Tag Archives: Charles Murphy

“Killing Minor League Baseball as a Business”

20 Mar

Charles A. Lovett was just 15 years old when he became the sports editor of the Peoria (IL) Herald-Transcript in 1909; by the time he was 20 he had become a sportswriter at The St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

In September of 1918, with minor leagues having shut down all season and the major league season ended on Labor Day, Lovett spoke to “Sinister” Dick Kinsella, the former the former minor league magnate and major league scout, who predicted the dire future of baseball in general and the minor leagues in particular:

“Few followers of major league baseball realize how many are affected by the present condition of the sport—with the game literally shot to pieces.”

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“Sinister Dick” Kinsella

Major league clubs, Kinsella said:

“(R)olled in wealth until the war came in 1914. I was in on the ground floor, and don’t let ‘em tell you different. I was only one of the help but the Cardinals paid me $5000 and expenses to scout in 1912.”

Kinsella said even after the war started in Europe, he had earned $6500 with the Giants in 1915.

“I might name other of the huge profits that were piled up in the majors, but it may suffice to say that even the Cardinals, in 1911, made $130,000 net. (Roger) Bresnahan told Bill Armour and myself—we were both scouting for (owner Helene Hathaway) Britton in 1912—to go out and buy some good players. I bought one, Frank Snyder for $1200 [sic, published reports at the time said the price was $2000] and the club turned down an offer of $15,000 for Frank that winter, or to be exact, before the team went into training in the spring of 1913. Armour recommended one, George (Possum) Whitted…(we) earned our salaries.”

Now, said Kinsella, who had returned to his hometown of Springfield (IL) after the season ended to tend to his paint manufacturing business:

“I’m peddling varnish and I can’t complain, either. Armour’s running a saloon in Kansas City and pretty soon he’ll be doing something other than marketing internal varnish.”

The season after Kinsella signed Snyder, there was still so much money in baseball, he said that:

“Bresnahan quit the Cardinals $27,000 to the good. Mrs. Britton settled with him for $12,500 and Charles Murphy gave him $15,000 to sign with the Cubs. Roger showed me the checks in the Planter’s hotel, St. Louis, then bought a bottle of wine and handed the waiter a $5 tip.”

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Contemporaneous reports indicate Kinsella ‘s recollection was off, and low—Bresnahan was said to have received a $25,000 signing bonus from the Cubs and settled a lawsuit against Britton and the Cardinals for $20,000

Kinsella said, as poor a financial state as the major leagues were in as a result of the war and the ravages of the flu epidemic, the minor leagues were in their death throes:

“Ten years ago, there were a dozen minor league franchises worth from $50,000 to $150,000. Charles Ebbets (Jr., son of the Dodgers owner) made $80,000 net one season with the Newark International League team. This s only a sample of the big money that was in baseball among the smaller teams.”

Kinsella said his experience as a club owner was indicative of the decline and impending doom that faced the minor leagues:

“I used to own the Springfield three I League club and sold out ten years ago when I saw the handwriting and realized that golf, automobiles, and country clubs were killing minor league baseball as a business. The Springfield businessmen who bought the franchise lost $30,000 before they gave up the ghost.”

In addition to the businessmen that lost money after buying his club, Kinsella predicted doom for Bresnahan who used the money he received in 1913 to buy the Toledo Mud Hens in 1914, rather than accept Kinsella’s offer to help him invest it.

“If he had it to do over again, I’ll bet he would stick that money in Liberty Bonds.”

Bresnahan owned the club until 1924 and did lose money on the investment.v

 

 

“Murphy has Done More to Hurt Baseball”

26 Jul

Frank Chance was about to begin his second season managing the New York Yankees, but in the early part of 1914, he had still not let go of his feud with his former boss, Cubs President Charles Webb Murphy.

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Frank Chance

Murphy, Chance told a reporter for The Associated Press at his winter home in Los Angeles, was solely responsible for the formation of the Federal League:

“Charley Murphy has done more to hurt baseball than any other man who has been in the game in all the years that the sport has flourished. You can mark my words well, because he is going to continue to be an objectionable figure in the national pastime just so long as he is allowed to have any connection with any club under the jurisdiction of the national commission.”

