Tag Archives: Louisville Colonels

“There’s a Player the Newspapers Made”

14 Aug

In 1907, Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss told The Pittsburgh Press:

“There’s a player the newspapers made.”

The player in question was Tommy Leach.

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Leach

“Leach is a pure product of the newspapers, but a product of which the newspapers should be proud.”

Dreyfuss said it made Leach “mad to tell him that,” but that the Louisville papers were responsible for his career:

“They roasted him so hard (when he played for Dreyfuss with the Colonels in 1898 and ’99) trying to drive him from out of the business that I got mad and said I’d stick to Leach as long as I had a dollar, and I did.”

Dreyfuss said Leach, “was very bad at that time I must admit.”

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Dreyfuss

But, he said he felt the papers “had it in” for Leach:

“I knew he could do good work, for I had seen him perform in the New York State League, but when he went to Louisville he seemed to scare at the cars and his fingers were all thumbs. My, how the papers did roast that boy. I suppose if they hadn’t done so, Leach might have been released, but when they took to devoting columns to his bad plays, simply singling him out for a mark, I took his part and our day soon came.”

Dreyfuss said he was sure that had he bent to the “newspaper roasts” of Leach and released him, “he would likely have never been given another chance in fast company.”

Leach played for Dreyfuss’ Pirates through the 1912 season, and finished his career with the team in 1918 when the 40-year-old, whose last major league game was in 1915, appeared in 30 games for the club whose roster had been depleted because of World War I.

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #38

5 Aug

Scrappy Bill and Small Ball

The New York Herald lamented in August of 1897 about New York manager Bill Joyce:

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Joyce

“Scrappy’s Giants are doing less sacrificing than any team in the major league. Mike Tiernan has but one sacrifice to his credit. Scrappy, like Ed Hanlon, regards sacrificing as a necessary evil—a last resort.”

The paper wanted him to follow the example of Fred Clarke:

“(T)he captain of the Colonels in a firm believer in sacrificing early in the game for one run, as well as late in the contest, when a tally is of more importance than at an early stage of the game.”

Joyce’s third-place Giants sacrificed just 45 times in 1897; Clarke’s 11th-place Colonels were fourth with 101.

Cy’s Arm

During spring training in 1905, Naps pitcher Bill Bernhard told The Cleveland News:

“There is no use talking, there is only one Cy Young. When the rest of us pitchers report in the spring we act as if those deceiving arms of ours were made of glass and humor them accordingly. But not so with old Cy. The very day he reached Hot Springs a week or so ago, he cut loose as if he had been pitching all winter. Great Scott, but he had speed to burn, and the next day and the next it was just the same. And curve them? Well, you ought to have seen the old boy.”

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Young

That season, the 38-year-old Young was 18-19 with a 1.83 ERA for the Boston Americans.

Johnson’s “Destiny”

Grantland Rice’s lede in The New York Herald Tribune on the final game of the 1924 World Series:

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Rice

“Destiny, waiting for the final curtain, stepped from the wings today and handed the king his crown.

“In the latest and most dramatic moment of baseball’s 60 years of history the wall-eyed goddess known as Fate decided that old ‘Barney’ had waited long enough for his diadem of gold and glory. So, after waiting 18 years, Walter Johnson found at last the pot of shining gold that waits at the end of the rainbow.

“For it was Johnson at last, the old Johnson brought back from other years with his blazing fastball singing across he plate for the last four rounds, who stopped the Giant attack from the ninth inning through the 12th and gave Washington’s fighting ballclub its World’s Series victory, 4 to 3.

Washington won just at the edge of darkness, and it was Johnson’s great right arm that turned the trick. As (Earl) McNeely doubled and (Muddy) Ruel galloped over the plate with the winning run in the last of the 12th, some 32,000 fans rushed upon the field with a roar of triumph never known before, as for more than 30 minutes, packed in one vast, serried mass around the bench, they paid Johnson and his mates a tribute that no one present will ever forget.”

