Tag Archives: Fred Pfeffer

“He is Thoroughly Incompetent and Could do no Better”

12 May

After the Cincinnati Reds traded for Piggy Ward in June of 1893, Alonzo Flanner of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said of his first visit to play the Browns with his new club:

“Ward, one of Comiskey’s latest acquisitions, is a great baseball player. He got his base every time he came to bat yesterday. He steals bases with a gavotte step and coaches like a cow with a cough but can’t field a little bit.”

Flanner had more to say later the same month:

“Ward, the young man with the waddle and voice like a catarrhal cow, who essayed to play right field for Cincinnati. He shows the happiest faculty for muffing, fumbling, and wild throwing of any young man masquerading in a League uniform and drawing salary.”

The observations appear to be accurate; in 42 games with the Reds, Ward hit .280, stole 27 bases, and made 13 errors in just 75 chances in the outfield. The Reds released him in August.

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Frank Gray “Piggy” Ward

The Cincinnati Enquirer said of Ward’s two-month tenure with the club:

“His opening was a dream. For weeks after he started in with the Reds, he was the talk of the town. He stood on the topmost pinnacle in the esteem of the local enthusiasts. Then came the awful exhibition of yellow fielding in the Fourth of July games.”

Ward played right field in the first game and left field in the second against Philadelphia on July 4. He was charged with two errors in the first game and one in second, and the paper said, “His miserable work in the field,” accounted for “no less than six” of Philadelphia’s 15 runs in their 15-14 victory in the first game, but allowed:

“Ward should not be blamed too harshly, because he is thoroughly incompetent and could do no better.”

After the Fourth of July debacle, The Enquirer said:

“No one could be found to fill his place as well, and again Ward had a chance to show himself. So well did he take advantage of this opportunity that it is safe to say of all the players that have been released by the Cincinnati Club none of them ever left behind such a feeling of universal regret as this same Ward.”

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The Cincinnati Enquirer after the July 4 double header

The Enquirer was so appalled by Ward’s performance that the paper referenced it at length a year later on Independence Day:

“The Exhibition of how not to play the game of ball given by Piggy that day will never be forgotten by those unfortunate enough to witness it. Such fielding was nauseating.”

The Cincinnati Commercial Gazette said, “There is nothing that that so disgusts a Cincinnati base ball crowd as poor fielding.”

Ward had arrived in Cincinnati with a reputation. He appeared in a major league game at age 16—playing third base for the Philadelphia Quakers on June 12, 1883; he was 0 for 5 and reached on an error. The Philadelphia Times description of Ward’s debut is ironic given later assessments of his skills:

“(Ward) fielded well but was weak at the bat and a very slow runner.”

After that single game, he bounced all over the US and Canada—and made two more brief stops in the big leagues between 1887 and 1891—after his first game in the outfield for the Quakers in his second trial with the club in 1889, The Philadelphia Enquirer said, “he proved conclusively he cannot play the outfield.”

He was also, by all accounts, a bit eccentric:

While playing with the Hamilton Hams in the International League, The Toronto Mail said he, “tried one of his supposed funny fakes.”

Ward handed a potato to pitcher Bill Pfann who was supposed to throw the potato over first baseman Ed Swartwood’s head.  Pfann was apparently slow on the uptake and threw the potato to Swartwood “and (Toronto Canucks Tom) McLaughlin was therefore not caught by the trick.”

Ward made at least one other documented attempt at the hidden ball trick—this time without a potato—during his brief stop with the Baltimore Orioles in June of 1893 in a game with Louisville. The Baltimore Sun described the play:

“Ward walked to the pitcher’s plate as if to advise (Kirtley) Baker on some point of the game. Then he walked back to first base. Baker resumed his position on the plate as if to pitch, but (Fred) Pfeffer had seen Ward take the ball and did not remove his foot from first base.”

Pfeffer pointed out the situation to umpire Michael McLaughlin and Baker was charged with a balk.

Pfeffer told the paper:

“I did intend at first , for the fun of the thing, to let Ward touch me with the ball by stepping off the base and then calling the umpire’s attention to the balk, but it occurred to me that the umpire might not have seen the play and would therefore decide against me. You have to be careful on such points.”

Ward’s was also considered by many to be a clubhouse cancer throughout his career. He started the 1893 season with the New Orleans Pelicans in the Southern Association. After Ward left the Pelicans, The New Orleans Times-Democrat said team president Charles Genslinger called Ward “a dissenter of the worst type and kept the local club in constant internal turmoil until his departure.”

Among Genslinger’s charges were that Ward had been the “sole cause” of an early season uprising that caused several of the team’s best players—including Count Campau, Pat Luby, and Mark Polhemus– to attempt to secure their releases, and that manager Abner “Powell ordered Ward to stop smoking in uniform, and as he persisted in the disobedience to orders he was compelled to impose a heavy fine.”

More of Ward’s story tomorrow.

“Danny had been Drinking Steadily”

6 May

In July of 1893, the Brooklyn Grooms announced that veteran second baseman Danny Richardson had been suspended.

Manager Dave Foutz told The Brooklyn Citizen:

“I have laid Richardson off without pay until he can get into condition. While we were in Baltimore Richardson shut himself in his room at the hotel and said he was sick. He never sent any communication to me, however, and as I knew a thing or two, I decided to lay him off.”

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Richardson

Team president Charles Byrne was more direct, telling the paper “Danny had been drinking steadily, and had not tried to play ball.”

Byrne said:

“He went astray once before but he promised to reform and said he had been treated well and had no fault to find with the club.”

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Byrne

Byrne said on the road trip the team had just finished, “Richardson constantly violated the club’s rules, and greatly weakened the team through his inability to play ball properly.”

On that trip, which began on June 26, the Grooms won the first five games—putting them in first place—then they dropped 14 of 15 (with a tie); putting them in 5th place, eight and  half games back before returning to Brooklyn.

