Tag Archives: Atlantic League

“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.

wardkellybutte1903

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.”

Adventures in Barnstorming: Anson’s Colts

1 Apr

Cap Anson was broke.  Again.

In January of 1909, he appeared in “debtors court” in Chicago over $111 owed to the Chicago House Wrecking Company.  Anson told Judge Sheridan E. Fry he was “busted.”

The judge asked Anson about his stock in the company that owned Chicago’s Coliseum. Anson said, “I did but the bank’s got it now.  I even owe them money on it.”

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Anson

The judge dismissed the case.  The Chicago Tribune said as Anson was leaving the courtroom:

‘”Three strikes and out,’ half called a man among the spectators.

“The ‘Cap’ paused a moment with his hand on the door knob.

“’There is still another inning,’ he offered as he stepped into the corridor.  Someone started to applaud, and the bailiff forgot to rap for order, and the judge looked on indulgently.”

A rumor made the rounds in subsequent days that Cubs President Charles Webb Murphy was trying to get Anson appointed supervisor of National League umpires. National League President Harry Pulliam quickly killed the idea, The Detroit Free Press said:

“Mr. Pulliam comes through with the sensible suggestion that if Chicago wishes to do anything for Anson it would do better to provide the job itself.”

Anson’s former teammate, Evangelist Billy Sunday, told The Associated Press he was willing to help:

“So, poor old ‘Cap’ Anson is busted! Well, that’s too bad. We ought to help that old boy in some way.

“The Chicago people ought to help ‘old Cap’ out. They ought to give him a benefit. I’d like to help him myself.”

With the job with the National League not forthcoming, no offer from the Cubs, and Anson’s apparently turning down Sunday’s help, he set out on a 5,000-mile barnstorming tour with his Chicago City League amateur team, Anson’s Colts.  Anson, who celebrated his 57th birthday on tour, played first base on a club that included future major leaguers Fred Kommers, George Cutshaw, and Biff Schaller.

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The barnstorming Colts, Anson top center

The tour started in March 28 in South Bend, Indiana; the Colts lost games on the 28th and 29th to the Central League South Bend Greens.

On April 1, Anson’s Colts played the Cincinnati Reds. Thirty-nine-year-old Clark Griffith took the mound for the Reds. Jack Ryder of The Cincinnati Enquirer said:

“Seventy-nine persons witnessed a game of ball at League Park yesterday afternoon which would have furnished several thousand with material for conversation if they had only been there to observe it.”

Griffith pitcher=d a complete game and went 5 for 5 with a triple. In a 15-4 victory; he allowed just seven hits, Anson had two of them in four trips to the plate.

Ryder said of Anson:

“That game old boy played first base for his team, stuck through to the finish, and was the only man on his side who could do much of anything with the delivery of Mr. Griffith.”

Ryder said Anson also “handled perfectly,” every play at first base:

“Remarkable indeed was the spectacle of this great player, now nearly 60 years of age, hitting them out as he did in the days of old and handling thrown balls at his corner like a youngster.  Will there ever be another like him?”

Despite the praise from Ryder, third baseman Hans Lober said of the team from Chicago:

“Teams like…Anson’s Colts don’t give you just the kind of work you need.”

The Colts dropped two more games in Ohio to the American Association Columbus Senators.

Anson’s barnstormers finally won a game on April 4; beating the Central League’s Wheeling Stogies 10 to 4.

The Colts won the next day in Washington D.C., defeating a team from the government departmental league 11 to 1.  Anson had two hits and stole a base.  The Washington Evening Star said:

“The grand old man of the game distinguished himself by playing and errorless game at first.”

The only other highlight of the game was the first appearance of the new electric scoreboard at American League Park.  The Evening Star said:

“It proved a great success and convinced those present that it will undoubtedly make a big hit with the local fans who will witness major league games this summer.”

