Tag Archives: Ned Hanlon

Humpy Badel

27 Apr

Fred Badel was the first player in professional baseball (and most likely the only one) who suffered from Kyphosis, the over-curvature of the upper back.  In less sensitive times, the first decade of the 20th Century, this led to his nickname: Humpy.

Badel was born in Carnegie, Pennsylvania, March 6, 1881, although contemporary newspaper accounts implied he was much older.  He never learned to read or write, and despite his medical condition developed into a solid ballplayer.

The Altoona Tribune said:

“He is a little left-handed hitter, fast on his feet, and an excellent baserunner.”

The Tribune also said he was “(A) protegé of (Honus) Wagner.”

The Pittsburgh Press said he was:

“[E]xtremely fast on his feet, can hit like a fiend, and fields his position in a most finished manner.”

That description of Badel’s abilities appeared in an article about “The assertion…there are three classes of men who do not succeed in fast company in baseball, namely Hebrews, hunchbacks and Negroes,” the article failed to mention the concerted effort of organized baseball to keep at least two of those “classes” out of the game.)

Fred “Humpy” Badel

His professional career began in 1905 with Johnstown in the independent “outlaw” Tri-State League, although earlier he appears to have played for the Youngstown team in the Ohio-Pennsylvania League, and independent teams in Pennsylvania.

No statistics survive, but Badel appears to have played well.  He was described variously by Pennsylvania papers as a “picturesque character” and “odd,” but there seemed to be general agreement that he was destined for the big leagues.  He also had a reputation for playing dirty, The Williamsport Sun-Gazette said he had “a nasty trick of trying to spike basemen.”

At the close of the 1905 season, Badel was signed by the Buffalo Bisons in the Eastern League, managed by George Stallings.  Stallings, who had managed the Bisons since 1902, took the team south for spring training for the first time.

George Stallings

The trip was so successful that Stallings said he’d never again hold spring training in a northern climate—a regular practice at that time.

When the Bisons stopped in Cincinnati for an exhibition game with the Reds on April 10, Badel made an impression.

The Cincinnati Enquirer said:

“Humpy Badel was the bright particular star of the game…Badel is humpback, but a great athlete, with great speed and a fine arm.  An outfielder who cuts into two double plays in one game is going some.  He also made a fine catch on (Jim) Delahanty‘s drive in the second, which would have gone on for three bags…Badel was the main Bison slugger, securing two of the four hits off (Orville) Overall and one of the three off (Leo) Hafford.  Toward the end of the game, the bleacherites were cheering him on with cries of ‘good work, Humpy,’ and applauding every move he made.”

The Enquirer reported that Stallings turned down a  $4000 offer from Cincinnati–it was later reported to be $5000– to purchase Badel’s contract; the paper said Reds Manager Ned Hanlon badly wanted Badel.

Within months everything changed.  He was with Buffalo until July, 6, when without notice he jumped the team and returned to Johnstown.

badel

A cartoon from The Harrisburg Telegraph featuring Badel.

 

The Buffalo Courier blasted Badel; under the headline “Humpy Badel is a Foolish Man” the newspaper detailed how well he had been treated in Buffalo.  While acknowledging that Badel “Has the makings of a great player in him,” the paper repeatedly mentioned his illiteracy, claimed he “Lacked common sense,” missed or ignored signs, refused Stallings’ attempts to help him,  and was the subject of ridicule from his teammates who considered him ignorant.

The Buffalo Times summed up their view in verse:

“There was an outfielder named Humpy.

Whose work was decidedly lumpy;

So one bright summer day

He asked George for his pay,

And went back to the farm rather grumpy.”

Badel’s hometown papers in Pittsburgh and Sporting Life were somewhat less harsh, but all said that Badel’s leaving Buffalo probably ended a sure chance at a major league career.  Rumors that he jumped because oil had been found on his Pennsylvania land and he no longer needed to play ball were quickly dismissed.

There is no record of Badel ever having been asked for an explanation for why he left Buffalo and effectively ended any chance he had to play in the major leagues.

Badel hit over .300 in Johnstown during the second half of 1906.  He did not play professional ball in 1907, some reports said he had been blacklisted, others claimed he was ill–The Washington Herald said he was “in the grip of consumption,” although that report was likely false.

He appeared briefly with Johnstown again in 1908, but it appears he was not the same player.  The Harrisburg Star-Independent said:

“‘Humpy’ Badel has degenerated.  The eccentric one is no longer the valuable player which he showed himself to be in 1906.”

Badel is listed on the rosters of several independent, C and D league teams between 1910 and 1914, including the “outlaw” United States League in 1912 and the Federal League in 1913.  As was the case throughout his career, there are few extant statistics for Badel during this period.

The last mention of Badel in the press was the report of  his release from Maysville in the Ohio State League in June of 1914.  According to census records and his World War I registration card, he lived in Cincinnati, then Akron and worked as a carpenter until 1919.

 After 1919, there are no records of Badel, a suitable, enigmatic end to the story of an enigmatic man.

A shorter version of this post was published on August 21, 2012

“Women have been the cause of Ruin of more Good Clubs than Anything Else”

17 Oct

In 1907 Hugh Fullerton wrote in The Chicago Herald about the outside influences that he felt did the most damage to a ballclub:

Hugh Fullerton

Hugh Fullerton

“There are dozens of things that happen to keep a team from landing a pennant about which the general public is entirely ignorant and which never can be explained clearly.

