Tag Archives: August Garry Herrmann

“There is a Heap about Baseball that I do not Know”

4 May

After Ted Sullivan blamed Joe Nealon’s father for his failure to secure the first baseman for the Reds, James C. Nealon was not going to let his accusations stand, and sent a letter in response to Sullivan’s letter to The Cincinnati Enquirer:

“The public has always permitted, and will always permit a man who has lost the object he was seeking to compensate himself for the loss is excusing his failure by some worthy and absurd explanation, or by throwing the responsibility of the failure on someone else.”

Nealon said he was forced to respond because Sullivan “falsely placed myself and my son in an unenviable light.”

Nealon said he only cared about his son going to the club with “the best and most congenial associations,” and initially, many people he trusted told him Cincinnati was the best option.

He said Sullivan was the reason he and his son changed their minds.  Nealon said he checked train schedules and determined that Sullivan—who left Cincinnati on October 28—could have arrived in California no later than November 3, yet he did not hear from the Reds representative until after the contract was signed with Pittsburgh on November 6.

Nealon also said while he received a telegram from August Herrmann, Cincinnati Reds owner, with the offer of “a certain sum more than any other club,” he never shared that information with the Pirates Fred Clarke, and that the combination of being insulted by the Reds making their offer just about money and Sullivan not arriving in time made up his mind, and as a result:

 “I advised my son to sign a contract with any club he desired.”

After Sullivan arrived in San Francisco, Nealon said:

“He admitted to me that it was all his fault, yet he seeks in your paper to advise the public that it was the fault of my son and myself…I would rather (Joe) fail then to commit a dishonorable act, and I do not want the people of Cincinnati to believe his entry into the major league was associated in any manner with unfairness or unfair dealing.  Mr. Sullivan knows it was not.”

Joe Nealon wrote a letter to The Pittsburgh Post, and said he understood that when he joined the team in Hot Springs. Arkansas:

“There is a heap about baseball that I do not know.  I am eager to learn, however, and will gladly go under instructions.”

joenealon2

Joe Nealon

Even after the beginning of the 1906 season, the stories about what influenced Nealon to sign with the Pirates would not go away.  In May is was reported that it was Jake Beckley, former first baseman for the Reds and Pirates who influenced Nealon to accept Clarke’s offer.  Nealon told The Pittsburgh Press that Beckley had nothing to do with his decision, and continued to blame Sullivan who he said did not “keep faith” with him and his father.

Nealon appeared in every game, hit the Pirates first home run of the 1906 season on May 5, tied Harry Steinfeldt for the league lead in RBI, and led all NL first basemen in total chances and putouts.

At the end of the season it was widely reported that Nealon would not return to the Pirates for the 1907 season.  After the team lost five straight games in September and slipped to third place, Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss went on a tear to a wire service reporter—The Philadelphia Inquirer, under the headline “Barney Dreyfuss Lets Himself say Things” said:

“(Dreyfuss said) if his team doesn’t win second place for him he will keep their noses to the grindstone barnstorming for him until their contracts have run out (on October 16)”

Dreyfuss told the reporter:

“One of the things that ails our team is that there are too many capitalists on it.  The boys know that they do not have to play ball for a living, and sometimes that may affect their playing.  There is only one of the old players on the Pittsburgh team who is playing as a means of livelihood—that’s (Tommy) Leach.  The other could give up the game anytime.”

Nealon left the team immediately after the final game in Cincinnati and did not participate in the tour.  The San Francisco Call said he was done:

“Nealon, who became a great favorite in Pittsburgh and all over the league circuit, has had several grievances against Pittsburgh, and it was announced some time ago that the big San Francisco lad had declared himself in no unmeasured terms that he did not have to take the worst of it from anyone connected with the club, nor would he more than one season.”

The Call said Nealon became disenchanted in Pittsburgh when Dreyfuss attempted to trade him and “other Pittsburgh players” to the Brooklyn Superbas for Harry Lumley and Tim Jordan “although Captain Clarke had guaranteed him a full and free tryout for a year.”

Nealon returned to San Francisco to play winter ball, but he failed to make a trip to Stockton for the first game.  The San Jose Evening News said:

“Many San Joseans who took the trip to Stockton…were disappointed in not seeing Joe Nealon…the big first baseman, met with an accident Saturday evening.”

While racing to catch the train to Stockton, Nealon tripped and fell into a stone wall.  He broke two bones in his left hand.”

In December, the Pittsburgh papers reported that Nealon had declared himself “Completely healed,” in a letter to Barney Dreyfuss.

By February The Pittsburgh Press was assuring readers:

“Reports from the West have Joe Nealon in the best condition of his career.  Just keep your eyes on this big fellow this season; he is going to be a winner in every sense of the word.”

Despite the high expectations, Nealon was a disappointment to the pirates when he reported to  West Baden, Indiana in March.  The Press said:

“If the fans at home could see big Joe Nealon now they would not know him.  With his sweater on he looks like a three hundred pounder.”

Nealon actually weighed 216 pounds, roughly 20 pounds heavier than he was in 1906.

Additionally, The Pittsburgh Post said Nealon was experiencing stiffness in his left hand.

The Press announced that Nealon had gotten down to his playing weight and that his had had healed just in time for the opening of the season, but a knee injury sliding into second during the Pirates third game sidelined him for nearly two weeks, and according to The Post included a visit to John “Bonesetter” Reese, the Youngstown, Ohio doctor who treated many major leaguers.

Nealon was hitting just .217 in June when The Washington Post noted that two California Thoroughbreds—Nealon and Joe Nealon—both bred by friends of Nealon’s father, and both stakes race winners in 1907, were having decidedly better years than the first baseman.

Nealon steadily improved his batting average but had already fallen out of favor with fans and in the papers.  Rumors persisted that the Pirates were trying to trade for Fred Tenney of the Boston Doves.  By September, The Press said:

 “There is suspicion among the Pittsburgh players that Tenney may be secured as first baseman…to succeed Joe Nealon whose work this season is said to have been below standard.”

When Harry Swacina was purchased by the Pirates from the Peoria Distillers in the Three-I League that same month, the Pittsburgh correspondent for The Sporting News said:

 “He is an improvement over Joe Nealon in every department of the game.”

The New York Sun summed up the consensus view:

“Joe Nealon came out of California with the reputation of being a better first baseman than Hal Chase was, but in making a big league reputation Chase simply lost his fellow Californian.”

Swacina hit just .200, but got most of the playing time at first base in September, Nealon finished with a .257 average.

joenealon

Nealon

The Press speculated in November about who would play first base for the Pirates in 1908:

“Most of the fans have eliminated Joe Nealon from the competition all together, for it is an open secret that both President (Barney) Dreyfuss and Manager (Fred) Clarke were displeased with the way the young Californian acted this year, and it is presumed that no further time will be wasted with him, but that he will either be traded or released outright.”

In December, Nealon ended any remaining speculation by announcing his retirement—two weeks before his 23rd birthday. The Post said:

“The big Californian has quit the professional diamond for all time and will become a partner in business with his millionaire father…But for the intercession of Fred Clarke, it is said he would have been asked to retire about mid season, alleged infractions of the club’s rules and his general attitude of indifference being criticized by the local management.”

