Tag Archives: American Association

“There Ain’t any Good Umpires”

15 Mar

Perry Werden had a reputation as an umpire baiter during his more than 20 years a professional player

His penchant for hurling obscenities at umpires was so well know that in 1895 The St. Paul Globe, in noting that the Minneapolis Millers had issued free season tickets for all the town’s clergy members said:

“Perry Werden will give them food enough for sermons to last the rest of the summer.”

In 1899, he was thrown out of a game before it began because, The Globe said, “Perry threw the ball at (Jack) Sheridan, swiftly.” That was the culmination of a several-year struggle with Sheridan, who tossed him out of many Western League games. In 1895 The Milwaukee Journal said that during one game in which Sheridan ejected him:

“(T)he actions of Werden and others were so objectionable that 200 spectators left the grounds in a body and stated they would never patronize another game as long as base ball was so conducted in their city.”

On that occasion Werden was fined $50 and escorted from the grounds by two Milwaukee police officers.

While playing for the Memphis Egyptians in 1903, Werden and teammate Al Miller were fined $25 in a Birmingham police court for assaulting an umpire; he was escorted from the field by police on at least two other occasions that season.

Jack Brennan—born Gottlieb Doering—and Werden were teammates as rookies with the St. Louis Maroons in the Union Association in 1884 and remained friends. When Werden played for the Minneapolis Millers in the Western League and Brennan umpired in the circuit, The Globe said:

“They are great friends, but Brennan puts Perry out of the game whenever he gets a chance. When Perry hurt his knee…the umpire sent the following telegram of condolence to the big first baseman: ‘I hope that you will have to saw your leg off,” To this Werden replied” ‘I sincerely hope a foul takes your head off.”’

By 1906, well past his prime at 44, Werden joined the Vicksburg Hill Billies in the Cotton States League. He had played in the same league the previous season with the Hattiesburg Tar Heels and coached the Mississippi College baseball team in the spring.

He signed with Vicksburg–who were off to a 2-14 start under manager Billy Earle–along with Jeff Clarke, who had been the ace of his Mississippi College pitching staff as soon as the season ended on May 10.

Werden was immediately popular, as he had been in every city he played.

The Jackson Daily News said he, “has made many friends,” and was rumored to be in line to replace Earle and manager.

The Vicksburg Herald said:

“The old man has a good supply of ginger left and held down the initial sack in fine form. His coaching was calculated to put life into the youngsters, and he showed as much enthusiasm as a boy. There is no doubt that his presence on the team will add materially to its strength.”

The Vicksburg American reported that Werden and teammate Tom Toner “now have a bachelor’s quarters at the ballpark.” The two lived in a tent, where “Perry is cook and woodchopper and Tommie does other chores. Both are well pleased with the outing.”

And it took only four games for Werden to be “put out of the game and fined $5 for something said to the umpire.” He was tossed from at least two more games in next six weeks.

But, after hitting .328 in the same league the previous season, Werden, who injured a leg in June, hit just .141 in 49 games for Vicksburg.

Werden

On July 8, with the team 23-43, Earle resigned as manager and Werden was released. The American said:

“Perry today stands as one of the grand old ruins of what was once a gilt-edged celebrity, and with due respect to his age and feelings he certainly may be relegated to that realm called ‘has been.’”

The Vicksburg Evening Post was less kind, claiming Earle’s resignation was because “internal dissentions caused principally by Werden made it impossible for him to get good work out of his men.”

The Herald remained in Werden’s corner, saying the club’s directors:

“(F)or some occult reason, regarded him as a disturber. Just how these gentlemen arrived at that conclusion is a mystery. If the matter were left to the patrons of the game—the persons who make baseball a possibility—Werden would have been retained.”

For his part, The Herald said Werden was “grieved because the report circulated that his is a disorganizer…he says he has played ball for twenty-three years and the charge was never made before.”

Less than a week after his release, Joe O’Brien, president of the American Association asked him to become what he hated most: an umpire.

