“The only Great Game in the Country”

7 Aug

Smiling Mickey Welch spent his post-baseball years operating various businesses in Holyoke, Massachusetts, but visited Boston and New York often—until he eventually moved back to New York.

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Welch

In 1908, Welch, “one of the most famous pitchers of half a generation ago,” talked to Tim Murnane, the baseball writer for The Boston Globe, on a trip to visit his former teammate Tim Keefe in Cambridge, Massachusetts:

“’It certainly seems to me,’ said Welch a few days ago, ‘That the players of today have nothing over the stars of the past. I’m not at all prejudiced and I believe that I am at least fairly competent to judge, as I have kept right up with the many changes that have been made since I left the business.”

Murnane said of Welch:

“Mickey finished his career in the baseball world 15 years ago [sic, 16], but he still retains his deep interest in the great national game, and each season always plans to come to Boston or to go to New York to watch the work of the present-day players and compare them with those of his time, when by his superb work in the pitcher’s box he assisted in winning a couple of pennants and world championships for Gotham.”

Welch, who had just sold his salon in Holyoke, “to engage in the milk business with his oldest son, Frank,” asked Murnane:

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Welch, with wife Mary and seven of the couple’s nine children

“Where, for instance, is there today any greater baseball player than Buck Ewing was? Ah, he was the greatest of ‘em all—indeed the grandest that the game has ever known. Universally acknowledged by all followers of the sport as the king of catchers, he also shone in other departments, for he was a hard natural hitter, could run bases with the top-notchers and could play any of the infield or outfield positions as well as any of the regulars holding down those berths.”

Welch said he and Ewing—who died in October of 1906–were “the warmest of friends for years and that friendship dated from the days when as a member of the Troy team, I first became acquainted with him while he was with the Rochester club (in 1880).”

Welch said from the day Ewing joined Troy later that season and after they went to New York together when the Trojans disbanded after the 1882 season:

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Ewing

“Buck and I were chums and for all that time used to room together.”

Murnane said that Welch, who “always made it a point to take the very best care of himself,” was in “as splendid condition,” as he was when he pitched:

“One of his favorite hobbies is walking, and on every pleasant day in the fall and winter he and Jack Doyle, also a famous old-time ball tosser, may be seen setting from the Welch home to take a jaunt to Mt. Tom, which is between Holyoke and the neighboring town of Northampton.”

Some nights Murnane said the two went out in the evening and “they sit for hours and talk over the good old days when they were players of mark in the fastest company.”

After all of those talks with Doyle about their days in baseball, he maintained:

“I’m throwing no bouquets at myself but have there ever been any better pitchers than Tim Keefe, John Clarkson and Charlie Radbourn? I say ‘no’ emphatically. Then look at the rest. Dan Brouthers has never been excelled as a batsman and I don’t believe he ever will be. He could land a ball farther and with less apparent effort than any ballplayer that ever swung a bat. I faced him many a time and I could never discover that he had any weakness.

“(Cap) Anson was also a fine hitter, as were Deacon White, Hardy Richardson, Jim O’Rourke, Mike Tiernan, (Ed) Delahanty, and George Gore, to say nothing of a dozen more whom I might mention. Jerry Denny has never been excelled as a third baseman, and Johnny Ward is the headiest man that has ever played shortstop. ‘Dickie’ Johnston, pride of Boston for years, and Curt Welch of the old St. Louis Browns and (Jimmy) McAleer of the Clevelands were easily the most brilliant outfielders of the past.”

Welch also believed “the best club in the history of the game,’ were the 1888 and 1889 Giants—Welch was 26-19 1.93 in ’88 and 27-12 3.02 in 1889 for those New York teams.

“Buck Ewing was the captain, and a magnificent one he was too. Buck used to catch nearly all of the games.”

Welch said of the team:

“We won the pennant rather easily in the National League in ’88, and fully as easily beat out the St. Louis Browns for the world’s flag. But the next season of ’89, we had to go some right up to the very last notch to pull away from the Bostons in the National League, the championship not being decided until the final day of the season when we won in Indianapolis while the Bostons lost in Pittsburgh. Then we met the Brooklyns, champions of the American Association. In a series of nine games, we won five”

Welch got two details wrong; while 1889 was the first pennant decided on the season’s final day and Boston did lose to the Pittsburgh Alleghenys, the Giants beat the Cleveland Spiders that day; also, in the series the Giants won six of the nine games with Brooklyn.

