Tag Archives: George Tebeau

“The Town seems to be for the Most Part Against the Home Team”

31 Jul

In Early May, on his way to horrible 45-87, 11th place finish in 1894, Washington Senators manager Gus Schmelz told The Washington Star he knew who was to blame:

“This capital of the United States of America is possessed of less pride regarding the national game than any other city in the country. The town seems to be for the most part against the home team, while in every other place the situation is just the reverse.”

schmelz

Schmelz

Schmelz said it was “hard enough” to build a winning team with “the solid support” of local fans:

“Every man in the profession understands the difficulty of playing in Washington, and it is an undisputed fact that if a good player should be released by a club at the present time, he would prefer signing with any other team in the league than the local one. It is almost impossible for our organization to secure the services of a good man.”

Schmelz said it wasn’t just the fans who were against his club:

“Umpires, as a general rule, in other cities give close decisions in favor of the home club, but here they seem to think they will be backed up for doing otherwise.”

He said the fans were so against his club, that in a game with the Grooms on May 1:

“Another sample of animosity was displayed when the ball rolled under the gate in Tuesday’s game. Somebody opened the gate and aided the Brooklyn player to quickly field the sphere.”

Bill Hassamaer was held to a single on the play; in that same game, with a 2 to 1 lead in sixth inning, umpire Billy Stage called Brooklyn’s Dave Foutz safe on a close play at first—Washington players led by team captain Bill “Scrappy” Joyce and George Tebeau “kicked determinedly”  resulting in a forfeit of the game to Brooklyn.

Schmelz said the fans also had a lack of appreciation for Joyce:

“Washington has been howling for years and years because its ball club has not had a wide-wake captain, but now that it has one who is not afraid to stand up for the interests of the team the cry is on the other side. In my opinion, Joyce has done no more kicking than was justified, and every objection made by him was the result of the most intense provocation.”

scrappybill_kindlephoto-184054893

Scrappy Bill Joyce

And of course, he blamed the press:

“Then there are certain newspaper correspondents, who, after accepting the hospitality of the club, take delight in sending dispatches to their papers utterly false and derogatory to the Washingtons.”

As an example he cited a story The Star carried in April when The New York Giants were in town; Schmelz said it “contained not a word of truth” and was “meant to injure” Senators owner J. Earl Wagner:

“There are some close-fisted people in every line of business. If all reports are true, the baseball profession has a few in the vicinity of the capital city. When manager (John Montgomery) Ward took his men out to the Washington Park the other morning for practice that President Wagner telegraphed from Philadelphia telling them they could not use the Washington grounds. This is very mean treatment, especially as the New York club gave Wagner $7,500 a few weeks ago for a $750 battery.”

 

Wagner, like Schmelz, denied the story. The “$750 battery” was Jouett Meekin and Duke Farrell—sent to New York in February for Jack McMahon, Charlie Petty, and $7,500.

While not presenting an alternate scenario, Schmelz said when the newspapers reported that Joyce and other Washington players “dared Mr. Stage” to award the forfeited game to Brooklyn that idea “originated in the mind” of a  writer.

He also had a problem with the way The Star  was “abusing the management” of the Senators when they did not provide refunds for the 1,700 fans at the forfeited game:

“(O)ur men were on the field and ready and anxious to continue play. Those people (in the press) do more to injure the sport than anything else I know of.”

Schmelz had a final message for the fans:

“We are using every endeavor to give Washington a winning ball club, but that will be impossible unless we receive the same loyal support from the patrons that is such a prominent feature elsewhere and is so utterly lacking here.”

The Senators finished 45-87 in 1894; Schmelz managed the team until June 7, 1897, Washington was 155-270 during his tenure.

“The “$750-dollar battery” were probably worth their actual $7,500 price tag. Farrell appeared in 116 games, hit .287 and drove in 70 runs, and Meekin was 33-9 with a 3.70 ERA for the second place Giants.

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up other Things #11

22 Sep

Floto on Baseball’s Most Powerful Men

Otto Clement Floto was one of the more colorful sportswriters of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century’s.  The Denver Post’s Woody Paige said of the man who was once worked for that paper:

“In the early 1900s Floto was The Denver Post’s sports editor and a drunk, barely literate, loud-mouthed columnist–sounds like a description of that guy in my mirror–who didn’t believe in punctuation marks, wrote about fights he secretly promoted on the side, got into shouting matches with legendary Wild West gunman–turned Denver sportswriter–Bat Masterson.”

Otto Floto

Otto Floto

Floto, in 1910, provided readers of The Post with his unvarnished opinion of baseball’s most powerful figures:

John T. Brush—The smartest man in baseball, but vindictive.

Garry Herrmann—Smart, but no backbone; the last man to him has him.

Ban Johnson—Bluffs a great deal and makes it stick.  Likes to talk.

