Tag Archives: Cap Anson

“He Made Base Ball More Dignified”

18 Feb

Oliver Perry “O. P.” Caylor’s death from tuberculosis in October of 1897 at age 47 took one of the most important chroniclers of 19th Century baseball.

The New York Herald, his last paper, said:

“Mr. Caylor’s fight for life was pathetic in its boldness.”

Caylor

Caylor, who had left the paper a month before his death to go to Winona, Minnesota to seek treatment from a “throat and lung specialist” in a sanitarium, engaged in a “one-sided” struggle, “but on his part it was heroic.”

The paper recounted Caylor’s final visit to the Polo Grounds before he departed for Minnesota:

“(Arriving in) a carriage, accompanied by his wife, and though scarcely able to reach his old seat in the stand, his courage never faltered.”

Caylor had been ill for several years. William “Billy” Norr, the sports editor of The New York World had a morbid wager with Caylor, Sporting Life said:

“(Norr) had made a bet with Caylor every New Year’s Day for seven years that he (Caylor) would die in twelve months.”

The 33-year-old Norr died seven weeks before Caylor after contracting Typhoid Fever:

“Caylor chuckles between hemorrhages, tickled with the idea that he has outlived Norr and is $35 ahead of the game.”

The tragedy of Norr’s early death was compounded when, just a week after the New York Giants and Brooklyn Bridegrooms played a benefit game for his family, his widow, Olga Norr, took her own life, The World said:

“So generous and so greatly beloved had her husband been that it was intended she should never need. She took her life because her heart was broken.”

Caylor’s friends and family were briefly optimistic about Caylor’s chance for recovery:

“He reached (Minnesota) as he predicted he would, and lighthearted letters were returned. He advised that he had gained in both strength and flesh…buoyed with the hope as he was that his fight for life might after all be successful.”

In a letter to friend in St. Louis, Caylor said the specialist he was seeing , “speaks confidently of pulling me through.”

The illness had robbed Caylor of his voice in the last months of his time in New York, but “he wrote column after column in his old-time forcible style, clearly defined, and then smiled at his friend who were astonished with the determination shown and the strength he displayed.”

Of Caylor’s legacy, The Herald said:

“Mr. Caylor was never rugged, but his blows for the welfare of the national game were those of a giant. Delinquent players were never given any quarter. Pitiless sarcasm in the face of abuse and threats of bodily harm were showered upon them, and reformation alone caused his suspension. He deemed it criminal to disappoint the public, and when the lapse of a player was due to his own folly his pointed allusions to the offending cut as a two-edged sword.”

He was, a, “Master of humor, he made giants appear as pygmies, but was quite as ready with words of praise and encouragement as he found them deserved.”

Al Spink of The Sporting News agreed with the assessment, and said that Caylor was unpopular among many players because of his style, but:

“The base ball world will sincerely mourn him, and he will be missed by all newspaper men, for he was a newspaper man in the truest sense. He was sincere in his though, he was above caprice or prejudice in his judgment, he was beyond the reach of corruption in all things. He made base ball more dignified, honorable, and more commendable to honest men by his thirty ears of labor in the legitimate field of sport.”

Francis Richter, the founder and editor of Sporting Life said:

“Hurlburt [sic, Hulbert] and Mills have no successors. There will never be another Harry Wright in our day, nor a successor to Anson when he, too, shall retire. No player is in sight to take up the mantle of the inimitable Latham; no magnates to duplicate the brilliance of Spalding, Reach, Young, Soden, and Byrne, all grown gray in the service of the king of sports; no writer to equal the brilliance of our dead brother Caylor.”

“The Brilliant Ignoramus of The Sun.”

1 Feb

The New York Sun took up the issue of “Scientific batting” in 1884. The paper said:

“(O)f course scientific play at the bat is not to be learned in a day, as hard hitting can be. Take a muscular man and place him at the bat for the first time, and the chances are five to one that he will make a home run the first hit he makes. But the skill to face for position in batting and to place a ball is an art that requires practice, and no novice can get into it at a jump as he can in home-run hitting.”

The Chicago Tribune was having none of it and suggested that “Somebody—probably “old Chad,” Henry Chadwick—was writing a “column of foolishness on the subject of scientific batting.”

The Tribune wasn’t done, and said, “It is hard to believe that the person who wrote this ever saw a professional game of ball,” and set out to correct “the brilliant ignoramus of The Sun.”