Nealon went to Hawaii in December with a team of West Coast stars—including Bill Lange and Orval Overall— formed by Mique Fisher and told reporters he would play weekends in San Francisco in 1908.

After returning from Hawaii, Nealon made his retirement official in a letter to Dreyfuss.  The Press said:

Joe writes that he is helping his father  who has a contract to erect a large public building in California…he asks, however, that his name be kept on Pittsburgh’s reserve list and wishes his teammates the best of luck.”

Nealon went to work with his father and appeared in 62 games for the Sacramento Senators in the California State League in 1908—hitting .372; as late as July he was hitting .436.  Nearly every Pacific Coast League time tried to sign him that summer, but The Oakland Tribune said:

“(Nealon) declared positively to the writer yesterday that he would not play ball, except as he is doing now, and Joe said there was not enough money in any of the Coast League treasuries to make him change his mind.”

Despite his protestations, nearly every team on the West Coast sought to sign Nealon.  Charlie Graham, Owner of the Sacramento Sacts made an offer that The San Francisco Call said led Nealon to tell a friend he wasn’t sure he could refuse.  He eventually did refuse, and instead signed to play for the Oakland Commuters in the California State League. The Call said he was the highest paid player on the West Coast.

Nealon captained the Oakland club, and hit .274 in 138 games.  How Nealon differed from his teammates and most players was probably best illustrated during a bench clearing brawl between Oakland and the Stockton Millers in June.  The Oakland Tribune said:

“(E)very man on both teams, with the exception of Joe Nealon, was mixed up…Nealon simply walked about the field and sat on the bench while the trouble was going on, and if anyone should ask right quick what player showed the only good judgment on the field the answer would be Joe Nealon.”

Nealon announced his retirement again, a week after his 25th birthday.

Nealon’s father had just helped elect San Francisco’s new mayor, Patrick Henry McCarthy, The Tribune said Nealon was “slated for a fat political job.”

Nealon was appointed deputy in the San Francisco County Clerk’s office in January.

On March 28, The Tribune said:

“(Nealon) is lying on death’s door in his home in San Francisco, suffering from typhoid fever.  Several physicians have been at the bedside of the ill athlete almost constantly for the past few days, and although they hold out but slight hope for his recovery, they state that his splendid physique may enable him to pull through.”

Nealon died five days later.

 

Joe Nealon

2 May

There was a race to sign Joe Nealon in 1905.  The San Francisco Chronicle said he was “thought to be the equal of Hal Chase,” the fellow first baseman and Californian who made his major league debut that season.

By November, West Coast newspapers had reported that at least four teams were after Nealon—the New York Highlanders, Boston Americans, St. Louis Browns, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs, and Pittsburgh Pirates were after Nealon.

nealon

Joe Nealon

There likely would have been even more interest in Nealon if not for his background; as The Chronicle said after Nealon signed with the San Francisco Seals before the 1905 season:

“Parental objection had to be overcome, and this was accomplished through an understanding that the boy would remain in professional baseball not more than two or three seasons.”

Nealon was the son of the James C. Nealon, a wealthy real estate executive, elected official, owner of thoroughbreds, and one of the best known handball players on the West Coast who often played with boxer Jim Corbett.

Nealon attended St. Ignatius College (now the University of San Francisco) and had played in the California State League in 1903 and 1904.

Cincinnati and Boston appeared to be the most aggressive pursuer of Nealon; according to The Cincinnati Enquirer:

“Everybody who has seen him work says that Nealon will fill the bill.  He is described as a second Bill Lange at the bat, and a new edition of Charley Comiskey on the bag.  Allowing for exaggeration he seems to be the real goods.”

The Reds dispatched Ted Sullivan to San Francisco. The Americans sent Dan Long.  They did not know that Pittsburgh Pirates Manager Fred Clarke was on his way West as well; Clarke arrived first. The Pirates manager won out.  The Pittsburgh Post said:

“It was against these two men that Clarke had to use his ingenuity in securing Nealon.  The player is a freelance and was at liberty to join a team of his own selection.  Being independently wealthy and playing baseball only for the sport he finds in it.  Nealon was not influenced by any financial proposition.”

Reds owner August Herrmann told The Cincinnati Enquirer:

“I had become very much interested in young Nealon and regret that we did not succeed in getting him, but there is no use mourning over his loss.”

While Herrmann might not have been mourning, others in Cincinnati were and blamed Sullivan.

Jack Ryder of The Enquirer said:

“Why was not Ted Sullivan on the ground earlier?  Ted left Cincinnati a week ago last Saturday (October 29) with instructions to make a bee line for Frisco.  Mr. Herrmann knew that there was keen competition for  the services of Nealon…If Sullivan had reached San Francisco on Tuesday or Wednesday, as he was expected to do he would have got in ahead of Fred Clarke, and the chances would have favored his securing the player.”

Ryder said he had a letter from James C. Nealon written to Herrmann promising “that his son would sign with Cincinnati, ‘other things being equal,’” Ryder noted that the Reds “offered the boy more salary than any other club including Pittsburgh.”

Ryder concluded:

“Fred Clarke, who was on the spot, while Ted Sullivan was not, was able to persuade (Nealon) that the Pirates are a far better aggregation than the Reds.”

Ted Sullivan was not about to blamed, and fired off a letter to The Enquirer:

“There is not a man in the city of Cincinnati that would feel as much hurt as myself to lose a good man for the Cincinnati club.  The two years that I have acted as agent for Mr. Herrmann he has treated me like a king, and has showed a disposition to back my judgment on the skill of a player.”

tedsullivan

Ted Sullivan

Sullivan said in the letter, he had discovered Nealon’s “hidden skill” in August:

“The skill I noticed in Nealon (I wrote Mr. Herrmann at the time) was skill hidden beneath a dross of inexperience and youth.”

While he conceded that some time in the major leagues would “make him a star,” he assured The Enquirer he was not of the caliber of Sullivan’s favorite first baseman:

“The greatest first baseman in the history of the game, Charles Comiskey, was my own selection and making (which I say without egotism), but the California fledgling, without disparaging him, is a pallbearer compared to the magnetism of the matchless Comiskey.”

Sullivan blamed his inability to sign Nealon on Nealon’s father.  He claimed to have offered $3,800 to the first baseman in August, and was told that money was not the critical consideration, but complained that Nealon Sr. had immediately “proclaimed throughout Frisco, with the aid of a flashlight, and had also the newspaper men transmit (the offer) to all of the papers in the East.”

As for arriving is San Francisco after Clarke, Sullivan blamed that on the railroads:

“(I) was blocked between Salt Lake and Sacramento, caused by the immense amount of trains”

But, said Sullivan, none of that mattered.  Nealon’s father had not dealt with the Reds in good faith:

“Mr. Nealon Sr., who claimed he was not out for the money, called Fred out on the porch of the house and showed him, in confidence, the offer from Cincinnati.”

