Tag Archives: Cleveland Indians

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.

“A Lajoie Bunt”

22 Jul

Francis “Red” Donahue was a teammate of Napoleon Lajoie in Philadelphia and Cleveland.  During a road trip in New York with the Indians in 1904 he told a story to Elmer Ellsworth Bates of The Cleveland News:

“I never come to New York without recalling the first time (Fred) Dutch Hartman of the old New York team ever saw Lajoie in a game.  Hartman had just began playing third base for the Giants and he had to be coached all the time by his teammates.

Fred "Dutch" Hartman

Fred “Dutch” Hartman

“The Phillies came over here and when Larry came to bat Hartman appealed to his fellow players for instructions.

“‘Play in for this fellow,’ was the tip.  ‘He’s liable to bunt.’

“Hartman went in about 30 feet and pushing his cap back on his head waited for the bunt.  The pitcher swung up a nice one and Larry smashed it.  The ball went away at awful speed.  It brushed the top of Hartman’s head, struck squarely in the middle of his cap and carried that piece of headgear with it clear out against the left field fence.  The other 17 players roared, but Hartman couldn’t see the joke.

Napoleon Lajoie

Napoleon Lajoie

“‘I thought you said he would bunt,’ said he.

”That was a Lajoie bunt’ said (Giants center fielder George) Van Haltren.  Wait and see him hit one with no cap to interfere with the ball.”

 

Lost Pictures–Tris Speaker and Laddie Boy’s Brother

10 Apr

trisIn 1921, the most famous dog in the world was Laddie Boy; the Airedale Terrier was the first celebrated Presidential Dog.  Laddie Boy was presented to President Warren G. Harding on March 5, 1921–the day after his inauguration–by a Toledo, Ohio breeder–his father  was an international champion Airedale named Tintern Tip-Top.

Laddie Boy had his own chair at Harding’s cabinet meetings, “wrote” articles about his life at the White House, and after Harding’s death a statue of Laddie Boy–paid for with donations collected by newsboys across the country–was commissioned and displayed at the Smithsonian Institution.

laddieboy

Laddie Boy poses on the White House lawn in his chair.

Nearly two months after Laddie Boy went to the White House, one of his lesser-known brothers was presented to Player-Manager Tris Speaker of the defending World Series Champion Cleveland Indians on opening day of the 1921 season.

Speaker became a fan of the breed and later bought Airedales from another Ohio breeder, Walter Lingo.  Lingo, to promote his breeding business–Oorang Kennel Company–hired another one of his customers, Jim Thorpe, and together they organized the Oorang Indians National Football League franchise.

Jim Thorpe--Airedale fan

Jim Thorpe–Airedale fan

Lost Pictures: Dode Paskert Plays Ice Baseball

20 Feb

dode

Ice Baseball made its first appearance in the winter of 1866 when the Athletic Baseball Club of Philadelphia played a game on ice against a “picked nine’ comprised of other local baseball teams.  Games were played occasionally over the next 50 years, but the game never caught on.

That changed briefly the winter following the 1919 season when the game, along with Ice Boxing, became a sensation in Cleveland.  The Cleveland Press said the biggest star among the “many ice baseball clubs” was Chicago Cubs centerfielder, and Cleveland native,  George “Dode” Paskert “an expert skater (who) says the exercise he is getting is going to put him about a month ahead” of his teammates.

Unidentified Ice Baseball players in 1920 photo.

Unidentified Ice Baseball players in 1920 photo.

The paper said Cleveland Indians players Bill Wambsganss and Jack Graney played, and that Ray Chapman, the Indians second baseman,  and William “Pickles” Dillhoefer, catcher for St. Louis Cardinals would be joining teams.

Indians Manager Tris Speaker umpired at least one game.

Like every other short-term Ice Baseball craze, the game quickly faded in Cleveland.

Dode Paskert

Dode Paskert

As for Paskert, after a horrible 1919 season–.196 in 88 games–the 38-year-old seems to have benefitted from his “extra exercise.”  He hit .279 in 139 games in his final full season in the major leagues.

 

 

“The Longest Three-bagger on Record”

11 Feb

Babe Ruth was the reason American League Umpire Billy Evans called for a rule change after the 1918 season.

Billy Evans

Billy Evans

Ruth tied Philadelphia Athletics outfielder Clarence “Tillie” Walker for the league lead with 11 home runs, but Ruth was not given credit for what would have been number 12 on July 8.

Ruth’s Red Sox were in a scoreless tie with the Cleveland Indians in the tenth innings of the first game of a doubleheader.  Stan Coveleski gave up a single to Amos Strunk with one out, and Ruth came to the plate.

The Boston Post said:

“Coveleski will probably hear the crash of Ruth’s bat for many a day.  The ball sped like a bullet far into the right field bleachers almost to the top.”

The Boston Globe said:

“It is getting so now that Ruth is the man of the hour every day.  His mighty crash into the right field bleachers in the 10th inning drove Strunk home.”

Ruth’s blast landed more than half way up into the right field bleachers, and The Boston Herald said a ball had never been hit further at Fenway Park, but noted, because Strunk had crossed the plate with the winning run “The best the scorers could give Ruth was a triple;” or, as The Post called it “The longest three-bagger on record.”

The box score

The box score

That winter, in his nationally syndicated column, Evans called Ruth’s “triple:”

“(O)ne of the longest drives I have ever seen.

“If there was a real, genuine, sure-enough home run, that wallop was the last word.  It was the longest drive Ruth made for the season, yet in the records he is credited with only a three-base hit.”

Ruth hit

Ruth hit “The longest three-bagger on record.”

To Evans, the solution was simple:

“I believe a more just scoring would have had the final result 2 to 0 in favor of Boston.  I believe a rule should be made which said that when a ball was knocked over the fence, or into the bleachers in an extra-inning game, all runners on the bases, as well as the batsman, should be entitles to score.”

For any present day fan, Evans’ suggestion sounds like common sense.  But, in 1918 it was criticized in many quarters.  One of the biggest critics of the potential rule change was William Blythe Hanna of The New York Herald.  Hanna said the rule change would go against everything the game stood for:

“Nothing could smack more of sophism than such advocacy.  Ball games end when the winning run crosses the plate, and any juggling with the rules to give a man a home run under the circumstances noted would be making the game subordinate to individual feats, which, of course, would be contrary to all the well-founded tenets of sport, discipline and organization.  It is surprising that a man of Evans’ intelligence could take so specious, so fallacious a view.”

Evans suggested his proposed rule change again in a column the following year, and sportswriter Fred Lieb of The New York Sun—a non-voting member of the rules committee—introduced the proposal.  The final roadblock was committee member and National League umpire Hank O‘Day, who according to Lieb insisted “I’m telling you, it is illegal.  You can’t score runs after the game is over!”

Despite O’Day’s objection the rule change was officially enacted by the Rules Committee on February 9, 1920 in Chicago.  Hanna had his final word on the rule the following day in The Herald:

 “This is a radical departure, and it is by no means a sure thing that is was based on sound reasoning.”