Tag Archives: Connie Mack

“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.

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“Cobb is Essentially an Individual Player”

29 Feb

In February of 1913, The Associated Press (AP) reported that Detroit Tigers second baseman Oscar “Ossie” Vitt had requested a raise from owner Frank Navin.  The AP said:

“Navin wrote Vitt that he was more than satisfied with his work last year, and would be ordinarily glad to increase his salary, but owing to the necessity of meeting the demands of (Ty) Cobb for $15,000.”

Ossie Vitt

Vitt

The Detroit Free Press disputed The AP’s, and Vitt’s account:

“Mr. Vitt did receive a letter from Mr. Navin, and this letter did pointedly refuse to add anything to the Vitt emoluments for 1913.  So far the story from the golden West is true.  But the reasons given  Oscar for not granting him an increase had nothing whatever to do with Mr. Cobb, nor was the star athlete’s name even mentioned.  Vitt was informed that he is mighty lucky to receive a contract for 1913 with as much money mentioned as the document recently sent him calls for.”

Whether Vitt believed Cobb was responsible for his lack of a raise is unknown, but he did take the opportunity 10 months later to take a swipe at Cobb in the pages of his hometown paper, The San Francisco Call.  Vitt wrote an article for the paper about the best player he had seen:

“I am picking the man who does most to win games for the club he represents.  That man is unquestionably Eddie Collins…Here is one player who is willing to sacrifice all personal gain to help his club.  When he is on the field it is the Athletics he is trying to help, and not Eddie Collins.”

 

Collins

Collins

Vitt said:

“Collins is great whether he is playing the defensive or offensive.

“In few departments of the game is he excelled.  He is a brilliant fielder, who thinks quickly, and he makes but few mistakes.  At the bat he has few superiors.  He has a wonderful eye, and when he hits the ball he meets it fairly, usually sending it away from the plate on a line for a clean drive.  He can lay down a bunt with equal skill, and it is hard to figure him when he faces a pitcher.

“The point that I admire in Collins is the fact that he never plays to the grandstand.  He adopts the play that will help his club and not the one that will win him applause from the spectators… I don’t think there is another player in the game today who wins as many games for his club than this fellow Collins.”

After lavishing praise on Philadelphia’s Collins, Vitt said of his teammate:

“Cobb is a remarkable ballplayer. I have been with him for two seasons, and while I consider him greater than Collins in many respects, I do not think he is as valuable to a club as Collin… His spectacular style of play is popular with the fans, and while the Tigers were rather lowly in the pennant race, they were good drawing cards, because the crowds would go out to see Cobb bat and steal bases.

Cobb

Cobb

“If Cobb would play the game like Collins I think he would be the greatest of them all, but he does not.  Cobb is essentially an individual player.  He is unlike Collins in this respect.  However, the fans like to see Cobb, and they must be pleased.”

While Vitt equivocated, calling his teammate an “individual player,” while at the same time putting, at least, some of the blame for it on the fans who “must be pleased,” he took his biggest swipe at his teammate in another passage without ever naming him:

“You take a great player like Collins, who is so sincere in his work, and he naturally becomes a prime favorite with the other members of the club, because of his efforts to help them.  He gets them all in that stride, and I attribute (Connie) Mack’s success to that reason.”

Cobb’s only public reply came weeks later in The Detroit News:

“I think Vitt might help the team if he would accumulate a little better individual average and not attack his fellow players.”

Vitt hit .243 over seven seasons in Detroit.  He and Cobb remained teammates through the 1918 season.

“Pulling a Lave Cross,” Eddie Collins on the Life of a Ballplayer

24 Feb

In 1914, Eddie Collins contributed an article about the life of a major leaguer in The National Sunday Magazine, a syndicated insert that appeared in several papers across the country.

Eddie Collins

Eddie Collins

He described the beginning of his first road trip in the big leagues:

“It happened two days after I had joined the Philadelphia Athletics.  As ‘Mr. Sullivan,’ (Collins initially played under the name Edward T. Sullivan), still being an undergraduate at Columbia, I had watched two games from the grandstand at Shibe Park.

