Tag Archives: Bill Hoffer

Grantland Rice’s “All-Time All-Star Round up”

10 Aug

In December of 1917, thirty-eight-year-old sportswriter Grantland Rice of The New York Tribune enlisted in the army–he spent fourteen months in Europe.  Before he left he laid out the case, over two weeks, for an all-time all-star team in the pages of the paper:

“As we expect to be held to a restricted output very shortly, due to the exigencies and demands of the artillery game, this seemed to be a fairly fitting period to unfold the results.”

Grantland Rice

Grantland Rice

Rice said the selections were “not solely from our own limited observation, extending over a period of some eighteen or twenty years,” but included input from players, managers and sportswriters, including  “such veterans” as Frank Bancroft and Clark Griffith, and baseball writers Joe Vila of The New York Sun, Bill Hanna of The New York Herald and Sam Crane, the former major league infielder turned sportswriter of The New York Journal.

Rice said only one of the nine selections “(S)eems to rest in doubt.  The others were almost unanimously backed.”

The selections:

Pitcher:  Christy Mathewson

A. G. Spalding, John (Montgomery) Ward, Larry Corcoran, Charley Radbourn, John Clarkson, (Thomas) Toad Ramsey, Tim Keefe, Bill Hoffer, Amos Rusie, (Mordecai) Miner Brown, Addie Joss, Ed Walsh–the array is almost endless.

“In the matter of physical stamina, Cy Young has outclassed the field.  Cy won more games than almost any others ever pitched.

“(But) For all the pitching mixtures and ingredients, stamina, steadiness, brilliancy, brains, control, speed, curves, coolness, courage, is generally agreed that no man has ever yet surpassed Christy Mathewson…there has never been another who had more brains or as fine control.”

 

[…]

“It might be argued that Radbourn or (Walter) Johnson or (Grover Cleveland) Alexander was a greater pitcher than Mathewson.

But we’ll string with Matty against the field.”

Radbourn was the second choice.  Bancroft said:

“Radbourn was more like Mathewson than any pitcher I ever saw.  I mean by that, that like Matty, he depended largely upon brains and courage and control, like Matty he had fine speed and the rest of it.  Radbourn was a great pitcher, the best of the old school beyond any doubt.”

Catcher:  William “Buck” Ewing

“Here we come to a long array—Frank (Silver) Flint, Charley Bennett, (Charles “Chief”) Zimmer, (James “Deacon”) McGuire, (Wilbert) Robinson, (Marty) Bergen(Johnny) Kling, (Roger) Bresnahan and various others.

“But the bulk of the votes went to Buck Ewing.”

Buck Ewing

Buck Ewing

[…]

“Wherein did Ewing excel?

“He was a great mechanical catcher.  He had a wonderful arm and no man was surer of the bat…he had a keen brain, uncanny judgment, and those who worked with him say that he had no rival at diagnosing the  weakness of opposing batsman, or at handling his pitchers with rare skill.”

Kling was the second choice:

“Kling was fairly close…a fine thrower, hard hitter, and brilliant strategist…But as brilliant as Kling was over a span of years, we found no one who placed him over the immortal Buck.”

1B Fred Tenney

First Base was the one position with “the greatest difference of opinion,” among Rice and the others:

“From Charlie Comiskey to George Sisler is a long gap—and in that gap it seems that no one man has ever risen to undisputed heights… There are logical arguments to be offered that Hal Chase or Frank Chance should displace Fred Tenney at first.

But in the way of batting and fielding records Tenney wins….Of the present array, George Sisler is the one who has the best chance of replacing Tenney.”

2B Eddie Collins

 “There was no great argument about second base.

“The vote was almost unanimous.

“From the days of Ross Barnes, a great hitter and a good second baseman on through 1917, the game has known many stars.  But for all-around ability the game has known but one Eddie Collins.”

Rice said the competition was between Collins, Napoleon Lajoie and Johnny Evers:

“Of these Lajoie was the greatest hitter and most graceful workman.

