Tag Archives: Butte Miners

“Piggy Ward, and Rightly Nicknamed is he”

15 May

After his off-season heroics, pulling an Altoona, Pennsylvania man from a fire, Piggy Ward, having been released by the Washington Senators, joined the Scranton Coal Heavers in the Eastern League for the 1895 season; The Scranton Times called him, “a very good man and will be heard from on the lines.”

He quickly became popular with his new club. The Scranton Tribune said:

“(He is) clearly a favorite with the unwashed bleacher—or, with the grandstand, for that matter…He is large bodied, somewhat round shouldered and looks awkward in repose. In action he is one of the quickest on the team and plays and steals bases with a vim and action that is refreshing.”

He hit .357—45 players with at least 200 at bats hit better than .300 that season in the Eastern League—The Sporting News said his manager found a way to get the most out of Ward:

“(Billy) Barnie gave him instructions to be in bed at least two nights a week. A little sleep and less booze and Ward is all right.”

 

ward1902

Ward caricature, 1902

His “coaching” did not seem to change, and on several occasions, according to the Scranton newspapers, he was ordered off the field “for offensive coaching.” And he was unpopular in the other league cities.

After Ward was thrown out of a game with the Rochester Browns in the third inning, The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle said:

“’Piggy’ Ward, and rightly nicknamed is he.”

He was even less liked in Buffalo; The Courier said: “Ward is one of the most offensive coachers extant, and he would gain friends by bottling some of his exuberant flow of nonsense.” While The Enquirer was even less charitable:

“(H)is calliope-like voice is about as musical as a dynamite blast in a stone quarry. He evidently imagines he is pretty all right as a ‘kidder,’ but what he doesn’t know about being funny would fill several large volumes. Altogether as a joker, ‘Piggy’ is a rank, dismal, decided failure.”

The Tribune noted that the second baseman was a bit eccentric in other ways as well:

“Ward has a nondescript practice uniform which is a cross between the scant apparel of a Feeje [sic] islander and the hay-making garb of a farmer. It consists of a white negligee coat cut like a robe de chambre and reaching to the knees, a pair of loose trousers of the same color which reach to the shoe tops, a white cap and a sleeveless undershirt that is open to the waist.”

In 1896, Ward was again in Scranton, and he had vowed in the off season to be in the best shape of his life. In a letter to The Tribune he said he spent the winter “handling a pair of spirited mules,” and expected to report to Scranton weighing 185 pounds, down from his 217 the previous season. The paper said he appeared to have lost 20 pounds from the previous season upon his arrival.

wardsuit

Piggy Ward

Also, in 1896, his one-man “coacher” show became a two-man show when Arlie Latham, released by the St. Louis Browns in mid May, joined the Coal Heavers. The Springfield (MA) News was one of the rare league newspapers that thought it was good thing:

“With two such comedians…the Scranton team ought to prove a great drawing card on the circuit, The Springfield crowd are anxious for Scranton series here.”

Neither made it through the season, Latham was released July 17, Ward, one month later.  When Ward signed with the Toronto Canadians, The Wilkes Barre Record said:

“Ward is a great batter and base runner. There we quit.”

The Wilkes Barre News said:

“(Ward) is just where he belongs on that gang of Toronto hoodlums.”

Al Buckenberger’s Canadians were considered to be the dirtiest team in the league, The Springfield Union said with the addition of Ward:

“The opponent that gets around first base now without being tripped is lucky to get past Piggy Ward in safety and is sure to be blocked or tripped at third by Jud Smith.”

After the 1896 season, some of the papers in the Eastern League cities suggested rules changes to eliminate Ward’s type of “coaching.” The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle said:

“The majority of ‘fans’ take as much delight in lively, witty coaching, such as has made Arlie Latham and Billy Clymer famous…There need not be anything offensive in aggressive work by men on the lines…but all players are not like Clymer (and Latham) and that big beast s like ‘Pig’ Ward make themselves obnoxious by their actions and language when in the coacher’s box.”

