Tag Archives: Bill Craver

“Lennon Violated all Rules of Decency”

6 Feb

Bill Lennon is a footnote. Best known for appearing in the first official major league game–the May 4, 1871 National Association opener between the Cleveland Forest Cities and the Fort Wayne Kekiongas–and for being the first catcher credited with throwing out someone trying to steal a base—in the same game.

When he is mentioned at all, it is said he “deserted the Kekiongas” in mid-June; actually, he was with the club through most of July and was expelled by the team. His expulsion led to charges and counter charges between the parties, and a war of words between the Fort Wayne papers and The Chicago Tribune.

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Bill Lennon

Lennon, like all 19th Century catchers, took a beating. When the club went to the East Coast in June the Fort Wayne papers reported that he was playing with injuries and the road trip got off to a rocky start on the 19th. Fort Wayne was leading the Troy Haymakers 6 to 3 heading into the seventh inning, The Fort Wayne Gazette said:

“The game was called in favor of the Haymakers by George Leroy, umpire…because the Kekiongas refused to substitute a ball for the one which had been in use, and which had become ripped.”

The Fort Wayne Sentinel said the ripped ball was a ruse by Troy catcher and captain Bill Craver, who the paper called “a noted fault finder” and was intended as a “trick gotten up to dupe the Kekies into accepting a ‘lively ball’ instead of the dead one they were at the time playing with.”

Lennon caught a game the next day in Boston against a team from Lowell, Massachusetts. Lennon caught again the following day when the Boston Red Stockings beat Fort Wayne 21 to 0.

A report of the game in The Gazette noted that Lennon, as well as outfielder Ed Mincher and pitcher Bobby Mathews played with injuries.

The Kekiongas traveled to New York the next day and Lennon umpired that day’s game between the New York Mutuals and the Washington Olympics.

On June 23 and 24 the team played two non-Association games versus the Atlantics and the Eckfords in New York. Lennon did not appear in either game.

He was back in the lineup on June 26, when Fort Wayne beat the New York Mutuals 5 to 3. The New York Herald noted that Lennon played “with a lame hand.” The New York Sun said, “Lennon did not allow a single ball to pass him,” despite the fact that his hands “are in a very bad state.”

The New York World said of Lennon’s performance:

“Lennon as catcher did splendid service; not a single passed ball could be charged to him.”

The Fort Wayne Gazette said:

“The pitching of (Bobby) Mathews was simply immense, while the catching of Lennon was wonderful, not a ball or point of the game escaping either of them.”

In early July The Chicago Tribune noted Lennon’s “Crippled condition.”

Lennon remained injured throughout the rest of June and into July, but the Fort Wayne papers never suggested his injuries were not real. The Gazette chided the rival Sentinel on July 15 after the latter paper reported a rumor that Lennon had left the club. Both papers reported that he traveled to Cleveland to umpire a game between the Forest Cities and the Philadelphia Athletics on July 23.

While Lennon was in Cleveland the Kekiongas’ expelled outfielder Ed Mincher and utility man Pete Donnelly. The team claimed the two “violated their contracts…by leaving without warning or permission, and the same Mincher and Donnelly being in arrearages to the Kekionga club.”

Both players denied the charges and claimed the team owed them money.

With Lennon still in Cleveland on July 25, it was his turn. The Gazette said: “At a meeting of the Directors of the Kekionga Base Ball Club…William Lennon was charged and found guilty,” of four accusations.

The club said Lennon deserted the team on June 23 during the game with the Atlantics and “did not return to said game.”

The second charge was that on June 24 at New York’s Hotel Earle, Lennon “violated all rules of decency,” although the charge was not specific as to the violation and that he “refused to obey orders” from the club’s directors.

The third charge was that on four occasions during July, Lennon “wholly violated all obligations and rules of said club,” and refused to practice while he also appeared “in public under the influence of intoxicating liquors.”

