Tag Archives: George Moriarty

“Byron was more to blame than I was”

19 Apr

After National league umpire Tim Hurst died in 1915, his American League counterpart Billy Evans said in his nationally syndicated column:

“In the passing of Tim Hurst, baseball lost the quaintest character of the diamond. It was believed there would never be another one to approach him., but in Bill Byron baseball has a pocket edition of Timothy Carroll Hurst.

“No more fearless umpire ever held an indicator than Tim Hurst. Bill Byron runs him a close second.”

Evans said before coming to the National League in 1913, Byron was the subject “of many stories of wild minor league riots, in which Bill played the leading role without so much as mussing his hair.”

Fearless was one adjective used about Byron, but there were many others. After the 1911 season, Ed Barrow, president of the Eastern League removed Byron from the league’s staff. The Baltimore Sun said many celebrated the move:

“Byron’s chief fault is his stubbornness, and he, as well, is a bit dictatorial and oversteps his authority on the diamond…For the good of the game–in the face of many prejudices–Barrow has acted wisely in giving him the ‘can.'”

Bill Byron

Known as the “singing Umpire,” Byron’s “little ditties” were so well known that writers like L.C. Davis of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Willian Phelon of The Cincinnati Times-Star both wrote columns suggesting new songs for the umpire.

Davis suggested that when the Cubs Heine Zimmerman argued a call:

Heinie, Heinie, I’ve been thinking,

I don’t want none of your slack;

To the clubhouse you’ll go slinking,

If you make another crack.

Johnny Evers complained to Phelon:

“How can a guy tend to his batting when the umpire’s warbling in his ears?”

John McGraw was Byron’s biggest foil and foe, and Byron had a song for the manager of the New York Giants:

“John McGraw is awful sore

Just listen to Napoleon roar

The crowd is also very mad

They think my work is very bad.”

In 1917, in an often told story, after a game in Cincinnati, the Giants manager landed two punches before he was separated from Byron after an ejection.

McGraw

After the incident, McGraw provided a signed statement admitting to punching Byron, but blaming the incident on the umpire:

“Byron said to me: ‘McGraw, you were run out of Baltimore.”

When the umpire repeated the charge, McGraw said he “hit him. I maintain I was given reason.”

When Byron arrived in St. Louis the day after the incident to work a series between the Cardinals and Phillies, he refused to answer when asked by a reporter from The Philadelphia Inquirer if McGraw had punched him, instead:

“Bill pointed the right hand to the jaw. There was dark clot—which indicated that something landed as early as 20 hours ago.” 

McGraw’s justification for the attack notwithstanding, he was fined $500 and suspended for 16 days.

McGraw responded, claiming to be “discriminated against personally,” by league President John Tener,” and that “Byron was more to blame than I was.”

He said the action taken against him would result in:

“Umpires with Byron’s lack of common intelligence and good sense, will now be so overbearing with players there will be no living with them.”

But the feud had been brewing since the umpire entered the league.

In August of 1914, in a game where the Reds scored five runs in the eighth to beat the Giants 5 to 4, The Cincinnati Enquirer said:

“The character of McGraw was shown by his getting into an insulting ruction with Umpire Byron…He was so angered at losing out that he pelted the official with vicious expletives and delayed the game for several minutes.”

In 1915, Sam Crane, the former player turned baseball writer for The New York Journal, and a close friend of McGraw, chronicled a clash between the two during a September 25 game between the seventh place Giants and sixth place Cardinals in St. Louis:

Byron was being taunted from the New York bench and decided utility infielder Fred Brainard was the culprit and ejected him:

“Brainard (in a startled voice: ‘Who me/ Why, I didn’t open my mouth, did I boys?’

“Chorus of players: ‘No, he didn’t.’

“A mysterious voice from a far corner of the dugout: ‘’Byron, you can’t hear any better than you can see. You’re rotten.’”

At this point, Byron walked to the Giants bench and gave Brainard one minute to leave.

