Tag Archives: Mordecai Brown

Grantland Rice’s “All-Time All-Star Round up”

10 Aug

In December of 1917, thirty-eight-year-old sportswriter Grantland Rice of The New York Tribune enlisted in the army–he spent fourteen months in Europe.  Before he left he laid out the case, over two weeks, for an all-time all-star team in the pages of the paper:

“As we expect to be held to a restricted output very shortly, due to the exigencies and demands of the artillery game, this seemed to be a fairly fitting period to unfold the results.”

Grantland Rice

Grantland Rice

Rice said the selections were “not solely from our own limited observation, extending over a period of some eighteen or twenty years,” but included input from players, managers and sportswriters, including  “such veterans” as Frank Bancroft and Clark Griffith, and baseball writers Joe Vila of The New York Sun, Bill Hanna of The New York Herald and Sam Crane, the former major league infielder turned sportswriter of The New York Journal.

Rice said only one of the nine selections “(S)eems to rest in doubt.  The others were almost unanimously backed.”

The selections:

Pitcher:  Christy Mathewson

A. G. Spalding, John (Montgomery) Ward, Larry Corcoran, Charley Radbourn, John Clarkson, (Thomas) Toad Ramsey, Tim Keefe, Bill Hoffer, Amos Rusie, (Mordecai) Miner Brown, Addie Joss, Ed Walsh–the array is almost endless.

“In the matter of physical stamina, Cy Young has outclassed the field.  Cy won more games than almost any others ever pitched.

“(But) For all the pitching mixtures and ingredients, stamina, steadiness, brilliancy, brains, control, speed, curves, coolness, courage, is generally agreed that no man has ever yet surpassed Christy Mathewson…there has never been another who had more brains or as fine control.”

 

[…]

“It might be argued that Radbourn or (Walter) Johnson or (Grover Cleveland) Alexander was a greater pitcher than Mathewson.

But we’ll string with Matty against the field.”

Radbourn was the second choice.  Bancroft said:

“Radbourn was more like Mathewson than any pitcher I ever saw.  I mean by that, that like Matty, he depended largely upon brains and courage and control, like Matty he had fine speed and the rest of it.  Radbourn was a great pitcher, the best of the old school beyond any doubt.”

Catcher:  William “Buck” Ewing

“Here we come to a long array—Frank (Silver) Flint, Charley Bennett, (Charles “Chief”) Zimmer, (James “Deacon”) McGuire, (Wilbert) Robinson, (Marty) Bergen(Johnny) Kling, (Roger) Bresnahan and various others.

“But the bulk of the votes went to Buck Ewing.”

Buck Ewing

Buck Ewing

[…]

“Wherein did Ewing excel?

“He was a great mechanical catcher.  He had a wonderful arm and no man was surer of the bat…he had a keen brain, uncanny judgment, and those who worked with him say that he had no rival at diagnosing the  weakness of opposing batsman, or at handling his pitchers with rare skill.”

Kling was the second choice:

“Kling was fairly close…a fine thrower, hard hitter, and brilliant strategist…But as brilliant as Kling was over a span of years, we found no one who placed him over the immortal Buck.”

1B Fred Tenney

First Base was the one position with “the greatest difference of opinion,” among Rice and the others:

“From Charlie Comiskey to George Sisler is a long gap—and in that gap it seems that no one man has ever risen to undisputed heights… There are logical arguments to be offered that Hal Chase or Frank Chance should displace Fred Tenney at first.

But in the way of batting and fielding records Tenney wins….Of the present array, George Sisler is the one who has the best chance of replacing Tenney.”

2B Eddie Collins

 “There was no great argument about second base.

“The vote was almost unanimous.

“From the days of Ross Barnes, a great hitter and a good second baseman on through 1917, the game has known many stars.  But for all-around ability the game has known but one Eddie Collins.”

Rice said the competition was between Collins, Napoleon Lajoie and Johnny Evers:

“Of these Lajoie was the greatest hitter and most graceful workman.

“Of these Evers was the greatest fighter and the more eternally mentally alert.

“But for batting and base running, fielding skill, speed and the entire combination, Collins was voted on top.”