The final charge was that Lennon left Fort Wayne without notifying the team, when he went to Cleveland.

In addition to Lennon, The Gazette said third baseman Frank Sellman was expelled as well, having been “found guilty of the last three charges,” although the specifics of his alleged infractions were not reported.

Lennon would not go down quietly. He had previously played in Chicago for the Excelsior Club, and presented a letter rebutting the claims, to the baseball writer at The Chicago Tribune.

The expelled captain of the Fort Wayne club addressed the charges:

“On the night preceding the (June 23) game, I was informed by the manager of the club that on account of the state of my hand, I would not be required to play…Nevertheless, I went to the Capitoline Grounds with the nine and saw the game begin, Sellman acting as catcher. I then went over to the Union Grounds and saw part of the game there. On returning to the hotel I learned for the first time of the result of the game, and the management then found fault with me for not directing the movements of the nine. Any ball-player will see the absurdity of asking me to Captain a nine in which I was not playing. Neither the rules nor the opposing club would allow such a proceeding.”

For the second charge, Lennon did not address the part about violating “all rules of decency,” but claimed the entire charge amounted to misunderstanding when one of the club’s directors had told him the night before he would not play in the June 24 game against the Eckfords “on account of my hand, which was in a very bad state,” but then “An hour or two before the game,” the same club executive asked Lennon if he intended to play. “I told him I was not in condition on account of my hand. This was all the conversation; there was no order to play given,” therefore said Lennon, he had not disobeyed an order.

Lennon called the third charge “totally false. I never was under the influence of intoxicating liquor at any time in Fort Wayne, or in any other place while I was a member of the Kekionga Club. Furthermore, I never refused to practice when notified to do so.”

On the fourth charge, Lennon said it was Fort Wayne club and not him who had violated his contract.

“(My) contract stipulated that that I should receive $70 per month, $7 to be paid each Saturday, and the remainder at the end of each and every month. The Kekionga Club have entirely ignored this clause, and so far from making monthly settlements have never given me my full pay.”

Lennon claimed he had not once received the entire balance owed to him since joining the team.

His letter concluded:

“I have been known for some years to the ballplayers of this country, and I desire as a favor that all papers which have published the ‘expulsion’ will do me the justice to give my reasons for leaving the club.”

The Tribune then took up Lennon’s case.

The rest of the story, Friday.

Note:  The original version of this post was an early draft that names Lewis E. Meacham as the sports editor of The Chicago Tribune.  While Meacham was with the paper in 1871 and later served as the sports editor, he was likely not the author of the article in defense of Lennon, as he was primarily a general assignment reporter covering local news in 1871.  It has been corrected to reflect that.

“(He) Should Remain an Outcast Forever”

8 May

Thomas Stevens Rice was an attorney, a criminologist, and covered baseball for The Brooklyn Eagle for nearly 20 years.  In 1921, he related a story that he said showed:

“That the mills of the gods may grind rapidly, as well as grind exceedingly fine.”

 

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Thomas Stevens Rice

 

The story was told to him by George A. Putnam, the business manager of the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League.

“Outside of San Francisco in the small towns is the Mission League, composed of semi-pro clubs and containing many old professional ballplayers, who turn an honest penny on the side in the sport now that they have passed from the big show and are regularly engaged in their occupations.

“Among the towns in the Mission League is San Jose. And San Jose has a semi-pro park that would delight Ring Lardner.  Far out in center is an ambitious scoreboard, liberally decorated with the advertising sign of the town’s leading hardware merchant and a strong supporter of the team.

“About a month ago San Jose was playing at home and a ball was hit to center it was diligently pursued by two outfielders, both formerly in organized baseball, one of them a major leaguer in his day.  They chased the ball up to the scoreboard and tried to retrieve it before carried out of sight of the umpire, but failed.

“As the two veterans whipped around the corner of the board they surprised a man peeping at the game through the planking.  He was seedy in apparel, had a beard of several days growth, and a general air of utter forlornness. Both outfielders were at first indifferent to the stranger, but a second glance identified him.