A first-time batter, no matter how “muscular” facing “the delivery of (Larry) Corcoran or (Old Hoss) Radbourn,” could not “hit clean for four bases once in 200 ties trying.”

The paper cited “a friendly dispute” between Corcoran and Cap Anson.

 “Anson, who is considered to be the most skillful batsman in American as regards ability to control the direction of the ball when hit, and whose average of right-field hitting is probably greater than that of any right-hand batsman, asserted that if he chose, he could place the ball in the direction of the right field any time.”

Cap Anson

Corcoran bet Anson he couldn’t do it half the time and offered to bet. Anson refused the bet but said he would prove his point the next day against Stump Weidman of the Detroit Wolverines.

“Out of five times at bat Anson went out on a fly twice in left-center and once in right field, was once thrown out at first base by the second baseman, and once popped on an easy foul fly. The result of the special effort to ‘place the ball’ was that he made not a single clean hit in five times at bat.”

Over the next fifteen games the White Stockings played in Chicago, the paper said Anson had fourteen hits in 65 at bats for a .215 average; he had six hits to right, three to center, and five to left and of his 51 other at bats, three were fly balls to left field, and 13 were ground balls to the right side. The conclusion was that Anson’s hitting suffered when he made a “systematic effort” to hit to right.

The Tribune said the current “swift curve throwing” that batters faced forced batters to focus on having “the judgement and patience to wait for a good ball, the skill to get it on his bat, and the strength to hit it hard.” This differed from when the “old-fashioned straight-arm pitching was in vogue it was quite possible for a skillful batsman to govern in a measure both the direction and force of the ball.”

The paper concluded that “Hard, clean hitting is what is wanted, and, as a rule, direction is of far less consequence than force.”

Henry Chadwick

The “ignoramus of The Sun” did not respond.

“Mr. Cleveland Treated me Tiptop”

31 Dec

O. P Caylor of The New York Daily News said of seeing Cap Anson at the National League winter meeting after the 1893 season:

“He looked so young, fresh, and skittish that I had the temerity to ask him to tell me in confidence just what his age, according to the records I the family Bible, was:

Anson replied:

“Now look here, young man, I’m going to tell you a story about my father.”

Cap Anson

Anson’s father Henry was the first European settler in Marshalltown, Iowa in 1851; the following year, Cap was the first child to born to settlers in the town. Anson said:

“He has lived there a good many years and in that time has contributed largely to Marshalltown’s fame by gifts of several kinds, including a boy who knows a little about playing baseball.

“Well, now pop is a rip-roaring Democrat and always has been. Therefore, we all think he should be recognized by the present administration in Washington. So we persuaded him to put in a claim for the Marshalltown (postmaster), and he did.”

Anson said he met with President Grover Cleveland twice while in Washington, “in the old man’s behalf, and each time Mr. Cleveland treated me tiptop.”

Grover Cleveland

Anson said the president:

“(T)alked baseball fluently and promised to consider the old gentleman’s political claims with due regard.”

Despite his positive meetings with the president, Anson said he learned that “some of pop’s enemies” were using his age to try to persuade the president to not appoint the elder Anson.

“I telegraphed to him, ‘They say you are too old.’ This is what he replied, ‘I am not a kid, nor am I decrepit, but I don’t ask any concessions from any blankety blank blank on account of age, and don’t you forget it.’

“Now, that was pop’s reply to the charge that he was too old, and I guess the same answer will do for me.”

Anson’s father was never named postmaster of Marshalltown.

“His Jealousy Would Break Forth Violently”

28 Dec

“Ball orchards are the favorite breeding places of green-eyed monsters.”

So said Hugh Fullerton in The Chicago Herald in 1907.

Jealousy among players, he said often resulted in “ludicrous situations” on baseball teams.

“One of the funniest instances that ever came to my notice happened when (Cap) Anson was running the Chicago club.”

Hugh Fullerton

He said that spring Anson had brought in enough pitchers to fill “the whole West Side park.”

One of them was Walter Thornton, who Anson sent to the mound one day:

 “The big fellow was one of the best natural hitters…besides pitching fair ball he rammed out four hits.”

The response:

“The other candidates sat on the benches and looked at each other anxiously as Thornton banged the ball around the lot, and every hit he made caused them deeper woe.

