Tag Archives: Brooklyn Grooms

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #36

17 Jul

Bancroft on Radbourn

In 1900, in The Chicago Record, Frank Bancroft said of one of his former players:

“Charlie Radbourn did more scheming than any man that ever played baseball. When I had him in Providence, he always was springing something new and some of his ideas were exceedingly far-fetched.

“I remember on one occasion and at a critical period in a game Rad drew back his arm as if to pitch, then instead of delivering the ball to the batsman he threw it around his back to Joe Start, who was playing first base for us. It was only by the greatest effort that Start managed to get the ball. Had it gone wild the game would have gone against us as there were several men on the bases. When I questioned him regarding the throw, he claimed that it was a new idea, and that if Start had been watching himself he would have retired the runner on first.”

rad

Radbourn

National League Facts, 1880

The Chicago Tribune reported before the 1880 season that every National League charged $15 for a season ticket, except for the Providence Grays who charged $20.

The paper also calculated the miles each team would travel during the season (listed in order of finish):

Chicago White Stockings 6,444

Providence Grays 6,200

Cleveland Blues 5,592

Troy Trojans 4,990

Worcester Ruby Legs 6,470

Boston Red Stockings 6,240

Buffalo Bisons 5,356

Cincinnati Reds 6,294

Dan Brouthers and “Dude Contrivances”

In 1893, The Buffalo Courier reported that Brooklyn Grooms manager Dave Foutz told his players “there was nothing better than good bicycle practice to keep in condition.”

Dan Brouthers said back home in Wappinger’s Falls, New York, people “never would recognize him again if they heard he had been riding one of those dud contrivances.”

brouthers

Brouthers

The paper corrected the first baseman: “Dan evidently needs a little education in cycling. The day has passed when a rider was regarded in the light of a dude.”

“That big Lopsided man can Pitch”

4 Mar

Leonard Washburne, who wrote for The Chicago Herald and The Inter Ocean was another influential early baseball writer who died young—he was just 25.

washburn.jpg

Leonard Washburne

He was killed in October of 1891 while riding in the locomotive of a Chicago and Eastern Illinois train with two other members of The Inter Ocean staff.  The three newspapermen and one member of the train crew were the only four fatalities in the wreck which took place in south suburban Crete, thirty miles outside of Chicago.

The Chicago Daily News said the train “struck a misplaced switch and the locomotive plunged through an engine house.  The engineer and the fireman jumped and saved themselves, but the three newspaper men were killed.”

train.jpg

Newspaper Rendering of the Crash

Washburne was sports editor at The Inter Ocean for less than a year, and left behind a small but colorful collection of observations:

When Harry Stovey was injured in a series in Chicago early in the 1891 season:

“Stovey dragged his six feet up to the plate like a man with one foot in the grave.”

On Amos Rusie:

“Rusie! He is not a handsome man.  His legs lack repose, his fists are too large for their age, his face is a clam-chowder dream, and his neck is so inextensive that he can not wear a collar without embarrassing his ears.

“But how that big lopsided man can pitch.”

amosrusie

Amos Rusie

When the Philadelphia Phillies snapped an eight game Chicago Colts winning streak, shutting out the Colts 3 to 0 on May 23, 1891:

“Maharajah Anson, who for eight days has been looking toward the pennant without pause was jerked to a standstill yesterday with a noise like a hook and ladder truck striking a beer wagon.”

Jim “Tacks” Curtiss made his debut with the Cincinnati Reds in July of 1891–he only appeared in 56 major league games, 27 with the Reds and 29 with the Washington Statesmen in the American Association–but drew Washburne’s notice:

“Mr. Curtiss is a medium-sized man with a comic-opera mustache and a mouth so full of teeth that he looks like the keyboard of a piano.”

Of Patsy Tebeau’s fifth place Cleveland Spiders, dropped their third straight game to Chicago during an August 1891 series:

 “(His) men wandered through the contest like men who have no idea of winning but hope to last four rounds.”

On Cy Young:

“Young is a big, slack-twisted lob, who throws a ball like a man climbing a stake-and-rider fence, and who will retain that indefinable air of the farm about him as long as he lives.”

cyand

Cy Young

Of Brooklyn fans:

“There is nothing else under the administration like a Brooklyn ball crowd.  A Boston assemblage may be mildly enthusiastic; a New York crowd insanely unfair; a Cleveland one a mob of hoarse-voiced wild-eyed fanatics; but the memory of them all, when one sees a Saturday afternoon Brooklyn crowd, withers and fades away like a flannel shirt. No team was playing at Eastern Park when the late Mr. Dante wrote his justly celebrated “Inferno.” Hence the omission If Dante could have dropped in at Mr. Byrne’s Brooklyn joint before he wrote that book it would have given his imagination a good deal of a boost.”

