Tag Archives: Chicago Cubs

“He’d Deliberately do Something to Rile a Hostile Crowd”

9 Aug

Edgar Munzel covered baseball for Chicago Newspapers from 1929 until 1973; he, along with Gordon Cobbledick, from The Cleveland Plain Dealer, received The J.G. Taylor Spink award in 1977.

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Munzel

While writing for The Chicago Sun in 1943, Munzel was in a French Lick, Indiana hotel, “seated in a circle on lobby chairs.” With Harry Heilmann, then a Tigers broadcaster, Jimmie Wilson and Kiki Cuyler, Cubs manager and coach, and Tigers pitcher Dizzy Trout.

Munzel said Trout was there “only as a sideline agitator to keep Heilmann in a reminiscent vein,” while the three former players told stories about players fighting with fans after Wilson said how a group of soldiers in the stands “were really on me, Must’ve been from Philadelphia.”

Wilson said:

“Boy, how they used to give it to you there, even when you were the home team. Did you ever have them hollering at you Harry?”

Heilmann said:

“I’ll never forget those Philadelphia fans as long as I live…Ty Cobb had injured his hand in a fight with some butcher in Detroit and I had to play centerfield for the Tigers. Well, those Philly fans had paid to see Cobb and they took it out on me—called me every variety of busher they could think of.”

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Heilmann

Wilson, a Philadelphia native who spent 11 seasons with the Phillies, said the city’s fans loved watching Cobb play the Athletics:

“I think they got half their enjoyment trying to get him mad. I still remember watching a game as a kid when Cobb got so hot, he charged right into the stands and challenged everybody.”

Heilmann, who played with and for Cobb, said:

“(He) was always doing something and quite often it was with an eye towards the gate. He actually considered it a personal affront if only a few thousand turned out and he’d deliberately do something to rile a hostile crowd on the road so the next day there’s be 40,000.”

He said is Boston, Cobb “threw a bat at Carl Mays’ head

“He did it in his usual clever way. Mays always looked at the ground during his one point in his underhanded delivery just before he let go of the ball. Cobb started heading for the pitcher’s mound just at the split-second Mays turned his eyes toward the ground. Thus, he was able to take a half dozen steps forward before Mays looked up again. By that time, he had let fly with the bat and it missed Mays’ head by inches.

“That day we had to have a police escort get us out of the park.”

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Cobb

Heilmann recalled a fight he participated in:

“(O)ne day a couple guys in the stands were giving us a brutal riding. Right after the game Cobb charged after one of them underneath the stands and I was right behind him.

“He swung at his man and I tried to reach over his shoulder at the other fellow. But it turned out our two annoyers were just a small part of a gang of about a dozen. What a going over they gave us. We wore adhesive from head to foot when it was over. But I always remember when they knocked Cobb down, he tackled his man around the legs as he was falling. He hauled him down with him and battled there underneath the pile, oblivious of everything else going on around him. He had the man he was after.”

Wilson said when he was managing the Phillies, he “got my man once, too.”

He said he had “been telling my players all year,” to ignore the heckling from their hometown fans:

“But there was one particularly obnoxious guy one day and I walked out towards the stands to bark back at him after the game. And when I did, he leaned over the railing and spit in my face.

“That infuriated me, so I ran into the stands and grabbed him by the lapels.”

But, Wilson said, he took pity on the man and let him go, despite fans “hollering for me to ‘let him have it.’”

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Wilson

Cuyler then told the story of the “funniest thing” he recalled about a player fighting a fan:

“(It) happened to Hack Wilson in Wrigley Field. Somebody was riding him unmercifully one day from a front row box. Hack went over to the grandstand rail at that point and put his legs up to climb over and –wham—the heckler knocked him back onto the field. Hack tried it again but before he could get his short legs over, he was smacked down once more. I think it happened a third time before somebody hauled the befuddled Hack away.”

“There is a Game on Every Sandlot Nearly Every day”

29 Jul

Like Edgar Forrest Wolfe (Jim Nasium) two years later, Joe S. Jackson, baseball writer for The Detroit Free Press, “discovered” quality baseball in Cuba.

Reporting from Havana in November of 1909 he wrote:

“(T)he Cuban baseballist probably has something on the big leaguer of the states. The game is in its infancy here, and the gravy is the players. Those promoting the game are doing very nicely, thank you, but the home-grown players are the big winners.”

Jackson said native Cuban players had not adopted the “oratory” of American players that they were, “slaves ‘bought and sold and paid just what they want to give us.’”

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Joe S. Jackson

Jackson said, “in cold hard figures,” Cuban players were receiving “three times as much out of the game as the man who backs it.”