Against professional competition the next day in Baltimore, the Eastern League Orioles with Rube Dessau on the mound, shutout the Colts 8 to 0; Anson was hitless and committed two errors.

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Ad for the Orioles game

After a 10 to 8 loss to the Reading club of the Atlantic League on April 7, the Colts traveled to Philadelphia for a game with the Athletics the following day.

The Philadelphia Inquirer said of the game:

“The Athletics held Pop Anson and his Colts all too cheaply yesterday and before they realized it the traveling Chicagoans had secured such a lead that they succeeded in beating the White Elephants at Broad and Huntington Streets by a score of 6 to 3.”

Anson had two hits, one of Biff Schlitzer and another off losing pitcher Jimmy Dygert, and accepted 21 error-free chances at first in a 10-inning victory.

Although only “a couple of hundred” fans turned out The Philadelphia Press said:

“Anson played first in a style that showed he has not forgotten any of his baseball cunning.”

Anson also promised reporters the Colts would win upcoming games with the Giants and Red Sox.

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Anson on tour

The Colts traveled to New Jersey to play the Trenton Tigers of the Tri-State League the following day. The Evening Times of that city said:

“Anson came over to Trenton hugging to his breast fond recollections of the victory over Connie Mack’s Athletics, won the previous day.  Trenton seemed only a small blot on the map compared to the Athletics and he counted on winning in a common canter.

“Alas how rudely were these delusions shattered by these smashing, dashing, crashing Trentons that manager (Percy) Stetler has corralled.”

The Colts lost 13-5, Anson was 1 for 4 and made an error.

On to Newark the following day to play the Eastern League Indians.  The Colts lost 7 to 0, but The Newark Evening News said:

“The way (Anson) cavorted around first base, picking low throws from the earth, and pulling down sizzling liners with either hand, made spectators gaze upon him in wonderment.”

The toll of travel and games nearly every day appeared to hit Anson on April 12, five days before his 57th birthday in Waterbury, Connecticut.  The Colts won 4 to 2, but The Chicago Inter Ocean said:

“Anson’s batting eye was weak…he fanned furiously in five futile trips to the plate.  He was the only one who didn’t get a hit.”

The following day, The New York Times said the “Colts played a light, fumbly, amateurish game though the boss himself had said before it started that they would take a scalp.”

The Giants won 7 to 1 and the game featured two other old-timers:

“(Wilbert) Robinson, ancient catcher of Baltimore, and Dan Brouthers, more ancient first baseman of the old Buffalo club, who came down from Wappinger’s Falls ‘to help out.’ Robinson caught the whole nine innings; Brouthers stood at first base after the fifth inning.”

Only “a few hundred people” came out on a cold, rainy day to see the three legends.  Anson was 1 for 4, Brouthers 0 for 1, and Robinson, who also managed the Giants in place of John McGraw, was 2 for 4.

Games scheduled for Worcester and Springfield, Massachusetts were cancelled due to poor weather and the team did not play again until April 16, In Hartford against the Connecticut State League’s Senators.

 

The Hartford Courant said Anson struggled at the plate, and when pitcher Chick Evans struck him out in the third inning:

“John W. Rogers, the vocal member of the local double umpire system, obliged with ‘It isn’t what you Used to be, but What you are Today.”

The Colts lost 8 to 2.

The team lost again the following day, on Anson’s birthday, 5 to 3 to the Providence Grays of the Eastern League. Anson was 1 for 4.

The Boston Globe said:

“Capt. Anson was warmly greeted every time he came to bat. He showed much of his old-time skill in fielding, covering first base in grand style.”

The paper—as did most during the tour–wrongly added a year to Anson’s age, saying he turned 58 that day.
The Colts were back in New York the following day but were the victims of a seldom enforced ban on Sunday baseball while playing a game against the semi-pro Carsey’s Manhattans ant Manhattan Field.

