Tag Archives: Christy Mathewson

“The Realization of Their Carelessness”

1 Jun

After the 1910 season, Hugh Fullerton, writing in “The American Magazine” said baseball had no universal language.

“Each team has its different system of coaching, its different language of signs, motions, cipher words, or phrases, and no one man can hope to learn them all.”

Fullerton said the “worst of trying to study” the signs of various clubs was trying to track when they changed:

“If Arlie Latham jumps into the air and screams ‘Hold your base!’ it may mean ‘Steal second,’ today and tomorrow it may mean ‘Hit and run.’ One never can tell what a sign means. Hughie Jennings hoists his right knee as high as his shoulder, pulls six blades of grass and Jim Delahanty bunts. You are certain that Jennings signaled him to sacrifice, so the next day when Ty Cobb is bat and Jennings goes through the same motions, you creep forward and Cobb hits the ball past you so fast you can’t see it.

“If Connie Mack tilts his hat over his eyes and Eddie Collins steals second as the next ball is pitched, naturally you watch the hat, and lo, Jack Barry plays hit and run. You hear Clark Griffith yelp ‘Watch his foot!’ and see two of his players start a double steal. The next time he yells ‘Watch his foot!’ you break your neck to cover the base, and both players stand still.”

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Arlie Latham 

Fullerton said most fans gave up trying to figure out signs but they “mustn’t do that. Someday right in the middle of a game, you’ll strike the key to the language and read through clear to the ninth inning.”

He compared that moment to getting “away one good drive,” in golf, “forever afterward you are a victim,” and can’t stop.

“Did you ever watch Hugh Jennings on the coaching line near first base during a hard-fought game? He doubles his fists, lifts one leg and shakes his foot, screams ‘E-yah’ in piercing tomes and stooping suddenly plucks at the grass, pecking at it like a hen. It looks foolish. I have heard spectators express wonder that a man of ability and nearing middle age could act so childishly. Yet hidden somewhere in the fantastic contortions and gestures of the Tigers’ leader there is a meaning, a code word, or signal that tells his warriors what he expects them to do.”

Jennings said of his signs:

“I change almost every day. I change every time I suspect there is a danger of the meanings being read. I am a believer in as few signals as possible and of giving them when they count, and I find that a lot of antics are effective in covering up the signals.”

Fullerton said Mack was “one of the most successful men” at “interpreting” opponents’ signs:

“Before the Chicago Cubs went into their disastrous series against the Athletics they were warned that if such a thing were possible Mack would have their signals. At the end of the game they called a meeting to revise signals, changing entirely, being certain the Athletics knew almost every kind of ball that was going to be pitched.”

Fullerton allowed that the Cubs instead might be tipping their pitches, because he was sitting with Ty Cobb during the series, and:

“(He) repeatedly called the turn on the ball that would be pitched before it was thrown, judging from the pitcher’s motion, and the Athletics may have been doing the same thing.”

Fullerton also said of the Cubs, that although they were “the cleverest baseball team in America, composed of smart men and a great manager, for years paid less attention to active coaching on the baselines,” than other teams.

“Possibly the reason was the confidence in their own judgment and their continued success, Frank Chance’s men made few blunders and the neglect was not noticeable, except to constant observers until 1908. Any player who happened to be idle went to the coaching lines and most of the time inexperienced substitutes did line duty. In 1908 during their fierce fight for the pennant, the realization of their carelessness was brought home to them and since then Chance has employed quick-thinking, clever men on the base lines, principally relying on (Ginger) Beaumont and (John) Kane.”

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John Kane

Fullerton dated Chance’s new appreciation for competent coaching to July 17, 1908; that day the Cubs beat Christy Mathewson and the Giants 1 to 0 on an inside the park home run by Joe Tinker. Heinie Zimmerman was coaching third base for the Cubs.

The Chicago Inter Ocean described the play:

“Joe, the first man up in the fifth, hit one of Matty’s best as far as any ball could be hit in the grounds without going into the stands. Where the center field bleachers join the right field 25 cent seats is a V-shaped inclosure. Joe drove the ball away into this dent, and it took Cy Seymour some time to gather the elusive sphere. When Cy finally retrieved the ball, Tinker was rounding third.

“Zimmerman grasped this as the psychological moment to perpetrate one of the most blockheaded plays ever pulled off. He ran out onto the line and seized Joe, trying to hold him on third, when the ball was just starting to the diamond from deep center field. Joe struggled to get away, as his judgment told him he could get home, but Heinie held on with a grip of death. Finally, Tink wriggled away and started for the plate.”

