Tag Archives: Bobby Lowe

“I might now be a politician in Chicago”

1 Aug

As part of his series of syndicated articles asking major league players to describe “How I Win,” journalist Joseph B. Bowles spoke to Detroit Tigers infielder Charley O’Leary:

Charley O'Leary

Charley O’Leary

“I learned how to win from (Tigers Manager Hughie) Jennings.  Now before he came to Detroit the team was as flat as Aunt Jemima’s pancakes, but he threw about a quart of Fleishman’s yeast into us, and we rose.

O’Leary played three seasons with the Tigers under managers Ed Barrow, Bobby Lowe and Bill Armour before Jennings arrived in 1907—those teams finished in seventh, third and  sixth place.

“The recipe for winning is to mix ginger, yeast and horseradish with horse sense and keep stirring all the time.  Thinking and hustling, figuring on every point, watching all the time for an opening and taking all sorts of chances is what wins.  One man can’t win—unless he happens to be the fellow who can stir up a dozen others and keep them fighting all the time and never giving up.  Without a leader, the best team will slack up the pace once in a while and maybe get discouraged.”

As for individual achievements , O’Leary said:

“All the success I have had has come from studying batters while I was in the infield and studying base runners when they got on the bases.  A player almost can tell from the way the batter and the base runner act what they are trying to d, or going to try to do if he only keeps his eyes open.”

O’Leary said he never attempted to steal signs, but:

“(I) can tell by the actions and the situation what is coming off.  Then (when playing short) I want a second baseman alongside of me who understands me and whom I understand, so we can work together.  There are some men who prevent each other from doing their best work.

“I make a study of where batters hit, and every day I get the fullest accounts possible of all the games played and study out where the balls were hit to.  Batters change rapidly.  Sometimes a player hits to left field for weeks, and the next time we meet him in a series, he is hitting to right field.  I find it important to know all the time, for sometimes it is five or six weeks until we play against him again, and in that time he may have changed completely.  I keep talking to pitchers who have worked against certain men and reading about them to see how they are batting.  Then too, lots of times, a weak batter will have a batting streak and a pitcher and infielder ought to know this before starting a series against him.  The best part of my success, I think, has been in being where the ball was hit, and a whole lot of this has come from studying batters.”

O'Leary

O’Leary

O’Leary, who had a reputation as a hot head early in career, said something else contributed to his success:

“I used to think fighting umpires helped win, but I want to say that is a mistake.  Playing square with the umpires and treating them decently and playing fair with opponents is the only way to win.  Fair play ought to be the foundation of the game.  I play as hard and fight as hard for a game as anyone, but would rather lose than hurt another player, or try to make an umpire look bad to a crowd.”

1909 Tigers. O'Leary is far right, bottom row. Jennings is at center of bottom row holding dog.

1907 Tigers. O’Leary is far right, bottom row. Jennings is at center of bottom row holding dog.

O’Leary did not make his big league debut until the age of 28 in 1904, and the Chicago native later told a reporter for The Detroit News that he nearly gave the game up for years earlier during his first professional season—with the 1900 White Sox, in the not yet a major league American League:

“The first team I ever played on, outside of (amateur teams) around Chicago, was the White Sox, and they took me to Detroit with them to play a Sunday game.  I nearly quit right then and there.  If I had I might now be a politician in Chicago.

“It was one of those games played out at Burns Park (Burns, just west of Detroit’s city limits, opened in 1900 to host Sunday games and circumvent Detroit’s blue laws).  We won by one run and as we left the park the crowd came at us with beer bottles.  It was the bottom of the bus for everybody , and as I was the most scared I got there first, I guess.  Anyway, everybody else pulled on top of me, and we rode into town that way.

“I was nearly smothered.  They had a hard time inducing me to believe that that was not an everyday occurrence.”

“Victim of Hoodoo”

4 Feb

In a game filled with stories of superstition, jinxes, “hoodoo,” and general irrationality, the Detroit Tigers seem to be the subject of an out-sized number of such stories during major league baseball’s first four decades.

Tigers’ pitcher George Mullin, whose story I told in October, was one of the most superstitious players in the history of the game, and he was not alone in Detroit.

This story begins in 1904, but took off in 1911, first in the Detroit newspapers and then across the country.  The Headline in The Duluth News-Times said:

“Moriarity (sic) is Victim of Hoodoo that follows Detroit Captains.”

“Moriarity” was George Moriarty, who had been named captain of the Tigers for 1911.  The story said Moriarty was the victim of a “Jinx” that dated back to 1904 when Bobby “Link” Lowe was acquired by the Tigers and named captain:

“His sterling playing qualities and the friendship that all the players had for him, together with his knowledge of baseball brought him the appointment of captain.  Bob got into a slump and Bob did not get out of it.”

