Tag Archives: Montgomery Senators

Moose Baxter’s Play

4 Nov

Jimmy Ryan played 18 seasons in the major leagues from 1885 through 1903, and appeared in more than 2000 big league games and nearly 500 in the minor leagues.  But he said the greatest play he ever witnessed took place in 1908—his final year in organized ball–when he was player-manager of the Montgomery Senators in the Southern Association.

He claimed the play was made by John “Moose” Baxter, who he released later in the season for allegedly placing bets against his own team.

1908 Montgomery Senators.  Ryan is sitting center of middle row, Baxter is standing second from right.

1908 Montgomery Senators. Ryan is sitting center of middle row, Baxter is standing second from right.

Ryan told the story to Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Herald.  He said it happened during a game against the Atlanta Crackers:

“(T)he bases were full and no one was out…I think it was (Louis “Lou”) Castro at bat, and he hit the first ball pitched, a line drive about twenty feet inside of first base.  I was playing right field and I sprinted forward, fully expecting to catch the ball on the line and throw home.  But I never got a chance.

“Moose took a running jump at the ball; he hadn’t a chance to catch it.  Instead he flew up into the air, and striking at the ball with his mitt, hit it and knocked it forty feet as straight as if he had thrown it, and right into the hands of the second baseman (Clay Perry)…Baxter, when he hit the ball (with his glove) turned half over and fell heavily, but without waiting to get up started and rolled back toward first.

“(Perry) tossed the ball up there, and with one hand stretched out to touch the base, Baxter stuck up the other, caught the ball and completed the double play.  The runner on third, seeing what was coming off, started home at top speed, and Baxter, sitting near first base, threw from that position to the plate and caught the runner.”

Moose Baxter

    Moose Baxter

Despite executing “the greatest play” Ryan said he ever saw, Baxter quickly became more trouble than he was worth.  In May, he was suspended for a week.  The Montgomery News said, after he had “engaged in a tussle” with an umpire named O’Brien.  “Baxter threw the umpire to the ground and pummeled his face.”

Baxter was released on May 17.  Ryan said only that it was “for the good of the team.”  Later in the week, The News said:

“The reasons assigned by the management are that Baxter has incurred displeasure of the spectators and has bred dissention among the players.

“Reasons given on the street are that Baxter has been betting against his own team in one of the recent games.”

Whether Baxter ever placed a bet against his team is unknown, but no action was ever taken by the league and he signed with the New Orleans Pelicans within a week.

Baxter was never far from trouble during his career.  While playing, and operating an illegal business in Canada in 1910, Baxter ran afoul of the law and was escorted to the border.

Polchow and Starnagle

13 Aug

At the close of the 1902 Three-I League season two unlikely candidates for the big leagues were signed by Cleveland Bronchos Manager Bill Armour.

Pitcher Louis William “Polly” Polchow and catcher George Henry Starnagle (born Steurnagel) did not put up impressive numbers.   Neither the Reach or Spalding Guides included Polchow’s won-loss record, but both said the 22-year-old’s winning percentage was just .414 in 32 games for the Evansville River Rats.  Starnagle hit just .180 with 13 passed balls and eight errors in 93 games for the Terre Haute Hottentots.

Louis Polchow

Louis Polchow

The two joined the fifth place Bronchos in St. Louis on September 13.  The following day both made their major league debuts in the second game of a doubleheader against the second place Browns.

The St. Louis Republic said:

“Captain (Napoleon) Lajoie decided to try his new Three-Eye League battery, which reported to him yesterday.  Starnagle, the former Terre Haute catcher, was as steady as a veteran, but Polchow wobbled at the drop of the hat, and before he steadied himself the damage was done.

“Five runs in the first two innings gave the Browns a good lead, and it was well they made hay while the sun shone, for Polchow handed them six ciphers for dessert.”

Starnagle made an error in the seventh when he overthrew Lajoie on an attempted steal of second by Bobby Wallace—Wallace advanced to third on the error, but Polchow retired the side without a run.

