Tag Archives: Moxie Hengel

The Pursuit of Elmer Foster

9 Sep

Elmer Ellsworth Foster was the talk of the Northwestern League in 1887.

His career as a pitcher had lasted just one season; in 1884, while pitching for the St. Paul Apostles, he snapped a bone in his arm while throwing a pitch.

Elmer Foster, 1887

            Elmer Foster, 1887

After he recovered, he returned the following year as an outfielder and second baseman with Haverhill in the Eastern New England League and hit .309.

The following spring, The Sporting Life’s Haverhill correspondent said the New York Metropolitans “have taken Elmer Foster from us.”

Hitting just .184 and, as The Sporting Life put it “reckless at the bat,” Foster went back to Haverhill in August.

In 1887, he returned to Minnesota, this time as centerfielder for the Minneapolis Millers.  The club was owned by his brother Robert Owen Foster, a successful dealer of musical instruments, who with his partner J. E. Whitcomb, had taken over operations of the Millers in January.

The Northwestern League of 1887 was a hitter’s paradise owing mostly to the single-season experiments with the four-strike rule and walks counted as hits—nineteen players with at least 350 at-bats hit better than .350—and Foster led with a .415 average and 17 home runs.   While his performance with the bat was noted, he received an equal amount of publicity for his great fielding.

Throughout the season, Minnesota newspapers reported that Foster’s contract would be sold to a major league team—the Indianapolis Hoosiers were the most frequently mentioned—but the deal never materialized.

When the season ended, The Philadelphia Times said Foster was in high demand:

“During the past week agents from nearly every League and Association (club) have been to Minneapolis to secure (Foster) for next season.  (Horace) Phillips of Pittsburgh; (Gus) Schmelz of Cincinnati; Ted Sullivan, agent for Washington; (Emery “Moxie”) Hengel agent for Detroit; (Charlie Hazen) Morton, agent for (A.G.) Spalding, and agents for the Brooklyn, Metropolitan, and Baltimore Clubs have tried to get him.

(John) Day, of New York, sent him this message:  ‘Multrie on the way to Minneapolis.  Make no promise until you see him.’  Boston also wired him for his terms.  (Horace) Fogel of Indianapolis arrived one night and had Foster in tow all the next day.  The bidding of all these clubs has been going on briskly, until now he is offered exorbitant figures by all the clubs.”

Foster called the fight for services a “circus;” it also turned into a controversy, with two teams claiming to have signed him.  The Saint Paul Globe said:

“The circus he speaks of is a curious one, but he is sublimely unmindful of the part he took in it.  The rules of the baseball covenant prohibit the signing of players until Oct. 20…Manager Fogel of Indianapolis approached Foster before that time and made a verbal contract with him, but Manager (Jim) Mutrie, of New York, took him out to Delano (Minnesota), and after midnight  (on the 20th) got his signature.”

Jim Mutrie

                       Jim Mutrie

Years later, Ted Sullivan, who was perusing Foster on behalf of his Washington Nationals, described Mutrie’s method to sign Foster as a kidnapping:

“Jim Mutrie of New York (Giants) grabbed the great fielder Foster on the streets of Minneapolis…bound and gagged him, threw him into a cab and brought him ten minutes out of the city, held him there and dined and wined him until midnight…then compelled him to take $1000 advance money and a contract of $4500 (various other sources put Foster’s salary at $2400, and $4000).”

Foster, it turned out, didn’t simply have a “verbal contract” with Fogel and Indianapolis when he disappeared with Mutrie, but had, as The Sporting News said, accepted “a draft for $100,” from Fogel at the time the two agreed to terms.  Fogel and Indianapolis owner John T. Brush told The Indianapolis News and The Indianapolis Times that there was “a written agreement” between Foster and the club.

Foster’s wife gave birth to a daughter during the height of the controversy.  He told The Globe:

“If she had been a boy I would have named him Mutrie Fogel, in memory of the baseball managers I have been having a circus with.”

