Tag Archives: Kansas City Cowboys

Things I learned on the Way to Looking up Other Things #27

28 Nov

Chicago’s American Association Franchise

At the close of the 1891 season, The Chicago Tribune assured their readers that Chicago would be a two-team town:

“The Chicago club of the American Association of 1892 is a certainty.  Fred Pfeffer will be its manager and leading spirit, and Sam G. Morton (an executive with A.G. Spalding and Bros. Co.) well known here, its business guardian.”

pfeffer

Fred Pfeffer

According to the paper, the new club’s roster would include:

“(Bill) Dahlen, (Ad) Gumbert, and (Malachi) Kittridge probabilities.  Such men as (Bill) Hart, the Sioux City pitcher, (Bid) McPhee of Cincinnati, (Jake) Beckley of Pittsburgh, Danny Richardson of New York, and (Herman) Long of Boston are in sight.”

The Tribune said the new American Association franchise would build a park on Chicago’s west side:

“Convenient to cable and railroad, and their accommodations will be for 20,000 people.”

The stockholders in the team were said to be some of the most prominent industrialists in Chicago.

The planned team never materialized after the American Association folded and four teams were absorbed into the National League.

Pfeffer, the would be manager, was traded to the Louisville Colonels for Jim Canavan and $1000.

 Weidman’s Swan Song

George “Stump” “Kid” Weidman spent parts of nine seasons in the major leagues, he appeared in his final game in 1888, and posted a career 101-156 record.

stump

Weidman

Ten years after he left the game, C. H. Steiger, The Detroit Tribune sportswriter, quoted an unnamed former teammate about how Weidman wore out his welcome in Detroit during his second tenure with the Wolverines.  Weidman had rejoined Detroit after the Kansas City Cowboys folded:

“He had pitched for us before, and was at that time considered a great pitcher, and he really was.  When he was with us before, he was the most popular boy on the team.  Everything was Kid, and he got the glad hand from everyone until one day he lost it all at once.  It goes to show how easily a man can throw away what it has taken him a long time to acquire”

Weidman won 13 games for the eventual pennant winning Wolverines before being sold to the New York Metropolitans in August, after the former teammate said Weidman was playing right field one day, while Detroit ace Pretzels Getzein was on the mound:

“(The) batter on the opposing club, Philadelphia I think it was, popped up a slow outfield fly to Weidman.  He had lots of time to get it, and it was the easiest kind of chance, but he ran up to within about ten feet of where it would strike, stopped, let it strike and bound into his hands, then threw it in.

“Well, it was the only time I ever saw Getzein mad.  He looked at Weidman, shrugged his shoulders and said to his catcher, ‘What do you think of that?’

“(Manager Bill) Watkins saw it from the bench, and was mad as a hornet.  When Weidman came in, Watkins called him down, and the Kid said he was afraid of over-running it, and thought it was best to do as he did, otherwise the batter might have made two bases on it,  But his explanation didn’t go.”

The teammate concluded:

“I don’t think he meant to throw the game.  He just wanted to let the other fellows get another hit off Getzein.  But the other players in the club rather soured on Weidman after that, and so did the crowd.”

After being sold to the Metropolitans, Weidman appeared in just 15 more games, his major league career was over at age 27.

“The Things That Bring Good Luck to the Various Clubs”

26 Nov

In 1886, The St, Louis Post-Dispatch noted:

“Gamblers and old women are not the only ones who are given to superstitious observations of signs and to the carrying of luck tokens…Baseball players are more given to that sort of thing of late years than any other class of men.”

Under the Headline The Things That Bring Luck to the Various Clubs, the paper laid out the different “mascottic tastes” of the teams.

The paper said the success of the Cincinnati Red Stockings the previous season, was attributed in part to “Kid Baldwin’s pink jersey,” but the team’s fortunes turned in 1886 after:

“(A)fter a St. Louis laundry women’s daughter eloped in ‘Kid’s’ jersey and the club is now in last place.”

The Louisville Colonels had recently found a new “lucky hanger-on,” for a mascot; a calf born with a caul—the rare instance has long been the subject of superstition. The team took the calf ad proceeded to take five out of six games from the defending champion St. Louis Brown Stockings.

Pete Browning of the Colonels,“(C)arries a loaded die in the hip pocket of his knickerbockers for luck.  Before a recent game somebody took the die out of Pete’s pocket and he failed to make a hit that day,” ending a long hitting streak.

petebrowning

Pete Browning

The paper said that Brown Stockings captain Charles Comiskey and third baseman Arlie Latham disagreed on the best mascot for the team:

“Comiskey argued in favor of a mule, for which he has a kindly fellow feeling, and he said he knew where he could get one cheap.  Latham held out for (a small white) mouse because he owned one and won the day, though Comiskey still believed in the efficacy of the mule, and had his heel spikes made out of a cast-off shoe from the foot of his favorite animal.”

The mouse died–suffocating when Latham, carrying the mouse, got in a fight with teammate Doc Bushong—right around the time Louisville acquired their calf and the Brown Stockings dropped those five games to Louisville,

The Post-Dispatch said New York Giants President John Day had recently had a prospect for a new mascot for the team:

“(He) tore his hair out the other day when he was informed that the youngster born with a full beard in Williamsburg had died. Day was sure that he would have in him one of the best mascots in the country.”

The paper noted the better known mascots, “Little Willie Hahn,” of the Chicago White Stockings and Charlie Gallagher of the Detroit Wolverines—who was said to have been born with a full set of teeth—and said of other National League clubs:

williehahn

Willie Hahn

“The Bostons never had a mascot because they haven’t luck enough to find one.  The Washington and Kansas City teams are unable to get a mascot to even look at them.”

And concluded:

“The strangest thing about a baseball mascot is that he is occasionally traitorous and transfers his services to the other side without the slightest warning.  He will never play with a cripples, badly-managed or broken-up team, and as soon as a club begins to go down hill it is a clear case of desertion by the mascot.”

