Tag Archives: John Sheridan

“If you say that Man was not out, you are a Liar”

24 Jun

At the height of Billy Sunday’s popularity as America’s most influential evangelist, his “gentlemanliness,” and ability, on the baseball field became more legend than fact.

Billy Sunday, evangelist

Billy Sunday, evangelist

John Brinsley Sheridan of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch attempted to dispel some of the legends in 1917:

“Sunday tells young men now ‘to play the game’ uprightly.  This is how Sunday played it in 1885:

“The Browns and Chicago were playing for the world’s championship before 10,000 persons, who paid from 25 to 75 cents to see the game…The Browns kicked on the decisions of Umpire (David F. “Dave”) Sullivan and refused to play unless he retired from the game.  They could not do that sort of thing on the lots nowadays.  When Sullivan retired, (Cap) Anson and (Charles) Comiskey, the leaders of the teams, agreed that William Medart, a pulley manufacturer of St. Louis, should umpire.  Medart was a spectator at the games.  He put on a mask and a protector and proceeded to umpire. “

William Medart

William Medart

In the ninth inning of game four, with Chicago trailing 3 to 2, White Stockings pitcher Jim McCormick reached first on an error by Comiskey.  A contemporary account in The Chicago Tribune said:

“(McCormick) was standing with one foot on the bag when Comiskey made a motion to throw the ball.  He never moved, but by force of habit Comiskey touched him and laughed.  The umpire, who was not appealed to at all, electrified the spectators and players by calling McCormick out.”

Sheridan said, “This is how a baseball reporter of the day (from The Post-Dispatch) described what happened next:

“Sunday, fists clenched, eyes blazing, ran at Medart and cried, ‘Robber, robber.  That man is not out.’  Medart advanced to meet Sunday with firm step and beetling brow and aid, ‘If you say that man was not out you are a liar.’  ‘Who says that I am liar?’ Cried Sunday. ‘I do,’ said Medart, assuming a posture of defense.  ‘I’ll make you pay for that,’ cried Sunday, advancing on Medart.  ‘You can collect now,’ replied Medart, boldly.”

McCormick also attempted to attack Medart, but Mike “King” Kelly “(S)topped McCormick and then forced Sunday to sit down.”

But the future evangelist could not be calmed down:

“Sunday’s eyes were blazing and his teeth were set.  When he sat down he continued to abuse Medart, who said, “Shut up your mouth, there Sunday, or I’ll put you off the field.’ Sunday shut up his mouth, but continued to glare at Medart.”

Medart, before his death in 1913, described the scene to Sheridan:

“Billy was a cocky guy in those days and was not disposed to back down for any man.  Rather fancied himself.  I was somewhat of an athlete, gymnast and boxer.  I fancied myself, too.  I am sure that Sunday and I would have collided had it not been for Mike Kelly.

“Sunday was livid with rage.  I was mad myself.  I did not seek the job of umpiring.  I only took it to ensure the progress of the game.  I was there as a mere spectator.  Probably I was the only responsible man in the stand that was known to the managers of both teams, and, therefore, acceptable to them.  I did the best I could, but I have no doubt my work was bad.  I had not umpired ten games in my life.  I was just an amateur with a taste for ball games(Medart had umpired National League games in 1876-77 and worked at least one more St. Louis game in 1887).”

Sheridan said the man responsible for keeping Sunday and Medart from coming to blows, was also the first, and a somewhat unlikely, supporter when Sunday was “saved.”.

“Most of the baseball players of the day were men who lived lightly.  Among the gayest and lightest of the lot was Mike Kelly, the famous $10,000 beauty, by many said to have been the greatest of all baseball players.  Kelly had been reared in the Roman Catholic faith, but the “king” of the ballplayers was not overburdened with religion.  Ballplayers all speak well of Kelly.  He is their idol.  He was wild and wooly, he lived life and died at 35 [sic, 36], but he was sweet to all men.  Most of the ballplayers of Sunday’s day were wont to ridicule him for his conversion at first.  All but Kelly, the wildest of the wild.”

Mike "King" Kelly

Mike “King” Kelly

According to Sunday:

“Kelly was the first man to meet me after the news of the conversion became public.  He shook me by the hand and said, ‘Bill, I am not much on religion myself, but I am strong for a man who honestly believes.

“After that, the boys all were for me.  Whatever Kelly said was law with them.”

As for Sunday’s ability as a player, Sheridan said:

“Many people say Sunday is a great evangelist.  He was not a great baseball player.  One of his many biographers says that Sunday always tried to hit the baseball where it would hurt his opponents most and help his friends most.  The fact of the matter is that Sunday was lucky to hit the ball at all…(I)t is certain that, not at any time, was Sunday’s bat feared by opposing pitchers or players.

Billy Sunday

Billy Sunday

“Nor was the evangelist-to-be a great fielder or runner.  He was very fast on his feet.  That helped him a lot (and) in fact was his best asset as a ballplayer…He could outrun such men as Curt Welch and Dickey Johnston 3 yards to 2 yards, but Welch and Johnston could outfield Sunday, for they got quicker starts on batted balls than Sunday.  When it came to baserunning much slower men could beat Sunday because they knew when to run and how to get a good start on the pitcher.  Sunday never learned these little niceties of baseball.  As a matter of fact, hey are not really learned.  They are like Sunday’s gift for preaching, something given a man, his genius.”

“Baseball is far behind Golf in its Self-analysis”

1 Jun

During the Chicago Cubs disappointing fifth place finish, with a 67-89 record in 1916, the team hit just .239.

