Tag Archives: Boston Red Sox

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things #22

24 Apr

Ty Cobb Rates American League Fans

In 1907, The Washington Evening Star asked Ty Cobb was asked how he was treated by fans in all of the American League cities:

“All ballplayers coming in sometimes for a little guying, but that is what makes the game.  If the fans did not do this it would show they had lost interest and baseball would soon die.  The fact that I am a Southern man has never made any difference in the way I have been treated by the public in the North.  The fans all over the American League have always been kind to me.”

cobb

Cobb

However, Cobb said, fans in some cities were tougher on visiting players:

“Take Philadelphia, for instance, old Philly is sometimes rough with the visiting clubs, and we have been treated to a little warm reception once or twice.

“Chicago is not as kind to visiting players as some of the other cities. They are so loyal to their city and their clubs that sometimes a go too far with the guying.

“In New York the people are fair and clever, and so is Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Boston.  St. Louis is somewhat like Chicago.

“I am sure that the fact that I am from the South has never influenced the fans in the slightest.  If it has, it has been in my favor.”

The not as Smart Coveleski

Billy Murray managed Harry Coveleski during the pitcher’s three years with the Philadelphia Phillies from 1907-1909.  Years later, he told Bozeman Bulger of The New York World, that Harry was not as bright as his brother, Hall of Famer Stan Coveleski, who was “Smart as a whip” according to Bulger.

harrycoveleski

Harry Coveleski

“Coveleski got out of a tight predicament mostly by luck and came back to the bench to face an enrages Murray.

“’What do you mean by taking that wind up with men on bases, especially on first and second?’

“’I didn’t know there were any men on the bases. Nobody told me,’ Coveleski replied

“’Now listen men,’ Murray turned to the players on the bench, don’t let this happen again.  When there are runners on the bases you go out and tell ‘Covvie’—you hear me?  We’ll have no more secrets on this club.’

“’That’s right, Billy,’ agreed the unperturbed Coveleski, oblivious to Murray’s biting sarcasm.  ‘Keeping secrets always hurts a ballclub.’”

An Umpire’s dilemma

The Associated Press reported in 1912 about an umpire’s dilemma during a game played in an unincorporated town near Boulder, Colorado called Canfield:

“Albert Billings kicked his cork leg across the home plate yesterday afternoon in the ninth inning, the score a 5 to 5 tie, the umpire called the runner safe.  Then the last baseball game of the season broke up in a row.  However, umpire Jerry Carter consulted the rule book, declared that there was no precedent, and held to his decision.

“Billings had knocked a beautiful two-bagger.  He stole third and started home when the batter tapped one to the infield.  The ball was thrown to the catcher in time to get Billings out by at least ten feet.  Billings cork leg flew off, however, and hit the plate.  The catcher tagged Billings as he lay on the ground ten feet from the plate.  The umpire ruled that the foot at the end of the cork leg touched the home base first.  Billings was therefore called safe with the winning run.”

Segregation and Spring Training, 1961

11 Apr

Will Grimsley was a New York based sportswriter for The Associated Press for nearly forty years; he covered 35 World Series and at least that many spring training’s.

Before teams opened their camps in 1961, he reported on segregated living arrangement.

Grimsley introduced readers to the woman who housed the Milwaukee Braves

“Mrs. K. W. Gibson’s boarding house at 211 Ninth Avenue is a modest, spotlessly clean two-story dwelling which stands out in the dilapidated Negro section of Bradenton.

“Mrs. Gibson prides herself on “setting the best table in town.”

“The tiny, gray-haired matron for years has been house mother for Negro members of the Milwaukee Braves baseball team.  ‘I’ve treated them like my own sons,’ she said.

“At Mrs. Gibson’s place, the Negro players have basic comfort and ‘eat high on the hog’ as the saying goes.  Yet, they sleep two to a room; queue up for use of the two bathrooms and sometime bicker over the choice of a television program on the single set in the living room.”

Hank Aaron said:

“Sometimes the place is so crowded they have two guys sleeping in the hall.  You wake up in the morning and rush for the bathroom and if you’re the last one all the hot water is gone.”

mrskwgibson

Mr. and Mrs. K.W. Gibson in their Bradenton home.

