Tag Archives: Cincinnati Reds

“A man of the Caliber of Taft”

10 Sep

Less than a year before the Black Sox scandal, Ed Bang of The Cleveland News wrote about the need for a central authority to govern the game. He suggested his top candidate:

“William H. Taft.

“That’s the name to conjure with in any walk of life to say nothing of baseball and it may come to pass that one of these days the former president of the United States will be the sole member of the national baseball commission, the court of last resort in the national pastime.”

Taft shakes hands with Mordecai Brown, 1909

Bang called baseball “a rather sick individual” since the Federal League wars of 1914 and ’15., then “confined to bed” when the war department declared baseball a non-essential occupation. The situation became more dire earlier in the year when minor league magnates “threw down the gauntlet,” threatening to no longer honor the draft and options agreements.

“It became evident,” wrote Bang, “that baseball needed a doctor.”

Taft, he said was agreeable to most of the major league owners who, like the public had a “lack of confidence,” in August Herrmann, chairman of the National Commission as well as American League President Ban Johnson, and John Tener, who had resigned as National League president in August.

Bang said:

“A man of the caliber of William Howard Taft, one who is in no way connected with the national pastime either as league president or club owner and one who would give all parties a square deal, would add considerable prestige to the sport. Prestige is what is needed right now and if Mr. Taft or any other figure of equal ability can bring that about, the baseball magnates could well afford to pay him $50,000 a year and figure the money as well spent.”

Taft was, of course never hired, and baseball lacked a single, central power as commissioner through the 1919 season and scandal, until Kennesaw Mountain Landis became the first commissioner in 1920.

“He Never Liked Baseball so Much When he was in it”

8 Sep

After winning 139 games during a 12-year major league career, Fred Toney’s professional career came to an abrupt and unceremonious end after appearing in nine games (4-3 4.09 ERA) for the Nashville Volunteers in 1925.

Munce Pique, a long-time figure in Southern baseball—he had a long career as an umpire as a brief one as a player—told the story to Blinkey Horn of The Nashville Tennessean in 1935:

“They were in Mobile, and a runner was on third when a Mobile batter his a long foul. The Nashville left fielder—I can’t remember his name—caught the foul and the runner scored.

“Fred Toney walked out of the box, went over to the dressing room, knocked the lock off the door with a bat and put on his clothing and went home.

“So it wasn’t the case in Munce Pique’s opinion, of a sore arm, but rather that Fred Toney was sore at his left fielder for making a dumb catch.

“You could hardly blame him.”

The story had become relevant in Nashville 10 years later because that summer Toney returned, The Associated Press said:

“The other day the hurler, now 45 [sic, 46] and weighing 270 pounds, walked to the mound in Nashville’s ballpark and began throwing a ‘mighty small ball’ down the slot in batting practice.

“Not even the ever-enthusiastic local fans knew that the middle-aged giant out there was Fred Toney, in new shoes and a drab grey uniform.”

Toney, who had a farm and operated a tavern and gas station on Hydes Ferry Pike in Nashville, and had recently attended his first baseball game in a decade; he, “Never liked baseball so much when he was in it,” but now wanted back in the game as a coach.

Toney pitched in a couple semi-pro games in Tennessee in the summer of 1935, and in the spring of 1936 continued his quest to coach, but even he admitted it was his second choice, telling The Nashville Banner:

“I’ve been trying to get on the Nashville police force, but that has just about fallen through. If I can’t make that I want to start dickering for a coaching job.”

The prospects were dim for 47-year-old, 270-pound rookie cops and for coaches 10-years removed from the game

In September of 1936 Toney’s name was back in the news when the farm, filling station, and a “trophy room (containing) valuable relics from his baseball days; pictures, autographed baseballs, and gloves went up in smoke.”

Toney lost his home, one of his businesses, and every piece of memorabilia he had saved from his career.

The next summer, while working at a local nightclub he continued to seek a coaching job but seemed to have been annoyed by the prospect of interacting with modern players. The told The Associated Press:

“Pitchers today don’t do as they should, because they can’t. They are soft. They can’t take it.”

