Tag Archives: Joe Kelley

Grantland Rice’s “All-Time All-Star Round up”

10 Aug

In December of 1917, thirty-eight-year-old sportswriter Grantland Rice of The New York Tribune enlisted in the army–he spent fourteen months in Europe.  Before he left he laid out the case, over two weeks, for an all-time all-star team in the pages of the paper:

“As we expect to be held to a restricted output very shortly, due to the exigencies and demands of the artillery game, this seemed to be a fairly fitting period to unfold the results.”

Grantland Rice

Grantland Rice

Rice said the selections were “not solely from our own limited observation, extending over a period of some eighteen or twenty years,” but included input from players, managers and sportswriters, including  “such veterans” as Frank Bancroft and Clark Griffith, and baseball writers Joe Vila of The New York Sun, Bill Hanna of The New York Herald and Sam Crane, the former major league infielder turned sportswriter of The New York Journal.

Rice said only one of the nine selections “(S)eems to rest in doubt.  The others were almost unanimously backed.”

The selections:

Pitcher:  Christy Mathewson

A. G. Spalding, John (Montgomery) Ward, Larry Corcoran, Charley Radbourn, John Clarkson, (Thomas) Toad Ramsey, Tim Keefe, Bill Hoffer, Amos Rusie, (Mordecai) Miner Brown, Addie Joss, Ed Walsh–the array is almost endless.

“In the matter of physical stamina, Cy Young has outclassed the field.  Cy won more games than almost any others ever pitched.

“(But) For all the pitching mixtures and ingredients, stamina, steadiness, brilliancy, brains, control, speed, curves, coolness, courage, is generally agreed that no man has ever yet surpassed Christy Mathewson…there has never been another who had more brains or as fine control.”

 

[…]

“It might be argued that Radbourn or (Walter) Johnson or (Grover Cleveland) Alexander was a greater pitcher than Mathewson.

But we’ll string with Matty against the field.”

Radbourn was the second choice.  Bancroft said:

“Radbourn was more like Mathewson than any pitcher I ever saw.  I mean by that, that like Matty, he depended largely upon brains and courage and control, like Matty he had fine speed and the rest of it.  Radbourn was a great pitcher, the best of the old school beyond any doubt.”

Catcher:  William “Buck” Ewing

“Here we come to a long array—Frank (Silver) Flint, Charley Bennett, (Charles “Chief”) Zimmer, (James “Deacon”) McGuire, (Wilbert) Robinson, (Marty) Bergen(Johnny) Kling, (Roger) Bresnahan and various others.

“But the bulk of the votes went to Buck Ewing.”

Buck Ewing

Buck Ewing

[…]

“Wherein did Ewing excel?

“He was a great mechanical catcher.  He had a wonderful arm and no man was surer of the bat…he had a keen brain, uncanny judgment, and those who worked with him say that he had no rival at diagnosing the  weakness of opposing batsman, or at handling his pitchers with rare skill.”

Kling was the second choice:

“Kling was fairly close…a fine thrower, hard hitter, and brilliant strategist…But as brilliant as Kling was over a span of years, we found no one who placed him over the immortal Buck.”

1B Fred Tenney

First Base was the one position with “the greatest difference of opinion,” among Rice and the others:

“From Charlie Comiskey to George Sisler is a long gap—and in that gap it seems that no one man has ever risen to undisputed heights… There are logical arguments to be offered that Hal Chase or Frank Chance should displace Fred Tenney at first.

But in the way of batting and fielding records Tenney wins….Of the present array, George Sisler is the one who has the best chance of replacing Tenney.”

2B Eddie Collins

 “There was no great argument about second base.

“The vote was almost unanimous.

“From the days of Ross Barnes, a great hitter and a good second baseman on through 1917, the game has known many stars.  But for all-around ability the game has known but one Eddie Collins.”

Rice said the competition was between Collins, Napoleon Lajoie and Johnny Evers:

“Of these Lajoie was the greatest hitter and most graceful workman.

“Of these Evers was the greatest fighter and the more eternally mentally alert.

“But for batting and base running, fielding skill, speed and the entire combination, Collins was voted on top.”

 SS Honus Wagner

“Here, with possibly one exception, is the easiest pick of the lot.  The game has been replete with star shortstops with George Wright in 1875 to (Walter “Rabbit”) Maranville, (George “Buck”) Weaver…There were (Jack) Glasscock and (John Montgomery) Ward, (Hardy) Richards0n, (Hugh) Jennings, (Herman)Long, (Joe) Tinker and (Jack) Barry.

