Tag Archives: Jimmy Ryan

Moose Baxter’s Play

4 Nov

Jimmy Ryan played 18 seasons in the major leagues from 1885 through 1903, and appeared in more than 2000 big league games and nearly 500 in the minor leagues.  But he said the greatest play he ever witnessed took place in 1908—his final year in organized ball–when he was player-manager of the Montgomery Senators in the Southern Association.

He claimed the play was made by John “Moose” Baxter, who he released later in the season for allegedly placing bets against his own team.

1908 Montgomery Senators.  Ryan is sitting center of middle row, Baxter is standing second from right.

1908 Montgomery Senators. Ryan is sitting center of middle row, Baxter is standing second from right.

Ryan told the story to Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Herald.  He said it happened during a game against the Atlanta Crackers:

“(T)he bases were full and no one was out…I think it was (Louis “Lou”) Castro at bat, and he hit the first ball pitched, a line drive about twenty feet inside of first base.  I was playing right field and I sprinted forward, fully expecting to catch the ball on the line and throw home.  But I never got a chance.

“Moose took a running jump at the ball; he hadn’t a chance to catch it.  Instead he flew up into the air, and striking at the ball with his mitt, hit it and knocked it forty feet as straight as if he had thrown it, and right into the hands of the second baseman (Clay Perry)…Baxter, when he hit the ball (with his glove) turned half over and fell heavily, but without waiting to get up started and rolled back toward first.

“(Perry) tossed the ball up there, and with one hand stretched out to touch the base, Baxter stuck up the other, caught the ball and completed the double play.  The runner on third, seeing what was coming off, started home at top speed, and Baxter, sitting near first base, threw from that position to the plate and caught the runner.”

Moose Baxter

    Moose Baxter

Despite executing “the greatest play” Ryan said he ever saw, Baxter quickly became more trouble than he was worth.  In May, he was suspended for a week.  The Montgomery News said, after he had “engaged in a tussle” with an umpire named O’Brien.  “Baxter threw the umpire to the ground and pummeled his face.”

Baxter was released on May 17.  Ryan said only that it was “for the good of the team.”  Later in the week, The News said:

“The reasons assigned by the management are that Baxter has incurred displeasure of the spectators and has bred dissention among the players.

“Reasons given on the street are that Baxter has been betting against his own team in one of the recent games.”

Whether Baxter ever placed a bet against his team is unknown, but no action was ever taken by the league and he signed with the New Orleans Pelicans within a week.

Baxter was never far from trouble during his career.  While playing, and operating an illegal business in Canada in 1910, Baxter ran afoul of the law and was escorted to the border.

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things #16

21 Oct

Pirates Slump, 1921

The first place Pittsburgh Pirates were preparing for a doubleheader with the New York Giants on August 24, 1921, when the team took time out to pose for a photo.  The Pittsburgh Leader said:

“Someone happened to mention, as the photographer moved away, that for a whole team to watch the little birdie at once was a jinx.”

The team promptly went out and dropped the doubleheader, then lost three more to the Giants.  The paper said of the five straight losses:

“It doesn’t prove the jinx exists.  But it does prove that to imbue a man or a team of men, with the idea that they can’t win a ballgame generally means that they won’t win.  For their pep and enthusiasm has been stolen.”

The Pirates finished second, four games behind the Giants.

Anson’s All-Time Team, 1918

While visiting St. Paul, Minnesota in the summer of 1918, Cap Anson was asked by a reporter for The Associated Press to name his all-time all-star team.  The reporter said the team was most “notable for including in its makeup not one” current player:

"Cap" Anson

                        “Cap” Anson

“According to Captain Anson, at  least four outfielders of old times are better than (Ty) Cobb or (Tris) Speaker and (John) Clarkson, (Amos) Rusie, and (Jim) McCormick, he thinks were better pitchers than (Grover Cleveland)  Alexander  or (Walter) Johnson.  His line-up would be:

Catchers—William “Buck” Ewing and Mike “King” Kelly

Pitchers—Amos Rusie, John Clarkson, and Jim McCormick

First Base—Captain Anson, himself

Second Base—Fred Pfeffer

Third Base—Ned Williamson

Shortstop—Ross Barnes

Outfielders—Bill Lange, George Gore, Jimmy Ryan and Hugh Duffy

Cy Young’s Five Rules, 1907

Forty-year-old Cy Young won 21 games for the Boston Americans in 1907 and his longevity became a popular topic of newspaper copy until he pitched his final major league game four years later.

