Tag Archives: Nap Lajoie

“That Night I was as Chesty as a Pouter Pigeon”

23 Aug

Red Donahue spent five seasons, and part of a sixth, during his 13-year major league career as a teammate of Napoleon Lajoie. In 1905, he told The Cleveland News that before they became teammates for the first time in 1898:

“For just a few days once, I imagined I had discovered how to cut down Larry’s batting average.

“I was with the Cardinals and Lajoie was with Philadelphia, when someone told me the big Frenchman could not hit a slow ball. When my turn came to face the Phillies, I handed up a slow teaser to Lajoie and he hit the ball to me for an easy out. Four times I tossed him out at first and each time on a high slow one.

red

Donahue

“That night I was as chesty as a pouter pigeon and told the other pitchers to hand slow ones to Larry and he was easy money. Later, I again pitched against the Phillies and with visions of retiring the king I cut a fast wide one over and followed it with a slow ball just like those he had failed to get out of the diamond the last time I faced him.

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Lajoie

“Well, Larry met the ball and it went out of the lot. Next time I served him a high fast one, but the result was the same. He had a three-base hit.  I tried everything I had that day, but no matter where the ball went, high, low, wide or in close. Fast or slow, when Larry got ready to wallop it he did, and I was chalked up with four hits to my discredit.”

Everyone had Donahue’s number in 1896 and ’97–he was 17-59 with a 5.99 ERA—in 1898 he joined Lajoie in Philadelphia.

Lost Advertisements: An Interview with Lajoie

5 Jul

nap.jpg

“This superb ball player was almost lost to the game. He tells the public how he saved himself this spring.”

A 1903 advertisement for Father John’s Medicine. The ad said that Lajoie, “the best paid and greatest ball player in the world,” had been thrown “into an illness which lasted all winter and spring, after the 1902 season. Lajoie said:

“During my illness I did not begin to improve till I took Father John’s Medicine. It quickly built up my body to its former strength and made me active as at any time in my career. Now I carry a bottle of the medicine with me on the trips with my club and it keeps me well all the time.”

Lajoie, a popular endorser of patent medicines, and back to his “former strength” won his third consecutive batting title in 1903.

 

 

 

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #29

2 Jan

McGraw on Brouthers, 1907

T.P. Magilligan covered baseball for Bay area newspapers during the first two decades of the 20th Century.

In 1907, he talked to John McGraw during the New York Giants’ West Coast tour:

“Dan Brouthers was the greatest hitter I ever saw.  Lajoie is a good and wonderful hitter, and so was the late Ed Delahanty, but for straightaway slugging I think the equal of big Dan never lived.  He used to take a nice healthy swing at it, and I tell you that when Brouthers rapped the ball on the nose that she sped with the force of Gatling gun.  Getting in the way of one of Brouther’s shots generally meant the loss of a hand for a time.  He was the best batter of them all, and that bars none of them.  Brouthers seldom hit them high in the air.  He had a way of smashing them on a line to right field and they fairly whistled through the air.

brouthers

Dan Brouthers

McDonough on Anson, 1910

Ed McDonough played semi-pro ball in Chicago before beginning his professional career at age 22.  The Chicago Evening Post said, “Mac played with and against (Cap) Anson for a couple of seasons,” when Anson owned and played for Anson’s Colts in the Chicago City League:

“’During practice Uncle Anson used to step up to the plate and offer fifty dollars to any man on the grounds who could strike him out,’ says Mac.  ‘He would give the fellow who attempted it the right to choose any player he wanted for his umpire.  Sometimes they would get two strikes on him, but I never saw anybody earn a fifty.  Cap didn’t ask them to give him anything if he kept from fanning.  That was before he went broke and he made the offer more to show the fellows he could still clout a few.”

anson

 “Cap” Anson

Foster on Bugs, 1911

After Arthur “Bugs” Raymond slipped from an 18-12, 2.47 ERA season in 1909 to an 4-11 3.81 performance in 1910, many still held out hope that Raymond, still just 28 years old, could overcome his demons.  When the pitcher checked himself into a hospital in Dwight, IL that winter, John B. Foster of The New York Telegram wrote:

“If Raymond does not break up the institution with his pranks, and if he really makes an effort to put himself in proper condition, the chances of the New York National League club in 1911 will be greatly enhanced.

“If some of the self-constituted friends of this unfortunate young man—and he is unfortunate, for he has the skill of a great ball player and the physical ability to earn thousands of dollars for himself—will be kind enough to let him alone, and assist in the good work which has been begun, they will prove their friendship to be far more lasting that if they cajole him away from those who are doing their best to help him.