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Chance said many of his friends said he “was crazy two years ago” when he sold his interest in the Cubs. He received $40,000 for his shares.

He said Charles Weeghman, the Chicago restaurant owner who had been trying to buy into a baseball team since 1911, “was for years an ardent Cub rooter. He soured on Murphy, and so did thousands of other patrons of the West Side ballpark.”

Chance wasn’t finished:

“Now, just a few words about the way Murphy handles ballplayers. When (Johnny) Evers was in poor health one spring (1911), Murphy found out that he would not be able to play the entire season. He wired me while the team was in Pittsburgh to that effect. And right there Murphy showed his hand.

“Evers who had been with the team for years and who had played great ball, would not have received a cent of salary that year if Murphy had had his way.

“Murphy, in his message said that he did not believe Evers should draw his pay for the season. I wouldn’t stand for giving Evers a raw deal of that sort, and Johnny got his salary, every dollar of it for the entire year. He played only a few games (46) for us that season.”

Chance went on to say how poorly Murphy treated Mordecai Brown and Joe Tinker, but said he wouldn’t bother to get into the “treatment” he received from Murphy, because:

“(T)hat’s past and gone and life is too short to let things like that embitter one and spoil his life.”

Just more than a month after Chance’s comments, Murphy was “persuaded” by National League President John Tener to sell his shares in the Cubs to Charles Taft—although Murphy disputed that claim, and said he voluntarily sold to Taft.

Damon Runyon, in his syndicated column in the Hearst Newspapers, summed up the Murphy affair:

“We know that when they throw him out, as they doubtless will throw him out, there will be someone else ready to take his place as official bugaboo, for there must be a bugaboo in baseball, else we might have no baseball.”

Adventures in Barnstorming: Anson’s Colts

1 Apr

Cap Anson was broke.  Again.

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

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

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Anson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The barnstorming Colts, Anson top center

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

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

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

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

Ryder said of Anson:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ad for the Orioles game

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

The Philadelphia Inquirer said of the game:

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

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

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

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

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

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Anson on tour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

The Colts lost 8 to 2.

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

The Boston Globe said:

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

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

The Chicago Daily News said:

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

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

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

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Ad for the rained out Binghamton game

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m just a kid at fifty-eight.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things I Learned on the way to Looking Up Other Things #24

1 Aug

Pitching to Ruth

According to the International News Service, during a discussion before a game in 1919, Frank Baker was talking to his Yankees teammates about “the days when batters demanded the sort of delivery they could hit best.”

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Babe Ruth

The players agreed:

“If that rule were in force in the present day the outfielders would have to be mounted on motorcycles, and Muddy Ruel said that the playing field would have to be as big as the parade grounds at old Camp Pike, where he was at officers training camp.

Just imagine Babe Ruth coming up with the bases filled and a hit needed if he had the privilege of demanding a fastball waist high.  The question of how to pitch to him under such conditions was placed in open discussion.  Ping Bodie solved it.  ‘I’d get back on second base, throw the ball and then duck,’ said Ping.”

Negotiating with Murphy

When it was first rumored that Fred Mitchell would step down as president of the Chicago Cubs in the summer of 1919, there was speculation that Charles Webb Murphy might return to the club as president (Bill Veeck Sr. was ultimately given the position)

Hearing word of Murphy’s possible return, Johnny Evers told The Sporting News what it was like to negotiate a contract with Murphy after the team’s back to back World Series wins in 1907 and 1908:

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Charles Webb Murphy

“We had made lots of money for the Cubs and certainly expected owner Murphy to give us a big boost in salary.  I received my contract, gave it the once over and returned it to C.W. with the curt reply that I thought I deserved more money for my labors.

“It was not a big salary,  In fact, the sum mentioned was so small that if I were to tell you the amount it would shock you.  Mr. Murphy was shrewd enough to get around my request for a raise.  His reply was to the effect that I might deserve more money, but should be satisfied to work for the amount he mentioned in view of the fact that I had such wonderful stars to help me as Frank Chance on my left and Joe Tinker on my right.

“Joe Tinker also protested against the figures mentioned in his contract that year and the crafty Mr. Murphy’s reply to him was that he should be satisfied to play for almost anything since he was teamed up with such stars as (Harry) Steinfeldt on his right, Evers on his left and Frank Chance at first base.  There was no way to get around an argument like that, and when the season opened Tinker and I were playing at the original figures offered by chubby Charley.”

