Tag Archives: Hughie Jennings

“The one man in Baseball who did not Want to Rise”

15 Apr

William Malcolm Bingay of The Detroit News found a player he could not figure out:

“Somewhere in the big state of Pennsylvania there is a lean, wiry lad with a big under jaw and a crop of wire hair, who is eking out an existence tinning roofs. He escaped an awful fate, so he is happy. He might have been a major league ball player. His name is Johnson and he is on the Tiger reserve list, but he will not be taken South this spring.”

Charlie “Home Run” Johnson was an enigma—he was said to have a huge ego; The Trenton Times once said of him:

“If Home-Run Johnson gets his chest out much further he will crack his wish bone or else curve his spine so that it will never regain its normal shape.”

But Johnson refused to play far from Pennsylvania—he lived just outside Philadelphia in Chester.  When he spent the spring of 1907 with the Tigers, but when he was assigned to the Montreal Royals, The News said:

“The heavy hitting outfielder…is averse to playing in Montreal.”

homerunjohnson.jpg

Home Run Johnson

Johnson instead played for the Johnstown Johnnies in the Tri-State League.

Bingay said:

“Johnson was the one man in baseball who did not want to rise.”

Johnson told Bingay

“’I don’t want to ply in the American League. I don’t want to play in any big league. I want to play around home.”

When he joined the Tigers on the trip south, Bingay said Johnson “had a strange idea of the power of baseball law,” thinking he had to come.

“’What did you come South for, then?’ ‘I was drafted.’ He said that in the voice of some Russian prisoner explaining why he was sent to Siberia.”

According to Bingay, Johnson, who picked up the additional nickname,“Little Ban” after  American League President Ban Johnson,  not only wanted nothing to do with major league baseball, he barely had anything to do with his teammates:

“Johnson never spoke to anybody on the team unless spoken to. He spent his nights in his rooms with a massive book about the size of a family dictionary. It was entitled ‘Tales of the Seven Murderers” and described life in the ‘Wild and wicked West.’ He was often so deeply interested in the doings of his bloodthirsty heroes that he would take the book to the dinner table with him.”

On his way the his “forced” spring service with the Tigers, Johnson’s trunk apparently went missing, forcing him, according to Bingay to use borrowed clothes on and off the field:

“Johnson on the ball field was a sight never to be forgotten. If you had never seen Little Ban in his makeup, (vaudeville actor) Eddie Foy would appear as an imitation. He had a pair of Sam Crawford’s pants, once white; George Mullin’s shirt and (Germany) Schaefer’s cap; which completely covered his ears.”

Bingay said Johnson played that spring with a pair of congress gaiters in the place of his lost baseball shoes, and:

“Once, during a heated scrub game he lost his shoe running from first to second, and they tagged him out because he stopped to sweat at (first baseman Claude) Rossman, who had kicked it into right field.”

Johnson apparently managed to annoy his manager as well:

“He used to keep Jennings up night after night until almost dawn, knocking at his door to find out ‘just how he could get his trunk.’”

Johnson went home to Chester and stayed there. Throughout May it was rumored he was joining the York White Roses in the Tri-State League; that fell through and he played for a semi-pro team in Atlantic City, New Jersey. At the end of July, he joined the Johnstown Johnnies in the Tri-State.

He hit .262 in 1907 and returned to Johnstown the following season; hitting, hitting .296 and leading the Tri-State with nine home runs.

On September 1, Johnson was drafted by a major league team agreeable to him—one 18 miles away from his home in Chester–the Philadelphia Phillies.

Johnson made his major league debut on September 21, pinch hitting in the first game of a double header; he started the second game in left field. The local boy’s arrival to the big leagues was barely noticed by the local press, The Philadelphia Inquirer said:

“(Sherry) Magee started the first game in left field but gave way to young Johnson in the second battle…Johnson failed to get a hit during five times up but managed to take care of everything which came his way in the field.”

Johnson appeared in six games for the Phillies, he was 4 for 16 with two RBI,

By the end of the season, The Philadelphia Press predicted:

“Johnson, the Johnstown pickup, undoubtedly will get a thorough trial with the Phillies next spring. He is a natural batsman and hits the ball with terrible force.”

