Tag Archives: Charles Comiskey

“The Fourth of July in Baseball has Always been a Day of Reckoning”

4 Jul

During the 19th Century, when completing any given season in the black, or finishing the season at all, was not a foregone conclusion for a large percentage of professional teams; in 1892 O.P.  Caylor of The New York Herald said of Independence Day:

“The Fourth of July in baseball has always been a day of reckoning, as it were.  All clubs, associations or leagues endeavor to retain their breath of life until after America’s natal day so that they may partake in the feast of the turnstiles upon that baseball festival.  The great anniversary of liberty has served many times to lift a weakened club out of financial distress and give it a chance to continue in business probably till the season’s end—at least for a month or two longer.”

O.P. Caylor

O.P. Caylor

Caylor said everyone in baseball held their breath two years earlier during the run up to the holiday:

“In the early fight between the League and the Brotherhood in 1890, old League generals declared that if the Fourth of July that year should be a rainy day, generally on the circuit many of the Brotherhood clubs would be compelled to suspend before the season ended, but if the day should be fair they might pull through to the season’s end. The day was fair, and the attendance everywhere was large.  That meteorological condition was a blessing not only to the Brotherhood but to the old League clubs as well.”

According to The New York World, on the day after the holiday in 1890, Caylor’s recollections were mostly correct; while the weather was “mostly fair” in several cities, the paper said there was “Bad weather in Boston, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh.”  Overall, the Players League won the day, drawing more than 48,000 fans, followed by more than 38,000 for the American Association.  The “old League clubs” were not quite as “blessed“ as Caylor indicated; with home games in two of the three “Bad weather” cities, the National League drew just more than 31,000 fans.

Caylor said while the 1892 season—which included the National league’s only scheduled split-season schedule, with a 12-team league which included four clubs picked up from the defunct American Association —was a struggle for the National League, the only remaining major league would not face the fate of some minor leagues.  The Eastern League’s New Haven franchise folded in June, and in order to not play out a schedule with a nine-team league, “The Athletics of Philadelphia were a little more than willing to ‘cash in,’ and so the circuit was hewed down to an octagon.”

Caylor called the situation in the National League “not so promising,” but said:

“(A) club franchise in that body is so valuable as a piece of property the year around that no fears are entertained of even the most unfortunate of the twelve putting up its shutters and turning its grounds into a sheep’s pasture before the season ends.”

Despite the fact that no team would be “putting up its shutters” before the end of the season, Caylor said that as of Independence Day, only the Pittsburgh Pirates, who “Not one reader in a hundred would have picked,” were operating in the black for the first half of the season, and only because Pittsburgh “has a cheap team.”

Caylor said:

“Of the other eleven clubs a few were about even on receipts and expenditures and some were far behind with losses.  Especially was this the case with the New York and Chicago Clubs.”

Hindsight being Hindsight, just six weeks later, Caylor would suggest that the decision made by league magnates to pare down rosters and institute across-the-board pay cuts at mid-season (July 15), was, at least in Cincinnati, “(A) way to squeeze the old hen into more active and valuable work (laying golden eggs), and on the squeezing they killed her.”

But on “America’s natal day,” he seemed to support the decision of baseball’s executives:

“(They decided the) remedy much be retrenchment. Clubs must employ only the minimum number of players…and salaries must come down…The fact that at least four of the twelve clubs pay over $50,000 each in team salaries proves the ruinous and unbusinesslike height to which baseball salaries were forced by the two years of conflict between the fighting factions.  (John Montgomery) Ward and (Charles) Comiskey each receive $7,000 salary for seven months’ service—a sum proportionately larger than that paid to United States Senators and more while the service lasts than is received by the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States.”

John Montgomery Ward

John Montgomery Ward

The most egregious example, according to Caylor was:

“The present New York team is a whole sermon against expensive teams.  It draws $50,000 from the club treasury and is one of the bitterest disappointments ever placed upon the field.  There is not even the excuse of ‘hard luck’ or accident to lift the team out of its disgrace.”

The Caylor of August—who called the season “a Dog’s Day Depression,” still held out hope in July:

“There is every reason to believe that this (the second half) will be a much more exciting fight than the first.  The clubs will all start into it with much more certainty of equality, and those that have been weak will make a mighty effort to strengthen the vulnerable places of their teams.”

