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Oyster Joe Martina

26 May

Joseph John “Oyster Joe” Martina made a name for himself in New Orleans before he threw his first professional pitch. Martina’s father Anthony was at one time the city’s largest oyster dealer, a business he passed on to his sons.

Martina was playing semi-pro ball for the Sam Bonarts—a team sponsored by the owner of a local clothing store, and for a club called the Beavers  when he decided in addition to pitching, he had a talent for distance throwing.

He won $25 in a contest at Pelican Park in July of 1909, The New Orleans Times-Democrat said Martina “threw the sphere from home plate over the back fence.”

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Martina, circa 1909

The throw was said to be 394 feet; just 11 feet short of what was considered the world record—there was some dispute in contemporaneous accounts about who actually held the record, some credited it to Larry Twitchell, said to have accomplished the feat in 1888 and others to Same Crane, whose was made in 1884.

Martina made his next attempt on July 31.

The New Orleans Picayune said:

“Joe Martina met with success this afternoon in his effort to break the world’s record for throwing a baseball, his best throw being 416 feet and 2 inches.”

The paper said he “threw a standard league baseball, which was inspected by several representatives of the southern division of the American Amateur Athletic Union (AAU).”

The event was of interest to local gamblers and when Martina made the record-setting throw it created a stir:

“Disputes also arose over Martina being allowed five throws. Those placing wagers against his breaking the record claimed that only three throws should be allowed. It was on the fifth throw that Martina made the record.”

There was also initially some doubt that the record would be accepted by the AAU because of the five throws. The Times-Democrat said:

“Usually only three throws are allowed. But as there are no definite rules governing contests of that kind, Martina’s record will likely stand. Whether it was his fifth of fiftieth it was a great heave and one which should go as a record.”

The Picayune said there might be another problem with the record:

“One regret remains, that the throw was not measured with a steel tape. It was measured with a linen tape, and may not be accepted by the AAU officials, although the throw was so much over the record the is no question of it being farther than Crane’s”

The record, and Marina’s performance in New Orleans’ semi-pro league earned him a tryout the following spring with the Atlanta Crackers in the Southern Association—pitching three innings in the first game of Atlanta’s exhibition series with the Philadelphia Athletics. Marina gave up one run and struck out three.

The Atlanta Georgian and News said:

“Martina is nothing if not confident.

“After his try-out against Philadelphia he said: ‘Why, it’s just as easy to pitch against those big leaguers as it is against the New Orleans semi-pros. I don’t see anything very hard. I think I can make good in the Southern league all right I certainly had the steam against the Athletics. How many his did they make, anyhow’”

The Crackers did not agree, and sold the 20-year-old to the Savannah Indians in the Sally League

Martina bounced from Georgia, to Louisiana, to Mississippi and then Texas over the next four years.

In the spring of 1914, entering his third season with the Beaumont Oilers in the Texas League, Martina faced the New York Giants.  The Giants beat him 5 to 2, but The New York Sun said:

“The Giants had practice hitting speed the other day. Joe Martina, who prescribed the medicine for the National League champions, had it in caloric quantities…I yearned for a chance in the majors, felt I had more stuff than many pitchers sent up from the South but the big opportunity always passed me by.”

Red Murray of the Giants, barely avoided getting hit in the head with a Martina fastball, and told the paper:

“’That fellow’s got as much speed as I ever saw.’ Said John after the game, and the other Giants corroborated him. He’s as fast as (Chief) Bender.”

The Sun took notice of more than the pitcher’s speed:

“This Martina is something of a character. In the course of the game the umpire announced that Mathewson would pitch today. ‘Mathewson?’ queried Martina, who appears to be n iconoclast. ‘What busher’s that?’

“’Say,’ exclaimed the skeptical Martina to Chief Meyers when the latter made a base hit after several fruitless tries in that direction, ‘you’re lucky to get a hit off of me,’ and then, by the way of an afterthought: ‘All the hits you ever get are lucky.’

“Evidently, Mr. Martina is no hero worshiper.”

When he struck out Fred Snodgrass, he asked, “How do you like that, busher?”

Throughout his 20s, Martina was considered an “iron man,” pitching from 261 to 330 innings every year from 1910 through 1915; he also, according to The Picayune regularly pitched Sunday games in New Orleans throughout each off season.
In 1916, he injured his arm—or as The Arkansas Democrat said, his “arm cracked after hard usage.”

Speed Johnson of The Chicago Record Herald compared Martina to White Sox ace Ed Walsh, “The spitball king of other days now is a bench-warmer.”

Johnson said Chattanooga Lookouts manager Kid Elberfeld was the culprit:

“Performing under orders from (Elberfeld) Martina pitched seven games in the first sixteen games of the season. From May 1 to May 13 he officiated in five engagements, toiling with a sore arm.”

Elberfeld claimed that Martina injured his arm throwing too many spitballs, Johnson said, “it behooves young pitchers bent on winning fame as iron men to work only in their turn.”

Despite the reported injury, and a release from Chattanooga, Martina pitched 278 innings in 1916 with three teams.

Martina went back to the Texas League for four more seasons—including a 28-win season for Beaumont in 1919.

In 1921 he came back to the Southern Association, with his hometown Pelicans. From 1921-1923 he won 56 games, including a 22-6 mark in 1922. He told The Times-Picayune:

“It’s the old story, “You don’t learn how to pitch until your arm is gone.”

His three-year run with the Pelicans finally earned him a major league contract in 1924.  Umpire Billy Evans said in his nationally syndicated column:

“Speaking of miracle workers, supermen, and rookie phenoms of baseball, don’t overlook pitcher Joe Martina of the Washington Nationals.

“At the age of 34, when most big leaguers are wondering how much longer they will be able to stand the pace, Joe Martina is making his debut.”

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Martina, 1924

Martina told Evans:

“I had as much stuff fifteen years ago as I have today, and with-it youth, but somehow the major leagues scouts would annually pass me up.”

He was 6-8 for the World Series Champion Senators, he pitched one perfect inning in game three of the World Series. In the off season, Washington Manager Bucky Harris told The Washington Post that Martina “will win at least 15 games this year and may reach the 20 mark.”