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Johnson

Rice’s account of the game was recognized as the best “major league baseball story of the year” by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

 

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #34

6 Jun

Trash Talk, 1887

In June of 1887 the Cincinnati Red Stockings dropped to sixth place in the American Association pennant race; Ren Mulford of The Cincinnati Enquirer assured his readers the team would not remain in the basement. The St. Louis Post Dispatch responded:

“Ren Mulford Jr., of Cincinnati, whoever he is, is quite a chatty baseball writer, and his apologies for the Cincinnati club are a mark of rare ability. Mr. Mulford, whoever he is, thinks the Reds will not be at the sixth place when the season ends, but Mr. Mulford, whoever he is, will probably find out his mistake later on.”

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Ren Mulford

Mulford was correct, the Red Stockings went 61-33 the rest of the way, finishing second—but it was not enough to catch the St. Louis Browns who won the pennant by 14 games.

Burns on Anson, 1898

Tom Burns, in the process of leading the Chicago Orphans to a fourth-place finish in 1898, told Henry Zuber of The Cincinnati Times-Star that Cap Anson was not primarily responsible for the reputation he built as a great manager in the 1880s:

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Tom Burns

“Anson had a team that could think for itself. It was not necessary for him to direct the play of the team on the field, for the reason that the players were far above the average in baseball intelligence, and worked and studied together without the aid or suggestions of the manager. The late Mike Kelly carried the leading brainery of the team, and it was he, with the aid of the other baseball-intelligent men of the team, that invented and carried out any plans and tricks that proved such an improvement to the game and made the White Stockings the famous team they were.”

Anson’s teams finished first or second nine times from 1880-1891, from 1892 until he left the team in 1898 his teams finished no better than fourth.

Louisville Patriotism, 1898

At the outset of the Spanish-American War in April of 1888, The Cincinnati Post said of Harry Pulliam’s Louisville Colonels:

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Harry Pulliam

“Patriotism is running amuck among the Colonels. They purchased gaudy red, white, and blue stockings for yesterday’s game, and each player wore a tiny United States flag in his cap band. President Pulliam is thinking of raising a regiment. ‘The governor of Kentucky,’ said the happy executive, ‘is having all sorts of trouble. You know everybody worth mentioning in our state is a colonel, or considers he is of that rank. All wish to enlist, but no one is ready to accept a commission below that of colonel.”

Comiskey on “ungrateful” players, 1894

By 1894, Charles Comiskey, in his last year as a major league player and manager and leading the Reds to a 55-75 tenth place finish, told The Cincinnati Post his opinion of players had changed:

Charles Comiskey

Comiskey

“Ball players are often accused of being and ungrateful lot of men. I used to defend them on this charge, but I must confess that recently I have come to the conclusion that the average player is inclined to throw down his best friend. It’s a broad assertion, but my experience has been a severe one. There are some true men playing the game, but you can quickly pick them out of every team.”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #33

7 May

Radbourn on Rule Changes

Old Hoss Radbourn told The Boston Journal that he thought the new rule changes for 1887—including the four-strike strikeout and abolishing the rule that allowed batters to call for high or low pitches—would have very little impact:

“Radbourn says it is a mistake on the part of anybody to think that (Dan) Brouthers can’t hit anything but a low ball. He thinks they will find that when it is absolutely necessary Brouthers can hit almost anything. When asked what effect the thought the new rules would have on Anson’s batting, Radbourn smiled and said: ‘Anson’s all right. He has more chances than anyone else. A man has to get five strikes on Anson before the umpire will call him out. Umpires don’t like to call strikes on Anson. I don’t know why, but they don’t. The pitcher who strikes out Anson does a big thing.”

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 Radbourn

Brouthers’ average dropped 32 points to .338, but he still led the league in runs, doubles and on base percentage.  Anson’s fell 24 to a league-best .347—he had 18 strikeouts in 533 plate appearances. Radbourn posted career highs in walks (133) and ERA (4.55) for the fifth place Boston Beaneaters.

