Tag Archives: Chicago White Stockings

“He Threw his bat at the Contemptible Coward”

22 Jul

George Van Haltren was popular with the Chicago press during his three years with the White Stockings from 1887-1889; that changed when, after jumping to the Players League, he returned to Chicago with the Brooklyn Ward’s Wonders on July 28 of 1890.

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Van Haltren

In the opening game of a three-game series, Van Haltren, said The Chicago Tribune “got himself disliked in the seventh” inning:

“He was at the bat when a swift inshoot from Silver King landed clearly on his right shoulder (other papers said the pitch struck him in the ribs). Van Haltren glared at the pitcher for a moment and then deliberately threw the bat at him.”

The Chicago Inter Ocean said:

“(H)e turned and threw the bat with all his force at King. A bat is an unwieldy thing to throw and it miscarried several yards.

“’Loafer!’ ‘Viper!’ ‘Sneak,’ yelled the crowd. ‘Put him out!’ ‘Put the loafer out.’

“Van Haltren was unmolested. He should have been fired out of the game so quickly that he would have suffered asphyxiation but umpire Pearce [sic, Grace Pierce] was meek and lowly. Such a tongue-lashing from a crowd, however, a man has not suffered in a long time.”

The Chicago Herald was most outraged:

“To Van Haltren: If you were punished as you have deserved to be punished you would be ruled out of professional baseball forever. You have broken the greatest and the best of baseball laws. Men like Van Haltren should limit themselves to huckstering, street cleaning, or sewer digging. In those vocations the thug element is properly restrained, and the labor is dignified.”

The Tribune dismissed Van Haltren’s claim that King had thrown at him on purpose as “ridiculous” because:

“To show that it was an accident King hit (Bill) Joyce in the back with the next ball pitched. Joyce didn’t throw the bat at King; he threw him a reproachful look and wandered off to the bag.”

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Silver King

Most New York newspapers ran the Chicago papers’ version of the story, but The Brooklyn Eagle would not let it pass that King hit Van Haltren by accident, or that the outfielder was in the wrong.

The paper said:

“The New York papers have not done justice to Van Haltren…In the sixth inning King apparently tried to hit (Dave) Orr with the ball, and Van Haltren on the coaching line called out, ‘Never mid that, Dave, it won’t hurt you.’ King turned to Van Haltren, and in the hearing of all, including the umpires, said, ‘I’ll knock your head off when you come to bat again.’

“Thinking to pass it off jokingly Van replied with a smile: ’Oh, no, Silver, you can’t hurt me; you haven’t speed enough.”

The Eagle said, King purposely threw both pitches at Van Haltren—the pitch that hit him being “a terrifically fast ball,” which:

“(C)aught poor Van in the ribs. It was too much for even his gentlemanly disposition, and almost crazed by pain he threw his bat at the contemptible coward.”

King took the mound again against Brooklyn in the final game of the series on July 30. Brooklyn scored three runs in the first inning.

The Chicago Tribune said:

“(T)he first ball pitched after Van Haltren had tripped up to the plate in the second inning struck the batsman on his right shin bone. Of course, everybody expected to see Van Haltren draw a knife on King, but he didn’t. He placed his bat gently on the grass and limped off to first base. He may have done some thinking, but he didn’t do it out loud.”

“I was in Sort of a Trembling Condition”

19 Jul

When George Van Haltren joined the Chicago White Stockings as a pitcher in June of 1887, California newspapers followed his progress closely.

After a disastrous first start on June 27, Van Haltren was used in relief and in right field until July 5, when he started for Chicago against the New York Giants.

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Van Haltren

The Chicago Tribune said that likely “not one of each hundred of the 7000” fans in attendance thought the White Stockings would win with the rookie on the mound:

“(T)here were many who feared that the Giants would ‘get into’ the young man and hammer out a victory.”

Van Haltren beat the Giants 15-3, allowing just one earned run in the ninth inning when he experienced a bout of the wildness that plagued his first start, and walked three batters.

The Sacramento Daily Record-Union sent a reporter to Chicago who provided West Coast fans with the first interview of “The California Wonder” since he headed East:

“George Van Haltren, hot, tired, and dusty, but with a most excusable look of triumph on his face, walked into the White Stockings clubhouse at close of today’s ‘toying’ with the New York Giants and seated himself in a chair. The crowning test of his ability as a pitcher had come and been triumphantly met.”

The reporter asked “the well-tried young pitcher,” about to embark on his first road trip with the club, how he was being accepted in Chicago:

“I’ve been treated like a prince and feel sorry that we are going away even for three weeks. Talk about Southern hospitality, if it’s anything better than what I’ve experienced here, I want to go South.”

Van Haltren was asked to compare baseball on the West Coast to the National League:

“Oh, players are very much more finished, of course, and in some respects the game is almost a new one to me. There is fielding, for instance; why, if my old partners in San Francisco could see the way the ball comes into the diamond from the field in Chicago, it would make their hair stand on end.”

