Tag Archives: Cap Anson

“As a Trickster he was a Marvel”

12 Jun

Dan Brouthers was working at the Polo Grounds in 1917—after John McGraw got Brouthers hired, he held a variety of jobs there according to contemporary news accounts, including night watchman, custodian, and operating the gate at the press entrance to the ballpark—when The New York World asked him to reminisce about some of the his experiences as a player.

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Dan Brouthers

Brouthers said he was told by McGraw when he had earlier scouted for the Giants, “brains and speed are what you are to look for.”

Brouthers said:

“If you get hold of a good, speedy man, with something more than a bone above the ears, you probably have the makings of a good ball player.”

He said players with the combination of brains and a willingness to flout the rules had won many games when he was playing:

”It may be that the poorer team had a fox on it somewhere, and every time the umps are asleep or looking the other way, he pulls one over…There are of course, some people who believe in playing baseball on the level. But a good many other birds realize that it is played on a diamond, and so take advantage of all corners.”

One player stood out in that category for Brouthers:

“Mike (King) Kelly was a shark for that sort of thing. He could have sold earmuffs in the Philippines or palm-leaf fans in Alaska. He was a wonder as a baseball player, but as a trickster he was a marvel. Whenever he was on the field the umpires spent half their time combing the wool away from their eyes.”

Brouthers described The King:

“He was very little short of six feet tall, weighed in the neighborhood of 180 pounds, had a fine, full mustache which was the fashion in those days and a bluff, genial manner that disarmed suspicion and made you like him from the first.”

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Kelly

He said:

“Mike was the idol of the fanatics, and anything he did was right…He was so popular that he had three nicknames—The King of the Diamond, The Only Kel, and the $10,000 Beauty…Kelly was as full of tricks as a monkey, and couldn’t stand to lose a game if he could win it—by any means at all.”

Brouthers provided his version of the most famous story about Kelly, which he said happened when they were both with the Boston Reds in the Players League in 1890:

“One afternoon Kel was sitting on the bench, while (Charlie) Bennett was catching.”

Brouthers is confusing his former teammate with the Detroit Wolverines—Bennett–with Morgan Murphy and William “Pop” Swett who were the other two catchers in addition to Kelly on the club.

“The game was close, but Kel had made up his mind we had to win it and had his peepers skinned for a chance to put one over. Suddenly the man at bat knocked a high foul that Kelly saw (the catcher) could not catch. It is hardly likely that what Kelly did would have occurred to any other manager. What Kel did was jump up and run for the foul ball at the top of his speed. And while running for it he kept shouting to the umpire that he had taken (the catcher) out of the game and had substituted himself. Then he caught the foul ball.

“According to Mike’s way of doping it out, it was strictly according to Hoyle.”

Brouthers said Kelly then walked over to the catcher and took his mask and glove:

“Then the astonished umpire and the spectators came out of their trance at the same time and there was a yell from both of them. Kel insisted everything was O.K. In fact, he didn’t even concede there was room for an argument. There was nearly a riot over the affair, but it ended by Kelly being shooed back to the bench, and the batter being called safe. That one was a little too raw for the ump. But Kel wore an injured air all the rest of the game, and although the crowd knew he was wrong, they all sympathized with him.”

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Cartoon by Herb Roth of The New York World which accompanied the article

Brouthers said Kelly had more success with other stunts:

“When I was with Detroit Kel was playing with Anson’s Chicago club. At a game in Detroit, when I came to bat in the ninth inning, there were two out and three on base. Moments like that are big ones in a batter’s life, and I got a toe hold and made my mind to tear the cover off the first good one that came across. I believe we needed three runs too. Kel was playing in the field that day. I picked out one that I liked and hit it hard enough to drive it out of the lot. I was sure the ball was going over the fence, because Kelly was running in that direction like a mountain goat. Just as he got near the fence, he made a wonderful jump and got the ball. That made three out; the game was over, and Kel kept running into the clubhouse, taking the ball with him. We lost the game, of course.

“Some time later Kel confessed to me that the ball he apparently caught he had never even touched. It had cleared the fence by 10 feet!”

Brouthers said Kelly often hid a ball in the outfield, “opposing teams didn’t know this at the time. If they had, Kel probably would have died a violent death.”

“One foggy afternoon in Philadelphia, with Phil Powers umpiring, Philadelphia had a man on base when Sam Thomson came to bat. Sam picked out one he liked, and, as we found out later, poled it clear over the right field fence. But because of the fog the umpire couldn’t follow the flight of the ball.

“Now Kelly had a ball hidden in the long grass near the fence, and when Thompson made his hit, Kelly never looked at the ball in play at all, but dived for the extra ball. He fumbled around a bit as though he were looking for it and then picked it up and made an accurate throw to home, putting out the man who had been on first when the ball was hit.”

Brouthers said Thompson was sure the ball had cleared the fence and, “roared like a lion and called down the vengeance of high heaven” on Powers.

“And while he was ranting and roaring, Kelly, with an injured and innocent air, was calmly proving that the ball never went near the fence at all. Powers believed Kelly and his own eyesight, and Thompson, almost crying with rage, was fined for kicking.”

Brouthers said Kelly showed of his “foxiness” coaching third base as well.

“If a ball had been fouled by the man at bat and hit the grandstand, Kelly would demand that the pitcher throw it to him, in order that Kelly might be sure it was not cut or ripped. He only pulled this stunt when there was a man on base. Then the pitcher, if he were not wise, would throw the ball to Kelly. Kelly, instead of catching it, would dodge it, and allow it to roll past him, and the man on base would streak for home. And probably get there before the ball could be returned. Of course, this only worked once on the same man, but it sometimes helped to win a game.”