He said the Cuban fans had a decided preference for native born players which explained why:

“Almendares, which finished second in the championship race last season, still have a much greater following of fans than Havana, which has several American players, and which last year (1908) was piloted to the pennant by (Rip) Hagerman, who was with the Chicago Cubs this past summer.”

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Rip Hagerman

While still in its “infancy,” baseball had taken over the island, said Jackson:

“There is a game on every sandlot nearly every day, and even the roustabouts on the Havana docks toss a sphere about in their idle time.”

However, Jackson said native players with the necessary skills were not yet plentiful; Jackson felt native Cubans were not encouraged to excel, and used the island’s other major sport as an example:

“The (jai-alai) court (in Havana) keeps nearly 30 professionals on its payroll, and salaries of the stars range from $600 to $800 a month, for an eight months’ season. While ordinary players draw from $300 to $400 per month. Still there isn’t a Cuban on the roster. All of the players are brought from Spain.”

Jackson said Cuban baseball was lucrative for players because:

“As yet the Cuban managers haven’t come to the regular baseball idea of handing their men so much a month and clinging to the big end. Their baseball, in its business in still in process of evolution. In effect, it is the old scheme of match games with winners and losers’ ends of a purse.”

Jackson explained the business end of the Cuban system:

“There is but one baseball park in Havana enclosed and having regular stands. Eugenio Jimenez controls this. All league games are played on this lot. He handles the tickets and takes care of all the business details. When the money is counted up, 25 percent of the gross goes to Mr. Jimenez for use of the field. There is a slight amount of money, something like $100, to be taken out for certain fixed charges like license fee etc., which do not come under regular operating expenses. Barring this slight sum, 75 percent left after the park manager takes his is divided between the players. The team that wins takes 60 percent and the loser gets 40.”

The pitcher and catcher were paid slightly more than the rest of the team, dividing one extra share of the total between them.

It was, said Jackson, “customary to Grand Opera the prices,” of tickets when major leaguers were barnstorming in Cuba:

“In the series such as the Detroit club is now playing in Cuba, it is necessary of course, to depart a little from the methods obtaining during the Cuban league season. Detroit has to be paid for its work, and the expenses of bringing the club to Havana and of maintaining it while here, are pretty stiff.”

The Cuban clubs agreed to take the usual losers share, 40 percent, for the games with the Tigers:

“In the first Sunday game played here for instance, the receipts were $6,310. They would have been bigger had Almendares been Detroit’s opponent, or had (George) Mullin, whom the natives were most anxious to see, been slated to pitch. After Mr. Jimenez took out the 25 percent…the Havana team’s 40 percent of the balance amounted to $1,851.66…each Cuban got $162.30. The lowest money yet split, that being by Havana on a Thursday afternoon, was about $40 to the players and $60 to the battery.”

Jackson said there was always a large police presence at the games in Havana, “a patrol wagon, backed up to the fence near the bench, has a tendency to restrain from any undue hilarity.”

He told a story about a game in 1908:

“One-time last season three Cuban players in a league game took exception to an umpire’s rulings, and left the field, subs being used to complete the contest.”

Havana had a “censor of amusements” who oversaw all behavior in public venues:

“Before the three men left the clubhouse (the censor) had them arrested. All were sent to the bastille, and next morning a judge who agreed with the censor—later maintaining that the public had paid to see these certain players perform, and had been disappointed  and deprived of the value of their money by the withdrawal—sent the three players to jail for five days each. They don’t leave the field anymore unless they are carried off for removal to a hospital.”

The police, he said, would remove a player “in the patrol wagon” and he would be fined if he left a game, and “They don’t stand for any disorder, either on the part of a player or the populace.”

The Tigers lost eight of their 12 games on the Cuba trip, Jackson said major league teams learned a valuable lesson:

“The Tigers trip was sufficient to impress on American ballplayers the fact that they cannot go down with patched-up teams and walk through games to victory. The Cubans can field, throw and run, have good pitchers and are always in shape.”

“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.”

Chief Meyers’ “Brother”

15 Jul

It was a barroom fight at Soren’s Saloon on Broadway in Denver that ended with a shooting. It probably would not have been news anywhere beyond The Denver Post and The Rocky Mountain News had the shooter not been the son of a fairly prominent businessman, and had the victim not spent the last several months trying to pass himself off as the brother of John ‘Chief’ Meyers, catcher for the New York Giants.

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Chief Meyers

A man arrived in Denver in the spring of 1913, having just failed a tryout with the Sioux City Packers in the Western League. Some knew him as George Meyers, Native American from Riverside, California with a famous brother—his real name was Phillip Sandoval.