Cy Young

                                             Cy Young

During that 1907 season he gave a reporter for The Boston Post his advice for young players:

“(T)o the young player who seeks his advice about getting in condition and being able to stay in the game as long as the veteran himself, Cy lays down a few simple rules, which are as follows:

  1.  Live a temperate life
  2. Don’t abuse yourself if you want to attain success
  3. Don’t try to bait the umpires; abusing the arbitrators does a player no good and harms him in the eyes of the umpires, players and public in general
  4. Play the game for all you are worth at all times
  5. Render faithful service to your employers

Regarding his “rule” about umpires, Young said:

“What’s the use in kicking?  The umpire won’t change his decision, and kicking will give him another chance to get back at you for your silly abuse.”

11,297,424

12 Sep

The Chicago Tribune baseball writer Hugh Fullerton was fond of saying:

“Once upon a time there was a baseball bug down in Cincinnati who figured out there were 11,297,424 possible plays in baseball.  This, of course, was counting only straight and combination plays and taking no account of the different kinds of fly hits and grounders, which all are different.  He proved it conclusively and the next day the team made one that wasn’t on the list.

“Every play, every throw, every hit is different.  That is why baseball is the national game, and there are freaks in the game that make even the case hardened regular sit up and yelp with surprise and joy.”

Hugh Fullerton

Hugh Fullerton

Fullerton made a career of telling stories about those plays; some might have even been true.

A few more of them:

“Philadelphia lost a hard luck game to Cleveland in the old twelve club league.  The score was close, Philadelphia had two men on base, and Ed Delehanty was at bat.

“He cracked a long drive across the left field fence—a sure home run.  The ball was going over the fence high in the air, when suddenly it changed its course, dropped straight down, hit the top of the fence and bounded back into the lot.

Ed Delahanty

Ed Delahanty

“The crowd, which had given up in despair, was astonished.  The Cleveland left fielder got the ball and, by a quick throw, cut down the runner at the plate and Delehanty was held at second.  The next men went out and Philadelphia was beaten.

“Investigation after the game proved that the ball had struck a telephone wire reading to a factory just outside the grounds.”

Tom Corcoran had one of the oddest baseball experiences in the history of the National League at the old Eastern Park grounds in Brooklyn years ago, in a game against Boston.  The game was played on the morning of Labor Day, and there had been a hard rain the night before.  In the early part of the game Corcoran, going after a ground ball, felt his foot slip and his ankle turn, and, half falling, he stopped the ball and then fell.  He turned to pick up the ball to throw out his man, and saw no ball—although there was a hole six inches across, into which his foot had plunged.  The runner, reaching first, stopped and saw Corcoran with his arm plunged to the elbow in the ground, and after hesitating a moment, he ran on down to second.

Tom Corcoran

Tom Corcoran

“Corcoran, meantime, had been thinking.  His fingers were clutched around the ball, and yet he waited, pretending to be groping for the ball.  The runner started on, and as he passed, Corcoran dragged the ball out and touched him out.”

“One of the funniest plays I ever witnessed was pulled off on the old Baltimore grounds along in 1896, and it was good-natured, happy Wilbert Robinson who made the blunder that resulted in the defeat of the Orioles when they might have won the game.

Wilbert robinson

Wilbert Robinson

“The struggle was between Chicago and Baltimore and it went into extra innings.  In the eleventh, with a Chicagoan on second Doctor Jimmy McJames made a wild pitch, the ball shooting crooked and bounding around back of the visitors bench with Robby in close pursuit.  The ball rolled back of the water cask and disappeared.  Robby made one frantic grab back of the cask, and then, straightening up, hurled a sponge full of water at McJames, who was covering the plate.  The Doctor grabbed it, and as the water flew all over him he tagged Jimmy Ryan…In spite of the fact that the play beat Baltimore, the crowd yelled with delight over it, and Robby, who had made the sponge throw as a joke when he found he could not get the ball in time, appeared as much pleased as if he had won the game.”

