Tag Archives: Harry Davis

“A Loyal Little Rooter has Gone to his Long Rest”

3 May

Harry Davis thought he was about to make the biggest off-season acquisition in the American League before taking the reins of the Cleveland Naps in 1912. He had been given the job, as The Cleveland News said, “over the objection” of many. George Stovall had replaced Deacon McGuire after a 6-11 start in 1911 and led the team to an 80-73 third place finish.

harrydavis.jpg

Davis

Davis was, according to The Chicago Inter Ocean about to steal Joe Magero from the Chicago Cubs as “the official hoodoo chaser of the Cleveland team.”

Magero had been the Cubs mascot since 1907, and several times a season “donned the White Sox of the South Side athletes.”

The paper said:

“Davis wanted Magero on account of his resemblance to (Louis) Van Zeldt, a hunchback who is the mascot of the world’s champion Philadelphia Athletics, the club with which Davis had been connected.”

Magero was “discovered” while working for Albert R. Tearney—Tearney was President of Chicago’s Amateur Baseball Manager’s League, the governing body of city’s amateur and industry clubs, of which there were more than 400. Tearney would later become president of the Three-I League and was elected to Chicago’s city council. Tearney, it was said, got Magero in “the professional mascot business” after seeing him selling gum on a street corner.

Magero first appeared as a mascot for Nixey Callahan’s Logan Squares in the Chicago City League in 1906. After the Logan Squares defeated both World Series participants—the Cubs and the White Sox—in exhibition games after the 1906 season, Magero having “brought luck” to Callahan’s club became a hot commodity and joined the Cubs in 1907.

 

Except for his occasional paid forays to the Southside and a brief stint in August of 1911 as “hoodoo chaser” for the Lincoln Railsplitters in the Western League, Magero was a fixture at West Side Park.  He was popular enough at one point that The Chicago Tribune said he and Germany Schaefer “are considering an offer to go on stage this fall with a skit entitled ‘What are we?’”

The Inter Ocean said:

“It was while acting as ‘jinx wrecker’ for Comiskey’s clan that Joe met Schaefer, the witty and able player of the Washington American League club. A warm friendship sprung up between the two and Joe and ‘Germany’ made it a point to be with each other as much as possible when Schaefer’s team was in Chicago.”

The 21-year-old Magero, who stood just three feet tall and immigrated from Italy in 1900, was ready to join Davis and the Naps for the opening of the 1912 season, but said The Inter Ocean, “The Grim Reaper intervened.”

Magero died of pneumonia at Chicago’s St. Joseph hospital on March 14.

The paper said:

“News of the death…was received with sorrow by the veteran members of Chance’s team at New Orleans, according to word received here yesterday by members of the little mascot’s family.  Mordecai Brown, Joe Tinker, John Evers, and the Peerless Leader were particularly affected by the tidings.”

The Chicago Daily News said:

“Joe, bent of frame and physically a weakling, nevertheless played his part in bringing victory to the Cubs. He twirled no games like Brownie, he slammed no home runs like Schulte, neither did his inside work win games as did that of Evers. But he was the mascot of the team, and as a mascot his services proved as valuable as did the work of those upon whom nature had bestowed more generous gifts…There is sorrow in all of belldom, for a loyal little rooter has gone to his long rest.”

Without his mascot, Davis was 54-71 and resigned on September 2. The Cleveland News said:

“The team’s poor showing and the fact that he had been subject to severe criticism by the public and the press are given as Davis’ reasons.”

He never managed again.

One Minute Talk: Jack Coombs

21 Oct

In 1916, The Newspaper Enterprise Association ran a series of brief articles called “One Minute Talks with Ballplayers.”

With the Brooklyn Robins in first place by four games after beating the Boston Braves 5 to 2 on August 14, Jack Coombs said:

Coombs

Coombs

“Baseball is a peculiar game.  The life is hard and the game fast but there is a fascination about it that just holds one.  There is something that comes of matching your eye against a sweeping curveball that can be found in no other game in the world. Once you get inside the flannels you hate to lay them aside.

“We Brooklyn men should win this pennant.  We have a fair lead and at the clip we are traveling should not have much trouble in holding our position.

