Tag Archives: Ed Konetchy

Murphy’s “Billion Dollar Team”

17 Aug

“Money will not buy a pennant winner;” so said William George “Billy” Murphy, the sports editor of The St. Louis Star.  In 1914, he set out to select a team that not even “John D. Rockefeller… (With) all his wealth could buy a club that would win a World’s championship from the one we have picked…The Billion Dollar Team.”

Murphy said:

“You fans of towns that have never won a flag, how would you feel to wake up some morning and find that Dame Fortune had so arranged matters that this club had suddenly been picked to represent your fair city.”

Jimmy Archer, catcher

Behind the plate he acknowledged “There are many who would doubtless pick (John) Chief Meyers…but considering the Indian’s slowness of foot and propensity for clogging up the bases and stealing when the bags are full, we must remark we cannot see the “Chief” for a minute with Jimmy Archer, who, although not so good a hitter, is faster, a quicker thinker, greater fielder and better pegger.”

Jimmy Archer

Jimmy Archer

Murphy was in the minority questioning the baseball intelligence of Meyers, who was widely considered one of the most intelligent and articulate players of his era.  He also rated Ray Schalk and Wally Schang as superior, saying:

“In the writer’s humble opinion they are much more valuable men to their team than Meyers.”

Walter Johnson, pitcher

“There will hardly be a dissenting vote cast against Walter Johnson.  Unquestionably he is the greatest of all the pitchers.

(Charles Chief) Bender and (Christy) Mathewson are also great—great when they should show class—in championship games.  Every nerve, every fiber of their brains, every muscle necessary to their craft, is at its best when big games are being fought.

“Wonderful as they are, we must pick Johnson, who also has class and is game to the core.”

Hal Chase, first base

“For first base, there is only Hal Chase.  He is a great hitter, marvelous fielder, can run the sacks, and is a brilliant tactician.

(John) ‘Stuffy’ McInnis, Jake Daubert, Eddie Konetchy, Fred Merkle, and Jack (Dots) Miller are all stars, but they are ‘also rans’ in the class with Prince Hal of the White Sox.”

Prince Hal of the White Sox

Prince Hal of the White Sox

Eddie Collins, second base

“At second base, Eddie Collins in the potentate.  Johnny Evers, Larry Doyle, and Larry Lajoie occupy seats in the second sackers’ hall of fame, but Collins rules over the roost.”

Honus Wagner, shortstop

“At short, notwithstanding his age, the palm goes to Hans Wagner.  Taken all in all he is still the greatest man at the position in the game.  He can do everything and does it better than any of his contemporaries.  When will we look upon his like again?”

Frank Baker, third base

“At third base, there is that wonderful silent son of swat, Frank Baker, the conqueror of the wonderful Mathewson and Richard (Rube) Marquard.”

Joe Jackson, right field

“In right field we have Joe Jackson, the young Southerner with the Cleveland club.  He is one of the greatest batsmen in the game today and is a fielder and base runner of unusual ability.”

Joe Jackson

Joe Jackson

Ty Cobb, center field

“In center, there is Tyrus Raymond Cobb, the Royston, Georgia marvel, who is the greatest player baseball has ever known.”

Tris Speaker, left field

“And in left field, there is Tris Speaker of the Boston Red Sox—second only to Cobb.”

Lost Advertisements–“The Clever Konetchy Drinks Coca-Cola”

13 Mar

konetchy

A 1910 advertisement for Coca-Cola featuring St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Ed Konetchy:

“He likes it, he says, not alone for its deliciousness and its refreshing qualities, but because it relieves fatigue of body and brains and it is the best beverage for quenching thirst he’s ever tried.

“Such an endorsement from such a ballplayer should recommend Coca-cola to you, whether you be amateur or professional.”

Two years later, Konetchy shared his theories on batting and batting slumps, with The St. Louis Globe-Democrat:

“The ordinary person cannot for the life of him reason out why a ballplayer should be able to hit one part of the season and suddenly take a slump and act like a novice at the bat.  To one familiar with the playing of the game of baseball, the reason for this was a well-known fact.

“Good hitting, considering of course a natural player, generally depends upon the physical and mental condition of the man.  When he is in good shape, his eye is clear and his brain works quickly;  when he is out of condition his mind is dull and he loses his eye for the ball.”

[…]

“The other day as were leaving the field of St. Louis, I heard a fan, referring to one of our players, remark: ‘They ought to bench that fellow, he can’t hit anything.’  As a matter of fact, the man to whom he referred was one of the best stickers of our team and had merely been up against a little hard luck.  For three or four days, I have watched this player and almost every time he came to bat he had met the ball squarely but could not seem to place it into fair territory.  This is a fact that is not taken into consideration by a great many baseball lovers.  They judge a man’s ability to hit by reading the scores in the next day’s papers, not at all stopping to think that a man who has no hits credited to him may have done far more towards winning the game than the player who annexed two or three safeties.”

