Tag Archives: Billy Earle

Profiles of Members of Spalding’s World Tour

22 Apr

Among those who joined A.G. Spalding’s world tour between the 1888 and 1889 seasons, was Simon “Si” Goodfriend, a sports writer for The New York World who later became a theatrical agent.  In 1935 The New York Times said of Goodfriend “has watched baseball as a fan and a sportswriter since the days of the Civil War.”

Simon "Si" Goodfriend

Simon “Si” Goodfriend

Throughout the trip Goodfriend wrote brief profiles of some of the players:

On Hall of Famer John Montgomery “Monte” Ward:

“Ward is a credit to the professional brotherhood of ballplayers.  He is not only ambitious to elevate the standing of the profession but he is equally ambitious personally.  He is exceedingly studious and never visits a strange city (without visiting) the art galleries, museums and libraries and takes copious notes of what he sees.  He presents the same disposition on the sea voyage.  He is a busy person both with his pencil and at his ball practice.”

Ward, who had spearheaded the effort to create the first player’s union in 1885 and the creation of the Players League in 1890.

John Montgomery Ward

John Montgomery Ward

Of John Kinley Tener, White Stockings pitcher and future United States Congressman and Pennsylvania Governor:

“I was going to allude to John K. Tener as a typical handsome American gentleman, but unfortunately I learned, but a day or two ago, that he was born in Ireland and came to America with his parents when he was 9-years-old…His features are clear cut, regular and refined.  His manners are gentle and cultured. Baseball players secured a worthy brother professional when he joined their forces, and there is a to be regretted possibility that he may retire again next season…Anson can be relied on to make a great effort to hold him back.  On the trip Mr. Tener acts as a secretary and treasurer to Mr. Spalding.”

John Tener

John Tener

Tener jumped the Cubs to join the Pittsburgh Burghers in Players League in 1890; after posted a 3-11 record with an ERA of 7.31 Tener left baseball for the banking business, and ultimately politics.

Jimmy Manning, who would quite possibly save an umpire’s life in Kansas City in 1890, was also on the tour:

“(He) is another modest young man with a blond mustache, of which he is proud.   He recently graduated from the Boston college of Pharmacy.”

Jimmy Manning

Jimmy Manning

Philadelphia Quakers outfielder Jim Fogarty:

(Monte Ward) mentions in his book on baseball (that Fogarty was) probably the best right fielder in the country, is a bright looking young fellow with an exuberance of spirits, unquestionably inherited from the land of Erin, and that apparently has no limit.  It is said that he is writing for a Philadelphia paper.  If his letters are half as bubbling and genial as he is at sea they will make interesting reading.  With the exception of (Charlie) Bennett of the Detroits, Fogarty probably has as bad a pair of hands from hard knocks in baseball games as any player in the country.”

Fogarty also jumped to the Players League, joining the brotherhood team in Philadelphia; however he became ill during the season would die of tuberculosis in May of 1891.

Jim Fogarty

Jim Fogarty

Of Billy Earle, “The Little Globetrotter,” McClure said:

“Little William Earle…has already proven himself a first-class backstop (and) is still quite a lad, being only 21 years old.  He is heavy-set has a jolly round face, an habitual smile and tightly curled hair.  He rarely smokes, doesn’t drink and would almost sooner play ball than eat.

Billy Earle

Billy Earle

Some of Goodfriend’s observations about Earle would prove to be wrong, as discussed in an earlier post.

Goodfriend’s profiles of the White Stockings’ “stone wall infield” tomorrow.

Actually, it Probably Wasn’t the Superstition

5 Dec

As with George Treadway, a story can get repeated throughout the decades while a large, key portion is lost in the process; such is the case with Billy Earle.

His career ended because of the superstitions of other players who thought he was “creepy,” as David Nemec described him in his excellent book “The Beer and Whiskey League.”  In “The New Bill James Historical Abstract,” James credulously quotes the assertion from sportscaster Bill Stern‘s 1949 book “Favorite Baseball Stories” that Earle was:

“(F)orced out of baseball, because of nothing more than superstition, the belief that he was a hypnotist with the power of ‘the evil eye.’”

For awhile even Earle tried to use it as an excuse.

But actually, it was probably the morphine.

William Moffat Earle was at times a great player, but more often impetuous and prone to jumping contracts.

He earned his nickname “The Little Globetrotter” after being part of the 1888 world tour organized by Albert Spalding.  Earle said of the trip:

“We played everywhere from the catacombs of Rome to Cheops of Egypt, under the shadow of the pyramids and out through India and the Islands of Ceylon.”

Billy Earle and the other members of the world tour

Billy Earle and the other members of the world tour at the Great Sphinx of Giza

After returning from the tour Earle joined the Cincinnati Red Stockings in the American Association.  He bounced back and forth from Major League to minor league teams for the next six years.  During that time, there were a number of humorous references to Earle’s interest in hypnotism, but none claimed it was an impediment to his career; however, in 1897, upon being released after one game with the Columbus Senators of the Western League the legend began.

In September of 1897 a fairly long article appeared in The Baltimore Sun under the headline “A Haunted Ballplayer,” and then ran in papers around the country. The story said:

“(Earle) cannot get a position on any ball team in the country, not even the small minor league teams.”

Earle told a sad story of teammates avoiding him and fearing the “hoodoo.”  He even blamed his being released by Pittsburgh  after the 1893 season on it, ignoring the fact that he was only signed because of injuries to the three other Pirate catchers, Connie Mack, Joe Sugden and Doggie Miller—and emergency catcher Jake Stenzel.

That 1897 story became the story of Billy Earle.

It also said:

 “He is, moreover, a pleasant, intelligent, strictly temperate man.”

The first two might very well have been true.  The last was not.

The rest of the story about Billy Earle has been lost, forgotten, or just ignored.

In August of 1898, The Cincinnati Enquirer told the real story of why Billy Earle had been out of baseball.  The “strictly temperate” Earle was addicted to morphine.

His friend John McGraw helped get him treatment in a Baltimore hospital; his former Cincinnati teammates took up a collection to buy Earle a ticket to Philadelphia to stay with his parents after treatment.

He kicked the habit, and then for three seasons managed and played for an independent team in Richmond, Indiana; he also coached teams in Havana, Cuba during the winters of 1900 and 1902-1904. And he returned to professional baseball; hardly the profile of a blacklisted man.

Earle signed as a player/manager with the 1903 Vicksburg Hill Billies in the Cotton States League.  He continued his playing career through 1906, and either managed or worked as an umpire in Midwest-based leagues through 1911.

Billy Earle, player/manager Columbia Gamecocks 1905.

Billy Earle, player/manager Columbia Gamecocks 1905.

Billy Earle died in Omaha, Nebraska in 1946.

Were there some players in the superstitious world of 19th Century baseball who were uncomfortable playing with or against Earle? Probably.  If he had hit .320 and not had a drug problem would he have had a 10-year or more major league career regardless of superstitions? Probably.