Tag Archives: Jim O’Rourke

“Baseball has Kept me so Happy”

27 Sep

Like every ballplayer of his era, Jim O’Rourke spent a lot of time in his 1910 interviews with Tip Wright of The United Press comparing the current game to his days on the diamond:

o'r

Jim O’Rourke

“They talk about their speed and curves these days, but the raise ball little (Candy) Cummings—he weighed only 115 pounds—used to throw is a lost art.

“The present day men can’t do it.  The nearest thing is a little upshot, which (Joe) McGinnity of Newark through last year.  You simply couldn’t hit Cummings’ raise ball squarely.  It was bound to climb the face of the bat, and the best you could get was a little pop-up.”

O’Rourke told Wright, “The greatest catcher I ever knew was ‘Buck’ Ewing,” of his former Giants teammate, he said:

“He led in batting, running, catching, fielding and base-stealing, and he could think quicker than any other man I ever saw in a game.”

As for pitchers:

Amos Rusie leads them all, and he promised to make  a record no pitcher in baseball, unless he were a genius could outdo; but poor old Amos disappeared!  I think Tim Keefe was a great curve pitcher, but for endurance I have to hand the laurels to Charles Radbourn, of the Providence Nationals.  In 1883, when his team was after the pennant, Radbourn pitched 72 games [sic 76] 37 of which were consecutive, and of the 37 games 28 were victories (Radbourn was 48-25, Providence finished third).

“If you ask me the difference between the pitchers of today and the pitchers of former days, I would say that the pitchers today have the cunningness not to go into a box oftener than once or twice a week, while the old timers used to think nothing of pitching six or seven games a week.”

radbourn

“Old Hoss” Radbourn

O’Rourke saved his greatest praise for his Boston Red Stockings teammate Ross Barnes.  He told Wright:

“Before telling you about Ross Barnes as a batter, I want to tell something about his work at second base…Barnes had long arms that he could snap like a whip.  His throws from second to the plate were the most beautiful I have ever seen.

“His speed was so tremendous that the ball did not seem to have any trajectory at all and it landed in the catcher’s hands at the same height it started from.”

O’Rourke said, Barnes was “even more wonderful,” at the plate:

“It was Barnes’ wonderful third base hits that caused the rule to be made that a ball, even if it struck within the diamond, must be declared a foul if it rolled outside the baseline…He had a trick of hitting the ball so it would smash on the ground near the plate just inside of the third base line, and then would mow the grass over the line (in foul territory)…No third baseman could get away from his position quickly enough to stop one of Barnes’ hits.”

barnestbhit

Barnes’ “third base hit”

O’Rourke mentioned two other “wonderful hitters” he saw “when a mere boy;” Dickey Pearce and Tom Barlow:

“I have seen these men with little short bats, which I believe were later ruled out of the game, make the wonderful bunt hits which we have taken to calling a modern institution.”

O’Rourke said both became “ordinary players” after they were no longer able to use the shorter bats, “not realizing that a bunt could be made with a long bat.”

And, like all old-timers, O’Rourke knew how to “fix” the modern game:

“The one big question in baseball today is how to make the game more interesting.”

O’Rourke advocated for removing the foul strike rule to increase hitting and wanted to “place the pitcher farther away from the plate.”

O’Rourke summed up his forty plus years in the game to Wright:

“Baseball has kept me so happy and healthy that there is not a minute of my past life I would not willingly live over.”

 

 

“The Brutality of Baseball During the Constructive Period”

24 Sep

In 1910, after close to 40 years in baseball, Jim O’Rourke talked to Tip Wright, a former Cleveland baseball and boxing writer, then with The United Press, about his life in baseball:

“As I like back to the day before we wore gloves I can scarcely understand how we went through the ordeal of a game. Before gloves were used, the catcher suffered unbelievable torture. On a hot day, when the blood circulated freely, the catcher’s hands would swell about the third inning. When the swelling started, the pain caused by the impact with the ball decreased, because the swollen flesh made sort of a cushion.

“But on a cold day, when the blood did not course freely, and the hands would not swell, the pain was intense. I have seen catchers hold a piece of soft rubber in their mouths, and whenever the ball was pitched they would screw up their faces and bite on the rubber as hard as they could to offset the pain.”

orourke

Jim O’Rourke

O’Rourke said that when the weather was warm it was sometimes said by catchers:

“Oh, I am getting along fine—my hands are swelling up in great shape.”

In addition to the scars carried by catchers, O’Rourke told Wright about the many players he saw “knocked senseless many times,” and that he still suffered from the effects of those early days:

“Talk about the roughness of football in these days, and the hopelessness of trying to stop it, but it is nothing compared to the brutality of baseball during the constructive period .

“My head has been so sore from being hit that I could not think and my hands so sore from catching that I could not hold an orange tossed from a distance of six feet.”

O’Rourke told Wright about joining the Boston Red Stockings as a 22 year-old in 1873, and his relationship with another Wright—Boston manager Harry:

“They called me ‘Harry Wright’s boy.’ He took me to live with his family, and, had I been spoilable, I would have been spoiled in a short time. But the things my mother taught me kept me straight. I never touched liquor or tobacco in my life. I never dodged temptations; in fact I exposed myself to them. When the boys went out they asked me to go along, knowing I would care for them when they got into difficulty.

