Tag Archives: Minneapolis Millers

“Foster you are Released”

17 Mar

Elmer Ellsworth Foster’s career as a pitcher ended on August 26, 1884.  He had been out for three weeks with “an injury to the tendon in his right arm,” when he took the mound for the St. Paul Apostles in a Northwestern League game against the Milwaukee Brewers.  The 22-year-old was 17-19 with 1.18 ERA when he took the mound at St. Paul’s West Seventh Street Grounds.

The St. Paul Daily Globe said:

“When the popular favorite took his position in the box in the last half of the first inning the audience received him with an ovation of cheers, to which he responded by raising his cap.  A moment later he pitched the first ball, a sharp crack was heard distinctly all over the ground and the sphere went spinning ten feet to the right of the batter.  Foster turned pale, but stood in his position until the players in the vicinity reached him.”

He had “snapped the bone of the right arm just above the elbow,” and after Foster left the field a collection was taken up among the fans “A few minutes later it was announced that $172 had been collected.”

He made it to the major leagues two years later as an outfielder with the New York Metropolitans in the American Association, and played parts of five seasons in the American Association and National League.  A consistent .300 hitter in the minors, Foster hit just .187 in 386 big league at bats.

According to The Sporting Life, his manager with the New York Giants in 1888 and ‘89, Jim Mutrie considered him “one of the best fielders in the country, and the only reason New York ever let him go was because he didn’t show up well with the stick in fast company.”

Elmer Foster

Elmer Foster

Sportswriter Hugh Fullerton said he excelled at other things as well:

“The rowdy of the rowdies was Elmer Foster.  Handsome, well bred, clean cut and with it all, well educated and something of an actor.  Foster was in baseball for the fun of it.”

From the time Fullerton joined The Chicago Tribune in 1897 until he left Chicago for New York in 1919 Bill Lange was probably the only 19th Century player he wrote about more often Foster.

Foster’s  best season was 1890 (.248 in 105 at bats and 5 home runs) with Cap Anson’s second place Chicago Colts after being acquired in late August.

Foster started the season with his hometown Minneapolis Millers in the Western Association (he hit .388 in his first twelve games), but fell out of favor with Manager Sam Morton after he and a teammate named Henry O’Day were arrested and fined in Milwaukee for public intoxication in May.

Foster was benched, but the team refused to release him, and by mid-July he was ready to take the Millers to court.  The St. Paul Daily Globe said:

“(Foster) threatens to bring suit against the management to compel its members to give him his release.  His claim will be that they are unjustly preventing him from earning a livelihood.  There is a possibility that the threat may be only a bluff, but should such a trial be put on, it will be of much interest in Western baseball circles, as it will be the first of its kind in this section.”

The Millers finally chose to release Foster rather than fight a lawsuit.  Foster was rumored to be headed to several different teams, but finally signed with the Colts on August 27.

After his strong September in 1890 Foster began the ’91 season as the Colts center fielder, but it didn’t last.

Fullerton said Foster sealed his fate with Anson during the opening series:

“We were going to Pittsburgh, and just before we arrived in town on the unearthly jump from Chicago to Pittsburgh, via Cleveland, Anson came along and sat facing us.

“’Foster,’ He said ‘The next time you take a drink, or anyone on the club takes a drink with you, I’ll release you.’

“’All right, Cap,’ said Foster, cheerfully.

“We arrived in Pittsburgh, and while Anson was registering the club at the desk Foster said: ‘Let’s go have a cocktail.’

“’Better be careful, Elmer, the old man is sore,’ I remarked.

“But we went.  The mixologist had just strained the cocktails into the glasses when Foster, looking into the mirror, spied Anson in the doorway.  He turned and, bowing low, said sweetly “Captain anson, will you join us for a drink?’

“’No,’ thundered Anson.  “Foster you are released.

“And now that I am released, Captain Anson,’ said Foster, ‘will you join us in a drink?”

Unlike many of Fullerton’s story, the basic facts (if not the part where he included himself in the story) are confirmed by contemporaneous accounts.  The Chicago Tribune said on April 26 after the Colts four-game series with the Pirates:

“Elmer Foster is not with the club and he has probably played his last game with it.  He and (Pat) Luby last night at Pittsburgh were drinking and Anson fined each $25 and ordered them to go to bed.  They paid no attention to the order and the fine was increased to $50.  This morning when the team was ready to go to Cincinnati Anson gave foster a ticket to Chicago and sent him home.”

