Tag Archives: Fred Snodgrass

Oyster Joe Martina

26 May

Joseph John “Oyster Joe” Martina made a name for himself in New Orleans before he threw his first professional pitch. Martina’s father Anthony was at one time the city’s largest oyster dealer, a business he passed on to his sons.

Martina was playing semi-pro ball for the Sam Bonarts—a team sponsored by the owner of a local clothing store, and for a club called the Beavers  when he decided in addition to pitching, he had a talent for distance throwing.

He won $25 in a contest at Pelican Park in July of 1909, The New Orleans Times-Democrat said Martina “threw the sphere from home plate over the back fence.”

martina

Martina, circa 1909

The throw was said to be 394 feet; just 11 feet short of what was considered the world record—there was some dispute in contemporaneous accounts about who actually held the record, some credited it to Larry Twitchell, said to have accomplished the feat in 1888 and others to Same Crane, whose was made in 1884.

Martina made his next attempt on July 31.

The New Orleans Picayune said:

“Joe Martina met with success this afternoon in his effort to break the world’s record for throwing a baseball, his best throw being 416 feet and 2 inches.”

The paper said he “threw a standard league baseball, which was inspected by several representatives of the southern division of the American Amateur Athletic Union (AAU).”

The event was of interest to local gamblers and when Martina made the record-setting throw it created a stir:

“Disputes also arose over Martina being allowed five throws. Those placing wagers against his breaking the record claimed that only three throws should be allowed. It was on the fifth throw that Martina made the record.”

There was also initially some doubt that the record would be accepted by the AAU because of the five throws. The Times-Democrat said:

“Usually only three throws are allowed. But as there are no definite rules governing contests of that kind, Martina’s record will likely stand. Whether it was his fifth of fiftieth it was a great heave and one which should go as a record.”

The Picayune said there might be another problem with the record:

“One regret remains, that the throw was not measured with a steel tape. It was measured with a linen tape, and may not be accepted by the AAU officials, although the throw was so much over the record the is no question of it being farther than Crane’s”

The record, and Marina’s performance in New Orleans’ semi-pro league earned him a tryout the following spring with the Atlanta Crackers in the Southern Association—pitching three innings in the first game of Atlanta’s exhibition series with the Philadelphia Athletics. Marina gave up one run and struck out three.

The Atlanta Georgian and News said:

“Martina is nothing if not confident.

“After his try-out against Philadelphia he said: ‘Why, it’s just as easy to pitch against those big leaguers as it is against the New Orleans semi-pros. I don’t see anything very hard. I think I can make good in the Southern league all right I certainly had the steam against the Athletics. How many his did they make, anyhow’”

The Crackers did not agree, and sold the 20-year-old to the Savannah Indians in the Sally League

Martina bounced from Georgia, to Louisiana, to Mississippi and then Texas over the next four years.

In the spring of 1914, entering his third season with the Beaumont Oilers in the Texas League, Martina faced the New York Giants.  The Giants beat him 5 to 2, but The New York Sun said:

“The Giants had practice hitting speed the other day. Joe Martina, who prescribed the medicine for the National League champions, had it in caloric quantities…I yearned for a chance in the majors, felt I had more stuff than many pitchers sent up from the South but the big opportunity always passed me by.”

Red Murray of the Giants, barely avoided getting hit in the head with a Martina fastball, and told the paper:

“’That fellow’s got as much speed as I ever saw.’ Said John after the game, and the other Giants corroborated him. He’s as fast as (Chief) Bender.”

The Sun took notice of more than the pitcher’s speed:

“This Martina is something of a character. In the course of the game the umpire announced that Mathewson would pitch today. ‘Mathewson?’ queried Martina, who appears to be n iconoclast. ‘What busher’s that?’

“’Say,’ exclaimed the skeptical Martina to Chief Meyers when the latter made a base hit after several fruitless tries in that direction, ‘you’re lucky to get a hit off of me,’ and then, by the way of an afterthought: ‘All the hits you ever get are lucky.’

“Evidently, Mr. Martina is no hero worshiper.”

When he struck out Fred Snodgrass, he asked, “How do you like that, busher?”

