Tag Archives: Billy Sullivan

Lost Advertisements–Fit for a King

1 May

fitAn ad for Old Underoof Whiskey from April of 1910.  Chicago White Sox owner Charles Comiskey–and Chicago fans–had great expectations for the club.  After a disappointing 78-74 record and a fourth-place finish in 1909, Hugh Duffy was hired to replace Billy Sullivan as manager.

Comiskey also replaced his entire starting infield, purchasing the contracts of three minor leaguers: first baseman Chick Gandil, second baseman Rollie Zeider, and shortstop Lena Blackburne, and installing utility infielder Billy Purtell at third.

The new 1910 White Sox infield.

The new 1910 White Sox infield.

The Chicago Tribune said the Sox were now:

“Resplendent with brand new darns where were worn the biggest holes last year.”

Comiskey was confident enough to tell reporters the team “(W)ill lose their name of hitless wonders this year. I am confident we will be as strong as any club in the league in this department.”

He also maintained that Ed Walsh, Doc White, Jim Scott, and Frank Smith, who would start the opener on April 14, comprised “(T)he strongest staff of pitchers in any league.”

The Sox did not disappoint on opening day.  Behind Smith’s one-hitter, the Sox defeated the St. Louis Browns 3 to 0.

The Chicago Inter Ocean said the “New Sox lived up to every inch of the reputation they have gained this spring.” The Tribune dubbed the team “Commy’s Comets,” and said:

“When the dazzling display was over Comiskey’s face resembled the noonday sun wreathed in an aureole of smiles, which extended beyond the rings of Saturn and half the distance to the milky way.”

Old Underoof commemorated the victory with a new ad:

commy1910

The Sox quickly returned to earth and lost their next four games.  Things never got much better.  A month into the season they were 10 games out of first place; they finished 68-85, in sixth-place 35.5 games behind the Philadelphia Athletics.

With a league-worst .211 batting average, the they failed to ” lose their name of hitless wonders,” as Comiskey predicted.

As for “the strongest staff of pitchers in any league,” they could not overcome the horrible support they received all season.  Despite a 2.03 team ERA, second only to Philadelphia’s 1.79, only Doc White (15-13) had a winning record.

Walsh, who led the league with a 1.27 ERA,  was 18-20, and Scott was 8-18 with a 2.43 ERA.

Frank Smith, the 30-year-old hero of the opener, who had won 25 games with a 1.80 ERA in 1909, was 4-9, despite a 2.03 ERA and three shutouts, when he was traded with Billy Purtell to the Boston Red Sox in August.

 

 

Lost Pictures–Sidney Smith’s Baseball Cartoons

26 Dec

 

sidneysmithapril221909

By the time of his 1935 death in a car accident, Robert Sidney Smith—known professionally as Sidney Smith—was one of America’s most popular cartoonists; The New York Times said his death “will be felt by literally millions of Americans.”  His comic strip, “The Gumps,” was syndicated by The Chicago Tribune, and ran in hundreds of newspapers; it also spawned dozens of animated film shorts, nearly fifty-two-reel comedy film, a radio program and merchandise.

But, before Smith joined The Tribune, he had started in Chicago drawing baseball cartoons for The Chicago Examiner.

The cartoons featured a talking (sometimes singing) goat named Buck Nix.

These two examples chronicled the  fortunes of the 1909 Chicago White Sox.

The first, above, appeared just seven games into the season.  Chicago had high hopes for the Sox, 86-64, the previous season, but the club limped to a 3-4 start.

As the cartoon notes, in addition to bad weather and weak hitting causing a poor start for President Charles Comiskey and Manager Billy Sullivan, Sox ace “Big Ed” Walsh was not yet with the team.  Walsh, a forty game winner the previous season held out for $7,500 and did not sign until April 28.  Still hopeful, “Buck Nix” says “Wait ’til the sun shines Commy.”