Luby was not sent home and lost to the Reds 1 to 0 the following day.  He was fined several times for drinking during the 1891 season, and after a promising 20-9 rookie season in 1890 he slipped to 8-11, and followed it up with an 11-16 season in 1892 before Chicago let him go.

Foster was suspended without pay and finally released on May 11.  He was immediately signed by the Kansas City Blues.

Foster played well in Kansas City, hitting .300 in 70 games for the second place Blues, but was released in August.  The Kansas City Star said:

“One of the sensations of today is the unconditional release of Elmer Foster whose behavior on the present trip has been disgraceful”

The paper said Manager Jim Manning was forced to make the move, not just because of Foster’s drinking, but because he “has been largely instrumental in leading other members of the team astray.”

His replacement, Joseph Katz, acquired from the Grand Rapids Shamrocks in the Northwestern league hit just .225 in the final 25 games.

In December of 1891 The Minneapolis Times said:

“Elmer Foster, the ballplayer, yesterday secured $25,000 through the will of his dead mother, and today announced his permanent retirement from the diamond. “

With the exception of one game in 1895 (he went 1 for 2) with the Millers, Foster was true to his word and quit baseball at the age of 29.

Foster retired to Minneapolis where he operated a piano and organ store with his brother, did some acting and occasionally said he was considering running for the Minneapolis City Council or the Minnesota State Legislature, although there is no record of his ever officially filing to run for office.  He also worked as a scout for the Pittsburgh, and signed Ralph Capron out of the University of Minnesota for the Pirates.

After Fullerton moved to New York and stopped writing about Foster the “The rowdy of the rowdies” faded into comfortable obscurity in Minnesota.  He died in 1946 at age 84.

Some of Fullerton’s less reliable stories about Foster on Wednesday.

“Pitchers Should be Taught how to Sleep”

24 Sep

Edward Tilden Siever had a theory about one of the greatest dangers facing pitchers:  how they sleep.

Edward Siever

Edward Siever

The Kansas native did not begin playing professionally until he was 24-years-old in 1899, and was 18-14 as a rookie with the Detroit Tigers two years later.  He injured his arm that season, had a sub .500 record the next three seasons with the Tigers and St. Louis Browns, and went to the American Association with the Minneapolis Millers in 1905. 

Siever’s arm recovered sufficiently to post a 23-11 record with the Millers and was purchased by the Tigers the following spring; he was 14-11 in 1906.

He was having the best season of his career in 1907; finishing with an 18-11 record and a 2.16 ERA for the American League Champion Tigers.  It was during that season that he told The Detroit Times about his theory:

“Pitchers should be taught how to sleep.  Don’t laugh, I mean that More than one good pitcher has lost his arm because he did not know how to sleep correctly.”

Siever claimed that fellow Kansan, St. Louis Cardinal pitcher Charlie “Dusty” Rhodes, missed much of 1906 with a bad arm brought on by the manner in which he slept:

“(Rhodes) used to rest his head on it when he was sleeping.  It deadened the muscles…No ballplayer should ever rest his head on his arms when he is sleeping.  It’s more dangerous than the average young man imagines.  Many a ball player loses his whip and doesn’t know how to account for it.  I’ll bet that’s the real reason in many a case.”

Charlie "Dusty" Rhodes

Charlie “Dusty” Rhodes

The Chicago Cubs defeated Siever in his only World Series appearance in 1907, and after a 2-6 start in 1908 he was sold to the Indianapolis Indians in the American Association; he pitched three more seasons in the minor leagues. 

He remained a popular figure in Detroit and worked for the city’s public works department until he died of a heart attack in 1920.

Jimmy Rogers

16 Sep

In January of 1897 owner Barney Dreyfuss and the directors of the Louisville, Colonels met to determine the future of the club.  The Louisville Courier-Journal said:

“The most important meeting in the history of the Louisville Base-ball club was held last night at the Louisville Hotel.  It was marked by more liberality than had been shown by the club during all the years since it became a member of the big league.”

No one was surprised that Dreyfuss’ protégé, team secretary Harry Clay Pulliam was named team president, nor was it surprising that Charles Dehler was retained as vice president.

But no one had predicted the Colonel’s choice to replace Bill McGunnigle as manager.

McGunnigle had succeeded John McCloskey, and the two combined for a 38-93 record and a twelfth place finish.

James F. “Jimmy” Rogers would be a first-time manager; three months short of his 25th birthday and only 110 games into his major league career.  The Courier-Journal knew so little about the new manager that the paper got his age and place of birth wrong, and also reported incorrectly that he had minor league managerial experience.

