Tag Archives: Jim Thorpe

Lost Advertisements–“Come on, Boys!”

10 Jun

holmes

A 1916 advertisement for Holmes’ Milk-Made Bread featuring Walter Johnson.

“Come on, Boys!

“Get a Baseball Outfit for the whole team, Free!

“In order to promote the wholesome habit of eating Holmes’ Milk-Made Bread among the baseball Fans of Washington we have introduced a Great Baseball Outfit Contest.”

In order to win the contest, all 200 of the cards (one in each 10 cent loaf) would have to be collected and returned to the company.

The first prize was a complete set of 10 uniforms, second prize was 10 gloves, third prize was a complete set of catcher’s gear, and fourth prize was a framed sheet of the 200 cards.

The company encouraged kids to:

“Get busy–go around your home folks and friends, and tell them to buy Holmes’ Milk-Made Wrapped Bread every day and save the baseball pictures for you .  With a little hustling on your part, you will soon get the complete collection of pictures and cop out one of the prizes.”

Another ad included pictures of some of the cards–Hughie Jennings, Frank Baker, Johnson, Honus Wagner and Eddie Collins:

holmes'bread

There is no evidence that anyone actually collected 200 cards and won any of the prizes.

The Jim Thorpe card from the set

The Jim Thorpe card from the set

“Many say he was so Modest he Hated to have his Picture Taken”

30 Mar

In the winter of 1918 Malcolm MacLean of The Chicago Evening Post wrote about the peculiar reactions of a few players to photographers:

“It may happen that a pitcher does a phenomenal streak of work and his photo should run.  It may be the only one of him in stock that has been used time and again—so often, in fact, that it is all but worn out.

“Hence it is necessary for a photographer to snap said fellow’s photo on the ball field.  Ninety-nine times out of a hundred this is a pipe. Yet there are exceptions.”

MacLean said he recalled a handful if examples of players refusing:

“In practically every case it was that uncanny thing known as ‘baseball superstition’ that made it difficult, almost impossible, to get them to pose.

(Urban) Red Faber, of the White Sox, on two occasions (during the 1917 season) lost ball games after he had been snapped.  So he announced his intention of refusing to pose again until the White Sox won the American League championship.  Another member of the Sox, Charles (Swede) Risberg, joined him in the declaration. And they stuck to it.

Red Faber

Red Faber

“The day after the title was clinched both Faber and Risberg were among the easiest fellows on the squad to photograph.  In their case it was ‘superstition’ and we don’t know they could be blamed.  If a player keeps winning, only to have the streak smashed the day his photo is taken, well we have an idea we’d do the same thing.”

MacLean said during Rube Marquard’s 19-game winning streak the Giants’ pitcher refused to allow a Chicago photographer to take his picture.  MacLean said he and a cameraman approached the pitcher on July 8, 1912:

 “’Nothing doing,’ he said.  ‘Come around any time you want after I’ve lost a game and you’re welcome to all you want.’  It so happened that Rube lost that day, Jimmy Lavender hanging the bee on him, and the following afternoon Rube posed and posed and posed.”

MacLean said Jim Thorpe was a particularly difficult subject to photograph when he began his major league career, but not due to superstition:

“When Thorpe first came to Chicago with the Giants, he was the most widely advertised athlete in the world.  He was fresh from his triumphs in Sweden on the track field and from the gridiron at Carlisle.

“Many say he was so modest he hated to have his picture taken.  At any rate, many a film and plate was wasted on him because he would turn his face away, throw up his arm in front of him, or do something also to ruin the exposure.”

Jim Thorpe--Airedale fan

Jim Thorpe

Another difficult member of the Giants was catcher John “Chief” Meyers, who MacLean said would brush past photographers, saying:

“’Aw, you’ve got all of me you want,’ It was decidedly exasperating, especially when publicity is what helps keep major leaguers in the majors.”

Two other oft-photographed pitchers had their own particular quirks.

MacLean said:

“It will surprise many to learn that Ed Walsh, of the White Sox…refused to pose on the day he was expected to pitch…Few men were snapped so frequently as Ed when he was in his prime, yet we venture to say no man ever got a photo of him—when Ed knew it—on the day he was to work.

