Tag Archives: Boston Braves

“The Cream Puff Era in Baseball”

31 Mar

During his scouting trip to the West Coast looking for talent for the Boston Braves, Johnny Evers talked to Brian Bell, the Associated Press Bureau Chief in San Francisco:

“(He) has been sitting up late looking at games in the Pacific Coast League. The once great second baseman frankly is puzzled.

“Night baseball has turned the game topsy-turvy. A scout dislikes to recommend the purchase of an infielder or pitcher because with the lights the players have to adjust themselves to various conditions.

“’Recently, I looked at a promising shortstop.’ said Evers. ‘He was playing almost in left field. The next time I saw him in another park he was almost in back of the pitcher. When I spoke to him about it, he said that each park in the league has its dark spots and he has to play accordingly.’”

Johnny Evers

The shortstop Evers was scouting, according to The Los Angeles Express was Carl Dittmar. The club was said to be looking for a replacement for 39-year-old Rabbit Maranville, in order to move the veteran to 2nd base; the Braves instead purchased Billy Urbanski from the Montreal Royals.

Pitchers told Evers they would have to throw low pitches at the parks with lights mounted on top of the grandstand and high pitches at the parks with lower mounted lights:

“How can a scout tell whether these pitchers that are so good at night can pitch in the majors in the daytime?”

As for baseball as a whole?

“Evers calls the present ‘the cream puff era’ in baseball. ‘There’s no more fight in the game.”

He complained that one West Coast manager told him a player we wanted to scout had ‘a bad cold’ and would not be in the lineup:

“I cannot understand players staying out of a ball game because of a cold.”

 There were at least two players of “the cream puff era” that Evers approved of:

“Babe Ruth and Lefty O’Doul are the greatest hitters today. They realized that conditions are changing in baseball. Ruth’s mighty swings eliminated the bunt and put the homerun at a premium some years ago. With the slowing up of the baseball, Ruth is accepting the changed conditions.

“The big fellow of the Yankees now just meets the ball most of the time. Because of his strength, the ball leaves the bat like a shot and is past the infielders before they are able to take a full step.

“O’Doul is meeting the ball in a sweeping motion, which results in many base hits. He started the season in a terrible slump, but he was smart enough to discover the trouble.”

O’Doul

The scout, and co-author with Hugh Fullerton of “Touching Second: The Science of Baseball” remained a fan of the dead ball:

“Evers thinks the slower the ball the better the players and the game. Brainy players and plays have been sacrificed by the lively ball for fellows who can do nothing but ‘cut and slash.’”

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“Crying as if our Hearts Would Break”

29 Mar

Many different versions of how and when Johnny Evers and Joe Tinker finally reconciled—and when—after years of mutual animus have been told over the years. Evers told the story himself—and talked more about both Tinker and Frank Chance—while he was scouting for the Boston Braves in Georgia, in a 1931 interview with Ralph McGill of The Atlanta Constitution

McGill, incidentally, was an outspoken anti-segregationist who rose from assistant sports editor to managing editor and publisher at The Constitution and won the 1958 Pulitzer Prize for his editorials on the civil rights movement.

“(W)hen Johnny Evers sat in a room at the Atlanta Athletic Club until a late hour Saturday morning and recalled the old days he held a dozen men on his words: Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

 

Johnny Evers,

McGill said Evers, “told the story of how the trio played for 12 years and were then parted for 11 to meet for the first time two days before Jack Dempsey went into the ring against Luis Firpo (1923)”

With “something glistening in his eyes,” Evers told the story to McGill and the others:

“Joe Tinker and I never got along well. We were both high strung. If a man bumped me at second, Joe was over there to help me. But when it came to just us—well, we often raced off the field into the clubhouse and went to it with fists. If I made a good play, he told me. If I made a poor one, he told me. And I him. As I said, we didn’t get along.”

Then, he said, “came the breakup…And not for 11 years did I see either of them or them one another.”

Days before the Dempsey/Firpo fight Evers received a telegram from Chance who was in New York:

“Come on down. Joe is here.”

Evers said:

“I got on the train and went. I got the number of the room from the clerk. And I went up and knocked.

“’Come in,’ yelled Frank Chance.

“’I knocked again.

“’Come in,’ he yelled louder than ever.

“I knocked once more.

“’All right, you so and so, stay out,’ yelled Chance.