Charles Comiskey—Shrewd as can be.

Connie Mack—Shrewd and clever; knows the game better than anyone.

Charles Murphy—A hard fighter, but backs up at times.

George Tebeau—More nerve than any other man in baseball, very shrewd.

Barney Dreyfus—Smart, but always following, never leading.

As for John McGraw, Floto allowed that the Giants’ manager was “Pretty wise,” but attributed his success to the fact that he “has lots of money to work worth.”

Too Much Money for Players, 1884

The Cleveland Herald was not happy when pitcher Jim McCormick jumped his contract with the Cleveland Blues in the National League to the Union Association’s Cincinnati franchise.  Although teammates Jack Glasscock and Charles “Fatty” Briody also jumped to Cincinnati, the paper saved most their anger for the first big leaguer to have been born in Scotland.

Jim McCormick

Jim McCormick

The paper noted that McCormick, who was paid $2500 by the Blues, had received a $1,000 bonus to jump:

“(A) total of $3,500 for joining the Cincinnati Unions to play the remainder of the season.  This is equal to $1750 a month, which again divided makes $437.50 a week.  Now McCormick will not play oftener than three times a week which makes his wages $145.83 per day for working days.  The game will average about two hours each, so that he receives for his actual work no less than $72.91 an hour, or over $1.21 a minute for work done.  If he was not playing ball he would probably be tending bar in some saloon at $12 a week.”

McCormick was 21-3 with a 1.54 ERA in 24 games and helped pitch the “Outlaw Reds” to a second place finish in the struggling Union Association.  After the Association collapsed was assigned to the Providence Grays, then was sold to the Chicago White Stockings.  From July of 1885 through the 1886 season McCormick was teamed with his boyhood friend Mike “King” Kelly—the two grew up together in Paterson, New Jersey and were dubbed “the Jersey Battery” by the Chicago press—and posted a 51-15 record during the season and a half in Chicago, including a run of 16 straight wins in ‘86.

He ended his career with a 265-214 record and returned home to run his bar.  In 1912 John McGraw was quoted in The Sporting Life calling McCormick “the greatest pitcher of his day.”

The pitcher who The Herald said would otherwise be a $12 a week bartender also used some of the money he made jumping from Cleveland in 1884 the following year to purchase a tavern in Paterson.

Not Enough Money for Owners, 1885

In 1885 J. Edward “Ned” Allen was president of the defending National League Champions –and winners of baseball’s first World Series—the Providence Grays.  He told The New York Sun that baseball was no longer a profitable proposition:

“The time was when a man who put his money into a club was quite sure of coming out more or less ahead, but that is past.  When the National League had control of all the best players in the country a few years ago, and had no opposition, salaries were low, and a player who received $1,500 for his season’s work did well.  In 1881, when the American Association was organized in opposition to the league, the players’ salaries at once began to go up, as each side tried to outbid the other.  When the two organizations formed what is known as the National Agreement the clubs retained their players at the same salaries.

“Several other associations were then organized in different parts of the country and were admitted under the protection of the National Agreement.   This served to make good ball-players, especially pitchers, scarce, and forced salaries up still higher, until at the present time a first-class pitcher will not look at a manager for less than $3,500 for a season.  (“Old Hoss”) Radbourn of last year’s Providence Club received the largest amount of money that has ever been paid to a ball-player.  His wonderful pitching, which won the championship for the club, cost about $5,000 (Baseball Reference says Radbourn earned between $2,800 and $3,000 in 1884), as did the work of two pitchers and received the pay of two.

The Providence Grays--Champions and unprofitable

The Providence Grays–Champions and unprofitable

“Some of the salaries which base-ball players will get next season are; (Jim) O’Rourke, (Joe) Gerhardt, (Buck) Ewing and (John Montgomery) Ward of the New York Club, $3,000 each.  (Tony) Mullane was to have played for the Cincinnati Club for $4,000 (Mullane was suspended for signing with Cincinnati after first agreeing to a contract with the St. Louis Browns).  (Fred) Dunlap has a contract with the new League club in St. Louis for $3,400.  These are only a few of the higher prices paid, while the number of men who get from $2,000 to $3,000 is large.  At these prices a club with a team costing only from $15,000 to $20,000 is lucky, but it has not much chance of winning a championship.  To this expense must be added the ground rent, the salaries of gate-keepers, and the traveling expenses, which will be as much more.

“As a high-priced club the New York Gothams leads, while the (New York) Metropolitans are nearly as expensive.  The income of these two clubs last year was nearly $130,000, yet the Metropolitans lost money and the New York Club (Gothams) was only a little ahead.  The first year the Metropolitans were in the field(1883) their salary list was light, as were their traveling expenses, and at the end of the season they were $50,000 ahead.”

The Grays disbanded after the 1885 season.

