Tag Archives: Frank Chance

“Crying as if our Hearts Would Break”

29 Mar

Many different versions of how and when Johnny Evers and Joe Tinker finally reconciled—and when—after years of mutual animus have been told over the years. Evers told the story himself—and talked more about both Tinker and Frank Chance—while he was scouting for the Boston Braves in Georgia, in a 1931 interview with Ralph McGill of The Atlanta Constitution

McGill, incidentally, was an outspoken anti-segregationist who rose from assistant sports editor to managing editor and publisher at The Constitution and won the 1958 Pulitzer Prize for his editorials on the civil rights movement.

“(W)hen Johnny Evers sat in a room at the Atlanta Athletic Club until a late hour Saturday morning and recalled the old days he held a dozen men on his words: Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

 

Johnny Evers,

McGill said Evers, “told the story of how the trio played for 12 years and were then parted for 11 to meet for the first time two days before Jack Dempsey went into the ring against Luis Firpo (1923)”

With “something glistening in his eyes,” Evers told the story to McGill and the others:

“Joe Tinker and I never got along well. We were both high strung. If a man bumped me at second, Joe was over there to help me. But when it came to just us—well, we often raced off the field into the clubhouse and went to it with fists. If I made a good play, he told me. If I made a poor one, he told me. And I him. As I said, we didn’t get along.”

Then, he said, “came the breakup…And not for 11 years did I see either of them or them one another.”

Days before the Dempsey/Firpo fight Evers received a telegram from Chance who was in New York:

“Come on down. Joe is here.”

Evers said:

“I got on the train and went. I got the number of the room from the clerk. And I went up and knocked.

“’Come in,’ yelled Frank Chance.

“’I knocked again.

“’Come in,’ he yelled louder than ever.

“I knocked once more.

“’All right, you so and so, stay out,’ yelled Chance.

“I turned the knob of the door slowly and then swung it open.

“Tinker and Chance were sitting there at a table, staring at me and I at them across a span of 11 years. We stared there motionless and wordless for five minutes.

“And then I took a step forward and we were all together with our arms about each other’s shoulders and we were all crying as if our hearts would break.”

Tinker to Evers to Chance

Evers turned his attention to Chance, who had died seven years earlier. McGill said:

‘”The Peerless Leader’ they called him. And he must have been. Johnny Evers thought so. He didn’t say, but as he talked of Chance there was something in his voice, something he felt in the old days when they were helping to make the Cubs famous.”

Evers said of his former manager:

“Chance had more courage than any man I ever saw. He was a born fighter.”

 Evers cited Chance’s sparring with Joe Choynski, a heavyweight contender who finished with a 59-17-6 record, with 39 KOs; Jim Corbett said no opponent ever hit him harder:

“Chance stayed four rounds when he was a student in California with Joe Choyniski [sic], one of the greatest of the heavyweights. (He) was touring then and offering $100 to any man who would stay four rounds. Chance was the college champion, and he went in there and stayed four rounds. He was cut to pieces and knocked down innumerable times. But he stayed four rounds.”

Evers either embellished the story in places or heard an embellished version to begin with.

Chance took part in a three-round exhibition with Choynski on May 18, 1896. The fight was not part of some challenge offered by Choynski, but rather a benefit for one of the instructors at the Fresno Athletic Club. Chance’s bout was part of what was advertised in The Fresno Bee as a night of “vaudeville and novelty.”

The bout with Chance was the first of two sparring matches for Choynski that evening—the other was with the honoree E.V. Bradstreet—and The Bee makes no mention of any knockdowns or the savage beating Evers implies:

“Chance is Fresno’s best boxer and did nobly, but Choynski taught him several things…Chance did comparatively well.”

Evers also suggested that the “fight” with Choynski did permanent damage to his former manager:

“It left him with an impediment in his speech from which he never recovered.”

Finally, he suggests the embellishments were Chance’s and not his:

“’Johnny,’ he used to say to me. ’that was hardest $100 I ever earned.’ What a fighter he was.”

More insights from Evers from his 1931 scouting trip for the Braves, Wednesday.

“Funny Thing, this Spring Training Business”

8 Mar

In 1912, Joe Tinker traveled the West performing a “baseball monologue” on vaudeville stages. On January 8, he appeared, with a juggler as his opening act, at the Empress Theater in Los Angeles.