Arguing with Browning

The Louisville Courier-Journal recalled in 1908 an incident “When Pete Browning played with the Louisville club.”

Browning, said the paper, was “no prize beauty…still he was sensitive regarding his un-Apollo like appearance and would get angry in a moment if any allusion was made to his lack of pulchritude.”

petebrowning

Pete Browning

During a game in Cincinnati, umpire John Gaffney called Browning out on strikes.

 “The big fellow rushed up the umpire roaring like a toreador stuck bull.  But John Gaffney was afraid of no living man, and he ruled the field with a rod of iron, but he was also a reasonable man and would explain his decisions.  However, Pete would listen to no explanations.  Finally, Gaffney became angry, and walking up to Browning, he shook his finger in his face and said:

“’I would like to have a photograph of your face, Browning.’

“’And for why,’ shot back Pete, who was taken wholly by surprise, and began to color up when allusion was made to his face.

“’Why, I have a chicken farm back home,’ said Gaffney, ‘and I would like to put your picture in the coop so as to frighten eggs out of the hens.’”

Chicago Cubs, Charity Patients

4 Apr

The Chicago Daily News noted the day Charles Webb Murphy gave up on the idea of his Chicago Cubs winning the 1913 National League pennant.

The local papers had counted the Cubs out for weeks; Murphy hung on until they were mathematically eliminated on September 19:

“Murphy today drew down the advertisement he has been running in the local papers: ‘The Cubs may yet cop the pennant.’”

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One of Murphy’s ads

The paper pointed out that they could finish no better than second, but said to do so, “the Cubs will need the services of an earthquake.”

Webb didn’t get his earthquake and quickly found himself at the center of a major scandal just outside the West Side Grounds as the Cubs limped to a third place finish.

The Cubs’ neighbor, Cook County Hospital became the subject of a large-scale corruption investigation that hit the papers just as Webb’s ads were disappearing.

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West Side Grounds, Cook County Hospital is visible beyond the grandstand

An investigation ordered by Cook County Board President Alexander Agnew McCormick had revealed that the hospital’s warden, Henry L. Bailey had, according to The Chicago Inter Ocean, allowed politically connected county residents who could afford medical services to receive treatment for free—he was also accused, but cleared, of pocketing the profits derived from selling corpses for medical research.

On September 22, The Chicago Tribune reported a new charge:

“The investigation will also be directed into the alleged exchange of season tickets to the National League baseball games for free medical attention and medicine for indisposed ballplayers. Investigators have brought in evidence that indicating to them that the million dollar baseball club of Charles Webb Murphy received the same solicitous care as did those undeserving ones who entered the free wards on the personal cards of politicians.”

The Tribune said “a number” of passes “found their way” into the hands of hospital administrators.

Murphy immediately denied that any of his players received free treatment.

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Charles Webb Murphy

Within a day, The Chicago Evening Post said otherwise:

“The hospital authorities admitted treating members of the Cubs’ team without charge. President Murphy said no ballplayer of his team had ever been treated free at the hospital.

“The records of the hospital show among the charity patients a man named John Evers, American, baseball player, treated for two weeks and discharged from the hospital much improved.

“Another man named Henry Zimmerman, American, baseball player, was entered as a charity patient in the institution several times.

“Another page in the record bore the name of James Sheckard who was treated gratis for a broken finger.”

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Johnny Evers

Additionally, The Tribune alleged that “a number of ballplayers had photographs taken of their injuries at no cost.” The paper said x-rays usually cost between $10 and $25, and said it was difficult to say exactly how many players received free x-rays because many names and patient records were falsified, but quoted one record which included a payment waiver and said:

“For Mr. Murphy, by personal order of Henry L. Bailey.”

Murphy dug his heels in and told the papers none of his players received free hospital care.

From New York, Frank Chance took the opportunity to contradict the denials of the owner who he had spent most of 1912 feuding with before being dismissed and sent to the Yankees , telling The Daily News:

“Whenever a Cub player was injured it was customary to go over to the County Hospital and be cared for. I couldn’t attempt to say how many x-ray examinations have been made of the players there. Murphy was always friendly to the officials at the institutions.”

