Tag Archives: Boston Braves

One Minute Talk: Sherry Magee

9 Nov

In 1916, The Newspaper Enterprise Association ran a series of brief articles called “One Minute Talks with Ballplayers.”

Sherry Magee, Boston Braves outfielder attributed the success of his team’s pitching staff and his own .241 average to Braves Field

Sherry Magee

Sherry Magee

“No team can hit on the Boston National League grounds.  The fence is so far from the plate and the slope so great from the infield to the fence that the batter can just about see the top of the fence in centerfield.

“If the fence was 20 feet higher it would be a great field for batsmen, but as it is now there is nothing but the sky for a background.  There isn’t even a building in back of the wall in sight of the batter.  How is a batter going to hit a brand new white ball looking into a skyline of the same color?”

“It also is almost impossible to gauge any kind of a ball as there is no background of any description.”

Magee’s .241 average in 1916 was the  worst performance as a big leaguer–his only lower average was as a part-time player with the 1919 Cincinnati Reds in his final season–he ended his career with a .291 average over 16 seasons.

Advertisements

One Minute Talk: Pat Ragan

7 Nov

In 1916, The Newspaper Enterprise Association ran a series of brief articles called “One Minute Talks with Ballplayers.”

Pat Ragan talked about his Boston Braves teammate, Tom Hughes.

Pat Ragan

Pat Ragan

Hughes won just 19 games over parts of five seasons in the major leagues from 1906-1914, then, in 1915 and 1916, he won 32, including a 16-3 mark in 1916.  His success was attributed to doctoring the ball.

“(Hughes) is accused of scratching the surface of the ball with his fingernails, but that’s all bunk.”

While Ragan conceded that “No pitcher likes to hurl a pure white ball, “he said that wasn’t Hughes’ secret:

Tom Hughes

Tom Hughes

“There is no kick about the way Tom pitches.  He simply has mastered something new and I doubt if there are other fellows who can do with knuckle clutch pitch what he can.  He pitches it as a knuckleball partly overhand and partly side arm.

“The great wiggle it takes or the quick break is due to the way he delivers it and the number of fingers he uses when he throws the ball.”

After his two seasons as a 16-game winner, Hughes was hampered by arm injuries and won just five more games in 1917 and 1918.

One Minute Talk: Jack Coombs

21 Oct

In 1916, The Newspaper Enterprise Association ran a series of brief articles called “One Minute Talks with Ballplayers.”

With the Brooklyn Robins in first place by four games after beating the Boston Braves 5 to 2 on August 14, Jack Coombs said:

Coombs

Coombs

“Baseball is a peculiar game.  The life is hard and the game fast but there is a fascination about it that just holds one.  There is something that comes of matching your eye against a sweeping curveball that can be found in no other game in the world. Once you get inside the flannels you hate to lay them aside.

“We Brooklyn men should win this pennant.  We have a fair lead and at the clip we are traveling should not have much trouble in holding our position.

“We arrived at the top through good baseball and no one can down us.  However, there are 55 games to  play and accidents may cut us down.”

The “Brooklyn men,” managed to hang on to first place through the final 55 games, beating the Boston Braves by two and a half games.

Coombs, who won 80 games for the Philadelphia Athletics between 1910 and 1912, missed nearly all of the next two seasons battling typhoid fever.  Signed as a free agent by Brooklyn in 1915–he was 15-10 2.58 that season and was 13-8 with a 2.66 ERA for the 1916 pennant winners; he posted Brooklyn’s only victory in the World Series against the Boston Red Sox–a 4 to 3 victory in game 3.

Coombs was also true to his observation that “Once you get inside the flannels you hate to lay them aside.”  After a brief, unsuccessful tenure as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies in 1919, Coombs was a coach for the Detroit Tigers in 1920. He then spent the next 32 years as a college baseball coach at Williams College, Princeton, and Duke–remaining in the game until he was forced to retire from Duke at the age of 70.

Coombs at Williams College, 1921

Coombs at Williams College, 1921

When he arrived at Williams, in Williamstown, Massachusetts in the spring of 1921, The New York Tribune said Coombs, having discovered that “training rules had not been observed,” by Williams players in previous years–the two previous coaches at Williams were former teammates of Coombs with the Athletics, Ira Thomas, and Harry Davis, “(A)sked the student body to encourage the members of the squad to train, to criticise them if they did not, and to help them with their studies.”