He was due to join the Senators in Tampa, Florida on February 19, 1925, but failed to show up. The Post said Martina wired President Clark Griffith and asked to report later because he was having a new home built. Griffith refused and he was “notified by telegraph” that he was suspended. The Washington Evening Star said he would be fined and forced “to labor at a smaller salary,” for the season.  The paper suggested that the pay cut would not impact him greatly because:

“The Mardi Gras festivities in New Orleans, with the resulting big crowds in attendance and the consequent increase in the oyster business conducted by Martina probably mean that the pitcher can suffer these financial setbacks and still be ahead of the game.”

He arrived in Tampa on March 1; The Star said Griffith withdrew the fine because Martina claimed he had received a letter from the Washington owner that he could report late:

“Griff admitted that in the stress of arranging for the annual pilgrimage South of his club he might have forgotten the original letter to Joe.”

On April 9, Martina, along with left-handers–Jim Brillheart and Jim McNamara—were released by Griffith. The Star said

 “(Martini’s) work this spring indicated he has passed the peak of his form which is not quite good enough for fast company.”

He returned to New Orleans for four more seasons—winning 77 games and leading the Pelicans to Southern Association championships in 1926 and 1927. The 39-year-old went back to the Texas League for one more season in 1929; after a disappointing 10-13 campaign for the Dallas Steers, Martina purchased—or bartered for—his release. The Times-Picayune said:

“Martina has been given his unconditional release at the price of two barrels of oysters. This was the price demanded by Fred McJunkin, president of the Dallas club.”

He played two more seasons in the Cotton States League and took a crack at managing with the Baton Rouge Standards in 1931—he was released mid-season at age 41.

With both the Pelicans and the Knoxville Smokies hopelessly out of the 1931 Southern Association pennant race, Knoxville signed Martina to pitch against New Orleans on the final day of the season. He started the first game of a double header, gave up six runs over eight innings and lost his final game as a professional.

Zipp Newman, sports editor of The Birmingham News and official scorer for the Birmingham Barons for 44 years said Martina’s strong arm was with him to the very end::

“After pitching a full game for Knoxville against New Orleans Sunday, Joe went to the outfield and made the longest throw-in. Joe threw the ball right up to the grandstand. There wasn’t a youngster on the field who could come close to him. Joe Martina arms are few and far between in baseball.”

Martina, who died of a heart attack in 1962, said in an interview with Newman in 1941:

“I am convinced I had more human endurance than any man who ever lived. In all my life I was never tired, even when it was 110 out there on the mound. The answer is simple: I was a good boy. I behaved myself and every at 8 o’clock I was in bed…When my arm was live the ball would sail slightly upward, and nobody could hit me. When it was dead, although the pitch was just as fast, the ball went straight, like on a string, and I was a goner.”

“We went out and as Usual got Geeked and also Pinched”

25 May

During Bugs Raymond’s brief sobriety before the 1911 season, he gave an interview to The St. Louis Post Dispatch and talked about his experience the previous season when Giants manager John McGraw hired a retired police officer to accompany Raymond everywhere to attempt to keep him in line.

“(O)ld Dick Fuller, the fellow they hired as my keeper. At times he was a good scout, but he didn’t exactly treat me right.”

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Bugs

Raymond said he had given Fuller some advice:

“I got down to brass tacks with him and told him how he could conch his job for life if he wanted to. I explained that he ought to let me cut loose just a trifle, now and then; but he couldn’t see it that way. He always wanted to strap me down.”

Raymond said he was OK with Fuller until he discovered something:

“The thing that got me sore on him was when I found out that he was a tank like myself. For quite a while, when we went out together, he would always drink soda or sass while I inhaled the foamy stuff. Later, though, I learned that he would get up early in the morning, go down to the bar and inject about a half dozen or ten ‘little ‘big’ ones into himself. Then when I wanted to get my morning’s morning he would simply give me a morality fizz fresh from that carbonating plant he called his noodle.”

Raymond said he “had great times” ditching his chaperone:

“One night in Chicago some of my friends had a little beer fiesta scheduled.”

Bugs had told Fuller he was going to bed early. On this trip Fuller was in an adjoining room:

“I crawled in the hay. When I thought he was sleeping, I climbed out the fire escape and started going down. I happened to look up and saw Fuller’s head rubbering out the window. He lost no time in chasing down the fire escape after me, but I beat it u the alley and got away.”

Raymond wanted to attend “another little function” the following night:

“Right after the game I got an old sack, filled it with hay, put it under the cover and turned the light low. Of course, when Fuller looked through the transom and saw the lump in the bed, he thought it was me.

“Well, that night we went out and as usual got geeked and also pinched. We had no trouble getting out of the Bastille but had to appear in police court the next morning. Fuller went along with me and was nearly fined himself for contempt of court. He swore that I hadn’t been out of my room all night.”

Raymond told the paper he liked New York but it doesn’t compare” to St. Louis, and how much he liked playing for former Cardinals manager John McCloskey:

“He and I were continually having a ‘run in,’ but he’s a good scout. Mack was always fining me.”

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McCloskey

Raymond said on an off day, McCloskey wanted him to pitch in an exhibition game in New Haven, Connecticut:

“Instead I hopped down to Long Island and got $100 for pitching a game. The next day Mack told me he was pretty sore because I didn’t go along with the team. He said I would have to buy him a new hat to square myself. I told him to go get the hat.

“After he came back to the hotel with it he announced that he would fine me $100 for pitching for another team. And I got a bill for $7 for the hat, too.”

Raymond said he spent a lot of time with Slim Sallee during the 1908 season—Sallee, then a 23-year-old rookie, quickly gained a reputation for his drinking; likely exacerbated by his friendship with the 26-year-old Bugs:

“We got pretty thick, so thick we couldn’t stir. In fact, McCloskey issued an ultimatum one time that he would fine either or both of us $100 if he caught us out together, rooming together, eating together, or even looking at one another.

“We would have owed the club our salaries if he had caught all the fractures we gave that rule.”

Lost Advertisements: Hank DeBerry for Mail Pouch

22 May

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A 1928 ad for Mail Pouch Tobacco featuring Brooklyn Robins catcher Hank DeBerry:

“Baseball causes more nerve strain than most people think. That’s where Mail Pouch fits in so well. I find that a pinch of Mail Pouch is soothing to my nerves, steadies my work behind the bat, and is the most satisfying chew I know of.”

