Tag Archives: Connecticut State League

“I Haven’t Heard of any Club Owners Refusing to accept the Patronage of Colored People”

24 Apr

Damon Runyon called Dan Parker, “The most consistency brilliant of all sportswriters.”

Parker wrote a column and was sports editor of The New York Daily Mirror from 1926 until the paper folded in 1963.

 

danparker

Dan Parker

 

Parker often used his column, “Broadway Bugle” to agitate for change in sports.  He crusaded against fixed wrestling matches, disreputable “Racetrack touts,” and the influence of organized crime in boxing—these columns led to several investigations, the disbanding of the corrupt International Boxing Club, and several criminal convictions, including Frankie Carbo, a member of the Lucchese crime family.

Parker was also an early crusader for the integration of professional baseball.  In 1933, Parker lent his name and influence to The Pittsburgh Courier’s “Crusade for comments from baseball celebrities” who supported integration.

Parker wrote to Chester Washington, The Courier’s sports editor:

“I don’t see why the mere accident of birth should prove a bar to the Negro baseball players who aspire to places in organized baseball.  I haven’t heard of any club owners refusing to accept the patronage of colored people. Rutgers didn’t draw any color line when Paul Robeson proved himself the best man for the place he was fighting for on the football team.  The All-American selectors didn’t go into a huddle about Paul’s complexion when they picked him for a place on the mythical eleven, football’s highest honor.

 

robeson

Paul Robeson

 

“The U.S. Olympic Committee didn’t consider Eddie Tolan’s or Ralph Metcalfe’s lineage when they were picking the strongest sprinting team possible for last summer’s games.  If the Negro athlete is accepted without question in college football and amateur track and field events, which are among the higher types of sports, I fail to see why baseball, which is as much a business as it is a sport, should draw the line.

“In my career as a sports writer, I have never encountered a colored athlete who didn’t conduct himself in a gentlemanly manner and who didn’t have a better idea of sportsmanship than many of his white brethren.  By all means, let the Negro ballplayer play in organized baseball.  As a kid, I saw a half dozen Cuban players break into organized baseball in the old Connecticut League.  I refer to players like (Armando) Marsans, (Rafael) Alameda, (Al) Cabrera and others (Almeida, Marsans, and Cabrera played with the New Britain Perfectos in the Connecticut State League in 1910). I recall the storm of protest from the One Hundred Per Centers at that time but I also recall that all the Cubans conducted themselves in such a manner that they reflected nothing but credit on themselves and those who favored admitting them to baseball’s select circle.

“The only possible objection I can find to lifting the color line in baseball is that the Yankees might then lose their great mascot.  I refer to my good friend, (Bill) “Bojangles” Robinson, who chased away the Yankee jinx last season with his famous salt-shaker. The Yanks didn’t draw the color line on their World Series special to Chicago for Bill accompanied us on the trip.  On the way back, at every town where we stopped for a few minutes, the crowd hollered for Babe Ruth. Babe would make an appearance and then introduce Bojangles who would tell a few stories, go into his dance and make the fans forget about baseball as he ‘shuffled off to Buffalo.’

 

bojangles

Bill “Bojangles” Robinson

 

“I read your paper every week and find your sports pages well edited and thoroughly enjoyable.”

Parker’s letter was released shortly after Heywood Broun of The New York World-Telegram made waves at the 1933 Baseball Writers Association dinner when he said:

“I can see no reason why Negroes should not come into the National and American Leagues.”

Broun and Parker were joined by another prominent sports writer, Gordon Mackay, who had been sports editor at three Philadelphia papers—The Enquirer, The Press and The Public Ledger—who wrote to The Courier:

“I believe that there are scores of Negroes who would make good in the big minors and in the majors.  Take some of the men I used to know—John Henry Lloyd, Rube Foster, Big (Louis) SantopPhil Cockrell, Biz Mackey and others—why, Connie Mack or the Phillies would have been strengthened with any of them on the best teams they ever had.”

The Courier’s Washington was hopeful that the sentiments of three powerful sportswriters would have some impact:

“Fair-minded and impartial writers like Broun, Mackey, and Parker can do much towards breaking down the barricaded doors of opportunity to capable colored ballplayers which lead into the greatest American game’s charmed circle.  And we doff our derby to ‘em.”

