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Things I Learned on the way to Looking Up Other Things #24

1 Aug

Pitching to Ruth

According to the International News Service, during a discussion before a game in 1919, Frank Baker was talking to his Yankees teammates about “the days when batters demanded the sort of delivery they could hit best.”

ruth

Babe Ruth

The players agreed:

“If that rule were in force in the present day the outfielders would have to be mounted on motorcycles, and Muddy Ruel said that the playing field would have to be as big as the parade grounds at old Camp Pike, where he was at officers training camp.

Just imagine Babe Ruth coming up with the bases filled and a hit needed if he had the privilege of demanding a fastball waist high.  The question of how to pitch to him under such conditions was placed in open discussion.  Ping Bodie solved it.  ‘I’d get back on second base, throw the ball and then duck,’ said Ping.”

Negotiating with Murphy

When it was first rumored that Fred Mitchell would step down as president of the Chicago Cubs in the summer of 1919, there was speculation that Charles Webb Murphy might return to the club as president (Bill Veeck Sr. was ultimately given the position)

Hearing word of Murphy’s possible return, Johnny Evers told The Sporting News what it was like to negotiate a contract with Murphy after the team’s back to back World Series wins in 1907 and 1908:

charlesmurphy

Charles Webb Murphy

“We had made lots of money for the Cubs and certainly expected owner Murphy to give us a big boost in salary.  I received my contract, gave it the once over and returned it to C.W. with the curt reply that I thought I deserved more money for my labors.

“It was not a big salary,  In fact, the sum mentioned was so small that if I were to tell you the amount it would shock you.  Mr. Murphy was shrewd enough to get around my request for a raise.  His reply was to the effect that I might deserve more money, but should be satisfied to work for the amount he mentioned in view of the fact that I had such wonderful stars to help me as Frank Chance on my left and Joe Tinker on my right.

“Joe Tinker also protested against the figures mentioned in his contract that year and the crafty Mr. Murphy’s reply to him was that he should be satisfied to play for almost anything since he was teamed up with such stars as (Harry) Steinfeldt on his right, Evers on his left and Frank Chance at first base.  There was no way to get around an argument like that, and when the season opened Tinker and I were playing at the original figures offered by chubby Charley.”

Arguing with Browning

The Louisville Courier-Journal recalled in 1908 an incident “When Pete Browning played with the Louisville club.”

Browning, said the paper, was “no prize beauty…still he was sensitive regarding his un-Apollo like appearance and would get angry in a moment if any allusion was made to his lack of pulchritude.”

petebrowning

Pete Browning

During a game in Cincinnati, umpire John Gaffney called Browning out on strikes.

 “The big fellow rushed up the umpire roaring like a toreador stuck bull.  But John Gaffney was afraid of no living man, and he ruled the field with a rod of iron, but he was also a reasonable man and would explain his decisions.  However, Pete would listen to no explanations.  Finally, Gaffney became angry, and walking up to Browning, he shook his finger in his face and said:

“’I would like to have a photograph of your face, Browning.’

“’And for why,’ shot back Pete, who was taken wholly by surprise, and began to color up when allusion was made to his face.

“’Why, I have a chicken farm back home,’ said Gaffney, ‘and I would like to put your picture in the coop so as to frighten eggs out of the hens.’”

“Old Bowlegs”

18 Jul

After Honus Wagner’s death in 1955, Chester L. Smith, sports editor for The Pittsburgh Press said:

“As long as there are two baseball fans left alive, Honus Wagner stories will be told and re-told, because Old Bowlegs was that kind of man.”

wagnerwbat

Honus Wagner

Smith proceeded to tell one which may or may not be apocryphal:

“And one day the Cubs were playing the Pirates and along about the seventh inning the Chicago starter got into trouble and first thing you knew the bases were filled with Bucs.”

Smith said Frank Chance brought in a rookie pitcher:

Heinie Zimmerman, the Cubs third baseman stood close by the mound while the kid chucked a few into the catcher.  Standing near the plate, swinging a couple of bats and waiting to step in was a big, bowlegged, lantern-jawed individual.

“’Who’s the batter?’ The boy asked Zimmerman

“’Wagner,’ Zimmerman said glumly.

“’How do you pitch to him?’ was the next question.

“’Whatever you do,’ Heine said, ‘don’t pitch him tight.  Keep the ball outside.’

Heinie_Zimmerman.jpg

Heinie Zimmerman

“So, the preliminaries were over, and the new pitcher obeyed orders to the letter.  He threw Wagner an outside pitch which Honus promptly belted down the right field line for two bases, scoring all three runners.

“’I thought you said he couldn’t hit an outside pitch,’ the lad snapped at Zimmerman after the dust had settled.

“’I didn’t say he couldn’t hit it,’ Heine replied.  ‘All I said was don’t pitch him inside—I’ve got a wife and two kids at home.’”

Joe Nealon

2 May

There was a race to sign Joe Nealon in 1905.  The San Francisco Chronicle said he was “thought to be the equal of Hal Chase,” the fellow first baseman and Californian who made his major league debut that season.

