Tag Archives: Cleveland Naps

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #44

7 Jan

Flint’s Hands

In 1896, Hugh Fullerton said in The Chicago Record:

“It is not hard to tell ‘Old Silver’ (Flint) is a ballplayer.”

Silver Flint

Fullerton told a story about how a train carrying the catcher and the rest of the White Stockings had derailed during their “Southern tour” the previous season:

“The train jumped the track and several of the passengers were injured. Silver stood near the scene of the wreck watching the proceedings, when one of the surgeons who had tendered his services caught sight of Silver’s fists.

“’Too bad, my man, too bad,’ said the man with the scalpel, ‘but both those hands will have to come off.’”

King Kelly told Fullerton that Flint “had to shake hands with the doctor before the latter would believe that Silver’s hands were not knocked out in the wreck.”

Young’s Perfect Game

In 1910, The Boston Post said Napoleon Lajoie asked Cy Young about his 1904 perfect game while the Naps were playing a series in Boston.

Cy Young

“’Oh,’ remarked Cy in that native natural dialect that six years’ residence in Boston did not change, ‘there ain’t nothing to tell. Nothing much at any rate. They just ‘em right at somebody all the time that was all. Two or three drives would have been good, long hits if Buck (Freeman) and Chick (Stahl) hadn’t been laying for ‘em. I didn’t know nobody reached first until we were going to the clubhouse. Then Jim (Collins) told me.’”

Young beat the Philadelphia Athletics and Rube Waddell 3 to 0 on May 5, 1904; the third perfect game in MLB history; the previous two had both taken place 24 years earlier during the 1880 season–making it the first one thrown under modern rules.

The box score

Cobb’s Base Stealing

 Before the 1912 season, Joe Birmingham, manager of the Cleveland Naps told The Cleveland News that Sam Crawford was the reason Ty Cobb was a successful base stealer.

“I haven’t made such a statement without considering the matter.”

Birmingham said:

“Put Sam Crawford up behind any one of a half dozen players in this league and their base stealing records would increase immensely…In the first place, every catcher is handicapped almost five feet in throwing to second when Sam is up. You know Sam lays way back of that home plate.

“A catcher would take his life in his hands if he dared get in the customary position behind the plate, for Sam takes such an awful wallop. Five feet doesn’t seem like a great distance, but when it is taken into consideration that a vast number of base stealers are checked by the merest margin of seconds, five feet looms up as considerable distance.”

Cobb

Then there was Crawford’s bat:

“(He) wields a young telegraph pole. There are few players in baseball who could handle such a club. And Sam spreads that club all over an immense amount of air. It’s usually in the way or thereabouts. At least it’s a factor with which the catcher must always reckon. Finally, Sam is a left-handed batter. Any time a pitcher hurls a pitchout to catch Cobb stealing the catcher is thrown into an awkward position. He can’t possibly be set for a throw. There’s another portion of a second lost.”

Cobb and Crawford were teammates from 1905 through 1917; Cobb led the league in steals six times during that period.

Sam Crawford

Birmingham’s overall point was to suggest that Joe Jackson, of the Naps, would be a better base stealer than Cobb:

“Joe has shown more natural ability during his first (full) year in the league than Cobb did.”

Birmingham said Jackson was as fast going from home to first as Cobb and “No one can convince me to the contrary.”

While he said Jackson did not get the same lead off the base as Cobb, he said:

“When that is acquired you’ll find little Joey leading the parade or just a trifle behind the leader.”

In 24 season Cobb stole 897 bases; Jackson stole 202 in 13 seasons.

“I just Escaped Being a Second Rube Waddell or a Bugs Raymond”

7 Dec

In a 1912 interview with the Continental News Service, Joe Jackson said he nearly derailed his career during his two brief stints with Philadelphia in 1908 and 1909:

Jackson recounted failing to appear for a game:

“I know that I was wrong, but I don’t suppose that excuses my conduct any. There are few people who know what this same Mack stood from me before he turned me loose”

Joe Jackson

Jackson said Mack tried to change him, “with tears in his eyes, but I wouldn’t listen.”

