Tag Archives: Frank Chance

“The Foxes of Balldom are Listed”

4 Sep

After the publication of Franklin Pierce Adams’ “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon” in The New York Evening Mail in 1910, two poems were written three years later to mark the end of the double play combination and relationships that had devolved into public feuding.

James P. Sinnott, Adams’ colleague at The Evening Mail, penned “Said Tinker to Evers to Chance,” lamenting the fate of the three—all three now managers, Johnny Evers’ Cubs finished third, Frank Chance’s Yankees and Joe Tinker’s Reds finished seventh.

Then there was a poem commissioned by The Day Book, the Chicago-based Scripp’s-McRae owned free daily paper and written by poet Berton Braley, called “Ballads of Past Glories.” Which ended with the line:

“Fans, we may rightly be blue, over the land’s vast expense;

Busted this trio—boo hoo! ‘Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

 

tecpix

But they were not the only two poems to pay homage to Adams.  One poem appeared about a month after the publication of “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon.”   First, in The Chicago Daily News, then later printed in papers across the country, attributed only  to “some other near poets:

“Piteous in Gotham’s the oft written phrase,

‘Tinker to Evers to Chance.’

This is the dope that has Grif in a daze,

‘Tinker to Evers to Chance.’

Cardinals, Dodgers and Doves, Phillies

fairish

All know the play that is neat if not

garish

Know how their ambitious rallies can

perish

‘Tinker to Evers to Chance.’

Get down your coin on the double-play

kids

‘Tinker to Evers to Chance.’

Under the Pirates they’ve slickered the

skids

‘Tinker to Evers to Chance,’

Not of the boneheads whose noodles get

twisted,

These with the foxes of balldom are

listed—

Grabbing a pennant almost unassisted,

‘Tinker to Evers to Chance.’

Aye, there is a dolor in Smoketown at

this:

‘Tinker to Evers to Chance.’

But in Chicago it’s pretty fine biz,

‘Tinker to Evers to Chance.’

Here are the regular Wind City

queries:

Hunting a pennant pole, ain’t they the

Pearys?

Think they will cop the post-season series.

‘Tinker to Evers to Chance.’”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking Up Other Things #24

1 Aug

Pitching to Ruth

According to the International News Service, during a discussion before a game in 1919, Frank Baker was talking to his Yankees teammates about “the days when batters demanded the sort of delivery they could hit best.”

ruth

Babe Ruth

The players agreed:

“If that rule were in force in the present day the outfielders would have to be mounted on motorcycles, and Muddy Ruel said that the playing field would have to be as big as the parade grounds at old Camp Pike, where he was at officers training camp.

Just imagine Babe Ruth coming up with the bases filled and a hit needed if he had the privilege of demanding a fastball waist high.  The question of how to pitch to him under such conditions was placed in open discussion.  Ping Bodie solved it.  ‘I’d get back on second base, throw the ball and then duck,’ said Ping.”

Negotiating with Murphy

When it was first rumored that Fred Mitchell would step down as president of the Chicago Cubs in the summer of 1919, there was speculation that Charles Webb Murphy might return to the club as president (Bill Veeck Sr. was ultimately given the position)

Hearing word of Murphy’s possible return, Johnny Evers told The Sporting News what it was like to negotiate a contract with Murphy after the team’s back to back World Series wins in 1907 and 1908:

charlesmurphy

Charles Webb Murphy

“We had made lots of money for the Cubs and certainly expected owner Murphy to give us a big boost in salary.  I received my contract, gave it the once over and returned it to C.W. with the curt reply that I thought I deserved more money for my labors.

“It was not a big salary,  In fact, the sum mentioned was so small that if I were to tell you the amount it would shock you.  Mr. Murphy was shrewd enough to get around my request for a raise.  His reply was to the effect that I might deserve more money, but should be satisfied to work for the amount he mentioned in view of the fact that I had such wonderful stars to help me as Frank Chance on my left and Joe Tinker on my right.

“Joe Tinker also protested against the figures mentioned in his contract that year and the crafty Mr. Murphy’s reply to him was that he should be satisfied to play for almost anything since he was teamed up with such stars as (Harry) Steinfeldt on his right, Evers on his left and Frank Chance at first base.  There was no way to get around an argument like that, and when the season opened Tinker and I were playing at the original figures offered by chubby Charley.”

