Tag Archives: Cleveland Naps

“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.

“Probably the ‘Boniest’ Bonehead Play Ever”

22 Jun

While some of the details changed in subsequent tellings, this story stayed substantially the same from when it was first presented in a column by sports writer William A. in 1913, until the final published version in 1957 in The New Orleans Times-Picayune.  One version called it, “Probably the ‘boniest’ bonehead play ever”

The story was told by and told about lefty Evan “Rube” Evans.  Born on April 28, 1890, in Sebring, Ohio, Evans was a career minor league pitcher who, when the story first appeared, seemed to be headed to the big leagues. 

Rube Evans

Rube Evans

The tall–he was reported by various sources as anywhere from 6′ 2″ to 6′ 4″–began his professional career with the Dallas Giants in the Texas League in 1910; he was 15-12 for the pennant winners, but The Dallas Morning News said he didn’t “take baseball seriously” until the following year, when he was 18-16 for the Giants:

“Before that, it seemed, the big, husky flinger looked at playing baseball something in the light of a joke.  Last season, though he came back into the game with a different viewpoint. He seemed to realize that ball playing was a man-sized business.”

After his 1911 performance, Evans’ contract was purchased by the New York Giants, and he joined the team for spring training in Marlin, Texas in 1912.  The Morning News said if he maintained his new found focus “and works as hard as he knows how to work he ought to stick.”

Evans quickly impressed the Giants with a pitch “takes a most freakish break,” according to The Washington Times:

“Rube Evans, the Giants left-handed recruit pitcher from Dallas, surprised bot Manager (John) McGraw and Coach Robby (Wilbert Robinson) by showing them a curve that is entirely new to the big league…The ball is delivered in exactly the same manner as the spitball, but he does not moisten it.”

The paper did not elaborate on how Evans’ “dry spitter” was different from versions reported on during previous seasons–including the one thrown by Christy Mathewson of the Giants–but according to The New York World, “McGraw says he will try and teach it to Rube Marquard.”

Despite his “dry spitter,” Evans failed to make the team and was returned to Dallas where he posted a 22-12 record for the Giants.

In 1913, he joined the New Orleans Pelicans in the Southern Association but appeared to be headed to the Cleveland Naps before he threw a pitch in the regular season for the Pelicans.  In March, Evans shut down the Detroit Tigers 3 to 1 on five hits and followed that up with a four-hitter (and 3 to 1 victory) against the Naps.

The Cleveland Press said, “(Naps Manager Joe) Birmingham plans to cut down his squad considerably.  It is said recruits (Hugh) Peddy, (Pete) Shields and (Ward) McDowell will be left here in trade for one good pitcher, probably Southpaw Rube Evans.”

With Evans apparently on the verge of joining the Naps, the story of his “bonehead” play was told by Phelon, then repeated widely:

“(Evans) has one curious habit—a trait which has aroused much wonder on the part of every manager under whom the southpaw has been toiling.  When given an order by his manager or captain, Mr. Evans always stops, cocks his ears, and demands a repetition of the directions.  Naturally he is first taken for a simp, or bonehead, but when further acquaintance with him shows that he is a gentleman of intelligence and high mentality, the field leaders are muchly puzzled.

“’I always want my orders repeated,’ quoth Mr. Evans, ‘so that I will never again make such an error.”

(The 1913 version of the story, which quotes Evans,  places the incident in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, some later versions say it happened in 1913 with the Pelicans, still others say it was in Portland, Oregon; however, the original publication predates Evans’ time on the West Coast which did not begin until May of 1914).

Evans said he had pitched into the ninth inning when the opposing team put a runner on third with one out, when his manager told him if the other team attempted a squeeze play to “bean him.”  Evans said:

“’I knew no more what a squeeze play was than the man in the moon, but my orders rang in my ears as I started winding up.  Just as a swung up my arm, the fellow on third tore for the plate…I took careful aim at the oncoming runner, and pickled him with a fine shot to the back of the cranium.  Three seconds later the crowd was coming towards me with roars of fury, and I got over the back fence just in time.

“’Well how was I to know that I should have hit the batter and not the runner?  Ever since I have insisted on duplicate orders, so that I would know just what to do.’”

His acquisition by Cleveland never materialized and he had a disappointing 12-15 record in 1913, in a season split between New Orleans and the Birmingham Barons.

It is also in question whether Phelon’s characterization of Evans as a “gentleman of intelligence and high mentality,” was entirely accurate given his inability to stick with clubs who were impressed with physical abilities.  After his second chance to pitch in the majors didn’t materialize, the remainder his of career was marked by long stretches of mediocrity, charges of bad behavior and comparisons to another left-handed “Rube.”