 

Spring Training, 1900

16 Jun

There was never a dull moment during the Chicago Orphans 1900 training trip to Selma, Alabama.  New manager Tom Loftus arrived with twenty-three players from West Baden, Indiana on March 23—two more players, Jimmy Ryan and Bill Everitt would be joining the team in a few days.  The Chicago Tribune said, “Loftus is pleased with the grounds and the players are agreeably surprised at the town and hotel.”

Tom Loftus

Tom Loftus

The team was greeted in Selma with a parade and presented keys to the city; the stay in Alabama went downhill from there.

Rain in Selma disrupted the team’s practice schedule and the day Jimmy Ryan arrived it was revealed that there was a conflict between the leftfielder and his manager.

The Chicago Inter Ocean said Ryan, who claimed playing left field in Chicago’s West Side Grounds the previous season had damaged his eyes, announced he would not play the “sun field” for the team in 1900.

“(Ryan) intimated there was nothing in his contract which calls upon him to play in the sun field and that he will not do it unless he is given more money.”

Ryan told the paper:

“Let some of the young fellows put on smoked glasses and try the sun field for a while.  I am a right fielder and am tired of getting the hard end of the deal.  If they want me to play in the sun field it is up to Loftus for it is worth more money.”

Loftus responded:

“I don’t understand any such talk as this.  Ryan will play where he will make the most money for the club…I am running this club just now, and the men will play where I put them.”

The dispute went on for several days and included an offer to Ryan to join Selma’s local team if he chose to quit.

Ryan wasn’t the only disgruntled player.  Clark Griffith, who won 22 games for the team in 1899 told The Tribune:

“It is only a question of time when we all have to quit, and the sooner a man quits the better off he will be, for it is a cinch he won’t have a cent, no matter how long he stays in this business.”

Clark Griffith

Clark Griffith

A few days later The Tribune said it appeared Griffith and utility man Charlie Dexter had quit

“Clark Griffith and Charles Dexter have announced they are no longer members of the Chicago ball team.  This morning the two men, one of whom Chicago ball cranks have relied on to bring the pennant westward, announced they will start with a week for Cape Nome to mine gold.

“Griffith has been wild all spring to go to Alaska.  Some friend offered Griffith and (Jimmy “Nixey”) Callahan $20 a day as common laborers if they would go to Cape Nome.  This morning Griffith and Dexter were talking and Griffith declared he would go in a minute if he could get someone to go with him.  Dexter accepted the chance, declared he would go, and within a few minutes the pair had deposited their diamond rings with Tim Donahue as a forfeit, each agreeing to forfeit the rings in case they failed to start for Cape Nome inside a week.  Both men are in earnest”

Loftus didn’t take Griffith’s plan seriously, but the threat highlighted the growing dissatisfaction of his star pitcher, which would be reflected in his performance during the 1900 season.  There was no report of whether Griffith and Dexter forfeited their diamond rings when they failed to leave for Alaska.

The final incident of the Orphans’ Selma trip resulted in one of the most unusual reasons for a game to be delayed.

Griffith was on the mound during the early innings of an intersquad game, Tim Donahue was at the plate when according to The Inter Ocean:

“(A) Southern Gentleman opened up with a .44.”

The Chicago Tribune said:

“Just as the game was starting a young native, inspired by a desire to show the players his ambidexterity with revolvers, crossed the bridge (over the Alabama River) firing volleys.  As he approached the park he began he began firing at will, and for ten minutes gave a wild South exhibition of cannonading inside the park.”

Once inside the park, the man fired first in the direction of the players, and then, after reloading, “at the feet” of several local children watching the game.

He then “turned his attention to the ball players.”  The Inter Ocean said:

“He began shooting across the diamond, and every man on the field made a slide on the ground toward the shelter of the grand stand in a manner which would have been a guarantee of the championship, if repeated in regular league games.”

The paper said Tim Donahue, “who was never known to slide a base, went fifteen feet on his ribs” under the stands.  While Jimmy Ryan “made a dash” for left field “which broke the sprinting record.  He was last seen crawling under a dog hole in an extreme corner of the grounds.”

