Tag Archives: Jesse Burkett

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things, Bill Joyce Edition

2 May

Scrappy” Bill Joyce’s managerial career ended badly.  In 1898, the player-manager was fired by New York Giants owner Andrew Freedman and replaced by Cap Anson—only to return as manager for the remainder of the season after Anson failed to turn the seventh place club around.  The turmoil took its toll on Joyce; after four straight .300 plus seasons, he hit just .258 in 1898.

Although just 32, and despite numerous reports of his imminent return to the Giants—or several other teams, including the St. Louis Browns, Washington Senators, and Cleveland Spiders— as a player or manager persisted for the next several years, he never played or managed another major league game.

He returned to his hometown, St. Louis, and opened a bar with Patsy Tebeau, and then later ran his own establishment after the two dissolved their partnership.  And, perhaps because of the way his career ended, and because of his inability to ever again secure an on-field job, he never stopped talking baseball, and became a popular source for sportswriters.

Scrappy Bill Joyce

Scrappy Bill Joyce

The Superstitious Jesse Burkett

Joyce told The Boston Globe in 1905 that “Ball Payers are a superstitious lot,” and that Jesse Burkett was among the most superstitious.

He said Burkett had one day received a tip at the racetrack on a horse that did not come in.

“After the race Jesse made one of his characteristic snaring, sarcastic remarks (to the tipster), who whirled around, and, knowing Jesse’s susceptibility to superstition said: ‘I’ll put the Spanish curse on you for a week.’

“The next day Burkett failed to get a hit and muffed a fly.  The next day he booted a grounder and struck out twice.  That night he sent for (the man).

“The racetrack man came down to the Lindell Hotel (in St. Louis), where Jesse was stopping.”

The man accompanied Burkett, who “was as serious as if he was making his will” to his room:

“(Burkett) unwrapped a package lying on a dresser and taking out a beautiful silk cravat said:

“’George, I’ll give you this ascot–it cost me $2—if you’ take off the Spanish curse.  I can’t make a hit while it is on.’”

The man snapped his fingers and said:

“’It’s off.’

“’Here is the tie,’ said Jess.”

According to Joyce:

“(T)he next day  Jesse made three hits.”

Joyce’s Tavern

In 1910, his tavern was located at 215 North Sixth Street in St. Louis.  But his love of taking baseball nearly cost him the business.

In August of 1910, The St. Louis Republic said:

“’Scrappy’ Bill Joyce, former captain of the New York Giants, and Washington’s old third baseman, forfeited his saloon license today because he kept open until 1 AM, Sunday, July 24, while holding a ‘fanning bee’ with (New York Giants Manager) John McGraw and Sam Crane, a New York sporting writer.”

Joyce testified in front of the city’s excise commission that no drinks were served after midnight, “All he and the two guests did until the policeman arrived was talk baseball.”

Later that month, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said, Crane, the former infielder, then writing for The New York Journal, and McGraw, both came back to St. Louis and met personally with the excise commissioner, Henry S. Caufield—who would later serve as governor of Missouri—and said the incident was “primarily their fault,” while both backing up Joyce’s assertion that no drinks were consumed after midnight.  As a result of their efforts, Joyce was allowed to keep his license.

“Told in a Man’s Way by a lot of Men”

While continuing to operate his tavern in St. Louis, Joyce finally got back into professional baseball.

In 1911, he became owner and manager of the Missoula (Montana) franchise in the newly formed Union Association.  But by August The Salt Lake City Tribune said he had been stripped of the franchise “for nonpayment of salaries.”  He later did  some scouting for the Federal League’s St. Louis Terriers.  While assessing current players, Joyce came to the conclusion shared by many of his 19th Century brethren. He told The St. Louis Globe-Democrat:

Bill Joyce, 1911

Bill Joyce, 1911

“Baseball today is not what it should be.  The players do not try to learn the fine points of the game as in the days of old, but simply try to get by.  They content themselves if they get a couple of hits every afternoon and pay an errorless game.  The first thing they do each morning is to get the papers and look at the hit and error columns.”

It was, of course, nothing like it was during his career—when the game was more scientific:

“When I was playing ball there was not a move made on the field that did not cause everyone on the opposing team to mention something about it.  All were trying to figure why it had been done and to watch and see what the result would be.  That move could never be pulled again without everyone on our bench knowing just what was going to happen.

“I feel sure that the same conditions do not prevail today.  The boys go out to the plate, take a slam at the ball, pray that they’ll get a hit and just et it go at that.  They are not fighting as in the days of old.”