Richardson defended himself in The Citizen:

“I am a sick man. I have a certificate from a physician which ought to convince Manager Foutz that I am unable to play ball. My stomach has been troubling me and my lungs are weak. I have had a bad cold which has affected my lungs since the season opened. I want to deny that I have been drinking. This layoff is merely to get rid of paying me my money. I have never been charged with drinking before, and I have always borne the reputation of being a reliable player. When a man’s sick he can’t play ball, and that’s all there is to it.”

The Brooklyn Standard Union said Richardson “says he is falsely accused of ‘tippling;’ that the false news has reached his home and his business partner, thereby injuring his reputation,” and that he would not play for Brooklyn again unless Foutz and Byrne “retract what is alleged.”

Richardson, who had lived his entire life in Elmira, New York, and was a partner in a local dry goods firm, Sheehan, Dean & Company which operated stores in New York and Pennsylvania—he remained with the company for the rest of his life—was extremely popular, and the town’s paper’s took up his cause. The Gazette and Free Press made it clear where the locals stood:

“The reports…will not affect his excellent reputation as a good ball player, and an enterprising businessman, in the least. Everybody here knows Dan too well to take any stock in Manager Foutz’ charges.”

New York sportswriters quickly took sides as well. O.P. Caylor, in The New York Herald said up until the suspension, “very few baseball patrons knew” that Richardson drank to excess, “But to those more intimately acquainted with him it was no news that Danny went off on a quiet ‘bat;’ occasionally.”

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 Caylor

He also made it clear he thought the infielder was overrated to begin with:

“Richardson has been known as the ‘King of second baseman.’ He probably should have divided that honor with (Bid) McPhee, and (Fred) Dunlap, (Ross) Barnes and (Fred) Pfeffer in their day were, in an all-around sense, Richardson’s superiors.”

Caylor said the “proof” that Richardson “deserved what he got,” was that “The Brooklyn club has a deserving record for leniency and square dealing with its ballplayers. No club in the country acts more fairly toward with its ballplayers.” Therefore he concluded, suspending him meant there was “no shadow of doubt,” about Richardson’s guilt.

Richardson’s fate highlighted “the greatest of all evils” in baseball, said Caylor:

“Why it is that more than 50 percent of professional baseball players are excessive users of intoxicating liquors is a problem that has not yet been worked out.”

Sam Crane, infielder turned baseball writer, said in The New York Press that Richardson was being treated unfairly. He criticized Foutz and Byrne for spreading rumors about the second baseman before news of the suspension broke. Crane said while he covered Richardson during his years with the Giants:

“(He) was a model player in every way and was often held up as an example for other players to follow. He was a credit to the profession, and not a breath of suspicion ever touched him.”

Crane was concerned by the team’s “spiteful tone,” and felt that Richardson might never play again:

“This may be base ball law, but it is doubtful if it would be held as lawful in any court in this broad land, and it is not likely that any but a baseball magnate would so consider it.”

Byrne doubled down after Richardson’s demand for a retraction. He gave The Brooklyn Eagle a detailed account of the games Richardson missed and why:

“”Mr. Richardson says he’s been sick. Very likely, but there is usually cause for sickness. His sick spells began early in the season. On May 9, in New York Mr. Richardson about the second inning had to leave the game. He said his head was dizzy and he could not see. He failed to report the next day. He played from May 11 to May 27 inclusive. He was unfit to play ball May 29 and failed to report for either of the games of Memorial Day.”

Additionally, Byrne said, Richardson “made his appearance in Brooklyn” late on June 5 and “His appearance was painfully noticeable.” And, Richardson’s “sick spells” always seemed to happen on Mondays and continued throughout June.

Byrne told the paper that he spoke to his player before the road trip:

“Richardson admitted most frankly to me that he had not done right, that he was heartily ashamed of himself, but that he had made up his mind to stop his nonsense and by good work redeem himself.”

Byrne said Richardson behaved badly on road trip, including an incident in the billiard room at the Gibson House Hotel in Cincinnati, where Foutz “as a matter of kindness, went to him and begged him not to make a show of himself in a public place.”

When Richardson failed to arrive at the ballpark in Baltimore on July 18 and 19, Byrne said the team could not “be imposed upon any longer.”

Byrne told The Standard Union:

“There will be no withdrawal or apology of any statements made–we have never made charges—because everything so far published is true. Mr. Richardson—if we desire his services—will play with Brooklyn or not at all. He will not be released; he will not be exchanged for the best ballplayer in the country, not can his services be secured for any money consideration whatever.”

With the situation at an impasse, The Eagle saw one upside:

“The recent trouble in the Brooklyn team which resulted in the suspension of Danny Richardson, was the cause of Brooklyn securing, beyond all odds, the latest youngster in the league. William H. Keeler.”

The Grooms purchased Keeler from the Giants for $800 five days after Richardson’s suspension. Two weeks later, The Eagle said:

“When he joined the team he was a good man, but of course, he lacked the knowledge of the intricate points possessed by the old timers, In a short while, however he mastered all the points, and today is the equal of any of the star players.”

Keeler hit .313 in 20 games, but apparently did not impress Foutz and Byrne as much he impressed The Eagle; he was traded to Baltimore with Dan Brouthers for George Treadway and Billy Shindle before the 1894 season.

Richardson hid out from the controversy in Elizabethtown, New York, and according to The Elizabethtown Post, played at least one game with the town’s club:

“(Richardson) played with the home team and very materially aided in the happy result (a 16 to 14 victory). His brilliant playing was closely watched by a large crowd of spectators and for the space of two hours he was little less than an idol. When he made an excusable muff, owing to collision with a base runner it was the surprise of the season to think him human enough to err.”

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Richardson’s game in Elizabethtown

Richardson returned to Elmira in October and played games with the local amateur team, the Cornings.

Rumors began circulating in December that Richardson and team would come to some compromise; The New York World made the paper’s position in the dispute clear:

“The Brooklyn Baseball Club, it is said, will extend clemency to Danny Richardson next year and condescendingly allow him to breathe and play ball next year if he so desires.”

