Tag Archives: Dave Foutz

Comiskey’s “Sandusky Terror”

15 Sep

In February of 1899 The Chicago Inter Ocean said of Charles Comiskey, then owner of the Western League’s St. Paul Saints:

“It is also proper to state that C. Comiskey is, all things considered, the greatest story teller in this profession.”

Charles Comiskey

Charles Comiskey

The paper then related one of Comiskey’s favorite stories, told during that winter’s Western League meeting:

“’Speaking of ballplayers and their ways,’ he began, ‘did I ever tell you about my efforts to make a pitcher of the ‘Sandusky Terror?’  It happened while I was managing the old St. Louis Browns… It was in the early spring and I was in St. Louis waiting for my men to report for preliminary training.  (Browns owner Chris) von der Ahe had trouble in signing his star pitcher (Dave Foutz) that year, and when I looked over the list I found that I needed twirlers and needed them badly.  I told my troubles to Chris and he did his best to cheer me up.  He told me, among other things, that he had sent a railroad ticket to a young farmer who lived near Sandusky, and from all accounts was a wonder.  I didn’t enthuse, for I had had previous experience with these rustic phenomenons , but Chris said that a friend of his in Sandusky had bet him a case of champagne that the boy would prove a grand find.’

Chris von der Ahe

Chris von der Ahe

“’Next morning the boy from Sandusky showed up at the ballpark.  He was one of the biggest and strongest chaps I ever met in or out of baseball.  What is more, he had a pitching arm of tremendous powers, and after he passed the ball to me five minutes I saw that he had a world of speed and for a raw amateur, very fair control of the ball.’

“’Well, we started on a little training trip down South, and as a matter of course I took the boy with us.  His terrific speed and his willingness to learn made him popular with the members of the team, and they spent hours in catching him.  A week passed and I really began to think I had discovered the pitching star of the year.  Things went well until we struck Mobile..  When we drove up the hotel a fairly good looking woman of 30 or thereabouts walked up the bus and caught my Sandusky wonder by the arm.’

“’William,’ she said, ‘I want to have a serious talk with you.’

“’They strolled down the street arm in arm while the other players lounged around the hotel wondering what it all meant.  Half an hour later the couple returned.  The girl went into the parlor, but the young fellow called me to one side.’

“’Captain,’ he said, ‘I have gone and done it.’

“’Done what?’ I asked.’

“’Married Louisa,’ he answered.  ‘You see, she came all the way from Sandusky to teach school down in this part of the country, an’ she says she’s lonesome like an’ that playin’ ball for wages don’t suit her views.  Me an’ she kinder liked each other when she lived up in Sandusky an’ we’ve been writin’ letters to each other ever since she left home.  That’s how she knew I was with your club.  Captain, I guess that’s all, exceptin’ here’s the 60 cents I borrowed from you yesterday.  Louisa says I musn’t quit you owin’ a cent, and she gave me the money to hand to you.’

“’You don’t mean to say you’re going to quit the team,’ I gasped.  ‘Why, we will make a pitcher of you and pay you good wages while you are developing.’

“’That’s just it,’ he answered.  Louisa says I musn’t play for money.  Says her uncle, who is a preacher in the village, insists that it is wrong to do it.  Come in and ask Louis if I am not tellin’ you the truth.’

“’Well, I spent an even half hour in trying to induce that woman to change her mind, but she wouldn’t.  She said she had decided to make a lawyer out of her husband and that they would live on the money she earned teaching school until he was admitted to the bar.  Then she took her youthful husband away from the hotel and that was the last we ever laid eyes on the pair.  Later in the day I made a little investigation on my own account and found that the woman, who by the way, was at least ten years older than her new husband, had taken the boy straight to the parsonage and married him before he had been in the town twenty minutes.  I don’t know whatever became of the pair, but I believe to this very day that if the ‘Sandusky Terror,’ as the players nicknamed him, had gone back to St. Louis with the team he would have developed into another (Amos) Rusie.  I have never forgiven that pretty school teacher for making him jump our club, and, what’s more, I never will.’”

“The Game was not Exactly ‘On the Square’”

21 Mar

After the 1886 season, Jim Hart brought a team composed of members of his Louisville Colonels and other American Association players west.  The team played their way out towards California, winning twenty games against minor league, semi-pro and “picked nines.”

