Tag Archives: Boston Beaneaters

King Kelly’s Contract

25 May

Mike “King” Kelly signed in 1891 to captain the new American Association club in Cincinnati and joined the Boston Reds in that league after Cincinnati released him in August.  But after just eight days with the reds he jumped to the Boston Beaneaters of the National League.

The New York World called Kelly’s action, a “Hard blow to the Association.”

Kelly jumped as representatives of the two leagues were engaged in a “Peace conference” at Washington’s Arlington Hotel.

The Baltimore Sun said:

“The action of Kelly had the effect of breaking up pending negotiations, for the time being at least, the Association representatives leaving the conference when the League men refused to give them any assurance that would be compelled to remain with the Reds.”

kingkelly

Mike “King” Kelly

The Chicago Evening Post claimed to have the story behind Kelly’s move, and concluded which team he “morally” belonged to:

“It is held by persons who urge that they know that the King signed a Boston (NL) contract and accepted advance money two months before (he signed with Cincinnati).  The incident happened at the Fifth Avenue Hotel (in New York) last winter during the conferences that finally ended in the dissolution of the brotherhood.  One night Kelly came into the hotel ‘broke,’ having spent the afternoon and his roll at Guttenberg.”

Guttenberg was a racetrack located across the river from Manhattan, in what is now North Bergen, New Jersey—open from 1885-1893, it was at the time, the only track that held winter racing in a winter climate.

The Evening Post said Kelly found “His old friend, Director (William) Conant of the Boston (National League) triumvirate.”  Kelly said:

“’Bill, I’m dead broke.  Can I touch you for a few hundred?’

“’I don’t know Kel’ was the reply.  ‘I guess, though, you can have the money if you’ll sign a contract to play ball with me.’”

The paper said the two went upstairs to Conant’s room:

“A League contract was produced and a roll of greenbacks was spread before the King’s beaming countenance.  ‘Kel’ picked up the money, signed the contract and then put both the money and the document into his pocket, with the cool remark:

“’When I get ready to return this contract to you, Bill, I will.  See?’

“And with that he walked of.”

The Evening Post said Kelly initially signed with the Boston Reds after his release from Cincinnati because he tried to borrow more money from Conant:

“Conant refused to accommodate him unless that contract was handed over.  But ‘Kel’ was obstinate, and not getting the money from Conant, went over to (Charles A.) Prince, who gladly gave it to him.”

But, Kelly quickly decided to honor the “contract” he signed with Conant:

“These are facts, every one of them, from which it must be inferred that Kelly was really under contract morally to the Boston League people all the time that he played with Cincinnati and the Boston Reds.”

The Beaneaters were in second place, four games behind the Chicago Colts, on the day Kelly jumped, August 25.  Kelly only appeared in 16 games and hit just .231, but Boston went on a tear, winning 30 of their last 40 games after the King joined the club, and overtook Chicago for sole possession of first place on September 30, and won the pennant by three and a half games.

More Superstitions, 1884

2 Jun

Superstitious ballplayers are as old as baseball.

When the Philadelphia Athletics visited Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for an exhibition game 1884, a reporter from The Harrisburg Telegraph talked to “an old base baller” who was attending the game.

The reporter asked:

“’Are base ball players superstitious?’

“’You betcher life,’ said the veteran; ‘why there is Harry Wright (who) always carries a black cat in the bat bag, just for luck.  Al Spalding  of the Chicago carries a buckeye in his pocket for luck, and Bob Ferguson begins to hedge in his bets if he meets a cross-eyed man while on his way to the grounds.’”

harrywright

Harry Wright

The “old base baller” also told the reporter:

Bobby Matthews will never pitch unless he has an old copper cent in his pocket, and Monte Ward, of the New Yorks, carries a mascot around his neck in the shape of a gold coin.  (Jim) Whitney, of Boston, loses heart if he forgets to put his bunch of keys in his pocket before pitching.  Just before the Athletics-St. Louis game last year to decide the championship, (Bill) Gleason, of the St. Louis, got as pale as a sheet when he saw a red-headed boy carry in the bat bag.  He said it was bad luck, and, sure enough, it was.”

gleason

Bill Gleason

Philadelphia won the September 23 game 9-2, giving them a 3 ½ game lead in the American Association race, and held on to win the pennant by 1 game.

