Tag Archives: Boston Rustlers

Slagle Climbs a Hill

20 May

Wilbur Goode had just been traded to the Chicago Cubs by the Boston Rustlers in an eight-player deal in June of 1911, when Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Record-Herald asked the 25-year-old to describe the greatest play he had ever witnessed:

“Of course, I haven’t been in fast company long enough to tell much about great plays, maybe not long enough to pretend to judge which are really great.”

goode.jpg

Goode

But Goode said Jimmy Slagle, his teammate the previous season with the Baltimore Orioles in the Eastern League made the greatest play he had ever seen:

“The play was made on the Rochester grounds and by Jimmy Slagle. The fans in the big circuit know Slagle perhaps better than I do and they have seen him make some wonderful plays—but perhaps never one under such circumstances.”

Goode said Slagle still had enough speed to live up to his nickname “Rabbit” even though he was 36 and playing his final season of professional baseball.

He said the field conditions in Rochester were thus:

“The grounds are rather strangely laid out. The diamond and outfield are cut down to a perfect level, and to make the outfield level part of a hillside was scraped down, leaving a terrace around the field, which in some spots is six feet higher than the field itself.”

Goode said it was late in a game with the Orioles holding a one-run lead over the Bronchos; Rochester had runners on first and second with no one out:

“The next batter raised the ball high and far to left center.

“Slagle had been playing deep, expecting a long fly, or at least to prevent a long hit from going through and beating us right there. The ball went high and on the line. There was a row of carriages and autos on the terrace. The runners held their bases for an instant, saw that the ball was going far up on top of the terrace, and believing no one could reach it, they both started for the plate.”

slagle.jpg

Slagle

Slagle raced to the base of the terrace:

“He leaped, put one foot against the side of the embankment and leaped again, shooting himself upward and landing on top of the terrace. The ball was going over and straight at a big red automobile. I remember the women in the machine screeched and dodged. Just then Slagle came bounding up onto the terrace, leaped again, stuck up both hands and grabbed that ball.”

After making the catch:

“Slagle ran to the edge of the bank, shot the ball in, and although the runner got back to first, the one returning to second was doubled and the game was saved.”

“Slow Man’s Steal”

3 Aug

The New York Evening Journal said:

“The newest wrinkle in the baseball season of 1911 is a discovery by (John) Chief Meyers.”

Chief Meyers

Chief Meyers

The New York Giants’ catcher called is the “Slow man’s steal.”

“On two occasions now the Indian has pulled this play, and the National League is laughing because he worked it successfully on (Bill) Bergen and (George) Peaches Graham, two of the best catchers in the league.

“Some time ago the Chief realized that it would be impossible for him to trust his speed, which he has not, in stealing a base so he decided to work it with his head.”

Meyers, the paper said, knew that as a slow runner he could induce catchers to throw to first base if he took a long lead off.

“Having figured this out, the Chief gets on the bag and gradually eases himself down the line until he sees the catcher is watching him.  He then takes another step towards second base and the catcher naturally shoots the ball to first.  Instead of making an effort to get back to the base the Indian starts for second the minute he sees the catcher draw back his arm.  Both times that he has worked it the first baseman has been caught making a touch for the runner sliding back to first, only to look up and see him sliding into second. “

The Evening Journal called it “(O)ne of the greatest mirth-provoking plays on the diamond,” and said when Meyers worked the play on Graham and Boston Rustlers first baseman Fred Tenney, (T)he stands broke into howls of laughter.”

Fred Tenney

Fred Tenney

Meyers said:

“I call it the slow man’s steal because a fast man couldn’t do it.  The catcher would expect him to run to second and a good throw would head him off.  Besides, the pitcher would hold a fast man up at first and not allow him to take the lead.”

Meyers stole five more bases the rest of 1911, there is no record of how many of those incorporated the “Slow man’s steal.”

