Tag Archives: Cap Anson

“None of Them Were Slick Enough to Carry the Dutchman’s Glove”

20 Jul

Chester L. Smith, sports editor for The Pittsburgh Press recalled several stories about Honus Wagner after the Hall of Fame shortstop died in 1955:

wagner

Wagner

Cy (Young) once said that Ty Cobb, Wagner, Napoleon Lajoie, Ed Delahanty, and Cap Anson were the best all-around hitters he ever faced.:

“’Ty was the most resourceful,’ Young went on. “’He could push, pull, or bunt.  Odd thing though, he never could pull an outside pitch, while Wagner could.’”

Smith said:

“Of course, there will never be an end to the argument as to which was the better—Ty or Honus.  By why debate it? There’s room for both of them in the game’s Valhalla

“As a carrier of the Wagner standard pointed out: ‘The best hitting shortstop of recent years was Joe Cronin, yet Cronin couldn’t hit within 30 points of him.  The best fielding shortstops have been Leo Durocher, Marty Marion, and Lou Boudreau.  None of them were slick enough to carry the Dutchman’s glove.  Travis Jackson had a rifle arm.  Wagner had a better one. No shortstop was ever much of a base-stealer.  Old Honus stole 50 or more bags for five straight seasons with a top mark of 61.”

Smith said Wagner told him a story about “the harsh days when he broke in.” Wagner said during his third season (1899), in a game versus the Giants:

“(O)ne of their men smashed a home run.

‘”Nice hit,’ Honus said when the Giant passed by.

“’Go to hell,’ snapped the New Yorker.

“’I felt real good about that,’ Wagner said afterward.  ‘He was the first major leaguer who ever spoke to me.’”

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things–Lost Quotes

30 Jun

The Detroit Free Press had no love for Cap Anson of the Chicago White Stockings, and observed in 1888:

“The majority of the Chicago players are courteous, gentlemanly fellows, and as Anson naturally finds no pleasure in their companionship he is generally rather lonesome.”

Cap Anson

Cap Anson

The Cincinnati Enquirer had a similarly low view of the entire White Stockings team in 1879:

“The Boston Herald says the greatest trouble with the new Chicago nine will be able to tell whether it will try to win.  We think its greatest problem will be whether or not it will keep sober.”

Charles Webb Murphy was often asked after giving up his interest in the Chicago Cubs if he regretted leaving baseball for much less glamorous businesses.  In 1914, Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Examiner said Murphy answered the question by telling people:

 Charles Webb Murphy

Charles Webb Murphy

“Well, not one of my gravel pits has jumped to the Federal League.”

Arthur Irwin was one of the best-known scouts of his time, but by 1912, he declared that most of the good players were gone:

Arthur Irwin

Arthur Irwin

“Scouting isn’t like it used to be.  There was a time when a man could go through the bushes and pick up all kinds of men; but times have changed since then.  The scout who is lucky to pick up one really good ballplayer in a season can congratulate himself and feel satisfied he has earned his salary.”

Fred Clarke gave a toast on Honus Wagner’s 42nd birthday.  The Pittsburgh Press quoted him:

“During all the years we played together I never knew him to make a wrong play.”

Wagner

Honus Wagner

The previous year’s celebration of Wagner’s birthday included this quote in a letter from Johnny Evers:

“You hear about ‘second’ Cobbs, ’another’ Lajoie, but you never hear about ‘second’ Wagner’s. Why?  Simply because there never will be a second Wagner.”

“In Chicago, the Baseball Slump is what the Crank would call Disgusting”

8 Jun

Oliver Perry (OP) Caylor of The New York Herald came to a conclusion in August of 1892 that many have shared before and since:  baseball‘s best days were behind it.

O.P. Caylor

O.P. Caylor

Earlier,  National League President Nick Young had declared 1892—featuring an expanded twelve team circuit after the collapse of the American Association and just weeks into the only scheduled split-season in major league history—an unqualified success.

But now, into what Caylor called “A Dog Days Depression,” reality had set in.

“Much has been said since the League’s second championship season opened (the second half began July 15) about the renewed interest which was alleged to have sprung up and was keeping pace with the new season.  It has taken no more than a month to prove that this so-called revival was an illusion.”

Caylor noted that there was brief uptick in attendance in games played in Eastern cities during the first three weeks of the second half:

“(B)ut before the teams started west the same old rut of passing indifference seemed to be struck.  And nowhere in the west thus far has there been a sign of a promising revival.”