In August of 1913, he was suspended for the remainder of the season by the Birmingham Barons for, according to The Birmingham Post-Herald, “Failure to keep in condition.”  The Sporting Life’s Chandler Richter called him “Erratic,” The Oakland Tribune said he was”Eccentric,” a wire service retelling of the “beanball” story from 1915 said he “earned a nationwide reputation as a ‘squirrel,” another called him “the real eccentric,” when compared to Rube Waddell.

The other left-handed Rube

The other left-handed Rube

His two-year tenure with the Portland Beavers in the Pacific Coast League (PCL) began when he wore out his welcome in New Orleans in May of 1914 and was sold to the Beavers.  It was particularly rocky.  The Spokane Daily Chronicle said Evans and Beavers manager Walter “Judge” McCredie “got along like a pair of strange bulldogs.” He was suspended at least once, again for the euphemistic “failure to be in proper condition,” and gave up a game-winning home run to Jack Ness of the Oakland Oaks when he accidently threw a pitch over the plate while attempting to intentionally walk Ness.  At the close of the 1915 season, Portland let him go for what The Portland Oregonian called “His inability to take care of himself.” Of his 9-22 record the paper said:

“Rube ran into gobs of adversity.”

After leaving Portland, Evans played parts of three seasons for the Salt Lake City Bees in the PCL–in 1917 he was 21-9, but when McCredie was named manager of the Bees in 1918, Evans time with the team was nearly over.  Before the season, The Oregonian said, “Evans did not take kindly to the idea of having to take orders” from his former manager and was threatening to jump the club.  He finally did jump in June after appearing in 14 games and posting a 3-8 record.

Evans went to Portland and finished the 1918 season in the semi-pro Shipyards League, The Oregon Daily Journal said upon his arrival:

“Rube Evans was through at Salt Lake and McCredie was probably saved the trouble of wearying his hand by writing out Rube’s release, when Rube left.”

In 1919, he played for the Rupert franchise in the semi-pro Southern Idaho League; while successful, his reliance on the emery ball for his success didn’t make him friends.  The Twin Falls Times said:

“When Rube Evans lugged the emery ball into the S.I.L. he failed to do anything beneficial to the league.  Rube will win a few more games for the Rupert club, but he has lowered the standard of sport in the league.”

Evans had one more season in professional baseball, posting a 10-7 record with the Regina Senators in the Western Canada League in 1920.  In an August 15 doubleheader against the Edmonton Eskimos Evans was ejected for arguing with the umpire while facing the second batter of the first game; he came back to lead the Senators to 5 to 3 victory in the second game, giving up two runs in 7 2/3 innings, and hitting a three-run home run in the sixth.

Rube Evans

Rube Evans

After the 1920 season, he returned to Ohio and spent the next decade playing semi-pro baseball there and in Western Pennsylvania.  His last headlines came in 1924 when he pitched six innings for the Sharon (PA) Elks team in an exhibition game against the New York Yankees.  The Elks lost 10-8, Babe Ruth went 2-4 with a double for the Yankees.

Evans’ playing days ended in Akron, Ohio.  He pitched for and managed the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company team, and stayed on with the company as a rubber worker.  He died on January 30, 1950.

A clue to some of Evans’  erratic behavior is contained in his death certificate.  The pitcher spent the last three and a half years of his life in Ohio’s Cambridge State Hospital; his cause of death was listed as “General Paresis,’ brought on by syphilis.

A shorter version of this post appeared on June 3, 2013

“Why not bring one of the Big League Teams to Phoenix for Spring Training?”

18 Feb

Grover Cleveland Land was a visionary.

In 1921 The Arizona Republican asked the question the former catcher had put to several major league clubs:

“Why not bring one of the big league teams to Phoenix for spring training?”

Land, a Kentucky native who spent the last 40 years of his life as a Phoenix resident,  was encouraged by a report that Connie Mack had announced that his Philadelphia Athletics would no longer train in Lake Charles, Louisiana;  according to The Associated Press Mack said “certain things happened at the Louisiana resort last March that handicapped” the team.

Grover Land

Grover Land

Land, the former catcher for the Cleveland Naps and the Brooklyn Tip-Tops, said:

“I have played ball in every section of the country, and I have yet to find a climate more suited for baseball training than I find right here in Phoenix…Major league managers have been sending their players to Texas and other southern states for many years and I can safely state that there is not one manager entirely satisfied with the present training camp sites.  Fully one-third of the training period is hampered by rain and storms and by the time the training season is ended the players are just beginning to round into shape.”

He said he understood that “local boosters” had made some effort to bring teams to Arizona in the past—the Chicago White Sox, Cubs, and Pittsburgh Pirates had played spring exhibition games in the state several times since 1909—but Land said he would “make an effort to induce one of my manager friends to come down here…I am certain that if one of the managers could be induced to come here for a few weeks Phoenix would have no difficulty getting on the sport pages.”