 

 

Harley Parker

20 Oct

Harley Park Parker was a renaissance man; a physician, an ambidextrous golfer, a billiard player who trained champions, in addition to being a major league pitcher—he was 5-8 with a 5.90 ERA in parts of four seasons with the Chicago Colts and Cincinnati Reds.

He is also responsible for what might be the worst single game pitching performance in professional baseball history.

The 22-year-old Parker was pitching for the Grand Rapids Rippers (several newspapers in other in the other Western League cities called the team the Rustlers) against the Kansas City Blues (newspapers were split between referring to the club as the Blues or the Cowboys) on July 25, 1894.

Harley Parker circa 1895

Harley Parker circa 1895

The Kansas City Gazette said:

“The ball bats of the Kansas City Blues in the game against Grand Rapids collided with Pitcher Parker’s curves thirty-nine times yesterday, and yielded as many runs.”

The Blues actually had thirty-eight hits, to go along with 13 Grand Rapids errors.

The Kansas City Star said:

“(The Blues) hit him at will yesterday, for singles, doubles, triples and home runs.  It was a slugging match, the like of which had never before been seen in a professional game at Exposition Park, and while the Rustlers did some very sloppy fielding, there was world of free, sharp and hard hitting.”

Every member of the Kansas City line up had at least two hits, and three players, Sam Nicholl, Ollie Beard, and pitcher Pete Daniels, collected six each.

The final score was 39 to 10.

The Box Score Grand Rapids vs Kansas City

The Box Score Grand Rapids vs Kansas City

The game was indicative of Parker’s season; he finished with a 15-18 record with a 6.23 ERA—in addition to the 193 earned runs he gave up in 278.2 innings, his team gave him horrible support, and he allowed 194 unearned runs.

Parker had a similarly disastrous day as a major leaguer seven years later.  While pitching for the Reds against the Brooklyn Superbas on June 21, 1901 Parker allowed 21 runs on 26 hits in a complete game loss—“Wee Willie” Keeler was 5 for 5 with a rare home run (he hit just 33 during his 19-year career).

The Box Score Cincinnati vs Brooklyn

The Box Score Cincinnati vs Brooklyn

During his five minor league seasons Parker was only above.500 once; 5-4 in 1898 with the Minneapolis Millers; he was 5-8 as a major leaguer.

Parker briefly owned a Central League franchise in 1911, the club moved from Grand Rapids, Michigan to South Bend, Indiana, but even with the move he was forced to sell the team at mid-season because of financial difficulties.

That same year he also had a short stint as an umpire that ended with a trip to the United States Capitol.

In August, after one of Umpire Jack Sheridan’s frequent resignations—he returned to his position days later—American League President Ban Johnson hired Parker to the league staff.

Less than a month into his tenure Parker was on the field for one of William Herman “Germany” Schaefer’s stunts.  On August 4, Schaefer’s Washington Senators were playing the Chicago White Sox.  With the score tied in the ninth inning Schaefer stole second, hoping to draw a throw to allow Clyde Milan to score from third base; Sox catcher Fred Payne did not throw to second.  Schaefer then led off second base on the first-base side and returned to first on the next pitch.

The Washington Herald said:

“Umpire Harley Parker, who was officiating on the bases, was near first at the time.  When he saw Schaefer coming back to first Parker accosted the comedian ball player with the query: ‘What are you doing here?’

“’I have stolen second.  Now I am stealing first,’ said the Nationals’ troublemaker.

“’Well, if you stay down here I’ll call you out,’ said Parker.

“(White Sox) Manager (Hugh) Duffy in the meantime had ordered Doc White to throw the ball to John “Shano” Collins at first.  Germany thought discretion the better part of valor, and made a dive back toward second.  In the meantime Milan was tearing down toward home.  Collins wheeled and threw home, Milan being tagged out at the plate.”

Germany Schaefer

Germany Schaefer

Duffy was standing in the middle of the diamond arguing with Parker and home plate umpire Tommy Connolly as Milan was thrown out at home—Washington protested that “the play shouldn’t go because Chicago had ten men on the field.  Manager Duffy having stayed out to the middle of the diamond.”

Connolly and Parker finally ruled that Milan was out.  Washington went on to win the game 1 to 0 in 11 innings.

Harley Parker, 1910

Harley Parker, 1910

The following month Parker was again in Washington working a series between the Senators and the White Sox when, while sitting in the lobby of Washington’s Driscoll Hotel, according to The Washington Star he was approached by an “officer from the United States Senate,” who told Parker “I have a warrant for you.”

Parker was taken to the United States Capitol.

“The officer of Uncle Sam marched the arbitrator up to the desk of Vice President (James Schoolcraft) Sherman in the senate, the most august assemblage in the United States.

“’I guess I’ve got your man at last,’ said the officer as he introduced Parker to the vice president.

“’I sent for you to inquire about that play when Germany Schaefer went back to first after stealing second,’” said Sherman and Parker drew a sigh of relief.

“It was just like eating pie for Parker to explain the play and he did so to the satisfaction of all concerned.  Sherman admitted the play bothered him more than any problem that had come up in the extra session of congress and that was going some.”

Parker did not work as an umpire again after the 1911.  He returned to Chicago to practice medicine and teach billiard; contemporary newspaper accounts said he trained two champions—Calvin Demarest and Welker Cochran.

He died in Chicago in 1941.

“We didn’t have any High-Faluting Baseball Paraphernalia”

15 Oct

The Seattle Star said of Dan Dugdale:

“No man in the Northwest can rival the experiences in baseball that Daniel E. Dugdale has had in the national game.”

In his 1934 obituary, The United Press called Dugdale “the father of organized baseball in Seattle.”

Dan Dugdale

Dan Dugdale

Primarily a catcher, Dugdale played professional ball for more than a decade; including two stints in the National League with the Kansas City Cowboys in 1886 and the Washington Senators in 1894.  He retired after the 1897 season and made what was intended to be a brief stop in Seattle on the way to Alaska for the Klondike Gold Rush.  He never made it to Alaska, and in Seattle, he organized most of the city’s early professional teams and built two ballparks.