Caylor pointed to two cities as evidence of baseball’s bleak state;

“In Chicago, the baseball slump is what the crank would call disgusting.  People of that progressive center have use for nothing but the best, and Uncle (Cap) Anson this year has not succeeded in giving them such an article in baseball.  The great general has done the best possible, handicapped as he was in the beginning of the season by the poor allotment of players from the Indianapolis (Hoosiers, the defunct American Association franchise) consolidation pool.”

Cap Anson, 50 errors in 1876

Cap Anson

Caylor blamed most of Anson’s problems on a weak middle infield:

“(Jimmy) Cooney, his shortstop, turned out a sudden complete failure and he has never been able to successfully fill (Fred) Pfeffer’s vacant shoes on the nine.  Any team which is weak at short field and second base is bound to be weak all over, and that is the condition of the Chicagos.

“The old man has been experimenting on new material with more or less success and less success than more.  But by the time he gets his men into what he is pleased to consider championship form, the season will be so far spent that he will have no chance to arouse the chilled pride of the army of Chicago baseball ‘rooters.’”

Caylor said Anson had some optimism for “next season.”

“Maybe the Chicago club can well afford to waste this year whipping together a winning team for 1893.  For next year, the World’s Fair (The World Columbian Exhibition) should be bring a small fortune to the treasury of the Chicago club if they can get a winning team together by that time.  Yet there are those who will argue that the World’s Fair is bound to be a financial injury than a benefit to the Chicago club under any circumstance, and the argument is based upon baseball experience in Philadelphia during the year of the Centennial (1876).”

World's Colombian Exhibition

World’s Colombian Exhibition

 

Caylor said even, A. G. Spalding, former White Stockings president, felt the fair “will be a financial burden” on the team.

Spalding believed:

“(T)hat for every visiting stranger who will be attracted to the ball grounds three resident patrons will be kept away by the unusual demand upon their time by excessive business.”

But Caylor said, his former home was in even more distress than Chicago:

 “Cincinnati, the best-paying city of the circuit during the first half of the year, has become financially alarming.”

Cincinnati had suffered as a result of the National League’s cost cutting measure agreed upon in late June, which resulted in rosters being reduced from 15 to 13 players and across-the-board pay cuts of 30-40 percent for all players.  The Reds best pitcher, Tony Mullane, quit as a result of the cuts.

Tony Mullane

Tony Mullane

“The sorry slump in baseball interest at Cincinnati is another exemplification of that old moral taught by the fable of the ‘Hen Which Laid the Golden Egg.’ I know it is modern usage to speak of the golden egg producer as a goose, but my Latin book called it a hen.  As applied to the Cincinnati case it makes little difference whether we call it a hen or a goose…The Cincinnati club’s hen was laying golden eggs regularly through the first season.  The newspapers put the club down as a sure winner financially.  Then came the greed mentioned in the fable.  The officials thought they saw a way to squeeze  the old hen into more active and valuable work, and on the squeezing they killed her.”

As a result of the pay cuts:

“Cincinnati patrons became disgusted.  For the sake of saving a few thousand dollars in salaries while working at a profit, this club had thrown away its chances to win the second championship.  Nobody who understands human nature need wonder the result.”

Cleveland, home of the second half champion Spiders, was the only town where Caylor said the “national game is appreciated.”   But even that, he said was temporary and favorable financial conditions were “a question of considerable doubt.”

The 1892 season was a disaster for Chicago—on and off the field—they finished 70-76, in seventh place, and attendance dropped by more than 72,000 from the previous season.

While Cincinnati led the National League in attendance, the club lost money.

But, contrary to Caylor’s gloomy outlook, the league—after dropping the spilt-season format—bounced back well in 1893.

In Chicago, where Anson put an even worse product on the field—the Colts were 56-71—predictions that the Columbian Exhibition would destroy attendance were wrong.  Aided by the opening of a new ballpark in May, the club drew the fourth-largest attendance in the league—223,500—more than doubling their 1892 numbers.

Cincinnati’s attendance dropped by just 2200 fans despite a disappointing season where the team hovered near .500 all year and finished sixth.

National league attendance increased by nearly half a million from 1892 to 1893.

While baseball was not on a long-term decline, Tony Mullane was.

He returned to the Reds in 1893, but the 34-year-old was never the same–259-187 with a career ERA below 3.00 before his departure, he was 25-33 with a 5.74 ERA after.

