Tag Archives: Eddie Plank

“Matt Simply Wasn’t to be Toyed With”

15 Jan

“Matt simply wasn’t to be toyed with.”

William Wrothe Aulick of pitcher Matt Kilroy in The New York Mail in 1911.

Kilroy pitched from 1886 to 1898 for six clubs and his pick off move—now illegal—taking a step forward towards the plate and throwing underhand to first, was said to be the game’s best.

Matt Kilroy

“Matt was a left hander who added to the fame and games of the Louisville team many years ago. There was a prize hung up every game by the Louisville manager to be freely given to the player who succeeded in taking more than two steps off the bag while Kilroy was pitching.”

Aulick said, “nobody ever won the Louisville manager’s prize for defying Matt Kilroy.”

Kilroy’s best seasons were not in Louisville; he won 121 of his 141 major league games with the Baltimore Orioles in the American Association from 1886 to1889; he was 3-7 in just 13 games with the Colonels in 1893 and 1894.

Aulick said:

“Sometimes there would happen along a stranger player who didn’t know about Matt’s peculiar objection to base stealing. With Kilroy’s windup, Mr. Mark would move one step off the base. With Kilroy’s backward shift of his feet, preparatory for delivery, Mr. Mark would scoot two feet off first and look hopefully at second—and then zing! Mr. Player was caught…After awhile the other fellows grew wary and Matt had to work to keep in practice at his specialty. When you’ve been caught dead to rights every time you’ve tried to take even a most modest lead, you require caution.”

Kilroy, a Philadelphia native was close with Connie Mack, after he retired, The Philadelphia Inquirer said, “For several seasons, nearly every morning, Kilroy was out at the park teaching Mack’s pitchers how to hold the runner on first. Those who profited from his coaching in that line were (Eddie) Plank, (Chief) Bender, and (Jack) Coombs.”

When Lefty Grove walked 131 batters in 197 innings as a 25-year-old rookie in 1925, The Philadelphia Bulletin asked Kilroy to diagnose the problem:

“It comes from one source which he can correct easily. He doesn’t follow his pitch through. When he brings that long arm of his over his head, he doesn’t complete his pitch, but gets the ball away too quick. That makes him wild. But he’ll overcome that. When he does, he’ll be a corker.”

Kilroy operated a tavern adjacent to Shibe Park—he sold it in 1939 and it became the Deep Right Field Cafe. Kilroy died in 1940.

“Almost Every Ballplayer has his Individual Superstition”

4 May

“Almost every ballplayer has his individual superstition,” said The Philadelphia Record in 1918:

On days when Cy Young pitched, “he would always see that the bat boy placed the bats with the handles towards the infield,” Young would not tolerate crossed bats.

“Christy Mathewson always placed his glove, face up, near the sideline, and would never allow anyone to hand it to him when returning to the box.”

Bob Harmon wore his hat crookedly on the right side of his head during his first big league win, and “always wore his cap on one side of his head when working.”

harmon

Harmon

Philadelphia’s two former aces, Chief Bender and Eddie Plank, had theirs:

“Bender always pitched his glove to the sideline as he walked out of the box, He never was known to lay it down. He would get his signal from the catcher and step into the box from behind and always right foot first…Plank would never warm up with a new ball on the days he worked. He always hung his sweater on a certain nail in the dugout and ‘woe be unto’ the player who moved it.”

Eddie Collins—arguably the most superstitious player among his contemporaries— “has a certain way to put on his uniform. He always dresses from his feet up.”

Johnny Evers—who believed himself to be one of the most superstitious among his contemporaries— “always believes that his club would win if he put one stocking on with the wrong side out.”

evers2

Johnny Evers

Napoleon Lajoie and Honus Wagner’s superstitions were tied to bats:

“Lajoie had a certain bat which he used in the game and under no conditions would he allow anyone to use it, for the reason that the player using it might get a hit which really belonged to the owner of the bat…Wagner would never allow a player or bat boy to make any move to disarrange the bats or to start putting them away until the last man was out in the last inning, no matter how the score stood.”

