Tag Archives: Dave Altizer

“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

“What Right has Hanlon to Show me How to Hit?”

23 Jun

How are hitters created?  Bozeman Bulger of The New York Evening World attempted to answer the question, and described the hitting styles of some of the game’s biggest stars in 1906:

“Batting is a natural gift and to be a success the player must be allowed to swing the willow in his own sweet way.”

Bulger said John McGraw who “For nine years…had a batting average of .330” (actually .346 from 1893 to 1901) was asked his secret:

“Don’t know, I simply used my eye and my arms and figured it out.”

When McGraw played for the Baltimore Orioles, Manager Ned Hanlon tried to show him “how to hit (and) on one occasion he corrected him sharply.”  McGraw said:

“That set me to thinking, and I went to my room and dug up a lot of old records.  In these I saw that Hanlon had never hit as good as .300, that is for a period of two or three seasons (Hanlon hit .302 in 1885) while I had been hitting over .300 right along.  Therefore, I asked myself ‘what right has Hanlon to show me how to hit?’”

Ned Hanlon

Ned Hanlon

Bulger said

“In the past few years Yale and Harvard and Princeton and other colleges have employed coaches to teach them how to hit.  The experiment was futile, and no hitters were developed that did not already possess the gift.

“Take the great batters of to-day and you will find that no two of them stand at the plate alike.  Long since astute managers have found that it is a useless waste of time to attempt a correction of habits easily acquired.  To be successful a ball player must do everything in a perfectly natural manner.  This is paramount in batting.”

Bulger then wrote about the “peculiarities” of some contemporary hitters:

Sam Mertes of the Giants invariably pulls his left foot back as he swings at the ball.  Mertes also crouches with somewhat of a forward lean and keeps his feet wide apart.

Roger Bresnahan and Mike Donlin, two of the greatest hitters in the world, are what are called vicious swingers.  Bresnahan has absolutely no fear.  He never thinks of being hit, but runs squarely into the ball, and when he plants his bat squarely against it a scorching line drive follows.  Nobody hits a ball with more force than Bresnahan.

“Donlin stands with his feet about one foot apart and usually holds the bat perfectly rigid at his waist, slanting at an angle of about 45 degrees.  He can either ‘chop’ or swing hard with the same degree of accuracy.  Donlin is said to be the greatest natural hitter in the business.  He says he has no idea how he does it.

George Stone, one of the most remarkable batters of the age, has a (boxer Jim) Jeffries  crouch at bat which has caused experienced baseball managers to say George wouldn’t last as soon as the pitchers got next to him.  Stone puts a terrific amount of weight into one of his blows, swinging with his shoulders and smashing a line with fearful force.

George Stone

George Stone

“His position has been termed awkward, inelegant, and not conducive to good hitting, but Stone to-day leads the American League with a better average than the great (Napoleon) Lajoie.

“Larry is the personification of grace and elegance at bat.  He has that careless indifferent method which attracts, is devoid of nervousness but active and alert.  Infielders will tell you that there is a force in the balls smashed by Lajoie which makes them unpleasant to handle.  Lajoie is the finished artist.

“His great rival in the National League Honus Wagner is just the opposite.  Hans grabs his stick at the end, holds it high about his shoulders, and when he swings his legs are spread from one end of the batter’s box to the other.  Wagner is awkward standing almost straight and goes after outcurves and drops with equal avidity.  Hans often reaches to the far outside of the plate for a low outcurve and plants it into right center field.

Charlie Hickman stands at the outer edge of the box and swings with his body and shoulders His fondness for the balls on the outside of the pan are known to opposing pitchers.  Lave Cross puts his two feet into the angle of the batter’s box nearest the catcher, while (Dave) Altizer usually spreads out, varying this position with a crouching posture, from which he runs up on a ball.”

Dave Altizer

4 Apr

David Tilden Altizer did not begin playing professional baseball until 1902 when he was 25; he made his debut with the Washington Senators four years later.  A member of the US Army, he was in China for the Boxer Rebellion and the Philippines during the Spanish-American War; he began playing baseball while in the service.

Most recent mentions of Altizer list his nickname as “Filipino,” but while his service was often mentioned, this nickname is rarely found in contemporaneous stories; rather he regularly referred to by the nickname “daredevil.”

Dave Altizer 1909

Dave Altizer 1909

Altizer was one of the more colorful figures of his era and made good copy, but many of the stories have been lost for years.  Here are a few:

In 1910 Altizer was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds from the Minneapolis Millers of the American Association.  Unaware he had been drafted; Altizer went to Chicago at the close of the millers’ season and disappeared.  The Associated Press said he thus became “the only ballplayer who has been ‘found’ with a newspaper want ad.”

The story said Reds manager Clark Griffith, unable to find Altizer, contacted “Nixey” Callahan, who was playing in Chicago’s City League, and asked him to put an ad in Chicago newspapers to find Altizer.

“This was done and in the early hours of the morning some unknown person called Callahan and gave him Dave’s number.”

Altizer appeared in three games for the Reds after he was located; he had six hits in 10 at bats, walked three times and scored three runs.

Altizer had been the starting  shortstop for the Senators in 1907.  In December The Pittsburgh Press ran a wire service story from Washington under the headline “Dave Altizer is Dead Broke:”

“Dave Altizer, the most popular player on the local team, recently fell victim to a pickpocket, and was relieved of his year’s savings.”

The story said Altizer, alarmed by the “financial stringency (the Panic of 1907)…has carried his savings on his person, not wanting to take any chances of having them tied up in a bank.”

Altizer went to sleep in a Pullman car on a train to California with “$1,475 in large bills” in his vest pocket and discovered when he awoke that the money was gone.  It was never reported if the money was recovered of if the thief was caught.

Altizer with Washington

Altizer with Washington

Gabby Street claimed he saw Altizer do the dumbest thing he had seen in a game, and “topped (Fred) Merkle,” while they were teammates in Washington:

“St. Louis had us beat, 3 to 2, and there were two outs in the ninth.”

Altizer was batting with two strikes and runners on second and third.

“The next strike came over and (umpire John) Sheridan called it a strike.  The ball whizzed right through (Tubby) Spencer’s mitt and bounded up against the grandstand and shot off at an angle, while the chubby Spencer pursued it.  Both of the Washington runners on the bases scored easily.

“But all the time Altizer refused to leave the plate.  He was in a hot argument with Sheridan and insisted the ball wasn’t over the plate and was two feet wide.  In the meantime Spencer got the ball.  There was no chance to get either of the runners at the plate, but he fired to first and retired Altizer.  It made the last out of the game and Altizer’s failure to run cost us the two runs and lost the game for Washington.  And they talked about Merkle.”

Gabby Street

Gabby Street

After Altizer finished his Major League career with the Reds in 1911, he returned to Minneapolis where he played until 1918.  He played and managed two more seasons with the Madison Grays in the South Dakota and Dakota Leagues, before retiring from baseball at age 44.  He died in Pleasant Hill, Illinois in 1964 at age 87.