George Starnagle

George Starnagle

In Cleveland’s half of the seventh Starnagle and Polchow had the opportunity to get them back in the game.  With two runs in, and a runner on first and one out Starnagle came to the plate.  The Republic said:

 “Starnagle tried to put on a Three-Eye League slugging scene.  He dislocated two ribs going after (Bill) Reidy’s slow ones and finally fanned.  Polchow forced (Jack) McCarthy.”

Starnagle was lifted in the ninth for a pinch hitter.  Cleveland lost 5-3.  Polchow gave up nine hits and walked four, striking out two, and was 0 for 4 at the plate.  Starnagle was 0 for 3, with one error behind the plate.  Neither would ever appear in another big league game.

The Box Score

The Box Score

Starnagle was 28-years-old, and had only played two seasons of pro ball before his game with Cleveland—he was semi-pro player with teams in Danville and Sterling, Illinois for nearly a decade before he joined Terre Haute in 1901.  He was considered a solid defensive catcher, but during 10 minor league seasons he only hit better than .230 three times.  When he played with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Royals in 1909 The Montreal Gazette said:

“Starnagle has been drafted every year by big league clubs, all of whom have been pretty well supplied with seasoned catchers; hence his failure to be kept.”

Polchow was just 22 when he pitched his only big league game.  Plagued by wildness, he spent three mediocre seasons with teams in the Southern Association and South Atlantic League (he was 36-45 for the Montgomery Senators, Macon Highlanders and Augusta Tourists), then pitched five seasons in the New York State League.

In 1906 he helped lead the Scranton Miners to the New York State League championship (the team’s leading hitter was Archibald “Moonlight” Graham), although The Scranton Republican said his first start with the team was nearly his last.  Polchow lost 12 to 2 to the Utica Pent-Ups, walking 10 and giving up 10 hits.  After the game Polchow accused catcher “Wilkie Clark of throwing the game.  A fight followed and Clark and Polchow never worked together after that.   Andy Roth was Polchow’s battery partner during the remainder of the season.”

Starnagle retired after the 1910 season.  He returned to Danville, Illinois where he died in 1946; he was 72.

Polchow played through the 1911 season, and then became ill.  He died of Bright’s Disease at 32-years-old in August of 1912

In addition to Polchow and Starnagle, the Bronchos signed two other Three-I League players in September of 1902—both had somewhat more success.

Rock Island Islanders catcher George “Peaches” Graham made his debut the same day as Polchow and Starnagle, during the first game of the doubleheader; he struck out as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning of a 3 to 1 loss. He spent parts of seven seasons in the major leagues, and hit .265.  Decatur Commodores pitcher Augustus “Gus” Dorner made his debut three days later beating the Chicago White Sox 7 to 6.  He pitched for parts of six big league seasons, compiling a 35-69 record.

 

“Apperious is a high-toned Man”

8 Jan

After igniting a controversy in Vermont’s Northern League in 1905 when he refused (as he had in college in 1903) to appear on the field with William Clarence Matthews, Sam Apperious returned to Alabama in 1906.

He played centerfield for the Montgomery Senators in the Southern Association.  The Washington Post said in March “it is said that Connie Mack has arranged to try him out with the Athletics next fall.”

Sam Apperious

Sam Apperious

The Atlanta Journal said he was in Alabama, and not the big leagues, by choice:

“Apperious is a high-toned man, a graduate of Georgetown, and plays ball for his home town because he likes the game.  He is not in the strict sense a professional, for he declines to go the big league, where he could easily get a much larger salary.”

In Montgomery Apperious became part of the biggest controversy of the Southern Association’s 1906 season—the league had no shortage of controversies each season.

It started with a fly ball to Apperious in an otherwise uneventful 9-0, June 10 victory over Charlie Frank’s Pelicans in New Orleans.  The Journal said:

“It sailed so high in the air that Apperious, who caught it, concealed under his shirt and gave it Manager (Dominic) Mullaney.  When cut open (the following day in the presence of Shreveport Pirates Manager Bob Gilks) it was found to be wrapped in rubber.”