“For instance, one of the mysteries of baseball was the breaking up of the famous White Stockings team.

“Hundreds and thousands of people cursed the management of the Chicagos for selling off star players and wrecking the club—and few ever knew why it was.  The management felt worse over it than the fans possibly could feel—but it was inevitable.  A scandal in the club concerning two members and the wife of one of them started the trouble.  Threats to kill each other were made—and the disruption of the club became absolutely necessary.  The sale of (Mike “King”) Kelly (1887) and (John) Clarkson (1888) was the beginning –and after a time all parties to the scandal were let out—and Chicago was given a decade of losing clubs.”

Mike "King" Kelly

Mike “King” Kelly

He claimed the reason for the breakup of the White Stockings was a common one.

“Women have been the cause of ruin of more good clubs than anything else.  They need not necessarily be bad women.  There was one club in the old twelve-club National League which, for two years, was knocked out of all chances of winning merely because the wife of one of the players was an inveterate gossip.  She knew everything that went on in the club and retained it until she had half the players up in arms against each other.

“One of the best manager s in the country today frowns upon all women and his players, under his direction, forbid their wives to mention the subject of baseball to each other.  The result is that there is the best feeling in the club.  Almost every member of the team is married, their wives meet socially at all times—and baseball is tabooed by common consent.

“I know a catcher, one of the toughest, hardiest fellows in the business, who nearly was ruined as a catcher by the women of the club.  He was so strong and tough that you couldn’t have dented him with an ax, but one day he split his hand a little bit.  He thought nothing of it, and was ready to catch the next day when the women got to pitying him and telling him he ought to take good care of it.  When he left the grounds he had tied up the injured place with a rag—and was all right.  By the next morning he was ready to go to the hospital—and he did lay off for two weeks, all because the women made a martyr of him.”

But, according to Fullerton, there was something almost as bad for a baseball team as women:

“Horse racing, however, has ruined almost as many clubs as women have.  Once a team gets interested in horse racing, and so far as winning goes, it might as well disband.

“One of the greatest troubles in the present New York National League team is the devotion of some of the players to the racing game.  (John) McGraw himself has been so successful at it that baseball has become sort of a side issue.  Many of his players have followed his example, and the result is they think more of horse racing than of baseball.

“Racing did more to wreck (Ned) Hanlon’s championship Brooklyn team than any other thing.  The Washington Park grounds are so close to the Brighton and Sheepshead tracks that players could see two or three races before the game.  Eventually baseball was forgotten and the conversation in the clubhouse dwelt only on horse racing.

(Cap) Anson had a crowd of horse race fans for several years, and the result on the work of the team was something frightful.  They talked horse racing even on the field, and had the telegraph operators throwing out messages telling what horses had won.”

And, he said, gambling in general had been detrimental to the Giants during the years Andrew Freedman owned the club (1895-1902):

“There always was a crap game or a poker game in the clubhouse, and the stakes were so high that bitter feeling was endangered.”

While Fullerton, for the most part, avoided naming names, he did single out one former Chicago manager, who had died five years earlier, for presiding over teams that were “ruined” by gambling:

“The Chicago team the second year under Tom Burns (1899) was wrecked by the same sort of deal, the manager setting a bad example in that respect.  Burns also was charged by the Pittsburgh owners with ruining their club, when he was manager (1892), by permitting and encouraging gambling.”

Tom Burns

Tom Burns

“Random Notes on the Leading Members of the Brotherhood.”

29 Sep

Ernest Justin Jarrold wrote for The New York Sun in the 1880s and 90s and was best known as the author of the “Mickey Finn” stories which were serialized in The Sun—Jarrold also wrote for the paper under the pseudonym “Mickey Finn,” about his travels through Ireland.

Ernest Jarrold

Ernest Jarrold

In 1889 Jarrold was at New York’s Fifth Avenue Hotel for “the meeting of the Ball Players Brotherhood for the purpose of forming the Players’ League.”  He provided readers with his “random notes on the leading members of the Brotherhood.”

Jarrold said:

“I met all the leaders.  The man who attracted the most attention was John Montgomery Ward, the celebrated shortstop.  This little man—for he is a pygmy compared with some of his associates—is generally admitted to have the largest business faculty of any baseball man in the country.  He originated the scheme of the new league while on the trip around the world last year, and, with the help of Fred Pfeffer, of Chicago, and Edward Hanlon, of Pittsburgh, formulated the plans while on the steamer going from Australia to Europe.  This conspiracy was carried out under the very nose of Al Spalding, and many secret conferences were interrupted by the entrance of Mr. Spalding.  Ward has a winning personality.  He dresses modestly but neatly.  He is the husband of the celebrated actress Helen  Dauvray, and has saved money from his earnings as a ballplayer.  This he has invested mostly in western real estate.  He is variously estimated to be worth from $50,000 to $75,000.

“Perhaps the next man in popular interest seen in the corridors was Michael Kelly.  In addition to being one of the handsomest men in the new league, Kelly is probably the wittiest.  He has created more original coaching expressions than any of his contemporaries.  He dresses well and wears diamonds.  Kelly is credited with executive ability on the ball field of a high order.  Most of the tricks in ball playing are the tricks of his prolific Irish brain. “

Jarrold said “one of the most striking figures” present at the meeting was the six-foot-four 200 pound Jay Faatz:

Jay Faatz

Jay Faatz

Faatz is the most expert poker player in the United States.  He has a passionate love for diamonds and always carries in his shirt bosom and cuffs $1,500 worth of these gems…He also has a snug sum in the bank.  Faatz always takes in the prize fights and the dog disputes which occur in his vicinity.  He is a level-headed, clear thinker, and the orator o the Brotherhood.

