Tag Archives: New York State League

Adventures in Barnstorming: Anson’s Colts

1 Apr

Cap Anson was broke.  Again.

In January of 1909, he appeared in “debtors court” in Chicago over $111 owed to the Chicago House Wrecking Company.  Anson told Judge Sheridan E. Fry he was “busted.”

The judge asked Anson about his stock in the company that owned Chicago’s Coliseum. Anson said, “I did but the bank’s got it now.  I even owe them money on it.”

anson

Anson

The judge dismissed the case.  The Chicago Tribune said as Anson was leaving the courtroom:

‘”Three strikes and out,’ half called a man among the spectators.

“The ‘Cap’ paused a moment with his hand on the door knob.

“’There is still another inning,’ he offered as he stepped into the corridor.  Someone started to applaud, and the bailiff forgot to rap for order, and the judge looked on indulgently.”

A rumor made the rounds in subsequent days that Cubs President Charles Webb Murphy was trying to get Anson appointed supervisor of National League umpires. National League President Harry Pulliam quickly killed the idea, The Detroit Free Press said:

“Mr. Pulliam comes through with the sensible suggestion that if Chicago wishes to do anything for Anson it would do better to provide the job itself.”

Anson’s former teammate, Evangelist Billy Sunday, told The Associated Press he was willing to help:

“So, poor old ‘Cap’ Anson is busted! Well, that’s too bad. We ought to help that old boy in some way.

“The Chicago people ought to help ‘old Cap’ out. They ought to give him a benefit. I’d like to help him myself.”

With the job with the National League not forthcoming, no offer from the Cubs, and Anson’s apparently turning down Sunday’s help, he set out on a 5,000-mile barnstorming tour with his Chicago City League amateur team, Anson’s Colts.  Anson, who celebrated his 57th birthday on tour, played first base on a club that included future major leaguers Fred Kommers, George Cutshaw, and Biff Schaller.

colts.jpg

The barnstorming Colts, Anson top center

The tour started in March 28 in South Bend, Indiana; the Colts lost games on the 28th and 29th to the Central League South Bend Greens.

On April 1, Anson’s Colts played the Cincinnati Reds. Thirty-nine-year-old Clark Griffith took the mound for the Reds. Jack Ryder of The Cincinnati Enquirer said:

“Seventy-nine persons witnessed a game of ball at League Park yesterday afternoon which would have furnished several thousand with material for conversation if they had only been there to observe it.”

Griffith pitcher=d a complete game and went 5 for 5 with a triple. In a 15-4 victory; he allowed just seven hits, Anson had two of them in four trips to the plate.

Ryder said of Anson:

“That game old boy played first base for his team, stuck through to the finish, and was the only man on his side who could do much of anything with the delivery of Mr. Griffith.”

Ryder said Anson also “handled perfectly,” every play at first base:

“Remarkable indeed was the spectacle of this great player, now nearly 60 years of age, hitting them out as he did in the days of old and handling thrown balls at his corner like a youngster.  Will there ever be another like him?”

Despite the praise from Ryder, third baseman Hans Lober said of the team from Chicago:

“Teams like…Anson’s Colts don’t give you just the kind of work you need.”

The Colts dropped two more games in Ohio to the American Association Columbus Senators.

Anson’s barnstormers finally won a game on April 4; beating the Central League’s Wheeling Stogies 10 to 4.

The Colts won the next day in Washington D.C., defeating a team from the government departmental league 11 to 1.  Anson had two hits and stole a base.  The Washington Evening Star said:

“The grand old man of the game distinguished himself by playing and errorless game at first.”

The only other highlight of the game was the first appearance of the new electric scoreboard at American League Park.  The Evening Star said:

“It proved a great success and convinced those present that it will undoubtedly make a big hit with the local fans who will witness major league games this summer.”

Against professional competition the next day in Baltimore, the Eastern League Orioles with Rube Dessau on the mound, shutout the Colts 8 to 0; Anson was hitless and committed two errors.

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Ad for the Orioles game

After a 10 to 8 loss to the Reading club of the Atlantic League on April 7, the Colts traveled to Philadelphia for a game with the Athletics the following day.

The Philadelphia Inquirer said of the game:

“The Athletics held Pop Anson and his Colts all too cheaply yesterday and before they realized it the traveling Chicagoans had secured such a lead that they succeeded in beating the White Elephants at Broad and Huntington Streets by a score of 6 to 3.”

Anson had two hits, one of Biff Schlitzer and another off losing pitcher Jimmy Dygert, and accepted 21 error-free chances at first in a 10-inning victory.

Although only “a couple of hundred” fans turned out The Philadelphia Press said:

“Anson played first in a style that showed he has not forgotten any of his baseball cunning.”

