Tag Archives: Eddie Collins

Lost Pictures–Ty Cobb’s “Outburst of Historic Art”

30 Sep

After the 1916 season, Ty Cobb spent four weeks on Long Island shooting the first feature film starring a major league ballplayer.

The story for “Somewhere in Georgia” was written by Grantland Rice, then of The New York Tribune.

Ty Cobb and leading lady Elsie MacLeod

Ty Cobb and leading lady Elsie MacLeod

Rice said of the film:

“For the matter of twelve years Tyrus Raymond Cobb, the first citizen of Georgia, has proved that when it comes to facing pitchers he has no rival…It may have been that facing such pitchers as (Ed) Walsh, (Walter) Johnson, (Babe) Ruth and others has acclimated Ty to facing anything under the sun, even a moving picture camera.  At any rate, when Director George Ridgewell, of the Sunbeam Motion Picture Company, lined Ty up in various attitudes before the camera he was astounded at the way the star ballplayer handled the job.

Grantland Rice

Grantland Rice

“These paragraphs should be enough to break the news gently that Cobb, wearying of competition with (Tris) Speaker, (Joe) Jackson and (Eddie) Collins through so many years, has decided to go out and give battle to Douglas Fairbanks and Francis X. Bushman.  Not for any extended campaign, but for just one outburst of historic art.”

Director George Ridgeway said of his star:

“The most noticeable thing about Cobb’s work was this:  I’ve never had to tell him more than once what I wanted done.  I had an idea that I would have to take half my time drilling him for various scenes in regard to expression and position. But, on the contrary, he seemed to have an advance hunch as to what was wanted, and the pictures will show that as a movie star Ty is something more than a .380 hitter.  In addition to this, he is a horse plus and elephant for work. Twelve hours a day is nothing to him, and when the rest of us are pretty well worn out Cobb is ready for the next scene. I believe the fellow could work twenty hours a day for a week and still be ready for overtime.”

Rice noted that Cobb balked at just thing during the filming:

“Ty was willing enough to engage in mortal combat with anywhere from two to ten husky villains.  He was willing enough ti dive headfirst for the plate or to jump through a window, but when it came to one of our best known pastimes, lovemaking, he balked with decided abruptness.

“Despite the attractiveness and personal appeal of the heroine, Miss Elsie MacLeod, Ty was keen enough to figure ahead, not what the spectators might think of it, but what Mrs. Tyrus Raymond Cobb of Augusta think. The love making episode, therefore, while more or less thickly interspersed, had to be handled in precisely the proper way to meet Ty’s bashful approval”

The "bashful" star

The “bashful” star

The New York Tribune claimed that “More than 100 motion picture scenarios” were presented to Cobb before he agreed to appear in Rice’s.  The paper said, “(H)e would not, he emphatically stated, appear in anything that was not compatible with both his dignity and his standing in the baseball world.”

The Ty Cobb character in “Somewhere in Georgia” is a bank clerk who plays ball for the local baseball team—he, along with the bank’s cashier are vying for the love of  the banker’s daughter.  Cobb is scouted and offered a contract by the Detroit Tigers but the banker’s daughter tells him he must choose between baseball and her.  At the same time, the cashier, Cobb’s rival for the banker’s daughter, bets against the home team and plots to have Cobb kidnapped by “a gang of thugs.”

Cobb accosted by thugs

Cobb accosted by thugs

After being held hostage in a cabin, Cobb escapes with the help of “a local farm boy,” and:

”Commandeering a mule team, Ty succeeds in reaching home just in time to make a spectacular play and save the game for his team.  He then turns the tables on the cashier, wins the girl and winds things up in a manner appealing to ball fans and picture fans alike.”

Cobb escaping with the aid of a local farm boy.

Cobb escaping with the aid of a local farm boy.

Billed in advertisements as “A thrilling drama of love and baseball in six innings,” no prints of the six-reel film survive, but Cobb received better reviews than most of his brethren who attempted a film career.

After the film’s release in 1917, The Tribune said:

“(A)s an actor Ty Cobb is a huge success.  In fact, he is so good that he shows all the others (in the cast) up.”

When the film premiered at the Detroit Opera House in August of 1917 The Detroit Free Press said:

Ad for the film in Detroit

Ad for the film in Detroit

“(The film) is not only a most interesting baseball picture, but it gives views of “The Georgia Peach” that one does not see at Navin Filed…One seldom gets a chance to take a peep at Ty in civilian clothes and he shows himself to be as much at home in this story of love and romance into which a few baseball surroundings have been woven as he is on the diamond.  He makes a pleasing film hero, wooing and winning the bank president’s daughter and performing other exploits that one would expect from Douglas Fairbanks and his like.”