Ad for Tiner at the Empress

The Los Angeles Examiner published part of his monologue:

“Funny thing, this spring training business is anyway. It’s uncertain any way you look at it, but, of course, all of us have to go through it.”

He said players all had, “slightly different ideas about how to get in condition,” and said he trained off season and reported each spring in shape.

Pitchers needed to be “the strongest men” and required the most work, but:

“I do not believe in any long runs for any ballplayer, for he does not have that kind of stuff in a game. What a ballplayer needs, as a fighter does, is to strengthen his legs.”

He thought distance running negatively impacted speed for position players.

Tinker

Tinker said pitchers should simply get used to running the bases regularly:

“This is necessary, so that when they get on bases in a game they would not be worn out if they should run around and score a run.

“You take a pitcher that is all tired out by making a run, for instance, and he is in no shape to pitch the next inning. He is almost sure to lose his control and that is what a heaver needs in a game more than anything else. This weakness of many young pitchers is often due to being winded after running the bases.”

Tinker said the best pitchers—Christy Mathewson, Ed Walsh, and Mordecai Brown—and others were successful because “they are strong. Their legs are good and they can go through a hard game without becoming weak.”

He said “ a month of training is long enough” for each club:

“Sometimes teams train too long. At that, it is often hard to get teams into the strid euntil three weeks after the season begins, for no player takes the same interest in a practice game as he does in the real thing.

“Speaking of my own club, the Cubs, (Frank) Chance has always given the men a lot of leeway. Many of us have always been in pretty fair shape when we started.”

Tinker’s final advice:

“Ballplayers should be very careful of their stomachs, as should all athletes. They should not overeat. An overloaded stomach makes you loggy, heavy, and dull-witted, and ballplayers, you know, must have their wits with them. You cannot go to sleep in the big leagues.”

Frank Chance: “How I Win”

13 Jan

“I don’t know how I win. As a fact, I don’t care how I win, if I win, beyond winning by clean methods and not asking favors”

Said Frank Chance, as part of a series of syndicated articles by Chicago journalist Joseph B. Bowles which asked some of baseball’s biggest stars to talk about “How I Win.”

“It is all in the man himself. There are many great ballplayers who are not winning ballplayers…I know I go into a game confident of winning and the confidence never ends. The harder they beat us the harder I work and if a manager keeps working and fighting all the time his players will be with him. If he quits or weakens, his men will do the same. I try to get the best work out of myself and my players, to fight and keep fighting to the finish, and then try to forget the game and work for the next one.”

Frank Chance

He said remembering the previous day’s game “is a bad thing,” and explained how he prepared for games:

“The first thing to do is to study the weaknesses of the other club and to recognize its strength and then, allowing for its greatest strength and least weakness, to figure out how to beat it at its best.

“I make a close study of opposing pitchers and plan the attack upon the weakest point of the other team. I always give the opposing team credit for having brains enough to strike our weakest point and try to fortify that point by adapting the team work to the conditions.”

Chance said “the hardest work” of a manager was how to use pitchers:

“I want to know exactly the condition of the pitcher who is going to work, and if there are two or three in top condition, I study which one is best against the team we are to play.”

During a game, he said he tried “to outguess the other said all the time and to do things and have my men do things,” that would not be expected:

“I believe in taking chances at bat, in the field, and especially on the bases, and I think taking chances with men in games has won for me…I and my team have won because we have worked harder and more earnestly to win than other teams have. It isn’t ‘swelled headedness’ to say that. We have worked all the time and I believe that hard work and constant practice, condition and working together for the good of the team rather than for the good of ourselves, has been the secret of the past successes of the Cubs.”

Chance won his final pennant that season.

“The Realization of Their Carelessness”

1 Jun

After the 1910 season, Hugh Fullerton, writing in “The American Magazine” said baseball had no universal language.

“Each team has its different system of coaching, its different language of signs, motions, cipher words, or phrases, and no one man can hope to learn them all.”

