Tag Archives: Chief Meyers

“You can’t Rattle Him”

1 Apr

luderuscoke

A 1916 advertisement for Coca-Cola featuring Fred Luderus:

“Here’s the First Baseman and Captain of the Champion Phillies in 1915–watch him this season.

“Fred Luderus drinks Coca-Cola.”

Christy Mathewson told Harold Dekalb “Speed” Johnson of The Chicago Record Herald a story about an attempt by Giants Manager John McGraw to rattle Luderus at the plate:

“‘I hear you can kid Luderus along,’ said the Little Napoleon to (catcher John) Chief Meyers.’

“‘Josh him a little when he comes to bat.’

“‘Ludie lumbered to the pan in the second round toting a heavy bludgeon and an innocent smile.  Meyers was ‘set’ for him.  He fixed his fingers in a fake signal and then addressed Ludie.’

“‘Look down into my glove,’ invited the noble redman.  ‘The best hitters steal the signs, you know.’

“‘Luderus didn’t answer.  The pitcher wound up and buzzed one over the outside corner.  Fred’s mace swung around with a crash and he meandered nonchalantly around the circuit for a homer.’

“‘I don’t need to steal the signs to hit that pitcher,’ he told Meyers as he crossed the plate.  ‘Besides, they pulled that gag on me in the bushes long ago.’

“‘I don’t want you to talk to that fellow anymore,’ ordered McGraw when the Chief finally got back to the bench.  ‘You can’t rattle him.”

Luderus

Luderus

Incidentally, in a case of plagiarism or great minds thinking alike, the lede of Johnson’s story read:

“He’s no Chase on the defense, nor a  Daubert in batting, nor a Merkle on the basepaths, but he’s the most underrated star in baseball today.”

Nearly a year earlier, John “J.C.” Kofoed of The Philadelphia Record wrote in “Baseball Magazine:”

“He is not a McInnes on the defense, nor a Daubert in batting, nor a Merkle on the basepaths…He is the most under-rated man in baseball today.”

 

“Many say he was so Modest he Hated to have his Picture Taken”

30 Mar

In the winter of 1918 Malcolm MacLean of The Chicago Evening Post wrote about the peculiar reactions of a few players to photographers:

“It may happen that a pitcher does a phenomenal streak of work and his photo should run.  It may be the only one of him in stock that has been used time and again—so often, in fact, that it is all but worn out.

“Hence it is necessary for a photographer to snap said fellow’s photo on the ball field.  Ninety-nine times out of a hundred this is a pipe. Yet there are exceptions.”

MacLean said he recalled a handful if examples of players refusing:

“In practically every case it was that uncanny thing known as ‘baseball superstition’ that made it difficult, almost impossible, to get them to pose.

(Urban) Red Faber, of the White Sox, on two occasions (during the 1917 season) lost ball games after he had been snapped.  So he announced his intention of refusing to pose again until the White Sox won the American League championship.  Another member of the Sox, Charles (Swede) Risberg, joined him in the declaration. And they stuck to it.

Red Faber

Red Faber

“The day after the title was clinched both Faber and Risberg were among the easiest fellows on the squad to photograph.  In their case it was ‘superstition’ and we don’t know they could be blamed.  If a player keeps winning, only to have the streak smashed the day his photo is taken, well we have an idea we’d do the same thing.”

MacLean said during Rube Marquard’s 19-game winning streak the Giants’ pitcher refused to allow a Chicago photographer to take his picture.  MacLean said he and a cameraman approached the pitcher on July 8, 1912:

 “’Nothing doing,’ he said.  ‘Come around any time you want after I’ve lost a game and you’re welcome to all you want.’  It so happened that Rube lost that day, Jimmy Lavender hanging the bee on him, and the following afternoon Rube posed and posed and posed.”

MacLean said Jim Thorpe was a particularly difficult subject to photograph when he began his major league career, but not due to superstition:

“When Thorpe first came to Chicago with the Giants, he was the most widely advertised athlete in the world.  He was fresh from his triumphs in Sweden on the track field and from the gridiron at Carlisle.

“Many say he was so modest he hated to have his picture taken.  At any rate, many a film and plate was wasted on him because he would turn his face away, throw up his arm in front of him, or do something also to ruin the exposure.”

Jim Thorpe--Airedale fan

Jim Thorpe

Another difficult member of the Giants was catcher John “Chief” Meyers, who MacLean said would brush past photographers, saying:

“’Aw, you’ve got all of me you want,’ It was decidedly exasperating, especially when publicity is what helps keep major leaguers in the majors.”

Two other oft-photographed pitchers had their own particular quirks.

MacLean said:

“It will surprise many to learn that Ed Walsh, of the White Sox…refused to pose on the day he was expected to pitch…Few men were snapped so frequently as Ed when he was in his prime, yet we venture to say no man ever got a photo of him—when Ed knew it—on the day he was to work.