Werden accepted, but never said a good word about his new career despite immediately receiving positive reviews:

The Columbus (OH) Dispatch said after his first game there:

“Perry Werden is a good umpire. That’s the verdict that must be rendered on his first appearance at Neil Park. He permits no idle coaching and has good judgment on balls and strikes. Pitchers get the corner of the plate when they put them there. Fans liked his work.”

The Indianapolis Sun recounted some highlights from “genial jolly Perry’s” first weeks on the job:

“Werden’s tongue bids fair to be as cutting as that of the Hibernian Tim Hurst. He has umpired but a few games, but he has already won a reputation for being a wit and a master of repartee.”

Werden was quick to return questioned call with insults—during one game in Toledo, Fred Odwell, just sent to the Toledo Mud Hens from the Cincinnati Reds suggested Werden “open his eyes,” after a call, the umpire responded:

“What are you trying to do? Kick yourself back into the big league?”

He ordered Toledo’s Otto Knabe back to his position during an argument before Toledo manager Ed Grillo, “gets next to what a four-flusher you are.”

When Mud Hens third baseman Otto Krueger objected to a call, Werden chastised him for an earlier misplay:

“No, you are a nice bone head. Anybody that don’t know how many men are out and stands like a dummy with the ball at third base while a man runs down to first, has got no business to talk to me. Skidoo.”

When Indianapolis Indians catcher Ducky Holmes questioned a call, Werden responded:

“Little boy, every ball I call you say is a strike, and every strike you say is a ball. Shut up or I’ll have an amateur catching in your place.”

Dick Padden, whose major league career had ended the previous season, and was player-manager of the St. Paul Saints had his value to his club dismissed by Werden during an argument:

“Padden, you can kick all you want to. You dead ones don’t count. When I chase a man, I’ll put out someone who can weaken the team. Stick in Dick. I know you’re tired, but I am not going to put you out.”

Having served well for a few weeks, Werden parodied his well-known umpire hatred when he told The Sun:

“There ain’t any good umpires. There never was an umpire in the history of baseball that knew anything about the rules…there never was an umpire that could tell whether a curve broke over the plate or not…All that an umpire is out there for is to make a bluff at giving the decisions.”

After his many years as a player, Werden said he was “taking the rest cure,” as an umpire:

“The rottener you are the better you get by.”

And he endeared himself to every fan who swore they could see a play better than the umpire on the field:

“I’ve often wondered how the loud-faced fellow, in the stands, at 100 yards off from the play, can see exactly what comes off, But it’s so; he can. He never makes a mistake. I’ll admit sometimes it’s pretty hard for the umpire to see when he’s right on the spot. Where the runner and the ball and the baseman are. That’s the difference between the umpire and the fan. The umpire is always rotten and a dud, while the fan is always wise, just, and correct.”

At the close of his first half season, The Minneapolis Journal said of the new umpire:

“Perry as an umpire is getting away with it in great shape. He is a popular idol around the circuit and gets along well with the players.”

The reluctant umpire was hired back for the 1907 season.

Werden, top left, with the 1907 Western League umpire staff. Standing front l to, r. S.J. Kane and Gerald Hayes tope row, Werden, W.J. Sullivan, Jack Kerwin, and John Egan.

Early in in 1907 season, The Indianapolis News, likened Werden to a mythical wise king, and asked “the Nestor of the umpires,” about his newly chosen career: among the questions and answers:

“What is the future of umpiring? Was asked.

“A fool or a martyr is born every minute.”

“Can you recommend it to the American youth?

“Has he not a friend?”

“Would you advise umpiring as a profession?

“It is more exciting that the South American revolutions and the climate is better.”

“How did you come to be an umpire?”

“I was sent up for life, but the governor changed the sentence.”

Werden’s transformation from umpire attacker to umpire came full circle during a June 11, 1907 game in Louisville, after what The Courier-Journal called a “raw mistake” by the umpire calling a runner safe at second–a call Colonels pitcher Jim “Bull” Durham objected to. The Times said:

“Werden was forced to stand abusive language and as a climax Durham struck Werden with his glove.”

