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“Spalding Should Never Permit a Chicago Audience to be so Insulted Again”

20 Mar

George Van Haltren didn’t instantly live up to his billing.

The 21-year-old, then pitcher, had finally decided to leave California in June, after the death of his mother—he had refused to come East for more than a year while his mother was ill. His refusal to come to Chicago had resulted in threats of being blacklisted from White Stockings’ owner A. G. Spaulding.

The Oakland Tribune said Van Haltren’s current club, the Greenhood and Morans had offered him $300 a month to stay in California.

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Van Haltren

The impending arrival of Van Haltren was big new in the Chicago papers.  With the team struggling in fourth place, The Chicago Daily Journal said Van Haltren was “depended upon to help (John) Clarkson and (Mark) Baldwin boost the club.’ The paper left readers with high expectations:

“Two years ago he commenced playing ball as a catcher, but after a year at the receiving end of the battery, he decided it was better to give than to receive…In his first four games he struck out 55 men; in a game a little later he struck out three consecutive batters on nine pitched balls, and in another game he made a record of 19 strike outs in a nine inning game.”

Van Haltren’s arrival for his start, against Boston, was greeted with fanfare and received as much coverage in West Coast newspapers as in Chicago.  The scene, described by The Oakland Tribune:

“Eight thousand people witnessed the game.  The Chicagos marched on the diamond with Van Haltren and Captain Anson in the lead, then followed by the band and th other players of the club.  When they arrived at the home plate Anson and Van Haltren took off their caps, and the latter was loudly cheered.”

The Chicago Tribune said Van Haltren was sharp for four innings, striking out the first batter he faced:

“(He) retired Joe Hornung on strikes and the crowd manifested its pleasure.”

The Beaneaters scored two unearned runs in the first, but the White Stockings responded with five in the first and scored two more runs in the third.  Through four innings Van Haltren allowed just one hit.

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Van Haltren

The Boston Globe said what came next:

“Spalding’s wonder, the famous left-handed pitcher Van Haltren, the terror of the Pacific slope, made his debut as a league pitcher and for four innings he was a king with the crowd. After that he lost all control of the ball and all the Bostons had to do to get to first was to wait for five balls.”

Beginning in the fifth, Van Haltren “sent 14 men to first on balls, besides hitting four with the ball, and (Tom) Daly, who caught him for the first time, saved him about 10 wild pitches.”

The Chicago and California papers saw Van Haltren’s implosion differently—they blamed umpire Herm Doscher.  The Chicago Tribune said:

“Not only was his judgment on balls and strikes miserable, but he lacks a knowledge of the rules of the game.”

The Chicago Inter Ocean (which estimated the crowd at 7,000, not 8,000) said fans “witnessed the rankest case of robbery by an umpire that has ever taken place in the city. President Spalding should never permit a Chicago audience to be so insulted again.”

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Doescher

The Oakland Tribune called Doscher “Incredibly unfair and incorrect,” and The San Francisco Examiner claimed Doscher was confused by Van Haltern’s curve ball:

“Doescher’s [sic] decisions of balls were drawn from the direction of the ball when at least three feet away from the plate, losing all sight of the ultimate course of the curves at the vital spot.”

Even The Boston Post agreed that Doscher’s umpiring was “erratic” and that he participated in “bad discrimination against Van Haltren.”

Despite his meltdown—or Doscher’s incompetence—Van Haltren entered the ninth with the game tied at 11.

The Beaneaters scored six runs in the ninth after three walks—The Chicago Daily News said, “fully one-half the balls called on Van Haltren should have been strikes.”  Van Haltren was also rattled by second baseman Fred Pfeffer’s second error of the game and two hits—or as The Chicago Tribune put it:

“(Edward ‘Pop’) Tate got his base on balls after Van Haltren had struck him out fairly; (Michael ‘Kid’) Madden was hit by the ball and given his base; Pfeffer’s error gave (King) Kelly first and filled the bases.  Then (Bobby) Wheelock was given his base on balls after about six strikes.”

