Tag Archives: Judy Gans

“About the Best Outfielder he had Ever Lamped”

29 Oct

In 1930, Dizzy Dismukes provided his list of the greatest outfielders he had seen during his 20 years as a Negro League pitcher, to The Pittsburgh Courier, as part of a series of ‘releases’ he wrote for the paper:

“From 1909 to 1915 I had seen a great array of outfield talent, including such stars as Pete Hill, Frank Duncan, Jap Payne, Spotwood Poles, Jimmy Lyons, (Robert ‘Judy’) Gans, C. B. Earl [sic Earle]…and a host of others.”

dismukes.jpg

Dismukes

Dismukes said none of them measured up to the man who “I have little doubt that the choice of ranking him as no. 1 will be unanimous,” among The Courier’s readers:

“Ranking as the best outfielder of all time is Oscar Charleston, who reported to C. I. Taylor for a tryout in the spring of 1915 as a pitcher”

Dismukes said Charleston played some games in the outfield for Taylor and:

“His uncanny judgement of fly balls, his prowess with the bat, and daring on the bases in games he played soon convinced C. I. that he had about the best outfielder he had ever lamped.”

oscar.jpg

Charleston

Dismukes said:

“In the days of the bunt—that is the swing bunt—he excelled, and then, as the home run craze began to creep into the game, he kept pace with the leaders by amassing as many as any other.”

In the field, Dismukes said:

“Opposing players complained that four men played the outfield for the (Indianapolis) ABC’s. Charleston, playing close in behind second base, snared line drives which ordinarily were hits, and then when some batter would drive one to the far corners of the lot for what seemed like a sure hit, Charleston would bob up from somewhere to make a catch just before the ball had a chance to hit the ground.  I for one have never seen his equal.”

Dismukes chose Pete Hill for number 2 all time:

“A close student of the game in every sense, he played the batter when playing outfield; was a great hitter in a pinch, whether it was a single, double, triple, or home run that was needed.”

The third best outfielder, according to Dismukes, was Jimmy Lyons:

“He too, like Charleston, broke in as a pitcher, but the late Dick Wallace, then manager of St. Louis (1911) realized his value as an outfielder.  Lyons was the most daring of all batters I ever saw; was fast and used his speed to every advantage.  He was considered about the freshest kid to break into baseball during those days.  Safe bunting was his specialty.  Talkative, he could upset an infield by telling them what he was going to do and get away with it…In that respect I class him as greater than Charleston or Hill.  Drop the ball and he would run—and how.”

Dismukes said “that seemingly slow moving Frank Duncan” was number four:

“There was a natural hitter.  A great judge of pitched balls and uncanny at getting to first base by being hit by a pitched ball.  Frank’s position was left field.  Hit one right on the foul line and he was there to receive it; hit one over the shortstop’s head, he was there; hit one up against the fence, he was there; why, how, everybody who has seen him play still wonders.”

Dismukes said “that nervous type” Spotwood Poles was fifth:

“(He) was the fastest man I ever saw in getting to first base.  With all his speed however, he was an ordinary base runner, seemingly awkward, but a good fly chaser and one of the game’s greatest lead off men.  And, truly, he was a great hitter.”

Next was Andrew “Jap” Payne:

“Payne in the time of need could do more acrobatic stunts to help a pitcher out of a tight situation, than all the outfielders put together.  Almost any ball Jap could get within three to five feet of before hitting the ground he caught, as he usually took a dive for them.”

payne

Payne

Dismukes’ next choice was Poles’ Lincoln Giants teammate Robert “Judy” Gans, who had become an umpire:

“(Gans’) whom his teammates dubbed ‘telegram’ because he told everything he knew, must be given credit for being one of the game’s greatest fielders.  He started as a pitcher, but found his real greatness would be shown in the outfield.”

In the eighth spot:

“I had heard a lot of a lad out east by the name of (Herbert ‘Rap’) Dixon, and it was my good fortune to see him last fall in about seven games and I quickly concluded he was just about all I had heard of him.  Eastern critics have been ranking him with Charleston.  He is a great fly chaser, a hard and timely hitter, and few outfielders have possessed throwing arms the equal of his.  To exclude his name from my list would be an injustice.”