On December 14, the team announced that Richardson was free to play in 1884. The team’s treasurer, Ferdinand A. “Gus” Abell told The Standard Union:

“If Foutz wants Richardson to play second base, the latter is at liberty to come to Brooklyn next spring and sign a contract. If Richardson is not wanted, I’d be perfectly willing to trade him off; but I wouldn’t sell his release. New York can have him for (Amos) Rusie or one of their star players, as I think he would attend to business under (John Montgomery) Ward and play good ball.”

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Foutz

Brooklyn appeared to keep the door open for the second baseman to return. Foutz told The Brooklyn Times in January that he wrote Richardson “asking him what his intentions were,” but that he had received no reply.” The New York Herald said that Richardson wrote in letter that he was “afraid that if he should decide to play under Foutz again the cranks would give him a roasting whenever he made an error.”

Several trades were rumored over the next several months. The Herald said four clubs—Louisville, St. Louis, Philadelphia, and New York– wanted him, The Chicago Tribune said Richardson would be traded to St. Louis for Kid Gleason, The Philadelphia Inquirer said the Giants had offered outfielder Mike Tiernan in trade, while The Louisville Times said Richardson would be traded there for Tom Brown.

In February, The Louisville Courier-Journal said Richardson would be sold to the Colonels:

“The exact amount is a secret, but it is not far from $2500.”

But the deal became stalled for a month, with news that either Richardson, despite meeting with manager Billy Barnie and captain Fred Pfeffer in New York , was still hesitant about joining them in Kentucky, or that the Colonels were trying to pay less than originally agreed upon.

When the Brooklyn correspondent for Sporting Life claimed, “Louisville sighs for Richardson, and bothers Brooklyn for him, but when asked a fair price…offer one half the amount.,” The Courier-Journal responded:

“It does seem a little steep to pay $2500 for a player who was suspended for dissipation.”

The deal was finally made on March 15, Louisville paid $2250. The New York Press said that Byrne “thought that was a good amount,” because it was the same Brooklyn paid Washington when they traded Bill Joyce and cash to acquire him.

Barnie told The Courier his team’s prospects for 1894 rested on having acquired Richardson:

“There had been so much talk and Danny is a man of such great value, that I felt we must get him or quit. We couldn’t afford to quit, so we just got him.”

Louisville went 36-94 and finished in 12th place; Richardson moved to shortstop, played in 116 games and hit .256; the keystone combination of Pfeffer and Richardson accounted for 132 errors.

In the season’s final week, after the September 24th game—an 8 to 7 loss to the Giants–his team more than 50 games out of first place, Richardson asked for and received his release. The New York World said:

“Danny Richardson has not been on the Louisville payroll since the first part of this week. He forfeited half a month’s pay to be permitted to leave for his home in Elmira. He is tired of baseball, disheartened with the playing of his club and sick of criticisms that fell upon him when he took chances to make difficult plays and missed the plays. It is likely that he will give up baseball.”

The 31-year-old never played another major league game.

“If I was to Catch Again I’d Laugh at Shin Guards”

14 Apr

Harry Salsinger was the sports editor at The Detroit News from 1907 until his death in 1958. During spring training in 1928 he wrote:

“E.A. Krebs is deeply interested in the pictures of catchers that are sent from the southern training camps. He would like to know why the modern catcher is fitted out like one of the armored knights of King James’ court. His interest is legitimate. Mr. Krebs used to be a catcher himself.”

Edward Adam Krebs caught for teams in the Central Association, Iowa League of Professional Baseball Clubs, Three-I, and Cotton States Leagues from 1902 through 1909.

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Ed Krebs

Salsinger said Krebs:

“(B)elonged to what is now known as a the ‘old school’ and the men of his school have a habit of snickering at modern baseball. When their evidence is given full consideration there seems sound reason for their snickering.”

Krebs, in a letter to Salsinger, said:

“The only protection we had was the mask, and air-filled chest protector and a catcher’s mitt. But the air-filled chest protector was a real joke after the first month of the season. It wouldn’t hold air any longer, but we buckled it on just the same, for appearance sake, I guess. We might just as well had a piece of Brussels carpet hanging on us.”

He was also annoyed by the use of shin guards:

“We didn’t use them in those days. They weren’t used before my day, and they weren’t used long after my day.”

He said he had the scars to show for it:

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Krebs 1906

“No runner in my days could touch home plate unless he cut me up, for I had home plate completely blocked. I had both feet right on the line, between the runner and the plate. I have been cut from knee to toe many times.

“I have caught some of the fiercest outlaw pitchers the game has known. They were so wild that they could never reach the big leagues. Once in awhile I got a rap on the skin with a wild pitch, but not often, and a kid full of knots doesn’t mind a rap on the shin once in a while.”

Krebs said current pitchers threw no harder than when he played, nor was the ball “any harder,” so, “If I was to catch again (I am 48) I’d laugh at shin guards.”

A Wisconsin native, Krebs said he caught Addie Joss at Sacred Heart College in 1888, although he said he was primarily a shortstop, and the regular catcher was Red Kleinow, who played eight seasons in the major leagues between 1904 and 1911.

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Krebs, 2nd from right, center row, with Decatur, 1903.

During his first season in professional baseball, Krebs played for Fred Pfeffer during the former Chicago White Stockings’ only year as a minor league manager—with the Decatur Commodores in the three-I League in 1902:

“(Pfeffer) was the best second baseman who ever played around or anywhere the bag. I have seen Fred, while he was with us at Decatur and when he was 51 years old [sic 42], go high in the air, pull down a line drive and whip the ball to first for a double play. His throw was half done before he got back to the ground. Many times, I have seen him go deep, scoop up a grounder and slap the ball backhanded to the first baseman.”