Durham was suspended for a week for the attack.

Late in his second season, Werden told The Minneapolis Journal he couldn’t “get used to umpiring,” Hugh Edmund (Hek) Keough responded in The Chicago Tribune:

Possibly it is because umpiring can’t get used to him.”

The Minneapolis Star Tribune summed up Werden’s tenure:

“The big fellow makes his mistakes, but he is honest and fair, and this is all the fans want.”

William Henry Watkins, owner of the Indianapolis Indians, rescued Werden from umpiring after it was reported that he had already signed to move from the American Association to the Western League.

The Minneapolis Journal said:

“Werden will go to Indianapolis to act as assistant manager, coach, and advisor general of the Indianapolis baseball club.”

The Indianapolis News called him “The official coacher and trainer” of the club.

Caricature of Werden as Indianapolis “Coach”

Werden was ejected for the first time as Indians’ “coacher,” during the season’s eighth game by Stephen Kane—his frequent umpiring partner the previous season.

The Indians won their first pennant since 1902 and the coach received much of the credit in the Indianapolis press and was brought back for a second season.

Werden didn’t return in 1910, though he was apparently asked back. He went home to Minneapolis to organized a semi-pro team; Werden’s All-Stars that played for several seasons in Minneapolis’ City League..

He returned to umpiring in the Northern League in 1913—he was the league’s chief umpire– and the Dakota League in 1920 and 21.

Werden was also responsible for one rule change as an umpire. The Toledo Blade told the story:

“One day last summer a couple of fans shied some cushions at the venerable pate of Perry Werden. Perry immediately hied himself to the office of President Joe (O’Brien) and reported that he had been hanged, strangled, and flayed by the Milwaukee bugs.

“O’Brien was required to obey the rule and a $100 penalty was plastered on to Harry Clark, the supposition being that Clark was field captain of the Brewers. Clark denied that he was the leader of the team, and as he produced an affidavit swearing to his statement, O’Brien was powerless to collect the fine. He allowed the matter to drop but was thoughtful enough to bring it up at the annual meeting. Under the new rule the club and not the captain will be liable.”

“Matt Simply Wasn’t to be Toyed With”

15 Jan

“Matt simply wasn’t to be toyed with.”

William Wrothe Aulick of pitcher Matt Kilroy in The New York Mail in 1911.

Kilroy pitched from 1886 to 1898 for six clubs and his pick off move—now illegal—taking a step forward towards the plate and throwing underhand to first, was said to be the game’s best.

Matt Kilroy

“Matt was a left hander who added to the fame and games of the Louisville team many years ago. There was a prize hung up every game by the Louisville manager to be freely given to the player who succeeded in taking more than two steps off the bag while Kilroy was pitching.”

Aulick said, “nobody ever won the Louisville manager’s prize for defying Matt Kilroy.”

Kilroy’s best seasons were not in Louisville; he won 121 of his 141 major league games with the Baltimore Orioles in the American Association from 1886 to1889; he was 3-7 in just 13 games with the Colonels in 1893 and 1894.

Aulick said:

“Sometimes there would happen along a stranger player who didn’t know about Matt’s peculiar objection to base stealing. With Kilroy’s windup, Mr. Mark would move one step off the base. With Kilroy’s backward shift of his feet, preparatory for delivery, Mr. Mark would scoot two feet off first and look hopefully at second—and then zing! Mr. Player was caught…After awhile the other fellows grew wary and Matt had to work to keep in practice at his specialty. When you’ve been caught dead to rights every time you’ve tried to take even a most modest lead, you require caution.”

Kilroy, a Philadelphia native was close with Connie Mack, after he retired, The Philadelphia Inquirer said, “For several seasons, nearly every morning, Kilroy was out at the park teaching Mack’s pitchers how to hold the runner on first. Those who profited from his coaching in that line were (Eddie) Plank, (Chief) Bender, and (Jack) Coombs.”

