Tag Archives: Charlie Dexter

The Milwaukee First Base Jinx

20 May

In January of 1911, the Milwaukee Brewers of the American Association were in search of a first baseman.

Newspapers across the country began to speculate that getting someone to play the position might be a problem.

They began to talk about the “Milwaukee First Base Jinx.”

Dan McGann, who had been Milwaukee’s first baseman in 1909 and 1910 committed suicide a month earlier at Besler’s Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky (Although McGann’s sisters claimed he was murdered because an expensive ring was missing, there was a history of depression and suicide in the family and other expensive items were found on his body).

Dan McGann

The regular first baseman before McGann, Arthur Brown, as mentioned in an earlier post, was killed in 1911 by an actor whose wife had left him for the first baseman

 The man Brown replaced at first in 1908 was Quait Bateman, who also had a brush with violence.  He had been stabbed by Charlie Dexter.  Initial reports said the stabbing happened as a result of what The Milwaukee News called “A drunken row,” later Bateman said it was an accident and refused to press charges.

Unlike the others, Bateman did not die–although he was said to be close to death twice– and actually returned to Milwaukee for three more seasons.

Quait Bateman

But that fact didn’t get in the way of a good jinx story.

Shortly after the jinx stories appeared, Milwaukee signed 34-year-old former American League first baseman Tom Jones.  As the club’s first baseman for four seasons–and part of a fifth–Jones temporarily put the talk to rest.

Tom Jones

But it was revised again in 1913.

Newspapers brought up the jinx again when another former  Milwaukee first baseman Jiggs Donahue–who played for the club in 1902 and ’03– died in July.  Donahue died in the Ohio State Hospital in Columbus.  It was widely assumed his mental illness the result of advanced syphilis.

Jiggs Donahue

Articles in a number of papers speculated on what fate awaited Jones.  The Day in New London Connecticut said:

“Tom Jones, first baseman at Milwaukee, wonders what’ll become of him.  Murder, suicide, stabbing, shooting and insanity have been the fates former Milwaukee first basemen have met.”

Jones, at least in the short term, dodged the jinx.  His career with the Brewers ended during the 1915 season with no stabbings, shootings or other mayhem.  He died in 1923 at age 46.

The “jinx” was put to rest for good by Milwaukee’s next two first basemen; Clarence Craft and Mal Barry lived to 70 and 68 respectively.  Craft died in 1958, Barry in 1960.

A shorter version of this post appeared on August 20, 1912.

Advertisements

“Go Back to Old Kentucky”

26 Sep

On June 29, 1897 “Cap” Anson’s Chicago Colts defeated Fred Clarke’s Louisville Colonels by scoring more runs than any team has ever scored in a single game.  The Chicago Tribune said:

“Game is a farce and everybody has a good time except the Colonels.”

The Chicago Inter Ocean said:

“Chicago exterminates Bourbons to the tune of 36 to 7.”

The Louisville Courier-Journal headline put it simply:

“Awful work.”

The Colts scored at least one run in each inning, collected 30 hits, and Louisville committed nine errors.

The Colonels finished in 11th place with a 52-78 record in 1897

The Colonels finished in 11th place with a 52-78 record in 1897

One Chicago fan memorialized the contest with a song, which The Courier-Journal shared with their readers.  The song, said the paper, was “a parody on the song ‘She Was Bred in Old Kentucky;”

Go Back to Old Kentucky

While talking one summer’s day,

With a friend not far away,

About a baseball game

That was coming off that day,

The Colonels and the Colts

Were going to take the holts

On the Diamond Field

And battle for the game.

A man, Fred Clarke, by name,

Young, but who had won great fame,

Had come out to play

With the Kentucky boys.

He had reason to be sad,

For Louisville was bad,

When a hobo in the crowd

Rose up and said:

Chorus

Go back to old Kentucky,

Here the meadow grass is green;

You’re a lot of dub ball-players,

You’re the worst I ever seen,

Go back to old Kentucky

And consider yourself lucky

You got off as light as you did.