“(O)ne afternoon I was scheduled to play center field for Philadelphia , and on my way to the grounds I took a notion that I’d like to see a show and hopped off the car without a word to anyone and spent the afternoon watching a burlesque show.

“I just escaped being a second Rube Waddell or a Bugs Raymond. Mack did everything possible to make me see the folly of my ways, but he finally lost patience and but me on the blacklist, where I would have remained for the rest of my life if he hadn’t been the kind man he is.”

Failing to change Jackson’s ways, in the spring of 1910, Mack:

“(T)old me to pick out the club I’d prefer to go with and he’s see what could be done.’

“A few days later he came to me and said: ‘I’m sorry, Jackson, that you refuse to settle down and take ball playing seriously, because you have the makings of a crackerjack player in you.”

Jackson was sent to New Orleans:

“It wasn’t until I was well on my way South that I began to realize what an opportunity I had lost. Mack was not the first manager whose friendship I had sacrificed by my foolish actions, but it was he who brought me to my senses. I made up my mind long before I reached New Orleans that I’d cut out my kiddish way and then try to get Mack to give me another chance.”

He said of his time in New Orleans, where he hit .354 in 136 games:

“Having made up my mind to attend to my knitting, I played every game and never missed a morning’s practice.”

Jackson was traded to the Naps and hit .387 in 20 games with Cleveland.

As another example of his behavior before his New Orleans epiphany, he told a story about a run in with umpire Fred Westervelt when both were in the South Atlantic League in 1909.

Jackson, 1909

Jackson said he and teammate Ed Lauzon, “who was the official troublemaker,” on the Savannah Indians:

“Along about the second inning…left the field and took seats in the grandstand with the spectators. Manager (Ernest) Howard sent Harry King [sic, Kane] to get us, and we persuaded him to gather around the festive board. When Howard, who was a player as well as a manager, saw the three of us lined up eating peanuts he also joined the gathering.”

Westervelt gave the four players two minutes to return to the field, when they refused, Jackson was fined $50, King was fined $35 and Lauzon and Howard received suspensions.

“I don’t tell you this because I think now it was funny, but merely to show you how much interest I took in baseball when I got my name on Manager Mack’s list of what, I believe, he calls his ‘daffy players,.’ No one regrets these incidents more than myself, and you can bet it’s me for the straight and narrow hereafter as long as I am in the game.”

“He Seems to Possess a Sixth Sense”

4 Dec

In 1912, the Continental News Service which served several newspapers in the South and Midwest, published a long interview with 24-year-old Cleveland Naps outfielder Joe Jackson.

“The lanky Southerner’s prowess with his formidable black bat has won him an enviable niche in the baseball Hall of Fame, and his work in the outfield is only slightly less remarkable. He seems to possess a sixth sense—a sort of second sight—that enables him to guess just where a given batsman will place a hit, if it is in the direction of right garden, where Jackson holds sway.”

Jackson was asked, “how he sizes up the intentions of an opposing batter, as it appears from the different positions he takes as various men com to bat, he seems to sense just where each man will hit.”

His response:

“I’m not any surer than you where any particular player will hit, but a man isn’t in the game very long before we learn his failings and endeavor to use them to his disadvantage.

“With such men as (Ty) Cobb, (Joe) Tinker, (Heinie) Zimmerman, (Tris) Speaker and other well-known sluggers I know that if they hit out of the infield I have got to be playing deep in order to stand  any chance of getting them. On the other hand, I also know certain players who never hit further than back of the bases. These hitters cause the fielders more trouble than the sluggers because it’s anybody’s ball. That is to say, a baseman may be just as close to it as a fielder, and where two men are going after the same fly the chances of a collision sometimes causes an easy out to be turned into a safe drive. A fielder coming in on a ball has a much better chance of getting it than a baseman who has got to run back for it, even though the latter has a shorter distance to cover.”

