Tag Archives: Art Devlin

Baseball’s “Fountain of Youth”

16 Apr

John Brinsley “J.B.” Sheridan wrote for several St. Louis newspapers and The Sporting News from 1888-1929.

In 1917 he asked in The St. Louis Globe-Democrat:

“How is it that two young chaps come up together, one lasts a year or two, the other keeps on playing until he meets his sons and the sons of his pals coming up?”

Sheridan noted that Bobby Wallace was 43-year-old and in his twenty-fourth season–albeit as a reserve who appeared in just eight games for the Cardinals–while contemporaries like Jimmy Collins were out of the game for nearly a decade.  (Sheridan failed to mention or notice that Wallace was three years younger and started his professional career at age 20 while Collins began his at 23):

“Wallace has had a great career in baseball.  Only one man, A. C. (Cap) Anson has played longer than Wallace in the major leagues (Sheridan didn’t mention Deacon McGuire who also had Wallace beaten in years of service with 26—but he only played a total of 20 games in his final eight “seasons”) Anson did twenty-seven seasons, but had he not been his own manager he would not have done so many.  The old man could hit to the end, but for the last ten years of his major league career Anson was so slow and stiff that it is doubtful if any manager, other than himself would have employed him.”

Booby Wallace

Booby Wallace

Sheridan neglected to mention that “slow and stiff” Cap Anson managed to play in more than 1100 games in those last ten seasons when no manager “other than himself would have employed him,” and hit better than .330 in five of them–and would contradict himself on the “slow and stiff” part later in the same article.

He said, “Jack O’Connor did twenty-two years in the majors and was useful to the end.” (O’Connor only hit better .250 twice in his last ten seasons, never appearing in more than 84 games during that period)”

Despite the many misstatements, Sheridan’s article included interesting character sketches of several 19th and early 20th Century players (the veracity of those sketches can be judged with the above misstatements in mind).

“O’Connor was a really wonderful man.  He always retrained his diet during the playing season, but gave it full rein during the off season.  O’Connor had some appetite, too.  Usually he put on 20 pounds of extra weight every winter and regularly took it off every spring.  O’Connor must have taken off 500 pounds of flesh in the twenty-two years of his baseball playing.  He ate and drank like Gargantua during the winter, but denied himself like a monk in the spring, summer and fall.

(Napoleon) Lajoie, who did his 20 years [sic 21] in the majors, was like Wallace and (Jake) Beckley, an iron man.  (Lajoie) came from Breton peasant stock…The Bretons lived off the rocks and fishing grounds of Brittany, beaten by Atlantic spray long before the dawn of history.  No wonder then, that Lajoie is a hardy man (who) needed no conditioning in his youth.  He threw a couple, hit a couple and was ready for the fray.”

Sheridan said O’Connor’s former battery-mate Cy Young was “another physical wonder” despite being “rather soft and inclined to obesity later in life.”

“Cy never cared much for beer, the beverage of the old-time ballplayer, but he did not mind a little ‘red eye’ now and then In fact, the old boys say the farmer could pack more whiskey about him than any man they had ever known.”

As an example of Young’s prowess Sheridan said O’Connor told him a story about a night out in Boston:

“I drank beer while Cy drank whiskey. Drink for drink with me, but the last thing I remembered that night was that Cy put me to bed.

“I got up the next morning looking for sedlitz powder and something cooling.  I got the powder and I went into the breakfast room to get a grapefruit.  Then I saw Young behind a big plate of beefsteak with onions.  I turned and ran for the fresh air…Cy ate the entire steak, all the onions, a lot of bread and butter, stuck a strong cigar in his mouth and joined me on the sidewalk.

“What made you quit so early last night, Jack?  I was just getting’ goin’ good, when you said ‘Let’s go home I’m sleepy.’”

Jack O'Connor

Jack O’Connor

Sheridan compared Young’s career to that of Bill Dinneen:

“Dinneen came into the game seven [sic–nine] years after Young, was Cy’s teammate for four years [sic–five and part of a sixth] then dropped out (Dinneen played three more seasons with the St. Louis Browns, but his career was over after 12 seasons at age 33)

“Dinneen ate too well, and what ballplayers call the ‘old uric acid’ got him in the arm.  Yet Dinneen was one of the finest physical specimens that ever played ball.

“Some big fellows look strong but prove to be soft and unenduring.  Jack Chesbro was one of these.  Chesbro had three great years as a pitcher, and then broke down.  Jack was a soft-boned boy, with bad ankles and could not stick the route.

