Tag Archives: Harry Wolverton

“He is a Model for the Young Ballplayer to Emulate”

21 Aug

March of 1916 was a bad month for “Prince Hal” Chase.

According to The International News Service, Chase, who spent the winter in San Jose, California playing for the Maxwells—a team sponsored by the automobile company–was “the last of the stars” of the defunct Federal League who had still not signed with a professional team.

Hal Chase

                          Hal Chase

It got worse when he was arrested for failure to pay alimony and support to his ex-wife Nellie and their son Hal Jr.

He was released on $2000 bond, and it is unclear whether the case was ever fully adjudicated. After his release, Chase continued playing with the Maxwells and working out with Harry Wolverton‘s San Francisco Seals while rumors of who he would play for during the regular season were advanced on a daily basis.

The strongest rumors were that Chase would go to the New York Giants in a deal which would include Fred Merkle, who would be displaced at first base, going to the Chicago White Sox, the team Chase jumped to join the Federal League.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said the deal was eventually foiled by Pirates Manager Jimmy “Nixey” Callahan, who “refuse(d) to waive.”

At the same time the papers in Cincinnati said Chase would be joining the Reds while West Coast papers said he might stay in California and join the Seals.

The Cincinnati Enquirer said Reds’ Manager Charles “Buck” Herzog “vigorously denied,” that Chase would join his club and said he would stick with Frederick “Fritz” Mollwitz at first base.

Buck Herzog

                     Buck Herzog

Herzog was even more forceful in his denial in The Cincinnati Times-Star:

“I wouldn’t have Chase at the camp.  Mollwitz is a very much better player, and he won’t jump when he is most needed.”

An even stronger indictment of Chase came from Detroit Tigers Manager Hugh Jennings, who told The Detroit News:

“As a player, there is nobody who can touch Chase for holding down first base.”

Jennings went on to note Chase’s intelligence, speed, and “superb” fielding:

“Yet for all his ability I would not have him on my club, and I do not believe any other major league manager will take a chance on him.  He will not heed training rules and has a demoralizing influence on the younger players.”

Tiger Manager Hugh Jennings

Tiger Manager Hugh Jennings

Jennings said while Chase managed the New York Highlanders in 1910 and ’11, led his team “astray,” instead of “trying to keep his players straight.”

Perhaps most damaging, Jennings said Chase was a source of dissent on the clubs he played for:

“One of his favorite stunts is to go around telling on man what another is supposed to have said about him, with the result that in a very short time he has the fellows pulling in all directions  instead of working together.  He is apt to take a dislike to the manager and work against him with the players until the whole squad is sore and will not give the sort of work that it is paid for.”

Jennings, whose team finished second in 1915 with George Burns at first base, said:

“The Tigers would win the pennant beyond question with a player of Hal’s ability on first this season, but I wouldn’t risk introducing a man who had such a bad disposition.  I believe that we can accomplish better results by having harmony on the squad, even if we have to get along with a first baseman with less talent.”

Despite the negative press, and over the objection of Herzog, the Reds purchased Chase’s contract from the defunct Buffalo Blues on April 6.

The New York Times lauded the move and defended Chase against his detractors.  The paper said “His failure with the New York Americans was due to petty controversies and rebellion against the club’s discipline,” and “(W)hen he is at his best there is not a player in the major leagues who is more spectacular than ‘Prince Hal.’”

Chase initially balked at reporting to Cincinnati, telling The San Francisco Chronicle “I haven’t made up my mind…it is possible that I would prefer to remain in California, even if there is no chance to play ball.”

Six days later, while his new team opened the season, Chase was on a train to Cincinnati.  The Associated Press said he agreed to join the Reds after receiving “word from Cincinnati that his entire contract with the Federal League, which calls for a salary of $8,000 a year, has been taken over,” by the Reds.

When Chase arrived in Cincinnati on April 15, the Reds had won three straight after losing their opener, and Mollwitz had played well at first base with five hits in 13 at-bats and just one error.

