Tag Archives: Chicago White Sox

“So I let go a Right”

15 Oct

The Tabasco Kid had softened. Kid Elberfeld, a man so contemptuous of umpires he hit a few and once told John McGraw, “I intend to fight ‘em as long as I live,” as 64-year-old in 1939 said he’d changed.

Elberfeld was asked by Val Flanagan of The New Orleans Times Picayune if he still held the same antipathy for the men in blue:

“No, There’s a couple of nice fellows out there now.”

Elberfeld singled out John Quinn in the American League and Polly McLarry, who after a major league career that lasted 70 games with the Cubs and White Sox, worked as a minor umpire for a decade in the South.

Flanagan was shocked:

“it was unbelievable—to hear this ancient umpire-baiter, who had battled the boys in blue from Maine’s tall pines and hills of snow to where palmetto breezes blow, speak such kindly words about an arbiter.”

The former player and manager, “Old, wrinkled and with just a few whisps of hair framing a shining bald head and a pair of horn-rimmed spectacles athwart his battle-scarred nose.”

Flanagan said, “nothing loosens the tongue of the ‘Kid’ as to inject a few casual remarks about yester-year.”

Elberfeld told his version of one of his altercations with umpires a decade and a half earlier which ended when he punched an Atlanta police officer after being thrown out of a game.

Elberfeld

“The arbiter instructed the bluecoats to see that he went, peacefully or otherwise, and when the Kid balked, one of the John Laws reached over and bopped him one on the ear to show him who was the authority.

“’I didn’t see who hit me, but I figured it was the cop standing just beside me,’ the Kid said, ‘so I let go a right and whammed one of the other cops on the jaw. They took me down and put me right in the jug.”

Elberfeld didn’t just battle umpires. He told the story of a 1920 encounter with Charlie frank, the owner of the Atlanta Crackers. Elberfeld was in town with his Arkansas Travelers as two new additions to the roster: Tom Seaton and Casey Smith both were signed after being released by the San Francisco Seals in the Pacific Coast League; Seals owner Charlie Graham said the release was due to rumors of crooked play by both.

When the team arrived at Atlanta’s Ponce de Leon Park, Frank was determined to not allow the Travelers inside. He looked the ballpark and “got a squadron of cops,” to bar entry.

“’I started to climb the fence,’ the Kid explained, ‘and had my team do the same, but Frank threatened to have me arrested if I did.”

Elberfeld said he backed down when he realized Frank wouldn’t. The game was delayed to the next day, Seaton and Smith never player for Little Rock, and Elberfeld lived to fight again.

Elberfeld’s interview with Flanagan coincided with his final return to organized baseball. Having only managed one season in the previous decade, Elberfeld signed on to manage the Gadsden (AL) club in the Southeastern League. He was ejected from a game during his first week.

Elberfeld retired again after the 1936 season; he died in 1944 in Chattanooga, TN.

Ollie Pickering Gets “Discovered”

4 Oct

Ollie Pickering told The Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1902 the lengths he went to get “discovered” and signed to his first professional contract 10 years earlier:

“I went bankrupt buying postage stamps. I wrote to all the managers I ever heard of asking for a job and enclosing stamps for reply. None of them answered, so I pigged it from my home in Olney, Illinois to San Antonio.”

By “pigged it” Pickering meant he jumped a freight train loaded with pigs.

“Sixteen Hundred miles hanging to the brake rods.”

Pickering said he arrived in San Antonio with one stamp left. He sent a letter to John McCloskey who was managing the Houston Mudcats. McCloskey invited him to Houston for a tryout.

Pickering “lived under a sidewalk” in San Antonio and couldn’t raise the money for a ticket, so hopped another freight train.

“These days a player won’t report without advance money, transportation and Pullmans, but the pig train was good enough for me.”

Upon arrival in Houston—Pickering said it was the first day of the season.

Pickering

“I fell off a slow freight at Houston, hunted up McCloskey and said: ‘I’m here.’ He looked me over and said: ‘Who are you?’ ‘I told him, and he sort of gasped. I had a crop of whiskers with clinkers in them, one shoe and what clothes I wore were tied on with ropes and wire.”

