Tag Archives: Griffith Stadium

“Everyone seemed to be trying to pull off the Greatest Stunts of his Life”

28 Mar

Great plays are in the eye of the beholder.

Jack Lelivelt said the greatest play he ever saw came in the greatest game he ever witnessed; the first game of a doubleheader played during the dog days of August by fourth and seventh place clubs hopelessly out of the American League pennant race.

Jack Lelivelt

Jack Lelivelt

Lelivelt watched from the bench on August 4, 1911, as his Washington Senators played the  Chicago White Sox.  Months later, he told Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Examiner the game included “(S)ix plays in it that might any one be called the greatest according to the way a man looks at it.”

The game was a 1-0, 11-inning victory for the Senators; Walter Johnson getting the complete game victory over Doc White.  And Lelivelt was not alone in his assessment.

One Star Pitcher

Walter Johnson

William Peet of The Washington Herald said:

“An old-time fan in the grandstand correctly described the curtain raiser when he slapped his neighbor on the back and cried: ‘That was the best game of ball I ever saw in my life.”

Joe S. Jackson of The Washington Post said:

“No more freakish game than the opener has ever been played at the Florida Avenue field (Griffith Stadium).”

Lelivelt told Fullerton:

“First, (Ping) Bodie caught a home run while running straight out nearly to the center field fence; then (Clarence “Tillie”) Walker caught a fly off one ear while turning a back somersault.”

Bodie’s play robbed Walter Johnson of at least extra bases, with a runner on first in the third inning—and Walker robbed Ambrose “Amby” McConnell of the White Sox in the eighth; The Herald said he “spared it with his bare hand.”

Ping Bodie

Ping Bodie

Lelivelt continued:

(Harry) Lord made two stops on the line back of third, and (Lee) Tannehill grabbed two line drives and started double plays.”

While noting Lord’s “two stops,” Lelivelt failed to mention his most notable play during the game; when he fell into the Chicago dugout to catch a George McBride foul pop out, a play The Herald called “one of the best catches ever seen here.”

Lelivelt said:

“Everyone seemed to be trying to pull off the greatest stunts of his life in that game…with White and Johnson pitching magnificent ball.  It is as if you took a dozen great games of ball and crowded the most sensational parts of each into 11 innings.”

As for the best play, Lelivelt said it came in the third inning after Johnson walked McConnell and Lord sacrificed him to second:

(Jimmy “Nixey”) Callahan whipped a fast hit right down between third and short, a hit that seemed certain to go through to left field without being touched.  The ball was hit hard and was bounding rapidly when McBride went back and out as hard as he could, shoved down his glove hand, scooped the ball and snapped it straight into (William Wid) Conroy’s hands on top of third base.  The play was so quickly made that McConnell saw he was out, and by a quick stop tried to delay being touched and jockeyed around between the bases to let Callahan reach second. He played it beautifully, but he never had a chance.  McBride jumped back into the line and before McConnell could even get a good start back Conroy whipped the ball to McBride and McConnell was touched out before he had moved five feet.

Wid Conroy

Wid Conroy

“So rapidly was the play made that as soon as McBride touched McConnell he shot down to second so far ahead of Callahan that Cal was able to turn and get back to first…If Callahan had reached second on the play Chicago would have won, as (Matty) McIntyre followed up with a base hit that would have scored the runner from second easily.”

Curiously, the play Lelivelt said was the greatest in a game of great plays, the greatest play he said he ever saw, received no notice the next day’s coverage of the game in either Washington or Chicago.

The Herald ran a column listing fourteen key plays in the game but failed to mention Lelivelt’s “greatest play” at all. The Post said only that McConnell was out “McBride to Conroy, on Callahan’s grounder.”  It received no mention in the Chicago papers.

The Box Score

The Box Score

“Shows Big Leaguers how to Catch Flies”

15 May

During the summer of 1921, The Washington Times told their readers about a new figure seen working out with the Senators at Griffith Stadium. who “caused no little comment among fans.”

