Tag Archives: J. Earl Wagner

“The Town seems to be for the Most Part Against the Home Team”

31 Jul

In Early May, on his way to horrible 45-87, 11th place finish in 1894, Washington Senators manager Gus Schmelz told The Washington Star he knew who was to blame:

“This capital of the United States of America is possessed of less pride regarding the national game than any other city in the country. The town seems to be for the most part against the home team, while in every other place the situation is just the reverse.”

schmelz

Schmelz

Schmelz said it was “hard enough” to build a winning team with “the solid support” of local fans:

“Every man in the profession understands the difficulty of playing in Washington, and it is an undisputed fact that if a good player should be released by a club at the present time, he would prefer signing with any other team in the league than the local one. It is almost impossible for our organization to secure the services of a good man.”

Schmelz said it wasn’t just the fans who were against his club:

“Umpires, as a general rule, in other cities give close decisions in favor of the home club, but here they seem to think they will be backed up for doing otherwise.”

He said the fans were so against his club, that in a game with the Grooms on May 1:

“Another sample of animosity was displayed when the ball rolled under the gate in Tuesday’s game. Somebody opened the gate and aided the Brooklyn player to quickly field the sphere.”

Bill Hassamaer was held to a single on the play; in that same game, with a 2 to 1 lead in sixth inning, umpire Billy Stage called Brooklyn’s Dave Foutz safe on a close play at first—Washington players led by team captain Bill “Scrappy” Joyce and George Tebeau “kicked determinedly”  resulting in a forfeit of the game to Brooklyn.

Schmelz said the fans also had a lack of appreciation for Joyce:

“Washington has been howling for years and years because its ball club has not had a wide-wake captain, but now that it has one who is not afraid to stand up for the interests of the team the cry is on the other side. In my opinion, Joyce has done no more kicking than was justified, and every objection made by him was the result of the most intense provocation.”

scrappybill_kindlephoto-184054893

Scrappy Bill Joyce

And of course, he blamed the press:

“Then there are certain newspaper correspondents, who, after accepting the hospitality of the club, take delight in sending dispatches to their papers utterly false and derogatory to the Washingtons.”

As an example he cited a story The Star carried in April when The New York Giants were in town; Schmelz said it “contained not a word of truth” and was “meant to injure” Senators owner J. Earl Wagner:

“There are some close-fisted people in every line of business. If all reports are true, the baseball profession has a few in the vicinity of the capital city. When manager (John Montgomery) Ward took his men out to the Washington Park the other morning for practice that President Wagner telegraphed from Philadelphia telling them they could not use the Washington grounds. This is very mean treatment, especially as the New York club gave Wagner $7,500 a few weeks ago for a $750 battery.”

 

Wagner, like Schmelz, denied the story. The “$750 battery” was Jouett Meekin and Duke Farrell—sent to New York in February for Jack McMahon, Charlie Petty, and $7,500.

While not presenting an alternate scenario, Schmelz said when the newspapers reported that Joyce and other Washington players “dared Mr. Stage” to award the forfeited game to Brooklyn that idea “originated in the mind” of a  writer.

He also had a problem with the way The Star  was “abusing the management” of the Senators when they did not provide refunds for the 1,700 fans at the forfeited game:

“(O)ur men were on the field and ready and anxious to continue play. Those people (in the press) do more to injure the sport than anything else I know of.”

Schmelz had a final message for the fans:

“We are using every endeavor to give Washington a winning ball club, but that will be impossible unless we receive the same loyal support from the patrons that is such a prominent feature elsewhere and is so utterly lacking here.”

The Senators finished 45-87 in 1894; Schmelz managed the team until June 7, 1897, Washington was 155-270 during his tenure.

“The “$750-dollar battery” were probably worth their actual $7,500 price tag. Farrell appeared in 116 games, hit .287 and drove in 70 runs, and Meekin was 33-9 with a 3.70 ERA for the second place Giants.

“I Remember Well the First Day Latham Coached”

11 Jun

Arlie Latham “The Freshest Man on Earth” is generally credited as the first full-time third base coach.  Even before John McGraw hired him to coach third for the New York Giants in 1909, Latham’s antics as a “coacher” were already legendary—in 1907 Ted Sullivan, one of baseball’s pioneers and Latham’s manager with the St. Louis Browns, told The Washington Evening Star about Latham’s first time.

