Tag Archives: George Erskine Stackhouse

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up other Things #14

29 Apr

Wishful Thinking in Boston–1921

Arthur Duffey was a former track athlete—he finished fourth in 100 yard dash in the 1900 Olympics—turned sports columnist for The Boston Post.

Arthur Duffey

Arthur Duffey

Like many in Boston, he hoped Babe Ruth would be unable again put up the type of numbers he did in 1920—54 home runs, 135 RBI, .376 average– after being sold by the Red Sox to the New York Yankees.

Ruth

Ruth

Duffey had received word in March of 1921 that his hopes would be realized:

“According to all reports from Hot Springs way where Babe Ruth is putting in his preliminary canters for the coming American League race, Babe evidently believes in that old slogan about ‘Living to eat instead of eating to live,’ for the Bambino is pounds overweight and not a few predict that he is going to have his troubles in getting down to anything like his baseball scale of last season…(Ruth) has no doubt been living the life of Reilly since he has proven himself the ‘King of Swat.’ But, is he going to eat himself out of another chance to beat that home run record?”

Ruth managed to “eat himself” into a season that included new career highs for games (152), at-bats (540), runs (177), home runs (59), RBI (168), and batting average (.378).  The Yankees won the American League pennant and the Red Sox finished their second straight fifth-place, Ruth-less season.

Wishful Thinking about honesty, 1901

George Erskine Stackhouse, sports editor of The New York Tribune, assured readers of “Leslie’s Weekly Illustrated” magazine, that there was no corruption in baseball:

“Baseball is honest.  Some peculiar things happen in baseball at times, but I have watched the game very closely for a great many years and believe that it is at least as close to perfect honesty as any professional sport in the world.”

George Erskine Stackhouse

George Erskine Stackhouse

Stackhouse also refused to believe that gamblers had any role in the game:

“Baseball has no side-show features, such as betting and the like, and soon as the average ‘fan’ thought the games dishonest he would lose all interest in the sport.”

But, Stackhouse assured his readers he was not naïve, but everyone involved in baseball had learned their lesson from the scandals of the 19th Century:

“I do not mean to say that there are not players and club owners who would not be tricky if they dared.  They simply don’t dare.

“The lesson dealt out to the early evil-doers who were charged with selling games in the interest of certain gamblers, has had a splendid effect.  The sentence hangs over those men yet, and the disgrace will remain with their children and their children’s children.  I believe that there have been hundreds of fake horse races, prize fights, wrestling matches, and professional running races to one really crooked baseball game.”

Stackhouse died in 1903 at the age of 42, content in the knowledge that baseball remained “close to perfect honesty.”

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up other Things #13

22 Dec

Chief Meyers on the Plight of the Native American, 1913

John W. McConaughy, the former sports editor of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, was no longer writing about baseball regularly as the New York Giants prepared to face the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1913 World Series.  McConaughy, who was the Washington correspondent for The New York Journal, was enlisted by the paper to write about some of the key figures of the series.

The result was, in the case of John “Chief” Meyers, a profile that went beyond a typical baseball story:

Chief Meyers

Chief Meyers

“Meyers is one of the coolest, shrewdest and quickest thinking catchers that ever came to the big leagues.  He has both gray matter and gumption, and the one is useless without the other in baseball as elsewhere.  He has a fund of general information that runs from national politics to the philosophy of Plato, and a delicately adjusted sense of humor, and these two combine to give him a good perspective of the national game.”

[…]

He is ready to fight any time for justice and fair play and he is so good-natured that he isn’t seriously annoyed when the fans perpetrate that bum war-whoop every time he comes to bat.

[…]

“One day in Cincinnati he asked the writer to go out to the art museum with him.  We came upon a bronze—an Indian turning to shoot an arrow at his pursuers.

“’There’s the idea.’ He said, pointing to the warrior.  ‘They never learned how to fight.  They had nothing but the willingness.  If Tecumseh had been as big a man as Napoleon he would have killed off the medicine men as his first official act, learned the white man’s style of warfare—and there would have been an Indian nation here today.

“’I don’t mean that the white man would not have been here, too.  But with a few leaders—real big men—our fathers would have come to see that the white man’s type of civilization was the highest, just as the (Japanese) have done.  We would have had great states and communities in the union, and we would have been useful, progressive citizens.

“’As it is the Indian is robbed by agents and shifted from reservation to reservation whenever anyone happens to want their land.  Tribe after tribe is scattered, and in another hundred years my people will have gone the way of the Aztecs.’

“Still, there will always probably be a few fans who will think it bright to pull the war-whoop when the Chief comes to bat.”

Tom Lynch Cracks Down, 1910

In June of 1910, The Associated Press said that after a 5 to 4 New York Giants victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, umpires Jim Johnstone and August Moran “stood in front of the press box and made remarks about the baseball writers.”

National League President Thomas Lynch, who had announced his intention to “break this habit of having players call the arbitrators bad names” said in response:

“I also will not stand for umpires talking back to spectators or taking it upon themselves to criticize newspaper men.”

National League President Thomas Lynch

National League President Thomas Lynch

He fined Johnstone and Moran $25 and $15 respectively for the incident.

In that era of newspapermen as frustrated poets, George E. Phair, then of The Milwaukee Sentinel, was one of the most prolific, often including a poem in his articles.  He dedicated the following verse to the National League President:

Old Thomas Lynch, who runs a league,

     Would propagate urbanity;

In fact, Sir Thomas would intrigue

     To curb the umps’ profanity.

He warns his umpires while within

     The baseball scribes vicinity

To speak no words that reek of sin,

     But emulate divinity.

He tells them not to harm the scribes,

     Nor flout at their ability;

Nor pester them with jokes or jibes;

     Nor laugh at their senility.

He plasters fines upon his umps

     For showing their ferocity

And calling scribblers ‘mutts’ and ‘chumps’

      With Teddy-like verbosity.

The veteran Sir Thomas is

     Most generous and affable,

But we’re inclined to think that his

     Solicitude is laughable.

The ump may blunder now and then

     And break into profanity;

The scribbler jabs him with his pen

     And drives him to urbanity.

Comiskey Tells a Tommy McCarthy Story, 1899

George Erskine Stackhouse, the baseball editor of the editor of The New York Tribune, spoke to Charles Comiskey in 1899 and found him in a “somewhat reminiscent mood.”  Comiskey told a story Tommy McCarthy when the two were with the St. Louis Browns:

Tommy McCarthy

Tommy McCarthy

“I heard in Chicago the other day that tom is in Boston, as fat as a Tammany alderman, and making money out of a big bowling alley.  (Hugh) Duffy owned an interest in it, but they say Tom bought him out.  I had Tom with me in St. Louis.  And say, St. Louis is the best town on earth for a winner.  They used to distribute among the players every season watches and rings and studs and pins enough to stock a jewelry store.  There was a diamond medal offered one year for the best base runner on the Browns.

“Tom McCarthy was quite a boy to steal bases, and after the medal was offered he wouldn’t run out his hits.  If he made a two-bagger, he would stop at first, and if he slammed the ball for a triple, he would manage to bring up at second, so as to get a chance to steal a base.  Of course, after a bit, I got on to him, and I had to warn him that if he didn’t stretch those hits I would have to lay him off altogether.  That helped some, but he was always hanging back when he thought he could get away with it.  I remember once that he had a chance to go down to second on a wild throw to first, and what does he do but toss his head and drop off his cap, so that he could stop and come back after it and stick at first.  He won that medal.”