Webb became an early example of waiting out the news cycle,

He never backed down. Never admitted that his players had received free services and the story disappeared later in the fall of 1913. Forgotten forever by the time Murphy sold his interest in the Cubs to to Charles Phelps Taft before the 1914 season.

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things–Lost Quotes

30 Jun

The Detroit Free Press had no love for Cap Anson of the Chicago White Stockings, and observed in 1888:

“The majority of the Chicago players are courteous, gentlemanly fellows, and as Anson naturally finds no pleasure in their companionship he is generally rather lonesome.”

Cap Anson

Cap Anson

The Cincinnati Enquirer had a similarly low view of the entire White Stockings team in 1879:

“The Boston Herald says the greatest trouble with the new Chicago nine will be able to tell whether it will try to win.  We think its greatest problem will be whether or not it will keep sober.”

Charles Webb Murphy was often asked after giving up his interest in the Chicago Cubs if he regretted leaving baseball for much less glamorous businesses.  In 1914, Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Examiner said Murphy answered the question by telling people:

 Charles Webb Murphy

Charles Webb Murphy

“Well, not one of my gravel pits has jumped to the Federal League.”

Arthur Irwin was one of the best-known scouts of his time, but by 1912, he declared that most of the good players were gone:

Arthur Irwin

Arthur Irwin

“Scouting isn’t like it used to be.  There was a time when a man could go through the bushes and pick up all kinds of men; but times have changed since then.  The scout who is lucky to pick up one really good ballplayer in a season can congratulate himself and feel satisfied he has earned his salary.”

Fred Clarke gave a toast on Honus Wagner’s 42nd birthday.  The Pittsburgh Press quoted him:

“During all the years we played together I never knew him to make a wrong play.”

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Honus Wagner

The previous year’s celebration of Wagner’s birthday included this quote in a letter from Johnny Evers:

“You hear about ‘second’ Cobbs, ’another’ Lajoie, but you never hear about ‘second’ Wagner’s. Why?  Simply because there never will be a second Wagner.”

“Playing the Third Base is Pretty much of a Gamble”

22 Jun

In May of 1911, Chicago Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers suffered a mental breakdown—The Chicago Daily News said that in a letter to club President Charles Webb Murphy:

“Evers complains that his nerves are completely gone.  He is unable to remain on his feet for 10 minutes at a time and the attack is so severe that it has caused large swellings about his face.”

Evers rejoined the team in June, but his condition required another five-week absence from the team in July and August, resulting in him being limited to just 46 games, including 11 at third base—he had previously played the position just three times during his career.

Johnny Evers

Johnny Evers

Late in the season he talked to a reporter from The Chicago Evening Post about playing third:

“Right now it strikes me that there is more luck in playing third base.  You get them or you don’t.  I mean by that the hot shots. When one of those line drives or swift bounders comes at you the isn’t time to play the ball.  You leap and knock the ball down if you can.  If it isn’t right at you it is past you so quickly that you can’t get a square crack at it.”

“Playing the third base is pretty much of a gamble.  If the ball happens to be hit right at you then you get it.  Otherwise, there is nothing doing.”

Evers compared it to his usual position at second base:

“Down on second, it is different.  There you have to play the ball, come in or go back.  That’s one condition which makes the play at third more difficult than at second.

“There is a whole lot more inside baseball at second then there is at third. You play in for a bunt or you play deep.  There is no moving to right or to left.  When you are at second you have more opportunities. You study the batter and you play him accordingly.  Maybe you take a step or two nearer second or a step or two nearer first.

Johnny Evers,

Evers

“Nothing like that at third.  You play in for a bunt or you play back for a clout.

“When it comes to throwing, third base is by far more difficult than second…And the difficulty is not in making the throw so much as it is that a man scarcely has enough to do to keep his arm in shape.  It is this which makes it so much easier for a man to injure his arm playing third.  We’ll say that he goes six or seven innings without a ball being hit to him.  In the eighth or ninth he grabs the ball and checks it to first.  The chances of injuring his arm on a play like that are greater…Down at second base, a man probably handled the ball 20 times.”

