Tag Archives: Jim Delahanty

“The Greatest Heady Play I Ever Saw”

14 Aug

Jim Delahanty related the greatest play he ever saw on a baseball field to Hugh Fullerton in The Chicago Record-Herald in 1911:

“I have seen a lot of plays that were great, extraordinary; that were startling and set the crowds crazy.  It is usually hard to pick the greatest, but the one I recall was in a long-forgotten game in a little minor league.”

Jim Delahanty

Jim Delahanty

Delahanty said it happened during his first season in professional ball.  He was a member the Allentown Peanuts—his brothers Joe and Tom were teammates—in the Atlantic League.  Allentown was playing the Lancaster Maroons.

“The play was the headiest, the most surprising and altogether the most wonderful I ever witnessed and although it was made more than twelve years ago I never have forgotten one of the circumstances.”

[…]

Old Piggy (Frank) Ward, who had been famous before that, was playing second base for Lancaster, and (Oliver) Sprogell was pitching.  The game was a close one.  The score was 2 to 2 in the eleventh inning and the two teams were battling desperately for the victory.”

With runners on first and third and two out, (Orlin) Ollie Smith came to bat for Allentown.

“Sprogell was a slow-ball pitcher, and with two balls and two strikes called he floated up a slow teaser and Smith hit the ball as hard as ever a baseball was hit.  He had called the turn on the slow ball and took a run to meet it and hit it with all his might.  It went like a shot straight at Piggy Ward.  The ball was hit so hard that Piggy set himself and braced to break it down and throw out the runner, and just as he was setting himself his foot slipped and at the same instant the ball took a bad bound and jumped straight at his shining bald head.

“Ward had dropped his hands to save himself from falling when he lost his footing and it looked as if the accident had beaten his team.  But Piggy was game.  He saw the victory slipping away, saw that he would not be able to get his hands up in time to touch the ball, and shutting his eyes; he ducked that old shining bald head of his and butted that ball as hard as he could.

“Piggy sat down rather hard, dazed and stunned, and put his hand up to the spot the ball had hit.  The whole trademark was branded on the top of his head and there was a lump that was swelling like a balloon being filled with gas.  But the ball he butted bounded as straight and true as if it had been thrown straight into Sprogell’s hands, and Sprogell turned and threw Smith out at first.”

Piggy Ward

Piggy Ward

Delahanty said Lancaster won the game in the twelfth inning.

“In all my ball playing experience it was the greatest heady play I ever saw, and it was heady in a double sense, for old Piggy thought like a flash and when he saw he could not get the ball with his hands he went after it with his head.  I haven’t seen him for years, but I bet now if anyone can get him to take his hat off they’ll find Reach’s  trademark stamped on that bald spot.”

“A Travesty on the National Pastime”

12 Aug

The Brooklyn Eagle called it “(A) travesty on the National Pastime.”  The Associated Press said it was “A comedy in Brooklyn.”

1915 home opener between the Federal League’s Brooklyn Tip-Tops and the Buffalo Blues.

The 1915 Federal League opener between the Brooklyn Tip-Tops and Buffalo Blues resulted in 13 to 9 Brooklyn victory,  slogged on for three hours and ten minutes, and Brooklyn Manager Lee Magee was ejected from his first game as a manager in the first inning.

Lee Magee

Lee Magee

None of those things were the cause of the headlines.

The Washington Times said:

 “Of all the offenses committed against the fair name of baseball none has loomed up so ludicrously as the prize ‘bone’ play perpetrated in the opening game.”

In the seventh inning, catcher Grover Land pinch hit for pitcher Bill Upham.  Land singled and was then removed for pinch runner Dave Howard.

The Eagle said, in the following inning:

“Land donned the windpad and mitt in the eighth and proceeded to catch the balance of the game in place of (Mike) Simon, whose sore arm caused his retirement.

“Land’s return to the game after having once been replaced was a distinct violation of the rules, but Acting Manager (Jim) Delahanty wotted not of such things, Umpire Jimmy Johnstone gave it not a thought and Leader (Larry) Schlafly of Buffalo ignored it entirely, either from lack of observation or with a view of future action in the way of a protest.  The re-advent of Land caused a mix-up in the scoring, which turned the press box into a bedlam of protest, but there was no redress.  Later, the humor of the situation dawned on the scribes and they gurgled with glee at the monumental piece of stupidity perpetrated by the home management.”

Grover Land

Grover Land

The following day, Schlafly filed a formal protest with Federal League President James Gilmore, and told The Buffalo News he was aware of the mistake and “Knew as soon as Land went in to catch the Brookfeds could not win the ball game.”