“Had I headed wrong at this time my bright future would have been ruined…I advise young ballplayers that if they leave liquor alone they can dodge the other evil—late hours and loose living—that have ruined so many bright players.”

Of his brief stint as an umpire in 1894, O’Rourke said:

“I couldn’t stand it—I wouldn’t be an umpire for anything, so I went to Bridgeport, and because I could not keep out of the game, I played that year with the St. Joseph’s Temperance team.”

As for young players, O’Rourke said most didn’t compare with his son—James “Queenie” O’Rourke was in 1910, a 26-year-old infielder and outfielder for the Columbus Senators in the American Association:

queenie.jpg

Queenie O’Rourke

“I think James is as steady as I was. Every year when he leaves home, I say to him, ‘Now, James, if you will just leave stimulants alone, no harm can come to you. You can’t help but being a good man.’ And up to this time he has not touched either liquor or tobacco, and I know he won’t.

He kisses his mother goodbye each year, just as I used to kiss mine. I often look at the young fellows and wonder why they do not behave.

“Maybe one reason is they have too easy a time, compared with we old veterans, as many of the hardships of baseball have been removed by appliances and safeguards.”

More from O’Rourke on Thursday.

Diet Tips from Tim Murnane

6 Apr

Tim Murnane, who began his career as a first baseman for Middletown Mansfields in the National Association in 1872 and later was a member of the Boston Red Stockings in the National League’s inaugural season in 1876, would go on to become one of the most influential baseball writers in the country.

Tim Murnane

Tim Murnane

Writing in The Boston Globe in 1906, he said he had discovered the one thing that caused the greatest harm to a baseball player.

“Over-feeding kills off more ballplayers than accidents or hard work on the ball-field.”

Murnane suggested two solutions.  First, he recommended that, “The Fletcher system should be taken up by the veteran ballplayers without delay.”

The “Fletcher System” or “Fletcherizing” was a then very popular diet technique put forth by a “self-taught nutritionist” named Horace Fletcher.  Fletcher claimed, in several books published during the first decade of the 20th Century that the key to weight loss was to chew food so completely that it was virtually liquefied before swallowing.  Called “The Great Masticator,” Fletcher counted Thomas Edison, Henry James, Franz Kafka, John D. Rockefeller, J.C. Penny—and apparently Tim Murnane—among his adherents.  His theories had fallen out of favor, replaced by diets based on calorie intake, by the time of his death in 1919.

Horace Fletcher "The Great Masticator"

Horace Fletcher, “The Great Masticator.”

Secondly, Murnane said, “(T)he rules of eating should be laid down by the management of every club.”

He said Harry Wright, who had been Murnane’s manager in Boston, “(W)as about the first baseball man to keep a close watch over his players during meal time,” and insisted they eat lightly before games.

“’Just a plate of soup.  That’s plenty,’ would be Mr. Wright’s cry as the players filed into the dining room for lunch.  The greatest athletic performances on the field have been accomplished on practically empty stomachs.”

[…]

“I have known at least half a dozen good ballplayers being passed up in Boston on account of paying no heed to the manager’s advice about overloading their stomachs.  Frank Selee was just as much of a stickler in this line as was Harry Wright, and both were remarkably successful baseball managers.  The manager who does not pay especial attention to this end of the players’ life must lose out, for his team will be unable to keep up a fast clip very long after the boys commence to take on flesh as the result of overfeeding and drinking.”

Murnane had other diet tips for readers:

“A ballplayer cannot drink too much good milk.  The greatest drinker of milk I ever knew was James O’Rourke, and Jim, after thirty-three years on the ball-field, is just as lively a 10-year-old today.  O’Rourke never used tobacco in any form, nor ever indulged in malt liquors, but what a milk drinker he has been all his life and what credit to the national game, from every angle you view the old sport!’

Jim O'Rourke

Jim O’Rourke, “The greatest drinker of milk.’

Murnane blamed the disappointing performance of the Boston Americans in 1905 (Fourth place, 78-74, 16 games out of first) on the dietary habits of the team:

“To be honest, I think the Boston Americans last season practically ignored condition from first to last.  I never witnessed on one ball team so many men out of form by being overweight…This club would have won at least one dozen more games had they taken good care of their stomachs, and no one knows this better than Captain (Manager Jimmy) Collins himself, who has said it will be a much different season with the Boston club next season.”

The next season, 1906, was much different, but not in the way Collins had hoped.  The team was 35-79 when Collins was replaced as manager by Charles “Chick” Stahl, and finished in last place with a 49-105 record.

Murnane concluded:

“Baseball was never intended for a fat man’s game, and Captain Anson was the only heavyweight who ever piloted a pennant winner, although my old friend Charley Comiskey was growing a bit stout when his boys carried off the prize five years ago.”

 

“This kind of Argument is the Veriest kind of Twaddle”

1 Dec

After just one season in the National League—a 24-36 record and a fifth place finish in 1878–the Indianapolis Blues disbanded.  Four members of the Blues joined the Chicago White Stockings—Silver Flint, Joe Quest, Ned Williamson, and Orator Shafer.

The 1879 White Stockings

The 1879 White Stockings

The White Stockings had been a disappointment in 1878, finishing in fourth place with a 30-30 record under Manager Bob Ferguson.  President A.G. Spalding, who had named Ferguson as his successor when he retired from the field, announced that first baseman “Cap” Anson would replace Ferguson for 1879.

The changes gave the Chicago press high hopes for 1879.

