Tag Archives: Chicago Orphans

“There are many Degrees of ‘Fan'”

1 Aug

It seemed that James Aristotle “Jim” Hart, president of the Chicago Orphans had a full plate in 1901.  His team got off to a 1-6 start and never recovered, finishing a disappointing 58-81, while the cross-town White Sox took over first place on July 10 and never looked back, winning the American League’s inaugural pennant.

Jim Hart

Jim Hart

Additionally, Hart was meeting frequently with American League President Bancroft “Ban” Johnson in an attempt to avert all-out war between the two leagues.  Rumors about the trouble ahead were so numerous that The Chicago Inter Ocean said one day during August:

“Ban Johnson went fishing yesterday, and Jim Hart busied himself making out checks for his players.  As a plain matter of fact, there wasn’t enough baseball excitement in town to scare a rabbit, but the fakebirds sang just the same.  By night, the National League had flopped over to the American and the American had joined the National; all the players on each side had been stolen, and there were forty-six more baseball wars in view.”

Despite his fading team, the looming battle, and the fact that the White Sox would out draw his club by nearly 150,000 over the course of the season, he still found time to make it clear what constituted “a genuine fan.”  Hart wrote an article for The Chicago Record-Herald:

“The genuine fan is a proper adjunct of the game of baseball and should be encouraged, for from him must come the enthusiasm which provides capital necessary  to operate the game, the encouragement which causes youths to become proficient players and the constant dropping of con for admission tickets to witness games which permits the sport to continue.

“There are many degrees of ‘fans,’ some agreeable and some disagreeable to an extent which is intolerable.  The ‘fan’ proper is perfectly harmless; he annoys nobody and loves the game for the amusement and benefit he derives from it.  He keeps the records of players of his favorite team and players of other teams.  He feels as if he had encountered personal loss when his team losses and is correspondingly jubilant when the team wins.  He does not roar or rant at the players, but feels grieved that any player on his pet team should ever make an error.

“The next degree of ‘fan’ is the one who becomes wildly demonstrative; he can ‘see things’ only one way, and that is the way he wants them to be; the umpire’s decisions are invariably wrong when they do not happen to be the way he wants them; the errors made by the players of his favorite team are made purposely and could just as well been avoided.  Consequently he at once joins the chorus of ‘take him out’ etc…

“The disagreeable ‘fan’ is strictly speaking not a ‘fan’ at all, but is a person who wishes notoriety and the ‘laugh’ which his sallies cause, for be it known that almost any remark made by a person among the spectators  causes more or less of a laugh.  This class of ‘fan’ does not always employ profane of vulgar language, but his remarks are usually coarse and are personal, directed usually to some spectator, or to a player or to the umpire, and, as stated above while the language is not always of a character that is vile, it encourages the next lower degree of ‘fan’ to use expressions which cannot be tolerated on any properly conducted baseball park.

“An honest management is under great strain during a game of baseball whenever the attendance runs up into the thousands, for it feels that every person there, especially the women, are under the protection of the management, and, when one reflects upon the enormous force for good or evil that is contained in an enclosure of less than a half dozen acres when from 15,000 to 20,000 persons are congregated to witness what may prove a wildly exciting contest upon which the championship of the world may depend, he will not by any act or word jeopardize the welfare and happiness of the people assembled.

“The mobs that attack umpires are not ‘fans.’  They are cowards and rowdies and the person who from the crowd insults a player is bound by the rules of his league and club to resent no insult of any description while in uniform;  consequently to hurl an insulting remark at a player or umpire while he is on the playing field is at par with striking a man who is bound hand and foot and tied to a post.”

Hart’s Orphans improved to 68-69 and finished fifth in 1902, but were again outplayed (74-60, fourth place) and out drawn by the Sox–Hart made no comment about the relative quality of either team’s fans.

Fans at White Sox game circa 1910

Fans at White Sox game circa 1910

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.

Opening Day—1901

26 Mar

The Chicago White Sox opened the American League’s inaugural season as a major league on April 24, 1901, against the Cleveland Blues.  The three additional league games scheduled for the 24th were postponed on account of rain.

The Sox won the then-minor league American League championship the season before.

