Tag Archives: New York Yankees

“I Haven’t Heard of any Club Owners Refusing to accept the Patronage of Colored People”

24 Apr

Damon Runyon called Dan Parker, “The most consistency brilliant of all sportswriters.”

Parker wrote a column and was sports editor of The New York Daily Mirror from 1926 until the paper folded in 1963.

 

danparker

Dan Parker

 

Parker often used his column, “Broadway Bugle” to agitate for change in sports.  He crusaded against fixed wrestling matches, disreputable “Racetrack touts,” and the influence of organized crime in boxing—these columns led to several investigations, the disbanding of the corrupt International Boxing Club, and several criminal convictions, including Frankie Carbo, a member of the Lucchese crime family.

Parker was also an early crusader for the integration of professional baseball.  In 1933, Parker lent his name and influence to The Pittsburgh Courier’s “Crusade for comments from baseball celebrities” who supported integration.

Parker wrote to Chester Washington, The Courier’s sports editor:

“I don’t see why the mere accident of birth should prove a bar to the Negro baseball players who aspire to places in organized baseball.  I haven’t heard of any club owners refusing to accept the patronage of colored people. Rutgers didn’t draw any color line when Paul Robeson proved himself the best man for the place he was fighting for on the football team.  The All-American selectors didn’t go into a huddle about Paul’s complexion when they picked him for a place on the mythical eleven, football’s highest honor.

 

robeson

Paul Robeson

 

“The U.S. Olympic Committee didn’t consider Eddie Tolan’s or Ralph Metcalfe’s lineage when they were picking the strongest sprinting team possible for last summer’s games.  If the Negro athlete is accepted without question in college football and amateur track and field events, which are among the higher types of sports, I fail to see why baseball, which is as much a business as it is a sport, should draw the line.

“In my career as a sports writer, I have never encountered a colored athlete who didn’t conduct himself in a gentlemanly manner and who didn’t have a better idea of sportsmanship than many of his white brethren.  By all means, let the Negro ballplayer play in organized baseball.  As a kid, I saw a half dozen Cuban players break into organized baseball in the old Connecticut League.  I refer to players like (Armando) Marsans, (Rafael) Alameda, (Al) Cabrera and others (Almeida, Marsans, and Cabrera played with the New Britain Perfectos in the Connecticut State League in 1910). I recall the storm of protest from the One Hundred Per Centers at that time but I also recall that all the Cubans conducted themselves in such a manner that they reflected nothing but credit on themselves and those who favored admitting them to baseball’s select circle.

“The only possible objection I can find to lifting the color line in baseball is that the Yankees might then lose their great mascot.  I refer to my good friend, (Bill) “Bojangles” Robinson, who chased away the Yankee jinx last season with his famous salt-shaker. The Yanks didn’t draw the color line on their World Series special to Chicago for Bill accompanied us on the trip.  On the way back, at every town where we stopped for a few minutes, the crowd hollered for Babe Ruth. Babe would make an appearance and then introduce Bojangles who would tell a few stories, go into his dance and make the fans forget about baseball as he ‘shuffled off to Buffalo.’

 

bojangles

Bill “Bojangles” Robinson

 

“I read your paper every week and find your sports pages well edited and thoroughly enjoyable.”

Parker’s letter was released shortly after Heywood Broun of The New York World-Telegram made waves at the 1933 Baseball Writers Association dinner when he said:

“I can see no reason why Negroes should not come into the National and American Leagues.”

Broun and Parker were joined by another prominent sports writer, Gordon Mackay, who had been sports editor at three Philadelphia papers—The Enquirer, The Press and The Public Ledger—who wrote to The Courier:

“I believe that there are scores of Negroes who would make good in the big minors and in the majors.  Take some of the men I used to know—John Henry Lloyd, Rube Foster, Big (Louis) SantopPhil Cockrell, Biz Mackey and others—why, Connie Mack or the Phillies would have been strengthened with any of them on the best teams they ever had.”

The Courier’s Washington was hopeful that the sentiments of three powerful sportswriters would have some impact:

“Fair-minded and impartial writers like Broun, Mackey, and Parker can do much towards breaking down the barricaded doors of opportunity to capable colored ballplayers which lead into the greatest American game’s charmed circle.  And we doff our derby to ‘em.”

