Tag Archives: Buck Ewing

“And so Buck Ewing is Dead.”

12 Mar

“And so Buck Ewing is Dead.”

The New York Telegram eulogized in 1906, and pronounced him:

“The greatest ball player of them all, when all that makes a great ball player is taken into consideration.

“There was nothing that Buck Ewing could do on a ballfield without doing it well. Before he became a catcher, he was a fine infielder. After he was a catcher, he was a fine outfielder. When he was a catcher, he was a good pitcher, and there was no time in his life that he was not one of the most intelligent, if not the most intelligent right-hand batters in the history of the game.”

Ewing

It was acknowledged that “There were others who were greater sluggers,” and players with higher averages, “but there was only one Ewing, whom every pitcher feared when there were men on base.”

In addition, The Telegram said, “No ball player lived who knew more about the inside of baseball,’ and when he threw a ball it was as if:

 “He simply handed it to the baseman, with a snap which many a catcher had tried and none has equalled.”

Tom Loftus told the paper when he was managing, he was asked “why his players did not try to steal” against Ewing:

“Steal bases, what’s the use? If you give them two rods handicap for a start the second baseman would be waiting for them before they within twenty feet of the base.

“You could rob a bank easier than you can steal on this man Ewing.”

The eulogy also said, “as a matter of baseball history,” Ewing “probably made” the longest hit on record, in an 1889 game with the Cleveland Spiders. 

“Cleveland’s left field fence was so far away from home plate that no one had ever batted the ball over it, and no one expected that a hit would go over it. ‘Darby’ O’Brien, long since dead, was pitching for Cleveland. He tried to fool Ewing with a low curve on the outside corner of the platter.”

The pitcher was not Darby O’Brien, but John “Cinders” O’Brien:

“Buck swung with all his weight on the ball, and when it cleared the top board of that far away left field fence by so many feet that there was enough daylight to have prolonged the afternoon for another hour or so. The crowd in spite of its partisanship stood up and roared.

“The ball was found in the garden of a Cleveland millionaire hundreds of feet from the fence…The measures are in existence to this day, but there is little doubt that it wa the longest hit ever made in the history of professional baseball. Also, New York won because of the hit.”

In addition to identifying the wrong “O’Brien” as pitcher, The Telegram erred in the outcome of the game. Cleveland beat New York eight to six.

The game was June 22, 1889. The New York World described the moment; the Giants loaded the bases in the third inning:

“Then Buck Ewing, captain of the champions of all creation, came to bat and made the longest hit ever made on these grounds.”

The Cleveland Press said:

“(Ewing) drove it high over the left field fence, which is 478 feet from the home plate.”

The Telegram insisted in 1906 that Ewing’s homerun was “the longest hit ever made in the history of professional baseball.”

The 1922 “Spalding Guide” said of Ewing’s home run:

“(W)here the ball went after that (clearing the fence, 478 feet from home plate) never was ascertained, although it was a standing joke in Cleveland that it turned up in the repletion room of a Euclid Avenue mansion, which would not have been wholly impossible if it rolled to the corner of what was once Case Avenue.”

The 1906 eulogy concluded:

“(A) gamer man with a more magnetic personality never played professional baseball. There are thousands to whom Buck Ewing’s death will bring a feeling of sorrow that a personal friend has been taken away.”

“Harsh Language has Done More to Ruin Prospective Players”

3 Mar

In 1898, Buck Ewing, in his first season as a full-time manager told The San Antonio Light his philosophy for preparing players while his Reds trained in the Texas city:

“The regime that the Cincinnati players go through is not half as severe as the training of the pugilist. I make it a rule not to work out my men over three hours a day when we are training. With a pugilist it is the aim of his trainer to get him at his best for a certain day. To have him on edge, so as to be at his very best just as he enters the ring, the pugilist has to prepare for the event…In training a ball team you must bear in mind that there is a long siege of playing ahead of them. It won’t do to bring them to their very best to get them ‘on edge.’