Comiskey on ‘Friends’

Charles Comiskey said he had no friends in the American League. He told The Pittsburgh Press before the 1902 season:

“There’s Connie Mack, if he thought I could use one of his players he would keep him around until the Fourth of July, and then, if I hadn’t got that place filled, he would take the player out behind the grandstand and shoot him rather than turn him loose so I could sign him. The rest are getting as bad as Connie too.

“When (Tom) Loftus came back into the league I thought I would have at least one friend. Now he puts blinders on his players every time I get anywhere near them. Just to show you; before Loftus went East recently, I framed it all up for him to get a good second baseman for his team. I knew (John) McGraw couldn’t use all his infielders, so told Loftus to go after either (Bill) Keister or (Jimmy) Williams. McGraw would talk to Loftus, but not to me, when it came to players.”

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 Comiskey

Loftus ended up signing Keister as a free agent.

“Well, Loftus got Keister, you know, and I figured that would solve my third base problem, for he can’t use both (Harry) Wolverton and (Bill) Coughlin at third, and neither is much good anywhere else. So, when Tom came back, I led him up to the subject gently and proposed taking one or the other of them off his hands. Then what do you think Loftus sprung on me? He said he though of playing Keister in the outfield next year so he would need all his infielders. He looks like all the rest to me now.”

Keister and Coughlin remained with the sixth place Washington Senators all season—Coughlin at third, Keister splitting time at second and in the outfield—Wolverton, who had jumped to the Senators returned to the Philadelphia Phillies mid-season. Comiskey tried to solve his “third base problem” by acquiring Sammy Strang from the New York Giants. Strang hit .295 but committed 62 errors and was released in September.

Warner on Revenge

In 1906, Washington catcher Jack Warner told The Boston American how he had gotten even with Cupid Childs for spiking him. The incidents occurred, he said, in 1895 when he had recently joined the Louisville Colonels and Childs played for the Cleveland Spiders.

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Warner

Warner said he had received the throw to the plate well ahead of Childs:

“Well, sir, Cupid came in like the Empire State Express, feet first and his body high in the air. And say, he planted those mudhooks of his on my right side with such force that I flew twenty feet. Then there was absolutely no excuse, as the play was not close, me being there waitin’ there to receive him. I put up a howl but that was useless, so I made up my mind to work the next day and watch for a chance to get even. I was lucky to have the same sort of play come off.

“Up in the sky went Mr. Cupid again. But this time I was not there, only thereabout. I had plenty of time to look him over and pick out a soft spot in his architecture. They had to pry the ball out and it took half an hour to bring him back from dreamland. That’s the way to do it when you know a lad it trying to get you. And you can always tell if he is on the level after a couple of encounters.”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #32

8 Apr

“He Runs Bases Like a cow”

John Irwin began 1891, his eighth and final major league season playing for the Boston Reds, managed by his brother Arthur.

After a June game with The Colonels, The Louisville Courier-Journal said the connection was not an accident:

“John Irwin, who is a ball player because his brother is a baseball manager, was in a part of yesterday’s game. He runs bases like a cow and was caught off first yesterday in the easiest manner possible. He foolishly ran out between the bases and then waited until (catcher Jack) Ryan had thrown the ball to get him out. He is very gay and is never happier or more fatal to Boston’s chances then when he is coaching. His dangerous advice got one man out yesterday.”

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John Irwin

The paper said when Irwin entered the game, at least one of his teammates, right fielder, Hugh Duffy was not pleased:

“Duffy was seen to remonstrate yesterday, when Irwin took (Paul) Radford’s place. It was like leaving the short field without a man. Irwin would be cheaper to the Boston club were he paid five times as much as he is now, with the proviso that he did not in the field—except to bring a bat.”

Irwin was released by the Boston Reds on July 16, and immediately signed by the Louisville Colonels.

“He Fairly Flew at me”

Roger Connor jumped the New York Giants and signed with the Philadelphia Athletics of the American Association in November of 1891. Before he left New York, he sought out Sam Crane, former major leaguer and reporter for The New York Press, to settle a score in “an uptown saloon.”