But, said Van Haltren, he wasn’t necessarily having a harder time in Chicago:

“On the contrary, I’ve been most agreeably surprised in that respect. You see, there I was almost expected to strike three out of every five men who faced me, and when I came here, of course, I expected that against famous sluggers of the National League I should have to get down to just so much harder playing. Shortly after my arrival here, however, Captain Anson told me that I was not expected to do anything of the sort. There are outfielders in the Chicago nine, he said, and it was part of their business to look after balls that were knocked into the field. All I was expected to do was play good ball, and if batsmen knocked me hard, men on the outside of the diamond were to attend to the rest.”

He said he was treated well by his teammates:

“I was a stranger, and they took me in and treated me in such a way that now I feel perfectly at home. They are gentlemen from way back, and I would not ask for better company.”

Anson then interjected:

“The satisfaction is mutual my boy, and don’t let it slip your memory.”

Van Haltren was then asked about his disastrous first start—after four strong innings, the rookie walked 14 batter and hit four, although most sources said umpire Herm Doescher did the pitcher no favors:

 “Well, that was a bitter dose. When I went on the ground that day my heart was in my throat and stayed there until I had struck out the first Boston batsman to face me (Joe Hornung), the it went down nearer its natural place, but all through the game I was in sort of a trembling condition. It might not have been so bad if Doescher had given me a fair show.”

He said by the end of the game:

“I wished that I had never come East of the Rocky Mountains. That was an awful roast.

‘”Should say it was,’ growled big Edward Williamson, the Chicago shortstop, who was gravely killing flies on the wall, smashing them with his baseball pants. ‘It is a wonder the colt didn’t break down entirely,’ and the speaker made a vicious lunge at an unusually big bluebottle fly.”

He said he had just one regret; he had been informed that day that Tom Daly would no longer be his catcher for his starts. The Tribune said of his performance during the game with the Giants that, “Daly’s work behind the bat was little short of phenomenal and was best ever seen on the grounds.”

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Daly

Van Haltren told the California reporter:

“I am only sorry I am going to lose Daly, who has been catching for me. He is the greatest man behind the bat I ever saw, and I think that he’s the only man can hold (Mark) Baldwin’s terrific delivery, and so I am to have (Dell) Darling. He of course is a first-class man, too, but Daly caught first for me and I am sorry to lose him.”

In closing he asked the reporter to:

“Be sure to tell my California friends that I am enjoying myself.”

Van Haltren was 11-7 with a 3.86 ERA as the White Stocking’s third starter; he also played 27 games in the outfield and hit .206 for the third place White Stockings.

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #36

17 Jul

Bancroft on Radbourn

In 1900, in The Chicago Record, Frank Bancroft said of one of his former players:

“Charlie Radbourn did more scheming than any man that ever played baseball. When I had him in Providence, he always was springing something new and some of his ideas were exceedingly far-fetched.

“I remember on one occasion and at a critical period in a game Rad drew back his arm as if to pitch, then instead of delivering the ball to the batsman he threw it around his back to Joe Start, who was playing first base for us. It was only by the greatest effort that Start managed to get the ball. Had it gone wild the game would have gone against us as there were several men on the bases. When I questioned him regarding the throw, he claimed that it was a new idea, and that if Start had been watching himself he would have retired the runner on first.”

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Radbourn

National League Facts, 1880

The Chicago Tribune reported before the 1880 season that every National League charged $15 for a season ticket, except for the Providence Grays who charged $20.

The paper also calculated the miles each team would travel during the season (listed in order of finish):

Chicago White Stockings 6,444

Providence Grays 6,200

Cleveland Blues 5,592

Troy Trojans 4,990

Worcester Ruby Legs 6,470

Boston Red Stockings 6,240

Buffalo Bisons 5,356

Cincinnati Reds 6,294

Dan Brouthers and “Dude Contrivances”

In 1893, The Buffalo Courier reported that Brooklyn Grooms manager Dave Foutz told his players “there was nothing better than good bicycle practice to keep in condition.”

Dan Brouthers said back home in Wappinger’s Falls, New York, people “never would recognize him again if they heard he had been riding one of those dud contrivances.”

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Brouthers

The paper corrected the first baseman: “Dan evidently needs a little education in cycling. The day has passed when a rider was regarded in the light of a dude.”

“I am not Fool Enough to Give $25,000 for one man”

12 Jul

A.G. Spalding sold Abner Dalrymple, George Gore and King Kelly before the 1887 season. Having sent the message that no player on the Chicago roster was untouchable, William Albert Nimick, owner of the Pittsburgh Alleghenys approached the White Stockings owner with an offer on September 23.  In a letter to Spalding, printed in The Pittsburgh Post, Nimick wrote:

“Dear Sir—If there is any truth in the rumors that A.C. Anson’s release can be obtained, the Pittsburgh baseball club, knowing his ability as manager, captain and player, is willing to pay for his release, the largest sum ever offered for a single player, viz: $15,000. Be kind enough to let me know at once if you will consider this offer.”