Welch vowed to Murnane, “I shall never lose my interest,” in “the only great game in the country.”

 

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #38

5 Aug

Scrappy Bill and Small Ball

The New York Herald lamented in August of 1897 about New York manager Bill Joyce:

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Joyce

“Scrappy’s Giants are doing less sacrificing than any team in the major league. Mike Tiernan has but one sacrifice to his credit. Scrappy, like Ed Hanlon, regards sacrificing as a necessary evil—a last resort.”

The paper wanted him to follow the example of Fred Clarke:

“(T)he captain of the Colonels in a firm believer in sacrificing early in the game for one run, as well as late in the contest, when a tally is of more importance than at an early stage of the game.”

Joyce’s third-place Giants sacrificed just 45 times in 1897; Clarke’s 11th-place Colonels were fourth with 101.

Cy’s Arm

During spring training in 1905, Naps pitcher Bill Bernhard told The Cleveland News:

“There is no use talking, there is only one Cy Young. When the rest of us pitchers report in the spring we act as if those deceiving arms of ours were made of glass and humor them accordingly. But not so with old Cy. The very day he reached Hot Springs a week or so ago, he cut loose as if he had been pitching all winter. Great Scott, but he had speed to burn, and the next day and the next it was just the same. And curve them? Well, you ought to have seen the old boy.”

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Young

That season, the 38-year-old Young was 18-19 with a 1.83 ERA for the Boston Americans.

Johnson’s “Destiny”

Grantland Rice’s lede in The New York Herald Tribune on the final game of the 1924 World Series:

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Rice

“Destiny, waiting for the final curtain, stepped from the wings today and handed the king his crown.

“In the latest and most dramatic moment of baseball’s 60 years of history the wall-eyed goddess known as Fate decided that old ‘Barney’ had waited long enough for his diadem of gold and glory. So, after waiting 18 years, Walter Johnson found at last the pot of shining gold that waits at the end of the rainbow.

“For it was Johnson at last, the old Johnson brought back from other years with his blazing fastball singing across he plate for the last four rounds, who stopped the Giant attack from the ninth inning through the 12th and gave Washington’s fighting ballclub its World’s Series victory, 4 to 3.

Washington won just at the edge of darkness, and it was Johnson’s great right arm that turned the trick. As (Earl) McNeely doubled and (Muddy) Ruel galloped over the plate with the winning run in the last of the 12th, some 32,000 fans rushed upon the field with a roar of triumph never known before, as for more than 30 minutes, packed in one vast, serried mass around the bench, they paid Johnson and his mates a tribute that no one present will ever forget.”

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Johnson

Rice’s account of the game was recognized as the best “major league baseball story of the year” by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

 

“Diabolical—Nothing Else.”

2 Aug

The introduction of baseball cards in cigarette packages by the American Tobacco Company was largely uncontroversial—except in the company’s backyard, the heart of tobacco country.

The Charlotte Observer was the first large paper to condemn the practice. In August of 1909 the paper editorialized:

“(T)rading upon the small boy’s passion for baseball as well as for collecting to make a cigarette fiend of him, is diabolical—nothing else.”

The Observer described the “mania” among the city’s boys:

“More especially the likenesses of Ty Cobb and Hans Wagner are most desired, and until a week ago only a few pictures of Cobb had been found, two of these being in the possession of the Buford Hotel cigar stand.”

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“Most desired” among the boys of Charlotte

The paper said 13 Cobb cards were then found in purchases made at “The Wilson Drug Store, on East Trade Street,” and “The boys of the street went wild.”

The Observer conceded that some of the younger boys took the cards then sold the five-cent packs of cigarettes were offered to passers by for two packs for five cents, but maintained their editorial opinion that young kids were being induced to smoke.

The Raleigh News and Observer agreed about the “baseball picture bait,” and added:

“The cigarette trust, it seems, would stop at nothing to get money.”

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Old Mill ad “Baseball pictures and a valuable coupon in each package.”