And the old player told the paper:

“Big (Dan) Brouthers, of the Buffalos, carries a barlow knife for luck.  Oh, yes, base ball players are superstitious, an’ don’t ye forgit it.”

“One of the Biggest Jokes of Baseball”

16 Mar

Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Examiner had decried spring training as an “Annual display of foolishness” in 1914.  Four years later, he was convinced the First World War had been its death knell:

“One of the biggest jokes of baseball will be eliminated to a great degree when the game is resumed, and one of the most fruitful sources of publicity will be cut down to the essentials.  The spring training trip as an institution practically will cease to be.  No longer will team be taken on long, expensive junkets South and West to ‘train’ for the season.”

Fullerton said “The thing has been overdone,” and claimed that players and owners alike were against the practice continuing.

“The expenses will be heavier than ever before and long junkets would cost too much.  But even greater than these, the next generation of professional ballplayers will be workers.  They will work all winter instead of striving to live on the cheers saved up from the preceding season.  They will not have time to spend five or six weeks loitering in the South, and further, they will report to their teams in better condition than they usually have been.”

He conceded that pitcher and catchers might be “sent somewhere” for a couple of weeks, but declared:

“(The) spring barnstorming era is ended.”

While Fullerton remained adamant that spring training was a useless waste of time and money, he did say:

“But what a lot of fun will be missed…In the spring, the teams always have with them the ‘nuts’ and peculiar characters that the scouts have a habit of discovering.  Sometimes I suspect those fellows dig up ‘bugs’ merely for their advertising value or else the minor league managers have a way of selling all their eccentrics to the big leagues.”

He said of traveling with the Chicago Cubs in Mississippi:

“We had one back in the early part of this century who beat almost all records.  He joined the club with two trunks, one partly filled with clothes and the other containing six one gallon bottles of ‘strength medicine’ which his mother had concocted.  It was made of boneset, hops, mullein, tincture of iron, garlic, asafetida, sulphur and rotgut whiskey.”

Fullerton then told the story of when the unnamed (or apocryphal) player arrived at the ballpark the following day:

“That fellow was suspicious.  He reached the practice grounds at Vicksburg, looked around cautiously, scratched a hole in the sand and buried his diamond ring.  Then he filled his pipe, lighted it and started to practice.  Pretty soon (Manager Frank) Chance yelled at him to get back of the bat and warm up the (batting practice pitchers).  He adjusted his mask, stuck the pipe through the wires and went to work.  That finished his major league career.”

Frank Chance

Frank Chance

Fullerton said Chicago’s 1898 training camp with Manager Tom Burns was “Probably the strangest” a team had ever chosen, and the one that convinced him spring training trips weren’t necessary:

Tom Burns

Tom Burns

“Hudson (New Mexico) consists of one of the finest hot springs in the world, a wide-porched, one-story hotel called Casa del Consuelo  and it is five miles from the railroad and twenty-five from Silver City.”

Fullerton said because of the terrain, and the lack of a suitable location to play:

“The team made one effort to play ball and gave up, and yet, after three weeks of horseback riding, hunting, and mountain climbing, and with only tossing the ball as practice, it was the best conditioned team I ever saw open a season.”

While Chicago might have started the season as the “best-conditioned team” Fullerton had ever seen, and won five of their first six games, they finished the season in fourth place, 17 ½ games behind the Boston Beaneaters.

The 1921 map of spring training locations shows how quickly Fullerton was proven wrong:

1921stmap

The Decline of Baseball, 1899

8 Jan

Late in the 1899 season, The Chicago Tribune editorialized on the state of the game.  The paper was convinced that baseball’s best days were behind it:

“Once upon a time this city put on mourning when its ball club lost a game and when the club returned from a victorious tour it had a Dewey welcome.  Men left stores and offices to go to the ball field.  They knew the players on the home team and exulted in their powers.  There is no more of that.  There is no longer any civic pride in the local team.  Business men no longer attend the games.  In this city and in other cities baseball has ceased to be a high-class sport.  It has become a low-grade pastime.  It is patronized by the class of people who are interested in bicycle races, long-distance pedestrian contests, gamblers, horse races and poolrooms.  Baseball, once the sport of men and women of taste, is now the diversion of hoodlums.”

