Tag Archives: Art Wilson

“He Took a Needling From Jackie Every Day”

29 Apr

In 1952, “Jet Magazine” featured an article about the “feuds” between several former Negro Leaguers who were currently starring in the major leagues.  The article contained no byline but was likely written by Andrew Sturgeon “A.C.” “Doc” Young, who wrote most of the baseball articles for the magazine during the early 50s; Young later became Hollywood’s fist black publicist in the late 1950s.

Young said Satchel Paige arrived in Cleveland in 1948 “a bit confused by some of the regulations,” of big league clubs. Paige did not understand why players did not have mustaches, as he did, nor did they were hats with their street clothes:

“One day Satch asked of Larry Doby, then a fledgling major leaguer “Why don’t they wear hats up here?’

“Doby, who had crawled in diapers while Satch was getting started on his fabulous career, said shortly, ‘Do as we do. Don’t ask questions!’

“Ít was the unkindest cut. Satch didn’t like it. And, later, when Doby told a white writer that Satch ‘carries a gun,’ failing to explain the pitcher was a collector of antique firearms, a feud was on. To this day it still flairs every time Doby faces Paige in a game.”

dobypaige

Doby and Paige

Young said the “feuds” tended to get “little publicity,” but would put “the Hatfields and McCoys episode to shame.”

Artie Wilson appeared in just 19 games for the New York Giants in 1951, but Young said it was enough time for two feuds to develop between Wilson and fellow, former Negro Leaguers.

The first involved Doby before the beginning of the season.

“The Indians and Giants had played an exhibition game at Charleston, West Virginia, after which a party was organized.”

Wilson went back to the hotel rather than attending.

“(H)e was in bed when someone knocked on his door and insisted he attend the affair. Finally, not wanting to offend the man, he agreed to go. He went, had a few dances, and returned home.

“Later, on the train, Doby sought to collect $5 from Wilson, explaining that the players had agreed to chip in for the party. Wilson declared he knew nothing of any such arrangements. Doby insisted Wilson should chip in anyway. An argument ensued, during which the 155-pound Wilson invited the 185-pound Doby to settle it with fists in back of the car.”

artie.jpg

Wilson

Wilson’s other feud was with teammate Hank Thompson. Thompson, who had hit .289 and drove in 89 runs in 1950, got off to a slow start in ’51:

Although he was a rookie with the Giant, Wilson was an experienced player and a former manager in Latin league ball. He sought to give Thompson some good advice.

“Thompson heard him out, then snapped, “Listen, you can’t tell me nothing. You just got up here.”

Doby, said Young was involved in a bit of a “feud” with every other black player on the Indians in 1950:

“When the club went to Tucson, Arizona for spring training, they were housed at a local Negro family because the swank resort Santa Rita Hotel had refused them. To facilitate their travel the two miles between the home and the ballpark, the Indians arranged for the Negroes to have a rented Ford, with Doby holding the keys. Luke Easter and others became disgruntled when Doby wouldn’t let them drive the car. As the pioneer Negro with the club, he felt the car was his responsibility.”

Young said there were several feuds among the black players on the Brooklyn Dodgers.

In 1949, Don Newcombe “had been labeled lazy” by manager Burt Shotton, and:

“(He) took a needling from Jackie every day he pitched and between games. It was Jackie’s way of ‘lighting a fire’ under the big, easy-going rookie. But Don didn’t take it that way.

“When he sought to buy a house later, he was very much impressed with one in St. Albans, L.I. [sic, Queens] Everything was fine until the real estate broker, thinking he was embellishing its attractiveness, said the house was in Jackie Robinson’s neighborhood. Newcombe immediately cancelled the deal. Explaining he did not want to live in the same neighborhood as Jackie Robinson.”

campanella-newcombe-and-robinson

Campanella, Newcombe, and Robinson

After the 1950 season, Young said, Robinson had “perhaps the hottest feud of all” with Roy Campanella after the catcher felt Robinson did not pay him enough during the Jackie Robinson All-Stars barnstorming tour:

“Campy, a man who watches money with eagle eyes, was greatly put out. Though they play together every day, and perhaps, will fight for the other team’s rights, the feud has not completely burned out, evidence indicates. Only recently, Campy refused to let his children attend a birthday party for one of Jackie’s children.”

