Tag Archives: Billy Barnie

“Piggy Ward, and Rightly Nicknamed is he”

15 May

After his off-season heroics, pulling an Altoona, Pennsylvania man from a fire, Piggy Ward, having been released by the Washington Senators, joined the Scranton Coal Heavers in the Eastern League for the 1895 season; The Scranton Times called him, “a very good man and will be heard from on the lines.”

He quickly became popular with his new club. The Scranton Tribune said:

“(He is) clearly a favorite with the unwashed bleacher—or, with the grandstand, for that matter…He is large bodied, somewhat round shouldered and looks awkward in repose. In action he is one of the quickest on the team and plays and steals bases with a vim and action that is refreshing.”

He hit .357—45 players with at least 200 at bats hit better than .300 that season in the Eastern League—The Sporting News said his manager found a way to get the most out of Ward:

“(Billy) Barnie gave him instructions to be in bed at least two nights a week. A little sleep and less booze and Ward is all right.”

 

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Ward caricature, 1902

His “coaching” did not seem to change, and on several occasions, according to the Scranton newspapers, he was ordered off the field “for offensive coaching.” And he was unpopular in the other league cities.

After Ward was thrown out of a game with the Rochester Browns in the third inning, The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle said:

“’Piggy’ Ward, and rightly nicknamed is he.”

He was even less liked in Buffalo; The Courier said: “Ward is one of the most offensive coachers extant, and he would gain friends by bottling some of his exuberant flow of nonsense.” While The Enquirer was even less charitable:

“(H)is calliope-like voice is about as musical as a dynamite blast in a stone quarry. He evidently imagines he is pretty all right as a ‘kidder,’ but what he doesn’t know about being funny would fill several large volumes. Altogether as a joker, ‘Piggy’ is a rank, dismal, decided failure.”

The Tribune noted that the second baseman was a bit eccentric in other ways as well:

“Ward has a nondescript practice uniform which is a cross between the scant apparel of a Feeje [sic] islander and the hay-making garb of a farmer. It consists of a white negligee coat cut like a robe de chambre and reaching to the knees, a pair of loose trousers of the same color which reach to the shoe tops, a white cap and a sleeveless undershirt that is open to the waist.”

In 1896, Ward was again in Scranton, and he had vowed in the off season to be in the best shape of his life. In a letter to The Tribune he said he spent the winter “handling a pair of spirited mules,” and expected to report to Scranton weighing 185 pounds, down from his 217 the previous season. The paper said he appeared to have lost 20 pounds from the previous season upon his arrival.

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Piggy Ward

Also, in 1896, his one-man “coacher” show became a two-man show when Arlie Latham, released by the St. Louis Browns in mid May, joined the Coal Heavers. The Springfield (MA) News was one of the rare league newspapers that thought it was good thing:

“With two such comedians…the Scranton team ought to prove a great drawing card on the circuit, The Springfield crowd are anxious for Scranton series here.”

Neither made it through the season, Latham was released July 17, Ward, one month later.  When Ward signed with the Toronto Canadians, The Wilkes Barre Record said:

“Ward is a great batter and base runner. There we quit.”

The Wilkes Barre News said:

“(Ward) is just where he belongs on that gang of Toronto hoodlums.”

Al Buckenberger’s Canadians were considered to be the dirtiest team in the league, The Springfield Union said with the addition of Ward:

“The opponent that gets around first base now without being tripped is lucky to get past Piggy Ward in safety and is sure to be blocked or tripped at third by Jud Smith.”

After the 1896 season, some of the papers in the Eastern League cities suggested rules changes to eliminate Ward’s type of “coaching.” The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle said:

“The majority of ‘fans’ take as much delight in lively, witty coaching, such as has made Arlie Latham and Billy Clymer famous…There need not be anything offensive in aggressive work by men on the lines…but all players are not like Clymer (and Latham) and that big beast s like ‘Pig’ Ward make themselves obnoxious by their actions and language when in the coacher’s box.”

The Syracuse Herald suggested adopting a rule “ousting ‘Pig’ Ward and others of his ilk from the game entirely.”

Whether it was an attempt to improve his image or a function of playing on a smaller stage—with his hometown Lancaster Maroons in the Atlantic League and the Mansfield Haymakers in the Interstate League—Ward seemed to stay fairly quiet and avoid controversy among the press in the league cities from 1897 through 1899.

