Tag Archives: Clark Griffith

“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.”

marsansandalmeida

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.”

“When Wilson wanted to Play he was a Star”

10 Oct

When campaigning for Woodrow Wilson in 1912, former North Carolina Governor Robert Broadnax Glenn would tell crowds about the year he spent as Wilson’s teammate on the Davidson College baseball team.

Governor Glenn

Governor Glenn

The Baltimore American said, while stumping for Wilson in Maryland, Glenn told supporters that the candidate had an “(A)rm like iron and the speed of the wind,” and could have been a great player:

“Woodrow Wilson was a fine baseball player but too darn wrapped up in reading to come out for practice…(he) was a good player but he was too confounded lazy to make a star. When the team would be called out for practice, we’d have to go to his room and drag him away from a book.

Wilson

Wilson

“But when Wilson wanted to play he was a star. He played left field and while he had an awkward way of running, he covered a lot of ground and was the best pinch hitter on the team.  His only trouble was he cared more for history than for Spalding’s rule.”

Wilson withdrew from Davidson in 1874 when he became ill, Glenn said:  “After that, Wilson went to Princeton and I went back to the plow.”

Not much else was said about Wilson’s interest in the game, and after he was elected, some questioned if the new president would support baseball the way his predecessor William Howard Taft had.  The Associated Press said:

“Washington fans have wondered whether or not the new administration, of which a former college president is the head, would give as much support to the great game as did President Taft, an irrepressible fan.”

The question was answered April 11, 1913, when Wilson threw out the first pitch for the Washington Senators’ home opener:

The Washington Star said:

“Wind, weather, and press of duties permitting, President Wilson is believed likely to be a frequent attendant at the American League Baseball Park…The belief is based on the interest shown by the president in the first game of the season and his applause when the bird of victory which had shown itself exceedingly coy, finally decided to perch on the shoulders of the Nationals.”

The paper noted that excitement overtook the chief executive on one occasion:

“President Wilson at one point in the game arose to his feet in his enthusiasm.  Official dignity prevented his yelling.  A cheer arose in his throat, but did not pass his lips. He could and did applaud frantically, however, by clapping his hands.”

The American Press Association said:

“There is no doubt about it—President Wilson is a real baseball fan.  He knows all about the game, and he is going to be seen often at the ballpark here.  At the opening game of the season between the Washingtons and the Yankees the president was given a new ball in a box by Clark Griffith, manager of the Senators, and he threw it—not tossed it, mind you—with speed and precision into the hands of pitcher Walter Johnson…For a few hours he forgot all about the intricacies of the tariff situation and gave himself up to enjoyment.

Woodrow Wilson at the 1912 Opener--"Catching new ball in Box from Clark Griffith" and "Wilson the fan."

Woodrow Wilson at the 1912 Opener–“Catching new ball in Box from Clark Griffith” and “Wilson the fan.”

And Wilson did appear often, attending five Washington games during the first six weeks of the 1913 season.  He would attend just one more that season and a total of six more during his presidency.

Wilson, program in hand, after throwing first pitch to umpire Billy Evans in 1915.

Wilson, program in hand, after throwing first pitch to umpire Billy Evans in 1915.

Lost Pictures–Frank Leet Caricatures

31 Aug

leetjohnson

Walter Johnson of the Washington Senators, as depicted by Frank Rutledge Leet, a cartoonist for The Newspaper Enterprise Association, as well as the author of a number of children’s books, including one called, “When Santa was Late.

In 1912 and 1913 he provided caricatures for a number of articles featuring players telling their favorite baseball stories.  In addition to Johnson, Leet created images of Johnson’s teammate Germany Schaefer:

leetschaefer

Chicago White Sox pitcher Big Ed Walsh:

bigedwalsh

Johnson and Schaefer’s manager Clark Griffith:

leetgriffith

And, Detroit Tigers manager Hughie Jennings:

leethugh

“The Story of Slattery is the Story of a Jinx”

22 Aug

Joe Slattery believed he was jinxed by an entire city.

Joseph Patrick Slattery was born on March 15 in 1888 or 1889—his WWI and WWII draft registrations give the 1889 date, early census data and his death certificate say 1888—in St. Louis.