Dan Dugdale 1894

Dan Dugdale 1894

Forty years after he began playing he shared his reminiscences about in the early 1880s in his hometown of Peoria, Illinois with Seattle reporter Leo Lassen:

“We didn’t have any high-faluting baseball paraphernalia for the deciding game of the Peoria, Illinois city championship in the summer of 1883.  I can remember that we used a piece of the curbstone for home plate.  Nobody except the catcher used glove, and he only had a fingerless glove of thin leather over both hands.

“Oh yes!  Of course my team, the Double Browns, won, or it wouldn’t start this story out right.  It was in that game that I got my start as a catcher.

“I had been playing shortstop, but the regular receiver split a finger and there wasn’t anyone else to catch, so I tried it.

“We stood back for the pitches except on the third strike, and except with men on bases, catching the ball on the first bounce when standing back.

Ted Kennedy, who later helped pitch one of Pop Anson’s Chicago teams into the championship, was hurling for our side that day, and baby but he could throw that ball with plenty of swift.

“’Don’t catch if you want to keep your health,’ Ted warned me before taking up my receiving duties…Kennedy was right.  The first time I stood up close to catch, the ball hit that curbstone plate and crashed into my mouth, knocking out teeth by the wholesale and putting me on queer street.

“But in those days no one considered quitting as long as it was possible to stand up and catch the ball.

“I finished the game and we won the championship, and I felt well repaid for it.

“That game started me on my baseball career as a catcher, after which I was to serve for 15 years as a receiver for clubs throughout the country.”

Kennedy wasn’t the only major leaguer Dugdale played with while in Peoria.  In 1885, he played with one of the claimants to the title of invention of the catcher’s mitt—Harry Decker—and Dugdale talked about some of the attempts his teammate made to protect his hands four years before Decker was awarded the patent for the Decker Safety Catcher’s Mitt:

“(Catchers) had no shin guards, masks or big gloves in those days, and a fellow had to be almost a martyr to go behind the plate with fellows like John Clarkson, Amos Rusie and those old stars doing the pitching.

“The big catcher’s pad now in use in baseball, is the same glove that Harry Decker, a teammate of mine on the Peoria team in 1885, invented.

“Harry had been troubled with split fingers and he kept tinkering around with leather trying to figure out how to protect his left hand, which does the big work for all catchers.

“He had a thin, fingerless glove to start with and one day he slipped a piece of raw beefsteak between the glove and his hand and that glove gave him his first idea.  He used this protection for almost a season, using a fresh piece of meat each day.

“Then he tried shot in the pocket of the glove and put a piece of leather on top of the shot, leaving it between the two pieces of leather.

“This gave him the idea of building the mitt up bigger and lacing fingers on the back of the glove.

“One day he hit upon the idea of stuffing the glove with rags in the mitt for protection, and finally got some good felt and used that.  It has been in use ever since.”

Decker Safety Catcher’s Mitt

Decker Safety Catcher’s Mitt

Dugdale remained the most prominent figure in Seattle baseball until he was hit by a truck and killed in 1934.

Accounts vary over how much Decker received from the sale of the mitt patent to A.G. Spalding.   He  is one of the enigmatic 19th Century players for whom there is no information on the date or location of his death.

After his career ended in 1891 he was convicted of numerous crimes—most involving forgery, but also including larceny and bigamy; several of his crimes involved other ballplayers.

Throughout his career Decker had a reputation as a womanizer; The Philadelphia Inquirer called him “The Don Juan of the Diamond,” but by 1890, perhaps exacerbated by his being hit in the head by a pitch, he went from lovable rogue to serial offender.  He racked up arrests and convictions in at least six states and an involuntary commitment to the Elgin State Hospital in Illinois over the next 25 years.

Victims of his crimes included Dugdale, and Al Reach, both of whose names appeared on forged checks in separate cases, and Jack Horner and Pat Pettee, teammates of Decker’s in 1891 during his brief stay with the New Haven Nutmegs in the Eastern Association.  Decker was convicted of stealing property worth $150 from Horner and $55 from Pettee after the two had allowed him to stay in the apartment they shared.

Decker’s trail goes cold after he was released from California’s San Quentin Prison in 1915.

Leo Lassen, the reporter Dugdale spoke to, went on to become the radio voice of the Seattle Rainiers of the Pacific Coast League from 1931 through the 1961 season.  Some surviving audio can be found here.

Happy Labor Day—the Oberbeck Case

1 Sep

Henry Oberbeck is barely a footnote in baseball history—he appeared in 66 American Association and Union Association games in 1883 and 1884, hitting just .176—but he scored a rare, early victory for the rights of players.

Henry Oberbeck

Henry Oberbeck

 

In 1883, after appearing in just two games with the Pittsburgh Alleghenys, Oberbeck was released and signed with the Peoria Reds in the Northwestern League.

No records survive for Oberbeck’s time in Peoria, but the outfielder caught the eye of St. Louis Browns owner Chris von der Ahe, and the St. Louis native jumped his contract with Peoria to sign with the Browns on May 24.

Chris von der Ahe

Chris von der Ahe

Oberbeck’s short tenure with St. Louis was unimpressive.  He played four games and was hitless in 14 at-bats.  The Browns released him on June 23.

He found himself out of a job in the American Association and was unable to return to Peoria because he had been blackballed by the Northwestern League.

Oberbeck filed a lawsuit in St. Louis claiming the Browns owed him the entire amount of his contract –$785.  The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said the “case is regarded as a test,” and is “being fought very earnestly.”

The March 1884 trial included testimony from  Overbeck’s teammates, catcher/outfielder Tom Dolan and pitcher George “Jumbo” McGinnis.  Dolan, a .204 lifetime hitter whose .214 average lowest among the Browns 1883 regulars testified that Oberbeck was a poor hitter who “hit wind nearly every time.”  McGinnis also said Overbeck deserved to be released.

Despite the testimony of his teammates, the jury found in favor of Oberbeck and ordered the Browns to pay him $431.12—although most newspapers incorrectly reported the amount paid as $738.