Arguing with Browning

The Louisville Courier-Journal recalled in 1908 an incident “When Pete Browning played with the Louisville club.”

Browning, said the paper, was “no prize beauty…still he was sensitive regarding his un-Apollo like appearance and would get angry in a moment if any allusion was made to his lack of pulchritude.”

petebrowning

Pete Browning

During a game in Cincinnati, umpire John Gaffney called Browning out on strikes.

 “The big fellow rushed up the umpire roaring like a toreador stuck bull.  But John Gaffney was afraid of no living man, and he ruled the field with a rod of iron, but he was also a reasonable man and would explain his decisions.  However, Pete would listen to no explanations.  Finally, Gaffney became angry, and walking up to Browning, he shook his finger in his face and said:

“’I would like to have a photograph of your face, Browning.’

“’And for why,’ shot back Pete, who was taken wholly by surprise, and began to color up when allusion was made to his face.

“’Why, I have a chicken farm back home,’ said Gaffney, ‘and I would like to put your picture in the coop so as to frighten eggs out of the hens.’”

“Old Bowlegs”

18 Jul

After Honus Wagner’s death in 1955, Chester L. Smith, sports editor for The Pittsburgh Press said:

“As long as there are two baseball fans left alive, Honus Wagner stories will be told and re-told, because Old Bowlegs was that kind of man.”

wagnerwbat

Honus Wagner

Smith proceeded to tell one which may or may not be apocryphal:

“And one day the Cubs were playing the Pirates and along about the seventh inning the Chicago starter got into trouble and first thing you knew the bases were filled with Bucs.”

Smith said Frank Chance brought in a rookie pitcher:

Heinie Zimmerman, the Cubs third baseman stood close by the mound while the kid chucked a few into the catcher.  Standing near the plate, swinging a couple of bats and waiting to step in was a big, bowlegged, lantern-jawed individual.

“’Who’s the batter?’ The boy asked Zimmerman

“’Wagner,’ Zimmerman said glumly.

“’How do you pitch to him?’ was the next question.

“’Whatever you do,’ Heine said, ‘don’t pitch him tight.  Keep the ball outside.’

Heinie_Zimmerman.jpg

Heinie Zimmerman

“So, the preliminaries were over, and the new pitcher obeyed orders to the letter.  He threw Wagner an outside pitch which Honus promptly belted down the right field line for two bases, scoring all three runners.

“’I thought you said he couldn’t hit an outside pitch,’ the lad snapped at Zimmerman after the dust had settled.

“’I didn’t say he couldn’t hit it,’ Heine replied.  ‘All I said was don’t pitch him inside—I’ve got a wife and two kids at home.’”

Joe Nealon

2 May

There was a race to sign Joe Nealon in 1905.  The San Francisco Chronicle said he was “thought to be the equal of Hal Chase,” the fellow first baseman and Californian who made his major league debut that season.

By November, West Coast newspapers had reported that at least four teams were after Nealon—the New York Highlanders, Boston Americans, St. Louis Browns, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs, and Pittsburgh Pirates were after Nealon.

nealon

Joe Nealon

There likely would have been even more interest in Nealon if not for his background; as The Chronicle said after Nealon signed with the San Francisco Seals before the 1905 season:

“Parental objection had to be overcome, and this was accomplished through an understanding that the boy would remain in professional baseball not more than two or three seasons.”

Nealon was the son of the James C. Nealon, a wealthy real estate executive, elected official, owner of thoroughbreds, and one of the best known handball players on the West Coast who often played with boxer Jim Corbett.

Nealon attended St. Ignatius College (now the University of San Francisco) and had played in the California State League in 1903 and 1904.

Cincinnati and Boston appeared to be the most aggressive pursuer of Nealon; according to The Cincinnati Enquirer:

“Everybody who has seen him work says that Nealon will fill the bill.  He is described as a second Bill Lange at the bat, and a new edition of Charley Comiskey on the bag.  Allowing for exaggeration he seems to be the real goods.”

The Reds dispatched Ted Sullivan to San Francisco. The Americans sent Dan Long.  They did not know that Pittsburgh Pirates Manager Fred Clarke was on his way West as well; Clarke arrived first. The Pirates manager won out.  The Pittsburgh Post said:

“It was against these two men that Clarke had to use his ingenuity in securing Nealon.  The player is a freelance and was at liberty to join a team of his own selection.  Being independently wealthy and playing baseball only for the sport he finds in it.  Nealon was not influenced by any financial proposition.”

