Tag Archives: George Moriarty

To Hank Gowdy

29 May

gowdy

George Moriarty became an American League umpire after his playing career ended—he also wrote a nationally syndicated column which often included elegies for deceased players and poems.

moriarty

George Moriarty

In 1919, he wrote a tribute to the first major league player to enlist in WWI—Hank Gowdy:

“They’re waiting, Hank, to pay respects because you went away to help make Prussians into wrecks for this U.S.A.  They’re waiting, Hank, to clap their hands, to yell and everything; the countless mobs of baseball fans acknowledge you are king.  When Uncle Sammy gave the call for valor, pep and vim, you dropped your glove, your bat and ball, and said, ‘I’ll sign with him!’  When handing out the credit, Hank, no mite to you we toss; we can’t name one more willing Yank who bore the U.S. cross.  They missed you, Hank, for many months; the way you caught—your whip. And when they talked of hero stunts, your name fell from each lip. They’re eager, Hank, to see your face, reflecting courage strong.  They want to see you swing the mace back here where you belong.  And if you throw not on a line, the fans won’t say a word, for Hank, old kid, you crossed the Rhine, and that makes you some bird.  They’re eager, Hank, to see you score again the winning run; for in your form they’ll see the swarm of Yanks that whipped the Hun.  What greater record in the guide, as future years advance?  A record strong as time and tide—Hank Gowdy, First to France.”

 

Moriarty and Cobb

5 Feb

While the Detroit Tigers captain “jinx” almost cost George Moriarty his captaincy in 1912, he was also nearly traded to the Cleveland Naps in December of 1911.  The reason given for the Tiger’s desire to trade Moriarty was an alleged fight with Tigers star Ty Cobb.

Whether the fight actually took place is questionable, and an oft-told story about Cobb and Moriarty that grew out of the fight rumor is almost certainly untrue.

George Moriarty

George Moriarty

In December of 1911, The Associated Press reported the “Real reason for proposed trading of Moriarty.” The wire service said:

 “A battle royal between George Moriarty and Tyrus Cobb one day late in the season of 1911, is the reason why Detroit now wishes to dispose of the star third sacker.  Moriarty and Cobb started their argument upon the field at Detroit, and followed it up with an angry controversy at the club office.  Finally Cobb grabbed a bat and threatened to hit the big third baseman.  The latter armed himself in a similar manner, and they started to beat each other up.”

Ty Cobb

Ty Cobb

The story said the fight was broken up by teammates, and “Cobb then issued his ultimatum which was that he would not play with the Tigers if Moriarty was on the team, unless Moriarty apologized to him.”

Within days, both players and Tigers management denied that there had been any fight.  Cobb said:

“There has been a lot of talk that Moriarty and I almost had a fight in the clubhouse last season.  George and I are the best of friends.  We roomed together in the spring and were on the friendliest terms throughout the season.  The story that I put it up to (Tigers owner Frank) Navin to sell or trade George is a fabrication.  In the first place I had no grounds for such action, and in the second place I wouldn’t take such a step if I did have.  I wouldn’t put the Detroit club in a compromising position.”

While the story of a fight was told and retold over the next twenty years, Cobb and Moriarty always denied it happened.

The story that is still included in nearly every mention of Moriarty is that as he and Cobb were preparing to fight, Moriarty said “A fellow like you needs a bat to even things up when fighting an Irishman.”

The quote first appeared in a 1932 column by New York World-Telegram sportswriter Joe Williams when, as an American League umpire, Moriarty’s reputation as a fighter was renewed.  The Associated Press said after a double-header sweep by the Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox catcher

Charlie Berry followed the umpire into the runway of the clubhouse, accusing him of ‘missing’ a third strike on Earl Averill just before the Indian broke up the second game with a ninth-inning triple.

“Berry challenged Moriarty to a fight…Milt Gaston, Chicago pitcher, advanced himself.  The umpire felled Gaston…Then Berry, Frank Grube and Lew Fonseca rushed Moriarty, beating him until he was rescued by the Indians.”