Anson also promised reporters the Colts would win upcoming games with the Giants and Red Sox.

cap

Anson on tour

The Colts traveled to New Jersey to play the Trenton Tigers of the Tri-State League the following day. The Evening Times of that city said:

“Anson came over to Trenton hugging to his breast fond recollections of the victory over Connie Mack’s Athletics, won the previous day.  Trenton seemed only a small blot on the map compared to the Athletics and he counted on winning in a common canter.

“Alas how rudely were these delusions shattered by these smashing, dashing, crashing Trentons that manager (Percy) Stetler has corralled.”

The Colts lost 13-5, Anson was 1 for 4 and made an error.

On to Newark the following day to play the Eastern League Indians.  The Colts lost 7 to 0, but The Newark Evening News said:

“The way (Anson) cavorted around first base, picking low throws from the earth, and pulling down sizzling liners with either hand, made spectators gaze upon him in wonderment.”

The toll of travel and games nearly every day appeared to hit Anson on April 12, five days before his 57th birthday in Waterbury, Connecticut.  The Colts won 4 to 2, but The Chicago Inter Ocean said:

“Anson’s batting eye was weak…he fanned furiously in five futile trips to the plate.  He was the only one who didn’t get a hit.”

The following day, The New York Times said the “Colts played a light, fumbly, amateurish game though the boss himself had said before it started that they would take a scalp.”

The Giants won 7 to 1 and the game featured two other old-timers:

“(Wilbert) Robinson, ancient catcher of Baltimore, and Dan Brouthers, more ancient first baseman of the old Buffalo club, who came down from Wappinger’s Falls ‘to help out.’ Robinson caught the whole nine innings; Brouthers stood at first base after the fifth inning.”

Only “a few hundred people” came out on a cold, rainy day to see the three legends.  Anson was 1 for 4, Brouthers 0 for 1, and Robinson, who also managed the Giants in place of John McGraw, was 2 for 4.

Games scheduled for Worcester and Springfield, Massachusetts were cancelled due to poor weather and the team did not play again until April 16, In Hartford against the Connecticut State League’s Senators.

 

The Hartford Courant said Anson struggled at the plate, and when pitcher Chick Evans struck him out in the third inning:

“John W. Rogers, the vocal member of the local double umpire system, obliged with ‘It isn’t what you Used to be, but What you are Today.”

The Colts lost 8 to 2.

The team lost again the following day, on Anson’s birthday, 5 to 3 to the Providence Grays of the Eastern League. Anson was 1 for 4.

The Boston Globe said:

“Capt. Anson was warmly greeted every time he came to bat. He showed much of his old-time skill in fielding, covering first base in grand style.”

The paper—as did most during the tour–wrongly added a year to Anson’s age, saying he turned 58 that day.
The Colts were back in New York the following day but were the victims of a seldom enforced ban on Sunday baseball while playing a game against the semi-pro Carsey’s Manhattans ant Manhattan Field.

The Chicago Daily News said:

“The officers stopped the game after six innings of play. Throughout the Bronx the police were active in suppressing Sunday ballplaying, but this is said to be the first time that a game on Manhattan Field has thus been broken up.”

The score at the end of six innings was not reported.

The next day in Binghamton, New York, two innings of scoreless baseball between the Colts and the New York State League Bingoes, were bookended by rain and the field “looked like a lake” before the game was called, according to The Binghamton Press.

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Ad for the rained out Binghamton game

On to Pennsylvania, the Colts were scheduled to play Anson’s old White Stockings teammate Malachi Kittridge’s Wilkes-Barre Barons, but the that game was rained out as well.

The Tri-State League’s Johnstown Johnnies beat the Colts 11 to 2, no full box score appears to have survived.

On to Ohio and a 4 to 1 loss to the Dayton Veterans—Anson added two more hits and played error free.

On April 24, The Colts hit Indiana, and lost 8 to 3.

The Fort Wayne Sentinel noted that it was the first time since 1871 that Anson has played a game in their city—as a member of the Rockford Forest Cities.

Anson—who also gave his age as 58 rather than 57– told the paper:

“I’m just a kid at fifty-eight.”

Despite feeling like a hit, Anson did collect either of the Colts’ two hits in the loss.

The tour ended on April 25 in Terre Haute with a 13 to 1 shellacking at the hands of the Hottentots, the eventual basement dwellers of the Central League.

Anson capped the tour with one hit in four trips and an error.

The club returned to Chicago amid little fanfare and the tour likely lost money for Anson, who found himself “busted” several more times before his death in 1922.