The second, below, appeared on June 26.  The Sox were 24-28, in fifth place, and as Buck Nix sings were “Drifting away from loves golden shore.”  Walsh only started 28 games, the Sox hit just .221 as a team and were never in the race.  They finished 20 games out in fourth place.sidneysmithjune261909

Kid Nichols

25 Jun

Add Hall of Famer Charles “Kid” Nichols to the list of those who were convinced that players from an earlier era were of better quality than those “of today,” even if the earlier era was less than a decade before.

Kid Nichols

Kid Nichols

While pitching for the Kansas City Blue Stockings in the Western League in 1903, the 33-year-old pitcher told a group which included a reporter for The Associated Press:

“I am not so sure that the ball players of today are much superior to those of ten years ago in general utility.  It seems to me there was more life and spirit in the games of a decade ago than in those of the present regime.  They weren’t so mercenary in those days and there was much more sportsmanlike spirit.  Nowadays the paramount question with the average player is salary.  He doesn’t care so much about the record of the team he plays with makes as opportunities offered him to make himself individually famous and thus increase the value of his services.  In many clubs teamwork is lacking on account of the intense desire of some of the men to make an impressive showing by individual work.  In the old days one didn’t hear so much of the individual as the playing of the team as a whole an in my opinion baseball would stand on much firmer foundation if the same spirit prevailed nowadays.”

Among the best:

“Take old (Tommy) McCarthy for instance.  As an outfielder none of them had him beaten, and in my opinion there is not an outfielder his equal now.  It was McCarthy who originated the trap ball which he worked so effectively.

“He was absolutely the headiest man in the outfield I ever saw.  You have seen outfielders throw men out at first on line drives, but you haven’t seen it done often.  I’ve seen McCarthy spoil many a legitimate one-base hit by that same play.  Another favorite play of his was this:  A man would be on first and second.  The man at bat would drive to left.  McCarthy would snap it up on a short bound and flip it to second as quick as a flash in time to catch the man who had run off first.  In turn the second baseman would throw the ball to third in time to head off the man who had started from second.  Thus a really legitimate one-base hit was turned into a double play.

“But, speaking of outfielders, Willie Keeler was about as good as any of them for all around ability.  He was like lightning on his feet and was no slouch at hitting.  He certainly did things to me one day in Baltimore.  He faced me four times and this is what he did:  Made four hits to four different parts of the field off of four different kinds of curves.  Keeler was the hardest man to fool I ever pitched to.”

Nichols said Herman “Germany” Long, his teammate for 12 years was:

“(O)ne of the greatest shortstops in the business.  He played with Boston while I was a Beaneater, and of course I had good opportunities to watch him work.  He could cover a world of territory and was a sure and accurate fielder.  You hear many people say that Hughie Jennings in his palmy days was the best infielder ever developed.  In my opinion Long could cover a foot more territory than Jennings.

“When it comes to catchers my preference is, and always has been, Charlie Bennett, whose legs were cut off in a railroad accident at Wellsville, Kansas.  Charlie was always consistent and knew what his brain was given to him for.  He was also an accurate, quick thrower…Martin Bergen was another good catcher.  He was the one who went crazy, you know, and murdered his wife and children.  Bergen always was ‘a little bit off of the top,’ but when he took a notion to do his best, his playing was beyond criticism.  Ed McFarland and (Billy) Sullivan are two right good men, and then there was reliable old Jim McGuire and Charles Zimmer, both of whom were cracker jack.”

bergen

Martin “Marty” Bergen–” always was ‘a little bit off of the top,’

Nichols said as a pitcher “I can hardly be considered a competent judge” of fellow “slabsters,” but continued:

“Personally, I admire the old war-horse, Cy Young, more than any of the others.  He is certainly a remarkable man.  Of the left-handers there a few better than (Frank “Noodles”) Hahn, of Cincinnati; (Christy) Mathewson and (Joe) McGinnity are undoubtedly valuable men.  Clark Griffith is, I think, the headiest pitcher that ever stepped on a rubber.  Among the other great ones are Jack Taylor, Joe Corbett, (Bill) Bernhard, of Cleveland and our own Jake Weimer.