And the way they behaved after a loss:

“Who ever heard of a gang of ballplayers, after losing a game, going into the clubhouse and singing at the top of their voices?  That’s what happens every day after the game at the present time.  Immediately after the last man is out the players make a dash for the clubhouse, the ‘quartet’ hits up a song and the whole squad joins in.

“In my days, the players went into the clubhouse after a losing game with murder in their hearts.  They would have thrown any guy out on his neck if they even suspected him of intentions of singing.  In my days the man who was responsible for having lost a game was told in a man’s way by a lot of men what a rotten ballplayer he really was.  Generally, he was told to go back to carrying the hod or to the police force.  It makes me weep to think of the men of the old days who played the game and the boys of today.  It is positively a shame and they are getting big money for it, too.”

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The Decline of Baseball, 1899

8 Jan

Late in the 1899 season, The Chicago Tribune editorialized on the state of the game.  The paper was convinced that baseball’s best days were behind it:

“Once upon a time this city put on mourning when its ball club lost a game and when the club returned from a victorious tour it had a Dewey welcome.  Men left stores and offices to go to the ball field.  They knew the players on the home team and exulted in their powers.  There is no more of that.  There is no longer any civic pride in the local team.  Business men no longer attend the games.  In this city and in other cities baseball has ceased to be a high-class sport.  It has become a low-grade pastime.  It is patronized by the class of people who are interested in bicycle races, long-distance pedestrian contests, gamblers, horse races and poolrooms.  Baseball, once the sport of men and women of taste, is now the diversion of hoodlums.”

As for why the game was no longer of interest to “men and women of taste,” The Tribune said:

“There is no room for doubt as to what has pulled it down from its former high state.  Commercialism in part has done it.  The players have become chattels.  Teams are bought and sold and are transferred from city to city as if they were livestock.  The men who are playing in Chicago this year may be playing in Cleveland or New York the next.  That cuts up all sense of local pride in a club…There have been teams which really belonged to Chicago.  Of late years, there have simply been organizations of hirelings whose owners instructed them to hail from here.

“Professional baseball is in the hands of a few men whose sole object is to make all they can out of a sport they have ruined.  There is no competition among them.  That championship, in the winning of which cities took so much pride once, has become a farce.”

The actions of Frank DeHass and Martin Stanford “Stanley” Robison was a particular source of the paper’s ire. The Robison brothers, owners of the Cleveland Spiders, purchased the bankrupt St. Louis Browns and transferred Cleveland’s best players, including Cy Young, Nig Cuppy, and Jesse Burkett to the St. Louis club, now called the Perfectos.  What was left of the Spiders finished with a 20-134 record.

 “Sometimes one man owns two clubs and makes draft on one to help out the other. If it becomes evident that Cleveland must be at the tail of the procession, its best men are shifted over to the St. Louis organization, both being under one ownership.  Requisitions are made on Baltimore for the benefit of Brooklyn and on New York for that of Boston.  No city can have any feeling of city proprietorship in a club under such circumstances.”

The 1899 St. Louis Perfectos

The 1899 St. Louis Perfectos

The behavior of fans was of equal concern:

“Rowdyism has come in along with commercialism and has finished what interest was left in the game. Quiet, decent people can no longer go to baseball games because of the vulgarity and ruffianism displayed there.”

The Tribune felt current players were of lower moral character than those of the previous generation:

The morals of the players have deteriorated.  They used to try to behave like sportsmen.  They act now like foul-tongued bullies.  When a question comes up for the umpire to settle, the players surround him and blackguard and threaten him.  He is fortunate if he escapes without bruises.  Fair decisions cannot be expected from a man in danger of being mobbed.  Occasionally the contending players come to blows and the spectators, who went to see a game of ball, have to witness a game of slugging, garnished with profanity.”

How low had the game gone?

“Baseball has fallen so low that gamblers do not think it is worth paying any attention to.  They have not dropped it because they fancy it is not ‘on the square,’ but because it has become an uninteresting, second-class sport.  It does not interest them now any more than a race between professional bicyclists does.  Baseball has become a recreation of the people whom commercialism, vulgarity, and Rowdyism do not displease.”

The Tribune continued their crusade against the “uninteresting” sport a month later, with an “account of the more disgraceful of the many rows witnessed by spectators of baseball games.”

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up other Things #9

18 Jun

The Business of Bats–1896

The Louisville Courier-Journal said in the spring of 1896 that their city “is now conceded to be the bat market of the world.”

That year, J. F. Hillerich & Son, a company that “was in practical obscurity three years ago,” had already “received orders to manufacture 75,000 bats this season.”