After the 1908 season, the Detroit Tigers filed a claim against the $750 draft price paid by the Phillies for Johnson’s contract, claiming they still held his rights. The Tigers were eventually awarded half.

The prediction that Johnson would return to the Phillies was wrong, shortly before the team when South in the spring of 1909, The Press reported that 31-year-old journeyman Pep Deininger and minor leaguer Charlie Hanford would instead be given the opportunity to be the Phillies extra outfielder; Deininger made the club. Johnson returned to Johnstown.

Johnson never went to camp with another major league club, but stayed a star, near home, with the New York State and Tri-State League clubs.  The biggest highlight of his career was his league-leading .403 average for the Trenton Tigers in 1912—he also hit 14 home runs.

Johnson hit better than .300 for two more seasons in the Tri-State League but battled injuries and returned home to Chester after the 1914 season. He worked for the rest of his life in a clothing factory—for the American Viscose Company—in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania. He and his wife had eight children.

He died of a heart attack at the factory at age 55.  His obituary in The Delaware County Daily Times mentioned that he was a local baseball legend but said he had only had a “try-out with the Phillies,” and did mention his two weeks a major leaguer.

“Probably the Best Known bad man”

10 Apr

In 1908, Malcolm Wallace Bingay, the long-time writer for The Detroit News told of the “nervy ballplayers,” who were tough on the field but afraid of a “personal encounter,” while, ”There are some quiet ball players who play an ordinary game on the field who, when occasion demands, can show gamesmanship tom a degree that would surprise the average follower of the fighting business.”

Bingay named the current toughest man in baseball:

“Big John Anderson, now with Comiskey’s White Sox, as handsome a figure as there is in baseball, could, if he but cared, hold his own with most of the wrestlers in America. Not only this, but the big Swede, although naturally quiet, when thoroughly aroused, can put up a terrific battle. Among ball players he is probably the most respected man in the league when it comes to a personal mix-up. Anderson is a clever boxer, has a wicked punch in either hand and doesn’t seem to know what pain is when angry.

“Anderson is a physical culture crank. He is probably the most ideally built man in baseball. The grace with which he carries himself on the diamond is only brought out more clearly when he is boxing. And John doesn’t stop with the gloves. He is as wicked a rough-and-tumble fighter as one would care to run across.”

johnanderson

John Anderson

George Moriarty—then with the New York Highlanders—was, according to Bingay, “another bad man to bother.” Bingay said in 1907 in Chicago:

“(A) big fellow came from the bleachers. He hit the Yankee on the jaw and sent him staggering against the fence.

“’Moriarty seemed to come back like a piece of rubber,’ says (New York catcher) Ira Thomas, who saw the battle. ‘The fellow was far bigger than he, but Moriarty didn’t seem to care. Before the mob could get to him he had the man from the bleachers helpless.”

moriarty

George Moriarty

Thomas said the New York players were concerned about getting Moriarty out of the ballpark past the large throng of White Sox fans, until the fans realized it was a Chicago native involved in the fight:

“’Going from the grounds there was fear of a riot, and about 200 big men were lined up near the gates as we passed out.’

‘”Is George Moriarty there/’ the leader yelled to me.’

“’He is,’ I said, ‘expecting a fight.’

“’Well, tell him that we’re from the South Side and don’t go back on the boys who come from here. Tell him we’ll fight for him if he needs help.’”

But, said Bingay:

“Probably the best-known bad man, when he wants to ne, in baseball is Bill (Kid) Gleason.”

Gleason was just 5’ 8” and weighed 160 pounds, but Bingay said he was “the biggest little man that ever stood in shoe leather.”

Kid_Gleason

Kid Gleason

Despite his size:

“He has the strength of a giant and is as agile as a wild cat. Bill was the man who kept Kid Elberfeld playing good ball around Detroit. When the Kid wouldn’t behave himself, Bill would take him out back of the clubhouse and give him a thrashing.”

Jimmy Williams, the St. Louis Browns infielder, was, according to Bingay, “as quiet as any of them and yet he is as wicked a man when crossed as there is.”

Tigers pitcher Bill Donovan told Bingay a story about Williams when the two played together on the “all-American” team that barnstormed the West Coast during the off-season.  There was a fan in one town who “was a giant in strength, always in an ugly mood, and always hunting for trouble.”

