Tag Archives: Kenesaw Mountain Landis

“Tell the Babe to Choke Up on his Bat”

15 Aug

While Babe Ruth kept a low profile—or as low a profile as he could—in Sudbury, Massachusetts, and occasionally New York, during the winter of 1922, he received hitting advice from Christy Mathewson.

Ruth struggled—at least for Ruth, 35/96/.315—all season after starting the year suspended by Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis for barnstorming during the 1921 off-season.

Babe Ruth

Ruth

Mathewson was in New York in December promoting the sale of “Christmas Seals for the aid of others stricken with tuberculosis.”  He talked to Thomas Cummiskey, writer for the Universal Service syndicate:

“’Tell the Babe to choke up on his bat a little when pitchers start tossing slow balls at him next season, and to smash some of the floaters into left field.  If he does, he’ll cross up a plan to stop his home run hitting.”

Cummiskey noted that the New York Giants pitchers shut Ruth down during the 1922 World Series—Ruth was 2 for 17 with 1 RBI—because they “slow-balled him to death.”

As for Mathewson:

“(He) saw the series, the first games he witnessed in two years because of his battle with tuberculosis that kept him at Saranac Lake.  As always, he was a close observer of everything.

“Once he says he saw Ruth choke up on his bat, instead of making his ‘follow-through’ swing at the ball for a homer, and cross up the Giants by hitting the ball to left field.

“’He should do this every time a slow ball comes up,’ Matty declares.  ‘Next season, it is a 100 to 1 shot, the American League pitchers will try to stop his home run hitting with slow balls.  If Babe chokes up a little, as I saw him do once in the series, he’ll hit them, it’s a cinch.  Then the next thing you know, the pitchers will stop throwing them.’“

Cummiskey said:

“Matty paid Ruth the compliment of ‘being a natural ball player and wise enough to realize this.’  The tip was given for ‘old time’s sake.’  Matty wants the Babe to stay in the spotlight and ‘hit them out as of old.’”

Cummiskey asked Mathewson if he felt “Use of the ‘lively ball,’ and the fact that pitchers are not permitted to rough the surface of a shiny new ball (was) tough on the pitchers.”

Mathewson, 1922

Mathewson, 1922

Mathewson said:

“Well, yes it is.  It is tough to see the ball banged out of the lot and around so much.  But they can learn how to pitch it.  They did when it came to Babe, didn’t they?”

He also said, “(I)n the old days if a batter swung like the home run leaders of the present day they would be fined.”

As for Mathewson’s health:

“Outwardly, he is robust and healthy.  He weighs 210 pounds, has a healthy color, his hand clasp is strong, his eyes clear.  Occasionally he is allowed to smoke a cigarette, but not to inhale.  Except for a slight slowness in his walk, as he tires easily, he appears ‘fine.’

‘’I haven’t a touch of T.B. anymore,’ he said.  “The X-ray and the stethoscope reveal no signs of it.  I am now a full exercise man; I can exercise all I want.  Until a few weeks ago I was restricted to twenty minutes a day.’

“He tires more easily than a man of his outwardly fine condition would indicate because he ‘has to get along on one cylinder as yet.’  This, he explained means that ‘one lung is flat but is receiving air treatment which is expected to make it function.’”

Ruth, of course, bounced back just fine from his disappointing 1922 season and World Series.  He hit .393 with 41 home runs and 130 RBIs and hit .368 with three home runs in the Yankees’ World Series victory over the Giants.

Mathewson did not bounce back from tuberculosis and died on the disease in 1925.

“Its Existence is a Blot on the Statue of Liberty”

4 May

For two decades, Wendell Smith of The Pittsburgh Courier was at the forefront of the battle for the integration of professional baseball.  He called segregated baseball:

“(T)he great American tragedy!  Its existence is a blot on the Statue of Liberty, the American Flag, the Constitution, and all this great land stands for.”

Wendell Smith

Wendell Smith

For Smith, the “American tragedy” was exacerbated by the fact that he felt the players and fans were further harmed because while the quality of Negro League baseball on the field was of the same quality as that of their white brethren, the off-field operations were not.