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“Squeeze that Bird, there’s $30,000 Depending on it”

17 Aug

In 1922, Eddie Collins—billed in the byline as “World’s Greatest Second Baseman-“wrote a syndicated article about his post-season experience:

Collins

Collins

“Frequently I have been asked the question, ‘How does it feel to play in a World Series?’  I can at least say, ‘not monotonous, even tho I have participated in six.’

“The toughest part of any World Series, as far as the mental or nervous strain is concerned, that I have experienced has been when I was out of uniform.  Once in my baseball togs out on the field and in the game, I’ve never felt it any different from any regular season affair.  But in between games, especially if a postponement occurs, or the team is idle traveling, that is when I’ve felt ill at ease, with a longing for it to be over and to be miles away from baseball.”

Collins said the 1911 Series—with six consecutive days of rain between games 3 and 4, the longest delay in Series history until 1989—was “(T)he worst in this respect…I remember some of our team went to Cuba after the series, but I was so glad to be thru with baseball for that year I wouldn’t have gone for a mint.”

Collins said a World Series could “make or break a promising player,” and used his former teammate Wally Schang as an example:

“In 1913, in his first game the first time he came to bat against the Giants, (Jack) Barry was on first, no one out. ‘Shangie’ leaned over the bench and said to Manager (Connie) Mack. ‘What shall I do?’  Meaning whether to bunt or hit.  Connie hesitated for a fraction of a second, then said to the kid, ‘You go up there and use your own judgment.’

Schang

Schang

“Schang attempted to bunt the first, fouled it off, and on the very next ball flashed Barry the hit and run sign.  And bang went a base hit to center to center on which Barry made third and ‘Schangie’ pulled up at second on the throw in.  That play alone I honestly believe gave Schang more confidence than base hit he ever made before.”

Collins said another question he was often asked was:

“’ Do you think the fact they are playing for big stakes has any effect on the players and do some often see a dollar sign coming their way instead of a ball?’

“In general, I’d say no, because every player is too absorbed in the game itself, striving to win, rather than figuring on his share of the gate.”

Collins said some players remained loose, even during a stressful post-season game:

“I do recall a certain bit of jest that was pulled by Amos Strunk in 1913 on the play that ended that series and one that afforded three or four of us a good laugh afterward.

Strunk

Strunk

“It was on the Polo Grounds, and Larry Doyle hit a high fly toward short right which Eddie Murphy caught.

“Amos, McInnis and I were close to him when he was about to make the catch.  Just before he did ‘Strunkie’ hollered, ‘Squeeze that bird, there’s $30,000 depending on it.’  Which had reference to the (Fred) Snodgrass muff of the preceding year.  Needless to say ‘Murph’ squeezed it, and the game and series were over.”

The excitement of the World Series even overcame the taciturn Connie Mack on one occasion according to Collins:

“Mack so forgot himself, so enthusiastic and joyful did he become, as to do a miniature war dance on the bench in the eighth inning of our final game against the Cubs in 1910.  Once later, I remember, he got up to get a drink of water during a game against the Giants, but these are the only two instances I can recall where he ever moved from his usual place on the bench.”

Collins summed up his World Series experience:

“It’s great to be in a series, but take it from me, it’s greater when it’s over—and you have won.”

In his reminiscences of his six World Series appearances, Collins made no mention of 1919.

Lost Advertisements–“Come on, Boys!”

10 Jun

holmes

A 1916 advertisement for Holmes’ Milk-Made Bread featuring Walter Johnson.

“Come on, Boys!

“Get a Baseball Outfit for the whole team, Free!

“In order to promote the wholesome habit of eating Holmes’ Milk-Made Bread among the baseball Fans of Washington we have introduced a Great Baseball Outfit Contest.”

In order to win the contest, all 200 of the cards (one in each 10 cent loaf) would have to be collected and returned to the company.

The first prize was a complete set of 10 uniforms, second prize was 10 gloves, third prize was a complete set of catcher’s gear, and fourth prize was a framed sheet of the 200 cards.

The company encouraged kids to:

“Get busy–go around your home folks and friends, and tell them to buy Holmes’ Milk-Made Wrapped Bread every day and save the baseball pictures for you .  With a little hustling on your part, you will soon get the complete collection of pictures and cop out one of the prizes.”

Another ad included pictures of some of the cards–Hughie Jennings, Frank Baker, Johnson, Honus Wagner and Eddie Collins:

holmes'bread

There is no evidence that anyone actually collected 200 cards and won any of the prizes.