Pickering said McCloskey gave him 50 cents and told him to return in the afternoon for his tryout.

“I blew 10 cents at a barber shop and the rest for grub.”

He headed to the ballpark:

“With a meal inside of me and rigged up in a new uniform I felt like a horse. Nothing could stop me.”

Pickering claimed to get seven hits, “In seven times at bat,” in the game in which he was tried out.

“When the excitement cooled down, I strolled around near McCloskey and wondered out loud if I would do. ‘Come here,’ he said. ‘He hustled me downtown, bought me a trunk, suitcase, suit of clothes, shoes, underwear, shirts, collars; in fact, a whole dude outfit and stabled me at a hotel with real beds in it.”

Pickering estimated his manager spent $25 on him.

“I was stuck on being a ballplayer, and that was how I broke into the game. And you know, it was weeks before I could ride in a Pullman car without holding on with both hands.”

How accurate Pickering’s story was is unknown, but Pickering was referred to by The Galveston Daily News within weeks of his arrival in Houston as, “Pickering, the box car artist.” Although The San Antonio Light said years later that Pickering had, “played several games,” with teams in San Antonio before meeting McCloskey in Houston—suggesting he wasn’t as down and out as related in the story.

Pickering bounced around the Southwest before making the major leagues with Louisville Colonels in 1896. He played part of eight major league seasons for six teams. He was th first batter in the American League’s inaugural game; on April 24, 1901, he led off for the Cleveland Blues against Roy Patterson and the White Sox. The Chicago Tribune said:

“Pickering was the first to face him and the first ball of the season was a ‘ball,’ but it was closely followed by a ‘strike’—an American League strike, and not the National League brand…The Pickering raised a high fly which gave (Bill ‘Dummy’) Hoy the first putout of the season.”

“We didn’t kill Albert”

29 Sep

Eddie Collins said of teammate Charles “Chief” Bender:

“I rate Bender among the first five American League hurlers, and he gets this place because he made pitching a fine art. He mastered every natural form of delivery but never bothered with spitters or other trick styles. Both (Joe) Wood and (Walter) Johnson had far more speed, (Jack) Coombs and (Jim) Scott better curves, and (Addie) Joss and (Doc) White more deceptive ‘slow balls,’ but I never saw anyone who could toss all styles with the skill that ‘Chief’ exhibited.”

Collins was “writing” a series of syndicated articles for The North American Newspaper Alliance in 1927:

Collins

Bender’s mechanics made him great, but were “only a part” of his success as “anchor” of Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics pitching staff fir 12 seasons:

“He knew the strength and weakness of every batter; his control was superb, and he possessed such a wealth of courage that facing the strongest teams afforded him his greatest pleasure.”

Collins—who like Mack usually called the pitcher by his middle name, Albert–said Mack favored Bender as his choice in “a single all-important game,” over any other pitcher—born out, he said because Bender pitched the opener in four World Series. Bender was 2-2 in those games, but one loss was a 2-1 loss to Christy Mathewson and the Giants in a game Bender struck out 11. Of the other, against the Brave in 1914, Collins noted:

“The Braves batted him off the slab. Everything went wrong for us in that series anyway.”

Mack also relied on Bender when an exhibition game suddenly became a matter of American League pride.

“After the close of our season in the Fall of ’09 we made an exhibition tour to the coast. On the way we stopped to play the famous Cubs in Chicago. Reaching there we found that this game assumed more importance than attached to an ordinary exhibition. Chicago had always been a good American League territory, but (Frank) Chance had a great team and the White Sox had not done well that season, and the American League supporters were very anxious that we win.”

Mack addressed Bender in front of his teammates:

“Albert, you know you are to pitch. Now Albert, I have asked you to win some important games for me and you never failed. I want you to bring me this game.”

The Athletics beat the Cubs 2 to 0. Ring Lardner of The Chicago Tribune Said:

Bender

“The Cubs lost because Big Chief Bender wouldn’t let them hit.”

 Bender held Chicago to two singles in the victory.