The press assumed the decision would have a lasting impact.  The Post-Dispatch said:

“The case is one of interest to base ball players, inasmuch as it proves that the contracts are binding upon the part of the club as well as the player.”

Oberbeck was signed by the Baltimore Monuments of the Union Association for 1884, and played a total of 60 games for Baltimore and the Kansas City Cowboys that season—he hit .186 as an outfielder/first baseman and was 0-5 in six appearances as a pitcher.

The Browns appealed the case and lost, but by the time the appellate court upheld the original decision in Henry Oberbeck v. Sportsman’s Park and Club Association in April of 1885, Oberbeck’s victory for the rights of baseball players was already largely forgotten.

In 1885, The Post-Dispatch said Oberbeck had been reinstated by the Northwestern League, although there is no record of his ever having returned to the league.   The Youngstown Vindicator said he had signed with that city’s team in the Interstate league for 1885 season.

No statistics survive for Oberbeck after 1884, and his groundbreaking role in baseball’s labor movement is all but forgotten.

He returned to St. Louis after his career and worked for the post office until his death from cancer in 1921.

“There is a Constant fear that Someday the Men will Decline to go on the field.”

31 Mar

The St. Louis Maroons were a big league franchise for just three seasons.  After winning the inaugural (and only) Union Association championship in 1884, the team was absorbed into the National League and was a dismal 36-72 in 1885, and 43-79 in 1886.

The club disbanded after the ’86 season and throughout the winter there was speculation about whether the franchise would end up in Kansas City (where local businessmen were looking to replace the Cowboys, who also went broke after the ’86 season) and Indianapolis.

The deal was finalized on March 8 when the franchise and nine players were sold to Indianapolis.  The Indianapolis News announced on the front page:

The Base Ball Deal

It Is Finally Completed

The story said:

“There is general rejoicing about the city over the certainty of having a league baseball club here.”

The team would be called the Hoosiers, and play at the Seventh Street Grounds, a ballpark owned by local businessman John Tomlinson Brush.

John T. Brush

John T. Brush

Brush was the driving financial force behind the deal and had been involved in local baseball in Indianapolis for several years, first having financed and organized a local amateur league in the city in order to promote his business—the When Store, and later the When Clothing Company—he was also an investor in the short-lived 1884 incarnation of the Hoosiers who struggled through one twelfth-place (29-78) season in the American Association.

The Hoosiers first year was unsuccessful and chaotic.

The first manager was George Walter “Watch” Burnham, who had been a National League umpire for 41 games in 1883 and one in 1886.  His role in the effort to acquire the franchise, his selection as manager, and the manner in which he acquired his nickname, gave some pause about the seriousness of the Indianapolis operation.

"Watch" Burnham

“Watch” Burnham

The Chicago Tribune said:

“The promoter of the Indianapolis movement is George W. Burnham, known as “Watch” Burnham.  At Cleveland, in 1883, while acting as a league umpire, he endeavored to establish himself in the public esteem by buying a watch, having ‘Presented to George W. Burnham by his friend and admirers’ inscribed on it, then having it sent out to him on the field during the progress of the game.  It is not surprising that some of the league people are suspicious of the Hoosier effort.”

Brush was not the team’s original president, that duty fell to a local attorney named Louis Newberger who spent his entire two-month tenure in the position complaining that he had no time to run the team; Brush took over as president in late May.

The Hoosiers limped to a 6-22 start—no doubt aided by 22 straight road games from May 5 through May 30.  Burnham resigned once, just five games into the season, but returned a few days later.  By mid May, as the team struggled through their endless road trip, The Chicago Tribune said a mutiny was expected:

“The dissatisfaction on the part of the players with Burnham, the manager, amounts almost to insubordination and there is a constant fear that someday the men will decline to go on the field.”

The Tribune said Burnham had fined “the entire team,” and Captain Jack Glasscock “said he would be black-listed before he would play again under the management of Burnham, but was finally prevailed upon to do so.”

Jack Glasscock

Jack Glasscock

Upon the team’s return to Indianapolis Burnham was replaced with team secretary Fred Thomas.  Thomas, like Burnham, had no professional experience as a player or manager, and his tenure was not much more successful.  The club lost 18 of 29 games with him at the helm.

The team’s third manager also had no previous professional experience.  Horace Fogel was a sportswriter for The Philadelphia Press when he was tapped to be the third manager.  The Indianapolis News said hopefully:

“Mr. Horace Fogel, the new manager, is a good-looking young man, and makes a favorable impression on a stranger.  He is evidently very anxious to make the club a winner.”

The same July day The News opined on Fogel the paper also noted that maintenance of the ballpark had also angered some fans:

“Very unwisely the management had the chairs in the gallery varnished recently and yesterday several ladies had their dresses ruined.”

Things were no better under Fogel.  The Hoosiers went 20-49 under their third manager, and finished their inaugural season in eighth place with a 37-89 record.

The News said:

“Staring out under unfavorable circumstances…with inefficient management throughout the season, and many more defeats than victories, the club nevertheless, was accorded a generous support.”

The 1888 season became a matter of civic pride for the team’s ownership, local businesses and the newspaper.

In January it was announced that the Hoosiers would have a manager with at least some experience.  Harrison “Harry” Spence had played and managed in, among others, the Eastern, Northwestern and New England Leagues.  The News said of the new manager:

“A number of ball players of various clubs, who know Harry Spence…speak very highly of him.  Sam Thompson says he is a thorough gentleman, well liked by the players, and a fine manager.”

The News said the success of the Hoosiers was necessary for the future Indianapolis:

“Business and professional men are all interested in it, for, aside from the pleasure they derive from witnessing the games, they recognize the fact that the club is of great benefit in advertising the enterprise and prosperity of the city.”

The paper organized a campaign called “Boom for Baseball.”  Sixty-eight local businessmen “representing the leading establishments in the city,” donated their advertising space back to the newspaper “for the purpose of setting forth the advantages that will accrue to the city, from the maintenance of a National League Baseball Club here.”

