“Robert was Down in the Mouth Over his Punk Pitching”

3 Jun

Robert Poindexter threw a 7-inning no-hitter for the Birmingham Black Barons in 1928; less than a year later his career was over after he shot a teammate.

Poindexter joined the Memphis Red Sox in 1929 and was on the mound in relief for the club on May 30. The St. Louis Stars pounded Poindexter and the Red Sox 14-3—Poindexter allowed ten runs and gave up home runs to Mule Suttles and Willie Wells .

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said, “A flock of errors and poor hitting,” contributed to the Memphis defeat.

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The Box Score

The Red Sox retired to the Grand Central Hotel on Jefferson Avenue.

The St. Louis Star said at 1 A.M., Poindexter was sitting in his room “pondering over his poor showing.” The paper suggested that some members of the Red Sox had suggested that the pitcher “laid down of the job,” during the game.

“Unaware of the mood of his teammate, J.C. McHaskell, hard-hitting first baseman, sought to console Poindexter, remarking:

‘”Today’s ladies’ day big boy, and you’ll go better with all the girl’s there.”’

Poindexter was said to have replied:

“’Get away from me—I’m mad enough to shoot.’”

He then drew a revolver and shot his teammate in the left foot:

“McHaskell hobbled downstairs, summoned a taxicab and went to City Hospital No. 2 for treatment. Policemen arrested Poindexter at the hotel.”

The Post-Dispatch interviewed McHaskell:

“’Robert was down in the mouth over his punk pitching and I tried to kinda sympathize with him,’ McHaskell explained at City Hospital No. 2. ‘I told him today was ladies’ day…Somehow he took offense at that. He thought I was razzing him, so he pulled out his pistol.’”

The Times said Poindexter’s teammates “told the police ‘they’d like mighty well,’’’ for him to be bonded out in time to pitch that day.

The United Press (UP) reported however, that it was discovered that Poindexter was wanted in Atlanta for “a little matter of a violated parole,” and would not be returning to the Red Sox. The Chicago Defender said Red Sox players claimed Poindexter had previously served time in Washington D.C. for a murder, but provided no additional details.

Red Sox Manager Harry Kenyon, who pitched that day in place of his incarcerated starter—and was trounced 19 to 6–told The UP:

“It sure is a tough break. McHaskell was good. And Poindexter was about the best pitcher we had. But I never did like his temperament.”

Poindexter’s professional career was over—although it is unclear whether he was ever sent to Atlanta or if he ever faced charges—he was killed just over a year later in Washington D.C. His age at death was estimated at 31, and his occupation was listed as “Ballplayer.”

McHaskell was back in the lineup within a month, but his professional career was over after the 1929 season.

Lost Pictures: Van Haltren

31 May

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Seventy-two-year-old George Van Haltren (center, with Bill Steen and Jack Kennedy) at the San Francisco Seals’ third annual old-timers game on August 5, 1934.

Van Haltren was the oldest player to participate in  the game; The Associated Press reported that Connie Bigelow, who played for various San Francisco based teams in the 1870s and Mike Fisher, who played for local teams in the 1880s, were the only two present who were older, although neither played.

Van Haltren provided the biggest highlight of the three inning game. Abe Kemp, who covered baseball for The San Francisco Examiner for more than 40 years, said:

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Van Haltren’s hit

“George Van Haltren singles to right.

“Forty years ago, New York baseball fans expected such a thing to happen because it happened frequently, but when a fellow is crawling along in the seventies, as Van is, it approximates quite a feat; yet that is what this grand old warrior did yesterday in his first and only trip to the plate.”

Van Haltren’s Haverly’s lost 6 to 4 to the Pioneers.

 

 

“High Upon the Centerfield Fence I saw Rube Perched”

30 May

Connie Mack liked telling Rube Waddell stories as much as anyone else, and many of them became embellished over the years. In 1911, he told “Baseball Magazine” a story that would be told many times by others before and after Waddell’s death in 1914.

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 Mack

Mack claimed that Waddell was “a bully fielder” and he would put him in centerfield because “he never wanted to sit on the bench, and we had to humor him, or he wouldn’t have stayed on the lot.”

Mack never played Waddell in the field during a regular season game—Waddell only appeared in one game at another position; at first base with the Chicago Orphans in 1901—so Mack’s story was apocryphal and became the legend, or the incident occurred during a non-league game.