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A Cricketer on Baseball

6 Jun

Spencer Thomas Oldham was born in Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, England—what the “The American Cricketer” called “that famous nursery of cricketers.”  By 1883 he had been playing professionally in the United States for a decade, and The Associated Press called him “One of the best-known cricket players in the country.”

cricket

Cricket Match, 1800s

That year, The Baltimore Sun, which said of Oldham, “(H)is accent is strong, his views are decided and he comes from a village where seventy-two professional bowlers may be found, ” asked him for his opinion of baseball.  He had just seen his first game in August when the St. Louis Browns played the Orioles.

“It was a sight, such throwing and catching and fielding, I never saw the like before.  The tall fellow on the first base of the St. Louis (Charles Comiskey) could catch anything.  We can’t work together that way in cricket.  The ball is too big, hard and heavy.”

Charles Comiskey

Charles Comiskey

And, he was asked, if he noticed the curveball thrown by Baltimore pitcher Bob Emslie:

“’Aye, did I?’ was the reply. ‘I was sitting just in line with the pitcher and catcher.  That fellow Emslie was a terror.  I saw the balls break in the air without touching the ground.  They just curved around and fooled the batters that funny.’”

Bob Emslie

Bob Emslie

So impressed was Oldham, he claimed he saw a pitch “start straight, shoot down and then up again.”   And he was unsure how anyone was able to hit “with the broomstick handles they use.”

But asked to compare the two games, Oldham refused.

“It’s different altogether.”

Oldham said most people didn’t understand the scientific nature of his sport:

“The feature of cricket is batting.  Fielding, of course, is necessary, but a good batter is of more use than a good fielder.  A bowler’s object is to get your wicket down.  You try to keep him from doing it.  The balls you see coming on your wicket you block by bringing your bat down to the ground. The balls that you know are off your wicket you must hit for all you are worth…The power of attack is smaller than the power of defense, and therefore runs are plentiful.  Now in baseball, it seems just the other way.  A man who makes two runs is doing good business.  Errors are therefore more costly and good hits more praiseworthy.”

He also implied that Americans were too impatient to appreciate cricket:

“It takes all day to play a game of cricket.  Two hours and a half suffice for a game of baseball.”

Oldham thought some professional baseball players might be able to play cricket, but it wouldn’t be easy to make the transition:

“Well, the fielding is the same, but when he goes to the bat he must unlearn all his baseball tactics and learn how to cut, drive, stop, hit to leg or off to side…I wish some of those (baseball) players would devote the time and study they give to baseball to cricket.”

While never conceding that baseball was superior, or even equal to his game, Oldham concluded:

“Baseball—well, baseball is a splendid game.  I’d like to see some more of it.  I would learn some points from it.”

Letters from the Front–Joe Jenkins

30 May

When Joe Jenkins, backup catcher for the Chicago White Sox, enlisted in the army shortly after the 1917 World Series, it didn’t cause much concern for the team’s prospects.  The Chicago Daily News said:

“With Ray Schalk behind the plate, the Sox could give away a dozen Jenkinses and not miss them.”

joejenkins

Joe Jenkins

Malcolm MacLean of The Chicago Evening Post said regardless of Jenkins’ value to the White Sox, the catcher was committed to the war effort.  He recounted a conversation with the usually “happy-go-lucky” Jenkins during Chicago’s spring trip to Marlin Springs, Texas before the 1917 season:

“(I) spied Jenkins sitting alone in the smoking compartment of the special car.  There was no smile on his face.  He invited us to have a seat.

“’”I’m thinking about this war,’ he said.  ‘It’s up to us young, unmarried fellows to get busy, and I’m going to be one of them within a few months.’”

Jenkins went to officer’s training school at Camp Gordon, Georgia, and then to France as a second lieutenant with the 132nd Infantry Regiment, composed primarily of soldiers from Chicago’s South Side.

Jenkins at

Jenkins at Camp Gordon

Shortly after the armistice was signed in November of 1918, MacLean was a given a letter Jenkins had written to a friend in Chicago several weeks earlier.  MacLean said Jenkins had been “promoted, while under fire from second to first lieutenant.”