The best anyone could say about the tour was a tiny item buried in the bottom of The Chicago Tribune’s sports page:

“Capt. Anson and his ball team returned yesterday from the first invasion of the East ever made by a local semi-pro team. While the team lost a majority of the games played, it paved the way for future visits and other local semi-pro teams are expected to follow the Captain’s example. The veteran was received warmly in all of the towns in which he played.”

The paper ignored the fact that Rube Foster and the Leland Giants—also members of the Chicago City League—had made two similar trips.

“He is a $900 Man”

6 Jul

Frank Leonardo Hough had a major conflict of interest.  While sports editor for The Philadelphia Inquirer, he also held a 12.5% interest in the Philadelphia Athletics from the club’s inaugural season until 1912—he also served as the team secretary for several seasons while working at the paper.  Another Philadelphia sports writer, Sam Jones of The Associated Press also held a 12.5% interest in the team.

Frank L. Hough

Frank L. Hough

Perhaps it was Hough’s close association with an American League team that made him one of the most vocal advocates for the rights of current and former National League players while the leagues battled for star players.

In 1902, he told his readers the story of how William “Bill” Duggleby, who jumped from the Phillies to the Athletics after the 1901 season,  was treated—Hough said he was “Human Chattel”–while a member of the Phillies:

“These are the facts:

“William Duggleby, pitcher played with the Auburn Club, of the New York State League, during the season of 1897.  In the fall of that year, he was drafted by the Philadelphia Ball Club.”

According to Hough, Duggleby was offered $900 for the season, a $25 raise from his salary in Auburn.

Hough pitched just nine games for the Phillies in 1898 and said Hough “was farmed or rented,” to minor league clubs for the remainder of 1898 and in 1899 and 1900.

“Thus it will be seen that although he was under the absolute control of the Philadelphia Club from 1897, he played only a few games in the season of 1898 with that organization.  He had no control over his own services.  He could not even say where he would play, or where he would not play.  That matter was determined by the treasurer of the Philadelphia Ball Club.”

William Duggleby

William Duggleby

Hough noted that while Duggleby “developed considerable skill,” and had three good seasons in the Eastern League (12-11, 22-16, 17-10) and drew considerable interest from  a “half dozen” major league teams, he only received $900 from the Phillies each season:

“The clubs that rented Duggleby did not know him in the financial end of the transaction at all.

“Had Duggleby the right to sign wherever he could have made the best bargain he would have undoubtedly received at least $1800 a season for his services—just twice as much as received under the White Slave system of the National League.”

Hough said Duggleby likely only had six to 10 years total earning power and “lost three years in which he should have received a salary somewhere commensurate to his ability.”

That, however, said Hough, was not the worst of it.  In 1900, Duggleby was with the Toronto Canucks, who paid the Phillies “$225 per month for his services,” while Duggleby was paid just $150 a month.

“No convict from a Texas or Georgia penitentiary was ever rented or leased to break stone on a quarry or repair roadways in colder blood than was Duggleby to the Toronto Club.

“If Duggleby was not a white slave in a free country, what in the name of all that is fair was he?…Of course, Duggleby did not have to wear ball and chain—that might have interfered with his playing ability. But he had no more control over his actions than would the most hardened criminal consigned to the quarries.”

Just days after Hough made the case for Duggleby’s victimhood—and after he appeared in just two games for the Athletics— the pitcher returned to the Phillies.  Said to have been paid $3250 by the Athletics, Duggleby accepted a $2400 contract with the Phillies.  He told The Sporting Life:

“There was no great reason for my going with the American League in the first place, but after I had given my word to go with Connie Mack’s team I did not feel like breaking it. Then came the decision in the (Napoleon) Lajoie case, and a notice from Manager (Bill) Shettsline to report to him or meet with the same fate as Lajoie. I went to see Shetts at once and asked him if the club really intended to proceed against all players that were under reserve. He assured me that they would. Well, under the circumstances I saw nothing for me to do but go back to the National.”

Hough’s tone changed considerably after Duggleby left the Athletics; in addition to referring to the pitcher in a headline as a “Vertebraeless Youth,” he said

“Without awaiting the outcome of the efforts to be made today to secure an appeal (in the Lajoie case)… (Duggleby) runs to cover like a frightened hound…Evidently the treasurer of the Philadelphia Ball Club sized up Duggleby right in the first place.  He is a $900 man.”

Duggleby, who posted a 20-12 record for the Phillies in 1901, only had one winning season after (18-17 in 1905).  He pitched in the major leagues until 1907.  Duggleby had one other distinction:  During his initial trial with the Phillies in 1898, he hit a grand slam in his first major league at-bat on April 21–for 70 years he remained the only player to hit a grand slam in his first game until Bobby Bonds hit one during his debut (his third at-bat) on June 25, 1968; Jeremy Hermida equaled the feat in his first major league at-bat in 2005.