The Jim Thorpe card from the set

The Jim Thorpe card from the set

“Cobb is Essentially an Individual Player”

29 Feb

In February of 1913, The Associated Press (AP) reported that Detroit Tigers second baseman Oscar “Ossie” Vitt had requested a raise from owner Frank Navin.  The AP said:

“Navin wrote Vitt that he was more than satisfied with his work last year, and would be ordinarily glad to increase his salary, but owing to the necessity of meeting the demands of (Ty) Cobb for $15,000.”

Ossie Vitt

Vitt

The Detroit Free Press disputed The AP’s, and Vitt’s account:

“Mr. Vitt did receive a letter from Mr. Navin, and this letter did pointedly refuse to add anything to the Vitt emoluments for 1913.  So far the story from the golden West is true.  But the reasons given  Oscar for not granting him an increase had nothing whatever to do with Mr. Cobb, nor was the star athlete’s name even mentioned.  Vitt was informed that he is mighty lucky to receive a contract for 1913 with as much money mentioned as the document recently sent him calls for.”

Whether Vitt believed Cobb was responsible for his lack of a raise is unknown, but he did take the opportunity 10 months later to take a swipe at Cobb in the pages of his hometown paper, The San Francisco Call.  Vitt wrote an article for the paper about the best player he had seen:

“I am picking the man who does most to win games for the club he represents.  That man is unquestionably Eddie Collins…Here is one player who is willing to sacrifice all personal gain to help his club.  When he is on the field it is the Athletics he is trying to help, and not Eddie Collins.”

 

Collins

Collins

Vitt said:

“Collins is great whether he is playing the defensive or offensive.

“In few departments of the game is he excelled.  He is a brilliant fielder, who thinks quickly, and he makes but few mistakes.  At the bat he has few superiors.  He has a wonderful eye, and when he hits the ball he meets it fairly, usually sending it away from the plate on a line for a clean drive.  He can lay down a bunt with equal skill, and it is hard to figure him when he faces a pitcher.

“The point that I admire in Collins is the fact that he never plays to the grandstand.  He adopts the play that will help his club and not the one that will win him applause from the spectators… I don’t think there is another player in the game today who wins as many games for his club than this fellow Collins.”

After lavishing praise on Philadelphia’s Collins, Vitt said of his teammate:

“Cobb is a remarkable ballplayer. I have been with him for two seasons, and while I consider him greater than Collins in many respects, I do not think he is as valuable to a club as Collin… His spectacular style of play is popular with the fans, and while the Tigers were rather lowly in the pennant race, they were good drawing cards, because the crowds would go out to see Cobb bat and steal bases.

Cobb

Cobb

“If Cobb would play the game like Collins I think he would be the greatest of them all, but he does not.  Cobb is essentially an individual player.  He is unlike Collins in this respect.  However, the fans like to see Cobb, and they must be pleased.”

While Vitt equivocated, calling his teammate an “individual player,” while at the same time putting, at least, some of the blame for it on the fans who “must be pleased,” he took his biggest swipe at his teammate in another passage without ever naming him:

“You take a great player like Collins, who is so sincere in his work, and he naturally becomes a prime favorite with the other members of the club, because of his efforts to help them.  He gets them all in that stride, and I attribute (Connie) Mack’s success to that reason.”

Cobb’s only public reply came weeks later in The Detroit News:

“I think Vitt might help the team if he would accumulate a little better individual average and not attack his fellow players.”

Vitt hit .243 over seven seasons in Detroit.  He and Cobb remained teammates through the 1918 season.

“Pulling a Lave Cross,” Eddie Collins on the Life of a Ballplayer

24 Feb

In 1914, Eddie Collins contributed an article about the life of a major leaguer in The National Sunday Magazine, a syndicated insert that appeared in several papers across the country.

Eddie Collins

Eddie Collins

He described the beginning of his first road trip in the big leagues:

“It happened two days after I had joined the Philadelphia Athletics.  As ‘Mr. Sullivan,’ (Collins initially played under the name Edward T. Sullivan), still being an undergraduate at Columbia, I had watched two games from the grandstand at Shibe Park.

“The series over, Manager (Connie) Mack told me to report at the railroad station in time to catch a train that was leaving at six o’clock.  The Athletics were to make a quick September (1906) swing around the circuit.”

Collins said he was “about the first one at the depot,” and “eager as a boy” to begin his big league career.

Once on the train, he described the reaction of the players the first time the porter announced that dinner would be served:

“What transpired, immediately, might have led one to believe that the porter had insulted nearly everyone in the car.  There was a stampede.  Every one of the Athletics was up and rushing down the aisle, throwing aside magazines and newspapers, tumbling and pitching toward the door. The porter was knocked over and it is no exaggeration to state that one of our players—a very fleshy outfielder with elephantine tread (Topsy Hartsel)—walked over him in his haste.

