Tag Archives: John W. McConaughy

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up other Things #13

22 Dec

Chief Meyers on the Plight of the Native American, 1913

John W. McConaughy, the former sports editor of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, was no longer writing about baseball regularly as the New York Giants prepared to face the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1913 World Series.  McConaughy, who was the Washington correspondent for The New York Journal, was enlisted by the paper to write about some of the key figures of the series.

The result was, in the case of John “Chief” Meyers, a profile that went beyond a typical baseball story:

Chief Meyers

Chief Meyers

“Meyers is one of the coolest, shrewdest and quickest thinking catchers that ever came to the big leagues.  He has both gray matter and gumption, and the one is useless without the other in baseball as elsewhere.  He has a fund of general information that runs from national politics to the philosophy of Plato, and a delicately adjusted sense of humor, and these two combine to give him a good perspective of the national game.”

[…]

He is ready to fight any time for justice and fair play and he is so good-natured that he isn’t seriously annoyed when the fans perpetrate that bum war-whoop every time he comes to bat.

[…]

“One day in Cincinnati he asked the writer to go out to the art museum with him.  We came upon a bronze—an Indian turning to shoot an arrow at his pursuers.

“’There’s the idea.’ He said, pointing to the warrior.  ‘They never learned how to fight.  They had nothing but the willingness.  If Tecumseh had been as big a man as Napoleon he would have killed off the medicine men as his first official act, learned the white man’s style of warfare—and there would have been an Indian nation here today.

“’I don’t mean that the white man would not have been here, too.  But with a few leaders—real big men—our fathers would have come to see that the white man’s type of civilization was the highest, just as the (Japanese) have done.  We would have had great states and communities in the union, and we would have been useful, progressive citizens.

“’As it is the Indian is robbed by agents and shifted from reservation to reservation whenever anyone happens to want their land.  Tribe after tribe is scattered, and in another hundred years my people will have gone the way of the Aztecs.’

“Still, there will always probably be a few fans who will think it bright to pull the war-whoop when the Chief comes to bat.”

Tom Lynch Cracks Down, 1910

In June of 1910, The Associated Press said that after a 5 to 4 New York Giants victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, umpires Jim Johnstone and August Moran “stood in front of the press box and made remarks about the baseball writers.”

National League President Thomas Lynch, who had announced his intention to “break this habit of having players call the arbitrators bad names” said in response:

“I also will not stand for umpires talking back to spectators or taking it upon themselves to criticize newspaper men.”

National League President Thomas Lynch

National League President Thomas Lynch

He fined Johnstone and Moran $25 and $15 respectively for the incident.

In that era of newspapermen as frustrated poets, George E. Phair, then of The Milwaukee Sentinel, was one of the most prolific, often including a poem in his articles.  He dedicated the following verse to the National League President:

Old Thomas Lynch, who runs a league,

     Would propagate urbanity;

In fact, Sir Thomas would intrigue

     To curb the umps’ profanity.

He warns his umpires while within

     The baseball scribes vicinity

To speak no words that reek of sin,

     But emulate divinity.

He tells them not to harm the scribes,

     Nor flout at their ability;

Nor pester them with jokes or jibes;

     Nor laugh at their senility.

He plasters fines upon his umps

     For showing their ferocity

And calling scribblers ‘mutts’ and ‘chumps’

      With Teddy-like verbosity.

The veteran Sir Thomas is

     Most generous and affable,

But we’re inclined to think that his

     Solicitude is laughable.

The ump may blunder now and then

     And break into profanity;

The scribbler jabs him with his pen

     And drives him to urbanity.

Comiskey Tells a Tommy McCarthy Story, 1899

George Erskine Stackhouse, the baseball editor of the editor of The New York Tribune, spoke to Charles Comiskey in 1899 and found him in a “somewhat reminiscent mood.”  Comiskey told a story Tommy McCarthy when the two were with the St. Louis Browns:

Tommy McCarthy

Tommy McCarthy

“I heard in Chicago the other day that tom is in Boston, as fat as a Tammany alderman, and making money out of a big bowling alley.  (Hugh) Duffy owned an interest in it, but they say Tom bought him out.  I had Tom with me in St. Louis.  And say, St. Louis is the best town on earth for a winner.  They used to distribute among the players every season watches and rings and studs and pins enough to stock a jewelry store.  There was a diamond medal offered one year for the best base runner on the Browns.

“Tom McCarthy was quite a boy to steal bases, and after the medal was offered he wouldn’t run out his hits.  If he made a two-bagger, he would stop at first, and if he slammed the ball for a triple, he would manage to bring up at second, so as to get a chance to steal a base.  Of course, after a bit, I got on to him, and I had to warn him that if he didn’t stretch those hits I would have to lay him off altogether.  That helped some, but he was always hanging back when he thought he could get away with it.  I remember once that he had a chance to go down to second on a wild throw to first, and what does he do but toss his head and drop off his cap, so that he could stop and come back after it and stick at first.  He won that medal.”

