Tag Archives: Elmer Flick

“The Annual Spring Typhoon has Blown up Again”

10 Nov

In 1906, despite being, on paper, the best team in the American League, the Cleveland Naps finished in third place, five games behind the Chicago White Sox.  The club had three twenty game winners—Addie Joss, Bob Rhoads, and Otto Hess—and four regulars who  hit better than .300—Napoleon Lajoie, William “Bunk” Congalton, Elmer Flick and Claude Rossman,

As the 1907 season approached, Grantland Rice, of The Cleveland News said the team was now a victim of the success of individual players:

“The annual spring typhoon has blown up again—only a bit worse than ever.  In nearly every big league camp well-known athletes are breaking into loud roars over the pay question, and there promises to be quite a batch of trouble before the storm is cleared away.  In this respect Cleveland heads the list, although Napland owners have one of the highest salary lists in the game.  Up to date Joss, Rhoads, (Terry) Turner and Congalton have balked, while neither Flick nor Hess have returned a signed contract.”

Grantland Rice

Grantland Rice

Rice said the club’s negotiations with Joss and Rhoads were at an impasse, and “just how it will end is a matter of uncertainty.”  The news of the team’s trouble signing their stars led Rice to a discussion of “just how much a major leaguer is supposed to receive for his work each season.”

“When a youngster breaks in he is never given less, or at least rarely so, than he received in his minor league berth.  His pay is boosted the greater part of the time, so the average debutante’s pay roll ranges closely around $1,800 providing he is recognized as a first class man.

“If he delivers the goods his first year out he can figure on about $2,000 or $2,200 for his next season, and then if he becomes established as a regular, his income should be somewhere in the immediate vicinity of $2,500.

“From this point upward it all depends on their rankings as stars.  You hear considerable about $5,000 contracts and better, but as a matter of cold, clammy fact, but few athletes draw over $3,000 or $3,500 at best.

“In the epoch of war salaries $3,500 or $4,000 was a fairly common figure—but no more.

“A high grade slabman along the order of Joss, Rhoads (Nick) Altrock, etc…will rake in about $3,000 now.  In his weekly letter in a Toledo paper (The News-Bee), Joss stated that he was offered $3,000 for his season’s work, but that he demanded more—just how much he didn’t say.

“George Stone drew $3,000 or there abouts last season and now that he has fought his way to the premiership in the School of Slugs he demands $5,000, at which figure Mr. (Jimmy) McAleer balks strenuously.  (Johnny) Kling also asks for $5,000, which sum Charley Murphy says he will not receive.

“From this list we jump to the drawing cards of the game such as Lajoie, (Honus) Wagner, (Wee Willie) Keeler, (Christy) Mathewson, etc…

“Lajoie’s figures range somewhere above $8,000 and something shy of the $9,000 mark.

“Wagner is supposed to draw $5,000 for his work.

“If reports sent out from New York are true, Keeler’s yearly ante is close to $6,000, while Mathewson draws in about the same.

Hal Chase won’t miss $3,500 very far.

“But the high-priced teams are not pennant winners by a jug full.

(Charles) Comiskey and (Connie) Mack hew closer to the line than any others in Ban Johnson’s circle, and yet these two have won more pennants than all the rest put together.  In fact, they’ve gotten away with all but the two which Boston nailed.

“Mack had one of the cheapest, if not the cheapest team in the American League through 1905, the last year he copped the pennant.  Comiskey’s world champions of 1906 were far below Cleveland, New York or even Boston, from the salary standpoint.

“It looks funny to figure the cellar champions of a league paid more than the holders of the world’s title, but if all the figures were given out, the White Sox payroll would loom up under Boston’s to a certainty.

“The full salary cost of running a big league club varies from $40,000 to $50,000, or maybe $55,000 a year.

“A set of figures somewhere between $45,000 and $50,000 would probably hit at the higher average.

“There was a time when Boston’s payroll was close to $70,000 and (Clark) Griffith’s was only a notch below—but this golden era for the ballplayer has passed.”

According to The Washington Post, Joss had earned $3,2000 in 1906 ($2,700 and a $500 bonus), the biography, “Addie Joss:  King of Pitchers,” said he was paid $4,000 in 1907—Joss, who was 21-9 with a 1.72 ERA in 1906, followed that up with a league leading 27 wins (against 11 loses, with a 1.83 ERA) in 1907.