Fullerton said the “worst of trying to study” the signs of various clubs was trying to track when they changed:

“If Arlie Latham jumps into the air and screams ‘Hold your base!’ it may mean ‘Steal second,’ today and tomorrow it may mean ‘Hit and run.’ One never can tell what a sign means. Hughie Jennings hoists his right knee as high as his shoulder, pulls six blades of grass and Jim Delahanty bunts. You are certain that Jennings signaled him to sacrifice, so the next day when Ty Cobb is bat and Jennings goes through the same motions, you creep forward and Cobb hits the ball past you so fast you can’t see it.

“If Connie Mack tilts his hat over his eyes and Eddie Collins steals second as the next ball is pitched, naturally you watch the hat, and lo, Jack Barry plays hit and run. You hear Clark Griffith yelp ‘Watch his foot!’ and see two of his players start a double steal. The next time he yells ‘Watch his foot!’ you break your neck to cover the base, and both players stand still.”

latham2

Arlie Latham 

Fullerton said most fans gave up trying to figure out signs but they “mustn’t do that. Someday right in the middle of a game, you’ll strike the key to the language and read through clear to the ninth inning.”

He compared that moment to getting “away one good drive,” in golf, “forever afterward you are a victim,” and can’t stop.

“Did you ever watch Hugh Jennings on the coaching line near first base during a hard-fought game? He doubles his fists, lifts one leg and shakes his foot, screams ‘E-yah’ in piercing tomes and stooping suddenly plucks at the grass, pecking at it like a hen. It looks foolish. I have heard spectators express wonder that a man of ability and nearing middle age could act so childishly. Yet hidden somewhere in the fantastic contortions and gestures of the Tigers’ leader there is a meaning, a code word, or signal that tells his warriors what he expects them to do.”

Jennings said of his signs:

“I change almost every day. I change every time I suspect there is a danger of the meanings being read. I am a believer in as few signals as possible and of giving them when they count, and I find that a lot of antics are effective in covering up the signals.”

Fullerton said Mack was “one of the most successful men” at “interpreting” opponents’ signs:

“Before the Chicago Cubs went into their disastrous series against the Athletics they were warned that if such a thing were possible Mack would have their signals. At the end of the game they called a meeting to revise signals, changing entirely, being certain the Athletics knew almost every kind of ball that was going to be pitched.”

Fullerton allowed that the Cubs instead might be tipping their pitches, because he was sitting with Ty Cobb during the series, and:

“(He) repeatedly called the turn on the ball that would be pitched before it was thrown, judging from the pitcher’s motion, and the Athletics may have been doing the same thing.”

Fullerton also said of the Cubs, that although they were “the cleverest baseball team in America, composed of smart men and a great manager, for years paid less attention to active coaching on the baselines,” than other teams.

“Possibly the reason was the confidence in their own judgment and their continued success, Frank Chance’s men made few blunders and the neglect was not noticeable, except to constant observers until 1908. Any player who happened to be idle went to the coaching lines and most of the time inexperienced substitutes did line duty. In 1908 during their fierce fight for the pennant, the realization of their carelessness was brought home to them and since then Chance has employed quick-thinking, clever men on the base lines, principally relying on (Ginger) Beaumont and (John) Kane.”

john kane

John Kane

Fullerton dated Chance’s new appreciation for competent coaching to July 17, 1908; that day the Cubs beat Christy Mathewson and the Giants 1 to 0 on an inside the park home run by Joe Tinker. Heinie Zimmerman was coaching third base for the Cubs.

The Chicago Inter Ocean described the play:

“Joe, the first man up in the fifth, hit one of Matty’s best as far as any ball could be hit in the grounds without going into the stands. Where the center field bleachers join the right field 25 cent seats is a V-shaped inclosure. Joe drove the ball away into this dent, and it took Cy Seymour some time to gather the elusive sphere. When Cy finally retrieved the ball, Tinker was rounding third.

“Zimmerman grasped this as the psychological moment to perpetrate one of the most blockheaded plays ever pulled off. He ran out onto the line and seized Joe, trying to hold him on third, when the ball was just starting to the diamond from deep center field. Joe struggled to get away, as his judgment told him he could get home, but Heinie held on with a grip of death. Finally, Tink wriggled away and started for the plate.”

 

heinie

Zimmerman

The paper said Tinker would have been thrown out had Al Bridwell’s throw to the plate been on target:

“Had Tinker been caught at the plate the 10,000 frenzied fans would have torn Zim limb from limb. Chance immediately sent Evers out to coach at third base and retired Zim to the dark confines of the Cubs’ bench.”

