Tag Archives: Cleveland Spiders

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up other Things #9

18 Jun

The Business of Bats–1896

The Louisville Courier-Journal said in the spring of 1896 that their city “is now conceded to be the bat market of the world.”

That year, J. F. Hillerich & Son, a company that “was in practical obscurity three years ago,” had already “received orders to manufacture 75,000 bats this season.”

(Many sources, including the Louisville Slugger Museum, say the name change from Hillerich Job Turning to Hillerich and Son took place in 1897, but the names “& Son” and “& Son’s” were used in advertisements as early as 1895)

An advertisement for flag poles which appeared in Louisville papers on the eve of the 29th Encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic in September of 1895 shows the company name as J.F. Hillerich & Son's.

An advertisement for flag poles which appeared in Louisville papers on the eve of the 29th Encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic in September of 1895 shows the company name as J.F. Hillerich & Son’s.

“(Hillerich) is known to every ball player of any note in the United States.  A Courier-Journal reporter yesterday afternoon found orders from (Ed) Delehanty of the Philadelphias; (Hugh) Duffy of the Bostons, (Jesse) Burkett of the Clevelands and many other noted batsmen in the little factory at 216 First Street. Eight years ago (James Frederick) Jim Hillerich did not have money enough to buy a wagon load of ash, from which bats are made.  This season his business amounts to more than $50,000 which is done in ball bats alone.

“When a team arrives in the city the first thing the members do is to have a race for this bat factory to select some new ‘sticks.’”

The paper said the company’s output in 1895 had been twice that of 1894 and “The business this year amounts to four times as much as it did last year.”

The ash for Hillerich’s bats was grown in Indiana and Kentucky “and is felled and split by fifty men.  All the bats are hand-turned”

Washington’s Brief Craps Scandal–1891

In June of of 1891 The Washington Herald reported trouble in the ranks of the American Association’s ninth place Washington Statesmen.

The team was playing for their second manager (there would be a total of four that year), the first, Sam Trott had been let go after just 11 games.  The Herald said when Charles “Pop” Snyder was installed in place of Trott “the directors thought they had at last secured a pilot who would successfully carry them through the breakers.”

The team lost 16 of their first 19 games under Snyder and the paper said “steps are being taken to secure a new man to fill Snyder’s place.”

Chief among Snyder’s failing was:

“(W)hen a discovery was made at the grounds by some interested parties.  It was in the morning, and the men should have been practicing in order to better their playing, but instead were found, it is said, engaged in the seductive pursuit of playing ‘crap.'”

The only player the paper named was catcher James “Deacon” McGuire who, at one point during the game was ahead $56.  The Herald quoted an unnamed team official:

“‘We pay them good salaries, from $250 to $350 per month, and they ought to give us good ball.’ observed one director, after exhausting himself in giving expression to some very emphatic language regarding the crap incident.”

Deacon McGuire

Deacon McGuire

One week later the paper said:

The Herald cheerfully publishes this denial:  Manager Snyder makes a plain statement of the case, to the effect that one morning, the day of the extreme heat, while the men were in the shade, umpire (John) Kerins pulled out the ivories and the men in the spirit of fun went at the game.  It did not last ten minutes and it was the only time it occurred during the season.”

Snyder was replaced as manager a month later by Dan Shannon who fared no better (15-34); he was replaced by Tobias “Sandy” Griffin in October.

 The Reason for Baseball’s “Mania”–1869

The Milwaukee Semi-Weekly Wisconsin editorialized on the growing popularity of baseball in July of 1869:

“A few years ago the game of baseball which every male in the land, perhaps, had played from his youth up, was dignified by being elevated into a ‘national game,’ and set off with printed rules and regulations.  Forthwith the sport became the rage of young and middle-aged, and clubs were formed all over the land.  It was suddenly found that the game was just the thing to develop muscle and invigorate the frames of school boys and men of business, clerks and mechanics, sedentary men and farmers.”

The Associated Press gives with the utmost minuteness the score of every match game–no matter though it may have taken place in the obscurest village of the far east.  Across and up and down the continent these reports go side by side with the most important matters of state, of commerce, of international policy, often times taking up more space than news of the greatest moment.”

The paper asked “What has given this sudden impetus to the ‘national game?’ Is it the result of an increased desire for physical culture?  Is it because men feel more than ever the importance of exercise?  Not at all…There is another reason for the mania.”

That reason was gambling:

“We have nothing to say against baseball or any other sport when carried on simply as a recreation; we approve of them and think they ought to be encouraged; but the trouble is they degenerate into a machine for betting , and thus they become the means of corrupting the morals of the youth.  Americans seem to be rapidly acquiring an appetite for betting…This passion for outside  betting is increasing, and this is the reason why these match games are telegraphed over the country with such minuteness…Men bet on an election or a  baseball match who would not go into a gambling saloon for any consideration.”