Eddie Plank, of the Athletics…was one of the easiest of all men to photograph, but it was exceedingly difficult to get a good one of him.  The reason was he kept tossing stones at the camera or twisting up his face in some farcical fashion.  And when other players were being taken Ed would throw peddles at them, trying to have them distort their faces.”

Eddie Plank

Eddie Plank

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things #19

23 Mar

“Strikes Never got a Pitcher Anything,” 1911

Two days before he collapsed on the field in Chattanooga, Tennessee on April 3, 1911 (and died 11 days later) Addie Joss spoke about pitching with a reporter for the final time.

Joss and the Cleveland Naps were in New Orleans when he told The Associated Press:

“Every time I fool a batter and he misses the ball I feel disappointed.

“Strikes never got a pitcher anything.  Strikeouts don’t win baseball games and increase a man’s salary.  It’s the man who wins games who gets the credit.

Addie Joss

Addie Joss

“What I have said may sound heretical.  But just think it over for a moment, and you will see why a pitcher should want the batter to connect when he is outguessed.

“When the pitcher outguesses the batter the batter is off his balance.  The chances are ten to one he hits at the ball in a half-hearted way.  The chances are twenty to one that if he does connect he will be an easy out.

“Now when that fellow strikes and misses don’t you see that the pitcher must start all over again?  The last strike is just as hard to get as the first one.  When a man misses a ball on which he has been fooled it is just like having an entirely new turn at bat.”

“In the Second Inning, things began to Happen,” 1909

William “Dolly” Gray was a 30-year-old rookie with the Senators in 1909; he came to Washington after pitching seven years for the Los Angeles Angels in the Pacific Coast League compiling a 117-65 record.  That season he set a record which still stands: the most walks in an inning.

Dolly Gray

Dolly Gray

In 1923, in his syndicated column, Umpire Billy Evans called the game in which it happened, “The weirdest game I have ever seen.”

Evans said of the August 28, 1909, game:

“Gray allowed only one hit—a very questionable one—yet he was beaten 6 to 4. Not an error was made by his supporting cast…I umpired the game, and can recall the happenings of the unusual game as vividly as if they were just being staged.”

[…]

“In the second inning, things began to happen.  Pat Dougherty led off with a high bounder to Bob Unglaub, playing first base for Washington.  Unglaub jumped after it, the ball struck the top of his glove and was deflected into right field.  It was scored as a hit, but I have always thought that Unglaub should have easily handled the ball.

After Dougherty had reached first base, Gray developed a streak of wildness—the most unusual streak I have ever seen.  He walked seven men in succession, forcing in five runs.  The count was three and two on practically every batter.  A couple of outs and another base on balls were responsible for the sixth run of the inning.

Joe Cantillon, managing the Washington club, was short on pitchers at the time and let Gray take his medicine.  In the next inning Gray recovered control and for the rest of the game held the Sox runless and hitless.  Washington staged several rallies and Chicago had a hard time winning 6 to 4…Gray, who really pitched a no-hit game, was beaten…That game stands out in my memory as the most peculiar ball game I ever worked.”

The Box Score

The Box Score

Gray walked 69 batters in the other 217 innings he pitched in 1909.  His hard luck that day in August of 1909 extended for the duration of his short big league career; in three seasons with the Senators he posted a 3.52 ERA and was 15-51.

Meyers’ “Gnarled and Broken” Hand

Like all catchers of his era, John “Chief” Meyers’ hands were, as The New York Tribune described them “gnarled and broken.”

But the paper said he had found a cure after being drafted into the marines in November of 1918:

“(At Paris Island, Meyers) hands toyed with a Springfield, and when he swung the bat in the bi-weekly baseball games on the sand diamond at the great Marine Corps Training Station, where there is no fence, the horsehide pellet generally soared well out into the sea.

Chief Meyers

Chief Meyers

“Meyers says that his marine training has done wonders for him and that it has made him good for many more seasons behind the bat.”

After his discharge, the 38-year-old Meyers played just one more season, with the New Haven Weissmen in the Eastern League, hitting .301.

 

On the Road with the Giants, 1912

18 Jan

As the New York Giants were cruising to the National League Pennant in 1912—they won by 10 games and were never in second place after May 20—New York’s catcher John “Chief” Meyers provided fans with a look at life with the Giants.

Chief Meyers

Chief Meyers

The article was written for The Associated Press—most likely by Jim McBeth of The New York American, who acted most often as Meyers’ ghostwriter:

“After the last ball of the game is fielded and the crowd begins to pour out of the park and the players disappear into the clubhouse—what then?

“The fans read in their papers next morning: ‘New York at Pittsburgh’ or ‘New York at Boston,’ or something like that.  And until the bulletin boards begin to put up the score, inning by inning, in the afternoon, they know little of nothing about the men they have been watching and cheering.