The Syracuse Herald suggested adopting a rule “ousting ‘Pig’ Ward and others of his ilk from the game entirely.”

Whether it was an attempt to improve his image or a function of playing on a smaller stage—with his hometown Lancaster Maroons in the Atlantic League and the Mansfield Haymakers in the Interstate League—Ward seemed to stay fairly quiet and avoid controversy among the press in the league cities from 1897 through 1899.

The 5’ 9” Ward seems to have played in his later years at between 220 and 230 pounds from various reports. Frank Rinn, who managed Ward for the three seasons in Lancaster talked to The Hartford Courant about him:

“Although he is heavy and sluggish Piggy has more ginger than a dozen ordinary players. Rinn was telling the other day how hard it was to get Ward to train…He was sent out to coach once and he pulled a cushion out from under his shirt and had a good seat on the ground.”

Ward bounced from no less than eight teams between 1900 and 1905, including playing for John McCloskey again—in 1902 in Pacific Northwest League with the Butte Miners—Ward stayed with the McCloskey for the entire season this time—winning a championship and receiving a gold watch and chain at season’s end for being voted by fans as the team’s most popular player in a promotion for a local jeweler. He also led the league with a .332 batting average; only seven players in the six-team Pacific Northwest circuit hit .300 or better that season.

wardkellybutte1903

Ward and Butte Miners teammate Thomas Kelly in 1903.

The Cincinnati Times Star, still not recovered from his tenure with the Reds nearly a decade earlier said of Ward winning the watch:

“The booby prize was the best Ward could have captured in a similar contest during his stay in this city.”

In 1903, Ward reverted to some of his old ways.  With an already signed contract to return to Butte and a $100 advance in his pocket, he signed a contract and collected a $100 advance from the Portland Browns in the upstart Pacific Coast League. He ended up back in Butte, and when McCloskey left the club to manage the San Francisco Pirates, he told the Butte newspapers that Ward, who was already the team captain, was his choice to succeed him as manager; the club instead named shortstop Billy Kane manager.

When rumors swirled in 1905 that the cash-strapped Pacific National League might cut player salaries, The Spokane Chronicle said Ward tried to form a player’s union chartered by the American Labor Union which was formed in 1898 as the Western Labor Union to create a federation of mine workers. The rumored pay cuts never came, nor did the union.

Ward was reported to have died in January of 1906; the news made all the Philadelphia dallies and several other East Coast papers, and over the next month spread West.  The papers had confused Piggy—Frank G. Ward—with Frank P. Ward, a former amateur player who had died in Newark, N.J.

Ward was seriously injured that same winter when working as an electrician; he was shocked and fell from a pole.

The news of his death—despite being corrected in the papers—and the accident, were enough to make many believe Ward had died. When he traveled to Chicago in August of 1911 for former teammate Charles Comiskey’s birthday, The Chicago Daily News said Comiskey was shocked to see Ward, “whom he thought was dead.”

The not-dead Ward did not play professionally in 1906—the Frank Ward who appeared with the Glens Falls-Saratoga Springs team in the Hudson River League—listed among Ward’s career statistics on Baseball Reference—is a different Frank Wad.

He was hired in 1907 as an umpire in the Northwestern League. The Butte News celebrated the move:

“’Piggy’ promises to be as popular an umpire as he was a player…He is firm, has a good voice, and is known to all the of the Northwest, and President (William Henry) Lucas made a 10-strike when he appointed him  on the league staff.”

He lasted just two games. The Spokane Press said he:

“(B)roke down completely last night. This morning he was almost a nervous wreck. A collection was taken up among the ballplayers and he was sent back to his home in Scranton, Pennsylvania”

The paper said Ward’s wife had suggested he take the position because it might “build him up,” after the electrocution, but the stress was “too much for him.”

Four months after Ward’s reunion with Comiskey, The Pittsburgh Gazette Times said he was “near death,” a pitiable wreck,” suffering from “brain disease,” in an Altoona hospital.