The conclusion of the editorial was a foreshadowing of the role of gambling during baseball’s next five decades”

“It may be a comparatively small evil to make or lose five dollars upon some kind of match game, but this is only the beginning of an evil which too frequently grows into a magnitude which cannot always be computed.”

 

 

“The Contest is going to be the Hottest in the History of Baseball”

6 Jun

Just weeks into the 1892 season, National League president Nick Young declared the newly expanded league, which absorbed four franchises from the defunct American Association and included the only scheduled split-season in major league history, an unqualified success.

Nick Young

Nick Young

The schedule, which called for the first half to end on July 15, and the second in later October, necessitated starting league play two weeks earlier than 1891 resulting in a large number of early season games being played in inclement weather.

Young spoke to a reporter named Max Ihmsen, who usually covered politics for The Pittsburgh Dispatch, about the state of game

“(T)here is no doubt of the overwhelming success of the new deal.  Considering the wretched weather that prevailed everywhere during April the showing, both financially and as to skill displayed, has been remarkable.  Everyone is making money, and I look for the most successful season ever known in the history of the game.  The reconciliation of the clashing interests, a reconciliation effected during the past winter, has been the salvation of the sport…This year there is every prospect of each club quitting a big winner.  Never before have such games, as are now being put up, been seen.”

Young said an April 19 doubleheader in Chicago, which brought in $4,000 accounted for the league’s highest single-day gate receipts of the season so far.

As for the pennant race Young said:

“The contest is going to be the hottest in the history of baseball.  Everybody is ‘out for blood,’ and at the close of the season I anticipate seeing a tie for every place up to fourth or fifth.  A difference of 10 or 15 games between the highest and lowest clubs will reflect no discredit on the lowest club…All the clubs are in good shape and I expect quite a number of absolutely errorless games will be recorded before the season closes.”

Young got nearly everything wrong.

At the close of the season, Ernest J. “Ernie” Lanigan said in The Philadelphia Record that only two teams (Cleveland and Pittsburgh) operated in the black.  He said their profits were less than $20,000 combined while “ten clubs have lost in the neighborhood of $150,000.”

O.P. Caylor said in The New York Herald the league’s financial state was a “disaster more astonishing than any which have preceded it and knocks the hot air out of President Nick Young’s prosperity balloon, which went sailing up so grandly.”

At a June meeting in New York team owners agreed to cut rosters from 15 to 13, and the salaries for the remaining thirteen players were cut (as much as 40 percent).  At the same time, they increased to 12 ½ percent the 10 percent of gate receipts each club was assessed to pay off the debt incurred to buy out the American association franchises that were not absorbed into the league.

Caylor said salaries would continue to fall and “This is the year when the owners of huge blocks of baseball stock are not classed with the Vanderbilts, Goulds, Astors, and Rockefellers.  Every one of the holders has been ‘touched’ heavily, more or less, by the financial disappointments of the year.”

The Baltimore Sun put it more succinctly:

“The season has been a failure financially.”

The Boston Beaneaters won the first half (52-22) over the Brooklyn Grooms (51-26), after the June roster and salary reductions, the Cleveland Spiders (fifth place with a 40-33 record in the first half) won the second half (53-23) over the Beaneaters (50-26).

Initially, Boston owner Arthur Soden said his team would not meet Cleveland in a post-season series as a result of charges in Boston that his team tanked the second half.  He told Caylor:

“You cannot make a large number of our patrons believe that the Boston club has not purposely lost the last championship for the sake of making money out of a series of finals.  That belief has hurt us to the extent of thousands of dollars during the last half of the season, and unless it be removed will hurt us equally as much next season.  The only way we can remove the wrong impression is by refusing to play.”

Caylor said at the October owners meeting “the rest of the league took up the case and literally forced the Boston club to play…Boston’s refusal to play would do more harm to the interests of the League at large than the Bostons could possibly suffer by the playing of the games.”

The nine-game championship series began with an 11-inning pitching duel between Boston’s Jack Stivetts and Cleveland’s Cy Young that ended in a 0-0 tie.  Boston swept the next five games.

The Boston Beaneaters

The Boston Beaneaters

The split schedule and the resulting longer season were dropped for 1893.

Max Ihmsen, the reporter Nick Young spoke with, became city editor of The New York Journal, a William Randolph Hearst paper, in 1895.  Ihmsen went on to manage Hearst’s unsuccessful campaigns for mayor of New York City and governor of New York; he was also the Hearst-backed candidate for Sheriff  of New York County in 1907, a race he lost to the Tammany Hall-backed candidate.

