Tag Archives: Brooklyn Ward’s Wonders

“He Threw his bat at the Contemptible Coward”

22 Jul

George Van Haltren was popular with the Chicago press during his three years with the White Stockings from 1887-1889; that changed when, after jumping to the Players League, he returned to Chicago with the Brooklyn Ward’s Wonders on July 28 of 1890.

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Van Haltren

In the opening game of a three-game series, Van Haltren, said The Chicago Tribune “got himself disliked in the seventh” inning:

“He was at the bat when a swift inshoot from Silver King landed clearly on his right shoulder (other papers said the pitch struck him in the ribs). Van Haltren glared at the pitcher for a moment and then deliberately threw the bat at him.”

The Chicago Inter Ocean said:

“(H)e turned and threw the bat with all his force at King. A bat is an unwieldy thing to throw and it miscarried several yards.

“’Loafer!’ ‘Viper!’ ‘Sneak,’ yelled the crowd. ‘Put him out!’ ‘Put the loafer out.’

“Van Haltren was unmolested. He should have been fired out of the game so quickly that he would have suffered asphyxiation but umpire Pearce [sic, Grace Pierce] was meek and lowly. Such a tongue-lashing from a crowd, however, a man has not suffered in a long time.”

The Chicago Herald was most outraged:

“To Van Haltren: If you were punished as you have deserved to be punished you would be ruled out of professional baseball forever. You have broken the greatest and the best of baseball laws. Men like Van Haltren should limit themselves to huckstering, street cleaning, or sewer digging. In those vocations the thug element is properly restrained, and the labor is dignified.”

The Tribune dismissed Van Haltren’s claim that King had thrown at him on purpose as “ridiculous” because:

“To show that it was an accident King hit (Bill) Joyce in the back with the next ball pitched. Joyce didn’t throw the bat at King; he threw him a reproachful look and wandered off to the bag.”

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Silver King

Most New York newspapers ran the Chicago papers’ version of the story, but The Brooklyn Eagle would not let it pass that King hit Van Haltren by accident, or that the outfielder was in the wrong.

The paper said:

“The New York papers have not done justice to Van Haltren…In the sixth inning King apparently tried to hit (Dave) Orr with the ball, and Van Haltren on the coaching line called out, ‘Never mid that, Dave, it won’t hurt you.’ King turned to Van Haltren, and in the hearing of all, including the umpires, said, ‘I’ll knock your head off when you come to bat again.’

“Thinking to pass it off jokingly Van replied with a smile: ’Oh, no, Silver, you can’t hurt me; you haven’t speed enough.”

The Eagle said, King purposely threw both pitches at Van Haltren—the pitch that hit him being “a terrifically fast ball,” which:

“(C)aught poor Van in the ribs. It was too much for even his gentlemanly disposition, and almost crazed by pain he threw his bat at the contemptible coward.”

King took the mound again against Brooklyn in the final game of the series on July 30. Brooklyn scored three runs in the first inning.

The Chicago Tribune said:

“(T)he first ball pitched after Van Haltren had tripped up to the plate in the second inning struck the batsman on his right shin bone. Of course, everybody expected to see Van Haltren draw a knife on King, but he didn’t. He placed his bat gently on the grass and limped off to first base. He may have done some thinking, but he didn’t do it out loud.”

Weyhing’s “Malicious Mischief”

26 Jun

In 1900, The Brooklyn Eagle used the example of pitcher Gus Weyhing running afoul of a New York brewery by vandalizing the ceiling fresco as an example of how in the “old days” when baseball was “in its prime,” such incidents were covered up.

The incident was actually covered quite extensively in the press and resulted in an elaborate practical joke played on Weyhing—which received extensive coverage as well—and the prank caused Weyhing more trouble.

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Weyhing

Shortly after the end of the 1890 season—on October 10–Weyhing, who led Wards Wonders to a second-place finish in the Players League—winning 30 games—was with several friends at the Piel Brothers Brewery on Sheffield Avenue in Brooklyn.

The Brooklyn Times said Weyhing engaged in “malicious mischief,” at the brewery.