As for why the game was no longer of interest to “men and women of taste,” The Tribune said:

“There is no room for doubt as to what has pulled it down from its former high state.  Commercialism in part has done it.  The players have become chattels.  Teams are bought and sold and are transferred from city to city as if they were livestock.  The men who are playing in Chicago this year may be playing in Cleveland or New York the next.  That cuts up all sense of local pride in a club…There have been teams which really belonged to Chicago.  Of late years, there have simply been organizations of hirelings whose owners instructed them to hail from here.

“Professional baseball is in the hands of a few men whose sole object is to make all they can out of a sport they have ruined.  There is no competition among them.  That championship, in the winning of which cities took so much pride once, has become a farce.”

The actions of Frank DeHass and Martin Stanford “Stanley” Robison was a particular source of the paper’s ire. The Robison brothers, owners of the Cleveland Spiders, purchased the bankrupt St. Louis Browns and transferred Cleveland’s best players, including Cy Young, Nig Cuppy, and Jesse Burkett to the St. Louis club, now called the Perfectos.  What was left of the Spiders finished with a 20-134 record.

 “Sometimes one man owns two clubs and makes draft on one to help out the other. If it becomes evident that Cleveland must be at the tail of the procession, its best men are shifted over to the St. Louis organization, both being under one ownership.  Requisitions are made on Baltimore for the benefit of Brooklyn and on New York for that of Boston.  No city can have any feeling of city proprietorship in a club under such circumstances.”

The 1899 St. Louis Perfectos

The 1899 St. Louis Perfectos

The behavior of fans was of equal concern:

“Rowdyism has come in along with commercialism and has finished what interest was left in the game. Quiet, decent people can no longer go to baseball games because of the vulgarity and ruffianism displayed there.”

The Tribune felt current players were of lower moral character than those of the previous generation:

The morals of the players have deteriorated.  They used to try to behave like sportsmen.  They act now like foul-tongued bullies.  When a question comes up for the umpire to settle, the players surround him and blackguard and threaten him.  He is fortunate if he escapes without bruises.  Fair decisions cannot be expected from a man in danger of being mobbed.  Occasionally the contending players come to blows and the spectators, who went to see a game of ball, have to witness a game of slugging, garnished with profanity.”

How low had the game gone?

“Baseball has fallen so low that gamblers do not think it is worth paying any attention to.  They have not dropped it because they fancy it is not ‘on the square,’ but because it has become an uninteresting, second-class sport.  It does not interest them now any more than a race between professional bicyclists does.  Baseball has become a recreation of the people whom commercialism, vulgarity, and Rowdyism do not displease.”

The Tribune continued their crusade against the “uninteresting” sport a month later, with an “account of the more disgraceful of the many rows witnessed by spectators of baseball games.”

Boston’s Horseshoe

9 Jan

Boston Beaneaters Manager John Morrill told The Washington Star in 1886:

“Yes, sir, it’s a fact, that professional ball-tossers are as a rule very superstitious.  It is nothing more than natural though, and is not as much due to the ignorance of the men as is sometimes supposed.  You see, so much chance enters into every game of ball that the boys who play game after game gradually become impressed with the belief that they can read in advance certain signs or omens which will have more or less effect upon their individual play, if not upon the result of the game.”

John Morrill

John Morrill

Morrill said that “on the whole” he thought his player’s superstitions were “a very good thing,” as long as “bad signs do not outnumber the good one.”  Morrill felt players were more inclined to look for good signs, which would encourage them to play “with more confidence.”

Morrill was also a supporter of mascots:

“Mascots are good things to encourage the boys.”

Morrill even attributed his greatest success as a manager to the power of superstition.  He took over the reins of the fourth place Beaneaters in July of 1883, and the team won 33 of their last 44 games and won the National league pennant.

