Tag Archives: Central League

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.”

anson

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.

colts.jpg

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.

coltsbalt.jpg

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.

cap

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.

ansonbingos.jpg

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.

“Baseball After Dark Made its Initial Gesture in Pittsburgh”

18 Jun

With light standards set up just behind the first and third base coaching boxes, the Homestead Grays and the Kansas City Monarchs took the field for the first night game at Forbes Field on July 18, 1930.

duncanab

Frank Duncan at the plate, “Buck Ewing catching July 18, 1930

The night before, the Grays played under lights for the time.  A similar lighting system was deployed at the Akron, Ohio Central League ballpark, and Smokey Joe Williams shut out the Akron Guard, a local amateur club, 10 to 0, and held the Guard to two hits.

Ralph Davis, the sports editor of The Pittsburgh Press said:

“Baseball after dark made its initial gesture in Pittsburgh last night…More than 6,000 fans turned out through curiosity or other motives to see the spectacle, and the vast majority of them gave the night baseball plan their unqualified approval.”

Davis declared the field “as bright as day,” and said:

“With 33 huge floodlights as illuminants, the play-field of the Pirates was turned from inky blackness into something approaching mid-afternoon brightness.

“The scene was a revelation to many doubting Thomases who went to scoff and left the field declaring that perhaps, after all, the national pastime, if it ever has to be saved, will find night performances its savior.

“Hardly a shadow was discernible as the rival teams fielded apparently as surely and as speedily as they would have done in broad daylight.  Balls hit high in the air were easy to follow in their flight, and long hits to the outfield could be traced without ‘losing’ the ball.”

Davis said the one exception in the field were ground balls “which skimmed along the ground.” Pitchers he said, appeared “to use just as much speed,” as during the day, and the lights seemed to not affect the catchers, and:

“Pitched balls, waist-high or higher, were easy picking for the eager batsmen, but it looked as if balls around the knees were harder to judge.”

The first pitch was not thrown until 9:15, because “the darker it was, the better the lighting system worked.”

As for the crowd, which Davis said “The color line was not drawn,” and the number of black and white fans were roughly equal:

“It was a typical baseball scene, with enthusiasm just as evident as any major league game.  Rooters went into a frenzy when the Grays tied the score after the Monarchs had gotten away in the lead, and almost tore down the stands when they finally won out.”

crowdforbes.jpg

“The color line was not drawn” in the crowd

The game went 12 innings, and ended, The Press said, “Precisely at midnight,” when George Scales scored the winning run on a hit by catcher William “Buck” Ewing.

Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss was “an interested spectator” who “Watched the play closely,” Davis asked him his opinion:

“It is interesting, and provides entertainment for many people who cannot get away from work for afternoon contests.  It is not as fast as daylight ball, and I imagine the infielders have some difficulty in judging hard-hit grounders but it is remarkable how well the men handle themselves.”

Dreyfuss summed up his feelings:

“I don’t think night baseball will ever replace the daylight brand in popularity.”

Smoky Joe Williams, who had pitched in the Grays’ first night game in Akron two days earlier, agreed with Dreyfuss when Davis asked his opinion of playing under the lights:

 “’Night baseball causes an eye strain,’ said he.  “’It is all right as long as you don’t look into one of those big lights.  If you do, you lose sight of the ball entirely.  I’ll take the daylight stuff for mine.”

The next night, Williams pitched in the second night game to played in Pittsburgh, he took a 4 to 3 lead into the ninth inning when Kansas City scored five runs and beat him 8 to 8.  Two weeks later, Williams struck out 27 Monarchs batters under the lights in Kansas City.

“They Have the Most Wonderful Ballpark in the Country”

2 Apr

The Interstate Association lasted less than one full season. The eight-team league with clubs in Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan, organized in 1906, seemed a stretch to some, to begin with. The Richmond (IN) Palladium said:

“League baseball will be an experiment in several of the cities…There has been little interest in the national sport at Muncie for several years, while Marion was a failure the second season it had a berth in the Central League.”

The experiment failed quickly; the league struggled from opening day and folded in July.

The demise of the Interstate Association created an opportunity for another league in its first season. The Southern Michigan League had just five clubs—Mt. Clemens, Jackson, Tecumseh, Kalamazoo, and Battle Creek—and according to Sporting Life:

“(H)as taken the Saginaw territory of the defunct Interstate Association, with Clarence Jessup as manager of the team.”