“’What’s the matter with those fellows?’ I asked a veteran who had not joined the stampede.

“In justice to him, be it explained that he had a sprained ankle and couldn’t run.

“’They’re pulling a Lave Cross,’ he threw over his shoulder, as he hobbled after the others as fast as his lame ankle would permit.

“I came to know what ‘Pulling a Lave Cross’ meant.”

Lave Cross

Lave Cross

Collins explained the term, which referenced the former Athletics player:

“He was in the big leagues for years and during that period, he was never beaten into a dining car or eating room of any sort.  He always caught the first cab out of the station; he always was the first to plunge into the sleeper and select the best berth.  He never ran second where personal comforts or tastes were at stake.  During all his years, and the competition is keen, he was supreme.”

Collins said while Cross’ behavior might have been extreme, “haste” was “a habit inbred in all successful” ballplayers:

“I have noticed that after the game we all dress like firemen getting three alarms, race back the hotel, race into the dining room, race through our meal.  Then we saunter out into the lobby and kill two or three hours trying to see which foot we can stand on longer.  At first I marveled at this, then I found myself racing along with the rest of them.”

Calling himself, and his colleagues “rather peculiar individual(s)” Collins said of ballplayers:

“On the field, all his energies and thoughts are concentrated on one idea—the winning of the game.  His day’s work done, however, he throws that all off.  His first desire is to avoid the crowds and excitement.  Then he persistently refuses to talk baseball.  If you want to make yourself unpopular with big league ballplayers, drop into their hotel some night and try to talk baseball to them. “

Collins next provided readers with “some idea of ballplayers out of spangles,” to bring them into “closer touch.”

Honus Wagner, he said, was not a fan of fans:

“Down in Carnegie (PA) there are about twenty unfortunates…who are taken care of solely through Wagner’s generosity.  He has a heart as big as his clumsy looking body, but he hates the baseball ‘bug.’  Frequently wealthy fans have called at Wagner’s hotel on the road and tried to engage him in conversation.  Generally he will excuse himself and going over to the elevator boy will sit and chat with him for an hour at a time.  Wagner’s worst enemy will not tell you he is conceited, but he hates the fans prying into his affairs.”

Honus Wagner

Honus Wagner

Connie Mack, he said, “is the same kind of man” as Wagner:

“Connie is forever handing out touches to old time players.  He is always thinking of anybody connected with baseball from the bat boys up. I know he insisted out little hunchback mascot (Louis Van Zelst) getting a share of the World Series’ money—not that any players objected—but it was Connie’s thought first.

“’Little Van comes in on this,’ he said.”

Louis Van Zelst

Louis Van Zelst

 

Collins also talked about how his teammates occupied themselves on the road:

“You will never find Chief Bender, our Indian pitcher, hanging around the hotel.  Too many original fans are apt to salute him with a war-whoop.  Besides, he is golf mad and when not on the diamond, he is to be found on the links… (Carroll “Boardwalk”) Brown, the young pitcher who did so well for us last year, is a billiard expert… (Stuffy) McInnis and (Eddie) Murphy are the ‘movie fiends’ of our club and are the only ones (Collins said many players were scared to go to the movies because they thought it would damage their eyes).  They can call the name of every star as soon as they see the face on the screen. Jack Barry, our shortstop, is inordinately fond of Hebrew literature and Biblical history.  This, although he, as well as his name, is Irish.”

Collins also shared his manager’s rules for the Athletics when the team was traveling:

 “It is one of Mack’s rules that we are only allowed to play cards on the trains…Connie is against card playing, which only leads to-night after night sessions, ill feelings and finally, disruption. I could tell you of at least one American League team that was broken by card games…Everybody has to be in bed by half past eleven and report in Mack’s room at half past ten in the morning.  For an hour Mack talks baseball, planning our campaign for the day.”

After Mack’s meeting, it was time to eat, and Collins shared his insights on ballplayers and food:

He said a “young pitcher on our club” should be a star, but “he has a weakness for roast beef,” and “persists in stuffing himself at noon time.”  He didn’t name the pitcher.

 “Walter Johnson, the greatest pitcher in baseball, also has a noonday weakness.  It is ice cream, but he seems to thrive on it.  Jack Barry feels off-color if he does not get his slice of pie…On the day he is going to pitch, Eddie Plank, our veteran left-hander, always eats tomato soup.  He thinks he would lose if he did not observe this ritual.”