 SS Honus Wagner

“Here, with possibly one exception, is the easiest pick of the lot.  The game has been replete with star shortstops with George Wright in 1875 to (Walter “Rabbit”) Maranville, (George “Buck”) Weaver…There were (Jack) Glasscock and (John Montgomery) Ward, (Hardy) Richards0n, (Hugh) Jennings, (Herman)Long, (Joe) Tinker and (Jack) Barry.

“But there has been only one Hans Wagner.”

Honus Wagner

Honus Wagner

Jennings and Long were rated second and third,  “But, with the entire list  considered there is no question but that Wagner stands at the top.”

3B Jimmy Collins

Rice said:

“From the days of (Ned) Williamson(Jerry) Denny, and (Ezra) Sutton, over thirty years ago, great third basemen have only appeared at widely separated intervals.

“There have been fewer great third basemen in baseball than at any other position, for there have been periods when five or six years would pass without an undoubted star.”

The final decision came down to “John McGraw vs. Jimmy Collins.”  McGraw was “a great hitter, a fine bunter and a star base runner,” while “Collins was a marvel and a marvel over a long stretch…he was good enough to carve out a .330 or a .340 clip (and) when it came to infield play at third he certainly had no superior…So taking his combined fielding and batting ability against that of McGraw and Collins wins the place.  McGraw was a trifle his superior on the attack. But as a fielder there was no great comparison, Collins leading by a number of strides.”

 

OF Ty Cobb

“The supply here is overwhelming…Yet the remarkable part is that when we offered our selection to a jury of old players, managers and veteran scribes there was hardly a dissenting vote.”

[…]

“Number one answers itself.  A man who can lead the league nine years in succession at bat.

“A man who can lead his league at bat in ten out of eleven seasons.

“A man who can run up the record for base hits and runs scored in a year—also runs driven in.

“Well, the name Ty Cobb answers the rest of it.”

OF Tris Speaker

 “The man who gives Cobb the hardest battle is Tris Speaker.  Veteran observers like Clark Griffith all say that Speaker is the greatest defensive outfielder baseball has ever exploited…Speaker can cover more ground before a ball is pitched than any man.  And if he guesses incorrectly, which he seldom does, he can go a mile to retrieve his error in judgment…And to this impressive defensive strength must be added the fact he is a powerful hitter, not only a normal .350 man, but one who can tear the hide off the ball for extra bases.”

Tris Speaker "hardest hit"

Tris Speaker 

OF “Wee Willie” Keeler

Mike Kelly and Joe KelleyJimmy Sheckard and Fred Clarke—the slugging (Ed) Delehanty—the rare Bill LangeBilly Hamilton.

“The remaining list is a great one, but how can Wee Willie Keeler be put aside?

“Ask Joe Kelley, or John McGraw, or others who played with Keeler and who remember his work.

“Keeler was one of the most scientific batsmen that ever chopped a timely single over third or first…And Keeler was also a great defensive outfielder, a fine ground coverer—a great thrower—a star in every department of play.

“Mike Kelly was a marvel, more of an all-around sensation, but those who watched the work of both figure Keeler on top.”

Rice said of the nine selections:

“The above is the verdict arrived at after discussions with managers, players and writers who have seen a big section of the long parade, and who are therefore able to compare the stars of today with the best men of forgotten years.

“Out of the thousands of fine players who have made up the roll call of the game since 1870 it would seem impossible to pick nine men and award them the olive wreath.  In several instances the margin among three or four is slight.

“But as far a s deductions, observations, records and opinions go, the cast named isn’t very far away from an all-time all-star round up, picked for ability, stamina, brains, aggressiveness and team value.

“If it doesn’t stick, just what name from above could you drop?”

“Father isn’t Disappointed because I took up Dancing”

4 Apr

In the spring of 1916 Joe Tinker Jr., ten-year-old son of Chicago Cubs Manager Joe Tinker “wrote” a series of articles that appeared in newspapers across the country.  Tinker’s articles provided tips for playing each position:

“To be a winning pitcher you must have control…The best way to gain control is to get another boy to get in position as a batter then pitch to him.  Don’t throw at a stationary target.”

“(Catchers) Stand up close to the batter and don’t lose your head if the pitcher becomes wild.  Try to steady him with a cheerful line of talk.  Practice every spare moment.”

“Stand close to the plate when batting.  Don’t lose your nerve if the pitcher tries to bean you. Some fellows like to choke their bats or grip the handles about four inches from the end.  My father don’t approve of the style…Don’t argue with the umpire.  If you are hot-headed you hurt your chances to connect with cool-headed pitching.”

