Tag Archives: Ban Johnson

Harley Parker

20 Oct

Harley Park Parker was a renaissance man; a physician, an ambidextrous golfer, a billiard player who trained champions, in addition to being a major league pitcher—he was 5-8 with a 5.90 ERA in parts of four seasons with the Chicago Colts and Cincinnati Reds.

He is also responsible for what might be the worst single game pitching performance in professional baseball history.

The 22-year-old Parker was pitching for the Grand Rapids Rippers (several newspapers in other in the other Western League cities called the team the Rustlers) against the Kansas City Blues (newspapers were split between referring to the club as the Blues or the Cowboys) on July 25, 1894.

Harley Parker circa 1895

Harley Parker circa 1895

The Kansas City Gazette said:

“The ball bats of the Kansas City Blues in the game against Grand Rapids collided with Pitcher Parker’s curves thirty-nine times yesterday, and yielded as many runs.”

The Blues actually had thirty-eight hits, to go along with 13 Grand Rapids errors.

The Kansas City Star said:

“(The Blues) hit him at will yesterday, for singles, doubles, triples and home runs.  It was a slugging match, the like of which had never before been seen in a professional game at Exposition Park, and while the Rustlers did some very sloppy fielding, there was world of free, sharp and hard hitting.”

Every member of the Kansas City line up had at least two hits, and three players, Sam Nicholl, Ollie Beard, and pitcher Pete Daniels, collected six each.

The final score was 39 to 10.

The Box Score Grand Rapids vs Kansas City

The Box Score Grand Rapids vs Kansas City

The game was indicative of Parker’s season; he finished with a 15-18 record with a 6.23 ERA—in addition to the 193 earned runs he gave up in 278.2 innings, his team gave him horrible support, and he allowed 194 unearned runs.

Parker had a similarly disastrous day as a major leaguer seven years later.  While pitching for the Reds against the Brooklyn Superbas on June 21, 1901 Parker allowed 21 runs on 26 hits in a complete game loss—“Wee Willie” Keeler was 5 for 5 with a rare home run (he hit just 33 during his 19-year career).

The Box Score Cincinnati vs Brooklyn

The Box Score Cincinnati vs Brooklyn

During his five minor league seasons Parker was only above.500 once; 5-4 in 1898 with the Minneapolis Millers; he was 5-8 as a major leaguer.

Parker briefly owned a Central League franchise in 1911, the club moved from Grand Rapids, Michigan to South Bend, Indiana, but even with the move he was forced to sell the team at mid-season because of financial difficulties.

That same year he also had a short stint as an umpire that ended with a trip to the United States Capitol.

In August, after one of Umpire Jack Sheridan’s frequent resignations—he returned to his position days later—American League President Ban Johnson hired Parker to the league staff.

Less than a month into his tenure Parker was on the field for one of William Herman “Germany” Schaefer’s stunts.  On August 4, Schaefer’s Washington Senators were playing the Chicago White Sox.  With the score tied in the ninth inning Schaefer stole second, hoping to draw a throw to allow Clyde Milan to score from third base; Sox catcher Fred Payne did not throw to second.  Schaefer then led off second base on the first-base side and returned to first on the next pitch.

The Washington Herald said:

“Umpire Harley Parker, who was officiating on the bases, was near first at the time.  When he saw Schaefer coming back to first Parker accosted the comedian ball player with the query: ‘What are you doing here?’

“’I have stolen second.  Now I am stealing first,’ said the Nationals’ troublemaker.

“’Well, if you stay down here I’ll call you out,’ said Parker.

“(White Sox) Manager (Hugh) Duffy in the meantime had ordered Doc White to throw the ball to John “Shano” Collins at first.  Germany thought discretion the better part of valor, and made a dive back toward second.  In the meantime Milan was tearing down toward home.  Collins wheeled and threw home, Milan being tagged out at the plate.”

Germany Schaefer

Germany Schaefer

Duffy was standing in the middle of the diamond arguing with Parker and home plate umpire Tommy Connolly as Milan was thrown out at home—Washington protested that “the play shouldn’t go because Chicago had ten men on the field.  Manager Duffy having stayed out to the middle of the diamond.”

Connolly and Parker finally ruled that Milan was out.  Washington went on to win the game 1 to 0 in 11 innings.

Harley Parker, 1910

Harley Parker, 1910

The following month Parker was again in Washington working a series between the Senators and the White Sox when, while sitting in the lobby of Washington’s Driscoll Hotel, according to The Washington Star he was approached by an “officer from the United States Senate,” who told Parker “I have a warrant for you.”

Parker was taken to the United States Capitol.

“The officer of Uncle Sam marched the arbitrator up to the desk of Vice President (James Schoolcraft) Sherman in the senate, the most august assemblage in the United States.

“’I guess I’ve got your man at last,’ said the officer as he introduced Parker to the vice president.

“’I sent for you to inquire about that play when Germany Schaefer went back to first after stealing second,’” said Sherman and Parker drew a sigh of relief.

“It was just like eating pie for Parker to explain the play and he did so to the satisfaction of all concerned.  Sherman admitted the play bothered him more than any problem that had come up in the extra session of congress and that was going some.”

Parker did not work as an umpire again after the 1911.  He returned to Chicago to practice medicine and teach billiard; contemporary newspaper accounts said he trained two champions—Calvin Demarest and Welker Cochran.

He died in Chicago in 1941.

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.

An Umpire’s Revenge

5 Sep

In July of 1910 the Cotton States League released an umpire named Hunt (his first name has been lost to history).

A week after he was let go the first place Greenwood Chauffeurs were in Jackson, Mississippi to play the second place Tigers.  The Jackson Clarion-Ledger told the story:

“Ex-Umpire Hunt was in Jackson last night.

“If you don’t believe that statement ask some of the members of the Greenwood baseball team.

“They can testify to it.

“They can also show bodily evidence in support of the fact.

“He also had on his fighting clothes, and this is another fact they will swear to

“There are others who are willing to testify that he would have made a better show against Jack Johnson than did (Jim) Jeffries, among them Deputy Sheriff Sanders.