 

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Zimmerman

The paper said Tinker would have been thrown out had Al Bridwell’s throw to the plate been on target:

“Had Tinker been caught at the plate the 10,000 frenzied fans would have torn Zim limb from limb. Chance immediately sent Evers out to coach at third base and retired Zim to the dark confines of the Cubs’ bench.”

Thus, said Fullerton:

“Chance began to develop scientific coaching, and discovering its full value, took the lead in the matter, employing skilled coachers.”

Oyster Joe Martina

26 May

Joseph John “Oyster Joe” Martina made a name for himself in New Orleans before he threw his first professional pitch. Martina’s father Anthony was at one time the city’s largest oyster dealer, a business he passed on to his sons.

Martina was playing semi-pro ball for the Sam Bonarts—a team sponsored by the owner of a local clothing store, and for a club called the Beavers  when he decided in addition to pitching, he had a talent for distance throwing.

He won $25 in a contest at Pelican Park in July of 1909, The New Orleans Times-Democrat said Martina “threw the sphere from home plate over the back fence.”

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Martina, circa 1909

The throw was said to be 394 feet; just 11 feet short of what was considered the world record—there was some dispute in contemporaneous accounts about who actually held the record, some credited it to Larry Twitchell, said to have accomplished the feat in 1888 and others to Same Crane, whose was made in 1884.

Martina made his next attempt on July 31.

The New Orleans Picayune said:

“Joe Martina met with success this afternoon in his effort to break the world’s record for throwing a baseball, his best throw being 416 feet and 2 inches.”

The paper said he “threw a standard league baseball, which was inspected by several representatives of the southern division of the American Amateur Athletic Union (AAU).”

The event was of interest to local gamblers and when Martina made the record-setting throw it created a stir:

“Disputes also arose over Martina being allowed five throws. Those placing wagers against his breaking the record claimed that only three throws should be allowed. It was on the fifth throw that Martina made the record.”

There was also initially some doubt that the record would be accepted by the AAU because of the five throws. The Times-Democrat said:

“Usually only three throws are allowed. But as there are no definite rules governing contests of that kind, Martina’s record will likely stand. Whether it was his fifth of fiftieth it was a great heave and one which should go as a record.”

The Picayune said there might be another problem with the record:

“One regret remains, that the throw was not measured with a steel tape. It was measured with a linen tape, and may not be accepted by the AAU officials, although the throw was so much over the record the is no question of it being farther than Crane’s”

The record, and Marina’s performance in New Orleans’ semi-pro league earned him a tryout the following spring with the Atlanta Crackers in the Southern Association—pitching three innings in the first game of Atlanta’s exhibition series with the Philadelphia Athletics. Marina gave up one run and struck out three.

The Atlanta Georgian and News said:

“Martina is nothing if not confident.

“After his try-out against Philadelphia he said: ‘Why, it’s just as easy to pitch against those big leaguers as it is against the New Orleans semi-pros. I don’t see anything very hard. I think I can make good in the Southern league all right I certainly had the steam against the Athletics. How many his did they make, anyhow’”

The Crackers did not agree, and sold the 20-year-old to the Savannah Indians in the Sally League

Martina bounced from Georgia, to Louisiana, to Mississippi and then Texas over the next four years.

In the spring of 1914, entering his third season with the Beaumont Oilers in the Texas League, Martina faced the New York Giants.  The Giants beat him 5 to 2, but The New York Sun said:

“The Giants had practice hitting speed the other day. Joe Martina, who prescribed the medicine for the National League champions, had it in caloric quantities…I yearned for a chance in the majors, felt I had more stuff than many pitchers sent up from the South but the big opportunity always passed me by.”

Red Murray of the Giants, barely avoided getting hit in the head with a Martina fastball, and told the paper:

“’That fellow’s got as much speed as I ever saw.’ Said John after the game, and the other Giants corroborated him. He’s as fast as (Chief) Bender.”

The Sun took notice of more than the pitcher’s speed:

“This Martina is something of a character. In the course of the game the umpire announced that Mathewson would pitch today. ‘Mathewson?’ queried Martina, who appears to be n iconoclast. ‘What busher’s that?’

“’Say,’ exclaimed the skeptical Martina to Chief Meyers when the latter made a base hit after several fruitless tries in that direction, ‘you’re lucky to get a hit off of me,’ and then, by the way of an afterthought: ‘All the hits you ever get are lucky.’