“On the contrary, you must aim to have them robust and fast, and down to weight without getting them so fine that a continuous siege of playing may cause them to fall off weak.”

Buck Ewing

Ewing said he “trained hard every season since I have been in the business,” and because of that his players “do not feel that they are imposed upon.”

He said of his team:

“We have been very fortunate in having a collection of sensible, honest players. I have not found any bad feelings at any time. I have made it a practice to make every player feel that he is just as much a factor in the Cincinnatis as the oldest man.”

He said he didn’t just prepare his players physically:

“The baseball world must know that it is pretty hard for players even with years of experience to withstand the influence of the taunts of the crowd. It is one of the first lessons, I believe should be taught players, to turn a deaf ear to shouts of the attendance. Our players are especially strong in this point, although occasionally rooters do get them unbalanced.”

The Reds manager said, “No captain or manager, be him ever so great, can make a team win ball when there is lack of harmony.”

“If there are two or three men who are not speaking to each other, and who are continually talking about shirks and grumbling and muttering, it is impossible for them to play good ball. They may capture a game now and then, but for steady, reliable work they cannot be depended upon. Every man in the team should stand ready at any moment to do his best to make his nine win.”

And what was the biggest danger for the harmony of a team?

“Harsh language has done more to ruin prospective players than any other cause.”

Ewing said his club “kept uppermost in their mind,” that “there should be but one head and that he should do the ordering and they the obeying.”

That “idea” he said, portended good things for Cincinnati’s prospects in 1898:

“I have never been in a team where the players carried out this idea and were as harmonious in their work as the present one.”

The 1898 season was Ewing’s most successful as a manager—his Reds won 92 games –but finished third in the National League.

“Every one of Them has Some Eccentric Method”

10 Feb

“The players of the New York league club are the most superstitious set of men in the country.”

That was the opinion of a “well-known and veratious [sic] sporting man,” quoted by The New York Sun in 1887:

“Every one of them has some eccentric method of insuring good luck in a game.”

The “Sporting man” said he was in Philadelphia with the Giants and “happened to walk across the field,” and saw on the ground where Patrick Gillespie played:

“Signs traced on the earth apparently with a small stick. The first was a simple angle with a dot in the middle, followed by a long straight line, at the other end of which was another dot and a straight line running in a direction at right angles to the long one. I studied these hieroglyphics for some time and concluded that the perpendicular line and the one beside it meant the bat and ball and the straight line meant the course of the ball after it was hit. The angle represented Gillespie and hands in the act of gobbling up the ball. It was drawn with the view of illustrating just what the left fielder hoped would happen. I am told Gillespie never plays a game without this little symbol marked at his feet.”

The area around where Buck Ewing played was “covered with fragments of toothpicks” because Ewing thought “runners’ trip over these in coming to his base.” With a left-handed hitter at the plate, John Montgomery Ward “put his left foot forward” at short.

Ward

Pitcher Tim Keefe, when taking “possession of his box he carefully expectorates at all four corners and makes with the toe of his right boot first a dot then a long wavy line and then a final dot.” The dots and line “approximated” his curve ball.

Danny Richardson would make a mark “straight across” the infield “as if to bar the progress of runners. Every time a run gets in Richardson rubs out his mark and makes a fresh one longer and thicker.”

Roger Connor would “never stand perfectly still for fear his luck would go to sleep” while playing first base. Connor was also said to “stealthily apply this mark with chalk on the back of the first man that reaches his base: Z X 0-0. By some occult reasoning holds that the Z being the final letter in the alphabet that the player has reached the end of run-getting” and that the zeros somehow represented the number of runs the opponents would score:

“Nobody ever understood this but Connor, whose faith in the device is so great that he actually turns pale if the first runner goes by his base on a two-base hit, thus preventing him from writing his inscription.”

