Tag Archives: Los Angeles Angels

Franz Hosp

19 May

Franz Philip Hosp Jr. was born in Cincinnati in 1884 (some records, including cemetery documents and his grave say 1883).  His father was a well-known landscape architect and horticulturist who moved the family to Riverside, California in 1888.

The elder Hosp was responsible for many projects in the Southwest and Southern California; he is probably most famous for his landscaping of Victoria Avenue in Riverside, which remains a tourist attraction and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and for planting the gardens at the El Tovar Hotel in Grand Canyon National Park.

The family also ran a successful nursery in Oceanside, California  and Hosp worked with his father while playing baseball in the San Diego area.

Franz Hosp

Franz Hosp, 1909

In December 1906 he pitched for the San Diego Pickwicks (sponsored by San Diego’s Pickwick Theater) of the California Winter League.  Hosp quickly caught the eye of West Coast professional teams; according to The Los Angeles Times he had a streak of thirty-one scoreless innings that winter and “fanned as many as eighteen men in a single game.”

The Los Angeles Herald said two teams, The Butte Miners and the Seattle Siwashes of the Northwestern League, had already “tried hard to secure his services,” when he pitched against the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League (PCL) in a February exhibition game in San Diego.

The Associated Press said the game

 “(W)as the first time in which he allowed as many as seven hits, and after doing, he took a brace and fanned out an equal number of Los Angeles’ best artists, with the result being that the Angels’ manager (Henry ”Hen”  Berry) lost no time in annexing Hosp to his own aggregation.”

Hosp said he chose to play with Los Angeles so he could continue working at the family business in Oceanside.

The pitcher was a popular member of the Angels.  The Los Angeles Herald said:

“Pitcher Franz Hosp is not only one of the best twirlers in the coast league, but he is also one of the most genial boys who ever donned a baseball uniform.  Hosp has forgotten more baseball, young as he is, than many of the swell headed players who roar at decisions have ever learned.”

The Times said of Hosp, who also played second base and shortstop:

“His work in the field and at the bat is equal to his performance in the box making him one of the best all-around men in the business.”

Hosp was 12-7 with a 2.73 ERA for the PCL champion Angels in 1907; he also played 13 games in the infield, hitting just .105.

franzhosppix

Franz Hosp

The following season Hosp (22-14 2.02), William “Dolly” Gray (26-11, 2.12), and Walter “Judge” Nagle (24-10, 1.94) led the Angels to another league championship.  On July 26 he had the most embarrassing moment of his career during a game with the San Francisco Seals.  The San Francisco Chronicle said:

“Hosp of the Angels established a unique and startling record yesterday afternoon, one that bids to stand a long time in baseball circles.  Not only did he literally pitch the game away, but in one inning—the fourth—he walked six men and hit two more, forcing in five runs across the plate without a hit by the Seals.  Not a ball was hit out of the diamond.”

(Just more than a year later, August 28, 1909, Hosp’s former teammate Dolly Gray, now a 30-year-old rookie with the Washington Senators, set the major league record by walking eight Chicago White Sox batters in one inning).

Hosp was 16-14 in August of 1909 when he was signed by the Cincinnati Reds for 1910.  Within a week he hurt his arm and did not pitch again for the remainder of the season.

By the spring of 1910 there were conflicting reports about the condition of Hosp’s arm.

The Times reported that according to Angels pitcher Andy Briswalter:

“Franz Hosp, whose clever pitching resulted in his purchase by the Cincinnati Reds, may never play ball again.”

The Herald said Hosp:

“(D)enied with considerable indignation the story purporting to be an interview with Andy Briswalter.  According to this story, Hosp’s arm was said to be in such condition that he might never play ball again.  While Hosp was overworked last season, when his sensational work with the Seraphs resulted in his being purchased by the Cincinnati Reds, he stated that he never felt better and that the rest of the past winter overcame any inconvenience or ill effects.  Hosp says he hasn’t seen Briswalter in six months.”

Hosp joined the Reds in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and was first tried in the outfield.  The Cincinnati Enquirer said after his debut:

(Ward) Miller and (George “Dode”) Paskert will have a dangerous rival for the right field job in the person of Franz Hosp, the recruit from the coast, who was signed as a pitcher but will try out as a fielder…He is a right-hand hitter, a good-sized, well-built fellow, and meets the ball square on the nose.  He came to bat five times; made a double and two clean singles…He showed a lot of speed on the bases and appears to be a kid who will bear watching.”

When finally given a chance to pitch, against the Boston Red Sox on March 25, after two scoreless innings, he gave up four singles and doubles to Harry Lord and Tris Speaker, in the third, resulting in three runs and was lifted for a pinch hitter the following inning.

Hosp was also tried in the infield where he “has made a fine impression.”  But it wasn’t enough to stick with the Reds.

The Herald reported in early May:

“Franz Hosp, one of the best pitchers who ever worked in the Coast League and who was released to Los Angeles by Cincinnati almost ten days ago because his pitching arm is kafluey for a time is warming up with the Angels every day and Hen Berry thinks he will get back into pitching form again soon.  He is a crack infielder too, and a heavy sticker, so it is dollars to cents that he will not be idle long.”

Hosp made his mound debut for the Angels on May 20; he pitched a complete game, losing 5 to 3.  The Herald said:

“Hosp showed excellent form for a pitcher who has been out of the game as long as he, and with a weak and sore arm, and he should be able get back to his best form with a little patience and careful slab work until his arm is ripe again.”

The paper was wrong, the extent of Hosp’s activity as a pitcher after that game was four innings in three games over the next year and a half.

Hosp was released by the Angels on June 15, along with Briswalter, who The Times claimed four months earlier had said  Hosp’s arm was shot; Briswalter had not recovered from a hip injury sustained during the 1909 season, he developed Tuberculosis of the injured bone and died in 1912.

Andy Briswalter

Andy Briswalter

 

Hosp continued to play for a decade.

