Tag Archives: Billy Murphy

“Here, you Bone-Headed Mutt, come here”

19 Aug

A small item in the 1913 edition of “Spalding’s Baseball Guide” reporting the death of long-time minor league player and manager Ed Ashenbach—misspelled Aschenbach by the guide—said he “coined the term bonehead.”

Ed Ashenbach

Ed Ashenbach

Wilbert Robinson told Billy Murphy of The St. Louis Star, the story of how Ashenbach, who The Sporting Life once called “The king of the minors,” came upon the term.

Robinson said it happened in 1902 when Ashenbach managed the Shreveport Giants in the Southern Association and involved an outfielder “by the name of McGowan,” whom he called “Mack.”  There was no “McGowan” with Shreveport, but Monte McFarland and Frank McGuire both played games in the outfield while Ashenbach was in Shreveport:

“One of the opposing players knocked a high fly in Mack’s direction.  Somehow he lost his nerve and was unable to judge it correctly.  He made three or four circles and finally gave it up entirely, just as the ball came down on his head and bounded to the far corner of the field, two runners scoring.

Wilbert robinson

Wilbert Robinson

“’Ash’ was wild.  The game was lost.

“Picking up a catcher’s mask and rushing out to the bewildered fielder he yelled: ‘Here, you bone-headed mutt, come here.’  When he came up with the player he began it again.  ‘Here you bonehead,’ he yelled. ‘Take this mask and put it on or they’ll knock your brains out with the next fly they put over.’”

Before his death in 1912, Ashenbach wrote a book called “Humor Among the Minors,” and reprinted a very similar version of Robinson’s story that was told by Bozeman Bulger in The New York World in 1910.  While Ashenbach vouched for the veracity of the story, he said it wasn’t the first time he used the term, and had actually coined the term earlier–although he got the year wrong.:

“In 1899 [sic, 1897] I played center field for the Springfield. Ohio, club (the Governors in the Interstate League).  On the team were Josh Reilly, third baseman, now retired and deputy coroner of San Francisco (It has been a matter of speculation where Reilly played in 1897–Baseball Reference lists the player with Columbus as Joseph Reilly, The Sporting Life referred to  the player with Columbus as “Josh Reilly”) and a catcher to whom we gave the nickname of Zeekoe, and who was continually doing just the opposite of what he was instructed to do.

Josh Reilly

Josh Reilly

“He had a serious weakness, in that it was utterly impossible for him to catch a high foul fly.  He would dance under the ball until he got dizzy.  Reilly often advised that we build a wooden shed over him so that his head would not be shattered by one of those high fouls.

“One day the expected happened.  The ball went high up into the air, with Zeekoe, as usual, doing his sky-dance, under it.  It finally landed, not in his mitt, but right on top of his head, bouncing fully thirty feet off his bean into the bleachers.  The blow would have felled and ox.  Down went poor Zeekoe, but only for an instant–to pick up his mask, which had been knocked off in the encounter.  That evening in the dining room

“That evening in the dining room, Reilly and I passed Zeekoe, who was enjoying his evening meal with the utmost complacency.  In passing him, I playfully pressed both of my hands on his head to feel for the bump which a blow of that size should have raised.  The lump was conspicuous by its absence.

“‘Are you hurt?’ I inquired of him.  ‘Not a bit,’ he said with pride.  Turing to Reilly, I remarked, ‘No wonder, Josh, that he isn’t hurt.  His head is made of bone.’  I believe this was the very first use of the term.  Ever since that night I have applied the expression ‘bonehead’ to any player guilty of unusual stupidity, and it has gained wide circulation.”

 

“I am going to Drown this Insect of a Manager”

11 Jan

Louis Wilber “Louie” Heilbroner was one of the most unlikely managers in history; no one knew that better than he did.

heilbroner

Louie Heilbroner

In August of 1900, the St. Louis Cardinals—with five future Hall of Famers on the roster—were 42-50 and in seventh place when Manager Oliver “Patsy” Tebeau resigned.  He told The St. Louis Republic:

“My reason?  Simply that I could not make the team play the ball it seemed capable of playing.  I tried every trick I knew and found myself unable to get proper results.”