Advertisements

One Minute Talk: Braggo Roth

15 Sep

In 1916, The Newspaper Enterprise Association ran a series of brief articles called “One Minute Talks with Ballplayers.”

Robert “Braggo” Roth, in the midst of a .286 season for the Cleveland Indians:

“I certainly feel as if I owe Leslie Nunamaker of the Yankees a vote of thanks for consenting to trade bats with me earlier in the season.

“At the start of the season I was using a bat I had obtained from Joe Jackson (Roth was one of three players traded by the Chicago White Sox for Jackson in 1915) in a trade but one afternoon during preliminary practice I borrowed a big black bat from Nunamaker who had been hitting to beat the band.  I thought I might change my luck.  Sure enough, I started to hit ‘em on the nose with my new ‘Betsy’ and have been going good ever since.

Roth and his "Betsy"

Roth and his “Betsy”

“I suppose I’ll hit a slump the minute I lose that stick.”

Nunamaker appears to have done OK with the “trade” as well; he hit .296 in 260 at bats that season.  Jackson hit .341 for the White Sox.

“Tell the Babe to Choke Up on his Bat”

15 Aug

While Babe Ruth kept a low profile—or as low a profile as he could—in Sudbury, Massachusetts, and occasionally New York, during the winter of 1922, he received hitting advice from Christy Mathewson.

Ruth struggled—at least for Ruth, 35/96/.315—all season after starting the year suspended by Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis for barnstorming during the 1921 off-season.

Babe Ruth

Ruth

Mathewson was in New York in December promoting the sale of “Christmas Seals for the aid of others stricken with tuberculosis.”  He talked to Thomas Cummiskey, writer for the Universal Service syndicate:

“’Tell the Babe to choke up on his bat a little when pitchers start tossing slow balls at him next season, and to smash some of the floaters into left field.  If he does, he’ll cross up a plan to stop his home run hitting.”

Cummiskey noted that the New York Giants pitchers shut Ruth down during the 1922 World Series—Ruth was 2 for 17 with 1 RBI—because they “slow-balled him to death.”

As for Mathewson:

“(He) saw the series, the first games he witnessed in two years because of his battle with tuberculosis that kept him at Saranac Lake.  As always, he was a close observer of everything.

“Once he says he saw Ruth choke up on his bat, instead of making his ‘follow-through’ swing at the ball for a homer, and cross up the Giants by hitting the ball to left field.

“’He should do this every time a slow ball comes up,’ Matty declares.  ‘Next season, it is a 100 to 1 shot, the American League pitchers will try to stop his home run hitting with slow balls.  If Babe chokes up a little, as I saw him do once in the series, he’ll hit them, it’s a cinch.  Then the next thing you know, the pitchers will stop throwing them.’“

Cummiskey said:

“Matty paid Ruth the compliment of ‘being a natural ball player and wise enough to realize this.’  The tip was given for ‘old time’s sake.’  Matty wants the Babe to stay in the spotlight and ‘hit them out as of old.’”

Cummiskey asked Mathewson if he felt “Use of the ‘lively ball,’ and the fact that pitchers are not permitted to rough the surface of a shiny new ball (was) tough on the pitchers.”

Mathewson, 1922

Mathewson, 1922

Mathewson said:

“Well, yes it is.  It is tough to see the ball banged out of the lot and around so much.  But they can learn how to pitch it.  They did when it came to Babe, didn’t they?”

He also said, “(I)n the old days if a batter swung like the home run leaders of the present day they would be fined.”

As for Mathewson’s health:

“Outwardly, he is robust and healthy.  He weighs 210 pounds, has a healthy color, his hand clasp is strong, his eyes clear.  Occasionally he is allowed to smoke a cigarette, but not to inhale.  Except for a slight slowness in his walk, as he tires easily, he appears ‘fine.’

‘’I haven’t a touch of T.B. anymore,’ he said.  “The X-ray and the stethoscope reveal no signs of it.  I am now a full exercise man; I can exercise all I want.  Until a few weeks ago I was restricted to twenty minutes a day.’

