Tag Archives: New Orleans Pelicans

“Probably the ‘Boniest’ Bonehead Play Ever”

22 Jun

While some of the details changed in subsequent tellings, this story stayed substantially the same from when it was first presented in a column by sports writer William A. in 1913, until the final published version in 1957 in The New Orleans Times-Picayune.  One version called it, “Probably the ‘boniest’ bonehead play ever”

The story was told by and told about lefty Evan “Rube” Evans.  Born on April 28, 1890, in Sebring, Ohio, Evans was a career minor league pitcher who, when the story first appeared, seemed to be headed to the big leagues. 

Rube Evans

Rube Evans

The tall–he was reported by various sources as anywhere from 6′ 2″ to 6′ 4″–began his professional career with the Dallas Giants in the Texas League in 1910; he was 15-12 for the pennant winners, but The Dallas Morning News said he didn’t “take baseball seriously” until the following year, when he was 18-16 for the Giants:

“Before that, it seemed, the big, husky flinger looked at playing baseball something in the light of a joke.  Last season, though he came back into the game with a different viewpoint. He seemed to realize that ball playing was a man-sized business.”

After his 1911 performance, Evans’ contract was purchased by the New York Giants, and he joined the team for spring training in Marlin, Texas in 1912.  The Morning News said if he maintained his new found focus “and works as hard as he knows how to work he ought to stick.”

Evans quickly impressed the Giants with a pitch “takes a most freakish break,” according to The Washington Times:

“Rube Evans, the Giants left-handed recruit pitcher from Dallas, surprised bot Manager (John) McGraw and Coach Robby (Wilbert Robinson) by showing them a curve that is entirely new to the big league…The ball is delivered in exactly the same manner as the spitball, but he does not moisten it.”

The paper did not elaborate on how Evans’ “dry spitter” was different from versions reported on during previous seasons–including the one thrown by Christy Mathewson of the Giants–but according to The New York World, “McGraw says he will try and teach it to Rube Marquard.”

Despite his “dry spitter,” Evans failed to make the team and was returned to Dallas where he posted a 22-12 record for the Giants.

In 1913, he joined the New Orleans Pelicans in the Southern Association but appeared to be headed to the Cleveland Naps before he threw a pitch in the regular season for the Pelicans.  In March, Evans shut down the Detroit Tigers 3 to 1 on five hits and followed that up with a four-hitter (and 3 to 1 victory) against the Naps.

The Cleveland Press said, “(Naps Manager Joe) Birmingham plans to cut down his squad considerably.  It is said recruits (Hugh) Peddy, (Pete) Shields and (Ward) McDowell will be left here in trade for one good pitcher, probably Southpaw Rube Evans.”

With Evans apparently on the verge of joining the Naps, the story of his “bonehead” play was told by Phelon, then repeated widely:

“(Evans) has one curious habit—a trait which has aroused much wonder on the part of every manager under whom the southpaw has been toiling.  When given an order by his manager or captain, Mr. Evans always stops, cocks his ears, and demands a repetition of the directions.  Naturally he is first taken for a simp, or bonehead, but when further acquaintance with him shows that he is a gentleman of intelligence and high mentality, the field leaders are muchly puzzled.

“’I always want my orders repeated,’ quoth Mr. Evans, ‘so that I will never again make such an error.”

(The 1913 version of the story, which quotes Evans,  places the incident in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, some later versions say it happened in 1913 with the Pelicans, still others say it was in Portland, Oregon; however, the original publication predates Evans’ time on the West Coast which did not begin until May of 1914).

Evans said he had pitched into the ninth inning when the opposing team put a runner on third with one out, when his manager told him if the other team attempted a squeeze play to “bean him.”  Evans said:

“’I knew no more what a squeeze play was than the man in the moon, but my orders rang in my ears as I started winding up.  Just as a swung up my arm, the fellow on third tore for the plate…I took careful aim at the oncoming runner, and pickled him with a fine shot to the back of the cranium.  Three seconds later the crowd was coming towards me with roars of fury, and I got over the back fence just in time.

“’Well how was I to know that I should have hit the batter and not the runner?  Ever since I have insisted on duplicate orders, so that I would know just what to do.’”

His acquisition by Cleveland never materialized and he had a disappointing 12-15 record in 1913, in a season split between New Orleans and the Birmingham Barons.

It is also in question whether Phelon’s characterization of Evans as a “gentleman of intelligence and high mentality,” was entirely accurate given his inability to stick with clubs who were impressed with physical abilities.  After his second chance to pitch in the majors didn’t materialize, the remainder his of career was marked by long stretches of mediocrity, charges of bad behavior and comparisons to another left-handed “Rube.”

In August of 1913, he was suspended for the remainder of the season by the Birmingham Barons for, according to The Birmingham Post-Herald, “Failure to keep in condition.”  The Sporting Life’s Chandler Richter called him “Erratic,” The Oakland Tribune said he was”Eccentric,” a wire service retelling of the “beanball” story from 1915 said he “earned a nationwide reputation as a ‘squirrel,” another called him “the real eccentric,” when compared to Rube Waddell.

The other left-handed Rube

The other left-handed Rube

His two-year tenure with the Portland Beavers in the Pacific Coast League (PCL) began when he wore out his welcome in New Orleans in May of 1914 and was sold to the Beavers.  It was particularly rocky.  The Spokane Daily Chronicle said Evans and Beavers manager Walter “Judge” McCredie “got along like a pair of strange bulldogs.” He was suspended at least once, again for the euphemistic “failure to be in proper condition,” and gave up a game-winning home run to Jack Ness of the Oakland Oaks when he accidently threw a pitch over the plate while attempting to intentionally walk Ness.  At the close of the 1915 season, Portland let him go for what The Portland Oregonian called “His inability to take care of himself.” Of his 9-22 record the paper said:

“Rube ran into gobs of adversity.”

After leaving Portland, Evans played parts of three seasons for the Salt Lake City Bees in the PCL–in 1917 he was 21-9, but when McCredie was named manager of the Bees in 1918, Evans time with the team was nearly over.  Before the season, The Oregonian said, “Evans did not take kindly to the idea of having to take orders” from his former manager and was threatening to jump the club.  He finally did jump in June after appearing in 14 games and posting a 3-8 record.