Lost Advertisements–Opening Day, 1911

28 Mar

1911openingday

The above advertisement for Charles Dennehy Company, distributor of Old Underoof Whiskey,  appeared in The Chicago Inter Ocean on Opening Day, April 12, 1911.  The defending National League Champion Cubs met the St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago’s West Side Grounds.

The Chicago Tribune said:

“Threatening clouds and misty atmosphere did not prevent the baseball public from of Chicago turning out for the opening.  There was almost a parkful [sic] of people there before the teams had begun their preliminary practice.  A brass band livened things up before the game started, and between innings a novelty in opening features was the presence of a woman who stood on the roof of the players’ bench and sang popular songs.  Mayor Elect Carter H. Harrison Jr.  from an upper box tossed out the ball that started the contest.  The entire park was draped with American flags.”

Carter Harrison at 1911 Cubs opener

Carter Harrison at 1911 Cubs opener

The game was called after 11 innings.  The Inter Ocean said:

“Sometime, somewhere there may be such an opening game as was played at the West Side grounds yesterday when the thirty-sixth season of the National League was introduced with a 3 to 3 tie by the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals, but never again will a seventh position club of the season before hang the hoodoo on the league champions as Roger Bresnahan‘s crew did the trick on the Peerless Leader’s squad…It was a sin and a shame.”

Frank Chance, "The Peerless Leader"

Frank Chance, “The Peerless Leader”

The Cardinals scored three runs in the first; starter Ed Reulbach–The Inter Ocean said he “was one wild critter–was pulled by Manager Frank Chance after throwing 10 straight balls to open the game, and was replaced by Orlie Weaver who finished the game.

The Tribune said the tie was the result of two “grievous errors of the mind.”

The first happened when Cubs third baseman Heinie Zimmerman fielded Bresnahan’s first-inning ground ball with runners on second and third:  “All Heine needed to do was toss the ball to the plate and one runner would have been caught, but he heaved to first base instead and the man coming from third (Mike Mowrey) scored, after he had actually stopped running.”

The other “grievous error” was made by second baseman Johnny Evers “incredible as it may seem, for Johnny is often talked of as the brainiest man on the team.”  Evers tried to score from first on Jimmy Sheckard‘s double in the first inning.  Cardinals first baseman Ed Konetchy took the relay throw and “there are none in the National League who can throw harder and  with greater accuracy”  Evers was thrown out by “ten feet” at the plate.

The Tribune said Chance “knows now that he acted against his better judgment in putting Ed Reulbach in to pitch the first game of the season.”  Reulbach had only appeared in 24 games in 1910 and was recovering from diphtheria (some recent references say Reulbach missed part of 1910 because his son had diphtheria–but several contemporaneous accounts say he suffered from the bacterial infection as well).

The box score

The box score

 

The Cubs went on to win 92 games in 1911, but finished in second place, seven and a half games behind the New York Giants.  The Cardinals finished fifth at 75-74.

Reulbach was 16-9 with a 2.96 ERA, but continued to struggle with control all season, walking 103 batters in 221 and 2/3 innings.

Below is another Old Underoof advertisement that appeared in The Chicago Examiner:

1911openingday2

Butcher Boy Schmidt

25 Jul

Charles John “Butch” “Butcher Boy” Schmidt was credited by Connie Mack with being the catalyst for the Boston Braves World Series upset of Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics in 1914; one year later Schmidt walked away from baseball in his prime.

Butch Schmidt

Butch Schmidt

He was born in Baltimore in 1886, and played amateur ball while working in the family meat market, which earned him his nickname.

Schmidt signed as a pitcher with the Baltimore Orioles  in the Eastern League and assigned to the Holyoke Papermakers in the Connecticut State League, where he posted a 10-9 record.  In late August the Orioles recalled him, and he went 5-1 in 11 games with Baltimore.

The New York Highlanders drafted Schmidt and the 22-year-old pitcher started the 1909 season in New York.  He appeared in only one game, on May 11, giving up 10 hits and eight runs, four earned, in five innings.  Early in June he was returned to the Orioles.

After appearing in eight games on the mound with the Orioles, Schmidt was moved to first base.  After hitting .244 for the remainder of ’09, he hit .292, .291, and .274 the next three seasons, and was sold to the Rochester Hustlers in the International League, where he hit .321; he was purchased by the Boston Braves on August 22, and hit .308 in 22 games playing in place of Ralph “Hap” Myers.

