Tag Archives: Nap Lajoie

“I have seen Men of all Nationalities do Splendid Work”

21 Jun

In 1911, Victor Munoz, the sports editor for the Cuban newspaper El Mundo spent part of 1911 traveling with the Cincinnati Reds and chronicling the experiences of Armando Marsans and Rafael Almeida during their rookie season with the Reds.

victormunoz

Victor Munoz

After several months in the states Munoz shared his observations about baseball in America:

“I have often heard the United States referred to as a melting pot into which are dumped men, women and children of all nationalities, to be reduced to a precious metal, possessing the best elements of all, known as that wonderful alloy, the American citizen.

“During the visits to this country I have taken pains to ascertain if this was true.  I found the truth had been told, but a very important factor in the making of good American citizens had been overloaded.”

Munoz concluded that if America was the world’s melting pot, baseball “was the flame which brings the human metal to that state which makes the American citizen possible.”

Munoz said in his “study” of the game:

“I have seen (Napoleon) Lajoie, a Frenchman; (Ed) Abbaticchio, an Italian, and (Honus) Wagner, a German, play ball.  I have seen men of all nationalities do splendid work in the field and at bat.

“In New York I heard Irish fans cheer the brilliant work of an English player, and in Cincinnati I saw Germans go wild, when (Mike) Mitchell, an Irishman, cleaned up with a triple.  Spaniards cheer Americans, Frenchmen enthuse when a German makes a great catch or throw and I have even seen an Indian, a stoic in everyday life, toss his blanket when a favorite player made an especially fine play.”

Munoz said Marsans and Almeida coming to America convinced him baseball was becoming an international sport based on, “The purchase of two Cuban players, born and bred on the island, men of Spanish descent, convinced me that baseball is reaching out and gaining more friends and devotees.”

marsansandalmeida

Marsans and Almeida

As for his home country:

“Cuba has gone wild over the American game…I am told it is the same in Japan and I will not be surprised to hear of American scouts going to that country for players.”

Munoz also said he was “deeply impressed” by what a cosmopolitan team the Reds were:

“I found (Hank) Severeid, a Norwegian, (Mike) Balenti, an Indian; Mitchell and other Irishmen,  (Bob) Bescher and other Germans; (Clark) Griffith, of Welsh-Irish descent;  (Johnny) Bates of English parentage; (Harry) Gaspar, whose father was a Frenchman, and my Cuban companions members of the team.

“Nothing could emphasize the attractiveness of the sport more than this gathering of men of all nations, working, fighting, and playing together, for the purpose of defeating other clubs of almost the same cosmopolitan character.

“These men have been thrown together without a thought of their religious beliefs of their nationality.  They all know that a man can learn to play ball no matter what country he hails from; that the fact that his father was a German, Irishman, Indian or any other nationality cannot prove a handicap.”

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“Yet, not one of them can Play Ball like Wallace”

3 May

Jack O’Connor needed to vent.  The St. Louis Browns manager had just led his club to one of the worst seasons in major league history—a 47-107 record.

 

oconnorcoke

1910 Coca-Cola ad featuring O’Connor

 

Having just piloted a team that batted .218—the leading hitter was 36-year-old Bobby Wallace, who hit .258, and whose best pitcher, Joe Lake, posted an 11-17 record, O’Connor had reached a few conclusions about the game.  He told a reporter for The St. Louis Republic:

“The only thing every free-born American, with a constitution and public schools, thinks he can do is to play ball and manage a ball club.  Yet playing ball and managing ball clubs are two of the most highly specialized professions in the world.”

O’Connor said of the second-guessers:

“Of some 10,000 boys and men who are playing ball one way or another not 50 can play one position well enough to be called first-class ballplayers.

“One million young Americans see (Ty) Cobb play ball every year; yet not one of them can even imitate him.

“All that Walter Johnson, the greatest of pitchers, has is speed.  Now any strong-armed young man has speed.  Yet in 10,000,000 strong-armed young men not one has speed like Johnson has.

“How do you figure it?

“I guess that 10,000,000 young men and at least 100,000 professional ballplayers have seen Wallace perform in the 17 years he has been playing. Yet, not one of them can play ball like Wallace. Not one can even throw like him.”

And, no doubt, with the Browns’ .218 team batting average on his mind, O’Connor said:

“Batting is simple.  How many boys and men have seen Lajoie in the past 15 years—yet why can’t some one of them bat like Larry?

wallace

Bobby Wallace

And with a 47-win season on his mind, O’Connor concluded:

“I have always held that ballplayers are born, not made…so many smart fellows who have good heads and the ball instinct think that they can take good-looking athletes with legs and arms and eyes and make ballplayers of them.  The smart fellows make the mistake of imaging that the object of their solicitude has the head and instinct that they—the instructors—have…Many boys have everything but instinct.  That is the quality that is hardest to find.”