Evans went to Portland and finished the 1918 season in the semi-pro Shipyards League, The Oregon Daily Journal said upon his arrival:

“Rube Evans was through at Salt Lake and McCredie was probably saved the trouble of wearying his hand by writing out Rube’s release, when Rube left.”

In 1919, he played for the Rupert franchise in the semi-pro Southern Idaho League; while successful, his reliance on the emery ball for his success didn’t make him friends.  The Twin Falls Times said:

“When Rube Evans lugged the emery ball into the S.I.L. he failed to do anything beneficial to the league.  Rube will win a few more games for the Rupert club, but he has lowered the standard of sport in the league.”

Evans had one more season in professional baseball, posting a 10-7 record with the Regina Senators in the Western Canada League in 1920.  In an August 15 doubleheader against the Edmonton Eskimos Evans was ejected for arguing with the umpire while facing the second batter of the first game; he came back to lead the Senators to 5 to 3 victory in the second game, giving up two runs in 7 2/3 innings, and hitting a three-run home run in the sixth.

Rube Evans

Rube Evans

After the 1920 season, he returned to Ohio and spent the next decade playing semi-pro baseball there and in Western Pennsylvania.  His last headlines came in 1924 when he pitched six innings for the Sharon (PA) Elks team in an exhibition game against the New York Yankees.  The Elks lost 10-8, Babe Ruth went 2-4 with a double for the Yankees.

Evans’ playing days ended in Akron, Ohio.  He pitched for and managed the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company team, and stayed on with the company as a rubber worker.  He died on January 30, 1950.

A clue to some of Evans’  erratic behavior is contained in his death certificate.  The pitcher spent the last three and a half years of his life in Ohio’s Cambridge State Hospital; his cause of death was listed as “General Paresis,’ brought on by syphilis.

A shorter version of this post appeared on June 3, 2013

“Pitcher Geiss No Good”

3 Jun

Emil August Geiss pitched one game in 1887 for Cap Anson’s Chicago White Stockings; it was his only Major League game as a pitcher (he later played two games in the infield).

The Chicago Tribune reported that Geiss was signed by the White Stockings “at a salary of $250 month.”  Geiss had been blacklisted the previous season for failing to report to the St. Paul Freezers in the Northwestern League after signing with that club.  The paper said, “It cost $200 to get him reinstated (The Sporting Life said it was $600).”

Geiss’ performance on May 18 was less than memorable.  He gave up 11 runs, eight earned, and 17 hits in an 11-4 loss to the Washington Senators.

The Chicago Tribune headline the following day summed up Geiss’ performance:

Pitcher Geiss No Good

Emil Geiss

The headline in The Chicago Inter Ocean was no kinder:

Geiss Is No Good.  A New Pitcher Tried by the Chicagos at Washington with Disastrous Results

The paper said Anson, who sat out, “watched the game from the players’ bench, a look of disgust deepening on his face every inning widened, and fairly turned his back on the unfortunate Whites.”

Geiss briefly redeemed himself when filling in for Anson on June 15 against the Indianapolis Hoosiers. The Tribune said:

“Geiss played first base in first-class style. He accepted eleven chances with no errors.At the bat he struck out twice and made one hit.”

Their opinion changed one week later when he played in place of Fred Pfeffer at second and  made three errors on seven total chances and was 0 for 5 at the plate.

The Tribune said:

“If Geiss is capable of no better work that he did yesterday he should not be allowed to again don the uniform of the Chicago nine.  A man who plays as he did is a positive menace to the success of the club.”

At the end of June, Geiss was released and finished the season in the Chicago City League.

An additional note about Geiss, and it’s a confusing note:

The remainder of his career is a bit vague and complicated.  His brother was William Geiss, who had two brief major league stints and a long minor league career during which he sometimes played under the name of Emil Geis (one “s”), further complicated because Emil Geiss’ Cook County, Illinois death certificate lists him as “Emil Geis.”

Emil pitched for the London Tecumsehs in the International League in 1888 and ’89.  He was the subject of a dispute between London and New Orleans in the Southern League over his rights—an arbitrator ruled that Emil was the property of London; at the same time William was with New Orleans, so we know it was Emil with London.

After a seven-year absence from professional ball, Baseball Reference has Emil hitting .402 in 41 games split between Bloomington in the Western Interstate League and Ottumwa in the Eastern Iowa League in 1895.

It seems likely, and contemporary reports indicate that it was actually William, playing under the name Emil Geiss (sometimes Geis) who put up those numbers in 1895–this conclusion is also supported by the fact that Emil, who had joined the Chicago Police Department in 1891 was still a member a force in 1895.

William Geiss

William Geiss

Both brothers died in Chicago, Emil on October 4, 1911, and William on September 18, 1924.  Both are buried at Saint Boniface Cemetery in Chicago.

 

“Zimmer was not to be frightened.”

20 Jan

On March 28, 1907 the New York Giants took the field against the Philadelphia Athletics in the second game of a five-game exhibition series at New Orleans’ Athletic Park.

The umpire was new.  Charles Louis “Chief’ Zimmer, after a 19-year career a major league catcher had tried his hand at managing in 1906.  His Little Rock Travelers finished last in the Southern Association with a 40-98 record.

Chief Zimmer

Chief Zimmer

The Atlanta Constitution said:

“Zimmer underestimated the strength of the league, and brought men into it who did not have the goods to deliver.”

After Zimmer was dismissed by Little Rock he joined the Southern Association’s umpire staff.

The Giants/Athletics series would be among his first games as a professional umpire.

The Giants won the first game 4 to 3.  The Giants scored two runs with two outs in the bottom of the ninth off Jack Coombs for the victory.  The Philadelphia Inquirer said:

“Zimmer umpired a god game… (but) the rowdy element in the Giants broke loose frequently, and the Chief had many disputed with some of the men.”