Ihmsen later became the managing editor of another Hearst paper, The Los Angeles Examiner.  He died in 1921.

“Why don’t you make Latham keep still?”

2 May

After winning the first three games of the 1894 season, the Cincinnati Reds dropped six of their next seven.  The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Harry Weldon said most of the players weren’t “fighters.”

“To be a ‘fighter’ in the sense that this term is applied in baseball does not necessarily mean that you must be a leg breaker, a rib crusher or indulge in billingsgate or profanity to your opponent.  It simply means that your mind must be on the game every minute and every second while it is in progress.  It means that you must watch every movement and point and be alert for any opening, however small.

“The Reds are as gentlemanly a team as there is in the league, and it is to their credit that they are so; but there is such a thing as carrying the matter too far.  There is an old adage about ‘fighting the devil with fire’ that some of our local players would do well to follow.  This advice is apparent.  There are times when ‘Excuse me please,’ and ‘I beg your pardon,’ won’t do.  The men to whom they are addressed don’t know what that sort of language means.  In other words, when you are in Rome do as Romans do.”

Weldon said some players were critical of the behavior of Reds third baseman Arlie Latham.  Latham was a Weldon favorite; the two had been friends since Weldon served as secretary for St. Browns President Chris Von der Ahe while Latham played there:

Arlie Latham

Arlie Latham

“There are a few growlers and soreheads who find fault with Latham for talking too much.  I cannot sympathize with such criticism.  Latham does not coach because he likes it or to be ‘funny’ and ‘work the grand stand,’ as many of his detractors would have people believe it.  I once heard one of the soreheads say to Captain (Charlie) Comiskey: ‘Why don’t you make Latham keep still?’

“’Do you want me to put him out of the game?’ replied the Reds’ captain.

“’No, I only want you to make him stop talking.’

“’Well, if I did that, he might as well be out of the game, for he would lose his interest.’

“Every word of this is true.  Latham is too much interested to keep still.  Hardly a ball is pitched in the game by the Reds’ pitchers that Latham from third base doesn’t have something to say.  Scarcely a movement is made at the bat, on the bases or the coaching lines that Latham doesn’t deliver some wordy instructions.

“He is in the game from start to finish.  He couldn’t be funny ‘to order’ to save his life.  The ludicrous and witty sallies he makes from the coaching lines just bubble out of him.  He doesn’t ‘day dream’ or ‘build air castles’ while a play is in progress as some players do.

“His mind is right on the business on hand.  He is a fighter all over.  There are others on the Cincinnati team who would do well to follow his example.  The Pittsburghs and Clevelands are examples of what fighters can do.  Every member of those teams was in the game all the way through when they were here.  Not a play occurred that they were not on their feet hustling and shouting.  The Reds should fall in beside (Latham) from now on and back him up with spirit and noise.

“Nothing pleases a crowd of local enthusiasts more than a scrappy game.  If you have got to go down, boys, do it with all your banners flying.  Fight it to the last-ditch, and then if you are whipped you’ll know how it occurred.”

Harry Weldon

Harry Weldon

The Reds never started fighting in 1894, and finished in tenth place with a 55-75 record; it was Comiskey’s final season as a major league manager, and his least successful.  The following year he purchased the Sioux City franchise in the Western league, and moved the team to St. Paul.

Latham, who hit .313 in 1894, had his final productive season the following year, hitting .313 for an improved Reds club (66-64) managed by William “Buck” Ewing.

Weldon was sports editor of The Enquirer until he suffered a stroke in February of 1900 at age 45, he died two years later.  Ren Mulford Jr., who succeeded Weldon as editor said:

“No more forceful writer on sports topics ever played upon the keys of a typewriter.”

Alternate Realities

26 Feb

Philip “Leather Fisted Phil” Powers went from respected major league catcher to one of the National League’s most controversial and disliked umpires.

Phil Powers

Phil Powers

One of his most explosive episodes of his umpiring career involved a run in with Reds pitcher Tony Mullane in Cincinnati. The incident took place at the end of a 7 to 4 loss to the Chicago White Stockings on April 30, 1891; Mullane walked ten batters.

The Cincinnati Enquirer saw it this way:

 “Phil Powers’ Very Yellow Umpiring “

The Chicago Tribune:

“Mullane’s Cowardly Assault”

The Tribune said Cincinnati had turned on a local hero:

“That either baseball cranks are devoid of memory or that gratitude does not enter into their composition was amply demonstrated today at the Cincinnati ball park.  Back in 1882 a sallow-complexioned youth wore a Queen City uniform, and by his clever work behind the bat aided in no small way to bringing the only championship banner that ever waved over the Queen City.  That youth was Phil Powers.  Today that same man, grown gray in active service on the ball field in various capacities, was assaulted by Tony Mullane on the ball field after the game and 700 brutes in the stands urged the curly-headed twirler on in his dastardly work, and all because of fancied wrongs at Powers’ hand in today’s game.”