According to Frederick Bushnell “Jack” Ryder–college football star and Ohio State football coach turned sportswriter–of The Enquirer, Herzog had no intention of putting Chase in the game April 16:

“Herzog had little thought of playing him, as Fritz Mollwitz was putting up a bang-up game and hitting better than any member of the club,” until “Mollwitz made a bad mental mistake in the third inning.”

After Umpire Hank O’Day called a strike on Mollwitz, “the youngster allowed his tongue to slip,” and was ejected.

Fritz Mollwitz

                 Fritz Mollwitz

Chase came to bat with an 0-2 count and doubled off of Pirates pitcher Frank Miller, stole third, and after catcher Tommy Clark walked “(Chase) caused an upheaval in the stands by scoring on (a) double steal with Clark.”

Chase also wowed the crowd in the ninth.  After making “a nice stop” on Max Carey’s hard ground ball over first base and with pitcher Fred Toney unable to cover first in time, Chase dove “headforemost to first base to make a putout on the fleet Carey.”

In all, he played 98 games at first base, 25 in the outfield, and 16 at second base, he also hit a league-leading and career-high .329.

While the Reds struggled, Chase was wildly popular in Cincinnati.  The Enquirer’s Ryder was possibly his biggest fan—the writer raved about Chase’s performance in the outfield, his adjustment to playing second base, and his consistent bat.

While Chase thrived, Herzog, who had a contentious relationship with Reds’ owner August Herrmann, exacerbated by the signing of Chase against his wishes, began to unravel as the season progressed.  On May 30, he was hit in the head and knocked unconscious, by a throw from catcher Ivey Wingo during pregame warm-ups.  While he recovered physically, he became increasingly frustrated by the club’s performance.  On July 5—with a 29-40 record– he announced that he would retire at the end of the season when his contract expired.  He told The Times-Star:

“It would be a great blow to my pride to continue as a player, after being a manager for three years.”

The following day it was reported that the Chicago Cubs and New York Giants were interested in acquiring Herzog.  Within a week, it was reported that Herzog was heading to New York in a trade that would bring Christy Mathewson to Cincinnati to manage.  The negotiations continued over several days but floundered.  The Cubs reentered the picture—Owner Charles Weeghman told The Chicago Daily News “I brought the bankroll along…and I’ll get Herzog so quick I’ll make (the Reds) eyes pop.”  He later told the paper he offered “$25,000 and an outfielder” for Herzog.

At the same time The Brooklyn Daily Eagle said the Dodgers were after Herzog, and The Pittsburgh Post said the Pirates were in pursuit as well.

The pressure got to Herzog who held himself out of the lineup of July 17, The Enquirer said:

“The managerial situation is worrying Herzie, who had expected by this time to be cavorting at the third corner for the giddy Giants.  With the deal held off for various reasons, the Red leader is naturally a bit anxious.”

Herzog’s destination was unclear, but it was clear he would be gone.  With Mathewson seeming to be out of the picture, rumors persisted—fueled by Ryder of The Enquirer and William A. Phelon in The Times-Star—that Chase would be the new manager.

On July 20, Ivey Wingo managed the team to a doubleheader split with the Philadelphia Phillies, and the papers reported on Herzog’s successor:

The Enquirer ran Chase’s picture under the headline “Reds’ New Manager,” although they hedged in another headline which said he would “probably” be named.

The Times-Star said “Hermann has decided to allow Hal Chase to manage the team for the remainder of the season, and for this reason he does not want Mathewson.”

They were both wrong.

Within hours of the papers hitting the streets, a trade involving three future Hall of Famers was agreed to.  Herzog, along with catcher Wade “Red” Killefer went to New York for Mathewson, Edd Roush, and Bill McKechnie.  Mathewson was immediately named manager.

Cartoon accompanying the announcement of Mathewson's appointment.

          Cartoon which accompanied the announcement of Mathewson’s appointment.

Ryder said in The Enquirer that “Chase was greeted with a great round of applause” when he stepped to the plate for the first time on July 20:

“The fans at that time did not know of President Herrmann’s change of mind with regard to Matty, and they thought Chase was the new leader of the team.  The universal and hearty applause showed how popular the star third-sacker has become in this town.”