“He tires more easily than a man of his outwardly fine condition would indicate because he ‘has to get along on one cylinder as yet.’  This, he explained means that ‘one lung is flat but is receiving air treatment which is expected to make it function.’”

Ruth, of course, bounced back just fine from his disappointing 1922 season and World Series.  He hit .393 with 41 home runs and 130 RBIs and hit .368 with three home runs in the Yankees’ World Series victory over the Giants.

Mathewson did not bounce back from tuberculosis and died on the disease in 1925.

The Babe’s “Exile”

12 Aug

After a disappointing 1922 season, Babe Ruth vowed to reform; or as Davis Walsh, sports editor for The International News Service put it:

“A few days hence the worthy Mr. Ruth will say farewell to Broadway, its night life and the scurrilous journals which persist in printing his escapades under cover of the subtle innuendo, and proceed in leisure to his farm at Sudbury, Massachusetts, for the winter.  That is the program he has outlined for himself.  Whether he will care to follow it as religiously as his chastened mood of the present dictates is another matter.”

Edward Thierry, of The Newspaper Enterprise Association, was one of the reporters who traveled to Sudbury that winter to see if Ruth had stuck to the plan:

“This is where you come if you want to see Babe Ruth in his farmer makeup.”

But Thierry said Ruth wasn’t always in Sudbury that winter as promised:

“’Hear you’ve given up the bright lights and are living the simple life?’ we said, coming in out of the cold and joining him before the fire in the big farmhouse sitting room.

“Ruth grunted assent and yawned.

“’Lonely, isn’t it?’ we suggested.

‘”Some,’ said the slugger.  ‘Not so bad though.  You see, I run down to New York every Monday—it makes the week go faster!’

“Ruth said he hadn’t missed a Monday yet; by the time he gets home from New York the week is half gone.  He drives down usually is his $9,600 limousine and is proud of the fact that he covers the 200 miles from Sudbury, which is 20 miles west of Boston, in five a half hours.

“The farm comprises 160 acres and didn’t produce anything much last season.  Ruth said he hadn’t decided what to do with it; but he’s going to have some chicken coops built this winter.”

Ruth told Thierry:

“’The air’s good around here,’ he said, ‘there’s some fishing in Pratt’s pond, and a little hunting.  Not much to do but chop wood.  I’ve done some of that.’”

Ruth fishing in Sudbury

Ruth fishing in Sudbury

Thierry said:

“The home run king was wearing a coonskin cap, a blue flannel shirt and sweater, old trousers and high-laced boots.  He looked to be in good shape, not so fat as he appeared in a baseball uniform last season.

“’I’ve taken some off the waist line,’ he said.  ‘It used to be 45.  Now it’s 39.  Haven’t weighed lately though.’

“Aside from some wood chopping and limousine work, Ruth’s chief exercise is bowling.  He goes over to Waltham some evenings to bowl.

“The house is one of those monstrosities created by building haphazard additions to the original structure.  Ruth said he was going to have a sun-parlor built on one end, and hardwood floors put down throughout.

Thierry said Ruth was attended to by a couple who cared for the property, a cook and a chauffeur.

“Mrs. (Helen) Ruth, swathed in a fur coat, was leaving in the machine for a day’s trip to Boston when we arrived…The baby, Dorothy Helen, who Ruth says will be two in February, came running when Ruth called: ‘Dot!  Come to papa!’

Ruth with "Dot" in Sudbury

Ruth with “Dot” in Sudbury

Ruth seems very proud of the baby, who looks such a tiny mite beside his tremendous bulk, and he spends hours playing with her.”

By late December, Ruth sent a letter to Tillinghast L’Hommedieu “Cap” Huston, who was about to retire and sell his share in the club to co-owner Jacob Rupert:

“I don’t care where the fences are.  I can hit ‘em anywhere.”

Ruth also added that his weight was down to “210 and dropping.”

Part-time behaving, and wood chopping and bowling and “Dot” paid off.  Ruth hit .393, with 41 home runs and 130 RBI for the 1923 World Series Champions.