Hough remained a stockholder and officer with the Athletics while simultaneously reporting on baseball for The Inquirer, until he sold his interest to Connie Mack in 1912.  He was the paper’s sports editor until his death the following year.  (While Hough’s middle name was said to be Leonardo throughout his life, his Pennsylvania death certificate lists it as Lewis)

Polchow and Starnagle

13 Aug

At the close of the 1902 Three-I League season two unlikely candidates for the big leagues were signed by Cleveland Bronchos Manager Bill Armour.

Pitcher Louis William “Polly” Polchow and catcher George Henry Starnagle (born Steurnagel) did not put up impressive numbers.   Neither the Reach or Spalding Guides included Polchow’s won-loss record, but both said the 22-year-old’s winning percentage was just .414 in 32 games for the Evansville River Rats.  Starnagle hit just .180 with 13 passed balls and eight errors in 93 games for the Terre Haute Hottentots.

Louis Polchow

Louis Polchow

The two joined the fifth place Bronchos in St. Louis on September 13.  The following day both made their major league debuts in the second game of a doubleheader against the second place Browns.

The St. Louis Republic said:

“Captain (Napoleon) Lajoie decided to try his new Three-Eye League battery, which reported to him yesterday.  Starnagle, the former Terre Haute catcher, was as steady as a veteran, but Polchow wobbled at the drop of the hat, and before he steadied himself the damage was done.

“Five runs in the first two innings gave the Browns a good lead, and it was well they made hay while the sun shone, for Polchow handed them six ciphers for dessert.”

Starnagle made an error in the seventh when he overthrew Lajoie on an attempted steal of second by Bobby Wallace—Wallace advanced to third on the error, but Polchow retired the side without a run.

George Starnagle

George Starnagle

In Cleveland’s half of the seventh Starnagle and Polchow had the opportunity to get them back in the game.  With two runs in, and a runner on first and one out Starnagle came to the plate.  The Republic said:

 “Starnagle tried to put on a Three-Eye League slugging scene.  He dislocated two ribs going after (Bill) Reidy’s slow ones and finally fanned.  Polchow forced (Jack) McCarthy.”

Starnagle was lifted in the ninth for a pinch hitter.  Cleveland lost 5-3.  Polchow gave up nine hits and walked four, striking out two, and was 0 for 4 at the plate.  Starnagle was 0 for 3, with one error behind the plate.  Neither would ever appear in another big league game.

The Box Score

The Box Score

Starnagle was 28-years-old, and had only played two seasons of pro ball before his game with Cleveland—he was semi-pro player with teams in Danville and Sterling, Illinois for nearly a decade before he joined Terre Haute in 1901.  He was considered a solid defensive catcher, but during 10 minor league seasons he only hit better than .230 three times.  When he played with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Royals in 1909 The Montreal Gazette said:

“Starnagle has been drafted every year by big league clubs, all of whom have been pretty well supplied with seasoned catchers; hence his failure to be kept.”

Polchow was just 22 when he pitched his only big league game.  Plagued by wildness, he spent three mediocre seasons with teams in the Southern Association and South Atlantic League (he was 36-45 for the Montgomery Senators, Macon Highlanders and Augusta Tourists), then pitched five seasons in the New York State League.

In 1906 he helped lead the Scranton Miners to the New York State League championship (the team’s leading hitter was Archibald “Moonlight” Graham), although The Scranton Republican said his first start with the team was nearly his last.  Polchow lost 12 to 2 to the Utica Pent-Ups, walking 10 and giving up 10 hits.  After the game Polchow accused catcher “Wilkie Clark of throwing the game.  A fight followed and Clark and Polchow never worked together after that.   Andy Roth was Polchow’s battery partner during the remainder of the season.”

Starnagle retired after the 1910 season.  He returned to Danville, Illinois where he died in 1946; he was 72.

Polchow played through the 1911 season, and then became ill.  He died of Bright’s Disease at 32-years-old in August of 1912

In addition to Polchow and Starnagle, the Bronchos signed two other Three-I League players in September of 1902—both had somewhat more success.

Rock Island Islanders catcher George “Peaches” Graham made his debut the same day as Polchow and Starnagle, during the first game of the doubleheader; he struck out as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning of a 3 to 1 loss. He spent parts of seven seasons in the major leagues, and hit .265.  Decatur Commodores pitcher Augustus “Gus” Dorner made his debut three days later beating the Chicago White Sox 7 to 6.  He pitched for parts of six big league seasons, compiling a 35-69 record.

 

“Johnson can Hit the Ball as far as Anybody”

14 Oct

After Hal Chase replaced George Stallings as manager of the New York Highlanders, Otis “Ote” Johnson was given another opportunity to play for the team.