The Chase story is well-known; two years later Mathewson would suspend him, charge him with “indifferent playing.”  With Mathewson in Europe when the charges were heard by National League President John Heydler that winter, three Reds teammates, and Giants Manager Pol Perritt testified Chase had thrown games.

But in October of 1916 Chase appeared to have repaired his reputation, and his difficult March appeared to be far behind him.  In a season wrap-up, The Enquirer–there was no byline on the article, but it was likely the work of Ryder–published a glowing profile of the National League’s leading hitter and the man who nearly became the Reds’ manager:

“What has become of all the talk about Chase being a bad actor, a disorganizer, a former of cliques and a knocker of managers?  All gone to the discard.  Chase has not only played brilliant ball for the reds all season, but he has been loyal to the club and the managers.  He worked hard for Herzog and equally hard for Matty.  He has been a wonderful fellow on the club.  Chase is modest and does not seek notoriety or approbation…He played game after game in midseason when he was so badly crippled with a Charley horse that he could scarcely walk.  When Manager Herzog wanted to make an outfielder out of him he went to the garden and played sensational ball…Later in the season he filled in for several games at second base, a difficult position for a left-hand thrower, but he put up great ball there.  He is a natural ballplayer of the highest class, and with it all a perfect gentleman, both on and off the field.”

The profile concluded with this assessment of the man who would become synonymous with the baseball’s greatest sins:

“Chase has been a great man for the Reds, and there is many a manager of today who wishes that he had got in ahead of the Cincinnati club in signing him.  He is the smartest ballplayer and the quickest thinker in the National League today.  He is a model for the young ballplayer to emulate, because he is a real artist in his profession.”

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Life on the Road, 1914

6 Feb

In 1914, before beginning his second season as manager of the San Francisco Seals, George “Del” Howard gave the readers of The San Francisco Call a rare look behind the scenes of a baseball team.

Del Howard

Del Howard

“One of the many difficulties which beset a ballplayer is ‘killing’ time while playing away from home…Del Howard was telling only yesterday how the various members of the Seal squad act while on the road.  All the boys are quartered at the same hotel and they usually pass the time in each other’s company.  Card playing for the most part is the favorite pastime, with theater-going running a close second..  There are a few of the San Francisco players who like to hide behind a book, others frequent billiard parlors for a game with the cue, but the majority sit around a table and do their best to deal out pairs.”

Howard even shared the team’s rules for road trips:

“Don’t stay out later than midnight.

Don’t fail to answer 8 A.M. call.

Don’t fail to be down to breakfast by 8:15.

Don’t run around to dances

Don’t play ‘craps’ at any time.

Don’t go over 25 cent limit at cards.

Don’t drink to excess.

Otherwise the players are free to do as they please.”

He said of his “don’ts”:

“We haven’t many rules but the ones we have must be observed.  We don’t tell a player he mustn’t drink nor smoke but we do take action when the privileges are abused.  A player knows best what is good for him and free rein is given him.  A player is allowed to remain up until midnight, if he is in good company, and he is required to be up at 8 in the morning.   There is nothing to do but it is healthy for him to be out of bed.  We breakfast at 8:15.  Very few players eat any lunch and at 6 we go to dinner.  Then there is a long evening to be faced and t is certainly a problem putting in time.”

Howard then described how some of the Seals’ most popular players were “putting in time:”

Howard Mundorff is the life of the club.  ‘Mundy’ is full of fun and the players gather around him and listen for hours while he tells stories and amuses them.  Howard is also one of the card sharks.

Mundorff

Howard Mundorff

Jimmy Johnston is an enthusiastic pool player and he usually can be found at night trying for the 15-ball in the side pocket.  Pete Standridge is also handy with the cue.

Walter Schmidt is quiet and keeps to himself a deal of the time.  He delights in taking strolls and Walter Cartwright, another quiet chap, occasionally accompanies him.

