Tag Archives: Cincinnati Reds

Adventures in Barnstorming: Anson’s Colts

1 Apr

Cap Anson was broke.  Again.

In January of 1909, he appeared in “debtors court” in Chicago over $111 owed to the Chicago House Wrecking Company.  Anson told Judge Sheridan E. Fry he was “busted.”

The judge asked Anson about his stock in the company that owned Chicago’s Coliseum. Anson said, “I did but the bank’s got it now.  I even owe them money on it.”

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Anson

The judge dismissed the case.  The Chicago Tribune said as Anson was leaving the courtroom:

‘”Three strikes and out,’ half called a man among the spectators.

“The ‘Cap’ paused a moment with his hand on the door knob.

“’There is still another inning,’ he offered as he stepped into the corridor.  Someone started to applaud, and the bailiff forgot to rap for order, and the judge looked on indulgently.”

A rumor made the rounds in subsequent days that Cubs President Charles Webb Murphy was trying to get Anson appointed supervisor of National League umpires. National League President Harry Pulliam quickly killed the idea, The Detroit Free Press said:

“Mr. Pulliam comes through with the sensible suggestion that if Chicago wishes to do anything for Anson it would do better to provide the job itself.”

Anson’s former teammate, Evangelist Billy Sunday, told The Associated Press he was willing to help:

“So, poor old ‘Cap’ Anson is busted! Well, that’s too bad. We ought to help that old boy in some way.

“The Chicago people ought to help ‘old Cap’ out. They ought to give him a benefit. I’d like to help him myself.”

With the job with the National League not forthcoming, no offer from the Cubs, and Anson’s apparently turning down Sunday’s help, he set out on a 5,000-mile barnstorming tour with his Chicago City League amateur team, Anson’s Colts.  Anson, who celebrated his 57th birthday on tour, played first base on a club that included future major leaguers Fred Kommers, George Cutshaw, and Biff Schaller.

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The barnstorming Colts, Anson top center

The tour started in March 28 in South Bend, Indiana; the Colts lost games on the 28th and 29th to the Central League South Bend Greens.

On April 1, Anson’s Colts played the Cincinnati Reds. Thirty-nine-year-old Clark Griffith took the mound for the Reds. Jack Ryder of The Cincinnati Enquirer said:

“Seventy-nine persons witnessed a game of ball at League Park yesterday afternoon which would have furnished several thousand with material for conversation if they had only been there to observe it.”

Griffith pitcher=d a complete game and went 5 for 5 with a triple. In a 15-4 victory; he allowed just seven hits, Anson had two of them in four trips to the plate.

Ryder said of Anson:

“That game old boy played first base for his team, stuck through to the finish, and was the only man on his side who could do much of anything with the delivery of Mr. Griffith.”

Ryder said Anson also “handled perfectly,” every play at first base:

“Remarkable indeed was the spectacle of this great player, now nearly 60 years of age, hitting them out as he did in the days of old and handling thrown balls at his corner like a youngster.  Will there ever be another like him?”

Despite the praise from Ryder, third baseman Hans Lober said of the team from Chicago:

“Teams like…Anson’s Colts don’t give you just the kind of work you need.”

The Colts dropped two more games in Ohio to the American Association Columbus Senators.

Anson’s barnstormers finally won a game on April 4; beating the Central League’s Wheeling Stogies 10 to 4.

The Colts won the next day in Washington D.C., defeating a team from the government departmental league 11 to 1.  Anson had two hits and stole a base.  The Washington Evening Star said:

“The grand old man of the game distinguished himself by playing and errorless game at first.”

The only other highlight of the game was the first appearance of the new electric scoreboard at American League Park.  The Evening Star said:

“It proved a great success and convinced those present that it will undoubtedly make a big hit with the local fans who will witness major league games this summer.”

Against professional competition the next day in Baltimore, the Eastern League Orioles with Rube Dessau on the mound, shutout the Colts 8 to 0; Anson was hitless and committed two errors.

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Ad for the Orioles game

After a 10 to 8 loss to the Reading club of the Atlantic League on April 7, the Colts traveled to Philadelphia for a game with the Athletics the following day.

The Philadelphia Inquirer said of the game:

“The Athletics held Pop Anson and his Colts all too cheaply yesterday and before they realized it the traveling Chicagoans had secured such a lead that they succeeded in beating the White Elephants at Broad and Huntington Streets by a score of 6 to 3.”

Anson had two hits, one of Biff Schlitzer and another off losing pitcher Jimmy Dygert, and accepted 21 error-free chances at first in a 10-inning victory.

Although only “a couple of hundred” fans turned out The Philadelphia Press said:

“Anson played first in a style that showed he has not forgotten any of his baseball cunning.”

Anson also promised reporters the Colts would win upcoming games with the Giants and Red Sox.

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Anson on tour

The Colts traveled to New Jersey to play the Trenton Tigers of the Tri-State League the following day. The Evening Times of that city said:

“Anson came over to Trenton hugging to his breast fond recollections of the victory over Connie Mack’s Athletics, won the previous day.  Trenton seemed only a small blot on the map compared to the Athletics and he counted on winning in a common canter.

“Alas how rudely were these delusions shattered by these smashing, dashing, crashing Trentons that manager (Percy) Stetler has corralled.”

The Colts lost 13-5, Anson was 1 for 4 and made an error.

On to Newark the following day to play the Eastern League Indians.  The Colts lost 7 to 0, but The Newark Evening News said:

“The way (Anson) cavorted around first base, picking low throws from the earth, and pulling down sizzling liners with either hand, made spectators gaze upon him in wonderment.”

The toll of travel and games nearly every day appeared to hit Anson on April 12, five days before his 57th birthday in Waterbury, Connecticut.  The Colts won 4 to 2, but The Chicago Inter Ocean said:

“Anson’s batting eye was weak…he fanned furiously in five futile trips to the plate.  He was the only one who didn’t get a hit.”

The following day, The New York Times said the “Colts played a light, fumbly, amateurish game though the boss himself had said before it started that they would take a scalp.”

The Giants won 7 to 1 and the game featured two other old-timers:

“(Wilbert) Robinson, ancient catcher of Baltimore, and Dan Brouthers, more ancient first baseman of the old Buffalo club, who came down from Wappinger’s Falls ‘to help out.’ Robinson caught the whole nine innings; Brouthers stood at first base after the fifth inning.”

