Tag Archives: Jack Burdock

“O’Brien…Felt Like Dropping Dead”

8 Oct

Darby O’Brien was a rookie and Charley Jones was near the end of his 12-year career  when the two were teammates with the New York Metropolitans in 1887; his friendship with Jones gone sideways made O’Brien a brief sensation on the police blotter.

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O’Brien was playing for the Brooklyn Bridegrooms the following season when, on July 21 he was arrested along with teammate Jack Burdock were arrested when leaving Brooklyn’s Washington Park after a game.

The troubled Burdock, who battled alcoholism, was arrested for assault for attempting to kiss a 17-year-old stationary store employee the previous year, while, as The New York Sun said he “was under the influence of liquor,”  Burdock was acquitted later that year when the victim failed to appear to testify against him.

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Jack Burdock

Burdock being in trouble was not news, but said The Sun:

“(O’Brien) is one of the steadiest men in the ball business and, consequently felt like dropping dead when (New York Detective)  McGrath told him he was wanted for larceny.”

O’Brien’s alleged crime?  The Brooklyn Eagle said:

“The charge against O’Brien is made by Mrs. Louisa Jones, wife of Charles W. Jones, formerly left fielder of the Kansas City nine, and is that he stole her dog.”

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Charley Jones

According to Mrs. Jones, O’Brien had given her the dog, “a small pug,” to take care of after the 1887 season and subsequently “presented the dog to her.”  Mrs. Jones said O’Brien later returned to the Staten Island hotel where the Jones’ lived and stole the dog.  The New York World said he “snatched the dog out of her lap,” at the hotel and ran to a train to escape.

After O’Brien was released on “the promise of (Brooklyn owner Charlie) Byrne” that O’Brien would appear in court on July 23, he spoke to a reporter from The Eagle:

“Mrs. Jones story is untrue.  I did not give her the dog nor did I snatch it from her lap, as was reported in a morning paper.  I was stopping at the Nautilus Hotel when she and Jones came there to live.  I got the dog from (catcher Bill) Holbert.  She was a beauty and is Beauty by name.  Mr. Holbert raised her from a pup and I was too fond of her to part with her.  Mrs. Jones admired her very much.  I declined to give her Beauty, but did promise her one the next litter.  That was only to keep her quiet.  She annoyed me very much.  She got square, however, for when I was preparing to go West (after the 1887 season) she and Jones bolted and took the dog with them.  I got Beauty back.”

O’Brien failed to say how he “got Beauty back.”  The Eagle said Holbert backed up his statement.

The World described the scene when O’Brien returned to face the charges:

“Justice Massey, of Brooklyn, was a half hour tardy in his arrival at the courtroom this morning and he found the chamber packed full of people  .

“There were baseball players, baseball enthusiasts and patrons of the national game.  There were a couple of hundred of the youth of the City of Churches, and there as many of the pretty girls for which Brooklyn is famous.”

Both O’Brien and Burdock were in court that morning, but the paper said:

“Darby received most attention, for he is one of the Brooklyn boys who doesn’t pose as a bridegroom.”

In addition to Byrne and Holbert, the New York papers said O’Brien’s Brooklyn teammates Al Mays and Bill McClellan were there for support.

The case was continued and the potential baseball/dog trial of the century was scheduled for September 5, 1888, but ended with a whimper.  The Evening World said:

“Not only is the Brooklyn baseball team in third place in the Association today, but it’s members are at last all out of court.

“Darby O’Brien’s dog case came before Justice Massey this morning and the popular left fielder was promptly on hand to show that he didn’t steal Mrs. Jones’ canine.  He was spared the pains, however, for a note came from the Staten Island complainant in which she declared that she would not press the complaint

“Darby was therefore discharged.”

Unfortunately, the dog did not make it to the trial, O’Brien told The Eagle that in July “(Beauty) had a fit on Sixth Avenue and died.”

O’Brien played with Brooklyn through 1892, became ill with tuberculosis and died in his hometown of Peoria, Illinois in 1893, he was 29.

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O’Brien

When word reached Byrne that O’Brien had died, he told The Eagle:

“Darby was a typical, humorous, quick witted young Irishman, handsome and clever.  He was like a good sailor.  He had a sweetheart in every city the team visited.  He was generous to a fault.  His purse was open to everyone and he never called for an accounting.  He was, without exception, in the full sense of the word, the most popular ballplayer in the country—not for his phenomenal ability or his brilliant work, but for his happy go lucky manner.”

