Tag Archives: Frank Bowerman

Jennings “Hurled an Unmentionable Epithet at him”

2 Feb

In April of 1896, the reigning National League Champion Baltimore Orioles traveled to Petersburg, Virginia for a pair of exhibition games with the Petersburg Farmers of the Virginia League.

The Baltimore Sun noted that it had been a tough spring for the Orioles.  Third baseman John McGraw “the brainiest and pluckiest little infielder that ever trod a diamond,” was in an Atlanta hospital suffering from typhoid fever; he would miss most of the season.

Additionally, catcher William “Boileryard” Clarke was sent back to Baltimore with a sprained ankle, pitchers John “Sadie” McMahon and Arlie Pond had injured hands and both would be out for at least a week,  and shortstop Hughie Jennings was also slowed by a hand injury.

Hughie Jennings

Hughie Jennings

A light rain fell as the hobbled team arrived in Petersburg on the morning of April 6, the day of the first game—which ended in a 7 to 7 tie.  The Baltimore American said:

“Why the team did not trounce the Petersburgs is an open question, but whether it was because of the game on Saturday (in Richmond) or the rain, or the umpire, the Champions walked out of the gates with the humiliation of having made eight errors and feeling the added sting of having just escaped being beaten by a minor league team.”

Third-string catcher Frank Bowerman made two of Baltimore’s errors and had a passed ball.  He would be relegated to umpiring duties in the second game, scheduled for April 8.  On the seventh the Orioles defeated another Virginia League team, the Richmond Bluebirds, 4 to 3.

The American said the morning of April 8 “had been a pleasant one,” with local officials taking the Orioles for a tour of the Petersburg Civil War battlefield.  And, with the rain gone, “The warm sun put life into each club, and a pretty, snappy game was being put up by each side.”  Bowerman and Petersburg player Michael “Doc” Powers alternated as umpires for the game.

Doc Powers

Doc Powers

Petersburg was leading 1 to 0 in the seventh inning when Powers called Orioles third baseman Jim Donnelly out on strikes.  What happened next, and who was responsible, depended on whether you read the accounts in the Baltimore papers or those in Petersburg and the surrounding Virginia towns.

The Sun said:

“Several promising runs had been cut off by similar umpiring and the birds were getting very ‘sore’ at such outrages.  Donnelly objected and (Hugh) Jennings went up to Powers, who was standing behind the pitcher, and said something to him.  Just then (Charles) Sholta, who had also run up, struck Jennings a stinging blow on the side of the head without warning.  The blow drew blood.”

The American said:

“While Hughey was expostulating rather forcibly with Powers, Sholta struck him on the cheek.”

Charles Sholta--drawing from Richmond newspaper

Charles Sholta–drawing from Richmond newspaper

The Baltimore papers agreed that the punch Sholta threw was unprovoked.  Every Virginia newspaper disagreed.

The Petersburg Index-Appeal said, “Jennings resented Sholta’s interference by very foul and abusive language and was promptly struck in the face.”

Papers in Richmond, Roanoke and Norfolk agreed that Jennings provoked Sholta—The Virginia League correspondent for The Sporting Life said Jennings “hurled an unmentionable epithet at him—an epithet which does not go here.”

Everyone generally agreed with what happened next.  Orioles’ first baseman Jack Doyle punched Sholta, knocking him to the ground and Petersburg fans poured on the field and began attacking Doyle and other members of the Baltimore club.

At this point, there was more disagreement.  The Baltimore papers said Doyle was struck in the head from behind, knocked down and kicked by multiple fans.  While “Wee Willie” Keeler was allegedly “choked and beaten,” five other Orioles, Joe Kelley, Wilbert Robinson, Steve Brodie, Bowerman, and Jennings “were more or less beaten.”

The Orioles, according to The American were forced to flee the ballpark.

The Richmond Dispatch called the Baltimore accounts of the incident:

 “(S)o greatly exaggerated and so grotesquely inaccurate as to cause amazement, not to say indignation, here.  Not a man of the Baltimore team was hurt, and the grossly obscene language uttered by one of the Orioles on the park during the game, caused all of the trouble.”

After the Orioles returned to Petersburg’s Appomattox Hotel, another fight broke out between several members of the Orioles—including Brodie and Kelley—and local fans, one of whom was thrown through a glass door.   After the second fight, the Orioles were accompanied by police to the train depot and departed for Norfolk.

Arrest warrants were issued for Doyle, Kelley, and Brodie, but the three “left their team in Norfolk and (went) beyond the jurisdiction of the state courts.”  Only ten Orioles were available for the final exhibition game in Virginia, a 7 to 5 victory over the Norfolk Braves.