Only “a few hundred people” came out on a cold, rainy day to see the three legends.  Anson was 1 for 4, Brouthers 0 for 1, and Robinson, who also managed the Giants in place of John McGraw, was 2 for 4.

Games scheduled for Worcester and Springfield, Massachusetts were cancelled due to poor weather and the team did not play again until April 16, In Hartford against the Connecticut State League’s Senators.

 

The Hartford Courant said Anson struggled at the plate, and when pitcher Chick Evans struck him out in the third inning:

“John W. Rogers, the vocal member of the local double umpire system, obliged with ‘It isn’t what you Used to be, but What you are Today.”

The Colts lost 8 to 2.

The team lost again the following day, on Anson’s birthday, 5 to 3 to the Providence Grays of the Eastern League. Anson was 1 for 4.

The Boston Globe said:

“Capt. Anson was warmly greeted every time he came to bat. He showed much of his old-time skill in fielding, covering first base in grand style.”

The paper—as did most during the tour–wrongly added a year to Anson’s age, saying he turned 58 that day.
The Colts were back in New York the following day but were the victims of a seldom enforced ban on Sunday baseball while playing a game against the semi-pro Carsey’s Manhattans ant Manhattan Field.

The Chicago Daily News said:

“The officers stopped the game after six innings of play. Throughout the Bronx the police were active in suppressing Sunday ballplaying, but this is said to be the first time that a game on Manhattan Field has thus been broken up.”

The score at the end of six innings was not reported.

The next day in Binghamton, New York, two innings of scoreless baseball between the Colts and the New York State League Bingoes, were bookended by rain and the field “looked like a lake” before the game was called, according to The Binghamton Press.

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Ad for the rained out Binghamton game

On to Pennsylvania, the Colts were scheduled to play Anson’s old White Stockings teammate Malachi Kittridge’s Wilkes-Barre Barons, but the that game was rained out as well.

The Tri-State League’s Johnstown Johnnies beat the Colts 11 to 2, no full box score appears to have survived.

On to Ohio and a 4 to 1 loss to the Dayton Veterans—Anson added two more hits and played error free.

On April 24, The Colts hit Indiana, and lost 8 to 3.

The Fort Wayne Sentinel noted that it was the first time since 1871 that Anson has played a game in their city—as a member of the Rockford Forest Cities.

Anson—who also gave his age as 58 rather than 57– told the paper:

“I’m just a kid at fifty-eight.”

Despite feeling like a hit, Anson did collect either of the Colts’ two hits in the loss.

The tour ended on April 25 in Terre Haute with a 13 to 1 shellacking at the hands of the Hottentots, the eventual basement dwellers of the Central League.

Anson capped the tour with one hit in four trips and an error.

The club returned to Chicago amid little fanfare and the tour likely lost money for Anson, who found himself “busted” several more times before his death in 1922.

The best anyone could say about the tour was a tiny item buried in the bottom of The Chicago Tribune’s sports page:

“Capt. Anson and his ball team returned yesterday from the first invasion of the East ever made by a local semi-pro team. While the team lost a majority of the games played, it paved the way for future visits and other local semi-pro teams are expected to follow the Captain’s example. The veteran was received warmly in all of the towns in which he played.”

The paper ignored the fact that Rube Foster and the Leland Giants—also members of the Chicago City League—had made two similar trips.

“Who’s the Greatest Ballplayer that Ever Lived?”

13 Mar

In the 19th Century, conversations about baseball in hotel lobbies

The Chicago Daily News shared one such discussion in 1896:

“’Who’s the greatest ballplayer that ever lived?’ Demanded the old ball crank of the gathering at the hotel.  And there were, straightaway, almost as many opinions as there were gentlemen in the party.”

A man in town on business said:

“To my mind, Anson outranks them all.  When you consider the wonderful grip which Anse has retained on the sport for all these twenty-five tears, when you take into consideration his qualifications as a player and as a man, his work as a leader and a general, the great batting he has always done every little point that can be recalled about both uncle and the game, I can’t see where any other player, living or dead, ranks with Anson.”

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 Anson

The paper said there were murmurs, then the night clerk weighed in:

“Mike Kelly was his ideal.

“‘Poor old Mike,’ said he, ‘had baseball genius and brilliancy to an extent never paralleled.  He had the mind to originate, the ability to execute.  He was, in the hearts of the masses, what John L. Sullivan was to pugilism.  Remember the tricks he worked, the batting and the base running he did, and the way in which he filled every position—remember only his methods of play, if you will, and then see if any one can compare with poor dead King Kel!’

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 Kelly

The “theatrical man” in the group said:

“’Bill Lange is the best that ever came down the road.  Who is there who does not like to see Lange play ball? What other player in the league, taking batting, base running and fielding into account, is as of as much value as Lange? What club would not eagerly give him the best position and the best salary it could command?  Bill Lange is destined to leave a mark in baseball history as deep as that Mike Kelly made, and future generations will speak of him as they do of Kelly now.’”

Then the “Old baseball crank” spoke up:

“’To my mind gentlemen, the greatest player of them all was Charlie Ferguson of Philadelphia.  There was a man who never realized how good he was.  When it came to effective playing, in any position, Ferguson was the man who could step into the gap so well that the regular man would never be even missed.  He could kill the ball, he was fast on the bases, and we all know he could pitch.  And the head that Charlie Ferguson wore was as good a head as ever decorated any player’s shoulders.  I saw hundreds of great players before Ferguson came, I have seen hundreds since he died, but I never to my mind at least, have seen his equal.’”

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Ferguson

The assembled men said the paper, “remembered the time of Ferguson,” with “nods and mutterings of assent,” thinking of Ferguson’s four seasons in Philadelphia—he died just 12 days after his 25th birthday in 1888.

 “Jim Hart, who ought to be a good judge of players, thinks Ferguson the greatest that the world has ever known. A canvass of ball cranks would probably show sentiments about equally divided between Ferguson and Mike Kelly.”

The paper concluded that there were, and would be, “few such popular idols” as Kelly and Ferguson:

“The increased batting has, queer as it may seem, done away with hero worship.  In the old days hits were few and the man who could step up and kill the ball was a popular king.  Nowadays the fact that nearly everybody is apt to hit takes away the individuality and accompanying romance of the great isolated sluggers.”