Reds owner August Herrmann told The Cincinnati Enquirer:

“I had become very much interested in young Nealon and regret that we did not succeed in getting him, but there is no use mourning over his loss.”

While Herrmann might not have been mourning, others in Cincinnati were and blamed Sullivan.

Jack Ryder of The Enquirer said:

“Why was not Ted Sullivan on the ground earlier?  Ted left Cincinnati a week ago last Saturday (October 29) with instructions to make a bee line for Frisco.  Mr. Herrmann knew that there was keen competition for  the services of Nealon…If Sullivan had reached San Francisco on Tuesday or Wednesday, as he was expected to do he would have got in ahead of Fred Clarke, and the chances would have favored his securing the player.”

Ryder said he had a letter from James C. Nealon written to Herrmann promising “that his son would sign with Cincinnati, ‘other things being equal,’” Ryder noted that the Reds “offered the boy more salary than any other club including Pittsburgh.”

Ryder concluded:

“Fred Clarke, who was on the spot, while Ted Sullivan was not, was able to persuade (Nealon) that the Pirates are a far better aggregation than the Reds.”

Ted Sullivan was not about to blamed, and fired off a letter to The Enquirer:

“There is not a man in the city of Cincinnati that would feel as much hurt as myself to lose a good man for the Cincinnati club.  The two years that I have acted as agent for Mr. Herrmann he has treated me like a king, and has showed a disposition to back my judgment on the skill of a player.”

tedsullivan

Ted Sullivan

Sullivan said in the letter, he had discovered Nealon’s “hidden skill” in August:

“The skill I noticed in Nealon (I wrote Mr. Herrmann at the time) was skill hidden beneath a dross of inexperience and youth.”

While he conceded that some time in the major leagues would “make him a star,” he assured The Enquirer he was not of the caliber of Sullivan’s favorite first baseman:

“The greatest first baseman in the history of the game, Charles Comiskey, was my own selection and making (which I say without egotism), but the California fledgling, without disparaging him, is a pallbearer compared to the magnetism of the matchless Comiskey.”

Sullivan blamed his inability to sign Nealon on Nealon’s father.  He claimed to have offered $3,800 to the first baseman in August, and was told that money was not the critical consideration, but complained that Nealon Sr. had immediately “proclaimed throughout Frisco, with the aid of a flashlight, and had also the newspaper men transmit (the offer) to all of the papers in the East.”

As for arriving is San Francisco after Clarke, Sullivan blamed that on the railroads:

“(I) was blocked between Salt Lake and Sacramento, caused by the immense amount of trains”

But, said Sullivan, none of that mattered.  Nealon’s father had not dealt with the Reds in good faith:

“Mr. Nealon Sr., who claimed he was not out for the money, called Fred out on the porch of the house and showed him, in confidence, the offer from Cincinnati.”

The latest Cincinnati offer was $6500—with a clause that promised $1000 more than any other offer Nealon would receive–Sullivan said.  Clarke matched the $6500, he said, and signed Nealon.

fredclarkepix

Fred Clarke

There was more said Sullivan:

“Now comes the most brazen effrontery of offended dignity that has more hypocritic brass in it than the Colossus of Rhodes.  With this standing offer of Mr. Herrmann’s in his hands for days before I arrived,  I asked Mr. Nealon Sr., why he did not close with Mr. Herrmann on such a grand offer.  ‘Why,’ says he, ‘I consider it an insult for any man to make me such an offer as that, as it would appear that I was playing one club against the other.”  Think of that insult—one man offers another man $1000 more than the highest bidder and he is insulted.”

Sullivan closed his letter by again questioning Nealon’s prospects of making an immediate impact, and said:

“I would rather go down to Millcreek bottoms and pick up some young fellow that wanted to make baseball a profession, than any young man in the United States who thinks that he is condescending to play ball for $7000.”

Sullivan was not the only representative of a club who had expressed interest in Nealon who now questioned the prospects ability.  In response to Frank Chance of the Chicago Cubs who said Nealon was “not of National League Caliber,” The Pittsburgh Press responded:

“Sour Grapes?”

The rest of the story on Friday.

