Tag Archives: Christy Matthewson

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things: Clark Griffith

3 Feb

Griff out West

Griffith loved to tell stories about his time playing in Montana, one story the “truthfulness” of he “vouched” he told The Cleveland Leader in 1912:

leetgriffith

Griffith

“The scene was at Butte, back in the nineties (1892), and the story resulted from a baseball game between Missoula and Butte at the latter town. There were a lot of gamblers in Butte who wanted to back the team, so about $5000 was bet on the game.”

Griffith was on the mound for Missoula:

“Everything went along nicely for a while, with a monster crowd on hand hollering for everything it was worth for Butte to win.

“In the ninth inning Missoula was leading by one run, but after two were out Butte got a man on third and then the catcher let the ball get away from him. It rolled a short distance, but when the catcher went to retrieve it one bug leaned over the stand with a six-shooter in his hand. ‘Touch that ball and you are dead,’ he shouted. And the catcher stood stock still in his tracks.”

Griffith said the players “were scared stiff” and watched the tying run cross the plate.  He claimed Missoula scored in the 10th and won the game 5 to 4.

Griff on Lajoie

In 1900, Griffith and Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Tribune were watching Napoleon Lajoie take ground balls during practice:

“He looks less like a ballplayer, handles himself less like an infielder, goes at a ball in the strangest style, and gets them more regularly than any fellow I ever watched. He fights every ball he picks up, scoops them with without looking, and keeps me nervous all the time.

lajoie

Napoleon Lajoie

 

“Every time a grounder goes down to him, I want to bet about three to one he will fumble, but he always gets them. He has some system for making the ball hit his hands which I don’t understand.  And I’ll tell you a secret: He has a system of making his bat hit a ball which drives pitchers to drink.”

Griff’s All-Time Team

In “Outing Magazine” in 1914, Griffith presented his all-time team:

P: Amos Rusie

P: Walter Johnson

P: Cy Young

P: Christy Mathewson

C: Buck Ewing

1B: Charles Comiskey

2B: Eddie Collins

3B: Jimmy Collins

SS: Herman Long

LF: Bill Lange

CF: Tris Speaker

RF: Ty Cobb

Griffith’s most surprising pick was choosing Comiskey over his former teammate and manager Cap Anson. He told the magazine:

“(Comiskey) was the first man to see the possibilities of the position. Before his day a first baseman was only a basket. He stood glued to the bag, received the balls thrown to him, but never moved away.”

Charles Comiskey

Charles Comiskey

He said Anson, “Although a great player, was not Comiskey’s equal.”

He chose Long over Honus Wagner he said, because “Hans has a barrel of ability, but he’s not such a foxy player as many persons think, but he is a wonderful batter.”

Griffith called Jimmy Collins, “The most graceful fielding third baseman the game has ever seen,” and said Tris Speaker ”is the most remarkable outfielder that ever lived.”

As or his chosen catcher, Griffith said:

“Buck Ewing never has known an equal as a catcher. I call him the best ballplayer the world ever has known. The only man who approached him was Mike Kelly of the old Chicago White Sox, Kelly too, was a wonder, but not quite equal to Ewing.”

Baseball Wives, 1911

27 Apr

The Chicago Inter Ocean sent a reporter—a female reporter named Lois Willoughby—to get to know:

“The feminine element (that) is a silent factor in baseball of no mean importance.  It exerts a wonderful influence on the game…The women who preside over homes of West Side Players.”

The Chicago Cubs wives of 1911:

“The wives of members of the Chicago National League baseball team are always at the games.  They are thirty-third-degree fans—all but Mrs. (Nellie) Ed Reulbach…who is quite indifferent to the sport, and who wouldn’t know a base hit from a double play.”

As for the other wives of the defending National League Champions:

“They are comely, intelligent, charming women.  They know everything about the game.  They appreciate the value of every play.  They watch the contest with unflagging interest.  They cheer their husbands on to victory…Through ups and downs, they maintain unbounded enthusiasm and unfaltering faith in the Cubs.  They show it the only way they can by their daily presence in the grandstand.”