Jessup had managed the Marion, Indiana club in the Interstate Association, and brought with him to Saginaw his best player, 18-year-old shortstop Donie Bush (most biographies of Bush say he spent part of 1906 with the Marion, Ohio team in the Ohio-Pennsylvania League, but according to The Sporting Life he was sent by the Dayton Veterans in the Central League to the Marion, Indiana club in the Interstate Association in April.)

doniebush

Donie Bush

The Dayton Journal suggested that Bush and James Elmer Duggan, who had been sold to Marion with Bush, should be returned to the Veterans after the Interstate Association disbanded:

“The (Saginaw) club will be strengthened…by several of the Marion players. This doubtless explains the failure of Bush and Duggan to report here. Jessup may bump up against it good and hard if he persists in keeping these two players away from here.”

A lot was expected of the league’s new entry and Sporting Life said:

“Saginaw now has a salary list that will take a corking good attendance to pay off, but the fans promise loyal support.”

Jessup’s club finished last in their half-season in Saginaw, and the town failed to field a club for the Southern Michigan League’s 1907 campaign. The reason might have been the Saginaw ballpark.

Apparently hastily built on the site of a former lumber yard, the playing field in Saginaw might have been less than optimal.

The Superior (WI) Times told the story the following spring:

“They have the most wonderful ballpark in the country at Saginaw, Mich. Originally the field was a lumber yard and it is not much better today, the sod having been worn away in spots, allowing sawdust to percolate through.”

The paper spoke to William “Billy” Ragan, an infielder for the Jackson Convicts during the 1906 Southern Michigan League season. During one game:

“The batter hit a slow grounder toward third and the pitcher and third sacker started for the ball. About the time the latter was ready to pick up the sphere the earth seemed to move from under his feet, a cloud of dust struck him fairly in the eyes and the ball rolled to the left field.

“Another time when on the field Ragan kept jumping up and down around the third bag but was abruptly called down by the pitcher, who yelled, ‘Don’t you see you are jostling me off the rubber and I can’t pitch until you keep still?

“A little later in the game, Ragan was at bat and on an adverse decision by the umpire, the Saginaw team came running in to object in a body.

“A strange sight greeted Ragan’s eyes. The park seemed to swim before him, rolled like the swell of Lake Erie after a storm and little spurts of dust came shooting up all over the infield.

“’It’s an earthquake,’ screamed (Ragan) and he made ready, to make a hasty exit, but the laughter of his fellow players quieted him down and he pinched himself to make sure it wasn’t a dream.”

Ragan said he asked the Saginaw catcher what was happening. The catcher explained the park had been built over the old lumber yard:

“There are a lot of boards just under the surface. Every time you step on one end you tilt up the other end. This throws up the dirt and when the pitcher yelled at you a little while ago you were on one end and he on the other of a plank and you were bounding him around.”

Presumably, with a more stable ballpark, Saginaw joined the Southern Michigan League again in 1908.

The Baseball Bandit

28 Jun
Frank Quigg hit .313 and went 1-0 as a left-handed pitcher for the Topeka Capitals in the Western Association in 1893; no statistics exist for the remainder of his career which included stops in the Southern Association and Texas League.

After he was done playing, Quigg became a pioneering figure in Oklahoma, organizing professional ball in the state with the creation of the Southwestern Association in 1901.  Quigg managed the Oklahoma City team in that league until 1903.  He also spent some time as an umpire in the California League.

An article in The Wichita Eagle in 1901 about the Southwestern Association provides interesting insight into the finances of turn of the century minor league baseball:

  “The salary limit of the league is to $450 per month and room and board for the Players…home teams paying the visiting club $25 per scheduled game, rain or shine.”

“The umpires are to receive $2.50 a game plus transportation.”

Later Quigg became an umpire in several leagues.

Bobby Eager, a former Pacific Coast League catcher, claimed he was the instigator in an incident that led to Quigg quitting his job as an umpire. Writing in The San Jose Evening News, Eager said the incident took place in Los Angeles during a game with the Oakland Oaks:

“Quigg was umpiring and he seemed to have an off day. I kept after him about not calling (strikes) and (Bill) Red Devereaux happened to be at the bat when (Quigg) missed one that was squarely over the middle.”

Eager said the pitch should have been the third strike and “hollered” at the umpire:

Bobby Eager

Bobby Eager

“And Devereaux immediately took up the umpire’s part by saying ‘What’s the idea? Are you going to let Eager run the game and do the umpiring too?  Throw him out of the game and take some of his money, he’s trying to make a bum out of you.’”

Devereaux singled on the next pitch, driving in a run. Eger said he “put up a holler” and was ejected and fined $10.

The next day Eager sought to pay Devereaux back:

“I kept telling Quigg that all that Devereaux did was try and bull the umpires and that he boasted downtown that he got him, meaning Quigg, to chase me out and that he knew that he was out on the third strike.  This statement made Quigg pretty sore and about the fifth inning he called bill out on third on a close decision. Red Dog sure told him a few things and the result was he ran Bill out of the game and fined him $10.”

Devereaux

Devereaux

Devereaux attempted to attack Quigg and police were called to escort him from the field and the fine was raised to $25.