The cause was taken up by numerous papers across the state, The Statesville Landmark said:

“(I)f the enormity of the offense was appreciated as it should be it would arouse a spirit of indignation in North Carolina that would stop this traffic in the bodies and souls of boys.”

The Winston Sentinel said:

“It will do more to start young boys smoking than any other agency of which we can conceive.”

The Raleigh Times said the introduction of the “baseball pictures” coincided with an increase in “the number of licenses to sell cigarettes” in the city:

“That the boys are buying the cigarettes is a settled fact and there are always people who will sell anything for money.”

But smoking wasn’t the only concern. The Reidsville Review said:

“Almost any day groups of youngsters may be seen on the streets of Reidsville ‘matching’ pictures of baseball men. It seems a harmless amusement, yet it is gambling all the same, and has been so decided by a judge in Washington (NC). He dismissed the first bunch of boys brought before him for matching baseball pictures with a reprimand but intimated that hereafter he would impose the gamblers’ sentence.”

“Matching pictures” was simply flipping game where a card was won or lost if landed face up or down.

One major daily paper in the state took up the cause of the tobacco company, The Greensboro News said:

“Considerable criticism, and of a right severe kind, has been leveled lately at certain cigarette manufacturers for their practice of putting pictures of baseball players in their cigarette boxes.”

The paper said the “criticism” was based on an incorrect notion, and claimed “we have our doubts” that more children were smoking:

“Our observation is that he relies mainly on begging his pictures from the large boys and grown men.”

The paper acknowledged, “Of course, some very small boys smoke,” but claimed the increase in cigarette sales was not because of the “baseball pictures,” and instead due to changing “tastes of the public,” for “ready-made cigarettes” rather than rolling them themselves.

The paper concluded their theory was “far more reasonable than the baseball picture idea.”

The brief outcry changed nothing—by the time American Tobacco introduced cards, the company which had a virtual monopoly on the sale of “ready-made” or manufactured cigarettes since it was formed, had a near monopoly on the sale of all tobacco. At the same time, the company was already defending itself from the federal anti-trust case that led to the 1911 Supreme Court decision which dissolved the company.

The “baseball picture” craze did result in at least one homicide in North Carolina. In 1910, The Laurinburg Exchange reported that a 16-year-old had hit another 16-year-old “in the head with a ginger ale bottle,” during an argument over a “matching game with baseball pictures out of cigarette packages,” rendering the victim unconscious–he never regained consciousness and died a week later.

“The Town seems to be for the Most Part Against the Home Team”

31 Jul

In Early May, on his way to horrible 45-87, 11th place finish in 1894, Washington Senators manager Gus Schmelz told The Washington Star he knew who was to blame:

“This capital of the United States of America is possessed of less pride regarding the national game than any other city in the country. The town seems to be for the most part against the home team, while in every other place the situation is just the reverse.”

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Schmelz

Schmelz said it was “hard enough” to build a winning team with “the solid support” of local fans:

“Every man in the profession understands the difficulty of playing in Washington, and it is an undisputed fact that if a good player should be released by a club at the present time, he would prefer signing with any other team in the league than the local one. It is almost impossible for our organization to secure the services of a good man.”

Schmelz said it wasn’t just the fans who were against his club:

“Umpires, as a general rule, in other cities give close decisions in favor of the home club, but here they seem to think they will be backed up for doing otherwise.”

He said the fans were so against his club, that in a game with the Grooms on May 1:

“Another sample of animosity was displayed when the ball rolled under the gate in Tuesday’s game. Somebody opened the gate and aided the Brooklyn player to quickly field the sphere.”

Bill Hassamaer was held to a single on the play; in that same game, with a 2 to 1 lead in sixth inning, umpire Billy Stage called Brooklyn’s Dave Foutz safe on a close play at first—Washington players led by team captain Bill “Scrappy” Joyce and George Tebeau “kicked determinedly”  resulting in a forfeit of the game to Brooklyn.

Schmelz said the fans also had a lack of appreciation for Joyce:

“Washington has been howling for years and years because its ball club has not had a wide-wake captain, but now that it has one who is not afraid to stand up for the interests of the team the cry is on the other side. In my opinion, Joyce has done no more kicking than was justified, and every objection made by him was the result of the most intense provocation.”