“Take a Chance, any time, and Fight all the Time”

19 Dec

John W. McConaughy was just 19 when he became the sports editor of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1903.  Over the next 30 years he worked as the Washington Correspondent for The New York Evening Journal, was the production manager for William Randolph Hearst’s film company, Cosmopolitan Productions, and was a member of the Creel Committee, created by President Woodrow Wilson to influence public opinion at home and abroad during World War I.  He also published several books on crime, politics and sports, including: “From Cain to Capone,” “Who rules America?: A Century of Invisible Government,” and “Big Jim Jeffries: His Twelve Greatest Battles.”

But, he continued to write about baseball long after he left St. Louis, including a profile of New York Giants Manager John McGraw on the eve of the 1913 World Series for The Evening Journal:

“The most distinctive and aggressive personality in baseball—this is John J. McGraw, the wonderful leader of the Giants.  He has been at one and the same time the most abused and most admired man in the national game.

John McGraw

John McGraw

“He has been called a rowdy and a Napoleon in equal parts.  He has been mixed up in more rows than any big league manager; but he has also been mixed up in more pennants… (Connie)Mack is his only rival for the title of greatest manager in the game and no two men in the world were ever more widely apart in character and methods than these two.  The old fox of Philadelphia has been dealt with elsewhere.  His system is carefully constructive work, leaving nothing to chance.

“McGraw’s motto is:

“’Take a chance, any time, and fight all the time.’

“He believes especially in fighting, but he is of the mind of Polonius in not advocating fighting as an end.  It is always a means with McGraw.  There is method in his mixing.  He has been represented as running amuck through baseball for the love of a rough-house.  Nothing is further from the truth.  When McGraw has a row on the ball field he figures that he is going to win something material at some time as a result.

“For instance, you never hear of any of the Giants being suspended or fined for battling with the umpires these days.  Why?  Because McGraw discovered that the magnates meant business in their manifestos against bully-ragging the arbiters and the chief of the Giants decided that a star on the field was worth six on the bench, recovering from the effects of ea sing their mind to an umpire.

“’I’ll do all the kicking from now on,’ he told his warriors.  ‘If any man is benched by an umpire I’ll fine him myself.  Let ‘em put me out of the game.  I’m not out there playing.’”

McConaughy said the two things McGraw looked for when evaluating players was “speed and brains,” but only the first one was non-negotiable:

“’It is possible to get good baseball out of a bonehead,’ he said once, ‘if you never expect him to think. Whenever there is any thinking to be done do it for him, and land on him with both feet if he tries to do any himself.

“By following this system he has actually made popular heroes out of notoriously slow-witted athletes.  He is out there on the coaching line thinking for them.”

McGraw, he said, was the “quickest and most daring thinker” in the game:

“It is characteristic of his aggressive mind that he is the only baseball leader who has no use for the sacrifice hit.  There is no doubt that he has lost many ball games by not using it, but there is also no doubt that he has won many a game by discarding it.  He follows offensive tactics of the dashing kind.  He is all for the hit-and-run and the double steal.  He believes in hitters and always has at least one a better than average hitting club, and his argument is that there is no sense in getting .300 hitters and ordering them to chuck away a one-in-three chance for a clean hit to advance a man a base at the cost of an out.”

McConaughy said McGraw was the ultimate player’s manager:

“He is the boss-he gives the orders and takes the blame.  He never breaks into print with anything like criticism of any man on his team no matter how much to blame any man may be for any disaster.

“He demands strict obedience and whole-hearted loyalty from his men, and he stands by them against all comers all the time and under all circumstances.  It doesn’t make any difference if every fan and sporting writer on the circuit has turned down his thumbs on a ballplayer.  This is usually a good reason, in McGraw’s system for moving him up a few places in the batting order and making him a regular player in a prominent position.

“There is scarcely a manager in the country who would have clung to (Fred) Merkle under the terrific panning that unfortunate man was let in for by his historic play at second base.  McGraw’s answer to the storm of abuse was to make him regular first baseman of the club, a place he has filled with credit.”

While McGraw did always defend Merkle for “his historic play, “he did not make him the “regular first baseman,” during “the storm of abuse” immediately following “Merkle’s Boner” in September of 1908, but  rather after the release of Fred Tenney following the 1909 season.

McConaughy summed up McGraw:

“His men are always looking for a chance to swear by him, and the fans around the circuit are equally keen for a chance to swear at him.”

Connie Mack, who McConaughy said was McGraw’s “only rival” for the title of baseball’s best manager, guided his Philadelphia Athletics to a four games to one victory over McGraw’s Giants in the 1913 world Series.

McGraw and Mack two years earlier at the 1911 World Series.

McGraw and Mack two years earlier at the 1911 World Series.