Buttons Briggs

3 Jun

Chicago Tribune sportswriter Hugh Fullerton claimed pitcher Herbert “Buttons” Briggs became a member of Cap Anson’s Chicago Colts as a 20-year-old in 1896 because as a 19-year-old he struck Anson out three times when the Colts visited Little Rock in April of 1895.

Buttons Briggs

Buttons Briggs

Like many of Fullerton’s stories, there was probably some embellishment; the box score from the game in question shows that Briggs only struck out two batters and was hit fairly hard—but he did make some kind of an impression and was signed by Anson.

Fullerton said Briggs was cocky when he joined the club and seemed to back it up in his first game, a 3 to 1 victory over the St. Louis Browns.  But, said Fullerton, Briggs learned some humility that day, courtesy of a veteran umpire:

“Briggs stood high in Anson’s estimation and Anson wanted to pitch him (in the season’s second series)…Briggs was fast, he had a speedy outcurve and a fast high one—but he was wild and some of the others didn’t want him to pitch.  But Briggs pitched.  He was chock-full of self confidence and freshness in those days, and all leagues looked alike to him.

“He wound up into a knot, whirled and shot the first ball across the heart of the plate, waist high, and so fast the catcher didn’t even see it.

“Before the ball fairly splashed into (Malachi) Kittridge’s mitt, Briggs with his arm still extended yelled ‘How’s that?’

“(Jack Sheridan) who was umpiring looked the youngster over from head to foot and then remarked calmly ‘Under the circumstances that is a ball. Had you not asked me it would have been a strike.’”

Jack Sheridan

Jack Sheridan

Fullerton claimed that incident brought Briggs down to earth, and he never “kicked” to umpires as a result.

Briggs struggled for three years with the Colts—he was 17-28 with a 4.85 ERA before being sent to the Western League in July of 1898.  After five minor league seasons he returned to Chicago and was 19-11 with a 2.05 ERA as a 2.05 ERA.  He was 8-8 with a 2.14 ERA in 1905 and was traded to the Brooklyn Superbas in the deal that brought Jimmy Sheckard to the Cubs.

Perhaps not completely broken of his early cockiness, Briggs refused to play for Brooklyn and jumped to an outlaw team in Ohio.  He never played in the major leagues again.

“If I ever get this Football Junk out of my Head”

23 May

George Henry Capron had a brief and relatively undistinguished professional baseball career.  He said football was what held him back.

Capron first made a name for himself at the University of Minnesota in 1906.  He excelled at football, track and field and baseball, The Minneapolis Tribune called him “a ten-second track man, a weight thrower, and a splendid ballplayer.”

The Golden Gophers football team was 2-2-1 that season; Capron, the starting halfback and drop kicker scored 44 of the team’s 55 points.  He accounted for all 12 of his team’s points (three four-point field goals) in a loss to Amos Alonzo Stagg’s University of Chicago team.  The Tribune said Capron “Figured in two-thirds of the offensive plays” for Minnesota.

Capron

George Capron

The Chicago Daily News said of Capron:

“(He) is an athlete of exceptional muscular development, although not above the normal size (the 5’ 10” 185 lbs).  he can punt from 50 to 60 yards with little effort with either foot.  The ball after leaving his toe acquires a most peculiar spiral motion, which makes it exceedingly hard to hold…In the work of scoring fielding goals, which appears to be Capron’s specialty, he is unquestionably a star.”

Capron kicking

Capron kicking

Early in 1908, there were rumors that Capron would leave Minnesota at the end of the baseball season and transfer to an Eastern school.  The New York Times said West Point football coach Bob Forbes was attempting to get Capron to accept an appointment, The New York Sun said he was headed to Dartmouth.

Capron chose instead to stay at Minnesota and was unanimously elected captain of the football team on September 14—although later the university would claim he wasn’t elected, but simply called local newspapers claiming an election had been held.  Two days after the “election,’ a scandal caused him to quit the team.

A story in The Chicago Tribune charged that Capron had played professional baseball for the Meridian Ribboners in the Cotton States League during the summer under the name “George Robb,” other reports said he played under the name “George Rapp.”  (The Sporting Life identified him as “Rapp” and “Robb” at various times in 1908).

The story also claimed that he met with “Captain Adrian C. Anson.  The later inquired of Capron’s ability as a ballplayer among local college men.”  Capron, the paper said, wanted to join the semi-pro Anson’s Colts.

