Tag Archives: Jim Morley

Rube in L.A.

1 Jun

Bobby Eager was a popular, if not enormously talented, catcher for eight seasons in the California and Pacific Coast Leagues.  After his career, when he wasn’t at his job with Standard Oil, The San Jose News said he could be seen in town “any afternoon when the weather is right, fanning with a bunch of fans.”

The paper decided he enjoyed telling stories about his career so much, they offered him an occasional column to tell his stories and share his opinions.

One of his favorite subjects was Rube Waddell, who spent part of the 1902 season on the West Coast.  Eager called him “The greatest southpaw pitcher” he had seen.

Eager behind the plate.

Eager behind the plate.

“When Rube Waddell was with Los Angeles he was the life of the club.  There was never a dull minute with Waddell on the bench.  If ever there was a nut he was it.  They called him a rube.  Don’t know where they picked up the name, but he was anything but what his name would indicate.  With all his antics Waddell was a wise coot, and if you think he wasn’t I would like to have the extra money it cost (Angels Manager) Jim Morley to keep him on the team.

“It was a cold day that Rube didn’t ‘touch’ Jim for a five-spot.  Rube was getting a fat salary—as fat as salaries went in those days… Never knew exactly what Waddell got, but I know it was more than any other player on the club pulled down.

Rube

Rube

“While Rube was on the club Morley slept with one eye open.  He was always afraid of losing him.  On this occasion, Waddell had just made a borrow off Jim of a twenty-spot when word drifted into Morley’s billiard parlor that Waddell was seen going toward the railroad station. The rumor was sufficient to stir Morley.”

The manager quickly took action.

“Morley rang up the depot and found a train left in 10 minutes for the East.  He dashed out on the street, jumped into the first carriage he saw and drove pell-mell to the train.  Into the Pullman car he hiked and sure enough, there was Waddell. He had bought his ticket and was going back to report to Connie Mack, who had come through with more money.  At first, Waddell denied he was leaving.  He said he just came down to see a friend off, but he soon had to admit that he had a ticket.

“Jim came through with another piece of change and Waddell surrendered his ticket and returned to the team.  But he wasn’t with it very long before he beat it.”

Waddell “beat it” for good on June 20, leaving the West Coast for Philadelphia.  He was 11-8 with a 2.42 ERA with the Angels, with the Athletics he was 24-7, 2.05–he pitched a total of 444 innings that season.

Eager said despite the money Los Angeles was out, “I doubt if Morley lost much on Waddell for he was always a drawing card when he pitched and one good thing about Rube he was never lazy.  He would pitch every day if you would let him.”

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A Bobby Eager Story

23 Feb

The 1906 San Francisco earthquake left the city in ruins; it also put the future of the Pacific Coast League (PCL) in serious jeopardy.

Years later PCL veteran Bobby Eager wrote about the league in the aftermath of the quake in The San Jose Evening News:

“Did you ever hear of a bunch of ballplayers owning their club in a league?  I never did, but I came within an ace of being a part owner at one time.”

Bobby Eager

Bobby Eager

Eager, then with the Los Angeles Angels, said the league was “pretty much on the bum,” and while leagues in the East had agreed to help the PCL financially, there was no sense of how the league would operate.

Jim Morley, the owner of a large pool hall in Los Angeles, owned and managed the Angels, but said Eager:

“(H)e got cold feet early.  He practically dismissed the team and said he was through.”

San Francisco Seals owner James Calvin (J. Cal) Ewing, whose deep pockets kept the league afloat, was “furious at Morley, quitting like a hound.”

Local boxing promoter “Uncle” Tom McCarey was asked by Ewing and league president Eugene Bert to take control of the club, but when that failed they reached out to a local businessman.

“They got a fellow by the name of Gil Meade to take over…It was decided to play the San Francisco games at Oakland, and go on with the league and give the fans some ball.  Of course it was an uphill fight all around with no grounds at Frisco.

“Meade shot his $5,000, which was his bankroll, in a couple months and he was done and out.”

At the time, The Los Angeles Examiner said Meade left as a result of the league failing to award him a large block of stock in the team that was promised.

Eager said after Meade departed the team was called together by field manager and Captain Frank “Pop” Dillon:

Frank "Pop" Dillon

Frank “Pop” Dillon

“He first wanted to know how much money we all had and we told him.  Then he laid before us his plans.  He showed us how we could take over the club by putting up three or four hundred dollars apiece.  He said we would not get any salaries that year but the next year he thought the club would pay big.  A few of the players (Eager included) were willing to take a chance but most wanted their salaries.  They were not gamblers.”

Dillon could not convince enough of the Angles and Eager’s dream to own a club died.

“The result was the league dug up (William Henry) “Hen” Berry who was running a little poolroom.  Hen’s brother (Clarence, who made a fortune in the oil and horse businesses) let him have enough to back the club the rest of the season which was about $8,000, but next year we won the pennant and Berry cleaned up big.  I know every stockholder who had a $100 share got a $40 dividend the next year.  If we players had taken the club we would have made just as much and might have started something new in baseball in the way of profit-sharing.”

Clarence, left, and William Henry Berry played for the amateur Selma (CA) Tigers in the 1890s

Clarence, left, and William Henry Berry played for the amateur Selma (CA) Tigers in the 1890s

Another “Hen” Berry story on Wednesday.