“But there has been only one Hans Wagner.”

Honus Wagner

Honus Wagner

Jennings and Long were rated second and third,  “But, with the entire list  considered there is no question but that Wagner stands at the top.”

3B Jimmy Collins

Rice said:

“From the days of (Ned) Williamson(Jerry) Denny, and (Ezra) Sutton, over thirty years ago, great third basemen have only appeared at widely separated intervals.

“There have been fewer great third basemen in baseball than at any other position, for there have been periods when five or six years would pass without an undoubted star.”

The final decision came down to “John McGraw vs. Jimmy Collins.”  McGraw was “a great hitter, a fine bunter and a star base runner,” while “Collins was a marvel and a marvel over a long stretch…he was good enough to carve out a .330 or a .340 clip (and) when it came to infield play at third he certainly had no superior…So taking his combined fielding and batting ability against that of McGraw and Collins wins the place.  McGraw was a trifle his superior on the attack. But as a fielder there was no great comparison, Collins leading by a number of strides.”

 

OF Ty Cobb

“The supply here is overwhelming…Yet the remarkable part is that when we offered our selection to a jury of old players, managers and veteran scribes there was hardly a dissenting vote.”

[…]

“Number one answers itself.  A man who can lead the league nine years in succession at bat.

“A man who can lead his league at bat in ten out of eleven seasons.

“A man who can run up the record for base hits and runs scored in a year—also runs driven in.

“Well, the name Ty Cobb answers the rest of it.”

OF Tris Speaker

 “The man who gives Cobb the hardest battle is Tris Speaker.  Veteran observers like Clark Griffith all say that Speaker is the greatest defensive outfielder baseball has ever exploited…Speaker can cover more ground before a ball is pitched than any man.  And if he guesses incorrectly, which he seldom does, he can go a mile to retrieve his error in judgment…And to this impressive defensive strength must be added the fact he is a powerful hitter, not only a normal .350 man, but one who can tear the hide off the ball for extra bases.”

Tris Speaker "hardest hit"

Tris Speaker 

OF “Wee Willie” Keeler

Mike Kelly and Joe KelleyJimmy Sheckard and Fred Clarke—the slugging (Ed) Delehanty—the rare Bill LangeBilly Hamilton.

“The remaining list is a great one, but how can Wee Willie Keeler be put aside?

“Ask Joe Kelley, or John McGraw, or others who played with Keeler and who remember his work.

“Keeler was one of the most scientific batsmen that ever chopped a timely single over third or first…And Keeler was also a great defensive outfielder, a fine ground coverer—a great thrower—a star in every department of play.

“Mike Kelly was a marvel, more of an all-around sensation, but those who watched the work of both figure Keeler on top.”

Rice said of the nine selections:

“The above is the verdict arrived at after discussions with managers, players and writers who have seen a big section of the long parade, and who are therefore able to compare the stars of today with the best men of forgotten years.

“Out of the thousands of fine players who have made up the roll call of the game since 1870 it would seem impossible to pick nine men and award them the olive wreath.  In several instances the margin among three or four is slight.

“But as far a s deductions, observations, records and opinions go, the cast named isn’t very far away from an all-time all-star round up, picked for ability, stamina, brains, aggressiveness and team value.

“If it doesn’t stick, just what name from above could you drop?”

Jennings “Hurled an Unmentionable Epithet at him”

2 Feb

In April of 1896, the reigning National League Champion Baltimore Orioles traveled to Petersburg, Virginia for a pair of exhibition games with the Petersburg Farmers of the Virginia League.

The Baltimore Sun noted that it had been a tough spring for the Orioles.  Third baseman John McGraw “the brainiest and pluckiest little infielder that ever trod a diamond,” was in an Atlanta hospital suffering from typhoid fever; he would miss most of the season.

Additionally, catcher William “Boileryard” Clarke was sent back to Baltimore with a sprained ankle, pitchers John “Sadie” McMahon and Arlie Pond had injured hands and both would be out for at least a week,  and shortstop Hughie Jennings was also slowed by a hand injury.