Brouthers also said Kelly attempted to use a potato as a ball in the 1880s:

“I can remember one time he took a potato to right field with him, and when a hit ball bounded past him, he made believe he had caught it, and then turning whipped the potato to the second baseman. The second baseman relayed the potato to third in order to get the man trying for that base. And he might have got him but for the fact that the potato was not a solid one and burst when the third baseman caught it.”

Brouthers said Kelly “was the most genial fellow in the world off the diamond,” but considered umpires “an eyesore.” He said “he would stand as close to him as he could and jaw him until the ump would run up a $100 fine on him in $5 and $10 clips. But that didn’t work the King any, because someone else always paid his fines.”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #34

6 Jun

Trash Talk, 1887

In June of 1887 the Cincinnati Red Stockings dropped to sixth place in the American Association pennant race; Ren Mulford of The Cincinnati Enquirer assured his readers the team would not remain in the basement. The St. Louis Post Dispatch responded:

“Ren Mulford Jr., of Cincinnati, whoever he is, is quite a chatty baseball writer, and his apologies for the Cincinnati club are a mark of rare ability. Mr. Mulford, whoever he is, thinks the Reds will not be at the sixth place when the season ends, but Mr. Mulford, whoever he is, will probably find out his mistake later on.”

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Ren Mulford

Mulford was correct, the Red Stockings went 61-33 the rest of the way, finishing second—but it was not enough to catch the St. Louis Browns who won the pennant by 14 games.

Burns on Anson, 1898

Tom Burns, in the process of leading the Chicago Orphans to a fourth-place finish in 1898, told Henry Zuber of The Cincinnati Times-Star that Cap Anson was not primarily responsible for the reputation he built as a great manager in the 1880s:

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Tom Burns

“Anson had a team that could think for itself. It was not necessary for him to direct the play of the team on the field, for the reason that the players were far above the average in baseball intelligence, and worked and studied together without the aid or suggestions of the manager. The late Mike Kelly carried the leading brainery of the team, and it was he, with the aid of the other baseball-intelligent men of the team, that invented and carried out any plans and tricks that proved such an improvement to the game and made the White Stockings the famous team they were.”

Anson’s teams finished first or second nine times from 1880-1891, from 1892 until he left the team in 1898 his teams finished no better than fourth.

Louisville Patriotism, 1898

At the outset of the Spanish-American War in April of 1888, The Cincinnati Post said of Harry Pulliam’s Louisville Colonels:

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Harry Pulliam

“Patriotism is running amuck among the Colonels. They purchased gaudy red, white, and blue stockings for yesterday’s game, and each player wore a tiny United States flag in his cap band. President Pulliam is thinking of raising a regiment. ‘The governor of Kentucky,’ said the happy executive, ‘is having all sorts of trouble. You know everybody worth mentioning in our state is a colonel, or considers he is of that rank. All wish to enlist, but no one is ready to accept a commission below that of colonel.”

Comiskey on “ungrateful” players, 1894

By 1894, Charles Comiskey, in his last year as a major league player and manager and leading the Reds to a 55-75 tenth place finish, told The Cincinnati Post his opinion of players had changed:

Charles Comiskey

Comiskey

“Ball players are often accused of being and ungrateful lot of men. I used to defend them on this charge, but I must confess that recently I have come to the conclusion that the average player is inclined to throw down his best friend. It’s a broad assertion, but my experience has been a severe one. There are some true men playing the game, but you can quickly pick them out of every team.”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #33

7 May

Radbourn on Rule Changes

Old Hoss Radbourn told The Boston Journal that he thought the new rule changes for 1887—including the four-strike strikeout and abolishing the rule that allowed batters to call for high or low pitches—would have very little impact:

“Radbourn says it is a mistake on the part of anybody to think that (Dan) Brouthers can’t hit anything but a low ball. He thinks they will find that when it is absolutely necessary Brouthers can hit almost anything. When asked what effect the thought the new rules would have on Anson’s batting, Radbourn smiled and said: ‘Anson’s all right. He has more chances than anyone else. A man has to get five strikes on Anson before the umpire will call him out. Umpires don’t like to call strikes on Anson. I don’t know why, but they don’t. The pitcher who strikes out Anson does a big thing.”

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 Radbourn

Brouthers’ average dropped 32 points to .338, but he still led the league in runs, doubles and on base percentage.  Anson’s fell 24 to a league-best .347—he had 18 strikeouts in 533 plate appearances. Radbourn posted career highs in walks (133) and ERA (4.55) for the fifth place Boston Beaneaters.

Comiskey on ‘Friends’

Charles Comiskey said he had no friends in the American League. He told The Pittsburgh Press before the 1902 season:

“There’s Connie Mack, if he thought I could use one of his players he would keep him around until the Fourth of July, and then, if I hadn’t got that place filled, he would take the player out behind the grandstand and shoot him rather than turn him loose so I could sign him. The rest are getting as bad as Connie too.

“When (Tom) Loftus came back into the league I thought I would have at least one friend. Now he puts blinders on his players every time I get anywhere near them. Just to show you; before Loftus went East recently, I framed it all up for him to get a good second baseman for his team. I knew (John) McGraw couldn’t use all his infielders, so told Loftus to go after either (Bill) Keister or (Jimmy) Williams. McGraw would talk to Loftus, but not to me, when it came to players.”

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 Comiskey

Loftus ended up signing Keister as a free agent.

“Well, Loftus got Keister, you know, and I figured that would solve my third base problem, for he can’t use both (Harry) Wolverton and (Bill) Coughlin at third, and neither is much good anywhere else. So, when Tom came back, I led him up to the subject gently and proposed taking one or the other of them off his hands. Then what do you think Loftus sprung on me? He said he though of playing Keister in the outfield next year so he would need all his infielders. He looks like all the rest to me now.”