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Waddell

“One day we were having quite a battle with some team, and Rube was covering centerfield for us. We were being hard pressed. With only one out, the other team filled the bases in the fifth inning and a brace of good batters were up. We had two strikes on the next man up, and then something happened.

“A black cloud of smoke appeared in the sky back of the centerfield fence, and a little later a blaze. Then came the clash and clanking of fire bels, and the clatter of horses’ hoofs. I happened to look in the direction of the blaze. High upon the centerfield fence I saw Rube perched, looking at the blaze, silhouetted against the red glare of the conflagration. I let out a blast that nearly woke the dead. Rube heard me and looked around. He seemed undecided as to his next move, but he wasn’t long in making up his mind. With a graceful salute of his hand, as is to say ‘so long, fellows,’ he dropped from sight on the other side of the fence, and was on his way to the fire.”

“Whose American Giants?”

27 May

Robert “Judy” Gans played for Negro League teams  from 1908 through the mid-1920s, and was later a manager and umpire; he is probably most famous for being the source of Judy Johnson’s nickname, the Hall of Famer said the two were teammates on a semi-pro team in 1920 and picked up the sobriquet because of his resemblance to the older player.

Gans liked to tell a story about about playing for Rube Foster with the Chicago American Giants in 1914.

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Gans

The story, first told to Rollo Wilson of The Pittsburgh Courier in 1929 and later to Lewis Dials from The New York Age in 1936, was substantially the same–although he added some embellishments after six years. Lewis wrote in 1936:

“Gans had been starring down East when Rube sent for him to come to Chicago and play for him. In a game with a group of white league stars, the Giants were trailing 1-0 with a man on second and a sloppy field, the late Rube instructed Judy to bunt and get the runner on third. The opposing pitcher lobbed one up and Gans hit it for a home run, winning the game 2 to 1. Rabid fans tossed money of all descriptions on the field to Judy, who collected it and counted $136.”

In the 1929 version, Gans added a few details–the game took place while the American Giants were barnstorming the West Coast, Bruce Petway was the runner at second, and Portland Beavers pitcher Irv Higginbottom was on the mound.

The amount collected from the fans also changed–in 1929, he said it was $87.50, with an additional “fifty dollar bill” handed to him by George Moore; Moore was an African-American hotel owner in Portland who became a prominent boxing promoter and manager–he was most famous for managing Henry Armstrong at the end of his career.

Gans was told after the game that he would be riding back to the hotel in Foster’s car—in the 1929 version Foster told him in the dugout to ride back to the hotel with him.

“Judy said his chest poked out as he had made a big hit with his new boss. Seated in the car with Rube made Gans feel big until Foster broke the silence with a query, ‘Where did you play ball?’ To which Just proudly replied, ‘Down East with all the good clubs.’”

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Foster

In the 1929 version, Gans said Foster asked him about playing for the Lincoln Giants, “How did you like working for Sol White down East? Any discipline down there?”

Gans answered that discipline was “so-so” under White.

“Rube then asked, ‘What team are you playing for now?’ And Judy replied, ‘The American Giants.’ Rube said, “Whose American Giants?’ And Judy replied, ‘Rube Foster’s’. ‘That’s what I thought, how much did you get for hitting that home run?’ Gans told him the sum and Rube said it was some hit alright but add fifty dollars to that $136 you got and it will pay your fine. Judy asked what fine. Rube said it was failure to carry out instructions.”

Foster told Gans:

“’Men on my club play ball like Rube Foster tells them, or it would not be Rube Foster’s American Giants.’

“Judy played as he was told after that, and at the end of the season Rube refunded the money.”

In the 1929 version, Gans did not get the money back and was told by Foster:

“’Well, boy, let papa tell you something. If the Giants had lost the game today, the papers would have been full of what happened to Rube Foster’s team. I am the manager of the club. I told you to lay down and you hit a home run…now the next time I tell you to bunt, you’ll remember that won’t you?’”

Whether he received the money back or not, Gans, according to Dial “pins the medal of a great leader” on Foster.

Lost Advertisements:”19 out of 22 of the Tigers Smoke Camels”

24 May

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A 1935 advertisement for Camel Cigarettes featuring the Detroit Tigers:

“Here’s the lineup of the smoking preferences  of the new world champions.”

Bill Rogel:

“Camel’s never jangle my nerves, and I smoke all I want, Camels taste better too.”