In the end, Indianapolis acknowledged that the agreement with Foster, whether written or verbal, was entered into three days before the legal signing date of October 20 and National League President Nick Young awarded Foster to the Giants.

Foster never had success at the plate during his brief major league career; he hit just .187 in 386 at-bats over parts of five seasons.  But Mutrie called him “(O)ne of the best fielders in the country,” and Sullivan said of Foster’s time in the National League, “(H)e was a wonderful fielder in that league.”

Elmer Foster

      Elmer Foster

After he was released by the Giants, he played 31 games with the Chicago Colts in 1890 and ’91, but his brief stay with the club allowed his name to live on with fans long after his career ended.  One of the favorite subjects of Chicago sportswriter Hugh Fullerton, who called him “The rowdy of the rowdies,” Foster’s name was a staple of Fullerton’s stories for three decades after his career ended.

“Begged the Crowd for God’s Sake not to Kill Him”

21 May

Edward Siegfried Hengel (often misspelled Hengle during his career) was a well-known umpire and manager in the 1880s.

Born in 1855, Hengel managed the Union Association franchise that began the season in Chicago, and relocated to Pittsburgh in August, 1884.  His career is occasionally confused with Emery “Moxie” Hengel (also often misspelled Hengle) who played second base for 1884 Chicago/Pittsburgh club, and had a long minor league career.  (The two were born two years apart in Chicago, but there is no indication they were related).

Emery "Moxie" Hengel

Emery “Moxie” Hengel

In 1886 Ed Hengel was an umpire in the Southern Association.  On August 5 he was working a game between Savannah and the Charleston Seagulls.  The Macon (GA) Telegraph said, in the sixth inning:

“”At this point of the game it became apparent to the audience, as well as to the players of the local team, that Hengle (sic), the umpire, had sold the game to Savannah; but notwithstanding his adverse decisions, the locals kept the Savannah team down to one run till the end of the ninth inning.  During the latter half of this inning (Hengel) gave the visitor three runs, letting them score in the following manner:  (John “Tug”) Arundel was at the bat. There were two out.  He hit a grounder to (Henry “Heinie”) Kappel who stopped it and threw it to first.  Arundel had stopped running and left the line when (first baseman Jim) Powell   failed to catch the ball”

Arundel then came back onto the field and ran to first, Hengel declared Arundel safe and a  run scored; the next hitter, Joe Miller, drove in two more runs, to win the game for Charleston, 4 to 3

The Telegraph said:

“As soon as the crowd caught on to the steal the grand stand and bleaching boards emptied their male contents on the ground, and for five minutes (the umpire) was in danger of getting very badly hurt, if not killed, by the infuriated crowd.”

The management of the Charleston team helped keep the fans at bay until police arrived:

“It were (sic) best for (Hengel) to get transferred immediately as another disgraceful piece of umpiring will cost him some inconvenience.  The people of Charleston will not stand another robbery.

“(Hengel) was scared nearly to death; he was as white as a sheet, and it is said begged the crowd, for God’s sake, not to kill him.  He did not deny having sold the game when charged with it by a director of the baseball club after he was safe.”

Hengel did not work another game in Charleston that season.

In October of 1887 The Aurora (IL) Daily Express credited Hengel with signing “(Charlie) Hoover crack-backstop of the Western League” for the Chicago White Stockings—within weeks Hoover’s long series of troubles would begin.

HOOVER_LG

Charlie Hoover

Hengel continued as an umpire, including stints in the Tri-State and Pacific Northwest Leagues,  and minor league manager for the next decade.  While managing the Hamilton (OH) club in the Tri-State League, Hengel saved a young girl from drowning, and “her grateful parents presented him a pair of diamond sleeve buttons.”

Hengel disappears from the newspapers after 1892;  he died in Great Britain in 1927; presumably not at the hands of angry Charleston fans.

Note:  Henry “Heinie” Kappel does not appear on surviving rosters for the 1886 Charleston Seagulls, but contemporaneous accounts in The Sporting Life and other newspapers confirm he was with the team.