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“Matt Simply Wasn’t to be Toyed With”

15 Jan

“Matt simply wasn’t to be toyed with.”

William Wrothe Aulick of pitcher Matt Kilroy in The New York Mail in 1911.

Kilroy pitched from 1886 to 1898 for six clubs and his pick off move—now illegal—taking a step forward towards the plate and throwing underhand to first, was said to be the game’s best.

Matt Kilroy

“Matt was a left hander who added to the fame and games of the Louisville team many years ago. There was a prize hung up every game by the Louisville manager to be freely given to the player who succeeded in taking more than two steps off the bag while Kilroy was pitching.”

Aulick said, “nobody ever won the Louisville manager’s prize for defying Matt Kilroy.”

Kilroy’s best seasons were not in Louisville; he won 121 of his 141 major league games with the Baltimore Orioles in the American Association from 1886 to1889; he was 3-7 in just 13 games with the Colonels in 1893 and 1894.

Aulick said:

“Sometimes there would happen along a stranger player who didn’t know about Matt’s peculiar objection to base stealing. With Kilroy’s windup, Mr. Mark would move one step off the base. With Kilroy’s backward shift of his feet, preparatory for delivery, Mr. Mark would scoot two feet off first and look hopefully at second—and then zing! Mr. Player was caught…After awhile the other fellows grew wary and Matt had to work to keep in practice at his specialty. When you’ve been caught dead to rights every time you’ve tried to take even a most modest lead, you require caution.”

Kilroy, a Philadelphia native was close with Connie Mack, after he retired, The Philadelphia Inquirer said, “For several seasons, nearly every morning, Kilroy was out at the park teaching Mack’s pitchers how to hold the runner on first. Those who profited from his coaching in that line were (Eddie) Plank, (Chief) Bender, and (Jack) Coombs.”

When Lefty Grove walked 131 batters in 197 innings as a 25-year-old rookie in 1925, The Philadelphia Bulletin asked Kilroy to diagnose the problem:

“It comes from one source which he can correct easily. He doesn’t follow his pitch through. When he brings that long arm of his over his head, he doesn’t complete his pitch, but gets the ball away too quick. That makes him wild. But he’ll overcome that. When he does, he’ll be a corker.”

Kilroy operated a tavern adjacent to Shibe Park—he sold it in 1939 and it became the Deep Right Field Cafe. Kilroy died in 1940.

Frank Chance: “How I Win”

13 Jan

“I don’t know how I win. As a fact, I don’t care how I win, if I win, beyond winning by clean methods and not asking favors”

Said Frank Chance, as part of a series of syndicated articles by Chicago journalist Joseph B. Bowles which asked some of baseball’s biggest stars to talk about “How I Win.”

“It is all in the man himself. There are many great ballplayers who are not winning ballplayers…I know I go into a game confident of winning and the confidence never ends. The harder they beat us the harder I work and if a manager keeps working and fighting all the time his players will be with him. If he quits or weakens, his men will do the same. I try to get the best work out of myself and my players, to fight and keep fighting to the finish, and then try to forget the game and work for the next one.”

Frank Chance

He said remembering the previous day’s game “is a bad thing,” and explained how he prepared for games:

“The first thing to do is to study the weaknesses of the other club and to recognize its strength and then, allowing for its greatest strength and least weakness, to figure out how to beat it at its best.

“I make a close study of opposing pitchers and plan the attack upon the weakest point of the other team. I always give the opposing team credit for having brains enough to strike our weakest point and try to fortify that point by adapting the team work to the conditions.”

Chance said “the hardest work” of a manager was how to use pitchers:

“I want to know exactly the condition of the pitcher who is going to work, and if there are two or three in top condition, I study which one is best against the team we are to play.”

During a game, he said he tried “to outguess the other said all the time and to do things and have my men do things,” that would not be expected:

“I believe in taking chances at bat, in the field, and especially on the bases, and I think taking chances with men in games has won for me…I and my team have won because we have worked harder and more earnestly to win than other teams have. It isn’t ‘swelled headedness’ to say that. We have worked all the time and I believe that hard work and constant practice, condition and working together for the good of the team rather than for the good of ourselves, has been the secret of the past successes of the Cubs.”

