Tag Archives: Honus Wagner

Fred Clarke: “How I Win”

17 Sep

“Hit and hustle.

“The whole secret of winning is contained in those two words.”

So said Pittsburgh Pirates manager Fred Clarke, as part of a series of syndicated articles which asked some of baseball’s biggest stars to talk about “How I Win,” Joseph B. Bowles, a Chicago journalist, interviewed Clarke before the 1910 season.

Clarke

Clarke said:

“There is less difference between the ability of players to perform than most persons think. The great difference is in their courage, nerve and determination to win.

“I believe in hitting and in hitting to help the team, for after all the work of the individual player is not worth much unless he directs every effort to helping the other players on the club. The thing that makes (Honus) Wagner the greatest hitter in the world is his willingness to help baserunners, combined with his ability to help them. He is the best man playing the hit and run game, either on the bases or when at bat, in the world, and his willingness to spoil his own record to win for the team shows the difference between him and some others.”

Clarke told Bowles that style of play is how his team won the 1909 World Series and “is the way every winning team I ever have played with or against has won.”

A team was like a machine, he said, and “One might as well throw a wrench into the engine as to put a discordant player into a good club.”

Clarke addressed “much talk” of the importance of intelligence players:

“Of course, a player must have intelligence and be able to think and remember, but I think the greater part of baseball ‘brains’ consists of close attention to the game every instant, and both on and off the field. The worst mistakes made by players are not those that come from lack of brains so much as from lack of attention to what his own team or members of the other team are doing or trying to do.”

As for his managerial style:

“My players think I am something of a crank on discipline, and on keeping in condition. Perhaps that is so. I believe in careful training in the spring, and still more careful training and conditioning during the entire season.

‘The modern player must study himself if he is to succeed and continue to succeed. He must know his own condition and avoid either growing stale or indulging himself too much either in eating or drinking. I think cigarettes are the worst things possible for a player, both for his wind and for his eyes.  If a player takes a drink of ale or beer, he ought to do it after a hard game, or when he feels himself in danger of going stale.”

Clarke with a different take on smoking, three years later

Finally, of what it takes to win; Clarke said:

“Also, a winning team ought to fight for every point; claim it and go after it; not rowdyism, but aggressiveness is the point. It makes the other side less confident and helps get an ‘even break’ which is all any team should ask.”

Clarke’s defending World Series champions slipped to an 86-67 record and third place finish in 1910.

Billy Evans’ Best Infielders

2 Jun

In his nationally syndicated column, Billy Evans was asked to pick the best 10 infielders he saw during his career as an umpire from 1906 to 1927. He said, “The period has been more productive in great infielders than stars at the other positions.”

billyevans

Billy Evans

Evans starting four were:

1B: George Sisler

2B: Eddie Collins

SS: Honus Wagner

3B Jimmy Collins

The other six were: Hal Chase, Napoleon Lajoie, Rogers Hornsby, Pie Traynor, Buck Weaver, and Roger Peckinpaugh.

Evans acknowledged:

“(A)t only one position do I feel safe against the opinion of fandom and critics and that is shortstop with Hans Wagner as the selection. The great Honus stands out at that position, a remarkably brilliant performer in all departments of the game. I cannot name anyone who quite compares with him.”

wagner2

Wagner

And despite his bias towards the American League, Evans said “Wagner is out if front of all” AL’s shortstops he saw “by a considerable margin.”

He said of his choice for Wager’s backup:

“Although Roger Peckinpaugh was anything but a slugger and couldn’t be rated as more than a fair hitter, I like him better than any other shortstop I have ever seen in the American League. Just as great a fielder as Wagner, one of the smartest players that ever stepped on a major diamond, and a dangerous hitter, particularly in the pinch.”

He said that with “three such sterling performers” at second base, some might disagree with him but:

“I have never seen a smarter player than Collins. On every club that he ever played he was the directing genius, the spark plug. Very fast, a great hitter, an awkward yet brilliant fielder.”

Evans said he picked Weaver as his third-string third basemen, however:

“Were it not for the fact that Weaver dropped out of baseball when he was at the peak of his career, he probably would have established a standard for third base play that would have given him the number one rating.”

buckweaver

Weaver

As for the choice at first base:

“(I)t is simply a matter of taking your choice between George Sisler and Hal Chase. Sisler was a trifle the better batter, Chase a bit better fielder. Sisler a trifle faster. I would give Sisler a slight edge although it might be possible for many to see an equal margin in favor of Chase.”