The gunman was taken into custody by Selma police, and The Tribune said the playing was “nervous and erratic,” after the shooting incident, but incredibly the game continued and was completed.

Griffiths “Scrubs” defeated Donahue’s “Regulars” 13 to 12.

The Box Score

The Box Score

Things didn’t get any better for the team after they opened the 1900 season; the Orphans limped to a 65-75 sixth place finish under Loftus.  Ryan, who still often played the “sun field”, hit .277, his first sub .300 season since 1893.  Griffith, who won 20 games the previous six seasons, won just 14.  Charlie Dexter had his worst season, hitting just. 200 in 40 games and Donahue hit just .236 in his final season in Chicago.

Lost Team Photos–Delhanty’s Last

11 Apr

1903senators

The 1903 Washington Senators.  Photo was taken the day before the Senators 3 to 1 victory in the home opener against the New York Highlanders at National Park.

The Senators–sixth place finishers in 1901 and 1902–were in eighth place by May 8 and never gave up their spot in the American League cellar.  The horrible season was made worse when the club’s best player Ed Delahanty was swept over Niagara Falls and  died on July 2–Delahanty’s death has been chronicled by many excellent sources.

When this photo was taken, Delahanty had been forced to rejoin the Senators after having signed in the off season with the New York Giants–he was badly hurt financially by the peace agreement between the American and National Leagues–Delahanty, who made $4,000 in Washington in 1902 had signed for between $6,000 and $8,000 (contemporaneous sources disagreed on the amount) and a large advance, which he was forced to return.  Despite his financial woes, Delahanty still managed to hit .333 for the last-place team at the time of his death.

The photo above is the last team picture which included the future Hall of Famer:

First row: James “Ducky” Holmes, William “Rabbit” Robinson, Gene DeMontreville, Lew Drill

Second row: William “Boileryard” Clarke, Wyatt “Watty” Lee, Manager Tom Loftus, Bill Coughlin, Joe Martin, Jimmy Ryan

Standing:  Delehanty, Albert “Kip” Selbach, Al Orth, George “Scoops” Carey, Casey Patten, John “Happy” Townsend, Charles Moran

Loftus was let go as manager after the 43-94 season.  The team would not finish better than seventh place in the American League until 1912.

Ed Delahanty

Ed Delahanty

“You are mostly Fakes, and yet I love you all!”

19 Mar

Elmer Foster became better known after his career had ended than he ever had been as a player because of sportswriter Hugh Fullerton who included stories he said were about Foster in his columns for more than twenty years.

Elmer Foster

Elmer Foster

The first story appeared in 1897, shortly after Fullerton arrived at The Chicago Tribune:

“The long-lost is found.  A few days ago a traveling man who is a baseball fan climbed on the train with the Colts and engaged Jimmy Ryan in Conversation.

“’Who do you think I saw the other day?’ he queried…I was up in Minnehaha, the village at the falls of St. Paul.  About 10 o’clock at night I was preparing to go to bed, when suddenly there came a series of war whoops up the street.  A man came tearing down on horseback, whipping the animal to dead run and whooping like a Comanche Just as he got to where we were standing he pulled two revolvers and, still whooping, emptied them into the air.  I was scared to death, but no one else paid any attention.  When the danger was over I crawled out from under a cellar door and said ‘Who is that?  ‘Oh, that’s nothing,’ said one of the gang.  ‘It’s only Elmer Foster going home.’”

The 1897 article also told a more accurate version of the incident in Pittsburgh that led to Foster’s release than Fullerton told in later years–it mentioned that he was with Pat Luby (incorrectly identified as “Harry” Luby), and Fullerton, in this version, did not claim to be present.

With that the legend was born.

Hugh Fullerton

Hugh Fullerton

By the turn of the century the legend grew.  Fullerton said:

“Foster was a great baserunner…He ran regardless of consequences, and perhaps no man that ever played in fast company ever took an extra base on a hit oftener than did Elmer.  He simply refused to stop at his legitimate destination, and kept right on.  When he got caught he always said: ‘Why, I wasn’t a bit tired.  Why should I have stopped running?’”