1900alchamps

 

Comiskey relinquished managerial duties in 1901 to Clark Griffith, the pitcher jumped from the cross-town National League Orphans for a reported $4,000; a $1,500 salary increase.

Clark Griffith

Clark Griffith

The opener at Thirty-Ninth and Wentworth included a parade, several bands, and speeches from many dignitaries—The Chicago Tribune said every member of Chicago’s City Council was on hand, but Mayor Carter Harrison, who had promised Comiskey he would appear to speak and throw out the first ball, “was kidnapped by William J. Bryan, who slipped into town unperceived. ‘Commy’s’ plans for having the Chief Executive start the opening game were shattered.”

The Tribune said American League President Ban Johnson also missed the game; he had traveled from league headquarters to attend the opener in Philadelphia “and it’s a 1,000 to 1 shot he was sorry when he found Comiskey was the only magnate who had squared himself with the weather man.”

Other than the absence of the mayor and the league president, the paper said the first game of the upstart league was a success:

 “Under the fairest skies the weather clerk could select from his varied stock of April goods; with a championship pennant floating high above them from the proudest pine of all Michigan forests; with 9,000 fans to cheer them from a pent-up enthusiasm that burst forth at every possible opportunity, the White Stockings open the American League baseball season on the South Side Grounds yesterday with a clean-cut victory over the aggregation from Cleveland.”

The Chicago Inter Ocean, which reported the attendance at 10,073 said:

“As a grand opening it was an unqualified success, something which Charles Comiskey can look back upon in after years with all the serene satisfaction of a baby who has just swallowed a tin Indian.  As a ball game it was a hideous nightmare, a cold and icy vision of the darksome night, a living horror, let loose to stalk adown a diamond field, hooting hoarsely…With pomp and ceremonial, with braying of bands and braying of fans, with an enormous audience gathered in the frapped stands, the American League season of 1901 was duly opened in Chicago, and the real champions, Comiskey’s White Stockings, began their campaign by giving the Clevelands all that was coming to them.  The afternoon was cold; the stands were Greenland, and the bleachers bore nets of icicles.  Yet 10,000 cranks and crankesses, keen devotees of the game.”

The Chicago Daily News said more than 14,000 fans were at the game:

“Promptly at 3:30 the two clubs lined up at the plate and, preceded by a “Rough Rider” band, marched to the flagpole at the south end of the field, where the championship banner was unfurled to the strains of ‘The Star Spangled Banner.’”

Cartoon of "pennant" being hoisted from The Chicago Tribune.

Cartoon of “pennant” being hoisted from The Chicago Tribune.

The Associated Press said the attendance was 8,000.

The Tribune said the crowd was enthusiastic despite the weather:

“There were cheers for everybody, from (William Ellsworth “Dummy’) Hoy, who couldn’t hear them, to (starting pitcher Roy) Patterson, the hero of many a hard-earned victory last year…there were flowers for (Dave) Brain, the youngest of the White Soxs [sic]…And at the end there was so much surplus exuberance that the bleacherites indulged in a merry cushion fight all through the concluding inning by way of celebration.”

Chicago scored two in the first and five in the second off Cleveland starter Bill Hoffer and cruised to an 8 to 2 victory behind Patterson.

The Inter Ocean said the most “ludicrous” play of the otherwise “uneventful” game took place in the sixth inning when Hoy attempted to steal third:

“(Catcher Bob) Wood threw wild, and (Bill) Bradley scooped up the ball way off from the cushion.  As Bradley, with no thought of the runner, turned to return the ball to the pitcher, Hoy, losing his balance as he ran, slid clear over third , out into the field and right into Bradley, his knee striking the ball clasped in Bradley’s hand.  It was possibly the first case on record of a man’s forcing a put-out on himself, and the crowd marveled greatly, perceiving that the science of the game had much advanced, and that there were new freckles every day.”

While the Chicago Orphans were losing their opening game in Cincinnati, The Tribune said the team’s president, James A. Hart, “was present and witnessed the game from a box at the south end of the grandstand.  He chatted with President Comiskey for some time and seemed to like the work of the players, but he did not voice his sentiments.”

