“Take him out”

27 Jan

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

In 1945, he said his former manager Connie Mack:

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

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

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

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

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Stanwood Fulton Baumgartner

The pitcher, he said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Connie Mack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How do I know? I was the pitcher”

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Baumgartner

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

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

22 Jan

A New Bat

In 1906, The Chicago Daily News said:

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

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

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

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The Bat

The bat appears to have never been written about again.

Crawford’s Bat Sense

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

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George Moriarty

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

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

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

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Sam Crawford

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

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

Reach Bats 1884

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

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Al Reach

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

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Reach Red Band

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

 

“A Gentleman in Every Sense of the Word”

20 Jan

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

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Bozeman Bulger

 

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

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

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

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Fred Tenney

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

Tenney asked Bulger:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lost Pictures–Rube in Kenosha

17 Jan

Rube Waddell’s short stay in Wisconsin in 1901 has been written about extensively.

When Waddell took the mound for the Kenosha Athletics for the first time on October 13–after facing them as part of the Burlington club earlier that month–The Kenosha News said:

“(W)hile  a crowd of 1500 rooters shouted themselves hoarse Waddell kept the heavy batters of the Chicago Spaldings, the crack amateur team of the West, on his staff, and after nine of the fastest innings ever seen on the Kenosha diamond the Chicago players were forced to concede the victory to Kenosha by a score of seven to two.”

The News said Waddell spent a total of 27 days town, and the newspapers there and in nearby Racine sometimes battled over which town Waddell preferred. When Rube left Kenosha to play football in Racine after the baseball season, The Racine Journal Times taunted:

“Rube Waddell, the widely known baseball pitcher has made up his mind to locate in Racine and bid adieu to Kenosha and all the people of that town…Waddell says he is through with Kenosha for all time and will pack his trunk and move to Racine this afternoon.”

The paper also said:

“Rube says he is done with professional baseball and hereafter will be found in the amateur ranks. He prefers football to baseball every time.”

Waddell did stick around Kenosha long enough to be photographed with the Athletics:

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The 1901 Kenosha Athletics—Top, Jack Conney,, William Eaton, manger Edward Alleman, team secretary William Swift, George Steffen, Gus Freitag, Fred Hanks; center row Babe Ollenbook, William Bowman, Bob Henderson, Arthur Hubbard, R. Klpf; first row Rube Waddell, umpire Joe Percente, and Peter Breen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One final note, Percente, the umpire, was also a fairly famous boxer in the Midwest, who fought lightweight champion Battling Nelson four times. Knocked out in the second round by Nelson in 1900, in 1901 Percente  beat him in a six round decision and less than a week later, the two fought to a six round draw.  Nelson won their final fight, an eight round decision in 1902.

 

 

 

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #39

15 Jan

A Useful Skill

Vernon Deck hit .297 over parts of seven seasons for eight teams in the low minors from 1927 to 1938.

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Deck

His one particular talent allowed him to be a featured member of the House of David club; barnstorming with the religious sect in the mid-1930s, and again briefly in the early 40s.

Deck’s talent was described in the HODs press materials as:

“The only man who can put a regulation baseball in his mouth.”

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Deck demonstrating his skill

Advice for Baseballists

In 1884, The St. Louis Critic shared a list of “Advice for Baseballists.”

Among their suggestions:

“Try to hit the ball before it passes beyond the range of your bat.”

“If it hits you on the end of the nose do not try to knock it off.  Have a little patience and it will fall off.”

“If it should become embedded in your brain, go on with the game as if nothing had happened.”

“Don’t let the bat slip from your hands when you miss the ball unless you are certain it will hit the umpire.”

“Never knock a ball out of the catcher’s hands. Most catchers don’t like it.”

“If you can manage it, try to send the ball among the spectators. They like to be noticed.”

“Always sneer at the pitcher of a rival club. It makes him feel good. If he plugs you in the eye, you must take it as a joke.”

“When you make a good strike, throw your bat in the air, look at the spectators, appear perfectly cool, and get put out.”

Baseball has Peaked, 1885 Version

In 1885, “An old baseballist,” told The Rochester Post-Express:

“(T)the game has lost interest to spectators.”

The reason?

“(B)y reason of the fact that it has become a mere battle of the pitchers.”

The “old baseballist” predicted:

“The American game of the future will be base ball with no pitcher. The ball will be sprung from a ground trap, and the best batters and fielders will win on a uniformly delivered ball for both sides. This will reawaken the old-time interest in the game.”

Another Useful Skill

In 1896, The Cincinnati Post reported that a local resident named Alvin Pietz had a sent a letter to Reds manager Buck Ewing requesting that Ewing get him appointed to the National League umpire staff—citing a particular skill”

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Ewing

“I am very familiar with the rules and I am noted for the way I enforce discipline. I should like to tackle the Cleveland team the first day, and if I don’t control the game something will drop. I am a hypnotist, like Billy Earle, so you can see I can control most of the bullies.”

