Tag Archives: Mike Donlin

“I am going to Drown this Insect of a Manager”

11 Jan

Louis Wilber “Louie” Heilbroner was one of the most unlikely managers in history; no one knew that better than he did.

heilbroner

Louie Heilbroner

In August of 1900, the St. Louis Cardinals—with five future Hall of Famers on the roster—were 42-50 and in seventh place when Manager Oliver “Patsy” Tebeau resigned.  He told The St. Louis Republic:

“My reason?  Simply that I could not make the team play the ball it seemed capable of playing.  I tried every trick I knew and found myself unable to get proper results.”

The Cardinals spent more time fighting—one another, umpires, other teams—than winning.

A cartoon in The Philadelphia North American about the fighting reputation of the 1900 Cardinals

A cartoon in The Philadelphia North American about the fighting reputation of the 1900 Cardinals

It appeared to be a foregone conclusion that Captain John McGraw would be the new manager.  McGraw had other ideas.

He told The Republic he had “refused the position.”  But the paper noted:

“Yet, he admits that, at Mr. (Frank DeHass) Robison’s request, he assumed full duties of the office laid down by Mr. Tebeau…according to his own admission then, McGraw is manager of the St. Louis team.”

While McGraw accepted Tebeau’s duties, the title of manager went to Heilbroner, the 4’ 9” business manager of the club.  The Republic called him a “straw man,” and “scapegoat.”

“(Heilbroner is) all dressed up for use in case (McGraw) fails to make the team win…McGraw is evidently a bit leery of his job of trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s leg…Though the team is strong enough to win, it is badly disorganized and full of cliques.”

The paper said Heilbroner “makes no pretensions of baseball knowledge.  He does not know a base hit from a foul flag.”

With Heilbroner as “manager,” the team limped to a 23-25-2 finish.

Later, while he was serving as president of the Central League, Heilbroner told Billy Murphy of The St. Louis Star about the moment he claimed he realized he wanted nothing to do with managing a big league club—it involved the then 22-year-old “Turkey Mike” Donlin.

Mike Donlin

Mike Donlin

“(Donlin) was known as a bad actor.  So much so that his frequent clashes with umpires caused Mike to adorn the bench most of the time.”

Murphy said McGraw had gone to Heilbroner and asked him to help stop Donlin from fighting with umpires.  Heilbroner said:

“I’ll stop him.  I’ll fine him the next time he is put out by an umpire.”

Heilbroner said the next time Donlin was ejected, he told him:

“’That will cost you $100, Donlin.’

“With that (Donlin) reached over and. Grabbing Heilbroner with one hand lifted him off the ground.

“’Take the cover off the water bucket, Mac,’ he said to McGraw.  ‘I am going to drown this insect of a manager.’

“’And I think he would have done it, said Heilbroner, ‘if I had not remitted the fine and resigned my job as manager.”

Heilbroner made his greatest contribution to the game in 1908 when he founded the Heilbroner Baseball Bureau, and the following year when he began publishing the Baseball Blue Book.

Veteran’s Day—The 1917 “Smokes for Soldiers Game”

11 Nov

In August of 1917, a benefit game was played in New York to raise money to send cigarettes to US soldiers fighting in Europe.  The New York Sun said:

“The crowd that turned out at the Polo Grounds yesterday afternoon to see the Ziegfeld Follies high diving ball tossers play the Friars Club for the benefit of The Sun’s Tobacco Fund for our soldiers in France that even Fatty Arbuckle was inconspicuous.”

The Follies (top) and the Friars

The Follies (top) and the Friars

New York Giants’ outfielder turned actor, Mike Donlin and boxer Jim Jeffries served as umpires and drawing cards:

“Donlin, mightiest ball slugger…batted for someone or other and knocked a pop fly and was promptly knocked by 7,000 fans, and Jim Corbett oiled up the old biceps machinery by rapping fungoes before the game.”

Donlin

The Sun said the game drew nearly 7,000 fans and raised $937.60—other new York paper put the attendance closer to 5,000—but told readers that many of them were “(S)mall boys or Harlem youths at the voice cracking age whose contributions amounted to dimes and even pennies—gifts that measured the extent of their bankroll and therefore doubly welcome and all going far toward swelling the total for smokes and makin’s for our soldiers.”