Eddie Plank, of the Athletics…was one of the easiest of all men to photograph, but it was exceedingly difficult to get a good one of him.  The reason was he kept tossing stones at the camera or twisting up his face in some farcical fashion.  And when other players were being taken Ed would throw peddles at them, trying to have them distort their faces.”

Eddie Plank

Eddie Plank

“Spring Training is of More Importance in Winning than any one factor”

11 Mar

In 1912, two years before Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Examiner called spring training Baseball’s “Annual Display of Foolishness,” Giants Manager John McGraw “wrote” an article for The New York Evening World explaining his training philosophy, from the team’s spring home in Marlin, Texas.

In stark contrast to Fullerton, McGraw said:

“In my opinion, the spring training of a ball club is of more importance in winning a pennant than any one factor.  Of course, players of exceptional ability are needed, but unless they are well prepared physically for their work they be laid up…In that event, the club would be just as badly off as if such players didn’t exist.”

McGraw

McGraw

McGraw said:

 “We often hear  of a club being in hard luck on account of having so many players laid up…in most of those cases, the fault can be traced back to the training work done in the spring.”

McGraw said he decided to train the Giants in Marlin because the climate was “mild and even” and “about the same as we find in the North,” during the late spring and early summer, and credited the location with for his club’s performance in 1911:

“I attribute out success in winning the pennant last year to the excellent weather conditions that we found in Marlin.  My club was about able to get up to top speed almost at the beginning of the regular season.”

He said “Everybody said we were lucky,” for the team’s lack of injuries during the pennant race, “But that did not cover it entirely.  The Giants were in excellent condition.”

Again, in stark contrast with Fullerton, who claimed, “A seasoned ballplayer will start with easy work, loosen up his muscles, take off eight or ten pounds and at the end of ten days or two weeks will be in nearly top condition to play baseball.”  McGraw said:

“I always take at least seven weeks for this work; for I don’t believe that a man can be trained in less time than that to last six months.”

In addition to the seven weeks of work, McGraw credited Marlin’s hot spring water with keeping his team healthy:

“I find that the hot water baths following hard workouts do more for sore muscles than all the liniments in the world.  It is not so much the medicinal qualities of the water as the fact that it is hot.”

He said a “mistaken idea of the public” was that spring training entailed:

“(G)iving the players certain kinds of food and putting them through certain athletic stunts.  I do nothing of the kind.  They are allowed to eat what they please.  If they suffer from it, it is their own fault and they quickly realize it.  I do not stop them from smoking or any other little habits that they may have taken up.  In other words, the idea is for them to live naturally and develop physically at the same time.”

An International Film Service photo of the Giants training in Marlin in 1916

An International Film Service photo of the Giants training in Marlin in 1916

After discovering that many players “tire of their work on the diamond” during the spring, McGraw said “I have introduced such pastimes as tennis, handball, pushball, etc…” to their daily routine.

As for the regular routine:

“I work the men two hours every morning and two hours in the afternoon. I work just as hard as they do.  It is pretty hard on me at first, but I know that I have got to show a willingness to do anything that I would ask the players to do.  I am not as young as some of these recruits and it comes hard at times, but I get results from it because the youngsters are ashamed not to stick as long as I do.”

 

Finally, McGraw said spring training provided another benefit for young players:

“Social polish is a big help in making a baseball club win, as it develops personal pride in the men and makes them want to be at the top.  For that reason, I always encourage the youngsters to take part in the dances that are given at Marlin every week. It also keeps their mind off the game.  I would like to have my players think of baseball all the time when they are on the field and forget it when they get to their homes or hotel.

“The businessman who worries over his business during his leisure hours soon becomes mentally unfit for his work and the same applies to ballplayers.”

The Giants continued to train at Marlin through 1918 and won four pennants (1911-1913, 1917) during that period.

Lost Pictures–Tris Speaker and Laddie Boy’s Brother

10 Apr

trisIn 1921, the most famous dog in the world was Laddie Boy; the Airedale Terrier was the first celebrated Presidential Dog.  Laddie Boy was presented to President Warren G. Harding on March 5, 1921–the day after his inauguration–by a Toledo, Ohio breeder–his father  was an international champion Airedale named Tintern Tip-Top.

