Tag Archives: Damon Runyon

Lost Advertisements: “Mail Pouch Gets my Money”

22 Jun

A 1930 Mail Pouch Chewing Tobacco ad featuring Chicago Cubs catcher Zack Taylor:

mailpouch

Taylor, according to Jimmy Dykes, was a major factor in the Philadelphia Athletics’ 4 games to 1 victory over Chicago in the 1929 World Series.  According to The Philadelphia Record, Dykes told attendees at a lunch for the Delaware County Real Estate Board:

“We didn’t watch for signals in that 10 to 8 game where we scored 10 runs in the seventh inning, but in all the other World Series games we knew the Cubs’ signals.

“We worked it this way: When one of our batters got on base, he would fix his eyes on Taylor…who at times, was a little careless.   The runner would stand in a perfectly natural position until he caught the signal, then he would move his hand in such a way that the batter was informed what kind of a ball was a about to be pitched, or else a man near the batter would catch the runner’s signal and relay it to the man at the plate.”

Dykes was ridiculed for the claim.

Davis Walsh, the baseball writer for the International News Service, noted that the Athletics left 27 men on base during the four games Dykes said they were stealing signs.

Damon Runyon, in his column for the Hearst paper’s Universal Service, said Walsh showed “By facts and figures that if the Athletics had the Cubs signs the only bewildered the Athletics.”

Dykes hit .421 with four RBI in the four-game series.

“We had to take a Bath with the Cows and the Pigs”

6 Jul

Johnny Evers was another in a long line of former players who felt baseball began to decline sometime around the day they stopped playing.

In 1931, he made his case to reporter James L. Kilgallen of the International News Service.  Kilgallen, called “an editor’s dream of a reporter,” by Damon Runyon, occasionally wrote about baseball in between covering, as he said, “every conceivable type of story in this country and abroad.” He was also the father of columnist Dorothy Kilgallen.

James L. Kilgallen

James L. Kilgallen

Evers told him:

“What a cinch they have nowadays.  And look at the dough they get.  Today everything is hunky dory for the ballplayer who makes the big league grade.  Fine hotels.  Excellent grub.  Best trains.  Pullman accommodations.  Taxi’s to the ballparks.

“What a difference from the old days, why, do you know when I used to play with the Cubs we had to take a bath with the cows and the pigs in that old West Side ballpark in Chicago.  No needle shower baths for us in those days.”

Kilgallen said of the former Cubs second baseman:

“I found Evers an interesting personality.  He did not display any bitterness when he compared the game today with his time.  Rather there was a note of surprise in his conversation because of the fact he does not believe the players now in the major leagues appreciate the easy comforts they enjoy in these times and the sensational salaries they receive.

“Evers used to be a slim, nervous, crabby little player, full of the old fight when he was in his prime.  The National League never had a scrappier player and he can be pardoned for showing impatience for the ‘easy come easy go’ attitude of some of the players of today.  Evers, now a middle-aged man is still well-preserved.  He is heavier of course but he has no paunch.  The glint in his light blue eyes is not as combative as it used to be but the old, aggressive underslung jaw of his suggests there’s a lot of scrap left in the old boy yet.”

Johnny Evers

Johnny Evers

As for that “easy come easy go attitude” of current players, Evers said “With a tinge of asperity in his voice:”

“It used to be an honor to break into the big leagues.  Nowadays, however, a lot of fellows who are signed up take it as a matter of course.  They don’t seem to feel the pride in our uniforms that we used to in the old days.  Today they play for a big batting average, knowing that when they talk salaries it’s their batting average that governs their pay to a large extent.”

The man who co-authored a book with the subtitle “The Science of Baseball,” had something to say about that as well:

“And if I do say it myself, we played as good ball—if not better—than they do today.  We played more scientific ball, at any rate.”

In the end, the not “bitter” Evers was convinced that many of the players who followed in his footsteps just didn’t care that much about playing the game:

“A stool pigeon is just what a lot of fellows in uniform develop into.  This type sit on the bench month in and month out, and don’t seem to care whether they are in the lineup or not.  They’d have to keep me out of the lineup.  That’s the way we all used to be.  Fighters for our place on the team.”

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up other Things #12

3 Nov

The Cost of Superstitions, 1913

John Phalen “Stuffy” McInnis his .324 and drove in 90 runs for the 1913 Philadelphia Athletics, but the first baseman hit just .118—2 for 17—during the World Series.

Stuffy McInnis

Stuffy McInnis

The Washington Post told how one superstition among the athletics players might have contributed to McInnis’ slump:

“Those boys believe that they can change the luck at a crucial moment by hurling their bats in the air and letting them fall where they will.  Probably you fans have often seen them do it.  They also believe that they can keep up their good luck by continuing this practice.

