Tag Archives: Mike “King” Kelly

“So, Great Buck Ewing is Dead”

21 Aug

“So, great Buck Ewing is dead.”

That was Sam Thompson’s reaction when told by The Detroit News that Ewing had died at age 47.

Ewing was less than five months older than Thompson, who had come out of retirement to play in eight games for the Tigers just two months earlier.

“They’re slipping away, aren’t they, those fine old fellows who by their head work and lovable natures made the game what it is today! It was such men as Ewing, (Tim) Keefe, (Roger) Connor and a score of others who inspired me.”

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Ewing

Although roughly the same age, Ewing was in the major leagues for five seasons before Thompson made his debut:

“As a boy I used to read of the great Ewing, and I set him up as my ideal. He and Connor were always my idols.  Later, when I began to play in the big leagues and (later) went to Philadelphia, I roomed with Roger (in 1892), my acquaintance with—while it in no way lessened my regard for him—sort of pulled him from the pedestal. Ewing, however, I never became so closely attached to, and there was always the baseball idol worship about the man for me.”

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Thompson

Thompson said when he did interact with Ewing, it added “to this setting him higher as the ideal” of a baseball player:

“He was such a whole-souled, lovable chap. His wonderful work on the diamond in no way affected his disposition. He was always modest and retiring.”

And he said:

“There never lived a greater catcher or all -around ballplayer.

“Mike Kelly? Well, Kelly was a grand ballplayer all right, but he was the cunning player, the fellow with startling tricks. Ewing, on the other hand, was the thinker, the deep student of the game. His was the inside game. No player ever lived who could play the same kind of game that Kelly put up, but Ewing was of the different type. He was the more consistent thinker.”

Thompson said he believed Ewing was “the first catcher to get the infield signaling down t anything like a system,” and:

“He was the pioneer of present-day headwork behind the bat. He always had us hugging the bases. He devised tricks that are now common in baseball. They were figured out long before the game started. Kelly’s greatness, on the other hand, lay in his marvelous ability to grasp a situation quicker than lightning.”

He said when he played “with the old Detroit team we used to anxiously await who going to catch,” for the Giants:

“If it was (William ‘California’) Brown there was a sigh of relief. Not that we were belittling the work of Brown; it was simply that Ewing was so much better. He dazzled us. He had the infield under his control all the time. He had tricks of pulling us off the sacks that were new and we did not know what to do. That old Detroit bunch could win with Brown catching almost any day in the week, but with Ewing it was different.”

One man was responsible for New York’s success:

“It was Buck Ewing who won all those championships for the old Giants.

“Tim Keefe stood out as a wonderful pitcher. It was Keefe and Ewing. That old battery was the talk of the country.

“And yet Tim Keefe told me time and again, when they were at their best, that without Buck Ewing he would be no better than any other fairly good pitcher.

“’It’s all Buck,’ he would say, ‘he’s the boy who steadies me and gets the work done.”

Thompson’s first major league game—July 2, 1885–was against the Giants, with Keefe on the mound (although he misremembered Ewing being behind the plate that day—it was Pat Deasley):

“I don’t recall whether I did anything in the game (Thompson replaced Gene Moriarty in right field after the latter was in the 5th inning, he was 1 for 2 and scored a run) but I do remember we won. We beat the Giants 4 to 0.

“That victory did more for me among the players than any one thing. They called me their mascot. New York had been beating them right along.”

 

Thompson said when he left the Phillies in 1898, he nearly played for Ewing:

“I had left Philadelphia and had decided to give up the game. Ewing was then managing the Reds and wrote me asking if I would come to Cincinnati. He said he thought he could put through a deal whereby I could sign up all right.

“I was sorely tempted, as I had always wanted to play in Cincinnati. I had always been given a good reception there and had played some of my best games there.

“I didn’t accept, however. I thought that I might not do as well as I had, and I didn’t want to show poorly after all the good work I had done in that city.”

