Tag Archives: Boston Braves

“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.”

“Signals had a lot to do with our Winning the Championship”

16 Jan

George Stallings had been accused of being a sign stealer.  And, when he finally won his first and only championship with the miracle Boston Braves in 1914—the team was 35-43 and in eighth place on July 18—his shortstop, Walter “Rabbit” Maranville claimed sign stealing was a part of the team’s success.

Rabbit Maranville

Rabbit Maranville

The Boston Post quoted Maranville speaking to a group from Boston College during the winter after the team’s World Series victory:

“Signals had a lot to do with our winning the championship.  We had signals of our own, of course, and so far as I know they never were solved consistently.  We were able to get the meaning of the signals of the other team in nearly every other city of the league.  In St. Louis we knew almost every move that the other fellow was going to make, and that helped a lot.  Their signals were very easy.  Other teams had harder signals, but we managed to get most of them, while the other side was doing the guessing.”

Whether or not sign stealing played a part, the Braves were 9-1 (with one game ending in a tie) in their last 11 games against the St. Louis Cardinals and their “very easy” signals.

While Stallings never confirmed Maranville’s claim, he did tell The Boston Globe that winter that took great pains to ensure that their signs weren’t stolen in the World Series:

George Stallings

George Stallings

“Although we had a set of signals that I don’t think any ballclub in the world could have gotten on to we heard rumors that the (Philadelphia) Athletics had been tipped off to them.  We framed up an entire new set, and a coacher or base runner could have looked square into the catcher’s glove and never had gotten these.  (Connie) Mack’s men failed to get a sign of ours in the series so far as I know.”

Brief Bios–Ferris and Angier

24 Oct

Doc Ferris

Ernest H. “Doc” Ferris won 20 games twice over eight seasons in the low manors between 1913 and 1923, and posted a respectable 109-86 record.  The otherwise forgotten right-hander also pitched one of the most efficient games in baseball history.

Ferris was born on September 7, 1887 in Blue Ash, Ohio; the youngest of 13 children.  There is little information about his early life on his father Solomon’s farm, with the exception of a few brief mentions in Cincinnati newspapers of his being active in the Hamilton County Ohio Farmer’s Alliance.

The first reference to him related to baseball was when the 25-year-old signed a contract with the Durham Bulls of the North Carolina State League in 1913.  After two sub .500 seasons –10-12 in 1913, 9-16 with the Asheville Tourists—he had his best season in 1915, when he won 27 games (he lost 12) for Asheville.

Ernest "Doc" Ferris

Ernest “Doc” Ferris

In 1916 he was signed by the Columbia Comers of the South Atlantic League.  The Highlight of Ferris’ 18-15 season was during a 3 to 1 victory over the Albany Babies on July 18.  The Columbia State said:

“Doc Ferris probably made a new record for the league by going through the game with only 73 pitched balls, 14 of which were balls and 59 strikes…the Columbus pitcher did not issue a pass…Ferris set up a record that will probably stand for many moons.  To go through nine innings pitching only 73 balls is a remarkable feat.  The smiling hurler was seldom in the hole, going to three balls on only one batter.”

The game was completed in 78 minutes.

The Box Score

The Box Score

(Charles “Red” Barrett of the Boston Braves set the major league record for fewest pitches in a game, when he shut out the Cincinnati Reds 2-0 in Crosley Field on August 10, 1944–he threw just 58 pitches–Barrett’s game was also three minutes shorter than Ferris’ effort.)

After pitching for and managing the Asheville Tourists and Hagerstown Terriers in 1917 and 1918, Ferris quit baseball for two years, and according to The Durham Morning Herald accepted “a responsible position with a manufacturing concern.”

In 1921 he returned to the diamond, pitching three seasons for the Greensboro Patriots in the Piedmont League—after going 20-9 in his first season, he slipped to 6-9 and 4-5, before retiring for good after the 1923 season.

After baseball Ferris operated a company that manufactured and installed canvas awnings.  When he started the business he told The Greensboro Daly News:

“During the eight years I sweated in the blazing sun, I often thought of the advantage it would be to have and awning overhead, so when I finally decided to quit the diamond I naturally gravitated into selling the things that looked so attractive to me while I was pitching.”

Doc Ferris

Doc Ferris

Ferris died in Greensboro on November 11, 1964.