By 1903 Fullerton said of Foster:

“No man who was interested in baseball during the early ‘90s can certainly have forgotten the name of the man who was perhaps the best center fielder who ever wore a Chicago uniform.”

Like Bill Lange, another player he helped make famous long after his career was over, Fullerton’s most often repeated story about Foster was a dubious one involving a catch—a story that was repeated over the years as having happened three years after Foster’s big league career was over:

“Back in ’94 one of the Eastern teams was playing Chicago on the West Side, with Foster in center field.  The man at bat made a terrific swipe at the ball and hit it.  The shadow was deep over the infield and Foster could not see the ball.  He started to run out into far center, so as to be prepared.

“As a matter of fact the ball was only a bunt.  The shortstop caught it and threw the batter out at first.  But Foster kept on running—running like mad….Foster ran at the top of his speed almost to the center field fence.  Then he jumped high up into the air, threw up his left hand, and came down to the ground with—an English sparrow tightly clenched in his fist.”

In addition to Fullerton repeating the story over the years,  “Gentleman” Jim Corbett retold it in his syndicated sports column in 1919 and Al Spink, writing for The Chicago Evening Post in 1920 quoted former Chicago White Sox Manager Jimmy “Nixey” Callahan telling the story in 1920—like the original, both Corbett’s version and Spink’s via Callahan say the “catch’ happened three years after Foster left Chicago.  The story survived until at least 1925 when it appeared in several paper as park of a King Features syndicated column of short baseball stories.

Fullerton’s Foster stories—including several regarding drunken pranks Foster was alleged to have played on Cap Anson—became so ubiquitous that William A. Phelon of The Cincinnati Times-Star  said in 1912:

“It is now an accepted tradition that Elmer Foster, the famous fielder, led the Chicago team on a glorious, care-free, drunk through a whole wild merry season in 1891.  That is believed by everybody—yet the records show that Foster played just a few games with Chicago in 1890, and was released in April [sic] of 1891, before the season was even one week old!  Oh, you legends!  Oh, you deceiving old stories!  You are mostly fakes, and yet I love you all!”

“Sunday was not a ‘real’ Ball Player”

15 Jan

Fred Pfeffer, a member of the Chicago White Stockings “Stonewall Infield” in the 1880s, became the proprietor of a number of popular saloons in Chicago.  He opened Pfeffer’s Theater Court Buffet on State Street in 1911; the tavern, located in the alley between the Majestic and  McVicker’s Theaters, was a popular meeting place for athletes, vaudeville performers and newspaper reporters.

Fred Pfeffer

Fred Pfeffer

In 1912 Harvey Woodruff of The Chicago Tribune was present when Pfeffer and Jimmy Ryan held forth on some of their teammates:

Billy Sunday was the only successful ‘made’ ball player I ever heard of in the history of baseball.  Not a man on our team except (Cap) Anson had any confidence in Sunday when he joined the club (in 1883), nor for a long time afterward, for that matter.  Anson liked Sunday because he was like lightning in getting to first base.  Sunday was not a great hitter.  He could scarcely be called a great fielder, but he was the fastest man of his time in legging it down to first base.  My, how he could run!  But after Billy was on first I would sooner have had Anson there, and none of us accused Anse of being the best base runner of his time.  We thought Billy was too daring.

“But Anson insisted Sunday would make a ball player.  So he was taught to bat, to field, and to run bases.  Anson spent more time with him than with all the rest of us put together.  What skill Sunday attained was developed.  Most of us finally admitted that Anson’s judgment was justified, but others on the team retained to the last their opinion that Sunday was not a ‘real’ ball player.

“Those who obstinately kept that opinion might have been influenced in part by prejudice, for those were times when team discipline was not as severe as now, and Sunday chose his companions.”

Billy Sunday

Billy Sunday

Pfeffer told The Tribune reporter that Ned Williamson had the best arm he had seen.

While playing as an amateur in his native Louisville in 1881 Pfeffer had “won a gold medal, which is still in his possession for throwing a ball 400 feet.”  After joining the White Stockings he participated in a throwing contest at Chicago’s Lake Front Park “and threw the ball 399 feet and six inches.”  He was beaten by six inches by Williamson.