The pitchers of his day were, “farmers, coal miners, cotton pickers. They were physically equal to the strain.”

Toney concluded that, “young men who live normal lives, going through school and having things pretty easy can’t possibly develop into great pitchers.”

By early 1941, bed ridden with the flu and with no job prospects, Toney made another pitch for a baseball job through The Tennessean, telling a reporter:

“I’ll be up soon and all I ask is a chance.”

The best prospect for a job came from the Kitty League, Shelby Peace, the league president sent a wire to the paper:

“I would be glad for you to notify Fred Toney that if he is willing to accept a job as an umpire in the Kitty League, I will be very glad to send him a contract.”

Toney, in 1949, shows a group of minor leaguers his grip on a ball purported to be the one he used to record the final out in the 17-inning no-hitter in 1917; except more than a decade earlier, Toney was said to have lost every important piece of memorabilia in in afire.

That job never materialized, not did a coaching position.  Toney spent his final years working as a security guard and later as a bailiff in the Davidson County Criminal Court House.

Toney died in March of 1953; shortly before his death, and appropriate for his personality, he did not call either his 17-inning minor league, or 10-inning major league no-hitters his greatest moment. His greatest moment was born out of revenge. He told The Banner:

“When I first came up to the Chicago Cub from Winchester in 1911, my manager was Frank Chance. I have no doubt I’d have spent my entire career with the Cubs if Chance hadn’t left and gone to the American League.

“Johnny Evers, who was known as ‘the Crab.’ And I never got along. I never could go for a brow beating manager. Evers sent me back to Louisville and I had to battle my way back to the big leagues with Cincinnati in 1915.

“Evers was then managing Boston. In my first start against him, boy, I beat him good. That one win did more for me than any other.”

Unfortunately, Toney’s greatest moment wasn’t quite accurate either . He lost three decisions to the Braves in 1915 before beating them with a one-hitter on September 1.

“I lay Awake All-Night Suffering from the Pain”

3 Sep

After taking in three Yankees games upon his arrival in New York—the first major league games he had seen in 20 years—New assistant Polo Grounds superintendent, Amos Rusie talked to Robert Boyd from The New York World, who asked “What impressed you the most,” after twenty years away.

“Babe Ruth.

“We had great hitters in my time, Napoleon Lajoie, (Honus) Wagner, and Ed Delahanty. But they didn’t hit the ball near as hard as this boy.”

Rusie, having seen the current baseball for three games, conceded it was livelier, and said, “I suppose the fans want hitting, and it looks like their getting it.”

Rusie

The Hoosier Thunderbolt also refused to say if pitchers of his era were better, telling Boyd he wanted to see a few more games before weighing in. He did share his general philosophy:

“I don’t approve of being too severe with pitchers. Do not curb their development. In my time we were not allowed to soil the ball. There were no freak deliveries. The spitter and shine were not heard of. We had to depend on speed and fast breaking curves, and we had a great advantage over the batsman. But today the batter has the edge. The livelier ball and the rules imposed on the pitcher are the cause of it.”

Rusie said he was pleased to see the large crowds at the Polo Grounds:

“Baseball has grown into a great national institution.”

He also said he felt the Black Sox scandal, “did not hurt the game much,’” and lauded the selection of Kennesaw Mountain Landis as commissioner, saying his presence would make the game “grow infinitely more powerful.”

Three weeks into his return to New York, the city’s baseball writers had not tired of talking baseball with Rusie.

John B. Foster of The Daily News walked the ground of Manhattan Field—the former Brotherhood Park built for the Players League in 1890 and the Giants home park beginning the following season, Rusie’s second with the Giants—with the former pitcher, who said

 “Remember the old wooden stand after you got in, and the little old lake in left field and center field after every heavy rain and high tide?

“Sometimes there’d be a lake in right field too. Remember that old two-story shed for the visiting club, and how the players used to cuss (Giants owner Andrew) Freedman because he didn’t build a better place.