Having given up the lead, Van Haltren then gave up a triple to Boston’s Bill Nash, Nash scored on a single by Ezra Sutton and the Chicago went down in order in the ninth.

The phenom left-hander from California lost his first game 17-11, walked 16 and hit three batters.

The Oakland Tribune said:

“A correspondent saw Captain Anson and was informed the management of the White Stockings were perfectly satisfied with the new pitcher, who, considering all circumstances, made a good showing as a National League player.”

Anson started Van Haltren in right field the following day and thought enough of him to use him in relief of John Clarkson in the seventh inning, The Chicago Daily News said of his second stint on the mound:

“(He) did remarkably well, staking out such batsmen as Hornung, Nash and Johnson.  The general opinion here is that when he becomes used to Eastern ways, he will prove the best pitcher of the year.”

Van Haltren did not prove to be “pitcher of the year,” he finished 11-7 with a 3.86 ERA, but walked just 50 batters in 152 innings after walking 16 in his first nine.

But he was treated like the “pitcher of the year” when he returned home.

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Van Haltren

The San Francisco Examiner said:

“George Van Haltren is, beyond all question entitles to rank as the premier pitcher of California, and the most invidious of our Eastern friends will not begrudge us the right to boast a little about the stalwart young fellow who has done so much in the East to puzzle the crack batsmen beyond the Rockies, and at the same time prove to the older but not more progressive East what kind of products we raise here in California…It is believed that The Examiner’s readers will agree that a finer specimen of young America, of Californian or any other growth, than George Van Haltren would be hard to find.”

Van Haltren never excelled as a pitcher but became one of the best leadoff men of the 19th Century.

“He has not a Single Friend on the Team”

18 Mar

Having been called “The greatest team ever organized,” by The Chicago Tribune, the 1890 Chicago Pirates of the Players League turned out to be one of the biggest disappointments in baseball history, finishing fourth in the eight-team league.

The club suffered from a “lack of discipline” according to The Chicago Times. Charlie Comiskey was cited often for his inability to maintain order on the team. The most glaring, and most reported example took place on September 4.

The Pirates, 11 1/2 games out of first place, were playing the Pittsburgh Burghers.

The Pittsburgh Press said:

“Jimmy Ryan and Tip O’Neill, two of the Chicago Players’ League club outfielders, had an animated spat after Ryan had been retired at third base…Jimmy claimed that Tip had not coached him properly, and made use of some very offensive language. He then turned round to Comiskey, who had been an eyewitness to the whole proceeding, and with an oath said that unless O’Neill was laid off that he—Ryan—would lay himself off.”

The Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette said the incident was “one of the dangers” the papers had warned of when speaking against the formation of the Players League:

“(S) of the players might take advantage of a condition of affairs brought about by the brotherhood movement, and, with and idea that they had as much to do with the running of things as anybody else, refuse to submit to necessary discipline.”

Comiskey immediately suspended Ryan and told him to return to Chicago.

“Jimmy was accordingly paid up to date and furnished with a ticket for the Windy City.”

The Press said Ryan’s teammates applauded the move:

“’You have no idea of how mean that fellow Ryan has been this year,’ said a Chicago player. ‘He has not a single friend on the team today. He is a good ballplayer, he does not drink and no man on the team takes better care of himself then the same Ryan. He has a bad attack of his old complaint, the swelled head. Comiskey has been very lenient with him and he has been playing good ball.”

Ryan was the team’s leader in batting average and RBIs at the time, but Comiskey vowed to make an example of his best offensive player in order to restore discipline, and had no problem calling out a few others, although not by name.

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Comiskey

He told The Chicago Inter Ocean:

“Yes, I am through with this man and he will not play under me any longer. He has been trying to have his own way on everything. There are three or four men in this club whom I have been compelled to take, and they have an idea that they can run things to suit themselves.”

Comiskey said Ryan “acted very ungentlemanly” and blamed the play at third on him. He said Ryan was thrown out because he failed to slide, but none of the news reports mentioned whether O’Neill told him to slide.