Shorty Angier

Malbourne Addison “Shorty” Angier was a teammate of Doc Ferris with the Durham Bulls in 1913.   Angier was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1892, but grew up in Durham. His grandfather, and namesake, was a prominent Durham merchant.

Angier made a name for him himself as a teen in the Piedmont League—before 1920 various quasi-professional/industrial league incarnations of the Piedmont operated; he played for Durham Hosiery in 1911 and 1912.

When he was signed by the Durham Bulls in 1913, The Charlotte Evening Chronicle said he “hit around .400 in the Piedmont League last year,” and had turned down offers from two other North Carolina State League teams, the Charlotte Hornets and Greensboro Patriots.  The expectations were high:

“Those that have seen Angier play predict that he will make good in the league and that the next few years will see him in the big company.”

The Charlotte Observer described his physical appearance:

“(S)tocky torso, the hefty underpinning, and abbreviated neck.”

Whatever ability he had with the bat in the Piedmont League left him as a professional.  Angier hit just .199 during his first season at Durham in 1913.  After a hot start the following season—he was hitting nearly .400 in July—he finished with a .268 average.  In 1915 he hit .175.

Although a weak hitter, he  was one of the best athletes in the North Carolina League—during the league’s “Field Day” activities in 1914 The Charlotte News said he “easily won” the distance throwing competition and his 15 and 1/5 second time circling the bases was the league’s best.

He split the 1916 season between the South Atlantic League Columbia Comers (where he was again teammates with Doc Ferris) and Jacksonville Tarpons; he hit a combined .175 for the year.

The following spring The Durham Morning Herald reported that Angier was in a local hospital in critical condition after “the young man swallowed poison.”

The Greensboro Daily News said Angier drank from a bottle that he was not aware contained “poisonous medicine,” but the paper said “attempted suicide was discounted,” by his friends.

Whether the poisoning was a contributing factor or not, Angier did not play in 1917, and went to work at a tobacco store he co-owned in Durham.

After volunteering for military service in the fall of 1917—he was a second Lieutenant in the cavalry, stationed in Columbia, South Carolina—he returned to his business in Durham.

Each season from 1919 through 1921, North Carolina newspapers reported that Angier would be joining the Durham Bulls; although he does not appear in any surviving team records, Angier played in a handful of games for the team in September of 1921.

He never played again after his brief return to the diamond in 1921.  Angier owned several tobacco and grocery businesses in and around Durham and later relocated to Green Cove Springs, Florida where he died in 1937.

Advertisement for Angier's cigar store

Advertisement for Angier’s cigar store

“Good day—Double Crosser”

30 Jul

Hap Myers’ abrupt exit from the Boston Braves was never fully explained; the Boston press said he simply didn’t get along with manager George Stallings, Myers said it was because of his activities as one of the leaders of baseball’s most recent labor movement.

"Hap" Myers

“Hap” Myers

Two articles from The Associated Press about George Stallings that appeared after the braves won the World Series might have shed some light on the relationship between the two—one mentioned an incident that took place during a game, and the other had to do with Stallings’ well-known and strange superstitions.

The first article was about “a game played in Boston in the summer of 1913,” (box scores indicate it was most likely, the second game of a double-header with the Cincinnati Reds on July 22).

“Two men were out and the Braves had a man on first and another on second…A long hit would either tie the score or win the game.  ‘Hap’ let the first one pass—and bunted the second.  He was thrown out by at least 10 feet and the game was over.  The Braves had lost.

“’Hap’ in terror over a possible rebuke…escaped into the clubhouse.  Stallings was there, enshrouded in deepest gloom.  Baseball never knew a harder loser that Stallings.  But Stallings never said a word to Myers then, and Myers ducked out.

“The next morning found Stallings at Myers’ home.  Myers had just gotten up.”

When Myers answered the door, Stallings asked him why he had bunted with two on and two out.  Myers told his manager that he thought he’s “double-cross the other fellows…catch ‘em asleep.”

Stalling blew up at the first baseman:

“Well, let me tell you this Myers, if you ever again try any of that ‘double-crossing’ stuff there’ll be a funeral in this particular neighborhood.  Good day—double crosser.”

