Tag Archives: Indianapolis Indians

“Krug Seemingly Lost his Head”

25 Sep

The 1902 Southern Association season was so contentious that a headline in The Atlanta Constitution said the day after it ended:

To the Relief of All the Season is Now Over

In addition to the months-long battle between Charlie Frank and the league, there was an on-field incident that The Columbus (GA) Daily Enquirer called “an exhibition as was never before seen on an Atlanta Diamond.”  Henry “Heine” Krug was at the center of it.

Henry Krug

Henry Krug, 1902

In February of 1902, Ed Peters, new owner and president of the Atlanta Firemen signed Ed Pabst to manage the team.  Pabst had played the previous season with the San Francisco Wasps in the California League and brought with him to Atlanta his friend Krug, a 25-year-old shortstop who had been playing for West Coast professional teams since he was 17.

When Krug was signed The Constitution said he was “beyond doubt the star of the Pacific Coast,”

The Sporting Life said Krug had already signed a contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, but jumped the Phillies to join Atlanta.

Krug’s average never dipped below .300, and was very popular with fans and the press.  The Constitution called him “The best all-around professional of the Southern Association” in June.

On July 15 the paper noted his “dashing, errorless work that has been classed as phenomenal.”

Two days later the tone changed dramatically.

The fourth place Firemen were playing Charlie Frank’s Memphis Egyptians and Krug was having a rough day.  Early in the game a throw from first baseman George Winters hit Krug “and gave him a severe blow in the mouth.”  Krug had walked off the field, intending to leave the game, but came back.  He probably shouldn’t have.

Krug went on to make three errors, two of which The Constitution said “in the opinion of the crowd might have been avoided.”

The crowd began to taunt Krug and “Instead of taking the roast the bleachers proceeded to give him as any sensible player would take it, Krug seemingly lost his head and with all the vicious intent imaginable, he secured the ball and threw it with all his strength into the bleachers.”

The Constitution said Krug, “phenomenal” just two days earlier, now said the shortstop’s “conduct on former occasions has been offensive to the patrons of the game.”  Although Krug was ejected from a game earlier in the week, there didn’t appear from newspaper reports to be any pattern of “offensive conduct.”

Atlanta bleacher fans “dodged the sphere” and no one was hurt.  Team president Peters immediately approached Ed Pabst and “instructed him to order Krug out of the game.”  Pabst refused:

“He did not like what he considered an infringement on his prerogative, and at once tendered his resignation as manager of the Atlanta team.  President Peters was just as ready to accept as Manager Pabst was to tender, and within the space of a few seconds the ball player who has been managing the Atlanta team since the playing season of 1902 opened found himself deposed.”

Ed Pabst

Ed Pabst

Peters took over as manager and remained in the position for the rest of the season.  His first act as manager was to remove Krug from the game and suspend him.  The Constitution said:

“Krug’s baby act was witnessed by Sergeant Martin and policemen Norman and Hollingsworth.  They placed him under arrest.”

Some reports said a bottle and rock were thrown at Krug, but the player said he didn’t see that and was reacting only to the verbal taunts.  He appeared in court the following day and was fined $10.75; The Daily Chronicle said, “Krug appeared very penitent.”

Peters sold Krug’s contact to the New Orleans Pelicans the following day, but Krug refused to report sending a wire to Peters and Pelicans owner Abner Powell saying “that if he could not play in Atlanta he would not play,” in the league.

Despite the incident, there was no shortage of interest in Krug’s services.  In addition to New Orleans, the Phillies, who he jumped to join Atlanta and the San Francisco franchise in the California League offered him contracts.

Krug signed with Philadelphia and made his debut with the Phillies on July 26; the day after Atlanta management petitioned the National Association of Baseball Leagues (NAPBL) to blacklist Krug.

No action was taken and Krug played out the season in Philadelphia, hitting .227 in 53 games.  He spent 1903 with the San Francisco Seals in the Pacific Coast League (PCL).  Peters sold his interest in Atlanta in 1903.

Before the 1904 season, the PCL and the NAPBL reached an agreement that made the league part of the National Association and no more an “outlaw league.”  As part of the deal, PCL players who were under contract with other teams were returned.  As a result, Krug returned to Atlanta.