Comiskey stayed true to word that he was “through” with Ryan—until 11 days later, when the Pirates returned to Chicago from their road trip.

Ryan was back in the lineup for the second game of a September 15 double-header with the Buffalo Bison.

The Tribune said:

“When the second game was called, Jimmy Ryan appeared to take his place at center. He was warmly received and responded by hammering the ball around in desperate fashion.”

Ryan was 3 for 4 with a triple in a 7-3 Chicago victory and continued to hit for the last two weeks of the season; he led the Pirates with a .340 average and 89 RBIs.

“The greatest team ever organized,” was broken up when the Players League folded after their inaugural season. Ryan returned to the Chicago Colts. Comiskey and O’Neill went back to the St. Louis Browns.

Bill Lange’s Chicken

15 Mar

Bill Lange had his best season in 1895—he hit .389, stole 67 bases, drove in 98 runs and scored 120—but he was sure he had found the secret for an even better season for him and the fourth place Chicago Colts for 1896.  The San Francisco Call broke the story:

“Bill Lange the big centerfielder of the Chicagos, now spending his vacation with his people at 415 Spruce Street, has a four-legged chicken, which is alive and well, and which he intends to take East with him in March as a mascot for his club.”

The Chicago Post expounded on Lange’s discovery:

“(A) mascot the like of which was never before seen on a ball field.  It is a four-legged chicken which Lange secured out of a crop of 13 eggs set to hatch in the dark of the moon…This wonderful chicken is an ordinary fowl in all respects, except that to it’s under parts are attached four instead of two legs.”

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Lange

The paper said:

“(Lange) is certain that his chick will turn out to be a rooster, and if it does, he proposes to train it to crow whenever the club wins.

“Should it prove a hen he will have it lay an egg and cackle when victory perches Chicago’s banner.  Lange’s chicken is sure to win the championship.”

The Chicago Tribune said Lange stayed in San Francisco with his chicken—he also coached baseball at Stanford University–past the March 5 “expiration of the time limit” to sign his 1896 contract.

Lange held out for seven more days, finally signing on March 12.  The Tribune said:

“The question as to whether he would attach his name to a Chicago contract was in doubt for some time…He of course made a strong bluff (to not sign) by demanding a salary far in excess of that of anybody on the team, not excepting (Cap) Anson.  He could not be censured for that, as he was looking out for his own interests.”

Lange joined the Colts in Galveston, Texas.  The Tribune said, “He is in gilt-edge condition.” But The Post reported tersely:

“Big Bill Lange’s mascot, the four-legged chicken he picked up in San Francisco, is dead.”

There was no further mention of Lange’s chicken or how he reacted to the death of the mascot.

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Bill Lang, seated fourth from left, with 1896 Chicago Colts

Lange his .326 with 84 stolen bases, drove in 92 runs and scored 114, and the chicken-less Colts finished fifth.

“Who’s the Greatest Ballplayer that Ever Lived?”

13 Mar

In the 19th Century, conversations about baseball in hotel lobbies

The Chicago Daily News shared one such discussion in 1896:

“’Who’s the greatest ballplayer that ever lived?’ Demanded the old ball crank of the gathering at the hotel.  And there were, straightaway, almost as many opinions as there were gentlemen in the party.”

A man in town on business said:

“To my mind, Anson outranks them all.  When you consider the wonderful grip which Anse has retained on the sport for all these twenty-five tears, when you take into consideration his qualifications as a player and as a man, his work as a leader and a general, the great batting he has always done every little point that can be recalled about both uncle and the game, I can’t see where any other player, living or dead, ranks with Anson.”

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 Anson

The paper said there were murmurs, then the night clerk weighed in:

“Mike Kelly was his ideal.

“‘Poor old Mike,’ said he, ‘had baseball genius and brilliancy to an extent never paralleled.  He had the mind to originate, the ability to execute.  He was, in the hearts of the masses, what John L. Sullivan was to pugilism.  Remember the tricks he worked, the batting and the base running he did, and the way in which he filled every position—remember only his methods of play, if you will, and then see if any one can compare with poor dead King Kel!’