Charlie Frank

Charlie Frank

Five days later the Atlanta Crackers were in New Orleans when, in the eighth inning after home runs by Pelicans’ William O’Brien and Mark “Moxey” Manuel,  Atlanta second baseman and captain, Adolph Otto “Dutch” Jordan suspected something was wrong with the balls.  The Atlanta Constitution said:

“(After Manuel’s home run) The ball was lost and new one was thrown out by the umpire, but before (Joe) Rickert, the next batter could go to the plate, Jordan picked up the ball and said he would not play, that the balls had rubber in them and that his men were being robbed…Jordan tried to purloin one of the balls, and only gave it up after he had been arrested by a half dozen policemen.”

Jordan was charged with petit larceny and released on $100 bond.  The ball taken from him was reported to be in the possession of the New Orleans Police.  Days later the Montgomery team gave the ball Apperious had kept to Southern Association President,  William Kavanaugh.  A full investigation was promised.

The Journal called for immediate action:

“Kavanaugh may be making investigations quietly and he may intend to act later, but what seems most in order just now is the suspension of the man who is said to be responsible for all the trouble in the Crescent City.  The actions of Charlie Frank in causing the arrest of Otto Jordan and his being taken in a patrol wagon through the streets of the city in a uniform of Atlanta, is a disgrace and the mere thought given it the more repugnant it becomes to all decent people.

“It was a disgusting and uncalled for act and was done to cover up the outrageous contact of the man who put the rubber balls into the game.”

By the end of the week, Apperious denied that the ball opened in Shreveport was the ball he caught in New Orleans while Mullaney and the Montgomery club dropped their request for an investigation of Charlie Frank and the rubber balls.

On June 23 the Crackers mascot, a four-year-old goat named Yaarab (shared with the Atlanta fire department) died suddenly.  A tongue-in-cheek article in The Constitution said: “when the news was flashed over the wires that Mullaney was another of Frank’s right-hand men, the goat betook himself to a bed of straw and curled up and bid his firemen friends a last farewell.”

Yaarab in happier times

Yaarab in happier times

Once Apperious and Mullaney withdrew their allegations, the scandal went the way of most of the annual scandals in the league; in early August The Sporting Life said President Kavanaugh declared the charges “entirely unfounded.”

Apperious appeared in 137 games for Montgomery in 1906 and hit .251.  The Constitution called him “The fastest outfielder in the South.”  The Montgomery Advertiser said he was “one of the best all-around ballplayers in the South.”

He only appeared in 24 more games.  Early in the 1907 season, The Advertiser said he was “suffering with water on the knee.”  Unable to recover from the injury, Apperious was released by Montgomery in June.

Apperious would never play again; he married and moved to Louisville, Kentucky.

The man who refused to take the field with William Clarence Matthews and the Cuban X Giants lived to see baseball integrated.  He died in 1962.  There is no record of him ever speaking to a reporter about his actions in Washington and Vermont.

A final note: The Washington Herald reported before the 1908 college baseball season that for the first time since 1904 Harvard would be playing Georgetown:

“When Sam Apperious was captain of the varsity nine Harvard insisted on playing a negro against the Blue and Gray, and Apperious viewed the game from the bench.  This brought about a severance of athletic relations, but the old wounds have healed and the Crimson will play at Georgetown field on April 25.”

The game ended in a 2-2 tie after 10 innings.

“An Umpire Nearly Lynched”

11 Mar

The above headline appeared on an Associated Press story in August of 1890.  Former Major Leaguer Jimmy Manning, then managing the Kansas City Blues in the Western Association had interceded to quell a riot at the end of a game with the Denver Grizzlies in Kansas City:

“Two questionable decisions by umpire Jovin (Sic) in the ninth inning, when Kansas City was about to tie the score, angered the crowd to such an extent that they swarmed into field, hooting and jeering the umpire.  Two young boys got hold of a rope, and in fun proposed to lynch him.  This added to the excitement, and it looked for a time as if the umpire would be mobbed.  Jimmy Manning climbed up to the top of the fence and addressed the mob.  He said the umpire had decided rightly and advised that no violence be attempted.  This quieted the mob to a degree.  In the meantime the players of both clubs formed a hollow square around the umpire and conducted him to the clubhouse.”