When Lefty Grove walked 131 batters in 197 innings as a 25-year-old rookie in 1925, The Philadelphia Bulletin asked Kilroy to diagnose the problem:

“It comes from one source which he can correct easily. He doesn’t follow his pitch through. When he brings that long arm of his over his head, he doesn’t complete his pitch, but gets the ball away too quick. That makes him wild. But he’ll overcome that. When he does, he’ll be a corker.”

Kilroy operated a tavern adjacent to Shibe Park—he sold it in 1939 and it became the Deep Right Field Cafe. Kilroy died in 1940.

“A New Era in the Sport”

6 Jan

“The baseball world is beginning to roll itself into its usual spring prominence, and while managers are busy signing the players assigned to them, the public is awaiting patiently the beginning of what is predicted will be a new era in the sport.”

O.P. Caylor’s prediction in The New York Herald was made before the National League began the 1892 season as 12-team league playing a split season after the collapse of the American Association, and Caylor sought out the opinions of several players, managers, and executives about the coming season; they shared their “sanguine feeling on their part in the success,” of the game.

O.P. Caylor

Brooklyn’s Dave Foutz said:

“I don’t believe it will be necessary to make any changes in the rules. We have got our hands pretty full with testing the policy of a twelve-club league and a double season without trying any new rules to perplex the public.”

Foutz said the league was now composed of “the twelve best cities in the country to play in, and the best players will be put in the field.”

Chris von der Ahe, owner of the St. Louis Browns said:

“While I opposed the twelve-club league when the idea was first broached, I feel now that the interests of baseball are best subserved by the new agreement.”

He said the dissolution of the Association benefitted his team:

“The St. Louis club is stronger than it ever was, and we will show the patrons of baseball all over the country a championship form.”

Harry Wright, manager of the Philadelphia Phillies said:

“Never in the history of baseball has the prospect for a successful season been brighter; never has there been such a perfect harmony among the baseball powers in this country. This fact, in my opinion, leads to the hope that the game of baseball will be revived to all its pristine glory.”

Harry Wright

Wright said he felt the distribution of American Association refuges had been “fair and equitable” and said:

“As far as the two-season idea is concerned I believe it will be a success, and I think that the public generally will watch the finish each time with the same intense interest that has marked the great and close finishes of the past.”

New York Giants manager Pat Powers said:

“This twelve-club league, it strikes me, will be a decided success. Coming, as it does, in a presidential year is very fortunate.”

His rationale was that during every other presidential year “interest in baseball would decrease” as the election drew closer, and the new league format would mitigate that loss of interest.

Powers said the “twelve most representative cities “ were included and “the different clubs are composed of the very best players of the baseball profession.”

Powers said the split season would “keep the public interested,’ the larger league would be successful, and “the game will boom.”

Charles Byrne, the President of the Brooklyn club said the split season would allow fans to “witness the most exciting finish es baseball has yet known.”

The Boston Beaneaters won the first half, the Cleveland Spiders the second; Boston beat Cleveland five games to none for the championship.

Foutz and Byrnes’ Brooklyn Grooms finished third, Wrights’ Philadelphia Phillies fourth, Powers’ New York Giants eighth, and von der Ahe’s Browns 11th.

The split season was dropped before the 1893 season.

“The Catcher Struck him in the Face”

23 Dec

Dan Sullivan was a star in Louisville.  He played with the Akrons with Tony Mullane in in 1881—and the two were reunited with the Eclipse in 1882.

He caught Mullane’s and Guy Hecker’s no-hitters, thrown eight days apart, and hit .273 for Louisville.

Dan Sullivan

The Louisville Courier-Journal said of him:

“He is a vey hard worker behind the bat and being a powerful man can hold the swiftest pitcher with ease. He is a thoroughly reliable catcher at all times and a very safe hitter, especially in a close place. In stature he is about the medium height, but very strongly bult, weighing about 180 pounds.”