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Scrappy Bill Joyce

And of course, he blamed the press:

“Then there are certain newspaper correspondents, who, after accepting the hospitality of the club, take delight in sending dispatches to their papers utterly false and derogatory to the Washingtons.”

As an example he cited a story The Star carried in April when The New York Giants were in town; Schmelz said it “contained not a word of truth” and was “meant to injure” Senators owner J. Earl Wagner:

“There are some close-fisted people in every line of business. If all reports are true, the baseball profession has a few in the vicinity of the capital city. When manager (John Montgomery) Ward took his men out to the Washington Park the other morning for practice that President Wagner telegraphed from Philadelphia telling them they could not use the Washington grounds. This is very mean treatment, especially as the New York club gave Wagner $7,500 a few weeks ago for a $750 battery.”

 

Wagner, like Schmelz, denied the story. The “$750 battery” was Jouett Meekin and Duke Farrell—sent to New York in February for Jack McMahon, Charlie Petty, and $7,500.

While not presenting an alternate scenario, Schmelz said when the newspapers reported that Joyce and other Washington players “dared Mr. Stage” to award the forfeited game to Brooklyn that idea “originated in the mind” of a  writer.

He also had a problem with the way The Star  was “abusing the management” of the Senators when they did not provide refunds for the 1,700 fans at the forfeited game:

“(O)ur men were on the field and ready and anxious to continue play. Those people (in the press) do more to injure the sport than anything else I know of.”

Schmelz had a final message for the fans:

“We are using every endeavor to give Washington a winning ball club, but that will be impossible unless we receive the same loyal support from the patrons that is such a prominent feature elsewhere and is so utterly lacking here.”

The Senators finished 45-87 in 1894; Schmelz managed the team until June 7, 1897, Washington was 155-270 during his tenure.

“The “$750-dollar battery” were probably worth their actual $7,500 price tag. Farrell appeared in 116 games, hit .287 and drove in 70 runs, and Meekin was 33-9 with a 3.70 ERA for the second place Giants.

“There is a Game on Every Sandlot Nearly Every day”

29 Jul

Like Edgar Forrest Wolfe (Jim Nasium) two years later, Joe S. Jackson, baseball writer for The Detroit Free Press, “discovered” quality baseball in Cuba.

Reporting from Havana in November of 1909 he wrote:

“(T)he Cuban baseballist probably has something on the big leaguer of the states. The game is in its infancy here, and the gravy is the players. Those promoting the game are doing very nicely, thank you, but the home-grown players are the big winners.”

Jackson said native Cuban players had not adopted the “oratory” of American players that they were, “slaves ‘bought and sold and paid just what they want to give us.’”

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Joe S. Jackson

Jackson said, “in cold hard figures,” Cuban players were receiving “three times as much out of the game as the man who backs it.”

He said the Cuban fans had a decided preference for native born players which explained why:

“Almendares, which finished second in the championship race last season, still have a much greater following of fans than Havana, which has several American players, and which last year (1908) was piloted to the pennant by (Rip) Hagerman, who was with the Chicago Cubs this past summer.”

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Rip Hagerman

While still in its “infancy,” baseball had taken over the island, said Jackson:

“There is a game on every sandlot nearly every day, and even the roustabouts on the Havana docks toss a sphere about in their idle time.”

However, Jackson said native players with the necessary skills were not yet plentiful; Jackson felt native Cubans were not encouraged to excel, and used the island’s other major sport as an example:

“The (jai-alai) court (in Havana) keeps nearly 30 professionals on its payroll, and salaries of the stars range from $600 to $800 a month, for an eight months’ season. While ordinary players draw from $300 to $400 per month. Still there isn’t a Cuban on the roster. All of the players are brought from Spain.”

Jackson said Cuban baseball was lucrative for players because:

“As yet the Cuban managers haven’t come to the regular baseball idea of handing their men so much a month and clinging to the big end. Their baseball, in its business in still in process of evolution. In effect, it is the old scheme of match games with winners and losers’ ends of a purse.”