Bender did, said Collins, have weaknesses:

“He was not as strong as (Ed) Walsh, (Jack) Chesbro, Coombs and other great pitchers, and for that reason, and also because any time any batter, however great, made a hit off his delivery he thought the batter was lucky; he never wanted to waste a ball. His system was to throw all strikes, if possible…Occasionally after having the batter 2-0 he would throw one in the groove and get away with it. Then he would return to the bench and grin with great satisfaction.”

His penchant to “grove one” could be costly, Collins said. In game four of the 1913 World Series, Bender was cruising to a victory with a 6-0 lead heading into the seventh inning:

“Two men got on with two out when Fred Merkle came up. ‘Chief’ had just whiffed catcher (Art) Wilson, and was bent on showing up Merkle, who was a corking good hitter, as everyone knew, but who could do little with Bender when the ‘Chief” was careful.”

After getting two strikes on Merkle, and despite “the protests of (catcher) Ira Thomas,” Bender threw:

“A pitch that came across the letters on his shirt Merkle could hit a mile. He just naturally lost that ball and the Giants had three runs.”

Bender held on to win 6 to 5, and as a result, Collins said:

“(W)e didn’t kill Albert.”

“The Sinister Scout of the New York Giants”

19 May

Damon Runyon took credit for tagging John McGraw’s favorite scout, Dick Kinsella with the nickname “Sinister Dick.” Runyon said in his column for the Hearst Newspapers in 1930 that the sobriquet might not make sense any longer:

“The nickname is perhaps misleading. You look for a dour fellow of wicked aspect—a piratical-appearing bloke with perhaps a cutlass between his teeth. Instead, you see a well-dressed, quiet man, deep in his fifties, with kind eyes wrinkled by smiles…Well, twenty years back the man from Springfield (IL) was indeed a sinister looking chappy. He had beetling black brows, and a fierce black mouser, or mustachio, which gave him a positively violent appearance.”

“Sinister Dick” Kinsella

McGraw told Runyon:

“It isn’t the fellows he sends to me that makes him great. It’s the ones he keeps me from buying. He saves my ballclub a lot of money every year by keeping me off the dead ones.”

Kinsella had spent more than 20 years scouting for McGraw, though Runyon said:

 “(H)e used to retire at frequent intervals. So often, in fact, that you never could tell when he was officially a scout or just a businessman.”

Damon Runyon

In addition to providing his nickname, Runyon was also responsible for a story about how Kinsella supposedly missed signing Edd Roush for the Giants in 1912, when Roush was playing in the Kitty League.  The earliest version of the story appeared in Runyon’s column in The New York American in 1913, with a more complete version appearing in 1916:

“One broiling hot summer day a couple of years ago a sinister looking man arrived in the town of Evansville, Indiana. This sinister looking man was of somber aspect. His hair was a sinister black. His sinister eyebrows hung heavy above a glowering, sinister glare. He wore sinister city clothes, and there was a sinister bulge to his coat just above the right hip.

“With sinister deportment, he accosted a citizen of the town of Evansville and made inquiry of him with sinister significance in his voice.

“’Where’s the ball orchard?’ demanded Sinister Dick Kinsella for it was none other than the sinister scout of the New York Giants, as you doubtless have already divined from the sinister import of this narrative.”

According to Runyon, Kinsella went for a haircut after watching that day’s game and said to the barber:

“That’s a right likely looking outfielder that fellow Roush,’ suggested Sinister Dick. ‘Hits good, and can go fetch ‘em, but don’t throw much, hey? Bad arm hey?’

“’Well, I’ll tell you about that stranger,’ said the barber, pausing in his operations and assuming the attitude of a man about to impart grave news. ‘He used to have as good a throwin’ arm as anybody you ever see, but he hurt that arm and he’s been learnin’ hisself to throw with the other arm.”

With that, said Runyon, “a sinister train bore Sinister Dick on his sinister way” out of town, while a scout for the White Sox, Ted Sullivan, “Purchased Roush for $4000 [sic, $3,000]”

Kinsella left the Giants after the 1930 season, John B. Foster of The New York Sun suggested that an instance of the scout not saving money for McGraw’s ballclub might have led to his departure. In 1927 Kinsella had signed pitcher Bill Walker for $25,000. After Walker finished 1930, 17-15 with a 3.93 ERA and Kinsella had departed, Foster wrote:

“The failure of Walker to succeed may be one of the reasons why Dick Kinsella failed to remain with the New York club as a scout, because a large outlay was made for Walker.”