Despite the Browns’ horrible record, it was O’Connor’s role in trying to assist Lajoie, his former teammate, to win the batting title over Cobb on the final day of the season—ordering third baseman Red Corriden to play so far back that Lajoie bunted in five straight at-bats—that led to his firing.

One Minute Talk: Steve O’Neill

21 Sep

In 1916, The Newspaper Enterprise Association ran a series of brief articles called “One Minute Talks with Ballplayers.”

Steve O’Neill, Cleveland Indians catcher, made the case for the hitting prowess of one of his teammates:

Steve O'Neill

Steve O’Neill

Tris Speaker is better at the hit and run play than either (Joe) Jackson or (Ty) Cobb, for he is like (Napoleon) Lajoie—he can reach out and crack a pitch away on the other side of the plate if it will help the runner.  He does not have to wait for a fast one, a floater or a curve.

“I would sum it up this way; Cobb is the fellow who is most apt to be safe on first on a ball hit anywhere; Jackson hits the ball more savagely, while Speaker is the best all-around player of the lot and this season I think, you will find him on top in the race for batting honors.”

Speaker

Speaker

O’Neill predicted correctly.  Speaker led the American League with a .386 average, Cobb finished second at .371 and Jackson had the league’s third-best average, .341.

A Pair of Reveries

5 Sep

A couple of lost baseball poems on a holiday:

Grantland Rice, in The New York Tribune, 1919:

By Way of Revery

But yesterday I watched them start,

Young wonders all in serried row;

By now I’ve seen them all depart–

The years flow faster than we know

For I remember, young and slim,

How Matty gathered game by game;

Today how many mention him?

The years flow faster than all fame.

Matty

Matty

Where Wagner swung out for his blow–

Where Larry leaned against the ball–

How swift they were last week or so–

The years flow faster than them all.

Today, fresh from the corner lot,

We praise some youngster on the team;

Tomorrow’s page will know him not–

The years flow faster than we dream.

Grantland Rice

Grantland Rice

And five years earlier, Ed Remley of The Chicago Inter-Ocean was nostalgic for Cubs teams past:

Reverie

I was feeling both dusty and bare–

rocky and sober

And the stands were both

The stands were deserted and bare;

‘Twas a day like in lonesome October

And nineteen-fourteen was the year;

I was out at the Cubs’ lonely ballpark

And the ghosts of gone heroes were there;

It was out at the Cubs’ lonesome ballpark

And the Cubs played a ball game out there.

I was sleepy and fell in a trance;

I saw Tinker and Evers and Chance.

Tinker, Evers and Chance

Tinker, Evers and Chance

Is that Steinfeldt or just Heinie Zim?

Well, it looks much like Harry.  It’s him;

Old Mordecai Brown did a dance

On the rubber–a one-step and prance–

And the ball shot to Kling

Like a hell-possessed thing;

I saw all of this stuff at a glance.

But I woke–ouch, I woke from the dream

And I gazed at the laboring team–

Well, they looked pretty good,

But I wished that I could

See again the sweet team of my dream.

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things–Lost Quotes

30 Jun

The Detroit Free Press had no love for Cap Anson of the Chicago White Stockings, and observed in 1888:

“The majority of the Chicago players are courteous, gentlemanly fellows, and as Anson naturally finds no pleasure in their companionship he is generally rather lonesome.”

Cap Anson

Cap Anson

The Cincinnati Enquirer had a similarly low view of the entire White Stockings team in 1879:

“The Boston Herald says the greatest trouble with the new Chicago nine will be able to tell whether it will try to win.  We think its greatest problem will be whether or not it will keep sober.”

Charles Webb Murphy was often asked after giving up his interest in the Chicago Cubs if he regretted leaving baseball for much less glamorous businesses.  In 1914, Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Examiner said Murphy answered the question by telling people:

 Charles Webb Murphy

Charles Webb Murphy

“Well, not one of my gravel pits has jumped to the Federal League.”

Arthur Irwin was one of the best-known scouts of his time, but by 1912, he declared that most of the good players were gone:

Arthur Irwin

Arthur Irwin

“Scouting isn’t like it used to be.  There was a time when a man could go through the bushes and pick up all kinds of men; but times have changed since then.  The scout who is lucky to pick up one really good ballplayer in a season can congratulate himself and feel satisfied he has earned his salary.”