“I turned the knob of the door slowly and then swung it open.

“Tinker and Chance were sitting there at a table, staring at me and I at them across a span of 11 years. We stared there motionless and wordless for five minutes.

“And then I took a step forward and we were all together with our arms about each other’s shoulders and we were all crying as if our hearts would break.”

Tinker to Evers to Chance

Evers turned his attention to Chance, who had died seven years earlier. McGill said:

‘”The Peerless Leader’ they called him. And he must have been. Johnny Evers thought so. He didn’t say, but as he talked of Chance there was something in his voice, something he felt in the old days when they were helping to make the Cubs famous.”

Evers said of his former manager:

“Chance had more courage than any man I ever saw. He was a born fighter.”

 Evers cited Chance’s sparring with Joe Choynski, a heavyweight contender who finished with a 59-17-6 record, with 39 KOs; Jim Corbett said no opponent ever hit him harder:

“Chance stayed four rounds when he was a student in California with Joe Choyniski [sic], one of the greatest of the heavyweights. (He) was touring then and offering $100 to any man who would stay four rounds. Chance was the college champion, and he went in there and stayed four rounds. He was cut to pieces and knocked down innumerable times. But he stayed four rounds.”

Evers either embellished the story in places or heard an embellished version to begin with.

Chance took part in a three-round exhibition with Choynski on May 18, 1896. The fight was not part of some challenge offered by Choynski, but rather a benefit for one of the instructors at the Fresno Athletic Club. Chance’s bout was part of what was advertised in The Fresno Bee as a night of “vaudeville and novelty.”

The bout with Chance was the first of two sparring matches for Choynski that evening—the other was with the honoree E.V. Bradstreet—and The Bee makes no mention of any knockdowns or the savage beating Evers implies:

“Chance is Fresno’s best boxer and did nobly, but Choynski taught him several things…Chance did comparatively well.”

Evers also suggested that the “fight” with Choynski did permanent damage to his former manager:

“It left him with an impediment in his speech from which he never recovered.”

Finally, he suggests the embellishments were Chance’s and not his:

“’Johnny,’ he used to say to me. ’that was hardest $100 I ever earned.’ What a fighter he was.”

More insights from Evers from his 1931 scouting trip for the Braves, Wednesday.

“The Hook Slide is the Hardest for the man Handling Throws to Gauge”

7 Apr

When Johnny Evers was acquired by the Braves in 1914, Melville E. Webb Jr., writing in The Boston Globe shared a “never published” interview with the second baseman, in order to give readers “a better idea of the little fellow.”

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Johnny Evers

“In all my years of ball playing, the man I have found it hardest to touch with the ball as he came down to second base from first is Bill Dahlen…(he) always came straight down the baseline, directly at the base, but in the last ten feet there was no telling what he would do.

“He had a great way of anticipating where the throw from the catcher was coming, and he played his slide to a nicety. Coming straight along, he suddenly would fall down on his hips, to one side or the other, spread his legs ad then use the greatest cleverness in pulling out of reach and twisting himself to hook the base with either foot.”

billdahlen

Bill Dahlen

Evers said Dahlen was not the only man who used a hook slide, but did it better than others:

“He never was a particular dangerous man to try to block but blocking him off never seemed to do much good. He was almost sure to get better of the close plays around second base, and nothing was sure to go right, even when throws apparently were on the mark.”

Others Evers found difficult to tag out at second:

“Hans Lobert, Charley Herzog, (Vin) Campbell, (Bob) Bescher, (Bobby) Byrne, (Sherry) Magee, Miller Huggins and (Honus) Wagner. Wagner was a big mark to try to tag, but often when it came to putting the ball on him he was not there.”

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Bescher

In general, he concluded “I think the hook slide is the hardest for the man handling throws to gauge.”

Evers said while he “never had any experience playing defensively” against Frank Chance:

“(He) was one of the greatest base runners who ever played, and this because he so very often did the unexpected and used his head as well as his excellent speed. Infielders have told me that Chase was the hardest man they found to tag.”

 

“There is a Fault in the Armor of the Greatest Slugger”

21 Feb

 

babe

In 1927, a News Enterprise Association syndicated series of columns promised readers the secrets to “Fooling the great batters.”

Of Babe Ruth, the article said:

“There is a fault in the armor of the greatest slugger of them all, the man who has inspired more fear in the breasts of more pitchers than any other hitter, present day or past.”

