Tag Archives: Detroit Tigers

“So, Great Buck Ewing is Dead”

21 Aug

“So, great Buck Ewing is dead.”

That was Sam Thompson’s reaction when told by The Detroit News that Ewing had died at age 47.

Ewing was less than five months older than Thompson, who had come out of retirement to play in eight games for the Tigers just two months earlier.

“They’re slipping away, aren’t they, those fine old fellows who by their head work and lovable natures made the game what it is today! It was such men as Ewing, (Tim) Keefe, (Roger) Connor and a score of others who inspired me.”

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Ewing

Although roughly the same age, Ewing was in the major leagues for five seasons before Thompson made his debut:

“As a boy I used to read of the great Ewing, and I set him up as my ideal. He and Connor were always my idols.  Later, when I began to play in the big leagues and (later) went to Philadelphia, I roomed with Roger (in 1892), my acquaintance with—while it in no way lessened my regard for him—sort of pulled him from the pedestal. Ewing, however, I never became so closely attached to, and there was always the baseball idol worship about the man for me.”

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Thompson

Thompson said when he did interact with Ewing, it added “to this setting him higher as the ideal” of a baseball player:

“He was such a whole-souled, lovable chap. His wonderful work on the diamond in no way affected his disposition. He was always modest and retiring.”

And he said:

“There never lived a greater catcher or all -around ballplayer.

“Mike Kelly? Well, Kelly was a grand ballplayer all right, but he was the cunning player, the fellow with startling tricks. Ewing, on the other hand, was the thinker, the deep student of the game. His was the inside game. No player ever lived who could play the same kind of game that Kelly put up, but Ewing was of the different type. He was the more consistent thinker.”

Thompson said he believed Ewing was “the first catcher to get the infield signaling down t anything like a system,” and:

“He was the pioneer of present-day headwork behind the bat. He always had us hugging the bases. He devised tricks that are now common in baseball. They were figured out long before the game started. Kelly’s greatness, on the other hand, lay in his marvelous ability to grasp a situation quicker than lightning.”

He said when he played “with the old Detroit team we used to anxiously await who going to catch,” for the Giants:

“If it was (William ‘California’) Brown there was a sigh of relief. Not that we were belittling the work of Brown; it was simply that Ewing was so much better. He dazzled us. He had the infield under his control all the time. He had tricks of pulling us off the sacks that were new and we did not know what to do. That old Detroit bunch could win with Brown catching almost any day in the week, but with Ewing it was different.”

One man was responsible for New York’s success:

“It was Buck Ewing who won all those championships for the old Giants.

“Tim Keefe stood out as a wonderful pitcher. It was Keefe and Ewing. That old battery was the talk of the country.

“And yet Tim Keefe told me time and again, when they were at their best, that without Buck Ewing he would be no better than any other fairly good pitcher.

“’It’s all Buck,’ he would say, ‘he’s the boy who steadies me and gets the work done.”

Thompson’s first major league game—July 2, 1885–was against the Giants, with Keefe on the mound (although he misremembered Ewing being behind the plate that day—it was Pat Deasley):

“I don’t recall whether I did anything in the game (Thompson replaced Gene Moriarty in right field after the latter was in the 5th inning, he was 1 for 2 and scored a run) but I do remember we won. We beat the Giants 4 to 0.

“That victory did more for me among the players than any one thing. They called me their mascot. New York had been beating them right along.”

 

Thompson said when he left the Phillies in 1898, he nearly played for Ewing:

“I had left Philadelphia and had decided to give up the game. Ewing was then managing the Reds and wrote me asking if I would come to Cincinnati. He said he thought he could put through a deal whereby I could sign up all right.

“I was sorely tempted, as I had always wanted to play in Cincinnati. I had always been given a good reception there and had played some of my best games there.

“I didn’t accept, however. I thought that I might not do as well as I had, and I didn’t want to show poorly after all the good work I had done in that city.”

“He’d Deliberately do Something to Rile a Hostile Crowd”

9 Aug

Edgar Munzel covered baseball for Chicago Newspapers from 1929 until 1973; he, along with Gordon Cobbledick, from The Cleveland Plain Dealer, received The J.G. Taylor Spink award in 1977.