“The old wooden stand wasn’t an old wooden stand when it was built. We used to think it was some theater. It was four times bigger’n the stands out West. The first time I saw it I didn’t think there’s ever’d be enough people to fill it.”

He stood firm on the question of whether the game had changed substantially:

“Nope, not as I’ve been able to see.”

Rusie talked more about his “gone” arm:

“I was sent from New York to Cincinnati. I pitched a little there (he appeared in three games and pitched 22 innings) but after a game I lay awake all-night suffering from the pain in my shoulder. I made up my mind to quit…if I couldn’t pitch the kind of ball that I had been accustomed to pitch when I was good, I wasn’t going to pitch. No bush league for me.”

At that point, New York pitcher Fred Toney—having eavesdropped on the conversation—said:

“’We are going to have him in a game before the season is over.’

“Rusie grinned and shook his head negatively

“’My old wing might break off if I took such a chance,’ replied Amos laughing.”

Despite his response, Rusie did wish he could face one more batter:

Fred Toney

“Sometimes, I’ve thought that I’d like to pitch just once against Ruth if I was up to my speed. Just for an experiment. I ‘don’t say that I could fool him anymore’n pitchers fool him now, but I’m like the kid and the buzz saw. I want to monkey with it just once.”

Rusie worked at the Polo Grounds until June of 1929—he picked a poor time to return to Washington and buy a farm—just months before the stock market crashed. His views about the modern game had also changed during his eight years back at the ballpark. 

More Rusie Monday

“O’Connor Called me a big Fat-Head”

30 Aug

Jake Stenzel’s nine-year big-league career came to an end at age 32 in July of 1899. The Cincinnati Post said the abrupt end was the result of, “suffering from a lame throwing ‘wing’ all season.”

Stenzel had joined his hometown club, the Cincinnati Reds, after being released a month earlier by the St. Louis Perfectos.

Stenzel drew his release after an altercation with teammate Jack O’Connor during a June 18 game with Washington. He came to the plate in the fifth inning with the bases loaded and no outs. Stenzel attempted to bunt and pooped up to first baseman Pete Cassidy who doubled Emmet Heidrick off first.

Stenzel

The St. Louis Globe-Democrat said:

“O’Connor, who was coaching, addressed some remarks to Stenzel, and by the looks on the faces of both men they could not have been good natured ones. Stenzel made a rush at O’Connor, and they came to a clinch.”

Stenzel was “very bitter” at O’Connor and manager Patsy Tebeau over the release which was made official several days later

“When I made that bunt that resulted in a double play O’Connor called me a big fat-head and used all kinds of profanity. When I walked to the bench Tebeau told me I was released. A few minutes later when, when someone in the stand asked Tebeau why he released me he, Pat said because I was a thick-headed Dutchman.”

O’Connor denied having a role in Stenzel’s release, telling The Globe-Democrat he was, “in no position” to have influenced Tebeau—despite being the club’s captain—and claimed after the altercation the two shook hands in the clubhouse.

Stenzel signed with the Reds weeks later and hit .310 in nine games before being released again for his lame arm.

Stenzel bought a bar on Western Avenue, across the street from the three ballparks the Reds called home until 1970 and was frequently sought out by reporters for his opinions on the game until his death in 1919.

In 1915, he told The Pittsburgh Chronicle-Telegraph:

“Delicate and dainty, indeed, are the athletes of today.”

Current players, he said:

“(H)op out of the game on the least pretext; their managers and club owners uphold them in retiring from the fray as soon as they suffer the slightest damage, and a cut finger is amply sufficient to secure a week’s vacation on full pay.”

Earlier that summer, Reds pitcher Rube Benton was on the mound two days after having a finger broken by a line drive during a game with the Cubs. He was, said Stenzel:

“(A)bout the gamest fellow I’ve heard of recently. Most of them would have laid off two weeks and then told the manager that the hand was still tender.

