Tag Archives: Arlie Latham

“The Realization of Their Carelessness”

1 Jun

After the 1910 season, Hugh Fullerton, writing in “The American Magazine” said baseball had no universal language.

“Each team has its different system of coaching, its different language of signs, motions, cipher words, or phrases, and no one man can hope to learn them all.”

Fullerton said the “worst of trying to study” the signs of various clubs was trying to track when they changed:

“If Arlie Latham jumps into the air and screams ‘Hold your base!’ it may mean ‘Steal second,’ today and tomorrow it may mean ‘Hit and run.’ One never can tell what a sign means. Hughie Jennings hoists his right knee as high as his shoulder, pulls six blades of grass and Jim Delahanty bunts. You are certain that Jennings signaled him to sacrifice, so the next day when Ty Cobb is bat and Jennings goes through the same motions, you creep forward and Cobb hits the ball past you so fast you can’t see it.

“If Connie Mack tilts his hat over his eyes and Eddie Collins steals second as the next ball is pitched, naturally you watch the hat, and lo, Jack Barry plays hit and run. You hear Clark Griffith yelp ‘Watch his foot!’ and see two of his players start a double steal. The next time he yells ‘Watch his foot!’ you break your neck to cover the base, and both players stand still.”

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Arlie Latham 

Fullerton said most fans gave up trying to figure out signs but they “mustn’t do that. Someday right in the middle of a game, you’ll strike the key to the language and read through clear to the ninth inning.”

He compared that moment to getting “away one good drive,” in golf, “forever afterward you are a victim,” and can’t stop.

“Did you ever watch Hugh Jennings on the coaching line near first base during a hard-fought game? He doubles his fists, lifts one leg and shakes his foot, screams ‘E-yah’ in piercing tomes and stooping suddenly plucks at the grass, pecking at it like a hen. It looks foolish. I have heard spectators express wonder that a man of ability and nearing middle age could act so childishly. Yet hidden somewhere in the fantastic contortions and gestures of the Tigers’ leader there is a meaning, a code word, or signal that tells his warriors what he expects them to do.”

Jennings said of his signs:

“I change almost every day. I change every time I suspect there is a danger of the meanings being read. I am a believer in as few signals as possible and of giving them when they count, and I find that a lot of antics are effective in covering up the signals.”

Fullerton said Mack was “one of the most successful men” at “interpreting” opponents’ signs:

“Before the Chicago Cubs went into their disastrous series against the Athletics they were warned that if such a thing were possible Mack would have their signals. At the end of the game they called a meeting to revise signals, changing entirely, being certain the Athletics knew almost every kind of ball that was going to be pitched.”

Fullerton allowed that the Cubs instead might be tipping their pitches, because he was sitting with Ty Cobb during the series, and:

“(He) repeatedly called the turn on the ball that would be pitched before it was thrown, judging from the pitcher’s motion, and the Athletics may have been doing the same thing.”

Fullerton also said of the Cubs, that although they were “the cleverest baseball team in America, composed of smart men and a great manager, for years paid less attention to active coaching on the baselines,” than other teams.

“Possibly the reason was the confidence in their own judgment and their continued success, Frank Chance’s men made few blunders and the neglect was not noticeable, except to constant observers until 1908. Any player who happened to be idle went to the coaching lines and most of the time inexperienced substitutes did line duty. In 1908 during their fierce fight for the pennant, the realization of their carelessness was brought home to them and since then Chance has employed quick-thinking, clever men on the base lines, principally relying on (Ginger) Beaumont and (John) Kane.”

john kane

John Kane

Fullerton dated Chance’s new appreciation for competent coaching to July 17, 1908; that day the Cubs beat Christy Mathewson and the Giants 1 to 0 on an inside the park home run by Joe Tinker. Heinie Zimmerman was coaching third base for the Cubs.

The Chicago Inter Ocean described the play:

“Joe, the first man up in the fifth, hit one of Matty’s best as far as any ball could be hit in the grounds without going into the stands. Where the center field bleachers join the right field 25 cent seats is a V-shaped inclosure. Joe drove the ball away into this dent, and it took Cy Seymour some time to gather the elusive sphere. When Cy finally retrieved the ball, Tinker was rounding third.

“Zimmerman grasped this as the psychological moment to perpetrate one of the most blockheaded plays ever pulled off. He ran out onto the line and seized Joe, trying to hold him on third, when the ball was just starting to the diamond from deep center field. Joe struggled to get away, as his judgment told him he could get home, but Heinie held on with a grip of death. Finally, Tink wriggled away and started for the plate.”

 

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Zimmerman

The paper said Tinker would have been thrown out had Al Bridwell’s throw to the plate been on target:

“Had Tinker been caught at the plate the 10,000 frenzied fans would have torn Zim limb from limb. Chance immediately sent Evers out to coach at third base and retired Zim to the dark confines of the Cubs’ bench.”

Thus, said Fullerton:

“Chance began to develop scientific coaching, and discovering its full value, took the lead in the matter, employing skilled coachers.”

“Piggy Ward, and Rightly Nicknamed is he”

15 May

After his off-season heroics, pulling an Altoona, Pennsylvania man from a fire, Piggy Ward, having been released by the Washington Senators, joined the Scranton Coal Heavers in the Eastern League for the 1895 season; The Scranton Times called him, “a very good man and will be heard from on the lines.”

He quickly became popular with his new club. The Scranton Tribune said:

“(He is) clearly a favorite with the unwashed bleacher—or, with the grandstand, for that matter…He is large bodied, somewhat round shouldered and looks awkward in repose. In action he is one of the quickest on the team and plays and steals bases with a vim and action that is refreshing.”

