Tag Archives: Durham Bulls

Brief Bios–Ferris and Angier

24 Oct

Doc Ferris

Ernest H. “Doc” Ferris won 20 games twice over eight seasons in the low manors between 1913 and 1923, and posted a respectable 109-86 record.  The otherwise forgotten right-hander also pitched one of the most efficient games in baseball history.

Ferris was born on September 7, 1887 in Blue Ash, Ohio; the youngest of 13 children.  There is little information about his early life on his father Solomon’s farm, with the exception of a few brief mentions in Cincinnati newspapers of his being active in the Hamilton County Ohio Farmer’s Alliance.

The first reference to him related to baseball was when the 25-year-old signed a contract with the Durham Bulls of the North Carolina State League in 1913.  After two sub .500 seasons –10-12 in 1913, 9-16 with the Asheville Tourists—he had his best season in 1915, when he won 27 games (he lost 12) for Asheville.

Ernest "Doc" Ferris

Ernest “Doc” Ferris

In 1916 he was signed by the Columbia Comers of the South Atlantic League.  The Highlight of Ferris’ 18-15 season was during a 3 to 1 victory over the Albany Babies on July 18.  The Columbia State said:

“Doc Ferris probably made a new record for the league by going through the game with only 73 pitched balls, 14 of which were balls and 59 strikes…the Columbus pitcher did not issue a pass…Ferris set up a record that will probably stand for many moons.  To go through nine innings pitching only 73 balls is a remarkable feat.  The smiling hurler was seldom in the hole, going to three balls on only one batter.”

The game was completed in 78 minutes.

The Box Score

The Box Score

(Charles “Red” Barrett of the Boston Braves set the major league record for fewest pitches in a game, when he shut out the Cincinnati Reds 2-0 in Crosley Field on August 10, 1944–he threw just 58 pitches–Barrett’s game was also three minutes shorter than Ferris’ effort.)

After pitching for and managing the Asheville Tourists and Hagerstown Terriers in 1917 and 1918, Ferris quit baseball for two years, and according to The Durham Morning Herald accepted “a responsible position with a manufacturing concern.”

In 1921 he returned to the diamond, pitching three seasons for the Greensboro Patriots in the Piedmont League—after going 20-9 in his first season, he slipped to 6-9 and 4-5, before retiring for good after the 1923 season.

After baseball Ferris operated a company that manufactured and installed canvas awnings.  When he started the business he told The Greensboro Daly News:

“During the eight years I sweated in the blazing sun, I often thought of the advantage it would be to have and awning overhead, so when I finally decided to quit the diamond I naturally gravitated into selling the things that looked so attractive to me while I was pitching.”

Doc Ferris

Doc Ferris

Ferris died in Greensboro on November 11, 1964.

Shorty Angier

Malbourne Addison “Shorty” Angier was a teammate of Doc Ferris with the Durham Bulls in 1913.   Angier was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1892, but grew up in Durham. His grandfather, and namesake, was a prominent Durham merchant.

Angier made a name for him himself as a teen in the Piedmont League—before 1920 various quasi-professional/industrial league incarnations of the Piedmont operated; he played for Durham Hosiery in 1911 and 1912.

When he was signed by the Durham Bulls in 1913, The Charlotte Evening Chronicle said he “hit around .400 in the Piedmont League last year,” and had turned down offers from two other North Carolina State League teams, the Charlotte Hornets and Greensboro Patriots.  The expectations were high:

“Those that have seen Angier play predict that he will make good in the league and that the next few years will see him in the big company.”

The Charlotte Observer described his physical appearance:

“(S)tocky torso, the hefty underpinning, and abbreviated neck.”

Whatever ability he had with the bat in the Piedmont League left him as a professional.  Angier hit just .199 during his first season at Durham in 1913.  After a hot start the following season—he was hitting nearly .400 in July—he finished with a .268 average.  In 1915 he hit .175.

Although a weak hitter, he  was one of the best athletes in the North Carolina League—during the league’s “Field Day” activities in 1914 The Charlotte News said he “easily won” the distance throwing competition and his 15 and 1/5 second time circling the bases was the league’s best.