(Jay) Nig Clarke seems to lose himself on every trip and Manager Howard declares that for the life of him he cannot tell just how Nig passes the time.

(Roy) Corhan plays cards pretty regularly, but he spends a lot of his time writing, for he keeps up a continuous line of communication with his better half, when he is on the road, writing consistently every day.

Roy Corhan

Roy Corhan

Charlie Fanning is a bug with the camera and takes pretty good pictures of all the places of interest.  “Skeeter” also knows when to lay down two pair.

“(Albert “Lefty”) Leifield is a very interesting talker and he was a running-mate with Mundorff in amusing the gang.”

Howard said shortstop Harry McArdle was the “most popular player he ever encountered.  Mac has admirers in every town and was kept pretty busy keeping engagements.”

Harry McArdle (sliding)

Harry McArdle (sliding)

As for his time on the road, Howard said, “I walk around and look over things.  I was fortunate in having a well-behaved club last season and did not have any trouble keeping them in line…A busher has the time of his life in a strange town, but a veteran only figures to do something to keep busy.”

After a 104-104 fourth-place finish in 1913, Howard’s Seals—minus Johnston, who drafted by the Chicago Cubs and McArdle, who was traded to the Venice Tigers–behaved themselves well enough to finish third with a 115-96 record in 1914.  The following season he was replaced by Harry Wolverton who led the seals to a 188-89 season, and the Pacific Coast League championship.

“The Dream of an Ardent Baseball Fan and Admirer brought to Realization”

8 Sep

The Associated Press (AP) reported the same day that Hall of Famer Joe McGinnity was released by the New York Giants that he, along with a partner had purchased an Eastern League franchise, the Newark Indians, for $50,000—more than $1.3 million in current dollars.

Joe McGinnity

Joe McGinnity

The following month, The AP told how McGinnity and his co-owner, Chicago businessman Henry Clay Smith, came to be partners:

“There is an interesting story connected with the deal whereby Joe McGinnity and H.C. Smith of Chicago purchased the Newark club of the Eastern League, which reveals the identity of Mr. Smith and portrays the rise of a penniless man to a millionaire, who remained true to his first love in the baseball world.

“H.C. Smith is now a leading member of a Chicago manufacturing company, was station agent for the Chicago & Alton Railroad at Auburn, a little town south of Springfield, IL., working on a modest salary, with nothing better in view, 12 years ago…it was in those days that he learned to admire McGinnity as a ballplayer.

“That was the time when McGinnity earned the sobriquet of ‘Iron Man.’ He would work six days a week, pitching for country teams all over central Illinois, and on Sunday he would go to Springfield and play with the Springfield team.”

One of McGinnity’s teammates on that semi-pro team in Springfield was Dick Kinsella, who would become a minor league magnate and confidant of John McGraw:

“(Kinsella) remembers the connection between H.C. Smith and Joe McGinnity in the olden days.

“Smith was one of Joe’s staunchest and most consistent admirers, and from the time he first knew him until the present day, his admiration has not abated.  In 1895 Smith left Auburn and went to Chicago, where he became engaged in the brokerage business, at which he prospered.  Later he became connected with his present company, gradually working his way to the top, until he was a man of wealth.

“Learning that the New York Giants were going to release McGinnity, Smith at once arranged with Joe to get hold of some team, for which Smith would furnish the money.  The result was the purchase of the Newark club, the dream of an ardent baseball fan and admirer brought to realization, and a home assured the famous Joe McGinnity, all through the regard, which a station agent in a country town felt for a ballplayer whom he considered the best he had ever known.”

McGinnity

McGinnity

The 38-year-old McGinnity started 46 games and posted a 29-16 record with a 1.66 ERA for the 2nd place Indians during his first season as co-owner and team president.

Harry Wolverton, who had been hired as manager by the previous ownership was retained by McGinnity and Smith.