While he had only played 72 games with Louisville in 1896 and only 60 at first base, The Courier-Journal called Rogers “the best first baseman the Colonels ever had.”  Even so, the paper acknowledged that “as a manager he is yet to be tried.”

Just why was he the right man to manage the team?

“One of the chief reasons Rogers was selected was that he is sober.”

Jimmy Rogers

Jimmy Rogers

Despite being “the best first baseman the Colonels ever had,” Rogers opened the season as the team’s starting second baseman; thirty-five-year-old minor league home run king Perry Werden, acquired from the Minneapolis Millers of the Western League played first base for Louisville.

The team won five of their first seven games, and then went 12-22 through June 16 when Rogers was fired as manager and released; he was hitting .144 and made 16 errors in forty games at second base.

Rogers was replaced as manager by Fred Clarke; the future Hall of Famer was two weeks shy of his 24th birthday.

The Cincinnati Post said the outgoing manager was not only to blame for the team’s poor performance but also for center fielder Ollie Pickering’s slump; Pickering hit .303 after joining Louisville in August of 1896 but was hitting .243 on the day Rogers was let go:

“The claim is made that Jimmy Rogers is responsible for the decline of Pickering.  The Virginian created a sensation last fall, but “Manager Jimmy” tacked the title “Rube” to Pick, and it broke his heart.”

Ollie "Rube" Pickering

Ollie “Rube” Pickering

Pickering was released in July, signed with the Cleveland Spiders, and apparently recovered from his broken heart, hitting .352 in 46 games for Cleveland.

Rogers would never play another major league game.  He was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates the day after Louisville released him, but became ill with the flu and never played for them.  A month later he joined the Springfield Ponies in the Eastern League and finished the season with them.  Rogers played for East Coast minor league teams until in August of 1899 when he became ill while playing with the Norwich Witches in the Connecticut League.

In January of 1900, Rogers died at age 27.  Two different explanations for his death appear in various newspapers; both may be wrong.  The Courier-Journal and several other newspapers said his death was the result of the lingering effects of “being struck on the head by a pitched ball several years ago while playing in the National League.”

The New Haven (CT) Register repeated the story about Rogers being hit by a pitch, and said that while that injury contributed to his death, he had died of Bright’s disease—a kidney ailment now referred to as nephritis.

Rogers’ Connecticut death certificate listed the cause of death as a bacterial inflammation of the brain.

Filling in the Blanks, Pearson, Minneapolis Millers, 1884

18 Apr

Baseball Reference lists “Pearson” as a pitcher for the Minneapolis Millers in the Northwestern League in 1884.

Edward Pool Pearson’s professional career was brief and ended dramatically.

Born in Waterloo, New York in 1859, Pearson attended Hobart College, where he studied mathematics.

He pitched three seasons with the Hobart team—his battery mate there was James Adelbert McCauley, who also made his professional debut with the Millers in 1884, and went on to play with the St. Louis Browns, Buffalo Bisons, Chicago White Stockings and Brooklyn Grays in the National League and American Association.

jim McCauley, Pearson's teammate at Hobart and with Minneapolis

jim McCauley, Pearson’s teammate at Hobart and with Minneapolis

Pearson was 5-7 with a 1.54 ERA in 13 appearances with the Millers when he took the mound to pitch against the Milwaukee Brewers on August 7.  According to The Associated Press:

“Pearson, the pitcher for the Minneapolis Club, while delivering the ball, broke his arm above the elbow.  It broke with a snapping sound that could be heard all over the diamond, the ball rolling along the grass to the Captain’s line.  Pearson uttered a loud cry of pain and fell to the ground.  He was immediately carried to a doctor’s office, where the broken bone was set…The accident will necessitate his retirement from the diamond, as he has no desire to ever play ball again.”

After the injury he  returned to Hobart, graduated in 1885 and received a Master’s Degree in 1889.  Pearson died in 1932.

Dave Altizer

4 Apr

David Tilden Altizer did not begin playing professional baseball until 1902 when he was 25; he made his debut with the Washington Senators four years later.  A member of the US Army, he was in China for the Boxer Rebellion and the Philippines during the Spanish-American War; he began playing baseball while in the service.

Most recent mentions of Altizer list his nickname as “Filipino,” but while his service was often mentioned, this nickname is rarely found in contemporaneous stories; rather he regularly referred to by the nickname “daredevil.”