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Nimick

Spalding responded to Nimick:

“Dear Sir—Yours of the 23rd inst. Containing the unprecedented offer for the release of Captain Anson just received. I confess to some surprise at the amount named and if we seriously thought of releasing Anson it would prove a very tempting proposition. My personal relations with him have always been of such a satisfactory nature that I would hate to lose him. About all that I can say at present in reply to your offer is that should we decide to release him you will be advised of that fact before anything is done.”

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 Anson

Nimick told The Post he took Spalding’s letter as an indication that “There is still some hope of our getting Anson.” He said if he could not get Anson, he would be able to acquire either second baseman Fred Pfeffer or shortstop Ned Williamson. The Post said:

“The prevailing opinion in Chicago is that the three players named cannot all remain in the Chicago club harmoniously, and that one or more of them must be transferred.”

The Chicago Tribune asked Anson about the potential of his playing elsewhere in 1888:

“I know the offer has been made and am surprised that such a sum should be offered for a baseball player. I am, of course, sorry that baseball men are sold by the different managers as so much material, without considering what they have to say in the matter, but it gives me satisfaction to know I am worth so much as a baseball player. If Nimick should buy my release from Spalding for that sum he would have to settle with me afterwards before I would play with the Alleghenys. I never expect to play with any other than the Chicago club. As long as I remain in the baseball world I hope to be where I am at.”

One month after the original offer was made, The Post reported that the Pittsburgh owner was not giving up and had made “the most sensational offer for a player on record.”

The paper said Nimick increased the price to $25,000, but the Pittsburgh magnate denied the story the following day. He told The Pittsburgh Leader:

“I am not fool enough to give $25,000 for one man.”

Nimick also denied a rumor that he had offered $10,000 for Chicago pitcher John Clarkson, who would be sold to Boston for that price six months later. He told the paper Pittsburgh was, “fixed as well if not better than any other club” for pitching.

The Pittsburgh papers and Nimick held out hope of acquiring at least one of the three Chicago stars until November, when Spalding was quoted in The Press putting an end to the speculation:

“(Nimick) offered $15,000 for Anson and would have given more if he could have been bought. He won’t leave Chicago, however. I have 16 players signed or it least equal to it.”

Anson, Williamson, and Pfeffer all remained in Chicago.  Nimick bought Fred Dunlap from Detroit, Al Maul from Philadelphia, and Billy Sunday from Chicago—the three were secured for roughly half of what was offered for Anson.

The Alleghenys were 62-72 and finished sixth for the second straight season; Anson guided Chicago to a 77-58 second place finish.

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #35

1 Jul

Comiskey versus Anson

In 1888, Ren Mulford, writing in the Cincinnati Times-Star compared Charlie Comiskey to Cap Anson:

Charles Comiskey

Charles Comiskey

“Charlie Comiskey, who for several years has successfully piloted the St. Louis Browns to victory, possesses many of the characteristics which made Anson famous. He teaches his men to sacrifice everything in order to advance the interests of the club, but unlike Anson he never humiliates his men on the field. When it is necessary to reprimand any of them for an error or misconduct, he does it quietly. He uses good judgment in picking up players but lacks patience in developing the men.”

Latham on Comiskey

Arlie Latham and Charles Comiskey were together with the St. Louis Brown from 1883-1889, and Latham jumped the Browns to join the Players League with Comiskey in 1890, helping to form the Chicago Pirates–“The greatest team ever organized.” But from the beginning the team was beset with discipline issues and struggled.

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 Latham

Comiskey benched Latham, who was hitting just .229, in July.  The Chicago Tribune said several attempts were made to trade Latham, and when nothing materialized, he requested to be released and he was on July 29.

Latham returned to the National League, joining the Cincinnati Reds, then aired out his grievances with his former boss and friend when he was with the Reds in Boston in August. The Boston Globe’s Time Murnane said Latham was at the United States Hotel talking to members of the Pittsburgh Burghers who were in town playing Boston’s Brotherhood club:

“Some of Pittsburgh’s Players League boys were anxious to know why Latham was released from Chicago.

“’Comiskey did it,’ was his answer. ‘He has been after me for some time, and said I was playing crooked ball. I was laid off in St. Louis last season for the same thing, but this year Commie was cross and ugly all the time.’

“’You see, he has plenty of money and can afford to be stiff. I dropped three short fly balls in the last game I played in Chicago and Comiskey came and told me that he was on to me and would stand it no longer.’

“’I asked for my release and got it that night. My arm was very sore, but the other men would not believe it. I wanted to stay in the Players’ League and sent word to Al Johnson (owner of the Cleveland Infants) saying I was open for engagement.’”

