Tag Archives: Jake Stenzel

“O’Connor Called me a big Fat-Head”

30 Aug

Jake Stenzel’s nine-year big-league career came to an end at age 32 in July of 1899. The Cincinnati Post said the abrupt end was the result of, “suffering from a lame throwing ‘wing’ all season.”

Stenzel had joined his hometown club, the Cincinnati Reds, after being released a month earlier by the St. Louis Perfectos.

Stenzel drew his release after an altercation with teammate Jack O’Connor during a June 18 game with Washington. He came to the plate in the fifth inning with the bases loaded and no outs. Stenzel attempted to bunt and pooped up to first baseman Pete Cassidy who doubled Emmet Heidrick off first.

Stenzel

The St. Louis Globe-Democrat said:

“O’Connor, who was coaching, addressed some remarks to Stenzel, and by the looks on the faces of both men they could not have been good natured ones. Stenzel made a rush at O’Connor, and they came to a clinch.”

Stenzel was “very bitter” at O’Connor and manager Patsy Tebeau over the release which was made official several days later

“When I made that bunt that resulted in a double play O’Connor called me a big fat-head and used all kinds of profanity. When I walked to the bench Tebeau told me I was released. A few minutes later when, when someone in the stand asked Tebeau why he released me he, Pat said because I was a thick-headed Dutchman.”

O’Connor denied having a role in Stenzel’s release, telling The Globe-Democrat he was, “in no position” to have influenced Tebeau—despite being the club’s captain—and claimed after the altercation the two shook hands in the clubhouse.

Stenzel signed with the Reds weeks later and hit .310 in nine games before being released again for his lame arm.

Stenzel bought a bar on Western Avenue, across the street from the three ballparks the Reds called home until 1970 and was frequently sought out by reporters for his opinions on the game until his death in 1919.

In 1915, he told The Pittsburgh Chronicle-Telegraph:

“Delicate and dainty, indeed, are the athletes of today.”

Current players, he said:

“(H)op out of the game on the least pretext; their managers and club owners uphold them in retiring from the fray as soon as they suffer the slightest damage, and a cut finger is amply sufficient to secure a week’s vacation on full pay.”

Earlier that summer, Reds pitcher Rube Benton was on the mound two days after having a finger broken by a line drive during a game with the Cubs. He was, said Stenzel:

“(A)bout the gamest fellow I’ve heard of recently. Most of them would have laid off two weeks and then told the manager that the hand was still tender.

“Back 30 years ago things were very different. Players prided themselves on their nerve and often had to be actually forced out of the game before they’d stop. Best evidence of the difference between then and now; in the old days a player couldn’t leave the game unless disabled, and the clubs carried only twelve or thirteen men. If a pitcher or a catcher broke his finger it meant that he would have to play right field awhile…Show the manager a broken finger ad it meant an assignment to right field for the next afternoon instead of a vacation. The player expected it too, and would have felt insulted if he had been told to take a layoff instead of getting into action.”

“Rube Prides Himself on his Strength”

27 Aug

After a six to three Reds victory over Chicago on August 7, 1901, The Cincinnati Commercial Tribune told the story of why Chicago’s Rube Waddell and several fans came late to the game.

Jake Stenzel, a Cincinnati native, had returned home after his nine-year major league career came to an end and opened a bar across the street from League Park:

Stenzel

“During yesterday’s game there was a counter attraction in Jake Stenzel’s saloon, where Rube Waddell was exhibiting feats of strength. Fifty or more people who came out in that neighborhood for the purpose of seeing the game found Rube’s exhibition entertaining enough, and, consequently, did not hand their coin into the little window of the ball ark entrance.”

Stenzel and another man had lured Waddell into the bar by telling him fishing stories:

“Stenzel said he caught a bass weighing fourteen pounds, and Rube immediately went him four pounds better, and added that he caught the fish with his fingers.”

Stenzel then told Waddell that he caught his fish on property he owned in Indiana and was considering purchasing additional acres.

“’Well, if there’s fishing down there, Jake, it’s cheap, and you better buy it right away,’ advised Rube. ‘I am thinking of buying a place like that myself. When I do, I’ll stock with bass and give up baseball.”’