Laddie Boy had his own chair at Harding’s cabinet meetings, “wrote” articles about his life at the White House, and after Harding’s death a statue of Laddie Boy–paid for with donations collected by newsboys across the country–was commissioned and displayed at the Smithsonian Institution.

laddieboy

Laddie Boy poses on the White House lawn in his chair.

Nearly two months after Laddie Boy went to the White House, one of his lesser-known brothers was presented to Player-Manager Tris Speaker of the defending World Series Champion Cleveland Indians on opening day of the 1921 season.

Speaker became a fan of the breed and later bought Airedales from another Ohio breeder, Walter Lingo.  Lingo, to promote his breeding business–Oorang Kennel Company–hired another one of his customers, Jim Thorpe, and together they organized the Oorang Indians National Football League franchise.

Jim Thorpe--Airedale fan

Jim Thorpe–Airedale fan

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up other Things #12

3 Nov

The Cost of Superstitions, 1913

John Phalen “Stuffy” McInnis his .324 and drove in 90 runs for the 1913 Philadelphia Athletics, but the first baseman hit just .118—2 for 17—during the World Series.

Stuffy McInnis

Stuffy McInnis

The Washington Post told how one superstition among the athletics players might have contributed to McInnis’ slump:

“Those boys believe that they can change the luck at a crucial moment by hurling their bats in the air and letting them fall where they will.  Probably you fans have often seen them do it.  They also believe that they can keep up their good luck by continuing this practice.

“During the first game, in which (Frank “Home Run”) Baker hit a home run, the Athletics started tossing their bats the minute the ball was hit.  As the bats came down Stuffy McGinnis couldn’t get out of the way in time and one of them struck him in the ankle, causing a painful bruise.  He limped to first base and for a while (Connie) Mack was afraid he couldn’t go on with the game.”

Despite McInnis’ slump, the Athletics beat the Giants four games to one.

The Case against the Spitball, 1905

Baseball’s greatest pitcher hated the games most controversial pitch.  In 1905 Denton True “Cy” Young was quoted in The Sporting Life saying it wouldn’t be long before the pitch disappeared entirely:

“I don’t think the ‘spit ball’ is going to cut a much a figure as was thought early in the season.  Many of the pitchers that were using it at the start of the campaign have cut it now, and from now on the twirlers that use it will be dropping it one by one.  I used it against Philadelphia and Washington and had it working nicely, but it hurt my arm and I have cut it altogether.  An old pitcher like myself has no business using it at all.”

Cy Young

Cy Young

Young said the pitch injured his forearm and said he was not alone.  He claimed Jack Chesbro, George Mullin, (Guy) “Doc” White all received similar injuries.   And Washington’s Case Patten, who a year earlier so loved the pitch The St. Louis Republic said he was often “giving the ball a shower bath preparatory to flinging,” was now saying the pitch “lamed his arm.”

Young said even for those who weren’t injured, the spitter would ultimately lead to pitchers losing “control of his curve ball and his fast ones.”

While Chesbro disagreed with Young’s claim that his arm problems were the result of throwing spitballs, his effectiveness diminished greatly after the injury.

Young’s prediction of the demise of the pitch was premature.  At the time of his statement, Chicago White Sox pitcher “Big Ed” Walsh was perfecting the pitch, which he learned from teammate Elmer Stricklett—who had also been instrumental in Chesbro’s use of the spitter.   Walsh started throwing the spitball regularly in 1906.

Ed Walsh circa

Ed Walsh circa

A month before his death, on his 78th birthday and bed-ridden, Walsh remained an advocate for the pitch Cy Young detested.  He told a reporter for The Associated Press:

“I admire the pitchers today who throw the pitch.  Some people call ‘em cheaters.  They’re not.  They’re just guys doing everything they can to win.”

Wahoo Sam’s Scouting Report, 1914

Coming off of the New York Giants off-season world tour with the Chicago White Sox, the consensus opinion seemed to be that Giants Manager John McGraw did not make a mistake in signing Jim Thorpe, the world’s greatest all-around athlete, to a three-year contract worth–depending on the source—from $5,000 to $6,500 per season.  Many doubted Thorpe’s prospects after he hit just .143 in 19 games for the Giants in 1913.

