Tag Archives: Brooklyn Tip-Tops

“A Travesty on the National Pastime”

12 Aug

The Brooklyn Eagle called it “(A) travesty on the National Pastime.”  The Associated Press said it was “A comedy in Brooklyn.”

1915 home opener between the Federal League’s Brooklyn Tip-Tops and the Buffalo Blues.

The 1915 Federal League opener between the Brooklyn Tip-Tops and Buffalo Blues resulted in 13 to 9 Brooklyn victory,  slogged on for three hours and ten minutes, and Brooklyn Manager Lee Magee was ejected from his first game as a manager in the first inning.

Lee Magee

Lee Magee

None of those things were the cause of the headlines.

The Washington Times said:

 “Of all the offenses committed against the fair name of baseball none has loomed up so ludicrously as the prize ‘bone’ play perpetrated in the opening game.”

In the seventh inning, catcher Grover Land pinch hit for pitcher Bill Upham.  Land singled and was then removed for pinch runner Dave Howard.

The Eagle said, in the following inning:

“Land donned the windpad and mitt in the eighth and proceeded to catch the balance of the game in place of (Mike) Simon, whose sore arm caused his retirement.

“Land’s return to the game after having once been replaced was a distinct violation of the rules, but Acting Manager (Jim) Delahanty wotted not of such things, Umpire Jimmy Johnstone gave it not a thought and Leader (Larry) Schlafly of Buffalo ignored it entirely, either from lack of observation or with a view of future action in the way of a protest.  The re-advent of Land caused a mix-up in the scoring, which turned the press box into a bedlam of protest, but there was no redress.  Later, the humor of the situation dawned on the scribes and they gurgled with glee at the monumental piece of stupidity perpetrated by the home management.”

Grover Land

Grover Land

The following day, Schlafly filed a formal protest with Federal League President James Gilmore, and told The Buffalo News he was aware of the mistake and “Knew as soon as Land went in to catch the Brookfeds could not win the ball game.”

The Eagle later apologized to Delahanty for claiming he was responsible for the “bone play:”

“An injustice was done Jimmy Delahanty when it was stated that he was acting manager of the Brookfeds when Grover Land did the in again, out again, and in again stunt…The truth must be told.  Lee Magee was on the bench at the time, despite the fact that he had long before been chased off the field.  The Boy Manager had slipped into a long ulster, and, as he thought, disguised himself so the umps would not recognize him.  Then he slipped behind the water cooler and directed things.”

The paper concluded that Magee pulled the “bone” and chided him for allowing his players to take the blame.

Magee was fined $50 and suspended for two games for returning to the bench after the ejection.  The protest was rejected and the game remained in the record books as a 13 to 9 Brooklyn victory.

The Blues were 13-28 in June when Schlafly was fired.  Magee was replaced as manager by Brooklyn with a 53-64 record in August.  The teams finished sixth and seventh during the league’s second and final season.

“Why not bring one of the Big League Teams to Phoenix for Spring Training?”

18 Feb

Grover Cleveland Land was a visionary.

In 1921 The Arizona Republican asked the question the former catcher had put to several major league clubs:

“Why not bring one of the big league teams to Phoenix for spring training?”

Land, a Kentucky native who spent the last 40 years of his life as a Phoenix resident,  was encouraged by a report that Connie Mack had announced that his Philadelphia Athletics would no longer train in Lake Charles, Louisiana;  according to The Associated Press Mack said “certain things happened at the Louisiana resort last March that handicapped” the team.

Grover Land

Grover Land

Land, the former catcher for the Cleveland Naps and the Brooklyn Tip-Tops, said:

“I have played ball in every section of the country, and I have yet to find a climate more suited for baseball training than I find right here in Phoenix…Major league managers have been sending their players to Texas and other southern states for many years and I can safely state that there is not one manager entirely satisfied with the present training camp sites.  Fully one-third of the training period is hampered by rain and storms and by the time the training season is ended the players are just beginning to round into shape.”

