Tag Archives: Ed Mackall

On the Road with the Giants, 1912

18 Jan

As the New York Giants were cruising to the National League Pennant in 1912—they won by 10 games and were never in second place after May 20—New York’s catcher John “Chief” Meyers provided fans with a look at life with the Giants.

Chief Meyers

Chief Meyers

The article was written for The Associated Press—most likely by Jim McBeth of The New York American, who acted most often as Meyers’ ghostwriter:

“After the last ball of the game is fielded and the crowd begins to pour out of the park and the players disappear into the clubhouse—what then?

“The fans read in their papers next morning: ‘New York at Pittsburgh’ or ‘New York at Boston,’ or something like that.  And until the bulletin boards begin to put up the score, inning by inning, in the afternoon, they know little of nothing about the men they have been watching and cheering.

“What have ballplayers been doing in the meantime?”

Meyers explained life on the road:

“Well, suppose we’ve just finished a game on the Polo Grounds.  Our schedule calls for a battle with the Pirates in their home park.  Of course, the first thing is to get there, and we get there in easier and better fashion than any other sort of a traveler.

“We have two private Pullman cars of our own, always, and they are our traveling home We assemble at the railroad station—sometimes forty strong—and just pile aboard and make ourselves comfortable.

“In the first place, I might mention the make-up of our party.  We carry twenty-five players, as many as the rules allow; John McGraw, the manager; Wilbert Robinson, coach and assistant manager; the club secretary and his assistant; Dr. Finley the club physician;  Ed Mackall, the club trainer; Dick Hennessy, our kid mascot, and as many as ten or twelve newspaper writers especially towards the end of a close race.”

The 1912 Giants

The 1912 Giants

As for accommodations:

“If he is a regular he takes possession of a seat which indicates that his berth when it is made up will be a ‘lower.’ That’s an absolute rule.  Nothing but the cream for the first string players.

“As soon as the train pulls out the boys go to their favorite amusements—card playing, reading, ‘fanning.’  Don’t think a player finishes a game when he sheds his spangles.  He doesn’t.  Many a game is played all over again as soon as the boys get together.

“There’s a little quartet of us who are pinochle fans—(James ‘Doc’) Crandall, (Art) Fletcher, (David ‘Beals’) Becker and myself—a fine lot of Dutchmen we are.  We’re the ‘tightwads’ of the club because we don’t  risk as much as a nickel on our games.

“There was a time when there was tall gambling by the players on trains while traveling from one town to another.  I’ve seen as much as $6,000 or $7000 on the table in a poker game. But that’s past; the player of today holds on to his money, and, besides, he knows that high betting causes ill feeling between friends and heavy losses get a man’s mind off his playing.  The Giants play a little poker, of course, but it’s only a 25-cent limit game, where a man in hard luck may lose as much as $4 or $5 in a session.

“Occasionally you’ll hear a little singing.  Some of the boys have really good voices.  Others fancy themselves as vocalists, anyhow.  Larry Doyle, for instance…Leon Ames gets up sometimes and gives us his specialty.  He recites Kipling’s poem, ‘On the Road to Mandalay,‘ (with an affected speech impediment). That always gets a laugh.  The younger, smaller players buzz around Big Jeff Tesreau like a flock of mosquitoes attacking an elephant, giving him a good-natured kidding until he sweeps his big arms and chases them. “

Big Jeff Tesreau

Big Jeff Tesreau

Meyers said the Giants were “like one big family—a lively, noisy bunch of pals.”   He said a player occasionally “gets a grouch and sits off by himself,” but:

“I never saw a group of men in any business so genuinely attached to each other…Occasionally some stranger tries to horn into our cars but he quickly finds he isn’t wanted.”

The Giants, he said, drew crowds at the ballpark and at their hotel:

“There’s nothing tight about us when we travel. We’re an attraction and we know it, and that helps box office receipts.  People always want to see this club that’s got Matty and a real Indian, and sometimes  (the previous season) Charley Faust  or a Bugs Raymond as an added attraction. So we don’t keep our light under any bushel.