Tobacco, said the paper, was critical to the war effort:

“Do you realize what a notable and beneficial part tobacco has played in the wars of the last century, from the Battle of Waterloo; say to the great conflict now raging?  Probably its solacing and inspiring qualities were never more strongly manifested that in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.  It might be said, indeed, that the defeat inflicted on the French was due largely to the soldiers’ lack of tobacco, added, as it was, to the breakdown of the commissariat, whereas on the other side the Germans did all they could to ensure a plentiful supply to their troops. “

As for the game:

“(O)ne might say that a baseball game was but incidental to the baseball game…what with wild applause the minute Jim Corbett stalked onto the field., bat in hand, to oil the upper cutting wings before settling down to umping, and then the three deafening cheers  when Mike Donlin strode out toward the spot where he used to stamp down the right field grass in the old days, and the ‘Aaaahs’ and  ‘Oooohs’ from ecstatically admiring thousands as (actresses and donation collectors) Miss (Ann) Pennington, Miss Frances White…and all their friends piled on the field.”

Corbett

Corbett

The Follies defeated the Friars 7 to 5.

Lost Advertisements–Mike Donlin, Sweet Caporal

9 Oct

donlincaporal

A 1914 advertisement for Sweet Caporal Cigarettes featuring Mike Donlin:

“When I back up to the wall for a long fly and get a whiff of Sweet Caporal from the bleachers, I envy the fans who can enjoy the game and Sweets at the same time.”

While appearing on stage in a play called “Turn to the Right” at the Elks Theater in Phoenix in 1920, Donlin, six years removed from the major leagues, talked to a reporter from The Arizona Republican about the differences between his old and new careers:

Donlin

             Donlin

“‘Mr. Donlin which do you like best, baseball or the stage?’  It wasn’t necessary for him to answer that question with mere words.  The shrug of almost disdain for his present profession answered it eloquently.

“‘Well you can’t play ball all your life,’ he answered.  ‘I messed around in vaudeville, you know how an athlete can always do that, and when I got ready to quit I naturally headed for the stage.  It’s a good life that that, and of course playing ball is a lot easier especially as far as making mistakes is concerned.  On the stage if you make a mistake, some one will cover it up for you and no one is the wiser, but when you are in a ball game and you pull a boner, look out, someone is going to land on you hard and you don’t have much comeback.

“I could have stayed in baseball if I had desired.  Could have been there yet coaching the youngsters, but sooner or later I would be done and when you are done in that game you are through and that’s all there is to it.  There is nothing left for you to do.  But now I have a permanent proposition and can string along as long as I am able to totter across the boards.”

While in Phoenix, Donlin took part in a baseball game, playing for the Elks Theater team against a local industrial league team.  Donlin told the reporter:

“There’s one good game of ball left in everyone.  I don’t dare go out and practice.  If I did I wouldn’t be able to play, but I;ll last through that game and show them all I can still lean on the pill occasionally.”

The paper didn’t report the result of the game.

Advertisement for "Turn to the Right" at the Elks Theater in Phoenix

Advertisement for “Turn to the Right” at the Elks Theater in Phoenix

“Age is a Hard Master”

21 Sep

“Turkey Mike” Donlin spent his later years trying to earn a living as an actor; his limited success on the stage and screen forced him to accept several baseball jobs as well.  In 1922, he was hired as a scout by the Boston Red Sox—it was his most active season in the game since his final game with the New York Giants in 1914.

Mike Donlin

                Mike Donlin

Like most players of his era, he had a general disdain for the current state of the game.  He shared his disgust with a reporter from The Associated Press (AP) when he arrived in San Francisco after a trip through Texas:

“In the Texas League I found a majority of the players ill with a strange disease consisting of absolute refusal to run out flies or ground balls that look like easy outs. That kind of baseball is beyond me.

“I saw Texas League players getting as high as $700 a month loafing on balls hit to the infield and running to the bench on high flies.  They couldn’t do it and get away with it in my time.

“When I was starting $300 a month was a big salary and believe me, we earned all we got.  We ran out all our hits in those days and, not only that, we had to fight every inch of the way, not alone with spirit, but with our fists.”

The money seemed to bother him as much as the lack of hustle.

While in San Francisco he met Willie Kamm, who the Seals had agreed to sell for the then record amount of $100,000 (and three players) to the Chicago White Sox.  Donlin, who said the St. Louis Perfectos purchased him from Santa Cruz in the California League for $500 in 1899.