Jackson explained the business end of the Cuban system:

“There is but one baseball park in Havana enclosed and having regular stands. Eugenio Jimenez controls this. All league games are played on this lot. He handles the tickets and takes care of all the business details. When the money is counted up, 25 percent of the gross goes to Mr. Jimenez for use of the field. There is a slight amount of money, something like $100, to be taken out for certain fixed charges like license fee etc., which do not come under regular operating expenses. Barring this slight sum, 75 percent left after the park manager takes his is divided between the players. The team that wins takes 60 percent and the loser gets 40.”

The pitcher and catcher were paid slightly more than the rest of the team, dividing one extra share of the total between them.

It was, said Jackson, “customary to Grand Opera the prices,” of tickets when major leaguers were barnstorming in Cuba:

“In the series such as the Detroit club is now playing in Cuba, it is necessary of course, to depart a little from the methods obtaining during the Cuban league season. Detroit has to be paid for its work, and the expenses of bringing the club to Havana and of maintaining it while here, are pretty stiff.”

The Cuban clubs agreed to take the usual losers share, 40 percent, for the games with the Tigers:

“In the first Sunday game played here for instance, the receipts were $6,310. They would have been bigger had Almendares been Detroit’s opponent, or had (George) Mullin, whom the natives were most anxious to see, been slated to pitch. After Mr. Jimenez took out the 25 percent…the Havana team’s 40 percent of the balance amounted to $1,851.66…each Cuban got $162.30. The lowest money yet split, that being by Havana on a Thursday afternoon, was about $40 to the players and $60 to the battery.”

Jackson said there was always a large police presence at the games in Havana, “a patrol wagon, backed up to the fence near the bench, has a tendency to restrain from any undue hilarity.”

He told a story about a game in 1908:

“One-time last season three Cuban players in a league game took exception to an umpire’s rulings, and left the field, subs being used to complete the contest.”

Havana had a “censor of amusements” who oversaw all behavior in public venues:

“Before the three men left the clubhouse (the censor) had them arrested. All were sent to the bastille, and next morning a judge who agreed with the censor—later maintaining that the public had paid to see these certain players perform, and had been disappointed  and deprived of the value of their money by the withdrawal—sent the three players to jail for five days each. They don’t leave the field anymore unless they are carried off for removal to a hospital.”

The police, he said, would remove a player “in the patrol wagon” and he would be fined if he left a game, and “They don’t stand for any disorder, either on the part of a player or the populace.”

The Tigers lost eight of their 12 games on the Cuba trip, Jackson said major league teams learned a valuable lesson:

“The Tigers trip was sufficient to impress on American ballplayers the fact that they cannot go down with patched-up teams and walk through games to victory. The Cubans can field, throw and run, have good pitchers and are always in shape.”

“Murphy has Done More to Hurt Baseball”

26 Jul

Frank Chance was about to begin his second season managing the New York Yankees, but in the early part of 1914, he had still not let go of his feud with his former boss, Cubs President Charles Webb Murphy.

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Frank Chance

Murphy, Chance told a reporter for The Associated Press at his winter home in Los Angeles, was solely responsible for the formation of the Federal League:

“Charley Murphy has done more to hurt baseball than any other man who has been in the game in all the years that the sport has flourished. You can mark my words well, because he is going to continue to be an objectionable figure in the national pastime just so long as he is allowed to have any connection with any club under the jurisdiction of the national commission.”

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Chance said many of his friends said he “was crazy two years ago” when he sold his interest in the Cubs. He received $40,000 for his shares.

He said Charles Weeghman, the Chicago restaurant owner who had been trying to buy into a baseball team since 1911, “was for years an ardent Cub rooter. He soured on Murphy, and so did thousands of other patrons of the West Side ballpark.”

Chance wasn’t finished:

“Now, just a few words about the way Murphy handles ballplayers. When (Johnny) Evers was in poor health one spring (1911), Murphy found out that he would not be able to play the entire season. He wired me while the team was in Pittsburgh to that effect. And right there Murphy showed his hand.

“Evers who had been with the team for years and who had played great ball, would not have received a cent of salary that year if Murphy had had his way.

“Murphy, in his message said that he did not believe Evers should draw his pay for the season. I wouldn’t stand for giving Evers a raw deal of that sort, and Johnny got his salary, every dollar of it for the entire year. He played only a few games (46) for us that season.”