Thus, said Fullerton:

“Chance began to develop scientific coaching, and discovering its full value, took the lead in the matter, employing skilled coachers.”

“The Hook Slide is the Hardest for the man Handling Throws to Gauge”

7 Apr

When Johnny Evers was acquired by the Braves in 1914, Melville E. Webb Jr., writing in The Boston Globe shared a “never published” interview with the second baseman, in order to give readers “a better idea of the little fellow.”

evers2

Johnny Evers

“In all my years of ball playing, the man I have found it hardest to touch with the ball as he came down to second base from first is Bill Dahlen…(he) always came straight down the baseline, directly at the base, but in the last ten feet there was no telling what he would do.

“He had a great way of anticipating where the throw from the catcher was coming, and he played his slide to a nicety. Coming straight along, he suddenly would fall down on his hips, to one side or the other, spread his legs ad then use the greatest cleverness in pulling out of reach and twisting himself to hook the base with either foot.”

billdahlen

Bill Dahlen

Evers said Dahlen was not the only man who used a hook slide, but did it better than others:

“He never was a particular dangerous man to try to block but blocking him off never seemed to do much good. He was almost sure to get better of the close plays around second base, and nothing was sure to go right, even when throws apparently were on the mark.”

Others Evers found difficult to tag out at second:

“Hans Lobert, Charley Herzog, (Vin) Campbell, (Bob) Bescher, (Bobby) Byrne, (Sherry) Magee, Miller Huggins and (Honus) Wagner. Wagner was a big mark to try to tag, but often when it came to putting the ball on him he was not there.”

bescher2

Bescher

In general, he concluded “I think the hook slide is the hardest for the man handling throws to gauge.”

Evers said while he “never had any experience playing defensively” against Frank Chance:

“(He) was one of the greatest base runners who ever played, and this because he so very often did the unexpected and used his head as well as his excellent speed. Infielders have told me that Chase was the hardest man they found to tag.”

 

“Murphy has Done More to Hurt Baseball”

26 Jul

Frank Chance was about to begin his second season managing the New York Yankees, but in the early part of 1914, he had still not let go of his feud with his former boss, Cubs President Charles Webb Murphy.

chance

Frank Chance

Murphy, Chance told a reporter for The Associated Press at his winter home in Los Angeles, was solely responsible for the formation of the Federal League:

“Charley Murphy has done more to hurt baseball than any other man who has been in the game in all the years that the sport has flourished. You can mark my words well, because he is going to continue to be an objectionable figure in the national pastime just so long as he is allowed to have any connection with any club under the jurisdiction of the national commission.”

cwmurphy.jpg

Chance said many of his friends said he “was crazy two years ago” when he sold his interest in the Cubs. He received $40,000 for his shares.

He said Charles Weeghman, the Chicago restaurant owner who had been trying to buy into a baseball team since 1911, “was for years an ardent Cub rooter. He soured on Murphy, and so did thousands of other patrons of the West Side ballpark.”

Chance wasn’t finished:

“Now, just a few words about the way Murphy handles ballplayers. When (Johnny) Evers was in poor health one spring (1911), Murphy found out that he would not be able to play the entire season. He wired me while the team was in Pittsburgh to that effect. And right there Murphy showed his hand.

“Evers who had been with the team for years and who had played great ball, would not have received a cent of salary that year if Murphy had had his way.

“Murphy, in his message said that he did not believe Evers should draw his pay for the season. I wouldn’t stand for giving Evers a raw deal of that sort, and Johnny got his salary, every dollar of it for the entire year. He played only a few games (46) for us that season.”

Chance went on to say how poorly Murphy treated Mordecai Brown and Joe Tinker, but said he wouldn’t bother to get into the “treatment” he received from Murphy, because:

“(T)hat’s past and gone and life is too short to let things like that embitter one and spoil his life.”

Just more than a month after Chance’s comments, Murphy was “persuaded” by National League President John Tener to sell his shares in the Cubs to Charles Taft—although Murphy disputed that claim, and said he voluntarily sold to Taft.