Jackson

Jackson said while less balls were hit to right; it was the most difficult position:

“Balls hit to right field if not caught are always dangerous, and especially so when there are men on bases. I am so far from third that the average runner can easily go from first to third if I am not able to make a quick recovery and return.”

Jackson said even as a child he never liked playing infield and:

“Center and right field are the only two positions I have ever played (he had played three games in left field for Philadelphia in 1909)…I was always considered a speedy runner and won many a sprint race back home before I took to playing ball for a living. My father was, and is today, opposed to the playing of the game for money, but as I have six other brothers, all ballplayers, two of whom are in the minor leagues. It looks as though he’ll have to get used to it. Last Fall was the first time he ever saw me in a game, and then only because he had a business engagement in Cleveland.”

Jackson recounted his greatest play in right field:

“I have made several ‘grandstand’ catches in the outfield but the one I feel the proudest about occurred when I nailed (Del) Gainer’s drive off the cement wall in our home grounds.”

Jackson said Cobb was the fastest player he had seen going from home plate to first base:

“Still, a Cleveland fan claims that he clocked me going from home plate to first, and that I covered the distance in less than three seconds. It may be possible that I did, but I rather think the watch or something else was out of order.”

Jackson said the claim made him curious and he tested his speed from hoe to first:

“I got a stopwatch and made several trials. The best I was able to do was a fraction over three seconds. It’s just possible that the excitement of the game may have made me go faster than I did in practice, but with all due respect to the gentleman who timed me I hardly think there is a player in the game today that can hit and make first in less than three seconds.”

“Baseball’s Case Against the Automobile”

9 Jan

Paul Purman wrote for the Newspaper Enterprise Association, a Scripps-Howard syndicate, from 1916 through 1918; best known for naming the college All-American Football Team during those years, he also wrote regularly about baseball.

Shortly before the 1917 season, he wrote about Clarence “Pants” Rowland’s plan to make the Chicago White Sox pitching staff more effective that season:

“Rowland is the latest pilot to take a hand in the life of his players off the field. He has issued an order that his pitchers be forbidden from driving automobiles during the playing season.”

pants

Purman said “Baseball’s case against the automobile,” had been a issue that “occupied managers’ minds for many years.”

He said that more than half of current players “own cars and drive them daily” during the season.

“In Cleveland (in 1914) it was charged that the poor showing of the team was due mainly to players paying more attention to their machines than they did to their baseball.”

Purman said despite the concern, Cleveland manager Joe Birmingham “issued no orders against motoring,” and the Naps “finished a poor eighth (51-102).”

Golf, said Purman, was “another thorn in the sides of managers.” He said Bill Carrigan had “issued a blanket order against his men playing golf.” Carrigan’s order, he said, was the result “two or three players who had been warned repeatedly against thinking more of golf than they did their baseball,” and after the Red Sox won the pennant, Purman said:

“It is rumored other managers will fall in line this year.”

After issuing the ban, Rowland told The Chicago Daily News:

“Physicians declare that the strain of handling a steering wheel is injurious to the muscles used in pitching. There is no doubt that a pitcher cannot do himself justice on the mound after several hours as a gasoline pilot. The eyesight also is put to severe test.”

Urban “Red” Faber, Joe Benz, and Eddie Cicotte were said to be the three pitchers who would be most upset with the ban.

cicotte

Eddie Cicotte

The Chicago papers were silent about whether Rowland’s “ban” was enforced throughout 1917, but Cicotte had his finest season, 28-12, 1.53, and Faber and Benz made significant contributions to the World Champion White Sox.

“A Loyal Little Rooter has Gone to his Long Rest”

3 May

Harry Davis thought he was about to make the biggest off-season acquisition in the American League before taking the reins of the Cleveland Naps in 1912. He had been given the job, as The Cleveland News said, “over the objection” of many. George Stovall had replaced Deacon McGuire after a 6-11 start in 1911 and led the team to an 80-73 third place finish.

harrydavis.jpg

Davis

Davis was, according to The Chicago Inter Ocean about to steal Joe Magero from the Chicago Cubs as “the official hoodoo chaser of the Cleveland team.”