Connor

Center fielder Mike Tiernan would stand on his left foot and say “’I will never tell a lie,’ and then change to the right foot and add ‘if I catch the next fly.’” While right fielder Mike Dorgan, when he came to the plate, “pulls his hat over his eyes, rubs his hands together, and strikes the ground three times with the stick.”

After dropping his mask once and later in the game tearing a finger and spraining an ankle, Jim O’Rourke, if he “were to drop his mask before putting it on he would not play the game.”

The superstitions and hoodoos did not appear to work, the Giants finished fourth, 10 ½ games back in 1887.

“An Awkward Bunch of Monkeys”

24 Dec

Arlie Latham was the oldest living former major leaguer in 1951—the 91-year-old made his major league debut 71 years earlier.

Will Grimsley of The Associated Press tracked down “The Freshest Man of Earth” and had him pick his all-time all-star team:

“(Latham) has seen them all from Cap Anson right down to Joe DiMaggio and Stan Musial.

“’It is tough picking this team,’ said the thin, bent old infielder of baseball’s cradle days, whose memory is still razor-sharp. ‘There are so many good players—so many, especially today.”

Unlike many 19th Century veterans, Latham only selected three players whose careers began before 1900. He said:

“I think the players today are far better than back in the old times. Why, on the whole there is no comparison. Where we had one or two stars on a team back then today every man has to be standout to hold his position.”

Latham at 91

Latham’s team:

P: Cy Young, Rube Waddell, Carl Hubbell, Christy Mathewson

C: Bill Dickey

1B: Bill Terry

2B; Frankie Frisch

#B: Pie Traynor

SS: Honus Wagner

OF Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Joe DiMaggio

Latham called Cobb, “the greatest all-around player there was.”

He gave Terry the nod over Lou Gehrig because “he was a smoother fielder.”

Buck Ewing was the only catcher “he’d mention in the same breath” as Dickey.

He said “it was hard” to keep Walter Johnson off.

Of his own career, Latham said:

“I was the best man of my day at getting out of the way of a hard-hit ball.”

Arlie Latham

He called the players of his era, “an awkward bunch of monkeys.”

Latham died the following year at age 92.

“Fifty bucks, Buck”

10 Feb

Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Tribune called Buck Ewing “the greatest of them all,” after Ewing died in 1906.

Fullerton said, “Ewing stories will be told for generations,” and shared one about a bet with Mike “King” Kelly.

”It happened back in the days when the players of the different clubs were friendly and met at night to discuss and argue over their games instead of sulking separately and discussing their woes.”

ewing

Ewing

He said that day, Kelly had stolen two bases “off the king of catchers,” and Kelly, “kept harping on it until Buck was a bit nettled.”

Ewing told Kelly:

“Well Mike, if Danny Richardson plays second tomorrow, I’ll bet you $50 you don’t steal a base.”

Kelly took the bet, and Fullerton said the following day “three or four of us who knew of the bet sat together in the stands.”

 

kelly

Kelly

Kelly singled in the third inning:

“(O)n the first ball pitched; he tore for second with a fair start. Buck threw. The ball went like a shot, straight towards the bag, perhaps three feet up the line towards first, a perfect throw to catch any runner—except Kelly. Richardson got the ball five feet ahead of the runner. He was stooped over and swung his body quickly to tag Mike, he expecting the King to make one of his famous twisting slides. Instead, Kelly leaped, jumped clear over Richardson, and lighted flat on his back on top of second base.

“Above the roar of the crowd arose Kelly’s voice, and what he said was this:

“Fifty bucks, Buck.”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things: Clark Griffith

3 Feb

Griff out West

Griffith loved to tell stories about his time playing in Montana, one story the “truthfulness” of he “vouched” he told The Cleveland Leader in 1912:

leetgriffith

Griffith

“The scene was at Butte, back in the nineties (1892), and the story resulted from a baseball game between Missoula and Butte at the latter town. There were a lot of gamblers in Butte who wanted to back the team, so about $5000 was bet on the game.”

