Tag Archives: Atlanta Firemen

“Krug Seemingly Lost his Head”

25 Sep

The 1902 Southern Association season was so contentious that a headline in The Atlanta Constitution said the day after it ended:

To the Relief of All the Season is Now Over

In addition to the months-long battle between Charlie Frank and the league, there was an on-field incident that The Columbus (GA) Daily Enquirer called “an exhibition as was never before seen on an Atlanta Diamond.”  Henry “Heine” Krug was at the center of it.

Henry Krug

Henry Krug, 1902

In February of 1902, Ed Peters, new owner and president of the Atlanta Firemen signed Ed Pabst to manage the team.  Pabst had played the previous season with the San Francisco Wasps in the California League and brought with him to Atlanta his friend Krug, a 25-year-old shortstop who had been playing for West Coast professional teams since he was 17.

When Krug was signed The Constitution said he was “beyond doubt the star of the Pacific Coast,”

The Sporting Life said Krug had already signed a contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, but jumped the Phillies to join Atlanta.

Krug’s average never dipped below .300, and was very popular with fans and the press.  The Constitution called him “The best all-around professional of the Southern Association” in June.

On July 15 the paper noted his “dashing, errorless work that has been classed as phenomenal.”

Two days later the tone changed dramatically.

The fourth place Firemen were playing Charlie Frank’s Memphis Egyptians and Krug was having a rough day.  Early in the game a throw from first baseman George Winters hit Krug “and gave him a severe blow in the mouth.”  Krug had walked off the field, intending to leave the game, but came back.  He probably shouldn’t have.

Krug went on to make three errors, two of which The Constitution said “in the opinion of the crowd might have been avoided.”

The crowd began to taunt Krug and “Instead of taking the roast the bleachers proceeded to give him as any sensible player would take it, Krug seemingly lost his head and with all the vicious intent imaginable, he secured the ball and threw it with all his strength into the bleachers.”

The Constitution said Krug, “phenomenal” just two days earlier, now said the shortstop’s “conduct on former occasions has been offensive to the patrons of the game.”  Although Krug was ejected from a game earlier in the week, there didn’t appear from newspaper reports to be any pattern of “offensive conduct.”

Atlanta bleacher fans “dodged the sphere” and no one was hurt.  Team president Peters immediately approached Ed Pabst and “instructed him to order Krug out of the game.”  Pabst refused:

“He did not like what he considered an infringement on his prerogative, and at once tendered his resignation as manager of the Atlanta team.  President Peters was just as ready to accept as Manager Pabst was to tender, and within the space of a few seconds the ball player who has been managing the Atlanta team since the playing season of 1902 opened found himself deposed.”

Ed Pabst

Ed Pabst

Peters took over as manager and remained in the position for the rest of the season.  His first act as manager was to remove Krug from the game and suspend him.  The Constitution said:

“Krug’s baby act was witnessed by Sergeant Martin and policemen Norman and Hollingsworth.  They placed him under arrest.”

Some reports said a bottle and rock were thrown at Krug, but the player said he didn’t see that and was reacting only to the verbal taunts.  He appeared in court the following day and was fined $10.75; The Daily Chronicle said, “Krug appeared very penitent.”

Peters sold Krug’s contact to the New Orleans Pelicans the following day, but Krug refused to report sending a wire to Peters and Pelicans owner Abner Powell saying “that if he could not play in Atlanta he would not play,” in the league.

Despite the incident, there was no shortage of interest in Krug’s services.  In addition to New Orleans, the Phillies, who he jumped to join Atlanta and the San Francisco franchise in the California League offered him contracts.

Krug signed with Philadelphia and made his debut with the Phillies on July 26; the day after Atlanta management petitioned the National Association of Baseball Leagues (NAPBL) to blacklist Krug.

No action was taken and Krug played out the season in Philadelphia, hitting .227 in 53 games.  He spent 1903 with the San Francisco Seals in the Pacific Coast League (PCL).  Peters sold his interest in Atlanta in 1903.

Before the 1904 season, the PCL and the NAPBL reached an agreement that made the league part of the National Association and no more an “outlaw league.”  As part of the deal, PCL players who were under contract with other teams were returned.  As a result, Krug returned to Atlanta.

The Constitution assured their readers:

“He has promised to be good and to do his best to help the team win.  It is the belief of many fans in this city that he wishes to redeem the past.”

Krug played two incident-free, if unspectacular seasons in Atlanta, then played in the New York State League with the Scranton Miners and the American Association with the Indianapolis Indians.

krug1

Henry Krug,1907

The 31-year-old returned to San Francisco, where he was “negotiating for a place with the California State League,” and had accepted a position coaching the baseball team at Cogswell College.  Krug underwent surgery for “an abscess upon his throat” on January 12, 1908, and died from complications from the operation two days later.

Two months after his death all had been forgiven in Atlanta.  The Constitution named him to the paper’s “All-Atlanta Ball Team,” the best professional players to have played in the city.  Krug “was a power with the stick.  No better man ever played on the Atlanta team when it came to breaking up a game.”

“Demoralizing a Successful Organization For the Sake of a Few Unimportant, Mediocre Ball Players”

19 Sep

When Charlie Babb jumped from the Indianapolis Indians of the American Association to the Memphis Egyptians in the Southern Association in June of 1902, he was not alone.

Pitcher Jim St. Vrain, recently released by the Chicago Orphans and under contract with the Tacoma Tigers in the Pacific Northwest League, signed with Memphis rather than going to Tacoma.

Another American Association player, Second baseman Bill Evans of the Columbus Senators, also jumped to Memphis.  The Cincinnati Enquirer said he jumped being suspended by the Senators for being “too drunk” to take the field on June 18.