Ten months later, on October 23, 1912, 45-year-old Piggy Ward died. The Altoona Tribune called him “one of the most famous diamond stars in the land,” and said:

“He possessed several expensive pins, a beautiful watch, and other jewelry presented to him by admirers when he was thrilling fandom with his feats.”

“I Believe Beyond Doubt he would be the Greatest Manager of All Time”

20 May

By 1911,  “Honest John” McCloskey was in his 22nd season as a manager; five in the major leagues.  Those five seasons were less than successful.

John

John

He led the Louisville Colonels to a 35-96 record in 1895, and was dismissed the following season after a 2-17 start; In three seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals from 1906-1908, he was 52-98, 52-101, and 49-105—he also apparently had a bizarre aversion to blond hair.

In those 22 seasons, he won just two championships–in class “B” Pacific National League, but despite a rather inauspicious record, Hugh Fullerton believed McCloskey one was one of the greatest minds in the game.

Hugh Fullerton

Hugh Fullerton

Writing in “The American Magazine” that summer, Fullerton said:

“John McCloskey, one of the greatest tacticians in baseball, has worked out the theory of coaching, both from the bench and from the lines to an exact science.  Yet McCloskey has not been successful because the players lack the quickness and the brains to follow his orders.  If he could find men who could think and act quickly enough to obey his signals.  I believe beyond doubt he would be the greatest manager of all time.”

McCloskey’s genius, according to Fullerton, was enough to overcome one thing:

“One great trouble in the McCloskey system is that players are not yet educated to the point where they cease independent thinking and obey orders…After every blunder of a ballplayer, the reason assigned is ‘I thought.’ Besides that, the fewer brains a player has and the less he knows of the science of the game, the more liable he is to scoff at the theorist and ridicule or ignore the wigwag system.”

As an example of McCloskey’s players not living up to their manager’s intelligence and ridiculing his “system”, Fullerton related a story from the previous season when McCloskey led the Milwaukee Brewers to a 76-91 sixth place finish in the American Association.

“(A) Milwaukee batter drove a ball down into the left field corner of the grounds.  The ball was in the shortstop’s hands when the runner reached third base.”

According to Fullerton “the excited coacher” missed McCloskey’s signal to hold the runner:

“(H)e urged (the runner) onward, and he was thrown out 30 feet from the plate.  McCloskey…slid down until the back of his head was resting on the bench and his feet were six feet away on the ground, his body rigid.  A cruel substitute, gazing at his manager, asked: ‘What’s that, Mac, a signal to slide feet first?’”

McCloskey’s Butte Miners finished third in the Union Association in 1911.  He managed 13 more seasons in the minor leagues through 1932.  He won just one more pennant, leading a team to the class “D” Southwestern  League championship in 1924—not only was the team “educated” enough to “cease independent thinking” and win for McCloskey, but they did so playing home games in three different towns;  they played in Newton, Kansas until July, relocated to Blackwell, Oklahoma for a month, then finished the season in Ottawa, Kansas.

 

Cy Swain

8 Jun

Charles R. “Moose” “Cy” Swain was for a short time, one of the best-known players on the West Coast and his brief time as the West’s home run king is all but forgotten.

Born in Palo Alto, California, Swain made his professional debut with San Jose franchise in the California State League in 1904.  Years later, Mike Steffani, San Jose manager, told The San Jose Evening News that his “discovery” of Swain was an accident.

Steffani was in need of a shortstop, and Swain’s brother Ira, who played at Stanford University,  was recommended to him by pitcher Win Cutter.  Cy, who accompanied his brother to San Jose, played first while Steffani worked out Ira at short.  Steffani said he told Cutter:

“I think young Cy is the best player.  I like the way he handles the ground balls.  He acts like (Charles) Truck Eagan to me.”

Cy Swain was signed.  Ira was sent home.