Damon Runyon, in his syndicated column in the Hearst Newspapers, summed up the Murphy affair:

“We know that when they throw him out, as they doubtless will throw him out, there will be someone else ready to take his place as official bugaboo, for there must be a bugaboo in baseball, else we might have no baseball.”

“A Perfect Infield Machine”

8 Jul

In his column in Collier’s Magazine, Grantland Rice said their was a “heated argument” among experts as to whether the current infield of the Philadelphia Athletics—Stuffy McInnes, Eddie Collins, Jack Barry, and Frank Baker—or the recently broken up infield of the Chicago Cubs—Frank Chance, Johnny Evers, Joe Tinker, and Harry Steinfeldt—was  “the greatest infield that ever played.”

Rice took the question to Dan Brouthers, who:

“(H)as been a good bit closer to ringside and who should know.

“Daniel has been on some fair infields himself…He has played on the best and has seen the others pass in parade before him year after year.”

brouthers

Brouthers

Brouthers told Rice:

“Why, a choice between Cubs and Athletics for greatest infield? They were both good and the Athletics are still in business. But neither ranks as the best—not for me when I think of that Boston infield of 1897, with Fred Tenney at first, Bobby Lowe at second, Herman Long at short, and Jimmy Collins at third.”

Brouthers said the Beaneaters infield was:

“(T)he best combination of batting and fielding power, brains, speed, and smoothness. It has them all beaten, and I doubt if its equal will ever be gathered together again. There wasn’t an angle of the game at which they were not stars. They may have no more power than the Athletics four and but little more smoothness than the Cubs, but in the combination of all things that go to make up a perfect infield machine they must be set out in front of the others with something to spare.”

Brouthers said of the question of whether the Chicago or Philadelphia infield was better:

tecs.jpg

Steinfeldt, Tinker, Evers, and Chance

“As between the old Cub infield, now scattered to the eternal winds, and the Athletics quartet, the former was a smoother-running machine, but it lacked the crushing wallop which has always graced the Mackian avalanche. One had the edge in alertness, the other leads with the punch. Between these rival qualities the competition in the way of supremacy is still a matter for open debate.”

 

 

 

 

 

“A Loyal Little Rooter has Gone to his Long Rest”

3 May

Harry Davis thought he was about to make the biggest off-season acquisition in the American League before taking the reins of the Cleveland Naps in 1912. He had been given the job, as The Cleveland News said, “over the objection” of many. George Stovall had replaced Deacon McGuire after a 6-11 start in 1911 and led the team to an 80-73 third place finish.

harrydavis.jpg

Davis

Davis was, according to The Chicago Inter Ocean about to steal Joe Magero from the Chicago Cubs as “the official hoodoo chaser of the Cleveland team.”

Magero had been the Cubs mascot since 1907, and several times a season “donned the White Sox of the South Side athletes.”

The paper said:

“Davis wanted Magero on account of his resemblance to (Louis) Van Zeldt, a hunchback who is the mascot of the world’s champion Philadelphia Athletics, the club with which Davis had been connected.”

Magero was “discovered” while working for Albert R. Tearney—Tearney was President of Chicago’s Amateur Baseball Manager’s League, the governing body of city’s amateur and industry clubs, of which there were more than 400. Tearney would later become president of the Three-I League and was elected to Chicago’s city council. Tearney, it was said, got Magero in “the professional mascot business” after seeing him selling gum on a street corner.

Magero first appeared as a mascot for Nixey Callahan’s Logan Squares in the Chicago City League in 1906. After the Logan Squares defeated both World Series participants—the Cubs and the White Sox—in exhibition games after the 1906 season, Magero having “brought luck” to Callahan’s club became a hot commodity and joined the Cubs in 1907.

 

Except for his occasional paid forays to the Southside and a brief stint in August of 1911 as “hoodoo chaser” for the Lincoln Railsplitters in the Western League, Magero was a fixture at West Side Park.  He was popular enough at one point that The Chicago Tribune said he and Germany Schaefer “are considering an offer to go on stage this fall with a skit entitled ‘What are we?’”

The Inter Ocean said:

“It was while acting as ‘jinx wrecker’ for Comiskey’s clan that Joe met Schaefer, the witty and able player of the Washington American League club. A warm friendship sprung up between the two and Joe and ‘Germany’ made it a point to be with each other as much as possible when Schaefer’s team was in Chicago.”