Brush told the paper:

“We want at least five hundred subscribers for season tickets, and with this as a guarantee, we can get the money we want.  If any such player as (Fred) Pfeffer or (Larry) Twitchell can be bought we can and will buy him, and we can get the club in first-class shape for opening the season.”

Season tickets were sold for $25 each, and Brush said “We will have a grandstand that will be a beauty, with all the latest improvements, so that there will not be one uncomfortable seat in it.  Then we will have a space set aside for carriages and a special department for ladies and their escorts.”

88indy4 88indy2

Some of the advertisements from Indianapolis' "Baseball Boom"  campaign

Some of the advertisements from The Indianapolis’ News’ “Baseball Boom” campaign

Most importantly, Brush assured the people of Indianapolis that they “would have a ballclub here that nobody would be ashamed of.”

He was wrong.

While not as bad as 1887, the Hoosiers got off to a 2-11 start, and struggled to a 50-85 seventh place finish, 36 games behind the champion New York Giants.

By 1889 Indianapolis had all but given up.  The team nearly went under before the season started.  In January a headline in The News said:

The Ball Club Gone

With debts of more than $5,000, the paper said Brush would “surrender the franchise” to the league.  Brush was able to raise enough capital to keep the club operating for one more sub .500 season (59-75), and another seventh place finish.  The only highlights for Indianapolis in 1889 was the arrival of 18-year-old Indiana native Amos Rusie, who posted a 12-10 record, and Jack Glasscock who hit .352, for the Hoosiers.

The team was dropped after the 1889 season, but not because of money.  The National League bought out Brush’s Hoosiers and the Washington Nationals.  Brush received a reported $67,000 for the team, he also received stock in the New York Giants as payment for former Hoosier players.  One year earlier when The News reported that Brush was on the verge of losing the team, the paper claimed “the franchise is now worth $15,500 cash.”  While that figure might have been low there was no doubt that Brush did well on the deal.  A year later he was president and majority stock holder of the Cincinnati Reds.

Indianapolis would only be a major league city one more time; in 1914 the Hoosiers were champions of the Federal League, but were relocated the following season, becoming the Newark Peppers.

“Show yourself a man, Borchers, and Leave Boozing to the Weak Fools”

10 Feb

After defeating the Boston Beaneaters and “Old Hoss” Radbourn in his major league debut, George Borchers returned to the mound five days later in Chicago and beat the Philadelphia Quakers and William “Kid” Gleason 7 to 4.

With two wins in two starts the 19-year-old Borchers was, according to The New York Evening World, one of the most sought after players in the National League:

“There are several league clubs who would like to get hold of Borchers, the latest Chicago wonder, the only thing in the way of his acquisition is the $10,000 (the White Stockings were asking).”

Chicago probably should have sold Borchers while there was interest.  He injured his arm sometime in June, missed most of July, and according to White Stockings Manager “Cap” Anson “lacks the heart to stand heavy punishment.”

George Borchers

George Borchers

After his fast start, Borchers was just 4-4 in 10 starts when Chicago released him and Chicago’s other 19-year-old “phenom” Willard “Grasshopper” Mains (1-1 in 2 games) on September 6.

The Chicago Tribune said Borchers was on his way to Cincinnati to play for the Red Stockings, “he has plenty on speed and good curves, and it will not be surprising if he makes a success in the American Association.”

After the Cincinnati deal failed to materialize, Borchers accepted $100 in advance money to join the Stockton franchise in the California League.  After receiving the money he never showed up in Stockton.

No less a figure than the “Father of Baseball,” Henry Chadwick held out hope that Borchers would eventually be a successful pitcher:

“There is a chance that a first-class pitcher, who played in the Chicago team last season, is going to reform the bad habits which led to his release by Captain Anson in August (sic) last. I refer to Borchers.   (John Montgomery) Ward told me that Borchers was a very promising pitcher, and had he kept himself straight be would undoubtedly have made his mark. I learn that be is going to try and recover his lost ground, and if be shows the possession of the moral courage to reform, and the intelligence to keep temperate, he will yet find his way to fame and fortune. Show yourself a man, Borchers, and leave boozing to the weak fools of the fraternity who indulge in it at the cost of a fair name and of pecuniary independence.”

Borchers didn’t appear ready to “reform.”  Between the 1888 and ’89 season, according to The San Francisco Chronicle, he signed a contract to play for the Canton Nadjys in the Tri-State League, receiving $100 in advance money and also signed a contract with that Kansas City Cowboys in the American Association, receiving a $300 advance.

In February of ’89 Borchers was awarded to Canton.  Kansas City offered to purchase his contract.  Canton Manager William Harrington said in The Sporting Life that “Borchers will play in Canton or not at all.”

Borchers left for California.

Upon arriving in Sacramento Borchers was arrested as a result of the Stockton contract.  The Los Angeles Herald said:

“George Borchers, the well-known baseball player, was arrested this afternoon on a warrant from Stockton, charging him with having received money by false pretenses.”

Borchers pleaded guilty and paid a fine in March.  In April he attempted to sign with the Sacramento Altas.  The San Jose Evening News said:

“Sacramento being in need of a pitcher, induced Borchers to agree to play there and asked the Stockton Club to allow him to do so.  This President Campbell (of Stockton) refused and the league directors have sustained the action.”

The California League ruled Borchers ineligible for the season.

With too much time on his hands, Borchers couldn’t stay out of trouble.  The Associated Press reported on June 27:

“Shortly after 11 o’clock tonight a barn belonging to Mrs. Borchers, mother of George Borchers, the well-known baseball pitcher, was destroyed by fire, causing a loss of nearly $1000.  When the Fire Department arrived on the scene George Borchers tried to prevent the firemen from fighting the flames.  He was drunk and very boisterous.  Finally Chief Engineer O’Meara ordered his arrest.  When two officers took him in custody he fought desperately, and had to be handcuffed and placed in a wagon before he could be got to prison.”