The 5’ 9” Ward seems to have played in his later years at between 220 and 230 pounds from various reports. Frank Rinn, who managed Ward for the three seasons in Lancaster talked to The Hartford Courant about him:

“Although he is heavy and sluggish Piggy has more ginger than a dozen ordinary players. Rinn was telling the other day how hard it was to get Ward to train…He was sent out to coach once and he pulled a cushion out from under his shirt and had a good seat on the ground.”

Ward bounced from no less than eight teams between 1900 and 1905, including playing for John McCloskey again—in 1902 in Pacific Northwest League with the Butte Miners—Ward stayed with the McCloskey for the entire season this time—winning a championship and receiving a gold watch and chain at season’s end for being voted by fans as the team’s most popular player in a promotion for a local jeweler. He also led the league with a .332 batting average; only seven players in the six-team Pacific Northwest circuit hit .300 or better that season.

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Ward and Butte Miners teammate Thomas Kelly in 1903.

The Cincinnati Times Star, still not recovered from his tenure with the Reds nearly a decade earlier said of Ward winning the watch:

“The booby prize was the best Ward could have captured in a similar contest during his stay in this city.”

In 1903, Ward reverted to some of his old ways.  With an already signed contract to return to Butte and a $100 advance in his pocket, he signed a contract and collected a $100 advance from the Portland Browns in the upstart Pacific Coast League. He ended up back in Butte, and when McCloskey left the club to manage the San Francisco Pirates, he told the Butte newspapers that Ward, who was already the team captain, was his choice to succeed him as manager; the club instead named shortstop Billy Kane manager.

When rumors swirled in 1905 that the cash-strapped Pacific National League might cut player salaries, The Spokane Chronicle said Ward tried to form a player’s union chartered by the American Labor Union which was formed in 1898 as the Western Labor Union to create a federation of mine workers. The rumored pay cuts never came, nor did the union.

Ward was reported to have died in January of 1906; the news made all the Philadelphia dallies and several other East Coast papers, and over the next month spread West.  The papers had confused Piggy—Frank G. Ward—with Frank P. Ward, a former amateur player who had died in Newark, N.J.

Ward was seriously injured that same winter when working as an electrician; he was shocked and fell from a pole.

The news of his death—despite being corrected in the papers—and the accident, were enough to make many believe Ward had died. When he traveled to Chicago in August of 1911 for former teammate Charles Comiskey’s birthday, The Chicago Daily News said Comiskey was shocked to see Ward, “whom he thought was dead.”

The not-dead Ward did not play professionally in 1906—the Frank Ward who appeared with the Glens Falls-Saratoga Springs team in the Hudson River League—listed among Ward’s career statistics on Baseball Reference—is a different Frank Wad.

He was hired in 1907 as an umpire in the Northwestern League. The Butte News celebrated the move:

“’Piggy’ promises to be as popular an umpire as he was a player…He is firm, has a good voice, and is known to all the of the Northwest, and President (William Henry) Lucas made a 10-strike when he appointed him  on the league staff.”

He lasted just two games. The Spokane Press said he:

“(B)roke down completely last night. This morning he was almost a nervous wreck. A collection was taken up among the ballplayers and he was sent back to his home in Scranton, Pennsylvania”

The paper said Ward’s wife had suggested he take the position because it might “build him up,” after the electrocution, but the stress was “too much for him.”

Four months after Ward’s reunion with Comiskey, The Pittsburgh Gazette Times said he was “near death,” a pitiable wreck,” suffering from “brain disease,” in an Altoona hospital.

Ten months later, on October 23, 1912, 45-year-old Piggy Ward died. The Altoona Tribune called him “one of the most famous diamond stars in the land,” and said:

“He possessed several expensive pins, a beautiful watch, and other jewelry presented to him by admirers when he was thrilling fandom with his feats.”

“Danny had been Drinking Steadily”

6 May

In July of 1893, the Brooklyn Grooms announced that veteran second baseman Danny Richardson had been suspended.

Manager Dave Foutz told The Brooklyn Citizen:

“I have laid Richardson off without pay until he can get into condition. While we were in Baltimore Richardson shut himself in his room at the hotel and said he was sick. He never sent any communication to me, however, and as I knew a thing or two, I decided to lay him off.”

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Richardson

Team president Charles Byrne was more direct, telling the paper “Danny had been drinking steadily, and had not tried to play ball.”