He said he understood that “local boosters” had made some effort to bring teams to Arizona in the past—the Chicago White Sox, Cubs, and Pittsburgh Pirates had played spring exhibition games in the state several times since 1909—but Land said he would “make an effort to induce one of my manager friends to come down here…I am certain that if one of the managers could be induced to come here for a few weeks Phoenix would have no difficulty getting on the sport pages.”

He said the local chamber of commerce was getting behind the push, and that he had “already written to one of the major league managers and I have been corresponding with several sports writers in the east,’ to make the case for Phoenix.

“If the local fans get behind the move and convince Connie Mack that they want his team here next spring I have every confidence that the Philadelphia Athletics will do their 1922 training in Phoenix.”

Land was a bit overconfident in regard to Philadelphia; Mack chose to take the Athletics to Eagle Pass, Texas in the spring of 1922.

No team would train in Arizona until 1929—the Detroit Tigers came to the state for one season—but chose California the following year.

The Detroit Tigers in Arizona, 1929

The Detroit Tigers in Arizona, 1929

But Land, who died in 1958, lived long enough to see his adopted home become the spring training location for four clubs.

Lost Advertisements–Federal League Notables–Cy Falkenberg

4 Oct

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One in a series of several 1915 advertisements from the Victor Sporting Goods Company featuring Federal League players.  Victor produced the league’s official baseball.

Frederick “Cy” Falkenberg made one of baseball’s great comebacks.  After an injury plagued 1911 season (8-5 in just fifteen games) the Cleveland Naps sold Falkenberg’s contract to the Toledo Mud Hens in the American Association.  The 32-year-old pitcher developed a pitch that saved his career; Hal Sheridan of The United Press said Falkenberg had begun “tossing a sand-papered sphere to the batters.”

Once he started throwing the Emery Ball Falkenberg went 25-8 with a 1.95 ERA at Toledo, and after returning to Cleveland the following season he was 23-10 with a 2.22 ERA.  Falkenberg jumped to the Indianapolis Hoosiers in the Federal League in 1914; he was 25-16 with a 2.22 ERA for the pennant-winning Hoosiers.

By the time this ad appeared the Federal League had banned the Emery Ball and Falkenberg had split the 1915 season between the Newark Peppers (the relocated Hoosiers) and the Brooklyn Tip-Tops; he was a combined 12-14 with 2.86 ERA.

Russell Ford, who pitched in the American and Federal Leagues from 1909-1915, is generally credited with developing the Emery Ball, but at least one American League pitcher said Ford didn’t deserve credit for the invention.  Bill Steen told The Pittsburgh Press in 1915 that John “Wee Willie” Sudhoff had shown him how to throw the pitch in 1907:

“He had a strip of emery paper glued on the heel of his glove and rubbed the ball on it.”

Sudhoff had retired after the 1906 season, so it’s unclear where and exactly when he would have shared the pitch with Steen.

Cy Falkenberg

Cy Falkenberg

“Good day—Double Crosser”

30 Jul

Hap Myers’ abrupt exit from the Boston Braves was never fully explained; the Boston press said he simply didn’t get along with manager George Stallings, Myers said it was because of his activities as one of the leaders of baseball’s most recent labor movement.

"Hap" Myers

“Hap” Myers

Two articles from The Associated Press about George Stallings that appeared after the braves won the World Series might have shed some light on the relationship between the two—one mentioned an incident that took place during a game, and the other had to do with Stallings’ well-known and strange superstitions.

The first article was about “a game played in Boston in the summer of 1913,” (box scores indicate it was most likely, the second game of a double-header with the Cincinnati Reds on July 22).

“Two men were out and the Braves had a man on first and another on second…A long hit would either tie the score or win the game.  ‘Hap’ let the first one pass—and bunted the second.  He was thrown out by at least 10 feet and the game was over.  The Braves had lost.

“’Hap’ in terror over a possible rebuke…escaped into the clubhouse.  Stallings was there, enshrouded in deepest gloom.  Baseball never knew a harder loser that Stallings.  But Stallings never said a word to Myers then, and Myers ducked out.

“The next morning found Stallings at Myers’ home.  Myers had just gotten up.”

When Myers answered the door, Stallings asked him why he had bunted with two on and two out.  Myers told his manager that he thought he’s “double-cross the other fellows…catch ‘em asleep.”