In the end, he was not ready for a permanent switch:

“After playing both positions it is my opinion that second base overshadows third as a place for inside baseball.  There is where a man has opportunities of applying his knowledge of batters.  It is the position where he can play the ball as well as the batter.  At third a man attempts to stab a fierce drive.  If he succeeds all well and good, and if he doesn’t, he can turn and watch the outfielder chase it.  It’s hit or miss.”

Evers never mastered third base; he made three errors in 31 chances during those 11 games in 1911—and committed eight errors in 61 total chances in the 21 games he played at third throughout his career, an .869 fielding percentage at the position.

In 1912, fully recovered–he told reports he “felt nothing from his breakdown,” Evers appeared in 143 games, and had his best season at the plate, hitting .341.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up other Things #11

22 Sep

Floto on Baseball’s Most Powerful Men

Otto Clement Floto was one of the more colorful sportswriters of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century’s.  The Denver Post’s Woody Paige said of the man who was once worked for that paper:

“In the early 1900s Floto was The Denver Post’s sports editor and a drunk, barely literate, loud-mouthed columnist–sounds like a description of that guy in my mirror–who didn’t believe in punctuation marks, wrote about fights he secretly promoted on the side, got into shouting matches with legendary Wild West gunman–turned Denver sportswriter–Bat Masterson.”

Otto Floto

Otto Floto

Floto, in 1910, provided readers of The Post with his unvarnished opinion of baseball’s most powerful figures:

John T. Brush—The smartest man in baseball, but vindictive.

Garry Herrmann—Smart, but no backbone; the last man to him has him.

Ban Johnson—Bluffs a great deal and makes it stick.  Likes to talk.

Charles Comiskey—Shrewd as can be.

Connie Mack—Shrewd and clever; knows the game better than anyone.

Charles Murphy—A hard fighter, but backs up at times.

George Tebeau—More nerve than any other man in baseball, very shrewd.

Barney Dreyfus—Smart, but always following, never leading.

As for John McGraw, Floto allowed that the Giants’ manager was “Pretty wise,” but attributed his success to the fact that he “has lots of money to work worth.”

Too Much Money for Players, 1884

The Cleveland Herald was not happy when pitcher Jim McCormick jumped his contract with the Cleveland Blues in the National League to the Union Association’s Cincinnati franchise.  Although teammates Jack Glasscock and Charles “Fatty” Briody also jumped to Cincinnati, the paper saved most their anger for the first big leaguer to have been born in Scotland.

Jim McCormick

Jim McCormick

The paper noted that McCormick, who was paid $2500 by the Blues, had received a $1,000 bonus to jump:

“(A) total of $3,500 for joining the Cincinnati Unions to play the remainder of the season.  This is equal to $1750 a month, which again divided makes $437.50 a week.  Now McCormick will not play oftener than three times a week which makes his wages $145.83 per day for working days.  The game will average about two hours each, so that he receives for his actual work no less than $72.91 an hour, or over $1.21 a minute for work done.  If he was not playing ball he would probably be tending bar in some saloon at $12 a week.”

McCormick was 21-3 with a 1.54 ERA in 24 games and helped pitch the “Outlaw Reds” to a second place finish in the struggling Union Association.  After the Association collapsed was assigned to the Providence Grays, then was sold to the Chicago White Stockings.  From July of 1885 through the 1886 season McCormick was teamed with his boyhood friend Mike “King” Kelly—the two grew up together in Paterson, New Jersey and were dubbed “the Jersey Battery” by the Chicago press—and posted a 51-15 record during the season and a half in Chicago, including a run of 16 straight wins in ‘86.

He ended his career with a 265-214 record and returned home to run his bar.  In 1912 John McGraw was quoted in The Sporting Life calling McCormick “the greatest pitcher of his day.”

The pitcher who The Herald said would otherwise be a $12 a week bartender also used some of the money he made jumping from Cleveland in 1884 the following year to purchase a tavern in Paterson.

Not Enough Money for Owners, 1885

In 1885 J. Edward “Ned” Allen was president of the defending National League Champions –and winners of baseball’s first World Series—the Providence Grays.  He told The New York Sun that baseball was no longer a profitable proposition:

“The time was when a man who put his money into a club was quite sure of coming out more or less ahead, but that is past.  When the National League had control of all the best players in the country a few years ago, and had no opposition, salaries were low, and a player who received $1,500 for his season’s work did well.  In 1881, when the American Association was organized in opposition to the league, the players’ salaries at once began to go up, as each side tried to outbid the other.  When the two organizations formed what is known as the National Agreement the clubs retained their players at the same salaries.

