Tag Archives: Gabby Street

Tug Arundel

16 Nov

Twenty-one years before catcher Gabby Street caught a baseball dropped. From the Washington Monument, another catcher attempted it with less success.

When news of Street’s feat was reported in 1908, Oliver Romeo Johnson, who had been a sportswriter for The Indianapolis News in 1887, recalled the circumstances:

“On one of our eastern trips we followed the Chicagos in Washington, and while there the catching of a ball dropped from the monument was much talked of, because one of the Chicago players was said to have done it a few days before.  My impression is that it was (Cap) Anson himself, although it might have been Silver Flint.

“One of our team, John Thomas ‘Tug’ Arundel, a catcher, said it was ‘dead easy’ to catch a ball dropped from the monument, and a bet was made on it.  A crowd of us went out to see the attempt.  Arundel wore catcher’s gloves—which were not so thick as they now are—on both hands and put layers of cotton under them. He tried eight or ten times to catch the ball…but failed every time, and after he had battered up his hands so he could not play for some days he gave it up.”

Tug Arundel

Tug Arundel

Several days after Johnson’s recollection appeared in The News, Horace Fogel, who had been Arundel’s manager with the Hoosiers and dropped the balls from the monument, weighed in.  Fogel, then sports editor of The Philadelphia Telegraph, disputed the claim that Anson or Flint had caught a ball and said of his catcher’s attempt:

“Arundel, if I remember alright, only succeeded in getting his hands on one ball and it almost tore them off at the wrists. Tug explained afterward that he had not figured on ‘A ball weighing a ton coming from that distance.’ The other balls, a dozen or more, I tossed out to him, Arundel missed, some by fifty feet, he misjudged them that badly.”

Horace Fogel

Horace Fogel

Bad judgment was a staple of Arundel’s career which was marred by arrests for drinking and fighting.    He appeared in just 76 major league games over four seasons from 1882 to 1888 and played for at least 16 different professional clubs during his 10 seasons in professional ball, often quickly wearing out his welcome.

The Memphis Appeal said he was:

“(T)he handsomest player in the profession, who would sooner fight than eat.”

The Washington Critic summed up the opinion many had of Arundel when he was acquired by the Nationals in 1888:

“’Tug’ Arundel has been secured by the Washington management, as last week’s reports indicated he would be.  He is not popular here.  However, it is to be hoped that Manager (Ted) Sullivan can keep him muzzled.”

After his release, when it was rumored he might join the Detroit wolverines, The Detroit Free Press told readers:

“Detroit wouldn’t have Tug Arundel under any circumstances.”

After every incident, Arundel pledged to change his ways.

After an 1887 drunken melee in Indianapolis, which resulted in the arrests of Arundel along with teammates Jerry Denny and John (Patsy) Cahill, he told The Indianapolis News he took “a total abstinence pledge for six months.”

In the spring of 1889, he was arrested in his hometown, Auburn, New York twice. First for assaulting a police officer and then for a bar fight with another former major leaguer, and Auburn native, Mike MansellThe Auburn Bulletin said Arundel “Got the worst of it.” A month after the fight, The Sporting Life said Arundel “writes he is in fine shape and looking for an engagement.”

In 1890, the 28-year-old Arundel was nearing the end of the line.  He signed with the Saginaw-Bay City (Michigan) club in the International Association and told The Detroit Free Press that he was serious about sobriety this time:

“I lost splendid situations and almost ruined my reputation through liquor, but, sir, I realize the baneful effects of over-indulgence in intoxicating liquors and I have resolved never to touch another drop.  I have kept aloof from it for the past three months and am now in as good condition as I ever was in my life.”

It is unclear whether, or for how long, Arundel kept his last public pledge.  He appeared to have played fairly well behind the plate for Saginaw-Bay City.  Although he hit just .152, The Free Press, which three years earlier assured readers that Arundel was not wanted on the city’s National League club, was pleased when he signed with the Detroit Wolverines of the Northwestern League:

“(Arundel) has faced the greatest pitchers on the field and held them all.  Arundel is a good trainer for young ones, and did good work while with the Hyphens in 1890.”

Whether because of drinking or injuries (The Free Press and The Detroit News said he suffered from “Split fingers” several times throughout the season) Arundel was finished after the 1891 season, at age 29.

Arundel returned to Auburn and was eventually committed to the Willard State Hospital for the Chronic Insane in New York where he died in 1912.

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Lost Pictures–Walter Johnson Steamrolls the American League

20 Jun

walterjohnsonsteam

A 1912 publicity photo featuring Walter Johnson at the wheel of a steamroller, and Senators catcher Eddie Ainsmith with the shovel at Griffith Stadium in Washington.  The photo was taken on June 17; the Senators had just returned from Cleveland having won 16 straight games–all on the road.  During the streak, the Senators had gone from 17-21 in sixth place, to 33-21, just one and a half games behind the Boston Red Sox.