Donovan said:

“’Now Jimmy wasn’t hunting for trouble, understand. He was minding his own business when this chap got gay. Williams knew of his reputation but never hesitated. He gave the big duffer such a whipping that he begged for mercy. After that anybody in town could chase the bully up an alley. The citizens warmly thanked Jimmy for what he had done.’”

Bingay said the manager of the Tigers, was the opposite of the quiet players on the field who had no problem throwing a few punches:

“No man ever displayed more nerve on the ball field than Hughie Jennings, who for years was a league sensation. Yet, Jennings never had a fight in his life. He’s as peaceful as a Quaker off the field.”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #32

8 Apr

“He Runs Bases Like a cow”

John Irwin began 1891, his eighth and final major league season playing for the Boston Reds, managed by his brother Arthur.

After a June game with The Colonels, The Louisville Courier-Journal said the connection was not an accident:

“John Irwin, who is a ball player because his brother is a baseball manager, was in a part of yesterday’s game. He runs bases like a cow and was caught off first yesterday in the easiest manner possible. He foolishly ran out between the bases and then waited until (catcher Jack) Ryan had thrown the ball to get him out. He is very gay and is never happier or more fatal to Boston’s chances then when he is coaching. His dangerous advice got one man out yesterday.”

irwin.jpg

John Irwin

The paper said when Irwin entered the game, at least one of his teammates, right fielder, Hugh Duffy was not pleased:

“Duffy was seen to remonstrate yesterday, when Irwin took (Paul) Radford’s place. It was like leaving the short field without a man. Irwin would be cheaper to the Boston club were he paid five times as much as he is now, with the proviso that he did not in the field—except to bring a bat.”

Irwin was released by the Boston Reds on July 16, and immediately signed by the Louisville Colonels.

“He Fairly Flew at me”

Roger Connor jumped the New York Giants and signed with the Philadelphia Athletics of the American Association in November of 1891. Before he left New York, he sought out Sam Crane, former major leaguer and reporter for The New York Press, to settle a score in “an uptown saloon.”

connor

Connor

Crane told the story in the pages of The Press:

“I know Roger fully believes what he says. I had a short séance with him recently and was unfortunate enough to strike Roger in a very unamiable mood. Talk about the effect of a red flag on a mad bill.”

According to Crane, when Connor approached him in the bar:

“He fairly flew at me and threatened to knock seven kinds of daylight out of me, or any other baseball reporter that ever lived, in as many minutes.”

The New York Herald said Connor had also threatened George Erskine Stackhouse of The New York Tribune and Charles Mathison of The New York Sun.

samcrane2

Crane

Crane continued the story:

“His big form loomed over me and his brawny fist made belligerent hieroglyphics before my face a very vivid recollection came to me of what an effect that same fist on the features of (his former New York teammate) Ed Caskin several years ago. I would bet even money just at that stage of the game that he could lick John L. Sullivan in a punch, and I decided to forego, for some time at least, all further thought of making any arguments with him.”

Crane suggested that those who called him “a gentleman” and congratulated him on staying above the fray and not getting in a fight with Connor were not considering Connor’s point of view:

“Roger laid great stress on the fact that I once said, ‘he hadn’t a heart as big as a pea.’”

Connor was assigned to the Philadelphia Phillies after the American Association folded.

“He Never Gave the Game Enough”

The Detroit News said during the spring of 1912, Hughie Jennings told young players as the Tigers trained in Louisiana that to be successful a player “must breathe baseball, eat baseball, play baseball, and sleep baseball.”

hughie

Hugh Jennings

Jennings said four of his players—Ty Cobb, Donie Bush. Sam Crawford, and Del Gainer—“devote their entire time and attention” to baseball.

“The man who is successful is the man who trains himself to his work and keeps his mind on it.”

Jennings then mentioned his only exception to that rule:

“In my career in the game I have known but one really good player who could place baseball second to other things. That man is Bill Dahlen, now manager of the Brooklyn team. Dahlen played the ponies and indulged in other outside affairs. He never practiced. He never gave the game enough when off the field, and he always reached the clubhouse two or three minutes before starting time. Sometimes the game had to wait till Bill took his position at short.”