Anson told paper:

“I didn’t sign Capron because he didn’t put on a suit and come out…I don’t remember that he said he played professional ball before.  I don’t care, anyhow.  There is no such thing any longer as a strictly amateur college team…They want their real names withheld.  I don’t care, I tell them.  (As long as) they can hit the ball on the snoot and can field decently.”

Sunday's "idol" "Cap" Anson

Sunday’s “idol” “Cap” Anson

Capron denied the charges.   He claimed he had never played professionally and “had never in his life” met Anson.  His denials were quickly dismissed, as his identity was something of an open secret in the South—his election as Minnesota’s captain was reported by several papers, including The Atlanta Constitution, The Atlanta Journal, and The (Nashville) Tennessean –each mentioned his election and that “he played (with Meridian) under the name of Robb,” and that his contract had been purchased by the Mobile Seagulls in the Southern Association.

Faced with overwhelming evidence, he admitted he had played professionally, but continued to deny that he had met with Anson.  It was also reported that Capron had been drafted by the New York Giants, The Minneapolis Tribune said:

(John) McGraw drafted Capron on the recommendations of one of the New York club scouts…but if McGraw was informed as to the real identity of the brilliant young diamond performer he has carefully kept the facts under his bonnet.”

He left school for good in September, and The Sporting Life reported he was “captaining a professional football team in Minneapolis” that fall.   He also admitted, in a letter to the National Commission that he had played professionally under the assumed names “Kipp” and “Katt” for the Mattoon Giants in the Eastern Illinois League in 1907 and in the Northern League with the Crookston Crooks 1905.

In the spring of 1909, The New York World said:

“Capron, the former diamond star of the University of Minnesota, has notified the management of the New York Nationals and of the Mobile Southern League team that he will not join either of them, but has decided to play outlaw ball.”

Capron signed with the Seattle Turks of the Northwest League and immediately went on a tear.  The Seattle Post-Intelligencer said he was hitting a league-leading .324 in his first 19 games.

He also found time to elope with the former Ednah Race, a Minneapolis resident.

At the end of the season, with his average down to .275, Capron told a reporter for The Post Intelligencer:

“’If I ever get this football junk out of my head, I’ll make good in baseball yet.’”

The problem he said, was taking out his frustration:

“’When I got mad when playing football I could charge the line or make a fierce tackle and let off steam,’ continued the greatest kicker Minnesota ever had, ‘but when I get mad playing baseball it is back to the bench for me with a fine plastered on me like as not.’

“’It doesn’t do a man a bit of good to get mad while playing baseball…that rough stuff does not go.”

The paper agreed:

“So many times during the season just closed, Capron was no good to himself or the team because he could not see anything but red and he wanted to fight someone or something.

“Capron had a world of natural ability.  He is far above the ordinary as a fielder and he is a dangerous man at the bat.”

Capron

Capron

Capron was sold to the Vancouver Beavers the following season, but was limited to 35 games as the result of a knee injury.  He hit just .207.

The following spring, the 25-year-old said he was finished.  He told The (Portland) Oregonian:

“No more baseball for me.  I am going to retire.”

The paper said “His teammates sniffed” and were sure he would return, but noted that “he is being sought by several clubs of the Northwest league this year and was tendered contracts by Seattle, Vancouver, and Tacoma, but has returned them unsigned.”  He said his new wife had encouraged the decision.

Capron left baseball and football for real estate.  He sat out the 1911 season.

In January of 1912, The Pittsburgh Gazette-Times said Barney Dreyfuss, president of the Pittsburgh Pirates sent a personal letter and contract to Capron:

“The contract is a ‘blank’ paper with the salary figure to be filled in by the recipient.

“Apparently, Dreyfuss was prompted in this move by some strong boosting out on the Pacific Coast, for in his letter he told George that information had reached him that a first-class ballplayer was going to waste.”

But despite the blank contract, Capron told The Oregonian:

“I guess (Dreyfuss) knows I can murder (right-handed pitching).  My wife says no, however, so it’s me for the bleachers.”

Capron also told the paper he expected his brother Ralph—a former Minnesota Quarterback– to make the major leagues soon—Ralph played one game that season with the Pirates and two the following year with the Philadelphia Phillies.  Following in his brother’s footsteps, Ralph abruptly quit baseball at age 25, before the 1915 season.  George told The (Spokane) Spokesman-Review, his brother “expects soon to marry the daughter of a wealthy Minneapolis merchant, who is strongly opposed to a professional athlete for a son-in-law.”  Opposition from his father-in-law doesn’t appear to have stopped Ralph from dabbling in professional football.