He caught Dazzy Vance with the New Orleans Pelicans in 1921 and joined the Brooklyn Robins together the following year, they remained together in Brooklyn until DeBerry’s release after the 1930 season.

Before what turned out to be their final season together, the Robins were training in Atlanta, Vance talked about his relationship with his catcher with Ralph McGill–then a sports writer for The Constitution who later became the paper’s editor he was called “The Conscience of the South” as an outspoken anti-segregationist and was awarded the  Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964:

Vance said of DeBerry:

“There are other good catchers, but none of them suit me like Hank. He and I have been together for nine years now. I don’t guess there is another battery in baseball that has been together as long as we have.

“He’s caught every game for me in these nine years except a few he missed  when he was out with a broken thumb. That knuckle ball got away from him and broke that thumb. But at that he is the only man who can catch it when it comes in there just right.”

Not everyone shared Vance’s opinion of DeBerry.  After DeBerry was let go, William H. Ritt, who wrote a column for King Features’ Central Press Association told a story about when Vance signed for $25,000 in 1929 and his salary “was a National League topic” of conversation:

“‘Here,’ chuckled Pie Traynor, ‘comes the other half of that $26,000 battery.’

“‘Pie,’ answered the unperturbed Hank, settling down on the Pirates bench, ‘maybe Dazzy gets the top dough and maybe my pay isn’t so hot, but this is a big sight better than being down on the farm rousing at 3 a.m. to wrestle with the cows.”

 

“I can Pitch Ball when I’m Geezed”

21 May

Bugs Raymond decided to become a wrestler.  After his disastrous 1910 season—4-9, 2.81 ERA and John McGraw hiring a former police officer to chaperon the wayward pitcher—Raymond decided to try the ring.  The Chicago Daily News said during his debut—and finale-at Chicago’s Alhambra Theater:

“(H)is shoulders were twice pinned to the mat by Joe Kennedy, a local semi-professional. Kennedy won the first fall with little difficulty. Bugs came back strong and took the second but was unable to stand the pace and was forced to yield the third.”

 

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Bugs

Three days after the December 17 bout, Raymond told the paper he was done”

“It’s a harder game than I figured on. As soon as you slip out of one hold, they don’t give you time to think, but clamp another on you right off the reel. The strain is something awful. Me for baseball. The worst thing they can do there is chase you to the bench when you aren’t right.”

More importantly for the Giants and McGraw, in January the team announced that Raymond would be going to Dwight, Illinois, to, according to The St. Louis Times:

“Submit to the rejuvenating influence of the Keeley cure.”

The paper doubted the success and concluded:

“The consensus of opinion hereabout is that Arthur is not worth the trouble.”

The St. Louis Star said, “we will bet…Raymond’s seat on the water cart is vacant.”

The Chicago Evening Post reported on Raymond’s final day in Chicago and his trip to Dwight—80 miles from Chicago—accompanied by “Sinister” Dick Kinsella—Giants scout, McGraw’s right-hand-man, and former minor league executive:

“Before starting the course, it is customary to give the ‘patient’ all he desires of his favorite beverage. Kinsella called for his man on the West Side and together they made the rounds of Bugs’ usual resorts. A farewell drink was taken at each place.”

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“Sinister Dick” Kinsella

On the train, after lunch, “There were four empties on the table when the stopping place was reached.”

When Kinsella and Raymond arrived at the Keeley Institute–the “institute” was the flagship of Keeley’s alcohol treatment practice which had more than 200 branches throughout the United States and Europe—he initially refused an injection:

“’Don’t put that in my left arm, there’s a sore there that I got in the wrestling match,’ said Bugs when the attendant started to insert the needle.

‘”No, you can’t put it in my right arm either, for that’s my pitching arm.’”

Raymond eventually relented and The Post claimed he passed his first test at the institute, turning down a shot of bourbon after receiving the injection.

When Kinsella left Raymond, he was said to be “sitting in his room smoking a pipe and planning a new curve to use.”

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Bugs

Two weeks after he checked in, The New York Herald said Giants Secretary William M. Gray had received a letter from Raymond:

“He notified the club that he would be ready to join the training squad in Marlin Springs when called on by Manager McGraw and would be in first class condition ‘for the first time since I have been a professional ballplayer.’”

Raymond was said to be sober for two weeks and a letter from the institute that accompanied Raymond’s said he was “a model patient,’ and:

“He complies with all the rules of the institution and is getting along as well as could be expected.”

After Raymond had spent six weeks in Dwight, The New York Tribune said, “the eccentric twirler of the Giants has been discharged from the institution completely cured,” and would be leaving St. Louis for training camp in Marlin Texas on February 18,

Raymond spoke to The St. Louis Post Dispatch before leaving for Texas.  The paper said:

“Arthur Raymond, who no longer desires to be known as Bugs, may slip from the water wagon he so arduously climbed upon during the six weeks at Dwight Institute.”

Raymond said he had “good reason” for wondering if he could pitch sober:

“’In all my days as a baseball player I always pitched my best when I had a comfortable ‘edge’ on,’ said Raymond naively. ‘Now I am on the water wagon and will probably stick, but wouldn’t it be funny I failed to make good while behaving?’

“’If I find I can’t make a success on the mound as a prohibitionist, I’m going to tumble, because I know that I can pitch ball when I’m geezed. I will be a pretty rich man at the end of the season, though if I keep riding high and dry.”

Raymond told the paper he met with McGraw in Chicago in mid-February and signed a contract that “calls for a boost of $1700 over what I drew last year.” Raymond said his salary for 1911 would be “almost $6000.”

Raymond said he spent three days in St. Louis before leaving for the South and hadn’t “touched a drop,”

Things went well in Texas and The New York Herald said:

“The Mighty Insect is working his head off to make a showing in the practice and exhibition games…He figures that a good showing   in the ante-season contests ought to put him in right with the fans back home and now he is really on the penitents’ bench he wants all hands to think well of him.”

He also dropped 17 pounds, after arriving in Texas weighing 210.

McGraw said:

“Raymond is the best right-hand pitcher in the big leagues when he’s sober and decent.”

As was well, until March 31.

The Washington Times reported that Raymond fell off the wagon when the Giants got to Atlanta:

“After pitching a few innings Wednesday against his old club, Raymond proceeded to celebrate, and that evening did not appear at the hotel until very late.”