He said the local chamber of commerce was getting behind the push, and that he had “already written to one of the major league managers and I have been corresponding with several sports writers in the east,’ to make the case for Phoenix.

“If the local fans get behind the move and convince Connie Mack that they want his team here next spring I have every confidence that the Philadelphia Athletics will do their 1922 training in Phoenix.”

Land was a bit overconfident in regard to Philadelphia; Mack chose to take the Athletics to Eagle Pass, Texas in the spring of 1922.

No team would train in Arizona until 1929—the Detroit Tigers came to the state for one season—but chose California the following year.

The Detroit Tigers in Arizona, 1929

The Detroit Tigers in Arizona, 1929

But Land, who died in 1958, lived long enough to see his adopted home become the spring training location for four clubs.

“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.

“The Annual Spring Typhoon has Blown up Again”

10 Nov

In 1906, despite being, on paper, the best team in the American League, the Cleveland Naps finished in third place, five games behind the Chicago White Sox.  The club had three twenty game winners—Addie Joss, Bob Rhoads, and Otto Hess—and four regulars who  hit better than .300—Napoleon Lajoie, William “Bunk” Congalton, Elmer Flick and Claude Rossman,

As the 1907 season approached, Grantland Rice, of The Cleveland News said the team was now a victim of the success of individual players:

“The annual spring typhoon has blown up again—only a bit worse than ever.  In nearly every big league camp well-known athletes are breaking into loud roars over the pay question, and there promises to be quite a batch of trouble before the storm is cleared away.  In this respect Cleveland heads the list, although Napland owners have one of the highest salary lists in the game.  Up to date Joss, Rhoads, (Terry) Turner and Congalton have balked, while neither Flick nor Hess have returned a signed contract.”

Grantland Rice

Grantland Rice

Rice said the club’s negotiations with Joss and Rhoads were at an impasse, and “just how it will end is a matter of uncertainty.”  The news of the team’s trouble signing their stars led Rice to a discussion of “just how much a major leaguer is supposed to receive for his work each season.”

“When a youngster breaks in he is never given less, or at least rarely so, than he received in his minor league berth.  His pay is boosted the greater part of the time, so the average debutante’s pay roll ranges closely around $1,800 providing he is recognized as a first class man.

“If he delivers the goods his first year out he can figure on about $2,000 or $2,200 for his next season, and then if he becomes established as a regular, his income should be somewhere in the immediate vicinity of $2,500.

“From this point upward it all depends on their rankings as stars.  You hear considerable about $5,000 contracts and better, but as a matter of cold, clammy fact, but few athletes draw over $3,000 or $3,500 at best.

“In the epoch of war salaries $3,500 or $4,000 was a fairly common figure—but no more.

“A high grade slabman along the order of Joss, Rhoads (Nick) Altrock, etc…will rake in about $3,000 now.  In his weekly letter in a Toledo paper (The News-Bee), Joss stated that he was offered $3,000 for his season’s work, but that he demanded more—just how much he didn’t say.

“George Stone drew $3,000 or there abouts last season and now that he has fought his way to the premiership in the School of Slugs he demands $5,000, at which figure Mr. (Jimmy) McAleer balks strenuously.  (Johnny) Kling also asks for $5,000, which sum Charley Murphy says he will not receive.

“From this list we jump to the drawing cards of the game such as Lajoie, (Honus) Wagner, (Wee Willie) Keeler, (Christy) Mathewson, etc…

“Lajoie’s figures range somewhere above $8,000 and something shy of the $9,000 mark.

“Wagner is supposed to draw $5,000 for his work.

“If reports sent out from New York are true, Keeler’s yearly ante is close to $6,000, while Mathewson draws in about the same.

Hal Chase won’t miss $3,500 very far.

“But the high-priced teams are not pennant winners by a jug full.

(Charles) Comiskey and (Connie) Mack hew closer to the line than any others in Ban Johnson’s circle, and yet these two have won more pennants than all the rest put together.  In fact, they’ve gotten away with all but the two which Boston nailed.

“Mack had one of the cheapest, if not the cheapest team in the American League through 1905, the last year he copped the pennant.  Comiskey’s world champions of 1906 were far below Cleveland, New York or even Boston, from the salary standpoint.

“It looks funny to figure the cellar champions of a league paid more than the holders of the world’s title, but if all the figures were given out, the White Sox payroll would loom up under Boston’s to a certainty.

“The full salary cost of running a big league club varies from $40,000 to $50,000, or maybe $55,000 a year.

“A set of figures somewhere between $45,000 and $50,000 would probably hit at the higher average.

“There was a time when Boston’s payroll was close to $70,000 and (Clark) Griffith’s was only a notch below—but this golden era for the ballplayer has passed.”