Devereaux, now in the stands, began to heckle Quigg to an extent that the game was again halted and the police officer escorted Devereaux to the clubhouse.  According to Eager, and contemporary accounts, Devereaux was just getting started.

“He was on the roof waving a red flannel shirt and running up and down like a monkey; everybody laughed and enjoyed it more than the bad game.  Somebody went over and slipped Bill a pair of false whiskers and about the eighth inning he came back to the bench and sat there, and when the umpire wasn’t looking he went over to third base and was getting ready to play, when Quigg saw him.  Of course Bill wouldn’t be allowed to play, but it was some minutes before the umpire got wise as to who he was.  I never saw such a demonstration in my life, and people just went wild.”

The day after the incident, The Los Angeles Examiner said Devereaux was suspended “for his abuse of Quigg” and:

“Umpire Quigg resigned his position.”

The paper said his decision was the culmination of the events the previous day, and an incident two weeks earlier when San Francisco Seals pitcher Clarence “Cack” Henley threw a baseball at Quigg during an altercation.

The umpire joined the Texas League the following season.

Throughout his career, Quigg had an excellent reputation in baseball circles. His father was a Civil War veteran, and according to The Associated Press, his brother George served under Theodore Roosevelt with the Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War.  Contemporaneous newspaper accounts described the family as being extremely wealthy—already well off; Quigg’s mother married another wealthy man after the death of her first husband.

All of which made what happened next so unusual.

On December 31, 1909, Quigg and four other men attempted to rob the bank and post office at Harrah, Oklahoma.  Newspaper accounts said the robbery was well planned but that one of Quigg’s associates had discussed it with a friend who reported the plan to postal authorities.

John Reeves “Catch-‘em-alive” Abernathy, who was appointed as Oklahoma’s first US Marshall by his good friend, and Quigg’s brother’s former commanding officer, President Theodore Roosevelt, staked out the post office and attempted to the apprehend the robbers as they entered through a back door. Abernathy didn’t “Catch-‘em alive” that day.

abernathy

Abernathy

As the robbers attempted to escape Abernathy and his men shot three members of the gang. Quigg, who was living under the alias Barney and an associate named Frank Carpenter were killed.  One robber was wounded and captured while two escaped.

In the aftermath of Quigg’s death, it was reported by several newspapers, including The Abilene Daily Reflector, his hometown paper, that the gang had recently pulled off successful post office robberies in Trinidad and Golden, Colorado.

Most newspapers continued to paint Quigg as a good man gone wrong for no apparent reason, other than a vague observation about his mother’s remarriage:

“The match did not please the son.”

But one paper, The Arkansas City (KS) Traveler saw it differently:

“(Quigg) worked this town for several hundred dollars a few years ago, got the money, organized a club, went to Enid (OK) and that was the last ever seen of him by his backers.  He was a booze-fighter by the full meaning of the word and if there was any good in him it never came to the surface so the public could catch a glimpse of it.

Whatever the reason for his descent into a life of crime, it appeared Quigg hadn’t completely given up on baseball at the time of his death.  According to The Fort Wayne Sentinel he “Had an application in (to work as) an umpire in the Central League” for the 1910 season.

I published a  shorter version of this post was published in September of 2012.

“I am going to Drown this Insect of a Manager”

11 Jan

Louis Wilber “Louie” Heilbroner was one of the most unlikely managers in history; no one knew that better than he did.

heilbroner

Louie Heilbroner

In August of 1900, the St. Louis Cardinals—with five future Hall of Famers on the roster—were 42-50 and in seventh place when Manager Oliver “Patsy” Tebeau resigned.  He told The St. Louis Republic:

“My reason?  Simply that I could not make the team play the ball it seemed capable of playing.  I tried every trick I knew and found myself unable to get proper results.”

The Cardinals spent more time fighting—one another, umpires, other teams—than winning.

A cartoon in The Philadelphia North American about the fighting reputation of the 1900 Cardinals

A cartoon in The Philadelphia North American about the fighting reputation of the 1900 Cardinals

It appeared to be a foregone conclusion that Captain John McGraw would be the new manager.  McGraw had other ideas.

He told The Republic he had “refused the position.”  But the paper noted:

“Yet, he admits that, at Mr. (Frank DeHass) Robison’s request, he assumed full duties of the office laid down by Mr. Tebeau…according to his own admission then, McGraw is manager of the St. Louis team.”

While McGraw accepted Tebeau’s duties, the title of manager went to Heilbroner, the 4’ 9” business manager of the club.  The Republic called him a “straw man,” and “scapegoat.”

“(Heilbroner is) all dressed up for use in case (McGraw) fails to make the team win…McGraw is evidently a bit leery of his job of trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s leg…Though the team is strong enough to win, it is badly disorganized and full of cliques.”