“Now Everyone has to be a Star”

19 May

Charles Hazen Morton played, managed, and served as a minor league executive. He was Moses Fleetwood Walker’s manager in Toledo in 1884 and caused a brief sensation when he went missing for two months and turned up with no recollection of what happened.

Seven months before his disappearance, Morton, who was then president of the Pennsylvania-Ohio League, said something to The Detroit Free Press that made him an outlier among players from the 19th Century:

“At last an old-time baseball player has come forward and acknowledged that the game as it is now played in the big leagues is speedier and better than it was in the so-called ‘good old days.’”

“We hear a lot about the old star players during the years when I was a player. Of course we had good men then and we played good games, but it always has seemed rather foolish to me to compare these men with the ones who are in baseball at present.

“Our facilities were crude then and even if improvement had been made in the player’s physical makeup, the improvements in apparatus, gloves, and such would put the present day player in a class far removed from that of the men who were engaged in the game in my time.”

morton1909

Charles Hazen Morton

Morton said the hitters in his day had it easier because pitchers “When I played ball knew much less about curves, the ‘spit’ ball was unheard of, and many little things which contribute to pitching success had not been devised.”

As for strategy, Morton said:

“The squeeze play, the hit and run and a lot of other combinations of patting and base running which are supposed of be of modern invention were practiced then, but not to the extent they are now.”

Morton said, “I recall the squeeze play as early as 1883, but it was not worked extensively. Such plays were considered ‘freaks,’” and rare.

And, he said:

“(To) say that the men engaged in baseball then covered more ground, hit harder and were more graceful fielders is ridiculous. It would be a sad thing to think that our great national game had not kept pace with other American institutions and had not progressed in twenty years. Nobody ever hit the ball any harder than (Honus) Wagner and (Napoleon) Lajoie, nobody ever fielded faster than a half dozen big league men do now.”

wagnerwbat

Honus Wagner

While, the great players were just as good, the average players were better:

“In the old days, each team had a few stars—now everyone has to be a star, or the manager is looking for somebody else to take his place.”

Morton said, “good old days are nice to look back a upon,” but he said:

“I can find more to admire, more to enthuse over, and more to enjoy in modern baseball than I could back in the 80s.”

“Almost Every Ballplayer has his Individual Superstition”

4 May

“Almost every ballplayer has his individual superstition,” said The Philadelphia Record in 1918:

On days when Cy Young pitched, “he would always see that the bat boy placed the bats with the handles towards the infield,” Young would not tolerate crossed bats.

“Christy Mathewson always placed his glove, face up, near the sideline, and would never allow anyone to hand it to him when returning to the box.”

Bob Harmon wore his hat crookedly on the right side of his head during his first big league win, and “always wore his cap on one side of his head when working.”

harmon

Harmon

Philadelphia’s two former aces, Chief Bender and Eddie Plank, had theirs:

“Bender always pitched his glove to the sideline as he walked out of the box, He never was known to lay it down. He would get his signal from the catcher and step into the box from behind and always right foot first…Plank would never warm up with a new ball on the days he worked. He always hung his sweater on a certain nail in the dugout and ‘woe be unto’ the player who moved it.”

Eddie Collins—arguably the most superstitious player among his contemporaries— “has a certain way to put on his uniform. He always dresses from his feet up.”

Johnny Evers—who believed himself to be one of the most superstitious among his contemporaries— “always believes that his club would win if he put one stocking on with the wrong side out.”

evers2

Johnny Evers

Napoleon Lajoie and Honus Wagner’s superstitions were tied to bats:

“Lajoie had a certain bat which he used in the game and under no conditions would he allow anyone to use it, for the reason that the player using it might get a hit which really belonged to the owner of the bat…Wagner would never allow a player or bat boy to make any move to disarrange the bats or to start putting them away until the last man was out in the last inning, no matter how the score stood.”

Prince Hal Chase, said the paper, believed he could not get a hit “unless he spits in his hands and touches his cap before a pitcher delivers a ball.”