The Constitution assured their readers:

“He has promised to be good and to do his best to help the team win.  It is the belief of many fans in this city that he wishes to redeem the past.”

Krug played two incident-free, if unspectacular seasons in Atlanta, then played in the New York State League with the Scranton Miners and the American Association with the Indianapolis Indians.

krug1

Henry Krug,1907

The 31-year-old returned to San Francisco, where he was “negotiating for a place with the California State League,” and had accepted a position coaching the baseball team at Cogswell College.  Krug underwent surgery for “an abscess upon his throat” on January 12, 1908, and died from complications from the operation two days later.

Two months after his death all had been forgiven in Atlanta.  The Constitution named him to the paper’s “All-Atlanta Ball Team,” the best professional players to have played in the city.  Krug “was a power with the stick.  No better man ever played on the Atlanta team when it came to breaking up a game.”

“Pitchers Should be Taught how to Sleep”

24 Sep

Edward Tilden Siever had a theory about one of the greatest dangers facing pitchers:  how they sleep.

Edward Siever

Edward Siever

The Kansas native did not begin playing professionally until he was 24-years-old in 1899, and was 18-14 as a rookie with the Detroit Tigers two years later.  He injured his arm that season, had a sub .500 record the next three seasons with the Tigers and St. Louis Browns, and went to the American Association with the Minneapolis Millers in 1905. 

Siever’s arm recovered sufficiently to post a 23-11 record with the Millers and was purchased by the Tigers the following spring; he was 14-11 in 1906.

He was having the best season of his career in 1907; finishing with an 18-11 record and a 2.16 ERA for the American League Champion Tigers.  It was during that season that he told The Detroit Times about his theory:

“Pitchers should be taught how to sleep.  Don’t laugh, I mean that More than one good pitcher has lost his arm because he did not know how to sleep correctly.”

Siever claimed that fellow Kansan, St. Louis Cardinal pitcher Charlie “Dusty” Rhodes, missed much of 1906 with a bad arm brought on by the manner in which he slept:

“(Rhodes) used to rest his head on it when he was sleeping.  It deadened the muscles…No ballplayer should ever rest his head on his arms when he is sleeping.  It’s more dangerous than the average young man imagines.  Many a ball player loses his whip and doesn’t know how to account for it.  I’ll bet that’s the real reason in many a case.”

Charlie "Dusty" Rhodes

Charlie “Dusty” Rhodes

The Chicago Cubs defeated Siever in his only World Series appearance in 1907, and after a 2-6 start in 1908 he was sold to the Indianapolis Indians in the American Association; he pitched three more seasons in the minor leagues. 

He remained a popular figure in Detroit and worked for the city’s public works department until he died of a heart attack in 1920.

“Demoralizing a Successful Organization For the Sake of a Few Unimportant, Mediocre Ball Players”

19 Sep

When Charlie Babb jumped from the Indianapolis Indians of the American Association to the Memphis Egyptians in the Southern Association in June of 1902, he was not alone.

Pitcher Jim St. Vrain, recently released by the Chicago Orphans and under contract with the Tacoma Tigers in the Pacific Northwest League, signed with Memphis rather than going to Tacoma.

Another American Association player, Second baseman Bill Evans of the Columbus Senators, also jumped to Memphis.  The Cincinnati Enquirer said he jumped being suspended by the Senators for being “too drunk” to take the field on June 18.

Memphis manager Charlie Frank’s three new players would be a source of controversy in the Southern Association for the remainder of the season and a continuation of an ongoing feud over the league’s salary limit which The Sporting Life said: “a majority of the clubs are known to have violated.”

Charlie Frank

Charlie Frank

Southern Association President John Bailey Nicklin, acting on orders from Patrick T. Powers, president of National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues (NAPBL), ordered Frank not to play any of the three.  Frank not only defied the order but according to The Atlanta Constitution, gave Nicklin a “lecture in abuse,” and threatened to “break the league.”

Throughout July, the situation became increasingly absurd.