Highlanders’ second baseman Frank LaPorte and third baseman Jimmy Austin were traded to the St. Louis Browns for third baseman Roy Hartzell.  Chase said he’d move shortstop John Knight to second and playing Johnson at shortstop.

The Sporting Life quoted Chase saying he planned to play Johnson at short “for his batting,” but noted that Johnson “only batted .223 in the fast Eastern League last season.”

Otis "Ote" Johnson

Otis “Ote” Johnson

New York scout Arthur Irwin agreed with Chase that the team needed Johnson’s bat in the lineup, and told The New York Globe:

“Johnson can hit the ball as far as anybody, and what is more he can hit often.”

The New York Herald said:

“Johnson is a beautiful fielder as well as a good hitter, and it is Chase’s intention to have him take the shortstop job.”

That’s where Johnson was on Opening Day, a 2 to 1 victory over the defending World Champion Philadelphia Athletics; Johnson batted seventh, went 0 for two with a walk and a sacrifice, and scored a run.

After sweeping Philadelphia in three games, New York split a four game series with the Washington Senators.

The Washington Herald said New York’s new shortstop “sure looked good, he fielded his position in fine shape,” and “keeps the infield alive with his funny remarks.”

A month after the season began The Indianapolis News said Johnson was “called home (to Muncie, Indiana) by the serious illness of his mother.”  Three days later the paper said he returned to New York “his mother’s condition having considerably improved.”  Within a week of his return the New York papers reported that Johnson had filed for divorce from his wife.

Less than two weeks later Johnson lost his starting job; Knight moved to short and Earle Gardner played second base.

Ote Johnson

Ote Johnson 1911

The San Francisco Chronicle said of the former Pacific Coast League star:

“Ote Johnson has been benched for his weak hitting.  He put up a star game in the field…but Ote did not respond with the hitting which featured his work when he was with Portland.”

Three days after he was benched Johnson left the team again to finalize his divorce.  After returning Johnson became New York’s primary utility infielder until he fell out of favor with Hal Chase.  The manager had been criticised as the team slumped for, as The Globe said “utterly lacking in the qualities for successful management.”

By August the team was fourteen games out of first place and The Herald said:

“Hal Chase, who has been very lenient with his players, is drawing the string tighter.”

The paper said Johnson “has been suspended without pay for violating the club’s rule of discipline.”  It was never revealed what rule was violated, but Johnson was suspended for about a week.  Johnson also hurt his throwing arm in August, further limiting his playing time.

Many in the New York press questioned Chase’s ability as a manager; Wilton Simpson Farnsworth of The New York Evening Journal was the exception.  Farnsworth said of Chase, when the team was 13 games back in August:

“Hal Chase, the game’s greatest first baseman, has made good as manager of the new York Yankees…Knockers claim that poor management is keeping the Yanks down, but forget it! A bad break in luck plus innumerable injuries is the cause.”

Hal Chase

Hal Chase

Regardless of the reasons, 1910’s second place team was limping to a sixth place finish. Chase resigned as manager in November.  Johnson hit just .234 and committed 31 errors in just 65 games.  He was released to the Rochester Hustlers in the International league in December.

Johnson spent just one season in Rochester; he hit .268 and got married; after the season his contract was sold to the Binghamton Bingoes in the New York State League (NYSL).  Johnson protested the pay cut his Binghamton contract called for, and initially threatened to jump to the PCL, he eventually signed a contract and became popular with fans.  He hit the Bingoes first home run of the 1913 season and was awarded with a free daily shave from a local barber and fan named Billy McCann.

He played most of the next three seasons in the NYSL—with the exception of 45-games with the St. Paul Apostles in the American Association at the beginning of the 1914 season.

After playing for the Elmira Colonels in 1915 Johnson recommended two players to his friend Walter “Judge” McCredie on the Portland Beavers—his teammate, pitcher Frank Caporal, and Syracuse Stars first baseman Owen Quinn—and it appeared the 31-year-old Johnson might be heading back to Portland where he remained very popular.

On November 9 Johnson went hunting with friend in Binghamton.  The (Portland) Oregonian said:

“Ote Johnson, famous ‘Home Run’ Ote of the Portland Pacific Coast team of 1907, 1908 and 1909, is dead…It seems Johnson, in company with a party of friends, went forth in search of game and while chasing a wounded fox stumbled and fell, both barrels of the shotgun he was carrying discharged into his abdomen.

“To the older generation of Portland fans Johnson will be remembered for his prowess in poling out long bingles.  He was one of the longest hitters that ever wore the livery of a Coast League club.  Some are prone to argue that he eclipsed the performances of (Frank) Ping Bodie and Harry Heilman, who are now the long-swat stars of the circuit.  Johnson also had a peculiar throw from third that will be remembered–He had a perfect underhand throw and was a wonder at handling bunts.”