Dave Altizer 1909

Dave Altizer 1909

Altizer was one of the more colorful figures of his era and made good copy, but many of the stories have been lost for years.  Here are a few:

In 1910 Altizer was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds from the Minneapolis Millers of the American Association.  Unaware he had been drafted; Altizer went to Chicago at the close of the millers’ season and disappeared.  The Associated Press said he thus became “the only ballplayer who has been ‘found’ with a newspaper want ad.”

The story said Reds manager Clark Griffith, unable to find Altizer, contacted “Nixey” Callahan, who was playing in Chicago’s City League, and asked him to put an ad in Chicago newspapers to find Altizer.

“This was done and in the early hours of the morning some unknown person called Callahan and gave him Dave’s number.”

Altizer appeared in three games for the Reds after he was located; he had six hits in 10 at bats, walked three times and scored three runs.

Altizer had been the starting  shortstop for the Senators in 1907.  In December The Pittsburgh Press ran a wire service story from Washington under the headline “Dave Altizer is Dead Broke:”

“Dave Altizer, the most popular player on the local team, recently fell victim to a pickpocket, and was relieved of his year’s savings.”

The story said Altizer, alarmed by the “financial stringency (the Panic of 1907)…has carried his savings on his person, not wanting to take any chances of having them tied up in a bank.”

Altizer went to sleep in a Pullman car on a train to California with “$1,475 in large bills” in his vest pocket and discovered when he awoke that the money was gone.  It was never reported if the money was recovered of if the thief was caught.

Altizer with Washington

Altizer with Washington

Gabby Street claimed he saw Altizer do the dumbest thing he had seen in a game, and “topped (Fred) Merkle,” while they were teammates in Washington:

“St. Louis had us beat, 3 to 2, and there were two outs in the ninth.”

Altizer was batting with two strikes and runners on second and third.

“The next strike came over and (umpire John) Sheridan called it a strike.  The ball whizzed right through (Tubby) Spencer’s mitt and bounded up against the grandstand and shot off at an angle, while the chubby Spencer pursued it.  Both of the Washington runners on the bases scored easily.

“But all the time Altizer refused to leave the plate.  He was in a hot argument with Sheridan and insisted the ball wasn’t over the plate and was two feet wide.  In the meantime Spencer got the ball.  There was no chance to get either of the runners at the plate, but he fired to first and retired Altizer.  It made the last out of the game and Altizer’s failure to run cost us the two runs and lost the game for Washington.  And they talked about Merkle.”

Gabby Street

Gabby Street

After Altizer finished his Major League career with the Reds in 1911, he returned to Minneapolis where he played until 1918.  He played and managed two more seasons with the Madison Grays in the South Dakota and Dakota Leagues, before retiring from baseball at age 44.  He died in Pleasant Hill, Illinois in 1964 at age 87.

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things #1

7 Mar

There are many interesting, odd, great stories I stumble across when researching that are too short for a full post.

Sydney J. Harris, the late Chicago Daily News and Sun-Times Columnist had a regular feature by the same title as this post.  It seemed an appropriate name for this feature—so with a hat tip to Mr. Harris:

Arrested for Refusing to Fight Forest Fire

In December of 1911, Boston Red Sox pitcher Charley Hall and Pacific Coast League outfielder Harry Price were teammates on a winter league baseball team in Ventura, California, when a forest fire broke out in the area.  According to The Associated Press:

“When the fire was at its height Hall and Price…were sitting on the veranda of a hotel,  a deputy fire warden ordered them to fight the fire but they refused.”

Charley Hall, arrested for refusing to fight fire

Charley Hall, arrested for refusing to fight fire

Fire Warden John Kuhlman placed both players under arrest.  There is no record if they were ever convicted.

Baseball 1860

The New York Herald report on a July 5, 1860 game:

“The friendly game of ball between the Excelsior Club of Brooklyn and the Niagara Club of Buffalo resulted in an easy victory for the Excelsiors.

“The score was, Excelsior 50, Niagara 19.  In the fifth inning the Excelsiors made twenty-four runs.”

The Excelsiors, 1860

The Excelsiors, 1860

Carrier Pigeons

According to The Philadelphia Record in 1883 a zookeeper in Philadelphia used carrier pigeons dispatched between the zoo and Jefferson Street Grounds to provide updates on Athletic games.

Pigeons were also used by news organizations for the next several decades.  In 1900 The Milwaukee Journal bragged of their “carrier pigeon news service” which delivered updates from Milwaukee Park to the newspaper offices.  According to The Journal, sometimes the pigeons were more interesting to Brewers fans than the games.

