Tag Archives: Eddie Cicotte

“I am Glad to be Away From Mack’s Team”

14 May

The winter of 1914-1915 was eventful for Eddie Collins.  There were stories which claimed he would never actually appear in a game for the Chicago White Sox, how close he came to not being sold to the Sox because of his wife, and a story about a letter that nearly destroyed his reputation in Philadelphia.

collinspix

Eddie Collins

Collins was sold by the Philadelphia Athletics to the White Sox on December 8, 1915, four days after The Chicago Tribune reported that Walter Johnson had jumped to the Federal League’s Chicago Whales, or the “Tinx” as I. E. Sanborn of The Tribune called the club managed by Joe Tinker.  The paper’s headline said:

“Johnson Signs with ‘Feds;’ to Play With Tinx”

The Chicago press greeted the Collins sale with as much excitement as the Johnson signing, and after the dust cleared a month later, Johnson was back with Washington having come to terms with Clark Griffith.

One of the January stories about Collins was borne out of the belief in some quarters in Chicago that Charles Comiskey only bought Collins because, as Ed Grillo of The Washington Star said: “If Johnson had not jumped to the Chifeds, Collins undoubtedly would have (been sold to the New York Yankees).”

comiskeypix

Charles Comiskey

The Chicago Daily News implied that Comiskey only made the deal to steal the press thunder from the Federal League club’s signing of Johnson and that Collins would be sold to the Yankees before the 1915 season.  Comiskey vehemently denied the story to James Crusinberry, The Tribune’s sports editor:

“The Walter Johnson affair never entered into our plan of getting Eddie Collins.  I wanted a second baseman and a great hitter, and the reason I wanted him was because I want to win a pennant…Eddie Collins will be playing for the white Sox for the next five years if he lives.”

According to Collins, his wife–Mabel Harriet Doane Collins–almost kept the deal from happening in the first place.  According to Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Herald-Examiner:

“Eddie Collins came near never being a member of the Chicago White Sox because his wife refused to believe the biggest men in baseball wanted to see him.”

According to Fullerton, Collins was out when the phone rang:

“’Hello,’ said a voice.  ‘This is President (Ban) Johnson of the American League.  I want to speak to Mr. Collins.’

“’We’ve had practical jokers call us up before,’ replied Mrs. Collins sweetly, as she hung up the receiver.

“Five minutes later the telephone rang again, and a voice said,’ This is President Comiskey of the Chicago White Sox, I would like to speak to Mr. Collins.’

‘”Our friend Mr. Johnson must have lost his voice and asked you to call,’ responded Mrs. Collins, and hung up again.

“Another five minutes passed.  Then Connie Mack called up.  Mrs. Collins recognized his voice…’Did Mr. Johnson and Mr. Comiskey really telephone?’ she asked surprised.

“’Yes,’ answered Mack.

“’Eddie is at a friend’s house, but I’ll get him right away.’

“If Mrs. Collins had had the telephone cut off, Collins might still be a member of the Athletics.”

mrscollins

Mabel Collins, with sons Eddie Jr. and Paul (1925)

But the last story about Collins that winter nearly caused a rift with his former manager and threatened to tarnish the Collins’ image as the era’s most gentlemanly ballplayer.

In January, The Detroit News said White Sox pitcher Eddie Cicotte told a reporter that Collins had written him a letter regarding his enthusiasm to play in Chicago.  According to Cicotte, Collins said:

“(H)e is glad to get away from Philadelphia because the fans there are not as loyal to the players as they ought to be.”

The News—in an article with no byline–quoted the letter:

“Here is one thing I have been waiting to say, I am glad to be away from Mack’s team.  I say that sincerely, and of all the cities of the American League I prefer Chicago.  The fans are loyal there.  A player’s mistakes of the day (and we all have them) are overlooked because it is known a man is doing his best.  I have always wanted to play in Chicago; now that I’m with the team I am going to give it my best efforts.”

cicotte

Ed Cicotte

Collins denied he said the things The News quoted and told The Philadelphia Press:

“I not only did not write anything of the kind to Cicotte, but never did say any such thing.  I do not believe either that Cicotte ever said that I wrote him the letter which was published.”