The Enquirer said Mullane was the aggrieved party:

“Phil Powers’ umpiring was something awful.  Mistakes were not the exception; they were the rule.  He gave Tony Mullane a terrible roast.  His miserable work was enough to rob any pitcher of his nerve, but it did not rattle Tony.  He stood up like a hero under Powers’ Jesse James tactics, and pitched ball that would have been a winner under ordinary circumstances.  The Chicagos owe their victory to Mr. Powers, not their own efforts.”

Tony Mullane

Tony Mullane

The papers couldn’t even agree on how much Mullane was fined during the game The Tribune said $75, The Enquirer said $150; the  altercation after was also given a local spin.

The Tribune version:

“After the game was over Powers started across the field with Mullane at his heels pouring out a tirade of abuse which made the air in the vicinity assume a sulfurous odor.  Powers with an expression of scorn on his face walked on towards the clubhouse.

“Mullane, like a tiger lashing itself into a fury, grew more and more angry, until finally he lost all self-control, and drawing back struck Powers in the face with a clenched fist.  The latter immediately increased Mullane’s fine to $250…The scene attracted the attention of the crowd, which, be it said to the shame of Cincinnati, encouraged Mullane’s ruffianly conduct.”

The Enquirer saw it differently:

“Tony Mullane and Umpire Powers had some trouble near the clubhouse.  Powers was to blame for the controversy.  He gave Mullane an awful deal while the game was in progress and then soaked him $150 in fines simply because Tony grumbled and asked him to come closer to the bat and pay more attention to his delivery.  On the way down to the clubhouse Powers said to Mullane in a sort of apologetic manner:  “I couldn’t rob the Chicagos to please you.’

“’Oh, get out,’ said Mullane.  ‘No one asked you to rob them.  I only wanted what belonged to me, and you robbed me bald-headed.’

“Powers said something in return and Mullane replied angrily.  Then Powers put on another fine of $100.  This so incensed Mullane that he drew back as if to assault Powers.  The latter in a most exasperating way put his face right up against Tony and said: ‘I dare you to strike me.’  It was a cowardly act on the part of Powers, for he well knew that if Mullane hit him it would mean disgrace…Mullane almost forgot himself.  It was all he could do to restrain himself.  He simply pushed Powers’ face away.  Then other players separated them.”

The papers did agree on the final total of Mullane’s fines: $250.  Mullane beat the Cleveland Spiders 7 to 4 two days later with Powers as umpire.  The game went off without incident.

Burns “Put the Punishment on Phyle”

20 Nov

After holding out over a temperance clause the Chicago Orphans added to his contract, Bill Phyle finally signed in late March of 1899.  He reported to spring training in New Mexico anywhere from 10 to 30 pounds overweight (depending on the source) and struggled all season to regain the form he showed the previous season.

On April 17 he was beaten 8-0 by the Louisville Colonels in first start.

On April 25 he lost 3-2 to the St. Louis Perfectos.  The Chicago Tribune said “Phyle gave away the game by distributing bases on balls in just the spots where timely hits followed and transformed the favors into tallies that gave the victory.”

William Phelon, The Chicago Daily News baseball writer, disagreed.  He said Phyle’s “work was of sterling quality.”

Regardless, Chicago Manager Tom Burns didn’t give Phyle another opportunity to pitch for more than a month.

Phelon said it was a mistake for Burns to not use Phyle.  The Chicago Inter Ocean said after the team lost seven of nine games in May “it is passing strange that young Phyle is not given a chance.  On last year’s form Phyle is as good as, if not better than (Jack) Taylor.  The paper called Phyle’s performance in the St. Louis game “gilt-edged” and blamed the loss on “comrades that gave the victory to the enemy.”

Finally, on May 28 Phyle pitched again.   He lost 4 to 3 to the Washington Senators; he gave up three runs on five straight hits with two outs in the ninth.

He lost again on June 1, 7-1 to the Philadelphia Phillies.  Phelon’s opinion of the pitcher was unchanged, and said the losses were simply bad luck:

“Phyle has now lost four straight games.  It is Phyle’s luck to be stuck in whenever the other pitchers have won about three straight, and the team is just about unavoidably due to lose.”

On June 5 Phyle did his best pitching of the season–a victory he is not credited with in the record books.

With the Orphans trailing the Baltimore Orioles 3 to 2 in the third inning, pitcher Clark Griffith was ejected for arguing a called ball.  The Chicago Tribune said:

“It was a queer game.  Phyle pitched after Griffith had been benched…holding the Orioles helpless.”