But, The Cincinnati Enquirer did not agree.  The paper said while the Chicago club was “greatly strengthened where it was very weak,” they would still finish no better than fourth place unless they were “properly managed.”  Boston Red Stockings Manager “Harry Wright could take this team and run it up to second place at least.”

In January The Enquirer implied that in addition to questionable management, Chicago’s new players were going to be a detriment:

“A prominent baseball official of Boston, in a private letter written recently, sententiously remarks: ‘Look out for the Indianapolis element in the Chicago Club next year.’  There’s a text for everybody’s thoughts.”

The Chicago Tribune quickly fired back with an article under the headline:

“Harmony” vs. Energy

 “There has been a great deal said at one time and another concerning ‘harmony’ in nines, and those who had the most to say on the subject contended that it was an essential point to be carefully looked after in the formation of any club which hoped for success on the diamond field.  Now The Tribune does not wish to set itself up in opposition to the judgment of men who have made baseball and the management of those who play it a study and a business venture, but it does say that many of them have harped so long upon this matter of ‘harmony’ that it has become a kind of second nature, whereby their judgment has been sadly warped.  Of late a paragraph, started in Cincinnati, has been going the rounds, in which the general public is solemnly warned to ‘look out for the Indianapolis element in the Chicago Club’ during 1879.

“Now the President and Manager of the Chicago Club are probably about as astute and far-seeing as any in the business and in view of this fact and reflection on their judgment or sagacity is in bad taste, and the parties who make ill-advised criticisms on the course of any club in hiring men, are very apt to undergo the unpleasant experience of persons not brought up in New Zealand who indulge in the pastime of throwing boomerangs; their weapons may come back and inflict considerable damage on those who threw them.  Whether or not the White stocking nine of next season will be a ‘harmonious’ one, it is doubtful if anybody knows, and still more doubtful if anybody cares.

“At the risk of being howled at by several papers, the baseball columns which are presided over by young men whose practical ignorance of the game is exceeded only by their ability to construct tables which not even themselves can understand when printed.”

One of the “Young men” referred to was The Enquirer’s sports Editor Oliver Perry “O.P.” Caylor.

One of O.P. Caylor's tables "which not even themselves can understand when printed.”

One of O.P. Caylor’s tables “which not even themselves can understand when printed.”

The Tribune will say that the question of whether or not the Chicago nine of next season ‘harmonizes’ will probably make very little difference with its play.  Some of the men who enjoy the reputation of being first-class kickers and disorganizers are nevertheless very handy individuals to have around when a base hit or good field play in wanted.  Without intending either to arouse the wrath or flatter the vanity of the very amiable and stalwart young man, Anson, it may be said that his reputation as an experienced and prolonged kicker is one that any man might be proud of; but, in spite of those who preach that harmony is everything, he is acknowledged to be one of the best and most useful ball-players in the country.  (Cal) McVey, of the Cincinnatis, can also make quite a conspicuous kick, even when not specially called upon to do so; still he is a good ball-player.

Lip Pike is a disorganizer of the first water, but last season, when he used to hoist a ball out among the freight cars on the lake shore, people who were presumed to know a good player yelled themselves hoarse in his praise.  The list could be extended indefinitely, but such action is not necessary.  Those who organize nines on the basis of ‘harmony’ alone will never grow rich at the baseball business.  It is not possible to get together nine men who could travel around the country eating, sleeping, and playing ball together that would never get out of tune.  Nine angels could not do it, much less nine mortals, subject to the little idiosyncrasies that human nature is afflicted with. “

The Tribune likely assumed the “prominent baseball official of Boston,” was Manager Harry Wright, and next turned its attention to him, his brother, and his championship teams.

“Harry Wright has always been the prophet whom the ‘harmony’ men delighted to honor, and the success of the Cincinnati and Boston Clubs under his management has been laid entirely to the dove-like dispositions of the men engaged by him.  This kind of argument is the veriest kind of twaddle, and the history of the Boston Club proves the truth of this assertion.  George Wright and Tommy Beals went many a day without the interchange of a friendly word, and George and (Charlie) Gould did the same thing.  For one whole season Ross Barnes and Gould never exchanged a word, and glared at each other like opposing game chickens, but the Boston’s won the pennant that year (1872—National Association) all the same harmony or no harmony.

“Other instances of like character could be adduced were there any necessity therefore, but these, from the fountain head of ‘harmony,’ will suffice.  If a club wins the championship it will be because its men play ball, not because they are ‘goody-goody’ boys.  Your man who gets hot at something during a game, and then relieves his feelings by making a two or three base hit, is much more valuable than one who, although possessed of a Sunday-school temperament at all times, manifests a decided aversion to reaching first base., when the occupancy of that particular bag of sawdust would be of some value to the men who pay him high wages for playing ball.”

O.P. Caylor

O.P. Caylor

Caylor would not let the insult to him and to Harry and George Wright, go unchallenged:

The Chicago Tribune published some strange statements against the argument that in harmony there was always strength.  To prove that harmony was not always necessary to create strength in a baseball club, the writer made bold to say among other things that Tommy Beales [sic] when a member of the Boston Club, went many a day without the interchange of a friendly word with George Wright, and that the same feeling existed between George and Gould.  The writer knew from the first these statements were fiction, but in order to crush the fallacious argument our reporter left it to George Wright himself for an answer.  The letter is before us from which we quote, though we half suspect George would demur to its publication out of modesty if he knew it. “

Wright wrote to Caylor:

“(The Tribune) said Tommy Beales [sic] and I went many a day without the interchange of a friendly word, and that Gould and I did the same thing.  While they were with the Boston nine they were about my best friends.  Most of the time Beales [sic] boarded at my house, while Charley and I roomed together on trips.  I think the reporter was wrong in his argument against ‘Harmony’ as it was the great cause of the Boston Club’s success.  The credit for this mostly belonged to Captain Harry Wright.”