“That evening, just as the sun was setting, a delegation of Cub pitchers slipped out to the clubhouse, ravaged Thornton’s locker, took out his bats, secured (groundskeeper) Charlie Kuhn’s saw and proceeded to saw up every bat Thornton owned.”

Then, said Fullerton, there was the case of, “Little Tommy Hess.”

As a 16-year-old, Hess got into one game for the Baltimore Orioles in 1892:

“There were two other catchers on the team (Wilbert Robinson and Joe Gunson) both veterans, and they would have lost an arm before they would have let Tommy have a chance. He sat on the bench week after week, eager and ready to jump in and prove his worth.

“Finally, he thought his day had come. One of the catchers had been laying off with a split hand—and the other was working. A foul tip in the first inning of the game put the catcher out of business. Before (manager Ned) Hanlon could say a word, Hess had on a protector and was starting for the plate, when the man with the split hand grabbed the mask and protector from him and went in. That broke Hess’ heart.”

Hess played pro ball for another 19 years but never again reached the major leagues.

Fullerton said one of his favorite subjects—Bill Lange—was the object of jealousy during his time in Chicago:

“It is a hard thing to prove, but there are cases where a man on first signaled the batter to hit, as he was going to steal, and then the batter deliberately let the ball go and the runner be thrown out at second. This happened on the old Chicago club so many times that Anson was forced to put one player on the bench for ‘double crossing’ Lange to let him be caught stealing.”

Bill Lange

In Fullerton’s last example he failed to mention the player in question, but it was likely John O’Neill, an outfielder with the 1906 World Series Champions:

“There was a certain outfielder on the White Sox team not long ago who was jealous of (outfielder/manager Fielder) Jones. The man should have been a great ballplayer, but because of his disposition more than anything else, he fell short of being great.

“When this man was not hitting well, he quit…he would let Jones race across his field and get flies and never move. But when that fellow began to get base hits and move up in the batting average, his jealousy of his manager would break forth violently. His criticisms of Jones were bitter, and he refused to permit the manager to take one step into his territory to get a fly ball.

“The beauty of Jones’ character was never better shown than during those times.”

Fielder Jones

O’Neill appeared in 94 games for the 1906 Sox, hitting .248.  Jones used him in only one game during the World Series and O’Neill never played in the major leagues again—spending the last four seasons of his career in the American Association.

“An Awkward Bunch of Monkeys”

24 Dec

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

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

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

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

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

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

Latham at 91

Latham’s team:

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

C: Bill Dickey

1B: Bill Terry

2B; Frankie Frisch

#B: Pie Traynor

SS: Honus Wagner

OF Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Joe DiMaggio

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

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

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

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

Of his own career, Latham said:

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

Arlie Latham

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

Latham died the following year at age 92.

“Spalding Threw a fit”

3 Jun

“The applause of thousands that once thundered across the baseball fields of the National League still echoes in the ears of a quiet man of sixty-three [sic, 68] who goes so unobtrusively about his simple duties in caring for a furnace at the plant of the New York Continental Jewel Filter Company at Nutley, NJ, that few know he was once one of the greatest figures in baseball.”

So, said Joaquin B. Calvo, writer for The New York World in 1922. The man he was describing was George Gore who played 14 major league seasons from 1879 to 1892:

georgegore

Calvo noted that Gore had done some catching before his major league debut and, “his gnarled and twisted fingers today bear mute testimony to this.”

Gore (or Calvo) knocked five years off the former player’s age, saying he was born in 1859 rather than 1854.

Gore repeated the story of having been “the first holdout” when in 1878 he negotiated his first contract with Albert Spalding before signing with the White Stockings. While the story was substantially the same as his other telling’s over the years, Gore added the detail that his asking Spalding for $2500 after initially being offered $1500 was the suggestion of Giants manager Jim Mutrie:

“He gave me some good advice, and one day I set forth to meet A. G. Spalding. Mutrie had told me to ask for $2500 and when I mentioned the figure Spalding threw a fit.”

Calvo said of Gore’s current activities::

“One of Gore’s greatest delights today is in teaching the young boys on the sandlots how to stand up at the plate, how to swing their bodies, and how to get that all important snap in the wrists as bats crash against balls. He is extremely active and has never lost his love for the game and, as he says, he tastes a little of the glory of yesterday when he plays with the youngsters and hears their cries of delight when he pounds out a home run.”

gore

Gore

Calvo asked him about being forgotten:

“Ah, well, it’s a busy world, he says modestly enough and the Cobbs and the Ruths of tomorrow will just as surely shove Babe and the Georgia Peach into oblivion, as they in their turn, have helped a thoughtless public to forget the diamond heroes of nearly half a century ago.”