“Hunt was a short while back in the employ of the Cotton States League officiating in the capacity of umpire, but his performance last night demonstrated that he is better fitted for the prize ring.

“He was also fired, or at least relieved of his official duties on account of a howl made by certain players, the merits of which The Clarion-Ledger knows nothing.

“As before stated Hunt was in town and while standing at the corner of Mill and Capitol Streets, met Orth Collins of the Greenwood team, who accused him of umpiring games and betting on them at the same time.  This offended Hunt’s dignity, and on Collins reiterating the accusation, he was promptly knocked down…Hunt walked away, going to his supper in a nearby café.  Having satisfied his appetite, he proceeded to the Lemon Hotel, headquarters for all the baseballists, and where the Greenwood team had congregated preparatory to taking their game.  Entering Hunt espied his old friend Jack Law, catcher for the Greenwooders, and saluting him, asked that he use his good offices in patching up the differences between him and the mighty Orth.  But Jack, who reports say, was feeling his rye, was somewhat in belligerent humor himself, and he promptly pasted Hunt one in the face and received a knockdown in return.  Hunt then squared himself for action, but in doing so stumbled over a chair and fell to the floor and was immediately covered by second baseman (Ray) Rolling, who had gone to the assistance of Law.  In the meantime Law had recovered himself and kicked his ex-umpship in the eye, and to use Hunt’s expression ‘that kinder made him mad,’ and those who witnessed his subsequent performance, were perfectly willing to believe it.

Orth Collins--one of Hunt's victims

Orth Collins–Hunt’s first victim

“Shaking himself loose from Rolling, Hunt ‘riz’ to his feet and then the fireworks went off and the pyrotechnics shot out in every direction.  Four of the other players of the Greenwood bunch decided to take a hand against the athletic umpire, but very soon regretted their rashness in ‘rushing in where angels dare not tread,’ and were kept busy for a few minutes picking themselves up from the floor.

“Hunt backed himself up against the counter and his arms began working like piston-rods with battering ram attachments, and every time he stretched them out somebody went down.  (Clyde) Frakes, who officiates as catcher when Jack Law is occupying the bench, got into the scrap rather late, but he lost no time in getting out of it.  In fact, it is said that one lick delivered at the psychological moment started his feet to moving with such rapidity that he was unable to get any control over them until he found himself seated on in the A & V train (Alabama & Vicksburg Railroad) ready to pull out for Vicksburg.  Other players who showed an inclination to help their brothers in distress, hesitated and finally decided that discretion was the better part of valor and contented themselves with being ‘lookers on.’

“After the fight had gone some three or four round Hunt recognized that some of the men persisted in getting up after being knocked down by him, and not caring to continue the performance indefinitely, he gathered  two spittoons, one in each hand, and let one of them fly at a belligerent who was making for the stairway, and it is said that it hastened his speed to such an extent that his moving form became like Mark Twain’s coyote, ‘only a yaller streak,’ and that only lasted for a fraction of a second before he entirely disappeared from view.  The other cuspidor went in another direction, as also did most of the spectators.  Hunt was getting wild in his aim and not being able to distinguish friend from foe, and knocking down everybody and everything that came in reaching distance, the last being Jack Law, who had got back into the scrap, only to receive another swat, the like of which, spectators declared, was never before delivered to mortal man.

“Having put all his opponents hor de combat.  Hunt found himself in the arms of Deputy Sheriff Sanders, but not knowing him to be such, he was preparing himself for a last mighty effort when the deputy sheriff hastily volunteered the information that he was a peace officer intent on doing his duty, and the roaring lion subsided like an innocent lamb, and meekly announced that he didn’t ‘want to hurt any man attending to his own business.’”

Hunt and six of the Greenwood players were arrested.  Four of the players were immediately released, but Law and Rolling, along with Hunt were held over for trial the following day.  All three were fined and released.

The Clarion-Ledger said although Hunt was “out of a a job at present…his friends will insist that he go into immediate training and challenge the holders of all the championship titles in the universe.”

Greenwood held on to beat Jackson by a half game for the pennant.

It’s unclear whether Hunt ever worked again as an umpire, but The Washington Times suggested that if Ban Johnson “wants a fighting umpire, one who can take the players and administer punishment on the ball field without fear of his blouse being torn to shreds or dirtied, here is the boy.”

“It is Feared that the Cares of his Office are making an old man out of Tim”

18 Aug

Timothy Carroll “Tim” Hurst had an eventful season in 1906.

He had been an umpire since 1891—with the exception of one awful season managing the St. Louis Browns to a 39-111 last place finish in 1898.  In 1904 Hurst retired from the National League, but months later joined the umpire staff of the Central League, and took a job in the American League in 1905.

Tim Hurst

Tim Hurst

The Kansas City Journal described the 5’ 5” umpire who was also a boxing referee::

“Hurst is a pudgy little fellow, below medium height, with sandy hair, twinkling blue eyes and a ruddy complexion.”

He was often called “pugnacious” for his on field, and off, altercations, and once told a reporter for The New York Herald how he dealt with argumentative catchers:

“Never put a catcher out of the game.  If the man back of the bat is sassy and objects to your calling of balls and strikes, keep close behind him while doing your work and kick him every time he reaches out a catch a ball.  After about the third kick he’ll shut up.”

The incident that earned him the most attention in 1906 happened during a May 7 game in New York between the Highlanders and the Washington Nationals.   The New York Times said during the fifth inning:

(Frank) LaPorte was declared out at first base on a close decision.  Manager (Clark) Griffith rushed over to the base line, and, throwing his cap in the air, protested against the decision.  He wildly gesticulated, and Hurst ordered him away.  Griffith, instead of following Hurst’s instructions, stepped up to the latter, protesting all the time.  In his excitement he stepped upon Hurst’s foot.”

Hurst “drew back” to punch Griffith but was held back by players from both teams.

“Hurst then took hold of the lapel of Griffith’s coat and started to lead the player-manager to the bench.  The latter angrily resented this action and pushed Hurst’s hand away.  Lave Cross and the Washingtons tried to pacify Griffith, and succeeded in getting him to the players’ bench.”

