Tag Archives: Ed Reulbach

Baseball Wives, 1911

27 Apr

The Chicago Inter Ocean sent a reporter—a female reporter named Lois Willoughby—to get to know:

“The feminine element (that) is a silent factor in baseball of no mean importance.  It exerts a wonderful influence on the game…The women who preside over homes of West Side Players.”

The Chicago Cubs wives of 1911:

“The wives of members of the Chicago National League baseball team are always at the games.  They are thirty-third-degree fans—all but Mrs. (Nellie) Ed Reulbach…who is quite indifferent to the sport, and who wouldn’t know a base hit from a double play.”

As for the other wives of the defending National League Champions:

“They are comely, intelligent, charming women.  They know everything about the game.  They appreciate the value of every play.  They watch the contest with unflagging interest.  They cheer their husbands on to victory…Through ups and downs, they maintain unbounded enthusiasm and unfaltering faith in the Cubs.  They show it the only way they can by their daily presence in the grandstand.”

Manager Frank Chance’s wife, the former Edythe Pancake, attended every game:

“She may come at the last moment, accompanied by her Boston Bull pup, but she is generally comfortably settled for the afternoon before the game is called.  This beautiful woman, with golden hair and blue eyes, shares her husband’s enthusiasm in baseball.

Edyth and Frank Chance

Edyth and Frank Chance

“’Do I come every day?’ she asked as though she could not have heard the question right.  ‘Why, of course, I do.  I wouldn’t miss a game for anything.  I think baseball is the greatest sport there is.  It is a profession now and an honorable one, at that. Every year it is exacting men of higher standards…Baseball is such a clean, healthful sport that I should think it would appeal to everyone.”

Jimmy Sheckard’s wife Sarah Jane said:

“I think Mr. Sheckard is the best left fielder in existence.  And he ought to be. Jimmy plays baseball, reads baseball, talks baseball and lives baseball…Baseball is the best profession and cleanest sport.  I don’t worry about the future.  With good health and good discipline, a man ought to get along all right anywhere.”

mrssheckard

Sarah Jane Sheckard

Ruby Tinker declared her husband the “greatest shortstop in the world,” and said:

“I never saw Joe on the diamond until after we were married.  I have watched him make many fine plays.  I think the best one was the day following his reinstatement this year (Chance suspended Tinker for “the remainder of the season” citing “gross indifference, on August 5—two days later he was back in the lineup) when he played against (Christy) Mathewson and got four hits.”

Ruby Tinker

Ruby Tinker

She said her life revolved around baseball “from morning until night,” and during the off-season as well:

“Joe goes into vaudeville in the winter and gives baseball talks with pictures.  I go with him as an ‘assisting artist,’ which means that I stand in the wings and prompt him…The winter spectators are just as enthusiastic as the summer ones.”

Of those who considered baseball a less than honorable profession, she said:

“They don’t know what they’re talking about.  Baseball is a good profession, a good sport, and good fun.”

Helen Evers insisted that despite reports there were no bad feelings among the 1911 team:

“The Cubs are a fine lot of men.  There seems to be perfect harmony this year, and they do good team work.”

As for her husband’s well-known difficult personality, she said:

“He has the reputation for being ‘crabby’ at times.  Perhaps he is, but that’s what put him where he is.”

mrsevers

Helen Evers

Helen Evers noted one of Johnny’s other personality quirks:

“But when the jinx gets him!  If you don’t know about the jinx you can’t understand how serious it is.  I believe most of the players are superstitious, and they have enough to make them so. I always hope he won’t see a funeral on the way to the game.  That’s a sure sign of bad luck…there are scores of hoodoos and a baseball hoodoo seems hard to break.  One of the good signs is a wagon load of empty barrels.  I’m sure I would never know when they are empty.  These things probably count for nothing, but they seem to affect the nerves of the players.”

Back to Mrs. Reulbach who while not entirely against the sport, expressed her basic disdain for her husband’s chosen career:

“As a wholesome sport, I think baseball has no equal…But as a profession, it does not appeal to me. It is only for a few years at the most and the fascination of the game must make other professions  or lines of business seem dull and monotonous.”

And while conceding the Reulbach’s years in baseball had been “pleasant and profitable” she said:

“I trust Eddie Reulbach Jr. will not be a professional baseball player.”

Nelly Reulbach with Ed Jr.

Nelly Reulbach with Ed Jr.

Ed Reulbach Jr., then 2-years-old, suffered from a variety of illnesses throughout his short life and died in 1931.

Willoughby concluded that as the 1911 National League race wound down:

“Hoping against hope, these faithful women have seen the pennant slipping farther and farther away from them.”

The Cubs lost the pennant to the Giants by 7 ½ games.

