Tag Archives: John McGraw

The Trial of Bugs Raymond

15 Sep

John McGraw, when reminiscing about his “thirty years in baseball” for a series of articles syndicated by The North American Newspaper Alliance in 1923, called Arthur “Bugs” Raymond, “one of the greatest natural pitchers who ever lived.”

Bugs

He recalled the first time Chief Myers caught Raymond:

“’Say Mc,’ (he said), ‘that fellow can do more tricks with a baseball than any man in the world.’”

McGraw said, “Raymond’s long suit” was the spit ball and, “He could make that ball do the querist of stunts and never did he hesitate to pull one of these tricks when the team was in a hole.”

McGraw blamed Raymond’s “fondness for companionship” for continually leading him astray, no matter how many times he pledged to stop drinking. Even when McGraw tried to keep people from loaning Raymond money, the pitcher would always find a way to get some and continue drinking.

On one occasion, with his starter struggling on the mound, McGraw sent the bat boy to the bullpen to get Raymond. Not being able to locate him, the team’s trainer then looked and eventually found Raymond drinking in a nearby tavern:

“He had taken the new ball that I had given him for warming up and had sold it to the saloon keeper.”

McGraw told his version of the story of what happened after Raymond took the “Keeley Cure” in Dwight, Illinois in an attempt to quit drinking before the 1911 season:

“Bugs was very proud of his term in the Keeley Institute. He even wore a class button and very proudly exhibited an album with photographs and other souvenirs of his schoolmates.”

As the papers in New York were filled with stories of Raymond’s “wonderful reform “while the club trained in Texas, McGraw was seeing “ominous signs.”

The team stayed in the Oriental Hotel on a trip to Dallas where “they always served cocktails,” with Sunday night dinner service.:

“Knowing the head steward, Bugs decided to visit him. He left the dining room and started to the kitchen. As he stepped through the swinging doors his eye lighted on the long rows of cocktails—hundreds of them all lined in rows. Promptly, Raymond started right down the first row, drinking one after another until he had consumed more than a dozen.”

McGraw had a detective follow Raymond for the next 24 hours—while papers continued to report on his “reform.” The Giants manager questioned the pitcher who denied drinking. McGraw said he faced a “dilemma:”

“I didn’t know whether to denounce him to the newspaper men who had tried so hard to help him, or to make one more attempt to bring about reform.”

McGraw

McGraw said he never knew a newspaper reporter who would “violate a confidence” and enlisted them to serve as a mock jury in a “trial: of the pitcher:

The jury was a who’s who of legendary New York baseball writers: Sam Crane, Sid Mercer, Boseman Bulger, Damon Runyon, and Charles Van Loan, “and one or two of the younger writers,” whose names the manager could no longer recall:

“Gentlemen, I have called upon you to sit as a jury on this man. He has promised all of you not drink and you have given him every help. You have praised him in the papers. He has violated that faith. He’s a big bum that’s laid down on his friends.”

McGraw presented the evidence and asked the reporters to decide whether to share it with their readers or to give Raymond another chance:

McGraw read the detective report to the assembled jury, in a back room the Turf Exchange bar in Dallas, Raymond “drank seven glasses of beer, ate a handful of pretzels, and two Bermuda onion,” on to the nearby Knight Saloon, Raymond had “drank nine glasses of beer, ate more pretzels, and two or three more onions.”

Raymond called the report “a dammed lie.”

His defense:

“Mac, of course I might’ve had a couple dozen glasses of beer, but I’m telling you it’s a lie—I ain’t eat an onion in seven months.”

In sympathy, the jury unanimously decided to give Raymond one more chance and not report his tumble from the wagon. Raymond, of course, vowed to stop drinking.

McGraw’s ploy bought him a stretch of several weeks when Raymond “partially straightened up,” unfortunately, like every other last chance Raymond was given, he eventually relapsed.

Raymond died less than 18 months after McGraw’s mock trial.  

“Brain Counts More Than Slugging”

6 Sep

Amos Rusie’s return to the Seattle area to purchase a farm in 1929 made his briefly as interesting to West Coast baseball writers and his arrival at the Polo Grounds eight years earlier had briefly made his reminiscences of great interest to the New York scribes.

There is some disagreement about whether Rusie enjoyed his time in New York. What’s certain is his eight years caused him to retract his opinion from 1921 that the game had not substantially changed.

Rusie

When he arrived in Washington, The Associated Press asked the former pitcher/ballpark superintendent turned farmer for his views on the game and  to select his all-time team.

Rusie said he couldn’t understand how modern pitchers “don’t pitch to sluggers,” enough:

“None of the pitchers in my day were afraid to pitch to the best of them. You didn’t find us walking the slugger almost every time he came to bat, as they do nowadays. We figured we would either make him hit the ball or sit down. That’s what he was up there for.”

Rusie said “brain counts more than slugging,” and selected an all-time team that included just one (barely)  active player:

Pitchers: Christy Mathewson, Kid Nichols, Cy Young

Catchers: Buck Ewing, Roger Bresnahan, John Kling

First base: Dan Brouthers, Fred Tenney

Second base: Napoleon Lajoie, Eddie Collins

Third base: Jimmy Collins, John McGraw

Shortstop: Honus Wagner, Hughie Jennings

Left field: Ed Delahanty, Joe Kelley

Center field: Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker

Right Field: Willie Keeler, Fred Clarke

Eddie Collins appeared in just nine games in 1929 and three in 1930 while coaching for the Athletics. Babe Ruth, who made such an impression on Rusie when eight years earlier he watched major league baseball for the first time in two decades, didn’t make the cut.

“The Fastest Curve Ball Extent”

1 Sep

In 1921, John McGraw secured employment for Amos Rusie at the Polo Grounds; most current biographies of the “Hoosier Thunderbolt” say he first served as a night watchman and later became the superintendent of grounds at the ballpark—contemporaneous accounts said he was hired as assistant to superintendent Arthur Bell.

