Tag Archives: National Association

“Chicago has been Successful in her Efforts to Wrest the Base Ball Supremacy from Cincinnati”

26 Aug

In 1916 Jimmy Wood recounted his greatest triumph, his Chicago White Stockings’ two victories over the Cincinnati Red Stockings.

“When we went to Cincinnati for that first game even our most loyal rooters were pessimistic.  It was not that they lacked confidence in our ability, but because they feared we would be ‘jobbed’ by some Cincinnati umpire, or menaced so by the rowdy crowds that we wouldn’t play our real game because of fear of violence if we should win.”

Most of the doubts in Chicago had disappeared.  Even The Chicago Tribune, which pronounced the team a failure before Wood and Tom Foley had completed putting it together and remained critical through their early struggles, allowed that the game was “liable to be a close one.”

The White Stockings would benefit from the injury to Red Stockings shortstop George Wright; and contrary to Wood’s recollection, they also benefitted from the selection of the umpire.

Wood’s 1916 account told a far-fetched story of the selection of the game’s umpire:

“Just before the game we made an announcement to the stands that we wanted some spectators to umpire the game for us—and that Cincinnati and Chicago residents were barred.  From out of the stands, after a long delay, stepped a salesman, named Milligan, from Philadelphia.  He convinced us quickly that he was thoroughly conversant with the game, and he was named an umpire.”

William Milligan might have been a salesman, but he was also a former member of the West Philadelphia Club amateur baseball team with whom Chicago outfielder Ned Cuthbert played briefly in 1867.  The Cincinnati press also discovered that he had traveled to Cincinnati with the White Stockings and stayed with them at the Gibson House Hotel.

The Cincinnati Gazette said of Milligan:

“The umpire was doubtless a very nice sort of man, but he knew precious little of base ball.  His decisions were given in a weak and faltering voice and after much hesitation, and we hardly think Captain Harry Wright could have made a worse selection.”

Wood cast the umpire in a much different light:

“Milligan was of an heroic mold.  He umpired that game fairly and squarely as he saw it.  He played no favorites.”

The Gazette also noted George Wright’s absence as “a serious drawback upon the nine, and they do not now play with the vim and energy usual to them when the King is present at short field.”  Despite that, the paper did give some credit to Wood’s club:

“The Chicago nine could not have been in better condition for a grand trial of skill with the famous Cincinnatis than they were yesterday.”

George Wright, Red Stockings shortstop missed the first game

George Wright, Red Stockings shortstop missed the first game

The White Stockings won the game 10-6 leaving; The Gazette said the “The base ball public of Cincinnati will feel deeply humiliated,” by the loss.

The New York Times said as a result of the victory Chicago was experiencing “the warmest expressions of delight, the more so, as no one anticipated it.”

The Chicago Tribune’s headline and sub headline were less subdued:

WHITE ABOVE THE RED

 The Redoubtable Red Stockings Defeated by Chicago’s $18,000 Nine. When the Garden City Sets Out to Do a Thing, She Does it. It Took Money      to Accomplish the Business, but it is Done.

Jimmy Wood

Jimmy Wood

Wood said in his questionable 1916 account that after the victory his team barely escaped the fans:

“Immediately after the game was over the crowd swarmed upon the field, intent upon wreaking vengeance upon us.  I had anticipated this move and instructed my players for a quick get-away.  When the last out was made we dashed for the exits and jumped into our carriages.  As we ran across the field many of us were struck with stones and bottles.”

After the White Stockings made their escape—allegedly with umpire Milligan joining them for the return trip—back to Chicago where Wood said “we were given a greeting unlike any ever accorded ball players before.”

The following month the rematch was played at Chicago’s Dexter Park.

Wood claimed in 1916:

“Before the game began, 27,000 admissions at $1 each had been sold, with another 25,000 in a wild scramble for tickets…The paid admission for the game was 27,000; the ‘free admissions’ went well beyond 25,000, making a 52,000 crowd within the park when the call ‘play ball’ sounded.”

According to every contemporary report of the game the attendance was around 15,000 (The Chicago Tribune said it was 18,000), still an incredible crowd for 1870, but far less than Wood’s memory.  The Cincinnati Commercial also observed that “Not more than 500 ladies were present.”

For this game the mutually agreed upon umpire was Brooklyn Atlantics catcher Bob (the other“Death to Flying Things”) Ferguson.

Umpire Bob Ferguson

Umpire Bob Ferguson

In recounting the game in 1916, once again Wood’s recollections were far from accurate, but reporter and “baseball historian” Frank G. Menke did nothing to verify Wood’s memories:

“Things broke badly for us in the early innings.  An error or two on the part of my boys, mixed with several long hits by the Red Stockings, gave them a lead of five runs.  Later on they increased it and when the seventh inning was ended the score stood 11 to 2 in favor of the Cincinnati club.”

Actually, Chicago scored one run in the first inning, Cincinnati tied it in the third, the red Stockings scored four in the sixth and the White Stockings added one in the seventh; making the score 5 to 2 at the end of seven.  The White Stockings scored 14 runs in the last two innings and won 16 to 13.

The Chicago Republican said:

“From first to last the game was one of the finest ever seen in the country…Up to the end of the fifth inning not a point was lost on either side, and even then the increase in the scores was rather the effect of an increase in the strength of the batting than the result of errors.”

The Chicago Tribune said:

“It has been done again; this time in a manner which leaves no doubt as to whether Chicago has been successful in her efforts to wrest the base ball supremacy from Cincinnati.”