According to MacLean, “At one stage of the game, all the other officers of his company being disabled, Jenkins commanded his company in an advance,” and as a result received the promotion.  MacLean said Johnny Evers mentioned in a letter that he had met Jenkins in France shortly after the latter was promoted.

Jenkins also wrote two letters to White Sox President Charles Comiskey—as with the letter MacLean was given, both letters to Comiskey were written before the armistice, but received weeks after—and were printed in Chicago newspapers.

In the first, Jenkins wrote:

“My Dear Mr. Comiskey…I have been in the front line for four days, having gone up to look over the situation with the major.

“Believe me, I am a brave man, but I did not bargain to eat any of these high explosives.  One of the shells just missed me about ten feet.  It hit on top of the trench and had it hit in the trench I would not be writing to you today.

“To be honest with you, this is some league that I am in and it is a lot faster than the old American, for you know that when you boot one in this league you are through and can’t come back.”

Jenkins wrote to Comiskey again, approximately three weeks later:

“Well I thought you had forgotten me, but today I got your letter, and you may be sure that I was delighted to hear from you.  We have been scrapping for the past ten days on the Meuse, North of Verdun, and believe me, the fighting has been hot and sharp.  We have just been moved to a more quiet sector, the purpose for which is rest, and believe me we can use it nicely.  It is becoming apparent that Germany is through, and in the last offensive I was in their spirit and morale was at a very low ebb.”

Jenkins also assured Comiskey that the Chicago Southsiders in the 132nd “can go some.”

The catcher  told Comiskey he planned on joining the Sox at Mineral Wells in the spring of 1919 and promised:

“I will bring something back in the line of a trophy for your office with me as shipping it would be risky.  This trophy that I refer to was taken where the fighting was thickest.”

There is no record of what the “trophy” was or whether Jenkins brought it to Comiskey.

Jenkins said in closing:

“Give my regards to all the boys and tell them that in this league over here the pitchers all have plenty on everything that they throw.”

Jenkins made it back to the US on April 15, 1919—on the same ship as Sergeant Grover Cleveland AlexanderThe Chicago Tribune said:

“Jenkins fought in Flanders, the Argonne, and St. Mihiel.  He escaped unwounded and looks ready to play baseball at a moment’s notice.”

Sergeant Grover Cleveland Alexander

Sergeant Grover Cleveland Alexander

He didn’t make it to Mineral Wells but joined the Sox for their opener in St. Louis.  The Daily News said he told manager Kid Gleason he was available to pinch hit:

“’You know I’m a valuable man in a pinch, Kid.  When I came up to hit in a pinch over there the Kaiser lit out for Holland and he’s been there ever since.”

1919 White Sox, Jenkins is bottom left

1919 White Sox, Jenkins is bottom left

Ready to play or not, Jenkins appeared in just 11 games for the pennant-winning White Sox—four behind the plate—and had three hits in 19 at bats.

He remained with the Sox through the 1919 World Series—a member of two World Series teams, he did not appear in a game in either series—and was released that winter.

His big league career over, Jenkins played 11 more seasons in the minors, retiring in 1930.

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

7 Mar

Tener on Anson

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

John Tener

John Tener

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

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

"Cap" Anson

Anson

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

[…]

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

Conte on Mendez

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

Jose Pepe Conte

Jose Pepe Conte

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

The Pittsburgh Press called him:

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

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

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

Jose Mendez

Jose Mendez

[…]

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

Sullivan on Comiskey

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

Ted Sullivan

Ted Sullivan

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

Charles Comiskey

Charles Comiskey

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

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

Lost Advertisements–Anheuser-Busch, Washington Senators

5 Feb

 

ab1910sox

In 1910, a series of Anheuser-Busch ads  appeared in several Washington D.C. papers. The ad above appeared when the Chicago White Sox faced the Senators in early May:

Comiskey’s New White Sox are in Town

The headline referred to Charles Comiskey‘s shakeup of his team, which included the appointment of Hugh Duffy as manager, and a new starting infield; first baseman Chick Gandil, second baseman Rollie Zeider, and shortstop Lena Blackburne, and Billy Purtell at third.

An advertisement later that week featured caricatures of Napoleon Lajoie and Hughie Jennings, and described Rube Waddell as “The only wild animal of his kind in captivity:”

ab1910nap

The ads were similar in style and content to those for Old Underoof Whiskey that appeared in Chicago papers during the same period–all advertised upcoming games, commented on the behavior of fans and players, and chronicled the year’s pennant races–with one exception.