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Munzel

While writing for The Chicago Sun in 1943, Munzel was in a French Lick, Indiana hotel, “seated in a circle on lobby chairs.” With Harry Heilmann, then a Tigers broadcaster, Jimmie Wilson and Kiki Cuyler, Cubs manager and coach, and Tigers pitcher Dizzy Trout.

Munzel said Trout was there “only as a sideline agitator to keep Heilmann in a reminiscent vein,” while the three former players told stories about players fighting with fans after Wilson said how a group of soldiers in the stands “were really on me, Must’ve been from Philadelphia.”

Wilson said:

“Boy, how they used to give it to you there, even when you were the home team. Did you ever have them hollering at you Harry?”

Heilmann said:

“I’ll never forget those Philadelphia fans as long as I live…Ty Cobb had injured his hand in a fight with some butcher in Detroit and I had to play centerfield for the Tigers. Well, those Philly fans had paid to see Cobb and they took it out on me—called me every variety of busher they could think of.”

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Heilmann

Wilson, a Philadelphia native who spent 11 seasons with the Phillies, said the city’s fans loved watching Cobb play the Athletics:

“I think they got half their enjoyment trying to get him mad. I still remember watching a game as a kid when Cobb got so hot, he charged right into the stands and challenged everybody.”

Heilmann, who played with and for Cobb, said:

“(He) was always doing something and quite often it was with an eye towards the gate. He actually considered it a personal affront if only a few thousand turned out and he’d deliberately do something to rile a hostile crowd on the road so the next day there’s be 40,000.”

He said is Boston, Cobb “threw a bat at Carl Mays’ head

“He did it in his usual clever way. Mays always looked at the ground during his one point in his underhanded delivery just before he let go of the ball. Cobb started heading for the pitcher’s mound just at the split-second Mays turned his eyes toward the ground. Thus, he was able to take a half dozen steps forward before Mays looked up again. By that time, he had let fly with the bat and it missed Mays’ head by inches.

“That day we had to have a police escort get us out of the park.”

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Cobb

Heilmann recalled a fight he participated in:

“(O)ne day a couple guys in the stands were giving us a brutal riding. Right after the game Cobb charged after one of them underneath the stands and I was right behind him.

“He swung at his man and I tried to reach over his shoulder at the other fellow. But it turned out our two annoyers were just a small part of a gang of about a dozen. What a going over they gave us. We wore adhesive from head to foot when it was over. But I always remember when they knocked Cobb down, he tackled his man around the legs as he was falling. He hauled him down with him and battled there underneath the pile, oblivious of everything else going on around him. He had the man he was after.”

Wilson said when he was managing the Phillies, he “got my man once, too.”

He said he had “been telling my players all year,” to ignore the heckling from their hometown fans:

“But there was one particularly obnoxious guy one day and I walked out towards the stands to bark back at him after the game. And when I did, he leaned over the railing and spit in my face.

“That infuriated me, so I ran into the stands and grabbed him by the lapels.”

But, Wilson said, he took pity on the man and let him go, despite fans “hollering for me to ‘let him have it.’”

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Wilson

Cuyler then told the story of the “funniest thing” he recalled about a player fighting a fan:

“(It) happened to Hack Wilson in Wrigley Field. Somebody was riding him unmercifully one day from a front row box. Hack went over to the grandstand rail at that point and put his legs up to climb over and –wham—the heckler knocked him back onto the field. Hack tried it again but before he could get his short legs over, he was smacked down once more. I think it happened a third time before somebody hauled the befuddled Hack away.”

“There is a Game on Every Sandlot Nearly Every day”

29 Jul

Like Edgar Forrest Wolfe (Jim Nasium) two years later, Joe S. Jackson, baseball writer for The Detroit Free Press, “discovered” quality baseball in Cuba.

Reporting from Havana in November of 1909 he wrote:

“(T)he Cuban baseballist probably has something on the big leaguer of the states. The game is in its infancy here, and the gravy is the players. Those promoting the game are doing very nicely, thank you, but the home-grown players are the big winners.”

Jackson said native Cuban players had not adopted the “oratory” of American players that they were, “slaves ‘bought and sold and paid just what they want to give us.’”

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Joe S. Jackson

Jackson said, “in cold hard figures,” Cuban players were receiving “three times as much out of the game as the man who backs it.”