“As an Actor? Well—”

23 Dec

The Indianapolis News said

“Mike Donlin is in the city again and he is a real actor this time.  Two years ago Mike paid Indianapolis a visit, or rather he trailed behind his wife, who theatrically, is Mabel Hite and who at the time was the leading woman in the musical comedy, “A Knight for a Day.”  On that occasion Mike remained behind the wings out of sight of the audience or put in the time while waiting for the performance to end talking baseball or otherwise entertaining friends in the lobby…But all is different now.  Mike is a real actor this time and he trails after his wife’s skirts no longer.”

Michael Joseph “Turkey Mike” Donlin had just arrived in Indianapolis in February of 1909 while touring with his one-act play “Stealing Home,” in which Hite also appeared.  His made his previous visit while sitting out the 1907 season after a contract dispute with new York Giants owner John T. Brush and traveling the country with Hite.

He returned to the Giants in 1908 and hit .334, finishing second to Pittsburgh’s Honus Wagner (.354).  But Donlin caught the acting bug while traveling with Hite, and upon embarking on the national tour in October of 1908 he told reporters:

“There is something about the footlights that always appealed to me.  I like this show game mighty well and baseball won’t keep me forever.”

Donlin received mixed reviews throughout the tour, but it was successful enough to keep him on the road and  away from baseball until 1911.

Cartoon of Donlin and Mabel Hite, 1909

Cartoon of Donlin and Mabel Hite, 1909

The following day, after his Indianapolis debut was completed, The News provided probably the most colorful review of his show—likely more colorful than the show itself:

“Once upon a time a certain walloper of the sphere had a hunch to go forth into the provinces and connect with the long green.

“And this man was Mique and he was of the tribe of Donlin.

“And it was that Mique had a helpmate, indeed, and her name was Mabel, and she was of the tribe of Hite.

“Her patience was that of Job and she taught Mike to make a few steps, how to face the multitudes and to say ‘Back to the bush leagues for you.’

“Then, lo and behold, he was of the clan of Irving, Mansfield, Mantell and ‘Bertha the Sewing Machine Girl.’

“Many persons were injured in the rush to see him and the dough came in so rapidly that the calf that tried to swallow it choked to death.

“Then, indeed, did Mique rejoice and his cup of happiness was filled to overflowing.  Even more so than on the day he socked the horse hide far beyond the reach of the hated cub in left-field and loped home to receive a box of Flora De Tar Ropes, a big bouquet and an order for a ten-pound box of dog leg.

“And now, flushed with triumph, the hero of many rag-chewing matches with the umpire and scorched by the spotlight in which he shines so brightly, Mique is in our midst.

“Even so.

“And the other half of the sketch is here, too, and she sings…very prettily and dances gracefully.  Mique also dances, but his movements are not what might be termed poetry in motion.

“Great is Mique.

“As a ball player?  Yes.

“As an actor? Well—

“Curtain.

“’Stealing Home,’ the Donlin skit has to do with the national game, of course.  Donlin is supposed to be putting it all over the Pittsburgers, but is put out of the game for ragging with the umpire.  His wife learns of it when she calls up to get the score.  A moment later he enters the room and then there is ball talk galore during which she chides him for getting no hits, while Hans Wagner gets five.  Donlin shows her how he called the umpire down and the sketch ends, following Mrs. Donlin’s song, with a few dancing steps in which she is assisted by Donlin.”

"Sliding Home" advertisement. Grand Theater, Indianapolis.

“Sliding Home” advertisement. Grand Theater, Indianapolis.

By the spring of 1911 “Stealing Home had run it’s course.  Donlin, in need of money and with no acting prospects, returned to baseball; he played with the  Giants, Boston Rustlers and Pittsburgh Pirates in 1911 and ’12 (retired again in 1913) and returned to the Giants for 1914.

Twenty-nine-year-old Mabel Hite died of cancer in 1912.

When Donlin retired again, for good this time, he returned to the stage, then the screen–with the help of his friend, actor John Barrymore.  He appeared in more than 50 films, mostly in smaller roles.  Donlin married actress Rita Ross in 1914, and died in 1933.