George Wright

George Wright

Although it appears Wright spelled the name of his good friend Tommy Beals incorrectly, he got the spelling right 12 months later when he named his son—tennis Hall of Fame member –Beals Wright after his former teammate.

The Tribune allowed Wright, and Caylor, the last word, and dropped the dialogue regarding “harmony.”

Despite Caylor’s prediction, the White Stockings, under Manager Cap Anson, led the National League from opening Day through August 15.  Anson became ill during July, and as his performance slipped, so did the team’s fortunes.

Suffering from what The Tribune called “an acute affection of the liver…that had sadly impaired his strength and capacity for play,” Anson left the club on August 26 with a 41-21 record, in second place, just a game and a half back.

With Silver Flint serving as manager, and without Anson’s bat—he led the team with a .317 average—the White Stockings were 5-12 in the last 17 games, and a fourth place finish.

Harry Wright’s Boston Red Stockings finished second; his team, winners of the previous two National League championships lost some of the “harmony” that made them winners when his brother George Wright and Jim O’Rourke signed with the Providence Grays.  George Wright, in his only season as a manager, led the Grays to the 1879 National League championship.

“The Farce of the Season”

26 Nov

In November of 1885 Topeka, Kansas was scandalized by a baseball game.

The Daily Capital said:

“A social game of baseball, whether the contestants are skilled professionals of ambitious amateurs, is always a matter of some interest and pleasure both to the participants and the spectators; but a sensational exhibition, such as was witnessed at the fairgrounds yesterday afternoon, is another and quite a different thing.  The fact that it attracted a crowd of several hundred men and boys does not divest the spectacle of its questionable character, and it is surprising that an outfit of this kind should receive such substantial encouragement in a city like Topeka, where a claim to ordinary civilization is advanced and where the spires of nearly a hundred churches cast their shadows upon an enlightened and progressive people.”

The Daily Commonwealth was more succinct:

“The farce of the season was the game of baseball played yesterday afternoon.”

The cause of the outrage was “The Fairies of the Field,” a traveling female team.

The Daily Commonwealth noted that the team arrived in Topeka on a “Sante Fe train, traveling in a special car, painted red, perhaps because their advent into a town causes the town to assume that color.”

Neither of the Topeka papers were impressed with the ball-playing ability of the visitors, who faced a “picked nine” of local male amateurs and semi-pro players.

The Daily Capital:

“The nine females who formed the principal attraction were awkward and scrawny and had no knowledge whatever of the national game they were abusing.”

The Daily Commonwealth:

“The ‘belles’ can’t throw any better than any other woman can, and can hit a ball with about as much force as a ten year old boy.”

The Daily Capital didn’t bother to disclose the final score, “The details of the game are not worthy of extended notice.” The Daily Commonwealth gave the final score, but attributed the Fairies’ 19 to 7 victory in the four-inning game to “assistance” from the umpire, and the generousness of “The home nine (who) gave them every opportunity to make runs.”

Despite the reception in Topeka, the team was popular and performed to large crowds the previous year at the World’s Fair in New Orleans, then spent the summer and early fall of 1895 barnstorming across the Midwest.  The Fairies were generally received with more respect and enthusiasm than what they faced in Topeka, but the reviews of their skills varied.

The Minneapolis Tribune gave the team a glowing notice after a game in August of 1885 “attended by 700 men and eight women,” and said:

“The Fairies of the Field were in fine form and flitted coyly over the luxuriant sward as blithe and chipper as a Mayday butterfly.”

The paper said one of the Fairies—Genevieve McAllister—“wields the willow after the style of Jim O’Rourke,” and Clara Corcoran, who played third base was said to be the niece of Chicago White Stockings pitcher Larry Corcoran.”  The Tribune said of the team’s pitcher:

“Miss Royalston—“the expert and lady-like pitcher of the visitors…formerly lived at Detroit, and learned the art from the study of (Frederick “Dupee”) Shaw, the wizard.  She takes a graceful three-lap pirouette on the left toe, and while the batsman is dazzled by the rapidity with which the stripes on her polonaise fly by, the ball comes out from somewhere and the umpire calls a strike.”

The St. Paul Globe's rendering of one of the 'Fairies.'

The St. Paul Globe’s rendering of one of the ‘Fairies.’

The Fairies defeated the Minneapolis men 8 to 7.

The St. Paul Globe said after a loss at Stillwater, Minnesota “witnessed by a crowd of 1,200 or 1,300 persons,” composed of “Every profession in Stillwater, excepting the clergy, from street urchin to the capitalist, was represented.”

The Globe said of the visitors:

“The girls, seven brunettes and two blondes, were attired in red hose, plaid dresses reaching to the knee, red caps and slippers.  All wore belts, and two or three black jerseys, and were powdered and panted like ballet fairies.”