He said the Cuban fans had a decided preference for native born players which explained why:

“Almendares, which finished second in the championship race last season, still have a much greater following of fans than Havana, which has several American players, and which last year (1908) was piloted to the pennant by (Rip) Hagerman, who was with the Chicago Cubs this past summer.”

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Rip Hagerman

While still in its “infancy,” baseball had taken over the island, said Jackson:

“There is a game on every sandlot nearly every day, and even the roustabouts on the Havana docks toss a sphere about in their idle time.”

However, Jackson said native players with the necessary skills were not yet plentiful; Jackson felt native Cubans were not encouraged to excel, and used the island’s other major sport as an example:

“The (jai-alai) court (in Havana) keeps nearly 30 professionals on its payroll, and salaries of the stars range from $600 to $800 a month, for an eight months’ season. While ordinary players draw from $300 to $400 per month. Still there isn’t a Cuban on the roster. All of the players are brought from Spain.”

Jackson said Cuban baseball was lucrative for players because:

“As yet the Cuban managers haven’t come to the regular baseball idea of handing their men so much a month and clinging to the big end. Their baseball, in its business in still in process of evolution. In effect, it is the old scheme of match games with winners and losers’ ends of a purse.”

Jackson explained the business end of the Cuban system:

“There is but one baseball park in Havana enclosed and having regular stands. Eugenio Jimenez controls this. All league games are played on this lot. He handles the tickets and takes care of all the business details. When the money is counted up, 25 percent of the gross goes to Mr. Jimenez for use of the field. There is a slight amount of money, something like $100, to be taken out for certain fixed charges like license fee etc., which do not come under regular operating expenses. Barring this slight sum, 75 percent left after the park manager takes his is divided between the players. The team that wins takes 60 percent and the loser gets 40.”

The pitcher and catcher were paid slightly more than the rest of the team, dividing one extra share of the total between them.

It was, said Jackson, “customary to Grand Opera the prices,” of tickets when major leaguers were barnstorming in Cuba:

“In the series such as the Detroit club is now playing in Cuba, it is necessary of course, to depart a little from the methods obtaining during the Cuban league season. Detroit has to be paid for its work, and the expenses of bringing the club to Havana and of maintaining it while here, are pretty stiff.”

The Cuban clubs agreed to take the usual losers share, 40 percent, for the games with the Tigers:

“In the first Sunday game played here for instance, the receipts were $6,310. They would have been bigger had Almendares been Detroit’s opponent, or had (George) Mullin, whom the natives were most anxious to see, been slated to pitch. After Mr. Jimenez took out the 25 percent…the Havana team’s 40 percent of the balance amounted to $1,851.66…each Cuban got $162.30. The lowest money yet split, that being by Havana on a Thursday afternoon, was about $40 to the players and $60 to the battery.”

Jackson said there was always a large police presence at the games in Havana, “a patrol wagon, backed up to the fence near the bench, has a tendency to restrain from any undue hilarity.”

He told a story about a game in 1908:

“One-time last season three Cuban players in a league game took exception to an umpire’s rulings, and left the field, subs being used to complete the contest.”

Havana had a “censor of amusements” who oversaw all behavior in public venues:

“Before the three men left the clubhouse (the censor) had them arrested. All were sent to the bastille, and next morning a judge who agreed with the censor—later maintaining that the public had paid to see these certain players perform, and had been disappointed  and deprived of the value of their money by the withdrawal—sent the three players to jail for five days each. They don’t leave the field anymore unless they are carried off for removal to a hospital.”

The police, he said, would remove a player “in the patrol wagon” and he would be fined if he left a game, and “They don’t stand for any disorder, either on the part of a player or the populace.”

The Tigers lost eight of their 12 games on the Cuba trip, Jackson said major league teams learned a valuable lesson:

“The Tigers trip was sufficient to impress on American ballplayers the fact that they cannot go down with patched-up teams and walk through games to victory. The Cubans can field, throw and run, have good pitchers and are always in shape.”

Lost Advertisements: Lil Stoner for Mail Pouch

21 Jun

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A 1928 advertisement for Mail Pouch Tobacco featuring Detroit Tigers pitcher Ulysses Simpson Grant “Lil” Stoner:

“Mail Pouch can be chewed all day long without causing a sign of heartburn.”