He split the 1916 season between the South Atlantic League Columbia Comers (where he was again teammates with Doc Ferris) and Jacksonville Tarpons; he hit a combined .175 for the year.

The following spring The Durham Morning Herald reported that Angier was in a local hospital in critical condition after “the young man swallowed poison.”

The Greensboro Daily News said Angier drank from a bottle that he was not aware contained “poisonous medicine,” but the paper said “attempted suicide was discounted,” by his friends.

Whether the poisoning was a contributing factor or not, Angier did not play in 1917, and went to work at a tobacco store he co-owned in Durham.

After volunteering for military service in the fall of 1917—he was a second Lieutenant in the cavalry, stationed in Columbia, South Carolina—he returned to his business in Durham.

Each season from 1919 through 1921, North Carolina newspapers reported that Angier would be joining the Durham Bulls; although he does not appear in any surviving team records, Angier played in a handful of games for the team in September of 1921.

He never played again after his brief return to the diamond in 1921.  Angier owned several tobacco and grocery businesses in and around Durham and later relocated to Green Cove Springs, Florida where he died in 1937.

Advertisement for Angier's cigar store

Advertisement for Angier’s cigar store

“Wilmington is in to the Finish”

10 Dec

When first-year manager Edgar Bear’s 1-9 Wilmington Sailors took the field on May 17, 1902 against the Durham Bulls, George Dudley Proud was, contrary to speculation in the press, assigned to work as umpire.

With the season just 10-games old Proud’s abilities as an umpire had been called into question by Bear, by Greensboro Farmers manager George “King” Kelly, and the press in Greensboro and Wilmington.

The game remained a scoreless tie into the bottom of the seventh inning.  The Wilmington Messenger said:

“Up to that stage it was a clean game, and there were many brilliant plays.  Neither side had scored.  Wilmington took her seventh inning and retired without any chance at the home plate.  Durham came up and (Otis) Stocksdale reached first on a clean hit and stole second. “

The next batter, John Curran, hit a ground ball to first baseman William “Germany” Dommel.  Proud ruled that Dommel did not touch first base and called Curran safe:

“This caused the trouble that resulted in Wilmington’s leaving the field.”

The team left the field and refused to return; Proud awarded the game to Durham by forfeit.  Bear’s role during the incident that led to the forfeit is unclear.   The Wilmington papers said he was present and in the stands, The Durham Herald said he was not at the ballpark when the incident took place.

What happened next is not in dispute.

The Durham Herald said:

“Umpire G. D. Proud, of the State Base Ball League, was assaulted last evening by Mr. E. J. Bear, manager of the Wilmington club.  The assault was the outcome of the kicks made by the Wilmington players in the game yesterday.”

According to the paper, Bear, accompanied by five Wilmington players, went to Durham’s Central Hotel and confronted the umpire.

“(Bear) knocked on the door of Proud’s room and being told to enter; he did so and started off by using insulting language.  This was followed by an attempt to strike the umpire.”

Bear was restrained by two hotel guests and arrested for assault.  Proud was fined $25 and released from jail the following morning.

The Messenger said:

“(Proud’s) conduct in Durham was such to make him many enemies, he told (a reporter) this morning that Durham had tried to ruin him and now he intended to break the state league if possible.  It is learned he telegraphed (North Carolina League) President (Perrin) Busbee this afternoon telling him either Durham or Wilmington had to get out of the league.”

On May 20 The Charlotte Observer published a letter from Bear, which read in part:

“I do most earnestly declare that in my opinion Mr. Proud is totally incompetent as an umpire, and the earlier he is relieved of his job the better it is for the league, and I desire to deny most emphatically that I ever made the statement that Wilmington was going to try to break up the league, or that either Durham or Wilmington had to get out of the league.”

Bear claimed he had not been in contact with the league president and said:

“I am manager of the Wilmington club at a great financial loss, but I have only the good of the league at heart, and intend that Wilmington shall remain a member of the league as long as any other club is in it, whether the Wilmington club wins another game or not.  And further that my best efforts will be given to make the league a success, financially and otherwise.  Wilmington is in to the finish.”