By November, West Coast newspapers had reported that at least four teams were after Nealon—the New York Highlanders, Boston Americans, St. Louis Browns, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs, and Pittsburgh Pirates were after Nealon.

nealon

Joe Nealon

There likely would have been even more interest in Nealon if not for his background; as The Chronicle said after Nealon signed with the San Francisco Seals before the 1905 season:

“Parental objection had to be overcome, and this was accomplished through an understanding that the boy would remain in professional baseball not more than two or three seasons.”

Nealon was the son of the James C. Nealon, a wealthy real estate executive, elected official, owner of thoroughbreds, and one of the best known handball players on the West Coast who often played with boxer Jim Corbett.

Nealon attended St. Ignatius College (now the University of San Francisco) and had played in the California State League in 1903 and 1904.

Cincinnati and Boston appeared to be the most aggressive pursuer of Nealon; according to The Cincinnati Enquirer:

“Everybody who has seen him work says that Nealon will fill the bill.  He is described as a second Bill Lange at the bat, and a new edition of Charley Comiskey on the bag.  Allowing for exaggeration he seems to be the real goods.”

The Reds dispatched Ted Sullivan to San Francisco. The Americans sent Dan Long.  They did not know that Pittsburgh Pirates Manager Fred Clarke was on his way West as well; Clarke arrived first. The Pirates manager won out.  The Pittsburgh Post said:

“It was against these two men that Clarke had to use his ingenuity in securing Nealon.  The player is a freelance and was at liberty to join a team of his own selection.  Being independently wealthy and playing baseball only for the sport he finds in it.  Nealon was not influenced by any financial proposition.”

Reds owner August Herrmann told The Cincinnati Enquirer:

“I had become very much interested in young Nealon and regret that we did not succeed in getting him, but there is no use mourning over his loss.”

While Herrmann might not have been mourning, others in Cincinnati were and blamed Sullivan.

Jack Ryder of The Enquirer said:

“Why was not Ted Sullivan on the ground earlier?  Ted left Cincinnati a week ago last Saturday (October 29) with instructions to make a bee line for Frisco.  Mr. Herrmann knew that there was keen competition for  the services of Nealon…If Sullivan had reached San Francisco on Tuesday or Wednesday, as he was expected to do he would have got in ahead of Fred Clarke, and the chances would have favored his securing the player.”

Ryder said he had a letter from James C. Nealon written to Herrmann promising “that his son would sign with Cincinnati, ‘other things being equal,’” Ryder noted that the Reds “offered the boy more salary than any other club including Pittsburgh.”

Ryder concluded:

“Fred Clarke, who was on the spot, while Ted Sullivan was not, was able to persuade (Nealon) that the Pirates are a far better aggregation than the Reds.”

Ted Sullivan was not about to blamed, and fired off a letter to The Enquirer:

“There is not a man in the city of Cincinnati that would feel as much hurt as myself to lose a good man for the Cincinnati club.  The two years that I have acted as agent for Mr. Herrmann he has treated me like a king, and has showed a disposition to back my judgment on the skill of a player.”

tedsullivan

Ted Sullivan

Sullivan said in the letter, he had discovered Nealon’s “hidden skill” in August:

“The skill I noticed in Nealon (I wrote Mr. Herrmann at the time) was skill hidden beneath a dross of inexperience and youth.”

While he conceded that some time in the major leagues would “make him a star,” he assured The Enquirer he was not of the caliber of Sullivan’s favorite first baseman:

“The greatest first baseman in the history of the game, Charles Comiskey, was my own selection and making (which I say without egotism), but the California fledgling, without disparaging him, is a pallbearer compared to the magnetism of the matchless Comiskey.”

Sullivan blamed his inability to sign Nealon on Nealon’s father.  He claimed to have offered $3,800 to the first baseman in August, and was told that money was not the critical consideration, but complained that Nealon Sr. had immediately “proclaimed throughout Frisco, with the aid of a flashlight, and had also the newspaper men transmit (the offer) to all of the papers in the East.”

As for arriving is San Francisco after Clarke, Sullivan blamed that on the railroads:

“(I) was blocked between Salt Lake and Sacramento, caused by the immense amount of trains”

But, said Sullivan, none of that mattered.  Nealon’s father had not dealt with the Reds in good faith:

“Mr. Nealon Sr., who claimed he was not out for the money, called Fred out on the porch of the house and showed him, in confidence, the offer from Cincinnati.”

The latest Cincinnati offer was $6500—with a clause that promised $1000 more than any other offer Nealon would receive–Sullivan said.  Clarke matched the $6500, he said, and signed Nealon.

fredclarkepix

Fred Clarke

There was more said Sullivan:

“Now comes the most brazen effrontery of offended dignity that has more hypocritic brass in it than the Colossus of Rhodes.  With this standing offer of Mr. Herrmann’s in his hands for days before I arrived,  I asked Mr. Nealon Sr., why he did not close with Mr. Herrmann on such a grand offer.  ‘Why,’ says he, ‘I consider it an insult for any man to make me such an offer as that, as it would appear that I was playing one club against the other.”  Think of that insult—one man offers another man $1000 more than the highest bidder and he is insulted.”