Chicago won 9 to 4.  And while the Chicago newspapers credited the victory to Phyle, the record books do not.

Box score for June 5 game.  Phyle relieved Clark Griffith in the 3rd inning.

Box score for June 5 game. Phyle relieved Clark Griffith in the 3rd inning.

Phyle became ill later the same week, (some sources said it was recurring malaria), a week later he fell off a bicycle and missed two more weeks.  When he returned to the team on June 22, the Boston Beaneaters beat him 5 to 1.

He was credited with his first “official” win on July 1—a game The Inter Ocean called “a comedy of errors,” and a “depressing exhibition.”   He beat the New York Giants 10 to 9, allowing 10 hits and giving up seven runs in the first two innings.  Each team committed seven errors.

Box score of Bill Phyle's only "official" victory of 1899.

Box score of Bill Phyle’s only “official” victory of 1899.

Chicago went into a slump that would last for the rest of the season; after Phyle’s July 1 win the team was 38-24, in third place, and went 37-49 the rest of the way finishing eighth.

Phyle lost again on July 9 and July 24, and rumors began to circulate that he would be released or traded back to Charlie Comiskey’s St. Paul Saints.

On August 6 Phyle lost 10 to 9 to the Cleveland Spiders.  One week later while the team was on the road, The Inter Ocean reported that he “was sent home by manager Burns.”

The Tribune called Phyle “the scapegoat” and said he and three unnamed teammates  “celebrated after beating a horse race at Washington and Manager Burns, to call a halt, put the punishment on Phyle.

Phelon wrote in The Daily News:

“When the club started for Philadelphia he was told to go home ‘You are through young man, go back to Chicago,’ said Burns, and Phyle went back.  He went back in a rage too, and says he will tell (team president) Jim Hart a lot of things. He says that he has been held up to public derision as a drunkard, all season, and that Burns plays favorites, allowing his friends to jag up as much as they wish and turning all the trouble on others.”

Phelon remained supportive of the pitcher in The Daily News, but in The Sporting Life he reported that Phyle, a former boxer, had deserted the team in early August to go to “St. Louis to see a prize fight, and was not on hand when sorely needed.”

While the relationship between Hart and Burns was strained, and Burns would be replaced at season’s end, Phyle’s complaints went nowhere with the team president and he was suspended without pay.

Ten days after Phyle was suspended Phelon reported that the Baltimore Orioles had offered to trade for or buy Phyle,” (John) McGraw has taken quite a fancy to the young pitcher.”  Hart refused to make a deal.

Phyle never pitched for Chicago again, he is credited with a 1-8 record and 4.20 ERA.

The last Bill Phyle chapter—tomorrow.

“Who told you you were a Ladies’ man, Mr. Viau?’

3 Oct

Leon A. “Lee” Viau (pronounced vee-o) was the first player from Dartmouth College to make it to the major leagues.

Listed at only 5’ 4” and 160 pounds Viau was 83-77 in five big league seasons.  The Cleveland Leader said of his time pitching for the Spiders:

“(Viau) with comparatively little speed but with curves well mixed with gray matter, got out of lots of tight places where an ordinary twirler would have been knocked out of the box.”

In addition to having attended an Ivy League school, he was best known for his looks, and for being one of the best-dressed players in baseball.

The Philadelphia Inquirer called him “The Adonis of the diamond.”  When he played for the Patterson Silk Weavers in the Atlantic League The Patterson Weekly Press called him “the Beau Brummell of the club.”

Lee Viau

Lee Viau

A story, perhaps apocryphal, made the rounds in several newspapers during the first decade of the 20th Century about how “the grandstand was filled with ladies…when the handsome Viau was in the box.”

On this particular occasion, as recounted in The Kansas City Star, Viau was pitching for the Spiders against “Cap” Anson and his Chicago Colts in Cleveland:

“The score stood 4 to 2 in the last half of the ninth inning, and in Cleveland’s favor.  There was a Chicago man on second and one on third, while Anson was at the bat.

“He was madly anxious to bring in those runs, and he swung viciously at the first ball pitched. ‘Strike one!’ yelled umpire (Thomas) Lynch.

“Anson gritted his teeth and waited for the next one.  Lee sent up one of those slow, deceptive drop balls for which he was noted, and again Anson swung wildly.  ‘Strike two!’ cried Lynch.

“At this there was a veritable uproar among the female occupants of the grandstand.

“’Strike him out Lee! Oh, do strike him out!’ they shrieked in chorus.

“Hearing these cries, the grim old Anson, with a sneer on his face, sardonically inquired: ‘Who told you you were a ladies’ man, Mr. Viau?’