“There are some who think it funny to encourage a man of Raymond’s peculiar temperament in a line of conduct which leads to his downfall…There are more than ball players who would like to see Raymond have a real chance to show what is in him.  The skill of the man as a player is too great to be thrown away in idle rioting.

“Help him out.”

Raymond quickly reverted to his old ways in 1911, and despite a 6-4 record and a 3.31 ERA he was released by the Giants in June.  He was dead 15 months later, at age 30.

bugs pix

Raymond

White on Risberg, 1916

Doc White, the former White Sox pitcher was working in the front office of the Pacific Coast League Vernon Tigers—he managed the team on an interim basis the previous season as well—and told The Los Angeles Times that the “greatest arm in baseball” was playing in Vernon:

“(Charles) Swede Risberg…in addition to being everything else, is a pitcher of real ability.  White says if the Swede would perfect a wind-up that would enable him to get his body behind his delivery he would have more speed than Walter Johnson.”

The 21-year-old Risberg, the starting shortstop, appeared in two games as a pitcher for Vernon in 1916, he was 1-1 with a 3.24 ERA.  It would be the last time he pitched in organized ball.  He was purchased by the Chicago White Sox the following season.

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Swede Risberg

“I knew but Little, but Schaefer Taught me.”

19 Sep

Ty Cobb had a dilemma in the fall of 1910.  After being presented with a new Chalmers automobile (along with Napoleon Lajoie) for leading the league in batting.  Ed Grillo of The Washington Evening Star said he found a solution:

cobbchalmers

Cobb in his Chalmers

“Ty Cobb has presented Herman Schaefer with his old automobile.  The car which he has been using will be of no further use now that he has received the one offered for the best major league batsman.

“In giving Schaefer the machine Cobb is repaying ‘Germany’ for the many kindly turns he did for Cobb.”

Cobb told Grillo:

“If it were not for Schaefer’s interest in me I would not have made myself the ballplayer I am…When I joined the Detroit club (in 1905) I knew but little, but Schaefer taught me.  The very first day he got after me because I did not pick my feet up and run as he thought I should.  Then he told me to turn toward second when going to first so that if anything happened to the ball I could take another base.”

Schaefer told Grillo his most difficult task was teaching the 18-year-old Cobb to slide—Cobb agreed:

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Schaefer

“I thought it was too dangerous in those days and would not try.  But one day in an exhibition game at Indianapolis I saw Schaefer slide away from the baseman holding the ball, and I made up my mind that I would learn the trick.  I asked Schaefer to teach me, and for the next two weeks we would go to the park every morning and he would go through the motion of catching and touching me with the ball.  He would tell me just when and how to slide, and if I made a mistake he would change places and he would do the sliding.

“In that way I learned everything I know about base running, and I owe it all to Schaefer, and I gave him my machine in appreciation of the many kindnesses he has shown me.”

“None of Them Were Slick Enough to Carry the Dutchman’s Glove”

20 Jul

Chester L. Smith, sports editor for The Pittsburgh Press recalled several stories about Honus Wagner after the Hall of Fame shortstop died in 1955:

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Wagner

Cy (Young) once said that Ty Cobb, Wagner, Napoleon Lajoie, Ed Delahanty, and Cap Anson were the best all-around hitters he ever faced.:

“’Ty was the most resourceful,’ Young went on. “’He could push, pull, or bunt.  Odd thing though, he never could pull an outside pitch, while Wagner could.’”

Smith said:

“Of course, there will never be an end to the argument as to which was the better—Ty or Honus.  By why debate it? There’s room for both of them in the game’s Valhalla

“As a carrier of the Wagner standard pointed out: ‘The best hitting shortstop of recent years was Joe Cronin, yet Cronin couldn’t hit within 30 points of him.  The best fielding shortstops have been Leo Durocher, Marty Marion, and Lou Boudreau.  None of them were slick enough to carry the Dutchman’s glove.  Travis Jackson had a rifle arm.  Wagner had a better one. No shortstop was ever much of a base-stealer.  Old Honus stole 50 or more bags for five straight seasons with a top mark of 61.”

Smith said Wagner told him a story about “the harsh days when he broke in.” Wagner said during his third season (1899), in a game versus the Giants:

“(O)ne of their men smashed a home run.

‘”Nice hit,’ Honus said when the Giant passed by.

“’Go to hell,’ snapped the New Yorker.

“’I felt real good about that,’ Wagner said afterward.  ‘He was the first major leaguer who ever spoke to me.’”

“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.

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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.”

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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.”

“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.

 

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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?

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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.”