Prince Hal Chase, said the paper, believed he could not get a hit “unless he spits in his hands and touches his cap before a pitcher delivers a ball.”

“The most Aggravating Pitcher”

13 Jan

Louis Lee Arms, writing for The St. Louis Star in 1913, like many of his contemporaries, presaged the pitch clock when reporting on the ace of the Philadelphia Athletics pitching staff:

“The next time Eddie Plank pitches at American League Park many fans who desire to get home approximately during the same month that they started for the ball yard, so that their friends may not think they have been upon a European tour or some other long vacation, will forego the pleasure of watching even such  a brilliant baseball scientist as Plank in action.”

Arms called Plank “the most aggravating pitcher” in the league.

plank.jpg

“He draws himself within himself after the fashion of a mud turtle once he finds himself in a pinch and there is nothing but the shell.”

Arms said in his last start against St. Louis, Plank “consumed from thirty to sixty seconds” between each pitch:

“Plank’s reasoning is obvious. He figures that wit a man in the batting box anxious to hit, the longer he hesitates in throwing the ball the more perturbed and overwrought becomes the batsman, with the result that he cannot hit normally, highly psychological as anyone can see.”

plank2.jpg

Plank

Arms described Plank’s routine after a pitch:

“Receive the ball from the catcher.

Then drop it.

Rub dust on it.

Expectorate upon the glove.

Rub the ball vigorously upon the glove.

Turn and talk in an animated way to Eddie Collins.

Step upon the pitching slab facing the catcher.

Nod dissent to several signals.

Expectorate again upon the glove.

Nod an assent to the signal of the catcher.

Back off the pitching slab.

Pluck several blades of glass.

Walk up to it again.

Turn and gaze about the ball field to see that the outfield is properly placed.

Wave one outfielder into position

Make a sarcastic remark to the umpire.

Make ready to pitch.

Consume five seconds in looking steadfastly at the ground.

Pitch.”

Arms concluded:

“Exaggeration Not a bit of it. This is exactly what Plank did on several occasions Monday in the first and second innings when he was in a pinch.”

Plank slowly won 18 games and one more in the World Series for the World Champion Athletics.

When he died 13 years later, Umpire Billy Evans said of Plank’s routine:

“No pitcher in the history of the game ever kept the batter or umpire as much on edge.”

A Plank Story and a Rube Story

17 May

Eddie Plank spent his off seasons giving guided tours of the Gettysburg Battlefield near his Pennsylvania home; in 1907, The Washington Times said he had a sideline to make extra money off the tours:

“(I)t is alleged (he) sells the gullible tourists bullets supposed to have been shot away during the war of the rebellion, but which his ballplaying friends claim are buried by Eddie several days before he makes the sale. But as Plank says, what’s the difference as long as the tourists are happy?”

plank

Eddie Plank

The paper said Plank told Lave Cross that Europeans were selling American tourists “pieces of chips said to have come from the ark sailed by Noah,” when his teammate asked him about it, and said:

“If an American wants to get ‘stung,’ let it be done by some good fellow countryman, if only from a patriotic standpoint.”

The Times said spending so much time on the battlefield “and from constant talk about the dead,” that “Plank has developed a hankering after the occult” and supernatural:

“In Philadelphia, he purchased a couple of tickets for a lecture to be given at the Academy of Music on Buddhism.”

Plank had invited catcher Mike “Doc” Powers, “a deep student on such things” to join him, but Powers stood him up at the team hotel, “the only player around the hotel was Rube Waddell…Eddie, turning to Waddell asked did he want to go,” learn about Buddhism:

rube

Rube

“’Sure thing,’ said the big pitcher, as he jumped up with alacrity, ‘I’m a great lover of flowers.’”