Stalling blew up at the first baseman:

“Well, let me tell you this Myers, if you ever again try any of that ‘double-crossing’ stuff there’ll be a funeral in this particular neighborhood.  Good day—double crosser.”

The second article said that during a losing streak in June of 1913 the superstitious Stallings blamed the “jinx” on a colorful necktie Myers wore—the only tie the first baseman owned.  According to the article, Stallings told his equally superstitious owner James Gaffney:

“That necktie of his—that horrible looking sight, that drapes down from his collar.  No wonder we can’t win.  No wonder we are jinxed.  That necktie would hoodoo anybody.”

The story said Stallings stole the tie from Myers, and after the Braves won the following day told Gaffney:

 “Told you so, didn’t I?”

The Boston Globe told a slightly different version of the story in 1931 in an article about Stallings.

By the time these stories were published, Myers was in his second season with the Brooklyn Tip-Tops in the Federal League.  He hit a disappointing .220 in 1914, but stole 43 bases.  In 1915 he hit .287 and was suspended for several days in June after he and Chicago Whales player-manager Joe Tinker “exchanged blows.”

"Hap" Myers Brooklyn Tip-Tops

“Hap” Myers Brooklyn Tip-Tops

When the Federal League folded Myers returned home to California and signed a contract with the San Francisco Seals, who already had veteran William “Chick” Autry at first.  When Myers arrived in San Francisco, The San Jose Mercury News said:

“The fight for the job will be a battle which will be watched with more than passing interest by San Jose fans, for most of them remember Myers as an elongated youngster who wielded a ferocious bat when he first broke into professional ball in this city.”

Myers hurt his arm and the battle never took place; he only appeared in three games, and was hitless in two at bats.  He would never play organized baseball again.

Where Myers spent the remainder of the 1916 season is unknown; The Mercury-News said he went to Ray, Arizona to join the Tri-Copper League, but no reference to Myers can be found in league statistics—whether he played in Arizona or not, he did spend time in the Southwest that year.

In November of 1916 Myers and two other men were arrested in Los Angeles on a warrant from El Paso, Texas.  The Associated Press said Myers was “wanted by the El Paso Police on a charge of highway robbery…one resident (was robbed of) a $1500 diamond ring and $48 in cash, and another resident, a diamond ring valued at $325,”

In January of 1917, when the trial took place, highway robbery was punishable by death in Texas.

On January 23 Myers and his co-defendants were acquitted.

Myers, now a free man, remained in the Southwest and went to work as a metallurgist with a copper mining company in Grant County, New Mexico.

In 1918 the 31-year-old Myers enlisted in the military; joining Company B of the Field Signal Battalion at Camp Lewis, Washington.   He played baseball at Camp Lewis and in France with the United States Army—among Myers teammates were professional players Ten Million, “Coaster Joe” Connolly, Howard Mundorff and Charlie Schmutz.

After returning from France Myers worked as an insurance adjuster in Seattle and later in automobile financing back in his hometown of San Francisco.

“The elongated first baseman” died in San Francisco in 1967 at age 80.

Hap Myers

29 Jul

When the 6’ 3” 175 pound Ralph Edward “Hap” Myers was let go by the Boston Braves after the 1913 season a reporter told Braves shortstop Rabbit Maranville he was sorry to see Myers go.  Maranville joked:

“Well, you might be, but I’m not.  Do you know that guy is so thin that every time I picked up a grounder I had to shade my eyes with my gloved hand to locate him before throwing the ball.”

Myers began his professional career after graduating from University of California, Berkeley in 1909, where he also played baseball.  The San Francisco native hit a combined .311 playing for the Sacramento Sacts in the Pacific Coast League, and the San Jose Prune Pickers and Santa Cruz Sand Crabs in the California League.

Myers went east in 1910 after being purchased by the Boston Red Sox, but became ill, with scarlet fever, and as a result appeared in only six games in Boston before being  sent first to the Toronto Maple leafs in the Eastern league, then the Louisville Colonels in the American Association.

