Tag Archives: Lefty Leifield

Nick Maddox

9 Feb

Nicholas “Nick” Maddox burst on the National League scene in 1907. Born in Maryland on November 9, 1886, Maddox’ was born Nicholas Duffy, but adopted his stepfather’s name Maddox.

In 1906 the 19-year-old was given a trial in the spring with the providence Grays in the Eastern league.  He was released before the season began and signed with the Cumberland Rooters in the Pennsylvania-Ohio-Maryland League (POM).  Maddox had played in 1905 for the Piedmont team in the semi-pro Cumberland and Georges Creek League.

He was the best pitcher in the POM; The Sporting Life said Maddox was 22-3 for the Rooters who finished the season in fourth place with a 50-45 record, and was “the fastest pitcher in the league.”

Nick Maddox

Nick Maddox

Maddox spent most of 1907 with the Wheeling Stogies of the Central League.  He posted a 13-10 record and no-hit the Terre Haute Hottentots on August 22.  Maddox was purchased by the Pirates the following month and made his big league debut on against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Cumberland Times noted that he faced a “double-jointed hoodoo of commencing his National League career on Friday, September the 13th.”

The Pittsburgh Press said:

“Nick was ‘on the job’ yesterday from start to finish, and acted more like a man with many years’ major league experience than like a minor leaguer who has been in the business but a few seasons.”

Maddox shut the Cardinals out on just five hits, struck out 11 and got his first hit, a single in his first at bat.

Eight days later Maddox threw the first no-hitter in Pirates’ history, beating the Brooklyn Superbas 2 to 1—Brooklyn scored on two fourth-inning errors.   Years later, Maddox said of his own throwing error that put Emil Batch on base:

 “They scored me with an error, but hell man, I threw it straight to the first baseman (Harry) Swacina.  Sure it went over his head but he should have jumped for it.”

Batch scored on an error by shortstop Honus Wagner.  Maddox said:

“I don’t hold that against Honus, he saved my no-hitter in the ninth.  A ball was hit right over my head and ‘pfft’ Wagner was over there to get it.  I don’t think he ever held the ball, he just swooped it over to first.”

The rookie started six games Pittsburgh, won his first four, and finished with a 5-1 record with a 0.83 ERA.

The Pittsburgh Leader said Pirates’ President Barney Dreyfuss claimed Maddox would be “the sensation” of 1908.  He wasn’t far off.

The 21-year-old was an impressive 23-8 with a 2.28 ERA with five shutouts.  Despite his success there was concern about control—he walked 90 batters while striking out just 70 in 260 innings, and hit 11 batters.

After three second and one third-place finish the four previous seasons, Pittsburgh, and Maddox, came into 1909 with high expectations.  The Pittsburgh Press said:

“Nick Maddox is facing a very successful summer, and with an even break and barring accidents he ought to push any other twirler in the National League for first honors.  He has everything a pitcher needs, and youth with it.”

The Press also said he would “start out with good control” based on his performance in March games in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

The Pirates lived up to expectations, taking over first place on May 5 and cruising to the pennant; Maddox did not.

The 22-year-old struggled for the first half of the season.  The Leader said he was having “a hard time getting into condition,” and was wild as a March Hare.”  Maddox got on track in July pitching a 2-hit shout against the Cincinnati Reds on the 6th, and four-hit shutouts against the Brooklyn Superbas and Boston Doves on the 14th and 23rd.

He ended the season 13-8 with a 2.21 ERA—overshadowed by teammates Howie Camnitz (25-6), Vic Willis (22-11), Albert “Lefty” Leifield (19-8) and rookie Charles “Babe” Adams (13-3 as a reliever and spot starter).

Babe Adams

Babe Adams

Despite going into the World Series against the Detroit Tigers with such a strong pitching staff, Manager Fred Clarke opted for the rookie Adams in game one and he responded with a 4 to 1 victory.

The Tigers beat Camnitz 7 to 2 in game 2.

Three years later, Fred Clarke spoke to James Jerpe of The Pittsburgh Gazette-Times about his decision on a pitcher for game three:

“I was in an awful predicament.  Adams had been used up.  It was had been raining, and it was very cold.  The chilly drizzle was something frightful.  The ball would get wet and water-logged and the problem was to get a pitcher who could handle the wet ball.  I looked the gang over.  Adams was out of the question.  He had been used up.