“Some men hold out in arm, legs and bone, but lose the keenness of vision essential to good batting, Willie Keeler, was one of these.  Keeler’s legs were good to the end and his arm worked all right, but his eyes went back on him and he had to quit…(Art) Devlin was one of the three great third basemen of his time.  He was a star, but endured only a few years.  Bad Digestion stopped him when he was at the height of his fame, and when he should have been good for many more years.”

Sheridan claimed to know the secret of a ballplayer’s longevity: the waters of Hot Springs, Arkansas.

“Each January 1 for twenty-two years saw (Young) at Hot Springs…O’Connor and (Jake) Beckley were always at Hot Springs, too.  These three men never missed a season at the Arkansas resort, while they were playing ball…Fred Clarke, too, was a great advocate of Hot Springs as a training resort, and the Pirates always fitted in there when Clarke was manager.  That took (Honus) Wagner, another long liver, there too.

“Anson always took a season at Hot Springs.  It is pretty well established that the Arkansas resort is the location of Ponce de Leon’s famous “Fountain of Youth.”  It may or may not be a coincidence, but the fact remains that Young, O’Connor, Beckley, Anson, Clarke, Wallace and Wagner, men who played from seventeen to twenty-two years of major league baseball, have all been frequenters of or habitues of Hot Springs.”

Cy Young, third from left, with Bill Carrigan, Jake Stahl and Fred Anderson at Hot Springs in 1912

 Cy Young, third from left, with Bill Carrigan, Jake Stahl and Fred Anderson at Hot Springs in 1912

The St. Louis sportswriter was certain the springs were a magic “Fountain of Youth, “and said he was only aware of one exception to his rule:

“Every iron man of baseball, except Lajoie, has been a yearly visitant.”

“Zimmer was not to be frightened.”

20 Jan

On March 28, 1907 the New York Giants took the field against the Philadelphia Athletics in the second game of a five-game exhibition series at New Orleans’ Athletic Park.

The umpire was new.  Charles Louis “Chief’ Zimmer, after a 19-year career a major league catcher had tried his hand at managing in 1906.  His Little Rock Travelers finished last in the Southern Association with a 40-98 record.

Chief Zimmer

Chief Zimmer

The Atlanta Constitution said:

“Zimmer underestimated the strength of the league, and brought men into it who did not have the goods to deliver.”

After Zimmer was dismissed by Little Rock he joined the Southern Association’s umpire staff.

The Giants/Athletics series would be among his first games as a professional umpire.

The Giants won the first game 4 to 3.  The Giants scored two runs with two outs in the bottom of the ninth off Jack Coombs for the victory.  The Philadelphia Inquirer said:

“Zimmer umpired a god game… (but) the rowdy element in the Giants broke loose frequently, and the Chief had many disputed with some of the men.”

The second game did not go as well.  The Inquirer said:

“The Giants were the first at bat, and the first two men were retired. (Art) Devlin and (Cy) Seymour then signaled safely to the outfield, each moving up a base on (Rube) Oldring’s throw…(Frank) Bowerman was then up to the bat.  (Eddie) Plank soon had two strikes and one ball on him.”

With a one and two count the Giants claimed Plank balked when he threw to third and picked Devlin off.  Zimmer said he didn’t.  Roger Bresnahan and Mike Donlin, coaching at first and third, “rushed at Zimmer from the coaching lines and a wordy war ensued.”  Manager John McGraw came out of the dugout and ‘a half hour was consumed in ‘beefing.’”

Eddie Plank

Eddie Plank

Zimmer finally ordered McGraw back to the bench and:

“Play was about to start again when a remark made by McGraw caused Zimmer to order McGraw off the grounds.  The New York manager refused to go, and a lively tilt between him and Zimmer took place, the entire New York gang surrounding the “Chief” in an effort to bulldoze him.  But Zimmer was not to be frightened.”

New Orleans police officers came out on the field as Zimmer declared the game a forfeit after a half inning.

McGraw said his team would not play in the game scheduled two days later if Zimmer was the umpire.  The Inquirer said Athletics Captain Harry Davis “informed McGraw that inasmuch as the giants had turned down Zimmer as the umpire the series might as well be called off.”  New Orleans Pelicans owner Charlie Frank also threatened to bar the Giants from Athletic Park.

On March 30 McGraw arrived at Athletic Park with only nine players consisting of “nearly all the youngsters in camp.”

With both teams on the field, Zimmer approached the Giants dugout and asked for the team’s lineup and was told the Giants would not play if he were not replaced as umpire.  Zimmer announced that the Giants had again forfeited and the Giants left the ballpark.  Frank’s New Orleans Pelicans took their place and pitcher Mark “Moxie” Manuel defeated the Athletics and Rube Waddell 4 to 2.

Waddell--lost to the New Orleans Pelicans

Rube Waddell–lost to the New Orleans Pelicans

The series was over.