Charles "Cy" Swain

Charles “Cy” Swain

Swain was called “a hard hitter,” who struck out often.  He also apparently enjoyed a drink.  After hitting a disappointing .239 for the Spokane Indians in The Northwestern League in 1907, Swain was traded to the Butte Miners.

In announcing the news, The Spokane Press said, “Charley isn’t exactly a temperance man.”   The paper said that when the Spokane owner sent him a contract with a temperance clause, Swain wired back, “Send me two of those; I may break one.”

Swain, who also struggled with weight issues, went from Butte to the Tacoma Tigers, then the Vancouver Beavers.

In July of 1910, he was leading the league with a .298 batting average when the Washington Senators offered $1800 for his contract.  The Vancouver Daily World said the offer was turned down.  The club’s owner/manager/shortstop Bob Brown told the paper:

“That pennant looks awfully good to me, and until I have it clinched I intend to hold the team intact.  There have been numerous other clubs after Charlie’s services, but they will all have to wait until the season is over.”

Swain slumped badly the rest of the year and finished with a .250 average (and a league-leading 11 home runs). The Beavers finished second, six and a half games behind the Spokane Indians.

Despite Swain’s sluggish finish and questions about his weight—The Seattle Star said he was “carrying 220 pounds”– Washington purchased his contract at the end of the season.  Just before he reported to the team in Atlanta in February of 1911, The Washington Herald said:

“There is a reason why this man Swain should not be overlooked when the time comes for the final selection of the Nationals.  It was Cliff Blankenship who was sent scouting for Walter Johnson five years ago and who signed him…and Blankenship is sponsor for Swain.”

Cliff Blankenship

Cliff Blankenship

Swain responded to a letter from William Peet, The Herald’s baseball writer, about his weight:

“I note what you say about certain of my friends on the Western papers claiming I have taken on so much weight that I am handicapped thereby.  Just write them a personal letter and bet them all you’ve got that I haven’t taken on more than five pounds since I quit playing last fall…I will join the Washington club in shape and try my best to make good.”

Early reports from Atlanta in the Washington papers, The Post, The Times, and The Herald sounded promising:

“For a big fellow Swain is a wonder when it comes to covering ground in the outfield.”

“Though a six-footer, weighing 200 pounds, he runs like a sprinter.”

“He hits hard…his most distinguishing trait (is) a willingness to work and an inexhaustible fund of good humor.”

Swain was hitting .273 in spring games when he became sick (either a cold or the flu, depending on the source) and did not appear in a game, or practice with the team for a week.

Swain in Atlanta with the Senators

Swain in Atlanta with the Senators

On April 6 The Herald said:

“Swain and Manager Jim (McAleer) had a long talk this morning in the clubhouse and when the Vancouver husky emerged his face was wreathed in smiles.

“’It’s all right, boys,’ he said.  ‘I will probably go back to the Pacific Coast.  Had a nice chat with the boss and told him that if he decided he couldn’t use me to ship me (West) and he promised to do so.”

Swain was returned to Vancouver, where he hit. 309 and helped lead the Beavers to the Northwestern League pennant.  After hitting .286 for the last place Sacramento Sacts in the Pacific Coast league in 1912, Swain was sold to the Victoria Bees in Northwestern League in May of 1913, setting the stage for his record-breaking season.

On August 1, The Oakland Tribune said:

“(Swain) is electrifying the natives in the Northwestern League.  Playing for Victoria, up to last Sunday, Cy had connected with 17 home runs and was hitting .329.”

He hit 17 more by September 18.  Swain’s 34 home runs broke the previous West Coast high—Ping Bodie hit 30 for the San Francisco Seals in 1910 (Art Bues had the previous league record with 27 in 1910)—and his .329 average was a career high.

He benefitted from the small dimensions of the league’s parks; The (Portland) Oregonian said fourteen of his 34 home runs cleared Victoria’s 270 foot center field fence and 11 more came at Seattle where the left and right field fences were just 237 feet from home plate.