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Connor

Crane told the story in the pages of The Press:

“I know Roger fully believes what he says. I had a short séance with him recently and was unfortunate enough to strike Roger in a very unamiable mood. Talk about the effect of a red flag on a mad bill.”

According to Crane, when Connor approached him in the bar:

“He fairly flew at me and threatened to knock seven kinds of daylight out of me, or any other baseball reporter that ever lived, in as many minutes.”

The New York Herald said Connor had also threatened George Erskine Stackhouse of The New York Tribune and Charles Mathison of The New York Sun.

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Crane

Crane continued the story:

“His big form loomed over me and his brawny fist made belligerent hieroglyphics before my face a very vivid recollection came to me of what an effect that same fist on the features of (his former New York teammate) Ed Caskin several years ago. I would bet even money just at that stage of the game that he could lick John L. Sullivan in a punch, and I decided to forego, for some time at least, all further thought of making any arguments with him.”

Crane suggested that those who called him “a gentleman” and congratulated him on staying above the fray and not getting in a fight with Connor were not considering Connor’s point of view:

“Roger laid great stress on the fact that I once said, ‘he hadn’t a heart as big as a pea.’”

Connor was assigned to the Philadelphia Phillies after the American Association folded.

“He Never Gave the Game Enough”

The Detroit News said during the spring of 1912, Hughie Jennings told young players as the Tigers trained in Louisiana that to be successful a player “must breathe baseball, eat baseball, play baseball, and sleep baseball.”

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Hugh Jennings

Jennings said four of his players—Ty Cobb, Donie Bush. Sam Crawford, and Del Gainer—“devote their entire time and attention” to baseball.

“The man who is successful is the man who trains himself to his work and keeps his mind on it.”

Jennings then mentioned his only exception to that rule:

“In my career in the game I have known but one really good player who could place baseball second to other things. That man is Bill Dahlen, now manager of the Brooklyn team. Dahlen played the ponies and indulged in other outside affairs. He never practiced. He never gave the game enough when off the field, and he always reached the clubhouse two or three minutes before starting time. Sometimes the game had to wait till Bill took his position at short.”

Jennings, who was Dahlen’s teammate in 1899-1900 in Brooklyn said:

“If Dahlen had devoted his entire time to baseball he would have been the greatest infielder of all time. He could take a grounder on either side of him while in motion and throw without hesitating a moment. He could smash the ball to any part of the lot and bunt perfectly. He was a great baserunner. There was no more brilliant fielder.”

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Bill Dahlen

Jennings acknowledged that his former teammate was not the “greatest of all time,” but:

“He should have been.”

“Doyle Made him Drink Bass Ale”

6 Mar

The Louisville Courier-Journal caught up with Colonels Captain John O’Brien “in a talkative mood” before the 1896 season, and the 29-year-old second baseman shared his philosophy on spring training:

“I don’t think all the men should be worked hard.  Some of them are down to weight already.  As for myself, I will work off about seven pounds and then I will be down to a good playing weight. I have looked over the players who have arrived in the city and find that most of them are already trained down.”

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John O’Brien

O’Brien said Fred Clarke, Tom Morrison, and Herm McFarland “don’t look like they need a bit of training.”

O’Brien cautioned against “too much training,” and cited the example of William “Yale” Murphy, the Ivy League graduate who spent the two previous seasons with the New York Giants:

”He was trained down until he was a mere shadow and was so weak he could not play good ball.”

O’Brien said when Jack Doyle took over as manager of the Giants in June of 1895, he tried to undo the damage to Murphy:

“Doyle made him drink Bass Ale, and that was wonderfully strengthening.  In fact, I think an occasional glass of beer after a hard day’s training helps a man wonderfully.  Don’t understand me to mean by that I believe in ‘lushing.’ A player who drinks whiskey or who drinks so much beer that he can feel the effects of it, is no man for a ball team.  I have tried a glass of beer after a game, when I was hot and worn out, and I tell you it did me good.”

Doyle’s plan appears to have not worked;  Murphy who hit .272 as a rookie in 1894, ended the 1895 season with a .202 average, and the remainder of his major league career consisted of just eight hitless at bats in 1897.

