Tag Archives: John Titus

“It ain’t been Overestimated None.”

26 Aug

Adair Bushyhead “Paddy” Mayes was a legend in Oklahoma when it was still a territory; the half Irish, half Muskogee (Creek) Indian—although often misidentified as Cherokee in news reports, likely because he attended school at the Cherokee Male Seminary in Tahlequah — began his professional career with the Muskogee Redskins in the Oklahoma-Kansas League in 1908, but by then he was already considered one of the area’s best players.

Mays, standing second from left, with the Cherokee Mens Seminary baseball team, 1903

Mays, standing second from left, with the Cherokee Male Seminary baseball team, 1903

He stayed with Muskogee the following season when the club joined the Western Association as the Navigators.  Despite hitting just .261, his legend grew.

The Muskogee Times-Democrat said he was “One of the best outfielders the association ever boasted.”

His manager George Dalrymple said:

“He is the fastest fielder and the best hitter in the Western Association.  He is a youngster that in a few years should be in the big leagues.”

In 1910, he joined the Shreveport Pirates in the Texas League.  His first game was painful.  The Dallas Morning News said after he was hit by a pitch “full in the back” he stole second base and “was struck in the head with the ball as it was thrown from the plate to second.  The later jolt seemed to daze him.”

But Mayes recovered quickly, scored, and according to the paper “Played a first-class game.”

He hit .260 in Shreveport, but his speed and fielding ability attracted the interest of Philadelphia Phillies, who purchased his contract.

Mayes quickly made an impression during spring training in Birmingham, Alabama in 1911.  The Philadelphia Inquirer said:

“That Paddy Mayes, the Indian outfielder, will prove a greater find than Zack Wheat is the opinion of Southern ballplayers.”

[…]

“Mayes, the half-breed outer garden candidate is fast as a bullet on his feet, a good fielder and has a wonderful whip.  If he can prove that he can hit good pitching he will probably stick.”

Mayes caricature from The Philadelphia Inquirer

Mayes caricature from The         Philadelphia Inquirer

The paper also called him “A greyhound on the base paths,” and reported that he made several “fine running” catches during spring games.

Despite the buildup, Mayes didn’t make the club and was sent to the Galveston Sand Crabs in the Texas League, but he refused to sign.  In June, with Phillies outfielder John Titus injured, he was sold back to Philadelphia for $500.

Mayes had the distinction of having his major league debut become the subject of a story told for by humorist Will Rogers.

Rogers said he was present at Mayes’ first game with the Phillies in St. Louis on June 11–this is from an early retelling, as with all such stories some of the details changed in future retellings.

“I had known Paddy in the Texas League and what was my surprise one day in St. Louis when I went out to the Cardinals’ park…to see Paddy come up to bat in a Philly uniform.  I hadn’t heard that he had reached the big show.”

willrogers

                          Will Rogers

Mayes was 0-3 and was struck out twice by pitcher Bill Steele.

“I met him at the hotel after the game, but didn’t let on that I had seen him play at the ballpark in the afternoon.  We talked about rope handling and the cattle business generally, and then I asked what he was doing in St. Louis.

“This was Paddy’s answer.

“’They brought me up here to show me the speed of the big league, and believe me, it ain’t been overestimated none.”

Mayes’ never caught up to the “speed of the big league.”  In eight plate appearances over five games, he was 0-5 with a walk, hit by pitch and sacrifice.  He also scored a run.  Mayes’ final appearance with the Phillies was just six days after his first.

Rogers repeated the story of his debut for more than two decades.

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up other Things #8

4 Jun

Remember the Maine

Several sources say Harry Stees, who played for the 1897 Shamokin Coal Heavers in the Central Pennsylvania League died in the explosion of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor on February 15, 1898—it would make him the first professional player killed in action.

The Sporting Life also reported that he had died aboard the ship.

A small item in his hometown newspaper contradicts that story.

Nearly a month after the sinking of the Maine, The Harrisburg Telegraph ran the following Headlines:

“A Fool Joke”

Harry Stees was Never on the ‘Maine’ at Havana or Elsewhere

The paper said a letter had been published in The Daily, the newspaper in the nearby town of Sudbury, Pennsylvania signed by “Mrs. Harry Stees.”  The letter asked for the paper if they could locate Robert Durnbaugh, a teammate of Stees with the Coal Heavers, and have Durnbaugh contact her.

In the Letter Stees is referred to as Theo.  Contemporary references in the Telegraph and census records refer to Stees as T. Harry Stees. The paper said:

“A ‘Telegraph’ reporter located Mr Harry Stees without difficulty at the Peipher Line warehouse, on Walnut Street, this morning, and showed him the clipping.  He stated that he was undoubtedly the individual referred to in the letter, but was positive that neither his wife nor mother had written such a communication to The Daily.  ‘It’s some fool joke, put up on me by someone in town,’ he said.  ‘I have been away from Harrisburg since last September when I returned with Durnbaugh from Shamokin, where we had been playing ball, and I never set foot on the Maine.’  Mr. Stees proposes to investigate the origin of the communication.”

There was no follow up on the story, but T. Harry Stees was a prominent figure in amateur and semi-pro baseball in Harrisburg into the 1930s.

T. Harry Stees, circa 1915

T. Harry Stees, circa 1915

It appears he was not the first professional player killed in action.

Stees, 1919

Stees, 1919

Anson’s Old Bat

Despite a broken ankle received while sliding on May 23 sidelined “Silent” John Titus for much of the season, the Philadelphia Phillies’ outfielder had his highest single-season home run total–eight in just 236 at bats, his previous high was four in 504 at bats in 1904.

John Titus

John Titus

The Philadelphia Record claimed it was due to a bat he had acquired that season:

“Cap Anson’s old base ball bat is helping the Phillies in their flight toward the National League pennant.  This relic of early baseball is now owned by John Titus.

“When everything broke badly for Anson and he lost his fortune…that bat had to be auctioned off.  Pat Moran, then a member of the Cubs, but now (Phillies Manager Charles “Red”) Dooin’s first lieutenant, was the purchaser of the club.  He bid against several members of the cubs team.

“Moran had the bat shortened as soon as it was his, so that today it doesn’t look much like the clubs that Anson used, but Moran says that ‘the wood is there.’

“Titus was looking over Moran’s club one afternoon toward the close of (the 1910) season and asked to be allowed to hit  a ball to the outfield with it…’Silent John’ used the bat just once and after that nothing but the possession of it would satisfy him.

“Immediately Titus began to negotiate with Moran for the bat…Finally Moran yielded, knowing that the bat would do Titus more good than it would do him.”

The Record described the bat:

“(D)irty and black from tobacco juice and frequent oiling, but the wood is in perfect shape.  Probably no bat in baseball is as thick as this one.  From the pitcher’s box it is said it reminds one more of a cricket bat in width.”

Titus told the paper:

“Anyone can hit with that bat of Anson’s.  When a fellow is hitting, he feels that there is something to life, after all.  What pleases a fellow more than to see a ball dropping over a fence?  Another one I guess.  Every player likes to hit home runs.  It gives a player lots of ginger and confidence when he is hitting them on the nose.”

Several newspapers picked up versions of the story throughout the season, but there was no later mention of the bat, or its eventual fate, in the Philadelphia press.