Sandoval was, according to his brother, “a full-blooded Spaniard,” who was born and raised in New Mexico, had been convicted of forgery in 1910, and served at least three years in the state penitentiary in Santa Fe.

Also said to have boxed professionally, Sandoval married a local woman within weeks of arriving in Denver. He was in a bar on September 11 when he had an altercation with another patron—witnesses said it was over a dice game, the shooter said it was because Sandoval, “insulted (the) American flag and no Indian can do that.”

The shooter, Samuel L. Long Jr., “son of a wealthy Kansas City businessman,” was arrested immediately.

The news of the shooting spread quickly across the country, and while most of the articles clarified that the dead man was Sandoval, and that Meyers was an alias, many headlines said Chief Meyers’ brother had been killed.

With the Giants on the verge of securing their third straight National League pennant, Meyers was inundated with questions in the days following the shooting. In order to put any rumors to bed, he issued a statement to the press while the team was in Chicago for a series with the Cubs:

“A newspaper item has just been sent me which states that a George Meyers, a brother of Chief Meyers was shot while engaged in a quarrel with one Sam Lang [sic]. I wish to obtain as wide publicity as possible for one or two corrections which I trust will be permanent.

“I have one brother, but he is not and has not been in Denver and furthermore his name is not George. His first name could not, even by a deaf man be twisted into any sound which would in the slightest resemble George. My brother is a quiet chap and so far as I know has never been shot and killed in his whole life.

“This is the third time that a brother of mine has been reported as dying a violent death and in consideration of this fact I wish to beg all correspondents to respect my affliction and shoot up somebody else’s family for a while.

“You can readily see it is also unsettling for my mother and my brother to have the latter wounded and killed so frequently. Seriously, it is far from pleasant to receive telegrams which state that a member of one’s family has been shot and requesting information as to what to do with the remains.”

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Sandoval

Meyers seems to have avoided having additional “brothers” shot.

Samuel Long’s defense attorney put several witnesses on the stand who portrayed Sandoval as “a worthless wretch, crazed with Whiskey and with murder on his mind.”

Less than three months after the killing, a jury acquitted Long of murder.

“Some People Think I’m Eccentric, and Maybe I am”

10 Jul

In March of 1920, Hal Chase provided a short, sometimes self-serving, eulogy for his major league career to a United Press reporter “while attending a dinner at the Ritz Carlton” in New York:

“I wanted to quit big league baseball before it quit me, I realize that I would lose out in two or three years, and I’d rather quit while I’m top of my baseball career than wait for the career to leave me flat. That is the principal reason why I am not with the Giants on their training trip.”

Chase told the reporter he was heading West:

“I want work that is more regular. I’d like to work my eight hours daily and be free after that. It must be work in which I can advance. I can’t get any higher in baseball. My old parents live in San Jose and I haven’t seen them in four years. They want to see me and I’m going out.”

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Hal Chase

Chase believed he had a future in Hollywood:

“If the film business offers me an opportunity for money-making, I’ll go into it.”

The report suggested to Chase that he might have the same impact as another recent arrival to films:

“Look how well Will Rogers, cowboy, has done.

“’That’s right,’ said Chase. ‘Say, I’d like to join hands with Rogers and put on a film comedy based on Ban Johnson. It would be a scream. I’ll bet.”

As for his baseball career coming to an end, Chase said:

“Some people think I’m eccentric, and maybe I am. However, I have no sore spots. McGraw is a fine fellow and my friend. I understand he is to put (George “High Pockets”) Kelly in my place at first base. Kelly in a regular baseball player and should make good.”

Within days of giving that interview, The New York Daily News reported that Chase was working with a theatrical agent named Thaddee Letendre–who represented several actors, including French silent film star Max Linder–and had signed a contract for Chase’s “exclusive appearance in films.”

The paper said:

“In a short while Hal probably will be the screen idol of the small boy, Letendre intends to fit Chase into the role of Frank Merriwell, whose episodes have been chronicled in novels by Burt L. Standish (pen name for author Gilbert Patton). The role of Merriwell probably will fit Chase like a glove, inasmuch as he is a versatile athlete.”

The irony of Chase playing a character Patten said he created to embody “truth, faith, justice, the triumph of right, mother, home (and) friendship,” was not mentioned in the article.

Whether it was an unsubstantiated rumor, or whether the deal fell through is unknown. But by the time Chase reached California on April 13, there was no talk of a movie contract and The Los Angeles Examiner said Chase “would like to play ball in the Pacific Coast League (PCL).”