“During the first game, in which (Frank “Home Run”) Baker hit a home run, the Athletics started tossing their bats the minute the ball was hit.  As the bats came down Stuffy McGinnis couldn’t get out of the way in time and one of them struck him in the ankle, causing a painful bruise.  He limped to first base and for a while (Connie) Mack was afraid he couldn’t go on with the game.”

Despite McInnis’ slump, the Athletics beat the Giants four games to one.

The Case against the Spitball, 1905

Baseball’s greatest pitcher hated the games most controversial pitch.  In 1905 Denton True “Cy” Young was quoted in The Sporting Life saying it wouldn’t be long before the pitch disappeared entirely:

“I don’t think the ‘spit ball’ is going to cut a much a figure as was thought early in the season.  Many of the pitchers that were using it at the start of the campaign have cut it now, and from now on the twirlers that use it will be dropping it one by one.  I used it against Philadelphia and Washington and had it working nicely, but it hurt my arm and I have cut it altogether.  An old pitcher like myself has no business using it at all.”

Cy Young

Cy Young

Young said the pitch injured his forearm and said he was not alone.  He claimed Jack Chesbro, George Mullin, (Guy) “Doc” White all received similar injuries.   And Washington’s Case Patten, who a year earlier so loved the pitch The St. Louis Republic said he was often “giving the ball a shower bath preparatory to flinging,” was now saying the pitch “lamed his arm.”

Young said even for those who weren’t injured, the spitter would ultimately lead to pitchers losing “control of his curve ball and his fast ones.”

While Chesbro disagreed with Young’s claim that his arm problems were the result of throwing spitballs, his effectiveness diminished greatly after the injury.

Young’s prediction of the demise of the pitch was premature.  At the time of his statement, Chicago White Sox pitcher “Big Ed” Walsh was perfecting the pitch, which he learned from teammate Elmer Stricklett—who had also been instrumental in Chesbro’s use of the spitter.   Walsh started throwing the spitball regularly in 1906.

Ed Walsh circa

Ed Walsh circa

A month before his death, on his 78th birthday and bed-ridden, Walsh remained an advocate for the pitch Cy Young detested.  He told a reporter for The Associated Press:

“I admire the pitchers today who throw the pitch.  Some people call ‘em cheaters.  They’re not.  They’re just guys doing everything they can to win.”

Wahoo Sam’s Scouting Report, 1914

Coming off of the New York Giants off-season world tour with the Chicago White Sox, the consensus opinion seemed to be that Giants Manager John McGraw did not make a mistake in signing Jim Thorpe, the world’s greatest all-around athlete, to a three-year contract worth–depending on the source—from $5,000 to $6,500 per season.  Many doubted Thorpe’s prospects after he hit just .143 in 19 games for the Giants in 1913.

Jim Thorpe

Jim Thorpe

But, not to worry, said McGraw:

“All Thorpe needed was every day action, instead of idleness, although of course sitting on the bench all summer gave him a chance to learn lots of things that will stand him in good stead later on.”

The baseball world generally agreed with McGraw’s assessment.

Hugh Fullerton predicted Thorpe would be “the most sensational baseball player of 1914.”

Damon Runyon declared Thorpe was “now a star.”

Gustave (G.W.) Axelson, Sports Editor of The Chicago Record-Herald, who traveled with the teams, said of Thorpe’s development during the trip:

“The fans in the United States will see an entirely different kind of player when Thorpe Lines up for the season. “

White Sox pitcher Joe Benz, who played against Thorpe on the tour, agreed saying Thorpe “improved greatly” and would be of “great assistance to the Giants,” in 1914.

But, “Wahoo” Sam Crawford, the Detroit Tigers outfielder who traveled with the tour as a member of the White Sox disagreed with all the glowing accounts of Thorpe’s progress.  The Detroit Times said:

“Thorpe’s speed is all that commends him, according to Sam.  He is not a particularly good fielder, and he cannot hit.  He is not a natural hitter at all, but he gives the bat a little upward chop as he swings at the ball in a way that Crawford never saw any man do before.

“Furthermore Thorpe doesn’t seem to have that baseball instinct that is so necessary for a big league player, say Crawford.  He is a very chesty fellow for a man who has yet to prove that he is of big league caliber, is the assertion made by Wahoo Sam.”

Sam Crawford

Sam Crawford

Crawford’s assessment was the most accurate.  Despite the fanfare that accompanied Thorpe’s return from the tour, Thorpe was never better than a mediocre outfielder (career .951 fielding percentage) and he hit just .252 over parts of nine major league seasons.