Robert Edgren, most famous for his drawings from Cuba which appeared in Hearst Newspapers in 1898 and helped fuel public support of the Spanish-American War , drew his take on Ruth's winter of 1922 activities in The New York Evening Journal.

Robert Edgren, most famous for his 1898 drawings from Cuba in Hearst Newspapers that helped fuel public support for the Spanish-American War, drew his take on Ruth’s winter of 1922 activities in The New York Evening Journal

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things: Predictions

18 May

Salaries

Ed Barrow, general manager of the New York Yankees, was sure of one thing in 1930, and according to Joe Williams of The New York Telegram, he was so sure of it his declaration “caused the window panes to shiver in the frenzy of a maddened Simoon.”

Joe Williams

Joe Williams

The Yankees had signed Babe Ruth to the largest contract ever, and Williams asked, “whether baseball would ever see another $80,000 hired hand.”

“’No, you will never hear of another ballplayer getting that kind of money,’ said the gentleman who functions as the watchdog of the treasury of the richest ballclub in the game.”

Ed Barrow

Ed Barrow

Ruth being Ruth, he said, would ensure that no player would ever be paid as much:

“’Even if another Ruth came along he wouldn’t be able to command it, because he would be just another Ruth, and that means he would not be a novelty.  He came along at a time when the receptivity of the fans welcomed a change from few-run games to batting orgies.  It was a situation into which he fitted perfectly.’

“’It isn’t possible for a similar situation to occur twice in the course of baseball.  All the great hitters in the future are going to suffer by comparison to Ruth, and this is going to operate against them as drawing cards.  Nobody prefers a copy of the original.’”

Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth

Barrow remained general manager of the Yankees until 1945, and baseball economics combined with the Depression and then a World War allowed his prediction to hold true throughout his career, but just four years later, his former club proved him wrong when Joe DiMaggio became baseball’s first $100,000 player.

Night Games

In August of 1930, Al Munro Elias, of the Elias Baseball Bureau, had some predictions about night baseball that he shared with The Brooklyn Eagle:

“’Night baseball (in the minor leagues) is succeeding now because it is a novelty.  It will prosper as long as the novelty lasts, that is if the novelty doesn’t last too long.  If it does, I fear there won’t be enough players to satisfy the customers’ desires.  Make no mistake about it, the night game is hard on the players.  The pitchers especially are going to feel the difference.  The old throwing arms need the hot sun.  Legs of all players’ need the sun…Night baseball isn’t real baseball.  Real baseball needs the sun and plenty of it.”

Al Munro Elias

Al Munro Elias

His brother, and partner, Walter B. Elias, who had yet to see a night game, had another concern:

“Now it’s a novelty and the fans flock to it…Night games can’t begin until 8 o’clock or so, and now while it is a novelty the men come to it, but wait until you hear the holler that the missus will put up when her husband stays out several nights to go to the ball game.”

Five years later the novelty expanded to the major leagues.

Lost Advertisements–Ed Sweeney for Sweet Caporal

15 Jan

sweeneyad

A 1914 advertisement for Sweet Caporal Cigarettes featuring New York Yankee catcher Ed “Jeff” Sweeney:

“In every line-up of the cigarette league champions, you’ll find good old steady sweet Caporal playing first.”

Three years later, while playing for the Toledo Iron Men in the American Association, Sweeney told a reporter about his former teammate Russell Ford, and the development of the Emery Ball.

Sweeney and Ford were teammates with the Atlanta Crackers in the Southern Association in 1907:

“One day while Sweeney was catching Ford in a warm up stunt before a game Russ made a wild peg and the ball bounded into a concrete pillar.

“‘I didn’t know anything about it,’ explains Sweeney, “but after that, I noticed the ball breaking in a peculiar way.  I remarked about it to Ford, but he didn’t appear interested.  I never saw (Ford throw it) again that season.

“‘I was purchased that summer by the Yankees (he joined the team in 1908).  Owner (Frank) Farrell came to me one day and asked who was the best pitcher in the Southern Association.  I told him Ford.  And Russ was drafted.'”

After an unsuccessful one-game trial with Yankees in 1909, Ford spent the remainder of the 1909 season with the Jersey City Skeeters in the Eastern League.  When Sweeney and Ford were reunited the next spring with the Yankees, Ford told the catcher he “‘(H)ad a ball no catcher in the world could receive.  I laughed at him but he persisted.'”

