Tag Archives: Bobby Eager

The Baseball Bandit

28 Jun
Frank Quigg hit .313 and went 1-0 as a left-handed pitcher for the Topeka Capitals in the Western Association in 1893; no statistics exist for the remainder of his career which included stops in the Southern Association and Texas League.

After he was done playing, Quigg became a pioneering figure in Oklahoma, organizing professional ball in the state with the creation of the Southwestern Association in 1901.  Quigg managed the Oklahoma City team in that league until 1903.  He also spent some time as an umpire in the California League.

An article in The Wichita Eagle in 1901 about the Southwestern Association provides interesting insight into the finances of turn of the century minor league baseball:

  “The salary limit of the league is to $450 per month and room and board for the Players…home teams paying the visiting club $25 per scheduled game, rain or shine.”

“The umpires are to receive $2.50 a game plus transportation.”

Later Quigg became an umpire in several leagues.

Bobby Eager, a former Pacific Coast League catcher, claimed he was the instigator in an incident that led to Quigg quitting his job as an umpire. Writing in The San Jose Evening News, Eager said the incident took place in Los Angeles during a game with the Oakland Oaks:

“Quigg was umpiring and he seemed to have an off day. I kept after him about not calling (strikes) and (Bill) Red Devereaux happened to be at the bat when (Quigg) missed one that was squarely over the middle.”

Eager said the pitch should have been the third strike and “hollered” at the umpire:

Bobby Eager

Bobby Eager

“And Devereaux immediately took up the umpire’s part by saying ‘What’s the idea? Are you going to let Eager run the game and do the umpiring too?  Throw him out of the game and take some of his money, he’s trying to make a bum out of you.’”

Devereaux singled on the next pitch, driving in a run. Eger said he “put up a holler” and was ejected and fined $10.

The next day Eager sought to pay Devereaux back:

“I kept telling Quigg that all that Devereaux did was try and bull the umpires and that he boasted downtown that he got him, meaning Quigg, to chase me out and that he knew that he was out on the third strike.  This statement made Quigg pretty sore and about the fifth inning he called bill out on third on a close decision. Red Dog sure told him a few things and the result was he ran Bill out of the game and fined him $10.”

Devereaux

Devereaux

Devereaux attempted to attack Quigg and police were called to escort him from the field and the fine was raised to $25.

Devereaux, now in the stands, began to heckle Quigg to an extent that the game was again halted and the police officer escorted Devereaux to the clubhouse.  According to Eager, and contemporary accounts, Devereaux was just getting started.

“He was on the roof waving a red flannel shirt and running up and down like a monkey; everybody laughed and enjoyed it more than the bad game.  Somebody went over and slipped Bill a pair of false whiskers and about the eighth inning he came back to the bench and sat there, and when the umpire wasn’t looking he went over to third base and was getting ready to play, when Quigg saw him.  Of course Bill wouldn’t be allowed to play, but it was some minutes before the umpire got wise as to who he was.  I never saw such a demonstration in my life, and people just went wild.”

The day after the incident, The Los Angeles Examiner said Devereaux was suspended “for his abuse of Quigg” and:

“Umpire Quigg resigned his position.”

The paper said his decision was the culmination of the events the previous day, and an incident two weeks earlier when San Francisco Seals pitcher Clarence “Cack” Henley threw a baseball at Quigg during an altercation.

The umpire joined the Texas League the following season.

Throughout his career, Quigg had an excellent reputation in baseball circles. His father was a Civil War veteran, and according to The Associated Press, his brother George served under Theodore Roosevelt with the Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War.  Contemporaneous newspaper accounts described the family as being extremely wealthy—already well off; Quigg’s mother married another wealthy man after the death of her first husband.

All of which made what happened next so unusual.

On December 31, 1909, Quigg and four other men attempted to rob the bank and post office at Harrah, Oklahoma.  Newspaper accounts said the robbery was well planned but that one of Quigg’s associates had discussed it with a friend who reported the plan to postal authorities.

