Tag Archives: Louis Santop

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #31

25 Mar

The Best Off-Hand Cusser

Louis Santop was one of the favorite players of Rollo Wilson, the long-time baseball writer for The Pittsburgh Courier.

Wilson put many nicknames on the Texas-born Santop over the years, including “My boyfriend from Rio Pecos,” “the swaggering Longhorn,” “The big Bertha of the Bats” and the “Disappearing Gun.”  He also once described Santop—known for his colorful language–as “the best off-hand cusser who ever piloted a Missouri mule through a Texas mudhole.”

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Santop

Wilson wrote Santop’s baseball eulogy after the catcher played his final game for Hilldale—or Clan Darbie as Wilson referred to the club which originated in Darby, Pennsylvania– in 1926:

“That countless army of athletes who have earned their final plaudits of the fickle fans has been augmented by the once incomparable catcher of Clan Darbie—Louis Napoleon Santop.  News of his unconditional release was sent out last week and this time methinks the firing will stick.  For years ‘Top’ was one of the most colorful players in the game and his deadly bat was known and feared far and wide.  As a drawing card with certain groups he ranked second to none.  It was the usual thing for neighborhood fans to cry, ‘Put Santop in,” whenever someone else donned the catcher’s regalia for Hilldale.  But that time has gone, and his day is done and now he lives in the world of ‘used to be.’  The Lone Star Ranger has ridden herd on his last ball game.  The clarion ring of that famous bat when the lusty swing and mighty pitch met fair and true is stilled forever. (Of course, he may fill in temporarily now and then, but regular ball diet is no longer the food on which the Caesar will feed.)

“When someone—for instance, Rube Foster—with an intimate knowledge of Negro baseball and its players writes a history of the game his All-Time team will have as its first-string catcher our boyfriend of the Rio Pecos, Santop.”

Shortly after Santop’s exit, Foster was committed to the asylum in Kankakee, Illinois and never had a chance to write “a history of the game.”

Hoblitzel’s ‘X-Ray eye’

Dick Hoblitzel told The Cincinnati Times-Star in the spring of 1911 he was “training his batting eye,” and:

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Hoblitzell

“(B)elieves he will soon be able to count the stitches on a ball before it leaves the pitcher’s hand.  ‘It’s the X-ray eye that does this,’ he avers, and he has made a bet of a suit of clothes that he will finish in the .275 class or better.”

Hoblitzel, perhaps as a result of his “X-ray eye,” improved his average 11 points to .289 in 1911.

Seventh Inning Stretch

In the July 1912 edition of “The American Magazine,” Hugh Fullerton set out to understand “the custom” of the seventh inning stretch.

“(It) has become almost universal and almost as much a part of the ceremony as is the tea interval at cricket. There are variations.  In some cities the fans stand and yawn widely, ‘stretching’ before resuming their seats.  In others everyone takes out a handkerchief and brushes hat and clothes until the flapping of handkerchiefs makes an astonishing amount of commotion. The custom is based on the superstition that seven is lucky.”

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Fullerton

Fullerton claimed:

“The fact is a larger percentage of baseball games are won and lost in the seventh than in any other inning.  I examined 860 scores last winter to study this phenomenon, and discovered that 184—over a fifth, were decided in the seventh inning; an abnormal number.  But a further study of the figures convinced me that the superstition is responsible for the ‘luck’ rather than the other way around.  For the home team won in 151 out of the 184 games, proving, to my satisfaction at least, that the rooting of the crowd does affect visiting players.  It is evident that the custom of rooting wildly for the break to come in the seventh inning has the effect of shaking the nerve and the confidence of the opposing teams and from a study of those 184 scores it looked as if the effect was principally upon the pitcher.”

“I Haven’t Heard of any Club Owners Refusing to accept the Patronage of Colored People”

24 Apr

Damon Runyon called Dan Parker, “The most consistency brilliant of all sportswriters.”

Parker wrote a column and was sports editor of The New York Daily Mirror from 1926 until the paper folded in 1963.

 

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Dan Parker

 

Parker often used his column, “Broadway Bugle” to agitate for change in sports.  He crusaded against fixed wrestling matches, disreputable “Racetrack touts,” and the influence of organized crime in boxing—these columns led to several investigations, the disbanding of the corrupt International Boxing Club, and several criminal convictions, including Frankie Carbo, a member of the Lucchese crime family.

Parker was also an early crusader for the integration of professional baseball.  In 1933, Parker lent his name and influence to The Pittsburgh Courier’s “Crusade for comments from baseball celebrities” who supported integration.

Parker wrote to Chester Washington, The Courier’s sports editor:

“I don’t see why the mere accident of birth should prove a bar to the Negro baseball players who aspire to places in organized baseball.  I haven’t heard of any club owners refusing to accept the patronage of colored people. Rutgers didn’t draw any color line when Paul Robeson proved himself the best man for the place he was fighting for on the football team.  The All-American selectors didn’t go into a huddle about Paul’s complexion when they picked him for a place on the mythical eleven, football’s highest honor.