Throughout his 20s, Martina was considered an “iron man,” pitching from 261 to 330 innings every year from 1910 through 1915; he also, according to The Picayune regularly pitched Sunday games in New Orleans throughout each off season.
In 1916, he injured his arm—or as The Arkansas Democrat said, his “arm cracked after hard usage.”

Speed Johnson of The Chicago Record Herald compared Martina to White Sox ace Ed Walsh, “The spitball king of other days now is a bench-warmer.”

Johnson said Chattanooga Lookouts manager Kid Elberfeld was the culprit:

“Performing under orders from (Elberfeld) Martina pitched seven games in the first sixteen games of the season. From May 1 to May 13 he officiated in five engagements, toiling with a sore arm.”

Elberfeld claimed that Martina injured his arm throwing too many spitballs, Johnson said, “it behooves young pitchers bent on winning fame as iron men to work only in their turn.”

Despite the reported injury, and a release from Chattanooga, Martina pitched 278 innings in 1916 with three teams.

Martina went back to the Texas League for four more seasons—including a 28-win season for Beaumont in 1919.

In 1921 he came back to the Southern Association, with his hometown Pelicans. From 1921-1923 he won 56 games, including a 22-6 mark in 1922. He told The Times-Picayune:

“It’s the old story, “You don’t learn how to pitch until your arm is gone.”

His three-year run with the Pelicans finally earned him a major league contract in 1924.  Umpire Billy Evans said in his nationally syndicated column:

“Speaking of miracle workers, supermen, and rookie phenoms of baseball, don’t overlook pitcher Joe Martina of the Washington Nationals.

“At the age of 34, when most big leaguers are wondering how much longer they will be able to stand the pace, Joe Martina is making his debut.”

martina24

Martina, 1924

Martina told Evans:

“I had as much stuff fifteen years ago as I have today, and with-it youth, but somehow the major leagues scouts would annually pass me up.”

He was 6-8 for the World Series Champion Senators, he pitched one perfect inning in game three of the World Series. In the off season, Washington Manager Bucky Harris told The Washington Post that Martina “will win at least 15 games this year and may reach the 20 mark.”

He was due to join the Senators in Tampa, Florida on February 19, 1925, but failed to show up. The Post said Martina wired President Clark Griffith and asked to report later because he was having a new home built. Griffith refused and he was “notified by telegraph” that he was suspended. The Washington Evening Star said he would be fined and forced “to labor at a smaller salary,” for the season.  The paper suggested that the pay cut would not impact him greatly because:

“The Mardi Gras festivities in New Orleans, with the resulting big crowds in attendance and the consequent increase in the oyster business conducted by Martina probably mean that the pitcher can suffer these financial setbacks and still be ahead of the game.”

He arrived in Tampa on March 1; The Star said Griffith withdrew the fine because Martina claimed he had received a letter from the Washington owner that he could report late:

“Griff admitted that in the stress of arranging for the annual pilgrimage South of his club he might have forgotten the original letter to Joe.”

On April 9, Martina, along with left-handers–Jim Brillheart and Jim McNamara—were released by Griffith. The Star said

 “(Martini’s) work this spring indicated he has passed the peak of his form which is not quite good enough for fast company.”

He returned to New Orleans for four more seasons—winning 77 games and leading the Pelicans to Southern Association championships in 1926 and 1927. The 39-year-old went back to the Texas League for one more season in 1929; after a disappointing 10-13 campaign for the Dallas Steers, Martina purchased—or bartered for—his release. The Times-Picayune said:

“Martina has been given his unconditional release at the price of two barrels of oysters. This was the price demanded by Fred McJunkin, president of the Dallas club.”

He played two more seasons in the Cotton States League and took a crack at managing with the Baton Rouge Standards in 1931—he was released mid-season at age 41.

With both the Pelicans and the Knoxville Smokies hopelessly out of the 1931 Southern Association pennant race, Knoxville signed Martina to pitch against New Orleans on the final day of the season. He started the first game of a double header, gave up six runs over eight innings and lost his final game as a professional.