Of course the newspapers in the two towns viewed the performance of the umpire differently.

Chicago’s take, from The Republican:

“Of the umpire, Mr. Ferguson, too much cannot be said in praise…he presented one of the best specimens of an umpire ever seen.  It is sufficient, perhaps, to say, that neither side questioned one of his decisions.”

And Cincinnati’s from The Gazette:

“The umpire was against us, the weather was against us, the crowd was against us, the heavens were against us, the ground was against us, the pestilential air of the Chicago River was against us, the Chicago nine were against us, and last, but not least, the score was against us.”

However, The Cincinnati Commercial did praise Ferguson, saying he “umpired the game superbly.”

Wood and Tom Foley had achieved their goal in organizing the White Stockings; they had defeated Harry Wright’s Red Stockings.  They were named “champions” of the National Association of Base Ball Players that year (in a disputed decision—and a story for another day).

After his baseball career ended in 1875 Wood went into various business ventures in Chicago.  In 1891 he bought a tavern on Dearborn Street with another famous Chicago ballplayer, New Williamson—the two remained partners in the business until Williamson’s death in 1894.  Wood eventually settled in New Orleans, he died while on a trip to San Francisco in 1927.

Foley, remained well-known in Chicago for his connection with baseball, but became even better known for his role in popularizing billiards.  The Associated Press called him “the father of base ball and billiards in the west,” in his 1926 obituary, and said Foley was:

“Promoter of the first amateur billiard tournament in the country, Foley made a significant contribution to the game when he was a prominent member of the committee which in 1882 formulated the balk line form of play.  He was himself an expert cueist and held the Illinois championship for two years.”

Tom Foley "King of base ball and billiards in the west"

Tom Foley “King of base ball and billiards in the west”

More more bit of billiard trivia about Foley.  In 1897 The New York Times reported that he had opened the first “Billiard parlor for women,: when he created a “ladies annex” to his new pool hall in Chicago:

“Foley has a friend who likes billiards and also likes his wife, but refuses to buy a billiard table for his better half.  He told Foley about it the other day, and Foley after a little thought determined to test the scheme which he now announces.”

“Offered him $1,000 to Throw the Game”

21 Aug

Pitcher George “Charmer” Zettlein began his professional career with the Chicago White Stockings in 1871 when his friend, manager Jimmy Wood convinced him to leave the Brooklyn Atlantics.  He followed Wood to the Troy Haymakers, Brooklyn Eckfords and Philadelphia Whites, and they returned to Chicago together in 1874.

1875 would be the end of their professional association.

It’s unclear where the trouble began.  When Wood’s “private” conversation with a reporter from The St. Louis Democrat was printed verbatim in the newspaper, Zettlein was the only Chicago player he said anything negative about—referring to his friend “as a poor batter and runner.”   Whether the comment contributed is unclear, but shortly after the season began, and the team started struggling, The Chicago Tribune said there was undisclosed “trouble” between the pitcher and manager.

George Zettlein

George Zettlein

Rumors of tension between the two heated up when allegations of throwing games were leveled at team captain Dick Higham; Zettlein also became a target of rumors, including second-hand reports that Wood accused him of “laying down.”  The Tribune said the day after Higham was replaced as team captain:

“It is known that the name of Zettlein was brought before the meeting (of the White Stockings directors) in connection with hints before made that affected his honesty.  It is due to Mr. Zettlein to say that no charges were made against him…the conviction is generally expressed that the White Stockings pitcher works hard to win.”

After the White Stockings and Zettlein lost 15-3 to the Mutuals in New York on July, 31 Wood and his pitcher were finished.  Zettlein sent a letter to club President William Hulbert accusing Wood of “arbitrary and unjust” treatment, and demanded his release.

The Tribune said:

“(Zettlein) will play ball in Chicago no more, except as the member of some visiting club.  He has asked to be relieved from the contract which binds him to the Chicago management.  His request has been granted, and he will not return here with the club…Zettlein states that Wood’s conduct towards him during their Eastern trip has been unbearable.”

Part of Zettlein’s dissatisfaction was that Wood played him at first base in three games; although he had played at least one game in the field every season except 1874, seemingly with no complaints.

The Tribune said Zettlein claimed Wood “has systematically imposed upon him to such an extent that he cannot remain.”

Already on the East Coast, Zettlein immediately signed with the Philadelphia Whites.  His troubles weren’t over.

After less than a month with the Whites, the vague rumors in Chicago turned into direct allegations from his new teammates.  The Philadelphia Times said on August 31, after an 11-3 Athletics loss:

“After the game between the Philadelphia and Hartford (Dark Blues) clubs yesterday, while the (Athletics) players were undressing an exciting discussion took place to the cause of the severe defeat.  (Third baseman/manager Mike) McGeary was angry and he charged (outfielder Fred) Treacy with being in collusion with the gamblers and selling the game, and pointing to Zettlein, said, ‘And there’s another one who’s in it.’”

Zettlein and Treacy had been teammates, with Wood, on the 1871 White Stockings.  Both players denied the charge, and both were immediately suspended by the team pending an investigation.  At the same time the two suspended players charged that McGeary was the gambler, and said a Hartford player, well-known for his integrity could back up their allegations.  The Times said:

“Zettlein and Treacy had a talk with (Jack) Burdock, of the Hartfords…a meeting of the Philadelphia club was held, at which the subject was brought up.  Zettlein and Treacy were present, and made statements to the effect that Burdock (intended to show) that prior to the game McGeary had approached him and told him he had a large amount of money bet on the success of the Philadelphias and offered him $1,000 to throw the game so that the Philadelphias should win, and that he refused to have anything to do with such an arrangement.”