The suggestion that the job was an act of charity by McGraw was questioned by some of Rusie’s friends. John Crusinberry of The Chicago Tribune said when rumors had circulated in late 1920 that the former pitcher was destitute in Seattle, his former teammate Jack Doyle, then scouting for the Chicago Cubs, sought out his former teammate on a West Coast trip:

“But it wasn’t a tired and worn laborer who called. It was Mr. Amos Rusie, prominent in the business, social, and political life of Seattle.”

Crusinberry told his readers, Rusie owned a car and a home and was not simply a gas fitter, but rather the “superintendent of the municipal gas works of the city.”

His first day on the job in New York was the first time he had seen a major league game since 1900—the Yankees beat the Tigers 7 to 3.  William Blythe Hanna of The New York Herald talked to the man with, “speed like Walter Johnson’s and the fastest curve ball extent,” a couple of days later.

Ruse at Polo Grounds, 1921

Miller Huggins, the manager of the Yankees said he handed Rusie a baseball when the former pitcher arrived that first day:

“’So, that’s the lively ball?’ Said Amos. ‘Well, it feels to me exactly like the ball I used to pitch in the nineties. If it’s any livelier I have no means of telling it, so I’ll have to take you work for it.”

Rusie grips the “lively” ball

Rusie said even the ball in the 1890s made it “hard enough then to keep the other fellows from making hits,” and as for his legendary speed:

“My speed?’ added the big fellow, diffidently, ‘Oh, I dunno. They said I had a lot of it.’

“’They also say nobody ever had as fast a curve ball as you.’

“’Yes, they said that when I was pitching, but it isn’t for me to say.”

Back to the difference, or lack thereof from his perspective—between the current ball and ball of the nineties, the 50-year-old said he wouldn’t be able to tell by trying to throw one:

“I couldn’t do anything with a baseball now. It’s been a good while since I could. Arm’s gone.”

Rusie was a rarity among veterans of his era—he didn’t insist that the players and the game of his era was superior:

“I can’t see much difference in the game now and then, either. They’re doing what we did, the hit and run and the bunt and all that. Maybe outfielders play back farther now. You know we didn’t have the foul strike rule, and that made it harder on the pitchers. They had to pitch more balls.”

 To a reporter from The Associated Press, Rusie conceded some things had changed:

“In the old days the Polo Ground’s stands were wooden affairs, not nearly so large as the steal ones now. The ‘L’ trains were drawn by steam engines then, and there weren’t any subways. Instead, if taxicabs, the sports used Hansom cabs. But—it’s the same old game.”

More Friday

“The Sinister Scout of the New York Giants”

19 May

Damon Runyon took credit for tagging John McGraw’s favorite scout, Dick Kinsella with the nickname “Sinister Dick.” Runyon said in his column for the Hearst Newspapers in 1930 that the sobriquet might not make sense any longer:

“The nickname is perhaps misleading. You look for a dour fellow of wicked aspect—a piratical-appearing bloke with perhaps a cutlass between his teeth. Instead, you see a well-dressed, quiet man, deep in his fifties, with kind eyes wrinkled by smiles…Well, twenty years back the man from Springfield (IL) was indeed a sinister looking chappy. He had beetling black brows, and a fierce black mouser, or mustachio, which gave him a positively violent appearance.”

“Sinister Dick” Kinsella

McGraw told Runyon:

“It isn’t the fellows he sends to me that makes him great. It’s the ones he keeps me from buying. He saves my ballclub a lot of money every year by keeping me off the dead ones.”

Kinsella had spent more than 20 years scouting for McGraw, though Runyon said:

 “(H)e used to retire at frequent intervals. So often, in fact, that you never could tell when he was officially a scout or just a businessman.”

Damon Runyon

In addition to providing his nickname, Runyon was also responsible for a story about how Kinsella supposedly missed signing Edd Roush for the Giants in 1912, when Roush was playing in the Kitty League.  The earliest version of the story appeared in Runyon’s column in The New York American in 1913, with a more complete version appearing in 1916:

“One broiling hot summer day a couple of years ago a sinister looking man arrived in the town of Evansville, Indiana. This sinister looking man was of somber aspect. His hair was a sinister black. His sinister eyebrows hung heavy above a glowering, sinister glare. He wore sinister city clothes, and there was a sinister bulge to his coat just above the right hip.

“With sinister deportment, he accosted a citizen of the town of Evansville and made inquiry of him with sinister significance in his voice.

“’Where’s the ball orchard?’ demanded Sinister Dick Kinsella for it was none other than the sinister scout of the New York Giants, as you doubtless have already divined from the sinister import of this narrative.”

According to Runyon, Kinsella went for a haircut after watching that day’s game and said to the barber:

“That’s a right likely looking outfielder that fellow Roush,’ suggested Sinister Dick. ‘Hits good, and can go fetch ‘em, but don’t throw much, hey? Bad arm hey?’

“’Well, I’ll tell you about that stranger,’ said the barber, pausing in his operations and assuming the attitude of a man about to impart grave news. ‘He used to have as good a throwin’ arm as anybody you ever see, but he hurt that arm and he’s been learnin’ hisself to throw with the other arm.”

With that, said Runyon, “a sinister train bore Sinister Dick on his sinister way” out of town, while a scout for the White Sox, Ted Sullivan, “Purchased Roush for $4000 [sic, $3,000]”

Kinsella left the Giants after the 1930 season, John B. Foster of The New York Sun suggested that an instance of the scout not saving money for McGraw’s ballclub might have led to his departure. In 1927 Kinsella had signed pitcher Bill Walker for $25,000. After Walker finished 1930, 17-15 with a 3.93 ERA and Kinsella had departed, Foster wrote:

“The failure of Walker to succeed may be one of the reasons why Dick Kinsella failed to remain with the New York club as a scout, because a large outlay was made for Walker.”

“Byron has our Players Feeling Like a lot of Spanked Kids”

23 Apr

Bill Byron resigned as a National League umpire after the 1919 season but “The singing umpire” couldn’t stay away.

He accepted a position with the Pacific Coast League (PCL) for 1920. The (Portland) Oregon Daily Journal said he was the only umpire in the PCL who did not have a reserve clause in his contract.

Byron was partnered with another former National League umpires, Mal Eason. The Los Angeles Evening Express said:

“This pair throws players out of the game on the least provocation.”