Latham alleged that Comiskey or someone connected with the Chicago club had a role in blackballing him from the league:

“’I heard from (Johnson) once and then he stopped. I suppose the Chicago people interfered.’”

The Chicago Tribune said Latham actually received an offer from Cleveland but joined the Reds when they offered more money.

Murnane said when Latham arrived in Cincinnati, in an attempt to “get some good work out of the ‘Dude,’” that Reds manager Tom Loftus made him captain:

“(Latham) has been known for years as one who could keep the boys all on the smile while he shirked fast grounders.”

But Murnane claimed he had already worn out his welcome with some of the Reds:

“Since Latham’s release by Chicago he has taken pains to run down the Players’ League until the members of that organization have soured on him (two days earlier) he went out of his way to abuse the Brotherhood, and the result is that he is already getting himself disliked by several level-headed members of his own team.”

Latham stayed with the Reds with five seasons, and Comiskey again became his manager from 1892-1894.

Blame it on Hulbert

After winning the inaugural National League pennant in 1876 with a 52-14 record, expectations were high for the Chicago White Stockings in 1877.

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Hulbert

After a 26-33 fifth place finish, The Chicago Evening Post said the blame rested in one place:

“There are a great many men in America who do not know how to run a ball club, and Mr. (William) Hulbert, President of the Chicago club, appears to be one of the most conspicuous. The public is familiar with the fact that this year’s White Stocking Nine was more of a disgrace to the city than a credit and there was a considerable wonderment as to why a nine that in 1876 swept everything before it, was in 1877, obliged to content itself with the last place in the championship struggle [sic, Chicago finished fifth in the six-team league).

“From all that can be learned, it would seem that part of the season’s ill success should be attributed to the manner in which the men have been treated by Mr. Hulbert. There are complaints that he was continually finding fault, until the men became discouraged and lost heart in their work. Just how true this is The Post does not propose to determine, but simply gives publicity to a letter from Mr. Hulbert to Paul Hines, in which he distinctly charges Hines with not trying to play.”

According to The Chicago Tribune, the letter, sent in July, suggested that Hines was not “playing half as well,” in 1877 as he had the previous season—Hines’ average dropped from .331 to .280.

The Post said the letter showed how little Hulbert knew:

“To those who have attended the games this season this charge will bring a smile, as Hines is notoriously one of the hardest working and most reliable ballplayers in the country.”

The White Stockings finished fourth the following two seasons, but won back-to back pennants in 1880 and ’81, the final two before Hulbert’s death in April of 1882—the White Stockings won their third straight pennant that year.

“As a Trickster he was a Marvel”

12 Jun

Dan Brouthers was working at the Polo Grounds in 1917—after John McGraw got Brouthers hired, he held a variety of jobs there according to contemporary news accounts, including night watchman, custodian, and operating the gate at the press entrance to the ballpark—when The New York World asked him to reminisce about some of the his experiences as a player.

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Dan Brouthers

Brouthers said he was told by McGraw when he had earlier scouted for the Giants, “brains and speed are what you are to look for.”

Brouthers said:

“If you get hold of a good, speedy man, with something more than a bone above the ears, you probably have the makings of a good ball player.”

He said players with the combination of brains and a willingness to flout the rules had won many games when he was playing:

”It may be that the poorer team had a fox on it somewhere, and every time the umps are asleep or looking the other way, he pulls one over…There are of course, some people who believe in playing baseball on the level. But a good many other birds realize that it is played on a diamond, and so take advantage of all corners.”

One player stood out in that category for Brouthers:

“Mike (King) Kelly was a shark for that sort of thing. He could have sold earmuffs in the Philippines or palm-leaf fans in Alaska. He was a wonder as a baseball player, but as a trickster he was a marvel. Whenever he was on the field the umpires spent half their time combing the wool away from their eyes.”

Brouthers described The King:

“He was very little short of six feet tall, weighed in the neighborhood of 180 pounds, had a fine, full mustache which was the fashion in those days and a bluff, genial manner that disarmed suspicion and made you like him from the first.”

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Kelly

He said:

“Mike was the idol of the fanatics, and anything he did was right…He was so popular that he had three nicknames—The King of the Diamond, The Only Kel, and the $10,000 Beauty…Kelly was as full of tricks as a monkey, and couldn’t stand to lose a game if he could win it—by any means at all.”

Brouthers provided his version of the most famous story about Kelly, which he said happened when they were both with the Boston Reds in the Players League in 1890:

“One afternoon Kel was sitting on the bench, while (Charlie) Bennett was catching.”

Brouthers is confusing his former teammate with the Detroit Wolverines—Bennett–with Morgan Murphy and William “Pop” Swett who were the other two catchers in addition to Kelly on the club.