On July 11 Nicklin ordered umpire Ed Cline (the same Ed Cline who may, or may not, have initially approached Babb about jumping) to not allow St. Vrain to pitch against the Nashville Volunteers, managed by Frank’s biggest ally in the league, Isaac Newton “Ike” FisherThe Atlanta Constitution said Cline became mysteriously “sick and could not work,” although he “was upon the grounds while the game was being played.”  St. Vrain and the Egyptians beat the Volunteers 8 to 5 with “Red” Ehret and Nashville’s Bill Dammann acting as umpires.

After the game Frank was suspended for 10 games and threatened with being blacklisted if he played St. Vrain again.  Later that week Frank received a temporary injunction allowing him to continue using St. Vrain. And while Babb and Evans had been suspended by the league and were not covered by the ruling, Frank continued to put both in the lineup.  Frank also continued to manage the team despite his own suspension.

On July 25 Frank was again ordered by Nicklin not to play Babb and Evans.  This time, he complied, for one day.  The two players sat out an 8 to 4 victory over Atlanta (St. Vrain pitched for Memphis).  Both were again in the lineup the following day, and on July 27 Frank filed a suit against the league and Nicklin seeking $10,000 in damages.  He also sought and received an injunction “restraining President Nicklin from interfering with the playing of Babb and Evans.”

The Constitution began calling the team the “Memphis Injunctionists.”

The Sporting Life said Frank was:

“Demoralizing a successful organization for the sake of a few unimportant, mediocre ball players.”

Nicklin, the league, and the NAPBL blinked first.

Two days after the suit was filed an agreement was reached.  Babb and Evans would remain with Memphis and were reinstated from suspension; the fourth place Egyptians agreed to forfeit every game in which Babb and Evans participated in while under suspension—dropping the team to fifth place.

The controversy appeared to be over.  It wasn’t.

On August 4 the Egyptians arrived at Athletic Park in New Orleans to play the second place Pelicans.  The New Orleans Times-Picayune said:

“Under orders of (Pelicans) manager Abner Powell a big policeman today refused admission to St, Vrain, Evans and Babb, of the Memphis club, when they tried to enter.”

The game was canceled

The following day:

“Manager Frank again took his team to out to the park, but admission was refused to St. Vrain, Evans and Babb.”

The umpire, picked by the Pelicans, “declared the game forfeited to New Orleans,” and Powell shared with the press a telegram from the Little Rock Travelers which read:

“Congratulations upon your firm methods.  We will stand with you.”

Despite the earlier agreement, the NAPBL announced that Frank and St. Vrain were still under suspension.

Jim St. Vrain

Jim St. Vrain

On August 9 the Shreveport Giants refused to allow St. Vrain into the ballpark for a double-header.  Memphis took the field for each game with only eight players and no pitcher.  They forfeited both games to the Giants.

Memphis was due to travel to Little Rock for a three-game series from the 11th through the 13th.  The Travelers announced that they “would not play with St. Vrain and Frank in the game.  Babb and Evans will be allowed to play (but) under protest.”

On August 12 Nicklin resigned at a meeting of league owners in Chattanooga (Memphis and Nashville refused to attend).  He said he was “almost helpless to enforce the rules of the league,” because of Frank’s numerous injunctions.  He was replaced by vice president William Kavanaugh.  A motion was passed to suspend Frank and St. Vrain indefinitely, but Babb and Evans were officially reinstated.  Again.

In response, Frank filed another $10,000 lawsuit naming every team in the league except Nashville.

On August 27 in Nashville, St. Vrain started for Memphis.  President Kavanaugh fined Nashville $1000 and “suspended that club for the balance of the season,” he threatened “drastic measures’ towards Memphis as well, but for the several injunctions that kept him from acting.  Two days later the suspension was lifted.

On August 30 a Little Rock judge enjoined Frank from “playing or attempting to play St. Vrain in any state.”

The Atlanta Constitution headline summed up the opinion of most Southern baseball fans on September 22:

To The Relief of All the Season is Now Over

As an appropriate end, Memphis beat Atlanta on the final day of the season behind the pitching of the still suspended Jim St. Vrain.

The no longer suspended Nashville Volunteers won the pennant.

The Indianapolis Indians, the team Charlie Babb jumped, won the American Association pennant.