The paper said Lange was one of the few contemporary players who “comes as near being the subject of hero worship,” as players in previous years and that there were only players who had that impact in their own cities:

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Lange

“(Jesse) Burkett might be worshipped in Cleveland for his grand batting, but is handicapped by morose, unsociable ways.

‘(Jimmy) McAleer’s fielding would make him an idol, but his batting is pitifully light.  Baltimore’s great hero is Hughey Jennings, and the cranks treat him as though he owned the town. Brooklyn has no heroes.  There is nobody on the Boston nine whom the crowd raves over, even Hugh Duffy having lost his grip.”

“Eddie Burke and Charlie (Dusty) Miller have great followings in Cincinnati.  Louisville dotes on (Charlie) Dexter and Fred Clarke.  New York is idolless.  Philadelphia gives ovations to the whole team as a matter of principle but singles out no player.  Pittsburgh is the same way.  There is nobody at St. Louis or Washington whom the crowds adore.”

“That big Lopsided man can Pitch”

4 Mar

Leonard Washburne, who wrote for The Chicago Herald and The Inter Ocean was another influential early baseball writer who died young—he was just 25.

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Leonard Washburne

He was killed in October of 1891 while riding in the locomotive of a Chicago and Eastern Illinois train with two other members of The Inter Ocean staff.  The three newspapermen and one member of the train crew were the only four fatalities in the wreck which took place in south suburban Crete, thirty miles outside of Chicago.

The Chicago Daily News said the train “struck a misplaced switch and the locomotive plunged through an engine house.  The engineer and the fireman jumped and saved themselves, but the three newspaper men were killed.”

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Newspaper Rendering of the Crash

Washburne was sports editor at The Inter Ocean for less than a year, and left behind a small but colorful collection of observations:

When Harry Stovey was injured in a series in Chicago early in the 1891 season:

“Stovey dragged his six feet up to the plate like a man with one foot in the grave.”

On Amos Rusie:

“Rusie! He is not a handsome man.  His legs lack repose, his fists are too large for their age, his face is a clam-chowder dream, and his neck is so inextensive that he can not wear a collar without embarrassing his ears.

“But how that big lopsided man can pitch.”

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Amos Rusie

When the Philadelphia Phillies snapped an eight game Chicago Colts winning streak, shutting out the Colts 3 to 0 on May 23, 1891:

“Maharajah Anson, who for eight days has been looking toward the pennant without pause was jerked to a standstill yesterday with a noise like a hook and ladder truck striking a beer wagon.”

Jim “Tacks” Curtiss made his debut with the Cincinnati Reds in July of 1891–he only appeared in 56 major league games, 27 with the Reds and 29 with the Washington Statesmen in the American Association–but drew Washburne’s notice:

“Mr. Curtiss is a medium-sized man with a comic-opera mustache and a mouth so full of teeth that he looks like the keyboard of a piano.”

Of Patsy Tebeau’s fifth place Cleveland Spiders, dropped their third straight game to Chicago during an August 1891 series:

 “(His) men wandered through the contest like men who have no idea of winning but hope to last four rounds.”

On Cy Young:

“Young is a big, slack-twisted lob, who throws a ball like a man climbing a stake-and-rider fence, and who will retain that indefinable air of the farm about him as long as he lives.”

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Cy Young

Of Brooklyn fans:

“There is nothing else under the administration like a Brooklyn ball crowd.  A Boston assemblage may be mildly enthusiastic; a New York crowd insanely unfair; a Cleveland one a mob of hoarse-voiced wild-eyed fanatics; but the memory of them all, when one sees a Saturday afternoon Brooklyn crowd, withers and fades away like a flannel shirt. No team was playing at Eastern Park when the late Mr. Dante wrote his justly celebrated “Inferno.” Hence the omission If Dante could have dropped in at Mr. Byrne’s Brooklyn joint before he wrote that book it would have given his imagination a good deal of a boost.”

One year after Washburne’s death, a delegation of more than 500 boarded a Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad train to Clinton, Indiana, to dedicate a monument at his grave.

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Washburne’s one-time colleague at The Inter Ocean, and best friend, future Congressman Victor Murdock said at the dedication:

“I do not believe that any here who knew him had a feeling that could be called respect and admiration only There was an element of strength in him that did not brook so short a stop.  It was not respect, not admiration.  It was love—deep, strong, everlasting love.”

Years later, William A. Phelon, who was a 20-year-old reporter for The Chicago Daily News at the time of Washburne’s death, wrote in The Cincinnati Times Star that “every press-stand is full of keen-witted, clever boys who make their stuff entertaining and interesting ” as a result of Washburne’s influence.

“Cincinnati’ll be Sorry if They let me go”

14 Jan

Hitting above .300 but currently bed ridden with a kidney ailment, Pete Browning was unceremoniously released by the Cincinnati Reds on July 15, 1892, after the club had signed outfielder Curt Welch who had been released two days earlier by the Baltimore Orioles.

Browning had joined the Reds on May 22 after being released by Louisville.

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Browning

Just before the Reds released Browning, manager Charles Comiskey told The Cincinnati Enquirer:

“There has been some complaint about fielder Pete Browning, I don’t see where it comes in.  I know he isn’t the best fielder in the world, but I can get along with a little poor fielding, providing he keeps up his current batting lick.”

Business Manager Frank Bancroft disagreed with his manager.  The Reds beat the New York Giants 3 to 1 on July 10, after Welch made two catches in center field The Enquirer said robbed Jack Boyle and Harry Lyons of extra base hits.

The paper reported on a conversation at the team hotel between Bancroft and Comiskey after the game:

“’If Browning had been in Welch’s place today when that hard hit went out the batter would have been running yet.  The game would have been tied and perhaps lost to us.  Welch save us twice.  It’s a boss fielding team, isn’t it, Charley?’”

Comiskey responded:

“’It is for a fact, and I’m glad to see it, after what I’ve had to handle for the past three months.”

Browning remained sick in bed at Baltimore’s Eutaw House for several days, when he returned to Cincinnati, he told The Cincinnati Times-Star:

“I tell you, Cincinnati’ll be sorry if they let me go and keep a man like Welch.  Pete’s got kidney troubles, I guess.  I will go down to West Baden Springs (Indiana) if Comiskey says so, I think that will help my batting.”