“He Dresses as he Darn Well Pleases”

1 May

In 1914, writing about Honus Wagner in “The Baseball Magazine”, William A. Phelon said:

“Wagner’s dislike for fancy clothing is well known. I have seen the massive Teuton lounging in the swellest hotels with a grey flannel shirt and no sign of a necktie, while the fashionables were trooping by. Eccentricity? No—Honus doesn’t pose as an eccentric. Boorishness, ignorance of etiquette? Not that bird, for Hans Wagner is as pleasing a country gentleman as anyone could hope to meet.

“Presswork, publicity stuff? He does not need any. He is as independent as he is powerful; as solid and determined in mind as he is in body, and he dresses as he darn well pleases. He is Hans Wagner and he is worth five or six dressy dudes that look in agony upon his tieless flannels.”

wagner2

Wagner

Phelon shared several stories about Wagner—Phelon, like Hugh Fullerton, was known for his active imagination—the magazine said in the sub headline of the article: “We shall not endeavor to trace their origin any farther.”

Phelon described a night in Hot Springs with the Pirates shortstop:

“He commands attention and gets respect, even before folks know him for the great ballplayer…Wagner, correctly clad, a splendid picture of strength and manly perfection, was listening to the music in the big ballroom. Sitting beside me was a Chicago plutocrat who has his millions, all won by hustling every minute of his business hours. This man who did not know Hans Wagner, was studying the ballplayer’s general makeup. Finally, turning in his chair, the rich man exclaimed, ‘Who the devil is that man? He’s the sort of fellow I’d like to have working for me. Bulldog, fighter; think; learn a trick and never lose it; honest as the day is long—I wish I had him. Say, Bill who is that?’

“’Hans Wagner, Mr. ——-,’ I answered, strangling a grin. The millionaire took another long, long look. ‘So, that’s Wagner, hey?’ he murmured. ‘Now I understand why he has his reputation.’’

Phelon said it “delights a crowd” to see Wagner strike out “especially if the feat is performed by some kid pitcher.”

He then suggested:

“Perhaps I am wrong, but it has seemed to me, on several occasions, as if Honus deliberately struck out just to give the crowd a ration of glee and flatter the youngster on the slab. When the Pirates are safely ahead, and some young hurler has been sent to the hill by the losing foe, Hans actually seems to strike out far oftener than at any other time, and it always looked to me as if he did so—always making a terrific wild swing at the last one—just through good heartedness.

“And how the crowd always yells and bellows in sheer ecstasy! And how the kid pitcher swells up and hugs himself, while he thinks of the glory that is his—the joy of telling everybody, to the last day he lives, about the time he struck out Hans Wagner—and made him miss the big one by a mile.

“Of course, all these strikeouts may be accidental, and the old boy may be trying—but why is it that you will so often see Wagner miss three under such circumstances, while it’s blamed seldom you’ll see him fan is a tight game, with men on, and some star pitcher working against him?”

Wagner’s Glove

30 Apr

A Newspaper Enterprise Association syndicated article in 1920 told the story of the glove Honus Wagner refused to replace:

“Many another would be ashamed of it, but not the only Honus Wagner. Wagner would not part with it for love or money. There is a history to the glove.”

wagnerpix

Honus Wagner

Wagner could not recall exactly when he received the glove, but guessed it was 1902:

“Honus knows that Herman Long, once the greatest of all shortstops, then playing with the Boston team, gave him the glove. It is a fact that Long always used a glove with a big hole in the center of it. He would buy a new glove and at once cut it to pieces, leaving an open spot in the center about twice the size of a baseball.”

Eight years later:

“The glove is now a worn-out relic, but Hans hangs onto it like grim death. He figures it would be the worst luck in the world for him to lose it.

“Fans have time and again watched Wagner take that glove off his big left hand and throw it down towards third base. And they can always see the hole in it, for it is too big not to be noticed.”

wagnergllove

Wagner’s glove

Wagner was often asked about replacing the glove:

“(H)e will only say that he has no money to pay for one. But back of that there is the one fact that remains always prominent—Wagner is just as superstitious or sentimental as any other ballplayer, and he has always felt that the Herman Long glove has brought him luck. That’s why he hangs on to it, It is worn to a frazzle. There is nothing to it but the bare edges. The center is all worn away, and Wagner grabs those hard line drives really with the bare hand.”