He played with semi-pro teams in Mount Vernon and Kewanee, Illinois before playing his first professional game with the Dallas Giants in the Texas League in 1908.  Described by The St. Louis Globe as an excellent fielding first basemen with a weak bat, he lived up to that label during his first two seasons as a pro—hitting .125 and .199 with Dallas, the Brockton Tigers in the New England League.

In 1910, he joined the Rock Island Islanders in the Three-I League and began to hit.  He was hitting .300 in June when The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said:

Joe Slattery, Rock Island, 1910

Joe Slattery, Rock Island, 1910

“(Slattery) may obtain a trial with the Browns.  Early this week, owner (Robert) Hedges dispatched Harry Howell, one of his scouts, to look over Slattery.  It is said that Howell made a favorable report.

“Hedges is not the only club owner who has been tipped off about Slattery.  The Pittsburgh Club has had a scout looking over Slattery while it is understood that the Brooklyn Club has made an offer for his release.”

Slattery immediately went into a slump and finished the season with a .216 average.  With Rock Island again in 1911, Slattery hit .280 and was sold to the Syracuse Stars in The New York State League (NYSL).  Slattery played for three teams in the NYSL from 1912 to 1915, hitting in the .290s.

Then he had his best season as a professional—one that has been incorrectly credited to another player with the same last name.

Slattery was sold to the Montreal Royals in the International League in 1916.  He hit .298 and led the league’s first basemen with a .991 fielding percentage, but most sources incorrectly credit those statistics to John Thomas “Jack” Slattery—who  actually played his last professional game in 1911.

Near the end of the 1916 season, The Washington Herald reported in October that Slattery’s contract was purchased by the Senators, but later the same day Clark Griffith told The Washington Times that the report was untrue.

Slattery hit .252 in 1917 for Montreal.  Before the 1918 season, he was sold to the Memphis Chickasaws the Southern Association and went to the city that “jinxed” him.

The (Memphis) Commercial-Appeal reported before the season opened that the Chickasaws would “have their new first sacker longer than expected.”  It had been expected that Slattery would be drafted before the season began, but the paper said his draft board in St. Louis now said he wouldn’t be entering the military until later in the summer.

All involved later wished the delay never happened.

Slattery with Memphis, 1918

Slattery with Memphis, 1918

as the season progressed, The Memphis News-Scimitar said:

“Slattery is the greatest fielding first baser in the Southern today and he made stops and throws that would have done credit to Hal Chase…But Joe can’t get started hitting.”

Slattery appeared in 59 games for Memphis.  He hit .197 in 208 at bats and quickly became the most unpopular man in town

As he struggled, the paper said he was “the target for all verbal bricks the lower end of the stands could hurl.”  His “hitting fell off almost to nothing,” but the paper said it was “due for the most part to the panning the bugs handed him.”

Slattery thought he was jinxed and the newspaper agreed:

“The story of Slattery is the story of a jinx that has been camping on the big fellow’s trail…one of the niftiest first basemen in the game; Slattery from the outset has been handicapped by his inability to hit the ball.”

Slattery blamed the city:

“It’s a fact that I am absolutely jinxed in Memphis, I can hit the ball anywhere else in the world but Memphis, it seems.”

After being drafted, Slattery played first base for the Tenth Training Battalion at Camp Pike in Arkansas.  He returned to Memphis in the spring of 1919 and immediately stopped hitting again during exhibition games.

He told The New-Scimitar:

“When I was in camp at Camp Pike I hit for an average well in the .300 class, and I was hitting against good pitching, too.  But in Memphis, I’m helpless with the stick.  I guess I am too anxious to hit…Last season the jinx was astride my neck all year…I couldn’t hit at all like I used to…the jinx came back and got with me, and I have not been able to hit at all.”

Sold to the Tulsa Oilers in the Western League, he hit.263.  In July, Slattery was playing well in Tulsa, and The News-Scimitar reminded fans that his “jinx” was their fault.  The paper said from July 13 through July 17 Slattery was 8 for 23:

“Which goes to show that in the proper environment when he is not being ridden by the bugs as he was here, Slattery is a good hitter.”

He finished his professional career in 1920 where he started it in 1908, with Dallas in the Texas League.

Never to return to Memphis, he headed west.