“The series over, Manager (Connie) Mack told me to report at the railroad station in time to catch a train that was leaving at six o’clock.  The Athletics were to make a quick September (1906) swing around the circuit.”

Collins said he was “about the first one at the depot,” and “eager as a boy” to begin his big league career.

Once on the train, he described the reaction of the players the first time the porter announced that dinner would be served:

“What transpired, immediately, might have led one to believe that the porter had insulted nearly everyone in the car.  There was a stampede.  Every one of the Athletics was up and rushing down the aisle, throwing aside magazines and newspapers, tumbling and pitching toward the door. The porter was knocked over and it is no exaggeration to state that one of our players—a very fleshy outfielder with elephantine tread (Topsy Hartsel)—walked over him in his haste.

“’What’s the matter with those fellows?’ I asked a veteran who had not joined the stampede.

“In justice to him, be it explained that he had a sprained ankle and couldn’t run.

“’They’re pulling a Lave Cross,’ he threw over his shoulder, as he hobbled after the others as fast as his lame ankle would permit.

“I came to know what ‘Pulling a Lave Cross’ meant.”

Lave Cross

Lave Cross

Collins explained the term, which referenced the former Athletics player:

“He was in the big leagues for years and during that period, he was never beaten into a dining car or eating room of any sort.  He always caught the first cab out of the station; he always was the first to plunge into the sleeper and select the best berth.  He never ran second where personal comforts or tastes were at stake.  During all his years, and the competition is keen, he was supreme.”

Collins said while Cross’ behavior might have been extreme, “haste” was “a habit inbred in all successful” ballplayers:

“I have noticed that after the game we all dress like firemen getting three alarms, race back the hotel, race into the dining room, race through our meal.  Then we saunter out into the lobby and kill two or three hours trying to see which foot we can stand on longer.  At first I marveled at this, then I found myself racing along with the rest of them.”

Calling himself, and his colleagues “rather peculiar individual(s)” Collins said of ballplayers:

“On the field, all his energies and thoughts are concentrated on one idea—the winning of the game.  His day’s work done, however, he throws that all off.  His first desire is to avoid the crowds and excitement.  Then he persistently refuses to talk baseball.  If you want to make yourself unpopular with big league ballplayers, drop into their hotel some night and try to talk baseball to them. “

Collins next provided readers with “some idea of ballplayers out of spangles,” to bring them into “closer touch.”

Honus Wagner, he said, was not a fan of fans:

“Down in Carnegie (PA) there are about twenty unfortunates…who are taken care of solely through Wagner’s generosity.  He has a heart as big as his clumsy looking body, but he hates the baseball ‘bug.’  Frequently wealthy fans have called at Wagner’s hotel on the road and tried to engage him in conversation.  Generally he will excuse himself and going over to the elevator boy will sit and chat with him for an hour at a time.  Wagner’s worst enemy will not tell you he is conceited, but he hates the fans prying into his affairs.”

Honus Wagner

Honus Wagner

Connie Mack, he said, “is the same kind of man” as Wagner:

“Connie is forever handing out touches to old time players.  He is always thinking of anybody connected with baseball from the bat boys up. I know he insisted out little hunchback mascot (Louis Van Zelst) getting a share of the World Series’ money—not that any players objected—but it was Connie’s thought first.

“’Little Van comes in on this,’ he said.”

Louis Van Zelst

Louis Van Zelst

 

Collins also talked about how his teammates occupied themselves on the road:

“You will never find Chief Bender, our Indian pitcher, hanging around the hotel.  Too many original fans are apt to salute him with a war-whoop.  Besides, he is golf mad and when not on the diamond, he is to be found on the links… (Carroll “Boardwalk”) Brown, the young pitcher who did so well for us last year, is a billiard expert… (Stuffy) McInnis and (Eddie) Murphy are the ‘movie fiends’ of our club and are the only ones (Collins said many players were scared to go to the movies because they thought it would damage their eyes).  They can call the name of every star as soon as they see the face on the screen. Jack Barry, our shortstop, is inordinately fond of Hebrew literature and Biblical history.  This, although he, as well as his name, is Irish.”