Sullivan’s batting average slipped the next two seasons, but he remained popular.  An amateur team called the “Dan Sullivans” was named in his honor, and during the final homestand of the 1884 season, Eclipse president Zachery Phelps halted the game as Sullivan came to bat for the first time:

“Phelps stepped out on the ballfield with a beautiful gold medal in his hand. Approaching the batter, se said:

”A number of Louisville gentlemen, lovers of the national game who are deeply interest in the success of base ball in this place and who from time to time admired the earnest and honest efforts put forth by you interest of our representative club; who have applauded again and again the readiness and willingness with which you are always found at your post of duty, even though scarred and bruised from battles already fought…They desire me to urge you continue faithful as you have been; to avoid carefully such faults and excesses as have already destroyed the prospects of many a man in your profession.”

The Courier-Journal said Sullivan was “too surprised to make a response and bowed his thanks while the spectators loudly applauded.”

The medal was “a broad plate of gold, to which is suspended two bats and a mask, of solid gold, which represents a ball field, with a batter and catcher in position. The legs, caps, and shirts of the players are made of white platinum, and the bodies of red gold. The diamond is made of green and gold, with a miniature grandstand in the background.”

Things changed quickly.

Sullivan got off to a slow start, hitting less than .200 during the first month of the season and losing playing time to Joe Crotty, which drew the notice of William G. Osborne, sports editor of The Louisville Commercial.

Osborne was mildly critical of Sullivan’s play, and the catcher was “very much offended and threatened vengeance.”

On May 27, Osborne arrived at the ballpark:

“(A)ccompanied by two ladies.  As he went up the grandstand, he passed Sullivan, and the latter said he wanted to see him.”

Osborne returned to Sullivan who said the criticism was unfair, Osborne said, “he had written what he thought was just, and had criticized his playing, not his personal character.”

The argument continued into the clubhouse:

“’You must make me an apology before you go out of here,’ said Sullivan.

‘”I will not do anything of the kind,’ replied Mr. Osborne.”

Sullivan then called Osborne “a name most vile,” then:

“The catcher struck him in the face and knocked him down, following up the blow with several others. Mr. Osborne was of course no match for his opponent, who weighs something over 200 pounds, and received the worst of the encounter.”

More details emerged the following day, suggesting that the entire Eclipse club was aware of the attack:

“Mr. Osborne very properly and manfully refused (to apologize). Thereupon, Mr. Sullivan, the brave and courageous Louisville catcher, with Mr. James A. Hart, his manager, and eight or ten sympathizing fellow-players to lend him additional courage, introduced his slugging act against a gentleman without a single friend present, who was vastly his inferior in weight and physical strength.”

The Courier-Journal said, “No language of ours is strong enough to express the utter contempt in which Mr. James A. Hart, the manager of the Louisville club, should be held by all of the respectable ball-loving public of the city, who assist by their presence in keeping the Louisville club alive.

“A manager who permits such an outrage in his own presence, without the slightest effort to prevent it, shows himself utterly wanting in the qualities which go to make a good manager.”

The Commercial and The Courier-Journal also charged that Hart, “got the ruffian into a hack…and had him hustled over to Jeffersonville so as to evade arrest; both papers called for Hart’s immediate dismissal and the release of Sullivan.

Sullivan remained with the club for 10 more days, Hart said he would have released him sooner but “was compelled to retain his services until another man could be signed.” The Eclipse signed Miah Murray to replace Sullivan.

Sullivan never appears to have been arrested, and there was no further mention was made of replacing Hart, who remained manager through the 1886 season.

Sullivan was signed by the St. Louis Browns. He hit .117 in 17 games for the American Association champions and was released before the end of the season. The St. Louis Globe-Democrat said:

“(Sullivan’s) work was unsatisfactory and he was again released. He did not assist in winning the pennant.”

Sullivan played just three more professional games; one with the Pittsburgh Alleghenys and two with the Savannah club in the Southern Association in 1886—he was 0 for 10.

He returned to Providence, Rhode Island. Sullivan died of quick consumption on October 26, 1893; it was said he contracted the illness while visiting the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago earlier in the month.