In 1943, Smith said he hoped “(F)or the day when we can actually say there is such a thing as organized Negro baseball…Schedules are not respected, trades are made without the knowledge of the league officials, players are fined but the fines are seldom paid; and no one seems to know what players are ineligible and what players are eligible in the leagues.  It is a messy system.”

That same year, when Negro American President Dr. John B. Martin—a Memphis dentist who also owned the Chicago American Giants with his brother– said he was told by Kennesaw Mountain Landis that “Negro baseball will never get on a firm footing until a commissioner is appointed and a sound treasury built up.”

Smith responded:

“The sports scribes of the Negro press have been yelping to the high heavens for years for a real boss in Negro baseball.”

In 1946, when Baseball Commissioner A.B. “Happy” Chandler told the Negro League magnates to “Get your house in order,” The Courier story—which contained no byline but was likely written by Smith—said Chandler had told “Negro baseball the same thing everybody else has been telling it for five years.”

And, when the magnates said in response they were willing to improve the organizational structure of the Negro American and National League, Smith said in his column:

“It is significant to note, dear reader, that this concern is not motivated by a desire to improve the status of the Negro player, but simply to protect their own selfish interests.”

Of the Negro League magnates, he said:

“The truth of the matter is this:  Few, if any, of the owners in Negro baseball, are sincerely interested in the advancement of the Negro player, or what it means in respect to the Negro race as a whole.  They’ll deny that, of course, and shout to the highest heavens that racial progress comes first and baseball next.  But actually, the preservation of their shaky, littered, infested, segregated baseball domicile comes first, last, and always.”

Later in the column, he accused the owners of caring for nothing except:

“(T)he perpetuation of the ‘slave trade’ they had developed via the channels of segregated baseball.”

Smith felt integration was not only critical for the “advancement of the Negro player” and “the race as a whole,” but also critical to the Negro Leagues themselves.

In response to a letter written by Hubert Ballentine, an outfielder for the semi-pro East St. Louis Colts, which echoed the sentiments of many claiming integration would be the death knell of the Negro Leagues, Smith said:

“Negro baseball cannot be a success without major league cooperation.  Proof of that contention exists right today.  Our players receive salaries that the average big league player would scorn.  Our players receive less money per month than players in the class ‘B’ minor leagues… (I) believe that anything done by the majors to improve the status of Negro players will prove beneficial and advantageous to Negro baseball in every way.”

Smith held onto that belief through the signing and debut of Jackie Robinson, believing an organized Negro League could “(L)ine up with the majors and serve as recruiting grounds.”

Much of his hope for a long-term place for the Negro Leagues in organized baseball was lost in January of 1948, after the San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League, signed 22-year-old Chicago American Giants catcher John Ritchey, who had won the Negro American League batting title in 1947.

John Ritchey

John Ritchey

Dr. John B. Martin—the American Giants owner and Negro American League President—protested the signing to Commissioner Chandler, claiming San Diego “had stolen Richey.”

Smith picked up the story:

“(Martin) demanded an investigation.

“But before Chandler could go to work on the case, he asked Martin to send him a duplicate of Richey’s contract for the past season…when Martin searched through his files—or whatever in the word he uses to keep such important documents—there was no contract to be found.  He then called in Candy Jim Taylor, manager of the club.  ‘I want Richey’s contract for last season,’ he said.  ‘I need to send it to Chandler.’

“Taylor raised his eyebrows in surprise. ‘I don’t have his contract,’ he said.  ‘You’re the owner and you sign the ball players.”

Taylor had not.

“Martin had to write Chandler to tell him he could not find Richey’s contract.  ‘But,’ he wrote, ‘he’s still my property.  He played on my club all last year.’

“The commissioner must have rolled in the aisle when he learned of this laxity on the part of the president of the Negro American League.  Obviously, he has been operating his club on an Amos ‘n’ Andy basis.

“Chandler then wrote to Martin: ‘The Executive Council of Baseball would want to handle, with the most careful ethics the cases of organized baseball taking players from the Negro Leagues.  At present , I am somewhat  at a loss to know how we can hold one of our minor league clubs responsible for the violation of an alleged contract when the contract itself cannot be found, and when apparently those responsible for obtaining the contract are uncertain whether or not the ever did obtain it.’”