Byron

Byron cemented his reputation for throwing out players shortly after joining the PCL.

The Los Angeles Examiner said after he ejected five players during a May game between the Vernon Tigers and the Sacramento Senators:

“Byron, according to all accounts, is rapidly approaching that stage of popularity with everybody that caused him to be dropped from the National league.”

While his exit from the National League appears to have been voluntarily, The Sporting News later made the same claim The Examiner did, telling readers the umpire’s “chip in shoulder attitude caused his dismissal from the National staff.”

In September, Byron called Lu Blue of the Portland Beavers out at the plate on a play that would have tied the score in an eventual 1-0 loss to the Seals:

Blue

The San Francisco Examiner said Blue grabbed Byron, the umpire broke away and punched Blue in the nose, then:

“Lu hit Bill with a left hook and by that time every ball player, ‘copper,’ and umpire in the league were mixed up in one grand shoving contest.”

Blue got to Byron again and punched him in the eye. After that, Portland’s Dick Cox, “grabbed the ump around the neck and dragged him halfway around the park, while Bill’s nose proceeded to pick up stray hunks of pop bottles and rocks.”

Blue was fined $100 and suspended for a week, Cox managed to escape with neither.

Portland manager Judge McCredie was said to be “chafing under” Blue’s suspension, telling The Oregonian Blue acted in self-defense and that Byron should have been punished as well.

A month after the incident, Seals pitcher Sam Lewis yelled to the Byron:

“Hey, Bill, I know you are the king of umpires, for I saw Lu Blue of the Portland club crown you.

The Oregonian concluded:

“Even Byron had to laugh.”

When he was retained by the league for the 1921 season, The Evening Express said:

“Byron had an opportunity to return to the National League but preferred to remain on the Coast.

“Important if true.

“If true, it is too bad he didn’t accept (National League President) John Heydler’s offer.”

Byron was no less controversial his second year on the West Coast. In May, Oakland Oaks third baseman, and future National League umpire, Babe Pirelli knocked him down “with a blow over the eye,” after he ejected Pinelli for disputing a call.

Most of the players and fans–including one famous fan, actor Al Jolson–told The Oakland Tribune that Byron threw the first punch:

“Al wired President McCarthy of the Coast League at once, declaring that the umpire and not the player was to blame.”

Pinelli missed several games with an injured hand but was never officially suspended and was fined $50 by McCarthy who said, “he didn’t place all the blame,” on the player for the incident.

Shortly after the incident with Pinelli, Byron drew the ire of San Francisco fans for indecision on a ball hit by Morrie Schick of the Seals in a game against Oakland. Jack James of The Examiner described the play:

“He looked up. It wasn’t there.

He looked down. It wasn’t there.

He looked at both sides. It wasn’t there.

“He decided to call in an expert for advice.

‘”Where did it go?’ says to the Oakland third baseman a Mister White, temporarily taking the place of Mr. Pinelli, who recently assaulted Mister Byron, they do say, with cause.

“’Foul!’ Says Mr. White.

‘”Foul it is then,’ says Mr. Byron.”

Despite that call in their favor, the Oakland management—J. Cal Ewing and Del Howard—sent a letter to McCarty, asking the league president to not assign the umpire to Oakland games:

“Byron has our players feeling like a lot of spanked kids who are afraid to make a false move or stand up for their rights for fear that will get tossed out of the ball game and then be further punished by having a fine slapped on them.”

The request was ignored.

Soon after, Byron attempted to pull the trick he once pulled on John McGraw on San Francisco Seals manager Charlie Graham—pulling out his watch and giving his a minute to leave the field after an ejection.  Graham, said The Sacramento Bee:

“Graham grabbed the time piece from the indicator man…Byron tried to to wrench his watch from Graham’s hand but he could not do so. The crowd gathered around and finally Graham gave the ‘umps’ back his watch and left the field.”

Graham drew a five-game suspension and $50 fine.

Within days, Los Angeles Angels manager Wade Killefer was fined $50 and suspended for five games, and two of his players—George Lyons and Red Baldwin–were fined and suspended. Baldwin was ejected and given “thirty seconds” to leave the field, Killefer and the rest of the Angels came out on the field and “surrounded” the umpire, who promptly “declared the game forfeited” to the Seattle Rainers:

The San Francisco Chronicle said:

“Byron should demand a commission, for he fines more players than all of the other umpires combined.”

After Byron’s active first half of the season, The Express noted on August 1:

“Bill Byron didn’t suspend anyone yesterday.”

Byron’s reputation was such, that The San Francisco Examiner headlined a story about a riot involving players, umpires, and fans at an International League in Buffalo that resulted player arrests:

“Here’s one that Bill Byron Missed”

The Chronicle referred to him and partner Jake Croter as “the demon umpires.”

The Los Angeles Record said, “the much-abused umpire” had also taking up singing on the field again:

“When a player protests a called strike too vehemently, Bill will drone in a sing-sing voice:

‘”Can’t hit the ball with the bat on your shoulder; can’t hit the ball with the bat on your shoulder!’

“And when a player tells Bill things that Bill doesn’t think he is paid to hear, Bill grabs the whiskbroom and starts dusting the plate to the accompaniment of:

“’Some one’s going to the clubhouse; some one IS going to the club house!’”

Not everyone thought Byron was bad for the league. Carl “Boots” Weber” spent more than 30 years in the front office with the Los Angeles Angels and later served as treasurer for the Chicago Cubs. Shortly after Byron’s dust up with manager Wade Killefer and the two Angles players, The Los Angeles Examiner recounted a conversation between Weber and Byron:

“You’re an absolute attraction,’ Weber told Byron, ‘and I’m for you. You help to draw the people through the gate.’

“’Yes, and I help draw them on me,’ replied Byron.

“that’s just the point,’ enthused Weber. ‘Keep them on you. The more they get on you the more they will come out to see you, and that, after all, is the first and main consideration.”’