Ted Sullivan

Ted Sullivan

“’I remember well the first day Latham coached,’ said Sullivan.  ‘It was in Cincinnati in 1883.  I must confess I never had much use for a ‘fresh’ player, and soon after Latham reported I was not backward in telling him he was too d— fresh, but  I later discovered that he was a wonderful player, and that his freshness was of a most harmless and hilarious nature.  But after I gave him the reprimand I noticed he was a little timid about saying anything, but was still of good cheer.

“One day in Cincinnati Will White had the Browns on his staff with his little stingy rise ball.  My best men were on the bases and there was no one on the line.  I asked the men on the bench, ‘Is there no one here able to coach a little?’ Latham speaks up and says, ‘I will coach if you want me.’”

Never one for understatement, Sullivan said what happened next:

“Well, if Gabriel had entered a graveyard and blown his trumpet, and the tombstones had loosened their grip on the dead, it would not have created more of a sensation.  Latham walked out to the home plate and to the consternation of umpire, players and myself, delivered this talk to pitcher White:

‘My Dear Mr. White, we have been very courteous to you during the game, but as the Browns need a few runs we will have to be rude to you for awhile,’ and then stalking off to third base went through those gyrations that afterward made him famous all over America.  White was dumbstruck at the flow of words that afterward fell from Latham, and he became so rattled that the Browns batted him out of the box and won the game.”

Will White

Will White

No Browns game in Cincinnati that season matches well with Sullivan’s initial account—he continued to tell the story to reporters for more than a decade and sometimes said instead the game was “against Cincinnati—the game that best fits Sullivan’s description was a 9 to 5 Browns win over the Reds on May 16. But, contemporary accounts attribute White’s faltering, which led to the Browns come from behind victory, to a knee injury rather than any “flow of words” from Latham.

“Latham was the original funny man in the coacher’s box, and he stood in a class entirely by himself.  He has had many imitators, but they have never reached the position that Latham occupied, for he was a genius in the work and never used language that would offend the ears of the most prudish.

“Many years ago it used to be Latham’s great aim to get out on the coaching line here in Washington in the games that local pet—Win Mercer—was to do the pitching.  It will be recalled that Mercer was an extremely handsome fellow, and often it fell to his lot to pitch on Ladies’ Day.  Latham took the greatest delight in endeavoring to disconcert Mercer, the large number of ladies being mad enough to pull his hair, while at the same time they were convulsed with laughter at his sayings and antics.  He and Mercer were great chums, and when Latham was secured by the Wagners (J. Earl and George) to travel with the Washingtons (in 1899) for coaching purposes alone the two were inseparable, thus showing that though a thorough minstrel and actor, his chaff never broke into bitter personalities  or severed friendships.

“We have our Hughey Jennings and others of today, but in the history of baseball there has only been one ideal coacher from the line—Arlie Latham.”

Latham with the New York Giants

Latham with the New York Giants

When McGraw hired Latham two years later, Bozeman Bulger, sports writer for The New York Evening World said the Giants’ new third base coach had just as much fun as a minor league umpire as he did when coaching—Bulger was a writer for The Birmingham Age-Herald while Latham was working in the Southern Association:

“I had the fun one time of traveling with Latham while he was an umpire in the Southern (Association).  On one of those days the Birmingham club was playing at Little Rock, and Pat Wright was playing first for Little Rock, and Pat Millerick, of Birmingham was at the bat.  He hit a little grounder toward short, and for a moment it was fumbled.  Pat went lumbering down to first.  Seeing that he couldn’t quite make it on the run, he slid for the bag.  Pat Wright at the same time got the ball a little wide and slid for the bag himself, so as to beat the runner.  The feet of both hit the bag at about the same time.”

Latham made no call on the play.

“’Judgment!’ yelled Millerick, as he threw up his hand.

“Everybody waited for Latham to make a decision.

“’Wait a minute,’ said Arlie, ‘I want to do this thing right.’  He then rushed into the clubhouse and came out with a tape measure.  While the crowd sat in suspense Latham deliberately measured the feet of the two Pats—Millerick and Wright.  It was shown that Wright’s foot was one inch longer, and Millerick was promptly declared ‘Out!’  Nobody had the nerve to question the decision.”