Hulbert’s Dog

11 Jul

During a Red Stockings road trip in May 1881, The Boston Herald said “An incident occurred at Chicago on the occasion of the Bostons’ recent visit, wherein (Jack) Burdock proved a bigger man than (Chicago) President (William) Hulbert.

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Jack Burdock

Days earlier, when the Worcester Ruby Legs played in Chicago, Tom Burns of the White Stockings hit an unusual home run.

The Herald said of Burns’ blast:

“Burns knocked the ball down to left field…It appears that Mr. Hulbert has an office in the left field corner of the Chicago ball ground, and he is also the possessor of a huge dog, which, for some reason, he stations at said office, outside and unchained…(Worcester outfielder Lewis “Buttercup”) Dickerson went for it, but was brought to a sudden standstill by the appearance of the dog before him, with his mouth open and emitting the fiercest  growls.  Dickerson viewed the animal, and not caring to lose an important part of his uniform pants, he concluded it was not best to try for the sphere.  The dog guarded the ball till Burns had made a home run.”

Buttercup Dickerson

Buttercup Dickerson

The Chicago Tribune had described the play a bit differently:

“Burns, swinging his bat at the first ball pitched, sent the ball clear to the clubhouse for a clean home run.  The big black dog owned by the Chicago Club was sleeping on the platform as the ball rolled up to him, and Dickerson pretended to be afraid of the animal, but the latter paid no intention to the fielder, and did not hinder him in the least.”

The Herald said the Red Stockings were told about the incident, and, when they “arrived on the (Chicago) grounds” two days later:

“Burdock went to reconnoitering.  Sure enough, the dog was there doing duty.  Burdock marched up to Mr. Hulbert, in a manner that is perfectly familiar to Bostonians, and demanded that that dog be locked up or taken off the field.  Mr. Hulbert replied in effect that he knew no rule that forbade a dog being on the grounds.  He was informed by the earnest ‘bean-eater,’ as Mr. Hulbert delights to call the Bostons, that unless the dog was removed, Burdock would not commence to play.  Result—Mr. President yielded, the dog was removed, and the game proceeded.”

The Tribune countered that Burdock protest was simply the result of “a ball-tossers superstition” and Hulbert acquiesced to the “red-legged kicker,” despite there being no rule “covering dogs.”

The paper said Hulbert told Burdock:

“(I)f it will make you any happier the dog shall be bounced.”

William Hulbert

William Hulbert

The removal of the dog was not enough to help Boston.  The White Stockings won the game 5 to 4.

“Boys of ’76”

5 Jan

On February, 2, 1925, The National League magnates “paused in (their) schedule deliberations” to honor the league’s past, and kick-off the diamond Jubilee celebration.

Thomas Stevens Rice, of The Brooklyn Eagle said:

“In the very same rooms in which it was organized on Feb. 2, 1876, the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs met again yesterday.  These rooms are in what is now called the Broadway Central Hotel, then called the Grand Central Hotel.”

The Associated Press said:

“In the same room in which Morgan G. Bulkeley, of Hartford, Conn., was elected the first president of the National League, the baseball men, paid tribute to the character and courage of those pioneers a half century ago.”

Dozens of dignitaries were on hand, including, John McGraw, Christy Mathewson, John Montgomery Ward, and Governor John Tener

But, the stars that day were six of the surviving players who appeared during the league’s inaugural season:

George Washington Bradley, 72, who won 45 games for the St. Louis Brown Stockings; John “Jack” Manning, 71, who hit .264 and won 18 games as an outfielder and pitcher for the Boston Red Stockings; Alonzo “Lon” Knight, 71, an outfielder and pitcher for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1876 and hit .250 and won 10 games, and three members of the Hartford Dark Blues, Tommy Bond, 68, a 31-game winner; Tom York, 74, who played leftfield and hit .259, and John “Jack” Burdock, 72, an infielder who hit. 259. Also present was the only surviving umpire from the 1876 season–Calvin J. Stambaugh.

Calvin Stambaugh, right, the last surviving umpire from 1876 and Frank Wilson, a national League umpire from 1923 until his death in 1928.

Calvin Stambaugh, right, the last surviving umpire from 1876 and Frank Wilson, a national League umpire from 1923 until his death in 1928.