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Yale Murphy

O’Brien predicted big things for the Colonels:

“I believe we will have a winning team…I know there is good material in the team, not counting the new men.  The newly signed players all look like ‘top-notchers.’ My private opinion of the outfield (expected to be Clarke, McFarland, and Ducky Holmes) is that it will prove to be the best in the League.  There is no fear on that score.  The pitching department seems good, and I know the backstops are strong.”

O’Brien was mistaken, the ’96 Colonels were even worse than they were the previous season.  When O’Brien was traded to the Washington Senators on July 3, the team was 11-44, and finished the season 38-93.

O’Brien apparently got himself into shape, he was hitting .339 on the day of the trade, eight-five points above his career average; he hit just .267 after the trade.

Kick Kelly’s Night out

20 Feb

After John “Kick” Kelly was fired as manager of the Louisville Colonels in June of 1888, he returned to the National League as an umpire.

When he missed the September 21 game between the New York Giants and Detroit Wolverines, most papers reported he was out sick.  The Detroit Free Press was more specific:

“Mr. Kelly’s white uniform did not make its appearance yesterday when the signal was given and after a painful pause it was concluded to on with the game minus his presence, and John War of the New York team, was selected to umpire…Kelly’s non-appearance is not hard to explain.  The man who has masqueraded as a star umpire has for some time past been attempting the difficult feat of rendering proper decisions on the ball field and at the same time maintain intimate relations with an extensive ‘jag.’ In this effort Mr. Kelly has proven a dire failure, much to the discomfiture of the players compelled to submit to the awful decisions resultant on the aforementioned ‘jag.’”

The paper said Ward acquitted himself well and that Kelly “was not missed to any great extent.”

There was more to the story.

The following day The Free Press said:

“Mr. Kelly was a guest at police headquarters…The cause of Mr. Kelly’s presence at the headquarters was a disagreement between himself and a person whom it would be superfluous to mention by name.”

Their competition, The Detroit Tribune, thought no details of Kelly’s arrest were superfluous:

“Kelly, the League umpire…occupied the “Dead man’s” cell in the Central Police Station about three hours today.  For the past three nights Kelly has been painting the town, and last night his hilarity broke out in a house of bad reputation.  He and a number of local characters started out in the early part of the evening and went to a house on Antoine Street.”

After drinking “several bottles of wine,” Kelly was said to have told his companions:

“I can lick anybody, an I will pound the first person who says a word.”

The party moved to a local brothel, where after more wine, an attempt was made to remove Kelly from the premises:

“He struck one of the inmates, Emma Gordon, on the head and knocked her down and kicked her.  He then struck one of the other inmates, and when the Gordon woman arose, he struck her in the mouth, cutting her lower lip and nocking two of her teeth out. After having asserted his manhood in this way Mr. Kelly was willing to leave and did leave.”

Kelly returned to his room at Detroit’s Hotel Cadillac, where, as he was sleeping, the police “roused him up gently, but forcibly, and led him” to jail.

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Kick Kelly

According to the paper “a large delegation from the ‘sporting fraternity’” of Detroit had Kelly quickly released.

Kelly paid the woman he assaulted $75.  He worked the September 22 game between New York and Detroit.

Despite paying the woman, Kelly told a reporter for The New York World that had done nothing wrong:

“I was so sick on Friday that I could I was unable to leave the hotel.  I was perfectly sober; in fact, I have never abstained from the use of intoxicants so completely as of late.  I committed no assault, as the fact of my almost immediate dismissal proved, nor did I receive any injury of any kind…My arrest was prompted by spite.  I went out the next day and umpired good ball.”

Kelly said he was the victim of “a thirst to grind the umpire,” and a “love for sensationalism.”

The Boston Post said the story from Detroit was nothing new:

“At Washington recently, Umpire Kelly was too intoxicated to discharge his duties properly.”

The paper said that if the Detroit charges “are borne out by facts, he has disgraced himself and the league and should be discharged at once.”