Fred Pfeffer, of Chicago, is one of the few players who has put money into the new league.  He has invested $3,000.  He is said to be the best fielder in the West.  Pfeffer is remarkable for his neat appearance when playing ball.  He is quiet and reserved.  He wears a brown mustache, a silk hat and a pleasant smile.  The New York reporters couldn’t elicit any information from him even when they used a corkscrew.

William Ewing, the greatest ball player in the world, is a bachelor. He is a very ordinary looking citizen in street attire.  He earned $6,500 last season (The New York Times said he earned $5,500, the “Spalding Guide” said $5,000).  Ewing was the first man to sign the agreement which bound the players to the new scheme.  He said he had no grievance, as the league had always used him well, but he wanted to cast his lot with ‘the boys.’  For a long time he was distrusted by the players on account o his intimacy with Mr. Day (Giants owner John B. Day).  Ewing will be captain of the New York team.

Lawrence G. Twitchell, five years ago, was a carpenter, working for $2 per day.  Today he is a capable left fielder, and earns $2,500 for working about six months in the year.  Tony, as he is familiarly known, is remarkable for his fine physique.  No more perfect man physically ever set foot on a diamond.  The trip east from his house in Ohio to attend the convention cost him $500.  He married a wealthy young woman, who became enamored of him while playing ball at Zanesville, Ohio…Tony says he is not obliged to play ball for a livelihood.  He does it for love of the game.  He is young, beardless and handsome;  also enthusiastic as to the ultimate success of the new league.

Larry Twitchell

Larry Twitchell

Edward Hanlon, who will fill the onerous position of captain of the new Pittsburgh club, will also act as manager and centerfielder of the team.  He has been frugal and has saved money during his long and illustrious baseball career.  Hanlon is one of the progenitors of the new league.”

Hanlon had been responsible for making the initial contact with street car magnate Albert Loftin Johnson, who would become one of the league’s principal financial backers, and according to Jarrold “the missionary of the new baseball venture.”  Jarrold said:

“(Johnson is) an ardent admirer of the game…All preliminary meetings in the formation of the Players’ League were held in his rooms in Cleveland.  A policeman was stationed at the door to keep out reporters.  It was mainly through his efforts that the seal of secrecy was kept over the organization for so long a time.  He can talk longer and state less facts for reportorial use than any man connected with the baseball fraternity.  It can be stated truthfully that no organization of such interest to the public as the Players’ League was ever handled so secretly as has this one.  This was mainly due to Johnson’s perspicuity.  He is a heavy backer of the new enterprise, and is known as the Moses of the new baseball dispensation.  Johnson doesn’t pay much attention to clothes or diamonds.”

Among those present at the meeting, Jarrold seemed to think most highly of outfielder George Gore “One of the most dashing, devil-may-care men in the new league.”  Jarrold said:

George Gore

George Gore

“Gore has the happy faculty of laying aside his profession when off the diamond, which faculty is shared by but few ball players.  As a rule these men are very sensitive, and when a game is lost it is not uncommon for them to be so depressed in spirits that they cannot eat or sleep.  Gore, however is not that kind.  As John Ward says:  ‘Gore lets care get behind the wood pile when his work is over.’  He used to run a paper machine in Saccarappa, Maine in 1878.  Gore lives up to his income and has saved no money.”

Within a year, the Players League was finished and “Mickey Finn” had moved on to writing about his travels in Ireland.

The Wealthiest Ballplayers, 1894

19 Sep

In 1894, major leaguer turned sportswriter, Sam Crane wrote about the wealthiest players in baseball in The New York Press:

(Cap) Anson is probably the wealthiest ball-player on the diamond today.  His wealth has been estimated anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000.  It is, without doubt, nearer the latter sum than the former.”

"Cap" Anson

“Cap” Anson

Anson’s fortune would be long gone, due to a series of poor investments and other financial setbacks, by the time he died in 1922.

“From the time he joined the Chicago club he has enjoyed a big salary.  In his nearly 20 years’ connection with the club he has acted as manager and captain since the retirement as a player of A.G. Spalding in 1877.  Anson, of course received extra salary as manager, and has also been a stockholder in the club…He has been fortunate, too, in real estate transactions in the “Windy City,” under the tutelage of Mr. Spalding, and could retire from active participation in the game without worrying as to where his next meal was coming from.”

The men who Crane said were the second and third wealthiest players managed to keep their fortunes.

Jim O’Rourke is thought to come next to Anson in point of wealth.  Jim came out as a professional player about the same time as Anson.  He did not get a large salary at first with the Bostons, which club he joined in 1873.  He remained with the team until 1878, when he went to Providence.  Jim was young and giddy when he came from Bridgeport to Boston, in 1873, and did not settle down into the staid, saving player he now is…He was a ‘sporty’ boy then, and liked to associate with lovers of the manly art.  Patsy Sheppard was his particular friend in the ‘Hub,’ and James made the boxer’s hotel his home for some time.  When he went to Providence in 1879 Jim began to think of saving his money, and from that time on his ‘roll’ began to increase.

