Tag Archives: Federal League

Lost Advertisements–Cubs, White Sox and Whales Endorse Steele’s Game of Baseball

18 Dec

steeles

A 1915 advertisement for Steele’s Game of Baseball, a table-top game which claimed to have “Over 1,000,000 absorbing combinations,” and promised that the player would “enjoy it beyond anything you might have believed possible:”

Greatest of All Indoor Games

“Everybody becomes a ‘fan’ when Steele’s Game of Baseball in on the table.  The parlor or living room fades away.  In its place appears the vision of the baseball field.  The thrill of the great game enters the veins, action follows action; one tense, gripping situation follows another so rapidly that the breathless interest is sustained.  Time flies away on the wings of pleasure and outside attractions cease to call to the family where Steele’s Game of Baseball has entered.”

The game was produced by the Burr-Vack Company, a Chicago-based office supply dealer, and received glowing endorsements from members of the city’s three teams:

World’s Greatest Ball-Men are “Fans

Charles A. Comiskey owner Chicago ‘White Sox’ and probably the most famous man in baseball, says: ‘I think Steele’s Game of Baseball is the next best thing to the real outside game–full of thrills and with an endless number of exciting situations.  Would be sorry to part with the one I have.’

“‘Heine’ Zimmerman third baseman of the ‘Cubs’ and famous hitter says: ‘I  beg to thank you for the Steele’s Baseball Game.  After one starts to play it you almost imagine you are watching the real game on the diamond.  I expect to get considerable amusement out of it.’

Mordecai Brown famous pitcher, formerly of the ‘Cubs’ but now with the ‘Whales’ says: ‘Next to the real game, I enjoy playing Steele’s Game of Baseball.It’s a dandy and should make a big hit.’

Chas. E. Weeghman owner of Chicago ‘Whales’ Federal League pennant winners says, ‘I’m for Steele’s Game of Baseball.  It’s a great game and one any lover of baseball (or anyone else) is sure to enjoy to the limit.  You’ve put it right across the plate with this game.’

Frank M. (Home Run) Schulte famous ‘Cubs’ left fielder says: ‘I am pleased with the Steele’s Baseball Game you sent me.  It affords considerable amusement and is almost as interesting as the real game.”

Joe Benz ‘White Sox’ pitcher and one of the stars of the American League, says, ‘I think it is one of the most interesting parlor games on the market.  It is sure to make a big hit. I enjoy it immensely.'”

[…]

“Note what the famous professional baseball players portrayed here say about Steele’s Game of Baseball.  In the long winter, when outdoor ball is impossible, these stars of the diamond find a dandy substitute in Steele’s Game of Baseball.”

Despite the endorsements, the “Ideal Xmas Gift,” which cost one dollar and was “For sale by all State Street, Department, Stationary, Toy, and Book stores,” appears to have quickly disappeared–there are no mentions of the game in newspapers after 1915.

“He is a Model for the Young Ballplayer to Emulate”

21 Aug

March of 1916 was a bad month for “Prince Hal” Chase.

According to The International News Service, Chase, who spent the winter in San Jose, California playing for the Maxwells—a team sponsored by the automobile company–was “the last of the stars” of the defunct Federal League who had still not signed with a professional team.

Hal Chase

                          Hal Chase

It got worse when he was arrested for failure to pay alimony and support to his ex-wife Nellie and their son Hal Jr.

He was released on $2000 bond, and it is unclear whether the case was ever fully adjudicated. After his release, Chase continued playing with the Maxwells and working out with Harry Wolverton‘s San Francisco Seals while rumors of who he would play for during the regular season were advanced on a daily basis.

The strongest rumors were that Chase would go to the New York Giants in a deal which would include Fred Merkle, who would be displaced at first base, going to the Chicago White Sox, the team Chase jumped to join the Federal League.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said the deal was eventually foiled by Pirates Manager Jimmy “Nixey” Callahan, who “refuse(d) to waive.”

At the same time the papers in Cincinnati said Chase would be joining the Reds while West Coast papers said he might stay in California and join the Seals.

The Cincinnati Enquirer said Reds’ Manager Charles “Buck” Herzog “vigorously denied,” that Chase would join his club and said he would stick with Frederick “Fritz” Mollwitz at first base.

Buck Herzog

                     Buck Herzog

Herzog was even more forceful in his denial in The Cincinnati Times-Star:

“I wouldn’t have Chase at the camp.  Mollwitz is a very much better player, and he won’t jump when he is most needed.”

An even stronger indictment of Chase came from Detroit Tigers Manager Hugh Jennings, who told The Detroit News:

“As a player, there is nobody who can touch Chase for holding down first base.”

Jennings went on to note Chase’s intelligence, speed, and “superb” fielding:

“Yet for all his ability I would not have him on my club, and I do not believe any other major league manager will take a chance on him.  He will not heed training rules and has a demoralizing influence on the younger players.”

Tiger Manager Hugh Jennings

Tiger Manager Hugh Jennings

Jennings said while Chase managed the New York Highlanders in 1910 and ’11, led his team “astray,” instead of “trying to keep his players straight.”

Perhaps most damaging, Jennings said Chase was a source of dissent on the clubs he played for:

“One of his favorite stunts is to go around telling on man what another is supposed to have said about him, with the result that in a very short time he has the fellows pulling in all directions  instead of working together.  He is apt to take a dislike to the manager and work against him with the players until the whole squad is sore and will not give the sort of work that it is paid for.”

Jennings, whose team finished second in 1915 with George Burns at first base, said:

“The Tigers would win the pennant beyond question with a player of Hal’s ability on first this season, but I wouldn’t risk introducing a man who had such a bad disposition.  I believe that we can accomplish better results by having harmony on the squad, even if we have to get along with a first baseman with less talent.”

Despite the negative press, and over the objection of Herzog, the Reds purchased Chase’s contract from the defunct Buffalo Blues on April 6.

The New York Times lauded the move and defended Chase against his detractors.  The paper said “His failure with the New York Americans was due to petty controversies and rebellion against the club’s discipline,” and “(W)hen he is at his best there is not a player in the major leagues who is more spectacular than ‘Prince Hal.’”

Chase initially balked at reporting to Cincinnati, telling The San Francisco Chronicle “I haven’t made up my mind…it is possible that I would prefer to remain in California, even if there is no chance to play ball.”