Magero had been the Cubs mascot since 1907, and several times a season “donned the White Sox of the South Side athletes.”

The paper said:

“Davis wanted Magero on account of his resemblance to (Louis) Van Zeldt, a hunchback who is the mascot of the world’s champion Philadelphia Athletics, the club with which Davis had been connected.”

Magero was “discovered” while working for Albert R. Tearney—Tearney was President of Chicago’s Amateur Baseball Manager’s League, the governing body of city’s amateur and industry clubs, of which there were more than 400. Tearney would later become president of the Three-I League and was elected to Chicago’s city council. Tearney, it was said, got Magero in “the professional mascot business” after seeing him selling gum on a street corner.

Magero first appeared as a mascot for Nixey Callahan’s Logan Squares in the Chicago City League in 1906. After the Logan Squares defeated both World Series participants—the Cubs and the White Sox—in exhibition games after the 1906 season, Magero having “brought luck” to Callahan’s club became a hot commodity and joined the Cubs in 1907.

 

Except for his occasional paid forays to the Southside and a brief stint in August of 1911 as “hoodoo chaser” for the Lincoln Railsplitters in the Western League, Magero was a fixture at West Side Park.  He was popular enough at one point that The Chicago Tribune said he and Germany Schaefer “are considering an offer to go on stage this fall with a skit entitled ‘What are we?’”

The Inter Ocean said:

“It was while acting as ‘jinx wrecker’ for Comiskey’s clan that Joe met Schaefer, the witty and able player of the Washington American League club. A warm friendship sprung up between the two and Joe and ‘Germany’ made it a point to be with each other as much as possible when Schaefer’s team was in Chicago.”

The 21-year-old Magero, who stood just three feet tall and immigrated from Italy in 1900, was ready to join Davis and the Naps for the opening of the 1912 season, but said The Inter Ocean, “The Grim Reaper intervened.”

Magero died of pneumonia at Chicago’s St. Joseph hospital on March 14.

The paper said:

“News of the death…was received with sorrow by the veteran members of Chance’s team at New Orleans, according to word received here yesterday by members of the little mascot’s family.  Mordecai Brown, Joe Tinker, John Evers, and the Peerless Leader were particularly affected by the tidings.”

The Chicago Daily News said:

“Joe, bent of frame and physically a weakling, nevertheless played his part in bringing victory to the Cubs. He twirled no games like Brownie, he slammed no home runs like Schulte, neither did his inside work win games as did that of Evers. But he was the mascot of the team, and as a mascot his services proved as valuable as did the work of those upon whom nature had bestowed more generous gifts…There is sorrow in all of belldom, for a loyal little rooter has gone to his long rest.”

Without his mascot, Davis was 54-71 and resigned on September 2. The Cleveland News said:

“The team’s poor showing and the fact that he had been subject to severe criticism by the public and the press are given as Davis’ reasons.”

He never managed again.

Addie Joss’ Pigeon

6 Jun

Before he was called “The Human Hairpin,” Addie Joss picked up the nickname “Juneau Slat,” after the Wisconsin town.

Generally, Joss appeared to be less superstitious than many of his brethren whose lucky charms, curses, and “hoodoos” were chronicled on a regular basis in newspapers.

addie

Joss

But, in 1907, after he signed with Cleveland for $4,000 after a brief holdout, The Cleveland Plain Dealer said he had “a hunch that he would join the Naps,” several days before he signed, because of a bird:

“Early last week Joss went to his home to have some photographs made in uniform.  While posing in the yard Joss noticed a carrier pigeon alight upon his front porch and walk through the door, which had been left open, the day being warm.

“’What do you think of that bird?’ the Juneau Slat demanded of a friend in a surprised voice, as the bird disappeared inside the house.

“’You know the old saying, that a dove is the harbinger of peace,’ the friend replied.”

Joss quickly followed the bird into his the house:

“Addie’s search for the pigeon took him to the kitchen, where the bird had established itself.  Joss made a temporary cage for the homer out of an orange box, and extracted from the friend a promise of silence until the bird proved itself a prophet of good or a bird of ill omen.

