Tag Archives: Brooklyn Robins

One Minute Talk: Jack Coombs

21 Oct

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

With the Brooklyn Robins in first place by four games after beating the Boston Braves 5 to 2 on August 14, Jack Coombs said:

Coombs

Coombs

“Baseball is a peculiar game.  The life is hard and the game fast but there is a fascination about it that just holds one.  There is something that comes of matching your eye against a sweeping curveball that can be found in no other game in the world. Once you get inside the flannels you hate to lay them aside.

“We Brooklyn men should win this pennant.  We have a fair lead and at the clip we are traveling should not have much trouble in holding our position.

“We arrived at the top through good baseball and no one can down us.  However, there are 55 games to  play and accidents may cut us down.”

The “Brooklyn men,” managed to hang on to first place through the final 55 games, beating the Boston Braves by two and a half games.

Coombs, who won 80 games for the Philadelphia Athletics between 1910 and 1912, missed nearly all of the next two seasons battling typhoid fever.  Signed as a free agent by Brooklyn in 1915–he was 15-10 2.58 that season and was 13-8 with a 2.66 ERA for the 1916 pennant winners; he posted Brooklyn’s only victory in the World Series against the Boston Red Sox–a 4 to 3 victory in game 3.

Coombs was also true to his observation that “Once you get inside the flannels you hate to lay them aside.”  After a brief, unsuccessful tenure as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies in 1919, Coombs was a coach for the Detroit Tigers in 1920. He then spent the next 32 years as a college baseball coach at Williams College, Princeton, and Duke–remaining in the game until he was forced to retire from Duke at the age of 70.

Coombs at Williams College, 1921

Coombs at Williams College, 1921

When he arrived at Williams, in Williamstown, Massachusetts in the spring of 1921, The New York Tribune said Coombs, having discovered that “training rules had not been observed,” by Williams players in previous years–the two previous coaches at Williams were former teammates of Coombs with the Athletics, Ira Thomas, and Harry Davis, “(A)sked the student body to encourage the members of the squad to train, to criticise them if they did not, and to help them with their studies.”

 

Lost Pictures–The Best Eyes in Baseball

4 Dec

eyeszimmerman

eyesdaubert

eysspeaker

Above, three sets of eyes, 1916.

Harold “Speed” Johnson of The Chicago Herald said:

“It’s the eye and not the wallop that counts in the national Pastime.  Some eyes are more durable than others.  Larry Lajoie possesses such a pair; so does Hans Wagner, Terry Turner, Tris Speaker, Jake Daubert, Frank Schulte, Larry Doyle, Heine Zimmerman, Tyrus Cobb, Joe Jackson and Bill Hinchman.”

Johnson informed his readers that “Most of these birds refrain from reading during the offseason, thereby sparing their eyes.”

As for the three sets pictured above, Jonson said:

“Heine Zimmerman is another notable example of the batter who possesses the keen optics.  He eccentric third sacker of the Chicago Cubs, when at peace with the world, is one the greatest natural sluggers of all time.  His eyes never have troubled him but his temperament frequently has caused him to slump, swinging frantically at any old pitch.  Right now Heinie is seeing in exceptionally good form as witness his average of .336 for 48 combats.”

[…]

“There is nothing wrong with Jake Daubert’s glims as a slant at the latest averages will indicate…His heavy cannonading has been a principal factor in the upward climb of the Robins…For a pair of eyes that have been in use as long as Jake’s in the big set they’re holding out famously.”

[…]

 “Nine seasons of big league milling haven’ dulled the lamps of Tristram Speaker who right now is going better than he did in his banner years with the Boston Red Sox.  Not only is the big Texan rattling fences  at Dunn Field, Cleveland, where for seven years he averaged .381 on visits with the Bostonese, but he is keeping up his terrific pace abroad.”

Zimmerman’s temperament caught up with him again.  He wore out his welcome in Chicago in August of 1916, was traded to the New York Giants and finished the season with a .286 average.

Daubert’s eyes held out.  He hit .316 and led Brooklyn to the National League pennant.

Speaker kept hitting at Dunn Field and everywhere else, finishing the season with a major league-leading .386 average.

“Daily Chats with Famous Ballplayers”

18 Sep

In 1916, a series of two to three paragraph items called “Daily Chats with Famous Ballplayers” (some papers called the feature different names) appeared in several smaller West Coast and Midwest newspapers.