Sullivan closed his letter by again questioning Nealon’s prospects of making an immediate impact, and said:

“I would rather go down to Millcreek bottoms and pick up some young fellow that wanted to make baseball a profession, than any young man in the United States who thinks that he is condescending to play ball for $7000.”

Sullivan was not the only representative of a club who had expressed interest in Nealon who now questioned the prospects ability.  In response to Frank Chance of the Chicago Cubs who said Nealon was “not of National League Caliber,” The Pittsburgh Press responded:

“Sour Grapes?”

The rest of the story on Friday.

Chicago Cubs, Charity Patients

4 Apr

The Chicago Daily News noted the day Charles Webb Murphy gave up on the idea of his Chicago Cubs winning the 1913 National League pennant.

The local papers had counted the Cubs out for weeks; Murphy hung on until they were mathematically eliminated on September 19:

“Murphy today drew down the advertisement he has been running in the local papers: ‘The Cubs may yet cop the pennant.’”

1913cubs

One of Murphy’s ads

The paper pointed out that they could finish no better than second, but said to do so, “the Cubs will need the services of an earthquake.”

Webb didn’t get his earthquake and quickly found himself at the center of a major scandal just outside the West Side Grounds as the Cubs limped to a third place finish.

The Cubs’ neighbor, Cook County Hospital became the subject of a large-scale corruption investigation that hit the papers just as Webb’s ads were disappearing.

westsidecountyhosp

West Side Grounds, Cook County Hospital is visible beyond the grandstand

An investigation ordered by Cook County Board President Alexander Agnew McCormick had revealed that the hospital’s warden, Henry L. Bailey had, according to The Chicago Inter Ocean, allowed politically connected county residents who could afford medical services to receive treatment for free—he was also accused, but cleared, of pocketing the profits derived from selling corpses for medical research.

On September 22, The Chicago Tribune reported a new charge:

“The investigation will also be directed into the alleged exchange of season tickets to the National League baseball games for free medical attention and medicine for indisposed ballplayers. Investigators have brought in evidence that indicating to them that the million dollar baseball club of Charles Webb Murphy received the same solicitous care as did those undeserving ones who entered the free wards on the personal cards of politicians.”

The Tribune said “a number” of passes “found their way” into the hands of hospital administrators.

Murphy immediately denied that any of his players received free treatment.

charlesmurphy

Charles Webb Murphy

Within a day, The Chicago Evening Post said otherwise:

“The hospital authorities admitted treating members of the Cubs’ team without charge. President Murphy said no ballplayer of his team had ever been treated free at the hospital.

“The records of the hospital show among the charity patients a man named John Evers, American, baseball player, treated for two weeks and discharged from the hospital much improved.

“Another man named Henry Zimmerman, American, baseball player, was entered as a charity patient in the institution several times.

“Another page in the record bore the name of James Sheckard who was treated gratis for a broken finger.”

evers

Johnny Evers

Additionally, The Tribune alleged that “a number of ballplayers had photographs taken of their injuries at no cost.” The paper said x-rays usually cost between $10 and $25, and said it was difficult to say exactly how many players received free x-rays because many names and patient records were falsified, but quoted one record which included a payment waiver and said:

“For Mr. Murphy, by personal order of Henry L. Bailey.”

Murphy dug his heels in and told the papers none of his players received free hospital care.

From New York, Frank Chance took the opportunity to contradict the denials of the owner who he had spent most of 1912 feuding with before being dismissed and sent to the Yankees , telling The Daily News:

“Whenever a Cub player was injured it was customary to go over to the County Hospital and be cared for. I couldn’t attempt to say how many x-ray examinations have been made of the players there. Murphy was always friendly to the officials at the institutions.”

Webb became an early example of waiting out the news cycle,

He never backed down. Never admitted that his players had received free services and the story disappeared later in the fall of 1913. Forgotten forever by the time Murphy sold his interest in the Cubs to to Charles Phelps Taft before the 1914 season.

“Steiny is Dead”

29 Aug

Harry Steinfeldt cheated death in 1904.

According to The Cincinnati Times-Star, the Reds third baseman, “suffering from a severe attack of lumbago,” returned home to the Biedebach Hotel after a road trip in St. Louis when he “accidently pulled down a chandelier, causing the gas to escape.”

Steinfeldt

Steinfeldt

Steinfeldt in “his crippled condition” failed to turn off the gas completely before going to bed.  Later in the evening, overcome by gas, “in a semi-conscious state,” he attempted to crawl out of the room and “cried for help.”

Fifteen-year-old Mabel Biedebach, the daughter of the hotel’s proprietor, sprang into action:

“She heard Steinfeldt’s cries and ran to his room, where she found him on is hands and knees trying to force himself out of the door.  With rare presence of mind, the young lady raised the ball player’s head and with one mighty effort dragged his body to the hallway.”