The Detroit Tribune said of Kelly’s denials:

“Umpire Kelly is telling them in the East that he didn’t drink too much and didn’t abuse and beat a woman in Detroit, adding that the Detroit papers had a spite against him and tried to ‘do’ him.  Down in the East they take Kelly’s denial with a grain of salt.”

Kelly was never disciplined further by the authorities in Detroit or by the National League.  He and “Honest John” Gaffney were selected to umpire the post season series between the Giants and the American Association champion St. Louis Browns.

During that series, Kelly was accused of a charge that plagued him as frequently as the one about his drinking; his perceived favoritism of the Giants.  Browns owner Chris von der Ahe went so far as to charge that “Kelly had money on the New Yorks.”

Kelly responded in a letter that was printed in The Boston Globe:

“Chris von der Ahe is hot because the St. Louis men are being slaughtered by the New Yorks.…He lost his nerve and he wants to be revenged on the umpires.”

The Giants won the series six games to four.

Kelly then did what anyone trying dodge charges of a drinking problem would do; he and Mike “King” Kelly decided to open a bar.  The New York World said:

“Umpire John Kelly and $10000 Mike will begin operations in Shang Draper’s (a New York criminal and saloon keeper) old place, corner of thirty-first Street and Sixth Avenue.”

Kelly moved to the American Association the following season.

The business apparently did not operate for long either, the following spring The New York Herald asked:

“With Mike Kelly captain of the Bostons and John Kelly umpire in the American Association, what will become of the New York wine joint—Shang Draper’s old place?”

“Cincinnati’ll be Sorry if They let me go”

14 Jan

Hitting above .300 but currently bed ridden with a kidney ailment, Pete Browning was unceremoniously released by the Cincinnati Reds on July 15, 1892, after the club had signed outfielder Curt Welch who had been released two days earlier by the Baltimore Orioles.

Browning had joined the Reds on May 22 after being released by Louisville.

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Browning

Just before the Reds released Browning, manager Charles Comiskey told The Cincinnati Enquirer:

“There has been some complaint about fielder Pete Browning, I don’t see where it comes in.  I know he isn’t the best fielder in the world, but I can get along with a little poor fielding, providing he keeps up his current batting lick.”

Business Manager Frank Bancroft disagreed with his manager.  The Reds beat the New York Giants 3 to 1 on July 10, after Welch made two catches in center field The Enquirer said robbed Jack Boyle and Harry Lyons of extra base hits.

The paper reported on a conversation at the team hotel between Bancroft and Comiskey after the game:

“’If Browning had been in Welch’s place today when that hard hit went out the batter would have been running yet.  The game would have been tied and perhaps lost to us.  Welch save us twice.  It’s a boss fielding team, isn’t it, Charley?’”

Comiskey responded:

“’It is for a fact, and I’m glad to see it, after what I’ve had to handle for the past three months.”

Browning remained sick in bed at Baltimore’s Eutaw House for several days, when he returned to Cincinnati, he told The Cincinnati Times-Star:

“I tell you, Cincinnati’ll be sorry if they let me go and keep a man like Welch.  Pete’s got kidney troubles, I guess.  I will go down to West Baden Springs (Indiana) if Comiskey says so, I think that will help my batting.”

Over the next month Browning’s whereabouts, state of mind, and next destination were the stuff of speculation.

The Times-Star said in early August that Browning remained in Cincinnati “although he does not attend the games or associate with his former baseball playing friends.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer said he was “brokenhearted since his release,” and there was “absolutely no demand for his services.”

The Boston Globe and The Washington Times said he was about to sign with the Senators.

On August 14, The Louisville Times said Browning was getting in shape in West Baden, two days later The Cincinnati Enquirer said, “Browning is lost again,” and had left Indiana.  The paper also announced that day that Welch had been released after hitting just .202 in 25 games.

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Browning

At the same time, Browns owner Chris von der Ahe was telling The S. Louis Post-Dispatch:

“I’ve got a man scouring Indiana after Pete Browning.”