Jim O'Rourke

Jim O’Rourke

Dan Brouthers has received big salaries only since 1886, when he, as one of the famous ‘big four,’ was bought by Detroit from Buffalo.  But since then he has pulled the magnates’ legs and socked away the ‘stuff.’  He has been situated so that he has been able to make the magnates ‘pony up’ to the limit, and Dan had no mercy.  He said he was out for the ‘long green,’ and he got it.  When the Boston club bought Brouthers, (Abram “Hardy”) Richardson, (Charlie) Bennett, (Charles “Pretzels”) Getzein and (Charlie) Ganzell, Dan grasped the opportunity and got a big bonus and also a big salary.  He made the Detroit club give up a big slice of the purchase money before he would agree to be sold.

Dan Brouthers

Dan Brouthers

“The Brotherhood war, when Dan jumped to the Boston Players league was another favorable opportunity for him, and he grasped it and the boodle with his accustomed avidity.  Dan has planted his wealth in brick houses in Wappingers Falls (NY), and can lie back at his ease with his 30,000 ‘plunks’ and laugh at the magnates.  It is this feeling of contentment that has made Dan almost too independent and has affected his playing lately (Brouthers appeared in just 77 games in 1893, but hit .337, and hit .347 in 123 games in 1894).  Dan is what ballplayers call ‘hard paper,’ which was a most distinguishing characteristic of every one of the ‘big four.’”

Detroit’s “Big Four” consisted of Brouthers, “Hardy” Richardson, James “Deacon” White and Jack Rowe.

“Hardy Richardson was not so awful bad, but Jim White and Jack Rowe took the whole bake shop for being ‘hard papes.’  They have both been known to start on a three weeks’ trip with 80 cents each, and on their return Jim would ask Jack, ‘How much have you spent?’  Jack would reply:  “I haven’t kept run of every little thing, but I’ve got 67 cents left.’   Jim would remark gleefully: ‘Why, I’m three cents ahead of you; I’ve got 70 cents.’  And Pullman car porters are blamed for kicking when a ball club boards their car!  Jack and Jim would sleep in their shoes for fear they would have to pay for a shine.  The only money they spent was for stamps in sending home papers, which they borrowed from the other players.  They are both well off now, however, and can afford to laugh at the players who used to guy them.”

Deacon White

Deacon White

(Charles) Comiskey has been fortunate in getting big money since 1883.  (Chris) Von der Ahe appreciated the great Captain’s worth and paid him more and more every year.  The Brotherhood business enabled him to make a most advantageous contract, and as manager and Captain of the Chicagos he received $7,000 salary besides a big bonus.  His contract with Mr. (John T.) Brush to play and manage in Cincinnati called for $23,000 for three years and $3,000 in cash.  This was made in 1891 and runs this year (1894).  Comiskey has his money invested in Chicago real estate, which is paying him a good income at the present time.

(John “Bid”) McPhee, (William “Buck”) Ewing, (Harry) Stovey, (Paul) Radford, (Ned) Hanlon, (Jack) Glasscock, (Tim)Keefe, (Charles “Chief”) Zimmer, (Charlie) Buffington, (Charlie) Bennett, and (Fred) Pfeffer are players who are worth from $10,000 to $15,000, which has all been made by playing ball.  There are only a few more players who have much in the ‘stocking.’”

“Go to Providence”

18 Jul

After Ned Hanlon guided the Brooklyn Superbas to horrible back-to-back seasons in 1904 and ’05 (56-97 sixth place, 48-104 eighth place) it was time for a parting of the ways between Hanlon and Brooklyn—it was announced that Hanlon had signed to manage the Cincinnati Reds in 1906.

Ned Hanlon

Ned Hanlon

During fifteen years with the franchise (eight in Baltimore, seven more in Brooklyn) Hanlon led them to five pennants and three second-place finishes, and according to The Brooklyn Eagle his departure “caused no end of regret among the wide circle of friends he had gained during his seven years stay here as head of the Superbas.”

But, the paper said, one man “learned of the change with greater dismay than anybody else.”  John Montgomery Ward, the former player, manager and leader of the Brotherhood was, by then, a successful Brooklyn attorney.

Ward and Hanlon were long-time friends and Hanlon had been an active member of the Brotherhood, but Ward said, more than that, he “owed my start as a successful ballplayer,” to Hanlon.

John Montgomery Ward

John Montgomery Ward

“I had begun my career as a professional that year with the Binghamtons, but along about June the club disbanded.  I received offers from Rochester and Providence to finish the season in the box. For I was pitching in those days, and went to Rochester to look over the field.  I was a boy of eighteen then, and inexperienced, and I was taken aback when the manager and players clamored for me to sign immediately.  Hanlon was captain of the team and he joined in the request for me to sign.  I asked them to give me a little time to think it over and went back to the hotel for that purpose.  Hanlon, and a well-known player of those days, Ed Caskin, followed me there, and continued their importunities.

“’I told them that it was my first year in the game, and then turning to Hanlon said ‘Mr. Hanlon, put yourself in my place and tell me what to do.  Advise me just as if you were speaking to a brother.’

“’Hanlon flushed up, looked at the floor, then at Caskin.  Then he turned to me.’