And Campanella, said Young, sought out a feud with Giants Rookie Willie Mays in 1951:

“Campy, who had earned his place in the sun by playing both Latin ball in the winter and Negro ball in the summer, catching doubleheaders, and riding broken-down busses before entering organized ball, was miffed because Mays became a major leaguer in less than a year following graduation from high school.

“Every time the teams met, Campanella rode Mays unmercifully. It got to the point where Mays complained to his manager Leo Durocher, who said Campy had no right to do it.

“Mays, a naïve youngster, was at bat one day, Campy went into his needling routine. Mays turned and told the catcher, ‘Stop talking to me. Mr.  Durocher says you have no right to keep talking to me that way.’ But Campy didn’t stop talking until Mays went into the army this year.”

Young said “likeable, hard-hitting Monte Irvin” was one of the few who seemed to avoid “feuds” with fellow players.

The “strangest feud of all” according to Young started over a joke in 1949.  Two of the stars of the Wilkes-Barre Indians in the Eastern League were “Tall’ slender Harry Simpson,” the 24-year-old outfielder who hit .305 and hit a league-leading 31 home runs, and “rotund, left-handed Roy Welmaker,” the 35-year-old, long-time Negro League pitcher who was 22-12 with a 2.44 ERA in a league where only six pitchers who qualified for the league lead had an ERA below 3.45.

dobywelmaker.jpg

Doby and Welmaker

“After a game one day, Welmaker almost used an entire bar of soap lathering himself in the bath. A startled white player inquired, ‘What’re you doing, Roy?’ The pitcher replied, ‘I’m trying to get white like you.’

“From that day on, Simpson and Welmaker were in sharp disagreement. Simpson said Welmaker was an ‘Uncle Tom.”’

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Minute Talk: Art Wilson

19 Oct

In 1916, The Newspaper Enterprise Association ran a series of brief articles called “One Minute Talks with Ballplayers.”

Art Wilson

Art Wilson

Art Wilson of the Chicago Cubs talked about the least favorite ballpark of  fellow catcher and former New York Giants teammate, the 6′ 5″ 230 pound Larry McLean:

“The distance from the home plate to the backstop in Pittsburgh (Forbes Field) used to be a terrible strain on Larry in the hot weather.  Every time a wild pitch or a passed ball got by him Larry would cuss out the man who laid out the Pirate plant.

McLean

McLean

“One night (Pirates owner) Barney Dreyfuss was seated on the veranda of the hotel where the Giants were stopping.  Larry had chased eight balls that afternoon.  He approached Dreyfuss and tapped him on the shoulder.

“‘Barney,’ he said, ‘you’ve got a great ballpark but it’s lacking in one detail.  You should have taxicab service  at the home plate for catchers to help them chase wild pitches and passed balls.'”

On the Road with the Giants, 1912

18 Jan

As the New York Giants were cruising to the National League Pennant in 1912—they won by 10 games and were never in second place after May 20—New York’s catcher John “Chief” Meyers provided fans with a look at life with the Giants.

Chief Meyers

Chief Meyers

The article was written for The Associated Press—most likely by Jim McBeth of The New York American, who acted most often as Meyers’ ghostwriter:

“After the last ball of the game is fielded and the crowd begins to pour out of the park and the players disappear into the clubhouse—what then?

“The fans read in their papers next morning: ‘New York at Pittsburgh’ or ‘New York at Boston,’ or something like that.  And until the bulletin boards begin to put up the score, inning by inning, in the afternoon, they know little of nothing about the men they have been watching and cheering.

“What have ballplayers been doing in the meantime?”

Meyers explained life on the road:

“Well, suppose we’ve just finished a game on the Polo Grounds.  Our schedule calls for a battle with the Pirates in their home park.  Of course, the first thing is to get there, and we get there in easier and better fashion than any other sort of a traveler.

“We have two private Pullman cars of our own, always, and they are our traveling home We assemble at the railroad station—sometimes forty strong—and just pile aboard and make ourselves comfortable.