Burdock was also said to have additional information, including a charge that “McGeary approached him with (other) offers, saying they could make plenty of money,” but there is no record of Burdock ever discussing McGeary, or the allegations publicly.  The Times said “there was an exciting discussion over these astounding charges, “and that a committee was appointed to conduct an investigation.

Mike McGeary

Mike McGeary

Like most of the “investigations” into allegations of gambling in the National Association there appears to have been little real investigation of any of what was happening with the Philadelphia Whites.  Within a week the team announced that the “charges were not sustained.”  The only fallout from the scandal was that Bob Addy replaced McGeary as manager for the final seven regular season games.

In October when the Whites met the Athletics in a 10-game Philadelphia series, Zettlein walked off the mound during the sixth inning of the tenth game with his team behind 7 to 3.  The Philadelphia Inquirer said “Zettlein left the field, giving as an excuse that some of his men were trying to lose the game.”

Zettlein, (7), Wood (8), Treacey (9), as teammates with the 1871 Chicago White Stockings.

Zettlein, (7), Wood (8), Treacey (9), as teammates with the 1871 Chicago White Stockings.

Jimmy Wood never managed again after 1875.

After poor seasons during the National League’s inaugural year in 1876, Zettlein (4-20 for the Athletics) and Treacy (.214 and 39 errors for the New York Mutuals), two of the principals in the 1875 scandal were out of baseball.  McGeary, who joined the St. Louis Brown Stockings in 1876, would become a major figure in the 1877 game fixing scandal of 1877.  As with the charges 1875, nothing was proven and after sitting out the 1878 season McGeary returned to the National League and played until 1882.

“He must either admit that he sold yesterday’s game or acknowledge that he cannot play ball”

20 Aug

Heading into the 1875 season Chicago White Stockings manager Jimmy Wood was confident about his team’s chances.  The Chicago Tribune said:

“(Wood) says the men are strictly temperate, are all first-class ball players, and will enter the field without any of the petty jealousies and ill-feelings that weakened the nine last year.”

The St. Louis Democrat also printed “private” comments Wood made maligning the abilities of the Brown Stockings in comparison to his team.

Jimmy Wood

Jimmy Wood

Unfortunately for Wood the decline of the White Stockings began even before opening day.

The first blow to the team was what became known as “the Davy Force” case.  Force signed a contract to return to the White Stockings for the 1875 season on September 18, 1874; unfortunately for Chicago he also signed a contract to play for the Philadelphia athletics on December 5.  The Sporting News described the adjudication of the Force case:

“(In December) the matter was brought up and the judiciary committee (of the National Association) awarded Force to the Chicago club…At the spring meeting of the Association, held in Philadelphia, the Athletic club got in its political work.  Mr.(Charles) Sperling, of Philadelphia, was elected president of the Association, and he appointed a new judiciary committee which reversed the ruling of the old committee.”

The arbitrary nature of the new ruling—that Chicago did not have the right to sign Force for 1875 before the end of the 1874 season—enraged White Stocking President William Hulbert, and was one of the many complaints about how the National Association operated that led to the organization of the National League the following season.

With Force gone, Wood chose Dick Higham to be the team captain.  The 23-year-old Higham had played for the Baltimore Canaries and New York Mutuals, and Wood described him as “one of the surest and heaviest batters in the country, has experience and is a first-class base-runner. “  That perception of Higham quickly changed in Chicago.

Dick Higham

Dick Higham

Despite starting the season with an 11-2 record, the White Stockings were never going to catch the first place Boston Red Stockings, who won their first 26 games, and as the losing began team morale suffered.

As the team struggled, blame fell to Higham from fans, the press, and management.  The Tribune went so far as to question his integrity:

“It is not a pleasant thing to say of any ballplayer that his being left out of a nine increase interest of a game, but this is true of Higham; and yet he is one of the best players in the country when he wants to be…It may be Higham’s fault, or his misfortune, that he is suspected of purposely losing games.”

By the end of June Scott Hastings had replaced Higham as catcher (he was moved to second base) and he was stripped of his captaincy, which was given to outfielder John Glenn.

The Chicago Inter-Ocean had defended Higham in July declaring that there was “no tangible evidence” for the “charges…bandied about the streets,” but that would change by August after an 8 to 4 loss to the Athletics during which Higham “let balls go by him without attempting to stop them” and made two throwing errors:

“Higham’s play in yesterday’s game has caused some very ugly rumors to be circulated, in which he predominates as the leading character.  His play in the eighth inning was something extraordinary, and it was quite evident he did not want to save the Chicagos from defeat.  Many are fearless in asserting that he sold the game, and base their accusation on a circumstance that seems very plausible.  Probably Higham can explain what he was doing with a Chicago character at Pratt’s billiard hall waiting for the pool selling, and when he found out there was none what point he gave his companion when they both went to Foley’s and there bought pools on the Athletics.  Many persons, who claim to know, boldly assert that Higham was in partnership in the investments. ..He must either admit that he sold yesterday’s game or acknowledge that he cannot play ball.  In either case the Chicago management can easily do without him. “

The Tribune said the directors of the White Stockings had offered a $500 reward for evidence that any player had been “tampered with,” in any way:

“This offer is meant to cover proof that a player has received money to sell a game, or has promised to help lose a game with a view to profit.  The directors will not insist on absolute proof, such as the law would require, but will pay the reward named for evidence that will convince any fair man of the guilt of the accused party.”