“What have ballplayers been doing in the meantime?”

Meyers explained life on the road:

“Well, suppose we’ve just finished a game on the Polo Grounds.  Our schedule calls for a battle with the Pirates in their home park.  Of course, the first thing is to get there, and we get there in easier and better fashion than any other sort of a traveler.

“We have two private Pullman cars of our own, always, and they are our traveling home We assemble at the railroad station—sometimes forty strong—and just pile aboard and make ourselves comfortable.

“In the first place, I might mention the make-up of our party.  We carry twenty-five players, as many as the rules allow; John McGraw, the manager; Wilbert Robinson, coach and assistant manager; the club secretary and his assistant; Dr. Finley the club physician;  Ed Mackall, the club trainer; Dick Hennessy, our kid mascot, and as many as ten or twelve newspaper writers especially towards the end of a close race.”

The 1912 Giants

The 1912 Giants

As for accommodations:

“If he is a regular he takes possession of a seat which indicates that his berth when it is made up will be a ‘lower.’ That’s an absolute rule.  Nothing but the cream for the first string players.

“As soon as the train pulls out the boys go to their favorite amusements—card playing, reading, ‘fanning.’  Don’t think a player finishes a game when he sheds his spangles.  He doesn’t.  Many a game is played all over again as soon as the boys get together.

“There’s a little quartet of us who are pinochle fans—(James ‘Doc’) Crandall, (Art) Fletcher, (David ‘Beals’) Becker and myself—a fine lot of Dutchmen we are.  We’re the ‘tightwads’ of the club because we don’t  risk as much as a nickel on our games.

“There was a time when there was tall gambling by the players on trains while traveling from one town to another.  I’ve seen as much as $6,000 or $7000 on the table in a poker game. But that’s past; the player of today holds on to his money, and, besides, he knows that high betting causes ill feeling between friends and heavy losses get a man’s mind off his playing.  The Giants play a little poker, of course, but it’s only a 25-cent limit game, where a man in hard luck may lose as much as $4 or $5 in a session.

“Occasionally you’ll hear a little singing.  Some of the boys have really good voices.  Others fancy themselves as vocalists, anyhow.  Larry Doyle, for instance…Leon Ames gets up sometimes and gives us his specialty.  He recites Kipling’s poem, ‘On the Road to Mandalay,‘ (with an affected speech impediment). That always gets a laugh.  The younger, smaller players buzz around Big Jeff Tesreau like a flock of mosquitoes attacking an elephant, giving him a good-natured kidding until he sweeps his big arms and chases them. “

Big Jeff Tesreau

Big Jeff Tesreau

Meyers said the Giants were “like one big family—a lively, noisy bunch of pals.”   He said a player occasionally “gets a grouch and sits off by himself,” but:

“I never saw a group of men in any business so genuinely attached to each other…Occasionally some stranger tries to horn into our cars but he quickly finds he isn’t wanted.”

The Giants, he said, drew crowds at the ballpark and at their hotel:

“There’s nothing tight about us when we travel. We’re an attraction and we know it, and that helps box office receipts.  People always want to see this club that’s got Matty and a real Indian, and sometimes  (the previous season) Charley Faust  or a Bugs Raymond as an added attraction. So we don’t keep our light under any bushel.

“We’re always pretty well sized up in our hotel in a strange city.  We can hear people say ‘So they are the Giants eh?’  The native can always spot me because of my Indian appearance, so I’m usually the one they make for.

“’Say, Chief, which is Matty?’ they ask.  ‘Which one is Johnny McGraw?’ ‘Who’s going to pitch today, Chief?’ The other boys give me the laugh because I’m the goat for all questioners.  The fans don’t recognize the other players.”

Meyers said most of the Giants were not great dressers, ‘content with two changes of costume.”  The exceptions were Rube Marquard:  “He travels with a steamer trunk and sometimes has six or eight suits with him,” as well as Josh Devore and Art Wilson.

Meyers said every player shared one fashion statement:

“Everybody…sports a diamond.  That seems to be the badge of big-league class.  As soon as a ballplayer gets out of the ‘bushes’ and into the big show the first thing he does is buy a spark.  Some of the boys have half a dozen. “

Meyers also insisted that drinking was not a problem among the modern players:

“One thing we hear from strangers most frequently is ‘Have a drink, old man let’s drink one for good luck in today’s game.’  That invitation is invariably refused. Few of the boys drink anything at all, and those who do take a glass of beer occasionally do it among themselves always.  The present day player differs greatly from the old timer, who mixed with everyone.

“Pleasant strangers, with sensible questions, we don’t mind, but they are in the minority t the butters-in who simply want to tell their friends they are associates of ballplayers.”

Meyers said he and his teammates were also very popular with deaf fans, many of whom began following the Giants when Luther “Dummy” Taylor (1900-01, 1902-08) pitched for the club:

“(N)ow they’re friends of all of us.  Most of the Giants learned the finger talk from Taylor.”

