Tag Archives: Cleveland Indians

“Is Another Crazy Schmidt.”

16 Jun

Thirty-five years after it was first reported that Fred “Crazy” Schmit (often misspelled Schmidt) kept a “book” on hitters, the practice was still considered odd.

crazyschmit

Crazy Schmit

News of Schmit’s “book,” kept largely it was said because of his poor memory, first appeared in 1894 in The Sporting Life:

 “(A)n account of the weakness at bat of his opponents, setting them down in a small book, which he always carried with him on the diamond.”

An International News Service article in 1919 said Cleveland Indians pitcher Jim Bagby:

bagby

Jim Bagby

“Is another Crazy Schmidt.”

According to the article:

“Every pitcher in the big show has first-hand information regarding the hitting ability of every player, but few, if any, have as near perfect a record on the batters as Jim Bagby, one of Lee Fohl’s pitching aces.  Bagby has a system of baseball bookkeeping that is unique and he has found it valuable in his career as a pitcher.

“Some years ago when Jim was setting the Southern League on fire he fell upon the idea of keeping tab on individual batters and also the different teams as a whole.  He did this with aid of a memorandum.

“After each game Bagby would record the success or failure of this or that batter, adding such notes regarding the batter’s style as he deemed useful for future reference and guidance.  Jim was so successful that season (1914, Bagby was 20-9 with a 2.20 ERA for the New Orleans Pelicans) that he has continued the practice.”

When asked whether he still “kept book,” Bagby:

“(A)nswered in the affirmative. The same system that worked so well in the Southern League has been just as effective in the American.”

Bagby was 17-11 with a 2.80 ERA; the following season he was 31-12 with a 2.89 ERA—he finished his career with a 127-89 record and 3.11 ERA.

Crazy Schmitt was 7-36 with a 5.45 ERA in parts of five seasons in the major leagues.

One Minute Talk: Lee Fohl

26 Oct

Cleveland Indians manager Lee Fohl, who played just five big league games, was against star players becoming managers:

“Most star players recently appointed manager have no knowledge of how to handle men, in fact, are poorly equipped for their task.  Many a minor league manager who has toiled for years unnoticed in bush circuits could show them cards and spades and beat them at their own game.

Lee Fohl

Lee Fohl

“There is a natural aptitude for managing just as there is for playing.  If I were an owner I would sooner entrust my club to the care of a man who has had experience in handling men, whether in the minors or otherwise, than to any high-priced otherwise inexperienced star player on the circuit.”

Fohl managed the Indians, St. Louis Browns, and Boston Red Sox for 11 seasons; his teams were 713-792.

One Minute Talk: Hooks Dauss

14 Oct

In 1916, The Newspaper Enterprise Association ran a series of brief articles called “One Minute Talks with Ballplayers.”

George “Hooks” Dauss, Detroit Tigers pitcher, told the story of a teammate’s misfortune:

dauss

“Catchers are often put on the pan for mistakes which cost their teams ballgames but there are times when the mistakes are unavoidable.”

Dauss said his teammate Raymond “Red” McKee had made an “unavoidable” mistake recently that cost Detroit a game against the Cleveland Indians.

(Ray) Chapman was on first base, one out and (Elmer) Smith at bat at the time. Chapman made a bluff to steal and McKee tore off his mask to see better where he was throwing. In doing so he hit one eye with the mask and temporarily blinded himself.

“McKee made a perfect peg, had anyone been covering second, but as Chapman didn’t go down no one was there and the ball sailed out to center field.”

One Minute Talk: Tris Speaker

23 Sep

In 1916, The Newspaper Enterprise Association ran a series of brief articles called “One Minute Talks with Ballplayers.”

Tris Speaker:

“There has been a disposition on the part of some people to criticize the ballplayer for getting all the salary he could shake down from his employer.  In a few cases a ballplayer may have done this, if so, his conduct was but a duplicate of what is commonly done in other lines of business.

“A clerk in a dry goods store doesn’t see anything improper in asking for a raise if he believes he has earned it, and if his employers for some reason are unable to pay him he believes he is justified going elsewhere.

“As a matter of fact, the ballplayer seldom drives a hard bargain even when he has the opportunity.”