Chance went on to say how poorly Murphy treated Mordecai Brown and Joe Tinker, but said he wouldn’t bother to get into the “treatment” he received from Murphy, because:

“(T)hat’s past and gone and life is too short to let things like that embitter one and spoil his life.”

Just more than a month after Chance’s comments, Murphy was “persuaded” by National League President John Tener to sell his shares in the Cubs to Charles Taft—although Murphy disputed that claim, and said he voluntarily sold to Taft.

Damon Runyon, in his syndicated column in the Hearst Newspapers, summed up the Murphy affair:

“We know that when they throw him out, as they doubtless will throw him out, there will be someone else ready to take his place as official bugaboo, for there must be a bugaboo in baseball, else we might have no baseball.”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #37

24 Jul

The Science of Survival

Brian Bell was a sports columnist for The Associated Press before eventually becoming Chief of their Washington D.C. bureau.

In 1931 he related a story:

“(I)t was a dangerous strategy to place close in with (Napoleon) Lajoie at bat. Once when Cleveland was playing in Detroit. (Bill) Coughlin, the Tigers Third sacker, played in close with Bill Bradley up, for the Cleveland third sacker was adept at dragging bunts. Then when Lajoie came up, Coughlin retreated to a position well beyond third base for Nap could hit balls down the third base line as though the ball had been fired from a rifle.

“The fans razzed Coughlin, yelling questions at to him to whether there was any lack of courage in getting out of range of one of the big fellow’s bullet-like hits. Finally, Bill walked over to the foul line and help up his hand for silence. He got it.

‘”Ladies and gentlemen.’ He said, ‘I wish to make an announcement. This is a game of of science and skill, not bravery.’”

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Bill Coughlin

Jennings on Kauff

Benny Kauff was on his way to hitting .308 for the New York Giants in 1917, Hughie Jennings, the manager of the Detroit Tigers, told the Newspaper Enterprise Association was not impressed:

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Benny Kauff

“(He) says Benny Kauff would bat about .250 if in the American League.

“’Kauff was a wise boy when he elected to go with the Giants,’ says Hughie.  There are a dozen, or more, outfielders in the American League who are far superior to him.  I could name any Detroit outfielder, two on the Chicago club, two with Cleveland, one with St. Louis, one with Philadelphia, one with Washington, three with Boston, and two with New York who are superior to him.’

“’Kauff is not a good hitter.  He is a fellow who stands up at the plate and slams away at the ball.  A wise pitcher would have him in the hole all the time.  The pitching in the American League is admitted to be much better than that served in the National; the fielding is also better.’”

Bill Klem’s All-Time All-Stars

Bill Klem had been a National League umpire since 1905 and had worked 17 World Series by 1939—he would work his final World Series in 1940.

The New York Daily News asked him that year to name his all-time all-star team—most interesting in where it varies from other such teams named by “experts” during that period.  The paper said:

“Bill still insists he never made a mistake, so this team must be right.”

Pitchers:

Carl Hubbell

Grover Cleveland Alexander

Walter Johnson

Mordecai Brown

Christy Mathewson

Catchers

Roger Bresnahan

Wilbert Robinson

Johnny Kling

Gabby Hartnett

First Base

Hal Chase

Second Base

Frankie Frisch

Third Base

Jimmy Collins

Shortstop

Honus Wagner

Utility Infielders

Eddie Collins

Bill Terry

Harry Steinfeldt

Outfield

Ty Cobb

Ginger Beaumont

Babe Ruth

Utility outfielders

Tris Speaker

Fred Clarke

“He Threw his bat at the Contemptible Coward”

22 Jul

George Van Haltren was popular with the Chicago press during his three years with the White Stockings from 1887-1889; that changed when, after jumping to the Players League, he returned to Chicago with the Brooklyn Ward’s Wonders on July 28 of 1890.

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Van Haltren

In the opening game of a three-game series, Van Haltren, said The Chicago Tribune “got himself disliked in the seventh” inning:

“He was at the bat when a swift inshoot from Silver King landed clearly on his right shoulder (other papers said the pitch struck him in the ribs). Van Haltren glared at the pitcher for a moment and then deliberately threw the bat at him.”

The Chicago Inter Ocean said:

“(H)e turned and threw the bat with all his force at King. A bat is an unwieldy thing to throw and it miscarried several yards.