The mention of Williamson’s arm strength reminded Ryan of “an incident of the trip around the world taken by the White Stockings” after the 1888 season:

“Following one of the exhibitions in England, some native cricketers were holding a competition in throwing a cricket ball.  A crowd circled the field beyond the range of the throws, taking a keen interest in the sport.  Williamson, who had not allowed his baseball duties to prevent his enjoyment at a nearby pub, watched the proceedings for a time with growing impatience.

“Finally, swaggering up to the circle, Williamson said: ‘Let me take that ball for a minute.’ Then, scarcely setting himself for the effort, he hurled the ball.  It soared clear over the heads of the crowd on the outskirts. “

Ryan claimed no one knew exactly how far Williamson’s throw traveled because “everyone was so surprised (by the distance of his throw) no attempt was made even to recover the ball.”

Ned Williamson with White stockings mascot

Ned Williamson with White stockings mascot

The subject next turned to bunting.  Pfeffer said

“We knew the bunt, but seldom practiced it.  Those were the days when long hits were wanted, and the play would not have been popular.  We more often played a variation of what is known now as the hit and run.  It seems to me there were more players who could hit to right field then.

“I often have been asked whether all the great hitters of that time were swingers who clasped their bats at the end of the handle.  I do not recall that we held our bats any differently from the players of today.  Some held it near the end and some did what you now call ‘choking it.’ I think, perhaps the proportion of chop hitters was less then, for everyone liked to see long drives.”

Pfeffer continued entertaining patrons and reporters at the Theater Court Buffet until the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment put him out of business—his obituary said he sold “bar and all” for $1.50.  Pfeffer died in Chicago in 1932.

“The Greatest Team Ever Organized”

24 Apr

Hopes were high for The Players League, and for Chicago’s franchise, the Pirates, in the newly formed baseball brotherhood.

Rumors had been reported for more than two months, but finally on January 18 The Chicago Daily News said that Charlie Comiskey “came to town yesterday morning, and at 4 o’clock signed…for three years,” to serve as captain and manager; the contract was said to be worth “$5,000 per annum.”

President Charles A. Weidenfelder had built a strong ballclub, with major assists from Fred Pfeffer, Chicago White Stockings second baseman, who encouraged most of that team to jump to the new league, and Frank Brunell, a former Chicago newspaper man who was secretary of the new league, and traveled to St. Louis to encourage Comiskey to jump to the brotherhood.

There was an embarrassing moment in March when Chicago newspapers reported that the carpenters union was complaining that non-union labor was being used to build the team’s ballpark at Thirty-Eighth Street and Wentworth Avenue.    The secretary of the union was quoted in The Chicago Tribune saying  Brunell had “promised to make it right.  But he didn’t.”

Despite the  irony of a league borne out of the game’s first labor movement betraying organized labor (there were similar difficulties in Boston and Philadelphia), enthusiasm for the new league was high; in Chicago the expectations were higher.  A week before the season opened The Chicago Tribune said:

“The elements which go to make up a great team are united in the Chicago Brotherhood Club, which, on paper, is the greatest team ever organized.”

Comiskey’s club opened the season on April 19 in Pittsburgh.  According to The Chicago Inter Ocean:

“It was a great day for the Players League…There were 9,000 people by the turnstiles’ count to see the fun…It was by all odds the biggest crowd that had ever turned out to witness an opening game of ball in Pittsburgh.”

The pregame festivities included a parade through the streets of Pittsburgh featuring both teams, league officials and a Grand Army of the Republic brass band.

“(Pittsburgh) Manager (Ned) Hanlon was presented with an immense floral horseshoe, Comiskey with a big floral ball on a stand of floral bats, Pfeffer with a basket of roses…(Chicago’s Arlie) Latham ‘stood on his head, with a smile well-bred, and bowed three times’ to the ladies.  (He had) the legend ‘We are the people’ in great black letters on (his) broad back.”

After the fanfare, “Pfeffer and the boys played a particularly brilliant game,” as Chicago defeated Pittsburgh 10-2.

Box Score--Chicago Pirates/Pittsburgh Burghers, Opening Day, 1890.

Box Score–Chicago Pirates/Pittsburgh Burghers, Opening Day, 1890.

