Tag Archives: Hap Myers

Veteran’s Day–Leonard A. Wattelet

11 Nov

Leonard A. Wattelet‘s professional career lasted just two games as a 19-year-old with the Seattle Siwashes in the Pacific Coast League in 1906.  He continued playing in amateur and semi-professional leagues in Texas and California, until 1911 when he gave up playing for management, and purchased an interest in the Victoria Bees in the newly formed Northwestern League.

The Sporting Life called him “the youngest magnate in baseball,” and during his first two seasons with the organization he served as secretary, business manager and treasurer of the team and became president after the 1912 season.

Wattelet and his partner sold the team at the beginning of the 1914 season, and he remained a club executive through the end of the 1915 season.

In August of 1917 he was commissioned a captain in the Officer’s Reserve Corps and sent to Camp Lewis, Washington where he was placed in charge of the camp’s baseball program.

Leonard A. Wattelet, second from left with other sports directors at Camp Lewis 1917

Leonard A. Wattelet, second from left with other sports directors at Camp Lewis 1917

Many current and former big leaguers played at Camp Lewis under his leadership including; Ralph “Hap” Myers, Jim “Death Valley” Scott, John “Red” Oldham, John “Duster” Mails, Lou Guisto, Charlie Mullen, Harry Kingman,  Charles “King” Schmutz, and dozens of West Coast professionals.

In 1918 Wattelet went to France with the 364th Infantry Regiment, 91st Division, U.S. Army.  On October 31, 1918 he was killed in action and was buried at Flanders Field American Cemetery in Belgium.

Word of his death did not reach the states until December 7.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Good day—Double Crosser”

30 Jul

Hap Myers’ abrupt exit from the Boston Braves was never fully explained; the Boston press said he simply didn’t get along with manager George Stallings, Myers said it was because of his activities as one of the leaders of baseball’s most recent labor movement.

"Hap" Myers

“Hap” Myers

Two articles from The Associated Press about George Stallings that appeared after the braves won the World Series might have shed some light on the relationship between the two—one mentioned an incident that took place during a game, and the other had to do with Stallings’ well-known and strange superstitions.

The first article was about “a game played in Boston in the summer of 1913,” (box scores indicate it was most likely, the second game of a double-header with the Cincinnati Reds on July 22).

“Two men were out and the Braves had a man on first and another on second…A long hit would either tie the score or win the game.  ‘Hap’ let the first one pass—and bunted the second.  He was thrown out by at least 10 feet and the game was over.  The Braves had lost.

“’Hap’ in terror over a possible rebuke…escaped into the clubhouse.  Stallings was there, enshrouded in deepest gloom.  Baseball never knew a harder loser that Stallings.  But Stallings never said a word to Myers then, and Myers ducked out.

“The next morning found Stallings at Myers’ home.  Myers had just gotten up.”

When Myers answered the door, Stallings asked him why he had bunted with two on and two out.  Myers told his manager that he thought he’s “double-cross the other fellows…catch ‘em asleep.”

Stalling blew up at the first baseman:

“Well, let me tell you this Myers, if you ever again try any of that ‘double-crossing’ stuff there’ll be a funeral in this particular neighborhood.  Good day—double crosser.”

The second article said that during a losing streak in June of 1913 the superstitious Stallings blamed the “jinx” on a colorful necktie Myers wore—the only tie the first baseman owned.  According to the article, Stallings told his equally superstitious owner James Gaffney:

“That necktie of his—that horrible looking sight, that drapes down from his collar.  No wonder we can’t win.  No wonder we are jinxed.  That necktie would hoodoo anybody.”

The story said Stallings stole the tie from Myers, and after the Braves won the following day told Gaffney:

 “Told you so, didn’t I?”

The Boston Globe told a slightly different version of the story in 1931 in an article about Stallings.

By the time these stories were published, Myers was in his second season with the Brooklyn Tip-Tops in the Federal League.  He hit a disappointing .220 in 1914, but stole 43 bases.  In 1915 he hit .287 and was suspended for several days in June after he and Chicago Whales player-manager Joe Tinker “exchanged blows.”