The Chicago Daily News said:

“The officers stopped the game after six innings of play. Throughout the Bronx the police were active in suppressing Sunday ballplaying, but this is said to be the first time that a game on Manhattan Field has thus been broken up.”

The score at the end of six innings was not reported.

The next day in Binghamton, New York, two innings of scoreless baseball between the Colts and the New York State League Bingoes, were bookended by rain and the field “looked like a lake” before the game was called, according to The Binghamton Press.

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Ad for the rained out Binghamton game

On to Pennsylvania, the Colts were scheduled to play Anson’s old White Stockings teammate Malachi Kittridge’s Wilkes-Barre Barons, but the that game was rained out as well.

The Tri-State League’s Johnstown Johnnies beat the Colts 11 to 2, no full box score appears to have survived.

On to Ohio and a 4 to 1 loss to the Dayton Veterans—Anson added two more hits and played error free.

On April 24, The Colts hit Indiana, and lost 8 to 3.

The Fort Wayne Sentinel noted that it was the first time since 1871 that Anson has played a game in their city—as a member of the Rockford Forest Cities.

Anson—who also gave his age as 58 rather than 57– told the paper:

“I’m just a kid at fifty-eight.”

Despite feeling like a hit, Anson did collect either of the Colts’ two hits in the loss.

The tour ended on April 25 in Terre Haute with a 13 to 1 shellacking at the hands of the Hottentots, the eventual basement dwellers of the Central League.

Anson capped the tour with one hit in four trips and an error.

The club returned to Chicago amid little fanfare and the tour likely lost money for Anson, who found himself “busted” several more times before his death in 1922.

The best anyone could say about the tour was a tiny item buried in the bottom of The Chicago Tribune’s sports page:

“Capt. Anson and his ball team returned yesterday from the first invasion of the East ever made by a local semi-pro team. While the team lost a majority of the games played, it paved the way for future visits and other local semi-pro teams are expected to follow the Captain’s example. The veteran was received warmly in all of the towns in which he played.”

The paper ignored the fact that Rube Foster and the Leland Giants—also members of the Chicago City League—had made two similar trips.

“The Greatest Heady Play I Ever Saw”

14 Aug

Jim Delahanty related the greatest play he ever saw on a baseball field to Hugh Fullerton in The Chicago Record-Herald in 1911:

“I have seen a lot of plays that were great, extraordinary; that were startling and set the crowds crazy.  It is usually hard to pick the greatest, but the one I recall was in a long-forgotten game in a little minor league.”

Jim Delahanty

Jim Delahanty

Delahanty said it happened during his first season in professional ball.  He was a member the Allentown Peanuts—his brothers Joe and Tom were teammates—in the Atlantic League.  Allentown was playing the Lancaster Maroons.

“The play was the headiest, the most surprising and altogether the most wonderful I ever witnessed and although it was made more than twelve years ago I never have forgotten one of the circumstances.”

[…]

Old Piggy (Frank) Ward, who had been famous before that, was playing second base for Lancaster, and (Oliver) Sprogell was pitching.  The game was a close one.  The score was 2 to 2 in the eleventh inning and the two teams were battling desperately for the victory.”

With runners on first and third and two out, (Orlin) Ollie Smith came to bat for Allentown.

“Sprogell was a slow-ball pitcher, and with two balls and two strikes called he floated up a slow teaser and Smith hit the ball as hard as ever a baseball was hit.  He had called the turn on the slow ball and took a run to meet it and hit it with all his might.  It went like a shot straight at Piggy Ward.  The ball was hit so hard that Piggy set himself and braced to break it down and throw out the runner, and just as he was setting himself his foot slipped and at the same instant the ball took a bad bound and jumped straight at his shining bald head.

“Ward had dropped his hands to save himself from falling when he lost his footing and it looked as if the accident had beaten his team.  But Piggy was game.  He saw the victory slipping away, saw that he would not be able to get his hands up in time to touch the ball, and shutting his eyes; he ducked that old shining bald head of his and butted that ball as hard as he could.