Keister and Coughlin remained with the sixth place Washington Senators all season—Coughlin at third, Keister splitting time at second and in the outfield—Wolverton, who had jumped to the Senators returned to the Philadelphia Phillies mid-season. Comiskey tried to solve his “third base problem” by acquiring Sammy Strang from the New York Giants. Strang hit .295 but committed 62 errors and was released in September.

Warner on Revenge

In 1906, Washington catcher Jack Warner told The Boston American how he had gotten even with Cupid Childs for spiking him. The incidents occurred, he said, in 1895 when he had recently joined the Louisville Colonels and Childs played for the Cleveland Spiders.

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Warner

Warner said he had received the throw to the plate well ahead of Childs:

“Well, sir, Cupid came in like the Empire State Express, feet first and his body high in the air. And say, he planted those mudhooks of his on my right side with such force that I flew twenty feet. Then there was absolutely no excuse, as the play was not close, me being there waitin’ there to receive him. I put up a howl but that was useless, so I made up my mind to work the next day and watch for a chance to get even. I was lucky to have the same sort of play come off.

“Up in the sky went Mr. Cupid again. But this time I was not there, only thereabout. I had plenty of time to look him over and pick out a soft spot in his architecture. They had to pry the ball out and it took half an hour to bring him back from dreamland. That’s the way to do it when you know a lad it trying to get you. And you can always tell if he is on the level after a couple of encounters.”

“The Hardest Loser the Game Ever Knew”

3 Apr

During the same week Billy Sunday appeared at one of his largest revivals—preaching in front of an estimated 10,000 people in Spokane, Washington—Cap Anson was telling a judge in Chicago that he was “Busted,” unable to pay a $111 debt.

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Billy Sunday

Sunday told a reporter for the Associated Press in Spokane that he would be happy to raise money for his former teammate and manager—an offer Anson refused.  He also talked about his admiration for Anson and his impact on the game:

“Anson gave Chicago four pennant winners. He developed some of the greatest baseball players the game ever knew right in Chicago—made stars of raw kids. Look at Bill Lange, in my judgment the greatest outfielder the game ever produced. Anson made him.”

Sunday said:

“No other man gave so much of his best efforts for so long a time for any city since the game of baseball became popular…He took his job seriously. He was the hardest loser the game ever knew. I tell you, it used to be blue smoke in that old dressing room after those games that we lost by carelessness or dumb playing. He was fighting every minute for every game, no matter how big a lead the other fellows had.”

Sunday, who had been invited to Spokane originally by temperance advocates, claimed his former manager inspired him in that belief:

“Anson was a credit to the game of baseball. He was a model for the other players to follow, at least while I was under him. He had been a hard drinker until one day in 1876—the boys told me about this-he got into a fight at Philadelphia in a crowd after a hard game. It took eight policemen to handle him.

“The papers made a big muss about it, called him a rowdy, drunken bum—or something in the slang of those days that meant the same thing.”

Sunday said the incident “straightened Anson up,” and:

“He saw where whiskey was leading him to and he cut it out—right then and there—for all time. He never drinks, so far as I know, and while he tolerated it among other Chicago players, it was only because in those days a captain almost had to, and he counseled the boys against it, continually and repeatedly.”

And he said his former manager knew how to handle his players:

“Cap used to give me a jacking up for some ‘bonehead’ play, but he always knew just how to make me feel ashamed of myself without making me mad. He never violated a fellow’s inner instincts of manliness, and after I was converted I enjoyed playing under Anson just as much as I did before.”

In the end, Sunday said Anson was alone among his peers:

“I have followed baseball for nearly 30 years, and I believe that Anson stands as an absolutely unique character in the history of the game. There never was anybody like him before; there never has been anybody like him since.”

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Anson

Three years later, when Anson was trying to dig out of another financial hole, traveling the small theater circuit in the Midwest, he “lost himself in reflection” talking about Sunday to The Decatur (IL) Herald:

“If Billy Sunday chases the devil as fast as he used to circle the bases, he’ll have the old boy nailed at the plate.”

Anson contradicted the story he and Sunday would later tell about his aunt being responsible for the discovery of Sunday in Anson’s native Marshalltown, Iowa.

He told the paper his father and brother played with Sunday and “tipped him off as a mighty fast man.”

He said:

“Sunday was playing on the home team, running with the hose cart and driving a hearse, I believe, for a furniture store. He wasn’t making more than $12 a week. I asked him if he waned to play professional ball. ‘Sure,’ he said.”

Anson also told the not quite fully accurate and slightly different version of the story—which first appeared in his 1900 autobiography– about Sunday’s initial days with the White Stockings:

“Funny thing about Billy’s first appearance in the game. He was at bat 12 straight times without ever touching the ball. The 13th time he fouled it. I suppose any other manager would have released him, but I liked the fighting qualities of the fellow and held on to him.”

Anson also said Sunday took “more desperate chances in a game” than any other player:

“Some of the chances he took scared me. He didn’t get away with all of them, but he won out the percentage, just the same as he is doing today.”

As for Sunday’s conversion:

“Sunday was always religiously inclined. From the very start he refused to play baseball on Sunday. I always looked on him as a Christian young man.”

Adventures in Barnstorming: Anson’s Colts

1 Apr

Cap Anson was broke.  Again.

In January of 1909, he appeared in “debtors court” in Chicago over $111 owed to the Chicago House Wrecking Company.  Anson told Judge Sheridan E. Fry he was “busted.”

The judge asked Anson about his stock in the company that owned Chicago’s Coliseum. Anson said, “I did but the bank’s got it now.  I even owe them money on it.”

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Anson

The judge dismissed the case.  The Chicago Tribune said as Anson was leaving the courtroom:

‘”Three strikes and out,’ half called a man among the spectators.