Chicago Cubs, Charity Patients

4 Apr

The Chicago Daily News noted the day Charles Webb Murphy gave up on the idea of his Chicago Cubs winning the 1913 National League pennant.

The local papers had counted the Cubs out for weeks; Murphy hung on until they were mathematically eliminated on September 19:

“Murphy today drew down the advertisement he has been running in the local papers: ‘The Cubs may yet cop the pennant.’”

1913cubs

One of Murphy’s ads

The paper pointed out that they could finish no better than second, but said to do so, “the Cubs will need the services of an earthquake.”

Webb didn’t get his earthquake and quickly found himself at the center of a major scandal just outside the West Side Grounds as the Cubs limped to a third place finish.

The Cubs’ neighbor, Cook County Hospital became the subject of a large-scale corruption investigation that hit the papers just as Webb’s ads were disappearing.

westsidecountyhosp

West Side Grounds, Cook County Hospital is visible beyond the grandstand

An investigation ordered by Cook County Board President Alexander Agnew McCormick had revealed that the hospital’s warden, Henry L. Bailey had, according to The Chicago Inter Ocean, allowed politically connected county residents who could afford medical services to receive treatment for free—he was also accused, but cleared, of pocketing the profits derived from selling corpses for medical research.

On September 22, The Chicago Tribune reported a new charge:

“The investigation will also be directed into the alleged exchange of season tickets to the National League baseball games for free medical attention and medicine for indisposed ballplayers. Investigators have brought in evidence that indicating to them that the million dollar baseball club of Charles Webb Murphy received the same solicitous care as did those undeserving ones who entered the free wards on the personal cards of politicians.”

The Tribune said “a number” of passes “found their way” into the hands of hospital administrators.

Murphy immediately denied that any of his players received free treatment.

charlesmurphy

Charles Webb Murphy

Within a day, The Chicago Evening Post said otherwise:

“The hospital authorities admitted treating members of the Cubs’ team without charge. President Murphy said no ballplayer of his team had ever been treated free at the hospital.

“The records of the hospital show among the charity patients a man named John Evers, American, baseball player, treated for two weeks and discharged from the hospital much improved.

“Another man named Henry Zimmerman, American, baseball player, was entered as a charity patient in the institution several times.

“Another page in the record bore the name of James Sheckard who was treated gratis for a broken finger.”

evers

Johnny Evers

Additionally, The Tribune alleged that “a number of ballplayers had photographs taken of their injuries at no cost.” The paper said x-rays usually cost between $10 and $25, and said it was difficult to say exactly how many players received free x-rays because many names and patient records were falsified, but quoted one record which included a payment waiver and said:

“For Mr. Murphy, by personal order of Henry L. Bailey.”

Murphy dug his heels in and told the papers none of his players received free hospital care.

From New York, Frank Chance took the opportunity to contradict the denials of the owner who he had spent most of 1912 feuding with before being dismissed and sent to the Yankees , telling The Daily News:

“Whenever a Cub player was injured it was customary to go over to the County Hospital and be cared for. I couldn’t attempt to say how many x-ray examinations have been made of the players there. Murphy was always friendly to the officials at the institutions.”

Webb became an early example of waiting out the news cycle,

He never backed down. Never admitted that his players had received free services and the story disappeared later in the fall of 1913. Forgotten forever by the time Murphy sold his interest in the Cubs to to Charles Phelps Taft before the 1914 season.

Lost Pictures–Frank Chance by Oscar Cesare

12 May

chancecesare

Frank Chance, as seen through the eyes of Oscar Cesare, cartoonist for The New York Evening Post; the sketch appeared along with a 1911 feature article by Homer Croy of the International Press Bureau:

“Frank Chance is the “Peerless Leader” to all America with W.J.B. (William Jennings Bryan) just coming in sight around the bend.  W.J. may be the last syllable when it comes to a crown of thorns, but what does  he know about first base?  When it gets down to real peerlessness, Chance of Cook County has got the Lincoln leader lashed so tightly to the mast that he can’t move an eyebrow.”

Croy noted Chance’s fear of the “hoodoo:”

“He is one of the most superstitious men in baseball, but having 13 for his lucky number.  When on a Pullman it would take a straightjacket and a new cable to make him sleep anywhere except in lower 13;  if the club gets a car with only twelve berths he writes 13 on the door and doubles up in the stateroom.  He refuses to change his shirt as long as the Cubs are winning; he’s very firm about this and cannot be won over with either pleading or powder.”