“Piggy sat down rather hard, dazed and stunned, and put his hand up to the spot the ball had hit.  The whole trademark was branded on the top of his head and there was a lump that was swelling like a balloon being filled with gas.  But the ball he butted bounded as straight and true as if it had been thrown straight into Sprogell’s hands, and Sprogell turned and threw Smith out at first.”

Piggy Ward

Piggy Ward

Delahanty said Lancaster won the game in the twelfth inning.

“In all my ball playing experience it was the greatest heady play I ever saw, and it was heady in a double sense, for old Piggy thought like a flash and when he saw he could not get the ball with his hands he went after it with his head.  I haven’t seen him for years, but I bet now if anyone can get him to take his hat off they’ll find Reach’s  trademark stamped on that bald spot.”

Jim Delahanty’s Idea

10 Oct

Before the 1911 season, Hugh Fullerton, in The Chicago Examiner, told the story about Jim Delahanty’s plan to improve his hitting.  The Detroit Tigers second baseman was having a conversation with teammates:

Jim Delahanty

Jim Delahanty

“’I think,’ said Delahanty, ‘that if someone would kick me between the eyes real hard, I’d lead the league in hitting.’

“’What’s the angle of that remark?’ Asked Sam Crawford.

“’If I were you,’ said Davy Jones, ‘I’d hire a mule to kick me three of four times, and maybe I’d hit 1000 per cent.

“’I’ll tell you what I mean,’ said Del.  ‘When I went to the Atlantic League I was just a fair hitter—fair, bordering on rotten.  If I hit .225 I felt pretty good, and if I fell below that I wasn’t much surprised.

‘”Well, I had been going along fairly well for a few weeks, when one day I started stealing second.  I intended at first to slide behind the bag, but the baseman changed position, and I tried to switch and slide in front.’

“’The result was I slid awkwardly, and as he touched me out and blocked me his knee hit me bang between the eyes.  I saw forty million stars, and got up dizzy and feeling funny.’

“’Everything seemed changed, and I seemed to be looking through a veil all the time.  Everything on mu right side looked uphill and everything on the left downhill.  For about ten days I was the worst hitter in the world, not excepting Jack Pfiester.  It worried me.’

Jack Pfiester

Jack Pfiester

“’I think in three weeks I got two base hits, and what seemed funny to me was that I made both these hits off curve balls that fooled me.  The fact is my eyes had been banged out of gear and I was swinging about four inches below where the ball really was, and the only times I hit it was when it fooled me.’

“I was all upset and ready to quit when one day I drew a base on balls and tried to steal.  The shortstop was coming to cover the bag, and as I slid his knee caught me right between the eyes and knocked me cold.

“’When I batted the next time I saw the ball perfectly, or thought I did, and up I went into the .250 class.  A year later I got another crack between the eyes—and immediately improved still further in hitting.  Now I’m waiting for the kick that will put me in the .350 class.’

“Crawford was silent for some time.  Then he said:

‘”Say, did (Napoleon) Lajoie ever mention being hit between the eyes with a pile driver?’”

A .283 lifetime hitter, Delahanty had his best season at the plate in 1911, with career bests in nearly every offensive category, including average (.339) and RBI (94).

There is no record of him having received the desired blow to the head before the season began.

“Baseballists of Note”

16 Dec

After rain prevented a June 1899 game between the Reading Coal Heavers and Wilkes-Barre Coal Barons of the Atlantic League, The Reading Times said “the handful of rooters that gathered,” had a good time in spite of the weather:

Baseballists of Note

The Wilkes-Barre boys are a jolly lot and, while the rain was falling (performed) a vocal concert by a quartet composed of (Billy) Goeckel, (Bill) Clymer, (Cy) Vorhees, and (Reading’s) Eddie Murphy.  The boys sand ragtime melodies, sentimental songs and selections from various operas in splendid shape.  Murphy, it was learned, is one of the sweetest tenors this old town has met for a long time.  Goeckel has an excellent bass voice, while Clymer sings a clear baritone.  Vorhees’ voice is a cross between a falsetto and a soprano, but at any rate he can make himself heard.”