“I am, I Believe, more Inclined to fear the Jinx”

12 Apr

In 1910, Johnny Evers “wrote” an article in “Baseball Magazine” about superstitions:

“’On the Cubs’ team, for instance, I am, I believe, more inclined to fear the jinx than any other member of the club.  In batting practice before the game the general belief is that if you are not hitting the ball hard or up in the air you will bat well in the game ofttimes as a result. In many cases I have seen a player hit two or three balls hard and on the line and then go to the bench and refuse to bat anymore, saying, ‘I’m saving mine for the game.’”

Johnny Evers

Johnny Evers

Some of Evers’ other superstitions:

“Going to the different parks in the cars the sight of a funeral along the road is regarded as an ill omen.  The same applies to a (handicapped person) unless you toss him a coin.  A wagon load of barrels is a good sing.  Frequently a man, having gone a mile out of the way to purchase something on a day when his club happened to win, will continue to travel the roundabout pathway so long as the club is in that particular city or until his teammates lose.”

As for superstitions during a game:

“Watch a man when the inning is over.  If the inning previous was favorable to a player, observe him go over and be particular to locate the same spot to lay down his glove.  You doubtless have often seen a player attired in a soiled and far from presentable uniform.  Beneath all that lurks our old friend the jinx.  The player will stick to the dirty garments so long as his team is winning.  When the streak is broken the laundryman gets a chance at his clothing, but not before.”

[…]

“Not for the world could you induce the average major league pitcher to resume work with a new shoe lace.  He will tie up the remnants and go ahead, hoping to make the laces last throughout the session.  The players don’t want the bat boys to hand them their clubs either.  On our home grounds of course, Red Gallagher, the bat boy, has a sort of standing job swinging the sticks, but he always tries hard to drive away the hoodoo.  Watch him salivate the handle of every bat before it goes in the hands of its owner.”

In addition to bat boy spit, Evers said there were other superstitions among the Cubs:

“Keep your eyes glued on Tinker when he goes to bat.  Joe has a habit of walking straight from the bench to the plate to the plate for the first time up.  If he gets a clean hit that time he’ll repeat in the second trip, but if he fans or fouls out or is tossed o death on an infield drive Tinker certainly will waltz out in a circle, going back to the plate.  This is the way he hopes to break the hoodoo.”

Joe Tinker

Joe Tinker

[…]

“Recall how Manager (Frank) Chance refused to have the Cubs pose for a team picture during the closing days of the League race in 1908.  He was especially fearful that the photographer might work a jinx on the players and jeopardize our chances of beating Detroit.    (Ed) Reulbach is a mighty superstitious chap.  I remember how one of Ed’s friends approached him when the big pitcher was mowing them down for his record of fourteen straight victories (In 1909 Reulbach tied the record set in 1904 by Joe McGinnity and Jack Chesbro). He wanted Reulbach’s cap, the one he had worn during all those games, but Ed refused to part with the headgear.

Yes, the ballplayer is to be listed only with the actor or the sailor when it comes to the superstitious phase of life.”

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

“A Great deal of foolish Sympathy was wasted on Rusie”

5 Sep

Hank O’Day, pitcher and Hall of Fame umpire, said Amos Rusie was the greatest pitcher ever:

“Amos is the greatest pitcher the country ever saw. Why, Rusie had more speed in his curve ball than any pitcher I ever saw before, or have ever since seen, has in his straight fast ones.  Rusie was a wonder—that’s all there is to it.  I was behind the plate one day when one of Rusie’s  fast incurves hit Hughey Jennings…the ball hit Jennings squarely in the temple, and he fell as though shot by a ball from a Winchester rifle.  I caught him in my arms as he toppled backwards—and he was out of his head for three days.” (Contemporary reports of the incident said Jennings actually finished the game, but later lost consciousness for four days)

O’Day was also on the field when Rusie blew out his arm in 1898; Rusie threw to first to pick-off Chicago Orphans outfielder Bill Lange and “his arm cracked like a pistol’s shot.”  In 1940 Lange told his version of the story to The Portland Oregonian:

“Amos Rusie, I don’t know of any better one and I never played against any other one as good.  He had great control, as well as everything else a pitcher should have.  But my base stealing got him.  He worried over it.  I guess he lost sleep over it.  Anyway, one day he showed up on the field and said he had developed a new way to catch me off of first without turning his body.  I was anxious to see what he had, and he caught me off of first.  But—and it was a mighty large but—in doing so Rusie threw his arm out.  And never could pitch in his old form again.”

Amos Rusie

Amos Rusie

Rusie, with a dead arm, became a benchmark, an oddity, and a cautionary tale.

He posted a 246-173 record before the injury; after sitting out all of 1899 and 1900 he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds for Christy Mathewson, appeared in three games, was 0-1 with an 8.59 ERA, and his career was over.

