Tag Archives: Boston Red Stockings

“Lennon Violated all Rules of Decency”

6 Feb

Bill Lennon is a footnote. Best known for appearing in the first official major league game–the May 4, 1871 National Association opener between the Cleveland Forest Cities and the Fort Wayne Kekiongas–and for being the first catcher credited with throwing out someone trying to steal a base—in the same game.

When he is mentioned at all, it is said he “deserted the Kekiongas” in mid-June; actually, he was with the club through most of July and was expelled by the team. His expulsion led to charges and counter charges between the parties, and a war of words between the Fort Wayne papers and The Chicago Tribune.

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Bill Lennon

Lennon, like all 19th Century catchers, took a beating. When the club went to the East Coast in June the Fort Wayne papers reported that he was playing with injuries and the road trip got off to a rocky start on the 19th. Fort Wayne was leading the Troy Haymakers 6 to 3 heading into the seventh inning, The Fort Wayne Gazette said:

“The game was called in favor of the Haymakers by George Leroy, umpire…because the Kekiongas refused to substitute a ball for the one which had been in use, and which had become ripped.”

The Fort Wayne Sentinel said the ripped ball was a ruse by Troy catcher and captain Bill Craver, who the paper called “a noted fault finder” and was intended as a “trick gotten up to dupe the Kekies into accepting a ‘lively ball’ instead of the dead one they were at the time playing with.”

Lennon caught a game the next day in Boston against a team from Lowell, Massachusetts. Lennon caught again the following day when the Boston Red Stockings beat Fort Wayne 21 to 0.

A report of the game in The Gazette noted that Lennon, as well as outfielder Ed Mincher and pitcher Bobby Mathews played with injuries.

The Kekiongas traveled to New York the next day and Lennon umpired that day’s game between the New York Mutuals and the Washington Olympics.

On June 23 and 24 the team played two non-Association games versus the Atlantics and the Eckfords in New York. Lennon did not appear in either game.

He was back in the lineup on June 26, when Fort Wayne beat the New York Mutuals 5 to 3. The New York Herald noted that Lennon played “with a lame hand.” The New York Sun said, “Lennon did not allow a single ball to pass him,” despite the fact that his hands “are in a very bad state.”

The New York World said of Lennon’s performance:

“Lennon as catcher did splendid service; not a single passed ball could be charged to him.”

The Fort Wayne Gazette said:

“The pitching of (Bobby) Mathews was simply immense, while the catching of Lennon was wonderful, not a ball or point of the game escaping either of them.”

In early July The Chicago Tribune noted Lennon’s “Crippled condition.”

Lennon remained injured throughout the rest of June and into July, but the Fort Wayne papers never suggested his injuries were not real. The Gazette chided the rival Sentinel on July 15 after the latter paper reported a rumor that Lennon had left the club. Both papers reported that he traveled to Cleveland to umpire a game between the Forest Cities and the Philadelphia Athletics on July 23.

While Lennon was in Cleveland the Kekiongas’ expelled outfielder Ed Mincher and utility man Pete Donnelly. The team claimed the two “violated their contracts…by leaving without warning or permission, and the same Mincher and Donnelly being in arrearages to the Kekionga club.”

Both players denied the charges and claimed the team owed them money.

With Lennon still in Cleveland on July 25, it was his turn. The Gazette said: “At a meeting of the Directors of the Kekionga Base Ball Club…William Lennon was charged and found guilty,” of four accusations.

The club said Lennon deserted the team on June 23 during the game with the Atlantics and “did not return to said game.”

The second charge was that on June 24 at New York’s Hotel Earle, Lennon “violated all rules of decency,” although the charge was not specific as to the violation and that he “refused to obey orders” from the club’s directors.

The third charge was that on four occasions during July, Lennon “wholly violated all obligations and rules of said club,” and refused to practice while he also appeared “in public under the influence of intoxicating liquors.”

The final charge was that Lennon left Fort Wayne without notifying the team, when he went to Cleveland.

In addition to Lennon, The Gazette said third baseman Frank Sellman was expelled as well, having been “found guilty of the last three charges,” although the specifics of his alleged infractions were not reported.

Lennon would not go down quietly. He had previously played in Chicago for the Excelsior Club, and presented a letter rebutting the claims, to the baseball writer at The Chicago Tribune.

The expelled captain of the Fort Wayne club addressed the charges:

“On the night preceding the (June 23) game, I was informed by the manager of the club that on account of the state of my hand, I would not be required to play…Nevertheless, I went to the Capitoline Grounds with the nine and saw the game begin, Sellman acting as catcher. I then went over to the Union Grounds and saw part of the game there. On returning to the hotel I learned for the first time of the result of the game, and the management then found fault with me for not directing the movements of the nine. Any ball-player will see the absurdity of asking me to Captain a nine in which I was not playing. Neither the rules nor the opposing club would allow such a proceeding.”

For the second charge, Lennon did not address the part about violating “all rules of decency,” but claimed the entire charge amounted to misunderstanding when one of the club’s directors had told him the night before he would not play in the June 24 game against the Eckfords “on account of my hand, which was in a very bad state,” but then “An hour or two before the game,” the same club executive asked Lennon if he intended to play. “I told him I was not in condition on account of my hand. This was all the conversation; there was no order to play given,” therefore said Lennon, he had not disobeyed an order.