“The ‘Cap’ paused a moment with his hand on the door knob.

“’There is still another inning,’ he offered as he stepped into the corridor.  Someone started to applaud, and the bailiff forgot to rap for order, and the judge looked on indulgently.”

A rumor made the rounds in subsequent days that Cubs President Charles Webb Murphy was trying to get Anson appointed supervisor of National League umpires. National League President Harry Pulliam quickly killed the idea, The Detroit Free Press said:

“Mr. Pulliam comes through with the sensible suggestion that if Chicago wishes to do anything for Anson it would do better to provide the job itself.”

Anson’s former teammate, Evangelist Billy Sunday, told The Associated Press he was willing to help:

“So, poor old ‘Cap’ Anson is busted! Well, that’s too bad. We ought to help that old boy in some way.

“The Chicago people ought to help ‘old Cap’ out. They ought to give him a benefit. I’d like to help him myself.”

With the job with the National League not forthcoming, no offer from the Cubs, and Anson’s apparently turning down Sunday’s help, he set out on a 5,000-mile barnstorming tour with his Chicago City League amateur team, Anson’s Colts.  Anson, who celebrated his 57th birthday on tour, played first base on a club that included future major leaguers Fred Kommers, George Cutshaw, and Biff Schaller.

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The barnstorming Colts, Anson top center

The tour started in March 28 in South Bend, Indiana; the Colts lost games on the 28th and 29th to the Central League South Bend Greens.

On April 1, Anson’s Colts played the Cincinnati Reds. Thirty-nine-year-old Clark Griffith took the mound for the Reds. Jack Ryder of The Cincinnati Enquirer said:

“Seventy-nine persons witnessed a game of ball at League Park yesterday afternoon which would have furnished several thousand with material for conversation if they had only been there to observe it.”

Griffith pitcher=d a complete game and went 5 for 5 with a triple. In a 15-4 victory; he allowed just seven hits, Anson had two of them in four trips to the plate.

Ryder said of Anson:

“That game old boy played first base for his team, stuck through to the finish, and was the only man on his side who could do much of anything with the delivery of Mr. Griffith.”

Ryder said Anson also “handled perfectly,” every play at first base:

“Remarkable indeed was the spectacle of this great player, now nearly 60 years of age, hitting them out as he did in the days of old and handling thrown balls at his corner like a youngster.  Will there ever be another like him?”

Despite the praise from Ryder, third baseman Hans Lober said of the team from Chicago:

“Teams like…Anson’s Colts don’t give you just the kind of work you need.”

The Colts dropped two more games in Ohio to the American Association Columbus Senators.

Anson’s barnstormers finally won a game on April 4; beating the Central League’s Wheeling Stogies 10 to 4.

The Colts won the next day in Washington D.C., defeating a team from the government departmental league 11 to 1.  Anson had two hits and stole a base.  The Washington Evening Star said:

“The grand old man of the game distinguished himself by playing and errorless game at first.”

The only other highlight of the game was the first appearance of the new electric scoreboard at American League Park.  The Evening Star said:

“It proved a great success and convinced those present that it will undoubtedly make a big hit with the local fans who will witness major league games this summer.”

Against professional competition the next day in Baltimore, the Eastern League Orioles with Rube Dessau on the mound, shutout the Colts 8 to 0; Anson was hitless and committed two errors.

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Ad for the Orioles game

After a 10 to 8 loss to the Reading club of the Atlantic League on April 7, the Colts traveled to Philadelphia for a game with the Athletics the following day.

The Philadelphia Inquirer said of the game:

“The Athletics held Pop Anson and his Colts all too cheaply yesterday and before they realized it the traveling Chicagoans had secured such a lead that they succeeded in beating the White Elephants at Broad and Huntington Streets by a score of 6 to 3.”

Anson had two hits, one of Biff Schlitzer and another off losing pitcher Jimmy Dygert, and accepted 21 error-free chances at first in a 10-inning victory.

Although only “a couple of hundred” fans turned out The Philadelphia Press said:

“Anson played first in a style that showed he has not forgotten any of his baseball cunning.”

Anson also promised reporters the Colts would win upcoming games with the Giants and Red Sox.

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Anson on tour

The Colts traveled to New Jersey to play the Trenton Tigers of the Tri-State League the following day. The Evening Times of that city said:

“Anson came over to Trenton hugging to his breast fond recollections of the victory over Connie Mack’s Athletics, won the previous day.  Trenton seemed only a small blot on the map compared to the Athletics and he counted on winning in a common canter.

“Alas how rudely were these delusions shattered by these smashing, dashing, crashing Trentons that manager (Percy) Stetler has corralled.”

The Colts lost 13-5, Anson was 1 for 4 and made an error.

On to Newark the following day to play the Eastern League Indians.  The Colts lost 7 to 0, but The Newark Evening News said:

“The way (Anson) cavorted around first base, picking low throws from the earth, and pulling down sizzling liners with either hand, made spectators gaze upon him in wonderment.”

The toll of travel and games nearly every day appeared to hit Anson on April 12, five days before his 57th birthday in Waterbury, Connecticut.  The Colts won 4 to 2, but The Chicago Inter Ocean said:

“Anson’s batting eye was weak…he fanned furiously in five futile trips to the plate.  He was the only one who didn’t get a hit.”

The following day, The New York Times said the “Colts played a light, fumbly, amateurish game though the boss himself had said before it started that they would take a scalp.”

The Giants won 7 to 1 and the game featured two other old-timers:

“(Wilbert) Robinson, ancient catcher of Baltimore, and Dan Brouthers, more ancient first baseman of the old Buffalo club, who came down from Wappinger’s Falls ‘to help out.’ Robinson caught the whole nine innings; Brouthers stood at first base after the fifth inning.”