“’Loafer!’ ‘Viper!’ ‘Sneak,’ yelled the crowd. ‘Put him out!’ ‘Put the loafer out.’

“Van Haltren was unmolested. He should have been fired out of the game so quickly that he would have suffered asphyxiation but umpire Pearce [sic, Grace Pierce] was meek and lowly. Such a tongue-lashing from a crowd, however, a man has not suffered in a long time.”

The Chicago Herald was most outraged:

“To Van Haltren: If you were punished as you have deserved to be punished you would be ruled out of professional baseball forever. You have broken the greatest and the best of baseball laws. Men like Van Haltren should limit themselves to huckstering, street cleaning, or sewer digging. In those vocations the thug element is properly restrained, and the labor is dignified.”

The Tribune dismissed Van Haltren’s claim that King had thrown at him on purpose as “ridiculous” because:

“To show that it was an accident King hit (Bill) Joyce in the back with the next ball pitched. Joyce didn’t throw the bat at King; he threw him a reproachful look and wandered off to the bag.”

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Silver King

Most New York newspapers ran the Chicago papers’ version of the story, but The Brooklyn Eagle would not let it pass that King hit Van Haltren by accident, or that the outfielder was in the wrong.

The paper said:

“The New York papers have not done justice to Van Haltren…In the sixth inning King apparently tried to hit (Dave) Orr with the ball, and Van Haltren on the coaching line called out, ‘Never mid that, Dave, it won’t hurt you.’ King turned to Van Haltren, and in the hearing of all, including the umpires, said, ‘I’ll knock your head off when you come to bat again.’

“Thinking to pass it off jokingly Van replied with a smile: ’Oh, no, Silver, you can’t hurt me; you haven’t speed enough.”

The Eagle said, King purposely threw both pitches at Van Haltren—the pitch that hit him being “a terrifically fast ball,” which:

“(C)aught poor Van in the ribs. It was too much for even his gentlemanly disposition, and almost crazed by pain he threw his bat at the contemptible coward.”

King took the mound again against Brooklyn in the final game of the series on July 30. Brooklyn scored three runs in the first inning.

The Chicago Tribune said:

“(T)he first ball pitched after Van Haltren had tripped up to the plate in the second inning struck the batsman on his right shin bone. Of course, everybody expected to see Van Haltren draw a knife on King, but he didn’t. He placed his bat gently on the grass and limped off to first base. He may have done some thinking, but he didn’t do it out loud.”

“I was in Sort of a Trembling Condition”

19 Jul

When George Van Haltren joined the Chicago White Stockings as a pitcher in June of 1887, California newspapers followed his progress closely.

After a disastrous first start on June 27, Van Haltren was used in relief and in right field until July 5, when he started for Chicago against the New York Giants.

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Van Haltren

The Chicago Tribune said that likely “not one of each hundred of the 7000” fans in attendance thought the White Stockings would win with the rookie on the mound:

“(T)here were many who feared that the Giants would ‘get into’ the young man and hammer out a victory.”

Van Haltren beat the Giants 15-3, allowing just one earned run in the ninth inning when he experienced a bout of the wildness that plagued his first start, and walked three batters.

The Sacramento Daily Record-Union sent a reporter to Chicago who provided West Coast fans with the first interview of “The California Wonder” since he headed East:

“George Van Haltren, hot, tired, and dusty, but with a most excusable look of triumph on his face, walked into the White Stockings clubhouse at close of today’s ‘toying’ with the New York Giants and seated himself in a chair. The crowning test of his ability as a pitcher had come and been triumphantly met.”

The reporter asked “the well-tried young pitcher,” about to embark on his first road trip with the club, how he was being accepted in Chicago:

“I’ve been treated like a prince and feel sorry that we are going away even for three weeks. Talk about Southern hospitality, if it’s anything better than what I’ve experienced here, I want to go South.”

Van Haltren was asked to compare baseball on the West Coast to the National League:

“Oh, players are very much more finished, of course, and in some respects the game is almost a new one to me. There is fielding, for instance; why, if my old partners in San Francisco could see the way the ball comes into the diamond from the field in Chicago, it would make their hair stand on end.”