A July ad featured the full text, with illustrations, of Ernest Thayer’s “Casey at the Bat:”

ab1910casey

They only appeared for one season.

 

Lost Advertisements–Cubs, White Sox and Whales Endorse Steele’s Game of Baseball

18 Dec

steeles

A 1915 advertisement for Steele’s Game of Baseball, a table-top game which claimed to have “Over 1,000,000 absorbing combinations,” and promised that the player would “enjoy it beyond anything you might have believed possible:”

Greatest of All Indoor Games

“Everybody becomes a ‘fan’ when Steele’s Game of Baseball in on the table.  The parlor or living room fades away.  In its place appears the vision of the baseball field.  The thrill of the great game enters the veins, action follows action; one tense, gripping situation follows another so rapidly that the breathless interest is sustained.  Time flies away on the wings of pleasure and outside attractions cease to call to the family where Steele’s Game of Baseball has entered.”

The game was produced by the Burr-Vack Company, a Chicago-based office supply dealer, and received glowing endorsements from members of the city’s three teams:

World’s Greatest Ball-Men are “Fans

Charles A. Comiskey owner Chicago ‘White Sox’ and probably the most famous man in baseball, says: ‘I think Steele’s Game of Baseball is the next best thing to the real outside game–full of thrills and with an endless number of exciting situations.  Would be sorry to part with the one I have.’

“‘Heine’ Zimmerman third baseman of the ‘Cubs’ and famous hitter says: ‘I  beg to thank you for the Steele’s Baseball Game.  After one starts to play it you almost imagine you are watching the real game on the diamond.  I expect to get considerable amusement out of it.’

Mordecai Brown famous pitcher, formerly of the ‘Cubs’ but now with the ‘Whales’ says: ‘Next to the real game, I enjoy playing Steele’s Game of Baseball.It’s a dandy and should make a big hit.’

Chas. E. Weeghman owner of Chicago ‘Whales’ Federal League pennant winners says, ‘I’m for Steele’s Game of Baseball.  It’s a great game and one any lover of baseball (or anyone else) is sure to enjoy to the limit.  You’ve put it right across the plate with this game.’

Frank M. (Home Run) Schulte famous ‘Cubs’ left fielder says: ‘I am pleased with the Steele’s Baseball Game you sent me.  It affords considerable amusement and is almost as interesting as the real game.”

Joe Benz ‘White Sox’ pitcher and one of the stars of the American League, says, ‘I think it is one of the most interesting parlor games on the market.  It is sure to make a big hit. I enjoy it immensely.'”

[…]

“Note what the famous professional baseball players portrayed here say about Steele’s Game of Baseball.  In the long winter, when outdoor ball is impossible, these stars of the diamond find a dandy substitute in Steele’s Game of Baseball.”

Despite the endorsements, the “Ideal Xmas Gift,” which cost one dollar and was “For sale by all State Street, Department, Stationary, Toy, and Book stores,” appears to have quickly disappeared–there are no mentions of the game in newspapers after 1915.

“The Duke of Minneapolis”

20 Nov

Martin F. Duck was born in Zanesville, Ohio in 1867.  He played under the name Martin Duke.   As he was becoming a well-known pitcher The Kansas City Times told a story which purported to explain why he changed his name:

 “The real name of the (Minneapolis) Millers’ best pitcher is not Duke, but Duck…Martin was pitching in a game up in Michigan and in the ninth his club led the opposing team by one run. (With two runners on base) a man up in the grandstand began imitating the quack of a duck…as the ‘quack, quack, quack continued his face became lobster-colored.  He shouted to his taunter that he would fix him after the game, but the fiend…went on with his ‘quack, quack, quack’”

At this point, Duck allegedly threw the ball into the stands at his tormentor, allowing both runs to score, “After that he dropped the name Duck entirely.”

By the time that story appeared Martin Duke seemed headed for a productive career.  He went 14-12 with the Zanesville Kickapoos in the Ohio State League in 1887.  In 1888, he again pitched for Zanesville, now in the Tri-State League and for The Toledo Maumees in the same league—no  records survive for that season.