Hurst followed Griffith to the New York bench and again attempted to punch the manager, while Griffith “rushed at the umpire.”

Clark Griffith

Clark Griffith

According to The Associated Press Griffith claimed “’Hurst didn’t hit me.’ Then pointing to his swollen mouth he added, ‘I had this swollen lip before the game.’”

Hurst and Griffith were both suspended for five games.

The following year Henry Pierrepoint Edwards of The Cleveland Plain Dealer said Hurst had given him an explanation to “clear up the mystery” of why he reacted so violently:

“Now, it isn’t customary for Tim to wear baseball shoes on the diamond.  Usually Tim appears for the fray clad in the same suit he would wear at a pink tea.  His real uniform is just a cap.

“On the afternoon in question Tim purchased a new pair of patent leather shoes.  The shoes glistened in the sun like a diamond and gave Tim great pleasure.  Griffith forgot all about the shoes and in his rage over losing a close decision spiked and spoiled the new kicks.  Great was Tim’s rage.  Even greater was the clash.  That’s all.”

Two months after the incident with Griffith, Hurst made what might have been the worst call of his career.

On July 7 in Washington, he was working the game between the Nationals and the Detroit Tigers.  The score was tied 3 to 3 in the seventh inning, the Tigers had the bases loaded with two out and Sam “Wahoo” Crawford at the plate, facing Nationals pitcher Frank KitsonThe Washington Post said:

“’Wahoo’ lifted one a thousand miles directly over the pan.  Kitson came tearing in,  (Catcher Howard) Wakefield hesitated.  Manager (Jake) Stahl stood still at first base.  The pellet whirled in the air and finally dropped just inside the line and bounded back to the stands.  (Charley) O’Leary and (John) Eubank romped home.  Crawford went to second, carrying the funniest two-base hit on record.  Kitson and Wakefield stood admiring each other until Hurst again yelled ‘Fair ball!’ when the boy catcher went after the bulb.”

Sam Crawford

Sam Crawford

While the Nationals argued the call, and Hurst refused to reverse his decision, The Post said “The spectators were forced to listen to the dillydallying for fully fifteen minutes, then many of them got up and left the belligerents wrangling over the decision.”

Kitson threw a wild pitch to the next batter, Matty McIntyre scoring Herman “Germany” Schaefer and Crawford.  The Tigers went on to win 9 to 3.  Jake Stahl filed a protest with American league President Ban Johnson.

The Washington Evening Star said:

“The only excuse that Umpire Hurst can have is that the play was an unusual one.  Lave Cross admitting that he never saw its like in his experience on the diamond.  Hurst was palpably rattled, and the Tigers when taking their places on the field chaffed the locals with the remark that ‘Tim certainly handed us one that time.’”

The Washington Times said it was “one of the most remarkable plays ever seen on a diamond,“ and printed for their readers rule number’s 44 and 45 from the 1906 “Reach Guide” Reach describing “A Fair Hit,” and “A Foul Hit.”

The Washington Times used "The Reach Guide" to illustrate how Hurst blew the call.

The Washington Times used “The Reach Guide” to illustrate how Hurst blew the call.

The Times said:

“(T)here seemed no possible way of calling it fair, but Hurst was obdurate, and the only explanation he would give was that the ball ‘was hit too high.”  What the heighth of the hit had to do with the fact that it eventually bounded foul is still another mystery.”

Hurst’s story evolved over the next several days.  The Post said his original explanation regarding the ball’s height was “to the effect that the ball was it so high it ‘settled’ inside, constituting the hit a fair one. “  This was quickly replaced by Hurst’s claim that the ball had touched Wakefield, the Washington catcher, before bounding into foul territory.

The Times’ baseball reporter Thomas Stevens Rice said of Hurst’s new story:

“This explanation is all right if it presents the facts in the case.  In the press box there was not a single man who thought the ball was touched by Wakefield or anybody else.”

The Post conceded that the protest would be rejected, saying “It is almost certain that Ban Johnson will sustain his scrappy umpire, no matter what interpretation he puts on the rules,” but the paper did not let up on Hurst.

The following week when Sam Crawford brought his average up to .300, The Post said:

“Hurst last week decided that Crawford’s high rap which hit inside the base line and bounded back to the stands was fair…am would have faced the pitcher 271 times and got away with 81 hits which would have made his average .299, as it was Sam got and extra hit which brought the total to .303.  He owes Tim a hat.”

Hurst was still young, just forty-one in 1906, but The Sporting Life said something had changed during that year, and by the end of the season that the umpire lacked the “Aggressiveness and enthusiasm” he had previously exhibited:

“It is feared that the cares of his office are making an old man out of Tim, who once was noted for having the finest brand of keen-cutting, kill-at-a-thousand-yards sarcasm of any umpire in captivity.  Sit Timothy is very tame, and the players, even the bush leaguers who have just broken in, can tell him what they think of him and his calling.”

Hurst’s old “aggressiveness” came out in 1909.  He was suspended in May for a fight with Norman “Kid” Elberfeld of the Highlanders, then on August 3 during a game between the Athletics and White Sox.  The Brooklyn Eagle said:

“At Philadelphia Tim Hurst came in for considerable trouble.  Hurst called Eddie Collins out at second and the Columbia youngster put up a kick.

“Whether it was with malice aforethought or quite an accident, it is a fact that the umpire distributed a mouthful of moistened union-made tobacco in the direction of the youthful Eddie, who immediately called Tim’s attention to the board of health ordinance which prohibited expectorating in public places.”

After the game Hurst had to be escorted from the field by Philadelphia police.  Ban Johnson suspended Hurst, beginning two weeks of rumor and speculation about the umpire’s fate.  Finally, on August 18 it was announced that Hurst had been let go by the American League.

Hurst, in poor health since 1912, died in 1915.  Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Examiner said of his passing at age 49:

“The saddest part of it is that ‘Timothy’ did not die in the blue uniform, and that during the last few years of his life he was practically blacklisted in baseball for refusing to answer or deny charges made against him for his actions during a clash with Eddie Collins…President Johnson declared that if Hurst even had replied to his telegrams of inquiry he would have kept him—but Tim, knowing he had done wrong, refused, and went out of the game.”