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“Frysinger Hated in the Paper City”

28 Dec

It took less than two weeks for Jesse “Jess” M. Frysinger to go from being the most popular man in Holyoke, Massachusetts to becoming not just the most unpopular man in town, but a man reviled by the entire Connecticut State League.

His arrival in Holyoke in the winter of 1904 to take over the reins of the Holyoke Paperweights was met with great fanfare.

Frysinger

Frysinger

Born in 1873 in Chester, Pennsylvania, the son of a newspaper publisher, Frysinger was a well-known ballplayer around his hometown until his mid-20s when he became a manager.  He managed a local club in Chester from 1899 to 1901.  The 1901 team was a member of the Pennsylvania State League, and the following season Frysinger moved the team and most of the players to Wilmington, Delaware to join the “outlaw” Tri-State League.

When in 1903 Frysinger took over as manager of an independent team in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, which would eventually join the Tri-State, he signed a young shortstop he knew in Chester named Joe Cassidy.  No statistics survive for the 1903 Harrisburg club, but Cassidy played well enough to be signed by the Washington Senators at the close of the season.  The 23-year-old was a promising prospect and rare bright spot with the horrible 1904 and ’05 Senator teams but passed away from either typhoid or malaria (depending on the report) in 1906 before he could realize his potential.

Cassidy

Cassidy

Frysinger managed the Tri-State League Wilmington Peaches in 1904, then left to manage Holyoke, making the bold prediction that he would bring a winning team to the paper producing capital of the world.  Frysinger brought with him several players from Pennsylvania who would make up the core of his ballclub, including Snake Deal, Chick Hartley and Butch Rementer.

The Paperweights quickly became the powerhouse of the Connecticut State League, in one stretch, beginning in late June the team won 20 of 23 games, and easily won the league championship.

Frysinger was given a $300 bonus on top of his $1200 salary and on September 12 signed a contract to manage the Paperweights in 1906 at a salary of $1400.  He was the town hero and was presented a diamond watch fob by the team’s directors.

Things changed quickly.

On September 29, while Frysinger and the Holyoke team were playing a series of exhibition games against local teams in Pennsylvania, he informed the Holyoke management that he had accepted an offer to manage the Lancaster Red Roses in the Tri-State League for $1800.  Holyoke refused to let Frysinger out of his contract so he simply jumped.  At the same time, Frysinger did exactly what he did when arriving in Holyoke; he took many Holyoke and Connecticut State League players with him.  In addition to Deal, Hartley and Rementer, Frysinger signed Fred Crolius, Pop Foster and Dave Altizer away from the league.

Holyoke was in an uproar.

“Frysinger Hated in the Paper City,” said the headline in The (New London, CT) Day, the story called Frysinger a”

“Traitor to Holyoke ideals and baseball ethics.”

The Bridgeport Herald said Frysinger “Is determined to take away from Holyoke all its best.”

No one in Holyoke or anywhere in the Connecticut State League seemed to care about the contract status of the players when they arrived with Frysinger, but their departure became the main focus of the league meeting in January of 1906.

There were demands to have Frysinger blacklisted, but the manager, recovering from appendicitis in Wilmington, Delaware told The Meriden Daily Journal “I brought them to Holyoke…why shouldn’t I try to bring them to Lancaster as well?”

Frysinger’s status would never be resolved.  The 33-year-old manager developed an infection from the surgery and died on February 5, 1906. The Philadelphia Inquirer said most of the Lancaster club and Philadelphia Athletics Manager Connie Mack were present at the funeral in Wilmington.

The Lancaster New Era reported that there was some concern in the city about whether the players signed by Frysinger would play for the team:

“(Q)uite a number of players affixed their signatures to local contacts for the only reason that they were to play under Frysinger, who had the reputation for being one of the squarest managers in the business….The deceased wife (Madge), who acted as the manager’s stenographer through his final illness is thoroughly conversant with the affairs concerning the local baseball situation, and she promises to retain the players already signed.”

She was true to her word; all of the players who were mentioned to have committed to Frysinger were members of the 1906 team which finished in third place in the Tri-State League

“Yale’s Crack Baseball Pitcher”

23 May

Herbert Ovid Bowers followed a legend at Yale.