He played semi-pro ball for the next decade, primarily with Brigham City Peaches in Utah.

Slattery with the Brigham City Peaches, 1922

Slattery with the Brigham City Peaches, 1922

The once “jinxed” Slattery settled in Idaho where he died on June 14, 1970.

“I’ve no Uniform that will fit a Giraffe like you”

3 Aug

Most biographies of Harry “Slim” Sallee, if they mention his brief time with the New York Highlanders in 1906, simply say he never appeared in a game because of “(A)n abundance of pitcher’s” on Clark Griffith’s club which battled the Chicago White Sox for the pennant.

The colorful 6’ 3” 180 pond Sallee, with the Cardinals in West Baden, Indiana before the 1912 season, told a reporter for The St. Louis Republic that there was more to his departure from New York, and while the story might have been a creation of Sallee’s imagination, it seems more appropriate for a pitcher as famous for hard-drinking, suspensions, and fines as he was for his 174 career wins.

Slim Sallee

Slim Sallee

Sallee reminded the reporter he was:

“An American League discard…Yes, sirree, I was turned down cold by Clark Griffith when the ‘Old Fox’ was managing the New York Americans …I joined the Yanks in the fall in St. Louis, Griff looked me over and said: ‘I’ve no uniform that will fit a giraffe like you.  Maybe I’ll be able to get one in Chicago.  Here’s a ticket—handing me a pocket register to keep tabs on people passing through the turnstile—go out and check up the bleacher gate this afternoon.

“Four thousand geeks passed through the bleacher turnstile at Sportsman’s Park that afternoon and I kept punching that register until I became almost black in the face.”

Sallee said he was given the same assignment in Chicago on September 21 -23 when New York took three out of four games from the White Sox and moved into first place.  New York went to Detroit and lost three straight, then dropped a game in Cleveland on the 27th,dropping three games back of the White Sox.  In Cleveland:

“‘Griff dug up an old uniform and told me to warm up.  The thermometer hung around the freezing point.

Clark Griffith

Clark Griffith

“Wonder if that crazy man thinks I’m goin’ to cut loose and take chances of ruinin’ my salary wing in this kind of weather said I to myself.

“Griff went to the plate himself. I ‘lobbed’ a  couple over and the ‘Old Fox’ roared like a mad bull. ‘You’ve got a lot of nerve trying to slip that stuff over on me,’ growled Griff.  ‘Put something on that ball.  I can’t detect anything that looks like a wiggle on your curve and you haven’t shown enough speed to break a pane of glass.’”

Sallee said he told Griffith:

“I’m there, Clarkie, old chap, with the real goods, but I couldn’t think of cuttin’ loose with my speed in this kind of weather.  I’m a hothouse plant from down in Old Alabama—I played with Birmingham that year.  Give me a chance when the sun is shinin’ and the thermometer is around 90 in the shade, and I’ll show you some pitchin’ that will curl your grey locks.”

Sallee said Griffith threatened to put him “back on the gate.”

“’No, you don’t,’ said I. ‘Pay me off and also come across with a ticket for Higginsport (Ohio, Sallee’s hometown) I’m through with the New York club and Clark Griffith.  And don’t send for me next spring.”

Whether because of too much depth on the mound or because of the story Sallee told, Griffith sold him to the Williamsport Millionaires in the Tri-State League.  Sallee went 22-5 in Williamsport in 1907 and the Cardinals purchased his contract in August

Lost Advertisements–“Over There, Over Here”

27 May

spaldingwwi

An advertisement for A. G. Spalding & Bros. that appeared during the opening weeks of the 1919 season; the first post-World War I:

“Over There” “Over Here”

“The Spalding Official Ball opens the forty-second consecutive year season for the forty-second consecutive year.”

“The Ball Played Round the World.”

Spalding Official National League Ball, circa 1919

Spalding Official National League Ball, circa 1919

Hundreds of Spalding balls went to troops “Over there” during the war through Washington Senators Manager Clark Griffith‘s “Ball and Bat Fund.”  The fund raised money throughout the country–including a donation from President Woodrow Wilson–and used it to purchase baseball equipment for servicemen.  In his final report for the fund, published in 1919, Griffith said Spalding and other “sporting goods houses” were “very patriotic, selling me goods for cost or even less.”

