Tag Archives: Lou Criger

“A Catcher is the Most Important man on a Team”

16 Oct

Lou Criger was very confident when he joined the St. Louis Browns in 1909.  He spoke to S. Carlisle Martin, the cartoonist for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, who occasionally interviewed notables and published the story with a series of drawings:

“A catcher is the most important man on a team…a poor catcher can spoil the good work of any pitcher and a live, brainy catcher can make an ordinary pitcher look good…Another point:  The catcher has the whole game in front of him.  Besides tipping the pitcher off on the different batters as they come up—signaling for a high or low one, one close in and one away out, the catcher must keep one eye on the runner all the time.  And there’s where many a game is lost, letting the runners go wild.”

criger2.jpg

Criger as drawn by Martin

Then, Criger decided to take on Ty Cobb and the Detroit Tigers:

“Why they tell you that Ty Cobb is a great base runner.  Maybe he is, but I never had any trouble with him.  Why he only got away with me twice in the two years that I have been playing against him>  Most of his good base running I call bone-headed work.  And one of those two times he tried the delayed steal, that is, starting when he thought I was going to return the ball to the pitcher, and then I had him by 20 feet, but the second baseman was away from the bag and waited for him, and Cobb slid away round and stuck his foot on the bag.

“No, I’ve got his ‘goat’ and I’ve got the rest of the Tiger bunch, too.  Cobb tried to block me last summer and I went after him and have been after him ever since.  I used to say to him: ‘Look out, Ty, this fellow is as wild as hawk and he’s liable to crack you on the head.’  And then I’d signal for one right at his head.  Bing!  Down he’d drop and when he’d get up the fight was all out of him, he couldn’t hit a stationary balloon.

“You know you can kid a batter until he won’t know where he’s at.  I pestered (the Tigers) so much that they came around and begged me to let up.  They said we had nothing to gain and they might lose the pennant.

“You see, (Boston) made the Tigers look like 30 cents last fall in Detroit when we beat ‘em three straight ( Detroit went from being in second place, a half game out to third and two and a half back after losing a three-game series to the Red Sox September 21-23, 1908) (Hughey) Jennings wouldn’t even get off the bench.”

criger1

Criger said he had ‘Ty Cobb’s Goat”

Criger was just as cocky concerning the Browns prospects for 1909; he said it was likely his final season and he could go out a winner:

“If we got an even break in the luck and our best players are not injured, they’ll have to go some to beat us out…and I feel that we will hang in on Jennings’ bunch.”

Criger’s handicapping was off.  The Tigers went 98-54 to win the pennant—including beating the Browns18 out of 21 games—Cobb hit .351 against the Browns and stole bases. The Browns finished 61-89 in seventh place.  Criger hit just .170 in 74 games and was traded to the New York Highlanders after the 1909 season.

“The Twenty Greatest Fever”

2 Oct

In November of 1911, an interviewer asked industrialist Andrew Carnegie to name the 20 greatest men of all time.  Within days, Carnegie’s list was parsed and picked apart, and led to what The Chicago Daily News called “The twenty greatest fever.”

Lists of the twenty greatest everything appeared in papers across the country for the next year.  Of course, the question was put to many baseball figures and led to a number of interesting lists and quotes.

One of the first to weigh in was Chicago White Sox owner Charles Comiskey, in The Daily News:

  • Buck Ewing
  • King Kelly
  • Cap Anson
  • Charlie Ferguson
  • Fred Pfeffer
  • Eddie Collins
  • Honus Wagner
  • Jack Glasscock
  • Harry Lord
  • Ty Cobb
  • Fred Clarke
  • Willie Keeler
  • Tom McCarthy
  • Napoleon Lajoie
  • Charles Radbourn
  • Bobby Caruthers
  • Christy Mathewson
  •  Clark Griffith
  • Ed Walsh
comiskeypix

Charles Comiskey

Comiskey said Eddie Collins, who would acquire for $50,000 three years later, was the best current player:

“He’s got it on all the others in the game today.  I don’t know that a good lawyer went to waste, but do know that a mighty good ballplayer was found when Eddie decided to give up the technicalities of Blackstone for the intricacies of baseball.   There isn’t much use saying anything about Connie Mack’s star, everybody knows he is a wonder as well as I do.”

Cy Young was asked by The Cleveland News to name his 20 greatest:

“I guess we’d have to make a place for old Amos Rusie, ‘Kid’ Nichols should be placed on the list too, ‘Kid’ forgot more baseball than 90 percent of us ever knew.  And there was Bill Hutchinson, just about one of the greatest that ever lived.  You can’t overlook Walter Johnson, and, by all means Ed Walsh must be there.  The same applies to Mathewson.  Then comes my old side partner, Bill Dinneen.  Bill never was given half enough credit.”

amosrusie

Amos Rusie

Young rounded out the battery:

“I’d pick old Lou Criger first of all the catchers.  George Gibson of the Pittsburgh team, to my way of thinking, stands with the leaders.  Give the third place to Oscar Stanage of Detroit, and I feel safe in saying that I have chosen a really great catcher.”