“As has been established, the pigeon lived up to its reputation, for on Friday (March 8) night Joss was summoned to Cleveland by the owners of the baseball club, and at noon Saturday peace had been established and he signed a contract.”

Joss went on to win 27 games and posted a 1.83 ERA, pitching a career high 338.2 innings in 1907.

He never said what became of the pigeon.

Wee Willie Sudhoff

19 Jun

William “Wee Willie” Sudhoff was in the midst of his best season.  The 28-year-old pitcher, who was 28-52 during his first three major league seasons, was on his way to his first 20-win season for the St. Louis Browns in 1903.

Born in St. Louis, Sudhoff was a local favorite.  The St. Louis Republic said about him signing with the Browns (NL) in 1897:

 

sudhoffpix2

Willie Sudhoff with the Ben Winklers, a local St. Louis amateur club circa 1895

 

“Although he had many chances to play with the big Eastern teams, Willy Steadfastly refused their offers and remained loyal to the city of his birth.”

On August 28, the Browns left Cleveland aboard a train carrying the ballclub and the Cleveland Naps— the teams were scheduled to play a doubleheader the following day in St. Louis.  In Napoleon, Ohio, the engineer misread a signal and the train derailed.

The Associated Press said:

“The Cleveland sleeper (car, the first sleeper on the special train that consisted of a baggage car and two sleepers) turned completely over on one side and the boys on the upper said were thrown over on top of those who occupied berths on the opposite side.”

The rear car, carrying the Browns, ended up in a ditch but did not turn over.

In what The St. Louis Post-Dispatch called, “(A) miraculous escape from almost total annihilation,” no players on either club were seriously injured.

Sudhoff was the most seriously injured player; he had a strained wrist and “had his hand cut,” and missed his scheduled start against Cleveland.

Despite the relatively minor injury, teammates and friends said Sudhoff was never the same after the derailment.

After ending 1903 with a 21-15 record and 2.27 ERA for the 65-74 Browns, Sudhof threatened to leave the Browns two weeks before the 1904 season opener.  The Post-Dispatch said he “Bolted from Browns headquarters,” but returned the same day to sign his contract.  The paper said:

“A baseball catastrophe was averted.”

sudhoffpix

Willie Sudhoff, 1903

By June, Sudhoff, struggling on his way to an 8-15 3.76 ERA season, was accused of underperforming to draw his release.  The Post-Dispatch said:

“This is the gossip of the bleachers, where the deep undercurrents of baseball diplomacy are as an open book.

“Sudhoff bears no more resemblance in his pitching this year to the Sudhoff of last year than a Parish League shortstop to Hans Wagner.  To all appearances, the little twirler is in excellent condition but he fails of delivery as to the goods nearly every time he goes into the box.”

The paper said, “Sudhoff indignantly denies that there is any truth to the story.”

The following season The St. Louis Globe-Democrat said the Browns had cut Sudhoff’s salary for 1905.  Team owner Robert Hedges remained hopeful about his pitcher’s future:

“Willie pitched good baseball at times last year, but he had so many misfortunes during the season that it discouraged him a bit.”

Hedges said two members of Sudhoff’s family had died and that he had also taken care of sick relatives.

And Sudhoff appeared to make Hedges look smart when he shut out the Cleveland Naps in his first start of the season.

He attributed his success to his new “Raising Jump Ball.”  He told The Post-Dispatch:

“It is different from the “raise ball” of Charley Nichols and the “jump ball” of Christy Mathewson but combines features of both.  It passes over the plate at a man’s shoulder and jumping rises, changing its course slightly as it passes him.”

The paper said Sudhoff believed his pitch “will revolutionize the theory of curve pitching.”

The pitch did not turn Sudhoff’s luck around; after winning his first two decisions he went 8-20 the rest of the season.

Beginning in July, it was rumored that Sudhoff would be sold to the Indianapolis Indians in the American Association, but Sudhoff managed to stay in St. Louis for the whole season.  In December he was traded to the Washington Senators for pitcher Beany Jacobson.

