Tag Archives: League Alliance

Frank Bancroft

14 Jul

When Frank Carter Bancroft died in 1921 at age 74, “Spalding’s Official Baseball Guide” said:

“His executive ability and Knowledge of Base Ball, combined with the fact that he was for sport first and the show element of Base Ball secondarily, rendered him one of the most competent of men to handle the affairs of a professional team.”

Frank Bancroft

Frank Bancroft

While working in the front office of the Reds in 1892, Bancroft talked with Harry Weldon, sports editor of The Cincinnati Enquirer about some of the players who got their start with his teams.  He also didn’t seem to mind taking a swipe at a couple former players:

“Probably no man now before the public except Harry Wright or Adrian C. Anson have had a longer or more varied experience with the intricacies of the great National Game than Frank C. Bancroft.  He never wore the spangles, like a great many other managers, but he has been connected with the game in a managerial capacity since the early seventies.  ‘Bannie’ is one of the wittiest men in the profession and he has a fund of anecdotes about players and plays that are well worth hearing.  Many of the great baseball stars now before the public made their debut under Mr. Bancroft’s management.  Many of them who are now drawing $4,000 or $5,000 a season worked under Bannie for about one-tenth that amount and were glad to get it.  Bancroft was one of the leading lights in the original New England League, which graduated a great many of the stars of today.

“At the present time Mr. Bancroft is business manager of the Cincinnati Reds.  He has nothing whatever to do with the players. All of that part of the club’s affairs being under the supervision of Captain (Charlie) Comiskey.  All Bannie has to do is look after the gate, railroad rates and dates.  The other evening the veteran manager was in The Enquirer office and grew reminiscent.  His recital of the details of the debut of some of the stars is worth reproducing.

Harry Stovey, one of the greatest ballplayers today, began his professional career under Manager Bancroft.  He began his career in the pitcher’s box and graduated out of the ranks of a Philadelphia amateur team called the Defiance in 1877 (the Philadelphia Defiance were a professional team, part of the league Alliance).  Manager Bancroft heard of him, and in 1878 engaged him as a change pitcher for the New Bedfords.  G. Washington ‘Grin’ Bradley was the regular pitcher of the team, and as he was an every-day pitcher Stovey was never allowed an opportunity of displaying his pitching abilities on the New Bedford team.  He had to be content with warming the bench until fate was kind and he had a chance.

Stovey

Harry Stovey

“‘Stovey played his first game with our team at Baltimore,’ said Mr. Bancroft.  ‘we were making an exhibition tour when John Piggot, the first baseman, was taken ill, and as we only carried ten men, Stovey was called on to make an attempt to play first base.  His maiden effort was a brilliant one—so brilliant that it lost Piggott his job and made Stovey a fixture on first.  He had at least twenty putouts, no errors and several cracking hits to his credit that day.  He played the season with us, and his fame spread so that he was signed by the Worcester (Ruby Legs) League team and afterward with the Athletics Stovey’s salary the first season in New Bedford for $50 a month.  Now he is paid nearly that much a game.’

George Gore, the crack center-fieder of the New Yorks is another player who came into prominence with the New Bedfords that year.  Gore’s home was in Maine, at a little town called Saccarappa…Gore was about as green a specimen as ever stepped into the business.  He played a few games with the Fall Rivers, and then the New Bedfords got him.  He was a big, awkward country boy then, but he could run like a deer and hit the ball like a trip hammer.  Gore signed with the New Bedfords under Manager Bancroft for $50 a month, but he did not stay with them long.  His terrific batting attracted the attention of the whole baseball world, and soon the more prominent clubs were after him.  While the Chicagos were in Boston the late lamented (William) Hulbert, President of the National League, who was with them, ran up to New Bedford to have a talk with Gore.  Luck was with big George.  He had his eye with him, and made three home runs in the game.  That feat settled his fate.  Before Hulbert left New Bedford he had Gore’s name to a contract to play in Chicago in 1879 at $150 a month.  His career since that time is well known.  Today he is yet a great hitter, and reached first base as frequently as any player in the business, by either hits, errors or bases on balls.  His ability to reach first causes him to be selected to head the battery list of the New Yorks.

Arthur Irwin is another player whom Manager Bancroft put in the business. ‘He made a grand impression in his opening game with me,” said Manager Bancroft.  ‘I was then manager of the Worcester League team, and we were on the hog train for a while, owing to Charlie Bennett’s glass arm and Buck (William “Farmer”) Weaver’s faint heart.  Matters were so bad that a crisis was at hand.  A meeting of the stockholders of the club was called, and it was voted to place the team in my hands for one month, and if no improvement was shown at the end of that time I was to be given the chase.  It was a dying chance for me, and you could gamble that I had my eyes and ears open for a savior of some kind.  Arthur Irwin was then playing with an amateur team called the Aetnas, of South Boston, and I engaged him to play short with the Worcester.  (J. Lee) Richmond, the once famous left-handed pitcher, who played here with the Reds in 1886, was then with the Brown University team and he was telegraphed to come for a trial.  We played the Chicagos that day, and we shut them out, only one man getting first base.  Irwin made a great hit at short, and Richmond was a wizard.  Irwin was a fifty-dollar-a-month man, and that was the start of his professional career.  Richmond is now a physician at Geneva, Ohio.’”

