Tag Archives: Chicago White Stockings

“The Brilliant Ignoramus of The Sun.”

1 Feb

The New York Sun took up the issue of “Scientific batting” in 1884. The paper said:

“(O)f course scientific play at the bat is not to be learned in a day, as hard hitting can be. Take a muscular man and place him at the bat for the first time, and the chances are five to one that he will make a home run the first hit he makes. But the skill to face for position in batting and to place a ball is an art that requires practice, and no novice can get into it at a jump as he can in home-run hitting.”

The Chicago Tribune was having none of it and suggested that “Somebody—probably “old Chad,” Henry Chadwick—was writing a “column of foolishness on the subject of scientific batting.”

The Tribune wasn’t done, and said, “It is hard to believe that the person who wrote this ever saw a professional game of ball,” and set out to correct “the brilliant ignoramus of The Sun.”

A first-time batter, no matter how “muscular” facing “the delivery of (Larry) Corcoran or (Old Hoss) Radbourn,” could not “hit clean for four bases once in 200 ties trying.”

The paper cited “a friendly dispute” between Corcoran and Cap Anson.

 “Anson, who is considered to be the most skillful batsman in American as regards ability to control the direction of the ball when hit, and whose average of right-field hitting is probably greater than that of any right-hand batsman, asserted that if he chose, he could place the ball in the direction of the right field any time.”

Cap Anson

Corcoran bet Anson he couldn’t do it half the time and offered to bet. Anson refused the bet but said he would prove his point the next day against Stump Weidman of the Detroit Wolverines.

“Out of five times at bat Anson went out on a fly twice in left-center and once in right field, was once thrown out at first base by the second baseman, and once popped on an easy foul fly. The result of the special effort to ‘place the ball’ was that he made not a single clean hit in five times at bat.”

Over the next fifteen games the White Stockings played in Chicago, the paper said Anson had fourteen hits in 65 at bats for a .215 average; he had six hits to right, three to center, and five to left and of his 51 other at bats, three were fly balls to left field, and 13 were ground balls to the right side. The conclusion was that Anson’s hitting suffered when he made a “systematic effort” to hit to right.

The Tribune said the current “swift curve throwing” that batters faced forced batters to focus on having “the judgement and patience to wait for a good ball, the skill to get it on his bat, and the strength to hit it hard.” This differed from when the “old-fashioned straight-arm pitching was in vogue it was quite possible for a skillful batsman to govern in a measure both the direction and force of the ball.”

The paper concluded that “Hard, clean hitting is what is wanted, and, as a rule, direction is of far less consequence than force.”

Henry Chadwick

The “ignoramus of The Sun” did not respond.

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #44

7 Jan

Flint’s Hands

In 1896, Hugh Fullerton said in The Chicago Record:

“It is not hard to tell ‘Old Silver’ (Flint) is a ballplayer.”

Silver Flint

Fullerton told a story about how a train carrying the catcher and the rest of the White Stockings had derailed during their “Southern tour” the previous season:

“The train jumped the track and several of the passengers were injured. Silver stood near the scene of the wreck watching the proceedings, when one of the surgeons who had tendered his services caught sight of Silver’s fists.

“’Too bad, my man, too bad,’ said the man with the scalpel, ‘but both those hands will have to come off.’”

King Kelly told Fullerton that Flint “had to shake hands with the doctor before the latter would believe that Silver’s hands were not knocked out in the wreck.”

Young’s Perfect Game

In 1910, The Boston Post said Napoleon Lajoie asked Cy Young about his 1904 perfect game while the Naps were playing a series in Boston.

Cy Young

“’Oh,’ remarked Cy in that native natural dialect that six years’ residence in Boston did not change, ‘there ain’t nothing to tell. Nothing much at any rate. They just ‘em right at somebody all the time that was all. Two or three drives would have been good, long hits if Buck (Freeman) and Chick (Stahl) hadn’t been laying for ‘em. I didn’t know nobody reached first until we were going to the clubhouse. Then Jim (Collins) told me.’”

Young beat the Philadelphia Athletics and Rube Waddell 3 to 0 on May 5, 1904; the third perfect game in MLB history; the previous two had both taken place 24 years earlier during the 1880 season–making it the first one thrown under modern rules.