“Evidently, Mr. Martina is no hero worshiper.”

When he struck out Fred Snodgrass, he asked, “How do you like that, busher?”

Throughout his 20s, Martina was considered an “iron man,” pitching from 261 to 330 innings every year from 1910 through 1915; he also, according to The Picayune regularly pitched Sunday games in New Orleans throughout each off season.
In 1916, he injured his arm—or as The Arkansas Democrat said, his “arm cracked after hard usage.”

Speed Johnson of The Chicago Record Herald compared Martina to White Sox ace Ed Walsh, “The spitball king of other days now is a bench-warmer.”

Johnson said Chattanooga Lookouts manager Kid Elberfeld was the culprit:

“Performing under orders from (Elberfeld) Martina pitched seven games in the first sixteen games of the season. From May 1 to May 13 he officiated in five engagements, toiling with a sore arm.”

Elberfeld claimed that Martina injured his arm throwing too many spitballs, Johnson said, “it behooves young pitchers bent on winning fame as iron men to work only in their turn.”

Despite the reported injury, and a release from Chattanooga, Martina pitched 278 innings in 1916 with three teams.

Martina went back to the Texas League for four more seasons—including a 28-win season for Beaumont in 1919.

In 1921 he came back to the Southern Association, with his hometown Pelicans. From 1921-1923 he won 56 games, including a 22-6 mark in 1922. He told The Times-Picayune:

“It’s the old story, “You don’t learn how to pitch until your arm is gone.”

His three-year run with the Pelicans finally earned him a major league contract in 1924.  Umpire Billy Evans said in his nationally syndicated column:

“Speaking of miracle workers, supermen, and rookie phenoms of baseball, don’t overlook pitcher Joe Martina of the Washington Nationals.

“At the age of 34, when most big leaguers are wondering how much longer they will be able to stand the pace, Joe Martina is making his debut.”

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Martina, 1924

Martina told Evans:

“I had as much stuff fifteen years ago as I have today, and with-it youth, but somehow the major leagues scouts would annually pass me up.”

He was 6-8 for the World Series Champion Senators, he pitched one perfect inning in game three of the World Series. In the off season, Washington Manager Bucky Harris told The Washington Post that Martina “will win at least 15 games this year and may reach the 20 mark.”

He was due to join the Senators in Tampa, Florida on February 19, 1925, but failed to show up. The Post said Martina wired President Clark Griffith and asked to report later because he was having a new home built. Griffith refused and he was “notified by telegraph” that he was suspended. The Washington Evening Star said he would be fined and forced “to labor at a smaller salary,” for the season.  The paper suggested that the pay cut would not impact him greatly because:

“The Mardi Gras festivities in New Orleans, with the resulting big crowds in attendance and the consequent increase in the oyster business conducted by Martina probably mean that the pitcher can suffer these financial setbacks and still be ahead of the game.”

He arrived in Tampa on March 1; The Star said Griffith withdrew the fine because Martina claimed he had received a letter from the Washington owner that he could report late:

“Griff admitted that in the stress of arranging for the annual pilgrimage South of his club he might have forgotten the original letter to Joe.”

On April 9, Martina, along with left-handers–Jim Brillheart and Jim McNamara—were released by Griffith. The Star said

 “(Martini’s) work this spring indicated he has passed the peak of his form which is not quite good enough for fast company.”

He returned to New Orleans for four more seasons—winning 77 games and leading the Pelicans to Southern Association championships in 1926 and 1927. The 39-year-old went back to the Texas League for one more season in 1929; after a disappointing 10-13 campaign for the Dallas Steers, Martina purchased—or bartered for—his release. The Times-Picayune said:

“Martina has been given his unconditional release at the price of two barrels of oysters. This was the price demanded by Fred McJunkin, president of the Dallas club.”

He played two more seasons in the Cotton States League and took a crack at managing with the Baton Rouge Standards in 1931—he was released mid-season at age 41.

With both the Pelicans and the Knoxville Smokies hopelessly out of the 1931 Southern Association pennant race, Knoxville signed Martina to pitch against New Orleans on the final day of the season. He started the first game of a double header, gave up six runs over eight innings and lost his final game as a professional.

Zipp Newman, sports editor of The Birmingham News and official scorer for the Birmingham Barons for 44 years said Martina’s strong arm was with him to the very end::

“After pitching a full game for Knoxville against New Orleans Sunday, Joe went to the outfield and made the longest throw-in. Joe threw the ball right up to the grandstand. There wasn’t a youngster on the field who could come close to him. Joe Martina arms are few and far between in baseball.”