Baritone Bill Clymer

Baritone Bill Clymer

And there was more:

“Wilkes-Barre’s mascot pup, ‘George,’ also contributed to the amusement of the crowd by chasing balls thrown in the diamond.  Captain Goeckel claims ‘George’ can beat Clymer to a standstill hunting up grounders at short.”

George’s performance managed to improve his image in Reading;  a month earlier after Wilkes-Barre had defeated the Coal Heavers 5 to 4 with a run in the in the ninth, The Times quoted a fan who was convinced the mascot was to blame:

 “Hang these dog mascots; they’re always Reading’s hoodoo.”

Despite the “hoodoo” George was alleged to put on opponents, Wilkes-Barre was three games behind the league-leading Richmond Bluebirds on August 6 when the financially troubled league disbanded.

“Who told you you were a Ladies’ man, Mr. Viau?’

3 Oct

Leon A. “Lee” Viau (pronounced vee-o) was the first player from Dartmouth College to make it to the major leagues.

Listed at only 5’ 4” and 160 pounds Viau was 83-77 in five big league seasons.  The Cleveland Leader said of his time pitching for the Spiders:

“(Viau) with comparatively little speed but with curves well mixed with gray matter, got out of lots of tight places where an ordinary twirler would have been knocked out of the box.”

In addition to having attended an Ivy League school, he was best known for his looks, and for being one of the best-dressed players in baseball.

The Philadelphia Inquirer called him “The Adonis of the diamond.”  When he played for the Patterson Silk Weavers in the Atlantic League The Patterson Weekly Press called him “the Beau Brummell of the club.”

Lee Viau

Lee Viau

A story, perhaps apocryphal, made the rounds in several newspapers during the first decade of the 20th Century about how “the grandstand was filled with ladies…when the handsome Viau was in the box.”

On this particular occasion, as recounted in The Kansas City Star, Viau was pitching for the Spiders against “Cap” Anson and his Chicago Colts in Cleveland:

“The score stood 4 to 2 in the last half of the ninth inning, and in Cleveland’s favor.  There was a Chicago man on second and one on third, while Anson was at the bat.

“He was madly anxious to bring in those runs, and he swung viciously at the first ball pitched. ‘Strike one!’ yelled umpire (Thomas) Lynch.

“Anson gritted his teeth and waited for the next one.  Lee sent up one of those slow, deceptive drop balls for which he was noted, and again Anson swung wildly.  ‘Strike two!’ cried Lynch.

“At this there was a veritable uproar among the female occupants of the grandstand.

“’Strike him out Lee! Oh, do strike him out!’ they shrieked in chorus.

“Hearing these cries, the grim old Anson, with a sneer on his face, sardonically inquired: ‘Who told you you were a ladies’ man, Mr. Viau?’

“Lee maintained a haughty silence, wound his arm slowly about his head and then, taking a wide swing, shot the ball up to the plate, and Anson took the third swipe at it and missed.

“’Now’ remarked Lee, as he advanced toward Anson, ‘I will answer your question.  The same person who told you you could bat.’”

Lee Viau, front row third from right, with 1892 Cleveland Spiders

Lee Viau, front row third from right, with 1892 Cleveland Spiders

A Thousand Words–Jim Jeffries and Baseball

12 Jul

jeffries

 

Former Heavyweight Champion Jim Jeffries fields a ground ball at his ranch in Burbank, California as he prepares for “The Fight of the Century,” against reigning  champion Jack Johnson; Johnson pummeled the former champ on July 4 in Reno, Nevada, retaining his title on a TKO in the 15th round.