He was buried in Johnson City, New York–his pallbearers included several players: Mike Roach, Charles Hartman, Mike Konnick, and William Fischer,

“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.”

“The Disappearing Oakland Infielder”

7 Aug

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jimmy Frick

Jimmy Frick

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

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

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

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

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

Herb McFarlin, Secretary of the Oaks, said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gus Hetling, Frick's replacement at third

Gus Hetling, Frick’s replacement at third

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

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

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

George Chalmers

5 Aug

George “Dut” Chalmers is one of only seven big league players born in Scotland.  He came to New York City as a young child and, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer “his baseball education was begun” with the Bradhurst Field Club which played their games at 145th and Lenox Avenue.  He also played on amateur teams in Hoboken, New Jersey and Red Hook, Brooklyn.

After attending Manhattan College, Chalmers began his professional career in 1909 with the Scranton Miners in the New York State League, managed by Gus ZeimerThe Sporting Life said:

“In George Chalmers, the giant young Manhattan College grad, Zeimer has landed what looks to be the prize-package pitcher of the league.   His work has been sensational.”

There are no complete statistics for 1909, but the following season the 22-year-old Chalmers was 25-6 for Scranton; finishing second in victories to 23-year-old Syracuse Stars pitcher Grover Cleveland “Pete” Alexander who was 29-11.

The Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader said Chalmers:

“Looks like one of the very best in the minor leagues, having a major league head and everything in the pitching line, including fine control and a spitball.”

At the end of the 1910 season the Philadelphia Phillies acquired both of the New York League’s star pitchers; Chalmers was purchased, for either $3000 or $4000, depending on the source, and Alexander was obtained through the Rule 5 Draft.

Both rookies made the club after spring training in Birmingham, Alabama.  Six years later The Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger said of Chalmers’ first days with the 1911 Phillies:

“Chalmers came with an elaborate trousseau, together with lots of pinch neckwear and considerable toggery that aroused the brunette population of Birmingham to deep, empurpled envy. “

chalmersasadude

George Chalmers, left, with teammate Alonzo Earl “Crossfire” Moore Displaying the style “that aroused the brunette population of Birmingham to deep, empurpled envy. “
Caption reads “Chalmers as a Dude.”  Photo from Chalmers’ personal scrapbook.

In addition to his fashion sense, Chalmers also impressed the Phillies with his pitching ability.

While Alexander got off to a great start, Chalmers started slow, but after back-to-back victories in July, Phillies manager and catcher Charles “Red” Dooin told The Philadelphia Times:

“That youngster is a great twirler.  You know they told me up in the New York League that Chalmers was a better pitcher than Alexander.

“Of course this is impossible because I think that ‘Alex’ is the greatest pitcher that ever drew breath, but I am going to say there’s not a club in either league which could beat the ball Chalmers has pitched for the last two weeks.

“I think I have another Alexander in Chalmers and if he don’t make good prediction I will say that he lacks the nerve and nothing else.  Chalmers has more stuff than Matty (Christy Mathewson) had.  He needs the experience and knowledge of batsmen, but aside from that he is the best young twirler I have ever seen excepting Alex.”

A syndicated story from The American Press Association said Chalmers had given up other sports for baseball:

“George Chalmers, one of the pitching sensations of the Philadelphia National League team, is a motorcycle rider as well as a box artist.  Before he joined the Phillies Chalmers occasionally picked up a little spare change acting as a pacemaker for Elmer Collins, the bicycle rider.  Chalmers has paced Collins several times in the latter’s races against Bobby Walthour.  Chalmers, however, doesn’t intend riding any more.  He fears a spill that might injure his arm and affect his pitching.

“Chalmers at one time had an ambition to become an automobile race driver.  He gave up this notion when he got his chance to join Philadelphia.  The big right-hand pitcher is not sorry that he sidetracked that ambition, for his pitching now is yielding him a healthy income.”

While he was overshadowed by Alexander, who was 28-13 with a 2.57 ERA, Chalmers had a respectable rookie season posting a 13-10 record with a 3.11 ERA.

In September it was announced that the Phillies would travel to Cuba for a 12-game series with the Almendares and Havana teams in November.  As the October 31 departure date drew near it became clear that, for a variety of reasons, many of the Phillies would not be making the trip.  Most notably Alexander, locked in a contract dispute, and Dooin would remain at home.

Besides Chalmers, the players who made the trip were:

Wallace “Toots” Shultz P

Eddie Stack P

Bill Killefer C

Fred Luderus 1B

Otto Knabe 2B

Hans Lobert 3B/MGR

Jimmy Walsh SS

Sherry Magee OF

Mike Mitchell OF (Borrowed from Cincinnati Reds)

Dick Cotter OF

Chalmers and his Phillies teammates on the beach in Havana, Cuba

Chalmers and his Phillies teammates.  Caption reads “In the surf Havana Cuba”
Photo from Chalmers’ personal scrapbook.