But the St. Paul paper was not as impressed with the Fairies as their counterparts in Minneapolis, summing up their performance in Stillwell:

“They can’t play ball a little bit.”

When 1,500 turned out for a game in St. Paul, The Globe was equally unimpressed:

“Four innings were played, the score being 14 to 4 in favor of the picked nine, who could have made it 44 to 4 if they chose.  At the close of the fourth inning the manager called, ‘Game! Grab your bases,’ which each basewoman did and the fairies vanished, leaving behind the most disgusted audience that ever went to see a game of baseball.”

Handbills that promoted the team’s appearances read “Have never been here before, may never come again.”

True to the advertisements the Fairies of the Field disbanded shortly after their ‘farce’ in Topeka, and never came again.

The Wealthiest Ballplayers, 1894

19 Sep

In 1894, major leaguer turned sportswriter, Sam Crane wrote about the wealthiest players in baseball in The New York Press:

(Cap) Anson is probably the wealthiest ball-player on the diamond today.  His wealth has been estimated anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000.  It is, without doubt, nearer the latter sum than the former.”

"Cap" Anson

“Cap” Anson

Anson’s fortune would be long gone, due to a series of poor investments and other financial setbacks, by the time he died in 1922.

“From the time he joined the Chicago club he has enjoyed a big salary.  In his nearly 20 years’ connection with the club he has acted as manager and captain since the retirement as a player of A.G. Spalding in 1877.  Anson, of course received extra salary as manager, and has also been a stockholder in the club…He has been fortunate, too, in real estate transactions in the “Windy City,” under the tutelage of Mr. Spalding, and could retire from active participation in the game without worrying as to where his next meal was coming from.”

The men who Crane said were the second and third wealthiest players managed to keep their fortunes.

Jim O’Rourke is thought to come next to Anson in point of wealth.  Jim came out as a professional player about the same time as Anson.  He did not get a large salary at first with the Bostons, which club he joined in 1873.  He remained with the team until 1878, when he went to Providence.  Jim was young and giddy when he came from Bridgeport to Boston, in 1873, and did not settle down into the staid, saving player he now is…He was a ‘sporty’ boy then, and liked to associate with lovers of the manly art.  Patsy Sheppard was his particular friend in the ‘Hub,’ and James made the boxer’s hotel his home for some time.  When he went to Providence in 1879 Jim began to think of saving his money, and from that time on his ‘roll’ began to increase.

Jim O'Rourke

Jim O’Rourke

Dan Brouthers has received big salaries only since 1886, when he, as one of the famous ‘big four,’ was bought by Detroit from Buffalo.  But since then he has pulled the magnates’ legs and socked away the ‘stuff.’  He has been situated so that he has been able to make the magnates ‘pony up’ to the limit, and Dan had no mercy.  He said he was out for the ‘long green,’ and he got it.  When the Boston club bought Brouthers, (Abram “Hardy”) Richardson, (Charlie) Bennett, (Charles “Pretzels”) Getzein and (Charlie) Ganzell, Dan grasped the opportunity and got a big bonus and also a big salary.  He made the Detroit club give up a big slice of the purchase money before he would agree to be sold.

Dan Brouthers

Dan Brouthers

“The Brotherhood war, when Dan jumped to the Boston Players league was another favorable opportunity for him, and he grasped it and the boodle with his accustomed avidity.  Dan has planted his wealth in brick houses in Wappingers Falls (NY), and can lie back at his ease with his 30,000 ‘plunks’ and laugh at the magnates.  It is this feeling of contentment that has made Dan almost too independent and has affected his playing lately (Brouthers appeared in just 77 games in 1893, but hit .337, and hit .347 in 123 games in 1894).  Dan is what ballplayers call ‘hard paper,’ which was a most distinguishing characteristic of every one of the ‘big four.’”

Detroit’s “Big Four” consisted of Brouthers, “Hardy” Richardson, James “Deacon” White and Jack Rowe.

“Hardy Richardson was not so awful bad, but Jim White and Jack Rowe took the whole bake shop for being ‘hard papes.’  They have both been known to start on a three weeks’ trip with 80 cents each, and on their return Jim would ask Jack, ‘How much have you spent?’  Jack would reply:  “I haven’t kept run of every little thing, but I’ve got 67 cents left.’   Jim would remark gleefully: ‘Why, I’m three cents ahead of you; I’ve got 70 cents.’  And Pullman car porters are blamed for kicking when a ball club boards their car!  Jack and Jim would sleep in their shoes for fear they would have to pay for a shine.  The only money they spent was for stamps in sending home papers, which they borrowed from the other players.  They are both well off now, however, and can afford to laugh at the players who used to guy them.”

Deacon White

Deacon White

(Charles) Comiskey has been fortunate in getting big money since 1883.  (Chris) Von der Ahe appreciated the great Captain’s worth and paid him more and more every year.  The Brotherhood business enabled him to make a most advantageous contract, and as manager and Captain of the Chicagos he received $7,000 salary besides a big bonus.  His contract with Mr. (John T.) Brush to play and manage in Cincinnati called for $23,000 for three years and $3,000 in cash.  This was made in 1891 and runs this year (1894).  Comiskey has his money invested in Chicago real estate, which is paying him a good income at the present time.