“Learn to start in a jiffy.  That is the first point emphasized by my dad in teaching me to run bases.”

“Playing short offers many chances for individual star plays and the work of a good man will have a great effect on the score card.”

Photos of Joe Tinker Jr. demonstrating what his dad taught him

Photos of Joe Tinker Jr. demonstrating what his dad taught him

Joe Tinker Jr. and his younger brother Roland were the Cubs mascots during their father’s season as manager in 1916.  In 1924 Chicago newspapers reported that Tinker Jr. was headed to the University of Illinois to play baseball for Coach Carl Lundgren, the former Cub pitcher.  There is no record of Tinker ever playing at the school.

1916 Chicago Cubs.  Joe Tinker Jr. seated right, Roland Tinker seated left.

1916 Chicago Cubs. Joe Tinker Jr. seated right, Roland Tinker seated left.

Younger brother Roland played for two seasons in the Florida State League.

In 1938 newspapers reported that Joe Tinker Jr. had become a dancer with a vaudeville group called the Sophistocrats.  Tinker Jr. told reporters:

“Father isn’t disappointed because I took up dancing.  In fact he approves.”

It’s unclear whether “Joe Tinker Jr.” was actually Joe Tinker Jr.  The newspaper articles all said he was 22-years-old.  Joe Tinker Jr. would have been in his thirties; however his brother William Jay Tinker would have been 22 in 1938.

 

joetinkerjrdance

 

joetinkerjr1938

When Joe Tinker was elected to the Hall of Fame he compiled his all-time team for Ernest Lanigan, then curator of the Hall:

Pitchers: Mordecai Brown, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Christy Mathewson and Ed Walsh

Catchers: Johnny Kling and Roger Bresnahan

First Base: Frank Chance

Second Base: Eddie Collins

Third Base: Harry Steinfeldt

Shortstop: Honus Wagner

Outfield: Artie “Solly’ Hofman, Ty Cobb, Fred Clarke, and Sam Crawford.

Though he named several Cubs, Tinker did not include his former teammate Johnny Evers.  In 1914 Evers had famously slighted Tinker, with whom he was engaged with in a long-term feud, after Evers and his Boston Braves teammates won the World Series. William Peet wrote in The Boston Post :

“(Walter “Rabbit” Maranville’s) the best shortstop the game has ever known.

“Better than Joe Tinker; your old side partner?

“Yes, he’s better than Tinker.”

While the two finally broke their silence at Frank Chance’s deathbed in 1924, they never reconciled.

Evers died in 1947, Tinker in 1948.

Joe Tinker circa 1946

Joe Tinker circa 1946

Joe Tinker Jr. died in 1981, Roland “Rollie” Tinker died in 1980, and William Tinker died in 1996.

 

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up other Things #6

12 Mar

Umpiring “Revolutionized”

The Chicago Inter Ocean reported that an “innovation in baseball” would be introduced during the second game of a September 9 double header at Chicago’s South Side Park between the White Sox and the Boston Americans.

“The astonishing feat, an apparent impossibility, will be accomplished by the use of colors, and the inventor, George W. Hancock, expects the umpiring business to be almost revolutionized.”

hancock

George W. Hancock

Hancock was the inventor of indoor baseball in 1887; the game that evolved into softball.

“(Umpire) Jack Sheridan will wear a red sleeve on his right arm and a white one on his left claw.  For a strike he will wave the right arm, and for a ball the left one and the flash of the colors can be seen by people seated so far away that the voice even of Sheridan, the human bullfrog, would be inaudible.”

The “innovation” would likely have benefited one player, the popular center fielder of the White Sox, William Ellsworth “Dummy” Hoy, who was deaf.  But no mention was made of Hoy in the description of Hancock’s plan.

Hoy

Hoy

The “astonishing feat” turned out to be so insignificant that The Inter Ocean failed to even mention it in the summary of the double-header which the Sox swept.  Hoy did not appear in either game.  George W. Hancock’s plan was never mentioned again.

