Tag Archives: Bobby Wallace

“Yet, not one of them can Play Ball like Wallace”

3 May

Jack O’Connor needed to vent.  The St. Louis Browns manager had just led his club to one of the worst seasons in major league history—a 47-107 record.

 

oconnorcoke

1910 Coca-Cola ad featuring O’Connor

 

Having just piloted a team that batted .218—the leading hitter was 36-year-old Bobby Wallace, who hit .258, and whose best pitcher, Joe Lake, posted an 11-17 record, O’Connor had reached a few conclusions about the game.  He told a reporter for The St. Louis Republic:

“The only thing every free-born American, with a constitution and public schools, thinks he can do is to play ball and manage a ball club.  Yet playing ball and managing ball clubs are two of the most highly specialized professions in the world.”

O’Connor said of the second-guessers:

“Of some 10,000 boys and men who are playing ball one way or another not 50 can play one position well enough to be called first-class ballplayers.

“One million young Americans see (Ty) Cobb play ball every year; yet not one of them can even imitate him.

“All that Walter Johnson, the greatest of pitchers, has is speed.  Now any strong-armed young man has speed.  Yet in 10,000,000 strong-armed young men not one has speed like Johnson has.

“How do you figure it?

“I guess that 10,000,000 young men and at least 100,000 professional ballplayers have seen Wallace perform in the 17 years he has been playing. Yet, not one of them can play ball like Wallace. Not one can even throw like him.”

And, no doubt, with the Browns’ .218 team batting average on his mind, O’Connor said:

“Batting is simple.  How many boys and men have seen Lajoie in the past 15 years—yet why can’t some one of them bat like Larry?

wallace

Bobby Wallace

And with a 47-win season on his mind, O’Connor concluded:

“I have always held that ballplayers are born, not made…so many smart fellows who have good heads and the ball instinct think that they can take good-looking athletes with legs and arms and eyes and make ballplayers of them.  The smart fellows make the mistake of imaging that the object of their solicitude has the head and instinct that they—the instructors—have…Many boys have everything but instinct.  That is the quality that is hardest to find.”

Despite the Browns’ horrible record, it was O’Connor’s role in trying to assist Lajoie, his former teammate, to win the batting title over Cobb on the final day of the season—ordering third baseman Red Corriden to play so far back that Lajoie bunted in five straight at-bats—that led to his firing.

“Wallace’s Head is Abnormally Developed”

29 Dec

When Bobby Wallace was named manager of the St. Louis Browns in 1911, the local press, desperate for any ray of hope for a club that finished in eighth place with a 47-107 record, enlisted a “noted phrenologist” named Squeers from Hot Springs, Arkansas to examine the new manager.

Booby Wallace

Booby Wallace

Phrenology was a popular pseudoscience in the in the 19th and early 20th Century that claimed the structure of the skull determined a person’s mental ability and character.

The result of Wallace’s examination was reported in several newspapers:

“The eminent brain specialist pronounced the manager of the Browns one of the most normal-minded men he had ever examined.  He did not know his man when he made his diagnosis.

“Wallace’s head is abnormally developed on the left side.  This is as it should be, Dr. Squeers declares.  The left lobe of the brain governs the right side of the body…It is natural, asserts Dr, Squeers, that a man should be right handed, right-footed, right-eyed, that the right side (of the body) should be larger and stronger than the left.”

It was not enough to declare Wallace “normal minded,’ the “doctor” also “diagnosed” roughly 10 percent of the general population.  He said because “It is natural” to be right-handed, left-handers therefore, were “in many cases a bit abnormal.”

The litany of “abnormal” left-handers–Rube Waddell, Crazy Schmit, Nick Altrock, Slim Sallee, Lady Baldwin, etc…–were trotted out to demonstrate the “proof” of the assertion.

 “For whatsoever the reason may be, the man whose throwing arm is governed by the right lobe of his brain seems bound to be erratic.  Thus is Dr, Squeers, knows little of baseball, justified in pronouncing Wallace an ‘abnormally normal’ man.  Wallace is the farthest thing from erratic that any man could be.  He could not do a left-handed or wrong thing—could not act abnormally to save his soul.”

[…]

“Wallace has been the quietest, most regular, most normal human being in the world.  He is the perfection of moderation, of balance in all things.  He takes life quietly and is never disturbed or out of temper.  He has never made an enemy.  He is the favorite of everyone…It remains to be seen if normality means success when it is applied to the management of a baseball team.”

In this case it didn’t.

The Browns, awful in 1910, were awful again under Wallace in 1911; another eighth place finish with a 45-107 record.  After a 12-27 start in 1912, George Stovall replaced him as Browns manager.

Wallace managed one more time—he replaced Chuck Dressen as manager of the Cincinnati Reds in September of 1937.  The “most normal human being in the world” was 5-20.

 

Polchow and Starnagle

13 Aug

At the close of the 1902 Three-I League season two unlikely candidates for the big leagues were signed by Cleveland Bronchos Manager Bill Armour.