Some highlights:

Oscar “Ossie” Vitt, third baseman for the Detroit Tigers, who survived a beaning from Walter Johnson of the Washington Senators on August 10, 1915:

“The world stopped moving when the ball nicked my bean.  Johnson thought I was killed and I guess I thought so myself for awhile, so far as I was able to think at all.

Ossie Vitt

Ossie Vitt

“My head proved to be the goods alright and wasn’t worse for wear.  But it upset Johnson so much that he couldn’t locate the plate and we pounded him all over the lot (Vitt was hit leading off the first inning—Johnson gave up eight runs after that in six innings and lost 8 to 2 to Detroit).”

St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Henry “Hi” Jasper on the superstition of teammate Harry “Slim” Sallee:

“Sal’s pet superstition is that it’s bad luck for him to warm up with any catcher but the one who is to work in the game with him.

“If the playing backstop has batted last and has to put on his shin guards and armour before warming up, Sal will never throw a ball to the plate to any man who may come out of the dugout with a mitt.  He will throw either to the first or third baseman.”

Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Al Mamaux on a lesson learned during a loss to the Chicago Cubs in September of 1914:

“Smart old timers can always make it tough for youngsters just breaking in.  I remember one day when I was the goat for a trick pulled by Roger Bresnahan.”

Mamaux

Al Mamaux

Mamaux said Chicago had two runners on base and Bresnahan was coaching third.

“(He was) talking real friendly like to me (then) hailed me suddenly as the ball was returned to me.  ‘Say Al, toss me that ball I want to look at it,’ said Roger.  I didn’t give it a second thought…tossed it towards him and I’ll be darned if he didn’t step to one side and yell to the runners to beat it home.  Each advanced a base and would have scored if Jimmy Viox hadn’t run his head off to recover the ball.  Believe me that one cured me.”

George Stallings, on suspensions and how badly the Boston Braves needed George Stallings:

“You don’t have to call an umpire all the names in the calendar to draw a suspension.  I got three days off for just remarking to (Charles “Cy”) Rigler that he ought to go to jail for umpiring a game like he did the other day.

George Stallings

George Stallings

“Nothing that I could say or do would make any difference.  What I can say though right now is that the action of (National League) President (John) Tener, coming as it does, with the race so close, appears peculiar to say the least (Tener said the suspension was for a series of altercations that Stallings and his players had with umpires during the two months before the August suspension was announced).

“Without any braggadocio I can say that my suspension will cripple my club considerably.  I know what my presence means to the club and so does President Tener.”

Boston won all three games during Stallings’ suspension and regained second place, but finished the season in third, five and half games behind the Brooklyn Robins.

Lost Advertisements–“162,859 Excited Fans”

7 Sep

mecca

An advertisement for Mecca Cigarettes that appeared shortly after the 1916 World Series:

162,859 Excited Fans

“Some Crowd!  They saw Boston beat Brooklyn in the World Series.  They saw the Red Sox reach the goal ball teams strive for.”

The Red Sox won the series 4 games to 1–Babe Ruth won one, a 14-inning complete game, and Ernie Shore won two, the first and fifth games.

Babe Ruth and Ernie Shore

          Babe Ruth and Ernie Shore

“To make the series a success it took–

4 umpires,

5 games,

40 players

244 baseball,

413 yards of gum,

5,279 pounds of popcorn,

93,471 bottles of pop,

111,116 score cards,

850,303 peanuts–and

1,019,415 cigarettes…

The Players’ Share–of the World Series this year was $162,927.45, or 32,585,490 Meccas.

That many Meccas are sold every three days.”

Winners shares for the Red Sox were $3,910.26, the Robins losing shares were $2,834.82.

“The Aristocrat of all Mascots”

1 Jul

Shortly after the 1920 World Series, The Associated Press (AP) claimed to have discovered why the Brooklyn Robins, after taking two out of three games from the Indians at home, dropped four straight in Cleveland:

“At last the secret…is out.  The Dodgers declined to take their mascot, Eddie Bennett, with them to the lair of the Indians, and without his lucky presence they were swamped.  And not only that.  Bennett, indignant over having been left at home, has quit the Brooklyns!  That’s revenge!”

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle said, Bennett, a Brooklyn native, came to the attention of baseball fans in 1919 when he served as bat boy and mascot for the American League Champion Chicago White Sox:

“(H)e used to hang around the players’ entrance to the ballparks on both sides of the bridge.  The Yankees were playing at the Polo Grounds then, and one day one of the White Sox noticed a wistful little fellow in the front row of hero worshippers.”