Speaker

Speaker

Speaker appears to have not taken his own advice about driving “a hard bargain.  According to the 1918 “Reach Baseball Guide,” Speaker took a pay cut—from $17,500 to $15,000—after he was traded by the Boston Red Sox to the Cleveland Indians for two players and $55,000 before the 1916 season.  And, according to the same source, despite hitting a league-leading .386 in 1916, Speaker continued to earn $15,000 a year through 1918.

One Minute Talk: Steve O’Neill

21 Sep

In 1916, The Newspaper Enterprise Association ran a series of brief articles called “One Minute Talks with Ballplayers.”

Steve O’Neill, Cleveland Indians catcher, made the case for the hitting prowess of one of his teammates:

Steve O'Neill

Steve O’Neill

Tris Speaker is better at the hit and run play than either (Joe) Jackson or (Ty) Cobb, for he is like (Napoleon) Lajoie—he can reach out and crack a pitch away on the other side of the plate if it will help the runner.  He does not have to wait for a fast one, a floater or a curve.

“I would sum it up this way; Cobb is the fellow who is most apt to be safe on first on a ball hit anywhere; Jackson hits the ball more savagely, while Speaker is the best all-around player of the lot and this season I think, you will find him on top in the race for batting honors.”

Speaker

Speaker

O’Neill predicted correctly.  Speaker led the American League with a .386 average, Cobb finished second at .371 and Jackson had the league’s third-best average, .341.

One Minute Talk: Braggo Roth

15 Sep

In 1916, The Newspaper Enterprise Association ran a series of brief articles called “One Minute Talks with Ballplayers.”

Robert “Braggo” Roth, in the midst of a .286 season for the Cleveland Indians:

“I certainly feel as if I owe Leslie Nunamaker of the Yankees a vote of thanks for consenting to trade bats with me earlier in the season.

“At the start of the season I was using a bat I had obtained from Joe Jackson (Roth was one of three players traded by the Chicago White Sox for Jackson in 1915) in a trade but one afternoon during preliminary practice I borrowed a big black bat from Nunamaker who had been hitting to beat the band.  I thought I might change my luck.  Sure enough, I started to hit ‘em on the nose with my new ‘Betsy’ and have been going good ever since.

Roth and his "Betsy"

Roth and his “Betsy”

“I suppose I’ll hit a slump the minute I lose that stick.”

Nunamaker appears to have done OK with the “trade” as well; he hit .296 in 260 at bats that season.  Jackson hit .341 for the White Sox.

“One of the Most Mysterious Cases in Baseball”

16 May

Before the 1925 season, Billy Evans, the American League umpire and syndicated columnist, said St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Allan Sothoron was:

“One of the most mysterious cases in baseball.”

sothoron

Evans said the 32-year-old who had spent parts of nine seasons in the major leagues:

“Here was a pitcher who was recognized as one of the richest prizes ever found.  He had a fast ball, a spitter, a curve, a change of pace; control—well, just everything that a great pitcher requires.

“And Sothoron lived as a pitching star, but not for long.  A weakness was discovered.  Show the opposing side a weak spot and it plays through it.

“Sothoron, with an iron arm are rare intelligence, could not control his throw once he fielded the ball.”

During five seasons in the American League from 1917-1921, Sothoron made 50 errors in just 356 total chances.

“On bunts or easy taps hit straight to him he lost his bearings.  With one swish of his arm, he threw—threw in any direction which usually was yards away from his fielder.

“To first, second, third base or the plate, Sothoron aimed and fired.

“And eventually, he threw himself out of the American League.”

Evans said Indians manager Tris Speaker “thought he could correct the fault’ when he acquired Sothoron in June of 1921, and for a time he thought he had–Speaker told The Cleveland News when he acquired the pitcher that the problem was Sothoron “throwing flat-footed.”

Tris Speaker

Tris Speaker

He won 12 and lost four, with a 3.24 ERA for Cleveland—although he did commit four errors in just 36 total chances.  But in 1922, Speaker “gave up the job” after Sothoron appeared in just six games—he was 1-3 with a 6.39 ERA and made one error on six chances.

Evans said after he was released by Boston:

“Sothoron, disgusted with himself, retired from baseball.”

He returned to baseball in 1923, with the Louisville Colonels in the American Association.  Despite a 6-9 5.92 season with the Colonels, Evans said:

“The scene changes.  Branch Rickey, as manager of the St. Louis Browns in 1914, discovered Sothoron.  And he refused to believe that such an evil could not be corrected.  He took a chance and purchased Sothoron for his St. Louis Cardinals in 1924.”

