Tag Archives: Lefty Wiliams

Roy Counts

30 Apr

The Arizona State League was formed in 1928—the four-team league had teams in Bisbee, Miami, Tucson, and Phoenix.

There seemed to be little information about Phoenix Senators second baseman Roy Counts in local papers.  Counts had spent the previous two years in the outlaw Copper League with the Fort Bayard (NM) Veterans where he was a teammate of banned White Sox pitcher Claude “Lefty” Williams, but otherwise little was written about Counts.

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The Fort Bayard Veterans in Juarez, Mexico after a 1926 game, Claude “Lefty” Williams is sixth from left, Roy Counts is 14th (with arms crossed)

The Arizona Republic said after an April exhibition game with the barnstorming House of David club, that Counts and third baseman Henry Doll:

“(H)ave been working out in good style and appear in perfect condition.  Both are fast fielders and have wicked pegs to the initial sack.”

On May 20, the Senators beat the Tucson Waddies 11-0.  Counts was 1 for 4 with no errors in five chances at second—it was his final professional game.

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Roy Counts, 1928

Roy Counts it turned out was not really Roy Counts.

Roy Counts was actually Laster Fisher—an Arkansas born fugitive who had previously played professional baseball under his given name.

Fisher—his unusual first name a result of his mother’s maiden name, Lasater—was born in Mulberry, Arkansas on October 8, 1901, and broke into professional ball with the Salina (KS) Millers in the Southwestern League in 1922.  Fisher played third base and shortstop, he hit .269.  In October, the Minneapolis Millers purchased his contract.

That same month, Fisher was arrested in Salina for passing a bad check for $10.50 at a local restaurant.  Whether he was only charged with the writing the one bad check was unclear, but The Salina Evening Journal said his father, “Settled all claims against his son.”

Despite the brush with the law, Fisher spent the spring of 1923 with Minneapolis but was farmed out to the Clarksdale Cubs in the Cotton States League before the season began.  In mid July, he joined Minneapolis, he appeared in 69 games—67 at shortstop—he hit 273 and committed 34 errors in 365 total chances.

The Minneapolis Star said of Fisher’s performance he was, “not of the double A caliber yet.”

He was let go by Minneapolis and signed by the Tulsa Oilers in the Western League—according to The Houston Post he was the first player to arrive at Tulsa’s spring training camp in Marlin, Texas—Fisher appears to have been let go before the season started.

In May, The St. Joseph (MO) News-Press said:

“Lester [sic] Fisher, former Tulsa Western League shortstop, who was reported missing a while back with a drive-it-yourself car…(was) returned to Tulsa and sentenced to five years in the penitentiary.  Fisher is only twenty-two years old and gave promise of being one of the best shortstops in the Western League.  He told the judge who sentenced him that at the time he stole the car he was drunk, and when he got sober he was afraid to return it.”

Fisher had driven the rented Maxwell automobile to Greenwood, Mississippi, and according to The Greenwood Commonwealth left the car in that town; he was later arrested in Leland, Mississippi and returned to Oklahoma.

After entering the Oklahoma State Penitentiary at McAlester, Fisher joined the prison baseball team.  On May 13, 1925, according to The Associated Press, Fisher “Kept running after a game in Holdenville.”

His three year run over, Fisher was returned to prison in Oklahoma.  He never returned to pro ball.

He moved to Texas after his release and was working as a maintenance man at the Victory Baptist Church when he died of congestive heart failure on July 5, 1959.

One Minute Talk–Lefty Williams

19 Sep

In 1916, The Newspaper Enterprise Association ran a series of brief articles called “One Minute Talks with Ballplayers.”

Claude “Lefty” Williams, on his way to winning 13 games for the Chicago White Sox during his first full season as a major league pitcher, after two brief trials with the Detroit Tigers:

“The boy who enters baseball will never be a success until he takes the profession seriously.  I learned my lesson (in 1913 and 1914) when I had my first chance in the majors.  I had always regarded baseball as a game just for fun but Manager (Hughie) Jennings of the Detroit Tigers  soon showed me the error of my way, by shipping me to the Salt Lake club of the Pacific  Coast (League).  Once in the minors I got wise to myself and determined to regain a big league job.

Lefty Williams

Lefty Williams

“I started in baseball as a pitcher for the school team at Springfield, MO., and though I was only a kid I was a pretty successful southpaw.  Now that I am back in the majors I’m certainly going to work my head off to remain here.”

Williams won 33 games for the Salt Lake City Bees in 1915 which earned him his return to the major leagues.  Williams, who vowed to “work my head off to remain here,” won 81 games over five seasons with the White Sox before being banned for his role in the Black Sox scandal.