Collins also shared his manager’s rules for the Athletics when the team was traveling:

 “It is one of Mack’s rules that we are only allowed to play cards on the trains…Connie is against card playing, which only leads to-night after night sessions, ill feelings and finally, disruption. I could tell you of at least one American League team that was broken by card games…Everybody has to be in bed by half past eleven and report in Mack’s room at half past ten in the morning.  For an hour Mack talks baseball, planning our campaign for the day.”

After Mack’s meeting, it was time to eat, and Collins shared his insights on ballplayers and food:

He said a “young pitcher on our club” should be a star, but “he has a weakness for roast beef,” and “persists in stuffing himself at noon time.”  He didn’t name the pitcher.

 “Walter Johnson, the greatest pitcher in baseball, also has a noonday weakness.  It is ice cream, but he seems to thrive on it.  Jack Barry feels off-color if he does not get his slice of pie…On the day he is going to pitch, Eddie Plank, our veteran left-hander, always eats tomato soup.  He thinks he would lose if he did not observe this ritual.”

Collins concluded:

“There is great temptation for the young minor league player, being put up at first class hotels…to eat his head off.  I honestly believe that more good youngsters have been ruined for big league work simply from overeating than any other extraneous cause.”

Other than their general disdain for ‘bugs,’ Collins said, in the end, players of the current era were unrecognizable from their counterparts of a generation earlier:

“Ballplayers today are scrupulously careful never to offend anyone in any way.  Especially do they take pride in being Chesterfields when women are around.”

“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

Connie Mack vs Herman W. Souse

6 Nov

In his autobiography “My 66 Years in the Big leagues,Connie Mack said, “My first great disappointment came in 1912.”

Connie Mack

                          Connie Mack

After two straight World Series victories, Mack’s Athletics stumbled to a disappointing third-place finish.  With his team 15 ½ games out of first on September 6, Mack suspended pitcher Charles “Chief” Bender and Reuben “Rube” Oldring for, as The Philadelphia Inquirer  put it:

 “(T)heir failure to live up to the training requirements, as demanded by Mack and all common sense baseball managers.”

Chief Bender

                                Chief Bender

The Inquirer said “Mack refused to discuss this matter further,” but just days later in Detroit he gave what The New York World called “a sermon” on the reason for the suspensions:

“Booze and baseball don’t mix; never did, and never will. A pitcher who thinks he can fan Herman W. Souse is simply pitching to the greatest home run hitter he ever faced.

“Once in awhile you hear of some marvel who can stay out all night, drink all the breweries dry, wreck a few taxi cabs and otherwise enjoy himself, and then step in the box and pitch a wonderful game of ball.  Players who haven’t any more sense point to Rube Waddell, Bugs Raymond and that brand and say: ‘Ah, those were the good old days.  None of these high-priced managers and their red tape then.  And what wonderful players we produced in those days.’

“Well, look at Waddell—one of the most remarkable pitchers nature ever produced.  But Waddell, with all his talent, couldn’t stay in the major leagues.  Why?  Because he stood there and pitched himself to Old Man Barleycorn, and finally every one he threw was slammed over the fence.  And that’s the way all go.  Is it so wonderful, after all?

“No, sir, the day of the stewed ballplayer has gone and it won’t come back.  If the members of my team want to drink, all right.  But they can’t drink and play ball at the same time.  That’s settled.  They can do whatever they prefer, but they can’t do both.

“There are no exceptions to my rule, either.  Any manager will tell you the same.  A short life and a merry one—that’s it.  And the merrier it is the shorter it will be in the big leagues.”

In December of 1912, The Philadelphia Record said Bender had written a letter to Mack asking his manager “to please forgive him.”

According to The Inquirer, he was forgiven and set to return to the Athletics in 1913:

“This winter Bender has spent nearly all the daylight hours automobiling and hunting in the South.  He looks stronger than ever.”

The “stronger,” sober Bender appeared in 48 games, 21 as a starter, and posted a 21-10 record with a 2.21 ERA, and helped lead the Athletics to their third championship in four seasons.

In “My 66 Years in the Big leagues” Mack said of him:

“Let me say here that I consider Chief Bender the greatest one-game pitcher, the greatest money pitcher baseball ever has known.”