Griffith was on the mound for Missoula:

“Everything went along nicely for a while, with a monster crowd on hand hollering for everything it was worth for Butte to win.

“In the ninth inning Missoula was leading by one run, but after two were out Butte got a man on third and then the catcher let the ball get away from him. It rolled a short distance, but when the catcher went to retrieve it one bug leaned over the stand with a six-shooter in his hand. ‘Touch that ball and you are dead,’ he shouted. And the catcher stood stock still in his tracks.”

Griffith said the players “were scared stiff” and watched the tying run cross the plate. He claimed Missoula scored in the 10th and won the game 5 to 4.

Griff on Lajoie

In 1900, Griffith and Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Tribune were watching Napoleon Lajoie take ground balls during practice:

“He looks less like a ballplayer, handles himself less like an infielder, goes at a ball in the strangest style, and gets them more regularly than any fellow I ever watched. He fights every ball he picks up, scoops them with without looking, and keeps me nervous all the time.

lajoie

Napoleon Lajoie

“Every time a grounder goes down to him, I want to bet about three to one he will fumble, but he always gets them. He has some system for making the ball hit his hands which I don’t understand. And I’ll tell you a secret: He has a system of making his bat hit a ball which drives pitchers to drink.”

Griff’s All-Time Team

In “Outing Magazine” in 1914, Griffith presented his all-time team:

P: Amos Rusie

P: Walter Johnson

P: Cy Young

P: Christy Mathewson

C: Buck Ewing

1B: Charles Comiskey

2B: Eddie Collins

3B: Jimmy Collins

SS: Herman Long

LF: Bill Lange

CF: Tris Speaker

RF: Ty Cobb

Griffith’s most surprising pick was choosing Comiskey over his former teammate and manager Cap Anson. He told the magazine:

“(Comiskey) was the first man to see the possibilities of the position. Before his day a first baseman was only a basket. He stood glued to the bag, received the balls thrown to him, but never moved away.”

Charles Comiskey

Charles Comiskey

He said Anson, “Although a great player, was not Comiskey’s equal.”

He chose Long over Honus Wagner he said, because “Hans has a barrel of ability, but he’s not such a foxy player as many persons think, but he is a wonderful batter.”

Griffith called Jimmy Collins, “The most graceful fielding third baseman the game has ever seen,” and said Tris Speaker ”is the most remarkable outfielder that ever lived.”

As for his chosen catcher, Griffith said:

“Buck Ewing never has known an equal as a catcher. I call him the best ballplayer the world ever has known. The only man who approached him was Mike Kelly of the old Chicago White Sox, Kelly too, was a wonder, but not quite equal to Ewing.”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #39

15 Jan

A Useful Skill

Vernon Deck hit .297 over parts of seven seasons for eight teams in the low minors from 1927 to 1938.

deck.jpg

Deck

His one particular talent allowed him to be a featured member of the House of David club; barnstorming with the religious sect in the mid-1930s, and again briefly in the early 40s.

Deck’s talent was described in the HODs press materials as:

“The only man who can put a regulation baseball in his mouth.”

vernondeck.jpg

Deck demonstrating his skill

Advice for Baseballists

In 1884, The St. Louis Critic shared a list of “Advice for Baseballists.”

Among their suggestions:

“Try to hit the ball before it passes beyond the range of your bat.”

“If it hits you on the end of the nose do not try to knock it off.  Have a little patience and it will fall off.”

“If it should become embedded in your brain, go on with the game as if nothing had happened.”

“Don’t let the bat slip from your hands when you miss the ball unless you are certain it will hit the umpire.”

“Never knock a ball out of the catcher’s hands. Most catchers don’t like it.”

“If you can manage it, try to send the ball among the spectators. They like to be noticed.”

“Always sneer at the pitcher of a rival club. It makes him feel good. If he plugs you in the eye, you must take it as a joke.”

“When you make a good strike, throw your bat in the air, look at the spectators, appear perfectly cool, and get put out.”

