Tag Archives: Blondie Purcell

Where are they Now?–1896 Edition

25 Mar

In 1896, The Buffalo Times noted the “delightful trait of character in the true blue base ball fan,” to know everything about “the fortunes of a favorite player…and (who) long after the object of his solicitude has retired from the glare of publicity, will make inquiries concerning his favorite’s occupation and residence.”

In an effort to satisfy the curiosity of the “true blue” fan The Times went “to pains to collect,” information regarding the current place of residence and employment of major leaguers from the previous decade:

Nearly 50 players had already died, and about 20 were still connected with the game as managers, umpires or sportswriters.

The profession with the highest concentration of former players besides those who remained connected with baseball, was the saloon business; The Times found 14 players engaged in saloons, including James “Pud” Galvin, Joseph “Reddy” Mack, and Frank Hankinson.

There were five police officers, including, Charlie Jones and Jack Lynch, of the New York police force.

Two were incarcerated—Charlie Sweeney was in California’s San Quentin Prison for manslaughter, and Frank Harris was in jail in Freeport, Illinois awaiting execution for murder; his sentence was commuted in April of 1896.

Frank Harris

Frank Harris, convicted murderer

Five former players were firemen, three of them, John “Monk” Cline, Tom McLaughlin and William “Chicken” Wolf, were all members of the Louisville Fire Department:  Wolf was involved in an accident while responding to a fire in 1901 which left him with a severe head injury and contributed to his death two years later.

Other highlights:

Clarence “Kid” Baldwin—Tramp (Baldwin died the following year in a Cincinnati mental hospital)

Warren “Hick” Carpenter—Pullman car conductor

William Holbert—United States Secret Service

William “Blondie” Purcell—Racetrack bookie

William "Blondie" Purcell

William “Blondie” Purcell

Ed Andrews—Orange grower

George “Jumbo” McGinnis—Glassblower

Daniel “Cyclone” Ryan—Actor

Pitcher turned actor Daniel "Cyclone" Ryan, circa 1903

Pitcher turned actor Daniel “Cyclone” Ryan, circa 1903

John Frank Lane (1880s umpire)—Actor, he was most famous for appearing in plays written by Charles Hale Hoyt, a former sports writer for The Boston Post, and the man responsible for putting Mike “King” Kelly on the stage.

“Atlanta’s Baseball Bullies”

17 Jun

During the 1885 season, Lewis Henke of the Southern League’s Atlanta Atlantas was killed during a game; the death was attributed to on-field rowdyism by the Southern press who hoped the death of the popular player would help end brawling behavior in the league.

In January of 1886, the Atlantas hired a new manager, William Aloysius “Blondie” “Billy” Purcell.   Purcell had split the 1885 season between the Philadelphia Athletics in the American Association and the Boston Beaneaters in the National League, hitting .279 in 87 games.  The Sporting Life said:

 “Billy will make a good manager, and is capable of securing a team—even at this late date—to win the championship. “

William "Blondie" Purcell

William “Blondie” Purcell

Purcell came to Atlanta with an excellent reputation, The Philadelphia Inquirer described him as being “Of a genial, happy disposition,” who was very popular when playing for the Athletics, and in 1883 and ’84 as a member of the Quakers.

That changed quickly, just two weeks into the season The Macon Telegraph said under the headline “An Alleged Conspiracy against Purcell,” that the new manager had incurred the wrath of his players by “ruling the team with an iron hand.”

After the rough start, the team appears to have turned their wrath towards their opponents and became the most hated team in the league.

Over the course of the next four months, Southern papers chronicled the bad behavior of the Atlanta squad.

It started with a game against the Charleston Seagulls when Purcell was accused of cheating, The Charleston News and Courier said:

“Manager Purcell was playing in the left field and the Charleston team was at the bat.  During the inning one of the Charleston team batted a ball to left field.  It went over the fielder’s head and, after striking the fence, rebounded and then went into the ditch.  The fielder started for it, but after running only a short distance took a ball from his shirt pocket and through it to the diamond.  The remarkable rapidity with which the ball was fielded was loudly applauded at the time…The fielder subsequently went to the ditch, picked up the ball and tossed it in the diamond…The incident was witnessed by several people, and the statement can be substantiated if the proof is demanded.”

Cheating turned to “bullying” as the season progressed.

The Savannah Times dubbed the team “Purcell’s Plug-Uglies,” and said of them after a July game:

“From the start of the game yesterday the Atlantas began their rowdyism, (Tom) Lynch was running to first in the first inning, the ball got there just ahead of him, Lynch deliberately struck (Jim) Field with his fist…from then on the whole team began to kick and try to hack the umpire.  In this Purcell was ably assisted by (John “Monk”) Cline and (John “Cub”) Stricker, two of the rowdiest  ball players that have been seen on our field…The conduct of the Atlanta club was most reprehensible, and has placed them in an exceedingly unenviable light.”

Tom Lynch, one of Atlanta's bullies

Tom Lynch, one of Atlanta’s bullies

Earlier that month after a couple of close wins over the Seagulls, The News and Courier again criticized the Atlantas saying the team “ought to be kicked out of the league,” and said:

“(T)here was an immense crowd present to witness the game, but their afternoon’s pleasure was completely spoiled by the disgusting behavior of the visitors, whose kicking and sharp practices are sufficient to drive any respectable audience from a ball field.”

After another game in Charleston, The News and Courier said Purcell’s team used “blasphemous and obscene language,” and:

“Those who attended the game this afternoon are outspoken in their condemnation of the disgraceful behavior of the Atlanta team, and declare that either they should not be allowed to continue in the league, or that they should be made to behave themselves at least decently in the presence of the communities where they have to play.”

The Macon Telegraph called the team “Atlanta’s Baseball Bullies,” and said after a game in which Purcell was fined $10 “for his ungentlemanly remarks,” that Atlanta played “good ball,” but that it was “marred” by their conduct.  The paper also said:

“The Atlanta team is evidently akin to the bulldozing idea.  The bullies and braggarts who compose the team have evidently been taught that an umpire is a very insignificant personage and to be influenced by blackguardism.”

Similar charges of “rowdyism” and “bullying” were made throughout the season.

The Atlanta Constitution saw nothing wrong with the team and blamed the criticisms from the papers in other Southern Association on “jealousy” over the team’s success.

With Atlanta holding on to a small lead for the league championship, the most serious charges would wait until the final weeks of the season, and include two of Atlanta’s most prominent citizens …tomorrow.