According to The Washington Post, Joss had earned $3,2000 in 1906 ($2,700 and a $500 bonus), the biography, “Addie Joss:  King of Pitchers,” said he was paid $4,000 in 1907—Joss, who was 21-9 with a 1.72 ERA in 1906, followed that up with a league leading 27 wins (against 11 loses, with a 1.83 ERA) in 1907.

Addie Joss

Addie Joss

Fellow twenty game winners Rhoads and Hess both saw their production slip (15-14, 6-6), and only two regulars—Flick .302 and Lajoie .301—hit better than .300, and the team’s batting average slipped 28 points from the previous seasons.

The Naps finished fourth in 1907.

“The Fans there Like me. I Think so Anyway.”

31 Oct

In 1909 the Cleveland Naps traded pitchers Charlie Chech, Jack Ryan and $12,500 to the Boston Red Sox for Cy Young;  Young would turn 42-years-old before the beginning of the season.

Young was happy with the trade and told The Cleveland News:

“I’m glad to get back to the city where I started my career in 1890.  The fans there like me.  I think so anyway.  I believed they pulled for me there when I pitched against their own team.  I will give (Napoleon) Lajoie all I have and I think I’m good for several years.”

Cy Young

Cy Young

Addie Joss, the Naps ace, was also happy about the trade:

“Not only has Cleveland secured one of the best pitchers in the game today, but at the same time has added to the club a man who has done much for the good of baseball, and who is honored and respected everywhere he has ever played.  I have always contended, and always will, that Cy is the greatest pitcher the game has ever produced.”

Elmer Ellsworth Bates, the sports editor of The Cleveland Press, told some stories about the Indians new pitcher.

Ellsworth said a visitor to Young’s farm in Paoli, Pennsylvania asked the pitcher which of his then 478 victories did he “recall with the most satisfaction.”

“’The first game I ever pitched for Cleveland, back in 1890 (an 8 to 1 victory August 6),’ replied Old Cy, unhesitatingly.  ‘I doubt if a base ball crowd ever looked on a more typical rube than I appeared to be that day in a makeshift uniform six or seven sizes too small.  I didn’t have much money then, but I would not have lost that game to Chicago for the prettiest $1,000 bill ever printed.”

Bates said Young was “probably the most modest ‘big man’” in the game:

“At the Colonial (Hotel in Cleveland) one day last summer a young man took a chair next to the great pitcher and began paying him fulsome praise.

“’You are the swiftest pitcher I ever saw,’ he said.

“’Then,’ said Old Cy.  ‘I guess you never saw Amos Rusie.  My fastball looks like a slow freight trying to keep up with the Twentieth Century Limited Express compared to Rusie’s.’

“’But your slow ball is a peach.’

“’Young man,’ remarked Old Cy, gravely.  ‘If I could pitch the slow ball Eddie Beatin, the old Cleveland twirler, used to hand up to the batters I’d let them knock $1,000 a year off my salary.”

Bates also said it was “a matter of record” that Young was unaware he had pitched a perfect game against Connie Mack’s  Philadelphia Athletics on May 5, 1904:

“’I knew Connie’s boys hadn’t made a hit,’ said Old Cy the next day, but I couldn’t understand why the crowd was making such a demonstration.’

“’Well you’ve done it,’ said (manager and third baseman) Jimmy Collins, as we started for the dressing room after the crowd had let me go.’

“’Done what, Jimmy?’ I asked.  ‘Pitched a no-hit game?’

“’Better than that; not a man reached first.’

“’Then I knew what the racket was about.’”

“It’s Strange how these Stars of Balldom have such Beliefs”

27 Aug

Throughout his career as an American League umpire, Billy Evans, who had covered baseball for The Youngstown Vindicator continued to write syndicated newspaper articles.  He was fascinated by the superstitions that controlled the actions of so many players.

Billy Evans

Billy Evans

He followed a 1907 article about the subject, with more stories the following year:

“Of all professions, that of baseball player is the most superstitious…Of course, there are many superstitions in common, yet most of the players have pet ideas of their own on which they place much reliance.  The data of origin of many of the superstitions is a deep, dark mystery.”

Evans said:

“There is certainly nothing out of the ordinary to be seen in a load of hay, yet most players welcome the sight of one during the playing season.  In the dictionary of baseball a load of hay signifies two hits that afternoon for the discoverer, and history tells us there is nothing dearer to a player’s heart than base hits…While its supposed strange magic often fails, still the players retain faith in it.  On the other hand, the sight of a load of empty barrels is always dreaded, for some it means a shutout, to others merely defeat.”

Of one popular superstition of the time, Evans said there was “no greater believer in shaking up the bats when a rally is on” than Cleveland Naps pitcher Charles “Heinie” Berger:

“Ordinarily a team keeps its bats lined up in front of the bench in a fairly tidy manner.  According to Heinie’s code that is all well and good when everything is moving along smoothly, but when a rally appears to be in the air, the proper way to encourage it, according to Berger, is to scatter the bats in every direction.”