Collins’ “Ten Commandments”

5 Oct

The Philadelphia Inquirer said in February of 1916, Eddie Collins of the Chicago White Sox, had broken “into the ‘Gospel League,’ after  the second baseman gave a temperance speech in front of “500 persons” at the Epworth Methodist Church in Palmyra, New Jersey church.

collins2

Eddie Collins

Despite Collins telling his audience he wasn’t  “contemplating a pulpit career,” the paper said they “(A)pplauded like World Series fans when he handed ‘booze’ some wallops that would have done credit to Billy Sunday.”

Collins’ talk focused on the evils of alcohol:

“I come to bring a message to your young people, from a baseball player’s viewpoint, of the necessity of clean living and I will be glad if anything I say will help any of you fight the battle of life…Temperate living in necessary for success in any field of action.”

He also praised his former manager from the pulpit:

“Life is a whole lot like playing baseball under Connie Mack’s orders.  Mack is the greatest baseball general the world has ever known and any man who has ever played on the old Athletics honors respects and loves the boss.”

Sunday said he approved of Collins taking to pulpit and providing a “boost” for baseball:

“The way to make the great game respectable is for every player to be respectable himself.”

The Inquirer told readers the following day that the Columbia University graduate had little in common with the evangelist who often mangled the language:

“The statement that Eddie Collins is emulating Billy Sunday is entirely erroneous…Eddie had a perfect record at the bat and fielded cleanly with the King’s English.”

Billy Sunday, evangelist

Billy Sunday, evangelist

Within a week, The Philadelphia Press said:

“Eddie Collins’ dip into evangelism has had a home-run effect among church people throughout the country, and he now is swamped with invitations to address church congregations, bible classes, and Sunday school meeting.

“The requests have swept in upon him at his home in Lansdowne (Pennsylvania) in such a deluge that he said today he had reached the point where he would have to give up base ball if he were to meet all the engagements asked.”

Collins told a reporter:

“I am gratified to learn that my little talk of last Sunday and my rules of life amounted to something but I don’t rank as an evangelist and can’t follow that calling.”

Instead of leaving the diamond for the pulpit, Collins printed and had distributed to churches, several thousand copies of part of the talk, what he called “The Ten Rules of Life.”

Some reporters, including William Peet of The Washington Herald, referred to the list as “Collins’ Ten Commandments:”

First: Safeguard your honor

Second: Don’t overeat

Third: Be a good loser

Fourth: Smile

Fifth: Keep good hours

Sixth: Have courage to do right

Seventh: Don’t think you know it all

Eighth: Be prompt

Ninth: Don’t drink alcoholic drinks

Tenth: Think clean thoughts.

Collins’ statements about alcohol were used by various temperance organizations seeking prohibition.  Ads like the one below with quotes from Collins, Ty Cobb, and Connie Mack, and Admiral Robert Peary, as well as boxers Jess Willard, John L. Sullivan, and Joe Stecher appeared in newspapers and handbills distributed throughout the country.

temperance

“He was the Greatest Receiving Catcher”

23 Sep

Freeman Ossee “Schreck” Schrecongost’s was most famous for being Rube Waddell’s catcher with the Philadelphia Athletics.

Ossee Schrecongost

                Ossee Schrecongost

Years later, Connie Mack told Harry Grayson of the Newspaper Enterprise Association that Schrecongost was “the fizz powder in the pinwheel that was Waddell.”  He also told the reporter that Waddell’s catcher “was the wilder of the two in many respects.”

Schrecongost lived at least as hard as Waddell and caused his manager as many headaches, but more than 30 years after his final game, Mack said he did “more with gloved hand than any other catcher who has come along.”

Allan Gould, the long-time sports editor for The Associated Press said of the catcher:

“Schreck had the eccentric habit of doing as much of his backstopping as possible with his gloved hand only. This worried Mack, who considered it careless workmanship until Schreck convinced his manager he could do a better job one-handed than with two.”

His teammates felt the same.

Three years after Schrecongost’s final major league game, Harry Davis told Gordon Mackay of The Philadelphia Times:

Walter Johnson is some grand pitcher with a barrel of speed.  But I’ll tell you one old boy who would sit on a chair and catch the big fellow.  That’s old Schreck.  He’d catch Walter with that big glove on his fin, and then after he had eaten up the old smoke to the limit he’d yell to the big chap to put something on the ball.