“I am not Fool Enough to Give $25,000 for one man”

12 Jul

A.G. Spalding sold Abner Dalrymple, George Gore and King Kelly before the 1887 season. Having sent the message that no player on the Chicago roster was untouchable, William Albert Nimick, owner of the Pittsburgh Alleghenys approached the White Stockings owner with an offer on September 23.  In a letter to Spalding, printed in The Pittsburgh Post, Nimick wrote:

“Dear Sir—If there is any truth in the rumors that A.C. Anson’s release can be obtained, the Pittsburgh baseball club, knowing his ability as manager, captain and player, is willing to pay for his release, the largest sum ever offered for a single player, viz: $15,000. Be kind enough to let me know at once if you will consider this offer.”

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Nimick

Spalding responded to Nimick:

“Dear Sir—Yours of the 23rd inst. Containing the unprecedented offer for the release of Captain Anson just received. I confess to some surprise at the amount named and if we seriously thought of releasing Anson it would prove a very tempting proposition. My personal relations with him have always been of such a satisfactory nature that I would hate to lose him. About all that I can say at present in reply to your offer is that should we decide to release him you will be advised of that fact before anything is done.”

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 Anson

Nimick told The Post he took Spalding’s letter as an indication that “There is still some hope of our getting Anson.” He said if he could not get Anson, he would be able to acquire either second baseman Fred Pfeffer or shortstop Ned Williamson. The Post said:

“The prevailing opinion in Chicago is that the three players named cannot all remain in the Chicago club harmoniously, and that one or more of them must be transferred.”

The Chicago Tribune asked Anson about the potential of his playing elsewhere in 1888:

“I know the offer has been made and am surprised that such a sum should be offered for a baseball player. I am, of course, sorry that baseball men are sold by the different managers as so much material, without considering what they have to say in the matter, but it gives me satisfaction to know I am worth so much as a baseball player. If Nimick should buy my release from Spalding for that sum he would have to settle with me afterwards before I would play with the Alleghenys. I never expect to play with any other than the Chicago club. As long as I remain in the baseball world I hope to be where I am at.”

One month after the original offer was made, The Post reported that the Pittsburgh owner was not giving up and had made “the most sensational offer for a player on record.”

The paper said Nimick increased the price to $25,000, but the Pittsburgh magnate denied the story the following day. He told The Pittsburgh Leader:

“I am not fool enough to give $25,000 for one man.”

Nimick also denied a rumor that he had offered $10,000 for Chicago pitcher John Clarkson, who would be sold to Boston for that price six months later. He told the paper Pittsburgh was, “fixed as well if not better than any other club” for pitching.

The Pittsburgh papers and Nimick held out hope of acquiring at least one of the three Chicago stars until November, when Spalding was quoted in The Press putting an end to the speculation:

“(Nimick) offered $15,000 for Anson and would have given more if he could have been bought. He won’t leave Chicago, however. I have 16 players signed or it least equal to it.”

Anson, Williamson, and Pfeffer all remained in Chicago.  Nimick bought Fred Dunlap from Detroit, Al Maul from Philadelphia, and Billy Sunday from Chicago—the three were secured for roughly half of what was offered for Anson.

The Alleghenys were 62-72 and finished sixth for the second straight season; Anson guided Chicago to a 77-58 second place finish.

“Low ebb of Baseball”

24 Jun

Shortly before the American League’s inaugural season in 1901, The Brooklyn Eagle—likely long-time sports editor Abe Yager–asked:

“What has been the cause for the current low ebb of baseball?”

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Abe Yager

The paper said some suggested the “squabbling and bickering” among team owners and “the efforts of the National League to keep the game to itself,” as possible reasons.

No, said The Eagle, it was clear who was responsible for the latest concern that baseball would no longer maintain its popularity:

“The players themselves, however, are the principal offenders.”

The paper reasoned that during “the halcyon days of the 80s, when baseball was in its prime” players were spoiled.

“In those days the hired man was a popular idol, the public looking up at him as a little god to be worshipped. He was wined and dined, all his peccadillos were looked upon as the eccentricities of the great, and when he got into trouble with the minions of the law everybody hastened to help him, and the matter was hushed up as much as possible.”

The paper cited examples of how players had been treated in the past:

“Gus Weyhing, ten years ago, threw a sandwich against a valuable ceiling in an East New York brewery, causing damage to the extent of several hundred dollars. The proprietor of the place brought suit against Weyhing, but the case was hushed up and the player was set free.”