Pitcher Louis William “Polly” Polchow and catcher George Henry Starnagle (born Steurnagel) did not put up impressive numbers.   Neither the Reach or Spalding Guides included Polchow’s won-loss record, but both said the 22-year-old’s winning percentage was just .414 in 32 games for the Evansville River Rats.  Starnagle hit just .180 with 13 passed balls and eight errors in 93 games for the Terre Haute Hottentots.

Louis Polchow

Louis Polchow

The two joined the fifth place Bronchos in St. Louis on September 13.  The following day both made their major league debuts in the second game of a doubleheader against the second place Browns.

The St. Louis Republic said:

“Captain (Napoleon) Lajoie decided to try his new Three-Eye League battery, which reported to him yesterday.  Starnagle, the former Terre Haute catcher, was as steady as a veteran, but Polchow wobbled at the drop of the hat, and before he steadied himself the damage was done.

“Five runs in the first two innings gave the Browns a good lead, and it was well they made hay while the sun shone, for Polchow handed them six ciphers for dessert.”

Starnagle made an error in the seventh when he overthrew Lajoie on an attempted steal of second by Bobby Wallace—Wallace advanced to third on the error, but Polchow retired the side without a run.

George Starnagle

George Starnagle

In Cleveland’s half of the seventh Starnagle and Polchow had the opportunity to get them back in the game.  With two runs in, and a runner on first and one out Starnagle came to the plate.  The Republic said:

 “Starnagle tried to put on a Three-Eye League slugging scene.  He dislocated two ribs going after (Bill) Reidy’s slow ones and finally fanned.  Polchow forced (Jack) McCarthy.”

Starnagle was lifted in the ninth for a pinch hitter.  Cleveland lost 5-3.  Polchow gave up nine hits and walked four, striking out two, and was 0 for 4 at the plate.  Starnagle was 0 for 3, with one error behind the plate.  Neither would ever appear in another big league game.

The Box Score

The Box Score

Starnagle was 28-years-old, and had only played two seasons of pro ball before his game with Cleveland—he was semi-pro player with teams in Danville and Sterling, Illinois for nearly a decade before he joined Terre Haute in 1901.  He was considered a solid defensive catcher, but during 10 minor league seasons he only hit better than .230 three times.  When he played with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Royals in 1909 The Montreal Gazette said:

“Starnagle has been drafted every year by big league clubs, all of whom have been pretty well supplied with seasoned catchers; hence his failure to be kept.”

Polchow was just 22 when he pitched his only big league game.  Plagued by wildness, he spent three mediocre seasons with teams in the Southern Association and South Atlantic League (he was 36-45 for the Montgomery Senators, Macon Highlanders and Augusta Tourists), then pitched five seasons in the New York State League.

In 1906 he helped lead the Scranton Miners to the New York State League championship (the team’s leading hitter was Archibald “Moonlight” Graham), although The Scranton Republican said his first start with the team was nearly his last.  Polchow lost 12 to 2 to the Utica Pent-Ups, walking 10 and giving up 10 hits.  After the game Polchow accused catcher “Wilkie Clark of throwing the game.  A fight followed and Clark and Polchow never worked together after that.   Andy Roth was Polchow’s battery partner during the remainder of the season.”

Starnagle retired after the 1910 season.  He returned to Danville, Illinois where he died in 1946; he was 72.

Polchow played through the 1911 season, and then became ill.  He died of Bright’s Disease at 32-years-old in August of 1912

In addition to Polchow and Starnagle, the Bronchos signed two other Three-I League players in September of 1902—both had somewhat more success.

Rock Island Islanders catcher George “Peaches” Graham made his debut the same day as Polchow and Starnagle, during the first game of the doubleheader; he struck out as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning of a 3 to 1 loss. He spent parts of seven seasons in the major leagues, and hit .265.  Decatur Commodores pitcher Augustus “Gus” Dorner made his debut three days later beating the Chicago White Sox 7 to 6.  He pitched for parts of six big league seasons, compiling a 35-69 record.

 

Baseball’s “Fountain of Youth”

16 Apr

John Brinsley “J.B.” Sheridan wrote for several St. Louis newspapers and The Sporting News from 1888-1929.

In 1917 he asked in The St. Louis Globe-Democrat:

“How is it that two young chaps come up together, one lasts a year or two, the other keeps on playing until he meets his sons and the sons of his pals coming up?”

Sheridan noted that Bobby Wallace was 43-year-old and in his twenty-fourth season–albeit as a reserve who appeared in just eight games for the Cardinals–while contemporaries like Jimmy Collins were out of the game for nearly a decade.  (Sheridan failed to mention or notice that Wallace was three years younger and started his professional career at age 20 while Collins began his at 23):

“Wallace has had a great career in baseball.  Only one man, A. C. (Cap) Anson has played longer than Wallace in the major leagues (Sheridan didn’t mention Deacon McGuire who also had Wallace beaten in years of service with 26—but he only played a total of 20 games in his final eight “seasons”) Anson did twenty-seven seasons, but had he not been his own manager he would not have done so many.  The old man could hit to the end, but for the last ten years of his major league career Anson was so slow and stiff that it is doubtful if any manager, other than himself would have employed him.”