Smith noted that Kansas City Monarchs owner J.L. Wilkinson made the same “robbery” claim when the Brooklyn Dodgers signed Robinson:

“But like Martin, he was unable to produce a bonafide contract with Robinson’s name on it.  That too, we’ll call an oversight.”

Those “oversights” said Smith, not integration of professional baseball, were what had cost the owners.

But, ever the optimist, Smith made one last effort to save Negro Baseball, with a plan that had it been successful,  could be the pitch for a reality show.  That story, coming up Friday

 

“Out of the Game”

2 Nov

ripley

A September 1920 cartoon in The New York Globe, “Cleaning Up” by Robert Ripley–later famous for “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” which he began drawing two years earlier–calling on organized baseball to banish  Hal Chase, Heinie Zimmerman, and six members of the Chicago White Sox: Swede Risberg, Joe Jackson, Eddie Cicotte, Buck Weaver. Happy Felsh [sic, Felsch] and Lefty Williams–Ripley left out Chick Gandil and Fred McMullin.

Ripley continued to draw baseball cartoons as “Believe it or Not” gained popularity, including the one below from 1921 winter meetings featuring Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Ban Johnson, Kid Gleason, Hooks Wiltse, Charles Ebbets, John McGraw, and Wilbert Robinson.  After The Globe folded in 1923, Ripley moved to The New York Evening News.

ripley2

 

Cecil and Josh

21 Jan

Newspapers across the country saw it as a human interest story about baseball; the Black Press saw it very differently.  With his team in a slump, New York Giants Manager Bill Terry brought in 13-year-old Cecil Terry to “bring the Giants some badly needed luck.”

Cecil Haley

Cecil Haley

The Associated Press said of Haley’s first day on the job:

“Cecil, a Negro mascot, was given a Giant uniform yesterday, allowed to sit in the dugout for the first time and promised a trip West if he’d bring the Giants some badly-needed luck.  The net result of his work?  Pirates 4, Giants 3.”

Very different stories appeared in the Black press.  The Washington Afro-American said:

“(O)rganized big leagues will have colored mascots but steadfastly refuse to accept them as players.  The proud lad sits under the bat rack in the Giants’ dugout, but to date, something must be wrong, because the Giants are hopelessly battling for fifth place.”

The New York Age said:

“Cecil Haley, New York Giants colored mascot, will know better when he grows older and tries to get a job playing for the same team.”

The same day that Haley appeared on the bench with the Giants, New York pitcher Carl Hubbell spoke with The Pittsburgh Courier about Josh Gibson:

“‘(H)e’s one of the greatest backstops in the history of baseball, I think…Boy–how he can throw!’ exclaimed Hubbell.

josh

“There seems to be nothing to it when he throws.  He just whips the ball down to second base like it had a string on it.  He’s great, I’m telling you.  Any team in the big leagues could use him right now.’

“But, with all that,’ said Hubbell, ‘the thing I like best about him is that he’s as fast as greased lightening.  You know, after a few years a catcher usually slows up considerably from bending down so much.  But that guy–why, he’s never slowed down.”

That summer, a new effort was underway to integrate baseball.  A petition drive led by the Young Communist League collected between 25,000 and 100,000 (reports varied) and delivered to National League President Ford Frick,  and Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis at the 1939 winter meeting in Cincinnati.

The Afro-American said Frick “avoided the issue by declaring that a ‘social problem’ was involved for which the big leagues were not responsible.”

There is no public record of the commissioner’s response.

Josh Gibson, with two-time Communist Vice-Presidential Candidate James W. Ford looking on, signs the 1939 petition to end racial discrimination in professional baseball.

I published a shorter version of this post on August 27, 2012.

“Anson, the Baseballist, would like to see some Changes”

26 Sep

Some of baseball’s pioneer’s had ideas for rule changes that would have if adopted, dramatically changed the game.  In 1896 Adrian Constantine “Cap” Anson proposed two such changes.