“There are many Degrees of ‘Fan'”

1 Aug

It seemed that James Aristotle “Jim” Hart, president of the Chicago Orphans had a full plate in 1901.  His team got off to a 1-6 start and never recovered, finishing a disappointing 58-81, while the cross-town White Sox took over first place on July 10 and never looked back, winning the American League’s inaugural pennant.

Jim Hart

Jim Hart

Additionally, Hart was meeting frequently with American League President Bancroft “Ban” Johnson in an attempt to avert all-out war between the two leagues.  Rumors about the trouble ahead were so numerous that The Chicago Inter Ocean said one day during August:

“Ban Johnson went fishing yesterday, and Jim Hart busied himself making out checks for his players.  As a plain matter of fact, there wasn’t enough baseball excitement in town to scare a rabbit, but the fakebirds sang just the same.  By night, the National League had flopped over to the American and the American had joined the National; all the players on each side had been stolen, and there were forty-six more baseball wars in view.”

Despite his fading team, the looming battle, and the fact that the White Sox would out draw his club by nearly 150,000 over the course of the season, he still found time to make it clear what constituted “a genuine fan.”  Hart wrote an article for The Chicago Record-Herald:

“The genuine fan is a proper adjunct of the game of baseball and should be encouraged, for from him must come the enthusiasm which provides capital necessary  to operate the game, the encouragement which causes youths to become proficient players and the constant dropping of con for admission tickets to witness games which permits the sport to continue.

“There are many degrees of ‘fans,’ some agreeable and some disagreeable to an extent which is intolerable.  The ‘fan’ proper is perfectly harmless; he annoys nobody and loves the game for the amusement and benefit he derives from it.  He keeps the records of players of his favorite team and players of other teams.  He feels as if he had encountered personal loss when his team losses and is correspondingly jubilant when the team wins.  He does not roar or rant at the players, but feels grieved that any player on his pet team should ever make an error.

“The next degree of ‘fan’ is the one who becomes wildly demonstrative; he can ‘see things’ only one way, and that is the way he wants them to be; the umpire’s decisions are invariably wrong when they do not happen to be the way he wants them; the errors made by the players of his favorite team are made purposely and could just as well been avoided.  Consequently he at once joins the chorus of ‘take him out’ etc…

“The disagreeable ‘fan’ is strictly speaking not a ‘fan’ at all, but is a person who wishes notoriety and the ‘laugh’ which his sallies cause, for be it known that almost any remark made by a person among the spectators  causes more or less of a laugh.  This class of ‘fan’ does not always employ profane of vulgar language, but his remarks are usually coarse and are personal, directed usually to some spectator, or to a player or to the umpire, and, as stated above while the language is not always of a character that is vile, it encourages the next lower degree of ‘fan’ to use expressions which cannot be tolerated on any properly conducted baseball park.

“An honest management is under great strain during a game of baseball whenever the attendance runs up into the thousands, for it feels that every person there, especially the women, are under the protection of the management, and, when one reflects upon the enormous force for good or evil that is contained in an enclosure of less than a half dozen acres when from 15,000 to 20,000 persons are congregated to witness what may prove a wildly exciting contest upon which the championship of the world may depend, he will not by any act or word jeopardize the welfare and happiness of the people assembled.

“The mobs that attack umpires are not ‘fans.’  They are cowards and rowdies and the person who from the crowd insults a player is bound by the rules of his league and club to resent no insult of any description while in uniform;  consequently to hurl an insulting remark at a player or umpire while he is on the playing field is at par with striking a man who is bound hand and foot and tied to a post.”

Hart’s Orphans improved to 68-69 and finished fifth in 1902, but were again outplayed (74-60, fourth place) and out drawn by the Sox–Hart made no comment about the relative quality of either team’s fans.

Fans at White Sox game circa 1910

Fans at White Sox game circa 1910

Opening Day—1901

26 Mar

The Chicago White Sox opened the American League’s inaugural season as a major league on April 24, 1901, against the Cleveland Blues.  The three additional league games scheduled for the 24th were postponed on account of rain.

The Sox won the then-minor league American League championship the season before.

1900alchamps

 

Comiskey relinquished managerial duties in 1901 to Clark Griffith, the pitcher jumped from the cross-town National League Orphans for a reported $4,000; a $1,500 salary increase.

Clark Griffith

Clark Griffith

The opener at Thirty-Ninth and Wentworth included a parade, several bands, and speeches from many dignitaries—The Chicago Tribune said every member of Chicago’s City Council was on hand, but Mayor Carter Harrison, who had promised Comiskey he would appear to speak and throw out the first ball, “was kidnapped by William J. Bryan, who slipped into town unperceived. ‘Commy’s’ plans for having the Chief Executive start the opening game were shattered.”

The Tribune said American League President Ban Johnson also missed the game; he had traveled from league headquarters to attend the opener in Philadelphia “and it’s a 1,000 to 1 shot he was sorry when he found Comiskey was the only magnate who had squared himself with the weather man.”

Other than the absence of the mayor and the league president, the paper said the first game of the upstart league was a success:

 “Under the fairest skies the weather clerk could select from his varied stock of April goods; with a championship pennant floating high above them from the proudest pine of all Michigan forests; with 9,000 fans to cheer them from a pent-up enthusiasm that burst forth at every possible opportunity, the White Stockings open the American League baseball season on the South Side Grounds yesterday with a clean-cut victory over the aggregation from Cleveland.”

The Chicago Inter Ocean, which reported the attendance at 10,073 said:

“As a grand opening it was an unqualified success, something which Charles Comiskey can look back upon in after years with all the serene satisfaction of a baby who has just swallowed a tin Indian.  As a ball game it was a hideous nightmare, a cold and icy vision of the darksome night, a living horror, let loose to stalk adown a diamond field, hooting hoarsely…With pomp and ceremonial, with braying of bands and braying of fans, with an enormous audience gathered in the frapped stands, the American League season of 1901 was duly opened in Chicago, and the real champions, Comiskey’s White Stockings, began their campaign by giving the Clevelands all that was coming to them.  The afternoon was cold; the stands were Greenland, and the bleachers bore nets of icicles.  Yet 10,000 cranks and crankesses, keen devotees of the game.”