Byron, not particularly wisely, might have taken Weber’s comment to heart. In mid-August, The Bee said the umpire endured a “pop bottle shower” after making a call at the plate that cost the Beavers the tying run in a game with the Sacramento Senators:

“Senatorial ball players say that Bill Byron showed a lot of courage…it is said he never retreated an inch, nor did he look toward the stand from where the barrage was coming. Bill walked up and down the line never flinching…There was a little too much courage in the umpire’s manner according to the players, who say if one of the bottles had hit Bill on the head, he might have been through for the season, and perhaps forever.”

The Bee also reported that after the bottle throwing incident, a rookie pitcher named Carroll Canfield was told by his teammates to “tell Bill” that an opposing player missed first base.  The paper said the players meant Canfield to tell manage Bill Rodgers; the 18-year-old instead approached Byron:

“(Canfield) in a meek way, went out and told the umpire about the runner missing the sack.

“’You get back to that bench kid,’ roared Bill, ‘and watch those other fellows play for a coupe of years more before you ever come out and talk to me.”

Despite two seasons of controversy, PCL President William H. McCarthy enthusiastically retained him for the 1922 season, telling The Associated Press:

“Byron is as good an umpire as there is in baseball and the Coast League is fortunate to have him numbered among its list of officials.”

The Singing Umpire didn’t make it through the first week of the 1922 season before being pelted with pop bottles. During the April 15 game between the Oaks and the Seals, The Oakland Tribune said Byron called Dee Walsh of the Seals out on a close play at third base in the 10th inning; then reversed himself and ruled Walsh safe, “after a flock of Seals charged him from the dugout.”

The paper called what happened next, the biggest baseball riot witnessed here since the days at old Freeman’s park,” which the Oaks vacated nearly a decade earlier. After changing the call, Byron was showered with bottles and “surrounded” by Oaks players.  Calm was restored and Walsh scored on a sacrifice fly.

When the Oaks came to bat in the bottom of the tenth, Byron ejected Oakland’s Ray Brubaker and Ray Kremer who were heckling him from the dugout; the ejections resulted in another round of bottles throw at the umpire. When the final Oaks batter was retired:

“(F)ans dashed from the stands as a flock of gray-coated policemen sought to give Byron protection. Pop bottles and cushions were heaved through the mob and the dressing room was wrecked by the angered fans.”

He continued ejecting players at a clip that caused The San Francisco Examiner to say after a June game between the Seals and Oaks:

“Umpire Bill Byron gave the crowd a little taste of the unusual when he failed to prescribe an early afternoon shower for a single player. This was without doubt, the most notable feature of the game.”

Late in the 1922 season, he stopped what could have been an ugly incident and received unusual praise in The Los Angels Times. During the September 30 game between the Vernon Tigers and Seattle Indians, Vernon pitcher Jakie May hit Seattle third baseman Tex Wisterzil with a pitch, for the second time in the game, this one struck the batter behind the right ear:

“Tex was plainly out of patience, and started for the box in a brisk walk, bat in hand. Jakie awaited the impending onslaught with folded arms, fearless, dignified, and Napoleonic. Just when everybody expected the spark to be struck with the bat which would inflame the whole world, Bill Byron, the great pacifier, made a flying tackle from the rear and nailed Wisterzil’s elbows to his floating ribs. Thus, crisis was averted.”

The dinal Byron chapter, Monday

“A Good Plumber’s Helper but an Inferior Umpire”

21 Apr

Edward F. Ballinger of The Pittsburgh Post described Bill Byron thusly:

“(He) is looked upon among the players as the man who rendered more peculiar decisions than any other official in diamond history.”

Honus Wagner singled out Byron for rendering “the worst decision I ever saw.”

Wagner included the incident in his 1924 series of articles about his career for The North American Newspaper Alliance. He said he was stealing third in a game against the Giants:

“The catcher threw the ball into my feet making it impossible for Devlin—I think it was Devlin— [Note: It was Milt Stock] to pick it up. We both got in a tangle as I slid through a cloud of dust. The ball was bound under my arm where nobody could find it.”

Byron

While the Giants looked for the ball, Wagner headed towards the plate:

“About ten feet from home the ball dropped on the baseline. Now here’s where McGraw got in his fine work. He rushed up to umpire Byron, who had run down to third base to make the decision and told him I carried the ball to the bench in my hand.

“’If you don’t believe it, go to the bench and make them give it to you,’ he urged Byron.

“About this time McGraw’s attention was called to the ball lying on the base path.”

McGraw then told Byron, “That proves it. See! Wagner just rolled it out.”

Wagner said a confused Byron called him out for, “Carrying the ball to the bench with your hand.”

Wagner’s recollection was a bit faulty, in addition to forgetting who was playing third base. The incident happened on July 17, 1914, during the sixth inning of what would turn out to be a 21-inning 3 to 1 victory for the Giants. The game was, to that point, baseball’s longest game and both pitchers, Babe Adams and Rube Marquard pitched complete games.

As for the play, Wagner was not attempting to steal; he was advancing to third from first on a hit by Jim Viox and the throw came from center fielder Bob Bescher.

Contemporaneous accounts in The Pittsburgh Press, The Dispatch, and The Post all said that when the ball fell from Wagner’s uniform, it was immediately picked up by Marquard who threw to third trying to retire Viox who was called safe, rather than Wagner’s version where McGraw called Byron’s attention to the ball.

McGraw, said The Press, came out on the field at that point, “and told Byron Wagner was out.” The umpire agreed and also sent Viox back to second The Post said:

“The Pirates gathered around the umpire and raised a hubbub. (Fred) Clarke read the riot act and was motioned off the lot by umpire Byron.”

Pittsburgh protested the game, but Byron’s ruling was upheld.

Fred Mitchell, manager of the Cubs, was also not a Byron fan, and told Billy Evans in 1920:

“He hasn’t improved much since the summer (1917) he gave a decision that cost me $100 and the game. We were playing in St. Louis and big Mule (Milt) Watson was on the rubber. Art Wilson was at the plate. Watson, as he started to pitch, stubbed his toe and in trying to hold back on the ball threw it wildly and hit Wilson in the back of the neck. Byron would not let him take his base, saying it was a slow ball. I protested and consequently was chased and later fined $100.”