“I’ve seen Rube Waddell cross Ossee six or seven times, and Schreck wouldn’t pay the least bit of attention to it.  Suddenly Schreck would go out to the box and tell the Rube with a bunch of billingsgate trimmings that would make your hair curl that he stop crossing him.

Rube Waddell

                                 Rube Waddell

“There never was a backstop like old Ossee.  He could catch all the speed merchants in our league with one hand, and then only use the other one to throw with.  He was the greatest receiving catcher, receiving alone, I mean, who ever tripped down the pike.  He was a wonder, that old boy.”

Davis wasn’t Schreck’s only teammate who claimed he was a “wonder,” Tully “Topsy” Hartsell told The Philadelphia Press he saw the catcher perform “the greatest stunt” he had ever seen in 1904:

 “Schreck had a bad finger, and the other catcher (Michael) Doc Powers, was also laid up.  The third catcher, who was Pete Noonan, was doing all the backstopping.  He got hurt one day and Schreck had to go in in the first inning.  He couldn’t let the ball strike his wounded and uncovered hand, and Topsy says he caught the whole game only using his gloved hand.

“’Not only did he (only) use the glove to catch them,’ said Topsy, “’ but there wasn’t a stolen base or passed ball by him.  That’s the greatest catching feat I ever saw.”

Forever tied to Waddell, who died at age 37 on April 1, 1914, Schrecongost died just three months later, on July 9, at age 39.

The Associated Press said in his obituary:

“Grief over the death of the brilliant but eccentric Waddell…probably had much to do with hastening the end of the former great catcher.  Schreck told friends at the time that he ‘did not care to live now.  The Rube is gone and I am all in.  I might as well join him.’”

Lost Advertisements–“The World’s Best Pitchers Recommend…”

8 Jul

adreach

A 1910 advertisement for Reach Baseball Goods  “The World’s Best Pitchers Recommend Reach Balls”–from International Book & Stationary Co. in El Paso, Texas.  The ad features “Detroit’s Great Pitcher,” George Mullin, “Another Detroit Expert,” Ed Willett (Misspelled Willetts in the ad), and “Athletics’ Left Hand Star,” Harry Krause.

In 1909, the 20-year-old Krause, who had been 1-1 in four appearances with the Athletics in 1908, became the talk of baseball when he opened the season with 10 straight victories–including six shutouts.  A San Francisco native who played under Hal Chase and was a teammate of Hall of Famer Harry Hooper at St. Mary’s College, Krause was asked by The Oakland Tribune what led to success:

“That’s easy.  A capable manager in Connie Mack, one of the best pitching tutors in the world in Ed Plank, fairly good control on my part and lots of luck.”

The Tribune‘s scouting report on Krause:

“He has a good curve, but many pitchers in the league have a better one.  He has speed, but any number of American League twirlers have more smoke than he.  However, there are very few twirlers, whether right or left-handers, who can equal him in control of the ball.

“He doesn’t appear to have much to the opposing batters when they first face him, but when the game is over they wonder how it came to pass that he let them down with three or four hits and no runs.”

Harry Krause

Harry Krause

On July 18 his luck ran out, Krause dropped his first game of the season, an 11-inning, 5 to 4 loss to the St. Louis Browns.

He went just 8-7 (with one shutout) the rest of the season, but led the league with a 1.39 ERA.

He appeared in only 55 more games over three seasons, winning 17 and losing 20, before a sore arm ended his major league career at age 23.

He finished the 1912 season in the American Association with the Toledo Mud Hens, then returned to California and pitched for 15 seasons in the Pacific Coast League (with a one-season detour to the western League), where he won 230 games.

“He is a $900 Man”

6 Jul

Frank Leonardo Hough had a major conflict of interest.  While sports editor for The Philadelphia Inquirer, he also held a 12.5% interest in the Philadelphia Athletics from the club’s inaugural season until 1912—he also served as the team secretary for several seasons while working at the paper.  Another Philadelphia sports writer, Sam Jones of The Associated Press also held a 12.5% interest in the team.