Despite hitting just .240 with Louisville, Myers was selected by the St. Louis Browns in the Rule 5 draft.  The Red Sox claimed Myers still belonged to them and his contract was awarded to Boston, where he began the season, was sold to the St. Louis Browns, who quickly released him despite hitting .297 in 11 games, then back to the Red Sox where he hit .368 in twelve games before being sent to the Jersey City Skeeters in the Eastern League.

It was never clear why, in spite of hitting .333 in 81 at bats in 1910-1911, Myers couldn’t stick in the American League.

In 1912 he returned to the West Coast to play for the Spokane Indians in the Northwestern League where he led the league in hits, and runs, hit .328, and led all of professional baseball with 116 stolen bases.  The Portland Oregonian said:

“Myers base stealing smashes any previous performance in Northwestern League history.  You have to go back 20 years in official guide books to find any record to compare…and that includes every league in organized baseball.”

Spokane owner Joe Cohn went overboard in his praise of Myers in The Spokane Spokesman-Review:

“Best ballplayer in the Northwestern League by a long shot.  He is the greatest ballplayer I ever saw.  Boy I tell you this Myers is a wonder.  Ty Cobb, Hans Wagner, Tris Speaker and all of them have nothing on Myers…I think Myers has it on Cobb, Wagner, Lajoie, Jackson and the whole bunch.”

Myers, and Portland catcher Rex DeVogt were purchased by the Braves from Portland, Devogt would only last for three games, and six hitless at-bats in April of 1913.  Myers would become the Braves starting first baseman.  Another Pacific Coast League player, pitcher “Seattle Bill” James also joined the Braves.

hap3

“Seattle Bill” James and “Hap” Myers

Myers got off to a slow start; he was hitting just .224 in early July, but was leading the National League in steals.  An article in The Tacoma Times said:

“When Hap Myers, recruit first baseman of the Boston Braves is in full stride stealing bases, he covers nine feet…the average stride of a sprinter is six feet. “

The article said the average player took 13 steps, roughly seven feet per step, between bases but Myers took only ten steps:

“Myers is something of a baseball curiosity, and his work is watched with interest by the fans.  If the time comes that the big fellow climbs into the .300 class as a batter, he is apt to become a veritable terror of the paths.”

He was also said to use “a bat of unusual length,” but the size was never mentioned.

After the slow start, Myers hit well in the second half of the season, ending with a .273 average and 57 stolen bases (second to Max Carey of the Pittsburgh Pirates who stole 61).  Despite his strong finish, Myers was replaced at first base for 22 games in August and September by Butch Schmidt, who was purchased from the Rochester Hustlers in the International League.

"Hap" Myers

“Hap” Myers

At the end of the season Myers was sold to the Hustlers, the deal was, in effect, a trade for Schmidt.  The Boston press simply said Myers did not get along with manager George Stallings; Myers told a reporter in San Francisco that there was another reason; baseball’s labor unrest:

  “I was assigned by the fraternity to get as many Braves as possible into the fraternity, and succeeded in enrolling nearly the entire team.  The powers that be evidently didn’t relish my actions for soon my every move began to bring calldowns and I was not surprised to read in the newspapers a little later that I had been sent to Rochester.”

Myers jumped Rochester to join the Federal League; his signing was reported months before he actually signed.  The Associated Press said in March of 1914:

“Although it has been generally understood that Hap Myers, last season’s first baseman of the Boston National has been under a Federal League contract for some time, the elongated first sacker did not put his name to a contract until yesterday afternoon.  Myers originally expected to play with Larry Schlafly on the Buffalo Federals, but was transferred to Brooklyn, and seemed altogether pleased with the move.”

Myers got off to a strong start, and The Sporting Life said:

“Brooklyn fans cannot understand why Hap was passed out of the National League. They have had a chance already to give his successor at first base on the Boston team (Butch Schmidt) the once over, and the general opinion is that- Hap Myers “lays all over.”

His success in Brooklyn didn’t last; in 92 games Myers hit just .220.

Hap’s story continued tomorrow.

Kauff and Perritt

29 Jan

Benny Kauff and Pol Perritt were two of the reasons why the New York giants won the National League Pennant in 1917.  Kauff led the team with a .308 average and Perritt was 17-7 with a 1.88 ERA.  Both came to the Giants by way of the Federal League, and with the help of “Sinister Dick” Kinsella, John McGraw’s right-hand man.