Eddie Bennett

Eddie Bennett

White Sox outfielder Oscar “Happy” Felsch, noticed Bennett suffered from kyphosis (the excessive curvature of the spine—in Bennett’s case it was said to have been caused by an injury when he fell out of his stroller as an infant) and asked “’Are you lucky?’ ‘Sure,’ cried Eddie Bennett eagerly.”  With Bennett serving as bat boy, the Sox defeated the Yankees.  With that:

“Felsch spoke to Eddie Cicotte about taking him back to Chicago. Cicotte spoke to Manager (William) Kid Gleason.  Eddie Bennett became the official White Sox mascot.”

Bennett spent the rest of the season with the Sox and roomed with pitcher Dickie Kerr on the road. After the Black Sox scandal broke—Bennett told reporters, “I was one of the honest ones”—the 16-year-old returned to New York and went to work for the Robins.

Dean Snyder, writing for Scripps’ Newspaper Enterprise Association, said of Bennett during Brooklyn’s pennant run:

“(The Robins) bought the kid a swell uniform and told him to hang around.

“From the day he started as the official mascot…things began to look up.”

But, Snyder noted, Bennett was strictly a mascot and not a bat boy in Brooklyn:

“Little Eddie is a hunchback. The players positively forbid him to touch their bats.  They just want him to stick around. They’re might superstitious about their war clubs.”

After being left home by the Robins for the club’s ill-fated trip to Cleveland, Bennett jumped to the Yankees; he told The AP:

“I’m going to be with a real club this year.  Oh boy, to watch that (Babe) Ruth sock them every day.”

Bennett with Ruth

Bennett with Ruth

For the third straight season, Bennett was part of a pennant winner, and for the third straight year his team lost the World Series.  But this time he stayed put and remained a fixture with the Yankees for another decade.

American League Umpire Billy Evans, in one of his syndicated columns, said Bennett took his position very seriously and related a story about seeing him in a restaurant during a Yankee losing streak:

“Bennett was seated across from me at a table in the diner. We were served at about the same time, and I noticed he ate but little of the food he had ordered.

“’Something wrong with the food Eddie?’ I ventured.

“’The food is all right, I guess there is something wrong with me,’ replied Eddie.

“’Cheer up, Eddie.  The Yankees can’t lose all of them,’ I said with a laugh.

“’Babe hasn’t made a home run in a week.  The team never gets any runs for Bob Shawkey.  Every time Scotty (shortstop Everett Scott) makes an error it means a run.  Waite Hoyt has a bad inning every game,’ was Eddie’s come back.

“’Why worry about these things, Eddie?’ The Yankee mascot looked at me in a puzzled manner, as if I might be joshing him.

“’That’s my business, I’m a mascot,’ said Eddie in all seriousness.  ‘I am supposed to bring luck, to help Ruth make home runs, keep Scotty from making errors, have the team get runs for Shawkey, and no bad innings for Hoyt.’

“Eddie was disgusted at my failure to appreciate the importance of his position.”

In 1928, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle called Bennett “(T)he aristocrat of all mascots…eight flags in 10 years is the mark for other mascots, living and still to be born to try to equal.  It will probably never be beaten.”

Bennett’s career came to an end in May of 1932; according to The United Press (UP) he was riding in a cab which crashed and “was pinned to a pole,” Bennett suffered several broken bones, including a leg broken in several places, and spent months in the hospital. (The AP said he was hit by the cab while walking).

He made a brief, dramatic return to the Yankees a year later.

On May 23, 1933, Bennett entered the Yankees clubhouse on crutches in the midst of what The International News Service called “The great home run famine.”  Neither Babe Ruth nor Lou Gehrig had hit one since April 30:

“It was the longest home run slump for the twins since they started making life miserable for American League pitchers.  For weeks they rubbed their carcasses and bats with sundry kinds of magic oils and rabbit’s feet, consulted Yogi’s and employed every luck charm known to the superstitious in an effort to shake off the jinx.  It took Eddie Bennett, the little cripple who formerly was the club’s bat boy, to shatter the jinx.  Before yesterday’s game he solemnly tapped both sluggers with his magic crutch and that turned the trick.”

Eddie Bennett

Eddie Bennett

Both Ruth and Gehrig hit home runs off Oral Hildebrand (who came into the game with a 6-0 record) in an 8 to 6 victory over the Cleveland Indians.

It was a final happy moment for Bennett.