Baseball has Peaked, 1885 Version

In 1885, “An old baseballist,” told The Rochester Post-Express:

“(T)the game has lost interest to spectators.”

The reason?

“(B)y reason of the fact that it has become a mere battle of the pitchers.”

The “old baseballist” predicted:

“The American game of the future will be base ball with no pitcher. The ball will be sprung from a ground trap, and the best batters and fielders will win on a uniformly delivered ball for both sides. This will reawaken the old-time interest in the game.”

Another Useful Skill

In 1896, The Cincinnati Post reported that a local resident named Alvin Pietz had a sent a letter to Reds manager Buck Ewing requesting that Ewing get him appointed to the National League umpire staff—citing a particular skill”

ewing

Ewing

“I am very familiar with the rules and I am noted for the way I enforce discipline. I should like to tackle the Cleveland team the first day, and if I don’t control the game something will drop. I am a hypnotist, like Billy Earle, so you can see I can control most of the bullies.”

billyearle1905

Billy Earle

The paper concluded Pietz’ chance of being appointed remained “decidedly slim.”

“So, Great Buck Ewing is Dead”

21 Aug

“So, great Buck Ewing is dead.”

That was Sam Thompson’s reaction when told by The Detroit News that Ewing had died at age 47.

Ewing was less than five months older than Thompson, who had come out of retirement to play in eight games for the Tigers just two months earlier.

“They’re slipping away, aren’t they, those fine old fellows who by their head work and lovable natures made the game what it is today! It was such men as Ewing, (Tim) Keefe, (Roger) Connor and a score of others who inspired me.”

buck2.jpg

Ewing

Although roughly the same age, Ewing was in the major leagues for five seasons before Thompson made his debut:

“As a boy I used to read of the great Ewing, and I set him up as my ideal. He and Connor were always my idols.  Later, when I began to play in the big leagues and (later) went to Philadelphia, I roomed with Roger (in 1892), my acquaintance with—while it in no way lessened my regard for him—sort of pulled him from the pedestal. Ewing, however, I never became so closely attached to, and there was always the baseball idol worship about the man for me.”

thompson

Thompson

Thompson said when he did interact with Ewing, it added “to this setting him higher as the ideal” of a baseball player:

“He was such a whole-souled, lovable chap. His wonderful work on the diamond in no way affected his disposition. He was always modest and retiring.”

And he said:

“There never lived a greater catcher or all -around ballplayer.

“Mike Kelly? Well, Kelly was a grand ballplayer all right, but he was the cunning player, the fellow with startling tricks. Ewing, on the other hand, was the thinker, the deep student of the game. His was the inside game. No player ever lived who could play the same kind of game that Kelly put up, but Ewing was of the different type. He was the more consistent thinker.”

Thompson said he believed Ewing was “the first catcher to get the infield signaling down t anything like a system,” and:

“He was the pioneer of present-day headwork behind the bat. He always had us hugging the bases. He devised tricks that are now common in baseball. They were figured out long before the game started. Kelly’s greatness, on the other hand, lay in his marvelous ability to grasp a situation quicker than lightning.”

He said when he played “with the old Detroit team we used to anxiously await who going to catch,” for the Giants:

“If it was (William ‘California’) Brown there was a sigh of relief. Not that we were belittling the work of Brown; it was simply that Ewing was so much better. He dazzled us. He had the infield under his control all the time. He had tricks of pulling us off the sacks that were new and we did not know what to do. That old Detroit bunch could win with Brown catching almost any day in the week, but with Ewing it was different.”

One man was responsible for New York’s success:

“It was Buck Ewing who won all those championships for the old Giants.

“Tim Keefe stood out as a wonderful pitcher. It was Keefe and Ewing. That old battery was the talk of the country.

“And yet Tim Keefe told me time and again, when they were at their best, that without Buck Ewing he would be no better than any other fairly good pitcher.

“’It’s all Buck,’ he would say, ‘he’s the boy who steadies me and gets the work done.”