Mitchell’s details of the September 3 game were all correct, except for the outcome of the game. The Cubs beat the Cardinals and Watson 6 to 5. Mitchell had also, “had a mix-up” with Byron the previous day, according to The Chicago Tribune, when the umpire had initially called Tom Long of St. Louis out on a play at the plate, “then called him safe, although (catcher Rowdy) Elliott held the ball.”

Cardinals owner John C. Jones held the same opinion Mitchell did off Byron.  Earlier that same season, Byron made another questionable call on another play involving Tom Long. The Cardinals outfielder hit a ball off Eppa Rixey that appeared to be fair for a double. Byron, despite “the fact that a gap in the whitewash marked the spot,” where the ball hit called it foul.

Long was called out on strikes on the next pitch The Cardinals lost 3 to 2 to the Phillies.

So incensed was Jones at the umpire, whom The St. Louis Star called, “a good plumber’s helper but an inferior umpire,” that he wrote an open letter to fans that appeared in St. Louis papers. He told fans who were present, “The good of the game demands,” that they wire league president John Tener about “Byron’s judgment.”

Jones’ message resulted in bottles and other items being thrown at Byron the following day. Two fans were injured. Cardinal President Branch Rickey disavowed Jones’ comments:

“I strongly advised against it. In fact, both (manager) Miller Huggins and myself wired President Tener that the message did not officially express the club’s sentiments.”

Despite his comment that he did not support the club owners’ position, Rickey was more critical of the umpire in his telegram to Tener than Jones had been in his message to the fans:

“(His) attitude and manners generally were extremely antagonistic to the crowd…If Byron will keep his face to the filed and not parade about in front of the stands, he will have no trouble.”

The previous season, Byron “wrote” an article for The Pittsburgh Press. He said he became an umpire in 1896 only because he couldn’t find enough work in his “first love, steamfitting.” Over two decades he worked his way from the Michigan State League to the National League.

Before steamfitting and umpiring, Byron had briefly played minor league ball:

“As for myself, I am frank to admit that I was the worst ball player that ever broke into the Texas League. I managed to hold my job with the Dallas club for a while, but the race was too fast. It nearly ruined a good steamfitter. Afterward I played semi-professional ball occasionally in Michigan but gave up the game—and what was baseball’s loss was the plumbing trade’s game.”

After four seasons in the Michigan State League, he worked his way up to South Atlantic League, then the Virgina League, followed by International League and finally the Eastern League before his big-league career began.

He became well known—and versions of the story were told for the next two decades—for a call he made on August 31, 1909. In an Eastern League pitchers duel between the second place Newark Indians, with manager Joe McGinnity on the mound and Big Jeff Pfeffer pitching for the fourth place Toronto Maple Leafs.

The game was scoreless in the sixth inning with Newark batting:

The Detroit News said:

“Two were out and the batter (Joe Crisp) raised a high foul within the easy reach of both the Toronto catcher and third baseman.”

Toronto Third baseman Jimmy Frick and catcher Fred Mitchell both stopped when Newark “coacher” Benny Meyer yelled “I’ll take it.”

“The catcher backed away and the ball fell on the Dominion of Canada. Great glee broke out among the Newark contingent, who seemed apparently to conclude that the strategy of the coacher had won the batsman another chance to connect. But they reckoned without Mr. Byron.

“’Batter out!’ yelled the ump.”

McGinnity and “his entire team” came out on the field.:

Byron told the Newark manager:

“’He’s out on interference.’

“This set McGinnity fairly crazy and he frothed at the mouth, ‘But there wasn’t a man within 10 feet of Mitchell when he backed away,’ he screamed.

‘”He’s out on vocal interference; get into the field and finish the game.’ And Byron pulled his watch.”

Pfeffer and McGinnity both went the distance in a 13-inning game won by Toronto 1 to 0. McGinnity filed a protest with the league, but Byron’s decision was upheld.

Byron said the “secret of umpiring” was that “The umpire must keep his head and let the other man lose his.”

The umpire retired before the 1920 season saying he could make more money at his first love.  Evans said of his seven seasons in the National League:

“Like the rest of the umpires, he had his faults. No umpire is infallible, so Bill made mistakes like the rest of us, but they were always honest mistakes.”

He said Byron “always looked trouble in the eye,” and “no gamer fellow” ever wore a mask.

Despite his contentious relationship with McGraw, Evans told a story about a game in New York.  The previous day while making a ruling on a play involving fan interference, “the umpires were criticized” by reporters for their long deliberation. The following day:

“At an amusement park near the Polo Grounds, it was customary for an aviator to do a series of stunts. Usually the aviator paid the Polo Grounds a visit before landing. On this occasion, he flew unusually low over the grounds, so that it was easily possible to see him greet the big crowd with a wave of the hand. Evidently Bill Byron had given some thought of the criticism of the day previous unjustly heaped on the arbitrators for what was called a needless delay.

“Calling time and turning toward the New York bench, he addressed manager McGraw of the Giants thusly.

“If the ball hits the airplane, John, while it is flying over fair territory, it is good for two bases. If it lands in some part of the machine and stays there while flying over fait territory, the runners shall stop at the base last touched when such thing occurs. If the ball lands in some part of the machine while the machine is outside playing territory, it will be good for a home run. Play.”

Evans said McGraw “was shaking with laughter.

The press box was as well:

“Byron’s retort courteous to their slam had not gone over their heads.”

L. C. Davis of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said of Byron’s retirement:

“It will always be a moot question whether Lord Byron was greater as a singer or an umpire. But whether singing or umpiring the fans agree that he displayed all the earmarks of a good plumber.”

More Byron, Friday.

“Byron was more to blame than I was”

19 Apr

After National league umpire Tim Hurst died in 1915, his American League counterpart Billy Evans said in his nationally syndicated column:

“In the passing of Tim Hurst, baseball lost the quaintest character of the diamond. It was believed there would never be another one to approach him., but in Bill Byron baseball has a pocket edition of Timothy Carroll Hurst.

“No more fearless umpire ever held an indicator than Tim Hurst. Bill Byron runs him a close second.”