Jennings, who was Dahlen’s teammate in 1899-1900 in Brooklyn said:

“If Dahlen had devoted his entire time to baseball he would have been the greatest infielder of all time. He could take a grounder on either side of him while in motion and throw without hesitating a moment. He could smash the ball to any part of the lot and bunt perfectly. He was a great baserunner. There was no more brilliant fielder.”

billdahlen

Bill Dahlen

Jennings acknowledged that his former teammate was not the “greatest of all time,” but:

“He should have been.”

“Who’s the Greatest Ballplayer that Ever Lived?”

13 Mar

In the 19th Century, conversations about baseball in hotel lobbies

The Chicago Daily News shared one such discussion in 1896:

“’Who’s the greatest ballplayer that ever lived?’ Demanded the old ball crank of the gathering at the hotel.  And there were, straightaway, almost as many opinions as there were gentlemen in the party.”

A man in town on business said:

“To my mind, Anson outranks them all.  When you consider the wonderful grip which Anse has retained on the sport for all these twenty-five tears, when you take into consideration his qualifications as a player and as a man, his work as a leader and a general, the great batting he has always done every little point that can be recalled about both uncle and the game, I can’t see where any other player, living or dead, ranks with Anson.”

anson

 Anson

The paper said there were murmurs, then the night clerk weighed in:

“Mike Kelly was his ideal.

“‘Poor old Mike,’ said he, ‘had baseball genius and brilliancy to an extent never paralleled.  He had the mind to originate, the ability to execute.  He was, in the hearts of the masses, what John L. Sullivan was to pugilism.  Remember the tricks he worked, the batting and the base running he did, and the way in which he filled every position—remember only his methods of play, if you will, and then see if any one can compare with poor dead King Kel!’

kingkelly

 Kelly

The “theatrical man” in the group said:

“’Bill Lange is the best that ever came down the road.  Who is there who does not like to see Lange play ball? What other player in the league, taking batting, base running and fielding into account, is as of as much value as Lange? What club would not eagerly give him the best position and the best salary it could command?  Bill Lange is destined to leave a mark in baseball history as deep as that Mike Kelly made, and future generations will speak of him as they do of Kelly now.’”

Then the “Old baseball crank” spoke up:

“’To my mind gentlemen, the greatest player of them all was Charlie Ferguson of Philadelphia.  There was a man who never realized how good he was.  When it came to effective playing, in any position, Ferguson was the man who could step into the gap so well that the regular man would never be even missed.  He could kill the ball, he was fast on the bases, and we all know he could pitch.  And the head that Charlie Ferguson wore was as good a head as ever decorated any player’s shoulders.  I saw hundreds of great players before Ferguson came, I have seen hundreds since he died, but I never to my mind at least, have seen his equal.’”

charlief.jpg

Ferguson

The assembled men said the paper, “remembered the time of Ferguson,” with “nods and mutterings of assent,” thinking of Ferguson’s four seasons in Philadelphia—he died just 12 days after his 25th birthday in 1888.

 “Jim Hart, who ought to be a good judge of players, thinks Ferguson the greatest that the world has ever known. A canvass of ball cranks would probably show sentiments about equally divided between Ferguson and Mike Kelly.”

The paper concluded that there were, and would be, “few such popular idols” as Kelly and Ferguson:

“The increased batting has, queer as it may seem, done away with hero worship.  In the old days hits were few and the man who could step up and kill the ball was a popular king.  Nowadays the fact that nearly everybody is apt to hit takes away the individuality and accompanying romance of the great isolated sluggers.”

The paper said Lange was one of the few contemporary players who “comes as near being the subject of hero worship,” as players in previous years and that there were only players who had that impact in their own cities:

lange.jpg

Lange

“(Jesse) Burkett might be worshipped in Cleveland for his grand batting, but is handicapped by morose, unsociable ways.

‘(Jimmy) McAleer’s fielding would make him an idol, but his batting is pitifully light.  Baltimore’s great hero is Hughey Jennings, and the cranks treat him as though he owned the town. Brooklyn has no heroes.  There is nobody on the Boston nine whom the crowd raves over, even Hugh Duffy having lost his grip.”