“Back 30 years ago things were very different. Players prided themselves on their nerve and often had to be actually forced out of the game before they’d stop. Best evidence of the difference between then and now; in the old days a player couldn’t leave the game unless disabled, and the clubs carried only twelve or thirteen men. If a pitcher or a catcher broke his finger it meant that he would have to play right field awhile…Show the manager a broken finger ad it meant an assignment to right field for the next afternoon instead of a vacation. The player expected it too, and would have felt insulted if he had been told to take a layoff instead of getting into action.”

“Rube Prides Himself on his Strength”

27 Aug

After a six to three Reds victory over Chicago on August 7, 1901, The Cincinnati Commercial Tribune told the story of why Chicago’s Rube Waddell and several fans came late to the game.

Jake Stenzel, a Cincinnati native, had returned home after his nine-year major league career came to an end and opened a bar across the street from League Park:

Stenzel

“During yesterday’s game there was a counter attraction in Jake Stenzel’s saloon, where Rube Waddell was exhibiting feats of strength. Fifty or more people who came out in that neighborhood for the purpose of seeing the game found Rube’s exhibition entertaining enough, and, consequently, did not hand their coin into the little window of the ball ark entrance.”

Stenzel and another man had lured Waddell into the bar by telling him fishing stories:

“Stenzel said he caught a bass weighing fourteen pounds, and Rube immediately went him four pounds better, and added that he caught the fish with his fingers.”

Stenzel then told Waddell that he caught his fish on property he owned in Indiana and was considering purchasing additional acres.

“’Well, if there’s fishing down there, Jake, it’s cheap, and you better buy it right away,’ advised Rube. ‘I am thinking of buying a place like that myself. When I do, I’ll stock with bass and give up baseball.”’

Rube

The paper said Stenzel’s friend told Waddell:

“’I don’t think you’re strong enough for a fisherman,’ and then the fun began, for Rube prides himself on his strength.”

Waddell responded”

“’Ain’t strong enough, eh? Well. Wait till I show you.’ And Rube rushed over to the end of the counter and raised it off the floor. Then he took a full keg of beer and lifted it over his head, and he wound up his exhibition by picking Jake Stenzel up bodily and throwing him to the pavement.”

With that:

“The crowd cheered, and Rube ran across the street to see the rest of the game.”

“Great Ball Players are not to be had now”

24 May

In August of 1904, Ted Sullivan came through the Midwest on his way  to the West Coast on a scouting trip for the Cincinnati Reds He stopped long enough in Decatur, Illinois to talk baseball with the town’s daily papers, The Herald and The Review:

“He belonged on the diamond in the days of Anson. When it came time for him to quit he did not retire, rather he took up other lines of the game.”

Ted Sullivan

Sullivan had traveled the world, become “something of a philosopher, and “seems proudest of the fact that the National League selected him as its agent to see minor league players in action and report on the promising ones.”

Sullivan said the assignment was, “proof of the confidence the best of them of today place in my judgment.”

It was, he said, “not safe to take a man from the minor leagues on the showing of the score cards,” which were “often doctored.”

Sullivan had been visiting towns around the Three-I League, and was in Decatur to watch catcher Ed Krebs and shortstop Louie Gruebner, who, The Herald said:

“Fields fine and bats like an old lady.”

Krebs took 1905 off, in part, he told The Review, because baseball cut into his fishing time.

Sullivan was among the games pioneers who thought the days of the best players were in the past.

“No, the great ball players are not to be had now, they are all dead. Ball playing is not all in the arms and legs, most of it is in the head. It is in that head quality that the men of today are lacking. Who is there to take the place of Mike Kelly of old? Why that man showed them every trick they know today, they don’t do anything worth counting that Kelly did not show them.”

Sullivan scoffed at “talk about the Pittsburgh team…being a match for Anson’s team when it was at its best and had Kelly; why, Pittsburgh is not in the same class.”

He said, “everything else in the world today is showing better brain than it ever did before,” except, of course, baseball.

“I was at Harvard watching a ball game and I sat next to the president of that university. I mentioned to him that we needed brains in the game today and he told me he thought the college men could furnish that. I told him know that we could not get that from the colleges.”

Sullivan said the best brains for baseball came out of the “vacant lot leagues,” and mentioned, “one ball player who had to make a cross as his signature, but he was getting $4,000 a year…because he had it in his head to play the game.”