Manager Frank Chance’s wife, the former Edythe Pancake, attended every game:

“She may come at the last moment, accompanied by her Boston Bull pup, but she is generally comfortably settled for the afternoon before the game is called.  This beautiful woman, with golden hair and blue eyes, shares her husband’s enthusiasm in baseball.

Edyth and Frank Chance

Edyth and Frank Chance

“’Do I come every day?’ she asked as though she could not have heard the question right.  ‘Why, of course, I do.  I wouldn’t miss a game for anything.  I think baseball is the greatest sport there is.  It is a profession now and an honorable one, at that. Every year it is exacting men of higher standards…Baseball is such a clean, healthful sport that I should think it would appeal to everyone.”

Jimmy Sheckard’s wife Sarah Jane said:

“I think Mr. Sheckard is the best left fielder in existence.  And he ought to be. Jimmy plays baseball, reads baseball, talks baseball and lives baseball…Baseball is the best profession and cleanest sport.  I don’t worry about the future.  With good health and good discipline, a man ought to get along all right anywhere.”

mrssheckard

Sarah Jane Sheckard

Ruby Tinker declared her husband the “greatest shortstop in the world,” and said:

“I never saw Joe on the diamond until after we were married.  I have watched him make many fine plays.  I think the best one was the day following his reinstatement this year (Chance suspended Tinker for “the remainder of the season” citing “gross indifference, on August 5—two days later he was back in the lineup) when he played against (Christy) Mathewson and got four hits.”

Ruby Tinker

Ruby Tinker

She said her life revolved around baseball “from morning until night,” and during the off-season as well:

“Joe goes into vaudeville in the winter and gives baseball talks with pictures.  I go with him as an ‘assisting artist,’ which means that I stand in the wings and prompt him…The winter spectators are just as enthusiastic as the summer ones.”

Of those who considered baseball a less than honorable profession, she said:

“They don’t know what they’re talking about.  Baseball is a good profession, a good sport, and good fun.”

Helen Evers insisted that despite reports there were no bad feelings among the 1911 team:

“The Cubs are a fine lot of men.  There seems to be perfect harmony this year, and they do good team work.”

As for her husband’s well-known difficult personality, she said:

“He has the reputation for being ‘crabby’ at times.  Perhaps he is, but that’s what put him where he is.”

mrsevers

Helen Evers

Helen Evers noted one of Johnny’s other personality quirks:

“But when the jinx gets him!  If you don’t know about the jinx you can’t understand how serious it is.  I believe most of the players are superstitious, and they have enough to make them so. I always hope he won’t see a funeral on the way to the game.  That’s a sure sign of bad luck…there are scores of hoodoos and a baseball hoodoo seems hard to break.  One of the good signs is a wagon load of empty barrels.  I’m sure I would never know when they are empty.  These things probably count for nothing, but they seem to affect the nerves of the players.”

Back to Mrs. Reulbach who while not entirely against the sport, expressed her basic disdain for her husband’s chosen career:

“As a wholesome sport, I think baseball has no equal…But as a profession, it does not appeal to me. It is only for a few years at the most and the fascination of the game must make other professions  or lines of business seem dull and monotonous.”

And while conceding the Reulbach’s years in baseball had been “pleasant and profitable” she said:

“I trust Eddie Reulbach Jr. will not be a professional baseball player.”

Nelly Reulbach with Ed Jr.

Nelly Reulbach with Ed Jr.

Ed Reulbach Jr., then 2-years-old, suffered from a variety of illnesses throughout his short life and died in 1931.

Willoughby concluded that as the 1911 National League race wound down:

“Hoping against hope, these faithful women have seen the pennant slipping farther and farther away from them.”

The Cubs lost the pennant to the Giants by 7 ½ games.

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.