Luminous Ball

Another innovation that promised to revolutionize the game that never came to be was the luminous ball.  The Reading Times reported on the process in 1885:

“Charles Shelton, the leading druggist of Bridgeport, has discovered a compound which, when applied to a baseball, renders that object luminous.  One of the drawbacks of playing baseball at night under the electric light is the inability to see the ball when thrown or batted into the air with the black night background of sky behind it.  By saturating it with Mr. Shelton’s compound the ball while in motion is luminous.  At rest it does not retain any light.  The illuminating ball retains its meteoric irritation for 45 minutes.”

There is no record of Mr. Shelton’s invention ever being used in a professional game.

What’s a Dog Worth?

As part of the Federal League’s antitrust lawsuit against the American and National League’s affidavits were submitted from players detailing how organized baseball controlled the destiny and salary of player.  Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown, who jumped from the Cincinnati Reds to sign with the Federal League’s St. Louis Terriers, swore in his filing that players, on at least two occasions, had been traded for dogs.

William A. Phelon, of The Cincinnati Times-Star and “Baseball Magazine,” said:

“This thing of trading dogs for ball players—as outlined in the Federal affidavits—should be put upon a sane and sensible basis.”

Phelon provided a “definite standard and a set of unit values” for baseball to follow:

phelondogs

McMullin’s Long Route to the Plate

Before Fred McMullin became the least famous of the eight members of 1919 Chicago White Sox who were banned from organized ball for life, he was a popular player on the West Coast.

Fred McMullin

Fred McMullin

The (Portland) Oregonian told a story that was purported to have taken place when McMullin was a member of the Tacoma Tigers in the Northwestern League in a game with the Seattle Giants:

“He came in from third on a dead run and made a slide for the plate.  McMullin knew he didn’t touch it, but he was afraid to slide back, as the catcher had the ball in his hand.  The umpire also knew he didn’t score, but he said nothing, for that was none of his business.

“Fred dusted off his uniform and stalked nonchalantly to the bench.  A couple of Seattle players yelled for a decision.

“‘He wasn’t safe, was he?’ demanded (Walt) Cadman, who was catching for Seattle.

“The umpire shook his head no.  At that Cadman, holding the ball in his hand, dashed over to the Tacoma bench to tag McMullin.  Fred waited until he almost reached him and then slid to the other end of the bench.

“Cadman followed him, and as he did s slipped in some mud and fell to his knees.  McMullin leaped up from the bench, dashed for the plate and touched it.  The umpire called him safe.”

 

Ovie, Oh, Ovie

17 Jan

Arm trouble ended Orval Overall’s career early.  When he left baseball for the first time after the 1910 season he had a 104-66 record, won 20 games twice, and went to the World Series four times with the Chicago Cubs (3-1 in eight appearances).

orvie

Orval Overall

After a visit to John D. “Bonesetter” Reese, a self-trained Youngstown, Ohio-based practitioner of alternative medicine, who while popular among many of the era’s major stars, was condemned by medical professionals.  Despite being “healed,” Overall was unable to come to terms with the Cubs and sat out the 1911 season.

Remaining in his native California, Overall worked at the gold mine he owned with Cubs teammate Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown in Three Rivers and pitched for Stockton team in the “outlaw” California League.  His success in California during the fall of 1911 gave the Chicago press hope he would return to the Cubs in 1912.  The Chicago Inter Ocean said:

“Orval Overall’s arm seems to get better every time he pitches a game.  Last week the former Cub whom Manager (Frank) Chance is trying to persuade to return to the West Side team struck out seventeen men twirling against the All-Sacramento team for Cy Moreing’s Stockton outlaws.”

Later in the fall Overall hurt his arm again.  He returned to “Bonesetter” Reese in December and told The Youngstown Vindicator he was finished with organized baseball, and would “Confine himself to his mining business and with occasional independent ball.”

Overall pitched a few games for a semi-pro team in Visalia; thirty minutes from his mine.

Orville Overall

Orville Overall

In February of 1913, he petitioned the National Commission to reinstate him and declare him a free agent because the Cubs “omitted to send him a contract” in 1912.  The commission granted his reinstatement but returned him to the Cubs.

Overall pitched in just 11 games, with a 4-5 record and .3.31 ERA; he was released to the San Francisco Seals in the Pacific Coast League (PCL) in early August.