Martina, who died of a heart attack in 1962, said in an interview with Newman in 1941:

“I am convinced I had more human endurance than any man who ever lived. In all my life I was never tired, even when it was 110 out there on the mound. The answer is simple: I was a good boy. I behaved myself and every at 8 o’clock I was in bed…When my arm was live the ball would sail slightly upward, and nobody could hit me. When it was dead, although the pitch was just as fast, the ball went straight, like on a string, and I was a goner.”

“Almost Every Ballplayer has his Individual Superstition”

4 May

“Almost every ballplayer has his individual superstition,” said The Philadelphia Record in 1918:

On days when Cy Young pitched, “he would always see that the bat boy placed the bats with the handles towards the infield,” Young would not tolerate crossed bats.

“Christy Mathewson always placed his glove, face up, near the sideline, and would never allow anyone to hand it to him when returning to the box.”

Bob Harmon wore his hat crookedly on the right side of his head during his first big league win, and “always wore his cap on one side of his head when working.”

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Harmon

Philadelphia’s two former aces, Chief Bender and Eddie Plank, had theirs:

“Bender always pitched his glove to the sideline as he walked out of the box, He never was known to lay it down. He would get his signal from the catcher and step into the box from behind and always right foot first…Plank would never warm up with a new ball on the days he worked. He always hung his sweater on a certain nail in the dugout and ‘woe be unto’ the player who moved it.”

Eddie Collins—arguably the most superstitious player among his contemporaries— “has a certain way to put on his uniform. He always dresses from his feet up.”

Johnny Evers—who believed himself to be one of the most superstitious among his contemporaries— “always believes that his club would win if he put one stocking on with the wrong side out.”

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Johnny Evers

Napoleon Lajoie and Honus Wagner’s superstitions were tied to bats:

“Lajoie had a certain bat which he used in the game and under no conditions would he allow anyone to use it, for the reason that the player using it might get a hit which really belonged to the owner of the bat…Wagner would never allow a player or bat boy to make any move to disarrange the bats or to start putting them away until the last man was out in the last inning, no matter how the score stood.”

Prince Hal Chase, said the paper, believed he could not get a hit “unless he spits in his hands and touches his cap before a pitcher delivers a ball.”

Lost Advertisements: Big Six for Coke

14 Feb

bigsix1915

A 1915 advertisement:

“Big Six Drinks Coca-Cola–They’re fine teammates, these two–universally popular, always reliable, tested by time and proved good.”

After 12 straight seasons winning at least 22 games, Mathewson was on his way to a 8-14 record with a career high 3.58 ERA in 1915. Towards the end of that season he wrote in his syndicated column:

“Fans are enough interested in me to write and ask whether I think I am at the end of my days as a pitcher. Of course all big leaguers are optimistic when it comes to a question of age. And they are more sensitive about this than an unmarried lady over 35. But I don’t think this will be my last season in big league ‘spangles.’ Can’t a man who has been working it for fifteen years have an off summer once in awhile?”

Mathewson did return in 1916 at 35; he was 4-4 3.01 ERA in his final season with the Giants and Reds.

“Her Pitching is Free, Easy, and Graceful”

31 Jan

“What do you think of a twirler who is a girl?” Asked The Brooklyn Citizen in 1906.

“Perhaps some day Cy Young and Christy Mathewson will give way to a pleasant faced young lady who will proceed to make the batters puncture the air with holes and simply froth at their inability to solve her delivery.”

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The “pleasant faced young lady” was Carrie Moyer, the “daughter of a baker” from Macungie, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Allentown. Moyer had recently shut out a local semi-pro club “the strong Temperance team,” on just two hits over eight innings while pitching for the Allentown Moxies.

It wasn’t the first notice Moyer had received for her pitching ability; The Allentown Leader said earlier that summer:

“She has a deceptive delivery of curves and other ways of fooling a batsman. Her speed is remarkable for a girl and she seems not to mind the exertion necessary as a pitcher.”

The Washington Post described her curve ball:

“She gives to her ball a peculiar twist, which disconcerts a batter far more than the speediest straight-liner. Her pitching is free, easy, and graceful, and she possesses remarkable endurance.”

The paper quoted one of her opponents:

“Just when you have about measured the distance where you are going to land that ball, it is safe in the hands of the catcher.”

