Tag Archives: Charley O’Leary

“I might now be a politician in Chicago”

1 Aug

As part of his series of syndicated articles asking major league players to describe “How I Win,” journalist Joseph B. Bowles spoke to Detroit Tigers infielder Charley O’Leary:

Charley O'Leary

Charley O’Leary

“I learned how to win from (Tigers Manager Hughie) Jennings.  Now before he came to Detroit the team was as flat as Aunt Jemima’s pancakes, but he threw about a quart of Fleishman’s yeast into us, and we rose.

O’Leary played three seasons with the Tigers under managers Ed Barrow, Bobby Lowe and Bill Armour before Jennings arrived in 1907—those teams finished in seventh, third and  sixth place.

“The recipe for winning is to mix ginger, yeast and horseradish with horse sense and keep stirring all the time.  Thinking and hustling, figuring on every point, watching all the time for an opening and taking all sorts of chances is what wins.  One man can’t win—unless he happens to be the fellow who can stir up a dozen others and keep them fighting all the time and never giving up.  Without a leader, the best team will slack up the pace once in a while and maybe get discouraged.”

As for individual achievements , O’Leary said:

“All the success I have had has come from studying batters while I was in the infield and studying base runners when they got on the bases.  A player almost can tell from the way the batter and the base runner act what they are trying to d, or going to try to do if he only keeps his eyes open.”

O’Leary said he never attempted to steal signs, but:

“(I) can tell by the actions and the situation what is coming off.  Then (when playing short) I want a second baseman alongside of me who understands me and whom I understand, so we can work together.  There are some men who prevent each other from doing their best work.

“I make a study of where batters hit, and every day I get the fullest accounts possible of all the games played and study out where the balls were hit to.  Batters change rapidly.  Sometimes a player hits to left field for weeks, and the next time we meet him in a series, he is hitting to right field.  I find it important to know all the time, for sometimes it is five or six weeks until we play against him again, and in that time he may have changed completely.  I keep talking to pitchers who have worked against certain men and reading about them to see how they are batting.  Then too, lots of times, a weak batter will have a batting streak and a pitcher and infielder ought to know this before starting a series against him.  The best part of my success, I think, has been in being where the ball was hit, and a whole lot of this has come from studying batters.”

O'Leary

O’Leary

O’Leary, who had a reputation as a hot head early in career, said something else contributed to his success:

“I used to think fighting umpires helped win, but I want to say that is a mistake.  Playing square with the umpires and treating them decently and playing fair with opponents is the only way to win.  Fair play ought to be the foundation of the game.  I play as hard and fight as hard for a game as anyone, but would rather lose than hurt another player, or try to make an umpire look bad to a crowd.”

1909 Tigers. O'Leary is far right, bottom row. Jennings is at center of bottom row holding dog.

1907 Tigers. O’Leary is far right, bottom row. Jennings is at center of bottom row holding dog.

O’Leary did not make his big league debut until the age of 28 in 1904, and the Chicago native later told a reporter for The Detroit News that he nearly gave the game up for years earlier during his first professional season—with the 1900 White Sox, in the not yet a major league American League:

“The first team I ever played on, outside of (amateur teams) around Chicago, was the White Sox, and they took me to Detroit with them to play a Sunday game.  I nearly quit right then and there.  If I had I might now be a politician in Chicago.

“It was one of those games played out at Burns Park (Burns, just west of Detroit’s city limits, opened in 1900 to host Sunday games and circumvent Detroit’s blue laws).  We won by one run and as we left the park the crowd came at us with beer bottles.  It was the bottom of the bus for everybody , and as I was the most scared I got there first, I guess.  Anyway, everybody else pulled on top of me, and we rode into town that way.

“I was nearly smothered.  They had a hard time inducing me to believe that that was not an everyday occurrence.”

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Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things #20

25 May

A Twist on the Hidden Ball Trick, 1909

Jack Fournier had a favorite story that The Chicago Daily News said he told so often that “fellow members of the White Sox give the warning ‘Capron story’” every time he retold it.

Fournier

Fournier

Fournier was playing first base for the Portland Cubs in Northwestern League in 1909 while former college football star George Capron was playing for the Seattle Turks.

“A Seattle runner was on first when Capron came to bat.  He rapped a hot grounder down to (Phil) Cooney, who was at short for Portland.  The latter whipped the ball to second, forcing the runner and then the ball was relayed to Fournier.

“Capron had crossed the bag and was making his turn back by the time the throw reached Fournier.

“Jack tossed the ball up and down in his glove as Capron came up.  ‘Can you beat that Capron?’ said Fournier ‘the ump called you out.’

Capron, known for his temper on the field, became enraged and ran towards the umpire who standing near second base.

“Fournier was right on his heels and didn’t catch him until they covered half the distance.  He tagged the amazed Capron with the ball.”

Asked if Capron was angry, Fournier would deadpan, “Well, rather.”