Wilmington was in to the finish—Bear was not.

The New Bern Daily Journal said:

“Manager Edgar Bear rather unceremoniously relinquished the management of the Wilmington baseball club (on May 25) by failing to provide transportation for the team to leave for the game at New Bern.”

Bear had disappeared.  His career as a professional baseball manager was over in less than a month.  He was replaced Harry Mace, who was an umpire in the league and a former professional player who had pitched in three games for the Washington Statesmen in the American Association in 1891.  Wilmington was 10-40 at the beginning of July when the team disbanded and the league was reconstituted with four teams.  Mace rejoined the league’s umpire staff.

Proud did not last much longer.  The day The New Bern Daily Journal reported on Bear’s exit, another article said:

“The New Bern team (the Truckers) arrived here (May 25), after its tempestuous three games at Raleigh…The team felt no discouragement from the loss of those games, which were under the complete control of Umpire Proud, who never gave new Bern a chance to win.”

Proud would resign before the end of May.  The Wilmington Messenger said he was “Honest, but not up to the requirements of the position.”

Proud became an umpire in the Tri-State League a month later.  He was also involved in automobile racing on East Coast, and created road maps.

Bear made the papers one last time.  On September 18 1905, Bear, going by the name of Eddie Merode and working as an acrobat in vaudeville performances in Utah.  The Charlotte Observer said police were called to “an opium joint” in Salt Lake City’s Chinatown were they found him “apparently dying of opium poisoning.”  He died later that day.

Edgar Bear

9 Dec

It was somewhat by accident that Edgar J. Bear came to be involved in organized baseball—as president and manager of the 1902 Wilmington Sailors.

Bear was born in Wilmington on January 12, 1877, and attended the Oak Ridge College Preparatory school, now Oak Ridge Military Academy, where according to The Charlotte Observer, he studied business then “wandered around the country for several years.”  The paper also said he inherited $30,000 from his father’s estate.

He first worked as a jockey, and then joined the circus.  He was with Walter L. Main and Carlo Brothers Circuses as a bareback rider and acrobat.  The Wilmington Messenger said he performed throughout the United States and South America, and “three trick mules” were part of his act.

In 1898 The Wilmington Morning Star said he took a break from the circus to travel to Alaska in search of gold.

Sometime early in 1902 he returned to Wilmington, and according to The Observer “became interested in baseball.”  In March The Morning Star said a Massachusetts man who was being counted on to bankroll a local team in the newly formed North Carolina League had dropped out and “Mr. Edgar J. Bear was found to be the man of the hour.”

The paper said Bear “made a proposition to assume the responsibility of managing and maintaining a team throughout the season, provided $500 will be raised by popular subscription and the Street Railway Company will hold good its proposition to furnish an enclosed park and donate $200 to the fund, making a total of $700.”

With that Bear became the president and manager of a professional baseball team.  He quickly raised the money to operate the club for the season; The Messenger said he “deserves credit for his zealous efforts and the faithful manner in which he has worked.”

That same month, the new league hired an umpire from Pennsylvania named George Dudley Proud.  It was Proud’s first professional job; he had worked in amateur leagues around Philadelphia for several years.

Wilmington got off to a slow start, losing six of their first eight games.

Proud, the league’s rookie umpire was having his own problems.  During the first week of the season Proud ejected George “King” Kelly, manager of the Greensboro Farmers, in the eighth inning of a game against the Raleigh Red Birds, after a close play at first base.  The Morning Star said:

“Kelly came on the field and insisted wildly that (the runner) was out and challenged the umpire to fight him.  Proud said he could not, in view of his position, have a fight.  Kelly refused to get off the field and was forcibly ejected amid great excitement…he later assaulted the umpire on Fayetteville street.”

The paper said Kelly landed several punches, but no one seriously hurt.