“The game was close, but Kel had made up his mind we had to win it and had his peepers skinned for a chance to put one over. Suddenly the man at bat knocked a high foul that Kelly saw (the catcher) could not catch. It is hardly likely that what Kelly did would have occurred to any other manager. What Kel did was jump up and run for the foul ball at the top of his speed. And while running for it he kept shouting to the umpire that he had taken (the catcher) out of the game and had substituted himself. Then he caught the foul ball.

“According to Mike’s way of doping it out, it was strictly according to Hoyle.”

Brouthers said Kelly then walked over to the catcher and took his mask and glove:

“Then the astonished umpire and the spectators came out of their trance at the same time and there was a yell from both of them. Kel insisted everything was O.K. In fact, he didn’t even concede there was room for an argument. There was nearly a riot over the affair, but it ended by Kelly being shooed back to the bench, and the batter being called safe. That one was a little too raw for the ump. But Kel wore an injured air all the rest of the game, and although the crowd knew he was wrong, they all sympathized with him.”

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Cartoon by Herb Roth of The New York World which accompanied the article

Brouthers said Kelly had more success with other stunts:

“When I was with Detroit Kel was playing with Anson’s Chicago club. At a game in Detroit, when I came to bat in the ninth inning, there were two out and three on base. Moments like that are big ones in a batter’s life, and I got a toe hold and made my mind to tear the cover off the first good one that came across. I believe we needed three runs too. Kel was playing in the field that day. I picked out one that I liked and hit it hard enough to drive it out of the lot. I was sure the ball was going over the fence, because Kelly was running in that direction like a mountain goat. Just as he got near the fence, he made a wonderful jump and got the ball. That made three out; the game was over, and Kel kept running into the clubhouse, taking the ball with him. We lost the game, of course.

“Some time later Kel confessed to me that the ball he apparently caught he had never even touched. It had cleared the fence by 10 feet!”

Brouthers said Kelly often hid a ball in the outfield, “opposing teams didn’t know this at the time. If they had, Kel probably would have died a violent death.”

“One foggy afternoon in Philadelphia, with Phil Powers umpiring, Philadelphia had a man on base when Sam Thomson came to bat. Sam picked out one he liked, and, as we found out later, poled it clear over the right field fence. But because of the fog the umpire couldn’t follow the flight of the ball.

“Now Kelly had a ball hidden in the long grass near the fence, and when Thompson made his hit, Kelly never looked at the ball in play at all, but dived for the extra ball. He fumbled around a bit as though he were looking for it and then picked it up and made an accurate throw to home, putting out the man who had been on first when the ball was hit.”

Brouthers said Thompson was sure the ball had cleared the fence and, “roared like a lion and called down the vengeance of high heaven” on Powers.

“And while he was ranting and roaring, Kelly, with an injured and innocent air, was calmly proving that the ball never went near the fence at all. Powers believed Kelly and his own eyesight, and Thompson, almost crying with rage, was fined for kicking.”

Brouthers said Kelly showed of his “foxiness” coaching third base as well.

“If a ball had been fouled by the man at bat and hit the grandstand, Kelly would demand that the pitcher throw it to him, in order that Kelly might be sure it was not cut or ripped. He only pulled this stunt when there was a man on base. Then the pitcher, if he were not wise, would throw the ball to Kelly. Kelly, instead of catching it, would dodge it, and allow it to roll past him, and the man on base would streak for home. And probably get there before the ball could be returned. Of course, this only worked once on the same man, but it sometimes helped to win a game.”

Brouthers also said Kelly attempted to use a potato as a ball in the 1880s:

“I can remember one time he took a potato to right field with him, and when a hit ball bounded past him, he made believe he had caught it, and then turning whipped the potato to the second baseman. The second baseman relayed the potato to third in order to get the man trying for that base. And he might have got him but for the fact that the potato was not a solid one and burst when the third baseman caught it.”

Brouthers said Kelly “was the most genial fellow in the world off the diamond,” but considered umpires “an eyesore.” He said “he would stand as close to him as he could and jaw him until the ump would run up a $100 fine on him in $5 and $10 clips. But that didn’t work the King any, because someone else always paid his fines.”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #34

6 Jun

Trash Talk, 1887

In June of 1887 the Cincinnati Red Stockings dropped to sixth place in the American Association pennant race; Ren Mulford of The Cincinnati Enquirer assured his readers the team would not remain in the basement. The St. Louis Post Dispatch responded:

“Ren Mulford Jr., of Cincinnati, whoever he is, is quite a chatty baseball writer, and his apologies for the Cincinnati club are a mark of rare ability. Mr. Mulford, whoever he is, thinks the Reds will not be at the sixth place when the season ends, but Mr. Mulford, whoever he is, will probably find out his mistake later on.”

ren-mulford

Ren Mulford

Mulford was correct, the Red Stockings went 61-33 the rest of the way, finishing second—but it was not enough to catch the St. Louis Browns who won the pennant by 14 games.