Only “a few hundred people” came out on a cold, rainy day to see the three legends.  Anson was 1 for 4, Brouthers 0 for 1, and Robinson, who also managed the Giants in place of John McGraw, was 2 for 4.

Games scheduled for Worcester and Springfield, Massachusetts were cancelled due to poor weather and the team did not play again until April 16, In Hartford against the Connecticut State League’s Senators.

 

The Hartford Courant said Anson struggled at the plate, and when pitcher Chick Evans struck him out in the third inning:

“John W. Rogers, the vocal member of the local double umpire system, obliged with ‘It isn’t what you Used to be, but What you are Today.”

The Colts lost 8 to 2.

The team lost again the following day, on Anson’s birthday, 5 to 3 to the Providence Grays of the Eastern League. Anson was 1 for 4.

The Boston Globe said:

“Capt. Anson was warmly greeted every time he came to bat. He showed much of his old-time skill in fielding, covering first base in grand style.”

The paper—as did most during the tour–wrongly added a year to Anson’s age, saying he turned 58 that day.
The Colts were back in New York the following day but were the victims of a seldom enforced ban on Sunday baseball while playing a game against the semi-pro Carsey’s Manhattans ant Manhattan Field.

The Chicago Daily News said:

“The officers stopped the game after six innings of play. Throughout the Bronx the police were active in suppressing Sunday ballplaying, but this is said to be the first time that a game on Manhattan Field has thus been broken up.”

The score at the end of six innings was not reported.

The next day in Binghamton, New York, two innings of scoreless baseball between the Colts and the New York State League Bingoes, were bookended by rain and the field “looked like a lake” before the game was called, according to The Binghamton Press.

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Ad for the rained out Binghamton game

On to Pennsylvania, the Colts were scheduled to play Anson’s old White Stockings teammate Malachi Kittridge’s Wilkes-Barre Barons, but the that game was rained out as well.

The Tri-State League’s Johnstown Johnnies beat the Colts 11 to 2, no full box score appears to have survived.

On to Ohio and a 4 to 1 loss to the Dayton Veterans—Anson added two more hits and played error free.

On April 24, The Colts hit Indiana, and lost 8 to 3.

The Fort Wayne Sentinel noted that it was the first time since 1871 that Anson has played a game in their city—as a member of the Rockford Forest Cities.

Anson—who also gave his age as 58 rather than 57– told the paper:

“I’m just a kid at fifty-eight.”

Despite feeling like a hit, Anson did collect either of the Colts’ two hits in the loss.

The tour ended on April 25 in Terre Haute with a 13 to 1 shellacking at the hands of the Hottentots, the eventual basement dwellers of the Central League.

Anson capped the tour with one hit in four trips and an error.

The club returned to Chicago amid little fanfare and the tour likely lost money for Anson, who found himself “busted” several more times before his death in 1922.

The best anyone could say about the tour was a tiny item buried in the bottom of The Chicago Tribune’s sports page:

“Capt. Anson and his ball team returned yesterday from the first invasion of the East ever made by a local semi-pro team. While the team lost a majority of the games played, it paved the way for future visits and other local semi-pro teams are expected to follow the Captain’s example. The veteran was received warmly in all of the towns in which he played.”

The paper ignored the fact that Rube Foster and the Leland Giants—also members of the Chicago City League—had made two similar trips.

“Spalding Should Never Permit a Chicago Audience to be so Insulted Again”

20 Mar

George Van Haltren didn’t instantly live up to his billing.

The 21-year-old, then pitcher, had finally decided to leave California in June, after the death of his mother—he had refused to come East for more than a year while his mother was ill. His refusal to come to Chicago had resulted in threats of being blacklisted from White Stockings’ owner A. G. Spaulding.

The Oakland Tribune said Van Haltren’s current club, the Greenhood and Morans had offered him $300 a month to stay in California.

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Van Haltren

The impending arrival of Van Haltren was big new in the Chicago papers.  With the team struggling in fourth place, The Chicago Daily Journal said Van Haltren was “depended upon to help (John) Clarkson and (Mark) Baldwin boost the club.’ The paper left readers with high expectations:

“Two years ago he commenced playing ball as a catcher, but after a year at the receiving end of the battery, he decided it was better to give than to receive…In his first four games he struck out 55 men; in a game a little later he struck out three consecutive batters on nine pitched balls, and in another game he made a record of 19 strike outs in a nine inning game.”

Van Haltren’s arrival for his start, against Boston, was greeted with fanfare and received as much coverage in West Coast newspapers as in Chicago.  The scene, described by The Oakland Tribune:

“Eight thousand people witnessed the game.  The Chicagos marched on the diamond with Van Haltren and Captain Anson in the lead, then followed by the band and th other players of the club.  When they arrived at the home plate Anson and Van Haltren took off their caps, and the latter was loudly cheered.”

The Chicago Tribune said Van Haltren was sharp for four innings, striking out the first batter he faced:

“(He) retired Joe Hornung on strikes and the crowd manifested its pleasure.”

The Beaneaters scored two unearned runs in the first, but the White Stockings responded with five in the first and scored two more runs in the third.  Through four innings Van Haltren allowed just one hit.

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Van Haltren

The Boston Globe said what came next:

“Spalding’s wonder, the famous left-handed pitcher Van Haltren, the terror of the Pacific slope, made his debut as a league pitcher and for four innings he was a king with the crowd. After that he lost all control of the ball and all the Bostons had to do to get to first was to wait for five balls.”

Beginning in the fifth, Van Haltren “sent 14 men to first on balls, besides hitting four with the ball, and (Tom) Daly, who caught him for the first time, saved him about 10 wild pitches.”