Clark Griffith presents a box of baseballs to US Army officers, 1917

Clark Griffith presents a box of baseballs to US Army officers, 1917

The 1919 “Spalding Guide,” said more than $102,000 was raised by the fund and:

“Wonderful good was done…even though the Huns did sink the Kansan (the Kansan was a merchant vessel sunk near Belle Ile, off the Brittany Coast of France)  with its load of equipment for the soldiers of the American Expeditionary Force.  The moment the news reached the United states, other equipment was provided as quickly as possible and dispatched on its way to France.”

 

“It is a Pure, Clean, Wholesome Game”

20 Apr

Billy Sunday took time out from saving souls in the Pacific Northwest in 1909, to talk baseball with a reporter from The Washington Post sent to cover the evangelist’s month-long revival in Spokane:

“I wouldn’t take $1 million dollars for my professional baseball experience.  I am proud I made good and that I was one of the best of them in my day.”

Billy Sunday

Billy Sunday

Sunday then went to bat for the unquestioned integrity of the game:

“Baseball is the one sport in this country upon which the gamblers have not been able to get their crooked claws.

“There isn’t the same disgrace attached to a professional baseball player that attends other professional athletes.  The gambler tried for 30 years to get control, but the men behind the game have stood firm and true.  Baseball has stood the test.  It is a pure, clean, wholesome game, and there is no disgrace to any man today for playing professional baseball.”

Sunday also said that after he “converted in 1886,” he discovered that:

“The club owners, the fans generally, and the players themselves will respect a man all the more for living a clean, honest life.”

While he said he rarely had time anymore to attend games, Sunday said he continued to follow the game closely and read the sports page every day.

Asked to name his all-time team, Sunday said:

“I would put (Cap) Anson on first base and make him captain, and I would have to find a place for Mike Kelly and John ClarksonGeorge Gore, Charlie Bennett, Kid Nichols, Amos Rusie, John Ward, Clark Griffith and others were all good men.”

Sunday returned his attention to his “Idol,” Anson:

“For every day in the season, for every occasion that might arise, I believe old Cap Anson was the best batsman the game ever knew.  Just look at that grand record of his…He could hit anything.  He used an extremely heavy bat…it used to do our hearts good to hear the crack when old ‘Cap’ Anson met the ball squarely.”

Sunday's "idol" "Cap" Anson

Sunday’s “idol” “Cap” Anson

The preacher then told the reporter about his career:

“My first professional contract (in 1883 with the Chicago White Stockings) called for $60 a month.  That was a windfall for me in those days, too.  When I quit baseball (in 1890) my salary was $500 a month.  The first two years I only got in a few games and was used more as a utility man.

“As a batter I averaged from .240 to .275 (Sunday’s averages actually ranged from .222 to .291) and that was fair in those days.”

Billy Sunday

Billy Sunday

He also recounted the visit received after he secured his release from the Philadelphia Phillies in 1890 in order to take a position with the Y.M.C.A. in Chicago:

“(On the day the release was announced) I was leading a class in a men’s noonday meeting in the Chicago Y.M.C.A., when Jim Hart, president of the Chicago club, walked in, and after the meeting laid down a contract on that old pulpit.  It called for seven month’s salary at $500 a month, with one month’s salary in advance.

Jim Hart

Jim Hart

“Thirty-five hundred dollars and me almost broke with a wife and a baby to support.  It was a horrible temptation, especially since I loved to play baseball.  The next morning I sent Mr. Hart my refusal of his terms.  I accepted a position for the year with the Y.M.C.A. at $83 a month.”

At the peak of his career as an evangelist in the early teens, it was reported that Sunday earned around $800 per day from the pulpit—roughly the annual salary of the average American worker.

“Those $8 Diamond cuff buttons cost us the Championship”

11 Apr

Clark Griffith never got over losing the pennant to the Boston Americans by 1 ½ games in the American League’s first great pennant race in 1904.

Clark Griffith

Clark Griffith

Over the years, he wasn’t even able to decide which of his New York Highlanders’ three straight losses to Boston in October was the most “hard luck” game, and just who he blamed for letting the season slip away.