Burns on Anson, 1898

Tom Burns, in the process of leading the Chicago Orphans to a fourth-place finish in 1898, told Henry Zuber of The Cincinnati Times-Star that Cap Anson was not primarily responsible for the reputation he built as a great manager in the 1880s:

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Tom Burns

“Anson had a team that could think for itself. It was not necessary for him to direct the play of the team on the field, for the reason that the players were far above the average in baseball intelligence, and worked and studied together without the aid or suggestions of the manager. The late Mike Kelly carried the leading brainery of the team, and it was he, with the aid of the other baseball-intelligent men of the team, that invented and carried out any plans and tricks that proved such an improvement to the game and made the White Stockings the famous team they were.”

Anson’s teams finished first or second nine times from 1880-1891, from 1892 until he left the team in 1898 his teams finished no better than fourth.

Louisville Patriotism, 1898

At the outset of the Spanish-American War in April of 1888, The Cincinnati Post said of Harry Pulliam’s Louisville Colonels:

pulliam

Harry Pulliam

“Patriotism is running amuck among the Colonels. They purchased gaudy red, white, and blue stockings for yesterday’s game, and each player wore a tiny United States flag in his cap band. President Pulliam is thinking of raising a regiment. ‘The governor of Kentucky,’ said the happy executive, ‘is having all sorts of trouble. You know everybody worth mentioning in our state is a colonel, or considers he is of that rank. All wish to enlist, but no one is ready to accept a commission below that of colonel.”

Comiskey on “ungrateful” players, 1894

By 1894, Charles Comiskey, in his last year as a major league player and manager and leading the Reds to a 55-75 tenth place finish, told The Cincinnati Post his opinion of players had changed:

Charles Comiskey

Comiskey

“Ball players are often accused of being and ungrateful lot of men. I used to defend them on this charge, but I must confess that recently I have come to the conclusion that the average player is inclined to throw down his best friend. It’s a broad assertion, but my experience has been a severe one. There are some true men playing the game, but you can quickly pick them out of every team.”

“The Hardest Loser the Game Ever Knew”

3 Apr

During the same week Billy Sunday appeared at one of his largest revivals—preaching in front of an estimated 10,000 people in Spokane, Washington—Cap Anson was telling a judge in Chicago that he was “Busted,” unable to pay a $111 debt.

billysunday

Billy Sunday

Sunday told a reporter for the Associated Press in Spokane that he would be happy to raise money for his former teammate and manager—an offer Anson refused.  He also talked about his admiration for Anson and his impact on the game:

“Anson gave Chicago four pennant winners. He developed some of the greatest baseball players the game ever knew right in Chicago—made stars of raw kids. Look at Bill Lange, in my judgment the greatest outfielder the game ever produced. Anson made him.”

Sunday said:

“No other man gave so much of his best efforts for so long a time for any city since the game of baseball became popular…He took his job seriously. He was the hardest loser the game ever knew. I tell you, it used to be blue smoke in that old dressing room after those games that we lost by carelessness or dumb playing. He was fighting every minute for every game, no matter how big a lead the other fellows had.”

Sunday, who had been invited to Spokane originally by temperance advocates, claimed his former manager inspired him in that belief:

“Anson was a credit to the game of baseball. He was a model for the other players to follow, at least while I was under him. He had been a hard drinker until one day in 1876—the boys told me about this-he got into a fight at Philadelphia in a crowd after a hard game. It took eight policemen to handle him.

“The papers made a big muss about it, called him a rowdy, drunken bum—or something in the slang of those days that meant the same thing.”

Sunday said the incident “straightened Anson up,” and:

“He saw where whiskey was leading him to and he cut it out—right then and there—for all time. He never drinks, so far as I know, and while he tolerated it among other Chicago players, it was only because in those days a captain almost had to, and he counseled the boys against it, continually and repeatedly.”

And he said his former manager knew how to handle his players:

“Cap used to give me a jacking up for some ‘bonehead’ play, but he always knew just how to make me feel ashamed of myself without making me mad. He never violated a fellow’s inner instincts of manliness, and after I was converted I enjoyed playing under Anson just as much as I did before.”

In the end, Sunday said Anson was alone among his peers:

“I have followed baseball for nearly 30 years, and I believe that Anson stands as an absolutely unique character in the history of the game. There never was anybody like him before; there never has been anybody like him since.”

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Anson

Three years later, when Anson was trying to dig out of another financial hole, traveling the small theater circuit in the Midwest, he “lost himself in reflection” talking about Sunday to The Decatur (IL) Herald:

“If Billy Sunday chases the devil as fast as he used to circle the bases, he’ll have the old boy nailed at the plate.”

Anson contradicted the story he and Sunday would later tell about his aunt being responsible for the discovery of Sunday in Anson’s native Marshalltown, Iowa.

He told the paper his father and brother played with Sunday and “tipped him off as a mighty fast man.”