Jim Thorpe

Jim Thorpe

But, not to worry, said McGraw:

“All Thorpe needed was every day action, instead of idleness, although of course sitting on the bench all summer gave him a chance to learn lots of things that will stand him in good stead later on.”

The baseball world generally agreed with McGraw’s assessment.

Hugh Fullerton predicted Thorpe would be “the most sensational baseball player of 1914.”

Damon Runyon declared Thorpe was “now a star.”

Gustave (G.W.) Axelson, Sports Editor of The Chicago Record-Herald, who traveled with the teams, said of Thorpe’s development during the trip:

“The fans in the United States will see an entirely different kind of player when Thorpe Lines up for the season. “

White Sox pitcher Joe Benz, who played against Thorpe on the tour, agreed saying Thorpe “improved greatly” and would be of “great assistance to the Giants,” in 1914.

But, “Wahoo” Sam Crawford, the Detroit Tigers outfielder who traveled with the tour as a member of the White Sox disagreed with all the glowing accounts of Thorpe’s progress.  The Detroit Times said:

“Thorpe’s speed is all that commends him, according to Sam.  He is not a particularly good fielder, and he cannot hit.  He is not a natural hitter at all, but he gives the bat a little upward chop as he swings at the ball in a way that Crawford never saw any man do before.

“Furthermore Thorpe doesn’t seem to have that baseball instinct that is so necessary for a big league player, say Crawford.  He is a very chesty fellow for a man who has yet to prove that he is of big league caliber, is the assertion made by Wahoo Sam.”

Sam Crawford

Sam Crawford

Crawford’s assessment was the most accurate.  Despite the fanfare that accompanied Thorpe’s return from the tour, Thorpe was never better than a mediocre outfielder (career .951 fielding percentage) and he hit just .252 over parts of nine major league seasons.

Tragic Exits

28 Apr

George Frazee

George Donald Frazee, listed on Baseball Reference as “G. Frazee” with the Shreveport Sports in the Texas League in 1928, was a three-sport star at Texas Christian University.

Born November 21, 1904 in Fort Worth, Texas, Frazee played outfield for the baseball team, halfback and fullback with the football team, and was a guard on the basketball team from 1923-1925.  After graduation he played basketball with a team representing the Fort Worth, Texas YMCA which played throughout the Southwest and Mexico.

It’s unclear where Frazee played baseball in 1926 and ’27, but in 1928 he started the season with the San Angelo Red Snappers in the West Texas League, there are no surviving statistics for his time there, but after being transferred to Shreveport he hit .301 in 32 games. Frazee signed with Shreveport for the following season.

On January 24, 1929 Frazee was flying from Ft. Worth with World War I flyer Willoughby Alvous “Al” Henley and another Fort Worth man, to attend the opening celebration for San Angelo’s new airport.  The United Press wire story said:

 “Tragedy marred the formal opening of the municipal airport today, claiming the life of Al Henley…one of the nation’s most skilled pilots.  Henley, Donald Frazee, professional baseball player, and W.E. Shytles…were killed when their cabin monoplane crashed in an attempted landing.”

The Brownsville Herald said:

 “He was an outfielder, fast, big and aggressive.  Shreveport lost an outfielder who was certain to make good this year.”

 

Chief Wano

William “Chief” Wano was born on Oklahoma’s Pottawatomie reservation on May 12, 1896.  He played semi-pro ball in Oklahoma City and in the army while serving with the 79th Infantry, 15th Division at Camp Logan, Texas.  After his discharge in early 1919 the twenty-three-year-old began his professional career with the Tulsa Oilers in the Western League.

Wano struggled during his first season, hitting just .195, but joined the Little Rock Travelers in the Southern Association the following season—and along with fellow Oklahoman, and former classmate and teammate at the Chilocco Indian School– Moses “Chief” Yellow Horse; he helped lead Little Rock to the pennant.

William Wano,

William Wano, back, fourth from right, at Chilocco Indian School

Wano was a consistent hitter throughout the 1920s (.317 in 11 seasons in class-A leagues), but was an erratic fielder and never made it to the major leagues.