The Pittsburgh Post described the “mischief,” after Weyhing and his party:

“(W)ere served with numerous sandwiches and plenty of beer. In the course of time they became very frolicsome. Weyhing took several slices of bread, which he plastered over with thick coatings of butter and mustard. Then he bet that he could make them stick to the ceiling.”

According to the paper, Weyhing was successful and:

“One slice covered the nose of a frescoes figure of King Gambrinus. Another covered over his glass of foaming beer, and another hit his Schuetzen Corps medal. Weyhing and his friends laughed boisterously at the joke, and then departed.”

The Times said Piel’s Brewery had become “a favorite resort for Captain Johnny Ward’s ball players ever since the opening on the Players’ League ballpark.”

Weyhing had been there that day with “a half dozen of his brother leaguers” and “a well-known official under the local government.”

The Brooklyn Eagle said Brooklyn catcher Tom Kinslow had been present “and thought it a huge joke.”

And, said The Eagle, it was Kinslow who was behind a prank played on Weyhing:

Kinslow, accompanied by a detective friend, approached Weyhing at another bar. Weyhing was “served” by the detective with the fake subpoena and Kinslow and the other members of the party told him they had been served as well:

“’You’ve got us all in a nice box,’ said Kinslow.”

The detective told Weyhing he was being placed under arrest. Weyhing said he could not go to jail and his friends suggested he go see a friend at a bar “on the corner of Atlantic and Alabama Avenues” in Brooklyn to borrow bail money.

The pitcher, accompanied by the detective and Kinslow went to the bar; there all the other members of the original party were gathered and suggested that they summon a former judge to help Weyhing—he appeared along with another friend of the group who worked for the district attorney:

“The (attorney) began to score the pitcher for the trouble he had got them into and talked to him for fully half an hour.

“Poor Weyhing sat at a table, with his head in his hands, and said not a word while the (attorney) was talking. Then he raised his face and said in a husky voice:

“’I’ll pay whatever damage was done, for heaven’s sake, let up.’” But he wouldn’t let up. He took particular pains to let Mr. Weyhing know that the punishment for his crime was a year’s imprisonment in the penitentiary.”

The Eagle said “the fun continued” until Weyhing “was about $10 poorer” buying drinks to calm everyone’s nerves—at that point he was told it was joke:

“Unfortunately for Mr. Weyhing some outsider enjoyed the joke and quietly related the proceedings to Mr. Piel. Thus it was that the warrant was procured for Weyhing’s arrest.”

With a real warrant issued, he left town and spent the winter at home in Louisville.

Weyhing had jumped the Philadelphia Athletics to join Brooklyn in 1890 and was returned to the American Association club for the 1891 season.

On April 22, he was on board the New Haven Railroad traveling from Boston to Washington. A New York police officer:

“Received word that the train on which Weyhing was a passenger would reach the New Haven depot, on the Harlem.”

He was taken into custody and “occupied a cell” in the tenth precinct jail for several hours.

The Eagle said, Weyhing appeared before judge, “refused to make a statement,” and a “well known sporting man” posted $500 bail.

At this point, it appears the dispute was settled with no further legal action. The Citizen said the case was being presented to a grand jury, but there is no record of an indictment or any further legal proceeding in the case, so The Eagle’s statement, ten years later, was partially true it appears. The incident itself was not swept under the rug and received extensive coverage, but once he posted bail, there were no public consequences for Weyhing.

He had one more bizarre brush with the law the following season. Weyhing, along with his former teammate Lave Cross, collected and bred pigeons. The Boston Post said:

“(They) are pigeon fanciers. They have great collections of fantails, carriers, and pouters, and exhibit at many shows.”

The Louisville Courier-Journal said Weyhing was attending a pigeon show when he was found to have in his possession “two very fine Blondinottes, valued at $50 each.” The paper said Weyhing had the birds in a basket with his other pigeons as he was leaving the show.

Weyhing was taken to a jail in Louisville where he initially “gave his name as William Joyce,” and was charged with grand larceny.