Bobby "Link" Lowe

Bobby “Link” Lowe

In 1905, the Tigers named Bill Coughlin captain, the story continued:

“Coughlin, whom everybody liked and who could play ball as well as the majority of them and think faster than most of them… (His) playing started down grade.  Bill bit his fingernails tore out his black wavy hair in bunches, lost sleep and worried several pounds off…Bill never got back to form.”

Bill Coughlin

Bill Coughlin

After Coughlin was replaced at third base by Moriarty in 1909, Detroit manager Hughie Jennings named William Herman “Germany” Schaefer captain for the 1909 season.  The story said of him:

“Herman with his ever penetrating optimism, humor and baseball wisdom …appeared to be the right man in the right place as captain…but Herman’s playing ability decreased to such an extent that Detroit gladly grasped at the chance to trade Schaefer.”

Germany Schaefer

Germany Schaefer

Hughie Jennings was enough of a believer in the jinx, even before it became grist for the newspapers, that after trading Schaefer in August of 1909, he chose not to name a captain for the remainder of the season, or for 1910.  Jennings decided to again name a captain in 1911:

“On the Southern training trip Jennings came to realize the necessity of a field leader… (Moriarty) was cool-headed and had the qualities of a leader…the choice seemed like a good one…But soon after the opening of the season it became apparent that Moriarty caught the hoodoo…The duties of the position have weighted in Moriarty until his playing ability has fallen away below par.”

After the 1911 season, Jennings took the situation seriously enough to again consider eliminating the position of captain.  The Detroit Free Press said, “In all probability the Tigers will have to struggle along without a captain next season,” citing Moriarty’s “Frightfully bad year,” after being named captain.

George Moriarty

George Moriarty

In the end, Moriarty was again captain of the Tigers in 1912 and served in that capacity through 1915.

Like most “jinxes,” there really was no jinx, none of the players performed significantly worse than their career averages except for Lowe—but he was 38-years-old when he was acquired by Detroit in 1904 and had missed most of 1903 with a badly injured knee.

Coughlin had shown great promise with the Washington Senators, hitting .275 and .301 in 1901 and 1902, but by the time he was named Tiger captain in 1905 he had back-to-back seasons of .245 and .255, right around his career .252 average.

Schaefer was a .257 career hitter, and his numbers during his half-season as captain were similar to his career numbers.

Moriarty hit .243 during his season with the captain “hoodoo;” his career average was .251, and most of his 1911 numbers were similar to his performance throughout his career.

More on Moriarty tomorrow.

“One of the Two Greatest Sluggers”

28 Jan

On July 19, 1920, Babe Ruth hit his 30th home run of the season off Dickie Kerr of the Chicago White Sox, breaking the Major League record he had set the previous season.  Perry Werden, working as an umpire in the South Dakota League was largely forgotten.

Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth

The Minneapolis Tribune, as a point of local pride, reminded readers that Ruth had not eclipsed the record set in their town:

“Beyond all doubt the mark made yesterday is a major league record of all time but the Babe has yet to equal the mark of 45 made by Perry Werden of the Minneapolis Western League club in 1895.”

Some reporters, like Al Spink of The Sporting News, dismissed Werden because “the park at Minneapolis, which was an unusually small inclosure (sic), with the right and left field fences close in.”  Regardless, Werden was back in the public eye; his forgotten record was revived as fans followed Ruth’s record season.  The Associated Press said:

“(Werden) admits that Babe Ruth has a harder swing than he had when he made his mark. ‘There is no doubt that Babe has it on all of them—modern and ancient’ says Werden”

When Ruth hit numbers 45 and 46, one in each game of a double-header at Fenway Park, The Associated Press said:

“(Ruth) broke all known world’s records for circuit drives in a single season.”

Werden, in his role as “the former holder of the home run record for organized baseball” was often asked about Ruth over the next decade.  Werden called Ruth “One of the two greatest sluggers that I have seen in fifty years.”

Perry Werden, 1930

Perry Werden, 1930

The only player Werden considered Ruth’s equal?   Ed Delahanty.

Werden told The North American Newspaper Alliance, in a nationally syndicated story:

“Ed Delahanty would have equaled or bettered the home run record of Babe Ruth if the lively ball had been in use…If Delahanty had any weakness no pitcher ever found out what it was.  He hit left-handers as easy and effectively as he did right-handers, and it made no difference to him where they threw the ball—high, low, inside, outside, curve fast ball or slow ball—they all looked alike to Big Ed.”