“When we were way behind in the race for the championship, one of the members of our nine saw a horseshoe in front of the hotel in Detroit.  He stepped into the street and picked it up.  On it was the mark ‘O Winn.’  It was only the name of the Detroit blacksmith who had made the shoe, but as we won the game that day, the members of the nine began to regard the shoe as a good-luck sign, and the first thing we knew we were winning games right and left, and ended the season in the lead.  Our players attributed out success to the horseshoe, and so did Mr. O. Winn, who never fails to call upon us when we are in Detroit.”

More than 40 years later, William Braucher, columnist for the Newspaper Enterprise Association, resurrected the story of the horseshoe—although he embellished some of the details of Boston’s winning season.

He said the player who had found the horseshoe was outfielder Paul Radford. According to Braucher, “Radford’s father had it gilded and framed and it was presented to the Boston National League club.”

Paul Radford--found the horseshoe

Paul Radford–found the horseshoe

The horseshoe hung at the South End Grounds until the ballpark was destroyed by fire on May 15, 1894

Baucher said Red Sox owner James Aloysius Robert “Bob” Quinn, whose club had been a perennial doormat since he took ownership in 1923, was so desperate for a winner that he was trying to locate the missing horseshoe.

“Bob Quinn would like to know what happened to that horseshoe.  The president of the Red Sox even went so far as to put an ad in the Boston papers the other day offering a reward for the shoe stamped with the name of ‘O. Winn.’  Bob is trying every possible means to give Boston a winning ballclub.  And if a horseshoe will help he wants it.”

Bob Quinn

Bob Quinn

Quinn never found the horseshoe, and never had a  winning Red Sox team.

“People who saw the Sport are still Laughing”

17 Dec

High expectations came with George W. “Big Mike” Mahoney to his hometown Boston Beaneaters in 1897.

A baseball, track and football star at Georgetown University—he played football until the University disbanded the team after his backfield mate George “Shorty” Bahen—a foot shorter than Mahoney– died from injuries sustained during the team’s Thanksgiving Day game against Columbia in 1894.

George "Big Mike" Mahoney

George “Big Mike” Mahoney

In 1895, he gained notice for his pitching after striking out 13 batters in a game with Yale.

The following year, The Philadelphia Times said:

“He has won enviable renown as a pitcher, where his remarkable strength, speed and ability to curve have made him a very formidable player.  He has also played football, where his remarkable physique, weight and strength have stood him in good stead.  One would imagine that his weight—236 pounds—would prevent his running with any remarkable speed, but it is so distributed—he being probably the largest athlete in the college world, measuring six feet five—that it is little of an encumbrance to him.”

In the spring of 1897, it was rumored that Mahoney would not return to Georgetown and instead sign with Boston.  The Philadelphia Inquirer said:

“(I)t is understood that he will play professionally with the Boston league team.  Mahoney is considered a wonderful pitcher, as well as being a fine catcher and first baseman.”

Shortly after signing with the Beaneaters, The Washington Evening Times said Mahoney had been offered the opportunity to take up yet another sport:

“(Mahoney) has a chance to shine pugilistically.  En route to Pittsburgh Sunday the Bostons had Bob Fitzsimmons for a traveling companion.  Fitz was smitten with Mahoney’s size, and offered to take him in charge and coach him into a high-class heavyweight.”

Bob Fitzsimmons-wanted to train Mahoney for the ring.

Bob Fitzsimmons-wanted to train Mahoney for the ring.

Mahoney turned down the offer.

On May 18 Boston was in Chicago; trailing the Colts 9 to 5 in the eighth inning, Mahoney made his big league debut on the mound for the Beaneaters.

The Colts and The Chicago Daily News were not kind to the rookie:

“Mr. Mahoney, the largest man seen in the League for many moons, made his debut in professional ball at the west Side Grounds yesterday.  He now wishes he had tarried at his Georgetown school.  The reception given Mr. Mahoney was one of the warmest ever seen around these districts since the year 1, and the people who saw the sport are still laughing.

“Mr. Mahoney is 6 feet 5 or more, and one of the finest looking men imaginable.  Small girls, who admire big men, could be heard squeaking, ‘Isn’t he cute?’ all of the stand.  He has been loafing around the park during the present series, doing nothing but taking life easy, and the multitude were really getting inquisitive as to who he was and what right he had to live.