Chance won his final pennant that season.

“My Pitching Stock Consisted Mainly in Speed”

11 Jan

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said in 1918, Silver King—Charles Frederick Koenig—had not attended a baseball game since his career ended 20 years earlier.

“That fact was brought out when his interviewer asked him to make a comparison of modern pitchers and pitching methods with those of his day. He has no particular reason for shunning ballparks, but merely says he has lost interest in the game.”

Silver King

His connection to baseball was limited to “the lots of McCausland Avenue, near his home, ‘Silver’ King may be found every Sunday morning ‘burning them over’ to the neighborhood youngsters.”

King said “there’s no telling” how long his career would have lasted if rosters were larger when he played:

“We seldom carried over 12 regular players on any club. With the pitchers, it was work about every third day or sometimes every other day. If you couldn’t stand that pace you didn’t hold your job, that’s all. And a lot of them couldn’t stand it. Pitchers with big physiques and iron constitutions we the rule then.”

King said:

“My pitching stock consisted mainly in speed. I threw some curves, but I never knew about such things as a spitball, a fade away, shine ball, and all those tricks…There were some great batters in my day. I used to have a lot of trouble Ed Delehanty, not to mention Dave [sic, Dan] Brouthers, Roger O’Connor [sic, Connor]…Later on Larry Lajoie broke in and you can take it from me, he knew how to slug the ball.”

King said he’d “never forget” his first World Series with the St. Louis Browns versus the Detroit Wolverines in 1887:

“It was sort of an exhibition series because we traveled around the circuit instead of playing the games in our home cities. There wasn’t much of a financial plum in those days. For the 15 games we played, the game receipts were about $40,000.”

King was bit fuzzy on his World Series memories. He said he appeared in seven games in 1887—he appeared in four.

King told the reporter:

“I believe I’ll lay off from work one day next season and go out and see this fellow (Grover Cleveland) Alexander pitch. I might learn something about the game, you know.”

King apparently didn’t make it to watch Alexander; twenty years later, his obituary in the Post-Dispatch said:

 “Following his retirement from the game, Koenig did not attend a major league contest.”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #44

7 Jan

Flint’s Hands

In 1896, Hugh Fullerton said in The Chicago Record:

“It is not hard to tell ‘Old Silver’ (Flint) is a ballplayer.”

Silver Flint

Fullerton told a story about how a train carrying the catcher and the rest of the White Stockings had derailed during their “Southern tour” the previous season:

“The train jumped the track and several of the passengers were injured. Silver stood near the scene of the wreck watching the proceedings, when one of the surgeons who had tendered his services caught sight of Silver’s fists.

“’Too bad, my man, too bad,’ said the man with the scalpel, ‘but both those hands will have to come off.’”

King Kelly told Fullerton that Flint “had to shake hands with the doctor before the latter would believe that Silver’s hands were not knocked out in the wreck.”

Young’s Perfect Game

In 1910, The Boston Post said Napoleon Lajoie asked Cy Young about his 1904 perfect game while the Naps were playing a series in Boston.

Cy Young

“’Oh,’ remarked Cy in that native natural dialect that six years’ residence in Boston did not change, ‘there ain’t nothing to tell. Nothing much at any rate. They just ‘em right at somebody all the time that was all. Two or three drives would have been good, long hits if Buck (Freeman) and Chick (Stahl) hadn’t been laying for ‘em. I didn’t know nobody reached first until we were going to the clubhouse. Then Jim (Collins) told me.’”

Young beat the Philadelphia Athletics and Rube Waddell 3 to 0 on May 5, 1904; the third perfect game in MLB history; the previous two had both taken place 24 years earlier during the 1880 season–making it the first one thrown under modern rules.

The box score

Cobb’s Base Stealing

 Before the 1912 season, Joe Birmingham, manager of the Cleveland Naps told The Cleveland News that Sam Crawford was the reason Ty Cobb was a successful base stealer.

“I haven’t made such a statement without considering the matter.”

Birmingham said:

“Put Sam Crawford up behind any one of a half dozen players in this league and their base stealing records would increase immensely…In the first place, every catcher is handicapped almost five feet in throwing to second when Sam is up. You know Sam lays way back of that home plate.