The first game of the series, reduced from 12 to nine games because of the Phillies’ limited roster, took place on November 5.  Chalmers faced Almendares and Cuban legend Jose Mendez; the Phillies lost 3-1.  It is likely Chalmers hurt his arm during the series; he did not start another game, and Schultz picked up the slack, pitching six games, he was credited with the victory in the five games the Phillies won.

Upon returning to Key West the last week of November, Chalmers was briefly detained by authorities. The Philadelphia Times said the ship’s manifest listed Chalmers as American, but:

“On arrival in the states when he had to sign a long paper of identification, he told the officials that he was Scotch and never naturalized…Chalmers was reprimanded and the ship company was fined for carelessness”

Heading into the 1912 season The Philadelphia Times, and the second year pitcher, had high hopes:

“Chalmers is young and has every confidence in himself.  He is big and strong and is a perfect running mate for Alexander the Great.”

But the George Chalmers who returned from Cuba would never be the same pitcher.

More tomorrow.

Special thanks to Karen Weiss, George Chalmers’ great niece, for generously providing copies of photos from Mr. Chalmers’ scrapbook.

Thanks to Mark Fimoff co-chair SABR Pictorial History Committee for identifying Earl Moore in the first picture and correcting my incorrect, original caption placing Chalmers on the right–the information has been corrected in the caption.  October 18, 2013

Gus Dorner’s Spitball

7 Jun

dorner1 dorner2

Augustus “Gus” Dorner suddenly became a successful pitcher in 1904.  He had brief trials with Cleveland in the American League in 1902 and ’03, he was 6-6 and control was a problem; on May 23, 1903, walked 11 batters in a game against the Philadelphia Athletics.  He finished the 1903 season with the Columbus Senators in the American Association posting a 7-7 record.

The next two seasons in Columbus Dorner was 18-10, and 29-8.  The Fort Wayne Daily News said:

“The big German attributes his success to condition, control, study of the batsman and mastery of the spitball.”

Dorner said, “I use the spitball a great deal.”  As a result of his new pitch he said:

“(I) have not had the slightest trouble with my arm this year.  I have worked hard to get control and perfect the spit ball.”

The magic was short-lived.  Dorner earned a return to the big leagues in 1906 but was a combined 8-26 with the Cincinnati Reds and Boston Beaneaters.  Overall he was 29-62 in parts of four seasons with Boston.

Gus Dorner

Gus Dorner

He didn’t fare much better in the minor leagues, going 25-29 his last three seasons as a professional.  After his release from Boston in May of 1909, he finished the season with the American Association’s Kansas City Blues with a 9-18 record.  The last two years of his career were spent with the Wilkes-Barre Barons in the New York State League and the Harrisburg Senators in the Tri-State League.

Crazy Schmit in Cleveland

10 May

Crazy Schmit pitched for the Cleveland Spiders in 1899; compiling a 2-17 with a 5.86 ERA for the 20-134 last place team (in Schmit’s defense the 1899 Spiders were one of the worst teams in history, losing 24 straight at one point, and Schmit’s ERA was a half of a run better than the team ERA).

The pitcher had grown tired of his nickname “Crazy,” and of references to his behavior as “tacky.”  After being called both by The Cincinnati Enquirer in August, he responded:

“I have stood this sort of thing just about long enough.  I am neither tacky nor crazy, and without wanting to throw any flowers at myself, I will make the statement that there is not another left-handed pitcher in the business who used as good judgment when pitching as I do.

“Furthermore, I am the only left-hander in the business who has an effective slow ball.  Some of these ten-thousand-dollar beauties and phenoms look like thirty cents to me.  I can also swell up and say that I threw the Phillies down this year.  I beat that hard-hitting gang by a score of 6 to 2.”

1899 Cleveland Spiders--finished 20-134

1899 Cleveland Spiders–finished 20-134

Within weeks Schmit was let go by Cleveland;  The Baltimore American reported on the release of the former and future Oriole:

“Pitcher Schmit, that queer and original baseball character, was yesterday given his ten days’ notice of release by the Cleveland club management and afterward notified that he had been fined for insubordination.”

The American quoted Schmit:

“I was released I suppose because it had been reported that I was not doing my best to win and because the owners were displeased with me for several accidents that happened to me.  I missed the train in Chicago, and while I was riding into Cincinnati from one of the suburbs with a young lady who may one day be Mrs. Schmit, lightning struck the trolley wire and I missed the train again.  I guess that is why I was fined.  They wished to make an example of me.  I do not mind the release, as I can easily get another and better position, but I hate that $50 fine, because my salary is not quite as high as that of some bank presidents.”