George Davis: How I Win

30 Apr

“Think quick, act quickly, claim everything in sight and watch every point. Run out every hit, take any kind of chances on the bases, make the other side throw.”\

“That is the way to win in baseball.”

Said George Davis, as part of a series of syndicated articles by Chicago journalist Joseph B. Bowles which asked some of baseball’s biggest stars to talk about “How I Win.”

George Davis

Davis’ 20-year major league career had come to an end the previous season, and he was preparing to manage and play for the Des Moines Boosters in the Western League in 1910.

He said forcing the pace was key.

“(Making) the other club to give ground, assumes the aggressive end of the game and throws the other team on the defensive right at the start.”

He said during his time with the 1906 world champions, people “used to call the White Stockings ‘lucky’” because the team won close games:

“To one outside the game it really did look as if we were lucky, but the ‘luck’ was of our own making. We attacked so hard and steadily that the other teams threw away the game to us. That was one of the main reasons they called us the ‘Hitless Wonders.’ We did not rely so much on making base hits as we did upon forcing the other side to blunder.”

That, and pitching:

“One of the principal causes of victory to a pennant winning team is in the selection of pitchers to work against certain teams on certain days. The condition of the sky is studied, the lights and shadows on the grounds, the condition of the grounds and the force and direction of the wind before a final selection is made.”

David said he thought he understood “inside baseball and teamwork” before joining Chicago in 1904 and having the chance to “work with two such generals and (Charlie) Comisky and (Fielder) Jones.”

By 1906, he said:

“I do not think there ever was a team as perfect in defensive and aggressive teamwork as the White Stockings were under Jones. Our system of signals was perfect, and besides that we had men with wonderfully acute powers of observation, and everyone worked together. It would be betray secrets to tell how much our men knew of the opposing team. Everything we know was either from experience or from observation and the study of men.”

Yet, it could all be attributed to chance:

“And, after that is all done, and the manager has thought and worried gray hairs into his head, an umpire may miscall one strike and turn the entire game, which shows how much anyone really knows about how to win.”

Davis might have been presaging his tenure in Des Moines. The 39-year-old hit just .192 and led the club to a 72-96, seventh place finish.  He never played or managed again.

Ed Barrow’s All-Time All-Stars

26 Mar

“The old-timers. They were better hitters! No question about it.”

Said Ed Barrow after he became president of the New York Yankees in 1939 and Jimmy Powers of The New York Daily News had the 71-year-old pick his all-time team.

Barrow

Powers said of Barrow:

“The beetle-browed executive, one of the few remaining links between the gas-lit, coach-and-four, Wee Willie Keeler era and the moderns, boomed at us across his wide, flat-topped desk in the offices of the New York baseball club.”

Barrow was “a great believer in ‘natural born’ stars,’ telling Powers, “A fellow has it—or he hasn’t it.”

He explained his theory:

“Once in a while a manager will make a few minor corrections in stance, or change something here and there, but if player hasn’t the natural coordination, the God-given physique, the reflexes for rhythm and timing, he’ll never get ‘em. Sometimes one man will get more mileage out of his talents than another because he will work harder. That’s why the old-timers were better hitters. They looked at better pitching, and they practiced and practiced and practiced.”

Barrow said there was one reason in particular for why old-timers were better hitters:

“The tipoff is in the strikeout column. The moderns strikeout oftener—and there’s your answer. The present-day hitter is so homerun crazy that half the time he closes his eyes and swings; four bases or nothing! Usually, it’s nothing.”

