Tag Archives: Baseball Magazine

“Since I was a boy, I Have Heard this Question Asked”

9 Jan

Jack “Death to Flying Things” Chapman began his career in 1860 with the Putnam Club in Brooklyn, after spending 50 years in baseball, “Baseball Magazine” asked him to weigh in on the best players he had ever seen.

Chapman hedged on who was the greatest pitcher:

“Ever since I was a boy, I have heard this question asked.  I maintain that it cannot be answered, for the simple reason that there have been so many really wonderful pitchers…Let us go ‘way back in the old days.  There was Tom Pratt, Dick McBride, (Phonney) Martin, Jim Creighton, Arthur Cummings, Bobby Mathews, and Al Spalding, all first-class men.”

chapman

Jack Chapman

Of Spalding, Chapman said, “He had speed and command.  He knew how to use his head to fool and opponent.” McBride could “outwit” opposing hitters, and Mathews and Cummings were “foxy.”

Chapman also described what he said led to Creighton’s death in 1862—this version of events appeared later that year in Al Spink’s book, “The National Game,” and remained the narrative surrounding Creighton’s death until the home run story was debunked in recent years.

Chapman said of Creighton’s death:

“(B)aseball met with a most severe loss.  He had wonderful speed, and with it, splendid command.  He was fairly unhittable.”

creighton

Chapman rattled off another 20 names, then said:

“Now mind you, I am not undertaking to mention all the crack pitchers that ever lived—just those who occur to me.  Of course, I never knew one who was a bit better than Charley Radbourn, a man who would go in the box day in and day out and work under any and all conditions, who would pitch when men of the present day would shrink from undertaking.  Rad would go in the box when his arm was so lame that he could not lift it as high as his head when he started to warm up; yet he would keep at it and pitch a game his opponents could not fathom.  He was a very strong man, full of pluck, and used splendid judgement in his pitching.”

Chapman said the Providence Grays teams that Radbourn was a part of were “the best balanced” of their time.  Chapman mentioned third baseman Jerry Denny could “play with either hand,” and that:

“Rad was about as capable with his left as he was his right and was a wonderful fielder.  He liked to go on the field and warm up with the boys and would go in the infield or the outfield—it mattered not to him—anywhere there was an opening—he loved the game so well.  Rad could hit a little bit, too.”

radbourn

Radbourn

Chapman also singled out Charlie Ferguson, “who died in the zenith of his career.  Chapman said Ferguson, “could doubtless play every position better than any one man ever could.  He was also a very fine batsman and a speedy chap on the bases.”

Chapman said of Cy Young:

“No man ever had better command of the ball than did this pitcher.  Here certainly is a model ball player, just as modest as he is skillful.”

While Chapman named as many as 20 “greatest” pitchers, he settled easily on the best player of all-time:

“To name the best man in baseball history in any position is almost invariably a matter of opinion and often one is just as good as another.  I know of but one ballplayer upon whom I firmly believe the burden of opinion will rest as the best ballplayer ever produced, and that man is John Henry [sic, Peter] Wagner— ‘Honus,’ as he is known.  He certainly is the best card and is strong in every particular.  He is a wonderful batsman, base runner and fielder.  He makes easy work of the most difficult plays, and he would certainly excel in any position to which he were assigned—whether in the outfield or the infield.  Wagner is fairly in a class by himself.  Others have shown for awhile then lost their glory, but Wagner shines forever.”

wagner

Wagner

When Chapman died six years later, The Brooklyn Eagle mourned the loss of “one of the few remaining links between the pioneer days of baseball and the present.”

Ray Schalk on “Baseball Brains”

1 Feb

After the Chicago White Sox defeated the New York Giants in the 1917 World Series, Sox catcher Ray “Cracker” Schalk took to the pages of “Baseball Magazine” with his opinion of statistics:

Ray Schalk

Ray Schalk

“Offhand I would say that fielding averages are pretty bad, pitchers’ averages rather punk, batting averages merely fair.  But the worst of all are catchers’ averages.

“How are you going to tell a good catcher?  By his batting average?  By his fielding average?  By the runs he scores?  Of course all these things are important.  But they haven’t any direct connection with good, bad or indifferent catching as such.  A catcher may or may not be a good batter or base runner.  And whatever his hitting or run getting ability he may be a great or mediocre catcher.”