Within weeks he was signed to play shortstop for the Vernon Tigers.   He hit just .240 for the Tigers, but The (Portland) Oregonian called him “a nifty fielder.”

Hosp became the team’s regular shortstop, through their move to Venice, California.  He hit .261 in 1911, and 1912, .255 in 1913, and then slipped to .208 in 1914.  He was released before the 1915 season and played for the Wichita Witches in the Western League.  He returned briefly to the PCL at the end of 1915, but was released by the Oakland Oaks prior to the 1916 season.  He returned to the PCL in 1918, playing for four teams over the next three seasons, ending his career after 56 games with the Salt Lake City Gulls in 1920.

Hosp returned to Southern California where he played and managed for semi-pro and industrial league teams and lived in Los Angeles.

On June 30, 1928 he was killed in a car accident on Coast Highway (US 101) 16 miles north of Oceanside.

“Mr. Borchers has Merely made Excuses.”

12 Feb

After two arrests and a season-long suspension in 1889, and another arrest and stints with four teams in 1890, George Borchers seemed to have settled down.

The San Francisco Chronicle said in January of 1891 that he was “taking excellent care of himself and will be ready to play winning ball.”

George Borchers

George Borchers

From 1891 through 1893 he pitched in the Pacific Northwest and California League’s and seems to have stayed sober and out of jail.

He was essentially a .500 pitcher, with less than average control; when he was with the Los Angeles Angels in 1893 he walked 210 batters, hit 24 and had 17 wild pitches.

The Los Angeles Herald regularly noted Borchers’ wildness.  In his first appearance for the Angels in April of ’93 he walked six and hit two batters in the first inning, yielding four runs, and was removed in the second after another walk and two more hit batsmen.  After a 21-12 May victory against Stockton the paper said:  “Borchers did himself proud, allowing 13 men to walk to first base, 12 for base on balls and one for being hit.  How the Angels managed to win with him in the box is a marvel.”

From 1894 through the 1896 season he was a baseball nomad, playing for nine teams in six leagues, including a single, disastrous final major league appearance with the Louisville Colonels in May of 1895—he started a game against the Brooklyn Grooms, lasting just two-thirds of an inning, giving up a hit, three walks, a wild pitch and two runs—earning the loss as the Colonels went down 11 to 0.

Caricature of Borchers from The San Francisco Call

Caricature of Borchers from The San Francisco Call

Borchers was out of organized baseball in 1897 and it’s unclear what he was doing and where he was doing it, but he resurfaced the in 1898 as a minor league team owner.  The Pacific Northwest League, which folded after the 1896 season, was resurrected as a four-team circuit organized by Dan Dugdale and William Works.  Dugdale took the Seattle franchise; Works took Tacoma, a Spokane “newspaperman” named Hutchinson took that town’s team, and George Borchers was awarded the Portland club.

The league struggled, and Borchers was stripped of his franchise in early July.  The Tacoma Daily News explained the problem:

“George Borchers is beginning to look upon matters of baseball in a new light.  The (league) is holding an inquest on his official corpse this afternoon, sitting in Portland.  The chief is not to figure any longer as manager of the Portland baseball team…The trouble has all arisen over Borchers’ treatment of his men.  He has not distributed cash since the opening of the season and as he is still short on the amount due the league will be displaced…Mr. Borchers has merely made excuses.”

Borchers returned to California and appeared in games for three Pacific Coast League teams during the remainder of the season: Santa Cruz, Stockton and Watsonville.

Borchers would continue, on and off, as a player until 1903—including a season as player/manager with the California League’s San Jose Brewers in 1899.  But in 1901 he made headlines when he became embroiled in a scandal.

 

Borchers was pitching for the Oakland Commuters in the California League, and failed to show up for a game he was scheduled to pitch on May 1.  The San Francisco Call said:

“George Borchers, the star pitcher of the Oakland baseball nine, has disappeared…None of the missing player’s close friends in baseball circles can explain why he decamped so suddenly nor where the absent ballplayer has gone.”

“Some of the Oakland players are injecting a bit of romance into the story, the names of some of the fair enthusiasts of Golden Gate being introduced as the possible cause for the handsome pitcher’s sudden leave taking.  But none seem to be able to tell with certainty the story that he has fallen victim to the charms of some fair one.”

The plot thickened the following day when Oakland owner J. Cal Ewing hired a private detective to track the missing pitcher, and an angry father went public.

J. Cal Ewing

J. Cal Ewing

While Ewing’s investigator hunted, an Oakland real estate developer named Don Miller told The San Jose Evening News his daughter Grace had disappeared:

“(Miller) is convinced that she has gone with the ballplayer.  Neither Borchers, who has a wife in Portland, not Miss Miller has been seen since last Monday, when they boarded an eastward-bound train.”

Miller told the paper:

“I am endeavoring to locate them now, and if I ever find the man who has broken up my home he’ll need nothing but a coffin.  I’ll find them yet.”

After a week, he turned up in Ogden, Utah, pitching for that town’s club in the Inter-Mountain League.  The Santa Cruz Evening Sentinel said:

“He says he left simply to better his position and justifies his action on the ground that the California League takes players who skip out on other leagues and the local players are in competition with them all the time.  He thinks he had the right to skip out likewise and better his position.  He claims the reason he left secretly was because he feared Ewing would cause him trouble.

“He was worried over the account that he had left with Miss Grace Miller, but denied it.”

The paper noted that while Borchers wife remained in Portland, he had received two train tickets from the Ogden club.

Eventually, the truth came out.  Borchers returned to California to secure a divorce from his wife and married the former Miss Miller.  He spent 1902 playing and managing for a team in Salt Lake City, and managing a bowling alley there.

The second Mrs. Borchers became ill in November of 1902 and died two weeks later from peritonitis.

His last scandal behind him, Borchers married again and operated a large dairy in Sacramento until his death in 1938.