The Philadelphia Times said of Weyhing, who won 31 games for the Athletics in the final season of the American Association, and would pitch for the Phillies in the National League in 1892, said of the arrest:

“Weyhing has a weakness for fine pigeons…It does not however, seem possible that a man in Weyhing’s position, and with such an income as he enjoys, would be guilty of such a deed over a couple of birds. Weyhing has in the past been in trouble through indiscretion, but nothing more serious than conviviality, and consequent excess, was ever charged against him.”

The Philadelphia paper said it would be “a hard blow” to to the Phillies if he were found guilty, but if he was “the club, of course, could not afford to keep him.”

He was held for trial and appeared in court on January 30. The Courier-Journal said:

“Weyhing was acquitted of the pigeon-stealing charge in the City Court. The prosecuting witness was absent, but judge Thompson heard other witnesses and honorably discharged Weyhing.”

Weyhing won 32 games for the Phillies in 1892, and appears to have stayed out of trouble for the remainder of his life.

He worked as a doorman at a theater and night watchman at the Louisville Water Company. He died in 1955.

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Weyhing 1950s

The Courier-Journal said in his obituary:

“He had never known a sore arm during his 15 years of top-flight pitching.”

“Radbourn Never Thought of Quitting”

10 Jun

In 1911, The International News Service published an article “written by” Hardy Richardson about “the gamest man who ever stepped in the box:” Old Hoss Radbourn.

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Richardson

Richardson said he knew Radbourn “perhaps better than anyone who played with him or against him,” but still did not know him well:

 “Really I do not believe anyone had better opportunity to penetrate the reserve of this unassuming little fellow than myself. I spent one whole winter with him near Bloomington, Illinois. We were together almost continually, hunting or knocking about the open country. But I soon realized that the more I associated with him the less I knew him.”

Richardson told a story that he said exemplified Radbourn’s determination—although after more than 20 years, he got many of the facts wrong:

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Radbourn

“It was in 1890 during the Brotherhood days.”

Radbourn faced Ward’s Wonders in Brooklyn on May 5:

“It was one of Radbourn’s few poor days, and Brooklyn simply hit him here, there, and everywhere. The smothered Radbourn by the very disconcerting score of 27 to 6 (the actual score was 20 to 4). It was one of the real slaughters of the season. But Radbourn never thought of quitting. His teammates asked him to retire but Charlie stuck to his guns. The more they hit him the harder he gritted his teeth and the harder he tried. He took his medicine like a little gentleman, without a whimper. To the taunts of Brooklyn, he would simply grunt to his teammates: ‘Well, we’ll get then yet, see if we don’t.’”

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The Box Score

Here is where Richardson’s memory fails him:

“The next day Radbourn declared he was going to pitch again. His teammates laughed at him. When he went out to warm up they thought him a fit subject for an insane asylum…But there was no stopping Radbourn. And he got his revenge on Brooklyn all right. He shut out the team that had massacred him the day before, allowing only one Brooklynite to reach first.”

Richardson was correct that Radbourn refused to leave the game on May 5. The Brooklyn Eagle said he was “plucky and refused to retire,” despite the drubbing, being hit in the neck with a pitch by Brooklyn pitcher George Van Haltren, and later being struck in the leg by a Van Haltren base hit:

“The ball that Van Haltren hit struck him fair on the shin, making a report that sounded as if the leg was broken. So hard did the ball land that it bounced back from the pitcher’s box to foul ground.”

He was also correct that Radbourn insisted on pitching the following day. The Boston Globe said:

“Radbourn was going in to pitch today.  He said he was anxious to show the Brooklyn men they were in big luck when they hit so hard the first day. Rad was very sore on Umpire Gaffney, who he says would give him nothing over the plate in the first game unless he split it in two.”

That’s where Richardson’s imagination took over. Radbourn warmed up but the game on May 6 was rained out. Bill Daley pitched the next two days for Boston, beating Brooklyn 8 to 4, and 11 to 10; Radbourn did not appear again in the series.

