among the topnotchers in any profession that is honorable, and nothing pleases me more than to know that I am generally considered among those two hundred ballplayers who rank as first class.”