“The utterly forlorn stranger was Hal Chase, who two years ago was a member of the New York Giants, at a salary that was probably beyond that which until war times was paid a United States Senator.  It was the same Hal Chase who had been tried by the National League on the charge of throwing games when a member of the Cincinnati Reds and acquitted for lack of definite evidence; the same Hal Chase who had been given another chance by the New York National League club; the same Hal Chase who had been fired by the New York National League club on charges which were never fully explained, but were clearly understood to be based upon alleged crookedness; it was the same Hal Chase who had left New York, returned to his home state of California, and had been barred from the ball parks of that state on the ground of being involved in betting.”

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Hal Chase

Rice had no complaints about the “forlornness,” or fate, of Chase:

“Chase, who stands before the world bearing unrefuted charges of having crooked the game which brought him fame and fortune, and which is an institution of which his country has been vastly proud, should remain an outcast forever he would be no more than bearing part of the penalty he deserved.  If every man who had a hand in the crooking of the national game should die an outcast in the gutter, despised by the potter’s field men who bury him.  It would be no more than they deserved.”

Rice also said there were fans who deserved the same fate as Chase:

“The baseball fan who patronizes semi-pro or other games openly participated in by men who have brought the national sport into disrepute and cast a cloud over its honesty merits the fate of a Chase for helping to encourage crookedness.”

He said his statements were in no way exaggerating his position—one he said was critical to protect the integrity of the game:

“The effective penalty imposed upon (Bill) Craver, (George) Hill [sic Hall], (Jim) Devlin, and (Al) Nichols in the 1870s (all were banned for accepting money to lose games in 1877), was not their being dropped from baseball and forced to turn to other means of making a living.  It was the ostracism that followed them their graves and made them anathema even in the society of professional thieves.”

And, he said, all penalties related to gambling should remain in effect forever:

“To impose a definite penalty on baseball crooks and then have the public forgive and forget when it is worked out, would be nothing less than an incentive to a repetition of the crime.  Let the possible throwers of games and the pawns of gamblers know they will be sneered at on the street by every pickpocket and dog-stealer who recognizes them, and that a bartender at a black and tan speakeasy will refuse to serve them.”

“Eighteen Thousand Dollars Squandered by Chicago”

22 Aug

Almost 50 years after he helped to organize the Chicago White Stockings Jimmy Wood told the story of the team’s founding to Hearst Newspapers sports writer Frank G. Menke in a series of articles.

Wood said he read an ad in a New York newspaper in late 1869, seeking to “form a team to represent Chicago and to defeat the Cincinnati Red Stockings.”  Wood said:

“Chicago wasn’t such a wonderfully large city then and it was doing everything possible to boom the town.  And it was jealous of Cincinnati because of the great publicity Cincinnati had gained through the medium of its 1869 ball team which had won 56 out of its 57 games.”

Wood, along with Tom Foley, who had placed the ad, (not to be confused with Thomas James “Tom” Foley, who played outfield for the White Stockings in 1871) set out together to build a team.

Wood called it the most difficult task of his life, attempting to sign players for “a team that had as its ultimate purpose the beating of the Reds in a three-game series.”

The press was ready to call the entire operation a failure in January—a point never referred to in Wood and Menke’s “historical” account.  The Chicago Tribune declared:

“We are not to have a first-class base ball club.  That is the long and short of it.  The thing has fizzled.”

The Tribune cited Wood and Foley’s “bungling inefficiency” as the reason Chicago should not expect much from the undertaking.

The 1870 article was at odds with wood’s nearly 50-year-old recollection that the problem of securing players was because of fear of taking on the Red Stockings:

“Scores of desirable players throughout the country applied for engagement, but delay after delay ensued…in short, everything was done precisely as it should not have been done, and the result is a total failure.  A base-ball club may, and probably will, be selected and announced within the next few weeks; but it will not be a nine capable of worsting all other clubs.”