 

 

“The Longest Hit in the World”

10 Oct

Walter “Judge” McCredie, longtime Portland Beavers player, manager and president said the longest home run he ever saw was hit by Otis L. “Ote” Johnson when Johnson played for him:

“The drive of Ote Johnson’s at Los Angeles (in 1909) was the longest clout I have ever witnessed.  Out in center field they had a pavilion 150 feet long.  Hits at Chutes Park in Los Angeles had never come within fifty feet of the pavilion…Johnson put the ball clean over the pavilion and the ball bounced into the bandstand for what I call the longest hit in the world.”

By the time he hit that ball in Portland he had already been called “Home run” Johnson for at least five years, a name earned in the Texas League when he hit 22 home runs in two seasons for the Dallas Giants—he finished third with 12 in 1903 and led the league with 10 in 1904.

Otis "Ote" Johnson

Otis “Ote” Johnson

Johnson was born in Fowler, Indiana in 1882, and grew up in Muncie.  The Dallas Morning News said fellow Indianan Claude Berry recommended Johnson to Dallas.  Primarily a shortstop, Johnson also played first, third and outfield, and appeared in more than 30 games as a pitcher during his professional career.

Johnson was sold to the Little Rock Travelers near the end of the 1904 season; he remained with Little Rock through 1906 but hit just .210 against “A” class Southern Association pitching.  He was sold to the Charleston Sea Gulls in the class “C” South Atlantic League before the 1907 season and hit .263, leading the team in doubles (27), triples (13) and home runs (10).

His performance in Charleston earned him another shot in the Pacific Coast League (PCL) when his contract was sold to Portland.  After a slow start at the tail-end of the 1907 season, Johnson regained his form, hitting .280 with 10 home runs in 1908 and .293 with 13 home runs (including his “longest hit in the world”) in 1909.

McCredie said the day Johnson hit his home run against Los Angeles scouts from the New York Highlanders was in the stands:

“(A)fter the battle they asked me to put a price on Ote.  I did, and a few days later the deal was consummated.”

The price was $4,000.

As Johnson prepared to join the Highlanders and manager George Stallings for spring training in Georgia, the New York press was excited about the team’s new prospect who was spending the winter in Muncie working and playing goalie Muncie’s professional roller polo team.  The New York Globe said:

“There is a ‘terrible Swede’ coming to New York next season.  He is a glass blower and makes from $6 to $7 a day in a factory at Muncie, Ind., and in the summertime he makes his living at swinging a large club and gathering bad and good bounders on the baseball field…The boy we’re harping about is Ote Johnson, who will be a member of the New York Americans. (In the PCL) he is known as ‘Home Run’ Johnson.  They say he has driven many a pitcher to the bench.”

George Stallings

George Stallings

Phil Cooney, a New Yorker, who played with Johnson in Portland, told The Globe:

“They seem to think that this boy Johnson can’t hit a curve ball, but Stallings will find out that he can hit any kind.”

On March 23 Stallings told The New York American that Johnson, who was playing third base and shortstop, “couldn’t hit.” Two days later The American said:

“Ote Johnson this afternoon gave an apt illustration of a home run and for the first time since he reported to Stallings the Portland demon found his batting eye.  But for the most daring burglaries on the part of (William) Birdie Cree, the big third sacker would have hit for 1.000 during the afternoon.  As it was he had a single and a homer in three times at bat.  His single might have been a homer had not (2nd baseman) Earle Gardner sprang into the air and retarded its progress by a blind stab.  But the four-base smash was beyond reach.

“Johnson got to one of (Dick) Carroll’s choicest curves and knocked the ball further than any had ever before traveled in Georgia.  Birdie Cree was playing deep for the big fellow.  The ball went so far that Cree had not gotten to it by the time Johnson crossed the home plate, and he only jogged from second.  The ball rolled to the fence, which is fully 300 yards from the plate.”

As late as April 1 it looked like Johnson might stick with New York.  The Trenton Evening Times said:

“The latest ‘phenom’ to be discovered is Otis Johnson, the New York Americans’ third sacker.  This recruit has been playing sensational games around the last station since he joined the club…Johnson is also quite a slugologist.  In the last few games the youngster has been batting like a Tyrus Cobb.  In a recent game at Athens, Ga., he made four hits in as many times at bat.  Among them was a home run.  Manager Stallings says he thinks Johnson will make a great name for himself this season.”

Despite the build up, and the reports of his prowess at the plate, Johnson did make Stallings’ club.  His contract was sold to the Jersey City Skeeters in the Eastern League.

The (Portland) Oregonian said New York “farmed out” the former Beaver star despite the fact that:

“New York critics credit Ote, nevertheless, with having more promise than some of the players retained by Stallings.”

Johnson hit just .223 with 9 home runs (second in the league) with Jersey City, but would benefit from unrest in the New York clubhouse.  Manager George Stallings accused his star first baseman, Hal Chase, of trying to throw a game in St. Louis (the first of what would become many accusations against Chase). Stallings said he would resign if Chase wasn’t let go; Highlander owner Frank Farrell sided with Chase and forced Stallings out in September; Chase was named manager.

Hal Chase

Hal Chase

After the season ended the New York papers said Johnson would on Chase’s club the following season, either at third base in place of Jimmy Austin (who was rumored to be on the market, and eventually traded to the St. Louis Browns), or to play shortstop in place of John Knight  who would be moved to second base to replace Frank LaPorte (also on the market, and also eventually traded to St. Louis with Austin).

More Otis Johnson on Monday.

Fred Abbott

9 Oct

Fred Abbott (born Harry Frederick Winbigler) spent more than a decade in the minor leagues before the Cleveland Naps purchased his contract from the New Orleans Pelicans prior to the 1903 season.  The 28-year-old rookie appeared in 77 games for the Naps.

Fred Abbott

Fred Abbott

After his first big league season he told The Cleveland Press about his most embarrassing moment with the Naps:

“I was behind the bat in a game at Washington one day last summer when the batter hit a ball straight up over my head.  I should judge it went nine miles high.  As I tore off my mask a bleacherites flashed the sun’s rays in my eyes by aid of a looking-glass.  It nearly blinded me.