Heinie Berger

Heinie Berger

Evans told the story of the Naps’ August 21, 1908, game, although some of the details regarding the scoring wrong, he got most of the facts correct:

“One day last summer during an important game at Philadelphia, the Athletics got away with a seven-run lead in the first two innings.  When they added another in the third, it certainly looked as if things were all off so far as Cleveland was concerned.  Until the seventh inning the Naps bench was not unlike a funeral.  Two runs in the seventh stirred up a little hope, and caused Heinie to heave a few big sticks in different directions.  His actions caused Umpire Jack Sheridan (Sheridan and Evans both worked the game, Sheridan was behind the plate) was to offer a mild rebuke and incidentally warn Heinie that he wanted nothing but silence during the rest of the afternoon.”

Cleveland scored two runs the following inning, and had the tying run on base:

“Heinie proceeded to scatter the two dozen or more bats in all directions.  That was too much for the veteran Sheridan, and after he had made Berger replace all the bats back in a straight line, he tied a can on the Teuton and chased him from the lot.

“Berger viewed the remainder of the game from the bleachers, failing to carry out completely the edict of the umpire.  When the Naps scored the two men on the sacks and tied up the game he was happy.  Heinie was confident that the bat superstition had aided in the victory that he was sure would result, now that the score was tied.  When the Athletics scored a run in the eighth that proved to be the winner his confidence in the theory was not shaken in the least. He blamed the defeat on Sheridan, claiming that as soon as the umpire ejected him from the game the spell was broken.”

Evans also wrote about his favorite superstitious player, “Wild Bill” Donovan, pitcher for the Detroit Tigers.  Evans had previously mentioned Donovan’s fear of throwing a shutout during his first start of each season, and his actions in one game in particular, but now gave a more detailed account:

“It all seems rather foolish, yet I have worked back of Donovan on two such occasions and have every reason to believe that Bill makes it possible for his opponents to score.  In one of the games Detroit had the affair clinched 8 to 0 in the eighth.  With one down and a man on second Charley Hickman stepped to the plate.  A straight fast one is the most delicious kind of dessert for Charley, although he likes almost any old thing in the shape of curves and slants.

“There is no more strategic pitcher in the league than Donovan, yet he started off the reel to hand them up to Hick’s liking.  After fouling off three, Hick met a fast one on the nose and was blowing hard at third by the time the ball was relayed back to the infield.  He scored a moment later, but Detroit too the game easily, 8 to 2.  Bill had escaped the much despised shutout.  By the way that year was the most successful of Donovan’s career, and, of course, merely served to strengthen his belief.”

Bill Donovan

Bill Donovan

Again, Evans got nearly all the details correct—except the final score was 9 to 2.  The May 24, 1907, game was Donovan’s first start of his best season in baseball (25-4, 2.19 ERA for the American League Pennant winners), and he did lose a shutout to Washington in the eighth inning on a Hickman triple.

Evans said a superstition often attributed to Cy Young, was not a superstition at all:

“The veteran Cy Young, the grand old man of them all, is one of the few players who doesn’t take much stock in omens of good or bad luck.  Cy, however, has one big hobby.  He always prefers to pitch on dark days…The dark day idea is no superstition with Cy.  No one except the batters perhaps realizes how hard it is to hit his fast ball when the light is dim.  It is really a pleasure for him to work out of turn on such days, for he knows what a big handicap he has over his opponents.”

Evans said another Hall of Fame pitcher had a bizarre habit, that while perhaps not a superstition, bears mentioning:

Jack Chesbro, the famous spitter, is always of the opinion that someone is slipping a doctored ball over on him, and quite often asks for a new one when the cover doesn’t taste just right.”

The umpire concluded:

“It’s strange how these stars of balldom have such beliefs and stick to them, but they do.  The ball player lives in a world of his own, more than any other profession with the possible exception of the actors.”

Jack Grim

2 Jun

John J. “Jack” Grim never amounted to much as a player.  Statistics are nearly nonexistent for his playing career, and those that do survive are unimpressive; primarily a catcher, he played for all, or parts of nine seasons from 1894 until 1902.  The Cincinnati native made his mark, now all but forgotten, as a manager and executive.

John J. "Jack" Grim

John J. “Jack” Grim

Often confused with former major league catcher John Helm “Jack” Grim—for example, most sources list John H. Grim as the manager of the 1904 Columbia Skyscrapers in the South Atlantic League, it was John J. Grim who managed that team, and during that season might have made his greatest contribution to the game.

