Tag Archives: Moose McCormick

“Spring Training is of More Importance in Winning than any one factor”

11 Mar

In 1912, two years before Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Examiner called spring training Baseball’s “Annual Display of Foolishness,” Giants Manager John McGraw “wrote” an article for The New York Evening World explaining his training philosophy, from the team’s spring home in Marlin, Texas.

In stark contrast to Fullerton, McGraw said:

“In my opinion, the spring training of a ball club is of more importance in winning a pennant than any one factor.  Of course, players of exceptional ability are needed, but unless they are well prepared physically for their work they be laid up…In that event, the club would be just as badly off as if such players didn’t exist.”

McGraw

McGraw

McGraw said:

 “We often hear  of a club being in hard luck on account of having so many players laid up…in most of those cases, the fault can be traced back to the training work done in the spring.”

McGraw said he decided to train the Giants in Marlin because the climate was “mild and even” and “about the same as we find in the North,” during the late spring and early summer, and credited the location with for his club’s performance in 1911:

“I attribute out success in winning the pennant last year to the excellent weather conditions that we found in Marlin.  My club was about able to get up to top speed almost at the beginning of the regular season.”

He said “Everybody said we were lucky,” for the team’s lack of injuries during the pennant race, “But that did not cover it entirely.  The Giants were in excellent condition.”

Again, in stark contrast with Fullerton, who claimed, “A seasoned ballplayer will start with easy work, loosen up his muscles, take off eight or ten pounds and at the end of ten days or two weeks will be in nearly top condition to play baseball.”  McGraw said:

“I always take at least seven weeks for this work; for I don’t believe that a man can be trained in less time than that to last six months.”

In addition to the seven weeks of work, McGraw credited Marlin’s hot spring water with keeping his team healthy:

“I find that the hot water baths following hard workouts do more for sore muscles than all the liniments in the world.  It is not so much the medicinal qualities of the water as the fact that it is hot.”

He said a “mistaken idea of the public” was that spring training entailed:

“(G)iving the players certain kinds of food and putting them through certain athletic stunts.  I do nothing of the kind.  They are allowed to eat what they please.  If they suffer from it, it is their own fault and they quickly realize it.  I do not stop them from smoking or any other little habits that they may have taken up.  In other words, the idea is for them to live naturally and develop physically at the same time.”

An International Film Service photo of the Giants training in Marlin in 1916

An International Film Service photo of the Giants training in Marlin in 1916

After discovering that many players “tire of their work on the diamond” during the spring, McGraw said “I have introduced such pastimes as tennis, handball, pushball, etc…” to their daily routine.

As for the regular routine:

“I work the men two hours every morning and two hours in the afternoon. I work just as hard as they do.  It is pretty hard on me at first, but I know that I have got to show a willingness to do anything that I would ask the players to do.  I am not as young as some of these recruits and it comes hard at times, but I get results from it because the youngsters are ashamed not to stick as long as I do.”

 

Finally, McGraw said spring training provided another benefit for young players:

“Social polish is a big help in making a baseball club win, as it develops personal pride in the men and makes them want to be at the top.  For that reason, I always encourage the youngsters to take part in the dances that are given at Marlin every week. It also keeps their mind off the game.  I would like to have my players think of baseball all the time when they are on the field and forget it when they get to their homes or hotel.

“The businessman who worries over his business during his leisure hours soon becomes mentally unfit for his work and the same applies to ballplayers.”

The Giants continued to train at Marlin through 1918 and won four pennants (1911-1913, 1917) during that period.

“Soldiers ‘Over There’ Sore on Baseball Players”

25 Jan

In August of 1918 Harry “Moose” McCormick returned to the United States from the front lines in France—he served in the 42nd Infantry, The Rainbow Division, and according to The Washington Herald “has been in the front line trenches for nearly six months.”