Behind Griffith and his 24-7 record, the Sox won the league’s first pennant with an 83-53 record. Opening Day pitcher Roy Patterson was 20-15.  Cleveland finished seventh with a 54-82 record; Hoffer was 3-8 in 16 games when he was released in July, ending his major league career.

1901 Chicago White Sox

1901 Chicago White Sox

Comiskey and Hart were both members of their respective league’s “peace committee” at the January 1903 meeting in Cincinnati that led to the forging of the first National Agreement.

 

“The Cleverest bit of Quick Thinking I ever Witnessed”

26 Nov

Hugh Fullerton was one of baseball’s most influential writers; his career began in 1889 and he was active into the 1930s.  Widely credited as the first writer to directly quote players and managers, he is the source of hundreds of stories. Some, like the story the story of Bill Lange’s fence-crashing catch, are likely untrue.  Others may be apocryphal, or exaggerated.

Hugh Fullerton

Hugh Fullerton

This one is about Hall of Famer John Alexander “Bid” McPhee:

“The cleverest bit of quick thinking I ever witnessed was years ago in Cincinnati, and Bid McPhee, the ‘King,’ pulled it off.  How fast he thought only can be guessed.  It must have been instantaneous.  Bid was on first base with nobody out, when somebody drove a ball straight at ‘Wild’ Bill Everitt who was playing first for Chicago.  Bill dug up the ball, touched first, and made one of his copyrighted throws to second to catch Bid, having plenty of time for the double play.

Bid McPhee

Bid McPhee

“The ball disappeared.  (Bill) Dahlen, who was on second, never saw it.  He thought the ball had hit Bid.  The umpire, crouching to see the play at the base, lost the ball.  Bid hesitated at second, glanced around, saw the entire Chicago infield running around wildly and tore for third.  At third, after turning the base, he hesitated again, looked back, and then tore for home.  From his actions both at second and third any spectator would have sworn Bid was as ignorant of the whereabouts of the ball as were the Chicago players.

“The Chicago team was wild with excitement and the crowd was mystified.  No one knew where the ball was.  The only clue was a yell of amusement from the Cincinnati bench.

“The ball had disappeared utterly and the umpire threw out a new one.  After the game we learned what had become of the ball.  Everitt hit Bid with it.  The ball had struck him under the arm, and holding it tight against his body Bid carried it entirely around the bases and to the bench while acting as if he didn’t know where it was.”

Burns “Put the Punishment on Phyle”

20 Nov

After holding out over a temperance clause the Chicago Orphans added to his contract, Bill Phyle finally signed in late March of 1899.  He reported to spring training in New Mexico anywhere from 10 to 30 pounds overweight (depending on the source) and struggled all season to regain the form he showed the previous season.

On April 17 he was beaten 8-0 by the Louisville Colonels in first start.

On April 25 he lost 3-2 to the St. Louis Perfectos.  The Chicago Tribune said “Phyle gave away the game by distributing bases on balls in just the spots where timely hits followed and transformed the favors into tallies that gave the victory.”

William Phelon, The Chicago Daily News baseball writer, disagreed.  He said Phyle’s “work was of sterling quality.”

Regardless, Chicago Manager Tom Burns didn’t give Phyle another opportunity to pitch for more than a month.

Phelon said it was a mistake for Burns to not use Phyle.  The Chicago Inter Ocean said after the team lost seven of nine games in May “it is passing strange that young Phyle is not given a chance.  On last year’s form Phyle is as good as, if not better than (Jack) Taylor.  The paper called Phyle’s performance in the St. Louis game “gilt-edged” and blamed the loss on “comrades that gave the victory to the enemy.”

Finally, on May 28 Phyle pitched again.   He lost 4 to 3 to the Washington Senators; he gave up three runs on five straight hits with two outs in the ninth.

He lost again on June 1, 7-1 to the Philadelphia Phillies.  Phelon’s opinion of the pitcher was unchanged, and said the losses were simply bad luck:

“Phyle has now lost four straight games.  It is Phyle’s luck to be stuck in whenever the other pitchers have won about three straight, and the team is just about unavoidably due to lose.”

On June 5 Phyle did his best pitching of the season–a victory he is not credited with in the record books.