Grim’s first managerial appointment was with the Anaconda Serpents in the Montana State League in 1900.  He guided the team to a second-place finish in the first half, and the club was in first place in the second half race on August 11, when Grim abruptly resigned.  The Anaconda Standard said Grim sent a letter to the team directors in which he charged “there is a feeling in certain quarters, against me.” He said:

“I cannot do myself justice while laboring under these conditions.”

Arthur “Dad” Clarkson, brother of Hall of Famer John Clarkson, replaced Grim; the team finished the second half of the season in second place under Clarkson.  Grim became an umpire in the league for the remainder of the season.

In 1901 Grim went to the West Coast with William H. Lucas, a former minor league pitcher who had been president of the Montana State League, to join Dan Dugdale to reestablish  the Pacific Northwest League; Lucas served as league president and Grim managed the Portland Webfoots to the championship, winning the pennant by 16 games.

The league expanded from four to six teams for 1902, and Grim was hired to manage the Spokane franchise, which had finished in last place (41-67) under three different managers in 1901.  The Sporting News said:

“(Spokane’s) stockholders have given (Grim) full power to act in signing players.”

The Sporting Life said Spokane fans were “feeling confident that (Grim) will this year sustain his reputation for always piloting winners.”  Despite the free reign, and high hopes, Spokane struggled, finishing in last place with a 46-75 record.

The following season, as a result of the West Coast baseball war—the California League expanded to the Pacific Northwest, becoming the Pacific Coast League—the Pacific Northwest League expanded into California and became the Pacific National League.  Grim managed the Portland Green Gages.

On July 1 the Portland franchised was, according to, The Oregon Journal “transferred bag and baggage to Salt Lake City.” In Salt Lake City Grim quickly wore out his welcome.

After it was reported in late July that Grim might be let go, six players, including the team’s star shortstop Charles “She” Donahue, went on strike.  They missed two games, but returned after the team’s president said: “he has no intention of letting Grim out.”  The harmony didn’t last and just weeks later Grim was released and fined $100 for what The Salt Lake Herald called “starting a mutiny within the ranks of the club.”

The trouble in Salt Lake wasn’t over.  Near the end of the season, Donahue’s contract was sold to the St. Louis Cardinals.  The sale was reportedly engineered by Grim after he was let go as manager.

The Herald said:

“What kind of a con game is Jack Grim trying to work on the Salt Lake ball club?  What right had Jack Grim, who was fired…got to sell Donahue to the St. Louis club?  How many more of the Salt Lake’s players is Grim trying to dispose of in the same way?  What did Grim do with the money he received from (Cardinals President Benjamin) Muckenfuss of the St. Louis team?”

Grim told The Cincinnati Enquirer he entered into negotiations with the Cardinals over Donahue on September 14. But The Herald noted:

“At that time Grim’s sole business in Salt Lake was to hang around with the ballplayers and try his best to create discord among them.  He had been fired long before.”

The National Commission ruled the sale/signing legal.  Garry Herrmann, chairman of the commission, said that in the contract he signed with Portland for 1903 “Donahue had a specified agreement that he was not (placed on the reserve list)” despite the fact that the Salt Lake team claimed he had already signed a contract for the following season.  As a result, there was nothing stopping Grim from delivering Donahue to the Cardinals, and the money he received—the amount was never reported—was his.

Grim was again involved in a new league in 1904, when he and fellow Cincinnati native Ed Ashenbach, helped form the first incarnation of the South Atlantic League—Grim managed the Columbia Sky Scrapers and Ashenbach managed the Charleston Sea Gulls in the six-team circuit.  Grim only lasted until mid-July as manager and finished the year as an umpire in the league.

It was that season that that he claimed he made his great contribution to the game.  According to Grim, he was the first person to alert the Detroit Tigers about a 17-year-old outfielder for the Augusta Tourists named Tyrus Raymond Cobb.

While Cobb was not sold to the Tigers until August of 1905, some credence for the claim was provided by Cobb himself in 1910, when an article appearing under his name—likely ghostwritten by Roger Tidden of The New York World—said Grim had tried to purchase his contract when he was struggling at Augusta, shortly after “I left home to show up the league.”

In 1905 Grim was one of the principal organizers of the Virginia-North Carolina League and managed the Greensboro Farmers—Grim lasted less than half a season and by August The Sporting Life said he was scouting for the Cincinnati Reds.

Grim finally found some stability in 1906.  He again helped found a league and owned and managed a club.  Grim’s Lynchburg Shoemakers won the Virginia League pennant in 1906—the team was led by pitcher Walter Moser (24-8), who would make the jump from the C-league Shoemakers to the Philadelphia Phillies in August.   But after a fifth-place finish and 1907, and a slow start the next season, Grim sold the team in July of 1908.