"Sinister Dick" Kinsella

“Sinister Dick” Kinsella

Kinsella was the former baseball magnate of Springfield, Illinois who went east to serve as McGraw’s chief scout.  He was a key player in the incident that led to Giants’ catcher Larry McLean’s banishment from organized baseball.

After the 1914 season, McGraw set his sights on the Indianapolis Hoosiers’ Kauff, who was being called the “Ty Cobb of the Federal League.”  Kauff led the league with a .370 average, 120 runs, 211 hits and 75 stolen bases.

When the debt-ridden Hoosiers were transferred to Newark for the 1915 season Kauff’s contract was sold to the Brooklyn Tip-Tops, and he joined the team in Browns Wells, Mississippi.

At the same time, Perritt coming off a 16-13 season was prepared to jump the St. Louis Cardinals and join the Pittsburgh Rebels in the Federal League.

Pol Perritt and Benny Kauff, 1917

Pol Perritt and Benny Kauff, 1917

Sportswriter Frank G. Menke of Hearst’s International News Service picks up the story:

“Dick Kinsella, scout for the Giants, according to the story we get, hustled to Browns Wells and got a job on a plantation…Kinsella didn’t dare to put up at the same hotel because he was known by Manager Lee Magee, Business Manager Dick Carroll and others of the Brookfeds.”

Kinsella, according to Menke, was pretending to be a farm hand and also observing Kauff’s workouts and reporting back to McGraw who, along with Jack Hendricks of the Indianapolis Indians in the American Association (who held Kauff’s rights) was sending coded telegrams to Kauff signed “Father.”  Kauff received telegrams saying, “Mother wishes to see her boy,” and “All is forgiven.”

According to Menke, the telegrams were intended to inform Kauff that McGraw wanted him with the Giants and:

“The “everything forgiven” telegram was to tip Kauff off that if he jumped the National Commission probably would let him play.”

While Kauff was in Mississippi, Pol Perritt was in the process of  jumping to the Federal League.

According to Menke, Kinsella left Mississippi in the middle of the operation to secure Kauff in order to talk to Perritt.  What Kinsella said to Perritt is unknown, but Perritt’s meeting with Pittsburgh manager Rebel Oakes pretty much put an end to any chance of joining the Federal League.  The Associated Press said:

“Pitcher ‘Pol’ Perritt who jumped to the Pittsburgh Federal recently had a fist fight with Manager ‘Rebel’ Oakes…Those who saw the fight say that the pitcher delivered one blow that knocked Oakes over a chair…Friends and acquaintances interceded and hushed up the whole affair before police arrived on the scene.”

The story said Perritt was meeting with Cardinals’ management to “flop back to organized ball,” within weeks the Cardinals sold Perritt’s contract to the Giants, The AP said:

“Carefully guarded by “Sinister Dick” Kinsella…Perritt was delivered to John J. McGraw this noon…Kinsella brought his man in from Shreveport without struggle, and states that he did not even sight a Federal submarine during the entire journey.”

An alternate version of the story, published in The New York Times said it was McGraw who met with Perritt rather than Kinsella and highlighted the manager’s journey to meet the pitcher:

“McGraw had to travel forty miles on one railroad, nine miles on another, and then drive nine miles through the mud to get to Perritt’s home in Louisiana.”

Perritt was in the fold.  After a 12-18 season in 1915, he would win 18, 17 and 18 from 1916-18.

Kauff would be a bit more complicated.

While Kinsella was gone from Mississippi securing Perritt, Kauff signed a $6000 contract with Brooklyn, which he immediately regretted and contacted McGraw.

kinsellamcgraw

Dick Kinsella and John McGraw, 1920

According to Menke, Kauff:

“Related the difficulty he had with Robert B. Ward, president of the Brookfeds, over the contract.  The Giants people thought that owing to Kauff’s trouble—or alleged trouble—over the Brookfed contract that he was not legally under contract.”

Menke said the Giants signed Kauff for $7000 a year for three years with a $7000 bonus.