Young said:

“Doping out the infields is comparatively easy.  Without hesitation I would name Hal Chase, Eddie Collins, Nap Lajoie, Hans Wagner, Bobby Wallace, Jimmy Collins, Herman Long, and Charlie Wagner.”

Young said of his infield choices:

“You can’t get away from Bobby Wallace for a general all round gentlemanly player, he has never had a superior at shortstop unless that man was Honus Wagner.  Maybe Johnny Evers is entitles to consideration, but I never say him play.”

As for his outfielders, Young said:

“Ty Cobb’s equal never lived, according to my way of thinking, and I doubt if we will ever have his superior.  Say what they will about Cobb, but one who is true to himself must acknowledge his right to rank above all other players.

“I chose Cobb, Fred Clarke of Pittsburgh, Tris Speaker of Boston and Bill Lange for the outfield, and regret that the limitations prevent me from choosing Jim McAleer.  McAleer was the best fielder I have ever seen.  I say that with all due respect to Cobb and other competitors.

“Tris Speaker is a marvel, and only because of his playing at the same time as Cobb is he deprived of the honor of being the greatest outfielder…Many fans of today probably don’t remember Bill Lange.  Take my word for it, he was a marvel.  He could field, bat, and run bases with wonderful skill.  No man ever had the fade-away slide better than Lange.”

The reporter from The News noticed that Young had, “chosen his twenty greatest players without mentioning his own great deeds,” and asked Young whether her felt he belonged on the list.  Young said:

“Oh, I’ve heard a whole lot of stuff about myself as a player, but I was but ordinary when compared to the men I name as the greatest in the game.”

cy

Cy Young

When Ty Cobb presented his list of the 20 greatest current American League players to The Detroit News, the paper noted his “Very becoming modesty” in leaving himself off of his list.  Cobb’s picks were:

  • Ed Walsh
  • Bill Donovan
  • Walter Johnson
  • Jack Coombs
  • Vean Gregg
  • George Mullin
  • Billy Sullivan
  • Oscar Stanage
  • Ira Thomas
  • Hal Chase
  • Napoleon Lajoie
  • Eddie Collins
  • Jack Berry
  • Owen Bush
  • Frank Baker
  • Harry Lord
  • Sam Crawford
  • Clyde Milan
  • Joe Jackson
  • Tris Speaker
cobb

Ty Cobb

Cobb included Bobby Wallace, Russ Ford, and Heinie Wagner as honorable mentions.

More of the lists and quotes from “The twenty greatest fever,” on Thursday

The Tribune’s First All-Star Team

21 Feb

In 1933 The Chicago Tribune underwrote the first All-Star game, created by Arch Ward, the  paper’s sports editor,  to coincide with the Century of Progress World’s Fair—more than 30 years earlier The Tribune published one of the earliest  sportswriter selected “all-star teams.”

Near the end of the 1902 season, The Tribune polled sportswriters from American League cities to pick “An all American League Nine.” (No similar poll was done for the National League)

The writers polled:

Jacob Charles Morse—The Boston Herald

Joseph M. Cummings—The Baltimore News

John Arnold HeydlerThe Washington Post

Frank Leonardo HoughThe Philadelphia Inquirer

Joseph Samuel Jackson—The Detroit Free Press

Henry P. Edwards—The Cleveland Plain Dealer

Alfred Henry SpinkThe St. Louis World

Irving E. (Sy) Sanborn—The Chicago Tribune

The only unanimous choice was Cleveland Bronchos second baseman Napoleon Lajoie—Lajoie appeared in just 86 games, but hit .379.

Napoleon Lajoie --the only unanimous choice

Napoleon Lajoie –the only unanimous choice

The most disagreement was behind the plate; four different catchers received votes:  Billy Sullivan of the Chicago White Sox and Lou Criger of the Boston Americans received three votes each;  Freeman Ossee Schrecongost who played 18 games with Cleveland and 79 with the Philadelphia Athletics, and William “Boileryard” Clarke of the Washington Senators each received one vote.

Cy Young of Boston led pitchers with five votes, with Philadelphia’s Rube Waddell being the choice of the other three.

Four first basemen were also chosen, but Harry Davis of the Philadelphia Athletics was the consensus choice with five votes.  Cleveland’s Charlie “Piano Legs” Hickman, Washington’s George “Scoops” Carey, and “Honest John” Anderson of the St. Louis Browns all received one vote.

Cleveland’s Bill Bradley edged Boston’s Jimmy Collins four to three, with Philadelphia’s Lafayette “Lave” Cross getting the remaining vote.

Bobby Wallace of St. Louis was the shortstop consensus with six votes, Boston’s Freddy Parent and Chicago’s George Davis received one vote each.