“In the first place, I might mention the make-up of our party.  We carry twenty-five players, as many as the rules allow; John McGraw, the manager; Wilbert Robinson, coach and assistant manager; the club secretary and his assistant; Dr. Finley the club physician;  Ed Mackall, the club trainer; Dick Hennessy, our kid mascot, and as many as ten or twelve newspaper writers especially towards the end of a close race.”

The 1912 Giants

The 1912 Giants

As for accommodations:

“If he is a regular he takes possession of a seat which indicates that his berth when it is made up will be a ‘lower.’ That’s an absolute rule.  Nothing but the cream for the first string players.

“As soon as the train pulls out the boys go to their favorite amusements—card playing, reading, ‘fanning.’  Don’t think a player finishes a game when he sheds his spangles.  He doesn’t.  Many a game is played all over again as soon as the boys get together.

“There’s a little quartet of us who are pinochle fans—(James ‘Doc’) Crandall, (Art) Fletcher, (David ‘Beals’) Becker and myself—a fine lot of Dutchmen we are.  We’re the ‘tightwads’ of the club because we don’t  risk as much as a nickel on our games.

“There was a time when there was tall gambling by the players on trains while traveling from one town to another.  I’ve seen as much as $6,000 or $7000 on the table in a poker game. But that’s past; the player of today holds on to his money, and, besides, he knows that high betting causes ill feeling between friends and heavy losses get a man’s mind off his playing.  The Giants play a little poker, of course, but it’s only a 25-cent limit game, where a man in hard luck may lose as much as $4 or $5 in a session.

“Occasionally you’ll hear a little singing.  Some of the boys have really good voices.  Others fancy themselves as vocalists, anyhow.  Larry Doyle, for instance…Leon Ames gets up sometimes and gives us his specialty.  He recites Kipling’s poem, ‘On the Road to Mandalay,‘ (with an affected speech impediment). That always gets a laugh.  The younger, smaller players buzz around Big Jeff Tesreau like a flock of mosquitoes attacking an elephant, giving him a good-natured kidding until he sweeps his big arms and chases them. “

Big Jeff Tesreau

Big Jeff Tesreau

Meyers said the Giants were “like one big family—a lively, noisy bunch of pals.”   He said a player occasionally “gets a grouch and sits off by himself,” but:

“I never saw a group of men in any business so genuinely attached to each other…Occasionally some stranger tries to horn into our cars but he quickly finds he isn’t wanted.”

The Giants, he said, drew crowds at the ballpark and at their hotel:

“There’s nothing tight about us when we travel. We’re an attraction and we know it, and that helps box office receipts.  People always want to see this club that’s got Matty and a real Indian, and sometimes  (the previous season) Charley Faust  or a Bugs Raymond as an added attraction. So we don’t keep our light under any bushel.

“We’re always pretty well sized up in our hotel in a strange city.  We can hear people say ‘So they are the Giants eh?’  The native can always spot me because of my Indian appearance, so I’m usually the one they make for.

“’Say, Chief, which is Matty?’ they ask.  ‘Which one is Johnny McGraw?’ ‘Who’s going to pitch today, Chief?’ The other boys give me the laugh because I’m the goat for all questioners.  The fans don’t recognize the other players.”

Meyers said most of the Giants were not great dressers, ‘content with two changes of costume.”  The exceptions were Rube Marquard:  “He travels with a steamer trunk and sometimes has six or eight suits with him,” as well as Josh Devore and Art Wilson.

Meyers said every player shared one fashion statement:

“Everybody…sports a diamond.  That seems to be the badge of big-league class.  As soon as a ballplayer gets out of the ‘bushes’ and into the big show the first thing he does is buy a spark.  Some of the boys have half a dozen. “

Meyers also insisted that drinking was not a problem among the modern players:

“One thing we hear from strangers most frequently is ‘Have a drink, old man let’s drink one for good luck in today’s game.’  That invitation is invariably refused. Few of the boys drink anything at all, and those who do take a glass of beer occasionally do it among themselves always.  The present day player differs greatly from the old timer, who mixed with everyone.