“’Go to Providence.’ He said.  Caskin coincided, and I took my bag and went to Cincinnati where the Grays were playing.  I made good with them (22-13 1.51 ERA) and gained fully five years of my career because of the sacrifice of Hanlon, who wanted me in Rochester.  We’ve been firm fiends ever since, the bonds being strengthened during his stay here.  I’m sorry he has gone, but I am confident he will have better success with the Reds.”

Despite Ward’s confidence, Hanlon was only slightly more successful with the Reds in 1906 and ’07 than he had been during his final two seasons in Brooklyn–64-87, 66-87, sixth place finishes.

“What Right has Hanlon to Show me How to Hit?”

23 Jun

How are hitters created?  Bozeman Bulger of The New York Evening World attempted to answer the question, and described the hitting styles of some of the game’s biggest stars in 1906:

“Batting is a natural gift and to be a success the player must be allowed to swing the willow in his own sweet way.”

Bulger said John McGraw who “For nine years…had a batting average of .330” (actually .346 from 1893 to 1901) was asked his secret:

“Don’t know, I simply used my eye and my arms and figured it out.”

When McGraw played for the Baltimore Orioles, Manager Ned Hanlon tried to show him “how to hit (and) on one occasion he corrected him sharply.”  McGraw said:

“That set me to thinking, and I went to my room and dug up a lot of old records.  In these I saw that Hanlon had never hit as good as .300, that is for a period of two or three seasons (Hanlon hit .302 in 1885) while I had been hitting over .300 right along.  Therefore, I asked myself ‘what right has Hanlon to show me how to hit?’”

Ned Hanlon

Ned Hanlon

Bulger said

“In the past few years Yale and Harvard and Princeton and other colleges have employed coaches to teach them how to hit.  The experiment was futile, and no hitters were developed that did not already possess the gift.

“Take the great batters of to-day and you will find that no two of them stand at the plate alike.  Long since astute managers have found that it is a useless waste of time to attempt a correction of habits easily acquired.  To be successful a ball player must do everything in a perfectly natural manner.  This is paramount in batting.”

Bulger then wrote about the “peculiarities” of some contemporary hitters:

Sam Mertes of the Giants invariably pulls his left foot back as he swings at the ball.  Mertes also crouches with somewhat of a forward lean and keeps his feet wide apart.

Roger Bresnahan and Mike Donlin, two of the greatest hitters in the world, are what are called vicious swingers.  Bresnahan has absolutely no fear.  He never thinks of being hit, but runs squarely into the ball, and when he plants his bat squarely against it a scorching line drive follows.  Nobody hits a ball with more force than Bresnahan.

“Donlin stands with his feet about one foot apart and usually holds the bat perfectly rigid at his waist, slanting at an angle of about 45 degrees.  He can either ‘chop’ or swing hard with the same degree of accuracy.  Donlin is said to be the greatest natural hitter in the business.  He says he has no idea how he does it.

George Stone, one of the most remarkable batters of the age, has a (boxer Jim) Jeffries  crouch at bat which has caused experienced baseball managers to say George wouldn’t last as soon as the pitchers got next to him.  Stone puts a terrific amount of weight into one of his blows, swinging with his shoulders and smashing a line with fearful force.

George Stone

George Stone

“His position has been termed awkward, inelegant, and not conducive to good hitting, but Stone to-day leads the American League with a better average than the great (Napoleon) Lajoie.

“Larry is the personification of grace and elegance at bat.  He has that careless indifferent method which attracts, is devoid of nervousness but active and alert.  Infielders will tell you that there is a force in the balls smashed by Lajoie which makes them unpleasant to handle.  Lajoie is the finished artist.

“His great rival in the National League Honus Wagner is just the opposite.  Hans grabs his stick at the end, holds it high about his shoulders, and when he swings his legs are spread from one end of the batter’s box to the other.  Wagner is awkward standing almost straight and goes after outcurves and drops with equal avidity.  Hans often reaches to the far outside of the plate for a low outcurve and plants it into right center field.

Charlie Hickman stands at the outer edge of the box and swings with his body and shoulders His fondness for the balls on the outside of the pan are known to opposing pitchers.  Lave Cross puts his two feet into the angle of the batter’s box nearest the catcher, while (Dave) Altizer usually spreads out, varying this position with a crouching posture, from which he runs up on a ball.”

“A Game before the Kings and Many Nobles”

24 Oct

While traveling around the world as a member of A. G. Spalding’s 1888-1889 world tour, John Montgomery Ward wrote a series of dispatches for The New York World.  On February 23, 1889 the team played in Rome:

“In the picturesque Piazzi di Siena of the grounds of the Villa Borghese today the American baseball teams played a highly exciting game.  This is one of the favorite resorts of Roman citizens.  Never before in all my experience on the diamond have I seen so many distinguished persons among the crowd of baseball spectators as were in attendance here this afternoon.  The nobility was out in all its glory, and in there center stood his Majesty King Humbert.  He was dressed in a civilian’s suit and apparently enjoyed the sport. “

King Humbert "enjoyed the sport"

King Humbert “apparently enjoyed the sport”

Ward listed every member of the royal party and other “Roman princely families” who were present at the game.

“Nearly all the local literary and artistic celebrities were in the unprecedented royal and papal assemblage, and the applause at times would have stirred the heart of the most enthusiastic admirer of the American national game.  The last time the Piazzi di Siena was used was on the occasion of the marriage of the King’s brother, when the celebration was held on these magnificent grounds.