Overall’s return to the West Coast was an event, and Seals fans even attempted to tell the club when the popular pitcher should make his first start.  The San Francisco Chronicle said:

“Orval Overall, the famous California pitcher, who built up such a reputation with the Chicago Cubs, will pitch for San Francisco today against Venice (Tigers).  A petition signed by sixty Seal fans was sent to (Manager) Del Howard yesterday, with the request that Overall’s first appearance be billed for Sunday afternoon.”

Howard chose to start Overall the day before the fans requested, nevertheless, the game drew a crowd of nearly 10,000 and The Chronicle said: “they gave him a reception long to be remembered.”

Overall gave up five runs, and was lifted in the ninth inning for a pinch hitter.  The Seals lost 8-5 in 11 innings.  He ended the season 8-9 with a 2.14 ERA.

At the end of the 1913 season, Overall announced his retirement.  San Francisco fans were not convinced and said The Chronicle said he “was being counted upon to be one of the mainstays in the box.” But chose to take a job with Maier Brewing Company “in the South” (Venice, CA—still a separate city from Los Angeles at the time.  The Maier family also owned the PCL’s Venice Tigers).  San Francisco fans were not convinced, and there was speculation for the next four months that Overall would return.

Reporter L. W. Nelson, The San Francisco Call’s resident poet composed a verse to try to coax the pitcher back:

Ovie, Oh, Ovie

Ovie, oh, Ovie, come home to us now,

For the season is soon to begin,

And we need you, yes, badly, to show the folks how

The Seals, when they have you, can win!

Ovie, oh, Ovie, sign up with us quick,

Put your name on the contract from Cal,

For we know you can make all others looks sick,

If you pitch for our Seal crew, old pal!

Ovie, we know it is your fondest dream

To work down in Venice for Maier,

Midst the Milwaukee water, the lager and steam—

We know you would like it down there!

Ovie, oh, Ovie, sign up to play ball,

And don’t try your beer selling skill,

For the job in the brew’ry won’t help us at all,

But your pitching most certainly will!

(“Cal” was Seals owner James Calvin Ewing)

As late as March 1914 Overall hinted that he might return, but the pleas and the poem did not sway him.

He left the beer business after a year to manage his family’s large lemon and orange growing operation near Visalia, which would make him quite wealthy.  He became a banker and dabbled in politics and competitive trap shooting.  He died in 1947.

Overall (center) was president of the California-Nevada Trap Shooters Association (1918)

Overall (center) was president of the California-Nevada Trap Shooters Association (1918)

Lost Advertisements–Athletics/Cubs 1910 World Series

13 Sep

1910ws2

Three advertisements for Old Underoof Whiskey that appeared in Chicago during the 1910 World Series between the Cubs and the Philadelphia Athletics.  The first “Safe On First,”  above, appeared after Charles “Chief” Bender beat the Cubs 4 to 1, giving up only three hits in game one.  The second “Still In The Game,” below, appeared before game three.  The bear is holding as “elephant gun” with four spent shells on the ground–(Orval) Overall, (Harry) McIntire, (Lew) Richie, and (Mordecai) Brown–the four pitchers who gave up 13 runs to the Athletics and the first two games.

 

The final one, bottom, “No They are Not Dead” appeared before game four.  The Cubs, down 3 games to 0 beat the Athletics 4 to 3 in 10 innings, Brown relieved Leonard “King” Cole in the ninth and got the decision over Bender.  The following day Jack Coombs beat the Cubs and Brown 7 to 2 to take the series four games to one.

 

1910ws3

 

1910wscubs

“The Story of the Story Fogel Wrote”

9 Jul

The day before Philadelphia Phillies president and owner Horace Fogel was banned from baseball by his fellow National League magnates, one of the witnesses in the case against him said Fogel was being “used” by the “instigator” of the story that appeared in The Chicago Evening Post, and contributed to the action taken by the National League.

The charge seemed to confirm a rumor that swirled around the Fogel case for months; that the Philadelphia Phillies owner was acting on behalf of Cubs owner Charles W. Murphy.

Under the headline, “The Story of the Story Fogel Wrote,” William S. Forman, sports editor of The Evening Post wrote:

“Charles W. Murphy authorized me to tell Fogel that Murphy had suggested writing the story.  On this representation Fogel wrote it and signed it.  He sent it to Murphy, who read it before I ever saw it.  It came to me from Murphy’s office; and if Murphy had not approved the story it never would have been published.  The man who is morally responsible for that article and the charges it contained is Murphy himself, and I have Fogel’s own word for it that he wrote it simply “to help Murphy fight his battles” with the National League.