Jim Hart

Jim Hart

They finally lost their first game of the tour in San Francisco on December 26 to the Haverlys of the California League.  Dave Foutz, who had won 41 games for the champion St. Louis Browns pitched for Hart’s club.  Foutz allowed three runs on four hits in the first inning then shut out San Francisco on one hit the rest of the way, but Pete Meegan of the Haverlys held the American Association players to just two runs.

Pete Meegan

Pete Meegan

The San Francisco Morning Call said that Foutz who was “rather superstitious” and tried to “have a lemon in his possession whenever he steps on the diamond,” attributed the loss to the fact that the he had purchased a lemon “but was careless and did not put it in the pocket of his uniform.”

After the loss, Hart’s team defeated every California League team, including a Foutz one-hitter against the San Francisco Pioneers.

Dave Foutz

Dave Foutz

On January 23, with some of his players injured, Hart added three local players to his roster for a game with a “picked nine’ of local players in Alameda.  The game was tied 4 to 4 after seven innings, but Foutz gave up two in the seventh and four in the eighth and lost 10 to 4. The San Francisco Chronicle said:

“A large crowd was in attendance at the Alameda Baseball Grounds yesterday to witness the game between the Louisvilles and a picked nine of California players… the impression of many of the spectators was that the game was not exactly ‘on the square’…The cause of suspicion was as to the fairness of the game was caused by the appearance among the spectators of men well known at baseball games offering large odds against the Louisvilles.  At about the seventh inning these men were offering odds of twenty to one against a team that has hitherto been almost invincible.”

The Morning Call headline said simply:

“Hippodrome!”

There was no doubt, said the paper, that the game had been “pre-arranged” and “made up for the picked nine to win.”

In St. Louis there was more concern that Foutz had “broken down,” having given up fourteen hits rather than speculation that he might have thrown a game.  The Globe-Democrat said:

“Regarding the reported break down of Foutz in California… (Manager Charles) Comiskey received a letter from Foutz in which he denied that he had broken down, and said he was as good as ever.”

No one reported whether the pitcher had carried a lemon into the contest.

The evidence of a fix consisted of the activity of the gamblers, Foutz’ performance in the seventh nd eight innings, and an alleged conversation between Louisville’s second baseman Joseph “Reddy” Mack and Ed Morris the pitcher for the “picked nine.” Discussing how the result of the lightly attended game would improve attendance at the next game Louisville was scheduled to play in Alameda two days later.

reddymack

Reddy Mack

Jim Hart was indignant and wrote letters to West Coast papers denying that anyone on his team could have been involved:

“I wish to say that I have made the fullest and most searching investigation and can find no foundation for the charges.  Not one of my men wagered a dime.”

Hart blamed the loss on the “weakened condition” of his team and noted that three local players filled in with his squad for the game.  The players he “brought out here all enjoy national reputations, and they could not afford to hazard their good names for the small amount of gain there would be for them.”

In another letter, written to The Sporting Life, Hart attacked the credibility of the unnamed writer of the article in The Morning Call:

“(I)t was not much of a surprise to in the issue of a sensational morning journal last Monday the flaming headline ‘Hippodrome!’  The journal referred to, I understand, instructs its reporters and correspondents in the following language—‘Make your articles sensational even at the expense of the truth,’ and the young man who wrote the article under the above referred-to head line was evidently closely following instructions…What the young man who wrote the article don’t [sic] know about baseball would make a very large book.”

Hart went on to detail his additional complaints with “the young man” from The Morning Call, but as with his letters to West Coast newspapers, he never addressed the allegations regarding the abrupt changes in the odds offered on the game, and instead of asserting that “Not one of my men wagered a dime,” as he said in the earlier letters, the letter in The Sporting Life said:

“I have investigated the whole matter religiously, and if any of the boys were implicated in any way, they are too smart for me to find out.”

The California League conducted the only official” investigation into the allegations; that inquiry was limited to determining if any of their players were involved in any wrongdoing and according to The Chronicle, simply determined that no California League players “had anything to do with it or were cognizant of it,” and made no statement regarding whether there was evidence of a fixed game.

The Chronicle evidently didn’t think the case was closed and said:

“If Foutz, Mack or (Hubert) Hub Collins expect to come out here again, they must arise and explain to the entire satisfaction” of the league president.

The Louisville team wrapped up the tour in early February; Hart resigned his position and relinquished his interest in the team in order to take over the operation of the Milwaukee Cream Citys in the Northwestern League.  Mack and Collins returned to Louisville, Foutz headed to St. Louis and another 19th Century allegation of dishonest play disappeared into the ether.