The Post also assured readers that Moyer was “not mannish in nature,” and “the last person in the world one would take as possessing any knowledge of the national game, much less playing it.”

Moyer was paid through the summer of 1906 to pitch for various semi-pro clubs in the area; The Citizen said the money was earmarked for tuition to “music school in New York.”

Moyer’s brother Willis was her usual catcher until he crushed his thumb in an accident in the family bakery in 1909; despite losing her catcher, she kept pitching.

Moyer left music school and later attended Hood College. The Baltimore Sun said shortly after she graduated from the school in June of 1912 that she “decided to abandon the game,” after she turned down an offer to pitch against a club in Frederick, Maryland.

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Moyer, 1935

After baseball, Moyer entered another male dominated field, and according to The Allentown Morning Call, in 1935, she was “one of the two women state fingerprint experts in the country.” Moyer was employed by the Bureau of Criminal Identification of the State of Massachusetts; ten years later she became supervisor of the Massachusetts Bureau of Criminal Investigations.

She died February 11,1979 at age 89.

“Mendez is a Wonder”

15 May

Edgar Forrest Wolfe, the cartoonist and sports columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer who wrote under the pen name Jim Nasium, joined the Phillies on their Cuban barnstorming tour after the 1911 season.

When he returned, he told readers:

“Baseball fans throughout the United States, in trying to dig up an answer that will explain away the wallopings that have been handed our big league ball teams by the Cubans during their annual winter pilgrimages to the ‘Sunny Isle.’”

 

josemendez.jpg

He said some fans tried to claim it was “change of climate” or players not adhering to “strict discipline,” but:

“While you can work this stuff and probably get away with it if you happen to be conversing with some guy who has never been south of Oshkosh, Michigan [sic]”

No, Wolfe said, climate and discipline were not the issue— “Good pitching and sensational fielding is the bulk of the answer.”

In particular, Wolfe singled out Jose Mendez, in an article that flirted with the progressive idea of integrating baseball while loaded with the racist ideas and language of the time.

Phillies manager Hans Lobert told Wolfe:

“Mendez is a wonder, and so is his catcher (Gervasio) Gonzalez. If we could give those two coons a coat of white paint and ring them in with the Phillies next summer, we’d win the pennant.”

Referring to Mendez’ first start against major leaguers in 1908, Wolfe noted:

“Mendez not only showed his ability as a pitcher, but his nerve and absolute immunity from stage fright, but going in and shutting out the Cincinnati team in this game with but one little hit, and that was a little scratch affair made by Miller Huggins in the ninth inning. Mendez fanned nine of the Reds in this game and as his own team could get him but one run to win with, you will see that he had to go some to win even with that great pitching.”

Wolfe chronicled what are now well-known highlights of Mendez’ performances against white professionals from 1908 to 1911, and then described what made him so unhittable:

“Mendez’ chief asset in a pitching way is terrific speed with a fast-breaking jump to the ball, which he mixes with a fast breaking curve, and excellent control and fine judgment in working the batsmen. Ballplayers from the states who have batted against Mendez or tried to, rather, assert that there is no pitcher in baseball, barring possibly Walter Johnson, who has as much ‘smoke’ as this ‘Black Mathewson’ of Cuba. The thing that causes the most wonderment among our players who have played in Cuba, however, is the wonderful ability of Mendez in fielding his position. He is remarkably fast on his feet and a quick starter, has a cool head and excellent judgment, and can throw from any position like a rifle shot.

“Mendez plays the whole infield when he is pitching, and it is almost impossible to lay down a safe bunt against him or even sacrifice, as he will invariably get the ball in time to nail the advance man.”

Wolfe said Mendez was so good fielding his position that he allowed his fielders to play “closer to the foul lines and leaving Mendez to plug up the holes in the center.”

And, he said Mendez worked “twice as hard” as other pitchers because of how much ground he covered fielding his position in the heat of Cuba:

“What a corking hot weather pitcher he would make up here if he could only be whitewashed.”

Wolfe also noted that Mendez had “never been the author of a boneheaded play,” and highlighted his character:

“Mendez is known in Havana as a modest and well-behaved gentleman at all times, both on the field of play and off, as he seems to realize that his color bars him from many privileges accorded to the white baseball hero. While pitching he is constantly smiling, showing his teeth in a broad grin, their whiteness forming a vivid contrast with his black skin. Every cent Mendez earns through his ball playing goes to the support of his mother, whom he can now afford to give every pleasure of the wealthy class of Cubans.”