The Cardinals spent more time fighting—one another, umpires, other teams—than winning.

A cartoon in The Philadelphia North American about the fighting reputation of the 1900 Cardinals

A cartoon in The Philadelphia North American about the fighting reputation of the 1900 Cardinals

It appeared to be a foregone conclusion that Captain John McGraw would be the new manager.  McGraw had other ideas.

He told The Republic he had “refused the position.”  But the paper noted:

“Yet, he admits that, at Mr. (Frank DeHass) Robison’s request, he assumed full duties of the office laid down by Mr. Tebeau…according to his own admission then, McGraw is manager of the St. Louis team.”

While McGraw accepted Tebeau’s duties, the title of manager went to Heilbroner, the 4’ 9” business manager of the club.  The Republic called him a “straw man,” and “scapegoat.”

“(Heilbroner is) all dressed up for use in case (McGraw) fails to make the team win…McGraw is evidently a bit leery of his job of trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s leg…Though the team is strong enough to win, it is badly disorganized and full of cliques.”

The paper said Heilbroner “makes no pretensions of baseball knowledge.  He does not know a base hit from a foul flag.”

With Heilbroner as “manager,” the team limped to a 23-25-2 finish.

Later, while he was serving as president of the Central League, Heilbroner told Billy Murphy of The St. Louis Star about the moment he claimed he realized he wanted nothing to do with managing a big league club—it involved the then 22-year-old “Turkey Mike” Donlin.

Mike Donlin

Mike Donlin

“(Donlin) was known as a bad actor.  So much so that his frequent clashes with umpires caused Mike to adorn the bench most of the time.”

Murphy said McGraw had gone to Heilbroner and asked him to help stop Donlin from fighting with umpires.  Heilbroner said:

“I’ll stop him.  I’ll fine him the next time he is put out by an umpire.”

Heilbroner said the next time Donlin was ejected, he told him:

“’That will cost you $100, Donlin.’

“With that (Donlin) reached over and. Grabbing Heilbroner with one hand lifted him off the ground.

“’Take the cover off the water bucket, Mac,’ he said to McGraw.  ‘I am going to drown this insect of a manager.’

“’And I think he would have done it, said Heilbroner, ‘if I had not remitted the fine and resigned my job as manager.”

Heilbroner made his greatest contribution to the game in 1908 when he founded the Heilbroner Baseball Bureau, and the following year when he began publishing the Baseball Blue Book.

Murphy’s “Billion Dollar Team”

17 Aug

“Money will not buy a pennant winner;” so said William George “Billy” Murphy, the sports editor of The St. Louis Star.  In 1914, he set out to select a team that not even “John D. Rockefeller… (With) all his wealth could buy a club that would win a World’s championship from the one we have picked…The Billion Dollar Team.”

Murphy said:

“You fans of towns that have never won a flag, how would you feel to wake up some morning and find that Dame Fortune had so arranged matters that this club had suddenly been picked to represent your fair city.”

Jimmy Archer, catcher

Behind the plate he acknowledged “There are many who would doubtless pick (John) Chief Meyers…but considering the Indian’s slowness of foot and propensity for clogging up the bases and stealing when the bags are full, we must remark we cannot see the “Chief” for a minute with Jimmy Archer, who, although not so good a hitter, is faster, a quicker thinker, greater fielder and better pegger.”

Jimmy Archer

Jimmy Archer

Murphy was in the minority questioning the baseball intelligence of Meyers, who was widely considered one of the most intelligent and articulate players of his era.  He also rated Ray Schalk and Wally Schang as superior, saying:

“In the writer’s humble opinion they are much more valuable men to their team than Meyers.”

Walter Johnson, pitcher

“There will hardly be a dissenting vote cast against Walter Johnson.  Unquestionably he is the greatest of all the pitchers.

