Tag Archives: Doc Powers

“The Rube was ever a Friendly Spirit”

15 Apr

Four years after Rube Waddell played his final game for the Athletics, The Philadelphia Bulletin told a story that, like much of the Waddell canon, may or may not be apocryphal:

Rube

Rube

“To those who know the steady, staid (Connie) Mack, the following may appeal:

“A ‘cub’ reporter in Chicago strayed into the clutches of the Rube one afternoon and impressed the great pitcher with the fact that he must have something startling in the way of news or be apt to lose his position.

“The Rube was ever a friendly spirit, sympathetic with the weak, even if he had to tap the strong to reimburse the fallen.”

So, said The Bulletin, Waddell was determined to provide the young reporter with a “Startling” scoop:

“I’d take you to see Connie,’ opened the Rube, ‘but he and (Michael) ‘Doc’ Powers are playing poker and ‘doc’ hates to be disturbed when they are gambling.”

Mack

Mack

He then told the reporter that Lave Cross was:

 “Off somewhere and I guess he is tending bar for a friend somewhere on State Street. (and) I don’t know any news to give you except that all this stuff about Ossee Schreck (Schrecongost) is a ‘kid,’ he never fools with the firewater and every time that Monte Cross gets off the wagon why they blame it on me or Schreck.”

Ossee Schrecongost

Schreck

The reporter hurried back to his paper:

“(T)uring over in his mind the thought that Mack was gambling with his players, Lave Cross was the wild man and that Monte Cross was the real culprit when it came to tapping the paint.  He whirled off a story on the machine and handed it to the sporting editor.  That dignitary looked at the cub, scratched his head and kindly asked the youth where he secured his information.

“’Why, it’s big news and ‘Rube’ Waddell gave it to me,’ answered that unsophisticated party.  ‘Well, young man,’ continued the sporting editor, ‘Connie Mack never wagers, drinks or smokes; Lave Cross is the quietest man in the world and does not tend bar, and Monte Cross is a white ribboner.”

Monte

Monte

The editor of the Chicago paper went to Mack and informed him about Waddell’s conversation with the young reporter:

“Connie, Lave and Monte had a quiet laugh and derived considerable interest watching Waddell load up with a bundle of newspapers each day to catch his red-hot interview.”

Lave

Lave

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Lost Advertisements–PM Whiskey, “Rube Waddell, The One-Man Ball Team”

2 Oct

waddellad

A 1951 advertisement for PM De Luxe Blended Whiskey–part of a series of ads featuring “Pleasant Moments in Sports,” stories from Bob Considine, co-author with Babe Ruth of the “The Babe Ruth Story.”

This one features an oft-told Rube Waddell legend:

“Edward ‘Rube’ Waddell, pitcher for the old Philadelphia Athletics, was one of baseball’s zaniest ‘characters.’  It was in an exhibition game in 1902 that he pulled his most famous stunt.

“In the last half of the ninth, ‘Rube’ sent all his players off the field, leaving only the catcher behind the plate. Then with magnificent arrogance, ‘Rube’ struck out the last three batters on  nine pitched balls.”

As with all Waddell stories, there was some truth and a good deal of embellishment in Considine’s account.  While the contemporary coverage of the game differs on some aspects of the performance, they all agree that Waddell pitched to just one batter after members of the team left the field in the ninth inning.

The game in question was played in 1903 at Steelton, Pennsylvania against that town’s YMCA team. The Athletics won easily, 10 to 2, and Waddell pitched the eighth and ninth innings for Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Inquirer said:

“Waddell was the entertaining feature of the match, and in the last inning called in all the infielders after two men were out.”

The Harrisburg Daily Independent, which provided more in-depth coverage of the game, said:

“Rube Waddell was in all his glory at Steelton yesterday and his funny antics before and during the game were well worth the price of admission.”

The paper said before the game Waddell entertained the fans chasing “flies in the hills until he was perspiring,” and spent part of the early innings taking a “nap in his private carriage which carried him from (Harrisburg) to Steelton.”

rube

Waddell

As for his time on the mound, the paper said Waddell struck out the first two batters he faced in the eighth, then after getting two strikes on the third batter, named “Irish” McManigal:

“(W)hen he pitched the third ball (he) remarked, ‘Take your seat.’ ‘Irish,’ however, surprised the Rube and rapped out a pretty single to center field.”

Waddell gave up another hit in the eighth and the YMCA scored a run.

“The next inning Rutherford hit to Waddell and the Rube did a cake walk to first base to catch Rutherford.  Berry then hit to Monte Cross, but he threw wild to first and Berry reached third base.  Then the Reuben settled down and struck Lawlor out.”

The Daily Independent said Waddell did not call in the fielders, but instead, on their own:

“The Athletic players behind Waddell left the field and with a man on third base he and (Ossee) Schreck (Schrecongost) were left to put out the side.

“The Rube did not know his teammates had deserted him and when told to look around by Schreck he discovered the fact.  Then to make more complete the comedy Schreckengost [sic] sat down and the Rube struck out Albright while the crowd howled with merriment.”

The Harrisburg Telegraph provided a third set of contemporaneous “facts:”

“In the last inning when two men were out all the Athletics left the field except Waddell, Powers and L. Cross.”

The paper likely misidentified Schrecongost as Michael “Doc” Powers–Schrecongost had replaced him behind the plate in the eighth, and Lave Cross had already left the game–so the player who stayed on the field might have been shortstop Monte Cross.  The Telegraph also added another detail missing in the other reports:

“(Waddell) gave the batter three balls and the crowd was wild, but their last hope faded rapidly away as Rube put three fine ones over the plate and the striker was out.”

The Box Score

The Box Score

Considine likely cribbed his version from Harry Grayson, the sports editor of The Newspaper Enterprise Association syndicate.  Grayson told the three-batters-nine-pitches story several times throughout the forties, and that legend stuck.

