Tag Archives: Joe Quest

“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.

Alternate Uniforms, Circa 1879

14 Feb

On the eve of the 1879 season The Chicago Times endorsed an innovation about to be introduced by the Chicago White Stockings:

“The management of the Chicago Club has very wisely decided that the skinny white uniform with tips of blue, in which it has dressed its men from time immemorial, is not the best of its kind; that good taste dictates higher colors for the field, something that will bring out, instead of dwarfing the muscular development of its wearer.  The result of the consultations over the matter has been the adoption of something which has merit of novelty about it, at least, and, at the first blush, there seems to be no reason why it should not produce a pretty effect on the field.”

The Times noted that three years earlier, the White Stockings had worn individually colored caps in order to make it either for fans to identify the players.  The move “for some unknown reason was discarded” at the end of the 1876 season.

“The present change is in the same line, except that it goes further and applies the principle to the entire uniform.  The customary white flannel will be used for the body of the dress.  In this respect they will all be alike; but each man will be furnished with an individual color to finish it with, including cap, neck-tie, belt and a band some three inches wide around the thickest part of the calf.  The colors have been selected, and Spalding Bros. are now at work upon the uniforms.”

The 1879 Chicago roster by color:

Silver Flint:  Blue

Terry Larkin: Brown

“Cap” Anson: Grey

Joe Quest: Black and yellow

John Peters: Green

Frank Hankinson: Scarlet

Abner Dalrymple: White

George “Orator” Shafer: Red and black

George Gore: Blue and white

Bill Harbridge: Red and white

Frank Hankinson--wore scarlet in 1879

Frank Hankinson–wore scarlet in 1879

The move was taunted in at least one National League city–The Syracuse Courier derisively referred to the team as the “Chicago Rainbows.”

The Times said “Cap” Anson was in favor of the new uniforms and “says there’s luck in it.”

The paper agreed with Anson’s assessment:

“The individual caps won in 1876.  Since then they have been discarded, and Chicago hasn’t been able to win anything.”

Anson’s “luck” didn’t hold in 1879.  The White Stockings were in first place from Opening Day until August 1, then Anson became ill in July and eventually left the team which went 5-12  the rest of the season under Silver Flint, and finished in fourth place.

The uniforms disappeared and Anson returned for the 1880 season. When the team took the field for the opener The Chicago Tribune said:

“The Chicagos appeared for the first time in their regular League uniform for this year, with all-white stockings that are a marked improvement over the many-colored rings of last year.”

The 1880 White Stockings

The 1880 White Stockings “with all-white stockings”

Em Gross

5 Feb

Emil Michael “Em” Gross was one of the best hitting (.295) and worst fielding (233 errors) catchers of the 19th Century during five major league seasons between 1879 and 1884.  The Chicago Tribune’s Hugh Fullerton, no stranger to hyperbole, called Gross “perhaps the heaviest hitting catcher that ever donned a glove.”

Em Gross

Em Gross

Gross, a Chicago native, didn’t need baseball in order to earn a living.  In 1884, when he played with his hometown team, the Browns,  in the Union Association (the team relocated to Pittsburgh in August), The Chicago Daily News said he “owns $50,000 worth of real estate in Chicago.”

Gross’ professional career came to an end after the 1884 season, but he played one more year for a Chicago semi-pro team called the Heavyweights.  The Tribune said of the team:

“While they do not count a man who weighs less than 200 pounds, they have some great baseball talent.”

Fullerton is responsible for the story that was most often told about Gross’ career in the years before his death in 1921.

Like many of Fullerton’s stories, the first telling appeared more than a decade after the fact and contained vague details,  little corroboration and was likely apocryphal.

This one made its first appearance in a Fullerton column in 1907.  He said Gross’ biggest weakness “was in catching foul flies.  He tried for everything in sight, ran circles around the ball and sometimes speared it, but he never felt at ease when one of those tall, twisting fouls went up.”

The columnist claimed the story was “vouched for by two old ballplayers who watched it come off:”

“(Gross) was catching in Providence one day when a Philadelphia batter poked up a fly that looked 50 feet high.  There was a wind blowing and the ball began to twist around in circles, with Em doing a merry-go-rounder under it.  Finally, seeing that it was escaping he made a desperate effort to turn quickly and fell flat on his back.  To his amazement he discovered that, for perhaps the first time in his career, he was under the ball which was descending like a shot straight toward his nose.