The latest Cincinnati offer was $6500—with a clause that promised $1000 more than any other offer Nealon would receive–Sullivan said.  Clarke matched the $6500, he said, and signed Nealon.

fredclarkepix

Fred Clarke

There was more said Sullivan:

“Now comes the most brazen effrontery of offended dignity that has more hypocritic brass in it than the Colossus of Rhodes.  With this standing offer of Mr. Herrmann’s in his hands for days before I arrived,  I asked Mr. Nealon Sr., why he did not close with Mr. Herrmann on such a grand offer.  ‘Why,’ says he, ‘I consider it an insult for any man to make me such an offer as that, as it would appear that I was playing one club against the other.”  Think of that insult—one man offers another man $1000 more than the highest bidder and he is insulted.”

Sullivan closed his letter by again questioning Nealon’s prospects of making an immediate impact, and said:

“I would rather go down to Millcreek bottoms and pick up some young fellow that wanted to make baseball a profession, than any young man in the United States who thinks that he is condescending to play ball for $7000.”

Sullivan was not the only representative of a club who had expressed interest in Nealon who now questioned the prospects ability.  In response to Frank Chance of the Chicago Cubs who said Nealon was “not of National League Caliber,” The Pittsburgh Press responded:

“Sour Grapes?”

The rest of the story on Friday.

Lost Advertisements–Heinie Groh for Sweet Caporal

4 Mar

grohsweetcaporal

A 1914 Sweet Caporal advertisement featuring Heine [sic] Groh–the company didn’t spend a great deal of time checking the spelling of the names of their endorsers.

“For a fine, mellow cigarette you can’t beat Sweet Caporal.  They’ve got a good, pure tobacco flavor that’s great.”

The salary dispute that culminated with Groh’s trade from the Cincinnati Reds to the New York Giants after the 1921 season had been ongoing since at least 1917 and earned him the title “last of the holdout kings” from The Washington Herald.

His 1920 holdout was, according to Groh, inspired by his wife Marguerite, who also spoke to the press on her husband’s behalf as the dispute ground on into March.

The Cincinnati Times-Star said while speaking at a “local banquet,” Groh told the audience:

“We were sitting in a vaudeville show not long ago and were listening to the thunderous applause being accorded a couple of high salaried dancers.

“My wife touched my arm.  ‘Do you see how they are being praised now?’ she asked. ‘But what will happen to them in a few years when their legs start to go bad?  They’ll get asked to leave won’t they? That’s why they’re so high-priced now.  Let that be a lesson to you.’

“So right then and there Mrs. Groh made me promise that I would not sign a Reds contract until I got my figures…When my wife says sign, I’ll sign and not a minute before.”

Groh

Groh

Marguerite Groh was more direct when she spoke to the paper:

“I don’t care if all the other players sign, and if Heinie can’t do anything better next summer than work in the garden I think he should continue holding out for what he wants.

“We both believe Heinie has been underpaid for several seasons.  This is the year in which we can afford to be independent, and I am urging Heinie to continue his fight to get what he believes he is entitled to.

“It is not a question of how much Heinie can make in some other business. We both know the Reds are willing to pay him more than he will make if he does not sign at the club’s terms.

“But we will be perfectly able to get through the year without any baseball income if the Reds don’t meet Heinie’s terms, and they’ll have to do it if he is to play for them.”

After the Reds left for Miami, Florida without Groh on March 5, The Associated Press said:

“Heinie Groh, or rather Mrs. Heinie Groh, is still among the holdouts in baseball.  There is lurking suspicion that Heinie would like to end the controversy and join his teammates in the South, but Mrs. Groh absolutely refuses to let him go unless (Reds owner August) Garry Herrmann offers her little Heinie more money.”

Four days later Groh agreed to terms, The Cincinnati Enquirer said the Reds “Would not state the amount” of the contract, but said Groh had asked for $12,500 and the team had originally offered $10,000.

During Groh’s long holdout the following year, Mrs. Groh’s opinion was never reported.

 

 

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up other Things #11

22 Sep

Floto on Baseball’s Most Powerful Men

Otto Clement Floto was one of the more colorful sportswriters of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century’s.  The Denver Post’s Woody Paige said of the man who was once worked for that paper:

“In the early 1900s Floto was The Denver Post’s sports editor and a drunk, barely literate, loud-mouthed columnist–sounds like a description of that guy in my mirror–who didn’t believe in punctuation marks, wrote about fights he secretly promoted on the side, got into shouting matches with legendary Wild West gunman–turned Denver sportswriter–Bat Masterson.”

Otto Floto

Otto Floto

Floto, in 1910, provided readers of The Post with his unvarnished opinion of baseball’s most powerful figures:

John T. Brush—The smartest man in baseball, but vindictive.

Garry Herrmann—Smart, but no backbone; the last man to him has him.

Ban Johnson—Bluffs a great deal and makes it stick.  Likes to talk.

Charles Comiskey—Shrewd as can be.

Connie Mack—Shrewd and clever; knows the game better than anyone.

Charles Murphy—A hard fighter, but backs up at times.

George Tebeau—More nerve than any other man in baseball, very shrewd.

Barney Dreyfus—Smart, but always following, never leading.

As for John McGraw, Floto allowed that the Giants’ manager was “Pretty wise,” but attributed his success to the fact that he “has lots of money to work worth.”

Too Much Money for Players, 1884

The Cleveland Herald was not happy when pitcher Jim McCormick jumped his contract with the Cleveland Blues in the National League to the Union Association’s Cincinnati franchise.  Although teammates Jack Glasscock and Charles “Fatty” Briody also jumped to Cincinnati, the paper saved most their anger for the first big leaguer to have been born in Scotland.

Jim McCormick

Jim McCormick

The paper noted that McCormick, who was paid $2500 by the Blues, had received a $1,000 bonus to jump:

“(A) total of $3,500 for joining the Cincinnati Unions to play the remainder of the season.  This is equal to $1750 a month, which again divided makes $437.50 a week.  Now McCormick will not play oftener than three times a week which makes his wages $145.83 per day for working days.  The game will average about two hours each, so that he receives for his actual work no less than $72.91 an hour, or over $1.21 a minute for work done.  If he was not playing ball he would probably be tending bar in some saloon at $12 a week.”

McCormick was 21-3 with a 1.54 ERA in 24 games and helped pitch the “Outlaw Reds” to a second place finish in the struggling Union Association.  After the Association collapsed was assigned to the Providence Grays, then was sold to the Chicago White Stockings.  From July of 1885 through the 1886 season McCormick was teamed with his boyhood friend Mike “King” Kelly—the two grew up together in Paterson, New Jersey and were dubbed “the Jersey Battery” by the Chicago press—and posted a 51-15 record during the season and a half in Chicago, including a run of 16 straight wins in ‘86.

He ended his career with a 265-214 record and returned home to run his bar.  In 1912 John McGraw was quoted in The Sporting Life calling McCormick “the greatest pitcher of his day.”

The pitcher who The Herald said would otherwise be a $12 a week bartender also used some of the money he made jumping from Cleveland in 1884 the following year to purchase a tavern in Paterson.