“Lee maintained a haughty silence, wound his arm slowly about his head and then, taking a wide swing, shot the ball up to the plate, and Anson took the third swipe at it and missed.

“’Now’ remarked Lee, as he advanced toward Anson, ‘I will answer your question.  The same person who told you you could bat.’”

Lee Viau, front row third from right, with 1892 Cleveland Spiders

Lee Viau, front row third from right, with 1892 Cleveland Spiders

Jimmy Rogers

16 Sep

In January of 1897 owner Barney Dreyfuss and the directors of the Louisville, Colonels met to determine the future of the club.  The Louisville Courier-Journal said:

“The most important meeting in the history of the Louisville Base-ball club was held last night at the Louisville Hotel.  It was marked by more liberality than had been shown by the club during all the years since it became a member of the big league.”

No one was surprised that Dreyfuss’ protégé, team secretary Harry Clay Pulliam was named team president, nor was it surprising that Charles Dehler was retained as vice president.

But no one had predicted the Colonel’s choice to replace Bill McGunnigle as manager.

McGunnigle had succeeded John McCloskey, and the two combined for a 38-93 record and a twelfth place finish.

James F. “Jimmy” Rogers would be a first-time manager; three months short of his 25th birthday and only 110 games into his major league career.  The Courier-Journal knew so little about the new manager that the paper got his age and place of birth wrong, and also reported incorrectly that he had minor league managerial experience.

While he had only played 72 games with Louisville in 1896 and only 60 at first base, The Courier-Journal called Rogers “the best first baseman the Colonels ever had.”  Even so, the paper acknowledged that “as a manager he is yet to be tried.”

Just why was he the right man to manage the team?

“One of the chief reasons Rogers was selected was that he is sober.”

Jimmy Rogers

Jimmy Rogers

Despite being “the best first baseman the Colonels ever had,” Rogers opened the season as the team’s starting second baseman; thirty-five-year-old minor league home run king Perry Werden, acquired from the Minneapolis Millers of the Western League played first base for Louisville.

The team won five of their first seven games, and then went 12-22 through June 16 when Rogers was fired as manager and released; he was hitting .144 and made 16 errors in forty games at second base.

Rogers was replaced as manager by Fred Clarke; the future Hall of Famer was two weeks shy of his 24th birthday.

The Cincinnati Post said the outgoing manager was not only to blame for the team’s poor performance but also for center fielder Ollie Pickering’s slump; Pickering hit .303 after joining Louisville in August of 1896 but was hitting .243 on the day Rogers was let go:

“The claim is made that Jimmy Rogers is responsible for the decline of Pickering.  The Virginian created a sensation last fall, but “Manager Jimmy” tacked the title “Rube” to Pick, and it broke his heart.”

Ollie "Rube" Pickering

Ollie “Rube” Pickering

Pickering was released in July, signed with the Cleveland Spiders, and apparently recovered from his broken heart, hitting .352 in 46 games for Cleveland.

Rogers would never play another major league game.  He was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates the day after Louisville released him, but became ill with the flu and never played for them.  A month later he joined the Springfield Ponies in the Eastern League and finished the season with them.  Rogers played for East Coast minor league teams until in August of 1899 when he became ill while playing with the Norwich Witches in the Connecticut League.

In January of 1900, Rogers died at age 27.  Two different explanations for his death appear in various newspapers; both may be wrong.  The Courier-Journal and several other newspapers said his death was the result of the lingering effects of “being struck on the head by a pitched ball several years ago while playing in the National League.”

The New Haven (CT) Register repeated the story about Rogers being hit by a pitch, and said that while that injury contributed to his death, he had died of Bright’s disease—a kidney ailment now referred to as nephritis.

Rogers’ Connecticut death certificate listed the cause of death as a bacterial inflammation of the brain.

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up Other Things #5

8 Aug

Johnny Evers “Ardent Worshipper of Hoodoo Lore”

Edward Lyell Fox was a war correspondent in World War I; after the war he was accused of taking money to write stories favorable to the German government.  Before that he wrote extensively about baseball for several American magazines.

In 1910, writing for “The Columbian Magazine”, Fox interviewed Johnny Evers of the Chicago Cubs about the “almost unbelievable efforts made by ballplayers to offset what they firmly believe to be ‘hoodoos.’”

Evers was one of the most superstitious players in the game, “an ardent worshipper of voodoo lore,” according to Fox, and Evers said the Cubs “are more superstitious than any team in the big leagues,” and that manager Frank Chance “is one of the most ardent respecters of diamond ‘hoodoos.’”

It’s not certain that Evers’ claim that “most players firmly believe in,” the superstitious he listed for Fox, but it’s clear he believed them:

 “If any inning is favorable to a player, he will try to lay his glove down on the same spot where he had placed it the inning before.