“The day was beautiful and the players were in fine condition.  During the preliminary practice the crowd of 5000 people was simply amazed at the skill displayed by the boys in batting, throwing and catching the ball.  The game itself was extremely well played, and resulted 3 to 2 in favor of Chicago.   The batting was lively, but nothing could pass the fielders, who played with remarkable energy.”

John Montgomery Ward

John Montgomery Ward

On the day of the game in Rome Ward said the players received word that National league owners were instituting the Brush Salary Classification Plan; a system developed by Indianapolis Hoosiers owner John Tomlinson Brush,  which rated players and placed them into five categories, each with a capped salary.  The Brush Plan, along with the Reserve Clause, would be the major impetus for the formation of the Players League:

“I interviewed every one of the men on the subject.  The scheme, as it is now understood by us, is regarded as a great mistake.  President Spalding, Captain Anson and Ned Hanlon concur in this opinion and say the plan is impossible and will not last long.”

Another issue that rankled players in Rome was the news that National League owners were demanding that the players return to the states by April 1 to prepare for the 1889 season; Ward said of the demands:

“From letter received by various members of the All-American team it is evident that certain managers are endeavoring to force the players to report for duty by April 1st.  For the information of these magnanimous gentlemen I will say that every player in the party will play the trip out.”

The All-Americans returned on April 6.

“Fear of the Black List has Stopped Many a Crooked Player from Jumping”

9 Sep

For a brief period in the mid1890s, George Jouett Meekin was considered among the top pitchers in the game; he might never have had the opportunity, but for what The Sporting Life called “The disastrous effects of Chairman Young’s somersault.”

Jouett Meekin

Jouett Meekin

 John Montgomery Ward, Meekin’s manager with the New York Giants, said he was, along with Amos Rusie, Tim Keefe, John Clarkson and Kid Nichols, the “most marvelous pitchers as ever lived.”

Charles “Duke” Farrell, who caught Meekin and Rusie with the Giants, said:

“Sometime, it seemed to me that (Meekin) was actually faster…Rusie’s speed struck the glove with a bruising deadening, heavy shock, and Meekin’s fastest gave a sharp, sudden sting.”

But in 1891 Meekin was a 24-year-old pitcher in his third season with the St. Paul Apostles in the Western Association. The New Albany, Indiana native became a well-known amateur player across the Ohio River in Louisville before signing his first professional contract with the Apostles in 1889.  His sub .500 winning percentage was not enough to keep the American Association’s eighth place Louisville Colonels, from inducing Meekin to jump his contract with St. Paul.

In June Meekin jumped; at the same time third baseman Harry Raymond jumped to Colonels from the Western League’s Lincoln Rustlers.

The National Board of Control, created after the 1890 season as part of the “peace agreement” between the National League and The American Association after the collapse of the Players League, to arbitrate contract disputes, acted quickly.  Board Chairman (and National League President) Nick Young announced that Meekin and Raymond would be “forever ineligible to play with or against a National Agreement club.”  The statement, signed by Young, also said:

“This order or any other that may hereafter be made for the same cause, will never be modified or revoked during the existence of the present board, whose term of office will not expire for five years.”

The move was applauded by the press and no less a figure than “the father of baseball,” Henry Chadwick, who called Raymond and Meekin part of a “venal cabal” of jumping players.

Despite the promise that the order would “never be modified or revoked,” Young did just that.  Within weeks of issuing the order, both players were reinstated.

The backlash was swift.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer called the reversal “nauseating.”  The Cincinnati Times-Star said it was “one of the greatest mistakes ever made.”  The Milwaukee Evening Wisconsin said Young and the board chose to “toss the National Agreement into the fire.”

nickyoungpix

Nick Young

James Edward Sullivan, founder of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) said the reinstatement of the “arch-culprits” Meekin and Raymond “was the worst in the history.”  He predicted dire consequences as a result:

“Heretofore the fear of the black list has stopped many a crooked player from jumping or doing dishonest work.  But from now on it will be different.  A precedent has been formed.”

Raymond jumped back to Lincoln, taking Colonels’ pitcher Phillip “Red” Ehret with him to the Rustlers.  Meekin remained with Louisville and moved to the National League with the Colonels the following season.

Meekin had a 10-year big league career as a result of Young’s reversal.

From 1891-93, Meekin was 29-51 with Louisville and the Washington Senators and was traded to the Giants (along with Duke Farrell) before the 1894 season.  He was 33-9, and fellow Indiana native Amos Rusie was 36-13, for the 2nd place Giants.  Meekin had two complete game victories in the Giants four game sweep of the first-place Baltimore Orioles in the Temple Cup series (Rusie won the other two games).

The New York Evening Journal called Meekin “Old Reliable,” and said, “He can push ‘em up to the plate in any old style, and is factor with the stick.”  The pitcher hit .276 with 29 RBI in 183 at bats in 1894 (including hitting 3 triples in a game on July 4) and was a career .243 hitter.

Meekin won 102 more games (including 26, and 20 win seasons in 1896 and ’97), but as O. P. Caylor said in The New York Herald he suffered from “a lack of control.”  Meekin walked 1056 batters and struck out only 901 in more than 2600 innings, he also hit 89 batters; in 1898, he broke Hughie Jennings nose with a pitch.