Charlie Babb

Charlie Babb

The Indianapolis papers had predicted that Babb’s career would be doomed when he jumped.  In 1903, he was purchased by the New York Giants.  He played in the National League with the Giants and Brooklyn Superbas through the 1905 season.  In 1906, he became a minor league player/manager; with the Memphis Egyptians.  He stayed with Memphis until 1910 and managed to become embroiled in one more controversy.

Jim St. Vrain was only 19-years-old during that 1902 season.  He finished 12-4 with Memphis.  He went to the West Coast in 1903.  His career was over after the 1905 season.

Bill Evans played in the Southern Association until 1906; he eventually became a member of three different teams who refused to play against him in 1902: New Orleans, Shreveport, and Little Rock.

Charlie Frank did just fine in the end.  More on that next week.

“Baseball will be in Utter Disrepute”

18 Sep

As common as contract jumping was during the first 30 years of organized baseball, there are very few cases in which the particular inducements that led to the player breaking his contract are available.  Such is the case with Charlie Babb.

Before the 1902 season, Babb, a 29-year-old journeyman infielder, signed to play with the Indianapolis Indians in the newly formed American Association (Indianapolis was a member of the Western Association in 1901).

The Sporting Life described  as “a base-hit killer,” but “anything but a graceful fielder.”  The St. Paul Dispatch said:

 “He covers all kinds of ground, and it is next to impossible to lay down a bunt and get away with it.”

Charlie Babb takes batting practice in Indianapolis in 1902.

Charlie Babb takes batting practice in Indianapolis in 1902.

Babb was installed at third base where The Indianapolis Times said he would be an improvement over previous third baseman Eddie Hickey who had committed 49 errors in 101 games in 1910; Babb told The Indianapolis News “he will try his best to make Indianapolis fans forget that there ever was a third-baseman by the name of Hickey.”

Babb quickly became a favorite with fans and the press.  When the Indians moved into second place in June The Times said Babb won games for the team with “his hands, feet and bat.” The News said:  “Babb can borrow a dollar from the left field bleacherites any time he wants to.”

Babb was hitting .308 in 182 at bats through June 22, and his popularity in the city was why a small item that appeared in several Midwest and Southern papers that day was largely ignored in Indianapolis.

Charlie Babb

Charlie Babb

It said that earlier in June, while the Indians were playing in Louisville, Babb was approached by Philip “Red” Ehret, a Louisville native who knew something about jumping, and currently played for the Memphis Egyptians in the Southern Association (some versions said it was a Southern Association umpire named Ed Cline who approached Babb).  The story said Ehret had “urged” Babb to jump and that “Babb turned him down.”

Disinterest over the story in Indianapolis turned to outrage two days later.  Babb had not turned Ehret and Memphis down; he jumped the Indians to join the Egyptians.

The News said:

“Babb, the deserter, was one of the most popular players ever in this city, and by his action it is doubtful he ever again will have such a place in the affections of any city.”

The Indianapolis papers provided precise details of just what was offered:  Babb would receive $45 more a month, a $300 bonus, $80 transportation expenses, and a winter job in Memphis.

The News said “Contract jumping is the greatest evil that afflicts baseball at present,” and warned that “baseball will be in utter disrepute,” if something wasn’t done to end the practice; Ignoring the “evil” of the reserve clause.

Orville “Sam” Woodruff replaced Babb at third base.  Within days, The News, which less than a month earlier had called Babb “the best third baseman” to ever play in Indianapolis; said Woodruff had played so well that “Indianapolis fans don’t care if he never comes back.”  The Times said “Babb has nothing on Orville Woodruff in the field or at the bat.”

Orville "Sam" Woodruff

Orville “Sam” Woodruff

Babb was not the only jumper to join Memphis is June.  Bill Evans, a Louisville native and friend of Ehret left the American Association’s Columbus Senators to join the Egyptians and Jim St. Vrain, after being released by the Chicago Orphans, signed with Memphis despite being the property of the Tacoma Tigers in the Pacific Northwest League.

Tomorrow: the fallout from Babb, Evans and St. Vrain signing with Memphis.