It was never reported whether the reward was given to anyone, or if anyone made an effort to claim it.

On August 20 the White Stockings released Higham; as a result The Inter-Ocean said, “(T)he patrons of the game have begun to think more favorably of the nine, and generally remark that now they can witness an honest game.”

Higham finished the season with the New York Mutuals.  His unpleasant months in Chicago were not the first or last time his integrity was questioned.  While with the Mutuals in 1874 there were allegations that he had been involved in throwing a game against Chicago, and In 1882, Higham, while serving as a National League umpire, was dismissed for what The New York Times called, “’crookedness’ in his decisions in games between the Detroit and other clubs.”

During the drama over Higham, The Inter-Ocean also reported that utility infielder Joe Miller, who was slated to replace Higham at second base “had some misunderstanding,” with Wood and his “connection with the Chicago nine was severed.”

With the team mired in sixth place, and the former team captain chased out-of-town under a cloud of suspicion, it wasn’t surprising when the local papers started to predict the end of the line for the manager.

The Inter-Ocean not only said that the White Stockings would likely relieve Wood of his duties at the end of the year “attributable to his leniency to the players, which is truly a part of bad management,” but correctly speculated  “(Boston Red Stockings pitcher Albert)  Spalding will be the manager,” in 1876.

There’s one more chapter in the story of the 1875 White Stockings—tomorrow.

No Such Thing as “Off the Record”–Even in 1875

19 Aug

James Leon “Jimmy” Wood was a baseball pioneer.  The second baseman began his playing career as a 17-year-old in Brooklyn with the Eckfords in 1860.  After spending a decade as one of the best-known players on the East Coast Wood went to Chicago where he became the first manager of the newly formed White Stockings.

Wood is sometimes credited with being the man who invented spring training (a claim first advanced by Al Spink of The Sporting News) because in 1870 he took the Chicago team to New Orleans for a series of games with local teams, the Robert E. Lee’s, the Lone Stars, the Pelicans and the Southerns—most of those sources fail to mention that Harry Wright’s Red Stockings were in New Orleans at the same time.  (Wood’s reminiscences about the early days of the White Stockings coming up later this week).

Jimmy Wood, 1871

Jimmy Wood, 1871

Wood also managed the team the following season, when the White Stockings became one of the charter members of the National Association.  They finished second in 1871  but disbanded as a result of the great Chicago Fire in October.

Wood next played for and managed two teams that wouldn’t survive the year; the Troy Haymakers went bankrupt in July and the Brooklyn Eckfords who folded at the conclusion of a 3-26 1872 season.

After leading the Philadelphia Whites to a second place finish in 1873, Wood returned to Chicago and the newly re-formed White Stockings.

Wood was slated to play second and serve as captain, but would never play a game for the White Stockings or any other team.  After falling at his home during the spring of 1873, he developed an abscess on his leg, which kept him out of the lineup as the infection got worse.

In July The Chicago Tribune said:

“The well-known base ball player and former captain of the Chicago nine Jas. Wood, has had his leg amputated.  He has been unable to play this summer, owing to a disease of the bones, and has been under medical care for some months.  He was a most conscientious player, and has the esteem of all with whom he was connected.”

On August 20 The Chicago Inter-Ocean said Wood was named “manager of the club for the remainder of the present season and for the season of 1875.”  While he “officially” served as manager for the last 23 games of the season, both The Inter-Ocean and The Tribune said Wood was “unable to assume active duties,” and would be led on the field by team president William Hulbert (called “Hurlburt” by The Inter-Ocean).

By the spring of 1875, Wood had returned full-time to the management of the White Stockings, with plans to take the team for “two weeks of practice,” in April.

The Chicago manager had an off the record conversation with a reporter for The St. Louis Democrat in which he unfavorably compared the newly formed St. Louis Brown Stockings to his own team.  The paper printed the manager’s comments verbatim; even including his assertion that the comments were “private:”

“Now, said he, let us compare the players individually.  ‘For catcher there is (Tom) Miller and Higham; the former is inexperienced, poor runner, fair batter, and the only catcher you have, while Dick Higham is one of the surest and heaviest batters in the country, has experience and is a first-class base-runner.  (George) Bradley and (George) Zettlein—Zett is a poor batter and runner, to be sure, but on a pitch you ought to know as much as I can tell you.  I do not know anything about Bradley, but, if (Jim) Devlin pitches, I think we have the best of it, as he was second on our batting list last season.  First base, (Herman) Dehlman and (John) Glenn,  the former may play the base the best, but in batting, base running and general playing, Glenn can discount him.  Second base, (John) Peters and (Joe) Battin.  Well, I won’t compare notes with them, as anyone ought to know that Peters is head and shoulders above Battin in every respect.  (Davy) Force and (Dickey) Pearce, shortstop.  There is no better player in the country than Force, he being one of the very best batters.  Pearce has been one of the best, but, I think his race is run.  This is private, remember(Frank) Fleet and Warren White, third base.  Why just think of it; there is as much difference in them as in Battin and Peters.  White is first-class at the bat, and led the score on the Baltimore team last season, and is a fine base-runner in the bargain, while Fleet is not as good, by a jug full.  (Ned) Cuthbert and (Paul) Hines, left field.  The latter took balls away out in Cuthey’s field last season (Hines had played left field, with Cuthbert in center for the White Stockings the previous season).  Hines stands better at the bat—Cuthey is a fast baserunner.  (Lip) Pike and (Oscar) Bielaski center field.  Pike is the hardest batter, but no surer than Bielaski, while both are about the same in the field, they being the fastest runners in the country.  (Jack “Death to Flying Things”) Chapman and (Winfield Scott) Hastings right field.  The former won’t begin to show up with Hastings, as he is one if the finest batters and catchers in the business.