Over the next month Browning’s whereabouts, state of mind, and next destination were the stuff of speculation.

The Times-Star said in early August that Browning remained in Cincinnati “although he does not attend the games or associate with his former baseball playing friends.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer said he was “brokenhearted since his release,” and there was “absolutely no demand for his services.”

The Boston Globe and The Washington Times said he was about to sign with the Senators.

On August 14, The Louisville Times said Browning was getting in shape in West Baden, two days later The Cincinnati Enquirer said, “Browning is lost again,” and had left Indiana.  The paper also announced that day that Welch had been released after hitting just .202 in 25 games.

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Browning

At the same time, Browns owner Chris von der Ahe was telling The S. Louis Post-Dispatch:

“I’ve got a man scouring Indiana after Pete Browning.”

After he found him, The St. Louis Republic said Browning “was offered $3500 to sign” by von der Ahe but refused.  In response von der Ahe said he had “no use” for Browning.

On July 31, The Louisville Times reported that former Louisville Colonels Director Larry Gatto received a telegram from Bancroft:

“Requesting that he see Pete Browning and notify him that if he wanted a place on the team he could report at once.  When Larry showed the telegram to Pietro the latter at once started on a run for his home to pack his grip.  He will leave this morning for Cincinnati to resume his old place with the Reds.”

Browning returned to the Reds lineup on September 2nd against Brooklyn, The Enquirer said:

“He had his ‘lampteenies’ trimmed and hit the ball in good style (he was 3 for 4).  Pete however, seemed to lose his head on the bases, and was caught twice after he reached first. In the third inning he ran as far as second on a long fly from Comiskey’s bat, (Bill) Hart caught the ball and threw it in before the Gladiator could scramble back to first.  Then in the fifth he was caught napping off first by (Tom) Kinslow.”

The fifth place Reds were 17-17 the rest of the way with Browning back in the lineup. He hit .303 for the season.

Browning was let go again by the Reds and joined the Louisville Colonels in 1893.

“The Foxes of Balldom are Listed”

4 Sep

After the publication of Franklin Pierce Adams’ “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon” in The New York Evening Mail in 1910, two poems were written three years later to mark the end of the double play combination and relationships that had devolved into public feuding.

James P. Sinnott, Adams’ colleague at The Evening Mail, penned “Said Tinker to Evers to Chance,” lamenting the fate of the three—all three now managers, Johnny Evers’ Cubs finished third, Frank Chance’s Yankees and Joe Tinker’s Reds finished seventh.

Then there was a poem commissioned by The Day Book, the Chicago-based Scripp’s-McRae owned free daily paper and written by poet Berton Braley, called “Ballads of Past Glories.” Which ended with the line:

“Fans, we may rightly be blue, over the land’s vast expense;

Busted this trio—boo hoo! ‘Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

 

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But they were not the only two poems to pay homage to Adams.  One poem appeared about a month after the publication of “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon.”   First, in The Chicago Daily News, then later printed in papers across the country, attributed only  to “some other near poets:

“Piteous in Gotham’s the oft written phrase,

‘Tinker to Evers to Chance.’

This is the dope that has Grif in a daze,

‘Tinker to Evers to Chance.’

Cardinals, Dodgers and Doves, Phillies

fairish

All know the play that is neat if not

garish

Know how their ambitious rallies can

perish

‘Tinker to Evers to Chance.’

Get down your coin on the double-play

kids

‘Tinker to Evers to Chance.’

Under the Pirates they’ve slickered the

skids

‘Tinker to Evers to Chance,’

Not of the boneheads whose noodles get

twisted,

These with the foxes of balldom are

listed—

Grabbing a pennant almost unassisted,

‘Tinker to Evers to Chance.’

Aye, there is a dolor in Smoketown at

this:

‘Tinker to Evers to Chance.’

But in Chicago it’s pretty fine biz,

‘Tinker to Evers to Chance.’

Here are the regular Wind City

queries:

Hunting a pennant pole, ain’t they the

Pearys?

Think they will cop the post-season series.

‘Tinker to Evers to Chance.’”

Murnane’s Plan to Save Baseball

29 Aug

For as long as there has been a game, there have been plans intended to “save” it.

Tim Murnane considered himself a diet expert, and a baseball expert.

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Tim Murnane

The baseball player and pioneer turned sportswriter proposed his plan to save baseball in the fall of 1895 in the pages of The Boston Globe.

Murnane said:

“Many lovers of baseball claim that the sport is degenerating, owing to leading clubs engaging players from all parts of the country.

“How can a man, they ask, born and brought up in New York city, join the Boston club and be as anxious to defeat the Giants as would a man hailing from the East?”

Murnane used Cincinnati Reds catcher Morgan Murphy “the great Boston favorite” as an example:

“Year after year he is forced to go out to Cincinnati from his home in Rhode Island when the Boston public would be delighted to see him in a Boston uniform.”

In addition to Murphy, said Murnane, there was Boston infielder and Chicago native Herman Long:

“Now wouldn’t he look more in place in a Chicago uniform.”

In order to give the game “more local coloring” Murnane proposed:

“The National League to be composed of eight clubs, representing Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore in the east, Pittsburgh, Chicago Cleveland and Cincinnati in the west.”

Murnane then set up a series of territories, for example, all Chicago players would have to come from Illinois, Iowa, or Minnesota—New York could only sign players From Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey. Each team could only sign players from their territory.

Players from all western states except California would be eligible to play for any of the “western” teams, and California players would be able to sign with any club.

Next, Murnane proposed reestablishing the American Association as a feeder league with franchises in in Providence, Brooklyn, Washington D.C., Buffalo, Louisville, St. Louis, Indianapolis, and Columbus. These teams could sign players from anywhere and the entire rosters would be eligible to be drafted by the National League clubs at the close of each season.

Part of Murnane’s plan also addressed one of his personal crusades:

”Abolish Sunday ball playing by league clubs and make it optional with the clubs of the association.”

The Globe published a list of every current major leaguer, and showed which team they would be with under the plan.

Murnane was convinced his proposal:

“Would give baseball a grand boom from Maine to California, as it would revive the interest among the amateur players and give each section of the country something special to work for.”