Barrow’s told Powers:

“Now, on my All-Star, All-Time team I’d put Cobb, Speaker and Ruth in the outfield. Chase, Lajoie, Wagner, and Jimmy Collins in the infield. Matty, Johnson, Waddell, and McGinnity, pitchers. And Bill Dickey, catcher…I’d put Joe DiMaggio on that team as utility outfielder. I’d put Lou Gehrig as substitute first baseman and pinch hitter. Bill Bradley, Eddie Collins, Swede Risberg, and Buck Weaver would also get contracts on this ‘Dream Team.’ Keeler would be another utility outfielder and Bresnahan would be my second catcher. Ruffing and Gomez would fill out my pitching staff!”

Barrow’s All-Stars

Barrow said he could offer “a million reasons’ for the rationale for each selected player. 

“(R)ecords can be misleading…I won’t quote you records of my All-Timers…A man must be in the dugout or in the stands to weigh the merits of a player and not be influenced by a record book.”

He said in choosing his team, he held “no grudges,” which is why he selected Risberg and Weaver, “Black Sox scandal or not.”

He said he would add Joe Jackson to the team, “if I thought he was smart enough. But Jackson, strange to say, was the only dumb one on that whole team. Up until 1938s Yankees—those Black Sox were the best team in baseball!”

As for some of his picks:

“Chase on first base! Nobody near him. He could throw a ball through a knothole, covered the whole infield like a cat, and remember he used a glove that just covered his fingers and seldom had a palm. The ‘peach baskets’ first basemen use today would have been barred years back, Chase could hit behind the runner, bunt, steal, fake a bunt at third and then bunt over the third baseman’s head. He could do all the tricks.”

Chase

He called Napoleon Lajoie “the most graceful second baseman I have ever seen. He had a rifle arm and was as slick as a panther,” and gave him the edge “by a slight margin” over Eddie Collins.

Honus Wagner, who Barrow signed for the Patterson Silk Weavers in 1896, “is my nomination as the greatest individual ballplayer of all time.”

Of his first impression of Wagner, he said:

“He was pretty terrible when I first ran across him, looked awkward as all get-out. But suddenly he would come through with a perfectly dazzling play that had everybody on our bench swallowing his tobacco cud in astonishment.”

Like Lajoie, Barrow said Jimmy Collins just edged out the second choice—Bill Bradley—because:

“Collins could make perfect throws to first from any position. When an infielder makes an off-balance throw today the crowd gives him a big hand. The old timers did it every play because the old ball was slow dribbling out there. Today the lively ball comes out fast in one or two hops, and this gives the third baseman a chance to make his throw from a ‘straightened up’ stance.…Remember, in the old days the ball was dark, wet with slippery elm juice; often it was smudged with grass stains, hard to follow.”

In the outfield, Barrow said, “I don’t think anyone will give you an argument on Cobb-Speaker-Ruth.”

He called Ty Cobb “the greatest hitter of all time,” with “a lightning-quick brain and plenty of gut.”

Babe Ruth, he said was, in addition to the being the “great slugger of all-time,” changed the game because of “His salary, his magnetic personality, and his publicity.”

Tris Speaker “was superb. A good hitter, a great fielder, a brainy man. He was so confident of his ability ‘to go back’ he practically camped on second base.”

Of the pitching staff, he said Christy Mathewson “could do almost everything with a baseball—practically make it talk.”

Of Walter Johnson he said:

“He had awe-inspiring speed. You’d stand up there watching and suddenly—pfffft—pfffft—pfffft. Three phantom bullets whizzed past. Too fast for your eyes to focus ‘em.”

Rube Waddell was “the best lefthander” he had seen.

Joe McGinnity appeared to be a sentimental choice:

“(He) was a work horse, a competent soul who loved the game so much I believe he’d work for nothing.”

Bill Dickey, he said was not “given the credit” he deserved:

“He’s a hitter. A workmanlike receiver. Handles pitchers marvelously. Has a good arm. Is fast. Is always one jump ahead of the opposition. Dickey does everything well.”

“The Kaleidoscopic Possibilities of the Game”

19 Mar

“Isn’t he just lovely?

“Oh, I think he is splendid!

“He is so graceful.”

The Chicago Daily News said this was “the sort of chatter” heard from women in the grandstand in the past, but, in 1909, those days were gone:

“Well-known women, those whose names you see in the society column regularly, fans—or perhaps fannettes are better—who cheer the Cubs and White Sox on to victory. And they know the game.”