“’Take us all in all we are much stronger at the bat.  While St. Louis has but Pike and Cuthbert for base runners, we have but one poor base-runner in Zett; all the others are first class.  We have change pitchers and catchers—St. Louis has not.  If we don’t beat St. Louis eight out of ten games, we deserve to be thrown into the lake.’”

Dickey Pearce, "his race is run," according to Wood

Dickey Pearce, “his race is run,” according to Wood

A few of the players Wood referred to in early March ended up playing different positions, or like Davy Force, of whom Wood said “There is no better player in the country,” didn’t play for the White Stockings at all.

Regardless, he underestimated the ability of most of the St. Louis’ roster, while wildly inflating his club’s prospects; Wood’s team would underperform all season, finishing 30-37 in sixth place, behind the fourth place (39-29) Brown Stockings.

Wood wildly overestimated the quality of his team and presided over a season of dysfunction and scandal.  More on the 1875 White Stockings tomorrow.

“The Disappearing Oakland Infielder”

7 Aug

James Ernest “Jimmy” Frick began his career with the Iola Gasbags in the Missouri Valley League in 1904, hitting .331 in 106 games.  While Frick began the 1905 season with the Oklahoma City Mets in the Western Association, a “C” level league, press reports said he could have played at a higher level and The Sporting Life said St. Louis Cardinals, Hall of Famer pitcher Charles “Kid” Nichols “cannot understand why Jimmy Frick of Oklahoma City persists in hiding out it the bushes when he can make good in fast company.”

Frick was hitting above .300 in July when he was sold to the Seattle Siwashes in the Pacific Coast League; he hit .252 in 18 games until August 18 when The Associated Press said Frick “disappeared mysteriously.”

Four days later The Seattle Star said Frick who “was very popular” with local fans had jumped the Siwashes and rejoined Oklahoma City having been promised “$1000 and a chance to manage the team next year.”

Whether the reported deal was actually promised to Frick is unknown.  While he returned to Oklahoma City he never joined the Mets and finished the season with the Wichita Jobbers.

At the end of the 1905 season multiple teams laid claim to him.  The Associated Press said:

“The case of J. Frick who was claimed by Indianapolis, Wichita, Seattle and Oklahoma City was referred to Secretary (John) Farrell (of the National Association).”

In February of 1906 Frick was awarded to Wichita then immediately traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern League.  He spent the next five and a half years in the Eastern League with Toronto, the Baltimore Orioles and the Newark Indians.

On July 16, 1910, while with Baltimore, Frick was hit in the head with a pitch.  In August The Sporting Life said he had not yet returned to the lineup:

 “(Frick) is in a bad way in this city, as the result of being hit on the head by a pitched ball during the last home series of the Birds. Although the accident happened at least three weeks ago, Frick’s head is still in bad condition, his face is swollen and dizziness seizes him on the slightest provocation. It is doubtful if Frick will play again this season.”

He did return at the tail end of the season, but only appeared in a few games.  In 1911 he was sold to Newark, and after hitting just .200 in 28 games he was sold to the Troy Trojans in the New York State League.

Jimmy Frick

Jimmy Frick

Before the 1912 season, Harry Wolverton, third baseman and manager of the Oakland Oaks in the Pacific Coast League, was named manager of the New York Highlanders in the American League.  Oakland hired Bayard “Bud” Sharpe to manage the team; one of his first moves was to purchase Frick from Troy to fill the void Wolverton left at third.

By March 7 The Associated Press said Sharpe was “somewhat exercised about infielder Frick.”  The new third baseman had arrived in Oakland by train several days earlier, but had not arrived at the Oaks training camp in Livermore, California and had not been heard from him.  Sharpe showed up the following day, but it was reported he had spent several days in an Oakland hospital—it was not reported why he was hospitalized.

Frick began the season as the Oaks starting third baseman, but after hurting his foot in April, August “Gus” Hetling filled in and Frick never returned to the regular lineup.

On September 17, with Oakland in a battle for the pennant with the Vernon Tigers, the team was in Los Angeles when Frick, according to The Associated Press left his room at the Hotel Rosslyn and “dropped from sight.”

The Los Angeles Examiner said the Oakland team and the Los Angeles Police Department had looked for Frick for more than a week and found no sign of the infielder.  The Associated Press said “all of Frick’s haunts have been searched,” and that the disappearance “may hurt Oakland in their fight for the pennant, as he is considered the best utility infielder on the team.”

Herb McFarlin, Secretary of the Oaks, said:

“Frick has always been a steady player, not inclined to drink or run around.  He always has been absolutely dependable.”

On October 4 The Associated Press said “the disappearing Oakland infielder” had been found by his wife:

“He had been ill in a Los Angeles Hospital, assuming an alias so that he would not be bothered.”

As with his spring disappearance there was no mention as to why Frick was in the hospital.

On October 5 he was with the Oaks in Portland for a game with the Beavers, he did not play, but was “out on the coaching line rooting for his team.”

Frick was with the team on October 27 when they took both games of a double-header in Los Angeles; Vernon won both games of a doubleheader from Portland, and Oakland took the pennant with a winning percentage of .591 to Vernon’s .587.