According to The AP when they were introduced Donlin said:

“I wanted to meet you, young fellow, because you’re the highest priced minor leaguer ever sold, and I’m the cheapest.”

Always short of money and never  one to refuse a paycheck, and perhaps encouraged by what he considered to be the lesser quality of current players, Donlin accepted an offer to join the Rock Island Islanders of the Mississippi Valley League for two games while he was scouting in the Midwest during August.

According to The Rock Island Argus, Donlin “one of the most picturesque characters the national pastime has ever produced,” was signed to a one-day contract to “keep within the league rules.”  There is no record of what the Islanders paid Donlin for the one-day stunt.

He played in both games as the Islanders dropped a doubleheader to the Ottumwa Cardinals.  The Argus said of his performance:

“Even Mike Donlin, once peerless performer for the New York Giants, fizzled as a mascot.  Mike donned an Islander uniform as per announcement and was seen in right field in both games.  Age is a hard master.”

Donlin “handled two chances cleanly” in the first game, but was 0 for 4 at the plate with two strikeouts, a foul out to third and a fly out which “sent the centerfielder to the scoreboard to haul (it) in.”

He fared slightly better in the second, going 1 for 3 with two ground outs and a single on a “Texas Leaguer into right field territory.”  No balls were hit to him in the second game.

donlin1

      The Box Scores

donlin2

 

He was no more successful as a scout than he was as a player that week in Rock Island.

Two days before he played with the team, Donlin watched the Islanders’ Carl Stimson pitch a 23-inning complete game against Ottumwa.  Stimson lost the game 4 to 2—he committed two errors in the 23rd inning—but allowed only 10 hits and struck out 18.

The 27-year-old Stimson was a sub .500 pitcher (10-15) who had come to Rock Island in a trade with the Waterloo Hawks just a month earlier, but Donlin was impressed with the performance and Stimson’s 6’ 5” frame—Stimson also might have benefitted from a minor illness his wife suffered that month, The Argus said he left the team for several days to attend to her and Donlin was not able to stay long enough to watch him pitch a second time.

The 23-inning game box score

       The 23-inning game box score

Despite only seeing him once, The Argus said Donlin was “convinced that Carl is worthy of a trial in the big show,” and recommended that the Red Sox purchase his contract.

Stimson joined the Red Sox the following spring, but was slowed by an ear infection and finally joined the club in June.  Donlin’s discovery appeared in just two games over one month in the big leagues, giving up 12 hits, five walks, and 10 earned runs over four innings before being released.

Donlin continued making appearances on the stage, had small acting roles in dozens of movies, occasionally worked as a scout, and struggled to make a living.  In 1927, he began to suffer from a heart ailment and remained broke and in poor health and until his death in 1933.

“Monte’s Baseball Religion”

27 Jun

 

Even in a game dominated by superstitions some stood out.  The St. Louis Star reported on what Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Montford Montgomery “Monte” Cross thought was necessary for a rally—to the annoyance of some teammates– during a game with the St. Louis Cardinals in May of 1900:

Monte Cross

Monte Cross

“One of Monte Cross’ queer hobbies is that the bats must not be crossed when they lie in front of the bench…just as (Harry) Wolverton, the first man up in the fifth inning, stepped to the plate,  Cross looked at the pile of bats, and at one jumped into the air, shouting: ‘Four runs this time.  It’s a cinch.  Never failed yet.’

“’Sit down, you’re crazy,’ said (Al) Maul.

“’I tell you we’re going to get four runs this time.  Do you see that?’ he asked, pointing to the pile of bats.

“’See what?’

“’Why those four bats sticking out further than the rest.  That means we’ll get just as many runs.  Just you wait and see.’  Everybody laughed, but Monte was evidently very much in earnest, so they waited, all thinking how they’d kid him when the side was out.  Then Wolverton made a hit.

“’It’s a starter!’ cried Cross. ‘Now watch me.’ But Cross aired to (Mike) Donlin.  Then the next man walked.

“’There’s four hits coming sure,’ said Cross.  Just then (Roy) Thomas cracked a single scoring Wolverton.  Then (Napoleon) Lajoie and (Elmer) Flick got in their work, and the five runs were scored.

“’Whenever you see bats fixed that way look out for runs,’ observed Cross, triumphantly.

“’All right,’ replied (Ed) McFarland.  ‘Shove out about six of those sticks and we’ll win sure.’