With the Orphans trailing the Baltimore Orioles 3 to 2 in the third inning, pitcher Clark Griffith was ejected for arguing a called ball.  The Chicago Tribune said:

“It was a queer game.  Phyle pitched after Griffith had been benched…holding the Orioles helpless.”

Chicago won 9 to 4.  And while the Chicago newspapers credited the victory to Phyle, the record books do not.

Box score for June 5 game.  Phyle relieved Clark Griffith in the 3rd inning.

Box score for June 5 game. Phyle relieved Clark Griffith in the 3rd inning.

Phyle became ill later the same week, (some sources said it was recurring malaria), a week later he fell off a bicycle and missed two more weeks.  When he returned to the team on June 22, the Boston Beaneaters beat him 5 to 1.

He was credited with his first “official” win on July 1—a game The Inter Ocean called “a comedy of errors,” and a “depressing exhibition.”   He beat the New York Giants 10 to 9, allowing 10 hits and giving up seven runs in the first two innings.  Each team committed seven errors.

Box score of Bill Phyle's only "official" victory of 1899.

Box score of Bill Phyle’s only “official” victory of 1899.

Chicago went into a slump that would last for the rest of the season; after Phyle’s July 1 win the team was 38-24, in third place, and went 37-49 the rest of the way finishing eighth.

Phyle lost again on July 9 and July 24, and rumors began to circulate that he would be released or traded back to Charlie Comiskey’s St. Paul Saints.

On August 6 Phyle lost 10 to 9 to the Cleveland Spiders.  One week later while the team was on the road, The Inter Ocean reported that he “was sent home by manager Burns.”

The Tribune called Phyle “the scapegoat” and said he and three unnamed teammates  “celebrated after beating a horse race at Washington and Manager Burns, to call a halt, put the punishment on Phyle.

Phelon wrote in The Daily News:

“When the club started for Philadelphia he was told to go home ‘You are through young man, go back to Chicago,’ said Burns, and Phyle went back.  He went back in a rage too, and says he will tell (team president) Jim Hart a lot of things. He says that he has been held up to public derision as a drunkard, all season, and that Burns plays favorites, allowing his friends to jag up as much as they wish and turning all the trouble on others.”

Phelon remained supportive of the pitcher in The Daily News, but in The Sporting Life he reported that Phyle, a former boxer, had deserted the team in early August to go to “St. Louis to see a prize fight, and was not on hand when sorely needed.”

While the relationship between Hart and Burns was strained, and Burns would be replaced at season’s end, Phyle’s complaints went nowhere with the team president and he was suspended without pay.

Ten days after Phyle was suspended Phelon reported that the Baltimore Orioles had offered to trade for or buy Phyle,” (John) McGraw has taken quite a fancy to the young pitcher.”  Hart refused to make a deal.

Phyle never pitched for Chicago again, he is credited with a 1-8 record and 4.20 ERA.

The last Bill Phyle chapter—tomorrow.

“Clark Griffith nearly Ended the Life of William Phyle”

19 Nov

Bill Phyle was expelled from baseball after failing to back up his allegations that the 1903 Southern Association pennant race was fixed—four years earlier he had an even more eventful season.

Phyle started his career as a pitcher; he was 18-9 in 1897, and 21-21 in 1898 for the St. Paul Saints when he was traded to the Chicago Orphans for Frank Isbell.

Bill Phyle

Bill Phyle

He appeared in three September games, winning two with a 0.78 ERA, and was expected to contribute the following season.

In March of 1899 Phyle failed to report to Hudson Hot Springs, New Mexico to join manager Tom Burns and Orphans for spring training.

The Chicago Tribune said the pitcher had refused to sign his contract:

“It is asserted on good authority that pitcher Phyle has refused so far to sign a Chicago contract owing to the insertion of a temperance clause in the document…Phyle objects strenuously to the temperance contract which has been offered to him.  He has asserted positively within the last three weeks that he would never sign such an agreement.”