The second game did not go as well.  The Inquirer said:

“The Giants were the first at bat, and the first two men were retired. (Art) Devlin and (Cy) Seymour then signaled safely to the outfield, each moving up a base on (Rube) Oldring’s throw…(Frank) Bowerman was then up to the bat.  (Eddie) Plank soon had two strikes and one ball on him.”

With a one and two count the Giants claimed Plank balked when he threw to third and picked Devlin off.  Zimmer said he didn’t.  Roger Bresnahan and Mike Donlin, coaching at first and third, “rushed at Zimmer from the coaching lines and a wordy war ensued.”  Manager John McGraw came out of the dugout and ‘a half hour was consumed in ‘beefing.’”

Eddie Plank

Eddie Plank

Zimmer finally ordered McGraw back to the bench and:

“Play was about to start again when a remark made by McGraw caused Zimmer to order McGraw off the grounds.  The New York manager refused to go, and a lively tilt between him and Zimmer took place, the entire New York gang surrounding the “Chief” in an effort to bulldoze him.  But Zimmer was not to be frightened.”

New Orleans police officers came out on the field as Zimmer declared the game a forfeit after a half inning.

McGraw said his team would not play in the game scheduled two days later if Zimmer was the umpire.  The Inquirer said Athletics Captain Harry Davis “informed McGraw that inasmuch as the giants had turned down Zimmer as the umpire the series might as well be called off.”  New Orleans Pelicans owner Charlie Frank also threatened to bar the Giants from Athletic Park.

On March 30 McGraw arrived at Athletic Park with only nine players consisting of “nearly all the youngsters in camp.”

With both teams on the field, Zimmer approached the Giants dugout and asked for the team’s lineup and was told the Giants would not play if he were not replaced as umpire.  Zimmer announced that the Giants had again forfeited and the Giants left the ballpark.  Frank’s New Orleans Pelicans took their place and pitcher Mark “Moxie” Manuel defeated the Athletics and Rube Waddell 4 to 2.

Waddell--lost to the New Orleans Pelicans

Rube Waddell–lost to the New Orleans Pelicans

The series was over.

Before the Giants left New Orleans that evening, McGraw confronted Thomas Shibe, business manager of the Athletics and son of team president Ben Shibe, in the lobby of the St. Charles Hotel.  The Inquirer said:

“Manager McGraw backed up the entire New York team, insulted Thomas Shibe…by calling him vile names.  McGraw alleged that Tom had informed several persons that he had heard McGraw using insulting language to Umpire Zimmer… pursuing the same cowardly tactics which have made him famous over all the base ball circuit (McGraw)did not keep within reach of Shibe.  He kept well within the group of rowdies which make up his team, and thus being forfeited from any attack from Tom, naturally was as brave as a lion.”

The paper said McGraw disappeared from the scene as soon as members of the Athletics arrived in the lobby.

Frank Leonardo Hough, baseball writer for The Inquirer, took McGraw to task for his actions, and charged the New York press with allowing McGraw and Giants’ management to intimidate them out of “writing the truth” about the team:

“The press of no other city in the Union would stand for the tactics employed by the Giants.  Such a condition of affairs would be impossible in Boston or in Philadelphia.  There are any number of thoroughly equipped baseball reporters in New York City—reporters who know the game from A to Z, who, if permitted to write the game as they see it, would be the peers of any bunch of critics the country over.  But, unfortunately they are under an awful handicap.  Let them criticize the Giants to the latter’s disadvantage and their occupation is gone.  They will be made to feel the displeasure of the august heads of the Giants by being debarred from the Polo Grounds.

“Now and then a paper will stand by its representative, but only in rare cases.  Charley Dryden, Sam Crane, Joe Vila, Eddie Hurst and numerous others were barred from the grounds.”

Hough said some reporters “stand on their manhood, and take up other fields of newspaper endeavors. But the majority of them, less favored perhaps, cannot afford to fight with the bread and butter, and consequently they are compelled to go along, glossing over the Giants’ bad breaks or bad playing as lightly as possible, while others crook the pregnant hinges of the knee until they become almost hunchbacked and ignore everything and anything that might reflect upon the Giants.  That is the reason why the New Yorkers are the best uninformed baseball public in the country.”

No disciplinary action was taken against McGraw; Giants owner John T. Brush was said to have reimbursed Charlie Frank for $1,000 in lost revenue. The Giants finished in fourth place in 1907, the Athletics third, as the Chicago Cubs ran away with the National League pennant, beating the second place Pittsburgh Pirates by 17 games.

Hough continued to write about baseball for The Inquirer despite being an investor in the Athletics (Hough and Sam “Butch” Jones of The Associated Press each held a 12 ½ percent stake in the team beginning in 1901—Jones became a full-time Athletics employee in 1906, Hough remained a sportswriter during the twelve years he held his stock).  He sold his stake to Connie Mack in 1912 and died in 1913.

Chief Zimmer’s tenure as an umpire did not improve much after his first experience in New Orleans.  He opened the season as a member of the Southern association staff, but on July 9 announced his resignation.  His final game was on July 13 in Nashville.

“Apperious is a high-toned Man”

8 Jan

After igniting a controversy in Vermont’s Northern League in 1905 when he refused (as he had in college in 1903) to appear on the field with William Clarence Matthews, Sam Apperious returned to Alabama in 1906.

He played centerfield for the Montgomery Senators in the Southern Association.  The Washington Post said in March “it is said that Connie Mack has arranged to try him out with the Athletics next fall.”

Sam Apperious

Sam Apperious

The Atlanta Journal said he was in Alabama, and not the big leagues, by choice:

“Apperious is a high-toned man, a graduate of Georgetown, and plays ball for his home town because he likes the game.  He is not in the strict sense a professional, for he declines to go the big league, where he could easily get a much larger salary.”

In Montgomery Apperious became part of the biggest controversy of the Southern Association’s 1906 season—the league had no shortage of controversies each season.

It started with a fly ball to Apperious in an otherwise uneventful 9-0, June 10 victory over Charlie Frank’s Pelicans in New Orleans.  The Journal said:

“It sailed so high in the air that Apperious, who caught it, concealed under his shirt and gave it Manager (Dominic) Mullaney.  When cut open (the following day in the presence of Shreveport Pirates Manager Bob Gilks) it was found to be wrapped in rubber.”