“He went into the fray at a rather inauspicious time.  The Colts had just demolished (Ted) Lewis and had biffed fat (Jack) Stivetts in the solar plexus.  When Mr. Mahoney’s giant frame loomed up there was a shout of laughter, then a pause of dread lest the monster should prove strong and speedy in proportion to his fearful size.

“He threw a ball:  (Bill) Dahlen hit it.  He threw another: (Bill) Lange hit it.  He threw one more: (Walter) Thornton hit it.  And the picnic might have gone on had not the long man climbed eleven feet higher and pulled down a bounding ball (Mahoney had jumped high to rob Colts catcher Tim Donahue of a hit up the middle)”

Mahoney faced seven batters, allowed two runs, three hits, walked one and struck out one.

Mahoney

Mahoney

The Daily News ended the ridicule by allowing that Mahoney might, someday, be a good pitcher:

“The fate of Mr. Mahoney is no new experience for a young pitcher.  Many a man who has afterward been a star has been a horrible fizzle on his first appearance, while many a man who has panned out no good on earth has made a glorious debut.  Thornton was a conspicuous success on his initial day, and has been nothing in the way of box work since.  (Clark) Griffith did not do very well the first tie he pitched for (Cap) Anson, and he is the best of all nowadays.  Mr. Mahoney, if given a fair show, may yet become a (Amos) Rusie.”

Mahoney never received “a fair show.”  He never pitched in another major league game.  He caught one game for Boston, and went 1 for 2 with an RBI, but was released in July of 1897.  Mahoney appeared in two games for the St. Louis Browns the following season—he was 1 for 7 and committed one error.  For his four-game big league career he hit .111 and posted an 18.00 ERA.

After one more season playing for several East Coast minor league teams, Mahoney returned to Boston where he became a police officer; he died there in 1940.

“It would increase the Batting, both in a Scientific and Slugging way”

5 Dec

After finishing in second place with a 73-38 record in 1884, the Boston Beaneaters slipped to 46-66 with a fifth place finish the following year; among the reasons for the decline was the team’s batting average which dropped from .254 to .232.

The Sporting Life’s Boston Correspondent said local fans had proposed numerous “wild ideas for proposed changes in the way the game is played,” to remedy the hitting woes.  Of those, one was “worthy of consideration.”

The paper said many “prominent base ball men and a number of players and all have expressed approval.”  Among those consulted were John Morrill, the Beaneaters’ manager, and Arthur Irwin, shortstop for the Providence Grays, both who said the plan would result in more “safe hitting.”

John Morrill

John Morrill

The Sporting Life said “The idea is to make what is now called a diamond but is actually a square a true diamond,” and included a crude diagram:

The Sporting Life's rendering

The Sporting Life’s rendering

 “(T)he catcher would be brought ten feet nearer second base, which would prevent free stealing, and would also enable the second baseman to return a thrown ball to the catcher in time to cut off a base runner.  The pitcher would be placed back five feet, thus reducing the distance between him and second base…the batsman is five feet further from the pitcher, and could therefore more easily hit the ball, thus reducing the number of strikeouts considerably and making livelier fielding by giving more chances.

“The distance from third to first would be increased, thus giving scientific batters and good runners a better chance to beat the ball to base.  The change of foul lines would lessen the number of tedious foul balls; would give more chances to drive the ball between the infielders; would save many pretty hits now called foul; would spread the outfielders more, thus increasing the number of safe hits, and, besides, enable them to make, with the increased territory, more difficult running catches; would give chances for longer hits; it would lessen the damage from errors and make more earned runs, as base runners would have to hug their bases more closely, depending on hitting to score.

“It would but slightly reduce the effectiveness of pitchers without laming them, and give the catcher a better chance to play his position as it should be played.

“To sum up, it would increase the batting, both in a scientific and slugging way; lessen the work of the battery without seriously affecting effectiveness; compel runners to exercise good judgment with speed and increase the work of the fielders over fifty percent.”