The Post-Dispatch said after the trade:

“Sudhoff does not like the stories being circulated about the alleged inefficiency of his arm.”

He told the paper:

“Why should I get out of the game so long as the public and the managers will stand for me?  I am still a young fellow…Watch me next year.”

One of the “stories” about Sudhoff’s arm was reported by The Washington Post:

“A St. Louis critic claims that Willie Sudhoff injured his pitching arm by indulging in too much bowling, which developed muscles that he had no use for in his work on the diamond.”

Sudhoff only lasted until July in Washington, in nine appearances he was 0-2 with a 9.15 ERA.

In 1907 and 1908 Sudhoff signed with American Association teams—the Kansas City Blues and Louisville Colonels—but never played in a regular season game for either.

Sudhoff appeared in one more professional game—he gave up four runs in three innings pitching for the Topeka White Sox in the Western Association in July 1908.

He returned to St. Louis where he sold suits and pitched in the city’s semi-pro Trolley league in 1909 and 1910.

Late in 1911, The St. Louis Star reported that Sudhoff was planning a professional comeback:

“He is working hard this winter to get in shape.  He believes he can regain his cunning.”

The comeback never materialized and Sudhoff took a job as an oiler at the St. Louis waterworks Chain of Rocks Plant until July of 1913.  The Post-Dispatch reported that he had been admitted to St. Louis’ City Hospital, diagnosed as “Violently insane.”

The paper said it took two patrolmen to subdue Sudhoff, who was placed in “a dark padded cell to prevent him from injuring himself.”

According to the report:

“Sudhoff continually calls to everyone who comes within sight, saying he was a professional ballplayer and he will give $5 if the stranger gets him out.”

Mrs. Sudhoff told police her husband “acted queerly” for the previous three months, and “Monday evening he put on his old baseball suit and:

“(C)avorted about the yard, talking continuously about playing with the Browns.”

Sudhoff was transferred to the St. Louis City Sanitarium the following week.

There was speculation about whether it was a beaning in 1905 or the train wreck that contributed to Sudhoff’s insanity.

The paper said:

“Physicians believe (the) old injury to his head is responsible for his condition.”

And while the paper said no one present at the train wreck “(D)o not believe he received a blow serious to cause a permanent injury,”  some of Sudhoff’s former teammates, and Browns owner Robert Hedges “(R)ecalled an eccentricity that developed shortly after the wreck.  From that time on in a Pullman car, he went to bed fully dressed.”

A 1908 article in The Detroit Free Press about the train crash said:

“Sudhoff was so frightened that he could not utter a word for ten minutes, and from that time until he quit the league, ‘Wee Willie’ always sat up all night on a train.  He would do anything to get out of railroad traveling.”

Sudhoff never made it out of the city sanitarium; he died there on the morning of May 25, 1917.

He was survived by his wife and his son, Emmet Wallace, named after Sudhoff’s teammates Emmet Heidrick and Bobby Wallace.

“A little thing like a Presidential Campaign…is Ridiculous to Contemplate”

3 Oct

Frederick R. Toombs wrote and edited books about hockey, wrestling, and the origins of “court games, and was also a novelist and spent the first decade of the 20th Century writing syndicated articles about sports and politics.

Less than a month before the 1908 presidential election, he wrote:

“When a wave of baseball frenzy sweeps over the United States, the most momentous affairs of life and state speedily are thrusted aside.  Nothing must stand in the way of the American citizen who hungers to hear the resounding crack of a home run hit.  A little thing like a presidential campaign in this greatest of all baseball years is ridiculous to contemplate.  Many a big league game in this record breaking year has been attended by upward of 35,000 people.  Who ever heard of a presidential candidate drawing such an audience?”