“I was figuring on the others, and I asked ‘Who can go out there today and handle a wet ball and win?’  Poor Maddox, sitting in a corner of the bench all bundled up with sweaters and other stuff, shed his extra clothes and jumped up.  Grabbing a ball, he said: ‘Gimme a catcher till I warm up.  I’ll handle this wet ball and beat them or break a leg.’  His confidence gave me a hunch, and I acted on it.”

Ring Lardner said of the game:

“Detroit’s record crowd, 18,277, saw the Tigers beaten by the Pirates 8 to 6, today in one of the most exciting and most poorly played world’s series games in baseball history.”

The Pirates scored five runs in the first inning off Detroit’s Ed Summers, and Maddox shut the Tigers down for the first six innings.  Detroit scored four runs in the seventh, aided by two Pirate errors.  Clarke said:

“Maddox wouldn’t have been in so much trouble if we had played ball behind him.”

The Pirates took a 8 to 4 lead into the ninth–Detroit scored two more runs, helped by another error—but Maddox held on and picked up the win.

He did not appear in another game during the series.  The Pirates won in seven; with Adams picking up complete game wins in games five and seven.

09pirates

1909 World Series Champion Pirates, Maddox is ninth from left.

 

The defending champions got off to a quick start again, but Maddox again started slow.  By July, The Leader said:

“Nick Maddox should have rounded into form..He is big and strong this year, but does not seem able to pitch good ball for nine rounds.”

He never “rounded into form.”  Maddox struggled all season.  He started just seven games, pitched in relief in 13 others, and was 2-3 with 3.40 ERA.

By August, with the Pirates in second place, six games behind the Chicago Cubs, The Pittsburgh Gazette asked “what was the matter?” with Maddox and why the Pirates had not cut him loose.

He made his last appearance on September 12, giving up a run, a hit and walking two batters in two innings of relief during a 4-0 loss to the Reds.  He was sold to the Kansas City Blues in the American Association 10 days later.

Maddox won 22 games for the Blues the following season, but continued to be plagued by wildness and arm trouble.  His major league career was over, and he was finished professionally in July of 1914 at 27-years-old when he was released as manager and pitcher for the Wichita club in the Western League after posting a 3-13 record.

Fred Clarke was convinced Maddox’ career really came to an end on that rainy day in Detroit.  James Jerpe of The Pittsburgh Gazette-Times said that in 1910 Dreyfuss asked Clarke to release Maddox long before he sold the pitcher to Kansas City:

“’Why don’t you let Maddox go? You aren’t pitching him.’

“’No,’ replied the Pirate Chief sadly.  “I’m not pitching him.  He ruined his arm helping Adams win the world’s series.’

“And Fred narrated (to Dreyfuss) more of Nick’s gameness on that bleak and drizzly October day in Detroit when he gave his arm for a championship.  Nick was carried for a whole year and the club has been interested in his welfare ever since.”

Fred Clarke

Fred Clarke

Maddox, who lived in Pittsburgh, and worked for the Fort Pitt Brewing Company, after his retirement, lived long enough to listen on the radio to the last two innings of the next no-hitter thrown by a Pirate pitcher—Cliff Chambers defeated the Boston Braves 3-0 on May 6, 1951.

Nick Maddox died in 1954 at age 68.

Life on the Road, 1914

6 Feb

In 1914, before beginning his second season as manager of the San Francisco Seals, George “Del” Howard gave the readers of The San Francisco Call a rare look behind the scenes of a baseball team.

Del Howard

Del Howard

“One of the many difficulties which beset a ballplayer is ‘killing’ time while playing away from home…Del Howard was telling only yesterday how the various members of the Seal squad act while on the road.  All the boys are quartered at the same hotel and they usually pass the time in each other’s company.  Card playing for the most part is the favorite pastime, with theater-going running a close second..  There are a few of the San Francisco players who like to hide behind a book, others frequent billiard parlors for a game with the cue, but the majority sit around a table and do their best to deal out pairs.”

Howard even shared the team’s rules for road trips:

“Don’t stay out later than midnight.

Don’t fail to answer 8 A.M. call.

Don’t fail to be down to breakfast by 8:15.

Don’t run around to dances

Don’t play ‘craps’ at any time.