Memphis manager Charlie Frank’s three new players would be a source of controversy in the Southern Association for the remainder of the season and a continuation of an ongoing feud over the league’s salary limit which The Sporting Life said: “a majority of the clubs are known to have violated.”

Charlie Frank

Charlie Frank

Southern Association President John Bailey Nicklin, acting on orders from Patrick T. Powers, president of National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues (NAPBL), ordered Frank not to play any of the three.  Frank not only defied the order but according to The Atlanta Constitution, gave Nicklin a “lecture in abuse,” and threatened to “break the league.”

Throughout July, the situation became increasingly absurd.

On July 11 Nicklin ordered umpire Ed Cline (the same Ed Cline who may, or may not, have initially approached Babb about jumping) to not allow St. Vrain to pitch against the Nashville Volunteers, managed by Frank’s biggest ally in the league, Isaac Newton “Ike” FisherThe Atlanta Constitution said Cline became mysteriously “sick and could not work,” although he “was upon the grounds while the game was being played.”  St. Vrain and the Egyptians beat the Volunteers 8 to 5 with “Red” Ehret and Nashville’s Bill Dammann acting as umpires.

After the game Frank was suspended for 10 games and threatened with being blacklisted if he played St. Vrain again.  Later that week Frank received a temporary injunction allowing him to continue using St. Vrain. And while Babb and Evans had been suspended by the league and were not covered by the ruling, Frank continued to put both in the lineup.  Frank also continued to manage the team despite his own suspension.

On July 25 Frank was again ordered by Nicklin not to play Babb and Evans.  This time, he complied, for one day.  The two players sat out an 8 to 4 victory over Atlanta (St. Vrain pitched for Memphis).  Both were again in the lineup the following day, and on July 27 Frank filed a suit against the league and Nicklin seeking $10,000 in damages.  He also sought and received an injunction “restraining President Nicklin from interfering with the playing of Babb and Evans.”

The Constitution began calling the team the “Memphis Injunctionists.”

The Sporting Life said Frank was:

“Demoralizing a successful organization for the sake of a few unimportant, mediocre ball players.”

Nicklin, the league, and the NAPBL blinked first.

Two days after the suit was filed an agreement was reached.  Babb and Evans would remain with Memphis and were reinstated from suspension; the fourth place Egyptians agreed to forfeit every game in which Babb and Evans participated in while under suspension—dropping the team to fifth place.

The controversy appeared to be over.  It wasn’t.

On August 4 the Egyptians arrived at Athletic Park in New Orleans to play the second place Pelicans.  The New Orleans Times-Picayune said:

“Under orders of (Pelicans) manager Abner Powell a big policeman today refused admission to St, Vrain, Evans and Babb, of the Memphis club, when they tried to enter.”

The game was canceled

The following day:

“Manager Frank again took his team to out to the park, but admission was refused to St. Vrain, Evans and Babb.”

The umpire, picked by the Pelicans, “declared the game forfeited to New Orleans,” and Powell shared with the press a telegram from the Little Rock Travelers which read:

“Congratulations upon your firm methods.  We will stand with you.”

Despite the earlier agreement, the NAPBL announced that Frank and St. Vrain were still under suspension.

Jim St. Vrain

Jim St. Vrain

On August 9 the Shreveport Giants refused to allow St. Vrain into the ballpark for a double-header.  Memphis took the field for each game with only eight players and no pitcher.  They forfeited both games to the Giants.

Memphis was due to travel to Little Rock for a three-game series from the 11th through the 13th.  The Travelers announced that they “would not play with St. Vrain and Frank in the game.  Babb and Evans will be allowed to play (but) under protest.”

On August 12 Nicklin resigned at a meeting of league owners in Chattanooga (Memphis and Nashville refused to attend).  He said he was “almost helpless to enforce the rules of the league,” because of Frank’s numerous injunctions.  He was replaced by vice president William Kavanaugh.  A motion was passed to suspend Frank and St. Vrain indefinitely, but Babb and Evans were officially reinstated.  Again.

In response, Frank filed another $10,000 lawsuit naming every team in the league except Nashville.

On August 27 in Nashville, St. Vrain started for Memphis.  President Kavanaugh fined Nashville $1000 and “suspended that club for the balance of the season,” he threatened “drastic measures’ towards Memphis as well, but for the several injunctions that kept him from acting.  Two days later the suspension was lifted.

On August 30 a Little Rock judge enjoined Frank from “playing or attempting to play St. Vrain in any state.”

The Atlanta Constitution headline summed up the opinion of most Southern baseball fans on September 22:

To The Relief of All the Season is Now Over

As an appropriate end, Memphis beat Atlanta on the final day of the season behind the pitching of the still suspended Jim St. Vrain.

The no longer suspended Nashville Volunteers won the pennant.

The Indianapolis Indians, the team Charlie Babb jumped, won the American Association pennant.

Charlie Babb

Charlie Babb

The Indianapolis papers had predicted that Babb’s career would be doomed when he jumped.  In 1903, he was purchased by the New York Giants.  He played in the National League with the Giants and Brooklyn Superbas through the 1905 season.  In 1906, he became a minor league player/manager; with the Memphis Egyptians.  He stayed with Memphis until 1910 and managed to become embroiled in one more controversy.

Jim St. Vrain was only 19-years-old during that 1902 season.  He finished 12-4 with Memphis.  He went to the West Coast in 1903.  His career was over after the 1905 season.

Bill Evans played in the Southern Association until 1906; he eventually became a member of three different teams who refused to play against him in 1902: New Orleans, Shreveport, and Little Rock.

Charlie Frank did just fine in the end.  More on that next week.