Tag Archives: Frank “Noodles” Hahn

Kid Nichols

25 Jun

Add Hall of Famer Charles “Kid” Nichols to the list of those who were convinced that players from an earlier era were of better quality than those “of today,” even if the earlier era was less than a decade before.

Kid Nichols

Kid Nichols

While pitching for the Kansas City Blue Stockings in the Western League in 1903, the 33-year-old pitcher told a group which included a reporter for The Associated Press:

“I am not so sure that the ball players of today are much superior to those of ten years ago in general utility.  It seems to me there was more life and spirit in the games of a decade ago than in those of the present regime.  They weren’t so mercenary in those days and there was much more sportsmanlike spirit.  Nowadays the paramount question with the average player is salary.  He doesn’t care so much about the record of the team he plays with makes as opportunities offered him to make himself individually famous and thus increase the value of his services.  In many clubs teamwork is lacking on account of the intense desire of some of the men to make an impressive showing by individual work.  In the old days one didn’t hear so much of the individual as the playing of the team as a whole an in my opinion baseball would stand on much firmer foundation if the same spirit prevailed nowadays.”

Among the best:

“Take old (Tommy) McCarthy for instance.  As an outfielder none of them had him beaten, and in my opinion there is not an outfielder his equal now.  It was McCarthy who originated the trap ball which he worked so effectively.

“He was absolutely the headiest man in the outfield I ever saw.  You have seen outfielders throw men out at first on line drives, but you haven’t seen it done often.  I’ve seen McCarthy spoil many a legitimate one-base hit by that same play.  Another favorite play of his was this:  A man would be on first and second.  The man at bat would drive to left.  McCarthy would snap it up on a short bound and flip it to second as quick as a flash in time to catch the man who had run off first.  In turn the second baseman would throw the ball to third in time to head off the man who had started from second.  Thus a really legitimate one-base hit was turned into a double play.

“But, speaking of outfielders, Willie Keeler was about as good as any of them for all around ability.  He was like lightning on his feet and was no slouch at hitting.  He certainly did things to me one day in Baltimore.  He faced me four times and this is what he did:  Made four hits to four different parts of the field off of four different kinds of curves.  Keeler was the hardest man to fool I ever pitched to.”

Nichols said Herman “Germany” Long, his teammate for 12 years was:

“(O)ne of the greatest shortstops in the business.  He played with Boston while I was a Beaneater, and of course I had good opportunities to watch him work.  He could cover a world of territory and was a sure and accurate fielder.  You hear many people say that Hughie Jennings in his palmy days was the best infielder ever developed.  In my opinion Long could cover a foot more territory than Jennings.

“When it comes to catchers my preference is, and always has been, Charlie Bennett, whose legs were cut off in a railroad accident at Wellsville, Kansas.  Charlie was always consistent and knew what his brain was given to him for.  He was also an accurate, quick thrower…Martin Bergen was another good catcher.  He was the one who went crazy, you know, and murdered his wife and children.  Bergen always was ‘a little bit off of the top,’ but when he took a notion to do his best, his playing was beyond criticism.  Ed McFarland and (Billy) Sullivan are two right good men, and then there was reliable old Jim McGuire and Charles Zimmer, both of whom were cracker jack.”

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Martin “Marty” Bergen–” always was ‘a little bit off of the top,’

Nichols said as a pitcher “I can hardly be considered a competent judge” of fellow “slabsters,” but continued:

“Personally, I admire the old war-horse, Cy Young, more than any of the others.  He is certainly a remarkable man.  Of the left-handers there a few better than (Frank “Noodles”) Hahn, of Cincinnati; (Christy) Mathewson and (Joe) McGinnity are undoubtedly valuable men.  Clark Griffith is, I think, the headiest pitcher that ever stepped on a rubber.  Among the other great ones are Jack Taylor, Joe Corbett, (Bill) Bernhard, of Cleveland and our own Jake Weimer.

Nichols was largely forgotten as one of baseball’s great pitchers by the time the Baseball Hall of Fame’s inaugural class was selected in 1936.  In the late 1940s, a push for his inclusion was led by sportswriter Grantland Rice.  Rice frequently mentioned the pitcher in his columns and in the summer of 1948 quoted two Hall of Famers regarding Nichols’ prowess:

“A few decades ago I asked Christy Mathewson to name the best pitcher he ever faced.  ‘That’s easy,’ Matty answered.  ‘His name is Charles Kid Nichols of Boston.  Nichols isn’t a good pitcher.  He is a great one.’

“I recalled this talk when the mail brought a letter from Ty Cobb at Menlo Park, California.

“‘I think everyone has overlooked one of the greatest pitchers of all time,’ Cobb Writes.  ‘His name is Kid Nichols.  Here are just a few of his records from 1890 to 1906:

“1.  Won three consecutive games on three consecutive days, all pitched in different cities.

“2.  Won 20 or more games for 10 consecutive years.  He won 360 and lost 202. (Nichols’ record was 361-208)

“3.  Won 28 or more games for eight consecutive seasons.  (Nichols won more than 28 games seven times, and not consecutively).”