“’I can’t see it,’ I shouted, expecting either (Earl) Moore, who was pitching or Hick (“Cheerful” Charlie Hickman), who was at first, to take the ball.  But neither man stirred.  Instead Cheerful took my latitude and Earl my longitude.

“’Go toward first two steps,’ yelled Moore.  I did.

“’Go back about three feet,’ shouted Hick.  I did.

“Now put your hands straight over your head,’ howled both men in chorus when they had got me placed.  I did.

“And although my eyes were shut tight, the ball dropped straight into my hands.”

Abbott played one more season in Cleveland, and played for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1905.  The Phillies sold his contract to the Toledo Mud Hens in the American Association (AA).

Abbott laid down roots in Toledo.  He played five seasons there and operated a bowling alley and pool hall on Euclid Avenue with his teammate Harry Hinchman; until Hinchman took over as Mud Hens manager.

The Pittsburgh Press said:

“Rather tough on a baseball player when your own business partner releases you and sells your ability to play to a club on the other side of the country? “

Hinchman had succeeded James “Ducky” Holmes as manager late in the 1910 season; Abbott was sold to the Los Angeles Angels in the Pacific Coast League shortly after the season ended:

“One of Hinchman’s first managerial duties was to sell his partner to the Los Angeles club, Hinchman believing that Fred had been connected to the Toledo club too long and that both he and the club would be benefited by the change.”

Abbott wasn’t thrilled, but took the news in stride:

“Gee, I had been in Toledo so long that I had about made up my mind that I was going to die in the harness there…It’s a good move sending me to Los Angeles, but I will have to put in a longer season there than in the AA, and the pay offered is just the same.  I didn’t like that angle to the case very well, but they have got us ballplayers where they want us and I suppose it is up to Fred to run along and play.”

Fred Abbott with Los Angeles Angels 1911

Fred Abbott with Los Angeles Angels 1911

Los Angeles apparently grew on Abbott; he only spent one season with the Angels before retiring, but remained in L.A. until his death in 1935.

“The Disappearing Oakland Infielder”

7 Aug

James Ernest “Jimmy” Frick began his career with the Iola Gasbags in the Missouri Valley League in 1904, hitting .331 in 106 games.  While Frick began the 1905 season with the Oklahoma City Mets in the Western Association, a “C” level league, press reports said he could have played at a higher level and The Sporting Life said St. Louis Cardinals, Hall of Famer pitcher Charles “Kid” Nichols “cannot understand why Jimmy Frick of Oklahoma City persists in hiding out it the bushes when he can make good in fast company.”

Frick was hitting above .300 in July when he was sold to the Seattle Siwashes in the Pacific Coast League; he hit .252 in 18 games until August 18 when The Associated Press said Frick “disappeared mysteriously.”

Four days later The Seattle Star said Frick who “was very popular” with local fans had jumped the Siwashes and rejoined Oklahoma City having been promised “$1000 and a chance to manage the team next year.”

Whether the reported deal was actually promised to Frick is unknown.  While he returned to Oklahoma City he never joined the Mets and finished the season with the Wichita Jobbers.

At the end of the 1905 season multiple teams laid claim to him.  The Associated Press said:

“The case of J. Frick who was claimed by Indianapolis, Wichita, Seattle and Oklahoma City was referred to Secretary (John) Farrell (of the National Association).”

In February of 1906 Frick was awarded to Wichita then immediately traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern League.  He spent the next five and a half years in the Eastern League with Toronto, the Baltimore Orioles and the Newark Indians.

On July 16, 1910, while with Baltimore, Frick was hit in the head with a pitch.  In August The Sporting Life said he had not yet returned to the lineup:

 “(Frick) is in a bad way in this city, as the result of being hit on the head by a pitched ball during the last home series of the Birds. Although the accident happened at least three weeks ago, Frick’s head is still in bad condition, his face is swollen and dizziness seizes him on the slightest provocation. It is doubtful if Frick will play again this season.”

He did return at the tail end of the season, but only appeared in a few games.  In 1911 he was sold to Newark, and after hitting just .200 in 28 games he was sold to the Troy Trojans in the New York State League.

Jimmy Frick

Jimmy Frick

Before the 1912 season, Harry Wolverton, third baseman and manager of the Oakland Oaks in the Pacific Coast League, was named manager of the New York Highlanders in the American League.  Oakland hired Bayard “Bud” Sharpe to manage the team; one of his first moves was to purchase Frick from Troy to fill the void Wolverton left at third.

By March 7 The Associated Press said Sharpe was “somewhat exercised about infielder Frick.”  The new third baseman had arrived in Oakland by train several days earlier, but had not arrived at the Oaks training camp in Livermore, California and had not been heard from him.  Sharpe showed up the following day, but it was reported he had spent several days in an Oakland hospital—it was not reported why he was hospitalized.

Frick began the season as the Oaks starting third baseman, but after hurting his foot in April, August “Gus” Hetling filled in and Frick never returned to the regular lineup.

On September 17, with Oakland in a battle for the pennant with the Vernon Tigers, the team was in Los Angeles when Frick, according to The Associated Press left his room at the Hotel Rosslyn and “dropped from sight.”

The Los Angeles Examiner said the Oakland team and the Los Angeles Police Department had looked for Frick for more than a week and found no sign of the infielder.  The Associated Press said “all of Frick’s haunts have been searched,” and that the disappearance “may hurt Oakland in their fight for the pennant, as he is considered the best utility infielder on the team.”

Herb McFarlin, Secretary of the Oaks, said:

“Frick has always been a steady player, not inclined to drink or run around.  He always has been absolutely dependable.”

On October 4 The Associated Press said “the disappearing Oakland infielder” had been found by his wife:

“He had been ill in a Los Angeles Hospital, assuming an alias so that he would not be bothered.”

As with his spring disappearance there was no mention as to why Frick was in the hospital.