One such “fannette” was “Mrs. Hobart Chatfield-Taylor;” the former Rose Farwell, daughter of one-time US Senator from Illinois Charles B. Farwell:

“Once at the field she sees nothing, hears nothing, but the game. She is oblivious to her surroundings and applauds clever plays enthusiastically.”

The Daily News said that Taylor, “Unlike many fair enthusiasts…indulges in the slang’ of baseball. She said:

“It’s distinctive slang and to me explanatory of the game. ‘Tinker died stealing’ is far more expressive than ‘Mr. Gibson, the Pittsburgh catcher, noticed Mr. Joseph Tinker, the Chicago shortstop, in the act of purloining second base, and therefore threw to the gentleman playing second base, who tagged Mr. Tinker with the ball in ample time to put him out.”

Tinker

Taylor said, “I love baseball…Of course to fully appreciate the sport one must thoroughly understand it, but when you master the plays and comprehend its technicalities it becomes the greatest of outdoor sports.”

One of the other “well known” Chicago fans was “Mrs. W.J. Chalmers,” whose husband had turned the company started by his father—Fraser & Chalmers—into one of the world’s largest manufacturers of mining equipment. She was the former Joan Pinkerton—daughter of detective Allan Pinkerton. She said:

“There is a strange fascination about a ball game that endears it to me, although I can’t say just what it is.”

“Miss Phoebe Eckles,” the daughter of a Chicago bank president, said:

“Often, I try to analyze one of the great crowds, drawn to a game by the same unknown quality that impels a moth to flutter to a flame. The tragedy and comedy, the kaleidoscopic possibilities of the game, have endeared it to me.”

“Mrs. Potter Palmer II,” the daughter of Chicago newspaper publisher Herman Kohlsaat, said she did “not thoroughly understand the game,” but is “learning rapidly,” and the paper promised she would be “as ardent a fan” as the others soon.

Chicago’s Society Women attend a game


“Mrs. Orville E. Babcock,” was the wife of a Chicago financier; his father was a civil war general and served—controversially and amid scandal—as President Ulysses S. Grant’s secretary. She said:

“I use the slang because I believe in ‘When in Rome etc…,’ Some of the reporters stretch the English language almost to the breaking point, when writing base ball stories, but many of the expressions they coin are amusing and cute.”

The Daily News said “One might go through Chicago’s” social register and “name hundreds” of society women who were baseball fans:

“It merely shows the advance of the national game, which a few years ago was conducted in a manner that effectively barred women and kept thousands of men away, that city a city’s most exclusive set is proud to admit a fondness for the sport.”

“A Colorful Critter”

17 Feb

John Walter “Duster” Mails was another left-handed pitcher with talent who never lived up expectations and was labeled “eccentric,” or “Another Rube.”

John B. Foster of The New York Sun said:

“Mails’ ability is conceded so far as his arm is concerned, but when it comes to the illuminated phases of baseball Duster must have the center of the stage or he moans in a corner like a monkey with the pip. If he’d make the best use of his left arm, he should be able to win two games for every one he loses.”

Billy Evans, the American League umpire, and syndicated newspaper columnist called him, “A colorful critter.”

In 1925, when the St. Louis Cardinals acquired Mails from the Oakland Oaks in the Pacific Coast League for what would be Mails’ third and final shot at the big leagues, Evans wrote:

“Walter Mails has as much natural ability as Rube Waddell and no southpaw ever had more stuff than George Edward.

“Mails has a dazzling fastball. I umpired back of Waddell when he was at his best. If anything, Mails’ fastball had something on Rube’s.”

Mails

Evans concluded that Waddell “seemed to have uncanny control” of his pitches, which Mails lacked.

He argued that given Mails’ personality quirks, he would be “rival Babe Ruth” as a newspaper copy generator if he could recreate his short period of major league dominance in 1920:

“Joining Cleveland late in the season, when the Indians were on the ropes because of lack of pitching, Mails proved the man of the hour.

“Taking part in nine games he turned in seven victories and didn’t suffer a single defeat.”