Anson’s Colts had not finished better than fourth place in the National League in the previous five seasons, and the manager apparently thought two radical changes would improve his team’s chances and simplify the game.

"Cap" Anson

“Cap” Anson

The Chicago Record said:

“Anson, the baseballist, would like to see some changes in the present system of playing ball.”

Anson said he wanted to make a change to the 1893 rule that established the distance from the pitcher’s mound to home plate and replaced the pitcher’s box with the rubber:

“He is in favor of putting the pitcher’s slab in front of the pitcher, instead of having it behind him.  He wants this done in order to stop the interminable bickering that is going on in almost every game as to whether the pitcher was in position.  It is much easier to see whether the rule is conformed to when the slab is in front of the pitcher, and he dare not stop over it.”

Anson’s other rule change would have led to complete chaos, and would have made it an adventure to fill out a scorecard:

“Another radical change that Anson is in favor of allowing the captain to put players back into the game after they have been taken out…(Anson)  wants all restrictions removed, the manager being allowed to play his men just as he sees fit, taking them out and putting them back just when he wants to.”

The issue of introducing free substitution into baseball has occasionally been raised in the years since Anson advocated for it.

Montreal Canadians coach Dick Irvin suggested it to Kennesaw Mountain Landis as a solution to player shortages when the baseball commissioner attended an NHL game during World War II.   Lew Fonseca made a pitch for the rule in the 1950s, and Walter “Red” Barber, long-time Dodger and Yankee broadcaster suggested in the 1960’s that the rule would help keep baseball from being “as exciting as watching paint dry.”

In 1967, Eddie Stanky of the Chicago White Sox was given permission from the American League to experiment with a crude form of what would become the designated hitter rule six years later.  The convoluted rule, according to The Milwaukee Sentinel, said:

“(T)he Sox and their spring opponents will be allowed to call on a pinch hitter twice provided that he is designated before the game is not used twice in the same inning.”

Eddie Stanky

Eddie Stanky

 

Lost Advertisements–Connie Mack Day in Cleveland

6 Sep

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A 1938 Advertisement printed in Cleveland newspapers for Connie Mack Day.

The Philadelphia Athletics manager was honored on June 19 in front of 20,000 fans at Cleveland Stadium.  The ad listed every “star player developed by the grand old man of baseball.”

The baseball world pays tribute to that grand master of the National Game

Connie Mack

President and Manager of the Athletics

Connie Mack’s major league career dates back to 1886–52 years ago.

He became an American League manager in 1900 and had served as manager of the Athletics from 1901 to date–the longest record of continuous managerial service in the entire history of the sport.

He has to his credit nine American League pennants (1902, 1905, 1910, 1911, 1913, 1914, 1929, 1930, 1931) and five world championships (1910, 1911, 1913, 1929, 1930).

The list of star players discovered and developed by him is a tremendous honor roll to his credit.

His city has awarded him the $10,000 annual award for outstanding performance to the credit of Philadelphia.

A kindlier man never lived.  A greater baseball strategist never lived.  We do ourselves credit to honor this great sportsman and gentleman.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer said Mack was presented with “a handsomely bound leather book in which were the signatures of every person in organized baseball from Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis down to the greenest rookie in the West Texas-New Mexico League.”  Cleveland’s baseball writers also presented Mack with an engraved gold pencil.

The Plain Dealer and The Cleveland News both noted that when Mack addressed the crowd he added an “n” to Indians president Alva Bradley’s first name; The Plain Dealer said:

“Mr. Mack always had a tough time with names of his friends and players.  For years he has called ‘Lefty’ Grove ‘Groves’ and Lou Gehrig “Garridge.’ In fact he never has attempted to call his second baseman, (Dario) Lodigiani, anything but ‘Lodi’ for this season.”

The league-leading Indians beat Mack’s Athletics 5 to 4.

Kauff and Perritt

29 Jan

Benny Kauff and Pol Perritt were two of the reasons why the New York giants won the National League Pennant in 1917.  Kauff led the team with a .308 average and Perritt was 17-7 with a 1.88 ERA.  Both came to the Giants by way of the Federal League, and with the help of “Sinister Dick” Kinsella, John McGraw’s right-hand man.