St. Louis Browns pitcher Hub Pruett’s success against Ruth as a rookie in 1921 was noted as the gold standard for shutting him down—in six appearances against the Yankees that season, Pruett struck Ruth out 10 times; overall, Ruth was 2 for 13 with a home run and three walks in his 16 plate appearances against the 21-year-old lefty:

“(Pruett)  found that Ruth couldn’t hit a slow curve ball which sank close to the knees…Time and again it came up, slow and twisting, so that you could almost read the Ban Johnson signature, and time out of mind the Great Ball Murderer swung and missed.”

The scouting report on Ruth:

“A curve which sinks towards the batter can be hit by the Babe, but one which sinks away is harder. That was the great Pruett discovery. It is still in the big leagues, but Pruett isn’t”

Pruett, was 14-18 over three seasons for the Browns with a 3.55 ERA, and had less success against Ruth in 1923 and ’24 than he had during his rookie season. He never faced Ruth after 1924. He spent two years in the Pacific Coast League then returned to the major leagues with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1927 and ’28; and in between two stints in the International League, he pitched for the New York Giants in 1930 and the Boston Braves in 1932.

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up Other Things #30

30 Jan

Reddy’s Last Words

When Tom “Reddy” Miller, the catcher for the 1875 St. Louis Brown Stockings, died in May of 1876 (he was, depending on the source, somewhere between 24 and 26 years old at the time of his death), The St. Louis Globe-Democrat noted his handling of pitcher George Bradley:

“The brilliant manner in which the plucky little fellow supported Bradley last season is a matter of record.”

gwbradley

Bradley

Apparently, according to The Chicago Tribune, catching Bradley was the last thing Miller thought about before his death:

“In his last moments he was delirious, and fancied he was at his place in the ball-field, facing his old pitcher, Bradley. His last words were ‘Two out, Brad—steady, now—he wants a high ball—steady, brad—there, I knew it; that settles it.’”

Altrock on Alexander, 1928

On June 11, 1928, 41-year-old Grover Cleveland Alexander held the Boston Braves to one run on nine hits in an 8 to 1 complete game victory. Nick Altrock, Washington Senators coach, told The Cleveland News:

“Boston got nine hits off Grover Alexander Monday, but got one run, which is why I claim Alex is the world’s greatest pitcher. He is as easy to hit as a punching bag, but you can’t knock him off the rope. Alex pitches like a busted chewing gum slot machine. You keep dropping your nickels in it but no chewing come comes out.”

oldpete

Alexander

Alexander was 16-9 with a 3.36 ERA for the pennant winning St. Louis Cardinals.

Baker’s Homerun Ball, 1911

Frank Baker’s game-tying ninth inning home run off Christy Mathewson in game three of the 1911 World Series quickly became legendary, and people began asking about the whereabouts of the ball.

baker2

Baker

The New York Bureau of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch solved “The great mystery of what became of the ball” three days later:

“In the Brush stadium Tuesday, occupying a seat in the eighth row on the projecting line drawn through home and first, sat Mrs. Charles F. Hunt of 537 West 149th Street. Her husband Dr. Hunt, is a physician to the Yankees.”

According to the paper, just as Baker connected:

“(S)omeone got up in his seat just ahead of Mrs. Hunt and she could not follow the course of the ball. The man apparently tried to catch it.

“Then as Mrs. Hunt sat still the ball flattened the left side of her head with a blow on the left temple.”

Despite being dizzy, the paper said Hunt continued watching the game, “pluckily refusing medical attention.”

Hunt also refused to be taken out of the stands, telling her husband:

“I feel so hysterical that if I try to go out, I’m afraid I’ll create a scene.”

After the Athletics won 3 to 2 in 11 innings, Hunt remained in her seat for another hour, and when she finally returned home, the paper said she spent the next 24 hours ill in bed, and “the bump” remained on her head:

“What became of the ball? Oh, yes. Mrs. Hunt didn’t get it. The moment it fell from her head to the floor, a youth grabbed it.”

Gehrig on the Greatest “Team man, 1937

Dan Daniel of The New York World Telegram did his part to add to the Babe Ruth/ Lou Gehrig feud in February of 1937—just days after Ruth questioned Gehrig’s consecutive game streak, calling it “One of the worst mistake a ballplayer could make.”