Don’t go over 25 cent limit at cards.

Don’t drink to excess.

Otherwise the players are free to do as they please.”

He said of his “don’ts”:

“We haven’t many rules but the ones we have must be observed.  We don’t tell a player he mustn’t drink nor smoke but we do take action when the privileges are abused.  A player knows best what is good for him and free rein is given him.  A player is allowed to remain up until midnight, if he is in good company, and he is required to be up at 8 in the morning.   There is nothing to do but it is healthy for him to be out of bed.  We breakfast at 8:15.  Very few players eat any lunch and at 6 we go to dinner.  Then there is a long evening to be faced and t is certainly a problem putting in time.”

Howard then described how some of the Seals’ most popular players were “putting in time:”

Howard Mundorff is the life of the club.  ‘Mundy’ is full of fun and the players gather around him and listen for hours while he tells stories and amuses them.  Howard is also one of the card sharks.

Mundorff

Howard Mundorff

Jimmy Johnston is an enthusiastic pool player and he usually can be found at night trying for the 15-ball in the side pocket.  Pete Standridge is also handy with the cue.

Walter Schmidt is quiet and keeps to himself a deal of the time.  He delights in taking strolls and Walter Cartwright, another quiet chap, occasionally accompanies him.

(Jay) Nig Clarke seems to lose himself on every trip and Manager Howard declares that for the life of him he cannot tell just how Nig passes the time.

(Roy) Corhan plays cards pretty regularly, but he spends a lot of his time writing, for he keeps up a continuous line of communication with his better half, when he is on the road, writing consistently every day.

Roy Corhan

Roy Corhan

Charlie Fanning is a bug with the camera and takes pretty good pictures of all the places of interest.  “Skeeter” also knows when to lay down two pair.

“(Albert “Lefty”) Leifield is a very interesting talker and he was a running-mate with Mundorff in amusing the gang.”

Howard said shortstop Harry McArdle was the “most popular player he ever encountered.  Mac has admirers in every town and was kept pretty busy keeping engagements.”

Harry McArdle (sliding)

Harry McArdle (sliding)

As for his time on the road, Howard said, “I walk around and look over things.  I was fortunate in having a well-behaved club last season and did not have any trouble keeping them in line…A busher has the time of his life in a strange town, but a veteran only figures to do something to keep busy.”

After a 104-104 fourth-place finish in 1913, Howard’s Seals—minus Johnston, who drafted by the Chicago Cubs and McArdle, who was traded to the Venice Tigers–behaved themselves well enough to finish third with a 115-96 record in 1914.  The following season he was replaced by Harry Wolverton who led the seals to a 188-89 season, and the Pacific Coast League championship.

“A Heart-Breaking Play, Engineered by Wagner”

29 Mar

The defending World Series Champion New York Giants had gotten off to a fast start in 1906; on May 15 they were 19-7, the Chicago Cubs were 21-9, when they arrived in Pittsburgh for a four game series.

The Giants were shut out by the Pirates in the first two games.  In the third game of the series Christy Mathewson blew a three-run lead and the Giants trailed 7-5 heading into the top of the eighth inning..

Outfielder Sam Mertes walked, moved to second on Bill Dahlen’s single and scored on a two-out single by second baseman Billy Gilbert.  The Giants were behind 7-6 with runners on first and second; manager John McGraw was about to send Sammy Strang to pinch hit for Mathewson, when, according to The New York Times:

“A heart-breaking play, engineered by (Honus) Wagner in the last second of the eighth inning, beat the Champion New Yorks…It was a hard game to lose, and might not have been lost had Dahlen not fallen a victim to the wiles of Wagner.  The big Dutchman was guilty of the trick of hiding the ball, and when Bill stepped off second base, thinking (pitcher Albert “Lefty”) Leifield had the ball, Wagner, who had concealed it, touched Dahlen, which made the third out.”

Bill Dahlen

Bill Dahlen

The Pirates held on to win 7-6; The Times said of Dahlen:

“The New York shortstop felt so bad that he fairly wept.  McGraw, too, was angry, and it was said tonight he fined Dahlen heavily for his bit of carelessness.”

The Giants were unable to keep pace with the Cubs who finished 20 games ahead of New York for National League Pennant.

The Box Score

The Box Score