“The Story of the Story Fogel Wrote”

9 Jul

The day before Philadelphia Phillies president and owner Horace Fogel was banned from baseball by his fellow National League magnates, one of the witnesses in the case against him said Fogel was being “used” by the “instigator” of the story that appeared in The Chicago Evening Post, and contributed to the action taken by the National League.

The charge seemed to confirm a rumor that swirled around the Fogel case for months; that the Philadelphia Phillies owner was acting on behalf of Cubs owner Charles W. Murphy.

Under the headline, “The Story of the Story Fogel Wrote,” William S. Forman, sports editor of The Evening Post wrote:

“Charles W. Murphy authorized me to tell Fogel that Murphy had suggested writing the story.  On this representation Fogel wrote it and signed it.  He sent it to Murphy, who read it before I ever saw it.  It came to me from Murphy’s office; and if Murphy had not approved the story it never would have been published.  The man who is morally responsible for that article and the charges it contained is Murphy himself, and I have Fogel’s own word for it that he wrote it simply “to help Murphy fight his battles” with the National League.

“It is not the first time Murphy has made Fogel the goat.  Previously Murphy had sent me another article signed by Fogel and told me Fogel had writing it, and wanted it published…Months afterward I learned that Murphy himself had writing it and Fogel had merely signed it because he was requested to do so by the Cubs’ President.  It was a defense of Murphy who had been criticised…by a Chicago baseball writer.”

Charles Webb Murphy

Charles Webb Murphy

Murphy, who spent his entire National League career engaged in countless feuds with fellow owners, players, managers, umpires and writers, denied the charge and said Forman was motivated to tell the story as a result of one of Murphy’s other feuds, telling reporters:

“This is a lot of rubbish; why I hardly know this man Forman, but I can guess readily that his paper is sore because we let Frank Chance go.  His paper thinks that by pounding me it will make a hit with Chicago fans, but it will find it is mistaken.“

The Associated Press said the other league owners were not buying Murphy’s explanation:

“(I)t is claimed that every magnate expects charges will be brought against (Murphy) by President (Thomas) Lynch and he may go the way of Fogel if the test votes to date are any criterion.”

Despite the rumors and the “test votes,” Murphy said “the suggestion that charges will be brought against me is all rubbish.”

Murphy was correct.  Despite the evidence, and despite his ongoing feuds with the league president and at least half of the National League magnates, charges were never brought by the league.

Murphy had another feud-filled, stormy year in Chicago in 1913.  After the season The Associated Press said:

“For the first time since the problem of pushing Charles W. Murphy out of the National League received serious consideration there is smooth working machinery ready to grip the club president and move him to a seat beside Horace Fogel. “

While a deal was being made to get Murphy out of the National League, Damon Runyon said:

“We grant you that Charles Webb Murphy should be thrown out of baseball, if only to quiet the beating pulse, and lave the fevered brow of Chicago, but we do not go to be o’ nights with a dull anger smoldering in our in’ards and we do not get up o’ mornings low in mind and spirits and feeling that out existence is is blackened and posterity besmirched because Charles Webb Murphy is still around.  We know that when they throw him out, as they doubtless will throw him out, there will be someone else ready to take his place as official Bugaboo, for there must be a Bugaboo in baseball, else we might have no baseball.”

Eventually it was agreed that Charles Phelps Taft would purchase Webb’s interest in the Cubs, and he resigned as team president in February of 1914; although it was unclear just how much the sale netted him.  Murphy said he owned 53 percent of the team’s stock and that the sale was for more than $500,000.  Frank Chance, Mordecai Brown, and others claimed Murphy “Never owned more than fifteen or twenty percent of the club stock.”

But the transaction with Taft would not be the end of Murphy.

Murphy was still owned part of the Cubs’ West Side Grounds and Philadelphia’s Baker Bowl, home of the Phillies.  In addition it was reported at the close of the 1914 season that Murphy held a mortgage on the Cubs stock, and claimed to own a controlling interest in the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Chicago Examiner said:

“Charles W. Murphy, who everybody supposes was ‘kicked out’ of baseball last spring, is not out at all, but very much in…He practically admits it himself when he does not deny controlling Cub stock , and asserts that he may take over the Philadelphia club before long… (National League President John Tener) declared some months ago that Murphy was out of the National League, now admits that Murphy may own some stock that he does not know about.

“Murphy says openly that he is Tener’s landlord, meaning that Tener is a stockholder in the Phillies and that the Phillies owe Murphy plenty of rent for their grounds.”