Daniel visited with Gehrig in his New Rochelle home, and asked readers if their was a “War between” the two.

He said he asked Gehrig to name the all-time greatest player; Gehrig responded

“Honus Wagner the flying Dutchman…I say Wagner because there was a marvelous player who went along doing a grand job without any thought of himself. He was the team man of all time.”

gehrig

Gehrig

In addition to his snub of Ruth, Gehrig talked about his “greatest thrill” and the best pitcher he ever faced:

“’The greatest thrill of my baseball career?’ Gehrig furnished the reply without a moment’s hesitation. ‘It came when I hit that home run off Carl Hubbell in the third inning of the fourth game of the World Series last October…You don’t hit against very many pitchers like Hubbell in a lifetime and you don’t hit very many homers off the Hubbells in such situations.’ The Iron Horse continued.

“’But the greatest hurler I have seen was not Carl. My vote goes to Lefty Grove. When that bird was powdering them in at the top of his form, he was about as terrible a proposition for a hitter as you could imagine, even in a wild nightmare.’”

“Durbin’s Career in Baseball was Meteoric”

21 Jan

Blaine “Kid” Durbin was a sure thing. So said Frank Chance on the eve of the 1907 season.

As a 19-year-old, Durbin posted a 32-8 record for the Joplin Miners in the Western Association the previous year. Chance told The Chicago Daily-News:

“Blaine Durbin is going to be a sensational pitcher before long. When he stacks up against a club like Boston, with four or five left-handed hitters, he is going to make a great showing. What I like best about him is his nerve. Nothing can freeze him.”

durbin.jpg

Durbin

Chance said he was not concerned that Durbin was just five foot eight, nor was Henry “Farmer” Vaughan, manager of the Southern Association Birmingham Barons.

Chance said after Durbin pitched in a game that spring in Alabama, Vaughan approached him to see if “there was any chance of his getting” the rookie pitcher, and Chance mentioned Durbin’s size. Vaughn replied:

“He’s as big as Clark Griffith (Griffith is listed at 5’ 6”), and Griffith used to strike me out quite often. If Griffith was big enough, so is Durbin.”

Chance said:

“I told Vaughan I had no idea of letting him go.

“’Let me ask just one favor of you then,’ answered Vaughan: ‘don’t leave him in this league. If I can’t have him, I don’t want to have to play against him.’”

Chance said “scarcely a day passes that I don’t get a query” about Durbin and Chance said half the National League wanted him:

“I guess Durbin has a permanent berth with the Cubs.”

Durbin pitched in just five games for the Cubs (0-1 5.40), and only remained with the team for the entire season because when the Cubs tried to send him to Omaha in June, according to The Chicago Tribune, “The Boston Nationals stepped in” and would have taken Durbin.

He remained with the team all season and appeared in six games as an outfielder and pinch hitter.

Durbin did not get into in a game during Chicago’s World Series victory over the Detroit Tigers, but his hometown paper, The Fort Scott (Kansas) Republican, said he took home $2300.10 in postseason money and used it to buy a farm.

Still a hero in the Missouri town where he won 32 games in 1906, The Joplin Globe called him “the best baseball pitcher that ever wore a Joplin uniform,” when Durbin visited friends there and “proudly displayed the world’s championship emblem…in the form of a watch charm and represents a bear’s head holding a baseball.” Durbin told the paper the Cubs had big plans for him in 1908:

“Manager Chance assured me that I would be one of the regular twirlers next season.”

The 1908 campaign got off to a bad start for Durbin even before the team’s opener in Cincinnati on April 14. Charles Dryden, the baseball writer at The Chicago Tribune, who had his own nickname for Durbin, said:

“Danny Dreamer Durbin lost out at the distribution of new uniforms, which took place at the fashionable hour of high noon. There were but twenty togas for twenty-one demon athletes. When the Peerless Leader sounded the boot and saddle call, Danny was in his apartment perusing the latest messenger boy thriller in the Tip Top Weekly and Donohue copped the new clothes.”

The “Donohue” referred to by Dryden was pitcher Joe Donohue, who had spent 1907 with the Spaldings in the Chicago City League; he was with the club at the beginning of the season but never appeared in a game for the Cubs or any other professional team.

Presumably, when Donohue was cut loose, Durbin was rewarded with a uniform—when he made his first appearance at West Side Grounds on April 22, after the team’s season opening road trip Dryden wrote in The Tribune:

“Danny Dreamer Durbin looked like a five-cent plate of ice cream in his new white suit.”