Hughie Jennings

Hughie Jennings

A light rain fell as the hobbled team arrived in Petersburg on the morning of April 6, the day of the first game—which ended in a 7 to 7 tie.  The Baltimore American said:

“Why the team did not trounce the Petersburgs is an open question, but whether it was because of the game on Saturday (in Richmond) or the rain, or the umpire, the Champions walked out of the gates with the humiliation of having made eight errors and feeling the added sting of having just escaped being beaten by a minor league team.”

Third-string catcher Frank Bowerman made two of Baltimore’s errors and had a passed ball.  He would be relegated to umpiring duties in the second game, scheduled for April 8.  On the seventh the Orioles defeated another Virginia League team, the Richmond Bluebirds, 4 to 3.

The American said the morning of April 8 “had been a pleasant one,” with local officials taking the Orioles for a tour of the Petersburg Civil War battlefield.  And, with the rain gone, “The warm sun put life into each club, and a pretty, snappy game was being put up by each side.”  Bowerman and Petersburg player Michael “Doc” Powers alternated as umpires for the game.

Doc Powers

Doc Powers

Petersburg was leading 1 to 0 in the seventh inning when Powers called Orioles third baseman Jim Donnelly out on strikes.  What happened next, and who was responsible, depended on whether you read the accounts in the Baltimore papers or those in Petersburg and the surrounding Virginia towns.

The Sun said:

“Several promising runs had been cut off by similar umpiring and the birds were getting very ‘sore’ at such outrages.  Donnelly objected and (Hugh) Jennings went up to Powers, who was standing behind the pitcher, and said something to him.  Just then (Charles) Sholta, who had also run up, struck Jennings a stinging blow on the side of the head without warning.  The blow drew blood.”

The American said:

“While Hughey was expostulating rather forcibly with Powers, Sholta struck him on the cheek.”

Charles Sholta--drawing from Richmond newspaper

Charles Sholta–drawing from Richmond newspaper

The Baltimore papers agreed that the punch Sholta threw was unprovoked.  Every Virginia newspaper disagreed.

The Petersburg Index-Appeal said, “Jennings resented Sholta’s interference by very foul and abusive language and was promptly struck in the face.”

Papers in Richmond, Roanoke and Norfolk agreed that Jennings provoked Sholta—The Virginia League correspondent for The Sporting Life said Jennings “hurled an unmentionable epithet at him—an epithet which does not go here.”

Everyone generally agreed with what happened next.  Orioles’ first baseman Jack Doyle punched Sholta, knocking him to the ground and Petersburg fans poured on the field and began attacking Doyle and other members of the Baltimore club.

At this point, there was more disagreement.  The Baltimore papers said Doyle was struck in the head from behind, knocked down and kicked by multiple fans.  While “Wee Willie” Keeler was allegedly “choked and beaten,” five other Orioles, Joe Kelley, Wilbert Robinson, Steve Brodie, Bowerman, and Jennings “were more or less beaten.”

The Orioles, according to The American were forced to flee the ballpark.

The Richmond Dispatch called the Baltimore accounts of the incident:

 “(S)o greatly exaggerated and so grotesquely inaccurate as to cause amazement, not to say indignation, here.  Not a man of the Baltimore team was hurt, and the grossly obscene language uttered by one of the Orioles on the park during the game, caused all of the trouble.”

After the Orioles returned to Petersburg’s Appomattox Hotel, another fight broke out between several members of the Orioles—including Brodie and Kelley—and local fans, one of whom was thrown through a glass door.   After the second fight, the Orioles were accompanied by police to the train depot and departed for Norfolk.

Arrest warrants were issued for Doyle, Kelley, and Brodie, but the three “left their team in Norfolk and (went) beyond the jurisdiction of the state courts.”  Only ten Orioles were available for the final exhibition game in Virginia, a 7 to 5 victory over the Norfolk Braves.

Jack Doyle

Jack Doyle

Sholta appeared in Petersburg’s “Mayor’s Court” along with two fans who said to have assaulted members of the Orioles.  All were released with no charges filed as a result of Doyle, Brodie and Kelley failing to appear—they were sought both as suspects and witnesses against the local defendants.

At the hearing, Petersburg’s Mayor Charles Fenton Collier said Sholta “had only acted as any other gentleman would have,” by hitting Jennings, and the mayor said he would have done the same “under similar circumstances.”

The Washington Times said the only thing unusual about the Orioles’ battle in Virginia was that it happened so early in the season:

“The Orioles are starting their rowdy tactics early.  Perhaps the champs think it just as necessary to train for ruffianly conduct as other points.  And to think that ‘college-bred’ Hughey Jennings started the riot.”