The Indians won the pennant by two games over the White Sox.

“Late in the season when Cleveland met Chicago in the final and all series between the two clubs, Mails remarked to me before the first game:

“Those birds are made to order for me; If (Tris) Speaker starts me against them I won’t be satisfied with anything but a shutout.”

Mails shut the White Sox out and beat Urban Faber 2 to 0; the September 24 victory increased the Indians lead over the Sox to 1.5 games.

“In one inning, after walking three men a la Waddell, he continued Rube’s trick by striking the next three out.”

Evans’ recall was slightly off.

In the fifth inning, Mails retired Swede Risberg, then walked Ray Schalk, Faber, and Amos Strunk. 

Mails then struck out Buck Weaver and Eddie Collins, The Chicago Tribune said, with a full count, Collins:

“(H)it three fouls in succession, swung at a bad ball and struck out.”

Mails’ dream season continued through the World Series, he relieved Ray Caldwell in the first inning of game three, pitching 6 2/3 scoreless innings in a 2 to 1 loss to the Brooklyn Robins.

Evans said Mails told him:

“If Speaker had only started me that one run we made would have been enough to win. He says he is going to give me a chance against (Sherry) Smith the next time he starts. Those birds will be lucky any time they score on me.”

He shut out the Robins and Smith 1 to 0.

Mails posted a 1.85 regular season ERA in 1920 which ballooned to 3.94 in 1921 and 5.28 in 1922, before he was sold to Oakland.

Mails’ final big-league stint ended like his first two, flashes of brilliance punctuating an overall lack of control and discipline.

He returned to the minor leagues for another decade. 

Early in his career, Mails tried to explain his control issues to The Spokane Spokesman Review:

“In my younger days, my folks used to live just a short distance from the San Quentin penitentiary. It was always a hobby with me to throw stones at the guards on the ramparts to kid them. One day I thought I could get control by aiming at them, but the darn fools always used to be on the move and even today when I am out on the mound pitching, the home plate seems to act like those guards, always on the move. So, you can see I have an excuse coming.”

“His Jealousy Would Break Forth Violently”

28 Dec

“Ball orchards are the favorite breeding places of green-eyed monsters.”

So said Hugh Fullerton in The Chicago Herald in 1907.

Jealousy among players, he said often resulted in “ludicrous situations” on baseball teams.

“One of the funniest instances that ever came to my notice happened when (Cap) Anson was running the Chicago club.”

Hugh Fullerton

He said that spring Anson had brought in enough pitchers to fill “the whole West Side park.”

One of them was Walter Thornton, who Anson sent to the mound one day:

 “The big fellow was one of the best natural hitters…besides pitching fair ball he rammed out four hits.”

The response:

“The other candidates sat on the benches and looked at each other anxiously as Thornton banged the ball around the lot, and every hit he made caused them deeper woe.

“That evening, just as the sun was setting, a delegation of Cub pitchers slipped out to the clubhouse, ravaged Thornton’s locker, took out his bats, secured (groundskeeper) Charlie Kuhn’s saw and proceeded to saw up every bat Thornton owned.”

Then, said Fullerton, there was the case of, “Little Tommy Hess.”

As a 16-year-old, Hess got into one game for the Baltimore Orioles in 1892:

“There were two other catchers on the team (Wilbert Robinson and Joe Gunson) both veterans, and they would have lost an arm before they would have let Tommy have a chance. He sat on the bench week after week, eager and ready to jump in and prove his worth.

“Finally, he thought his day had come. One of the catchers had been laying off with a split hand—and the other was working. A foul tip in the first inning of the game put the catcher out of business. Before (manager Ned) Hanlon could say a word, Hess had on a protector and was starting for the plate, when the man with the split hand grabbed the mask and protector from him and went in. That broke Hess’ heart.”

Hess played pro ball for another 19 years but never again reached the major leagues.

Fullerton said one of his favorite subjects—Bill Lange—was the object of jealousy during his time in Chicago:

“It is a hard thing to prove, but there are cases where a man on first signaled the batter to hit, as he was going to steal, and then the batter deliberately let the ball go and the runner be thrown out at second. This happened on the old Chicago club so many times that Anson was forced to put one player on the bench for ‘double crossing’ Lange to let him be caught stealing.”