After hitting .331 for the St. Joseph Saints in the Western League in 1930 Wano left organized baseball, first playing semi-pro then he accepted a position managing Ben Harjo’s All-Indian Baseball Club—Harjo was a millionaire and full-blooded Creek.   The team, based in Harjo’s hometown Holdenville, Oklahoma, barnstormed the Midwest and Southwest, and with Wano as player-manager won the Denver Post Tournament in July 1932.

Chief Wano

Chief Wano

Wano quit two months later after a dispute over two players Wano signed.  Harjo hired Jim Thorpe to manage the club the following season.

Wano moved to Dallas after his career.  According to The United Press he spent World War II working at the North American Aircraft plant in Dallas, and living at the home of Kal Hill Segrist Sr., his former Dallas Steers teammate (and father of Kal Segrist, who played with the New York Yankees in 1952 and the Baltimore Orioles in 1955).

On July 30, 1945 Wano was in the Dallas City Jail (reports varied on why he was there), when according to The Dallas Times-Herald another prisoner “slugged Wano on the chin, Wano fell, striking his head on the concrete floor.”  Other reports said Wano was trying to break up a fight when he was hit.

William “Chief” Wano died that night in Dallas’ Parkland Hospital.  A month later a grand jury chose not to indict the man who threw the punch.

 

Gene Gaffney

Eugene “Gene” Gaffney was one of the better hitters in the Florida State League during his brief career (1920-23), he was also a manager’s nightmare.

Gaffney hit .335 in 60 games for the league champion Orlando Tigers in 1921, but was suspended for several days in July by Manager Joe Tinker.

The following season he joined the Jacksonville Indians, managed by former major leaguer George Stovall.  The team struggled, and Gaffney, had his only sub .300 season, hitting just .277.  And, according to The St. Petersburg Evening Independent, a car caused a major riff between the outfielder and his manager:

“Has a baseball player a right to ride to and from the park in his own automobile?  George Stovall says no.  He suspended Gene Gaffney because Gaffney had bought an automobile and insisted on being his own bus.

“Stovall insisted he should parade to the park in the team bus.  Gaffney told Stovall to go jump; that if the team would win enough games so that he wouldn’t be ashamed to wear the uniform on parade it might be different.  At last accounts Gaffney was off the ballclub, but riding his automobile to his own intents and purposes, while Stovall still was trying to get the rest of the Jacksonville team somewhere on the field.”

Gaffney played just one more season; he hit .357 for the Daytona Beach Islanders in 1923.

After baseball, Gaffney tended bar in Orlando until August 12, 1937—The Associated Press said:

“Gene Gaffney, about 43, local bartender who once led the old Florida State League in batting, was believed today to have been the victim of foul play.

“His automobile, its windshield shattered and other windows broken, was found mired in mud on the shores of an almost inaccessible lake just across the Orange County line in Seminole County, with evidence of a struggle having taken place.

“His eye glasses were found in the mud about 20 feet from the car.”

Gaffney’s body was found the following day.  His death was ruled a homicide.

The Sad Story of Alan Hill

31 Aug

Alan J. Hill seemed destined for the major leagues.

Nicknamed “Mooney,” he had a mediocre first season as a 20-year-old with the Richmond Colts in the Virginia League (Thirty-five year-old teammate Chief Bender went 29-2 with a 1.06 ERA for the Colts that season).  Hill followed that up with three excellent seasons with the Toledo Mud Hens in the American Association.

As a reserve outfielder in 1920 he hit .366.  In 1921, playing in the same outfield as Jim Thorpe, Hill hit .318 in 137 games, and hit .296 in 152 games in 1922 for a terrible Mud Hens team that went 65-101.

Hill moved to the Columbus Senators in 1923 and was the starting centerfielder.  A month into the season he was struggling, hitting .204 through 23 games when he suffered a nervous breakdown.

Nothing is known about the cause of his illness or what his prognosis might have been.  Hill was committed to the Woodville State Hospital in Collier Township, Pennsylvania.

On February 25, 1924 Hill wandered away while working on the grounds with other residents.  The next morning his body was found on the train tracks of the Pennsylvania Railroad.  He was 25.

Hill was most likely buried among the nearly 700 graves marked only with numbers on the grounds of the hospital, which was closed in 1992.

Update:  As noted in the comments, a relative of Alan Hill informed me that he is buried at McKeesport and Versailles Cemetery in McKeesport, Pennsylvania.