Frank L. Hough

Frank L. Hough

Perhaps it was Hough’s close association with an American League team that made him one of the most vocal advocates for the rights of current and former National League players while the leagues battled for star players.

In 1902, he told his readers the story of how William “Bill” Duggleby, who jumped from the Phillies to the Athletics after the 1901 season,  was treated—Hough said he was “Human Chattel”–while a member of the Phillies:

“These are the facts:

“William Duggleby, pitcher played with the Auburn Club, of the New York State League, during the season of 1897.  In the fall of that year, he was drafted by the Philadelphia Ball Club.”

According to Hough, Duggleby was offered $900 for the season, a $25 raise from his salary in Auburn.

Hough pitched just nine games for the Phillies in 1898 and said Hough “was farmed or rented,” to minor league clubs for the remainder of 1898 and in 1899 and 1900.

“Thus it will be seen that although he was under the absolute control of the Philadelphia Club from 1897, he played only a few games in the season of 1898 with that organization.  He had no control over his own services.  He could not even say where he would play, or where he would not play.  That matter was determined by the treasurer of the Philadelphia Ball Club.”

William Duggleby

William Duggleby

Hough noted that while Duggleby “developed considerable skill,” and had three good seasons in the Eastern League (12-11, 22-16, 17-10) and drew considerable interest from  a “half dozen” major league teams, he only received $900 from the Phillies each season:

“The clubs that rented Duggleby did not know him in the financial end of the transaction at all.

“Had Duggleby the right to sign wherever he could have made the best bargain he would have undoubtedly received at least $1800 a season for his services—just twice as much as received under the White Slave system of the National League.”

Hough said Duggleby likely only had six to 10 years total earning power and “lost three years in which he should have received a salary somewhere commensurate to his ability.”

That, however, said Hough, was not the worst of it.  In 1900, Duggleby was with the Toronto Canucks, who paid the Phillies “$225 per month for his services,” while Duggleby was paid just $150 a month.

“No convict from a Texas or Georgia penitentiary was ever rented or leased to break stone on a quarry or repair roadways in colder blood than was Duggleby to the Toronto Club.

“If Duggleby was not a white slave in a free country, what in the name of all that is fair was he?…Of course, Duggleby did not have to wear ball and chain—that might have interfered with his playing ability. But he had no more control over his actions than would the most hardened criminal consigned to the quarries.”

Just days after Hough made the case for Duggleby’s victimhood—and after he appeared in just two games for the Athletics— the pitcher returned to the Phillies.  Said to have been paid $3250 by the Athletics, Duggleby accepted a $2400 contract with the Phillies.  He told The Sporting Life:

“There was no great reason for my going with the American League in the first place, but after I had given my word to go with Connie Mack’s team I did not feel like breaking it. Then came the decision in the (Napoleon) Lajoie case, and a notice from Manager (Bill) Shettsline to report to him or meet with the same fate as Lajoie. I went to see Shetts at once and asked him if the club really intended to proceed against all players that were under reserve. He assured me that they would. Well, under the circumstances I saw nothing for me to do but go back to the National.”

Hough’s tone changed considerably after Duggleby left the Athletics; in addition to referring to the pitcher in a headline as a “Vertebraeless Youth,” he said

“Without awaiting the outcome of the efforts to be made today to secure an appeal (in the Lajoie case)… (Duggleby) runs to cover like a frightened hound…Evidently the treasurer of the Philadelphia Ball Club sized up Duggleby right in the first place.  He is a $900 man.”

Duggleby, who posted a 20-12 record for the Phillies in 1901, only had one winning season after (18-17 in 1905).  He pitched in the major leagues until 1907.  Duggleby had one other distinction:  During his initial trial with the Phillies in 1898, he hit a grand slam in his first major league at-bat on April 21–for 70 years he remained the only player to hit a grand slam in his first game until Bobby Bonds hit one during his debut (his third at-bat) on June 25, 1968; Jeremy Hermida equaled the feat in his first major league at-bat in 2005.