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Billy Earle

The paper concluded Pietz’ chance of being appointed remained “decidedly slim.”

“The most Aggravating Pitcher”

13 Jan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Plank

Arms described Plank’s routine after a pitch:

“Receive the ball from the catcher.

Then drop it.

Rub dust on it.

Expectorate upon the glove.

Rub the ball vigorously upon the glove.

Turn and talk in an animated way to Eddie Collins.

Step upon the pitching slab facing the catcher.

Nod dissent to several signals.

Expectorate again upon the glove.

Nod an assent to the signal of the catcher.

Back off the pitching slab.

Pluck several blades of glass.

Walk up to it again.

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

Wave one outfielder into position

Make a sarcastic remark to the umpire.

Make ready to pitch.

Consume five seconds in looking steadfastly at the ground.

Pitch.”

Arms concluded:

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

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

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

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

“The Spitball Suffers from Nothing so much as its Vulgarity”

10 Jan

Louis Lee Arms became well known for being the husband of actress Mae Marsh and publicist for studio head Samuel Goldwyn, but before the age of 30 he was sports editor for The St. Louis Star and a sports columnist for The New York Tribune.

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Louis Lee Arms

In 1918, after it was reported in The Washington Post that Pittsburgh owner Barney Dreyfuss and “other big league magnates (would be) behind a movement to legislate the spitball and other freak deliveries,” at that year’s winter meetings, Arms wrote in The Tribune:

“It is apparent that for the first time in its gay young life the spitball is going to be placed seriously on trial.”

Arms said there were good cases on each side of the debate over “the saturated slant.”

He laid out the arguments:

“Those most opposed to this effective style of delivery make general claims against it, as follows:

  1. From its nature it is not legitimate

  2. It leads to other illegal styles of delivery

  3. It retards hitting

  4. It mars fielding

  5. It delays the game by delaying pitching

Each one of these claims is more or less justified. In opposition, those who favor the spitball submit the following:

  1. From its nature it is NOT illegitimate

  2. It depends upon skillful manipulation

  3. It greatly increases pitching effectiveness

  4. It is an effective substitute for a pitcher who is unable to develop a first-class curve ball

  5. Its abolition would greatly weaken, if not destroy the major league usefulness of many established pitchers.”

Arms had a theory that the pitch was not so much targeted for extinction for baseball reasons, but for changing social mores:

“It is our humble opinion the spitball suffers from nothing so much as its vulgarity. As a nation we are being taught more and more that it is usually unsanitary and largely unlawful to spit in public places. A ballpark is certainly public enough for anyone.

“Pithy placards in our subways, surface cars, and ‘L’s’ and in theaters and public places remind us that two years in prison or $500, or both, may be the penalty for even a first offence. We think now ere we spit. Back in grandfather’s salad days the town bloods may have sat before the grocery store and spit with formality and greater accuracy. But if grandfather had happened along in 1918, he would have smoked Egyptian cigarettes and saved the coupons.

“Assuredly the spitball is vulgar, it is a highly effective pitching asset. Ed Walsh and Jack Chesbro will be remembered as among the greatest pitchers in baseball and the spitter made them that. Dozens of other pitchers have owed the greater part of their success to the (Elmer) Stricklett discovery.”

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Stricklett

Of the pitch itself, he said:

“In effect, it is an artistic and astonishing delivery, as showing the ‘stuff’ that may be put upon a ball over a flight of sixty feet. There is no curve that has to it the arrogant viciousness of the spitter. No delivery is harder to control. By control we mean the ability to ‘break’ the spitter either way as well as to regulate the angle of the break.

“The spitter that carries the biggest break is not necessarily the most effective. It was only the other day that Miller Huggins was saying he had seen Bill Doak, eminent among modern spittists. Knocked from the box when his ‘spitter was breaking a foot,’ only to come back the next day with a delivery that jumped but a few inches and pitch unbeatable ball.

“It is unfair to the spitball to attribute to its influence the discovery of such illegal pitches as the resin and emery balls. Why not indict the knuckle ball on the same score? Yet no word is heard against the knuckle ball, which breaks like the spitter, requiring, albeit highly talented knuckles to control.

“We shall continue to believe the main objection its antagonists find against the spitball is that it isn’t polite. Yet they do not to be thought so softened by civilization as to admit that.”

It would take until the winter between the 1919 and 1920 seasons for the first stage of the spitball ban which allowed two pitchers per team to use the pitch, and the second after the 1920 season  which grandfathered in 17 pitchers.

“Baseball’s Case Against the Automobile”

9 Jan

Paul Purman wrote for the Newspaper Enterprise Association, a Scripps-Howard syndicate, from 1916 through 1918; best known for naming the college All-American Football Team during those years, he also wrote regularly about baseball.

Shortly before the 1917 season, he wrote about Clarence “Pants” Rowland’s plan to make the Chicago White Sox pitching staff more effective that season:

“Rowland is the latest pilot to take a hand in the life of his players off the field. He has issued an order that his pitchers be forbidden from driving automobiles during the playing season.”