Toombs noted that on the day John W. Kern was selected as the Democratic nominee; the same day his running mate, William Jennings Bryan “delivered a much-heralded speech on trusts,” the Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates,and New York Giants were locked in a three-team battle for the National League pennant:

“The big dailies spread the baseball story across the front page, and Mr. Kern and Mr. Bryan were pushed back among the advertisements.  Mr. (William Howard) Taft and Mr. (James S.) Sherman have suffered in much the same way.  Their lengthy communications in the public are frequently shoved back in juxtaposition to the ‘Help Wanted’ column, and in the choice spots of the papers appear stories relating (to every aspect of the baseball season.”

William Howard Taft

William Howard Taft

As for the election, he said:

“In fact, whoever is elected to the presidency the defeated man will be fully justified in laying his downfall to the nerve racking races in the National and American Leagues.

William Jennings Bryan in baseball uniform 1884.

William Jennings Bryan in baseball uniform 1884.

“A season like that now drawing to a close has never occurred before.  The National League (three-team) race…and the American, with Detroit, Cleveland St. Louis and Chicago hacking at each other’s throat (Detroit won the pennant—Cleveland finished ½ game back, Chicago 1 ½, and St. Louis 6 ½) have carried the game to heights of popularity hitherto undreamed of.  The New York National team, for instance, will close the season with almost $500,000 in profits.”

1908 Detroit Tigers

1908 Detroit Tigers

Baseball, said Toombs, had become more than the nation’s most popular sport:

“When the Duke of Wellington (Arthur Wellesley) said, ‘The Battle of Waterloo was won on the fields of Eton,’ he conveyed an authoritative opinion of the tremendous influence which may be exerted on a nation, a hemisphere, or a world by a form of sport, a mere pastime.  Inferentially one may well say, that according to ‘The Iron Duke’,’ had it not been for the strength giving qualities of cricket, Napoleon would have won at Waterloo and become, without question the arbitrary dictator of all Europe. Baseball in America holds the position that cricket has in England, and the influence of the game on the American people is of even greater importance and significance than ever known of cricket in England…Not only is baseball the national game; it is the national craze.  It is the only and original, pure and undefiled, blown in the bottle brand of Dementia Americana.”

Toombs concluded:

“Campaign managers may fume and fret, but baseball is a necessity; politics is a luxury.”

The Cubs beat the Tigers four games to one in the World Series; Taft beat Bryan by more than a million votes on November 3.

1908 Chicago Cubs

1908 Chicago Cubs

Note:   The phrase “Dementia Americana” had entered the lexicon one year earlier during the trial of Harry Kendall Thaw, who in 1906 killed a man who was having an affair with his wife.  His defense attorney, Delphin Michael Delmas, said Thaw suffered from “Dementia Americana—the sort that makes Americans defend the sacredness of their homes and their wives and children. “ The 1907 trial–the first “trial of the Century”of the 20th Century–resulted in a hung jury. Thaw was found not guilty by reason of insanity in 1908.

 

Nap Lajoie “How I Win”

13 May

Napoleon Lajoie spoke to Joseph B. Bowles in 1910 for one of the syndicated journalist’s series of articles called “How I Win.”

Lajoie said:

“It is hard to tell how any man wins a ballgame, because winning depends so much upon other members of the team.  I think that the biggest factor in winning, in my case at least, is in having what I think is the baseball instinct.  Whether that instinct is natural or acquired, or merely the result of quickness of eye, or what I do not pretend to know.  But I believe that a great part of a ballplayer’s success both in batting and in fielding is the result rather of instinct than of anything else.  Many times players  do things almost without thinking that are exactly right, and many times when they think out a thing carefully they do exactly the wrong thing.”

Napoleon Lajoie

Napoleon Lajoie

But after saying he wasn’t sure how he won, Lajoie decided he did know:

 “As far as I am concerned, I win games by hitting.  It seems to me I always could hit, and in spite of the fact that some pitchers think otherwise, I hit almost any kind of ball equally hard.  I have often wondered why this was.  Perhaps it was natural.  I never want to know what a pitcher is going to pitch and would much rather figure out for myself what ball is coming than have a coacher or anyone else tell me.”