Bill Lange

In Fullerton’s last example he failed to mention the player in question, but it was likely John O’Neill, an outfielder with the 1906 World Series Champions:

“There was a certain outfielder on the White Sox team not long ago who was jealous of (outfielder/manager Fielder) Jones. The man should have been a great ballplayer, but because of his disposition more than anything else, he fell short of being great.

“When this man was not hitting well, he quit…he would let Jones race across his field and get flies and never move. But when that fellow began to get base hits and move up in the batting average, his jealousy of his manager would break forth violently. His criticisms of Jones were bitter, and he refused to permit the manager to take one step into his territory to get a fly ball.

“The beauty of Jones’ character was never better shown than during those times.”

Fielder Jones

O’Neill appeared in 94 games for the 1906 Sox, hitting .248.  Jones used him in only one game during the World Series and O’Neill never played in the major leagues again—spending the last four seasons of his career in the American Association.

The Championship Banner Hoodoo

8 Jun

The Cubs raised their 1907 World Championship flag at West Side Grounds on May 21, 1908—the flag “orange letters on a blue field” according to The Chicago Inter Ocean; The Chicago Tribune described it as “royal purple and gold.”

I.E. Sanborn of The Tribune said “There were music, flowers and enthusiasm in bunches” at the ceremony, until:

“(T)he world’s champions spoiled it all by an exhibition which made the handsome creation of royal purple and gold hang its graceful folds in shame.”

The Boston Doves beat the Cubs 11-3.

cubsdovesbox

The Box Score

The Pittsburgh Press said the game was part of a trend:

“Undesirable happenings have attended the raising of the world’s pennants. The flag won by the Chicago Cubs from the Detroit Tigers was unfurled in Chicago Thursday.

“The result was saddening to the superstitious ones. The Cubs were walloped good and plenty by the Boston Nationals. It being necessary for the Cubs to sacrifice three pitchers in the carnage.”

The paper said the was a “Hoodoo connected” to the raising of championship flags.

“In the spring of 1906 the New York Giants floated the big flag in the Polo Grounds before a large crowd.”

The New York Times said of the June 12 ceremony:

“With admiring thousands following at the wheels, the New York Giants, the champion baseball team of the world—at least last year—paraded down Broadway in automobiles yesterday morning. Before and behind them marched a small army of boys baseball clubs…Mounted police clattered ahead of the procession to make clear the way. It was a great triumph for the Giants.”

The Times said the flag was “of blue bunting, trimmed with gold, is 45 feet long and 20 feet wide, and contains the inscription New York Baseball Club, 1906 Champions of the World.”

Then, “the Giants, whose fielding was extremely poor, while their batting was of an inferior order, only three men out of ten being credited with safe hits.”

They lost to the Reds 6 to 1.

giantsredsbox

The Box Score

Then, said The Press, there was May 14, 1907, “the notable flag raising on the Chicago South Side Grounds.”

I. E. Sanborn described that flag raising:

“Just as 15,000 throats were swelling with the first notes of the grand paean which was to have marked the climax of Chicago’s biggest baseball fete, just as the silken banner, emblematic of the highest honors of the diamond, had shaken out its folds over the White Sox park and started its upward climb in response to the tugs of the heroes of the day, Comiskey’s veteran flagstaff swayed, trembled in every fiber, then broke squarely off in the middle and toppled back to the earth which reared it.

“The tall spire of pine which had withstood for seven years the fiercest gales, which had flaunted defiantly three American League pennants and a dozen American flags until they were whipped to ribbons by the wind, proved unequal to the task of lifting a world’s championship banner.”

soxflag

The scene just before the pole broke

The game itself lasted just four batters when “a heavy shower” ended the game with Washington “and drenched thoroughly the gay raiment of the great crowd, only a part of which could find shelter under the protected stands.”

The Press noted that not only did the Giants and White Sox have bad luck on flag-raising day, both “failed to repeat as winners” and said:

“The big flag may prove a hoodoo.”

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