“Waddell is Considered a Freak”

14 Nov

On his way to a 24-7 record for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1902, Rube Waddell pulled a no show in Chicago on August 5.

The Chicago Tribune said:

“Waddell had not caught all the fish he wanted, and so Manager Mack was forced to use his other southpaw (Eddie) Plank.”

rube

Rube

The Chicago Inter Ocean said:

“(This) advertisement was submitted to his manager as a handy one to have filed with all the principal newspapers in the country:”

rubead

Waddell had pitched the first game of the series, losing to the White Sox and Roy Patterson 3-1—both pitchers threw four hitters, but the Sox scored two runs in the fifth on errors by Lave Cross and Topsy Hartsell.

The Inter Ocean said:

“Mr. Waddell rode in from the American League grounds (after the game) ate his dinner and—disappeared.”

Waddell was not with the team when they left Chicago for Cleveland two days later, then:

“(W)alked into the grounds at Cleveland and announced that he would pitch the game.  Feeling that a pitcher in hand was worth two in the country, the manager permitted him to do so.”

Waddell lost his second straight game, giving up 12 hits to Cleveland in a 5 to 4 loss to Charlie Smith, who was making his major league debut.

The Inter Ocean said of Waddell, his disappearance, and reappearance:

“His career as a baseball player is so chock full of such incidents that they have ceased to attract attention.  He is the champion contract jumper in the business.  His word is as good as his bond, but his bond isn’t worth a cent, according to numerous baseball managers with whom he has broken agreements.”

rube2

Waddell

The paper said Waddell, “is considered a freak, and apparently he glories,” in the description:

“(President James) Hart of the Chicago National League club, who at the present holds a signed contract for this season and a receipt for money advanced, when urged to prosecute Rube for obtaining money under false pretenses, declared that he never wanted to meet the young man again, even in police court.”

The Inter Ocean told the story of what it said was one of Waddell’s earlier “mysterious disappearances” while he was playing in the minor leagues:

“(H)e suddenly reappeared during a game and took a seat in the grandstand.  He watched the play until the fifth inning, and seeing his club was being beaten, jumped out of his seat, over the railing and onto the field. and declared that he was there to ‘save the game.’ Without more ado he began taking off his clothes, was hustled to the dressing room, and into his uniform—pitched the rest of the game and won it.  When it was over, he dressed, went to the hotel with the club, was assigned to his room in the evening, and the next day could not be found.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer said of Waddell’s next start after his back to back loses in Chicago and Cleveland:

“The eccentric left hander drifted into (Detroit) nearly in the forenoon and assured Manager Mack that no team on earth could beat him feeling as he did.”

He allowed the Tigers just four hits over 13 innings, and won 1 to 0; Waddell scored the winning run after hitting a triple in the top of the 13th.

Lost Advertisements–Home Run Baker, Ide Silver Collars

15 Jun

hrbakeradAn advertisement for Ide Silver Collars, featuring John Franklin “Home Run” Baker:”

“Your silver collars have certainly made a big ‘hit’ with me.  The buttonholes are the easiest and best ever.”

bakerpix

After Baker returned to baseball with the New York Yankees in 1916, he “wrote” a very short syndicated newspaper piece, part of a series which asked some of the game’s best hitters to name “The Six Hardest Pitchers I ever Faced.”

Baker said:

“In naming my six hardest and best pitchers, I must invade my old club for three of them, though I never batted against them in championship games.  From my standpoint, the six best during my career were:

“Walter Johnson–Washington Americans.

“Edward Walsh–Chicago Americans.

“‘Dutch’ Leonard–Boston Americans

“Eddie Plank–Philadelphia Americans

“Albert Bender–Philadelphia Americans

“John Coombs–Philadelphia Americans.

“Johnson is the present-day wonder; Walsh was the king in his prime, and young Leonard is a puzzle among present left-handers, but I must award the plum to my three great old pals.”