The paper said Raymond also “was willing to mix things up” with Washington scout Mike Kehoe who was staying at the same hotel, Kehoe “seized a bat standing in the corner and made a rush for Raymond,” in order to back him down.

The New York Herald claimed Raymond was not drunk. After the Giants arrived in Norfolk, Virginia and he pitched three hitless innings against a local club, the paper said:

“Raymond was not in condition to pitch at Atlanta. It is true, but it was not drink. He contracted a bad case of malaria there and was confined to his room.”

Multiple papers retracted the story that Bugs had been drunk, John Wray, sports editor at The St. Louis Post Dispatch said the pitcher was “getting all worst of his past reputation.”

The Atlanta Georgian and News did not retract:

“Raymond skidded off the water wagon and into the pickle vat the night after he pitched against Atlanta. He showed up his old-time teammates so strong that he just had to celebrate some.”

Raymond won three games to begin the regular season, but by mid-June was 6 and 3 and seemed to have lost McGraw’s confidence.  On June 16 he was sent in to relieve Louis Drucke in St. Louis with the bases loaded and no one out in the first inning.  Four runs scored before Raymond retired the Cardinals.

Raymond allowed four more runs in the fifth and was removed after the sixth; he walked six and hit Steve Evans twice with pitches.  McGraw promptly fined him $200 and suspended him:

The St. Louis Times said:

“A too intimate communion with lemonade, seltzer, fer-mil-lac, and other popular beverages, is said to have been the undoing of Raymond for the ‘steenth time.”

Raymond signed with a semi-pro team in Winsted Connecticut, where he lasted just one game. The Associated Press said:

“Raymond arrived last night and after amusing a street crowd for several hours, during which he was threatened with arrest, he kept a majority of the guests at a local hotel awake all night. Bugs refused an invitation to drive the village water wagon and was finally put to bed by friends, being resuscitated a couple hours before the contest was called.”

Winsted lost 6 to 4 and Raymond was let go.

He then began pitching for various semi-pro clubs on the East Coast, including a July 1 game in New Brunswick, New Jersey where Raymond pitched for a the all-woman Female Stars.  The New Brunswick Daily Home News said:

“No score was kept, and no one could tell who won. In fact, no one cared…The sun proved too much Bugs and he was glad when the agony was over. He tried to be funny and succeeded only partially.”

The National Commission said Raymond’s participation in these games as a suspended player was “contrary to the letter and spirit of the National Agreement,” and that he would be subject to penalty before ever becoming eligible to play organized baseball again.

Throughout late July and early August, various reports had Raymond heading to either Atlanta, Birmingham, Memphis, or Mobile I the Southern Association.

The Atlanta Constitution said:

“That Bugs would prove a drawing card with any Southern league team goes without saying.”

Instead, he returned to Chicago and signed first with Harry Forbes’ Athletics—he was hit hard and beaten 7 to 1 by the Indiana Harbor semi-pro club and was let go.  Next, Raymond signed with the Gunthers in the Chicago City League. Raymond showed flashes of his talent; in his first league game with the teams he beat Smokey Joe Williams and the Chicago Giants 2 to 0, and in late September he beat Frank Wickware and the Chicago American Giants 3 to 2.

In October, The New York Herald noted that while the Giants would be playing in the World Series in week, Raymond, “instead of participating” and earning “about $3000,” had given up eight runs in the first inning to the West Ends.

In less than a year, Raymond would be dead at age 30.

“Will tin can Bugs Raymond”

20 May

 

Grantland Rice, in his column in The New York Herald Tribune in 1950, said a discussion among colleagues identified Ed Walsh as best spitball pitcher during “the good old days when saliva slants were baffling bewildered batsmen.”

Rice had another candidate for the honor which took him back to his early days as a sportswriter in Atlanta:

“There was another spitball master who wasn’t far behind. (John) McGraw always said he had the finest pitching motion in baseball.  His name was Bugs Raymond. Bugs first collected fame around 1903 at Shreveport, Louisiana. That year he bet somebody $25 that he could eat a whole turkey, drink two bottles of scotch and win a double header. He did.”

 

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Rice told a story about Raymond in Atlanta:

“He arrived at high noon and he was due to work against the Boston Americans, World’s Champions. This was the team that had beaten Pittsburgh the fall before.”

That morning, Rice said he was “for some odd reason” in a bar:

“(A) trampish-looking character came in. He hadn’t shaved and he wore no tie. He was bull-throated and practically bare of arm.

‘”How about a drink?’ he asked me.

“I had to buy him two drinks. He also wanted a third.

“’You must be Bugs Raymond.’ I said. ‘And you are booked to pitch against Boston today.’

“’What of it?’ he asked. ‘How do we get to the park?’

‘”We walk,’ I said. Being down to my last nickel after Raymond’s two drinks.”

Rice said on the walk to the ballpark, “Bugs spent most of his time throwing rocks at pigeons, mockingbirds, and telegraph poles. He must have thrown a hundred stones.”

Rice said when they arrived, “Ab Powell told Bugs to warm up.”

Raymond informed his manager he was already warmed up.

“Here were the world champions facing one from the last outpost of the bush at that time. The sequel should be that Bugs Raymond had his ears shot away in the first inning. The answer is that he shut out Boston’s champions with two hits, both scratch singles, and struck out 12 men. He had a spitter working that day I’ve never seen equaled.”

Rice quoted McGraw who said:

“There but for alcohol could have been the greatest pitcher of all time. He could have worked five games a week.”

Rice’s recollection of the game was off—it took place in 1906, not 1905—and Abner Powell was no longer manager of the Atlanta Crackers—Billy Smith was the manager.

Raymond did only allow two hits. He took a no hitter into the eighth inning when Moose Grimshaw reached on an infield single. The Atlanta Constitution said, “the decision at first base allowing a hit was very close.”

With two out and Grimshaw at first, the next two batters reached on errors by second baseman Mike Jacobs—Jacobs, of the Charleston Sea Gulls in the Sally League was filling in for Dutch Jordan. Raymond then gave up the second hit of the game, another infield single, scoring Grimshaw. Raymond walked the next batter, forcing in a run before retiring the side. He struck out seven, not 12.

Raymond beat Cy Young and Boston 4 to 2.