“The Disappearing Oakland Infielder”

7 Aug

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jimmy Frick

Jimmy Frick

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

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

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

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

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

Herb McFarlin, Secretary of the Oaks, said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gus Hetling, Frick's replacement at third

Gus Hetling, Frick’s replacement at third

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

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

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

Lost Advertisements—Old Underoof Whiskey, 1910 Chicago Cubs

17 May

oldunderoof1910cubsgiants

Two 1910 advertisements for Old Underoof Whiskey which appeared in The Chicago Daily News.

The ad above appeared in the paper on May 12.  The Cubs had just won their third straight game from the New York Giants, beating Rube Marquard,  4-3, to improve their record to 11-8.

 Hugh Fullerton wrote in The Chicago Examiner, that the Cubs, “chewed $10,999.98 of beauty out of the wry-necked, knock-kneed, cross-eyed and left-handed $11,000 beauty Marquard.”  The Giants pitcher had earned the nickname in 1908 when New York paid that amount to the Indianapolis Indians for the 21-year-old pitcher.  Through 1910, Marquard was a struggling pitcher with a 9-18 record who had all of baseball questioning the Giants purchase.  The next three seasons Marquard would win 24, 26 and 23 games, helping to lead the Giants to three straight National League Championships.

The one below is from June 27.  The Cubs had beaten the St. Louis Cardinals the previous day 3-2; scoring the winning run in the bottom of the sixth on a double steal, pulled off by catcher Johnny Kling and centerfielder “Circus” Solly Hofman.  It was the team’s twelfth victory in the last fifteen games and gave the Cubs a 4 1/2 game lead over the second place New York Giants.

The Cubs would run away with the pennant, 13 games ahead of New York.

oldunderoof19101stplacecubs

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.

“King of the Natural Hitters”

25 Jan

Percival Wheritt “Perry” “Moose” Werden began his baseball career as a pitcher for the semi-professional team of his employer; the Ira Perry Pie Company in Saint Louis.  He was discovered by the St. Louis Browns who offered him a contract but ultimately signed with the Saint Louis Maroons in the Union Association.

(An oft-repeated story that Werden’s discovery involved him leaving a pie wagon unattended to join a game, resulting in the wagon being destroyed is almost certainly apocryphal, although it has been repeated as fact with little or no support by several writers)

In 1884 the 22-year-old was 12-1 with a 1.97 for the Maroons who at 94-19 won the Union Association pennant by 21 games; despite the strong start, Werden would never pitch in the Major Leagues again.

The Maroons joined the National League the following season and Werden ended up with the Memphis Reds in the Southern League.  He was primarily a catcher a first baseman, and his career as a pitcher pretty much ended; he appeared on the mound in only three games that season and had only 14 more minor league appearances over the next 10 years because of arm trouble.

Perry Werden, 1908

Perry Werden, 1908

From 1886-88, Werden played with five minor league teams and played three games in the National League with Washington in 1888.  In 1889, Werden joined the Toledo Black Pirates in the International League, where he became a great hitter.

Werden hit .394 for Toledo; in 424 at-bats, he had 167 hits, which was the hit record for the franchise for nearly 100 years, finally broken by Greg “Boomer” Wells in 1982 (Wells had 182 hits in 541 at-bats).

Toledo became a Major League franchise the following season, joining the American Association as the Maumees, Werden was the their starting first baseman, hit .295 and led the team in hits, runs, triples, and RBIs.  The Maumees finished 68-64 in their only season.

Werden was sold by Toledo to the Baltimore Orioles in 1891 and had another solid season, leading the team in hits, triples and RBI’s.  The following season he was signed by the Saint Louis Browns to replace Charles Comiskey at first base; Comiskey had jumped the Browns to join the Cincinnati Reds.

Werden hit .256 and .290 in two seasons with the Browns.  In 1894, he returned to the minor leagues with the Minneapolis Minnies in the Western League.  That’s where he became a legend.

In 1894, Werden exploded.  He hit .417 with 43 home runs.  In 1895, he improved to .428 with 45 home runs.

The Western League was no doubt a hitter’s league; eight players with at least 100 at-bats hit .400 or better in 1894 and 11 did so in 1895.  And the Minnies home field, Athletic Park, where Werden hit most of his home runs, was by all estimates a hitter’s paradise with a short (some sources say 250 feet) fence.