The five-foot, five-inch Duke made a name for himself the following year.  While pitching for the Millers in the Western Association, he posted a 24-16 record and struck out 347 batters in 355 innings, earning the nickname “Duke of Minneapolis.”

In February of 1890, The Chicago Inter Ocean said Chicago’s Players League team was after the pitcher:  “Captain Comiskey of the Chicago Brotherhood has been on Duke’s trail for weeks, with the result that although Duke has not yet signed a contract we will play with the Chicago Brotherhood club this season.”

If Comiskey was, in fact, on Duke’s trail he never got his man.  Duke returned to Minneapolis, and while statistics for 1890 no longer survive, but the press routinely called him the Millers’ best pitcher.

In 1891, he slipped to 10-11, and in May he was suspended for being, as The Sporting Life said, “Out of condition” (a euphemism for his problem drinking), but earned an August trial with the Washington Statesmen in the American Association.  The Saint Paul Globe said of his departure:

“Martin Duke–the one, the only, the statuesque Duke–has bidden good-bye to the ozone of Minnesota and beer of Minneapolis…Last night he boarded the train, moved his hand in adieu, cocked his hat to one side, closed an eye, uttered a certain familiar expression peculiar to Dukes and disappeared forever.”

Martin Duke

Duke failed his Major league trial.  In four games, he posted a 0-3 record and walked 19 batters in 23 innings.

Despite his poor debut, he received another opportunity, this one with the Chicago Colts in 1892. When he was signed in January, The Chicago Tribune said:

“Duke’s last season, owing to lax discipline, was not a success, but this season he promises to regain his old form, as he is bound by an ironclad contract to abstain from intoxicating drinks.  By his contract half his salary reverts to the club if he breaks the pledge.  This should keep him straight.”

He received a big buildup in The Chicago Daily News:

“(He) is one of Captain Anson’s new colts, and he not only puts the ball over the home plate with almost the speed of a cannon shot, but he also seems to have a head studded with eyes, for stealing second base when he is in the box is always most hazardous business.  His pitching arm is so strong and shapely and so well equipped with powerful muscles that it would win admiration from a blacksmith.”

Despite the accolades he was released before the beginning of the season, The Tribune said:

“Martin Duke is also down for release. He has shown up poorly so far, and the club cannot use five pitchers anyhow.”

He signed with the New Orleans Pelicans in the Southern Association and seemed to regain his old form posting a 13-3 record.  It was his last successful season.

After getting off to a 2-5 start in 1893 Duke was released by New Orleans, and initially there were no takers for his services.  The Milwaukee Journal said why:

“Martin was always a good pitcher, but his mouth and his temper were too great a load for any team to carry any length of time.”

Duke bounced around the minor leagues after that with short stints for teams in the Eastern League, Southern Association and Western League until 1895, when he returned again to Minneapolis.  But after 13 games with the Millers, he injured his arm and was released in June.  According to The St. Paul Globe, he injured the arm again in August; rupturing a tendon while pitching for a semi-pro team in Rosemount, Minnesota.

In 1897, The Sporting Life reported that Duke, employed in a Minneapolis tavern, was “Trying to get in shape” in order to return to the diamond that season, but he never played professional ball again.

Duke died from pneumonia on December 31, 1898, in Minneapolis.  The Sporting Life said:

“He possessed great ability as a pitcher, but never lasted long with any club, as he was a hard man to control, and was given to dissipation, which ultimately led to enforced retirement from the profession and untimely death.”

Duke was 31 years-old.

A shorter version of this post appeared in October 2012

Lost Advertisements–Fit for a King

1 May

fitAn ad for Old Underoof Whiskey from April of 1910.  Chicago White Sox owner Charles Comiskey–and Chicago fans–had great expectations for the club.  After a disappointing 78-74 record and a fourth-place finish in 1909, Hugh Duffy was hired to replace Billy Sullivan as manager.

Comiskey also replaced his entire starting infield, purchasing the contracts of three minor leaguers: first baseman Chick Gandil, second baseman Rollie Zeider, and shortstop Lena Blackburne, and installing utility infielder Billy Purtell at third.

The new 1910 White Sox infield.

The new 1910 White Sox infield.