The box score

Cobb’s Base Stealing

 Before the 1912 season, Joe Birmingham, manager of the Cleveland Naps told The Cleveland News that Sam Crawford was the reason Ty Cobb was a successful base stealer.

“I haven’t made such a statement without considering the matter.”

Birmingham said:

“Put Sam Crawford up behind any one of a half dozen players in this league and their base stealing records would increase immensely…In the first place, every catcher is handicapped almost five feet in throwing to second when Sam is up. You know Sam lays way back of that home plate.

“A catcher would take his life in his hands if he dared get in the customary position behind the plate, for Sam takes such an awful wallop. Five feet doesn’t seem like a great distance, but when it is taken into consideration that a vast number of base stealers are checked by the merest margin of seconds, five feet looms up as considerable distance.”

Cobb

Then there was Crawford’s bat:

“(He) wields a young telegraph pole. There are few players in baseball who could handle such a club. And Sam spreads that club all over an immense amount of air. It’s usually in the way or thereabouts. At least it’s a factor with which the catcher must always reckon. Finally, Sam is a left-handed batter. Any time a pitcher hurls a pitchout to catch Cobb stealing the catcher is thrown into an awkward position. He can’t possibly be set for a throw. There’s another portion of a second lost.”

Cobb and Crawford were teammates from 1905 through 1917; Cobb led the league in steals six times during that period.

Sam Crawford

Birmingham’s overall point was to suggest that Joe Jackson, of the Naps, would be a better base stealer than Cobb:

“Joe has shown more natural ability during his first (full) year in the league than Cobb did.”

Birmingham said Jackson was as fast going from home to first as Cobb and “No one can convince me to the contrary.”

While he said Jackson did not get the same lead off the base as Cobb, he said:

“When that is acquired you’ll find little Joey leading the parade or just a trifle behind the leader.”

In 24 season Cobb stole 897 bases; Jackson stole 202 in 13 seasons.

“When Baseball was in Swaddling Clothes”

4 Jan

William “Billy” McMahon was a member—and for a time captain—of the Mutual Club of New York from 1859 to 1870, he later became a successful businessman, owning a “Concert saloon” called the Haymarket in at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Thirtieth Streets in Manhattan’s Tenderloin District. McMahon’s establishment was so popular that his obituary estimated his net worth at $500,000.

1864 Mutuals–McMahon is fours from the right.

McMahon was also a volunteer firefighter, and in that capacity, in 1887, joined the New York Veteran Fireman’s Association on a cross country trip, which stopped in Chicago in September–a reporter for The Chicago Daily News, hearing of McMahon’s baseball past, sought him out.

“’What’s that? Baseball! Bless me, I’ve almost forgotten the game. Who told you I knew anything about baseball? Listen to this young fellow, boys.”

The reporter had been tipped off about McMahon by Tom Foley; Foley played with the 1871 Chicago White Stockings and lived in the Chicago suburbs:

“Tom Foley told you! Where in the name of all that’s sacred is Tom? Tom Foley! Why great thunder! I thought he had gone under.”

Foley

McMahon was 58 years old and described as “a smooth-faced, gray-haired, pleasant, jovial old gentleman.”

He said:

“Well, well, who’d a thought it! To come way out here to Chicago to be asked about baseball! But I can tell you something about the old days and the players, that’s a fact. Let’s see—it was in ’52 when I first got to be some pumpkins as a ballplayer. That was the time when baseball was in swaddling clothes and needed a nurse.

“The only two clubs then in existence were the Knickerbockers and New Yorks, afterward called Gothams. You know—but of course you don’t know, young man—but I’ll tell you. There were no (set number of) innings in those days. No, sir…Twenty-one aces counted a game, and the club which made them first won.”

McMahon said when he began playing in 1852 for the Gothams, he was working as a “butcher boy, stout, strong and active, and oh, how I could run and chase a ball, and the old man rubbed his legs most tenderly as a spell of deep thought came over him and the old days passed in review before his fancy.”

He said he played shortstop in one of the 1852 games against the Knickerbocker’s at Red House Grounds—the teams played two games that year at the Harlem location which also was the sight of a racetrack. His recollection of the result differs from the available information about the game(s).

“Well, the Knickerbockers won the toss, and, unlike the practice now-a-days, took the bat. They made five runs and we followed with three. The next time we skunked ‘em, and in two more ties at bat we made 21 aces and won the game.”