The 35-year-old Radbourn finished the 1890 season with a 27-12 record and 3.31 ERA and led the Reds to the Players League’s only pennant; he would only pitch one more season. Thirty-five-year-old Richardson had his last great season in 1890, hitting .328 and led the league in home runs (16) and RBI (152).

Richardson summed up his late teammate:

 “Radbourn was a man who never despaired of a victory no matter how the tide of fortune flowed. He did not know the meaning of the word ‘quit.’”

“Because Players are apt to be Foolish”

25 Jul

In 1887 John Montgomery Ward shared with The New York Sun his wisdom about what it takes for a ballplayer to get in shape.

“Gymnasium apparatus and gymnastic exercise are going out of favor among ball players for several reasons, and very few of them now attempt to keep in condition through the winter.  When you hear a player going into a gymnasium that usually means he goes in there, tries some feat and lames himself…It is not a good thing for a player to fool with the apparatus.  He does not want to develop big bunches of muscle.  What he needs is agility, suppleness, quickness of eye, hand and foot.  If he goes into a gymnasium he exercises muscles that he does not use in the field, and he either develops them at the expense of his useful muscles, so he puts too much strain upon them, thinking himself as strong in one part as another, and breaks a cord or otherwise injures himself.”

John Montgomery Ward

John Montgomery Ward

He said the gym contained “too many temptations in the apparatus for trials of strength…Because players are apt to be foolish about the use of apparatus managers now discourage gymnasium use as a rule.”

Ward said he, and others were injured in this way:

(Larry) Twitchell of the Detroits hurt his shoulder and could not pitch well afterward.  The parallel bars broke some small sinew in my shoulder and spoiled me for pitching, and I can feel the pain now when I raise my arm in a certain way. “

Larry Twitchell

Larry Twitchell was primarily an outfielder after 1887, appearing in just 23 games as a pitcher .

Ward then laid out his vision for how he would prepare a team for the season:

 “If I were training a nine, I would call the men together about two weeks before the opening of the season, and put them at work in a hand-ball court, watching them very closely.  Hand-ball is the best form of exercise they could have, excepting base ball, of course.  When you come right down to the point, no exercise is as good for a base ball player as base ball itself, but in this climate it is not practicable to put a nine at work on the diamond much before the opening of the regular season.  Hand ball comes next to the real thing, as it requires the same agility and quickness of eye, and it is much better than the gymnasium, because it is a game in itself and is full of amusement and excitement.  When the players get interested in a game of hand ball they forget that they are working, and before they know it they are perspiring, and their blood is circulating finely through all their muscles.  The throwing in this game is easy, and there is no danger of a player’s straining his arm or shoulder, as he might if he tried to make a long throw in the field after a long rest.   In catching the ball on the bound and returning it to the wall, activity is necessary, and the work is so quick that it keeps a player on a jump all through the game.  The constant striking of the ball with the palm of the hand accustoms the hand to the impact, and if it does not harden the palm it tends to deaden the nerves on the surface.

“In the handball court the pitcher and catcher and pitcher can pass the ball when not playing in the game, and so get the special practice that the battery needs.  Batting exercise should be kept up by the whole nine also.  The director of this training ought to understand the men thoroughly and adapt the exercise to their individual peculiarities.  The stout man needs to be worked hard and the thin man restrained.  A nervous man is inclined to go in too enthusiastically and do more than is good for him, while the stout, phlegmatic man is averse to exertion, and will not do enough unless he is urged.”

Ward said the parallel bars ruined him as a pitcher

Ward said the parallel bars ruined him as a pitcher

Ward said it was necessary to make players understand that each one should be treated differently when getting in condition for the season:

 “This makes the director’s position anything but pleasant.  The heavy men think that they are doing more than their share, and attribute the difference in work to partiality.  All expect to be treated alike, but that cannot be done, and it is difficult to make some players understand why the work should be varied.

