Tag Archives: Al Demaree

“A Good Ballplayer must be Temperamental”

15 Feb

 

Idah McGlone Gibson was the most famous female journalist of the early 20th Century; in addition to publishing several books, she wrote for the syndicated Newspaper Enterprise Association, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Evening Herald, and The Toledo Blade.

idahmgibson

Idah McGlone Gibson

She also interviewed New York Giants Manager John McGraw twice, five years apart.

Their first meeting took place in New York shortly before the end of the Giants’ pennant-winning 1912 season.  McGlone told her readers:

“McGraw is surrounded by more ‘buffers’ to keep the public from him that Maude Adams (a notoriously press-shy actress), who is never interviewed, and that’s going some.

mcgrawgibson

Gibson and McGraw in 1912

“Neither his telephone number nor his home address is obtainable unless you reach one of his close friends, and at the Polo Grounds. he is never on view until you have passed all the police force and plain-clothes men.”

McGlone said former Giant turned New York attorney, John Montgomery Ward provided her with an introduction to McGraw.

“It was after the game that I saw the Giants’ manager, well-groomed, well-dressed, well-mannered. McGraw was evidently at peace with himself and the world…He is the most serious ballplayer I ever talked to.  He seldom smiles, and told me that he put one on to order when he had his picture taken with me.”

Gibson asked how McGraw thought the Giants would fare in the World Series against the Boston Red Sox:

“Of course, we are going into the game to win, not because of any glory attached to it, but because it is our business.  However, I feel that I shall be able to live through the winter if we lose the world’s championship.  I am not able to get up that high-water mark enthusiasm which exhilarates the fans to whom the game is a pleasure and not a business.”

She also asked McGraw about the biggest source of gossip surrounding his ballclub; the relationship between Rube Marquard, his 26-game winning pitcher and vaudeville star Shirley Kellogg—during August and September several newspapers published erroneous reports from Marquard’s mother that the couple had married:

“’Indeed, I don’t know whether he is married or not,’ he answered suavely, but his brown eyes narrowed and his lips came together firmly.  ‘You know I have nothing to do with the private lives of my men.’

“Marquard’s name and love affairs, however, did not bring a rosy glow to the manager’s face, and I imagine McGraw has helped make the course of true love run a little crooked, as ‘the Rube’ has lost the jump to his fast ball since his reported marriage.”

Rube Marquard

Rube Marquard

 

McGraw touted his other pitchers, telling Gibson that the greatest pitching performance “he had ever seen was in training camp last spring” when Jeff Tesreau and Al Demaree faced each other for 12 scoreless innings in an intersquad game in Texas.

Despite her fondness for McGraw, Gibson told her readers they “may trust a women’s intuition” and correctly predicted the Red Sox would win the World Series.

Gibson met McGraw five years later during a September series in Cincinnati, with the Giants on their way to another National League pennant. She said:

“I hope I have changed as little as he has in that time.

“His hair, the Irish hair that turns white early, has grown just a bit more optimistic—that is all.

“’Twenty-nine years is a long time to be in the game,’ he said as his eyes wandered over the field—‘longer than most of those boys can count their entire lives.’”

Gibson asked about temperamental players:

“In my nearly three decades of baseball I have learned one thing thoroughly—a good ballplayer must be temperamental, just as an artist, a musician, or a writer must have temperament.”

Gibson asked how he makes “a man’s temperament,” benefit the team:

“’By ignoring it,’ he answered.  ‘I must make every man think he has no temperament, even while making him use that most desirable quality in a ballplayer to its fullest capacity.’”

McGraw refused to say which player on the team was the most temperamental, but offered to tell who was the least.  Gibson said:

“’(Christy) Mathewson, I interrupted.’

“’Yes, Mathewson is always to be depended upon.  When he knows a thing is to be done he just does it.  Some men play best when a team is winning and some play best when spurred by defeat.  A baseball manager must not only be a good picker, but he must study each man individually and handle all differently.’