The Chicago Daily News said more than 14,000 fans were at the game:

“Promptly at 3:30 the two clubs lined up at the plate and, preceded by a “Rough Rider” band, marched to the flagpole at the south end of the field, where the championship banner was unfurled to the strains of ‘The Star Spangled Banner.’”

Cartoon of "pennant" being hoisted from The Chicago Tribune.

Cartoon of “pennant” being hoisted from The Chicago Tribune.

The Associated Press said the attendance was 8,000.

The Tribune said the crowd was enthusiastic despite the weather:

“There were cheers for everybody, from (William Ellsworth “Dummy’) Hoy, who couldn’t hear them, to (starting pitcher Roy) Patterson, the hero of many a hard-earned victory last year…there were flowers for (Dave) Brain, the youngest of the White Soxs [sic]…And at the end there was so much surplus exuberance that the bleacherites indulged in a merry cushion fight all through the concluding inning by way of celebration.”

Chicago scored two in the first and five in the second off Cleveland starter Bill Hoffer and cruised to an 8 to 2 victory behind Patterson.

The Inter Ocean said the most “ludicrous” play of the otherwise “uneventful” game took place in the sixth inning when Hoy attempted to steal third:

“(Catcher Bob) Wood threw wild, and (Bill) Bradley scooped up the ball way off from the cushion.  As Bradley, with no thought of the runner, turned to return the ball to the pitcher, Hoy, losing his balance as he ran, slid clear over third , out into the field and right into Bradley, his knee striking the ball clasped in Bradley’s hand.  It was possibly the first case on record of a man’s forcing a put-out on himself, and the crowd marveled greatly, perceiving that the science of the game had much advanced, and that there were new freckles every day.”

While the Chicago Orphans were losing their opening game in Cincinnati, The Tribune said the team’s president, James A. Hart, “was present and witnessed the game from a box at the south end of the grandstand.  He chatted with President Comiskey for some time and seemed to like the work of the players, but he did not voice his sentiments.”

Behind Griffith and his 24-7 record, the Sox won the league’s first pennant with an 83-53 record. Opening Day pitcher Roy Patterson was 20-15.  Cleveland finished seventh with a 54-82 record; Hoffer was 3-8 in 16 games when he was released in July, ending his major league career.

1901 Chicago White Sox

1901 Chicago White Sox

Comiskey and Hart were both members of their respective league’s “peace committee” at the January 1903 meeting in Cincinnati that led to the forging of the first National Agreement.

 

“This whole Trouble, Disgraceful to be sure, may be Blamed directly on Jack Sheridan”

14 Mar

On April 7, 1901, The San Francisco Call reported that John F. “Jack” Sheridan had accepted an offer from President Ban Johnson to continue working as an umpire in the American League—which operated as a minor league the previous season.  The paper said “The National League also made a bid for his services.  He will receive $400 a month and expenses.”  It was said to be “the largest salary ever paid to an umpire.”

Sheridan was a former player, a second baseman and outfielder, who played for several San Francisco teams in the California League, including stints with the Haverlys from 1883-85.  He went East in 1885 and appeared in six games for the Chattanooga Lookouts in the Southern league, and that same season began working as an umpire.

sheridanpix

Jack Sheridan

Years later, Mique Fisher, long-time California and Pacific Coast League manager and executive told The (Spokane) Spokesman-Review that Sheridan was signed by the Lookouts after he “sold himself to Chattanooga through a glowing personal description of his own ability,” but Fisher said:

 “Sheridan couldn’t field a ball with a fish net or hit one with a tennis racket.  When the Chattanooga manager saw Sheridan in action, he swore out a warrant charging him with obtaining money fraudulently.  Sheridan had to work out the expense advance in a cigarette factory.”

He worked as an umpire in the Southern League (1885, ‘93), the California League (1886-89, ’91), the Players League (1890), the National League (1892, ’96-97), and the Western/American League (1894-95, 1898-1900).

The best-paid umpire in the game, who was also a San Jose undertaker during the off-season, traveled from his California home to Chicago in early April of 1901, but a detour in Missouri nearly cost him his job.

The Chicago Tribune said Sheridan left the train “and was taken into custody on account of his strange actions.”  The Fort Wayne Sentinel said among the “strange actions” Sheridan “donned his uniform and started to umpire an imaginary game in the middle of the street.”

Johnson sent fellow American League Umpire “Pongo” Joe Cantillon to Missouri to get Sheridan released and accompany him to Chicago.  Sheridan was admitted to St. Elizabeth Hospital.  The Tribune said he was suffering from “nervous prostration,’ while The Cincinnati Enquirer said the league president said Sheridan was “on a protracted drunk.”

The day after he was admitted to the hospital two friends were given permission to take Sheridan out for a walk, The Chicago Inter Ocean said:

“As they reached Milwaukee Avenue and Division Street, a (street) car whirled by, and Sheridan swung himself on the rear coach.  His friends yelled in vain to the conductor to stop the train, and lost sight of Sheridan.

“They at once notified the police department to look out for Sheridan…Detective Fitzgerald found Sheridan wandering aimlessly on Jackson Boulevard near Wabash…Sheridan did not know where he was, nor could he tell where he had been since escaping from his friends.”

As Sheridan waited to appear in court to determine whether he was insane, newspapers speculated that Johnson would replace the umpire with either former player Warren “Hick” Carpenter or former Western and National League umpire Al Manassau—Manassau was appointed to the American League staff two days before the season began.

Before he could be adjudicated insane Sheridan made a miraculous recovery just one week into the season.  The San Jose Evening News said:

“Mrs. Sheridan, the mother of Jack Sheridan, the noted baseball umpire, has received a telegram from her son, who is in Chicago, stating that he has fully recovered from his derangement and that he could now continue with his contract.”