(Many sources, including the Louisville Slugger Museum, say the name change from Hillerich Job Turning to Hillerich and Son took place in 1897, but the names “& Son” and “& Son’s” were used in advertisements as early as 1895)

An advertisement for flag poles which appeared in Louisville papers on the eve of the 29th Encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic in September of 1895 shows the company name as J.F. Hillerich & Son's.

An advertisement for flag poles which appeared in Louisville papers on the eve of the 29th Encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic in September of 1895 shows the company name as J.F. Hillerich & Son’s.

“(Hillerich) is known to every ball player of any note in the United States.  A Courier-Journal reporter yesterday afternoon found orders from (Ed) Delehanty of the Philadelphias; (Hugh) Duffy of the Bostons, (Jesse) Burkett of the Clevelands and many other noted batsmen in the little factory at 216 First Street. Eight years ago (James Frederick) Jim Hillerich did not have money enough to buy a wagon load of ash, from which bats are made.  This season his business amounts to more than $50,000 which is done in ball bats alone.

“When a team arrives in the city the first thing the members do is to have a race for this bat factory to select some new ‘sticks.’”

The paper said the company’s output in 1895 had been twice that of 1894 and “The business this year amounts to four times as much as it did last year.”

The ash for Hillerich’s bats was grown in Indiana and Kentucky “and is felled and split by fifty men.  All the bats are hand-turned”

Washington’s Brief Craps Scandal–1891

In June of of 1891 The Washington Herald reported trouble in the ranks of the American Association’s ninth place Washington Statesmen.

The team was playing for their second manager (there would be a total of four that year), the first, Sam Trott had been let go after just 11 games.  The Herald said when Charles “Pop” Snyder was installed in place of Trott “the directors thought they had at last secured a pilot who would successfully carry them through the breakers.”

The team lost 16 of their first 19 games under Snyder and the paper said “steps are being taken to secure a new man to fill Snyder’s place.”

Chief among Snyder’s failing was:

“(W)hen a discovery was made at the grounds by some interested parties.  It was in the morning, and the men should have been practicing in order to better their playing, but instead were found, it is said, engaged in the seductive pursuit of playing ‘crap.'”

The only player the paper named was catcher James “Deacon” McGuire who, at one point during the game was ahead $56.  The Herald quoted an unnamed team official:

“‘We pay them good salaries, from $250 to $350 per month, and they ought to give us good ball.’ observed one director, after exhausting himself in giving expression to some very emphatic language regarding the crap incident.”

Deacon McGuire

Deacon McGuire

One week later the paper said:

The Herald cheerfully publishes this denial:  Manager Snyder makes a plain statement of the case, to the effect that one morning, the day of the extreme heat, while the men were in the shade, umpire (John) Kerins pulled out the ivories and the men in the spirit of fun went at the game.  It did not last ten minutes and it was the only time it occurred during the season.”

Snyder was replaced as manager a month later by Dan Shannon who fared no better (15-34); he was replaced by Tobias “Sandy” Griffin in October.

 The Reason for Baseball’s “Mania”–1869

The Milwaukee Semi-Weekly Wisconsin editorialized on the growing popularity of baseball in July of 1869:

“A few years ago the game of baseball which every male in the land, perhaps, had played from his youth up, was dignified by being elevated into a ‘national game,’ and set off with printed rules and regulations.  Forthwith the sport became the rage of young and middle-aged, and clubs were formed all over the land.  It was suddenly found that the game was just the thing to develop muscle and invigorate the frames of school boys and men of business, clerks and mechanics, sedentary men and farmers.”

The Associated Press gives with the utmost minuteness the score of every match game–no matter though it may have taken place in the obscurest village of the far east.  Across and up and down the continent these reports go side by side with the most important matters of state, of commerce, of international policy, often times taking up more space than news of the greatest moment.”

The paper asked “What has given this sudden impetus to the ‘national game?’ Is it the result of an increased desire for physical culture?  Is it because men feel more than ever the importance of exercise?  Not at all…There is another reason for the mania.”

That reason was gambling:

“We have nothing to say against baseball or any other sport when carried on simply as a recreation; we approve of them and think they ought to be encouraged; but the trouble is they degenerate into a machine for betting , and thus they become the means of corrupting the morals of the youth.  Americans seem to be rapidly acquiring an appetite for betting…This passion for outside  betting is increasing, and this is the reason why these match games are telegraphed over the country with such minuteness…Men bet on an election or a  baseball match who would not go into a gambling saloon for any consideration.”

The conclusion of the editorial was a foreshadowing of the role of gambling during baseball’s next five decades”

“It may be a comparatively small evil to make or lose five dollars upon some kind of match game, but this is only the beginning of an evil which too frequently grows into a magnitude which cannot always be computed.”