McMahon claimed after that single game in 1852, until he joined the Mutuals in 1857.

He recalled coming to Chicago with the team in 1870 to play the White Stockings on July 23; by that year, according to The Chicago Tribune McMahon was “business manager, and substitute in case of need.”

He did not play in the game but recalled “(we) made the great and first record of scoring 9 to 0, and from this game came the expression “Chicagoed,” which I understand, is used to this day when a whitewash is affected.”

And McMahon, like so many to come, decried the decline in the quality of the game from his time:

“(B)ut the baseball today ain’t a marker of that of twenty-five years ago. Why, what catcher could have stood behind Johnny Hartfield [sic, Hatfield]…whose throwing record at Hartford has never been beaten,”

Hatfield threw a ball 382 feet six inches on July 10, 1868—but it happened in Cincinnati, not Hartford as McMahon recalled.

The current pitchers, he said:

“(F)ire in the ball overhand as though they meant to commit murder. No, no; gimme the good old underhand throw, lots of hitting and lots of pretty fielding. That’s your game for fun. I stand now ready now to gamble $500 to $1000 that the clubs of today, using the same lively, half rubber ball we used, cannot excel the good score we made in the old days.”

McMahon sent his “regards to the white Stockings,” then the “fireman moved away with his comrades.”

McMahon continued to operate the Haymarket until selling it in 1890, The New York Journal said, “He never interfered with the crooks, but it was distinctly understood that there must be no crookedness carried on within his walls.” The New York Times was less charitable and said, “some of the worst characters in police annuls had the run of the place.”

“He died in 1898.

“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 Greatest Utility Player of Color”

16 Dec

Henry “Harry” “Mike” Moore was among the pioneers of black baseball in Chicago.  He began his career at 19 with the Chicago Unions and was part of their 1895 team which was awarded Chicago’s “Amateur Baseball Association” championship in 1895.

The Chicago Tribune said:

“There were 159 competitors for the pennant, but the colored boys came out on top by winning forty-seven games out of fifty-six played.”

The next year, The Chicago Inter Ocean said the Unions “closed the season of ’96 with as good a record as ever made by any amateur team either East or West.”

 They ended the season 100-19 with three ties.

In 1897, when the Unions appeared in a charity game for recently retired White Stockings 2nd baseman Fred Pfeffer, The Tribune said they had “played 129 games, winning 113,” that season.

Moore pitched and was a utility player at first, third, and the outfield for the Unions and later was primarily a utility outfielder and corner infielder for several clubs through 1913.

Moore, seated second from left, with Leland Giants 1909

Moore died in September of 1917 of tuberculosis, and was eulogized by Dave Wyatt—negro league player turned sports writer—in The Chicago Defender:

“Harry (Mike) Moore is dead. Such was the sad, sad news that was passed to thousands of the devotees of the national pastime early last week.”

Wyatt said that Moore had been in ill health since at least 1911, “His last appearance as a member of a big club” when Moore played with Frank Leland’s Chicago Giants is a series against Rube Foster’s Chicago American Giants.

Wyatt said of him, pre illness:

“Moore was rightfully considered the greatest utility player of color that has ever been introduced to the baseball public. He was without a peer as a center fielder, big leaguers not excluded. He was known and admired by all baseball men, white and black.”

Moore, he said, was “quiet, unassuming and his temperament was as mild as a baby’s. He was a gentleman both on and off the field. If he was ever ruffled or offended over a misplay, the derisions of the crowds, or an adverse decision of the umpire, no person has ever been able to discern a surface show of the same.”

Wyatt called Moore “one of the game’s greatest batters…a natural hitter. He had a free and easy swing but his swipe carried terrific force.”

Two months before Moore’s death, a benefit game was played at Schorling’s Park involving players from the Chicago Giants, Union Giants, and American Giants—the teams were called Pete Hill’s Stars and John Henry Lloyd’s Stars—the game, according to The Defender:

“(W)as much of a success, as Mr. (Rube) Foster, who donated his park, has $117, with more people to be heard from. Charles A. Comiskey sent a check for $25.”

The paper said C.I. Taylor “sent his bit from Indianapolis, as did players and managers from other part of the country.”

