Tag Archives: Cleveland Indiana

“The Aristocrat of all Mascots”

1 Jul

Shortly after the 1920 World Series, The Associated Press (AP) claimed to have discovered why the Brooklyn Robins, after taking two out of three games from the Indians at home, dropped four straight in Cleveland:

“At last the secret…is out.  The Dodgers declined to take their mascot, Eddie Bennett, with them to the lair of the Indians, and without his lucky presence they were swamped.  And not only that.  Bennett, indignant over having been left at home, has quit the Brooklyns!  That’s revenge!”

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle said, Bennett, a Brooklyn native, came to the attention of baseball fans in 1919 when he served as bat boy and mascot for the American League Champion Chicago White Sox:

“(H)e used to hang around the players’ entrance to the ballparks on both sides of the bridge.  The Yankees were playing at the Polo Grounds then, and one day one of the White Sox noticed a wistful little fellow in the front row of hero worshippers.”

Eddie Bennett

Eddie Bennett

White Sox outfielder Oscar “Happy” Felsch, noticed Bennett suffered from kyphosis (the excessive curvature of the spine—in Bennett’s case it was said to have been caused by an injury when he fell out of his stroller as an infant) and asked “’Are you lucky?’ ‘Sure,’ cried Eddie Bennett eagerly.”  With Bennett serving as bat boy, the Sox defeated the Yankees.  With that:

“Felsch spoke to Eddie Cicotte about taking him back to Chicago. Cicotte spoke to Manager (William) Kid Gleason.  Eddie Bennett became the official White Sox mascot.”

Bennett spent the rest of the season with the Sox and roomed with pitcher Dickie Kerr on the road. After the Black Sox scandal broke—Bennett told reporters, “I was one of the honest ones”—the 16-year-old returned to New York and went to work for the Robins.

Dean Snyder, writing for Scripps’ Newspaper Enterprise Association, said of Bennett during Brooklyn’s pennant run:

“(The Robins) bought the kid a swell uniform and told him to hang around.

“From the day he started as the official mascot…things began to look up.”

But, Snyder noted, Bennett was strictly a mascot and not a bat boy in Brooklyn:

“Little Eddie is a hunchback. The players positively forbid him to touch their bats.  They just want him to stick around. They’re might superstitious about their war clubs.”

After being left home by the Robins for the club’s ill-fated trip to Cleveland, Bennett jumped to the Yankees; he told The AP:

“I’m going to be with a real club this year.  Oh boy, to watch that (Babe) Ruth sock them every day.”

Bennett with Ruth

Bennett with Ruth

For the third straight season, Bennett was part of a pennant winner, and for the third straight year his team lost the World Series.  But this time he stayed put and remained a fixture with the Yankees for another decade.

American League Umpire Billy Evans, in one of his syndicated columns, said Bennett took his position very seriously and related a story about seeing him in a restaurant during a Yankee losing streak:

“Bennett was seated across from me at a table in the diner. We were served at about the same time, and I noticed he ate but little of the food he had ordered.

“’Something wrong with the food Eddie?’ I ventured.

“’The food is all right, I guess there is something wrong with me,’ replied Eddie.

“’Cheer up, Eddie.  The Yankees can’t lose all of them,’ I said with a laugh.

“’Babe hasn’t made a home run in a week.  The team never gets any runs for Bob Shawkey.  Every time Scotty (shortstop Everett Scott) makes an error it means a run.  Waite Hoyt has a bad inning every game,’ was Eddie’s come back.

“’Why worry about these things, Eddie?’ The Yankee mascot looked at me in a puzzled manner, as if I might be joshing him.

“’That’s my business, I’m a mascot,’ said Eddie in all seriousness.  ‘I am supposed to bring luck, to help Ruth make home runs, keep Scotty from making errors, have the team get runs for Shawkey, and no bad innings for Hoyt.’

“Eddie was disgusted at my failure to appreciate the importance of his position.”

In 1928, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle called Bennett “(T)he aristocrat of all mascots…eight flags in 10 years is the mark for other mascots, living and still to be born to try to equal.  It will probably never be beaten.”

Bennett’s career came to an end in May of 1932; according to The United Press (UP) he was riding in a cab which crashed and “was pinned to a pole,” Bennett suffered several broken bones, including a leg broken in several places, and spent months in the hospital. (The AP said he was hit by the cab while walking).

He made a brief, dramatic return to the Yankees a year later.

On May 23, 1933, Bennett entered the Yankees clubhouse on crutches in the midst of what The International News Service called “The great home run famine.”  Neither Babe Ruth nor Lou Gehrig had hit one since April 30:

“It was the longest home run slump for the twins since they started making life miserable for American League pitchers.  For weeks they rubbed their carcasses and bats with sundry kinds of magic oils and rabbit’s feet, consulted Yogi’s and employed every luck charm known to the superstitious in an effort to shake off the jinx.  It took Eddie Bennett, the little cripple who formerly was the club’s bat boy, to shatter the jinx.  Before yesterday’s game he solemnly tapped both sluggers with his magic crutch and that turned the trick.”

Eddie Bennett

Eddie Bennett

Both Ruth and Gehrig hit home runs off Oral Hildebrand (who came into the game with a 6-0 record) in an 8 to 6 victory over the Cleveland Indians.