The Seattle Star reported the next day that the Seattle Rainiers “puts in bid for services” of Chase. Team president William Klepper telegraphed the Giants offering to but Chase’s contract.

That never materialized either—The Examiner said, “apparently a hitch in the proposed deal developed;” the “hitch” was likely when revelations made by Lee Magee went public just as Chase was traveling West, that they had conspired to throw games in 1918.

The Seattle option gone; Chase joined the San Jose Bears in the Mission League He made his Mission League debut on May 2—Chase was 1 for 4 with a double and drove in both San Jose runs in a 10 to 2 loss to Monterey.

In mid-May, with San Jose 1 and 4, despite having “Prince Hal” in the lineup, Mission League officials met and attempted to ban Chase; A.J. O’Connor, director of the San Jose club told The San Jose in June, The San Jose Evening News:

“The effort is going to be made to bar Chase, but it’s not going to get anywhere. We simply will not stand for it. We are going to keep Chase for we know the fans want him.”

O’Connor told the paper the team would withdraw from the league if Chase was ruled ineligible.

On May 24, The Evening News reported:

“The (Mission League) board voted (May 23) in favor of allowing Hal Chase to continue his playing with the local club, which brought joy to the hearts of the fans all over the circuit.”

Chase celebrated the decision by hitting an RBI double—his third hit of the game–in the tenth inning to give San Jose a 4 to 3 victory over Watsonville.

As Chase was settling into his role as Mission League drawing card, he was again making headlines in the East; Lee Magee’s case against the Chicago Cubs went to trial and Chase’s alleged role in fixing games was a key feature.

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Lee Magee

Chase told The San Jose Mercury-Herald:

“There is absolutely no truth in this statement made by Magee. I was exonerated of all charges by the national commission after it made a full investigation. I do not know what Magee did at the time of the game he mentions, but I do know that I did not place any bets and the statement is untrue from start to finish.”

Days after Magee lost his suit against the Cubs, The Mercury Herald reported “the greatest stir in baseball circles;” Chase had purchased a one-third interest in the San Jose club:

“This announcement will no doubt please the local fans as it shows what an active interest Hal has taken in baseball here and that he is out to do his share in giving San Jose real baseball and a winning team.”

Both San Jose papers reported a rumor that Chase had been in contact with former Giants teammate Heinie Zimmerman to join the San Jose team–Zimmerman never came West,

Chase made several trips to Southern California in search of players and to watch PCL games—primarily a pitcher—for San Jose. Failing to secure one, Chase took the mound for the club. On July 24, he pitched a complete game shutout against King City; he pitched again a week later, losing 4 to 1 to Watsonville.

Never far from trouble, two days after he pitched against Watsonville, Chase was in the news again. William H. McCarthy, President of the PCL barred him from all league parks after a sworn statement from Charles “Spider” Baum of the Salt Lake City Bees that Chase had approached him at the Hotel Lankersham in Los Angeles with an offer to throw a game; Baum told Chase he would likely not pitch in the series.

In response, Mission League President James J. Nealon, who had backed San Jose in its earlier effort to keep Chase, issued a statement:

“The Mission League has stood for all that is clean and wholesome and doesn’t intend to have its name smeared by such an incident as Baum relates of Chase.

“The directors of the league unite with me in declaring that Chase is barred. Whatever interest he may have in the San Jose ball club must be forfeited.”

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Chase, 1920

The San Jose papers which had been among his biggest cheerleaders, were split on the quick action of the Mission League. The Evening News said:

“There is no room on the San Jose club for Hal Chase. He is finished. If the club attempts to play Chase the baseball fans should absent themselves from the game. Chase wired yesterday (from the Clark Hotel in Los Angeles) that the latest charges against him were ridiculous. If these charges had been made by some player whose reputation for honesty, decency, and truthfulness was less known than Spider Baum’s we might withhold judgment for a minute.”

The Mercury-Herald countered:

“The latest accusation—that Chase actually approached a pitcher with the view of inducing him to ‘throw’ the game—is the most serious of any yet revealed, and if true should at once and forever eliminate him from the baseball field. But it should be proved, not hinted at; it should be made so clear that none shall say hereafter that the player was ‘railroaded’ out of the game, or that jealous managers anxious to get him on their teams fought over him and finally decided to put him out of the way…Otherwise the ‘fans’ will continue to idolize the player and regard him as a martyr rather than as a ‘short sport,’ which we trust he is not.”