Zipp Newman, sports editor of The Birmingham News and official scorer for the Birmingham Barons for 44 years said Martina’s strong arm was with him to the very end::

“After pitching a full game for Knoxville against New Orleans Sunday, Joe went to the outfield and made the longest throw-in. Joe threw the ball right up to the grandstand. There wasn’t a youngster on the field who could come close to him. Joe Martina arms are few and far between in baseball.”

Martina, who died of a heart attack in 1962, said in an interview with Newman in 1941:

“I am convinced I had more human endurance than any man who ever lived. In all my life I was never tired, even when it was 110 out there on the mound. The answer is simple: I was a good boy. I behaved myself and every at 8 o’clock I was in bed…When my arm was live the ball would sail slightly upward, and nobody could hit me. When it was dead, although the pitch was just as fast, the ball went straight, like on a string, and I was a goner.”

“Squeeze that Bird, there’s $30,000 Depending on it”

17 Aug

In 1922, Eddie Collins—billed in the byline as “World’s Greatest Second Baseman-“wrote a syndicated article about his post-season experience:

Collins

Collins

“Frequently I have been asked the question, ‘How does it feel to play in a World Series?’  I can at least say, ‘not monotonous, even tho I have participated in six.’

“The toughest part of any World Series, as far as the mental or nervous strain is concerned, that I have experienced has been when I was out of uniform.  Once in my baseball togs out on the field and in the game, I’ve never felt it any different from any regular season affair.  But in between games, especially if a postponement occurs, or the team is idle traveling, that is when I’ve felt ill at ease, with a longing for it to be over and to be miles away from baseball.”

Collins said the 1911 Series—with six consecutive days of rain between games 3 and 4, the longest delay in Series history until 1989—was “(T)he worst in this respect…I remember some of our team went to Cuba after the series, but I was so glad to be thru with baseball for that year I wouldn’t have gone for a mint.”

Collins said a World Series could “make or break a promising player,” and used his former teammate Wally Schang as an example:

“In 1913, in his first game the first time he came to bat against the Giants, (Jack) Barry was on first, no one out. ‘Shangie’ leaned over the bench and said to Manager (Connie) Mack. ‘What shall I do?’  Meaning whether to bunt or hit.  Connie hesitated for a fraction of a second, then said to the kid, ‘You go up there and use your own judgment.’

Schang

Schang

“Schang attempted to bunt the first, fouled it off, and on the very next ball flashed Barry the hit and run sign.  And bang went a base hit to center to center on which Barry made third and ‘Schangie’ pulled up at second on the throw in.  That play alone I honestly believe gave Schang more confidence than base hit he ever made before.”

Collins said another question he was often asked was:

“’ Do you think the fact they are playing for big stakes has any effect on the players and do some often see a dollar sign coming their way instead of a ball?’

“In general, I’d say no, because every player is too absorbed in the game itself, striving to win, rather than figuring on his share of the gate.”

Collins said some players remained loose, even during a stressful post-season game:

“I do recall a certain bit of jest that was pulled by Amos Strunk in 1913 on the play that ended that series and one that afforded three or four of us a good laugh afterward.

Strunk

Strunk

“It was on the Polo Grounds, and Larry Doyle hit a high fly toward short right which Eddie Murphy caught.

“Amos, McInnis and I were close to him when he was about to make the catch.  Just before he did ‘Strunkie’ hollered, ‘Squeeze that bird, there’s $30,000 depending on it.’  Which had reference to the (Fred) Snodgrass muff of the preceding year.  Needless to say ‘Murph’ squeezed it, and the game and series were over.”

The excitement of the World Series even overcame the taciturn Connie Mack on one occasion according to Collins:

“Mack so forgot himself, so enthusiastic and joyful did he become, as to do a miniature war dance on the bench in the eighth inning of our final game against the Cubs in 1910.  Once later, I remember, he got up to get a drink of water during a game against the Giants, but these are the only two instances I can recall where he ever moved from his usual place on the bench.”

Collins summed up his World Series experience:

“It’s great to be in a series, but take it from me, it’s greater when it’s over—and you have won.”

In his reminiscences of his six World Series appearances, Collins made no mention of 1919.