The implication by Rice that the game would have been their first meeting would also be impossible. Raymond had joined the Crackers in July of 1905 and was returning for the 1906 season; Rice had been with The Atlanta Journal and covered the team since 1902

Just more than a month after Raymond’s victory over Boston, The Constitution, said, under the headline:

Will Tin Can Bugs Raymond

“Bugs Raymond, pitcher will never again don an Atlanta uniform while Billy Smith has anything to do with it.”

Three days earlier, Raymond had been pulled after the sixth inning, having allowed three runs and six hits in a 4 to 1 loss to the Birmingham Barons. Smith alleged that Raymond had thrown the game. The Atlanta newspapers were vague about the details, Robert Moran, sports editor of The Constitution, in an article supporting Smith disciplining his players said:

“(Smith) can suspend a man for failure to put ginger into his work, for being lazy, for playing suspicious ball, for not being in condition, for throwing games.”

But one paragraph later, Moran implied that Raymond’s expulsion was because he “failed to get into condition.”

The New Orleans Picayune said, “Billy Smith…suspended Bugs Raymond for conduct that was bad.”

But, while the paper said “There have been more rumors that Bug threw that game” in Birmingham, The Picayune believed that the charge:

“(P)erhaps does the Bug and injustice, for it is hardly likely that he did this. His sins seem to be more of omission, than commission.

Raymond was careless, reckless, but not dishonest, the paper concluded:

“He likes to stand around with the boys and dispense hot air and listed to the admiring fans tell each other what a big man the Bug is. That he looks upon the cup that cheers, but deliberates, and does not think of tomorrow. Bug was spoiled, just like a child, by the attention shown him, and he fell, not morally but physically, and Billy Smith suspended him. That is all there is to the Bug story.”

Raymond’s contract was sold to the Savannah Indians in the Sally League. When Raymond left town on June 1, The Atlanta Journal said:

“Bugs Raymond bid farewell to Atlanta for quite awhile he boarded the train for Macon.”

Raymond won 18 games and led Savannah to the pennant.

“Now Everyone has to be a Star”

19 May

Charles Hazen Morton played, managed, and served as a minor league executive. He was Moses Fleetwood Walker’s manager in Toledo in 1884 and caused a brief sensation when he went missing for two months and turned up with no recollection of what happened.

Seven months before his disappearance, Morton, who was then president of the Pennsylvania-Ohio League, said something to The Detroit Free Press that made him an outlier among players from the 19th Century:

“At last an old-time baseball player has come forward and acknowledged that the game as it is now played in the big leagues is speedier and better than it was in the so-called ‘good old days.’”

“We hear a lot about the old star players during the years when I was a player. Of course we had good men then and we played good games, but it always has seemed rather foolish to me to compare these men with the ones who are in baseball at present.

“Our facilities were crude then and even if improvement had been made in the player’s physical makeup, the improvements in apparatus, gloves, and such would put the present day player in a class far removed from that of the men who were engaged in the game in my time.”

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Charles Hazen Morton

Morton said the hitters in his day had it easier because pitchers “When I played ball knew much less about curves, the ‘spit’ ball was unheard of, and many little things which contribute to pitching success had not been devised.”

As for strategy, Morton said:

“The squeeze play, the hit and run and a lot of other combinations of patting and base running which are supposed of be of modern invention were practiced then, but not to the extent they are now.”

Morton said, “I recall the squeeze play as early as 1883, but it was not worked extensively. Such plays were considered ‘freaks,’” and rare.

And, he said:

“(To) say that the men engaged in baseball then covered more ground, hit harder and were more graceful fielders is ridiculous. It would be a sad thing to think that our great national game had not kept pace with other American institutions and had not progressed in twenty years. Nobody ever hit the ball any harder than (Honus) Wagner and (Napoleon) Lajoie, nobody ever fielded faster than a half dozen big league men do now.”

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Honus Wagner

While, the great players were just as good, the average players were better:

“In the old days, each team had a few stars—now everyone has to be a star, or the manager is looking for somebody else to take his place.”

Morton said, “good old days are nice to look back a upon,” but he said:

“I can find more to admire, more to enthuse over, and more to enjoy in modern baseball than I could back in the 80s.”

“The most Superstitious man I ever saw”

18 May

Bill Phyle pitched and played infield in parts of four seasons in the National League with St. Louis, Chicago and New York and in minor leagues across the country from 1895 through 1909. In 1907, he told The Cincinnati Commercial Tribune about “The most superstitious man I ever saw.”

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Phyle

The man was Tom Parrot, Phyle’s teammate in St. Paul, San Francisco, whom he also played against for several seasons in the Southern Association:

Phyle said “Tacks Parrott…is the limit,” and:

“He is a crank on batting and can tell you his batting average any time in the season, or for that matter, any time in the game. He carries a little piece of chalk in his shirt pocket and after each time at the bat he figures out his average on the bench.”

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A 1902 caricature of Parrott 

Phyle said when they played together the second time in 1902:

“I roomed with Parrott in Frisco part of one season. I had taken a slump in my batting, and Parrott’s batting eye had also gone on vacation. He came to me one morning and, with much mystery in his voice, imparted the information that I was a ‘Jonah.’ That night after supper when I went up to my room, I found my trunk and all my clothes out in the hall. The landlady had to give me a new room. Parrott positively refused to room with me anymore, because he said it affected his batting eye.”

 

Phyle said Parrot was obsessed with improving his chances at the plate:

“If a man on a team got a new bat and was hitting well with it the next day, ‘Tacks’ would show up with the same kind of bat. He had a special trunk made to carry his bats and he always had it full. I have seen him go so far as use the same brand of tooth powder that another player used who was hitting well.”

He even imitated food choices, Phyle said, when Parrott was playing in the American Association, Mike Kelley, who played for the St, Paul Saints for several seasons, hit for the cycle one day, “Tacks” approached Kelley after the game and asked what he had for dinner the night before, Kelly said ham and eggs.

“(Parrott) turned up about supper time with a big ham under his arm and two baskets of eggs.  He wouldn’t eat anything for a week but hams and eggs.”

One day in San Francisco, Phyle said:

“The first two times up he got two safe ones. About the time he went to bat the third time the official scorer came down and sat on the bench with the players. ‘Tacks’ struck out. When he saw the scorer there he chased him off the field., declaring him responsible for his striking out.”