Collins concluded:

“There is great temptation for the young minor league player, being put up at first class hotels…to eat his head off.  I honestly believe that more good youngsters have been ruined for big league work simply from overeating than any other extraneous cause.”

Other than their general disdain for ‘bugs,’ Collins said, in the end, players of the current era were unrecognizable from their counterparts of a generation earlier:

“Ballplayers today are scrupulously careful never to offend anyone in any way.  Especially do they take pride in being Chesterfields when women are around.”

Collins’ “Ten Commandments”

5 Oct

The Philadelphia Inquirer said in February of 1916, Eddie Collins of the Chicago White Sox, had broken “into the ‘Gospel League,’ after  the second baseman gave a temperance speech in front of “500 persons” at the Epworth Methodist Church in Palmyra, New Jersey church.

collins2

Eddie Collins

Despite Collins telling his audience he wasn’t  “contemplating a pulpit career,” the paper said they “(A)pplauded like World Series fans when he handed ‘booze’ some wallops that would have done credit to Billy Sunday.”

Collins’ talk focused on the evils of alcohol:

“I come to bring a message to your young people, from a baseball player’s viewpoint, of the necessity of clean living and I will be glad if anything I say will help any of you fight the battle of life…Temperate living in necessary for success in any field of action.”

He also praised his former manager from the pulpit:

“Life is a whole lot like playing baseball under Connie Mack’s orders.  Mack is the greatest baseball general the world has ever known and any man who has ever played on the old Athletics honors respects and loves the boss.”

Sunday said he approved of Collins taking to pulpit and providing a “boost” for baseball:

“The way to make the great game respectable is for every player to be respectable himself.”

The Inquirer told readers the following day that the Columbia University graduate had little in common with the evangelist who often mangled the language:

“The statement that Eddie Collins is emulating Billy Sunday is entirely erroneous…Eddie had a perfect record at the bat and fielded cleanly with the King’s English.”

Billy Sunday, evangelist

Billy Sunday, evangelist

Within a week, The Philadelphia Press said:

“Eddie Collins’ dip into evangelism has had a home-run effect among church people throughout the country, and he now is swamped with invitations to address church congregations, bible classes, and Sunday school meeting.

“The requests have swept in upon him at his home in Lansdowne (Pennsylvania) in such a deluge that he said today he had reached the point where he would have to give up base ball if he were to meet all the engagements asked.”

Collins told a reporter:

“I am gratified to learn that my little talk of last Sunday and my rules of life amounted to something but I don’t rank as an evangelist and can’t follow that calling.”

Instead of leaving the diamond for the pulpit, Collins printed and had distributed to churches, several thousand copies of part of the talk, what he called “The Ten Rules of Life.”

Some reporters, including William Peet of The Washington Herald, referred to the list as “Collins’ Ten Commandments:”

First: Safeguard your honor

Second: Don’t overeat

Third: Be a good loser

Fourth: Smile

Fifth: Keep good hours

Sixth: Have courage to do right

Seventh: Don’t think you know it all

Eighth: Be prompt

Ninth: Don’t drink alcoholic drinks

Tenth: Think clean thoughts.

Collins’ statements about alcohol were used by various temperance organizations seeking prohibition.  Ads like the one below with quotes from Collins, Ty Cobb, and Connie Mack, and Admiral Robert Peary, as well as boxers Jess Willard, John L. Sullivan, and Joe Stecher appeared in newspapers and handbills distributed throughout the country.

temperance

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.”

Grantland Rice’s “All-Time All-Star Round up”

10 Aug

In December of 1917, thirty-eight-year-old sportswriter Grantland Rice of The New York Tribune enlisted in the army–he spent fourteen months in Europe.  Before he left he laid out the case, over two weeks, for an all-time all-star team in the pages of the paper:

“As we expect to be held to a restricted output very shortly, due to the exigencies and demands of the artillery game, this seemed to be a fairly fitting period to unfold the results.”

Grantland Rice

Grantland Rice

Rice said the selections were “not solely from our own limited observation, extending over a period of some eighteen or twenty years,” but included input from players, managers and sportswriters, including  “such veterans” as Frank Bancroft and Clark Griffith, and baseball writers Joe Vila of The New York Sun, Bill Hanna of The New York Herald and Sam Crane, the former major league infielder turned sportswriter of The New York Journal.

Rice said only one of the nine selections “(S)eems to rest in doubt.  The others were almost unanimously backed.”

The selections:

Pitcher:  Christy Mathewson

A. G. Spalding, John (Montgomery) Ward, Larry Corcoran, Charley Radbourn, John Clarkson, (Thomas) Toad Ramsey, Tim Keefe, Bill Hoffer, Amos Rusie, (Mordecai) Miner Brown, Addie Joss, Ed Walsh–the array is almost endless.

