Tag Archives: Chief Zimmer

Zimmer Rules

20 Dec

After Charles “Chief” Zimmer’s single, difficult season managing the Philadelphia Phillies he briefly became a National League umpire.

Reports said the adjustment from player and manager to umpire were difficult at first.  According to a brief story that appeared in several newspapers on the eve of Opening Day:

“Chief Zimmer umpired the Pittsburgh-Little Rock game last week, but he could not resist coaching the players, for he forgot himself once in the third inning and yelled ‘Look out!’ to (Tommy) Leach when Little Rock was trying to catch him off first.”

But by May he seemed to have eased into his new position, telling reporters:

“I hesitated about taking up the work, knowing that the life of an umpire is supposed to be filled with anything but joy.  However, I can honestly say that I am more than pleased with the experience thus far.  I have had no trouble at all, and players and spectators have accorded me the best treatment.  I don’t think I’d give up my present work to go back to catching.”

In September The Pittsburgh Press said there was “No doubt (Zimmer) will be reappointed,” as a National League umpire in 1905, but by January it was announced that he had not been retained.

Zimmer entertained offers to play for the Toledo Mud Hens of the American Association and the Rochester Bronchos of the Eastern League, but instead took a position as an Eastern League umpire.

He returned as a player/manager the following season with the Little Rock Travelers in the Southern Association.

Through it all Zimmer was one of baseball’s earliest and best self-promoters.  In addition to endorsing Zimmer’s Baseball Game and his cigars, produced in what The Sporting Life said was “an extensive cigar factory in Cleveland.”  Zimmer always talked to reporters and always gave them something to write about, including his ideas for rule changes.

Zimmer's Baseball Game

Zimmer’s Baseball Game

In 1905 The Pittsburgh Press said “’Chief’ Zimmer has a scheme which he thinks would increase batting without abolishing the foul strike rule.” (The “scheme” was not Zimmer’s idea; it had been advocated by some for more than two decades, including “Cap” Anson and Zimmer’s former boss, Cleveland part owner Davis Hawley).  The plan would:

“Increase the territory of the fielders without increasing the length of the base lines…new foul lines (would be) drawn from the home plate to the fences.  At the point where they would pass first and third bases the lines would be six feet distant from the bases, gradually increasing the distance from the present foul lines as they neared the fences.”

Later he can out in favor of abolishing the foul strike rule when the issue was briefly discussed in the aftermath of the relatively low-scoring 1905 World Series.

In 1909 Zimmer suggested another rule; this one would essentially eliminate intentional walks by allowing any man on base to advance one base after a walk.  Zimmer said:

“It’s not right for a pitcher to take away Lajoie’s chance of hitting by walking him when there are men on bases.  I saw Larry passed four times in two games last fall.  He was paid to hit with the men on bases…Pitchers would have to put the ball over and the good batters would get a chance to do what they are paid for.”

Luckily like most of the other odd rule changes suggested during baseball’s first several decades, Zimmer’s “schemes” received little traction as both would have radically altered the game.  But Zimmer’s rules did succeed in accomplishing what they were most likely intended to do: they kept Zimmer’s name in the paper long after his career was over.

A final post on Zimmer and, perhaps, his greatest contribution tomorrow.

Chief and Cy

19 Dec

Charles “Chief” Zimmer caught Denton True “Cy” Young’s first Major League game; an 8-1 victory for the Cleveland Spiders over Cap Anson’s Chicago Colts.

Years later, Davis Hawley, a Cleveland banker and hotel magnate who also owned a minority share of the Spiders and served as the team’s secretary, related a story about Young’s debut:

“The night of Young’s first National League game, he complained to me that although he had let Anson’s team down with a few hits, he had not had his usual speed.”

Hawley who had watched him pitch in the Tri-State League asked why he felt that way.

“Well, down in Canton the catchers could not hold me I was so fast, but this man Zimmer didn’t have any trouble at all, so I guess I didn’t have much speed.”

Zimmer would go on to catch 247 of Young’s starts through 1898, including 19 shutouts; second in both categories to Lou Criger, who played with Young in Cleveland, St. Louis and Boston.

Zimmer would catch Young a few more times after 1898.

In 1921 the 54-year-old Young pitched two shutout innings, with the 60-year-old Zimmer catching, in a game between Cleveland Major League legends and amateur stars staged as part of Cleveland’s 135th anniversary celebration.  In addition to Young and Zimmer, Nap Lajoie, Earl Moore, Bill Bradley, Charlie Hickman, Nig Cuppy and Elmer Flick were among the participants.

Earl Moore, Cy Young, Bill Bradley, Charlie Hickman, Nap Lajoie and Chief Zimmer at the 1923 game.

Earl Moore, Cy Young, Bill Bradley, Charlie Hickman, Nap Lajoie and Chief Zimmer at the 1923 game.

The game was such a success that for the next four years it became an annual event at League Park (called Dunn Field during the 1920s); Young pitched the first two innings of each game with Zimmer catching. The event benefited the Cleveland Amateur Baseball Association medical fund.

Young always shared credit for his success with his catchers.  In the 1945 book “My Greatest Day in Baseball As told to John P. Carmichael and Other Noted Sportswriters,” he said:

“Every great pitcher usually has a great catcher, like Mathewson had Roger Bresnahan and Miner Brown had Johnny Kling. Well, in my time I had two. First, there was Chief Zimmer, when I was with Cleveland in the National League, and then there was Lou Criger, who caught me at Boston and handled my perfect game.”

A little more “Chief” tomorrow.

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