The following season–Stoner’s final with the Tigers–The Detroit Free Press determined that the pitcher was “jinx” for certain teammates:

“It shall be the fate of those who room with Lil Stoner to trek back over the trail of the minors.”

The paper said “nothing can save,” the players fated to have roomed with Stoner during his time with Detroit:

“King ‘Jinx’ speaks and his word is law. To be a ‘roomie’ of Stoner voluntarily is the next thing to suicide.”

The Free Press said the most recent victim of the  “jinx” was Al “Red” Wingo, who was sold to the San Francisco Seals after rooming with Stoner in 1928:

“Before ‘Red’ were (Johnny) Bassler, (Josh) Billings, (Jess) Doyle, (Clyde) Barfoot, (Les) Burke, and Rufus Clark.”

Bassler was released and joined the Hollywood Stars in the Pacific Coast League (PCL) after rooming with Stoner in 1927. Billings was sent to Reading Keytones in the American Association while rooming with Stoner in 1927. Stoner and Doyle were also roommates in 1927 when the latter was sent to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the International League, Barfoot suffered the same fate in 1926–he was released by the Tigers while rooming with Stoner and joined the Mission Bells in the PCL; Stoner’s final roommate in 1926 was Burke, who was released after the season and went to Toronto.  Clark roomed with Stoner in 1924 before being released to the Birmingham Barons in the Southern Association.

The paper suggested:

“Were Babe Ruth a roommate of Stoner he would contrive some way to break his neck. The jinx is more certain than death and taxes, and the only way to stop it is to shoot Stoner or lose him in the desert.”

The solution, according to The Free Press was to room Stoner with coach George McBride for the 1929 season because “George is going to remain.”

It was Stoner who finally succumbed to the “jinx” in 1929, after posting a 3-3 record and 5.29 ERA and finished the season with the Fort Worth Panthers in the Texas League

Lost Advertisements:”19 out of 22 of the Tigers Smoke Camels”

24 May

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A 1935 advertisement for Camel Cigarettes featuring the Detroit Tigers:

“Here’s the lineup of the smoking preferences  of the new world champions.”

Bill Rogel:

“Camel’s never jangle my nerves, and I smoke all I want, Camels taste better too.”

Mickey Cochrane:

“One thing the team can agree on is their choice of cigarettes–Camel’s. 19 of the 22 regulars smoke Camels. The Tigers say they can smoke all they want because Camel’s are so mild that they don’t get their wnf=d or upset their nerve.”

The smoking Tigers finished second to the Yankees, 19.5 games back in 1936.

“The one man in Baseball who did not Want to Rise”

15 Apr

William Malcolm Bingay of The Detroit News found a player he could not figure out:

“Somewhere in the big state of Pennsylvania there is a lean, wiry lad with a big under jaw and a crop of wire hair, who is eking out an existence tinning roofs. He escaped an awful fate, so he is happy. He might have been a major league ball player. His name is Johnson and he is on the Tiger reserve list, but he will not be taken South this spring.”

Charlie “Home Run” Johnson was an enigma—he was said to have a huge ego; The Trenton Times once said of him:

“If Home-Run Johnson gets his chest out much further he will crack his wish bone or else curve his spine so that it will never regain its normal shape.”

But Johnson refused to play far from Pennsylvania—he lived just outside Philadelphia in Chester. When he spent the spring of 1907 with the Tigers, but when he was assigned to the Montreal Royals, The News said:

“The heavy hitting outfielder…is averse to playing in Montreal.”

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Home Run Johnson

Johnson instead played for the Johnstown Johnnies in the Tri-State League.

Bingay said:

“Johnson was the one man in baseball who did not want to rise.”

Johnson told Bingay

“’I don’t want to ply in the American League. I don’t want to play in any big league. I want to play around home.”

When he joined the Tigers on the trip south, Bingay said Johnson “had a strange idea of the power of baseball law,” thinking he had to come.

“’What did you come South for, then?’ ‘I was drafted.’ He said that in the voice of some Russian prisoner explaining why he was sent to Siberia.”