Jack Doyle

Jack Doyle

Sholta appeared in Petersburg’s “Mayor’s Court” along with two fans who said to have assaulted members of the Orioles.  All were released with no charges filed as a result of Doyle, Brodie and Kelley failing to appear—they were sought both as suspects and witnesses against the local defendants.

At the hearing, Petersburg’s Mayor Charles Fenton Collier said Sholta “had only acted as any other gentleman would have,” by hitting Jennings, and the mayor said he would have done the same “under similar circumstances.”

The Washington Times said the only thing unusual about the Orioles’ battle in Virginia was that it happened so early in the season:

“The Orioles are starting their rowdy tactics early.  Perhaps the champs think it just as necessary to train for ruffianly conduct as other points.  And to think that ‘college-bred’ Hughey Jennings started the riot.”

McGraw remained out of the lineup for most of the season—he did not return until August 25.  The fighting Orioles hit .328 as team—Jennings hit .401, Keeler .386 and Kelley .364—and went 90-39 cruising to their third straight National League Pennant.

“Zimmer was not to be frightened.”

20 Jan

On March 28, 1907 the New York Giants took the field against the Philadelphia Athletics in the second game of a five-game exhibition series at New Orleans’ Athletic Park.

The umpire was new.  Charles Louis “Chief’ Zimmer, after a 19-year career a major league catcher had tried his hand at managing in 1906.  His Little Rock Travelers finished last in the Southern Association with a 40-98 record.

Chief Zimmer

Chief Zimmer

The Atlanta Constitution said:

“Zimmer underestimated the strength of the league, and brought men into it who did not have the goods to deliver.”

After Zimmer was dismissed by Little Rock he joined the Southern Association’s umpire staff.

The Giants/Athletics series would be among his first games as a professional umpire.

The Giants won the first game 4 to 3.  The Giants scored two runs with two outs in the bottom of the ninth off Jack Coombs for the victory.  The Philadelphia Inquirer said:

“Zimmer umpired a god game… (but) the rowdy element in the Giants broke loose frequently, and the Chief had many disputed with some of the men.”

The second game did not go as well.  The Inquirer said:

“The Giants were the first at bat, and the first two men were retired. (Art) Devlin and (Cy) Seymour then signaled safely to the outfield, each moving up a base on (Rube) Oldring’s throw…(Frank) Bowerman was then up to the bat.  (Eddie) Plank soon had two strikes and one ball on him.”

With a one and two count the Giants claimed Plank balked when he threw to third and picked Devlin off.  Zimmer said he didn’t.  Roger Bresnahan and Mike Donlin, coaching at first and third, “rushed at Zimmer from the coaching lines and a wordy war ensued.”  Manager John McGraw came out of the dugout and ‘a half hour was consumed in ‘beefing.’”

Eddie Plank

Eddie Plank

Zimmer finally ordered McGraw back to the bench and:

“Play was about to start again when a remark made by McGraw caused Zimmer to order McGraw off the grounds.  The New York manager refused to go, and a lively tilt between him and Zimmer took place, the entire New York gang surrounding the “Chief” in an effort to bulldoze him.  But Zimmer was not to be frightened.”

New Orleans police officers came out on the field as Zimmer declared the game a forfeit after a half inning.

McGraw said his team would not play in the game scheduled two days later if Zimmer was the umpire.  The Inquirer said Athletics Captain Harry Davis “informed McGraw that inasmuch as the giants had turned down Zimmer as the umpire the series might as well be called off.”  New Orleans Pelicans owner Charlie Frank also threatened to bar the Giants from Athletic Park.

On March 30 McGraw arrived at Athletic Park with only nine players consisting of “nearly all the youngsters in camp.”

With both teams on the field, Zimmer approached the Giants dugout and asked for the team’s lineup and was told the Giants would not play if he were not replaced as umpire.  Zimmer announced that the Giants had again forfeited and the Giants left the ballpark.  Frank’s New Orleans Pelicans took their place and pitcher Mark “Moxie” Manuel defeated the Athletics and Rube Waddell 4 to 2.

Waddell--lost to the New Orleans Pelicans

Rube Waddell–lost to the New Orleans Pelicans

The series was over.

Before the Giants left New Orleans that evening, McGraw confronted Thomas Shibe, business manager of the Athletics and son of team president Ben Shibe, in the lobby of the St. Charles Hotel.  The Inquirer said:

“Manager McGraw backed up the entire New York team, insulted Thomas Shibe…by calling him vile names.  McGraw alleged that Tom had informed several persons that he had heard McGraw using insulting language to Umpire Zimmer… pursuing the same cowardly tactics which have made him famous over all the base ball circuit (McGraw)did not keep within reach of Shibe.  He kept well within the group of rowdies which make up his team, and thus being forfeited from any attack from Tom, naturally was as brave as a lion.”