Frick saw little action in the final weeks of the season, his replacement Hetling hit .297 and was awarded a Chalmers Automobile as the league’s most valuable player.

Gus Hetling, Frick's replacement at third

Gus Hetling, Frick’s replacement at third

Frick and his wife went to Portland at the end of the season, and in late November planned to leave for Oklahoma City where they owned a farm.  On November 20 Mrs. Frick went to pick up tickets for the trip, when she returned home, she found Jimmy Frick dead.  He committed suicide by drinking carbolic acid. (Baseball Reference incorrectly lists his date of death as November 18),

The Portland Oregonian said Frick had been “ill and despondent,” and said he was suffering from “brain fever.”  (Brain fever is an antiquated and vague term used for inflammation of the brain).

None of the stories about Frick’s suicide and “brain fever” mentioned the severe injury he had received when he was hit in the head in 1910, so  it’s impossible to determine whether it contributed to the erratic behavior that year, hospital stays, or death of the disappearing Oakland infielder.”

“To be Hissed and Hooted at in the East is too much”

20 Jun

In 1886  Thomas Jefferson “Tom” York retired after a fifteen-year career.   As a 20-year-old he joined the Troy Haymakers in the National Association in 1871, he was with the Hartford Dark Blues for the National League’s inaugural season in 1876, and finished with the Baltimore Orioles in the American Association; he also served two brief stints as a player/manager with the Providence Grays.

York, who suffered from rheumatism, had considered retiring before the 1894 season after the Cleveland Blues sold him to the Orioles, but The Baltimore American said he was induced to continue playing with a $5000 salary and “the scorecard and cushion (concession)” at Oriole Park.  After hitting just .233 in 1884, he was only able to play in 22 games the following season before calling it quits.

Tom York, middle row, far right, with the 1876 Hartford Dark Blues

Tom York, middle row, far right, with the 1876 Hartford Dark Blues

Just before the beginning of the 1886 season York was hired as an American Association umpire.  After the May 22 game in Baltimore which the Orioles lost 2-1 to the Louisville Colonels, The Baltimore Sun said:

“(York) received a dispatch yesterday ordering him to Brooklyn.  Instead of going he telegraphed his resignation.  His reason for doing so was the abuse he received from some of the spectators of Saturday’s game.  In fact, he was nearly equal to that of John Kelly, ‘the king of umpires.’  He declared (Pete) Browning’s hit near the foul line a fair hit.  He was in the best position to know, but, as it was made at a critical point, some of the audience objected, and York came in for pretty severe abuse.”

The paper said York also made a “questionable decision,” when he “evidently forgot that it was not necessary to touch a runner in a force,” and incorrectly called a runner safe at second:

“York became discouraged and the Association lost a good umpire.”

Within weeks York became a National League umpire; that didn’t last long either.

On June 30, the Kansas City Cowboys lost at home to the New York Giants 11-5, The Chicago Inter Ocean said York “was escorted from the grounds by the police on account of disapproval manifested over his umpiring.”

Less than a month later, after York was “roundly hissed” at the Polo Grounds after making “some very close decisions against the New Yorks,” in a July 22 game against the Philadelphia Quakers, he sent a telegram to National League President Nicholas Young resigning his position.  York told The New York Times:

“I have been badly treated in the West, but to be hissed and hooted at in the East is too much.  I have often heard that an umpire’s position was a thankless one, but I have never realized it before.  It’s bad enough to be hissed and called a thief, but in the West when the local club loses an umpire in fortunate if he escapes with his life.  Of all the cities in the league Kansas City is the worst.”

York said there was another incident Kansas City the day before he was escorted from the field by police:

“On June 29 when the New York men beat the Cowboys 3 to 2 (William “Mox”) McQuery hit a ball over the fence, but it was foul by 25 feet, and I declared it so.  After the game Vice President (Americus) McKim, of the Kansas City club wanted to know how much money I would get from the New Yorks fir That decision.  I remarked that I received my salary from the league and did not take a penny from the New Yorks or any other none.  Then he grew furious, and said he would end my days.  This in conjunction with other things incidental to the life of an umpire has made me tired of the business, and I intend to make room for some other victim.”

Despite quitting both leagues within two months, The Baltimore American said the American Association sent York a telegram in two months later “asking him if he wanted an appointment as umpire.”  The paper said “York replied no, emphatically, as his past experience was sufficient to justify his remaining at home.”

York remained at home for the rest of the season and the next, but while he never worked as an umpire again he returned to baseball in 1888 as manager of the Albany Governors in the International Association.  Over the next decade he was connected with several East Coast minor leagues, including the Connecticut State League, the New York State League and the Eastern Association, as a manager and executive.

York retired to New York where he became one of the many former players employed at the Polo Grounds at the behest of manager John McGraw.  In 1922 The New York Telegraph described his position:

“York has the pleasant post of trying to keep the actors, tonsorial artists and plumbers out of the press stand.  It is old tom who examines your pink paste board and decides whether you are eligible for a seat in the press cage.”

Tom York, 1922

Tom York, 1922

In February of 1936, as preparations were being made for York, along with James “Deacon” White, George Wright, Tommy Bond,  to be honored that summer at the  All-Star Game  as the last four surviving players from the National League’s first season, the former player, manager, executive and umpire died in New York.

The Ross Barnes Case

2 May

Charles Roscoe “Ross” Barnes was one of the greatest players of his era, and largely forgotten today.