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Gus Weyhing

Then there was Mike “King” Kelly:

“When Boston paid $10,000 to the Chicago club for his release (in 1887), the world stood aghast that such a price be paid for a ball player, and the Bostonians fell on their knees and worshipped him…the adulation showered upon him stopped only at the presentation of a house and lot and a carriage and pair.”

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 “King” Kelly

And in Brooklyn the was the case of Bob Caruthers. When his contract was purchased from the St. Louis Browns before the 1888 season:

“(Caruthers) was the observed of all observers when he arrived here. Brooklynites jostled each other in their efforts to form his acquaintance. He was introduced into many clubs and everything was done to make his stay here pleasant. Bobby had an ungovernable temper when things failed to go his way. This was especially the case when he was playing cards, and he was known frequently to tear up entire decks and throw them about the room. But this was taken as a peculiarity of a great man and nothing was said.”

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Bob Caruthers

The deal whereby players were put on a pedestal; their bad acts were covered up, and in turn didn’t agitate about how they were treated were this version of “the good old days” when baseball was not in decline. But now:

“Since the ‘brotherhood’ war…The players have gradually but fully fallen from the pedestals and are no longer idols in the in the eyes of the public. Their objections to being bought and sold on the plea that they are slaves, their rowdyism on and off the ballfield, frequent barroom fights and cases of intoxication which are now made much of.”

And the fault was only with the players:

“(T)he squabbling over salaries, their rush to the public print whenever they have real or fancied grievances.”

Complaining about salaries, fighting over the reserve clause, it was reasoned, had “pulled the scales from the eyes of the baseball loving people.”

Not the magnates, the players, were responsible for the inevitable demise of the game, and for baseball being eclipsed by sports that:

“(H)ave not he appearance of being business enterprises. And the players wonder why they play before empty benches.”

Despite the latest prediction that baseball’s best days were in the past, the benches filled up at a higher rate in 1901 than 1900; even with attendance declines in National League cities with new American League competition, league-wide the attendance increased by nearly 100,000. Brooklyn attendance jumped from 183,000 to 198,200.

“As a Trickster he was a Marvel”

12 Jun

Dan Brouthers was working at the Polo Grounds in 1917—after John McGraw got Brouthers hired, he held a variety of jobs there according to contemporary news accounts, including night watchman, custodian, and operating the gate at the press entrance to the ballpark—when The New York World asked him to reminisce about some of the his experiences as a player.

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Dan Brouthers

Brouthers said he was told by McGraw when he had earlier scouted for the Giants, “brains and speed are what you are to look for.”

Brouthers said:

“If you get hold of a good, speedy man, with something more than a bone above the ears, you probably have the makings of a good ball player.”

He said players with the combination of brains and a willingness to flout the rules had won many games when he was playing:

”It may be that the poorer team had a fox on it somewhere, and every time the umps are asleep or looking the other way, he pulls one over…There are of course, some people who believe in playing baseball on the level. But a good many other birds realize that it is played on a diamond, and so take advantage of all corners.”

One player stood out in that category for Brouthers:

“Mike (King) Kelly was a shark for that sort of thing. He could have sold earmuffs in the Philippines or palm-leaf fans in Alaska. He was a wonder as a baseball player, but as a trickster he was a marvel. Whenever he was on the field the umpires spent half their time combing the wool away from their eyes.”

Brouthers described The King:

“He was very little short of six feet tall, weighed in the neighborhood of 180 pounds, had a fine, full mustache which was the fashion in those days and a bluff, genial manner that disarmed suspicion and made you like him from the first.”

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Kelly

He said:

“Mike was the idol of the fanatics, and anything he did was right…He was so popular that he had three nicknames—The King of the Diamond, The Only Kel, and the $10,000 Beauty…Kelly was as full of tricks as a monkey, and couldn’t stand to lose a game if he could win it—by any means at all.”

Brouthers provided his version of the most famous story about Kelly, which he said happened when they were both with the Boston Reds in the Players League in 1890:

“One afternoon Kel was sitting on the bench, while (Charlie) Bennett was catching.”

Brouthers is confusing his former teammate with the Detroit Wolverines—Bennett–with Morgan Murphy and William “Pop” Swett who were the other two catchers in addition to Kelly on the club.