The Journal’s carrier pigeon service attracted much attention on the field, and as each bird was released from the grand stand, the spectators of the game invariably lost interest for a moment in the diamond as they watched the bird dart upward and shape its course toward the city.

“Even the members of the contesting teams allowed their attention to be distracted at times by the unusual spectacle, and once, at the beginning of the sixth inning, when one of the liberated birds swooped down past big Perry Werden (Minneapolis Millers first baseman) as he stood guard over the initial bag…(Werden) raised an imaginary gun as though to take a shot at the pigeon, and of course the bleachers laughed.

“That The Journal’s service by means of the birds in not unknown to Milwaukeeans was well illustrated by the conversation of people seated around the spot from which the birds were set free.  They discussed the enterprise and those who did not understand the plan were quickly enlightened by the others, who knew all about how fast the birds flew, how they were kept and how they carried the news.”

The practice was continued at The Journal over the next decade.

Cincinnati radio station WLW revived the practice for at least one game in 1939, when the station used pigeons to deliver information from a Reds game against the Pittsburgh Pirates to the studio.

Carrier Pigeons being released at Crosley Field,  Cincinnati, 1939

Carrier Pigeon being released at Crosley Field, Cincinnati, 1939

Brother Joe Comes Back

30 Nov

Twenty-three-year-old Joe Corbett, brother of heavyweight champ “Gentleman Jim” Corbett announced his retirement before the 1899 season.  Corbett had written a column for The San Francisco Call during his 1898 hold out, and announced he was quitting that job too:

“I have (also) quit writing baseball news now, and take little or no interest in the game. I wouldn’t cross the street to see one.”

Corbett ran the livery stable his father had started in San Francisco, helped operate the family bar on Ellis Street, and within weeks had apparently regained his interest in the game and was back writing for The Call.  His responsibilities in the family businesses increased after his parent’s deaths in August of 1898 (Patrick Corbett shot and killed his wife then committed suicide).

Joe Corbett

There remained significant interest in Corbett’s services; unfortunately for Joe he remained under the control of Ned Hanlon.  Hanlon had moved to the Brooklyn Superbas in 1899 as part of a stock swap between the Brooklyn and Baltimore franchises—he took several players with him, including “Wee Willie” Keeler, Hughie Jennings and Joe Kelley—he also kept Corbett’s rights.

Ned Hanlon

Hanlon offered Corbett $2400 to play for Brooklyn and turned down offers to trade his rights.

According to California newspapers Corbett occasionally pitched in semi-pro games in 1899, but in 1900 The Sporting Life reported that Corbett was “dangerously ill,” and would probably never pitch again as a result of sciatic rheumatism.

Less than a year later The Sporting Life said Corbett was pitching for a team in Oakland, and the next year he appeared in five games for the Minneapolis Millers in the American Association—the retirement appeared to be over.

A successful January 1903 appearance on the mound in an exhibition game featuring barnstorming Major Leaguers renewed interest in Corbett again.  The Los Angeles Angels of The Pacific Coast League offered Joe a contract he couldn’t refuse, one that allowed him to tend to the family business interests in San Francisco during the season.

Newspaper reports said Corbett earned $5000 for the 1903 season, Angels manager Jim Morley said he wouldn’t say how much Joe earned but said that he had:

“Figured it out that Corbett will get 4.99 a curve.”

After going 23-16 for the Angels, the Major leagues again came calling.   Early reports had Corbett signing with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who offered $5000, but Joe eventually signed with the Saint Louis Cardinals.  While the Cardinals assured Joe that Ned Hanlon had relinquished Brooklyn’s claim, the Corbett family was not ready to end the feud with Hanlon.

Gentleman Jim, when asked if Joe would ever consider playing for his former manager again, told reporters:

“Hanlon couldn’t get Joe to twirl for him if he offers him a million dollars a year.”

Things didn’t go well in Saint Louis.  Joe Corbett was 5-8 when the Cardinals released him August 1.

Jim was, as always, Joe’s biggest defender:

“My brother Joe was getting $7000 for the season from the St. Louis club, but his heart was not in his work, simply because he was separated from his wife and little ones who were out in California.  Thinking of his family all the time impaired his effectiveness as a pitcher.”

Gentleman Jim

Joe returned to San Francisco where he added a hat store to growing stable of businesses; his rights returned to Hanlon and Brooklyn.

The final chapter of the Corbett story on Monday.