1906 Lynchburg Shoemakers, Virginia League champions. Grim is third from left on the bottom row.

1906 Lynchburg Shoemakers, Virginia League champions. Grim is third from left on the bottom row.

Just after selling the team, Grim’s wife reported him missing.  She told police in Louisville, Kentucky that she hadn’t heard from him for three weeks and thought he might be in Louisville after visiting family in Cincinnati.  Al Orth, the New York Highlanders pitcher, said he saw Grim in New York and told The Associated Press “He did not look like a man who was missing from anywhere.”

Al Orth

Al Orth

 

Grim eventually returned to Virginia and his disappearance was never explained.  Orth, who was from Lynchburg, returned there later that summer purchased an interest in the team and managed the club until early 1909 when he returned to the Highlanders.

For the next four years Grim bounced back and forth from team ownership (he managed, and owned part of two more Virginia League franchises (Portsmouth in 1910 and Newport News in 1912) and real estate speculating on the West Coast and in Virginia.

At the beginning of the 1912 season a small item in The Richmond Times-Dispatch hinted that there was trouble ahead:

“Jack Grim has a combination of troubles.  One is of the financial variety—well the other is nobody’s business.”

The financial troubles came to a head in August.  The Times-Dispatch said:

 “Because Manager J.J. Grim would not pay their salaries, all of the players of the Newport News baseball club except (Frank) ‘Deacon’ Morrissey, struck just before the scheduled double header between Newport News and Petersburg.”

After the game was awarded to Petersburg by forfeit, Grim’s co-owners removed him—outfielder William “Buck” Hooker was named manager for the remainder of the season.

At the end of the 1912 season, Grim found himself in an odd predicament.  The Cincinnati Enquirer said:

“Though minus a franchise, Jack Grim, formerly of Cincinnati, has a ball team under reservation, for he owns title to the players of the Newport News club…It develops that in the adjustment of the club’s affairs in August, Grim who was manager and part owner, got out without losing title to the players, though he lost the franchise.”

As a result, when the Cleveland Naps drafted third baseman Ray Bates from Newport News after the 1912 season, the draft price went to Grim.

It was the last good thing to happen to him; from there, Grim’s life spun out of control.

In October, he attended the World Series in New York (his wife later said he attempted to kill her during that trip).

In November of 1912 the Virginia League turned down his attempt to secure a franchise for 1913; next his effort to start a new league with teams in Virginia and the Carolinas fell through.

In addition to being unable to secure a franchise and running out of money—an effort to secure the New York-New Jersey League franchise in Kingston, New York also fell through–Grim’s wife had him arrested  during the first week of March 1913, and told a Lynchburg judge he had repeatedly “threatened Mrs. Grim with bodily harm.”  Grim was held in jail, but according to The Times-Dispatch “is doing everything possible to effect a reconciliation with his wife.”

Grim was released on bond after a week, but quickly rearrested, and by March 23 The Times Dispatch said:

“That a commission of lunacy will be summoned early this week to investigate the Sanity of john J. Grim, the well-known minor league baseball magnate , seems now to be a foregone conclusion…Since his incarceration Grim’s condition has grown so bad that there is no doubt in the minds of the jail attaches that he is insane…Grim has not had his clothes off in a week, and he spends his time in his cell singing, shouting, talking and pacing up and down, begging to be liberated.”

The “commission of lunacy” found Grim insane based on the testimony of Grim’s wife and a doctor named Albert Priddy, and ordered him sent to Virginia’s Southwestern State Hospital in Marion.  It was in front of the commission that Mrs. Grim related the story of the “attempt to murder her with a razor in New York City.”

Southwest State Hospital, Marion, Virginia

Southwest State Hospital, Marion, Virginia

Contradictory reports about Grim’s condition came out during the next year.  The Associated Press said in August Grim was “A raving maniac…not far from death.”  A December story in The Cincinnati Enquirer said “he is improving rapidly and probably will be discharged at an early date…Grim expects to return to Cincinnati.”

Almost a year later, he was still in the hospital, and The Enquirer reported that “Grim is improving in health and expects to visit his Cincinnati friends soon.”

That item was the last newspaper reference to Grim; he was never released and died in the state hospital.

The doctor who testified that Grim was insane, Albert Sidney Priddy, was superintendent of the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded in Madison Heights, Virginia.  The doctor, and that institution became infamous in the case of Buck v. Bell (the case was Buck v. Priddy until Priddy’s death in 1925; Bell was his successor at the State Colony).  The Supreme Court’s decision in the case–upholding the Virginia’s compulsory sterilization law– resulted in the forced sterilization of more than United States citizens in Virginia and states that enacted similar laws.

Lost Advertisements–“Lajoie Endorses Heptol Splits”

9 May

lajoieheptol

Cleveland Naps second baseman Napoleon Lajoie appeared in as many advertisements as any of his contemporaries during his career, including one for a “sparkling laxative.” This is a 1906 advertisement for Heptol Splits “The only perfect Laxative.”