The Tribune said the contract clause wasn’t the only issue that might keep Phyle from playing in Chicago in 1899; the pitcher had, inadvertently, alienated Burns and team president James Hart the previous September:

“Phyle was unfortunate in his entry into the major league in incurring the displeasure of the Chicago president and manager.  There is a peculiar story connected with the affair.  Last year some members of the Chicago team believed that someone was carrying reports to Hart and Burns regarding the conversations of the players concerning their opinions of the heads of the club.  One night in Washington some of the men put up a job on the man they suspected in order to find out if their suspicions were correct.    In the presence of the man in question they made unflattering remarks regarding the president and manager of the club, and Phyle, being an innocent party to the plot, listened, approved some of the statements quoted as facts, and also took up the discussion.  It is asserted the conversation was carried to President Hart and Manager Burns.  At any rate, Phyle has been in disfavor since that time.”

The Tribune said Phyle was the only player who was given a contract that included a temperance clause.

With the situation at an impasse, Charlie Comiskey, Phyle’s manager in St. Paul, intervened.  The Chicago Inter Ocean said Comiskey, who called Phyle “one of the most promising youngsters” in baseball, sent a “tersely worded” telegram to the pitcher who “decided to sign the Chicago contract temperance clause and all.”

Phyle reported to Hudson Hot Springs ten pounds overweight on March 21.

Three days later he went duck hunting with teammates Clark Griffith, Bill Lange, Jack Taylor and Jimmy Callahan at A.G. Spalding’s New Mexico ranch.  The Inter Ocean said of the trip:

“A bullet from a Winchester rifle in the hands of Clark Griffith nearly ended the life of William Phyle, the promising young pitcher of the Chicago ball team.”

Clark Griffith

Clark Griffith

Phyle, unbeknownst to Griffith, remained in the group’s boat while Griffith fired on a flock of ducks flying near the boat:

“Griffith pulled the trigger and a ball tore its way through the stem of the boat…The ball carried in a direct line over the young pitcher’s head, and could not have missed him by more than six inches.”

Phyle was shaken, but unhurt, while “Griffith’s nerves received such a shock that he was weak and almost prostrated for some time after.”

Things didn’t get much better for Phyle after his near-death experience—tomorrow.

Clark Griffith “Convinced me of the Knuckle Ball’s Effectiveness”

7 Nov

As with most 19th Century players, Bill Lange had had several criticisms of players who came later, particularly the “batsmen of the present time,” when he spoke to a reporter from The Chicago Inter Ocean in 1909;  but unlike many of his contemporaries he thought some aspects of the game were better.  He said players were better behaved and were in better condition; he also believed pitching had improved:

“We old timers were a long time in believing there was anything in the so-called spit ball.  But results have forced us to admit its existence and its power to deceive.  Now they are talking about the knuckle or finger nail ball.  For a long time I supposed that was a joke.  But just this morning I had a letter from Clark Griffith, telling about a discussion he had with (Cap) Anson during the schedule meeting at Chicago over the knuckle ball.  Griff ought to know what he is talking about, and he convinced me of the knuckle ball’s effectiveness but his argument with Anse must have been funny.

“You know Anse has to be shown on every proposition.  Griffith told him that (Ed) Summers of the Detroit team had the best command of the knuckle ball and that it came up to the plate in such a peculiar manner that it fooled not only the batsmen, but the catchers too.

“’That’s all rot,’ Anson said to Griffith, but Griff came back with the willingness to bet Anson $100 that Anse couldn’t catch three out of five knuckle balls as thrown by Summers.  Anson jumped at the chance and took the wager, and it will be decided sometime this year, if Summers, Anson and Griffith happen to be in the same city at the same time.

“I guess Griff will win the money, for he told me in his letter that he couldn’t catch half the balls Summers had thrown to him in practice.  I can hardly believe any pitcher has such a funny delivery as that.  Of course, if the knuckle ball worked all the time, there wouldn’t be any hitting at all.”

Al Summers has his arm worked on by Tiger trainer Harry Tuthill, first baseman Del Gainer looks on.

Al Summers has his arm worked on by Tiger trainer Harry Tuthill, first baseman Del Gainer looks on.

There’s no record that the wager was ever decided.

Clark Griffith

Clark Griffith

“In the ‘90s Nobody ever Thought Anything of telling the Manager to go Chase Himself”

6 Nov

Bill Lange played only seven seasons in the National League—all with Chicago–but his reputation lived on long after he walked away from the game in 1899 at 28 years-old.  Two of his biggest supporters, Connie Mack and Clark Griffith, remained influential until their deaths in the mid 1950s, and both helped to keep Lange’s legend alive until his death in 1950.