He said:

“Sunday was playing on the home team, running with the hose cart and driving a hearse, I believe, for a furniture store. He wasn’t making more than $12 a week. I asked him if he waned to play professional ball. ‘Sure,’ he said.”

Anson also told the not quite fully accurate and slightly different version of the story—which first appeared in his 1900 autobiography– about Sunday’s initial days with the White Stockings:

“Funny thing about Billy’s first appearance in the game. He was at bat 12 straight times without ever touching the ball. The 13th time he fouled it. I suppose any other manager would have released him, but I liked the fighting qualities of the fellow and held on to him.”

Anson also said Sunday took “more desperate chances in a game” than any other player:

“Some of the chances he took scared me. He didn’t get away with all of them, but he won out the percentage, just the same as he is doing today.”

As for Sunday’s conversion:

“Sunday was always religiously inclined. From the very start he refused to play baseball on Sunday. I always looked on him as a Christian young man.”

“Spalding Should Never Permit a Chicago Audience to be so Insulted Again”

20 Mar

George Van Haltren didn’t instantly live up to his billing.

The 21-year-old, then pitcher, had finally decided to leave California in June, after the death of his mother—he had refused to come East for more than a year while his mother was ill. His refusal to come to Chicago had resulted in threats of being blacklisted from White Stockings’ owner A. G. Spaulding.

The Oakland Tribune said Van Haltren’s current club, the Greenhood and Morans had offered him $300 a month to stay in California.

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Van Haltren

The impending arrival of Van Haltren was big new in the Chicago papers.  With the team struggling in fourth place, The Chicago Daily Journal said Van Haltren was “depended upon to help (John) Clarkson and (Mark) Baldwin boost the club.’ The paper left readers with high expectations:

“Two years ago he commenced playing ball as a catcher, but after a year at the receiving end of the battery, he decided it was better to give than to receive…In his first four games he struck out 55 men; in a game a little later he struck out three consecutive batters on nine pitched balls, and in another game he made a record of 19 strike outs in a nine inning game.”

Van Haltren’s arrival for his start, against Boston, was greeted with fanfare and received as much coverage in West Coast newspapers as in Chicago.  The scene, described by The Oakland Tribune:

“Eight thousand people witnessed the game.  The Chicagos marched on the diamond with Van Haltren and Captain Anson in the lead, then followed by the band and th other players of the club.  When they arrived at the home plate Anson and Van Haltren took off their caps, and the latter was loudly cheered.”

The Chicago Tribune said Van Haltren was sharp for four innings, striking out the first batter he faced:

“(He) retired Joe Hornung on strikes and the crowd manifested its pleasure.”

The Beaneaters scored two unearned runs in the first, but the White Stockings responded with five in the first and scored two more runs in the third.  Through four innings Van Haltren allowed just one hit.

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Van Haltren

The Boston Globe said what came next:

“Spalding’s wonder, the famous left-handed pitcher Van Haltren, the terror of the Pacific slope, made his debut as a league pitcher and for four innings he was a king with the crowd. After that he lost all control of the ball and all the Bostons had to do to get to first was to wait for five balls.”

Beginning in the fifth, Van Haltren “sent 14 men to first on balls, besides hitting four with the ball, and (Tom) Daly, who caught him for the first time, saved him about 10 wild pitches.”

The Chicago and California papers saw Van Haltren’s implosion differently—they blamed umpire Herm Doscher.  The Chicago Tribune said:

“Not only was his judgment on balls and strikes miserable, but he lacks a knowledge of the rules of the game.”

The Chicago Inter Ocean (which estimated the crowd at 7,000, not 8,000) said fans “witnessed the rankest case of robbery by an umpire that has ever taken place in the city. President Spalding should never permit a Chicago audience to be so insulted again.”

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Doescher

The Oakland Tribune called Doscher “Incredibly unfair and incorrect,” and The San Francisco Examiner claimed Doscher was confused by Van Haltern’s curve ball:

“Doescher’s [sic] decisions of balls were drawn from the direction of the ball when at least three feet away from the plate, losing all sight of the ultimate course of the curves at the vital spot.”

Even The Boston Post agreed that Doscher’s umpiring was “erratic” and that he participated in “bad discrimination against Van Haltren.”

Despite his meltdown—or Doscher’s incompetence—Van Haltren entered the ninth with the game tied at 11.

The Beaneaters scored six runs in the ninth after three walks—The Chicago Daily News said, “fully one-half the balls called on Van Haltren should have been strikes.”  Van Haltren was also rattled by second baseman Fred Pfeffer’s second error of the game and two hits—or as The Chicago Tribune put it:

“(Edward ‘Pop’) Tate got his base on balls after Van Haltren had struck him out fairly; (Michael ‘Kid’) Madden was hit by the ball and given his base; Pfeffer’s error gave (King) Kelly first and filled the bases.  Then (Bobby) Wheelock was given his base on balls after about six strikes.”