There were “a better class of men” playing currently, but:

“It is a mistaken idea to think that the college athlete by breaking into the game has elevated it.”

The Review said Sullivan was, “also faithful to the ‘Old Sod,’ and maintained that the Irish made the best baseball players:

“Not one that comes from Ireland, but one whose veins are filled with the blood of the Celt.”

But while baseball would never be the same as it was during his prime, Sullivan said the game still, “shows what a great we have,” as there were players who could earn “twice the sum,” of members of the US Senate.

Sullivan’s most significant “discovery” of the 1904 trip was Orval Overall; the 23-year-old “college man was amid a 32-25 season with a 2.78 ERA for the Tacoma Tigers in the Pacific Coast League. He was the only player Sullivan scouted out West “who will be drafted.” He told The San Francisco Chronicle:

Orville Overall

“I do not consider that Overall is the best pitcher in the league by any means…but Overall has it in him to make a great pitcher and with the coaching and development he will get in big league company it will be brought out.”

Mike Mitchell: “How I Win”

21 May

Mike Mitchell spent eight seasons in the major leagues with four different clubs; he hit .278 and one of the game’s best outfield arms. He also differed from most of his contemporaries who were interviewed by syndicated writer Joseph B. Bowles in 1910 for a series of articles where the game’s best players and managers explained, “How I Win.”

Mitchell’s explanation:

“Luck I think is the biggest element in winning baseball games, and in the success of any individual player. I have known many good ballplayers who were sent back to the minor leagues and have never arisen again because luck broke against them during their early careers, and they were never lucky enough to get another chance.”

Mitchell

He reasoned:

“Scoring runs wins, hitting scores runs and luck is the best part of hitting…There are mysteries in batting that even the batters do not understand…Often a man hit hard and steadily without getting safe hits for weeks and then suddenly the luck will turn and everything he hits will go safe.”

Michell hit .222 in his second season after a .292 rookie year, and rebounded in 1909 with what would be a career best .310:

“(In 1909) I stood up and hit that ball as hard as ever I did in my life and hit it steadily yet had hard work to get above .200 and the next season hits rolled out of the bats. I could not trace it to any fault of my own, for the swings and stride seemed the same.”

He also believed that, “There is no way for a man to learn to bat,” with one exception:

“I think left-handed batters who are extremely fast actually can be taught to bat whether they are natural hitters or not. They can learn to poke and push the ball and chop at it, mixing it up with their swings and by practice become pretty good hitters whether they were at the start or not.”

Despite it being luck, Mitchell offered some advice to hitters:

“Try to keep a steady footing, both feet on the ground but with the body balanced on the balls of the feet. Never hit flatfooted.”

He also preached contact over power:

“Notice the best major league batters. They may take two hard swings at the ball, then see them shorten up their grips on the bat and make sure of hitting the ball to save a strikeout.”

His advice to young players:

“Keep cool, watch closely and study all the time and you may hit—if you are lucky.”

“Pioneers of Baseball Methods were so Often Overshadowed”

3 May

John B. Foster writing in The New York Sun 1927, said:

“When the theory of baseball playing differed greatly from the methods that are used now, the idea of an outfielder was that of a portly individual who carried with him a great expanse of shoulder blade, a pair of arms that looked as if they could knock the horns off a crescent, and the ability to shoulder a bat that weighed more than the captain of a winch”

He said Cap Anson, “had a lot to do with that theory” becoming a trend. “All of Anson’s outfielders were big men when he could get them,” because the White Stockings manager would say, “They can hit the ball out of the lot, and it’s the hitters that count.”

Foster said, “Anson’s long batters and big men,” became less critical as, “Fielders found their way into the game who could run back to the fences and get the ball…There was the beginning of a system which has not changed much since, although it has been improved.”

One of the first of the new “system,” said Foster, was:

“Honest John Corkhill…They called him ‘Pop’ as he grew older in harness.”

