Tag Archives: Chief Meyers

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

Baseball’s “Growing Evil”

24 Jun

By 1913 newspaper articles under the byline of a famous player were common in newspapers across the country, and most of the game’s biggest stars were represented.

Most fans of that era assumed the players did their own writing until an expose appeared in The Washington Herald in March of 1913.  Sports Editor William Peet wrote:

“The dear old public fell for this stuff and swallowed hook, bait and sinker.  An article under the signature of Christy Mathewson led three-fourths of the fans to believe that the great pitcher himself wrote it.”

According to Peet, players were paid between $250 and $1000 for each story “and not one of them wrote a single word,” but it was still a good investment:

“The newspapers themselves regarded these feature articles as good investments, for the reason that the stories were syndicated to 25 or more outside publications and the revenues derived not only paid the amount guaranteed the baseball player for the use of his name, but left a handsome profit.”

Peet exposed the writers behind the articles “written” by the game’s biggest stars:

Christy Mathewson and Jeff Tesreau/John Wheeler, The New York Herald

Walter Johnson/Ralph MacMillan, The Boston Journal/The Boston Herald

John McGraw/Walter Turnbull, The New York Evening Sun

John “Chief” Meyers/Jim McBeth, The New York American

Richard “Rube” Marquard/Bill Farnsworth, The Atlanta Georgian/Hearst Newspapers

Denton “Cy” Young/Sam Carrick, The Boston Post

Tris Speaker/Tim Murnane, The Boston Globe

“Smokey” Joe Wood/Jim O’Leary, The Boston Globe

Ty Cobb/Roger Tidden, The New York World

Hughie Jennings/George “Stoney” McLinn, The Philadelphia Press

John McGraw and Christy Mathewson

John McGraw and Christy Mathewson

Peet called the practice dishonest, and said it had gone too far, and in New York and Boston the practice   had “become a mania.”  Peet singled out an article “written” by John McGraw criticizing “Chief” Myers that caused an “explosion,” and said the articles featuring “Rube” Marquard’s byline, and written by Farnsworth got Marquard “in bad with his teammates, for Farnsworth spared no one is his scathing criticisms.”

Pittsburgh Pirate manager Fred Clarke disagreed with the practice, telling Peet:

“I do not think it is any ball player’s place to butt into the newspaper end of the game…I think it is foolish for any player, especially those who take part in the world’s Series, to write about the games.”

As a result of Peet’s revelations the American League club owners condemned the practice of players’ names appearing on articles they did not write, but came just short of officially banning the practice. In September, the Baseball Writers Association petitioned the National Commission to end the “growing evil” of players authoring or appearing to author articles during the upcoming World Series.

The commission agreed, and American League President Ban Johnson informed Philadelphia Athletics manager Connie Mack on the eve of the World Series that star players Eddie Collins and Frank Baker “have been instructed not to write baseball stories or give the impression they are writing them.  If they ignore this request, a way of punishing them would be found. “

Frank Baker, center, Eddie Collins, far right,

Frank Baker, center, Eddie Collins, far right,

Johnson even threatened “Collins and Baker would not be permitted to take part in the World Series,” if they wrote articles or permitted their names to be attached to articles.

At one point Johnson and National Commission Chairman August Hermann said they would consider calling off the series if players refused to comply.  Dave Fultz, the former player, practicing attorney, and president of the Fraternity of Baseball Players, said members of the commission could be personally liable for damages if the series was cancelled.  Johnson and Herman’s threat to cancel the series as a whole was put to rest.

Mack argued that the players had contracts with newspapers and that Johnson had said earlier that players who were “capable” of writing their own articles would be permitted to do so, but as he prepared his team to play the New York Giants, he prepared for the worst, telling The Associated Press:

“(I)f the commission decides the players must not write under any conditions and players decide not to abide by the ruling, I will be prepared to put a team on the field,” The AP speculated that utility infielder John “Doc” Lavan  would play second base  and outfielder Rube Oldring would be moved to third base, with Amos Strunk taking Oldring’s place in the outfield.

Mack’s adjustments weren’t required.  Collins was allowed to write for The Philadelphia Record because his deal with the paper predated the commission’s ruling, and Baker did not write articles.  Together they led the Athletics to a 4-1 Series win, hitting .421 and .450.

Ghost written articles, and articles actually written by players never disappeared, but the practice became much less popular after the revelations and battles of 1913.