Collins told The Press he had received a telegram from Cicotte, but said his response to the Sox pitcher simply said:

“Dear Eddie—I have just received your wire of congratulations and say that I greatly appreciate it.  I am glad that the members of the club feel as they do about the deal.  We ought to have a good club next season and I am sure we will be up in the running for the pennant.”

While The Sporting News quoted the same version of the letter as The Detroit News, The Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger chose to accept Collins’ version of events:

“The efforts of some sporting writers to construct ‘stories’ from material gathered from the surrounding atmosphere indicate two things:  First that the writer not only has a glaring disregard for the truth but that he is even willing to injure the standing of a person in a community for the sake of putting over a fake ‘story.’ The dispatch which came from Detroit purporting to give a portion of Eddie Collins’ letter to Eddie Cicotte was false from start to finish…that writer took it upon himself to write a quotation which contained not one iota of truth.  It made the fans of Philadelphia who have always been loyal to Collins angry and no matter what is stated later there will always be some people here who believe that Collins wrote that letter who will still be his enemies.  And all because someone writing a story in Detroit has regard for neither truth nor for the feelings of an individual.  Such a person, if his identity were known, should be barred in the future from writing anything whatever.  Any man who attempts to to enter the field of sport writing should at least stand on his merits and not try to advance his personal cause by unfair, underhand, despicable means.”

Collins played the next 12 seasons with the White Sox, returning to Mack and the less “loyal” Philadelphia fans in 1927.

“Out of the Game”

2 Nov

ripley

A September 1920 cartoon in The New York Globe, “Cleaning Up” by Robert Ripley–later famous for “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” which he began drawing two years earlier–calling on organized baseball to banish  Hal Chase, Heinie Zimmerman, and six members of the Chicago White Sox: Swede Risberg, Joe Jackson, Eddie Cicotte, Buck Weaver. Happy Felsh [sic, Felsch] and Lefty Williams–Ripley left out Chick Gandil and Fred McMullin.

Ripley continued to draw baseball cartoons as “Believe it or Not” gained popularity, including the one below from 1921 winter meetings featuring Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Ban Johnson, Kid Gleason, Hooks Wiltse, Charles Ebbets, John McGraw, and Wilbert Robinson.  After The Globe folded in 1923, Ripley moved to The New York Evening News.

ripley2

 

“The Aristocrat of all Mascots”

1 Jul

Shortly after the 1920 World Series, The Associated Press (AP) claimed to have discovered why the Brooklyn Robins, after taking two out of three games from the Indians at home, dropped four straight in Cleveland:

“At last the secret…is out.  The Dodgers declined to take their mascot, Eddie Bennett, with them to the lair of the Indians, and without his lucky presence they were swamped.  And not only that.  Bennett, indignant over having been left at home, has quit the Brooklyns!  That’s revenge!”

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle said, Bennett, a Brooklyn native, came to the attention of baseball fans in 1919 when he served as bat boy and mascot for the American League Champion Chicago White Sox:

“(H)e used to hang around the players’ entrance to the ballparks on both sides of the bridge.  The Yankees were playing at the Polo Grounds then, and one day one of the White Sox noticed a wistful little fellow in the front row of hero worshippers.”

Eddie Bennett

Eddie Bennett

White Sox outfielder Oscar “Happy” Felsch, noticed Bennett suffered from kyphosis (the excessive curvature of the spine—in Bennett’s case it was said to have been caused by an injury when he fell out of his stroller as an infant) and asked “’Are you lucky?’ ‘Sure,’ cried Eddie Bennett eagerly.”  With Bennett serving as bat boy, the Sox defeated the Yankees.  With that:

“Felsch spoke to Eddie Cicotte about taking him back to Chicago. Cicotte spoke to Manager (William) Kid Gleason.  Eddie Bennett became the official White Sox mascot.”

Bennett spent the rest of the season with the Sox and roomed with pitcher Dickie Kerr on the road. After the Black Sox scandal broke—Bennett told reporters, “I was one of the honest ones”—the 16-year-old returned to New York and went to work for the Robins.

Dean Snyder, writing for Scripps’ Newspaper Enterprise Association, said of Bennett during Brooklyn’s pennant run:

“(The Robins) bought the kid a swell uniform and told him to hang around.