“In the matter of physical stamina, Cy Young has outclassed the field.  Cy won more games than almost any others ever pitched.

“(But) For all the pitching mixtures and ingredients, stamina, steadiness, brilliancy, brains, control, speed, curves, coolness, courage, is generally agreed that no man has ever yet surpassed Christy Mathewson…there has never been another who had more brains or as fine control.”

 

[…]

“It might be argued that Radbourn or (Walter) Johnson or (Grover Cleveland) Alexander was a greater pitcher than Mathewson.

But we’ll string with Matty against the field.”

Radbourn was the second choice.  Bancroft said:

“Radbourn was more like Mathewson than any pitcher I ever saw.  I mean by that, that like Matty, he depended largely upon brains and courage and control, like Matty he had fine speed and the rest of it.  Radbourn was a great pitcher, the best of the old school beyond any doubt.”

Catcher:  William “Buck” Ewing

“Here we come to a long array—Frank (Silver) Flint, Charley Bennett, (Charles “Chief”) Zimmer, (James “Deacon”) McGuire, (Wilbert) Robinson, (Marty) Bergen(Johnny) Kling, (Roger) Bresnahan and various others.

“But the bulk of the votes went to Buck Ewing.”

Buck Ewing

Buck Ewing

[…]

“Wherein did Ewing excel?

“He was a great mechanical catcher.  He had a wonderful arm and no man was surer of the bat…he had a keen brain, uncanny judgment, and those who worked with him say that he had no rival at diagnosing the  weakness of opposing batsman, or at handling his pitchers with rare skill.”

Kling was the second choice:

“Kling was fairly close…a fine thrower, hard hitter, and brilliant strategist…But as brilliant as Kling was over a span of years, we found no one who placed him over the immortal Buck.”

1B Fred Tenney

First Base was the one position with “the greatest difference of opinion,” among Rice and the others:

“From Charlie Comiskey to George Sisler is a long gap—and in that gap it seems that no one man has ever risen to undisputed heights… There are logical arguments to be offered that Hal Chase or Frank Chance should displace Fred Tenney at first.

But in the way of batting and fielding records Tenney wins….Of the present array, George Sisler is the one who has the best chance of replacing Tenney.”

2B Eddie Collins

 “There was no great argument about second base.

“The vote was almost unanimous.

“From the days of Ross Barnes, a great hitter and a good second baseman on through 1917, the game has known many stars.  But for all-around ability the game has known but one Eddie Collins.”

Rice said the competition was between Collins, Napoleon Lajoie and Johnny Evers:

“Of these Lajoie was the greatest hitter and most graceful workman.

“Of these Evers was the greatest fighter and the more eternally mentally alert.

“But for batting and base running, fielding skill, speed and the entire combination, Collins was voted on top.”

 SS Honus Wagner

“Here, with possibly one exception, is the easiest pick of the lot.  The game has been replete with star shortstops with George Wright in 1875 to (Walter “Rabbit”) Maranville, (George “Buck”) Weaver…There were (Jack) Glasscock and (John Montgomery) Ward, (Hardy) Richards0n, (Hugh) Jennings, (Herman)Long, (Joe) Tinker and (Jack) Barry.

“But there has been only one Hans Wagner.”

Honus Wagner

Honus Wagner

Jennings and Long were rated second and third,  “But, with the entire list  considered there is no question but that Wagner stands at the top.”

3B Jimmy Collins

Rice said:

“From the days of (Ned) Williamson(Jerry) Denny, and (Ezra) Sutton, over thirty years ago, great third basemen have only appeared at widely separated intervals.

“There have been fewer great third basemen in baseball than at any other position, for there have been periods when five or six years would pass without an undoubted star.”

The final decision came down to “John McGraw vs. Jimmy Collins.”  McGraw was “a great hitter, a fine bunter and a star base runner,” while “Collins was a marvel and a marvel over a long stretch…he was good enough to carve out a .330 or a .340 clip (and) when it came to infield play at third he certainly had no superior…So taking his combined fielding and batting ability against that of McGraw and Collins wins the place.  McGraw was a trifle his superior on the attack. But as a fielder there was no great comparison, Collins leading by a number of strides.”

 

OF Ty Cobb

“The supply here is overwhelming…Yet the remarkable part is that when we offered our selection to a jury of old players, managers and veteran scribes there was hardly a dissenting vote.”

[…]

“Number one answers itself.  A man who can lead the league nine years in succession at bat.

“A man who can lead his league at bat in ten out of eleven seasons.