Gore said of the differences in baseball in those nearly 50 years:

“The ball is livelier, but I don’t think the game is. In fact, I don’t think there is much science in baseball today as there was in the days when Anson and Spalding and others were putting their wits against some of the brightest minds baseball has ever known.”

Of Ruth, he said:

“I think he is a wonderful hitter, with a style all his own. I have never seen anything like it. There is a snap to his wrists when he hits the ball that accounts for the tremendous distance he knocks the pill. It isn’t his weight or strength; it is just his knack of hitting the ball.”

In closing, Calvo said Gore:

“(O)n days that he can get away from his furnace, he slips unnoticed into the stands at the Polo Grounds, the roaring applause of the mob blots out the picture of 1922 and brings back in sweetened memory those plaudits of the ‘80s that were for him alone.”

“The Charming and Fascinating Pig Ward”

14 May

It was as a “coacher” that Piggy Ward—who appeared in 221 games over parts of six seasons with five National League teams between 1883 and 1894—was best known

That reputation began in the minor leagues. In 1889, when Ward was with the Hamilton Hams in the International League, The Detroit Free Press described him:

“A squatty, thickset man, with a bull neck, loaferish appearance, and voice a combination of the bellowing of a bull and braying of a donkey, attempted to make himself conspicuous in yesterday’s game and succeeded, to the intense disgust of the 1200 people present. Whenever the Hamiltons went to bat this unmitigated nuisance placed himself near third base and bellowed, roared, and ranted till everybody in the park was seized with a burning desire to rush upon and club him into silence.”

The paper called him “The champion lunatic of the noisy coaching clan,” but softened somewhat in their assessment of Ward later when it appeared he would not be returning to the International League:

“There is burning curiosity in this vicinity to whether the Hamilton management intends to sign that meadowlark of the ball field, the charming and fascinating Pig Ward. The echoes of his weird voice still reverberate around Recreation Park.”

piggy1904

The press, for the most part, did not approve of his technique. The Buffalo Express said:

“Ward’s coaching is too coarse altogether and should be stopped. The umpire’s voice is drowned in his babble.”

When he played for the New Orleans Pelicans in the Southern Association in 1893, The Birmingham Times noted that he was the first player of the season to be fined for his “loaferish behavior,” while coaching, the paper also said Ward “has entirely too good an opinion of his own merits and too much contempt for the lesser deficiencies of his brother players.”

Ward’s coaching received greater attention when he joined the Washington Senators in 1894.

The Washington Star said during one game in July, “Ward’s lamentations were loud, continuous, and contentious—so much so that (umpire Bob) Emslie warned Capt. (Bill) Joyce that ‘Piggy’ would be sent to the bench if he didn’t keep quiet.”

O. P. Caylor of The New York Herald, in noting that “noisy coaching” had become more widespread that year, referred to the, “(Tommy) Tucker—(Dad) Clarke—‘Piggy’ Ward method of making noise by howling and shrieking from the coaching lines, in order to ‘rattle’ the opposing pitcher.”

Caylor did not approve, and said the practice because “in part, the science of the game is obscured, owing to the frantic attempts of the players to confuse one another.”

Cap Anson agreed, telling Caylor:

“It isn’t respectable ball playing and neither will I adopt that method or let any of my players use it.”

Ward’s “coaching” caused Anson’s Colts a loss on July 8. The Chicago Inter Ocean was not amused:

“The trick which ‘Pig’ Ward resorted to yesterday in the seventh inning no doubt won the game for Washington, but if (manager Gus) Schmelz were not impervious to all decency and self-respect he would release the man on the ground of dirty ball playing. (Ed) Cartwright had hit a high fly to infield, for which (Charlie) Irwin ran. It was a hard sprint, but the shortstop got well under it, when Ward, imitating the voice of Anson, called out ‘(Bill) Dahlen!’ Irwin, who had to keep his eyes up in the air, of course dropped the ball. Cartwright and (Win) Mercer subsequently scored. The game finished 9 to 8, so that these two runs did the work.”

The paper complained that “under the rules there was nothing Umpire (Jack) McQuaid to do except to the fine the fellow, but even this that functionary refused to do. He should have been fined the limit and ordered off the diamond.”