The “Danny Dreamer” nickname was placed on Durbin by Dryden in 1907, when the entire Cubs team attended a play featuring actress Lillian Russell “an ardent baseball fan,” after the World Series victory. According to The Sporting News:

“Durbin was a member of the party and occupied a prominent place in the front row of the box, all togged out in his dress suit and patent leathers.

“In appearance of Miss Russell’s hospitality, the Cubs chipped in and bought a beautiful bouquet of flowers for the popular actress. The bouquet was to have been presented her across the footlights.

“But Durbin stole a march on the Cubs. He copped the flowers and disappeared from the box. Shortly afterwards the bouquet was presented through he wings. Durbin did the presentation…(Dryden) wrote the story of Durbin’s little steal and told how he had done the ‘Danny Dreamer’ stunt.”

The closest Durbin came to pitching again for the Cubs was on June 2, with the club trailing the Pirates 7 to 1 in the bottom of the fifth, The Tribune said Chance had Durbin ready to enter the game, but:

“(W)hile little Danny Dreamer was warming up the Cubs got mad and pounded Vic Willis into a shoestring, scoring four runs.”

Mordecai Brown instead took the mound in the sixth and promptly allowed two runs. The Cubs lost 12 to 6.

Durbin remained with the team for the entire season, appearing in 14 games as an outfielder and pinch hitter, hitting .250 (7 for 28), and for a brief period in July it looked like he might get more playing time. The Daily News said:

“(Durbin’s) work in center field since the Cubs returned to their home park stamps this little southpaw as a man possessing the qualifications for developing into a grand outfielder.”

The paper also noted his “speed going down to first,” and claimed, “It is doubtful whether there is a faster man getting down to first in the big leagues than Blaine Durbin.”

Durbin all but disappeared from box scores after July but picked up another world championship check despite again not making an appearance in the series—however, it was not quite the windfall of 1907; The Tribune said Durbin was forced to split a $1500 share three ways (the shares were $1400 but the Cubs added $100 to make the three-way split) with pitcher Rube Kroh who appeared in two games during the regular season, and team trainer A. Bert Semmens.

Durbin refused to sign his contract the following season and vented his frustration to The Fort Scott Republican; the paper took the hometown heroes’ side:

“The older pitchers of the team have done all possible to hold him out of the game, knowing that he would soon take their place if worked regularly (he also) ranked as the fastest base runner on the team.”

The paper also noted Durbin’s anger at being allotted a one third share of World Series money and said he would renew a request he made during the 1908 season that he be “sold, released, or traded to some team where he would be used.”

The Republican said:

“While he appreciates fully the honor of being a member of the champion baseball team of the world, he would prefer to belong to a lesser team and receive just treatment.”

The day after word of Durbin’s grievances appeared in Chicago papers, he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds.

Being sent to a “lesser team” did not help. Durbin appeared in just six games as a pinch hitter with the Reds, he was 1 for 5 with a walk, and was traded to the Pirates in May. He was 0 for 1 as a pinch hitter with the Pirates before drawing his release.

Durbin never made it back to the major leagues. He finished the 1909 season with the Scranton Miners in the New York State League, hitting just .219 and playing the outfield.

The Pirates sold his contract to the Western League Omaha Rourkes after the season, but he refused to report and spent 1910 playing semi-pro ball in Miami, Oklahoma, where he also operated a cigar store and billiard parlor. The Kansas City Star wrote about him as a cautionary tale:

“So Blaine Durbin, once the pride of all Kansas, has been relegated to the village nine again, from which he sprang. Durbin’s career in baseball was meteoric; full of some pleasant spots and a lot of disagreeable episodes.”

The Star said:

“Durbin went to Chicago with the path to success made for him. He had everything, the speed, the nerve the curves and the added asset of a good batting eye. The minute Durbin got to Chicago he began to unmake this roseate future. He didn’t like advice; he didn’t along with the old heads; he was about as unpopular as the man who strikes out with three on. Chance held on to him for two years, hoping the youngster would come out of it; he didn’t. Then he breathed a sigh of relief when Cincinnati suggested a trade. Durbin did not last long with the Reds.”

Durbin returned to pro ball in 1911, accepting a contract with Omaha, and pitched professionally for the first time since 1907—splitting the season between Omaha and the Topeka Jayhawks; he posted a combined 15-18 record.