“’That doesn’t go.  Don’t touch them for heaven’s sake!’  Fairly screamed Cross.  ‘The bat boy has to do it when he isn’t thinking.’

“The players all had a good laugh over the circumstance, and no doubt some of them became converts to Monte’s baseball religion.”

While the Phillies scored five runs during Cross’ “lucky” inning, it didn’t seem to matter to him that he failed to contribute to the rally, and the Phillies lost the game 10 to 5.

The Box Score

The Box Score

“What Right has Hanlon to Show me How to Hit?”

23 Jun

How are hitters created?  Bozeman Bulger of The New York Evening World attempted to answer the question, and described the hitting styles of some of the game’s biggest stars in 1906:

“Batting is a natural gift and to be a success the player must be allowed to swing the willow in his own sweet way.”

Bulger said John McGraw who “For nine years…had a batting average of .330” (actually .346 from 1893 to 1901) was asked his secret:

“Don’t know, I simply used my eye and my arms and figured it out.”

When McGraw played for the Baltimore Orioles, Manager Ned Hanlon tried to show him “how to hit (and) on one occasion he corrected him sharply.”  McGraw said:

“That set me to thinking, and I went to my room and dug up a lot of old records.  In these I saw that Hanlon had never hit as good as .300, that is for a period of two or three seasons (Hanlon hit .302 in 1885) while I had been hitting over .300 right along.  Therefore, I asked myself ‘what right has Hanlon to show me how to hit?’”

Ned Hanlon

Ned Hanlon

Bulger said

“In the past few years Yale and Harvard and Princeton and other colleges have employed coaches to teach them how to hit.  The experiment was futile, and no hitters were developed that did not already possess the gift.

“Take the great batters of to-day and you will find that no two of them stand at the plate alike.  Long since astute managers have found that it is a useless waste of time to attempt a correction of habits easily acquired.  To be successful a ball player must do everything in a perfectly natural manner.  This is paramount in batting.”

Bulger then wrote about the “peculiarities” of some contemporary hitters:

Sam Mertes of the Giants invariably pulls his left foot back as he swings at the ball.  Mertes also crouches with somewhat of a forward lean and keeps his feet wide apart.

Roger Bresnahan and Mike Donlin, two of the greatest hitters in the world, are what are called vicious swingers.  Bresnahan has absolutely no fear.  He never thinks of being hit, but runs squarely into the ball, and when he plants his bat squarely against it a scorching line drive follows.  Nobody hits a ball with more force than Bresnahan.

“Donlin stands with his feet about one foot apart and usually holds the bat perfectly rigid at his waist, slanting at an angle of about 45 degrees.  He can either ‘chop’ or swing hard with the same degree of accuracy.  Donlin is said to be the greatest natural hitter in the business.  He says he has no idea how he does it.

George Stone, one of the most remarkable batters of the age, has a (boxer Jim) Jeffries  crouch at bat which has caused experienced baseball managers to say George wouldn’t last as soon as the pitchers got next to him.  Stone puts a terrific amount of weight into one of his blows, swinging with his shoulders and smashing a line with fearful force.

George Stone

George Stone

“His position has been termed awkward, inelegant, and not conducive to good hitting, but Stone to-day leads the American League with a better average than the great (Napoleon) Lajoie.

“Larry is the personification of grace and elegance at bat.  He has that careless indifferent method which attracts, is devoid of nervousness but active and alert.  Infielders will tell you that there is a force in the balls smashed by Lajoie which makes them unpleasant to handle.  Lajoie is the finished artist.

“His great rival in the National League Honus Wagner is just the opposite.  Hans grabs his stick at the end, holds it high about his shoulders, and when he swings his legs are spread from one end of the batter’s box to the other.  Wagner is awkward standing almost straight and goes after outcurves and drops with equal avidity.  Hans often reaches to the far outside of the plate for a low outcurve and plants it into right center field.

Charlie Hickman stands at the outer edge of the box and swings with his body and shoulders His fondness for the balls on the outside of the pan are known to opposing pitchers.  Lave Cross puts his two feet into the angle of the batter’s box nearest the catcher, while (Dave) Altizer usually spreads out, varying this position with a crouching posture, from which he runs up on a ball.”

“Zimmer was not to be frightened.”

20 Jan

On March 28, 1907 the New York Giants took the field against the Philadelphia Athletics in the second game of a five-game exhibition series at New Orleans’ Athletic Park.