Byrne said:

“He went astray once before but he promised to reform and said he had been treated well and had no fault to find with the club.”

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Byrne

Byrne said on the road trip the team had just finished, “Richardson constantly violated the club’s rules, and greatly weakened the team through his inability to play ball properly.”

On that trip, which began on June 26, the Grooms won the first five games—putting them in first place—then they dropped 14 of 15 (with a tie); putting them in 5th place, eight and  half games back before returning to Brooklyn.

Richardson defended himself in The Citizen:

“I am a sick man. I have a certificate from a physician which ought to convince Manager Foutz that I am unable to play ball. My stomach has been troubling me and my lungs are weak. I have had a bad cold which has affected my lungs since the season opened. I want to deny that I have been drinking. This layoff is merely to get rid of paying me my money. I have never been charged with drinking before, and I have always borne the reputation of being a reliable player. When a man’s sick he can’t play ball, and that’s all there is to it.”

The Brooklyn Standard Union said Richardson “says he is falsely accused of ‘tippling;’ that the false news has reached his home and his business partner, thereby injuring his reputation,” and that he would not play for Brooklyn again unless Foutz and Byrne “retract what is alleged.”

Richardson, who had lived his entire life in Elmira, New York, and was a partner in a local dry goods firm, Sheehan, Dean & Company which operated stores in New York and Pennsylvania—he remained with the company for the rest of his life—was extremely popular, and the town’s paper’s took up his cause. The Gazette and Free Press made it clear where the locals stood:

“The reports…will not affect his excellent reputation as a good ball player, and an enterprising businessman, in the least. Everybody here knows Dan too well to take any stock in Manager Foutz’ charges.”

New York sportswriters quickly took sides as well. O.P. Caylor, in The New York Herald said up until the suspension, “very few baseball patrons knew” that Richardson drank to excess, “But to those more intimately acquainted with him it was no news that Danny went off on a quiet ‘bat;’ occasionally.”

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 Caylor

He also made it clear he thought the infielder was overrated to begin with:

“Richardson has been known as the ‘King of second baseman.’ He probably should have divided that honor with (Bid) McPhee, and (Fred) Dunlap, (Ross) Barnes and (Fred) Pfeffer in their day were, in an all-around sense, Richardson’s superiors.”

Caylor said the “proof” that Richardson “deserved what he got,” was that “The Brooklyn club has a deserving record for leniency and square dealing with its ballplayers. No club in the country acts more fairly toward with its ballplayers.” Therefore he concluded, suspending him meant there was “no shadow of doubt,” about Richardson’s guilt.

Richardson’s fate highlighted “the greatest of all evils” in baseball, said Caylor:

“Why it is that more than 50 percent of professional baseball players are excessive users of intoxicating liquors is a problem that has not yet been worked out.”

Sam Crane, infielder turned baseball writer, said in The New York Press that Richardson was being treated unfairly. He criticized Foutz and Byrne for spreading rumors about the second baseman before news of the suspension broke. Crane said while he covered Richardson during his years with the Giants:

“(He) was a model player in every way and was often held up as an example for other players to follow. He was a credit to the profession, and not a breath of suspicion ever touched him.”

Crane was concerned by the team’s “spiteful tone,” and felt that Richardson might never play again:

“This may be base ball law, but it is doubtful if it would be held as lawful in any court in this broad land, and it is not likely that any but a baseball magnate would so consider it.”

Byrne doubled down after Richardson’s demand for a retraction. He gave The Brooklyn Eagle a detailed account of the games Richardson missed and why:

“”Mr. Richardson says he’s been sick. Very likely, but there is usually cause for sickness. His sick spells began early in the season. On May 9, in New York Mr. Richardson about the second inning had to leave the game. He said his head was dizzy and he could not see. He failed to report the next day. He played from May 11 to May 27 inclusive. He was unfit to play ball May 29 and failed to report for either of the games of Memorial Day.”

Additionally, Byrne said, Richardson “made his appearance in Brooklyn” late on June 5 and “His appearance was painfully noticeable.” And, Richardson’s “sick spells” always seemed to happen on Mondays and continued throughout June.

Byrne told the paper that he spoke to his player before the road trip:

“Richardson admitted most frankly to me that he had not done right, that he was heartily ashamed of himself, but that he had made up his mind to stop his nonsense and by good work redeem himself.”