The incident sidelined Steinfeldt for five games, and a leg injury and the back pain that led to his near death experience, limited him to 99 games, and his batting average plummeted 68 points from 1903.

Ten years later, the 36-year-old died of a cerebral hemorrhage after a long illness that began during his final big league season in 1911.

Hugh Fullerton eulogized the third baseman, one of his favorite subjects when Steinfeldt played for the Cubs in the pages of The Chicago Herald:

“Steiny is dead.

“The first of the famous Chicago Cubs is gone and every one of that magnificent crowd of men who whirled through the National League to so many pennants will drop a tear.  There was no more beloved member of the team.

“It was Steinfeldt who completed the team and made pennants a possibility.  It was Steinfeldt who, steady, reliable, always in the game, carried them through those fierce campaigns.  It was when Steinfeldt was let out (before the 1911 season) that the old machine commenced to misfire and its tires flattened.  Three times he was selected as the All-American third baseman and many experts have picked him as the third baseman of the greatest team of all time.”

Fullerton compared Steinfeldt to more celebrated third basemen:

“Steiny was not great in the sense that Jerry Denny, Jimmy Collins or Billy Nash was great.  He was a different type; solid, strong, rather slow, but possessed of a wonderful throwing arm that enabled him to block down balls and throw out runners.”

Fullerton said Cubs Manager Frank Chance wanted Steinfeldt badly when he was still with the Reds in 1905:

“Chance forced President (Charles Webb) Murphy to get him.  Murphy made three trips to Cincinnati and each time returned to dissuade Chance and relate awful tales he had heard of Steinfeldt, but finally he surrendered, made a trade and got Steinfeldt. The day Steiny reported to the Cubs (in 1906) Frank Chance said to me:

“’Let’s have a drink.  We’ll win the pennant sure now.’ And he did.”

Steinfeldt, third from left, center row, with the 1906 Cubs

Steinfeldt, third from left, center row, with the 1906 Cubs

Fullerton said Steinfeldt was one of the game’s best storytellers as well—and his stories, like many of Fullerton’s were often more colorful than accurate:

“One I shall never forget.

“’The gamest guy that ever played ball, Steiny remarked, ‘was a fellow who played second base for Dallas when I was down there.  One day Dallas was playing Fort Worth and, in the first inning the Fort Worth center fielder tried to steal.  He was thrown out a block, but took a flying leap and lit on the second baseman’s foot with his spikes.  He limped around  a few minutes, said he was all right and went on playing.

“’In that game he had six putouts, nine assists, and no errors, was in three double plays, one of them a triple, and was all over the field.  After the game, he and I were walking out to the clubhouse and he said, ‘I believe there’s something in my shoe,’ and stooping down he took off his shoe and shook out two toes.’”

Fullerton said of his best quality:

“There never was an ounce of harm in Steiny. He was always for the weakest.  I saw him with tears rolling down his cheeks one day as he listened to a hard luck yarn and he was not ashamed to weep when one of the players was released.

“It was his discharge from the Cubs that broke Steiny’s heart and led to the breakdown that resulted in his death.

Steinfeldt, 1908

Steinfeldt, 1908

“When Steiny left the Cubs the reporters who had been with the team for years got up a little bit of parchment on which was inscribed:

“This is to certify, that we, the undersigned, testify that Harry Steinfeldt was a good fellow and a good ball player and that we will miss him even more in the first capacity than we will in the second.

“He treasured that, and perhaps no better obituary can be written for him.”

Baseball Wives, 1911

27 Apr

The Chicago Inter Ocean sent a reporter—a female reporter named Lois Willoughby—to get to know:

“The feminine element (that) is a silent factor in baseball of no mean importance.  It exerts a wonderful influence on the game…The women who preside over homes of West Side Players.”

The Chicago Cubs wives of 1911:

“The wives of members of the Chicago National League baseball team are always at the games.  They are thirty-third-degree fans—all but Mrs. (Nellie) Ed Reulbach…who is quite indifferent to the sport, and who wouldn’t know a base hit from a double play.”

As for the other wives of the defending National League Champions:

“They are comely, intelligent, charming women.  They know everything about the game.  They appreciate the value of every play.  They watch the contest with unflagging interest.  They cheer their husbands on to victory…Through ups and downs, they maintain unbounded enthusiasm and unfaltering faith in the Cubs.  They show it the only way they can by their daily presence in the grandstand.”

Manager Frank Chance’s wife, the former Edythe Pancake, attended every game:

“She may come at the last moment, accompanied by her Boston Bull pup, but she is generally comfortably settled for the afternoon before the game is called.  This beautiful woman, with golden hair and blue eyes, shares her husband’s enthusiasm in baseball.

Edyth and Frank Chance

Edyth and Frank Chance

“’Do I come every day?’ she asked as though she could not have heard the question right.  ‘Why, of course, I do.  I wouldn’t miss a game for anything.  I think baseball is the greatest sport there is.  It is a profession now and an honorable one, at that. Every year it is exacting men of higher standards…Baseball is such a clean, healthful sport that I should think it would appeal to everyone.”