Of Pfeffer on the base paths he said:

“I have seen Fred score from third when the catcher stood at the plate waiting for him, the ball in his hand. His body would be pointed straight at the grandstand and his toe would be touching home plate. He would be laying flat on the ground. When the catcher made a stab for Fred, he just wasn’t near the spot where the catcher thought he was.”

Krebs worked as a plumber and died in Burlington, Iowa in 1937.

“Quit Chasing Baseball Flies to Chase the Devil”

8 Apr

Rodney C. Wells was the editor of The Marshalltown (IA) Times-Republican; in 1909 he interviewed the world-famous evangelist, and second-best player to have gotten his start in Marshalltown; Billy Sunday.

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Billy Sunday

The article appeared in “The Literary Magazine,” a Chicago-based syndicated newspaper insert that appeared primarily * in newspapers in smaller (20,000 to 40,000 population) markets.

Wells said:

“Although since Billy Sunday quit chasing baseball flies to chase the devil he has been tremendously busy preaching the gospel and saving the souls of tens of thousands of men and women, the is still a thoroughbred ‘fan,’ and there isn’t a devotee of the great national game anywhere who keeps in closer touch with it than he.”

Sunday was asked the perfunctory question about the quality of the modern game versus the 19th Century:

“The individual ballplayer of today is no better than he was twenty or twenty-five years ago. In fact, I believe that taking everything into consideration, the fellows of a quarter of a century ago excelled in some ways. To be true what a man does nowadays counts for more in a game, for now they have teamwork down to perfection. In the old days we hardly knew what ‘teamwork,’ as the word applies today, was. We knew nothing about a hit and run game or the double steal—that was all unknown dope to us. Consequently, playing more as individuals, more rested on us as individuals. Hence my reason for saying that, perhaps in some ways, the boys of the old days excelled the stars of today.”

Wells told the story of Sunday coming to Marshalltown after being recruited from his home in Nevada, Iowa—where he was known as a fastest runner in town–to come to Cap Anson’s hometown to participate on the hose team of the local fire department in the state tournament.  Sunday was required to live in town for a month in order to compete with the local fire department.

“Incidentally, Sunday liked to play ball, and he was out in the pasture for practice regularly. He began to command attention in this line, not so much for his proficiency in the game, as his fleetness of foot and his great base running.”

He was recommended to Anson who “looked Sunday up and down and made him a proposition,” to join the White Stockings.  Sunday said upon his arrival:

“The first thing they ran me up against in Chicago was Fred Pfeffer, the crack second baseman of the then celebrated White Stockings. Pfeffer was the fastest man on the bases in Chicago and one of the fastest in the league. Anson had told some of the boys about my running, and they were inclined to doubt the old man’s word. It didn’t take long to settle matters, however, and the first thing I knew I was matched with Pfeffer in a foot race. It is needless to for me to go into details, but I made Pfeffer look like and ice wagon.”

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Fred Pfeffer

Sunday acknowledged he “won a place” with Chicago “even though I wasn’t much of a batter,” because of his speed.

“Then, we hardly ever had a sub, and it was seldom that a fellow was not in his position. We played season after season with eleven or twelve men, while now it is not uncommon to see as high as thirty men in the big-league teams. Why, they carry nearly as many pitchers alone in these modern days as we did in our entire team then.”

Sunday asked:

“Where do you find a ballplayer today who was Cap Anson’s equal at all-around ball when Anson was at his best? And where can you find a catcher who would beat old Mike Kelly?

“While I consider Johnny Kling perhaps the best catcher in professional baseball today, I do not believe he was a better catcher than Mike Kelly. And Kelly wasn’t only a great catcher, but he could play anywhere. If needed he could go on any base and be perfectly at home, or he could make good in the outfield. And he was a cracking good base runner, too, even though he was heavy.

“Then there was our other catcher, Frank Flint. I shall never forget him. Grit? One never saw his equal. We didn’t wear the big mitts in those days, and a catcher behind the bat, although he was getting just as swift balls as the catchers of today, had much less protection on his hands. I saw Flint get a hard one on his left hand, that split the poor fellow’s fingers down a clean inch. Quick as a flash he reached for his shirt pocket, grabbed a rubber band, snapped it around his bleeding fingers, and gave a signal for another ball. Every finger on both of poor old Flint’s hands had been broken at some time or another, and there was never a man who played baseball who had as many marks to show for the game.”

Sunday said he regretted that “the bunting game” was not “down to the science that it is now there were a few of us who could have made good.”

He said when he played in Philadelphia he and Billy Hamilton could “do 100 yards in 10 seconds” and batting first and second in the order and would have benefited from more bunting.

Sunday told Wells he had no regrets about retiring when he was 27 years old to begin evangelizing:

“Of course, Billy Sunday is glad he left baseball, for he felt his duty in life lay elsewhere. While the evangelist has a large income from his preaching, and much larger than he would ever have had in baseball, it was not so when he voluntarily gave up baseball for his religious work.”

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Sunday

Sunday was paid $83 a month when he first began working at Chicago’s YMCA.

“This was true self-sacrifice on Sunday’s part, for he knew not what the future held in store for him.”

“I am not Fool Enough to Give $25,000 for one man”

12 Jul

A.G. Spalding sold Abner Dalrymple, George Gore and King Kelly before the 1887 season. Having sent the message that no player on the Chicago roster was untouchable, William Albert Nimick, owner of the Pittsburgh Alleghenys approached the White Stockings owner with an offer on September 23.  In a letter to Spalding, printed in The Pittsburgh Post, Nimick wrote:

“Dear Sir—If there is any truth in the rumors that A.C. Anson’s release can be obtained, the Pittsburgh baseball club, knowing his ability as manager, captain and player, is willing to pay for his release, the largest sum ever offered for a single player, viz: $15,000. Be kind enough to let me know at once if you will consider this offer.”