“He was Neither Lucky, Dumb, nor Awkward”

22 Apr

On the occasion of the sale of the land which once stood “the old major league ball grounds at Broadway and Twenty-Eight Street,” in Louisville, James Jerpe of The Pittsburgh Gazette-Times reminisced and Fred Clarke bringing “the foundation of those habitual tail-enders to Pittsburgh.”

Jerpe said:

“Louisville is proud of Fred Clarke-maybe prouder than Pittsburgh or Winfield, Kansas, or Madison County, Iowa, where he was born. It was in Louisville that he won his spurs as a player and showed the qualifications that made him a great leader.”

He said future Louisville residents of the homes built on the ballpark site, “may point with pride to the fact that on their home sites great men like Clarke and Honus Wagner reached their prime.”

clarke

Clarke

Twenty-one-year-old Clarke joined Louisville in June of 1894:

“They called him the freshest busher of the period. He had cost Barney Dreyfuss the munificent sum of $100. With him the little recruit brought a little red bat that was the butt of derisive jokes from veteran players.”

Jerpe said Clarke’s “little red bat” caught the attention of the opponents when he made his debut in a game with Philadelphia:

“’Why, kid, these pitchers will knock that toothpick out of your hands,’ exclaimed Billy Hamilton.”

Years later, Jerpe said Hamilton told Clarke:

“Do you remember how you got four hits in that game and then topped it off with a home run that made me run like mad to the clubhouse?”

Clarke—still so unfamiliar that The Louisville Courier Journal left the “e” off his last name—had five hits in his debut, but did not hit a home run as Hamilton recalled; he had four singles and a triple off Gus Weyhing, but the Colonels lost 13 to 6.

Three years later, Clarke, just 24, became manager of the Colonels; he told Jerpe about the wire he received from club president Harry Pulliam in June of 1897 informing him of the move:

“I didn’t know what to make of that telegram. I thought some of the other players had faked up a message to kid me. You know they always roasted me about being fresh and I thought that they wanted to get my goat. But I talked with several of them and found out that the message was on the level. A fellow named Rodgers [sic, Jim Rogers] had been acting in the capacity of manager. He advised me to accept the job. I was younger than any of the men playing regularly on the Pittsburgh club today, and I couldn’t hardly realize that Pulliam had picked me for a boss job.”

Jerpe said the Colonels under Clarke were “a rough and ready crowd,” and Clarke himself was “a tough nut.”

Clarke told him in 1912:

“You know they had the outfielders pegged as bad men, reckless base runners, vicious spikers and so on. But we were not as bad as they tried to paint us. Managers had a fashion of expecting the outfielders to run bases that way and to intimidate the infielders for the opposition. If one of their men spiked or bumped into one of our men the order always went out to get back at them. Of course, an outfielder was picked to bump the offending player on the other team because the outfielder covered no bases and therefore there would be no chance for them to come back at us again. If the third baseman on the opposing team blocked or bumped our shortstop the manager very promptly tipped his outfielders to get back at the third baseman.”

In 1912, Clarke also told Jerpe about the first time Honus Wagner worked out with his team; less than a month after Clarke became manager in 1897:

wagner1897

Wagner 1897

“We called him the luckiest, dumbest, and most awkward Dutchman we ever saw, but we later learned how badly mistaken we were. He was neither lucky, dumb, nor awkward.

“He played in most every position during his first few days at practice. I was one of the loudest shouters about his blind luck and awkwardness. The way he broke down his hits, fielded anything hit above him or around him and the way he handled himself in general had us all guessing. He stood awkwardly at the bat but hit like a fiend. He ran bases, it seemed, very awkwardly, but he got there. After watching him about two weeks I turned toward a fellow named O’Brien and said, ‘That Dutchman isn’t lucky. He is a wonder. He knows what he is doing, and he can do it better than any of us. I want to take it all back.’”

Wagner, Clarke said, fifteen years after his debut:

“(H)as never changed. He is playing ball the same way he played it during his first week with Louisville. He didn’t seem any more awkward then than he does now. So you fellows might take from this that it is not always the best policy to figure that your first impression of a young ball player is correct. It takes a couple weeks sometimes to see a real good man and often it takes much longer.”