Lennon called the third charge “totally false. I never was under the influence of intoxicating liquor at any time in Fort Wayne, or in any other place while I was a member of the Kekionga Club. Furthermore, I never refused to practice when notified to do so.”

On the fourth charge, Lennon said it was Fort Wayne club and not him who had violated his contract.

“(My) contract stipulated that that I should receive $70 per month, $7 to be paid each Saturday, and the remainder at the end of each and every month. The Kekionga Club have entirely ignored this clause, and so far from making monthly settlements have never given me my full pay.”

Lennon claimed he had not once received the entire balance owed to him since joining the team.

His letter concluded:

“I have been known for some years to the ballplayers of this country, and I desire as a favor that all papers which have published the ‘expulsion’ will do me the justice to give my reasons for leaving the club.”

The Tribune then took up Lennon’s case.

The rest of the story, Friday.

Note:  The original version of this post was an early draft that names Lewis E. Meacham as the sports editor of The Chicago Tribune.  While Meacham was with the paper in 1871 and later served as the sports editor, he was likely not the author of the article in defense of Lennon, as he was primarily a general assignment reporter covering local news in 1871.  It has been corrected to reflect that.

“Baseball has Kept me so Happy”

27 Sep

Like every ballplayer of his era, Jim O’Rourke spent a lot of time in his 1910 interviews with Tip Wright of The United Press comparing the current game to his days on the diamond:

o'r

Jim O’Rourke

“They talk about their speed and curves these days, but the raise ball little (Candy) Cummings—he weighed only 115 pounds—used to throw is a lost art.

“The present day men can’t do it.  The nearest thing is a little upshot, which (Joe) McGinnity of Newark through last year.  You simply couldn’t hit Cummings’ raise ball squarely.  It was bound to climb the face of the bat, and the best you could get was a little pop-up.”

O’Rourke told Wright, “The greatest catcher I ever knew was ‘Buck’ Ewing,” of his former Giants teammate, he said:

“He led in batting, running, catching, fielding and base-stealing, and he could think quicker than any other man I ever saw in a game.”

As for pitchers:

Amos Rusie leads them all, and he promised to make  a record no pitcher in baseball, unless he were a genius could outdo; but poor old Amos disappeared!  I think Tim Keefe was a great curve pitcher, but for endurance I have to hand the laurels to Charles Radbourn, of the Providence Nationals.  In 1883, when his team was after the pennant, Radbourn pitched 72 games [sic 76] 37 of which were consecutive, and of the 37 games 28 were victories (Radbourn was 48-25, Providence finished third).

“If you ask me the difference between the pitchers of today and the pitchers of former days, I would say that the pitchers today have the cunningness not to go into a box oftener than once or twice a week, while the old timers used to think nothing of pitching six or seven games a week.”

radbourn

“Old Hoss” Radbourn

O’Rourke saved his greatest praise for his Boston Red Stockings teammate Ross Barnes.  He told Wright:

“Before telling you about Ross Barnes as a batter, I want to tell something about his work at second base…Barnes had long arms that he could snap like a whip.  His throws from second to the plate were the most beautiful I have ever seen.

“His speed was so tremendous that the ball did not seem to have any trajectory at all and it landed in the catcher’s hands at the same height it started from.”

O’Rourke said, Barnes was “even more wonderful,” at the plate:

“It was Barnes’ wonderful third base hits that caused the rule to be made that a ball, even if it struck within the diamond, must be declared a foul if it rolled outside the baseline…He had a trick of hitting the ball so it would smash on the ground near the plate just inside of the third base line, and then would mow the grass over the line (in foul territory)…No third baseman could get away from his position quickly enough to stop one of Barnes’ hits.”

barnestbhit

Barnes’ “third base hit”

O’Rourke mentioned two other “wonderful hitters” he saw “when a mere boy;” Dickey Pearce and Tom Barlow:

“I have seen these men with little short bats, which I believe were later ruled out of the game, make the wonderful bunt hits which we have taken to calling a modern institution.”

O’Rourke said both became “ordinary players” after they were no longer able to use the shorter bats, “not realizing that a bunt could be made with a long bat.”

And, like all old-timers, O’Rourke knew how to “fix” the modern game:

“The one big question in baseball today is how to make the game more interesting.”

O’Rourke advocated for removing the foul strike rule to increase hitting and wanted to “place the pitcher farther away from the plate.”

O’Rourke summed up his forty plus years in the game to Wright:

“Baseball has kept me so happy and healthy that there is not a minute of my past life I would not willingly live over.”

 

 

“The Brutality of Baseball During the Constructive Period”

24 Sep

In 1910, after close to 40 years in baseball, Jim O’Rourke talked to Tip Wright, a former Cleveland baseball and boxing writer, then with The United Press, about his life in baseball:

“As I like back to the day before we wore gloves I can scarcely understand how we went through the ordeal of a game. Before gloves were used, the catcher suffered unbelievable torture. On a hot day, when the blood circulated freely, the catcher’s hands would swell about the third inning. When the swelling started, the pain caused by the impact with the ball decreased, because the swollen flesh made sort of a cushion.