“I would have the men begin to practice throwing about the 1st of March, insisting upon starting with light, easy work, and getting into it gradually.  They ought also to walk some and take short jogs out of doors.  A man may be in good gymnasium condition and still be unfit for hard outdoor work.  Indoor condition is different from outdoor condition.  Let a man work all winter in a gymnasium and then go outside and take a violent exercise, and he will surely stiffen up at first.  He must accustom himself to the open air and difference in temperature before trying to do too much outside.  Hand ball playing will put him in outdoor condition without laming him.  If he does not attend to this matter, but attempts to go right out of the gymnasium and play base ball, he will feel the effects very unpleasantly.  Last year the New York nine played a game the very next day after being called together, having had no preliminary outdoor training to harden the muscles and the next day the men were sore and lame all over.  It took them several weeks to get into condition.  They had to train in the field, and the result was the spring practice was greatly interfered with, and they did not begin the championship series in as good condition as they would have if they had received the proper amount of preliminary training.  A man just out of a gymnasium, with lots of spare flesh, feels strong and thinks he can do anything.  Before the public he will attempt to do more than his condition warrants.  He will try to throw a ball in from the field to home plate, and strain his shoulder or lame his arm so that he can’t throw worth a cent for the next week or two.  Or he will make a good hit and try to get in a home run, the result being lame legs or a strained knee that makes him almost useless for several games.  An injury to a good player at the first of the season may be thousands of dollars damage to the club, but some men do not seem to appreciate that fact.  When the St. Louis Browns were trained by Comiskey they came into the field in splendid condition, and took such a lead in the first part of the season that no club could catch up with them.  The Chicago Club was trained well last year, and won the championship.  This year the Chicago men are having five weeks of outdoor work at Arkansas Hot Springs under (Cap) Anson’s direction, and they will show up in fine form and be able to play well right from the start.

“Many ball players show up for the first game about 25 pounds overweight, and they have to work that off before they can handle themselves well.  It is not advisable to begin in what a trainer calls condition, because one soon feels tired; but neither is it well to have a great deal of extra flesh.  The exact condition to be recommended depends upon the temperament of the player, and must be decided by common-sense rules.  The subject of proper training has been too much neglected by base ball men, but it is beginning to receive attention, and eventually a system will be adopted and its observance enforced by discipline in the clubs.  Some players are sensible enough to see the importance of rational training and will take care of themselves and study up the best methods; but there are many foolish fellows who never think of anything in that line, don’t understand themselves well enough to work properly, and need to be directed and compelled to follow instructions.  The calling together of most of the clubs several weeks earlier this year than heretofore indicates that the managers are waking up to the importance of having their men fit for work at the start.”

He provided a glimpse of the type of manager he would be three years later when he le Brooklyn’s Ward’s Wonders to a second place finish in the Players League:

”Discipline ought to be more strict during the base ball season, and men should not be allowed to knock about and abuse their stomachs as many of them do.  While traveling about the country and getting frequent changes of food and water, it is difficult enough to keep the stomach right with the greatest care.  A nine has been disabled more than once by one man’s recklessness in eating.  A base ball player never ought to be seen in a barroom during the season.  He may go in to get a glass of beer, but he meets friends who insist upon treating, gets four or five drinks that do him no good and that he doesn’t want, and somebody goes about reporting that he was drunk.

“A thin player may get some benefit from a bottle of ale with his meal after the game, but he should not drink before the game; and the stout man should not drink at all, because he does not need anything of the kind.  Base ball players ought to keep regular hour also, go to bed early and get plenty of sleep, and be up by breakfast time.  This staying up until 2 in the morning and then sleeping until noon is all foolishness, and it ought to be prohibited.”

Ward’s views on training had a larger purpose, they were in keeping with his role as the leader of baseball’s first labor movement; in order for players to achieve the status the Brotherhood sought Ward knew they needed to take every aspect of the game seriously, including preparation:

“The sum and substance of the whole thing is that a base ball player must recognize the fact that base ball is a business, not simply a sport.  It is no longer just a summer snap, but a business in which capital is invested.  A base ball player is not a sporting man.  He is hired to do certain work, and do it as well as he possibly can.  The amount of his salary depends entirely on the way he does his work, and it is for his own interest to keep himself in the best condition and study how to get the best results.  If he does not know how to train himself, he should submit to the direction of somebody who understands the business.  Players are beginning to see this, but they need to see it more clearly yet.  They have been through the gymnasium experience and learned that performing feats of strength and turning on the rings is not good for them, and many of them have given up winter training on that account, but they have yet to learn that there is a proper system of exercising and training that is indispensable.  Those who do appreciate the importance of the matter are glad to see the growing interest and discussion, but the success of clubs that exercise systematically will o more than all the talking toward bringing about a general recognition of the benefits or training and the adoption of a perfect system of discipline.”