The Eagle later apologized to Delahanty for claiming he was responsible for the “bone play:”

“An injustice was done Jimmy Delahanty when it was stated that he was acting manager of the Brookfeds when Grover Land did the in again, out again, and in again stunt…The truth must be told.  Lee Magee was on the bench at the time, despite the fact that he had long before been chased off the field.  The Boy Manager had slipped into a long ulster, and, as he thought, disguised himself so the umps would not recognize him.  Then he slipped behind the water cooler and directed things.”

The paper concluded that Magee pulled the “bone” and chided him for allowing his players to take the blame.

Magee was fined $50 and suspended for two games for returning to the bench after the ejection.  The protest was rejected and the game remained in the record books as a 13 to 9 Brooklyn victory.

The Blues were 13-28 in June when Schlafly was fired.  Magee was replaced as manager by Brooklyn with a 53-64 record in August.  The teams finished sixth and seventh during the league’s second and final season.

Humpy Badel

27 Apr

Fred Badel was the first player in professional baseball (and most likely the only one) who suffered from Kyphosis, the over-curvature of the upper back.  In less sensitive times, the first decade of the 20th Century, this led to his nickname: Humpy.

Badel was born in Carnegie, Pennsylvania, March 6, 1881, although contemporary newspaper accounts implied he was much older.  He never learned to read or write, and despite his medical condition developed into a solid ballplayer.

The Altoona Tribune said:

“He is a little left-handed hitter, fast on his feet, and an excellent baserunner.”

The Tribune also said he was “(A) protegé of (Honus) Wagner.”

The Pittsburgh Press said he was:

“[E]xtremely fast on his feet, can hit like a fiend, and fields his position in a most finished manner.”

That description of Badel’s abilities appeared in an article about “The assertion…there are three classes of men who do not succeed in fast company in baseball, namely Hebrews, hunchbacks and Negroes,” the article failed to mention the concerted effort of organized baseball to keep at least two of those “classes” out of the game.)

Fred “Humpy” Badel

His professional career began in 1905 with Johnstown in the independent “outlaw” Tri-State League, although earlier he appears to have played for the Youngstown team in the Ohio-Pennsylvania League, and independent teams in Pennsylvania.

No statistics survive, but Badel appears to have played well.  He was described variously by Pennsylvania papers as a “picturesque character” and “odd,” but there seemed to be general agreement that he was destined for the big leagues.  He also had a reputation for playing dirty, The Williamsport Sun-Gazette said he had “a nasty trick of trying to spike basemen.”

At the close of the 1905 season, Badel was signed by the Buffalo Bisons in the Eastern League, managed by George Stallings.  Stallings, who had managed the Bisons since 1902, took the team south for spring training for the first time.

George Stallings

The trip was so successful that Stallings said he’d never again hold spring training in a northern climate—a regular practice at that time.

When the Bisons stopped in Cincinnati for an exhibition game with the Reds on April 10, Badel made an impression.

The Cincinnati Enquirer said:

“Humpy Badel was the bright particular star of the game…Badel is humpback, but a great athlete, with great speed and a fine arm.  An outfielder who cuts into two double plays in one game is going some.  He also made a fine catch on (Jim) Delahanty‘s drive in the second, which would have gone on for three bags…Badel was the main Bison slugger, securing two of the four hits off (Orville) Overall and one of the three off (Leo) Hafford.  Toward the end of the game, the bleacherites were cheering him on with cries of ‘good work, Humpy,’ and applauding every move he made.”

The Enquirer reported that Stallings turned down a  $4000 offer from Cincinnati–it was later reported to be $5000– to purchase Badel’s contract; the paper said Reds Manager Ned Hanlon badly wanted Badel.

Within months everything changed.  He was with Buffalo until July, 6, when without notice he jumped the team and returned to Johnstown.

badel

A cartoon from The Harrisburg Telegraph featuring Badel.

 

The Buffalo Courier blasted Badel; under the headline “Humpy Badel is a Foolish Man” the newspaper detailed how well he had been treated in Buffalo.  While acknowledging that Badel “Has the makings of a great player in him,” the paper repeatedly mentioned his illiteracy, claimed he “Lacked common sense,” missed or ignored signs, refused Stallings’ attempts to help him,  and was the subject of ridicule from his teammates who considered him ignorant.

The Buffalo Times summed up their view in verse:

“There was an outfielder named Humpy.

Whose work was decidedly lumpy;

So one bright summer day

He asked George for his pay,

And went back to the farm rather grumpy.”