The Chicago and California papers saw Van Haltren’s implosion differently—they blamed umpire Herm Doscher.  The Chicago Tribune said:

“Not only was his judgment on balls and strikes miserable, but he lacks a knowledge of the rules of the game.”

The Chicago Inter Ocean (which estimated the crowd at 7,000, not 8,000) said fans “witnessed the rankest case of robbery by an umpire that has ever taken place in the city. President Spalding should never permit a Chicago audience to be so insulted again.”

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Doescher

The Oakland Tribune called Doscher “Incredibly unfair and incorrect,” and The San Francisco Examiner claimed Doscher was confused by Van Haltern’s curve ball:

“Doescher’s [sic] decisions of balls were drawn from the direction of the ball when at least three feet away from the plate, losing all sight of the ultimate course of the curves at the vital spot.”

Even The Boston Post agreed that Doscher’s umpiring was “erratic” and that he participated in “bad discrimination against Van Haltren.”

Despite his meltdown—or Doscher’s incompetence—Van Haltren entered the ninth with the game tied at 11.

The Beaneaters scored six runs in the ninth after three walks—The Chicago Daily News said, “fully one-half the balls called on Van Haltren should have been strikes.”  Van Haltren was also rattled by second baseman Fred Pfeffer’s second error of the game and two hits—or as The Chicago Tribune put it:

“(Edward ‘Pop’) Tate got his base on balls after Van Haltren had struck him out fairly; (Michael ‘Kid’) Madden was hit by the ball and given his base; Pfeffer’s error gave (King) Kelly first and filled the bases.  Then (Bobby) Wheelock was given his base on balls after about six strikes.”

Having given up the lead, Van Haltren then gave up a triple to Boston’s Bill Nash, Nash scored on a single by Ezra Sutton and the Chicago went down in order in the ninth.

The phenom left-hander from California lost his first game 17-11, walked 16 and hit three batters.

The Oakland Tribune said:

“A correspondent saw Captain Anson and was informed the management of the White Stockings were perfectly satisfied with the new pitcher, who, considering all circumstances, made a good showing as a National League player.”

Anson started Van Haltren in right field the following day and thought enough of him to use him in relief of John Clarkson in the seventh inning, The Chicago Daily News said of his second stint on the mound:

“(He) did remarkably well, staking out such batsmen as Hornung, Nash and Johnson.  The general opinion here is that when he becomes used to Eastern ways, he will prove the best pitcher of the year.”

Van Haltren did not prove to be “pitcher of the year,” he finished 11-7 with a 3.86 ERA, but walked just 50 batters in 152 innings after walking 16 in his first nine.

But he was treated like the “pitcher of the year” when he returned home.

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Van Haltren

The San Francisco Examiner said:

“George Van Haltren is, beyond all question entitles to rank as the premier pitcher of California, and the most invidious of our Eastern friends will not begrudge us the right to boast a little about the stalwart young fellow who has done so much in the East to puzzle the crack batsmen beyond the Rockies, and at the same time prove to the older but not more progressive East what kind of products we raise here in California…It is believed that The Examiner’s readers will agree that a finer specimen of young America, of Californian or any other growth, than George Van Haltren would be hard to find.”

Van Haltren never excelled as a pitcher but became one of the best leadoff men of the 19th Century.

Bill Lange’s Chicken

15 Mar

Bill Lange had his best season in 1895—he hit .389, stole 67 bases, drove in 98 runs and scored 120—but he was sure he had found the secret for an even better season for him and the fourth place Chicago Colts for 1896.  The San Francisco Call broke the story:

“Bill Lange the big centerfielder of the Chicagos, now spending his vacation with his people at 415 Spruce Street, has a four-legged chicken, which is alive and well, and which he intends to take East with him in March as a mascot for his club.”

The Chicago Post expounded on Lange’s discovery:

“(A) mascot the like of which was never before seen on a ball field.  It is a four-legged chicken which Lange secured out of a crop of 13 eggs set to hatch in the dark of the moon…This wonderful chicken is an ordinary fowl in all respects, except that to it’s under parts are attached four instead of two legs.”

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Lange

The paper said:

“(Lange) is certain that his chick will turn out to be a rooster, and if it does, he proposes to train it to crow whenever the club wins.

“Should it prove a hen he will have it lay an egg and cackle when victory perches Chicago’s banner.  Lange’s chicken is sure to win the championship.”

The Chicago Tribune said Lange stayed in San Francisco with his chicken—he also coached baseball at Stanford University–past the March 5 “expiration of the time limit” to sign his 1896 contract.

Lange held out for seven more days, finally signing on March 12.  The Tribune said:

“The question as to whether he would attach his name to a Chicago contract was in doubt for some time…He of course made a strong bluff (to not sign) by demanding a salary far in excess of that of anybody on the team, not excepting (Cap) Anson.  He could not be censured for that, as he was looking out for his own interests.”

Lange joined the Colts in Galveston, Texas.  The Tribune said, “He is in gilt-edge condition.” But The Post reported tersely:

“Big Bill Lange’s mascot, the four-legged chicken he picked up in San Francisco, is dead.”

There was no further mention of Lange’s chicken or how he reacted to the death of the mascot.

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Bill Lang, seated fourth from left, with 1896 Chicago Colts

Lange his .326 with 84 stolen bases, drove in 92 runs and scored 114, and the chicken-less Colts finished fifth.

“Who’s the Greatest Ballplayer that Ever Lived?”

13 Mar

In the 19th Century, conversations about baseball in hotel lobbies

The Chicago Daily News shared one such discussion in 1896:

“’Who’s the greatest ballplayer that ever lived?’ Demanded the old ball crank of the gathering at the hotel.  And there were, straightaway, almost as many opinions as there were gentlemen in the party.”