“Piggy Ward, and Rightly Nicknamed is he”

15 May

After his off-season heroics, pulling an Altoona, Pennsylvania man from a fire, Piggy Ward, having been released by the Washington Senators, joined the Scranton Coal Heavers in the Eastern League for the 1895 season; The Scranton Times called him, “a very good man and will be heard from on the lines.”

He quickly became popular with his new club. The Scranton Tribune said:

“(He is) clearly a favorite with the unwashed bleacher—or, with the grandstand, for that matter…He is large bodied, somewhat round shouldered and looks awkward in repose. In action he is one of the quickest on the team and plays and steals bases with a vim and action that is refreshing.”

He hit .357—45 players with at least 200 at bats hit better than .300 that season in the Eastern League—The Sporting News said his manager found a way to get the most out of Ward:

“(Billy) Barnie gave him instructions to be in bed at least two nights a week. A little sleep and less booze and Ward is all right.”

 

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Ward caricature, 1902

His “coaching” did not seem to change, and on several occasions, according to the Scranton newspapers, he was ordered off the field “for offensive coaching.” And he was unpopular in the other league cities.

After Ward was thrown out of a game with the Rochester Browns in the third inning, The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle said:

“’Piggy’ Ward, and rightly nicknamed is he.”

He was even less liked in Buffalo; The Courier said: “Ward is one of the most offensive coachers extant, and he would gain friends by bottling some of his exuberant flow of nonsense.” While The Enquirer was even less charitable:

“(H)is calliope-like voice is about as musical as a dynamite blast in a stone quarry. He evidently imagines he is pretty all right as a ‘kidder,’ but what he doesn’t know about being funny would fill several large volumes. Altogether as a joker, ‘Piggy’ is a rank, dismal, decided failure.”

The Tribune noted that the second baseman was a bit eccentric in other ways as well:

“Ward has a nondescript practice uniform which is a cross between the scant apparel of a Feeje [sic] islander and the hay-making garb of a farmer. It consists of a white negligee coat cut like a robe de chambre and reaching to the knees, a pair of loose trousers of the same color which reach to the shoe tops, a white cap and a sleeveless undershirt that is open to the waist.”

In 1896, Ward was again in Scranton, and he had vowed in the off season to be in the best shape of his life. In a letter to The Tribune he said he spent the winter “handling a pair of spirited mules,” and expected to report to Scranton weighing 185 pounds, down from his 217 the previous season. The paper said he appeared to have lost 20 pounds from the previous season upon his arrival.

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Piggy Ward

Also, in 1896, his one-man “coacher” show became a two-man show when Arlie Latham, released by the St. Louis Browns in mid May, joined the Coal Heavers. The Springfield (MA) News was one of the rare league newspapers that thought it was good thing:

“With two such comedians…the Scranton team ought to prove a great drawing card on the circuit, The Springfield crowd are anxious for Scranton series here.”

Neither made it through the season, Latham was released July 17, Ward, one month later.  When Ward signed with the Toronto Canadians, The Wilkes Barre Record said:

“Ward is a great batter and base runner. There we quit.”

The Wilkes Barre News said:

“(Ward) is just where he belongs on that gang of Toronto hoodlums.”

Al Buckenberger’s Canadians were considered to be the dirtiest team in the league, The Springfield Union said with the addition of Ward:

“The opponent that gets around first base now without being tripped is lucky to get past Piggy Ward in safety and is sure to be blocked or tripped at third by Jud Smith.”

After the 1896 season, some of the papers in the Eastern League cities suggested rules changes to eliminate Ward’s type of “coaching.” The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle said:

“The majority of ‘fans’ take as much delight in lively, witty coaching, such as has made Arlie Latham and Billy Clymer famous…There need not be anything offensive in aggressive work by men on the lines…but all players are not like Clymer (and Latham) and that big beast s like ‘Pig’ Ward make themselves obnoxious by their actions and language when in the coacher’s box.”

The Syracuse Herald suggested adopting a rule “ousting ‘Pig’ Ward and others of his ilk from the game entirely.”

Whether it was an attempt to improve his image or a function of playing on a smaller stage—with his hometown Lancaster Maroons in the Atlantic League and the Mansfield Haymakers in the Interstate League—Ward seemed to stay fairly quiet and avoid controversy among the press in the league cities from 1897 through 1899.

The 5’ 9” Ward seems to have played in his later years at between 220 and 230 pounds from various reports. Frank Rinn, who managed Ward for the three seasons in Lancaster talked to The Hartford Courant about him:

“Although he is heavy and sluggish Piggy has more ginger than a dozen ordinary players. Rinn was telling the other day how hard it was to get Ward to train…He was sent out to coach once and he pulled a cushion out from under his shirt and had a good seat on the ground.”

Ward bounced from no less than eight teams between 1900 and 1905, including playing for John McCloskey again—in 1902 in Pacific Northwest League with the Butte Miners—Ward stayed with the McCloskey for the entire season this time—winning a championship and receiving a gold watch and chain at season’s end for being voted by fans as the team’s most popular player in a promotion for a local jeweler. He also led the league with a .332 batting average; only seven players in the six-team Pacific Northwest circuit hit .300 or better that season.

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Ward and Butte Miners teammate Thomas Kelly in 1903.

The Cincinnati Times Star, still not recovered from his tenure with the Reds nearly a decade earlier said of Ward winning the watch:

“The booby prize was the best Ward could have captured in a similar contest during his stay in this city.”

In 1903, Ward reverted to some of his old ways.  With an already signed contract to return to Butte and a $100 advance in his pocket, he signed a contract and collected a $100 advance from the Portland Browns in the upstart Pacific Coast League. He ended up back in Butte, and when McCloskey left the club to manage the San Francisco Pirates, he told the Butte newspapers that Ward, who was already the team captain, was his choice to succeed him as manager; the club instead named shortstop Billy Kane manager.

When rumors swirled in 1905 that the cash-strapped Pacific National League might cut player salaries, The Spokane Chronicle said Ward tried to form a player’s union chartered by the American Labor Union which was formed in 1898 as the Western Labor Union to create a federation of mine workers. The rumored pay cuts never came, nor did the union.