He said Mathewson, Doyle and Fred Snodgrass were all very conversant in sign language and “are the idols of” many deaf fans.

Fred Snodrass

Fred Snodgrass

Meyers frequented art museums on the road.  As for his teammates: billiards for most, chess or checkers for Mathewson during the day, and the theatre at night, he said, were the “favorite pastimes” of the Giants.

No matter the activity after a road game, he said: “Everybody must be in bed” by 11:30 pm.  “That’s one of McGraw’s rules, and the boys are on their honor to obey it.”

Meyers drew one conclusion from the lifestyle of the modern ballplayer.  He and his brethren were “(A) trifle better off, both physically and morally, than the average young man.”

“There’s one thing you mustn’t do when you get to New York”

26 Oct

“Sinister Dick” Kinsella is primarily known as John McGraw’s equally pugnacious right-hand man and scout.  He was at McGraw’s side for one of the manager’s most famous brawls; a battle with Giants catcher Larry McLean in the lobby of the Buckingham Hotel in St. Louis, he also boasted an impressive list of “finds” including Carl Hubbell, Chief Meyers, Hack Wilson and Larry Doyle.

"Sinister Dick" Kinsella

              “Sinister Dick” Kinsella

Kinsella credited a career minor league player and manager for his discovery of Doyle, who he sold to the New York Giants in July of 1907.  After Doyle hit .310 in 1911, a syndicated Newspaper Enterprise Association told the story of how he acquired Doyle after the 1906 season from the Mattoon Canaries of the Kitty League, having never seen him play:

“Mattoon was in need of a pitcher and appealed to President Dick Kinsella of the Springfield Three-Eye League team for aid…Kinsella saw a chance to make a bargain when Mattoon hoisted the distress sign and struck one.  ‘I’ll let you have a pitcher for the pick of your team at the end of the season,’ Kinsella told the Mattoon people.  His offer was accepted and pitcher (John) Jokerst was sent  to the Kitty League team by Springfield.

“Doyle didn’t do well with Mattoon (.225 in 91 games) that season.  Kinsella had not even considered him in deciding what player to pick.  He had almost made up his mind to take a veteran pitcher.”

Fate intervened when Kinsella mentioned the Mattoon deal to Frank Belt, manager of the Kitty League’s Jacksonville Jacks.  Belt asked Kinsella if he had ever seen Doyle:

“’No,’ answered Kinsella.

‘”Well, don’t pick anyone until you do, and then pick him.  He’s the coming ballplayer of that club.  He hasn’t looked good in the box scores, but he’s ‘there’ any way you take him.  He’ll bring you more money inside of a year than you ever got for a player.”

Larry Doyle

                  Larry Doyle

Sight unseen, Kinsella took Belt’s advice.  Doyle played third base and hit .290 in 66 games for Kinsella’s Springfield Senators.  He became the subject of a bidding war with the Giants winning out over the Detroit Tigers and Washington Senators for his services on July 16.

Kinsella was paid a then-record $4500 for Doyle—a record eclipsed the following year when Kinsella sold Rube Marquard to the Giants for $11,000.

The $4500 check to Kinsella for the sale of Doyle

                              The $4500 check to Kinsella for the sale of Doyle

According to The Springfield Journal Kinsella sent Doyle off to New York with just one piece of advice:

“There’s one thing you mustn’t do when you get to New York.  You must quit sliding to bases on your head.  If you don’t, they will think you’re from the brush.”

Doyle was moved to second base, hit .290 over a 14-year big league career, and presumably took Kinsella’s advice about sliding head first.

Armando Marsans’ Tall Tale

19 Oct

Baseball writers were fascinated by every utterance of the Cincinnati Reds’ two Cuban players, Armando Marsans and Rafael Almeida.  Marsans was the more popular—and more successful—of the two.   He was also the product of well-to-do background.

marsansandalmeida

                           Marsans and Almeida

William A. Phelon of The Cincinnati Times-Star illustrated the cultural difference between the Reds’ two Cuban players:

“(S)omeone asked Almeida and Marsans if they wouldn’t like tickets to a grand opera.  ‘Si, si, accented Marsans, delightedly.  I love grand opera—eet ees fines’ of all entertainment for a gentleman.’

‘I thank you much,” negatived Almeida, “but I care not to go.  To me, grand opera eet sound like de screech of de beeg tomcat, and about so much sensible.’”

Perhaps made up on his own, perhaps captivated by the erudite Marsans, perhaps in on the joke—it wasn’t always clear when Phelon was in on the joke—he quoted Marsans spinning a tale of a Cuban legend in his column in 1912:

“I have seen all the great ballplayers of the present time.  I have been in post-season series against (Napoleon) Lajoie and (Joe) Jackson and have made trips just to see Ty Cobb.  They are wonderful ballplayers, but I give you my word that the greatest I ever looked upon was an Indian named Canella, and popularly called Cinnamon.