“From the day he started as the official mascot…things began to look up.”

But, Snyder noted, Bennett was strictly a mascot and not a bat boy in Brooklyn:

“Little Eddie is a hunchback. The players positively forbid him to touch their bats.  They just want him to stick around. They’re might superstitious about their war clubs.”

After being left home by the Robins for the club’s ill-fated trip to Cleveland, Bennett jumped to the Yankees; he told The AP:

“I’m going to be with a real club this year.  Oh boy, to watch that (Babe) Ruth sock them every day.”

Bennett with Ruth

Bennett with Ruth

For the third straight season, Bennett was part of a pennant winner, and for the third straight year his team lost the World Series.  But this time he stayed put and remained a fixture with the Yankees for another decade.

American League Umpire Billy Evans, in one of his syndicated columns, said Bennett took his position very seriously and related a story about seeing him in a restaurant during a Yankee losing streak:

“Bennett was seated across from me at a table in the diner. We were served at about the same time, and I noticed he ate but little of the food he had ordered.

“’Something wrong with the food Eddie?’ I ventured.

“’The food is all right, I guess there is something wrong with me,’ replied Eddie.

“’Cheer up, Eddie.  The Yankees can’t lose all of them,’ I said with a laugh.

“’Babe hasn’t made a home run in a week.  The team never gets any runs for Bob Shawkey.  Every time Scotty (shortstop Everett Scott) makes an error it means a run.  Waite Hoyt has a bad inning every game,’ was Eddie’s come back.

“’Why worry about these things, Eddie?’ The Yankee mascot looked at me in a puzzled manner, as if I might be joshing him.

“’That’s my business, I’m a mascot,’ said Eddie in all seriousness.  ‘I am supposed to bring luck, to help Ruth make home runs, keep Scotty from making errors, have the team get runs for Shawkey, and no bad innings for Hoyt.’

“Eddie was disgusted at my failure to appreciate the importance of his position.”

In 1928, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle called Bennett “(T)he aristocrat of all mascots…eight flags in 10 years is the mark for other mascots, living and still to be born to try to equal.  It will probably never be beaten.”

Bennett’s career came to an end in May of 1932; according to The United Press (UP) he was riding in a cab which crashed and “was pinned to a pole,” Bennett suffered several broken bones, including a leg broken in several places, and spent months in the hospital. (The AP said he was hit by the cab while walking).

He made a brief, dramatic return to the Yankees a year later.

On May 23, 1933, Bennett entered the Yankees clubhouse on crutches in the midst of what The International News Service called “The great home run famine.”  Neither Babe Ruth nor Lou Gehrig had hit one since April 30:

“It was the longest home run slump for the twins since they started making life miserable for American League pitchers.  For weeks they rubbed their carcasses and bats with sundry kinds of magic oils and rabbit’s feet, consulted Yogi’s and employed every luck charm known to the superstitious in an effort to shake off the jinx.  It took Eddie Bennett, the little cripple who formerly was the club’s bat boy, to shatter the jinx.  Before yesterday’s game he solemnly tapped both sluggers with his magic crutch and that turned the trick.”

Eddie Bennett

Eddie Bennett

Both Ruth and Gehrig hit home runs off Oral Hildebrand (who came into the game with a 6-0 record) in an 8 to 6 victory over the Cleveland Indians.

It was a final happy moment for Bennett.

While he continued to be paid by Yankees owner Jacob Rupert, depression and alcoholism consumed the last years of his life.  The 31-year-old, “aristocrat of all mascots,” was found dead on January 17, 1935, according to The UP “cold and stiff in his drab rooming home…He lived out his days among his baseball trophies, drinking steadily”

Edit:  As noted in the comments, I say above that Bennett left the White Sox “when the scandal broke,”  which implies September of 1920 when the grand jury was impaneled. I should have said “when rumors of the scandal broke,” which began during the 1919 series and continued throughout the 1920 season.

“I Believe that a Pitcher of a Slow Ball could make Monkeys out of Opposing Batsmen”

21 May

After the success of William Arthur “Candy” Cummings’ decades-long campaign to be recognized as the inventor of the curveball—his claim was supported by influential voices like A.G. Spalding, Cap Anson,  and Tim Murnane—culminated with his 1908 “Baseball Magazine” article “How I Pitched the First Curve,” Cummings was often sought out by the press for his opinions on pitching.