Harry Wolverton

Harry Wolverton

 

There are several versions of the story of how McGinnity came to replace Wolverton as manager late in the season—some say Wolverton was let go for trying to remove McGinnity from a game, others say Wolverton took another position.  The real story, based on contemporaneous accounts in The Newark Evening News, was simply that Wolverton was injured before the team’s final road trip, and McGinnity took over.  In the winter of 1909 Wolverton purchased his release and McGinnity became the team’s full-time manager.

McGinnity and Smith owned the Newark Tigers through the 1912 season.  McGinnity managed the team to a second place finish in 1910 and a seventh place finish in 1911.  The team joined the International League in 1912 and finished third.

McGinnity won 87 games and lost 64 in 151 starts during his four seasons in Newark.

He and Smith sold their shares in the club after the 1913 season.

“Monte’s Baseball Religion”

27 Jun

 

Even in a game dominated by superstitions some stood out.  The St. Louis Star reported on what Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Montford Montgomery “Monte” Cross thought was necessary for a rally—to the annoyance of some teammates– during a game with the St. Louis Cardinals in May of 1900:

Monte Cross

Monte Cross

“One of Monte Cross’ queer hobbies is that the bats must not be crossed when they lie in front of the bench…just as (Harry) Wolverton, the first man up in the fifth inning, stepped to the plate,  Cross looked at the pile of bats, and at one jumped into the air, shouting: ‘Four runs this time.  It’s a cinch.  Never failed yet.’

“’Sit down, you’re crazy,’ said (Al) Maul.

“’I tell you we’re going to get four runs this time.  Do you see that?’ he asked, pointing to the pile of bats.

“’See what?’

“’Why those four bats sticking out further than the rest.  That means we’ll get just as many runs.  Just you wait and see.’  Everybody laughed, but Monte was evidently very much in earnest, so they waited, all thinking how they’d kid him when the side was out.  Then Wolverton made a hit.

“’It’s a starter!’ cried Cross. ‘Now watch me.’ But Cross aired to (Mike) Donlin.  Then the next man walked.

“’There’s four hits coming sure,’ said Cross.  Just then (Roy) Thomas cracked a single scoring Wolverton.  Then (Napoleon) Lajoie and (Elmer) Flick got in their work, and the five runs were scored.

“’Whenever you see bats fixed that way look out for runs,’ observed Cross, triumphantly.

“’All right,’ replied (Ed) McFarland.  ‘Shove out about six of those sticks and we’ll win sure.’

“’That doesn’t go.  Don’t touch them for heaven’s sake!’  Fairly screamed Cross.  ‘The bat boy has to do it when he isn’t thinking.’

“The players all had a good laugh over the circumstance, and no doubt some of them became converts to Monte’s baseball religion.”

While the Phillies scored five runs during Cross’ “lucky” inning, it didn’t seem to matter to him that he failed to contribute to the rally, and the Phillies lost the game 10 to 5.

The Box Score

The Box Score

“The Disappearing Oakland Infielder”

7 Aug

James Ernest “Jimmy” Frick began his career with the Iola Gasbags in the Missouri Valley League in 1904, hitting .331 in 106 games.  While Frick began the 1905 season with the Oklahoma City Mets in the Western Association, a “C” level league, press reports said he could have played at a higher level and The Sporting Life said St. Louis Cardinals, Hall of Famer pitcher Charles “Kid” Nichols “cannot understand why Jimmy Frick of Oklahoma City persists in hiding out it the bushes when he can make good in fast company.”

Frick was hitting above .300 in July when he was sold to the Seattle Siwashes in the Pacific Coast League; he hit .252 in 18 games until August 18 when The Associated Press said Frick “disappeared mysteriously.”

Four days later The Seattle Star said Frick who “was very popular” with local fans had jumped the Siwashes and rejoined Oklahoma City having been promised “$1000 and a chance to manage the team next year.”

Whether the reported deal was actually promised to Frick is unknown.  While he returned to Oklahoma City he never joined the Mets and finished the season with the Wichita Jobbers.

At the end of the 1905 season multiple teams laid claim to him.  The Associated Press said:

“The case of J. Frick who was claimed by Indianapolis, Wichita, Seattle and Oklahoma City was referred to Secretary (John) Farrell (of the National Association).”