On October 5 he was with the Oaks in Portland for a game with the Beavers, he did not play, but was “out on the coaching line rooting for his team.”

Frick was with the team on October 27 when they took both games of a double-header in Los Angeles; Vernon won both games of a doubleheader from Portland, and Oakland took the pennant with a winning percentage of .591 to Vernon’s .587.

Frick saw little action in the final weeks of the season, his replacement Hetling hit .297 and was awarded a Chalmers Automobile as the league’s most valuable player.

Gus Hetling, Frick's replacement at third

Gus Hetling, Frick’s replacement at third

Frick and his wife went to Portland at the end of the season, and in late November planned to leave for Oklahoma City where they owned a farm.  On November 20 Mrs. Frick went to pick up tickets for the trip, when she returned home, she found Jimmy Frick dead.  He committed suicide by drinking carbolic acid. (Baseball Reference incorrectly lists his date of death as November 18),

The Portland Oregonian said Frick had been “ill and despondent,” and said he was suffering from “brain fever.”  (Brain fever is an antiquated and vague term used for inflammation of the brain).

None of the stories about Frick’s suicide and “brain fever” mentioned the severe injury he had received when he was hit in the head in 1910, so  it’s impossible to determine whether it contributed to the erratic behavior that year, hospital stays, or death of the disappearing Oakland infielder.”

“I Object to Being Made a Freak.”

17 Jul

In 1913 American League President Ban Johnson set out to put an end to the practice the Baseball Writers Association called “A growing Evil,” ghost-written articles appearing under the by-lines of famous ballplayers.

William Peet of The Washington Herald revealed the identities of the ghost writers in March of 1913; Gerhard “Roger” Tidden of The New York World had been the man responsible for articles bearing the name of Ty Cobb, but Tidden died just three months after the revelation.   While the practice waned after 1913, Cobb remained defiant, and continued “authoring” a syndicated column for the next several years.

Ty Cobb

Ty Cobb

Cobb’s articles, for the most part, steered clear of trouble with the league president, but the assertions he made about the Chicago White Sox and manager Clarence “Pants” Rowland in June of 1915 caused a major stir.

Cobb said:

“Battery signal stealing, which has been the cause of several scandals in big league baseball threatens to make more trouble this season if anyone is able to prove what is generally suspected about one of the American League clubs.

“I will not mention the name of the organization which has been accused by the opposing players…because I couldn’t present any proof.”

Cobb then went on for seven paragraphs trying to present proof, and provided enough hints to make it clear he was talking about the White Sox.

Cobb’s said

 “The team I have in mind has won almost all its home games…It looks mighty funny, though, the way this club could hit at home and the feeble manner in which it has been swatting on the road and almost all of the Tigers will take an oath that something out-of-the-way is coming off.”

Chicago, through 49 games, was in first place; 22-8 at home and 9-10 on the road.  Detroit was in second place a game back.  If he left any doubt Cobb said later in the column when discussing the American League pennant race in general:

“The White Sox, who burned up things at home, have not been doing so well on the road.”

Everyone, including American League President Ban Johnson, assumed Cobb was talking about the Sox.  Johnson said:

 “(Cobb) must prove the charges, or I will keep him from playing baseball.  If any man in the American League makes a charge of dishonesty and refuses to back up his charge with the absolute evidence, that man will have to get out of the game.”

The White Sox were less concerned; The Chicago Tribune said the charges made Sox players “grin,” and Rowland told reporters:

“I suppose we had out tipping instruments planted in the Polo Grounds when we made nineteen hits in New York the other day.”

Clarence "Pants" Rowland

Clarence “Pants” Rowland

In his next column Cobb issued a non-denial denial and at the same time openly, and loudly, defied Johnson:

“I made no specific charge against the White Sox…What I did say was that a strong rumor of sharp practice was abroad, and I reiterate that statement right here.”

___

“Mr. Johnson even went to the extreme of saying that he would drive me out of baseball.  He hasn’t done this yet and I expect to stay around for a few more days.  If the league president is willing to pay the salary that my three-year contract calls for, I will be perfectly willing to take a vacation at that, for I have long wanted to do a number of things that baseball interferes with.”

Cobb reiterated the charges and offered no evidence, but said he was justified in making the claims because his manager might have believed them:

“(Tigers) Manager (Hughie) Jennings thought the report sufficiently serious to detail one of our players for plain clothes duty in the bleachers, and he also wrote Manager (Bill) Donovan of New York, telling him of a warning we had received and cautioning him to be on the lookout.  So you see the signal tipping report was not a creature of my own imagination, but a matter of sufficient seriousness to warrant an investigation by our manager in his official capacity.”

Cobb’s only bit of backtracking was to say that if “it should be proved the White Sox tried signal stealing it would be without the knowledge of Mr. (Charles) Comiskey.”  Cobb said Comiskey “wouldn’t countenance anything of this sort for a moment.”

Cobb took one last swing at Ban Johnson, charging the league president with giving “sensational interviews” about him to get “the people excited artificially. If this is Mr. Johnson’s idea, I wish he would abandon it.  I object to being made a freak.”

If there was any doubt whether the American League’s star player or the league president wielded more power, it became obvious within a week.

Johnson, who The Associated Press said “long has been opposed to players permitting their name to be used over baseball stories,” decided not only had Cobb not written the columns, but claimed “a Detroit newspaperman” made up the allegations “out of whole cloth,” and incredibly said that Cobb had “no knowledge,” of the columns despite Cobb being quoted by numerous sources discussing the charges.

Ban Johnson

Ban Johnson

Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Examiner summed it up best:

“We are rather surprised each morning upon picking up our newspaper to discover that Ty Cobb is still making two-base hits, two steals and catching a few flies instead of being driven out of baseball by (Ban) Johnson.  By the way how did Johnson get into baseball?”

As quickly as Johnson backed down, the charges went away.  Despite the strong start the White Sox faded, and continued to fade even after the acquisition of “Shoeless Joe” Jackson on August 21, finishing third, nine and a half games behind the pennant-winning Boston Red Sox and seven games behind the Tigers.

