Tag Archives: George Wright

Nearly a Century before his Time

22 Oct

Baseball’s Reserve Clause was first instituted in September of 1879; the eight National League clubs agreed at a meeting in Buffalo, New York, that each team would be able to “reserve” five players for the following season.

In August of 1880, as it appeared the league would renew the agreement, Oliver Perry “O.P.” Caylor of The Cincinnati Enquirer wrote a scathing article about the practice; one that could have been written 10 years later by John Montgomery Ward during the creation of the Players League, or almost 90 years later by Curt Flood.

opcaylor11

O.P. Caylor

“It has frequently been urged in these columns that the so-called Buffalo agreement made by the league clubs last year…was a gross outrage and unworthy of the organization.  We did not believe until recently that the league would have gall enough to enact the disgrace.  But already there is log-rolling going on to bring it into existence for next season.”

Caylor said the only way to defeat the “five-men fraud” was for the players to stand up against it.

“What right has the league to say to any player where he shall play ball next year?  The days of slavery are over.  This system of Ku-Kluxism in ball-playing ought to be quashed.  A ballplayer has no better right than to place a price on his services in Cincinnati, and another for his services in Chicago.  It may be that he would rather play in Chicago for $100 less than in Cincinnati, or vice versa.  Let him name his price for each place.  Let the city which considers him worth the salary asked pay for it.  If he asks too much; that city need not engage him.  No man with common business sense would engage a clerk at a salary he could not earn”

Caylor did seem to miss the point that several owners did lack “common business sense” and that the Reserve Clause was instituted in large part to protect them from themselves.  He also overestimated the resolve of players to exercise their influence.

“It is time such outrageous policy was ended.  If the league will not do it, the players must.  It is a poor rule that will not work both ways.  Let the players then anticipate the fraud, and meet it half way.  Let every league player sign a solemn agreement with every other league player not to play ball next season for any club that shall attempt to coerce players in this manner.  The players command the field.  Clubs cannot do without them; but they can do without clubs.  If the league intends to repeat the fraud, it should deserve to have its existence ended.  Such men as George Wright, Jim (Deacon) White and John Clapp cannot afford to be driven out of the profession by such repeated outrages.  If the players, or, at least, the better part of them, will but demand their rights as men—freemen—they can have them.  If they go on supremely careless and do nothing until forty of them are under the yoke of despotism, they will richly deserve all that they suffer by it.  This is the time to act.  We warn players that the log is already rolling which is intended to pin them down again under the dictation of a despotic power.”

“Chicago has been Successful in her Efforts to Wrest the Base Ball Supremacy from Cincinnati”

26 Aug

In 1916 Jimmy Wood recounted his greatest triumph, his Chicago White Stockings’ two victories over the Cincinnati Red Stockings.

“When we went to Cincinnati for that first game even our most loyal rooters were pessimistic.  It was not that they lacked confidence in our ability, but because they feared we would be ‘jobbed’ by some Cincinnati umpire, or menaced so by the rowdy crowds that we wouldn’t play our real game because of fear of violence if we should win.”

Most of the doubts in Chicago had disappeared.  Even The Chicago Tribune, which pronounced the team a failure before Wood and Tom Foley had completed putting it together and remained critical through their early struggles, allowed that the game was “liable to be a close one.”

The White Stockings would benefit from the injury to Red Stockings shortstop George Wright; and contrary to Wood’s recollection, they also benefitted from the selection of the umpire.

Wood’s 1916 account told a far-fetched story of the selection of the game’s umpire:

“Just before the game we made an announcement to the stands that we wanted some spectators to umpire the game for us—and that Cincinnati and Chicago residents were barred.  From out of the stands, after a long delay, stepped a salesman, named Milligan, from Philadelphia.  He convinced us quickly that he was thoroughly conversant with the game, and he was named an umpire.”

William Milligan might have been a salesman, but he was also a former member of the West Philadelphia Club amateur baseball team with whom Chicago outfielder Ned Cuthbert played briefly in 1867.  The Cincinnati press also discovered that he had traveled to Cincinnati with the White Stockings and stayed with them at the Gibson House Hotel.

The Cincinnati Gazette said of Milligan:

“The umpire was doubtless a very nice sort of man, but he knew precious little of base ball.  His decisions were given in a weak and faltering voice and after much hesitation, and we hardly think Captain Harry Wright could have made a worse selection.”