Capron moved from the Pacific Northwest to Long Beach, and later Fresno, California, and found real estate to be more lucrative than either baseball or football.  In 1964, he was worth more than $30 million dollars, when, after 55 years of marriage, Ednah was awarded a $16 million dollar divorce settlement which The Associated Press said was “the largest ever.”

He died on October 26, 1972.

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things, Bill Joyce Edition

2 May

Scrappy” Bill Joyce’s managerial career ended badly.  In 1898, the player-manager was fired by New York Giants owner Andrew Freedman and replaced by Cap Anson—only to return as manager for the remainder of the season after Anson failed to turn the seventh place club around.  The turmoil took its toll on Joyce; after four straight .300 plus seasons, he hit just .258 in 1898.

Although just 32, and despite numerous reports of his imminent return to the Giants—or several other teams, including the St. Louis Browns, Washington Senators, and Cleveland Spiders— as a player or manager persisted for the next several years, he never played or managed another major league game.

He returned to his hometown, St. Louis, and opened a bar with Patsy Tebeau, and then later ran his own establishment after the two dissolved their partnership.  And, perhaps because of the way his career ended, and because of his inability to ever again secure an on-field job, he never stopped talking baseball, and became a popular source for sportswriters.

Scrappy Bill Joyce

Scrappy Bill Joyce

The Superstitious Jesse Burkett

Joyce told The Boston Globe in 1905 that “Ball Payers are a superstitious lot,” and that Jesse Burkett was among the most superstitious.

He said Burkett had one day received a tip at the racetrack on a horse that did not come in.

“After the race Jesse made one of his characteristic snaring, sarcastic remarks (to the tipster), who whirled around, and, knowing Jesse’s susceptibility to superstition said: ‘I’ll put the Spanish curse on you for a week.’

“The next day Burkett failed to get a hit and muffed a fly.  The next day he booted a grounder and struck out twice.  That night he sent for (the man).

“The racetrack man came down to the Lindell Hotel (in St. Louis), where Jesse was stopping.”

The man accompanied Burkett, who “was as serious as if he was making his will” to his room:

“(Burkett) unwrapped a package lying on a dresser and taking out a beautiful silk cravat said:

“’George, I’ll give you this ascot–it cost me $2—if you’ take off the Spanish curse.  I can’t make a hit while it is on.’”

The man snapped his fingers and said:

“’It’s off.’

“’Here is the tie,’ said Jess.”

According to Joyce:

“(T)he next day  Jesse made three hits.”

Joyce’s Tavern

In 1910, his tavern was located at 215 North Sixth Street in St. Louis.  But his love of taking baseball nearly cost him the business.

In August of 1910, The St. Louis Republic said:

“’Scrappy’ Bill Joyce, former captain of the New York Giants, and Washington’s old third baseman, forfeited his saloon license today because he kept open until 1 AM, Sunday, July 24, while holding a ‘fanning bee’ with (New York Giants Manager) John McGraw and Sam Crane, a New York sporting writer.”

Joyce testified in front of the city’s excise commission that no drinks were served after midnight, “All he and the two guests did until the policeman arrived was talk baseball.”

Later that month, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said, Crane, the former infielder, then writing for The New York Journal, and McGraw, both came back to St. Louis and met personally with the excise commissioner, Henry S. Caufield—who would later serve as governor of Missouri—and said the incident was “primarily their fault,” while both backing up Joyce’s assertion that no drinks were consumed after midnight.  As a result of their efforts, Joyce was allowed to keep his license.

“Told in a Man’s Way by a lot of Men”

While continuing to operate his tavern in St. Louis, Joyce finally got back into professional baseball.

In 1911, he became owner and manager of the Missoula (Montana) franchise in the newly formed Union Association.  But by August The Salt Lake City Tribune said he had been stripped of the franchise “for nonpayment of salaries.”  He later did  some scouting for the Federal League’s St. Louis Terriers.  While assessing current players, Joyce came to the conclusion shared by many of his 19th Century brethren. He told The St. Louis Globe-Democrat:

Bill Joyce, 1911

Bill Joyce, 1911

“Baseball today is not what it should be.  The players do not try to learn the fine points of the game as in the days of old, but simply try to get by.  They content themselves if they get a couple of hits every afternoon and pay an errorless game.  The first thing they do each morning is to get the papers and look at the hit and error columns.”