"Hap" Myers Brooklyn Tip-Tops

“Hap” Myers Brooklyn Tip-Tops

When the Federal League folded Myers returned home to California and signed a contract with the San Francisco Seals, who already had veteran William “Chick” Autry at first.  When Myers arrived in San Francisco, The San Jose Mercury News said:

“The fight for the job will be a battle which will be watched with more than passing interest by San Jose fans, for most of them remember Myers as an elongated youngster who wielded a ferocious bat when he first broke into professional ball in this city.”

Myers hurt his arm and the battle never took place; he only appeared in three games, and was hitless in two at bats.  He would never play organized baseball again.

Where Myers spent the remainder of the 1916 season is unknown; The Mercury-News said he went to Ray, Arizona to join the Tri-Copper League, but no reference to Myers can be found in league statistics—whether he played in Arizona or not, he did spend time in the Southwest that year.

In November of 1916 Myers and two other men were arrested in Los Angeles on a warrant from El Paso, Texas.  The Associated Press said Myers was “wanted by the El Paso Police on a charge of highway robbery…one resident (was robbed of) a $1500 diamond ring and $48 in cash, and another resident, a diamond ring valued at $325,”

In January of 1917, when the trial took place, highway robbery was punishable by death in Texas.

On January 23 Myers and his co-defendants were acquitted.

Myers, now a free man, remained in the Southwest and went to work as a metallurgist with a copper mining company in Grant County, New Mexico.

In 1918 the 31-year-old Myers enlisted in the military; joining Company B of the Field Signal Battalion at Camp Lewis, Washington.   He played baseball at Camp Lewis and in France with the United States Army—among Myers teammates were professional players Ten Million, “Coaster Joe” Connolly, Howard Mundorff and Charlie Schmutz.

After returning from France Myers worked as an insurance adjuster in Seattle and later in automobile financing back in his hometown of San Francisco.

“The elongated first baseman” died in San Francisco in 1967 at age 80.

Hap Myers

29 Jul

When the 6’ 3” 175 pound Ralph Edward “Hap” Myers was let go by the Boston Braves after the 1913 season a reporter told Braves shortstop Rabbit Maranville he was sorry to see Myers go.  Maranville joked:

“Well, you might be, but I’m not.  Do you know that guy is so thin that every time I picked up a grounder I had to shade my eyes with my gloved hand to locate him before throwing the ball.”

Myers began his professional career after graduating from University of California, Berkeley in 1909, where he also played baseball.  The San Francisco native hit a combined .311 playing for the Sacramento Sacts in the Pacific Coast League, and the San Jose Prune Pickers and Santa Cruz Sand Crabs in the California League.

Myers went east in 1910 after being purchased by the Boston Red Sox, but became ill, with scarlet fever, and as a result appeared in only six games in Boston before being  sent first to the Toronto Maple leafs in the Eastern league, then the Louisville Colonels in the American Association.

Despite hitting just .240 with Louisville, Myers was selected by the St. Louis Browns in the Rule 5 draft.  The Red Sox claimed Myers still belonged to them and his contract was awarded to Boston, where he began the season, was sold to the St. Louis Browns, who quickly released him despite hitting .297 in 11 games, then back to the Red Sox where he hit .368 in twelve games before being sent to the Jersey City Skeeters in the Eastern League.

It was never clear why, in spite of hitting .333 in 81 at bats in 1910-1911, Myers couldn’t stick in the American League.

In 1912 he returned to the West Coast to play for the Spokane Indians in the Northwestern League where he led the league in hits, and runs, hit .328, and led all of professional baseball with 116 stolen bases.  The Portland Oregonian said:

“Myers base stealing smashes any previous performance in Northwestern League history.  You have to go back 20 years in official guide books to find any record to compare…and that includes every league in organized baseball.”

Spokane owner Joe Cohn went overboard in his praise of Myers in The Spokane Spokesman-Review:

“Best ballplayer in the Northwestern League by a long shot.  He is the greatest ballplayer I ever saw.  Boy I tell you this Myers is a wonder.  Ty Cobb, Hans Wagner, Tris Speaker and all of them have nothing on Myers…I think Myers has it on Cobb, Wagner, Lajoie, Jackson and the whole bunch.”

