Tag Archives: Bill Brennan

Bill Brennan versus Philadelphia

10 Jul

Umpire William “Bill” Brennan was at the center of the controversy that led to Philadelphia Phillies owner Horace Fogel being banished from the National League.  Fogel maintained that the 1912 pennant race was fixed, and that Brennan and the rest of the league’s umpires were in the tank for the champion New York Giants.

After Fogel was expelled Brennan dropped a threatened libel suit against him and the umpire’s life went back to normal, until August 30, 1913.

Fogel was working the game in Philadelphia’s Baker Bowl between the Phillies and the New York Giants.  The Giants, who were in first place by nine games, were trailing the Phillies 8-6 in the ninth inning.

Harry “Moose” McCormick, pinch-hitting for Fred Merkle, led off the inning with a groundout to second baseman Otto KnabeThe Philadelphia Inquirer said:

“As the big Giants’ pinch hitter started for the players’ bench he motioned towards the center field bleachers and shouted to Brennan that the white shirts there had blinded him.”

Brennan walked out to the center field bleachers and told the fans seated in the area to vacate their seats:

“They greeted him with jeers and catcalls; Brennan paused helplessly for minute and then walked back into the diamond.  Approaching Mike Doolan, captain of the Phillies, he ordered him to have the crowd removed.  Doolan laughed and said that it was impossible.  Then Brennan walked over to the New York bench and held a conference with Manager (John) McGraw.”

Philadelphia manager Charles “Red” Dooin had been ejected earlier in the game, so Brennan told acting manager Hans Lobert to move the crowd out of center field.  Lobert and the Phillies “explained that it could not be done.”

Brennan again went out to the center field bleachers, this time ordering a Philadelphia police officer to remove the crowd:

“The bluecoat laughed at him and said that he could not, under any circumstances, take his orders.

“’You’re under my orders,’ said Brennan.

“’I’m under no orders except from my sergeant or captain,’ was the answer.”

The crowd of 22,000 was “storming angrily for the game to proceed,” and the other umpire, Mal Eason, suggested the game be continued and played under protest.  Instead, Brennan again huddled with McGraw.

“Strangely enough, McGraw, who is generally the most volatile man in the world and charges all over the field in excitement, this time, remained quietly on the New York Players’ bench.”

Brennan walked back on the field and said, “This game is forfeited to New York, 9 to 0.”  The Giants were “running towards the clubhouse before (Brennan) completed his statement,” according to The Inquirer.

“Bedlam cut loose at that instant.  Screaming in rage the bleacherites by the thousands poured over the low rail into the playing field…a cushion seat struck Brennan in the face as he was walking towards the exit…His walk turned into an undignified run.  The bleach crowd had first tried to stop the New York players who butted their way to safety.  Then they turned toward Brennan.”

Bill Brennan

Bill Brennan

Escorted by police “with drawn revolvers,” Breen was able to get off the field.   Mobs formed outside the Baker Bowl and pursued the Giants, and Brennan, with his police escort, on their separate routes to the North Philadelphia Railroad Station:

“Brennan and his guard reached the entrance to the station just at the instant McGraw and his players came fleeing around the corner at Broad Street.  The police forsook the umpire to try and head off the larger crowd behind the New Yorkers.  With drawn guns they held them at bay for a few minutes. “

While police held two mobs at bay, a third waited for Brennan inside the station and “jumped upon him by the dozens.  (Brennan) was beaten to the ground, rose, (and) was beaten down again.”

The Inquirer claimed that McGraw and Brennan in their haste to escape the crowd boarded the wrong train, “an extra fare train from Pittsburgh,” rather than the train to New York.

Despite the mob, the chaos, and the “Missiles of all kinds,” that were thrown by Phillies fans, there was only one injury.  Giants’ utility man Arthur Tillie Shafer was hit in the head with a brick, but was not seriously injured.

Two days later National League President Thomas Lynch assigned Brennan to work the Phillies September 1 double-header with the Dodgers. The Inquirer said:

“President Lynch, of the National league, exhibited anything but a keen sense of delicacy in sending Brennan in to umpire the two games between the Phillies and Brooklyn on Monday,  or perhaps he is trying to work up a reputation as a humorist.”

National League President Thomas Lynch

National League President Thomas Lynch

Philadelphia won both games without any serious incidents.  The Inquirer headline read:

“Man Who Helped Giants Couldn’t Aid Dodgers.”

Two days later Lynch reversed Brennan’s decision, The Associated Press said:

“Lynch, in his decision says that Umpire Brennan exceeded his authority in declaring the game forfeited to the New York club and formally awards it to the Philadelphia team by a score of 8 to 6.”

While New York appealed Lynch’s decision, Brennan‘s troubles were just starting.

He learned that a warrant was issued for his arrest in Philadelphia; a Phillies fan named Henry Russell claimed “Brennan in his efforts to get out of the park pummeled him and knocked him to the ground where he was trampled by the crowd.”  At the same time, it was rumored that Brennan would be let go by the National League.  The Associated Press said:

“(Tom Lynch) is certain to let him out, it is said if he is reelected, and if another man is chosen to head the circuit he will be instructed by his nominators to dispense with Brennan.  It is not the case of the forfeit that mitigates against Brennan so much, according to the yarn circulated, but his generally inconsistent work in games where the spirit of battle ran high.  He is said to be over excitable.”

Two weeks after Lynch’s decision, he was overruled by the National League Board of Directors, and it was determined that the game would be completed on October 2,

The Philadelphia Record and The Inquirer called the decision unfair and gave the second place Phillies “all the worst of it.”

In the end, the decision made no difference.  The Phillies, nine games behind the Giants on the day of the forfeit, never got closer than seven games out of first place, and finished the season twelve and a half games behind the Giants.  The pennant was a foregone conclusion when what The Inquirer called “The longest game on record,” was finally completed.

The anti-climactic two-thirds of an inning ended quickly on October 2.  Tacked on to the beginning of a double-header, pitcher George Chalmers faced three batters:  John “Red” Murray grounded out, John “Chief” Meyers singled; Eddie Grant ran for Meyers and was forced at second on Larry McLean’s ground ball.  The Phillies “ran from the bench and danced in glee at the speedy decision in favor of the long-standing dispute.”

billbrennan

After New York won the 1913 pennant, Giant pitcher and cartoonist Al Demaree featured Brennan in one of his nationally syndicated cartoons.

In December Lynch resigned as National League president; the following month it was announced that Brennan had jumped from the National League, signing a three-year contract to become a Federal League umpire (the league would only last two seasons).

The last word in the Brennan/Philadelphia controversy belonged to a journeyman boxer and fight promoter in Superior, Minnesota named Curly Ulrich.  Three weeks after the 1913 season ended The Duluth News-Tribune said Brennan, a St. Paul resident,  “attended the bouts in Superior.”  Promoter Ulrich introduced him:

“Ladies and gentlemen, I wish to present to you Bill Brennan, National League umpire and member of the New York Giants.”

The box score as it appeared on August 31

The box score as it appeared on August 31

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.