Jimmy Sheckard’s wife Sarah Jane said:

“I think Mr. Sheckard is the best left fielder in existence.  And he ought to be. Jimmy plays baseball, reads baseball, talks baseball and lives baseball…Baseball is the best profession and cleanest sport.  I don’t worry about the future.  With good health and good discipline, a man ought to get along all right anywhere.”

mrssheckard

Sarah Jane Sheckard

Ruby Tinker declared her husband the “greatest shortstop in the world,” and said:

“I never saw Joe on the diamond until after we were married.  I have watched him make many fine plays.  I think the best one was the day following his reinstatement this year (Chance suspended Tinker for “the remainder of the season” citing “gross indifference, on August 5—two days later he was back in the lineup) when he played against (Christy) Mathewson and got four hits.”

Ruby Tinker

Ruby Tinker

She said her life revolved around baseball “from morning until night,” and during the off-season as well:

“Joe goes into vaudeville in the winter and gives baseball talks with pictures.  I go with him as an ‘assisting artist,’ which means that I stand in the wings and prompt him…The winter spectators are just as enthusiastic as the summer ones.”

Of those who considered baseball a less than honorable profession, she said:

“They don’t know what they’re talking about.  Baseball is a good profession, a good sport, and good fun.”

Helen Evers insisted that despite reports there were no bad feelings among the 1911 team:

“The Cubs are a fine lot of men.  There seems to be perfect harmony this year, and they do good team work.”

As for her husband’s well-known difficult personality, she said:

“He has the reputation for being ‘crabby’ at times.  Perhaps he is, but that’s what put him where he is.”

mrsevers

Helen Evers

Helen Evers noted one of Johnny’s other personality quirks:

“But when the jinx gets him!  If you don’t know about the jinx you can’t understand how serious it is.  I believe most of the players are superstitious, and they have enough to make them so. I always hope he won’t see a funeral on the way to the game.  That’s a sure sign of bad luck…there are scores of hoodoos and a baseball hoodoo seems hard to break.  One of the good signs is a wagon load of empty barrels.  I’m sure I would never know when they are empty.  These things probably count for nothing, but they seem to affect the nerves of the players.”

Back to Mrs. Reulbach who while not entirely against the sport, expressed her basic disdain for her husband’s chosen career:

“As a wholesome sport, I think baseball has no equal…But as a profession, it does not appeal to me. It is only for a few years at the most and the fascination of the game must make other professions  or lines of business seem dull and monotonous.”

And while conceding the Reulbach’s years in baseball had been “pleasant and profitable” she said:

“I trust Eddie Reulbach Jr. will not be a professional baseball player.”

Nelly Reulbach with Ed Jr.

Nelly Reulbach with Ed Jr.

Ed Reulbach Jr., then 2-years-old, suffered from a variety of illnesses throughout his short life and died in 1931.

Willoughby concluded that as the 1911 National League race wound down:

“Hoping against hope, these faithful women have seen the pennant slipping farther and farther away from them.”

The Cubs lost the pennant to the Giants by 7 ½ games.

“One of the Biggest Jokes of Baseball”

16 Mar

Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Examiner had decried spring training as an “Annual display of foolishness” in 1914.  Four years later, he was convinced the First World War had been its death knell:

“One of the biggest jokes of baseball will be eliminated to a great degree when the game is resumed, and one of the most fruitful sources of publicity will be cut down to the essentials.  The spring training trip as an institution practically will cease to be.  No longer will team be taken on long, expensive junkets South and West to ‘train’ for the season.”

Fullerton said “The thing has been overdone,” and claimed that players and owners alike were against the practice continuing.

“The expenses will be heavier than ever before and long junkets would cost too much.  But even greater than these, the next generation of professional ballplayers will be workers.  They will work all winter instead of striving to live on the cheers saved up from the preceding season.  They will not have time to spend five or six weeks loitering in the South, and further, they will report to their teams in better condition than they usually have been.”

He conceded that pitcher and catchers might be “sent somewhere” for a couple of weeks, but declared:

“(The) spring barnstorming era is ended.”

While Fullerton remained adamant that spring training was a useless waste of time and money, he did say:

“But what a lot of fun will be missed…In the spring, the teams always have with them the ‘nuts’ and peculiar characters that the scouts have a habit of discovering.  Sometimes I suspect those fellows dig up ‘bugs’ merely for their advertising value or else the minor league managers have a way of selling all their eccentrics to the big leagues.”

He said of traveling with the Chicago Cubs in Mississippi:

“We had one back in the early part of this century who beat almost all records.  He joined the club with two trunks, one partly filled with clothes and the other containing six one gallon bottles of ‘strength medicine’ which his mother had concocted.  It was made of boneset, hops, mullein, tincture of iron, garlic, asafetida, sulphur and rotgut whiskey.”