After he found him, The St. Louis Republic said Browning “was offered $3500 to sign” by von der Ahe but refused.  In response von der Ahe said he had “no use” for Browning.

On July 31, The Louisville Times reported that former Louisville Colonels Director Larry Gatto received a telegram from Bancroft:

“Requesting that he see Pete Browning and notify him that if he wanted a place on the team he could report at once.  When Larry showed the telegram to Pietro the latter at once started on a run for his home to pack his grip.  He will leave this morning for Cincinnati to resume his old place with the Reds.”

Browning returned to the Reds lineup on September 2nd against Brooklyn, The Enquirer said:

“He had his ‘lampteenies’ trimmed and hit the ball in good style (he was 3 for 4).  Pete however, seemed to lose his head on the bases, and was caught twice after he reached first. In the third inning he ran as far as second on a long fly from Comiskey’s bat, (Bill) Hart caught the ball and threw it in before the Gladiator could scramble back to first.  Then in the fifth he was caught napping off first by (Tom) Kinslow.”

The fifth place Reds were 17-17 the rest of the way with Browning back in the lineup. He hit .303 for the season.

Browning was let go again by the Reds and joined the Louisville Colonels in 1893.

“He Would eat red Pepper and Drink Tabasco Sauce”

17 Dec

In June of 1905, when it was reported that Pete Browning was committed to Louisville’s Lakeland Hospital, William A. Phelon, then with The Chicago Journal wrote a slightly premature obituary for Browning:

“Browning was a natural batsman of vast ability and supreme self-confidence.  He quaked before no pitcher.  The smoothest curve or the fastest delivery were all the same to him. Carrying a huge bat, far heavier than they wield in these degenerate days, he would stride to the plate, pick out one that suited him and whang that leather with a crash that could be heard three miles away.”

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Browning

Phelon described Browning as:

“(L)ong and ungainly, comical in gait and action and eccentric to a marked degree.  He would eat red pepper and drink Tabasco Sauce, claiming that it helped his batting eye, and his conversation was full of baseball, and nothing but baseball.  It was also popularly supposed that Pete was the champion consumer of Bourbon in the baseball business, but that was time when conviviality and professional baseball went hand in hand, and the most famous players were the most famous drinkers too.”

In the field, Phelon said Browning was “a mixture of skill and laziness.”

He noted:

“He could make the most wonderful catches—if the ball got near him.  If it was hit beyond him, he deemed it beneath his dignity to pursue, claiming that the younger fielder in the other garden ought to do the running—that he, Pete Browning was hired to hit the ball, and not to run his breath out chasing three-baggers.”

Phelon “quoted” Browning:

‘” Youse kin git fellers ter run after dose hits,’ Pete would say, ‘but what good is dey outside of dat? Can dey walk up to de plate wit tree on bases an’ line ‘em out, bing, bang, de way Pete dus?’”

The Louisville Courier-Journal said it wasn’t just chasing balls that offended Browning:

“Pete was never known to slide for a base.  He insisted it was beneath his dignity to slide, and he never would do it, although he was repeatedly put out because of his refusal.”

The paper chronicled many of “his peculiarities,” including his bizarre rituals:

“During Pete’s palmy days he told some of his friends how he kept his eyes in condition for batting:

“’Buttermilk is the secret of old Pete’s batting,’ he would say.  ‘Just wash your eyes with buttermilk if you want to ‘em to the fence.  I wash my eyes with buttermilk and that keeps my lamps trimmed.  Whenever Old Pete’s lamps get dim and he cannot hit the ball, then he gets some good buttermilk and washes his eyes in it; that trims up the lamps all right and the next day-Old Pete will be hitting them out as usual.’”

The Chicago Tribune compared Browning to “Rube Waddell of our present-day Athletics” and told how Browning discussed his bats:

“When showing his assortment, he would speak of the bats much as a trainer would his stable of racehorses. ‘Ah, that is a fine 2-year-old,’ he would declare as picked one out of the lot, and ‘this one is a 4-year-old,’ he would say of another.”