 

I would Pick the Country Boy in place of the City Chap”

9 Sep

In June of 1912, after being unable to return for his 23rd season, Cy Young headed to his farm in Peoli, Ohio, when he “wrote” an article for The Associated Press comparing players from the country versus those who grew up in cities:

“Other things being equal—and by ‘other things’ I mean natural ability, baseball brains and nerve—I would pick the country boy in place of the city chap for my ball team.”

Cy Young

Cy Young

Young said:

“I am not saying this because I am from the country and return here on the slightest provocation.  Still, I believe the fact that I was born and raised on a farm (not two miles from this spot, by the way) is largely responsible for myself as a pitcher.”

Comparing himself to “city” pitchers, Young said:

“I was naturally rugged, and my farm work as a boy tended to make me more so.  I have seen other pitchers who seemed to have a lot more stuff than I had fail, for the reason that they were lacking in reserve power.

“They would go along splendidly for a few innings, but when the real test came they were lost sight of, and now are all but forgotten, whereas they had the same early training I received they might have remained in the game as long as I have.”

Cy and friend

Cy and friend

And Young was buying any claims that players from the city were smarter:

“The argument that city boys think faster and are more independent is not a good one.  In fact, I believe it is entirely wrong.  The country boy must think as fast and as often as the boy in the city, and he is thrown upon his own resources much oftener.

“All in all, give me the boy from the country—the boy who have survived the hard knocks—for a diamond star.”

Despite his desire to always return to farm at “the slightest provocation,” Young worked out throughout the summer of 1912 with designs on getting back to the major leagues.

He told a reporter:

“I am not broken down by any means.  I am still better than three-fourths of the pitchers in the league…I am going to get up a couple of country games and pitch them, too.  Then if I am right I am going to report to (Boston Braves Manager Johnny) Kling…(D)on’t think I am through yet.”

Despite his best efforts in the summer of 1912, the “country boy” had played his final major league game.

“Old Cy Young”

9 May

George S. Applegarth had a varied career as a journalist for papers in Buffalo, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and New York.  He covered sports, wrote humor columns, reported on WWI from the front lines in Europe, and wrote poetry.

He published two “sequels” to Ernest Thayer‘s “Casey at the Bat” in his 1918 book “Pep: The Red Book of Sports for Red-Blooded Readers.”  Both poems are from the point of view of the pitcher—who he named Jake Weinerkraut, and who was a frequent character in his baseball poems—“The Man Who Struck Out Casey,” is Weinerkraut’s account of the game, and in “Why Casey Fanned,” the pitcher tells how he used his glass eye to blind Casey before the final pitch.

In May of 1912, Cy Young, battling arm problems, left the Boston Braves; the 45-year-old spent the first month of the season with the club having not thrown a pitch.  His career over, Applegarth honored the all-time win leader in The Pittsburgh Gazette-Times:

Cy Young

Cy Young

Old Cy Young

Old Cy Young!  How the very name

Breathes of the zest of the baseball game,

Conjuring pictures of crowded stands,

Echoing voices and clapping hands;

Players striving with might and main,

Moments burdened with stress and strain,

Nerves as tense as a whipcord strung,

And right in the heart of it,

Parcel and part of it—

Old Cy Young.

Old Cy Young!  How men grown gray

Smile as they read that name today;

Smile when they see that sturdy frame

Looming still in the good old game,

Years roll back and they feel once more,

Thrills and throbs of the days of yore;

Tales come leaping to many a tongue,

Telling the fame of him,

Lauding the name of him—

Old Cy Young.

Old Cy Young!  What a name forsooth!

Yet a paradox that tells the truth;

Old in the annals of baseball fame,

Young as the day when he entered the game;

Old in the measure of full success,

Young in the spirit of youthfulness,

Long may the praise of his deeds be sung,

Here’s to good health to him,

Long life and wealth to him—

Old Cy Young

Lost Advertisements–John McGraw for Coca-Cola

18 Mar

mcgrawcoke

“Haven’t you noticed that the men who do the biggest work for the longest time in baseball, both mentally and physically, are Coca-Cola enthusiasts?

John J. McGraw drinks Coca-Cola.”