McGraw responded, “You have pulled another boot Byron,” and accused the umpire of once ordering a player off the bench who was coaching at first base, and asked how he knew it was Brainard:

“Umpire Byron (turning pale): ‘I caught Brainard with his mouth open.’”

The Giants bench laughed at the umpire and McGraw accused him of always “guessing” at his decisions.

At this point Crane said Byron, “five minutes after he had given Brainard one minute,” removed his watch from his pocket and again gave Brainard a minute to leave and told McGraw he would be ejected as well. The manager responded:

“Why should I be put out of the game? I haven’t done anything. Neither has Brainard. You’re all tangled up. Do you know the rules? What time is it by that tin timepiece you have got there?”

Byron repeated the order and threatened to forfeit the game to St. Louis. McGraw said:

“Go ahead and forfeit. You will be in very bad if you do. Every one of my players here say Brainard did not say a word. You will be in a nice fix with Tener, won’t you. You will have a fat chance to umpire the world’s series. Go ahead and forfeit the game.”

Byron then summoned three police officers to remove Brainard, but according to Crane, the police sergeant said,” I will have to take the umpire along, too.”

This elicited more laughter from the Giants bench.

Crane’s story ends with McGraw chastising the umpire while finally telling Brainard to go, and Byron returning to homeplate while singing:

“Oh, I don’t know. The multitude and the players are enraged at me; but I gained my point. Oh, I don’t know; I ain’t so bad.”

And the game “then proceeded, and smoothly throughout.”

Crane claimed the whole ordeal took at least 15 minutes.

The Post-Dispatch didn’t mention police, implied that Byron clearly won the encounter, and said, “five minutes were consumed in this senseless argument.”

The paper scolded the umpire for the “bush league trick” of pulling out his watch, but said:

“In time, however, McGraw relented under the threat of a forfeiture, which means a fine of $1000, and Brainard went his way.”

McGraw might have gotten the better of Byron in their 1917 fight in Cincinnati, but in 1915 the umpire “landed twice” on Boston Braves third baseman Red Smith after the game when Smith renewed an earlier argument over balls and strikes September 16 in Chicago. Smith attempted to get at Byron after being hit but was stopped by the other umpire, Al Orth.

Byron and McGraw continued to butt heads and the umpire’s combative style and singing continued to draw attention.

George Moriarty, the Detroit Tigers infielder, turned American League umpire—who also wrote songs—and often included poems about players in the nationally syndicated column he began writing in 1917, said—in part–of Byron:

“It’s wonderful the way you face the throng of maddened players all season long;

While other umps get busted on the bean you pacify the athletes with a song.

You know that music charms the savage beast, and as they rush to stab you in the vest,

And tell you how they’ll tear you limb from limb, you sing like John McCormack at his best.”

More on Byron Wednesday.

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things, Bats

22 Jan

A New Bat

In 1906, The Chicago Daily News said:

 “The inventive genius of Americans finds its opportunities here and pitching machines and other contrivances are from time to time being brought forth and seeking to enlist the interest and endorsement of the professional and amateur players of the game.”

To that end, a Chicago man had made his contribution:

“The latest invention is that of a bat, the striking part of which has a covering composed of an inner layer of cloth cemented to the bat and an otter layer of rubber corrugated length wise.”

newbat

The Bat

The bat appears to have never been written about again.

Crawford’s Bat Sense

Tigers infielder turned umpire and writer George Moriarty said in 1926, that his former teammate Sam Crawford “was known among ballplayers as the best judge of a piece of wood,” in baseball.

moriarty

George Moriarty

Moriarty said players always asked Crawford’s opinion because “on site,” or sound, he could pick out a good bat:

“Claude Rossman (in 1908) then playing first base for Detroit, had just smashed a vicious drive to the outfield, and through his bat to the ground, saying ‘Boys, that’s some stick.’ Crawford, standing close by, heard the bat strike the ground, and remarked that it was cracked under the tape. To the other players the bat gave no evidence of having a defect when it hit the earth and, consequently, they thought that for once Sam was wrong.