He hit .357—45 players with at least 200 at bats hit better than .300 that season in the Eastern League—The Sporting News said his manager found a way to get the most out of Ward:

“(Billy) Barnie gave him instructions to be in bed at least two nights a week. A little sleep and less booze and Ward is all right.”

 

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Ward caricature, 1902

His “coaching” did not seem to change, and on several occasions, according to the Scranton newspapers, he was ordered off the field “for offensive coaching.” And he was unpopular in the other league cities.

After Ward was thrown out of a game with the Rochester Browns in the third inning, The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle said:

“’Piggy’ Ward, and rightly nicknamed is he.”

He was even less liked in Buffalo; The Courier said: “Ward is one of the most offensive coachers extant, and he would gain friends by bottling some of his exuberant flow of nonsense.” While The Enquirer was even less charitable:

“(H)is calliope-like voice is about as musical as a dynamite blast in a stone quarry. He evidently imagines he is pretty all right as a ‘kidder,’ but what he doesn’t know about being funny would fill several large volumes. Altogether as a joker, ‘Piggy’ is a rank, dismal, decided failure.”

The Tribune noted that the second baseman was a bit eccentric in other ways as well:

“Ward has a nondescript practice uniform which is a cross between the scant apparel of a Feeje [sic] islander and the hay-making garb of a farmer. It consists of a white negligee coat cut like a robe de chambre and reaching to the knees, a pair of loose trousers of the same color which reach to the shoe tops, a white cap and a sleeveless undershirt that is open to the waist.”

In 1896, Ward was again in Scranton, and he had vowed in the off season to be in the best shape of his life. In a letter to The Tribune he said he spent the winter “handling a pair of spirited mules,” and expected to report to Scranton weighing 185 pounds, down from his 217 the previous season. The paper said he appeared to have lost 20 pounds from the previous season upon his arrival.

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Piggy Ward

Also, in 1896, his one-man “coacher” show became a two-man show when Arlie Latham, released by the St. Louis Browns in mid May, joined the Coal Heavers. The Springfield (MA) News was one of the rare league newspapers that thought it was good thing:

“With two such comedians…the Scranton team ought to prove a great drawing card on the circuit, The Springfield crowd are anxious for Scranton series here.”

Neither made it through the season, Latham was released July 17, Ward, one month later.  When Ward signed with the Toronto Canadians, The Wilkes Barre Record said:

“Ward is a great batter and base runner. There we quit.”

The Wilkes Barre News said:

“(Ward) is just where he belongs on that gang of Toronto hoodlums.”

Al Buckenberger’s Canadians were considered to be the dirtiest team in the league, The Springfield Union said with the addition of Ward:

“The opponent that gets around first base now without being tripped is lucky to get past Piggy Ward in safety and is sure to be blocked or tripped at third by Jud Smith.”

After the 1896 season, some of the papers in the Eastern League cities suggested rules changes to eliminate Ward’s type of “coaching.” The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle said:

“The majority of ‘fans’ take as much delight in lively, witty coaching, such as has made Arlie Latham and Billy Clymer famous…There need not be anything offensive in aggressive work by men on the lines…but all players are not like Clymer (and Latham) and that big beast s like ‘Pig’ Ward make themselves obnoxious by their actions and language when in the coacher’s box.”

The Syracuse Herald suggested adopting a rule “ousting ‘Pig’ Ward and others of his ilk from the game entirely.”

Whether it was an attempt to improve his image or a function of playing on a smaller stage—with his hometown Lancaster Maroons in the Atlantic League and the Mansfield Haymakers in the Interstate League—Ward seemed to stay fairly quiet and avoid controversy among the press in the league cities from 1897 through 1899.

The 5’ 9” Ward seems to have played in his later years at between 220 and 230 pounds from various reports. Frank Rinn, who managed Ward for the three seasons in Lancaster talked to The Hartford Courant about him:

“Although he is heavy and sluggish Piggy has more ginger than a dozen ordinary players. Rinn was telling the other day how hard it was to get Ward to train…He was sent out to coach once and he pulled a cushion out from under his shirt and had a good seat on the ground.”

Ward bounced from no less than eight teams between 1900 and 1905, including playing for John McCloskey again—in 1902 in Pacific Northwest League with the Butte Miners—Ward stayed with the McCloskey for the entire season this time—winning a championship and receiving a gold watch and chain at season’s end for being voted by fans as the team’s most popular player in a promotion for a local jeweler. He also led the league with a .332 batting average; only seven players in the six-team Pacific Northwest circuit hit .300 or better that season.

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Ward and Butte Miners teammate Thomas Kelly in 1903.

The Cincinnati Times Star, still not recovered from his tenure with the Reds nearly a decade earlier said of Ward winning the watch:

“The booby prize was the best Ward could have captured in a similar contest during his stay in this city.”

In 1903, Ward reverted to some of his old ways.  With an already signed contract to return to Butte and a $100 advance in his pocket, he signed a contract and collected a $100 advance from the Portland Browns in the upstart Pacific Coast League. He ended up back in Butte, and when McCloskey left the club to manage the San Francisco Pirates, he told the Butte newspapers that Ward, who was already the team captain, was his choice to succeed him as manager; the club instead named shortstop Billy Kane manager.

When rumors swirled in 1905 that the cash-strapped Pacific National League might cut player salaries, The Spokane Chronicle said Ward tried to form a player’s union chartered by the American Labor Union which was formed in 1898 as the Western Labor Union to create a federation of mine workers. The rumored pay cuts never came, nor did the union.