Not Enough Money for Owners, 1885

In 1885 J. Edward “Ned” Allen was president of the defending National League Champions –and winners of baseball’s first World Series—the Providence Grays.  He told The New York Sun that baseball was no longer a profitable proposition:

“The time was when a man who put his money into a club was quite sure of coming out more or less ahead, but that is past.  When the National League had control of all the best players in the country a few years ago, and had no opposition, salaries were low, and a player who received $1,500 for his season’s work did well.  In 1881, when the American Association was organized in opposition to the league, the players’ salaries at once began to go up, as each side tried to outbid the other.  When the two organizations formed what is known as the National Agreement the clubs retained their players at the same salaries.

“Several other associations were then organized in different parts of the country and were admitted under the protection of the National Agreement.   This served to make good ball-players, especially pitchers, scarce, and forced salaries up still higher, until at the present time a first-class pitcher will not look at a manager for less than $3,500 for a season.  (“Old Hoss”) Radbourn of last year’s Providence Club received the largest amount of money that has ever been paid to a ball-player.  His wonderful pitching, which won the championship for the club, cost about $5,000 (Baseball Reference says Radbourn earned between $2,800 and $3,000 in 1884), as did the work of two pitchers and received the pay of two.

The Providence Grays--Champions and unprofitable

The Providence Grays–Champions and unprofitable

“Some of the salaries which base-ball players will get next season are; (Jim) O’Rourke, (Joe) Gerhardt, (Buck) Ewing and (John Montgomery) Ward of the New York Club, $3,000 each.  (Tony) Mullane was to have played for the Cincinnati Club for $4,000 (Mullane was suspended for signing with Cincinnati after first agreeing to a contract with the St. Louis Browns).  (Fred) Dunlap has a contract with the new League club in St. Louis for $3,400.  These are only a few of the higher prices paid, while the number of men who get from $2,000 to $3,000 is large.  At these prices a club with a team costing only from $15,000 to $20,000 is lucky, but it has not much chance of winning a championship.  To this expense must be added the ground rent, the salaries of gate-keepers, and the traveling expenses, which will be as much more.

“As a high-priced club the New York Gothams leads, while the (New York) Metropolitans are nearly as expensive.  The income of these two clubs last year was nearly $130,000, yet the Metropolitans lost money and the New York Club (Gothams) was only a little ahead.  The first year the Metropolitans were in the field(1883) their salary list was light, as were their traveling expenses, and at the end of the season they were $50,000 ahead.”

The Grays disbanded after the 1885 season.

Jack Grim

2 Jun

John J. “Jack” Grim never amounted to much as a player.  Statistics are nearly nonexistent for his playing career, and those that do survive are unimpressive; primarily a catcher, he played for all, or parts of nine seasons from 1894 until 1902.  The Cincinnati native made his mark, now all but forgotten, as a manager and executive.

John J. "Jack" Grim

John J. “Jack” Grim

Often confused with former major league catcher John Helm “Jack” Grim—for example, most sources list John H. Grim as the manager of the 1904 Columbia Skyscrapers in the South Atlantic League, it was John J. Grim who managed that team, and during that season might have made his greatest contribution to the game.

Grim’s first managerial appointment was with the Anaconda Serpents in the Montana State League in 1900.  He guided the team to a second-place finish in the first half, and the club was in first place in the second half race on August 11, when Grim abruptly resigned.  The Anaconda Standard said Grim sent a letter to the team directors in which he charged “there is a feeling in certain quarters, against me.” He said:

“I cannot do myself justice while laboring under these conditions.”

Arthur “Dad” Clarkson, brother of Hall of Famer John Clarkson, replaced Grim; the team finished the second half of the season in second place under Clarkson.  Grim became an umpire in the league for the remainder of the season.

In 1901 Grim went to the West Coast with William H. Lucas, a former minor league pitcher who had been president of the Montana State League, to join Dan Dugdale to reestablish  the Pacific Northwest League; Lucas served as league president and Grim managed the Portland Webfoots to the championship, winning the pennant by 16 games.

The league expanded from four to six teams for 1902, and Grim was hired to manage the Spokane franchise, which had finished in last place (41-67) under three different managers in 1901.  The Sporting News said:

“(Spokane’s) stockholders have given (Grim) full power to act in signing players.”

The Sporting Life said Spokane fans were “feeling confident that (Grim) will this year sustain his reputation for always piloting winners.”  Despite the free reign, and high hopes, Spokane struggled, finishing in last place with a 46-75 record.

The following season, as a result of the West Coast baseball war—the California League expanded to the Pacific Northwest, becoming the Pacific Coast League—the Pacific Northwest League expanded into California and became the Pacific National League.  Grim managed the Portland Green Gages.

On July 1 the Portland franchised was, according to, The Oregon Journal “transferred bag and baggage to Salt Lake City.” In Salt Lake City Grim quickly wore out his welcome.

After it was reported in late July that Grim might be let go, six players, including the team’s star shortstop Charles “She” Donahue, went on strike.  They missed two games, but returned after the team’s president said: “he has no intention of letting Grim out.”  The harmony didn’t last and just weeks later Grim was released and fined $100 for what The Salt Lake Herald called “starting a mutiny within the ranks of the club.”

The trouble in Salt Lake wasn’t over.  Near the end of the season, Donahue’s contract was sold to the St. Louis Cardinals.  The sale was reportedly engineered by Grim after he was let go as manager.

The Herald said:

“What kind of a con game is Jack Grim trying to work on the Salt Lake ball club?  What right had Jack Grim, who was fired…got to sell Donahue to the St. Louis club?  How many more of the Salt Lake’s players is Grim trying to dispose of in the same way?  What did Grim do with the money he received from (Cardinals President Benjamin) Muckenfuss of the St. Louis team?”

Grim told The Cincinnati Enquirer he entered into negotiations with the Cardinals over Donahue on September 14. But The Herald noted:

“At that time Grim’s sole business in Salt Lake was to hang around with the ballplayers and try his best to create discord among them.  He had been fired long before.”

The National Commission ruled the sale/signing legal.  Garry Herrmann, chairman of the commission, said that in the contract he signed with Portland for 1903 “Donahue had a specified agreement that he was not (placed on the reserve list)” despite the fact that the Salt Lake team claimed he had already signed a contract for the following season.  As a result, there was nothing stopping Grim from delivering Donahue to the Cardinals, and the money he received—the amount was never reported—was his.

Grim was again involved in a new league in 1904, when he and fellow Cincinnati native Ed Ashenbach, helped form the first incarnation of the South Atlantic League—Grim managed the Columbia Sky Scrapers and Ashenbach managed the Charleston Sea Gulls in the six-team circuit.  Grim only lasted until mid-July as manager and finished the year as an umpire in the league.

It was that season that that he claimed he made his great contribution to the game.  According to Grim, he was the first person to alert the Detroit Tigers about a 17-year-old outfielder for the Augusta Tourists named Tyrus Raymond Cobb.

While Cobb was not sold to the Tigers until August of 1905, some credence for the claim was provided by Cobb himself in 1910, when an article appearing under his name—likely ghostwritten by Roger Tidden of The New York World—said Grim had tried to purchase his contract when he was struggling at Augusta, shortly after “I left home to show up the league.”

In 1905 Grim was one of the principal organizers of the Virginia-North Carolina League and managed the Greensboro Farmers—Grim lasted less than half a season and by August The Sporting Life said he was scouting for the Cincinnati Reds.