“Out of the Game”

2 Nov

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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.

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“We are beginning to have a Very Active Doubt as to the Value of Professional Baseball in American Life”

29 Aug

Coming on the heels of the fallout from the Black Sox scandal, The Chicago Tribune announced a change in editorial policy three weeks after “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Eddie Cicotte, Oscar “Happy” Felsch., Claude “Lefty” Williams, Arnold “Chick” Gandil, George “Buck” Weaver, Fred McMullin, and Charles “Swede” Risberg were acquitted of conspiring to fix the 1919 World Series.

Buck Weaver and Swede Risberg during the trial

Buck Weaver and Swede Risberg during the trial

The paper said:

The Tribune has begun to use the compressor on professional baseball stories. The baseball reporters write them well, but we are getting a little tired of the subject. We are beginning to have a very active doubt as to the value of professional baseball in American life.”

The paper said baseball received a “black eye which jury verdicts did not whiten.”

The Tribune said they would place a greater emphasis on coverage of amateur sports which “produce sound citizenry.”  Professional baseball was also making Americans soft:

“The majority of spectators get only eye and mouth exercise.  We have conceded that the professional game stimulated the youngsters and that they played with more earnestness on the lots because they admired Babe Ruth.  We still admit that professional baseball is a stimulus to boys, but journalism has overfed it with space.  The Tribune is down to about a half column now for games in which the home teams play, which is justified parochialism, and to a bare statement of vital statistics regarding the other clubs.  That is enough.”

Other newspapers applauded the policy; surprisingly most didn’t cite corruption in baseball as the reason, but the rather, as The Baltimore Sun said because professional sports only provide “vicarious exercise.”  The Louisville Courier-Journal said watching baseball was even a threat to manhood:

“Two hours of inactivity in the grand stand or bleachers is not productive of muscle or sinew.  The same amount of time spent in tennis, golf, swimming or any number of games would be infinitely better for American manhood.”

Others found the new policy foolish.  The Portland Oregonian said:

The Chicago Tribune, which is regarded by its management, and doubtless by many of its readers, as the world’s greatest newspaper, has decided to blue-pencil professional baseball…The theory on which the sport page is built is that the public is entitled to what it wants…Telling the readers of sports that they should want something else, and will be given that something, is a decided innovation.”

The Duluth News-Tribune said facetiously:

“The fact that both teams (the Cubs and White Sox) are near tail-enders may not have anything to do with it.”

Then there was The Idaho Statesman which said The Tribune’s policy was a “meritorious undertaking,” but didn’t go far enough:

“There are a world of other professional sports not half as white as the Black Sox, that might come under the publicity axe with resulting good to the public…Horseracing is professional and it has produced a fine crop of crooks—more than baseball in its blackest days could possibly yield.  Our own so-called wild west sports have been placed in the professional class and everybody knows they are largely fake.  Wrestling hasn’t the whitest record in the world and prize fighting is anything but a Sunday school game.  Nobody ever got very much exercise out of any of these sports, except the participants and we are not sure that our citizenship is any sounder for having witnessed them.  The Tribune isn’t through with its job as we view the situation.”

The most prescient response was from The Montgomery (AL) Advertiser:

“We expect to see The Tribune gradually slipping back to its old ways.”

Ten days after the original policy was announced The Tribune declared victory, and revealed their real motive:

“An encouraging sign is the changing attitude of the press toward highly commercialized sport. The papers are coming to the conclusion they have been giving away millions of dollars’ worth of advertising to boost box office receipts for promoters who have no special regard for the public.”

But within weeks the “The World’s Greatest Newspaper” had, as The Advertiser predicted, begun “slipping back” to the way baseball had previously been covered.  By the beginning of the 1922 season, notwithstanding the lingering effects of the game’s greatest scandal, or no indication that Americans were getting any more exercise, baseball stories in The Tribune looked no different than stories that appeared before August of 1921.

A Thousand Words–Ray Schalk/George Sisler

28 Jun

cracker1916sisler

A rare 1916 photo of two Hall of Famers.  Chicago White Sox catcher Ray “Cracker” Schalk tags out George Sisler at first base ending a rundown after the St. Louis Browns first baseman was caught off first by Sox pitcher Claude “Lefty” Williams.  The play, which also included  leftfielder “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, was scored 1-3-4-3-6-1-7-2–Williams-Jake FournierEddie Collins-Fournier-Zeb Terry-Williams-Jackson-Schalk.  The White Sox won the April 17 game 6-5.

The Box Score

The Box Score