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Nimick

Spalding responded to Nimick:

“Dear Sir—Yours of the 23rd inst. Containing the unprecedented offer for the release of Captain Anson just received. I confess to some surprise at the amount named and if we seriously thought of releasing Anson it would prove a very tempting proposition. My personal relations with him have always been of such a satisfactory nature that I would hate to lose him. About all that I can say at present in reply to your offer is that should we decide to release him you will be advised of that fact before anything is done.”

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 Anson

Nimick told The Post he took Spalding’s letter as an indication that “There is still some hope of our getting Anson.” He said if he could not get Anson, he would be able to acquire either second baseman Fred Pfeffer or shortstop Ned Williamson. The Post said:

“The prevailing opinion in Chicago is that the three players named cannot all remain in the Chicago club harmoniously, and that one or more of them must be transferred.”

The Chicago Tribune asked Anson about the potential of his playing elsewhere in 1888:

“I know the offer has been made and am surprised that such a sum should be offered for a baseball player. I am, of course, sorry that baseball men are sold by the different managers as so much material, without considering what they have to say in the matter, but it gives me satisfaction to know I am worth so much as a baseball player. If Nimick should buy my release from Spalding for that sum he would have to settle with me afterwards before I would play with the Alleghenys. I never expect to play with any other than the Chicago club. As long as I remain in the baseball world I hope to be where I am at.”

One month after the original offer was made, The Post reported that the Pittsburgh owner was not giving up and had made “the most sensational offer for a player on record.”

The paper said Nimick increased the price to $25,000, but the Pittsburgh magnate denied the story the following day. He told The Pittsburgh Leader:

“I am not fool enough to give $25,000 for one man.”

Nimick also denied a rumor that he had offered $10,000 for Chicago pitcher John Clarkson, who would be sold to Boston for that price six months later. He told the paper Pittsburgh was, “fixed as well if not better than any other club” for pitching.

The Pittsburgh papers and Nimick held out hope of acquiring at least one of the three Chicago stars until November, when Spalding was quoted in The Press putting an end to the speculation:

“(Nimick) offered $15,000 for Anson and would have given more if he could have been bought. He won’t leave Chicago, however. I have 16 players signed or it least equal to it.”

Anson, Williamson, and Pfeffer all remained in Chicago.  Nimick bought Fred Dunlap from Detroit, Al Maul from Philadelphia, and Billy Sunday from Chicago—the three were secured for roughly half of what was offered for Anson.

The Alleghenys were 62-72 and finished sixth for the second straight season; Anson guided Chicago to a 77-58 second place finish.

“Spalding Should Never Permit a Chicago Audience to be so Insulted Again”

20 Mar

George Van Haltren didn’t instantly live up to his billing.

The 21-year-old, then pitcher, had finally decided to leave California in June, after the death of his mother—he had refused to come East for more than a year while his mother was ill. His refusal to come to Chicago had resulted in threats of being blacklisted from White Stockings’ owner A. G. Spaulding.

The Oakland Tribune said Van Haltren’s current club, the Greenhood and Morans had offered him $300 a month to stay in California.

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Van Haltren

The impending arrival of Van Haltren was big new in the Chicago papers.  With the team struggling in fourth place, The Chicago Daily Journal said Van Haltren was “depended upon to help (John) Clarkson and (Mark) Baldwin boost the club.’ The paper left readers with high expectations:

“Two years ago he commenced playing ball as a catcher, but after a year at the receiving end of the battery, he decided it was better to give than to receive…In his first four games he struck out 55 men; in a game a little later he struck out three consecutive batters on nine pitched balls, and in another game he made a record of 19 strike outs in a nine inning game.”

Van Haltren’s arrival for his start, against Boston, was greeted with fanfare and received as much coverage in West Coast newspapers as in Chicago.  The scene, described by The Oakland Tribune:

“Eight thousand people witnessed the game.  The Chicagos marched on the diamond with Van Haltren and Captain Anson in the lead, then followed by the band and th other players of the club.  When they arrived at the home plate Anson and Van Haltren took off their caps, and the latter was loudly cheered.”

The Chicago Tribune said Van Haltren was sharp for four innings, striking out the first batter he faced:

“(He) retired Joe Hornung on strikes and the crowd manifested its pleasure.”

The Beaneaters scored two unearned runs in the first, but the White Stockings responded with five in the first and scored two more runs in the third.  Through four innings Van Haltren allowed just one hit.

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Van Haltren

The Boston Globe said what came next:

“Spalding’s wonder, the famous left-handed pitcher Van Haltren, the terror of the Pacific slope, made his debut as a league pitcher and for four innings he was a king with the crowd. After that he lost all control of the ball and all the Bostons had to do to get to first was to wait for five balls.”

Beginning in the fifth, Van Haltren “sent 14 men to first on balls, besides hitting four with the ball, and (Tom) Daly, who caught him for the first time, saved him about 10 wild pitches.”

The Chicago and California papers saw Van Haltren’s implosion differently—they blamed umpire Herm Doscher.  The Chicago Tribune said:

“Not only was his judgment on balls and strikes miserable, but he lacks a knowledge of the rules of the game.”

The Chicago Inter Ocean (which estimated the crowd at 7,000, not 8,000) said fans “witnessed the rankest case of robbery by an umpire that has ever taken place in the city. President Spalding should never permit a Chicago audience to be so insulted again.”

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Doescher

The Oakland Tribune called Doscher “Incredibly unfair and incorrect,” and The San Francisco Examiner claimed Doscher was confused by Van Haltern’s curve ball:

“Doescher’s [sic] decisions of balls were drawn from the direction of the ball when at least three feet away from the plate, losing all sight of the ultimate course of the curves at the vital spot.”

Even The Boston Post agreed that Doscher’s umpiring was “erratic” and that he participated in “bad discrimination against Van Haltren.”

Despite his meltdown—or Doscher’s incompetence—Van Haltren entered the ninth with the game tied at 11.