"Sinister Dick" Kinsella

“Sinister Dick” Kinsella

Kinsella was the former baseball magnate of Springfield, Illinois who went east to serve as McGraw’s chief scout.  He was a key player in the incident that led to Giants’ catcher Larry McLean’s banishment from organized baseball.

After the 1914 season, McGraw set his sights on the Indianapolis Hoosiers’ Kauff, who was being called the “Ty Cobb of the Federal League.”  Kauff led the league with a .370 average, 120 runs, 211 hits and 75 stolen bases.

When the debt-ridden Hoosiers were transferred to Newark for the 1915 season Kauff’s contract was sold to the Brooklyn Tip-Tops, and he joined the team in Browns Wells, Mississippi.

At the same time, Perritt coming off a 16-13 season was prepared to jump the St. Louis Cardinals and join the Pittsburgh Rebels in the Federal League.

Pol Perritt and Benny Kauff, 1917

Pol Perritt and Benny Kauff, 1917

Sportswriter Frank G. Menke of Hearst’s International News Service picks up the story:

“Dick Kinsella, scout for the Giants, according to the story we get, hustled to Browns Wells and got a job on a plantation…Kinsella didn’t dare to put up at the same hotel because he was known by Manager Lee Magee, Business Manager Dick Carroll and others of the Brookfeds.”

Kinsella, according to Menke, was pretending to be a farm hand and also observing Kauff’s workouts and reporting back to McGraw who, along with Jack Hendricks of the Indianapolis Indians in the American Association (who held Kauff’s rights) was sending coded telegrams to Kauff signed “Father.”  Kauff received telegrams saying, “Mother wishes to see her boy,” and “All is forgiven.”

According to Menke, the telegrams were intended to inform Kauff that McGraw wanted him with the Giants and:

“The “everything forgiven” telegram was to tip Kauff off that if he jumped the National Commission probably would let him play.”

While Kauff was in Mississippi, Pol Perritt was in the process of  jumping to the Federal League.

According to Menke, Kinsella left Mississippi in the middle of the operation to secure Kauff in order to talk to Perritt.  What Kinsella said to Perritt is unknown, but Perritt’s meeting with Pittsburgh manager Rebel Oakes pretty much put an end to any chance of joining the Federal League.  The Associated Press said:

“Pitcher ‘Pol’ Perritt who jumped to the Pittsburgh Federal recently had a fist fight with Manager ‘Rebel’ Oakes…Those who saw the fight say that the pitcher delivered one blow that knocked Oakes over a chair…Friends and acquaintances interceded and hushed up the whole affair before police arrived on the scene.”

The story said Perritt was meeting with Cardinals’ management to “flop back to organized ball,” within weeks the Cardinals sold Perritt’s contract to the Giants, The AP said:

“Carefully guarded by “Sinister Dick” Kinsella…Perritt was delivered to John J. McGraw this noon…Kinsella brought his man in from Shreveport without struggle, and states that he did not even sight a Federal submarine during the entire journey.”

An alternate version of the story, published in The New York Times said it was McGraw who met with Perritt rather than Kinsella and highlighted the manager’s journey to meet the pitcher:

“McGraw had to travel forty miles on one railroad, nine miles on another, and then drive nine miles through the mud to get to Perritt’s home in Louisiana.”

Perritt was in the fold.  After a 12-18 season in 1915, he would win 18, 17 and 18 from 1916-18.

Kauff would be a bit more complicated.

While Kinsella was gone from Mississippi securing Perritt, Kauff signed a $6000 contract with Brooklyn, which he immediately regretted and contacted McGraw.

kinsellamcgraw

Dick Kinsella and John McGraw, 1920

According to Menke, Kauff:

“Related the difficulty he had with Robert B. Ward, president of the Brookfeds, over the contract.  The Giants people thought that owing to Kauff’s trouble—or alleged trouble—over the Brookfed contract that he was not legally under contract.”

Menke said the Giants signed Kauff for $7000 a year for three years with a $7000 bonus.