“California Wonder”

30 Apr

Two West Coast ballplayers dubbed “California Wonder” by the press made their Major League debuts less than a week apart in 1887.  One went on to be one of the best leadoff hitters of his era; the other remains almost completely unknown.

George Van Haltren was a 21-year-old left-handed pitcher, outfielder and first baseman who had played two seasons with the Oakland franchise in the California and California State Leagues.

James McMullin, birth date unknown, had pitched for Mike Finn’s San Francisco Pioneers in 1886.

Mike Finn, manager, San Francisco Pioneers

Mike Finn, manager, San Francisco Pioneers

Van Haltren’s rights were acquired by the Pittsburgh Alleghenys, but because of his mother’s illness he said he would instead play for the San Francisco Haverlys.  The Chicago White Stockings traded for Van Haltren in April, but he still refused.  The Sporting Life said “the California Wonder will not come east,” quoted him saying:

“No, I will not play with Chicago this season; but if my left arm holds out and my parents are blessed with good health I will be open to Eastern engagements next season.”

The White Stockings threatened to have him blacklisted for not reporting but Van Haltren dug his heels in; only changing his mind after his mother passed away in May.

The Chicago Inter Ocean announced that he had arrived in town on June 25 and would be making his debut for the White Stockings on the two days later:

“(Van Haltren) at one time retired the Pioneer Club of San Francisco with a hit, and struck out seventeen men.  If he can continue this record here the Chicagos will come out of the race this season with another set of figures to put on the big flag at the park.”

Van Haltren’s debut was not good.  He walked 16 Boston Beaneaters and lost 17 to 11.  He finished the season 11-7, and would spend one more season as a full-time pitcher; going 13-13 in 1888 (he was 15-10, splitting time between the mound and outfield with the Brooklyn Ward’s Wonders in the Players league in 1890).  Van Haltren would distinguish himself as one of the game’s best leadoff men, hitting better than .300 every year from 1889-1901, except for 1892 when he hit .293.

Van Haltren ended his career in 1903 with 2544 hits.

George Van Haltren

George Van Haltren

McMullin’s debut was no better than Van Haltren’s.

He began the 1887 season with the Pioneers, but was acquired in June by the new York Mutuals of the American Association.

When McMullin joined the club The Sporting Life said:

“The Mets have got their new California pitcher and like him well in practice.  He has plenty of speed.”

McMullin made his debut on July 2 against the Cincinnati Red Stockings.  The New York Times said of his performance, under the headline, “A ‘Wonder’ Exploded.  The Mets’ California Pitcher A Failure:”

“The debut of McMullen, the ‘California Wonder,’ was made (in Cincinnati) today in the presence of nearly 7,000 people, who went into hysterics from laughing at the awful exhibition given by the Wonder and his support.  He was utterly unable to get the ball over the plate and was miserably supported in the field.  After the third inning he retired to right field and there made a couple of errors.”

He gave up eight runs, made four errors and had two wild pitches in a 21-7 drubbing.

The box score from McMullin's debut.

The box score from McMullin’s debut.

McMullin only made two more appearances for the Metropolitans, and while he was credited with wins in both games his performance was no better; in his eight-day, three-game career he pitched 21 innings, gave up  25 runs (18 earned),  25 hits, walked 19, and struck out 2.  He made a total of five errors, and had one hit in 12 at bats.  The Mets released him on July 10.

And with that McMullin disappeared—there is no record of him having pitched anywhere after he left New York, there’s no record of whether he  threw and batted left-handed or right-handed, no pictures survive, and no record of when or where he died.  Another enigmatic figure of professional baseball’s early years.