“A catcher would take his life in his hands if he dared get in the customary position behind the plate, for Sam takes such an awful wallop. Five feet doesn’t seem like a great distance, but when it is taken into consideration that a vast number of base stealers are checked by the merest margin of seconds, five feet looms up as considerable distance.”

Cobb

Then there was Crawford’s bat:

“(He) wields a young telegraph pole. There are few players in baseball who could handle such a club. And Sam spreads that club all over an immense amount of air. It’s usually in the way or thereabouts. At least it’s a factor with which the catcher must always reckon. Finally, Sam is a left-handed batter. Any time a pitcher hurls a pitchout to catch Cobb stealing the catcher is thrown into an awkward position. He can’t possibly be set for a throw. There’s another portion of a second lost.”

Cobb and Crawford were teammates from 1905 through 1917; Cobb led the league in steals six times during that period.

Sam Crawford

Birmingham’s overall point was to suggest that Joe Jackson, of the Naps, would be a better base stealer than Cobb:

“Joe has shown more natural ability during his first (full) year in the league than Cobb did.”

Birmingham said Jackson was as fast going from home to first as Cobb and “No one can convince me to the contrary.”

While he said Jackson did not get the same lead off the base as Cobb, he said:

“When that is acquired you’ll find little Joey leading the parade or just a trifle behind the leader.”

In 24 season Cobb stole 897 bases; Jackson stole 202 in 13 seasons.

“A New Era in the Sport”

6 Jan

“The baseball world is beginning to roll itself into its usual spring prominence, and while managers are busy signing the players assigned to them, the public is awaiting patiently the beginning of what is predicted will be a new era in the sport.”

O.P. Caylor’s prediction in The New York Herald was made before the National League began the 1892 season as 12-team league playing a split season after the collapse of the American Association, and Caylor sought out the opinions of several players, managers, and executives about the coming season; they shared their “sanguine feeling on their part in the success,” of the game.

O.P. Caylor

Brooklyn’s Dave Foutz said:

“I don’t believe it will be necessary to make any changes in the rules. We have got our hands pretty full with testing the policy of a twelve-club league and a double season without trying any new rules to perplex the public.”

Foutz said the league was now composed of “the twelve best cities in the country to play in, and the best players will be put in the field.”

Chris von der Ahe, owner of the St. Louis Browns said:

“While I opposed the twelve-club league when the idea was first broached, I feel now that the interests of baseball are best subserved by the new agreement.”

He said the dissolution of the Association benefitted his team:

“The St. Louis club is stronger than it ever was, and we will show the patrons of baseball all over the country a championship form.”

Harry Wright, manager of the Philadelphia Phillies said:

“Never in the history of baseball has the prospect for a successful season been brighter; never has there been such a perfect harmony among the baseball powers in this country. This fact, in my opinion, leads to the hope that the game of baseball will be revived to all its pristine glory.”

Harry Wright

Wright said he felt the distribution of American Association refuges had been “fair and equitable” and said:

“As far as the two-season idea is concerned I believe it will be a success, and I think that the public generally will watch the finish each time with the same intense interest that has marked the great and close finishes of the past.”

New York Giants manager Pat Powers said:

“This twelve-club league, it strikes me, will be a decided success. Coming, as it does, in a presidential year is very fortunate.”

His rationale was that during every other presidential year “interest in baseball would decrease” as the election drew closer, and the new league format would mitigate that loss of interest.

Powers said the “twelve most representative cities “ were included and “the different clubs are composed of the very best players of the baseball profession.”

Powers said the split season would “keep the public interested,’ the larger league would be successful, and “the game will boom.”

Charles Byrne, the President of the Brooklyn club said the split season would allow fans to “witness the most exciting finish es baseball has yet known.”

The Boston Beaneaters won the first half, the Cleveland Spiders the second; Boston beat Cleveland five games to none for the championship.

Foutz and Byrnes’ Brooklyn Grooms finished third, Wrights’ Philadelphia Phillies fourth, Powers’ New York Giants eighth, and von der Ahe’s Browns 11th.

The split season was dropped before the 1893 season.