Fullerton then told the story of when the unnamed (or apocryphal) player arrived at the ballpark the following day:

“That fellow was suspicious.  He reached the practice grounds at Vicksburg, looked around cautiously, scratched a hole in the sand and buried his diamond ring.  Then he filled his pipe, lighted it and started to practice.  Pretty soon (Manager Frank) Chance yelled at him to get back of the bat and warm up the (batting practice pitchers).  He adjusted his mask, stuck the pipe through the wires and went to work.  That finished his major league career.”

Frank Chance

Frank Chance

Fullerton said Chicago’s 1898 training camp with Manager Tom Burns was “Probably the strangest” a team had ever chosen, and the one that convinced him spring training trips weren’t necessary:

Tom Burns

Tom Burns

“Hudson (New Mexico) consists of one of the finest hot springs in the world, a wide-porched, one-story hotel called Casa del Consuelo  and it is five miles from the railroad and twenty-five from Silver City.”

Fullerton said because of the terrain, and the lack of a suitable location to play:

“The team made one effort to play ball and gave up, and yet, after three weeks of horseback riding, hunting, and mountain climbing, and with only tossing the ball as practice, it was the best conditioned team I ever saw open a season.”

While Chicago might have started the season as the “best-conditioned team” Fullerton had ever seen, and won five of their first six games, they finished the season in fourth place, 17 ½ games behind the Boston Beaneaters.

The 1921 map of spring training locations shows how quickly Fullerton was proven wrong:

1921stmap

Grantland Rice’s “All-Time All-Star Round up”

10 Aug

In December of 1917, thirty-eight-year-old sportswriter Grantland Rice of The New York Tribune enlisted in the army–he spent fourteen months in Europe.  Before he left he laid out the case, over two weeks, for an all-time all-star team in the pages of the paper:

“As we expect to be held to a restricted output very shortly, due to the exigencies and demands of the artillery game, this seemed to be a fairly fitting period to unfold the results.”

Grantland Rice

Grantland Rice

Rice said the selections were “not solely from our own limited observation, extending over a period of some eighteen or twenty years,” but included input from players, managers and sportswriters, including  “such veterans” as Frank Bancroft and Clark Griffith, and baseball writers Joe Vila of The New York Sun, Bill Hanna of The New York Herald and Sam Crane, the former major league infielder turned sportswriter of The New York Journal.

Rice said only one of the nine selections “(S)eems to rest in doubt.  The others were almost unanimously backed.”

The selections:

Pitcher:  Christy Mathewson

A. G. Spalding, John (Montgomery) Ward, Larry Corcoran, Charley Radbourn, John Clarkson, (Thomas) Toad Ramsey, Tim Keefe, Bill Hoffer, Amos Rusie, (Mordecai) Miner Brown, Addie Joss, Ed Walsh–the array is almost endless.

“In the matter of physical stamina, Cy Young has outclassed the field.  Cy won more games than almost any others ever pitched.

“(But) For all the pitching mixtures and ingredients, stamina, steadiness, brilliancy, brains, control, speed, curves, coolness, courage, is generally agreed that no man has ever yet surpassed Christy Mathewson…there has never been another who had more brains or as fine control.”

 

[…]

“It might be argued that Radbourn or (Walter) Johnson or (Grover Cleveland) Alexander was a greater pitcher than Mathewson.

But we’ll string with Matty against the field.”

Radbourn was the second choice.  Bancroft said:

“Radbourn was more like Mathewson than any pitcher I ever saw.  I mean by that, that like Matty, he depended largely upon brains and courage and control, like Matty he had fine speed and the rest of it.  Radbourn was a great pitcher, the best of the old school beyond any doubt.”

Catcher:  William “Buck” Ewing

“Here we come to a long array—Frank (Silver) Flint, Charley Bennett, (Charles “Chief”) Zimmer, (James “Deacon”) McGuire, (Wilbert) Robinson, (Marty) Bergen(Johnny) Kling, (Roger) Bresnahan and various others.

“But the bulk of the votes went to Buck Ewing.”

Buck Ewing

Buck Ewing

[…]

“Wherein did Ewing excel?

“He was a great mechanical catcher.  He had a wonderful arm and no man was surer of the bat…he had a keen brain, uncanny judgment, and those who worked with him say that he had no rival at diagnosing the  weakness of opposing batsman, or at handling his pitchers with rare skill.”

Kling was the second choice:

“Kling was fairly close…a fine thrower, hard hitter, and brilliant strategist…But as brilliant as Kling was over a span of years, we found no one who placed him over the immortal Buck.”

1B Fred Tenney

First Base was the one position with “the greatest difference of opinion,” among Rice and the others:

“From Charlie Comiskey to George Sisler is a long gap—and in that gap it seems that no one man has ever risen to undisputed heights… There are logical arguments to be offered that Hal Chase or Frank Chance should displace Fred Tenney at first.

But in the way of batting and fielding records Tenney wins….Of the present array, George Sisler is the one who has the best chance of replacing Tenney.”

2B Eddie Collins

 “There was no great argument about second base.