The Sporting News suggested that Albert Spalding would “introduce the plan at the League meeting this week and doubtless it will be given thorough consideration,” but none of the coverage of the meeting included any mention of the plan being considered.

Like the “the proposed new diamond,” briefly championed by Chicago Colts President James Aristotle Hart, seven years later, the 1885 plan went the way of dozens of other 19th Century “innovations.”

Tom Lynch’s Broom

24 Sep

In 1905 Chicago White Sox outfielder Jimmy “Nixey” Callahan talked about his first season in Chicago in 1897 in an article distributed by “Newspaper Enterprise Association” to several newspapers across the country:

“’Bill’ Lange, who is now a prosperous real estate dealer in Frisco, and former Umpire Tom Lynch, who is a theatrical magnate in New Britain, Conn., were sworn enemies of the diamond.  On the ball field Lynch insisted on being addressed as ‘Mr. Lynch’ and was probably the strictest disciplinarian that ever wore a mask.

“We were playing in Boston with the old Chicago club, under (Cap) Anson, and noticed that the broom used to brush the plate was always kept or thrown over to our side, due to some superstition of other on the part of the Boston players to have it on the visitors’ side.  Lange was leading off about the fifth inning and as he walked to the plate he picked the broom up and threw it over on the Boston side.  (Hugh) Duffy, who was then captain of the Boston nine, threw it back.  One of our players ran from the bench and hurled the broom over to the Boston side.  The large crowd began to see the humor of the situation and began cheering the players as the broom passed back and forth.  Lynch stopped the game and as a truce umpired the rest of the game with the broom in his possession.  The next day the broom was missing and Mr. Lynch carried a small whisk broom in his pocket.”

National League President Thomas Lynch

National League President Thomas Lynch

During the same series, Callahan said:

“Lange’s method of annoying Lynch was artistic.  When at bat or passing Lynch he would say” ‘Don’t you think Boston will win today Mr. Lynch? Or ‘Don’t you think Boston will win the pennant Mr. Lynch? Would you as a disinterested party like to see Boston win, Mr. Lynch?’  Never giving Lynch a chance to fine him by being vulgar or noisy, Lange would not stop walking when addressing him, ever.

“He would have Lynch furious, but as he kept within the bounds Lynch was forced to take his medicine.”

Five years later, after Lynch had been named president of the National League; Lange retold the broom story to a reporter and said:

“After the damage had been done I suggested that we compromise by allowing one half the handle to lie on one side of the plate and the other half on the other.”

Years later, another National League umpire, George Barr, told a reporter for The Associated Press that the umpire’s whisk broom was “The most important thing, he possessed on the field:

“That little whisk-broom which most of the fans and players, too, believe is carried around to keep the plate free from dust is actually the symbol of authority the umpire has over the game.

“So when you are working behind the plate, stride up to the old pan and give her a vigorous dusting, even if the thing’s as clean as a whistle.  That’s to let the fans and players know you’re in charge of the game—that you’re the official representative of the league which, in fact, you are.”

George Barr

George Barr

11,297,424

12 Sep

The Chicago Tribune baseball writer Hugh Fullerton was fond of saying:

“Once upon a time there was a baseball bug down in Cincinnati who figured out there were 11,297,424 possible plays in baseball.  This, of course, was counting only straight and combination plays and taking no account of the different kinds of fly hits and grounders, which all are different.  He proved it conclusively and the next day the team made one that wasn’t on the list.

“Every play, every throw, every hit is different.  That is why baseball is the national game, and there are freaks in the game that make even the case hardened regular sit up and yelp with surprise and joy.”

Hugh Fullerton

Hugh Fullerton

Fullerton made a career of telling stories about those plays; some might have even been true.

A few more of them:

“Philadelphia lost a hard luck game to Cleveland in the old twelve club league.  The score was close, Philadelphia had two men on base, and Ed Delehanty was at bat.

“He cracked a long drive across the left field fence—a sure home run.  The ball was going over the fence high in the air, when suddenly it changed its course, dropped straight down, hit the top of the fence and bounded back into the lot.