Wolfe said during November of 1911, the pitcher earned $584 from gate receipts when he pitched:

“(A)s every time Mendez works down there, they play to capacity, the fans in Havana, white as well as colored, idolizing their ‘Black Mathewson’ much in the same way as New Yorkers idolize their white one.”

In closing, Wolfe lamented:

“It is one of the pathetic instances of life to see this Cuban negro, possessing all the characteristics of a gentleman and an ability that would make him one of the great figures in a great pastime, qualities that would bring him worldwide fame and popularity and wealth, barred from reaping the full benefits of these qualifications through the misfortune of birth. Jose Mendez will always have to be content just to be Cuba’s ‘Black Mathewson’”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Lost Advertisements: Ray Caldwell for Sweet Caporal

29 Mar

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A 1914 advertisement for Sweet Caporal Cigarettes featuring Ray Caldwell:

“Everybody’s strong for good old Sweets. In the grandstand and in the bleachers the fragrant smoke of Sweet Caporal keep men happy.”

Caldwell was touted early as the next Christy Mathewson or Walter Johnson but was compared to Rube Waddell and Bugs Raymond more often as his career progressed.

On the eve of what would be his best season—the same year the ad appeared (18-9, 1.94)—Caldwell went missing from the Yankees’ spring headquarters in Houston.

The New York Herald said:

“Caldwell, who, according to all American League managers, should be one of the grandest pitchers of the national frolic if his mental poise only matched his physical proclivities, seems lost, strayed or stolen.”

Sometime on March 19 or 20, Caldwell deserted the Yankees, two nights earlier he had missed the team’s 11:30 PM bed check—the paper said Caldwell was facing a $100 fine when found, and claimed to know why a few New York players appeared unafraid of manager Frank Chance:

“From the attitude of the few troublesome characters in camp it is evident that these diamond gladiators feel a new independence because of the activities of the Federals. Evidently they figure organized baseball is very much afraid of wholesale desertions to the independents.”

Chance said:

“The Good Samaritan’s spirit wouldn’t get anybody very much with this club. I’ve tried the Golden Rule guff until I’m tired of it. I intended to fine Caldwell $50 when I found he had broken faith before. But he pleaded so hard for another chance that I showed mercy…I’ll make a pitcher out of that fellow this year if I have to fine him so often that he will be in Mr. (owner Frank) Farrell’s debt to the amount of his salary twice over.

“He worked with me last year under a bonus contract. He was to get $800 additional to the salary figure if he had a good season. You know how bad he was all year (9-8 2.41). Well, he got that $800 anyhow. He came to me with a long face and a penitent tale of how he intended to buy a house and live straight.”

Chance wasn’t done ripping the pitcher:

“Caldwell apparently doesn’t have an ounce of sense. If he has, he never parades it on the ballfield. There are some fellows who have to be ruled by fear and I have determined to try the rough treatment on this young gentleman. If necessary, I’ll pound some brains into him.”

Caldwell returned after two days, his absence not fully explained, but Chance told reporters after a “long interview” with his wayward pitcher:

“(Caldwell) would be good for the rest of his life.”

He was not good for the rest of his life, but Chance got more out of Caldwell in 1914 than any manager did again; he had the only winning record among regular starters for a club that finished 70-84.

Caldwell also lasted longer in New York than his manager; Chance was replaced by Roger Peckinpaugh with 20 games left in the 1914 season, Cladwell remained in New York through 1918, and finished his major league career in 1921.

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up Other Things #30

30 Jan

Reddy’s Last Words

When Tom “Reddy” Miller, the catcher for the 1875 St. Louis Brown Stockings, died in May of 1876 (he was, depending on the source, somewhere between 24 and 26 years old at the time of his death), The St. Louis Globe-Democrat noted his handling of pitcher George Bradley:

“The brilliant manner in which the plucky little fellow supported Bradley last season is a matter of record.”

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Bradley

Apparently, according to The Chicago Tribune, catching Bradley was the last thing Miller thought about before his death:

“In his last moments he was delirious, and fancied he was at his place in the ball-field, facing his old pitcher, Bradley. His last words were ‘Two out, Brad—steady, now—he wants a high ball—steady, brad—there, I knew it; that settles it.’”