Ward was reported to have died in January of 1906; the news made all the Philadelphia dallies and several other East Coast papers, and over the next month spread West.  The papers had confused Piggy—Frank G. Ward—with Frank P. Ward, a former amateur player who had died in Newark, N.J.

Ward was seriously injured that same winter when working as an electrician; he was shocked and fell from a pole.

The news of his death—despite being corrected in the papers—and the accident, were enough to make many believe Ward had died. When he traveled to Chicago in August of 1911 for former teammate Charles Comiskey’s birthday, The Chicago Daily News said Comiskey was shocked to see Ward, “whom he thought was dead.”

The not-dead Ward did not play professionally in 1906—the Frank Ward who appeared with the Glens Falls-Saratoga Springs team in the Hudson River League—listed among Ward’s career statistics on Baseball Reference—is a different Frank Wad.

He was hired in 1907 as an umpire in the Northwestern League. The Butte News celebrated the move:

“’Piggy’ promises to be as popular an umpire as he was a player…He is firm, has a good voice, and is known to all the of the Northwest, and President (William Henry) Lucas made a 10-strike when he appointed him  on the league staff.”

He lasted just two games. The Spokane Press said he:

“(B)roke down completely last night. This morning he was almost a nervous wreck. A collection was taken up among the ballplayers and he was sent back to his home in Scranton, Pennsylvania”

The paper said Ward’s wife had suggested he take the position because it might “build him up,” after the electrocution, but the stress was “too much for him.”

Four months after Ward’s reunion with Comiskey, The Pittsburgh Gazette Times said he was “near death,” a pitiable wreck,” suffering from “brain disease,” in an Altoona hospital.

Ten months later, on October 23, 1912, 45-year-old Piggy Ward died. The Altoona Tribune called him “one of the most famous diamond stars in the land,” and said:

“He possessed several expensive pins, a beautiful watch, and other jewelry presented to him by admirers when he was thrilling fandom with his feats.”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #35

1 Jul

Comiskey versus Anson

In 1888, Ren Mulford, writing in the Cincinnati Times-Star compared Charlie Comiskey to Cap Anson:

Charles Comiskey

Charles Comiskey

“Charlie Comiskey, who for several years has successfully piloted the St. Louis Browns to victory, possesses many of the characteristics which made Anson famous. He teaches his men to sacrifice everything in order to advance the interests of the club, but unlike Anson he never humiliates his men on the field. When it is necessary to reprimand any of them for an error or misconduct, he does it quietly. He uses good judgment in picking up players but lacks patience in developing the men.”

Latham on Comiskey

Arlie Latham and Charles Comiskey were together with the St. Louis Brown from 1883-1889, and Latham jumped the Browns to join the Players League with Comiskey in 1890, helping to form the Chicago Pirates–“The greatest team ever organized.” But from the beginning the team was beset with discipline issues and struggled.

lathampix

 Latham

Comiskey benched Latham, who was hitting just .229, in July.  The Chicago Tribune said several attempts were made to trade Latham, and when nothing materialized, he requested to be released and he was on July 29.

Latham returned to the National League, joining the Cincinnati Reds, then aired out his grievances with his former boss and friend when he was with the Reds in Boston in August. The Boston Globe’s Time Murnane said Latham was at the United States Hotel talking to members of the Pittsburgh Burghers who were in town playing Boston’s Brotherhood club:

“Some of Pittsburgh’s Players League boys were anxious to know why Latham was released from Chicago.

“’Comiskey did it,’ was his answer. ‘He has been after me for some time, and said I was playing crooked ball. I was laid off in St. Louis last season for the same thing, but this year Commie was cross and ugly all the time.’

“’You see, he has plenty of money and can afford to be stiff. I dropped three short fly balls in the last game I played in Chicago and Comiskey came and told me that he was on to me and would stand it no longer.’

“’I asked for my release and got it that night. My arm was very sore, but the other men would not believe it. I wanted to stay in the Players’ League and sent word to Al Johnson (owner of the Cleveland Infants) saying I was open for engagement.’”

Latham alleged that Comiskey or someone connected with the Chicago club had a role in blackballing him from the league:

“’I heard from (Johnson) once and then he stopped. I suppose the Chicago people interfered.’”

The Chicago Tribune said Latham actually received an offer from Cleveland but joined the Reds when they offered more money.

Murnane said when Latham arrived in Cincinnati, in an attempt to “get some good work out of the ‘Dude,’” that Reds manager Tom Loftus made him captain:

“(Latham) has been known for years as one who could keep the boys all on the smile while he shirked fast grounders.”

But Murnane claimed he had already worn out his welcome with some of the Reds:

“Since Latham’s release by Chicago he has taken pains to run down the Players’ League until the members of that organization have soured on him (two days earlier) he went out of his way to abuse the Brotherhood, and the result is that he is already getting himself disliked by several level-headed members of his own team.”

Latham stayed with the Reds with five seasons, and Comiskey again became his manager from 1892-1894.

Blame it on Hulbert

After winning the inaugural National League pennant in 1876 with a 52-14 record, expectations were high for the Chicago White Stockings in 1877.

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Hulbert

After a 26-33 fifth place finish, The Chicago Evening Post said the blame rested in one place:

“There are a great many men in America who do not know how to run a ball club, and Mr. (William) Hulbert, President of the Chicago club, appears to be one of the most conspicuous. The public is familiar with the fact that this year’s White Stocking Nine was more of a disgrace to the city than a credit and there was a considerable wonderment as to why a nine that in 1876 swept everything before it, was in 1877, obliged to content itself with the last place in the championship struggle [sic, Chicago finished fifth in the six-team league).