One year after Washburne’s death, a delegation of more than 500 boarded a Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad train to Clinton, Indiana, to dedicate a monument at his grave.

monumentwashburne.jpg

Washburne’s one-time colleague at The Inter Ocean, and best friend, future Congressman Victor Murdock said at the dedication:

“I do not believe that any here who knew him had a feeling that could be called respect and admiration only There was an element of strength in him that did not brook so short a stop.  It was not respect, not admiration.  It was love—deep, strong, everlasting love.”

Years later, William A. Phelon, who was a 20-year-old reporter for The Chicago Daily News at the time of Washburne’s death, wrote in The Cincinnati Times Star that “every press-stand is full of keen-witted, clever boys who make their stuff entertaining and interesting ” as a result of Washburne’s influence.

“Cincinnati’ll be Sorry if They let me go”

14 Jan

Hitting above .300 but currently bed ridden with a kidney ailment, Pete Browning was unceremoniously released by the Cincinnati Reds on July 15, 1892, after the club had signed outfielder Curt Welch who had been released two days earlier by the Baltimore Orioles.

Browning had joined the Reds on May 22 after being released by Louisville.

browning.jpg

Browning

Just before the Reds released Browning, manager Charles Comiskey told The Cincinnati Enquirer:

“There has been some complaint about fielder Pete Browning, I don’t see where it comes in.  I know he isn’t the best fielder in the world, but I can get along with a little poor fielding, providing he keeps up his current batting lick.”

Business Manager Frank Bancroft disagreed with his manager.  The Reds beat the New York Giants 3 to 1 on July 10, after Welch made two catches in center field The Enquirer said robbed Jack Boyle and Harry Lyons of extra base hits.

The paper reported on a conversation at the team hotel between Bancroft and Comiskey after the game:

“’If Browning had been in Welch’s place today when that hard hit went out the batter would have been running yet.  The game would have been tied and perhaps lost to us.  Welch save us twice.  It’s a boss fielding team, isn’t it, Charley?’”

Comiskey responded:

“’It is for a fact, and I’m glad to see it, after what I’ve had to handle for the past three months.”

Browning remained sick in bed at Baltimore’s Eutaw House for several days, when he returned to Cincinnati, he told The Cincinnati Times-Star:

“I tell you, Cincinnati’ll be sorry if they let me go and keep a man like Welch.  Pete’s got kidney troubles, I guess.  I will go down to West Baden Springs (Indiana) if Comiskey says so, I think that will help my batting.”

Over the next month Browning’s whereabouts, state of mind, and next destination were the stuff of speculation.

The Times-Star said in early August that Browning remained in Cincinnati “although he does not attend the games or associate with his former baseball playing friends.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer said he was “brokenhearted since his release,” and there was “absolutely no demand for his services.”

The Boston Globe and The Washington Times said he was about to sign with the Senators.

On August 14, The Louisville Times said Browning was getting in shape in West Baden, two days later The Cincinnati Enquirer said, “Browning is lost again,” and had left Indiana.  The paper also announced that day that Welch had been released after hitting just .202 in 25 games.

browning2.jpg

Browning

At the same time, Browns owner Chris von der Ahe was telling The S. Louis Post-Dispatch:

“I’ve got a man scouring Indiana after Pete Browning.”

After he found him, The St. Louis Republic said Browning “was offered $3500 to sign” by von der Ahe but refused.  In response von der Ahe said he had “no use” for Browning.

On July 31, The Louisville Times reported that former Louisville Colonels Director Larry Gatto received a telegram from Bancroft:

“Requesting that he see Pete Browning and notify him that if he wanted a place on the team he could report at once.  When Larry showed the telegram to Pietro the latter at once started on a run for his home to pack his grip.  He will leave this morning for Cincinnati to resume his old place with the Reds.”