Evans said before coming to the National League in 1913, Byron was the subject “of many stories of wild minor league riots, in which Bill played the leading role without so much as mussing his hair.”

Fearless was one adjective used about Byron, but there were many others. After the 1911 season, Ed Barrow, president of the Eastern League removed Byron from the league’s staff. The Baltimore Sun said many celebrated the move:

“Byron’s chief fault is his stubbornness, and he, as well, is a bit dictatorial and oversteps his authority on the diamond…For the good of the game–in the face of many prejudices–Barrow has acted wisely in giving him the ‘can.'”

Bill Byron

Known as the “singing Umpire,” Byron’s “little ditties” were so well known that writers like L.C. Davis of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Willian Phelon of The Cincinnati Times-Star both wrote columns suggesting new songs for the umpire.

Davis suggested that when the Cubs Heine Zimmerman argued a call:

Heinie, Heinie, I’ve been thinking,

I don’t want none of your slack;

To the clubhouse you’ll go slinking,

If you make another crack.

Johnny Evers complained to Phelon:

“How can a guy tend to his batting when the umpire’s warbling in his ears?”

John McGraw was Byron’s biggest foil and foe, and Byron had a song for the manager of the New York Giants:

“John McGraw is awful sore

Just listen to Napoleon roar

The crowd is also very mad

They think my work is very bad.”

In 1917, in an often told story, after a game in Cincinnati, the Giants manager landed two punches before he was separated from Byron after an ejection.

McGraw

After the incident, McGraw provided a signed statement admitting to punching Byron, but blaming the incident on the umpire:

“Byron said to me: ‘McGraw, you were run out of Baltimore.”

When the umpire repeated the charge, McGraw said he “hit him. I maintain I was given reason.”

When Byron arrived in St. Louis the day after the incident to work a series between the Cardinals and Phillies, he refused to answer when asked by a reporter from The Philadelphia Inquirer if McGraw had punched him, instead:

“Bill pointed the right hand to the jaw. There was dark clot—which indicated that something landed as early as 20 hours ago.” 

McGraw’s justification for the attack notwithstanding, he was fined $500 and suspended for 16 days.

McGraw responded, claiming to be “discriminated against personally,” by league President John Tener,” and that “Byron was more to blame than I was.”

He said the action taken against him would result in:

“Umpires with Byron’s lack of common intelligence and good sense, will now be so overbearing with players there will be no living with them.”

But the feud had been brewing since the umpire entered the league.

In August of 1914, in a game where the Reds scored five runs in the eighth to beat the Giants 5 to 4, The Cincinnati Enquirer said:

“The character of McGraw was shown by his getting into an insulting ruction with Umpire Byron…He was so angered at losing out that he pelted the official with vicious expletives and delayed the game for several minutes.”

In 1915, Sam Crane, the former player turned baseball writer for The New York Journal, and a close friend of McGraw, chronicled a clash between the two during a September 25 game between the seventh place Giants and sixth place Cardinals in St. Louis:

Byron was being taunted from the New York bench and decided utility infielder Fred Brainard was the culprit and ejected him:

“Brainard (in a startled voice: ‘Who me/ Why, I didn’t open my mouth, did I boys?’

“Chorus of players: ‘No, he didn’t.’

“A mysterious voice from a far corner of the dugout: ‘’Byron, you can’t hear any better than you can see. You’re rotten.’”

At this point, Byron walked to the Giants bench and gave Brainard one minute to leave.

McGraw responded, “You have pulled another boot Byron,” and accused the umpire of once ordering a player off the bench who was coaching at first base, and asked how he knew it was Brainard:

“Umpire Byron (turning pale): ‘I caught Brainard with his mouth open.’”

The Giants bench laughed at the umpire and McGraw accused him of always “guessing” at his decisions.

At this point Crane said Byron, “five minutes after he had given Brainard one minute,” removed his watch from his pocket and again gave Brainard a minute to leave and told McGraw he would be ejected as well. The manager responded:

“Why should I be put out of the game? I haven’t done anything. Neither has Brainard. You’re all tangled up. Do you know the rules? What time is it by that tin timepiece you have got there?”

Byron repeated the order and threatened to forfeit the game to St. Louis. McGraw said:

“Go ahead and forfeit. You will be in very bad if you do. Every one of my players here say Brainard did not say a word. You will be in a nice fix with Tener, won’t you. You will have a fat chance to umpire the world’s series. Go ahead and forfeit the game.”

Byron then summoned three police officers to remove Brainard, but according to Crane, the police sergeant said,” I will have to take the umpire along, too.”

This elicited more laughter from the Giants bench.

Crane’s story ends with McGraw chastising the umpire while finally telling Brainard to go, and Byron returning to homeplate while singing:

“Oh, I don’t know. The multitude and the players are enraged at me; but I gained my point. Oh, I don’t know; I ain’t so bad.”

And the game “then proceeded, and smoothly throughout.”

Crane claimed the whole ordeal took at least 15 minutes.

The Post-Dispatch didn’t mention police, implied that Byron clearly won the encounter, and said, “five minutes were consumed in this senseless argument.”

The paper scolded the umpire for the “bush league trick” of pulling out his watch, but said:

“In time, however, McGraw relented under the threat of a forfeiture, which means a fine of $1000, and Brainard went his way.”

McGraw might have gotten the better of Byron in their 1917 fight in Cincinnati, but in 1915 the umpire “landed twice” on Boston Braves third baseman Red Smith after the game when Smith renewed an earlier argument over balls and strikes September 16 in Chicago. Smith attempted to get at Byron after being hit but was stopped by the other umpire, Al Orth.

Byron and McGraw continued to butt heads and the umpire’s combative style and singing continued to draw attention.

George Moriarty, the Detroit Tigers infielder, turned American League umpire—who also wrote songs—and often included poems about players in the nationally syndicated column he began writing in 1917, said—in part–of Byron:

“It’s wonderful the way you face the throng of maddened players all season long;

While other umps get busted on the bean you pacify the athletes with a song.

You know that music charms the savage beast, and as they rush to stab you in the vest,

And tell you how they’ll tear you limb from limb, you sing like John McCormack at his best.”