“We arrived at the top through good baseball and no one can down us.  However, there are 55 games to  play and accidents may cut us down.”

The “Brooklyn men,” managed to hang on to first place through the final 55 games, beating the Boston Braves by two and a half games.

Coombs, who won 80 games for the Philadelphia Athletics between 1910 and 1912, missed nearly all of the next two seasons battling typhoid fever.  Signed as a free agent by Brooklyn in 1915–he was 15-10 2.58 that season and was 13-8 with a 2.66 ERA for the 1916 pennant winners; he posted Brooklyn’s only victory in the World Series against the Boston Red Sox–a 4 to 3 victory in game 3.

Coombs was also true to his observation that “Once you get inside the flannels you hate to lay them aside.”  After a brief, unsuccessful tenure as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies in 1919, Coombs was a coach for the Detroit Tigers in 1920. He then spent the next 32 years as a college baseball coach at Williams College, Princeton, and Duke–remaining in the game until he was forced to retire from Duke at the age of 70.

Coombs at Williams College, 1921

Coombs at Williams College, 1921

When he arrived at Williams, in Williamstown, Massachusetts in the spring of 1921, The New York Tribune said Coombs, having discovered that “training rules had not been observed,” by Williams players in previous years–the two previous coaches at Williams were former teammates of Coombs with the Athletics, Ira Thomas, and Harry Davis, “(A)sked the student body to encourage the members of the squad to train, to criticise them if they did not, and to help them with their studies.”

 

Lost Advertisements–“They all use The Spalding”

27 Aug

 

spalding1912

A 1912 Spalding advertisement featuring Connie Mack, Hughie Jennings, and Harry Davis that appeared in West Coast newspapers after the rubber-centered Goldsmith baseball replaced the cork-centered Spalding as the official ball of the Pacific Coast League:

“They all use the Spalding Cork Center Ball, the only Official Ball, the only Ball recognized by the Official Baseball Rules, and the only ball that can be played with in the world series games for the next 20 years.  Do you realize this?  Every professional baseball player, every professional baseball manager, every professional club owner should insist upon the Cork Center Ball, the Standard Baseball, the Official Ball of the World Series.

Of what value are players’ percentages to compare with the records of the National and American leagues unless they play with The Spalding Cork Center ‘Official National League’ Baseball $1.25 Each.”

spaldingcork

Another 1912 advertisement for the Spalding “Cork-Center Ball”

Cuban X-Giants In Washington D.C., 1901

7 Dec

xgiants

A 1901 advertisement for the Cuban X-Giants, managed by Soloman “Sol” White, in Washington D.C.  The team played the Capital City–described by The Washington Times as “a contingent of colored ball players of this city,” and the team representing the United States Census Bureau at American League Park.

Sol White

Sol White

 

According to the ad:

“The Cubans are known all over the United States and Cuba, having defeated such well-known clubs as the Cuban Giants of New York, Chicago Unions, Brother Hoods, Louisville, KY. Red Stockings, Norfolk, VA., Shelbournes of Atlantic City, and the San Francisco, of Havana Cuba.  The Cubans will have their own private band.”

The previous week, the X-Giants played an 11-inning tie with the Philadelphia Athletics at Columbia Park–although the Athletics three biggest stars, Napoleon Lajoie, Harry Davis and Lave Cross did not participate, The Philadelphia Inquirer said, “Both teams put up a splendid article of ball and the game resulted in one of the best that has been played on the grounds this season.”

The Philadelphia Times was even more enthusiastic:

“The game itself was beyond all doubt one of the greatest ever witnessed upon the local diamond.”

The 11-inning tie against the Athletics

The 11-inning tie against the Athletics

The ad said the club had won 114 games and lost just 22 in 1901, and described them as the “Colored Champion Baseball Club of the World.”  In both 1900 and 1901 the X-Giants and the Cuban Giants each claimed to be “Colored Champion.”

In addition to Sol White, the roster included, Robert Jordan, Ray Wilson, Clarence Williams, John Nelson, Danny McClellan, Will Jackson, Johnny Hill, Robert “Ginney” Robinson, and Charles “Kid” Carter.