That same season, his coaching, and the extra effort he added to it, drew the ire of The Cincinnati Enquirer:

“When a rotten ball player wants to keep his job, he resorts to dirty tricks to conch his position with his manager. Piggy Ward belongs to this class, and his latest is to paw first with his big feet around first base so as to blind the first baseman and prevent him from seeing thrown or batted balls.”

As Ward’s coaching antics became more commented upon and the nickname “Piggy” became more frequently used for him, The Brooklyn Citizen speculated it was “probably to distinguish him from Brooklyn’s gentlemanly and able Captain,” John Montgomery Ward.

Ward also engaged with fans form the “coacher’s box.” When he returned to Cincinnati as a member of the Senators, The Enquirer related a verbal sparring match Ward engaged in with a fan during a game:

“Piggy Ward is a good coacher. He is on the line nearly all the time, and he has been the target of a good many taunts and unkind remarks from the stand in the two games the last two days. He doesn’t seem to mind it a bit but goes on giving his directions and trying to rattle the opposing team as though everything that came to ears was complimentary.

“Yesterday, a waiter in a downtown restaurant who was with a party of fellow waiters, yelled at Ward:

‘”Who told you that you could play ball? You ought to be behind a plow.’

“’Is that so?’ said Piggy. ‘What are you doing for a living now? The same thing, I suppose. Turning cakes in a fifteen-cent restaurant?’

“Whether it was a chance thrust or not it went home, and for a few moments the waiters and those n the vicinity made matters unpleasant for the fresh young man who endeavored to kid the ballplayer.

Despite having his best major league season at the plate in 1894—hitting .303 in 98 games with the Washington Senators—Ward, who also committed 52 errors at four positions, was often belittled in the press. Sporting Life said:

“Piggy Ward of the Washingtons appears to like the bench better than the field. He was ordered there during the season oftener than any other player in the League.”

Sporting Life also called him “A wretchedly bad second baseman.”

The Star related a conversation between him and his manager:

“’Are you a ballplayer?’ said Schmelz to Piggy Ward. ‘Well, the newspapers say I’m not,’ responded the ever-ready Piggy.”

Ward fractured his thumb on August 14, The Washington Post said the injury occurred while he was “trying to tag a man” at second base.  The injury kept him out of the lineup for several days.

He was released by Washington, ending his big-league career, but not his reputation as a “coacher,” or his story.

Shortly after being let go by Washington, Ward became more of a local hero in his hometown of Altoona, Pennsylvania. A fire broke out in the shop of a black barber named J. H. Crocker. The Altoona Tribune said, after several people, tried but failed to get through the dense smoke:

“Frank Ward then made another attempt to get in and succeeded in catching hold of the arm of the man and dragging him out.”

While the man later died, Ward’s heroics were reported in major newspapers in the East.

More Ward tomorrow.

“The Future Emperor, Napoleon Lajoie”

17 Apr

John L. Sullivan “wrote” his life story for The Boston American in 1905.  The former heavyweight champion had always been a baseball fan, played some semi-pro ball, and was once arrested for participating in a Sunday game.

johnlsullivan

John L. Sullivan

In the 1905 article, he talked about the evolution of personal responsibility of the ballplayer:

“What with firing away his money and having fun with (Cap) Anson, King Kelly had a merry life, but a short one. He was a king among ballplayers and a prince among spendthrifts. Once he lectured me on the wisdom of getting the savings bank habit.

‘”You’ll need it someday, John L.’ he said.

“’How about yourself going broke, Mike,’ I asked.

‘Not me. When I need money, I can take my turnout and go selling milk,’ he replied.

“The turnout he referred to was the horse and buggy given to him before a ballgame on the National League grounds in Boston. The rig was a present to the king by his subjects in my town.

kingkelly

Mike “King” Kelly

“When King Kelly passed out, the future emperor, Napoleon Lajoie was driving an ice cart in Woonsocket. Prosperity almost carried the Frenchman off his feet, but the lesson of Mike Kelly and some more of us foolish ones was drilled into him. He cut out the red-eye and got a bank book, and today he is the king of them all and getting rich. He doesn’t intend to get off the water wagon and go back to the ice cart. The difference between King Kelly and Emperor Lajoie is the difference between the old style and the new in all kinds of sport, and the stayer is the man behind the pledge.

lajoie

Napoleon Lajoie

“Kelly died early. Lajoie grows better every year, and if he were to take up boxing, he could sprint faster than (Jim) Corbett, punch as hard as myself, get away as quick as Fitz (Bob Fitzsimmons), and handle his fists like Tommy Ryan. Moreover, his hat fits. I call the attention of all the temperance lecturers to Larry Lajoie as one of the best examples they can use in their business.”