Barnes was a member Harry Wright’s Boston Red Stocking teams in the National Association from 1871-1875 and won the National League’s first batting title hitting .429 in 1876 as a member the Chicago White Stockings.

Ross Barnes

Ross Barnes

Teammates and contemporaries had no doubt about how good he was.

“Orator Jim” O’Rourke called Barnes “the greatest second baseman the game ever saw.”  In 1896, A.G. Spalding “declared Ross Barnes to have been the greatest ballplayer in America,” and Tim Murnane said of Barnes:

“His left-handed stops of hard-hit balls to right field were the prettiest stops ever made on the Boston grounds. As a base-runner no man of the present day is his equal, and as a batsman he must be reckoned very high.”

1871 Red Stockings. Spalding, standing second from left, Barnes, standing far right, O'Rourke, seated far left.

1871 Red Stockings. Spalding, standing second from left, Barnes, standing far right, O’Rourke, seated far left.

Some of Barnes’ success was due to the rule at the time regarding  balls that rolled foul in the infield, The Sporting Life said:

“It was Barnes who was the first to master the fair-foul hit. He was able to drive the ball so that it would land fair and then swing in foul just outside of the reach of the third baseman.”

Barnes became ill in 1877, although he started the season with the White Stockings, The Chicago Inter Ocean said in early May “he is now, and has been all spring, very sick with few signs of improvement.”  After a slow start, Barnes was out for more than three months before returning in late August.

The Chicago Tribune said:

“Barnes made his reappearance with the Whites, and played his old position at second base,  but he showed evidence of physical weakness and lack of practice,”

Barnes appeared in only 22 games, hitting .272.

The second baseman,  who was earning $2500 for the season, and as was often the case in 19th Century baseball,  was not paid for the time he missed.  Early in 1878 Barnes filed a lawsuit against the White Stockings to collect more than $1,000 the team did not pay him while he was ill.

Cook County Judge Mason B. Loomis heard the case, which The Inter Ocean said:

“(I)s a new one in the experience of ball clubs, and the result is looked forward to with some interest  in sporting circles.”

The result was not favorable for ballplayers.  Judge Loomis ruled against Barnes, The Tribune said:

“This makes clear the point that players are not legally entitled to wages when laid off by sickness.”

While some owners did pay players during time missed due to illness and injury, teams had the right, after 15 days, to suspend any player without pay; and the legal precedent established in Barnes’ case remained until 1916 when the “injury clause” was rescinded.

Barnes attempted to return to the White Stockings in 1878, but The Tribune said he “has never fully recovered,” from the illness, and was released.

He played with and managed the London Tecumsehs in the International Association in 1878, then made two comeback attempts with the Cincinnati Reds in 1879, and the Boston Red Stockings in 1881, his career was over at age 31.

Barnes retired to Chicago and was working for Peoples Gas, Light and Coke Co. when he died in 1915 at age 65.

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things #3

26 Apr

Tools of ignorance

As catchers began to wear more equipment the was widespread disapproval.  In 1884 The New Haven News said:

“With his frontal liver-pad, his hands cased in thick gloves and the familiar wire helmet on his head, the average baseball catcher looks for all the world like an animated combination of a modern bed-bolster and a medieval knight.”

Roger Bresnahan, 1907, more than 20 years after catcher's began to look like "medieval knights."

Roger Bresnahan, 1907, more than 20 years after a catcher began to look like a “medieval knight.”

Cuban Giants Challenge

In August of 1888, The Freeman declared the Cuban Giants “virtually the champions of the world.”

The paper said that the first professional black baseball team, were willing to take on any ballclub, but:

“The St. Louis Browns, Detroits (Wolverines) and Chicagos (White Stockings) afflicted with Negrophobia and unable to bear the odium of being beaten by colored men, refused to accept their challenge.”

1887-88 Cuban Giants--"virtually the champions of the world."

1887-88 Cuban Giants–“virtually the champions of the world.”

The Elizabeth Resolutes

The Elizabeth (NJ) Resolutes were one of the worst professional teams of baseball’s infancy.  The 1873 National Association team only played 23 games, losing 21, and from the beginning of the season, the franchise was on the verge of demise.

The New York Herald summed up the general feeling about the team in an August article:

“The Resolute Club, whom everyone hoped had disbanded, as was reported, put in an appearance on the Union grounds yesterday afternoon and played the (Brooklyn) Atlantics, committing, as usual, about five hundred errors.”

It was the first, and last, game on the mound for pitcher Len Lovett.

The Herald concluded:

“The game was a most wretched affair.”

dougallison

Catcher Doug Allison who hit .300, and his brother Art, who hit .320, were rare bright spots for the resolutes.

“The ‘Original’ up-behind-the-bat Man”

17 Apr

Douglas L. Allison was largely forgotten by 1907.

He caught for Harry Wright’s Cincinnati Red Stockings from 1868-1870, joined the newly formed National Association as a member of Nick Young’s Washington Olympics in 1871, and was an inaugural member of the Hartford Dark Blues during the National League’s first season in 1876; in total he played for parts of 10 seasons in the American Association, National League, and National Association.

Doug Allison, standing third from left, with the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings

Doug Allison, standing middle, with the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings

It was the death of a contemporary that brought him back into the public eye.

On April 21, 1907, Nathan Woodhull “Nat” Hicks died in Hoboken, NJ.  Hicks had also been a catcher, having played for the New York Mutuals, Philadelphia Whites and Cincinnati Reds in the National Association and National League from 1872-1877.