The Beaneaters scored six runs in the ninth after three walks—The Chicago Daily News said, “fully one-half the balls called on Van Haltren should have been strikes.”  Van Haltren was also rattled by second baseman Fred Pfeffer’s second error of the game and two hits—or as The Chicago Tribune put it:

“(Edward ‘Pop’) Tate got his base on balls after Van Haltren had struck him out fairly; (Michael ‘Kid’) Madden was hit by the ball and given his base; Pfeffer’s error gave (King) Kelly first and filled the bases.  Then (Bobby) Wheelock was given his base on balls after about six strikes.”

Having given up the lead, Van Haltren then gave up a triple to Boston’s Bill Nash, Nash scored on a single by Ezra Sutton and the Chicago went down in order in the ninth.

The phenom left-hander from California lost his first game 17-11, walked 16 and hit three batters.

The Oakland Tribune said:

“A correspondent saw Captain Anson and was informed the management of the White Stockings were perfectly satisfied with the new pitcher, who, considering all circumstances, made a good showing as a National League player.”

Anson started Van Haltren in right field the following day and thought enough of him to use him in relief of John Clarkson in the seventh inning, The Chicago Daily News said of his second stint on the mound:

“(He) did remarkably well, staking out such batsmen as Hornung, Nash and Johnson.  The general opinion here is that when he becomes used to Eastern ways, he will prove the best pitcher of the year.”

Van Haltren did not prove to be “pitcher of the year,” he finished 11-7 with a 3.86 ERA, but walked just 50 batters in 152 innings after walking 16 in his first nine.

But he was treated like the “pitcher of the year” when he returned home.

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Van Haltren

The San Francisco Examiner said:

“George Van Haltren is, beyond all question entitles to rank as the premier pitcher of California, and the most invidious of our Eastern friends will not begrudge us the right to boast a little about the stalwart young fellow who has done so much in the East to puzzle the crack batsmen beyond the Rockies, and at the same time prove to the older but not more progressive East what kind of products we raise here in California…It is believed that The Examiner’s readers will agree that a finer specimen of young America, of Californian or any other growth, than George Van Haltren would be hard to find.”

Van Haltren never excelled as a pitcher but became one of the best leadoff men of the 19th Century.

“The Boys Began to Cast Threatening Looks”

4 Feb

The effect of “hoodoos” were the frequent subject of baseball stories in the 19th Century—but rarely was one chronicled from beginning to end during a single game. On August 26, 1885, on an unseasonably cold day and in front of a crowd of just 1200, the first place Chicago White Stockings were hosting the last place Detroit Wolverines. The Chicago Tribune marked the moment when the “Hoodoo” arrived:

“When (The White Stockings’) players took their positions on the diamond with (Ned) Hanlon at the bat for the visitors; a half-starved, miserable-looking little dog with a coat of hair like that of a hyena and the air of a coyote, shambled out from among the carriage wheels and took up his position close to (George) Gore. The centerfielder evidently looked upon the wretched animal as a ‘Hoodoo,’ for he threw a clod of dirt at it, and the forsaken little brute weakly trotted off to the shelter of the brick wall.”

gore

Gore

The dog made its way to the Chicago bench, where:

“(Ned) Williamson and (John) Clarkson tried in vain to make friends with him, but he would have none of it, and trotted off to the grass plot near the grandstand railing, where seated on his haunches he watched the game.”

The White Stockings scored two runs in the first inning when Anson and Fred Pfeffer scored on a Williamson double, and, according to the paper “Anson whispered to Gore that the dog was a ‘mascot.’”

The dog remained near the Chicago bench and when the team failed to score through the sixth inning, and the score remained 2 to 0:

“(T)he boys began to cast threatening looks in the direction of the miserable-looking canine mutter something about a ‘hoodoo.”

Each team added a run in seventh. In the eighth, Chicago allowed a run when Hanlon was attempting to steal second and scored after a wild throw by catcher Silver Flint and a poor throw by Gore.

“Hanlon had crossed the home plate. The coyote uttered a plaintive howl a Hanlon scored, and deliberately trotted over to the Detroit players’ bench, where he took his seat.”

The dog having switched sides, “(Chicago) knew they could not make another run and they did not, but fortunately for the prospective pennant-winners, (Detroit’s Charlie) Bennett’s two-bagger in the ninth inning was productive of no good,” when Jim McCormick retired the next three Detroit batters to end the game.

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Jim McCormick

The Chicago Inter Ocean noted:

“The dog then left the field in disgust and saved the game for Chicago.”

The White Stockings went on to win the pennant by two games. The dog was not heard from again.

Things I learned on the Way to Looking up Other Things #27

28 Nov

Chicago’s American Association Franchise

At the close of the 1891 season, The Chicago Tribune assured their readers that Chicago would be a two-team town:

“The Chicago club of the American Association of 1892 is a certainty.  Fred Pfeffer will be its manager and leading spirit, and Sam G. Morton (an executive with A.G. Spalding and Bros. Co.) well known here, its business guardian.”

pfeffer

Fred Pfeffer

According to the paper, the new club’s roster would include:

“(Bill) Dahlen, (Ad) Gumbert, and (Malachi) Kittridge probabilities.  Such men as (Bill) Hart, the Sioux City pitcher, (Bid) McPhee of Cincinnati, (Jake) Beckley of Pittsburgh, Danny Richardson of New York, and (Herman) Long of Boston are in sight.”

The Tribune said the new American Association franchise would build a park on Chicago’s west side:

“Convenient to cable and railroad, and their accommodations will be for 20,000 people.”

The stockholders in the team were said to be some of the most prominent industrialists in Chicago.

The planned team never materialized after the American Association folded and four teams were absorbed into the National League.

Pfeffer, the would be manager, was traded to the Louisville Colonels for Jim Canavan and $1000.