The Greensboro Daily Record accused the umpire of being crooked, and threatened further bodily harm:

The Record wants to say that the people of Greensboro are as fair as any people on earth.  Had the same thing occurred here and in our favor the public would not have stood it.  The umpire might have been allowed to have his way at the time, but the score would not have stood.  We want to say further that should Mr. Proud pursue his same tactics here we would advise him to get an accident policy.  He may not be killed while the game is going on, but someone will maul the life out of him afterwards.  Many spectators who have observed his work—they are not Greensboro people—say that his conduct is such as to lead to the belief that he is standing in with a lot of sports who are dividing their earnings with him.  That is to say, that there are men who make bets, tell Proud what they are and trust him to save them, then they divide with him.  If this or anything approaching it is true, the sooner his services are dispensed with, the better.”

The Morning Star said the day after the above story appeared in Greensboro, Proud “employed a Raleigh attorney to enter suit for libel against The Daily Record.”

On May 15 the first-time manager with a one and seven record, and the first-time umpire whose integrity was on the line came together in Durham, when the Wilmington Sailors arrived for three games with the Durham Bulls.

They lost the first game 5 to 3.  The Morning Star said “Manager Bear was put out of the grounds for interfering and he protested the game several times.  Several of the Wilmington players were fined.”

The following day Wilmington lost 3 to 0 and two more players were fined—The Messenger said the game was “marred by kicks against umpire Proud,” The Morning Star said “Proud doesn’t seem to be making a very enviable reputation,” and predicted that he “has umpired his last game.”

The prediction was wrong; the rest of the story tomorrow.

Another “Rube”

4 Mar

Hall of Famer “Lefty” Grove and Jack Ogden were the best known pitchers of the great Baltimore Orioles teams that won seven straight International League Pennants from 1919-1925, but in 1923 both were out-pitched by James Arthur “Rube” Parnham.

Parnham began his professional career in 1914 with the Huntington Blue Sox in the Ohio State League.  In 1915 he joined the Raleigh Capitals in the North Carolina State League, managed by Connie Mack’s son Earle.  The 21-year-old was an unspectacular 9-15 for Raleigh, but caught the eye of the elder Mack and spent the spring of 1916 with Jacksonville with the Philadelphia Athletics.

Rube Parnham, 1917

Rube Parnham, 1917

Parnham returned to the North Carolina State League for the 1916 season, splitting time between Raleigh and the Durham Bulls, posting a 17-19; his contract was purchased by the Athletics in late August.  Nearly a month later Parnham made his Major League debut; he appeared in four games for Mack’s last place (36-117) ballclub, he was 2-1 with a 4.01 ERA.

Parnham was with the Athletics in Jacksonville again in 1917, but was sent to Baltimore before the beginning of the season.  He won 16 games for the Orioles and earned one more shot with Mack in Philadelphia; Parnham was 0-1 with a 4.09 ERA in two September appearances.

As Parnham started winning games for Baltimore he developed a reputation as a work horse; in 1917 he won both ends of a double-header against the Rochester Hustlers, pitching a total of 24 innings in two 3-2 victories; in 1919 he won both games of a twin bill twice.   At the same time he began to earn a reputation as “eccentric’ and “erratic,” the inevitable comparisons to Rube Waddell and his small time roots earned Parnham the nickname “Rube,” he was also known as “Uncle.”

Baltimore sold Parnham to the Louisville Colonels in the American Association in March of 1918, but within two months was sold back to Baltimore, where he rejoined manager Jack Dunn, with who he had, and would continue to have, a contentious relationship.  He won 22 games in 1918 and followed with 28 in 1919, leading the Orioles to their first championship since 1908.

As the Orioles jumped out to a quick lead in 1920 (Parnham was 5-0, and was joined on the pitching staff by Ogden and Grove) the erratic Rube Parnham surfaced again. He was prone to disappearing for days at a time and also appears to have been hurt.  By mid-season he was gone.

More recent accounts have said Parnham jumped the Orioles to play semi-pro ball in Pennsylvania; just as likely, Parnham, who was suspended in June by Dunn for being out of shape, and who was clearly overshadowed by Grove (12-2) and Ogden (27-9); as well as Jack Bentley (16-3) and Harry Frank (25-12), was let go.