Under the headline: “Shows Big Leaguers how to Catch Flies.” The Times said:

“Big things as a ballplayer are predicted for Walter Morris, twelve years old…Walter is pronounced by members of the Washington team a natural-born ball player.  With the crack of the bat, he starts skinning in the general direction of the sphere’s destination and seems to get there just in time, without apparent effort to remove the old apple from the atmosphere.”

Walter Morris, the Senators 12-year-old phenom

Walter Morris, the Senators 12-year-old phenom

Outfielder Bing Miller told the paper:

“That kid shows a lot of talent.”

[…]

“Bing lives in Walter’s neighborhood and takes an interest in him.  His attention was attracted by the lad’s performances on the neighborhood sand lots.  Groundskeeper (Reddy) O’Day also is a neighbor and Walter Johnson lives not far away, all of which accounts largely for young Morris’ privileges at the ballpark.  Sometimes Johnson drives the kid to the game in his auto.”

Morris' ride, Walter Johnson

Morris’ ride, Walter Johnson

Despite the high expectations for the 12-year-old, Walter Morris would never play for the Senators or anyone else.

He traded baseball for academics;  Morris was a professor of Religion at Goucher College in Baltimore from 1949 until 1971.  He died in Maryland in 1991.

Walter Morris--post baseball at Goucher College.

Walter Morris–post-baseball, teaching at Goucher College.

1911 Washington Senators Season Ticket Contest

22 Apr

hahnscontest1

 

On March 17, 1911, a fire destroyed Washington D.C.’s Boundary Field, almost immediately construction began on a new ballpark on the site–what would become Griffith Stadium.

The Boundary Field fire.

The Boundary Field fire.

The Hahn Shoe Company took out advertisements in all of Washington’s daily newspapers announcing a promotion for the new ballpark:

Baseball Season Tickets To Be Given Away!

“Baseball is the popular game that it is because it is A GOOD, CLEAN GAME–the BEST GAME ON EARTH FOR THE MONEY YOU PAY!

“‘HAHN’S SHOES,’ also are so popular–because THEY ARE GOOD SHOES–the BEST SHOES KNOWN FOR THE MONEY YOU PAY!

“To still further popularize BASEBALL and the ‘HAHN’ SHOES this spring, we start today a great VOTING CONTEST–the awards in which are to be

“Three Season Tickets to Scheduled American League Games–Each Ticket Good for Fifty Admissions to (.75) Grand Stand Seats at the Washington Baseball Park.”

The contest called for fans to collect votes on their behalf–the three highest vote totals by April 29 would receive the tickets to 50 home games from May 4 through the end of the season.

The contest became very popular, and by April 9 The Washington Times said that a million votes had been cast,

hahnscontestformBallots were printed regularly in the newspapers and additional votes could be received for submitting bonus coupons and purchasing items in Hahn stores.

Leader boards were displayed in the windows of each Hahn store, and The Washington Herald said “So close to the present leaders are many of the other contestants that constant changes are likely.”

When the contest came to an end, The Times claimed “a total of 7,000,000 votes was [sic] cast by friends of the contestants.”

Hahn’s announced the winners in large ads in all of Washington’s newspapers:

hahnscontestwinners

The winning contestants each received more than 200,000 votes each.  Hahn’s said:

“That baseball and Hahn’s Reliable Shoes are both at the zenith of their popularity here in Washington was manifested by the phenomenal success of our Baseball Voting Contest, in which millions of votes were cast.”

Despite the claim that baseball was “at the zenith” of its popularity in the nation’s capital, or perhaps because construction of the new ballpark wasn’t completely finished until July 24, attendance dropped by nearly 10,000 from 1910 to 1911.

The Senators were no better either.  They followed their 66-85 record in 1910, with a slightly worse 64-90 mark in 1911.