Having given up the lead, Van Haltren then gave up a triple to Boston’s Bill Nash, Nash scored on a single by Ezra Sutton and the Chicago went down in order in the ninth.

The phenom left-hander from California lost his first game 17-11, walked 16 and hit three batters.

The Oakland Tribune said:

“A correspondent saw Captain Anson and was informed the management of the White Stockings were perfectly satisfied with the new pitcher, who, considering all circumstances, made a good showing as a National League player.”

Anson started Van Haltren in right field the following day and thought enough of him to use him in relief of John Clarkson in the seventh inning, The Chicago Daily News said of his second stint on the mound:

“(He) did remarkably well, staking out such batsmen as Hornung, Nash and Johnson.  The general opinion here is that when he becomes used to Eastern ways, he will prove the best pitcher of the year.”

Van Haltren did not prove to be “pitcher of the year,” he finished 11-7 with a 3.86 ERA, but walked just 50 batters in 152 innings after walking 16 in his first nine.

But he was treated like the “pitcher of the year” when he returned home.

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Van Haltren

The San Francisco Examiner said:

“George Van Haltren is, beyond all question entitles to rank as the premier pitcher of California, and the most invidious of our Eastern friends will not begrudge us the right to boast a little about the stalwart young fellow who has done so much in the East to puzzle the crack batsmen beyond the Rockies, and at the same time prove to the older but not more progressive East what kind of products we raise here in California…It is believed that The Examiner’s readers will agree that a finer specimen of young America, of Californian or any other growth, than George Van Haltren would be hard to find.”

Van Haltren never excelled as a pitcher but became one of the best leadoff men of the 19th Century.

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things: Lost Quotes

11 Feb

Hughie Jennings on Ossie Vitt, 1915

Hughey Jennings told The Detroit News in 1915:

“Vitt is the most valuable player in the American League.  He is the most valuable because he can play three positions in the infield.  He is also an excellent outfielder and can field with the best of them.  Vitt lacks the class to gain a regular position because he cannot hit.”

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Ossie Vitt

Over ten seasons with the Tigers and Red Sox, Vitt hit just .238

A White Stockings Player on George Washington Bradley, 1876

After winning their first four games of the National League’s inaugural season—and scoring 40 runs–the Chicago White Stockings were shut out by St. Louis pitcher George Washington Bradley on May 5, 1876; Bradley yielded just two hits in the 1-0 win.  An unnamed Chicago player was quoted by The St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

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Bradley

 “A man might just as well try to successfully strike his mother-in-law as one of his balls.”

Bill Terry on John McGraw, 1934

Despite their often-strained relationship—they once went two years without speaking, Bill Terry, speaking to The Associated Press, said of John McGraw after the man who managed him and whom he replaced as manager, died in 1934:

“I don’t think there ever will be another manager as great as McGraw.  I had my little arguments with him but there was always a soft spot in my heart.  He was the only man I ever played big league ball for, and to hear that a man who has spent his whole life in baseball has gone makes me feel humble.  We will call off practice on the day of his funeral.”

Hal Schumacher on John McGraw, 1934

Hal Schumacher played for John McGraw as a 20-year-old rookie in 1931, and for part of 1932 before McGraw was replaced by Bill Terry.  When McGraw died in 1934, Schumacher told The Associated Press:

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McGraw

“I never could understand his reputation as an iron-fisted ruler.  I never heard him bawl out a rookie.”

Harry Wright on fans and winning, 1888

Harry Wright, told The Pittsburgh Press about the difference between how fans treated winning clubs in 1888 versus his time with the Red Stockings in the 1870s:

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 Wright

“I won the championship six times, and the most we ever got was an oyster supper.  Now the whole town turns out to meet the boys when they return from a fairly successful trip.  They are learning how to appreciate pennant winners nowadays.”

Dick Hoblitzel on his “X-Ray Eye,” 1911

Dick Hoblitzel told The Cincinnati Times-Star in the spring of 1911 he was “training his batting eye,” and:

“(B)elieves he will soon be able to count the stitches on a ball before it leaves the pitcher’s hand.  ‘It’s the X-ray eye that does this,’ he avers, and he has made a bet of a suit of clothes that he will finish in the .275 class or better.”

Hoblitzel, perhaps as a result of his “X-ray eye,” hit.289 in 1911.

Tommy Corcoran on Umpiring, 1897

Tommy Corcoran told a Sporting Life correspondent in 1897:

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Corcoran

I believe I’d rather carry scrap iron for the same money than umpire a ball game.  There is no vocation in which there is less sympathy or charity than in baseball.  It must be awful for an old player to listen to the abuse he has to stand from those he once chummed with.  There is an illustration of the heartlessness of some players.  That umpire’s playing days are over, or he wouldn’t be an umpire.  He is trying to earn a living and his old comrades won’t let him.”