From 1886 through 1890 pitcher Amos Alonzo Stagg had led the Yale baseball team to the championship of the Ivy League (post graduate students didn’t lose eligibility in the 1800s).  He was a highly sought after pitching prospect, but Stagg, a devout Presbyterian, turned down multiple offers to play professionally; in his 1927 biography, “Touchdown!” he said:

“There was a bar in every ball park, and the whole tone of the game was smelly.”

Amos Alonzo Stagg, right, with Yale catcher Jesse Dann

Amos Alonzo Stagg, right, with Yale catcher Jesse Dann

Bowers was born June 2, 1867, in Manchester, Connecticut and entered Yale in 1889 as a sophomore after teaching school for two years in Hartford—he also played for a semi-pro team in Plainville, Massachusetts.

He joined the baseball team in 1890—Stagg’s final season–as an outfielder and pitched on a limited basis during the early part of 1891 when pitcher William Dalzell was tapped as Stagg’s replacement.  The Chicago Tribune said:

“Dalzell promised much, but failed.”

The Pittsburgh Dispatch said Dalzell became ill during the 1891 season and “Bowers was literally forced into the box,” where he “demonstrated that he was the best pitcher in college.”

The New York Herald said:

“Yale would not be a factor in baseball this year, they said.  But when Bowers popped up in the box and began pitching ball (Yale fans) changed their wail to a hurrah…He puts up a great game and is as cool in the box as the famous Stagg himself.”

The 5’ 9” righthander led Yale to a 24-9 season.  The Tribune said:

“Bowers is strategic and cool but not very fast, and weighs but 150 pounds.  He is a good general ball-player, can run bases fast, and has extra good command of the ball.  With twenty-five pounds more weight and the extra strength that goes with it Bowers would be a phenomenal pitcher.  As it is he is a good and valuable one.”

Herbert Ovid Bowers

Herbert Ovid Bowers

On June 13 Bowers and Yale lost 5 to 2 to Princeton at the Manhattan Athletic Club in New York, losing the league championship.

Yale was just 18-16 in 1892.  Bowers took a no-hitter into the ninth inning during a victory over Princeton, but he gave up a walk and a two-out hit, losing the no-hitter and shutout, but winning the game 3 to 1.  Yale met Harvard for a three-game series in June which was to decide the 1892 championship.

Harvard took the first game in Cambridge, Massachusetts on June 23, beating Bowers 5 to 0.  Five days later in New Haven, Connecticut Bowers beat Harvard 4 to 3, setting up a final game to decide the championship.

The Associated Press said:

“The result of to-day’s game leaves the championship undecided.  Yale tried to arrange for a game on neutral grounds July 4, but Harvard refused, and as both colleges have closed, the championship will remain unsettled.  The Yale alumni are celebrating on a grand scale.”

Some members of the press anointed Bowers the next great pitching star.  The New York Herald called him:

“Yale’s crack baseball pitcher, who by many is counted the superior of even the famous Stagg.”

Sam C. Austin, the sporting editor of “The Police Gazette” said Bowers lacked the size to throw hard, but:

“He relies mainly upon his ability to deliver puzzling curves that disconcert the batsman…He has great command over a ball, and can use drops, in and out shoots, and curves that would puzzle a professional to hit.”

The New York Evening World said, “It is said that the New Yorks are after Bowers, the famous Yale pitcher.”

Bowers at Yale

Bowers at Yale

After his  graduation, and despite the accolades, Bowers, who played in a semi-pro league in Vermont after the 1891 and ’92 seasons, chose to enroll in law school at Yale.  He played for the law school team in 1893, and in June pitched the greatest game of his life.  The New York Sun said:

“Pitcher Bowers of the Yale Law School team further added to the excellent record he has made by pitching great ball against the Cuban Giants last Monday at Brattleboro, VT.  He did not allow the colored players a single safe hit, and only twice did they knock the ball outside the diamond.  Both times the balls were flies.  This is the first time that the Cuban Giants have been so retired.  Bowers was obliged to pitch part of the time with a wet ball as it rained during a portion of the game.”

Bowers also had two doubles, scored two runs and drove in two more.  Yale won 4-2–the Cubans scored two runs in the seventh after a walk to Cubans’ second baseman Frank Grant, followed by a three-base error on a throw from Yale’s third baseman on a ground ball hit by Abe Harrison, the Cubans shortstop.  Harrison scored a ground out.