Before the Giants left New Orleans that evening, McGraw confronted Thomas Shibe, business manager of the Athletics and son of team president Ben Shibe, in the lobby of the St. Charles Hotel.  The Inquirer said:

“Manager McGraw backed up the entire New York team, insulted Thomas Shibe…by calling him vile names.  McGraw alleged that Tom had informed several persons that he had heard McGraw using insulting language to Umpire Zimmer… pursuing the same cowardly tactics which have made him famous over all the base ball circuit (McGraw)did not keep within reach of Shibe.  He kept well within the group of rowdies which make up his team, and thus being forfeited from any attack from Tom, naturally was as brave as a lion.”

The paper said McGraw disappeared from the scene as soon as members of the Athletics arrived in the lobby.

Frank Leonardo Hough, baseball writer for The Inquirer, took McGraw to task for his actions, and charged the New York press with allowing McGraw and Giants’ management to intimidate them out of “writing the truth” about the team:

“The press of no other city in the Union would stand for the tactics employed by the Giants.  Such a condition of affairs would be impossible in Boston or in Philadelphia.  There are any number of thoroughly equipped baseball reporters in New York City—reporters who know the game from A to Z, who, if permitted to write the game as they see it, would be the peers of any bunch of critics the country over.  But, unfortunately they are under an awful handicap.  Let them criticize the Giants to the latter’s disadvantage and their occupation is gone.  They will be made to feel the displeasure of the august heads of the Giants by being debarred from the Polo Grounds.

“Now and then a paper will stand by its representative, but only in rare cases.  Charley Dryden, Sam Crane, Joe Vila, Eddie Hurst and numerous others were barred from the grounds.”

Hough said some reporters “stand on their manhood, and take up other fields of newspaper endeavors. But the majority of them, less favored perhaps, cannot afford to fight with the bread and butter, and consequently they are compelled to go along, glossing over the Giants’ bad breaks or bad playing as lightly as possible, while others crook the pregnant hinges of the knee until they become almost hunchbacked and ignore everything and anything that might reflect upon the Giants.  That is the reason why the New Yorkers are the best uninformed baseball public in the country.”

No disciplinary action was taken against McGraw; Giants owner John T. Brush was said to have reimbursed Charlie Frank for $1,000 in lost revenue. The Giants finished in fourth place in 1907, the Athletics third, as the Chicago Cubs ran away with the National League pennant, beating the second place Pittsburgh Pirates by 17 games.

Hough continued to write about baseball for The Inquirer despite being an investor in the Athletics (Hough and Sam “Butch” Jones of The Associated Press each held a 12 ½ percent stake in the team beginning in 1901—Jones became a full-time Athletics employee in 1906, Hough remained a sportswriter during the twelve years he held his stock).  He sold his stake to Connie Mack in 1912 and died in 1913.

Chief Zimmer’s tenure as an umpire did not improve much after his first experience in New Orleans.  He opened the season as a member of the Southern association staff, but on July 9 announced his resignation.  His final game was on July 13 in Nashville.

Samuel H. Apperious

6 Jan

Samuel H. “Sam” Apperious (incorrectly identified as William Apperious  on Baseball Reference and other sources) led two separate boycotts that contributed to keeping William Clarence Matthews out of organized baseball—four decades before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.

Apperious was born in Montgomery, Alabama; fellow Alabamian Matthews was born in Selma (some contemporaneous accounts wrongly claimed both were born in Selma).

The wealthy Apperious attended Georgetown University.  Matthews, after studying, and playing baseball and football, at Tuskegee Institute and Phillips Andover, enrolled at Harvard University.

Apperious was part of Georgetown teams (1900-1904) that sent several players to the big leagues, including Leon “Doc” Martell, James “Hub” Hart, Charles Moran, and Art Devlin.  Apperious, who was first a catcher and later a center fielder, was considered one of the team’s best prospects.

In 1903, the Boston press reported that Boston Americans manager Jimmy Collins, in need of a second catcher, “tried to get Sam Apperious, of Georgetown, but he declined to enter the professional ranks.”  The following year The Sporting Life said among college players, Apperious was “the hardest-hitting outfielder of them all.”

Sam Apperious

Sam Apperious

Matthews played shortstop at Harvard and received equally as glowing reports.  Samuel McClure’s “Outing” magazine, a monthly sports publication, said Matthews was the best shortstop in college baseball each year from 1903 through 1905.  The Boston Post said he was “the best infielder” in Harvard’s history—this included teammate Eddie Grant who went on to a 10-year big league career.

Apperious and Matthews met for the first time on April 18, 1903.  When the Harvard team arrived in Washington D.C. for a game, Apperious, the Georgetown captain, refused to play.  The Associated Press said in addition to Apperious’ boycott “There were some wild demonstrations of displeasure at the Negros’ appearance in the field but Matthews won the crowd by his brilliant plays.”