“It is not the first time Murphy has made Fogel the goat.  Previously Murphy had sent me another article signed by Fogel and told me Fogel had writing it, and wanted it published…Months afterward I learned that Murphy himself had writing it and Fogel had merely signed it because he was requested to do so by the Cubs’ President.  It was a defense of Murphy who had been criticised…by a Chicago baseball writer.”

Charles Webb Murphy

Charles Webb Murphy

Murphy, who spent his entire National League career engaged in countless feuds with fellow owners, players, managers, umpires and writers, denied the charge and said Forman was motivated to tell the story as a result of one of Murphy’s other feuds, telling reporters:

“This is a lot of rubbish; why I hardly know this man Forman, but I can guess readily that his paper is sore because we let Frank Chance go.  His paper thinks that by pounding me it will make a hit with Chicago fans, but it will find it is mistaken.“

The Associated Press said the other league owners were not buying Murphy’s explanation:

“(I)t is claimed that every magnate expects charges will be brought against (Murphy) by President (Thomas) Lynch and he may go the way of Fogel if the test votes to date are any criterion.”

Despite the rumors and the “test votes,” Murphy said “the suggestion that charges will be brought against me is all rubbish.”

Murphy was correct.  Despite the evidence, and despite his ongoing feuds with the league president and at least half of the National League magnates, charges were never brought by the league.

Murphy had another feud-filled, stormy year in Chicago in 1913.  After the season The Associated Press said:

“For the first time since the problem of pushing Charles W. Murphy out of the National League received serious consideration there is smooth working machinery ready to grip the club president and move him to a seat beside Horace Fogel. “

While a deal was being made to get Murphy out of the National League, Damon Runyon said:

“We grant you that Charles Webb Murphy should be thrown out of baseball, if only to quiet the beating pulse, and lave the fevered brow of Chicago, but we do not go to be o’ nights with a dull anger smoldering in our in’ards and we do not get up o’ mornings low in mind and spirits and feeling that out existence is is blackened and posterity besmirched because Charles Webb Murphy is still around.  We know that when they throw him out, as they doubtless will throw him out, there will be someone else ready to take his place as official Bugaboo, for there must be a Bugaboo in baseball, else we might have no baseball.”

Eventually it was agreed that Charles Phelps Taft would purchase Webb’s interest in the Cubs, and he resigned as team president in February of 1914; although it was unclear just how much the sale netted him.  Murphy said he owned 53 percent of the team’s stock and that the sale was for more than $500,000.  Frank Chance, Mordecai Brown, and others claimed Murphy “Never owned more than fifteen or twenty percent of the club stock.”

But the transaction with Taft would not be the end of Murphy.

Murphy was still owned part of the Cubs’ West Side Grounds and Philadelphia’s Baker Bowl, home of the Phillies.  In addition it was reported at the close of the 1914 season that Murphy held a mortgage on the Cubs stock, and claimed to own a controlling interest in the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Chicago Examiner said:

“Charles W. Murphy, who everybody supposes was ‘kicked out’ of baseball last spring, is not out at all, but very much in…He practically admits it himself when he does not deny controlling Cub stock , and asserts that he may take over the Philadelphia club before long… (National League President John Tener) declared some months ago that Murphy was out of the National League, now admits that Murphy may own some stock that he does not know about.

“Murphy says openly that he is Tener’s landlord, meaning that Tener is a stockholder in the Phillies and that the Phillies owe Murphy plenty of rent for their grounds.”

The Examiner said Murphy was interfering with the negotiations to sell the Cubs to Charles Weeghman, and at the same time was owed a lump sum payment of more than $100,000 by the other Phillies investors; if the payment was not received “at the stated time Murphy will foreclose and take possession of the Phillies.”

In The Philadelphia Inquirer, Phillies President William F. Baker quickly denied Murphy’s assertion that the former Cubs owner was in a position to take possession of his ballclub and that Tener ever owned stock in the team:

“It is true that Murphy and Mr. Taft own the Philadelphia ballpark, which the club has leased for a long time. But that does not alter the fact that Murphy is in no way interested in the club’s affairs…I intend to call the attention of the National League to this matter for the purpose of stopping Murphy for all time.”