Six days later, while his new team opened the season, Chase was on a train to Cincinnati.  The Associated Press said he agreed to join the Reds after receiving “word from Cincinnati that his entire contract with the Federal League, which calls for a salary of $8,000 a year, has been taken over,” by the Reds.

When Chase arrived in Cincinnati on April 15, the Reds had won three straight after losing their opener, and Mollwitz had played well at first base with five hits in 13 at-bats and just one error.

According to Frederick Bushnell “Jack” Ryder–college football star and Ohio State football coach turned sportswriter–of The Enquirer, Herzog had no intention of putting Chase in the game April 16:

“Herzog had little thought of playing him, as Fritz Mollwitz was putting up a bang-up game and hitting better than any member of the club,” until “Mollwitz made a bad mental mistake in the third inning.”

After Umpire Hank O’Day called a strike on Mollwitz, “the youngster allowed his tongue to slip,” and was ejected.

Fritz Mollwitz

                 Fritz Mollwitz

Chase came to bat with an 0-2 count and doubled off of Pirates pitcher Frank Miller, stole third, and after catcher Tommy Clark walked “(Chase) caused an upheaval in the stands by scoring on (a) double steal with Clark.”

Chase also wowed the crowd in the ninth.  After making “a nice stop” on Max Carey’s hard ground ball over first base and with pitcher Fred Toney unable to cover first in time, Chase dove “headforemost to first base to make a putout on the fleet Carey.”

In all, he played 98 games at first base, 25 in the outfield, and 16 at second base, he also hit a league-leading and career-high .329.

While the Reds struggled, Chase was wildly popular in Cincinnati.  The Enquirer’s Ryder was possibly his biggest fan—the writer raved about Chase’s performance in the outfield, his adjustment to playing second base, and his consistent bat.

While Chase thrived, Herzog, who had a contentious relationship with Reds’ owner August Herrmann, exacerbated by the signing of Chase against his wishes, began to unravel as the season progressed.  On May 30, he was hit in the head and knocked unconscious, by a throw from catcher Ivey Wingo during pregame warm-ups.  While he recovered physically, he became increasingly frustrated by the club’s performance.  On July 5—with a 29-40 record– he announced that he would retire at the end of the season when his contract expired.  He told The Times-Star:

“It would be a great blow to my pride to continue as a player, after being a manager for three years.”

The following day it was reported that the Chicago Cubs and New York Giants were interested in acquiring Herzog.  Within a week, it was reported that Herzog was heading to New York in a trade that would bring Christy Mathewson to Cincinnati to manage.  The negotiations continued over several days but floundered.  The Cubs reentered the picture—Owner Charles Weeghman told The Chicago Daily News “I brought the bankroll along…and I’ll get Herzog so quick I’ll make (the Reds) eyes pop.”  He later told the paper he offered “$25,000 and an outfielder” for Herzog.

At the same time The Brooklyn Daily Eagle said the Dodgers were after Herzog, and The Pittsburgh Post said the Pirates were in pursuit as well.

The pressure got to Herzog who held himself out of the lineup of July 17, The Enquirer said:

“The managerial situation is worrying Herzie, who had expected by this time to be cavorting at the third corner for the giddy Giants.  With the deal held off for various reasons, the Red leader is naturally a bit anxious.”

Herzog’s destination was unclear, but it was clear he would be gone.  With Mathewson seeming to be out of the picture, rumors persisted—fueled by Ryder of The Enquirer and William A. Phelon in The Times-Star—that Chase would be the new manager.

On July 20, Ivey Wingo managed the team to a doubleheader split with the Philadelphia Phillies, and the papers reported on Herzog’s successor:

The Enquirer ran Chase’s picture under the headline “Reds’ New Manager,” although they hedged in another headline which said he would “probably” be named.

The Times-Star said “Hermann has decided to allow Hal Chase to manage the team for the remainder of the season, and for this reason he does not want Mathewson.”

They were both wrong.

Within hours of the papers hitting the streets, a trade involving three future Hall of Famers was agreed to.  Herzog, along with catcher Wade “Red” Killefer went to New York for Mathewson, Edd Roush, and Bill McKechnie.  Mathewson was immediately named manager.

Cartoon accompanying the announcement of Mathewson's appointment.

          Cartoon which accompanied the announcement of Mathewson’s appointment.

Ryder said in The Enquirer that “Chase was greeted with a great round of applause” when he stepped to the plate for the first time on July 20:

“The fans at that time did not know of President Herrmann’s change of mind with regard to Matty, and they thought Chase was the new leader of the team.  The universal and hearty applause showed how popular the star third-sacker has become in this town.”

The Chase story is well-known; two years later Mathewson would suspend him, charge him with “indifferent playing.”  With Mathewson in Europe when the charges were heard by National League President John Heydler that winter, three Reds teammates, and Giants Manager Pol Perritt testified Chase had thrown games.

But in October of 1916 Chase appeared to have repaired his reputation, and his difficult March appeared to be far behind him.  In a season wrap-up, The Enquirer–there was no byline on the article, but it was likely the work of Ryder–published a glowing profile of the National League’s leading hitter and the man who nearly became the Reds’ manager:

“What has become of all the talk about Chase being a bad actor, a disorganizer, a former of cliques and a knocker of managers?  All gone to the discard.  Chase has not only played brilliant ball for the reds all season, but he has been loyal to the club and the managers.  He worked hard for Herzog and equally hard for Matty.  He has been a wonderful fellow on the club.  Chase is modest and does not seek notoriety or approbation…He played game after game in midseason when he was so badly crippled with a Charley horse that he could scarcely walk.  When Manager Herzog wanted to make an outfielder out of him he went to the garden and played sensational ball…Later in the season he filled in for several games at second base, a difficult position for a left-hand thrower, but he put up great ball there.  He is a natural ballplayer of the highest class, and with it all a perfect gentleman, both on and off the field.”

The profile concluded with this assessment of the man who would become synonymous with the baseball’s greatest sins:

“Chase has been a great man for the Reds, and there is many a manager of today who wishes that he had got in ahead of the Cincinnati club in signing him.  He is the smartest ballplayer and the quickest thinker in the National League today.  He is a model for the young ballplayer to emulate, because he is a real artist in his profession.”