Despite the inaccuracies in the letter, Cobb and Rice continued to campaign for Nichols and the push to honor him worked.  He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1949.

Nichols, right, with Pie Traynor, left, and Branch Rickey at the Hall of Fame in 1949. Traynor was elected in 1948, but his plaque was not presented until 1949

Nichols, right, with Pie Traynor, left, and Branch Rickey at the Hall of Fame in 1949. Traynor was elected in 1948, but his plaque was not presented until 1949

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Jot Goar

15 May

Joshua Mercer “Jot” Goar had one good minor league season.

Born in 1870 in New Lisbon, Indian, Goar’s early career is mostly unknown, although he appears to have pitched for the Muncie club in the Indiana State League in 1890 and for a variety of semi-pro teams in that state during the early 90s.  In one version of a story I told in January (“Remarkable Baseball Stunt”), “Baseball Magazine” identified Goar as the pitcher who gave up six hits in one inning without a run scoring in an Indiana State League game versus Anderson.

Goar was signed by the Toledo Swamp Angels in the Western League in 1895 (the team would relocate to Terre Haute, Indiana during the season).  While his numbers don’t look impressive, 13-19 with a 3.38 ERA and 345 hits in 288 innings, Goar was called “The best twirler in the Western League,” by The Sporting Life, and quickly became a highly sought after prospect.  Goar also hit .273 as a part-time outfielder.

His manager Denny Long told Indiana papers that Cap Anson “offered him a neat sum,” to sell Goar to Chicago.  Instead, the pitcher was purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates; The Anderson Herald said Pittsburgh paid $3,200 for Goar:

“Jot Goar, considered the greatest find in the Western League this year…is looked upon to be one of (the Pirates) mainstays for next year.”

Gore joined Connie Mack’s Pirates in Hot Springs, Arkansas in the spring of ’96 and made the team; he made his debut with the team on April 18, pitching in relief in a 7-2 victory over the Louisville Colonels.  Gore struggled in three games with the Bucs, he allowed 25 earned runs on 36 hits and eight walks in 13 1/3 innings, losing his only decision, and was sold to the Grand Rapids Rippers in the Western League on May.

Jot_Goar

Jot Goar

No statistics survive for Goar’s 1896 season in Grand Rapids, but a mention of Goar in The New York American two years later said he had “deserted Grand Rapids,” at some point during the season.  Goar joined the Indianapolis Indians in 1897, and with a 25-9 record and a 1.39 ERA led the Indians to the Western League championship.  Goar was again highly sought after and his contract was purchased by the Cincinnati Reds.

Goar spent the winter refusing to sign a contract along with Frank “Noodles” Hahn, who had also pitched in Western League in 1897; the Cincinnati Enquirer said both players were asking for $1,800.  Goar finally signed in February, but the salary he settled upon was not reported, The Mansfield Daily Shield said:

 “Jot Goar has signed his Cincinnati contract and expects to play good ball this season.”

In March The Sporting News said:

“Jot Goar is showing more speed than any of the Reds pitchers.”

Goar did not live up to the expectations.  He hurt his arm in his first and only appearance; a two-inning mop up in an 11-5 loss to the Pirates, giving up, four hits, three runs, two earned, and a walk.

Pittsburgh Sports writer John Henry Gruber said Goar went to Reds manager Buck Ewing after the game “and at his own request was laid off until such time as he could get in shape.”

Goar returned to Indiana and for the remainder of 1898 and all of ’99 he managed and played first base for an independent team in his hometown in New Lisbon, that fall his team took part in a ballpark riot.  The Indiana State Journal said:

“The game of baseball between the Shamrock and Jot Goar teams on the Hagerstown grounds Sunday broke out in a riot.  Fists, clubs and stones were freely used and practically everyone who attended received some kind of injury.  The trouble arose over a decision of the umpire, who was Councilman John Geisler of Hagerstown.”

Gore began pitching again 1900 for the Indianapolis Hoosiers in the American League posting a 7-2 record in 10 games; he also played for the Western Association Hoosiers the following year, but there are no surviving records.

Goar returned again to New Lisbon, vowing that his pro career was not over, and accepted the position of postmaster and opened a general store while continuing to play for the local team. In 1904, The Sporting Life noted that he was still pitching in Indiana:

“Jot Goar, the old Cincinnati and Toledo pitcher, was doing things with the Connersville, Indiana team this season.  He pitched seven games for that club, six of which he won, the other being a 12-inning tie.  Only five runs were scored in the seven games, and he struck out seventy batters or an average of 10 a game.”

Goar gave up baseball after 1906.  He accidentally shot himself in the arm while hunting in 1907, and his general store burned to the ground, the 1911 “Reach Guide” said:

 “His place of business was completely ruined by a disastrous fire, which practically destroyed the business section of (New Lisbon).”

He rebuilt the store which he operated until 1921; Jot Goar died in 1947 at 77.