Oh! His heeding of advice,

He would not listen to him twice,

And the grounds that day he did go;

There was Clarke and (Charlie) Dexter too,

The game began at half-past two,

And their places in the field they took;

Ritchie was at second base,

With the ball he tried to race.

The ball bounded

And caught him in the eye;

And Clarke fancied he could trace

A little swelling on his face.

As he sat down a lobster in the crowd cried:

(Repeat Chorus)

“Richie” was Ebenezer “Abbie” Johnson, who was occasionally called “Richie” in the press; Johnson was playing second base during the third inning when a ball hit by Anson—The Tribune called it “a viciously driven ball”– took a bad hop and “smashed Johnson in the eye, almost knocking it out.”

Abbie Johnson

Abbie Johnson

The game also included, in the fifth inning, an incident The Tribune called “probably the most ludicrous situation ever seen on a league diamond.”

The Colts led 16 to 1 at the beginning of the inning.  After loading the bases and scoring two runs, catcher Tim Donahue fouled out, and third baseman Bill Everitt grounded out; Jim Connor, the Colts second baseman appeared to score from third on the play, but, The Tribune said:

“When the players all came off the field the fact only two were out became known.  After much searching through his brain pan for and excuse (Umpire Jack) Sheridan took the tally away from Connor and called him out for ‘Cutting third base.’”

Perhaps the first, and only, time a player was called out for “cutting” the base he left from; Sheridan’s call also made for one of the most interesting notations included within a box score.

The Tribune box score included the note: “Connor called out.  No reason assigned.”  The Inter Ocean went with the more sarcastic:  “Connor out because umpire said so.”

The Tribune Box Sore

 

The Inter Ocean Box Score

The Inter Ocean Box Score

 

30 runs or more have only been scored by one team in a single game nine times—eight of them were before 1900—and Chicago is responsible for four; the other three games were in 1876, 1883 and 1883.

Spring Training, 1900

16 Jun

There was never a dull moment during the Chicago Orphans 1900 training trip to Selma, Alabama.  New manager Tom Loftus arrived with twenty-three players from West Baden, Indiana on March 23—two more players, Jimmy Ryan and Bill Everitt would be joining the team in a few days.  The Chicago Tribune said, “Loftus is pleased with the grounds and the players are agreeably surprised at the town and hotel.”

Tom Loftus

Tom Loftus

The team was greeted in Selma with a parade and presented keys to the city; the stay in Alabama went downhill from there.

Rain in Selma disrupted the team’s practice schedule and the day Jimmy Ryan arrived it was revealed that there was a conflict between the leftfielder and his manager.

The Chicago Inter Ocean said Ryan, who claimed playing left field in Chicago’s West Side Grounds the previous season had damaged his eyes, announced he would not play the “sun field” for the team in 1900.

“(Ryan) intimated there was nothing in his contract which calls upon him to play in the sun field and that he will not do it unless he is given more money.”

Ryan told the paper:

“Let some of the young fellows put on smoked glasses and try the sun field for a while.  I am a right fielder and am tired of getting the hard end of the deal.  If they want me to play in the sun field it is up to Loftus for it is worth more money.”

Loftus responded:

“I don’t understand any such talk as this.  Ryan will play where he will make the most money for the club…I am running this club just now, and the men will play where I put them.”

The dispute went on for several days and included an offer to Ryan to join Selma’s local team if he chose to quit.

Ryan wasn’t the only disgruntled player.  Clark Griffith, who won 22 games for the team in 1899 told The Tribune:

“It is only a question of time when we all have to quit, and the sooner a man quits the better off he will be, for it is a cinch he won’t have a cent, no matter how long he stays in this business.”

Clark Griffith

Clark Griffith

A few days later The Tribune said it appeared Griffith and utility man Charlie Dexter had quit

“Clark Griffith and Charles Dexter have announced they are no longer members of the Chicago ball team.  This morning the two men, one of whom Chicago ball cranks have relied on to bring the pennant westward, announced they will start with a week for Cape Nome to mine gold.