Mickey Cochrane:

“One thing the team can agree on is their choice of cigarettes–Camel’s. 19 of the 22 regulars smoke Camels. The Tigers say they can smoke all they want because Camel’s are so mild that they don’t get their wnf=d or upset their nerve.”

The smoking Tigers finished second to the Yankees, 19.5 games back in 1936.

Slagle Climbs a Hill

20 May

Wilbur Goode had just been traded to the Chicago Cubs by the Boston Rustlers in an eight-player deal in June of 1911, when Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Record-Herald asked the 25-year-old to describe the greatest play he had ever witnessed:

“Of course, I haven’t been in fast company long enough to tell much about great plays, maybe not long enough to pretend to judge which are really great.”

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Goode

But Goode said Jimmy Slagle, his teammate the previous season with the Baltimore Orioles in the Eastern League made the greatest play he had ever seen:

“The play was made on the Rochester grounds and by Jimmy Slagle. The fans in the big circuit know Slagle perhaps better than I do and they have seen him make some wonderful plays—but perhaps never one under such circumstances.”

Goode said Slagle still had enough speed to live up to his nickname “Rabbit” even though he was 36 and playing his final season of professional baseball.

He said the field conditions in Rochester were thus:

“The grounds are rather strangely laid out. The diamond and outfield are cut down to a perfect level, and to make the outfield level part of a hillside was scraped down, leaving a terrace around the field, which in some spots is six feet higher than the field itself.”

Goode said it was late in a game with the Orioles holding a one-run lead over the Bronchos; Rochester had runners on first and second with no one out:

“The next batter raised the ball high and far to left center.

“Slagle had been playing deep, expecting a long fly, or at least to prevent a long hit from going through and beating us right there. The ball went high and on the line. There was a row of carriages and autos on the terrace. The runners held their bases for an instant, saw that the ball was going far up on top of the terrace, and believing no one could reach it, they both started for the plate.”

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Slagle

Slagle raced to the base of the terrace:

“He leaped, put one foot against the side of the embankment and leaped again, shooting himself upward and landing on top of the terrace. The ball was going over and straight at a big red automobile. I remember the women in the machine screeched and dodged. Just then Slagle came bounding up onto the terrace, leaped again, stuck up both hands and grabbed that ball.”

After making the catch:

“Slagle ran to the edge of the bank, shot the ball in, and although the runner got back to first, the one returning to second was doubled and the game was saved.”

A Plank Story and a Rube Story

17 May

Eddie Plank spent his off seasons giving guided tours of the Gettysburg Battlefield near his Pennsylvania home; in 1907, The Washington Times said he had a sideline to make extra money off the tours:

“(I)t is alleged (he) sells the gullible tourists bullets supposed to have been shot away during the war of the rebellion, but which his ballplaying friends claim are buried by Eddie several days before he makes the sale. But as Plank says, what’s the difference as long as the tourists are happy?”

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Eddie Plank

The paper said Plank told Lave Cross that Europeans were selling American tourists “pieces of chips said to have come from the ark sailed by Noah,” when his teammate asked him about it, and said:

“If an American wants to get ‘stung,’ let it be done by some good fellow countryman, if only from a patriotic standpoint.”

The Times said spending so much time on the battlefield “and from constant talk about the dead,” that “Plank has developed a hankering after the occult” and supernatural:

“In Philadelphia, he purchased a couple of tickets for a lecture to be given at the Academy of Music on Buddhism.”

Plank had invited catcher Mike “Doc” Powers, “a deep student on such things” to join him, but Powers stood him up at the team hotel, “the only player around the hotel was Rube Waddell…Eddie, turning to Waddell asked did he want to go,” learn about Buddhism:

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Rube

“’Sure thing,’ said the big pitcher, as he jumped up with alacrity, ‘I’m a great lover of flowers.’”

“Mendez is a Wonder”

15 May

Edgar Forrest Wolfe, the cartoonist and sports columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer who wrote under the pen name Jim Nasium, joined the Phillies on their Cuban barnstorming tour after the 1911 season.

When he returned, he told readers:

“Baseball fans throughout the United States, in trying to dig up an answer that will explain away the wallopings that have been handed our big league ball teams by the Cubans during their annual winter pilgrimages to the ‘Sunny Isle.’”