Wood cast the umpire in a much different light:

“Milligan was of an heroic mold.  He umpired that game fairly and squarely as he saw it.  He played no favorites.”

The Gazette also noted George Wright’s absence as “a serious drawback upon the nine, and they do not now play with the vim and energy usual to them when the King is present at short field.”  Despite that, the paper did give some credit to Wood’s club:

“The Chicago nine could not have been in better condition for a grand trial of skill with the famous Cincinnatis than they were yesterday.”

George Wright, Red Stockings shortstop missed the first game

George Wright, Red Stockings shortstop missed the first game

The White Stockings won the game 10-6 leaving; The Gazette said the “The base ball public of Cincinnati will feel deeply humiliated,” by the loss.

The New York Times said as a result of the victory Chicago was experiencing “the warmest expressions of delight, the more so, as no one anticipated it.”

The Chicago Tribune’s headline and sub headline were less subdued:

WHITE ABOVE THE RED

 The Redoubtable Red Stockings Defeated by Chicago’s $18,000 Nine. When the Garden City Sets Out to Do a Thing, She Does it. It Took Money      to Accomplish the Business, but it is Done.

Jimmy Wood

Jimmy Wood

Wood said in his questionable 1916 account that after the victory his team barely escaped the fans:

“Immediately after the game was over the crowd swarmed upon the field, intent upon wreaking vengeance upon us.  I had anticipated this move and instructed my players for a quick get-away.  When the last out was made we dashed for the exits and jumped into our carriages.  As we ran across the field many of us were struck with stones and bottles.”

After the White Stockings made their escape—allegedly with umpire Milligan joining them for the return trip—back to Chicago where Wood said “we were given a greeting unlike any ever accorded ball players before.”

The following month the rematch was played at Chicago’s Dexter Park.

Wood claimed in 1916:

“Before the game began, 27,000 admissions at $1 each had been sold, with another 25,000 in a wild scramble for tickets…The paid admission for the game was 27,000; the ‘free admissions’ went well beyond 25,000, making a 52,000 crowd within the park when the call ‘play ball’ sounded.”

According to every contemporary report of the game the attendance was around 15,000 (The Chicago Tribune said it was 18,000), still an incredible crowd for 1870, but far less than Wood’s memory.  The Cincinnati Commercial also observed that “Not more than 500 ladies were present.”

For this game the mutually agreed upon umpire was Brooklyn Atlantics catcher Bob (the other“Death to Flying Things”) Ferguson.

Umpire Bob Ferguson

Umpire Bob Ferguson

In recounting the game in 1916, once again Wood’s recollections were far from accurate, but reporter and “baseball historian” Frank G. Menke did nothing to verify Wood’s memories:

“Things broke badly for us in the early innings.  An error or two on the part of my boys, mixed with several long hits by the Red Stockings, gave them a lead of five runs.  Later on they increased it and when the seventh inning was ended the score stood 11 to 2 in favor of the Cincinnati club.”

Actually, Chicago scored one run in the first inning, Cincinnati tied it in the third, the red Stockings scored four in the sixth and the White Stockings added one in the seventh; making the score 5 to 2 at the end of seven.  The White Stockings scored 14 runs in the last two innings and won 16 to 13.

The Chicago Republican said:

“From first to last the game was one of the finest ever seen in the country…Up to the end of the fifth inning not a point was lost on either side, and even then the increase in the scores was rather the effect of an increase in the strength of the batting than the result of errors.”

The Chicago Tribune said:

“It has been done again; this time in a manner which leaves no doubt as to whether Chicago has been successful in her efforts to wrest the base ball supremacy from Cincinnati.”

Of course the newspapers in the two towns viewed the performance of the umpire differently.

Chicago’s take, from The Republican:

“Of the umpire, Mr. Ferguson, too much cannot be said in praise…he presented one of the best specimens of an umpire ever seen.  It is sufficient, perhaps, to say, that neither side questioned one of his decisions.”

And Cincinnati’s from The Gazette:

“The umpire was against us, the weather was against us, the crowd was against us, the heavens were against us, the ground was against us, the pestilential air of the Chicago River was against us, the Chicago nine were against us, and last, but not least, the score was against us.”

However, The Cincinnati Commercial did praise Ferguson, saying he “umpired the game superbly.”

Wood and Tom Foley had achieved their goal in organizing the White Stockings; they had defeated Harry Wright’s Red Stockings.  They were named “champions” of the National Association of Base Ball Players that year (in a disputed decision—and a story for another day).