Even Wood acknowledged that he might not have handled the process of securing players particularly well; he gave more than $1200 out of his pocket to players only to find out “some of those players had squandered their first advance money in drinking or gambling, they came for more, threatening to jump their contracts if we didn’t ‘come through.’”

Despite the slow the start, and doubts about whether or not it would be possible to put together a competitive team, Wood and Foley completed the roster that spring when they signed Bill Craver and William “Cherokee” Fisher away from the Troy Haymakers—although Fisher never played for the team.

Even The Tribune was on board; lauding Chicago’s newly formed “$18,000 team.”   The $18,000 White Stockings roster in addition to Wood and Craver, consisted of Ned Cuthbert, Charlie Hodes, Michael (Bub) McAtee, Levi Meyerle, Ed PinkhamFred Treacey, Marshall King, and William “Clipper” Flynn—a number of Chicago amateurs also filled in with the team throughout the 1870 season.

The 1870 White Stockings: Ned Cuthbert, Fred Treacey, Charlie Hodes, Bill Craver, Charlie Hodes, Levi Meyerle,Bob McAtee, , Marshall King, and William “Clipper” Flynn

The 1870 White Stockings: Ned Cuthbert, Fred Treacey, Charlie Hodes, Levi Meyerle, Ed Pinkham, Jimmy Wood, Bub McAtee, Bill Craver, Marshall King, and William “Clipper” Flynn

In May, the White Stockings arrived in New Orleans for a training trip.  Many books and articles credit Wood with being “the father” of spring training as a result of this trip; most cite Al Spink of The Sporting News as the source.  Most fail to mention that the Red Stockings trained in New Orleans at the same time that season, and even Wood didn’t take credit for being first.  Wood said in 1916 that his was “the second Southern trip ever undertaken by a ball club.”  The Atlantics of Brooklyn had made a similar trip in 1868, which included stops in New Orleans, Mobile, and Savannah.

Wood said the team won all of their games against New Orleans opponents—the Lone Stars, Pelicans, Robert E. Lee’s, and Southerns—“by overwhelming scores.”  He also claimed they defeated “the Memphis team, champions of Tennessee 157-1—and Foley was very angry because we had permitted the southerners to score their lone tally!”

The team played what Wood called their “first real game,” against Al Spalding and the Forest Citys in Rockford, Illinois and despite the Rockford fans backing “their team heavily in the betting…we swamped them.”

According to Wood, he and Foley shut the team down due to injuries “along about June 4th when I found that my ailing quartet was not convalescing very rapidly, I canceled all our remaining June and July games and stayed in Chicago.”

His 1916 recollection seems to be faulty here as well, as records indicate that the White Stockings played several games in June and July against amateur and professional clubs, including the season’s biggest disappointment for the team.

On July 6 the overconfident White Stockings lost 13-4 to the New York Mutuals, who had recently lost several games.  The New York Herald headline taunted:

Eighteen Thousand Dollars Squandered by Chicago

“With ‘hearts as light as the wind blows’ and feeling as happy as ‘big sunflowers’ the White Stockings crossed over to Williamsburg yesterday, there to teach the Mutuals of New York what a six months residence in Chicago could do in the art of base ball playing.  Never did a more confident party enter a ball field than the ‘nine’ created by Chicago…On the other hand, the Mutuals crossed over alarmed somewhat at the confidence of their opponents, and reflecting over their many defeats of late, denied not a syllable uttered.  They were quiet, reticent, in fact, and dressed for the fray as one might roll himself in a shroud preparatory to decapitation.  Underneath all of this, however, there was a determined will.”

On July 26, the Mutuals would beat Chicago again, this time on their home field, at the Dexter Park Racetrack at 47th and Halsted.  The Herald again taunted Chicago, calling the 9 to 0 victory “The Worst Whipping on Record.”