Hill’s Stars won the game 2 to 0.

Box score for Moore benefit game

Wyatt closed, saying:

“Long and lasting may the memory of Harry ‘Mike’ Moore exist.”

“Spalding Threw a fit”

3 Jun

“The applause of thousands that once thundered across the baseball fields of the National League still echoes in the ears of a quiet man of sixty-three [sic, 68] who goes so unobtrusively about his simple duties in caring for a furnace at the plant of the New York Continental Jewel Filter Company at Nutley, NJ, that few know he was once one of the greatest figures in baseball.”

So, said Joaquin B. Calvo, writer for The New York World in 1922. The man he was describing was George Gore who played 14 major league seasons from 1879 to 1892:

georgegore

Calvo noted that Gore had done some catching before his major league debut and, “his gnarled and twisted fingers today bear mute testimony to this.”

Gore (or Calvo) knocked five years off the former player’s age, saying he was born in 1859 rather than 1854.

Gore repeated the story of having been “the first holdout” when in 1878 he negotiated his first contract with Albert Spalding before signing with the White Stockings. While the story was substantially the same as his other telling’s over the years, Gore added the detail that his asking Spalding for $2500 after initially being offered $1500 was the suggestion of Giants manager Jim Mutrie:

“He gave me some good advice, and one day I set forth to meet A. G. Spalding. Mutrie had told me to ask for $2500 and when I mentioned the figure Spalding threw a fit.”

Calvo said of Gore’s current activities::

“One of Gore’s greatest delights today is in teaching the young boys on the sandlots how to stand up at the plate, how to swing their bodies, and how to get that all important snap in the wrists as bats crash against balls. He is extremely active and has never lost his love for the game and, as he says, he tastes a little of the glory of yesterday when he plays with the youngsters and hears their cries of delight when he pounds out a home run.”

gore

Gore

Calvo asked him about being forgotten:

“Ah, well, it’s a busy world, he says modestly enough and the Cobbs and the Ruths of tomorrow will just as surely shove Babe and the Georgia Peach into oblivion, as they in their turn, have helped a thoughtless public to forget the diamond heroes of nearly half a century ago.”

Gore said of the differences in baseball in those nearly 50 years:

“The ball is livelier, but I don’t think the game is. In fact, I don’t think there is much science in baseball today as there was in the days when Anson and Spalding and others were putting their wits against some of the brightest minds baseball has ever known.”

Of Ruth, he said:

“I think he is a wonderful hitter, with a style all his own. I have never seen anything like it. There is a snap to his wrists when he hits the ball that accounts for the tremendous distance he knocks the pill. It isn’t his weight or strength; it is just his knack of hitting the ball.”

In closing, Calvo said Gore:

“(O)n days that he can get away from his furnace, he slips unnoticed into the stands at the Polo Grounds, the roaring applause of the mob blots out the picture of 1922 and brings back in sweetened memory those plaudits of the ‘80s that were for him alone.”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #41

21 Apr

King Kelly, ‘Conceited Ass,’ 1891

When King Kelly Jumped from the Boston Reds to the Boston Beaneaters in 1891, The Baltimore World was not pleased:

kelly

King Kelly

“Kelly, in his jump from the Association to the League, has but proven conclusively that he is just as contemptible as the people had about decided him to be. He may be a great ballplayer, but his record this season doesn’t show it. He is a loud-mouthed, conceited ass. That’s about the build of Kelly, and the Association will not die over the loss of him.”

Annoying Vendors, 1891

After spending five seasons in the major leagues from 1881 to 1885, Dasher Troy was a fixture at the Polo Grounds—he had a liquor concession on and off from 1891 through 1900. During his first season at the ballpark, The New York Sun did not approve:

dashertroypix

Dasher Troy

“The refreshment privilege at the Polo Grounds is held by John Troy, an ex-ballplayer. He maintains a bar under the grandstand and also one in the rear of the men’s stand. The only part of the grounds in which waiters are permitted to peddle beer is on the bleachers. Some weeks ago one of the directors of the club compelled Troy to close the bar in the men’s stand and cease peddling beer in the bleachers.

“By some means he managed to resume and is now working in full blast. In the covered stands, a score of sandwich, peanut, and soft drink men are constantly at work, and annoying spectators by their continuous bawling. It is strongly asserted that the management can not afford to maintain these nuisances to the annoyance of its patrons.”