The paper said Heilbroner “makes no pretensions of baseball knowledge.  He does not know a base hit from a foul flag.”

With Heilbroner as “manager,” the team limped to a 23-25-2 finish.

Later, while he was serving as president of the Central League, Heilbroner told Billy Murphy of The St. Louis Star about the moment he claimed he realized he wanted nothing to do with managing a big league club—it involved the then 22-year-old “Turkey Mike” Donlin.

Mike Donlin

Mike Donlin

“(Donlin) was known as a bad actor.  So much so that his frequent clashes with umpires caused Mike to adorn the bench most of the time.”

Murphy said McGraw had gone to Heilbroner and asked him to help stop Donlin from fighting with umpires.  Heilbroner said:

“I’ll stop him.  I’ll fine him the next time he is put out by an umpire.”

Heilbroner said the next time Donlin was ejected, he told him:

“’That will cost you $100, Donlin.’

“With that (Donlin) reached over and. Grabbing Heilbroner with one hand lifted him off the ground.

“’Take the cover off the water bucket, Mac,’ he said to McGraw.  ‘I am going to drown this insect of a manager.’

“’And I think he would have done it, said Heilbroner, ‘if I had not remitted the fine and resigned my job as manager.”

Heilbroner made his greatest contribution to the game in 1908 when he founded the Heilbroner Baseball Bureau, and the following year when he began publishing the Baseball Blue Book.

“Hard Luck” Harry Welchonce

23 Nov

In January of 1913, as Harry Monroe Welchonce was preparing for his fourth attempt to stick with a major league club, The Washington Herald said:

“Welchonce is one of the most unfortunate young men that ever tried to get a steady job in the majors.”

He did not make his professional debut until he was 25-years-old.  He worked as a telegraph operator for the Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad while playing amateur ball in Pennsylvania until 1909 when he signed to play with the Steubenville Stubs in the Ohio-Pennsylvania League.

Harry Welchonce

Harry Welchonce

A .321 hitter over seven minor league seasons, Welchonce was purchased by three major league teams—The Phillies, Dodgers, and Senators—and went to spring training at least five times with big league teams, but earned just one 26-game trial with Phillies in 1911. He hit just .212 and made two errors in 17 games.

After failing to make the Senators in 1912, he hit a Southern Association leading .333 for the Nashville Volunteers, earning himself another spring trial with Washington.  The Washington Times said of him:

“(Welchonce) is said to have the abilities of a major leaguer without the inside adornment. In other words, he is easily disheartened. This is said to have caused his failure with the Phillies three years ago.”

While under the headline “Welchonce is Hard Luck Guy,” The Herald attempted to explain his big league failures:

“Welchonce is one of the most unfortunate young men that ever tried to get a steady job in the majors. He has always batted for more than .300 in the minor leagues, and he has the natural speed and ability to make good in the majors.

“Welchonce is a telegraph operator, and his hard luck really dates from several summers ago.  He was seated at his key at Indiana, PA, one afternoon, when a thunderstorm came up. A bolt of lightning shattered a tree outside his office and he was a long time recovering from the shock…He joined the Phillies (in 1910), and his dashy work made a big hit in the training camp at Southern Pines (North Carolina)

“The team had been there only about a week when lightning struck the hotel and a ball of fire ran down into a room in which Johnny Bates, Welchonce, (Lou) Schettler, and (Jim) Moroney were sleeping. The players were all badly scared, and the shock was such that Welchonce did not get over it.”

A contemporary account of the incident in The Philadelphia Inquirer said all four players were badly shaken and that “Welchonce was the first to recover his speech.”  The Associated Press said all four players “were covered with plaster and debris from the ceiling,” and that Schettler “could not talk for two hours.”

Adding to Welchonce’s woes in 1910 was an injured shoulder, or as The Philadelphia North American put it: “(He) still plays with a wrenched shoulder and it affects the fleet youngster’s batting. He can only get a very ladylike swing at the sphere.”

The Phillies sent Welchonce to the South Bend Bronchos in the Central League.  He hit .315, leading South Bend to the pennant.

The Times picked up the story:

“(In 1911) he took the training trip to Birmingham, Alabama (with the Phillies).Again it looked as if Harry would give (John) Titus a hard battle for right field honors.  Then came more hard luck. One of Earl Moore’s cross-fire slants struck Welchonce in the head, and Harry went to a hospital in Birmingham for several days. “

The contemporary account in The Inquirer said that he did not lose consciousness, but “was sick to his stomach,” and quoted a doctor saying he suffered from “nervous shock.”  When he was released from the hospital three days later, the paper said, “He looks weak and colorless.”

He failed to make the Senators again in 1913 and was released to the Atlanta Crackers in the Southern Association again and led the league with a .338.