Nichols was largely forgotten as one of baseball’s great pitchers by the time the Baseball Hall of Fame’s inaugural class was selected in 1936.  In the late 1940s, a push for his inclusion was led by sportswriter Grantland Rice.  Rice frequently mentioned the pitcher in his columns and in the summer of 1948 quoted two Hall of Famers regarding Nichols’ prowess:

“A few decades ago I asked Christy Mathewson to name the best pitcher he ever faced.  ‘That’s easy,’ Matty answered.  ‘His name is Charles Kid Nichols of Boston.  Nichols isn’t a good pitcher.  He is a great one.’

“I recalled this talk when the mail brought a letter from Ty Cobb at Menlo Park, California.

“‘I think everyone has overlooked one of the greatest pitchers of all time,’ Cobb Writes.  ‘His name is Kid Nichols.  Here are just a few of his records from 1890 to 1906:

“1.  Won three consecutive games on three consecutive days, all pitched in different cities.

“2.  Won 20 or more games for 10 consecutive years.  He won 360 and lost 202. (Nichols’ record was 361-208)

“3.  Won 28 or more games for eight consecutive seasons.  (Nichols won more than 28 games seven times, and not consecutively).”

Despite the inaccuracies in the letter, Cobb and Rice continued to campaign for Nichols and the push to honor him worked.  He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1949.

Nichols, right, with Pie Traynor, left, and Branch Rickey at the Hall of Fame in 1949. Traynor was elected in 1948, but his plaque was not presented until 1949

Nichols, right, with Pie Traynor, left, and Branch Rickey at the Hall of Fame in 1949. Traynor was elected in 1948, but his plaque was not presented until 1949

Lost Advertisements–The Biggest Baseball Offer Ever Made

25 Apr

 

billysullivan

A 1912 advertisement for Globe Soap featuring Billy Sullivan of the Chicago White Sox:

Baseball

This Outfit Free

“This is Billy Sullivan, one of the greatest catchers who ever stepped on a diamond.  He unequally endorses this offer.

“Billy Sullivan The Star White Sox Catcher says: ‘Boys—this beats any offer I ever saw on a strictly high-grade baseball outfit.  No foul tips can break this mask, and the mitt would stop Ed Walsh’s hardest spit-ball any time.  The baseball is good enough for any league game in the country.  This is surely a great chance for every baseball fan to get this great outfit.’

“Here you are, boys, just what you want for this season of baseball, and it does not cost you a cent.  Just look at this superb baseball outfit!  Electric welded league mask—Special Buck Finish Mitt of selected leather—and a guaranteed First Class Baseball.  This splendid outfit all complete is sent to you absolutely free on positively the biggest baseball offer ever made.  Remember, this is the League outfit recommended by professionals, the star players of the big league teams.  Read what Billy Sullivan, the famous Star catcher of the White Sox, say about this big offer.”

The ad was a little vague about just what was required to get the “outfit.”

Send the coupon now.  this is no soap canvassing proposition.  You don’t have to go around and sell a lot of soap–and you don’t have to take orders for soap.  We do not sell soap by mail and we do not organize soap clubs.  We sell our soap through the dealer, and all we want is a very, very little aid from you and you get this great outfit free.

The 1912 season was the last for the oft-injured Sullivan (aside from single game appearances in 1914 and 16).  Before the season he told reporters he expected to catch at least half the team’s games, but ended up appearing in just 41 games after an April collar-bone injury resulted in the bulk of the early-season work going to Walt Kuhn and Bruno Block.  In August Block was sent to Milwaukee as part of a package for 19-year-old Ray “Cracker” Schalk and Sullivan became a White Sox coach, tutoring the future Hall-of Famer Schalk throughout the 1913 and ’14 seasons.

Billy Sullivan

Billy Sullivan

Sullivan is likely most famous for having caught three of 11 balls tossed from the Washington Monument on August 24, 1910–two months later he opted out of a challenge to catch ” a baseball dropped from an aeroplane sailing at 1,000 feet,”  according to The Associated Press Sullivan said he “still desires to play baseball a few years more…(and) might as well try to stop a bullet as to be on the receiving end of one from an aeroplane.”