Moose McCormick

Moose McCormick

The former outfielder-pinch hitter, who played his final big league game with the New York Giants in 1913, was at the Polo Grounds to watch the Giants sweep a doubleheader from the Boston Braves, and he came to deliver a message; one that had come repeatedly from the general public, but not yet from someone within baseball.

McCormick told reporters that while baseball was hugely popular among the troops in Europe, the major leagues were not.  The Washington Times said, under the headline:

Soldiers ‘Over There’ Sore on Baseball Players

“It may surprise the professional ball players of the United States to know that the American soldiers now fighting in France do not hold them in high esteem; that they do not scramble for news of how the big league races are going, and that they do not care whether (Ty) Cobb, and (Tris) Speaker, and (Frank) Baker are hitting .300 or 3,000.

“The fact that the ball players aren’t hitting in the big, big game across the water is the reason for this feeling.”

The Washington Times said McCormick, then a Lieutenant, “who had just returned from the shell-swept front,” and was in the states “under orders, the nature of which is secret.”

There were various reports as to why McCormick had returned.

The New York Globe said he had come home with “Wound Chevrons on his arm,” having received the badge after being “Mussed up considerably by a German shell.”  The New York Tribune said he had been “Invalided home” suffering from “Shell shock.”  The New York World said he returned with “A hacking cough caused by gas.”

McCormick told reporters:

“The feeling among the boys over there seems generally to be that the ball players haven’t acted on the level.  The soldiers feel that there has been too much evasion, too much hanging back, too much side stepping by the ball players when other men, just as good, have given up paying places and gone into the big game.  That seems to them the ONLY thing for real men just now.

“The boys are generally incensed over the statements they read to the effect that ball players have sought work in munitions plants and shipyards, where they can keep playing ball.  They regard that as ducking, as a sort of dodging of the issue.”

McCormick said, so complete was the disgust with baseball that “Stars and Stripes, the soldiers’ paper, has stopped printing the big league scores and standings.  That, it seems to me, ought to make baseball men, both players and owners, wake up.”

He said the men at the front were still “interested in baseball,” and “like to play ball,” but were having trouble getting enough baseballs:

Baseball game with members of the Twenty-eighth Division, Three Hundred and Second U.S. supply train in France

US Soldiers play in France

Governor (John) Tener sent me two every week, and they were worth their weight in gold.  The soldiers get plenty of chance to play it themselves.  They don’t take any interest in men playing it here anymore.”

McCormick, who would be promoted to the rank of captain by the war’s end, concluded that the consensus at the front was that America’s game had failed the country:

“The talk of the soldiers is that the ball players should have volunteered in a body and made up one big organization and gone into the country’s service to fight right at the start.  That would have been a great thing to do.”

“And they Started Hitting like Demons”

4 Sep

Arthur “Artie” “Circus Solly” Hofman was one of the best utility men in baseball, and a member of four Chicago Cubs teams that went to the World Series.  When he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in May of 1912, Bill Bailey of The Chicago American told a story about Hofman, baseball bats and why baseball players are superstitious about them:

“Some fans might think that Artie can hit with most any old stick that comes along, but he himself is very exacting about the one he picks out before he goes up to the plate.  There is always a great line of bats laying out in front of the players bench during a game.  Most of them are special makes of the big sporting goods companies and most of them are expensive products.”

Bailey said during the 1911 season the Cubs were mired in a mid-season hitting slump:

“And Hofman conceived an idea.  He was wandering through a department store in town when he saw a couple of bats on display.  They weren’t anything like the kind the Cubs had been using. “

Circus Solly Hofman

Circus Solly Hofman

Told the bats cost twenty-five cents each Hofman bought dozens of the bats and had them delivered to the West Side Grounds:

“Hofman took one himself and distributed the rest among his teammates…Every man in the lineup used one of Hofman’s bats that afternoon.  And they started hitting like demons.  Naturally they continued using the cheap bats. And they went on a batting rampage that lasted for a long time.  Everybody was slugging the ball.  When things like that happen, is it any wonder that the players have their superstitions about bats?”