Browning returned to the Reds lineup on September 2nd against Brooklyn, The Enquirer said:

“He had his ‘lampteenies’ trimmed and hit the ball in good style (he was 3 for 4).  Pete however, seemed to lose his head on the bases, and was caught twice after he reached first. In the third inning he ran as far as second on a long fly from Comiskey’s bat, (Bill) Hart caught the ball and threw it in before the Gladiator could scramble back to first.  Then in the fifth he was caught napping off first by (Tom) Kinslow.”

The fifth place Reds were 17-17 the rest of the way with Browning back in the lineup. He hit .303 for the season.

Browning was let go again by the Reds and joined the Louisville Colonels in 1893.

11,297,424

12 Sep

The Chicago Tribune baseball writer Hugh Fullerton was fond of saying:

“Once upon a time there was a baseball bug down in Cincinnati who figured out there were 11,297,424 possible plays in baseball.  This, of course, was counting only straight and combination plays and taking no account of the different kinds of fly hits and grounders, which all are different.  He proved it conclusively and the next day the team made one that wasn’t on the list.

“Every play, every throw, every hit is different.  That is why baseball is the national game, and there are freaks in the game that make even the case hardened regular sit up and yelp with surprise and joy.”

Hugh Fullerton

Hugh Fullerton

Fullerton made a career of telling stories about those plays; some might have even been true.

A few more of them:

“Philadelphia lost a hard luck game to Cleveland in the old twelve club league.  The score was close, Philadelphia had two men on base, and Ed Delehanty was at bat.

“He cracked a long drive across the left field fence—a sure home run.  The ball was going over the fence high in the air, when suddenly it changed its course, dropped straight down, hit the top of the fence and bounded back into the lot.

Ed Delahanty

Ed Delahanty

“The crowd, which had given up in despair, was astonished.  The Cleveland left fielder got the ball and, by a quick throw, cut down the runner at the plate and Delehanty was held at second.  The next men went out and Philadelphia was beaten.

“Investigation after the game proved that the ball had struck a telephone wire reading to a factory just outside the grounds.”

Tom Corcoran had one of the oddest baseball experiences in the history of the National League at the old Eastern Park grounds in Brooklyn years ago, in a game against Boston.  The game was played on the morning of Labor Day, and there had been a hard rain the night before.  In the early part of the game Corcoran, going after a ground ball, felt his foot slip and his ankle turn, and, half falling, he stopped the ball and then fell.  He turned to pick up the ball to throw out his man, and saw no ball—although there was a hole six inches across, into which his foot had plunged.  The runner, reaching first, stopped and saw Corcoran with his arm plunged to the elbow in the ground, and after hesitating a moment, he ran on down to second.

Tom Corcoran

Tom Corcoran

“Corcoran, meantime, had been thinking.  His fingers were clutched around the ball, and yet he waited, pretending to be groping for the ball.  The runner started on, and as he passed, Corcoran dragged the ball out and touched him out.”

“One of the funniest plays I ever witnessed was pulled off on the old Baltimore grounds along in 1896, and it was good-natured, happy Wilbert Robinson who made the blunder that resulted in the defeat of the Orioles when they might have won the game.

Wilbert robinson

Wilbert Robinson

“The struggle was between Chicago and Baltimore and it went into extra innings.  In the eleventh, with a Chicagoan on second Doctor Jimmy McJames made a wild pitch, the ball shooting crooked and bounding around back of the visitors bench with Robby in close pursuit.  The ball rolled back of the water cask and disappeared.  Robby made one frantic grab back of the cask, and then, straightening up, hurled a sponge full of water at McJames, who was covering the plate.  The Doctor grabbed it, and as the water flew all over him he tagged Jimmy Ryan…In spite of the fact that the play beat Baltimore, the crowd yelled with delight over it, and Robby, who had made the sponge throw as a joke when he found he could not get the ball in time, appeared as much pleased as if he had won the game.”

 

“The Contest is going to be the Hottest in the History of Baseball”

6 Jun

Just weeks into the 1892 season, National League president Nick Young declared the newly expanded league, which absorbed four franchises from the defunct American Association and included the only scheduled split-season in major league history, an unqualified success.

Nick Young

Nick Young

The schedule, which called for the first half to end on July 15, and the second in later October, necessitated starting league play two weeks earlier than 1891 resulting in a large number of early season games being played in inclement weather.