“But on a cold day, when the blood did not course freely, and the hands would not swell, the pain was intense. I have seen catchers hold a piece of soft rubber in their mouths, and whenever the ball was pitched they would screw up their faces and bite on the rubber as hard as they could to offset the pain.”

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Jim O’Rourke

O’Rourke said that when the weather was warm it was sometimes said by catchers:

“Oh, I am getting along fine—my hands are swelling up in great shape.”

In addition to the scars carried by catchers, O’Rourke told Wright about the many players he saw “knocked senseless many times,” and that he still suffered from the effects of those early days:

“Talk about the roughness of football in these days, and the hopelessness of trying to stop it, but it is nothing compared to the brutality of baseball during the constructive period .

“My head has been so sore from being hit that I could not think and my hands so sore from catching that I could not hold an orange tossed from a distance of six feet.”

O’Rourke told Wright about joining the Boston Red Stockings as a 22 year-old in 1873, and his relationship with another Wright—Boston manager Harry:

“They called me ‘Harry Wright’s boy.’ He took me to live with his family, and, had I been spoilable, I would have been spoiled in a short time. But the things my mother taught me kept me straight. I never touched liquor or tobacco in my life. I never dodged temptations; in fact I exposed myself to them. When the boys went out they asked me to go along, knowing I would care for them when they got into difficulty.

“Had I headed wrong at this time my bright future would have been ruined…I advise young ballplayers that if they leave liquor alone they can dodge the other evil—late hours and loose living—that have ruined so many bright players.”

Of his brief stint as an umpire in 1894, O’Rourke said:

“I couldn’t stand it—I wouldn’t be an umpire for anything, so I went to Bridgeport, and because I could not keep out of the game, I played that year with the St. Joseph’s Temperance team.”

As for young players, O’Rourke said most didn’t compare with his son—James “Queenie” O’Rourke was in 1910, a 26-year-old infielder and outfielder for the Columbus Senators in the American Association:

queenie.jpg

Queenie O’Rourke

“I think James is as steady as I was. Every year when he leaves home, I say to him, ‘Now, James, if you will just leave stimulants alone, no harm can come to you. You can’t help but being a good man.’ And up to this time he has not touched either liquor or tobacco, and I know he won’t.

He kisses his mother goodbye each year, just as I used to kiss mine. I often look at the young fellows and wonder why they do not behave.

“Maybe one reason is they have too easy a time, compared with we old veterans, as many of the hardships of baseball have been removed by appliances and safeguards.”

More from O’Rourke on Thursday.

“The Brown Stockings, A Gloomy Title”

14 Sep

Shortly before the 1875 National Association season, the St. Louis Brown Stockings visited Louisville to play an exhibition against the semi-pro Olympics.

The Louisville Courier-Journal wrote with admiration about the building of a professional club in St. Louis:

“The signs of the times indicate a far livelier season of base ball than has ever been enjoyed in America by lovers of the great national pastime.  Especially will this be the case in the west, to which part of our country the great baseball wave has been slowly moving for several years.”

The paper said St. Louis was acting to eclipse Chicago as the “capital” of baseball in the west:

“In order to be honorably represented in the base ball arena, the Mound City folks formed a stock company; gathered in $20,000 from wealthy merchants and millionaires, procured twelve experts in the national game, and now the city smiles while she thinks how her club will walk forward to the pinnacle of fame this year.”

Recruited from “Eastern states,” The Courier-Journal said of the St. Louis team:

“The Brown Stockings, a gloomy title for so gay a set of fellows, though it is rather the fault of St. Louis papers than the base ballists, that they are forced to wear it.  All in all, the St. Louis club is composed of as handsome a set of fellows as ever handled the willow or tossed the ball.  We refer to face as well as form.  Since their engagement by a St. Louis stock company the base-ballists have been under gymnastic training…The members have perfect understanding of each other’s movements, and act accordingly.”

Noting that many of the players had spent the previous season in Brooklyn, the paper said they chose to “come west, like all good people ought to do.”

The Courier-Journal reporter interviewed outfielder Jack “Death to Flying Things” Chapman, who offered a wealth of information on the 19th Century ballplayer:

chapman

Jack Chapman

“(He) is six feet high, and splendidly built, being a ‘man as is a man.’  He only weighs one hundred and seventy-seven and isn’t married, though he contemplates taking a partner someday.”

Chapman, the “best looking man on the team,” who “is much liked by his associates,” was designated the “team scholar” to talk to the press in the absence of manager Dickey Pearce who was ill.  He said:

“St. Louis is bound to be the greatest place on the continent for base ball this season.  Her stock company offered big inducements, and we accepted.”

As for the people who had built the club, Chapman said, they were:

“Very rich and nice people…(the club’s) officers are mostly millionaires, who desire their city ably represented in base ball.  The people ‘turn out’ there in the thousands, and are all agog with base ball excitement.  Five thousand people witnessed our practice game last week.”

Chapman was asked about salaries:

“Substitutes get from $900 to $1200.  Regulars receive $1000 to $2500.  Bob Ferguson (the other “Death to Flying Things), of our old club, gets $2500 this year for captaining the Hartfords.”