It was a final happy moment for Bennett.

While he continued to be paid by Yankees owner Jacob Rupert, depression and alcoholism consumed the last years of his life.  The 31-year-old, “aristocrat of all mascots,” was found dead on January 17, 1935, according to The UP “cold and stiff in his drab rooming home…He lived out his days among his baseball trophies, drinking steadily”

Edit:  As noted in the comments, I say above that Bennett left the White Sox “when the scandal broke,”  which implies September of 1920 when the grand jury was impaneled. I should have said “when rumors of the scandal broke,” which began during the 1919 series and continued throughout the 1920 season.

“Is Napoleon Lajoie a Hoodoo?”

14 Nov

Napoleon Lajoie had his share of superstitions and sought to avoid “Hoodoo,” like most players of his era.  But, as Lajoie was winding down his long career, hitting un-Lajoie like .246 for a horrible Philadelphia Athletics team (36-117) in 1916, The Philadelphia Bulletin presented a case that Lajoie himself was the problem:

“Is Napoleon Lajoie a hoodoo?

Napoleon Lajoie

Napoleon Lajoie

“Several baseball managers and ‘Larry’ himself would like to know the answer.  And here is why:

“Lajoie, for many years recognized as the king of second basemen and dubbed ‘King Larry,’ now has visions of the waning of his baseball star of fame, and he has never played on a pennant-winning team…For years he hit well over the .300 mark—once over .400—was one of the most dangerous men to pitch to in a pinch, and fielded his position around second base in a finished, manner—so finished in fact, that he won the distinction of being the classiest second-sacker in baseball.  Every move of the big Frenchman was grace personified.

“Notwithstanding the fact that he was a star of the first magnitude, ranking with Hans Wagner of Pittsburgh—and they are the two real stars of baseball of former years—he never was able to help his team to the pennant.  So, when Lajoie was sold to Connie Mack dopesters and Larry himself thought he eventually would get into a World Series.  But alas!

“Larry joined the Athletics in the spring of 1915, and while his admirers were expecting him to get back his batting eye, which had apparently been dimmed while he was in Cleveland, Connie Mack decided to tear down his wonderful machine.  (Eddie) Collins, (Ed) Plank, (Charles “Chief”) Bender, (Jack) Coombs, and (Jack) Barry were sold (or released), while (Frank) Baker played bush league ball because Connie would not meet his salary demands, and the famous $100,000 infield of the Athletics was wrecked and the run making machine of the world champions was put out of commission.  And the hopes of Larry and his enthusiastic followers went glimmering.  He is on a tail-end team, just like he was at Cleveland.

“And worst of all from Lajoie’s point of view, the Cleveland team has been holding down first place in the American League for many weeks and is a contender for the pennant.

“The question, ‘Is Napoleon Lajoie a hoodoo?’ Again presents itself.”

While Cleveland was in first place as late as July 12, the Lajoie-hoodoo-free Indians still faltered and finished seventh in 1916.

After Philadelphia’s disastrous season—they finished 54 and a half games back—Lajoie accepted the position of player-manager with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the International League.  The 42-year-old second baseman hit a league-leading .380 and led the Maple Leafs to the championship in 1917—the first, and only of his career.

“In Baseball there is no such Advantage”

8 Oct

John Henry Mohardt was, with George Gipp, a member of the backfield on Knute Rockne‘s undefeated 1920 Notre Dame football team, and would go on to play for the Chicago Cardinals, Racine Legion and Chicago Bears in the NFL.

He also played baseball in at Notre Dame and was a highly sought after prospect.  Contemporary reports said he received offers from the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cleveland Indiana, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers.  He signed with the Tigers and manager Ty Cobb.

When it was announced that he would open the season as a member of the Tigers Mohardt was asked by reporters which sport was more difficult:

“Baseball, of course.  Football is team play, baseball largely individual effort.

“In football there is time enough to get set after each signal.  The calling of the signal tells you just what you are expected to do to put over the play.  Every player has a chance to firmly concentrate on his task.

“In baseball there is no such advantage.  There is never an opportunity to get set.

“In baseball the great weight is on the individual.  When I go to bat I am up there along.  I cannot depend on anybody but myself for help. “

Johnny Mohardt

Johnny Mohardt

Mohardt had never played football before entering Notre Dame and “Inside a week he was a first-string player,” as a result he said:

“It is easy to make football players, but from what I know of baseball it is necessary to have natural ability and also be able to think quickly.  Developing football players is easy.  If a fellow is physically fit the coach will do the rest.

“I have seen Coach Rockne make stars almost overnight at Notre Dame.  Every season brings forth scores of new stars in the football world.  In baseball I understand a new star a year is the exception.”

Mohardt was not the exception; he was 1 for 1 with a walk and 2 runs scored for the Tigers in five games in April, and after he was released hit .185 in 21 games for the Syracuse Stars in the International League—then returned to football.

Mohardt became a physician, served in the military in World War II and died in 1961.

An excellent biography of Mohardt written by Dan Cichalski appears on Gary Joseph Cieradkowski’s Infinite Baseball Card Set blog.