Candy Cummings

Candy Cummings

In 1910, an article “By Arthur Cummings, Discoverer of the Curve,” appeared in several newspapers, including The Boston Post.  Cummings took current pitchers to task for throwing too hard:

“Speed, speed, speed seems to be the cry of the pitcher today.  The more steam a fellow has, the more valuable he appears in the eyes of the managers.  It’s only once or twice in a game that a twirler will let loose his slow ball, and then he doesn’t put a whole lot of faith in it.  Of course there are some exceptions, like Mathewson, but I am talking about the general run.  To my mind, the speed craze is an obsession and many a pitcher would meet with greater success if he’d only revert to the old style of pitching and try slow ones oftener.  Players and managers of today think that the only way to win a ballgame is to have a pitcher who can throw a ball with such force that it will go through a six-inch plank, and if the fellow hasn’t got that amount of speed he is no good.

“If some managers would go back to the old-time style of pitching and send men in the box who would serve up slow balls there wouldn’t be as much base running as there is now, but the ball would be batted more and there would be better exhibitions of fielding.  Players of today can’t hit a slow ball with any degree of safety, they having become used to the swift article.  That’s why I believe that a pitcher of a slow ball could make monkeys out of opposing batsmen.

“Of course, there is a difference in the national sport, as now exemplified, when you compare it with the game when I was in it some thirty years ago.  The pitcher’s box now is further away from the home plate than it was when I used to pitch.  At that time it was forty-five feet from the home plate; now it is more than sixty, and it takes some speed to get over the plate.  I don’t know as I could go in a pitcher’s box, such as it is used today, and get a ball over the home plate, but if they moved it up to forty-five feet I could get my slow overshoots over the pan and I’ll bet a cigar the batsman wouldn’t hit it; he’d hit at it, though, and swing for all he’s worth.

“But even though the plate is further back, the pitchers have the curve worked down to such a science that they can make their ‘floaters’ break more sharply than we old timers could, and consequently they would much more easily fool the hitters.  Once in a while a genuine slow ball pitcher pops up and gets along but little confidence is placed in him; his victories are attributed to luck, and he is not used very regularly.

“Fans laugh these days when a pitcher takes it into his head to serve up a slow ball, which scorers call a change of pace, and see a heavy hitter almost break his back trying to kill the ball.  When he misses, it pleases the bugs immensely, but let me tell you, that the slower a ball is the harder it is for the batsman to connect with.  The hitting column wouldn’t have as big averages as it does now, and a man who could bat for .300 would be a wonder indeed, if slow balls were used by pitchers.

“But it seems as if the day of the slow ball has gone by.  A scout will not sign a pitcher unless he has got something good in the way of speed or a peculiarly curving swift ball, like Harry Howell’s or Eddie Cicotte’s knuckle ball.  It seems as if when we old timers dropped out of the game and the present generations took it up where we left off, they thought they would introduce new features to the game, and selected speed as the proper thing.  Of course, the invention of the mask, protector and heavy mitts had something to do with slow pitching passing out of existence, but it was the ideas of the young pitchers more than anything else that developed the desire of captains and managers for pitchers with great speed.

Ed Cicotte's knuckleball grip

Eddie  Cicotte’s knuckleball grip

“Perhaps you notice that these pitchers of today who have such great speed and assortment of curves do not work very regularly.  Well, when I played ball I was in the box one day and in the field the next and in that way I kept my arm in good shape and my batting eye keen, just because I was at the game all the time.  I never used much speed; therefore my arm was in condition to work.  Perhaps some manager will come along yet and decide that there was better pitching in the old days and give a slabbist with a slow curve ball a chance to work in the box.

“When that day arrives the fans will see some fun, for the long-distance hitters will find it hard to connect with the ball very often.”