“The most Superstitious man I ever saw”

18 May

Bill Phyle pitched and played infield in parts of four seasons in the National League with St. Louis, Chicago and New York and in minor leagues across the country from 1895 through 1909. In 1907, he told The Cincinnati Commercial Tribune about “The most superstitious man I ever saw.”

phyle

Phyle

The man was Tom Parrot, Phyle’s teammate in St. Paul, San Francisco, whom he also played against for several seasons in the Southern Association:

Phyle said “Tacks Parrott…is the limit,” and:

“He is a crank on batting and can tell you his batting average any time in the season, or for that matter, any time in the game. He carries a little piece of chalk in his shirt pocket and after each time at the bat he figures out his average on the bench.”

parrott

A 1902 caricature of Parrott 

Phyle said when they played together the second time in 1902:

“I roomed with Parrott in Frisco part of one season. I had taken a slump in my batting, and Parrott’s batting eye had also gone on vacation. He came to me one morning and, with much mystery in his voice, imparted the information that I was a ‘Jonah.’ That night after supper when I went up to my room, I found my trunk and all my clothes out in the hall. The landlady had to give me a new room. Parrott positively refused to room with me anymore, because he said it affected his batting eye.”

 

Phyle said Parrot was obsessed with improving his chances at the plate:

“If a man on a team got a new bat and was hitting well with it the next day, ‘Tacks’ would show up with the same kind of bat. He had a special trunk made to carry his bats and he always had it full. I have seen him go so far as use the same brand of tooth powder that another player used who was hitting well.”

He even imitated food choices, Phyle said, when Parrott was playing in the American Association, Mike Kelley, who played for the St, Paul Saints for several seasons, hit for the cycle one day, “Tacks” approached Kelley after the game and asked what he had for dinner the night before, Kelly said ham and eggs.

“(Parrott) turned up about supper time with a big ham under his arm and two baskets of eggs.  He wouldn’t eat anything for a week but hams and eggs.”

One day in San Francisco, Phyle said:

“The first two times up he got two safe ones. About the time he went to bat the third time the official scorer came down and sat on the bench with the players. ‘Tacks’ struck out. When he saw the scorer there he chased him off the field., declaring him responsible for his striking out.”

Rowland’s Superstition

8 May

When Clarence “Pants” Rowland became an investor in the Milwaukee Brewers in the American Association in 1919, and took over from Jack Egan as manager, The Chicago Daily News said he was making some changes:

pants

“He is superstitious but claims to have facts to bear out the superstition.”

Rowland moved the team’s office and changed the phone number:

“The room was No. 1300 in a downtown building and the telephone in the office was Grand 13. So Rowland decided to change.”

“Since the “13” office has been occupied by the Brewers the following star of misfortune has traced the club:

“Dan McGann, a first sacker, committed suicide, while a member of ( former manager) John McColskey’s team.

mcgann

Dan McGann

“Dan Shay was held on a murder charge while managing the club, although he was exonerated by a jury in Indianapolis.

Ned Egan, signed to manage in 1918 ( no relation to Jack Egan,  to the man who replaced him) became ill suddenly and was removed from St. Paul to a local sanatorium, after which he went to Chicago and was found dead in a hotel. A coroner decided Egan committed suicide.

nedeganpix

Ned Egan

Charles M. Havenor [sic, Charles S.], owner of the club, died some years ago (1912—although the team won league championships in the two seasons following his death).”

With the exception of McGann, the article left out most of the “Milwaukee First Base Jinx,” which included the 1911 murder of Arthur Brown, Quait Bateman’s stabbing at the hands of Charlie Dexter, and early death of one-time Milwaukee first baseman Jiggs Donohue.

Despite changing offices and phone numbers, Rowland’s Brewers finished in seventh place—Rowland sold his stake in the club and was replaced as manager by the man he replaced: Jack Egan.  Milwaukee would not win another American Association championship until 1936.

“Joe Cantillon Offered to Trade Ball Teams”

7 May

Bill Veeck is credited with being the first to say, “Sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make.”