After winning three straight pennants with the Giants from 1911-1913, McGraw was confident his team was heading for a fourth straight National League championship after his club took over first place on May 30.  In September, the surging Boston Braves–who were in eighth place when New York took over first– split a doubleheader with the Giants to remain tied for first place (The Braves were tied with the Giants for one day on August 25 and were in sole possession of first for one day earlier in the month).

That day, under the headline “Prophecies and sich!” Ralph Davis of The Pittsburgh Press presented a series of quotes he attributed to McGraw which nicely summed up the season’s pennant race:

“John McGraw said on June 1: ‘The big disappointment of the year has been the Boston Nationals.  I thought (George) Stallings would get his team into the first division at the start and keep it there.’

George Stallings

George Stallings

“John McGraw said on July 1: ‘Those poor old Bostonians are still at the bottom of the pile, where they seem to be anchored.  The team is surely the surprise of the season.’

“John McGraw said on Aug 1: ‘The Boston Braves have made a great showing during the past two weeks, and are now in fourth place.  They will probably slump again, but should not drop back into last place.’

“John McGraw said on Aug. 15: ‘Boston is now in second place, but we are not worried about that.  Their present spurt is merely a flash, and they will soon be headed the other way.’

“John McGraw said on Sept. 1: ‘As I predicted, the Braves did not stay with us.  They have dropped back to second place and have probably shot their bolt.  They will decline from this out.  Mark my words.’

“John McGraw said on Sept. 7: “Those Braves blankety blank, blank, etc…, ad infinitum!’

McGraw

McGraw

“Which being interpreted means Boston once more tied with the Giants for the lead, and shows no sign of breaking badly, as the eminent Mr. McGraw predicted.”

Davis’ prophecy that the Braves showed “no sign of breaking badly” was correct.  Boston beat the Giants 8 to 3 the following day, recapturing sole possession of first place.  They never looked back.  The Braves went 25-6  (with three ties) the rest of the season and cruised to the pennant, beating McGraw’s Giants by 10 1/2 games.

“Daily Chats with Famous Ballplayers”

18 Sep

In 1916, a series of two to three paragraph items called “Daily Chats with Famous Ballplayers” (some papers called the feature different names) appeared in several smaller West Coast and Midwest newspapers.

Some highlights:

Oscar “Ossie” Vitt, third baseman for the Detroit Tigers, who survived a beaning from Walter Johnson of the Washington Senators on August 10, 1915:

“The world stopped moving when the ball nicked my bean.  Johnson thought I was killed and I guess I thought so myself for awhile, so far as I was able to think at all.

Ossie Vitt

Ossie Vitt

“My head proved to be the goods alright and wasn’t worse for wear.  But it upset Johnson so much that he couldn’t locate the plate and we pounded him all over the lot (Vitt was hit leading off the first inning—Johnson gave up eight runs after that in six innings and lost 8 to 2 to Detroit).”

St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Henry “Hi” Jasper on the superstition of teammate Harry “Slim” Sallee:

“Sal’s pet superstition is that it’s bad luck for him to warm up with any catcher but the one who is to work in the game with him.

“If the playing backstop has batted last and has to put on his shin guards and armour before warming up, Sal will never throw a ball to the plate to any man who may come out of the dugout with a mitt.  He will throw either to the first or third baseman.”

Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Al Mamaux on a lesson learned during a loss to the Chicago Cubs in September of 1914:

“Smart old timers can always make it tough for youngsters just breaking in.  I remember one day when I was the goat for a trick pulled by Roger Bresnahan.”

Mamaux

Al Mamaux

Mamaux said Chicago had two runners on base and Bresnahan was coaching third.

“(He was) talking real friendly like to me (then) hailed me suddenly as the ball was returned to me.  ‘Say Al, toss me that ball I want to look at it,’ said Roger.  I didn’t give it a second thought…tossed it towards him and I’ll be darned if he didn’t step to one side and yell to the runners to beat it home.  Each advanced a base and would have scored if Jimmy Viox hadn’t run his head off to recover the ball.  Believe me that one cured me.”

George Stallings, on suspensions and how badly the Boston Braves needed George Stallings:

“You don’t have to call an umpire all the names in the calendar to draw a suspension.  I got three days off for just remarking to (Charles “Cy”) Rigler that he ought to go to jail for umpiring a game like he did the other day.