Hough remained a stockholder and officer with the Athletics while simultaneously reporting on baseball for The Inquirer, until he sold his interest to Connie Mack in 1912.  He was the paper’s sports editor until his death the following year.  (While Hough’s middle name was said to be Leonardo throughout his life, his Pennsylvania death certificate lists it as Lewis)

Tragic Exits 3

23 Mar

Eddie Meade

Edward “Eddie” Meade appeared headed to the big leagues.  After beginning the 1926 season with the Kinston Eagles in the Virginia League, the 24-year-old left-hander was acquired at midseason by the St. Paul Saints of the American Association and posted a 12-7 record with a 3.40 ERA in 22 games.

Meade began the 1927 season with a 6-0 shutout of the Louisville Colonels on April 17.  The same week he recorded his first victory, The Associated Press said he was about to become a member of the defending American League champions:

“The Yankees talked of possible reinforcements in the shape of Eddie Meade, of St. Paul, called the best young pitcher in the American Association.”

Eddie Meade

Eddie Meade

During the same week, Meade became ill; although the nature of the illness was never disclosed.  Eight days later he started a game with the Columbus Senators but was pulled after giving up six runs in the fifth inning of 9 to 8 loss.  Five days later he pitched in relief against Louisville, but The Minneapolis Journal said he lasted less than an inning due to his “impaired physical condition.”

When the Saints left Minnesota for a series in Kansas City on May 16, Meade stayed behind.  The following evening Meade checked into St. Paul’s Boardman Hotel and shot himself to death.

The day after his suicide, The Journal said, “it was learned today that Meade was slated to go to the New York Yankees in the fall.”

St. Paul Manager Nick Allen told The Associated Press:

“He was one of the hardest working youngsters we ever had on the club and the outlook for his future was bright, as he had only two years in baseball.  The only motive he could have had for such action would be mental depression.  He was not married.  The nature of his illness was no cause for alarm, but he apparently believed it otherwise.”

Tommy Coates

Thomas A. “Tommy” Coates was born in Omro, Wisconsin on February 18, 1886 (Baseball Reference lists his middle initial as “O” but birth and death records  list it as “A”).

After starring, along with his older brother Hiram, on Omro High School’s undefeated baseball team in 1901—The Omro Herald called the team “possibly the best in the state”—Coates played industrial league and semi-pro ball in Central and Northern Wisconsin.

After playing in Rhinelander, Wisconsin in 1908, The Oshkosh Northwestern said:

“Coates had lots of confidence in himself, and during the winter months the Omro boy came to the city one day and sought out “Pink” Hawley. Hawley agreed to give him a trial.”

Emerson Pink Hawley, a Wisconsin native who pitched in the major leagues for a decade, was the manager of the Oshkosh Indians in the Wisconsin-Illinois League.

Tommy Coates

Tommy Coates

 “Coates came to this city from his home at Omro (for his tryout).  He donned baseball togs and he ‘made good’ from the start.”

Coates, who The Northwestern said  was “tall (and) built something like the great Ty Cobb,” became the Indians starting left fielder one week into the season and went on to lead  the team with a .299 batting average (he hit .002 better than his 19-year-old teammate Heinie Groh).

In September, The Sporting News reported that with just one season of professional experience, Coates “Looks good to Connie Mack,” and was drafted by the Philadelphia Athletics. He was the only member of the Indians drafted by a big league club in 1909.

At season’s end in September, Coates, with an invitation to train with Mack’s club in the spring, spent most of his time hunting.

On October 11 Coates was in a row-boat with a friend, hunting in a marsh near Omro.  The friend told The Omro Herald:

“Tom saw a mud hen rise up on the right hand side.  He turned about quickly and took hold of his gun which was at his left side and pulled it toward him…I turned about as soon as I heard the shot, and to my horror saw Tom lunge forward.”

Coates accidentally discharged his gun, shooting himself in the left eye.

Twelve days after the Oshkosh Indians received a $300 check from Connie Mack—his draft price—Coates was dead.

The Northwestern said:

“He was quiet and unassuming. After making a sensational play in the field or batting out the hit that won the game…the Oshkosh fans could not induce Coates to doff his hat.  He would return to the bench with face covered with blushes.”

[…]

“His more ardent admirers were confident he would make good in the American League, and one of their first thoughts upon hearing of the unfortunate accident, was the promising career he had before him.”