Charlie Frank

Charlie Frank

Five days later the Atlanta Crackers were in New Orleans when, in the eighth inning after home runs by Pelicans’ William O’Brien and Mark “Moxey” Manuel,  Atlanta second baseman and captain, Adolph Otto “Dutch” Jordan suspected something was wrong with the balls.  The Atlanta Constitution said:

“(After Manuel’s home run) The ball was lost and new one was thrown out by the umpire, but before (Joe) Rickert, the next batter could go to the plate, Jordan picked up the ball and said he would not play, that the balls had rubber in them and that his men were being robbed…Jordan tried to purloin one of the balls, and only gave it up after he had been arrested by a half dozen policemen.”

Jordan was charged with petit larceny and released on $100 bond.  The ball taken from him was reported to be in the possession of the New Orleans Police.  Days later the Montgomery team gave the ball Apperious had kept to Southern Association President,  William Kavanaugh.  A full investigation was promised.

The Journal called for immediate action:

“Kavanaugh may be making investigations quietly and he may intend to act later, but what seems most in order just now is the suspension of the man who is said to be responsible for all the trouble in the Crescent City.  The actions of Charlie Frank in causing the arrest of Otto Jordan and his being taken in a patrol wagon through the streets of the city in a uniform of Atlanta, is a disgrace and the mere thought given it the more repugnant it becomes to all decent people.

“It was a disgusting and uncalled for act and was done to cover up the outrageous contact of the man who put the rubber balls into the game.”

By the end of the week, Apperious denied that the ball opened in Shreveport was the ball he caught in New Orleans while Mullaney and the Montgomery club dropped their request for an investigation of Charlie Frank and the rubber balls.

On June 23 the Crackers mascot, a four-year-old goat named Yaarab (shared with the Atlanta fire department) died suddenly.  A tongue-in-cheek article in The Constitution said: “when the news was flashed over the wires that Mullaney was another of Frank’s right-hand men, the goat betook himself to a bed of straw and curled up and bid his firemen friends a last farewell.”

Yaarab in happier times

Yaarab in happier times

Once Apperious and Mullaney withdrew their allegations, the scandal went the way of most of the annual scandals in the league; in early August The Sporting Life said President Kavanaugh declared the charges “entirely unfounded.”

Apperious appeared in 137 games for Montgomery in 1906 and hit .251.  The Constitution called him “The fastest outfielder in the South.”  The Montgomery Advertiser said he was “one of the best all-around ballplayers in the South.”

He only appeared in 24 more games.  Early in the 1907 season, The Advertiser said he was “suffering with water on the knee.”  Unable to recover from the injury, Apperious was released by Montgomery in June.

Apperious would never play again; he married and moved to Louisville, Kentucky.

The man who refused to take the field with William Clarence Matthews and the Cuban X Giants lived to see baseball integrated.  He died in 1962.  There is no record of him ever speaking to a reporter about his actions in Washington and Vermont.

A final note: The Washington Herald reported before the 1908 college baseball season that for the first time since 1904 Harvard would be playing Georgetown:

“When Sam Apperious was captain of the varsity nine Harvard insisted on playing a negro against the Blue and Gray, and Apperious viewed the game from the bench.  This brought about a severance of athletic relations, but the old wounds have healed and the Crimson will play at Georgetown field on April 25.”

The game ended in a 2-2 tie after 10 innings.

“The Montgomery Team Threw to us Three Games by Arrangement”

12 Nov

The Southern Association kicked off their 1903 season assuming things couldn’t help but go better than the previous year.  The actions of Memphis Egyptians owner/manager Charlie Frank—who continued to put players in the Memphis line up who had been blacklisted by the league—had thrown the season into chaos.  The situation became so contentious that the headline in The Atlanta Constitution said after the final day of the season:

  To The Relief of All the Season is Now Over

A post season agreement restored the league—and made Frank even a greater power in the league.

As part of the settlement Frank received an estimated $5000 which he immediately put towards building a contender for 1903.

Frank built a good team and continued to improve it; as the team battled for the pennant in the final month the roster included veterans Perry Werden, Joe Delehanty, and Charles “Dusty” Miller.

In July he paid a reported $2500 to the Milwaukee Brewers in the American Association for outfielder Sam Dungan, pitcher Ray “Dad” Hale and third baseman Bill Phyle; Frank named Phyle team captain.

Bill Phyle

Bill Phyle

Frank’s team finished strong and edged out the second place Little Rock Travelers on the final day of the season; Memphis beat the Atlanta Crackers 9 to 5 in front of 7500 fans—the then largest ever crowd at Atlanta’s Red Elm Park.

The final standings

The final standings

The following week Little Rock defeated Memphis 3 games to 2 in a best of five series; the Southern Association season appeared to have come to peaceful close on September 28, 1903.

That changed two days later.

Newspapers across the South reported on serious charges that were being made in Memphis.  The Associated Press said:

“According to statements made by William Phyle, former National League player and this year a captain of the pennant-winning Memphis team…the Memphis club won first honors by inducing players on the opposing team to ‘throw’ the final (series).”

Phyle told reporters the scheme began earlier in September:

“The Montgomery team (Black Sox) threw to us three games by arrangement, but Little Rock kept on winning and kept it close on out heals.  I knew that Birmingham (Barons) threw to Little Rock too.  Then the deciding and final game of the season between Memphis and Atlanta arrived, and we had to win the last two games to keep the lead.  Two of the Atlanta pitchers were given $25 each to allow Memphis to win…and another player was also bought.  We won one game by (George) Winters misjudging a fly that allowed (Ted) Breitenstein a three-bagger and the deciding run.”

Winters error came in the second to last game; he was absent from the final game of the season.

Phyle later told an Atlanta reporter that the pitchers who were paid off were Frank “Zeke” Wilson and John Ely.  Charlie Frank, who had just announced he was leaving Memphis to take control of the New Orleans Pelicans, denied the charges and claimed Phyle was simply angry over a “dispute involving money.”