Branch Rickey

Branch Rickey

And the pitcher responded:

“The story is not closed.  Sothoron was one of the few pitchers with a perfect fielding average in the National league last season.”

He was 10-16 with a 3.57 ERA, but handled 37 total chances without an error, which included “making 35 perfect throws in aiding in the retirement of batters or runners.”

Evans attributed Sothoron’s fielding to:

“Branch Rickey’s system of training… (Rickey) saw that Sothoron…simply scooped in the ball and made his throw.  He did not steady himself.

“For days and weeks, Sothoron was put through such a course—fielding a ball, pausing, steadying himself, then following through with the throw.”

Evans suggested that “after 10 years of drifting” Sothoron had “finally found himself.”

It did not last.

He pitched for the Cardinals for two more seasons, he was 13-13 with a 4.09 ERA, and he committed five errors in just 31 chances.   He finished his career with an .871 fielding percentage.

Lost Pictures–The Best Eyes in Baseball

4 Dec

eyeszimmerman

eyesdaubert

eysspeaker

Above, three sets of eyes, 1916.

Harold “Speed” Johnson of The Chicago Herald said:

“It’s the eye and not the wallop that counts in the national Pastime.  Some eyes are more durable than others.  Larry Lajoie possesses such a pair; so does Hans Wagner, Terry Turner, Tris Speaker, Jake Daubert, Frank Schulte, Larry Doyle, Heine Zimmerman, Tyrus Cobb, Joe Jackson and Bill Hinchman.”

Johnson informed his readers that “Most of these birds refrain from reading during the offseason, thereby sparing their eyes.”

As for the three sets pictured above, Jonson said:

“Heine Zimmerman is another notable example of the batter who possesses the keen optics.  He eccentric third sacker of the Chicago Cubs, when at peace with the world, is one the greatest natural sluggers of all time.  His eyes never have troubled him but his temperament frequently has caused him to slump, swinging frantically at any old pitch.  Right now Heinie is seeing in exceptionally good form as witness his average of .336 for 48 combats.”

[…]

“There is nothing wrong with Jake Daubert’s glims as a slant at the latest averages will indicate…His heavy cannonading has been a principal factor in the upward climb of the Robins…For a pair of eyes that have been in use as long as Jake’s in the big set they’re holding out famously.”

[…]

 “Nine seasons of big league milling haven’ dulled the lamps of Tristram Speaker who right now is going better than he did in his banner years with the Boston Red Sox.  Not only is the big Texan rattling fences  at Dunn Field, Cleveland, where for seven years he averaged .381 on visits with the Bostonese, but he is keeping up his terrific pace abroad.”

Zimmerman’s temperament caught up with him again.  He wore out his welcome in Chicago in August of 1916, was traded to the New York Giants and finished the season with a .286 average.

Daubert’s eyes held out.  He hit .316 and led Brooklyn to the National League pennant.

Speaker kept hitting at Dunn Field and everywhere else, finishing the season with a major league-leading .386 average.

Murphy’s “Billion Dollar Team”

17 Aug

“Money will not buy a pennant winner;” so said William George “Billy” Murphy, the sports editor of The St. Louis Star.  In 1914, he set out to select a team that not even “John D. Rockefeller… (With) all his wealth could buy a club that would win a World’s championship from the one we have picked…The Billion Dollar Team.”

Murphy said:

“You fans of towns that have never won a flag, how would you feel to wake up some morning and find that Dame Fortune had so arranged matters that this club had suddenly been picked to represent your fair city.”

Jimmy Archer, catcher

Behind the plate he acknowledged “There are many who would doubtless pick (John) Chief Meyers…but considering the Indian’s slowness of foot and propensity for clogging up the bases and stealing when the bags are full, we must remark we cannot see the “Chief” for a minute with Jimmy Archer, who, although not so good a hitter, is faster, a quicker thinker, greater fielder and better pegger.”

Jimmy Archer

Jimmy Archer

Murphy was in the minority questioning the baseball intelligence of Meyers, who was widely considered one of the most intelligent and articulate players of his era.  He also rated Ray Schalk and Wally Schang as superior, saying:

“In the writer’s humble opinion they are much more valuable men to their team than Meyers.”

Walter Johnson, pitcher

“There will hardly be a dissenting vote cast against Walter Johnson.  Unquestionably he is the greatest of all the pitchers.