“The Hook Slide is the Hardest for the man Handling Throws to Gauge”

7 Apr

When Johnny Evers was acquired by the Braves in 1914, Melville E. Webb Jr., writing in The Boston Globe shared a “never published” interview with the second baseman, in order to give readers “a better idea of the little fellow.”

evers2

Johnny Evers

“In all my years of ball playing, the man I have found it hardest to touch with the ball as he came down to second base from first is Bill Dahlen…(he) always came straight down the baseline, directly at the base, but in the last ten feet there was no telling what he would do.

“He had a great way of anticipating where the throw from the catcher was coming, and he played his slide to a nicety. Coming straight along, he suddenly would fall down on his hips, to one side or the other, spread his legs ad then use the greatest cleverness in pulling out of reach and twisting himself to hook the base with either foot.”

billdahlen

Bill Dahlen

Evers said Dahlen was not the only man who used a hook slide, but did it better than others:

“He never was a particular dangerous man to try to block but blocking him off never seemed to do much good. He was almost sure to get better of the close plays around second base, and nothing was sure to go right, even when throws apparently were on the mark.”

Others Evers found difficult to tag out at second:

“Hans Lobert, Charley Herzog, (Vin) Campbell, (Bob) Bescher, (Bobby) Byrne, (Sherry) Magee, Miller Huggins and (Honus) Wagner. Wagner was a big mark to try to tag, but often when it came to putting the ball on him he was not there.”

bescher2

Bescher

In general, he concluded “I think the hook slide is the hardest for the man handling throws to gauge.”

Evers said while he “never had any experience playing defensively” against Frank Chance:

“(He) was one of the greatest base runners who ever played, and this because he so very often did the unexpected and used his head as well as his excellent speed. Infielders have told me that Chase was the hardest man they found to tag.”

 

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things: Clark Griffith

3 Feb

Griff out West

Griffith loved to tell stories about his time playing in Montana, one story the “truthfulness” of he “vouched” he told The Cleveland Leader in 1912:

leetgriffith

Griffith

“The scene was at Butte, back in the nineties (1892), and the story resulted from a baseball game between Missoula and Butte at the latter town. There were a lot of gamblers in Butte who wanted to back the team, so about $5000 was bet on the game.”

Griffith was on the mound for Missoula:

“Everything went along nicely for a while, with a monster crowd on hand hollering for everything it was worth for Butte to win.

“In the ninth inning Missoula was leading by one run, but after two were out Butte got a man on third and then the catcher let the ball get away from him. It rolled a short distance, but when the catcher went to retrieve it one bug leaned over the stand with a six-shooter in his hand. ‘Touch that ball and you are dead,’ he shouted. And the catcher stood stock still in his tracks.”

Griffith said the players “were scared stiff” and watched the tying run cross the plate.  He claimed Missoula scored in the 10th and won the game 5 to 4.

Griff on Lajoie

In 1900, Griffith and Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Tribune were watching Napoleon Lajoie take ground balls during practice:

“He looks less like a ballplayer, handles himself less like an infielder, goes at a ball in the strangest style, and gets them more regularly than any fellow I ever watched. He fights every ball he picks up, scoops them with without looking, and keeps me nervous all the time.

lajoie

Napoleon Lajoie

 

“Every time a grounder goes down to him, I want to bet about three to one he will fumble, but he always gets them. He has some system for making the ball hit his hands which I don’t understand.  And I’ll tell you a secret: He has a system of making his bat hit a ball which drives pitchers to drink.”

Griff’s All-Time Team

In “Outing Magazine” in 1914, Griffith presented his all-time team:

P: Amos Rusie

P: Walter Johnson

P: Cy Young

P: Christy Mathewson

C: Buck Ewing

1B: Charles Comiskey

2B: Eddie Collins

3B: Jimmy Collins

SS: Herman Long

LF: Bill Lange

CF: Tris Speaker

RF: Ty Cobb

Griffith’s most surprising pick was choosing Comiskey over his former teammate and manager Cap Anson. He told the magazine:

“(Comiskey) was the first man to see the possibilities of the position. Before his day a first baseman was only a basket. He stood glued to the bag, received the balls thrown to him, but never moved away.”

Charles Comiskey

Charles Comiskey

He said Anson, “Although a great player, was not Comiskey’s equal.”