John Reeves “Catch-‘em-alive” Abernathy, who was appointed as Oklahoma’s first US Marshall by his good friend, and Quigg’s brother’s former commanding officer, President Theodore Roosevelt, staked out the post office and attempted to the apprehend the robbers as they entered through a back door. Abernathy didn’t “Catch-‘em alive” that day.

abernathy

Abernathy

As the robbers attempted to escape Abernathy and his men shot three members of the gang. Quigg, who was living under the alias Barney and an associate named Frank Carpenter were killed.  One robber was wounded and captured while two escaped.

In the aftermath of Quigg’s death, it was reported by several newspapers, including The Abilene Daily Reflector, his hometown paper, that the gang had recently pulled off successful post office robberies in Trinidad and Golden, Colorado.

Most newspapers continued to paint Quigg as a good man gone wrong for no apparent reason, other than a vague observation about his mother’s remarriage:

“The match did not please the son.”

But one paper, The Arkansas City (KS) Traveler saw it differently:

“(Quigg) worked this town for several hundred dollars a few years ago, got the money, organized a club, went to Enid (OK) and that was the last ever seen of him by his backers.  He was a booze-fighter by the full meaning of the word and if there was any good in him it never came to the surface so the public could catch a glimpse of it.

Whatever the reason for his descent into a life of crime, it appeared Quigg hadn’t completely given up on baseball at the time of his death.  According to The Fort Wayne Sentinel he “Had an application in (to work as) an umpire in the Central League” for the 1910 season.

I published a  shorter version of this post was published in September of 2012.

Advertisements

Rube in L.A.

1 Jun

Bobby Eager was a popular, if not enormously talented, catcher for eight seasons in the California and Pacific Coast Leagues.  After his career, when he wasn’t at his job with Standard Oil, The San Jose News said he could be seen in town “any afternoon when the weather is right, fanning with a bunch of fans.”

The paper decided he enjoyed telling stories about his career so much, they offered him an occasional column to tell his stories and share his opinions.

One of his favorite subjects was Rube Waddell, who spent part of the 1902 season on the West Coast.  Eager called him “The greatest southpaw pitcher” he had seen.

Eager behind the plate.

Eager behind the plate.

“When Rube Waddell was with Los Angeles he was the life of the club.  There was never a dull minute with Waddell on the bench.  If ever there was a nut he was it.  They called him a rube.  Don’t know where they picked up the name, but he was anything but what his name would indicate.  With all his antics Waddell was a wise coot, and if you think he wasn’t I would like to have the extra money it cost (Angels Manager) Jim Morley to keep him on the team.

“It was a cold day that Rube didn’t ‘touch’ Jim for a five-spot.  Rube was getting a fat salary—as fat as salaries went in those days… Never knew exactly what Waddell got, but I know it was more than any other player on the club pulled down.

Rube

Rube

“While Rube was on the club Morley slept with one eye open.  He was always afraid of losing him.  On this occasion, Waddell had just made a borrow off Jim of a twenty-spot when word drifted into Morley’s billiard parlor that Waddell was seen going toward the railroad station. The rumor was sufficient to stir Morley.”

The manager quickly took action.

“Morley rang up the depot and found a train left in 10 minutes for the East.  He dashed out on the street, jumped into the first carriage he saw and drove pell-mell to the train.  Into the Pullman car he hiked and sure enough, there was Waddell. He had bought his ticket and was going back to report to Connie Mack, who had come through with more money.  At first, Waddell denied he was leaving.  He said he just came down to see a friend off, but he soon had to admit that he had a ticket.

“Jim came through with another piece of change and Waddell surrendered his ticket and returned to the team.  But he wasn’t with it very long before he beat it.”

Waddell “beat it” for good on June 20, leaving the West Coast for Philadelphia.  He was 11-8 with a 2.42 ERA with the Angels, with the Athletics he was 24-7, 2.05–he pitched a total of 444 innings that season.

Eager said despite the money Los Angeles was out, “I doubt if Morley lost much on Waddell for he was always a drawing card when he pitched and one good thing about Rube he was never lazy.  He would pitch every day if you would let him.”