“Eddie Burke and Charlie (Dusty) Miller have great followings in Cincinnati.  Louisville dotes on (Charlie) Dexter and Fred Clarke.  New York is idolless.  Philadelphia gives ovations to the whole team as a matter of principle but singles out no player.  Pittsburgh is the same way.  There is nobody at St. Louis or Washington whom the crowds adore.”

“A Baseball Player is Unfitted as a Rule for Business”

8 Mar

When the Baltimore Orioles obtained pitcher John Clarkson from the Cleveland Spiders for pitcher Tony Mullane, Clarkson chose to go home to Bay City, Michigan and open a cigar business.

Ned Hanlon did not give up on Clarkson returning to baseball; in fact, the Orioles’ manager was sure Clarkson would need the job in 1895.  He told The Baltimore American:

“I am confident John Clarkson will be on my staff of pitchers next year.  John is now running a store up in Michigan, but I hear he will have the same experience which befalls all players who embark in business.  I fitted up a hat store in New York in 1889 and did all I could to establish myself.”

clarkson.jpg

Hanlon failed and he assumed Clarkson would as well.

“‘Every man to his trade,’ is the best plan for getting through life.  A baseball player is unfitted as a rule for business.  I found that I could not get rid of a stock of out-of-style hats as easily as I did some of the back-number players who were drawing salaries from the Baltimore club when I took charge of it.”

Hanlon bragged of unloading “faded stars” like George Van Haltren and Tim O’Rourke who he traded in separate deals for Hughie Jennings and Joe Kelley.

“Yes, John will be back in the business next year and will help us to retain the championship.  He knows that we treat our players right.  John will get a new lease of life after this long rest and be all the better for it.”

Clarkson’s business–along with three subsequent ones he started were successful enough to keep him out of major league baseball for good.  Hanlon managed to win another pennant without him in 1895.

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things: Lost Quotes

11 Feb

Hughie Jennings on Ossie Vitt, 1915

Hughey Jennings told The Detroit News in 1915:

“Vitt is the most valuable player in the American League.  He is the most valuable because he can play three positions in the infield.  He is also an excellent outfielder and can field with the best of them.  Vitt lacks the class to gain a regular position because he cannot hit.”

vitt

Ossie Vitt

Over ten seasons with the Tigers and Red Sox, Vitt hit just .238

A White Stockings Player on George Washington Bradley, 1876

After winning their first four games of the National League’s inaugural season—and scoring 40 runs–the Chicago White Stockings were shut out by St. Louis pitcher George Washington Bradley on May 5, 1876; Bradley yielded just two hits in the 1-0 win.  An unnamed Chicago player was quoted by The St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

gwbradley

Bradley

 “A man might just as well try to successfully strike his mother-in-law as one of his balls.”

Bill Terry on John McGraw, 1934

Despite their often-strained relationship—they once went two years without speaking, Bill Terry, speaking to The Associated Press, said of John McGraw after the man who managed him and whom he replaced as manager, died in 1934:

“I don’t think there ever will be another manager as great as McGraw.  I had my little arguments with him but there was always a soft spot in my heart.  He was the only man I ever played big league ball for, and to hear that a man who has spent his whole life in baseball has gone makes me feel humble.  We will call off practice on the day of his funeral.”

Hal Schumacher on John McGraw, 1934

Hal Schumacher played for John McGraw as a 20-year-old rookie in 1931, and for part of 1932 before McGraw was replaced by Bill Terry.  When McGraw died in 1934, Schumacher told The Associated Press:

mcgraw2

McGraw

“I never could understand his reputation as an iron-fisted ruler.  I never heard him bawl out a rookie.”

Harry Wright on fans and winning, 1888

Harry Wright, told The Pittsburgh Press about the difference between how fans treated winning clubs in 1888 versus his time with the Red Stockings in the 1870s:

harrywright

 Wright

“I won the championship six times, and the most we ever got was an oyster supper.  Now the whole town turns out to meet the boys when they return from a fairly successful trip.  They are learning how to appreciate pennant winners nowadays.”