He chose Long over Honus Wagner he said, because “Hans has a barrel of ability, but he’s not such a foxy player as many persons think, but he is a wonderful batter.”

Griffith called Jimmy Collins, “The most graceful fielding third baseman the game has ever seen,” and said Tris Speaker ”is the most remarkable outfielder that ever lived.”

As or his chosen catcher, Griffith said:

“Buck Ewing never has known an equal as a catcher. I call him the best ballplayer the world ever has known. The only man who approached him was Mike Kelly of the old Chicago White Sox, Kelly too, was a wonder, but not quite equal to Ewing.”

“Diabolical—Nothing Else.”

2 Aug

The introduction of baseball cards in cigarette packages by the American Tobacco Company was largely uncontroversial—except in the company’s backyard, the heart of tobacco country.

The Charlotte Observer was the first large paper to condemn the practice. In August of 1909 the paper editorialized:

“(T)rading upon the small boy’s passion for baseball as well as for collecting to make a cigarette fiend of him, is diabolical—nothing else.”

The Observer described the “mania” among the city’s boys:

“More especially the likenesses of Ty Cobb and Hans Wagner are most desired, and until a week ago only a few pictures of Cobb had been found, two of these being in the possession of the Buford Hotel cigar stand.”

wagnercobb

“Most desired” among the boys of Charlotte

The paper said 13 Cobb cards were then found in purchases made at “The Wilson Drug Store, on East Trade Street,” and “The boys of the street went wild.”

The Observer conceded that some of the younger boys took the cards then sold the five-cent packs of cigarettes were offered to passers by for two packs for five cents, but maintained their editorial opinion that young kids were being induced to smoke.

The Raleigh News and Observer agreed about the “baseball picture bait,” and added:

“The cigarette trust, it seems, would stop at nothing to get money.”

oldmill.JPG

Old Mill ad “Baseball pictures and a valuable coupon in each package.”

The cause was taken up by numerous papers across the state, The Statesville Landmark said:

“(I)f the enormity of the offense was appreciated as it should be it would arouse a spirit of indignation in North Carolina that would stop this traffic in the bodies and souls of boys.”

The Winston Sentinel said:

“It will do more to start young boys smoking than any other agency of which we can conceive.”

The Raleigh Times said the introduction of the “baseball pictures” coincided with an increase in “the number of licenses to sell cigarettes” in the city:

“That the boys are buying the cigarettes is a settled fact and there are always people who will sell anything for money.”

But smoking wasn’t the only concern. The Reidsville Review said:

“Almost any day groups of youngsters may be seen on the streets of Reidsville ‘matching’ pictures of baseball men. It seems a harmless amusement, yet it is gambling all the same, and has been so decided by a judge in Washington (NC). He dismissed the first bunch of boys brought before him for matching baseball pictures with a reprimand but intimated that hereafter he would impose the gamblers’ sentence.”

“Matching pictures” was simply flipping game where a card was won or lost if landed face up or down.

One major daily paper in the state took up the cause of the tobacco company, The Greensboro News said:

“Considerable criticism, and of a right severe kind, has been leveled lately at certain cigarette manufacturers for their practice of putting pictures of baseball players in their cigarette boxes.”

The paper said the “criticism” was based on an incorrect notion, and claimed “we have our doubts” that more children were smoking:

“Our observation is that he relies mainly on begging his pictures from the large boys and grown men.”

The paper acknowledged, “Of course, some very small boys smoke,” but claimed the increase in cigarette sales was not because of the “baseball pictures,” and instead due to changing “tastes of the public,” for “ready-made cigarettes” rather than rolling them themselves.

The paper concluded their theory was “far more reasonable than the baseball picture idea.”

The brief outcry changed nothing—by the time American Tobacco introduced cards, the company which had a virtual monopoly on the sale of “ready-made” or manufactured cigarettes since it was formed, had a near monopoly on the sale of all tobacco. At the same time, the company was already defending itself from the federal anti-trust case that led to the 1911 Supreme Court decision which dissolved the company.

The “baseball picture” craze did result in at least one homicide in North Carolina. In 1910, The Laurinburg Exchange reported that a 16-year-old had hit another 16-year-old “in the head with a ginger ale bottle,” during an argument over a “matching game with baseball pictures out of cigarette packages,” rendering the victim unconscious–he never regained consciousness and died a week later.