“When Baseball was in Swaddling Clothes”

4 Jan

William “Billy” McMahon was a member—and for a time captain—of the Mutual Club of New York from 1859 to 1870, he later became a successful businessman, owning a “Concert saloon” called the Haymarket in at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Thirtieth Streets in Manhattan’s Tenderloin District. McMahon’s establishment was so popular that his obituary estimated his net worth at $500,000.

1864 Mutuals–McMahon is fours from the right.

McMahon was also a volunteer firefighter, and in that capacity, in 1887, joined the New York Veteran Fireman’s Association on a cross country trip, which stopped in Chicago in September–a reporter for The Chicago Daily News, hearing of McMahon’s baseball past, sought him out.

“’What’s that? Baseball! Bless me, I’ve almost forgotten the game. Who told you I knew anything about baseball? Listen to this young fellow, boys.”

The reporter had been tipped off about McMahon by Tom Foley; Foley played with the 1871 Chicago White Stockings and lived in the Chicago suburbs:

“Tom Foley told you! Where in the name of all that’s sacred is Tom? Tom Foley! Why great thunder! I thought he had gone under.”

Foley

McMahon was 58 years old and described as “a smooth-faced, gray-haired, pleasant, jovial old gentleman.”

He said:

“Well, well, who’d a thought it! To come way out here to Chicago to be asked about baseball! But I can tell you something about the old days and the players, that’s a fact. Let’s see—it was in ’52 when I first got to be some pumpkins as a ballplayer. That was the time when baseball was in swaddling clothes and needed a nurse.

“The only two clubs then in existence were the Knickerbockers and New Yorks, afterward called Gothams. You know—but of course you don’t know, young man—but I’ll tell you. There were no (set number of) innings in those days. No, sir…Twenty-one aces counted a game, and the club which made them first won.”

McMahon said when he began playing in 1852 for the Gothams, he was working as a “butcher boy, stout, strong and active, and oh, how I could run and chase a ball, and the old man rubbed his legs most tenderly as a spell of deep thought came over him and the old days passed in review before his fancy.”

He said he played shortstop in one of the 1852 games against the Knickerbocker’s at Red House Grounds—the teams played two games that year at the Harlem location which also was the sight of a racetrack. His recollection of the result differs from the available information about the game(s).

“Well, the Knickerbockers won the toss, and, unlike the practice now-a-days, took the bat. They made five runs and we followed with three. The next time we skunked ‘em, and in two more ties at bat we made 21 aces and won the game.”

McMahon claimed after that single game in 1852, until he joined the Mutuals in 1857.

He recalled coming to Chicago with the team in 1870 to play the White Stockings on July 23; by that year, according to The Chicago Tribune McMahon was “business manager, and substitute in case of need.”

He did not play in the game but recalled “(we) made the great and first record of scoring 9 to 0, and from this game came the expression “Chicagoed,” which I understand, is used to this day when a whitewash is affected.”

And McMahon, like so many to come, decried the decline in the quality of the game from his time:

“(B)ut the baseball today ain’t a marker of that of twenty-five years ago. Why, what catcher could have stood behind Johnny Hartfield [sic, Hatfield]…whose throwing record at Hartford has never been beaten,”

Hatfield threw a ball 382 feet six inches on July 10, 1868—but it happened in Cincinnati, not Hartford as McMahon recalled.

The current pitchers, he said:

“(F)ire in the ball overhand as though they meant to commit murder. No, no; gimme the good old underhand throw, lots of hitting and lots of pretty fielding. That’s your game for fun. I stand now ready now to gamble $500 to $1000 that the clubs of today, using the same lively, half rubber ball we used, cannot excel the good score we made in the old days.”

McMahon sent his “regards to the white Stockings,” then the “fireman moved away with his comrades.”

McMahon continued to operate the Haymarket until selling it in 1890, The New York Journal said, “He never interfered with the crooks, but it was distinctly understood that there must be no crookedness carried on within his walls.” The New York Times was less charitable and said, “some of the worst characters in police annuls had the run of the place.”

“He died in 1898.