The Globe’s larger rival, The Boston Post, couldn’t wait to tell readers how horrible Murnane’s plan was.

Never mentioning the rival paper’s writer by name, The Post said:

“The recent scheme of how to enliven baseball in the East and give the game more local tinge has given the gossiper a chance to assert himself.”

The “scheme” said The Post had already been “exploded by many of the enthusiasts, ball players, and ex-ball players in this vicinity.”

One local businessman and “greatest enthusiasts of the game in this city,” noted that the champion Baltimore Orioles did not have a single player from their “territory,” and “There would be a great deal of kicking,” from Orioles fans.

Beaneaters president Arthur Soden told the paper he was against the plan despite the fact that:

“We might, of course, have a winning team, as we have such a lot of men to pick from, but it looks to me that the other teams in consequence would be handicapped for good men.”

An Eastern League umpire named John Bannon, noted that the geographical restrictions would be a boon for owners as players would “be forced to sign for any amount the magnates offered them, “ and pronounced the plan “ridiculous.”

James “Doc” Casey, a Massachusetts native then with the Toronto Canucks in the Eastern League, who would later play 10 major league seasons—none in Boston—was also against the plan:

“If directors were forced to make up their teams from a certain territory, then the extremes would be reached. One club would have all of the cracks and another would be forced to go through the season with a crowd of men who be incompetent.”

With that, Murnane’s plan to “save” baseball died a quiet death.

“There is a Heap about Baseball that I do not Know”

4 May

After Ted Sullivan blamed Joe Nealon’s father for his failure to secure the first baseman for the Reds, James C. Nealon was not going to let his accusations stand, and sent a letter in response to Sullivan’s letter to The Cincinnati Enquirer:

“The public has always permitted, and will always permit a man who has lost the object he was seeking to compensate himself for the loss is excusing his failure by some worthy and absurd explanation, or by throwing the responsibility of the failure on someone else.”

Nealon said he was forced to respond because Sullivan “falsely placed myself and my son in an unenviable light.”

Nealon said he only cared about his son going to the club with “the best and most congenial associations,” and initially, many people he trusted told him Cincinnati was the best option.

He said Sullivan was the reason he and his son changed their minds.  Nealon said he checked train schedules and determined that Sullivan—who left Cincinnati on October 28—could have arrived in California no later than November 3, yet he did not hear from the Reds representative until after the contract was signed with Pittsburgh on November 6.

Nealon also said while he received a telegram from August Herrmann, Cincinnati Reds owner, with the offer of “a certain sum more than any other club,” he never shared that information with the Pirates Fred Clarke, and that the combination of being insulted by the Reds making their offer just about money and Sullivan not arriving in time made up his mind, and as a result:

 “I advised my son to sign a contract with any club he desired.”

After Sullivan arrived in San Francisco, Nealon said:

“He admitted to me that it was all his fault, yet he seeks in your paper to advise the public that it was the fault of my son and myself…I would rather (Joe) fail then to commit a dishonorable act, and I do not want the people of Cincinnati to believe his entry into the major league was associated in any manner with unfairness or unfair dealing.  Mr. Sullivan knows it was not.”

Joe Nealon wrote a letter to The Pittsburgh Post, and said he understood that when he joined the team in Hot Springs. Arkansas:

“There is a heap about baseball that I do not know.  I am eager to learn, however, and will gladly go under instructions.”

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Joe Nealon

Even after the beginning of the 1906 season, the stories about what influenced Nealon to sign with the Pirates would not go away.  In May is was reported that it was Jake Beckley, former first baseman for the Reds and Pirates who influenced Nealon to accept Clarke’s offer.  Nealon told The Pittsburgh Press that Beckley had nothing to do with his decision, and continued to blame Sullivan who he said did not “keep faith” with him and his father.

Nealon appeared in every game, hit the Pirates first home run of the 1906 season on May 5, tied Harry Steinfeldt for the league lead in RBI, and led all NL first basemen in total chances and putouts.

At the end of the season it was widely reported that Nealon would not return to the Pirates for the 1907 season.  After the team lost five straight games in September and slipped to third place, Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss went on a tear to a wire service reporter—The Philadelphia Inquirer, under the headline “Barney Dreyfuss Lets Himself say Things” said:

“(Dreyfuss said) if his team doesn’t win second place for him he will keep their noses to the grindstone barnstorming for him until their contracts have run out (on October 16)”

Dreyfuss told the reporter:

“One of the things that ails our team is that there are too many capitalists on it.  The boys know that they do not have to play ball for a living, and sometimes that may affect their playing.  There is only one of the old players on the Pittsburgh team who is playing as a means of livelihood—that’s (Tommy) Leach.  The other could give up the game anytime.”

Nealon left the team immediately after the final game in Cincinnati and did not participate in the tour.  The San Francisco Call said he was done:

“Nealon, who became a great favorite in Pittsburgh and all over the league circuit, has had several grievances against Pittsburgh, and it was announced some time ago that the big San Francisco lad had declared himself in no unmeasured terms that he did not have to take the worst of it from anyone connected with the club, nor would he more than one season.”

The Call said Nealon became disenchanted in Pittsburgh when Dreyfuss attempted to trade him and “other Pittsburgh players” to the Brooklyn Superbas for Harry Lumley and Tim Jordan “although Captain Clarke had guaranteed him a full and free tryout for a year.”

Nealon returned to San Francisco to play winter ball, but he failed to make a trip to Stockton for the first game.  The San Jose Evening News said:

“Many San Joseans who took the trip to Stockton…were disappointed in not seeing Joe Nealon…the big first baseman, met with an accident Saturday evening.”

While racing to catch the train to Stockton, Nealon tripped and fell into a stone wall.  He broke two bones in his left hand.”

In December, the Pittsburgh papers reported that Nealon had declared himself “Completely healed,” in a letter to Barney Dreyfuss.

By February The Pittsburgh Press was assuring readers:

“Reports from the West have Joe Nealon in the best condition of his career.  Just keep your eyes on this big fellow this season; he is going to be a winner in every sense of the word.”

Despite the high expectations, Nealon was a disappointment to the pirates when he reported to  West Baden, Indiana in March.  The Press said:

“If the fans at home could see big Joe Nealon now they would not know him.  With his sweater on he looks like a three hundred pounder.”