National League President John Tener voided the contract and Kauff was forced to return to the Tip Tops; he again led the league with a .342 average.

McGraw finally got his second man at the close of the 1915 season.  After the Federal League folded and Kauff was reinstated to organized baseball he signed a two-year contract for $6500 a season and a $5000 bonus with the Giants.

New York had finished in eighth place in 1915. They improved to fourth in 1916 and won the pennant by 10 games in 1917. McGraw’s Giants lost the to the Chicago White Sox four games to two in the World Series.  Perritt appeared in three games in relief, and Kauff hit a disappointing .160, despite two home runs in the Giants’ game four victory.

After the 1917 World Series Perritt and Kauff faded fast.

Perritt was 18-13 in 1918, but would only win four more games over the following three seasons with the Giants and Detroit Tigers; he was out of professional baseball before his 30th birthday.

Kauff’s demise is better known; his professional career came to an end at age thirty, the result of allegations of his involvement with gamblers, in general, and 1919 World series fixer Arthur Rothstein in particular.  Kauff, who owned an automobile accessory business with his half-brother and Giant teammate Jesse Barnes, was charged with stealing and reselling an automobile.  Although he was acquitted at trial, Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned Kauff for life.  Kauff’s oft-told story is told best in two excellent books by David Pietrusza:  Rothstein: The Life, Times, and Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series and Judge and Jury: The Life and Times of Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis.

Perritt died in Shreveport, Louisiana in 1947; Kauff died in Columbus, Ohio in 1961.

Mique Malloy

10 Dec

John Michael “Mique” Malloy has at least three different listings under various forms of his name on Baseball Reference.

Malloy was born in Chicago in 1885, and played mostly amateur and semi-pro ball in Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota, but had a brief professional career as a player and manager in the Wisconsin-Illinois and Minnesota-Wisconsin Leagues.  The few statistics that survive include a .301 batting average in 133 at bats as a player-manager with the 1913 Wausau Lumberjacks–Malloy fractured his ankle in June and was released in July.

With his playing career over Malloy joined the Chicago Cubs as a scout, but left after the 1913 season to scout for the Chicago franchise in the Federal League.

Malloy became a footnote in the battle between the Federal League and the American and National Leagues, when in April of 1914 according to The Chicago Examiner he filed a $2000 lawsuit against the Cubs claiming he was not paid by the team for helping to sign Zip Zabel and Fritz Mollwitz.

It appears the suit was settled amicably and Malloy returned to the Cubs scouting staff after the Federal League folded.

He stayed with the Cubs with several years, but after World War I entered the business for which he was best known.

Throughout the 1920s and 30s Malloy was one of the most prominent boxing promoters in Chicago.  Malloy, Paddy Harmon, the man responsible for building Chicago Stadium, and Jim Mullen had a piece of every major fight that took place in Chicago.

1930s poster featuring promoters Mique Malloy, Jim Mullen and Paddy Harmon, and some of their stable of fighters.

1930s poster featuring promoters Mique Malloy, Jim Mullen and Paddy Harmon, and some of their stable of fighters.

In August of 1930, The Chicago Daily News said Malloy offered Washington Senators First Baseman Art Shires “(A) guarantee of $50,000 (and) two-thirds of the gate over expenses,” if he returned to the ring–Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis had ruled that no Major League player would be permitted to box after Shires’ five fights  in December of 1929 and January of 1930—Shires, at the height of celebrity failed to cash in on the offer and found himself broke and returning to the ring for two much less lucrative fights in 1935.

John Michael "Mique" Malloy, 1922

John Michael “Mique” Malloy, 1922

Malloy, at various times, was closely associated with champions Primo Carnera, John Henry Lewis and Henry Armstrong.  It was a rift with Armstrong that led to the worst publicity of Malloy’s career.  After a February 1938 bout Malloy promoted at the International Amphitheater, Armstrong vowed never to fight for Malloy again and claimed that the promoter had seated fans in segregated sections.  There is no record of whether or not Malloy responded to the charges.

Malloy continued to promote boxing and wrestling cards in Chicago until he retired in 1947; he died in Chicago in 1952.

Another Malloy story tomorrow.