“A Travesty on the National Pastime”

12 Aug

The Brooklyn Eagle called it “(A) travesty on the National Pastime.”  The Associated Press said it was “A comedy in Brooklyn.”

1915 home opener between the Federal League’s Brooklyn Tip-Tops and the Buffalo Blues.

The 1915 Federal League opener between the Brooklyn Tip-Tops and Buffalo Blues resulted in 13 to 9 Brooklyn victory,  slogged on for three hours and ten minutes, and Brooklyn Manager Lee Magee was ejected from his first game as a manager in the first inning.

Lee Magee

Lee Magee

None of those things were the cause of the headlines.

The Washington Times said:

 “Of all the offenses committed against the fair name of baseball none has loomed up so ludicrously as the prize ‘bone’ play perpetrated in the opening game.”

In the seventh inning, catcher Grover Land pinch hit for pitcher Bill Upham.  Land singled and was then removed for pinch runner Dave Howard.

The Eagle said, in the following inning:

“Land donned the windpad and mitt in the eighth and proceeded to catch the balance of the game in place of (Mike) Simon, whose sore arm caused his retirement.

“Land’s return to the game after having once been replaced was a distinct violation of the rules, but Acting Manager (Jim) Delahanty wotted not of such things, Umpire Jimmy Johnstone gave it not a thought and Leader (Larry) Schlafly of Buffalo ignored it entirely, either from lack of observation or with a view of future action in the way of a protest.  The re-advent of Land caused a mix-up in the scoring, which turned the press box into a bedlam of protest, but there was no redress.  Later, the humor of the situation dawned on the scribes and they gurgled with glee at the monumental piece of stupidity perpetrated by the home management.”

Grover Land

Grover Land

The following day, Schlafly filed a formal protest with Federal League President James Gilmore, and told The Buffalo News he was aware of the mistake and “Knew as soon as Land went in to catch the Brookfeds could not win the ball game.”

The Eagle later apologized to Delahanty for claiming he was responsible for the “bone play:”

“An injustice was done Jimmy Delahanty when it was stated that he was acting manager of the Brookfeds when Grover Land did the in again, out again, and in again stunt…The truth must be told.  Lee Magee was on the bench at the time, despite the fact that he had long before been chased off the field.  The Boy Manager had slipped into a long ulster, and, as he thought, disguised himself so the umps would not recognize him.  Then he slipped behind the water cooler and directed things.”

The paper concluded that Magee pulled the “bone” and chided him for allowing his players to take the blame.

Magee was fined $50 and suspended for two games for returning to the bench after the ejection.  The protest was rejected and the game remained in the record books as a 13 to 9 Brooklyn victory.

The Blues were 13-28 in June when Schlafly was fired.  Magee was replaced as manager by Brooklyn with a 53-64 record in August.  The teams finished sixth and seventh during the league’s second and final season.

Humpy Badel

27 Apr

Fred Badel was the first player in professional baseball (and most likely the only one) who suffered from Kyphosis, the over-curvature of the upper back.  In less sensitive times, the first decade of the 20th Century, this led to his nickname: Humpy.

Badel was born in Carnegie, Pennsylvania, March 6, 1881, although contemporary newspaper accounts implied he was much older.  He never learned to read or write, and despite his medical condition developed into a solid ballplayer.

The Altoona Tribune said:

“He is a little left-handed hitter, fast on his feet, and an excellent baserunner.”

The Tribune also said he was “(A) protegé of (Honus) Wagner.”

The Pittsburgh Press said he was:

“[E]xtremely fast on his feet, can hit like a fiend, and fields his position in a most finished manner.”

That description of Badel’s abilities appeared in an article about “The assertion…there are three classes of men who do not succeed in fast company in baseball, namely Hebrews, hunchbacks and Negroes,” the article failed to mention the concerted effort of organized baseball to keep at least two of those “classes” out of the game.)

Fred “Humpy” Badel

His professional career began in 1905 with Johnstown in the independent “outlaw” Tri-State League, although earlier he appears to have played for the Youngstown team in the Ohio-Pennsylvania League, and independent teams in Pennsylvania.

No statistics survive, but Badel appears to have played well.  He was described variously by Pennsylvania papers as a “picturesque character” and “odd,” but there seemed to be general agreement that he was destined for the big leagues.  He also had a reputation for playing dirty, The Williamsport Sun-Gazette said he had “a nasty trick of trying to spike basemen.”

At the close of the 1905 season, Badel was signed by the Buffalo Bisons in the Eastern League, managed by George Stallings.  Stallings, who had managed the Bisons since 1902, took the team south for spring training for the first time.

George Stallings

The trip was so successful that Stallings said he’d never again hold spring training in a northern climate—a regular practice at that time.

When the Bisons stopped in Cincinnati for an exhibition game with the Reds on April 10, Badel made an impression.

The Cincinnati Enquirer said:

“Humpy Badel was the bright particular star of the game…Badel is humpback, but a great athlete, with great speed and a fine arm.  An outfielder who cuts into two double plays in one game is going some.  He also made a fine catch on (Jim) Delahanty‘s drive in the second, which would have gone on for three bags…Badel was the main Bison slugger, securing two of the four hits off (Orville) Overall and one of the three off (Leo) Hafford.  Toward the end of the game, the bleacherites were cheering him on with cries of ‘good work, Humpy,’ and applauding every move he made.”

The Enquirer reported that Stallings turned down a  $4000 offer from Cincinnati–it was later reported to be $5000– to purchase Badel’s contract; the paper said Reds Manager Ned Hanlon badly wanted Badel.

Within months everything changed.  He was with Buffalo until July, 6, when without notice he jumped the team and returned to Johnstown.

badel

A cartoon from The Harrisburg Telegraph featuring Badel.

 

The Buffalo Courier blasted Badel; under the headline “Humpy Badel is a Foolish Man” the newspaper detailed how well he had been treated in Buffalo.  While acknowledging that Badel “Has the makings of a great player in him,” the paper repeatedly mentioned his illiteracy, claimed he “Lacked common sense,” missed or ignored signs, refused Stallings’ attempts to help him,  and was the subject of ridicule from his teammates who considered him ignorant.

The Buffalo Times summed up their view in verse:

“There was an outfielder named Humpy.

Whose work was decidedly lumpy;

So one bright summer day

He asked George for his pay,

And went back to the farm rather grumpy.”