Sheridan was back on the field before the month of April of over.  He was competent, served as the American League umpires “chief of staff,”  and umpired in four World Series (1905, 07, 08 and 10); he was also selected, along with National League umpire Bill Klem, to join the Chicago White Sox and New York Giants on their world tour after the 1913 season.

But he also demonstrated erratic behavior for the rest of his career.

Just a month after returning to the field The Sporting Life said “Sheridan became frantic and ran up and down the field like a crazy man,” after a disputed call at home plate in the bottom of the ninth of a May 31 game in Detroit between the Tigers and Baltimore Orioles, which led to Sheridan awarding the game to the Tigers by forfeit.

The Sporting Life’s Baltimore correspondent said Sheridan was “held by President Johnson as a competent man,” despite his “habits.”

He resigned on at least three occasions.  After the 1905 and 07 seasons he said he was retiring to return to San Jose and become a full-time undertaker, only to return the following spring and in June of 1910, he abruptly quit minutes before a game in Washington, but returned within several weeks.

When Sheridan again took the field The Washington Post said he would “establish a precedent, as he will be the only major league umpire wearing glasses.”

Sheridan was also arrested in October of 1907 after a barroom brawl that began over a dispute over $120.  The Associated Press said when police searched Sheridan he was carrying $2700.  He was released from jail the following day after being fined $10.

On July 30, 1914, Sheridan called Ray Morgan of the Washington Senators out on a close play at first base in Detroit.  The Washington Post said Morgan, who had slid, “came up with a handful of dirt and threw it on the ground at Sheridan’s feet…Sheridan evidently thought that Morgan intended to hit him, and did not even give the National’s second sacker time to put up his guard, but whaled away at his smaller opponent.”

Ray Morgan

Ray Morgan

Morgan punched Sheridan, and after both dugouts emptied, Sheridan was also punched by Washington’s Eddie Ainsmith.  The disturbance spilled over to the stands with a few Washington players, including Morgan and Ainsmith, taking on Detroit fans before police restored order.

The Post said:

“This whole trouble, disgraceful to be sure, may be blamed directly on Jack Sheridan, the umpire, who has been at fault so many times this year.  In the first place Sheridan has threatened to beat up several of the Washington players.  Sheridan told (David “Mutt”) Williams and (Joe) Engel that he would punch them in the nose, the same as he had Morgan, if they did not do as he told them.”

Ban Johnson never took action against Sheridan for the incident in Detroit, but Morgan and Ainsmith drew suspensions from the league.

On August 1, 1914, The Associated Press reported that “The baseball players fraternity intends to take steps to have Umpire Jack Sheridan retired from service on grounds of incompetence.”

The incident, and dust up on August 12 with Jack Fournier of the White Sox inspired a poem from The Chicago Tribune’s Ring Lardner:

Making Night Hideous

Oft in the stilly night,

Ere slumber’s chain has bound me

Fond memory brings the sight

Of athletes crowding round me;

The scowls, the sneers

Of Jack Fourniers

And Morgans strike my vision;

I hear the barks

And rude remarks

That greet each close decision.

Thus in the stilly night,

Ere slumber’s chain has bound me,

I sometimes get tight up and fight

The chairs and tables round me.

At the end of the 1914 season, Sheridan returned to California.  On October 31 The Associated Press reported that Sheridan would not be returning as an umpire:

“Sheridan will probably be retained as a sort of supervisor of umpires, spending his time roaming around the circuit.”

Just three days later Sheridan died of heart failure in San Jose at age 62—he was said to have suffered sunstroke during an August game and never fully recovered.  Ban Johnson supported him to the end; just weeks before the umpire died the American League president told a reporter:

“I sincerely doubt if the baseball game will ever know another Jack Sheridan.  He had all of the virtues of other arbiters, and none of their mistakes.”

Irwin Howe

3 Feb

irwinhowebb

 

Irwin M. Howe founded Howe News Service in Chicago in 1910, published an annual record book and served as the primary statistician for several minor leagues, including the Western and the Three-I leagues.

After the 1911 season American League Secretary Robert McRoy, who was responsible for compiling statistics, left the league office to become an executive with the Boston Red Sox.  President Ban Johnson named Howe the league’s statistician; he served in that capacity until his death in 1934.

Irwin Howe

Irwin Howe

Howe leveraged his position with the American League.  He became the official statistician of several more leagues, including the American Association and the Federal League, wrote a nationally syndicated column called “Pennant Winning Plays,” became editor of the annual “Wilson Baseball Record and Rule Book,” and published an instructional pamphlet for kids.

The ad from 1914 pictured above is for Howe’s 48-page “Pitching Course,” which he called “A correspondence school for baseball.” The pamphlets sold for one dollar, but were also offered by many small newspapers across the country for free to children who signed up subscribers (the pictured ad is from The Commoner, the Lincoln, Nebraska newspaper published by William Jennings Bryan).

Boys Learn Scientific Baseball Free

Ed Walsh of the Chicago White Sox will teach you the detail of his Spit Ball

Joe Wood of the Boston World Champions (1912) will teach you his great secret of breaking over his world famous Smoke Ball

Walter Johnson of the Washingtonians will teach you how to acquire and maintain speed

“Nap” Rucker of the Brooklyns will teach you the mastery of his famous knuckler

Christy Mathewson of the N.Y. Giants will explain fully his Fadeawy Ball

These lessons are so plain, practical and so profusely illustrated, that by following the instructions given, you can not only develop pitching ability…You will also learn to Increase Your Batting Average and more effectively Hit Any Pitcher.  Every lesson edited by Irwin M. Howe, the official statistician of the American League, the new Federal League and there organizations and an Eminent Authority on Baseball.

The pamphlet also included a lesson from Guy Harris “Doc” White of the Chicago White Sox “which deals in part with proper methods of training and living.”

Howe claimed his one dollar pamphlet was “Well worth $100 to any man or boy whether or not he ever expects to become a big ball player.”