Clarkson’s Scouting Report, 1887

A reporter for The Detroit Free Press briefly eavesdropped on John Clarkson providing fellow pitcher Mark Baldwin with a scouting report on the Wolverines while the White Stockings were in Detroit for three game series in July of 1887:

clarkson

“Clarkson was overheard giving Baldwin some private lessons: ‘Now,’ said Clarkson, ‘there’s Hardy Richardson. Just send ‘em shoulder high at the outside corner of the plate, or a little beyond, and he’ll go after ‘em every time.’ Baldwin made a careful note of this. ‘Then there’s Dan Brouthers,’ continued the craft instructor: ‘Never give him a low ball.’ ‘Will he hit a low one?’ inquired Baldwin. ‘Will he hit it?’ said Clarkson: he’ll kill it.’

“This way of foreshadowing the fate of a regulation league ball unwisely delivered to the bat seemed to impress Baldwin powerfully, and he then and there resolved never to give big Dan any low ones. At this point the teacher and his pupil carried on the lesson in softer tomes, and the remainder of the interesting kindergarten session was lost to the world.”

“That’s the way Baseball Goes”

15 Apr

In May of 1933, George Gore, who spent 14 years in the major leagues from 1879 to 1892 was interviewed by one of his Nutley, New Jersey neighbors—a man named J. Warren McEligot–for The Philadelphia Public Ledger:

“It was late in the summer of 1878. New Bedford was playing Providence in the old New England League [sic, International Association]”

gore

Gore

McEligot told the story of Gore being “the first holdout” in baseball; the 24-year-old met White Stockings owner A.G. Spalding at the local railroad depot:

“’How much do you want?’ Mr. Spalding asked compendiously.

“’Twenty-five hundred dollars.’ Replied Gore, just as briefly.

“’You’re crazy,’ and Mr. Spalding chuckled.

“’I mean it,’ stated Gore, and the expression on his face conveyed to Mr. Spalding the information that Gore wasn’t fooling. So, Mr. Spalding forgot his chuckle.

“Mr. Spalding widely became diplomatic. ‘We intend to give you $1500. But I might advance the figure to $1750.’

“’Nothing doing,’ was the independent Mr. Gore’s retort.

“’Will $1800 do?’ Mr. Spalding asked.

“’No,’ and it was an emphatic ‘no.’

“Mr. Spalding became impatient. He had only a few minutes to spare and then he had to entrain for Boston. He stormed and fretted and told the young culprit that his figures were outrageous. But young George was adamant. He wouldn’t yield—not then, anyway. So, Mr. Spalding went away without affixing Mr. Gore’s signature to a Chicago contract.”

Several days later, McEligot said Gore met with Spalding in Boston:

“’I’ll not take a cent less than $2200,’ stated Gore.

“’Nineteen hundred dollars is my last offer,’ Spalding said impatiently. ‘I’m leaving for Chicago tonight. Take it or leave it.’”

Gore accepted and “in doing so the first holdout in organized baseball came to terms,” McEligot said.

“’All right,’ surrendered Gore. I’ll sign for $1900, but remember, I’ll be getting my $2500 a year someday. Mark my words.’

“Gore’s boast proved a truthful one. Later in his career he received that salary with the New York Giants (in 1887).”

McEligot asked the seventy-nine-year-old Gore (incorrectly said to be 81 in the article) about his batting title in his second season, 1880:

“’I was lucky enough to lead the league in batting. I guess Pop (Anson) had an off year. That’s why I won it,’ confessed the modest Mr. Gore.”

Gore told the story of being approached by Anson near the end of the 1886 season:

“’Gore, I’m considering selling you to the New York team, they are willing to pay a handsome price for you.’

‘”But, Pop, you wouldn’t let me go now. I’ve grown to like Chicago and I couldn’t bear leaving the team and the city. It’s my home, you know.’

“’But Pop must have made up his mind on a previous occasion, for he said: ‘I know but that’s the way baseball goes and probably will go after you’re through and I’m through. Yes, you’ll be with New York next year.’

Gore said he told Anson:

“’It’s OK with me then. But listen, if you trade me to New York, Chicago, under your regime, will never win another pennant.’”