(John “Bid”) McPhee, (William “Buck”) Ewing, (Harry) Stovey, (Paul) Radford, (Ned) Hanlon, (Jack) Glasscock, (Tim)Keefe, (Charles “Chief”) Zimmer, (Charlie) Buffington, (Charlie) Bennett, and (Fred) Pfeffer are players who are worth from $10,000 to $15,000, which has all been made by playing ball.  There are only a few more players who have much in the ‘stocking.’”

“It will be a Local Patriotic Game for Blood”

4 Aug

In 1902, John Montgomery Ward was asked to predict the future.  He wrote about what baseball would look like in 1922 in an article that appeared in a number of East Coast and Midwest newspapers:

“What will the game of baseball be two decades hence?  Frankly I don’t know.  But believe me if it has withstood what it has during the last few years it will still be here.  I believe it is going through the fire now, but it will come out whole in the end…No other game has the same hold on the public from a spectator point of view, and that is why I am confident that it will last.”

John Montgomery Ward

John Montgomery Ward

Ward envisioned a system in which all the players on each team would be natives of the area the teams represented:

“Two decades from now it may be no longer a mere exhibition—for that is all it is now—an exhibition of the ability of a clever manager, with more money and more tact in managerial council to get together the best players in the market—it will be a locally patriotic game for blood.

“The time is coming when the players instead of being bought to play in any team that calls them, irrespective of where they live and whence the team is located, will belong to the locality from which the team hails.

“There is a tendency in that direction already.

“The Brooklyn management is an instance of one that appreciates the value of a player who has a local following.  They have retained (Wee Willie) Keeler, though the offers of other clubs have forced them to pay him a very large salary.  But they have their reward in his great popularity with the Brooklyn patrons of the game.  He was born there.  The people know him, know his history and they feel that he is always doing his best for his town and their town.

"Wee Willie" Keeler

“Wee Willie” Keeler

“Not only is this state of affairs characteristic of this team, but it is to be seen in one or two other teams in both leagues.  The managers appreciate the money value of a ‘local attraction,’ as they call it, and they want more men of the same kind.  They can’t find them but that is due to the mistaken system of buying and selling players for their worth as players, which has killed the local end of the game and stunted the development of the town boy on the town lot.  As soon as the new system of localizing the players comes into vogue there will be a revival of general interest in the game among the ‘town boys’ and players will be made to meet the demand.

“This revitalization of the game must come, and come it will in the next twenty years because baseball as an exhibition has reached it height.  It can be developed no further, and something must be done to advance or there will be a deterioration.

“Of course, if this is done, there will be some work for the Rules Committee to do.  It will be necessary to have some sort of legislation to apportion the territory fairly among the teams.  New York being the largest city in the United States will have the advantage of a smaller city, like Boston or Baltimore, and to even up matters it would be necessary for the committee to give the smaller town enough territory to make all available population the same.  The details must be decided by the events of the future.  But I believe that something like that is about to come and will be a feature of the game of baseball in 1922.”

Ward, who engaged in, and encouraged contract jumping in order to establish the Players League just more than decade earlier, now, because of the changes in the economics of baseball, saw the practice as the greatest threat to the game:

“There will be no ‘contract jumping’ which has given the national pastime such a setback in the last two years.  And much depends upon the decision of the courts.  This contract jumping is a two-edged sword.  It will someday cut back at the American League when their players start to jump.

“Every successful game nowadays and in the future must have money invested in it. Look at the progress the game of baseball has made in the last twenty years and that will give you an idea of what we might expect.

“Twenty years ago each team had about $1,000 invested in it to put it on a working basis.  Some did not have even that much.  To-day, in Philadelphia, there is a plant which is values at about $350,000.  They own a lot in the residence section of the town and the ground is daily growing more valuable for building purposes.  In twenty years it will have tripled in value.  There is also a substantial brick wall around it and a valuable iron grand stand.

“Twenty years from now we may expect to find the conditions in Philadelphia existing all over the country, and there will be a hundred million dollars invested in the sport.  All this if the contract-jumping business is made impossible for the future.

“Take it as a fair business proposition.  Would any sane man invest his money in an enterprise which could be ruined at any moment by the failure of any outside party to fulfill his end of the contract?

“In baseball the ruin may come at any time, for if a man can ‘jump’ in March he can jump in May or June, just when his help is needed most, and there is no redress for the man who invests.  The courts, for the most part, claim that, if there is any damage done, the laws are open for redress and the manager can sue the player for damages.  But whom can he sue and from whom get redress?  Yhe contract-jumper has nothing and is generally irresponsible.  If a coal company contracts to deliver so many tons of coal to you in so many months, and you, in turn contract to deliver so many tons to other parties in so many months, and you are made to lose money because the coal company breaks the contract and fails to deliver the goods, you can get legal redress in an action for damages.  But not so with the baseball manager.

“If contract-jumping is allowed, the future of baseball is a future full of small things and a lack of progress.  But contract-jumping will not be heard of twenty years hence.  Already one state in the Union has declared against it legally—the state of Pennsylvania.  They have good lawyers down there, and they know what they are talking about.  And the crucial test and the future of baseball—a future full of big things as yet undreamed of, is now in the hands of the Circuit Court of the United States.

“If the Circuit Court of the United States falls in line with the Pennsylvania decision (Philadelphia Ball Club v. (Napoleon) Lajoie) there will be no more contract-jumping, and the manager, after signing his contracts with his players, can invest his whole fortune, safe in the belief that he will not risk it subject to loss at the whim of his players or through the wiles of a rival organization.