Rube

The paper said Stenzel’s friend told Waddell:

“’I don’t think you’re strong enough for a fisherman,’ and then the fun began, for Rube prides himself on his strength.”

Waddell responded”

“’Ain’t strong enough, eh? Well. Wait till I show you.’ And Rube rushed over to the end of the counter and raised it off the floor. Then he took a full keg of beer and lifted it over his head, and he wound up his exhibition by picking Jake Stenzel up bodily and throwing him to the pavement.”

With that:

“The crowd cheered, and Rube ran across the street to see the rest of the game.”

Actually, it Probably Wasn’t the Superstition

5 Dec

As with George Treadway, a story can get repeated throughout the decades while a large, key portion is lost in the process; such is the case with Billy Earle.

His career ended because of the superstitions of other players who thought he was “creepy,” as David Nemec described him in his excellent book “The Beer and Whiskey League.” In “The New Bill James Historical Abstract,” James credulously quotes the assertion from sportscaster Bill Stern‘s 1949 book “Favorite Baseball Stories” that Earle was:

“(F)orced out of baseball, because of nothing more than superstition, the belief that he was a hypnotist with the power of ‘the evil eye.’”

For awhile even Earle tried to use it as an excuse.

But actually, it was probably the morphine.

William Moffat Earle was at times a great player, but more often impetuous and prone to jumping contracts.

He earned his nickname “The Little Globetrotter” after being part of the 1888 world tour organized by Albert Spalding. Earle said of the trip:

“We played everywhere from the catacombs of Rome to Cheops of Egypt, under the shadow of the pyramids and out through India and the Islands of Ceylon.”

Billy Earle and the other members of the world tour

Billy Earle and the other members of the world tour at the Great Sphinx of Giza

After returning from the tour Earle joined the Cincinnati Red Stockings in the American Association. He bounced back and forth from Major League to minor league teams for the next six years. During that time, there were a number of humorous references to Earle’s interest in hypnotism, but none claimed it was an impediment to his career; however, in 1897, upon being released after one game with the Columbus Senators of the Western League the legend began.

In September of 1897, an article appeared in The Baltimore Sun under the headline, “A Haunted Ballplayer:”

“(Earle) cannot get a position on any ball team in the country, not even the small minor league teams.”

Earle told a sad story of teammates avoiding him and fearing the “hoodoo.” He even blamed his being released by Pittsburgh after the 1893 season on it, ignoring the fact that he was only signed because of injuries to the three other Pirate catchers, Connie Mack, Joe Sugden and Doggie Miller—and emergency catcher Jake Stenzel.

That 1897 story became the story of Billy Earle.

It also said:

“He is, moreover, a pleasant, intelligent, strictly temperate man.”

The first two might very well have been true. The last was not.

The rest of the story about Billy Earle has been lost, forgotten, or just ignored.

In August of 1898, The Cincinnati Enquirer told the real story of why Billy Earle had been out of baseball. The “strictly temperate” Earle was addicted to morphine.

His friend John McGraw helped get him treatment in a Baltimore hospital; his former Cincinnati teammates took up a collection to buy Earle a ticket to Philadelphia to stay with his parents after treatment.

He kicked the habit, and then for three seasons managed and played for an independent team in Richmond, Indiana; he also coached teams in Havana, Cuba during the winters of 1900 and 1902-1904. And he returned to professional baseball; hardly the profile of a blacklisted man.

Earle signed as a player/manager with the 1903 Vicksburg Hill Billies in the Cotton States League. He continued his playing career through 1906, and either managed or worked as an umpire in Midwest-based leagues through 1911.

Billy Earle, player/manager Columbia Gamecocks 1905.

Billy Earle, player/manager Columbia Gamecocks 1905.

Billy Earle died in Omaha, Nebraska in 1946.

Were there some players in the superstitious world of 19th Century baseball who were uncomfortable playing with or against Earle? Probably. If he had hit .320 and not had a drug problem would he have had a 10-year or more major league career regardless of superstitions? Probably.