McEligot said:

“Gore didn’t say this in boastful tones but with calmness and assurance. And his prediction did hold water. Chicago under Anson never experienced the thrill of another league championship.”

gore

Gore 1933

Gore, he said “appears to be no more than 60,” despite his age:

“That’s because I always took the best care of myself. I haven’t seen a sick day in seventy-five years, and I feel as good today as I did thirty years ago. I can’t get around like I used to, but still am able to walk three or four miles daily. That keeps me in good shape. I eat three hearty meals a day and my favorite diversion now is playing pinochle.”

Within four months, Gore died.

“If I was to Catch Again I’d Laugh at Shin Guards”

14 Apr

Harry Salsinger was the sports editor at The Detroit News from 1907 until his death in 1958. During spring training in 1928 he wrote:

“E.A. Krebs is deeply interested in the pictures of catchers that are sent from the southern training camps. He would like to know why the modern catcher is fitted out like one of the armored knights of King James’ court. His interest is legitimate. Mr. Krebs used to be a catcher himself.”

Edward Adam Krebs caught for teams in the Central Association, Iowa League of Professional Baseball Clubs, Three-I, and Cotton States Leagues from 1902 through 1909.

krebs05

Ed Krebs

Salsinger said Krebs:

“(B)elonged to what is now known as a the ‘old school’ and the men of his school have a habit of snickering at modern baseball. When their evidence is given full consideration there seems sound reason for their snickering.”

Krebs, in a letter to Salsinger, said:

“The only protection we had was the mask, and air-filled chest protector and a catcher’s mitt. But the air-filled chest protector was a real joke after the first month of the season. It wouldn’t hold air any longer, but we buckled it on just the same, for appearance sake, I guess. We might just as well had a piece of Brussels carpet hanging on us.”

He was also annoyed by the use of shin guards:

“We didn’t use them in those days. They weren’t used before my day, and they weren’t used long after my day.”

He said he had the scars to show for it:

krebs7

Krebs 1906

“No runner in my days could touch home plate unless he cut me up, for I had home plate completely blocked. I had both feet right on the line, between the runner and the plate. I have been cut from knee to toe many times.

“I have caught some of the fiercest outlaw pitchers the game has known. They were so wild that they could never reach the big leagues. Once in awhile I got a rap on the skin with a wild pitch, but not often, and a kid full of knots doesn’t mind a rap on the shin once in a while.”

Krebs said current pitchers threw no harder than when he played, nor was the ball “any harder,” so, “If I was to catch again (I am 48) I’d laugh at shin guards.”

A Wisconsin native, Krebs said he caught Addie Joss at Sacred Heart College in 1888, although he said he was primarily a shortstop, and the regular catcher was Red Kleinow, who played eight seasons in the major leagues between 1904 and 1911.

krebs9

Krebs, 2nd from right, center row, with Decatur, 1903.

During his first season in professional baseball, Krebs played for Fred Pfeffer during the former Chicago White Stockings’ only year as a minor league manager—with the Decatur Commodores in the three-I League in 1902:

“(Pfeffer) was the best second baseman who ever played around or anywhere the bag. I have seen Fred, while he was with us at Decatur and when he was 51 years old [sic 42], go high in the air, pull down a line drive and whip the ball to first for a double play. His throw was half done before he got back to the ground. Many times, I have seen him go deep, scoop up a grounder and slap the ball backhanded to the first baseman.”

Of Pfeffer on the base paths he said:

“I have seen Fred score from third when the catcher stood at the plate waiting for him, the ball in his hand. His body would be pointed straight at the grandstand and his toe would be touching home plate. He would be laying flat on the ground. When the catcher made a stab for Fred, he just wasn’t near the spot where the catcher thought he was.”

Krebs worked as a plumber and died in Burlington, Iowa in 1937.

“Quit Chasing Baseball Flies to Chase the Devil”

8 Apr

Rodney C. Wells was the editor of The Marshalltown (IA) Times-Republican; in 1909 he interviewed the world-famous evangelist, and second-best player to have gotten his start in Marshalltown; Billy Sunday.

billysunday

Billy Sunday

The article appeared in “The Literary Magazine,” a Chicago-based syndicated newspaper insert that appeared primarily * in newspapers in smaller (20,000 to 40,000 population) markets.

