Tag Archives: Monte Cross

“The Rube was ever a Friendly Spirit”

15 Apr

Four years after Rube Waddell played his final game for the Athletics, The Philadelphia Bulletin told a story that, like much of the Waddell canon, may or may not be apocryphal:

Rube

Rube

“To those who know the steady, staid (Connie) Mack, the following may appeal:

“A ‘cub’ reporter in Chicago strayed into the clutches of the Rube one afternoon and impressed the great pitcher with the fact that he must have something startling in the way of news or be apt to lose his position.

“The Rube was ever a friendly spirit, sympathetic with the weak, even if he had to tap the strong to reimburse the fallen.”

So, said The Bulletin, Waddell was determined to provide the young reporter with a “Startling” scoop:

“I’d take you to see Connie,’ opened the Rube, ‘but he and (Michael) ‘Doc’ Powers are playing poker and ‘doc’ hates to be disturbed when they are gambling.”

Mack

Mack

He then told the reporter that Lave Cross was:

 “Off somewhere and I guess he is tending bar for a friend somewhere on State Street. (and) I don’t know any news to give you except that all this stuff about Ossee Schreck (Schrecongost) is a ‘kid,’ he never fools with the firewater and every time that Monte Cross gets off the wagon why they blame it on me or Schreck.”

Ossee Schrecongost

Schreck

The reporter hurried back to his paper:

“(T)uring over in his mind the thought that Mack was gambling with his players, Lave Cross was the wild man and that Monte Cross was the real culprit when it came to tapping the paint.  He whirled off a story on the machine and handed it to the sporting editor.  That dignitary looked at the cub, scratched his head and kindly asked the youth where he secured his information.

“’Why, it’s big news and ‘Rube’ Waddell gave it to me,’ answered that unsophisticated party.  ‘Well, young man,’ continued the sporting editor, ‘Connie Mack never wagers, drinks or smokes; Lave Cross is the quietest man in the world and does not tend bar, and Monte Cross is a white ribboner.”

Monte

Monte

The editor of the Chicago paper went to Mack and informed him about Waddell’s conversation with the young reporter:

“Connie, Lave and Monte had a quiet laugh and derived considerable interest watching Waddell load up with a bundle of newspapers each day to catch his red-hot interview.”

Lave

Lave

Lost Advertisements–PM Whiskey, “Rube Waddell, The One-Man Ball Team”

2 Oct

waddellad

A 1951 advertisement for PM De Luxe Blended Whiskey–part of a series of ads featuring “Pleasant Moments in Sports,” stories from Bob Considine, co-author with Babe Ruth of the “The Babe Ruth Story.”

This one features an oft-told Rube Waddell legend:

“Edward ‘Rube’ Waddell, pitcher for the old Philadelphia Athletics, was one of baseball’s zaniest ‘characters.’  It was in an exhibition game in 1902 that he pulled his most famous stunt.

“In the last half of the ninth, ‘Rube’ sent all his players off the field, leaving only the catcher behind the plate. Then with magnificent arrogance, ‘Rube’ struck out the last three batters on  nine pitched balls.”

As with all Waddell stories, there was some truth and a good deal of embellishment in Considine’s account.  While the contemporary coverage of the game differs on some aspects of the performance, they all agree that Waddell pitched to just one batter after members of the team left the field in the ninth inning.

The game in question was played in 1903 at Steelton, Pennsylvania against that town’s YMCA team. The Athletics won easily, 10 to 2, and Waddell pitched the eighth and ninth innings for Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Inquirer said:

“Waddell was the entertaining feature of the match, and in the last inning called in all the infielders after two men were out.”

The Harrisburg Daily Independent, which provided more in-depth coverage of the game, said:

“Rube Waddell was in all his glory at Steelton yesterday and his funny antics before and during the game were well worth the price of admission.”

The paper said before the game Waddell entertained the fans chasing “flies in the hills until he was perspiring,” and spent part of the early innings taking a “nap in his private carriage which carried him from (Harrisburg) to Steelton.”

rube

Waddell

As for his time on the mound, the paper said Waddell struck out the first two batters he faced in the eighth, then after getting two strikes on the third batter, named “Irish” McManigal:

“(W)hen he pitched the third ball (he) remarked, ‘Take your seat.’ ‘Irish,’ however, surprised the Rube and rapped out a pretty single to center field.”

Waddell gave up another hit in the eighth and the YMCA scored a run.

“The next inning Rutherford hit to Waddell and the Rube did a cake walk to first base to catch Rutherford.  Berry then hit to Monte Cross, but he threw wild to first and Berry reached third base.  Then the Reuben settled down and struck Lawlor out.”

The Daily Independent said Waddell did not call in the fielders, but instead, on their own:

“The Athletic players behind Waddell left the field and with a man on third base he and (Ossee) Schreck (Schrecongost) were left to put out the side.

“The Rube did not know his teammates had deserted him and when told to look around by Schreck he discovered the fact.  Then to make more complete the comedy Schreckengost [sic] sat down and the Rube struck out Albright while the crowd howled with merriment.”

The Harrisburg Telegraph provided a third set of contemporaneous “facts:”

“In the last inning when two men were out all the Athletics left the field except Waddell, Powers and L. Cross.”

The paper likely misidentified Schrecongost as Michael “Doc” Powers–Schrecongost had replaced him behind the plate in the eighth, and Lave Cross had already left the game–so the player who stayed on the field might have been shortstop Monte Cross.  The Telegraph also added another detail missing in the other reports:

“(Waddell) gave the batter three balls and the crowd was wild, but their last hope faded rapidly away as Rube put three fine ones over the plate and the striker was out.”