The Examiner said Murphy was interfering with the negotiations to sell the Cubs to Charles Weeghman, and at the same time was owed a lump sum payment of more than $100,000 by the other Phillies investors; if the payment was not received “at the stated time Murphy will foreclose and take possession of the Phillies.”

In The Philadelphia Inquirer, Phillies President William F. Baker quickly denied Murphy’s assertion that the former Cubs owner was in a position to take possession of his ballclub and that Tener ever owned stock in the team:

“It is true that Murphy and Mr. Taft own the Philadelphia ballpark, which the club has leased for a long time. But that does not alter the fact that Murphy is in no way interested in the club’s affairs…I intend to call the attention of the National League to this matter for the purpose of stopping Murphy for all time.”

William F. Baker

William F. Baker

By late December of 1914 Murphy was finally out of the National League for good.

As for whether Murphy was forced of baseball or left of his own accord, several recent sources point to a self-serving article Murphy wrote in “Baseball Magazine” in 1919 as evidence that he was not forced out.  Murphy, while acknowledging that Tener “was not ‘crazy’ about me,” Murphy said:

“No force was required. Despite that fact I read every once in a while that I was forced out of baseball–knocked down the back steps, as it were, and kicked into the yards behind… I sold out to Mr. Charles P. Taft and without force, but for what every other thing of value is obtained–a price. Imagine a man being forced to take $500,000 for a baseball franchise.”

Given that the $500,000 figure, while repeated credulously in countless books and articles in the last 100 years, has never been confirmed (it’s fairly certain that most of Murphy’s stake in the Cubs strictly on paper and was, in fact, Taft money, making Chance and Brown’s speculation on the value more realistic), and that Murphy conveniently left out his attempts to insert himself in the operations of two team the year after “no force was required” to remove him from the game, his protestations should be taken at face value.  Although he retained his interest in the Baker Bowl, he was never actively involved in the operations of a team again.

Murphy, who started his professional life as a sportswriter (for Taft’s Cincinnati Enquirer), managed to remain involved in baseball by writing articles about the game for “Baseball Magazine,” many, like the one quoted above, focused on restoring his reputation.

Murphy returned to Wilmington, Ohio where he financed the construction of the Murphy Theater, a landmark that still stands.  He eventually returned to Chicago where he died in 1931.  The Associated Press said he left “An estate estimated at nearly $3,000,000,” his stake in the Baker Bowl and the ownership of the theater being his largest assets.

Murphy made one last pitch to get back in the game–next week.

The National League versus Horace Fogel

8 Jul

In 1912 Horace Fogel, president and owner of the Philadelphia Phillies and umpire William Thomas “Bill” Brennan were at the center of baseball’s biggest controversy: Fogel  accused Brennan and others with favoring the pennant winning New York Giants.

Fogel first suggested that St. Louis manager Roger Bresnahan was “pulling for” New York after the Giants won two of three games from the sixth place Cardinals in August.

Less than a month later Fogel would turn his attention to the umpires, and National League President Thomas Lynch.  Fogel was not a fan of the league president to begin with; the previous December The New York Times said that Fogel had been coerced by Cincinnati Reds owner August Herrmann into supporting Lynch’s reelection at the league meeting in New York:

“It was reported about the Waldorf yesterday that… (Chicago Cubs President Charles) Murphy and Fogel would not vote against Mr. Lynch because President Herrmann had in his possession a letter which was sent to him by mistake from Fogel, when it should have been sent to Murphy.  Mr. Fogel, it seems, put Mr. Murphy’s letter in the envelope addressed to Mr. Herrmann.  It is said to contain something important about the relations of the Philadelphia and Chicago clubs.”

Horace Fogel

Horace Fogel

On September 7 Fogel wrote a letter to Lynch attacking the league’s umpires in general and Brennan specifically, and  according to The Philadelphia Inquirer “hinting that Lynch had some influence in their poor officiating.”

A week later an article, said to be authored by Fogel, appeared in The Chicago Evening Post that repeated the charges made in the letter to Lynch.  Fogel also sent Herrmann a telegram telling the Reds owner he felt the National League pennant race was “crooked.”

Brennan was the first umpire to respond.  He sent a letter to the National Baseball Commission on September 30 demanding an apology from Fogel for impugning “the impartiality of National League umpires.”

Fogel repeated his accusations again in letters sent the following week to the seven other National League team presidents, and promised to “make startling disclosures.”

On October 17 The Associated Press said his counterparts voted to “formally draw up charges against President Fogel of the Philadelphia club for his remarks reflecting on the integrity of National League umpires.”