Grim finally found some stability in 1906.  He again helped found a league and owned and managed a club.  Grim’s Lynchburg Shoemakers won the Virginia League pennant in 1906—the team was led by pitcher Walter Moser (24-8), who would make the jump from the C-league Shoemakers to the Philadelphia Phillies in August.   But after a fifth-place finish and 1907, and a slow start the next season, Grim sold the team in July of 1908.

1906 Lynchburg Shoemakers, Virginia League champions. Grim is third from left on the bottom row.

1906 Lynchburg Shoemakers, Virginia League champions. Grim is third from left on the bottom row.

Just after selling the team, Grim’s wife reported him missing.  She told police in Louisville, Kentucky that she hadn’t heard from him for three weeks and thought he might be in Louisville after visiting family in Cincinnati.  Al Orth, the New York Highlanders pitcher, said he saw Grim in New York and told The Associated Press “He did not look like a man who was missing from anywhere.”

Al Orth

Al Orth

 

Grim eventually returned to Virginia and his disappearance was never explained.  Orth, who was from Lynchburg, returned there later that summer purchased an interest in the team and managed the club until early 1909 when he returned to the Highlanders.

For the next four years Grim bounced back and forth from team ownership (he managed, and owned part of two more Virginia League franchises (Portsmouth in 1910 and Newport News in 1912) and real estate speculating on the West Coast and in Virginia.

At the beginning of the 1912 season a small item in The Richmond Times-Dispatch hinted that there was trouble ahead:

“Jack Grim has a combination of troubles.  One is of the financial variety—well the other is nobody’s business.”

The financial troubles came to a head in August.  The Times-Dispatch said:

 “Because Manager J.J. Grim would not pay their salaries, all of the players of the Newport News baseball club except (Frank) ‘Deacon’ Morrissey, struck just before the scheduled double header between Newport News and Petersburg.”

After the game was awarded to Petersburg by forfeit, Grim’s co-owners removed him—outfielder William “Buck” Hooker was named manager for the remainder of the season.

At the end of the 1912 season, Grim found himself in an odd predicament.  The Cincinnati Enquirer said:

“Though minus a franchise, Jack Grim, formerly of Cincinnati, has a ball team under reservation, for he owns title to the players of the Newport News club…It develops that in the adjustment of the club’s affairs in August, Grim who was manager and part owner, got out without losing title to the players, though he lost the franchise.”

As a result, when the Cleveland Naps drafted third baseman Ray Bates from Newport News after the 1912 season, the draft price went to Grim.

It was the last good thing to happen to him; from there, Grim’s life spun out of control.

In October, he attended the World Series in New York (his wife later said he attempted to kill her during that trip).

In November of 1912 the Virginia League turned down his attempt to secure a franchise for 1913; next his effort to start a new league with teams in Virginia and the Carolinas fell through.

In addition to being unable to secure a franchise and running out of money—an effort to secure the New York-New Jersey League franchise in Kingston, New York also fell through–Grim’s wife had him arrested  during the first week of March 1913, and told a Lynchburg judge he had repeatedly “threatened Mrs. Grim with bodily harm.”  Grim was held in jail, but according to The Times-Dispatch “is doing everything possible to effect a reconciliation with his wife.”

Grim was released on bond after a week, but quickly rearrested, and by March 23 The Times Dispatch said:

“That a commission of lunacy will be summoned early this week to investigate the Sanity of john J. Grim, the well-known minor league baseball magnate , seems now to be a foregone conclusion…Since his incarceration Grim’s condition has grown so bad that there is no doubt in the minds of the jail attaches that he is insane…Grim has not had his clothes off in a week, and he spends his time in his cell singing, shouting, talking and pacing up and down, begging to be liberated.”

The “commission of lunacy” found Grim insane based on the testimony of Grim’s wife and a doctor named Albert Priddy, and ordered him sent to Virginia’s Southwestern State Hospital in Marion.  It was in front of the commission that Mrs. Grim related the story of the “attempt to murder her with a razor in New York City.”

Southwest State Hospital, Marion, Virginia

Southwest State Hospital, Marion, Virginia

Contradictory reports about Grim’s condition came out during the next year.  The Associated Press said in August Grim was “A raving maniac…not far from death.”  A December story in The Cincinnati Enquirer said “he is improving rapidly and probably will be discharged at an early date…Grim expects to return to Cincinnati.”

Almost a year later, he was still in the hospital, and The Enquirer reported that “Grim is improving in health and expects to visit his Cincinnati friends soon.”

That item was the last newspaper reference to Grim; he was never released and died in the state hospital.

The doctor who testified that Grim was insane, Albert Sidney Priddy, was superintendent of the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded in Madison Heights, Virginia.  The doctor, and that institution became infamous in the case of Buck v. Bell (the case was Buck v. Priddy until Priddy’s death in 1925; Bell was his successor at the State Colony).  The Supreme Court’s decision in the case–upholding the Virginia’s compulsory sterilization law– resulted in the forced sterilization of more than United States citizens in Virginia and states that enacted similar laws.

The National League versus Horace Fogel

8 Jul

In 1912 Horace Fogel, president and owner of the Philadelphia Phillies and umpire William Thomas “Bill” Brennan were at the center of baseball’s biggest controversy: Fogel  accused Brennan and others with favoring the pennant winning New York Giants.

Fogel first suggested that St. Louis manager Roger Bresnahan was “pulling for” New York after the Giants won two of three games from the sixth place Cardinals in August.

Less than a month later Fogel would turn his attention to the umpires, and National League President Thomas Lynch.  Fogel was not a fan of the league president to begin with; the previous December The New York Times said that Fogel had been coerced by Cincinnati Reds owner August Herrmann into supporting Lynch’s reelection at the league meeting in New York:

“It was reported about the Waldorf yesterday that… (Chicago Cubs President Charles) Murphy and Fogel would not vote against Mr. Lynch because President Herrmann had in his possession a letter which was sent to him by mistake from Fogel, when it should have been sent to Murphy.  Mr. Fogel, it seems, put Mr. Murphy’s letter in the envelope addressed to Mr. Herrmann.  It is said to contain something important about the relations of the Philadelphia and Chicago clubs.”

Horace Fogel

Horace Fogel

On September 7 Fogel wrote a letter to Lynch attacking the league’s umpires in general and Brennan specifically, and  according to The Philadelphia Inquirer “hinting that Lynch had some influence in their poor officiating.”

A week later an article, said to be authored by Fogel, appeared in The Chicago Evening Post that repeated the charges made in the letter to Lynch.  Fogel also sent Herrmann a telegram telling the Reds owner he felt the National League pennant race was “crooked.”

Brennan was the first umpire to respond.  He sent a letter to the National Baseball Commission on September 30 demanding an apology from Fogel for impugning “the impartiality of National League umpires.”

Fogel repeated his accusations again in letters sent the following week to the seven other National League team presidents, and promised to “make startling disclosures.”

On October 17 The Associated Press said his counterparts voted to “formally draw up charges against President Fogel of the Philadelphia club for his remarks reflecting on the integrity of National League umpires.”

Brennan told reporters that he would be filing a libel suit against the Phillies owner.