“The Poet-Pitcher”

17 Sep

Edward Benninghaus Kenna came from a prominent West Virginia Family; his father, John Edward Kenna was a United States Senator.  Another West Virginia Senator, William Edwin Chilton was often referred to as Kenna’s uncle—he was his father’s former law partner and best friend, but they were not related.

Edward B. Kenna, circa 1900

Edward B. Kenna,1900

He was, according to The Kansas City Star:

“(A)n unusually well-educated young man,.  He spent four years at Mount St. Mary’s College and was graduated there in 1898.  His post graduate course of one year was taken at Georgetown University, and the following three years he spent at West Virginia University, studying law.”

Kenna played football and baseball at all three schools—and coached both sports at Richmond College in 1900, the same season he made his professional debut with the Toledo Mud Hens in the Interstate League.

He was also a poet who had two anthologies of his poems published and was later the editor of The Charleston Gazette.  While most current sources say his nickname was “The Pitching Poet,” during his lifetime he was nearly always referred to by the slightly less lyrical “The Poet-Pitcher.”

Despite his education, and pedigree, The Star said:

“Seeing Kenna on the ball field one would not think that he was the possessor of so many distinctions.  He does not attempt to hold himself aloof from his teammates, but on the contrary is one of the most energetic (players) in the pursuit of victory and when not in the pitcher’s box is on the coacher’s line haranguing the opposing players and urging the members of his own team to their best efforts.  Coaching is one of his hobbies and he is particularly successful at this line of work.  He finds special enjoyment in ‘kidding’ the bleacher element…He says that base ball is not an uplifting pursuit either morally or intellectually, but is an enjoyable one.”

He pitched two games in the major leagues—with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1902–but said the two most interesting games of his career were back-to-back starts in 1904 while he was a member of the Denver Grizzlies in the Western League.

When Kenna joined the Louisville Colonels in the following season, The Louisville Times told the story of the games—both against the Des Moines Prohibitionists:

“(He) was touched up for nineteen safe hits, and yet his opponents failed to get a runner over the pan.  In one inning he was hit for a triple, a double and three singles, and still his opponents failed to get a man home.

“The first batter up hit for a triple, but was nailed trying to stretch it into a homer.  The next man doubled down the left field line, but was afterward caught off second by the poet.  The next three batters hit safely, and then Kenna got down to work and fanned the next batter with the bases full.

“Two days later Kenna was sent in against the same team.  For eight innings he did great work (allowing no hits) and his teammates made but one error.  He had perfect control and during this period gave only one base on balls.  The Denver team managed to get one runner across the pan, which looked as good as a hundred when the ninth inning was about to close.  The bard fanned the first two batter, but the third reached first on a fluke (a second error).  Then (Bob) Ganley, who is now with Pittsburgh, stepped to the plate and drove out a home run, which won the game.  Only one hit was made off his delivery, and yet Kenna lost the contest by one score.”

He was 16-13 for the Colonels in 1905 when, on September 1, he and seven other members of the team were injured in Kansas City when an electric trolley car crashed into the wagon they were riding  to the ballpark.  Kenna was the most seriously injured, and  reportedly suffered broken bones in his right (pitching) hand, a fractured left arm, a concussion, broken nose and an eye injury.  The Kansas City Star said he was listed in serious condition at a local hospital.  Despite the extent of his injuries—which ended his season– Kenna sent a telegram to family members in Washington D.C., saying simply

“Nothing serious; strained arm.  Don’t worry.  Ed.”

He never fully recovered.  He returned to Louisville in 1906, and struggled, finishing the season 12-21, but he hit .325 in 166 at bats.  Given his new found success as a hitter—his best previously recorded average was .225—Kenna decided he was through as a pitcher:

The Louisville Times said:

“Kenna announces that from now on he will be an outfielder, and he hopes (team President George) Tebeau will play him in right field on the Louisville team next season.  Kenna is simply tired of pitching.”

The Colonels accommodated him, but he struggled at the plate and was released in July after hitting just .143.

Edward Kenna, circa 1910

Edward Kenna, circa 1910

Kenna returned to West Virginia, newspapers, and poetry.  About the time his book “Songs of the Open Air, and Other Poems” was published in early 1912, he left his job at the paper, and went to Florida to attempt to recover from what was described simply as “a heart condition.”  He died in Florida on March 22.

Sporting Life said of the thirty four-year-old’s funeral in Charleston:

“(It) was one of the largest ever seen here.  All races and creeds showed their deep grief for this beloved man.”

Kenna’s younger brother John Edward Kenna Jr. was also a right-handed pitcher; he was 15-6 for the Chattanooga Lookouts in the South Atlantic League in 1909 and 7-7 with the Worcester Busters in the New England League in 1910—also born in Charleston on January 6, 1883, he died there on May 5, 1956.