Lending credence to Parnham not having jumped is a January 1922 Associated Press item that said the pitcher “whose arm went on him” would rejoin “the Baltimores for the 1922 season.  Parnham wrote Dunn that he believed he could come back next season and pitch successfully.”  He won 16 games for the Orioles in 1922.

The following season would be Parnham’s best; the 29-year-old pitcher led the Orioles with a 33-7 record, Grove was 27-10, Ogden 17-12.   In addition to out-pitching his two teammates, Parnham set an international League record by winning 20 consecutive games.

Parnham’s old ways returned before the 1924 season when he failed to report to Florida for spring training.  The Associated Press said:

“Rube never reported at the Oriole training camp in the south and never even deigned to notify Jack Dunn whether he was going to play ball this year.”

Parnham eventually reported, but had another stormy, abbreviated season.  With a 6-5 record and a 4.84 ERA, Dunn suspended the pitcher in June, and he appears to have not pitched for the Orioles again that season.

The only reference to Parnham in 1925 was a May game he pitched for a semi-pro team in Duquesne, Pennsylvania and was beaten 8-0 by the Homestead Grays.

His career appeared to be over, but Dunn, it seems was willing to give his pitcher one more chance.

The Baltimore Sun said shortly before the 1926 season:

“Uncle Rube Parnham, the most colorful figure in the International League, will be back on the mound for the Orioles next season.”

Parnham was 13-9 with a 5.05 ERA, and spent the entire season feuding with Dunn; It was the end of the Orioles dynasty, the Toronto Maple Leafs won the championship in 1926 and Baltimore would not finish first again until 1944.

The Orioles were finally through with Parnham, The Baltimore Sun said:

“There was so much trouble between Parnham and Dunn last year that it was apparent Rube had spent his last season with the Orioles.” “

The 32-year-old was still considered valuable enough that the Milwaukee Brewers in the American Association purchased the pitcher from Baltimore.

The Brewers expected big things from their new pitcher, The Milwaukee Journal said:

“At times his playfulness leads him away from the straight and narrow, and he nearly drove Jack Dunn nutty last season…But Parnham is a great pitcher, despite his eccentricities, and if (Brewers owner) Otto Borchert can hire a good keeper for him is certain to be a winner with the Brewers.”

By March Parnham had worn out his welcome with another manager when he didn’t bother to report to Hot Springs, Arkansas for spring training.  The Journal said:

“Disgusted with the dilatory tactics of Rube Parnham, Jack Lelivelt, boss of the Brewers, hinted Saturday night that unless the eccentric righthander reports at once that he would probably be turned back to Baltimore.  Former International Leaguers …have told the Milwaukee leader about some of Reuben’s idiosyncrasies  and Lelivelt is beginning to feel that he will become a stepsister to Kid trouble if he had the former Oriole on his club.”

Parnham never played for the Brewers, and was returned to Baltimore, but Dunn was finished with him as well and he was shipped off to the Reading Keystones.  After a 2-8 season split between Reading and the Newark Bears, Parnham’s career was over.

rube

Rube Parnham, 1923

Parnham retired to McKeesport, Pennsylvania, where the troubles that followed him throughout his career seem to have continued.  James Bready, an editor for The Baltimore Sun went to Pennsylvania to interview the former Oriole hero in 1961:

“The story was that he had gone downhill. Falling asleep in the snow, recently, he had lost several toes. On the phone, the director of a home for indigents said he would notify Parnham of the interview project. He gave me the street address — and a caution: ‘Try to get here before noon.’

“Paper, pen — I knocked and Rube beckoned me inside what today would be called a shelter. He was wearing an overcoat (I understand that better, now) and had not shaved recently. We sat down, facing, on two of half a dozen cot beds.  I tried a question. ”Gbbmhdahlr,” he replied. I stared at him; slowly, the meaning penetrated. I reached in my pocket and handed him a dollar.”

Parnham died two years later in McKeesport.