Asked what players did in the off-season, Chapman said:

“A good many loaf, and others work at different jobs.  Generally whatever they hit upon that suits.”

As for the St. Louis club’s prospects to overtake the Boston Red Stockings as the nation’s dominant team:

“We hope to do it, and I believe we shall.  The Reds are a good team, made excellent by having stuck together so long.  I consider the (Philadelphia) Athletics the stronger nine this year.  Harry Wright is the best captain in America.  The (New York) Mutuals were the best club last season, and but for the bad feeling among the members would now be champions.”

Finally, Chapman was asked whether he thought Louisville could support a professional team:

“I do, indeed, and am surprised she hasn’t one.”

Chapman was hit and miss on his predictions.  The Brown Stockings were the best club in the west, finishing the season 39-29, but no where close to playing at the caliber of Wright’s Red Stockings (71-8) , the Hartford Dark Blues (54-28), or the Athletics (53-20).

He was correct about Louisville’s chances to get a professional club, The Grays, with Chapman as manager finished fifth in the inaugural season of the National League.

“I Saw this Same Proud Bird of Freedom, the American Eagle, Soaring Aloft”

21 Apr

“Land and Water” was a British magazine that existed in various incarnations from the early 1860s until 1920.

In 1874, the magazine opined on the Boston Red Stockings and Athletics of Philadelphia crossed the Atlantic to play baseball in England:

“The Yankees have come over to show Englishmen what baseball really is in its pure, unadulterated state.  America swears by baseball, and when America swears the earth totters.  You want, I admit, to see the Yankees at work before you can understand the science and niceties of the sport.  They are wonderful in all reality when they are stripped and ready for the fray.  Baseball encourages fielding more than anything, and the Yankees are perfect marvels in the matter of fielding.  Kittens are dull and apathetic by comparison if you estimate their playfulness.”

The British were impressed with the way the Americans practiced:

“You see them all over the ground before the real business begins in different groups, all at exercise of some sort.  The first thing that strikes you will be their skill in catching, and their extraordinary aptitude for fielding and returning the ball smartly, in whatever position they may be placed, or in whatever fashion it comes.  You see no respect for persons, for the ball is thrown as hard as ever it can be hurled, and yet, though the distance is only a few yards, it is caught like lightening, and there is the action for return as the game were in progress and one of the bases empty.”

The magazine asked Cricketer Tom Brown his opinion of the American game:

“Cricket is more than a game, it is an institution, and baseball will never supersede or do the slightest injury to our own natural sport in any way.”

In spite of Brown’s assessment, the magazine conceded that baseball would “prove a pleasant relief after some of our own British amusements.”

 

woodcut

A “Harper’s Weekly” woodcut from the 1874 tour.

 

And, the magazine said, the relative speed of a baseball game might appeal to some British fans:

“It is not everyone that can afford to spare three days or one whole day for sport, however much his inclinations may lead him. It is this drawback alone prevents the acclimatization of cricket in America, and it is by a parity of reasoning the absence of all the waste of time that makes baseball such an enthusiasm over the Atlantic.  You will have to see a game before you can appreciate its advantage.  You may come to scoff, but in all probability, you will go away to pray.  A game at baseball rarely, if ever, exceeds two hours in duration.”

But, watching the exhibition would be nothing close to experiencing a game in Boston or Philadelphia, the magazine said:

“A contest between Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire at cricket is perhaps the nearest approach in an English way, but the roar that proceeds from every Yorkshire throat when a Nottingham wicket falls at Sheffield, is a mere whisper compared with the hubbub that attends a baseball game of interest from the first ball pitched to until the last strike.”

The game was explained to readers by comparing it to cricket:

“The positions of pitcher and catcher are closely akin to those of our bowler and wicket-keeper, though the latter is more of a combination of wicket-keeper and long-stop. Much of the success of the nine depends on the manner in which these two posts are filled, as to succeed they should thoroughly understand each other, and be well acquainted with each other’s movements…A fieldsman at baseball must have good nerves, and not be easily disconcerted.  He is especially to be perfect, or else every mistake is registered to his disadvantage.  It is without s doubt an excellent plan, but the records of the game are pitiless, and every error is registered by the scorer with the same merciless severity and strict impartiality.”

As for the game itself, the magazine’s correspondent said:

It was on Thursday afternoon last (July 30) that I saw this same proud bird of freedom, the American Eagle, soaring aloft. It was the first appearance of the American champions on English soil; and for one, I was curious to see the Yankees disport themselves in England at their own pastime…(the teams) were wonderfully well matched, too, in every way the competing nines; and the wonderful aptitude and agility shown by the catcher, the unerring accuracy displayed by all fieldsmen, and the general dash and briskness of the play all around, elicited frequent applause.”

The Athletics won the game 14-11 in 10 innings, in front of a crowd of just 500.  The magazine’s correspondent was too polite to mention the small crowd:

“Towards the end, we had got thoroughly excited, and the interest was universal.  It may be that we should have enjoyed it more throughout had we only understood, some of us, the state of the game…Nevertheless, there was but one feeling amongst us, that the Americans had shown us some excellent sport, and taught us, unintentionally perhaps, more than one useful lesson.  There was such backing up, as one would like to see in every cricket match if there was only a chance.  There was an amount of discipline, too, among the players that would have gratified the most inveterate martinet, and an air of unselfishness among the players that was devoid of anything like the taint of personal gratification.  It may be that baseball will show up conspicuously some of the faults of our English game. If so the American invasion will not have been in vain.”