Badel’s hometown papers in Pittsburgh and Sporting Life were somewhat less harsh, but all said that Badel’s leaving Buffalo probably ended a sure chance at a major league career.  Rumors that he jumped because oil had been found on his Pennsylvania land and he no longer needed to play ball were quickly dismissed.

There is no record of Badel ever having been asked for an explanation for why he left Buffalo and effectively ended any chance he had to play in the major leagues.

Badel hit over .300 in Johnstown during the second half of 1906.  He did not play professional ball in 1907, some reports said he had been blacklisted, others claimed he was ill–The Washington Herald said he was “in the grip of consumption,” although that report was likely false.

He appeared briefly with Johnstown again in 1908, but it appears he was not the same player.  The Harrisburg Star-Independent said:

“‘Humpy’ Badel has degenerated.  The eccentric one is no longer the valuable player which he showed himself to be in 1906.”

Badel is listed on the rosters of several independent, C and D league teams between 1910 and 1914, including the “outlaw” United States League in 1912 and the Federal League in 1913.  As was the case throughout his career, there are few extant statistics for Badel during this period.

The last mention of Badel in the press was the report of  his release from Maysville in the Ohio State League in June of 1914.  According to census records and his World War I registration card, he lived in Cincinnati, then Akron and worked as a carpenter until 1919.

 After 1919, there are no records of Badel, a suitable, enigmatic end to the story of an enigmatic man.

A shorter version of this post was published on August 21, 2012

“Why not bring one of the Big League Teams to Phoenix for Spring Training?”

18 Feb

Grover Cleveland Land was a visionary.

In 1921 The Arizona Republican asked the question the former catcher had put to several major league clubs:

“Why not bring one of the big league teams to Phoenix for spring training?”

Land, a Kentucky native who spent the last 40 years of his life as a Phoenix resident,  was encouraged by a report that Connie Mack had announced that his Philadelphia Athletics would no longer train in Lake Charles, Louisiana;  according to The Associated Press Mack said “certain things happened at the Louisiana resort last March that handicapped” the team.

Grover Land

Grover Land

Land, the former catcher for the Cleveland Naps and the Brooklyn Tip-Tops, said:

“I have played ball in every section of the country, and I have yet to find a climate more suited for baseball training than I find right here in Phoenix…Major league managers have been sending their players to Texas and other southern states for many years and I can safely state that there is not one manager entirely satisfied with the present training camp sites.  Fully one-third of the training period is hampered by rain and storms and by the time the training season is ended the players are just beginning to round into shape.”

He said he understood that “local boosters” had made some effort to bring teams to Arizona in the past—the Chicago White Sox, Cubs, and Pittsburgh Pirates had played spring exhibition games in the state several times since 1909—but Land said he would “make an effort to induce one of my manager friends to come down here…I am certain that if one of the managers could be induced to come here for a few weeks Phoenix would have no difficulty getting on the sport pages.”

He said the local chamber of commerce was getting behind the push, and that he had “already written to one of the major league managers and I have been corresponding with several sports writers in the east,’ to make the case for Phoenix.

“If the local fans get behind the move and convince Connie Mack that they want his team here next spring I have every confidence that the Philadelphia Athletics will do their 1922 training in Phoenix.”

Land was a bit overconfident in regard to Philadelphia; Mack chose to take the Athletics to Eagle Pass, Texas in the spring of 1922.

No team would train in Arizona until 1929—the Detroit Tigers came to the state for one season—but chose California the following year.

The Detroit Tigers in Arizona, 1929

The Detroit Tigers in Arizona, 1929

But Land, who died in 1958, lived long enough to see his adopted home become the spring training location for four clubs.

Tragic Exits: James McDonough

28 Jan

James Vincent McDonough was born in Chicago in 1888, his father and younger brother were both Chicago police officers.  Primarily a catcher, the 5’ 10” 180 pound right-handed hitter first made a name for himself in the Chicago City League with the Auburn Parks and the Rogers Parks.

McDonough, middle row, second from left with the Rogers Parks in 1910.

McDonough, middle row, second from left with the Rogers Parks in 1910.

In 1911 he joined the Grand Rapids Furniture Makers in the Central League; in July The Sporting Life said he was traded to the Terre Haute Miners.  He finished the season with the Traverse City Reporters in the Michigan State League, and then returned to Chicago.

In 1912 and ’13 McDonough was one of the more popular members of Chicago’s entries in the United States and Federal Leagues.  He also started the 1914 season as a member of Joe Tinker’s Whales in the Federal league, although The Chicago Tribune said he was “handicapped this spring with a sore arm,” he played in the club’s final exhibition game in Covington, Kentucky, collecting two hits but never appeared in a game during the regular season, and was released in May.

McDonough

McDonough

That same month McDonough returned to semi-pro ball in Chicago and married the Marion Delores Jordan.

He remained a popular enough figure in Chicago baseball circles that his wedding and the brief marital scandal that followed in 1916 was reported in the local press.  The Tribune said:

“A ‘poisoned phone’ almost brought about the complete separation of Jim McDonough, the former backstop of the Federal baseball team, and his wife a few days ago.  For the last two weeks girls called up Mrs. McDonough every night and told her that her beloved hubby was not the saint she thought him.

“’These naughty girls,’ said the young Mrs. McDonough, ‘said Jim was out drinking champagne with them.  It almost drove me to nervous prostration.  Jim always denied the stories, but by that time I had grown to suspect him.

“’Then I went home to mother’s.  Three days later I saw a lawyer and filed a bill for a divorce.  Then the most wonderful thing in the world happened.  Jim came to me and told me he had done nothing wrong and that he loved me more than ever.”

Marion McDonough

Marion McDonough

The couple reconciled.

On April 22, 1918 McDonough made the papers for the final time.  The Chicago Examiner said:

“James McDonough, well-known as a catcher in the Chicago Federal League baseball team the first year of that organization’s existence, shot and killed his wife last night.  Then he killed himself with a bullet through his temple…Mrs. McDonough left the former ballplayer several months ago, charging that he failed to support her and their two children…McDonough was 29-years-old and subject to the draft. At the time of the separation Mrs. McDonough refused to sign exemption papers for him.  Several times since, it is said, he begged her to return to him or sign the exemption papers.”

The two had an altercation outside a drug store on Chicago’s South side.