The story said Borchers, who “has been loafing about town (Sacramento) for several months, drinking heavily” had made threats that he’d burn down the barn because his mother would not give him any more money.  Mrs. Borchers had “recently expended a large sum of money to get him out of trouble at Stockton.”

Whether his mother paid his way out of this or not is unknown, but the charges against Borchers went away, and he spent the remainder of the 1889 baseball season pitching for a semi-pro team in Merced, California.

He returned to the California League on March 23, 1890 when he pitched for Stockton in the season opener against the Haverlys at San Francisco’s Haight Street Grounds.  Borchers and Stockton lost 11 to 5.

His time in the league would be short.

In Early May he began complaining of a sore arm; The San Francisco Call said that “Borchers is known to have received an offer from the New York Brotherhood (Players League) Club and the Stockton directors think he’s playing for his release.”

On May 11 Borchers, according to The Sacramento Bee arrived at the ballpark in Stockton, on horseback and “extremely drunk.”  Catcher/Manager Mike DePangher sent Borchers home.  Borchers instead went on a bender that ended the following evening in a Stockton restaurant where he was arrested for being drunk and disorderly.

The Call said:

“If he took this means to sever his connection with the Stockton Club and join the Brotherhood, he not only brought disgrace in more sense than one upon himself, but has probably ruined his chance of an Eastern engagement.”

Borchers was fined $10 in court, the Stockton club fined him $100 and suspended him for the remainder of the season and sold his contract to Portland in the Pacific Northwest League–but not before the Sacramento Senators attempted to use him in a game.  The Call said Stockton protested:

“(Sacramento) Manager (George) Ziegler thought it best not to play him.  When George was informed that he was not to play he good-naturedly said:  ‘All right, old man,’ and then added, ‘One suspension, one release, all in two weeks.’”

George Ziegler

George Ziegler

On June 1 he won his first start for Portland, beating Spokane 7 to 6.  The Oregonian said “Borchers pitched a splendid game for the Portlands.”

Borchers split the remainder of the season between Portland and Spokane, compiling a 14-14 record with a 1.44 ERA.  When the Pacific Northwest League season ended Borchers returned home to play in the California League again; The Sacramento Record-Union printed a letter from his manager at Spokane, William “Kid” Peeples:

“Borchers has been pitching ball out of sight, and has not tasted a drop of liquor while up north.  He says he is going to stay straight, and finish the season with the Sacramentos.  He will have all the California boys guessing, as he did here.”

The San Francisco Call said Borchers was “a dismal disappointment” after he lost his first two starts for the second place Senators—both losses were against the league-leading San Francisco Haverlys.  San Francisco Manager Mike Finn filed a protest with the league, claiming Borchers should be declared ineligible because he was still on the reserve list of the Spokane club.

Mike Finn, manager, San Francisco Haverlys

Mike Finn, manager, San Francisco Haverlys

In his third start Borchers allowed Stockton to score three runs in the first inning on five walks and a wild pitch, but settled down and won 7 to 6. He beat Stockton again three days later, 15 to 10. The Record-Union criticized all four of his performances and said he had reverted to “his old ways.”

The 21-year-old finished the 1890 season with a 2-2 record for the second place Senators; San Francisco won the championship.  At the end of the season the California League upheld Finn’s protest over Borchers and fined Sacramento $500.

The rest of the George Borchers story on Wednesday.

Sam Barkley and the Mobster

29 Oct

Samuel W. Barkley’s brief career on the diamond was highlighted by two legal disputes over his services; his life off the field was more complicated and interesting.

Barkley rose from amateur and semi-pro teams around Wheeling, West Virginia, to a solid season (.306, league-leading 39 doubles) as a 26-year-old rookie with the Toledo Blue Stockings in the American Association in 1884.  Among his teammates in Toledo were Fleetwood and Welday Walker.

Toledo was only a major league franchise in 1884—The Toledo Blade said the team had lost “nearly $10,000–and disbanded, selling five players, including Barkley, to the St. Louis Browns—the sale included pitcher Tony Mullane, who attempted to sign with Cincinnati after agreeing to sign with St. Louis, leading to his year-long suspension.  By the time all the legal wrangling was done, only Barkley and Curt Welch reported to the Browns.

After a .268 season in St. Louis, owner Chris Von der Ahe sold him to the Pittsburgh Alleghenys, but Barkley had already signed a contract with the Baltimore Orioles.  The American Association suspended and fined Barkley; Barkley sued.  The dispute was settled with Barkley being reinstated and Pittsburgh paying the fine on his behalf.

Sam Barkley

Sam Barkley

After two years in Pittsburgh, he was purchased by the Kansas City Cowboys, and that’s when his life got more interesting.

In Chicago, he met an 18-year-old woman named Dora Feldman, who followed him to Kansas City, where as The Toledo News-Bee said, “most of his money was thrown at the feet of the young woman.”

Barkley later told The Chicago Inter Ocean that the day before he married Dora “she went to her room in a Kansas City hotel and took poison, fearing he would not marry her.”

He hit just .216 in 1888 but was hitting .284 the following season when he was sold to the Toledo Black Pirates in the International League.  After just 50 games there his career was over.  At some point during the 1888 season he suffered a knee injury he said ended his career:

“I knocked a safe one to left field, and was dancing around between first and second bags when (Mike) Mattimore, the Philadelphia (Athletics) pitcher attempted to catch me napping.  He ran to the base line, and as I attempted to slide back to the first bag he unintentionally gave me the ‘knee’ and it injured severely the knee cap on my left leg.”

With his playing days behind him, Barkley, who was reported to have made as much as $1,800 a season with the Alleghenys, returned to Pittsburgh with a young wife who had aspirations to be an actress and opened a cigar store.  It didn’t end well.

It didn’t end well.

After just more than a year in business, The Pittsburgh Press said Barkley’s store on Smithfield Street closed by order of the sheriff, due to “claims aggregating $3,600.”

The couple moved to Chicago.  Things initially went better there.

Barkley opened a tavern at 292 West Madison Street, and he and Dora had a son who was born around 1895.