Byrne said Richardson behaved badly on road trip, including an incident in the billiard room at the Gibson House Hotel in Cincinnati, where Foutz “as a matter of kindness, went to him and begged him not to make a show of himself in a public place.”

When Richardson failed to arrive at the ballpark in Baltimore on July 18 and 19, Byrne said the team could not “be imposed upon any longer.”

Byrne told The Standard Union:

“There will be no withdrawal or apology of any statements made–we have never made charges—because everything so far published is true. Mr. Richardson—if we desire his services—will play with Brooklyn or not at all. He will not be released; he will not be exchanged for the best ballplayer in the country, not can his services be secured for any money consideration whatever.”

With the situation at an impasse, The Eagle saw one upside:

“The recent trouble in the Brooklyn team which resulted in the suspension of Danny Richardson, was the cause of Brooklyn securing, beyond all odds, the latest youngster in the league. William H. Keeler.”

The Grooms purchased Keeler from the Giants for $800 five days after Richardson’s suspension. Two weeks later, The Eagle said:

“When he joined the team he was a good man, but of course, he lacked the knowledge of the intricate points possessed by the old timers, In a short while, however he mastered all the points, and today is the equal of any of the star players.”

Keeler hit .313 in 20 games, but apparently did not impress Foutz and Byrne as much he impressed The Eagle; he was traded to Baltimore with Dan Brouthers for George Treadway and Billy Shindle before the 1894 season.

Richardson hid out from the controversy in Elizabethtown, New York, and according to The Elizabethtown Post, played at least one game with the town’s club:

“(Richardson) played with the home team and very materially aided in the happy result (a 16 to 14 victory). His brilliant playing was closely watched by a large crowd of spectators and for the space of two hours he was little less than an idol. When he made an excusable muff, owing to collision with a base runner it was the surprise of the season to think him human enough to err.”

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Richardson’s game in Elizabethtown

Richardson returned to Elmira in October and played games with the local amateur team, the Cornings.

Rumors began circulating in December that Richardson and team would come to some compromise; The New York World made the paper’s position in the dispute clear:

“The Brooklyn Baseball Club, it is said, will extend clemency to Danny Richardson next year and condescendingly allow him to breathe and play ball next year if he so desires.”

On December 14, the team announced that Richardson was free to play in 1884. The team’s treasurer, Ferdinand A. “Gus” Abell told The Standard Union:

“If Foutz wants Richardson to play second base, the latter is at liberty to come to Brooklyn next spring and sign a contract. If Richardson is not wanted, I’d be perfectly willing to trade him off; but I wouldn’t sell his release. New York can have him for (Amos) Rusie or one of their star players, as I think he would attend to business under (John Montgomery) Ward and play good ball.”

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Foutz

Brooklyn appeared to keep the door open for the second baseman to return. Foutz told The Brooklyn Times in January that he wrote Richardson “asking him what his intentions were,” but that he had received no reply.” The New York Herald said that Richardson wrote in letter that he was “afraid that if he should decide to play under Foutz again the cranks would give him a roasting whenever he made an error.”

Several trades were rumored over the next several months. The Herald said four clubs—Louisville, St. Louis, Philadelphia, and New York– wanted him, The Chicago Tribune said Richardson would be traded to St. Louis for Kid Gleason, The Philadelphia Inquirer said the Giants had offered outfielder Mike Tiernan in trade, while The Louisville Times said Richardson would be traded there for Tom Brown.

In February, The Louisville Courier-Journal said Richardson would be sold to the Colonels:

“The exact amount is a secret, but it is not far from $2500.”

But the deal became stalled for a month, with news that either Richardson, despite meeting with manager Billy Barnie and captain Fred Pfeffer in New York , was still hesitant about joining them in Kentucky, or that the Colonels were trying to pay less than originally agreed upon.

When the Brooklyn correspondent for Sporting Life claimed, “Louisville sighs for Richardson, and bothers Brooklyn for him, but when asked a fair price…offer one half the amount.,” The Courier-Journal responded:

“It does seem a little steep to pay $2500 for a player who was suspended for dissipation.”

The deal was finally made on March 15, Louisville paid $2250. The New York Press said that Byrne “thought that was a good amount,” because it was the same Brooklyn paid Washington when they traded Bill Joyce and cash to acquire him.