“That’s the way Baseball Goes”

15 Apr

In May of 1933, George Gore, who spent 14 years in the major leagues from 1879 to 1892 was interviewed by one of his Nutley, New Jersey neighbors—a man named J. Warren McEligot–for The Philadelphia Public Ledger:

“It was late in the summer of 1878. New Bedford was playing Providence in the old New England League [sic, International Association]”

gore

Gore

McEligot told the story of Gore being “the first holdout” in baseball; the 24-year-old met White Stockings owner A.G. Spalding at the local railroad depot:

“’How much do you want?’ Mr. Spalding asked compendiously.

“’Twenty-five hundred dollars.’ Replied Gore, just as briefly.

“’You’re crazy,’ and Mr. Spalding chuckled.

“’I mean it,’ stated Gore, and the expression on his face conveyed to Mr. Spalding the information that Gore wasn’t fooling. So, Mr. Spalding forgot his chuckle.

“Mr. Spalding widely became diplomatic. ‘We intend to give you $1500. But I might advance the figure to $1750.’

“’Nothing doing,’ was the independent Mr. Gore’s retort.

“’Will $1800 do?’ Mr. Spalding asked.

“’No,’ and it was an emphatic ‘no.’

“Mr. Spalding became impatient. He had only a few minutes to spare and then he had to entrain for Boston. He stormed and fretted and told the young culprit that his figures were outrageous. But young George was adamant. He wouldn’t yield—not then, anyway. So, Mr. Spalding went away without affixing Mr. Gore’s signature to a Chicago contract.”

Several days later, McEligot said Gore met with Spalding in Boston:

“’I’ll not take a cent less than $2200,’ stated Gore.

“’Nineteen hundred dollars is my last offer,’ Spalding said impatiently. ‘I’m leaving for Chicago tonight. Take it or leave it.’”

Gore accepted and “in doing so the first holdout in organized baseball came to terms,” McEligot said.

“’All right,’ surrendered Gore. I’ll sign for $1900, but remember, I’ll be getting my $2500 a year someday. Mark my words.’

“Gore’s boast proved a truthful one. Later in his career he received that salary with the New York Giants (in 1887).”

McEligot asked the seventy-nine-year-old Gore (incorrectly said to be 81 in the article) about his batting title in his second season, 1880:

“’I was lucky enough to lead the league in batting. I guess Pop (Anson) had an off year. That’s why I won it,’ confessed the modest Mr. Gore.”

Gore told the story of being approached by Anson near the end of the 1886 season:

“’Gore, I’m considering selling you to the New York team, they are willing to pay a handsome price for you.’

‘”But, Pop, you wouldn’t let me go now. I’ve grown to like Chicago and I couldn’t bear leaving the team and the city. It’s my home, you know.’

“’But Pop must have made up his mind on a previous occasion, for he said: ‘I know but that’s the way baseball goes and probably will go after you’re through and I’m through. Yes, you’ll be with New York next year.’

Gore said he told Anson:

“’It’s OK with me then. But listen, if you trade me to New York, Chicago, under your regime, will never win another pennant.’”

McEligot said:

“Gore didn’t say this in boastful tones but with calmness and assurance. And his prediction did hold water. Chicago under Anson never experienced the thrill of another league championship.”

gore

Gore 1933

Gore, he said “appears to be no more than 60,” despite his age:

“That’s because I always took the best care of myself. I haven’t seen a sick day in seventy-five years, and I feel as good today as I did thirty years ago. I can’t get around like I used to, but still am able to walk three or four miles daily. That keeps me in good shape. I eat three hearty meals a day and my favorite diversion now is playing pinochle.”

Within four months, Gore died.

“Quit Chasing Baseball Flies to Chase the Devil”

8 Apr

Rodney C. Wells was the editor of The Marshalltown (IA) Times-Republican; in 1909 he interviewed the world-famous evangelist, and second-best player to have gotten his start in Marshalltown; Billy Sunday.

billysunday

Billy Sunday

The article appeared in “The Literary Magazine,” a Chicago-based syndicated newspaper insert that appeared primarily * in newspapers in smaller (20,000 to 40,000 population) markets.