 

Hulbert’s Dog

11 Jul

During a Red Stockings road trip in May 1881, The Boston Herald said “An incident occurred at Chicago on the occasion of the Bostons’ recent visit, wherein (Jack) Burdock proved a bigger man than (Chicago) President (William) Hulbert.

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Jack Burdock

Days earlier, when the Worcester Ruby Legs played in Chicago, Tom Burns of the White Stockings hit an unusual home run.

The Herald said of Burns’ blast:

“Burns knocked the ball down to left field…It appears that Mr. Hulbert has an office in the left field corner of the Chicago ball ground, and he is also the possessor of a huge dog, which, for some reason, he stations at said office, outside and unchained…(Worcester outfielder Lewis “Buttercup”) Dickerson went for it, but was brought to a sudden standstill by the appearance of the dog before him, with his mouth open and emitting the fiercest  growls.  Dickerson viewed the animal, and not caring to lose an important part of his uniform pants, he concluded it was not best to try for the sphere.  The dog guarded the ball till Burns had made a home run.”

Buttercup Dickerson

Buttercup Dickerson

The Chicago Tribune had described the play a bit differently:

“Burns, swinging his bat at the first ball pitched, sent the ball clear to the clubhouse for a clean home run.  The big black dog owned by the Chicago Club was sleeping on the platform as the ball rolled up to him, and Dickerson pretended to be afraid of the animal, but the latter paid no intention to the fielder, and did not hinder him in the least.”

The Herald said the Red Stockings were told about the incident, and, when they “arrived on the (Chicago) grounds” two days later:

“Burdock went to reconnoitering.  Sure enough, the dog was there doing duty.  Burdock marched up to Mr. Hulbert, in a manner that is perfectly familiar to Bostonians, and demanded that that dog be locked up or taken off the field.  Mr. Hulbert replied in effect that he knew no rule that forbade a dog being on the grounds.  He was informed by the earnest ‘bean-eater,’ as Mr. Hulbert delights to call the Bostons, that unless the dog was removed, Burdock would not commence to play.  Result—Mr. President yielded, the dog was removed, and the game proceeded.”

The Tribune countered that Burdock protest was simply the result of “a ball-tossers superstition” and Hulbert acquiesced to the “red-legged kicker,” despite there being no rule “covering dogs.”

The paper said Hulbert told Burdock:

“(I)f it will make you any happier the dog shall be bounced.”

William Hulbert

William Hulbert

The removal of the dog was not enough to help Boston.  The White Stockings won the game 5 to 4.

“The Sock on the jaw ended the game and their Friendship”

2 Sep

In June of 1922, Seventy-two-year-old Cal McVey was still working; more than 40 years after his final game with the Cincinnati Reds, he was a night watchman at a San Francisco lumber company.

A reporter from The San Francisco Call and Post called him to let him know the National League had just voted him a monthly pension.

“It was welcome news to the old-timer.  Jobs have been more and more infrequent and difficult to hold…Rheumatism and other ills of advancing age have meant weeks in the hospital…The idea of a benefit for the veteran had been suggested and abandoned, for the name ‘Cal McVey’ carried little significance to the bulk of 1922 fans.”

A benefit game on McVey’s behalf between two military teams held in 1919 at San Francisco’s Recreation Park had drawn a very small crowd.

The paper said

“(T)he league will only be doing what is partially due a man who was one of the real founders of organized baseball and one who did his full share toward keeping the game out of the clutches of the gamblers.”

McVey had been “approached” while playing for the Boston Red Stockings.

“This gambler was a friend of Cal and the two were playing billiards one day in Boston when the proposition was made…(McVey hit the gambler) so hard on the jaw that he forgot all about baseball and everything else for awhile…The sock on the jaw ended the game and their friendship.”

Cal McVey

                   Cal McVey

The Call and Post claimed McVey left major league baseball behind while still in his prime at the age of 30 partly as a result of his disdain for gamblers.  After the 1879 season, McVey, then manager of the Reds came to the West Coast with the team for a series of games with the Chicago White Stockings and local teams:

“Cal suspected two men on his team of being too friendly with gamblers.  But he could not prove anything on them, nor could he get the owner of the club to fire them (and) he was disgusted that fall because his team did not win the pennant when he thought it had the class to do so.”

After finishing in second place in 1878, the Reds added shortstop Ross Barnes and had high expectations for the 1879 season—McVey replaced Deacon White as manager in June—they finished the year 43-37 (34-28 under McVey) in fifth place.

McVey “took a flyer” on an investment in a mine while in California and The paper said he was “unlucky enough” to have quickly made a $3500 profit—he earned $2000 with the Reds that season.

“That settled it.  No more baseball for him (not entirely, McVey did play in the California and Pacific Leagues in 1880 and played with some independent teams in the mid-1880s). He was cut out for a mining broker.  He sold his stuff in Cincinnati and moved to San Francisco.”

