Tag Archives: Ed Krebs

“Great Ball Players are not to be had now”

24 May

In August of 1904, Ted Sullivan came through the Midwest on his way  to the West Coast on a scouting trip for the Cincinnati Reds He stopped long enough in Decatur, Illinois to talk baseball with the town’s daily papers, The Herald and The Review:

“He belonged on the diamond in the days of Anson. When it came time for him to quit he did not retire, rather he took up other lines of the game.”

Ted Sullivan

Sullivan had traveled the world, become “something of a philosopher, and “seems proudest of the fact that the National League selected him as its agent to see minor league players in action and report on the promising ones.”

Sullivan said the assignment was, “proof of the confidence the best of them of today place in my judgment.”

It was, he said, “not safe to take a man from the minor leagues on the showing of the score cards,” which were “often doctored.”

Sullivan had been visiting towns around the Three-I League, and was in Decatur to watch catcher Ed Krebs and shortstop Louie Gruebner, who, The Herald said:

“Fields fine and bats like an old lady.”

Krebs took 1905 off, in part, he told The Review, because baseball cut into his fishing time.

Sullivan was among the games pioneers who thought the days of the best players were in the past.

“No, the great ball players are not to be had now, they are all dead. Ball playing is not all in the arms and legs, most of it is in the head. It is in that head quality that the men of today are lacking. Who is there to take the place of Mike Kelly of old? Why that man showed them every trick they know today, they don’t do anything worth counting that Kelly did not show them.”

Sullivan scoffed at “talk about the Pittsburgh team…being a match for Anson’s team when it was at its best and had Kelly; why, Pittsburgh is not in the same class.”

He said, “everything else in the world today is showing better brain than it ever did before,” except, of course, baseball.

“I was at Harvard watching a ball game and I sat next to the president of that university. I mentioned to him that we needed brains in the game today and he told me he thought the college men could furnish that. I told him know that we could not get that from the colleges.”

Sullivan said the best brains for baseball came out of the “vacant lot leagues,” and mentioned, “one ball player who had to make a cross as his signature, but he was getting $4,000 a year…because he had it in his head to play the game.”

There were “a better class of men” playing currently, but:

“It is a mistaken idea to think that the college athlete by breaking into the game has elevated it.”

The Review said Sullivan was, “also faithful to the ‘Old Sod,’ and maintained that the Irish made the best baseball players:

“Not one that comes from Ireland, but one whose veins are filled with the blood of the Celt.”

But while baseball would never be the same as it was during his prime, Sullivan said the game still, “shows what a great we have,” as there were players who could earn “twice the sum,” of members of the US Senate.

Sullivan’s most significant “discovery” of the 1904 trip was Orval Overall; the 23-year-old “college man was amid a 32-25 season with a 2.78 ERA for the Tacoma Tigers in the Pacific Coast League. He was the only player Sullivan scouted out West “who will be drafted.” He told The San Francisco Chronicle:

Orville Overall

“I do not consider that Overall is the best pitcher in the league by any means…but Overall has it in him to make a great pitcher and with the coaching and development he will get in big league company it will be brought out.”

“If I was to Catch Again I’d Laugh at Shin Guards”

14 Apr

Harry Salsinger was the sports editor at The Detroit News from 1907 until his death in 1958. During spring training in 1928 he wrote:

“E.A. Krebs is deeply interested in the pictures of catchers that are sent from the southern training camps. He would like to know why the modern catcher is fitted out like one of the armored knights of King James’ court. His interest is legitimate. Mr. Krebs used to be a catcher himself.”

Edward Adam Krebs caught for teams in the Central Association, Iowa League of Professional Baseball Clubs, Three-I, and Cotton States Leagues from 1902 through 1909.

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Ed Krebs

Salsinger said Krebs:

“(B)elonged to what is now known as a the ‘old school’ and the men of his school have a habit of snickering at modern baseball. When their evidence is given full consideration there seems sound reason for their snickering.”

Krebs, in a letter to Salsinger, said:

“The only protection we had was the mask, and air-filled chest protector and a catcher’s mitt. But the air-filled chest protector was a real joke after the first month of the season. It wouldn’t hold air any longer, but we buckled it on just the same, for appearance sake, I guess. We might just as well had a piece of Brussels carpet hanging on us.”

He was also annoyed by the use of shin guards:

“We didn’t use them in those days. They weren’t used before my day, and they weren’t used long after my day.”

He said he had the scars to show for it:

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Krebs 1906

“No runner in my days could touch home plate unless he cut me up, for I had home plate completely blocked. I had both feet right on the line, between the runner and the plate. I have been cut from knee to toe many times.

“I have caught some of the fiercest outlaw pitchers the game has known. They were so wild that they could never reach the big leagues. Once in awhile I got a rap on the skin with a wild pitch, but not often, and a kid full of knots doesn’t mind a rap on the shin once in a while.”

Krebs said current pitchers threw no harder than when he played, nor was the ball “any harder,” so, “If I was to catch again (I am 48) I’d laugh at shin guards.”

A Wisconsin native, Krebs said he caught Addie Joss at Sacred Heart College in 1888, although he said he was primarily a shortstop, and the regular catcher was Red Kleinow, who played eight seasons in the major leagues between 1904 and 1911.

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Krebs, 2nd from right, center row, with Decatur, 1903.

During his first season in professional baseball, Krebs played for Fred Pfeffer during the former Chicago White Stockings’ only year as a minor league manager—with the Decatur Commodores in the three-I League in 1902:

“(Pfeffer) was the best second baseman who ever played around or anywhere the bag. I have seen Fred, while he was with us at Decatur and when he was 51 years old [sic 42], go high in the air, pull down a line drive and whip the ball to first for a double play. His throw was half done before he got back to the ground. Many times, I have seen him go deep, scoop up a grounder and slap the ball backhanded to the first baseman.”

Of Pfeffer on the base paths he said:

“I have seen Fred score from third when the catcher stood at the plate waiting for him, the ball in his hand. His body would be pointed straight at the grandstand and his toe would be touching home plate. He would be laying flat on the ground. When the catcher made a stab for Fred, he just wasn’t near the spot where the catcher thought he was.”

Krebs worked as a plumber and died in Burlington, Iowa in 1937.