Ed Delahanty

Ed Delahanty

“The crowd, which had given up in despair, was astonished.  The Cleveland left fielder got the ball and, by a quick throw, cut down the runner at the plate and Delehanty was held at second.  The next men went out and Philadelphia was beaten.

“Investigation after the game proved that the ball had struck a telephone wire reading to a factory just outside the grounds.”

Tom Corcoran had one of the oddest baseball experiences in the history of the National League at the old Eastern Park grounds in Brooklyn years ago, in a game against Boston.  The game was played on the morning of Labor Day, and there had been a hard rain the night before.  In the early part of the game Corcoran, going after a ground ball, felt his foot slip and his ankle turn, and, half falling, he stopped the ball and then fell.  He turned to pick up the ball to throw out his man, and saw no ball—although there was a hole six inches across, into which his foot had plunged.  The runner, reaching first, stopped and saw Corcoran with his arm plunged to the elbow in the ground, and after hesitating a moment, he ran on down to second.

Tom Corcoran

Tom Corcoran

“Corcoran, meantime, had been thinking.  His fingers were clutched around the ball, and yet he waited, pretending to be groping for the ball.  The runner started on, and as he passed, Corcoran dragged the ball out and touched him out.”

“One of the funniest plays I ever witnessed was pulled off on the old Baltimore grounds along in 1896, and it was good-natured, happy Wilbert Robinson who made the blunder that resulted in the defeat of the Orioles when they might have won the game.

Wilbert robinson

Wilbert Robinson

“The struggle was between Chicago and Baltimore and it went into extra innings.  In the eleventh, with a Chicagoan on second Doctor Jimmy McJames made a wild pitch, the ball shooting crooked and bounding around back of the visitors bench with Robby in close pursuit.  The ball rolled back of the water cask and disappeared.  Robby made one frantic grab back of the cask, and then, straightening up, hurled a sponge full of water at McJames, who was covering the plate.  The Doctor grabbed it, and as the water flew all over him he tagged Jimmy Ryan…In spite of the fact that the play beat Baltimore, the crowd yelled with delight over it, and Robby, who had made the sponge throw as a joke when he found he could not get the ball in time, appeared as much pleased as if he had won the game.”

 

“This Fellow has about as much Judgment of Balls and Strikes as a Six-year-old Kid”

10 Sep

Umpire baiting was an art form for managers like John McGraw.  In 1906 Tim Murnane wrote in The Boston Globe about the way McGraw, and his players, intimidated a first-year umpire named John Conway during a game between the New York Giants and Boston Beaneaters.

On May 1 the Giants had defeated the Beaneaters 7 to 5, and according to Murnane:

“I was very much interested with the tactics of the Giants in a game here, when they found the clever Irvin Young in the box, and knew it would take extra work to defeat the local team.

“Umpire Conway was behind the bat in this game, and the New York boys went after the young umpire from the first ball pitched until the last man went out.  Conway was consistently giving Young the small end of the decisions on balls and strikes, and yet the New York men tried to make it appear that he was giving them a terrible roast.  The Giants worked like sailors, never letting up;  in fact, their good work with the stick and on the bases was commendable in every way, and what they were saying to the umpire could only be heard in the front seats, and perhaps that was a good thing for the game.”

Tim Murnane

Tim Murnane

Murnane said the actions of the Giants were reminiscent of those of McGraw and other members of the Baltimore Orioles in the 1890s, but “this time it was umpire and not their fellow players,” who were the target:

“As each man passed the umpire they would make some remark, until finally (Dan) McGann, (Roger) Bresnahan and McGraw were put out of the grounds by Conway.  Note the four names, all of Celtic origin, every man out for a salary, the umpire doing his best to please, and doing it certainly in a fair way to the visitors, and yet the trio must be doing something for effect, perhaps to give the umpire something to think of when he went to New York, or perhaps to affect his work in the next game.  There was an object in the uncalled-for nagging.  The result was that Pitcher Young was actually affected, and put up a weak all-round game as the contest went along, the Giants finally winning out as a result of his poor work.”