McGraw remained out of the lineup for most of the season—he did not return until August 25.  The fighting Orioles hit .328 as team—Jennings hit .401, Keeler .386 and Kelley .364—and went 90-39 cruising to their third straight National League Pennant.

“You can try to Refine and Civilize Baseball all you want”

21 Oct

In 1912, Joe Kelley, former player and manager (and future Hall of Famer) told William A. Phelon, sports editor of The Cincinnati Times-Star, a story about the lack of civility in baseball and a game Kelley claimed took place when he was with the Baltimore Orioles in the 1890s:

“You can try to refine and civilize baseball all you want and you can make a parlor game out of it by giving the umpires power of life and death, but you can’t kill off the players’ tongues unless you stun ‘em with an ax.

“Years and years ago, I well remember, two ball clubs tried to pull a polite and courteous ballgame, just to see how things would work.  The old Baltimores and the old Bostons (Beaneaters)—which were real ball clubs both of them—held a conference one afternoon.  There had been a lot of talk and newspaper criticism about rough house work and bad language—and we wanted to show the press and public that we could be good, decent people after all.  We agreed to try out the polished conversation and Golden Rule stuff for this one occasion, and Tim Hurst, who was slated to umpire, agreed to help the good work along.”

——

Joe Kelley

Joe Kelley

“The first half inning went by something lovely.  Even when Tim called a strike on Tom McCarthy that was a foot over his head, there was no outbreak.  Say Tom, very gently, ‘Wasn’t that ball a trifle high, Mr. Umpire?’  And says Tim, all courtesy, ‘I fear I may have erred in judgment, Mr. McCarthy.  Kindly overlook it, if you will.’ And in our half, when Jack Doyle went down to second in a cloud of dust, and Tim said ‘Out,’ Jack jumped up, and red in the face, yelled ‘What the —-‘ and caught himself in time.  ‘Pardon me,’ says Jack, ‘but I honestly thought that Mr. Long failed to touch me.’  And says Herman Long, equally polite, ‘I am under the impression that I did touch Mr. Doyle.

“And in the very next inning the blow-off came.  Three on and two gone with Hughey Jennings batting.  (Heinie) Reitz made a dash for home on what he thought was a passed ball.  The Boston catcher (Charlie Ganzel) recovered it, but as he dove for the putout, Jennings wandered against him and knocked him 10 feet away.  ‘Out fer interference,’ yelped Hurst—and then everybody arrived at the plate all in a bunch.

Tim Hurst

Tim Hurst

Kelley said there was a chaotic scene at home plate.  Reitz was screaming at Hurst while Jennings and Ganzel nearly came to blows:

“’Fer Moses sakes remember,’ I interposed, ‘that this is supposed to be a polite courteous game, just to show how well we can behave—‘ and somebody hit me across the map with a catching glove.

“’I can lick every wan av yez,’ howled Tim Hurst, and I’ll do it, too, if you’re not back in your places inside a half-minute.’

“’You’re a cheap crook,’ said John McGraw.

“’You’re all a bunch of yellow dogs,’ said Herman Long, addressing the whole Baltimore team, sort of impersonally.

“and when the police arrived the rules of etiquette had been fractured so badly I never heard of their being reinstated.  That was, I think, the first, last and only time that a courteous ball game was staged in big league company.”

 

“Hanlon Springs a Surprise on the Baseball Public”

14 Jan

Albert Joseph “Smiling Al” Maul’s best days seemed well behind him by 1898.  The 32-year-old Maul had posted a 16-12 record for the Pittsburgh Burghers in the Players League in 1890, but after returning to the National League the following season he had gone 39-44 through 1897.

Baltimore Orioles manager Ned Hanlon signed Maul after he was released by the Washington Senators in 1897.  The results were not good; in two games Maul gave up 9 hits and walked 8, posting a 7.04 ERA.  Baltimore released him at the end of the season and there were no takers for Maul at the beginning of 1898.

Ned Hanlon

Ned Hanlon

By June of 1898 The Baltimore Morning Herald said:

“For some time (Hanlon) has been hinting to his friends that he had something up his sleeve in the way of twirling talent that would surprise the natives, but when he let fall Al Maul’s name he was met with a chorus of merry ha-has.”

But by June Hanlon’s “surprise” was no longer met with laughter.

