Tag Archives: Matt Kilroy

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things #20

25 May

A Twist on the Hidden Ball Trick, 1909

Jack Fournier had a favorite story that The Chicago Daily News said he told so often that “fellow members of the White Sox give the warning ‘Capron story’” every time he retold it.

Fournier

Fournier

Fournier was playing first base for the Portland Cubs in Northwestern League in 1909 while former college football star George Capron was playing for the Seattle Turks.

“A Seattle runner was on first when Capron came to bat.  He rapped a hot grounder down to (Phil) Cooney, who was at short for Portland.  The latter whipped the ball to second, forcing the runner and then the ball was relayed to Fournier.

“Capron had crossed the bag and was making his turn back by the time the throw reached Fournier.

“Jack tossed the ball up and down in his glove as Capron came up.  ‘Can you beat that Capron?’ said Fournier ‘the ump called you out.’

Capron, known for his temper on the field, became enraged and ran towards the umpire who standing near second base.

“Fournier was right on his heels and didn’t catch him until they covered half the distance.  He tagged the amazed Capron with the ball.”

Asked if Capron was angry, Fournier would deadpan, “Well, rather.”

An Umpire’s revenge

In 1907, long-time American League umpire Jack Sheridan told a story that appeared in several newspapers, including The Chicago Evening Post, about how he quieted a “Chronic Kicker,” Fielder Jones of the Chicago White Sox:

Jack Sheridan

Jack Sheridan

During the previous season, Chicago was playing the Detroit Tigers when Jones got on base:

Charley O’Leary, the Tigers shortstop brushed Jones’ leg with the ball as he was sliding into second on a steal.  Sheridan called him out and Jones kicked; said he didn’t feel the ball touch him.  Sheridan told O’Leary to make him feel it the next time.  A few innings later Jones got on and again attempted to steal.  This time, O’Leary jammed the ball onto Jones’ head.”

Fielder Jones

Fielder Jones

Sheridan said after the shaken-up Jones was called out and recovered from the blow:

“(He) walked to the bench without a single protest.”

A Pitcher’s Plea, 1898

After not playing professional ball in 1896 and 1897, Matt Kilroy returned to the major leagues with the Chicago orphans in 1898.

A decade later, Revere Rodgers of The Washington Evening Star said Kilroy, who won 46 games in 1887, “was in the game long after his arm went back on him.”

Matt Kilroy

Matt Kilroy

He also had another talent:

“As a baseball player Matt was real classy, but as a poker player he was king, and the Chicago bunch in those days was the most rabid pasteboard handlers then traveling over the circuit.

“Kilroy was lucky with the cards, his skill was marvelous, and he must have done well judging from a conversation at the time he was handed the customer ten days’ notice (of his release in August 1898) by Manager (Tom) Burns.

‘”Oh, say, Burns,’ cried Matt, when he received the notice, ‘allow me to stay with the club.  You won’t have to give me a cent of salary, and what is more, I will pay all my traveling expenses, and help the club out at the bat or in the pitcher’s box.’”

Burns told Kilroy he could earn “three hundred a month in the Eastern League.”

“I know,’ said Kilroy, ‘But you see I like the poker game the boys play here.”

“There was probably none so Unique as Shreve”

24 Jul

Leven Lawrence “Lev” Shreve II came from a prominent family in Louisville, Kentucky.  His great-uncle, and namesake, had been president of the Louisville Gas and Water Company, and the Louisville & Nashville Railroad.

The 19-year-old made his professional debut in 1886, playing with Savannah, then Chattanooga; he was a combined 12-9 with 1.52 ERA.  Shreve was signed by Billy Barnie to join his young pitching staff with the Baltimore Orioles in the American Association.  He came to Baltimore with great expectations.

Lev Shreve

Lev Shreve

The Baltimore Daily News called him “Barnie’s phenom.”  In wasn’t the first time a relatively unknown pitcher was given that name by the Baltimore press.

Shreve had trouble getting as Barnie primarily relied on 21-year-old Matt Kilroy and 22-year-old Phenomenal Smith; Shreve, and fellow 20-year-old Ed Knouff saw limited action in the first two months of the season.

The Sporting Life said he wasn’t happy:

 “Shreve, the Louisville boy…complains that he does not get a fair deal.  He affirms that his arm is in fine trim, but that he is not allowed to pitch. Shreve is an ambitious ball player, and desires to show what is in him.  He says he will quit if Barnie does not play him.”

The Baltimore Sun said

“People are asking why Shreve isn’t given a chance.”