George Stallings

George Stallings

“Nothing that I could say or do would make any difference.  What I can say though right now is that the action of (National League) President (John) Tener, coming as it does, with the race so close, appears peculiar to say the least (Tener said the suspension was for a series of altercations that Stallings and his players had with umpires during the two months before the August suspension was announced).

“Without any braggadocio I can say that my suspension will cripple my club considerably.  I know what my presence means to the club and so does President Tener.”

Boston won all three games during Stallings’ suspension and regained second place, but finished the season in third, five and half games behind the Brooklyn Robins.

“It smacks of Old-fashioned Common Sense”

26 Jun

For more than a century, major league baseball has looked for ways to increase hitting.  Or, as Bozeman Bulger of The New York World put it in 1917

“Overhauling the rules of baseball to make it harder for the pitcher and more of a joy ride for the boys who wield the ash has always been a favorite winter pastime.”

Burger said former pitcher and current National League President John Tener was “(C)onvinced that the public wants more hitting.”

John Tener

John Tener

Tener and others shared their ideas for rule changes with Bulger on the eve of the meeting of the rules committee.

“Tener proposes making the home plate larger and at the same time allowing a batter to take his base on three balls instead of four.”

[…]

“Then comes Charlie (Buck) Herzog (of the New York Giants) with a suggestion, perhaps the most interesting of all.  It is the outpost of a real imagination that is comprehensive. Before announcing his plan, Herzog calls attention to the injustice of calling strikes on very hard hit line drives that fall foul by inches.  To all intents and purposes, those are real scientific hits, and the fact that luck causes them to fall foul should not act upon the batter as a penalty.  In other words, he is being severely punished for really doing scientific work. Herzog suggests, therefore, that a zone be described along those two foul lines between third and the fence and between first and the ground limits.  This zone should be at least ten feet in width, and any ball hit therein is not to be called a foul.  At the same time, it is not to be called a safe hit.  In other words, the batter loses his hit by bad luck, but it relieves him of an unjust penalty.”

Buck Herzog

Buck Herzog

Incredibly, Bulger completely endorsed Herzog’s proposed rules change and claimed, “Every ballplayer in America” would agree, because “It smacks of old-fashioned common sense.”

Another rule change was proposed by Percy Duncan Haughton.  Haughton, a long-time college football coach (Cornell and Harvard), and Harvard baseball coach in 1915 (he also played both sports at Harvard) had become a part-owner of the Boston Braves in 1916.  Bulger said:

“Mr. Haughton’s scheme has not been taken very seriously by those who were studying these problems while he was still a football player, but there is a real satisfaction in finding a new magnate so much interested in the sport.  The President of the Braves proposes that the distance from third to home and from home to first be lessened by several inches.  It might help the batter a little, but an extreme change like that would be pecking at the one fundamental of the game that has stood all tests.”

The most practical suggestion came from Giants Manager John McGraw, who proposed that no rules be changed, but advocated a more lively ball.

Bulger, however, was sure some rules would change:

“(T)he powers that be appear to be intent upon really turning out a new model.”

The New York World's rendering of the proposed changes.

The New York World’s rendering of the proposed changes.

When the meetings at the Waldorf Astoria in New York ended two weeks later, Jack Veiock of the Hearst Newspapers International News Service said:

“(I)t was confidently expected that the members of the rules committee would get together and make a few alterations in the baseball code as it stands today.

“But the rules committee did nothing of the kind  The wise old heads who are in control of baseball are satisfied with the rules.”

 

Lost Pictures–Roger Bresnahan and Toy

19 Jun

bresnahanandtoy

 

The Chicago Cubs were 14 games over .500 and in second place, just two a half games behind the New York Giants on July 25, 1914.  The team lost 14 of their next 17 and wound up in fourth place.  (the Giants finished second to the Boston Braves).  At the end of the season, first-year Manager Hank O’Day was let go by the Cubs and returned to umpiring.  Catcher Roger Bresnahan was named as O’Day’s replacement.

Later in the off-season, there was another drama taking place off the field.  It involved Clara Maduro:

In December, The Chicago Daily News said:

“Because the female of the species is more deadly than the male, Clara Maduro, the brown bear mascot of the Cubs, must die.  The wee cub, which fans saw drinking milk from a bottle or eating ice cream cones at the West Side park last summer, has grown to giant proportions, and while of a pleasant disposition is inclined to break loose at times. Hence, Clara will be executed New Year’s Day.”