In the decade between 1898 and 1908 The Sporting Life christened “the next Rusie,” or “another Rusie” no less than 20 times; scores more were given the same title by newspapers across the country.  Most like Cecil Ferguson (career 29-46), Davey Dunkle (17-30), Cowboy Jones (25-34), and Whitey Guese (1-4) were busts.  The three best were Orval Overall (108-71), who was called the “next Rusie” more than anyone else; Ed Reulbach (182-106), and Hall of Famer Ed Walsh (195-126).

During that same decade there were regular, small items in newspapers about Rusie’s post National League life.  Shortly after his release from the Reds in June of 1901 papers reported that Rusie, “who commanded a salary of many thousands of dollars, is now working as day laborer at $1.50 a day.”   The pitcher told a reporter “This shows I am not afraid to work, but it’s an awful comedown in salary.”

The Dallas Morning News pulled no punches in their assessment of his plight:

“The dismal afterclap to the brilliant career of a once-famous ballplayer whose name was a household word in balldom…reckless wastefulness in financial matters and a total disregard for physical care brought Rusie to his present deplorable condition when he should have been in his prime, for the big fellow is barely 30 now.”

In 1903 it was reported that Rusie had joined the Vincennes (IN) Alices in the Kitty League.  While no statistics survive, he appears to have stayed with the team for most of the summer.  The Detroit Free Press said he was “playing for a salary of $75 per month.”

After the 1903 season he went to work in a lumber yard, and the regular reports on his activities as a “low-wage laborer” appeared regularly in newspapers.  The items became such a regular feature that The Associated Press, in a short story about the Philadelphia Athletics’ eccentric and troubled Rube Waddell in 1904 said:

“Rube has run the gamut of foolishness.  He is in his prime but a few more years of such lack of sense as he displayed last season will send him to the wood pile or coal heap and he will, like Amos Rusie, be occupying two inches in the has-been columns every spring.”

There were multiple reports that Rusie was coming back as a pitcher for the 1906 season.  The rumors started in September of 1905 when Rusie attended an exhibition game in Vincennes between the Alices and the Chicago Cubs.  The Philadelphia Inquirer said of the news:

“If you don’t know the tremendous importance of this announcement you are no baseball fan.”

Not everyone agreed that Rusie returning to baseball would be a good thing.  A report from The News Special Service, which appeared in many Midwest papers said:

“His habits were none of the best, and he rapidly deteriorated in efficiency as an athlete.  He refused to pitch one whole season because he had been fined by the New York (Giants) management for being intoxicated and abusing his wife.  A great deal of foolish sympathy was wasted about that time on Rusie, but he was entitled to nothing except what he received, and some who knew the circumstances thought stricter disciplinary methods would not have been amiss.”

Rusie didn’t sign a contract that spring; and two other rumors that John McGraw had sent him a letter inviting him to spring training with the Giants and that he would return to the Kitty League didn’t materialize either.

But Rusie did make the news again in June.  A man named Gabe Watson was collecting mussels in the Wabash River when his boat when his boat overturned.  The Evansville Courier said Rusie pulled the drowning man from the river.

The nearly annual reports of “Rusie’s return” ended after 1906, but Rusie’s many career, and life changes continued as newspaper copy for the next twenty years.

When pearls were discovered in the Wabash River’s mussels, Rusie became a pearl diver.  Two years later he was in Weiser, Idaho, serving a 10-day sentence for public drunkenness.  In 1910 he was in Olney, Illinois working in a glass factory.  The following year he moved to Seattle, Washington.  For the next decade served as an umpire for a couple of Northwestern League games, worked as a ticket taker and groundskeeper at Yesler Way Park and Dugdale Field, home of the Seattle Giants, and also worked as a steam fitter.  Rusie went to jail at least once while in Seattle, and remained a big enough name that when he was injured by a falling pipe in 1913, it made newspapers throughout the country.

In 1921 Rusie became another in the long line of former players hired by the New York Giants at the behest of John McGraw.  According to newspaper reports McGraw offered the former pitcher a “job for life” as a “deputy superintendent” at the Polo Grounds.  Interest in Rusie’s career was renewed, and the pitcher was regularly interviewed for the next couple of years, reminiscing about his career and about how he’d like to have had the opportunity to pitch to Babe Ruth.

Unlike most of the former players who McGraw found work for at the Polo Grounds, Rusie did not stay for the rest of his life; he returned to Auburn, Washington in 1929 and bought a farm, where he remained for the rest of his life.  He was badly injured in a car accident in July of 1934—The Seattle Daily Times said Rusie’s vehicle overturned and he sustained a concussion and broken ribs.

While he received less attention after being incapacitated after the car accident, Rusie was still mentioned frequently in the press until his death in 1942; contrary to oft-repeated fiction that he died in obscurity.  And his obituary appeared in hundreds of papers across the country in December of 1942.  It wasn’t until the post WWII area that Rusie stopped being a household name, which led to his final comeback in the 1970s; Rusie was inducted into the Hall of Fame 34 years after his death.