Nealon actually weighed 216 pounds, roughly 20 pounds heavier than he was in 1906.

Additionally, The Pittsburgh Post said Nealon was experiencing stiffness in his left hand.

The Press announced that Nealon had gotten down to his playing weight and that his had had healed just in time for the opening of the season, but a knee injury sliding into second during the Pirates third game sidelined him for nearly two weeks, and according to The Post included a visit to John “Bonesetter” Reese, the Youngstown, Ohio doctor who treated many major leaguers.

Nealon was hitting just .217 in June when The Washington Post noted that two California Thoroughbreds—Nealon and Joe Nealon—both bred by friends of Nealon’s father, and both stakes race winners in 1907, were having decidedly better years than the first baseman.

Nealon steadily improved his batting average but had already fallen out of favor with fans and in the papers.  Rumors persisted that the Pirates were trying to trade for Fred Tenney of the Boston Doves.  By September, The Press said:

 “There is suspicion among the Pittsburgh players that Tenney may be secured as first baseman…to succeed Joe Nealon whose work this season is said to have been below standard.”

When Harry Swacina was purchased by the Pirates from the Peoria Distillers in the Three-I League that same month, the Pittsburgh correspondent for The Sporting News said:

 “He is an improvement over Joe Nealon in every department of the game.”

The New York Sun summed up the consensus view:

“Joe Nealon came out of California with the reputation of being a better first baseman than Hal Chase was, but in making a big league reputation Chase simply lost his fellow Californian.”

Swacina hit just .200, but got most of the playing time at first base in September, Nealon finished with a .257 average.

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Nealon

The Press speculated in November about who would play first base for the Pirates in 1908:

“Most of the fans have eliminated Joe Nealon from the competition all together, for it is an open secret that both President (Barney) Dreyfuss and Manager (Fred) Clarke were displeased with the way the young Californian acted this year, and it is presumed that no further time will be wasted with him, but that he will either be traded or released outright.”

In December, Nealon ended any remaining speculation by announcing his retirement—two weeks before his 23rd birthday. The Post said:

“The big Californian has quit the professional diamond for all time and will become a partner in business with his millionaire father…But for the intercession of Fred Clarke, it is said he would have been asked to retire about mid season, alleged infractions of the club’s rules and his general attitude of indifference being criticized by the local management.”

Nealon went to Hawaii in December with a team of West Coast stars—including Bill Lange and Orval Overall— formed by Mique Fisher and told reporters he would play weekends in San Francisco in 1908.

After returning from Hawaii, Nealon made his retirement official in a letter to Dreyfuss.  The Press said:

Joe writes that he is helping his father  who has a contract to erect a large public building in California…he asks, however, that his name be kept on Pittsburgh’s reserve list and wishes his teammates the best of luck.”

Nealon went to work with his father and appeared in 62 games for the Sacramento Senators in the California State League in 1908—hitting .372; as late as July he was hitting .436.  Nearly every Pacific Coast League time tried to sign him that summer, but The Oakland Tribune said:

“(Nealon) declared positively to the writer yesterday that he would not play ball, except as he is doing now, and Joe said there was not enough money in any of the Coast League treasuries to make him change his mind.”

Despite his protestations, nearly every team on the West Coast sought to sign Nealon.  Charlie Graham, Owner of the Sacramento Sacts made an offer that The San Francisco Call said led Nealon to tell a friend he wasn’t sure he could refuse.  He eventually did refuse, and instead signed to play for the Oakland Commuters in the California State League. The Call said he was the highest paid player on the West Coast.

Nealon captained the Oakland club, and hit .274 in 138 games.  How Nealon differed from his teammates and most players was probably best illustrated during a bench clearing brawl between Oakland and the Stockton Millers in June.  The Oakland Tribune said:

“(E)very man on both teams, with the exception of Joe Nealon, was mixed up…Nealon simply walked about the field and sat on the bench while the trouble was going on, and if anyone should ask right quick what player showed the only good judgment on the field the answer would be Joe Nealon.”

Nealon announced his retirement again, a week after his 25th birthday.

Nealon’s father had just helped elect San Francisco’s new mayor, Patrick Henry McCarthy, The Tribune said Nealon was “slated for a fat political job.”

Nealon was appointed deputy in the San Francisco County Clerk’s office in January.

On March 28, The Tribune said:

“(Nealon) is lying on death’s door in his home in San Francisco, suffering from typhoid fever.  Several physicians have been at the bedside of the ill athlete almost constantly for the past few days, and although they hold out but slight hope for his recovery, they state that his splendid physique may enable him to pull through.”

Nealon died five days later.

 

Joe Nealon

2 May

There was a race to sign Joe Nealon in 1905.  The San Francisco Chronicle said he was “thought to be the equal of Hal Chase,” the fellow first baseman and Californian who made his major league debut that season.

By November, West Coast newspapers had reported that at least four teams were after Nealon—the New York Highlanders, Boston Americans, St. Louis Browns, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs, and Pittsburgh Pirates were after Nealon.

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Joe Nealon

There likely would have been even more interest in Nealon if not for his background; as The Chronicle said after Nealon signed with the San Francisco Seals before the 1905 season:

“Parental objection had to be overcome, and this was accomplished through an understanding that the boy would remain in professional baseball not more than two or three seasons.”

Nealon was the son of the James C. Nealon, a wealthy real estate executive, elected official, owner of thoroughbreds, and one of the best known handball players on the West Coast who often played with boxer Jim Corbett.

Nealon attended St. Ignatius College (now the University of San Francisco) and had played in the California State League in 1903 and 1904.

Cincinnati and Boston appeared to be the most aggressive pursuer of Nealon; according to The Cincinnati Enquirer:

“Everybody who has seen him work says that Nealon will fill the bill.  He is described as a second Bill Lange at the bat, and a new edition of Charley Comiskey on the bag.  Allowing for exaggeration he seems to be the real goods.”

The Reds dispatched Ted Sullivan to San Francisco. The Americans sent Dan Long.  They did not know that Pittsburgh Pirates Manager Fred Clarke was on his way West as well; Clarke arrived first. The Pirates manager won out.  The Pittsburgh Post said:

“It was against these two men that Clarke had to use his ingenuity in securing Nealon.  The player is a freelance and was at liberty to join a team of his own selection.  Being independently wealthy and playing baseball only for the sport he finds in it.  Nealon was not influenced by any financial proposition.”