Frank Grant, Cuban Giants

Frank Grant, Cuban Giants

 

Bowers also pitched, played outfield, and captained the 1893 Yale club that won the eight-team “World’s Fair Intercollegiate Baseball Tournament,” which was organized, in part, by Bowers’ former teammate Stagg the University of Chicago’s football and baseball coach.   Yale was 4-1, including a 9 to 0 victory over Amherst in the championship game.  The Chicago Tribune said:

“After the game the Yale team was called into the grand stand and there presented with the magnificent cup given by the university Club to the winning team.  The presentation was made by Mayor (Carter) Harrison and at the close of his remarks the Yale University yell was given.”

After graduating from law school, Bowers appeared to be following in Stagg’s footsteps again, when he was hired to coach the baseball team at Oberlin College in Ohio.  After victories over the University of Illinois (13 to 1) and Michigan (17 to 3), The Associated Press said:

“Coach Bowers has done wonders for Oberlin’s batting and team work and the boys are making a fine record.”

Despite his success at Oberlin, Bowers did not return the following season, and just short of his 28th birthday signed his first professional contract—his career lasted just two games.

He started two games for the Hartford Bluebirds in the Connecticut State League, losing both and posting a 5.14 ERA; he gave up 32 hits in just 14 innings.  He appeared to have lost the “curves that would puzzle a professional to hit.”

After his release, Bowers was not out of work for long.

In August The Manchester Herald said Bowers “once the crack twirler of the Yale team,” had been appointed judge of the newly formed Manchester Connecticut Town Court.  With that, Bowers went on a different course than Stagg.  He was a judge and politician—he served two terms in the Connecticut General Assembly—until his death in Manchester on November 30, 1927.

Butcher Boy Schmidt

25 Jul

Charles John “Butch” “Butcher Boy” Schmidt was credited by Connie Mack with being the catalyst for the Boston Braves World Series upset of Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics in 1914; one year later Schmidt walked away from baseball in his prime.

Butch Schmidt

Butch Schmidt

He was born in Baltimore in 1886, and played amateur ball while working in the family meat market, which earned him his nickname.

Schmidt signed as a pitcher with the Baltimore Orioles  in the Eastern League and assigned to the Holyoke Papermakers in the Connecticut State League, where he posted a 10-9 record.  In late August the Orioles recalled him, and he went 5-1 in 11 games with Baltimore.

The New York Highlanders drafted Schmidt and the 22-year-old pitcher started the 1909 season in New York.  He appeared in only one game, on May 11, giving up 10 hits and eight runs, four earned, in five innings.  Early in June he was returned to the Orioles.

After appearing in eight games on the mound with the Orioles, Schmidt was moved to first base.  After hitting .244 for the remainder of ’09, he hit .292, .291, and .274 the next three seasons, and was sold to the Rochester Hustlers in the International League, where he hit .321; he was purchased by the Boston Braves on August 22, and hit .308 in 22 games playing in place of Ralph “Hap” Myers.

At the end of the 1913 season Boston sold Myers’ contract to Rochester; The Boston Post reported that Braves manager George Stallings simply didn’t like Myers.  (Myers had a different theory for his release—that story next week)

Schmidt was installed as the Braves first baseman in 1914, and as Boston made their improbable run to the National league pennant Schmidt   hit .285 with 71 RBI and .990 fielding percentage, and finished 16th in the voting for the Chalmers Award, for the most valuable player in the National League; teammates Johnny Evers and Rabbit Maranville finished first and second in the voting.

Grantland Rice said in The New York Tribune:

“There are few greater first basemen in baseball and none who is steadier or a better fighter.  For Schmidt is also of the aggressive type and a hustler every second.”

The New York Times didn’t think quite as highly of Schmidt and on the eve of the World Series said the “advantage favors the Athletics” at first base:

(John “Stuffy”) McInnis makes exceptionally brilliant plays…has been through Worlds Series fire and proved just as cool as if he were playing an exhibition game in the springtime.  Schmidt has yet to face the strain and tension of the big baseball classic…While Schmidt is not a scientific batsman, he is a free swinger and hits the ball hard, but he doesn’t hit it often.”

The pressure of the series didn’t seem to bother Schmidt, the Braves first baseman hit .294 with five hits, two runs and two RBIs in the four game sweep of the Athletics; McInnis hit just .143.