The Giants doubled-down on their harassment of Conway after the game was over.  Murnane said Fred Knowles, the Giants Secretary,

“(I)nformed me that the New York players complained of Conway’s breath, saying that he had been drinking and was under the influence of liquor during the game.  What are the honest facts?  A friend of mine at the same hotel with Conway and Bob Emslie (the other umpire) told me that he was with the umpires the night before, as well as that morning, and heard them refuse to take a drink of any kind.  I was speaking to Conway just before the game, and took pains to note if he had been drinking, and I can say positively that he had not.”

Murnane’s comments are curious, given that he said Knowles informed him of the accusation after the game, yet he claims he “took pains” to confirm whether Conway was drinking before the game began.

“Now, doesn’t it seem unfair to pass around cold-blooded lies about an umpire doing his duty, to a management who naturally listens to stories of this kind, and then tries to make it easy for players?  I could forgive every act of the New York men, as they are out for blood, and are fine ballplayers, but I must pass up players who will try to harm a good, honest fellow, for Conway is a good umpire and had the nerve to pick the big fellows out, and no two men in the business need the call-downs that McGann and Bresnahan do.”

Murnane’s Boston colleague, Jacob Charles Morse of The Herald, called the Giants actions “reprehensible,” but said the umpire was partially to blame:

“Had Conway started in at the very first a lot of trouble might have been obviated, but it was not until he had allowed the New Yorks to kick at strikes and decisions, to leave their places, something strictly forbidden by the rules, and to bellow like bulls.  Bresnahan could be heard all over the field telling the umpire to ‘get out.’  Early in the game a bunch gathered around the umpire without the least expostulation, and went back to their places when the seemingly felt like it.”

Despite McGraw, McGann and Bresnahan receiving three-game suspensions for their actions, Morse said “The penalty imposed for the actions of the individuals was ridiculously light; not at all commensurate with the gravity of the offense.”

Things did not get any easier for Conway.

He had another run-in with the Giants at the end of June which resulted in another McGraw ejection.

He was also assaulted by two different St. Louis Cardinals; William “Spike” Shannon in June, and Mike Grady in August.  The August incident, during a game in Boston, required police to escort Conway from the field and resulted in a three game suspension for Grady.

Mike Grady had two altercations with Conway

Mike Grady had two altercations with Conway

After a second incident with Grady; this time in Pittsburgh on September 4, The Pittsburgh Press took the side of the Cardinals catcher, and harshly criticised Conway:

 “Umpire Conway officiated the game at Exposition Park yesterday afternoon.  To be more exact, a man named Conway attempted to imitate a real umpire, but the attempt was a failure…this fellow has about as much judgment of balls and strikes as a six-year-old kid, and he makes some of the weirdest mistakes ever seen.  To make matters worse, Conway thinks he is funny and laughs at his poor decisions…The Press never condones umpire baiting, but Conway called one strike on Grady that was not within two feet of the plate, and it is little wonder indeed that Michael was exasperated.

“It is to be hoped that Conway’s career as an umpire in the National League will end with the present season.  There are a score more competent men umpiring in the minor leagues today.  Conway is not fit for the position he occupies.  He takes trouble with him wherever he goes, owing to his inefficiency.”

National League President Harry Pulliam apparently agreed; Conway was not retained for the 1907 season.

He joined the Eastern League in 1907, but trouble continued to follow him.  In June he was assaulted by Toronto Maple Leafs second baseman Tim Flood—which resulted in Flood serving 10 days in jail.

Tim Flood

Tim Flood

 

Less than a week later, after the Jersey City Skeeters scored a run in the ninth inning to beat the Newark Sailors 2 to 1, Conway was attacked by fans in Newark’s Wiedenmayer Park.  The New York Times said:

 “A mob waited after the game until Umpire Conway left the dressing room on the grounds for the train, and when he appeared in the street the mob hooted, hissed and threw mud at him.”

He was escorted to the train station by “a squad of policemen.”

Just weeks into the 1908 season Conway decided he had enough, and resigned.  The Sporting Life said he “quit umpiring to go into business.”

Conway never worked a professional game again, although he worked several Ivy League games before giving it up all together in 1910.  He died in Massachusetts in 1932–the same year McGraw, too ill to continue baiting umpires, resigned as manager of the Giants.