Reds owner August Herrmann told The Cincinnati Enquirer:

“I had become very much interested in young Nealon and regret that we did not succeed in getting him, but there is no use mourning over his loss.”

While Herrmann might not have been mourning, others in Cincinnati were and blamed Sullivan.

Jack Ryder of The Enquirer said:

“Why was not Ted Sullivan on the ground earlier?  Ted left Cincinnati a week ago last Saturday (October 29) with instructions to make a bee line for Frisco.  Mr. Herrmann knew that there was keen competition for  the services of Nealon…If Sullivan had reached San Francisco on Tuesday or Wednesday, as he was expected to do he would have got in ahead of Fred Clarke, and the chances would have favored his securing the player.”

Ryder said he had a letter from James C. Nealon written to Herrmann promising “that his son would sign with Cincinnati, ‘other things being equal,’” Ryder noted that the Reds “offered the boy more salary than any other club including Pittsburgh.”

Ryder concluded:

“Fred Clarke, who was on the spot, while Ted Sullivan was not, was able to persuade (Nealon) that the Pirates are a far better aggregation than the Reds.”

Ted Sullivan was not about to blamed, and fired off a letter to The Enquirer:

“There is not a man in the city of Cincinnati that would feel as much hurt as myself to lose a good man for the Cincinnati club.  The two years that I have acted as agent for Mr. Herrmann he has treated me like a king, and has showed a disposition to back my judgment on the skill of a player.”

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Ted Sullivan

Sullivan said in the letter, he had discovered Nealon’s “hidden skill” in August:

“The skill I noticed in Nealon (I wrote Mr. Herrmann at the time) was skill hidden beneath a dross of inexperience and youth.”

While he conceded that some time in the major leagues would “make him a star,” he assured The Enquirer he was not of the caliber of Sullivan’s favorite first baseman:

“The greatest first baseman in the history of the game, Charles Comiskey, was my own selection and making (which I say without egotism), but the California fledgling, without disparaging him, is a pallbearer compared to the magnetism of the matchless Comiskey.”

Sullivan blamed his inability to sign Nealon on Nealon’s father.  He claimed to have offered $3,800 to the first baseman in August, and was told that money was not the critical consideration, but complained that Nealon Sr. had immediately “proclaimed throughout Frisco, with the aid of a flashlight, and had also the newspaper men transmit (the offer) to all of the papers in the East.”

As for arriving is San Francisco after Clarke, Sullivan blamed that on the railroads:

“(I) was blocked between Salt Lake and Sacramento, caused by the immense amount of trains”

But, said Sullivan, none of that mattered.  Nealon’s father had not dealt with the Reds in good faith:

“Mr. Nealon Sr., who claimed he was not out for the money, called Fred out on the porch of the house and showed him, in confidence, the offer from Cincinnati.”

The latest Cincinnati offer was $6500—with a clause that promised $1000 more than any other offer Nealon would receive–Sullivan said.  Clarke matched the $6500, he said, and signed Nealon.

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Fred Clarke

There was more said Sullivan:

“Now comes the most brazen effrontery of offended dignity that has more hypocritic brass in it than the Colossus of Rhodes.  With this standing offer of Mr. Herrmann’s in his hands for days before I arrived,  I asked Mr. Nealon Sr., why he did not close with Mr. Herrmann on such a grand offer.  ‘Why,’ says he, ‘I consider it an insult for any man to make me such an offer as that, as it would appear that I was playing one club against the other.”  Think of that insult—one man offers another man $1000 more than the highest bidder and he is insulted.”

Sullivan closed his letter by again questioning Nealon’s prospects of making an immediate impact, and said:

“I would rather go down to Millcreek bottoms and pick up some young fellow that wanted to make baseball a profession, than any young man in the United States who thinks that he is condescending to play ball for $7000.”

Sullivan was not the only representative of a club who had expressed interest in Nealon who now questioned the prospects ability.  In response to Frank Chance of the Chicago Cubs who said Nealon was “not of National League Caliber,” The Pittsburgh Press responded:

“Sour Grapes?”

The rest of the story on Friday.

Segregation and Spring Training, 1961

11 Apr

Will Grimsley was a New York based sportswriter for The Associated Press for nearly forty years; he covered 35 World Series and at least that many spring training’s.

Before teams opened their camps in 1961, he reported on segregated living arrangement.

Grimsley introduced readers to the woman who housed the Milwaukee Braves

“Mrs. K. W. Gibson’s boarding house at 211 Ninth Avenue is a modest, spotlessly clean two-story dwelling which stands out in the dilapidated Negro section of Bradenton.

“Mrs. Gibson prides herself on “setting the best table in town.”

“The tiny, gray-haired matron for years has been house mother for Negro members of the Milwaukee Braves baseball team.  ‘I’ve treated them like my own sons,’ she said.

“At Mrs. Gibson’s place, the Negro players have basic comfort and ‘eat high on the hog’ as the saying goes.  Yet, they sleep two to a room; queue up for use of the two bathrooms and sometime bicker over the choice of a television program on the single set in the living room.”

Hank Aaron said:

“Sometimes the place is so crowded they have two guys sleeping in the hall.  You wake up in the morning and rush for the bathroom and if you’re the last one all the hot water is gone.”

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Mr. and Mrs. K.W. Gibson in their Bradenton home.

Grimsley said of their teammates’ accommodations:

“The white members of the team meanwhile have headquartered in a Bradenton motel. This year they move into a new motel in the center of town—glistening glass and stone, wall-to-wall carpeting, private baths, television sets and a modern central dining area”

“Aaron, Wes Covington and Andre Rodgers have been most outspoken in criticism of Jim Crow treatment.”

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Aaron and Covington

Duffy Lewis, traveling secretary of the Braves, expressed shock that Aaron and some of his teammates were not thrilled with the situation:

“Why, we thought they had an ideal setup and we’ve never heard a fuss.  That Mrs. Gibson sets the best table I’ve ever seen.  I’ve eaten there myself.”