“Several other associations were then organized in different parts of the country and were admitted under the protection of the National Agreement.   This served to make good ball-players, especially pitchers, scarce, and forced salaries up still higher, until at the present time a first-class pitcher will not look at a manager for less than $3,500 for a season.  (“Old Hoss”) Radbourn of last year’s Providence Club received the largest amount of money that has ever been paid to a ball-player.  His wonderful pitching, which won the championship for the club, cost about $5,000 (Baseball Reference says Radbourn earned between $2,800 and $3,000 in 1884), as did the work of two pitchers and received the pay of two.

The Providence Grays--Champions and unprofitable

The Providence Grays–Champions and unprofitable

“Some of the salaries which base-ball players will get next season are; (Jim) O’Rourke, (Joe) Gerhardt, (Buck) Ewing and (John Montgomery) Ward of the New York Club, $3,000 each.  (Tony) Mullane was to have played for the Cincinnati Club for $4,000 (Mullane was suspended for signing with Cincinnati after first agreeing to a contract with the St. Louis Browns).  (Fred) Dunlap has a contract with the new League club in St. Louis for $3,400.  These are only a few of the higher prices paid, while the number of men who get from $2,000 to $3,000 is large.  At these prices a club with a team costing only from $15,000 to $20,000 is lucky, but it has not much chance of winning a championship.  To this expense must be added the ground rent, the salaries of gate-keepers, and the traveling expenses, which will be as much more.

“As a high-priced club the New York Gothams leads, while the (New York) Metropolitans are nearly as expensive.  The income of these two clubs last year was nearly $130,000, yet the Metropolitans lost money and the New York Club (Gothams) was only a little ahead.  The first year the Metropolitans were in the field(1883) their salary list was light, as were their traveling expenses, and at the end of the season they were $50,000 ahead.”

The Grays disbanded after the 1885 season.

Charles Murphy’s Last Stand

16 Jul

The National League had almost completely rid themselves of Charles Webb Murphy in 1914; the owner who had ongoing feuds with nearly every other league magnate, league officials, umpires, and many of his own players, had sold his interest in the Chicago Cubs to his financial benefactor Charles Phelps Taft.

Murphy returned to his home in Wilmington, Ohio; his only connection to the National League was his part ownership of the Baker Bowl, the home of the Philadelphia Phillies.  Murphy’s other ballpark ownership stake was in Chicago’s West Side Grounds, but that investment had lost most of its value after Taft sold the Cubs to Charles Weeghman, who moved the team to his ballpark on the North Side.  The Cubs former home field was used for amateur and semi-pro games, even  Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, but the park was not making Murphy money.

William Wrigley Jr., and his brothers were minority investors in the team in 1916, but Weeghman began struggling financially almost as soon as he bought the team, and the Wrigley brothers began buying Weeghman’s stock.

Charles Weeghman

Charles Weeghman

Between the 1918 and ’19 seasons the Wrigley’s acquired controlling interest in the Cubs.  (Some recent sources say Wrigley did not have controlling interest until 1921, but numerous contemporaneous sources said the Wrigley family had control of the team before the 1919 season began).

William Wrigley Jr.

William Wrigley Jr.

In February of 1919 Joe Vila, sports editor of The New York Sun wrote a story that said the Cubs were moving out of Weeghman Park and back to the West Side Grounds:

“National League men are gratified to learn that there will be a change of ball parks in Chicago, probably before the championship season opens on April 23.  The Cubs who have occupied the grounds of the defunct Chicago fed on the North Side since 1916, are preparing to return to their old home, West Side Park, which still is the property of Charles Webb Murphy and, presumably Charles P Taft.  The North Side plant never could accommodate more than 18,000 spectators, sitting and standing, whereas as many as 30,000 attended games at West Side Park in the days when Frank Chance had a world’s championship ball club.  Last fall the Cubs played their world’s title games with the Red Sox in Chicago at the home of the White Sox for the reason that the former Chifed arena was too small.”