A man in town on business said:

“To my mind, Anson outranks them all.  When you consider the wonderful grip which Anse has retained on the sport for all these twenty-five tears, when you take into consideration his qualifications as a player and as a man, his work as a leader and a general, the great batting he has always done every little point that can be recalled about both uncle and the game, I can’t see where any other player, living or dead, ranks with Anson.”

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 Anson

The paper said there were murmurs, then the night clerk weighed in:

“Mike Kelly was his ideal.

“‘Poor old Mike,’ said he, ‘had baseball genius and brilliancy to an extent never paralleled.  He had the mind to originate, the ability to execute.  He was, in the hearts of the masses, what John L. Sullivan was to pugilism.  Remember the tricks he worked, the batting and the base running he did, and the way in which he filled every position—remember only his methods of play, if you will, and then see if any one can compare with poor dead King Kel!’

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 Kelly

The “theatrical man” in the group said:

“’Bill Lange is the best that ever came down the road.  Who is there who does not like to see Lange play ball? What other player in the league, taking batting, base running and fielding into account, is as of as much value as Lange? What club would not eagerly give him the best position and the best salary it could command?  Bill Lange is destined to leave a mark in baseball history as deep as that Mike Kelly made, and future generations will speak of him as they do of Kelly now.’”

Then the “Old baseball crank” spoke up:

“’To my mind gentlemen, the greatest player of them all was Charlie Ferguson of Philadelphia.  There was a man who never realized how good he was.  When it came to effective playing, in any position, Ferguson was the man who could step into the gap so well that the regular man would never be even missed.  He could kill the ball, he was fast on the bases, and we all know he could pitch.  And the head that Charlie Ferguson wore was as good a head as ever decorated any player’s shoulders.  I saw hundreds of great players before Ferguson came, I have seen hundreds since he died, but I never to my mind at least, have seen his equal.’”

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Ferguson

The assembled men said the paper, “remembered the time of Ferguson,” with “nods and mutterings of assent,” thinking of Ferguson’s four seasons in Philadelphia—he died just 12 days after his 25th birthday in 1888.

 “Jim Hart, who ought to be a good judge of players, thinks Ferguson the greatest that the world has ever known. A canvass of ball cranks would probably show sentiments about equally divided between Ferguson and Mike Kelly.”

The paper concluded that there were, and would be, “few such popular idols” as Kelly and Ferguson:

“The increased batting has, queer as it may seem, done away with hero worship.  In the old days hits were few and the man who could step up and kill the ball was a popular king.  Nowadays the fact that nearly everybody is apt to hit takes away the individuality and accompanying romance of the great isolated sluggers.”

The paper said Lange was one of the few contemporary players who “comes as near being the subject of hero worship,” as players in previous years and that there were only players who had that impact in their own cities:

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Lange

“(Jesse) Burkett might be worshipped in Cleveland for his grand batting, but is handicapped by morose, unsociable ways.

‘(Jimmy) McAleer’s fielding would make him an idol, but his batting is pitifully light.  Baltimore’s great hero is Hughey Jennings, and the cranks treat him as though he owned the town. Brooklyn has no heroes.  There is nobody on the Boston nine whom the crowd raves over, even Hugh Duffy having lost his grip.”

“Eddie Burke and Charlie (Dusty) Miller have great followings in Cincinnati.  Louisville dotes on (Charlie) Dexter and Fred Clarke.  New York is idolless.  Philadelphia gives ovations to the whole team as a matter of principle but singles out no player.  Pittsburgh is the same way.  There is nobody at St. Louis or Washington whom the crowds adore.”

“That big Lopsided man can Pitch”

4 Mar

Leonard Washburne, who wrote for The Chicago Herald and The Inter Ocean was another influential early baseball writer who died young—he was just 25.

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Leonard Washburne

He was killed in October of 1891 while riding in the locomotive of a Chicago and Eastern Illinois train with two other members of The Inter Ocean staff.  The three newspapermen and one member of the train crew were the only four fatalities in the wreck which took place in south suburban Crete, thirty miles outside of Chicago.

The Chicago Daily News said the train “struck a misplaced switch and the locomotive plunged through an engine house.  The engineer and the fireman jumped and saved themselves, but the three newspaper men were killed.”

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Newspaper Rendering of the Crash

Washburne was sports editor at The Inter Ocean for less than a year, and left behind a small but colorful collection of observations:

When Harry Stovey was injured in a series in Chicago early in the 1891 season:

“Stovey dragged his six feet up to the plate like a man with one foot in the grave.”

On Amos Rusie:

“Rusie! He is not a handsome man.  His legs lack repose, his fists are too large for their age, his face is a clam-chowder dream, and his neck is so inextensive that he can not wear a collar without embarrassing his ears.

“But how that big lopsided man can pitch.”

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Amos Rusie

When the Philadelphia Phillies snapped an eight game Chicago Colts winning streak, shutting out the Colts 3 to 0 on May 23, 1891:

“Maharajah Anson, who for eight days has been looking toward the pennant without pause was jerked to a standstill yesterday with a noise like a hook and ladder truck striking a beer wagon.”

Jim “Tacks” Curtiss made his debut with the Cincinnati Reds in July of 1891–he only appeared in 56 major league games, 27 with the Reds and 29 with the Washington Statesmen in the American Association–but drew Washburne’s notice:

“Mr. Curtiss is a medium-sized man with a comic-opera mustache and a mouth so full of teeth that he looks like the keyboard of a piano.”

Of Patsy Tebeau’s fifth place Cleveland Spiders, dropped their third straight game to Chicago during an August 1891 series:

 “(His) men wandered through the contest like men who have no idea of winning but hope to last four rounds.”