“Noticing that they were attracting attention, the couple walked away.  At 4250 Vincennes Ave., McDonough pushed his wife into a hallway.  A moment later he shot her twice, once in the temple and once just below the heart. Then he sent a bullet into his own head.”

Both were taken to a nearby residence.  McDonough died after 10 minutes, his wife died 30 minutes later.

Although it appears he never played organized baseball after 1914, his Cook County, Illinois death certificate listed his profession as “Ballplayer.”

“Then the Harder I threw the Harder they hit them”

3 Oct

Walter Newton Justis–often misspelled “Justus” during his career– performed an incredible feat in 1908.  While posting a 25-17 record for the Lancaster Links in the Ohio State League, he pitched four no-hit games between July 19 and September 13.

Walter Justis

Walter Justis

The performance earned him his second shot to make the big leagues.  The first consisted of two relief appearances (8.10 ERA in 3.1 innings) with the Detroit Tigers in 1905 when he was 21.  He said later that he wasn’t ready:

“All I knew was to burn them over.  And the harder they hit them the harder I threw.  Then the Harder I threw the harder they hit them.  Most of the time in the three months that I was there I lugged the big bat bag, and I guess I earned my salary then about as much as at any time I know of.”

Justis’ bizarre behavior often made as big an impression as his pitching.  Roy Castleton was pitching for the Youngstown Ohio Works in 1906 when Justis joined Lancaster (the team was in the Ohio-Pennsylvania League in 1906 and ’07, and joined the Ohio State League in 1908).

Castleton, while playing for the Atlanta Crackers two years later told The Atlanta Constitution  he thought “Rube Waddell and Bugs Raymond, two players well-known for their eccentricities…will have to take off their top pieces,” to Justis.  Castleton was staying in the same hotel as the Lancaster team:

“Early one morning he heard someone raising a disturbance in the hotel hallway and taking a look to see what was doing, he observed pitcher Justis…running down the hallway.

“’At the end of the hall Justice placed a pillow against the wall.  He would get a good start down the hall and after the fashion of a man on the paths would take a running slide at the pillow.  When he arrived at his destination he would hold out his hand as umpires do and yell ‘safe!’  Justis would keep this up for hours at a time playing base runner and umpire out in the hall at daybreak.’

“’Sometimes he would stop the double existence of umps and runner and would (just) be the judge of the play.  Standing over the pillow he would hold out his hand and yell ‘safe’ so loudly that he could be heard a block off.’”

The Constitution also said that Justis was superstitious:

“He never goes into a game without wearing a pair of ladies’ silk hose supported in the usual manner.  Regular baseball stockings would never do for him, as he believes his career as a pitcher would be cut short if he were to wear them in a game.”

He was signed by the St. Louis Browns, and Manager Jimmy McAleer told The St. Louis Globe-Democrat the pitcher’s eccentricities were a positive:

“McAleer says that the reason he signed pitcher Justis of Lancaster was because Justis bears the reputation of being a baseball ‘bug.’  ‘Bugs,’ says McAleer, ‘make good in St. Louis.  We have Waddell, while the Cardinals have ‘Bugs’ Raymond.’”

Justis joined the Browns in Dallas in the spring of 1909.

The Globe-Democrat said after he had a poor outing in an exhibition against the Houston Buffaloes of the Texas League:

“Justis pitched two innings for the Browns Saturday and the Houston team got six runs.  Until this bombardment he was tagged for the regular club, and the label hasn’t been removed yet, though slightly loosened.”

And Justis appeared to have made the team when they broke camp in Texas and returned to St, Louis in early April, but The Associated Press reported on April 6:

“Walter Justus, a pitcher recruit of the St. Louis Browns, is confined to his room by a severe nervous collapse, and the nurse in charge says he may be able to leave for his home in Indiana in a few days.  Justis lost his power of speech at the end of a wrestling bout with Arthur Griggs in Sportsman’s Park today.  It is claimed Justus fell to the floor, striking his head, and reopened an old wound received when a boy.”

Justis suffered similar attacks at least four other times during his career; in June of 1907, twice in 1908, and August of 1909.  In July, 1908 after a double-header with the Lima Cigarmakers, The Marion (Ohio) Daily Mirror said “(Justis) suffered a sudden brain stroke akin to apoplexy.  He fell in a dead faint at the close of the second contest.  He was removed to his hotel in an unconscious condition.”   In September, after another attack left Justis hospitalized, The Sporting Life said prematurely “physicians say he will never twirl another game.”   It is likely that he suffered from epilepsy.

Within days of returning to Indiana from St. Louis Justis fully recovered.  The Associated Press said “His recovery is one of the most remarkable in the history of athletes.”  But, despite his recovery, Justis was returned to Lancaster by the Browns, and lost his opportunity to return to a major league team.

He threw another no-hitter for Lancaster in 1909, on May 18 against the Marion Diggers, and went 19-16 for the season.  Justis continued pitching until 1913, finishing with the Covington Blue Sox in the Federal League—where he played with the equally eccentric, enigmatic Fred “Humpy” Badel.

Justis shut out the St. Louis Terriers 4 to 0 on the opening day of the Federal League season, but no complete records remain for the season.  By late September of 1913 he was back home in Greendale, Indiana pitching for a local team.  He remained in Greendale until his death in 1941.

Matty and the Federal League

3 Sep

Despite the controversy during 1913 over ghost-written articles appearing under the bylines of major league players, Christy Mathewson continued to  “write” articles that were distributed to newspapers by the “Wheeler Syndicate.”  The Wheeler Syndicate was the creation of John Neville Wheeler, a reporter for The New York Herald, and widely known to be the writer of Mathewson’s articles.

Christy Mathewson with John McGraw

Christy Mathewson with John McGraw

Shortly before the beginning of the 1914 season, Mathewson “wrote’ a story about the outlaw Federal League, and the attempt the nascent league’s president made to secure his services:

“Until I had definitely signed with the Giants again, I made no comment on the Federal League or the offer of that organization to me.  In fact, there was nothing definite in the way of an offer until I received a telegram from President (James A.) Gilmore a few hours after putting my signature to a National league contract…The proposition came out of a clear sky and was unexpected.  I have learned since that the Federals believed I was signed up all winter and that it was not until a New York newspaperman happened to mention the fact to Gilmore.”