The 21-year-old Magero, who stood just three feet tall and immigrated from Italy in 1900, was ready to join Davis and the Naps for the opening of the 1912 season, but said The Inter Ocean, “The Grim Reaper intervened.”

Magero died of pneumonia at Chicago’s St. Joseph hospital on March 14.

The paper said:

“News of the death…was received with sorrow by the veteran members of Chance’s team at New Orleans, according to word received here yesterday by members of the little mascot’s family.  Mordecai Brown, Joe Tinker, John Evers, and the Peerless Leader were particularly affected by the tidings.”

The Chicago Daily News said:

“Joe, bent of frame and physically a weakling, nevertheless played his part in bringing victory to the Cubs. He twirled no games like Brownie, he slammed no home runs like Schulte, neither did his inside work win games as did that of Evers. But he was the mascot of the team, and as a mascot his services proved as valuable as did the work of those upon whom nature had bestowed more generous gifts…There is sorrow in all of belldom, for a loyal little rooter has gone to his long rest.”

Without his mascot, Davis was 54-71 and resigned on September 2. The Cleveland News said:

“The team’s poor showing and the fact that he had been subject to severe criticism by the public and the press are given as Davis’ reasons.”

He never managed again.

Lost Advertisements: Ray Caldwell for Sweet Caporal

29 Mar

caldwell

A 1914 advertisement for Sweet Caporal Cigarettes featuring Ray Caldwell:

“Everybody’s strong for good old Sweets. In the grandstand and in the bleachers the fragrant smoke of Sweet Caporal keep men happy.”

Caldwell was touted early as the next Christy Mathewson or Walter Johnson but was compared to Rube Waddell and Bugs Raymond more often as his career progressed.

On the eve of what would be his best season—the same year the ad appeared (18-9, 1.94)—Caldwell went missing from the Yankees’ spring headquarters in Houston.

The New York Herald said:

“Caldwell, who, according to all American League managers, should be one of the grandest pitchers of the national frolic if his mental poise only matched his physical proclivities, seems lost, strayed or stolen.”

Sometime on March 19 or 20, Caldwell deserted the Yankees, two nights earlier he had missed the team’s 11:30 PM bed check—the paper said Caldwell was facing a $100 fine when found, and claimed to know why a few New York players appeared unafraid of manager Frank Chance:

“From the attitude of the few troublesome characters in camp it is evident that these diamond gladiators feel a new independence because of the activities of the Federals. Evidently they figure organized baseball is very much afraid of wholesale desertions to the independents.”

Chance said:

“The Good Samaritan’s spirit wouldn’t get anybody very much with this club. I’ve tried the Golden Rule guff until I’m tired of it. I intended to fine Caldwell $50 when I found he had broken faith before. But he pleaded so hard for another chance that I showed mercy…I’ll make a pitcher out of that fellow this year if I have to fine him so often that he will be in Mr. (owner Frank) Farrell’s debt to the amount of his salary twice over.

“He worked with me last year under a bonus contract. He was to get $800 additional to the salary figure if he had a good season. You know how bad he was all year (9-8 2.41). Well, he got that $800 anyhow. He came to me with a long face and a penitent tale of how he intended to buy a house and live straight.”

Chance wasn’t done ripping the pitcher:

“Caldwell apparently doesn’t have an ounce of sense. If he has, he never parades it on the ballfield. There are some fellows who have to be ruled by fear and I have determined to try the rough treatment on this young gentleman. If necessary, I’ll pound some brains into him.”

Caldwell returned after two days, his absence not fully explained, but Chance told reporters after a “long interview” with his wayward pitcher:

“(Caldwell) would be good for the rest of his life.”

He was not good for the rest of his life, but Chance got more out of Caldwell in 1914 than any manager did again; he had the only winning record among regular starters for a club that finished 70-84.

Caldwell also lasted longer in New York than his manager; Chance was replaced by Roger Peckinpaugh with 20 games left in the 1914 season, Cladwell remained in New York through 1918, and finished his major league career in 1921.

“Durbin’s Career in Baseball was Meteoric”

21 Jan

Blaine “Kid” Durbin was a sure thing. So said Frank Chance on the eve of the 1907 season.