Barnie told The Courier his team’s prospects for 1894 rested on having acquired Richardson:

“There had been so much talk and Danny is a man of such great value, that I felt we must get him or quit. We couldn’t afford to quit, so we just got him.”

Louisville went 36-94 and finished in 12th place; Richardson moved to shortstop, played in 116 games and hit .256; the keystone combination of Pfeffer and Richardson accounted for 132 errors.

In the season’s final week, after the September 24th game—an 8 to 7 loss to the Giants–his team more than 50 games out of first place, Richardson asked for and received his release. The New York World said:

“Danny Richardson has not been on the Louisville payroll since the first part of this week. He forfeited half a month’s pay to be permitted to leave for his home in Elmira. He is tired of baseball, disheartened with the playing of his club and sick of criticisms that fell upon him when he took chances to make difficult plays and missed the plays. It is likely that he will give up baseball.”

The 31-year-old never played another major league game.

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things: Ed Delahanty

27 Apr

Post Death Sighting

When Ed Delahanty died, Like Elvis and other icons, there were of course those who claimed to see him alive. The most publicized example involved a sighting at an establishment owned by two other players. The Associated Press reported:

“A traveling man named O’Brien, who is well acquainted with Edward Delehanty [sic], the famous Washington fielder whose body was said to be taken from the river at Buffalo, claims to have seen Delehanty about George (Nig) Cuppy and Lou Creiger’s [sic, Criger] cigar store at Elkhart, Indiana yesterday. O’Brien approached the man he is positive was Delehanty, but the latter conducted himself as if he did not want to be known. O’Brien heard of Delehanty’s reported suicide, and for that reason paid particular attention to the individual.”

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Delahanty

Delahanty’s “Mascot”

After Delahanty’s death, The New York Herald said Delahanty had a “mascot” who helped him make money at the racetrack:

“Felix Carr, the old-time negro jockey and trainer for (prominent thoroughbred breeder and owner) Barney Schreiber, was responsible for Delahanty’s success on the racetrack and during the winters of 1900 and 1901 the great batsman made as high as $10,000 a season playing the horses at the winter meetings. Felix Carr supplied him with all the stable information at his command and it was on Schreiber’s two-year-olds that Delahanty made his biggest killings.”

Carr was “in Delahanty’s company at the Commercial Hotel,” (now the Hotel Monteleone) in New Orleans “the night before he was killed.”

The paper said Carr, with $2500 in his pocket, left the hotel, disappeared and was later found “in the Bayou St. John, a stream that passes very close to the Fair Grounds racetrack at the Crescent City.” The Herald called it “a strange coincidence” that Carr and Delahanty met “death in the water.”

Delahanty was said to be “continually worrying” that his friend’s assailants were not captured and that “With Carr’s demise” so went Delahanty’s success betting on horses.

The story was correct that Delahanty’s “mascot” disappeared with $2500, but wrong that his body was found.

Carr went missing in March of 1902, but just three months after Delahanty’s death, the former jockey was located in Havana; the $2500 he disappeared with had belonged to his boss.

The Chicago Daily News said Schreiber was so happy to have found out that Carr was still alive, “he will not prosecute him, but will, on the contrary, give him a life position,” to continue training horses at Schreiber’s Missouri farm.

Delahanty’s signing

Two weeks after Delahanty’s body was discovered, The Louisville Courier Journal told the story of how he signed his first major league contract in 1888:

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Delahanty

“(Charlie) Bastian, who was one of the best fielders in the business, was a weak batsman, and it was decided to secure a good sticker for second base.”

The club sent a James H. Randall to Wheeling, West Virginia to secure Delahanty’s release.

Randall was once described by The Philadelphia Inquirer as:

“Detective James H. Randall…known as an expert in base ball cases and has heretofore been in the employ of the League. He signed (Kid) Gleason, (Pop) Schriver, (Jack) Clements, and (Joe) Mulvey for the Philadelphia club.”

Randall was also said by The Inquirer to have been employed by the Players League in 1890 to help induce talent to jump to the Brotherhood, He also managed some Pennsylvania based minor league clubs in the early 1890s.

“When Randall arrived in Wheeling, he found William McGonigle [sic, McGunnigle], manager of the Brooklyn club and Billy Barnie of the Baltimore club, both of whom were there for the purchase of players, and Delehanty [sic] in particular.”

Randall was able to outmaneuver the competition and “purchased Delahanty’s release,” for $1800.