Chance versus Mack II

2 Nov

After explaining some of Frank Chance’s best virtues in a 1910 article in The Chicago Herald, Johnny Evers got down to explaining why he felt his manager was superior to the manager of the Cubs’ World Series opponent:

Johnny Evers

Johnny Evers

Connie Mack, and my information comes from men in the American League, directs the play of his team by a series of signals given from the bench.

“We will say, for instance, that a Philadelphia player reaches first.  From that moment he has two things to do.  First, he must watch the pitcher.  And with a man like (Mordecai) Brown on the slab, this alone is sufficient to keep a man busy.  In addition to this, he must also watch Connie Mack, who, by a signal, given with a scorecard, by the crossing of his legs or something of the sort, tells him that he must steal on the next ball, that the hit and run will be tried, or signals some other play.  That method keeps the base runner’s attention divided between the bench and the pitcher.  He dares not take his eyes off of either.

“With Chance it is different.  He has his signals so perfected that all the base runner must do is to watch the man following.

Frank Chance

Frank Chance

“Say that Cub player reaches first.  When the next batter goes to the plate he has been instructed as to what is expected of him and also what is expected of the base runner.

“And it becomes his duty to signal the man on the bases concerning his duty.

“Maybe Chance has told the man going up to try the hit and run on the second ball.  The batter slips the signal to the man on the base…And since (the batter) and the pitcher are on  a line, you can see that the whole process is simplified.”

Evers said Chance’s system was better because “it makes it all the more difficult” for opponents to steal signs.

He said his manager was also not rigid in his orders, which “won him the enduring friendship of his men.”  And Chance rarely sent players to the plate “with ironclad instruction.”

Evers said:

“He tells you to do the unexpected, and that if you believe you can catch the enemy unawares to do it.  That is the reason that the Cubs ‘pull off’ plays.”

Evers said of managers in general:

“I have played under the playing manager and under the man who manages from the bench, and I can’t for the life of me see where the latter is nearly as effective as the playing leader.

(Frank) Selee was a bench manager and a good one in his prime.  Yet he was never part of the play as Chance is, and the reason was because he was not on the field.  Even after the ball is hit the playing manager has an opportunity of instructing his players.

“He can tell where to make the play.  It’s utterly impossible for a bench manager to do this.  Again, the playing manager at a critical stage of the game, and especially if he is playing an infield position, as Chance does, can issue instructions to the pitcher, telling him what and where to pitch.  He can do this in a natural manner and without attracting the attention of the crowd.”

Evers noted that for Mack to do the same:

Connie Mack

Connie Mack

“(H)e would have to stop the game and send some player to the diamond.  That procedure never did any pitcher any good.

“Say that there is a man on second or third and that a dangerous man is up.  I have heard Chance tell the pitcher to make the batter hit a bad one, and if the man at the plate refused that it would be alright if he was passed.  Mack could not do this.  It would be too complicated for signals.  About all he could do would be to signal the pitcher to pass the man.

“Connie Mack may have excellent judgment in the selection of his pitchers and in appraising the value of his men, but I am confident that he has nothing on Manager Chance in this department of the game.

“The Chicago man is adept at picking the man who is ‘right.’  Time and again I have known the fellows to pick a certain man to pitch and Chance would select some other.  But he usually picked the right one, and there is absolutely no doubt in my mind but that he will pick the right ones in the big series.”

The bench manager beat the playing manager in the 1910 series;  Mack and the Athletics beat Chance and the Cubs four games to one.

Chance versus Mack

31 Oct

On the eve of the 1910 World Series, Chicago Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers made the case in The Chicago Herald that his manager was better than the manager of their American League opponent:

Johnny Evers,

Johnny Evers,

“It is but natural that I should favor Chance.  Just the same sentiment alone does not sway me when I say that he will outwit Connie Mack and that his managerial ability will be one of the greatest assets of the Cubs.

“Chance is without an equal in putting fight into a team.  Here is a concrete example of his ability to fight against odds.  Incidentally, it throws a mighty interesting sidelight into our fight for the pennant of 1908.

“In the latter part of the season, we were playing in Philadelphia.  We lost a game which seemed to put us hopelessly out of the race.”