In 1914, Griffith told Stanley Milliken of The Washington Post that second baseman Jimmy Williams, who failed to heed his instructions at the plate during the game that gave the pennant to Boston on October 10—Griffith barely mentioned the wild pitch Jack Chesbro threw which allowed Boston to score the winning run.

But two years earlier, he told a different story to Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Examiner –in in this one he put the blame on himself and Chesbro, but not for the October 10 game:

“There never was any hard luck except mine.  Whenever I hear them tell hard luck stories I think to myself that they don’t know what it is.”

[…]

“The race had narrowed down to New York and Boston.  We both came east from our last Western trip with (a half game) separating us.”

Griffith said his club returned to New York believing all five games would be played in New York as scheduled, but discovered that New York owner Frank Farrell “not thinking we would be in the race at all, had in the middle of the season leased the Highlanders park to the Columbia University team for football on Saturday.”

As a result, the two Saturday games were moved to Boston.

“We beat Boston on Friday 3 to 2, and that put us where we only had to break even in the next four games to win.  Chesbro had pitched the Friday game.  I did my planning and decided to pitch Jack Powell the two games in Boston on Saturday, and to leave Chesbro at home to get a good rest over Sunday and to be ready to pitch the two games on Monday if it became necessary, knowing that with two days of good rest he could do it.”

chesbro2

Jack Chesbro

Griffith said his pitcher had other plans:

“When I got down to the depot that night there was Chesbro begging to go with us to Boston.  Some fool friends of his had notified him that they intended to present him with diamond cuff buttons in Boston, and he was wild to go.  I could not refuse him under the circumstances but those $8 diamond cuff buttons cost us the championship.

“(Once in Boston) Chesbro was crazy to pitch, and he warmed up in Boston and declared he felt better than at any time during his life.  I was angry because I wanted him to rest, and refused him.   He almost cried and said he had repeated numerous times during the season and always had won.  I said ‘no’ that we couldn’t take the chance.”

But Griffith said his team pressured him:

“Chesbro got (Wee Willie) Keeler, (Kid) Elberfeld and all the boys to come to me and beg me to let him pitch.  (Jack) Powell came to me and said he would keep warmed up and ready to relieve Chesbro in the first game.  I fell for it, seeing Chesbro had already warmed up and my plan for resting him was spoiled. He was good for (three innings), but before anyone could relieve him in the next Boston made six runs and the game was lost (13-2)…Powell  and Cy Young met in the second game and Boston won 1 to 0.”

And Griffith was quick to blame that loss on his “hard luck” as well:

Griffith's "Hard Luck" Highlanders

Griffith’s “Hard Luck” Highlanders

“The one run was scored on the rankest kind of luck.  A ball thrown (by John Anderson) from the outfield to (third baseman Wid) Conroy got by him…allowing the run to score.  The ball would not have rolled five feet from Conroy, but the crowd had pushed up to within three feet of third base.

This made it necessary for us to win both games on Monday.  And in the first game, in the ninth inning, with two out and two strikes on (Freddy) Parent, Chesbro let his spitball slip for a wild pitch and gave Boston the game.  We won the next 1 to 0 but the pennant was done.

“If there ever was harder luck than that, I don’t want to hear of it.”

Clark Griffith, “How I Win”

14 Mar

In 1910, Cincinnati Reds Manager Clark Griffith spoke to journalist Joseph B. Bowles for one of  a series of syndicated articles in which baseball’s biggest stars described “How I Win.”

“If a fellow is going to cut any ice he needs ice picks and the first way for a manager to win is to get men who can deliver, and men intelligent enough to take care of themselves.

“My theories in regard to what constitutes a winner are the only ones, and I use them in instructing my players what to do.  I used them in pitching, and they worked out, and I believe any player will succeed if he follows them.”

Clark Griffith

Clark Griffith

Griffith said baseball was “Ninety-nine and fifteen sixteenths” courage and nerve:

“It is more than that—it is what ballplayers call ‘guts’—which is courage with aggressive confidence behind it…The first thing to do to win baseball games is to go after anyone who does not wear a uniform that looks like yours, and go after him hard.  Hand every opposing player anything that will make him weaken or show the yellow.  Anytime I can convince my men that they are going to win and the other fellows that they are going to lose, I’ll win a pennant.”

