Tag Archives: Indianapolis Hoosiers

“There was probably none so Unique as Shreve”

24 Jul

Leven Lawrence “Lev” Shreve II came from a prominent family in Louisville, Kentucky.  His great-uncle, and namesake, had been president of the Louisville Gas and Water Company, and the Louisville & Nashville Railroad.

The 19-year-old made his professional debut in 1886, playing with Savannah, then Chattanooga; he was a combined 12-9 with 1.52 ERA.  Shreve was signed by Billy Barnie to join his young pitching staff with the Baltimore Orioles in the American Association.  He came to Baltimore with great expectations.

Lev Shreve

Lev Shreve

The Baltimore Daily News called him “Barnie’s phenom.”  In wasn’t the first time a relatively unknown pitcher was given that name by the Baltimore press.

Shreve had trouble getting as Barnie primarily relied on 21-year-old Matt Kilroy and 22-year-old Phenomenal Smith; Shreve, and fellow 20-year-old Ed Knouff saw limited action in the first two months of the season.

The Sporting Life said he wasn’t happy:

 “Shreve, the Louisville boy…complains that he does not get a fair deal.  He affirms that his arm is in fine trim, but that he is not allowed to pitch. Shreve is an ambitious ball player, and desires to show what is in him.  He says he will quit if Barnie does not play him.”

The Baltimore Sun said

“People are asking why Shreve isn’t given a chance.”

The Sporting Life, perhaps, provided an explanation for the lack of work later that month:

“Cigarette smoking is said to be impairing the efficiency of two Baltimore pitchers, Shreve and Knouff”

It would not be the last mention of cigarettes and Shreve in The Sporting Life;  the pitcher was also said to be “a cigarette fiend,” and “as noted for his cigarette habit” as his pitching.

Neither Shreve, who was sold to the Indianapolis Hoosiers in the National League, nor Knouff, who was sold to the St. Louis Browns, would finish the season with Baltimore; it’s unknown whether smoking was the cause.

Shreve was 3-1 with a 3.79 ERA in five games in Baltimore.

The sale to Indianapolis didn’t seem to hurt Shreve’s confidence according to George Myers, his catcher with the Hoosiers.  Meyers, two decades after playing with Shreve, said the pitcher was talented, cocky and erratic, and described Shreve’s first National League game; a 4-1 10-inning victory over the first place Detroit Wolverines on August 19:

“There was probably none so unique as Shreve…My, but he was a fresh youth…He had awful speed and good curves and perfect control of the ball.  His confidence and egotism were astounding.  I remember one day we were to play against Detroit (Wolverines).  It was when the big four, (Jack) Rowe, (Deacon) White, (Hardy) Richardson and (Dan) Brouthers were on the team.

“Mr. Shreve, who had been assigned to pitch, strutted to the box with the swagger that would have made John L. Sullivan look cheap when John L. was monarch of all in the fistic business.  ‘Just watch me fellows, and see what I do to those swell-headed guys from Michigan,’ said the smiling Shreve.  ‘I am going to make ‘em look like a lot of suckers.’

“Richardson was the first batter up…’So you are the great invincible Hardy Richardson, eh?’ drawled Mr. Shreve.  ‘Well Hardy, old chap, I’m going to show you that you are easy for a good pitcher…Shreve let go the first ball and it went around Hardy’s neck like a shot.  He struck at it after I had it in my hands.  Bang goes the second, also a strike, and the third a wide, slow, outshoot, fooled the great batter completely and Shreve said mockingly: ‘Back to the bench Hardy, I told you that you were easy.

“Big Dan Brouthers, who was always a terror to pitchers, came next and he had blood in his eye…’so this is the terrible Mr. Dan Brouthers,’ grinned the fresh pitcher.  ‘Hate to tell you Dan, how soft a mark you are’…Dan missed the first two, which went close to his chin, and the next he hit like a shot at the pitcher.  Shreve caught it in easy style and gave Brouthers the ‘ha ha’ in most tantalizing fashion as Dan ambled to the bench.

“Deacon White came next and Shreve kidded him unmercifully.  ‘Deacon who told you that you could hit anything?’ was the greeting white was given.  The Deacon scowled and muttered ominous.  ’Duck soup is what you are for me.’ Sand Shreve, as White missed the first ball by several inches.  ‘Oh, how easy,’ was the next rejoinder, and Deacon smashed blindly at an outshoot, a moment later striking out on one of those speedy ones such as had sent Richardson to the bench.

“The Big Four could do absolutely nothing with Shreve’s delivery, and the other members of their team were just as helpless…This fellow Shreve was one of the best pitchers I ever met, but he was an erratic chap, and dreadfully hard to handle.”

George Myers

George Myers

After beating the eventual National League champions in his first start, Shreve ended up a disappointing 5-9 with a 4.72 ERA for Indianapolis.