But, said Van Haltren, he wasn’t necessarily having a harder time in Chicago:

“On the contrary, I’ve been most agreeably surprised in that respect. You see, there I was almost expected to strike three out of every five men who faced me, and when I came here, of course, I expected that against famous sluggers of the National League I should have to get down to just so much harder playing. Shortly after my arrival here, however, Captain Anson told me that I was not expected to do anything of the sort. There are outfielders in the Chicago nine, he said, and it was part of their business to look after balls that were knocked into the field. All I was expected to do was play good ball, and if batsmen knocked me hard, men on the outside of the diamond were to attend to the rest.”

He said he was treated well by his teammates:

“I was a stranger, and they took me in and treated me in such a way that now I feel perfectly at home. They are gentlemen from way back, and I would not ask for better company.”

Anson then interjected:

“The satisfaction is mutual my boy, and don’t let it slip your memory.”

Van Haltren was then asked about his disastrous first start—after four strong innings, the rookie walked 14 batter and hit four, although most sources said umpire Herm Doescher did the pitcher no favors:

 “Well, that was a bitter dose. When I went on the ground that day my heart was in my throat and stayed there until I had struck out the first Boston batsman to face me (Joe Hornung), the it went down nearer its natural place, but all through the game I was in sort of a trembling condition. It might not have been so bad if Doescher had given me a fair show.”

He said by the end of the game:

“I wished that I had never come East of the Rocky Mountains. That was an awful roast.

‘”Should say it was,’ growled big Edward Williamson, the Chicago shortstop, who was gravely killing flies on the wall, smashing them with his baseball pants. ‘It is a wonder the colt didn’t break down entirely,’ and the speaker made a vicious lunge at an unusually big bluebottle fly.”

He said he had just one regret; he had been informed that day that Tom Daly would no longer be his catcher for his starts. The Tribune said of his performance during the game with the Giants that, “Daly’s work behind the bat was little short of phenomenal and was best ever seen on the grounds.”

daly

Daly

Van Haltren told the California reporter:

“I am only sorry I am going to lose Daly, who has been catching for me. He is the greatest man behind the bat I ever saw, and I think that he’s the only man can hold (Mark) Baldwin’s terrific delivery, and so I am to have (Dell) Darling. He of course is a first-class man, too, but Daly caught first for me and I am sorry to lose him.”

In closing he asked the reporter to:

“Be sure to tell my California friends that I am enjoying myself.”

Van Haltren was 11-7 with a 3.86 ERA as the White Stocking’s third starter; he also played 27 games in the outfield and hit .206 for the third place White Stockings.

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #36

17 Jul

Bancroft on Radbourn

In 1900, in The Chicago Record, Frank Bancroft said of one of his former players:

“Charlie Radbourn did more scheming than any man that ever played baseball. When I had him in Providence, he always was springing something new and some of his ideas were exceedingly far-fetched.

“I remember on one occasion and at a critical period in a game Rad drew back his arm as if to pitch, then instead of delivering the ball to the batsman he threw it around his back to Joe Start, who was playing first base for us. It was only by the greatest effort that Start managed to get the ball. Had it gone wild the game would have gone against us as there were several men on the bases. When I questioned him regarding the throw, he claimed that it was a new idea, and that if Start had been watching himself he would have retired the runner on first.”

rad

Radbourn

National League Facts, 1880

The Chicago Tribune reported before the 1880 season that every National League charged $15 for a season ticket, except for the Providence Grays who charged $20.

The paper also calculated the miles each team would travel during the season (listed in order of finish):

Chicago White Stockings 6,444

Providence Grays 6,200

Cleveland Blues 5,592

Troy Trojans 4,990

Worcester Ruby Legs 6,470

Boston Red Stockings 6,240

Buffalo Bisons 5,356

Cincinnati Reds 6,294

Dan Brouthers and “Dude Contrivances”

In 1893, The Buffalo Courier reported that Brooklyn Grooms manager Dave Foutz told his players “there was nothing better than good bicycle practice to keep in condition.”

Dan Brouthers said back home in Wappinger’s Falls, New York, people “never would recognize him again if they heard he had been riding one of those dud contrivances.”

brouthers

Brouthers

The paper corrected the first baseman: “Dan evidently needs a little education in cycling. The day has passed when a rider was regarded in the light of a dude.”