Shortly after they returned to Chicago Dora met Chicago’s first crime boss Michael Cassius “Mike” McDonald.  Richard Henry Little of The Chicago Tribune said McDonald “never held office but ruled the city with an iron hand.”  McDonald built a gambling and protection syndicate, controlled the Garfield Park racetrack, and solidified his control of the city as leader of the local Democratic Party.  He was also heavily involved in legitimate businesses—he owned The Chicago Globe newspaper and financed the building of Chicago’s first elevated rail line.

Mike McDonald

Mike McDonald

Years later Barkley told The Inter Ocean about his wife’s first meeting with McDonald:

“She was introduced to him at a box party in McVicker’s Theater shortly after the close of the big fair (World’s Columbia Exposition), in 1893…I remember the night distinctly.  Dora came home to our place at 319 Washington Boulevard and told me that she had met a very fascinating old man (McDonald was 44), who reputed to have a lot of money.

“’Watch me get a piece of that money,’ Dora said to me, jestingly, and fool that I was I laughed at the supposed joke.”

Dora Feldman Barkley McDonald

Dora Feldman Barkley McDonald

There are several versions of what happened next.  One involves an elaborate (seemingly too elaborate) story that suggested Barkley was lured by a friend of McDonald into a compromising position involving women and drugs—only to be “caught” by his wife.  The more likely version was that he was simply paid off—The Inter Ocean said he received $30,000 to divorce Dora.

Barkley never acknowledged receiving the money and only said:

“(Dora and McDonald) had planned between them to oust me, and no matter what I might have done, it would have been all the same in the long run.  With his money and his influence, McDonald could put it over me any time he wanted.”

Dora eventually became McDonald’s second wife in 1898, (his first wife, who once shot a police officer—she was acquitted—had eloped to Europe with a priest).

By 1897, Barkley had opened a new tavern at 15 North Clark Street, which was frequently in the news.

Sam Barkley

Sam Barkley

The Chicago Tribune called it a “notorious saloon,” and The Chicago Daily News reported on several occasions that the saloon had its license revoked temporarily for various criminal activities and violations; in 1900 The Inter Ocean said a grand jury report was “almost an indictment of the city administration for its toleration of the dives, all-night saloons, and resorts for thieves and the depraved.”  Of Barkley’s location the grand jury said:

“Men and women drinking, swearing and carousing, with music; open after midnight in the past.  Several murders have been committed in front of this door.”

As with all such “clean-up” drives during that era in Chicago, nothing came of the grand jury report.

Dora again made headlines in 1907—and as a result so did her ex-husband.

The Inter Ocean said:

‘Mike ‘ M’Donald’s Wife Kills Artist in His Studio

“Dora McDonald, wife of Michael C. McDonald, millionaire, politician, traction man, and ex-gambler, shot and killed Webster S. Guerin, an artist, behind the locked doors of his studio in the Omaha Building, LaSalle and Van Buren Streets yesterday.”

Barkley was quickly contacted by reporters and told his sad story of how Dora had left him.  The paper said:

“The story that Sam Barkley slowly grieved his life away over the loss of his pretty wife is disproved by the discovery of Sam Barkley alive and prosperous in Chicago today.”

Dora McDonald was eventually acquitted, but Mike McDonald did not live to see it, he died during her trial.

Barkley fell on hard times in Chicago soon after the killing.  In August of 1908 a six-inning benefit baseball game was played at Comiskey Park between two Chicago City League teams–“Nixey” Callahan‘s Logan Squares and the Rogers Parks–“to raise enough money to start him in the cigar business.”  The Chicago Examiner said, “A fair-sized crowd turned out.”

Fred Pfeffer played first base for the Rogers Parks and “was the hero of the game with two hits besides fielding in grand style,” another former big leaguer, Emil Gross, served as umpire.

Shortly after that Barkley was operating a cigar store in his hometown, Wheeling, West Virginia.

There was one last chapter in the Barkley story.  Soon after he returned to West Virginia he was living in poverty and became ill, and died on April 20, 1912.  The Chicago Daily News said several days before his death a former baseball acquaintance was summoned to his side:

Billy Sunday called on him.  He talked baseball for a while and then religion.  At the end Sam liked both equally well.”

Billy Sunday

Billy Sunday

Dora McDonald was contacted for a comment:

“It is a closed incident—it’s so long ago that I knew him.  But I’m sorry.”

She eventually married a doctor, moved to California and died in 1930.

“To be Hissed and Hooted at in the East is too much”

20 Jun

In 1886  Thomas Jefferson “Tom” York retired after a fifteen-year career.   As a 20-year-old he joined the Troy Haymakers in the National Association in 1871, he was with the Hartford Dark Blues for the National League’s inaugural season in 1876, and finished with the Baltimore Orioles in the American Association; he also served two brief stints as a player/manager with the Providence Grays.

York, who suffered from rheumatism, had considered retiring before the 1894 season after the Cleveland Blues sold him to the Orioles, but The Baltimore American said he was induced to continue playing with a $5000 salary and “the scorecard and cushion (concession)” at Oriole Park.  After hitting just .233 in 1884, he was only able to play in 22 games the following season before calling it quits.

Tom York, middle row, far right, with the 1876 Hartford Dark Blues

Tom York, middle row, far right, with the 1876 Hartford Dark Blues

Just before the beginning of the 1886 season York was hired as an American Association umpire.  After the May 22 game in Baltimore which the Orioles lost 2-1 to the Louisville Colonels, The Baltimore Sun said:

“(York) received a dispatch yesterday ordering him to Brooklyn.  Instead of going he telegraphed his resignation.  His reason for doing so was the abuse he received from some of the spectators of Saturday’s game.  In fact, he was nearly equal to that of John Kelly, ‘the king of umpires.’  He declared (Pete) Browning’s hit near the foul line a fair hit.  He was in the best position to know, but, as it was made at a critical point, some of the audience objected, and York came in for pretty severe abuse.”

The paper said York also made a “questionable decision,” when he “evidently forgot that it was not necessary to touch a runner in a force,” and incorrectly called a runner safe at second:

“York became discouraged and the Association lost a good umpire.”