The Tribune’s First All-Star Team

21 Feb

In 1933 The Chicago Tribune underwrote the first All-Star game, created by Arch Ward, the  paper’s sports editor,  to coincide with the Century of Progress World’s Fair—more than 30 years earlier The Tribune published one of the earliest  sportswriter selected “all-star teams.”

Near the end of the 1902 season, The Tribune polled sportswriters from American League cities to pick “An all American League Nine.” (No similar poll was done for the National League)

The writers polled:

Jacob Charles Morse—The Boston Herald

Joseph M. Cummings—The Baltimore News

John Arnold HeydlerThe Washington Post

Frank Leonardo HoughThe Philadelphia Inquirer

Joseph Samuel Jackson—The Detroit Free Press

Henry P. Edwards—The Cleveland Plain Dealer

Alfred Henry SpinkThe St. Louis World

Irving E. (Sy) Sanborn—The Chicago Tribune

The only unanimous choice was Cleveland Bronchos second baseman Napoleon Lajoie—Lajoie appeared in just 86 games, but hit .379.

Napoleon Lajoie --the only unanimous choice

Napoleon Lajoie –the only unanimous choice

The most disagreement was behind the plate; four different catchers received votes:  Billy Sullivan of the Chicago White Sox and Lou Criger of the Boston Americans received three votes each;  Freeman Ossee Schrecongost who played 18 games with Cleveland and 79 with the Philadelphia Athletics, and William “Boileryard” Clarke of the Washington Senators each received one vote.

Cy Young of Boston led pitchers with five votes, with Philadelphia’s Rube Waddell being the choice of the other three.

Four first basemen were also chosen, but Harry Davis of the Philadelphia Athletics was the consensus choice with five votes.  Cleveland’s Charlie “Piano Legs” Hickman, Washington’s George “Scoops” Carey, and “Honest John” Anderson of the St. Louis Browns all received one vote.

Cleveland’s Bill Bradley edged Boston’s Jimmy Collins four to three, with Philadelphia’s Lafayette “Lave” Cross getting the remaining vote.

Bobby Wallace of St. Louis was the shortstop consensus with six votes, Boston’s Freddy Parent and Chicago’s George Davis received one vote each.

Booby Wallace, the choice at shortstop

Bobby Wallace, the choice at shortstop

Washington’s Ed Delehanty got four votes in left field, Philadelphia’s Tully “Topsy” Hartsell two; one vote each went to Boston rookie Patsy Dougherty and Philadelphia’s Dave Fultz (who played center field)

With or without his vote as a left fielder, Fultz was the consensus in center field.  He received four votes at that position; Chicago’s Fielder Jones got two votes, Jimmy Barrett, the only Detroit Tiger to make the list received a single vote (from Joseph Samuel Jackson of Detroit) and Harry “Deerfoot” Bay of Cleveland received one vote.

Jimmy Barrett, the only Tiger

Jimmy Barrett, the only Tiger

Right field included a couple more out of position players, Charlie Hickman picked up one vote despite being primarily a first baseman and playing just 27 games in the outfield in 1902.  Delehanty, almost exclusively a left fielder in 1902, received one vote in right.  Elmer Flick of Cleveland was the consensus with four votes.  Danny Green of Chicago received two votes.

The Results

The Results

The 1902 effort was not repeated by the paper.

Lost Team Photos–1904 Chicago White Sox

31 Dec

1904cws

 

A rare photo of 1904 Chicago White Sox.  Standing left to right:  George Davis (SS), Guy “Doc” White (P), Roy Patterson (P), Gus Dundon (2B), Lee Tannehill (3B), Jimmy “Nixey” Callahan (MGR and LF), Frank Isbell (INF), John “Jiggs” Donahue (1B), Danny Green (RF), Nick Altrock (P), and Ed McFarland (C).  Kneeling: Fielder Jones (CF), Billy Sullivan (C) and James “Ducky” Holmes (OF).

Jones replaced Callahan as manager shortly after this picture was taken.  The Sox finished in 3rd place with an 89-65 record, improved to 2nd the following season and won the American League pennant, and beat the Chicago Cubs in the Worlds Series in 1906.