Tag Archives: Frank Selee

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.

Diet Tips from Tim Murnane

6 Apr

Tim Murnane, who began his career as a first baseman for Middletown Mansfields in the National Association in 1872 and later was a member of the Boston Red Stockings in the National League’s inaugural season in 1876, would go on to become one of the most influential baseball writers in the country.

Tim Murnane

Tim Murnane

Writing in The Boston Globe in 1906, he said he had discovered the one thing that caused the greatest harm to a baseball player.

“Over-feeding kills off more ballplayers than accidents or hard work on the ball-field.”

Murnane suggested two solutions.  First, he recommended that, “The Fletcher system should be taken up by the veteran ballplayers without delay.”

The “Fletcher System” or “Fletcherizing” was a then very popular diet technique put forth by a “self-taught nutritionist” named Horace Fletcher.  Fletcher claimed, in several books published during the first decade of the 20th Century that the key to weight loss was to chew food so completely that it was virtually liquefied before swallowing.  Called “The Great Masticator,” Fletcher counted Thomas Edison, Henry James, Franz Kafka, John D. Rockefeller, J.C. Penny—and apparently Tim Murnane—among his adherents.  His theories had fallen out of favor, replaced by diets based on calorie intake, by the time of his death in 1919.

Horace Fletcher "The Great Masticator"

Horace Fletcher, “The Great Masticator.”

Secondly, Murnane said, “(T)he rules of eating should be laid down by the management of every club.”

He said Harry Wright, who had been Murnane’s manager in Boston, “(W)as about the first baseball man to keep a close watch over his players during meal time,” and insisted they eat lightly before games.

“’Just a plate of soup.  That’s plenty,’ would be Mr. Wright’s cry as the players filed into the dining room for lunch.  The greatest athletic performances on the field have been accomplished on practically empty stomachs.”

[…]

“I have known at least half a dozen good ballplayers being passed up in Boston on account of paying no heed to the manager’s advice about overloading their stomachs.  Frank Selee was just as much of a stickler in this line as was Harry Wright, and both were remarkably successful baseball managers.  The manager who does not pay especial attention to this end of the players’ life must lose out, for his team will be unable to keep up a fast clip very long after the boys commence to take on flesh as the result of overfeeding and drinking.”

Murnane had other diet tips for readers:

“A ballplayer cannot drink too much good milk.  The greatest drinker of milk I ever knew was James O’Rourke, and Jim, after thirty-three years on the ball-field, is just as lively a 10-year-old today.  O’Rourke never used tobacco in any form, nor ever indulged in malt liquors, but what a milk drinker he has been all his life and what credit to the national game, from every angle you view the old sport!’

Jim O'Rourke

Jim O’Rourke, “The greatest drinker of milk.’

Murnane blamed the disappointing performance of the Boston Americans in 1905 (Fourth place, 78-74, 16 games out of first) on the dietary habits of the team:

“To be honest, I think the Boston Americans last season practically ignored condition from first to last.  I never witnessed on one ball team so many men out of form by being overweight…This club would have won at least one dozen more games had they taken good care of their stomachs, and no one knows this better than Captain (Manager Jimmy) Collins himself, who has said it will be a much different season with the Boston club next season.”

The next season, 1906, was much different, but not in the way Collins had hoped.  The team was 35-79 when Collins was replaced as manager by Charles “Chick” Stahl, and finished in last place with a 49-105 record.

Murnane concluded:

“Baseball was never intended for a fat man’s game, and Captain Anson was the only heavyweight who ever piloted a pennant winner, although my old friend Charley Comiskey was growing a bit stout when his boys carried off the prize five years ago.”

 

“Fear of the Black List has Stopped Many a Crooked Player from Jumping”

9 Sep

For a brief period in the mid1890s, George Jouett Meekin was considered among the top pitchers in the game; he might never have had the opportunity, but for what The Sporting Life called “The disastrous effects of Chairman Young’s somersault.”

Jouett Meekin

Jouett Meekin

 John Montgomery Ward, Meekin’s manager with the New York Giants, said he was, along with Amos Rusie, Tim Keefe, John Clarkson and Kid Nichols, the “most marvelous pitchers as ever lived.”