“He had been told not to pay over $1000 but was so impressed with what he learned about the player that when the other people bid, he raised the amount.”

The Wheeling club was playing a series in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Randall headed there to sign Delahanty. When he arrived, Al Buckenberger, the Wheeling manager:

“(H)ad not been consulted about the sale and was very indignant when he was informed that Delehanty had been sold. He was also very anxious to beat Kalamazoo in the series, so Randall allowed Delehanty to play two games at Kalamazoo before he signed him.”

Randall said at the close of the series he met with Delahanty at the team’s hotel in Kalamazoo:

“I asked him how he’d like to play in the big league. He said: ‘All right, but I can’t get away.’ When asked how much he salary he would want in case he could get away, he replied that he ought to have about $225 per month to start with.”

Randall said he signed Delahanty for $250 a month and the two left for Chicago where Delahanty made his major league debut on May 22.

“There was probably none so Unique as Shreve”

24 Jul

Leven Lawrence “Lev” Shreve II came from a prominent family in Louisville, Kentucky.  His great-uncle, and namesake, had been president of the Louisville Gas and Water Company, and the Louisville & Nashville Railroad.

The 19-year-old made his professional debut in 1886, playing with Savannah, then Chattanooga; he was a combined 12-9 with 1.52 ERA.  Shreve was signed by Billy Barnie to join his young pitching staff with the Baltimore Orioles in the American Association.  He came to Baltimore with great expectations.

Lev Shreve

Lev Shreve

The Baltimore Daily News called him “Barnie’s phenom.”  In wasn’t the first time a relatively unknown pitcher was given that name by the Baltimore press.

Shreve had trouble getting as Barnie primarily relied on 21-year-old Matt Kilroy and 22-year-old Phenomenal Smith; Shreve, and fellow 20-year-old Ed Knouff saw limited action in the first two months of the season.

The Sporting Life said he wasn’t happy:

 “Shreve, the Louisville boy…complains that he does not get a fair deal.  He affirms that his arm is in fine trim, but that he is not allowed to pitch. Shreve is an ambitious ball player, and desires to show what is in him.  He says he will quit if Barnie does not play him.”

The Baltimore Sun said

“People are asking why Shreve isn’t given a chance.”

The Sporting Life, perhaps, provided an explanation for the lack of work later that month:

“Cigarette smoking is said to be impairing the efficiency of two Baltimore pitchers, Shreve and Knouff”

It would not be the last mention of cigarettes and Shreve in The Sporting Life;  the pitcher was also said to be “a cigarette fiend,” and “as noted for his cigarette habit” as his pitching.

Neither Shreve, who was sold to the Indianapolis Hoosiers in the National League, nor Knouff, who was sold to the St. Louis Browns, would finish the season with Baltimore; it’s unknown whether smoking was the cause.

Shreve was 3-1 with a 3.79 ERA in five games in Baltimore.

The sale to Indianapolis didn’t seem to hurt Shreve’s confidence according to George Myers, his catcher with the Hoosiers.  Meyers, two decades after playing with Shreve, said the pitcher was talented, cocky and erratic, and described Shreve’s first National League game; a 4-1 10-inning victory over the first place Detroit Wolverines on August 19:

“There was probably none so unique as Shreve…My, but he was a fresh youth…He had awful speed and good curves and perfect control of the ball.  His confidence and egotism were astounding.  I remember one day we were to play against Detroit (Wolverines).  It was when the big four, (Jack) Rowe, (Deacon) White, (Hardy) Richardson and (Dan) Brouthers were on the team.

“Mr. Shreve, who had been assigned to pitch, strutted to the box with the swagger that would have made John L. Sullivan look cheap when John L. was monarch of all in the fistic business.  ‘Just watch me fellows, and see what I do to those swell-headed guys from Michigan,’ said the smiling Shreve.  ‘I am going to make ‘em look like a lot of suckers.’

“Richardson was the first batter up…’So you are the great invincible Hardy Richardson, eh?’ drawled Mr. Shreve.  ‘Well Hardy, old chap, I’m going to show you that you are easy for a good pitcher…Shreve let go the first ball and it went around Hardy’s neck like a shot.  He struck at it after I had it in my hands.  Bang goes the second, also a strike, and the third a wide, slow, outshoot, fooled the great batter completely and Shreve said mockingly: ‘Back to the bench Hardy, I told you that you were easy.