Howe's pamphlet

Howe’s pamphlet

Perhaps Howe’s most famous contribution to baseball was certifying Ty Cobb as a .400 hitter in 1922.

On a rainy day in New York (years later in his book “Baseball as I Have Known It,” Fred Lieb said the game took place in August—contemporary newspaper accounts say it was May 15), Cobb beat out a ground ball hit to Yankee shortstop Everett Scott.  John Kieran of The New York Tribune (he was later a columnist with The New York Times) was the official scorer.  He charged Scott with an error.

Fred Lieb of The New York Telegram, who was compiling The Associated Press (AP) box score for the game, credited Cobb with a hit.  Lieb said “Considering the soggy field and Cobb’s speed, I gave it a hit.”

Fred Lieb

Fred Lieb

Howe’s habit was to rely upon The AP box score that appeared in the Chicago newspapers while awaiting the arrival of the “official” box score by mail.

When compiling the final averages at the end of the season Howe chose to accept Lieb’s scoring of the game rather than Kieran’s, and released a statement with the season’s final statistics:

 “I noted that the averages reached from my official scoring sheets had Cobb hitting .3995 (actually .3992).  With the unofficial averages giving him .401, I felt how can we deprive this great player of a third .400 average over a fractional point.”

Ban Johnson approved Howe’s decision.  Lieb, as president of the Baseball Writers Association of America’s (BBWAA) New York chapter was put in the uncomfortable position of attempting to repudiate his own scoring judgment.  He argued that the Kieran’s “official” score should be accepted, and said in a statement:

“Obviously, when there was a difference of opinion between the two scorers, the official and not the unofficial decision, should have been accepted.  There would be no further need for members of the Baseball Writers Association serving as official scorers if they were regulated to a secondary position.”

In a letter to Lieb, Ban Johnson said the “official” box score “was plainly in error in one other particular” besides the Cobb “hit” and “I requested a report of the official score of the game of May 15.  Mr. Howe had previously made a careful investigation of all facts surrounding the scoring.”  Johnson also chided Lieb asking “Are we to believe that you reversed your judgment at this late date?”

The 1923 “Wilson Record and Rule Book”–edited by Howe–contained an asterisk next to Cobb’s .401 average and noted that it was “not recognized” by the BBWAA—Howe was secretary of the association’s Chicago chapter.

The asterisk eventually disappeared, and Ty Cobb, thanks to Howe’s decision,  remains a .400 hitter for the 1922 season.

“Evans, who, at the Least, is Incompetent”

2 Dec

William George “Billy” Evans was nicknamed “The Boy Umpire” when he was hired by the American League at the age of 22.  After 21 seasons  he became a front office executive, working for the Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers; he was also president of the Southern Association, authored two baseball books and in 1973, 17 years after his death, was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Billy Evans

Billy Evans

But during his first season as an umpire, 1906, he was not held in high esteem in Chicago.

On September 10 the White Sox were in second place, a game behind the New York Highlanders.  The Sox trailed the Tigers 2 to 1 in the 9th inning.  Chicago shortstop George Davis laid down a bunt and was called out at first by Evans.  Every Chicago paper said Evans beat the throw by “at least a step.”

The call precipitated a near riot.  The Chicago Tribune said:

“Instantly a shower of bottles from the first base bleachers drove the umpire, coacher, and players away from the vicinity of the base.”

After the next two batters were retired:

“Evans walked off the field amid another volley of bottle from the third base stand.”

The Tribune and The Chicago Inter Ocean said Evans and fellow umpire Tommy Connolly were mobbed by fans as they attempted to leave the ballpark with a police escort.  Both papers said “one or two blows” from fans connected with the umpire during his retreat.

The Inter Ocean said, “Evans has been the most heartily reviled arbiter that ever worked in any league.”

The Tribune said two weeks earlier Evans cost the Sox a game in Philadelphia.  After Chicago scored two runs in the top of the sixth inning to take a 5 to 4 lead, Evans “let the Athletics take advantage of his inexperience,” and stopped the game on account of rain with two men out in the bottom of the inning.  The Inter Ocean said, “(Sox Manager Fielder) Jones and (second baseman Frank) Isbell nearly came to blows with the umpire and members of the Athletic team.”

After a half hour, the game was called and the score reverted back to the end of the 5th inning, giving Philadelphia a 4 to 3 victory.

The next day, September 11, the Sox played the St. Louis Browns at South Side Park.  Evans worked the game along with Jack Sheridan.  The newspapers said Sox owner Charles Comiskey had discontinued the sale of “bottled goods” at the park that day.

The Browns won 7 to 3, and the Chicago press put much of the blame for the loss on the rookie umpire.

The Tribune said:

President (Ban) Johnson’s persistence in sending Evans, who, at the least, is incompetent, is giving baseball a black eye in Chicago.  Half the crowd believes the charges that Evans is working under instructions from Johnson to beat Chicago.  These charges undoubtedly are founded on mere prejudice, yet, had Evans been under instructions and trying to beat Chicago, he could not have done better than he did yesterday.”

The Inter Ocean said the Browns “were aided and abetted by Umpire Evans, the boy wonder…Why Ban Johnson insists upon sending the joke to officiate at important games is more than any sane man can see.”

But the Evans’ most ardent critic was William A. Phelon, sports editor of The Chicago Journal:

“Umpire Evans is the worst that ever yet came down this or any other pike in the history of the modern universe…And Ban says he is the best in the game.  We are not selfish and we are willing to let some other city endure him.  We can get over the shock of his removal.  If he doesn’t move he may have a statue down on the lake front, a statue 200 feet high made of bottles.  Give us liberty, give us death, give us any old thing, but, by the snakes of old Ireland, give us an umpire!”

Phelon also said Evans “seems to be a gentlemanly individual, whose place in life is evidently a long ways from the profession of umpiring.”

1906 White Sox

Despite the blame heaped on the young umpire in the press, the White Sox went 17-7 the rest of the season and won the pennant by three games.  They went on to beat the Chicago Cubs 4 games to 2 in the World Series.