“The game was close, but Kel had made up his mind we had to win it and had his peepers skinned for a chance to put one over. Suddenly the man at bat knocked a high foul that Kelly saw (the catcher) could not catch. It is hardly likely that what Kelly did would have occurred to any other manager. What Kel did was jump up and run for the foul ball at the top of his speed. And while running for it he kept shouting to the umpire that he had taken (the catcher) out of the game and had substituted himself. Then he caught the foul ball.

“According to Mike’s way of doping it out, it was strictly according to Hoyle.”

Brouthers said Kelly then walked over to the catcher and took his mask and glove:

“Then the astonished umpire and the spectators came out of their trance at the same time and there was a yell from both of them. Kel insisted everything was O.K. In fact, he didn’t even concede there was room for an argument. There was nearly a riot over the affair, but it ended by Kelly being shooed back to the bench, and the batter being called safe. That one was a little too raw for the ump. But Kel wore an injured air all the rest of the game, and although the crowd knew he was wrong, they all sympathized with him.”

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Cartoon by Herb Roth of The New York World which accompanied the article

Brouthers said Kelly had more success with other stunts:

“When I was with Detroit Kel was playing with Anson’s Chicago club. At a game in Detroit, when I came to bat in the ninth inning, there were two out and three on base. Moments like that are big ones in a batter’s life, and I got a toe hold and made my mind to tear the cover off the first good one that came across. I believe we needed three runs too. Kel was playing in the field that day. I picked out one that I liked and hit it hard enough to drive it out of the lot. I was sure the ball was going over the fence, because Kelly was running in that direction like a mountain goat. Just as he got near the fence, he made a wonderful jump and got the ball. That made three out; the game was over, and Kel kept running into the clubhouse, taking the ball with him. We lost the game, of course.

“Some time later Kel confessed to me that the ball he apparently caught he had never even touched. It had cleared the fence by 10 feet!”

Brouthers said Kelly often hid a ball in the outfield, “opposing teams didn’t know this at the time. If they had, Kel probably would have died a violent death.”

“One foggy afternoon in Philadelphia, with Phil Powers umpiring, Philadelphia had a man on base when Sam Thomson came to bat. Sam picked out one he liked, and, as we found out later, poled it clear over the right field fence. But because of the fog the umpire couldn’t follow the flight of the ball.

“Now Kelly had a ball hidden in the long grass near the fence, and when Thompson made his hit, Kelly never looked at the ball in play at all, but dived for the extra ball. He fumbled around a bit as though he were looking for it and then picked it up and made an accurate throw to home, putting out the man who had been on first when the ball was hit.”

Brouthers said Thompson was sure the ball had cleared the fence and, “roared like a lion and called down the vengeance of high heaven” on Powers.

“And while he was ranting and roaring, Kelly, with an injured and innocent air, was calmly proving that the ball never went near the fence at all. Powers believed Kelly and his own eyesight, and Thompson, almost crying with rage, was fined for kicking.”

Brouthers said Kelly showed of his “foxiness” coaching third base as well.

“If a ball had been fouled by the man at bat and hit the grandstand, Kelly would demand that the pitcher throw it to him, in order that Kelly might be sure it was not cut or ripped. He only pulled this stunt when there was a man on base. Then the pitcher, if he were not wise, would throw the ball to Kelly. Kelly, instead of catching it, would dodge it, and allow it to roll past him, and the man on base would streak for home. And probably get there before the ball could be returned. Of course, this only worked once on the same man, but it sometimes helped to win a game.”

Brouthers also said Kelly attempted to use a potato as a ball in the 1880s:

“I can remember one time he took a potato to right field with him, and when a hit ball bounded past him, he made believe he had caught it, and then turning whipped the potato to the second baseman. The second baseman relayed the potato to third in order to get the man trying for that base. And he might have got him but for the fact that the potato was not a solid one and burst when the third baseman caught it.”

Brouthers said Kelly “was the most genial fellow in the world off the diamond,” but considered umpires “an eyesore.” He said “he would stand as close to him as he could and jaw him until the ump would run up a $100 fine on him in $5 and $10 clips. But that didn’t work the King any, because someone else always paid his fines.”

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.”

“Who’s the Greatest Ballplayer that Ever Lived?”