In game one he made a play in the first inning that Connie Mack said set the tone for the series and “sparked the Braves.”  With runners on first and second with one out, Athletics third baseman Frank “Home Run” Baker hit a foul pop-up into short right field.  Athletics outfielder Eddie Murphy tagged up and attempted to go to third; The Associated Press said Schmidt made a “great throw…from a difficult angle,” to third baseman Charlie Deal to retire Murphy.

Stuffy McInnis, Eddie Murphy and "Home Run" Baker,

Stuffy McInnis, Eddie Murphy and “Home Run” Baker,

Early in the 1915 season Braves manager George Stallings called Schmidt “The best first baseman in the game,” but his performance at the plate slipped.  Schmidt hit just .251 with 60 RBIs.  The Braves again found themselves in 8th place in July, and while they made another strong run, finished 2nd, seven games behind the Philadelphia Phillies.

Despite the mediocre season at the plate, it was assumed the 28-year-old Schmidt would remain the Braves first baseman.  Schmidt shocked Stallings, Boston fans, and all of baseball when he announced in January of 1916 that he was retiring from baseball.

Butch Schmidt at bat

Butch Schmidt at bat

The Associated Press said Schmidt was leaving “to devote his entire time to his private business.”

Grantland Rice said Schmidt’s business included “six meat markets in Baltimore,” and that he earned $8000 a year from his stores.

The Sporting Life said it was just as likely that Schmidt, listed at 200 pounds, retired because:

Hard work in that old rubber shirt to get down to weight, especially when the extra weight comes off slowly, more slowly each succeeding season, is a trial that anyone would like to sidestep if he could. “

Boston manager George Stallings filled the void left by Schmidt by purchasing Ed Konetchy from the Pittsburgh Rebels from the newly defunct Federal League.

The Boston Post said the change at first base would not hurt the Braves:

“Konetchy, a heavier hitter than Schmidt, is just about as capable in other ways.”

Despite the confidence of The Post, Stallings was not convinced and continued to try to induce Schmidt to return; his efforts were unsuccessful.

After Konetchy hit .260 for the third place Braves in 1916 it was reported that Schmidt would return to the team.  After several weeks of speculation, Schmidt told The Boston Globe “no offer” could induce him to return to Boston.

Konetchy hit .272 and .236 the next two seasons, and each off season it was rumored Schmidt would return, and every year he stayed home where he continued to run his business and play semi-pro ball in Baltimore’s Inter-City League.

Before the 1919 season Konetchy was traded to the Brooklyn Robins and the Braves acquired Walter Holke from the Cincinnati Reds.  Holke hit .292 for the Braves in 1919, but rumors continued that Schmidt, out of organized baseball for four years, would be returning to Boston.  The Associated Press said:

“George Stallings of the Boston Braves is trying to get Charlie “Butch” Schmidt, the Baltimore butcher boy who played first base for the world’s champions of 1914, to return to the Boston Braves.  Schmidt is reported to be in wonderful condition as he has kept in practice since his retirement.”

Schmidt never returned to professional ball, and was finally removed from Boston’s reserve list in 1922.

Butch Schmidt walked away from professional baseball and never looked back; he died in 1952 of a heart attack while inspecting cattle at the Baltimore Union Stock Yards.

“To be Hissed and Hooted at in the East is too much”

20 Jun

In 1886  Thomas Jefferson “Tom” York retired after a fifteen-year career.   As a 20-year-old he joined the Troy Haymakers in the National Association in 1871, he was with the Hartford Dark Blues for the National League’s inaugural season in 1876, and finished with the Baltimore Orioles in the American Association; he also served two brief stints as a player/manager with the Providence Grays.

York, who suffered from rheumatism, had considered retiring before the 1894 season after the Cleveland Blues sold him to the Orioles, but The Baltimore American said he was induced to continue playing with a $5000 salary and “the scorecard and cushion (concession)” at Oriole Park.  After hitting just .233 in 1884, he was only able to play in 22 games the following season before calling it quits.

Tom York, middle row, far right, with the 1876 Hartford Dark Blues

Tom York, middle row, far right, with the 1876 Hartford Dark Blues

Just before the beginning of the 1886 season York was hired as an American Association umpire.  After the May 22 game in Baltimore which the Orioles lost 2-1 to the Louisville Colonels, The Baltimore Sun said:

“(York) received a dispatch yesterday ordering him to Brooklyn.  Instead of going he telegraphed his resignation.  His reason for doing so was the abuse he received from some of the spectators of Saturday’s game.  In fact, he was nearly equal to that of John Kelly, ‘the king of umpires.’  He declared (Pete) Browning’s hit near the foul line a fair hit.  He was in the best position to know, but, as it was made at a critical point, some of the audience objected, and York came in for pretty severe abuse.”

