Tag Archives: Almandares

Armando Marsans’ Tall Tale

19 Oct

Baseball writers were fascinated by every utterance of the Cincinnati Reds’ two Cuban players, Armando Marsans and Rafael Almeida.  Marsans was the more popular—and more successful—of the two.   He was also the product of well-to-do background.

marsansandalmeida

                           Marsans and Almeida

William A. Phelon of The Cincinnati Times-Star illustrated the cultural difference between the Reds’ two Cuban players:

“(S)omeone asked Almeida and Marsans if they wouldn’t like tickets to a grand opera.  ‘Si, si, accented Marsans, delightedly.  I love grand opera—eet ees fines’ of all entertainment for a gentleman.’

‘I thank you much,” negatived Almeida, “but I care not to go.  To me, grand opera eet sound like de screech of de beeg tomcat, and about so much sensible.’”

Perhaps made up on his own, perhaps captivated by the erudite Marsans, perhaps in on the joke—it wasn’t always clear when Phelon was in on the joke—he quoted Marsans spinning a tale of a Cuban legend in his column in 1912:

“I have seen all the great ballplayers of the present time.  I have been in post-season series against (Napoleon) Lajoie and (Joe) Jackson and have made trips just to see Ty Cobb.  They are wonderful ballplayers, but I give you my word that the greatest I ever looked upon was an Indian named Canella, and popularly called Cinnamon.

“Canella was of a strange Indian race that is supposed to be extinct—the Sibboneys [sic Ciboney] of Cuba, who populated the island when the Spaniards came.  The historians and scientific books all say that they are extinct, and it would doubtless be so, if it were not for the fact that they still live in eastern Cuba and have a little city of their own.  They are tall men with ancient Greek faces—nothing but the color of the Indian to make resemble such men and (John “Chief”) Meyers and (Charles “Chief”) Bender—and they are an athletic people, more agile and active by far than we.  Baseball is their own pet diversion, and Canella, known as Cinnamon, was the greatest of them all.

“Canella, who cannot be over 27 even now, came out a few years ago, and at once became the marvel of eastern Cuba.  He was a pitcher, and a star on the slab, but he was also a batsman, lightening base runner, and clever outfielder.  The records of six years ago show Canella, in some 60 games hit .446 and stole 55 bases.  Havana’s best clubs went up against him and found him invincible while he turned the tide of the closest games with his own batting.

“Canella received no offers from the big American leagues, They took it for granted he was a light colored negro, and when his friends explained that he was an Indian the Americans laughed and said ‘There are no Indians in Cuba—the Spaniards killed them all 400 years ago.’

Armando Marsans

Armando Marsans

“So Canella kept right on playing in Cuba, and he seemed to improve each succeeding season.  At least he became so terrible that even the Havana and Almendares clubs sought excuses to avoid meeting him, and the weaker clubs would face him and get shut out every time.  Finally, some influential Cubans managed to make an American magnate understand that Canella was no Negro, and all was arranged for his tryout in the coming spring.  And then came the news that Canella’s arm was gone, and he could never pitch again.

“It seems that the Indians of Sibboney [sic] still practice the games of their forefathers, and of their favorite sports which is throwing the javelin,  Coming home for a visit, Canella saw the young men of the tribe practicing the spear throw.  Laughingly, he said ‘It is many years since I have done thix—let me try.’ And picking up a slender spear, he hurled it with all his might—and something went snap, crack, in his upper arm as he let go of the javelin.  The arm, so long accustomed to throwing the baseball, gave way when he tried to throw the spear, and never since has Canella been able to throw a ball from the pitching slab as far as the catcher.  It was a shame because Cinnamon Canella was the greatest pitcher, the finest batter, and the fastest base runner that I have ever gazed upon.”

“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.