Vila said Murphy saw an opportunity in the new ownership arrangement:

“Naturally, with an eye to business, Murphy promptly suggested to the Wrigley’s, who control the Cubs stock, the transfer of the Cubs…The Wrigley’s, who know little or nothing about practical baseball methods, regard Murphy as an oracle and there isn’t  a doubt that they will accept his suggestion.”

westsidegrounds

The Grandstand at West Side Grounds

It’s unclear whether the move, for which Vila said “there isn’t a doubt,” was ever even a possibility; it seems just as likely it was a story planted by Murphy.  Vila’s description of the ousted Cubs owner would suggest, at the very least, that Murphy had a sympathetic ear with The Sun sports editor:

“Murphy is one of the smartest men in baseball…When Murphy was president and of the Cubs the club didn’t have a losing year financially…In other words the Cubs under Murphy were tremendously successful.”

Vila also blames the Horace Fogel incident for all of “Murphy’s unpopularity that led to his retirement,” Not mentioning Murphy’s numerous feuds.

The Wrigley’s did not end up accepting Murphy’s suggestion, and the team remained at Weeghman Field, renamed Cubs Park before the 1920 season, and finally Wrigley Field before the 1926 season.

Murphy’s last stand having failed, he had his ballpark torn down in 1920.

It wasn’t until 1927 that the seating capacity at Wrigley Field finally surpassed that of the west Side Grounds.

“The Story of the Story Fogel Wrote”

9 Jul

The day before Philadelphia Phillies president and owner Horace Fogel was banned from baseball by his fellow National League magnates, one of the witnesses in the case against him said Fogel was being “used” by the “instigator” of the story that appeared in The Chicago Evening Post, and contributed to the action taken by the National League.

The charge seemed to confirm a rumor that swirled around the Fogel case for months; that the Philadelphia Phillies owner was acting on behalf of Cubs owner Charles W. Murphy.

Under the headline, “The Story of the Story Fogel Wrote,” William S. Forman, sports editor of The Evening Post wrote:

“Charles W. Murphy authorized me to tell Fogel that Murphy had suggested writing the story.  On this representation Fogel wrote it and signed it.  He sent it to Murphy, who read it before I ever saw it.  It came to me from Murphy’s office; and if Murphy had not approved the story it never would have been published.  The man who is morally responsible for that article and the charges it contained is Murphy himself, and I have Fogel’s own word for it that he wrote it simply “to help Murphy fight his battles” with the National League.

“It is not the first time Murphy has made Fogel the goat.  Previously Murphy had sent me another article signed by Fogel and told me Fogel had writing it, and wanted it published…Months afterward I learned that Murphy himself had writing it and Fogel had merely signed it because he was requested to do so by the Cubs’ President.  It was a defense of Murphy who had been criticised…by a Chicago baseball writer.”

Charles Webb Murphy

Charles Webb Murphy

Murphy, who spent his entire National League career engaged in countless feuds with fellow owners, players, managers, umpires and writers, denied the charge and said Forman was motivated to tell the story as a result of one of Murphy’s other feuds, telling reporters:

“This is a lot of rubbish; why I hardly know this man Forman, but I can guess readily that his paper is sore because we let Frank Chance go.  His paper thinks that by pounding me it will make a hit with Chicago fans, but it will find it is mistaken.“

The Associated Press said the other league owners were not buying Murphy’s explanation:

“(I)t is claimed that every magnate expects charges will be brought against (Murphy) by President (Thomas) Lynch and he may go the way of Fogel if the test votes to date are any criterion.”

Despite the rumors and the “test votes,” Murphy said “the suggestion that charges will be brought against me is all rubbish.”

Murphy was correct.  Despite the evidence, and despite his ongoing feuds with the league president and at least half of the National League magnates, charges were never brought by the league.