“From all that can be learned, it would seem that part of the season’s ill success should be attributed to the manner in which the men have been treated by Mr. Hulbert. There are complaints that he was continually finding fault, until the men became discouraged and lost heart in their work. Just how true this is The Post does not propose to determine, but simply gives publicity to a letter from Mr. Hulbert to Paul Hines, in which he distinctly charges Hines with not trying to play.”

According to The Chicago Tribune, the letter, sent in July, suggested that Hines was not “playing half as well,” in 1877 as he had the previous season—Hines’ average dropped from .331 to .280.

The Post said the letter showed how little Hulbert knew:

“To those who have attended the games this season this charge will bring a smile, as Hines is notoriously one of the hardest working and most reliable ballplayers in the country.”

The White Stockings finished fourth the following two seasons, but won back-to back pennants in 1880 and ’81, the final two before Hulbert’s death in April of 1882—the White Stockings won their third straight pennant that year.

“Several Thousands of Dollars Were Staked”

19 Jun

After the first game of the 1887 post season series between the American Association champion Browns and the National League champion Detroit Wolverines—won by St. Louis 6 to 1–The St. Louis Post-Dispatch found that the various options to bet on game two and the series “at the local pool rooms” was “exciting, and some of it was quite humorous.

The paper said before game one the “betting was 100 to 65 that Detroit would win the series and now the betting s even.”

The betting odds on game two were “10 to 9 on the Browns,” and said the paper “several thousands of dollars were staked.”

Most interesting, said the paper were the “peculiar bets” offered:

(Ten to win 30) that Bob Caruthers makes most hits in the game today

10—50 that Bill Gleason makes most hits

1-1 that Caruthers, Tip O’Neill, and Arlie Latham make more hits than Sam Thompson, Fred Dunlap, and Hardy Richardson

1—1 that O’Neill makes more hits than Thompson

4—1 that Thompson does not make the most hits

10—5 that Richardson does not make the most hits in game

10—5 that Dunlap does not make the most hits

10—5 that Latham does not

1—1 that Curt Welch, Charles Comiskey, and Latham steal at least one base

The paper also said the odds on that day’s game were “10—9 against Detroit.”

The Wolverines won game two, 5 to 3, and won the series 10 games to 5.

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The game two box score

As for the “peculiar bets” on game two: Detroit’s Charlie Bennett and Sam Thompson each led with three hits.  Latham, O’Neill, and Carruthers had four hits, Thompson, Dunlap, and Richardson had three.

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Sam Thompson

Thompson had three hits to O’Neill’s one, and while Comiskey and Latham each stole a base, Welch did not.

“The Things That Bring Good Luck to the Various Clubs”

26 Nov

In 1886, The St, Louis Post-Dispatch noted:

“Gamblers and old women are not the only ones who are given to superstitious observations of signs and to the carrying of luck tokens…Baseball players are more given to that sort of thing of late years than any other class of men.”

Under the Headline The Things That Bring Luck to the Various Clubs, the paper laid out the different “mascottic tastes” of the teams.

The paper said the success of the Cincinnati Red Stockings the previous season, was attributed in part to “Kid Baldwin’s pink jersey,” but the team’s fortunes turned in 1886 after:

“(A)fter a St. Louis laundry women’s daughter eloped in ‘Kid’s’ jersey and the club is now in last place.”

The Louisville Colonels had recently found a new “lucky hanger-on,” for a mascot; a calf born with a caul—the rare instance has long been the subject of superstition. The team took the calf ad proceeded to take five out of six games from the defending champion St. Louis Brown Stockings.

Pete Browning of the Colonels,“(C)arries a loaded die in the hip pocket of his knickerbockers for luck.  Before a recent game somebody took the die out of Pete’s pocket and he failed to make a hit that day,” ending a long hitting streak.

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Pete Browning

The paper said that Brown Stockings captain Charles Comiskey and third baseman Arlie Latham disagreed on the best mascot for the team:

“Comiskey argued in favor of a mule, for which he has a kindly fellow feeling, and he said he knew where he could get one cheap.  Latham held out for (a small white) mouse because he owned one and won the day, though Comiskey still believed in the efficacy of the mule, and had his heel spikes made out of a cast-off shoe from the foot of his favorite animal.”

The mouse died–suffocating when Latham, carrying the mouse, got in a fight with teammate Doc Bushong—right around the time Louisville acquired their calf and the Brown Stockings dropped those five games to Louisville,

The Post-Dispatch said New York Giants President John Day had recently had a prospect for a new mascot for the team:

“(He) tore his hair out the other day when he was informed that the youngster born with a full beard in Williamsburg had died. Day was sure that he would have in him one of the best mascots in the country.”

The paper noted the better known mascots, “Little Willie Hahn,” of the Chicago White Stockings and Charlie Gallagher of the Detroit Wolverines—who was said to have been born with a full set of teeth—and said of other National League clubs:

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Willie Hahn

“The Bostons never had a mascot because they haven’t luck enough to find one.  The Washington and Kansas City teams are unable to get a mascot to even look at them.”

And concluded:

“The strangest thing about a baseball mascot is that he is occasionally traitorous and transfers his services to the other side without the slightest warning.  He will never play with a cripples, badly-managed or broken-up team, and as soon as a club begins to go down hill it is a clear case of desertion by the mascot.”

 

 

“An Impenetrable Mystery Surrounds the Whereabouts of Arlie Latham”

13 Aug

Arlie Latham was missing.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch said:

 “An impenetrable mystery surrounds the whereabouts of Arlie Latham, the great third baseman of the Brownstocking Club.”

In two days, the defending American Association champion Browns were scheduled to play a preseason “World’s Championship” series with the National League champion Chicago White Stockings, and Latham was missing.