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 Kelly

The “theatrical man” in the group said:

“’Bill Lange is the best that ever came down the road.  Who is there who does not like to see Lange play ball? What other player in the league, taking batting, base running and fielding into account, is as of as much value as Lange? What club would not eagerly give him the best position and the best salary it could command?  Bill Lange is destined to leave a mark in baseball history as deep as that Mike Kelly made, and future generations will speak of him as they do of Kelly now.’”

Then the “Old baseball crank” spoke up:

“’To my mind gentlemen, the greatest player of them all was Charlie Ferguson of Philadelphia.  There was a man who never realized how good he was.  When it came to effective playing, in any position, Ferguson was the man who could step into the gap so well that the regular man would never be even missed.  He could kill the ball, he was fast on the bases, and we all know he could pitch.  And the head that Charlie Ferguson wore was as good a head as ever decorated any player’s shoulders.  I saw hundreds of great players before Ferguson came, I have seen hundreds since he died, but I never to my mind at least, have seen his equal.’”

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Ferguson

The assembled men said the paper, “remembered the time of Ferguson,” with “nods and mutterings of assent,” thinking of Ferguson’s four seasons in Philadelphia—he died just 12 days after his 25th birthday in 1888.

 “Jim Hart, who ought to be a good judge of players, thinks Ferguson the greatest that the world has ever known. A canvass of ball cranks would probably show sentiments about equally divided between Ferguson and Mike Kelly.”

The paper concluded that there were, and would be, “few such popular idols” as Kelly and Ferguson:

“The increased batting has, queer as it may seem, done away with hero worship.  In the old days hits were few and the man who could step up and kill the ball was a popular king.  Nowadays the fact that nearly everybody is apt to hit takes away the individuality and accompanying romance of the great isolated sluggers.”

The paper said Lange was one of the few contemporary players who “comes as near being the subject of hero worship,” as players in previous years and that there were only players who had that impact in their own cities:

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Lange

“(Jesse) Burkett might be worshipped in Cleveland for his grand batting, but is handicapped by morose, unsociable ways.

‘(Jimmy) McAleer’s fielding would make him an idol, but his batting is pitifully light.  Baltimore’s great hero is Hughey Jennings, and the cranks treat him as though he owned the town. Brooklyn has no heroes.  There is nobody on the Boston nine whom the crowd raves over, even Hugh Duffy having lost his grip.”

“Eddie Burke and Charlie (Dusty) Miller have great followings in Cincinnati.  Louisville dotes on (Charlie) Dexter and Fred Clarke.  New York is idolless.  Philadelphia gives ovations to the whole team as a matter of principle but singles out no player.  Pittsburgh is the same way.  There is nobody at St. Louis or Washington whom the crowds adore.”

“I am a Perfectly Harmless House-Cat Sort”

11 Mar

In 1914, an “as told to” story about Ty Cobb appeared in the magazine section of several Sunday papers which were part of The Associated Sunday Magazines syndicate.

The writer, Edward Lyell Fox, was one of the most famous journalists of the decade, but just four years later his career ended in scandal.  Fox was sent to Germany to cover the war for the Hearst newspapers, but in 1918 he was accused of writing “propaganda stories” for the German government—Fox’ career was ruined, and he was the subject of Congressional hearings, although the charges were never substantiated.

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Fox

Some of the stories from the Fox piece appear in the rare 1914 book “Bustin’ ‘em” “by” Cobb, although Fox is not credited.

Cobb told Fox:

“I think I have more trouble with crowds than any other ballplayer. This is due to the fact that when I broke into the big leagues, I was pretty young and had a tempter that was too quick for my own good.  Only in later years have I successfully curbed it.  But the crowds remember those flare ups of the past. Then my manner on the field is aggressive. It’s part of my game.  I couldn’t play ball if I didn’t feel aggressive. But I think that anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a perfectly harmless, mild-mannered, house-cat sort of individual off the field.”