Hicks’ obituary, including the one in The New York Times, gave him credit for being the first catcher to stand directly behind the batter:

“To catch behind the bat without the elaborate protection of mask, protector, great glove, and shin guards, as Nat Hicks was the first to do, required a grit and endurance that few of the high-priced artists of the diamond today would care to emulate.  Hicks created a sensation by catching behind the bat with his naked hands and body unprotected.”

Doug Allison couldn’t let that stand, and he contacted a reporter from The Associated Press to set the record straight:

“Nat Hicks was a great catcher for the short period that he stood in the limelight of public opinion, but the press of the country is away off in giving him credit as the ‘original’ up-behind-the-bat man.”

While coming forward to claim the distinction, Allison insisted it wasn’t important to him:

“Not that I wish to claim any such record, for after all it does not carry any great weight or glory, but just the same I think figures will prove that I was among the first, if not the first, of any of the backstops  to attempt that trick that was the mystery of the game.”

Allison said that while catching for a team in the Manayunk neighborhood of Philadelphia he developed a “theory,” and “began to believe it possible to get close up to the bat,” in order to prevent runners from stealing:

“I put my theory in action, and that was way back in 1866…My success in this style of play was remarkable, and naturally the talk of the place, until our game began to draw crowds simply because ‘Allison was behind the bat.’  This is not egotism, but the fact, and my method soon had lots of imitators.”

Allison said the following season while playing with the “Gearys, the leading amateur team of Philadelphia,” he was discovered by “that greatest of all baseball generals—Harry Wright.” And while with the Red Stockings he “continued up under the bat with plenty of success.”

As for “my friend Nat Hicks,” Allison said:

“(He) did not break into the game until 1870 and could not have started that play for which so many newspapers have been giving him credit, and while disliking to cloud their stories, it seems right to correct the popular impression of this important epoch in the history of baseball.”

A print from the 1870s depicting "Nat" Hicks "behind the bat" with the New York Mutuals.

A print from the 1870s depicting “Nat” Hicks “behind the bat” with the New York Mutuals.

Having set the record straight, Allison returned to his job in the dead letter office of the United States Post Office in Washington D.C.  He died in 1916 at age 70.

“Death to Flying Things”

3 Apr

The nickname “Death to Flying Things,” is likely the only thing most baseball fans would know of John Curtis “Jack” Chapman, and even that is a morass of different and often questionable research.  He shares the nickname with one-time Brooklyn Atlantics teammate Bob Ferguson, and competing versions of the story disagree about whether first baseman/outfielder Chapman or infielder Ferguson is the one most commonly referred to by the nickname—and never with contemporaneous citations to back up the assertions.

Regardless, Chapman was an important figure during the advent of the game.

He was a well-known amateur player in the 1860s with the Brooklyn Atlantics (as opposed to the National Association team of the same name he and Ferguson played for in 1874) and the Quaker City’s of Philadelphia. Beginning at age 30 he played a total of 113 in the National Association, with Brooklyn and St. Louis, and during the National League’s inaugural season in 1876 he played and managed the Louisville Grays.

Jack Chapman, far right, with 1868 Brooklyn Atlantics

Jack Chapman, far right, with 1868 Brooklyn Atlantics

After the 1876 season, the career.246 hitter retired as a player.  Over the next 22 years he managed parts of ten seasons in the National League and American Association; including an 88-44 finish and American Association championship with the Louisville Colonels in 1890.  He also managed for 11 seasons in the minor leagues, retiring from baseball after the 1899 season.

When his managerial career ended Chapman was often asked to discuss the current state of baseball; carrying on a tradition as old as the game, and one that will never end, Chapman was adamant that the game as it was currently being played did not measure up the game during his prime.  In a column that appeared in several newspapers in 1900 he said:

“Our great national game is today in bad shape both financially and in other ways.  Whether this situation is caused by the rowdyism of the players I cannot say, but it seems to me that if the rules were strictly lived up to and the chief of umpires and his staff did their duty the game would soon climb back to the high plane it once occupied.

“The players of 10 and 15 years ago were just as fast, tricky and well up in the game as those of today…Years ago the ball used to have two and one-half ounces of rubber in it, whereas now there is only one ounce.  This reduction has made the sphere less lively and consequently easier to field…The men are now harnessed almost like football players, with gloves, pads masks and other paraphernalia.  We hadn’t these accessories in the old days, yet I don’t think the fielding is much improved.”

But mostly Chapman seemed to be concerned with his legacy as a manager:

“Probably no other man has brought out so many players as I have, mainly because I always have made it a point to be on the lookout for new blood by means of which I could improve my team…I think I may claim without anyone gainsaying my assertion, that I have turned out and sold to the National and other leagues more players who have proved to be crackerjacks than any other man living.

Robert Winchester and Mickey Welch, two old timers were ‘finds’ of mine, while Hugh Jennings, Roger Connor, Jimmy Collins, (Bill) Hoffer, (Harry) Howell and many others too numerous to mention in the major and minor leagues were developed by myself.”

Jack Chapman 1900

Jack Chapman 1900

Unfortunately, he said little and provided no details about the most significant incident of his career: as manager of the Louisville Grays in 1877 his team was the first to be involved in a gambling scandal:

“I had four men of my own team—(George) Hall, (Bill) Craver, (Al) Nichols and (Jim) Devlin—put out by the league because they were caught throwing a game.  That was the first time such a thing had ever happened, and it caused a great sensation at the time.”

“Death to Flying Things” died in 1916 in Brooklyn at age 73.