“’At the end of a season with a winning team you have to be more than ever on your guard.  Every man is a bundle of nerves, drawn taut.  At this time every little prejudice, every little idiosyncrasy, every little vein of superstition is laid bare and raw.  You get to know your men better then than at any other time during the season.’”

Christy Mathewson with John McGraw

McGraw and Mathewson

Gibson asked if the best ballplayers came from a particular nationality.  McGraw said:

“’I cannot answer that.  I think perhaps the Irish are the quickest thinkers and the readiest to take a fighting chance, but I would not like a team made up entirely of Irish.  You must have temperaments like the German to ballast the Irish.  Truly I think a winning ball team must be a melting pot of all nationalities.  This year there are more Germans among the Giants than any other nationality and they are just as temperamental as any other but they don’t show it in just the same way.’”

Gibson did not make a prediction about the World Series as she had done five years before; McGraw’s temperamental Giants were beaten four games to two by the Chicago White Sox.

“Another Phil Pitcher was Sacrificed on the altar of a Futile Attack”

6 Aug

When George Chalmers returned from Cuba with the Philadelphia Phillies in November of 1911 he wasn’t the same pitcher.

After pitching the first game of the series against Almendares and the great Cuban pitcher Jose Mendez, Chalmers saw little action in the final eight games.

While training in Hot Springs, Arkansas in the spring of 1912 it became clear that Chalmers’ shoulder was in bad shape.  The Philadelphia Inquirer said he was sent from Hot Springs to Youngstown, Ohio to “visit ‘Bonesetter’ Reese.” (John D. Reese was a Welsh-born “practitioner of alternative medicine.” The  “self trained”  Reese was, according to The Pittsburgh Press, visited by many of baseball’s biggest stars, including Frank Chance, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, and John McGraw.  At the same time he was condemned by Ohio physicians who said there was no evidence of Reese “curing a single case where there was actual fracture or displacement of bone.”)

The famous “Bonesetter” was unable to do anything for Chalmers.  The Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader said in April:

“It is reported on good authority that Chalmers, one of the Phillies star pitchers, will be unable to deliver the goods this season owing to the condition of his pitching arm.”

As a result of the injury Chalmers only appeared in 12 games in 1912, with a 3-4 record, and didn’t pitch at all from July 5 until September 4.   At the end of the season Phillies owner Horace Fogel, who would soon find himself chased out of the game, used Chalmers’ injury to suggest a change in how pitchers were paid.  According to The Philadelphia Bulletin:Ho

“Horace wants to employ pitchers on the percentage basis, paying them so much per game—no game, no pay.

“The Phillies President conceived the idea after he had figured that it had cost him an average of $800 per game for the few games pitched by George Chalmers during the present season.”

Phillies team photo from George Chalmers personal collection--appears to be the 1912 team.

Team photo from George Chalmers’ personal collection

The $800 per game figure was clearly wrong—Chalmers would have not earned anywhere near $9600 for the 1912 season (Christy Mathewson made between $8000 and $9000), Chalmers and “Pete” Alexander both probably made less than $3000.  It is doubtful Fogel’s plan would have gone anywhere had he remained president of the Phillies.

The following season was no better; with no improvement to the injured shoulder, Chalmers appeared in 26 games, 15 as a starter, and was 3-10 with 4.81 ERA.  It got so bad that after a loss near the end of the season The Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader said:

“Our old friend ‘Dut’ Chalmers got another trimming yesterday.  It has gotten to be such a regular thing for Chalmers to be beaten that he doesn’t mind it anymore.”

Two of the Phillies best pitchers in 1913, Tom Seaton (27-12), and Addison “Ad” Brennan (14-12) jumped to the Federal League, making Chalmers and his injured shoulder even more critical to the Phillies hopes for 1914.