 

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Paul Robeson

 

“The U.S. Olympic Committee didn’t consider Eddie Tolan’s or Ralph Metcalfe’s lineage when they were picking the strongest sprinting team possible for last summer’s games.  If the Negro athlete is accepted without question in college football and amateur track and field events, which are among the higher types of sports, I fail to see why baseball, which is as much a business as it is a sport, should draw the line.

“In my career as a sports writer, I have never encountered a colored athlete who didn’t conduct himself in a gentlemanly manner and who didn’t have a better idea of sportsmanship than many of his white brethren.  By all means, let the Negro ballplayer play in organized baseball.  As a kid, I saw a half dozen Cuban players break into organized baseball in the old Connecticut League.  I refer to players like (Armando) Marsans, (Rafael) Alameda, (Al) Cabrera and others (Almeida, Marsans, and Cabrera played with the New Britain Perfectos in the Connecticut State League in 1910). I recall the storm of protest from the One Hundred Per Centers at that time but I also recall that all the Cubans conducted themselves in such a manner that they reflected nothing but credit on themselves and those who favored admitting them to baseball’s select circle.

“The only possible objection I can find to lifting the color line in baseball is that the Yankees might then lose their great mascot.  I refer to my good friend, (Bill) “Bojangles” Robinson, who chased away the Yankee jinx last season with his famous salt-shaker. The Yanks didn’t draw the color line on their World Series special to Chicago for Bill accompanied us on the trip.  On the way back, at every town where we stopped for a few minutes, the crowd hollered for Babe Ruth. Babe would make an appearance and then introduce Bojangles who would tell a few stories, go into his dance and make the fans forget about baseball as he ‘shuffled off to Buffalo.’

 

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Bill “Bojangles” Robinson

 

“I read your paper every week and find your sports pages well edited and thoroughly enjoyable.”

Parker’s letter was released shortly after Heywood Broun of The New York World-Telegram made waves at the 1933 Baseball Writers Association dinner when he said:

“I can see no reason why Negroes should not come into the National and American Leagues.”

Broun and Parker were joined by another prominent sports writer, Gordon Mackay, who had been sports editor at three Philadelphia papers—The Enquirer, The Press and The Public Ledger—who wrote to The Courier:

“I believe that there are scores of Negroes who would make good in the big minors and in the majors.  Take some of the men I used to know—John Henry Lloyd, Rube Foster, Big (Louis) SantopPhil Cockrell, Biz Mackey and others—why, Connie Mack or the Phillies would have been strengthened with any of them on the best teams they ever had.”

The Courier’s Washington was hopeful that the sentiments of three powerful sportswriters would have some impact:

“Fair-minded and impartial writers like Broun, Mackey, and Parker can do much towards breaking down the barricaded doors of opportunity to capable colored ballplayers which lead into the greatest American game’s charmed circle.  And we doff our derby to ‘em.”

Adventures in Barnstorming

3 Sep

By 1908, Andrew “Rube” Foster was probably the best known African-American pitcher in the country.  The previous season, he and Pete Hill had jumped Sol White’s Philadelphia Giants to join the Leland Giants of Chicago, turning the Leland’s into a powerhouse.

As was the custom, the Leland Giants would play a number of games against small town teams when traveling to and from games against other professional teams and their 21 games against other National Independent Clubs teams.

In August of 1908, The Freeman related a story (apocryphal perhaps, but a good story nonetheless) about one of those small town games.

“On their way back from Cleveland, where they had been playing an engagement, they had an agreement to play a little ‘woods town’ team called ‘The Cow Boys,’  The contract called for the great Rube Foster to pitch.”

The story goes on to say that Foster noticed upon arriving that the locals knew him on sight.  Scheduled to pitch against a better team the following day, Foster instructed his team to begin calling the team’s catcher, James “Pete” Booker (who also jumped to the Leland’s from Philadelphia), “Foster.”

The story continues:

“Booker went in to pitch and Foster did the catching.  It worked fine, score 23-0.  The Cow Boys were more than delighted, as they had gotten five hits during the game…Everything went well until a commercial traveler who knows each player on the Leland Giants very well remarked ‘My friends, had Foster pitched that game he would have struck out every man.’ The whole town was in a rage in a little while, and it was a good thing the Lelands (sic) didn’t stop for supper, for those country people would have broke that team up.”

Leland Giants–Pete Hill, far left standing, Pete Booker, standing third from left, and Rube Foster, standing far right.

Hall of Famers Foster and Hill have been written about extensively and their prominent place in Dead Ball era Negro League Baseball is firmly established.  Less has been written about Booker, overshadowed by Hall of Famer Louis Santop and Bruce Petway (arguably the best defensive catcher ever, whose presence with the Leland’s in 1910 pushed Booker to first base), he was an excellent hitter and solid defensively behind the plate and at first.