As a 19-year-old, Durbin posted a 32-8 record for the Joplin Miners in the Western Association the previous year. Chance told The Chicago Daily-News:

“Blaine Durbin is going to be a sensational pitcher before long. When he stacks up against a club like Boston, with four or five left-handed hitters, he is going to make a great showing. What I like best about him is his nerve. Nothing can freeze him.”

durbin.jpg

Durbin

Chance said he was not concerned that Durbin was just five foot eight, nor was Henry “Farmer” Vaughan, manager of the Southern Association Birmingham Barons.

Chance said after Durbin pitched in a game that spring in Alabama, Vaughan approached him to see if “there was any chance of his getting” the rookie pitcher, and Chance mentioned Durbin’s size. Vaughn replied:

“He’s as big as Clark Griffith (Griffith is listed at 5’ 6”), and Griffith used to strike me out quite often. If Griffith was big enough, so is Durbin.”

Chance said:

“I told Vaughan I had no idea of letting him go.

“’Let me ask just one favor of you then,’ answered Vaughan: ‘don’t leave him in this league. If I can’t have him, I don’t want to have to play against him.’”

Chance said “scarcely a day passes that I don’t get a query” about Durbin and Chance said half the National League wanted him:

“I guess Durbin has a permanent berth with the Cubs.”

Durbin pitched in just five games for the Cubs (0-1 5.40), and only remained with the team for the entire season because when the Cubs tried to send him to Omaha in June, according to The Chicago Tribune, “The Boston Nationals stepped in” and would have taken Durbin.

He remained with the team all season and appeared in six games as an outfielder and pinch hitter.

Durbin did not get into in a game during Chicago’s World Series victory over the Detroit Tigers, but his hometown paper, The Fort Scott (Kansas) Republican, said he took home $2300.10 in postseason money and used it to buy a farm.

Still a hero in the Missouri town where he won 32 games in 1906, The Joplin Globe called him “the best baseball pitcher that ever wore a Joplin uniform,” when Durbin visited friends there and “proudly displayed the world’s championship emblem…in the form of a watch charm and represents a bear’s head holding a baseball.” Durbin told the paper the Cubs had big plans for him in 1908:

“Manager Chance assured me that I would be one of the regular twirlers next season.”

The 1908 campaign got off to a bad start for Durbin even before the team’s opener in Cincinnati on April 14. Charles Dryden, the baseball writer at The Chicago Tribune, who had his own nickname for Durbin, said:

“Danny Dreamer Durbin lost out at the distribution of new uniforms, which took place at the fashionable hour of high noon. There were but twenty togas for twenty-one demon athletes. When the Peerless Leader sounded the boot and saddle call, Danny was in his apartment perusing the latest messenger boy thriller in the Tip Top Weekly and Donohue copped the new clothes.”

The “Donohue” referred to by Dryden was pitcher Joe Donohue, who had spent 1907 with the Spaldings in the Chicago City League; he was with the club at the beginning of the season but never appeared in a game for the Cubs or any other professional team.

Presumably, when Donohue was cut loose, Durbin was rewarded with a uniform—when he made his first appearance at West Side Grounds on April 22, after the team’s season opening road trip Dryden wrote in The Tribune:

“Danny Dreamer Durbin looked like a five-cent plate of ice cream in his new white suit.”

The “Danny Dreamer” nickname was placed on Durbin by Dryden in 1907, when the entire Cubs team attended a play featuring actress Lillian Russell “an ardent baseball fan,” after the World Series victory. According to The Sporting News:

“Durbin was a member of the party and occupied a prominent place in the front row of the box, all togged out in his dress suit and patent leathers.

“In appearance of Miss Russell’s hospitality, the Cubs chipped in and bought a beautiful bouquet of flowers for the popular actress. The bouquet was to have been presented her across the footlights.

“But Durbin stole a march on the Cubs. He copped the flowers and disappeared from the box. Shortly afterwards the bouquet was presented through he wings. Durbin did the presentation…(Dryden) wrote the story of Durbin’s little steal and told how he had done the ‘Danny Dreamer’ stunt.”

The closest Durbin came to pitching again for the Cubs was on June 2, with the club trailing the Pirates 7 to 1 in the bottom of the fifth, The Tribune said Chance had Durbin ready to enter the game, but:

“(W)hile little Danny Dreamer was warming up the Cubs got mad and pounded Vic Willis into a shoestring, scoring four runs.”