“Griffith has been wild all spring to go to Alaska.  Some friend offered Griffith and (Jimmy “Nixey”) Callahan $20 a day as common laborers if they would go to Cape Nome.  This morning Griffith and Dexter were talking and Griffith declared he would go in a minute if he could get someone to go with him.  Dexter accepted the chance, declared he would go, and within a few minutes the pair had deposited their diamond rings with Tim Donahue as a forfeit, each agreeing to forfeit the rings in case they failed to start for Cape Nome inside a week.  Both men are in earnest”

Loftus didn’t take Griffith’s plan seriously, but the threat highlighted the growing dissatisfaction of his star pitcher, which would be reflected in his performance during the 1900 season.  There was no report of whether Griffith and Dexter forfeited their diamond rings when they failed to leave for Alaska.

The final incident of the Orphans’ Selma trip resulted in one of the most unusual reasons for a game to be delayed.

Griffith was on the mound during the early innings of an intersquad game, Tim Donahue was at the plate when according to The Inter Ocean:

“(A) Southern Gentleman opened up with a .44.”

The Chicago Tribune said:

“Just as the game was starting a young native, inspired by a desire to show the players his ambidexterity with revolvers, crossed the bridge (over the Alabama River) firing volleys.  As he approached the park he began he began firing at will, and for ten minutes gave a wild South exhibition of cannonading inside the park.”

Once inside the park, the man fired first in the direction of the players, and then, after reloading, “at the feet” of several local children watching the game.

He then “turned his attention to the ball players.”  The Inter Ocean said:

“He began shooting across the diamond, and every man on the field made a slide on the ground toward the shelter of the grand stand in a manner which would have been a guarantee of the championship, if repeated in regular league games.”

The paper said Tim Donahue, “who was never known to slide a base, went fifteen feet on his ribs” under the stands.  While Jimmy Ryan “made a dash” for left field “which broke the sprinting record.  He was last seen crawling under a dog hole in an extreme corner of the grounds.”

The gunman was taken into custody by Selma police, and The Tribune said the playing was “nervous and erratic,” after the shooting incident, but incredibly the game continued and was completed.

Griffiths “Scrubs” defeated Donahue’s “Regulars” 13 to 12.

The Box Score

The Box Score

Things didn’t get any better for the team after they opened the 1900 season; the Orphans limped to a 65-75 sixth place finish under Loftus.  Ryan, who still often played the “sun field”, hit .277, his first sub .300 season since 1893.  Griffith, who won 20 games the previous six seasons, won just 14.  Charlie Dexter had his worst season, hitting just. 200 in 40 games and Donahue hit just .236 in his final season in Chicago.

“A Baseball with a Mystery Attached to it”

13 Jun

The Chicago Tribune’s Hugh Fullerton claimed that somewhere at Chicago’s West Side Grounds, home of the Cubs, “if it has not decayed, there is a baseball with a mystery attached to it.”

Hugh Fullerton

Hugh Fullerton

The incident took place on May 11, 1899 “in the middle of a hot game between Louisville (Colonels) and Chicago…this ball disappeared—and as far as anyone knows never yet has been found.”

Fullerton said:

“The score was 4 to 4 in the seventh inning, with Chicago at bat, when Arthur Nichols, the little catcher, came up with one man out. He whanged into the ball and drove it safe to right.  Charlie Dexter threw to second and Nichols slid safe just as the ball arrived.  Tommy Leach was covering second base, and as Nichols slid he lost sight of the ball.  He said it struck his forearm and fell to the ground, and when he started to pick it up it wasn’t there.  He thought it was under Nichols and waited until the runner arose. The ball was not there.

“Nichols waited and held the base, fearing the ball was hidden and he would be tagged out. (Claude) Ritchey and Leach were busy hunting for it.  Everybody joined in.  Still Nichols feared a trick and stuck to the bag.  After five minutes umpire (William) Smith, who was working on the bases, called the Louisville players down, and after accusing them of hiding the ball threw a new one into play.  Chicago kicked and Nichols was ordered to run home.  He ran, but Smith sent him back to second and ordered play begun with a new ball.”

Art Nichols

Art Nichols

Pitcher Jack Taylor singled to right, and Nichols was thrown out at home plate by Dexter.  Louisville went on to win the game 5-4 in ten innings.