Grimsley said of their teammates’ accommodations:

“The white members of the team meanwhile have headquartered in a Bradenton motel. This year they move into a new motel in the center of town—glistening glass and stone, wall-to-wall carpeting, private baths, television sets and a modern central dining area”

“Aaron, Wes Covington and Andre Rodgers have been most outspoken in criticism of Jim Crow treatment.”

aaroncovington

Aaron and Covington

Duffy Lewis, traveling secretary of the Braves, expressed shock that Aaron and some of his teammates were not thrilled with the situation:

“Why, we thought they had an ideal setup and we’ve never heard a fuss.  That Mrs. Gibson sets the best table I’ve ever seen.  I’ve eaten there myself.”

bravesbradenton

Braves in Bradenton

Grimsley conducted “A reporter’s survey” of each team’s spring training quarters with details provided by the teams and/or their spring training hotels. He said hotel managers were, “generally jumpy and gun-shy on the issue but many (were) ready to acknowledge that the problem soon must be met head on—maybe next year.”

Some highlights:

Yankees:  “Have trained at St. Petersburg for years.  The Soreno, a resort hotel, has politely said ‘no’ to Yankee owner Dan Topping’s request that all players…be housed ‘under one roof.”

Tigers: “Local ordinance in Lakeland, FL forbids four Negro players to stay at club headquarters, New Florida Hotel.

Athletics:  General Manager Frank Lane told Grimsley “We are not spearheading any political movements,” when asked why Bob Boyd, the only African-American with the club would not be staying with the rest of the team at the George Washington Hotel in West Palm Beach, FL.

Reds:  “Eight Negros on roster to be housed and fed in private homes, not at team headquarters at Floridian Hotel, Tampa.  Both club and hotel said they never had difficulty and not rocking the boat.”

Pirates:  “Headquarters at Bradford Hotel, Fort Myers, FL.  ‘We don’t anticipate any trouble,’ said the hotel’s resident manager, Howard Green.  ‘The colored players will get excellent accommodations in private homes.”

Phillies:  “Again will stay at Fort Harrison Hotel in Clearwater.  General Manager John Quinn wants all players in same hotel, but no immediate prospect.”

Twins:  “Five Negro players to be housed in new motel, while headquarters will be Cheery Plaza in Orlando, FL”

Senators:  “(T)o train at Pompano Beach, FL. The chamber of commerce is working on housing which will be segregated.”

White Sox: “Bill Veeck, president, is negotiating with Sarasota, FL., civic leaders to have six Negro players…stay with rest of team at Sarasota Terrace.  Negroes likely will wind up at motel.”

Orioles: “McAlister Hotel in Miami…says there has been no correspondence on the matter.”

According to Grimsley, the Cubs, Giants, Dodgers, Indians, Angels, and Red Sox all had integrated accommodations—the Dodgers—who housed all players “together at old air base in Vero Beach,” were the only team in Florida with such an arrangement.  The other five trained in Arizona and California.

Grimsley concluded:

“Next year or the year later perhaps, but not now—the baseball clubs must abide by the traditions of the people whose land they have invaded for a couple of months of each year.”

Bill Nunn Jr., sports editor of The Pittsburgh Courier, interviewed Aaron a week after the original story:

“’I’ve said it before and I’ll keep repeating that I don’t like the situation the way it now stands,’ Aaron disclosed here.  ‘I think it’s wrong for us to have to live apart from the rest of the team.’

“At the same time Aaron went out of his way to emphasize that he didn’t want the numerous Negro friends he has made in Bradenton to be offended by his stand on this matter.

“Aaron was speaking specifically of Mr. and Mrs. K. W. Gibson, the people in whose home he and members of the Braves stay while in Florida.

“’Mrs. Gibson was hurt over all the things she heard concerning our statements about Bradenton.  She thought we were being critical of her and her home.’

“’Actually that wasn’t the case at all.  We were trying to get over the point that we didn’t like being segregated against our will.  I explained all this to Mrs. Gibson.  I told her about the moral issues concerned.  I think she’s on our side now.'”