Schalk said it was “easy…from the records” to determine an outfielder or shortstop’s ability:

“But a man might be the best catcher the world ever saw or the worst, and there would be no way under heaven to gain that information from the season’s statistics.

“First of all, a catcher must have baseball brains.  It isn’t enough to say brains; you must add the adjective ‘baseball’ to describe what you mean.”

Schalk noted that many of his contemporaries were educated:

“I admit this is the day of the college player in baseball.  I admit that the better education a man has, other things being equal, the better ball player he will be.  But he might know a lot of philosophy or Greek literature and be a frost on foul flies.  Ty Cobb has the ideal baseball brains.  But Ty isn’t a college man.  On the other hand I used to play in the minors with a graduate of a well-known university who was a brilliant scholar and a good natural athlete.  But he was positively the limit in playing baseball.  He would do the most incomprehensible things.  In fact, he was impossible.

Hans Wagner and Nap Lajoie are not college men, have not enjoyed as liberal an education, perhaps, as most of the rest of us.  But if any medical laboratory wants a sample of a real baseball brain, let him open negotiations with the Dutchman or the Frenchman for the use of his skull when he is thru with it.

Honus Wagner

Honus Wagner

“I believe there are fellows with a natural born instinct to play baseball.  They invariably do the right thing at the right time.  That is what I mean by baseball brains.  Furthermore, such a brain must above all act quickly.  There are many thousands of people, even in the stands, who understand good baseball and could dope out the proper thing for a fielder or a batter to do under given conditions.  But that isn’t enough.  The man with a baseball brain must not only do the right thing but he must do it instantly.  It is quickness of thought quite as much as correctness which marks the star player.  Hal Chase and Ty Cobb are scintillating examples of quick thought on the diamond.”

And, said Schalk, “quick thought” was most important behind the plate:

“Now the catcher, above all men, must have a good baseball brain.  Most of his work, the most important part of his work, is hidden from the spectators’ eye.  The man in the stands can seldom follow what is going on in the catcher’s brain.  But the catcher, much more than the pitcher, holds the game in the hollow of his hand.  The catcher, much more than the pitcher, is the keystone of the baseball arch.”

The man who thought statistics didn’t have “any direct connection” to a catcher’s value made it into the Hall of Fame in 1955.  He has the lowest career average (.253) among enshrined catchers.

“I am, I Believe, more Inclined to fear the Jinx”

12 Apr

In 1910, Johnny Evers “wrote” an article in “Baseball Magazine” about superstitions:

“’On the Cubs’ team, for instance, I am, I believe, more inclined to fear the jinx than any other member of the club.  In batting practice before the game the general belief is that if you are not hitting the ball hard or up in the air you will bat well in the game ofttimes as a result. In many cases I have seen a player hit two or three balls hard and on the line and then go to the bench and refuse to bat anymore, saying, ‘I’m saving mine for the game.’”

Johnny Evers

Johnny Evers

Some of Evers’ other superstitions:

“Going to the different parks in the cars the sight of a funeral along the road is regarded as an ill omen.  The same applies to a (handicapped person) unless you toss him a coin.  A wagon load of barrels is a good sing.  Frequently a man, having gone a mile out of the way to purchase something on a day when his club happened to win, will continue to travel the roundabout pathway so long as the club is in that particular city or until his teammates lose.”

As for superstitions during a game:

“Watch a man when the inning is over.  If the inning previous was favorable to a player, observe him go over and be particular to locate the same spot to lay down his glove.  You doubtless have often seen a player attired in a soiled and far from presentable uniform.  Beneath all that lurks our old friend the jinx.  The player will stick to the dirty garments so long as his team is winning.  When the streak is broken the laundryman gets a chance at his clothing, but not before.”

[…]

“Not for the world could you induce the average major league pitcher to resume work with a new shoe lace.  He will tie up the remnants and go ahead, hoping to make the laces last throughout the session.  The players don’t want the bat boys to hand them their clubs either.  On our home grounds of course, Red Gallagher, the bat boy, has a sort of standing job swinging the sticks, but he always tries hard to drive away the hoodoo.  Watch him salivate the handle of every bat before it goes in the hands of its owner.”