On August 8, Chase was in uniform and on the bench when San Jose took the field against Hollister. In the third inning, San Jose was down 5 to 0, with two runners on base, when Chase was brought in in relief. Umpire Al Erle forfeited the game Hollister. The remainder of the contest was played as an exhibition game; Chase pitched the rest of the way in the 14-9 loss.

Three days later, the league directors voted 10-2 to uphold Chase’s banishment from the Mission League. Four days later, Chase was on the field—along with Harl Maggert who had been banned by the PCL—with the Madera team in the Northern San Joaquin Valley League and led Madera to an 11-0 victory over Chowchilla. The San Francisco Chronicle said:

“Chase thrilled spectators with two headlong slides to second.”

Chase and Maggert were banned from playing in the Northern San Joaquin Valley League two days later by league president J. C. Lesher who also announced that the game they participated in would be thrown out.

Chase spent the remainder of the 1920s playing semi-ball in California, Arizona, Texas, and anywhere that would have him.

“A Perfect Infield Machine”

8 Jul

In his column in Collier’s Magazine, Grantland Rice said their was a “heated argument” among experts as to whether the current infield of the Philadelphia Athletics—Stuffy McInnes, Eddie Collins, Jack Barry, and Frank Baker—or the recently broken up infield of the Chicago Cubs—Frank Chance, Johnny Evers, Joe Tinker, and Harry Steinfeldt—was  “the greatest infield that ever played.”

Rice took the question to Dan Brouthers, who:

“(H)as been a good bit closer to ringside and who should know.

“Daniel has been on some fair infields himself…He has played on the best and has seen the others pass in parade before him year after year.”

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Brouthers

Brouthers told Rice:

“Why, a choice between Cubs and Athletics for greatest infield? They were both good and the Athletics are still in business. But neither ranks as the best—not for me when I think of that Boston infield of 1897, with Fred Tenney at first, Bobby Lowe at second, Herman Long at short, and Jimmy Collins at third.”

Brouthers said the Beaneaters infield was:

“(T)he best combination of batting and fielding power, brains, speed, and smoothness. It has them all beaten, and I doubt if its equal will ever be gathered together again. There wasn’t an angle of the game at which they were not stars. They may have no more power than the Athletics four and but little more smoothness than the Cubs, but in the combination of all things that go to make up a perfect infield machine they must be set out in front of the others with something to spare.”

Brouthers said of the question of whether the Chicago or Philadelphia infield was better:

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Steinfeldt, Tinker, Evers, and Chance

“As between the old Cub infield, now scattered to the eternal winds, and the Athletics quartet, the former was a smoother-running machine, but it lacked the crushing wallop which has always graced the Mackian avalanche. One had the edge in alertness, the other leads with the punch. Between these rival qualities the competition in the way of supremacy is still a matter for open debate.”

 

 

 

 

 

“High Upon the Centerfield Fence I saw Rube Perched”

30 May

Connie Mack liked telling Rube Waddell stories as much as anyone else, and many of them became embellished over the years. In 1911, he told “Baseball Magazine” a story that would be told many times by others before and after Waddell’s death in 1914.

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 Mack

Mack claimed that Waddell was “a bully fielder” and he would put him in centerfield because “he never wanted to sit on the bench, and we had to humor him, or he wouldn’t have stayed on the lot.”

Mack never played Waddell in the field during a regular season game—Waddell only appeared in one game at another position; at first base with the Chicago Orphans in 1901—so Mack’s story was apocryphal and became the legend, or the incident occurred during a non-league game.

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Waddell

“One day we were having quite a battle with some team, and Rube was covering centerfield for us. We were being hard pressed. With only one out, the other team filled the bases in the fifth inning and a brace of good batters were up. We had two strikes on the next man up, and then something happened.

“A black cloud of smoke appeared in the sky back of the centerfield fence, and a little later a blaze. Then came the clash and clanking of fire bels, and the clatter of horses’ hoofs. I happened to look in the direction of the blaze. High upon the centerfield fence I saw Rube perched, looking at the blaze, silhouetted against the red glare of the conflagration. I let out a blast that nearly woke the dead. Rube heard me and looked around. He seemed undecided as to his next move, but he wasn’t long in making up his mind. With a graceful salute of his hand, as is to say ‘so long, fellows,’ he dropped from sight on the other side of the fence, and was on his way to the fire.”

Slagle Climbs a Hill

20 May

Wilbur Goode had just been traded to the Chicago Cubs by the Boston Rustlers in an eight-player deal in June of 1911, when Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Record-Herald asked the 25-year-old to describe the greatest play he had ever witnessed:

“Of course, I haven’t been in fast company long enough to tell much about great plays, maybe not long enough to pretend to judge which are really great.”