“While going to different parks in cars, the sight of a funeral cortege is always regarded as an ill omen.”

Evers also said the sight of a handicapped person was also an “ill omen…unless you toss him a coin.”

On the other hand Evers said a wagon load of empty barrels was a sign of good luck.

Johnny Evers,

Johnny Evers,

 

“Too much of a Good Thing”

Even in baseball’s infancy that were critics that said the popularity of the game was “too much of a good thing.”

In September of 1865 The Philadelphia Inquirer editorialized:

 “Let us take, for instance, the base ball (sic) pastime, which is now assuming the proportions of a violent and widespread mania.”

The culprit, according to the editorial, was the athletic club teams that were growing in popularity and  no longer “satisfied with a game or two a week.”

 “(S)ome of these associations devote, three, four or five days at a time to their games; that they are not satisfied with playing on their own grounds for their own benefit and amusement, but that they thirst for popular applause, and are rapidly transforming their members into professional athletes…They issue their challenges, and hotly contend for mastery with clubs belonging to other cities.”

 The Inquirer did predict one aspect of baseball’s new popularity:

 “It can be easily seen that this spirit must soon lead on to gambling. So far the only prize of the base ball and cricket matches has been a ball or some implement of the game, but private wagers have undoubtedly been laid upon the playing of certain clubs, and money has changed hands upon results.”

The Enquirer was also concerned that the game defied “common sense” because “during the heats of summer violent bodily exercise should be avoided; but upon this subject common sense and the base ball mania seem to be sadly at variance.”

The editorial concluded that “the young men,” make sure “they do not depreciate themselves to the level of prize fighters or jockeys, who expend their vim on horse races and matches made for money.”

Athletic of Philadelphia versus Atlantic of Brooklyn, in Philadelphia October 30, 1865--"a violent and widespread mania."

Athletic of Philadelphia versus Atlantic of Brooklyn, in Philadelphia October 30, 1865–“a violent and widespread mania.”

 

Odds, 1896

Early in 1896 The New York Sun reported on “an early development of interest.”  A local bookmaker had issued odds on the 1896 National League race:

“He lays odds of 3 to 1 against Baltimore finishing first; 7 to 2 against Cleveland and Boston;  4 to 1 Philadelphia and New York; 7 to 1 Chicago; 8 to 1 Brooklyn and Pittsburgh; 15 to 1 Cincinnati; 40 to 1 Louisville; 100 to 1 Washington, while (Christian Friedrich “Chris”) von der Ahe’s outfit (St. Louis) is the extreme outsider on the list.  Any lover of the German band can wager any amount and “write his own ticket.”

The final standings:

1. Baltimore Orioles

2. Cleveland Spiders

3. Cincinnati Reds

4. Boston Beaneaters

5. Chicago Colts

6. Pittsburgh Pirates

7. New York Giants

8. Philadelphia Phillies

9. Washington Senators

10. Brooklyn Bridegrooms

11. St. Louis Browns

12.  Louisville Colonels

1896 Orioles, 3 to 1 favorites, won the National League Championship.

1896 Orioles, 3 to 1 favorites, won the National League Championship.

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things #4

22 May

A Ballplayers Hands

Joe Ardner played second base in the National League for the Cleveland Blues in 1884 and the Cleveland Spiders in 1890; he played another 12 years in the minors.  In 1888 he was with the Kansas City Blues in Western League and provided the following explanation of the care and maintenance of an infielder’s hands:

“A ballplayer’s hands should not be hard, they should be soft.  When my hands are in perfect condition they are almost as soft as a lady’s.  Hard hands on a ballplayer will crack and get sore, but when the skin is pliable and tough there is little danger of the hands bruising, cracking or puffing.  Some folks imagine a ballplayer’s hands to be as hard as a board, but they are wrong.”

Joe Ardner

Joe Ardner

They have realized that the Umpire is Almost Human

National League President Harry Clay Pulliam was very pleased with how civilized his league had become by 1908.  In an interview with The Chicago Tribune he said:

“The game is getting cleaner all the time.  Why, I’ve only suspended about half a dozen men this year, to about forty last year, and I want to say that the players are trying harder to keep the game clean…They have realized that the umpires are almost human.  It’s business with the player now, and they’re banking instead of boozing…It’s a grand game, clean, wholesome, and it’s the spirit of contest that gives it its virility.  Civic pride is another vital adjunct to it.  Every town likes to have its own team a winner.  Sort of local pride or another form of patriotism, I call it.”