“Instinctively he threw up his feet and hands to protect his face.  The ball struck the sole of his shoe, bounded up into the air, and, as it fell again, Em reached out and caught it.

“And the next morning the Providence papers had the nerve to say he did it on purpose.”

A cartoon which appeared with the 1914 retelling of the Gross story

A cartoon which appeared with the 1914 retelling of the Gross story

Fullerton continued to retell the story, with minor alterations, after he left The Tribune to join The Chicago Record-Herald, then The Chicago Examiner and The Tribune repeated the story several times over the years, with no byline, as well.

Gross was an important man in Chicago during the years Fullerton’s story circulated.  He owned several properties in the city, including two hotels, and his nephew, Fred A. Busse, was mayor of Chicago from 1907-1911.

Mayor Fred Busse

Mayor Fred Busse

Gross was known to help former baseball players in need; The Examiner called him “a refuge in time of trouble for all the old timers.”  When it was reported in 1907 that Joe Quest, a former National League, and American Association infielder, was “near death” from  tuberculosis in Georgia, he was living on, and managing a plantation owned by Gross—Quest survived and lived until 1924.

Joe Quest

Joe Quest

Gross told a story to Fullerton, then at The Examiner, about his attempt to help another player, William Henry “Bollicky Bill” Taylor during the 1890s.

“Taylor made an entre into Chicago without cash or credit and immediately swarmed upon Em and renewed old friendships. That was in November and along about midnight Em made the discovery that his friend had no money nor any place to sleep.  So he wrote a note to the manager of his hotels saying, ‘Take care of my friend Mr. Taylor, and give him what he needs.’  Em didn’t see ‘Bollicky’ again, but early in March his manager called him in the phone and inquired; ‘Say, how long do you want me to take care of your friend?’

“’What friend ‘inquired Em, who had forgotten all about it.

“Why the fellow you sent here with a note.’

“’Bollicky’ had wintered there and kept out of the path of his host, and when Em got through laughing, he ‘phoned back:

“Keep him as long as he has the nerve to stay.”

Gross never confirmed whether or not he made the catch Fullerton claimed he did.  He died in Eagle River, Wisconsin in 1921.

Chicago’s Lakefront Park 1878–The First Game

23 May

The Chicago White Stockings left Twenty-Third Street Park and relocated to Lake Front Park near the corner of Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street.  The old Union Baseball Grounds had stood at the same spot, but was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1871.

Lakefront Park

Lakefront Park

The ballpark opened on May 14, 1878 with a 3:45 pm “game between the Indianapolis nine (Blues) and the home nine.”  The Chicago Inter Ocean said:

“Although the day was very chilly and exceedingly unpleasant for out-door sports, fully 2,500 people assembled to witness the game and listen to a very ‘queer’ band, provided by President (William) Hulbert to officiate at the opening and funeral services of his white-hosed boys.”

——

“The game was not particularly interesting except from the fact that from the first inning until the twenty-seventh man had been retired it was extremely doubtful which club would win.  The play of (Joe) Quest of the Indianapolis (sic) was by far the most brilliant of the game.  He covered the position of second base with greater ease and accuracy than any player that has been seen for many a day.  He won the game for his club by a very clever double play in the ninth inning.  The game stood 3 to 5 in favor of Indianapolis with one man out and all the bases full.  (Jimmy) Hallinan came to the bat and hit a high ball to the right of second base which Quest succeeded in catching, and by very fast running reached the base before (Terry) Larkin

Edward “The Only” Nolan got the victory for Indianapolis but “did not particularly distinguish himself in the field,” making three errors.

Of the White Stockings, The Inter Ocean said:

(Frank) Hankinson played third without an error, and received very (sic) deserved applause for a number of excellent plays.  Hallinan was brilliant in the left field, and (Cap) Anson was remarkably stupid at second.”

None of the newspaper accounts of the game elaborated on Anson’s play at second.

The Inter Ocean did elaborate on Hulbert’s band:

“(T)he dismal music furnished by the band appeared to affect almost to tears the Chicago ball-players.  Another game will be played tomorrow afternoon at the same hour, and a far different result is expected.  There will be no band.”

The Box Score

The Box Score

The White Stockings would go on to win three straight National League Championships 1880-82) at Lakefront Park (sometimes referred to as Lakeshore Park).  The ballpark was expanded after the 1882 season and remained the White Stockings’ home until they moved to West Side Park in 1885.