“The vote was almost unanimous.

“From the days of Ross Barnes, a great hitter and a good second baseman on through 1917, the game has known many stars.  But for all-around ability the game has known but one Eddie Collins.”

Rice said the competition was between Collins, Napoleon Lajoie and Johnny Evers:

“Of these Lajoie was the greatest hitter and most graceful workman.

“Of these Evers was the greatest fighter and the more eternally mentally alert.

“But for batting and base running, fielding skill, speed and the entire combination, Collins was voted on top.”

 SS Honus Wagner

“Here, with possibly one exception, is the easiest pick of the lot.  The game has been replete with star shortstops with George Wright in 1875 to (Walter “Rabbit”) Maranville, (George “Buck”) Weaver…There were (Jack) Glasscock and (John Montgomery) Ward, (Hardy) Richards0n, (Hugh) Jennings, (Herman)Long, (Joe) Tinker and (Jack) Barry.

“But there has been only one Hans Wagner.”

Honus Wagner

Honus Wagner

Jennings and Long were rated second and third,  “But, with the entire list  considered there is no question but that Wagner stands at the top.”

3B Jimmy Collins

Rice said:

“From the days of (Ned) Williamson(Jerry) Denny, and (Ezra) Sutton, over thirty years ago, great third basemen have only appeared at widely separated intervals.

“There have been fewer great third basemen in baseball than at any other position, for there have been periods when five or six years would pass without an undoubted star.”

The final decision came down to “John McGraw vs. Jimmy Collins.”  McGraw was “a great hitter, a fine bunter and a star base runner,” while “Collins was a marvel and a marvel over a long stretch…he was good enough to carve out a .330 or a .340 clip (and) when it came to infield play at third he certainly had no superior…So taking his combined fielding and batting ability against that of McGraw and Collins wins the place.  McGraw was a trifle his superior on the attack. But as a fielder there was no great comparison, Collins leading by a number of strides.”

 

OF Ty Cobb

“The supply here is overwhelming…Yet the remarkable part is that when we offered our selection to a jury of old players, managers and veteran scribes there was hardly a dissenting vote.”

[…]

“Number one answers itself.  A man who can lead the league nine years in succession at bat.

“A man who can lead his league at bat in ten out of eleven seasons.

“A man who can run up the record for base hits and runs scored in a year—also runs driven in.

“Well, the name Ty Cobb answers the rest of it.”

OF Tris Speaker

 “The man who gives Cobb the hardest battle is Tris Speaker.  Veteran observers like Clark Griffith all say that Speaker is the greatest defensive outfielder baseball has ever exploited…Speaker can cover more ground before a ball is pitched than any man.  And if he guesses incorrectly, which he seldom does, he can go a mile to retrieve his error in judgment…And to this impressive defensive strength must be added the fact he is a powerful hitter, not only a normal .350 man, but one who can tear the hide off the ball for extra bases.”

Tris Speaker "hardest hit"

Tris Speaker 

OF “Wee Willie” Keeler

Mike Kelly and Joe KelleyJimmy Sheckard and Fred Clarke—the slugging (Ed) Delehanty—the rare Bill LangeBilly Hamilton.

“The remaining list is a great one, but how can Wee Willie Keeler be put aside?

“Ask Joe Kelley, or John McGraw, or others who played with Keeler and who remember his work.

“Keeler was one of the most scientific batsmen that ever chopped a timely single over third or first…And Keeler was also a great defensive outfielder, a fine ground coverer—a great thrower—a star in every department of play.

“Mike Kelly was a marvel, more of an all-around sensation, but those who watched the work of both figure Keeler on top.”

Rice said of the nine selections:

“The above is the verdict arrived at after discussions with managers, players and writers who have seen a big section of the long parade, and who are therefore able to compare the stars of today with the best men of forgotten years.

“Out of the thousands of fine players who have made up the roll call of the game since 1870 it would seem impossible to pick nine men and award them the olive wreath.  In several instances the margin among three or four is slight.

“But as far a s deductions, observations, records and opinions go, the cast named isn’t very far away from an all-time all-star round up, picked for ability, stamina, brains, aggressiveness and team value.

“If it doesn’t stick, just what name from above could you drop?”

“I am, I Believe, more Inclined to fear the Jinx”

12 Apr

In 1910, Johnny Evers “wrote” an article in “Baseball Magazine” about superstitions:

“’On the Cubs’ team, for instance, I am, I believe, more inclined to fear the jinx than any other member of the club.  In batting practice before the game the general belief is that if you are not hitting the ball hard or up in the air you will bat well in the game ofttimes as a result. In many cases I have seen a player hit two or three balls hard and on the line and then go to the bench and refuse to bat anymore, saying, ‘I’m saving mine for the game.’”

Johnny Evers

Johnny Evers

Some of Evers’ other superstitions:

“Going to the different parks in the cars the sight of a funeral along the road is regarded as an ill omen.  The same applies to a (handicapped person) unless you toss him a coin.  A wagon load of barrels is a good sing.  Frequently a man, having gone a mile out of the way to purchase something on a day when his club happened to win, will continue to travel the roundabout pathway so long as the club is in that particular city or until his teammates lose.”