Pongo Joe Cantillon might have thought this after the 1913 American Association season.

pongo

Cantillon

John H. Ritchie, sports editor of The Minneapolis Journal told the story:

“Few baseball bugs have ever heard of the time when Joe Cantillon offered to trade ball teams with George Tebeau—and George backed down.”

Early in the 1913 season, the two were speaking before Cantillon’s Minneapolis Millers played Tebeau’s Kansas City Blues.

tebeau

Tebeau

“George felicitated Joe on having gathered a good team. Tebeau called them the best of the league and said something about Joe not having any excuse if he lost the pennant with such a team.

“’Pong’ looked at Tebeau is quizzical style and remarked ‘I don’t think so awfully well of my prospects. I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll trade my whole ball club for right now as it stands, for yours. I’ll trade you absolutely even this minute and we’ll play the game today as the teams stand. When you leave tonight, you take my old team with you and I’ll keep your old team here. Whatchesay?’”

Ritchie said Tebeau turned to Cantillon’s brother and business partner, Mike, and asked if he was willing to make the trade his brother offered.

“Mike replied that whatever Joe said went for the whole Cantillon family. Tebeau studied a while longer and decided it wasn’t a good day to trade. And Joseph has sworn ever since that he would have traded Tebeau in the twinkling of an eye if the magnate had accepted.”

Cantillon’s Millers were 97-70 and finished in second place, three games back of the champion Milwaukee Brewer. Tebeau’s Blues finished tied for sixth with a 69-98 record

“I’ll cut your Blankety-Blank eye out”

5 May

Jimmy Burke told The Kansas City Star, baseball was “a regular lady’s game nowadays,” in 1914.

The Star said of Burke, then a coach for the Detroit Tigers, who played for and managed the Kansas City Blues in the American Association in 1906 and 1907:

jimmyburke

Jimmy Burke

“This veteran of the old times, when the majority of diamond performers were so tough that you could crack hickory nuts on their heads, has not easily become reconciled to the genteel behavior ad drawing-room manners of modern athletes.”

He said, “Handshaking players” were almost unknown “in his day,” but:

“The boys all act like gentlemen on and off the field now. If a man happens to make a one-handed catch of a liner he tells the victim he is sorry he robbed him of a hit, and if a pitcher ‘beans’ a guy he is so broken up that he isn’t able to continue. You bet things weren’t like this when I broke in.

“The best you got then was a curse, and the way those base runners would fling their spikes around in sliding was a caution. ‘Get out of my way or I’ll cut your blankety-blank eye out.’ Was what they used to yell at the baseman. Sand they were the boys who would do it too; don’t make any mistake about that.”

Burke said in his day, “it wasn’t considered a legal game of ball by some clubs unless there was a fist fight somewhere along the way. Battles on the diamond, in the clubhouse and in the hotels were so common that nobody paid much attention to them.”

“It was for Blood and not for Averages”

29 Apr

Pongo Joe Cantillon said in 1914:

“Let any baseball man of the country of the present day type pick out a ball club from players who have come up in the last fifteen years and I will pick one from the old school and presume that they play under present day rules. Then we can leave it to the judgement of the people who have watched baseball for the past twenty-five years and I believe the players of today will find that they are not in a class with the old school performers.”

pongo

Joe Cantillon

Cantillon, manager and part owner of the Minneapolis Millers of the American Association was speaking to Billy Murphy the sports editor of The St. Louis Star:

“There are a great many arguments over old and new baseball between the players of today and the few of us that are left from the old school. As a member of both classes, I make the assertion, flatly, that baseball has not advanced in recent years from the brainy or playing standpoint.

“I have been in a baseball uniform every playing day since 1881, and during that time have seen many stars come and go. Some came with brilliant radiance and dies away as quickly as they came. Others came slowly but developed into some of the greatest stars the game has ever known.”