Within weeks York became a National League umpire; that didn’t last long either.

On June 30, the Kansas City Cowboys lost at home to the New York Giants 11-5, The Chicago Inter Ocean said York “was escorted from the grounds by the police on account of disapproval manifested over his umpiring.”

Less than a month later, after York was “roundly hissed” at the Polo Grounds after making “some very close decisions against the New Yorks,” in a July 22 game against the Philadelphia Quakers, he sent a telegram to National League President Nicholas Young resigning his position.  York told The New York Times:

“I have been badly treated in the West, but to be hissed and hooted at in the East is too much.  I have often heard that an umpire’s position was a thankless one, but I have never realized it before.  It’s bad enough to be hissed and called a thief, but in the West when the local club loses an umpire in fortunate if he escapes with his life.  Of all the cities in the league Kansas City is the worst.”

York said there was another incident Kansas City the day before he was escorted from the field by police:

“On June 29 when the New York men beat the Cowboys 3 to 2 (William “Mox”) McQuery hit a ball over the fence, but it was foul by 25 feet, and I declared it so.  After the game Vice President (Americus) McKim, of the Kansas City club wanted to know how much money I would get from the New Yorks fir That decision.  I remarked that I received my salary from the league and did not take a penny from the New Yorks or any other none.  Then he grew furious, and said he would end my days.  This in conjunction with other things incidental to the life of an umpire has made me tired of the business, and I intend to make room for some other victim.”

Despite quitting both leagues within two months, The Baltimore American said the American Association sent York a telegram in two months later “asking him if he wanted an appointment as umpire.”  The paper said “York replied no, emphatically, as his past experience was sufficient to justify his remaining at home.”

York remained at home for the rest of the season and the next, but while he never worked as an umpire again he returned to baseball in 1888 as manager of the Albany Governors in the International Association.  Over the next decade he was connected with several East Coast minor leagues, including the Connecticut State League, the New York State League and the Eastern Association, as a manager and executive.

York retired to New York where he became one of the many former players employed at the Polo Grounds at the behest of manager John McGraw.  In 1922 The New York Telegraph described his position:

“York has the pleasant post of trying to keep the actors, tonsorial artists and plumbers out of the press stand.  It is old tom who examines your pink paste board and decides whether you are eligible for a seat in the press cage.”

Tom York, 1922

Tom York, 1922

In February of 1936, as preparations were being made for York, along with James “Deacon” White, George Wright, Tommy Bond,  to be honored that summer at the  All-Star Game  as the last four surviving players from the National League’s first season, the former player, manager, executive and umpire died in New York.

Jim Lillie

28 May

The Sporting Life described Jim Lillie as “one of the most sensational of right fielders,” and “the rival of Mike (King) Kelly in the position.”  The New Haven Register said he earned his nickname “grasshopper”  as a result of his “agility in the outfield.”

His career was brief, and his short post-baseball life was tragic.

The 21-year-old Connecticut native was said to have been discovered by “Orator Jim” O’Rourke “on the lots and commons of New Haven.”  He played his first professional game on May 17, 1883 with the Buffalo Bisons in the National League.  Lillie appeared in 50 games, hitting .234. In November his hometown newspaper, The New Haven Register, got his position wrong (saying he was used primarily as a catcher—he caught in two games), but said “his record was highly credible,” and that he had already signed for the 1884 season.

Jim Lillie

Jim Lillie

Lillie spent two more seasons in Buffalo; leading the team in games played both seasons.  In 1884 he led National League outfielders with 41 assists; his 40 errors also led the league.  He committed 33 errors the following season; he hit .223 and .249 for the Bisons.  When the team disbanded after the 1885 season, his contract was assigned by the National League to the Kansas City Cowboys, who had been admitted to the league on a trial basis.

He had, for him, a typical season in the field: 30 errors (third in league), 30 assists (second) and 199 putouts (third).  He also had one of the all-time worst performances at the plate; hitting .175 in 426 at bats, with only nine extra base hits (all doubles), he finished the season with 82 total bases—for identical .197 on base and slugging percentages.

The 30-91 Cowboys were dissolved in February of 1887, with the players being sold to the league.

Lillie remained in Kansas City, and had the best season of his career with the Cowboys, now in the Western League.  He also met an 18-year-old woman named Nellie O’Shea, the daughter of a wealthy Kansas City contractor and said The Kansas City Star, “a young lady highly spoken of.”

Lillie, playing primarily in left field, hit .369; a hitter’s haven, the Western League leader, Jimmy Macullar hit .464, and Lillie’s average was good for 34th best in the league.

On December 29, 1887 Lillie married Nellie O’Shea.

He joined the Fort Worth Panthers in the Texas League around June 1 of 1888, but left the team in less than two weeks.  The Dallas Morning News said he was released, The New Haven Register said he left Texas to be with his wife and go to work for his father-in-law, “(Lillie) promised her to settle down,” and planned on returning to baseball for the 1889 season.

He never had the chance to return to the game.  On September 10, 1888, the Lillie’s child was stillborn.  Two days later, a fire broke out in their home.  The Associated Press said:

“(Nellie) was making preparations for supper when the accident occurred…She had moved the gasoline stove too near the cooking stove and in filling the reservoir with gasoline some of it became ignited.  The flames at once enveloped her…(Lillie) entered at that moment or (she) would have been burned to death…Lillie did not notice his own condition until after he had summoned  a physician.”

Mrs. Lillie lingered for nearly three weeks before dying of her injuries on October 4.  Lillie, who had attempted to remove his wife’s burning clothes, had his hands burned “down to the bone,” and initial reports said he’d have to have some of his fingers amputated.  There’s no record of how well his hands recovered, but he never played baseball again.

He stayed in Kansas City and according to The Kansas City Star “managed (Nellie’s) estate.”  Within two years he would contract typhoid fever, and he died November 9, 1890.  The Star said his last words were to a friend at his bedside:

“I am afraid, Charlie, it is three strikes and out.”