It was, of course, nothing like it was during his career—when the game was more scientific:

“When I was playing ball there was not a move made on the field that did not cause everyone on the opposing team to mention something about it.  All were trying to figure why it had been done and to watch and see what the result would be.  That move could never be pulled again without everyone on our bench knowing just what was going to happen.

“I feel sure that the same conditions do not prevail today.  The boys go out to the plate, take a slam at the ball, pray that they’ll get a hit and just et it go at that.  They are not fighting as in the days of old.”

And the way they behaved after a loss:

“Who ever heard of a gang of ballplayers, after losing a game, going into the clubhouse and singing at the top of their voices?  That’s what happens every day after the game at the present time.  Immediately after the last man is out the players make a dash for the clubhouse, the ‘quartet’ hits up a song and the whole squad joins in.

“In my days, the players went into the clubhouse after a losing game with murder in their hearts.  They would have thrown any guy out on his neck if they even suspected him of intentions of singing.  In my days the man who was responsible for having lost a game was told in a man’s way by a lot of men what a rotten ballplayer he really was.  Generally, he was told to go back to carrying the hod or to the police force.  It makes me weep to think of the men of the old days who played the game and the boys of today.  It is positively a shame and they are getting big money for it, too.”

“It is a Pure, Clean, Wholesome Game”

20 Apr

Billy Sunday took time out from saving souls in the Pacific Northwest in 1909, to talk baseball with a reporter from The Washington Post sent to cover the evangelist’s month-long revival in Spokane:

“I wouldn’t take $1 million dollars for my professional baseball experience.  I am proud I made good and that I was one of the best of them in my day.”

Billy Sunday

Billy Sunday

Sunday then went to bat for the unquestioned integrity of the game:

“Baseball is the one sport in this country upon which the gamblers have not been able to get their crooked claws.

“There isn’t the same disgrace attached to a professional baseball player that attends other professional athletes.  The gambler tried for 30 years to get control, but the men behind the game have stood firm and true.  Baseball has stood the test.  It is a pure, clean, wholesome game, and there is no disgrace to any man today for playing professional baseball.”

Sunday also said that after he “converted in 1886,” he discovered that:

“The club owners, the fans generally, and the players themselves will respect a man all the more for living a clean, honest life.”

While he said he rarely had time anymore to attend games, Sunday said he continued to follow the game closely and read the sports page every day.

Asked to name his all-time team, Sunday said:

“I would put (Cap) Anson on first base and make him captain, and I would have to find a place for Mike Kelly and John ClarksonGeorge Gore, Charlie Bennett, Kid Nichols, Amos Rusie, John Ward, Clark Griffith and others were all good men.”

Sunday returned his attention to his “Idol,” Anson:

“For every day in the season, for every occasion that might arise, I believe old Cap Anson was the best batsman the game ever knew.  Just look at that grand record of his…He could hit anything.  He used an extremely heavy bat…it used to do our hearts good to hear the crack when old ‘Cap’ Anson met the ball squarely.”

Sunday's "idol" "Cap" Anson

Sunday’s “idol” “Cap” Anson

The preacher then told the reporter about his career:

“My first professional contract (in 1883 with the Chicago White Stockings) called for $60 a month.  That was a windfall for me in those days, too.  When I quit baseball (in 1890) my salary was $500 a month.  The first two years I only got in a few games and was used more as a utility man.

“As a batter I averaged from .240 to .275 (Sunday’s averages actually ranged from .222 to .291) and that was fair in those days.”

Billy Sunday

Billy Sunday

He also recounted the visit received after he secured his release from the Philadelphia Phillies in 1890 in order to take a position with the Y.M.C.A. in Chicago:

“(On the day the release was announced) I was leading a class in a men’s noonday meeting in the Chicago Y.M.C.A., when Jim Hart, president of the Chicago club, walked in, and after the meeting laid down a contract on that old pulpit.  It called for seven month’s salary at $500 a month, with one month’s salary in advance.

Jim Hart

Jim Hart

“Thirty-five hundred dollars and me almost broke with a wife and a baby to support.  It was a horrible temptation, especially since I loved to play baseball.  The next morning I sent Mr. Hart my refusal of his terms.  I accepted a position for the year with the Y.M.C.A. at $83 a month.”

At the peak of his career as an evangelist in the early teens, it was reported that Sunday earned around $800 per day from the pulpit—roughly the annual salary of the average American worker.