The paper said York also made a “questionable decision,” when he “evidently forgot that it was not necessary to touch a runner in a force,” and incorrectly called a runner safe at second:

“York became discouraged and the Association lost a good umpire.”

Within weeks York became a National League umpire; that didn’t last long either.

On June 30, the Kansas City Cowboys lost at home to the New York Giants 11-5, The Chicago Inter Ocean said York “was escorted from the grounds by the police on account of disapproval manifested over his umpiring.”

Less than a month later, after York was “roundly hissed” at the Polo Grounds after making “some very close decisions against the New Yorks,” in a July 22 game against the Philadelphia Quakers, he sent a telegram to National League President Nicholas Young resigning his position.  York told The New York Times:

“I have been badly treated in the West, but to be hissed and hooted at in the East is too much.  I have often heard that an umpire’s position was a thankless one, but I have never realized it before.  It’s bad enough to be hissed and called a thief, but in the West when the local club loses an umpire in fortunate if he escapes with his life.  Of all the cities in the league Kansas City is the worst.”

York said there was another incident Kansas City the day before he was escorted from the field by police:

“On June 29 when the New York men beat the Cowboys 3 to 2 (William “Mox”) McQuery hit a ball over the fence, but it was foul by 25 feet, and I declared it so.  After the game Vice President (Americus) McKim, of the Kansas City club wanted to know how much money I would get from the New Yorks fir That decision.  I remarked that I received my salary from the league and did not take a penny from the New Yorks or any other none.  Then he grew furious, and said he would end my days.  This in conjunction with other things incidental to the life of an umpire has made me tired of the business, and I intend to make room for some other victim.”

Despite quitting both leagues within two months, The Baltimore American said the American Association sent York a telegram in two months later “asking him if he wanted an appointment as umpire.”  The paper said “York replied no, emphatically, as his past experience was sufficient to justify his remaining at home.”

York remained at home for the rest of the season and the next, but while he never worked as an umpire again he returned to baseball in 1888 as manager of the Albany Governors in the International Association.  Over the next decade he was connected with several East Coast minor leagues, including the Connecticut State League, the New York State League and the Eastern Association, as a manager and executive.

York retired to New York where he became one of the many former players employed at the Polo Grounds at the behest of manager John McGraw.  In 1922 The New York Telegraph described his position:

“York has the pleasant post of trying to keep the actors, tonsorial artists and plumbers out of the press stand.  It is old tom who examines your pink paste board and decides whether you are eligible for a seat in the press cage.”

Tom York, 1922

Tom York, 1922

In February of 1936, as preparations were being made for York, along with James “Deacon” White, George Wright, Tommy Bond,  to be honored that summer at the  All-Star Game  as the last four surviving players from the National League’s first season, the former player, manager, executive and umpire died in New York.

Fielder Jones and the Chehalis Gophers

11 Feb

Most biographies of Fielder Jones—player-manager of the 1906 World Champion Chicago White Sox, the Hitless Wonders—mention that he managed the Chehalis Gophers, a team in the Washington State League, in 1910;  they never mention that he ended up there because of a near-fatal assault before he arrived.

The 36-year-old Jones left the White Sox after the 1908 season to settle in the Portland, Oregon and tend to his many business holdings in the area.  In 1909, he was named president of the Northwestern League, and served for one season.  According to West Coast newspaper reports, Jones was in the running to named president of the Pacific Coast League in 1910, before Thomas Graham was elected as a compromise candidate.

In the spring of 1910, Jones coached the Oregon Agricultural College (now Oregon State) baseball team to the school’s first conference championship.

At the same time, Jones was coaching at OAC, the Washington State League was getting underway—the league had been operating for at least three seasons, but 1910 was the first year it was recognized under baseball’s national agreement as an “official” minor league.