In 1921 Cummings, then 72-years-old was sitting in the press box of Ebbetts Field, a guest of The Brooklyn Eagle, for a game between the Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies.  Cummings told The Eagle’s Sports Editor Abe Yager:

“I think I could out-guess   Babe Ruth if I were pitching right now.  I had to pitch against Dan Brouthers, Cap Anson and other sluggers of bygone fame and believe me it was some feat to fool them.  We did it often, but of course, they hit ‘em out just as often.  Ruth can be fooled by an outcurve, a high one in close or a drop the same as the sluggers of old, but of course, he will connect once in every three times by the law of averages.”

“We are beginning to have a Very Active Doubt as to the Value of Professional Baseball in American Life”

29 Aug

Coming on the heels of the fallout from the Black Sox scandal, The Chicago Tribune announced a change in editorial policy three weeks after “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Eddie Cicotte, Oscar “Happy” Felsch., Claude “Lefty” Williams, Arnold “Chick” Gandil, George “Buck” Weaver, Fred McMullin, and Charles “Swede” Risberg were acquitted of conspiring to fix the 1919 World Series.

Buck Weaver and Swede Risberg during the trial

Buck Weaver and Swede Risberg during the trial

The paper said:

The Tribune has begun to use the compressor on professional baseball stories. The baseball reporters write them well, but we are getting a little tired of the subject. We are beginning to have a very active doubt as to the value of professional baseball in American life.”

The paper said baseball received a “black eye which jury verdicts did not whiten.”

The Tribune said they would place a greater emphasis on coverage of amateur sports which “produce sound citizenry.”  Professional baseball was also making Americans soft:

“The majority of spectators get only eye and mouth exercise.  We have conceded that the professional game stimulated the youngsters and that they played with more earnestness on the lots because they admired Babe Ruth.  We still admit that professional baseball is a stimulus to boys, but journalism has overfed it with space.  The Tribune is down to about a half column now for games in which the home teams play, which is justified parochialism, and to a bare statement of vital statistics regarding the other clubs.  That is enough.”

Other newspapers applauded the policy; surprisingly most didn’t cite corruption in baseball as the reason, but the rather, as The Baltimore Sun said because professional sports only provide “vicarious exercise.”  The Louisville Courier-Journal said watching baseball was even a threat to manhood:

“Two hours of inactivity in the grand stand or bleachers is not productive of muscle or sinew.  The same amount of time spent in tennis, golf, swimming or any number of games would be infinitely better for American manhood.”

Others found the new policy foolish.  The Portland Oregonian said:

The Chicago Tribune, which is regarded by its management, and doubtless by many of its readers, as the world’s greatest newspaper, has decided to blue-pencil professional baseball…The theory on which the sport page is built is that the public is entitled to what it wants…Telling the readers of sports that they should want something else, and will be given that something, is a decided innovation.”

The Duluth News-Tribune said facetiously:

“The fact that both teams (the Cubs and White Sox) are near tail-enders may not have anything to do with it.”

Then there was The Idaho Statesman which said The Tribune’s policy was a “meritorious undertaking,” but didn’t go far enough:

“There are a world of other professional sports not half as white as the Black Sox, that might come under the publicity axe with resulting good to the public…Horseracing is professional and it has produced a fine crop of crooks—more than baseball in its blackest days could possibly yield.  Our own so-called wild west sports have been placed in the professional class and everybody knows they are largely fake.  Wrestling hasn’t the whitest record in the world and prize fighting is anything but a Sunday school game.  Nobody ever got very much exercise out of any of these sports, except the participants and we are not sure that our citizenship is any sounder for having witnessed them.  The Tribune isn’t through with its job as we view the situation.”

The most prescient response was from The Montgomery (AL) Advertiser:

“We expect to see The Tribune gradually slipping back to its old ways.”

Ten days after the original policy was announced The Tribune declared victory, and revealed their real motive:

“An encouraging sign is the changing attitude of the press toward highly commercialized sport. The papers are coming to the conclusion they have been giving away millions of dollars’ worth of advertising to boost box office receipts for promoters who have no special regard for the public.”

But within weeks the “The World’s Greatest Newspaper” had, as The Advertiser predicted, begun “slipping back” to the way baseball had previously been covered.  By the beginning of the 1922 season, notwithstanding the lingering effects of the game’s greatest scandal, or no indication that Americans were getting any more exercise, baseball stories in The Tribune looked no different than stories that appeared before August of 1921.