Fred Clarke gave a toast on Honus Wagner’s 42nd birthday.  The Pittsburgh Press quoted him:

“During all the years we played together I never knew him to make a wrong play.”

Wagner

Honus Wagner

The previous year’s celebration of Wagner’s birthday included this quote in a letter from Johnny Evers:

“You hear about ‘second’ Cobbs, ’another’ Lajoie, but you never hear about ‘second’ Wagner’s. Why?  Simply because there never will be a second Wagner.”

Nap Lajoie “How I Win”

13 May

Napoleon Lajoie spoke to Joseph B. Bowles in 1910 for one of the syndicated journalist’s series of articles called “How I Win.”

Lajoie said:

“It is hard to tell how any man wins a ballgame, because winning depends so much upon other members of the team.  I think that the biggest factor in winning, in my case at least, is in having what I think is the baseball instinct.  Whether that instinct is natural or acquired, or merely the result of quickness of eye, or what I do not pretend to know.  But I believe that a great part of a ballplayer’s success both in batting and in fielding is the result rather of instinct than of anything else.  Many times players  do things almost without thinking that are exactly right, and many times when they think out a thing carefully they do exactly the wrong thing.”

Napoleon Lajoie

Napoleon Lajoie

But after saying he wasn’t sure how he won, Lajoie decided he did know:

 “As far as I am concerned, I win games by hitting.  It seems to me I always could hit, and in spite of the fact that some pitchers think otherwise, I hit almost any kind of ball equally hard.  I have often wondered why this was.  Perhaps it was natural.  I never want to know what a pitcher is going to pitch and would much rather figure out for myself what ball is coming than have a coacher or anyone else tell me.”

Lajoie said he had determined that his ability to hit was “a natural gift” which required practice to refine:

“Position at the bat is a big thing in hitting.  A batter should be firmly on his feet, with the balls of his feet holding the ground tightly, and he should not shift position while striking. ..I do not try to hit the ball as hard as possible, but rather to meet it squarely, and in this I think a quick and steady eye helps.”

laj

Lajoie’s eyes

Lajoie said he was “striving always” for an advantage at the plate:

“It is a guessing match between the pitcher and the batter at the best, and experience ought to show a batter just what a pitcher is likely to pitch to him on any given ball.  When runners are on bases batting becomes more of an art…I think my position at the bat and long, steady, sweeping stroke helps me very much in the hit-and-run game, for I am able to hit balls that other batters would miss entirely.  Even if I am certain of missing the ball I swing at it hard so as to cause the catcher to lose a step or a foot or two of ground in making his throw.”

Lajoie

Lajoie

In the end, the man in the midst of a season in which, at age 35, he led the American League in games, at-bats, hits, doubles, total bases, and batting average, said:

“Keen eyesight, close observation and attention to every detail is necessary to win ballgames.  Anyone who grows careless or indifferent ceases to be a winner.”

Lost Advertisements–Anheuser-Busch, Washington Senators

5 Feb

 

ab1910sox

In 1910, a series of Anheuser-Busch ads  appeared in several Washington D.C. papers. The ad above appeared when the Chicago White Sox faced the Senators in early May:

Comiskey’s New White Sox are in Town

The headline referred to Charles Comiskey‘s shakeup of his team, which included the appointment of Hugh Duffy as manager, and a new starting infield; first baseman Chick Gandil, second baseman Rollie Zeider, and shortstop Lena Blackburne, and Billy Purtell at third.

An advertisement later that week featured caricatures of Napoleon Lajoie and Hughie Jennings, and described Rube Waddell as “The only wild animal of his kind in captivity:”

ab1910nap

The ads were similar in style and content to those for Old Underoof Whiskey that appeared in Chicago papers during the same period–all advertised upcoming games, commented on the behavior of fans and players, and chronicled the year’s pennant races–with one exception.

A July ad featured the full text, with illustrations, of Ernest Thayer’s “Casey at the Bat:”

ab1910casey

They only appeared for one season.

 

Ray Schalk on “Baseball Brains”

1 Feb

After the Chicago White Sox defeated the New York Giants in the 1917 World Series, Sox catcher Ray “Cracker” Schalk took to the pages of “Baseball Magazine” with his opinion of statistics:

Ray Schalk

Ray Schalk

“Offhand I would say that fielding averages are pretty bad, pitchers’ averages rather punk, batting averages merely fair.  But the worst of all are catchers’ averages.