Brennan told reporters that he would be filing a libel suit against the Phillies owner.

William "Bill" Brennan

William “Bill” Brennan

A hearing was scheduled for November 26.  President Lynch said:

“If the charges can be proved, then the umpires in question should be blacklisted and the president of the league should step down in disgrace.  If the charges are not true, some step should be taken to see that this man no longer represents a club in the National League.”

Fogel responded:

“I probably will begin an action for criminal libel against (Lynch) at an early date.  I have retained Hughey Jennings (the Tiger manager was also an attorney in Scranton, PA) as one of my lawyers, and I intend to have several of the best men in Philadelphia.”

As the members of the National League executive committee gathered at New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel to determine whether he should be expelled from the league, the Philadelphia magnate attempted and end run; he announced that he had relinquished day-to-day operations of the team VP Albert D. Wiler.  By doing so Fogel’s attorney (Jennings did not represent him at the hearing) claimed the league “had no right to try Fogel, as he was no longer an officer of the National League.”

The proceedings went forward with Fogel facing seven specific charges:

  1.  The accusation against Bresnahan

  2. An allegation that he told reporters on September 5 that the pennant race was fixed.

  3. The letter to Lynch attacking the umpires and hinting that Lynch was influencing their decisions.

  4. The article in The Chicago Evening Post repeating the charges made in the letter to Lynch.

  5. The telegram to Herrmann.

  6. The letters to the other seven club presidents.

  7. The allegations Fogel made both publicly and privately, about Brennan.

The Philadelphia Inquirer said:

“Fogel denied charges one and two and maintains that charge three was a privileged letter and not for publication.  While he did not actually deny writing the article that appeared in The Chicago Evening Post, he declared that the statement was not authorized and said it must have been misinterpreted.  He said he simply wanted to see reforms made and was not attacking anybody or anything in connection with baseball.  He denied outright the charges that he had said anything derogatory to umpire Brennan and claims privilege of the letters and telegrams.”

Besides Fogel,  three New York reporters testified that Fogel made the statements attributed to him in the press, while “Fogel had a flock of Philadelphia scribes who politely but forcibly insisted the New York men were romancing.”

After a six-hour hearing over two days the committee unanimously found Fogel guilty of five of the charges (the letter to Lynch and telegram to Herrmann were deemed privileged and those counts were dismissed).  The League ruled that Fogel was “forever excluded from participation,” in the National League.

The Inquirer said:

“Mr. Fogel had no sooner read the decision than he countered it with a defiant statement.  Before the meetings began he had expected such a decision, he declared.  ‘The jury was packed against us, ‘he asserted, and he practically told the magnates who had expelled him from their councils that he would pay no attention to their findings.”

Fogel did have his defenders, author, and Heart Newspaper correspondent,  Damon Runyon said:

“As we understand the matter, Horace Fogel has been found guilty of  conversation in the first degree.”

Damon Runyon, supported Fogel

Damon Runyon, supported Fogel

Fogel’s defiance and threats against Lynch, the league, and the magnates who had ousted him.  The Chicago Evening Post reported in February of 1913 that Fogel “has accepted an offer of $10,000 to write a series of articles in which he will later attempt to prove that baseball is a crooked game.”

Instead he launched a magazine, rumored to be funded by Charles Phelps Taft, brother of the President, who had bankrolled Fogel’s initial purchase of the Phillies. “Baseball Weekly” began publication in  March, 1913, and over the course of the next several months set out to discredit the game, focusing on two points, which had been and would continue to be the major criticisms of organized baseball.

Fogel railed against the reserve clause, calling it “virtual baseball slavery,” and argued that organized baseball violated the Sherman Antitrust Act,  earning him the June 1913 cover of rival  “Baseball Magazine,” and the title, “The Man who is Trying to Wreck Baseball.”

Fogel would remain a baseball gadfly for the next decade.  Took ill in the early 20s and died in Philadelphia in 1928.

June 1913 edition of "Baseball Magazine"

June 1913 edition of “Baseball Magazine”

His interest in the team was purchased by a group led by William H. Locke, former secretary of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  When Locke died in October of 1913, his uncle, former New York Police Commissioner William Baker took control of the Phillies, leading the team until his death in 1930.

Brennan announced after Fogel was banned that he would drop his proposed $10,000 libel suit, telling The Associated Press:

“I am satisfied, I immediately demanded a hearing before the National League heads and Fogel’s trial was brought about as a result of my demands.”

Later this week; an allegation that Fogel was a patsy, and umpire Brennan’s other battle in the City of Brotherly Love.