Welchonce returned to Atlanta in 1914, and so did his “hard luck.”

He was hospitalized at the end of the April with pneumonia and was out for much of May.  By late June, The Atlanta Constitution said he was “Back in Stride,” and he was again hitting above .300.  But his season came to end in August when he was diagnosed with Tuberculosis.  The Atlanta Journal said he “Went to Ashville, North Carolina for the mountain air,” and treatment.

Atlanta held a benefit game and various other fundraisers and presented Welchonce with a check for $883.10.

Welchonce recovered, but not enough to rejoin the Crackers the following season.  He returned to his job with the Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad and managed the company’s baseball team.

He returned to pro ball in 1915, accepting an offer from the  to be player-manager of the Texas League club.

welchoncedallas

Welchonce, 1915

He played fairly well, hitting .297, but the Giants were a last place club and Welchonce became ill again in August and retired from professional baseball.

He again returned to the railroad and management of the company baseball team until 1920, when poor health necessitated a move to the West.  He settled first in Denver where he was employed as an accountant, and later Arcadia, California where “Hard Luck” Harry lived to age 93.  He died in 1977.

Del Sayers

12 Oct

The line between professional and amateur athletes was often very blurry before the turn of the 20th Century.  Delbert Bancroft Sayers is a good example.

Born in Ohio in 1876, Sayers first made a name for himself as a pitcher with the Ohio Wesleyan University team in 1895 and ’96 and with semi-pro teams in Galion and Marion, Ohio in 1896–local papers referred to the Marion club as a “professional” team.  In 1897, he  signed with the Youngstown Puddlers of the Interstate League.

                                 Del Sayers

Despite being described by The Youngstown Vindicator as “(A) clever young pitcher with good curves and wonderful speed,” Sayers struggled with Youngstown (no statistics survive but in a May game against Mansfield he walked six batters before being pulled in the third inning).  In June, he was sent to the Guelph Maple Leafs in the Canadian League.  The paper said:

“(He) had difficulty in locating the plate and it is thought a little more practice in a minor league will aid him for Interstate work.  He leaves with the best wishes of all concerned.”

After the 1897 season, Sayers returned to college; this time at Ohio State University.

He played baseball and football at Ohio State and was at times a dominant pitcher.  After a game in 1900 The Marion Star said:

“Sayers, who formerly played with Marion’s professional team, is doing some phenomenal slab work for the O.S.U. team.

“In the Decoration Day (May 28) game against Centre College at Columbus, he shut out his opponents, allowing them but two hits…nineteen of them fanned out at his mysterious shoots and curves.”

Known for his lack of control as a professional, he walked three and hit two batters during that game.

But he was better known as a football player.

Sayers, a tackle, was named captain in 1899, Ohio State’s first undefeated season.  The team went 9-0-1 giving up only five points all season, in a 5-5 tie with Case University.  In a 6-0 victory over Oberlin, Sayers returned a fumble 25 yards for the game’s only score.

                              1899 Ohio State Football team

By the middle of the decade, a college star’s former professional status would have been cause for controversy, but there was hardly a mention of Sayers’ minor league experience during his second college career.

After leaving Ohio State in 1900, Sayers considered offers from several teams in the Interstate League and eventually signed with the Columbus Senators.  He appears to have only pitched one game with Columbus and there are no mentions of his again until 1903 when The Sporting Life reported he had signed with the Terre Haute Hottentots in the Central League—he appears to have pitched in just two games for Terre Haute, both complete-game loses; 10-2 to the Wheeling Stogies (with Branch Rickey behind the plate) on June 19 and 10 to 1  to the South Bend Greens five days later.  The Louisville Courier-Journal said:

“South Bend hit Sayers at will.”

In 1904, he returned to Ohio State to finish school.  After graduating Sayers was employed as chief engineer at the Stonega Coke and Coal Company in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, later returning to Ohio where, according to The Columbus Dispatch, as a civil engineer he “laid out” the town of Upper Arlington which had been founded and developed by his brothers in law.  Sayers died in Columbus’ University Hospital on December 4, 1949.

A shorter version of this post appeared on November 21, 2012.

“He fell off the Face of the Earth”

28 Aug

Charles Hazen Morton could run.  When he was playing shortstop and managing the Akron Independents in 1881 The Louisville Courier-Journal said:

“Morton, shortstop with the Akrons, can run like a deer.  It is probably that no one in the country can beat him for fifty yards.”

Morton’s major league career in the National League and American Association was unspectacular; he hit less than .200 with the Pittsburgh Alleghenys and St. Louis Brown Stockings in 1882, and the Toledo Blue Stockings and Detroit Wolverines in 1884 and ’85, he also managed Toledo and Detroit–Moses Fleetwood Walker and his brother Welday Wilberforce Walker played for Morton with the Blue Stockings  He also managed the 1890 Toledo Maumees; Toledo’s only other season as a major league city.