Myers said on another occasion Shreve approached him before pitching against the Chicago White Stockings, who had won the National League championship in 1886:

“’Say, George, what team is this we are up against today?’

“I immediately began to read him a lecture, telling him that a young man just starting in on his career as a professional ballplayer shouldn’t deport himself in such a manner. ‘The idea of you coming on to the grounds when the champion Chicagos are here, and not knowing it, why—‘  ‘The champion Chicagos,’ interrupted Shreve, ‘Never mind, George, just watch me.  Oh just wait and see what I will do to that bunch.”

Myer s said Shreve shutout the White Stockings.  (This story appears to be either apocryphal or conflated with another incident as Shreve did not shutout Chicago that season).

Shreve was 11-24 in 1888 and 0-3 in 1889 when he was released by the Hoosiers.  He played three minor league seasons and was out of professional baseball by the age of 24.

Myers said his former teammate was “erratic as Rube Waddell,” and:

“I could tell story after story about this man Shreve.  If he had taken care of himself he would have been the greatest pitcher in baseball history.”

Jot Goar

15 May

Joshua Mercer “Jot” Goar had one good minor league season.

Born in 1870 in New Lisbon, Indian, Goar’s early career is mostly unknown, although he appears to have pitched for the Muncie club in the Indiana State League in 1890 and for a variety of semi-pro teams in that state during the early 90s.  In one version of a story I told in January (“Remarkable Baseball Stunt”), “Baseball Magazine” identified Goar as the pitcher who gave up six hits in one inning without a run scoring in an Indiana State League game versus Anderson.

Goar was signed by the Toledo Swamp Angels in the Western League in 1895 (the team would relocate to Terre Haute, Indiana during the season).  While his numbers don’t look impressive, 13-19 with a 3.38 ERA and 345 hits in 288 innings, Goar was called “The best twirler in the Western League,” by The Sporting Life, and quickly became a highly sought after prospect.  Goar also hit .273 as a part-time outfielder.

His manager Denny Long told Indiana papers that Cap Anson “offered him a neat sum,” to sell Goar to Chicago.  Instead, the pitcher was purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates; The Anderson Herald said Pittsburgh paid $3,200 for Goar:

“Jot Goar, considered the greatest find in the Western League this year…is looked upon to be one of (the Pirates) mainstays for next year.”

Gore joined Connie Mack’s Pirates in Hot Springs, Arkansas in the spring of ’96 and made the team; he made his debut with the team on April 18, pitching in relief in a 7-2 victory over the Louisville Colonels.  Gore struggled in three games with the Bucs, he allowed 25 earned runs on 36 hits and eight walks in 13 1/3 innings, losing his only decision, and was sold to the Grand Rapids Rippers in the Western League on May.

Jot_Goar

Jot Goar

No statistics survive for Goar’s 1896 season in Grand Rapids, but a mention of Goar in The New York American two years later said he had “deserted Grand Rapids,” at some point during the season.  Goar joined the Indianapolis Indians in 1897, and with a 25-9 record and a 1.39 ERA led the Indians to the Western League championship.  Goar was again highly sought after and his contract was purchased by the Cincinnati Reds.

Goar spent the winter refusing to sign a contract along with Frank “Noodles” Hahn, who had also pitched in Western League in 1897; the Cincinnati Enquirer said both players were asking for $1,800.  Goar finally signed in February, but the salary he settled upon was not reported, The Mansfield Daily Shield said:

 “Jot Goar has signed his Cincinnati contract and expects to play good ball this season.”

In March The Sporting News said:

“Jot Goar is showing more speed than any of the Reds pitchers.”

Goar did not live up to the expectations.  He hurt his arm in his first and only appearance; a two-inning mop up in an 11-5 loss to the Pirates, giving up, four hits, three runs, two earned, and a walk.

Pittsburgh Sports writer John Henry Gruber said Goar went to Reds manager Buck Ewing after the game “and at his own request was laid off until such time as he could get in shape.”

Goar returned to Indiana and for the remainder of 1898 and all of ’99 he managed and played first base for an independent team in his hometown in New Lisbon, that fall his team took part in a ballpark riot.  The Indiana State Journal said:

“The game of baseball between the Shamrock and Jot Goar teams on the Hagerstown grounds Sunday broke out in a riot.  Fists, clubs and stones were freely used and practically everyone who attended received some kind of injury.  The trouble arose over a decision of the umpire, who was Councilman John Geisler of Hagerstown.”

Gore began pitching again 1900 for the Indianapolis Hoosiers in the American League posting a 7-2 record in 10 games; he also played for the Western Association Hoosiers the following year, but there are no surviving records.