Zeke Wilson

Zeke Wilson

Phyle also said the five-game post season series was “prearranged, so that the deciding game was played in Memphis before a Sunday crowd.”

League President William Kavanaugh scheduled a meeting in Memphis for October 17 to investigate the charges, and Phyle went to West Baden, Indiana.

Phyle demanded travel expenses to return to Memphis for the meeting, he initially claimed that the money the league wired came too late. Then Kavanaugh ordered him, by telegram, to “catch the first train for Memphis,” Phyle refused, now claiming he was ill.

The meeting was held without Phyle.  Zeke Wilson testified that he had received $50 from Charlie Frank, but that it was given to him after the season in order to secure his release from Atlanta.  He said he intended to sign with Frank in New Orleans (he ended up signing with Montgomery in 1905, but joined Frank in New Orleans in 1905).

As for Winters, who made the error that allowed Memphis to win the second to last game and was absent for the final game, The Sporting Life said that charge was “very easily explained.” It was claimed he failed to appear in the final game because of a dispute with Atlanta management over transportation money.

Managers Lew Whistler of Montgomery and Michael “Duke” Finn of Little Rock denied that either club was involved in “anything crooked.”  John Ely did not appear but sent a letter denying all charges.

Without Phyle in attendance to provide his evidence the league “exonerated all clubs and players mentioned in his charges,” and suspended Phyle indefinitely.

Next Phyle was ordered to St. Louis to defend his charges before the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues.  He again failed to appear.

On October 25 Bill Phyle was expelled indefinitely from professional baseball.

The following week he appealed the decision; claiming his illness was the only reason he failed to appear and that if allowed “he will appear and substantiate the charges which he has made.”

He was never given another opportunity to present his case.  His appeal was denied in December.

Tomorrow: More on Bill Phyle.

The 1903 Memphis Egyptians--

The 1903 Memphis Egyptians–Bill Phyle is number 11, Joe Delehanty 2, Perry Werden 4, “Dusty” Miller 12, Ted Breitenstein 13, Charlie Frank, bottom left with bow tie

Adventures in Barnstorming—“Their Conduct was Disgraceful”

30 Oct

After the 1887 season John Montgomery Ward was celebrating his marriage to one of the most popular actresses of the era, Helen Dauvray, by touring the South playing exhibition games with the New York Giants–primarily made up of New York players but also included Mike “King” Kelly (who also brought his wife Agnes) of the Boston Beaneaters and Jerry Denny of Indianapolis Hoosiers.

John Montgomery Ward

John Montgomery Ward

The team arrived in New Orleans on October 29 and was greeted with a reception at the St. Charles Hotel.

The first game against the Southern League’s New Orleans Pelicans was played the next day at Sportsmen’s Park in front of 6000 fans.  New York’s Tim Keefe held the Pelicans to just two ninth-inning runs, in a 7-2 victory.   Ward had three hits.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune said:

“It was far from an ideal day for ball playing, for the weather was almost freezing and the wind blew in cutting blasts.  But those who admire baseball in this city were undeterred.”

The following day the Pelicans managed an 8-inning 4-4 tie:

“(The Pelicans) put up a game that would have done credit to any aggregation, and the only excuse for their not having bounced the Giants, was the fact that (Bill) Geiss and (Ed) Cartwright made inexcusable errors at the commencement that let in two runs.”

The Times-Picayune left out a large part of what happened that day.

Two days later the whole story appeared in papers across the country, The New York Times said:

“(S)everal members of the New York Baseball club were intoxicated when they entered the grounds to play with the New Orleans nine on Monday last.  Their conduct was disgraceful, and (Pelicans) Secretary (Maurice) Kaufman called on a police officer to eject them from the grounds.”

A wire report from New Orleans, that appeared in The Chicago Daily News said:

“There are several men in the New Yorks who have been drinking freely ever since they arrived in the city, and were not of course, in condition to play ball.”

Giants’ catcher William “Buck” Ewing, and Jerry Denny were identified as drunken players, but it was King Kelly who was most often singled out.  The wire report said when police attempted to arrest a drunken fan who had accompanied the players to the ballpark:

“Kelly jumped into the stand and tried to prevent the arrest, claiming the man was a friend of his…During the entire game the unseemly exhibition was kept up.  At one time Kelly climbed into the stand and drank beer with his friends, while the other men of the nine had already taken positions in the field to begin an inning.”

King Kelly

King Kelly

During the game Ward “took his wife from the grounds, and placing her in a carriage, sent her to the St. Charles Hotel, because of the disgraceful exhibition of some of the players.”

The game scheduled for November 2 was cancelled and The New York Times said the tour would be disbanded.

By the end of the week all parties were trying to downplay the incident.  Ward said members of the club “misbehaved in no way,” and instead said the cancellation was because it was discovered that Pelicans players had received $5 each for the games, and the Giants players only received $3.  The Pelicans and The Times-Picayune had a revised version of the events:

“The whole story is that a couple of the members met too many friends with tempting ways and reached the field in no condition to play ball.  The majority of the visitors were all right and were heartily ashamed of the conduct of their comrades.”

The paper said that the “New Yorks are in good trim again, however and at their own request a game was arranged for (November 4).”

The Giants won that game 5 to 3—New York catcher Buck Ewing pitched a complete game for the Giants (he pitched 47 innings during his major league career, with a 2-3 record and 3.45 ERA), beating the Pelicans best pitcher John Ewing.  Only 500 fans attended the game.

The series ended on November 6 with the Giants winning two games; a 3-1 morning game with “a very small crowd,” and an evening game in front of more than 6000 won by the Giants 5-4.

While the rest of the Giants continued on to Texas, Ward returned to New York for meetings to negotiate the recognition of the Brotherhood of Professional Baseball Players by the National League.  He rejoined the team on the West Coast later that month for a six-week barnstorming tour.

The Ward/ Dauvray marriage went about as well as the honeymoon in New Orleans—their divorce just six-years later was a very public, scandalous affair.  Ward, who was accused of being a serial philanderer, was actually barred from ever remarrying during Dauvray’s lifetime as part of the divorce decree.  He was able to get the ruling reversed in 1903 and remarried.

