Tag Archives: Bill Doak

“The Draft is Worrying the Baseball Players a lot.” 

28 Jun

John Brinsley “J.B.” Sheridan of The St. Louis Globe-Democrat said the war in Europe was on every ballplayer’s mind in the summer of 1917:

“The draft is worrying the baseball players a lot.  They do not want, as a whole, to go into the army. Not that they are afraid.  Not at all.  But every baseball player knows that one month’s absence from the game is very liable to end his playing career.  A baseball player must keep training all the time, never miss a day if he can, or get out of the game.”

Cardinals’ pitcher Bill Doak agreed:

“Ballplayers are all fearful of the draft, not because they are cowards or do not want to serve their country, but because they feel if they miss one week of training or play, catch cold, are stiffened up or even slightly wounded they are done as athletes.

“I may say that ballplayers do not worry about death or wounds.  If they are taken into the army and miss one month of spring practice they are practically done.  What may happen thereafter won’t worry them much.  They will know they are through with baseball when they miss training in March 1918.”

 

doak

Bill Doak

 

Doak said when he had “salary differences” with the Cardinals in 1917, he was scared to miss any time with the team:

“I know that I was worried sick about missing training.  In fact, I was so much worried that I packed up and joined the team in Texas a few days after I got there, and took the chance of settling my differences with the manager afterwards.  I did not want to miss that spring training.”

Doak cited examples of players he had spoken to about missing time:

Hans Wagner told me this summer that missing the spring training had slowed him up 30 percent…Frank Baker, the great slugger of the New York Yankees, missed training and daily play in 1915…Baker told me that the loss of training and regular daily play in 1915 had done him a great deal of harm and that when he missed training or regular season again he would quit for good.

“That is the way most ballplayers look at it.  They feel that if they miss a training season they are done.”

wagnerwbat

Honus Wagner

Of his own training regimen, Doak said:

“For myself, I may say that I do not smoke or drink or stay up late and am always taking a little exercise, walking gymnasium work, etc…That won’t help any.  If you want to stay in baseball you must be in the game every minute of the season.  You must go out with the team in the spring, first day, and stick with the team until the last ball is pitched, hit and caught.”

Doak noted that given the small window of time for a ballplayer to earn a living as a professional, they were particularly vulnerable to the impact of military service:

“The young player of 25 or 26 is in a quandary under the draft.  He has spent seven or eight years fitting himself for the position he has, after tremendous effort, obtained.  He may reasonably expect three to seven years more of high salary.  Then comes the draft and he sees his profession swept away from him.

“The moment the ballplayer misses the training season or playing season or gets a cold in his arm or is slightly wounded it is all off with him.

“In other words, the ballplayer kisses his business goodbye when he misses March in the training camps.”

But he concluded:

“Of course, ballplayers owe more to the country than most other men.  They are a fortunate class, well paid, pampered, made much of, given many valuable opportunities.  They owe it to their country, to the game and to themselves to set a good example to the youth of the nation, which looks to them with admiration and respect.  The ballplayers will go.”

Doak, who claimed a dependent family exemption, and who was hampered by a bad back throughout his career, was not drafted during World War I.

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Lost Advertisements–Grover Cleveland Alexander, Sweet Caporal

19 Feb

alexandercaporal

A Sweet Caporal advertisement featuring Grover Cleveland Alexander:

  “Sweet Caporals have led the smoke league for a great many years.  For real flavor and satisfaction you can’t beat them.”

Shortly before the 1915 season, Damon Runyon, writing in The New York American compared Alexander and Walter Johnson:

Damon Runyon

Damon Runyon

“Whenever we see Grover Cleveland Alexander pitching at top form, we conclude that he is the greatest right-handed pitcher in the land, and we cling to that conclusion until Walter Perry Johnson comes along with a line of his best pelting.  Then we decide that Walter is the greatest, and we hold that decision to the day that ‘Alex’ reappears.

“In short, our mind–probably none to stable at best–does a heap of vacillating between these Western wonders, and we are certain of only just one thing with respect to their ability–which is that it’s either Grover or Walter who is the greatest righthander…You may think that (Christy) Mathewson, or (Dick) Rudolph, or Bill James or Willie (Bill) Doak is greatest, and we have no doubt that you can produce just as many arguments in support of your belief…but it is our opinion that Johnson and Alexander today stand head and shoulders above all the rest.”

Runyon said that neither, however, were better than Mathewson when Matty was at his best:

“They are both great pitchers, but there have probably been many just as great–and there has been only one Mathewson.”

Runyon also claimed that players who faced both Alexander and Johnson agreed that one was the better pitcher:

“Ball players who have hit against both men–or rather who haven’t hit against them, for there is never much hitting against Walter or Grover–say that the Nebraskan is the better of the two.  They say he has as much ‘stuff’and knows how to use it better than Johnson.”

Morris' ride, Walter Johnson

Walter Johnson

Most important to Runyon, he said, was that he preferred watching Alexander pitch:

“As a matter of personal choice, however, we would rather watch Alexander work than Johnson:  To us, it seems that he has more natural grace in the box…than the big Washington propeller.  There are mighty few pitchers who come under the head of things of beauty when they are working, but ‘Alex’ is one of them.”

As for a forecast for the coming season, Runyon said:

“Some fans are dreaming this year of seeing Alexander and Johnson as opponents in the first game of the 1915 world’s series, but they are mostly Philadelphia and Washington fans who are having those dreams, and we doubt if the dreams will come true.”

Both pitchers were dominant that season.

Johnson was 27-13 with a 1.55 ERA for a team, true to Runyon’s prediction, could only dream of a pennant–finishing fourth.

Alexander, however, was 31-10 with 1.22 ERA and did pitch the first game of the World Series for the pennant-winning Philadelphia Phillies–he won the opener 3 to 1, beating Ernie Shore and the  Red Sox, but Boston came back and won four straight, including Dutch Leonard‘s 2 to 1 victory over Alexander in Game 3.