Corkhill

Corkhill, he said was the first outfield who tried “coming in” on balls and was “a great exponent of that kind of fielding and, combined with his ability to bat well, was one of the great players of the big game.”

Ren Mulford of The Cincinnati Enquirer agreed with Foster’s assessment. During the outfielder’s final season, he said:

“Corkhill always was a sensational catch. He was wont to make connection with flies that most outfielders could not reach.”

And said Mulford in recalling Corkhill fifteen years after his big-league career ended, said:

“What a fellow Corkhill was on those forward running catches! He could skate in on his breastbone and snatch flies off the grass.”

But Foster said, Corkhill was never “given due credit for his skill, his intelligence, and his daring. The pioneers of baseball methods were so often overshadowed by the big deeds of the really big men physically that they were overlooked.”

The one thing written about Corkhill as much as his fielding prowess was his baldness and sensitivity about it. Foster said:

“As he grew older, he acquired a bald spot. When he donned his frock coat, his shiny bald head, combined with a huge mustache made him appear like a professor.”

After the 1889 season, Corkhill’s former teammate Hugh Nicoll was “wintering in Kansas City” and told The Kansas City Star a story from the previous season when Corkhill played for the Bridegrooms:

“One day when the Cincinnatis were playing in Brooklyn and the old man lost his cap while sliding to second and it rolled about ten feet away from the base. (Bid) McPhee had the ball and John was in a sorry fix. He could not get the cap without being put out and to get up would reveal his baldness to the thousands of people looking at him, but he was a sly old fox, and he got the headgear and yet he did not show his baldness.

“’Get that cap,’ he whispered to McPhee as he laid on the ground; but McPhee refused just to worry him. Then John began to writhe as in great pain and the Brooklyn players ran out to him with a bucket of water. One of them tossed the cap to him and as he got up all the players laughed.”

“Byron was more to blame than I was”

19 Apr

After National league umpire Tim Hurst died in 1915, his American League counterpart Billy Evans said in his nationally syndicated column:

“In the passing of Tim Hurst, baseball lost the quaintest character of the diamond. It was believed there would never be another one to approach him., but in Bill Byron baseball has a pocket edition of Timothy Carroll Hurst.

“No more fearless umpire ever held an indicator than Tim Hurst. Bill Byron runs him a close second.”

Evans said before coming to the National League in 1913, Byron was the subject “of many stories of wild minor league riots, in which Bill played the leading role without so much as mussing his hair.”

Fearless was one adjective used about Byron, but there were many others. After the 1911 season, Ed Barrow, president of the Eastern League removed Byron from the league’s staff. The Baltimore Sun said many celebrated the move:

“Byron’s chief fault is his stubbornness, and he, as well, is a bit dictatorial and oversteps his authority on the diamond…For the good of the game–in the face of many prejudices–Barrow has acted wisely in giving him the ‘can.'”

Bill Byron

Known as the “singing Umpire,” Byron’s “little ditties” were so well known that writers like L.C. Davis of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Willian Phelon of The Cincinnati Times-Star both wrote columns suggesting new songs for the umpire.

Davis suggested that when the Cubs Heine Zimmerman argued a call:

Heinie, Heinie, I’ve been thinking,

I don’t want none of your slack;

To the clubhouse you’ll go slinking,

If you make another crack.

Johnny Evers complained to Phelon:

“How can a guy tend to his batting when the umpire’s warbling in his ears?”

John McGraw was Byron’s biggest foil and foe, and Byron had a song for the manager of the New York Giants:

“John McGraw is awful sore

Just listen to Napoleon roar

The crowd is also very mad

They think my work is very bad.”

In 1917, in an often told story, after a game in Cincinnati, the Giants manager landed two punches before he was separated from Byron after an ejection.

McGraw

After the incident, McGraw provided a signed statement admitting to punching Byron, but blaming the incident on the umpire:

“Byron said to me: ‘McGraw, you were run out of Baltimore.”

When the umpire repeated the charge, McGraw said he “hit him. I maintain I was given reason.”