On the Road with the Giants, 1912

18 Jan

As the New York Giants were cruising to the National League Pennant in 1912—they won by 10 games and were never in second place after May 20—New York’s catcher John “Chief” Meyers provided fans with a look at life with the Giants.

Chief Meyers

Chief Meyers

The article was written for The Associated Press—most likely by Jim McBeth of The New York American, who acted most often as Meyers’ ghostwriter:

“After the last ball of the game is fielded and the crowd begins to pour out of the park and the players disappear into the clubhouse—what then?

“The fans read in their papers next morning: ‘New York at Pittsburgh’ or ‘New York at Boston,’ or something like that.  And until the bulletin boards begin to put up the score, inning by inning, in the afternoon, they know little of nothing about the men they have been watching and cheering.

“What have ballplayers been doing in the meantime?”

Meyers explained life on the road:

“Well, suppose we’ve just finished a game on the Polo Grounds.  Our schedule calls for a battle with the Pirates in their home park.  Of course, the first thing is to get there, and we get there in easier and better fashion than any other sort of a traveler.

“We have two private Pullman cars of our own, always, and they are our traveling home We assemble at the railroad station—sometimes forty strong—and just pile aboard and make ourselves comfortable.

“In the first place, I might mention the make-up of our party.  We carry twenty-five players, as many as the rules allow; John McGraw, the manager; Wilbert Robinson, coach and assistant manager; the club secretary and his assistant; Dr. Finley the club physician;  Ed Mackall, the club trainer; Dick Hennessy, our kid mascot, and as many as ten or twelve newspaper writers especially towards the end of a close race.”

The 1912 Giants

The 1912 Giants

As for accommodations:

“If he is a regular he takes possession of a seat which indicates that his berth when it is made up will be a ‘lower.’ That’s an absolute rule.  Nothing but the cream for the first string players.

“As soon as the train pulls out the boys go to their favorite amusements—card playing, reading, ‘fanning.’  Don’t think a player finishes a game when he sheds his spangles.  He doesn’t.  Many a game is played all over again as soon as the boys get together.

“There’s a little quartet of us who are pinochle fans—(James ‘Doc’) Crandall, (Art) Fletcher, (David ‘Beals’) Becker and myself—a fine lot of Dutchmen we are.  We’re the ‘tightwads’ of the club because we don’t  risk as much as a nickel on our games.

“There was a time when there was tall gambling by the players on trains while traveling from one town to another.  I’ve seen as much as $6,000 or $7000 on the table in a poker game. But that’s past; the player of today holds on to his money, and, besides, he knows that high betting causes ill feeling between friends and heavy losses get a man’s mind off his playing.  The Giants play a little poker, of course, but it’s only a 25-cent limit game, where a man in hard luck may lose as much as $4 or $5 in a session.

“Occasionally you’ll hear a little singing.  Some of the boys have really good voices.  Others fancy themselves as vocalists, anyhow.  Larry Doyle, for instance…Leon Ames gets up sometimes and gives us his specialty.  He recites Kipling’s poem, ‘On the Road to Mandalay,‘ (with an affected speech impediment). That always gets a laugh.  The younger, smaller players buzz around Big Jeff Tesreau like a flock of mosquitoes attacking an elephant, giving him a good-natured kidding until he sweeps his big arms and chases them. “

Big Jeff Tesreau

Big Jeff Tesreau

Meyers said the Giants were “like one big family—a lively, noisy bunch of pals.”   He said a player occasionally “gets a grouch and sits off by himself,” but:

“I never saw a group of men in any business so genuinely attached to each other…Occasionally some stranger tries to horn into our cars but he quickly finds he isn’t wanted.”

The Giants, he said, drew crowds at the ballpark and at their hotel:

“There’s nothing tight about us when we travel. We’re an attraction and we know it, and that helps box office receipts.  People always want to see this club that’s got Matty and a real Indian, and sometimes  (the previous season) Charley Faust  or a Bugs Raymond as an added attraction. So we don’t keep our light under any bushel.