In March The Philadelphia Inquirer said Chalmers had spent the winter in Hot Springs rehabilitating his shoulder and appeared “to be in splendid shape,” when he reported to spring training in Wilmington, North Carolina, and “(Charles “Red”) Dooin is thanking his lucky stars that Chalmers is in camp.”

The season turned out to be Chalmers’ worst.  He pitched in three games, losing all three with an ERA of 5.50, and he Phillies released him on June 22.  The Inquirer said his shoulder had never healed and attributed the injury to “rheumatism and a misplaced muscle.”

George "Dut" Chalmers

George “Dut” Chalmers

The Pittsburgh Press said:

“The frailty of baseball life and the quickness with which a career in the big show may be ruined are shown again in the case of George Chalmers…Chalmers may recover and come back some time, but it is doubtful, and his going marks the untimely end of a career that promised to be one of the most brilliant in baseball pitching history.”

According to The Inquirer, he was not yet ready for the end:

“Chalmers…had mighty little money, about $400 in all, and his best friends advised him to stick the little old four hundred into some good business and forget baseball…Good doctors had told George that his arm was gone.  Other pitchers, real friends of the Phillies star, had told him the same thing…Then he heard of a specialist in New York who had done a great job on another pitcher’s arm which had seemed to be gone (no articles mentioned the name of the specialist or the other pitcher).”

With his arm seemingly better, Chalmers was invited to spring training with John McGraw’s New York Giants in Marlin, Texas.  The New York Mail said “he looked good at Marlin,” but the Giants let him go before the season began.  On April 20 he was signed again by the Phillies, and sent out to pitch the next day.  The Inquirer said:

 “George Chalmers, once a Philly discard and lately spurned by the Giants, with whom he trained during the spring trip to the Southland, was the hero of today’s festive occasion for Philadelphia.  Chalmers had been without a big league contract and he was signed by (manager Pat) Moran only yesterday.  But he gave him a quick trial by shunting him at the Giants, and he showed his gratitude to the Quaker boss by pitching the best game of his career.”

Chalmers gave up only two hits and beat the Giants 6-1.

As the Phillies fifth starter in 1915 he was 8-9 with a 2.48 ERA, appearing in 26 games.  Jack Kofoed, a sportswriter for The Philadelphia Record said in “Baseball Magazine”that Chalmers’ record did not reflect how well he pitched:

“Throughout the season Chalmers twirled splendid ball, but played in tougher luck than any man on the Philly staff.  Had fate been as kind to him as to Al Demaree (14-11 3.05 ERA) , for instance, he would have won twice the number of games he did.  But the Phillies played more weird ball behind him than in back of any man on the staff.”

The Phillies won the National League pennant, and met the Boston Red Sox in the World Series.  With Philadelphia down two games to one, Chalmers was Moran’s choice to pitch game four in Boston.

Facing Ernie Shore, who won 19 games for the Red Sox, Chalmers pitched well, but lost 2-1 (the same score of Philadelphia’s losses Geo 2 and 3); The Inquirer said:

“Another Phil pitcher was sacrificed on the altar of a futile attack…through the futile efforts of his companions to obtain for him even the slender margin that was all he required.”

The Red Sox beat the Phillies four games to one.

In November of 1915 several Pennsylvania papers said Chalmers had used his “World Series coin as a matrimonial nest egg.”

The following season was his last.  The shoulder injury returned and the Phillies only used Chalmers in 12 games, he was 1-4 with a 3.19 ERA.  He did not appear in a game after August 7, and was released at the end of the season.  After an unsuccessful attempt to catch on with the Kansas City Blues in the American Association in 1917 Chalmers career was over before his 29th birthday.

In the waning days of his career, The Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader said:

“’Dut,’ as George is called by his playmates is a fine, upstanding, intelligent young fellow, with all the sturdy Scotch virtues as well as a Scotch burr in his speech, and whether or not he lasts in baseball he is very likely to be successful in life.”

Chalmers retired to New York and died in the Bronx in 1960.