Sweeney said Ford “‘took me into his confidence'” and explained his new pitch, Ford told Sweeney that day in Atlanta he noticed the effect the damage caused by the ball hitting the concrete post had on his ability to make it curve, and he continued experimenting:

“‘Russ showed me a little leather ring that he slipped over a finger of his left hand…All he had to do was to scratch the ball with the emery, that was pasted to the leather…The bigger the scratch the greater the freak jumps the ball would take…He would fake a spitter, and nobody ever got wise.  When he pitched he always requested that I catch him.’

“‘When Russ threw the ball with runners on or in pinches, no batter in the world could hit it.  Once in while somebody did, but it was by accident…I’ve seen batter after batter miss the ball a foot.'”

 

 

“Frank Chance Stands Forth as the Biggest Individual Failure”

21 Dec

It was widely assumed that American League President “Ban” Johnson had a hand in the transactions that resulted in Frank Chance coming to New York to manage the Yankees in 1913—Chance was claimed off waivers by the Cincinnati Reds in November of 1912, then waived again and claimed by the Yankees a month later.

Ban Johnson

Ban Johnson

William A. Phelon, the sports editor at The Cincinnati Times-Star noted “(T)he strange fact that all the clubs in the older league permitted him to depart without putting in a claim,” as evidence of the fix being in.  And, in “Ban Johnson: Czar of Baseball,” author Eugene Murdock said “Johnson masterminded a series of intricate maneuvers,” to bring “The Peerless leader” to New York.

Chance’s arrival in New York was heralded as a turning point for the franchise, and he made no effort to downplay his confidence.  On January 9, 1913, The Associated Press reported that chance told Yankees owner Frank Farrell:

“I will win the pennant for you before I get through in New York. That may sound like a bold statement to make at this time, but I ask you to remember my promise.”

Frank Chance

Frank Chance

Despite the maneuvers on Chance’s behalf and Chance’s own confidence, he failed miserably in New York. The club finished seventh with a 57-94 record in 1913. The following season, the team was 60-74 when Chance resigned.   The resignation came after a tumultuous season which included charges by Chance that the team’s failures were largely the result of scout Arthur Irwin’s failure to sign decent players.  He also secured a guarantee of his 1915 salary from Farrell before he resigned.

Two months after Chance’s exit, the man who “masterminded” the moves that brought him to New York, unleashed his wrath on the former manager to Ed Bang of The Cleveland News:

“You can say for me that Frank Chance stands forth as the biggest individual failure in the history of the American League.  That’s the sum and substance of what B. B. Johnson, president of the American League said a short time since when “The Peerless Leader” came up for discussion, ‘and what’s more, you can write a story to that effect and quote me as strong as you’d like,’ Ban continued.

“President Johnson had great hopes of Chance molding a winner in New York, and when, after almost two years as the leader of the Yankees, he quit a dismal failure, the blow all but floored Ban for the count.  The American League has always played second fiddle to the Giants in New York, and Ban and other American Leaguers figured that Chance was the man to bring about a change in the condition of affairs.”

Bang said Johnson took Chance’s failure “to heart,” because he believed he “made a ten-strike” for the league when Chance came to New York.  Johnson told him:

“’Chance had the material in New York and I think any other man would have made a success og the venture,’ said Ban.  ‘Surely no one could have done any worse.  Of all the players that were on the New York roster in 1913 and 1914, and there were any number of likely looking recruits, Chance failed to develop even one man of class.  Why, it was an outrage.’

“’And then when he made up his mind that he was a failure, or at least when he was ready to step down and out he had the unmitigated nerve to ask for pay for services that he had not performed.  That surely was gall, to say the least.”

Johnson finished by comparing Chance unfavorably with the Yankees’ 23-year-old captain who replaced him and guided the team to a 10-10 finish:

“’Why, Roger Peckinpaugh, youth though he is, displayed far more class as manager of the Yankees in the short time he was at the helm than Frank Chance ever did.”

peckinpaugh2

Roger Peckinpaugh

Irwin left the Yankees in January of 1915 when Farrell and his partner William Devery sold the team to Jacob Rupert and Cap Huston.  Peckinpaugh remained captain but was replaced as manager by Bill Donovan, who guided the Yankees for three seasons–a fifth, a fourth and a sixth-place finish with an overall record of 220-239.