After posting a 16-18 record for the seventh place Giants in 1898, Meekin, along with Rusie, and second baseman William “Kid” Gleason, were blamed by New York owner Andrew Freeman for the team’s disappointing finish.  Freeman told reporters:

“Meekin, Rusie and Gleason will be either sold or traded.  We do not want them.  I’m going to break up cliques in the team even if I have to get rid of every man.  There must be harmony.  Without it we can’t win games.  We have too many men who are simply playing for their salaries and do not seem to care whether they win or not.”

Rusie had injured his arm late in the season and sat out the next two years.  Meekin and Gleason, despite Freedman’s promise, returned to the Giants for the 1899 season.  The team finished in tenth place, and Meekin struggled with a 5-11 record.

He was sold to the Boston Beaneaters in August for a reported $5000, although it was commonly assumed that the Giants received much less, or simply “loaned” Meekin to Boston for the stretch run; a charge made by Brooklyn Superbas manager Ned Hanlon.  Although Hanlon’s charges have become “fact” in countless books and articles over the years, several newspapers, including The Pittsburgh Press refuted Hanlon’s story:

“All that talk and fuss about Freedman giving Jouett Meekin to Boston in order to help that team win the pennant and thus get even with Brooklyn is nonsense.  The truth of the matter is that Freedman thought Meekin’s days as a pitcher were over, and he offered him to the Pittsburgh club, but President (William) Kerr thought the same way and did not take him.  At the time Boston’s pitching corps was in bad shape and manager (Frank) Selee took a chance on the big fellow.  There was no underhand dealing in the matter at all.”

Meekin was 7-6 with a 2.83 ERA for Boston, but the team finished second to Brooklyn.  He was released by Boston before the 1900 season and pitched just two games with the Pittsburgh Pirates before being released again in July.  He finished the season with the Grand Rapids Furniture Makers in the Western Association and spent 1902 in the Southern Association with the Memphis Egyptians.

Meekin returned home to New Albany, Indiana, where, in 1910, according to The Trenton True American “his earnings from baseball are well invested in real estate.”

Meekin slipped into relative obscurity by the time he died in 1944.

The original picture that appeared with this post–now below–was misidentified as Jouett Meekin in this blog and by The Louisville courier-Journal in 1897.  According to Mark Fimoff co-chair SABR Pictorial History Committee, the picture was actually Lave Cross.  

Lave Cross--picture earlier misidentified as Jouett Meekin.

Lave Cross–picture earlier misidentified as Jouett Meekin.

“The Greatest Team Ever Organized”

24 Apr

Hopes were high for The Players League, and for Chicago’s franchise, the Pirates, in the newly formed baseball brotherhood.

Rumors had been reported for more than two months, but finally on January 18 The Chicago Daily News said that Charlie Comiskey “came to town yesterday morning, and at 4 o’clock signed…for three years,” to serve as captain and manager; the contract was said to be worth “$5,000 per annum.”

President Charles A. Weidenfelder had built a strong ballclub, with major assists from Fred Pfeffer, Chicago White Stockings second baseman, who encouraged most of that team to jump to the new league, and Frank Brunell, a former Chicago newspaper man who was secretary of the new league, and traveled to St. Louis to encourage Comiskey to jump to the brotherhood.

There was an embarrassing moment in March when Chicago newspapers reported that the carpenters union was complaining that non-union labor was being used to build the team’s ballpark at Thirty-Eighth Street and Wentworth Avenue.    The secretary of the union was quoted in The Chicago Tribune saying  Brunell had “promised to make it right.  But he didn’t.”

Despite the  irony of a league borne out of the game’s first labor movement betraying organized labor (there were similar difficulties in Boston and Philadelphia), enthusiasm for the new league was high; in Chicago the expectations were higher.  A week before the season opened The Chicago Tribune said:

“The elements which go to make up a great team are united in the Chicago Brotherhood Club, which, on paper, is the greatest team ever organized.”

Comiskey’s club opened the season on April 19 in Pittsburgh.  According to The Chicago Inter Ocean:

“It was a great day for the Players League…There were 9,000 people by the turnstiles’ count to see the fun…It was by all odds the biggest crowd that had ever turned out to witness an opening game of ball in Pittsburgh.”

The pregame festivities included a parade through the streets of Pittsburgh featuring both teams, league officials and a Grand Army of the Republic brass band.

“(Pittsburgh) Manager (Ned) Hanlon was presented with an immense floral horseshoe, Comiskey with a big floral ball on a stand of floral bats, Pfeffer with a basket of roses…(Chicago’s Arlie) Latham ‘stood on his head, with a smile well-bred, and bowed three times’ to the ladies.  (He had) the legend ‘We are the people’ in great black letters on (his) broad back.”

After the fanfare, “Pfeffer and the boys played a particularly brilliant game,” as Chicago defeated Pittsburgh 10-2.

Box Score--Chicago Pirates/Pittsburgh Burghers, Opening Day, 1890.

Box Score–Chicago Pirates/Pittsburgh Burghers, Opening Day, 1890.

Opening Day was the high point for Chicago. The league as a whole struggled financially and attendance dropped sharply after the initial excitement wore off.  Only eight games into the season, barely 500 people attended Chicago’s game in Cleveland on May 1.

Comiskey’s “greatest team ever organized,” was never able to keep pace with the league champion Boston Reds and finished fourth in the eight team league, 10 games back.