The second article said that during a losing streak in June of 1913 the superstitious Stallings blamed the “jinx” on a colorful necktie Myers wore—the only tie the first baseman owned.  According to the article, Stallings told his equally superstitious owner James Gaffney:

“That necktie of his—that horrible looking sight, that drapes down from his collar.  No wonder we can’t win.  No wonder we are jinxed.  That necktie would hoodoo anybody.”

The story said Stallings stole the tie from Myers, and after the Braves won the following day told Gaffney:

 “Told you so, didn’t I?”

The Boston Globe told a slightly different version of the story in 1931 in an article about Stallings.

By the time these stories were published, Myers was in his second season with the Brooklyn Tip-Tops in the Federal League.  He hit a disappointing .220 in 1914, but stole 43 bases.  In 1915 he hit .287 and was suspended for several days in June after he and Chicago Whales player-manager Joe Tinker “exchanged blows.”

"Hap" Myers Brooklyn Tip-Tops

“Hap” Myers Brooklyn Tip-Tops

When the Federal League folded Myers returned home to California and signed a contract with the San Francisco Seals, who already had veteran William “Chick” Autry at first.  When Myers arrived in San Francisco, The San Jose Mercury News said:

“The fight for the job will be a battle which will be watched with more than passing interest by San Jose fans, for most of them remember Myers as an elongated youngster who wielded a ferocious bat when he first broke into professional ball in this city.”

Myers hurt his arm and the battle never took place; he only appeared in three games, and was hitless in two at bats.  He would never play organized baseball again.

Where Myers spent the remainder of the 1916 season is unknown; The Mercury-News said he went to Ray, Arizona to join the Tri-Copper League, but no reference to Myers can be found in league statistics—whether he played in Arizona or not, he did spend time in the Southwest that year.

In November of 1916 Myers and two other men were arrested in Los Angeles on a warrant from El Paso, Texas.  The Associated Press said Myers was “wanted by the El Paso Police on a charge of highway robbery…one resident (was robbed of) a $1500 diamond ring and $48 in cash, and another resident, a diamond ring valued at $325,”

In January of 1917, when the trial took place, highway robbery was punishable by death in Texas.

On January 23 Myers and his co-defendants were acquitted.

Myers, now a free man, remained in the Southwest and went to work as a metallurgist with a copper mining company in Grant County, New Mexico.

In 1918 the 31-year-old Myers enlisted in the military; joining Company B of the Field Signal Battalion at Camp Lewis, Washington.   He played baseball at Camp Lewis and in France with the United States Army—among Myers teammates were professional players Ten Million, “Coaster Joe” Connolly, Howard Mundorff and Charlie Schmutz.

After returning from France Myers worked as an insurance adjuster in Seattle and later in automobile financing back in his hometown of San Francisco.

“The elongated first baseman” died in San Francisco in 1967 at age 80.

Hap Myers

29 Jul

When the 6’ 3” 175 pound Ralph Edward “Hap” Myers was let go by the Boston Braves after the 1913 season a reporter told Braves shortstop Rabbit Maranville he was sorry to see Myers go.  Maranville joked:

“Well, you might be, but I’m not.  Do you know that guy is so thin that every time I picked up a grounder I had to shade my eyes with my gloved hand to locate him before throwing the ball.”

Myers began his professional career after graduating from University of California, Berkeley in 1909, where he also played baseball.  The San Francisco native hit a combined .311 playing for the Sacramento Sacts in the Pacific Coast League, and the San Jose Prune Pickers and Santa Cruz Sand Crabs in the California League.

Myers went east in 1910 after being purchased by the Boston Red Sox, but became ill, with scarlet fever, and as a result appeared in only six games in Boston before being  sent first to the Toronto Maple leafs in the Eastern league, then the Louisville Colonels in the American Association.

Despite hitting just .240 with Louisville, Myers was selected by the St. Louis Browns in the Rule 5 draft.  The Red Sox claimed Myers still belonged to them and his contract was awarded to Boston, where he began the season, was sold to the St. Louis Browns, who quickly released him despite hitting .297 in 11 games, then back to the Red Sox where he hit .368 in twelve games before being sent to the Jersey City Skeeters in the Eastern League.

It was never clear why, in spite of hitting .333 in 81 at bats in 1910-1911, Myers couldn’t stick in the American League.