A Bobby Eager Story

23 Feb

The 1906 San Francisco earthquake left the city in ruins; it also put the future of the Pacific Coast League (PCL) in serious jeopardy.

Years later PCL veteran Bobby Eager wrote about the league in the aftermath of the quake in The San Jose Evening News:

“Did you ever hear of a bunch of ballplayers owning their club in a league?  I never did, but I came within an ace of being a part owner at one time.”

Bobby Eager

Bobby Eager

Eager, then with the Los Angeles Angels, said the league was “pretty much on the bum,” and while leagues in the East had agreed to help the PCL financially, there was no sense of how the league would operate.

Jim Morley, the owner of a large pool hall in Los Angeles, owned and managed the Angels, but said Eager:

“(H)e got cold feet early.  He practically dismissed the team and said he was through.”

San Francisco Seals owner James Calvin (J. Cal) Ewing, whose deep pockets kept the league afloat, was “furious at Morley, quitting like a hound.”

Local boxing promoter “Uncle” Tom McCarey was asked by Ewing and league president Eugene Bert to take control of the club, but when that failed they reached out to a local businessman.

“They got a fellow by the name of Gil Meade to take over…It was decided to play the San Francisco games at Oakland, and go on with the league and give the fans some ball.  Of course it was an uphill fight all around with no grounds at Frisco.

“Meade shot his $5,000, which was his bankroll, in a couple months and he was done and out.”

At the time, The Los Angeles Examiner said Meade left as a result of the league failing to award him a large block of stock in the team that was promised.

Eager said after Meade departed the team was called together by field manager and Captain Frank “Pop” Dillon:

Frank "Pop" Dillon

Frank “Pop” Dillon

“He first wanted to know how much money we all had and we told him.  Then he laid before us his plans.  He showed us how we could take over the club by putting up three or four hundred dollars apiece.  He said we would not get any salaries that year but the next year he thought the club would pay big.  A few of the players (Eager included) were willing to take a chance but most wanted their salaries.  They were not gamblers.”

Dillon could not convince enough of the Angles and Eager’s dream to own a club died.

“The result was the league dug up (William Henry) “Hen” Berry who was running a little poolroom.  Hen’s brother (Clarence, who made a fortune in the oil and horse businesses) let him have enough to back the club the rest of the season which was about $8,000, but next year we won the pennant and Berry cleaned up big.  I know every stockholder who had a $100 share got a $40 dividend the next year.  If we players had taken the club we would have made just as much and might have started something new in baseball in the way of profit-sharing.”

Clarence, left, and William Henry Berry played for the amateur Selma (CA) Tigers in the 1890s

Clarence, left, and William Henry Berry played for the amateur Selma (CA) Tigers in the 1890s

Another “Hen” Berry story on Wednesday.

“I Never did trust an Umpire no how”

12 Nov

During an eight-year career spent in the California and Pacific Coast Leagues, Robert Joseph “Bobby” Eager was never a star but was very popular with West Coast baseball fans.  Years after he played his final game for the San Jose Prune Pickers in 1909 he began writing occasional columns about the game for The San Jose News.

Bobby Eager

Bobby Eager

Eager backed up starting catcher Henry “Heine” Spies with the Los Angeles Angels:

“(O)ne of the best backstops the Coast has ever had.  Spies was known as the best foul ball chaser that ever put on a glove, barring none.  It seemed as though he really knew just where to go when a batter hit a long foul, he was right on the job.  I have played with him for five years and have never seen him misjudge a fly ball.  It got so that every time a foul ball went up, no matter where it went, the crowd would yell ‘Heine would have got it,’ even though the ball went out of the lot.  Well, to make a long story short, Los Angeles was playing and Heine was catching, Charlie Baum was pitching.  A foul ball went up and Heine chased the ball up against the grandstand and made a most wonderful catch, but it seemed as though the ball must have touched the stand in some way and Umpire (Jack) Huston ruled that it didn’t go.”