Dick Hoblitzel on his “X-Ray Eye,” 1911

Dick Hoblitzel told The Cincinnati Times-Star in the spring of 1911 he was “training his batting eye,” and:

“(B)elieves he will soon be able to count the stitches on a ball before it leaves the pitcher’s hand.  ‘It’s the X-ray eye that does this,’ he avers, and he has made a bet of a suit of clothes that he will finish in the .275 class or better.”

Hoblitzel, perhaps as a result of his “X-ray eye,” hit.289 in 1911.

Tommy Corcoran on Umpiring, 1897

Tommy Corcoran told a Sporting Life correspondent in 1897:

corcoran

Corcoran

I believe I’d rather carry scrap iron for the same money than umpire a ball game.  There is no vocation in which there is less sympathy or charity than in baseball.  It must be awful for an old player to listen to the abuse he has to stand from those he once chummed with.  There is an illustration of the heartlessness of some players.  That umpire’s playing days are over, or he wouldn’t be an umpire.  He is trying to earn a living and his old comrades won’t let him.”

“One of the Greatest Shortstops the Game has ever Known.”

26 Dec

Ed McKean had played 12 years in Cleveland before being part of the mass player transfer to the St. Louis Perfectos before the 1899 season.  The career .302 hitter was struggling, and according to The Cleveland Plain Dealer, he requested his release:

“Ed is very sensitive to criticism, and the papers have been roasting him lately, until he got into such a nervous state that he couldn’t play ball a little bit.”

Buck Ewing said he was “forced out of the game,” and “one of the greatest shortstops the game has ever known.”

McKean’s release opened the door for Hall of Famer Bobby Wallace’s switch to shortstop.

mckean

Edward [sic Edwin] J. McKean

McKean, like his former teammate Cupid Childs had a large build, and according to the St. Louis papers needed to shed a few pounds to get back into playing shape.

The St. Louis Republic said McKean intended to spend the next several months preparing to “play in Cleveland” the following season.

McKean, said The Buffalo Courier, had a “peculiar stand at the bat,” which “often balked” pitchers

“Instead of striking the conventional side or profile position in the batman’s box.  McKean gave the twirler a three-quarter view of his burly figure.”

The paper also said before becoming a ballplayer McKean had made a name for himself as a wrestler—contemporary news accounts occasionally referred to him as “Sandow,” because of his physique; a reference to Eugen Sandow the “father of modern bodybuilding”

McKean filled his time away from baseball by becoming a wrestling and boxing referee in Cleveland—if he was looking for a job that shielded him from criticism, he chose wrong.  McKean served as referee for at Cleveland’s Business Men’s Gym, between Art Simms and Tommy White in December on 1899.  The St. Louis Republic described the situation:

“Sandow Ed McKean, the burly grounder-copper, who secured a divorce from St. Louis on the ground of incompatibility of temperament, finds life as a referee of pugilistic encounters no less a bed of roses than playing short before a critical local crowd…Experts and common spectators asseverate that White was a winner by a mile, but Sandow fumbled the points of the game, let the strikes registered by White go over without calling them, and said it was a draw.  The people yelled for a rope, and McKean thought he was again staggering at short in League Park…It was not the hated yet harmless ‘Take him out!’ that was heard, but ‘Hang the robbing rascal.’”

McKean was accused of “being in cahoots” with Simms’ manager, who the paper said was a former Boston sportswriter who McKean knew from his playing days.

White hailed from Chicago, and one of his hometown papers The Inter Ocean was even harsher in their assessment of McKean.  The paper claimed:

“(White) took Mr. Art Simms in hand and administered probably the most terrific beating that had been handed out to a pretentious lightweight in recent years…(but) McKean, who used to be a fair sort of infielder, under Patsy Tebeau, called the bout a draw.”

The Chicago paper not only questioned McKean’s integrity but claimed that three of the four recent fights he had refereed “have been marked by decisions almost as ludicrous.”

Curiously, both papers failed to mention that Simms had participated in three of the four fights in question—coming away with a 2-0-1 record for the three bouts (Simms was 33-14-9 for his career and 5-0-1 in fights officiated by McKean.)

Throughout the 1900 season McKean’s imminent return was reported—usually bound for the Cleveland Lake Shores in the American League.  The Sporting News said in June:

“McKean is hard at work practicing to get into the game.  He goes to League Park every day, and the way that he works indicates that he is not out there for fun.”