Lost Advertisements-1922 World Series, Lord and Taylor

13 Nov

1922ws

An October 1922 Advertisement for The Men’s Shop at Lord & Taylor.  The ad featured a preview of the World Series–a rematch of the 1921 series–written by William Blythe Hanna of The New York Tribune:

William Blythe Hanna

William Blythe Hanna

“Baseball’s annual capsheaf and climax, the world’s series, beginning today at the Polo Grounds, brings the two New York teams, Giants and Yankees, into conflict again; and it brings together two teams of championship caliber.

“A team having such players and (Art) Nehf, (George “High Pockets”) Kelly, (Frankie) Frisch, (Frank) Snyder, Young (Dave) Bancroft, and Emil (“Irish”) Meusel on its roster cannot be otherwise than first class, for the Giants named are players of the first rank; and a team which includes Everett Scott, Walter Pipp, Wally Schang, Waite Hoyt, Joe Bush and Bob Shawkey, such as the Yankees have, assembles talent of sufficient quantity and quality to be a champion.

“The sterling left-handed pitching of Nehf went far last year to check the hard-hitting Yankees, and the steady catching and handy hitting of Frank Snyder braced the Giants in both attack and defense.  The fielding of the brilliant Frisch, the fielding and batting of Meusel, including a home run, were items of consequence in the Giants’ feat of winning the series from the Yankees after starting out with two defeats.

“The Yankees bring numerous world’s series veterans to the present scrap.  Babe Ruth has been in five, and either as a pitcher or a batter, except last year when he was crippled, a factor of value in each.  Bush and Scott are outstanding world’s series figures, Bush with his effective pitching, Scott with his amazing fielding in times of stress and timely batting.

“Hoyt, last year was the hardest nut the Giants had to crack, and it was no fault of his pitching that the Yankees lost.  He and John Rawlings, Giants’ utility man, and pitcher Phil Douglas, Giants, were the glowing individual figures of the 1921 clash.

“The Man’s Shop extends its greetings to both teams–and hopes the best one will win.”

The Giants repeated, beating the Yankees four games to one–there was also a controversial tie in game 2.

22giants

The Giants

“The Aristocrat of all Mascots”

1 Jul

Shortly after the 1920 World Series, The Associated Press (AP) claimed to have discovered why the Brooklyn Robins, after taking two out of three games from the Indians at home, dropped four straight in Cleveland:

“At last the secret…is out.  The Dodgers declined to take their mascot, Eddie Bennett, with them to the lair of the Indians, and without his lucky presence they were swamped.  And not only that.  Bennett, indignant over having been left at home, has quit the Brooklyns!  That’s revenge!”

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle said, Bennett, a Brooklyn native, came to the attention of baseball fans in 1919 when he served as bat boy and mascot for the American League Champion Chicago White Sox:

“(H)e used to hang around the players’ entrance to the ballparks on both sides of the bridge.  The Yankees were playing at the Polo Grounds then, and one day one of the White Sox noticed a wistful little fellow in the front row of hero worshippers.”

Eddie Bennett

Eddie Bennett

White Sox outfielder Oscar “Happy” Felsch, noticed Bennett suffered from kyphosis (the excessive curvature of the spine—in Bennett’s case it was said to have been caused by an injury when he fell out of his stroller as an infant) and asked “’Are you lucky?’ ‘Sure,’ cried Eddie Bennett eagerly.”  With Bennett serving as bat boy, the Sox defeated the Yankees.  With that:

“Felsch spoke to Eddie Cicotte about taking him back to Chicago. Cicotte spoke to Manager (William) Kid Gleason.  Eddie Bennett became the official White Sox mascot.”

Bennett spent the rest of the season with the Sox and roomed with pitcher Dickie Kerr on the road. After the Black Sox scandal broke—Bennett told reporters, “I was one of the honest ones”—the 16-year-old returned to New York and went to work for the Robins.