“Canella was of a strange Indian race that is supposed to be extinct—the Sibboneys [sic Ciboney] of Cuba, who populated the island when the Spaniards came.  The historians and scientific books all say that they are extinct, and it would doubtless be so, if it were not for the fact that they still live in eastern Cuba and have a little city of their own.  They are tall men with ancient Greek faces—nothing but the color of the Indian to make resemble such men and (John “Chief”) Meyers and (Charles “Chief”) Bender—and they are an athletic people, more agile and active by far than we.  Baseball is their own pet diversion, and Canella, known as Cinnamon, was the greatest of them all.

“Canella, who cannot be over 27 even now, came out a few years ago, and at once became the marvel of eastern Cuba.  He was a pitcher, and a star on the slab, but he was also a batsman, lightening base runner, and clever outfielder.  The records of six years ago show Canella, in some 60 games hit .446 and stole 55 bases.  Havana’s best clubs went up against him and found him invincible while he turned the tide of the closest games with his own batting.

“Canella received no offers from the big American leagues, They took it for granted he was a light colored negro, and when his friends explained that he was an Indian the Americans laughed and said ‘There are no Indians in Cuba—the Spaniards killed them all 400 years ago.’

Armando Marsans

Armando Marsans

“So Canella kept right on playing in Cuba, and he seemed to improve each succeeding season.  At least he became so terrible that even the Havana and Almendares clubs sought excuses to avoid meeting him, and the weaker clubs would face him and get shut out every time.  Finally, some influential Cubans managed to make an American magnate understand that Canella was no Negro, and all was arranged for his tryout in the coming spring.  And then came the news that Canella’s arm was gone, and he could never pitch again.

“It seems that the Indians of Sibboney [sic] still practice the games of their forefathers, and of their favorite sports which is throwing the javelin,  Coming home for a visit, Canella saw the young men of the tribe practicing the spear throw.  Laughingly, he said ‘It is many years since I have done thix—let me try.’ And picking up a slender spear, he hurled it with all his might—and something went snap, crack, in his upper arm as he let go of the javelin.  The arm, so long accustomed to throwing the baseball, gave way when he tried to throw the spear, and never since has Canella been able to throw a ball from the pitching slab as far as the catcher.  It was a shame because Cinnamon Canella was the greatest pitcher, the finest batter, and the fastest base runner that I have ever gazed upon.”

Murphy’s “Billion Dollar Team”

17 Aug

“Money will not buy a pennant winner;” so said William George “Billy” Murphy, the sports editor of The St. Louis Star.  In 1914, he set out to select a team that not even “John D. Rockefeller… (With) all his wealth could buy a club that would win a World’s championship from the one we have picked…The Billion Dollar Team.”

Murphy said:

“You fans of towns that have never won a flag, how would you feel to wake up some morning and find that Dame Fortune had so arranged matters that this club had suddenly been picked to represent your fair city.”

Jimmy Archer, catcher

Behind the plate he acknowledged “There are many who would doubtless pick (John) Chief Meyers…but considering the Indian’s slowness of foot and propensity for clogging up the bases and stealing when the bags are full, we must remark we cannot see the “Chief” for a minute with Jimmy Archer, who, although not so good a hitter, is faster, a quicker thinker, greater fielder and better pegger.”

Jimmy Archer

Jimmy Archer

Murphy was in the minority questioning the baseball intelligence of Meyers, who was widely considered one of the most intelligent and articulate players of his era.  He also rated Ray Schalk and Wally Schang as superior, saying:

“In the writer’s humble opinion they are much more valuable men to their team than Meyers.”

Walter Johnson, pitcher

“There will hardly be a dissenting vote cast against Walter Johnson.  Unquestionably he is the greatest of all the pitchers.

(Charles Chief) Bender and (Christy) Mathewson are also great—great when they should show class—in championship games.  Every nerve, every fiber of their brains, every muscle necessary to their craft, is at its best when big games are being fought.

“Wonderful as they are, we must pick Johnson, who also has class and is game to the core.”

Hal Chase, first base

“For first base, there is only Hal Chase.  He is a great hitter, marvelous fielder, can run the sacks, and is a brilliant tactician.

(John) ‘Stuffy’ McInnis, Jake Daubert, Eddie Konetchy, Fred Merkle, and Jack (Dots) Miller are all stars, but they are ‘also rans’ in the class with Prince Hal of the White Sox.”

Prince Hal of the White Sox

Prince Hal of the White Sox

Eddie Collins, second base

“At second base, Eddie Collins in the potentate.  Johnny Evers, Larry Doyle, and Larry Lajoie occupy seats in the second sackers’ hall of fame, but Collins rules over the roost.”