Special thanks to Karen Weiss, George Chalmers’ great niece, for generously providing copies of photos from Mr. Chalmers’ scrapbook.

Crazy Schmit Stories

13 May

Fred “Crazy” Schmit was widely considered to be the first pitcher to keep a “book” on hitters, it was mostly attributed to his poor memory, and the pitcher kept an actual book in his pocket listing the weakness of each hitter.  The earliest reference to Schmit’s book was in The Sporting Life in 1894, but the story was repeated in newspapers for the next thirty years, usually as a story told by John McGraw or Hughie Jennings.

The article said Schmit kept:

“(A)n account of the weakness at bat of his opponents, setting them down in a small book, which he always carried with him on the diamond…One day when he had the Chicagos as opponents (it was the season that Captain Anson led the League in batting), Anson came to the bat. “Crazy” Schmit looked at the big first baseman, then went down into his pocket, and, taking out his book, read “Anson, base on balls.”

Over the years the story changed—the batter was sometimes Elmer Flick, Nap Lajoie, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Tris Speaker, and as Jennings said in 1926, “Every good hitter since Anson’s day, but Anson is the player whose weakness was reported to be a base on balls.”

"Cap" Anson

“Cap” Anson

Jennings also claimed that during the 1890s as part of a prank by teammates aboard a ferry, Schmit’s suitcase, with his book inside, fell overboard, and said:

“Schmit was a losing pitcher from that time on.  He won a few games but lost a great many more…The bottom of Hudson River held his ‘pitching arm.’”

Pitcher turned sports cartoonist Al Demaree said Schmit “used to warm up with an old water-soaked ball that weighed several pounds—at a distance of 75 feet, and not the regulation 60 feet from his catcher.”

Al Demaree's Schmit cartoon--as with most references to the pitcher, his name is spelled incorrectly

Al Demaree’s Schmit cartoon–as with most references to the pitcher, his name is spelled incorrectly

After his final game with the Baltimore Orioles in 1901, Schmit continued to play with semi-professional and quasi-professional teams for more than a decade.  His antics continued to make the papers.

In 1906 Schmit joined Jim “Nixey” Callahan’s Logan Squares in the Chicago City League.  The Sporting News’ Revere Rodgers told a story (complete with Schmit speaking in a comic German accent) about the team going to Joliet, Illinois for a game:

“(The Logan Squares) knew the umpire was a ‘homer’—a man who couldn’t see a close decision without giving his team the best of it.  He stopped before the grandstand, hat in hand, and announced (the batteries)…’Crazy’ Schmit was right behind him and when (the umpire) finished Schmit took off his cap and making a sweeping bow said: ‘Laties and schentlmen, der umpire for der game today vill be Mister Miller of Joliet and he vill as usual slightly favor der home glub mit his decision.”

According to The Chicago Tribune’s Hugh Fullerton Schmit was deeply disappointed at the end of the 1906 season when Callahan did not allow him to pitch in the Logan Squares victories against the World Champion White Sox, and National League Champion Cubs.

Schmit continued to play in the Midwest and also did some scouting for John McGraw’s New York Giants.  A story that appeared in The Duluth News-Tribune said Schmit pitched a few games for the Fond du Lac in the Wisconsin-Illinois League (Schmit’s name does not appear on any Fond du Lac roster in either of the two years the other player mentioned in the story was with the team (1909, 1911)so the story may be apocryphal):

“Along about the seventh inning, with Rockford leading by 6 to 4 the first man up got on.  Schmit pitched out three times in an attempt to get the runner going down to second base, but the runner made no attempt to purloin the sack.  With the count three and nothing on the batter he grooved the next one, only to have the batter lean on it and drive it over the left field fence for a homerun.