The umpire was new.  Charles Louis “Chief’ Zimmer, after a 19-year career a major league catcher had tried his hand at managing in 1906.  His Little Rock Travelers finished last in the Southern Association with a 40-98 record.

Chief Zimmer

Chief Zimmer

The Atlanta Constitution said:

“Zimmer underestimated the strength of the league, and brought men into it who did not have the goods to deliver.”

After Zimmer was dismissed by Little Rock he joined the Southern Association’s umpire staff.

The Giants/Athletics series would be among his first games as a professional umpire.

The Giants won the first game 4 to 3.  The Giants scored two runs with two outs in the bottom of the ninth off Jack Coombs for the victory.  The Philadelphia Inquirer said:

“Zimmer umpired a god game… (but) the rowdy element in the Giants broke loose frequently, and the Chief had many disputed with some of the men.”

The second game did not go as well.  The Inquirer said:

“The Giants were the first at bat, and the first two men were retired. (Art) Devlin and (Cy) Seymour then signaled safely to the outfield, each moving up a base on (Rube) Oldring’s throw…(Frank) Bowerman was then up to the bat.  (Eddie) Plank soon had two strikes and one ball on him.”

With a one and two count the Giants claimed Plank balked when he threw to third and picked Devlin off.  Zimmer said he didn’t.  Roger Bresnahan and Mike Donlin, coaching at first and third, “rushed at Zimmer from the coaching lines and a wordy war ensued.”  Manager John McGraw came out of the dugout and ‘a half hour was consumed in ‘beefing.’”

Eddie Plank

Eddie Plank

Zimmer finally ordered McGraw back to the bench and:

“Play was about to start again when a remark made by McGraw caused Zimmer to order McGraw off the grounds.  The New York manager refused to go, and a lively tilt between him and Zimmer took place, the entire New York gang surrounding the “Chief” in an effort to bulldoze him.  But Zimmer was not to be frightened.”

New Orleans police officers came out on the field as Zimmer declared the game a forfeit after a half inning.

McGraw said his team would not play in the game scheduled two days later if Zimmer was the umpire.  The Inquirer said Athletics Captain Harry Davis “informed McGraw that inasmuch as the giants had turned down Zimmer as the umpire the series might as well be called off.”  New Orleans Pelicans owner Charlie Frank also threatened to bar the Giants from Athletic Park.

On March 30 McGraw arrived at Athletic Park with only nine players consisting of “nearly all the youngsters in camp.”

With both teams on the field, Zimmer approached the Giants dugout and asked for the team’s lineup and was told the Giants would not play if he were not replaced as umpire.  Zimmer announced that the Giants had again forfeited and the Giants left the ballpark.  Frank’s New Orleans Pelicans took their place and pitcher Mark “Moxie” Manuel defeated the Athletics and Rube Waddell 4 to 2.

Waddell--lost to the New Orleans Pelicans

Rube Waddell–lost to the New Orleans Pelicans

The series was over.

Before the Giants left New Orleans that evening, McGraw confronted Thomas Shibe, business manager of the Athletics and son of team president Ben Shibe, in the lobby of the St. Charles Hotel.  The Inquirer said:

“Manager McGraw backed up the entire New York team, insulted Thomas Shibe…by calling him vile names.  McGraw alleged that Tom had informed several persons that he had heard McGraw using insulting language to Umpire Zimmer… pursuing the same cowardly tactics which have made him famous over all the base ball circuit (McGraw)did not keep within reach of Shibe.  He kept well within the group of rowdies which make up his team, and thus being forfeited from any attack from Tom, naturally was as brave as a lion.”

The paper said McGraw disappeared from the scene as soon as members of the Athletics arrived in the lobby.

Frank Leonardo Hough, baseball writer for The Inquirer, took McGraw to task for his actions, and charged the New York press with allowing McGraw and Giants’ management to intimidate them out of “writing the truth” about the team:

“The press of no other city in the Union would stand for the tactics employed by the Giants.  Such a condition of affairs would be impossible in Boston or in Philadelphia.  There are any number of thoroughly equipped baseball reporters in New York City—reporters who know the game from A to Z, who, if permitted to write the game as they see it, would be the peers of any bunch of critics the country over.  But, unfortunately they are under an awful handicap.  Let them criticize the Giants to the latter’s disadvantage and their occupation is gone.  They will be made to feel the displeasure of the august heads of the Giants by being debarred from the Polo Grounds.