In 1912 he returned to the West Coast to play for the Spokane Indians in the Northwestern League where he led the league in hits, and runs, hit .328, and led all of professional baseball with 116 stolen bases.  The Portland Oregonian said:

“Myers base stealing smashes any previous performance in Northwestern League history.  You have to go back 20 years in official guide books to find any record to compare…and that includes every league in organized baseball.”

Spokane owner Joe Cohn went overboard in his praise of Myers in The Spokane Spokesman-Review:

“Best ballplayer in the Northwestern League by a long shot.  He is the greatest ballplayer I ever saw.  Boy I tell you this Myers is a wonder.  Ty Cobb, Hans Wagner, Tris Speaker and all of them have nothing on Myers…I think Myers has it on Cobb, Wagner, Lajoie, Jackson and the whole bunch.”

Myers, and Portland catcher Rex DeVogt were purchased by the Braves from Portland, Devogt would only last for three games, and six hitless at-bats in April of 1913.  Myers would become the Braves starting first baseman.  Another Pacific Coast League player, pitcher “Seattle Bill” James also joined the Braves.

hap3

“Seattle Bill” James and “Hap” Myers

Myers got off to a slow start; he was hitting just .224 in early July, but was leading the National League in steals.  An article in The Tacoma Times said:

“When Hap Myers, recruit first baseman of the Boston Braves is in full stride stealing bases, he covers nine feet…the average stride of a sprinter is six feet. “

The article said the average player took 13 steps, roughly seven feet per step, between bases but Myers took only ten steps:

“Myers is something of a baseball curiosity, and his work is watched with interest by the fans.  If the time comes that the big fellow climbs into the .300 class as a batter, he is apt to become a veritable terror of the paths.”

He was also said to use “a bat of unusual length,” but the size was never mentioned.

After the slow start, Myers hit well in the second half of the season, ending with a .273 average and 57 stolen bases (second to Max Carey of the Pittsburgh Pirates who stole 61).  Despite his strong finish, Myers was replaced at first base for 22 games in August and September by Butch Schmidt, who was purchased from the Rochester Hustlers in the International League.

"Hap" Myers

“Hap” Myers

At the end of the season Myers was sold to the Hustlers, the deal was, in effect, a trade for Schmidt.  The Boston press simply said Myers did not get along with manager George Stallings; Myers told a reporter in San Francisco that there was another reason; baseball’s labor unrest:

  “I was assigned by the fraternity to get as many Braves as possible into the fraternity, and succeeded in enrolling nearly the entire team.  The powers that be evidently didn’t relish my actions for soon my every move began to bring calldowns and I was not surprised to read in the newspapers a little later that I had been sent to Rochester.”

Myers jumped Rochester to join the Federal League; his signing was reported months before he actually signed.  The Associated Press said in March of 1914:

“Although it has been generally understood that Hap Myers, last season’s first baseman of the Boston National has been under a Federal League contract for some time, the elongated first sacker did not put his name to a contract until yesterday afternoon.  Myers originally expected to play with Larry Schlafly on the Buffalo Federals, but was transferred to Brooklyn, and seemed altogether pleased with the move.”

Myers got off to a strong start, and The Sporting Life said:

“Brooklyn fans cannot understand why Hap was passed out of the National League. They have had a chance already to give his successor at first base on the Boston team (Butch Schmidt) the once over, and the general opinion is that- Hap Myers “lays all over.”

His success in Brooklyn didn’t last; in 92 games Myers hit just .220.

Hap’s story continued tomorrow.

Butcher Boy Schmidt

25 Jul

Charles John “Butch” “Butcher Boy” Schmidt was credited by Connie Mack with being the catalyst for the Boston Braves World Series upset of Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics in 1914; one year later Schmidt walked away from baseball in his prime.

Butch Schmidt

Butch Schmidt

He was born in Baltimore in 1886, and played amateur ball while working in the family meat market, which earned him his nickname.

Schmidt signed as a pitcher with the Baltimore Orioles  in the Eastern League and assigned to the Holyoke Papermakers in the Connecticut State League, where he posted a 10-9 record.  In late August the Orioles recalled him, and he went 5-1 in 11 games with Baltimore.

The New York Highlanders drafted Schmidt and the 22-year-old pitcher started the 1909 season in New York.  He appeared in only one game, on May 11, giving up 10 hits and eight runs, four earned, in five innings.  Early in June he was returned to the Orioles.