“Gentlemen:  I am constantly worried, while traveling over the circuit, by drinking impure water or eating something that disagrees with me, because in either event I am liable to be laid up for several days and deprive my team of my service.  I have found that the best thing to overcome the ill effects of either, is to take, before breakfast, a bottle of Heptol Splits.  I have taken it innumerable times and its results have always been most satisfactory.  It is especially good during the early training season, and I consider it the only perfect laxative water on the market.”

The image of the cowboy on the bronco used for Heptol Splits’ logo was created by artist Charles Marion Russell.

Lajoie’s endorsement does not appear to have done much good for the brand which appears to have disappeared from drug store shelves within a couple of years.

A version of the advertisement appeared in the inaugural, 1906 edition of Napoleon Lajoie’s Official Base Ball Guide— an attempt  to compete with the Spalding and Reach Guides.

The 1906 Lajoie Guide

The 1906 Lajoie Guide

 

The Cleveland Press said upon the publication of the 1906 guide:

“”Lajoie’s Guide is especially interesting because it is the first work of this kind that has ever been attempted by a ball player while still in active service on the diamond…Lajoie is the champion batsman of the world and a great authority on the national game.  His book should find a ready sale.”

When Lajoie’s Guide ceased publication after the 1908 edition The Press said:

“After two years as editor of the American League Publishing Company, getting out the Lajoie Guide, he declares the others are too strong for competition, and only farm life for him in the winter months from now on.”

Buddy Ryan

15 Oct

During the 1912 season pitcher Bob Groom was having what would be the best season of his career; he was 24-13 with a 2.62 ERA for the Washington Senators.

His former teammate John “Buddy” Ryan was hitting .271 during his first season with the Cleveland Naps.

Groom and Ryan had been teammates with the Portland Beavers in the Pacific Coast League (PCL) in 1908. Ryan claimed that while they played together Groom had nearly quit baseball.  According to The (Portland) Oregonian:

“(Groom) was a most sensitive fellow.  One day we were playing San Francisco and had them 4 to 1 in the sixth inning, when Groom became a trifle wild , Mac (Walter “Judge” McCredie) jerked him after he had filled the bases with none out.  Bobby did not like it and he threw off his glove angrily and walked to the bench made as a wet hen.

According to Ryan, when Groom reached the bench he told McCredie he was through with the “blamed old club” and was going home.  All three San Francisco runners scored, tying the game.  The following inning:

“We got the bases full and (Otis) Ote Johnson up, when Groom ambled dejectedly out of the clubhouse, carrying his little grip with all of his baseball togs and stuff in it.  He got about as far as third base when Ote landed on one for one of those long triples of his, and Bobby forgot about quitting the club and going home, for he threw his cap, grip and everything in the air and yelled ‘Come on you Swede boy, it’s good for three.’ We won the game and Bobby never said a word about going home.”

Bob Groom

Bob Groom

Bob Groom remained in the big leagues through the 1918 season, compiling a 119-150 record with Washington, the St. Louis Brown, Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Terriers in the Federal League.

Buddy Ryan spent just two seasons in the major leagues, hitting .282 as Cleveland’s fourth outfielder in 1912 and 1913.  He returned to the Pacific Coast League and became one of the league’s most popular figures for the next twenty years.

buddyryan1

Buddy Ryan

His unusual wedding made headlines in 1915:

“John F. (Buddy) Ryan, one of the best-known and popular baseball stars on the Coast, was arrested early yesterday morning on a charge of immorality preferred by Deputy District Attorney Richard Ceich. At 2:08 PM he was married by Municipal Judge Stevenson to Miss Ruby Winters and the charge was dismissed.

“Miss Winters, who was at first held as a witness against the ballplayer, has been living with him for nearly 10 years, according to her statement, and has been known as Mrs. Ryan.  She said yesterday that she had asked Buddy to marry her several times.”

Failing that, she had him arrested:

“With Ed Kennedy (Ryan’s former Portland teammate and county jailer), as best man, the two were wedded in the Municipal Courtroom yesterday afternoon.  The bride wept for several minutes following the ceremony.  Mr. and Mrs. Ryan left last night for the training camp of the new Salt Lake Coast League team.”

Ryan had his best season in Salt Lake City in 1915, hitting .340 for the Bees.  That winter he had an emergency appendectomy and developed an infection, the newspaper headlines said his condition was grave: The San Francisco Chronicle said he was “In Very Bad Shape,” The San Bernardino News said “Buddy Ryan Near Death.”

Ryan recovered in time to return to the Bees for the beginning of the 1916 season.  He hit better than .300 the next three seasons, and after the completion of the PCL’s war-shortened 1918 season he played for and managed a team in Seattle’s Puget Sound “Shipyard League.”

He sat out the 1919 season and returned to the PCL in 1920—the rest of his story tomorrow.