Jimmy Manning

Jimmy Manning

“Jovin” was actually Fred Jevne, a 26-year-old minor league veteran who had become an umpire just a month earlier.  After joining the Spokane franchise in the Pacific Northwest League in April, Jevne was suspended in May for punching an umpire.

In July The Spokane Falls Daily Chronicle said Jevne and teammate Tom Turner “quit the nine because they were excessively fined and ill-treated.”  According to the paper the two players showed up at the July, 1 game “in an intoxicated condition and acted like ruffians in the grand stand.” Turner was eventually reinstated and finished the season in Spokane, Jevne did not.

Since 1885 Jevne had played for a variety of teams in several leagues, including the Southern, International, and California.  When he was signed by Spokane to play center field and serve as captain, The Daily Chronicle said:

“Jevne is rather short.  He is a good batsman and a good player generally.  The San Francisco papers, when he played there, alternately praised him and berated him, but all agree that he was a good player.”

Jevne made one more attempt at playing, joining the Evansville Hoosiers in the Northwestern League in 1891.  He then returned to the Western Association as an umpire.

Fred Jevne

Fred Jevne with the Minneapolis Millers, 1889

In December of 1894 Jevne was named to the National League umpiring staff, where his work received mixed reviews.  In June The Baltimore Sun called him “As good an umpire as there is in the business.” In August, after a he worked a game between the Boston Beaneaters and Chicago Colts, The Boston Globe said “Umpire Jevne did poor work, both sides suffering from his yellow decisions.”  The Pittsburgh Press called Jevne’s performance in a September game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Philadelphia Athletics “By far the worst exhibition of umpiring given this season.”

Jevne was not offered a position in the National League for 1896, and went to work in the Southern Association, where he seems to have a continued his fighting ways.  In July, The Birmingham Age-Herald said Jevne had missed the previous day’s game between the Montgomery Senators and Columbus River Snipes:

“Jevne, the regular umpire, arrived in town last night, but this morning loaded himself up with the spirit of hilarity, got into a fight with a citizen and when the hour for playing arrived was in the hands of the police, and failing to make bond was unavoidably absent from the field.”

Despite his troubles, or because of them, Jevne was asked to join the Interstate League at the end of the 1896 season because, according to The Sporting Life, umpires were losing control of games:

 “(Interstate League President Charles) Powers to-night wired for Fred Jevne the ex-National League umpire, who is so handy with his fists, to report for duty.”

Jevne was not popular with players or the press down south, and said his time in the Southern Association was difficult:

“It was no snap umpiring down South.  Fines didn’t go—were never paid—and so I used to remove men from the game.  Sometimes I would have to take out about half of a team before they would behave, and then the papers would roast me good and plenty the next morning…I had a scrap with a player named (Al) Gifford (Atlanta Crackers shortstop), and punched him in a car going from the grounds.  The local paper came out the next morning and urged the chartering of a special car for the umpire. So that he could be alone in his dignity, and another paragraph hinted that a cigar sign or dummy could be put in the special car for the umpire to punch”

Jevne appears to have returned to the Southern Association for parts of the 1897 and ’98 seasons.  He spent at least part of 1899 and 1900 in his hometown, Chicago, where he worked as an umpire in some college games.  In 1901 Jevne became a Western League umpire and that year met with a violent and mysterious end.

Initial newspaper reports said Jevne had fallen from a third story window in Denver’s Hotel Victor on August 2; he lingered for two days before dying. His body was returned to Chicago and he was buried at Graceland Cemetery.