Behind him is Harley M. “Beanie” Walker, sports editor of The Los Angeles Examiner.

A decade earlier, while champion, Jeffries along with fellow fighters John L.  Sullivan and “Gentleman Jim” Corbett began making appearances as umpires (Corbett also played at times) in many minor league games.  The use of fighters as umpires appears to have been the idea of Atlantic League president, and future Hall of Famer Ed Barrow, although all three fighters appeared at professional games in many leagues across the country.   When Barrow died in 1953, Al Abrams of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said he once paid Jeffries “60 percent of the gate receipts,” for appearing at a game.

After Jeffries defeated Corbett in 1900 he did a series of  appearances at ballparks across the country. The Kansas City Star said:

“Jeffries had an easy time as the players were so scared they forgot all the baiting tactics.”

Jeffries often included a sparring exhibition as part of his appearance, when he didn’t, fans usually left disappointed.    The St. Joseph (MO) Herald said during his 1900 ballpark tour:

“He merely walked up and down between first and second bases, but was not heard either by the crowd or the players, to make any decisions…The crowd had expected that Jeffries, besides umpiring the game throughout, would be placed on exhibition and put through his paces…such remarks as ‘Where’s the punching bag?’ and ‘Who’s going to box with him?’ were heard among the crowd, and when no bag or sparring mate was produced the disappointment of the spectators was so apparent that it had a depressing effect on the teams.”

Jim Jeffries

Jim Jeffries

“Beanie” Walker would leave the newspaper business in 1917 and become a screenwriter for movie producer Hal Roach, writing title cards during the silent film era and dialogue for talkies.  Walker wrote for Roach’s films featuring Laurel & Hardy, Harold Lloyd, and Our Gang.

Beanie Walker

Beanie Walker

Walker is also credited with coining the nickname for a  redheaded teenage pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels in the Pacific Coast League with an excellent fastball, who would became the first big league player from Arizona.  Lee William “Flame” Delhi only pitched one game for the Chicago White Sox;  the 19-year-old, who had already pitched nearly 700 inning of professional ball (not including two seasons of winter ball), had a dead arm by the time he joined the Sox.

Flame Delhi

Flame Delhi

 

Salaries–1897

15 Nov

After Amos Rusie ended his year-long holdout, the issue of salaries was, as it has been throughout the history of the game, hotly debated—some thought ballplayers were grossly overpaid during a period when the average annual salary in the United States was just under $675.

Amos Rusie

The Fort Wayne Gazette published the following in an effort to address “much questioning as to the salaries paid young players at the present time.”

According to The Gazette National League players averaged $175 to $250 a month “all the way up to $5000 for veterans.”

Other league salaries:

Eastern League: $100-$150 for young players $200-$250 for stars

Western League: $75-$150, up to $300 for stars

Atlantic League: $75-$250

Western Association: $65-$115

Southern League: $75-$100

New England League: $75-$125

Interstate League: $65-$150

The Gazette came down on the side of the players:

“It is customary to speak of the high salaries and easy lives of National League players but the kickers seldom realize that the man who now supports his little family in comfort on $300 a month—probably had to slave two years for perhaps $75 a month, $450 a year…and a probable loss of salary whenever the little league he played with disbanded in arrears.”

Cooney Snyder

22 Oct

“Cooney” Snyder‘s Major League career lasted only 17 games for the 1898 Louisville Colonels in the National League.

Born in Canada in 1873, Abraham Conrad Snyder was most frequently identified as “Frank” Snyder during his career.

Snyder played in the Western Association in 1884 and he is mentioned frequently in contemporaneous news stories as a member of the 1885 Guelph Maple Leafs in the Canadian League, although no records survive.

Snyder earned his shot in the Major Leagues after hitting .333 for the London Cockneys in the Canadian League and .340 for the Toronto Canucks in the Eastern League in 1897.