Despite his release and his record, Schmit still considered himself a great pitcher, blamed his career statistics on the teams he played with, and the more he spoke the more valuable he became as a player:

“I have in my career pitched for fourteen tail-end clubs and I am done with them.  Unless I can pitch for some club that can win a game occasionally I will stop pitching ball.  The longer I pitch the more stuck I am on myself as a pitcher.  I have pitched good ball for Cleveland, but who could win with six and eight errors behind him, and misplays that are far worse than errors and that go as hit.

“I am the most popular player on the circuit and the only man who knows how to coach as a science.  If some of these managers knew something of the theatrical business they would wire on and advertise I am to pitch a certain game.  When it is known I am to pitch I have often brought enough into the box office in a single game to pay my whole salary for the season several times over.  We played before 14,000 people in Chicago and of that number fully 5,000 came to see me.”

Schmitt did not “easily get another or better position” in 1899 or 1900—he sat out the remainder of 1899 and spent 1900 in the Interstate and New York State Leagues.  Schmit opened the season at 2-3 in five games with the Columbus Senators before being released; there are no surviving records for his New York State League games with the team that split the season between Elmira and Oswego.  The next season John McGraw would give him a chance to pitch in the American League.

More Crazy Schmit next week.

Count Campau Explains the “Science of the Sport”—Part 2

28 Mar

Charles “Count” Campau was among the fastest and best base runners of the 19th Century; he stole 63 bases in 147 games major league games, and stole 100 with Savannah and New Orleans in 1887.  In 1900 Campau, then 36 appears, not to have slowed down much.

The Binghamton (NY) Press said at a “field day” competition in Montreal, Campau “circled the bases in 14 ½ seconds and won a handsome gold watch, which he now carries as a souvenir of the feat.”  The Press also said “At one time Campau challenged any baseball player in the world to run a match race of 100 yards for 100.”

"Count" Campau

“Count” Campau

In 1893 Campau wrote an article for the New Orleans Times-Picayune about the “Science of the Sport,” last week‘s post included his comments about the battery, this week, the rest of the article:

“Many people will not believe that a third baseman’s position is one of the hardest and most trying.  As soon as he makes a hot pick-up he must immediately send the ball to first to score the batter out.  He must be a quick, hard and accurate thrower, or a fast base runner will have a good chance to get to first.

“The short stop and second baseman, as a rule, generally work together, but the short stop aids the baseman more than he receives help, in fact, the second baseman is a sort of short stop.  Should a batter be right-handed the grounder will invariably go to the short stop.  If a man has already reached first, the short stop depends upon the second baseman to be at the bag, and send the ball to him…A left-hand batter will send the ball between first and second, where the second baseman generally plays.  Should there be a man on first, the short stop is looked upon to cover the bag, and if the hit is a fast grounder and both men are quick throwers, a double can be easily worked.

“The first baseman is a mean position to play.  It looks easy, but is hard.  He has got to play a short stop game, must be a sure catcher of a thrown ball and is supposed to get a low thrown ball or a high one, and must catch a ball either on the left or right side.  This position is the best place for a captain; for he can see every play that is made better than should he be in the outfield, and can readily argue a decision with an umpire without walking a mile to do so.

“The outfield must be greatly depended upon and must catch all the balls in that territory..  The outfielders have not as much work as the infielders, but they have to look up at Old Sol and must have a good pair of eyes.  They must be hard, quick throwers to be of any value to the team and have got to watch the base runners and use judgment  as to the proper place to throw the ball…A person can be a good fly ball catcher with diligent practice.  He must know where to run and judge a ball.  As soon as he can do this there will be no trouble to succeed.

“A captain must be a cool man and be able to command respect from his men and let them know that his rulings must be obeyed…When his side is in he should instruct his men how to bat, when to bunt or sacrifice. “

Campau said “Baseball is a great exercise, for it is played with brain and every muscle, and daily practice will make any person become strong quick, for every muscle is brought into play and is developed.”

Campau played and managed until the 1905 season, finishing his career with the Binghamton Bingoes in the New York State League; released by Binghamton mid-season, he became an umpire, working in the Southern, Eastern and New York State Leagues June of 1907.

Charles Columbus "Count" Campau 1904

Charles Columbus “Count” Campau 1904

Campau gave up umpiring for thoroughbred racing; he served as a handicapper, clerk of scales and placing judge at a variety of race tracks, including Kenilworth Park in Buffalo, King Edwards Park in Canada, Oriental Park in Cuba, and finally, the Fair Grounds in his adopted home of New Orleans.

Campau died in 1938.