“After the runners had circled the bases the umpire threw up another ball.  Schmit took it, shook his head and walked over to Bobby Lynch, who was playing third base…and said to him ‘Say, Bobby, no wonder I can’t beat these fellows.  I won’t pitch against them any longer.  I quit right now.  They don’t know how to play baseball and yet they are leading in this league.  The runner that was on first base just let me waste three balls and yet he does not attempt to steal; then when I put one over for the batter who has three balls and no strikes, he hits it.  Tell me, how can a man of my intelligence and baseball knowledge pitch a game of baseball against such boneheads and unscientific playing of the game?”

“Crazy” Smith died in Chicago in 1940.

“The Rube Waddell of the Central League”

11 Oct

Edward S. Van Anda was the most talented pitcher in the Central League from 1904 to 1908; he was also the most erratic personality in the league–and was often compared to baseball’s most eccentric pitching legend “Rube” Waddell.

Van Anda was born June 6, 1881 in Wapakoneta, Ohio.  He pitched for independent teams in Ohio from 1900-1903, getting as much attention for his enormous ego and behavior as he did for his pitching.

Nicknamed “Lord Chesterfield,” or simply “Chesty,” Van Anda would disappear for long stretches and his shameless self promotion made him unpopular with teammates  He was signed by the Fort Wayne Railroaders in the Central League in 1904.  His statistics for that season are lost, but according to The Youngstown Vindicator:  “(H)e won every game he pitched except one toward the close of the season.”

In 1905 Van Anda again pitched for Fort Wayne (the team relocated to Canton, Ohio during the season) and posted a record of 20-14.  The Fort Wayne News described Van Anda’s abilities as a ballplayer:

“There is only one thing Van Anda can do and that is pitch.  He cannot hit a balloon and he runs bases like an ice wagon.”

The Fort Wayne Gazette said:

“He is rather erratic but has great pitching caliber in him.”

Every article about Van Anda described him as “eccentric,” or as the Toledo Bee put it:

“That Freak Van Anda.”

And the Bluffton (IN) Chronicle said:

“Van Anda is the name of the latest freak to break into baseball.”

A story about Van Anda’s self promotion that made the rounds in newspapers in 1905 was retold several years later in a newspaper column by former Major League pitcher Al Demaree:

“I used to know a fellow named Van Anda…he’d go out into the bleachers, and if the pitcher in the box began to falter, he’d yell “Put in Van Anda he’s the best pitcher on the club.  Then he’d move over back of third and start up the same cheer in the crowd.”

The 1905 version of the story included his fellow pitchers, angry at Van Anda’s antic, setting him up

But he could pitch, and appeared destined for the Major Leagues.  The Youngstown Vindicator said at the close of the 1905 season:

“Van Anda, known on account of his eccentricities as “the Rube Waddell of the Central League,” has been drafted by the Cincinnati Reds.”

At the close of the 1905 season Van Anda pitched for the local Wapakoneta team in an exhibition against the Reds, the Major Leaguers got 14 hits and beat Van Anda 12-0, it was the last time he faced a Major League team.

After a strong 1906 season with the Grand Rapids Wolverines (23-13), Van Anda was acquired by the Trenton Tigers in the Tri-State League.  His time there was short; during a spring training game Van Anda walked off the mound and led the field in the middle of a game, which led to his immediate release.

According to The Fort Wayne News Van Anda “Known all over the Central as an eccentric …was given a bus ticket and returned to Fort Wayne.”

Edward Van Anda

Van Anda pitched for neither Trenton nor Fort Wayne during the 1907 regular season, but signed with the Central League South Bend Greens in June.  He only appeared in one game, losing 7-1 to the Wheeling Stogies.  He was released a few days later, not resurfacing until the following season.

In 1908 he went 15-11 for Fort Wayne and was purchased by the Montgomery Senators of the Southern Association and posted a 6-5 record.  Early in the 1909 season Van Anda was suspended indefinitely by Fort Wayne for “insubordination.”  The Fort Wayne News reported that Van Anda signed with the Galveston Sand Crabs of the Texas League, but there is no record he ever played for that team.

Van Anda became a traveling salesman in 1910. He remained in Fort Wayne until his death on October 17, 1965.