United Press International (UPI) reported the following spring that, “The Braves switched their Bradenton hotel headquarters to nearby Palmetto this spring to permit integration of their athletes.”

UPI said six clubs “still have the integration problem:” the Orioles, Tigers, Athletics, Twins, Senators, and Pirates.

One Minute Talk: Lee Fohl

26 Oct

Cleveland Indians manager Lee Fohl, who played just five big league games, was against star players becoming managers:

“Most star players recently appointed manager have no knowledge of how to handle men, in fact, are poorly equipped for their task.  Many a minor league manager who has toiled for years unnoticed in bush circuits could show them cards and spades and beat them at their own game.

Lee Fohl

Lee Fohl

“There is a natural aptitude for managing just as there is for playing.  If I were an owner I would sooner entrust my club to the care of a man who has had experience in handling men, whether in the minors or otherwise, than to any high-priced otherwise inexperienced star player on the circuit.”

Fohl managed the Indians, St. Louis Browns, and Boston Red Sox for 11 seasons; his teams were 713-792.

One Minute Talk: Tris Speaker

23 Sep

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

Tris Speaker:

“There has been a disposition on the part of some people to criticize the ballplayer for getting all the salary he could shake down from his employer.  In a few cases a ballplayer may have done this, if so, his conduct was but a duplicate of what is commonly done in other lines of business.

“A clerk in a dry goods store doesn’t see anything improper in asking for a raise if he believes he has earned it, and if his employers for some reason are unable to pay him he believes he is justified going elsewhere.

“As a matter of fact, the ballplayer seldom drives a hard bargain even when he has the opportunity.”

Speaker

Speaker

Speaker appears to have not taken his own advice about driving “a hard bargain.  According to the 1918 “Reach Baseball Guide,” Speaker took a pay cut—from $17,500 to $15,000—after he was traded by the Boston Red Sox to the Cleveland Indians for two players and $55,000 before the 1916 season.  And, according to the same source, despite hitting a league-leading .386 in 1916, Speaker continued to earn $15,000 a year through 1918.

One Minute Talk: Tubby Spencer

22 Sep

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

Edward “Tubby” Spencer, Detroit Tigers catcher:

“Most ballplayers can tell you to a fraction just what their batting average is any time you ask them.  I can’t, though.  In fact, I don’t know what my average was in any year that I was in the majors.

“When I was with St. Louis and Boston I never bothered about my hitting.  I tried to drive in runs when I got a chance, of course, but I wasn’t figuring on a base hit or my average.

“Now that I’ve got some sense it’s different.  I want those blows as much as anyone.  I’m going to try to get them.  No more fooling for Tubby.  I only wish I had started sooner.”

Tubby Spencer

Tubby Spencer

Spencer, in his first six major league seasons, from 1905-1909, and 1911 With the St. Louis Browns,  Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies, hit just .214.

In 1916, when there was “No more fooling for Tubby,” he hit .370 in 54 at-bats for the Tigers.  Spencer apparently reverted to his old form after that, hitting .240 and .219 in  his final two major league seasons.

“When I first tried the sunfield I looked like a big boob”

12 Sep

Harold “Speed” Johnson of The Chicago Herald asked:

“Does playing the sun field effect a ballplayer’s batting eye?

“’Yes,’ comes the answer in chorus!

Speed Johnson

Speed Johnson

“Diamond greats who have played the sunfield year after year…say the fellows who must go and get ‘em while looking Old Sol squarely in the face are bound to be handicapped in batting.

“The players who stand in the sun pasture then have to go to the plate immediately are especially handicapped gauging pitched balls.

“Sunfielders who hit .265 would clout 25 points higher each year if assigned to other fields, veterans declare…“The American League’s most difficult sunfields are in the parks at Chicago, Boston, St. Louis, Detroit and Philadelphia.  How Sam Crawford, playing the garden in Detroit for ages, has managed to keep above the .300 mark is one of the wonders of the national pastime.”

Harry Hooper of the Red Sox agreed, and told Johnson:

“’When I first tried the sunfield in 1909 I looked like a big boob.  I missed the first fly ball batted my way by 20 feet.  Fred Lake, our manager, decided I wouldn’t do and put me in left field.’