The game Bancroft referred to was an exhibition between Worcester (a member of the National Association) and the National League’s Chicago White Stockings played on June 2 in Worcester. Richmond walked the first batter, Abner Dalrymple, and then retired the next twenty-one before the game was called after seven innings.  The Chicago Tribune said Richmond struck out 8.  Worcester tagged Frank Hankinson for 12 hits and 11 runs (Chicago also committed 11 errors).  Bancroft was correct that Richmond became a physician, but by 1892, he was no longer practicing and was working as a teacher in Toledo, Ohio.

J. Lee Richmond

J. Lee Richmond

“Big Roger Connor of last season’s New Yorks, but now of Philadelphia, received his professional introduction under Manager Bancroft.  ‘It sounds queer to say that such a cracking hitter as Roger Connor was ever released for poor batting, but such was the case’ said Manager Bancroft

“’I had him with the New Bedfords in 1878, but he was hitting so poorly that I released him.  He afterward signed with the New Havens the same season, but the disbanded.  Roger left New Haven and went to Waterbury, his home, where he joined an amateur team in that city called the Monitors.  Up to that time he had batted right-handed, but he decided to turn around and try it left-handed.  The change saved his life.  He blossomed out as a great slugger, and his reputation has been growing ever since.

“Connor, like Stovey, began his professional career at $50 a month, and has since climbed to the top rung of high salaried players.  Many young players of today should look upon these as examples for honest and temperate habits have enabled them to remain at the head of the profession, while the path is strewn with a multitude of others who might have been where they are if they had not thought this world was a continuous round of gaiety and fun and discovered their mistake when it was too late.”

 

Albert Spalding on Superstitions

18 Dec

During a game in September of 1882 against the Worcester Ruby Legs, Albert Spalding, Chicago White Stockings President, sat “in the reporters’ stand” at Lakefront Park with a sportswriter from The Chicago Herald:

“The Worcesters had gained a run in the fourth inning, but the home team had been successfully retired for five straight innings.  The Chicagos were playing their best, but ‘luck was dead against them.’”

At that point Chicago outfielder Abner Dalrymple came to where the White Stockings’ president was seated and said:

“’Mr. Spalding, will you move other in some other chair?  That was the seat Harry Wright occupied during the games we had with his club.’  Spalding laughed, but hurried out of his place to a chair further down the line.  The home team made three runs in that inning and won—five to one.”

Abner Dalrymple

Abner Dalrymple

The reporter later asked Spalding about whether all players were superstitious:

“(A)nd he proceeded to explain some of the incidents and conditions supposed to influence the play.

“The players as surely believe that ducks or geese on the home ground presage defeat for that team as they do that an umpire can materially add to the discomfort of a nine,  Dalrymple had great belief that Spalding in Harry Wright’s seat would throw all the bad luck imaginable on the Chicago side.”

The Herald said when the second place Providence Grays came to Chicago that same month, the White Stockings “thought that by donning their old tri-colored caps…they would defeat them, and sure enough, they won three straight games.”

Spalding said it wasn’t limited to his own team:

“(Worcester) Captain (Arthur) Irwin always spits on the coin he tosses up for a choice of position in a game.  Jack Rowe (of the Buffalo Bisons) pulls the little finger of his right hand for luck, and all sorts of chance omens are seized upon by a club for indications of the great triumph they would like to win…(Terry) Larkin, now of the ‘Mets’ (the New York Metropolitans of the League Alliance), had an idea that he would get hurt some time for playing on Friday, and sure enough, in a game one year ago with a college team, he was struck with a ball in the stomach nd was so badly injured that his life was despaired of for a time.”

A.G. Spalding

A.G. Spalding

The 1882 White Stockings, due more to talent than superstition, won their third straight National League pennant beating Providence by three games.

Lost Advertisements—1870s “Buy your Base Ball Supplies”

1 May

west&co

This advertisement from around 1870 was for West & Co., a book and stationery business founded by Henry Harris West in 1857.  West was instrumental in forming the first post-Civil War team in Milwaukee.  The Milwaukee Cream Citys were organized in October of 1865, with West serving as the team’s first president.

The Cream Citys were a dominant amateur team in 1866 and ’67, playing in Wisconsin and Illinois—although they lost

By the time this ad appeared the Cream Citys had declined in stature.  They joined the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP) in 1868, and while remaining an amateur team, were  badly beaten by quasi-professional teams, losing 67-13 to Brooklyn Atlantics and 43-16 to the Unions of Morrisania (South Bronx).

When openly professional clubs were admitted to the NABBP in 1869, things got even worse for the Cream Citys, they were beaten 85-7 and 84-17 by the Cincinnati Red Stockings in two July games.

Milwaukee would have its first fully professional team in 1877 when the West End club joined the League Alliance.

West died in 1893; the company would eventually be renamed H.H. West & Co. The  East Water Street headquarters was destroyed by fire the following year.

H. H. West & Co., 1870s

H. H. West & Co., 1870s