“Now and then a paper will stand by its representative, but only in rare cases.  Charley Dryden, Sam Crane, Joe Vila, Eddie Hurst and numerous others were barred from the grounds.”

Hough said some reporters “stand on their manhood, and take up other fields of newspaper endeavors. But the majority of them, less favored perhaps, cannot afford to fight with the bread and butter, and consequently they are compelled to go along, glossing over the Giants’ bad breaks or bad playing as lightly as possible, while others crook the pregnant hinges of the knee until they become almost hunchbacked and ignore everything and anything that might reflect upon the Giants.  That is the reason why the New Yorkers are the best uninformed baseball public in the country.”

No disciplinary action was taken against McGraw; Giants owner John T. Brush was said to have reimbursed Charlie Frank for $1,000 in lost revenue. The Giants finished in fourth place in 1907, the Athletics third, as the Chicago Cubs ran away with the National League pennant, beating the second place Pittsburgh Pirates by 17 games.

Hough continued to write about baseball for The Inquirer despite being an investor in the Athletics (Hough and Sam “Butch” Jones of The Associated Press each held a 12 ½ percent stake in the team beginning in 1901—Jones became a full-time Athletics employee in 1906, Hough remained a sportswriter during the twelve years he held his stock).  He sold his stake to Connie Mack in 1912 and died in 1913.

Chief Zimmer’s tenure as an umpire did not improve much after his first experience in New Orleans.  He opened the season as a member of the Southern association staff, but on July 9 announced his resignation.  His final game was on July 13 in Nashville.

“As an Actor? Well—”

23 Dec

The Indianapolis News said

“Mike Donlin is in the city again and he is a real actor this time.  Two years ago Mike paid Indianapolis a visit, or rather he trailed behind his wife, who theatrically, is Mabel Hite and who at the time was the leading woman in the musical comedy, “A Knight for a Day.”  On that occasion Mike remained behind the wings out of sight of the audience or put in the time while waiting for the performance to end talking baseball or otherwise entertaining friends in the lobby…But all is different now.  Mike is a real actor this time and he trails after his wife’s skirts no longer.”

Michael Joseph “Turkey Mike” Donlin had just arrived in Indianapolis in February of 1909 while touring with his one-act play “Stealing Home,” in which Hite also appeared.  His made his previous visit while sitting out the 1907 season after a contract dispute with new York Giants owner John T. Brush and traveling the country with Hite.

He returned to the Giants in 1908 and hit .334, finishing second to Pittsburgh’s Honus Wagner (.354).  But Donlin caught the acting bug while traveling with Hite, and upon embarking on the national tour in October of 1908 he told reporters:

“There is something about the footlights that always appealed to me.  I like this show game mighty well and baseball won’t keep me forever.”

Donlin received mixed reviews throughout the tour, but it was successful enough to keep him on the road and  away from baseball until 1911.

Cartoon of Donlin and Mabel Hite, 1909

Cartoon of Donlin and Mabel Hite, 1909

The following day, after his Indianapolis debut was completed, The News provided probably the most colorful review of his show—likely more colorful than the show itself:

“Once upon a time a certain walloper of the sphere had a hunch to go forth into the provinces and connect with the long green.

“And this man was Mique and he was of the tribe of Donlin.

“And it was that Mique had a helpmate, indeed, and her name was Mabel, and she was of the tribe of Hite.

“Her patience was that of Job and she taught Mike to make a few steps, how to face the multitudes and to say ‘Back to the bush leagues for you.’

“Then, lo and behold, he was of the clan of Irving, Mansfield, Mantell and ‘Bertha the Sewing Machine Girl.’

“Many persons were injured in the rush to see him and the dough came in so rapidly that the calf that tried to swallow it choked to death.

“Then, indeed, did Mique rejoice and his cup of happiness was filled to overflowing.  Even more so than on the day he socked the horse hide far beyond the reach of the hated cub in left-field and loped home to receive a box of Flora De Tar Ropes, a big bouquet and an order for a ten-pound box of dog leg.

“And now, flushed with triumph, the hero of many rag-chewing matches with the umpire and scorched by the spotlight in which he shines so brightly, Mique is in our midst.

“Even so.

“And the other half of the sketch is here, too, and she sings…very prettily and dances gracefully.  Mique also dances, but his movements are not what might be termed poetry in motion.

“Great is Mique.

“As a ball player?  Yes.