“Krug Seemingly Lost his Head”

25 Sep

The 1902 Southern Association season was so contentious that a headline in The Atlanta Constitution said the day after it ended:

To the Relief of All the Season is Now Over

In addition to the months-long battle between Charlie Frank and the league, there was an on-field incident that The Columbus (GA) Daily Enquirer called “an exhibition as was never before seen on an Atlanta Diamond.”  Henry “Heine” Krug was at the center of it.

Henry Krug

Henry Krug, 1902

In February of 1902, Ed Peters, new owner and president of the Atlanta Firemen signed Ed Pabst to manage the team.  Pabst had played the previous season with the San Francisco Wasps in the California League and brought with him to Atlanta his friend Krug, a 25-year-old shortstop who had been playing for West Coast professional teams since he was 17.

When Krug was signed The Constitution said he was “beyond doubt the star of the Pacific Coast,”

The Sporting Life said Krug had already signed a contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, but jumped the Phillies to join Atlanta.

Krug’s average never dipped below .300, and was very popular with fans and the press.  The Constitution called him “The best all-around professional of the Southern Association” in June.

On July 15 the paper noted his “dashing, errorless work that has been classed as phenomenal.”

Two days later the tone changed dramatically.

The fourth place Firemen were playing Charlie Frank’s Memphis Egyptians and Krug was having a rough day.  Early in the game a throw from first baseman George Winters hit Krug “and gave him a severe blow in the mouth.”  Krug had walked off the field, intending to leave the game, but came back.  He probably shouldn’t have.

Krug went on to make three errors, two of which The Constitution said “in the opinion of the crowd might have been avoided.”

The crowd began to taunt Krug and “Instead of taking the roast the bleachers proceeded to give him as any sensible player would take it, Krug seemingly lost his head and with all the vicious intent imaginable, he secured the ball and threw it with all his strength into the bleachers.”

The Constitution said Krug, “phenomenal” just two days earlier, now said the shortstop’s “conduct on former occasions has been offensive to the patrons of the game.”  Although Krug was ejected from a game earlier in the week, there didn’t appear from newspaper reports to be any pattern of “offensive conduct.”

Atlanta bleacher fans “dodged the sphere” and no one was hurt.  Team president Peters immediately approached Ed Pabst and “instructed him to order Krug out of the game.”  Pabst refused:

“He did not like what he considered an infringement on his prerogative, and at once tendered his resignation as manager of the Atlanta team.  President Peters was just as ready to accept as Manager Pabst was to tender, and within the space of a few seconds the ball player who has been managing the Atlanta team since the playing season of 1902 opened found himself deposed.”

Ed Pabst

Ed Pabst

Peters took over as manager and remained in the position for the rest of the season.  His first act as manager was to remove Krug from the game and suspend him.  The Constitution said:

“Krug’s baby act was witnessed by Sergeant Martin and policemen Norman and Hollingsworth.  They placed him under arrest.”

Some reports said a bottle and rock were thrown at Krug, but the player said he didn’t see that and was reacting only to the verbal taunts.  He appeared in court the following day and was fined $10.75; The Daily Chronicle said, “Krug appeared very penitent.”

Peters sold Krug’s contact to the New Orleans Pelicans the following day, but Krug refused to report sending a wire to Peters and Pelicans owner Abner Powell saying “that if he could not play in Atlanta he would not play,” in the league.

Despite the incident, there was no shortage of interest in Krug’s services.  In addition to New Orleans, the Phillies, who he jumped to join Atlanta and the San Francisco franchise in the California League offered him contracts.

Krug signed with Philadelphia and made his debut with the Phillies on July 26; the day after Atlanta management petitioned the National Association of Baseball Leagues (NAPBL) to blacklist Krug.

No action was taken and Krug played out the season in Philadelphia, hitting .227 in 53 games.  He spent 1903 with the San Francisco Seals in the Pacific Coast League (PCL).  Peters sold his interest in Atlanta in 1903.

Before the 1904 season, the PCL and the NAPBL reached an agreement that made the league part of the National Association and no more an “outlaw league.”  As part of the deal, PCL players who were under contract with other teams were returned.  As a result, Krug returned to Atlanta.

The Constitution assured their readers:

“He has promised to be good and to do his best to help the team win.  It is the belief of many fans in this city that he wishes to redeem the past.”

Krug played two incident-free, if unspectacular seasons in Atlanta, then played in the New York State League with the Scranton Miners and the American Association with the Indianapolis Indians.

krug1

Henry Krug,1907

The 31-year-old returned to San Francisco, where he was “negotiating for a place with the California State League,” and had accepted a position coaching the baseball team at Cogswell College.  Krug underwent surgery for “an abscess upon his throat” on January 12, 1908, and died from complications from the operation two days later.

Two months after his death all had been forgiven in Atlanta.  The Constitution named him to the paper’s “All-Atlanta Ball Team,” the best professional players to have played in the city.  Krug “was a power with the stick.  No better man ever played on the Atlanta team when it came to breaking up a game.”

“An Almost Complete Surrender”

23 Sep

At the close of the Southern Association’s tumultuous 1902 season league president William Kavanaugh, and the majority of the team owners, led by the New Orleans Pelicans’ Abner Powell, set out to oust Charlie Frank of the Memphis Egyptians.

Charlie Frank

Charlie Frank

After a decade as a player, including two seasons with the St. Louis Browns in the National League, Frank was one of the founding members of the new Southern Association in 1901 and became the president and manager of the Memphis Egyptians.

The Atlanta Constitution said that right from the beginning Frank became “the storm center for southern baseball politics… (He) was constantly engaged in some sort of furious baseball litigation.”

After signing three players–Jim St. Vrain, Charlie Babb,  and Bill Evans—who were under contract with other teams during the 1902 season, Frank became embroiled in a months-long legal battle with the league and the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues (NAPBL).

In October of 1902, Frank lost his legal battle, and it was thought that the time was right to force him out.  The New Orleans Times-Picayune said Powell and Kavanaugh were “confident that a new party” would take over the Memphis franchise and “do much better than the old.”

Powell, Kavanaugh, and the other league owners overestimated their influence in Southern baseball and underestimated Frank’s.