 

“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.’”

Jennings “Hurled an Unmentionable Epithet at him”

2 Feb

In April of 1896, the reigning National League Champion Baltimore Orioles traveled to Petersburg, Virginia for a pair of exhibition games with the Petersburg Farmers of the Virginia League.

The Baltimore Sun noted that it had been a tough spring for the Orioles.  Third baseman John McGraw “the brainiest and pluckiest little infielder that ever trod a diamond,” was in an Atlanta hospital suffering from typhoid fever; he would miss most of the season.

Additionally, catcher William “Boileryard” Clarke was sent back to Baltimore with a sprained ankle, pitchers John “Sadie” McMahon and Arlie Pond had injured hands and both would be out for at least a week,  and shortstop Hughie Jennings was also slowed by a hand injury.

Hughie Jennings

Hughie Jennings

A light rain fell as the hobbled team arrived in Petersburg on the morning of April 6, the day of the first game—which ended in a 7 to 7 tie.  The Baltimore American said:

“Why the team did not trounce the Petersburgs is an open question, but whether it was because of the game on Saturday (in Richmond) or the rain, or the umpire, the Champions walked out of the gates with the humiliation of having made eight errors and feeling the added sting of having just escaped being beaten by a minor league team.”

Third-string catcher Frank Bowerman made two of Baltimore’s errors and had a passed ball.  He would be relegated to umpiring duties in the second game, scheduled for April 8.  On the seventh the Orioles defeated another Virginia League team, the Richmond Bluebirds, 4 to 3.

The American said the morning of April 8 “had been a pleasant one,” with local officials taking the Orioles for a tour of the Petersburg Civil War battlefield.  And, with the rain gone, “The warm sun put life into each club, and a pretty, snappy game was being put up by each side.”  Bowerman and Petersburg player Michael “Doc” Powers alternated as umpires for the game.

Doc Powers

Doc Powers

Petersburg was leading 1 to 0 in the seventh inning when Powers called Orioles third baseman Jim Donnelly out on strikes.  What happened next, and who was responsible, depended on whether you read the accounts in the Baltimore papers or those in Petersburg and the surrounding Virginia towns.

The Sun said:

“Several promising runs had been cut off by similar umpiring and the birds were getting very ‘sore’ at such outrages.  Donnelly objected and (Hugh) Jennings went up to Powers, who was standing behind the pitcher, and said something to him.  Just then (Charles) Sholta, who had also run up, struck Jennings a stinging blow on the side of the head without warning.  The blow drew blood.”

The American said:

“While Hughey was expostulating rather forcibly with Powers, Sholta struck him on the cheek.”

Charles Sholta--drawing from Richmond newspaper

Charles Sholta–drawing from Richmond newspaper

The Baltimore papers agreed that the punch Sholta threw was unprovoked.  Every Virginia newspaper disagreed.

The Petersburg Index-Appeal said, “Jennings resented Sholta’s interference by very foul and abusive language and was promptly struck in the face.”

Papers in Richmond, Roanoke and Norfolk agreed that Jennings provoked Sholta—The Virginia League correspondent for The Sporting Life said Jennings “hurled an unmentionable epithet at him—an epithet which does not go here.”

Everyone generally agreed with what happened next.  Orioles’ first baseman Jack Doyle punched Sholta, knocking him to the ground and Petersburg fans poured on the field and began attacking Doyle and other members of the Baltimore club.

At this point, there was more disagreement.  The Baltimore papers said Doyle was struck in the head from behind, knocked down and kicked by multiple fans.  While “Wee Willie” Keeler was allegedly “choked and beaten,” five other Orioles, Joe Kelley, Wilbert Robinson, Steve Brodie, Bowerman, and Jennings “were more or less beaten.”

The Orioles, according to The American were forced to flee the ballpark.

The Richmond Dispatch called the Baltimore accounts of the incident:

 “(S)o greatly exaggerated and so grotesquely inaccurate as to cause amazement, not to say indignation, here.  Not a man of the Baltimore team was hurt, and the grossly obscene language uttered by one of the Orioles on the park during the game, caused all of the trouble.”

After the Orioles returned to Petersburg’s Appomattox Hotel, another fight broke out between several members of the Orioles—including Brodie and Kelley—and local fans, one of whom was thrown through a glass door.   After the second fight, the Orioles were accompanied by police to the train depot and departed for Norfolk.

Arrest warrants were issued for Doyle, Kelley, and Brodie, but the three “left their team in Norfolk and (went) beyond the jurisdiction of the state courts.”  Only ten Orioles were available for the final exhibition game in Virginia, a 7 to 5 victory over the Norfolk Braves.

Jack Doyle

Jack Doyle

Sholta appeared in Petersburg’s “Mayor’s Court” along with two fans who said to have assaulted members of the Orioles.  All were released with no charges filed as a result of Doyle, Brodie and Kelley failing to appear—they were sought both as suspects and witnesses against the local defendants.

At the hearing, Petersburg’s Mayor Charles Fenton Collier said Sholta “had only acted as any other gentleman would have,” by hitting Jennings, and the mayor said he would have done the same “under similar circumstances.”

The Washington Times said the only thing unusual about the Orioles’ battle in Virginia was that it happened so early in the season:

“The Orioles are starting their rowdy tactics early.  Perhaps the champs think it just as necessary to train for ruffianly conduct as other points.  And to think that ‘college-bred’ Hughey Jennings started the riot.”

McGraw remained out of the lineup for most of the season—he did not return until August 25.  The fighting Orioles hit .328 as team—Jennings hit .401, Keeler .386 and Kelley .364—and went 90-39 cruising to their third straight National League Pennant.