William "Bill" Brennan

William “Bill” Brennan

A hearing was scheduled for November 26.  President Lynch said:

“If the charges can be proved, then the umpires in question should be blacklisted and the president of the league should step down in disgrace.  If the charges are not true, some step should be taken to see that this man no longer represents a club in the National League.”

Fogel responded:

“I probably will begin an action for criminal libel against (Lynch) at an early date.  I have retained Hughey Jennings (the Tiger manager was also an attorney in Scranton, PA) as one of my lawyers, and I intend to have several of the best men in Philadelphia.”

As the members of the National League executive committee gathered at New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel to determine whether he should be expelled from the league, the Philadelphia magnate attempted and end run; he announced that he had relinquished day-to-day operations of the team VP Albert D. Wiler.  By doing so Fogel’s attorney (Jennings did not represent him at the hearing) claimed the league “had no right to try Fogel, as he was no longer an officer of the National League.”

The proceedings went forward with Fogel facing seven specific charges:

  1.  The accusation against Bresnahan

  2. An allegation that he told reporters on September 5 that the pennant race was fixed.

  3. The letter to Lynch attacking the umpires and hinting that Lynch was influencing their decisions.

  4. The article in The Chicago Evening Post repeating the charges made in the letter to Lynch.

  5. The telegram to Herrmann.

  6. The letters to the other seven club presidents.

  7. The allegations Fogel made both publicly and privately, about Brennan.

The Philadelphia Inquirer said:

“Fogel denied charges one and two and maintains that charge three was a privileged letter and not for publication.  While he did not actually deny writing the article that appeared in The Chicago Evening Post, he declared that the statement was not authorized and said it must have been misinterpreted.  He said he simply wanted to see reforms made and was not attacking anybody or anything in connection with baseball.  He denied outright the charges that he had said anything derogatory to umpire Brennan and claims privilege of the letters and telegrams.”

Besides Fogel,  three New York reporters testified that Fogel made the statements attributed to him in the press, while “Fogel had a flock of Philadelphia scribes who politely but forcibly insisted the New York men were romancing.”

After a six-hour hearing over two days the committee unanimously found Fogel guilty of five of the charges (the letter to Lynch and telegram to Herrmann were deemed privileged and those counts were dismissed).  The League ruled that Fogel was “forever excluded from participation,” in the National League.

The Inquirer said:

“Mr. Fogel had no sooner read the decision than he countered it with a defiant statement.  Before the meetings began he had expected such a decision, he declared.  ‘The jury was packed against us, ‘he asserted, and he practically told the magnates who had expelled him from their councils that he would pay no attention to their findings.”

Fogel did have his defenders, author, and Heart Newspaper correspondent,  Damon Runyon said:

“As we understand the matter, Horace Fogel has been found guilty of  conversation in the first degree.”

Damon Runyon, supported Fogel

Damon Runyon, supported Fogel

Fogel’s defiance and threats against Lynch, the league, and the magnates who had ousted him.  The Chicago Evening Post reported in February of 1913 that Fogel “has accepted an offer of $10,000 to write a series of articles in which he will later attempt to prove that baseball is a crooked game.”

Instead he launched a magazine, rumored to be funded by Charles Phelps Taft, brother of the President, who had bankrolled Fogel’s initial purchase of the Phillies. “Baseball Weekly” began publication in  March, 1913, and over the course of the next several months set out to discredit the game, focusing on two points, which had been and would continue to be the major criticisms of organized baseball.

Fogel railed against the reserve clause, calling it “virtual baseball slavery,” and argued that organized baseball violated the Sherman Antitrust Act,  earning him the June 1913 cover of rival  “Baseball Magazine,” and the title, “The Man who is Trying to Wreck Baseball.”

Fogel would remain a baseball gadfly for the next decade.  Took ill in the early 20s and died in Philadelphia in 1928.

June 1913 edition of "Baseball Magazine"

June 1913 edition of “Baseball Magazine”

His interest in the team was purchased by a group led by William H. Locke, former secretary of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  When Locke died in October of 1913, his uncle, former New York Police Commissioner William Baker took control of the Phillies, leading the team until his death in 1930.

Brennan announced after Fogel was banned that he would drop his proposed $10,000 libel suit, telling The Associated Press:

“I am satisfied, I immediately demanded a hearing before the National League heads and Fogel’s trial was brought about as a result of my demands.”

Later this week; an allegation that Fogel was a patsy, and umpire Brennan’s other battle in the City of Brotherly Love.

Baseball’s “Growing Evil”

24 Jun

By 1913 newspaper articles under the byline of a famous player were common in newspapers across the country, and most of the game’s biggest stars were represented.

Most fans of that era assumed the players did their own writing until an expose appeared in The Washington Herald in March of 1913.  Sports Editor William Peet wrote:

“The dear old public fell for this stuff and swallowed hook, bait and sinker.  An article under the signature of Christy Mathewson led three-fourths of the fans to believe that the great pitcher himself wrote it.”

According to Peet, players were paid between $250 and $1000 for each story “and not one of them wrote a single word,” but it was still a good investment:

“The newspapers themselves regarded these feature articles as good investments, for the reason that the stories were syndicated to 25 or more outside publications and the revenues derived not only paid the amount guaranteed the baseball player for the use of his name, but left a handsome profit.”

Peet exposed the writers behind the articles “written” by the game’s biggest stars:

Christy Mathewson and Jeff Tesreau/John Wheeler, The New York Herald

Walter Johnson/Ralph MacMillan, The Boston Journal/The Boston Herald

John McGraw/Walter Turnbull, The New York Evening Sun

John “Chief” Meyers/Jim McBeth, The New York American

Richard “Rube” Marquard/Bill Farnsworth, The Atlanta Georgian/Hearst Newspapers

Denton “Cy” Young/Sam Carrick, The Boston Post

Tris Speaker/Tim Murnane, The Boston Globe

“Smokey” Joe Wood/Jim O’Leary, The Boston Globe

Ty Cobb/Roger Tidden, The New York World

Hughie Jennings/George “Stoney” McLinn, The Philadelphia Press

John McGraw and Christy Mathewson

John McGraw and Christy Mathewson

Peet called the practice dishonest, and said it had gone too far, and in New York and Boston the practice   had “become a mania.”  Peet singled out an article “written” by John McGraw criticizing “Chief” Myers that caused an “explosion,” and said the articles featuring “Rube” Marquard’s byline, and written by Farnsworth got Marquard “in bad with his teammates, for Farnsworth spared no one is his scathing criticisms.”

Pittsburgh Pirate manager Fred Clarke disagreed with the practice, telling Peet:

“I do not think it is any ball player’s place to butt into the newspaper end of the game…I think it is foolish for any player, especially those who take part in the world’s Series, to write about the games.”

As a result of Peet’s revelations the American League club owners condemned the practice of players’ names appearing on articles they did not write, but came just short of officially banning the practice. In September, the Baseball Writers Association petitioned the National Commission to end the “growing evil” of players authoring or appearing to author articles during the upcoming World Series.