Badel’s hometown papers in Pittsburgh and Sporting Life were somewhat less harsh, but all said that Badel’s leaving Buffalo probably ended a sure chance at a major league career.  Rumors that he jumped because oil had been found on his Pennsylvania land and he no longer needed to play ball were quickly dismissed.

There is no record of Badel ever having been asked for an explanation for why he left Buffalo and effectively ended any chance he had to play in the major leagues.

Badel hit over .300 in Johnstown during the second half of 1906.  He did not play professional ball in 1907, some reports said he had been blacklisted, others claimed he was ill–The Washington Herald said he was “in the grip of consumption,” although that report was likely false.

He appeared briefly with Johnstown again in 1908, but it appears he was not the same player.  The Harrisburg Star-Independent said:

“‘Humpy’ Badel has degenerated.  The eccentric one is no longer the valuable player which he showed himself to be in 1906.”

Badel is listed on the rosters of several independent, C and D league teams between 1910 and 1914, including the “outlaw” United States League in 1912 and the Federal League in 1913.  As was the case throughout his career, there are few extant statistics for Badel during this period.

The last mention of Badel in the press was the report of  his release from Maysville in the Ohio State League in June of 1914.  According to census records and his World War I registration card, he lived in Cincinnati, then Akron and worked as a carpenter until 1919.

 After 1919, there are no records of Badel, a suitable, enigmatic end to the story of an enigmatic man.

A shorter version of this post was published on August 21, 2012

Lost Pictures–Pete Childs

9 Mar

A good detective story.

In February, I told the story of Peter Pierre Childs’ one-pitch triple play while he was the manager and occasional relief pitcher for the Portsmouth Cobblers in the Ohio State League in 1910.  While I was able to locate a picture of Childs with Portsmouth, I could not find a high-quality image of him in a major league uniform.  The only one I was aware of was a grainy photo included with Childs’ one-sentence biography in Wikipedia.

After I posted the story, I received an email from Mark Fimoff, co-chair SABR Pictorial History Committee. Mark is one of the foremost baseball photograph researchers and has helped me identify players in photographs in the past.

He has recently discovered two photographs of Childs that have been misidentified for more than 100 years.

petechilds petechildschidailynews2

The pictures are part of the collection from The Chicago Daily News.  The paper, and subsequently, the Library of Congress and the Chicago History Museum misidentified Childs (and also got the year wrong) until Mark discovered the error.

The listings for the pictures say:

“Baseball player Delhanty [sic] standing on a baseball field.”

And

“Baseball player Delhanty [sic] bending forward with hands on his knees standing on a baseball field.”

“Delhanty” is Jim Delahanty, who played with Childs on the 1901 Chicago Orphans.

jimdelahanty

Delahanty

pchilds

Pete Childs

Pete Childs

The listings for the photos also say they were taken in 1906.  Mark said, based on the uniform and the centerfield clubhouse visible in the photos—the wood structure pictured was replaced with a brick structure in 1905—the photos could not be from 1906.  Neither Childs nor Delahanty played with Chicago in any season other than 1901–so the photo was taken sometime between mid-July and October of 1901.

—–

 Childs was acquired by the Orphans in July after he was released by the St. Louis Cardinals.  He replaced Cupid Childs (no relation), who had been released by Chicago a week earlier, at second base.

Pete Childs was an upgrade in the field but hit just .229, 29 points lower than his predecessor, Cupid Childs.

The Chicago Inter Ocean said:

“Pete Childs is the best thing, in a fielding sense, Chicago has had since the days of (Fred) Pfeffer.  It is a mystery how a man who moves so fast after a grounder can move so slow in going down to first.  It is probable that Motionless Peter stands on his heels when batting, and that he thus heaves a mound of earth under his hoofs, blocking his passage, when he scoots, and materially jarring his batting average.”

Pete Childs was released by Chicago at the end of the 1901 season.

Lost Advertisements–The Missouri Store

30 Jan

1914ad

A 1914 advertisement for The Missouri Store at the University of Missouri in Columbia.  The ad features Jake Stahl, Frank “Ping” Bodie, Jim Delahanty and Ty Cobb.

“Spring weather sort o’ puts a play ball spirit into your veins.  You feel like you want to try out your arm or your batting eye.”

The store carried a full line of items “such as professionals use” from Spalding and Stall & Dean–catcher’s masks; baseball shoes, fielder’s mitts; first base mitts; body protectors, and shoe plates–with “Baseballs from 5 cents to $1.25.”

 

Jim Delahanty’s Idea

10 Oct

Before the 1911 season, Hugh Fullerton, in The Chicago Examiner, told the story about Jim Delahanty’s plan to improve his hitting.  The Detroit Tigers second baseman was having a conversation with teammates:

Jim Delahanty

Jim Delahanty

“’I think,’ said Delahanty, ‘that if someone would kick me between the eyes real hard, I’d lead the league in hitting.’