James A. Gilmore

James A. Gilmore

A New York reporter (likely Wheeler) told Mathewson how Gilmore came to find out he wasn’t yet signed:

“’We were sitting around the Waldorf late one night, fanning and discussing the Federal League, when one of the boys said to Gilmore: “’Why don’t you make Matty an offer and get some publicity out of it anyway?

“’He’s signed isn’t he?’ asked Mr. Gilmore.

“’No more than I am.  His contract expired last season, and he has not signed the new one yet.’

“’Gilmore at once left the party and sent a telegram to you.  Then he announced his action to us newspaper men, and the story appeared in the papers the next day.’”

At the time of the offer, Mathewson was asked by a reporter from The Los Angeles Examiner whether he would consider joining the Federal League, and said, “he would consider the offer.”  He now claimed, “all the time I knew I would not desert the New York club which had practically made me in baseball.”

Mathewson also took the opportunity to deny another rumor; that he was in California working on behalf of National and American League franchises to help them protect their players from the Federal League said:

“I saw several reports in the newspapers during the winter and early spring months that I was the agent of organized baseball on the Coast and that I had been busy counterbalancing the bids of the Federal League agents for the players spending the winter there.  As a matter of fact, I kept clear of both baseball on the diamond and the politics of baseball last winter because I did not care to have it on my mind.   Was having too much fun playing golf, and it is not in my province as merely a player to try to influence others to take certain steps which some day they might regret and then blame me for their mistakes”

Mathewson used his former teammate, catcher Art Wilson, as an example of how he had not given any players advice about accepting Federal League offers—Wilson had jumped from the Giants to the Chicago Feds during the winter:

“(Wilson) received a big offer to go with the Federals with the promise of a large piece of advance money.  Wilson has been pining for the chance to work regularly with a big league club for two or three years now and was weary of sitting on the bench, absorbing information in this position about how it is done in the majors.  As I said in a previous article, Wilson even asked (Manager John) McGraw to transfer him to a minor league team this season so that he could have an opportunity to work daily.  Now, if the Federal League turns out to be a big success, and if I had advised Wilson to refuse its offer and stick with the Giants, he might have said to me some day:

“’Well, I took your advice and am still sitting on the bench.  If I had gone with the Feds, I might have been a star now.’”

Art Wilson

Art Wilson

The move did result in additional playing time for Wilson.  From the time he joined the Giants in 1908 until he jumped to the Feds, he had appeared in just 231 games over six seasons.  In 1914 and ’15 he appeared in 233 Federal League games, hitting .291 and .305.

Mathewson, who had been paid $9,000 by the Giants in 1913, would not reveal how much he was paid by the Giants for 1914: “It is at the request of the New York club that I do not state the terms.”  He did, however, say exactly what he was offered by Gilmore to jump.  He said after not responding to the initial telegram from the Federal League president—a telegram that did not mention terms–he received a second:

“’Newspaper reports state you do not take Federal League offer seriously.  Get acquainted with the Federal League officials and be convinced we are not four flushing.  I will give you $65,000 for three years service as manager of a Federal League club–$15,000 advance money.  If satisfactory, meet me at the Waldorf Thursday, at my expense.  Wire answer Chicago.’”

Mathewson said he “was torn with regret” for refusing the offer that would have more than doubled his salary.

“It would be like leaving home if I were to pass up the Giants now.  I don’t think I would feel right in any other uniform.”

Mathewson said “the Federals have been spending money very liberally,” but placed the credit for the success the league had in inducing players to jump with Joe Tinker.  Tinker had jumped the Cincinnati Reds to join the Chicago Feds as player-manager.  Mathewson said:

“At first there was little confidence in the backers of the new organization until Joe Tinker jumped…The ball players had faith in Tinker because he is rated as one of the shrewdest in the business.  If the Federal League lives and goes through, Joe should get credit for it, because he is the man who has collected practically all the players for it.”

Joe Tinker

Joe Tinker

Both 33-years-old Mathewson (24-13 3.00 ERA) and Tinker (hit .256 in 126 games and led the Chi-Feds to a second place finish) had their last productive seasons in 1914.

Mathewson continued to “write” articles for the Wheeler Syndicate until 1916 when Wheeler sold the operation to the McClure newspapers.  Almost immediately after the sale, Wheeler formed the Bell Syndicate, and occasional articles under Mathewson’s byline were distributed by Bell through 1919.

A Goat and a Dog

9 Jul

Edward John “Goat” Anderson played just one season in the major leagues, hitting .205 for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1907.  He also played 10 seasons in the Central, Eastern and Western Leagues.

Described as eccentric, he made an impression on The Fort Wayne Sentinel in 1903, his first professional season with the South Bend Greens:

“’Goat’ Anderson who made it a rule during the games here to leave his post and come into the infield to argue every point raised by the umpire’s decisions, has stamped himself as the prize rowdy of the association.”

The Pittsburgh Leader said Pirate outfielder Tommy Leach had recommended the team sign Anderson, and told a reporter in the spring of 1907 that Anderson made the team because he was willing to stand up to Manager Fred Clarke while training in Hot Springs, Arkansas:

“(Clarke) had told Anderson to bunt at the signal from a man on first…The ball was pitched five feet outside, and of course, the catcher flagged the man going to second.  Anderson made no move to bunt or even to strike at the ball.  Clarke started to call him.  ‘Shut up,’ you don’t know all there is in the books,’ Anderson replied.  The answer made Clarke gasp…’All right, son,’ grinned Clarke.  ‘I guess you haven’t got stage fright when you can give it to your manager that way.’”

Edward John “Goat” Anderson

Edward John “Goat” Anderson

 

His excellent fielding, .343 on base percentage and 27 stolen bases with the Pirates impressed the local press, if not the fans.  George Moreland of The Pittsburgh Press said:

“Some fans are of the opinion that “Goat” Anderson, the hustling little right fielder of the Pittsburgh team, is not much of a general use to the Pirates, and that a good move would be made to get another man for the job.  These same fans are the ones who believe that a ballplayer is not worth his salt unless he is a slugger of the Wagnerian stripe…Manager Fred Clarke knows how to win games, and he also knows where to place a player in the batting order to get the most out of him.  That is the reason that the ‘Goat’ has been put at the top of the list to lead off.  It is not that Anderson makes a large number of hits.  Even when he does hit, he has difficulty in getting the ball out of the diamond.  But, somehow or other he manages to get to first base just about as often as any of them and when he does get there he is not slow about getting around the circuit.”