“I Never did trust an Umpire no how”

12 Nov

During an eight-year career spent in the California and Pacific Coast Leagues, Robert Joseph “Bobby” Eager was never a star but was very popular with West Coast baseball fans.  Years after he played his final game for the San Jose Prune Pickers in 1909 he began writing occasional columns about the game for The San Jose News.

Bobby Eager

Bobby Eager

Eager backed up starting catcher Henry “Heine” Spies with the Los Angeles Angels:

“(O)ne of the best backstops the Coast has ever had.  Spies was known as the best foul ball chaser that ever put on a glove, barring none.  It seemed as though he really knew just where to go when a batter hit a long foul, he was right on the job.  I have played with him for five years and have never seen him misjudge a fly ball.  It got so that every time a foul ball went up, no matter where it went, the crowd would yell ‘Heine would have got it,’ even though the ball went out of the lot.  Well, to make a long story short, Los Angeles was playing and Heine was catching, Charlie Baum was pitching.  A foul ball went up and Heine chased the ball up against the grandstand and made a most wonderful catch, but it seemed as though the ball must have touched the stand in some way and Umpire (Jack) Huston ruled that it didn’t go.”

Henry "Heine" Spies

Henry “Heine” Spies

Eager said Spies argued Huston’s call, and as a result, the umpire—who had been a teammate of Spies in 1891 with the Sacramento Senators—fined the catcher $5.

“The next day was pay day and when Spies went to get his dough he was 5 short.  He immediately hunted up Huston at Morley’s pool rooms, where most of the ball players hung out (in addition to owning the billiard hall, Jim Morley managed the Los Angeles Angels for four seasons).  He immediately demanded that Huston either give him the $5 back or they go to the mat, which Huston refused to do, of course.  There was trouble, and poor Heine was fined $50 by the president of the league for beating up an umpire.  I never will forget how hard Spies took it to heart.  He and I were going down Market Street, San Francisco, and we were looking in the different windows and we came across a big furniture store with a swell bedroom set for $50.  Heine looked at it for a long time.  I looked up to see the tears rolling down his cheeks, and turning to me he said: ‘See—see, Bobby, there, see what Huston robbed me out of.  I could have had that swell bedroom set if he hadn’t gone and fined me that $5.  I never did trust an umpire no how.  They all seem to be a bunch of burglars.”

In addition to his occasional work for the newspaper, Eager coached several local baseball teams and worked for the Standard Oil company until his death on February 2, 1926.

Brother Joe Comes Back

30 Nov

Twenty-three-year-old Joe Corbett, brother of heavyweight champ “Gentleman Jim” Corbett announced his retirement before the 1899 season.  Corbett had written a column for The San Francisco Call during his 1898 hold out, and announced he was quitting that job too:

“I have (also) quit writing baseball news now, and take little or no interest in the game. I wouldn’t cross the street to see one.”

Corbett ran the livery stable his father had started in San Francisco, helped operate the family bar on Ellis Street, and within weeks had apparently regained his interest in the game and was back writing for The Call.  His responsibilities in the family businesses increased after his parent’s deaths in August of 1898 (Patrick Corbett shot and killed his wife then committed suicide).

Joe Corbett

There remained significant interest in Corbett’s services; unfortunately for Joe he remained under the control of Ned Hanlon.  Hanlon had moved to the Brooklyn Superbas in 1899 as part of a stock swap between the Brooklyn and Baltimore franchises—he took several players with him, including “Wee Willie” Keeler, Hughie Jennings and Joe Kelley—he also kept Corbett’s rights.

Ned Hanlon

Hanlon offered Corbett $2400 to play for Brooklyn and turned down offers to trade his rights.

According to California newspapers Corbett occasionally pitched in semi-pro games in 1899, but in 1900 The Sporting Life reported that Corbett was “dangerously ill,” and would probably never pitch again as a result of sciatic rheumatism.

Less than a year later The Sporting Life said Corbett was pitching for a team in Oakland, and the next year he appeared in five games for the Minneapolis Millers in the American Association—the retirement appeared to be over.

A successful January 1903 appearance on the mound in an exhibition game featuring barnstorming Major Leaguers renewed interest in Corbett again.  The Los Angeles Angels of The Pacific Coast League offered Joe a contract he couldn’t refuse, one that allowed him to tend to the family business interests in San Francisco during the season.

Newspaper reports said Corbett earned $5000 for the 1903 season, Angels manager Jim Morley said he wouldn’t say how much Joe earned but said that he had:

“Figured it out that Corbett will get 4.99 a curve.”

After going 23-16 for the Angels, the Major leagues again came calling.   Early reports had Corbett signing with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who offered $5000, but Joe eventually signed with the Saint Louis Cardinals.  While the Cardinals assured Joe that Ned Hanlon had relinquished Brooklyn’s claim, the Corbett family was not ready to end the feud with Hanlon.

Gentleman Jim, when asked if Joe would ever consider playing for his former manager again, told reporters:

“Hanlon couldn’t get Joe to twirl for him if he offers him a million dollars a year.”

Things didn’t go well in Saint Louis.  Joe Corbett was 5-8 when the Cardinals released him August 1.

Jim was, as always, Joe’s biggest defender:

“My brother Joe was getting $7000 for the season from the St. Louis club, but his heart was not in his work, simply because he was separated from his wife and little ones who were out in California.  Thinking of his family all the time impaired his effectiveness as a pitcher.”

Gentleman Jim

Joe returned to San Francisco where he added a hat store to growing stable of businesses; his rights returned to Hanlon and Brooklyn.

The final chapter of the Corbett story on Monday.