Morton continued to manage minor league and independent teams through 1899.

After five years away from baseball he was the driving force in organizing several independent teams in Ohio and Pennsylvania into the eight-team Ohio-Pennsylvania League.  He was named president.

For two seasons, the league ran smoothly.  So smoothly that, according to The Akron Beacon Journal he was being aggressively pursued by owners in the Central League to assume the presidency of that league during the summer of 1906.  Morton chose to stay put.

As smoothly as things ran for two seasons, the tide turned badly in 1907.  Attendance was down all season and several franchises were on the verge of bankruptcy, and four teams wanted to leave the league entirely.  The Cleveland Plain Dealer said:

“Four O and P League clubs want a new league; four do not.  Four assert they will retire from baseball rather than be associated with the other four.  The league is deadlocked.  Neither side will give in.”

The Youngstown Vindicator said, “There seems to be no question that President Charles H. Morton will have strong opposition.”  Despite efforts to unseat Morton, he was narrowly reelected president of the league.

Ultimately, four teams did leave to form the Ohio State League.  But Morton told The Sporting Life at the beginning of 1908 that he had managed to bring in four new clubs and was confident for the future of the O and P despite rumors that the league was in financial disarray:

“No, I do not think this is going t0 be a disastrous campaign.  The money stringency may hurt the crowds to a certain extent, yet people in this section of Ohio differ little from their brothers in other parts of the country. The germ of baseball Is not sporadic.”

He predicted that attendance would increase.

It didn’t, and things never got better for Morton.  After the 1908 season, it appeared all but certain he would be removed as president.

In December, two days before the league meeting was to begin in Pittsburgh, Morton abruptly canceled it.  A new meeting was scheduled for January in Cleveland and Morton’s fate seemed to be sealed.

On January 12 he traveled to Cleveland with representatives from the Canton Watchmakers and Akron Champs, likely his last two supporters.  But when the meeting was called to order Morton was nowhere to be found.  Samuel Wright, who had managed the Youngstown Champs the previous season, was elected president.

The Youngstown Vindicator said:

“He fell off the face of the earth so far as anybody knows.”

Charles Hazen Morton

Charles Hazen Morton

Some speculated he had run.

He disappeared with $2500 of the league’s money.  As days dragged into weeks there was no sign of Morton.

The Chicago Tribune said his friends were concerned that he had “done away with himself,” despondent over his pending removal as president.

The Marion Star said, “It is feared he has been thugged.”

The Pittsburgh Press advanced a conspiracy theory.  Under the headline “See Deep Plot in Morton’s Absence.”  The paper claimed  the Canton and Akron clubs realizing that he would be ousted had conspired with the president to have him disappear so, “Wright while really elected is far from president (of the league).”

But there was no conspiracy, Morton had really disappeared and remained missing for more than two months.

On March 16 he resurfaced.  Morton was found “wandering aimlessly” on Wabash Avenue in Chicago, near his brother’s home.  The Akron Beacon Journal said he was diagnosed with “Acute dementia (and) his mind is now a blank.”

The only clues where Morton had been for more than two months, were papers in his pockets which indicated he had been in Mexico and Texas and, The Beacon Journal said, “He mutters incoherently about Corpus Christi.”

He recovered enough to return to Akron by August of 1909.  His brother reimbursed the league $1500 that was not recovered after he was found.

Morton faded into obscurity after his return to Akron.  There was no follow-up to his story.  None of the many questions about his disappearance were ever answered.  And whatever happened in Corpus Christi died with him in 1921.

This is a longer version of a post from 12-14-2012.

Nick Maddox

9 Feb

Nicholas “Nick” Maddox burst on the National League scene in 1907. Born in Maryland on November 9, 1886, Maddox’ was born Nicholas Duffy, but adopted his stepfather’s name Maddox.

In 1906 the 19-year-old was given a trial in the spring with the providence Grays in the Eastern league.  He was released before the season began and signed with the Cumberland Rooters in the Pennsylvania-Ohio-Maryland League (POM).  Maddox had played in 1905 for the Piedmont team in the semi-pro Cumberland and Georges Creek League.

He was the best pitcher in the POM; The Sporting Life said Maddox was 22-3 for the Rooters who finished the season in fourth place with a 50-45 record, and was “the fastest pitcher in the league.”

Nick Maddox

Nick Maddox

Maddox spent most of 1907 with the Wheeling Stogies of the Central League.  He posted a 13-10 record and no-hit the Terre Haute Hottentots on August 22.  Maddox was purchased by the Pirates the following month and made his big league debut on against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Cumberland Times noted that he faced a “double-jointed hoodoo of commencing his National League career on Friday, September the 13th.”