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Purman said “Baseball’s case against the automobile,” had been a issue that “occupied managers’ minds for many years.”

He said that more than half of current players “own cars and drive them daily” during the season.

“In Cleveland (in 1914) it was charged that the poor showing of the team was due mainly to players paying more attention to their machines than they did to their baseball.”

Purman said despite the concern, Cleveland manager Joe Birmingham “issued no orders against motoring,” and the Naps “finished a poor eighth (51-102).”

Golf, said Purman, was “another thorn in the sides of managers.” He said Bill Carrigan had “issued a blanket order against his men playing golf.” Carrigan’s order, he said, was the result “two or three players who had been warned repeatedly against thinking more of golf than they did their baseball,” and after the Red Sox won the pennant, Purman said:

“It is rumored other managers will fall in line this year.”

After issuing the ban, Rowland told The Chicago Daily News:

“Physicians declare that the strain of handling a steering wheel is injurious to the muscles used in pitching. There is no doubt that a pitcher cannot do himself justice on the mound after several hours as a gasoline pilot. The eyesight also is put to severe test.”

Urban “Red” Faber, Joe Benz, and Eddie Cicotte were said to be the three pitchers who would be most upset with the ban.

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Eddie Cicotte

The Chicago papers were silent about whether Rowland’s “ban” was enforced throughout 1917, but Cicotte had his finest season, 28-12, 1.53, and Faber and Benz made significant contributions to the World Champion White Sox.

Happy Labor Day—the Oberbeck Case

2 Sep

Henry Oberbeck is barely a footnote in baseball history—he appeared in 66 American Association and Union Association games in 1883 and 1884, hitting just .176—but he scored a rare, early victory for the rights of players.

Henry Oberbeck

Henry Oberbeck

 

In 1883, after appearing in just two games with the Pittsburgh Alleghenys, Oberbeck was released and signed with the Peoria Reds in the Northwestern League.

No records survive for Oberbeck’s time in Peoria, but the outfielder caught the eye of St. Louis Browns owner Chris von der Ahe, and the St. Louis native jumped his contract with Peoria to sign with the Browns on May 24.

Chris von der Ahe

Chris von der Ahe

Oberbeck’s short tenure with St. Louis was unimpressive.  He played four games and was hitless in 14 at-bats.  The Browns released him on June 23.

He found himself out of a job in the American Association and was unable to return to Peoria because he had been blackballed by the Northwestern League.

Oberbeck filed a lawsuit in St. Louis claiming the Browns owed him the entire amount of his contract –$785.  The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said the “case is regarded as a test,” and is “being fought very earnestly.”

The March 1884 trial included testimony from  Overbeck’s teammates, catcher/outfielder Tom Dolan and pitcher George “Jumbo” McGinnis.  Dolan, a .204 lifetime hitter whose .214 average lowest among the Browns 1883 regulars testified that Oberbeck was a poor hitter who “hit wind nearly every time.”  McGinnis also said Overbeck deserved to be released.

Despite the testimony of his teammates, the jury found in favor of Oberbeck and ordered the Browns to pay him $431.12—although most newspapers incorrectly reported the amount paid as $738.

The press assumed the decision would have a lasting impact.  The Post-Dispatch said:

“The case is one of interest to base ball players, inasmuch as it proves that the contracts are binding upon the part of the club as well as the player.”

Oberbeck was signed by the Baltimore Monuments of the Union Association for 1884, and played a total of 60 games for Baltimore and the Kansas City Cowboys that season—he hit .186 as an outfielder/first baseman and was 0-5 in six appearances as a pitcher.

The Browns appealed the case and lost, but by the time the appellate court upheld the original decision in Henry Oberbeck v. Sportsman’s Park and Club Association in April of 1885, Oberbeck’s victory for the rights of baseball players was already largely forgotten.

In 1885, The Post-Dispatch said Oberbeck had been reinstated by the Northwestern League, although there is no record of his ever having returned to the league.   The Youngstown Vindicator said he had signed with that city’s team in the Interstate league for 1885 season.

No statistics survive for Oberbeck after 1884, and his groundbreaking role in baseball’s labor movement is all but forgotten.

He returned to St. Louis after his career and worked for the post office until his death from cancer in 1921.

Lost Advertisements-“One Great Leader says of Another”

30 Aug

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A 1933 advertisement for Esso Gasoline–the company was one of the 34 formed in 1911 after the Standard Oil monopoly was broken up–featuring Bill Terry, who had just led the New Yorks Giants the National League pennant and also owned, according to The Associated Press, owned “several” filling stations:

“Next to baseball I know motor fuel best. I’ve sold it for years.I sell it now–all winter long–down in Memphis after the season’s over.

“And let me tell you, folks, it takes a leader to deliver the goods–in baseball or in motor fuel. That’s why you can depend on Essolene.”

Terry’s Giants won the World Series in five games.