Regardless, 45 home runs would remain a professional baseball record until 1920. The Duluth News-Tribune said several years later that Werden hit seven home runs in a double-header in 1895; under the headline “Perry Werden was King of the Natural Hitters:”

“It was one of the greatest batting feats ever seen on a baseball lot anywhere.”

Werden had one last season in the Major Leagues.  At 35-years-old in 1897, he hit .301 for the Louisville Colonels, then returned to the minor leagues where he continued to hit well; .330 for his minor league career.

Werden became an umpire in the American Association in 1907, and became a baseball pioneer in 1908 when he joined the Indianapolis Indians in the same league; he was one of the first full-time coaches in professional baseball.  The Associated Press said:

“Perry Werden will go to Indianapolis to act as assistant manager, coach and advisor in general of the Indianapolis baseball club this year.”

In October The Indianapolis News declared Werden a success in the new role:

“Werden was one of the biggest factors in bringing Indianapolis her first pennant since 1902.  Without his services it’s highly probable the flag would have flown elsewhere”

The Indianapolis Star predicted that Werden’s “novel position,” would become the norm with the Indians, and throughout baseball.

Werden eventually returned to umpiring, working in the western, Dakota, South Dakota and Northern leagues.

His 43 home run season became news again in 1920 as Babe Ruth was closing in on Werden’s professional record.  Werden said there was one player in his era who was Ruth’s equal as a hitter.  Who was it?

Read about it on Monday.

Fighting Jimmy Burke

2 Jan

James Timothy Burke had a stormy tenure with the Saint Louis Cardinals from 1903-1905, including a disastrous 35-56 record as player-manager in 1905, replacing Kid Nichols (who remained on the pitching staff)—Burke resigned in August, and the Cardinals were in such disarray that owner Stan Robison eventually took over the team for the remainder of the season.

Burke had been with five teams from 1898 through 1902 before being traded to the Cardinals.

Jimmy Burke

Jimmy Burke

During his time with the Cardinals Burke had various fights and feuds, it was said he was the ringleader in a group of players trying to undermine manager Patsy Donovan in 1903; he had a long-standing feud with shortstop Dave Brain and the two seldom spoke, and he feuded with Robison throughout his short tenure as manager.  After his resignation he said:

“When I took charge of the team it was with the understanding that I was to be manager or nothing.  I have suffered as Donovan and Nichols with too much interference.”

Burke also had trouble with a Saint Louis sportswriter named Joe Finnegan.  Their contentious relationship came to a head at the Victoria Hotel in Chicago in September of 1904 after Finnegan had written an article in which he called Burke “a cow’s foot,” (apparently those were fighting words circa 1904).

The Pittsburgh Press provided the colorful blow-by-blow of the fight:

“First round–Burke hit Finnegan in the lobby, and followed the blow with a left hook on the back of the neck, breaking the scribe’s collar.  Burke pressed the advantage and struck Finnegan near the cigar stand.  Finnegan blocked cleverly, uppercut with the left and caught Burke in the snout.  Finnegan crossed his right and landed on Jimmy’s potato-trap.  Burke jolted Finnegan in the rotunda and followed with a short swing near the Turkish parlor.  Finnegan shot the right to the ear, and the left to the lamp.  They clinched.  Terrific short-arm fighting, completely wrecking Finnegan’s collar and cuff.  Johnny Farrell separated the men. Time.

“Second round—The house detective threw both fighters out in the alley.  Time.  Decision to Finnegan.”

Burke’s Major League career ended after the 1905 season.  New Cardinal manager John McCloskey said he wanted to retain Burke as his third baseman, but Robison, against his manager’s wishes (and continuing the pattern which led papers to call Cardinals managers “figureheads”) waived Burke.

Burke became a successful minor league manager and returned to the Major Leagues as a coach with the Detroit Tigers in 1914.  He also served as a coach with the St. Louis Browns and managed the team for three seasons.

Jimmy Burke, Cubs coach

Jimmy Burke, Cubs coach

Burke served as Joe McCarty’s right hand from 1926-1930 with the Chicago Cubs and followed him to the New York Yankees where they continued together until a stroke necessitated Burke’s retirement after the 1933 season.  McCarthy had played for Burke with the Indianapolis Indians in the American Association in 1911.

Burke died in St. Louis in 1942.