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Braves in Bradenton

Grimsley conducted “A reporter’s survey” of each team’s spring training quarters with details provided by the teams and/or their spring training hotels. He said hotel managers were, “generally jumpy and gun-shy on the issue but many (were) ready to acknowledge that the problem soon must be met head on—maybe next year.”

Some highlights:

Yankees:  “Have trained at St. Petersburg for years.  The Soreno, a resort hotel, has politely said ‘no’ to Yankee owner Dan Topping’s request that all players…be housed ‘under one roof.”

Tigers: “Local ordinance in Lakeland, FL forbids four Negro players to stay at club headquarters, New Florida Hotel.

Athletics:  General Manager Frank Lane told Grimsley “We are not spearheading any political movements,” when asked why Bob Boyd, the only African-American with the club would not be staying with the rest of the team at the George Washington Hotel in West Palm Beach, FL.

Reds:  “Eight Negros on roster to be housed and fed in private homes, not at team headquarters at Floridian Hotel, Tampa.  Both club and hotel said they never had difficulty and not rocking the boat.”

Pirates:  “Headquarters at Bradford Hotel, Fort Myers, FL.  ‘We don’t anticipate any trouble,’ said the hotel’s resident manager, Howard Green.  ‘The colored players will get excellent accommodations in private homes.”

Phillies:  “Again will stay at Fort Harrison Hotel in Clearwater.  General Manager John Quinn wants all players in same hotel, but no immediate prospect.”

Twins:  “Five Negro players to be housed in new motel, while headquarters will be Cheery Plaza in Orlando, FL”

Senators:  “(T)o train at Pompano Beach, FL. The chamber of commerce is working on housing which will be segregated.”

White Sox: “Bill Veeck, president, is negotiating with Sarasota, FL., civic leaders to have six Negro players…stay with rest of team at Sarasota Terrace.  Negroes likely will wind up at motel.”

Orioles: “McAlister Hotel in Miami…says there has been no correspondence on the matter.”

According to Grimsley, the Cubs, Giants, Dodgers, Indians, Angels, and Red Sox all had integrated accommodations—the Dodgers—who housed all players “together at old air base in Vero Beach,” were the only team in Florida with such an arrangement.  The other five trained in Arizona and California.

Grimsley concluded:

“Next year or the year later perhaps, but not now—the baseball clubs must abide by the traditions of the people whose land they have invaded for a couple of months of each year.”

Bill Nunn Jr., sports editor of The Pittsburgh Courier, interviewed Aaron a week after the original story:

“’I’ve said it before and I’ll keep repeating that I don’t like the situation the way it now stands,’ Aaron disclosed here.  ‘I think it’s wrong for us to have to live apart from the rest of the team.’

“At the same time Aaron went out of his way to emphasize that he didn’t want the numerous Negro friends he has made in Bradenton to be offended by his stand on this matter.

“Aaron was speaking specifically of Mr. and Mrs. K. W. Gibson, the people in whose home he and members of the Braves stay while in Florida.

“’Mrs. Gibson was hurt over all the things she heard concerning our statements about Bradenton.  She thought we were being critical of her and her home.’

“’Actually that wasn’t the case at all.  We were trying to get over the point that we didn’t like being segregated against our will.  I explained all this to Mrs. Gibson.  I told her about the moral issues concerned.  I think she’s on our side now.'”

United Press International (UPI) reported the following spring that, “The Braves switched their Bradenton hotel headquarters to nearby Palmetto this spring to permit integration of their athletes.”

UPI said six clubs “still have the integration problem:” the Orioles, Tigers, Athletics, Twins, Senators, and Pirates.

“I have seen Men of all Nationalities do Splendid Work”

21 Jun

In 1911, Victor Munoz, the sports editor for the Cuban newspaper El Mundo spent part of 1911 traveling with the Cincinnati Reds and chronicling the experiences of Armando Marsans and Rafael Almeida during their rookie season with the Reds.

victormunoz

Victor Munoz

After several months in the states Munoz shared his observations about baseball in America:

“I have often heard the United States referred to as a melting pot into which are dumped men, women and children of all nationalities, to be reduced to a precious metal, possessing the best elements of all, known as that wonderful alloy, the American citizen.

“During the visits to this country I have taken pains to ascertain if this was true.  I found the truth had been told, but a very important factor in the making of good American citizens had been overloaded.”

Munoz concluded that if America was the world’s melting pot, baseball “was the flame which brings the human metal to that state which makes the American citizen possible.”

Munoz said in his “study” of the game:

“I have seen (Napoleon) Lajoie, a Frenchman; (Ed) Abbaticchio, an Italian, and (Honus) Wagner, a German, play ball.  I have seen men of all nationalities do splendid work in the field and at bat.

“In New York I heard Irish fans cheer the brilliant work of an English player, and in Cincinnati I saw Germans go wild, when (Mike) Mitchell, an Irishman, cleaned up with a triple.  Spaniards cheer Americans, Frenchmen enthuse when a German makes a great catch or throw and I have even seen an Indian, a stoic in everyday life, toss his blanket when a favorite player made an especially fine play.”

Munoz said Marsans and Almeida coming to America convinced him baseball was becoming an international sport based on, “The purchase of two Cuban players, born and bred on the island, men of Spanish descent, convinced me that baseball is reaching out and gaining more friends and devotees.”

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Marsans and Almeida

As for his home country:

“Cuba has gone wild over the American game…I am told it is the same in Japan and I will not be surprised to hear of American scouts going to that country for players.”

Munoz also said he was “deeply impressed” by what a cosmopolitan team the Reds were:

“I found (Hank) Severeid, a Norwegian, (Mike) Balenti, an Indian; Mitchell and other Irishmen,  (Bob) Bescher and other Germans; (Clark) Griffith, of Welsh-Irish descent;  (Johnny) Bates of English parentage; (Harry) Gaspar, whose father was a Frenchman, and my Cuban companions members of the team.

“Nothing could emphasize the attractiveness of the sport more than this gathering of men of all nations, working, fighting, and playing together, for the purpose of defeating other clubs of almost the same cosmopolitan character.

“These men have been thrown together without a thought of their religious beliefs of their nationality.  They all know that a man can learn to play ball no matter what country he hails from; that the fact that his father was a German, Irishman, Indian or any other nationality cannot prove a handicap.”