According to Bingay, Johnson, who picked up the additional nickname,“Little Ban” after American League President Ban Johnson, not only wanted nothing to do with major league baseball, he barely had anything to do with his teammates:

“Johnson never spoke to anybody on the team unless spoken to. He spent his nights in his rooms with a massive book about the size of a family dictionary. It was entitled ‘Tales of the Seven Murderers” and described life in the ‘Wild and wicked West.’ He was often so deeply interested in the doings of his bloodthirsty heroes that he would take the book to the dinner table with him.”

On his way the his “forced” spring service with the Tigers, Johnson’s trunk apparently went missing, forcing him, according to Bingay to use borrowed clothes on and off the field:

“Johnson on the ball field was a sight never to be forgotten. If you had never seen Little Ban in his makeup, (vaudeville actor) Eddie Foy would appear as an imitation. He had a pair of Sam Crawford’s pants, once white; George Mullin’s shirt and (Germany) Schaefer’s cap; which completely covered his ears.”

Bingay said Johnson played that spring with a pair of congress gaiters in the place of his lost baseball shoes, and:

“Once, during a heated scrub game he lost his shoe running from first to second, and they tagged him out because he stopped to sweat at (first baseman Claude) Rossman, who had kicked it into right field.”

Johnson apparently managed to annoy his manager as well:

“He used to keep Jennings up night after night until almost dawn, knocking at his door to find out ‘just how he could get his trunk.’”

Johnson went home to Chester and stayed there. Throughout May it was rumored he was joining the York White Roses in the Tri-State League; that fell through and he played for a semi-pro team in Atlantic City, New Jersey. At the end of July, he joined the Johnstown Johnnies in the Tri-State.

He hit .262 in 1907 and returned to Johnstown the following season; hitting, hitting .296 and leading the Tri-State with nine home runs.

On September 1, Johnson was drafted by a major league team agreeable to him—one 18 miles away from his home in Chester–the Philadelphia Phillies.

Johnson made his major league debut on September 21, pinch hitting in the first game of a double header; he started the second game in left field. The local boy’s arrival to the big leagues was barely noticed by the local press, The Philadelphia Inquirer said:

“(Sherry) Magee started the first game in left field but gave way to young Johnson in the second battle…Johnson failed to get a hit during five times up but managed to take care of everything which came his way in the field.”

Johnson appeared in six games for the Phillies, he was 4 for 16 with two RBI,

By the end of the season, The Philadelphia Press predicted:

“Johnson, the Johnstown pickup, undoubtedly will get a thorough trial with the Phillies next spring. He is a natural batsman and hits the ball with terrible force.”

After the 1908 season, the Detroit Tigers filed a claim against the $750 draft price paid by the Phillies for Johnson’s contract, claiming they still held his rights. The Tigers were eventually awarded half.

The prediction that Johnson would return to the Phillies was wrong, shortly before the team when South in the spring of 1909, The Press reported that 31-year-old journeyman Pep Deininger and minor leaguer Charlie Hanford would instead be given the opportunity to be the Phillies extra outfielder; Deininger made the club. Johnson returned to Johnstown.

Johnson never went to camp with another major league club, but stayed a star, near home, with the New York State and Tri-State League clubs. The biggest highlight of his career was his league-leading .403 average for the Trenton Tigers in 1912—he also hit 14 home runs.

Johnson hit better than .300 for two more seasons in the Tri-State League but battled injuries and returned home to Chester after the 1914 season. He worked for the rest of his life in a clothing factory—for the American Viscose Company—in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania. He and his wife had eight children.

He died of a heart attack at the factory at age 55. His obituary in The Delaware County Daily Times mentioned that he was a local baseball legend but said he had only had a “try-out with the Phillies,” and did mention his two weeks as a major leaguer.

“Probably the Best Known bad man”

10 Apr

In 1908, Malcolm Wallace Bingay, the long-time writer for The Detroit News told of the “nervy ballplayers,” who were tough on the field but afraid of a “personal encounter,” while, ”There are some quiet ball players who play an ordinary game on the field who, when occasion demands, can show gamesmanship tom a degree that would surprise the average follower of the fighting business.”

Bingay named the current toughest man in baseball:

“Big John Anderson, now with Comiskey’s White Sox, as handsome a figure as there is in baseball, could, if he but cared, hold his own with most of the wrestlers in America. Not only this, but the big Swede, although naturally quiet, when thoroughly aroused, can put up a terrific battle. Among ball players he is probably the most respected man in the league when it comes to a personal mix-up. Anderson is a clever boxer, has a wicked punch in either hand and doesn’t seem to know what pain is when angry.