Long after his retirement to enter the insurance and real estate business in his native San Francisco, Lange remained extremely popular in Chicago;  he was frequently quoted by Chicago sportswriters (most often his friend Hugh Fullerton), and was even retained The Chicago Examiner’s  “World Series expert” in the early and mid teens.

Bill Lange

Bill Lange

In 1909, when the White Sox were training in San Francisco, Lange told a reporter for The Chicago Inter Ocean that “the batsmen of the present time had not advanced in any way” over the hitters of his day—and Lange felt they took too many pitches:

“I have noticed that the habit nowadays is to be altogether too scientific.  And that science is ruining the batters.  There used to be such things as .400 hitters in the big leagues and now the managers are spending fortunes in the hopes of finding a .250 hitter.  The reason they are so hard to find is because the batsmen don’t follow their natural inclinations to wallop the ball, but stall around at the plate in the artificial hope of drawing a pass instead of breaking a board in the back fence.

“No batter, who has any eye at all, ought ever to wait when he has three balls and one strike on him, unless the pitcher is uncommonly wild.  Think of the advantage of hitting when three balls have been called.  You are dead sure that the next one will be over the plate if the pitcher can get it there.  If he doesn’t, let it go and take your base.  But if you let a good one go then you are up against another proposition.

“Then the batsman is in a worse hole than the pitcher and his chances of making a safe hit are at least 4 to 1 against him, for a nervy pitcher will take a chance on a curve or a high one in the hope of making the batsman bite.  He wouldn’t dare do that very often when the count was only three and one.  The batsman who waits too long is just giving himself the worst of the deal.”

Unlike many players of his generation, Lange did note that some aspects of the game had improved since he played:

“We didn’t hustle like the players of the today do.  We would shirk morning practice all the time, so we could sleep late.  And take it from me, a lot of us needed the sleep, for most all of the boys belonged to the Ancient Order of Owls.

“The teams of today report at the grounds at 9:30 in the morning and work to beat the band for two hours. In the old days, after we had stalled the manager off as long as possible, we would finally show up for morning practice.  I don’t know all the systems the players on other teams had for dodging morning work, but with the old Chicago bunch we left it up to (Bill) Dahlen to break up the practice after about ten minutes of hustling.

“Dahlen could turn the trick might easily.  All he had to do was whiz four or five low throws at Anson’s shins.  ‘Pop’ used to bawl Dahlen out for a few minutes, but Bill would keep up the bum throwing until Anse would say ‘Enough.’  Nothing like that goes in the big or small leagues now.  It is a question of work and buckle down to business.  In the ‘90s nobody ever thought anything of telling the manager to go chase himself.  I haven’t heard of anybody doing anything like that in late years, and getting away with it.”

Bill Dahlen

Bill Dahlen

Lange on pitching, tomorrow.

“Demoralizing a Successful Organization For the Sake of a Few Unimportant, Mediocre Ball Players”

19 Sep

When Charlie Babb jumped from the Indianapolis Indians of the American Association to the Memphis Egyptians in the Southern Association in June of 1902, he was not alone.

Pitcher Jim St. Vrain, recently released by the Chicago Orphans and under contract with the Tacoma Tigers in the Pacific Northwest League, signed with Memphis rather than going to Tacoma.

Another American Association player, Second baseman Bill Evans of the Columbus Senators, also jumped to Memphis.  The Cincinnati Enquirer said he jumped being suspended by the Senators for being “too drunk” to take the field on June 18.

Memphis manager Charlie Frank’s three new players would be a source of controversy in the Southern Association for the remainder of the season and a continuation of an ongoing feud over the league’s salary limit which The Sporting Life said: “a majority of the clubs are known to have violated.”

Charlie Frank

Charlie Frank

Southern Association President John Bailey Nicklin, acting on orders from Patrick T. Powers, president of National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues (NAPBL), ordered Frank not to play any of the three.  Frank not only defied the order but according to The Atlanta Constitution, gave Nicklin a “lecture in abuse,” and threatened to “break the league.”

Throughout July, the situation became increasingly absurd.