“Then the game will take on a luxury which has not heretofore been possible, and the game of twenty years from now will see as much improvement as it saw in the last twenty years.”

Ward predicted no major rule changes, saying they “seem to have reached perfection” but conceded “Still, there is a Rules Committee, created to make rules, and it naturally feels it must do something to earn its salary.”  Ward said he endorsed two major rule changes during the past decade; the rule to “move the catcher up under the bat,” (adopted in 1901 in the National League and ’02 in the American), and the 1893 change that increased the pitching distance to 60’ 6”.

“It gives the batter a better chance to fix his attention on hitting the ball, because he does not need to be afraid of an inshoot or know when he takes the bat in his hand that he is also taking his life in his hand.  I tell you it was a serious matter in those days to get hit by a ball from the strong arm of one of those fast pitchers, as my own experience can testify.”

As with every era of baseball, Ward said some of his contemporaries thought the game had already changed so much as to no longer resemble the game they played twenty years earlier:

“I was talking to one the other day in Philadelphia (Arthur Irwin).  He is of the old school you know (and said) ‘Oh, it’s not like the old days, when I played on the Philadelphia team for four years without men being changed.  All we had were (Jack) Clements and (Deacon) McGuire as catchers, (Charlie) Ferguson, (Charlie) Buffington and (Dan) Casey as pitchers, (Joe) Mulvey, (Charlie) Bastian, (Sid) Farrar and myself in the infield and (George) Wood and (Jim) Fogarty in the outfield.

Arthur Irwin

Arthur Irwin

“’We didn’t need to be nervous every time we made an error, and look to have one or more of a half dozen substitutes take our place.  And we played ball, we did, and no mistake, for we knew our jobs were safe.’”

Irwin’s recollection was fuzzy—the lineup as he described was only in place in 1887  (but even that season Barney McLaughlin played more games at second than Bastian) –but he insisted the lack of competition for a roster spot made players better:

“’We could give these boys who are playing now cards and spades on lots of things, inside work and out, and best them.  We had the hit and run, and we didn’t bunt as much as they do now.  I can’t see how runs can be made by so much bunting.  Oh, for the good old time back again when the swatting game was the thing.  I believe the public would rather see the boys slug the ball and run.  Shades of Roger Connor, ‘Buck’ Ewing and Jim O’Rourke!  What would they think of this bunting business?  It makes me sick to think of it.’”

Buck Ewing

Buck Ewing

Ward said Irwin was one of many “old-style players who feel the same way,” but he was more optimistic, but still managed to take a shot at current, and future,  players:

“I have great hopes for the future of the game, and I believe that all that has been done in the past to make it take the place it occupies to-day will not be a circumstance to what will be done in the next twenty years to make it take the place in the heart of the nation which has not been dreamed of heretofore.

“The players may not be as good as the players of the past, and this especially true of the local player idea becoming a fact, but the interest will be great, and after all, the interest in the game is the fountain source of its life.”

Miah Murray

7 May

Jeremiah “Miah” Murray appeared in only 34 major league games, with four teams between 1884 and 1891.  In 31 games a catcher, he made 29 errors and was charged with 28 passed balls.

During that short career, he also became the subject of two stories which highlighted his shortcomings behind the plate.  Both stories appeared after the fact, so are subject to the usual caveats of 19th-century baseball stories.

Jeremiah "Miah" Murray

Jeremiah “Miah” Murray

In 1894 The New York Sun wrote about the most embarrassing episode Murray’s career—said to have taken place during his rookie season, 1884:

“(Murray) tells about a game he once caught in at Buffalo when he was a member of the Providence team.  There were three men on bases and he threw to (Jerry) Denny to catch a man napping, but the ball never got there.  It hit Jim O’Rourke, who was the batsman, on the side of the head and bounded into the grandstand, three men scoring and winning the game for Buffalo.  Jim staggered and cried out with pain, but the crowd simply cried with glee, O’Rourke’s hurt being entirely lost sight of in the enthusiasm.”

Murray’s manager during that 1884 season was Frank Bancroft who led Providence to the National League championship and a three games to zero victory over the New York Metropolitans of the American Association earning for the first time the title “World Champions” from The Sporting Life.

Frank Bancroft

Frank Bancroft

Bancroft compiled a 375-333 record over parts of nine seasons as a big league manager, before becoming an executive with the Cincinnati Reds.

It was while serving as the Reds’ Business Manager that Bancroft related another story about Murray’s brief time with Bancroft’s championship team.  The story first appeared in The New York  American in 1915:

“’Take it from me,’ said Frank Bancroft, while some of the fans were discussing famous bonehead plays, ‘the old timers pulled some bones that had all you youngsters blocked off the map.  Best I recollect, right now, was sprung by Miah Murray when he was catching for me…With a runner on first Miah steamed back to the stand a made a magnificent catch of a foul fly.  The crowd broke into roars of applause; Murray, leaning against the stand, took off his cap and bowed right and left—and the runner, sizing up the situation, lit out from first, kept right on going, and came all the way around while Miah kept bowing and the rest of the team were screeching and raving, all in vain.”

Murray later became a National League and college umpire; he was also a prominent boxing promoter and matchmaker in Boston where he operated the Lincoln Athletic Club of Chelsea, and later the Armory Athletic Club.  He died in Boston in 1922 at age 57.

Bancroft retired as business manager of the Reds in January of 1921; he died two months later at age 74.