The Pittsburgh Press said:

“Nick was ‘on the job’ yesterday from start to finish, and acted more like a man with many years’ major league experience than like a minor leaguer who has been in the business but a few seasons.”

Maddox shut the Cardinals out on just five hits, struck out 11 and got his first hit, a single in his first at bat.

Eight days later Maddox threw the first no-hitter in Pirates’ history, beating the Brooklyn Superbas 2 to 1—Brooklyn scored on two fourth-inning errors.   Years later, Maddox said of his own throwing error that put Emil Batch on base:

 “They scored me with an error, but hell man, I threw it straight to the first baseman (Harry) Swacina.  Sure it went over his head but he should have jumped for it.”

Batch scored on an error by shortstop Honus Wagner.  Maddox said:

“I don’t hold that against Honus, he saved my no-hitter in the ninth.  A ball was hit right over my head and ‘pfft’ Wagner was over there to get it.  I don’t think he ever held the ball, he just swooped it over to first.”

The rookie started six games Pittsburgh, won his first four, and finished with a 5-1 record with a 0.83 ERA.

The Pittsburgh Leader said Pirates’ President Barney Dreyfuss claimed Maddox would be “the sensation” of 1908.  He wasn’t far off.

The 21-year-old was an impressive 23-8 with a 2.28 ERA with five shutouts.  Despite his success there was concern about control—he walked 90 batters while striking out just 70 in 260 innings, and hit 11 batters.

After three second and one third-place finish the four previous seasons, Pittsburgh, and Maddox, came into 1909 with high expectations.  The Pittsburgh Press said:

“Nick Maddox is facing a very successful summer, and with an even break and barring accidents he ought to push any other twirler in the National League for first honors.  He has everything a pitcher needs, and youth with it.”

The Press also said he would “start out with good control” based on his performance in March games in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

The Pirates lived up to expectations, taking over first place on May 5 and cruising to the pennant; Maddox did not.

The 22-year-old struggled for the first half of the season.  The Leader said he was having “a hard time getting into condition,” and was wild as a March Hare.”  Maddox got on track in July pitching a 2-hit shout against the Cincinnati Reds on the 6th, and four-hit shutouts against the Brooklyn Superbas and Boston Doves on the 14th and 23rd.

He ended the season 13-8 with a 2.21 ERA—overshadowed by teammates Howie Camnitz (25-6), Vic Willis (22-11), Albert “Lefty” Leifield (19-8) and rookie Charles “Babe” Adams (13-3 as a reliever and spot starter).

Babe Adams

Babe Adams

Despite going into the World Series against the Detroit Tigers with such a strong pitching staff, Manager Fred Clarke opted for the rookie Adams in game one and he responded with a 4 to 1 victory.

The Tigers beat Camnitz 7 to 2 in game 2.

Three years later, Fred Clarke spoke to James Jerpe of The Pittsburgh Gazette-Times about his decision on a pitcher for game three:

“I was in an awful predicament.  Adams had been used up.  It was had been raining, and it was very cold.  The chilly drizzle was something frightful.  The ball would get wet and water-logged and the problem was to get a pitcher who could handle the wet ball.  I looked the gang over.  Adams was out of the question.  He had been used up.

“I was figuring on the others, and I asked ‘Who can go out there today and handle a wet ball and win?’  Poor Maddox, sitting in a corner of the bench all bundled up with sweaters and other stuff, shed his extra clothes and jumped up.  Grabbing a ball, he said: ‘Gimme a catcher till I warm up.  I’ll handle this wet ball and beat them or break a leg.’  His confidence gave me a hunch, and I acted on it.”

Ring Lardner said of the game:

“Detroit’s record crowd, 18,277, saw the Tigers beaten by the Pirates 8 to 6, today in one of the most exciting and most poorly played world’s series games in baseball history.”

The Pirates scored five runs in the first inning off Detroit’s Ed Summers, and Maddox shut the Tigers down for the first six innings.  Detroit scored four runs in the seventh, aided by two Pirate errors.  Clarke said:

“Maddox wouldn’t have been in so much trouble if we had played ball behind him.”

The Pirates took a 8 to 4 lead into the ninth–Detroit scored two more runs, helped by another error—but Maddox held on and picked up the win.

He did not appear in another game during the series.  The Pirates won in seven; with Adams picking up complete game wins in games five and seven.

09pirates

1909 World Series Champion Pirates, Maddox is ninth from left.

 

The defending champions got off to a quick start again, but Maddox again started slow.  By July, The Leader said:

“Nick Maddox should have rounded into form..He is big and strong this year, but does not seem able to pitch good ball for nine rounds.”

He never “rounded into form.”  Maddox struggled all season.  He started just seven games, pitched in relief in 13 others, and was 2-3 with 3.40 ERA.