 Weidman’s Swan Song

George “Stump” “Kid” Weidman spent parts of nine seasons in the major leagues, he appeared in his final game in 1888, and posted a career 101-156 record.

stump

Weidman

Ten years after he left the game, C. H. Steiger, The Detroit Tribune sportswriter, quoted an unnamed former teammate about how Weidman wore out his welcome in Detroit during his second tenure with the Wolverines.  Weidman had rejoined Detroit after the Kansas City Cowboys folded:

“He had pitched for us before, and was at that time considered a great pitcher, and he really was.  When he was with us before, he was the most popular boy on the team.  Everything was Kid, and he got the glad hand from everyone until one day he lost it all at once.  It goes to show how easily a man can throw away what it has taken him a long time to acquire”

Weidman won 13 games for the eventual pennant winning Wolverines before being sold to the New York Metropolitans in August, after the former teammate said Weidman was playing right field one day, while Detroit ace Pretzels Getzein was on the mound:

“(The) batter on the opposing club, Philadelphia I think it was, popped up a slow outfield fly to Weidman.  He had lots of time to get it, and it was the easiest kind of chance, but he ran up to within about ten feet of where it would strike, stopped, let it strike and bound into his hands, then threw it in.

“Well, it was the only time I ever saw Getzein mad.  He looked at Weidman, shrugged his shoulders and said to his catcher, ‘What do you think of that?’

“(Manager Bill) Watkins saw it from the bench, and was mad as a hornet.  When Weidman came in, Watkins called him down, and the Kid said he was afraid of over-running it, and thought it was best to do as he did, otherwise the batter might have made two bases on it,  But his explanation didn’t go.”

The teammate concluded:

“I don’t think he meant to throw the game.  He just wanted to let the other fellows get another hit off Getzein.  But the other players in the club rather soured on Weidman after that, and so did the crowd.”

After being sold to the Metropolitans, Weidman appeared in just 15 more games, his major league career was over at age 27.

“The Twenty Greatest Fever”

2 Oct

In November of 1911, an interviewer asked industrialist Andrew Carnegie to name the 20 greatest men of all time.  Within days, Carnegie’s list was parsed and picked apart, and led to what The Chicago Daily News called “The twenty greatest fever.”

Lists of the twenty greatest everything appeared in papers across the country for the next year.  Of course, the question was put to many baseball figures and led to a number of interesting lists and quotes.

One of the first to weigh in was Chicago White Sox owner Charles Comiskey, in The Daily News:

  • Buck Ewing
  • King Kelly
  • Cap Anson
  • Charlie Ferguson
  • Fred Pfeffer
  • Eddie Collins
  • Honus Wagner
  • Jack Glasscock
  • Harry Lord
  • Ty Cobb
  • Fred Clarke
  • Willie Keeler
  • Tom McCarthy
  • Napoleon Lajoie
  • Charles Radbourn
  • Bobby Caruthers
  • Christy Mathewson
  •  Clark Griffith
  • Ed Walsh
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Charles Comiskey

Comiskey said Eddie Collins, who would acquire for $50,000 three years later, was the best current player:

“He’s got it on all the others in the game today.  I don’t know that a good lawyer went to waste, but do know that a mighty good ballplayer was found when Eddie decided to give up the technicalities of Blackstone for the intricacies of baseball.   There isn’t much use saying anything about Connie Mack’s star, everybody knows he is a wonder as well as I do.”

Cy Young was asked by The Cleveland News to name his 20 greatest:

“I guess we’d have to make a place for old Amos Rusie, ‘Kid’ Nichols should be placed on the list too, ‘Kid’ forgot more baseball than 90 percent of us ever knew.  And there was Bill Hutchinson, just about one of the greatest that ever lived.  You can’t overlook Walter Johnson, and, by all means Ed Walsh must be there.  The same applies to Mathewson.  Then comes my old side partner, Bill Dinneen.  Bill never was given half enough credit.”

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Amos Rusie

Young rounded out the battery:

“I’d pick old Lou Criger first of all the catchers.  George Gibson of the Pittsburgh team, to my way of thinking, stands with the leaders.  Give the third place to Oscar Stanage of Detroit, and I feel safe in saying that I have chosen a really great catcher.”

Young said:

“Doping out the infields is comparatively easy.  Without hesitation I would name Hal Chase, Eddie Collins, Nap Lajoie, Hans Wagner, Bobby Wallace, Jimmy Collins, Herman Long, and Charlie Wagner.”

Young said of his infield choices:

“You can’t get away from Bobby Wallace for a general all round gentlemanly player, he has never had a superior at shortstop unless that man was Honus Wagner.  Maybe Johnny Evers is entitles to consideration, but I never say him play.”

As for his outfielders, Young said:

“Ty Cobb’s equal never lived, according to my way of thinking, and I doubt if we will ever have his superior.  Say what they will about Cobb, but one who is true to himself must acknowledge his right to rank above all other players.

“I chose Cobb, Fred Clarke of Pittsburgh, Tris Speaker of Boston and Bill Lange for the outfield, and regret that the limitations prevent me from choosing Jim McAleer.  McAleer was the best fielder I have ever seen.  I say that with all due respect to Cobb and other competitors.

“Tris Speaker is a marvel, and only because of his playing at the same time as Cobb is he deprived of the honor of being the greatest outfielder…Many fans of today probably don’t remember Bill Lange.  Take my word for it, he was a marvel.  He could field, bat, and run bases with wonderful skill.  No man ever had the fade-away slide better than Lange.”

The reporter from The News noticed that Young had, “chosen his twenty greatest players without mentioning his own great deeds,” and asked Young whether her felt he belonged on the list.  Young said:

“Oh, I’ve heard a whole lot of stuff about myself as a player, but I was but ordinary when compared to the men I name as the greatest in the game.”