Murphy had another feud-filled, stormy year in Chicago in 1913.  After the season The Associated Press said:

“For the first time since the problem of pushing Charles W. Murphy out of the National League received serious consideration there is smooth working machinery ready to grip the club president and move him to a seat beside Horace Fogel. “

While a deal was being made to get Murphy out of the National League, Damon Runyon said:

“We grant you that Charles Webb Murphy should be thrown out of baseball, if only to quiet the beating pulse, and lave the fevered brow of Chicago, but we do not go to be o’ nights with a dull anger smoldering in our in’ards and we do not get up o’ mornings low in mind and spirits and feeling that out existence is is blackened and posterity besmirched because Charles Webb Murphy is still around.  We know that when they throw him out, as they doubtless will throw him out, there will be someone else ready to take his place as official Bugaboo, for there must be a Bugaboo in baseball, else we might have no baseball.”

Eventually it was agreed that Charles Phelps Taft would purchase Webb’s interest in the Cubs, and he resigned as team president in February of 1914; although it was unclear just how much the sale netted him.  Murphy said he owned 53 percent of the team’s stock and that the sale was for more than $500,000.  Frank Chance, Mordecai Brown, and others claimed Murphy “Never owned more than fifteen or twenty percent of the club stock.”

But the transaction with Taft would not be the end of Murphy.

Murphy was still owned part of the Cubs’ West Side Grounds and Philadelphia’s Baker Bowl, home of the Phillies.  In addition it was reported at the close of the 1914 season that Murphy held a mortgage on the Cubs stock, and claimed to own a controlling interest in the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Chicago Examiner said:

“Charles W. Murphy, who everybody supposes was ‘kicked out’ of baseball last spring, is not out at all, but very much in…He practically admits it himself when he does not deny controlling Cub stock , and asserts that he may take over the Philadelphia club before long… (National League President John Tener) declared some months ago that Murphy was out of the National League, now admits that Murphy may own some stock that he does not know about.

“Murphy says openly that he is Tener’s landlord, meaning that Tener is a stockholder in the Phillies and that the Phillies owe Murphy plenty of rent for their grounds.”

The Examiner said Murphy was interfering with the negotiations to sell the Cubs to Charles Weeghman, and at the same time was owed a lump sum payment of more than $100,000 by the other Phillies investors; if the payment was not received “at the stated time Murphy will foreclose and take possession of the Phillies.”

In The Philadelphia Inquirer, Phillies President William F. Baker quickly denied Murphy’s assertion that the former Cubs owner was in a position to take possession of his ballclub and that Tener ever owned stock in the team:

“It is true that Murphy and Mr. Taft own the Philadelphia ballpark, which the club has leased for a long time. But that does not alter the fact that Murphy is in no way interested in the club’s affairs…I intend to call the attention of the National League to this matter for the purpose of stopping Murphy for all time.”

William F. Baker

William F. Baker

By late December of 1914 Murphy was finally out of the National League for good.

As for whether Murphy was forced of baseball or left of his own accord, several recent sources point to a self-serving article Murphy wrote in “Baseball Magazine” in 1919 as evidence that he was not forced out.  Murphy, while acknowledging that Tener “was not ‘crazy’ about me,” Murphy said:

“No force was required. Despite that fact I read every once in a while that I was forced out of baseball–knocked down the back steps, as it were, and kicked into the yards behind… I sold out to Mr. Charles P. Taft and without force, but for what every other thing of value is obtained–a price. Imagine a man being forced to take $500,000 for a baseball franchise.”

Given that the $500,000 figure, while repeated credulously in countless books and articles in the last 100 years, has never been confirmed (it’s fairly certain that most of Murphy’s stake in the Cubs strictly on paper and was, in fact, Taft money, making Chance and Brown’s speculation on the value more realistic), and that Murphy conveniently left out his attempts to insert himself in the operations of two team the year after “no force was required” to remove him from the game, his protestations should be taken at face value.  Although he retained his interest in the Baker Bowl, he was never actively involved in the operations of a team again.

Murphy, who started his professional life as a sportswriter (for Taft’s Cincinnati Enquirer), managed to remain involved in baseball by writing articles about the game for “Baseball Magazine,” many, like the one quoted above, focused on restoring his reputation.

Murphy returned to Wilmington, Ohio where he financed the construction of the Murphy Theater, a landmark that still stands.  He eventually returned to Chicago where he died in 1931.  The Associated Press said he left “An estate estimated at nearly $3,000,000,” his stake in the Baker Bowl and the ownership of the theater being his largest assets.

Murphy made one last pitch to get back in the game–next week.