Thompson’s first major league game—July 2, 1885–was against the Giants, with Keefe on the mound (although he misremembered Ewing being behind the plate that day—it was Pat Deasley):

“I don’t recall whether I did anything in the game (Thompson replaced Gene Moriarty in right field after the latter was in the 5th inning, he was 1 for 2 and scored a run) but I do remember we won. We beat the Giants 4 to 0.

“That victory did more for me among the players than any one thing. They called me their mascot. New York had been beating them right along.”

 

Thompson said when he left the Phillies in 1898, he nearly played for Ewing:

“I had left Philadelphia and had decided to give up the game. Ewing was then managing the Reds and wrote me asking if I would come to Cincinnati. He said he thought he could put through a deal whereby I could sign up all right.

“I was sorely tempted, as I had always wanted to play in Cincinnati. I had always been given a good reception there and had played some of my best games there.

“I didn’t accept, however. I thought that I might not do as well as I had, and I didn’t want to show poorly after all the good work I had done in that city.”

“The only Great Game in the Country”

7 Aug

Smiling Mickey Welch spent his post-baseball years operating various businesses in Holyoke, Massachusetts, but visited Boston and New York often—until he eventually moved back to New York.

mickeywelch

Welch

In 1908, Welch, “one of the most famous pitchers of half a generation ago,” talked to Tim Murnane, the baseball writer for The Boston Globe, on a trip to visit his former teammate Tim Keefe in Cambridge, Massachusetts:

“’It certainly seems to me,’ said Welch a few days ago, ‘That the players of today have nothing over the stars of the past. I’m not at all prejudiced and I believe that I am at least fairly competent to judge, as I have kept right up with the many changes that have been made since I left the business.”

Murnane said of Welch:

“Mickey finished his career in the baseball world 15 years ago [sic, 16], but he still retains his deep interest in the great national game, and each season always plans to come to Boston or to go to New York to watch the work of the present-day players and compare them with those of his time, when by his superb work in the pitcher’s box he assisted in winning a couple of pennants and world championships for Gotham.”

Welch, who had just sold his salon in Holyoke, “to engage in the milk business with his oldest son, Frank,” asked Murnane:

welch.jpg

Welch, with wife Mary and seven of the couple’s nine children

“Where, for instance, is there today any greater baseball player than Buck Ewing was? Ah, he was the greatest of ‘em all—indeed the grandest that the game has ever known. Universally acknowledged by all followers of the sport as the king of catchers, he also shone in other departments, for he was a hard natural hitter, could run bases with the top-notchers and could play any of the infield or outfield positions as well as any of the regulars holding down those berths.”

Welch said he and Ewing—who died in October of 1906–were “the warmest of friends for years and that friendship dated from the days when as a member of the Troy team, I first became acquainted with him while he was with the Rochester club (in 1880).”

Welch said from the day Ewing joined Troy later that season and after they went to New York together when the Trojans disbanded after the 1882 season:

buck

Ewing

“Buck and I were chums and for all that time used to room together.”

Murnane said that Welch, who “always made it a point to take the very best care of himself,” was in “as splendid condition,” as he was when he pitched:

“One of his favorite hobbies is walking, and on every pleasant day in the fall and winter he and Jack Doyle, also a famous old-time ball tosser, may be seen setting from the Welch home to take a jaunt to Mt. Tom, which is between Holyoke and the neighboring town of Northampton.”

Some nights Murnane said the two went out in the evening and “they sit for hours and talk over the good old days when they were players of mark in the fastest company.”

After all of those talks with Doyle about their days in baseball, he maintained:

“I’m throwing no bouquets at myself but have there ever been any better pitchers than Tim Keefe, John Clarkson and Charlie Radbourn? I say ‘no’ emphatically. Then look at the rest. Dan Brouthers has never been excelled as a batsman and I don’t believe he ever will be. He could land a ball farther and with less apparent effort than any ballplayer that ever swung a bat. I faced him many a time and I could never discover that he had any weakness.