“A man who can run up the record for base hits and runs scored in a year—also runs driven in.

“Well, the name Ty Cobb answers the rest of it.”

OF Tris Speaker

 “The man who gives Cobb the hardest battle is Tris Speaker.  Veteran observers like Clark Griffith all say that Speaker is the greatest defensive outfielder baseball has ever exploited…Speaker can cover more ground before a ball is pitched than any man.  And if he guesses incorrectly, which he seldom does, he can go a mile to retrieve his error in judgment…And to this impressive defensive strength must be added the fact he is a powerful hitter, not only a normal .350 man, but one who can tear the hide off the ball for extra bases.”

Tris Speaker "hardest hit"

Tris Speaker 

OF “Wee Willie” Keeler

Mike Kelly and Joe KelleyJimmy Sheckard and Fred Clarke—the slugging (Ed) Delehanty—the rare Bill LangeBilly Hamilton.

“The remaining list is a great one, but how can Wee Willie Keeler be put aside?

“Ask Joe Kelley, or John McGraw, or others who played with Keeler and who remember his work.

“Keeler was one of the most scientific batsmen that ever chopped a timely single over third or first…And Keeler was also a great defensive outfielder, a fine ground coverer—a great thrower—a star in every department of play.

“Mike Kelly was a marvel, more of an all-around sensation, but those who watched the work of both figure Keeler on top.”

Rice said of the nine selections:

“The above is the verdict arrived at after discussions with managers, players and writers who have seen a big section of the long parade, and who are therefore able to compare the stars of today with the best men of forgotten years.

“Out of the thousands of fine players who have made up the roll call of the game since 1870 it would seem impossible to pick nine men and award them the olive wreath.  In several instances the margin among three or four is slight.

“But as far a s deductions, observations, records and opinions go, the cast named isn’t very far away from an all-time all-star round up, picked for ability, stamina, brains, aggressiveness and team value.

“If it doesn’t stick, just what name from above could you drop?”

“Baseball is far behind Golf in its Self-analysis”

1 Jun

During the Chicago Cubs disappointing fifth place finish, with a 67-89 record in 1916, the team hit just .239.

When Manager Joe Tinker was replaced by Fred Mitchell, team owner Charles Weeghman announced that golfer Charles “Chick” Evans, who in 1916 became the first to win the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open in the same year, would be accompanying the team on their spring training trip to Pasadena, California.

Chick Evans

Chick Evans

Weeghman told The Chicago Day Book’s Mark Shields that Evans would teach the hitters “a golf follow through” intended “to increase the batting of the regulars.  Shields said Weeghman “Points to (Frank) Schulte, (Heine) Zimmerman and (Tris) Speaker as strong hitters who use a golf style.”

Weeghman told The Associated Press (AP):

“There is form in the driving of a golf ball, but there is none in driving a baseball.  Applying the form of golf to baseball was responsible for the wonderful driving power of Frank Schulte and Heine Zimmerman.”

The Cubs’ owner allowed that Schulte knew nothing about golf, but said “(H)e unconsciously used the same swing.”

Frank Schulte's swing

Frank Schulte’s swing

Weeghman said the golfer would not be paid for services in order to maintain his amateur standing.

Evans told The Chicago Daily News that “the batsmen don’t have the knowledge of stance, grip and manner of swinging that the more successful golfers possess. “

He told The International News Service that he had considered a career in baseball:

“Chick says that he might have become a baseball player after having pitched a no-hit game for his high school (Evanston Academy).”

Evans claimed “a torn ligament at the shoulder” derailed his plans.

The response to the Cubs’ plan was immediate.

The Daily News said:

“Chick Evans is going to teach the Cubs how to bat, thereby accomplishing something no one else even considered possible.”

Rabbit Maranville told The AP the story was “a funny one,” and that he was sure that the decision to bring in Evans was strictly Weeghman’s, and likely not endorsed by the Cubs’ new manager:

“Doesn’t seem to me as if (Fred) Mitchell is responsible for that stunt.  I guess it’s being wished on him.

“In baseball the batter needs courage.  He does not know when the pitcher is going to slip a notch in his control…Courage is the big asset in batting, and with all the respect in the world to golf, where is there any great courage needed in driving the golf ball?”

While John Brinsley “J.B.”  Sheridan, the sports editor of The St. Louis Globe-Democrat, said ballplayers may derive some benefit from a golfer’s advice:

“Baseball is far behind golf in its self-analysis.  The keen minds of many generations of Scotch students have been devoted to the science of golf.  So far, no keen analytical mind has been given to baseball.  Men who do know the game are usually inarticulate and cannot tell what they know.”