On July 11 Nicklin ordered umpire Ed Cline (the same Ed Cline who may, or may not, have initially approached Babb about jumping) to not allow St. Vrain to pitch against the Nashville Volunteers, managed by Frank’s biggest ally in the league, Isaac Newton “Ike” FisherThe Atlanta Constitution said Cline became mysteriously “sick and could not work,” although he “was upon the grounds while the game was being played.”  St. Vrain and the Egyptians beat the Volunteers 8 to 5 with “Red” Ehret and Nashville’s Bill Dammann acting as umpires.

After the game Frank was suspended for 10 games and threatened with being blacklisted if he played St. Vrain again.  Later that week Frank received a temporary injunction allowing him to continue using St. Vrain. And while Babb and Evans had been suspended by the league and were not covered by the ruling, Frank continued to put both in the lineup.  Frank also continued to manage the team despite his own suspension.

On July 25 Frank was again ordered by Nicklin not to play Babb and Evans.  This time, he complied, for one day.  The two players sat out an 8 to 4 victory over Atlanta (St. Vrain pitched for Memphis).  Both were again in the lineup the following day, and on July 27 Frank filed a suit against the league and Nicklin seeking $10,000 in damages.  He also sought and received an injunction “restraining President Nicklin from interfering with the playing of Babb and Evans.”

The Constitution began calling the team the “Memphis Injunctionists.”

The Sporting Life said Frank was:

“Demoralizing a successful organization for the sake of a few unimportant, mediocre ball players.”

Nicklin, the league, and the NAPBL blinked first.

Two days after the suit was filed an agreement was reached.  Babb and Evans would remain with Memphis and were reinstated from suspension; the fourth place Egyptians agreed to forfeit every game in which Babb and Evans participated in while under suspension—dropping the team to fifth place.

The controversy appeared to be over.  It wasn’t.

On August 4 the Egyptians arrived at Athletic Park in New Orleans to play the second place Pelicans.  The New Orleans Times-Picayune said:

“Under orders of (Pelicans) manager Abner Powell a big policeman today refused admission to St, Vrain, Evans and Babb, of the Memphis club, when they tried to enter.”

The game was canceled

The following day:

“Manager Frank again took his team to out to the park, but admission was refused to St. Vrain, Evans and Babb.”

The umpire, picked by the Pelicans, “declared the game forfeited to New Orleans,” and Powell shared with the press a telegram from the Little Rock Travelers which read:

“Congratulations upon your firm methods.  We will stand with you.”

Despite the earlier agreement, the NAPBL announced that Frank and St. Vrain were still under suspension.

Jim St. Vrain

Jim St. Vrain

On August 9 the Shreveport Giants refused to allow St. Vrain into the ballpark for a double-header.  Memphis took the field for each game with only eight players and no pitcher.  They forfeited both games to the Giants.

Memphis was due to travel to Little Rock for a three-game series from the 11th through the 13th.  The Travelers announced that they “would not play with St. Vrain and Frank in the game.  Babb and Evans will be allowed to play (but) under protest.”

On August 12 Nicklin resigned at a meeting of league owners in Chattanooga (Memphis and Nashville refused to attend).  He said he was “almost helpless to enforce the rules of the league,” because of Frank’s numerous injunctions.  He was replaced by vice president William Kavanaugh.  A motion was passed to suspend Frank and St. Vrain indefinitely, but Babb and Evans were officially reinstated.  Again.

In response, Frank filed another $10,000 lawsuit naming every team in the league except Nashville.

On August 27 in Nashville, St. Vrain started for Memphis.  President Kavanaugh fined Nashville $1000 and “suspended that club for the balance of the season,” he threatened “drastic measures’ towards Memphis as well, but for the several injunctions that kept him from acting.  Two days later the suspension was lifted.

On August 30 a Little Rock judge enjoined Frank from “playing or attempting to play St. Vrain in any state.”

The Atlanta Constitution headline summed up the opinion of most Southern baseball fans on September 22:

To The Relief of All the Season is Now Over

As an appropriate end, Memphis beat Atlanta on the final day of the season behind the pitching of the still suspended Jim St. Vrain.

The no longer suspended Nashville Volunteers won the pennant.