By August, with the Pirates in second place, six games behind the Chicago Cubs, The Pittsburgh Gazette asked “what was the matter?” with Maddox and why the Pirates had not cut him loose.

He made his last appearance on September 12, giving up a run, a hit and walking two batters in two innings of relief during a 4-0 loss to the Reds.  He was sold to the Kansas City Blues in the American Association 10 days later.

Maddox won 22 games for the Blues the following season, but continued to be plagued by wildness and arm trouble.  His major league career was over, and he was finished professionally in July of 1914 at 27-years-old when he was released as manager and pitcher for the Wichita club in the Western League after posting a 3-13 record.

Fred Clarke was convinced Maddox’ career really came to an end on that rainy day in Detroit.  James Jerpe of The Pittsburgh Gazette-Times said that in 1910 Dreyfuss asked Clarke to release Maddox long before he sold the pitcher to Kansas City:

“’Why don’t you let Maddox go? You aren’t pitching him.’

“’No,’ replied the Pirate Chief sadly.  “I’m not pitching him.  He ruined his arm helping Adams win the world’s series.’

“And Fred narrated (to Dreyfuss) more of Nick’s gameness on that bleak and drizzly October day in Detroit when he gave his arm for a championship.  Nick was carried for a whole year and the club has been interested in his welfare ever since.”

Fred Clarke

Fred Clarke

Maddox, who lived in Pittsburgh, and worked for the Fort Pitt Brewing Company, after his retirement, lived long enough to listen on the radio to the last two innings of the next no-hitter thrown by a Pirate pitcher—Cliff Chambers defeated the Boston Braves 3-0 on May 6, 1951.

Nick Maddox died in 1954 at age 68.

Tragic Exits: James McDonough

28 Jan

James Vincent McDonough was born in Chicago in 1888, his father and younger brother were both Chicago police officers.  Primarily a catcher, the 5’ 10” 180 pound right-handed hitter first made a name for himself in the Chicago City League with the Auburn Parks and the Rogers Parks.

McDonough, middle row, second from left with the Rogers Parks in 1910.

McDonough, middle row, second from left with the Rogers Parks in 1910.

In 1911 he joined the Grand Rapids Furniture Makers in the Central League; in July The Sporting Life said he was traded to the Terre Haute Miners.  He finished the season with the Traverse City Reporters in the Michigan State League, and then returned to Chicago.

In 1912 and ’13 McDonough was one of the more popular members of Chicago’s entries in the United States and Federal Leagues.  He also started the 1914 season as a member of Joe Tinker’s Whales in the Federal league, although The Chicago Tribune said he was “handicapped this spring with a sore arm,” he played in the club’s final exhibition game in Covington, Kentucky, collecting two hits but never appeared in a game during the regular season, and was released in May.

McDonough

McDonough

That same month McDonough returned to semi-pro ball in Chicago and married the Marion Delores Jordan.

He remained a popular enough figure in Chicago baseball circles that his wedding and the brief marital scandal that followed in 1916 was reported in the local press.  The Tribune said:

“A ‘poisoned phone’ almost brought about the complete separation of Jim McDonough, the former backstop of the Federal baseball team, and his wife a few days ago.  For the last two weeks girls called up Mrs. McDonough every night and told her that her beloved hubby was not the saint she thought him.

“’These naughty girls,’ said the young Mrs. McDonough, ‘said Jim was out drinking champagne with them.  It almost drove me to nervous prostration.  Jim always denied the stories, but by that time I had grown to suspect him.

“’Then I went home to mother’s.  Three days later I saw a lawyer and filed a bill for a divorce.  Then the most wonderful thing in the world happened.  Jim came to me and told me he had done nothing wrong and that he loved me more than ever.”

Marion McDonough

Marion McDonough

The couple reconciled.

On April 22, 1918 McDonough made the papers for the final time.  The Chicago Examiner said:

“James McDonough, well-known as a catcher in the Chicago Federal League baseball team the first year of that organization’s existence, shot and killed his wife last night.  Then he killed himself with a bullet through his temple…Mrs. McDonough left the former ballplayer several months ago, charging that he failed to support her and their two children…McDonough was 29-years-old and subject to the draft. At the time of the separation Mrs. McDonough refused to sign exemption papers for him.  Several times since, it is said, he begged her to return to him or sign the exemption papers.”

The two had an altercation outside a drug store on Chicago’s South side.

“Noticing that they were attracting attention, the couple walked away.  At 4250 Vincennes Ave., McDonough pushed his wife into a hallway.  A moment later he shot her twice, once in the temple and once just below the heart. Then he sent a bullet into his own head.”

Both were taken to a nearby residence.  McDonough died after 10 minutes, his wife died 30 minutes later.

Although it appears he never played organized baseball after 1914, his Cook County, Illinois death certificate listed his profession as “Ballplayer.”