“(Cap) Anson was also a fine hitter, as were Deacon White, Hardy Richardson, Jim O’Rourke, Mike Tiernan, (Ed) Delahanty, and George Gore, to say nothing of a dozen more whom I might mention. Jerry Denny has never been excelled as a third baseman, and Johnny Ward is the headiest man that has ever played shortstop. ‘Dickie’ Johnston, pride of Boston for years, and Curt Welch of the old St. Louis Browns and (Jimmy) McAleer of the Clevelands were easily the most brilliant outfielders of the past.”

Welch also believed “the best club in the history of the game,’ were the 1888 and 1889 Giants—Welch was 26-19 1.93 in ’88 and 27-12 3.02 in 1889 for those New York teams.

“Buck Ewing was the captain, and a magnificent one he was too. Buck used to catch nearly all of the games.”

Welch said of the team:

“We won the pennant rather easily in the National League in ’88, and fully as easily beat out the St. Louis Browns for the world’s flag. But the next season of ’89, we had to go some right up to the very last notch to pull away from the Bostons in the National League, the championship not being decided until the final day of the season when we won in Indianapolis while the Bostons lost in Pittsburgh. Then we met the Brooklyns, champions of the American Association. In a series of nine games, we won five”

Welch got two details wrong; while 1889 was the first pennant decided on the season’s final day and Boston did lose to the Pittsburgh Alleghenys, the Giants beat the Cleveland Spiders that day; also, in the series the Giants won six of the nine games with Brooklyn.

Welch vowed to Murnane, “I shall never lose my interest,” in “the only great game in the country.”

 

“One of the Greatest Shortstops the Game has ever Known.”

26 Dec

Ed McKean had played 12 years in Cleveland before being part of the mass player transfer to the St. Louis Perfectos before the 1899 season.  The career .302 hitter was struggling, and according to The Cleveland Plain Dealer, he requested his release:

“Ed is very sensitive to criticism, and the papers have been roasting him lately, until he got into such a nervous state that he couldn’t play ball a little bit.”

Buck Ewing said he was “forced out of the game,” and “one of the greatest shortstops the game has ever known.”

McKean’s release opened the door for Hall of Famer Bobby Wallace’s switch to shortstop.

mckean

Edward [sic Edwin] J. McKean

McKean, like his former teammate Cupid Childs had a large build, and according to the St. Louis papers needed to shed a few pounds to get back into playing shape.

The St. Louis Republic said McKean intended to spend the next several months preparing to “play in Cleveland” the following season.

McKean, said The Buffalo Courier, had a “peculiar stand at the bat,” which “often balked” pitchers

“Instead of striking the conventional side or profile position in the batman’s box.  McKean gave the twirler a three-quarter view of his burly figure.”

The paper also said before becoming a ballplayer McKean had made a name for himself as a wrestler—contemporary news accounts occasionally referred to him as “Sandow,” because of his physique; a reference to Eugen Sandow the “father of modern bodybuilding”

McKean filled his time away from baseball by becoming a wrestling and boxing referee in Cleveland—if he was looking for a job that shielded him from criticism, he chose wrong.  McKean served as referee for at Cleveland’s Business Men’s Gym, between Art Simms and Tommy White in December on 1899.  The St. Louis Republic described the situation:

“Sandow Ed McKean, the burly grounder-copper, who secured a divorce from St. Louis on the ground of incompatibility of temperament, finds life as a referee of pugilistic encounters no less a bed of roses than playing short before a critical local crowd…Experts and common spectators asseverate that White was a winner by a mile, but Sandow fumbled the points of the game, let the strikes registered by White go over without calling them, and said it was a draw.  The people yelled for a rope, and McKean thought he was again staggering at short in League Park…It was not the hated yet harmless ‘Take him out!’ that was heard, but ‘Hang the robbing rascal.’”