More on Byron Wednesday.

“When Their Wishes Clash Something Will Break”

14 Apr

After hitting just .285 in 1897, and not managing the Colts to a finish better than fourth place in eight seasons, Cap Anson’s career in Chicago was coming to an end at age 45. His contract had expired and Albert Spalding had made no effort to sign him.

Cap” Anson

But Ned Hanlon of the Orioles said he was not convinced Anson’s career was over and offered him a contract. The Baltimore Sun said:

“Adrian C. Anson will play first base for Baltimore the coming season if he will consent to do so, Manager Hanlon will offer him every inducement that he can afford to have the ‘Grand Old Man’ come to Baltimore.”

Hanlon told the paper:

“I believe he would be a good man for Baltimore, and I shall write him at once for his terms…Anson is good for some years yet on the diamond. I consider his ability much underrated. With the things he had to contend with in Chicago it is a wonder to me he played as well as he did. With the Orioles he would bat .350 and be like a colt again.”

Ned Hanlon

Spalding, who was in the process of organizing a “testimonial” for Anson, intended to raise $50,000 for his retirement, told The Chicago Tribune Anson signing with Hanlon would be a mistake:

“(I)t will be a case of a big flash in the pan. Two or three months of praise and then, ‘Get out, you big dud.’ It is always the way, for a man of 47 [sic] cannot expect to play good ball for ever. Besides an error from Anson would not be excused. He would have to play perfect ball or be a failure.”

Orioles captain Wilbert Robinson agreed, saying that while Anson might help the Orioles  with his bat:

“I think he is too slow and too poor a fielder and thrower and baserunner to fit such a team as the Baltimores.”

In The Sun, Orioles third baseman John McGraw disagreed with Spalding and Robinson:

“I should be greatly pleased to see Anson come to our team, and if he should I believe it would be a case of Dan Brouthers and ’94 over again. When Brouthers came to Baltimore everybody said he was too old to play ball and no good, and you know how he played that year.”

Brouthers hit .347 and drove in 128 runs for the pennant winning Orioles in 1894 but was just 36 years old.

McGraw was skeptical about Dan McGann, who Hanlon had traded for to play first for the Orioles, and noted that Hanlon’s experiment the previous season had failed:

“McGann may be all right, and again he may not. In the minor leagues there are few who can hit the ball harder and oftener than George Carey, but in a club like ours he was nervous. Every time he went to bat his hand shook from nervousness. McGann may not be that way at all; I do not mean to say he would be, but he might.”

Carey hit .261 in his one season with Baltimore in 1895.

The Baltimore American reported that Hanlon said his proposal was “a joke,” but Hanlon immediately denied that and told The Sun:

“I had no interview in which I denied my intention of trying to get Anson, or did I in any way make light of that intention.”

The Chicago Journal was concerned that local “enthusiasts never would get over it,” if Anson made good in Baltimore.

The Chicago Post said:

“(T)hose who think they know how (Anson) feels say he will not entertain any such proposition.”

The Chicago Daily News said:

“Many of the veteran’s friends believe he will be glad of the chance to go with another club, especially such a team as Baltimore’s.”

The Tribune talked to Anson’s father in Iowa. Henry Anson said he wanted his son to retire so he could:

“(C)ome back to Marshalltown, the land of his birth, and assist me in the upbuilding of the city.”

While Anson remained silent about whether he would continue playing and refused to comment on whether he would go to Baltimore, he had a letter read at Spalding’s meeting at the Chicago Athletic Club to plan the “testimonial;” the letter was printed in The Daily News::

“I refuse to accept anything in the shape of a gift. The public owes me nothing. I am not old and am no pauper. I can earn my own living. Besides that, I am by no means out of baseball.”

After nearly two weeks, Anson sent a letter to Hanlon, The Sun said:

“Anson neither accepts nor declines the offer but says he has not yet decided upon his future plans., and until he does, he does not care to talk business with anyone.”

Anson told Hanlon:

“In the event I should care to do business with any club outside of Chicago, I should be pleased to negotiate with you. However, I do not care to do business with anyone just at this time.”

Anson stayed out of baseball until June when he signed to manage the New York Giants.  The Tribune said:

“Anson has been one of the few admirers of (Giants owner Andrew) Freedman. He admired him because of his stubbornness. Freedman has been an admirer of Anson. When their wishes clash something will break.”

Anson managed the Giants for just 22 games; guiding New York to a 9-13 record before he quit.  He told The Tribune:

“My experience as manager? I simply and shortly discovered that (Freedman) did not want me to manage the team. I wanted to manage it, as that was what I understood they wanted me to do. They didn’t really want me to, and so I resigned.”

“Keister was Bogus”

5 Apr

In March of 1901, second baseman Bill Keister jumped the St. Louis Cardinals for the Baltimore Orioles; St. Louis signed Dick Padden a week later to replace him.

Patsy Tebeau, who had managed the Cardinals to a 42-50 record before being let go in August, had no shortage of vitriol for his former player. He told The St. Louis Globe-Democrat:

“Padden has Keister beaten in every department of the game, and when it comes to ‘inside play’ the Baltimorean is entirely lost sight of.”

Keister had been purchased by the Cardinals with John McGraw and Wilbert Robinson before the 1900 season. The purchase of Keister had, said Tebeau, cost St. Louis “a good round chunk. And while not “Knocking any, it was illy spent.”

Tebeau

Then more knocking:

“Keister was bogus, a gold brick, a nonentity or what you will, and much of our ill-success in the early part of the race was due to his bobbling.”

Keister was not just bad, but historically bad, he said:

“If I live to be as old as Henry Chadwick, I never will forget a play Keister made in Philadelphia. We were playing a red-hot game with the Phillies, with a score of 2 to 1 in our favor along about the seventh inning. (Roy) Thomas and (Jimmy) Slagle both began by getting on base and (Ed) Delahanty sacrificed them along. (Napoleon) Lajoie followed with a stinging bounder straight at Keister. It came to him quick as a flash and on the first bound.  Fast as Thomas is, he was a goner at the plate had Billy slapped the ball home.