Fullerton said:

“Leach, Nichols and Ritchey, the only men near the ball, vowed they never saw it.  What really became of it no one seems to know.”

The Box Score

The Box Score

Charlie Dexter, and the Other Charlie Dexter

14 Aug
Last week I told you about Charlie Dexter, former major leaguer, and one of the heroes of Chicago’s Iroquois Theater fire.  Not to be confused with the other Charlie Dexter, a minor league outfielder and first baseman of the same era.  The two were often conflated in contemporary newspaper accounts.

Charlie Dexter

The other Charlie Dexter, the career minor leaguer (1904-09), was born Oscar Schoenbecker in Ohio and was killed in a hunting accident in November of 1909 in Mount Holly, Ohio.  According to his obituary, in The Cincinnati Commercial Tribune he changed his name “fearing the jests of the old people in case he failed,” as a player.

Reading contemporary accounts of the major league Charlie Dexter is a study in dichotomies.  A year and a half before his heroics at the Iroquois theater were recounted in papers across the country, numerous papers echoed the sentiments of the Pittsburgh Press that Dexter’s release by Chicago had more to do with his being a “trouble maker” than his .227 average.

Numerous stories over the years hinted, or outright said that Dexter, like many players of the era, had a serious drinking problem. He was released by Boston after the 1903 season and returned to the minor leagues for the first time since 1895.
The end of line seemed to come in October of 1905 in Des Moines, when during what was described as a “Drinking binge” Dexter stabbed his friend, Milwaukee first baseman Henry “Quait” Bateman.  The earliest reports from Iowa papers and wire services said Bateman was either dead or near death and that “(Dexter) slashed Bateman across the breast, the blade cutting into the lung.”

Quait Bateman

Dexter was immediately arrested.  But within days the wire services were reporting that Bateman was not seriously injured and had refused to file charges.  Dexter was released from custody.  Other players who were present (none were named is stories) “Dexter and Bateman are on the best of terms and that their little quarrel had done nothing to mar their friendship.”  Without Bateman’s cooperation, a grand jury elected not to indict Dexter.

He played two more seasons in Des Moines, taking over as manager from Mike Kelly 20 games into the 1907 season and managing the team through 1908.

Dexter stayed in Iowa and was occasionally mentioned in local papers over the next few years in connection with amateur and semi-pro leagues.  Dexter shot himself in 1934 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  Bateman Died in Milwaukee on January 18, 1937.

One more story about the aftermath of the Bateman stabbing next week.

Heroes of the Iroquois Fire

7 Aug

The deadliest single-building fire in US history took place at the Iroquois Theater on Randolph Street in Chicago, December 30, 1903.  The  “absolutely fireproof” theater, as it was billed, caught fire just six weeks after opening.

At least 605 people died, although the actual number has never been confirmed.

Two heroes that day, credited with saving numerous lives, were former Chicago ballplayers.

Charlie Dexter, who played with Boston in 1902 and 03 after being released by the Orphans in July 1902, and John Franklin Houseman who had played for Chicago and St. Louis is the 1890s, were seated together in a box with their families when the fire broke out.

Charlie Dexter

The fire, ignited by a malfunctioning stage light, spread quickly and the estimated 2000 people in the audience panicked.

Contemporary newspaper accounts highlighted the heroics of three individuals in particular: Actor Eddie Foy, who stayed on the stage trying to calm the panicked crowd until finally escaping through a sewer, and the two ballplayers.

Several people had already jumped from the balconies as the fire spread, and Dexter and Houseman were credited with having forced open two doors on the north side of the theater and clearing away bodies to create a path to the exit.  When they were finally forced by the flames to leave their stations at the doors, where both stayed to usher people out, Houseman caught a woman jumping from a window in the theater’s gallery to the alley below.  According to reports, she was uninjured.

John Franklin Houseman

Both Dexter and Houseman downplayed their roles in the aftermath of the fire and credited Foy with “Saving hundreds of lives,” but their heroism likely saved as many lives and has, for the most part, been forgotten.

Houseman, born January 10, 1870, was the first Dutch-born major league ballplayer, he died November 4, 1922 in Chicago.

More on Charlie Dexter next week.