Myers, and Portland catcher Rex DeVogt were purchased by the Braves from Portland, Devogt would only last for three games, and six hitless at-bats in April of 1913.  Myers would become the Braves starting first baseman.  Another Pacific Coast League player, pitcher “Seattle Bill” James also joined the Braves.

hap3

“Seattle Bill” James and “Hap” Myers

Myers got off to a slow start; he was hitting just .224 in early July, but was leading the National League in steals.  An article in The Tacoma Times said:

“When Hap Myers, recruit first baseman of the Boston Braves is in full stride stealing bases, he covers nine feet…the average stride of a sprinter is six feet. “

The article said the average player took 13 steps, roughly seven feet per step, between bases but Myers took only ten steps:

“Myers is something of a baseball curiosity, and his work is watched with interest by the fans.  If the time comes that the big fellow climbs into the .300 class as a batter, he is apt to become a veritable terror of the paths.”

He was also said to use “a bat of unusual length,” but the size was never mentioned.

After the slow start, Myers hit well in the second half of the season, ending with a .273 average and 57 stolen bases (second to Max Carey of the Pittsburgh Pirates who stole 61).  Despite his strong finish, Myers was replaced at first base for 22 games in August and September by Butch Schmidt, who was purchased from the Rochester Hustlers in the International League.

"Hap" Myers

“Hap” Myers

At the end of the season Myers was sold to the Hustlers, the deal was, in effect, a trade for Schmidt.  The Boston press simply said Myers did not get along with manager George Stallings; Myers told a reporter in San Francisco that there was another reason; baseball’s labor unrest:

  “I was assigned by the fraternity to get as many Braves as possible into the fraternity, and succeeded in enrolling nearly the entire team.  The powers that be evidently didn’t relish my actions for soon my every move began to bring calldowns and I was not surprised to read in the newspapers a little later that I had been sent to Rochester.”

Myers jumped Rochester to join the Federal League; his signing was reported months before he actually signed.  The Associated Press said in March of 1914:

“Although it has been generally understood that Hap Myers, last season’s first baseman of the Boston National has been under a Federal League contract for some time, the elongated first sacker did not put his name to a contract until yesterday afternoon.  Myers originally expected to play with Larry Schlafly on the Buffalo Federals, but was transferred to Brooklyn, and seemed altogether pleased with the move.”

Myers got off to a strong start, and The Sporting Life said:

“Brooklyn fans cannot understand why Hap was passed out of the National League. They have had a chance already to give his successor at first base on the Boston team (Butch Schmidt) the once over, and the general opinion is that- Hap Myers “lays all over.”

His success in Brooklyn didn’t last; in 92 games Myers hit just .220.

Hap’s story continued tomorrow.

Butcher Boy Schmidt

25 Jul

Charles John “Butch” “Butcher Boy” Schmidt was credited by Connie Mack with being the catalyst for the Boston Braves World Series upset of Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics in 1914; one year later Schmidt walked away from baseball in his prime.

Butch Schmidt

Butch Schmidt

He was born in Baltimore in 1886, and played amateur ball while working in the family meat market, which earned him his nickname.

Schmidt signed as a pitcher with the Baltimore Orioles  in the Eastern League and assigned to the Holyoke Papermakers in the Connecticut State League, where he posted a 10-9 record.  In late August the Orioles recalled him, and he went 5-1 in 11 games with Baltimore.

The New York Highlanders drafted Schmidt and the 22-year-old pitcher started the 1909 season in New York.  He appeared in only one game, on May 11, giving up 10 hits and eight runs, four earned, in five innings.  Early in June he was returned to the Orioles.

After appearing in eight games on the mound with the Orioles, Schmidt was moved to first base.  After hitting .244 for the remainder of ’09, he hit .292, .291, and .274 the next three seasons, and was sold to the Rochester Hustlers in the International League, where he hit .321; he was purchased by the Boston Braves on August 22, and hit .308 in 22 games playing in place of Ralph “Hap” Myers.

At the end of the 1913 season Boston sold Myers’ contract to Rochester; The Boston Post reported that Braves manager George Stallings simply didn’t like Myers.  (Myers had a different theory for his release—that story next week)

Schmidt was installed as the Braves first baseman in 1914, and as Boston made their improbable run to the National league pennant Schmidt   hit .285 with 71 RBI and .990 fielding percentage, and finished 16th in the voting for the Chalmers Award, for the most valuable player in the National League; teammates Johnny Evers and Rabbit Maranville finished first and second in the voting.