In addition to bat boy spit, Evers said there were other superstitions among the Cubs:

“Keep your eyes glued on Tinker when he goes to bat.  Joe has a habit of walking straight from the bench to the plate to the plate for the first time up.  If he gets a clean hit that time he’ll repeat in the second trip, but if he fans or fouls out or is tossed o death on an infield drive Tinker certainly will waltz out in a circle, going back to the plate.  This is the way he hopes to break the hoodoo.”

Joe Tinker

Joe Tinker

[…]

“Recall how Manager (Frank) Chance refused to have the Cubs pose for a team picture during the closing days of the League race in 1908.  He was especially fearful that the photographer might work a jinx on the players and jeopardize our chances of beating Detroit.    (Ed) Reulbach is a mighty superstitious chap.  I remember how one of Ed’s friends approached him when the big pitcher was mowing them down for his record of fourteen straight victories (In 1909 Reulbach tied the record set in 1904 by Joe McGinnity and Jack Chesbro). He wanted Reulbach’s cap, the one he had worn during all those games, but Ed refused to part with the headgear.

Yes, the ballplayer is to be listed only with the actor or the sailor when it comes to the superstitious phase of life.”

“’Amos, old Boy, don’t Forget the left foot Racket.’

12 Dec

Long after “Dasher” Troy’s last professional game in 1888, he remained a good source of quotes for sportswriters; at the Polo Grounds, or after 1900, at his Manhattan tavern.

Dasher Troy

Dasher Troy

When he wrote a series of columns for “Baseball Magazine” in 1915 the magazine said about him:

“There was a day when John (Dasher) Troy was one of the bright lights of the diamond.  Advancing age has long since driven him from his favorite haunts. But, though, as he admits, he has “had his day and that day is a long time past,” still he has ‘seen more baseball games than any other player in the country,’ and remained throughout a close student and observer of the game.”

And, humility was not his strong suit.

Four years before he was given credit for fixing Hughie Jennings broken nose, Troy took credit for another player’s success.

After Amos Rusie’s great 1894 season—36-13, 2.78 ERA–Troy told The New York Sun:

“Very few people know just what made the big pitcher so effective last season, but can explain it… (Rusie) had a wrinkle last season that was of my own invention…I had noticed that every League batsman, barring one or two like (Ed) Delehanty(Dan) Brouthers, and a few more, stepped back from the plate whenever Amos pitched a fast ball.  So I went to the big fellow one day and said:

“’Amos, when you see a batter’s left foot—providing he is a right-handed hitter—move back a trifle, just drive that fast straight ball or your outshoot, over the outside corner of the plate, and you’ll find how easy it is to fool these ducks.  Just try it and see if I ain’t right.’

Amos Rusie

Amos Rusie

“Well, Amos did just as I told him the next game he pitched, and he was laughing in his sleeve.  The minute he saw a batter’s left foot move back, he grinned all over.  Then he let ‘er go.  The ball whistled like a small cyclone up to and over the outside corner of the plate, and the batter made such a wild stab at it that the crowd roared.  But nobody knew what the wrinkle was.

“By and by, when I saw that Amos had mastered the trick to perfection, I thought it was time to gamble a little on it.  So I just took a seat back of the home plate among a lot of know-alls and watched the batter’s feet closely.  Whenever I saw a left foot move back I just took out my coin and yelled:

“’Three to one this duck doesn’t make a hit!’

“There were lots of fellows around me who would take up the short end, and as a result I had a good thing on hand right along.  But the cinch came when the Bostons came over here on August 31 to play off a tie game with the New Yorks.  There were nearly 20,000 people on the Polo Grounds, and Amos was slated to pitch.  He was as fit as a fiddle, and just before the battle began I leaned over the grandstand and whispered to him:

“’Amos, old boy, don’t forget the left foot racket.’

“He said, ‘All right,’ and then he began his work.  Every one of the Bostons stepped back from the plate—even (Hugh) Duffy, (Tommy) McCarthy and (Tommy) Tucker.  Amos just grinned, and sent that ball over the corner until the champions were blinded.   Laid three to one against each Boston batter and during the entire game the champs made but five scattered singles.”