Addie Joss

Addie Joss

Fellow twenty game winners Rhoads and Hess both saw their production slip (15-14, 6-6), and only two regulars—Flick .302 and Lajoie .301—hit better than .300, and the team’s batting average slipped 28 points from the previous seasons.

The Naps finished fourth in 1907.

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“Monte’s Baseball Religion”

27 Jun

 

Even in a game dominated by superstitions some stood out.  The St. Louis Star reported on what Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Montford Montgomery “Monte” Cross thought was necessary for a rally—to the annoyance of some teammates– during a game with the St. Louis Cardinals in May of 1900:

Monte Cross

Monte Cross

“One of Monte Cross’ queer hobbies is that the bats must not be crossed when they lie in front of the bench…just as (Harry) Wolverton, the first man up in the fifth inning, stepped to the plate,  Cross looked at the pile of bats, and at one jumped into the air, shouting: ‘Four runs this time.  It’s a cinch.  Never failed yet.’

“’Sit down, you’re crazy,’ said (Al) Maul.

“’I tell you we’re going to get four runs this time.  Do you see that?’ he asked, pointing to the pile of bats.

“’See what?’

“’Why those four bats sticking out further than the rest.  That means we’ll get just as many runs.  Just you wait and see.’  Everybody laughed, but Monte was evidently very much in earnest, so they waited, all thinking how they’d kid him when the side was out.  Then Wolverton made a hit.

“’It’s a starter!’ cried Cross. ‘Now watch me.’ But Cross aired to (Mike) Donlin.  Then the next man walked.

“’There’s four hits coming sure,’ said Cross.  Just then (Roy) Thomas cracked a single scoring Wolverton.  Then (Napoleon) Lajoie and (Elmer) Flick got in their work, and the five runs were scored.

“’Whenever you see bats fixed that way look out for runs,’ observed Cross, triumphantly.

“’All right,’ replied (Ed) McFarland.  ‘Shove out about six of those sticks and we’ll win sure.’

“’That doesn’t go.  Don’t touch them for heaven’s sake!’  Fairly screamed Cross.  ‘The bat boy has to do it when he isn’t thinking.’

“The players all had a good laugh over the circumstance, and no doubt some of them became converts to Monte’s baseball religion.”

While the Phillies scored five runs during Cross’ “lucky” inning, it didn’t seem to matter to him that he failed to contribute to the rally, and the Phillies lost the game 10 to 5.

The Box Score

The Box Score

The Tribune’s First All-Star Team

21 Feb

In 1933 The Chicago Tribune underwrote the first All-Star game, created by Arch Ward, the  paper’s sports editor,  to coincide with the Century of Progress World’s Fair—more than 30 years earlier The Tribune published one of the earliest  sportswriter selected “all-star teams.”

Near the end of the 1902 season, The Tribune polled sportswriters from American League cities to pick “An all American League Nine.” (No similar poll was done for the National League)

The writers polled:

Jacob Charles Morse—The Boston Herald

Joseph M. Cummings—The Baltimore News

John Arnold HeydlerThe Washington Post

Frank Leonardo HoughThe Philadelphia Inquirer

Joseph Samuel Jackson—The Detroit Free Press

Henry P. Edwards—The Cleveland Plain Dealer

Alfred Henry SpinkThe St. Louis World

Irving E. (Sy) Sanborn—The Chicago Tribune

The only unanimous choice was Cleveland Bronchos second baseman Napoleon Lajoie—Lajoie appeared in just 86 games, but hit .379.

Napoleon Lajoie --the only unanimous choice

Napoleon Lajoie –the only unanimous choice

The most disagreement was behind the plate; four different catchers received votes:  Billy Sullivan of the Chicago White Sox and Lou Criger of the Boston Americans received three votes each;  Freeman Ossee Schrecongost who played 18 games with Cleveland and 79 with the Philadelphia Athletics, and William “Boileryard” Clarke of the Washington Senators each received one vote.

Cy Young of Boston led pitchers with five votes, with Philadelphia’s Rube Waddell being the choice of the other three.

Four first basemen were also chosen, but Harry Davis of the Philadelphia Athletics was the consensus choice with five votes.  Cleveland’s Charlie “Piano Legs” Hickman, Washington’s George “Scoops” Carey, and “Honest John” Anderson of the St. Louis Browns all received one vote.