Cantillon said the players of the previous century were better in every aspect:

“The players of twenty-five years ago were just as nervy, just as fast, and just as brainy as they are today. They were better fighters and had far more interest in their play than the athletes of today. Formerly one never saw the members of the teams that were to play a series standing around together chattering and laughing and visiting before the game started. Every player in those days hated every man on the club to be played that day, and when the two captains came together to consult with the umpire it was like two bull terriers turned loose from the benches, and once the game started it was for blood and not for averages.”

pongo

Pongo Joe

Pongo Joe compared the behavior of the behavior of contemporary players to the over-solicitousness displayed by two characters in the then popular comic strip:

“There was little consolation in those days for the player that had four hits if the club lost. There was not so much of the Gaston and Alphonse stuff in the olden times. There wasn’t so much of this ‘excuse me, dear fellow’ business. The old school of infielders made the base runners turn each base at a disadvantage by standing on the inside corners of the bags, and there no apology if by ‘accident’ they got in a fellow player’s way.”

There was, he said, “not one trick” in the current game that “was not pulled off” in the previous century, and the exception Cantillon would concede, he did not approve of:

“I will admit that the new school has brought the squeeze play into the game. I will also admit that it is the rottenest play in baseball when it fails.Furthermore, it is an admission from the player who makes it on his own accord that he cannot hit and when the manager asks for it he shows that he has lost confidence in the hitting of the player asked to squeeze.”

In fact, he concluded, current players offered little:

“I cannot recall a single player who in the last ten years has introduced anything new in the line of playing or has offered any new suggestion that would really improve the game from a playing or a rule making standpoint.”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #41

21 Apr

King Kelly, ‘Conceited Ass,’ 1891

When King Kelly Jumped from the Boston Reds to the Boston Beaneaters in 1891, The Baltimore World was not pleased:

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King Kelly

“Kelly, in his jump from the Association to the League, has but proven conclusively that he is just as contemptible as the people had about decided him to be. He may be a great ballplayer, but his record this season doesn’t show it. He is a loud-mouthed, conceited ass. That’s about the build of Kelly, and the Association will not die over the loss of him.”

Annoying Vendors, 1891

After spending five seasons in the major leagues from 1881 to 1885, Dasher Troy was a fixture at the Polo Grounds—he had a liquor concession on and off from 1891 through 1900. During his first season at the ballpark, The New York Sun did not approve:

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Dasher Troy

“The refreshment privilege at the Polo Grounds is held by John Troy, an ex-ballplayer. He maintains a bar under the grandstand and also one in the rear of the men’s stand. The only part of the grounds in which waiters are permitted to peddle beer is on the bleachers. Some weeks ago one of the directors of the club compelled Troy to close the bar in the men’s stand and cease peddling beer in the bleachers.

“By some means he managed to resume and is now working in full blast. In the covered stands, a score of sandwich, peanut, and soft drink men are constantly at work, and annoying spectators by their continuous bawling. It is strongly asserted that the management can not afford to maintain these nuisances to the annoyance of its patrons.”

Clarkson’s Scouting Report, 1887

A reporter for The Detroit Free Press briefly eavesdropped on John Clarkson providing fellow pitcher Mark Baldwin with a scouting report on the Wolverines while the White Stockings were in Detroit for three game series in July of 1887:

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“Clarkson was overheard giving Baldwin some private lessons: ‘Now,’ said Clarkson, ‘there’s Hardy Richardson. Just send ‘em shoulder high at the outside corner of the plate, or a little beyond, and he’ll go after ‘em every time.’ Baldwin made a careful note of this. ‘Then there’s Dan Brouthers,’ continued the craft instructor: ‘Never give him a low ball.’ ‘Will he hit a low one?’ inquired Baldwin. ‘Will he hit it?’ said Clarkson: he’ll kill it.’

“This way of foreshadowing the fate of a regulation league ball unwisely delivered to the bat seemed to impress Baldwin powerfully, and he then and there resolved never to give big Dan any low ones. At this point the teacher and his pupil carried on the lesson in softer tomes, and the remainder of the interesting kindergarten session was lost to the world.”