William F. Baker

William F. Baker

By late December of 1914 Murphy was finally out of the National League for good.

As for whether Murphy was forced of baseball or left of his own accord, several recent sources point to a self-serving article Murphy wrote in “Baseball Magazine” in 1919 as evidence that he was not forced out.  Murphy, while acknowledging that Tener “was not ‘crazy’ about me,” Murphy said:

“No force was required. Despite that fact I read every once in a while that I was forced out of baseball–knocked down the back steps, as it were, and kicked into the yards behind… I sold out to Mr. Charles P. Taft and without force, but for what every other thing of value is obtained–a price. Imagine a man being forced to take $500,000 for a baseball franchise.”

Given that the $500,000 figure, while repeated credulously in countless books and articles in the last 100 years, has never been confirmed (it’s fairly certain that most of Murphy’s stake in the Cubs strictly on paper and was, in fact, Taft money, making Chance and Brown’s speculation on the value more realistic), and that Murphy conveniently left out his attempts to insert himself in the operations of two team the year after “no force was required” to remove him from the game, his protestations should be taken at face value.  Although he retained his interest in the Baker Bowl, he was never actively involved in the operations of a team again.

Murphy, who started his professional life as a sportswriter (for Taft’s Cincinnati Enquirer), managed to remain involved in baseball by writing articles about the game for “Baseball Magazine,” many, like the one quoted above, focused on restoring his reputation.

Murphy returned to Wilmington, Ohio where he financed the construction of the Murphy Theater, a landmark that still stands.  He eventually returned to Chicago where he died in 1931.  The Associated Press said he left “An estate estimated at nearly $3,000,000,” his stake in the Baker Bowl and the ownership of the theater being his largest assets.

Murphy made one last pitch to get back in the game–next week.

Chief and Cy

19 Dec

Charles “Chief” Zimmer caught Denton True “Cy” Young’s first Major League game; an 8-1 victory for the Cleveland Spiders over Cap Anson’s Chicago Colts.

Years later, Davis Hawley, a Cleveland banker and hotel magnate who also owned a minority share of the Spiders and served as the team’s secretary, related a story about Young’s debut:

“The night of Young’s first National League game, he complained to me that although he had let Anson’s team down with a few hits, he had not had his usual speed.”

Hawley who had watched him pitch in the Tri-State League asked why he felt that way.

“Well, down in Canton the catchers could not hold me I was so fast, but this man Zimmer didn’t have any trouble at all, so I guess I didn’t have much speed.”

Zimmer would go on to catch 247 of Young’s starts through 1898, including 19 shutouts; second in both categories to Lou Criger, who played with Young in Cleveland, St. Louis and Boston.

Zimmer would catch Young a few more times after 1898.

In 1921 the 54-year-old Young pitched two shutout innings, with the 60-year-old Zimmer catching, in a game between Cleveland Major League legends and amateur stars staged as part of Cleveland’s 135th anniversary celebration.  In addition to Young and Zimmer, Nap Lajoie, Earl Moore, Bill Bradley, Charlie Hickman, Nig Cuppy and Elmer Flick were among the participants.

Earl Moore, Cy Young, Bill Bradley, Charlie Hickman, Nap Lajoie and Chief Zimmer at the 1923 game.

Earl Moore, Cy Young, Bill Bradley, Charlie Hickman, Nap Lajoie and Chief Zimmer at the 1923 game.

The game was such a success that for the next four years it became an annual event at League Park (called Dunn Field during the 1920s); Young pitched the first two innings of each game with Zimmer catching. The event benefited the Cleveland Amateur Baseball Association medical fund.

Young always shared credit for his success with his catchers.  In the 1945 book “My Greatest Day in Baseball As told to John P. Carmichael and Other Noted Sportswriters,” he said:

“Every great pitcher usually has a great catcher, like Mathewson had Roger Bresnahan and Miner Brown had Johnny Kling. Well, in my time I had two. First, there was Chief Zimmer, when I was with Cleveland in the National League, and then there was Lou Criger, who caught me at Boston and handled my perfect game.”

A little more “Chief” tomorrow.

Demon Rum–or Demon Rum as an Excuse to Replace a Popular Manager

8 Oct

The 2011 Boston Red Sox were only the latest in a long history of alcohol taking the blame for a team’s poor performance.