Charles “Duke” Farrell, who caught Meekin and Rusie with the Giants, said:

“Sometime, it seemed to me that (Meekin) was actually faster…Rusie’s speed struck the glove with a bruising deadening, heavy shock, and Meekin’s fastest gave a sharp, sudden sting.”

But in 1891 Meekin was a 24-year-old pitcher in his third season with the St. Paul Apostles in the Western Association. The New Albany, Indiana native became a well-known amateur player across the Ohio River in Louisville before signing his first professional contract with the Apostles in 1889.  His sub .500 winning percentage was not enough to keep the American Association’s eighth place Louisville Colonels, from inducing Meekin to jump his contract with St. Paul.

In June Meekin jumped; at the same time third baseman Harry Raymond jumped to Colonels from the Western League’s Lincoln Rustlers.

The National Board of Control, created after the 1890 season as part of the “peace agreement” between the National League and The American Association after the collapse of the Players League, to arbitrate contract disputes, acted quickly.  Board Chairman (and National League President) Nick Young announced that Meekin and Raymond would be “forever ineligible to play with or against a National Agreement club.”  The statement, signed by Young, also said:

“This order or any other that may hereafter be made for the same cause, will never be modified or revoked during the existence of the present board, whose term of office will not expire for five years.”

The move was applauded by the press and no less a figure than “the father of baseball,” Henry Chadwick, who called Raymond and Meekin part of a “venal cabal” of jumping players.

Despite the promise that the order would “never be modified or revoked,” Young did just that.  Within weeks of issuing the order, both players were reinstated.

The backlash was swift.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer called the reversal “nauseating.”  The Cincinnati Times-Star said it was “one of the greatest mistakes ever made.”  The Milwaukee Evening Wisconsin said Young and the board chose to “toss the National Agreement into the fire.”

nickyoungpix

Nick Young

James Edward Sullivan, founder of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) said the reinstatement of the “arch-culprits” Meekin and Raymond “was the worst in the history.”  He predicted dire consequences as a result:

“Heretofore the fear of the black list has stopped many a crooked player from jumping or doing dishonest work.  But from now on it will be different.  A precedent has been formed.”

Raymond jumped back to Lincoln, taking Colonels’ pitcher Phillip “Red” Ehret with him to the Rustlers.  Meekin remained with Louisville and moved to the National League with the Colonels the following season.

Meekin had a 10-year big league career as a result of Young’s reversal.

From 1891-93, Meekin was 29-51 with Louisville and the Washington Senators and was traded to the Giants (along with Duke Farrell) before the 1894 season.  He was 33-9, and fellow Indiana native Amos Rusie was 36-13, for the 2nd place Giants.  Meekin had two complete game victories in the Giants four game sweep of the first-place Baltimore Orioles in the Temple Cup series (Rusie won the other two games).

The New York Evening Journal called Meekin “Old Reliable,” and said, “He can push ‘em up to the plate in any old style, and is factor with the stick.”  The pitcher hit .276 with 29 RBI in 183 at bats in 1894 (including hitting 3 triples in a game on July 4) and was a career .243 hitter.

Meekin won 102 more games (including 26, and 20 win seasons in 1896 and ’97), but as O. P. Caylor said in The New York Herald he suffered from “a lack of control.”  Meekin walked 1056 batters and struck out only 901 in more than 2600 innings, he also hit 89 batters; in 1898, he broke Hughie Jennings nose with a pitch.

After posting a 16-18 record for the seventh place Giants in 1898, Meekin, along with Rusie, and second baseman William “Kid” Gleason, were blamed by New York owner Andrew Freeman for the team’s disappointing finish.  Freeman told reporters:

“Meekin, Rusie and Gleason will be either sold or traded.  We do not want them.  I’m going to break up cliques in the team even if I have to get rid of every man.  There must be harmony.  Without it we can’t win games.  We have too many men who are simply playing for their salaries and do not seem to care whether they win or not.”

Rusie had injured his arm late in the season and sat out the next two years.  Meekin and Gleason, despite Freedman’s promise, returned to the Giants for the 1899 season.  The team finished in tenth place, and Meekin struggled with a 5-11 record.