After another solid season in the Northwestern League in 1914–.310 with 12 homeruns—Swain was traded to the Minneapolis Millers in the American Association for Fred “Newt” Hunter on November 24.

While most of the newspapers in Northwestern League cities shared the view of The Spokane Chronicle, that “The exchange will effect a promotion for Swain as he will play in a class AA league, which has been his ambition.”  The Seattle Star, however, despite the numbers he put up, raised some doubts about Swain:

“It is not likely that Seattle will be disappointed in the trade…Swain did not deliver last season like the fans had hoped and expected.  He was the joke of the league in the pinches.”

Swain

Swain

Just three days after the trade, Swain was working his off-season job for the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company in San Francisco, when he fell from the back of a company truck which ran over his right leg.  On December 4, the leg was amputated.

The San Francisco Chronicle said:

“He was counting on making good with Minneapolis with the view of someday stepping into the big league, the dream of every ballplayer.  What Swain will do now with one limb lost has not been decided, for the unfortunate player is overwhelmed with grief at the sudden termination of his diamond career.”

Benefit games were held in San Francisco and Tacoma, drawing 4000 and 7000 fans; the games raised more than $4000 for Swain.

He used the money to open a cigar store in San Francisco with another former player, Tommy Sheehan.  The two also organized a team, managed by Swain, called the Independents.  The team was comprised of West Coast professionals—including Ping Bodie, Spider Baum, and Biff Schaller–and played during the winter and early spring.  One of their games in the spring of 1916 was the first game ever played by an outside team on the grounds of San Quentin Prison.  Swain’s team won 15 to 10.

In November of 1916, Swain and Sheehan organized team made up of major leaguers and West Coast players to travel to Hawaii for a series of games.  The team played local and military teams, as well as the All-Chinese team which included Vernon Ayau, the first Chinese player to have appeared in a professional game.

Ayau, played against Swain's team in Hawaii

Ayau, played against Swain’s team in Hawaii

News of the games in Hawaii was sketchy; based on various reports the team played between eight and 12 games on the trip; all sources agree the only game they lost was against a US Army Infantry team.

Swain continued to manage the Independents in 1917 and ’18.  He and Sheehan also sold the cigar store and opened the Maryland Bowling Alleys in Oakland with Cliff Blankenship, the former catcher who recommended Swain to the Washington Senators in 1910.

Early in the fall of 1918, Swain’s brother, Ira, who accompanied to the tryout in San Jose in 1904, contracted the Spanish Flu and died on October 21.  On November 5, The Oakland Tribune said:

“Charlie Swain, one of the most popular ball players in the history of the game in the West, died here last night, a victim of Spanish Influenza.  Two weeks ago today Charlie’s brother Ira fell victim to the malady.”

Swain was 36-years-old.  The Tribune said:

“Good-bye, Charlie, we’re going to miss that happy smile.”

Franz Hosp

19 May

Franz Philip Hosp Jr. was born in Cincinnati in 1884 (some records, including cemetery documents and his grave say 1883).  His father was a well-known landscape architect and horticulturist who moved the family to Riverside, California in 1888.

The elder Hosp was responsible for many projects in the Southwest and Southern California; he is probably most famous for his landscaping of Victoria Avenue in Riverside, which remains a tourist attraction and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and for planting the gardens at the El Tovar Hotel in Grand Canyon National Park.

The family also ran a successful nursery in Oceanside, California  and Hosp worked with his father while playing baseball in the San Diego area.

Franz Hosp

Franz Hosp, 1909

In December 1906 he pitched for the San Diego Pickwicks (sponsored by San Diego’s Pickwick Theater) of the California Winter League.  Hosp quickly caught the eye of West Coast professional teams; according to The Los Angeles Times he had a streak of thirty-one scoreless innings that winter and “fanned as many as eighteen men in a single game.”

The Los Angeles Herald said two teams, The Butte Miners and the Seattle Siwashes of the Northwestern League, had already “tried hard to secure his services,” when he pitched against the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League (PCL) in a February exhibition game in San Diego.