The paper said there were “wild-eyed” rumors that Latham had arrived in town and was at the home of his mother in law, “Mrs. Garvin, No. 2315 Chestnut Street.”

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Arlie Latham

The Garvin’s next door neighbor even “came downtown…and stated positively that he had seen Latham on (April 3) walking around the yard and removing clothes lines from the back fence or engaged in some equally domestic occupation.”

The paper said there were several stories circulating about Latham:

“(T)hat (Browns) President (Chris) von der Ahe had seen him and knows that he is here…(they) understand each other and have prepared a big surprise for the audience at the opening game…and that all the differences between them as to salary has been amicably settled.”

Or:

“Latham is laid up at his wife’s mother’s house on Chestnut Street and is suffering with malarial fever.”

Or:

“The present abode of Latham (is) a mystery.”

The final story was based on the fact that “numerous letters” were waiting for Latham unclaimed at the Laclede Hotel “where he generally stops when in the city.”

The paper sent a reporter to the Garvin house to interrogate Latham’s mother in law:

“The bell was answered by the lady herself, who when Latham was asked for, replied:

“’Mr. Latham is not here.’

“’When did he leave?’

“’Last fall some time.’”

Mrs. Garvin said she had received a letter the da before from her daughter who she said was in Lynn, Massachusetts.

Mrs. Garvin asked the reporter:

“’What interest do you take in Mr. Latham?’

“Don’t you know the Browns are going to play the Chicagos Thursday?’

“’No, I didn’t know anything about that.’”

The reporter told Mrs. Garvin there were reports Latham had been seen at her home:

“’Well, I can’t see how anybody could say such a thing.’”

The Post-Dispatch then sought an answer from the Browns owner:

“Extensive questioning could bring no definite answer from President von der Ahe regarding the mystery.”

The Browns owner did tell the paper:

“No, you can put that down positively he has not signed with the club, and what’s more I’m not going to come to his terms.’

“’What does he want?’

“’Well, he says he won’t play with us this year unless I pay him $2800, and I’ll never do that.”

vonderahe

von der Ahe

According to von der Ahe, he offered Latham $2500 for the season:

“’I’ve made him an offer that is sufficiently good for his services, and if he doesn’t want to sign for that, he needn’t.’”

When the Browns opened the series, Latham was still missing.  Eight thousand people turned out for the first game against Chicago and Lou Sylvester played third.  The Browns lost six to three.

But, apparently, the reports that Latham was in town were incorrect.

The Post-Dispatch said von der Ahe received a telegram from Latham during the game saying he would be in St. Louis that evening.

The Chicago Tribune said Latham accepted $2500 for the 1887 season.

Latham arrived in St. Louis on the evening of April 7, and started for the Browns the next day, The Post-Dispatch said:

“Latham shows up in excellent for and guards their third bag.”

He went 0 for 2 with two walks in a seven to four Browns victory.

The White Stockings won the series four games to two.  Latham hit .440 with 11 hits in 25 at bats.  The regular season started the day after the series.

The Browns won another American Association championship in 1887, finishing 14 games ahead of the Cincinnati Red Stockings.

Latham, arguably, had his best season.  He hit .316, and with the loose scoring for stolen bases in 1887 he had 129.

“Here was the King of all the Tramps I’d ever seen”

7 Oct

In 1947, Grantland Rice of The New York Herald-Tribune told a story about how he came to know one of the most colorful pitchers of the first decade of the 20th Century:

“Baseball, above all other games, has known more than its share in the way of masterpieces of eccentricity.  Many of these I happen to know.”

Grantland Rice

Grantland Rice

Rice went on to list some of his favorites—Rube Waddell, Crazy Schmit, Dizzy Dean—“Also, Flint Rhem, Babe Herman, Bobo Newsom, Germany Schaefer, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Arlie Latham—nits, wits, and half-wits—but all great ballplayers.”  But, said Rice, “one of the leaders in this colorful field” had been all but forgotten:

“His name was (Arthur) Bugs Raymond, the pitcher John McGraw always insisted had the finest pitching motion he ever saw, including Walter Johnson.”

[…]

“I remember Bugs because I happened to have a small part in his pitching career.  I was working in Atlanta (for The Journal) when I happened to read a story that came out of Shreveport (Louisiana), about a young pitcher named Raymond who had made and won the following bet:

“That he could eat a whole turkey, drink two bottles of scotch—and win a doubleheader.  He did it.  I didn’t believe it at the time, but I believed it later.  I recommended to either (Atlanta Crackers owner) Abner Powell or (manager) Billy Smith (44 years is a long time) that Raymond looked like a good buy.  Good copy is always scarce.  Raymond sounded like good copy.”

Bugs Raymond

Bugs Raymond

Rice’s story about the bet is likely apocryphal, there is no mention of it in contemporary newspapers in Shreveport, or in Jackson, Mississippi where Raymond played in the Cotton States League before coming to Atlanta–he also names the wrong manager–Smith came to Atlanta the following season.  While Raymond probably didn’t make the bet Rice claimed, he did, on at least one occasion win both ends of a doubleheader, and he was wildly popular in Mississippi.  After he was sold to Atlanta in July of 1905, The Jackson News said:

“The regret over Raymond’s departure was not one-sided.  The big fellow was all broken up over the transaction.”

The paper said that although Raymond would make $200 a month in Atlanta and have a chance to return to the major leagues, leaving Jackson was difficult for him:

“During his engagement with the Jackson team he has made a host of friends and was undoubtedly the most popular player who ever donned a home uniform.  The plain fact is Raymond almost owned the town.  Nothing was too good for him and he always made a hatful of money on the big games, a shower of silver and greenbacks being the inevitable result of a victory in a doubleheader.”