When Byron arrived in St. Louis the day after the incident to work a series between the Cardinals and Phillies, he refused to answer when asked by a reporter from The Philadelphia Inquirer if McGraw had punched him, instead:

“Bill pointed the right hand to the jaw. There was dark clot—which indicated that something landed as early as 20 hours ago.” 

McGraw’s justification for the attack notwithstanding, he was fined $500 and suspended for 16 days.

McGraw responded, claiming to be “discriminated against personally,” by league President John Tener,” and that “Byron was more to blame than I was.”

He said the action taken against him would result in:

“Umpires with Byron’s lack of common intelligence and good sense, will now be so overbearing with players there will be no living with them.”

But the feud had been brewing since the umpire entered the league.

In August of 1914, in a game where the Reds scored five runs in the eighth to beat the Giants 5 to 4, The Cincinnati Enquirer said:

“The character of McGraw was shown by his getting into an insulting ruction with Umpire Byron…He was so angered at losing out that he pelted the official with vicious expletives and delayed the game for several minutes.”

In 1915, Sam Crane, the former player turned baseball writer for The New York Journal, and a close friend of McGraw, chronicled a clash between the two during a September 25 game between the seventh place Giants and sixth place Cardinals in St. Louis:

Byron was being taunted from the New York bench and decided utility infielder Fred Brainard was the culprit and ejected him:

“Brainard (in a startled voice: ‘Who me/ Why, I didn’t open my mouth, did I boys?’

“Chorus of players: ‘No, he didn’t.’

“A mysterious voice from a far corner of the dugout: ‘’Byron, you can’t hear any better than you can see. You’re rotten.’”

At this point, Byron walked to the Giants bench and gave Brainard one minute to leave.

McGraw responded, “You have pulled another boot Byron,” and accused the umpire of once ordering a player off the bench who was coaching at first base, and asked how he knew it was Brainard:

“Umpire Byron (turning pale): ‘I caught Brainard with his mouth open.’”

The Giants bench laughed at the umpire and McGraw accused him of always “guessing” at his decisions.

At this point Crane said Byron, “five minutes after he had given Brainard one minute,” removed his watch from his pocket and again gave Brainard a minute to leave and told McGraw he would be ejected as well. The manager responded:

“Why should I be put out of the game? I haven’t done anything. Neither has Brainard. You’re all tangled up. Do you know the rules? What time is it by that tin timepiece you have got there?”

Byron repeated the order and threatened to forfeit the game to St. Louis. McGraw said:

“Go ahead and forfeit. You will be in very bad if you do. Every one of my players here say Brainard did not say a word. You will be in a nice fix with Tener, won’t you. You will have a fat chance to umpire the world’s series. Go ahead and forfeit the game.”

Byron then summoned three police officers to remove Brainard, but according to Crane, the police sergeant said,” I will have to take the umpire along, too.”

This elicited more laughter from the Giants bench.

Crane’s story ends with McGraw chastising the umpire while finally telling Brainard to go, and Byron returning to homeplate while singing:

“Oh, I don’t know. The multitude and the players are enraged at me; but I gained my point. Oh, I don’t know; I ain’t so bad.”

And the game “then proceeded, and smoothly throughout.”

Crane claimed the whole ordeal took at least 15 minutes.

The Post-Dispatch didn’t mention police, implied that Byron clearly won the encounter, and said, “five minutes were consumed in this senseless argument.”

The paper scolded the umpire for the “bush league trick” of pulling out his watch, but said:

“In time, however, McGraw relented under the threat of a forfeiture, which means a fine of $1000, and Brainard went his way.”

McGraw might have gotten the better of Byron in their 1917 fight in Cincinnati, but in 1915 the umpire “landed twice” on Boston Braves third baseman Red Smith after the game when Smith renewed an earlier argument over balls and strikes September 16 in Chicago. Smith attempted to get at Byron after being hit but was stopped by the other umpire, Al Orth.

Byron and McGraw continued to butt heads and the umpire’s combative style and singing continued to draw attention.

George Moriarty, the Detroit Tigers infielder, turned American League umpire—who also wrote songs—and often included poems about players in the nationally syndicated column he began writing in 1917, said—in part–of Byron:

“It’s wonderful the way you face the throng of maddened players all season long;

While other umps get busted on the bean you pacify the athletes with a song.