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Cobb

Cobb then told Fox about an experience with a hostile fan in Cleveland:

“I slid into third base ‘riding high,’ with spikes aglimmer.  I did this purposely; for (Ivy) Olson, the Cleveland baseman, had been blocking runners. I wanted to scare him.  He saw the spikes and kept out of the way thereafter.

‘”I guess I will call it off, Ty,’ he said, and grinned.  There was no hard feeling between us.  It was all in the game.”

One Indians fan did agree with Olson that there we no hard feelings.

“Behind the (Tigers) bench was a man with the voice of monstrous bullfrog. Every time there was a lull in the uproar of the park his voice would croak, ‘Dirty work! Dirty work, Cobb! I’ll get you after the game! Look out for me at the players’ gate!’

“Well he kept after me all the afternoon and began to get on my nerves.  Finally, I shouted back something in his general direction.  I couldn’t see who he was; but I concluded he must be as big as a house; possibly a pugilist.  The game over, some of the players offered to go out the gate with me.  If there was going to be an attack, they wanted to see that I got a square deal. As we passed through the gate I heard the bullfrog voice, only now if was very friendly.  It said

“’Hello, Ty! How are you?’

“I looked around, and saw an amazing sight.  That voice was coming from a man who looked five feet high and didn’t weigh a hundred pound.

‘That’s the fellow who was going to beat you up, Ty,’ said (George) Moriarty. Well, the players gave me the laugh on that thing for a couple of days.”

“A Baseball Player is Unfitted as a Rule for Business”

8 Mar

When the Baltimore Orioles obtained pitcher John Clarkson from the Cleveland Spiders for pitcher Tony Mullane, Clarkson chose to go home to Bay City, Michigan and open a cigar business.

Ned Hanlon did not give up on Clarkson returning to baseball; in fact, the Orioles’ manager was sure Clarkson would need the job in 1895.  He told The Baltimore American:

“I am confident John Clarkson will be on my staff of pitchers next year.  John is now running a store up in Michigan, but I hear he will have the same experience which befalls all players who embark in business.  I fitted up a hat store in New York in 1889 and did all I could to establish myself.”

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Hanlon failed and he assumed Clarkson would as well.

“‘Every man to his trade,’ is the best plan for getting through life.  A baseball player is unfitted as a rule for business.  I found that I could not get rid of a stock of out-of-style hats as easily as I did some of the back-number players who were drawing salaries from the Baltimore club when I took charge of it.”

Hanlon bragged of unloading “faded stars” like George Van Haltren and Tim O’Rourke who he traded in separate deals for Hughie Jennings and Joe Kelley.

“Yes, John will be back in the business next year and will help us to retain the championship.  He knows that we treat our players right.  John will get a new lease of life after this long rest and be all the better for it.”

Clarkson’s business–along with three subsequent ones he started were successful enough to keep him out of major league baseball for good.  Hanlon managed to win another pennant without him in 1895.

“Doyle Made him Drink Bass Ale”

6 Mar

The Louisville Courier-Journal caught up with Colonels Captain John O’Brien “in a talkative mood” before the 1896 season, and the 29-year-old second baseman shared his philosophy on spring training:

“I don’t think all the men should be worked hard.  Some of them are down to weight already.  As for myself, I will work off about seven pounds and then I will be down to a good playing weight. I have looked over the players who have arrived in the city and find that most of them are already trained down.”

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John O’Brien

O’Brien said Fred Clarke, Tom Morrison, and Herm McFarland “don’t look like they need a bit of training.”

O’Brien cautioned against “too much training,” and cited the example of William “Yale” Murphy, the Ivy League graduate who spent the two previous seasons with the New York Giants:

”He was trained down until he was a mere shadow and was so weak he could not play good ball.”