Young spoke to a reporter named Max Ihmsen, who usually covered politics for The Pittsburgh Dispatch, about the state of game

“(T)here is no doubt of the overwhelming success of the new deal.  Considering the wretched weather that prevailed everywhere during April the showing, both financially and as to skill displayed, has been remarkable.  Everyone is making money, and I look for the most successful season ever known in the history of the game.  The reconciliation of the clashing interests, a reconciliation effected during the past winter, has been the salvation of the sport…This year there is every prospect of each club quitting a big winner.  Never before have such games, as are now being put up, been seen.”

Young said an April 19 doubleheader in Chicago, which brought in $4,000 accounted for the league’s highest single-day gate receipts of the season so far.

As for the pennant race Young said:

“The contest is going to be the hottest in the history of baseball.  Everybody is ‘out for blood,’ and at the close of the season I anticipate seeing a tie for every place up to fourth or fifth.  A difference of 10 or 15 games between the highest and lowest clubs will reflect no discredit on the lowest club…All the clubs are in good shape and I expect quite a number of absolutely errorless games will be recorded before the season closes.”

Young got nearly everything wrong.

At the close of the season, Ernest J. “Ernie” Lanigan said in The Philadelphia Record that only two teams (Cleveland and Pittsburgh) operated in the black.  He said their profits were less than $20,000 combined while “ten clubs have lost in the neighborhood of $150,000.”

O.P. Caylor said in The New York Herald the league’s financial state was a “disaster more astonishing than any which have preceded it and knocks the hot air out of President Nick Young’s prosperity balloon, which went sailing up so grandly.”

At a June meeting in New York team owners agreed to cut rosters from 15 to 13, and the salaries for the remaining thirteen players were cut (as much as 40 percent).  At the same time, they increased to 12 ½ percent the 10 percent of gate receipts each club was assessed to pay off the debt incurred to buy out the American association franchises that were not absorbed into the league.

Caylor said salaries would continue to fall and “This is the year when the owners of huge blocks of baseball stock are not classed with the Vanderbilts, Goulds, Astors, and Rockefellers.  Every one of the holders has been ‘touched’ heavily, more or less, by the financial disappointments of the year.”

The Baltimore Sun put it more succinctly:

“The season has been a failure financially.”

The Boston Beaneaters won the first half (52-22) over the Brooklyn Grooms (51-26), after the June roster and salary reductions, the Cleveland Spiders (fifth place with a 40-33 record in the first half) won the second half (53-23) over the Beaneaters (50-26).

Initially, Boston owner Arthur Soden said his team would not meet Cleveland in a post-season series as a result of charges in Boston that his team tanked the second half.  He told Caylor:

“You cannot make a large number of our patrons believe that the Boston club has not purposely lost the last championship for the sake of making money out of a series of finals.  That belief has hurt us to the extent of thousands of dollars during the last half of the season, and unless it be removed will hurt us equally as much next season.  The only way we can remove the wrong impression is by refusing to play.”

Caylor said at the October owners meeting “the rest of the league took up the case and literally forced the Boston club to play…Boston’s refusal to play would do more harm to the interests of the League at large than the Bostons could possibly suffer by the playing of the games.”

The nine-game championship series began with an 11-inning pitching duel between Boston’s Jack Stivetts and Cleveland’s Cy Young that ended in a 0-0 tie.  Boston swept the next five games.

The Boston Beaneaters

The Boston Beaneaters

The split schedule and the resulting longer season were dropped for 1893.

Max Ihmsen, the reporter Nick Young spoke with, became city editor of The New York Journal, a William Randolph Hearst paper, in 1895.  Ihmsen went on to manage Hearst’s unsuccessful campaigns for mayor of New York City and governor of New York; he was also the Hearst-backed candidate for Sheriff  of New York County in 1907, a race he lost to the Tammany Hall-backed candidate.

Ihmsen later became the managing editor of another Hearst paper, The Los Angeles Examiner.  He died in 1921.

“Mr. Borchers has Merely made Excuses.”

12 Feb

After two arrests and a season-long suspension in 1889, and another arrest and stints with four teams in 1890, George Borchers seemed to have settled down.

The San Francisco Chronicle said in January of 1891 that he was “taking excellent care of himself and will be ready to play winning ball.”

George Borchers

George Borchers

From 1891 through 1893 he pitched in the Pacific Northwest and California League’s and seems to have stayed sober and out of jail.

He was essentially a .500 pitcher, with less than average control; when he was with the Los Angeles Angels in 1893 he walked 210 batters, hit 24 and had 17 wild pitches.