The Box Score

The Box Score

Twenty years later, in one of the columns he wrote for “Baseball Magazine,” Troy again took credit for Rusie’s performance in the Boston game, but embellished the details further:

“There were a lot of my friends there that day trying to show me, so they said how much I knew about the game. So I thought I would take a look at my old friend, Amos Rusie, who was pitching for the Giants.  He never had more speed, and his inshoot was working fine on the inside corner of the plate… I sent one of my workmen down to Amos on the players’ bench with a note.   In this note I told him not to pitch his inshoot, that nearly every one of the Boston Club was pulling his left foot back from the plate, and that the batter could not hit a ball out of the diamond if he would put them low and over the plate.

“Hugh Duffy was the first man up for the next inning, and he hit a slow grounder to the first baseman; the second batter hitting to the second baseman, and the third to the third baseman. When Amos was walking to the bench he looked up toward the bar on the grandstand, which was behind the catcher at the back of the stand, and he had a big broad smile on his face. Any player who pulled his left foot back, or left-hander who pulled his right foot back, never hit Amos very hard after that.”

There’s no record of Rusie having credited Troy as the reason for his greatest season.

Troy remained a popular figure in New York baseball circles, and a popular story teller, until his death in 1938.

 

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.

The Human Rain Delay

7 Nov

 “Baseball stars may come and they may go, but the name of Nig Cuppy will live forever.  There will be greater pitchers than Cuppy—but no slower ones.”—The Pittsburgh Press, 1910.

George Joseph “Nig” Cuppy (born Koppe) lived in the shadow of teammate Cy Young—Cuppy won 150 games for the Cleveland Spiders and St. Louis Perfectos from 1892-1899, Young won 231.

While Cuppy was successful, he was best known for being the slowest working pitcher of his era.

How Slow?  “Painfully slow,” according to The Toledo News-Bee; other contemporary accounts mention crowds counting in unison as they timed Cuppy between each pitch.  It was not unusual for a Cuppy pitched game to last more than two hours during an era when shorter games were the rule.

George “Nig” Cuppy

Almost all mentions of Cuppy attribute his success to his slow work.  Jake Morse’s Baseball Magazine described the effect he had on batters:

“(Cuppy) stood holding the ball, and holding it, and holding it some more. The maddened batsmen fumed and fretted and smote the plate with their sticks; the umpires barked and threatened; the fans counted and counted, often up to 56 or 59—and then Cuppy let go of the ball. By this time the batter, if at all nervous or excitable, was so sore that he slammed wildly at the pitch, and seldom hit it.”

While Cuppy remained a very good pitcher throughout the 1890s, he never quite matched his rookie numbers (28-13, 2.51 in 1892), and suffered from the 1893 elimination of the pitcher’s box.

Cuppy’s numbers dropped off dramatically after 1896, and his career came to an end with his release from the Boston Americans in August of 1901.  He rejected several minor league offers and returned home Elkhart, Indiana.

Cuppy and his former catcher and fellow Elkhart native, Lou Criger opened a pool hall called The Lucky Horseshoe.  Cuppy operated that business and a cigar store until his death in 1922.

 

What Would He Think of the Ones They Use Now?

25 Sep

One constant in baseball is that every generation thinks the game was better in the past.

Jake Morse was one of the most influential early baseball writers who contributed to game’s popularity.  He was with the Boston Herald from 1884-1907 and founded Baseball Magazine in 1908.

By 1907 Morse longed for the early days and was bothered by the lack of hitting during the first decade of the 20th century –he blamed it on the baseball mitt:

“There is no doubt that patrons of the national game are becoming heartily sick and tired of the kind of baseball they compelled to see today. ..Who is there who has not noticed game after game how the infielder can block the hottest of driven balls and throw out a man after it?”

Morse went on to mention a play made by Cleveland Indians shortstop Terry Turner (who, incidentally made 39 errors in 1907):

Turner

Turner

“Turner blocked a ball that he could never have stopped but for the protection he wore on his hands.  Line ball after line ball is blocked and caught by the help of the mitt.”

What would Morse make of this?

1905 Rube Waddell glove