Honus Wagner, shortstop

“At short, notwithstanding his age, the palm goes to Hans Wagner.  Taken all in all he is still the greatest man at the position in the game.  He can do everything and does it better than any of his contemporaries.  When will we look upon his like again?”

Frank Baker, third base

“At third base, there is that wonderful silent son of swat, Frank Baker, the conqueror of the wonderful Mathewson and Richard (Rube) Marquard.”

Joe Jackson, right field

“In right field we have Joe Jackson, the young Southerner with the Cleveland club.  He is one of the greatest batsmen in the game today and is a fielder and base runner of unusual ability.”

Joe Jackson

Joe Jackson

Ty Cobb, center field

“In center, there is Tyrus Raymond Cobb, the Royston, Georgia marvel, who is the greatest player baseball has ever known.”

Tris Speaker, left field

“And in left field, there is Tris Speaker of the Boston Red Sox—second only to Cobb.”

“Slow Man’s Steal”

3 Aug

The New York Evening Journal said:

“The newest wrinkle in the baseball season of 1911 is a discovery by (John) Chief Meyers.”

Chief Meyers

Chief Meyers

The New York Giants’ catcher called is the “Slow man’s steal.”

“On two occasions now the Indian has pulled this play, and the National League is laughing because he worked it successfully on (Bill) Bergen and (George) Peaches Graham, two of the best catchers in the league.

“Some time ago the Chief realized that it would be impossible for him to trust his speed, which he has not, in stealing a base so he decided to work it with his head.”

Meyers, the paper said, knew that as a slow runner he could induce catchers to throw to first base if he took a long lead off.

“Having figured this out, the Chief gets on the bag and gradually eases himself down the line until he sees the catcher is watching him.  He then takes another step towards second base and the catcher naturally shoots the ball to first.  Instead of making an effort to get back to the base the Indian starts for second the minute he sees the catcher draw back his arm.  Both times that he has worked it the first baseman has been caught making a touch for the runner sliding back to first, only to look up and see him sliding into second. “

The Evening Journal called it “(O)ne of the greatest mirth-provoking plays on the diamond,” and said when Meyers worked the play on Graham and Boston Rustlers first baseman Fred Tenney, (T)he stands broke into howls of laughter.”

Fred Tenney

Fred Tenney

Meyers said:

“I call it the slow man’s steal because a fast man couldn’t do it.  The catcher would expect him to run to second and a good throw would head him off.  Besides, the pitcher would hold a fast man up at first and not allow him to take the lead.”

Meyers stole five more bases the rest of 1911, there is no record of how many of those incorporated the “Slow man’s steal.”

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up other Things #13

22 Dec

Chief Meyers on the Plight of the Native American, 1913

John W. McConaughy, the former sports editor of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, was no longer writing about baseball regularly as the New York Giants prepared to face the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1913 World Series.  McConaughy, who was the Washington correspondent for The New York Journal, was enlisted by the paper to write about some of the key figures of the series.

The result was, in the case of John “Chief” Meyers, a profile that went beyond a typical baseball story:

Chief Meyers

Chief Meyers

“Meyers is one of the coolest, shrewdest and quickest thinking catchers that ever came to the big leagues.  He has both gray matter and gumption, and the one is useless without the other in baseball as elsewhere.  He has a fund of general information that runs from national politics to the philosophy of Plato, and a delicately adjusted sense of humor, and these two combine to give him a good perspective of the national game.”

[…]

He is ready to fight any time for justice and fair play and he is so good-natured that he isn’t seriously annoyed when the fans perpetrate that bum war-whoop every time he comes to bat.

[…]

“One day in Cincinnati he asked the writer to go out to the art museum with him.  We came upon a bronze—an Indian turning to shoot an arrow at his pursuers.

“’There’s the idea.’ He said, pointing to the warrior.  ‘They never learned how to fight.  They had nothing but the willingness.  If Tecumseh had been as big a man as Napoleon he would have killed off the medicine men as his first official act, learned the white man’s style of warfare—and there would have been an Indian nation here today.

“’I don’t mean that the white man would not have been here, too.  But with a few leaders—real big men—our fathers would have come to see that the white man’s type of civilization was the highest, just as the (Japanese) have done.  We would have had great states and communities in the union, and we would have been useful, progressive citizens.

“’As it is the Indian is robbed by agents and shifted from reservation to reservation whenever anyone happens to want their land.  Tribe after tribe is scattered, and in another hundred years my people will have gone the way of the Aztecs.’

“Still, there will always probably be a few fans who will think it bright to pull the war-whoop when the Chief comes to bat.”

Tom Lynch Cracks Down, 1910

In June of 1910, The Associated Press said that after a 5 to 4 New York Giants victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, umpires Jim Johnstone and August Moran “stood in front of the press box and made remarks about the baseball writers.”