The commission agreed, and American League President Ban Johnson informed Philadelphia Athletics manager Connie Mack on the eve of the World Series that star players Eddie Collins and Frank Baker “have been instructed not to write baseball stories or give the impression they are writing them.  If they ignore this request, a way of punishing them would be found. “

Frank Baker, center, Eddie Collins, far right,

Frank Baker, center, Eddie Collins, far right,

Johnson even threatened “Collins and Baker would not be permitted to take part in the World Series,” if they wrote articles or permitted their names to be attached to articles.

At one point Johnson and National Commission Chairman August Hermann said they would consider calling off the series if players refused to comply.  Dave Fultz, the former player, practicing attorney, and president of the Fraternity of Baseball Players, said members of the commission could be personally liable for damages if the series was cancelled.  Johnson and Herman’s threat to cancel the series as a whole was put to rest.

Mack argued that the players had contracts with newspapers and that Johnson had said earlier that players who were “capable” of writing their own articles would be permitted to do so, but as he prepared his team to play the New York Giants, he prepared for the worst, telling The Associated Press:

“(I)f the commission decides the players must not write under any conditions and players decide not to abide by the ruling, I will be prepared to put a team on the field,” The AP speculated that utility infielder John “Doc” Lavan  would play second base  and outfielder Rube Oldring would be moved to third base, with Amos Strunk taking Oldring’s place in the outfield.

Mack’s adjustments weren’t required.  Collins was allowed to write for The Philadelphia Record because his deal with the paper predated the commission’s ruling, and Baker did not write articles.  Together they led the Athletics to a 4-1 Series win, hitting .421 and .450.

Ghost written articles, and articles actually written by players never disappeared, but the practice became much less popular after the revelations and battles of 1913.

“Mique” Fisher 2

7 May

On October 12, 1906, with the World Series between the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs deadlocked at two games apiece, August “Garry” Herrmann, President of the National Commission, received a telegram from Fresno, California:

“Fresno will give $25,000 guarantee; guarantee 40,000 fans and sunshine for deciding game of World Series.

–Mike Fisher”

Fisher said the offer to bring the series and Fresno native Frank Chance to town was backed by “the businessmen here.”

It is doubtful Herrmann took the offer seriously, and it’s probably just as doubtful that Fisher took it seriously, but it was picked up by newspapers across the country, and Fisher enjoyed the publicity.

It was a last bit of publicity before his career in organized baseball ended.  Later in the month he was dismissed as manager of the Fresno Raisin Eaters, and the team was dropped from the Pacific Coast League (PCL) the following spring.

Within weeks Fisher had moved on to a new project; he announced that he was in the process of forming a team to travel to Hawaii.  The San Francisco Call said “It will be the first American ball team to make the trip across the Pacific in a little over nineteen years,” since Spalding’s world tour.

In conjunction with Jesse Woods, a Honolulu promoter, Fisher organized a tour of the Hawaiian Islands with a team of PCL stars.

Mike Fisher

Mike Fisher

Upon his return, Fisher got more ink on the West Coast, when he headed to Nevada with Charlie Irwin of the San Francisco Seals; the two met with businessmen in the mining towns of Goldfield and Tonopah to discuss forming a professional league—Fisher told The San Jose Mercury News that he was now “against organized baseball,” and if he got involved in the league “it will be an outlaw organization.”

Fisher chose not to get involved in the new league, but immediately went to work on an even more ambitious tour than the 1907 Honolulu trip.

With the sponsorship of the Reach Sporting Goods Company, Fisher would accompany a group of stars to China, Japan and the Philippines.  Early publicity promised the travelers would include Ty Cobb, Hal Chase, and Frank Chance.

When the ship set sail in November of 1908 those three stars were not on board, but “several hundred fans and friends” were present when the steamer China left the port in San Francisco to see the group off.  The team was substantially the same as the one that toured Hawaii the previous year—an aggregation of PCL stars and a few National and American League players– and consisted of: Jim Delahanty, George Hildebrand, Bill Burns, Pat Flaherty, Jack Bliss, Babe Danzig, Harry McArdle, Nick Williams, Joe Curtis, Heine Heitmuller, Jack Graney and Bill “Brick” Devereaux.

Despite the failure to land Cobb, Chase or Chance for the tour, the West Coast press applauded Fisher for even attempting the trip, The Call said:

“The undertaking which he has fathered and which is so successfully underway at the present time is a big proposition.  With the single exception of the around-the-world trip of the A.G. Spaldings years ago, nothing on as big a scale as this has ever been attempted.  To take a team of American baseball players over a journey that will total 10,000 miles before they return, to play games in China, Japan, Manila and Honolulu is something that two or three years ago would have been laughed at as an impossibility.”

The tour lasted more than three months, with the team barnstorming through Japan, China, the Philippines and Hawaii, playing local and US Service member teams.  Though reports varied, the team played between twenty and thirty games, and lost no more than four.

While they drew large crowds throughout the trip, the newspapers back home reported that the tour was a financial disaster; when the players arrived back in San Francisco on February 15, 1909 aboard the Tenyo Maru, Fisher responded to the reports:

“I hear that it has been said that the trip was a financial frost.  Well, anybody who says that is a liar.  We broke even in Japan and made money in Manila and Honolulu.  I am satisfied with the trip.”

Fisher didn’t mention the financial results in China; likely because that leg of the tour was a disaster financially.  Years later he would tell a story about the team’s experience there, complete with his usual exaggerations:

“In one game we played in Canton we had 150,000 people inside, and as the gatemen had been instructed to accept Chinese money it required the combined efforts of the entire team to tote the money up to the hotel.  A special staff of accountants was busy all night totaling it up and in the morning we discovered we had $46.15.”

Fisher promised to take a team to Australia the following year.  The trip never took place; instead Fisher purchased a Seattle dance hall called the Dreamland, and quickly became the target of the pious women of the city.  Early in 1910 Fisher was indicted by “The King County grand jury, as a direct result of the activity of the Women’s Clubs,” for violating liquor laws, allowing “unescorted women” into his dance hall, and other assorted charges.  A special prosecutor, Justice William Henry White, one of the most respected jurists in Washington State, was appointed to prosecute Fisher and other club owners targeted by the women.

Ever the promoter, Fisher used the indictment to promote his dance hall and rally public support.  After the indictment was handed down Fisher sponsored a “Sermon in the Dreamland rink.”  According to The Seattle Times, Fisher engaged Reverend Frank Herthum, who “has liberal ideas about amusements.”

Mike Fisher's Dreamland Dancehall, Seattle

Mike Fisher’s Dreamland Dance Hall, Seattle

Herthum preached, and Fisher presented a free vaudeville show.  The paper said Fisher had stirred up a “protest against the effort to close the dance hall without having provided a substitute where clerks, servant girls and employees in the shops may pass an evening to their liking.”  At the same time The Times noted that the prosecutor was becoming impatient with the women who brought the charges because they continually promised to provide evidence that “has not yet come to light.”  The charges were quietly dismissed within weeks.

Fisher left Seattle sometime in 1911 and began operating the Arcadia Dance Hall in San Francisco.

Advertisement for Fisher's Arcadia Dancing Pavilion.

Advertisement for Fisher’s Arcadia Dancing Pavilion.