“Rossman had used that bat for years, and the black tape around the handle appeared cemented to the bat from the constant use and the exposure to the sun.”

samcrawford

Sam Crawford

Rossman, said Moriarty, cut the tape off the bat to verify whether Crawford or his teammates were correct

“The result showed that Wahoo Sam was still supreme in his judgment of bats, as the club was cracked in four separate places under the tape.”

Reach Bats 1884

Al Reach, the National Association ballplayer turned sporting goods magnate told The Philadelphia Record in 1884 that it was already difficult for manufacturers to get enough material:

alreach2

Al Reach

“We can’t get enough of the wood we want for making baseball bats. The second growth of ash is the best, and that is hard to get. It comes from Wisconsin and Michigan and should lay a year to season after being out before it is used. To kiln-dry it makes the bats brittle. Our Red Band bats are made of the second growth of ash, and they have become very popular, although we turned out the first lot only last summer. There are two other styles of bats—the professional ash which was popular with professional players before the Red Band came out and the American Willow (really basswood) which sells best in country towns and goes in company with the cheaper class of bats.”

reachredband

Reach Red Band

Reach said, overall, the company turned out “between 600 and 900 gross” the previous year, or between 86,400 and 129,600 bats.

 

“Probably the Best Known bad man”

10 Apr

In 1908, Malcolm Wallace Bingay, the long-time writer for The Detroit News told of the “nervy ballplayers,” who were tough on the field but afraid of a “personal encounter,” while, ”There are some quiet ball players who play an ordinary game on the field who, when occasion demands, can show gamesmanship tom a degree that would surprise the average follower of the fighting business.”

Bingay named the current toughest man in baseball:

“Big John Anderson, now with Comiskey’s White Sox, as handsome a figure as there is in baseball, could, if he but cared, hold his own with most of the wrestlers in America. Not only this, but the big Swede, although naturally quiet, when thoroughly aroused, can put up a terrific battle. Among ball players he is probably the most respected man in the league when it comes to a personal mix-up. Anderson is a clever boxer, has a wicked punch in either hand and doesn’t seem to know what pain is when angry.

“Anderson is a physical culture crank. He is probably the most ideally built man in baseball. The grace with which he carries himself on the diamond is only brought out more clearly when he is boxing. And John doesn’t stop with the gloves. He is as wicked a rough-and-tumble fighter as one would care to run across.”

johnanderson

John Anderson

George Moriarty—then with the New York Highlanders—was, according to Bingay, “another bad man to bother.” Bingay said in 1907 in Chicago:

“(A) big fellow came from the bleachers. He hit the Yankee on the jaw and sent him staggering against the fence.

“’Moriarty seemed to come back like a piece of rubber,’ says (New York catcher) Ira Thomas, who saw the battle. ‘The fellow was far bigger than he, but Moriarty didn’t seem to care. Before the mob could get to him he had the man from the bleachers helpless.”

moriarty

George Moriarty

Thomas said the New York players were concerned about getting Moriarty out of the ballpark past the large throng of White Sox fans, until the fans realized it was a Chicago native involved in the fight:

“’Going from the grounds there was fear of a riot, and about 200 big men were lined up near the gates as we passed out.’

‘”Is George Moriarty there/’ the leader yelled to me.’

“’He is,’ I said, ‘expecting a fight.’

“’Well, tell him that we’re from the South Side and don’t go back on the boys who come from here. Tell him we’ll fight for him if he needs help.’”

But, said Bingay:

“Probably the best-known bad man, when he wants to ne, in baseball is Bill (Kid) Gleason.”

Gleason was just 5’ 8” and weighed 160 pounds, but Bingay said he was “the biggest little man that ever stood in shoe leather.”