13 Mar

In the 19th Century, conversations about baseball in hotel lobbies

The Chicago Daily News shared one such discussion in 1896:

“’Who’s the greatest ballplayer that ever lived?’ Demanded the old ball crank of the gathering at the hotel.  And there were, straightaway, almost as many opinions as there were gentlemen in the party.”

A man in town on business said:

“To my mind, Anson outranks them all.  When you consider the wonderful grip which Anse has retained on the sport for all these twenty-five tears, when you take into consideration his qualifications as a player and as a man, his work as a leader and a general, the great batting he has always done every little point that can be recalled about both uncle and the game, I can’t see where any other player, living or dead, ranks with Anson.”

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 Anson

The paper said there were murmurs, then the night clerk weighed in:

“Mike Kelly was his ideal.

“‘Poor old Mike,’ said he, ‘had baseball genius and brilliancy to an extent never paralleled.  He had the mind to originate, the ability to execute.  He was, in the hearts of the masses, what John L. Sullivan was to pugilism.  Remember the tricks he worked, the batting and the base running he did, and the way in which he filled every position—remember only his methods of play, if you will, and then see if any one can compare with poor dead King Kel!’

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 Kelly

The “theatrical man” in the group said:

“’Bill Lange is the best that ever came down the road.  Who is there who does not like to see Lange play ball? What other player in the league, taking batting, base running and fielding into account, is as of as much value as Lange? What club would not eagerly give him the best position and the best salary it could command?  Bill Lange is destined to leave a mark in baseball history as deep as that Mike Kelly made, and future generations will speak of him as they do of Kelly now.’”

Then the “Old baseball crank” spoke up:

“’To my mind gentlemen, the greatest player of them all was Charlie Ferguson of Philadelphia.  There was a man who never realized how good he was.  When it came to effective playing, in any position, Ferguson was the man who could step into the gap so well that the regular man would never be even missed.  He could kill the ball, he was fast on the bases, and we all know he could pitch.  And the head that Charlie Ferguson wore was as good a head as ever decorated any player’s shoulders.  I saw hundreds of great players before Ferguson came, I have seen hundreds since he died, but I never to my mind at least, have seen his equal.’”

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Ferguson

The assembled men said the paper, “remembered the time of Ferguson,” with “nods and mutterings of assent,” thinking of Ferguson’s four seasons in Philadelphia—he died just 12 days after his 25th birthday in 1888.

 “Jim Hart, who ought to be a good judge of players, thinks Ferguson the greatest that the world has ever known. A canvass of ball cranks would probably show sentiments about equally divided between Ferguson and Mike Kelly.”

The paper concluded that there were, and would be, “few such popular idols” as Kelly and Ferguson:

“The increased batting has, queer as it may seem, done away with hero worship.  In the old days hits were few and the man who could step up and kill the ball was a popular king.  Nowadays the fact that nearly everybody is apt to hit takes away the individuality and accompanying romance of the great isolated sluggers.”

The paper said Lange was one of the few contemporary players who “comes as near being the subject of hero worship,” as players in previous years and that there were only players who had that impact in their own cities:

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Lange

“(Jesse) Burkett might be worshipped in Cleveland for his grand batting, but is handicapped by morose, unsociable ways.

‘(Jimmy) McAleer’s fielding would make him an idol, but his batting is pitifully light.  Baltimore’s great hero is Hughey Jennings, and the cranks treat him as though he owned the town. Brooklyn has no heroes.  There is nobody on the Boston nine whom the crowd raves over, even Hugh Duffy having lost his grip.”

“Eddie Burke and Charlie (Dusty) Miller have great followings in Cincinnati.  Louisville dotes on (Charlie) Dexter and Fred Clarke.  New York is idolless.  Philadelphia gives ovations to the whole team as a matter of principle but singles out no player.  Pittsburgh is the same way.  There is nobody at St. Louis or Washington whom the crowds adore.”

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?”

“This Player has More Honor Than 99 Business men out of 100”

17 Sep

James Palmer O’Neill was the President of the 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys—one of baseball’s worst teams of all-time.  With mass defections to the Pittsburgh Burghers of the Players League, the club won four of their first six games, then began a free-fall that ended with the team in eight place with 23-113 record.