After appearing in eight games on the mound with the Orioles, Schmidt was moved to first base.  After hitting .244 for the remainder of ’09, he hit .292, .291, and .274 the next three seasons, and was sold to the Rochester Hustlers in the International League, where he hit .321; he was purchased by the Boston Braves on August 22, and hit .308 in 22 games playing in place of Ralph “Hap” Myers.

At the end of the 1913 season Boston sold Myers’ contract to Rochester; The Boston Post reported that Braves manager George Stallings simply didn’t like Myers.  (Myers had a different theory for his release—that story next week)

Schmidt was installed as the Braves first baseman in 1914, and as Boston made their improbable run to the National league pennant Schmidt   hit .285 with 71 RBI and .990 fielding percentage, and finished 16th in the voting for the Chalmers Award, for the most valuable player in the National League; teammates Johnny Evers and Rabbit Maranville finished first and second in the voting.

Grantland Rice said in The New York Tribune:

“There are few greater first basemen in baseball and none who is steadier or a better fighter.  For Schmidt is also of the aggressive type and a hustler every second.”

The New York Times didn’t think quite as highly of Schmidt and on the eve of the World Series said the “advantage favors the Athletics” at first base:

(John “Stuffy”) McInnis makes exceptionally brilliant plays…has been through Worlds Series fire and proved just as cool as if he were playing an exhibition game in the springtime.  Schmidt has yet to face the strain and tension of the big baseball classic…While Schmidt is not a scientific batsman, he is a free swinger and hits the ball hard, but he doesn’t hit it often.”

The pressure of the series didn’t seem to bother Schmidt, the Braves first baseman hit .294 with five hits, two runs and two RBIs in the four game sweep of the Athletics; McInnis hit just .143.

In game one he made a play in the first inning that Connie Mack said set the tone for the series and “sparked the Braves.”  With runners on first and second with one out, Athletics third baseman Frank “Home Run” Baker hit a foul pop-up into short right field.  Athletics outfielder Eddie Murphy tagged up and attempted to go to third; The Associated Press said Schmidt made a “great throw…from a difficult angle,” to third baseman Charlie Deal to retire Murphy.

Stuffy McInnis, Eddie Murphy and "Home Run" Baker,

Stuffy McInnis, Eddie Murphy and “Home Run” Baker,

Early in the 1915 season Braves manager George Stallings called Schmidt “The best first baseman in the game,” but his performance at the plate slipped.  Schmidt hit just .251 with 60 RBIs.  The Braves again found themselves in 8th place in July, and while they made another strong run, finished 2nd, seven games behind the Philadelphia Phillies.

Despite the mediocre season at the plate, it was assumed the 28-year-old Schmidt would remain the Braves first baseman.  Schmidt shocked Stallings, Boston fans, and all of baseball when he announced in January of 1916 that he was retiring from baseball.

Butch Schmidt at bat

Butch Schmidt at bat

The Associated Press said Schmidt was leaving “to devote his entire time to his private business.”

Grantland Rice said Schmidt’s business included “six meat markets in Baltimore,” and that he earned $8000 a year from his stores.

The Sporting Life said it was just as likely that Schmidt, listed at 200 pounds, retired because:

Hard work in that old rubber shirt to get down to weight, especially when the extra weight comes off slowly, more slowly each succeeding season, is a trial that anyone would like to sidestep if he could. “

Boston manager George Stallings filled the void left by Schmidt by purchasing Ed Konetchy from the Pittsburgh Rebels from the newly defunct Federal League.

The Boston Post said the change at first base would not hurt the Braves:

“Konetchy, a heavier hitter than Schmidt, is just about as capable in other ways.”

Despite the confidence of The Post, Stallings was not convinced and continued to try to induce Schmidt to return; his efforts were unsuccessful.

After Konetchy hit .260 for the third place Braves in 1916 it was reported that Schmidt would return to the team.  After several weeks of speculation, Schmidt told The Boston Globe “no offer” could induce him to return to Boston.

Konetchy hit .272 and .236 the next two seasons, and each off season it was rumored Schmidt would return, and every year he stayed home where he continued to run his business and play semi-pro ball in Baltimore’s Inter-City League.