Lajoie said he had determined that his ability to hit was “a natural gift” which required practice to refine:

“Position at the bat is a big thing in hitting.  A batter should be firmly on his feet, with the balls of his feet holding the ground tightly, and he should not shift position while striking. ..I do not try to hit the ball as hard as possible, but rather to meet it squarely, and in this I think a quick and steady eye helps.”

laj

Lajoie’s eyes

Lajoie said he was “striving always” for an advantage at the plate:

“It is a guessing match between the pitcher and the batter at the best, and experience ought to show a batter just what a pitcher is likely to pitch to him on any given ball.  When runners are on bases batting becomes more of an art…I think my position at the bat and long, steady, sweeping stroke helps me very much in the hit-and-run game, for I am able to hit balls that other batters would miss entirely.  Even if I am certain of missing the ball I swing at it hard so as to cause the catcher to lose a step or a foot or two of ground in making his throw.”

Lajoie

Lajoie

In the end, the man in the midst of a season in which, at age 35, he led the American League in games, at-bats, hits, doubles, total bases, and batting average, said:

“Keen eyesight, close observation and attention to every detail is necessary to win ballgames.  Anyone who grows careless or indifferent ceases to be a winner.”

Addie Joss on Spring Training

21 Mar

From 1906 until his death in 1911, Cleveland Naps pitcher Addie Joss moonlighted as a sportswriter for The Toledo News-Bee and The Cleveland Press.

addiejoss

Joss at the typewriter

Shortly before departing for the Naps’ camp in Macon, Georgia in 1908, Joss gave readers an insider’s view of spring training:

“About the first thing players do when they receive orders to report at a certain place, is to dig up paraphernalia.  Shoes and gloves are saturated in oil or Vaseline to soften the leather and prepare them for the work in sight.”

After his “two or three days…flying southward” on a train, and one day “getting settled,” he said:

“If the weather permits (a player) witnesses his first practice.

“Usually, the first hour or two is spent in tossing the ball around to get limbered up.  Then the manager calls upon one of the twirlers, usually a youngster, to toss up a few slow ones.

“Half an hour’s batting and the men assume their positions on the field. “

Addie Joss

Joss

After a half hour of fielding practice:

“(T)he men hike back to the hotel.  This routine is observed for the first few days, or until arms and legs become accustomed to the unusual exercise. “

Joss said veteran players usually “take it easy” for the first week unless he needs to shed a few pounds:

“If a man is overweight he will rid himself of superfluous flesh by various means.  Some run around the park each morning and afternoon.  Others chase flies until they seem ready to drop from exhaustion.“

Joss said there was no better “means to get into shape” than fielding ground balls:

“It not only loosens and toughens the muscles but gives the individual fielding practice.

“A stranger to this sort of training will be surprised at the good accomplished.  It brings every muscle into play and puts a man into splendid condition in a couple of weeks.”

Attempts were made, he said, to find new ways to keep players interested:

“Last spring, one trainer introduced an association football into camp, and the players found the diversion beneficial.  It produced generous perspiration and took the stiffness out of sore bodies. “

Next, a few “hotly contested” intersquad games between “regulars and colts,” are played, followed by:

“(T)hree games a week…played by the big league club with the organization from the town in which they are training.  This produces the teamwork so necessary.”

Off the field, Joss said it was critical that the team had a good “rubber:”

“An important factor is the trainer, and the team possessing a good handler finds the work much easier.  After 15 minutes in the hands of an expert rubber, a player whose arms and legs were so lame they could scarcely be lifted leaves the room feeling fine and fit.”

Finally, Joss, who was known as a well-mannered, family man—Ed Walsh, who pitched against him the day Joss threw his perfect game beating the Chicago White Sox 1 to 0 in 1908, told The Chicago Inter Ocean after his death that he was “One of the best men I ever met on or off the ball field–” assured readers that no one was misbehaving during the spring:

Walsh and "One of the best men he ever met..."

Walsh and “One of the best men” he ever met

“The players have little time to themselves off the field, and are usually so tired when night comes that they are willing to sit around the hotel until bedtime.”