Booby Wallace

Booby Wallace

Sheridan neglected to mention that “slow and stiff” Cap Anson managed to play in more than 1100 games in those last ten seasons when no manager “other than himself would have employed him,” and hit better than .330 in five of them–and would contradict himself on the “slow and stiff” part later in the same article.

He said, “Jack O’Connor did twenty-two years in the majors and was useful to the end.” (O’Connor only hit better .250 twice in his last ten seasons, never appearing in more than 84 games during that period)”

Despite the many misstatements, Sheridan’s article included interesting character sketches of several 19th and early 20th Century players (the veracity of those sketches can be judged with the above misstatements in mind).

“O’Connor was a really wonderful man.  He always retrained his diet during the playing season, but gave it full rein during the off season.  O’Connor had some appetite, too.  Usually he put on 20 pounds of extra weight every winter and regularly took it off every spring.  O’Connor must have taken off 500 pounds of flesh in the twenty-two years of his baseball playing.  He ate and drank like Gargantua during the winter, but denied himself like a monk in the spring, summer and fall.

(Napoleon) Lajoie, who did his 20 years [sic 21] in the majors, was like Wallace and (Jake) Beckley, an iron man.  (Lajoie) came from Breton peasant stock…The Bretons lived off the rocks and fishing grounds of Brittany, beaten by Atlantic spray long before the dawn of history.  No wonder then, that Lajoie is a hardy man (who) needed no conditioning in his youth.  He threw a couple, hit a couple and was ready for the fray.”

Sheridan said O’Connor’s former battery-mate Cy Young was “another physical wonder” despite being “rather soft and inclined to obesity later in life.”

“Cy never cared much for beer, the beverage of the old-time ballplayer, but he did not mind a little ‘red eye’ now and then In fact, the old boys say the farmer could pack more whiskey about him than any man they had ever known.”

As an example of Young’s prowess Sheridan said O’Connor told him a story about a night out in Boston:

“I drank beer while Cy drank whiskey. Drink for drink with me, but the last thing I remembered that night was that Cy put me to bed.

“I got up the next morning looking for sedlitz powder and something cooling.  I got the powder and I went into the breakfast room to get a grapefruit.  Then I saw Young behind a big plate of beefsteak with onions.  I turned and ran for the fresh air…Cy ate the entire steak, all the onions, a lot of bread and butter, stuck a strong cigar in his mouth and joined me on the sidewalk.

“What made you quit so early last night, Jack?  I was just getting’ goin’ good, when you said ‘Let’s go home I’m sleepy.’”

Jack O'Connor

Jack O’Connor

Sheridan compared Young’s career to that of Bill Dinneen:

“Dinneen came into the game seven [sic–nine] years after Young, was Cy’s teammate for four years [sic–five and part of a sixth] then dropped out (Dinneen played three more seasons with the St. Louis Browns, but his career was over after 12 seasons at age 33)

“Dinneen ate too well, and what ballplayers call the ‘old uric acid’ got him in the arm.  Yet Dinneen was one of the finest physical specimens that ever played ball.

“Some big fellows look strong but prove to be soft and unenduring.  Jack Chesbro was one of these.  Chesbro had three great years as a pitcher, and then broke down.  Jack was a soft-boned boy, with bad ankles and could not stick the route.

“Some men hold out in arm, legs and bone, but lose the keenness of vision essential to good batting, Willie Keeler, was one of these.  Keeler’s legs were good to the end and his arm worked all right, but his eyes went back on him and he had to quit…(Art) Devlin was one of the three great third basemen of his time.  He was a star, but endured only a few years.  Bad Digestion stopped him when he was at the height of his fame, and when he should have been good for many more years.”

Sheridan claimed to know the secret of a ballplayer’s longevity: the waters of Hot Springs, Arkansas.

“Each January 1 for twenty-two years saw (Young) at Hot Springs…O’Connor and (Jake) Beckley were always at Hot Springs, too.  These three men never missed a season at the Arkansas resort, while they were playing ball…Fred Clarke, too, was a great advocate of Hot Springs as a training resort, and the Pirates always fitted in there when Clarke was manager.  That took (Honus) Wagner, another long liver, there too.

“Anson always took a season at Hot Springs.  It is pretty well established that the Arkansas resort is the location of Ponce de Leon’s famous “Fountain of Youth.”  It may or may not be a coincidence, but the fact remains that Young, O’Connor, Beckley, Anson, Clarke, Wallace and Wagner, men who played from seventeen to twenty-two years of major league baseball, have all been frequenters of or habitues of Hot Springs.”

Cy Young, third from left, with Bill Carrigan, Jake Stahl and Fred Anderson at Hot Springs in 1912

 Cy Young, third from left, with Bill Carrigan, Jake Stahl and Fred Anderson at Hot Springs in 1912

The St. Louis sportswriter was certain the springs were a magic “Fountain of Youth, “and said he was only aware of one exception to his rule:

“Every iron man of baseball, except Lajoie, has been a yearly visitant.”

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.