(Charles Chief) Bender and (Christy) Mathewson are also great—great when they should show class—in championship games.  Every nerve, every fiber of their brains, every muscle necessary to their craft, is at its best when big games are being fought.

“Wonderful as they are, we must pick Johnson, who also has class and is game to the core.”

Hal Chase, first base

“For first base, there is only Hal Chase.  He is a great hitter, marvelous fielder, can run the sacks, and is a brilliant tactician.

(John) ‘Stuffy’ McInnis, Jake Daubert, Eddie Konetchy, Fred Merkle, and Jack (Dots) Miller are all stars, but they are ‘also rans’ in the class with Prince Hal of the White Sox.”

Prince Hal of the White Sox

Prince Hal of the White Sox

Eddie Collins, second base

“At second base, Eddie Collins in the potentate.  Johnny Evers, Larry Doyle, and Larry Lajoie occupy seats in the second sackers’ hall of fame, but Collins rules over the roost.”

Honus Wagner, shortstop

“At short, notwithstanding his age, the palm goes to Hans Wagner.  Taken all in all he is still the greatest man at the position in the game.  He can do everything and does it better than any of his contemporaries.  When will we look upon his like again?”

Frank Baker, third base

“At third base, there is that wonderful silent son of swat, Frank Baker, the conqueror of the wonderful Mathewson and Richard (Rube) Marquard.”

Joe Jackson, right field

“In right field we have Joe Jackson, the young Southerner with the Cleveland club.  He is one of the greatest batsmen in the game today and is a fielder and base runner of unusual ability.”

Joe Jackson

Joe Jackson

Ty Cobb, center field

“In center, there is Tyrus Raymond Cobb, the Royston, Georgia marvel, who is the greatest player baseball has ever known.”

Tris Speaker, left field

“And in left field, there is Tris Speaker of the Boston Red Sox—second only to Cobb.”

Griff’s Invention

5 Aug

Bob “Buster” Bescher arrived in Cincinnati a right-handed hitter.  In 1909, he led the National League with 54 stolen bases but hit just .240.

Bescher

Bescher

Bescher’s manager, Clark Griffith would compare him to Ty Cobb in an interview with Harry Salsinger of The Detroit News:

“If Bescher could hit he would probably set a pace for base-stealing that would never be equaled…Bescher gets away like Cobb, and his success lies mostly in getting away.  He is running in his first few steps.  He has a great pair of limbs and is in stride at the jump.  He is lightning fast.”

The Cincinnati Enquirer said:

“Bescher is a big, strong fellow, naturally left-handed, who was, unfortunately, coached to bat right-handed when he was a kid.”

Griffith set out to change that before the 1910 season.  In January, The Enquirer said:

“A device for batting practice was shipped to Bob Bescher at his home in London (Ohio) by Manager Griffith yesterday.  The arrangement was constructed according to Griff’s order, and it was designed to give Buster practice in batting left-handed before he goes South with the club six weeks or so hence.”

Clark Griffith

Clark Griffith

The paper described Griffith’s invention:

“The device consists of a ball of regulation size, but fitted with an extra cover, to which stout rubber cords are attached, one on each side.  One of the cords is to be fastened to the floor and the other to the ceiling, allowing the ball to swing loosely at about the height of the batter’s waist.  When the ball is struck with a bat, the flexible cord allows it to swing several yards and it returns with great force, coming back at about the speed of a pitched ball.  Then it is time for Buster to get busy with the club and soak it out again.”

A diagram of Griffith's invention.

A diagram of Griffith’s invention.

The Enquirer said Griffith hoped Bescher would add “30 or 40 points” to his average batting left-handed.

“He is the best base runner in the National League…Griff has sent him instructions to hit only left-handed with the new machine, and he hopes that Bob will be a regular Ty Cobb when he reports in March.”

Bescher batted almost exclusively left-handed during spring training in Hot Springs, Arkansas and became a switch-hitter that season, and seems to have benefitted from Griffith’s invention—but never became a “regular Ty Cobb.”

He improved his average to .250 in 1910 and again led the league with 70 stolen bases.  The next two seasons he hit .275 and a career-high .281, leading the league with 81 and 67 steals.

Bescher

Bescher

In 1913, Bescher slowed, hitting just .258 and stealing 38 bases.  He bounced from the New York Giants to the St. Louis Cardinals and Cleveland Indians over the next five seasons, never hitting better than .270 or stealing more than 39 bases.  He played minor league ball through the 1925 season.