Other surviving 1876 players, including George Wright and and Al Reach cited “advancing age” for their inability to attend.

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Seated from left: York, Bradley, and Manning. Standing: Bond.

 Bozeman Bulger of The New York World said, in relating a conversation between too of the attendees, the event was notable for another reason as well:

“(S)everal of us younger men, moving over closer, discovered a contradiction of a tradition long cherished, that old-timers never could admit any improvement in the game or in the quality of the players.

“‘Have you seen this young fellow, Babe Ruth?’ Bradley asked of Manning.

“‘Yes, indeed,’ admitted Mr. Manning, ‘and don’t let anybody tell you that we ever had a man who could hit a ball as hard as that boy.  I doubt if there will ever be another one.'”

Bulger said the “Boys of ’76” also talked about how they “fought crookedness when a salary of $1,800 a year was considered big pay for a star.”  Bradley, who after baseball became a Philadelphia police officer, said:

“‘Oh, we had crooked fellows following us around back in ’76.  They pretended to make heroes out of us and would hang around the hotels.’

“‘One day Mr. (Chicago White Stockings President, William) Hulbert, a very learned man, advised me to keep away from these men.  He explained how they could ruin a boy and lead others into temptation . I was often approached, but thanks to that wise counsel, I kept myself straight, and I thank God for it today.  It’s worth a lot to me to look you younger men in the eye and feel that in turning the game over to you, we gave you something that was honorable.  It’s up to the players to keep it honorable.”

Tom York summed up his feelings about the game in 1876:

“‘Say, do you remember how proud we used to be after winning a game, when we walked home still wearing our uniform and carrying a bat–and the kids following us?  Ball players–all except Babe Ruth–miss that nowadays.”

 

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Bond and Manning talk pitching at the Golden Jubilee kickoff event in 1925.

 

 

 

“It may well be Doubted whether Beals should be Permitted to play Second Base again”

23 Jul

Thomas Lamb “Tommy” Beals had a complicated relationship with Harry and George Wright.

George named his son, the Hall of Fame tennis player, Beals Wright after his friend and former teammate.  But, The Chicago Tribune said when the two played together, “George Wright and Tommy Beals went many a day without a friendly word,” a charge Wright denied.

After signing a contract to play second base for Harry Wright’s Red Stockings for 1876—the first season of the National League—Beals decided instead to jump the contact and go to Colorado where he worked as a miner.

Tommy Beals

Tommy Beals

He eventually left Colorado and went to the West Coast where he played a handful of games in 1879 for the San Francisco Mutuals and Oakland Pioneers in the California League.  In the spring of 1880 he signed a contract with the Chicago White Stockings.

Harry Wright protested the signing of his former player, or as The Tribune said:

“Some parties in Boston have been making a wholly unnecessary fuss over the engagement of Beals by the Chicago Club, claiming that after engaging to play with the Bostons in 1876 he refused to report for duty.”

The Tribune noted that the contract was actually signed before the league was officially founded on February 2, 1876, but:

“The Boston people argue that, although the League was not in existence at the time Beals retired from baseball, it was agreed, upon its formation, that that all contracts existing between clubs and players should be recognized.”

The newspapers in Wright’s former hometown of Cincinnati weighed in.  The Commercial Gazette encouraged the Boston protest and said Wright should make it “a test case (and) prevent the Chicago Club from playing him during the coming season.”  The Cincinnati Enquirer took the opportunity to accuse Wright of protesting activities he was himself regularly guilty of engaging in:

“The disposition shown by the Boston Club management to create an unpleasantness in the matter of the engagement of Tommy Beals by the Chicago Club, upon the ground that Beals was under some sort of engagement with Boston four or five years ago, has had the effect of recalling some reminiscences calculated to show that the pharisaical kickers of the Hub are in no position to give us the ‘holier than thou’ racket.  In the first place Boston has slept upon its rights, if it ever had any, in the Beals case so long that the matter is outlawed long since, and ought never be raked up at this late day, especially in view of the fact that Chicago acted in good faith and without any suspicion of a cloud upon its title to the services of Beals.