He was sold to the Boston Beaneaters in August for a reported $5000, although it was commonly assumed that the Giants received much less, or simply “loaned” Meekin to Boston for the stretch run; a charge made by Brooklyn Superbas manager Ned Hanlon.  Although Hanlon’s charges have become “fact” in countless books and articles over the years, several newspapers, including The Pittsburgh Press refuted Hanlon’s story:

“All that talk and fuss about Freedman giving Jouett Meekin to Boston in order to help that team win the pennant and thus get even with Brooklyn is nonsense.  The truth of the matter is that Freedman thought Meekin’s days as a pitcher were over, and he offered him to the Pittsburgh club, but President (William) Kerr thought the same way and did not take him.  At the time Boston’s pitching corps was in bad shape and manager (Frank) Selee took a chance on the big fellow.  There was no underhand dealing in the matter at all.”

Meekin was 7-6 with a 2.83 ERA for Boston, but the team finished second to Brooklyn.  He was released by Boston before the 1900 season and pitched just two games with the Pittsburgh Pirates before being released again in July.  He finished the season with the Grand Rapids Furniture Makers in the Western Association and spent 1902 in the Southern Association with the Memphis Egyptians.

Meekin returned home to New Albany, Indiana, where, in 1910, according to The Trenton True American “his earnings from baseball are well invested in real estate.”

Meekin slipped into relative obscurity by the time he died in 1944.

The original picture that appeared with this post–now below–was misidentified as Jouett Meekin in this blog and by The Louisville courier-Journal in 1897.  According to Mark Fimoff co-chair SABR Pictorial History Committee, the picture was actually Lave Cross.  

Lave Cross--picture earlier misidentified as Jouett Meekin.

Lave Cross–picture earlier misidentified as Jouett Meekin.

“The Worst Bone Play Ever Made in Baseball”

16 May

The Pacific Coast League pioneer and all-star self-promoter Mique Fisher spent his later years as a near-constant source of material for west Coast sports writers.

In 1937 William Lair Hill Gregory, who wrote for The Portland Oregonian for nearly 60 years wrote about a play in 1904 that Fisher called “the worst bone play ever made in baseball;” it involved pitcher James Marcellin St. Vrain, and happened when Fisher was managing the Tacoma Tigers to a pennant; winning both halves of the 1904 Pacific Coast League season:

“On the Tigers was a southpaw pitcher named Jimmy St. Vrain.  In a close game one day, St. Vrain singled and with two outs was on second.  The batter lashed a line drive out of the shortstop’s reach, but right over St. Vrain’s head.

“’What did that left-hander do when he should have been scoring the winning run,’ complains Mique, ‘but reach up and catch the ball! Of course he was out…hit by a batted ball.’”

Jim St. Vrain

Jim St. Vrain

St. Vrain is also known for another boneheaded play alleged to have happened during his brief, 12-game career as a pitcher for the Chicago Orphans.  The story was first told The Detroit Free Press in 1906 by Tigers outfielder Davy Jones, who had been St. Vrain’s teammate in Chicago; Jones later told the same story to Lawrence Ritter in the great baseball book “The Glory of Their Times.”  The version in the book—aided by another 50-years of telling the story, and more colorful—is included below.

 “He was a left-handed pitcher and a right-handed batter. But an absolutely terrible hitter — never even got a loud foul off anybody.

“Well, one day we were playing the Pittsburgh Pirates and Jimmy was pitching for us. The first two times he went up to bat that day he looked simply awful. So when he came back after striking out the second time Frank Selee, our manager, said, “Jimmy, you’re a left-handed pitcher, why don’t you turn around and bat from the left side, too? Why not try it?”

“Actually, Frank was half-kidding, but Jimmy took him seriously. So the next time he went up he batted left-handed. Turned around and stood on the opposite side of the plate from where he was used to, you know.  And darned if he didn’t actually hit the ball. He tapped a slow roller down to Honus Wagner at shortstop and took off as fast as he could go … but instead of running to first base, he headed for third!

“Oh, my God! What bedlam!  Everybody yelling and screaming at poor Jimmy as he raced to third base, head down, spikes flying, determined to get there ahead of the throw. Later on, Honus told us that as a matter of fact, he almost did throw the ball to third.

“‘I’m standing there with the ball in my hand,” Honus said, looking at this guy running from home to third, and for an instant there I swear I didn’t know where to throw the damn ball. And when I finally did throw to first, I wasn’t at all sure it was the right thing to do!'”

Davy Jones

Davy Jones