“How are you going to tell a good catcher?  By his batting average?  By his fielding average?  By the runs he scores?  Of course all these things are important.  But they haven’t any direct connection with good, bad or indifferent catching as such.  A catcher may or may not be a good batter or base runner.  And whatever his hitting or run getting ability he may be a great or mediocre catcher.”

Schalk said it was “easy…from the records” to determine an outfielder or shortstop’s ability:

“But a man might be the best catcher the world ever saw or the worst, and there would be no way under heaven to gain that information from the season’s statistics.

“First of all, a catcher must have baseball brains.  It isn’t enough to say brains; you must add the adjective ‘baseball’ to describe what you mean.”

Schalk noted that many of his contemporaries were educated:

“I admit this is the day of the college player in baseball.  I admit that the better education a man has, other things being equal, the better ball player he will be.  But he might know a lot of philosophy or Greek literature and be a frost on foul flies.  Ty Cobb has the ideal baseball brains.  But Ty isn’t a college man.  On the other hand I used to play in the minors with a graduate of a well-known university who was a brilliant scholar and a good natural athlete.  But he was positively the limit in playing baseball.  He would do the most incomprehensible things.  In fact, he was impossible.

Hans Wagner and Nap Lajoie are not college men, have not enjoyed as liberal an education, perhaps, as most of the rest of us.  But if any medical laboratory wants a sample of a real baseball brain, let him open negotiations with the Dutchman or the Frenchman for the use of his skull when he is thru with it.

Honus Wagner

Honus Wagner

“I believe there are fellows with a natural born instinct to play baseball.  They invariably do the right thing at the right time.  That is what I mean by baseball brains.  Furthermore, such a brain must above all act quickly.  There are many thousands of people, even in the stands, who understand good baseball and could dope out the proper thing for a fielder or a batter to do under given conditions.  But that isn’t enough.  The man with a baseball brain must not only do the right thing but he must do it instantly.  It is quickness of thought quite as much as correctness which marks the star player.  Hal Chase and Ty Cobb are scintillating examples of quick thought on the diamond.”

And, said Schalk, “quick thought” was most important behind the plate:

“Now the catcher, above all men, must have a good baseball brain.  Most of his work, the most important part of his work, is hidden from the spectators’ eye.  The man in the stands can seldom follow what is going on in the catcher’s brain.  But the catcher, much more than the pitcher, holds the game in the hollow of his hand.  The catcher, much more than the pitcher, is the keystone of the baseball arch.”

The man who thought statistics didn’t have “any direct connection” to a catcher’s value made it into the Hall of Fame in 1955.  He has the lowest career average (.253) among enshrined catchers.

Armando Marsans’ Tall Tale

19 Oct

Baseball writers were fascinated by every utterance of the Cincinnati Reds’ two Cuban players, Armando Marsans and Rafael Almeida.  Marsans was the more popular—and more successful—of the two.   He was also the product of well-to-do background.

marsansandalmeida

                           Marsans and Almeida

William A. Phelon of The Cincinnati Times-Star illustrated the cultural difference between the Reds’ two Cuban players:

“(S)omeone asked Almeida and Marsans if they wouldn’t like tickets to a grand opera.  ‘Si, si, accented Marsans, delightedly.  I love grand opera—eet ees fines’ of all entertainment for a gentleman.’

‘I thank you much,” negatived Almeida, “but I care not to go.  To me, grand opera eet sound like de screech of de beeg tomcat, and about so much sensible.’”

Perhaps made up on his own, perhaps captivated by the erudite Marsans, perhaps in on the joke—it wasn’t always clear when Phelon was in on the joke—he quoted Marsans spinning a tale of a Cuban legend in his column in 1912:

“I have seen all the great ballplayers of the present time.  I have been in post-season series against (Napoleon) Lajoie and (Joe) Jackson and have made trips just to see Ty Cobb.  They are wonderful ballplayers, but I give you my word that the greatest I ever looked upon was an Indian named Canella, and popularly called Cinnamon.

“Canella was of a strange Indian race that is supposed to be extinct—the Sibboneys [sic Ciboney] of Cuba, who populated the island when the Spaniards came.  The historians and scientific books all say that they are extinct, and it would doubtless be so, if it were not for the fact that they still live in eastern Cuba and have a little city of their own.  They are tall men with ancient Greek faces—nothing but the color of the Indian to make resemble such men and (John “Chief”) Meyers and (Charles “Chief”) Bender—and they are an athletic people, more agile and active by far than we.  Baseball is their own pet diversion, and Canella, known as Cinnamon, was the greatest of them all.