The paper said Browning would never sell a bat, but occasionally “surprised the man” by giving away a bat to a player who had “looked longingly” at one of Browning’s.”

The Tribune’s early “eulogy” closed with the likely apocryphal story that was demonstrate how laser focused Browning was on baseball to the exclusion of everything else around him:

“(O)n the occasion of (President) Garfield’s assassination he said to the newsboy who was crying out extras: ‘Who’s that you say is assassinated?’ ‘Why, Garfield!’ shouted the boy…” What league did he play with?’ is the alleged return made by Browning.”

The Tribune allowed that the story was “discredited by some who knew the man best,” and that many claimed that Browning “knew the humor” in many of the things he was alleged to have said “by accident.”

Although the first reports of Browning’s imminent death were premature—he was released from Lakeland after two weeks—he spent the next six weeks in and out of hospitals before he died on September 10.

 

 

 

Things I learned on the Way to Looking up Other Things #27

28 Nov

Chicago’s American Association Franchise

At the close of the 1891 season, The Chicago Tribune assured their readers that Chicago would be a two-team town:

“The Chicago club of the American Association of 1892 is a certainty.  Fred Pfeffer will be its manager and leading spirit, and Sam G. Morton (an executive with A.G. Spalding and Bros. Co.) well known here, its business guardian.”

pfeffer

Fred Pfeffer

According to the paper, the new club’s roster would include:

“(Bill) Dahlen, (Ad) Gumbert, and (Malachi) Kittridge probabilities.  Such men as (Bill) Hart, the Sioux City pitcher, (Bid) McPhee of Cincinnati, (Jake) Beckley of Pittsburgh, Danny Richardson of New York, and (Herman) Long of Boston are in sight.”

The Tribune said the new American Association franchise would build a park on Chicago’s west side:

“Convenient to cable and railroad, and their accommodations will be for 20,000 people.”

The stockholders in the team were said to be some of the most prominent industrialists in Chicago.

The planned team never materialized after the American Association folded and four teams were absorbed into the National League.

Pfeffer, the would be manager, was traded to the Louisville Colonels for Jim Canavan and $1000.

 Weidman’s Swan Song

George “Stump” “Kid” Weidman spent parts of nine seasons in the major leagues, he appeared in his final game in 1888, and posted a career 101-156 record.

stump

Weidman

Ten years after he left the game, C. H. Steiger, The Detroit Tribune sportswriter, quoted an unnamed former teammate about how Weidman wore out his welcome in Detroit during his second tenure with the Wolverines.  Weidman had rejoined Detroit after the Kansas City Cowboys folded:

“He had pitched for us before, and was at that time considered a great pitcher, and he really was.  When he was with us before, he was the most popular boy on the team.  Everything was Kid, and he got the glad hand from everyone until one day he lost it all at once.  It goes to show how easily a man can throw away what it has taken him a long time to acquire”

Weidman won 13 games for the eventual pennant winning Wolverines before being sold to the New York Metropolitans in August, after the former teammate said Weidman was playing right field one day, while Detroit ace Pretzels Getzein was on the mound:

“(The) batter on the opposing club, Philadelphia I think it was, popped up a slow outfield fly to Weidman.  He had lots of time to get it, and it was the easiest kind of chance, but he ran up to within about ten feet of where it would strike, stopped, let it strike and bound into his hands, then threw it in.

“Well, it was the only time I ever saw Getzein mad.  He looked at Weidman, shrugged his shoulders and said to his catcher, ‘What do you think of that?’

“(Manager Bill) Watkins saw it from the bench, and was mad as a hornet.  When Weidman came in, Watkins called him down, and the Kid said he was afraid of over-running it, and thought it was best to do as he did, otherwise the batter might have made two bases on it,  But his explanation didn’t go.”

The teammate concluded:

“I don’t think he meant to throw the game.  He just wanted to let the other fellows get another hit off Getzein.  But the other players in the club rather soured on Weidman after that, and so did the crowd.”

After being sold to the Metropolitans, Weidman appeared in just 15 more games, his major league career was over at age 27.