National League President Thomas Lynch, who had announced his intention to “break this habit of having players call the arbitrators bad names” said in response:

“I also will not stand for umpires talking back to spectators or taking it upon themselves to criticize newspaper men.”

National League President Thomas Lynch

National League President Thomas Lynch

He fined Johnstone and Moran $25 and $15 respectively for the incident.

In that era of newspapermen as frustrated poets, George E. Phair, then of The Milwaukee Sentinel, was one of the most prolific, often including a poem in his articles.  He dedicated the following verse to the National League President:

Old Thomas Lynch, who runs a league,

     Would propagate urbanity;

In fact, Sir Thomas would intrigue

     To curb the umps’ profanity.

He warns his umpires while within

     The baseball scribes vicinity

To speak no words that reek of sin,

     But emulate divinity.

He tells them not to harm the scribes,

     Nor flout at their ability;

Nor pester them with jokes or jibes;

     Nor laugh at their senility.

He plasters fines upon his umps

     For showing their ferocity

And calling scribblers ‘mutts’ and ‘chumps’

      With Teddy-like verbosity.

The veteran Sir Thomas is

     Most generous and affable,

But we’re inclined to think that his

     Solicitude is laughable.

The ump may blunder now and then

     And break into profanity;

The scribbler jabs him with his pen

     And drives him to urbanity.

Comiskey Tells a Tommy McCarthy Story, 1899

George Erskine Stackhouse, the baseball editor of the editor of The New York Tribune, spoke to Charles Comiskey in 1899 and found him in a “somewhat reminiscent mood.”  Comiskey told a story Tommy McCarthy when the two were with the St. Louis Browns:

Tommy McCarthy

Tommy McCarthy

“I heard in Chicago the other day that tom is in Boston, as fat as a Tammany alderman, and making money out of a big bowling alley.  (Hugh) Duffy owned an interest in it, but they say Tom bought him out.  I had Tom with me in St. Louis.  And say, St. Louis is the best town on earth for a winner.  They used to distribute among the players every season watches and rings and studs and pins enough to stock a jewelry store.  There was a diamond medal offered one year for the best base runner on the Browns.

“Tom McCarthy was quite a boy to steal bases, and after the medal was offered he wouldn’t run out his hits.  If he made a two-bagger, he would stop at first, and if he slammed the ball for a triple, he would manage to bring up at second, so as to get a chance to steal a base.  Of course, after a bit, I got on to him, and I had to warn him that if he didn’t stretch those hits I would have to lay him off altogether.  That helped some, but he was always hanging back when he thought he could get away with it.  I remember once that he had a chance to go down to second on a wild throw to first, and what does he do but toss his head and drop off his cap, so that he could stop and come back after it and stick at first.  He won that medal.”

Bill Brennan versus Philadelphia

10 Jul

Umpire William “Bill” Brennan was at the center of the controversy that led to Philadelphia Phillies owner Horace Fogel being banished from the National League.  Fogel maintained that the 1912 pennant race was fixed, and that Brennan and the rest of the league’s umpires were in the tank for the champion New York Giants.

After Fogel was expelled Brennan dropped a threatened libel suit against him and the umpire’s life went back to normal, until August 30, 1913.

Fogel was working the game in Philadelphia’s Baker Bowl between the Phillies and the New York Giants.  The Giants, who were in first place by nine games, were trailing the Phillies 8-6 in the ninth inning.

Harry “Moose” McCormick, pinch-hitting for Fred Merkle, led off the inning with a groundout to second baseman Otto KnabeThe Philadelphia Inquirer said:

“As the big Giants’ pinch hitter started for the players’ bench he motioned towards the center field bleachers and shouted to Brennan that the white shirts there had blinded him.”

Brennan walked out to the center field bleachers and told the fans seated in the area to vacate their seats:

“They greeted him with jeers and catcalls; Brennan paused helplessly for minute and then walked back into the diamond.  Approaching Mike Doolan, captain of the Phillies, he ordered him to have the crowd removed.  Doolan laughed and said that it was impossible.  Then Brennan walked over to the New York bench and held a conference with Manager (John) McGraw.”

Philadelphia manager Charles “Red” Dooin had been ejected earlier in the game, so Brennan told acting manager Hans Lobert to move the crowd out of center field.  Lobert and the Phillies “explained that it could not be done.”

Brennan again went out to the center field bleachers, this time ordering a Philadelphia police officer to remove the crowd:

“The bluecoat laughed at him and said that he could not, under any circumstances, take his orders.

“’You’re under my orders,’ said Brennan.

“’I’m under no orders except from my sergeant or captain,’ was the answer.”

The crowd of 22,000 was “storming angrily for the game to proceed,” and the other umpire, Mal Eason, suggested the game be continued and played under protest.  Instead, Brennan again huddled with McGraw.

“Strangely enough, McGraw, who is generally the most volatile man in the world and charges all over the field in excitement, this time, remained quietly on the New York Players’ bench.”