“Bill Bailey” was the pen name of Bill Veeck Sr., who would become vice-president of the Cubs in 1917, and president of the club in 1919.  He, of course, was also the father of Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Browns and Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck.

Bill Veeck Sr./"Bill Bailey"

Bill Veeck Sr./”Bill Bailey”

Hofman’s greatest claim to fame was being the Cubs centerfielder on September 23, 1908.  He fielded Al Bridwell’s single that scored Harry “Moose” McCormick, seemingly giving the New York Giants a 2 to 1 victory.  It was  Hofman, according to umpire Hank O’Day, who realized that Fred Merkle of the Giants, who had been on first base,  failed to touch second before leaving the field.  “Merkle’s Boner” remains baseball’s most famous base running blunder.

Bill Brennan versus Philadelphia

10 Jul

Umpire William “Bill” Brennan was at the center of the controversy that led to Philadelphia Phillies owner Horace Fogel being banished from the National League.  Fogel maintained that the 1912 pennant race was fixed, and that Brennan and the rest of the league’s umpires were in the tank for the champion New York Giants.

After Fogel was expelled Brennan dropped a threatened libel suit against him and the umpire’s life went back to normal, until August 30, 1913.

Fogel was working the game in Philadelphia’s Baker Bowl between the Phillies and the New York Giants.  The Giants, who were in first place by nine games, were trailing the Phillies 8-6 in the ninth inning.

Harry “Moose” McCormick, pinch-hitting for Fred Merkle, led off the inning with a groundout to second baseman Otto KnabeThe Philadelphia Inquirer said:

“As the big Giants’ pinch hitter started for the players’ bench he motioned towards the center field bleachers and shouted to Brennan that the white shirts there had blinded him.”

Brennan walked out to the center field bleachers and told the fans seated in the area to vacate their seats:

“They greeted him with jeers and catcalls; Brennan paused helplessly for minute and then walked back into the diamond.  Approaching Mike Doolan, captain of the Phillies, he ordered him to have the crowd removed.  Doolan laughed and said that it was impossible.  Then Brennan walked over to the New York bench and held a conference with Manager (John) McGraw.”

Philadelphia manager Charles “Red” Dooin had been ejected earlier in the game, so Brennan told acting manager Hans Lobert to move the crowd out of center field.  Lobert and the Phillies “explained that it could not be done.”

Brennan again went out to the center field bleachers, this time ordering a Philadelphia police officer to remove the crowd:

“The bluecoat laughed at him and said that he could not, under any circumstances, take his orders.

“’You’re under my orders,’ said Brennan.

“’I’m under no orders except from my sergeant or captain,’ was the answer.”

The crowd of 22,000 was “storming angrily for the game to proceed,” and the other umpire, Mal Eason, suggested the game be continued and played under protest.  Instead, Brennan again huddled with McGraw.

“Strangely enough, McGraw, who is generally the most volatile man in the world and charges all over the field in excitement, this time, remained quietly on the New York Players’ bench.”

Brennan walked back on the field and said, “This game is forfeited to New York, 9 to 0.”  The Giants were “running towards the clubhouse before (Brennan) completed his statement,” according to The Inquirer.

“Bedlam cut loose at that instant.  Screaming in rage the bleacherites by the thousands poured over the low rail into the playing field…a cushion seat struck Brennan in the face as he was walking towards the exit…His walk turned into an undignified run.  The bleach crowd had first tried to stop the New York players who butted their way to safety.  Then they turned toward Brennan.”

Bill Brennan

Bill Brennan

Escorted by police “with drawn revolvers,” Breen was able to get off the field.   Mobs formed outside the Baker Bowl and pursued the Giants, and Brennan, with his police escort, on their separate routes to the North Philadelphia Railroad Station:

“Brennan and his guard reached the entrance to the station just at the instant McGraw and his players came fleeing around the corner at Broad Street.  The police forsook the umpire to try and head off the larger crowd behind the New Yorkers.  With drawn guns they held them at bay for a few minutes. “

While police held two mobs at bay, a third waited for Brennan inside the station and “jumped upon him by the dozens.  (Brennan) was beaten to the ground, rose, (and) was beaten down again.”