After his baseball career ended in 1875 Wood went into various business ventures in Chicago.  In 1891 he bought a tavern on Dearborn Street with another famous Chicago ballplayer, New Williamson—the two remained partners in the business until Williamson’s death in 1894.  Wood eventually settled in New Orleans, he died while on a trip to San Francisco in 1927.

Foley, remained well-known in Chicago for his connection with baseball, but became even better known for his role in popularizing billiards.  The Associated Press called him “the father of base ball and billiards in the west,” in his 1926 obituary, and said Foley was:

“Promoter of the first amateur billiard tournament in the country, Foley made a significant contribution to the game when he was a prominent member of the committee which in 1882 formulated the balk line form of play.  He was himself an expert cueist and held the Illinois championship for two years.”

Tom Foley "King of base ball and billiards in the west"

Tom Foley “King of base ball and billiards in the west”

More more bit of billiard trivia about Foley.  In 1897 The New York Times reported that he had opened the first “Billiard parlor for women,: when he created a “ladies annex” to his new pool hall in Chicago:

“Foley has a friend who likes billiards and also likes his wife, but refuses to buy a billiard table for his better half.  He told Foley about it the other day, and Foley after a little thought determined to test the scheme which he now announces.”

“To be Hissed and Hooted at in the East is too much”

20 Jun

In 1886  Thomas Jefferson “Tom” York retired after a fifteen-year career.   As a 20-year-old he joined the Troy Haymakers in the National Association in 1871, he was with the Hartford Dark Blues for the National League’s inaugural season in 1876, and finished with the Baltimore Orioles in the American Association; he also served two brief stints as a player/manager with the Providence Grays.

York, who suffered from rheumatism, had considered retiring before the 1894 season after the Cleveland Blues sold him to the Orioles, but The Baltimore American said he was induced to continue playing with a $5000 salary and “the scorecard and cushion (concession)” at Oriole Park.  After hitting just .233 in 1884, he was only able to play in 22 games the following season before calling it quits.

Tom York, middle row, far right, with the 1876 Hartford Dark Blues

Tom York, middle row, far right, with the 1876 Hartford Dark Blues

Just before the beginning of the 1886 season York was hired as an American Association umpire.  After the May 22 game in Baltimore which the Orioles lost 2-1 to the Louisville Colonels, The Baltimore Sun said:

“(York) received a dispatch yesterday ordering him to Brooklyn.  Instead of going he telegraphed his resignation.  His reason for doing so was the abuse he received from some of the spectators of Saturday’s game.  In fact, he was nearly equal to that of John Kelly, ‘the king of umpires.’  He declared (Pete) Browning’s hit near the foul line a fair hit.  He was in the best position to know, but, as it was made at a critical point, some of the audience objected, and York came in for pretty severe abuse.”

The paper said York also made a “questionable decision,” when he “evidently forgot that it was not necessary to touch a runner in a force,” and incorrectly called a runner safe at second:

“York became discouraged and the Association lost a good umpire.”

Within weeks York became a National League umpire; that didn’t last long either.

On June 30, the Kansas City Cowboys lost at home to the New York Giants 11-5, The Chicago Inter Ocean said York “was escorted from the grounds by the police on account of disapproval manifested over his umpiring.”

Less than a month later, after York was “roundly hissed” at the Polo Grounds after making “some very close decisions against the New Yorks,” in a July 22 game against the Philadelphia Quakers, he sent a telegram to National League President Nicholas Young resigning his position.  York told The New York Times:

“I have been badly treated in the West, but to be hissed and hooted at in the East is too much.  I have often heard that an umpire’s position was a thankless one, but I have never realized it before.  It’s bad enough to be hissed and called a thief, but in the West when the local club loses an umpire in fortunate if he escapes with his life.  Of all the cities in the league Kansas City is the worst.”

York said there was another incident Kansas City the day before he was escorted from the field by police:

“On June 29 when the New York men beat the Cowboys 3 to 2 (William “Mox”) McQuery hit a ball over the fence, but it was foul by 25 feet, and I declared it so.  After the game Vice President (Americus) McKim, of the Kansas City club wanted to know how much money I would get from the New Yorks fir That decision.  I remarked that I received my salary from the league and did not take a penny from the New Yorks or any other none.  Then he grew furious, and said he would end my days.  This in conjunction with other things incidental to the life of an umpire has made me tired of the business, and I intend to make room for some other victim.”