An Umpire’s revenge

In 1907, long-time American League umpire Jack Sheridan told a story that appeared in several newspapers, including The Chicago Evening Post, about how he quieted a “Chronic Kicker,” Fielder Jones of the Chicago White Sox:

Jack Sheridan

Jack Sheridan

During the previous season, Chicago was playing the Detroit Tigers when Jones got on base:

Charley O’Leary, the Tigers shortstop brushed Jones’ leg with the ball as he was sliding into second on a steal.  Sheridan called him out and Jones kicked; said he didn’t feel the ball touch him.  Sheridan told O’Leary to make him feel it the next time.  A few innings later Jones got on and again attempted to steal.  This time, O’Leary jammed the ball onto Jones’ head.”

Fielder Jones

Fielder Jones

Sheridan said after the shaken-up Jones was called out and recovered from the blow:

“(He) walked to the bench without a single protest.”

A Pitcher’s Plea, 1898

After not playing professional ball in 1896 and 1897, Matt Kilroy returned to the major leagues with the Chicago orphans in 1898.

A decade later, Revere Rodgers of The Washington Evening Star said Kilroy, who won 46 games in 1887, “was in the game long after his arm went back on him.”

Matt Kilroy

Matt Kilroy

He also had another talent:

“As a baseball player Matt was real classy, but as a poker player he was king, and the Chicago bunch in those days was the most rabid pasteboard handlers then traveling over the circuit.

“Kilroy was lucky with the cards, his skill was marvelous, and he must have done well judging from a conversation at the time he was handed the customer ten days’ notice (of his release in August 1898) by Manager (Tom) Burns.

‘”Oh, say, Burns,’ cried Matt, when he received the notice, ‘allow me to stay with the club.  You won’t have to give me a cent of salary, and what is more, I will pay all my traveling expenses, and help the club out at the bat or in the pitcher’s box.’”

Burns told Kilroy he could earn “three hundred a month in the Eastern League.”

“I know,’ said Kilroy, ‘But you see I like the poker game the boys play here.”

“It is Feared that the Cares of his Office are making an old man out of Tim”

18 Aug

Timothy Carroll “Tim” Hurst had an eventful season in 1906.

He had been an umpire since 1891—with the exception of one awful season managing the St. Louis Browns to a 39-111 last place finish in 1898.  In 1904 Hurst retired from the National League, but months later joined the umpire staff of the Central League, and took a job in the American League in 1905.

Tim Hurst

Tim Hurst

The Kansas City Journal described the 5’ 5” umpire who was also a boxing referee::

“Hurst is a pudgy little fellow, below medium height, with sandy hair, twinkling blue eyes and a ruddy complexion.”

He was often called “pugnacious” for his on field, and off, altercations, and once told a reporter for The New York Herald how he dealt with argumentative catchers:

“Never put a catcher out of the game.  If the man back of the bat is sassy and objects to your calling of balls and strikes, keep close behind him while doing your work and kick him every time he reaches out a catch a ball.  After about the third kick he’ll shut up.”

The incident that earned him the most attention in 1906 happened during a May 7 game in New York between the Highlanders and the Washington Nationals.   The New York Times said during the fifth inning:

(Frank) LaPorte was declared out at first base on a close decision.  Manager (Clark) Griffith rushed over to the base line, and, throwing his cap in the air, protested against the decision.  He wildly gesticulated, and Hurst ordered him away.  Griffith, instead of following Hurst’s instructions, stepped up to the latter, protesting all the time.  In his excitement he stepped upon Hurst’s foot.”

Hurst “drew back” to punch Griffith but was held back by players from both teams.

“Hurst then took hold of the lapel of Griffith’s coat and started to lead the player-manager to the bench.  The latter angrily resented this action and pushed Hurst’s hand away.  Lave Cross and the Washingtons tried to pacify Griffith, and succeeded in getting him to the players’ bench.”

Hurst followed Griffith to the New York bench and again attempted to punch the manager, while Griffith “rushed at the umpire.”

Clark Griffith

Clark Griffith

According to The Associated Press Griffith claimed “’Hurst didn’t hit me.’ Then pointing to his swollen mouth he added, ‘I had this swollen lip before the game.’”

Hurst and Griffith were both suspended for five games.

The following year Henry Pierrepoint Edwards of The Cleveland Plain Dealer said Hurst had given him an explanation to “clear up the mystery” of why he reacted so violently:

“Now, it isn’t customary for Tim to wear baseball shoes on the diamond.  Usually Tim appears for the fray clad in the same suit he would wear at a pink tea.  His real uniform is just a cap.

“On the afternoon in question Tim purchased a new pair of patent leather shoes.  The shoes glistened in the sun like a diamond and gave Tim great pleasure.  Griffith forgot all about the shoes and in his rage over losing a close decision spiked and spoiled the new kicks.  Great was Tim’s rage.  Even greater was the clash.  That’s all.”

Two months after the incident with Griffith, Hurst made what might have been the worst call of his career.