The Washington Times said “It was considered an omen of continued triumph” that the steamroller was “found on the grounds.”

The Senators won the following day and continued playing well the rest of the way, finishing 91-61, their first winning season in the team’s 12-year history.  But, it was not good enough to catch the Red Sox who finished 14 games in front.

Johnson had his first of two 30-win seasons, finishing 33-12 with a league-leading 1.39 ERA.

Ainsworth played in the major leagues for 15 years, the first nine with the Senators.  The Washington Post said before the season opener in 1915:

“For the seventh consecutive year Walter Johnson will work in the opening clash for the home folks, and in nearly as many seasons will Eddie Ainsworth be his battery mate.  This pair always work together and no pitcher and catcher in either league are better acquainted when it comes to baseball.”

Eddie Ainsmith

Eddie Ainsmith

Several weeks after Ainsmith was traded to Boston (then to Detroit on the same day) in January of 1919, Louis Dougher a writer for The Washington Times said:

“When Eddie Ainsmith was traded to Detroit via Boston, Clark Griffith shattered on of the crack batteries…it was Johnson and (Charles “Gabby”) Street.  Then when Gabby slowed up and gave way to a successor, it rapidly became Johnson and Ainsmith.”

Age, more than the departure of Ainsmith slowed Johnson down, but he still won 140 games and posted three 20-win seasons after his personal catcher was traded.

Dave Altizer

4 Apr

David Tilden Altizer did not begin playing professional baseball until 1902 when he was 25; he made his debut with the Washington Senators four years later.  A member of the US Army, he was in China for the Boxer Rebellion and the Philippines during the Spanish-American War; he began playing baseball while in the service.

Most recent mentions of Altizer list his nickname as “Filipino,” but while his service was often mentioned, this nickname is rarely found in contemporaneous stories; rather he regularly referred to by the nickname “daredevil.”

Dave Altizer 1909

Dave Altizer 1909

Altizer was one of the more colorful figures of his era and made good copy, but many of the stories have been lost for years.  Here are a few:

In 1910 Altizer was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds from the Minneapolis Millers of the American Association.  Unaware he had been drafted; Altizer went to Chicago at the close of the millers’ season and disappeared.  The Associated Press said he thus became “the only ballplayer who has been ‘found’ with a newspaper want ad.”

The story said Reds manager Clark Griffith, unable to find Altizer, contacted “Nixey” Callahan, who was playing in Chicago’s City League, and asked him to put an ad in Chicago newspapers to find Altizer.

“This was done and in the early hours of the morning some unknown person called Callahan and gave him Dave’s number.”

Altizer appeared in three games for the Reds after he was located; he had six hits in 10 at bats, walked three times and scored three runs.

Altizer had been the starting  shortstop for the Senators in 1907.  In December The Pittsburgh Press ran a wire service story from Washington under the headline “Dave Altizer is Dead Broke:”

“Dave Altizer, the most popular player on the local team, recently fell victim to a pickpocket, and was relieved of his year’s savings.”

The story said Altizer, alarmed by the “financial stringency (the Panic of 1907)…has carried his savings on his person, not wanting to take any chances of having them tied up in a bank.”

Altizer went to sleep in a Pullman car on a train to California with “$1,475 in large bills” in his vest pocket and discovered when he awoke that the money was gone.  It was never reported if the money was recovered of if the thief was caught.

Altizer with Washington

Altizer with Washington

Gabby Street claimed he saw Altizer do the dumbest thing he had seen in a game, and “topped (Fred) Merkle,” while they were teammates in Washington:

“St. Louis had us beat, 3 to 2, and there were two outs in the ninth.”

Altizer was batting with two strikes and runners on second and third.

“The next strike came over and (umpire John) Sheridan called it a strike.  The ball whizzed right through (Tubby) Spencer’s mitt and bounded up against the grandstand and shot off at an angle, while the chubby Spencer pursued it.  Both of the Washington runners on the bases scored easily.

“But all the time Altizer refused to leave the plate.  He was in a hot argument with Sheridan and insisted the ball wasn’t over the plate and was two feet wide.  In the meantime Spencer got the ball.  There was no chance to get either of the runners at the plate, but he fired to first and retired Altizer.  It made the last out of the game and Altizer’s failure to run cost us the two runs and lost the game for Washington.  And they talked about Merkle.”

Gabby Street

Gabby Street

After Altizer finished his Major League career with the Reds in 1911, he returned to Minneapolis where he played until 1918.  He played and managed two more seasons with the Madison Grays in the South Dakota and Dakota Leagues, before retiring from baseball at age 44.  He died in Pleasant Hill, Illinois in 1964 at age 87.