Rice’s story about Raymond also took another real event and embellished it–either by design or through the fog of forty years.

After finishing the 1905 season with a 10-6 record for the Crackers, Raymond was picked by new Manager Billy Smith to start for Atlanta in an exhibition against the Boston Americans on March 26, 1906.

In Rice’s colorful version, he gave the incorrect date for the exhibition and wrongly claimed that he met Raymond face-to-face for the first time on the morning of the game:

“By some odd chance, before starting a mile-and-a-half walk to the ballpark, I happened to be taking a drink at some wayside bar in preparation for the trip.  A heavy hand fell on my shoulder and, as I looked around, there was an unkempt-looking fellow, around 200 pounds who wore no necktie and hadn’t shaved in at least two days.  Here was the king of all the tramps I’d ever seen.

“’How about buying me a drink, fellow?’ was his opening remark.  I bought him a drink.  Then I had to buy him another drink.

“’How do we get out to this ballpark?’ he asked.

“’We walk,’ I said, ‘if you are going with me.’ Then a sudden morbid thought hit me.  ‘Isn’t your name Raymond?’ I asked.

“’Yes,” he said ‘Bugs Raymond.’

“I figured then what my recommendation to the Atlanta team was worth.  Something less than two cents.

“’Do you happen to know,’ I suggested, ‘that you are pitching today against the Boston Americans?’

“’I never heard of ‘em,’ Bugs said.  ‘Where’s Boston?’

“On the walk to the ballpark that afternoon Bugs spent most of the trek throwing rocks at pigeons, telegraph poles and any target in sight.  People I had known in Atlanta gave me an odd look after taking a brief glance at my unshaven, rough and rowdy looking companion.”

Once at the ballpark, Rice said:

“Raymond started the game by insulting Jimmy Collins…and every star of the Boston team.  He would walk from the pitcher’s box up towards the plate and let them know, in forcible and smoking language, what he thought they were.”

In Rice’s version, the cocky, seemingly drunk Raymond shuts Boston out 3-0 on three hits.  He got those details wrong as well, and Raymond’s performance was just as incredible without the embellishments.

Bugs Raymond

Bugs Raymond

The Atlanta Constitution said on the day after the game:

“No better than bush leaguers looked the Boston Americans…yesterday afternoon at Piedmont Park, when ‘Bugs’ Raymond came near to scoring a no-hit game against the bean-eating crew, who escaped a shut-out through two errors made by (Morris “Mike”) Jacobs in the eighth inning.

“Score—Atlanta 4, Boston 2.

“’Bugs’ was there with the goods.  Boston hitter after hitter stepped up to the plate, pounded the pan, looked fierce for awhile, and then went the easy out route.

“’Bugs’ was in his glory.  It was in the eighth inning before a single hit or run was scored off his delivery

Both Boston hits were ground balls Atlanta shortstop Frank “Whitey” Morse beaten out by  Collins and Myron ”Moose” Grimshaw:

“As inning after inning went by, the Boston sporting writers along with the team began to think of the possibility of defeat, and, about the seventh inning, when it looked strangely like a shutout game, they pulled out their books of excuses and began to look for the proper one to use in Tuesday morning’s newspapers.

“The one finally agreed upon at a conference of all four writers read like this:

“’The eyes of the Boston players were dimmed by the flying moisture from the spit-ball delivery of one ‘Bugs’ Raymond, who let himself out at full steam, while our pitchers were waiting for the opening of the coming season.  It does a major league club good to be beaten every now and then, anyway.”

The Box Score

                 The Box Score

Given Raymond’s alcoholism, there might be some truth Rice’s embellishments although there is no evidence for most of his version.

The performance against Boston was quickly forgotten as Raymond just as quickly wore out his welcome with Manager Billy Smith.  On May 6 he was suspended indefinitely because, as The Constitution put it “(Raymond) looks with delight in wine when it is red.”  On May 31, Atlanta sold Raymond to the Savannah Indians in the South Atlantic leagues. An 18-8 mark there, followed by a 35-11 season with the Charleston Sea Gulls in the same league in 1907, earned Raymond his return to the big leagues with the St. Louis Cardinals.

By 1912, the pitcher, about whom Rice claimed John McGraw said “Even half sober Raymond would have been one of the greatest,” was dead.

Hugh Nicol

25 Aug

In 1884 Hugh “Little Nic” Nicol was one of the most popular members of the St. Louis Browns—so popular, a local boy’s team named themselves after the right fielder, and the Nicol was invited to address the team.

Hugh Nicol

Hugh Nicol

A reporter for The St. Louis Critic was on hand when Nicol imparted his baseball wisdom to the kids:

“I’m no speech maker, but if you like I’ll give you a pointer or two, and you can take ‘em or leave ‘em, just as you like.  First, when you go to the bat don’t sneak up there, but pick up your club determined like, and look at the pitcher as you’d look at a mosquito which you had the dead wood on.  Then when he curls the ball away, up around your left year duck your head, look mad and whisper, ‘Oh, you sucker you know better than to give me a good ball.’  That’s what you call workin’ the pitcher—makin’ him mad as a bull—so mad that he’ll put the ball just where you say he can’t put it, but where you know he’s going to put it, and when he puts it there smash her right in the eye.