The Chehalis Gophers were led by 27-year-old Fred Nehring; he had previously played on the Pacific Coast, Northwestern and Connecticut State Leagues.  Nehring, who was born in Pueblo, Colorado in 1883, but grew up in Chehalis, had been playing on and off with the local team since leaving the Tacoma Tigers in 1908

1908 Chehalis team. Fred Nehring standing 2nd from left, Tamp Osburn, standing 4th from left.

1908 Chehalis team. Fred Nehring standing 2nd from left, Tamp Osburn, standing 4th from left.

Another player who had spent time with Chehalis since 1908 was a pitcher known variously as “Tamp” Osburn, Osborn or Osborne (for the purpose of this story we’ll call him Osburn—most common usage by contemporaneous sources).  Tamp Osburn has, at least, two separate, partial listings on Baseball Reference.

Osburn was considered a talented pitcher, but an erratic character.  While pitching for the Spokane Indians in Northwestern League in 1907, he quit the team in June.  According to The Spokane Daily Chronicle:

“The whole trouble yesterday started when a couple of misplays in the eighth inning put a losing aspect on the game…Tamp blames the whole trouble on (William ‘Terry’) McKune, who he says ‘threw’ the game on him.”

Osburn had additional problems with teammates and developed a reputation as an eccentric, and like all eccentric pitchers of the era there was one he was often compared; The Daily Chronicle called him “The Rube Waddell of the Northwestern League.”

After playing together for Chehalis in 1908, both Nehring and Osburn played in the short-lived Inter-Mountain League in 1909; both returned to Chehalis after that league folded in July.

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“Tamp” Osburn, 1908 with Spokane Indians

On May 20, just after the 1910 season opened, the Chehalis team boarded a train.  According to The Chehalis Bee-Nugget:

“(Osburn) who had been drinking before the train left Chehalis became so unruly on the train that the train crew called on Fred Nehring, captain of the Chehalis team to quiet him.  Tamp resented Nehring’s efforts to keep him from cursing in the presence of ladies, and pulled a knife and began to slash Nehring…Two severe cuts…in the left arm, and the other was in the breast.  If the latter had been an inch farther over, it would have penetrated the lungs.”

Nehring had the wounds dressed, left the hospital against doctor’s advice and managed the Chehalis team “from the bench.”  Despite the seemingly quick recovery, Nehring only appeared in a few games the rest of the season.  Osburn was arrested.

The Chehalis team floundered for the next several weeks.  In late June, it was announced that Fielder Jones would join the team as manager and centerfielder.

Under Jones, who was still property of the White Sox and needed Charles Comiskey’s approval to play, Chehalis easily won the league championship; Jones hit .358 in 37 games.

Jones had agreed to play for the team for no salary and was only reimbursed for his expenses.  This arrangement nearly cost Chehalis the league championship.  According to The (Portland) Oregonian, the second place Raymond Cougars protested to the league and the National Commission that all wins under Jones should be forfeited because Jones “was not under contract.”  The protest was denied and Chehalis was declared league champion.

Osburn was sent to the Lewis County Jail while awaiting trial, and according to The Oregonian was involved in an attempted escape along with other prisoners who occupied the jail’s first floor, a week after his arrest.  The paper said of Osburn “the baseball player, and one other man were taken to the cells on the second floor and locked up securely.”

There is no record of whether Osburn was convicted; in any case, he was free by July of 1911 and was pitching for the Missoula, Montana franchise in the Union Association when The Helena Daily Independent reported that Osburn:

“The Missoula pitcher, who started a rough house in a Missoula cafe and pulled a knife on a stranger, drew a severe panning from the judge, who, after fining him $25, -said: ‘There are some good men on your team, who behave themselves, but there is a lot of you whose conduct is a disgrace to the city and the national game. We don’t want that kind of men in Missoula uniforms, and you fellows have got to stop such actions.”

Contemporaneous newspaper accounts say he was a native of Utah, but given the inconsistent spelling of his last name, and a full first name never being listed, the trail for Osburn ends after this 1911 incident.

Nehring remained in Chehalis where he died on February 19, 1936.

Jones returned briefly to baseball in 1914 and 1915 as manager of the Saint Louis Terriers in the Federal League.  He died in Portland in 1934.

Fielder Jones, 1914

Fielder Jones, 1914

“A Vain and Foolish Kick”

23 Nov

The Brooklyn Bridegrooms won the 1890 National League Championship by 6 ½ games over the Chicago Colts behind pitcher Tom Lovett who posted a 30-11 record.

Just three years earlier there was speculation that Lovett’s career might be over due to overwork.