And, “Last but not least” Dismukes said:

“James Bell, affectionately called by his teammates ‘Cool Papa’…I would like to see a contest with ‘Cool Papa’ as a participant (against the 1916 version of) Jimmy Lyons.”

 

 

 

 

“Fans Inclined to be Fair find it Difficult to side with Wickware”

7 Oct

Frank Wickware is best remembered for defeating Walter Johnson and a team of minor league players 1 to 1 in Schenectady, New York in October of 1913.  He was pitching for the Mohawk Giants, and the game was very nearly cancelled after the pitcher and his teammates initially refused to take the field, claiming they were owed six weeks of back pay.

Frank Wickware

Frank Wickware

The New York Times said the crowd of 6,000 nearly rioted, the police were called to control the crowd and more than an hour after the game was scheduled to begin “the financial difficulty was settled and the game started.”

As a result of the “strike,” and the late start, the game was called after only five innings.

The incident in Schenectady wasn’t the first time in 1913 that Wickware took center stage in a controversy over money—the first time it contributed to the cutting short a much anticipated series of games.

On July 17 the Rube Foster’s Chicago American Giants were to begin a five-game series with the Lincoln Giants in New York.

Rube Foster

Rube Foster

Roderick “Jess” McMahon, the owner of the Lincoln Giants, went to Schenectady before the series and signed Wickware, who he intended to start in the first game.

The New York Age said:

“Thursday afternoon before the game…McMahon spied Wickware all togged up in and American Giant suit.  He inquired of the pitcher why he was not in a Lincoln Giant uniform.  Wickware promptly told him that he was going to pitch for the American Giants.

“McMahon protested to Rube Foster against Wickware playing on the American Giants in view of the fact that he had given him money (allegedly $100), but the manager of the American Giants insisted that Wickware do the pitching for his team.  The two managers argued for over an hour, when the game was called off.”

The series was resumed the following day without Wickware.  The Lincoln Giants were ahead in the series 2 games to 1 before the game scheduled for July 22.  McMahon recruited Charles Earle of the Brooklyn Royal Giants to play left field in place Robert “Judy” Gans who was ill.  Foster objected to the substitution and refused to play the game despite there being “A large crowd.”

The Age said Wickware and both teams were doing damage to the future of black baseball:

“Fans inclined to be fair find it difficult to side with Wickware or regard him as a hero.  To accept money from one manager and then want to play for another is a piece of reasoning which does not favorably impress those who believe that one should keep his word at all times.  Just such conduct of Wickware’s will do much to injure the progress of baseball among colored clubs.”

“The sooner the managers of the colored teams get together and agree upon a working basis for their mutual protection the better.  Manager McMahon seems to have developed a habit of borrowing players from other clubs which should not be permitted. “

Roderick ":Jess" McMahon

Roderick “:Jess” McMahon

Wickware would remain one of the dominant pitchers in black baseball into the 1920s.  He continued to jump when teams when a better offer came—he played for four clubs in 1914, jumping a contract each time.  In 1925 Wickware was in a bar on 135th Street in New York with Lincoln Giants teammates Oliver Marcelle and Dave Brown.  After an altercation in the bar, a man named Benjamin Adair was shot and killed in front of the bar.

One report in The Freeman said witnesses claimed Adair was with the three players when a fifth man ran from building “shouted ‘I got you,’ and fired point-blank at Adair,” The New York Amsterdam News said “four men were quarreling on the sidewalk, when one drew an automatic.”

In either case, Brown disappeared and was assumed to me the shooter.  Wickware and Marcelle were never charged; there has been much mythology about Brown and speculation about the date and place of his death, but no definitive evidence has been presented.

McMahon and his brother Ed sold their controlling interest in the Lincoln Giants in 1914 and owned the Lincoln Stars from 1914-1917.  The McMahon’s were also boxing and wrestling promoters—which continues to be the family business.