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things #18

7 Mar

Tener on Anson

In 1917, John Tener wrote an article in “Baseball Magazine” about Cap Anson, his former manager with the Chicago White Stockings.

John Tener

John Tener

The former pitcher and outfielder, who went on to serve in the United States Congress and as Governor of Pennsylvania, and who in 1917 was president of the National League said:

“Pop Anson was the Greatest Batter who ever lived.  You may look up his record, compare it with others and draw your own conclusions.  When I say this I am well aware of the claims of Ed Delehanty, Hans Wagner and many other great hitters.  I give them all due credit, but in my opinion, Anson was the greatest of them all.

"Cap" Anson

Anson

“He was, first of all, a free hitter. He loved batting…He had that true eye which enabled him to hit the ball squarely on the nose.  His hits were line drives.  They were solid smashes with the full force of his muscular shoulders behind them.”

[…]

“He was an excellent judge of the precise fraction of a second that he needed to swing that heavy bat of his against the best the pitcher could offer.  He didn’t exactly place his hits, but he contrived to drive the ball behind the base runner about where he wanted to drive it…He was big and strong and heavy.  Some hitters of the present day fatten their averages by their nimbleness in reaching first.  Anson drove the ball solidly into the outfield and took his time in going to first.”

Conte on Mendez

Jose Pepe Conte was a well-known sportswriter in Havana, Cuba. Frank Menke of Heart Newspaper’s International News Service (INS) said of him:

Jose Pepe Conte

Jose Pepe Conte

“Pepe is a fellow who knows heaps and heaps about ancient history, European customs, chemistry, baseball and prize fighting.”

The Pittsburgh Press called him:

“(A) Cuban newspaperman, political personage, and unearther of baseball talent.”

In 1912, the INS distributed an article Conte wrote about the pitcher he thought was the best ever:

“American baseball fans can talk all they want about their (Chief) Benders, (Christy) Mathewsons, (Ed) Walshes and (Mordecai) Browns, but down in our country we have a pitcher that none of the best batters in the country can touch. This is the famous Black Tornado, (Jose) Mendez.  Talk about speed.  Why, when he cuts loose at his hardest clip the ball bounces out of the catcher’s mitt Talk about speed, Mendez has to pitch most of the time without curves because we haven’t a catcher who can hold him.  To make things better, Mendez can bat like (Ty) Cobb.  He has won his own games on various occasions with smashes over the fences for home runs.  He weighs about 154 pounds and is a little fellow.”

Jose Mendez

Jose Mendez

[…]

“No one has been found who can hold him when he really extends himself.  He has shown his skill in the past when he has faced the best batters of the Cubs and Detroit teams when those teams were champions, and when the Athletics went there last year.  Mendez has more curves than any pitcher in America, and if some inventive genius could produce a whitening process whereby we could get the fellow into the big leagues he could win a pennant for either tail-end team in either league.”

Sullivan on Comiskey

In his book, “The National Game,” Al Spink said Ted Sullivan was “the best judge of a ball player in America, the man of widest vision in the baseball world, who predicted much for the National game years ago, and whose predictions have all come true.”

Ted Sullivan

Ted Sullivan

Sullivan was a player, manager, executive, and in 1921, he wrote a series of articles for The Washington Times called “The Best of my Sport Reminiscences.”  He said of Charles Comiskey, who he was crediting with “discovering” at St. Mary’s College in Kansas:

Charles Comiskey

Charles Comiskey

“As a player, Comiskey was easily the best first baseman of his time…His intuition in defining the thoughts of his opponents and making his play accordingly placed him head and shoulders over any man that played that position before or after.

“Comiskey was with John Ward and King Kelly one of the greatest of base runners.  I do not mean dress parade base running, either, merely to show the crowd he could run.  Comiskey’s base running was done at a place in the game when it meant victory for his side.  He was far from being the machine batter that Anson, Roger Connor and some others were; but as a run-getter, which means the combination of hitting, waiting, bunting and running, he outclassed all others.  Jack Doyle, when in his prime with Baltimore and New York, was the nearest approach to Comiskey in brainwork.  There are no others.”

“It was just as Hard to Hit a Curve Ball in 1885 as it is Now”

29 Jan

Cap Anson was visiting New York shortly after the death of his wife in February of  1916, when he was asked by Bozeman Bulger of The New York Globe the question put to every former player:

"Cap" Anson

Cap Anson

“’How do you think the ball players of today compare to the boys back in the eighties?’