 

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He said some fans tried to claim it was “change of climate” or players not adhering to “strict discipline,” but:

“While you can work this stuff and probably get away with it if you happen to be conversing with some guy who has never been south of Oshkosh, Michigan [sic]”

No, Wolfe said, climate and discipline were not the issue— “Good pitching and sensational fielding is the bulk of the answer.”

In particular, Wolfe singled out Jose Mendez, in an article that flirted with the progressive idea of integrating baseball while loaded with the racist ideas and language of the time.

Phillies manager Hans Lobert told Wolfe:

“Mendez is a wonder, and so is his catcher (Gervasio) Gonzalez. If we could give those two coons a coat of white paint and ring them in with the Phillies next summer, we’d win the pennant.”

Referring to Mendez’ first start against major leaguers in 1908, Wolfe noted:

“Mendez not only showed his ability as a pitcher, but his nerve and absolute immunity from stage fright, but going in and shutting out the Cincinnati team in this game with but one little hit, and that was a little scratch affair made by Miller Huggins in the ninth inning. Mendez fanned nine of the Reds in this game and as his own team could get him but one run to win with, you will see that he had to go some to win even with that great pitching.”

Wolfe chronicled what are now well-known highlights of Mendez’ performances against white professionals from 1908 to 1911, and then described what made him so unhittable:

“Mendez’ chief asset in a pitching way is terrific speed with a fast-breaking jump to the ball, which he mixes with a fast breaking curve, and excellent control and fine judgment in working the batsmen. Ballplayers from the states who have batted against Mendez or tried to, rather, assert that there is no pitcher in baseball, barring possibly Walter Johnson, who has as much ‘smoke’ as this ‘Black Mathewson’ of Cuba. The thing that causes the most wonderment among our players who have played in Cuba, however, is the wonderful ability of Mendez in fielding his position. He is remarkably fast on his feet and a quick starter, has a cool head and excellent judgment, and can throw from any position like a rifle shot.

“Mendez plays the whole infield when he is pitching, and it is almost impossible to lay down a safe bunt against him or even sacrifice, as he will invariably get the ball in time to nail the advance man.”

Wolfe said Mendez was so good fielding his position that he allowed his fielders to play “closer to the foul lines and leaving Mendez to plug up the holes in the center.”

And, he said Mendez worked “twice as hard” as other pitchers because of how much ground he covered fielding his position in the heat of Cuba:

“What a corking hot weather pitcher he would make up here if he could only be whitewashed.”

Wolfe also noted that Mendez had “never been the author of a boneheaded play,” and highlighted his character:

“Mendez is known in Havana as a modest and well-behaved gentleman at all times, both on the field of play and off, as he seems to realize that his color bars him from many privileges accorded to the white baseball hero. While pitching he is constantly smiling, showing his teeth in a broad grin, their whiteness forming a vivid contrast with his black skin. Every cent Mendez earns through his ball playing goes to the support of his mother, whom he can now afford to give every pleasure of the wealthy class of Cubans.”

Wolfe said during November of 1911, the pitcher earned $584 from gate receipts when he pitched:

“(A)s every time Mendez works down there, they play to capacity, the fans in Havana, white as well as colored, idolizing their ‘Black Mathewson’ much in the same way as New Yorkers idolize their white one.”

In closing, Wolfe lamented:

“It is one of the pathetic instances of life to see this Cuban negro, possessing all the characteristics of a gentleman and an ability that would make him one of the great figures in a great pastime, qualities that would bring him worldwide fame and popularity and wealth, barred from reaping the full benefits of these qualifications through the misfortune of birth. Jose Mendez will always have to be content just to be Cuba’s ‘Black Mathewson’”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

“I have Seen Many Pathetic Things”

14 May

Cy Young “wrote” in 1912:

“Baseball is not all sunshine.”

Like most players of the era, Young’s occasional syndicated newspaper columns were ghostwritten; most of Young’s were written by Sam Carrick of The Boston Post.

“The game,” he said, “has it’s shadows for every bright spot.”

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Cy Young

According to Young:

“I have seen many pathetic things that I have tried to forget. I have seen men injured; I have seen men heart-broken because they failed to make good, and I have seen others almost distracted when age compelled their retirement.”

But, he said, there was something even worse:

“(T)he most pathetic thing I ever have seen in the national game, and I have witnessed it hundreds of times in the years I have been pitching, is the fate of the fellow who has been a happy-go-lucky sort of a chap, without a thought for the future.

“Drawing large salaries and spending them freely, giving right and left to the unfortunate, these poor fellows, when their careers drew to a conclusion, were down and out financially and is many cases physically.”