“In the next place Boston had better be repenting for some of its own sins before assuming the role of exhorter towards other folks.  That club has now under contract three players whose engagements will not bear the closest kind of scrutiny.  In 1877 the Boston Club, in the middle of the season, committed an act of piracy on the Lowell Club of which it ought to be ashamed, by jerking (John) Morrill and (Lew) Brown out of the Lowell nine in regular highwayman fashion, both these players being then under contract for the entire season in Lowell…we (also) find that (Jack) Burdock was under contract to Chicago in 1875 and never showed up.  He might have been expelled by Chicago, but was not, and continues an honored and valued member of the Boston outfit.  In 1876, again Thomas Bond was suspended from play and pay by the Hartford Club, of which he was then a member, and in spite of this cloud upon his name and fame, was engaged the following year by Boston, and has been there ever since.”

Morrill, Burdock and Bond were all still members of the Red Stockings, comprising three-fourths of the team’s infield.

The Enquirer also criticized Boston because the team acted to “choke off” an attempt by Hartford Manager Bob Ferguson to bring the allegations which led to Bond’s suspension to light during a league meeting—Bond, during a season-long feud with Ferguson had accused his manager, among other things, of “selling” games.  Bond was suspended by Ferguson on August 21 of 1876 despite posting a 31-13 record for the second place Dark Blues—Bond’s replacement as Hartford’s primary pitcher was Candy Cummings.

Tommy Bond

Tommy Bond

The Enquirer took a final shot at Wright noting that when the league instituted the new rule for 1879 which barred non-playing managers from the bench “Boston squealed because Harry Wright couldn’t enjoy privileges  denied to everybody else, and this year they are playing baby about Beals on grounds equally absurd.”

The Tribune laid out Chicago’s long list of grievances for “plenty of ‘queer’ work in which Boston has been engaged.”  In addition to the incidents mentioned by The Enquirer, The Tribune said in 1877 after Albert Spalding had secured infielder Ezra Sutton for Chicago, “Sutton was worked upon by Boston and went there to play.”

So, according to Boston’s critics the club’s entire 1880 infield had come to the team via questionable circumstances.

The Boston Herald responded:

“It is not to be expected that the Chicago Club will recognize the position of the Boston Club in this matter, and release Beals.  That organization has on more than one occasion, shown its utter contempt for League rules, or in fact, for anything that interferes with its own particular self, and, to expect justice in this case, is not to be thought of.  In the meanwhile, the Boston Club will probably not take any official action in the premises, but let the Chicago Club enjoy all the honor (?) there is in playing such a man.”

After the weeks of allegations, posturing and name-calling in the press, the season began on May 1; Boston never lodged a formal complaint about the signing of Beals.

Chicago cruised to the National League title, spending only one day (after the season’s second game) out of first place.  Beals, rusty from his layoff made little impact for the champions, hitting just .152 in 13 games at second base and in the outfield.  By August, with the fight to defend his signing long forgotten, The Tribune said after a rare Beals start in a 7 to 4 loss to the Worcester Ruby Legs:

“Beals played as though he had never seen a ball-field before…It may well be doubted whether Beals should be permitted to play second base again…any amateur who could be picked at random would be likely to do better both in fielding and batting.  Worcester would have made two or three less runs yesterday if second base had been left vacant altogether, as what time Beals didn’t muff grounders he threw wild and advanced men to bases they would not otherwise have reached.”

Beals was 0 for 3 with three errors that afternoon—for the season he committed 4 errors in thirteen total chances at second for a fielding percentage of .692.

Let go by Chicago at the end of the season, Beals’ professional baseball career was over and he returned to the west.  In 1894 he was elected to one two-year term in the Nevada State Legislature as a Republican representing a district that included the town of Virginia City.  By 1900 he was back in Northern, California, where little is known about his activities.  He died in Colma, California in 1915

“Offered him $1,000 to Throw the Game”

21 Aug

Pitcher George “Charmer” Zettlein began his professional career with the Chicago White Stockings in 1871 when his friend, manager Jimmy Wood convinced him to leave the Brooklyn Atlantics.  He followed Wood to the Troy Haymakers, Brooklyn Eckfords and Philadelphia Whites, and they returned to Chicago together in 1874.

1875 would be the end of their professional association.

It’s unclear where the trouble began.  When Wood’s “private” conversation with a reporter from The St. Louis Democrat was printed verbatim in the newspaper, Zettlein was the only Chicago player he said anything negative about—referring to his friend “as a poor batter and runner.”   Whether the comment contributed is unclear, but shortly after the season began, and the team started struggling, The Chicago Tribune said there was undisclosed “trouble” between the pitcher and manager.