He was sold to the Oakland Oaks in the Pacific Coast League at the end of the 1911 season. He was 4-5 with a 2.61 ERA when Oakland released him in August. The Oakland Tribune questioned whether Durbin “might have made good if he had been given the opportunity to work often. He lived a clean life and didn’t find time to break up the furniture in the Seventh Street cafes.”

Durbin spent the rest of 1912 pitching for an independent team in Oroville, California.

His professional career was over at age 25.

He parlayed his tenure as part of a world’s champion into being a drawing card over the next 12 years, bouncing back and forth between amateur and semi-pro teams in Kansas, Missouri, and California.

 

 

Durbin settled in St. Louis and in July of 1941 was declared insane and sent to the Missouri State Hospital at Farmington. After he was released, he worked in a restaurant and lived in Kirkwood, Missouri. He died on September 11, 1943, one day after his 57th birthday.

Lost Advertisements: “The Braves Wear Cat’s Paw”

21 Dec

braves14

A 1914 advertisement for The Foster Rubber Company, Cat’s Paw Rubber Heels, featuring members of the World Champion Boston Braves:

“Pennant winners must have sound legs and steady nerves.”

Johnny Evers:

“The change from spiked shoes into street shoes that have Cat;’s Paw Rubber Heels. The heels make walking on cement a pleasure–and ten percent easier on the feet and legs.”

Bill James:

“I’m more afraid of a slippery sidewalk than a pair of flying spikes.”

Rabbit Maranvile:

“I have to use spikes for speed on the field; for comfort on unyielding sidewalks and pavements I use Cat’s Paw Rubber Heels.  They’re great.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things #23

4 Jun

Evers Shuts Down Donlin

Mike Donlin’s final comeback ended with a final stop with the New York Giants as a coach and pinch hitter.

donlin

Mike Donlin

Frank Menke of Hearst’s International News Service said Donlin tried to get under Johnny Evers’ skin in the last series the Giants played with the Braves:

“Evers, the peppery captain of the Boston Braves, walked up to the plate…watched three strikes whizz by and was declared out.

“’Oh, I say, Johnny,’ chirped up Donlin.  ‘What was you waiting for?’

“Quick as a flash Johnny shot back:

“’I wasn’t waiting for the first and fifteenth of the month so as to get rent money, anyway.’

“The retort hurt Mike who was holding down the job as pinch hitter and coach for the Giants not because of his ability in either department, but through the friendship of Manager (John) McGraw.”

johnnyevers

Johnny Evers,

Donlin appeared in just 35 games for the Giants, all as a pinch hitter, he hit just .161.

Comiskey Can’t Understand Padden

By 1906, Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Tribune said of the importance of “a man whose brain is as agile as his body…Never was this fact so impressed upon me as a few years ago when I was sitting with (Charles) Comiskey.”

comiskeypix

Charles Comiskey

Fullerton and Comiskey were watching the White Sox play the St. Louis Browns:

“Commy was talking, half to himself, about Dick Padden, who was about as quick a thinker as ever played the game.

“’I can’t understand it,’ soliloquized the Old Roman.  ‘He can’t hit. He can’t run. He isn’t good on ground balls.  He’s not any too sure of thrown balls, and his arm is bad.’ He stopped a moment and then added: ‘But he’s a hell of a good ballplayer.’”

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Dick Padden

Jones Shuts Down Altrock

Nick Altrock won 20 games for the 1906 White Sox, after an arm injury and his general disinterest in staying in shape, Altrock slipped to 7-13 the following season.

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Nick Altrock

Late in 1907, The Washington Evening Star said:

“Altrock is the champion mimic and imitator of the American League…Nick delights to give his various imitations, and much amusement do his companions find in these diversions of Altrock.

“The other day at Chicago, and just a few minutes before the game between the New Yorks and the Windy City aggregation began, the big pitcher was delighting the members of his own team, as well as several of the New York bunch, with his clever imitations of notable people, when he suddenly turned to Fielder Jones, the captain and manager of the Chicagos, and asked:

‘”What shall be my last imitation for the evening, Fielder?’

“’Why,’ replied Jones, with that sober look of his, ‘as I am going to pitch you this evening, Nick, suppose when you get in the box you give us an imitation of a winning pitcher.”

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.

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.