Cobb led the league for the ninth straight season, hitting .369.

The one legacy from the brief 1915 controversy seems to be Cobb’s dislike of Rowland, who later became a scout for the Tigers.  In his 1984 book “Ty Cobb,” Charles C. Alexander said Cobb only agreed to manage the Tigers before the 1921 season because he was told:

 “Pants Rowland, whom Cobb considered an incompetent fraud, might very well get it and Cobb would have to play for him.”

Rowland, who remained in baseball until 1959 as a manager, scout and executive with the Los Angeles Angels in the Pacific Coast League and Chicago Cubs in the National League, appears to have also held a grudge.   Up until his death at age 90 in 1969, Rowland often said two of his former players, Jackson and Eddie Collins were better than Cobb.

 In 1953 at the Old Timers Baseball Association of Chicago Banquet Rowland said “I wouldn’t have traded (Collins) for Cobb.  What made him greater than Cobb was that he inspired the entire ball club.  Ty was an individualist.  He was interested only in Cobb.”

Rowland called Jackson the “greatest natural hitter,’ he ever saw, and said Ted Williams, not Cobb, was the only player “of the same make-up.”

A Thousand Words–Jim Jeffries and Baseball

12 Jul

jeffries

 

Former Heavyweight Champion Jim Jeffries fields a ground ball at his ranch in Burbank, California as he prepares for “The Fight of the Century,” against reigning  champion Jack Johnson; Johnson pummeled the former champ on July 4 in Reno, Nevada, retaining his title on a TKO in the 15th round.

Behind him is Harley M. “Beanie” Walker, sports editor of The Los Angeles Examiner.

A decade earlier, while champion, Jeffries along with fellow fighters John L.  Sullivan and “Gentleman Jim” Corbett began making appearances as umpires (Corbett also played at times) in many minor league games.  The use of fighters as umpires appears to have been the idea of Atlantic League president, and future Hall of Famer Ed Barrow, although all three fighters appeared at professional games in many leagues across the country.   When Barrow died in 1953, Al Abrams of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said he once paid Jeffries “60 percent of the gate receipts,” for appearing at a game.

After Jeffries defeated Corbett in 1900 he did a series of  appearances at ballparks across the country. The Kansas City Star said:

“Jeffries had an easy time as the players were so scared they forgot all the baiting tactics.”

Jeffries often included a sparring exhibition as part of his appearance, when he didn’t, fans usually left disappointed.    The St. Joseph (MO) Herald said during his 1900 ballpark tour:

“He merely walked up and down between first and second bases, but was not heard either by the crowd or the players, to make any decisions…The crowd had expected that Jeffries, besides umpiring the game throughout, would be placed on exhibition and put through his paces…such remarks as ‘Where’s the punching bag?’ and ‘Who’s going to box with him?’ were heard among the crowd, and when no bag or sparring mate was produced the disappointment of the spectators was so apparent that it had a depressing effect on the teams.”

Jim Jeffries

Jim Jeffries

“Beanie” Walker would leave the newspaper business in 1917 and become a screenwriter for movie producer Hal Roach, writing title cards during the silent film era and dialogue for talkies.  Walker wrote for Roach’s films featuring Laurel & Hardy, Harold Lloyd, and Our Gang.

Beanie Walker

Beanie Walker

Walker is also credited with coining the nickname for a  redheaded teenage pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels in the Pacific Coast League with an excellent fastball, who would became the first big league player from Arizona.  Lee William “Flame” Delhi only pitched one game for the Chicago White Sox;  the 19-year-old, who had already pitched nearly 700 inning of professional ball (not including two seasons of winter ball), had a dead arm by the time he joined the Sox.

Flame Delhi

Flame Delhi

 

“Calvo has been the Victim of a Cruel and Merciless Conspiracy”

4 Jun

When he signed 18-year-old Jacinto “Jack” Calvo Gonzalez, Washington Senators manager/owner Clark Griffith was no stranger to Cuban players, having managed Armando Marsáns and Rafael Almeida with the Cincinnati Reds, but Calvo’s signing was the beginning of Griffith’s 40-plus year commitment to signing players from Cuba.  During his tenure the Senators signed more than half of the 63 Cuban players in the major leagues.

Calvo was “discovered” while playing with Almendares in the Cuban National League, where he hit .342 in 19 games.  He made even more of an impression during a series Almendares played against the New Orleans Pelicans of the Southern Association, Calvo hit .400 and his older brother Tomas hit .385.

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He also hit .400 during a six-game series with the Philadelphia Athletics, The Associated Press said he didn’t compile those numbers facing minor league pitchers picked up for the series, but “against (Eddie) Plank, (Jack) Coombs, and (Charles “Chief”) Bender.”

When rumors circulated that Washington might have signed Calvo, Bender said:

“I never saw a faster youngster in my life; he can hit too, and looks for the entire world like a class ball player…If Griffith has signed him he will never regret it, for there is no chance for him to be a failure.”

By December of 1912 Griffith had Calvo under contract.  The Pittsburgh Press said:

“The young Cuban sent a letter to Griff, written in Spanish.  ‘They did not teach Spanish where I went to school,’ said The Old Fox, ‘so I can’t translate the missive.  However, as he signed his contract I guess everything is alright.’”

The Boston Red Sox signed Tomas Calvo later in December.

While Tomas never made it in Boston, Jacinto made his debut with the Senators on May 9; he hit only .242, but everyone noticed his arm.  After a June game with the St. Louis Browns, The Associated Press said:

“The youngster astonished the bugs yesterday with his remarkable throwing arm.  At one time he heaved the ball from the right field fence directly to (Germany) Schaefer’s hands at second.”

On August 13 Calvo was sent to the Atlanta Crackers in the Southern Association and made his first appearance with the team the following day, batting seventh, going 1 for 4.  The Atlanta Constitution said “He’s fast, fields pretty well, throws like a shot and meets the ball squarely.”