The Chicago Tribune said the Sox were now:

“Resplendent with brand new darns where were worn the biggest holes last year.”

Comiskey was confident enough to tell reporters the team “(W)ill lose their name of hitless wonders this year. I am confident we will be as strong as any club in the league in this department.”

He also maintained that Ed Walsh, Doc White, Jim Scott, and Frank Smith, who would start the opener on April 14, comprised “(T)he strongest staff of pitchers in any league.”

The Sox did not disappoint on opening day.  Behind Smith’s one-hitter, the Sox defeated the St. Louis Browns 3 to 0.

The Chicago Inter Ocean said the “New Sox lived up to every inch of the reputation they have gained this spring.” The Tribune dubbed the team “Commy’s Comets,” and said:

“When the dazzling display was over Comiskey’s face resembled the noonday sun wreathed in an aureole of smiles, which extended beyond the rings of Saturn and half the distance to the milky way.”

Old Underoof commemorated the victory with a new ad:

commy1910

The Sox quickly returned to earth and lost their next four games.  Things never got much better.  A month into the season they were 10 games out of first place; they finished 68-85, in sixth-place 35.5 games behind the Philadelphia Athletics.

With a league-worst .211 batting average, the they failed to ” lose their name of hitless wonders,” as Comiskey predicted.

As for “the strongest staff of pitchers in any league,” they could not overcome the horrible support they received all season.  Despite a 2.03 team ERA, second only to Philadelphia’s 1.79, only Doc White (15-13) had a winning record.

Walsh, who led the league with a 1.27 ERA,  was 18-20, and Scott was 8-18 with a 2.43 ERA.

Frank Smith, the 30-year-old hero of the opener, who had won 25 games with a 1.80 ERA in 1909, was 4-9, despite a 2.03 ERA and three shutouts, when he was traded with Billy Purtell to the Boston Red Sox in August.

 

 

Diet Tips from Tim Murnane

6 Apr

Tim Murnane, who began his career as a first baseman for Middletown Mansfields in the National Association in 1872 and later was a member of the Boston Red Stockings in the National League’s inaugural season in 1876, would go on to become one of the most influential baseball writers in the country.

Tim Murnane

Tim Murnane

Writing in The Boston Globe in 1906, he said he had discovered the one thing that caused the greatest harm to a baseball player.

“Over-feeding kills off more ballplayers than accidents or hard work on the ball-field.”

Murnane suggested two solutions.  First, he recommended that, “The Fletcher system should be taken up by the veteran ballplayers without delay.”

The “Fletcher System” or “Fletcherizing” was a then very popular diet technique put forth by a “self-taught nutritionist” named Horace Fletcher.  Fletcher claimed, in several books published during the first decade of the 20th Century that the key to weight loss was to chew food so completely that it was virtually liquefied before swallowing.  Called “The Great Masticator,” Fletcher counted Thomas Edison, Henry James, Franz Kafka, John D. Rockefeller, J.C. Penny—and apparently Tim Murnane—among his adherents.  His theories had fallen out of favor, replaced by diets based on calorie intake, by the time of his death in 1919.

Horace Fletcher "The Great Masticator"

Horace Fletcher, “The Great Masticator.”

Secondly, Murnane said, “(T)he rules of eating should be laid down by the management of every club.”

He said Harry Wright, who had been Murnane’s manager in Boston, “(W)as about the first baseball man to keep a close watch over his players during meal time,” and insisted they eat lightly before games.

“’Just a plate of soup.  That’s plenty,’ would be Mr. Wright’s cry as the players filed into the dining room for lunch.  The greatest athletic performances on the field have been accomplished on practically empty stomachs.”

[…]

“I have known at least half a dozen good ballplayers being passed up in Boston on account of paying no heed to the manager’s advice about overloading their stomachs.  Frank Selee was just as much of a stickler in this line as was Harry Wright, and both were remarkably successful baseball managers.  The manager who does not pay especial attention to this end of the players’ life must lose out, for his team will be unable to keep up a fast clip very long after the boys commence to take on flesh as the result of overfeeding and drinking.”

Murnane had other diet tips for readers:

“A ballplayer cannot drink too much good milk.  The greatest drinker of milk I ever knew was James O’Rourke, and Jim, after thirty-three years on the ball-field, is just as lively a 10-year-old today.  O’Rourke never used tobacco in any form, nor ever indulged in malt liquors, but what a milk drinker he has been all his life and what credit to the national game, from every angle you view the old sport!’