While Powell and company were trying to find a replacement for Frank, he was creating a new league.  The Constitution said:

“(Frank) determined to organize an outlaw league, got financial backing in Memphis and actually formed a circuit.”

The problem for the Powell group was that Frank’s proposed league, and its investors, were more financially sound than the existing league.  Charlie Frank challenged the Southern Association again, and again the Southern Association blinked.

Rather than losing the league, the other team owners accepted every one of Frank’s demands and welcomed him back.

The Associated Press called it “an almost complete surrender,” by the Powell-Kavanaugh contingent:

“Charles Frank retains the Memphis franchise; Memphis club and Frank restored to good standing; Memphis will be paid for all losses sustained during last season, on account of unplayed games, legal costs, etc…”

Additionally, Frank saw to it that every investor in his “new league” was reimbursed for their costs; the Association covered “all obligations made by the promoters,” including honoring the contracts of all players who had been signed, most of whom were absorbed into Southern Association teams.  Additionally, Chattanooga, Tennessee was dropped from the league and a franchise in Montgomery, Alabama was “awarded to the promoters” of Frank’s “new league.”

It was estimated that Frank received $5,000 in the settlement.  He put some of that money towards building a solid team for 1903, winning his first pennant.  Memphis won again in 1904; early in the season, Frank handed over the managerial reins to Lew Whistler.

Lew Whistler

Lew Whistler

In 1905, Frank became president, principal owner, and manager of the New Orleans Pelicans, and promptly led them to a pennant— in spite of a Yellow Fever epidemic in New Orleans which required the team to relocate to Atlanta for part of the season.  Frank’s Pelicans also won pennants in 1910 and ’11.  He sold his interest in the team after the 1911 season but remained manager for two more years.

Charlie Frank's 1910 New Orleans Pelicans

Charlie Frank’s 1910 New Orleans Pelicans

In 1916 Frank returned to the Southern association again, organizing a stock company to purchase the Atlanta Crackers.  He managed Atlanta to a fifth place finish in 1916, and then won pennants in 1917 and ’19.

Frank sold his majority interest in the Crackers in May of 1921 but continued to manage the team.  In May of 1922, he resigned citing poor health—he died in Memphis three weeks later.

“Demoralizing a Successful Organization For the Sake of a Few Unimportant, Mediocre Ball Players”

19 Sep

When Charlie Babb jumped from the Indianapolis Indians of the American Association to the Memphis Egyptians in the Southern Association in June of 1902, he was not alone.

Pitcher Jim St. Vrain, recently released by the Chicago Orphans and under contract with the Tacoma Tigers in the Pacific Northwest League, signed with Memphis rather than going to Tacoma.

Another American Association player, Second baseman Bill Evans of the Columbus Senators, also jumped to Memphis.  The Cincinnati Enquirer said he jumped being suspended by the Senators for being “too drunk” to take the field on June 18.

Memphis manager Charlie Frank’s three new players would be a source of controversy in the Southern Association for the remainder of the season and a continuation of an ongoing feud over the league’s salary limit which The Sporting Life said: “a majority of the clubs are known to have violated.”

Charlie Frank

Charlie Frank

Southern Association President John Bailey Nicklin, acting on orders from Patrick T. Powers, president of National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues (NAPBL), ordered Frank not to play any of the three.  Frank not only defied the order but according to The Atlanta Constitution, gave Nicklin a “lecture in abuse,” and threatened to “break the league.”

Throughout July, the situation became increasingly absurd.

On July 11 Nicklin ordered umpire Ed Cline (the same Ed Cline who may, or may not, have initially approached Babb about jumping) to not allow St. Vrain to pitch against the Nashville Volunteers, managed by Frank’s biggest ally in the league, Isaac Newton “Ike” FisherThe Atlanta Constitution said Cline became mysteriously “sick and could not work,” although he “was upon the grounds while the game was being played.”  St. Vrain and the Egyptians beat the Volunteers 8 to 5 with “Red” Ehret and Nashville’s Bill Dammann acting as umpires.

After the game Frank was suspended for 10 games and threatened with being blacklisted if he played St. Vrain again.  Later that week Frank received a temporary injunction allowing him to continue using St. Vrain. And while Babb and Evans had been suspended by the league and were not covered by the ruling, Frank continued to put both in the lineup.  Frank also continued to manage the team despite his own suspension.

On July 25 Frank was again ordered by Nicklin not to play Babb and Evans.  This time, he complied, for one day.  The two players sat out an 8 to 4 victory over Atlanta (St. Vrain pitched for Memphis).  Both were again in the lineup the following day, and on July 27 Frank filed a suit against the league and Nicklin seeking $10,000 in damages.  He also sought and received an injunction “restraining President Nicklin from interfering with the playing of Babb and Evans.”

The Constitution began calling the team the “Memphis Injunctionists.”

The Sporting Life said Frank was:

“Demoralizing a successful organization for the sake of a few unimportant, mediocre ball players.”

Nicklin, the league, and the NAPBL blinked first.

Two days after the suit was filed an agreement was reached.  Babb and Evans would remain with Memphis and were reinstated from suspension; the fourth place Egyptians agreed to forfeit every game in which Babb and Evans participated in while under suspension—dropping the team to fifth place.

The controversy appeared to be over.  It wasn’t.

On August 4 the Egyptians arrived at Athletic Park in New Orleans to play the second place Pelicans.  The New Orleans Times-Picayune said:

“Under orders of (Pelicans) manager Abner Powell a big policeman today refused admission to St, Vrain, Evans and Babb, of the Memphis club, when they tried to enter.”

The game was canceled

The following day:

“Manager Frank again took his team to out to the park, but admission was refused to St. Vrain, Evans and Babb.”

The umpire, picked by the Pelicans, “declared the game forfeited to New Orleans,” and Powell shared with the press a telegram from the Little Rock Travelers which read:

“Congratulations upon your firm methods.  We will stand with you.”

Despite the earlier agreement, the NAPBL announced that Frank and St. Vrain were still under suspension.