The Box Score

The Box Score

Considine likely cribbed his version from Harry Grayson, the sports editor of The Newspaper Enterprise Association syndicate.  Grayson told the three-batters-nine-pitches story several times throughout the forties, and that legend stuck.

 

“There were Absurd Errors, Collisions, Accidents, Spectacular Batting”

2 Mar

William Henry “Josh” Reilly had a memorable big league debut for the Chicago Colts in 1896.

Josh Reilly

Josh Reilly

Reilly filled in at shortstop for Bill Dahlen in a May 2 game against the St. Louis Browns.  The Chicago Tribune said Dahlen was “(E)ngaged at home in holding a hot water bag against a turbulent tooth.”

While the toothache story was reported in the Chicago papers, The Sporting Life was not sold on the reason for the hard-drinking Dahlen’s absence:

“Dahlen laid off—was sick, or—well, you know Dahlen.”

Bill Dahlen

Bill Dahlen

The Chicago Inter Ocean called the game “Worse than cough medicine,” and said:

“Of all the untabulated, unscheduled, unexpected, terrible, heartrending, frayed-out exhibitions of something or another that must be classed under the head of baseball, yesterday’s game with St. Louis was the worst.”

The Tribune said:

 “There were absurd errors, collisions, accidents, spectacular batting.”

Reilly was responsible for three of those “absurd errors,” and some of the “spectacular batting,” going 2 for 6 in his debut; he was also responsible for what The Tribune called “The electrifying feature of the game.”

The Inter Ocean described what happened:

(Monte) Cross got to first because (Chicago first baseman) George Decker thought his arm was as long as the legs of a man who has to stand on a ladder to comb his hair.  His arm was short by about six feet.  Then (Tom) Parrott made a single to center… (Duff) Cooley knocked a hot liner, and everybody started to sprint.  Reilly was playing at short, and stuck his finger nail into a loose stitch just as the ball shot past him.  He slammed it to (Harry) Truby, where Cross should have been, but was not, and Truby in turn, tossed it over to Decker to fondle while Parrott endeavored to correct himself.”

That game was the only highlight in Reilly’s major league career.  He played a total of nine games in Chicago—the other 8 at second base—and made a total of 11 errors.  And, after going 2 for 6 in his debut, he was just 6 for 36 thereafter.   Then, in late May Reilly became ill—accounts varied regarding what the illness was, The Sporting News said it was typhoid fever, The Sporting Life, and The Chicago Daily News said pneumonia.

Reilly returned home to the West Coast.  By September, his debut heroics were long forgotten, The Tribune simply said:

“(Reilly) was a disappointment and he was released.”

Despite his brief and relatively inauspicious big league career, Reilly was a popular minor leaguer for more than a decade.

An often told story about him, alleged to have taken place the year before his short trial in Chicago, illustrates just how superstitious 19th Century players could be.

The earliest telling was in 1897 in The Tribune, and it appeared on several occasions, in several papers, over the next 15 years with various embellishments.  There was no byline on the original story, but it was likely written by Hugh Fullerton–who retold it himself several times.

Reilly spent the 1895 season in Texas, playing with the San Antonio Missionaries and the Fort Worth Panthers in the Texas-Southern League.  Reilly opened the season with the Missionaries, who got off to a horrible start; they won just three of their first 28 games:

“The team was discouraged and sore.  They held a meeting and were on the verge of firing their mascot or committing violence upon his person when Josh Reilly…came to the rescue with a new proposition.  The mascot was put into a full dress coat, with gray baseball trousers and a silk hat, and the bats, some half a score of them, were pulled upon his back.  Then the team formed in line and marched down to the hotel, where “The Divine Healer,” Schlatter was stopping.”

Francis Schlatter was, at that time, walking across the American Southwest gaining fame and followers.  Three years earlier he had come to believe he received a “directive from God” to heal the sick, and became a messianic figure for many during his brief time in the spotlight.

Francis Schlatter

Francis Schlatter, “The Divine Healer”

“The divine was brought forth and made to pronounce a blessing upon the bats…and through all the season those inspired bats continued to give out base hits., and the team went close to the top of the league.”

While Reilly never disputed the story–and seemed to tell it himself on occasion–Fullerton’s ending was pure fiction. San Antonio continued to struggle and blessed or not, the Missionaries’ bats were mostly silent all season–the team never left the cellar and was 21-72 in August when they disbanded.

Josh Reilly, 1930--he died in San Francisco in 1938.

Josh Reilly, 1930–he died in San Francisco in 1938.

In different versions of the story, it was claimed that Reilly still used one or more of the “blessed bats.”  In another, Reilly “Hit .344” with one of the bats “and after he broke that bat he hit .189 for the rest of the season.”

Fullerton had one more Reilly story that he told often–first appearing in 1906 but recycled frequently for two decades–this one about his fielding troubles during his brief stay in Chicago and the impact the ire of fans has on a struggling player:

“(Reilly) was pretty bad as a fielder, and getting no better rapidly.  the jeers, hisses and hoots of the crowd merely made him mad.  He wanted to fight back.  His Irish blood was boiling.  For a time it seemed as if he would win and prove himself a great ball player merely by his nerve in playing at all under such a constant shower of criticism.  But one day Josh got through.  I found him frothing at the mouth out at the club house.  He was done.  He never would play again–unless he got a chance to kill a certain man.  When he grew calm enough.  I discovered the cause of it.

“‘He was a big man sitting in the bleachers’ said Josh.  ‘While they were all yelling at me for booting a hot one, he sat still.  I saw him and  said to myself ‘there’s one friend of mine up there.’  He never said a word until the seventh inning.  Then he stood up, stretched himself, walked down two or three steps and yelled:  ‘Reilly, you’re a disgrace to the Irish!’  If I had him I’d killed him.'”

“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