Booby Wallace, the choice at shortstop

Bobby Wallace, the choice at shortstop

Washington’s Ed Delehanty got four votes in left field, Philadelphia’s Tully “Topsy” Hartsell two; one vote each went to Boston rookie Patsy Dougherty and Philadelphia’s Dave Fultz (who played center field)

With or without his vote as a left fielder, Fultz was the consensus in center field.  He received four votes at that position; Chicago’s Fielder Jones got two votes, Jimmy Barrett, the only Detroit Tiger to make the list received a single vote (from Joseph Samuel Jackson of Detroit) and Harry “Deerfoot” Bay of Cleveland received one vote.

Jimmy Barrett, the only Tiger

Jimmy Barrett, the only Tiger

Right field included a couple more out of position players, Charlie Hickman picked up one vote despite being primarily a first baseman and playing just 27 games in the outfield in 1902.  Delehanty, almost exclusively a left fielder in 1902, received one vote in right.  Elmer Flick of Cleveland was the consensus with four votes.  Danny Green of Chicago received two votes.

The Results

The Results

The 1902 effort was not repeated by the paper.

Chief and Cy

19 Dec

Charles “Chief” Zimmer caught Denton True “Cy” Young’s first Major League game; an 8-1 victory for the Cleveland Spiders over Cap Anson’s Chicago Colts.

Years later, Davis Hawley, a Cleveland banker and hotel magnate who also owned a minority share of the Spiders and served as the team’s secretary, related a story about Young’s debut:

“The night of Young’s first National League game, he complained to me that although he had let Anson’s team down with a few hits, he had not had his usual speed.”

Hawley who had watched him pitch in the Tri-State League asked why he felt that way.

“Well, down in Canton the catchers could not hold me I was so fast, but this man Zimmer didn’t have any trouble at all, so I guess I didn’t have much speed.”

Zimmer would go on to catch 247 of Young’s starts through 1898, including 19 shutouts; second in both categories to Lou Criger, who played with Young in Cleveland, St. Louis and Boston.

Zimmer would catch Young a few more times after 1898.

In 1921 the 54-year-old Young pitched two shutout innings, with the 60-year-old Zimmer catching, in a game between Cleveland Major League legends and amateur stars staged as part of Cleveland’s 135th anniversary celebration.  In addition to Young and Zimmer, Nap Lajoie, Earl Moore, Bill Bradley, Charlie Hickman, Nig Cuppy and Elmer Flick were among the participants.

Earl Moore, Cy Young, Bill Bradley, Charlie Hickman, Nap Lajoie and Chief Zimmer at the 1923 game.

Earl Moore, Cy Young, Bill Bradley, Charlie Hickman, Nap Lajoie and Chief Zimmer at the 1923 game.

The game was such a success that for the next four years it became an annual event at League Park (called Dunn Field during the 1920s); Young pitched the first two innings of each game with Zimmer catching. The event benefited the Cleveland Amateur Baseball Association medical fund.

Young always shared credit for his success with his catchers.  In the 1945 book “My Greatest Day in Baseball As told to John P. Carmichael and Other Noted Sportswriters,” he said:

“Every great pitcher usually has a great catcher, like Mathewson had Roger Bresnahan and Miner Brown had Johnny Kling. Well, in my time I had two. First, there was Chief Zimmer, when I was with Cleveland in the National League, and then there was Lou Criger, who caught me at Boston and handled my perfect game.”

A little more “Chief” tomorrow.

The Human Rain Delay

7 Nov

 “Baseball stars may come and they may go, but the name of Nig Cuppy will live forever.  There will be greater pitchers than Cuppy—but no slower ones.”—The Pittsburgh Press, 1910.

George Joseph “Nig” Cuppy (born Koppe) lived in the shadow of teammate Cy Young—Cuppy won 150 games for the Cleveland Spiders and St. Louis Perfectos from 1892-1899, Young won 231.

While Cuppy was successful, he was best known for being the slowest working pitcher of his era.

How Slow?  “Painfully slow,” according to The Toledo News-Bee; other contemporary accounts mention crowds counting in unison as they timed Cuppy between each pitch.  It was not unusual for a Cuppy pitched game to last more than two hours during an era when shorter games were the rule.

George “Nig” Cuppy

Almost all mentions of Cuppy attribute his success to his slow work.  Jake Morse’s Baseball Magazine described the effect he had on batters:

“(Cuppy) stood holding the ball, and holding it, and holding it some more. The maddened batsmen fumed and fretted and smote the plate with their sticks; the umpires barked and threatened; the fans counted and counted, often up to 56 or 59—and then Cuppy let go of the ball. By this time the batter, if at all nervous or excitable, was so sore that he slammed wildly at the pitch, and seldom hit it.”

While Cuppy remained a very good pitcher throughout the 1890s, he never quite matched his rookie numbers (28-13, 2.51 in 1892), and suffered from the 1893 elimination of the pitcher’s box.

Cuppy’s numbers dropped off dramatically after 1896, and his career came to an end with his release from the Boston Americans in August of 1901.  He rejected several minor league offers and returned home Elkhart, Indiana.

Cuppy and his former catcher and fellow Elkhart native, Lou Criger opened a pool hall called The Lucky Horseshoe.  Cuppy operated that business and a cigar store until his death in 1922.