“Mr. Cleveland Treated me Tiptop”

31 Dec

O. P Caylor of The New York Daily News said of seeing Cap Anson at the National League winter meeting after the 1893 season:

“He looked so young, fresh, and skittish that I had the temerity to ask him to tell me in confidence just what his age, according to the records I the family Bible, was:

Anson replied:

“Now look here, young man, I’m going to tell you a story about my father.”

Cap Anson

Anson’s father Henry was the first European settler in Marshalltown, Iowa in 1851; the following year, Cap was the first child to born to settlers in the town. Anson said:

“He has lived there a good many years and in that time has contributed largely to Marshalltown’s fame by gifts of several kinds, including a boy who knows a little about playing baseball.

“Well, now pop is a rip-roaring Democrat and always has been. Therefore, we all think he should be recognized by the present administration in Washington. So we persuaded him to put in a claim for the Marshalltown (postmaster), and he did.”

Anson said he met with President Grover Cleveland twice while in Washington, “in the old man’s behalf, and each time Mr. Cleveland treated me tiptop.”

Grover Cleveland

Anson said the president:

“(T)alked baseball fluently and promised to consider the old gentleman’s political claims with due regard.”

Despite his positive meetings with the president, Anson said he learned that “some of pop’s enemies” were using his age to try to persuade the president to not appoint the elder Anson.

“I telegraphed to him, ‘They say you are too old.’ This is what he replied, ‘I am not a kid, nor am I decrepit, but I don’t ask any concessions from any blankety blank blank on account of age, and don’t you forget it.’

“Now, that was pop’s reply to the charge that he was too old, and I guess the same answer will do for me.”

Anson’s father was never named postmaster of Marshalltown.

“The Reformation of Rube Waddell”

30 Dec

After the Browns purchased Rube Waddell from the Athletics in 1908, The St. Louis Star implored its readers:

“Absolutely refuse to buy a drink for Rube Waddell, lead him not into temptation.

“Each and every fan in St. Louis should use his influence and good offices to keep Rube straight.

“No bartender or saloonkeeper should sell Waddell a drink under any pretext whatever.

“No one should offer ‘Baseball’s Buffoon’ any beer or whiskey.”

Rube

Fans, the paper said, thought they, “must show their gratitude to players and loyalty to the club by getting the diamond artists drunk.”

If all of St. Louis came together, the paper said:

“If you do your duty, next fall a sensational melodrama will be staged entitled ‘The Reformation of Rube Waddell.’”

While Rube had not yet arrived in St. Louis, The Star decided by April 1 that Waddell had found the cure:

“’Mother’s angel child’ could not be a more perfect little gentleman.

“How was the ‘reformation of Rube Waddell’ accomplished?

“Papa (Jimmy) McAleer, a stern father, has worked wonders.

“Under his management. Rube has been the best-behaved little boy in the entire camp.

Not once has he broken loose and set about to ‘lap up all the booze’ in Shreveport.”

So complete was his ‘reformation,’ said the paper that:

“Sober and sedate, Rube now reviews complacently the days when he was ‘the village cut-up’ and ‘hell-raiser.”

Clark McAdams who wrote a humor column for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch suggested a scenario where the city’s leaders would get together and grant Waddell free fishing privileges in St Louis’ Forest Park:

“This should be easily arranged. While we do not permit fishing in the park, there is a fish hatchery there, and the fishing must compare very favorably with any in the world. I am sure no one with the welfare of St. Louis at heart would object to letting Mr. Waddell fish there.”

The efforts—real and imagined—of the people of St. Louis and McAleer to keep Rube in check seem to have paid off.  The 31-year-old was 19-14 with a 1.89 ERA for the resurgent Browns who improved from 69 and 83 in 1907 to 83 and 69 in 1908; attendance at Sportsman’s Park increased by nearly 200,000 with an effective, generally sober, Rube.

“His Jealousy Would Break Forth Violently”

28 Dec

“Ball orchards are the favorite breeding places of green-eyed monsters.”

So said Hugh Fullerton in The Chicago Herald in 1907.

Jealousy among players, he said often resulted in “ludicrous situations” on baseball teams.

“One of the funniest instances that ever came to my notice happened when (Cap) Anson was running the Chicago club.”

Hugh Fullerton

He said that spring Anson had brought in enough pitchers to fill “the whole West Side park.”