The Los Angeles Herald regularly noted Borchers’ wildness.  In his first appearance for the Angels in April of ’93 he walked six and hit two batters in the first inning, yielding four runs, and was removed in the second after another walk and two more hit batsmen.  After a 21-12 May victory against Stockton the paper said:  “Borchers did himself proud, allowing 13 men to walk to first base, 12 for base on balls and one for being hit.  How the Angels managed to win with him in the box is a marvel.”

From 1894 through the 1896 season he was a baseball nomad, playing for nine teams in six leagues, including a single, disastrous final major league appearance with the Louisville Colonels in May of 1895—he started a game against the Brooklyn Grooms, lasting just two-thirds of an inning, giving up a hit, three walks, a wild pitch and two runs—earning the loss as the Colonels went down 11 to 0.

Caricature of Borchers from The San Francisco Call

Caricature of Borchers from The San Francisco Call

Borchers was out of organized baseball in 1897 and it’s unclear what he was doing and where he was doing it, but he resurfaced the in 1898 as a minor league team owner.  The Pacific Northwest League, which folded after the 1896 season, was resurrected as a four-team circuit organized by Dan Dugdale and William Works.  Dugdale took the Seattle franchise; Works took Tacoma, a Spokane “newspaperman” named Hutchinson took that town’s team, and George Borchers was awarded the Portland club.

The league struggled, and Borchers was stripped of his franchise in early July.  The Tacoma Daily News explained the problem:

“George Borchers is beginning to look upon matters of baseball in a new light.  The (league) is holding an inquest on his official corpse this afternoon, sitting in Portland.  The chief is not to figure any longer as manager of the Portland baseball team…The trouble has all arisen over Borchers’ treatment of his men.  He has not distributed cash since the opening of the season and as he is still short on the amount due the league will be displaced…Mr. Borchers has merely made excuses.”

Borchers returned to California and appeared in games for three Pacific Coast League teams during the remainder of the season: Santa Cruz, Stockton and Watsonville.

Borchers would continue, on and off, as a player until 1903—including a season as player/manager with the California League’s San Jose Brewers in 1899.  But in 1901 he made headlines when he became embroiled in a scandal.

 

Borchers was pitching for the Oakland Commuters in the California League, and failed to show up for a game he was scheduled to pitch on May 1.  The San Francisco Call said:

“George Borchers, the star pitcher of the Oakland baseball nine, has disappeared…None of the missing player’s close friends in baseball circles can explain why he decamped so suddenly nor where the absent ballplayer has gone.”

“Some of the Oakland players are injecting a bit of romance into the story, the names of some of the fair enthusiasts of Golden Gate being introduced as the possible cause for the handsome pitcher’s sudden leave taking.  But none seem to be able to tell with certainty the story that he has fallen victim to the charms of some fair one.”

The plot thickened the following day when Oakland owner J. Cal Ewing hired a private detective to track the missing pitcher, and an angry father went public.

J. Cal Ewing

J. Cal Ewing

While Ewing’s investigator hunted, an Oakland real estate developer named Don Miller told The San Jose Evening News his daughter Grace had disappeared:

“(Miller) is convinced that she has gone with the ballplayer.  Neither Borchers, who has a wife in Portland, not Miss Miller has been seen since last Monday, when they boarded an eastward-bound train.”

Miller told the paper:

“I am endeavoring to locate them now, and if I ever find the man who has broken up my home he’ll need nothing but a coffin.  I’ll find them yet.”

After a week, he turned up in Ogden, Utah, pitching for that town’s club in the Inter-Mountain League.  The Santa Cruz Evening Sentinel said:

“He says he left simply to better his position and justifies his action on the ground that the California League takes players who skip out on other leagues and the local players are in competition with them all the time.  He thinks he had the right to skip out likewise and better his position.  He claims the reason he left secretly was because he feared Ewing would cause him trouble.

“He was worried over the account that he had left with Miss Grace Miller, but denied it.”

The paper noted that while Borchers wife remained in Portland, he had received two train tickets from the Ogden club.

Eventually, the truth came out.  Borchers returned to California to secure a divorce from his wife and married the former Miss Miller.  He spent 1902 playing and managing for a team in Salt Lake City, and managing a bowling alley there.

The second Mrs. Borchers became ill in November of 1902 and died two weeks later from peritonitis.

His last scandal behind him, Borchers married again and operated a large dairy in Sacramento until his death in 1938.