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Goode

But Goode said Jimmy Slagle, his teammate the previous season with the Baltimore Orioles in the Eastern League made the greatest play he had ever seen:

“The play was made on the Rochester grounds and by Jimmy Slagle. The fans in the big circuit know Slagle perhaps better than I do and they have seen him make some wonderful plays—but perhaps never one under such circumstances.”

Goode said Slagle still had enough speed to live up to his nickname “Rabbit” even though he was 36 and playing his final season of professional baseball.

He said the field conditions in Rochester were thus:

“The grounds are rather strangely laid out. The diamond and outfield are cut down to a perfect level, and to make the outfield level part of a hillside was scraped down, leaving a terrace around the field, which in some spots is six feet higher than the field itself.”

Goode said it was late in a game with the Orioles holding a one-run lead over the Bronchos; Rochester had runners on first and second with no one out:

“The next batter raised the ball high and far to left center.

“Slagle had been playing deep, expecting a long fly, or at least to prevent a long hit from going through and beating us right there. The ball went high and on the line. There was a row of carriages and autos on the terrace. The runners held their bases for an instant, saw that the ball was going far up on top of the terrace, and believing no one could reach it, they both started for the plate.”

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Slagle

Slagle raced to the base of the terrace:

“He leaped, put one foot against the side of the embankment and leaped again, shooting himself upward and landing on top of the terrace. The ball was going over and straight at a big red automobile. I remember the women in the machine screeched and dodged. Just then Slagle came bounding up onto the terrace, leaped again, stuck up both hands and grabbed that ball.”

After making the catch:

“Slagle ran to the edge of the bank, shot the ball in, and although the runner got back to first, the one returning to second was doubled and the game was saved.”

“A Loyal Little Rooter has Gone to his Long Rest”

3 May

Harry Davis thought he was about to make the biggest off-season acquisition in the American League before taking the reins of the Cleveland Naps in 1912. He had been given the job, as The Cleveland News said, “over the objection” of many. George Stovall had replaced Deacon McGuire after a 6-11 start in 1911 and led the team to an 80-73 third place finish.

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Davis

Davis was, according to The Chicago Inter Ocean about to steal Joe Magero from the Chicago Cubs as “the official hoodoo chaser of the Cleveland team.”

Magero had been the Cubs mascot since 1907, and several times a season “donned the White Sox of the South Side athletes.”

The paper said:

“Davis wanted Magero on account of his resemblance to (Louis) Van Zeldt, a hunchback who is the mascot of the world’s champion Philadelphia Athletics, the club with which Davis had been connected.”

Magero was “discovered” while working for Albert R. Tearney—Tearney was President of Chicago’s Amateur Baseball Manager’s League, the governing body of city’s amateur and industry clubs, of which there were more than 400. Tearney would later become president of the Three-I League and was elected to Chicago’s city council. Tearney, it was said, got Magero in “the professional mascot business” after seeing him selling gum on a street corner.

Magero first appeared as a mascot for Nixey Callahan’s Logan Squares in the Chicago City League in 1906. After the Logan Squares defeated both World Series participants—the Cubs and the White Sox—in exhibition games after the 1906 season, Magero having “brought luck” to Callahan’s club became a hot commodity and joined the Cubs in 1907.

 

Except for his occasional paid forays to the Southside and a brief stint in August of 1911 as “hoodoo chaser” for the Lincoln Railsplitters in the Western League, Magero was a fixture at West Side Park.  He was popular enough at one point that The Chicago Tribune said he and Germany Schaefer “are considering an offer to go on stage this fall with a skit entitled ‘What are we?’”

The Inter Ocean said:

“It was while acting as ‘jinx wrecker’ for Comiskey’s clan that Joe met Schaefer, the witty and able player of the Washington American League club. A warm friendship sprung up between the two and Joe and ‘Germany’ made it a point to be with each other as much as possible when Schaefer’s team was in Chicago.”

The 21-year-old Magero, who stood just three feet tall and immigrated from Italy in 1900, was ready to join Davis and the Naps for the opening of the 1912 season, but said The Inter Ocean, “The Grim Reaper intervened.”

Magero died of pneumonia at Chicago’s St. Joseph hospital on March 14.

The paper said:

“News of the death…was received with sorrow by the veteran members of Chance’s team at New Orleans, according to word received here yesterday by members of the little mascot’s family.  Mordecai Brown, Joe Tinker, John Evers, and the Peerless Leader were particularly affected by the tidings.”