After losing 2 to 1 to the Phillies on September 18, the Cubs dropped 4 and ½ games behind the league-leading New York Giants.

“In those days we were riding to and from the grounds in carriages and we were pretty thoroughly licked that evening.

“We didn’t have a thing to say, for it seemed that our last hope had vanished and that we could not possibly get into the World Series.

“I think it was (Joe) Tinker who finally broke the silence.  ‘Well, cap, we are done and we might as well celebrate our losing tonight,’ he said.

“Chance thought a few minute.  ‘No, we won’t,’ he answered.  ‘Boys, we have been pretty good winners.  Now let’s show the people that we can be good losers.  Let’s show then that we never give up; that we are never beaten.  Let’s show then we play as hard when we lose as when we win, and that we fight for the pure love of fighting, whether it means victory or defeat.’

“Well, sir, you can’t imagine how that cheered us.  We did fight and the baseball world knows that we won.”

Frank Chance

Frank Chance

The Cubs went 13-2 after that loss to the Phillies, setting the stage for the October 8 game with the Giants to decide the pennant—the replay of the September 23, Merkle’s boner game:

“Chance’s ability as a fighter is not his only asset, for he mixes shrewdness with his fighting.

“And to my mind, he never gave a better illustration of his shrewdness than he did on that memorable afternoon that we met the giants in that single game.”

Evers said “a scheme had been framed up to beat” the Cubs, and when the team was six minutes into their allotted 20 minute of batting practice:

(John) McGraw came up with bat and ball. We were told that we had been given all the time that was ours and would have to quit.  Well, we were careful to find out just how long we had been batting, and Manager Chance then went up to protest.

Joe McGinnity, the old pitcher, shoved him from the plate and struck him on the chest with a bat.  The first impulse of Chance was to strike back.  He restrained himself, and, looking the old pitcher squarely in the eye, he told him that he would smash his nose the first time they met outside the ballpark.

Joe McGinnity

Joe McGinnity

“Chance returned to the bench and we talked it over.  Chance guessed the scheme in an instant, and within a few hours what we suspected became a fact.  McGinnity was there to invite an attack.  Had Chance fought him, a policeman would have been called and both men would have been escorted from the field.  The Giants would have lost a man they had no intention of losing, while the Cubs would have lost their manager as well as their first baseman, and the team would have been demoralized.”

Evers said Chance’s restraint “gave me a better insight into his real character than anything I ever witnessed before.”

Evers continues making his case for Chance on Wednesday.

A Pair of Reveries

5 Sep

A couple of lost baseball poems on a holiday:

Grantland Rice, in The New York Tribune, 1919:

By Way of Revery

But yesterday I watched them start,

Young wonders all in serried row;

By now I’ve seen them all depart–

The years flow faster than we know

For I remember, young and slim,

How Matty gathered game by game;

Today how many mention him?

The years flow faster than all fame.

Matty

Matty

Where Wagner swung out for his blow–

Where Larry leaned against the ball–

How swift they were last week or so–

The years flow faster than them all.

Today, fresh from the corner lot,

We praise some youngster on the team;

Tomorrow’s page will know him not–

The years flow faster than we dream.

Grantland Rice

Grantland Rice

And five years earlier, Ed Remley of The Chicago Inter-Ocean was nostalgic for Cubs teams past:

Reverie

I was feeling both dusty and bare–

rocky and sober

And the stands were both

The stands were deserted and bare;

‘Twas a day like in lonesome October

And nineteen-fourteen was the year;

I was out at the Cubs’ lonely ballpark

And the ghosts of gone heroes were there;

It was out at the Cubs’ lonesome ballpark

And the Cubs played a ball game out there.

I was sleepy and fell in a trance;

I saw Tinker and Evers and Chance.

Tinker, Evers and Chance

Tinker, Evers and Chance

Is that Steinfeldt or just Heinie Zim?

Well, it looks much like Harry.  It’s him;

Old Mordecai Brown did a dance

On the rubber–a one-step and prance–

And the ball shot to Kling

Like a hell-possessed thing;

I saw all of this stuff at a glance.

But I woke–ouch, I woke from the dream

And I gazed at the laboring team–

Well, they looked pretty good,

But I wished that I could

See again the sweet team of my dream.

“Steiny is Dead”

29 Aug

Harry Steinfeldt cheated death in 1904.