In January of 1917 Fisher made headlines in California when he announced that he was directing an effort to restart the California State League, which had folded after the 1915 season.  He said he would have clubs in Sacramento, Fresno, Stockton and San Jose.  Within two weeks Fisher abandoned the plan.  The San Jose Mercury News was not surprised:

“Mr. Fisher, the wonderful getter of publicity, has his publicity and is through.  Probably he has done wonders for his dance emporium or whatever it is he runs.”

The following year the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League came on the market; the first name reported as a potential buyer was Mike Fisher.  Fisher again got his headlines, but it was his old friend Charlie Graham who got the team.  Graham, and a group of investors purchased the Seals and the former catcher was installed as manager.

Charlie Graham, left, Mique Fisher, right, with World Middleweight Champion and actor Freddie Steele.

Charlie Graham, left, Mique Fisher, right, with World Middleweight Champion and actor Freddie Steele.

With his friend in charge The Mercury News said Fisher became a fixture “around the San Francisco ballpark ever since Graham bought in on the Seals in 1918,” he would remain a fixture at Recreation Park, and later at Seals Stadium for more than 20 years , and continued to provide copy for West Coast s sports writer

As a result of his friendship with Graham, who recommended he get the honor, 77-year-old Fisher was selected to travel to Cooperstown to represent the PCL at baseball’s centennial celebration in 1939.  The man who so loved seeing his name in the paper  received headlines one more time, when he died in San Francisco on June 6, 1943.

Reports of His Death Were Greatly Exaggerated

18 Sep

Harry “Rube Allemang’s career was on the upswing at the close of the 1902 season; after a disappointing 4-15 record in his first season in pro ball with the Youngstown/Marion franchise in the Interstate League, Allemang had turned it around at Little Rock in the Southern League posting 20-4 and 19-11 season in 1901 and ’02.  (Contemporaneous newspaper accounts say he also played for Fort Wayne in the Interstate League in 1899, but there are not available records)

The Cincinnati Reds had just purchased Allemang’s contract and he was out celebrating with friends on the Evening on November 8.  Walking home at around 3 am, Allemang stumbled upon the lookout for a robbery in progress in the Mason City, West Virginia post office.  The lookout told Allemang to stop; when the pitcher kept walking he was shot, robbed and left for dead.

News of the shooting appeared in papers the following day:

Chicago Tribune: “Ball Player in Murdered”

New York Times: “Harry Allemang, Ballplayer, is Dying”

Fort Wayne Gazette: “Harry Allemang Mortally Wounded”

Arizona Republican: “Shot and Mortally Wounded”

The reports were premature.

Despite being shot just above the heart, with the bullet passing through his right lung, Allemang was out of the hospital in less than a month.  The Associated Press said “His case puzzles leading physicians.”

While still in the hospital he sent a letter to Reds owner August Herrmann to “Let you know I am still alive and expect to report in the spring.”

Allemang, with the bullet still lodged in his upper back, got ready for the 1903 season by doing ten mile runs while being pursued by blood hounds borrowed from the Mason County Sheriff.  But Allemang was never the same pitcher after the shooting.

He struggled that spring with the Reds and was sent to St.Paul in the American Association.   He was 12-11 in St. Paul in ’03 and 10-23 with Indianapolis in the same league in 1904.  After just two games with Sioux City in Western League in 1905, Allemang signed with the Niles Crowites in the Ohio-Pennsylvania League in May, and then jumped to an outlaw league team in Coatsville, Pennsylvania in July.  He came back to Southern League with Nashville in 1906, but lasted just six games, posting a 2-4 record.

Allemang passed away in Linton, Indiana in March of 1938—more than 35 years after the newspapers pronounced him dead.

More “Chief” Johnson

30 Aug

Last week I told you about George “Chief” Johnson’s release from the Chicago White Sox in the spring of 1913, allegedly because of his affiliation with the Winnebago (Ho-Chunk) Native-American Tribe.

Cincinnati Reds owner August Garry Herrmann and manager Joe Tinker were apparently more concerned with a good arm than the so-called “Winnebago ban,” and signed Johnson.

George “Chief” Johnson

Through the first month of the season, Johnson was the only effective Reds pitcher, winning three games (including two shutouts) for a team with a record of 5-16.

The New York Times took notice in an article, the racist tone of which was typical of the era:

“Big Chief Johnson of the Winnebagos [sic] is copper-colored and fat. At bat he displays as much activity as the wooden Redmen who hold forth at the doors of countless cigar stands. But on the mound this latest Indian to edge his way into the select circles of major leaguedom can deal out ciphers with as much success as the more illustrious Johnson of Washington.”

Johnson ended the season 14-16, with a 3.00 ERA for a team that finished 25 games under .500.

In 1914, the Federal League came calling.  Otto Knabe, Manager of the Baltimore Terrapins sent a telegram to Johnson asking for his terms.  According to Knabe, Johnson replied with a telegram sent collect saying “Will sign for $10,000 bonus and reasonable salary.” Knabe telegrammed Johnson collect “Asked for your terms, not Walter Johnson’s”

Otto Knabe

Johnson signed the following month with the Federal League Kansas City Packers for a more modest $3000 advance and $5000 salary; the only problem was that Johnson had already signed a contract with the Reds for 1914.

Johnson’s 1914 season was highlighted by a series of injunctions and court rulings that kept him sidelined for much of the season while organized baseball battled the upstart Federal League.  (The saga of the Federal League has been rehashed in numerous books and blogs, no need to reinvent the wheel here—I recommend this book)

Johnson played for Kansas City in 1914 and 1915 posting records of 9-10 and 17-17.  Throughout his tenure in Kansas City Johnson had numerous run-ins with the law over his drinking and was cited for desertion and non-support of his wife. Additionally, his weight ballooned to well over two hundred pounds.

Johnson’s major league career was over after 1915, but he pitched three more seasons in the Pacific Coast League.  Pitching for the Vernon Tigers near the end of the 1916 season Johnson was so out of shape that it was reported in the Los Angeles Times that the Portland Beavers chased him from a game in the third inning by having several hitters in a row lay down bunts that the overweight pitcher was unable to field.

Johnson reportedly returned in better shape in 1917 and was 25-23 pitching for Vernon and the San Francisco Seals.  Johnson returned  in 1918, posting a 2-6 record, and was joined in San Francisco for a short time by his brother John who appeared in one game for the Seals.

After his release by San Francisco Johnson barnstormed with a variety of teams throughout the Midwest and West and sold “snake-oil” in a traveling tent show.  On June 11, 1922, Johnson was in Des Moines, Iowa with his tent show when he was killed in a dispute over money during either a dice or poker game (news accounts varied).  Johnson’s killer, an African-American gambler named Ed Gillespie, was originally charged with first-degree murder, but the charges were reduced to manslaughter based on eye-witness accounts that claimed Johnson was “drunk and belligerent.”  He was buried at the Winnebago Cemetery in Winnebago, Nebraska.

A postscript.

A few days after Johnson’s death a small item appeared in Iowa newspapers; it was about a druggist in Des Moines who had agreed to put a display in his store window to promote Johnson’s tent show. The story said:

“Anyone anxious to own a nice horned rattlesnake may have one by taking the one left in his show window by the late Mr. Johnson.”