Ward was reported to have died in January of 1906; the news made all the Philadelphia dallies and several other East Coast papers, and over the next month spread West.  The papers had confused Piggy—Frank G. Ward—with Frank P. Ward, a former amateur player who had died in Newark, N.J.

Ward was seriously injured that same winter when working as an electrician; he was shocked and fell from a pole.

The news of his death—despite being corrected in the papers—and the accident, were enough to make many believe Ward had died. When he traveled to Chicago in August of 1911 for former teammate Charles Comiskey’s birthday, The Chicago Daily News said Comiskey was shocked to see Ward, “whom he thought was dead.”

The not-dead Ward did not play professionally in 1906—the Frank Ward who appeared with the Glens Falls-Saratoga Springs team in the Hudson River League—listed among Ward’s career statistics on Baseball Reference—is a different Frank Wad.

He was hired in 1907 as an umpire in the Northwestern League. The Butte News celebrated the move:

“’Piggy’ promises to be as popular an umpire as he was a player…He is firm, has a good voice, and is known to all the of the Northwest, and President (William Henry) Lucas made a 10-strike when he appointed him  on the league staff.”

He lasted just two games. The Spokane Press said he:

“(B)roke down completely last night. This morning he was almost a nervous wreck. A collection was taken up among the ballplayers and he was sent back to his home in Scranton, Pennsylvania”

The paper said Ward’s wife had suggested he take the position because it might “build him up,” after the electrocution, but the stress was “too much for him.”

Four months after Ward’s reunion with Comiskey, The Pittsburgh Gazette Times said he was “near death,” a pitiable wreck,” suffering from “brain disease,” in an Altoona hospital.

Ten months later, on October 23, 1912, 45-year-old Piggy Ward died. The Altoona Tribune called him “one of the most famous diamond stars in the land,” and said:

“He possessed several expensive pins, a beautiful watch, and other jewelry presented to him by admirers when he was thrilling fandom with his feats.”

“The Charming and Fascinating Pig Ward”

14 May

It was as a “coacher” that Piggy Ward—who appeared in 221 games over parts of six seasons with five National League teams between 1883 and 1894—was best known

That reputation began in the minor leagues. In 1889, when Ward was with the Hamilton Hams in the International League, The Detroit Free Press described him:

“A squatty, thickset man, with a bull neck, loaferish appearance, and voice a combination of the bellowing of a bull and braying of a donkey, attempted to make himself conspicuous in yesterday’s game and succeeded, to the intense disgust of the 1200 people present. Whenever the Hamiltons went to bat this unmitigated nuisance placed himself near third base and bellowed, roared, and ranted till everybody in the park was seized with a burning desire to rush upon and club him into silence.”

The paper called him “The champion lunatic of the noisy coaching clan,” but softened somewhat in their assessment of Ward later when it appeared he would not be returning to the International League:

“There is burning curiosity in this vicinity to whether the Hamilton management intends to sign that meadowlark of the ball field, the charming and fascinating Pig Ward. The echoes of his weird voice still reverberate around Recreation Park.”

piggy1904

The press, for the most part, did not approve of his technique. The Buffalo Express said:

“Ward’s coaching is too coarse altogether and should be stopped. The umpire’s voice is drowned in his babble.”

When he played for the New Orleans Pelicans in the Southern Association in 1893, The Birmingham Times noted that he was the first player of the season to be fined for his “loaferish behavior,” while coaching, the paper also said Ward “has entirely too good an opinion of his own merits and too much contempt for the lesser deficiencies of his brother players.”

Ward’s coaching received greater attention when he joined the Washington Senators in 1894.

The Washington Star said during one game in July, “Ward’s lamentations were loud, continuous, and contentious—so much so that (umpire Bob) Emslie warned Capt. (Bill) Joyce that ‘Piggy’ would be sent to the bench if he didn’t keep quiet.”

O. P. Caylor of The New York Herald, in noting that “noisy coaching” had become more widespread that year, referred to the, “(Tommy) Tucker—(Dad) Clarke—‘Piggy’ Ward method of making noise by howling and shrieking from the coaching lines, in order to ‘rattle’ the opposing pitcher.”

Caylor did not approve, and said the practice because “in part, the science of the game is obscured, owing to the frantic attempts of the players to confuse one another.”

Cap Anson agreed, telling Caylor:

“It isn’t respectable ball playing and neither will I adopt that method or let any of my players use it.”

Ward’s “coaching” caused Anson’s Colts a loss on July 8. The Chicago Inter Ocean was not amused:

“The trick which ‘Pig’ Ward resorted to yesterday in the seventh inning no doubt won the game for Washington, but if (manager Gus) Schmelz were not impervious to all decency and self-respect he would release the man on the ground of dirty ball playing. (Ed) Cartwright had hit a high fly to infield, for which (Charlie) Irwin ran. It was a hard sprint, but the shortstop got well under it, when Ward, imitating the voice of Anson, called out ‘(Bill) Dahlen!’ Irwin, who had to keep his eyes up in the air, of course dropped the ball. Cartwright and (Win) Mercer subsequently scored. The game finished 9 to 8, so that these two runs did the work.”

The paper complained that “under the rules there was nothing Umpire (Jack) McQuaid to do except to the fine the fellow, but even this that functionary refused to do. He should have been fined the limit and ordered off the diamond.”

That same season, his coaching, and the extra effort he added to it, drew the ire of The Cincinnati Enquirer:

“When a rotten ball player wants to keep his job, he resorts to dirty tricks to conch his position with his manager. Piggy Ward belongs to this class, and his latest is to paw first with his big feet around first base so as to blind the first baseman and prevent him from seeing thrown or batted balls.”

As Ward’s coaching antics became more commented upon and the nickname “Piggy” became more frequently used for him, The Brooklyn Citizen speculated it was “probably to distinguish him from Brooklyn’s gentlemanly and able Captain,” John Montgomery Ward.

Ward also engaged with fans form the “coacher’s box.” When he returned to Cincinnati as a member of the Senators, The Enquirer related a verbal sparring match Ward engaged in with a fan during a game:

“Piggy Ward is a good coacher. He is on the line nearly all the time, and he has been the target of a good many taunts and unkind remarks from the stand in the two games the last two days. He doesn’t seem to mind it a bit but goes on giving his directions and trying to rattle the opposing team as though everything that came to ears was complimentary.