George Zettlein

George Zettlein

Rumors of tension between the two heated up when allegations of throwing games were leveled at team captain Dick Higham; Zettlein also became a target of rumors, including second-hand reports that Wood accused him of “laying down.”  The Tribune said the day after Higham was replaced as team captain:

“It is known that the name of Zettlein was brought before the meeting (of the White Stockings directors) in connection with hints before made that affected his honesty.  It is due to Mr. Zettlein to say that no charges were made against him…the conviction is generally expressed that the White Stockings pitcher works hard to win.”

After the White Stockings and Zettlein lost 15-3 to the Mutuals in New York on July, 31 Wood and his pitcher were finished.  Zettlein sent a letter to club President William Hulbert accusing Wood of “arbitrary and unjust” treatment, and demanded his release.

The Tribune said:

“(Zettlein) will play ball in Chicago no more, except as the member of some visiting club.  He has asked to be relieved from the contract which binds him to the Chicago management.  His request has been granted, and he will not return here with the club…Zettlein states that Wood’s conduct towards him during their Eastern trip has been unbearable.”

Part of Zettlein’s dissatisfaction was that Wood played him at first base in three games; although he had played at least one game in the field every season except 1874, seemingly with no complaints.

The Tribune said Zettlein claimed Wood “has systematically imposed upon him to such an extent that he cannot remain.”

Already on the East Coast, Zettlein immediately signed with the Philadelphia Whites.  His troubles weren’t over.

After less than a month with the Whites, the vague rumors in Chicago turned into direct allegations from his new teammates.  The Philadelphia Times said on August 31, after an 11-3 Athletics loss:

“After the game between the Philadelphia and Hartford (Dark Blues) clubs yesterday, while the (Athletics) players were undressing an exciting discussion took place to the cause of the severe defeat.  (Third baseman/manager Mike) McGeary was angry and he charged (outfielder Fred) Treacy with being in collusion with the gamblers and selling the game, and pointing to Zettlein, said, ‘And there’s another one who’s in it.’”

Zettlein and Treacy had been teammates, with Wood, on the 1871 White Stockings.  Both players denied the charge, and both were immediately suspended by the team pending an investigation.  At the same time the two suspended players charged that McGeary was the gambler, and said a Hartford player, well-known for his integrity could back up their allegations.  The Times said:

“Zettlein and Treacy had a talk with (Jack) Burdock, of the Hartfords…a meeting of the Philadelphia club was held, at which the subject was brought up.  Zettlein and Treacy were present, and made statements to the effect that Burdock (intended to show) that prior to the game McGeary had approached him and told him he had a large amount of money bet on the success of the Philadelphias and offered him $1,000 to throw the game so that the Philadelphias should win, and that he refused to have anything to do with such an arrangement.”

Burdock was also said to have additional information, including a charge that “McGeary approached him with (other) offers, saying they could make plenty of money,” but there is no record of Burdock ever discussing McGeary, or the allegations publicly.  The Times said “there was an exciting discussion over these astounding charges, “and that a committee was appointed to conduct an investigation.

Mike McGeary

Mike McGeary

Like most of the “investigations” into allegations of gambling in the National Association there appears to have been little real investigation of any of what was happening with the Philadelphia Whites.  Within a week the team announced that the “charges were not sustained.”  The only fallout from the scandal was that Bob Addy replaced McGeary as manager for the final seven regular season games.

In October when the Whites met the Athletics in a 10-game Philadelphia series, Zettlein walked off the mound during the sixth inning of the tenth game with his team behind 7 to 3.  The Philadelphia Inquirer said “Zettlein left the field, giving as an excuse that some of his men were trying to lose the game.”

Zettlein, (7), Wood (8), Treacey (9), as teammates with the 1871 Chicago White Stockings.

Zettlein, (7), Wood (8), Treacey (9), as teammates with the 1871 Chicago White Stockings.

Jimmy Wood never managed again after 1875.

After poor seasons during the National League’s inaugural year in 1876, Zettlein (4-20 for the Athletics) and Treacy (.214 and 39 errors for the New York Mutuals), two of the principals in the 1875 scandal were out of baseball.  McGeary, who joined the St. Louis Brown Stockings in 1876, would become a major figure in the 1877 game fixing scandal of 1877.  As with the charges 1875, nothing was proven and after sitting out the 1878 season McGeary returned to the National League and played until 1882.