“’Later, I mastered the sunfield job, but about four years ago my eyes troubled me.  An oculist said I had strained both eyes by looking into the sun…I wore glasses for a year…My eyes haven’t troubled me, however, since I adopted the sunglasses invented by Fred Clarke.  Before I donned them I had to ‘take’ the first ball pitched whether I wanted to or not, after stepping directly from the outfield to the plate.’”

Hooper

Hooper

Hooper continued playing for the next decade for two clubs, the Red Sox and Chicago White Sox, with two of the most “difficult sunfields” in the American League.  He hit .300 or better four times and ended his career with a .281 average;  by Johnson’s estimation, the Hall of Famer would have hit around .306 if he spent his career in left field.

Lost Pictures–An Off Day

10 Aug

ruthfosterIn August of 1917, the Boston Red Sox were in the midst of a pennant race;  they battled the Chicago White Sox all season long and the race remained tight through August.  But there was always time for fishing, wrote Paul Purman, of The Newspaper Enterprise Association;

“An off day sounds just as good to a big league ballplayer as to anyone else, especially if the off day isn’t rainy, for on rainy days they generally have to hang around the hotel lobbies, which isn’t very good sport anytime.

“A number of the Red Sox are ardent fishermen and on off days you may usually find them at some lake pursuing the elusive bass.

“old clothes, and in some cases, almost no clothes are in order on those Izaak Walton excursionists, but the day is a big rest and the players are usually ready for a strenuous time on the ball field the next day.

“Babe Ruth is one of the club’s most enthusiastic sportsmen.  In the summer he fishes at every opportunity, although he doesn’t forget to report on the days he is to pitch as that other southpaw, Rube Waddell used to do.  Rube Foster and Harry Hooper are other members of the team who prefer fishing to other recreations.”

bosstaff

Foster, left, with Red Sox pitchers Carl Mays, Ernie Shore, Ruth, and Dutch Leonard.

The Red Sox finished in second place, nine games behind the White Sox.

 

Lost Advertisements–Home Run Baker, Ide Silver Collars

15 Jun

hrbakeradAn advertisement for Ide Silver Collars, featuring John Franklin “Home Run” Baker:”

“Your silver collars have certainly made a big ‘hit’ with me.  The buttonholes are the easiest and best ever.”

bakerpix

After Baker returned to baseball with the New York Yankees in 1916, he “wrote” a very short syndicated newspaper piece, part of a series which asked some of the game’s best hitters to name “The Six Hardest Pitchers I ever Faced.”

Baker said:

“In naming my six hardest and best pitchers, I must invade my old club for three of them, though I never batted against them in championship games.  From my standpoint, the six best during my career were:

“Walter Johnson–Washington Americans.

“Edward Walsh–Chicago Americans.

“‘Dutch’ Leonard–Boston Americans

“Eddie Plank–Philadelphia Americans

“Albert Bender–Philadelphia Americans

“John Coombs–Philadelphia Americans.

“Johnson is the present-day wonder; Walsh was the king in his prime, and young Leonard is a puzzle among present left-handers, but I must award the plum to my three great old pals.”

Baker 1916

Baker 1916

“You got away with Something that time, Buck”

2 Mar

It will be reviewable by instant replay this season, but in 1914 the “Neighborhood Play” had no name, and its use by one American Leaguer was a big story.

The Chicago Daily News said:

“There is a story going around the circuit which undertakes to show how Buck Weaver, the White Sox shortstop, fooled all the umpires…Buck’s long suit was acting as pivot on a double play, taking the ball from the second baseman.”

buckweaver

Buck Weaver

The paper said when Weaver joined the Sox in 1912, he “noticed that he was often failing,” to turn double plays.

“He lay awaken nights figuring how he could increase his speed in pulling off (double plays), and finally decided that if he could not get the batter no one could, as he was the owner of as strong a whip as any shortstop in the land.

“The solution of the puzzle came to him by accident.  In dashing to second to take a throw from (Morrie) Rath he overstepped the bag and was a stride closer to first than usual when he got the ball.  Instead of stepping back and touching the sack, he made the throw to first base and, much to his surprise, the umpire called both men out.”