As the Chicago Cubs faded into third place during the waning days of the 1912 season, team president Charles Murphy issued an order for “total abstinence” and all players would have a temperance calls in future contracts.

The move was not unprecedented—since 1909 Barney Dreyfus of the Pittsburgh Pirates had required his players to sign a temperance pledge.  What made Murphy’s order so newsworthy was that over the course of several days he issued numerous, often contradictory, “clarifications” and because it quickly became apparent the move was a intended to wrest control of his ballclub from Manager Frank Chance.

Murphy’s original statement said that “loose living and training methods” led to the team’s poor finish. At the same time he provided cover for popular Cub outfielder Frank Schulte who had been suspended by Chance in September his nighttime activities during a crucial August road trip in Cincinnati.  The Cubs lost three of four games to the Reds and fell out of contention.    Murphy’s statement presented Schulte as a man incapable of any personal responsibility:

“I desire to say that in my judgment Schulte has been more sinned against than sinner…from what I could gather he was a victim of too many so-called friends…if we had a rule similar to that in vogue in Pittsburgh this player could not have been led into temptation.”

Chicago Cubs President Charles Murphy

The implication being that Chance had perhaps overreacted by suspending “the more sinned against” Schulte.  This statement was further complicated by Murphy’s several “clarifications,” some of which seemed to support Chance’s decision while some did not.

Chance quickly defended his players and his reaction to Murphy revealed just how bad the relationship was between the team president and his manager:

“Murphy only thinks of the team when it’s winning…his statement reflects upon me personally, and I have been in the business too long to allow Murphy or anyone else to insult me.”

Making matters worse, and calling Murphy’s motives into question was that Chance issued his response from a hospital bed in New York.  As a result of being hit in the head by numerous pitches throughout his career, Chance had developed a blood clot near his brain and had undergone surgery just a few days earlier.

Murphy didn’t hesitate to use Chance’s health issues against him.

A month earlier, plagued by doubts about his condition and suffering from severe headaches, Chance had suggested to Murphy that he might not be able to manage the Cubs in 1913.  At the time Murphy told his manager to wait until after the surgery to make a decision about his future.  Now he was using that conversation to assert that Chance had issued his resignation.

Once Murphy began claiming Chance had, in effect, quit in August the Chicago media which had almost universally supported the “abstinence pledge” called foul.  The Chicago Tribune and Chicago Examiner both said Murphy was using the conversation and the pledge as cover to run the legendary Chance—who led the Cubs to four pennants and two World Championships—out of town.

Chance went.  But he didn’t go quietly.

The manager had acquired 10 percent of the Cubs, shares Murphy had been trying to purchase for more than a year.  Chance sold the shares to Harry Ackerland a Pittsburgh investor who President Murphy did want owning part of his team.  Despite Murphy’s efforts to block the sale, it went through.

Chance was claimed on waivers by Cincinnati, but after the Reds acquired Joe Tinker from the Cubs and named him manager, Chance was waived to New York, where he became manager of the Yankees.

Chance led the Yankees for two losing seasons, managed the Los Angeles Angels in the Pacific Coast League in 1916 and ’17, and closed out his career with one dismal season in Boston; the Red Sox finished 61-91 under Chance.

Frank Chance

Johnny Evers was named Cubs manager for the 1913 season—the Cubs again finished third.

From the day Murphy issued his initial statement until Chance died in 1924, “The Peerless Leader” never missed an opportunity to take a shot at Murphy.

When the Cubs were sold to Cincinnati publishing magnate Charles Phelps Taft (President William Howard Taft’s half-brother) before the 1914 season Murphy claimed that he had made more than a half million dollars on the deal.  Chance and former Cubs pitcher Mordecai Brown (who had his own feud who Murphy who released him after the 1912 season, allegedly without giving Brown money he was owed for playing in that year’s “City Series” with the Chicago White Sox) quickly responded.  Both players confirmed what had long been rumored—that Murphy had been bankrolled by Taft who retained a majority of the shares.   Murphy, said Chance, “Never owned more than fifteen or twenty percent of the club stock.”

Both players also charged that Murphy’s treatment of his players was a primary reason for the formation of the upstart Federal League—at best an oversimplification of the conditions which led to Major League Baseball’s last “third league.”

Another Charles Murphy feud later this week.

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