On July 7 in Washington, he was working the game between the Nationals and the Detroit Tigers.  The score was tied 3 to 3 in the seventh inning, the Tigers had the bases loaded with two out and Sam “Wahoo” Crawford at the plate, facing Nationals pitcher Frank KitsonThe Washington Post said:

“’Wahoo’ lifted one a thousand miles directly over the pan.  Kitson came tearing in,  (Catcher Howard) Wakefield hesitated.  Manager (Jake) Stahl stood still at first base.  The pellet whirled in the air and finally dropped just inside the line and bounded back to the stands.  (Charley) O’Leary and (John) Eubank romped home.  Crawford went to second, carrying the funniest two-base hit on record.  Kitson and Wakefield stood admiring each other until Hurst again yelled ‘Fair ball!’ when the boy catcher went after the bulb.”

Sam Crawford

Sam Crawford

While the Nationals argued the call, and Hurst refused to reverse his decision, The Post said “The spectators were forced to listen to the dillydallying for fully fifteen minutes, then many of them got up and left the belligerents wrangling over the decision.”

Kitson threw a wild pitch to the next batter, Matty McIntyre scoring Herman “Germany” Schaefer and Crawford.  The Tigers went on to win 9 to 3.  Jake Stahl filed a protest with American league President Ban Johnson.

The Washington Evening Star said:

“The only excuse that Umpire Hurst can have is that the play was an unusual one.  Lave Cross admitting that he never saw its like in his experience on the diamond.  Hurst was palpably rattled, and the Tigers when taking their places on the field chaffed the locals with the remark that ‘Tim certainly handed us one that time.’”

The Washington Times said it was “one of the most remarkable plays ever seen on a diamond,“ and printed for their readers rule number’s 44 and 45 from the 1906 “Reach Guide” Reach describing “A Fair Hit,” and “A Foul Hit.”

The Washington Times used "The Reach Guide" to illustrate how Hurst blew the call.

The Washington Times used “The Reach Guide” to illustrate how Hurst blew the call.

The Times said:

“(T)here seemed no possible way of calling it fair, but Hurst was obdurate, and the only explanation he would give was that the ball ‘was hit too high.”  What the heighth of the hit had to do with the fact that it eventually bounded foul is still another mystery.”

Hurst’s story evolved over the next several days.  The Post said his original explanation regarding the ball’s height was “to the effect that the ball was it so high it ‘settled’ inside, constituting the hit a fair one. “  This was quickly replaced by Hurst’s claim that the ball had touched Wakefield, the Washington catcher, before bounding into foul territory.

The Times’ baseball reporter Thomas Stevens Rice said of Hurst’s new story:

“This explanation is all right if it presents the facts in the case.  In the press box there was not a single man who thought the ball was touched by Wakefield or anybody else.”

The Post conceded that the protest would be rejected, saying “It is almost certain that Ban Johnson will sustain his scrappy umpire, no matter what interpretation he puts on the rules,” but the paper did not let up on Hurst.

The following week when Sam Crawford brought his average up to .300, The Post said:

“Hurst last week decided that Crawford’s high rap which hit inside the base line and bounded back to the stands was fair…am would have faced the pitcher 271 times and got away with 81 hits which would have made his average .299, as it was Sam got and extra hit which brought the total to .303.  He owes Tim a hat.”

Hurst was still young, just forty-one in 1906, but The Sporting Life said something had changed during that year, and by the end of the season that the umpire lacked the “Aggressiveness and enthusiasm” he had previously exhibited:

“It is feared that the cares of his office are making an old man out of Tim, who once was noted for having the finest brand of keen-cutting, kill-at-a-thousand-yards sarcasm of any umpire in captivity.  Sit Timothy is very tame, and the players, even the bush leaguers who have just broken in, can tell him what they think of him and his calling.”

Hurst’s old “aggressiveness” came out in 1909.  He was suspended in May for a fight with Norman “Kid” Elberfeld of the Highlanders, then on August 3 during a game between the Athletics and White Sox.  The Brooklyn Eagle said:

“At Philadelphia Tim Hurst came in for considerable trouble.  Hurst called Eddie Collins out at second and the Columbia youngster put up a kick.

“Whether it was with malice aforethought or quite an accident, it is a fact that the umpire distributed a mouthful of moistened union-made tobacco in the direction of the youthful Eddie, who immediately called Tim’s attention to the board of health ordinance which prohibited expectorating in public places.”

After the game Hurst had to be escorted from the field by Philadelphia police.  Ban Johnson suspended Hurst, beginning two weeks of rumor and speculation about the umpire’s fate.  Finally, on August 18 it was announced that Hurst had been let go by the American League.

Hurst, in poor health since 1912, died in 1915.  Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Examiner said of his passing at age 49:

“The saddest part of it is that ‘Timothy’ did not die in the blue uniform, and that during the last few years of his life he was practically blacklisted in baseball for refusing to answer or deny charges made against him for his actions during a clash with Eddie Collins…President Johnson declared that if Hurst even had replied to his telegrams of inquiry he would have kept him—but Tim, knowing he had done wrong, refused, and went out of the game.”