The Indianapolis Indians, the team Charlie Babb jumped, won the American Association pennant.

Charlie Babb

Charlie Babb

The Indianapolis papers had predicted that Babb’s career would be doomed when he jumped.  In 1903, he was purchased by the New York Giants.  He played in the National League with the Giants and Brooklyn Superbas through the 1905 season.  In 1906, he became a minor league player/manager; with the Memphis Egyptians.  He stayed with Memphis until 1910 and managed to become embroiled in one more controversy.

Jim St. Vrain was only 19-years-old during that 1902 season.  He finished 12-4 with Memphis.  He went to the West Coast in 1903.  His career was over after the 1905 season.

Bill Evans played in the Southern Association until 1906; he eventually became a member of three different teams who refused to play against him in 1902: New Orleans, Shreveport, and Little Rock.

Charlie Frank did just fine in the end.  More on that next week.

“Baseball will be in Utter Disrepute”

18 Sep

As common as contract jumping was during the first 30 years of organized baseball, there are very few cases in which the particular inducements that led to the player breaking his contract are available.  Such is the case with Charlie Babb.

Before the 1902 season, Babb, a 29-year-old journeyman infielder, signed to play with the Indianapolis Indians in the newly formed American Association (Indianapolis was a member of the Western Association in 1901).

The Sporting Life described  as “a base-hit killer,” but “anything but a graceful fielder.”  The St. Paul Dispatch said:

 “He covers all kinds of ground, and it is next to impossible to lay down a bunt and get away with it.”

Charlie Babb takes batting practice in Indianapolis in 1902.

Charlie Babb takes batting practice in Indianapolis in 1902.

Babb was installed at third base where The Indianapolis Times said he would be an improvement over previous third baseman Eddie Hickey who had committed 49 errors in 101 games in 1910; Babb told The Indianapolis News “he will try his best to make Indianapolis fans forget that there ever was a third-baseman by the name of Hickey.”

Babb quickly became a favorite with fans and the press.  When the Indians moved into second place in June The Times said Babb won games for the team with “his hands, feet and bat.” The News said:  “Babb can borrow a dollar from the left field bleacherites any time he wants to.”

Babb was hitting .308 in 182 at bats through June 22, and his popularity in the city was why a small item that appeared in several Midwest and Southern papers that day was largely ignored in Indianapolis.

Charlie Babb

Charlie Babb

It said that earlier in June, while the Indians were playing in Louisville, Babb was approached by Philip “Red” Ehret, a Louisville native who knew something about jumping, and currently played for the Memphis Egyptians in the Southern Association (some versions said it was a Southern Association umpire named Ed Cline who approached Babb).  The story said Ehret had “urged” Babb to jump and that “Babb turned him down.”

Disinterest over the story in Indianapolis turned to outrage two days later.  Babb had not turned Ehret and Memphis down; he jumped the Indians to join the Egyptians.

The News said:

“Babb, the deserter, was one of the most popular players ever in this city, and by his action it is doubtful he ever again will have such a place in the affections of any city.”

The Indianapolis papers provided precise details of just what was offered:  Babb would receive $45 more a month, a $300 bonus, $80 transportation expenses, and a winter job in Memphis.

The News said “Contract jumping is the greatest evil that afflicts baseball at present,” and warned that “baseball will be in utter disrepute,” if something wasn’t done to end the practice; Ignoring the “evil” of the reserve clause.

Orville “Sam” Woodruff replaced Babb at third base.  Within days, The News, which less than a month earlier had called Babb “the best third baseman” to ever play in Indianapolis; said Woodruff had played so well that “Indianapolis fans don’t care if he never comes back.”  The Times said “Babb has nothing on Orville Woodruff in the field or at the bat.”

Orville "Sam" Woodruff

Orville “Sam” Woodruff

Babb was not the only jumper to join Memphis is June.  Bill Evans, a Louisville native and friend of Ehret left the American Association’s Columbus Senators to join the Egyptians and Jim St. Vrain, after being released by the Chicago Orphans, signed with Memphis despite being the property of the Tacoma Tigers in the Pacific Northwest League.

Tomorrow: the fallout from Babb, Evans and St. Vrain signing with Memphis.