“Pleasant strangers, with sensible questions, we don’t mind, but they are in the minority t the butters-in who simply want to tell their friends they are associates of ballplayers.”

Meyers said he and his teammates were also very popular with deaf fans, many of whom began following the Giants when Luther “Dummy” Taylor (1900-01, 1902-08) pitched for the club:

“(N)ow they’re friends of all of us.  Most of the Giants learned the finger talk from Taylor.”

He said Mathewson, Doyle and Fred Snodgrass were all very conversant in sign language and “are the idols of” many deaf fans.

Fred Snodrass

Fred Snodgrass

Meyers frequented art museums on the road.  As for his teammates: billiards for most, chess or checkers for Mathewson during the day, and the theatre at night, he said, were the “favorite pastimes” of the Giants.

No matter the activity after a road game, he said: “Everybody must be in bed” by 11:30 pm.  “That’s one of McGraw’s rules, and the boys are on their honor to obey it.”

Meyers drew one conclusion from the lifestyle of the modern ballplayer.  He and his brethren were “(A) trifle better off, both physically and morally, than the average young man.”

Matty and the Federal League

3 Sep

Despite the controversy during 1913 over ghost-written articles appearing under the bylines of major league players, Christy Mathewson continued to  “write” articles that were distributed to newspapers by the “Wheeler Syndicate.”  The Wheeler Syndicate was the creation of John Neville Wheeler, a reporter for The New York Herald, and widely known to be the writer of Mathewson’s articles.

Christy Mathewson with John McGraw

Christy Mathewson with John McGraw

Shortly before the beginning of the 1914 season, Mathewson “wrote’ a story about the outlaw Federal League, and the attempt the nascent league’s president made to secure his services:

“Until I had definitely signed with the Giants again, I made no comment on the Federal League or the offer of that organization to me.  In fact, there was nothing definite in the way of an offer until I received a telegram from President (James A.) Gilmore a few hours after putting my signature to a National league contract…The proposition came out of a clear sky and was unexpected.  I have learned since that the Federals believed I was signed up all winter and that it was not until a New York newspaperman happened to mention the fact to Gilmore.”

James A. Gilmore

James A. Gilmore

A New York reporter (likely Wheeler) told Mathewson how Gilmore came to find out he wasn’t yet signed:

“’We were sitting around the Waldorf late one night, fanning and discussing the Federal League, when one of the boys said to Gilmore: “’Why don’t you make Matty an offer and get some publicity out of it anyway?

“’He’s signed isn’t he?’ asked Mr. Gilmore.

“’No more than I am.  His contract expired last season, and he has not signed the new one yet.’

“’Gilmore at once left the party and sent a telegram to you.  Then he announced his action to us newspaper men, and the story appeared in the papers the next day.’”

At the time of the offer, Mathewson was asked by a reporter from The Los Angeles Examiner whether he would consider joining the Federal League, and said, “he would consider the offer.”  He now claimed, “all the time I knew I would not desert the New York club which had practically made me in baseball.”

Mathewson also took the opportunity to deny another rumor; that he was in California working on behalf of National and American League franchises to help them protect their players from the Federal League said:

“I saw several reports in the newspapers during the winter and early spring months that I was the agent of organized baseball on the Coast and that I had been busy counterbalancing the bids of the Federal League agents for the players spending the winter there.  As a matter of fact, I kept clear of both baseball on the diamond and the politics of baseball last winter because I did not care to have it on my mind.   Was having too much fun playing golf, and it is not in my province as merely a player to try to influence others to take certain steps which some day they might regret and then blame me for their mistakes”

Mathewson used his former teammate, catcher Art Wilson, as an example of how he had not given any players advice about accepting Federal League offers—Wilson had jumped from the Giants to the Chicago Feds during the winter:

“(Wilson) received a big offer to go with the Federals with the promise of a large piece of advance money.  Wilson has been pining for the chance to work regularly with a big league club for two or three years now and was weary of sitting on the bench, absorbing information in this position about how it is done in the majors.  As I said in a previous article, Wilson even asked (Manager John) McGraw to transfer him to a minor league team this season so that he could have an opportunity to work daily.  Now, if the Federal League turns out to be a big success, and if I had advised Wilson to refuse its offer and stick with the Giants, he might have said to me some day:

“’Well, I took your advice and am still sitting on the bench.  If I had gone with the Feds, I might have been a star now.’”