The Sporting Life, perhaps, provided an explanation for the lack of work later that month:

“Cigarette smoking is said to be impairing the efficiency of two Baltimore pitchers, Shreve and Knouff”

It would not be the last mention of cigarettes and Shreve in The Sporting Life;  the pitcher was also said to be “a cigarette fiend,” and “as noted for his cigarette habit” as his pitching.

Neither Shreve, who was sold to the Indianapolis Hoosiers in the National League, nor Knouff, who was sold to the St. Louis Browns, would finish the season with Baltimore; it’s unknown whether smoking was the cause.

Shreve was 3-1 with a 3.79 ERA in five games in Baltimore.

The sale to Indianapolis didn’t seem to hurt Shreve’s confidence according to George Myers, his catcher with the Hoosiers.  Meyers, two decades after playing with Shreve, said the pitcher was talented, cocky and erratic, and described Shreve’s first National League game; a 4-1 10-inning victory over the first place Detroit Wolverines on August 19:

“There was probably none so unique as Shreve…My, but he was a fresh youth…He had awful speed and good curves and perfect control of the ball.  His confidence and egotism were astounding.  I remember one day we were to play against Detroit (Wolverines).  It was when the big four, (Jack) Rowe, (Deacon) White, (Hardy) Richardson and (Dan) Brouthers were on the team.

“Mr. Shreve, who had been assigned to pitch, strutted to the box with the swagger that would have made John L. Sullivan look cheap when John L. was monarch of all in the fistic business.  ‘Just watch me fellows, and see what I do to those swell-headed guys from Michigan,’ said the smiling Shreve.  ‘I am going to make ‘em look like a lot of suckers.’

“Richardson was the first batter up…’So you are the great invincible Hardy Richardson, eh?’ drawled Mr. Shreve.  ‘Well Hardy, old chap, I’m going to show you that you are easy for a good pitcher…Shreve let go the first ball and it went around Hardy’s neck like a shot.  He struck at it after I had it in my hands.  Bang goes the second, also a strike, and the third a wide, slow, outshoot, fooled the great batter completely and Shreve said mockingly: ‘Back to the bench Hardy, I told you that you were easy.

“Big Dan Brouthers, who was always a terror to pitchers, came next and he had blood in his eye…’so this is the terrible Mr. Dan Brouthers,’ grinned the fresh pitcher.  ‘Hate to tell you Dan, how soft a mark you are’…Dan missed the first two, which went close to his chin, and the next he hit like a shot at the pitcher.  Shreve caught it in easy style and gave Brouthers the ‘ha ha’ in most tantalizing fashion as Dan ambled to the bench.

“Deacon White came next and Shreve kidded him unmercifully.  ‘Deacon who told you that you could hit anything?’ was the greeting white was given.  The Deacon scowled and muttered ominous.  ’Duck soup is what you are for me.’ Sand Shreve, as White missed the first ball by several inches.  ‘Oh, how easy,’ was the next rejoinder, and Deacon smashed blindly at an outshoot, a moment later striking out on one of those speedy ones such as had sent Richardson to the bench.

“The Big Four could do absolutely nothing with Shreve’s delivery, and the other members of their team were just as helpless…This fellow Shreve was one of the best pitchers I ever met, but he was an erratic chap, and dreadfully hard to handle.”

George Myers

George Myers

After beating the eventual National League champions in his first start, Shreve ended up a disappointing 5-9 with a 4.72 ERA for Indianapolis.

Myers said on another occasion Shreve approached him before pitching against the Chicago White Stockings, who had won the National League championship in 1886:

“’Say, George, what team is this we are up against today?’

“I immediately began to read him a lecture, telling him that a young man just starting in on his career as a professional ballplayer shouldn’t deport himself in such a manner. ‘The idea of you coming on to the grounds when the champion Chicagos are here, and not knowing it, why—‘  ‘The champion Chicagos,’ interrupted Shreve, ‘Never mind, George, just watch me.  Oh just wait and see what I will do to that bunch.”

Myer s said Shreve shutout the White Stockings.  (This story appears to be either apocryphal or conflated with another incident as Shreve did not shutout Chicago that season).

Shreve was 11-24 in 1888 and 0-3 in 1889 when he was released by the Hoosiers.  He played three minor league seasons and was out of professional baseball by the age of 24.

Myers said his former teammate was “erratic as Rube Waddell,” and:

“I could tell story after story about this man Shreve.  If he had taken care of himself he would have been the greatest pitcher in baseball history.”