Tag Archives: Harry Steinfeldt

Steinfeldt spins a Yarn

9 Jun

Harry Steinfeldt was born in St. Louis, but his family moved to Fort Worth, Texas when he was five years old.  In 1912, he told William A. Phelon of The Cincinnati Times-Star what baseball was like in Lone Star state in the 1880s and 90s:

steinfeldt

Steinfeldt

“Texan audiences used to be pretty rough stuff when the Texas League began—especially in the more Western cities—and the merry cowboys—gone now forever—were quite a disturbing element.  They used to spring jokes about cowboys lassoing outfielders to keep them from chasing the ball.”

Steinfeldt told Phelon about an incident he claimed happened during a game in the 1890s:

“Fort Worth and Waco were grappling in a desperate struggle—a game that might have considerable bearing on the percentages and on the ultimate disposition of the flag.  The teams were batting heavily, for both pitchers were scared to death and neither seemed to have much of anything.  First one side would rush ahead and get what seemed like a good, safe lead, and then the other team would overcome the advantage and collect a wad of runs. In the seventh, Fort Worth was leading 8 to 7, and looking fairly sure, but Waco came through with three in the eighth.  They came into the ninth with the score 10 to 8 in Waco’s favor.

“Two men were easily disposed of; then came three successive, and the right fielder returned the ball clear over the catcher’s head, letting one man in, while the catcher, by desperate scrambling, just managed to drive another runner back to third.  Men on third and second, two gone, the best of the Fort Worth hitters up, and the crowd bellowing till you’d think pandemonium had been let loose.

“The batsman swung on a fastball, and it sailed out in a long, arching curve, settling near the left field bleachers, but with the left fielder backing up and settling himself for the catch.  Just as the ball was coming down, a revolver cracked, and the ball, struck by a big 45 caliber bullet, flew to pieces in midair.

“The two men on the bases ran in, and a wild riot started round the plate.  But the umpire was a man of nerve.  He held up his hand to still the tumult, and then roared ‘Dead ball! Batsman must hit over again.’

“And there wasn’t a kick as the batter came back and missed his third strike on the next pitch.  Even the cowboy who had shot the ball didn’t make any objection.  ‘I reckon,’ said he, as he climbed down from the bleachers, ‘that there decision was plumb right—for if ever a ball was a dead one it was the particular ball after I done plugged it.’

“Those were great days, and no mistake about it.”

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A Pair of Reveries

5 Sep

A couple of lost baseball poems on a holiday:

Grantland Rice, in The New York Tribune, 1919:

By Way of Revery

But yesterday I watched them start,

Young wonders all in serried row;

By now I’ve seen them all depart–

The years flow faster than we know

For I remember, young and slim,

How Matty gathered game by game;

Today how many mention him?

The years flow faster than all fame.

Matty

Matty

Where Wagner swung out for his blow–

Where Larry leaned against the ball–

How swift they were last week or so–

The years flow faster than them all.

Today, fresh from the corner lot,

We praise some youngster on the team;

Tomorrow’s page will know him not–

The years flow faster than we dream.

Grantland Rice

Grantland Rice

And five years earlier, Ed Remley of The Chicago Inter-Ocean was nostalgic for Cubs teams past:

Reverie

I was feeling both dusty and bare–

rocky and sober

And the stands were both

The stands were deserted and bare;

‘Twas a day like in lonesome October

And nineteen-fourteen was the year;

I was out at the Cubs’ lonely ballpark

And the ghosts of gone heroes were there;

It was out at the Cubs’ lonesome ballpark

And the Cubs played a ball game out there.

I was sleepy and fell in a trance;

I saw Tinker and Evers and Chance.

Tinker, Evers and Chance

Tinker, Evers and Chance

Is that Steinfeldt or just Heinie Zim?

Well, it looks much like Harry.  It’s him;

Old Mordecai Brown did a dance

On the rubber–a one-step and prance–

And the ball shot to Kling

Like a hell-possessed thing;

I saw all of this stuff at a glance.

But I woke–ouch, I woke from the dream

And I gazed at the laboring team–

Well, they looked pretty good,

But I wished that I could

See again the sweet team of my dream.

“Steiny is Dead”

29 Aug

Harry Steinfeldt cheated death in 1904.

According to The Cincinnati Times-Star, the Reds third baseman, “suffering from a severe attack of lumbago,” returned home to the Biedebach Hotel after a road trip in St. Louis when he “accidently pulled down a chandelier, causing the gas to escape.”

Steinfeldt

Steinfeldt

Steinfeldt in “his crippled condition” failed to turn off the gas completely before going to bed.  Later in the evening, overcome by gas, “in a semi-conscious state,” he attempted to crawl out of the room and “cried for help.”