“We’re always pretty well sized up in our hotel in a strange city.  We can hear people say ‘So they are the Giants eh?’  The native can always spot me because of my Indian appearance, so I’m usually the one they make for.

“’Say, Chief, which is Matty?’ they ask.  ‘Which one is Johnny McGraw?’ ‘Who’s going to pitch today, Chief?’ The other boys give me the laugh because I’m the goat for all questioners.  The fans don’t recognize the other players.”

Meyers said most of the Giants were not great dressers, ‘content with two changes of costume.”  The exceptions were Rube Marquard:  “He travels with a steamer trunk and sometimes has six or eight suits with him,” as well as Josh Devore and Art Wilson.

Meyers said every player shared one fashion statement:

“Everybody…sports a diamond.  That seems to be the badge of big-league class.  As soon as a ballplayer gets out of the ‘bushes’ and into the big show the first thing he does is buy a spark.  Some of the boys have half a dozen. “

Meyers also insisted that drinking was not a problem among the modern players:

“One thing we hear from strangers most frequently is ‘Have a drink, old man let’s drink one for good luck in today’s game.’  That invitation is invariably refused. Few of the boys drink anything at all, and those who do take a glass of beer occasionally do it among themselves always.  The present day player differs greatly from the old timer, who mixed with everyone.

“Pleasant strangers, with sensible questions, we don’t mind, but they are in the minority t the butters-in who simply want to tell their friends they are associates of ballplayers.”

Meyers said he and his teammates were also very popular with deaf fans, many of whom began following the Giants when Luther “Dummy” Taylor (1900-01, 1902-08) pitched for the club:

“(N)ow they’re friends of all of us.  Most of the Giants learned the finger talk from Taylor.”

He said Mathewson, Doyle and Fred Snodgrass were all very conversant in sign language and “are the idols of” many deaf fans.

Fred Snodrass

Fred Snodgrass

Meyers frequented art museums on the road.  As for his teammates: billiards for most, chess or checkers for Mathewson during the day, and the theatre at night, he said, were the “favorite pastimes” of the Giants.

No matter the activity after a road game, he said: “Everybody must be in bed” by 11:30 pm.  “That’s one of McGraw’s rules, and the boys are on their honor to obey it.”

Meyers drew one conclusion from the lifestyle of the modern ballplayer.  He and his brethren were “(A) trifle better off, both physically and morally, than the average young man.”

“Dunnie’s” Narrow Escape

28 Jul

Samuel Morrison “Dunnie” Dungan returned home to Southern California in 1889 after graduating from Eastern Michigan University– the Michigan State Normal School– and joined the F.N. Hamilton’s a powerful San Diego-based semi-pro team that included 39-year-old Cal McVey, a member of Harry Wright’s Cincinnati and Boston Red Stockings teams from  1869 through 1875 (with a detour to Baltimore in 1873).

In the spring of 1890 the Oakland Colonels, champions of the California League in 1889 recruited Dungan to catch for them during a series of exhibition games in Los Angeles.  The Oakland squad did not impress Southern California critics.  The San Diego Union said:

“It is drawing it mild to say that it was the rottenest game that been played on the ground.  If it was not a fake, than the Oaklands cannot play ball.  Do they suppose up about San Francisco and Oakland that they can bring down to Southern California a lot of boys and show the Southerners how to play ball?”

Samuel Dungan

Samuel Dungan

The Union said the Hamiltons, as well as two other San Diego teams, the Schiller & Murthas and the Llewellyns “can beat the Oakland team out of sight.”

The paper said only one player stood out:

“Dungan, the San Diego catcher, who caught for the Oaklands both days, was about the only redeeming feature of that club…And he does not pretend to be a professional.”

As a result of his play during the exhibitions, Dungan was signed by the Colonels;  he still caught occasionally but was now primarily an outfielder.  Team owner Colonel Thomas P. Robinson was unable to restrain his enthusiasm when Dungan was signed, telling The Oakland Tribune:

“I believe Dungan is the greatest batter we’ve ever had here—better than (Lou) Hardie or (Vince) Dailey, the latter of whom I rank as the best of the old men.”

Fred Carroll, a California native who played with the Pittsburgh Burghers in the Players League in 1890, called Dungan “the only scientific batter on this coast.”

