Tag Archives: Jim Nasium

“There is a Game on Every Sandlot Nearly Every day”

29 Jul

Like Edgar Forrest Wolfe (Jim Nasium) two years later, Joe S. Jackson, baseball writer for The Detroit Free Press, “discovered” quality baseball in Cuba.

Reporting from Havana in November of 1909 he wrote:

“(T)he Cuban baseballist probably has something on the big leaguer of the states. The game is in its infancy here, and the gravy is the players. Those promoting the game are doing very nicely, thank you, but the home-grown players are the big winners.”

Jackson said native Cuban players had not adopted the “oratory” of American players that they were, “slaves ‘bought and sold and paid just what they want to give us.’”

joesjackson

Joe S. Jackson

Jackson said, “in cold hard figures,” Cuban players were receiving “three times as much out of the game as the man who backs it.”

He said the Cuban fans had a decided preference for native born players which explained why:

“Almendares, which finished second in the championship race last season, still have a much greater following of fans than Havana, which has several American players, and which last year (1908) was piloted to the pennant by (Rip) Hagerman, who was with the Chicago Cubs this past summer.”

hagerman.jpg

Rip Hagerman

While still in its “infancy,” baseball had taken over the island, said Jackson:

“There is a game on every sandlot nearly every day, and even the roustabouts on the Havana docks toss a sphere about in their idle time.”

However, Jackson said native players with the necessary skills were not yet plentiful; Jackson felt native Cubans were not encouraged to excel, and used the island’s other major sport as an example:

“The (jai-alai) court (in Havana) keeps nearly 30 professionals on its payroll, and salaries of the stars range from $600 to $800 a month, for an eight months’ season. While ordinary players draw from $300 to $400 per month. Still there isn’t a Cuban on the roster. All of the players are brought from Spain.”

Jackson said Cuban baseball was lucrative for players because:

“As yet the Cuban managers haven’t come to the regular baseball idea of handing their men so much a month and clinging to the big end. Their baseball, in its business in still in process of evolution. In effect, it is the old scheme of match games with winners and losers’ ends of a purse.”

Jackson explained the business end of the Cuban system:

“There is but one baseball park in Havana enclosed and having regular stands. Eugenio Jimenez controls this. All league games are played on this lot. He handles the tickets and takes care of all the business details. When the money is counted up, 25 percent of the gross goes to Mr. Jimenez for use of the field. There is a slight amount of money, something like $100, to be taken out for certain fixed charges like license fee etc., which do not come under regular operating expenses. Barring this slight sum, 75 percent left after the park manager takes his is divided between the players. The team that wins takes 60 percent and the loser gets 40.”

The pitcher and catcher were paid slightly more than the rest of the team, dividing one extra share of the total between them.

It was, said Jackson, “customary to Grand Opera the prices,” of tickets when major leaguers were barnstorming in Cuba:

“In the series such as the Detroit club is now playing in Cuba, it is necessary of course, to depart a little from the methods obtaining during the Cuban league season. Detroit has to be paid for its work, and the expenses of bringing the club to Havana and of maintaining it while here, are pretty stiff.”

The Cuban clubs agreed to take the usual losers share, 40 percent, for the games with the Tigers:

“In the first Sunday game played here for instance, the receipts were $6,310. They would have been bigger had Almendares been Detroit’s opponent, or had (George) Mullin, whom the natives were most anxious to see, been slated to pitch. After Mr. Jimenez took out the 25 percent…the Havana team’s 40 percent of the balance amounted to $1,851.66…each Cuban got $162.30. The lowest money yet split, that being by Havana on a Thursday afternoon, was about $40 to the players and $60 to the battery.”

Jackson said there was always a large police presence at the games in Havana, “a patrol wagon, backed up to the fence near the bench, has a tendency to restrain from any undue hilarity.”

He told a story about a game in 1908:

“One-time last season three Cuban players in a league game took exception to an umpire’s rulings, and left the field, subs being used to complete the contest.”

Havana had a “censor of amusements” who oversaw all behavior in public venues:

“Before the three men left the clubhouse (the censor) had them arrested. All were sent to the bastille, and next morning a judge who agreed with the censor—later maintaining that the public had paid to see these certain players perform, and had been disappointed  and deprived of the value of their money by the withdrawal—sent the three players to jail for five days each. They don’t leave the field anymore unless they are carried off for removal to a hospital.”

The police, he said, would remove a player “in the patrol wagon” and he would be fined if he left a game, and “They don’t stand for any disorder, either on the part of a player or the populace.”

The Tigers lost eight of their 12 games on the Cuba trip, Jackson said major league teams learned a valuable lesson:

“The Tigers trip was sufficient to impress on American ballplayers the fact that they cannot go down with patched-up teams and walk through games to victory. The Cubans can field, throw and run, have good pitchers and are always in shape.”

“Smashing Circuit Clouts all Over the Island”

22 Apr

Edgar Forrest Wolfe was a cartoonist and feature writer who wrote under the pseudonym Jim Nasium at several Eastern newspapers including The Philadelphia Inquirer from 1907-1922.  In 1920, he told readers about “the Black Babe Ruth.”

Wolfe had seen Cristobal Torriente play against barnstorming major leaguers in Cuba:

“While Boston Babe Ruth is insisting that he will not be thumping home runs next season unless he receives $20,000 a season for the service (Torriente) is smashing circuit swats all over the island for a percentage of the gate receipts and doing it with such consistent regularity that one is led to believe he might be able to take ‘Boston Babe’s’ place.”

ct.jpg

Torriente

Wolfe said against the barnstorming major leaguers including Jeff Pfeffer and Leon Cadore of the Brooklyn Robins and Elmer Ponder and Hal Carlson of the Pittsburgh Pirates:

 “Torriente, ‘The Black Babe Ruth’ pasted the pellet for the healthy batting average of .377 (and) in six games against the All-Americans, batting against Jack Quinn, Bob Geary, and ‘Mule’ Watson, Torriente managed to compile a batting average of .408.”

Torriente, he said:

“(I)s the surest and hardest hitter Cuba has ever produced. He broke up one of the Pittsburgh games with a terrific home run belt off pitcher Carlson that traveled so far into right-centerfield that he had completed the circuit of the bases before outfielder Max Carey had reached the ball.”

When facing Bob Geary in another game, Wolfe said Torriente hit a ball ‘so far into the same pasture,” and:

“(He) loafed coming up the third base line and had crossed the plate on a slow trot before the ball had been returned to the infield.”

Wolfe said the home run gave the Cubans a victory in a game that appeared “hopelessly lost,” and the fans threw money at Torriente who “collected thirty-two dollars from the grass around home plate.”

Wolfe noted that in another game, Torriente homered twice, one to left field, the other to right “with equal force.”

He called Torriente “the perfect picture of a natural hitter,” and gave the final word on his ability to Frank Schulte who while watching the games in Cuba called Torriente “one of the best-looking hitters he had ever seen:”

“He looks natural up there, and he takes the right kind of cut at the ball that doesn’t swing at any bad ones. If they could whitewash that bird he’d help some big league club a lot.”