In response to mentions of a fight with Cobb in the reports of the 1932 fight, Moriarty renewed his denial of a fight with Cobb, a denial he had also made in 1927 when he replaced Cobb as Detroit manager:

“Say anything else you like about me, but don’t spread the report that Ty and I fought.  We were roommates, and while we may have disagreed we never came to blows.”

Cobb and Moriarity relished their reputations as fighters, the fact that both continued to deny they fought long after it mattered would indicate that they often retold story is more wishful thinking than fact.

One more bit of trivia about Moriarity:  His grandson Michael Moriarty starred as Henry Wiggen in one of the greatest baseball movies, “Bang the Drum Slowly” with Robert De Niro.

Moriarty and De Niro in "Bang the Drum Slowly"

Moriarty and De Niro in “Bang the Drum Slowly”

“Victim of Hoodoo”

4 Feb

In a game filled with stories of superstition, jinxes, “hoodoo,” and general irrationality, the Detroit Tigers seem to be the subject of an out-sized number of such stories during major league baseball’s first four decades.

Tigers’ pitcher George Mullin, whose story I told in October, was one of the most superstitious players in the history of the game, and he was not alone in Detroit.

This story begins in 1904, but took off in 1911, first in the Detroit newspapers and then across the country.  The Headline in The Duluth News-Times said:

“Moriarity (sic) is Victim of Hoodoo that follows Detroit Captains.”

“Moriarity” was George Moriarty, who had been named captain of the Tigers for 1911.  The story said Moriarty was the victim of a “Jinx” that dated back to 1904 when Bobby “Link” Lowe was acquired by the Tigers and named captain:

“His sterling playing qualities and the friendship that all the players had for him, together with his knowledge of baseball brought him the appointment of captain.  Bob got into a slump and Bob did not get out of it.”

Bobby "Link" Lowe

Bobby “Link” Lowe

In 1905, the Tigers named Bill Coughlin captain, the story continued:

“Coughlin, whom everybody liked and who could play ball as well as the majority of them and think faster than most of them… (His) playing started down grade.  Bill bit his fingernails tore out his black wavy hair in bunches, lost sleep and worried several pounds off…Bill never got back to form.”

Bill Coughlin

Bill Coughlin

After Coughlin was replaced at third base by Moriarty in 1909, Detroit manager Hughie Jennings named William Herman “Germany” Schaefer captain for the 1909 season.  The story said of him:

“Herman with his ever penetrating optimism, humor and baseball wisdom …appeared to be the right man in the right place as captain…but Herman’s playing ability decreased to such an extent that Detroit gladly grasped at the chance to trade Schaefer.”

Germany Schaefer

Germany Schaefer

Hughie Jennings was enough of a believer in the jinx, even before it became grist for the newspapers, that after trading Schaefer in August of 1909, he chose not to name a captain for the remainder of the season, or for 1910.  Jennings decided to again name a captain in 1911:

“On the Southern training trip Jennings came to realize the necessity of a field leader… (Moriarty) was cool-headed and had the qualities of a leader…the choice seemed like a good one…But soon after the opening of the season it became apparent that Moriarty caught the hoodoo…The duties of the position have weighted in Moriarty until his playing ability has fallen away below par.”

After the 1911 season, Jennings took the situation seriously enough to again consider eliminating the position of captain.  The Detroit Free Press said, “In all probability the Tigers will have to struggle along without a captain next season,” citing Moriarty’s “Frightfully bad year,” after being named captain.

George Moriarty

George Moriarty

In the end, Moriarty was again captain of the Tigers in 1912 and served in that capacity through 1915.

Like most “jinxes,” there really was no jinx, none of the players performed significantly worse than their career averages except for Lowe—but he was 38-years-old when he was acquired by Detroit in 1904 and had missed most of 1903 with a badly injured knee.

Coughlin had shown great promise with the Washington Senators, hitting .275 and .301 in 1901 and 1902, but by the time he was named Tiger captain in 1905 he had back-to-back seasons of .245 and .255, right around his career .252 average.

Schaefer was a .257 career hitter, and his numbers during his half-season as captain were similar to his career numbers.

Moriarty hit .243 during his season with the captain “hoodoo;” his career average was .251, and most of his 1911 numbers were similar to his performance throughout his career.

More on Moriarty tomorrow.