“’I was always of the belief,’ the Captain answered, ‘that ball players are born and not made according to set rules.  Therefore, a ballplayer had just as much chance being born in 1885 as in 1915.  Really, I can’t see a great deal of difference.’”

While Anson didn’t believe the players of his generation were better, he strenuously disagreed when it was suggested that there had been, in general terms, “a big improvement in the game itself” since his playing days:

“’Where?’ parried the veteran.  ‘The rules are practically the same.  The diamond, the bases, the ball and the bat are exactly the same.  The gloves they wear now make fielding even easier.’

“’Believe me,’ he added with emphasis, ‘it was just as hard to hit a curve ball in 1885 as it is now. We had a few great hitters then just like you have now.  Yes, and we had just as many weak ones.’”

As far as Anson was concerned, there were really only two significant changes in the game:

“The only new thing in baseball that I know of is the spitball.  In the old days, they used to pitch something like it, but not so perfectly and not with such a sharp break.  The spitball is really built on a new principle. That is practically the only new thing.  In the old days, we bunted and stole bases just as you do now, and the runners were blocked away from the plate in exactly the same manner.”

He was honest when asked if he thought he could hit a spitball:

“’No, I don’t. A few years ago when Jack Chesbro was in his prime with the spitter Clark Griffith bet me a hat that Jack could strike me out.  The argument arose over my disbelief in the spitball.  I really did think it simply a lot of newspaper talk then.  Well, we went out and tried it, and Jack did strike me out.’”

Jack Chesbro

Jack Chesbro

Anson said the other “important change in the methods of baseball,” was the number of players on each roster.

“In the old days we rarely ever had over 14 players…I don’t know whether that is a good thing or not.  When we carried a few men each of them felt that he was expected to do his part.  They all worked harder because they had to.  Nowadays if a player doesn’t feel exactly right there are two or three on the bench waiting and anxious to take his place.”

As for salaries, Anson said:

“Yes, there’s been a change there.  What an ordinary ballplayer gets nowadays would have been a star’s salary some years ago.  At that, I always got pretty good money.”

“A Flat-Footed Player is as Bad is a Flat-Headed one”

27 Jan

As part of his 1910 series of articles called “How I Win,” syndicated journalist Joseph B. Bowles spoke to Bill Dahlen, manager of the Brooklyn Superbas, during Dahlen’s first season as a big league manager.

Bill Dahlen

Bill Dahlen 

“The only theory on which I ever have worked is that every man on a team should work for the common interest, that each man should help out each other one, and that eight men if strong ought to help out the weak one.

“Close attention to every move is essential.  Not only should a player watch every change of position of his opponents…The mind must be alert at every instant during a game.  There is no room in major league baseball for any except fast-thinking and fast-moving players.  I do not mean that a player must be a ten-second man.  I mean he must be on his toes, ready to jump in any given direction without the loss of an instant.”

Dahlen said success was all about footwork:

“A man who handles his feet well, either batting, fielding or base running, is a good player, for footwork is better than ability with the hands.  It is necessary for a player to be shifty on his feet as it is for a boxer.  No one can be shifty unless he is on his toes all the time, and a flat-footed player is as bad is a flat-headed one—and usually the two things go together.

“The batter who is on his toes, balanced and ready for the jump, will hit, for he can shift and swing and still get his weight behind the bat.  The shifty runner on first is ready to move either way—to dive back to first or go on to second.  In the field, he moves with the ball, and is moving when it is hit, so he covers more ground.”

Dahlen had advice for young players:

“(He) should watch every move of the batter, and poise himself for the start just as a sprinter does.  I remember that one of the first things taught me after I joined the Chicago club was starting, and the crowd of great players under (Cap) Anson won many games because they started faster and were readier in seizing an opportunity than their opponents were.  Another thing they taught me was sliding to bases, not only so as to avoid being touched, but also to avoid getting hurt or hurting anyone.  That slide known as the ‘Chicago slide’ was the invention of (King) Kelly and adopted by (Tom) Burns, (Ned) Williamson, (Fred) Pfeffer and the great players of that day. There is more footwork to that slide than in any other department of the game.  It consists of watching the position of the baseman who is receiving a thrown ball and throwing the body in the opposite direction, sliding on the hip with the leg partially bent under and the toe hooking the bag.”

Bill Dahlen

Dahlen

Dahlen’s footwork was not enough to guide four bad Brooklyn teams to a winning season.  During his managerial career (1910-1913) the Superbas were 251-355.