Fifteen-year-old Mabel Biedebach, the daughter of the hotel’s proprietor, sprang into action:

“She heard Steinfeldt’s cries and ran to his room, where she found him on is hands and knees trying to force himself out of the door.  With rare presence of mind, the young lady raised the ball player’s head and with one mighty effort dragged his body to the hallway.”

The incident sidelined Steinfeldt for five games, and a leg injury and the back pain that led to his near death experience, limited him to 99 games, and his batting average plummeted 68 points from 1903.

Ten years later, the 36-year-old died of a cerebral hemorrhage after a long illness that began during his final big league season in 1911.

Hugh Fullerton eulogized the third baseman, one of his favorite subjects when Steinfeldt played for the Cubs in the pages of The Chicago Herald:

“Steiny is dead.

“The first of the famous Chicago Cubs is gone and every one of that magnificent crowd of men who whirled through the National League to so many pennants will drop a tear.  There was no more beloved member of the team.

“It was Steinfeldt who completed the team and made pennants a possibility.  It was Steinfeldt who, steady, reliable, always in the game, carried them through those fierce campaigns.  It was when Steinfeldt was let out (before the 1911 season) that the old machine commenced to misfire and its tires flattened.  Three times he was selected as the All-American third baseman and many experts have picked him as the third baseman of the greatest team of all time.”

Fullerton compared Steinfeldt to more celebrated third basemen:

“Steiny was not great in the sense that Jerry Denny, Jimmy Collins or Billy Nash was great.  He was a different type; solid, strong, rather slow, but possessed of a wonderful throwing arm that enabled him to block down balls and throw out runners.”

Fullerton said Cubs Manager Frank Chance wanted Steinfeldt badly when he was still with the Reds in 1905:

“Chance forced President (Charles Webb) Murphy to get him.  Murphy made three trips to Cincinnati and each time returned to dissuade Chance and relate awful tales he had heard of Steinfeldt, but finally he surrendered, made a trade and got Steinfeldt. The day Steiny reported to the Cubs (in 1906) Frank Chance said to me:

“’Let’s have a drink.  We’ll win the pennant sure now.’ And he did.”

Steinfeldt, third from left, center row, with the 1906 Cubs

Steinfeldt, third from left, center row, with the 1906 Cubs

Fullerton said Steinfeldt was one of the game’s best storytellers as well—and his stories, like many of Fullerton’s were often more colorful than accurate:

“One I shall never forget.

“’The gamest guy that ever played ball, Steiny remarked, ‘was a fellow who played second base for Dallas when I was down there.  One day Dallas was playing Fort Worth and, in the first inning the Fort Worth center fielder tried to steal.  He was thrown out a block, but took a flying leap and lit on the second baseman’s foot with his spikes.  He limped around  a few minutes, said he was all right and went on playing.

“’In that game he had six putouts, nine assists, and no errors, was in three double plays, one of them a triple, and was all over the field.  After the game, he and I were walking out to the clubhouse and he said, ‘I believe there’s something in my shoe,’ and stooping down he took off his shoe and shook out two toes.’”

Fullerton said of his best quality:

“There never was an ounce of harm in Steiny. He was always for the weakest.  I saw him with tears rolling down his cheeks one day as he listened to a hard luck yarn and he was not ashamed to weep when one of the players was released.

“It was his discharge from the Cubs that broke Steiny’s heart and led to the breakdown that resulted in his death.

Steinfeldt, 1908

Steinfeldt, 1908

“When Steiny left the Cubs the reporters who had been with the team for years got up a little bit of parchment on which was inscribed:

“This is to certify, that we, the undersigned, testify that Harry Steinfeldt was a good fellow and a good ball player and that we will miss him even more in the first capacity than we will in the second.

“He treasured that, and perhaps no better obituary can be written for him.”

“Father isn’t Disappointed because I took up Dancing”

4 Apr

In the spring of 1916 Joe Tinker Jr., ten-year-old son of Chicago Cubs Manager Joe Tinker “wrote” a series of articles that appeared in newspapers across the country.  Tinker’s articles provided tips for playing each position:

“To be a winning pitcher you must have control…The best way to gain control is to get another boy to get in position as a batter then pitch to him.  Don’t throw at a stationary target.”

“(Catchers) Stand up close to the batter and don’t lose your head if the pitcher becomes wild.  Try to steady him with a cheerful line of talk.  Practice every spare moment.”

“Stand close to the plate when batting.  Don’t lose your nerve if the pitcher tries to bean you. Some fellows like to choke their bats or grip the handles about four inches from the end.  My father don’t approve of the style…Don’t argue with the umpire.  If you are hot-headed you hurt your chances to connect with cool-headed pitching.”

“Learn to start in a jiffy.  That is the first point emphasized by my dad in teaching me to run bases.”

“Playing short offers many chances for individual star plays and the work of a good man will have a great effect on the score card.”