The Leader was even more enthusiastic about the new outfielder:

“The way little Goat Anderson has been hitting the ball and running bases insures him a permanent berth in the outfield.  Anderson has proved one of the finds of the season.  If there ever was another Wee Willie Keeler it is Anderson.  He is a ‘drop hitter’ of the Keeler style, and can run bases and bunt with the star of the New York Highlanders.  As a matter of fact, Anderson is of more value to the team than Keeler, because the latter’s star seems to be sinking.”

Despite the praise, Anderson was sold to the Rochester Bronchos of the Eastern League in January of 1908.

While with Rochester, Anderson attempted to get a patent on a sliding pad he invented; there is no record of a patent being awarded.  He also suggested a novel idea for improving his batting average.

The Lexington Herald said Anderson, who trained in Kentucky with the Bronchos before the 1909 season made this recommendation:

“Cut down the size of the home plate and I’ll hit .500 as long as the season lasts.  Where the front of the home plate is seventeen inches wide make it 10 or 12.  Then the batter will be able to get an even break with the pitcher, who now has everything in his favor.  With a home base half its present size a pitcher would need perfect control to get the ball over.  All this business of cutting across the inside and outside would be a thing of the past.  There wouldn’t be enough of the plate to give the pitcher the advantage of feeding outside low ones that can only be hit into someone’s hands…With a home base ten inches wide the ball would have to look pretty good right from the start, and if it didn’t a batter could easily pass it up.  There would be more bases on balls at the start, and that would mean a base on balls or a hit, or a hard liner that would bring a fine fielding play.  A smaller plate seems to me to be the thing.”

The small plate was the wish of a man who hit .222, .201 and .138 from 1908-1910 in Rochester.

Goat Anderson saved his greatest moment for his final season in professional baseball.  As the manager and leftfielder for the Terre Haute Terriers (or Terre-iers) in the Central League, he filed one of the most unusual game protests in history.

Goat Anderson (2), with the Terre Haute Terriers.

Goat Anderson (2), with the Terre Haute Terriers.

The Terriers were leading the Fort Wayne Champs 6 to 0 in the bottom of the seventh inning during the first game of a doubleheader.  Fort Wayne had a runner on first base with no outs with catcher Harry Martin at the plate.  The Fort Wayne Daily News picks up the story:

“Martin poked a drive into left field.  The ball rolled almost to the club house with ‘Goat’ Anderson in full cry after it.  Then came the cause for the protest in the person of Don.”

“Don” was a Great Dane who belonged to a Fort Wayne man named Ed Longfield.

“Don can’t bite, and wouldn’t if he could, but Anderson didn’t for sure know that, so ‘Goat’ hesitated a second in chasing the ball and Martin got a triple, Ted Anderson scoring. “

Fort Wayne went on to score six runs in the inning to tie the game and scored a run in the 10th to win 7 to 6.

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette said:

“Toothless Don, Ed Longfield’s dog, is supposed to be harmless.  Goat Anderson, Terre Haute manager and left fielder evidently doesn’t think so and because dog Don jumped at him during the seventh inning romp in the first game yesterday Goat will file a protest with President (Louis) Heilbroner, requesting the game be played over.”

Heilbroner ruled against Anderson’s protest saying the play did not have a sufficient impact on the outcome of the game, but he did order that Don would no longer be allowed on the field during games.

Terre Haute finished fifth in the six-team league with 60-79 record.  Anderson was rumored to be considering offers from Federal League teams for 1914, but never signed with a team and his career was over.

He returned to his home in South Bend, Indiana.  He died of stomach cancer 10-years later at age 43.

“This Wealth of Mr. Gertenrich has cost the Game an A-1 Player”

7 Jul

Sportswriter William A. Phelon said Louis Wilhelm “Lou” Gertenrich “is not a ball player because he has to be, but because he wants to be.”

The son of a successful candy maker, Gertenrich was rumored to be one of Chicago’s wealthiest young men.  He was also an excellent ballplayer and sprinter, but spent a great deal of time focused on business rather than sports.  Phelon said:

“Gertenrich hasn’t played ball, even when he desired to play the game, because his business interests would not allow him the leisure time.  In other words, Mr. Gertenrich, being a man of income and financial substance, cannot dally with the ball and bat as he would like, and this wealth of Mr. Gertenrich has cost the game an A-1 player.”

Lou Gertenrich

Lou Gertenrich

He began to be noticed as a ballplayer in 1891 as a 16-year-old pitcher with a team called the American Boys (later called the Mystics), the following year he joined the Clybourn Juniors.

At 19, in 1894 he joined Chicago’s City League, first with the Brands and then the Garden Cities, pitching and playing shortstop and outfield.  As local clubs found they could do better as independents than as members of a league the City League went from an eight, to six to finally a four-team league before disbanding at the close of the 1895 season.

Gertenrich remained a popular figure in semi-professional circles in Chicago, playing primarily for the Maroons and the Auburn Parks.

In 1898 The Sporting Life said Hank O’Day thought Gertenrich “is a sure comer.”

On September 15, 1901 the last place Milwaukee Brewers were in Chicago for a doubleheader, the final two home games for the first place White Sox.  Brewers Outfielder/Manager Hugh Duffy, and another outfielder, Irv Waldron, were injured.  As a result, The Chicago Daily News said:

“Manager Duffy gave Louis Gertenrich, a city league star, a trial.”

Starting the first game in right field, Gertenrich singled in his first big league at bat and scored a run on a home run hit by another player making his debut; Leftfielder Davy Jones.  Gertenrich was 1 for 2 before being removed in the fifth inning of a 5 to 4 loss.

In the second game he pinch hit for pitcher Ned Garvin and grounded out in the bottom of the ninth of a 9 to 4 loss to Chicago.

Gertenrich returned to the Auburn Parks with a .333 major league batting average.

He got a big league call again in 1903.  On July 21 the first place Pittsburgh Pirates were in Chicago to playing the Cubs.  Pirates Manager Fred Clarke, who was injured, had allowed outfielder Jimmy Sebring three days off to return to Williamsport, Pennsylvania for his wedding.

Gertenrich was brought in to play right field; he went 0 for 3 with a sacrifice bunt and handled two fly balls.  He returned to the Auburn Parks’ lineup the following day.