Opening Day was the high point for Chicago. The league as a whole struggled financially and attendance dropped sharply after the initial excitement wore off.  Only eight games into the season, barely 500 people attended Chicago’s game in Cleveland on May 1.

Comiskey’s “greatest team ever organized,” was never able to keep pace with the league champion Boston Reds and finished fourth in the eight team league, 10 games back.

The Chicago Times lamented the team’s poor showing and blamed it on a “lack of discipline,” (the article appeared in slightly different form in several newspapers):

“The outside world cannot fully realize the bitter disappointment felt here over the poor showing made by Comiskey’s team during the season just closed.  Surely it was strongest aggregation of players ever collected in one club, but its lack of success was mainly from two causes—lack of discipline and the miserable condition of certain members of the club.

“There has been absolutely no discipline in the team, and some of the men paid as much attention to Comiskey’s orders as they would to a call from some church congregation.  An order to sacrifice was met with a smile of scorn, and the ball was hammered down to an infielder, who made an easy double play.”

The Times said “(Tip) O’Neill, Latham, Pfeffer, (Jimmy) Ryan and others utterly ignored Comiskey’s mandates, and in consequence there was continual disorder.”

The paper’s primary target was shortstop Ned Williamson.  The criticisms might have been unjustified: the former White Stockings favorite had struggled with the knee injury he sustained on the 1888-89 world tour, and might have already been ill as his health would decline rapidly, and he’d be dead by 1894; the victim of tuberculosis:

“Williamson played a game of which an amateur should have been ashamed, and was thirty pounds overweight throughout the season.”

The paper promised “there will be numerous, changes in the club, provided the players League is still in existence,” in 1891.

It was not to be.  By November league secretary Brunell told The Chicago Herald:

“The jig is up.  We are beaten and the Brotherhood is no more.”

Brunell attempted to put a positive spin on the news, telling the paper it was mistaken to infer the “Brotherhood has weakened.”  Rather “we began to see that the interest in baseball was on the wane, and in order to prevent it from dying out entirely…we finally concluded that a consolidation of forces (with the National League and American Association) would be better for all concerned.”

The Herald wasn’t buying Brunell’s statement:

Brunell’s talk has finally let in the light on a subject previously enveloped in darkness.  It appears now that the Players League folks actually courted a knockout, and bankrupted themselves from pure patriotic motives.  The ex-secretary is a funny little man.”

Brunell would go on to found The Daily Racing Form in 1894.

Comiskey returned to the St. Louis Browns in the American Association.  Tip O’Neill, who also jumped the Browns to join the Players League, returned to St, Louis with his manager.

Comiskey (8) was joined in Chicago by three members of his American Association championship teams in St. Louis.  Arlie Latham (7), Tip O'Neill (11), and pitcher Silver King (14) who posted a 30-22 record.

Comiskey (8) was joined in Chicago by three members of his American Association championship teams in St. Louis. Arlie Latham (7), Tip O’Neill (11), and pitcher Silver King (14) who posted a 30-22 record.

Fred Pfeffer stayed in Chicago, spending one more turbulent season with Cap Anson, before being traded to the Louisville Colonels.

Arlie Latham, “The Freshest Man on Earth” went to the Cincinnati Reds in the National League.

Ned Williamson never played again.

“A Historical Account of a Great Game of Ball”

5 Mar

The headline above appeared in 1907 above an article written by Frederick North Shorey in The Freeman regarding a series between Andrew “Rube” Foster’s Leland Giants and Mike Donlin’s All-Stars “an aggregation composed of such noted players as Mike Donlin, Jake Stahl, Jimmie Ryan and Jimmy Callahan, probably the best semi-professional team in the country.”

Shorey said the series at South Side Park “exceeded in interest to the people it attracted anything that took place between the White Sox and Cubs last fall (1906 World Series).”

Rube Foster beat the Donlin All-Stars 3-1 in the first game, allowing only three hits:

“Rube Foster is the pitcher of the Leland Giants, and he has all the speed of (Amos) Rusie, the tricks of a Radbourne, and the heady coolness and deliberation of a Cy Young.  What does that make him? Why, the greatest baseball pitcher in the country; that is what the best ballplayers of the white persuasion that have gone up against him say.”