The Associated Press said the game

 “(W)as the first time in which he allowed as many as seven hits, and after doing, he took a brace and fanned out an equal number of Los Angeles’ best artists, with the result being that the Angels’ manager (Henry ”Hen”  Berry) lost no time in annexing Hosp to his own aggregation.”

Hosp said he chose to play with Los Angeles so he could continue working at the family business in Oceanside.

The pitcher was a popular member of the Angels.  The Los Angeles Herald said:

“Pitcher Franz Hosp is not only one of the best twirlers in the coast league, but he is also one of the most genial boys who ever donned a baseball uniform.  Hosp has forgotten more baseball, young as he is, than many of the swell headed players who roar at decisions have ever learned.”

The Times said of Hosp, who also played second base and shortstop:

“His work in the field and at the bat is equal to his performance in the box making him one of the best all-around men in the business.”

Hosp was 12-7 with a 2.73 ERA for the PCL champion Angels in 1907; he also played 13 games in the infield, hitting just .105.

franzhosppix

Franz Hosp

The following season Hosp (22-14 2.02), William “Dolly” Gray (26-11, 2.12), and Walter “Judge” Nagle (24-10, 1.94) led the Angels to another league championship.  On July 26 he had the most embarrassing moment of his career during a game with the San Francisco Seals.  The San Francisco Chronicle said:

“Hosp of the Angels established a unique and startling record yesterday afternoon, one that bids to stand a long time in baseball circles.  Not only did he literally pitch the game away, but in one inning—the fourth—he walked six men and hit two more, forcing in five runs across the plate without a hit by the Seals.  Not a ball was hit out of the diamond.”

(Just more than a year later, August 28, 1909, Hosp’s former teammate Dolly Gray, now a 30-year-old rookie with the Washington Senators, set the major league record by walking eight Chicago White Sox batters in one inning).

Hosp was 16-14 in August of 1909 when he was signed by the Cincinnati Reds for 1910.  Within a week he hurt his arm and did not pitch again for the remainder of the season.

By the spring of 1910 there were conflicting reports about the condition of Hosp’s arm.

The Times reported that according to Angels pitcher Andy Briswalter:

“Franz Hosp, whose clever pitching resulted in his purchase by the Cincinnati Reds, may never play ball again.”

The Herald said Hosp:

“(D)enied with considerable indignation the story purporting to be an interview with Andy Briswalter.  According to this story, Hosp’s arm was said to be in such condition that he might never play ball again.  While Hosp was overworked last season, when his sensational work with the Seraphs resulted in his being purchased by the Cincinnati Reds, he stated that he never felt better and that the rest of the past winter overcame any inconvenience or ill effects.  Hosp says he hasn’t seen Briswalter in six months.”

Hosp joined the Reds in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and was first tried in the outfield.  The Cincinnati Enquirer said after his debut:

(Ward) Miller and (George “Dode”) Paskert will have a dangerous rival for the right field job in the person of Franz Hosp, the recruit from the coast, who was signed as a pitcher but will try out as a fielder…He is a right-hand hitter, a good-sized, well-built fellow, and meets the ball square on the nose.  He came to bat five times; made a double and two clean singles…He showed a lot of speed on the bases and appears to be a kid who will bear watching.”

When finally given a chance to pitch, against the Boston Red Sox on March 25, after two scoreless innings, he gave up four singles and doubles to Harry Lord and Tris Speaker, in the third, resulting in three runs and was lifted for a pinch hitter the following inning.

Hosp was also tried in the infield where he “has made a fine impression.”  But it wasn’t enough to stick with the Reds.

The Herald reported in early May:

“Franz Hosp, one of the best pitchers who ever worked in the Coast League and who was released to Los Angeles by Cincinnati almost ten days ago because his pitching arm is kafluey for a time is warming up with the Angels every day and Hen Berry thinks he will get back into pitching form again soon.  He is a crack infielder too, and a heavy sticker, so it is dollars to cents that he will not be idle long.”