Statistics are incomplete for the 1890 California League season, but both The Tribune and The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Dungan was the league’s batting champion.  The Los Angeles Herald said he hit .332.  The Colonels finished third in the four-team league.  The Tribune said it was “probable that Dungan will go East.”

He was first rumored to be heading to be heading to the Washington Statesmen in the American Association but ended up signing with the Western Association’s Milwaukee Brewers.

It was Dungan’s departure from the West Coast in the spring of 1891 that led to the biggest headlines of his career.

The San Francisco Chronicle told the story:

“Sam Dungan, the ballplayer who was with Oakland last season and who led the California League in batting, is being pursued by an irate wife who says she will follow him to the end of the earth if necessary to again clasp him in her arms.  It seems that last year among the many conquests Dungan made in Oakland was Miss Mamie Bodgard.  She became wild over him, and at last was introduced to him.  After the season Dungan came south to his home in Santa Ana, but communication between himself and Miss Bodgard kept up.  She sent him many dainty perfumed notes.  Finally the marriage of the couple was announced and it created no great surprise.

“Now comes the thrilling part of this story.  Two hours after the marriage had taken place (in Los Angeles) Dungan left his bride and journeyed to Santa Ana, where he had an interview with his parents, who are well and favorably known and rank among the leading families.  Sam is a college graduate and was the idol of his parents.  Mrs. Dungan also journeyed to Santa Ana.  She did not go to the home of the Dungan’s, but went to the Richelieu Hotel.  She is a most pronounced brunette, rather petite, and is reported to have a temper.  The couple had parted, and the news of the separation soon became noised around.  Mrs. Dungan consulted a lawyer to have her ‘hubby’ restrained from leaving Santa Ana, but the heavy hitter eluded his young wife and started for Milwaukee, giving his bride the slip at Orange, she being on the same train with him that far.”

The jilted bride told a reporter for The Los Angeles Herald that she was “a grass widow,” but vowed to pursue Dungan to Milwaukee.  Mrs. Dungan’s trip to Milwaukee was unsuccessful.

A year later The Herald reported that a court in Santa Ana had awarded Mrs. Dungan $25 a month  “and she is very elated in consequence.”  She was said to have gone to Milwaukee twice the previous year and had taken to reading “Sammy’s love letters on the street corners,” of Santa Ana:

“Mrs. Dungan is an excellent dresser and is an exceptionally handsome woman.  She doubtless could be induced to kiss and make up, but the parents of her husband stand in the way of a reconciliation.  The Dungan’s are anxious to have Sam get a divorce, but he  can’t very well, and Mrs. Dungan says: ‘Never in a thousand years.'”

A divorce was finally granted in 1893.  Sam Dungan remarried in 1900.

Dungan went on to play parts of five seasons in the major leagues, mostly with the Chicago Colts and had a .301 career batting average.  He was an excellent minor league hitter, putting up several excellent seasons—including averages of .447, .424 and .372 in 1894, ’95, ’97 with the Detroit Creams and Detroit Tigers in the Western League. He also hit a league-leading .337 in 1900 for the Kansas City Blues in the inaugural season of the American League.

Dungan returned home to Santa Ana after retiring at the close of the 1905 season and participated in many old-timers games in Southern California.  The Santa Ana Register reported on his heroics during a 1924 fundraising game for former player Ed Householder who was dying of stomach cancer—Dungan joined Sam Crawford, Gavvy Cravath, Fred Snodgrass and other West Coast baseball legends for the game in Los Angeles:

“Yesterday, Dungan, now a prosperous Santa Ana resident and rancher, proved that years have not dimmed the remarkable eye nor time deprived the power from his arms and shoulders that enabled him, year after year, to outhit the other big league players of his day.

“Dungan rapped out a two-bagger with two men on the cushions in the tenth inning.  This blow broke up the game.  Previously Dungan had smashed out three other bingles.  Thus, Dungan of Santa Ana, the oldest man on the field in point of years, was the heaviest hitter just as he used to be years ago.”

Dungan died in Santa Ana in 1939.