The paper said McGraw disappeared from the scene as soon as members of the Athletics arrived in the lobby.

Frank Leonardo Hough, baseball writer for The Inquirer, took McGraw to task for his actions, and charged the New York press with allowing McGraw and Giants’ management to intimidate them out of “writing the truth” about the team:

“The press of no other city in the Union would stand for the tactics employed by the Giants.  Such a condition of affairs would be impossible in Boston or in Philadelphia.  There are any number of thoroughly equipped baseball reporters in New York City—reporters who know the game from A to Z, who, if permitted to write the game as they see it, would be the peers of any bunch of critics the country over.  But, unfortunately they are under an awful handicap.  Let them criticize the Giants to the latter’s disadvantage and their occupation is gone.  They will be made to feel the displeasure of the august heads of the Giants by being debarred from the Polo Grounds.

“Now and then a paper will stand by its representative, but only in rare cases.  Charley Dryden, Sam Crane, Joe Vila, Eddie Hurst and numerous others were barred from the grounds.”

Hough said some reporters “stand on their manhood, and take up other fields of newspaper endeavors. But the majority of them, less favored perhaps, cannot afford to fight with the bread and butter, and consequently they are compelled to go along, glossing over the Giants’ bad breaks or bad playing as lightly as possible, while others crook the pregnant hinges of the knee until they become almost hunchbacked and ignore everything and anything that might reflect upon the Giants.  That is the reason why the New Yorkers are the best uninformed baseball public in the country.”

No disciplinary action was taken against McGraw; Giants owner John T. Brush was said to have reimbursed Charlie Frank for $1,000 in lost revenue. The Giants finished in fourth place in 1907, the Athletics third, as the Chicago Cubs ran away with the National League pennant, beating the second place Pittsburgh Pirates by 17 games.

Hough continued to write about baseball for The Inquirer despite being an investor in the Athletics (Hough and Sam “Butch” Jones of The Associated Press each held a 12 ½ percent stake in the team beginning in 1901—Jones became a full-time Athletics employee in 1906, Hough remained a sportswriter during the twelve years he held his stock).  He sold his stake to Connie Mack in 1912 and died in 1913.

Chief Zimmer’s tenure as an umpire did not improve much after his first experience in New Orleans.  He opened the season as a member of the Southern association staff, but on July 9 announced his resignation.  His final game was on July 13 in Nashville.

Bowerman by TKO

5 Nov

“The Popular Magazine,” a literary magazine that billed itself as a “magazine for men and women who like to read about men,” was published by Street & Smith from 1903 until 1931.

In 1904, the magazine told the story of a fight the previous season involving New York Giants catcher Frank Bowerman.

Frank Bowerman

Frank Bowerman

Bowerman was not kept by Fred Clarke when the Pirates and Louisville Colonels merged after the 1899 season; his contract was assigned to the  Giants.  Apparently some bad blood remained into 1903, and according to the magazine, Giants manager John McGraw used Bowerman’s grudge and some comments made by Clarke to try to light a fire under his team:

“When the Giants were in Pittsburgh (on June 1) last season McGraw noticed that there was bad feeling in the team.  The men stood in little knots in the hotel corridor glowering at other players; they rode to the field in a bus without exchanging a word; the preliminary practice, usually so brilliant, was dull and lifeless.  This worried McGraw.”

John McGraw

John McGraw

The article said McGraw had figured out the cause a few days later in Chicago; Bowerman had sat in the grandstand for that June 1 game, being unable to play due to an injured thumb.  Jack Warner caught Christy Mathewson that day.  What McGraw discovered was that Clarke said Bowerman was overheard criticizing Warner’s work behind the plate, blaming his teammate for one of the two runs scored off of Mathewson:

“This, of course, was tantamount to Bowerman’s asserting his superiority over Warner, a boast that ballplayers are rarely guilty of.”

McGraw cornered Bowerman who insisted Clarke had told “the meanest lie that ever was told, and I told Jack Warner so, but he don’t believe it.”  McGraw told him to keep quiet about it until the Pirates visited New York on June 26.

“(McGraw) proceeded to reinject that esprit de corps by a measure so drastic that it horrified ball patrons all over the country, who, however, thought it merely an incident of the brutality of ballplayers.  Instead of that, it was a well-planned scheme of a crafty general.”

When the Pirates arrived at the Polo Grounds on the morning of the 26th, McGraw took Bowerman aside:

“’Frank, have you got a good right swing?’  The Michigan Lumberman smiled grimly and clenched a fist knotted and as hard as Hercules’ war club.  ‘Well, it’s up to you, then,’ advised McGraw, “to put life in the team. Don’t lose any time.’ Bowerman understood.