“Then when you’ve smashed her, don’t stop and admire the smash, but make for first as though the devil was trying catch hold of your coat tails.  When you reach first don’t stop unless you hear the captain yell: ‘Hole yer first; hole it!’  If he yells ‘hole it,’ obey orders.  Don’t think you know more than him, because if you get to thinkin’ that way your head will begin to swell, and all the ice in St. Louis won’t take down the swellin’ If you only reach first, place your arms akimbo and look at the pitcher as though you had got there by a fluke and was going to hold to her if it was the last act.  If you are a runner, and not one of those tired cusses that crawl when they think they’re flyin’.

“Make for second the moment he pitches the ball; and when you get near the bag, grab hold of it and come up smilin’ at the umpire , as though you meant to say “Oh, I beat the ball about a foot, and he never touched me anyhow.’  If you work it right the umpire will sing out, ‘Hole yer second!’

“But, fellers if you can’t run when you reach first stay there and thank God you got that far.  Don’t try to make second for if you do the catcher will make a bloomin’ gillie out of you.  But make out that you are a dandy on the run, and bob up and down like a bear dancing on a red hot stove.  That kind of business works up the pitcher and he’ll try to catch you nappin’, but instead he’ll fire the ball away over the first baseman’s head.  Then if you can run a little bit you can get all the way ‘round.  But take care that he don’t catch you nappin’.  If he does that the captain will call you a bum base runner and you’ll feel like clubbin’ the life out of yourself.”

Thirty-five years later, Nicol attended an old-timers banquet at the Great Northern Hotel in Chicago and spoke with Al Spink, then occasionally writing for The Chicago Evening Post.  Spink called Nicol “the smallest and most wonderful right fielder in America.”

Nicol, like most of his 19th Century brethren, thought his old teammates were better than current players:

“I can’t see where the game has improved a bit since we played it…and I can’t see where the players of today are any better than our old gang…I don’t see any players cavorting around on the diamond today that are any better than the Browns’ old infield when it was composed of (Charles) Comiskey, (William “Yank”) Robinson, (Arlie) Latham and (Bill) Gleason…Where are there any better players than our old Chicago infield—(Cap) Anson, (Fred) Pfeffer, (Ned) Williamson and (Tom)Burns?”

1885 St. Louis Browns--Nicol is on the far right of the bottom row.

1885 St. Louis Browns–Nicol is on the far right of the bottom row.

Nicol also objected to the way the game was played:

“(W)here is there the  enthusiasm and the effort to win that was in evidence in the days when we played?

“Nowadays a player often goes to the bat acting like a man who has lost an immediate member of his family.

“We used to go up smiling and acting as though we were certain of clouting out a homer, although we often fell down on the proposition.

“And then, too, many of your players of today make little attempt to advance themselves in the various departments of play.

“They do not half try to learn all the fine points of the game as we did in the days of old, but simply try to get by.  They are content if they get a couple of hits every afternoon and play an errorless game.  The first thing they do each morning is to get the newspaper and look at the hit and error columns.  If they don’t see themselves credited with a hit perhaps they did make, some sports writer gets a terrible panning.”

Nicol managed in the Three-I League and later  coached baseball and served as athletic director at Purdue University from 1906 until 1914—he resigned both positions in November of 1914 after a dispute with his football coach Andy Smith and Smith’s assistant Pete Vaughn (who was also Purdue’s basketball coach).

Nicol 1904

Nicol 1904

Nicol was often credited by contemporary sports writers with inventing the head-first slide.

He died in Lafayette, Indiana in 1921.

Independence Day 1918

4 Jul

In June of 1918 it was announced that King George V would be attending, and throwing out the first pitch, at the July 4 baseball game between the United States army and navy teams.

The Associated Press (AP) said the King was looking for help to prepare for the Independence Day game:

“At the request of the king, Arlie Latham, a former big league player, who will umpire the Fourth of July game, sent the King a regulation baseball a few days ago.  The next day Latham called at the Palace and gave the King a brief lesson as to how the baseball should be handled.

“The proper form in pitching was rather hard for the King to get, as he is used to a different type of throw, as in cricket, but the royal student finally began to get something approaching the right swing.  Since then the King has been practicing in his spare moments on a blank wall in the garden.

“The King has expressed hope that he will be able to throw out the ball in a manner to win the approval of the American Rooters.”

Whether he actually practiced is unknown, but the plan to have the King throw out the first ball was scrapped, and he instead walked the ball out to Umpire Latham and handed it to him.

Regardless of how the ball was delivered, the press in London understood the gravity of the gesture.

The London Daily Telegraph said:

“Nothing will give greater pleasure across the Atlantic than the appearance of the King and Queen at the baseball match at Chelsea.  That mark of understanding and attention will appeal to the heart of America far more than any military pageant or review, and the handing out of the ball by the king to the players—an act which will seem trivial and incomprehensible to the German mind—is likely to do more toward the removal of century-old prejudice in America against the name ‘King George’ than the ablest diplomacy or the most persuasive rhetoric.”

The London Daily Sketch memorialized the event in verse:

“King George III with cannon balls

Did try our brothers to dispatch.

King George V the country calls

To watch with him their baseball match.”

King George shakes hand with Lt. Mims, captain of the army team.  Admiral Sims looks on.

King George shakes hand with Lt. Mims, captain of the army team. Admiral William  Sims looks on.

On July 4 The AP reported:

“King George saw the American Army defeated in a hard-fought baseball game today.  The opponent of the army team was one picked from the American navy, which won by a score of 2 to 1.  Every one of the nine innings had its thrills for the more than 18,000 spectators.

“King George followed the game closely and enjoyed it thoroughly.  At the close he turned to Admiral (William) Sims and General (John) Biddle and expressed the hope that he might be able to see many more games before the summer was over.