Hosp made his mound debut for the Angels on May 20; he pitched a complete game, losing 5 to 3.  The Herald said:

“Hosp showed excellent form for a pitcher who has been out of the game as long as he, and with a weak and sore arm, and he should be able get back to his best form with a little patience and careful slab work until his arm is ripe again.”

The paper was wrong, the extent of Hosp’s activity as a pitcher after that game was four innings in three games over the next year and a half.

Hosp was released by the Angels on June 15, along with Briswalter, who The Times claimed four months earlier had said  Hosp’s arm was shot; Briswalter had not recovered from a hip injury sustained during the 1909 season, he developed Tuberculosis of the injured bone and died in 1912.

Andy Briswalter

Andy Briswalter

 

Hosp continued to play for a decade.

Within weeks he was signed to play shortstop for the Vernon Tigers.   He hit just .240 for the Tigers, but The (Portland) Oregonian called him “a nifty fielder.”

Hosp became the team’s regular shortstop, through their move to Venice, California.  He hit .261 in 1911, and 1912, .255 in 1913, and then slipped to .208 in 1914.  He was released before the 1915 season and played for the Wichita Witches in the Western League.  He returned briefly to the PCL at the end of 1915, but was released by the Oakland Oaks prior to the 1916 season.  He returned to the PCL in 1918, playing for four teams over the next three seasons, ending his career after 56 games with the Salt Lake City Gulls in 1920.

Hosp returned to Southern California where he played and managed for semi-pro and industrial league teams and lived in Los Angeles.

On June 30, 1928 he was killed in a car accident on Coast Highway (US 101) 16 miles north of Oceanside.

Ernest Nichols

6 Jun

Ernest Nichols seemed destined for stardom.  He was the subject of a bidding war before he ever pitched in a professional game.  The San Francisco Chronicle said that his hometown San Francisco Seals wanted to sign him, but had a lot of competition:

Parke Wilson wanted him for the Pacific Coast League in Seattle (the Siwashes), Matt Stanley recommended him to (Dan) Dugdale for the opposition team in Seattle (the Chinooks of the Pacific National League), and Spokane came along with a contract calling for a large figure and took Nichols away from the other bidders.”

Ernest Nichols

Ernest Nichols

The 21-year-old, six-foot, 190 pound right-hander was in high demand after pitching for the amateur Reliance Athletic Club team of Oakland in Northern California’s Mid-Winter League, and an independent team in Vancouver in 1902.  The Chronicle said:

“Speed and control were Nichols’ strong suit, and he had the remarkable record of thirty-five strikeouts in two consecutive games (with Vancouver).”

Upon joining the Spokane Indians Nichols immediately lived up to the hype.  By mid July he had started 24 games, winning 20.  During a one week stretch in June he beat the Tacoma Tigers four times.  The Chronicle said Nichols, who supported his mother and sisters had his salary “raised voluntarily by the Indians.”

On July 20 Nichols and two teammates went swimming at the pool in Natatorium Park, park of the amusement park that also included the Indians’ ballpark.   After swimming, the three began to watch a ballgame between two local teams.  The Spokane Spokesman-Review said:

“(Nichols) complained of cramps.  The three started to walk to catch a car.  When a car arrived he was lifted aboard and speeded to Dr. Kimball’s office.  The doctor saw that he was dead.”

He died of septic endocarditis.  Two days later The Spokesman-Review said:

“The last sad rites were rendered to the remains of pitcher Ernest Nichols yesterday afternoon by his friends and associates who knew him intimately and by a great mass of the public who knew him only through his baseball fame. “

Nichols’ body was returned to San Francisco and plans were quickly made to play a benefit game in his honor in Spokane.  The game between the Indians and the Butte Miners raised $1025.

In October of 1903 The Chronicle said:

“In all the league averages no box man is found with a record approaching that of the late Ernest Nichols, the San Francisco boy who won 20 out of a possible 24 games before death called him.”