Henry "Heine" Spies

Henry “Heine” Spies

Eager said Spies argued Huston’s call, and as a result, the umpire—who had been a teammate of Spies in 1891 with the Sacramento Senators—fined the catcher $5.

“The next day was pay day and when Spies went to get his dough he was 5 short.  He immediately hunted up Huston at Morley’s pool rooms, where most of the ball players hung out (in addition to owning the billiard hall, Jim Morley managed the Los Angeles Angels for four seasons).  He immediately demanded that Huston either give him the $5 back or they go to the mat, which Huston refused to do, of course.  There was trouble, and poor Heine was fined $50 by the president of the league for beating up an umpire.  I never will forget how hard Spies took it to heart.  He and I were going down Market Street, San Francisco, and we were looking in the different windows and we came across a big furniture store with a swell bedroom set for $50.  Heine looked at it for a long time.  I looked up to see the tears rolling down his cheeks, and turning to me he said: ‘See—see, Bobby, there, see what Huston robbed me out of.  I could have had that swell bedroom set if he hadn’t gone and fined me that $5.  I never did trust an umpire no how.  They all seem to be a bunch of burglars.”

In addition to his occasional work for the newspaper, Eager coached several local baseball teams and worked for the Standard Oil company until his death on February 2, 1926.

Prince Hal’s Brush with Death

5 Nov

After nearly a decade as one of the California’s most popular players, Bobby Eager became an occasional columnist for The San Jose News.  Eager provided told stories about some of the biggest stars on the West Coast during the first decade of the 20th Century:

 “How close the greatest first baseman the game has ever produced came to losing his life in the infancy of his career is a story that has never been published though I guess everything else Hal Chase ever said, though or did has found its way into print.”

Eager said it happened in 1904 when he and Chase were teammates with the Los Angeles Angels in the Pacific Coast League.

“We were on our second trip to Seattle.  When the train reached Thrall, which was a water tank line and the last stop in California before we passed into Oregon, Chase and I saw some ripe apples hanging on a tree… Chase went up the tree like a squirrel and I stood on the ground.”

"Prince" Hal Chase

“Prince” Hal Chase

With Chase still in the tree, the train, which Eager re-boarded, prepared to pull out of the station.

“By the time Chase could get back the train got under headway, and the trainman had closed the doors of the Pullman.

“When we discovered the doors were shut we rushed out, and there was poor Hal hanging on the steps and his feet almost dragging in the ties.  He was hanging on for dear life.  First (Norman) Kitty Brashear and I tried to pull him up on the platform but that was impossible.  All the time the train was going faster and faster.  Then I yanked the bell rope but I yanked it so hard that broke and the engineer never got the signal.  In the meantime Tim Flood had rushed ahead to locate the conductor who refused to stop the train until the next station three miles ahead.  We wanted to kill the conductor, but that would have done no good.

“All the time Chase was getting weaker and weaker, but as it was a case of life or death with him he stuck to the train.  It was Brashear who hit on the scheme which saved Chase from having his legs cut off and the game losing its kingpin first sacker.  Brashear got down on the platform, yelled to him to let go when he pushed him with his foot.  Hal said he would do it.  Brashear, who was powerful as a bull, placed his big boot squarely in Chase’s breast and as he yelled ‘let go’ shoved Hal all the way over the embankment and when we saw him roll safely down the embankment we were happy.

“But Hal was not out of his peril.  As he told us afterwards he pulled himself together and hobbled back to Thrall half dead.  This was 3 o’clock in the afternoon.  The next train didn’t come along until 11 at night.  Soon after dark Hal said a flock of coyotes came down from the mountains.  They were hungry and looking for blood.  Hal said he found safety on top of the tank station house.  He said the Coyotes kept him treed until his train pulled in.”

Hal Chase (3), Bobby Eager (6), Tim Flood (12), and Kitty Brashear (13)

Hal Chase (3), Bobby Eager (6), Tim Flood (12), and Kitty Brashear (13)

Despite the injuries, Chase appeared in 190 of the Angels 235 games.  At the close of the 1904 season, he was drafted by the New York Highlanders.