Despite quitting both leagues within two months, The Baltimore American said the American Association sent York a telegram in two months later “asking him if he wanted an appointment as umpire.”  The paper said “York replied no, emphatically, as his past experience was sufficient to justify his remaining at home.”

York remained at home for the rest of the season and the next, but while he never worked as an umpire again he returned to baseball in 1888 as manager of the Albany Governors in the International Association.  Over the next decade he was connected with several East Coast minor leagues, including the Connecticut State League, the New York State League and the Eastern Association, as a manager and executive.

York retired to New York where he became one of the many former players employed at the Polo Grounds at the behest of manager John McGraw.  In 1922 The New York Telegraph described his position:

“York has the pleasant post of trying to keep the actors, tonsorial artists and plumbers out of the press stand.  It is old tom who examines your pink paste board and decides whether you are eligible for a seat in the press cage.”

Tom York, 1922

Tom York, 1922

In February of 1936, as preparations were being made for York, along with James “Deacon” White, George Wright, Tommy Bond,  to be honored that summer at the  All-Star Game  as the last four surviving players from the National League’s first season, the former player, manager, executive and umpire died in New York.

1876 Salaries

14 May

In July of 1876, The Brooklyn Argus published the salaries of the two highest paid teams in the newly formed National League; many of these have never appeared in any of the collections of early baseball salaries.

According to the article, the highest paid player was Chicago White Stockings pitcher Albert Goodwill Spalding who “as pitcher and manager, receives $3,000 for the year, with $1,000 bonus for producing the secession from the Hub (Boston) to Chicago.”  (The 1950 book “100 Years of Baseball,” by Lee Allen said Spalding earned $3,500 and a $500 bonus for the season).

A.G. Spalding, highest paid in National League

A.G. Spalding, highest paid in National League

The three players Spalding brought with him from the Boston Red Stockings in the National Association, Catcher James “Deacon” White, first baseman Cal McVey and second baseman Ross Barnes were all paid $2,500.  The two players signed away from the Philadelphia Athletics, third baseman Adrian “Cap” Anson and outfielder Bob Addy received $2,200 and $1,500 respectively.

Outfielder Paul Hines earned 1.800, utility player Fred Andrus was paid 1,000, and the remaining members of the first National League Champions, shortstop John Peters and outfielders John Glenn and Oscar Bielaski were made $1500 each.

Chicago White Stockings, 1876 National League Champions--and highest salaried team.

Chicago White Stockings, 1876 National League Champions–and highest salaried team.

Harry Wright’s Boston Red Stockings filled the vacancies of White and Barnes with 18-year-old Lew Brown and 21-year-old John Morrill who The Argus said received “between 800 to 1000 dollars each.”

Manager Wright, who only appeared in one game, and his brother George were the highest paid members of the Boston club at $2,500 each.  Andy Leonard, who played second and outfield was paid $2,000.  Two other notable players on the Red Stockings, Hall of Famer “Orator Jim” O’Rourke and Tim Murnane received “between fifteen hundred and eighteen hundred dollars.”

According to The Argus, the White Stockings payroll of $21,500 topped the league, with Boston’s total of 18,000.

“The Money in Baseball” 1884

14 Mar

In 1884, under the headline “The Money in Baseball,” The Boston Globe expressed their antipathy about the “enormous salaries which the ‘kings of the profession’ demand.”

The Globe observed that “The best pitchers get as much money for working a few hours each day during seven months as many college professors receive for the entire year’s service.”

George Wright, Hall of Famer, and brother and teammate of Harry Wright with the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, told the paper

“The money paid the entire team would put a poor team on the field today.  My brother Harry was the most expensive man on the team, and he got $2000 for being captain and playing center field.  I was in my regular position at short and drew $1800.”

Wright said several players on the Red Stockings were paid less than $1000.

1869 Red Stockings, Harry Wright, standing third from left, George Wright standing to the right of him.

1869 Red Stockings, Harry Wright, standing third from left, George Wright standing to the right of him.

By comparison The Globe said:

“The salary list of the Boston League club amounts to $25,000 in round numbers…It is impossible to estimate how much has been paid in salaries to ballplayers throughout the country.  The eight League clubs will certainly average as much as Boston’s total…In the Union Association are eight more clubs…there is not much doubt that the eight clubs pay at least $125,000 in salaries.  The American Association has twelve clubs…the salary list of these three largest baseball associations in the country aggregate between $500,000 and $600,000.”