Tom Lovett, 1890

Born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1863, Lovett began his professional career with Waterbury in the Connecticut State League in 1884.  He appeared in 16 games for Philadelphia Athletics in the American Association in 1885 and was in the New England League with the Lynn/Newburyport Clamdiggers.

In 1887 he signed with the Bridgeport Giants in the Eastern League and dominated the league in May and early June.  Despite getting off to a fast start (the team was 20-5 in May), Bridgeport was suffering a decline in attendance and the franchise was in trouble.

At the same time community leaders in Oshkosh, Wisconsin were determined to win the Northwest League championship, and they put enough money together to offer to purchase Lovett who was 21-3, as well as Tug Wilson, Bridgeport’s catcher and leading hitter, and shortstop Dan Shannon, the Eastern League’s leading base stealer.

Lovett was 20-2 for Oshkosh (40-7 for the season) and they easily won the championship, but he did not pitch during the season’s closing days; The Sporting Life reported that “Lovett is said to be lame in the arm.”

Despite speculation well into the next spring that his arm was permanently “lamed,” Lovett recovered and posted a 30-14 season in 1888 with Omaha in the Western Association.   In the fall of 1888 he was purchased by Brooklyn, then in the American Association.

Lovett was 17-10 in his first season with Brooklyn, and followed that with his pennant-winning performance in 1890.  He then dropped to 23-19 in 1891 as the team fell to 6th place; Lovett threw a 4-0 no-hitter in June against the New York Giants.

After the 1891 season Brooklyn attempted to cut his salary to $2800 (various sources say he either earned $3000 or $3500 in 1891).  Lovett demanded $3500 and turned down a compromise offer of $3200.

He said he could earn more money operating his tavern in Providence and chose to sit out the 1892 season.

The Sporting Life called it, “A vain and foolish kick against salary reduction.”

In this case the critics might have been correct.  The Lovett-less Grooms improved from 61-76 in 1891 to 95-59 in 1892.

Hat in hand, he returned to Brooklyn for the 1893 season signing for $2400.

Lovett pitched in only 14 games and had a 3-5 record before hurting his arm again.  The following season he pitched for the Boston Beaneaters until he was released in July.  His Major League career over, Lovett finished 1894 in the Eastern League with the Providence Clamdiggers and spent 1895 with the renamed Providence Grays in the same league.

Lovett, with Boston 1894

Lovett, most likely baseball’s first true hold out, spent the rest of his life in Providence and died in 1928.

A Really Complete Chronology, and Quite a Reason to End up on the Disabled List

10 Oct

The Reach Guide, founded by Major Leaguer turned sporting goods magnet Alfred Reach in 1883, along with the Spalding Guide, founded by Major Leaguer turned sporting good magnet Albert Spalding in 1878, were the annual bibles of baseball.

Both publications prided themselves on providing the most complete chronology of the previous season.

An example of just how complete the Reach Guide could be is found in the 1906 edition.

The entry is about a young pitcher named Gus Bonno.

Bonno was born November 27, 1882 (Baseball reference incorrectly lists his birth year as 1881) in Ohio.  Records for his career are spotty.  After playing for a semi-pro team in Urbana Ohio in 1901 and part of ’02, late that season Bonno appeared in two games with the Toledo Mud Hens in the American Association.  Bonno returned to semi-pro the following season and played for the Paducah Indians in the Kitty League in 1904.

Bonno pitched for the Newark Sailors in the Eastern League and Norwich Reds in the Connecticut State League in 1905.

The Kentucky New Era referred to the Bonno as: “The handsome black haired, black-eyed debonair Italian twirler.”  In fact, nearly every contemporaneous newspaper article about Bonno referred to his ethnicity, which underscores the domination of players of Irish and German heritage in 19th and early 20th Century baseball.

Back to the Reach Guide.

On page 160, for the date September 23, 1905:

“Pitcher Gus Bonno at Cincinnati broke his ankle jumping from a second story window of a young woman’s home to avoid being shot by a jealous rival suitor.”

1906 Reach Guide

Bonno recovered enough to join the Augusta Tourists in the South Atlantic in the spring of 1906, but was sold to the Norfolk Tars of the Virginia League at the beginning of season.  He continued to pitch until 1911 with stops in the Western League and Bluegrass League.

He passed away in Cincinnati in 1964.