Harry Pulliam--National League President

Harry Pulliam–National League President

Soo League Night Games

The Copper Country Soo League was recognized as a league for the first time by the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues in 1905; its last season in operation.  The four-team league located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula was made up of mining towns along the Soo Line Railroad: the Calumet Aristocrats, the Sault Ste. Marie Soos, the Hancock Infants and the Lake Linden Lakers.

Nearly no records or roster information survives, other than that three future Major Leaguers played in the league: Donie Bush and Fred Luderus played for Sault Ste. Marie and Pat Paige played for Calumet.

In an effort to boost sagging attendance in June, the league first  attempted to merge with the Northern League, and when that effort failed announced a scheduling change.

The Duluth News-Tribune said:

“An innovation…will be introduced by managers of the clubs comprising the Copper Country Soo League.  Owing to the peculiar conditions which exist in some of the cities, it has been decided to play some of the games after supper as an experiment as it is believed the attendance will be larger.”

The Chicago Tribune‘s Hugh Fullerton said:

“(I)n the copper country baseball depends on miners for support…the plan proved quite a success…The miners would come out of their shift at 6 o’clock, the games were called at 6:30 and finished about 8:30 at twilight.  There were few games called by darkness.”

While the move helped three of the teams at the gate, the Sault Ste. Marie Soos failed to draw fans and disbanded late in August.

Calumet won the championship, and along with Hancock and Lake Linden  merged with the Northern league to form the Northern-Copper Country League–Calumet won the league’s first championship in 1906, playing a schedule of day games.

 

Future Phillies star Fred Luderus was a 19-year-old rookie with the Sault Ste. Marie Soos

Future Phillies star Fred Luderus was a 19-year-old rookie with the Sault Ste. Marie Soos

Crazy Schmit in Cleveland

10 May

Crazy Schmit pitched for the Cleveland Spiders in 1899; compiling a 2-17 with a 5.86 ERA for the 20-134 last place team (in Schmit’s defense the 1899 Spiders were one of the worst teams in history, losing 24 straight at one point, and Schmit’s ERA was a half of a run better than the team ERA).

The pitcher had grown tired of his nickname “Crazy,” and of references to his behavior as “tacky.”  After being called both by The Cincinnati Enquirer in August, he responded:

“I have stood this sort of thing just about long enough.  I am neither tacky nor crazy, and without wanting to throw any flowers at myself, I will make the statement that there is not another left-handed pitcher in the business who used as good judgment when pitching as I do.

“Furthermore, I am the only left-hander in the business who has an effective slow ball.  Some of these ten-thousand-dollar beauties and phenoms look like thirty cents to me.  I can also swell up and say that I threw the Phillies down this year.  I beat that hard-hitting gang by a score of 6 to 2.”

1899 Cleveland Spiders--finished 20-134

1899 Cleveland Spiders–finished 20-134

Within weeks Schmit was let go by Cleveland;  The Baltimore American reported on the release of the former and future Oriole:

“Pitcher Schmit, that queer and original baseball character, was yesterday given his ten days’ notice of release by the Cleveland club management and afterward notified that he had been fined for insubordination.”

The American quoted Schmit:

“I was released I suppose because it had been reported that I was not doing my best to win and because the owners were displeased with me for several accidents that happened to me.  I missed the train in Chicago, and while I was riding into Cincinnati from one of the suburbs with a young lady who may one day be Mrs. Schmit, lightning struck the trolley wire and I missed the train again.  I guess that is why I was fined.  They wished to make an example of me.  I do not mind the release, as I can easily get another and better position, but I hate that $50 fine, because my salary is not quite as high as that of some bank presidents.”

Despite his release and his record, Schmit still considered himself a great pitcher, blamed his career statistics on the teams he played with, and the more he spoke the more valuable he became as a player:

“I have in my career pitched for fourteen tail-end clubs and I am done with them.  Unless I can pitch for some club that can win a game occasionally I will stop pitching ball.  The longer I pitch the more stuck I am on myself as a pitcher.  I have pitched good ball for Cleveland, but who could win with six and eight errors behind him, and misplays that are far worse than errors and that go as hit.

“I am the most popular player on the circuit and the only man who knows how to coach as a science.  If some of these managers knew something of the theatrical business they would wire on and advertise I am to pitch a certain game.  When it is known I am to pitch I have often brought enough into the box office in a single game to pay my whole salary for the season several times over.  We played before 14,000 people in Chicago and of that number fully 5,000 came to see me.”

Schmitt did not “easily get another or better position” in 1899 or 1900—he sat out the remainder of 1899 and spent 1900 in the Interstate and New York State Leagues.  Schmit opened the season at 2-3 in five games with the Columbus Senators before being released; there are no surviving records for his New York State League games with the team that split the season between Elmira and Oswego.  The next season John McGraw would give him a chance to pitch in the American League.

More Crazy Schmit next week.