In February of 1906 Frick was awarded to Wichita then immediately traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern League.  He spent the next five and a half years in the Eastern League with Toronto, the Baltimore Orioles and the Newark Indians.

On July 16, 1910, while with Baltimore, Frick was hit in the head with a pitch.  In August The Sporting Life said he had not yet returned to the lineup:

 “(Frick) is in a bad way in this city, as the result of being hit on the head by a pitched ball during the last home series of the Birds. Although the accident happened at least three weeks ago, Frick’s head is still in bad condition, his face is swollen and dizziness seizes him on the slightest provocation. It is doubtful if Frick will play again this season.”

He did return at the tail end of the season, but only appeared in a few games.  In 1911 he was sold to Newark, and after hitting just .200 in 28 games he was sold to the Troy Trojans in the New York State League.

Jimmy Frick

Jimmy Frick

Before the 1912 season, Harry Wolverton, third baseman and manager of the Oakland Oaks in the Pacific Coast League, was named manager of the New York Highlanders in the American League.  Oakland hired Bayard “Bud” Sharpe to manage the team; one of his first moves was to purchase Frick from Troy to fill the void Wolverton left at third.

By March 7 The Associated Press said Sharpe was “somewhat exercised about infielder Frick.”  The new third baseman had arrived in Oakland by train several days earlier, but had not arrived at the Oaks training camp in Livermore, California and had not been heard from him.  Sharpe showed up the following day, but it was reported he had spent several days in an Oakland hospital—it was not reported why he was hospitalized.

Frick began the season as the Oaks starting third baseman, but after hurting his foot in April, August “Gus” Hetling filled in and Frick never returned to the regular lineup.

On September 17, with Oakland in a battle for the pennant with the Vernon Tigers, the team was in Los Angeles when Frick, according to The Associated Press left his room at the Hotel Rosslyn and “dropped from sight.”

The Los Angeles Examiner said the Oakland team and the Los Angeles Police Department had looked for Frick for more than a week and found no sign of the infielder.  The Associated Press said “all of Frick’s haunts have been searched,” and that the disappearance “may hurt Oakland in their fight for the pennant, as he is considered the best utility infielder on the team.”

Herb McFarlin, Secretary of the Oaks, said:

“Frick has always been a steady player, not inclined to drink or run around.  He always has been absolutely dependable.”

On October 4 The Associated Press said “the disappearing Oakland infielder” had been found by his wife:

“He had been ill in a Los Angeles Hospital, assuming an alias so that he would not be bothered.”

As with his spring disappearance there was no mention as to why Frick was in the hospital.

On October 5 he was with the Oaks in Portland for a game with the Beavers, he did not play, but was “out on the coaching line rooting for his team.”

Frick was with the team on October 27 when they took both games of a double-header in Los Angeles; Vernon won both games of a doubleheader from Portland, and Oakland took the pennant with a winning percentage of .591 to Vernon’s .587.

Frick saw little action in the final weeks of the season, his replacement Hetling hit .297 and was awarded a Chalmers Automobile as the league’s most valuable player.

Gus Hetling, Frick's replacement at third

Gus Hetling, Frick’s replacement at third

Frick and his wife went to Portland at the end of the season, and in late November planned to leave for Oklahoma City where they owned a farm.  On November 20 Mrs. Frick went to pick up tickets for the trip, when she returned home, she found Jimmy Frick dead.  He committed suicide by drinking carbolic acid. (Baseball Reference incorrectly lists his date of death as November 18),

The Portland Oregonian said Frick had been “ill and despondent,” and said he was suffering from “brain fever.”  (Brain fever is an antiquated and vague term used for inflammation of the brain).

None of the stories about Frick’s suicide and “brain fever” mentioned the severe injury he had received when he was hit in the head in 1910, so  it’s impossible to determine whether it contributed to the erratic behavior that year, hospital stays, or death of the disappearing Oakland infielder.”