A month earlier, The Chicago Tribune reported:

“‘There’s a woman being strangled at Wood and Taylor Streets,’ was the message received by Desk Sergeant Comstock of the Warren Avenue station last night.  ‘Send a lot of policemen.’

“The patrol wagon with a number of detectives was sent to the location, which proved to be on the west side of the National League ballpark.

“A loud howling was heard from the inside, and upon investigation it was found the bear mascot of the Cub team, which had been locked in a cage in the team’s quarters had broken its chains and was roaming about.”

After an outpouring of outrage and concern from Chicagoans, The Daily News reported that Clara Maduro “has been saved through the protest that followed the announcement.”  The bear was initially placed with a local saloon owner named Joe Biggio; later reports said the bear went to the Lincoln Park Zoo.

With Clara out, it was determined that a bear cub mascot was not the best idea for 1915.  So in March, the team introduced their new mascot, Toy.

The Tribune said:

“‘Toy,’ the 1915 Cub mascot is a canine of high degree and more likely to become a permanent fixture than the baby bear which grew so big and developed such a crabbed disposition that he [sic] had to be discarded last fall.  ‘Toy’ used to be the mascot and assistant caddie of a feminine golf expert who was a visitor at Tampa during the Cubs stay there and who became such an ardent baseball fan that she bestowed her pet on the team when the Cubs departed for the north.”

The Cubs started the season strong and led the National League until mid-July, but the team faltered badly and ended the season in fourth place with a 71-82 record.

Toy did not “become a permanent fixture;” when Charles Weeghman bought the team after the 1915 season he replaced both Bresnahan and Toy.

Weeghman did not learn from the past and introduced the Cubs new mascot in November.  A bear cub whose mother was killed during a Wisconsin hunting trip, was presented to the team by the hunter, either a state senator named Albert J. Olson or Cubs stockholder J. Ogden Armour–newspapers reported both, but the bear’s name, Joa, would suggest the latter.

It is unknown what became of Toy.

Weeghman introduces Toy's replacement

Weeghman introduces Toy’s replacement

 

“He Drinks one Glass of Whiskey a day while Training”

8 Apr

The Associated Press (AP) said in 1912 that 45-year-old Denton True “Cy” Young “(B)aseball’s most interesting veteran has gone  to Augusta, Georgia, to join his teammates of the Boston Nationals at their training camp.”

Young had gone to Augusta from Hot Springs, Arkansas, where The AP said he had spent several weeks performing his annual ritual for getting into shape, “He started going there years ago.”

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

Among his secrets: “He drinks one glass of whiskey a day while training.”

Young shared his training regimen with the wire service:

“First week:  The regular daily baths at Hot Springs.

“Second week:  Baths and road work.  He dresses in flannels and sweater and does 10 to 15 miles on the road.  He tramps, sprints and climbs hills. He does not touch a baseball.

“Third week: He continues baths and road work.  He fields and tosses the ball. He handles bunts to reduce his stomach.  At the end of the third week, he pitches his first ball.”

Cy Young

Cy Young

Young said after he began throwing pitches, he had no set rule for one to begin throwing hard:

“Young doesn’t attempt a fastball until he is just right and no one but himself can tell when this will be.  He says he doesn’t know how he knows when the moment arrives, but he just naturally begins to speed them across and perhaps to put ‘something on the ball’ at the correct time.  The result is you never hear of Cy Young complaining of a sore arm, or wrenched back, as many youngsters do.”

Young, by all accounts, pitched fairly well in  games in Georgia and went north with Boston.  But, he never appeared in a game.  An April story that said he was retiring to take a baseball writing job at The Boston American proved untrue.  Finally, on May 23, Young was scheduled to pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The AP said:

“The veteran was sent out to warm up to pitch for Boston against the Pirates…but his salary wing refused to behave.”

Young vowed to return to his farm “and get into shape,” in order to return before the end of the season.

His training regimen finally wasn’t enough.  His career was over.

Hearing that Young was returning to his farm, his Boston teammates took up a collection “to defray Cy’s expenses and $44.39 was raised.”  The AP said some of the young players didn’t realize the collection “was a joke…He is worth $75,000 and owns 160 acres of land in Ohio…Cy smiled and spent a good hour hunting up the younger players and returning their money.”