McVey was successful in San Francisco until the 1906 earthquake and resulting fires:

“Cal was running a cigar store at Third and Folsom Streets…His wife (Abbey) was hurt in the disaster and, after a lingering illness of two tears, she died.  Cal says the light of his life went out when his wife died.”

After the loss of his wife and business, McVey worked a series of jobs.  In 1913, a wire service report said he had been “crippled” in a mine explosion in Nevada and friends in California asked many of his former teammates to help him financially.

It is unclear how incapacitated McVey was from the accident, in 1919 he was healthy enough to travel to Cincinnati for the World Series, but by 1922, when the National League granted his pension, McVey was nearly destitute and in poor health.  He told the reporter who called him with the news he “was proud today that the National League had ‘remembered an old fellow like me.’”

McVey 1922

                  McVey 1922

McVey died in San Francisco four years later.

Diet Tips from Tim Murnane

6 Apr

Tim Murnane, who began his career as a first baseman for Middletown Mansfields in the National Association in 1872 and later was a member of the Boston Red Stockings in the National League’s inaugural season in 1876, would go on to become one of the most influential baseball writers in the country.

Tim Murnane

Tim Murnane

Writing in The Boston Globe in 1906, he said he had discovered the one thing that caused the greatest harm to a baseball player.

“Over-feeding kills off more ballplayers than accidents or hard work on the ball-field.”

Murnane suggested two solutions.  First, he recommended that, “The Fletcher system should be taken up by the veteran ballplayers without delay.”

The “Fletcher System” or “Fletcherizing” was a then very popular diet technique put forth by a “self-taught nutritionist” named Horace Fletcher.  Fletcher claimed, in several books published during the first decade of the 20th Century that the key to weight loss was to chew food so completely that it was virtually liquefied before swallowing.  Called “The Great Masticator,” Fletcher counted Thomas Edison, Henry James, Franz Kafka, John D. Rockefeller, J.C. Penny—and apparently Tim Murnane—among his adherents.  His theories had fallen out of favor, replaced by diets based on calorie intake, by the time of his death in 1919.

Horace Fletcher "The Great Masticator"

Horace Fletcher, “The Great Masticator.”

Secondly, Murnane said, “(T)he rules of eating should be laid down by the management of every club.”

He said Harry Wright, who had been Murnane’s manager in Boston, “(W)as about the first baseball man to keep a close watch over his players during meal time,” and insisted they eat lightly before games.

“’Just a plate of soup.  That’s plenty,’ would be Mr. Wright’s cry as the players filed into the dining room for lunch.  The greatest athletic performances on the field have been accomplished on practically empty stomachs.”

[…]

“I have known at least half a dozen good ballplayers being passed up in Boston on account of paying no heed to the manager’s advice about overloading their stomachs.  Frank Selee was just as much of a stickler in this line as was Harry Wright, and both were remarkably successful baseball managers.  The manager who does not pay especial attention to this end of the players’ life must lose out, for his team will be unable to keep up a fast clip very long after the boys commence to take on flesh as the result of overfeeding and drinking.”

Murnane had other diet tips for readers:

“A ballplayer cannot drink too much good milk.  The greatest drinker of milk I ever knew was James O’Rourke, and Jim, after thirty-three years on the ball-field, is just as lively a 10-year-old today.  O’Rourke never used tobacco in any form, nor ever indulged in malt liquors, but what a milk drinker he has been all his life and what credit to the national game, from every angle you view the old sport!’

Jim O'Rourke

Jim O’Rourke, “The greatest drinker of milk.’

Murnane blamed the disappointing performance of the Boston Americans in 1905 (Fourth place, 78-74, 16 games out of first) on the dietary habits of the team:

“To be honest, I think the Boston Americans last season practically ignored condition from first to last.  I never witnessed on one ball team so many men out of form by being overweight…This club would have won at least one dozen more games had they taken good care of their stomachs, and no one knows this better than Captain (Manager Jimmy) Collins himself, who has said it will be a much different season with the Boston club next season.”

The next season, 1906, was much different, but not in the way Collins had hoped.  The team was 35-79 when Collins was replaced as manager by Charles “Chick” Stahl, and finished in last place with a 49-105 record.

Murnane concluded:

“Baseball was never intended for a fat man’s game, and Captain Anson was the only heavyweight who ever piloted a pennant winner, although my old friend Charley Comiskey was growing a bit stout when his boys carried off the prize five years ago.”

 

“Boys of ’76”

5 Jan

On February, 2, 1925, The National League magnates “paused in (their) schedule deliberations” to honor the league’s past, and kick-off the diamond Jubilee celebration.

Thomas Stevens Rice, of The Brooklyn Eagle said:

“In the very same rooms in which it was organized on Feb. 2, 1876, the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs met again yesterday.  These rooms are in what is now called the Broadway Central Hotel, then called the Grand Central Hotel.”

The Associated Press said:

“In the same room in which Morgan G. Bulkeley, of Hartford, Conn., was elected the first president of the National League, the baseball men, paid tribute to the character and courage of those pioneers a half century ago.”