According to The Cincinnati Times-Star, the Reds third baseman, “suffering from a severe attack of lumbago,” returned home to the Biedebach Hotel after a road trip in St. Louis when he “accidently pulled down a chandelier, causing the gas to escape.”

Steinfeldt

Steinfeldt

Steinfeldt in “his crippled condition” failed to turn off the gas completely before going to bed.  Later in the evening, overcome by gas, “in a semi-conscious state,” he attempted to crawl out of the room and “cried for help.”

Fifteen-year-old Mabel Biedebach, the daughter of the hotel’s proprietor, sprang into action:

“She heard Steinfeldt’s cries and ran to his room, where she found him on is hands and knees trying to force himself out of the door.  With rare presence of mind, the young lady raised the ball player’s head and with one mighty effort dragged his body to the hallway.”

The incident sidelined Steinfeldt for five games, and a leg injury and the back pain that led to his near death experience, limited him to 99 games, and his batting average plummeted 68 points from 1903.

Ten years later, the 36-year-old died of a cerebral hemorrhage after a long illness that began during his final big league season in 1911.

Hugh Fullerton eulogized the third baseman, one of his favorite subjects when Steinfeldt played for the Cubs in the pages of The Chicago Herald:

“Steiny is dead.

“The first of the famous Chicago Cubs is gone and every one of that magnificent crowd of men who whirled through the National League to so many pennants will drop a tear.  There was no more beloved member of the team.

“It was Steinfeldt who completed the team and made pennants a possibility.  It was Steinfeldt who, steady, reliable, always in the game, carried them through those fierce campaigns.  It was when Steinfeldt was let out (before the 1911 season) that the old machine commenced to misfire and its tires flattened.  Three times he was selected as the All-American third baseman and many experts have picked him as the third baseman of the greatest team of all time.”

Fullerton compared Steinfeldt to more celebrated third basemen:

“Steiny was not great in the sense that Jerry Denny, Jimmy Collins or Billy Nash was great.  He was a different type; solid, strong, rather slow, but possessed of a wonderful throwing arm that enabled him to block down balls and throw out runners.”

Fullerton said Cubs Manager Frank Chance wanted Steinfeldt badly when he was still with the Reds in 1905:

“Chance forced President (Charles Webb) Murphy to get him.  Murphy made three trips to Cincinnati and each time returned to dissuade Chance and relate awful tales he had heard of Steinfeldt, but finally he surrendered, made a trade and got Steinfeldt. The day Steiny reported to the Cubs (in 1906) Frank Chance said to me:

“’Let’s have a drink.  We’ll win the pennant sure now.’ And he did.”

Steinfeldt, third from left, center row, with the 1906 Cubs

Steinfeldt, third from left, center row, with the 1906 Cubs

Fullerton said Steinfeldt was one of the game’s best storytellers as well—and his stories, like many of Fullerton’s were often more colorful than accurate:

“One I shall never forget.

“’The gamest guy that ever played ball, Steiny remarked, ‘was a fellow who played second base for Dallas when I was down there.  One day Dallas was playing Fort Worth and, in the first inning the Fort Worth center fielder tried to steal.  He was thrown out a block, but took a flying leap and lit on the second baseman’s foot with his spikes.  He limped around  a few minutes, said he was all right and went on playing.

“’In that game he had six putouts, nine assists, and no errors, was in three double plays, one of them a triple, and was all over the field.  After the game, he and I were walking out to the clubhouse and he said, ‘I believe there’s something in my shoe,’ and stooping down he took off his shoe and shook out two toes.’”

Fullerton said of his best quality:

“There never was an ounce of harm in Steiny. He was always for the weakest.  I saw him with tears rolling down his cheeks one day as he listened to a hard luck yarn and he was not ashamed to weep when one of the players was released.

“It was his discharge from the Cubs that broke Steiny’s heart and led to the breakdown that resulted in his death.

Steinfeldt, 1908

Steinfeldt, 1908

“When Steiny left the Cubs the reporters who had been with the team for years got up a little bit of parchment on which was inscribed:

“This is to certify, that we, the undersigned, testify that Harry Steinfeldt was a good fellow and a good ball player and that we will miss him even more in the first capacity than we will in the second.

“He treasured that, and perhaps no better obituary can be written for him.”