Altrock on Alexander, 1928

On June 11, 1928, 41-year-old Grover Cleveland Alexander held the Boston Braves to one run on nine hits in an 8 to 1 complete game victory. Nick Altrock, Washington Senators coach, told The Cleveland News:

“Boston got nine hits off Grover Alexander Monday, but got one run, which is why I claim Alex is the world’s greatest pitcher. He is as easy to hit as a punching bag, but you can’t knock him off the rope. Alex pitches like a busted chewing gum slot machine. You keep dropping your nickels in it but no chewing come comes out.”

oldpete

Alexander

Alexander was 16-9 with a 3.36 ERA for the pennant winning St. Louis Cardinals.

Baker’s Homerun Ball, 1911

Frank Baker’s game-tying ninth inning home run off Christy Mathewson in game three of the 1911 World Series quickly became legendary, and people began asking about the whereabouts of the ball.

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Baker

The New York Bureau of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch solved “The great mystery of what became of the ball” three days later:

“In the Brush stadium Tuesday, occupying a seat in the eighth row on the projecting line drawn through home and first, sat Mrs. Charles F. Hunt of 537 West 149th Street. Her husband Dr. Hunt, is a physician to the Yankees.”

According to the paper, just as Baker connected:

“(S)omeone got up in his seat just ahead of Mrs. Hunt and she could not follow the course of the ball. The man apparently tried to catch it.

“Then as Mrs. Hunt sat still the ball flattened the left side of her head with a blow on the left temple.”

Despite being dizzy, the paper said Hunt continued watching the game, “pluckily refusing medical attention.”

Hunt also refused to be taken out of the stands, telling her husband:

“I feel so hysterical that if I try to go out, I’m afraid I’ll create a scene.”

After the Athletics won 3 to 2 in 11 innings, Hunt remained in her seat for another hour, and when she finally returned home, the paper said she spent the next 24 hours ill in bed, and “the bump” remained on her head:

“What became of the ball? Oh, yes. Mrs. Hunt didn’t get it. The moment it fell from her head to the floor, a youth grabbed it.”

Gehrig on the Greatest “Team man, 1937

Dan Daniel of The New York World Telegram did his part to add to the Babe Ruth/ Lou Gehrig feud in February of 1937—just days after Ruth questioned Gehrig’s consecutive game streak, calling it “One of the worst mistake a ballplayer could make.”

Daniel visited with Gehrig in his New Rochelle home, and asked readers if their was a “War between” the two.

He said he asked Gehrig to name the all-time greatest player; Gehrig responded

“Honus Wagner the flying Dutchman…I say Wagner because there was a marvelous player who went along doing a grand job without any thought of himself. He was the team man of all time.”

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Gehrig

In addition to his snub of Ruth, Gehrig talked about his “greatest thrill” and the best pitcher he ever faced:

“’The greatest thrill of my baseball career?’ Gehrig furnished the reply without a moment’s hesitation. ‘It came when I hit that home run off Carl Hubbell in the third inning of the fourth game of the World Series last October…You don’t hit against very many pitchers like Hubbell in a lifetime and you don’t hit very many homers off the Hubbells in such situations.’ The Iron Horse continued.

“’But the greatest hurler I have seen was not Carl. My vote goes to Lefty Grove. When that bird was powdering them in at the top of his form, he was about as terrible a proposition for a hitter as you could imagine, even in a wild nightmare.’”

“Old Pete Probably Saved my Life”

7 Dec

In a syndicated article for World Wide Features in 1942, writer Jack Smith talked to the “Chippewa Indian whom grandpa called ‘the game’s greatest money pitcher,’” Charles “Chief” Bender.

Smith said at 58, Bender “can still toss a pretty mean baseball.”

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Bender, 1942

Bender told Smith “he might be around,” anymore if not for Grover Cleveland Alexander, who “performed an operation” on Bender with a pen knife:

“It started on a lurching train carrying a Pullman-car-load of Phillies towards Boston in 1917, Bender, then a National Leaguer, started a playful wresting match with Eppa ‘Jeptha’ Rixey—and inadvertently stuck his arm through a Pullman window pane.”

Mike Dee, who was the Phillies trainer treated the six-inch gash in Bender’s arm, but he told Smith:

“’(T)here weeks later on another train my arm swelled like the head of a rookie pitcher after a no-hit game.

“’So I rolled out of my bunk and awakened Grover.  I showed him the poisoning and offered him my knife.  Old Pete said he wouldn’t mind at all.’”

Bender said he and Alexander sterilized the knife in boiling water, then after tying off the infected area, Alexander used the knife to drain the wound.