Dozens of dignitaries were on hand, including, John McGraw, Christy Mathewson, John Montgomery Ward, and Governor John Tener

But, the stars that day were six of the surviving players who appeared during the league’s inaugural season:

George Washington Bradley, 72, who won 45 games for the St. Louis Brown Stockings; John “Jack” Manning, 71, who hit .264 and won 18 games as an outfielder and pitcher for the Boston Red Stockings; Alonzo “Lon” Knight, 71, an outfielder and pitcher for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1876 and hit .250 and won 10 games, and three members of the Hartford Dark Blues, Tommy Bond, 68, a 31-game winner; Tom York, 74, who played leftfield and hit .259, and John “Jack” Burdock, 72, an infielder who hit. 259. Also present was the only surviving umpire from the 1876 season–Calvin J. Stambaugh.

Calvin Stambaugh, right, the last surviving umpire from 1876 and Frank Wilson, a national League umpire from 1923 until his death in 1928.

Calvin Stambaugh, right, the last surviving umpire from 1876 and Frank Wilson, a national League umpire from 1923 until his death in 1928.

Other surviving 1876 players, including George Wright and and Al Reach cited “advancing age” for their inability to attend.

feb21925pix

Seated from left: York, Bradley, and Manning. Standing: Bond.

 Bozeman Bulger of The New York World said, in relating a conversation between too of the attendees, the event was notable for another reason as well:

“(S)everal of us younger men, moving over closer, discovered a contradiction of a tradition long cherished, that old-timers never could admit any improvement in the game or in the quality of the players.

“‘Have you seen this young fellow, Babe Ruth?’ Bradley asked of Manning.

“‘Yes, indeed,’ admitted Mr. Manning, ‘and don’t let anybody tell you that we ever had a man who could hit a ball as hard as that boy.  I doubt if there will ever be another one.'”

Bulger said the “Boys of ’76” also talked about how they “fought crookedness when a salary of $1,800 a year was considered big pay for a star.”  Bradley, who after baseball became a Philadelphia police officer, said:

“‘Oh, we had crooked fellows following us around back in ’76.  They pretended to make heroes out of us and would hang around the hotels.’

“‘One day Mr. (Chicago White Stockings President, William) Hulbert, a very learned man, advised me to keep away from these men.  He explained how they could ruin a boy and lead others into temptation . I was often approached, but thanks to that wise counsel, I kept myself straight, and I thank God for it today.  It’s worth a lot to me to look you younger men in the eye and feel that in turning the game over to you, we gave you something that was honorable.  It’s up to the players to keep it honorable.”

Tom York summed up his feelings about the game in 1876:

“‘Say, do you remember how proud we used to be after winning a game, when we walked home still wearing our uniform and carrying a bat–and the kids following us?  Ball players–all except Babe Ruth–miss that nowadays.”

 

bondmanning

Bond and Manning talk pitching at the Golden Jubilee kickoff event in 1925.

 

 

 

“This kind of Argument is the Veriest kind of Twaddle”

1 Dec

After just one season in the National League—a 24-36 record and a fifth place finish in 1878–the Indianapolis Blues disbanded.  Four members of the Blues joined the Chicago White Stockings—Silver Flint, Joe Quest, Ned Williamson, and Orator Shafer.

The 1879 White Stockings

The 1879 White Stockings

The White Stockings had been a disappointment in 1878, finishing in fourth place with a 30-30 record under Manager Bob Ferguson.  President A.G. Spalding, who had named Ferguson as his successor when he retired from the field, announced that first baseman “Cap” Anson would replace Ferguson for 1879.

The changes gave the Chicago press high hopes for 1879.

But, The Cincinnati Enquirer did not agree.  The paper said while the Chicago club was “greatly strengthened where it was very weak,” they would still finish no better than fourth place unless they were “properly managed.”  Boston Red Stockings Manager “Harry Wright could take this team and run it up to second place at least.”

In January The Enquirer implied that in addition to questionable management, Chicago’s new players were going to be a detriment:

“A prominent baseball official of Boston, in a private letter written recently, sententiously remarks: ‘Look out for the Indianapolis element in the Chicago Club next year.’  There’s a text for everybody’s thoughts.”

The Chicago Tribune quickly fired back with an article under the headline:

“Harmony” vs. Energy

 “There has been a great deal said at one time and another concerning ‘harmony’ in nines, and those who had the most to say on the subject contended that it was an essential point to be carefully looked after in the formation of any club which hoped for success on the diamond field.  Now The Tribune does not wish to set itself up in opposition to the judgment of men who have made baseball and the management of those who play it a study and a business venture, but it does say that many of them have harped so long upon this matter of ‘harmony’ that it has become a kind of second nature, whereby their judgment has been sadly warped.  Of late a paragraph, started in Cincinnati, has been going the rounds, in which the general public is solemnly warned to ‘look out for the Indianapolis element in the Chicago Club’ during 1879.

“Now the President and Manager of the Chicago Club are probably about as astute and far-seeing as any in the business and in view of this fact and reflection on their judgment or sagacity is in bad taste, and the parties who make ill-advised criticisms on the course of any club in hiring men, are very apt to undergo the unpleasant experience of persons not brought up in New Zealand who indulge in the pastime of throwing boomerangs; their weapons may come back and inflict considerable damage on those who threw them.  Whether or not the White stocking nine of next season will be a ‘harmonious’ one, it is doubtful if anybody knows, and still more doubtful if anybody cares.