Goar returned again to New Lisbon, vowing that his pro career was not over, and accepted the position of postmaster and opened a general store while continuing to play for the local team. In 1904, The Sporting Life noted that he was still pitching in Indiana:

“Jot Goar, the old Cincinnati and Toledo pitcher, was doing things with the Connersville, Indiana team this season.  He pitched seven games for that club, six of which he won, the other being a 12-inning tie.  Only five runs were scored in the seven games, and he struck out seventy batters or an average of 10 a game.”

Goar gave up baseball after 1906.  He accidentally shot himself in the arm while hunting in 1907, and his general store burned to the ground, the 1911 “Reach Guide” said:

 “His place of business was completely ruined by a disastrous fire, which practically destroyed the business section of (New Lisbon).”

He rebuilt the store which he operated until 1921; Jot Goar died in 1947 at 77.

Kauff and Perritt

29 Jan

Benny Kauff and Pol Perritt were two of the reasons why the New York giants won the National League Pennant in 1917.  Kauff led the team with a .308 average and Perritt was 17-7 with a 1.88 ERA.  Both came to the Giants by way of the Federal League, and with the help of “Sinister Dick” Kinsella, John McGraw’s right-hand man.

"Sinister Dick" Kinsella

“Sinister Dick” Kinsella

Kinsella was the former baseball magnate of Springfield, Illinois who went east to serve as McGraw’s chief scout.  He was a key player in the incident that led to Giants’ catcher Larry McLean’s banishment from organized baseball.

After the 1914 season, McGraw set his sights on the Indianapolis Hoosiers’ Kauff, who was being called the “Ty Cobb of the Federal League.”  Kauff led the league with a .370 average, 120 runs, 211 hits and 75 stolen bases.

When the debt-ridden Hoosiers were transferred to Newark for the 1915 season Kauff’s contract was sold to the Brooklyn Tip-Tops, and he joined the team in Browns Wells, Mississippi.

At the same time, Perritt coming off a 16-13 season was prepared to jump the St. Louis Cardinals and join the Pittsburgh Rebels in the Federal League.

Pol Perritt and Benny Kauff, 1917

Pol Perritt and Benny Kauff, 1917

Sportswriter Frank G. Menke of Hearst’s International News Service picks up the story:

“Dick Kinsella, scout for the Giants, according to the story we get, hustled to Browns Wells and got a job on a plantation…Kinsella didn’t dare to put up at the same hotel because he was known by Manager Lee Magee, Business Manager Dick Carroll and others of the Brookfeds.”

Kinsella, according to Menke, was pretending to be a farm hand and also observing Kauff’s workouts and reporting back to McGraw who, along with Jack Hendricks of the Indianapolis Indians in the American Association (who held Kauff’s rights) was sending coded telegrams to Kauff signed “Father.”  Kauff received telegrams saying, “Mother wishes to see her boy,” and “All is forgiven.”

According to Menke, the telegrams were intended to inform Kauff that McGraw wanted him with the Giants and:

“The “everything forgiven” telegram was to tip Kauff off that if he jumped the National Commission probably would let him play.”

While Kauff was in Mississippi, Pol Perritt was in the process of  jumping to the Federal League.

According to Menke, Kinsella left Mississippi in the middle of the operation to secure Kauff in order to talk to Perritt.  What Kinsella said to Perritt is unknown, but Perritt’s meeting with Pittsburgh manager Rebel Oakes pretty much put an end to any chance of joining the Federal League.  The Associated Press said:

“Pitcher ‘Pol’ Perritt who jumped to the Pittsburgh Federal recently had a fist fight with Manager ‘Rebel’ Oakes…Those who saw the fight say that the pitcher delivered one blow that knocked Oakes over a chair…Friends and acquaintances interceded and hushed up the whole affair before police arrived on the scene.”

The story said Perritt was meeting with Cardinals’ management to “flop back to organized ball,” within weeks the Cardinals sold Perritt’s contract to the Giants, The AP said:

“Carefully guarded by “Sinister Dick” Kinsella…Perritt was delivered to John J. McGraw this noon…Kinsella brought his man in from Shreveport without struggle, and states that he did not even sight a Federal submarine during the entire journey.”

An alternate version of the story, published in The New York Times said it was McGraw who met with Perritt rather than Kinsella and highlighted the manager’s journey to meet the pitcher:

“McGraw had to travel forty miles on one railroad, nine miles on another, and then drive nine miles through the mud to get to Perritt’s home in Louisiana.”

Perritt was in the fold.  After a 12-18 season in 1915, he would win 18, 17 and 18 from 1916-18.

Kauff would be a bit more complicated.

While Kinsella was gone from Mississippi securing Perritt, Kauff signed a $6000 contract with Brooklyn, which he immediately regretted and contacted McGraw.

kinsellamcgraw

Dick Kinsella and John McGraw, 1920

According to Menke, Kauff:

“Related the difficulty he had with Robert B. Ward, president of the Brookfeds, over the contract.  The Giants people thought that owing to Kauff’s trouble—or alleged trouble—over the Brookfed contract that he was not legally under contract.”