“Of these Evers was the greatest fighter and the more eternally mentally alert.

“But for batting and base running, fielding skill, speed and the entire combination, Collins was voted on top.”

 SS Honus Wagner

“Here, with possibly one exception, is the easiest pick of the lot.  The game has been replete with star shortstops with George Wright in 1875 to (Walter “Rabbit”) Maranville, (George “Buck”) Weaver…There were (Jack) Glasscock and (John Montgomery) Ward, (Hardy) Richards0n, (Hugh) Jennings, (Herman)Long, (Joe) Tinker and (Jack) Barry.

“But there has been only one Hans Wagner.”

Honus Wagner

Honus Wagner

Jennings and Long were rated second and third,  “But, with the entire list  considered there is no question but that Wagner stands at the top.”

3B Jimmy Collins

Rice said:

“From the days of (Ned) Williamson(Jerry) Denny, and (Ezra) Sutton, over thirty years ago, great third basemen have only appeared at widely separated intervals.

“There have been fewer great third basemen in baseball than at any other position, for there have been periods when five or six years would pass without an undoubted star.”

The final decision came down to “John McGraw vs. Jimmy Collins.”  McGraw was “a great hitter, a fine bunter and a star base runner,” while “Collins was a marvel and a marvel over a long stretch…he was good enough to carve out a .330 or a .340 clip (and) when it came to infield play at third he certainly had no superior…So taking his combined fielding and batting ability against that of McGraw and Collins wins the place.  McGraw was a trifle his superior on the attack. But as a fielder there was no great comparison, Collins leading by a number of strides.”

 

OF Ty Cobb

“The supply here is overwhelming…Yet the remarkable part is that when we offered our selection to a jury of old players, managers and veteran scribes there was hardly a dissenting vote.”

[…]

“Number one answers itself.  A man who can lead the league nine years in succession at bat.

“A man who can lead his league at bat in ten out of eleven seasons.

“A man who can run up the record for base hits and runs scored in a year—also runs driven in.

“Well, the name Ty Cobb answers the rest of it.”

OF Tris Speaker

 “The man who gives Cobb the hardest battle is Tris Speaker.  Veteran observers like Clark Griffith all say that Speaker is the greatest defensive outfielder baseball has ever exploited…Speaker can cover more ground before a ball is pitched than any man.  And if he guesses incorrectly, which he seldom does, he can go a mile to retrieve his error in judgment…And to this impressive defensive strength must be added the fact he is a powerful hitter, not only a normal .350 man, but one who can tear the hide off the ball for extra bases.”

Tris Speaker "hardest hit"

Tris Speaker 

OF “Wee Willie” Keeler

Mike Kelly and Joe KelleyJimmy Sheckard and Fred Clarke—the slugging (Ed) Delehanty—the rare Bill LangeBilly Hamilton.

“The remaining list is a great one, but how can Wee Willie Keeler be put aside?

“Ask Joe Kelley, or John McGraw, or others who played with Keeler and who remember his work.

“Keeler was one of the most scientific batsmen that ever chopped a timely single over third or first…And Keeler was also a great defensive outfielder, a fine ground coverer—a great thrower—a star in every department of play.

“Mike Kelly was a marvel, more of an all-around sensation, but those who watched the work of both figure Keeler on top.”

Rice said of the nine selections:

“The above is the verdict arrived at after discussions with managers, players and writers who have seen a big section of the long parade, and who are therefore able to compare the stars of today with the best men of forgotten years.

“Out of the thousands of fine players who have made up the roll call of the game since 1870 it would seem impossible to pick nine men and award them the olive wreath.  In several instances the margin among three or four is slight.

“But as far a s deductions, observations, records and opinions go, the cast named isn’t very far away from an all-time all-star round up, picked for ability, stamina, brains, aggressiveness and team value.

“If it doesn’t stick, just what name from above could you drop?”

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.

 

“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.