Cleveland’s Bill Bradley edged Boston’s Jimmy Collins four to three, with Philadelphia’s Lafayette “Lave” Cross getting the remaining vote.

Bobby Wallace of St. Louis was the shortstop consensus with six votes, Boston’s Freddy Parent and Chicago’s George Davis received one vote each.

Booby Wallace, the choice at shortstop

Bobby Wallace, the choice at shortstop

Washington’s Ed Delehanty got four votes in left field, Philadelphia’s Tully “Topsy” Hartsell two; one vote each went to Boston rookie Patsy Dougherty and Philadelphia’s Dave Fultz (who played center field)

With or without his vote as a left fielder, Fultz was the consensus in center field.  He received four votes at that position; Chicago’s Fielder Jones got two votes, Jimmy Barrett, the only Detroit Tiger to make the list received a single vote (from Joseph Samuel Jackson of Detroit) and Harry “Deerfoot” Bay of Cleveland received one vote.

Jimmy Barrett, the only Tiger

Jimmy Barrett, the only Tiger

Right field included a couple more out of position players, Charlie Hickman picked up one vote despite being primarily a first baseman and playing just 27 games in the outfield in 1902.  Delehanty, almost exclusively a left fielder in 1902, received one vote in right.  Elmer Flick of Cleveland was the consensus with four votes.  Danny Green of Chicago received two votes.

The Results

The Results

The 1902 effort was not repeated by the paper.

“Chief” Bender’s Catcher

3 Sep

Umpire Billy Evans, in one of his syndicated newspaper columns in the fall of 1910, said: “Most every ball player is more or less superstitious, but the pitchers, I believe, are more susceptible to beliefs uncanny than any of the other diamond athletes.”

Evans singled out Charles “Chief” Bender, who had just completed a 23-5 season with a 1.58 ERA for the World Champion Philadelphia Athletics, as one of the most “susceptible.”

Chief Bender

Chief Bender

According to Evans, Bender preferred throwing to catcher Ira Thomas over the team’s other two catchers Jack Lapp and Paddy Livingston:

“Bender has won lots of games with other catchers doing the receiving, but he never seems quite so steady as when Thomas is paired up with him.”

Evans said the preference extended to warming up as well:

“While there are scores and scores of pitchers who have their favorite catchers, still they are content to let one of the other receivers warm them up between innings, but not so with the Chief.  When Bender starts a game he absolutely refuses to throw to anyone other than Thomas.

“It is often the case that when the side is retired, the catcher happens to be a base runner.  Naturally much time is consumed by him in hurrying from the base he occupied to the bench to get his mask, glove and protector, and then back to the plate.  It is customary for most managers under such circumstances, to send one of the other catchers up to the plate to keep the pitcher warmed up.  I have seen Bender refuse at least a dozen times during the past summer to warm up with one of the Athletics other than Thomas.  He waits for Ira and takes a chance on getting cold in preference to putting the “jinx” on himself by tossing the ball to someone else.”

Bender's favorite catcher Ira Thomas

Bender’s favorite catcher Ira Thomas

The feeling was mutual.  In a 1911 article in The Pittsburgh Press, Thomas, who in addition to Bender also caught Jack Coombs (31-9, 1.30 ERA), Cy Morgan (18-12, 1.55 ERA), and Eddie Plank (16-10, 2.01 ERA) in 1910, said of Bender:

“I don’t take my hat off to…any other pitcher when Chief Bender is around.  He is a wonder of wonders.  No one can show me where there is a better pitcher in general.

“Bender has everything a pitcher needs and in a series of seven games he is almost invincible.”

Thomas remained with the Athletics organization for another 40 years as a coach, minor league manager and scout; he finished his scouting career with the Yankees, retiring in 1956.  He died in 1958.

Bender left Philadelphia in 1914 when he jump the Athletics for the Federal League; he returned to the Athletics organization in the 1930s.  He died in 1954.

Bender and Thomas shared a baseball card--the 1912 T202 Hassan Triple Folder

Bender and Thomas shared a baseball card–the 1912 T202 Hassan Triple Folder

The two remained close for the rest of their lives and often appeared together at baseball banquets.  One story Bender always told; the “greatest thrill” of his career, his May 12, 1910 no-hitter against the Cleveland Naps (this version was related in The Trenton Evening Times in 1936).  With two outs in the ninth Cleveland’s Elmer Flick hit a pop-up in front of home plate, the ball initially popped out of Thomas’ mitt before he secured it for the final out:

“Watching Ira juggle that ball and then hold it was my greatest thrill.”

