Tag Archives: Amos Strunk

“Squeeze that Bird, there’s $30,000 Depending on it”

17 Aug

In 1922, Eddie Collins—billed in the byline as “World’s Greatest Second Baseman-“wrote a syndicated article about his post-season experience:

Collins

Collins

“Frequently I have been asked the question, ‘How does it feel to play in a World Series?’  I can at least say, ‘not monotonous, even tho I have participated in six.’

“The toughest part of any World Series, as far as the mental or nervous strain is concerned, that I have experienced has been when I was out of uniform.  Once in my baseball togs out on the field and in the game, I’ve never felt it any different from any regular season affair.  But in between games, especially if a postponement occurs, or the team is idle traveling, that is when I’ve felt ill at ease, with a longing for it to be over and to be miles away from baseball.”

Collins said the 1911 Series—with six consecutive days of rain between games 3 and 4, the longest delay in Series history until 1989—was “(T)he worst in this respect…I remember some of our team went to Cuba after the series, but I was so glad to be thru with baseball for that year I wouldn’t have gone for a mint.”

Collins said a World Series could “make or break a promising player,” and used his former teammate Wally Schang as an example:

“In 1913, in his first game the first time he came to bat against the Giants, (Jack) Barry was on first, no one out. ‘Shangie’ leaned over the bench and said to Manager (Connie) Mack. ‘What shall I do?’  Meaning whether to bunt or hit.  Connie hesitated for a fraction of a second, then said to the kid, ‘You go up there and use your own judgment.’

Schang

Schang

“Schang attempted to bunt the first, fouled it off, and on the very next ball flashed Barry the hit and run sign.  And bang went a base hit to center to center on which Barry made third and ‘Schangie’ pulled up at second on the throw in.  That play alone I honestly believe gave Schang more confidence than base hit he ever made before.”

Collins said another question he was often asked was:

“’ Do you think the fact they are playing for big stakes has any effect on the players and do some often see a dollar sign coming their way instead of a ball?’

“In general, I’d say no, because every player is too absorbed in the game itself, striving to win, rather than figuring on his share of the gate.”

Collins said some players remained loose, even during a stressful post-season game:

“I do recall a certain bit of jest that was pulled by Amos Strunk in 1913 on the play that ended that series and one that afforded three or four of us a good laugh afterward.

Strunk

Strunk

“It was on the Polo Grounds, and Larry Doyle hit a high fly toward short right which Eddie Murphy caught.

“Amos, McInnis and I were close to him when he was about to make the catch.  Just before he did ‘Strunkie’ hollered, ‘Squeeze that bird, there’s $30,000 depending on it.’  Which had reference to the (Fred) Snodgrass muff of the preceding year.  Needless to say ‘Murph’ squeezed it, and the game and series were over.”

The excitement of the World Series even overcame the taciturn Connie Mack on one occasion according to Collins:

“Mack so forgot himself, so enthusiastic and joyful did he become, as to do a miniature war dance on the bench in the eighth inning of our final game against the Cubs in 1910.  Once later, I remember, he got up to get a drink of water during a game against the Giants, but these are the only two instances I can recall where he ever moved from his usual place on the bench.”

Collins summed up his World Series experience:

“It’s great to be in a series, but take it from me, it’s greater when it’s over—and you have won.”

In his reminiscences of his six World Series appearances, Collins made no mention of 1919.

“The Longest Three-bagger on Record”

11 Feb

Babe Ruth was the reason American League Umpire Billy Evans called for a rule change after the 1918 season.

Billy Evans

Billy Evans

Ruth tied Philadelphia Athletics outfielder Clarence “Tillie” Walker for the league lead with 11 home runs, but Ruth was not given credit for what would have been number 12 on July 8.

Ruth’s Red Sox were in a scoreless tie with the Cleveland Indians in the tenth innings of the first game of a doubleheader.  Stan Coveleski gave up a single to Amos Strunk with one out, and Ruth came to the plate.

The Boston Post said:

“Coveleski will probably hear the crash of Ruth’s bat for many a day.  The ball sped like a bullet far into the right field bleachers almost to the top.”

The Boston Globe said:

“It is getting so now that Ruth is the man of the hour every day.  His mighty crash into the right field bleachers in the 10th inning drove Strunk home.”

Ruth’s blast landed more than half way up into the right field bleachers, and The Boston Herald said a ball had never been hit further at Fenway Park, but noted, because Strunk had crossed the plate with the winning run “The best the scorers could give Ruth was a triple;” or, as The Post called it “The longest three-bagger on record.”

The box score

The box score

That winter, in his nationally syndicated column, Evans called Ruth’s “triple:”

“(O)ne of the longest drives I have ever seen.

“If there was a real, genuine, sure-enough home run, that wallop was the last word.  It was the longest drive Ruth made for the season, yet in the records he is credited with only a three-base hit.”

Ruth hit

Ruth hit “The longest three-bagger on record.”

To Evans, the solution was simple:

“I believe a more just scoring would have had the final result 2 to 0 in favor of Boston.  I believe a rule should be made which said that when a ball was knocked over the fence, or into the bleachers in an extra-inning game, all runners on the bases, as well as the batsman, should be entitles to score.”