Jim St. Vrain

Jim St. Vrain

On August 9 the Shreveport Giants refused to allow St. Vrain into the ballpark for a double-header.  Memphis took the field for each game with only eight players and no pitcher.  They forfeited both games to the Giants.

Memphis was due to travel to Little Rock for a three-game series from the 11th through the 13th.  The Travelers announced that they “would not play with St. Vrain and Frank in the game.  Babb and Evans will be allowed to play (but) under protest.”

On August 12 Nicklin resigned at a meeting of league owners in Chattanooga (Memphis and Nashville refused to attend).  He said he was “almost helpless to enforce the rules of the league,” because of Frank’s numerous injunctions.  He was replaced by vice president William Kavanaugh.  A motion was passed to suspend Frank and St. Vrain indefinitely, but Babb and Evans were officially reinstated.  Again.

In response, Frank filed another $10,000 lawsuit naming every team in the league except Nashville.

On August 27 in Nashville, St. Vrain started for Memphis.  President Kavanaugh fined Nashville $1000 and “suspended that club for the balance of the season,” he threatened “drastic measures’ towards Memphis as well, but for the several injunctions that kept him from acting.  Two days later the suspension was lifted.

On August 30 a Little Rock judge enjoined Frank from “playing or attempting to play St. Vrain in any state.”

The Atlanta Constitution headline summed up the opinion of most Southern baseball fans on September 22:

To The Relief of All the Season is Now Over

As an appropriate end, Memphis beat Atlanta on the final day of the season behind the pitching of the still suspended Jim St. Vrain.

The no longer suspended Nashville Volunteers won the pennant.

The Indianapolis Indians, the team Charlie Babb jumped, won the American Association pennant.

Charlie Babb

Charlie Babb

The Indianapolis papers had predicted that Babb’s career would be doomed when he jumped.  In 1903, he was purchased by the New York Giants.  He played in the National League with the Giants and Brooklyn Superbas through the 1905 season.  In 1906, he became a minor league player/manager; with the Memphis Egyptians.  He stayed with Memphis until 1910 and managed to become embroiled in one more controversy.

Jim St. Vrain was only 19-years-old during that 1902 season.  He finished 12-4 with Memphis.  He went to the West Coast in 1903.  His career was over after the 1905 season.

Bill Evans played in the Southern Association until 1906; he eventually became a member of three different teams who refused to play against him in 1902: New Orleans, Shreveport, and Little Rock.

Charlie Frank did just fine in the end.  More on that next week.

Defending their own Honor

12 Aug

In 1909 the Atlanta Crackers won their second Southern Association championships in three seasons.  Big things were expected for 1910; the team’s two 20-game-winning pitchers Tom Fisher and Harold Johns were returning.

The team the Southern press called “the hitless wonders,” which hit .222 while winning the championship added two new bats, outfielder Arista DeHaven, .336 with the Terre Haute Hottentots in the Central League and Charlie Seitz, .326 with the Norfolk Tars in the Virginia League.

But it took very little for near panic to take hold in Atlanta.

Only eight games into the season the Crackers were 3-5, tied for sixth place.  The Birmingham Age-Herald was ready to pronounce the defending champions finished, and said “there was dissention and dissatisfaction in the ranks.”   The article said that manager Adolph Otto “Dutch” Jordan had already lost control of his team.

The 1910 Atlanta Crackers:  Standing, from Left to right: Arista DeHaven, Charlie Seitz, Paul Sentell, Brown Rogers, Hyder Barr, Roy Moran, and Ed Hohnhorst,  Seated from left: Scott Walker, Hank Griffin, Syd Smith, Otto Jordan, Bick Bayless, Erskine Mayer, Harry Matthews, Harold Johns and Tom Fisher.

The 1910 Atlanta Crackers: Standing, from Left to right: Arista DeHaven, Charlie Seitz, Paul Sentell, Brown Rogers, Hyder Barr, Roy Moran, and Ed Hohnhorst, Seated from left: Scott Walker, Hank Griffin, Syd Smith, Dutch Jordan, Dick Bayless, Erskine Mayer, Harry Matthews, Harold Johns and Tom Fisher.

It wasn’t enough for the team to simply deny the charges; in an unprecedented move they went right to the fans to assure them they were trying to win and happy to be members of the Crackers.

On May 1, The Atlanta Constitution ran a letter “gotten up without solicitation by the boys and the autographs of each and every man is attached hereto:”

A Card to the Faithful Fans of Atlanta:

We the undersigned players of the 1910 ballclub, appreciating to the full the kind of loyal support always accorded us by the good citizens of Atlanta, desire hereby to register an emphatic protest against a statement recently made in a Birmingham paper to the effect that there was dissention among us, and that this dissention, so it was alleged, was the cause of our defeats on the last road trip.

Without stopping to discuss the real reasons which gave us more defeats than victories, we wish to state that it gives us much satisfaction to put our friends on notice that there is not one word of truth in this malicious slander, and further, that we know of no reason why there should be any dissention in our club…It should be further interesting to state, as we do, that the very best of feeling prevails among us all, and there is not one of us who is not doing his very utmost to land another pennant for Atlanta.  We simply ask our friends to continue to put their faith in us, and in return, we desire to give them the assurance that, whether we win another pennant, or not, we are firmly determined to play the best and sincerest ball of our careers—at least so far as honest and persevering effort can aid in bringing about so happy a result.  We confidently hope to amply show both friend and foe, long before the summer of 1910 has passed into baseball history, just how basely we have been misrepresented by this idle and empty charge.

The signatures of the 1910 atlanta Crackers that appeared with their open letter to the fans.

The signatures of the 1910 Atlanta Crackers that appeared with their open letter to the fans.

After the slow start, and their pledge to “play the best and sincerest ball” of their careers,  Atlanta played well the remainder of the season, finishing with a 75-63 record, but the New Orleans Pelicans, behind “Shoeless Joe’ Jackson’s league leading .354 average, and the pitching of 41-year-old Ted Breitenstein (19-9, 1.53 ERA), and 31-year-old Otto Hess (25-9), went wire-to-wire, winning the pennant with a record of 87-53.

Atlanta would not win another pennant until 1913.

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