Rube Foster

Rube Foster

Foster was so important to his fans, Shorey said:

“If it were in the power of the colored people to honor him politically or to raise him to the station to which they believe he is entitled, Booker T. Washington would have to be content with second place.”

The Chicago Tribune said of Foster’s domination of the All-Stars:

lelandsvsdonlins

Back to the series, and back to Shorey:

“While the all-stars were confident in their ability to win, several of the old players, including Mr. Donlin himself, who have known of the prowess of Mr. Foster…knew that it was by no means a certainty…but they had hopes that the colored team behind him might do something to undo the efforts of the twirler.

Mike Donlin

Mike Donlin

Shorey said the all-stars were over matched:

“The colored men set a new pace for base running, while foster’s cool, deliberate pitching was too much for the old-time players on Donlin’s team.  Both teams put up brilliant fielding games.”

Foster pitched in four games in the series; he won all four.

David Wyatt–who had been a teammate of Foster’s with the Chicago Union Giants in 1902, and who in 1920 was asked by Foster to help draft the constitution of the Negro National League—also wrote about the series in The Freeman:

“All the baseball critics in the city were out to look the Lelands over, many under the impression that they were overrated.  The most interested of the number was Mr. Comiskey, owner of the white Sox…After witnessing the first game the white sox boss said if it were possible he would have annexed the signature of at least three of the boys to contracts, and he was so enthused over the fast, snappy work of the Lelands that he had his world’s champions to lay over one day in Chicago to watch the boys play.”

Wyatt had higher hopes for “Baseball as the common leveler” in general and the series specifically:

“There was no color line drawn anywhere; our white brethren outnumbered us by a few hundred, and all bumped elbows in the grand stand, the box seats and bleachers; women and men alike, all whetted freely with one another on the possible outcome of the series, the effect it would have upon the future of the negro in baseball, the merits of the different players etc…”

Foster’s heroics, Wyatt’s hopefulness, Comiskey’s words and Chicago’s enthusiasm were, of course, not enough to change the status quo; regardless of the “Great game of ball,” played at South Side Park in that 1907 series, the color line would remain intact for four more decades.

David Wyatt

David Wyatt

Escorted to the Canadian Border

31 Jul

John Morris “Moose” Baxter made it into six games for the 1907 St. Louis Cardinals hitting .190.  Baxter was born in Chippewa Falls, WI and played throughout the Midwest and Western US before his April ’07 cup of coffee with the Cardinals; he seems to have spent parts of each season between 1903 and 1906 playing independent ball in Canada—he appears on the rosters of independent teams in Calgary, Wetaskiwin and Banff during that period.

Many ballplayers of his era lived on the edges of the law, but Moose had the distinction of being escorted to the border of Canada and asked not to return.  Moose’s troubles began in 1908 while playing Montgomery in the Southern Association.  Baxter was unexpectedly released in June and Montgomery manager Jimmy Ryan said the move was “(F)or the good of the team.”  Within weeks, the newspapers in Southern Association cities reported that Moose was released for betting against his team.  He finished the season in New Orleans.

Moose Baxter Sioux City 1902

Moose played parts of two more seasons in the New York State and Western Canada Leagues but spent most of those two seasons playing independent ball in the Northwest United States and Canada.

Sometime in 1910 Moose ended up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada where he quickly made a name for himself and was described by the local papers as “The boss of the Tenderloin District.”  Moose ran Turkish baths and sold liquor in several establishments without bothering to get a license.  His brother Henry, who pitched for Edmonton in 1911 and also played independent ball in the Northwest, was his partner in the business.  After several run- ins with the law both brothers were arrested late in 1911, Moose was sentenced to six months in prison at Lethbridge, Alberta.

According to newspapers in Canada and Washington, upon his release Moose Baxter was given a week to sell off his considerable property in Calgary; and “Immediately placed in charge of Immigration Agent A.E. Humphries to be taken to the boundary line and given his freedom.”

After returning to the Northwest in 1912, Baxter split his time between Spokane, Washington and Portland, Oregon, appearing in city directories for both towns.  He died August 7, 1926, in Portland and was buried at Greenwood Memorial Terrace in Spokane.