Tag Archives: Homerun Baker

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.

Baseball’s “Growing Evil”

24 Jun

By 1913 newspaper articles under the byline of a famous player were common in newspapers across the country, and most of the game’s biggest stars were represented.

Most fans of that era assumed the players did their own writing until an expose appeared in The Washington Herald in March of 1913.  Sports Editor William Peet wrote:

“The dear old public fell for this stuff and swallowed hook, bait and sinker.  An article under the signature of Christy Mathewson led three-fourths of the fans to believe that the great pitcher himself wrote it.”

According to Peet, players were paid between $250 and $1000 for each story “and not one of them wrote a single word,” but it was still a good investment:

“The newspapers themselves regarded these feature articles as good investments, for the reason that the stories were syndicated to 25 or more outside publications and the revenues derived not only paid the amount guaranteed the baseball player for the use of his name, but left a handsome profit.”

Peet exposed the writers behind the articles “written” by the game’s biggest stars:

Christy Mathewson and Jeff Tesreau/John Wheeler, The New York Herald

Walter Johnson/Ralph MacMillan, The Boston Journal/The Boston Herald

John McGraw/Walter Turnbull, The New York Evening Sun

John “Chief” Meyers/Jim McBeth, The New York American

Richard “Rube” Marquard/Bill Farnsworth, The Atlanta Georgian/Hearst Newspapers

Denton “Cy” Young/Sam Carrick, The Boston Post

Tris Speaker/Tim Murnane, The Boston Globe

“Smokey” Joe Wood/Jim O’Leary, The Boston Globe

Ty Cobb/Roger Tidden, The New York World

Hughie Jennings/George “Stoney” McLinn, The Philadelphia Press

John McGraw and Christy Mathewson

John McGraw and Christy Mathewson

Peet called the practice dishonest, and said it had gone too far, and in New York and Boston the practice   had “become a mania.”  Peet singled out an article “written” by John McGraw criticizing “Chief” Myers that caused an “explosion,” and said the articles featuring “Rube” Marquard’s byline, and written by Farnsworth got Marquard “in bad with his teammates, for Farnsworth spared no one is his scathing criticisms.”

Pittsburgh Pirate manager Fred Clarke disagreed with the practice, telling Peet:

“I do not think it is any ball player’s place to butt into the newspaper end of the game…I think it is foolish for any player, especially those who take part in the world’s Series, to write about the games.”

As a result of Peet’s revelations the American League club owners condemned the practice of players’ names appearing on articles they did not write, but came just short of officially banning the practice. In September, the Baseball Writers Association petitioned the National Commission to end the “growing evil” of players authoring or appearing to author articles during the upcoming World Series.

The commission agreed, and American League President Ban Johnson informed Philadelphia Athletics manager Connie Mack on the eve of the World Series that star players Eddie Collins and Frank Baker “have been instructed not to write baseball stories or give the impression they are writing them.  If they ignore this request, a way of punishing them would be found. “

Frank Baker, center, Eddie Collins, far right,

Frank Baker, center, Eddie Collins, far right,

Johnson even threatened “Collins and Baker would not be permitted to take part in the World Series,” if they wrote articles or permitted their names to be attached to articles.

At one point Johnson and National Commission Chairman August Hermann said they would consider calling off the series if players refused to comply.  Dave Fultz, the former player, practicing attorney, and president of the Fraternity of Baseball Players, said members of the commission could be personally liable for damages if the series was cancelled.  Johnson and Herman’s threat to cancel the series as a whole was put to rest.

Mack argued that the players had contracts with newspapers and that Johnson had said earlier that players who were “capable” of writing their own articles would be permitted to do so, but as he prepared his team to play the New York Giants, he prepared for the worst, telling The Associated Press:

“(I)f the commission decides the players must not write under any conditions and players decide not to abide by the ruling, I will be prepared to put a team on the field,” The AP speculated that utility infielder John “Doc” Lavan  would play second base  and outfielder Rube Oldring would be moved to third base, with Amos Strunk taking Oldring’s place in the outfield.

Mack’s adjustments weren’t required.  Collins was allowed to write for The Philadelphia Record because his deal with the paper predated the commission’s ruling, and Baker did not write articles.  Together they led the Athletics to a 4-1 Series win, hitting .421 and .450.

Ghost written articles, and articles actually written by players never disappeared, but the practice became much less popular after the revelations and battles of 1913.

Hall of Fame Batting Grips

22 Nov

A quick one for Thanksgiving.  The batting grips of  Hall of Famers Ty Cobb, Home Run Baker, George Sisler and Tris Speaker:

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