“Canella, who cannot be over 27 even now, came out a few years ago, and at once became the marvel of eastern Cuba.  He was a pitcher, and a star on the slab, but he was also a batsman, lightening base runner, and clever outfielder.  The records of six years ago show Canella, in some 60 games hit .446 and stole 55 bases.  Havana’s best clubs went up against him and found him invincible while he turned the tide of the closest games with his own batting.

“Canella received no offers from the big American leagues, They took it for granted he was a light colored negro, and when his friends explained that he was an Indian the Americans laughed and said ‘There are no Indians in Cuba—the Spaniards killed them all 400 years ago.’

Armando Marsans

Armando Marsans

“So Canella kept right on playing in Cuba, and he seemed to improve each succeeding season.  At least he became so terrible that even the Havana and Almendares clubs sought excuses to avoid meeting him, and the weaker clubs would face him and get shut out every time.  Finally, some influential Cubans managed to make an American magnate understand that Canella was no Negro, and all was arranged for his tryout in the coming spring.  And then came the news that Canella’s arm was gone, and he could never pitch again.

“It seems that the Indians of Sibboney [sic] still practice the games of their forefathers, and of their favorite sports which is throwing the javelin,  Coming home for a visit, Canella saw the young men of the tribe practicing the spear throw.  Laughingly, he said ‘It is many years since I have done thix—let me try.’ And picking up a slender spear, he hurled it with all his might—and something went snap, crack, in his upper arm as he let go of the javelin.  The arm, so long accustomed to throwing the baseball, gave way when he tried to throw the spear, and never since has Canella been able to throw a ball from the pitching slab as far as the catcher.  It was a shame because Cinnamon Canella was the greatest pitcher, the finest batter, and the fastest base runner that I have ever gazed upon.”

Lost Advertisements–Lajoie for Nuxated Iron

7 Aug

lajoienuxated

 

Not to be outdone by Ty Cobb, Harry Hooper and Joe Jackson who also endorsed the new “miracle drug” from DAE Health Laboratories in Detroit in 1916, Napoleon Lajoie took his turn in an advertisement for Nuxated Iron.

Napoleon Lajoie–World’s Greatest Veteran Baseball Player–‘Comes Back’ says Nuxated Iron Has Given him Tremendous New Force, Power and Endurance After 23 Years’ Service He Can Now Go Through The Hardest Game Without Fatigue–Physicians’s Opinion

Lajoie’s testimonial for the product said:

“When a man gets past forty, some people seem to think he is finished, especially where athletics are concerned.  But I believe the way I play today proves that the strength, vitality and youthful ginger which are the chief assets of young fellows, can be possessed to just as a great a degree by a man of my age if he keeps his body full of iron.  Nuxated Iron has put the ‘pep of youth’ into my whole body.”

Most doctors disagreed with Lajoie’s assessment.

The Journal of the American Medical Association took notice of the Nuxated Iron ad campaign and in October of 1916 had this to say about the “miracle drug:”

“Newspapers whose advertising ethics are still in the formative stage have, for some months past, been singing—at so much a song—the praised of “Nuxated Iron.”  The public has been that this nostrum is what makes Ty Cobb, “the greatest baseball batter of all time,” a “winner” and is what helped Jess Willard “to whip Frank Moran” besides being the “untold secret” of Willard’s “great triumph over Jack Johnson.”

All that DAE would say about the ingredients were:

“Formula—The valuable blood, nerve force and tissue building properties of this preparation are due to organic iron in the form of ferrum peptonate in combination with nux vomica (strychnine) phosphoglycerate and other valuable ingredients.

But alas, The AMA Journal was not impressed with the claims made by Nuxated Iron’s endorsements:

“The Journal felt that it owed it to the public to find out just how much iron and nux vomica there were in ‘Nuxated Iron.’  Packages of the nostrum…were subjected to analysis.”

What the analysis found was that the formula that made Ty Cobb a “winner,” offered no health benefits:

“There is only one-twenty-fifth of a grain of iron in each ‘Nuxated Iron’ tablet, while the amount of nux vomica…is practically negligible…In a dollar bottle of ‘Nuxated Iron’ the purchaser gets, according to our analysis, less than 2 ½ grams of iron; in 100 Blaud’s Pills, which can be purchased at any drug store for from 50 to 75 cents, there are 48 grains of iron.”

To sum up their analysis The Journal called the claims made by Nuxated Iron “the sheerest advertising buncombe.”

Cobb was said to have earned as much as $1000 for his endorsement, there is no record of what Lajoie was paid.

Nuxated Iron remained on the market until at least 1921; although by then they had sought a higher power to endorse the product.

Portions of this post appeared in one about the Cobb advertisement for Nuxated Iron, published February 15, 2013.