Despite the records indicating a fairly complete schedule during June and July, Wood, speaking in 1916 said “About August 4 we resumed our schedule and played out the season, winning all of our games from the resumption in August until the end.  And then came the grand climax of the year—the task for which we had been preparing ourselves; the battle with the Cincinnati Red Stockings.”

Wood’s memory was again at odds with the facts.  The White Stockings lost, at least, one August game at home, a 14 to 7 defeat at the hands of Spalding’s Forest Citys.

The story of Wood’s “grand climax of the year;” the Red Stockings series, coming up on Monday.

“Death to Flying Things”

3 Apr

The nickname “Death to Flying Things,” is likely the only thing most baseball fans would know of John Curtis “Jack” Chapman, and even that is a morass of different and often questionable research.  He shares the nickname with one-time Brooklyn Atlantics teammate Bob Ferguson, and competing versions of the story disagree about whether first baseman/outfielder Chapman or infielder Ferguson is the one most commonly referred to by the nickname—and never with contemporaneous citations to back up the assertions.

Regardless, Chapman was an important figure during the advent of the game.

He was a well-known amateur player in the 1860s with the Brooklyn Atlantics (as opposed to the National Association team of the same name he and Ferguson played for in 1874) and the Quaker City’s of Philadelphia. Beginning at age 30 he played a total of 113 in the National Association, with Brooklyn and St. Louis, and during the National League’s inaugural season in 1876 he played and managed the Louisville Grays.

Jack Chapman, far right, with 1868 Brooklyn Atlantics

Jack Chapman, far right, with 1868 Brooklyn Atlantics

After the 1876 season, the career.246 hitter retired as a player.  Over the next 22 years he managed parts of ten seasons in the National League and American Association; including an 88-44 finish and American Association championship with the Louisville Colonels in 1890.  He also managed for 11 seasons in the minor leagues, retiring from baseball after the 1899 season.

When his managerial career ended Chapman was often asked to discuss the current state of baseball; carrying on a tradition as old as the game, and one that will never end, Chapman was adamant that the game as it was currently being played did not measure up the game during his prime.  In a column that appeared in several newspapers in 1900 he said:

“Our great national game is today in bad shape both financially and in other ways.  Whether this situation is caused by the rowdyism of the players I cannot say, but it seems to me that if the rules were strictly lived up to and the chief of umpires and his staff did their duty the game would soon climb back to the high plane it once occupied.

“The players of 10 and 15 years ago were just as fast, tricky and well up in the game as those of today…Years ago the ball used to have two and one-half ounces of rubber in it, whereas now there is only one ounce.  This reduction has made the sphere less lively and consequently easier to field…The men are now harnessed almost like football players, with gloves, pads masks and other paraphernalia.  We hadn’t these accessories in the old days, yet I don’t think the fielding is much improved.”

But mostly Chapman seemed to be concerned with his legacy as a manager:

“Probably no other man has brought out so many players as I have, mainly because I always have made it a point to be on the lookout for new blood by means of which I could improve my team…I think I may claim without anyone gainsaying my assertion, that I have turned out and sold to the National and other leagues more players who have proved to be crackerjacks than any other man living.

Robert Winchester and Mickey Welch, two old timers were ‘finds’ of mine, while Hugh Jennings, Roger Connor, Jimmy Collins, (Bill) Hoffer, (Harry) Howell and many others too numerous to mention in the major and minor leagues were developed by myself.”

Jack Chapman 1900

Jack Chapman 1900

Unfortunately, he said little and provided no details about the most significant incident of his career: as manager of the Louisville Grays in 1877 his team was the first to be involved in a gambling scandal:

“I had four men of my own team—(George) Hall, (Bill) Craver, (Al) Nichols and (Jim) Devlin—put out by the league because they were caught throwing a game.  That was the first time such a thing had ever happened, and it caused a great sensation at the time.”

“Death to Flying Things” died in 1916 in Brooklyn at age 73.