Sheridan outlined how golf in general, and Evans in particular, could help:

“Drawing back the club or the bat slowly is most important.  If the striking implement is drawn back too quickly or with a jerk, the player is thrown off balance and his eye is put out of focus.

“It is notable that the great hitters, Speaker, Joe Jackson, Eddie Collins and others carry their bats well behind them and do not draw back quickly.”

Additionally, Sheridan said other “golf maxims will help” hitters, including:

“Hit off the (front) foot.  Keep your eye on the ball.  Do not hit too hard.  Follow through.”

Weeghman’s plan was finally shelved shortly before the team departed for the West Coast.  The Daily News said the United States Golf Association (USGA) could strip Evans of his amateur standing:

“If Evans uses his ability as a golfer to aid him in attempting to instruct ballplayers how to swing their bats, it appears that he will take a long chance.”

Charles Weeghman

Charles Weeghman

Evans was in California at the same time as the Cubs in March, and although newspapers had announced he would accompany the team “over the Sante Fe” railroad on the trip, it is unclear whether he actually traveled with the team.  The AP said he “stayed far away” from the Cubs’ practices in order to not run afoul of the USGA, but one paragraph in The  Chicago Tribune the day after the club’s first practice in Pasadena was rained out, likely exposed the Cubs’ owner’s real intention for wanting Evans in California:

“(The rain) did not keep Prexy Weeghman from tackling Chick Evans in a golf match.  They had played only twelve of the eighteen holes when the mist became so active it stopped the contest.  At the finish, the score stood $11 to $1 in favor of the national amateur champion.”

The Cubs posted a slightly improved 74-80 record, but once again finished in fifth place.  Whether the lack of instruction from Chick Evans was a factor or not, the team’s batting average was .239; identical to their 1916 average.

“Babe Ruth has a Locker full of Charms”

13 May

Eddie Collins had spent 25 years in the major leagues as a player, coach and manager by 1930 when he spoke to a writer for “Every Week Magazine” about superstitions.

Eddie Collins

Eddie Collins

The article noted:

“Collins, by the way, has been credited with being one of the most superstitious players in the national game.  His habit of sticking a piece of chewing gum on the button of his cap has almost become a tradition.  If the pitcher had two strikes on him, Eddie would jerk off the cap, yank the gum from the bottom, stick it in his mouth and chew violently.”

But, Collins, a graduate of Columbia University, didn’t consider himself superstitious and told the magazine:

 “The average man playing professional baseball today is too well-educated actually to believe you can make home runs by picking up hairpins or adopting any of the other numerous superstitions which have come to be so much part of the game. “

As for the obvious superstitions he and many other players, educated or not, subscribed to, Collins said they were merely “eccentricities,” and that “Having them gives confidence.”

That said:

“The late George Stallings was one of the most sensible men baseball has produced.  He was the personification of common sense and one of the last persons in the world you would credit with being superstitious.  Nevertheless, a single scrap of paper tossed on the ground in front of the dugout meant all sorts of bad things to George. It upset him completely and his managerial skill seemed to fade.”

George Stallings

George Stallings

Joe Sewell of the Cleveland Indians was another “college man,” someone who “generally loses any belief in omens.”  But, Sewell “after his last crack at the bat during practice” insisted on running towards third and touching the bag before anyone else did.  One day in Cleveland, the too educated to be superstitious Sewell started towards third, only to see Collins, also too educated to believe in superstitions, had:

“(D)ashed out of the Athletics’ dugout and touched the sack ahead of Joe and Joe didn’t get a hit during the afternoon.”

Joe Sewell

Joe Sewell

Next was Urban Shocker, who insisted no one touched his glove during a game.  Despite being “too wise a man to believe” such a thing, Collins told how during a game against the Athletics, “Eddie Rommel spotted the glove and knowing Shocker’s eccentric regard for it, walked over and picked it up, examined it and then tossed it back on the turf.”  The “too wise” Shocker:

“(S)aw red.  He became visibly unsettled.  He blew up the next inning.”

As for the game’s biggest star:

Babe Ruth has a locker full of charms, fetishes and tokens; fastened to the door is a wooden horseshoe with a four-leaf clover carved on it, and on top stands a totem pole and other curious objects guaranteed by enthusiastic donors to bring luck.”

Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth

Collins said the previous season when the Athletics were on their way to Chicago for game 3 of the World Series with the Cubs:

“(T)here was a fan on the train with us  who had a great fondness for canned pineapple.  He insisted the players eat some the morning of the game predicting we’d win if we did.  Well, we did, and we won.”

Collins said he, and the rest of the Athletics, too smart for superstition:

“Had pineapple every morning the rest of the series.”