The Colored American said:

“Mr. Apperious is no doubt feeling pretty mean, that is, if he is capable of such a sensation.  His want of hospitality, his conspicuous rudeness and their absolute futility must be subjects of unpleasant recollections to him.”

The paper noted that Apperious’ name “indicates his un-American traits,” and said after Matthews demonstrated his talent, several of the other Georgetown players “grew ashamed of their conduct and acclaimed Matthews as heartily as they had sneered at him, but this foreign importation was not sure enough of his own status to imperil it in a contest of brawn and skill with a colored gentleman.”

Harvard won the game 8 to 0.  Apperious would also choose to sit out two additional games against Harvard (one later that season and one in 1904) which led to a short rift between the schools, and a suspension of scheduled games.

In 1905, Apperious was appointed Graduate Coach of the Georgetown team.  He summed up his coaching philosophy to The Washington Times:

“In short the choice of men must be wholly on the man’s worth for the position for which he is trying.”

1905 Georgetown baseball team. Apperious is second from left in the center row

1905 Georgetown baseball team. Apperious is second from left in the center row

Later that year Apperious failed to apply his philosophy to Matthews.

In the summer of 1905 Apperious went to Vermont, as he had the previous summer, to play in the state’s “outlaw” Northern League—the league was notorious for having multiple college players performing under assumed names to retain their eligibility.  Apperious played both seasons for the Montpelier-Barre club (known in the local press as the Inter-Cities or Hyphens).

During his first summer in Vermont,  Apperious had raised some eyebrows on July 21, 1904, when he did not participate in an exhibition game between the Inter-Cities and the barnstorming Cuban X Giants.  The Bennington Evening Banner said the “Southerner refused to play against the colored team.”

Matthews joined the Burlington club at the end of June 1905 to immediate controversy.  The Montpelier Argus said a pitcher named Smith “from the south” had left the team as a result, and Apperious made it known he would not play on the same field as Matthews.  When the Burlington club arrived in Barre for a July game with the Inter-Cities, Apperious made good on his threat and watched the game from the bleachers.

Apperious was condemned in the Vermont press:

The Newport Express and Standard:

“(Matthews) may be his equal in every respect: not only in intelligence, but in performing the part of a gentleman as well.  Certainly so in this instance, so far as Mr. Apperious  is concerned, the much aggrieved white individual in this case…Mr. Apperious had better retire to those places where peonage is still in practice—where he can still vent his spite on the Negro as his little, narrow-minded, measly soul desires.”

The St. Albans Messenger:

“If Apperious wants to show his loyalty to and affection for his native Southland, which is a commendable thing in any man, he could do it better by helping his generation t forget some rank nonsense that used to pass for ultra-refinement and chivalry.”

The Poultney Journal:

“(Apperious) Hails from a state where the best citizens” burn people alive…Good chap.  Too good to play ball with a graduate of Harvard college.  If he goes to heaven will want a box stall all to himself.  Scat! Vermont has no use for him—believes in the doctrine “all men were created free and equal.” Apperious is as good as a colored man—if he behaves himself as well.  Better wash and go South.”

  The Wilmington Times:

“Vermonters like to see good, clean ball, and they are not fussy as to the color of the player who can deliver.”

One of the few exceptions in Vermont was The Montpelier Argus which said Apperious was simply following his “traditions, sentiments and interests,” and “it is rank foolishness to expect everyone to bend to our ideas.”

Apperious also found support from The Washington Post which said: “The college players in the Vermont League (sic) are following the lead of Sam Apperious in ‘cutting’ Negro Matthews.”

The paper also repeated an allegation that Matthews “had played (professional) summer ball every year since he entered Harvard.”  While Matthews had played four seasons on the baseball team and graduated from Harvard, The Post, with no evidence, alleged Harvard “dropped Matthews,” because of the allegations.

Despite Apperious’ refusal to play against him, and reports throughout the season that, as The Boston Globe said,  some opponents were “laying for “ Matthews and he “had been spiked several times,” he completed the season with Burlington. But after a quick start (.314 through 14 games) his average dropped off to .248.

There were rumors in the Boston press that summer that Matthews might become a member of the National League’s Boston Beaneaters, but he never played professional baseball after his controversial season in Vermont and his second run-in with Sam Apperious.

Matthews became an attorney, was actively involved in politics and served as legal counsel for Black Nationalist leader Marcus Garvey.  He died in 1928.

William Clarence Matthews with Harvard Baseball Team

William Clarence Matthews with Harvard Baseball Team

The rest of Apperious’ story on Wednesday.