Baker 1916

Baker 1916

“Many say he was so Modest he Hated to have his Picture Taken”

30 Mar

In the winter of 1918 Malcolm MacLean of The Chicago Evening Post wrote about the peculiar reactions of a few players to photographers:

“It may happen that a pitcher does a phenomenal streak of work and his photo should run.  It may be the only one of him in stock that has been used time and again—so often, in fact, that it is all but worn out.

“Hence it is necessary for a photographer to snap said fellow’s photo on the ball field.  Ninety-nine times out of a hundred this is a pipe. Yet there are exceptions.”

MacLean said he recalled a handful if examples of players refusing:

“In practically every case it was that uncanny thing known as ‘baseball superstition’ that made it difficult, almost impossible, to get them to pose.

(Urban) Red Faber, of the White Sox, on two occasions (during the 1917 season) lost ball games after he had been snapped.  So he announced his intention of refusing to pose again until the White Sox won the American League championship.  Another member of the Sox, Charles (Swede) Risberg, joined him in the declaration. And they stuck to it.

Red Faber

Red Faber

“The day after the title was clinched both Faber and Risberg were among the easiest fellows on the squad to photograph.  In their case it was ‘superstition’ and we don’t know they could be blamed.  If a player keeps winning, only to have the streak smashed the day his photo is taken, well we have an idea we’d do the same thing.”

MacLean said during Rube Marquard’s 19-game winning streak the Giants’ pitcher refused to allow a Chicago photographer to take his picture.  MacLean said he and a cameraman approached the pitcher on July 8, 1912:

 “’Nothing doing,’ he said.  ‘Come around any time you want after I’ve lost a game and you’re welcome to all you want.’  It so happened that Rube lost that day, Jimmy Lavender hanging the bee on him, and the following afternoon Rube posed and posed and posed.”

MacLean said Jim Thorpe was a particularly difficult subject to photograph when he began his major league career, but not due to superstition:

“When Thorpe first came to Chicago with the Giants, he was the most widely advertised athlete in the world.  He was fresh from his triumphs in Sweden on the track field and from the gridiron at Carlisle.

“Many say he was so modest he hated to have his picture taken.  At any rate, many a film and plate was wasted on him because he would turn his face away, throw up his arm in front of him, or do something also to ruin the exposure.”

Jim Thorpe--Airedale fan

Jim Thorpe

Another difficult member of the Giants was catcher John “Chief” Meyers, who MacLean said would brush past photographers, saying:

“’Aw, you’ve got all of me you want,’ It was decidedly exasperating, especially when publicity is what helps keep major leaguers in the majors.”

Two other oft-photographed pitchers had their own particular quirks.

MacLean said:

“It will surprise many to learn that Ed Walsh, of the White Sox…refused to pose on the day he was expected to pitch…Few men were snapped so frequently as Ed when he was in his prime, yet we venture to say no man ever got a photo of him—when Ed knew it—on the day he was to work.

Eddie Plank, of the Athletics…was one of the easiest of all men to photograph, but it was exceedingly difficult to get a good one of him.  The reason was he kept tossing stones at the camera or twisting up his face in some farcical fashion.  And when other players were being taken Ed would throw peddles at them, trying to have them distort their faces.”

Eddie Plank

Eddie Plank

“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.”

Lost Advertisements–“The World’s Best Pitchers Recommend…”

8 Jul

adreach

A 1910 advertisement for Reach Baseball Goods  “The World’s Best Pitchers Recommend Reach Balls”–from International Book & Stationary Co. in El Paso, Texas.  The ad features “Detroit’s Great Pitcher,” George Mullin, “Another Detroit Expert,” Ed Willett (Misspelled Willetts in the ad), and “Athletics’ Left Hand Star,” Harry Krause.