“Few sporting events since the war began have aroused so much interest and discussion in London as yesterday’s game.  Independence Day was on everybody’s lips…For several days the newspapers have been explaining baseball and the people of London have been pouring over the mysteries of the American national game, instinctively trying to find in it some parallel to their own cricket.  Many persons went to the game armed with clippings and drawings of a diamond showing the position of the players.

“American soldiers and sailors on their way to the game were heartily cheered.  Outside the entrance to the Chelsea football grounds, where the game was played, the people lined the streets for several blocks and crowded the windows in their homes to watch the crowds.”

Hall of Famer Herb Pennock pitched for the navy team which was captained by his Red Sox teammate Mike McNally.

Most sources reported the the attendance as 18,000.  McNally, in a letter to Red Sox Secretary Larry Graver said in a letter reprinted by The AP:

“There were some 50,000 people present.  King George, Admiral Sims, and a lot of other ‘big guys.'”

The wire service summed up the importance of the day:

“No Country ever celebrated the national anniversary of another country as the people of Great Britain today celebrated the Fourth of July.”

“I Remember Well the First Day Latham Coached”

11 Jun

Arlie Latham “The Freshest Man on Earth” is generally credited as the first full-time third base coach.  Even before John McGraw hired him to coach third for the New York Giants in 1909, Latham’s antics as a “coacher” were already legendary—in 1907 Ted Sullivan, one of baseball’s pioneers and Latham’s manager with the St. Louis Browns, told The Washington Evening Star about Latham’s first time.

Ted Sullivan

Ted Sullivan

“’I remember well the first day Latham coached,’ said Sullivan.  ‘It was in Cincinnati in 1883.  I must confess I never had much use for a ‘fresh’ player, and soon after Latham reported I was not backward in telling him he was too d— fresh, but  I later discovered that he was a wonderful player, and that his freshness was of a most harmless and hilarious nature.  But after I gave him the reprimand I noticed he was a little timid about saying anything, but was still of good cheer.

“One day in Cincinnati Will White had the Browns on his staff with his little stingy rise ball.  My best men were on the bases and there was no one on the line.  I asked the men on the bench, ‘Is there no one here able to coach a little?’ Latham speaks up and says, ‘I will coach if you want me.’”

Never one for understatement, Sullivan said what happened next:

“Well, if Gabriel had entered a graveyard and blown his trumpet, and the tombstones had loosened their grip on the dead, it would not have created more of a sensation.  Latham walked out to the home plate and to the consternation of umpire, players and myself, delivered this talk to pitcher White:

‘My Dear Mr. White, we have been very courteous to you during the game, but as the Browns need a few runs we will have to be rude to you for awhile,’ and then stalking off to third base went through those gyrations that afterward made him famous all over America.  White was dumbstruck at the flow of words that afterward fell from Latham, and he became so rattled that the Browns batted him out of the box and won the game.”

Will White

Will White

No Browns game in Cincinnati that season matches well with Sullivan’s initial account—he continued to tell the story to reporters for more than a decade and sometimes said instead the game was “against Cincinnati—the game that best fits Sullivan’s description was a 9 to 5 Browns win over the Reds on May 16. But, contemporary accounts attribute White’s faltering, which led to the Browns come from behind victory, to a knee injury rather than any “flow of words” from Latham.

“Latham was the original funny man in the coacher’s box, and he stood in a class entirely by himself.  He has had many imitators, but they have never reached the position that Latham occupied, for he was a genius in the work and never used language that would offend the ears of the most prudish.

“Many years ago it used to be Latham’s great aim to get out on the coaching line here in Washington in the games that local pet—Win Mercer—was to do the pitching.  It will be recalled that Mercer was an extremely handsome fellow, and often it fell to his lot to pitch on Ladies’ Day.  Latham took the greatest delight in endeavoring to disconcert Mercer, the large number of ladies being mad enough to pull his hair, while at the same time they were convulsed with laughter at his sayings and antics.  He and Mercer were great chums, and when Latham was secured by the Wagners (J. Earl and George) to travel with the Washingtons (in 1899) for coaching purposes alone the two were inseparable, thus showing that though a thorough minstrel and actor, his chaff never broke into bitter personalities  or severed friendships.

“We have our Hughey Jennings and others of today, but in the history of baseball there has only been one ideal coacher from the line—Arlie Latham.”

Latham with the New York Giants

Latham with the New York Giants

When McGraw hired Latham two years later, Bozeman Bulger, sports writer for The New York Evening World said the Giants’ new third base coach had just as much fun as a minor league umpire as he did when coaching—Bulger was a writer for The Birmingham Age-Herald while Latham was working in the Southern Association:

“I had the fun one time of traveling with Latham while he was an umpire in the Southern (Association).  On one of those days the Birmingham club was playing at Little Rock, and Pat Wright was playing first for Little Rock, and Pat Millerick, of Birmingham was at the bat.  He hit a little grounder toward short, and for a moment it was fumbled.  Pat went lumbering down to first.  Seeing that he couldn’t quite make it on the run, he slid for the bag.  Pat Wright at the same time got the ball a little wide and slid for the bag himself, so as to beat the runner.  The feet of both hit the bag at about the same time.”

Latham made no call on the play.

“’Judgment!’ yelled Millerick, as he threw up his hand.

“Everybody waited for Latham to make a decision.

“’Wait a minute,’ said Arlie, ‘I want to do this thing right.’  He then rushed into the clubhouse and came out with a tape measure.  While the crowd sat in suspense Latham deliberately measured the feet of the two Pats—Millerick and Wright.  It was shown that Wright’s foot was one inch longer, and Millerick was promptly declared ‘Out!’  Nobody had the nerve to question the decision.”