As for superstitions during a game:

“Watch a man when the inning is over.  If the inning previous was favorable to a player, observe him go over and be particular to locate the same spot to lay down his glove.  You doubtless have often seen a player attired in a soiled and far from presentable uniform.  Beneath all that lurks our old friend the jinx.  The player will stick to the dirty garments so long as his team is winning.  When the streak is broken the laundryman gets a chance at his clothing, but not before.”

[…]

“Not for the world could you induce the average major league pitcher to resume work with a new shoe lace.  He will tie up the remnants and go ahead, hoping to make the laces last throughout the session.  The players don’t want the bat boys to hand them their clubs either.  On our home grounds of course, Red Gallagher, the bat boy, has a sort of standing job swinging the sticks, but he always tries hard to drive away the hoodoo.  Watch him salivate the handle of every bat before it goes in the hands of its owner.”

In addition to bat boy spit, Evers said there were other superstitions among the Cubs:

“Keep your eyes glued on Tinker when he goes to bat.  Joe has a habit of walking straight from the bench to the plate to the plate for the first time up.  If he gets a clean hit that time he’ll repeat in the second trip, but if he fans or fouls out or is tossed o death on an infield drive Tinker certainly will waltz out in a circle, going back to the plate.  This is the way he hopes to break the hoodoo.”

Joe Tinker

Joe Tinker

[…]

“Recall how Manager (Frank) Chance refused to have the Cubs pose for a team picture during the closing days of the League race in 1908.  He was especially fearful that the photographer might work a jinx on the players and jeopardize our chances of beating Detroit.    (Ed) Reulbach is a mighty superstitious chap.  I remember how one of Ed’s friends approached him when the big pitcher was mowing them down for his record of fourteen straight victories (In 1909 Reulbach tied the record set in 1904 by Joe McGinnity and Jack Chesbro). He wanted Reulbach’s cap, the one he had worn during all those games, but Ed refused to part with the headgear.

Yes, the ballplayer is to be listed only with the actor or the sailor when it comes to the superstitious phase of life.”

Miller Huggins

27 Mar

Miller James Huggins was born on this date in 1879.  The Hall of Fame Manager of the New York Yankees played 13 seasons as a second baseman for the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals.

Miller Huggins

Miller Huggins

In 1911, he told Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Record-Herald about “The greatest play,” he had seen during his career.

Huggins said it was a play made the previous season—July 30, 1910–by his teammate, shortstop Arnold “Stub” Hauser during a game between the Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs, and was described by Charles Dryden of The Chicago Examiner as “the only quadruple play ever made.”

“The play was wonderful, not only because of the situation and the manner in which it was accomplished, but because of the fact that Hauser kept his head all the time and thought as quickly as he acted.

“The situation was this:  we had the game won, but (Frank) Chance and his Crabs were fighting hard and hitting harder.  It took a lot of fielding and desperate work to hold the lead we had gained as they had men on the bases in almost every inning and kept threatening to pile up a bunch of runs almost any minute and beat us out. “

In the fifth inning, with Solly Hofman on first and Jimmy Sheckard on second, Chance hit John “Red” Corriden’s first pitch:

“Chance hit it like a streak of lightning almost over second base, perhaps two or three feet to the third base side of the bag and on a low line.  The ball was hit so hard that I hadn’t a chance to get near it, although I took a running jump in that direction.  It didn’t seem that Hauser, who was playing short, could make it touch his hands.  He came with a run, and as he saw the ball going past he dived for it, and made it hit his left hand while it was extended at full length.  He just stabbed at the ball, and although it hit his hand he, of course, could not hold it.  He was staggering, almost falling, and the ball popped up in the air perhaps a couple of feet, and as it started to fall to the ground Hauser, still falling, grabbed it with his hand and clung to it.  I had covered second, hoping he would be able to get the ball to me when I saw him hit it with his hands.  (Instead of throwing to Huggins) He staggered over second base (to retire Sheckard) and shot the ball to first (to retire Hofman).  As he touched second he spiked me so severely that I had to quit the game.  That is why Dryden called it a quadruple play, as it retired three Crabs and myself at the same time.  I’m proud now that I got spiked, as it gave me a part in the greatest play I ever saw on a ball field.”

___

Speaking of Huggins.  I receive a fairly steady stream of advance copies of books, and while I read most of them, I don’t recommend many. Too many rely heavily on recycled information from secondary and tertiary sources, often repeating faulty information and perpetuating myths.  A soon to be released book about Huggins is a pleasant exception.

colonelandhugcover

The Colonel and Hug: The Partnership That Transformed the New York Yankees, by Steve Steinberg and Lyle Spatz, will be released on May 1. In addition to being a thoroughly researched, well-written, definitive, biography of both Huggins and Yankee owner Jacob Rupert, the book does an excellent job of weaving the story of the Yankees in the broader context of the 1920s.

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