“Anderson is a physical culture crank. He is probably the most ideally built man in baseball. The grace with which he carries himself on the diamond is only brought out more clearly when he is boxing. And John doesn’t stop with the gloves. He is as wicked a rough-and-tumble fighter as one would care to run across.”

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John Anderson

George Moriarty—then with the New York Highlanders—was, according to Bingay, “another bad man to bother.” Bingay said in 1907 in Chicago:

“(A) big fellow came from the bleachers. He hit the Yankee on the jaw and sent him staggering against the fence.

“’Moriarty seemed to come back like a piece of rubber,’ says (New York catcher) Ira Thomas, who saw the battle. ‘The fellow was far bigger than he, but Moriarty didn’t seem to care. Before the mob could get to him he had the man from the bleachers helpless.”

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George Moriarty

Thomas said the New York players were concerned about getting Moriarty out of the ballpark past the large throng of White Sox fans, until the fans realized it was a Chicago native involved in the fight:

“’Going from the grounds there was fear of a riot, and about 200 big men were lined up near the gates as we passed out.’

‘”Is George Moriarty there/’ the leader yelled to me.’

“’He is,’ I said, ‘expecting a fight.’

“’Well, tell him that we’re from the South Side and don’t go back on the boys who come from here. Tell him we’ll fight for him if he needs help.’”

But, said Bingay:

“Probably the best-known bad man, when he wants to ne, in baseball is Bill (Kid) Gleason.”

Gleason was just 5’ 8” and weighed 160 pounds, but Bingay said he was “the biggest little man that ever stood in shoe leather.”

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Kid Gleason

Despite his size:

“He has the strength of a giant and is as agile as a wild cat. Bill was the man who kept Kid Elberfeld playing good ball around Detroit. When the Kid wouldn’t behave himself, Bill would take him out back of the clubhouse and give him a thrashing.”

Jimmy Williams, the St. Louis Browns infielder, was, according to Bingay, “as quiet as any of them and yet he is as wicked a man when crossed as there is.”

Tigers pitcher Bill Donovan told Bingay a story about Williams when the two played together on the “all-American” team that barnstormed the West Coast during the off-season.  There was a fan in one town who “was a giant in strength, always in an ugly mood, and always hunting for trouble.”

Donovan said:

“’Now Jimmy wasn’t hunting for trouble, understand. He was minding his own business when this chap got gay. Williams knew of his reputation but never hesitated. He gave the big duffer such a whipping that he begged for mercy. After that anybody in town could chase the bully up an alley. The citizens warmly thanked Jimmy for what he had done.’”

Bingay said the manager of the Tigers, was the opposite of the quiet players on the field who had no problem throwing a few punches:

“No man ever displayed more nerve on the ball field than Hughie Jennings, who for years was a league sensation. Yet, Jennings never had a fight in his life. He’s as peaceful as a Quaker off the field.”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #32

8 Apr

“He Runs Bases Like a cow”

John Irwin began 1891, his eighth and final major league season playing for the Boston Reds, managed by his brother Arthur.

After a June game with The Colonels, The Louisville Courier-Journal said the connection was not an accident:

“John Irwin, who is a ball player because his brother is a baseball manager, was in a part of yesterday’s game. He runs bases like a cow and was caught off first yesterday in the easiest manner possible. He foolishly ran out between the bases and then waited until (catcher Jack) Ryan had thrown the ball to get him out. He is very gay and is never happier or more fatal to Boston’s chances then when he is coaching. His dangerous advice got one man out yesterday.”

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John Irwin

The paper said when Irwin entered the game, at least one of his teammates, right fielder, Hugh Duffy was not pleased:

“Duffy was seen to remonstrate yesterday, when Irwin took (Paul) Radford’s place. It was like leaving the short field without a man. Irwin would be cheaper to the Boston club were he paid five times as much as he is now, with the proviso that he did not in the field—except to bring a bat.”

Irwin was released by the Boston Reds on July 16, and immediately signed by the Louisville Colonels.

“He Fairly Flew at me”

Roger Connor jumped the New York Giants and signed with the Philadelphia Athletics of the American Association in November of 1891. Before he left New York, he sought out Sam Crane, former major leaguer and reporter for The New York Press, to settle a score in “an uptown saloon.”