For any present day fan, Evans’ suggestion sounds like common sense.  But, in 1918 it was criticized in many quarters.  One of the biggest critics of the potential rule change was William Blythe Hanna of The New York Herald.  Hanna said the rule change would go against everything the game stood for:

“Nothing could smack more of sophism than such advocacy.  Ball games end when the winning run crosses the plate, and any juggling with the rules to give a man a home run under the circumstances noted would be making the game subordinate to individual feats, which, of course, would be contrary to all the well-founded tenets of sport, discipline and organization.  It is surprising that a man of Evans’ intelligence could take so specious, so fallacious a view.”

Evans suggested his proposed rule change again in a column the following year, and sportswriter Fred Lieb of The New York Sun—a non-voting member of the rules committee—introduced the proposal.  The final roadblock was committee member and National League umpire Hank O‘Day, who according to Lieb insisted “I’m telling you, it is illegal.  You can’t score runs after the game is over!”

Despite O’Day’s objection the rule change was officially enacted by the Rules Committee on February 9, 1920 in Chicago.  Hanna had his final word on the rule the following day in The Herald:

 “This is a radical departure, and it is by no means a sure thing that is was based on sound reasoning.”

Baseball’s “Growing Evil”

24 Jun

By 1913 newspaper articles under the byline of a famous player were common in newspapers across the country, and most of the game’s biggest stars were represented.

Most fans of that era assumed the players did their own writing until an expose appeared in The Washington Herald in March of 1913.  Sports Editor William Peet wrote:

“The dear old public fell for this stuff and swallowed hook, bait and sinker.  An article under the signature of Christy Mathewson led three-fourths of the fans to believe that the great pitcher himself wrote it.”

According to Peet, players were paid between $250 and $1000 for each story “and not one of them wrote a single word,” but it was still a good investment:

“The newspapers themselves regarded these feature articles as good investments, for the reason that the stories were syndicated to 25 or more outside publications and the revenues derived not only paid the amount guaranteed the baseball player for the use of his name, but left a handsome profit.”

Peet exposed the writers behind the articles “written” by the game’s biggest stars:

Christy Mathewson and Jeff Tesreau/John Wheeler, The New York Herald

Walter Johnson/Ralph MacMillan, The Boston Journal/The Boston Herald

John McGraw/Walter Turnbull, The New York Evening Sun

John “Chief” Meyers/Jim McBeth, The New York American

Richard “Rube” Marquard/Bill Farnsworth, The Atlanta Georgian/Hearst Newspapers

Denton “Cy” Young/Sam Carrick, The Boston Post

Tris Speaker/Tim Murnane, The Boston Globe

“Smokey” Joe Wood/Jim O’Leary, The Boston Globe

Ty Cobb/Roger Tidden, The New York World

Hughie Jennings/George “Stoney” McLinn, The Philadelphia Press

John McGraw and Christy Mathewson

John McGraw and Christy Mathewson

Peet called the practice dishonest, and said it had gone too far, and in New York and Boston the practice   had “become a mania.”  Peet singled out an article “written” by John McGraw criticizing “Chief” Myers that caused an “explosion,” and said the articles featuring “Rube” Marquard’s byline, and written by Farnsworth got Marquard “in bad with his teammates, for Farnsworth spared no one is his scathing criticisms.”

Pittsburgh Pirate manager Fred Clarke disagreed with the practice, telling Peet:

“I do not think it is any ball player’s place to butt into the newspaper end of the game…I think it is foolish for any player, especially those who take part in the world’s Series, to write about the games.”

As a result of Peet’s revelations the American League club owners condemned the practice of players’ names appearing on articles they did not write, but came just short of officially banning the practice. In September, the Baseball Writers Association petitioned the National Commission to end the “growing evil” of players authoring or appearing to author articles during the upcoming World Series.

The commission agreed, and American League President Ban Johnson informed Philadelphia Athletics manager Connie Mack on the eve of the World Series that star players Eddie Collins and Frank Baker “have been instructed not to write baseball stories or give the impression they are writing them.  If they ignore this request, a way of punishing them would be found. “

Frank Baker, center, Eddie Collins, far right,

Frank Baker, center, Eddie Collins, far right,

Johnson even threatened “Collins and Baker would not be permitted to take part in the World Series,” if they wrote articles or permitted their names to be attached to articles.

At one point Johnson and National Commission Chairman August Hermann said they would consider calling off the series if players refused to comply.  Dave Fultz, the former player, practicing attorney, and president of the Fraternity of Baseball Players, said members of the commission could be personally liable for damages if the series was cancelled.  Johnson and Herman’s threat to cancel the series as a whole was put to rest.

Mack argued that the players had contracts with newspapers and that Johnson had said earlier that players who were “capable” of writing their own articles would be permitted to do so, but as he prepared his team to play the New York Giants, he prepared for the worst, telling The Associated Press:

“(I)f the commission decides the players must not write under any conditions and players decide not to abide by the ruling, I will be prepared to put a team on the field,” The AP speculated that utility infielder John “Doc” Lavan  would play second base  and outfielder Rube Oldring would be moved to third base, with Amos Strunk taking Oldring’s place in the outfield.

Mack’s adjustments weren’t required.  Collins was allowed to write for The Philadelphia Record because his deal with the paper predated the commission’s ruling, and Baker did not write articles.  Together they led the Athletics to a 4-1 Series win, hitting .421 and .450.

Ghost written articles, and articles actually written by players never disappeared, but the practice became much less popular after the revelations and battles of 1913.