The Chicago Daily News said:

“Joe, bent of frame and physically a weakling, nevertheless played his part in bringing victory to the Cubs. He twirled no games like Brownie, he slammed no home runs like Schulte, neither did his inside work win games as did that of Evers. But he was the mascot of the team, and as a mascot his services proved as valuable as did the work of those upon whom nature had bestowed more generous gifts…There is sorrow in all of belldom, for a loyal little rooter has gone to his long rest.”

Without his mascot, Davis was 54-71 and resigned on September 2. The Cleveland News said:

“The team’s poor showing and the fact that he had been subject to severe criticism by the public and the press are given as Davis’ reasons.”

He never managed again.

“Durbin’s Career in Baseball was Meteoric”

21 Jan

Blaine “Kid” Durbin was a sure thing. So said Frank Chance on the eve of the 1907 season.

As a 19-year-old, Durbin posted a 32-8 record for the Joplin Miners in the Western Association the previous year. Chance told The Chicago Daily-News:

“Blaine Durbin is going to be a sensational pitcher before long. When he stacks up against a club like Boston, with four or five left-handed hitters, he is going to make a great showing. What I like best about him is his nerve. Nothing can freeze him.”

durbin.jpg

Durbin

Chance said he was not concerned that Durbin was just five foot eight, nor was Henry “Farmer” Vaughan, manager of the Southern Association Birmingham Barons.

Chance said after Durbin pitched in a game that spring in Alabama, Vaughan approached him to see if “there was any chance of his getting” the rookie pitcher, and Chance mentioned Durbin’s size. Vaughn replied:

“He’s as big as Clark Griffith (Griffith is listed at 5’ 6”), and Griffith used to strike me out quite often. If Griffith was big enough, so is Durbin.”

Chance said:

“I told Vaughan I had no idea of letting him go.

“’Let me ask just one favor of you then,’ answered Vaughan: ‘don’t leave him in this league. If I can’t have him, I don’t want to have to play against him.’”

Chance said “scarcely a day passes that I don’t get a query” about Durbin and Chance said half the National League wanted him:

“I guess Durbin has a permanent berth with the Cubs.”

Durbin pitched in just five games for the Cubs (0-1 5.40), and only remained with the team for the entire season because when the Cubs tried to send him to Omaha in June, according to The Chicago Tribune, “The Boston Nationals stepped in” and would have taken Durbin.

He remained with the team all season and appeared in six games as an outfielder and pinch hitter.

Durbin did not get into in a game during Chicago’s World Series victory over the Detroit Tigers, but his hometown paper, The Fort Scott (Kansas) Republican, said he took home $2300.10 in postseason money and used it to buy a farm.

Still a hero in the Missouri town where he won 32 games in 1906, The Joplin Globe called him “the best baseball pitcher that ever wore a Joplin uniform,” when Durbin visited friends there and “proudly displayed the world’s championship emblem…in the form of a watch charm and represents a bear’s head holding a baseball.” Durbin told the paper the Cubs had big plans for him in 1908:

“Manager Chance assured me that I would be one of the regular twirlers next season.”

The 1908 campaign got off to a bad start for Durbin even before the team’s opener in Cincinnati on April 14. Charles Dryden, the baseball writer at The Chicago Tribune, who had his own nickname for Durbin, said:

“Danny Dreamer Durbin lost out at the distribution of new uniforms, which took place at the fashionable hour of high noon. There were but twenty togas for twenty-one demon athletes. When the Peerless Leader sounded the boot and saddle call, Danny was in his apartment perusing the latest messenger boy thriller in the Tip Top Weekly and Donohue copped the new clothes.”

The “Donohue” referred to by Dryden was pitcher Joe Donohue, who had spent 1907 with the Spaldings in the Chicago City League; he was with the club at the beginning of the season but never appeared in a game for the Cubs or any other professional team.

Presumably, when Donohue was cut loose, Durbin was rewarded with a uniform—when he made his first appearance at West Side Grounds on April 22, after the team’s season opening road trip Dryden wrote in The Tribune:

“Danny Dreamer Durbin looked like a five-cent plate of ice cream in his new white suit.”

The “Danny Dreamer” nickname was placed on Durbin by Dryden in 1907, when the entire Cubs team attended a play featuring actress Lillian Russell “an ardent baseball fan,” after the World Series victory. According to The Sporting News:

“Durbin was a member of the party and occupied a prominent place in the front row of the box, all togged out in his dress suit and patent leathers.

“In appearance of Miss Russell’s hospitality, the Cubs chipped in and bought a beautiful bouquet of flowers for the popular actress. The bouquet was to have been presented her across the footlights.