Bender said when he showed his arm to Dee the following day, “’Doc told me he couldn’t have done a better job himself.  He said Old Pete probably saved my life.’”

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Old Pete

Smith said seeing Bender work out with the Philadelphia Athletics during the spring of 1940 in Newport News, Virginia, and in 1941 in Wilmington, Delaware,

“At an age when most men creak at the joints and swell in the middle, he is still rangy and trim, still has that powerful arm, those long, sinewy fingers.”

Most importantly, Smith said, Bender was extremely humble:

“This man whose name is mentioned in the same breath with those of Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson, whose million dollar arm helped make baseball the national pastime, who’s been in the game since he started playing for Pop Warner at Carlisle back in 1902 (note: Bender graduated from Carlisle in 1902, and began playing for Warner there in 1899) will tell you his career is without highlights.

‘”All games were the same to me,’ he says.  ‘I worried about each pitch and that was all…In 1910 I pitched a no-hit no-run game and didn’t know it—not until somebody told me.”

A few days after Smith’s article appeared, Bender was named minor league pitching instructor for the New York Yankees.  The Associated Press said the Yankees minor leaguers should “Get your track pants on…’When a man’s legs and wind are right, he’ll be able to pitch.”

Bender kept running and continued pitching batting practice into his sixties.  He died at age 70 in 1954.

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things–Quote Edition 2

22 Oct

More random quotes and observations that follow no theme or thread:

Cap Anson told The Chicago Daily News in 1904:

“I consider (Charles) Radbourn and John Clarkson the greatest pitchers I ever saw.  Buck Ewing was just about the best catcher that ever wore a mask.  He could catch, throw, bat and run and had a good head.”

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Cap Anson

After Frank Baker hit home runs off Christy Mathewson and Rube Marquard in the 1911 World Series, he told The Philadelphia American:

“There seems to be much speculation as to what sort of balls were thrown me when I made my home runs…Well, I hit them and I know what they were.  Matty threw me an inshoot, but what would have been an outshoot to a right handed batter, while the Rube threw a fast one between my shoulder and waist.

“Connie Mack told me when I went to the bat that I would not get a fast one, and he was right  I set myself and looked them over against Mathewson and when he tossed me that curve and I saw her starting to break, I busted her, that’s all.”

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Frank Baker

Thirty-four year old Bill Bernhard told The Cleveland News about seeing 38-year-old Cy Young in Hot Springs, Arkansas in spring of 1905:

“There is no use talking, there is only one Cy Young.  When the rest of us pitchers report in the spring, we act as if those alleged deceiving arms of ours were made of glass and humor them accordingly.  But not so with old Cy.  The very first day that Cy reached Hot Springs, a week or so ago, he cut loose as if he had been pitching all winter.  Great Scott, but he had speed to burn and the next day and the next it was just the same. And curve them? Well, you ought to have seen the old boy.”

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Cy Young

In 1915, The Chicago Daily News noted that Charles Comiskey “isn’t given to boosting players very often,” but that Catcher Ray Schalk was an exception:

“Schalk shows more life than any other player I have ever seen.  He is level headed and his thinking and natural ability stamp him as one of the greatest catchers in the world today, and he can claim equal distinction with the great and only Buck Ewing, considered in his day the peer of all backstops.

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Ray Schalk

Dave Landreth was a baseball promoter from Bristol, Pennsylvania who had a brief foray into professional baseball when he served as director of the Baltimore Terrapins in the Federal League.  He told a story to The Bristol Courier about Lew Richie—Richie was born in nearby Ambler, Pennsylvania, and pitched for Landreth in semi-pro leagues before making is pro debut in 1906 at age 22:

“Landreth hired Richie to pitch the morning game of a holiday twin bill for the county championship, and after winning and fanning 18 men, all for five dollars, Richie came back in the afternoon and insisted on hurling that game , too, for nothing.

“Somebody ‘kidded’  him about winning the morning game on a fluke, and Lew wanted to show them—and he did, winning that game as well.”

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Lew Richie

Tim Donahue had a reputation for being tough during his eight seasons in the major leagues.  The catcher told The Chicago Evening Post he had only encountered one man who made him back him down:

“I was never put down and out but once.  It was when I was playing semi-professional ball too, and was quite a young lad.  There was a big fellow named Sullivan on the other side and I tried to block him at the plate.  He swung on my jaw and I thought a load of bricks had dropped on my head.  I finally came to, but I didn’t block Sullivan any more.  That’s the only time I would ever clear out.”