One of them was Walter Thornton, who Anson sent to the mound one day:

 “The big fellow was one of the best natural hitters…besides pitching fair ball he rammed out four hits.”

The response:

“The other candidates sat on the benches and looked at each other anxiously as Thornton banged the ball around the lot, and every hit he made caused them deeper woe.

“That evening, just as the sun was setting, a delegation of Cub pitchers slipped out to the clubhouse, ravaged Thornton’s locker, took out his bats, secured (groundskeeper) Charlie Kuhn’s saw and proceeded to saw up every bat Thornton owned.”

Then, said Fullerton, there was the case of, “Little Tommy Hess.”

As a 16-year-old, Hess got into one game for the Baltimore Orioles in 1892:

“There were two other catchers on the team (Wilbert Robinson and Joe Gunson) both veterans, and they would have lost an arm before they would have let Tommy have a chance. He sat on the bench week after week, eager and ready to jump in and prove his worth.

“Finally, he thought his day had come. One of the catchers had been laying off with a split hand—and the other was working. A foul tip in the first inning of the game put the catcher out of business. Before (manager Ned) Hanlon could say a word, Hess had on a protector and was starting for the plate, when the man with the split hand grabbed the mask and protector from him and went in. That broke Hess’ heart.”

Hess played pro ball for another 19 years but never again reached the major leagues.

Fullerton said one of his favorite subjects—Bill Lange—was the object of jealousy during his time in Chicago:

“It is a hard thing to prove, but there are cases where a man on first signaled the batter to hit, as he was going to steal, and then the batter deliberately let the ball go and the runner be thrown out at second. This happened on the old Chicago club so many times that Anson was forced to put one player on the bench for ‘double crossing’ Lange to let him be caught stealing.”

Bill Lange

In Fullerton’s last example he failed to mention the player in question, but it was likely John O’Neill, an outfielder with the 1906 World Series Champions:

“There was a certain outfielder on the White Sox team not long ago who was jealous of (outfielder/manager Fielder) Jones. The man should have been a great ballplayer, but because of his disposition more than anything else, he fell short of being great.

“When this man was not hitting well, he quit…he would let Jones race across his field and get flies and never move. But when that fellow began to get base hits and move up in the batting average, his jealousy of his manager would break forth violently. His criticisms of Jones were bitter, and he refused to permit the manager to take one step into his territory to get a fly ball.

“The beauty of Jones’ character was never better shown than during those times.”

Fielder Jones

O’Neill appeared in 94 games for the 1906 Sox, hitting .248.  Jones used him in only one game during the World Series and O’Neill never played in the major leagues again—spending the last four seasons of his career in the American Association.

“An Awkward Bunch of Monkeys”

24 Dec

Arlie Latham was the oldest living former major leaguer in 1951—the 91-year-old made his major league debut 71 years earlier.

Will Grimsley of The Associated Press tracked down “The Freshest Man of Earth” and had him pick his all-time all-star team:

“(Latham) has seen them all from Cap Anson right down to Joe DiMaggio and Stan Musial.

“’It is tough picking this team,’ said the thin, bent old infielder of baseball’s cradle days, whose memory is still razor-sharp. ‘There are so many good players—so many, especially today.”

Unlike many 19th Century veterans, Latham only selected three players whose careers began before 1900. He said:

“I think the players today are far better than back in the old times. Why, on the whole there is no comparison. Where we had one or two stars on a team back then today every man has to be standout to hold his position.”

Latham at 91

Latham’s team:

P: Cy Young, Rube Waddell, Carl Hubbell, Christy Mathewson

C: Bill Dickey

1B: Bill Terry

2B; Frankie Frisch

#B: Pie Traynor

SS: Honus Wagner

OF Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Joe DiMaggio

Latham called Cobb, “the greatest all-around player there was.”

He gave Terry the nod over Lou Gehrig because “he was a smoother fielder.”

Buck Ewing was the only catcher “he’d mention in the same breath” as Dickey.

He said “it was hard” to keep Walter Johnson off.

Of his own career, Latham said:

“I was the best man of my day at getting out of the way of a hard-hit ball.”

Arlie Latham

He called the players of his era, “an awkward bunch of monkeys.”

Latham died the following year at age 92.