Cleveland used six different shortstops during the 1900 season, but McKean was never signed.  Published reports that he would sign with the New York Giants never materialized either.

mckean2

McKean

His sitting out the entire season might have saved a life—while working at his bar The Short Stop Inn on St. Clair Avenue and Seneca (present day Third Street) in Cleveland in August of 1900, he, according to press reports, stop a potential lynching.

The Cleveland News said a news boy threw a rock at a black man, and when the man confronted the rock thrower:

“(Twenty) news boys took up the trouble. They followed the negro threatening him until he turned on them (near McKean’s saloon).”

Another confrontation took place in front of the saloon and “a volley of stones were fired at” the man who then ran into McKean’s business.

“Other newsies joined their companions until 150 boys were standing in front of the place.  Their noise attracted a crowd of men and all became excited when they explained that a negro had attacked them.

“’It’s nothing but a boys fight,’ said McKean, trying to quiet the crowd.  But he did not succeed.  Men and boys collected stones and clubs, and the situation was becoming dangerous when McKean took the negro out the back way while employees guarded the front entrance.  McKean boosted the man over the back fence and he made his escape through Noble Street.”

McKean spent all of 1901 managing his bar, working as a referee—without any further charges of crookedness—and training wrestlers; Although The Cleveland Leader reported in the spring that McKean was again working out at League Park and had “many offers from the American League.”

He finally returned to baseball in 1902, signing to manage and play first base for the Rochester Bronchos in the Eastern League.

McKean hit .314 but the club struggled all season and The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle said McKean had for some time “wanted to be released from the team” to attend to his bar.  His wish was granted on August 18—with the team in sixth place with a 42-53 record, he was replaced by Hal O’Hagan—the team went 15-21 under O’Hagan.

McKean returned to his bar, managing wrestlers, and umpiring amateur games in 1903 and 1904, all the while, promising another comeback.  Several newspapers reported he was either considering, or on the verge of joining various minor league clubs as manager.

He returned again in 1905.  McKean signed to manage and play shortstop for the Colorado Springs Millionaires in the Western League. He struggled at the plate—hitting .191 in 22 games–and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said his arm was gone and he was “slated for the junk pile.”  Released by Colorado Springs in June, McKean appeared with seven more teams through the 1908 season: the 44-year-old called it quits for at the end of the 1908 season.

McKean refereed the occasional fight, organized semi-pro teams around Cleveland, and maintained his bar, which was the meeting place for baseball, boxing, and wrestling fans.  At some point he appears to have closed his bar and gone to work for Cleveland boxing promoter

When he died in 1919, The New York Sun noted that McKean was:

“(O)ne of four big league shortstops who had a life’s average batting .300 or better.  Jack Glasscock, Hughie Jennings, and Honus Wagner were the others, and it might be added that this quartet were classed as the greatest shortstops in the game.”

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up Other Things #25

15 Aug

“Used to Come Upon Field Staggeringly Drunk”

Arthur Irwin was a scout for the New York Highlanders in 1912 when he declared to William A. Phelon of The Cincinnati Times-Star that, “Players who are hard drinkers in the big leagues are scarce now.”

irwin

Arthur Irwin

Irwin said a combination of “the improvement in morals” of players, and more so the fact that current players were “money mad” were the reason:

“Long ago the hail fellow and the good fellow, who believed that drinking was the jolliest part of life, were numerous in the big leagues, and there were surely some wonderful soaks in the profession.  Stars whose names will shine forever used to come upon the field staggering drunk, and other stars who had sense enough not to exhibit their follies in public would wait till the game was over and then tank up till dawn.”

Irwin told Phelon about King Kelly’s American Association team:

“The club that tried to play ball under King Kel in 1891 at Cincinnati was about the limit.  They made their headquarters at a saloon across the street from the ball park and some of them could be found asleep there at almost all hours when not actually in the game.  Some of the champion Chicago White Stockings and some of the old St. Louis Browns were likewise marvels on the jag, and it has become a baseball legend that the Browns defeated Anson’s men for the world’s championship (in 1886) because (John) Clarkson, Kelly and two or three others were beautifully corned.”

Clarkson won his first two starts of the series, but lost his next two.  Kelly hit just .208 in the series and St. Louis won four games to two.