When Manager Joe Tinker was replaced by Fred Mitchell, team owner Charles Weeghman announced that golfer Charles “Chick” Evans, who in 1916 became the first to win the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open in the same year, would be accompanying the team on their spring training trip to Pasadena, California.

Chick Evans

Chick Evans

Weeghman told The Chicago Day Book’s Mark Shields that Evans would teach the hitters “a golf follow through” intended “to increase the batting of the regulars.  Shields said Weeghman “Points to (Frank) Schulte, (Heine) Zimmerman and (Tris) Speaker as strong hitters who use a golf style.”

Weeghman told The Associated Press (AP):

“There is form in the driving of a golf ball, but there is none in driving a baseball.  Applying the form of golf to baseball was responsible for the wonderful driving power of Frank Schulte and Heine Zimmerman.”

The Cubs’ owner allowed that Schulte knew nothing about golf, but said “(H)e unconsciously used the same swing.”

Frank Schulte's swing

Frank Schulte’s swing

Weeghman said the golfer would not be paid for services in order to maintain his amateur standing.

Evans told The Chicago Daily News that “the batsmen don’t have the knowledge of stance, grip and manner of swinging that the more successful golfers possess. “

He told The International News Service that he had considered a career in baseball:

“Chick says that he might have become a baseball player after having pitched a no-hit game for his high school (Evanston Academy).”

Evans claimed “a torn ligament at the shoulder” derailed his plans.

The response to the Cubs’ plan was immediate.

The Daily News said:

“Chick Evans is going to teach the Cubs how to bat, thereby accomplishing something no one else even considered possible.”

Rabbit Maranville told The AP the story was “a funny one,” and that he was sure that the decision to bring in Evans was strictly Weeghman’s, and likely not endorsed by the Cubs’ new manager:

“Doesn’t seem to me as if (Fred) Mitchell is responsible for that stunt.  I guess it’s being wished on him.

“In baseball the batter needs courage.  He does not know when the pitcher is going to slip a notch in his control…Courage is the big asset in batting, and with all the respect in the world to golf, where is there any great courage needed in driving the golf ball?”

While John Brinsley “J.B.”  Sheridan, the sports editor of The St. Louis Globe-Democrat, said ballplayers may derive some benefit from a golfer’s advice:

“Baseball is far behind golf in its self-analysis.  The keen minds of many generations of Scotch students have been devoted to the science of golf.  So far, no keen analytical mind has been given to baseball.  Men who do know the game are usually inarticulate and cannot tell what they know.”

Sheridan outlined how golf in general, and Evans in particular, could help:

“Drawing back the club or the bat slowly is most important.  If the striking implement is drawn back too quickly or with a jerk, the player is thrown off balance and his eye is put out of focus.

“It is notable that the great hitters, Speaker, Joe Jackson, Eddie Collins and others carry their bats well behind them and do not draw back quickly.”

Additionally, Sheridan said other “golf maxims will help” hitters, including:

“Hit off the (front) foot.  Keep your eye on the ball.  Do not hit too hard.  Follow through.”

Weeghman’s plan was finally shelved shortly before the team departed for the West Coast.  The Daily News said the United States Golf Association (USGA) could strip Evans of his amateur standing:

“If Evans uses his ability as a golfer to aid him in attempting to instruct ballplayers how to swing their bats, it appears that he will take a long chance.”

Charles Weeghman

Charles Weeghman

Evans was in California at the same time as the Cubs in March, and although newspapers had announced he would accompany the team “over the Sante Fe” railroad on the trip, it is unclear whether he actually traveled with the team.  The AP said he “stayed far away” from the Cubs’ practices in order to not run afoul of the USGA, but one paragraph in The  Chicago Tribune the day after the club’s first practice in Pasadena was rained out, likely exposed the Cubs’ owner’s real intention for wanting Evans in California:

“(The rain) did not keep Prexy Weeghman from tackling Chick Evans in a golf match.  They had played only twelve of the eighteen holes when the mist became so active it stopped the contest.  At the finish, the score stood $11 to $1 in favor of the national amateur champion.”

The Cubs posted a slightly improved 74-80 record, but once again finished in fifth place.  Whether the lack of instruction from Chick Evans was a factor or not, the team’s batting average was .239; identical to their 1916 average.

Road Trip High Jinks, 1891

1 Oct

The Sacramento Daily Record-Union described the 50-mile road trip the California League’s Sacramento Senators and San Francisco Metropolitans took to play a game in Stockton, on the box car of a freight train:

 “(The players) commenced to playing craps…The San Francisco players and also umpire (John) Sheridan were on the train, and everyone was betting his ‘chicken feed.”  Big (Edward “Jumbo”) Cartwright borrowed ten cents to start on, and came out (with) over $7…Sheridan won about the same amount, but did not stop playing and dropped $3 of what he had won.  Red (Frank) Armstrong was intensely interested in the game, except for an intermission of about five minutes, when he poked a drunk’s hand through a window in the caboose.

“At Stockton both clubs were accorded a royal reception; but the heat was sweltering and everyone was in a half-way stupor.  Just about then ‘Rube’ (Reuben) Levy and ‘Bony’ (James Peck) Sharp and a couple of others came running up the middle of the street with their coats off yelling ‘Fire!’   They ran about four blocks and when they stopped the population was running at a lively rate.  But there was no fire, except in the air”

Reuben "Rube" Levy

Reuben “Rube” Levy

The teams played that morning in Stockton, Sacramento winning 10 to 3.  Immediately after the game, the teams re-boarded the freight train (there was no description of the return trip) and played an afternoon game in Sacramento.  San Francisco won that game 13-4.

Game 1 Box Score

Game 1 Box Score–played in Stockton

Game 2 Box Score

Game 2 Box Score–played in Sacremento