“We’re always pretty well sized up in our hotel in a strange city.  We can hear people say ‘So they are the Giants eh?’  The native can always spot me because of my Indian appearance, so I’m usually the one they make for.

“’Say, Chief, which is Matty?’ they ask.  ‘Which one is Johnny McGraw?’ ‘Who’s going to pitch today, Chief?’ The other boys give me the laugh because I’m the goat for all questioners.  The fans don’t recognize the other players.”

Meyers said most of the Giants were not great dressers, ‘content with two changes of costume.”  The exceptions were Rube Marquard:  “He travels with a steamer trunk and sometimes has six or eight suits with him,” as well as Josh Devore and Art Wilson.

Meyers said every player shared one fashion statement:

“Everybody…sports a diamond.  That seems to be the badge of big-league class.  As soon as a ballplayer gets out of the ‘bushes’ and into the big show the first thing he does is buy a spark.  Some of the boys have half a dozen. “

Meyers also insisted that drinking was not a problem among the modern players:

“One thing we hear from strangers most frequently is ‘Have a drink, old man let’s drink one for good luck in today’s game.’  That invitation is invariably refused. Few of the boys drink anything at all, and those who do take a glass of beer occasionally do it among themselves always.  The present day player differs greatly from the old timer, who mixed with everyone.

“Pleasant strangers, with sensible questions, we don’t mind, but they are in the minority t the butters-in who simply want to tell their friends they are associates of ballplayers.”

Meyers said he and his teammates were also very popular with deaf fans, many of whom began following the Giants when Luther “Dummy” Taylor (1900-01, 1902-08) pitched for the club:

“(N)ow they’re friends of all of us.  Most of the Giants learned the finger talk from Taylor.”

He said Mathewson, Doyle and Fred Snodgrass were all very conversant in sign language and “are the idols of” many deaf fans.

Fred Snodrass

Fred Snodgrass

Meyers frequented art museums on the road.  As for his teammates: billiards for most, chess or checkers for Mathewson during the day, and the theatre at night, he said, were the “favorite pastimes” of the Giants.

No matter the activity after a road game, he said: “Everybody must be in bed” by 11:30 pm.  “That’s one of McGraw’s rules, and the boys are on their honor to obey it.”

Meyers drew one conclusion from the lifestyle of the modern ballplayer.  He and his brethren were “(A) trifle better off, both physically and morally, than the average young man.”

“If Baseball is really the National Game let the Club Owners go out and prove it”

4 May

Haywood Broun, columnist for The New York World-Telegram, shook up the annual Baseball Writers Association dinner in February of 1933.  The Pittsburgh Courier said Broun “struck out boldly in advocacy of admitting Negroes to the charmed circle of big leagues.”

Heywood Campbell Broun

Heywood Broun

Broun said (and later wrote in The World-Telegram):

“I can see no reason why Negroes should not come into the National and American Leagues.

“Why in the name of fair play and gate receipts should professional baseball be so exclusive?”

[…]

“The introduction of a few star Negro ball players would do a great deal to revivify interest in the big leagues.  It would attract a number of colored rooters. And it would be a fair and square thing.  If baseball is really the national game let the club owners go out and prove it.”

Jimmy Powers of The New York Daily News said he polled the dinner guests after Broun’s remarks:

“I made an informal tour around the tables asking club owners and players their reactions to Broun’s little talk.  I was amazed at the sentiment in favor of the idea.”

Powers claimed that Yankees owner Jacob Rupert, St. Louis Cardinals General Manager Branch Rickey, and Babe Ruth were all in support of Broun’s statement.   John McGraw the dinner’s guest of honor—he had resigned as manager of the New Giants the previous summer due to his failing health—was, according to Powers, “The only prominent man present vetoing” the idea.