“’What’s the angle of that remark?’ Asked Sam Crawford.

“’If I were you,’ said Davy Jones, ‘I’d hire a mule to kick me three of four times, and maybe I’d hit 1000 per cent.

“’I’ll tell you what I mean,’ said Del.  ‘When I went to the Atlantic League I was just a fair hitter—fair, bordering on rotten.  If I hit .225 I felt pretty good, and if I fell below that I wasn’t much surprised.

‘”Well, I had been going along fairly well for a few weeks, when one day I started stealing second.  I intended at first to slide behind the bag, but the baseman changed position, and I tried to switch and slide in front.’

“’The result was I slid awkwardly, and as he touched me out and blocked me his knee hit me bang between the eyes.  I saw forty million stars, and got up dizzy and feeling funny.’

“’Everything seemed changed, and I seemed to be looking through a veil all the time.  Everything on mu right side looked uphill and everything on the left downhill.  For about ten days I was the worst hitter in the world, not excepting Jack Pfiester.  It worried me.’

Jack Pfiester

Jack Pfiester

“’I think in three weeks I got two base hits, and what seemed funny to me was that I made both these hits off curve balls that fooled me.  The fact is my eyes had been banged out of gear and I was swinging about four inches below where the ball really was, and the only times I hit it was when it fooled me.’

“I was all upset and ready to quit when one day I drew a base on balls and tried to steal.  The shortstop was coming to cover the bag, and as I slid his knee caught me right between the eyes and knocked me cold.

“’When I batted the next time I saw the ball perfectly, or thought I did, and up I went into the .250 class.  A year later I got another crack between the eyes—and immediately improved still further in hitting.  Now I’m waiting for the kick that will put me in the .350 class.’

“Crawford was silent for some time.  Then he said:

‘”Say, did (Napoleon) Lajoie ever mention being hit between the eyes with a pile driver?’”

A .283 lifetime hitter, Delahanty had his best season at the plate in 1911, with career bests in nearly every offensive category, including average (.339) and RBI (94).

There is no record of him having received the desired blow to the head before the season began.

“Mique” Fisher 2

7 May

On October 12, 1906, with the World Series between the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs deadlocked at two games apiece, August “Garry” Herrmann, President of the National Commission, received a telegram from Fresno, California:

“Fresno will give $25,000 guarantee; guarantee 40,000 fans and sunshine for deciding game of World Series.

–Mike Fisher”

Fisher said the offer to bring the series and Fresno native Frank Chance to town was backed by “the businessmen here.”

It is doubtful Herrmann took the offer seriously, and it’s probably just as doubtful that Fisher took it seriously, but it was picked up by newspapers across the country, and Fisher enjoyed the publicity.

It was a last bit of publicity before his career in organized baseball ended.  Later in the month he was dismissed as manager of the Fresno Raisin Eaters, and the team was dropped from the Pacific Coast League (PCL) the following spring.

Within weeks Fisher had moved on to a new project; he announced that he was in the process of forming a team to travel to Hawaii.  The San Francisco Call said “It will be the first American ball team to make the trip across the Pacific in a little over nineteen years,” since Spalding’s world tour.

In conjunction with Jesse Woods, a Honolulu promoter, Fisher organized a tour of the Hawaiian Islands with a team of PCL stars.

Mike Fisher

Mike Fisher

Upon his return, Fisher got more ink on the West Coast, when he headed to Nevada with Charlie Irwin of the San Francisco Seals; the two met with businessmen in the mining towns of Goldfield and Tonopah to discuss forming a professional league—Fisher told The San Jose Mercury News that he was now “against organized baseball,” and if he got involved in the league “it will be an outlaw organization.”

Fisher chose not to get involved in the new league, but immediately went to work on an even more ambitious tour than the 1907 Honolulu trip.

With the sponsorship of the Reach Sporting Goods Company, Fisher would accompany a group of stars to China, Japan and the Philippines.  Early publicity promised the travelers would include Ty Cobb, Hal Chase, and Frank Chance.

When the ship set sail in November of 1908 those three stars were not on board, but “several hundred fans and friends” were present when the steamer China left the port in San Francisco to see the group off.  The team was substantially the same as the one that toured Hawaii the previous year—an aggregation of PCL stars and a few National and American League players– and consisted of: Jim Delahanty, George Hildebrand, Bill Burns, Pat Flaherty, Jack Bliss, Babe Danzig, Harry McArdle, Nick Williams, Joe Curtis, Heine Heitmuller, Jack Graney and Bill “Brick” Devereaux.