National League President John Tener voided the contract and Kauff was forced to return to the Tip Tops; he again led the league with a .342 average.

McGraw finally got his second man at the close of the 1915 season.  After the Federal League folded and Kauff was reinstated to organized baseball he signed a two-year contract for $6500 a season and a $5000 bonus with the Giants.

New York had finished in eighth place in 1915. They improved to fourth in 1916 and won the pennant by 10 games in 1917. McGraw’s Giants lost the to the Chicago White Sox four games to two in the World Series.  Perritt appeared in three games in relief, and Kauff hit a disappointing .160, despite two home runs in the Giants’ game four victory.

After the 1917 World Series Perritt and Kauff faded fast.

Perritt was 18-13 in 1918, but would only win four more games over the following three seasons with the Giants and Detroit Tigers; he was out of professional baseball before his 30th birthday.

Kauff’s demise is better known; his professional career came to an end at age thirty, the result of allegations of his involvement with gamblers, in general, and 1919 World series fixer Arthur Rothstein in particular.  Kauff, who owned an automobile accessory business with his half-brother and Giant teammate Jesse Barnes, was charged with stealing and reselling an automobile.  Although he was acquitted at trial, Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned Kauff for life.  Kauff’s oft-told story is told best in two excellent books by David Pietrusza:  Rothstein: The Life, Times, and Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series and Judge and Jury: The Life and Times of Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis.

Perritt died in Shreveport, Louisiana in 1947; Kauff died in Columbus, Ohio in 1961.

The Man who Dried up Memphis

4 Jan

Finis Albert “Fin” Wilson had a brief, unsuccessful Major League career.  After four minor league seasons—two with the Knoxville Reds in the Appalachian League and two with the New Orleans Pelicans in the Southern Association—and a brief spring trial with the Cleveland Indians, Wilson signed a contract to play with the Brooklyn Tip-Tops in the Federal League in September of 1914.

Appearing in two games that September, Wilson went 0-1 with a 7.71 ERA.  Despite a respectable 3.78 ERA in 1915, Wilson‘s Major League career was over after a 1-8 season for the Tip-Tops.

Wilson signed with the Atlanta Crackers in the Southern Association in 1916, but became sick in April and missed most of the first half of the season.  He returned to the team in July and ended the season with a 4-6 record.

Finis Wilson 1914

Finis Wilson 1914

He returned home to Greensburg. Kentucky and served two terms in the Kentucky General Assembly.  In 1928 he was appointed as a federal prohibition administrator in Memphis, Tennessee, primarily responsible for stopping the transportation of illegal liquor on the Mississippi River.

Wilson was very popular in Atlanta because while pitching for New Orleans in 1913 he beat the Mobile Sea Gulls on the last day of the 1913 season securing the championship for the Crackers and shortly after his appointment he was the subject of a glowing profile in The Atlanta Constitution:

“In an office at the custom-house here in old Shelby County with the Mississippi meandering by just outside the window I found the man who won the 1913 pennant for the Atlanta Crackers. Finis E. Wilson, who left a bank presidency in Kentucky to battle Shelby county bootleggers, does not look like the young left-handed pitcher who gave the greatest exhibition of courage the Southern Association ever saw. His hair is gray now and he looks positively genial.”

He was on the front line of the government’s battle with moonshiners.  In one raid Wilson, according to The Associated Press he:

 “Dried Memphis up… (Wilson) directed the greatest cleanup Memphis ever experienced…more than 150 persons were arrested and confiscated 1,500 gallons of whiskey, 800 gallons of wine and 20,000 quarts of home-brew.

In another raid two of Wilson’s boats were bombed as agents destroyed 1300 gallons of liquor and arrested six men.  Wilson told The Associated Press:

“If it’s war the moonshiners want it’s war they’ll get.”

And it was a war; 16 agents were killed and 183 were injured in 1928 and ’29 alone; and while corruption among agents was widespread, it appears that no agents under Wilson were charged with any wrongdoing.

Wilson left government service sometime after the repeal of the Volstead Act in 1933, and died in Coral Gables, Florida in 1959.

Finis Wilson circa 1930

Finis Wilson circa 1930