“Big Dan Brouthers, who was always a terror to pitchers, came next and he had blood in his eye…’so this is the terrible Mr. Dan Brouthers,’ grinned the fresh pitcher.  ‘Hate to tell you Dan, how soft a mark you are’…Dan missed the first two, which went close to his chin, and the next he hit like a shot at the pitcher.  Shreve caught it in easy style and gave Brouthers the ‘ha ha’ in most tantalizing fashion as Dan ambled to the bench.

“Deacon White came next and Shreve kidded him unmercifully.  ‘Deacon who told you that you could hit anything?’ was the greeting white was given.  The Deacon scowled and muttered ominous.  ’Duck soup is what you are for me.’ Sand Shreve, as White missed the first ball by several inches.  ‘Oh, how easy,’ was the next rejoinder, and Deacon smashed blindly at an outshoot, a moment later striking out on one of those speedy ones such as had sent Richardson to the bench.

“The Big Four could do absolutely nothing with Shreve’s delivery, and the other members of their team were just as helpless…This fellow Shreve was one of the best pitchers I ever met, but he was an erratic chap, and dreadfully hard to handle.”

George Myers

George Myers

After beating the eventual National League champions in his first start, Shreve ended up a disappointing 5-9 with a 4.72 ERA for Indianapolis.

Myers said on another occasion Shreve approached him before pitching against the Chicago White Stockings, who had won the National League championship in 1886:

“’Say, George, what team is this we are up against today?’

“I immediately began to read him a lecture, telling him that a young man just starting in on his career as a professional ballplayer shouldn’t deport himself in such a manner. ‘The idea of you coming on to the grounds when the champion Chicagos are here, and not knowing it, why—‘  ‘The champion Chicagos,’ interrupted Shreve, ‘Never mind, George, just watch me.  Oh just wait and see what I will do to that bunch.”

Myer s said Shreve shutout the White Stockings.  (This story appears to be either apocryphal or conflated with another incident as Shreve did not shutout Chicago that season).

Shreve was 11-24 in 1888 and 0-3 in 1889 when he was released by the Hoosiers.  He played three minor league seasons and was out of professional baseball by the age of 24.

Myers said his former teammate was “erratic as Rube Waddell,” and:

“I could tell story after story about this man Shreve.  If he had taken care of himself he would have been the greatest pitcher in baseball history.”

“The Ty Cobb of Trapshooters”

15 Jul

Lester Stanley “Les” German broke into professional baseball with a bang in 1890.  The 21-year-old played for Billy Barnie’s Baltimore Orioles, a team that had dropped out of the American Association and after the 1889 season and joined the Atlantic Association, a minor league.

German was 35-9 in August when the American Association’s Brooklyn Gladiators folded in August, the Orioles returned to the association, and German returned to Earth; posting a 5-11 record for the big league Orioles.

German was a minor league workhorse for the next two and a half seasons.  He was 35-11 for the Eastern Association champion Buffalo Bisons in 1891; he appeared in 77 games and pitched 655 innings for the Oakland Colonels in the California League in 1892, and was 22-11 for the Augusta Electricians in the Southern Association in July of 1893 when his contract was purchased by the New York Giants.

Les German, 1894

Les German, 1894

German would never win in double figures again; In five seasons in the National League he was 29-52, including a 2-20 mark with the 1896 Washington Senators.

It was German’s next career that earned him the most notoriety.  A crack shot, German became one of the most famous trapshooters in the country for the next thirty years.  He won numerous championships and was often featured in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show with Annie Oakley.

A National Sports Syndicate article in 1918 said “Lester German is the Ty Cobb of trapshooters.”  The article said that beginning in 1908, when official records were first kept, German had maintained a “remarkable average,” shooting a t a better percentage than any other professional marksman.

Les German, 1918

Les German, 1918

As German’s reputation as a shooter grew, his legacy as a pitcher became inflated.

A mention of his baseball career in a 1916 issue of “The Sportsmen’s Review”, credited German, and his 9-8 record,  with “leading the Giants,” to their 1894 Temple Cup series victory over the Baltimore Orioles, there was no mention of Amos Rusie’s two shutouts .  A 1915 article in The Idaho Statesman inexplicably said German “headed the National League in both pitching and fielding” in 1895—German was 7-11 with a 5.54 ERA and committed 2 errors in 45 chances on the mound; he also made eight errors in 11 games he filled in for the injured George Davis at third base.