On Cy Young:

“Young is a big, slack-twisted lob, who throws a ball like a man climbing a stake-and-rider fence, and who will retain that indefinable air of the farm about him as long as he lives.”

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Cy Young

Of Brooklyn fans:

“There is nothing else under the administration like a Brooklyn ball crowd.  A Boston assemblage may be mildly enthusiastic; a New York crowd insanely unfair; a Cleveland one a mob of hoarse-voiced wild-eyed fanatics; but the memory of them all, when one sees a Saturday afternoon Brooklyn crowd, withers and fades away like a flannel shirt. No team was playing at Eastern Park when the late Mr. Dante wrote his justly celebrated “Inferno.” Hence the omission If Dante could have dropped in at Mr. Byrne’s Brooklyn joint before he wrote that book it would have given his imagination a good deal of a boost.”

One year after Washburne’s death, a delegation of more than 500 boarded a Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad train to Clinton, Indiana, to dedicate a monument at his grave.

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Washburne’s one-time colleague at The Inter Ocean, and best friend, future Congressman Victor Murdock said at the dedication:

“I do not believe that any here who knew him had a feeling that could be called respect and admiration only There was an element of strength in him that did not brook so short a stop.  It was not respect, not admiration.  It was love—deep, strong, everlasting love.”

Years later, William A. Phelon, who was a 20-year-old reporter for The Chicago Daily News at the time of Washburne’s death, wrote in The Cincinnati Times Star that “every press-stand is full of keen-witted, clever boys who make their stuff entertaining and interesting ” as a result of Washburne’s influence.

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things: 1888 Edition

18 Feb

Anson on the “Best Sports”

The Chicago Daily-News, during a lazy, off-season day before the 1888 season, asked Cap Anson his opinion of the “best sports for young men to engage,” Anson said:

“Baseball, with football as a second choice.  For indoor sport, I prefer handball with sparring next.”

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Anson

Anson questioned one sport for men:

“Tennis is all right, but the tendency is too effeminacy.”

He said the reason football was his second choice:

“Yes, a big man generally believes in football, and comes out of a tussle first best.  But it’s a shame to send the college striplings to the front the way they do and then mob them.  Football, as I have witnessed it, has seemed to me to be mod rule illustrated.  Baseball is much preferable, and the percentage of danger is nothing worth mentioning.”

As for “light sparring,” Anson said:

“(A) good all-around amateur athlete can do enough shoulder hitting ordinarily to protect himself or punish a rascal who invites a knockout blow. This fancy talk about scientific principles of attack and defense I take no stock in.  You can put it down as a rule that the man who misbehaves himself in public is a coward.  One blow from the shoulder will settle him.”

Anson Puts it to use

“Light sparring” apparently paid off for Anson.

In 1888, Time Murnane of The Boston Globe said Anson excelled as a wrestler, telling the story he said took place in 1875:

“We remember a bout he had with Johnny Dwyer, the late pugilist, in Johnnie Clark’s place in Philadelphia,” located at the corner of 8th and Vine, the two-story complex hosted fights and was a bar that was frequented by boxers and ballplayers.”

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Dwyer

Murnane said of “Dwyer was awarded the bout,” but the opinion of many gathered at the bar was that Taylor had won.

“Anson thought Taylor had the best of it, and so expressed himself in the hearing of Dwyer.  The pugilist got a little hot and turned to Anson saying: ‘Well, you’re a big fellow, but I’d like to put you on your back.’ ‘Well,’ retorted the ball tosser, ‘you can’t commence any too soon.’

“The boys pulled off their coats and went at it, catch-as-catch-can.  Anson had his man flat on his back in less than a minute.  Dwyer settled, and was introduced to the ball tosser, and was much surprised when he learned he had been up against Anson, whom he admired so much on the ball field.”

The J.M. Ward Workout

The Boston Globe said in 1888: “John Ward does not believe in gymnasium or Southern trip training,” and quoted Ward from his just released book “Baseball: How to Become a Player:

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Ward

“The best preliminary practice for a ball player, outside of actual practice at the game, is to be had in a hand-ball court. The game itself is interesting, and one will work up a perspiration without noticing the exertion; it loosens the muscles, quickens the eye, hardens the hands, and teaches the body to act quickly with the mind; it affords every movement of the ball field except batting, there is little danger from accident, and the amount of exercise can be easily regulated. Two weeks in a hand-ball court will put a team in better condition to begin a season than any Southern trip, and in the end be less expensive to the club.”

Tip’s Suspension 

James “Tip” O’Neill led the American Association with a .435 batting average in 1887, in 1888, despite being sick and injured for large parts of the season, he led the league in hitting again; hitting .335.

Despite the second straight batting title, O’Neill drew the ire of owner Chris von der Ahe throughout the season.  The situation came to a head in late September.  The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said:

 

“(O’Neill) was sick earlier in the year and tried to play ball in poor condition.  Of course, he did not show up well, and was consequently censured, unjustly perhaps, but not unjustifiably, for he did not say that he was really ailing.

“On (September 21) he complained again of being sick and unable to play good ball.”

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O’Neill

The paper said von der Ahe ordered O’Neill to visit the team doctor:

“O’Neill replied in somewhat warm language.  This incensed Mr. von der Ahe and he suspended O’Neill.”

The Browns owner told the paper:

“I have nothing against Mr. O’Neill, but if I’m going to run my team I propose to run it to suit myself and not my players, and I will not tolerate impudence.  I’m ready to hear their grievances, if they have any, but I cannot afford to take impertinence.  I will keep O’Neill suspended until he decides he is ready to play good ball or is willing to show that he is really sick and deserving of sympathy.”

O’Neill, who The Post-Dispatch called “a splendid fellow…A little stubborn, perhaps,” was back in the lineup within three days and the Browns won their fourth straight American Association championship.