Tag Archives: Charles Comiskey

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.

Lost Pictures–Sidney Smith’s Baseball Cartoons

26 Dec

 

sidneysmithapril221909

By the time of his 1935 death in a car accident, Robert Sidney Smith—known professionally as Sidney Smith—was one of America’s most popular cartoonists; The New York Times said his death “will be felt by literally millions of Americans.”  His comic strip, “The Gumps,” was syndicated by The Chicago Tribune, and ran in hundreds of newspapers; it also spawned dozens of animated film shorts, nearly fifty-two-reel comedy film, a radio program and merchandise.

But, before Smith joined The Tribune, he had started in Chicago drawing baseball cartoons for The Chicago Examiner.

The cartoons featured a talking (sometimes singing) goat named Buck Nix.

These two examples chronicled the  fortunes of the 1909 Chicago White Sox.

The first, above, appeared just seven games into the season.  Chicago had high hopes for the Sox, 86-64, the previous season, but the club limped to a 3-4 start.

As the cartoon notes, in addition to bad weather and weak hitting causing a poor start for President Charles Comiskey and Manager Billy Sullivan, Sox ace “Big Ed” Walsh was not yet with the team.  Walsh, a forty game winner the previous season held out for $7,500 and did not sign until April 28.  Still hopeful, “Buck Nix” says “Wait ’til the sun shines Commy.”

The second, below, appeared on June 26.  The Sox were 24-28, in fifth place, and as Buck Nix sings were “Drifting away from loves golden shore.”  Walsh only started 28 games, the Sox hit just .221 as a team and were never in the race.  They finished 20 games out in fourth place.sidneysmithjune261909

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up other Things #13

22 Dec

Chief Meyers on the Plight of the Native American, 1913

John W. McConaughy, the former sports editor of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, was no longer writing about baseball regularly as the New York Giants prepared to face the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1913 World Series.  McConaughy, who was the Washington correspondent for The New York Journal, was enlisted by the paper to write about some of the key figures of the series.

The result was, in the case of John “Chief” Meyers, a profile that went beyond a typical baseball story:

Chief Meyers

Chief Meyers

“Meyers is one of the coolest, shrewdest and quickest thinking catchers that ever came to the big leagues.  He has both gray matter and gumption, and the one is useless without the other in baseball as elsewhere.  He has a fund of general information that runs from national politics to the philosophy of Plato, and a delicately adjusted sense of humor, and these two combine to give him a good perspective of the national game.”

[…]

He is ready to fight any time for justice and fair play and he is so good-natured that he isn’t seriously annoyed when the fans perpetrate that bum war-whoop every time he comes to bat.

[…]

“One day in Cincinnati he asked the writer to go out to the art museum with him.  We came upon a bronze—an Indian turning to shoot an arrow at his pursuers.

“’There’s the idea.’ He said, pointing to the warrior.  ‘They never learned how to fight.  They had nothing but the willingness.  If Tecumseh had been as big a man as Napoleon he would have killed off the medicine men as his first official act, learned the white man’s style of warfare—and there would have been an Indian nation here today.

“’I don’t mean that the white man would not have been here, too.  But with a few leaders—real big men—our fathers would have come to see that the white man’s type of civilization was the highest, just as the (Japanese) have done.  We would have had great states and communities in the union, and we would have been useful, progressive citizens.

“’As it is the Indian is robbed by agents and shifted from reservation to reservation whenever anyone happens to want their land.  Tribe after tribe is scattered, and in another hundred years my people will have gone the way of the Aztecs.’

“Still, there will always probably be a few fans who will think it bright to pull the war-whoop when the Chief comes to bat.”

Tom Lynch Cracks Down, 1910

In June of 1910, The Associated Press said that after a 5 to 4 New York Giants victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, umpires Jim Johnstone and August Moran “stood in front of the press box and made remarks about the baseball writers.”

National League President Thomas Lynch, who had announced his intention to “break this habit of having players call the arbitrators bad names” said in response:

“I also will not stand for umpires talking back to spectators or taking it upon themselves to criticize newspaper men.”

National League President Thomas Lynch

National League President Thomas Lynch

He fined Johnstone and Moran $25 and $15 respectively for the incident.

In that era of newspapermen as frustrated poets, George E. Phair, then of The Milwaukee Sentinel, was one of the most prolific, often including a poem in his articles.  He dedicated the following verse to the National League President:

Old Thomas Lynch, who runs a league,

     Would propagate urbanity;

In fact, Sir Thomas would intrigue

     To curb the umps’ profanity.

He warns his umpires while within

     The baseball scribes vicinity

To speak no words that reek of sin,

     But emulate divinity.

He tells them not to harm the scribes,

     Nor flout at their ability;

Nor pester them with jokes or jibes;

     Nor laugh at their senility.

He plasters fines upon his umps

     For showing their ferocity

And calling scribblers ‘mutts’ and ‘chumps’

      With Teddy-like verbosity.

The veteran Sir Thomas is

     Most generous and affable,

But we’re inclined to think that his

     Solicitude is laughable.

The ump may blunder now and then

     And break into profanity;

The scribbler jabs him with his pen

     And drives him to urbanity.

Comiskey Tells a Tommy McCarthy Story, 1899

George Erskine Stackhouse, the baseball editor of the editor of The New York Tribune, spoke to Charles Comiskey in 1899 and found him in a “somewhat reminiscent mood.”  Comiskey told a story Tommy McCarthy when the two were with the St. Louis Browns:

Tommy McCarthy

Tommy McCarthy

“I heard in Chicago the other day that tom is in Boston, as fat as a Tammany alderman, and making money out of a big bowling alley.  (Hugh) Duffy owned an interest in it, but they say Tom bought him out.  I had Tom with me in St. Louis.  And say, St. Louis is the best town on earth for a winner.  They used to distribute among the players every season watches and rings and studs and pins enough to stock a jewelry store.  There was a diamond medal offered one year for the best base runner on the Browns.

“Tom McCarthy was quite a boy to steal bases, and after the medal was offered he wouldn’t run out his hits.  If he made a two-bagger, he would stop at first, and if he slammed the ball for a triple, he would manage to bring up at second, so as to get a chance to steal a base.  Of course, after a bit, I got on to him, and I had to warn him that if he didn’t stretch those hits I would have to lay him off altogether.  That helped some, but he was always hanging back when he thought he could get away with it.  I remember once that he had a chance to go down to second on a wild throw to first, and what does he do but toss his head and drop off his cap, so that he could stop and come back after it and stick at first.  He won that medal.”