The Chicago Times lamented the team’s poor showing and blamed it on a “lack of discipline,” (the article appeared in slightly different form in several newspapers):

“The outside world cannot fully realize the bitter disappointment felt here over the poor showing made by Comiskey’s team during the season just closed.  Surely it was strongest aggregation of players ever collected in one club, but its lack of success was mainly from two causes—lack of discipline and the miserable condition of certain members of the club.

“There has been absolutely no discipline in the team, and some of the men paid as much attention to Comiskey’s orders as they would to a call from some church congregation.  An order to sacrifice was met with a smile of scorn, and the ball was hammered down to an infielder, who made an easy double play.”

The Times said “(Tip) O’Neill, Latham, Pfeffer, (Jimmy) Ryan and others utterly ignored Comiskey’s mandates, and in consequence there was continual disorder.”

The paper’s primary target was shortstop Ned Williamson.  The criticisms might have been unjustified: the former White Stockings favorite had struggled with the knee injury he sustained on the 1888-89 world tour, and might have already been ill as his health would decline rapidly, and he’d be dead by 1894; the victim of tuberculosis:

“Williamson played a game of which an amateur should have been ashamed, and was thirty pounds overweight throughout the season.”

The paper promised “there will be numerous, changes in the club, provided the players League is still in existence,” in 1891.

It was not to be.  By November league secretary Brunell told The Chicago Herald:

“The jig is up.  We are beaten and the Brotherhood is no more.”

Brunell attempted to put a positive spin on the news, telling the paper it was mistaken to infer the “Brotherhood has weakened.”  Rather “we began to see that the interest in baseball was on the wane, and in order to prevent it from dying out entirely…we finally concluded that a consolidation of forces (with the National League and American Association) would be better for all concerned.”

The Herald wasn’t buying Brunell’s statement:

Brunell’s talk has finally let in the light on a subject previously enveloped in darkness.  It appears now that the Players League folks actually courted a knockout, and bankrupted themselves from pure patriotic motives.  The ex-secretary is a funny little man.”

Brunell would go on to found The Daily Racing Form in 1894.

Comiskey returned to the St. Louis Browns in the American Association.  Tip O’Neill, who also jumped the Browns to join the Players League, returned to St, Louis with his manager.

Comiskey (8) was joined in Chicago by three members of his American Association championship teams in St. Louis.  Arlie Latham (7), Tip O'Neill (11), and pitcher Silver King (14) who posted a 30-22 record.

Comiskey (8) was joined in Chicago by three members of his American Association championship teams in St. Louis. Arlie Latham (7), Tip O’Neill (11), and pitcher Silver King (14) who posted a 30-22 record.

Fred Pfeffer stayed in Chicago, spending one more turbulent season with Cap Anson, before being traded to the Louisville Colonels.

Arlie Latham, “The Freshest Man on Earth” went to the Cincinnati Reds in the National League.

Ned Williamson never played again.

“Hanlon Springs a Surprise on the Baseball Public”

14 Jan

Albert Joseph “Smiling Al” Maul’s best days seemed well behind him by 1898.  The 32-year-old Maul had posted a 16-12 record for the Pittsburgh Burghers in the Players League in 1890, but after returning to the National League the following season he had gone 39-44 through 1897.

Baltimore Orioles manager Ned Hanlon signed Maul after he was released by the Washington Senators in 1897.  The results were not good; in two games Maul gave up 9 hits and walked 8, posting a 7.04 ERA.  Baltimore released him at the end of the season and there were no takers for Maul at the beginning of 1898.

Ned Hanlon

Ned Hanlon

By June of 1898 The Baltimore Morning Herald said:

“For some time (Hanlon) has been hinting to his friends that he had something up his sleeve in the way of twirling talent that would surprise the natives, but when he let fall Al Maul’s name he was met with a chorus of merry ha-has.”

But by June Hanlon’s “surprise” was no longer met with laughter.

On June 5, The Sunday Herald headline said:

“Hanlon springs a surprise on the baseball world.”

Maul had shut out the Saint Louis Browns on three hits in his first start for Baltimore.

Al Maul

Al Maul

The Herald cautioned that “it’s too early to say that Maul is all right,” but all season he successfully filled the gap in Baltimore’s rotation caused by Joe Corbett’s holdout.

The New York World said Maul was:

“The most remarkable case on record of a restored glass arm.”

Maul’s comeback season became a sensation.  John Clarkson, who had not appeared in a game since 1894, told The Bay City (MI) Tribune he was serious about making his own comeback:

“I might be a second Al Maul, who can tell?”

Clarkson’s comeback never materialized, but Maul’s success continued all summer.

The Sporting Life credited Hanlon for his pitcher’s success:

“Al Maul’s experience this season is only another confirmation of the claim that Ned Hanlon can take any old thing and get good results from, it for a year or so.”

Maul finished the season with a 20-7 record and a 2.10 ERA, and Hanlon had high hopes for his pitcher the next season.  Maul, along with “Wee Willie” Keeler, Hughie Jennings and Joe Kelley moved to the Brooklyn Superbas as part of the stock swap between the Baltimore and Brooklyn franchises that led to Hanlon’s move to Brooklyn.

But the pitcher who won 20 games two years after his career was “over” was out of surprises.  After four games with Brooklyn in 1898, Hanlon released Maul.  Brief stints with the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Giants failed to rekindle the magic and Maul’s career came to an end after his release by the Giants in September of 1901.

Maul went on to coach baseball at Lehigh University and scouted for several years for the Philadelphia Athletics.  He died in 1958 at age 92.