The Inquirer claimed that McGraw and Brennan in their haste to escape the crowd boarded the wrong train, “an extra fare train from Pittsburgh,” rather than the train to New York.

Despite the mob, the chaos, and the “Missiles of all kinds,” that were thrown by Phillies fans, there was only one injury.  Giants’ utility man Arthur Tillie Shafer was hit in the head with a brick, but was not seriously injured.

Two days later National League President Thomas Lynch assigned Brennan to work the Phillies September 1 double-header with the Dodgers. The Inquirer said:

“President Lynch, of the National league, exhibited anything but a keen sense of delicacy in sending Brennan in to umpire the two games between the Phillies and Brooklyn on Monday,  or perhaps he is trying to work up a reputation as a humorist.”

National League President Thomas Lynch

National League President Thomas Lynch

Philadelphia won both games without any serious incidents.  The Inquirer headline read:

“Man Who Helped Giants Couldn’t Aid Dodgers.”

Two days later Lynch reversed Brennan’s decision, The Associated Press said:

“Lynch, in his decision says that Umpire Brennan exceeded his authority in declaring the game forfeited to the New York club and formally awards it to the Philadelphia team by a score of 8 to 6.”

While New York appealed Lynch’s decision, Brennan‘s troubles were just starting.

He learned that a warrant was issued for his arrest in Philadelphia; a Phillies fan named Henry Russell claimed “Brennan in his efforts to get out of the park pummeled him and knocked him to the ground where he was trampled by the crowd.”  At the same time, it was rumored that Brennan would be let go by the National League.  The Associated Press said:

“(Tom Lynch) is certain to let him out, it is said if he is reelected, and if another man is chosen to head the circuit he will be instructed by his nominators to dispense with Brennan.  It is not the case of the forfeit that mitigates against Brennan so much, according to the yarn circulated, but his generally inconsistent work in games where the spirit of battle ran high.  He is said to be over excitable.”

Two weeks after Lynch’s decision, he was overruled by the National League Board of Directors, and it was determined that the game would be completed on October 2,

The Philadelphia Record and The Inquirer called the decision unfair and gave the second place Phillies “all the worst of it.”

In the end, the decision made no difference.  The Phillies, nine games behind the Giants on the day of the forfeit, never got closer than seven games out of first place, and finished the season twelve and a half games behind the Giants.  The pennant was a foregone conclusion when what The Inquirer called “The longest game on record,” was finally completed.

The anti-climactic two-thirds of an inning ended quickly on October 2.  Tacked on to the beginning of a double-header, pitcher George Chalmers faced three batters:  John “Red” Murray grounded out, John “Chief” Meyers singled; Eddie Grant ran for Meyers and was forced at second on Larry McLean’s ground ball.  The Phillies “ran from the bench and danced in glee at the speedy decision in favor of the long-standing dispute.”

billbrennan

After New York won the 1913 pennant, Giant pitcher and cartoonist Al Demaree featured Brennan in one of his nationally syndicated cartoons.

In December Lynch resigned as National League president; the following month it was announced that Brennan had jumped from the National League, signing a three-year contract to become a Federal League umpire (the league would only last two seasons).

The last word in the Brennan/Philadelphia controversy belonged to a journeyman boxer and fight promoter in Superior, Minnesota named Curly Ulrich.  Three weeks after the 1913 season ended The Duluth News-Tribune said Brennan, a St. Paul resident,  “attended the bouts in Superior.”  Promoter Ulrich introduced him:

“Ladies and gentlemen, I wish to present to you Bill Brennan, National League umpire and member of the New York Giants.”

The box score as it appeared on August 31

The box score as it appeared on August 31