At the end of the 1913 season Boston sold Myers’ contract to Rochester; The Boston Post reported that Braves manager George Stallings simply didn’t like Myers.  (Myers had a different theory for his release—that story next week)

Schmidt was installed as the Braves first baseman in 1914, and as Boston made their improbable run to the National league pennant Schmidt   hit .285 with 71 RBI and .990 fielding percentage, and finished 16th in the voting for the Chalmers Award, for the most valuable player in the National League; teammates Johnny Evers and Rabbit Maranville finished first and second in the voting.

Grantland Rice said in The New York Tribune:

“There are few greater first basemen in baseball and none who is steadier or a better fighter.  For Schmidt is also of the aggressive type and a hustler every second.”

The New York Times didn’t think quite as highly of Schmidt and on the eve of the World Series said the “advantage favors the Athletics” at first base:

(John “Stuffy”) McInnis makes exceptionally brilliant plays…has been through Worlds Series fire and proved just as cool as if he were playing an exhibition game in the springtime.  Schmidt has yet to face the strain and tension of the big baseball classic…While Schmidt is not a scientific batsman, he is a free swinger and hits the ball hard, but he doesn’t hit it often.”

The pressure of the series didn’t seem to bother Schmidt, the Braves first baseman hit .294 with five hits, two runs and two RBIs in the four game sweep of the Athletics; McInnis hit just .143.

In game one he made a play in the first inning that Connie Mack said set the tone for the series and “sparked the Braves.”  With runners on first and second with one out, Athletics third baseman Frank “Home Run” Baker hit a foul pop-up into short right field.  Athletics outfielder Eddie Murphy tagged up and attempted to go to third; The Associated Press said Schmidt made a “great throw…from a difficult angle,” to third baseman Charlie Deal to retire Murphy.

Stuffy McInnis, Eddie Murphy and "Home Run" Baker,

Stuffy McInnis, Eddie Murphy and “Home Run” Baker,

Early in the 1915 season Braves manager George Stallings called Schmidt “The best first baseman in the game,” but his performance at the plate slipped.  Schmidt hit just .251 with 60 RBIs.  The Braves again found themselves in 8th place in July, and while they made another strong run, finished 2nd, seven games behind the Philadelphia Phillies.

Despite the mediocre season at the plate, it was assumed the 28-year-old Schmidt would remain the Braves first baseman.  Schmidt shocked Stallings, Boston fans, and all of baseball when he announced in January of 1916 that he was retiring from baseball.

Butch Schmidt at bat

Butch Schmidt at bat

The Associated Press said Schmidt was leaving “to devote his entire time to his private business.”

Grantland Rice said Schmidt’s business included “six meat markets in Baltimore,” and that he earned $8000 a year from his stores.

The Sporting Life said it was just as likely that Schmidt, listed at 200 pounds, retired because:

Hard work in that old rubber shirt to get down to weight, especially when the extra weight comes off slowly, more slowly each succeeding season, is a trial that anyone would like to sidestep if he could. “

Boston manager George Stallings filled the void left by Schmidt by purchasing Ed Konetchy from the Pittsburgh Rebels from the newly defunct Federal League.

The Boston Post said the change at first base would not hurt the Braves:

“Konetchy, a heavier hitter than Schmidt, is just about as capable in other ways.”

Despite the confidence of The Post, Stallings was not convinced and continued to try to induce Schmidt to return; his efforts were unsuccessful.

After Konetchy hit .260 for the third place Braves in 1916 it was reported that Schmidt would return to the team.  After several weeks of speculation, Schmidt told The Boston Globe “no offer” could induce him to return to Boston.

Konetchy hit .272 and .236 the next two seasons, and each off season it was rumored Schmidt would return, and every year he stayed home where he continued to run his business and play semi-pro ball in Baltimore’s Inter-City League.

Before the 1919 season Konetchy was traded to the Brooklyn Robins and the Braves acquired Walter Holke from the Cincinnati Reds.  Holke hit .292 for the Braves in 1919, but rumors continued that Schmidt, out of organized baseball for four years, would be returning to Boston.  The Associated Press said:

“George Stallings of the Boston Braves is trying to get Charlie “Butch” Schmidt, the Baltimore butcher boy who played first base for the world’s champions of 1914, to return to the Boston Braves.  Schmidt is reported to be in wonderful condition as he has kept in practice since his retirement.”

Schmidt never returned to professional ball, and was finally removed from Boston’s reserve list in 1922.

Butch Schmidt walked away from professional baseball and never looked back; he died in 1952 of a heart attack while inspecting cattle at the Baltimore Union Stock Yards.