“But he didn’t, nor did he play it safe and shoot to (first baseman Dan) McGann. He balked for a moment and then slammed the sphere to the third corner. McGraw wasn’t within 15 feet of the sack but seeing the throw he ran over best he could. Biff came the ball, McGraw, and Slagle all in a heap.

“Slagle was safe, McGraw had his ankle turned, and the sphere kept on to the fence. All three runners scored, we were beaten, and McGraw, besides, was laid up for several weeks.”

Keister

Tebeau called it, “the worst play that was ever made by a professional.”

The play in question happened on May 25, and he got most of the details correct; except the score was 2 to 0 and it happened in the sixth inning. The Globe-Democrat described the play less dramatically the previous spring:

“Lajoie hit fast and high to Keister. The little second-sacker threw to McGraw at third, in an attempt to head off Slagle. The ball and runner reached ‘Muggsy’ at the same time. In the collision McGraw was spiked in the foot and the leather rolled to the fence, giving the Quakers their lone three runs in the contest.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and The Republican both wrote that McGraw was on the bag awaiting Keister’s throw, contrary to Tebeau’s recollection.

All three papers agreed that McGraw was badly injured beyond having his “ankle turned.” In addition to the collision, the Cardinals captain was spiked in the foot. The Post-Dispatch said the game was delayed 10 minutes before McGraw returned to the field—he was removed from the game after the end of the inning. The Republic said his toe was “badly split” and that he, “dropped like a poppy cut down by a cane twirled in the hands of a careless stroller.”

With McGraw in and out of the lineup over the next several weeks, the Cardinals went from 3 ½ games back to 11 games back after a disastrous 5-15 June.

Tebeau held a grudge:

“I consider that Keister was a star in Oysterville in 1899, but out in Missouri, where the ‘fans’ have got to be shown, he was about the worst I ever saw.”

“The worst” Tebeau ever saw played three more seasons in the major leagues; Keister was playing outfield and hitting .320 for the Phillies in August of 1903 when he tore a ligament before the August 26 game in Brooklyn. He never played in the major leagues again but played eight more seasons in the minors.

Tebeau never managed in the big leagues again. He killed himself 18 years later; Louis Dougher of The Washington Times said Tebeau wrote in a suicide note:

“I am a very unhappy and miserable man.”

“The Longest hit ever Secured in a Ball Game”

3 Feb

On June 4, 1913, Joe Jackson hit a home run in the second inning of a game at the Polo Grounds with the New York Highlanders.

The New York Tribune said the blast, off a Russel Ford Spitball that cleared the roof of the rightfield grandstand was:

“(S)et down immediately as the longest hit on record at the grounds.”

Jackson

The ball ended up in Manhattan Field—the previous Polo Grounds which was sold and renamed when the new stadium was opened in 1890

The New York Sun said it was “the longest hit ever made in New York.”

The New York Times was more measured:

“The hit, while perhaps not the longest ever made at the field, has not been approached in this section of the Polo Grounds since the new stands were built.”

The discussion of the longest home runs hit was taken up by infielder turned sportswriter Sam Crane in The New York Journal, who declared Jackson’s:

“(The) longest hit ever secured in a ball game.”

He also reported that the “small boy” who retrieved the ball from Manhattan Field was rewarded with a “$10 bill.”

The Baltimore Sun and a previous generation of fans and players were not going to accept Jackson’s homerun as the longest:

“(T)he present generation, cocksure that everything exceptional happening on the diamond nowadays could not have been eclipsed in the good old days, is wrong again.”

The paper said the longest hit ever made, “happened in 1894” off the bat of Dan Brouthers and lined up five witnesses; Brouthers, his Baltimore Orioles teammates John McGraw and Hughie Jennings, Tom Murphy, the groundskeeper at Oriole Park, and “Abe Marks, scorecard man.”

Brouthers said of his home run:

“I remember distinctly hitting a ball over the right field fence at Baltimore…This hit was a line drive clearing the fence by about 15 feet…I have talked to groundskeeper Murphy regarding this matter, and he says the fence was fully 500 feet from the home plate.”

Brouthers

Brouthers also said he had, “made several other hits that I know equaled the one made by Jackson, particularly one in Boston, one in Columbus, one in Springfield, and one in Raleigh.”

And while Brouthers insisted he did not “wish to detract in any way from the credit due Jackson,” he said he was present at the Polo Grounds when Jackson hit his home run and told an entirely different story about where the ball landed–and who recovered it:

“I saw the hit, and the ball did not go entirely over the grandstand but landed on the top. I had a man go up and get the ball and bring it to Jackson, who gave him 50 cents for it.”

McGraw conceded that he didn’t see Jackson’s hit, but said:

“I have never seen a hit to equal the one made by Brouthers in Baltimore.”

Jennings said, “Jackson’s (hit) isn’t in it at all,” compared to Brouthers.

Jennings also said the Baltimore home run was not Brouthers’ longest; he said the one Brouthers mentioned in Raleigh—also in 1894 on the Orioles “training trip.”

The Sun’s comparison of Brouthers’ homerun versus Jackson’s–also shown is the landing spot of Frank Baker’s homerun in the 1911 World Series

The scorecard vendor, Abe Marks, declared Brouthers’ hit “has never been equaled.” He claimed the ball, after clearing the right field fence, “never stopped until it hit something sticking up in Guilford Avenue.”

All agreed that the ball rolled a long way after it landed and ended up resting from 1300 to 1500 feet from home plate.

While Jackson received his home run ball (or two of them) on the day he hit his long drive, it took Brouthers more than a decade to get his.

When a reunion was held for the 1894 National League Champion Orioles in Baltimore in 1907,

The Sun said the ball had been in the possession of “S.C. Appleby…who is one of the hottest of Oriole fans,” Appleby gave a speech at the reunion held at the Eutaw House, one of Baltimore’s finest hotels, and “toss(ed) it back to Dan Brouthers across the dining table.”

Brouthers said of the presentation:

“This ball went so far that I never expected to see it again. Now that it has been given to me, I shall ever keep it as a memento of my connection with the champion Orioles.”