He believed his confidence could successfully intimidate opponents:

“The best system of winning games is to tell the other fellow that you are going to beat him.  Tell it to him before the game starts and tell him in a way that will convince him.  You cannot convince him unless you believe it yourself.  I keep telling them all the time, and I believe it myself until the game is over and sometimes even then.”

Griffith said what he wanted most was for his players to:

“Take chances; any chance to gain an inch of ground or a base…Go after the game with intelligence and force every point as hard as possible…The player who takes chances of hurting himself seldom hurts either himself or his opponent and he will make a weak opponent run away.  More players get hurt stopping up on their feet and giving up before they are touched than are damaged in sliding to bases.”

He said that aggressiveness should also be directed at umpires:

“Then claim every point and claim it quick.  Holler.  ‘No, no’ real quick and beat the umpire to it on every close play a la (Johnny) Evers.  The umpire may be perfectly honest and square but on a close play the fellow who yells quickest is much more likely to get the decision.  I do not believe in fighting umpires or nagging at them.  I believe in yelling quickly.  Yelling quickly beats yelling loud all to pieces.  It is not cheating a bit, but simply protecting yourself on close plays not so much to get the decision yourself as to keep the other fellow from getting it.”

Griffith led the Chicago White Sox to the inaugural American League pennant during his first season as a manager in 1901.  And despite not winning one since, was very confident about his “theories” for success:

“These things, taken together with a little good pitching and perhaps one star pitcher, will win any pennant if carried out correctly and persistently, regardless almost of the mechanical ability of the players on the team.”

In the end, Griffith was unable “to win any pennant.”

His Reds teams in 1910 and 1911 were both sub .500 clubs and finished in fifth and sixth place.  He joined the Washington Senators in 1912, and finally with “one star pitcher’ he managed the team to two-second place finishes (1912-13), but did not win a pennant there either.  He stepped down as manager after the 1920 season to devote himself full time to his ownership duties.

One Star Pitcher

One Star Pitcher

He ended his managerial career with a 1491-1367 record over 20 seasons.

“You got away with Something that time, Buck”

2 Mar

It will be reviewable by instant replay this season, but in 1914 the “Neighborhood Play” had no name, and its use by one American Leaguer was a big story.

The Chicago Daily News said:

“There is a story going around the circuit which undertakes to show how Buck Weaver, the White Sox shortstop, fooled all the umpires…Buck’s long suit was acting as pivot on a double play, taking the ball from the second baseman.”

buckweaver

Buck Weaver

The paper said when Weaver joined the Sox in 1912, he “noticed that he was often failing,” to turn double plays.

“He lay awaken nights figuring how he could increase his speed in pulling off (double plays), and finally decided that if he could not get the batter no one could, as he was the owner of as strong a whip as any shortstop in the land.

“The solution of the puzzle came to him by accident.  In dashing to second to take a throw from (Morrie) Rath he overstepped the bag and was a stride closer to first than usual when he got the ball.  Instead of stepping back and touching the sack, he made the throw to first base and, much to his surprise, the umpire called both men out.”

When Weaver returned to the dugout, Manager Jimmy “Nixey” Callahan said:

“’You got away with something that time, Buck.’”

Weaver told his manager:

“’I was a whole stride over second when I got the ball.  But say, I could away with it by accident, what’s the matter with trying to pull it off right along when the man at bat is fast and likely to beat me out if I wait for the throw? I can save a quarter of a second or so by going over the bag.’”

The paper said Callahan encouraged him to try it.

“And Buck did.  He worked the trick successfully against the Naps six or seven times, twice in one game with (George) Hildebrand umpiring the bases.

“’He worked it on us several times,’ said Jim McAleer, formerly of the Red Sox, while Clark Griffith admits that Washington suffered the same fate.

“Even Connie Mack was forced to murmur, and when Connie Mack kicks, something must be wrong, and possibly as a result of the protest of the manager of the world’s champions, the umpires will watch Mr. Weaver more carefully this year when he is acting as pivot man in the double play.”

After 1913, when he participated in a career-high 73 double plays, Weaver never played as many games at shortstop, so it’s unknown whether umpires, in fact, watched him “more carefully” when  he attempted the Neighborhood play.