German operated a gun shop and continued to organize and participate in shooting tournaments until his death in Maryland in 1934.

“Barnie’s Phenom”

10 Apr

The Baltimore Orioles needed pitching in 1889; Billy Barnie’s team had finished in 5th place in the American Association with a 57-80 record, and a 5.69 team ERA.

The Baltimore papers thought he had found a solution in April of 1889, The Sun said:

“Yesterday a big six-footer strolled up to the ball grounds while the Baltimore boys were at play.  He put on a suit and went in to pitch.  The ball-players laughed at first, but soon found that they could not hit the stranger.  He placed the ball in every conceivable position, and his curves and in-and-out shoots were remarkable.  When he picked up the bat he made the ball and the centre-field fence come together.  Mr. J.M. Ritter, a traveling salesman, had seen the young pitcher at play in Virginia and brought him to Baltimore.”

The Baltimore American was also enthusiastic:

“Great things are expected of Goetz, the Greencastle giant.”

His full name was George Burt Goetz, a 24-year-old house painter from Greencastle, Pennsylvania, who had played semi-pro ball in Virginia and Pennsylvania.

His first outing was against Pennsylvania University at Oriole Park; The Sun said Goetz “delighted 1,000 persons yesterday afternoon by his work in the box.” He pitched five shutout innings, giving up just two hits in a 20-1 victory; he also hit four singles, The Sun raved “He gives promise of becoming a great pitcher, batter and runner.”

The Sun said Goetz’ arrival was almost biblical:

“(He) has apparently created almost as much of a sensation among the local ball enthusiasts as David did when he strolled in among the embattled hosts of the Hebrews and offered to take the Philistine champion down a peg or two. ..Let us hope for the honor of the Baltimore Club that Mr. Goetz will prove a Baltimore David, and that the big champions of opposing teams may fall before his lightning delivery and Heaven-inspired curves.”

Within a week Goetz had been brought back to earth when he was pounded in an exhibition game against the National League’s Boston Beaneaters in Baltimore, he gave up 15 hits, 12 runs (6 earned), and committed three errors in a 12-5 loss.

The Sun conceded that “David met Goliath and came out second best this time,” but remained hopeful:

“(T)here’s life in him yet, which the season may develop into full growth.”

As quickly as he had arrived, it was reported that Goetz had returned to Pennsylvania to recover from an unknown illness; The Sporting Life simply said “Barnie’s Phenom Goetz is sick and recuperating in Greencastle.”

Oriole Manager Billy Barnie

Orioles Manager Billy Barnie

Goetz made it back to Baltimore and pitched in a June 6 game “Between two nines composed of Baltimore club players…for the benefit of the Johnstown (flood) sufferers.”  The Sun said “Goetz was too much for them,” allowing only four hits.

That outing appears to have earned him a shot for his professional debut; eleven days later Goetz started the first game of a double-header against the last place Louisville Colonels.  The Sun said:

“With a hard, steady work and a display of intelligence he may become a success.  At times he would fire the ball over the plate with a speed like a rifle shot, but when men were on bases he was nervous.  He was twelve times safely with a total of seventeen bases.”

Goetz gave up six runs (four earned); Baltimore tied the game with a three-run ninth inning, and won it with four in the tenth, earning Goetz the victory, Bert Cunningham pitched the tenth inning for the Orioles.

It would be his only appearance.

On July 4 the Orioles released Goetz. With little fanfare or explanation Barnie’s phenom was through.

Goetz signed with the York franchise in the Middle States League later in 1889.

He dropped out of sight until 1892 when The Sun reported that Goetz was “the sensation of the Wisconsin-Minnesota League,” pitching for Hayward, Wisconsin, and had recently struck out 19 in a game with the West Superior team.  The paper facetiously noted “It was reported Goetz had drowned in the Johnstown flood, but seems to have turned up again.”

Goetz’ catcher in Wisconsin was a Baltimore native named Milton K. Osborn; the two would play again the following season with a team in Little Falls, Minnesota and both joined the Lynchburg Hill Climbers of the Virginia League in 1894.  No statistics survive for any of Goetz’ post-Baltimore stops.

His trail goes cold after 1894.  There are many listings in city directories for George B. Goetz’ throughout the country for the next several decades, and there are reports that he was in California as late as 1912—but nothing else is known about “Barnie’s phenom”