He spent most of the next decade playing in the re-formed Chicago City League—spending time with the Logan Squares, Gunthers, the Roger Parks, the West Ends, the Riverviews and Anson’s Colts.  He also coached baseball  at the Morgan Park Academy on Chicago’s South Side.

The Daily News said:

“Gertenrich is recognized as one of the heaviest hitters in local semi-pro ranks, and there is no batter more feared by the pitchers than this speedy fielder.”

1906 advertisement for the Rogers Parks, when Gertenrich played for and managed the team

1906 advertisement for the Rogers Parks, when Gertenrich played for and managed the team

William A. Phelon wrote for The Chicago Journal when Gertenrich left Chicago briefly in 1905, at age 30,  to join the Springfield Babes in the Central League and the Decatur Commodores in the Three-I League.  Phelon told a story about Gertenrich’s stay in Springfield:

“Mr. Gertenrich was able to arrange his affairs for a lay-off of three months (in order to play for Springfield, and) the rich man negotiated with (Manager Jack) Hendricks for a position…The very next afternoon beheld Mr. Gertenrich, free from business care and happy as a proverbial lark, capering in the Springfield pasture and slamming that old ball like seven Cobbs and a Lajoie thrown in for luck.

“On his first day out he got three singles.  Next day he amassed two triples and a double.  The third day he whacked a home run and a single.  On his fourth day he drew three passes and connected for a triple.  On the morning of the fifth day Mr. Hendricks summoned him to headquarters.

“’Mr. Gertenrich,’ said Mr. Hendricks, pausing to wipe away a tear ‘you are a great batsman and a good fellow.  You are setting this league afire.  You are the wonder of the Twentieth Century.  But you are breaking the hearts of my younger players.  They cannot bat like you.  They are losing their ambition.  A few more games with you among them and they will pine away and die…Moreover Mr. Gertenrich, you have money.  You do not need this job.  The boys whom you are shoving into obscurity have little families and need the coin.  I hate to say it Mr. Gertenrich,’—and the manager again wiped away a tear—‘but you and I must part.  Here is your release.  Goodbye, Mr. Gertenrich, and good luck be with you.  Please go away, for I weep every time I look at you.”

Gertenrich also appeared in several games for Decatur after his release from the Springfield Babes, against Springfield’s other team, the Senators, and the Peoria Distillers.

For the next four seasons, Gertenrich remained one of Chicago’s best local athletes.  At 33-years-old in 1908 he was still a good enough runner to win the City League Field Day title of fastest player; The Daily News said he rounded the bases in 14 and 1/5 seconds.

The Chicago Eagle called him:

“(O)ne of the best known and most popular players in Chicago.”

In 1909 he hit .318 (5th in the league) and The Sporting Life said the Brooklyn Superbas were trying to sign Gertenrich and made an offer “which he has taken under consideration.”  The deal was never completed.

Gertenrich hit .350 in 1910 (3rd in the league), playing for Rogers Park.

In 1912 he returned to professional baseball as a member of the Chicago Green Sox in the United States League.  William C. “Billy” Niesen, a long-time City League operator had initially been one of the organizers of another proposed outlaw organizations, the Colombian League, but when then venture failed, and after one of the proposed New York team dropped out of the United States League in late March Niesen was awarded a Chicago franchise; Niesen was a good fit for the fledgling league because already had a ballpark on the North Side of Chicago at the corner of Clark Street and Leland Avenue–called Gunther Park, also referred to frequently in the Chicago press as Niesen’s Park.

The Sporting Life said “Base ball men are still betting that the new league doesn’t open the season,” but Niesen had high hopes.  He hired Burt Keeley, a long-time City League figure who had pitched in 30 games for the Washington Senators in 1908 and 1909.

He also signed Gertenrich, who had played for Niesen’s Gunthers in the City League the year before, and according to The Chicago Examiner had hit a home run off of Bill Lindsay of the Chicago American Giants that was “the longest hit ever seen at Niesen’s Park.”

gunther

Gunther Park, where The Examiner said Gertenrich was responsible for “the longest hit ever seen at Niesen’s Park.”

An ambitious 126-game schedule was announced, but the upstart league was under-capitalized and low attendance doomed it to failure.  The league folded after just more than a month of play.  The Green Sox were 10-12.  Gertenrich returned to the candy business and semi-pro ball.

On March 8 of 1913 the Federal League rose out of the ashes of the United States League and was incorporated in Indianapolis.  Keeley was named manager, and many of the same players, including Gertenrich, who played for the Green Sox signed with the new club.

The Chicago Inter Ocean said:

“Gertenrich will be the mainstay of the outfield and is a heavy hitter.  He has made final arrangements for joining the club by procuring a competent manager for his candy business.  He will devote his time to the interests of the club.”

The team won their opener on May 6 against the St. Louis Terriers, and got off to a 7-1 start.  Chicago led the league until the middle of June when they were overtaken by Indianapolis.  They faded quickly after that; at the same time the team’s front office was in chaos, the team’s president was removed  and a new set of directors were elected in July.

On August 16 The Chicago Tribune said the team, hopelessly out of the pennant race, ten games behind Indianapolis, released Gertenrich “on the ground of cutting down expenses.”

Individual records are scare, but the 38-year-old Gertenrich was called “one of the classiest outfielders” in the league by The Associated Press.  In March of 1914 The Daily News said Gertenrich “was batting .413” at the time of his release, but had not received an offer from one the Federal League teams for 1914.

While Gertenrich relinquished some of the responsibilities of his company during 1912 and 1913 he had time to receive two United States patents for inventions for his candy company, including one described as a “corn confection” called the “Ball Tosser.”

Gertenrich was finished with professional baseball after his release in 1913, but continued playing semi-pro ball for several teams in and near Chicago, and formed a team called the Gertenrich Stars which played in Chicago through 1917.

He was a regular sponsor and attendee of alumni events for semi-pro and professional ballplayers in Chicago and played on the German Club of Chicago’s baseball team until his death from a cerebral hemorrhage in 1933.

As a candy maker he had one more connection with professional baseball.  An advertisement for his company appears on the back of a baseball card set.  The 120 card set–the more common version advertises American Caramel on the back (E121)—was issued in 1922.  The Gertenrich variations are extremely rare.

The Gertenrich back variation of an E-121

The Gertenrich back variation of an E-121 card