Jennings’ Six Best

In 1916, Hughie Jennings “wrote” a short piece for the Wheeler syndicate that appeared in several papers across the country, about the six best pitchers he faced:

hughiejennings

Hughie Jennings

Jack Taylor and Nig Cuppy had fair speed and a fine curve ball, with the added advantage of a slow ball, and good control.  The latter, I contend is the most important asset a pitcher can possess.  My six greatest pitchers are:

Amos Rusie

Jack Taylor

Cy Seymour

Denton (Cy) Young

Charles “Kid” Nichols

Nig Cuppy

“Rusie, Nichols and Young had wonderful speed and fast breaking curves.  Cy Seymour also belonged to this case.”

“Batters Might as Well Hang up Their Sticks”

Add Ned Hanlon to the long list of prognosticators who were sure a rule change would be the death of the game—in this case, the decision in 1887 that abolished the rule allowing batters to call for high or low pitches.

hanlon

Ned Hanlon

 

According to The St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

 “Hanlon of the Detroits says the abolition of the high and low ball was a fatal mistake, and the batters might as well hang up their sticks.  Ned argues that as the pitcher has the space between the knee and the shoulder in which to throw the ball, all he has got to do is vary the height of his delivery with every ball he pitches, and thus completely delude the batter.  He claims that pitchers capable of doing head work will have a picnic, and that Baldwin will be particularly successful.”

 

“Cuppy’s Coolness”

13 Jun

Chief Zimmer said:

“It would be interesting to know how many games Nig Cuppy ever won for Cleveland by sheer coolness.”

He told The Cleveland Press in 1904:

zimmer

Chief Zimmer

“I have caught him in many an important game, but I never saw him give the slightest indication of nervousness, no matter how critical the situation.”

To illustrate Cuppy’s “coolness,” Zimmer told a likely apocryphal story from an 1895 game—the details don’t match any game from that season:

cuppy

George “Nig” Cuppy

“At Baltimore one day we had the Orioles beaten 2 to 1 in the first half of the 11th inning.  In their half the Baltimores got three men on bases with two out.  Then came up Hughey Jennings, who generally managed to get hit with a pitched ball about every other time at bat (Jennings led the National League in HBP from 1894-1898 and holds the all-time record, 287).

hughiejennings

Hughie Jennings

“Two strikes were called and then three balls, the crowd meanwhile going into a delirium of delight.  Then Cuppy beckoned to me and I started in to meet him.  Naturally, I thought he wanted to discuss the kind of a ball to serve Hughey net, but all he said was:

‘”Give me a chew of tobacco, and be —– quick about it.’

“’I handed him a big handful of fine cut then went back to my position.  Jennings was fairly bending over the plate, hoping to be hit with the ball and force in the tying run.  Cuppy, cool and collected, looked up for my signal, and I called for a waist-high ball straight across.

“The smack of the ball in my glove was simultaneous with Umpire Tim Hurst’s incisive ‘three strikes,’ and the game was over.

“’That’s fine tobacco, Chief, said Nig as he came in.  Where do you buy it?’”

One Minute Talk–Lefty Williams

19 Sep

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

Claude “Lefty” Williams, on his way to winning 13 games for the Chicago White Sox during his first full season as a major league pitcher, after two brief trials with the Detroit Tigers:

“The boy who enters baseball will never be a success until he takes the profession seriously.  I learned my lesson (in 1913 and 1914) when I had my first chance in the majors.  I had always regarded baseball as a game just for fun but Manager (Hughie) Jennings of the Detroit Tigers  soon showed me the error of my way, by shipping me to the Salt Lake club of the Pacific  Coast (League).  Once in the minors I got wise to myself and determined to regain a big league job.

Lefty Williams

Lefty Williams

“I started in baseball as a pitcher for the school team at Springfield, MO., and though I was only a kid I was a pretty successful southpaw.  Now that I am back in the majors I’m certainly going to work my head off to remain here.”

Williams won 33 games for the Salt Lake City Bees in 1915 which earned him his return to the major leagues.  Williams, who vowed to “work my head off to remain here,” won 81 games over five seasons with the White Sox before being banned for his role in the Black Sox scandal.