Before the 1919 season Konetchy was traded to the Brooklyn Robins and the Braves acquired Walter Holke from the Cincinnati Reds.  Holke hit .292 for the Braves in 1919, but rumors continued that Schmidt, out of organized baseball for four years, would be returning to Boston.  The Associated Press said:

“George Stallings of the Boston Braves is trying to get Charlie “Butch” Schmidt, the Baltimore butcher boy who played first base for the world’s champions of 1914, to return to the Boston Braves.  Schmidt is reported to be in wonderful condition as he has kept in practice since his retirement.”

Schmidt never returned to professional ball, and was finally removed from Boston’s reserve list in 1922.

Butch Schmidt walked away from professional baseball and never looked back; he died in 1952 of a heart attack while inspecting cattle at the Baltimore Union Stock Yards.

“Is the Best the Game has Known”

23 Jul

Joining the Boston Braves for the 1914 season provided second baseman Johnny Evers with the opportunity to appear in one more World Series, and gave him the chance to take a very public swipe at one of his most famous former teammates, shortstop Joe Tinker.

In December of 1912 the Chicago Cubs traded Tinker to the Cincinnati Reds, and depending on which version of the story was to believed, Tinker and Evers had not spoken a word to one another for either five or six years.

Johnny Evers

Johnny Evers

Tinker said the two stopped talking in 1908 after Evers jumped in a horse-drawn cab leaving Tinker and other teammates behind before an exhibition game in Indiana leading to an on-field fight between the two later that day; Evers said a year earlier Tinker initiated the bad blood between the two by throwing a ball so hard to the second baseman on a force play that it injured his finger.

Evers said years later:

“I yelled to him, you so-and-so. He laughed. That’s the last word we had for-well, I just don’t know how long.”

The 1914 Braves got off to a horrible 4-18 start, and were still in eighth place on July 18, but surged to second place by August 10, winning 18 of 21 games.  By September 2 the Braves had first place to themselves, and ended up running away with the pennant, beating the second place New York Giants by 10 ½ games, and sweeping Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics in the World Series.

Evers, named Boston’s captain by manager George Stallings, led National League second basemen in fielding; hit .279 for the season, and .438 in the World Series.  Evers received baseball’s last “Chalmers Award,” a forerunner of the Most Valuable Player Award, which was presented from 1911-1914.  The award was sponsored by the Chalmers Motor Car Company and was presented to Evers along with a new car.

The runner-up for the Chalmers Award was Evers’ teammate, shortstop Walter James Vincent “Rabbit” Maranville.  Maranville, Evers and first baseman Charles “Butch” Schmidt were an excellent double-play combination throughout the season; Evers participated in a career-high 73 twin killings, more than he’s ever turned in a season with Tinker and Frank Chance.

Years later Maranville said of Evers:

“It was just Death Valley, whoever hit a ball down our way.  Evers with his brains taught me more baseball than I ever dreamed about.  He was psychic.  He could sense where a player was going to hit if the pitcher threw the ball where he was supposed to.”

Two days after the Braves won the World Series; Evers took the opportunity to take a swipe at his former teammate Tinker.  Evers told William Peet, sportswriter for The Boston Post that:

“(Maranville’s) the best shortstop the game has ever known.

“Better than Joe Tinker; your old side partner?

“Yes, he’s better than Tinker.”

Joe Tinker

Joe Tinker

Peet sad:

“Evers has been given credit for making Maranville the great player he has shown himself to be this season, but Johnny declares this s untrue, stating that Maranville learned the game and all its fine points unaided.”

Peet said Evers’ claim that Maranville “is a greater shortstop than Tinker is about the highest praise anyone can shower on the peppery little chap who was such a prominent factor n the Braves’ victory.”

Rabbit Maranville

Rabbit Maranville

Evers and Peet failed to mention where Honus Wagner would be ranked if Maranville was, in fact, “the best shortstop the game has ever known.”

No response from Tinker was recorded.

Evers and Tinker would not speak again for another decade.  In 1924, the two finally spoke when they were summoned to California by Chance, their former teammate and manager, who was dying.

Tinker, Evers and Chance

Tinker, Evers and Chance

Tinker, Evers and Chance were inducted into the Hall of Fame together in 1946 by the veterans committee; Maranville was elected by the Baseball Writers Association of America in 1954.