“At the risk of being howled at by several papers, the baseball columns which are presided over by young men whose practical ignorance of the game is exceeded only by their ability to construct tables which not even themselves can understand when printed.”

One of the “Young men” referred to was The Enquirer’s sports Editor Oliver Perry “O.P.” Caylor.

One of O.P. Caylor's tables "which not even themselves can understand when printed.”

One of O.P. Caylor’s tables “which not even themselves can understand when printed.”

The Tribune will say that the question of whether or not the Chicago nine of next season ‘harmonizes’ will probably make very little difference with its play.  Some of the men who enjoy the reputation of being first-class kickers and disorganizers are nevertheless very handy individuals to have around when a base hit or good field play in wanted.  Without intending either to arouse the wrath or flatter the vanity of the very amiable and stalwart young man, Anson, it may be said that his reputation as an experienced and prolonged kicker is one that any man might be proud of; but, in spite of those who preach that harmony is everything, he is acknowledged to be one of the best and most useful ball-players in the country.  (Cal) McVey, of the Cincinnatis, can also make quite a conspicuous kick, even when not specially called upon to do so; still he is a good ball-player.

Lip Pike is a disorganizer of the first water, but last season, when he used to hoist a ball out among the freight cars on the lake shore, people who were presumed to know a good player yelled themselves hoarse in his praise.  The list could be extended indefinitely, but such action is not necessary.  Those who organize nines on the basis of ‘harmony’ alone will never grow rich at the baseball business.  It is not possible to get together nine men who could travel around the country eating, sleeping, and playing ball together that would never get out of tune.  Nine angels could not do it, much less nine mortals, subject to the little idiosyncrasies that human nature is afflicted with. “

The Tribune likely assumed the “prominent baseball official of Boston,” was Manager Harry Wright, and next turned its attention to him, his brother, and his championship teams.

“Harry Wright has always been the prophet whom the ‘harmony’ men delighted to honor, and the success of the Cincinnati and Boston Clubs under his management has been laid entirely to the dove-like dispositions of the men engaged by him.  This kind of argument is the veriest kind of twaddle, and the history of the Boston Club proves the truth of this assertion.  George Wright and Tommy Beals went many a day without the interchange of a friendly word, and George and (Charlie) Gould did the same thing.  For one whole season Ross Barnes and Gould never exchanged a word, and glared at each other like opposing game chickens, but the Boston’s won the pennant that year (1872—National Association) all the same harmony or no harmony.

“Other instances of like character could be adduced were there any necessity therefore, but these, from the fountain head of ‘harmony,’ will suffice.  If a club wins the championship it will be because its men play ball, not because they are ‘goody-goody’ boys.  Your man who gets hot at something during a game, and then relieves his feelings by making a two or three base hit, is much more valuable than one who, although possessed of a Sunday-school temperament at all times, manifests a decided aversion to reaching first base., when the occupancy of that particular bag of sawdust would be of some value to the men who pay him high wages for playing ball.”

O.P. Caylor

O.P. Caylor

Caylor would not let the insult to him and to Harry and George Wright, go unchallenged:

The Chicago Tribune published some strange statements against the argument that in harmony there was always strength.  To prove that harmony was not always necessary to create strength in a baseball club, the writer made bold to say among other things that Tommy Beales [sic] when a member of the Boston Club, went many a day without the interchange of a friendly word with George Wright, and that the same feeling existed between George and Gould.  The writer knew from the first these statements were fiction, but in order to crush the fallacious argument our reporter left it to George Wright himself for an answer.  The letter is before us from which we quote, though we half suspect George would demur to its publication out of modesty if he knew it. “

Wright wrote to Caylor:

“(The Tribune) said Tommy Beales [sic] and I went many a day without the interchange of a friendly word, and that Gould and I did the same thing.  While they were with the Boston nine they were about my best friends.  Most of the time Beales [sic] boarded at my house, while Charley and I roomed together on trips.  I think the reporter was wrong in his argument against ‘Harmony’ as it was the great cause of the Boston Club’s success.  The credit for this mostly belonged to Captain Harry Wright.”

George Wright

George Wright

Although it appears Wright spelled the name of his good friend Tommy Beals incorrectly, he got the spelling right 12 months later when he named his son—tennis Hall of Fame member –Beals Wright after his former teammate.

The Tribune allowed Wright, and Caylor, the last word, and dropped the dialogue regarding “harmony.”

Despite Caylor’s prediction, the White Stockings, under Manager Cap Anson, led the National League from opening Day through August 15.  Anson became ill during July, and as his performance slipped, so did the team’s fortunes.

Suffering from what The Tribune called “an acute affection of the liver…that had sadly impaired his strength and capacity for play,” Anson left the club on August 26 with a 41-21 record, in second place, just a game and a half back.

With Silver Flint serving as manager, and without Anson’s bat—he led the team with a .317 average—the White Stockings were 5-12 in the last 17 games, and a fourth place finish.

Harry Wright’s Boston Red Stockings finished second; his team, winners of the previous two National League championships lost some of the “harmony” that made them winners when his brother George Wright and Jim O’Rourke signed with the Providence Grays.  George Wright, in his only season as a manager, led the Grays to the 1879 National League championship.