Calvo only lasted 10 days in Atlanta.  He was hit on the right arm with a pitch thrown by Charles “Curly” Brown of the Montgomery Rebels.  He was returned to the Senators and did not appear in another game that season.  (Some sources show Calvo with the Long Branch Cubans in the New York New Jersey League—it was most likely his brother Tomas, an infielder, rather than career outfielder Jacinto, who played shortstop for the team in 94 games).

Calvo started the 1914 season with the Los Angeles Angels in the Pacific Coast League.  After only 11 games (he was 4-8 with one double, one triple and a stolen base) he was sent to the Victoria Bees in the Northwestern League.  Later in the season a story came out explaining his abrupt departure from Los Angeles.

Calvo with the Washington Senators

Calvo with the Washington Senators

The Spokane Spokesman-Review said, “Calvo has been the victim of a cruel and merciless conspiracy,” despite the fact that “in the exhibition games last spring against the White Sox Calvo loomed up head and shoulders above the other Angel gardeners, out hitting them by a wide margin and displaying more speed on the bags than the whole Angel team combined.”

The paper claimed that a female reporter:

“(o)n one of the local papers…dragged out of him the fact that his father was a rich sugar planter in Havana, and that he played baseball for fun and not for money…That was the beginning of the end for little Calvo. “

The story said fans began harassing Calvo, and:

“Instead of coming to his rescue, the players on the Angel team ‘rode’ the boy unmercifully.  It was pathetic to see the friendless little Cuban trying to get into the good graces of his teammates.  One day, in the clubhouse the boy sat down on a bench and cried before them all.  His spirit was broken.”

Calvo hit .289 for Victoria in 1914, and spent the spring of 1915 with the Senators before being release before the beginning of the season.  After his release he played with his brother Tomas for the Long Branch Cubans, by then a member of the Independent Negro League; he also played for Havana in the Cuban-American Negro Clubs Series.

Calvo next played for the Vancouver Beavers in the Northwestern League and the San Francisco Seals in the Pacific Coast League, hitting .329 in 1916, and slipping to .263 in 1917. After the 1917 season, the outfielder returned, unsigned, the contract sent to him by Seals owner Charlie Graham.

Calvo had been very popular in San Francisco during his nearly two seasons with the Seals, but was criticised by fans and local press for his holdout, especially because he was holding out on the even more popular Graham.  The San Francisco Chronicle said:

“He sent his terms, and as they were exactly what he asked for before.  (Charlie) Graham is wondering why the Cuban went to the trouble to wire at all.”  The paper criticised Calvo for “asking for more money than he got last year,” while “better players than he have submitted to a salary slash on account of war conditions.”

San Francisco Seals owner Charlie Graham

San Francisco Seals owner Charlie Graham

The Chronicle lamented the fact that Seals outfielder Biff Schaller would miss the entire season with an injury, otherwise “Calvo could have stayed in Havana for all that anyone here cares.”

As it turned out, Calvo did stay in Havana.  For all of 1918 and ’19, not returning to the states until 1920.  Tomorrow–Jacinto Calvo’s return.

“Bill Abstein Denies he is a Bonehead”

20 Feb

Pittsburgh Pirate owner Barney Dreyfuss and manager Fred Clarke felt all they needed to win a World Series was a first baseman.  Since winning the National League Pennant with Kitty Bransfield in 1903, only one Pirate first baseman hit better than .260 (Del Howard .292 in 1905).

In 1908 the Pirates finished second with four different first basemen, Harry Swacina, Alan Storke, Jim Kane and Warren Gill; none played more than 50 games, none hit better than .258 and they combined for 29 errors.

The man who took over in 1909, and was with the Pirates for their World Series victory, might have preferred to have never been given the job.

Bill Abstein had played eight games at second base and in the outfield for the Pirates in 1906, before returning to minors.

-Abstein had put up respectable, but by no means spectacular, numbers with the Shreveport Pirates in the Southern Association and Providence Grays in the Eastern League from 1906 to 1908—but as early as August of 1908 The Pittsburgh Press said he was the answer to the Pirates problem at first base:

“Fred Clarke is very eager to secure Bill Abstein from Providence.  Bill is rated the best first baseman in the Eastern League, and he would no doubt strengthen the Pirates where they are weak.”

When Abstein joined the Pirates before the 1909 season The Press said:

“The acquisition of bill Abstein has rounded our infield nicely.  He’s the best first baseman we have had in years and he certainly fits in nicely.”

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Abstein, Providence 1908

In a letter sent to Dreyfuss with his contract, Abstein told the Pirate owner:

“Fred Clarke will not have to worry about a first baseman after he sees this big German hustling around the bag.”

In keeping with his career performance, Abstein had a respectable season for the pirates.  He hit .260 and drove in 70 runs.  His 27 errors were only a slight improvement over 1908’s first baseman by committee.

The Pirates won 110 games and won the National League Pennant by six and half games over the Chicago Cubs and met the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.  The series would be the beginning of the end of Abstein’s Major League career.

09pirates

1909 World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates, Abstein 11th from left.

Abstein struggled at the plate (6 for 29 with nine strikeouts) and in the field (5 errors total, 2 each in games 3 and 4).  The Pirates won the series in seven games, but despite the victory, Abstein quickly became the subject of ridicule in Pittsburgh.

An Associated Press article after the series said:

“During the games with Detroit Abstein appeared to forget all that he knew about base ball.  He ran the bases foolishly, made a number of costly errors, failed to hit and disobeyed orders.  In fact, his playing was worse than that of any other man on either team.  The other Pirates, seeing that Abstein was the ‘goat’ for the combination, kept up the cry against him…Before the series was ended many of the Pirates shunned Abstein and it was reported he would be traded.”

The Pittsburgh Press was less generous:

“Bill Abstein denies he is a bonehead and says baseball is largely a case of ‘if-you-can-get-away-with-it,’ well it’s a cinch that Bill couldn’t in the National League.”