John McGraw

John McGraw vetoed the idea

 

Salem Tutt Whitney, a prominent star of the black vaudeville circuit, commented on McGraw in the pages of The Chicago Defender:

“John McGraw and his Giants have been the idols of the Colored baseball fans.  Whenever and wherever there had been talk about the color line in major league baseball, the Colored fans were a unit that declared that if John McGraw could have his way there would be no color line.  ‘Didn’t he play (Charlie) Grant at second base on the Giants!’  ‘Look how long he employed a Colored trainer (Ed Mackall)!’”

[…]

 “It is my opinion that if the Colored baseball fans of Harlem are not convinced that Mr. McGraw has nothing more to do with the Giants, there will be a lack of personal color in bleachers and stands at the Giants’ stadium this summer.”

Salem Tutt Whitney

Salem Tutt Whitney

Not content to simply report on Broun’s pitch for integration, Powers made his own:

“I would like to make a case for the colored baseball player.  In football, Duke Slater, Fritz Pollard and Paul Robeson and stars of similar complexion played with and against the cream of Nordic colleges.  Eddie Tolan, Ralph Metcalfe and Phil Edwards have conducted themselves in a gentlemanly—not to mention championship—fashion.  Boxing has known Joe Gans, Sam Langford, Joe Walcott and Tiger Flowers.  There are only three popular sports in which the dark-skinned athletes are snubbed—tennis, golf and baseball.”

The New York Age approved:

“Here’s hoping all the other big white sportswriters have the courage of Jimmy Powers.”

Chester Washington, a sports writer at The Pittsburgh Courier announced that the paper was launching “A symposium of opinion, coming from outstanding figures in baseball circles,” designed to demonstrate a broad coalition of support for integration.

The Courier reported “The first of these statements,” in response to Washington’s outreach the following week—and it was a rather incredible one from John Heydler, president of the National League, who said:

“Beyond the fundamental requirement that a major league player must have unique ability and good character and habits, I do not recall one instance where baseball has allowed either race, creed or color enter into the selection of its players.”

Gerald Nugent “aggressive young owner of the Phillies,” was next to respond to The Courier:

“Nugent calls attention to the fact that no ‘color line’ is drawn on the dollars which are spent by colored and white fans for admissions in the various big-league parks…He further declares that the average colored semi-pro league player is better than his white brother in the same category.”

Support continued to come.  Chicago White Sox President J. Louis Comiskey:

“You can bet your last dime that I’ll never refuse to hire a great athlete simply because he isn’t the same color of some other player on my team if the alleged bar is lifted.”

While Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis did not respond to The Courier, his right-hand man, Leslie O’Connor said “(T)here isn’t any rule which keeps colored players out.”  But, like Heydler, he made the incredible claim that “the subject of Negro ball players had never been brought up,” among the Major League Advisory Council.

Based on the initial responses, William Goldwyn Nunn, The Courier’s managing editor, expressed great, if premature, optimism:

“And the color will be black!

“As sure as the Ides of March are approaching, there’s going to be some added color in the Major Leagues.  AND, THAT COLOR WILL BE BLACK!”

Meanwhile Jimmy Powers quoted Lou Gehrig and Herb Pennock of the Yankees and Frankie Frisch of the Cardinals in The Daily News, all said they were “open-minded,” about the possibility integration.

pennock

Pennock “Open-minded”

 

Two more prominent sportswriters came out in support:  Dan Parker of The New York Daily Mirror, and Gordon Mackay, who had been sports editor of three Philadelphia papers—The Enquirer, The Press and The Public Ledger.

And then, as abruptly as it began, the movement died.

Despite the brief groundswell of support, by the time the major league season opened Alvin J. Moses, another writer for The Courier admonished the papers readers:

“Aren’t you somewhat ashamed of yourselves that you haven’t seen fit to spare the time to flood (the paper) with letters that cry out against these NEGROPHOBES who for more than half a century have kept Negro ballplayers out of league competition?

“The cry of ‘Play Ball, Play Ball, Play Ball?’ is heard today in hundreds of parks the county over, and baseball statisticians have figured to show more than 40,000,000 fans walk past the turnstiles.  But what does that cry mean to you, and you, and you? Well, I’ll tell you—absolutely nothing.”