Wells said:

“Although since Billy Sunday quit chasing baseball flies to chase the devil he has been tremendously busy preaching the gospel and saving the souls of tens of thousands of men and women, the is still a thoroughbred ‘fan,’ and there isn’t a devotee of the great national game anywhere who keeps in closer touch with it than he.”

Sunday was asked the perfunctory question about the quality of the modern game versus the 19th Century:

“The individual ballplayer of today is no better than he was twenty or twenty-five years ago. In fact, I believe that taking everything into consideration, the fellows of a quarter of a century ago excelled in some ways. To be true what a man does nowadays counts for more in a game, for now they have teamwork down to perfection. In the old days we hardly knew what ‘teamwork,’ as the word applies today, was. We knew nothing about a hit and run game or the double steal—that was all unknown dope to us. Consequently, playing more as individuals, more rested on us as individuals. Hence my reason for saying that, perhaps in some ways, the boys of the old days excelled the stars of today.”

Wells told the story of Sunday coming to Marshalltown after being recruited from his home in Nevada, Iowa—where he was known as a fastest runner in town–to come to Cap Anson’s hometown to participate on the hose team of the local fire department in the state tournament.  Sunday was required to live in town for a month in order to compete with the local fire department.

“Incidentally, Sunday liked to play ball, and he was out in the pasture for practice regularly. He began to command attention in this line, not so much for his proficiency in the game, as his fleetness of foot and his great base running.”

He was recommended to Anson who “looked Sunday up and down and made him a proposition,” to join the White Stockings.  Sunday said upon his arrival:

“The first thing they ran me up against in Chicago was Fred Pfeffer, the crack second baseman of the then celebrated White Stockings. Pfeffer was the fastest man on the bases in Chicago and one of the fastest in the league. Anson had told some of the boys about my running, and they were inclined to doubt the old man’s word. It didn’t take long to settle matters, however, and the first thing I knew I was matched with Pfeffer in a foot race. It is needless to for me to go into details, but I made Pfeffer look like and ice wagon.”

pfeffer

Fred Pfeffer

Sunday acknowledged he “won a place” with Chicago “even though I wasn’t much of a batter,” because of his speed.

“Then, we hardly ever had a sub, and it was seldom that a fellow was not in his position. We played season after season with eleven or twelve men, while now it is not uncommon to see as high as thirty men in the big-league teams. Why, they carry nearly as many pitchers alone in these modern days as we did in our entire team then.”

Sunday asked:

“Where do you find a ballplayer today who was Cap Anson’s equal at all-around ball when Anson was at his best? And where can you find a catcher who would beat old Mike Kelly?

“While I consider Johnny Kling perhaps the best catcher in professional baseball today, I do not believe he was a better catcher than Mike Kelly. And Kelly wasn’t only a great catcher, but he could play anywhere. If needed he could go on any base and be perfectly at home, or he could make good in the outfield. And he was a cracking good base runner, too, even though he was heavy.

“Then there was our other catcher, Frank Flint. I shall never forget him. Grit? One never saw his equal. We didn’t wear the big mitts in those days, and a catcher behind the bat, although he was getting just as swift balls as the catchers of today, had much less protection on his hands. I saw Flint get a hard one on his left hand, that split the poor fellow’s fingers down a clean inch. Quick as a flash he reached for his shirt pocket, grabbed a rubber band, snapped it around his bleeding fingers, and gave a signal for another ball. Every finger on both of poor old Flint’s hands had been broken at some time or another, and there was never a man who played baseball who had as many marks to show for the game.”

Sunday said he regretted that “the bunting game” was not “down to the science that it is now there were a few of us who could have made good.”

He said when he played in Philadelphia he and Billy Hamilton could “do 100 yards in 10 seconds” and batting first and second in the order and would have benefited from more bunting.

Sunday told Wells he had no regrets about retiring when he was 27 years old to begin evangelizing:

“Of course, Billy Sunday is glad he left baseball, for he felt his duty in life lay elsewhere. While the evangelist has a large income from his preaching, and much larger than he would ever have had in baseball, it was not so when he voluntarily gave up baseball for his religious work.”

billysunday

Sunday

Sunday was paid $83 a month when he first began working at Chicago’s YMCA.

“This was true self-sacrifice on Sunday’s part, for he knew not what the future held in store for him.”