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Connor

Crane told the story in the pages of The Press:

“I know Roger fully believes what he says. I had a short séance with him recently and was unfortunate enough to strike Roger in a very unamiable mood. Talk about the effect of a red flag on a mad bill.”

According to Crane, when Connor approached him in the bar:

“He fairly flew at me and threatened to knock seven kinds of daylight out of me, or any other baseball reporter that ever lived, in as many minutes.”

The New York Herald said Connor had also threatened George Erskine Stackhouse of The New York Tribune and Charles Mathison of The New York Sun.

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Crane

Crane continued the story:

“His big form loomed over me and his brawny fist made belligerent hieroglyphics before my face a very vivid recollection came to me of what an effect that same fist on the features of (his former New York teammate) Ed Caskin several years ago. I would bet even money just at that stage of the game that he could lick John L. Sullivan in a punch, and I decided to forego, for some time at least, all further thought of making any arguments with him.”

Crane suggested that those who called him “a gentleman” and congratulated him on staying above the fray and not getting in a fight with Connor were not considering Connor’s point of view:

“Roger laid great stress on the fact that I once said, ‘he hadn’t a heart as big as a pea.’”

Connor was assigned to the Philadelphia Phillies after the American Association folded.

“He Never Gave the Game Enough”

The Detroit News said during the spring of 1912, Hughie Jennings told young players as the Tigers trained in Louisiana that to be successful a player “must breathe baseball, eat baseball, play baseball, and sleep baseball.”

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Hugh Jennings

Jennings said four of his players—Ty Cobb, Donie Bush. Sam Crawford, and Del Gainer—“devote their entire time and attention” to baseball.

“The man who is successful is the man who trains himself to his work and keeps his mind on it.”

Jennings then mentioned his only exception to that rule:

“In my career in the game I have known but one really good player who could place baseball second to other things. That man is Bill Dahlen, now manager of the Brooklyn team. Dahlen played the ponies and indulged in other outside affairs. He never practiced. He never gave the game enough when off the field, and he always reached the clubhouse two or three minutes before starting time. Sometimes the game had to wait till Bill took his position at short.”

Jennings, who was Dahlen’s teammate in 1899-1900 in Brooklyn said:

“If Dahlen had devoted his entire time to baseball he would have been the greatest infielder of all time. He could take a grounder on either side of him while in motion and throw without hesitating a moment. He could smash the ball to any part of the lot and bunt perfectly. He was a great baserunner. There was no more brilliant fielder.”

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Bill Dahlen

Jennings acknowledged that his former teammate was not the “greatest of all time,” but:

“He should have been.”

“I am a Perfectly Harmless House-Cat Sort”

11 Mar

In 1914, an “as told to” story about Ty Cobb appeared in the magazine section of several Sunday papers which were part of The Associated Sunday Magazines syndicate.

The writer, Edward Lyell Fox, was one of the most famous journalists of the decade, but just four years later his career ended in scandal.  Fox was sent to Germany to cover the war for the Hearst newspapers, but in 1918 he was accused of writing “propaganda stories” for the German government—Fox’ career was ruined, and he was the subject of Congressional hearings, although the charges were never substantiated.

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Fox

Some of the stories from the Fox piece appear in the rare 1914 book “Bustin’ ‘em” “by” Cobb, although Fox is not credited.

Cobb told Fox:

“I think I have more trouble with crowds than any other ballplayer. This is due to the fact that when I broke into the big leagues, I was pretty young and had a tempter that was too quick for my own good.  Only in later years have I successfully curbed it.  But the crowds remember those flare ups of the past. Then my manner on the field is aggressive. It’s part of my game.  I couldn’t play ball if I didn’t feel aggressive. But I think that anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a perfectly harmless, mild-mannered, house-cat sort of individual off the field.”

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Cobb

Cobb then told Fox about an experience with a hostile fan in Cleveland:

“I slid into third base ‘riding high,’ with spikes aglimmer.  I did this purposely; for (Ivy) Olson, the Cleveland baseman, had been blocking runners. I wanted to scare him.  He saw the spikes and kept out of the way thereafter.