O’Neill, who held an interest in the club, but bought controlling interest from Owner William Nimick before the 1891, kept the team afloat during that disastrous 1890 season, and according to The Pittsburgh Dispatch, never lost his faith in the prospects of National League baseball in the city right through the final road trip:

“(The team) landed at Jersey City, bound to play the last series of the disastrous season…They had great difficulty in raising the  money to pay ferryboat fares to Brooklyn and things were awfully blue.  It was raining hard when I met Mr. O’Neill later that morning at Spalding’s Broadway store, and the prospects of taking the $150 guarantee at the game in the afternoon were very slim…(reporters) asked Mr. O’Neill about his club and the outlook for the League.

‘”Never better!  Never Better! We shall come out on top sir, sure.  We’ve got the winning cards and we mean to play them.’”

The paper said O’Neill’s luck changed that day as “he wore his largest and most confident smile, and used the most rosy words in his vocabulary…such pluck compelled the fates to relent.”

The rain stopped and O’Neill was able to leave Brooklyn “with $2000 or more in his clothes,” to meet expenses.

Before the 1891 season, O’Neill told Tim Murnane of The Boston Globe, just how difficult it was to run a National League club during the year of the Brotherhood:

“I think I could write a very interesting book on my experience in baseball that would be worth reading.  How well I remember the opening game in Pittsburgh last spring, and how casually President Nimick was knocked out—and O’Neill laughed heartily at the thought of Nimick’s weakening

“After witnessing the immense crowd of nearly 10,000 people wending their way to the brotherhood grounds, Nimick and I went to the league park.  As we reached the grounds, Nimick walked up to the right field  fence and looked through a knot hole. ‘My God,’ said he, and he nearly fell in a heap at my feet,  ‘Can it be that I have spent my time for 10 years trying to build baseball up in this city and the public have gone entirely back on me?’”

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O’Neill trying to catch a championship, 1891

O’Neill said:

“I looked and could see about two dozen people in the bleachers, and not many more in the grand stand (contemporary reports put the attendance at 1000).  Nimick and I then went inside the grounds, and when the bell rang to call play we started up the stairs to our box, carrying the balls to be used in the game.  When about half way up, the president staggered and handed me the balls.  I went up to throw one out for the game.  Nimick turned back, went home without seeing the game, and was not in humor to talk base ball for several weeks.”

O’Neill then told how he managed to keep the team going for the entire season while Nimick planned to fold the team:

“When he came around about four weeks later it was to disband the club, throw up the franchise and quit the business.  I talked him into giving me an option on the franchise for 30 days.  When the time was up I put Nimick off from time to time, and as I didn’t bother him for money he commenced to brace up a little.  I cut down expenses and pulled the club through the season, and now have the game on fair basis in Pittsburgh, with all the old interests pulling together.”

Despite the near collapse of the franchise—or maybe because the near collapse allowed him to get control of the team—O’Neill had good things to say about the players who formed the Brotherhood:

“I have great admiration for the boys who went with the Players’ League as a matter of principle, and will tell you one instance where I felt rather mad.  About the middle of the season, Captain Anson was in Pittsburgh and asked me if I couldn’t get some of my players to jump their contracts (to return to the National League).  “All we want,’ said Anson, ‘is someone to make the start, and then (Buck) Ewing, (King) Kelly, (Jimmy) Ryan, (Jim) Fogarty and other will follow.’

“I told Anson that I had not tried to get any of my old players back since the season started in, but that Jimmy Galvin was at home laid off without pay, and we might go over and see how he would take it.  The Pittsburgh PL team was away at the time.

“We went over to Allegheny  , where Galvin lived, and saw his wife and about eight children.  They said we could find him at the engine house a few blocks away, and we did.  Anson took him to one side and had a long talk, picturing the full downfall of the Players’ League and the duty he owed his family.  Galvin listened with such attention that it encouraged me.  So I said: ‘Now, Mr. Galvin, I am ready to give you $1000 in your hand and a three year contract to return and play with the League.  You are now being laid off without pay and can’t afford it.’

“Galvin answered that his arm would be all right in a few days, and that if (Ned) Hanlon would give him his release he might do business with me, but would do no business until he saw Manager Hanlon.  Do what we would, this ball player, about broke, and a big family to look out for, would not consent to go back on the brotherhood.”