Photos of Joe Tinker Jr. demonstrating what his dad taught him

Photos of Joe Tinker Jr. demonstrating what his dad taught him

Joe Tinker Jr. and his younger brother Roland were the Cubs mascots during their father’s season as manager in 1916.  In 1924 Chicago newspapers reported that Tinker Jr. was headed to the University of Illinois to play baseball for Coach Carl Lundgren, the former Cub pitcher.  There is no record of Tinker ever playing at the school.

1916 Chicago Cubs.  Joe Tinker Jr. seated right, Roland Tinker seated left.

1916 Chicago Cubs. Joe Tinker Jr. seated right, Roland Tinker seated left.

Younger brother Roland played for two seasons in the Florida State League.

In 1938 newspapers reported that Joe Tinker Jr. had become a dancer with a vaudeville group called the Sophistocrats.  Tinker Jr. told reporters:

“Father isn’t disappointed because I took up dancing.  In fact he approves.”

It’s unclear whether “Joe Tinker Jr.” was actually Joe Tinker Jr.  The newspaper articles all said he was 22-years-old.  Joe Tinker Jr. would have been in his thirties; however his brother William Jay Tinker would have been 22 in 1938.

 

joetinkerjrdance

 

joetinkerjr1938

When Joe Tinker was elected to the Hall of Fame he compiled his all-time team for Ernest Lanigan, then curator of the Hall:

Pitchers: Mordecai Brown, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Christy Mathewson and Ed Walsh

Catchers: Johnny Kling and Roger Bresnahan

First Base: Frank Chance

Second Base: Eddie Collins

Third Base: Harry Steinfeldt

Shortstop: Honus Wagner

Outfield: Artie “Solly’ Hofman, Ty Cobb, Fred Clarke, and Sam Crawford.

Though he named several Cubs, Tinker did not include his former teammate Johnny Evers.  In 1914 Evers had famously slighted Tinker, with whom he was engaged with in a long-term feud, after Evers and his Boston Braves teammates won the World Series. William Peet wrote in The Boston Post :

“(Walter “Rabbit” Maranville’s) the best shortstop the game has ever known.

“Better than Joe Tinker; your old side partner?

“Yes, he’s better than Tinker.”

While the two finally broke their silence at Frank Chance’s deathbed in 1924, they never reconciled.

Evers died in 1947, Tinker in 1948.

Joe Tinker circa 1946

Joe Tinker circa 1946

Joe Tinker Jr. died in 1981, Roland “Rollie” Tinker died in 1980, and William Tinker died in 1996.

 

Murphy Calls Out an Umpire

12 Oct

Three years before Chicago Cubs President Charles Murphy ousted legendary manager Frank Chance, he picked a fight with the most powerful and respected umpire in baseball.

In September of 1909 the second place Cubs had just taken three of five games from the league-leading Pirates in Pittsburgh.

On September 9 Murphy filed a formal protest with the league over the fourth game of the series (won by the Pirates 6-2) charging that umpire Bill Klem “(D)eliberately acted as a conspirator, robbing the Cubs of any reasonable chance for victory.”

The Cubs had argued several calls by Klem during the game and Manager Frank Chance and Cubs’ infielders Joe Tinker and Harry Steinfeldt were fined for comments made to the umpire.

Murphy questioned Klem’s honesty and demanded that he not be allowed to serve as umpire in any games played by his team and that the game be replayed.

Klem was an unlikely person to have his integrity questioned.  Generally credited with professionalizing umpiring, he had come forward with fellow umpire Jim Johnstone the previous season to report they had been offered a bribe to help determine the outcome of the October 8 Cubs game with the New York Giants to decide the pennant (the make-up game for the September 23 “Merkle’s Boner” game).

While the league never released specific details of the bribe attempt, the allegations made by the umpires were found to be true and barred the “unnamed conspirators” from any Major League ballpark. Both umpires were commended by the league for demonstrating to the “American public the honesty and integrity of our national game.”

League President John Heydler (appointed after the suicide of Harry Pulliam) immediately announced his support for Klem in the dispute.  Murphy responded by announcing he would ensure Heydler would not be reappointed president of the league that winter—Murphy would be successful spearheading the effort to replace Heydler.

Murphy was never able to cite any specific reasons for his charges and was pressured to drop the protest, which he eventually did, but Klem remained indignant and asked to have his name cleared.  According to newspaper reports:

“The umpire does not propose to let the matter rest.  He considers that his reputation has been attacked, and he therefore will ask the league to investigate him.”

There’s no record that the investigation was ever conducted.

Klem attended that year’s winter meetings in order to be on hand when Murphy was pressured to make a formal, public apology.

Chicago Cubs President Charles Murphy

More on Murphy and his feuds in the coming weeks.