Jim O'Rourke

Jim O’Rourke, “The greatest drinker of milk.’

Murnane blamed the disappointing performance of the Boston Americans in 1905 (Fourth place, 78-74, 16 games out of first) on the dietary habits of the team:

“To be honest, I think the Boston Americans last season practically ignored condition from first to last.  I never witnessed on one ball team so many men out of form by being overweight…This club would have won at least one dozen more games had they taken good care of their stomachs, and no one knows this better than Captain (Manager Jimmy) Collins himself, who has said it will be a much different season with the Boston club next season.”

The next season, 1906, was much different, but not in the way Collins had hoped.  The team was 35-79 when Collins was replaced as manager by Charles “Chick” Stahl, and finished in last place with a 49-105 record.

Murnane concluded:

“Baseball was never intended for a fat man’s game, and Captain Anson was the only heavyweight who ever piloted a pennant winner, although my old friend Charley Comiskey was growing a bit stout when his boys carried off the prize five years ago.”

 

“A Ballplayer can’t chase ‘Chickens’ and Chase Flies”

25 Feb

With money borrowed from his brother Clarence, an oil speculator, Henry “Hen” Berry stepped in to take over ownership of the Los Angeles Angels in 1906.

"Hen" Berry

“Hen” Berry

Berry’s Angels won the Pacific Coast League championship in 1907 and ’08, and that success, along with his own profits in the oil business, made Berry a wealthy man in his own right.

He also managed, during his tenure with the Angels, to sell a player to a big league club for the highest amount ever received by a Coast League Club to that point, when he was paid $5,000 by Charles Comiskey of the Chicago White Sox for 18-year-old Lee “Flame” Delhi in 1911; Delhi appeared in just one game for the Sox the following season and was out of organized ball well before his 25th birthday.

Berry was also the driving force in getting the league to finally adopt a two-umpire system in 1912.

He also had a theory about what the type of lifestyle that best suited his players.  In 1914, he talked about it with a reporter from The Los Angeles Examiner:

“’A ballplayer can’t chase ‘chickens’ and chase flies at the same time with any degree of certainty that he’ll land the flies.’

“That is ‘Hen’ Berry’s way of saying that a player whose head is turned by the hero-worship of the fair patrons on the diamond stands a mighty slim chance at high fielding averages or of shining in the .300 batting class…Wedding bells for all players, he believes, would result in the highest possible efficiency.”

Eighteen of the 21 members of the Angels were married, and it was that way by design:

“’It is his susceptibility to the attentions of pretty hero worshippers that keep many a promising athlete from reaching the high place that otherwise would be his in the world of sport,’ asserts Berry.

“’The ballplayer is perhaps more constantly beset by these fair idolizers than any other professional athlete because women frequent the diamond more generally by far than any other sport.’

“’So we have the very thing which keeps baseball keyed up to concert pitch—the element of personal admiration for the players—becoming the most dangerous possibility in pulling a good man down or keeping him mediocre.’”

"Hen" Berry caricature

“Hen” Berry caricature

While Berry conceded that marriage didn’t guarantee that a player would be “immune from lionizing” by women, it would at least reduce the “social diversions which frazzle a man’s nerves.”

Marriage, said Berry, resulted in “Emotional calm” and provides “stability which goes far towards winning pennants.”

Berry’s theory had not resulted in any recent success; after his two pennants in 1907 and ’08, the Angels had experienced a drought that would continue in 1914 when his predominately married club finished second to the Portland Beavers.

Berry sold the Angels after the 1914 season and moved north, purchasing the San Francisco Seals.

He picked up two more championships with the Seals—it is unclear how many of the players on each pennant-winning club were married– and sold the team to group headed by former Coast League catcher Charlie Graham before the 1918 season.

San Francisco Seals owner Charlie Graham

Charlie Graham

After leaving baseball, Berry managed the family’s oil holdings in California.  On March 13, 1929 the steering broke on Berry’s car as he rounded a curve while driving near his home in Maricopa.  The car plunged 100 feet into a ravine, and the former West Coast baseball magnate was dead at age 59.