Mordecai Brown instead took the mound in the sixth and promptly allowed two runs. The Cubs lost 12 to 6.

Durbin remained with the team for the entire season, appearing in 14 games as an outfielder and pinch hitter, hitting .250 (7 for 28), and for a brief period in July it looked like he might get more playing time. The Daily News said:

“(Durbin’s) work in center field since the Cubs returned to their home park stamps this little southpaw as a man possessing the qualifications for developing into a grand outfielder.”

The paper also noted his “speed going down to first,” and claimed, “It is doubtful whether there is a faster man getting down to first in the big leagues than Blaine Durbin.”

Durbin all but disappeared from box scores after July but picked up another world championship check despite again not making an appearance in the series—however, it was not quite the windfall of 1907; The Tribune said Durbin was forced to split a $1500 share three ways (the shares were $1400 but the Cubs added $100 to make the three-way split) with pitcher Rube Kroh who appeared in two games during the regular season, and team trainer A. Bert Semmens.

Durbin refused to sign his contract the following season and vented his frustration to The Fort Scott Republican; the paper took the hometown heroes’ side:

“The older pitchers of the team have done all possible to hold him out of the game, knowing that he would soon take their place if worked regularly (he also) ranked as the fastest base runner on the team.”

The paper also noted Durbin’s anger at being allotted a one third share of World Series money and said he would renew a request he made during the 1908 season that he be “sold, released, or traded to some team where he would be used.”

The Republican said:

“While he appreciates fully the honor of being a member of the champion baseball team of the world, he would prefer to belong to a lesser team and receive just treatment.”

The day after word of Durbin’s grievances appeared in Chicago papers, he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds.

Being sent to a “lesser team” did not help. Durbin appeared in just six games as a pinch hitter with the Reds, he was 1 for 5 with a walk, and was traded to the Pirates in May. He was 0 for 1 as a pinch hitter with the Pirates before drawing his release.

Durbin never made it back to the major leagues. He finished the 1909 season with the Scranton Miners in the New York State League, hitting just .219 and playing the outfield.

The Pirates sold his contract to the Western League Omaha Rourkes after the season, but he refused to report and spent 1910 playing semi-pro ball in Miami, Oklahoma, where he also operated a cigar store and billiard parlor. The Kansas City Star wrote about him as a cautionary tale:

“So Blaine Durbin, once the pride of all Kansas, has been relegated to the village nine again, from which he sprang. Durbin’s career in baseball was meteoric; full of some pleasant spots and a lot of disagreeable episodes.”

The Star said:

“Durbin went to Chicago with the path to success made for him. He had everything, the speed, the nerve the curves and the added asset of a good batting eye. The minute Durbin got to Chicago he began to unmake this roseate future. He didn’t like advice; he didn’t along with the old heads; he was about as unpopular as the man who strikes out with three on. Chance held on to him for two years, hoping the youngster would come out of it; he didn’t. Then he breathed a sigh of relief when Cincinnati suggested a trade. Durbin did not last long with the Reds.”

Durbin returned to pro ball in 1911, accepting a contract with Omaha, and pitched professionally for the first time since 1907—splitting the season between Omaha and the Topeka Jayhawks; he posted a combined 15-18 record.

He was sold to the Oakland Oaks in the Pacific Coast League at the end of the 1911 season. He was 4-5 with a 2.61 ERA when Oakland released him in August. The Oakland Tribune questioned whether Durbin “might have made good if he had been given the opportunity to work often. He lived a clean life and didn’t find time to break up the furniture in the Seventh Street cafes.”

Durbin spent the rest of 1912 pitching for an independent team in Oroville, California.

His professional career was over at age 25.

He parlayed his tenure as part of a world’s champion into being a drawing card over the next 12 years, bouncing back and forth between amateur and semi-pro teams in Kansas, Missouri, and California.

 

 

Durbin settled in St. Louis and in July of 1941 was declared insane and sent to the Missouri State Hospital at Farmington. After he was released, he worked in a restaurant and lived in Kirkwood, Missouri. He died on September 11, 1943, one day after his 57th birthday.