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Galvin

O’Neill said he told Anson after the two left Galvin:

“’I am ashamed of myself.  This player has more honor than 99 business men out of 100, and I don’t propose any more of this kind of business.’ I admire Galvin for his stand, and told Anson so, but the Chicago man was anxious to see some of the stars make a break so the anxious ones could follow.”

O’Neill, after he “lit a fresh cigar,” told how Murnane how he negotiated with his players:

“At the close of (the 1890) season (George “Doggie”) Miller came to me and wanted to sign for next year, as he had some use for advance money.  I asked him how much he thought he was worth, and he said $4000 would catch him.

‘”My goodness son, do you what you are talking about?’ said I, and handing him a good cigar asked him to do me a favor by going home, and while he smoked that cigar to think how much money was made in base ball last season by the Pittsburgh club.  I met Miller the next day at 3 o’clock by appointment, and he had knocked off $800, saying he thought the matter over and would sign for $3200.

“’Now you are getting down to business,’ said I.”

O’Neill sent Miller home two more times, and after he “smoked just for of my favorite brand,” Miller returned and signed a three year contract at $2100 a season.

O’Neill said:

“You see that it always pays to leave negotiations open until you have played your last card.”

Murnane concluded:

“For his good work for the league and always courteous treatment of the players’ league, Mr. O’Neill has the support of not only his league stockholders, but such men as Hanlon, John M. Ward, and the entire Pittsburgh press.  He has the confidence of A.G. Spalding, and is sure to give Pittsburgh baseball a superior quality next season.”

Reborn as the Pirates under O’Neill, the club improved slightly in 1891.  O’Neill, who according to The Pittsburgh Press, lost as much as $40,000 during the 1890-91 season “a blow from which he never recovered financially,”  left Pittsburgh to start the Chamberlain Cartridge Company in Cleveland; he returned to Pittsburgh and served as president of the Pittsburgh Athletic club—which operated the Pirates—from 1895-1898.

He died on January 6, 1908.  The Associated Press said in his obituary:

 “(He was) known from coast to coast as the man who saved the National League from downfall in 1890, ‘the brotherhood year.’”

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“I’m the Only Michael”

12 Sep

The Chicago press treated Michael “King” Kelly’s return to Chicago like a coronation.  Kelly was sold by the White Stockings for a then record $10,000 in February of 1887, and arrived for his first series in Chicago on June 24.

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Mike “King” Kelly

 

The Chicago Tribune said he was greeted at the Leland Hotel on Michigan Avenue with a brass band, a crowd estimated at 5000, and a song:

“Michael Kelly, he came down to sing a little chanson; says he, ‘I’ve come from Boston Town to do up Baby Anson.  I love Chicago, but you know the Hub spondulicks bought me—I hated like the deuce to go, but $10,000 caught me.  I’ve come to lay Chicago flat and knock you all to blazes, for I’m a corker don’t forget—the daisy of the daisies.  Away with every Bill and Jim that’s in the baseball cycle—the dickens take the whole of thim!  Sure, I’m the only Michael.’”

The Chicago Inter Ocean described the “King” as “terribly bored…fast losing his good nature by this ovation business.”  Despite his boredom, The Chicago Daily News said:

“Kelly was taken to the grounds in a four-horse carriage, escorted by a band and all the players.”

There were more than 12,000 fans in the stands when the procession arrived

The Tribune described the arrival at the ballpark:

“(Fans) kept on yelling as the procession wended its way past third base, back of the home plate and over towards Anson’s territory.  When the carriage with its four proud horses stopped in front of the grand stand and the Hon. Mr. Kelly stretched his red-hosed legs and hopped out to the ground the volume of yelling was doubled.  The Hon. Mike took off his grey cap and smiled.  The crowd howled some more.  Then the Bostons scattered themselves over the field and began practice.  Every play, good, bad, or indifferent of the ex-member of the home team was applauded.”

The game itself was interrupted on at least three occasions, according to The Inter Ocean “to allow presentations of flowers,” to Kelly, and at another point to present Cap Anson “a pillow in white roses with the words ‘Old Man’ in red with roses therein.”  The paper noted that the “interruptions wasted several moments of the playing time.”