The Pirates were unable to trade Abstein and finally put him on waivers.  He was claimed by his hometown St. Louis Browns.

Even though the Pirates had actually won the Worlds Series and even though Abstein was gone, that didn’t mean the Pirates, and The Pittsburgh Press, wouldn’t continue to pile on.

Barney Dreyfuss told The Associated Press shortly after Abstein was claimed by St. Louis:

“We have discarded the weakest offensive player we had—Abstein—and hope to improve the team by doing so.”

Dreyfuss also claimed:

“Fred (Clarke) told me as early as last June that we should get someone else for Abstein’s place in 1910, as Bill mixed up the team’s plays too frequently.”

The Pittsburgh Leader said:

“(Abstein) had deplorable batting weaknesses which the opposing pitchers were certain to fathom in time.”

The Pittsburgh Press was even less generous:

“Bill Abstein is reported to be making a hit with the Browns by his work in the spring practice.  Just wait about three months friends, before declaring Bonehead Bill a wonder.”

When the Pirates sold pitcher Vic Willis the St. Louis Cardinals in February of 1910, newspapers reported that Willis and Abstein had “engaged in a bitter fight,” during the series.

Abstein quickly wore out his welcome in his own hometown of St. Louis.  Abstein made 11 errors in 23 games at first base and hit .149; he was released on June 2, 1910.  It appears Abstein was no more popular with Browns Manager Jack O’Connor than he was in Pittsburgh.  O’Connor was quoted in The St. Louis Times in May:

“How did Abstein get away with it last year?  How could he make plays like he has been making for me and get away with it all year for Pittsburgh?  I never dreamed that some of the plays made by him were even possible.”

His Major League career over, Abstein returned to the minor leagues for seven seasons.  He had one above average year with the Los Angeles Angels in the Pacific Coast League in 1914; in 202 games he hit .308, with 234 hits and 40 doubles.

Abstein moved on, Pittsburgh apparently did not.  For years, Pittsburgh newspapers took every opportunity to take a shot at the first baseman.  In 1915 The Pittsburgh Press, in an article about the revolving door the Pirates still had at first base–in the five post-Abstein seasons, the Pirates had four different starting first baseman–(emphasis theirs):

“No one will ever forget the way Bill did NOT play the bag in the Worlds Series.  In fact, Bill did NOT play the bag all the time he was stationed there.”

Pittsburgh finally seemed to move on by the time they won their next world Championship in 1925.  Abstein died in St. Louis in 1940.

Assumed Names–Happy Hogan

11 Jan
Wallace Bray 1890s

Wallace Bray 1890s

Some players became so closely associated with the name they adopted that their real name takes a century to catch up.  Wallace Louis Bray came from a prominent family in Santa Clara, California, and like many players at the turn of the 20th Century chose to play under an assumed name to spare the family the shame of having produced a professional ballplayer.  Baseball Reference and other sources still list him by his assumed name.

Bray went by the name Wallace Bray while playing baseball at Santa Clara University (other contemporary sources said he also attended the University of the Pacific)—one of his coaches was Major League pitcher Joe Corbett.  (There is some confusion because there is another player with the surname Hogan, Major Leaguer Willie Hogan attended Santa Clara seven years after Bray and also played in the Pacific Coast League at the same time and he was also sometimes called “Happy,” but Hogan was his given name).

Bray became Wallace Hogan when he signed his first professional contract with the Sacramento Senators in the California League in 1900, and picked up the nickname “Happy.”.

The Berkeley Daily Gazette said:

“He was dubbed “Happy” by the writers because of his sunny disposition.”

He become an extremely popular West Coast baseball figure and in 1903 he was still with Sacramento when they joined the Pacific Coast League, the league in which he played and managed for the next 12 seasons

While never a great player, he was considered a good catcher and infielder but he was a career .186 hitter; The San Francisco Chronicle called him “The most popular figure,” in the Pacific Coast League.

After playing for the Tacoma Tigers, Fresno Raisin Eaters and Los Angeles Angels, Bray was named manager of the new PCL franchise, the Vernon Tigers in 1909; Vernon finished last, but Hogan’s team, which moved to nearby Venice, improved each of the next 5 years and finished in 2nd place twice.

The Chronicle said:

“Taking a new club in a league of the highest minor classification…is quite a job.  Hogan made good with a bang, or his club has always been in the running and in addition it has always been a big attraction.”

The Associated Press said:

“(Hogan) is a human dynamo when on the baseball field.  The present position of the Vernon club in the pennant race is due mainly to his dynamic personality…Baseball players say Hap is the fairest manager in the league and that he treats his men better than any other coast league impresario.”

The Tigers got off to a great start in 1915 and were in first place on May 9, an off day, when Bray went swimming at Venice beach and “He contracted a severe cold and pneumonia set in.”  He missed several games, but “While it was reported several times that Hogan was in serious condition, it was confidently expected that he would pull through it all right.”

He did not pull through and died on May 17 at 37-years-old.

The Associated Press said of his funeral:

Roy Hitt, Doc White, Walter Carlisle, Dick Bayless, Frank Decanniere and Johnny Kane are the players who acted as pallbearers.  The other members of the club and prominent men in baseball acted as honorary pallbearers.  While the throng at the funeral viewed for the last time the face from which even death could not efface the famous smile, every baseball game played in the Coast League halted for five minutes, the stars of the diamond in many cities on the Coast stood with bared heads in silent prayer for the dead star. In accordance with Hogan’s wishes, the body was cremated.”

Wallace Louis "Happy Hogan" Bray 1912

Wallace Louis “Happy Hogan” Bray 1912

The Tigers went into a tailspin under new manager Dick Bayless, while they recovered in the second half the team finished 4th.

A benefit game was played to raise money for Bray’s widow on June 25 at Washington Park in Los Angeles.  The Sporting Life said:

“In the most remarkable tribute ever paid to the memory of any man in Los Angeles, 10,000 persons choked the stands.”

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