(Charles Chief) Bender and (Christy) Mathewson are also great—great when they should show class—in championship games.  Every nerve, every fiber of their brains, every muscle necessary to their craft, is at its best when big games are being fought.

“Wonderful as they are, we must pick Johnson, who also has class and is game to the core.”

Hal Chase, first base

“For first base, there is only Hal Chase.  He is a great hitter, marvelous fielder, can run the sacks, and is a brilliant tactician.

(John) ‘Stuffy’ McInnis, Jake Daubert, Eddie Konetchy, Fred Merkle, and Jack (Dots) Miller are all stars, but they are ‘also rans’ in the class with Prince Hal of the White Sox.”

Prince Hal of the White Sox

Prince Hal of the White Sox

Eddie Collins, second base

“At second base, Eddie Collins in the potentate.  Johnny Evers, Larry Doyle, and Larry Lajoie occupy seats in the second sackers’ hall of fame, but Collins rules over the roost.”

Honus Wagner, shortstop

“At short, notwithstanding his age, the palm goes to Hans Wagner.  Taken all in all he is still the greatest man at the position in the game.  He can do everything and does it better than any of his contemporaries.  When will we look upon his like again?”

Frank Baker, third base

“At third base, there is that wonderful silent son of swat, Frank Baker, the conqueror of the wonderful Mathewson and Richard (Rube) Marquard.”

Joe Jackson, right field

“In right field we have Joe Jackson, the young Southerner with the Cleveland club.  He is one of the greatest batsmen in the game today and is a fielder and base runner of unusual ability.”

Joe Jackson

Joe Jackson

Ty Cobb, center field

“In center, there is Tyrus Raymond Cobb, the Royston, Georgia marvel, who is the greatest player baseball has ever known.”

Tris Speaker, left field

“And in left field, there is Tris Speaker of the Boston Red Sox—second only to Cobb.”

“A Boy he Lived and a Boy he Died”

29 Jul

When Rube Waddell died on April 1, 1914, he was eulogized by sportswriters across the country.  Perhaps no one captured the essence of baseball’s most eccentric personality than William George “Billy” Murphy, sports editor of The St. Louis Star, who called the departed pitcher “The Peter Pan of the National Game.”

The other left-handed Rube

Waddell

Murphy said:

“A boy he lived and a boy he died.  He knew naught of the great problems of sociology or philosophy, but lived in the realm of love, adventure, romance, gallantry, and grace.

“The tales that are told of him, if written, would be classics in the folklore of childhood.  He was but a little child himself.

“A man of baseball genius, of an ardent temperament, reckless of physical laws and self-indulgent, he paid the penalty.”

Murphy

Murphy

The story of Waddell’s catching pneumonia while helping to stack sandbags to save the town of Hickman, Kentucky, which contributed to his contracting tuberculosis, the cause of his death, has been told often.  But Murphy told another story about Waddell’s stay in Hickman—at the home of Joe Cantillon, his manager with the Minneapolis Millers.

 “Memory of Rube Waddell will live forever in the heart of Joe Cantillon…’Rube’s big heartedness has never been exaggerated,’ said Joe.  ‘In fact, his generosity never has been fully told.  Year before last down at Hickman the Rube was with me at Christmas time.  A storekeeper called me up Christmas Eve and told me the Rube was inviting everybody who passed the store to step in and get fitted for a pair of gloves.  The merchant thought the Rube had gone daffy and wanted to know if he should stop him.  I told him ‘no,’ to let Rube have his fun, and if he couldn’t pay for it I would.  He gave away forty pair.

“Rube was lonesome and the Christmas spirit was upon him and he couldn’t do anything else that would have brought him more pleasure.”

JoeCantillon

Cantillon

Murphy said Waddell, for “all his buffoonery, was brave and would go the limit to help a woman or child.”

 “Waddell was the greatest of all the southpaws and his name will live forever in the history of America’s national game.

“There was not a selfish bone in his body and he did much good.  He was indeed a little boy who never grew up.  He made many happy and lived his life as he saw it.

“May his rest be as sweet as was his life.”