On June 5, The Sunday Herald headline said:

“Hanlon springs a surprise on the baseball world.”

Maul had shut out the Saint Louis Browns on three hits in his first start for Baltimore.

Al Maul

Al Maul

The Herald cautioned that “it’s too early to say that Maul is all right,” but all season he successfully filled the gap in Baltimore’s rotation caused by Joe Corbett’s holdout.

The New York World said Maul was:

“The most remarkable case on record of a restored glass arm.”

Maul’s comeback season became a sensation.  John Clarkson, who had not appeared in a game since 1894, told The Bay City (MI) Tribune he was serious about making his own comeback:

“I might be a second Al Maul, who can tell?”

Clarkson’s comeback never materialized, but Maul’s success continued all summer.

The Sporting Life credited Hanlon for his pitcher’s success:

“Al Maul’s experience this season is only another confirmation of the claim that Ned Hanlon can take any old thing and get good results from, it for a year or so.”

Maul finished the season with a 20-7 record and a 2.10 ERA, and Hanlon had high hopes for his pitcher the next season.  Maul, along with “Wee Willie” Keeler, Hughie Jennings and Joe Kelley moved to the Brooklyn Superbas as part of the stock swap between the Baltimore and Brooklyn franchises that led to Hanlon’s move to Brooklyn.

But the pitcher who won 20 games two years after his career was “over” was out of surprises.  After four games with Brooklyn in 1898, Hanlon released Maul.  Brief stints with the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Giants failed to rekindle the magic and Maul’s career came to an end after his release by the Giants in September of 1901.

Maul went on to coach baseball at Lehigh University and scouted for several years for the Philadelphia Athletics.  He died in 1958 at age 92.

Brother Joe Comes Back

30 Nov

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

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

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

Joe Corbett

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

Ned Hanlon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gentleman Jim

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

The final chapter of the Corbett story on Monday.

A Really Bad Idea II

23 Oct

Last week I told you about Chicago Colts President Al Hart’s connection with the proposed rule to change the shape of the diamond.  He wasn’t the only baseball pioneer who considered adopting rule changes which would have completely changed the game.

William Henry “Harry” Wright, called by many “The Father of Baseball,” was among the most respected figures of baseball’s first two decades.  The Philadelphia Record described his importance:

 “Harry Wright has done more than any other man to bring baseball to its present high standing.”

Wright’s story has been told many times and in many places.  This lesser known story focuses on two rules changes he championed.

Harry Wright

After the 1893 season Wright’s contract was not renewed as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies he accepted the position of “Chief of Umpires” of the National League.  The Philadelphia Record reported on a number of rule changes he advocated, including this:

 “Harry Wright thinks that players should not be allowed to question an umpire’s decision during the progress of a game, or to speak to him while the ball is in play, and that he should have the power of taking out of the contest any player (or manager) who breaks the rule.”

While not necessarily a bad idea, if adopted Wright’s idea would have drastically changed the game for several generations of famous umpire baiters.

One other rule change Wright promoted, as reported by The Sporting Life, would certainly have been a bad idea:

 “(A)llowing a base runner to run on a fly ball instead of returning and registering at the base.”

While Wright’s idea never was seriously considered for incorporation into the rule book, it had advocates as late as 1899, four years after his death.

Washington Senators Manager Arthur Irwin endorsed the rule with this colorful description:

 “Uncertainty is the life of the game, and the more uncertain the uncertainty the higher does the interest key itself…for instance (John) McGraw, one of the most daring base runners in the league Is on first base with two men out, and a run needed to win the game (Wilbert) Robinson follows with a fly to center field, and at the stroke of the bat away scuds Mac. His get-away is the cue that brings the spectators to their feet.  ‘Will he score?  Can (Joe) Kelley field that ball home to cut him off at the plate?’ Around the runway fly the twinkling feet of the little Napoleon of the Orioles.   It’s a chase of life and death between Mac and the ball. Kelley swings the sphere on two bounds to Duke Farrell at the plate.  Mac slides into the rubber, and beats the throw by an abbreviated whisker.

“Can you imagine a more intense climax to a game of ball? Why, the game would be full of such play if the idea of running on a fly ball became a rule.  It would increase the base running, produce more plays in the field, and keep the outfielders almost as busy as the inner circle, when the bases were occupied.”

Of course Irwin failed to consider the scenario where the winning run is on third base and scores on a routine fly ball with two outs.

Arthur Irwin