‘”I guess I will call it off, Ty,’ he said, and grinned.  There was no hard feeling between us.  It was all in the game.”

One Indians fan did agree with Olson that there we no hard feelings.

“Behind the (Tigers) bench was a man with the voice of monstrous bullfrog. Every time there was a lull in the uproar of the park his voice would croak, ‘Dirty work! Dirty work, Cobb! I’ll get you after the game! Look out for me at the players’ gate!’

“Well he kept after me all the afternoon and began to get on my nerves.  Finally, I shouted back something in his general direction.  I couldn’t see who he was; but I concluded he must be as big as a house; possibly a pugilist.  The game over, some of the players offered to go out the gate with me.  If there was going to be an attack, they wanted to see that I got a square deal. As we passed through the gate I heard the bullfrog voice, only now if was very friendly.  It said

“’Hello, Ty! How are you?’

“I looked around, and saw an amazing sight.  That voice was coming from a man who looked five feet high and didn’t weigh a hundred pound.

‘That’s the fellow who was going to beat you up, Ty,’ said (George) Moriarty. Well, the players gave me the laugh on that thing for a couple of days.”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things: Lost Quotes

11 Feb

Hughie Jennings on Ossie Vitt, 1915

Hughey Jennings told The Detroit News in 1915:

“Vitt is the most valuable player in the American League.  He is the most valuable because he can play three positions in the infield.  He is also an excellent outfielder and can field with the best of them.  Vitt lacks the class to gain a regular position because he cannot hit.”

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Ossie Vitt

Over ten seasons with the Tigers and Red Sox, Vitt hit just .238

A White Stockings Player on George Washington Bradley, 1876

After winning their first four games of the National League’s inaugural season—and scoring 40 runs–the Chicago White Stockings were shut out by St. Louis pitcher George Washington Bradley on May 5, 1876; Bradley yielded just two hits in the 1-0 win.  An unnamed Chicago player was quoted by The St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

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Bradley

 “A man might just as well try to successfully strike his mother-in-law as one of his balls.”

Bill Terry on John McGraw, 1934

Despite their often-strained relationship—they once went two years without speaking, Bill Terry, speaking to The Associated Press, said of John McGraw after the man who managed him and whom he replaced as manager, died in 1934:

“I don’t think there ever will be another manager as great as McGraw.  I had my little arguments with him but there was always a soft spot in my heart.  He was the only man I ever played big league ball for, and to hear that a man who has spent his whole life in baseball has gone makes me feel humble.  We will call off practice on the day of his funeral.”

Hal Schumacher on John McGraw, 1934

Hal Schumacher played for John McGraw as a 20-year-old rookie in 1931, and for part of 1932 before McGraw was replaced by Bill Terry.  When McGraw died in 1934, Schumacher told The Associated Press:

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McGraw

“I never could understand his reputation as an iron-fisted ruler.  I never heard him bawl out a rookie.”

Harry Wright on fans and winning, 1888

Harry Wright, told The Pittsburgh Press about the difference between how fans treated winning clubs in 1888 versus his time with the Red Stockings in the 1870s:

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 Wright

“I won the championship six times, and the most we ever got was an oyster supper.  Now the whole town turns out to meet the boys when they return from a fairly successful trip.  They are learning how to appreciate pennant winners nowadays.”

Dick Hoblitzel on his “X-Ray Eye,” 1911

Dick Hoblitzel told The Cincinnati Times-Star in the spring of 1911 he was “training his batting eye,” and:

“(B)elieves he will soon be able to count the stitches on a ball before it leaves the pitcher’s hand.  ‘It’s the X-ray eye that does this,’ he avers, and he has made a bet of a suit of clothes that he will finish in the .275 class or better.”

Hoblitzel, perhaps as a result of his “X-ray eye,” hit.289 in 1911.

Tommy Corcoran on Umpiring, 1897

Tommy Corcoran told a Sporting Life correspondent in 1897:

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Corcoran

I believe I’d rather carry scrap iron for the same money than umpire a ball game.  There is no vocation in which there is less sympathy or charity than in baseball.  It must be awful for an old player to listen to the abuse he has to stand from those he once chummed with.  There is an illustration of the heartlessness of some players.  That umpire’s playing days are over, or he wouldn’t be an umpire.  He is trying to earn a living and his old comrades won’t let him.”