Crazy Schmit Stories

13 May

Fred “Crazy” Schmit was widely considered to be the first pitcher to keep a “book” on hitters, it was mostly attributed to his poor memory, and the pitcher kept an actual book in his pocket listing the weakness of each hitter.  The earliest reference to Schmit’s book was in The Sporting Life in 1894, but the story was repeated in newspapers for the next thirty years, usually as a story told by John McGraw or Hughie Jennings.

The article said Schmit kept:

“(A)n account of the weakness at bat of his opponents, setting them down in a small book, which he always carried with him on the diamond…One day when he had the Chicagos as opponents (it was the season that Captain Anson led the League in batting), Anson came to the bat. “Crazy” Schmit looked at the big first baseman, then went down into his pocket, and, taking out his book, read “Anson, base on balls.”

Over the years the story changed—the batter was sometimes Elmer Flick, Nap Lajoie, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Tris Speaker, and as Jennings said in 1926, “Every good hitter since Anson’s day, but Anson is the player whose weakness was reported to be a base on balls.”

"Cap" Anson

“Cap” Anson

Jennings also claimed that during the 1890s as part of a prank by teammates aboard a ferry, Schmit’s suitcase, with his book inside, fell overboard, and said:

“Schmit was a losing pitcher from that time on.  He won a few games but lost a great many more…The bottom of Hudson River held his ‘pitching arm.’”

Pitcher turned sports cartoonist Al Demaree said Schmit “used to warm up with an old water-soaked ball that weighed several pounds—at a distance of 75 feet, and not the regulation 60 feet from his catcher.”

Al Demaree's Schmit cartoon--as with most references to the pitcher, his name is spelled incorrectly

Al Demaree’s Schmit cartoon–as with most references to the pitcher, his name is spelled incorrectly

After his final game with the Baltimore Orioles in 1901, Schmit continued to play with semi-professional and quasi-professional teams for more than a decade.  His antics continued to make the papers.

In 1906 Schmit joined Jim “Nixey” Callahan’s Logan Squares in the Chicago City League.  The Sporting News’ Revere Rodgers told a story (complete with Schmit speaking in a comic German accent) about the team going to Joliet, Illinois for a game:

“(The Logan Squares) knew the umpire was a ‘homer’—a man who couldn’t see a close decision without giving his team the best of it.  He stopped before the grandstand, hat in hand, and announced (the batteries)…’Crazy’ Schmit was right behind him and when (the umpire) finished Schmit took off his cap and making a sweeping bow said: ‘Laties and schentlmen, der umpire for der game today vill be Mister Miller of Joliet and he vill as usual slightly favor der home glub mit his decision.”

According to The Chicago Tribune’s Hugh Fullerton Schmit was deeply disappointed at the end of the 1906 season when Callahan did not allow him to pitch in the Logan Squares victories against the World Champion White Sox, and National League Champion Cubs.

Schmit continued to play in the Midwest and also did some scouting for John McGraw’s New York Giants.  A story that appeared in The Duluth News-Tribune said Schmit pitched a few games for the Fond du Lac in the Wisconsin-Illinois League (Schmit’s name does not appear on any Fond du Lac roster in either of the two years the other player mentioned in the story was with the team (1909, 1911)so the story may be apocryphal):

“Along about the seventh inning, with Rockford leading by 6 to 4 the first man up got on.  Schmit pitched out three times in an attempt to get the runner going down to second base, but the runner made no attempt to purloin the sack.  With the count three and nothing on the batter he grooved the next one, only to have the batter lean on it and drive it over the left field fence for a homerun.

“After the runners had circled the bases the umpire threw up another ball.  Schmit took it, shook his head and walked over to Bobby Lynch, who was playing third base…and said to him ‘Say, Bobby, no wonder I can’t beat these fellows.  I won’t pitch against them any longer.  I quit right now.  They don’t know how to play baseball and yet they are leading in this league.  The runner that was on first base just let me waste three balls and yet he does not attempt to steal; then when I put one over for the batter who has three balls and no strikes, he hits it.  Tell me, how can a man of my intelligence and baseball knowledge pitch a game of baseball against such boneheads and unscientific playing of the game?”

“Crazy” Smith died in Chicago in 1940.