Dean Snyder, writing for Scripps’ Newspaper Enterprise Association, said of Bennett during Brooklyn’s pennant run:

“(The Robins) bought the kid a swell uniform and told him to hang around.

“From the day he started as the official mascot…things began to look up.”

But, Snyder noted, Bennett was strictly a mascot and not a bat boy in Brooklyn:

“Little Eddie is a hunchback. The players positively forbid him to touch their bats.  They just want him to stick around. They’re might superstitious about their war clubs.”

After being left home by the Robins for the club’s ill-fated trip to Cleveland, Bennett jumped to the Yankees; he told The AP:

“I’m going to be with a real club this year.  Oh boy, to watch that (Babe) Ruth sock them every day.”

Bennett with Ruth

Bennett with Ruth

For the third straight season, Bennett was part of a pennant winner, and for the third straight year his team lost the World Series.  But this time he stayed put and remained a fixture with the Yankees for another decade.

American League Umpire Billy Evans, in one of his syndicated columns, said Bennett took his position very seriously and related a story about seeing him in a restaurant during a Yankee losing streak:

“Bennett was seated across from me at a table in the diner. We were served at about the same time, and I noticed he ate but little of the food he had ordered.

“’Something wrong with the food Eddie?’ I ventured.

“’The food is all right, I guess there is something wrong with me,’ replied Eddie.

“’Cheer up, Eddie.  The Yankees can’t lose all of them,’ I said with a laugh.

“’Babe hasn’t made a home run in a week.  The team never gets any runs for Bob Shawkey.  Every time Scotty (shortstop Everett Scott) makes an error it means a run.  Waite Hoyt has a bad inning every game,’ was Eddie’s come back.

“’Why worry about these things, Eddie?’ The Yankee mascot looked at me in a puzzled manner, as if I might be joshing him.

“’That’s my business, I’m a mascot,’ said Eddie in all seriousness.  ‘I am supposed to bring luck, to help Ruth make home runs, keep Scotty from making errors, have the team get runs for Shawkey, and no bad innings for Hoyt.’

“Eddie was disgusted at my failure to appreciate the importance of his position.”

In 1928, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle called Bennett “(T)he aristocrat of all mascots…eight flags in 10 years is the mark for other mascots, living and still to be born to try to equal.  It will probably never be beaten.”

Bennett’s career came to an end in May of 1932; according to The United Press (UP) he was riding in a cab which crashed and “was pinned to a pole,” Bennett suffered several broken bones, including a leg broken in several places, and spent months in the hospital. (The AP said he was hit by the cab while walking).

He made a brief, dramatic return to the Yankees a year later.

On May 23, 1933, Bennett entered the Yankees clubhouse on crutches in the midst of what The International News Service called “The great home run famine.”  Neither Babe Ruth nor Lou Gehrig had hit one since April 30:

“It was the longest home run slump for the twins since they started making life miserable for American League pitchers.  For weeks they rubbed their carcasses and bats with sundry kinds of magic oils and rabbit’s feet, consulted Yogi’s and employed every luck charm known to the superstitious in an effort to shake off the jinx.  It took Eddie Bennett, the little cripple who formerly was the club’s bat boy, to shatter the jinx.  Before yesterday’s game he solemnly tapped both sluggers with his magic crutch and that turned the trick.”

Eddie Bennett

Eddie Bennett

Both Ruth and Gehrig hit home runs off Oral Hildebrand (who came into the game with a 6-0 record) in an 8 to 6 victory over the Cleveland Indians.

It was a final happy moment for Bennett.

While he continued to be paid by Yankees owner Jacob Rupert, depression and alcoholism consumed the last years of his life.  The 31-year-old, “aristocrat of all mascots,” was found dead on January 17, 1935, according to The UP “cold and stiff in his drab rooming home…He lived out his days among his baseball trophies, drinking steadily”

Edit:  As noted in the comments, I say above that Bennett left the White Sox “when the scandal broke,”  which implies September of 1920 when the grand jury was impaneled. I should have said “when rumors of the scandal broke,” which began during the 1919 series and continued throughout the 1920 season.

“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