However, several months after his death, Jevne’s brother Lloyd, a well-known three cushion billiard champion, told The Associated Press he was certain he had been murdered, and that before dying Jevne had said he was pushed:

“I saw Fred’s body after it was shipped back to Chicago, where the burial took place, and the most prominent feature of his injuries was the bruise on his nose.  Doctors I saw believe that he was struck across the face with some blunt object… When he was about to die it is not probable he would have told a falsehood.  He would not have said at that time that he had been pushed out the window.”

Lloyd Jevne

Lloyd Jevne

Whether Fred Jevne fell or was pushed from that hotel window has never been positively determined.

“The Rube Waddell of the Central League”

11 Oct

Edward S. Van Anda was the most talented pitcher in the Central League from 1904 to 1908; he was also the most erratic personality in the league–and was often compared to baseball’s most eccentric pitching legend “Rube” Waddell.

Van Anda was born June 6, 1881 in Wapakoneta, Ohio.  He pitched for independent teams in Ohio from 1900-1903, getting as much attention for his enormous ego and behavior as he did for his pitching.

Nicknamed “Lord Chesterfield,” or simply “Chesty,” Van Anda would disappear for long stretches and his shameless self promotion made him unpopular with teammates  He was signed by the Fort Wayne Railroaders in the Central League in 1904.  His statistics for that season are lost, but according to The Youngstown Vindicator:  “(H)e won every game he pitched except one toward the close of the season.”

In 1905 Van Anda again pitched for Fort Wayne (the team relocated to Canton, Ohio during the season) and posted a record of 20-14.  The Fort Wayne News described Van Anda’s abilities as a ballplayer:

“There is only one thing Van Anda can do and that is pitch.  He cannot hit a balloon and he runs bases like an ice wagon.”

The Fort Wayne Gazette said:

“He is rather erratic but has great pitching caliber in him.”

Every article about Van Anda described him as “eccentric,” or as the Toledo Bee put it:

“That Freak Van Anda.”

And the Bluffton (IN) Chronicle said:

“Van Anda is the name of the latest freak to break into baseball.”

A story about Van Anda’s self promotion that made the rounds in newspapers in 1905 was retold several years later in a newspaper column by former Major League pitcher Al Demaree:

“I used to know a fellow named Van Anda…he’d go out into the bleachers, and if the pitcher in the box began to falter, he’d yell “Put in Van Anda he’s the best pitcher on the club.  Then he’d move over back of third and start up the same cheer in the crowd.”

The 1905 version of the story included his fellow pitchers, angry at Van Anda’s antic, setting him up

But he could pitch, and appeared destined for the Major Leagues.  The Youngstown Vindicator said at the close of the 1905 season:

“Van Anda, known on account of his eccentricities as “the Rube Waddell of the Central League,” has been drafted by the Cincinnati Reds.”

At the close of the 1905 season Van Anda pitched for the local Wapakoneta team in an exhibition against the Reds, the Major Leaguers got 14 hits and beat Van Anda 12-0, it was the last time he faced a Major League team.

After a strong 1906 season with the Grand Rapids Wolverines (23-13), Van Anda was acquired by the Trenton Tigers in the Tri-State League.  His time there was short; during a spring training game Van Anda walked off the mound and led the field in the middle of a game, which led to his immediate release.

According to The Fort Wayne News Van Anda “Known all over the Central as an eccentric …was given a bus ticket and returned to Fort Wayne.”

Edward Van Anda

Van Anda pitched for neither Trenton nor Fort Wayne during the 1907 regular season, but signed with the Central League South Bend Greens in June.  He only appeared in one game, losing 7-1 to the Wheeling Stogies.  He was released a few days later, not resurfacing until the following season.

In 1908 he went 15-11 for Fort Wayne and was purchased by the Montgomery Senators of the Southern Association and posted a 6-5 record.  Early in the 1909 season Van Anda was suspended indefinitely by Fort Wayne for “insubordination.”  The Fort Wayne News reported that Van Anda signed with the Galveston Sand Crabs of the Texas League, but there is no record he ever played for that team.

Van Anda became a traveling salesman in 1910. He remained in Fort Wayne until his death on October 17, 1965.