O’Brien said when Jack Doyle took over as manager of the Giants in June of 1895, he tried to undo the damage to Murphy:

“Doyle made him drink Bass Ale, and that was wonderfully strengthening.  In fact, I think an occasional glass of beer after a hard day’s training helps a man wonderfully.  Don’t understand me to mean by that I believe in ‘lushing.’ A player who drinks whiskey or who drinks so much beer that he can feel the effects of it, is no man for a ball team.  I have tried a glass of beer after a game, when I was hot and worn out, and I tell you it did me good.”

Doyle’s plan appears to have not worked;  Murphy who hit .272 as a rookie in 1894, ended the 1895 season with a .202 average, and the remainder of his major league career consisted of just eight hitless at bats in 1897.

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Yale Murphy

O’Brien predicted big things for the Colonels:

“I believe we will have a winning team…I know there is good material in the team, not counting the new men.  The newly signed players all look like ‘top-notchers.’ My private opinion of the outfield (expected to be Clarke, McFarland, and Ducky Holmes) is that it will prove to be the best in the League.  There is no fear on that score.  The pitching department seems good, and I know the backstops are strong.”

O’Brien was mistaken, the ’96 Colonels were even worse than they were the previous season.  When O’Brien was traded to the Washington Senators on July 3, the team was 11-44, and finished the season 38-93.

O’Brien apparently got himself into shape, he was hitting .339 on the day of the trade, eight-five points above his career average; he hit just .267 after the trade.

“That big Lopsided man can Pitch”

4 Mar

Leonard Washburne, who wrote for The Chicago Herald and The Inter Ocean was another influential early baseball writer who died young—he was just 25.

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Leonard Washburne

He was killed in October of 1891 while riding in the locomotive of a Chicago and Eastern Illinois train with two other members of The Inter Ocean staff.  The three newspapermen and one member of the train crew were the only four fatalities in the wreck which took place in south suburban Crete, thirty miles outside of Chicago.

The Chicago Daily News said the train “struck a misplaced switch and the locomotive plunged through an engine house.  The engineer and the fireman jumped and saved themselves, but the three newspaper men were killed.”

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Newspaper Rendering of the Crash

Washburne was sports editor at The Inter Ocean for less than a year, and left behind a small but colorful collection of observations:

When Harry Stovey was injured in a series in Chicago early in the 1891 season:

“Stovey dragged his six feet up to the plate like a man with one foot in the grave.”

On Amos Rusie:

“Rusie! He is not a handsome man.  His legs lack repose, his fists are too large for their age, his face is a clam-chowder dream, and his neck is so inextensive that he can not wear a collar without embarrassing his ears.

“But how that big lopsided man can pitch.”

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Amos Rusie

When the Philadelphia Phillies snapped an eight game Chicago Colts winning streak, shutting out the Colts 3 to 0 on May 23, 1891:

“Maharajah Anson, who for eight days has been looking toward the pennant without pause was jerked to a standstill yesterday with a noise like a hook and ladder truck striking a beer wagon.”

Jim “Tacks” Curtiss made his debut with the Cincinnati Reds in July of 1891–he only appeared in 56 major league games, 27 with the Reds and 29 with the Washington Statesmen in the American Association–but drew Washburne’s notice:

“Mr. Curtiss is a medium-sized man with a comic-opera mustache and a mouth so full of teeth that he looks like the keyboard of a piano.”

Of Patsy Tebeau’s fifth place Cleveland Spiders, dropped their third straight game to Chicago during an August 1891 series:

 “(His) men wandered through the contest like men who have no idea of winning but hope to last four rounds.”

On Cy Young:

“Young is a big, slack-twisted lob, who throws a ball like a man climbing a stake-and-rider fence, and who will retain that indefinable air of the farm about him as long as he lives.”

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Cy Young

Of Brooklyn fans:

“There is nothing else under the administration like a Brooklyn ball crowd.  A Boston assemblage may be mildly enthusiastic; a New York crowd insanely unfair; a Cleveland one a mob of hoarse-voiced wild-eyed fanatics; but the memory of them all, when one sees a Saturday afternoon Brooklyn crowd, withers and fades away like a flannel shirt. No team was playing at Eastern Park when the late Mr. Dante wrote his justly celebrated “Inferno.” Hence the omission If Dante could have dropped in at Mr. Byrne’s Brooklyn joint before he wrote that book it would have given his imagination a good deal of a boost.”