“As an actor? Well—

“Curtain.

“’Stealing Home,’ the Donlin skit has to do with the national game, of course.  Donlin is supposed to be putting it all over the Pittsburgers, but is put out of the game for ragging with the umpire.  His wife learns of it when she calls up to get the score.  A moment later he enters the room and then there is ball talk galore during which she chides him for getting no hits, while Hans Wagner gets five.  Donlin shows her how he called the umpire down and the sketch ends, following Mrs. Donlin’s song, with a few dancing steps in which she is assisted by Donlin.”

"Sliding Home" advertisement. Grand Theater, Indianapolis.

“Sliding Home” advertisement. Grand Theater, Indianapolis.

By the spring of 1911 “Stealing Home had run it’s course.  Donlin, in need of money and with no acting prospects, returned to baseball; he played with the  Giants, Boston Rustlers and Pittsburgh Pirates in 1911 and ’12 (retired again in 1913) and returned to the Giants for 1914.

Twenty-nine-year-old Mabel Hite died of cancer in 1912.

When Donlin retired again, for good this time, he returned to the stage, then the screen–with the help of his friend, actor John Barrymore.  He appeared in more than 50 films, mostly in smaller roles.  Donlin married actress Rita Ross in 1914, and died in 1933.

“A Historical Account of a Great Game of Ball”

5 Mar

The headline above appeared in 1907 above an article written by Frederick North Shorey in The Freeman regarding a series between Andrew “Rube” Foster’s Leland Giants and Mike Donlin’s All-Stars “an aggregation composed of such noted players as Mike Donlin, Jake Stahl, Jimmie Ryan and Jimmy Callahan, probably the best semi-professional team in the country.”

Shorey said the series at South Side Park “exceeded in interest to the people it attracted anything that took place between the White Sox and Cubs last fall (1906 World Series).”

Rube Foster beat the Donlin All-Stars 3-1 in the first game, allowing only three hits:

“Rube Foster is the pitcher of the Leland Giants, and he has all the speed of (Amos) Rusie, the tricks of a Radbourne, and the heady coolness and deliberation of a Cy Young.  What does that make him? Why, the greatest baseball pitcher in the country; that is what the best ballplayers of the white persuasion that have gone up against him say.”

Rube Foster

Rube Foster

Foster was so important to his fans, Shorey said:

“If it were in the power of the colored people to honor him politically or to raise him to the station to which they believe he is entitled, Booker T. Washington would have to be content with second place.”

The Chicago Tribune said of Foster’s domination of the All-Stars:

lelandsvsdonlins

Back to the series, and back to Shorey:

“While the all-stars were confident in their ability to win, several of the old players, including Mr. Donlin himself, who have known of the prowess of Mr. Foster…knew that it was by no means a certainty…but they had hopes that the colored team behind him might do something to undo the efforts of the twirler.

Mike Donlin

Mike Donlin

Shorey said the all-stars were over matched:

“The colored men set a new pace for base running, while foster’s cool, deliberate pitching was too much for the old-time players on Donlin’s team.  Both teams put up brilliant fielding games.”

Foster pitched in four games in the series; he won all four.

David Wyatt–who had been a teammate of Foster’s with the Chicago Union Giants in 1902, and who in 1920 was asked by Foster to help draft the constitution of the Negro National League—also wrote about the series in The Freeman:

“All the baseball critics in the city were out to look the Lelands over, many under the impression that they were overrated.  The most interested of the number was Mr. Comiskey, owner of the white Sox…After witnessing the first game the white sox boss said if it were possible he would have annexed the signature of at least three of the boys to contracts, and he was so enthused over the fast, snappy work of the Lelands that he had his world’s champions to lay over one day in Chicago to watch the boys play.”

Wyatt had higher hopes for “Baseball as the common leveler” in general and the series specifically:

“There was no color line drawn anywhere; our white brethren outnumbered us by a few hundred, and all bumped elbows in the grand stand, the box seats and bleachers; women and men alike, all whetted freely with one another on the possible outcome of the series, the effect it would have upon the future of the negro in baseball, the merits of the different players etc…”

Foster’s heroics, Wyatt’s hopefulness, Comiskey’s words and Chicago’s enthusiasm were, of course, not enough to change the status quo; regardless of the “Great game of ball,” played at South Side Park in that 1907 series, the color line would remain intact for four more decades.

David Wyatt

David Wyatt