The Sporting Life said, “Snyder is credited with an extraordinary throwing arm as well as a strong swing as a batsman,” and attributed his strength to the job he held before playing professional ball:

 “Snyder acquired this strength in a peculiar way.  Before he became proficient in base ball “Cooney” was a keeper in a Canadian insane asylum. His daily task was to wrestle with the patients who showed a desire to buck against the rules of the institution.”

Snyder was Drafted by the Washington Senators, then sold to the Colonels before the 1898 season.  After hitting a disappointing .164, Snyder was released by Louisville and returned to the Canucks, then finished the season with the St. Thomas Saints in the Canadian League.

Snyder finished his career with the Reading Coal Heavers in the Atlantic League in 1899.

“Cooney” Snyder, 1899

After the 1899 season, it was reported by The Reading Eagle that Snyder had accepted a job at a hotel owned by former major leaguer, and Reading resident Larry Ressler.  The article said Snyder was “Considering offers from several Eastern League teams,” but it appears he never played again.

Snyder made the news one more time before eventually returning to Canada and passing away there in 1917; in December of 1899 when The Reading Herald reported on Snyder’s heroic actions during a factory fire at the Nolde and Horst Hosiery Mill:

 “For nearly an hour he stood under a burning building breaking the fifteen-foot fall of many factory girls, who were penned in the blazing structure like rats in a trap. His position was one of the greatest peril, as red hot brick and burning embers were failing all around him.”

The Reading Times said he caught at least six women in this manner.

“Champ” Fertsch

5 Oct

A bullet nearly ended Edward “Champ” Fertsch’s career before it really got started.

Fertsch was born in Moorestown, New Jersey (birthplace incorrectly listed as Reading, PA in Baseball Reference) in 1874. The 5’ 10” 175 pound righthander played with the Carlisle Colts of the Cumberland Valley League in 1895, then pitched for Salisbury in the unaffiliated Peach Tree League in Maryland and Taunton in the New England League—records are incomplete or nonexistent for these seasons.

Fertsch joined the Reading Coal Heavers of the Atlantic League in 1898 and played two seasons, winning 14 games in 1899.  In 1900 Fertsch split time between New Castle in the Interstate League and Buffalo Bisons in the then minor league American League.  Fertsch’s contract was purchased by the Brooklyn Superbas, but he never had the opportunity to report the following spring.

That fall Fertsch was hunting with a friend, as the friend climbed a fence his gun discharged and Fertsch was hit the left arm.  Initially the arm was to be amputated, but Fertsch implored doctors to save it.

Assuming his career was over Brooklyn released Fertsch, but he sufficiently recovered to rejoin the Coal Heavers for the 1901 season.

According to the Reading Eagle “Fertsch cannot use the limb very well in delivering or batting, but it does not seem to hinder his twirling.”

“Champ” Fertsch

No records survive for the 1901 season, but Fertsch pitched well enough coming off the shooting to earn another shot in the Eastern League; splitting time with the Providence Grays and the Jersey City Skeeters Fertsch posted a 17-11 record.

Fertsch remained in the Eastern League for the next four seasons (no statistics survive for 1902 or ‘03), after 9-10 and 11-14 seasons in 1904 and ’05, Fertsch played the next four seasons with the Lancaster Red Roses and Reading Pretzels in the Tri-State League.

Again no complete records are available for those years, but Fertsch was frequently referred to in the Eagle as Reading’s and the Tri-State’s “Highest paid professional ballplayer.”

Fertsch was plagued by arm injuries after returning to the Tri-State and retired at the close of the 1909 season.  He became an umpire in the Tri-State League in 1910, but only served for one season because of a league rule change which no longer allowed umpires to be residents of one of the Tri-State club’s cities.

Fertsch again attempted to pitch for Reading in 1911, but only appeared in one game.

After baseball Fertsch was considered one the best bowlers in Pennsylvania.

He died in Reading in 1964.