“But Durbin stole a march on the Cubs. He copped the flowers and disappeared from the box. Shortly afterwards the bouquet was presented through he wings. Durbin did the presentation…(Dryden) wrote the story of Durbin’s little steal and told how he had done the ‘Danny Dreamer’ stunt.”

The closest Durbin came to pitching again for the Cubs was on June 2, with the club trailing the Pirates 7 to 1 in the bottom of the fifth, The Tribune said Chance had Durbin ready to enter the game, but:

“(W)hile little Danny Dreamer was warming up the Cubs got mad and pounded Vic Willis into a shoestring, scoring four runs.”

Mordecai Brown instead took the mound in the sixth and promptly allowed two runs. The Cubs lost 12 to 6.

Durbin remained with the team for the entire season, appearing in 14 games as an outfielder and pinch hitter, hitting .250 (7 for 28), and for a brief period in July it looked like he might get more playing time. The Daily News said:

“(Durbin’s) work in center field since the Cubs returned to their home park stamps this little southpaw as a man possessing the qualifications for developing into a grand outfielder.”

The paper also noted his “speed going down to first,” and claimed, “It is doubtful whether there is a faster man getting down to first in the big leagues than Blaine Durbin.”

Durbin all but disappeared from box scores after July but picked up another world championship check despite again not making an appearance in the series—however, it was not quite the windfall of 1907; The Tribune said Durbin was forced to split a $1500 share three ways (the shares were $1400 but the Cubs added $100 to make the three-way split) with pitcher Rube Kroh who appeared in two games during the regular season, and team trainer A. Bert Semmens.

Durbin refused to sign his contract the following season and vented his frustration to The Fort Scott Republican; the paper took the hometown heroes’ side:

“The older pitchers of the team have done all possible to hold him out of the game, knowing that he would soon take their place if worked regularly (he also) ranked as the fastest base runner on the team.”

The paper also noted Durbin’s anger at being allotted a one third share of World Series money and said he would renew a request he made during the 1908 season that he be “sold, released, or traded to some team where he would be used.”

The Republican said:

“While he appreciates fully the honor of being a member of the champion baseball team of the world, he would prefer to belong to a lesser team and receive just treatment.”

The day after word of Durbin’s grievances appeared in Chicago papers, he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds.

Being sent to a “lesser team” did not help. Durbin appeared in just six games as a pinch hitter with the Reds, he was 1 for 5 with a walk, and was traded to the Pirates in May. He was 0 for 1 as a pinch hitter with the Pirates before drawing his release.

Durbin never made it back to the major leagues. He finished the 1909 season with the Scranton Miners in the New York State League, hitting just .219 and playing the outfield.

The Pirates sold his contract to the Western League Omaha Rourkes after the season, but he refused to report and spent 1910 playing semi-pro ball in Miami, Oklahoma, where he also operated a cigar store and billiard parlor. The Kansas City Star wrote about him as a cautionary tale:

“So Blaine Durbin, once the pride of all Kansas, has been relegated to the village nine again, from which he sprang. Durbin’s career in baseball was meteoric; full of some pleasant spots and a lot of disagreeable episodes.”

The Star said:

“Durbin went to Chicago with the path to success made for him. He had everything, the speed, the nerve the curves and the added asset of a good batting eye. The minute Durbin got to Chicago he began to unmake this roseate future. He didn’t like advice; he didn’t along with the old heads; he was about as unpopular as the man who strikes out with three on. Chance held on to him for two years, hoping the youngster would come out of it; he didn’t. Then he breathed a sigh of relief when Cincinnati suggested a trade. Durbin did not last long with the Reds.”

Durbin returned to pro ball in 1911, accepting a contract with Omaha, and pitched professionally for the first time since 1907—splitting the season between Omaha and the Topeka Jayhawks; he posted a combined 15-18 record.

He was sold to the Oakland Oaks in the Pacific Coast League at the end of the 1911 season. He was 4-5 with a 2.61 ERA when Oakland released him in August. The Oakland Tribune questioned whether Durbin “might have made good if he had been given the opportunity to work often. He lived a clean life and didn’t find time to break up the furniture in the Seventh Street cafes.”

Durbin spent the rest of 1912 pitching for an independent team in Oroville, California.

His professional career was over at age 25.

He parlayed his tenure as part of a world’s champion into being a drawing card over the next 12 years, bouncing back and forth between amateur and semi-pro teams in Kansas, Missouri, and California.

 

 

Durbin settled in St. Louis and in July of 1941 was declared insane and sent to the Missouri State Hospital at Farmington. After he was released, he worked in a restaurant and lived in Kirkwood, Missouri. He died on September 11, 1943, one day after his 57th birthday.