Grantland Rice said in The New York Tribune:

“There are few greater first basemen in baseball and none who is steadier or a better fighter.  For Schmidt is also of the aggressive type and a hustler every second.”

The New York Times didn’t think quite as highly of Schmidt and on the eve of the World Series said the “advantage favors the Athletics” at first base:

(John “Stuffy”) McInnis makes exceptionally brilliant plays…has been through Worlds Series fire and proved just as cool as if he were playing an exhibition game in the springtime.  Schmidt has yet to face the strain and tension of the big baseball classic…While Schmidt is not a scientific batsman, he is a free swinger and hits the ball hard, but he doesn’t hit it often.”

The pressure of the series didn’t seem to bother Schmidt, the Braves first baseman hit .294 with five hits, two runs and two RBIs in the four game sweep of the Athletics; McInnis hit just .143.

In game one he made a play in the first inning that Connie Mack said set the tone for the series and “sparked the Braves.”  With runners on first and second with one out, Athletics third baseman Frank “Home Run” Baker hit a foul pop-up into short right field.  Athletics outfielder Eddie Murphy tagged up and attempted to go to third; The Associated Press said Schmidt made a “great throw…from a difficult angle,” to third baseman Charlie Deal to retire Murphy.

Stuffy McInnis, Eddie Murphy and "Home Run" Baker,

Stuffy McInnis, Eddie Murphy and “Home Run” Baker,

Early in the 1915 season Braves manager George Stallings called Schmidt “The best first baseman in the game,” but his performance at the plate slipped.  Schmidt hit just .251 with 60 RBIs.  The Braves again found themselves in 8th place in July, and while they made another strong run, finished 2nd, seven games behind the Philadelphia Phillies.

Despite the mediocre season at the plate, it was assumed the 28-year-old Schmidt would remain the Braves first baseman.  Schmidt shocked Stallings, Boston fans, and all of baseball when he announced in January of 1916 that he was retiring from baseball.

Butch Schmidt at bat

Butch Schmidt at bat

The Associated Press said Schmidt was leaving “to devote his entire time to his private business.”

Grantland Rice said Schmidt’s business included “six meat markets in Baltimore,” and that he earned $8000 a year from his stores.

The Sporting Life said it was just as likely that Schmidt, listed at 200 pounds, retired because:

Hard work in that old rubber shirt to get down to weight, especially when the extra weight comes off slowly, more slowly each succeeding season, is a trial that anyone would like to sidestep if he could. “

Boston manager George Stallings filled the void left by Schmidt by purchasing Ed Konetchy from the Pittsburgh Rebels from the newly defunct Federal League.

The Boston Post said the change at first base would not hurt the Braves:

“Konetchy, a heavier hitter than Schmidt, is just about as capable in other ways.”

Despite the confidence of The Post, Stallings was not convinced and continued to try to induce Schmidt to return; his efforts were unsuccessful.

After Konetchy hit .260 for the third place Braves in 1916 it was reported that Schmidt would return to the team.  After several weeks of speculation, Schmidt told The Boston Globe “no offer” could induce him to return to Boston.

Konetchy hit .272 and .236 the next two seasons, and each off season it was rumored Schmidt would return, and every year he stayed home where he continued to run his business and play semi-pro ball in Baltimore’s Inter-City League.

Before the 1919 season Konetchy was traded to the Brooklyn Robins and the Braves acquired Walter Holke from the Cincinnati Reds.  Holke hit .292 for the Braves in 1919, but rumors continued that Schmidt, out of organized baseball for four years, would be returning to Boston.  The Associated Press said:

“George Stallings of the Boston Braves is trying to get Charlie “Butch” Schmidt, the Baltimore butcher boy who played first base for the world’s champions of 1914, to return to the Boston Braves.  Schmidt is reported to be in wonderful condition as he has kept in practice since his retirement.”

Schmidt never returned to professional ball, and was finally removed from Boston’s reserve list in 1922.

Butch Schmidt walked away from professional baseball and never looked back; he died in 1952 of a heart attack while inspecting cattle at the Baltimore Union Stock Yards.