Wells said:

“Although since Billy Sunday quit chasing baseball flies to chase the devil he has been tremendously busy preaching the gospel and saving the souls of tens of thousands of men and women, the is still a thoroughbred ‘fan,’ and there isn’t a devotee of the great national game anywhere who keeps in closer touch with it than he.”

Sunday was asked the perfunctory question about the quality of the modern game versus the 19th Century:

“The individual ballplayer of today is no better than he was twenty or twenty-five years ago. In fact, I believe that taking everything into consideration, the fellows of a quarter of a century ago excelled in some ways. To be true what a man does nowadays counts for more in a game, for now they have teamwork down to perfection. In the old days we hardly knew what ‘teamwork,’ as the word applies today, was. We knew nothing about a hit and run game or the double steal—that was all unknown dope to us. Consequently, playing more as individuals, more rested on us as individuals. Hence my reason for saying that, perhaps in some ways, the boys of the old days excelled the stars of today.”

Wells told the story of Sunday coming to Marshalltown after being recruited from his home in Nevada, Iowa—where he was known as a fastest runner in town–to come to Cap Anson’s hometown to participate on the hose team of the local fire department in the state tournament.  Sunday was required to live in town for a month in order to compete with the local fire department.

“Incidentally, Sunday liked to play ball, and he was out in the pasture for practice regularly. He began to command attention in this line, not so much for his proficiency in the game, as his fleetness of foot and his great base running.”

He was recommended to Anson who “looked Sunday up and down and made him a proposition,” to join the White Stockings.  Sunday said upon his arrival:

“The first thing they ran me up against in Chicago was Fred Pfeffer, the crack second baseman of the then celebrated White Stockings. Pfeffer was the fastest man on the bases in Chicago and one of the fastest in the league. Anson had told some of the boys about my running, and they were inclined to doubt the old man’s word. It didn’t take long to settle matters, however, and the first thing I knew I was matched with Pfeffer in a foot race. It is needless to for me to go into details, but I made Pfeffer look like and ice wagon.”

pfeffer

Fred Pfeffer

Sunday acknowledged he “won a place” with Chicago “even though I wasn’t much of a batter,” because of his speed.

“Then, we hardly ever had a sub, and it was seldom that a fellow was not in his position. We played season after season with eleven or twelve men, while now it is not uncommon to see as high as thirty men in the big-league teams. Why, they carry nearly as many pitchers alone in these modern days as we did in our entire team then.”

Sunday asked:

“Where do you find a ballplayer today who was Cap Anson’s equal at all-around ball when Anson was at his best? And where can you find a catcher who would beat old Mike Kelly?

“While I consider Johnny Kling perhaps the best catcher in professional baseball today, I do not believe he was a better catcher than Mike Kelly. And Kelly wasn’t only a great catcher, but he could play anywhere. If needed he could go on any base and be perfectly at home, or he could make good in the outfield. And he was a cracking good base runner, too, even though he was heavy.

“Then there was our other catcher, Frank Flint. I shall never forget him. Grit? One never saw his equal. We didn’t wear the big mitts in those days, and a catcher behind the bat, although he was getting just as swift balls as the catchers of today, had much less protection on his hands. I saw Flint get a hard one on his left hand, that split the poor fellow’s fingers down a clean inch. Quick as a flash he reached for his shirt pocket, grabbed a rubber band, snapped it around his bleeding fingers, and gave a signal for another ball. Every finger on both of poor old Flint’s hands had been broken at some time or another, and there was never a man who played baseball who had as many marks to show for the game.”

Sunday said he regretted that “the bunting game” was not “down to the science that it is now there were a few of us who could have made good.”

He said when he played in Philadelphia he and Billy Hamilton could “do 100 yards in 10 seconds” and batting first and second in the order and would have benefited from more bunting.

Sunday told Wells he had no regrets about retiring when he was 27 years old to begin evangelizing:

“Of course, Billy Sunday is glad he left baseball, for he felt his duty in life lay elsewhere. While the evangelist has a large income from his preaching, and much larger than he would ever have had in baseball, it was not so when he voluntarily gave up baseball for his religious work.”

billysunday

Sunday

Sunday was paid $83 a month when he first began working at Chicago’s YMCA.

“This was true self-sacrifice on Sunday’s part, for he knew not what the future held in store for him.”