In 1909, the 20-year-old Krause, who had been 1-1 in four appearances with the Athletics in 1908, became the talk of baseball when he opened the season with 10 straight victories–including six shutouts.  A San Francisco native who played under Hal Chase and was a teammate of Hall of Famer Harry Hooper at St. Mary’s College, Krause was asked by The Oakland Tribune what led to success:

“That’s easy.  A capable manager in Connie Mack, one of the best pitching tutors in the world in Ed Plank, fairly good control on my part and lots of luck.”

The Tribune‘s scouting report on Krause:

“He has a good curve, but many pitchers in the league have a better one.  He has speed, but any number of American League twirlers have more smoke than he.  However, there are very few twirlers, whether right or left-handers, who can equal him in control of the ball.

“He doesn’t appear to have much to the opposing batters when they first face him, but when the game is over they wonder how it came to pass that he let them down with three or four hits and no runs.”

Harry Krause

Harry Krause

On July 18 his luck ran out, Krause dropped his first game of the season, an 11-inning, 5 to 4 loss to the St. Louis Browns.

He went just 8-7 (with one shutout) the rest of the season, but led the league with a 1.39 ERA.

He appeared in only 55 more games over three seasons, winning 17 and losing 20, before a sore arm ended his major league career at age 23.

He finished the 1912 season in the American Association with the Toledo Mud Hens, then returned to California and pitched for 15 seasons in the Pacific Coast League (with a one-season detour to the western League), where he won 230 games.

“Is Napoleon Lajoie a Hoodoo?”

14 Nov

Napoleon Lajoie had his share of superstitions and sought to avoid “Hoodoo,” like most players of his era.  But, as Lajoie was winding down his long career, hitting un-Lajoie like .246 for a horrible Philadelphia Athletics team (36-117) in 1916, The Philadelphia Bulletin presented a case that Lajoie himself was the problem:

“Is Napoleon Lajoie a hoodoo?

Napoleon Lajoie

Napoleon Lajoie

“Several baseball managers and ‘Larry’ himself would like to know the answer.  And here is why:

“Lajoie, for many years recognized as the king of second basemen and dubbed ‘King Larry,’ now has visions of the waning of his baseball star of fame, and he has never played on a pennant-winning team…For years he hit well over the .300 mark—once over .400—was one of the most dangerous men to pitch to in a pinch, and fielded his position around second base in a finished, manner—so finished in fact, that he won the distinction of being the classiest second-sacker in baseball.  Every move of the big Frenchman was grace personified.

“Notwithstanding the fact that he was a star of the first magnitude, ranking with Hans Wagner of Pittsburgh—and they are the two real stars of baseball of former years—he never was able to help his team to the pennant.  So, when Lajoie was sold to Connie Mack dopesters and Larry himself thought he eventually would get into a World Series.  But alas!

“Larry joined the Athletics in the spring of 1915, and while his admirers were expecting him to get back his batting eye, which had apparently been dimmed while he was in Cleveland, Connie Mack decided to tear down his wonderful machine.  (Eddie) Collins, (Ed) Plank, (Charles “Chief”) Bender, (Jack) Coombs, and (Jack) Barry were sold (or released), while (Frank) Baker played bush league ball because Connie would not meet his salary demands, and the famous $100,000 infield of the Athletics was wrecked and the run making machine of the world champions was put out of commission.  And the hopes of Larry and his enthusiastic followers went glimmering.  He is on a tail-end team, just like he was at Cleveland.

“And worst of all from Lajoie’s point of view, the Cleveland team has been holding down first place in the American League for many weeks and is a contender for the pennant.

“The question, ‘Is Napoleon Lajoie a hoodoo?’ Again presents itself.”

While Cleveland was in first place as late as July 12, the Lajoie-hoodoo-free Indians still faltered and finished seventh in 1916.

After Philadelphia’s disastrous season—they finished 54 and a half games back—Lajoie accepted the position of player-manager with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the International League.  The 42-year-old second baseman hit a league-leading .380 and led the Maple Leafs to the championship in 1917—the first, and only of his career.