Art Wilson

Art Wilson

The move did result in additional playing time for Wilson.  From the time he joined the Giants in 1908 until he jumped to the Feds, he had appeared in just 231 games over six seasons.  In 1914 and ’15 he appeared in 233 Federal League games, hitting .291 and .305.

Mathewson, who had been paid $9,000 by the Giants in 1913, would not reveal how much he was paid by the Giants for 1914: “It is at the request of the New York club that I do not state the terms.”  He did, however, say exactly what he was offered by Gilmore to jump.  He said after not responding to the initial telegram from the Federal League president—a telegram that did not mention terms–he received a second:

“’Newspaper reports state you do not take Federal League offer seriously.  Get acquainted with the Federal League officials and be convinced we are not four flushing.  I will give you $65,000 for three years service as manager of a Federal League club–$15,000 advance money.  If satisfactory, meet me at the Waldorf Thursday, at my expense.  Wire answer Chicago.’”

Mathewson said he “was torn with regret” for refusing the offer that would have more than doubled his salary.

“It would be like leaving home if I were to pass up the Giants now.  I don’t think I would feel right in any other uniform.”

Mathewson said “the Federals have been spending money very liberally,” but placed the credit for the success the league had in inducing players to jump with Joe Tinker.  Tinker had jumped the Cincinnati Reds to join the Chicago Feds as player-manager.  Mathewson said:

“At first there was little confidence in the backers of the new organization until Joe Tinker jumped…The ball players had faith in Tinker because he is rated as one of the shrewdest in the business.  If the Federal League lives and goes through, Joe should get credit for it, because he is the man who has collected practically all the players for it.”

Joe Tinker

Joe Tinker

Both 33-years-old Mathewson (24-13 3.00 ERA) and Tinker (hit .256 in 126 games and led the Chi-Feds to a second place finish) had their last productive seasons in 1914.

Mathewson continued to “write” articles for the Wheeler Syndicate until 1916 when Wheeler sold the operation to the McClure newspapers.  Almost immediately after the sale, Wheeler formed the Bell Syndicate, and occasional articles under Mathewson’s byline were distributed by Bell through 1919.

A Thousand Words–Joe Tinker

1 Jul

Quick hits Monday through Friday this week for the holiday–regular items will return next week.

joetinkerkids

Joe Tinker, manager of the Chicago Cubs shows boys from the Chicago Schools Baseball League the finer of points of hitting before a July 1916 game with the Boston Braves.

Tinker returned to the Cubs in 1916 after having managed the Chicago Whales to the Federal League pennant the year before.  Whales owner Charles Weeghman purchased the Cubs after the Federal League folded and installed Tinker as manager.  Chicago fans had high expectation for Tinker’s team, because in addition to the manager, Weeghman brought most of the key players from the Federal champions to the Cubs.  But after a 9-17 record in July.  Rumors began to swirl that Weeghman would replace Tinker as manager after the Cubs owner traded for catcher Art Wilson on July 29; Wilson had been a Weeghman favorite when he caught for the Whales.

In August, Tinker blamed the Cubs disappointing season on third baseman Heinie  Zimmerman, telling The Chicago Daily News:

“Zimmerman is no good to the ball team.  he does not take any interest in his work and does not care whether the club wins or loses.  He did not report for practice yesterday and on other days is always the last one out for work.  Most of the players feel he does not belong on the team.  He is killing the harmony we had and that is why I would prefer to dispose of him.  He won’t play ball and does not use any judgment and with a man like that a flag cannot be won.”

Tinker survived the season, Zimmerman did not.  He was traded to the New York Giants on July 28.

The Cubs finished in 5th place, 67-86.  Tinker was let go after the season, he was not replaced by Wilson, as rumored, but instead by Fred Mitchell, who after a fifth place in 1917 led the Cubs to the National League pennant in 1918.

Tinker managed, and was a part owner, of  the Columbus Senators in the American Association in 1917 and ’18.