“”’I’d like to speak to you a minute,’ he said to Clarke, as the Pittsburgh captain was passing through the gate on his way to the clubhouse.  They went into the stuffy box office; where there was hardly room to swing a cat.  Three times Bowerman demanded an explanation, offering to bring McGraw and Warner in as witnesses…Clarke went down three times and finally admitted he had enough…The Giants played that day, to use the expression of a rooter, as though they were ‘fighting their weight in wildcats.’  Bowerman and Warner coached each other with pet names, and walked lovingly from the victorious field arm in arm, while Fred Clarke was buying a pound of raw beef.”

Fred Clarke

Fred Clarke

“The Popular Magazine” story added an element that differed from the coverage in New York and Pittsburgh newspapers—while each town pointed fingers at the other (in Pittsburgh Bowerman was an out of control thug, while in New York, Clarke got what he deserved for stirring up trouble) no one else suggested that McGraw engineered the fight to motivate his club against the first place Pirates.

The Giants weren’t able to catch Pittsburgh, finishing in second place six and a half games behind the Pirates.

National League President Harry Pulliam initially announced that there would be no punishment for either player because the fight did not take place on the field, three weeks later, under pressure from Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss, Pulliam fined Bowerman $100.

“The Deterioration in the Morale of the Players”

10 Jun

The Chicago Tribune had had enough:

“The deterioration in the morale of the players has been followed by deterioration in that of the spectators.  The latter relish the obscene profanity and the slugging exploits of the hulking brutes of the baseball field.”

The Tribune provided an “account of the more disgraceful of the many rows witnessed by spectators of baseball games,” during the just-ended 1899 season:

“May 2—Row at Pittsburgh—St. Louis game.  (Frank) Bowerman was put out of the game.  (Jack) O’Connor was taken off the field by the police, and the crowd chased umpires (Tom) Burns and (William) Smith.

May 19—Umpire Burns put (Giants’ William “Kid”) Gleason out of the game at St. Louis.  Gleason’s protest was so strong Burns forfeited the game to St. Louis.

June 1—Row on the grounds at Washington.

June 16—After a long wrangle and continued rowing on the field at New York.  Umpire Burns forfeited the game to Brooklyn.

June 16—(Fred) Clarke and (Clarence “Cupid”) Childs fight on the field in Louisville.

June 27—Rowdy action of players caused the crowd at the Pittsburgh game to mob umpire (James “Chippy”) McGarr.

July 18—(Tommy) Corcoran slugged (John) McGraw at Baltimore after being first attacked, and his action started a riot.

July 26—(Emerson “Pink”) Hawley, (Fred) Tenney, and (Hugh) Duffy engaged in a game of fisticuffs at Cincinnati.

Aug 16—(Oliver “Patsy”) Tebeau, McGraw and (George “Candy”) LaChance fought at Baltimore

Aug 18—Riot at Baltimore game started by (Tim) Donahue throwing a handful of dirt at (Steve) Brodie’s face.

Sept 1—Childs and Aleck Smith fight on the field in Louisville.

Sept 7—Riots at St. Louis and Brooklyn.

Sept 15—Clarke taken off Philadelphia grounds by police.

Sept 16—Chicago players jerked (Ed) Swartwood around the diamond because he called the game in the eighth inning on account of darkness.

Oct 9—(George “Win”) Mercer assaulted (Al) Mannassau at Washington.

Oct 14—(Jimmy) Scheckard assaulted umpire (John) Hunt, refused to retire, and Hunt forfeited the game to Brooklyn.”

Cupid Childs, repeat offender

Cupid Childs, repeat offender

Al Mannassau, assaulted by Win Mercer in Washington

Al Mannassau, assaulted by Win Mercer in Washington

In addition to the fans, The Tribune blamed team owners:

 “For the multifarious minor acts of blackguardism and rowdyism of which the hired men of the club owners were guilty there is no room.  It is sufficient to say that they, like the graver offenses mentioned above, did not wound the feelings or jar on the nerves of the proprietors of these baseball roughs.  Those proprietors seem to have come to the conclusion that audiences like these ruffianly interludes.”

Like hundreds of predictions before and thousands more to come over the years, The Tribune saw dire consequences for baseball given the current state of the game:

“There was a time when Chicagoans went to see the games of the Chicago club because they had a feeling of proprietorship in that organization.  That day is over.  Men do not go to see games out of local pride, nor do they go to see fine playing.  They go to listen to the language of the slums and to witness the horseplay and brutalities of the players or performers.  When these have lost their attractions professional baseball will disappear. “