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Cy Young

When Ty Cobb presented his list of the 20 greatest current American League players to The Detroit News, the paper noted his “Very becoming modesty” in leaving himself off of his list.  Cobb’s picks were:

  • Ed Walsh
  • Bill Donovan
  • Walter Johnson
  • Jack Coombs
  • Vean Gregg
  • George Mullin
  • Billy Sullivan
  • Oscar Stanage
  • Ira Thomas
  • Hal Chase
  • Napoleon Lajoie
  • Eddie Collins
  • Jack Berry
  • Owen Bush
  • Frank Baker
  • Harry Lord
  • Sam Crawford
  • Clyde Milan
  • Joe Jackson
  • Tris Speaker
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Ty Cobb

Cobb included Bobby Wallace, Russ Ford, and Heinie Wagner as honorable mentions.

More of the lists and quotes from “The twenty greatest fever,” on Thursday

“In Chicago, the Baseball Slump is what the Crank would call Disgusting”

8 Jun

Oliver Perry (OP) Caylor of The New York Herald came to a conclusion in August of 1892 that many have shared before and since:  baseball‘s best days were behind it.

O.P. Caylor

O.P. Caylor

Earlier,  National League President Nick Young had declared 1892—featuring an expanded twelve team circuit after the collapse of the American Association and just weeks into the only scheduled split-season in major league history—an unqualified success.

But now, into what Caylor called “A Dog Days Depression,” reality had set in.

“Much has been said since the League’s second championship season opened (the second half began July 15) about the renewed interest which was alleged to have sprung up and was keeping pace with the new season.  It has taken no more than a month to prove that this so-called revival was an illusion.”

Caylor noted that there was brief uptick in attendance in games played in Eastern cities during the first three weeks of the second half:

“(B)ut before the teams started west the same old rut of passing indifference seemed to be struck.  And nowhere in the west thus far has there been a sign of a promising revival.”

Caylor pointed to two cities as evidence of baseball’s bleak state;

“In Chicago, the baseball slump is what the crank would call disgusting.  People of that progressive center have use for nothing but the best, and Uncle (Cap) Anson this year has not succeeded in giving them such an article in baseball.  The great general has done the best possible, handicapped as he was in the beginning of the season by the poor allotment of players from the Indianapolis (Hoosiers, the defunct American Association franchise) consolidation pool.”

Cap Anson, 50 errors in 1876

Cap Anson

Caylor blamed most of Anson’s problems on a weak middle infield:

“(Jimmy) Cooney, his shortstop, turned out a sudden complete failure and he has never been able to successfully fill (Fred) Pfeffer’s vacant shoes on the nine.  Any team which is weak at short field and second base is bound to be weak all over, and that is the condition of the Chicagos.

“The old man has been experimenting on new material with more or less success and less success than more.  But by the time he gets his men into what he is pleased to consider championship form, the season will be so far spent that he will have no chance to arouse the chilled pride of the army of Chicago baseball ‘rooters.’”

Caylor said Anson had some optimism for “next season.”

“Maybe the Chicago club can well afford to waste this year whipping together a winning team for 1893.  For next year, the World’s Fair (The World Columbian Exhibition) should be bring a small fortune to the treasury of the Chicago club if they can get a winning team together by that time.  Yet there are those who will argue that the World’s Fair is bound to be a financial injury than a benefit to the Chicago club under any circumstance, and the argument is based upon baseball experience in Philadelphia during the year of the Centennial (1876).”

World's Colombian Exhibition

World’s Colombian Exhibition

 

Caylor said even, A. G. Spalding, former White Stockings president, felt the fair “will be a financial burden” on the team.

Spalding believed:

“(T)hat for every visiting stranger who will be attracted to the ball grounds three resident patrons will be kept away by the unusual demand upon their time by excessive business.”

But Caylor said, his former home was in even more distress than Chicago:

 “Cincinnati, the best-paying city of the circuit during the first half of the year, has become financially alarming.”

Cincinnati had suffered as a result of the National League’s cost cutting measure agreed upon in late June, which resulted in rosters being reduced from 15 to 13 players and across-the-board pay cuts of 30-40 percent for all players.  The Reds best pitcher, Tony Mullane, quit as a result of the cuts.

Tony Mullane

Tony Mullane

“The sorry slump in baseball interest at Cincinnati is another exemplification of that old moral taught by the fable of the ‘Hen Which Laid the Golden Egg.’ I know it is modern usage to speak of the golden egg producer as a goose, but my Latin book called it a hen.  As applied to the Cincinnati case it makes little difference whether we call it a hen or a goose…The Cincinnati club’s hen was laying golden eggs regularly through the first season.  The newspapers put the club down as a sure winner financially.  Then came the greed mentioned in the fable.  The officials thought they saw a way to squeeze  the old hen into more active and valuable work, and on the squeezing they killed her.”

As a result of the pay cuts:

“Cincinnati patrons became disgusted.  For the sake of saving a few thousand dollars in salaries while working at a profit, this club had thrown away its chances to win the second championship.  Nobody who understands human nature need wonder the result.”

Cleveland, home of the second half champion Spiders, was the only town where Caylor said the “national game is appreciated.”   But even that, he said was temporary and favorable financial conditions were “a question of considerable doubt.”

The 1892 season was a disaster for Chicago—on and off the field—they finished 70-76, in seventh place, and attendance dropped by more than 72,000 from the previous season.

While Cincinnati led the National League in attendance, the club lost money.

But, contrary to Caylor’s gloomy outlook, the league—after dropping the spilt-season format—bounced back well in 1893.

In Chicago, where Anson put an even worse product on the field—the Colts were 56-71—predictions that the Columbian Exhibition would destroy attendance were wrong.  Aided by the opening of a new ballpark in May, the club drew the fourth-largest attendance in the league—223,500—more than doubling their 1892 numbers.

Cincinnati’s attendance dropped by just 2200 fans despite a disappointing season where the team hovered near .500 all year and finished sixth.

National league attendance increased by nearly half a million from 1892 to 1893.

While baseball was not on a long-term decline, Tony Mullane was.

He returned to the Reds in 1893, but the 34-year-old was never the same–259-187 with a career ERA below 3.00 before his departure, he was 25-33 with a 5.74 ERA after.