Things got better for Evans as well.  He worked his first World Series in 1909—the youngest umpire to do so– and participated in five more from 1912 to 1923.  He was the third umpire to be elected to the Hall of Fame; Connolly and Bill Klem were the first two.

“I Object to Being Made a Freak.”

17 Jul

In 1913 American League President Ban Johnson set out to put an end to the practice the Baseball Writers Association called “A growing Evil,” ghost-written articles appearing under the by-lines of famous ballplayers.

William Peet of The Washington Herald revealed the identities of the ghost writers in March of 1913; Gerhard “Roger” Tidden of The New York World had been the man responsible for articles bearing the name of Ty Cobb, but Tidden died just three months after the revelation.   While the practice waned after 1913, Cobb remained defiant, and continued “authoring” a syndicated column for the next several years.

Ty Cobb

Ty Cobb

Cobb’s articles, for the most part, steered clear of trouble with the league president, but the assertions he made about the Chicago White Sox and manager Clarence “Pants” Rowland in June of 1915 caused a major stir.

Cobb said:

“Battery signal stealing, which has been the cause of several scandals in big league baseball threatens to make more trouble this season if anyone is able to prove what is generally suspected about one of the American League clubs.

“I will not mention the name of the organization which has been accused by the opposing players…because I couldn’t present any proof.”

Cobb then went on for seven paragraphs trying to present proof, and provided enough hints to make it clear he was talking about the White Sox.

Cobb’s said

 “The team I have in mind has won almost all its home games…It looks mighty funny, though, the way this club could hit at home and the feeble manner in which it has been swatting on the road and almost all of the Tigers will take an oath that something out-of-the-way is coming off.”

Chicago, through 49 games, was in first place; 22-8 at home and 9-10 on the road.  Detroit was in second place a game back.  If he left any doubt Cobb said later in the column when discussing the American League pennant race in general:

“The White Sox, who burned up things at home, have not been doing so well on the road.”

Everyone, including American League President Ban Johnson, assumed Cobb was talking about the Sox.  Johnson said:

 “(Cobb) must prove the charges, or I will keep him from playing baseball.  If any man in the American League makes a charge of dishonesty and refuses to back up his charge with the absolute evidence, that man will have to get out of the game.”

The White Sox were less concerned; The Chicago Tribune said the charges made Sox players “grin,” and Rowland told reporters:

“I suppose we had out tipping instruments planted in the Polo Grounds when we made nineteen hits in New York the other day.”

Clarence "Pants" Rowland

Clarence “Pants” Rowland

In his next column Cobb issued a non-denial denial and at the same time openly, and loudly, defied Johnson:

“I made no specific charge against the White Sox…What I did say was that a strong rumor of sharp practice was abroad, and I reiterate that statement right here.”

___

“Mr. Johnson even went to the extreme of saying that he would drive me out of baseball.  He hasn’t done this yet and I expect to stay around for a few more days.  If the league president is willing to pay the salary that my three-year contract calls for, I will be perfectly willing to take a vacation at that, for I have long wanted to do a number of things that baseball interferes with.”

Cobb reiterated the charges and offered no evidence, but said he was justified in making the claims because his manager might have believed them:

“(Tigers) Manager (Hughie) Jennings thought the report sufficiently serious to detail one of our players for plain clothes duty in the bleachers, and he also wrote Manager (Bill) Donovan of New York, telling him of a warning we had received and cautioning him to be on the lookout.  So you see the signal tipping report was not a creature of my own imagination, but a matter of sufficient seriousness to warrant an investigation by our manager in his official capacity.”

Cobb’s only bit of backtracking was to say that if “it should be proved the White Sox tried signal stealing it would be without the knowledge of Mr. (Charles) Comiskey.”  Cobb said Comiskey “wouldn’t countenance anything of this sort for a moment.”

Cobb took one last swing at Ban Johnson, charging the league president with giving “sensational interviews” about him to get “the people excited artificially. If this is Mr. Johnson’s idea, I wish he would abandon it.  I object to being made a freak.”

If there was any doubt whether the American League’s star player or the league president wielded more power, it became obvious within a week.

Johnson, who The Associated Press said “long has been opposed to players permitting their name to be used over baseball stories,” decided not only had Cobb not written the columns, but claimed “a Detroit newspaperman” made up the allegations “out of whole cloth,” and incredibly said that Cobb had “no knowledge,” of the columns despite Cobb being quoted by numerous sources discussing the charges.

Ban Johnson

Ban Johnson

Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Examiner summed it up best:

“We are rather surprised each morning upon picking up our newspaper to discover that Ty Cobb is still making two-base hits, two steals and catching a few flies instead of being driven out of baseball by (Ban) Johnson.  By the way how did Johnson get into baseball?”

As quickly as Johnson backed down, the charges went away.  Despite the strong start the White Sox faded, and continued to fade even after the acquisition of “Shoeless Joe” Jackson on August 21, finishing third, nine and a half games behind the pennant-winning Boston Red Sox and seven games behind the Tigers.

Cobb led the league for the ninth straight season, hitting .369.

The one legacy from the brief 1915 controversy seems to be Cobb’s dislike of Rowland, who later became a scout for the Tigers.  In his 1984 book “Ty Cobb,” Charles C. Alexander said Cobb only agreed to manage the Tigers before the 1921 season because he was told:

 “Pants Rowland, whom Cobb considered an incompetent fraud, might very well get it and Cobb would have to play for him.”

Rowland, who remained in baseball until 1959 as a manager, scout and executive with the Los Angeles Angels in the Pacific Coast League and Chicago Cubs in the National League, appears to have also held a grudge.   Up until his death at age 90 in 1969, Rowland often said two of his former players, Jackson and Eddie Collins were better than Cobb.

 In 1953 at the Old Timers Baseball Association of Chicago Banquet Rowland said “I wouldn’t have traded (Collins) for Cobb.  What made him greater than Cobb was that he inspired the entire ball club.  Ty was an individualist.  He was interested only in Cobb.”

Rowland called Jackson the “greatest natural hitter,’ he ever saw, and said Ted Williams, not Cobb, was the only player “of the same make-up.”