One year after Washburne’s death, a delegation of more than 500 boarded a Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad train to Clinton, Indiana, to dedicate a monument at his grave.

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Washburne’s one-time colleague at The Inter Ocean, and best friend, future Congressman Victor Murdock said at the dedication:

“I do not believe that any here who knew him had a feeling that could be called respect and admiration only There was an element of strength in him that did not brook so short a stop.  It was not respect, not admiration.  It was love—deep, strong, everlasting love.”

Years later, William A. Phelon, who was a 20-year-old reporter for The Chicago Daily News at the time of Washburne’s death, wrote in The Cincinnati Times Star that “every press-stand is full of keen-witted, clever boys who make their stuff entertaining and interesting ” as a result of Washburne’s influence.

Lost Pictures: Hal Chase at Indy

27 Feb

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A 1911 photo of Hal Chase, with pitcher Russell Ford in the passenger seat, behind the wheel of a race car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  The Indianapolis Times said Chase “has entered the ranks of the ‘speed kings.'”

While the New York Highlanders were playing a series of games before the 1911 opener Chase visited the speedway:

“The youthful manager of the Highlanders enjoyed the time annihilating sport and took the wheel…He reeled off a fast lap on the track, making the two and one-half miles in two minutes flat, or at the rate of 75 miles per hour,

“Chase said if he was not so busy trying to annex the American League Pennant, he certainly would be one of the starters in the 500-mile race at the Speedway on Memorial Day.”

In his only full season as a manager, Chase’s Highlanders finished in sixth place with a 76-76 record.

 

“Schalk had Defined the Intention of the Baserunner”

25 Feb

American League Umpire Billy Evans, writing in his syndicated newspaper column in 1923, said of Chicago White Sox catcher Ray Schalk:

“(He) is one o the greatest catchers the game has ever produced largely because he does other things aside from the mere giving of signals, catching, and throwing the ball.

“Ray Schalk is a thinker.  There is a reason for everything he does on the ball field.  He gives thought to every ball pitched.  He is constantly looking over his playing field to see that infielders and outfielders shift properly for the style of pitch he has signaled for.”

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Schalk

Evans said Schalk particularly excelled when Hal Chase was playing first base for the Sox from June of 1913 until June of 1914, “he and Schalk pulled of many remarkable plays.”

Evans described the two best plays he saw Schalk and Chase pull off.  The first, a sacrifice bunt with “a very fast man” on first.  The pitcher fielded the bunt and threw to Chase at first to retire the batter:

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Chase

“The third baseman, in order to get out of the pitcher’s way in fielding the ball, had purposely fallen to the ground.  The base runner…noticed that third base was uncovered as he rounded second base.  He decided to try for third.  Schalk had defined the intention of the baserunner before he reached second and had raced down to third base from his position back of the plate.

“Chase had also sized up the situation.  He held his throw until Schalk was able to get into position to receive it.  Then he made a fast, accurate throw, Schalk received the throw a fraction of a second ahead of the runner, and managed to get the ball on him by making a dive for him as he started his hook-slide”

Evans described Schalk’s other “remarkable” play:

“(I)t seems Schalk and Chase agreed that when a batsman singled to right field with no one out, Chase would continue to play deep first base and pay no attention to the runner.  This was done to cause the runner to round first and take a big lead towards second in case the ball was fumbled (by the right fielder).

“Schalk’s part of the play was to rush to first just behind the runner.  It was the duty of the right fielder to make a snap throw to Schalk, in order that he might get the runner.”

Evans said he saw Schalk, who in another column he called “One of the smartest catchers to ever don a mask,” attempt the play several times with Chase over the roughly 150 games they played together, and while he only saw them work it successfully once, “Yet, as after events proved, it saved the game.”