“Yesterday, a waiter in a downtown restaurant who was with a party of fellow waiters, yelled at Ward:

‘”Who told you that you could play ball? You ought to be behind a plow.’

“’Is that so?’ said Piggy. ‘What are you doing for a living now? The same thing, I suppose. Turning cakes in a fifteen-cent restaurant?’

“Whether it was a chance thrust or not it went home, and for a few moments the waiters and those n the vicinity made matters unpleasant for the fresh young man who endeavored to kid the ballplayer.

Despite having his best major league season at the plate in 1894—hitting .303 in 98 games with the Washington Senators—Ward, who also committed 52 errors at four positions, was often belittled in the press. Sporting Life said:

“Piggy Ward of the Washingtons appears to like the bench better than the field. He was ordered there during the season oftener than any other player in the League.”

Sporting Life also called him “A wretchedly bad second baseman.”

The Star related a conversation between him and his manager:

“’Are you a ballplayer?’ said Schmelz to Piggy Ward. ‘Well, the newspapers say I’m not,’ responded the ever-ready Piggy.”

Ward fractured his thumb on August 14, The Washington Post said the injury occurred while he was “trying to tag a man” at second base.  The injury kept him out of the lineup for several days.

He was released by Washington, ending his big-league career, but not his reputation as a “coacher,” or his story.

Shortly after being let go by Washington, Ward became more of a local hero in his hometown of Altoona, Pennsylvania. A fire broke out in the shop of a black barber named J. H. Crocker. The Altoona Tribune said, after several people, tried but failed to get through the dense smoke:

“Frank Ward then made another attempt to get in and succeeded in catching hold of the arm of the man and dragging him out.”

While the man later died, Ward’s heroics were reported in major newspapers in the East.

More Ward tomorrow.

“He is a Disorganizer”

13 May

Piggy Ward’s 1891 season provides both a glimpse of the life of the itinerant 19th Century ballplayer and his tendency to be his own worst enemy.

He started the year out West, playing for John McCloskey’s Sacramento Senators in the California League. Along with a teammate named Jack Huston—who had been on clubs with Ward in Galveston, Texas and Spokane, Washington in 1890—he skipped town on May 28. Both players had joined the Sacramento club in the first place despite being on the reserve list of Spokane.

According to The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Ward was hitting a league-leading .361, had 24 stolen bases and had scored 41 runs in 36 California League games before he jumped.

The Sacramento Record-Union said of his departure:

“Ward was, in one sense, a valuable man in the team. He was only ordinary as a fielder, or center-bag-guarder, but he exercised the best judgment. He is a good bunter, and his success in base running lies on the fact that he always knows when to take advantage of a chance. But, on the other hand, he is a disorganizer, and caused many a rupture in the Sacramento team.”

Both players left California headed to meet their new club, the Spokane Bunchgrassers of the Pacific Northwest League, owing the Sacramento team’s management money—Ward $141, and Huston “$121, besides a $15 suit of clothes”—and both were arrested when they arrived.

The Record-Union said, John Barnes, the Spokane manager, squared the debt for the two jumpers, who were in the lineup for Spokane the next day—Ward had four hits (and committed two errors) and Huston pitched the final two innings in a 12 to 3 victory over Seattle.

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Ward, standing far right, Huston, standing second from left, and Barnes, seated center, with the 1890 Spokane club

Huston, apparently, felt some loyalty towards his new club, and remained with them for the remainder of the season, while Ward was heading east days later to join the Minneapolis Millers of the Western Association.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune said after Ward went 1 for 2 with a walk, stolen base, and two runs—and played error free ball in right field—in his debut:

“(T)he California phenomenon…is a good batter, coacher, and base runner. The general consensus of opinion was that he’ll do.”

Ward hit .357 in 54 games, which caused the injury-decimated, National League cellar dwelling Pittsburgh Pirates to purchase his contract.

The Pittsburgh Post noted his tendency to jump teams, but said the “rumpus” over his California to Spokane jump had been “amicably settled,” and of the jump to Minneapolis:

“This wrong-doing was also amicably settled.”

Ward was acquired on August 12 but chose to visit his home in Altoona before reporting to the Pirates and apparently did not bother to let the team know. On August 22, The Pittsburgh Press said team president J. Palmer O’Neil “is using the telegraph wires freely today trying to trace the player.” Ward finally arrived the following day; The Press said he reported with a sore back and because “all the men are now playing good ball, Manager (Bill) McGunnigle will not put him in until he is in perfect condition.”

As a result, he appeared in just six games, hit .333 in 18 at bats and made one error in six total chances in the outfield before being released on September 7.

After being let go by Pittsburgh, he headed back to Spokane, but on his way, The Saint Paul Globe said, “The fat all-around ball player seen in a Minneapolis uniform this season,” played briefly with the Oconto club in the Wisconsin State League. The Oshkosh Northwestern reported on September 10 that Ward had signed with Oconto, and he played the following day—Oconto lost 9 to 5 to Oshkosh.

Ward arrived back in Spokane in mid-September and rejoined Huston and the Bunchgrassers. When he returned, The Post-Intelligencer complained that “Ward will receive a salary that will run far above the limit in this league.”

He finished the season with the club—and hit .412 in 12 games –but wore out his welcome. Spokane was struggling to hold onto first place in the closing days of the season—they would lose the pennant the Portland Gladiators by one game—and Ward seemed to succumb to the pressure. The Spokane Review said, during a frustrating 12 to 8 loss that Ward punched Portland’s John Darrah in the stomach as Darrah rounded first in the fifth inning.

He was fined $25 and thrown out of the game. The Spokane Review said:

“If Ward used the vile language during the game attributed to him, he certainly should be disciplined by Manager (John) Barnes. In addition to punching Darrah he also hit (Milt) Whitehead in the stomach with his fist when the latter touched him out in the fifth.”

Ward ended his 1891 season where it began, playing for John McCloskey in Sacramento. The San Francisco Call said he “came jumping back again in a penitent mood.”  The Record-Union said, “cranks were greatly surprised to see Ward playing in the center garden,” when he took the field for his first game back on October 18. The San Francisco Call said he left the team a month later, a week before the close of the season, because of an unknown illness.

More of Ward’s story tomorrow.