The Tribune said Kelly was also presented with “a gay satin jockey cap of red, white, and blue, which the Hon. Mr. Kelly was induced to wear during a part of the first inning.”

The game, and Kelly’s performance, according to The Inter Ocean were anti climatic after the buildup.

Chicago and John Clarkson, beat Boston and Old Hoss Radbourn 15-13, the paper said:

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“Old Hoss” Radbourn

“Strange to say, however, the expected Kelly tactics in base running was not made manifest during the course if the game.  He did not play with the vim that used to make him the great man when he played here.  Kelly misses his place, and all the flowers and gold watches in the country will never make him the same ‘Old Kel’ of yore.  Kelly with the Chicagos may be worth $10,000, but Kelly with any other team would not bring $2000.”

Kelly was 3 for 6 and made two errors at second base.

Chicago took three of four games  from Boston , Kelly 6 for 11 with six errors in the first three games, and sat out the final game, a 19 to 6 Chicago victory.

The Tribune noted that Kelly’s return brought 34,000 fans out for the series:

“Fully 17,000 represented 75 cents each and the others 50 cents each.  This gives a total in the neighborhood of $21,000.  They got $10,000 for Kelly and the club is still playing winning ball.  This is some evidence of good business management on President (A.G.) Spalding’s part.”

The Kelly-less White Stockings finished in third place.  Boston ended the season in fifth.  Kelly, who led the league with a .388 average in 1886, hit .322 for Boston in 1887.

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up Other Things #25

15 Aug

“Used to Come Upon Field Staggeringly Drunk”

Arthur Irwin was a scout for the New York Highlanders in 1912 when he declared to William A. Phelon of The Cincinnati Times-Star that, “Players who are hard drinkers in the big leagues are scarce now.”

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Arthur Irwin

Irwin said a combination of “the improvement in morals” of players, and more so the fact that current players were “money mad” were the reason:

“Long ago the hail fellow and the good fellow, who believed that drinking was the jolliest part of life, were numerous in the big leagues, and there were surely some wonderful soaks in the profession.  Stars whose names will shine forever used to come upon the field staggering drunk, and other stars who had sense enough not to exhibit their follies in public would wait till the game was over and then tank up till dawn.”

Irwin told Phelon about King Kelly’s American Association team:

“The club that tried to play ball under King Kel in 1891 at Cincinnati was about the limit.  They made their headquarters at a saloon across the street from the ball park and some of them could be found asleep there at almost all hours when not actually in the game.  Some of the champion Chicago White Stockings and some of the old St. Louis Browns were likewise marvels on the jag, and it has become a baseball legend that the Browns defeated Anson’s men for the world’s championship (in 1886) because (John) Clarkson, Kelly and two or three others were beautifully corned.”

Clarkson won his first two starts of the series, but lost his next two.  Kelly hit just .208 in the series and St. Louis won four games to two.

Jennings’ Six Best

In 1916, Hughie Jennings “wrote” a short piece for the Wheeler syndicate that appeared in several papers across the country, about the six best pitchers he faced:

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Hughie Jennings

Jack Taylor and Nig Cuppy had fair speed and a fine curve ball, with the added advantage of a slow ball, and good control.  The latter, I contend is the most important asset a pitcher can possess.  My six greatest pitchers are:

Amos Rusie

Jack Taylor

Cy Seymour

Denton (Cy) Young

Charles “Kid” Nichols

Nig Cuppy

“Rusie, Nichols and Young had wonderful speed and fast breaking curves.  Cy Seymour also belonged to this case.”

“Batters Might as Well Hang up Their Sticks”

Add Ned Hanlon to the long list of prognosticators who were sure a rule change would be the death of the game—in this case, the decision in 1887 that abolished the rule allowing batters to call for high or low pitches.

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Ned Hanlon

 

According to The St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

 “Hanlon of the Detroits says the abolition of the high and low ball was a fatal mistake, and the batters might as well hang up their sticks.  Ned argues that as the pitcher has the space between the knee and the shoulder in which to throw the ball, all he has got to do is vary the height of his delivery with every ball he pitches, and thus completely delude the batter.  He claims that pitchers capable of doing head work will have a picnic, and that Baldwin will be particularly successful.”