Brennan walked back on the field and said, “This game is forfeited to New York, 9 to 0.”  The Giants were “running towards the clubhouse before (Brennan) completed his statement,” according to The Inquirer.

“Bedlam cut loose at that instant.  Screaming in rage the bleacherites by the thousands poured over the low rail into the playing field…a cushion seat struck Brennan in the face as he was walking towards the exit…His walk turned into an undignified run.  The bleach crowd had first tried to stop the New York players who butted their way to safety.  Then they turned toward Brennan.”

Bill Brennan

Bill Brennan

Escorted by police “with drawn revolvers,” Breen was able to get off the field.   Mobs formed outside the Baker Bowl and pursued the Giants, and Brennan, with his police escort, on their separate routes to the North Philadelphia Railroad Station:

“Brennan and his guard reached the entrance to the station just at the instant McGraw and his players came fleeing around the corner at Broad Street.  The police forsook the umpire to try and head off the larger crowd behind the New Yorkers.  With drawn guns they held them at bay for a few minutes. “

While police held two mobs at bay, a third waited for Brennan inside the station and “jumped upon him by the dozens.  (Brennan) was beaten to the ground, rose, (and) was beaten down again.”

The Inquirer claimed that McGraw and Brennan in their haste to escape the crowd boarded the wrong train, “an extra fare train from Pittsburgh,” rather than the train to New York.

Despite the mob, the chaos, and the “Missiles of all kinds,” that were thrown by Phillies fans, there was only one injury.  Giants’ utility man Arthur Tillie Shafer was hit in the head with a brick, but was not seriously injured.

Two days later National League President Thomas Lynch assigned Brennan to work the Phillies September 1 double-header with the Dodgers. The Inquirer said:

“President Lynch, of the National league, exhibited anything but a keen sense of delicacy in sending Brennan in to umpire the two games between the Phillies and Brooklyn on Monday,  or perhaps he is trying to work up a reputation as a humorist.”

National League President Thomas Lynch

National League President Thomas Lynch

Philadelphia won both games without any serious incidents.  The Inquirer headline read:

“Man Who Helped Giants Couldn’t Aid Dodgers.”

Two days later Lynch reversed Brennan’s decision, The Associated Press said:

“Lynch, in his decision says that Umpire Brennan exceeded his authority in declaring the game forfeited to the New York club and formally awards it to the Philadelphia team by a score of 8 to 6.”

While New York appealed Lynch’s decision, Brennan‘s troubles were just starting.

He learned that a warrant was issued for his arrest in Philadelphia; a Phillies fan named Henry Russell claimed “Brennan in his efforts to get out of the park pummeled him and knocked him to the ground where he was trampled by the crowd.”  At the same time, it was rumored that Brennan would be let go by the National League.  The Associated Press said:

“(Tom Lynch) is certain to let him out, it is said if he is reelected, and if another man is chosen to head the circuit he will be instructed by his nominators to dispense with Brennan.  It is not the case of the forfeit that mitigates against Brennan so much, according to the yarn circulated, but his generally inconsistent work in games where the spirit of battle ran high.  He is said to be over excitable.”

Two weeks after Lynch’s decision, he was overruled by the National League Board of Directors, and it was determined that the game would be completed on October 2,

The Philadelphia Record and The Inquirer called the decision unfair and gave the second place Phillies “all the worst of it.”

In the end, the decision made no difference.  The Phillies, nine games behind the Giants on the day of the forfeit, never got closer than seven games out of first place, and finished the season twelve and a half games behind the Giants.  The pennant was a foregone conclusion when what The Inquirer called “The longest game on record,” was finally completed.

The anti-climactic two-thirds of an inning ended quickly on October 2.  Tacked on to the beginning of a double-header, pitcher George Chalmers faced three batters:  John “Red” Murray grounded out, John “Chief” Meyers singled; Eddie Grant ran for Meyers and was forced at second on Larry McLean’s ground ball.  The Phillies “ran from the bench and danced in glee at the speedy decision in favor of the long-standing dispute.”

billbrennan

After New York won the 1913 pennant, Giant pitcher and cartoonist Al Demaree featured Brennan in one of his nationally syndicated cartoons.

In December Lynch resigned as National League president; the following month it was announced that Brennan had jumped from the National League, signing a three-year contract to become a Federal League umpire (the league would only last two seasons).

The last word in the Brennan/Philadelphia controversy belonged to a journeyman boxer and fight promoter in Superior, Minnesota named Curly Ulrich.  Three weeks after the 1913 season ended The Duluth News-Tribune said Brennan, a St. Paul resident,  “attended the bouts in Superior.”  Promoter Ulrich introduced him:

“Ladies and gentlemen, I wish to present to you Bill Brennan, National League umpire and member of the New York Giants.”

The box score as it appeared on August 31

The box score as it appeared on August 31