When Weaver returned to the dugout, Manager Jimmy “Nixey” Callahan said:

“’You got away with something that time, Buck.’”

Weaver told his manager:

“’I was a whole stride over second when I got the ball.  But say, I could away with it by accident, what’s the matter with trying to pull it off right along when the man at bat is fast and likely to beat me out if I wait for the throw? I can save a quarter of a second or so by going over the bag.’”

The paper said Callahan encouraged him to try it.

“And Buck did.  He worked the trick successfully against the Naps six or seven times, twice in one game with (George) Hildebrand umpiring the bases.

“’He worked it on us several times,’ said Jim McAleer, formerly of the Red Sox, while Clark Griffith admits that Washington suffered the same fate.

“Even Connie Mack was forced to murmur, and when Connie Mack kicks, something must be wrong, and possibly as a result of the protest of the manager of the world’s champions, the umpires will watch Mr. Weaver more carefully this year when he is acting as pivot man in the double play.”

After 1913, when he participated in a career-high 73 double plays, Weaver never played as many games at shortstop, so it’s unknown whether umpires, in fact, watched him “more carefully” when  he attempted the Neighborhood play.

Lost Advertisements–Grover Cleveland Alexander, Sweet Caporal

19 Feb

alexandercaporal

A Sweet Caporal advertisement featuring Grover Cleveland Alexander:

  “Sweet Caporals have led the smoke league for a great many years.  For real flavor and satisfaction you can’t beat them.”

Shortly before the 1915 season, Damon Runyon, writing in The New York American compared Alexander and Walter Johnson:

Damon Runyon

Damon Runyon

“Whenever we see Grover Cleveland Alexander pitching at top form, we conclude that he is the greatest right-handed pitcher in the land, and we cling to that conclusion until Walter Perry Johnson comes along with a line of his best pelting.  Then we decide that Walter is the greatest, and we hold that decision to the day that ‘Alex’ reappears.

“In short, our mind–probably none to stable at best–does a heap of vacillating between these Western wonders, and we are certain of only just one thing with respect to their ability–which is that it’s either Grover or Walter who is the greatest righthander…You may think that (Christy) Mathewson, or (Dick) Rudolph, or Bill James or Willie (Bill) Doak is greatest, and we have no doubt that you can produce just as many arguments in support of your belief…but it is our opinion that Johnson and Alexander today stand head and shoulders above all the rest.”

Runyon said that neither, however, were better than Mathewson when Matty was at his best:

“They are both great pitchers, but there have probably been many just as great–and there has been only one Mathewson.”

Runyon also claimed that players who faced both Alexander and Johnson agreed that one was the better pitcher:

“Ball players who have hit against both men–or rather who haven’t hit against them, for there is never much hitting against Walter or Grover–say that the Nebraskan is the better of the two.  They say he has as much ‘stuff’and knows how to use it better than Johnson.”

Morris' ride, Walter Johnson

Walter Johnson

Most important to Runyon, he said, was that he preferred watching Alexander pitch:

“As a matter of personal choice, however, we would rather watch Alexander work than Johnson:  To us, it seems that he has more natural grace in the box…than the big Washington propeller.  There are mighty few pitchers who come under the head of things of beauty when they are working, but ‘Alex’ is one of them.”

As for a forecast for the coming season, Runyon said:

“Some fans are dreaming this year of seeing Alexander and Johnson as opponents in the first game of the 1915 world’s series, but they are mostly Philadelphia and Washington fans who are having those dreams, and we doubt if the dreams will come true.”

Both pitchers were dominant that season.

Johnson was 27-13 with a 1.55 ERA for a team, true to Runyon’s prediction, could only dream of a pennant–finishing fourth.

Alexander, however, was 31-10 with 1.22 ERA and did pitch the first game of the World Series for the pennant-winning Philadelphia Phillies–he won the opener 3 to 1, beating Ernie Shore and the  Red Sox, but Boston came back and won four straight, including Dutch Leonard‘s 2 to 1 victory over Alexander in Game 3.