You know that music charms the savage beast, and as they rush to stab you in the vest,

And tell you how they’ll tear you limb from limb, you sing like John McCormack at his best.”

More on Byron Wednesday.

“More Bunk is Written about Baseball”

22 Mar

Myron Townsend, the sports editor of The Cincinnati Commercial Tribune said:

“More bunk is written about baseball than any professional sport.

“In dwelling on the details of ‘Inside’ ball the scribes allow their imaginations to run away with them.”

In 1910, after the publication of Johnny Evers’ and Hugh Fullerton’s book, “Touching Second; The Science of Baseball,” talk of “inside baseball” was all the rage: or “a favorite subject of the space killers,” as Townsend put it:

“Many fans believe that baseball players are mental gymnasts. They swallow whole all they read about the ‘science’ of the game.

“Touching Second,” Evers’ and Fullerton’s collaboration on “Inside Baseball.”

“For this reason, the speculative typewriter tickler never grows weary of pounding out epistles about the marvelous mental attainments of professional players.”

Townsend ridiculed the idea that, “According to the critics baseball is very complex. The moves and counter moves are fairly bewildering. A great chess master is a child when compared to a baseball manager.”

He said the baseball writer of the rival Cincinnati Times-Star had it right:

“No writer perforates the ‘signal’ theory more neatly or thoroughly than “Billy Phelon.”

Phelon had written on the subject:

“A kick of the coacher’s right foot means one movement for the batsman and baserunner; a kick of the left foot means another; pulling grass with the right hand means to do this and jerking it violently with the left hand means to do the other thing. If the manager on the bench shades his eyes with his palm it means a steal, if he hits the water barrel viciously with his left foot it means to sacrifice.

“In short—according to the magazine writers and the brilliant critics of the day—baseball is controlled, all the way through the stages of the active play, by these intricate, complex, recurring, and crisscrossing signs and codes.

“All of which would be extremely instructive were it not for the fact that it isn’t so; and that, in all these stories, the writers either built upon their imagination; or—more likely—were ‘stung’ and ‘joshed’ by the ballplayers to whom they went for information”

Phelon said it was “a plain, hard fact, no ball team ever played the game under a long and complex code of signals.” He called it “an utter impossibility and mental absurdity.”

Instead, Phelon said:

“The generalship of the ballfield is an ever-shifting series of quickly devised schemes, not a fifth part of them figured out or practices before each individual game begins. The signal code of the ball field is limited to eight or ten simple tricks and must ever be so for the reason that the brain of the ballplayer is not that of Euclid, Plato or Archimedes.”

Townsend said, “Mr. Phelon is right,” and told Cincinnati fans to “disabuse their minds of all such rot.”

Reds Manager Clark Griffith, said Townsend:

“Does not have to tell (Bob) Bescher when to steal bases. Instinct tells the speed boy what to do when he reaches first. A certain amount of teamwork between batter and baserunner may be necessary, but as a third party a manager is a ‘butter in.’”

Bescher

The Commercial Tribune Editor accused Evers of attempting to “bunk the fans about the elaborate set of signs and counter signs the Cubs use.”

Townsend said the “brainy second baseman” said he and Cubs shortstop Joe Tinker “never made a move” with signaling one another. He contrasted that with the second baseman and shortstop of the 1904 New York Giants, Billy Gilbert and Bill Dahlen, who:

“(N)ever used a signal of any kind. The duties of their positions were second nature to them.”

Contrary to the trend, It was a game of spontaneity, not science:

“No one should underestimate ‘generalship’ and strategy as a component part of the game, but the decisive plays come up on the spur of the moment. They cannot be rehearsed in the clubhouse…’Inside ball’ will always be a favorite theme, but the speed boys and hard hitters, aided and abetted by a start staff of pitchers and a master workman behind the bat, will continue to win games, knowing nothing about the ‘signs and signals’ which ignorant fans imagine they are wise to.”