Werden said while playing first base for the Saint Louis Browns he saw just how hard Delahanty could hit:

“The Phillies had a runner on first base, and when Delahanty came up to bat we played in close for him, thinking he would bunt.  That was a mistake we never made again when Delahanty batted.  Instead of bunting he hit a ground ball so hard that it tore a shoe off George Pinkney, our third baseman, in addition to fracturing his right ankle.”

As further proof Werden said “Even with the lively ball…it was thirty-six years before Delahanty’s record of hitting four home runs in a single game was equaled by Lou Gehrig.”  Werden didn’t mention that Bobby Lowe had accomplished the same feat two years before Delahanty.

Ed Delahanty

Ed Delahanty

While Werden will never join Delahanty and Ruth in the Hall of Fame, he is remembered as one of the greatest minor league players of the 19th Century.  He died in Minneapolis in 1934.

Elton Chamberlain

17 Dec

Elton Chamberlain (for the last thirty years always referred to by the nickname “Icebox,” but that name was not in common use for him contemporaneously) was primarily known for two things:  A righthander, he pitched ambidextrously in at least one game, and on May 30, 1894 he gave up four home runs and a single to Bobby “Link” Lowe—17 total bases, a record which stood for 60 years.

He was also embroiled in one of the early controversies over gambling while playing for the Cincinnati Reds in 1893 when he was accused by his manager, Charles Comiskey, of throwing the first game of a July 4 doubleheader against the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Cincinnati Enquirer said:

“Pitcher Elton Chamberlain of the Cincinnatis (sic) is accused of throwing the game to the Philadelphias (sic) yesterday morning.  He is charged with being in league with Joe Brill, a local gambler.”

The story said Comiskey, notified of the allegation:

“(D)ecided to investigate (and) after a consultation with a club official, put Chamberlain in for three innings to watch him. Chamberlain’s pitching was very bad and be was taken out of the game in the third inning.”

Chamberlain’s teammates Jim Canavan and Silver King quickly came to his defense.  King said he thought he would be the starting pitcher, not Chamberlain, until just before the game started; therefore Brill and Chamberlain could not have conspired.

Chamberlain said of the story:

“It was cruel and cowardly to try to ruin a man like that.”

The Sporting Life ripped The Enquirer and Comiskey:

“This is not the first time The Enquirer has accused ball players of dishonesty, and once it got into and lost a libel suit with Tony Mullane for accusing him of crookedness. Comiskey in his time has also made similar charges and Insinuations against guiltless players.”

The New York Herald said “The whole affair was so silly,” and seemed to have Comiskey in mind with this statement:

“The club official who suspends a player on the charge of dishonesty should be made to prove his charges or himself be forever barred from further connection with any club.”

The Herald also recommended that steps be taken to officially clear Chamberlain and punish those who accused him:

“The National Board should at once take up pitcher Chamberlain’s case and investigate it beyond the limit of doubt and when they reach the facts, whatever the facts; someone should be made to suffer.”

Cincinnati’s management, Comiskey included, quickly repudiated the charges that appeared in The Enquirer, although from all indications they were directly responsible for the charges being reported in the first place.

Elton Chamberlain

Elton Chamberlain

The headlines of July faded by August; there was no official investigation and no one was “made to suffer.”

Charles Comiskey

Charles Comiskey

Chamberlain finished the season with a 16-12 record and his 3.73 ERA led the Reds’ pitching staff.  The following year was his last full season in the Major Leagues.

In 1895 he played for the Warren (PA) franchise in the Iron and Oil League.  The team won the pennant behind the pitching of Chamberlain and another former Major Leaguer, Tom Vickery.

They also had a 21-year-old shortstop named Honus Wagner.

No statistics survive for that season, but forty years later Wagner, writing for The Pittsburgh Press, said Chamberlain “Seldom lost a ballgame for us,” and that Chamberlain and Vickery “gave out plenty of their knowledge to us youngsters.”

Chamberlain bounced around minor and semi-pro leagues after one last Major League trial with the Cleveland Spiders in 1896.  In 1898 he accepted, then rejected, an offer to serve as a National League umpire.  After turning down the umpire job Chamberlain, a Buffalo native, said he would become a professional boxer and challenged a local middleweight named Jack Baty to a fight that would include a $500 side bet.  Baty’s fight record indicates the bout did not take place.

Chamberlain attempted to resume his baseball career with the Buffalo Bisons in the Western League in 1899—by July he was released and The Sporting Life reported that Chamberlain, a rabid horse player “is once more following the races.”

Chamberlain Died in Baltimore in 1929.

Chamberlain and Comiskey as teammates with the St. Louis Browns.  Chamberlain is 5, Comiskey 8.

Chamberlain and Comiskey were also teammates with the St. Louis Browns. Chamberlain is 5, Comiskey 8.