McKean was accused of “being in cahoots” with Simms’ manager, who the paper said was a former Boston sportswriter who McKean knew from his playing days.

White hailed from Chicago, and one of his hometown papers The Inter Ocean was even harsher in their assessment of McKean.  The paper claimed:

“(White) took Mr. Art Simms in hand and administered probably the most terrific beating that had been handed out to a pretentious lightweight in recent years…(but) McKean, who used to be a fair sort of infielder, under Patsy Tebeau, called the bout a draw.”

The Chicago paper not only questioned McKean’s integrity but claimed that three of the four recent fights he had refereed “have been marked by decisions almost as ludicrous.”

Curiously, both papers failed to mention that Simms had participated in three of the four fights in question—coming away with a 2-0-1 record for the three bouts (Simms was 33-14-9 for his career and 5-0-1 in fights officiated by McKean.)

Throughout the 1900 season McKean’s imminent return was reported—usually bound for the Cleveland Lake Shores in the American League.  The Sporting News said in June:

“McKean is hard at work practicing to get into the game.  He goes to League Park every day, and the way that he works indicates that he is not out there for fun.”

Cleveland used six different shortstops during the 1900 season, but McKean was never signed.  Published reports that he would sign with the New York Giants never materialized either.

mckean2

McKean

His sitting out the entire season might have saved a life—while working at his bar The Short Stop Inn on St. Clair Avenue and Seneca (present day Third Street) in Cleveland in August of 1900, he, according to press reports, stop a potential lynching.

The Cleveland News said a news boy threw a rock at a black man, and when the man confronted the rock thrower:

“(Twenty) news boys took up the trouble. They followed the negro threatening him until he turned on them (near McKean’s saloon).”

Another confrontation took place in front of the saloon and “a volley of stones were fired at” the man who then ran into McKean’s business.

“Other newsies joined their companions until 150 boys were standing in front of the place.  Their noise attracted a crowd of men and all became excited when they explained that a negro had attacked them.

“’It’s nothing but a boys fight,’ said McKean, trying to quiet the crowd.  But he did not succeed.  Men and boys collected stones and clubs, and the situation was becoming dangerous when McKean took the negro out the back way while employees guarded the front entrance.  McKean boosted the man over the back fence and he made his escape through Noble Street.”

McKean spent all of 1901 managing his bar, working as a referee—without any further charges of crookedness—and training wrestlers; Although The Cleveland Leader reported in the spring that McKean was again working out at League Park and had “many offers from the American League.”

He finally returned to baseball in 1902, signing to manage and play first base for the Rochester Bronchos in the Eastern League.

McKean hit .314 but the club struggled all season and The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle said McKean had for some time “wanted to be released from the team” to attend to his bar.  His wish was granted on August 18—with the team in sixth place with a 42-53 record, he was replaced by Hal O’Hagan—the team went 15-21 under O’Hagan.

McKean returned to his bar, managing wrestlers, and umpiring amateur games in 1903 and 1904, all the while, promising another comeback.  Several newspapers reported he was either considering, or on the verge of joining various minor league clubs as manager.

He returned again in 1905.  McKean signed to manage and play shortstop for the Colorado Springs Millionaires in the Western League. He struggled at the plate—hitting .191 in 22 games–and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said his arm was gone and he was “slated for the junk pile.”  Released by Colorado Springs in June, McKean appeared with seven more teams through the 1908 season: the 44-year-old called it quits for at the end of the 1908 season.

McKean refereed the occasional fight, organized semi-pro teams around Cleveland, and maintained his bar, which was the meeting place for baseball, boxing, and wrestling fans.  At some point he appears to have closed his bar and gone to work for Cleveland boxing promoter

When he died in 1919, The New York Sun noted that McKean was:

“(O)ne of four big league shortstops who had a life’s average batting .300 or better.  Jack Glasscock, Hughie Jennings, and Honus Wagner were the others, and it might be added that this quartet were classed as the greatest shortstops in the game.”