The X-Giants won both of the advertised games.  The victory over the Capital City club was of such little note that no newspaper mentioned the score.  The Washington Colored American simply said the X-Giants “Played stars and circles around the Capital Cities.”

They also beat the Census Department 8 to 0.  The Washington Times said:

“The visitors had things their own way throughout the game, and at no time were they in danger of being defeated.  They had a twirler (McClellan) in the box that knew the fine points of the game.  He struck out nine of the localities and allowed but two of them to get the slightest semblance of a safe hit off his cannon ball delivery.”

Danny McClellan

Danny McClellan

The X-Giants beat one more local team, the Eastern Athletic Club, on October 9, and left the nation’s capital 117-22.

 

 

“He was the Greatest Receiving Catcher”

23 Sep

Freeman Ossee “Schreck” Schrecongost’s was most famous for being Rube Waddell’s catcher with the Philadelphia Athletics.

Ossee Schrecongost

                Ossee Schrecongost

Years later, Connie Mack told Harry Grayson of the Newspaper Enterprise Association that Schrecongost was “the fizz powder in the pinwheel that was Waddell.”  He also told the reporter that Waddell’s catcher “was the wilder of the two in many respects.”

Schrecongost lived at least as hard as Waddell and caused his manager as many headaches, but more than 30 years after his final game, Mack said he did “more with gloved hand than any other catcher who has come along.”

Allan Gould, the long-time sports editor for The Associated Press said of the catcher:

“Schreck had the eccentric habit of doing as much of his backstopping as possible with his gloved hand only. This worried Mack, who considered it careless workmanship until Schreck convinced his manager he could do a better job one-handed than with two.”

His teammates felt the same.

Three years after Schrecongost’s final major league game, Harry Davis told Gordon Mackay of The Philadelphia Times:

Walter Johnson is some grand pitcher with a barrel of speed.  But I’ll tell you one old boy who would sit on a chair and catch the big fellow.  That’s old Schreck.  He’d catch Walter with that big glove on his fin, and then after he had eaten up the old smoke to the limit he’d yell to the big chap to put something on the ball.

“I’ve seen Rube Waddell cross Ossee six or seven times, and Schreck wouldn’t pay the least bit of attention to it.  Suddenly Schreck would go out to the box and tell the Rube with a bunch of billingsgate trimmings that would make your hair curl that he stop crossing him.

Rube Waddell

                                 Rube Waddell

“There never was a backstop like old Ossee.  He could catch all the speed merchants in our league with one hand, and then only use the other one to throw with.  He was the greatest receiving catcher, receiving alone, I mean, who ever tripped down the pike.  He was a wonder, that old boy.”

Davis wasn’t Schreck’s only teammate who claimed he was a “wonder,” Tully “Topsy” Hartsell told The Philadelphia Press he saw the catcher perform “the greatest stunt” he had ever seen in 1904:

 “Schreck had a bad finger, and the other catcher (Michael) Doc Powers, was also laid up.  The third catcher, who was Pete Noonan, was doing all the backstopping.  He got hurt one day and Schreck had to go in in the first inning.  He couldn’t let the ball strike his wounded and uncovered hand, and Topsy says he caught the whole game only using his gloved hand.

“’Not only did he (only) use the glove to catch them,’ said Topsy, “’ but there wasn’t a stolen base or passed ball by him.  That’s the greatest catching feat I ever saw.”

Forever tied to Waddell, who died at age 37 on April 1, 1914, Schrecongost died just three months later, on July 9, at age 39.

The Associated Press said in his obituary:

“Grief over the death of the brilliant but eccentric Waddell…probably had much to do with hastening the end of the former great catcher.  Schreck told friends at the time that he ‘did not care to live now.  The Rube is gone and I am all in.  I might as well join him.’”

Lost Advertisements–Harry Davis for Sweet Caporal

17 Jul

harrydavis

A 1914 advertisement for Sweet Caporal Cigarettes featuring Philadelphia Athletics Coach–sometimes referred to as the team’s “Assistant Manager” after their 1913 World Championship– Harry Davis:

Harry Davis says:

“If you can get the newspaper boys to give you a puff, you’re some satisfied.  That is if it’s a puff of Sweet Caporal.”