Menke said the Giants signed Kauff for $7000 a year for three years with a $7000 bonus.

National League President John Tener voided the contract and Kauff was forced to return to the Tip Tops; he again led the league with a .342 average.

McGraw finally got his second man at the close of the 1915 season.  After the Federal League folded and Kauff was reinstated to organized baseball he signed a two-year contract for $6500 a season and a $5000 bonus with the Giants.

New York had finished in eighth place in 1915. They improved to fourth in 1916 and won the pennant by 10 games in 1917. McGraw’s Giants lost the to the Chicago White Sox four games to two in the World Series.  Perritt appeared in three games in relief, and Kauff hit a disappointing .160, despite two home runs in the Giants’ game four victory.

After the 1917 World Series Perritt and Kauff faded fast.

Perritt was 18-13 in 1918, but would only win four more games over the following three seasons with the Giants and Detroit Tigers; he was out of professional baseball before his 30th birthday.

Kauff’s demise is better known; his professional career came to an end at age thirty, the result of allegations of his involvement with gamblers, in general, and 1919 World series fixer Arthur Rothstein in particular.  Kauff, who owned an automobile accessory business with his half-brother and Giant teammate Jesse Barnes, was charged with stealing and reselling an automobile.  Although he was acquitted at trial, Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned Kauff for life.  Kauff’s oft-told story is told best in two excellent books by David Pietrusza:  Rothstein: The Life, Times, and Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series and Judge and Jury: The Life and Times of Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis.

Perritt died in Shreveport, Louisiana in 1947; Kauff died in Columbus, Ohio in 1961.

Lost Team Photos

19 Nov

Another photo I’ve never seen published before, the 1908 Akron Champs, Ohio-Pennsylvania League Pennant Winners.

Top left to right:

Dick Breen—a minor leaguer for 12 seasons, his career overlapped with another career minor leaguer named Dick Breen—this Breen’s career came to an end in 1917, when while playing for the Reading Pretzels in the New York State League he got in a fight with Wilkes-Barre Barons  manager Jack “Red” Calhoun.  Both men were suspended indefinitely; Breen was released several days later, neither ever appeared in organized ball after that season.

Bill Speas—longtime minor league player and manager, Speas hit.284 in 22 seasons and won three Mississippi Valley League pennants as a player/manager with the Cedar Rapids Bunnies and Dubuque Dubs.

John Brackenridge—appeared in seven games for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1904, Brackenridge pitched in the Pacific Coast League from 1909-1913.

Fred “Buff” Ehman—a 6’ 4” (some sources list him an inch shorter) right-handed pitcher, the enigmatic Ehman was 81-36 for Akron from 1906-08, but according to The Akron Beacon Journal, was known for disappearing for days at a time and “sulking.” He had multiple trials with Major League clubs; according The Mansfield (OH) Daily Shield he never stuck with a team because of “his refusal to exert himself.”  Through 11 minor league seasons he won 214 games.

Wilbur Good—spent parts of 11 seasons in the Major Leagues: Joe Tinker said of him, “He is one of the fastest runners in the National League and still one of the poorest base runners.”

Edward Murphy—a light hitting catcher, Murphy played five seasons in the Ohio-Pennsylvania League.

Bottom left to right:

Bill Kommer—there is no listing for Kommer on any minor league data base.  He was left-handed pitcher who played for many amateur and semi-pro teams in Ohio during the first decade of the 20th Century;  he was released by Akron in July, there is no record of his statistics for the ’08 season.

William Hille—“Silent Bill” was a shortstop who played until 1917 primarily in the Texas and South Atlantic League.

Jim Callahan—his Major League career consisted of one game with the 1902 New York Giants; played three seasons for Akron (1906-08), was reported to have played in the Western League in 1909, but no records exist.

Matt BroderickThe Reading Eagle called him “one of the best shortstops who ever played on a minor league field,” Broderick played two games in the Major Leagues with Brooklyn in 1903—played minor league and amateur baseball for the remainder of the decade while working for Carpenter Steel Works in Reading, PA.

George Texter—one of the first players to sign with the Federal League in 1913, Texter played for the Indianapolis Hoosiers/New Jersey Pepper during the Fed’s two seasons as a Major League (1913-14).  Managed teams throughout the 1920s in the Ohio-Pennsylvania League (no longer recognized by the National Association, the OPL was nonetheless a strong semi-pro/industrial league during that period).

Cecil Armstrong—a dominant right-handed pitcher, first with the Youngstown Ohio Works team in 1905 during his three seasons with Akron (64-33 from 1906-08), Armstrong spent 1909 and 1910 with New Bedford Whalers in the New England League. Armstrong retired to Akron after the 1910 season.