While he continued to be paid by Yankees owner Jacob Rupert, depression and alcoholism consumed the last years of his life.  The 31-year-old, “aristocrat of all mascots,” was found dead on January 17, 1935, according to The UP “cold and stiff in his drab rooming home…He lived out his days among his baseball trophies, drinking steadily”

Edit:  As noted in the comments, I say above that Bennett left the White Sox “when the scandal broke,”  which implies September of 1920 when the grand jury was impaneled. I should have said “when rumors of the scandal broke,” which began during the 1919 series and continued throughout the 1920 season.

Lost Advertisements–Beer “The Proper Drink for Athletes in Training”

23 Jan

cobbbecker's

A 1918 advertisement for Becker’s Best Beer from Utah’s Becker Brewing & Malting Company, featuring Ty Cobb,  the ad said:

“Baseball is the National Pastime.  Beer is the National Drink”

It also included testimonials from “two of the leading baseball men of America as to True Temperance.”

As a result of the World War I “Food and Fuel Control Act,” malt beverages were mandated to contain less than 2.75% alcohol; brewers were trying to highlight the non intoxicating aspects of their current products as a wartime ban on the brewing of all beer was on the horizon (eventually that ban was adjusted to allow brewing of “non-alcoholic malt beverages).

The featured letters were from Brooklyn Robins President Charles Ebbets and New York Yankees Trainer John Burke to The New York Evening Journal regarding the paper’s invitation to a dinner honoring the ball clubs. Ebbet’s wrote:

“I accept with pleasure for my team the invitation to dine…We would suggest a simple dinner, with light beer and no stimulant.  That is out idea of the proper drink for athlete in training.”

Burke wrote:

“May I suggest in regard to the dinner , that men, while the season is on, lead very temperate lives.  If you will give them a good American dinner, with plain American Beer, they will appreciate it.”

Becker Brewing & Malting, according to a  1919 issue of “Brewers Journal,” was among the company’s making “laudable efforts…to meet the adverse conditions which have been imposed under the veil of ‘war time’ prohibition” by bottling soft drinks and manufacturing “Becco, a cereal beverage.”

Ty Cobb no longer appeared in the ads.

becco

Butcher Boy Schmidt

25 Jul

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

Butch Schmidt

Butch Schmidt

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grantland Rice said in The New York Tribune:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Butch Schmidt at bat

Butch Schmidt at bat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Greatest Baseball Game Ever Contested”

13 Feb

The Philadelphia Record headline called it the “Greatest Baseball Game Ever Contested, “ the September 1, 1906 game at Boston’s Huntington Avenue Grounds between the Philadelphia Athletics and the Boston Americans:

“What will go down in history as the most remarkable ball game ever played in a major league lasted 4 hours and 47 minutes to-day, and the champion Athletics beat the Bostons 4 to 1 in 24 innings.  It was a heart-breaking struggle all through, and to the astonishment of 18,000 people who saw the contest, the pitchers hung on until the last gun was fired.”

Rookie Jack Coombs pitched for Philadelphia, Joe Harris was on the mound for Boston.

Philadelphia scored a run in the third inning; Boston tied the game in the sixth:

“After that plenty of opportunities were offered, but owing to fast fielding and good pitching neither side could cross the plate.

“In the twenty-fourth, when darkness was fast covering the field, (Topsy) Hartsell led off with a single.  (Bris) Lord struck out, but Hartsell stole second…Shreck (Ossee Schrecongost) sent him home with a single over second.”

The Athletics added two more Runs as “The immense crowd filled out around the field.”

Coombs closed the Americans out in the twenty-fourth and “was cheered to an echo, some of the fans wanting to carry him on their shoulders from the field.”

The box score:

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“It was well that the game was concluded as it was, for it was too dark to go another inning, and the crowd began to murmur that the light was too dim when the last round began.  But the players themselves interposed no objection, for they were all deeply anxious to fight it out.”

Jack Coombs, 1906

Jack Coombs, 1906

Coombs would go on to a long career, highlighted by a 31-9 record, and three more wins over the Chicago Cubs in the World Series for the champion Athletics in 1910; overall he was 5-0 in World Series play.  He also pitched for the Brooklyn Robins and Detroit Tigers.

Harris is one of the ultimate hard-luck pitchers in the history of baseball.  He ended the 1906 season with a 2-21 record (the Americans were shut out 8 times when he pitched).  His Major League career was over after he went 0-7 in 1907; Harris ended his career with a 3-30 record.