Kid_Gleason

Kid Gleason

Despite his size:

“He has the strength of a giant and is as agile as a wild cat. Bill was the man who kept Kid Elberfeld playing good ball around Detroit. When the Kid wouldn’t behave himself, Bill would take him out back of the clubhouse and give him a thrashing.”

Jimmy Williams, the St. Louis Browns infielder, was, according to Bingay, “as quiet as any of them and yet he is as wicked a man when crossed as there is.”

Tigers pitcher Bill Donovan told Bingay a story about Williams when the two played together on the “all-American” team that barnstormed the West Coast during the off-season.  There was a fan in one town who “was a giant in strength, always in an ugly mood, and always hunting for trouble.”

Donovan said:

“’Now Jimmy wasn’t hunting for trouble, understand. He was minding his own business when this chap got gay. Williams knew of his reputation but never hesitated. He gave the big duffer such a whipping that he begged for mercy. After that anybody in town could chase the bully up an alley. The citizens warmly thanked Jimmy for what he had done.’”

Bingay said the manager of the Tigers, was the opposite of the quiet players on the field who had no problem throwing a few punches:

“No man ever displayed more nerve on the ball field than Hughie Jennings, who for years was a league sensation. Yet, Jennings never had a fight in his life. He’s as peaceful as a Quaker off the field.”

“I am a Perfectly Harmless House-Cat Sort”

11 Mar

In 1914, an “as told to” story about Ty Cobb appeared in the magazine section of several Sunday papers which were part of The Associated Sunday Magazines syndicate.

The writer, Edward Lyell Fox, was one of the most famous journalists of the decade, but just four years later his career ended in scandal.  Fox was sent to Germany to cover the war for the Hearst newspapers, but in 1918 he was accused of writing “propaganda stories” for the German government—Fox’ career was ruined, and he was the subject of Congressional hearings, although the charges were never substantiated.

fox.jpg

Fox

Some of the stories from the Fox piece appear in the rare 1914 book “Bustin’ ‘em” “by” Cobb, although Fox is not credited.

Cobb told Fox:

“I think I have more trouble with crowds than any other ballplayer. This is due to the fact that when I broke into the big leagues, I was pretty young and had a tempter that was too quick for my own good.  Only in later years have I successfully curbed it.  But the crowds remember those flare ups of the past. Then my manner on the field is aggressive. It’s part of my game.  I couldn’t play ball if I didn’t feel aggressive. But I think that anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a perfectly harmless, mild-mannered, house-cat sort of individual off the field.”

cobb

Cobb

Cobb then told Fox about an experience with a hostile fan in Cleveland:

“I slid into third base ‘riding high,’ with spikes aglimmer.  I did this purposely; for (Ivy) Olson, the Cleveland baseman, had been blocking runners. I wanted to scare him.  He saw the spikes and kept out of the way thereafter.

‘”I guess I will call it off, Ty,’ he said, and grinned.  There was no hard feeling between us.  It was all in the game.”

One Indians fan did agree with Olson that there we no hard feelings.

“Behind the (Tigers) bench was a man with the voice of monstrous bullfrog. Every time there was a lull in the uproar of the park his voice would croak, ‘Dirty work! Dirty work, Cobb! I’ll get you after the game! Look out for me at the players’ gate!’

“Well he kept after me all the afternoon and began to get on my nerves.  Finally, I shouted back something in his general direction.  I couldn’t see who he was; but I concluded he must be as big as a house; possibly a pugilist.  The game over, some of the players offered to go out the gate with me.  If there was going to be an attack, they wanted to see that I got a square deal. As we passed through the gate I heard the bullfrog voice, only now if was very friendly.  It said

“’Hello, Ty! How are you?’

“I looked around, and saw an amazing sight.  That voice was coming from a man who looked five feet high and didn’t weigh a hundred pound.

‘That’s the fellow who was going to beat you up, Ty,’ said (George) Moriarty. Well, the players gave me the laugh on that thing for a couple of days.”

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.