Young said most had no other skills and had already been “running into debt to gratify some foolish whim or to prove what ‘good fellows’ they were—not thinking how quickly the world forgets all about good fellows.”

He said he could “mention instance after instance,” but chose not to open “old wounds.”

On the bright side, he said, players were changing:

“(B)aseball and baseball players are changing. The men who follow the game nowadays almost all realize that they can stay for a short time at best, and they are not men who are living for the present only.

“The player of the future, I believe, will show the same business ability that a successful merchant, broker or banker must show to keep up with the procession.”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #33

7 May

Radbourn on Rule Changes

Old Hoss Radbourn told The Boston Journal that he thought the new rule changes for 1887—including the four-strike strikeout and abolishing the rule that allowed batters to call for high or low pitches—would have very little impact:

“Radbourn says it is a mistake on the part of anybody to think that (Dan) Brouthers can’t hit anything but a low ball. He thinks they will find that when it is absolutely necessary Brouthers can hit almost anything. When asked what effect the thought the new rules would have on Anson’s batting, Radbourn smiled and said: ‘Anson’s all right. He has more chances than anyone else. A man has to get five strikes on Anson before the umpire will call him out. Umpires don’t like to call strikes on Anson. I don’t know why, but they don’t. The pitcher who strikes out Anson does a big thing.”

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 Radbourn

Brouthers’ average dropped 32 points to .338, but he still led the league in runs, doubles and on base percentage.  Anson’s fell 24 to a league-best .347—he had 18 strikeouts in 533 plate appearances. Radbourn posted career highs in walks (133) and ERA (4.55) for the fifth place Boston Beaneaters.

Comiskey on ‘Friends’

Charles Comiskey said he had no friends in the American League. He told The Pittsburgh Press before the 1902 season:

“There’s Connie Mack, if he thought I could use one of his players he would keep him around until the Fourth of July, and then, if I hadn’t got that place filled, he would take the player out behind the grandstand and shoot him rather than turn him loose so I could sign him. The rest are getting as bad as Connie too.

“When (Tom) Loftus came back into the league I thought I would have at least one friend. Now he puts blinders on his players every time I get anywhere near them. Just to show you; before Loftus went East recently, I framed it all up for him to get a good second baseman for his team. I knew (John) McGraw couldn’t use all his infielders, so told Loftus to go after either (Bill) Keister or (Jimmy) Williams. McGraw would talk to Loftus, but not to me, when it came to players.”

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 Comiskey

Loftus ended up signing Keister as a free agent.

“Well, Loftus got Keister, you know, and I figured that would solve my third base problem, for he can’t use both (Harry) Wolverton and (Bill) Coughlin at third, and neither is much good anywhere else. So, when Tom came back, I led him up to the subject gently and proposed taking one or the other of them off his hands. Then what do you think Loftus sprung on me? He said he though of playing Keister in the outfield next year so he would need all his infielders. He looks like all the rest to me now.”

Keister and Coughlin remained with the sixth place Washington Senators all season—Coughlin at third, Keister splitting time at second and in the outfield—Wolverton, who had jumped to the Senators returned to the Philadelphia Phillies mid-season. Comiskey tried to solve his “third base problem” by acquiring Sammy Strang from the New York Giants. Strang hit .295 but committed 62 errors and was released in September.

Warner on Revenge

In 1906, Washington catcher Jack Warner told The Boston American how he had gotten even with Cupid Childs for spiking him. The incidents occurred, he said, in 1895 when he had recently joined the Louisville Colonels and Childs played for the Cleveland Spiders.

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Warner

Warner said he had received the throw to the plate well ahead of Childs:

“Well, sir, Cupid came in like the Empire State Express, feet first and his body high in the air. And say, he planted those mudhooks of his on my right side with such force that I flew twenty feet. Then there was absolutely no excuse, as the play was not close, me being there waitin’ there to receive him. I put up a howl but that was useless, so I made up my mind to work the next day and watch for a chance to get even. I was lucky to have the same sort of play come off.

“Up in the sky went Mr. Cupid again. But this time I was not there, only thereabout. I had plenty of time to look him over and pick out a soft spot in his architecture. They had to pry the ball out and it took half an hour to bring him back from dreamland. That’s the way to do it when you know a lad it trying to get you. And you can always tell if he is on the level after a couple of encounters.”