Jim Lillie

28 May

The Sporting Life described Jim Lillie as “one of the most sensational of right fielders,” and “the rival of Mike (King) Kelly in the position.”  The New Haven Register said he earned his nickname “grasshopper”  as a result of his “agility in the outfield.”

His career was brief, and his short post-baseball life was tragic.

The 21-year-old Connecticut native was said to have been discovered by “Orator Jim” O’Rourke “on the lots and commons of New Haven.”  He played his first professional game on May 17, 1883 with the Buffalo Bisons in the National League.  Lillie appeared in 50 games, hitting .234. In November his hometown newspaper, The New Haven Register, got his position wrong (saying he was used primarily as a catcher—he caught in two games), but said “his record was highly credible,” and that he had already signed for the 1884 season.

Jim Lillie

Jim Lillie

Lillie spent two more seasons in Buffalo; leading the team in games played both seasons.  In 1884 he led National League outfielders with 41 assists; his 40 errors also led the league.  He committed 33 errors the following season; he hit .223 and .249 for the Bisons.  When the team disbanded after the 1885 season, his contract was assigned by the National League to the Kansas City Cowboys, who had been admitted to the league on a trial basis.

He had, for him, a typical season in the field: 30 errors (third in league), 30 assists (second) and 199 putouts (third).  He also had one of the all-time worst performances at the plate; hitting .175 in 426 at bats, with only nine extra base hits (all doubles), he finished the season with 82 total bases—for identical .197 on base and slugging percentages.

The 30-91 Cowboys were dissolved in February of 1887, with the players being sold to the league.

Lillie remained in Kansas City, and had the best season of his career with the Cowboys, now in the Western League.  He also met an 18-year-old woman named Nellie O’Shea, the daughter of a wealthy Kansas City contractor and said The Kansas City Star, “a young lady highly spoken of.”

Lillie, playing primarily in left field, hit .369; a hitter’s haven, the Western League leader, Jimmy Macullar hit .464, and Lillie’s average was good for 34th best in the league.

On December 29, 1887 Lillie married Nellie O’Shea.

He joined the Fort Worth Panthers in the Texas League around June 1 of 1888, but left the team in less than two weeks.  The Dallas Morning News said he was released, The New Haven Register said he left Texas to be with his wife and go to work for his father-in-law, “(Lillie) promised her to settle down,” and planned on returning to baseball for the 1889 season.

He never had the chance to return to the game.  On September 10, 1888, the Lillie’s child was stillborn.  Two days later, a fire broke out in their home.  The Associated Press said:

“(Nellie) was making preparations for supper when the accident occurred…She had moved the gasoline stove too near the cooking stove and in filling the reservoir with gasoline some of it became ignited.  The flames at once enveloped her…(Lillie) entered at that moment or (she) would have been burned to death…Lillie did not notice his own condition until after he had summoned  a physician.”

Mrs. Lillie lingered for nearly three weeks before dying of her injuries on October 4.  Lillie, who had attempted to remove his wife’s burning clothes, had his hands burned “down to the bone,” and initial reports said he’d have to have some of his fingers amputated.  There’s no record of how well his hands recovered, but he never played baseball again.

He stayed in Kansas City and according to The Kansas City Star “managed (Nellie’s) estate.”  Within two years he would contract typhoid fever, and he died November 9, 1890.  The Star said his last words were to a friend at his bedside:

“I am afraid, Charlie, it is three strikes and out.”

1876 Salaries

14 May

In July of 1876, The Brooklyn Argus published the salaries of the two highest paid teams in the newly formed National League; many of these have never appeared in any of the collections of early baseball salaries.

According to the article, the highest paid player was Chicago White Stockings pitcher Albert Goodwill Spalding who “as pitcher and manager, receives $3,000 for the year, with $1,000 bonus for producing the secession from the Hub (Boston) to Chicago.”  (The 1950 book “100 Years of Baseball,” by Lee Allen said Spalding earned $3,500 and a $500 bonus for the season).

A.G. Spalding, highest paid in National League

A.G. Spalding, highest paid in National League

The three players Spalding brought with him from the Boston Red Stockings in the National Association, Catcher James “Deacon” White, first baseman Cal McVey and second baseman Ross Barnes were all paid $2,500.  The two players signed away from the Philadelphia Athletics, third baseman Adrian “Cap” Anson and outfielder Bob Addy received $2,200 and $1,500 respectively.

Outfielder Paul Hines earned 1.800, utility player Fred Andrus was paid 1,000, and the remaining members of the first National League Champions, shortstop John Peters and outfielders John Glenn and Oscar Bielaski were made $1500 each.

Chicago White Stockings, 1876 National League Champions--and highest salaried team.

Chicago White Stockings, 1876 National League Champions–and highest salaried team.

Harry Wright’s Boston Red Stockings filled the vacancies of White and Barnes with 18-year-old Lew Brown and 21-year-old John Morrill who The Argus said received “between 800 to 1000 dollars each.”

Manager Wright, who only appeared in one game, and his brother George were the highest paid members of the Boston club at $2,500 each.  Andy Leonard, who played second and outfield was paid $2,000.  Two other notable players on the Red Stockings, Hall of Famer “Orator Jim” O’Rourke and Tim Murnane received “between fifteen hundred and eighteen hundred dollars.”

According to The Argus, the White Stockings payroll of $21,500 topped the league, with Boston’s total of 18,000.