Despite the failure to land Cobb, Chase or Chance for the tour, the West Coast press applauded Fisher for even attempting the trip, The Call said:

“The undertaking which he has fathered and which is so successfully underway at the present time is a big proposition.  With the single exception of the around-the-world trip of the A.G. Spaldings years ago, nothing on as big a scale as this has ever been attempted.  To take a team of American baseball players over a journey that will total 10,000 miles before they return, to play games in China, Japan, Manila and Honolulu is something that two or three years ago would have been laughed at as an impossibility.”

The tour lasted more than three months, with the team barnstorming through Japan, China, the Philippines and Hawaii, playing local and US Service member teams.  Though reports varied, the team played between twenty and thirty games, and lost no more than four.

While they drew large crowds throughout the trip, the newspapers back home reported that the tour was a financial disaster; when the players arrived back in San Francisco on February 15, 1909 aboard the Tenyo Maru, Fisher responded to the reports:

“I hear that it has been said that the trip was a financial frost.  Well, anybody who says that is a liar.  We broke even in Japan and made money in Manila and Honolulu.  I am satisfied with the trip.”

Fisher didn’t mention the financial results in China; likely because that leg of the tour was a disaster financially.  Years later he would tell a story about the team’s experience there, complete with his usual exaggerations:

“In one game we played in Canton we had 150,000 people inside, and as the gatemen had been instructed to accept Chinese money it required the combined efforts of the entire team to tote the money up to the hotel.  A special staff of accountants was busy all night totaling it up and in the morning we discovered we had $46.15.”

Fisher promised to take a team to Australia the following year.  The trip never took place; instead Fisher purchased a Seattle dance hall called the Dreamland, and quickly became the target of the pious women of the city.  Early in 1910 Fisher was indicted by “The King County grand jury, as a direct result of the activity of the Women’s Clubs,” for violating liquor laws, allowing “unescorted women” into his dance hall, and other assorted charges.  A special prosecutor, Justice William Henry White, one of the most respected jurists in Washington State, was appointed to prosecute Fisher and other club owners targeted by the women.

Ever the promoter, Fisher used the indictment to promote his dance hall and rally public support.  After the indictment was handed down Fisher sponsored a “Sermon in the Dreamland rink.”  According to The Seattle Times, Fisher engaged Reverend Frank Herthum, who “has liberal ideas about amusements.”

Mike Fisher's Dreamland Dancehall, Seattle

Mike Fisher’s Dreamland Dance Hall, Seattle

Herthum preached, and Fisher presented a free vaudeville show.  The paper said Fisher had stirred up a “protest against the effort to close the dance hall without having provided a substitute where clerks, servant girls and employees in the shops may pass an evening to their liking.”  At the same time The Times noted that the prosecutor was becoming impatient with the women who brought the charges because they continually promised to provide evidence that “has not yet come to light.”  The charges were quietly dismissed within weeks.

Fisher left Seattle sometime in 1911 and began operating the Arcadia Dance Hall in San Francisco.

Advertisement for Fisher's Arcadia Dancing Pavilion.

Advertisement for Fisher’s Arcadia Dancing Pavilion.

In January of 1917 Fisher made headlines in California when he announced that he was directing an effort to restart the California State League, which had folded after the 1915 season.  He said he would have clubs in Sacramento, Fresno, Stockton and San Jose.  Within two weeks Fisher abandoned the plan.  The San Jose Mercury News was not surprised:

“Mr. Fisher, the wonderful getter of publicity, has his publicity and is through.  Probably he has done wonders for his dance emporium or whatever it is he runs.”

The following year the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League came on the market; the first name reported as a potential buyer was Mike Fisher.  Fisher again got his headlines, but it was his old friend Charlie Graham who got the team.  Graham, and a group of investors purchased the Seals and the former catcher was installed as manager.

Charlie Graham, left, Mique Fisher, right, with World Middleweight Champion and actor Freddie Steele.

Charlie Graham, left, Mique Fisher, right, with World Middleweight Champion and actor Freddie Steele.

With his friend in charge The Mercury News said Fisher became a fixture “around the San Francisco ballpark ever since Graham bought in on the Seals in 1918,” he would remain a fixture at Recreation Park, and later at Seals Stadium for more than 20 years , and continued to provide copy for West Coast s sports writer

As a result of his friendship with Graham, who recommended he get the honor, 77-year-old Fisher was selected to travel to Cooperstown to represent the PCL at baseball’s centennial celebration in 1939.  The man who so loved seeing his name in the paper  received headlines one more time, when he died in San Francisco on June 6, 1943.